Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Oceanic Airlines as a Portal Between FlashForward and Lost

I mentioned in my review of the FlashForward’s fine premiere last week the Oceanic Airlines billboard that appeared in a Los Angeles scene. I said it was a nod to Lost. I think it’s worth another blog post to say it’s much more.

What that billboard does is proclaim that FlashForward and Lost are taking place in the same universe. It’s a universe alternate to ours in which there is no Oceanic Airlines. But it’s a universe in which all the strange phenomena of Lost – including Oceanic Airlines and an island and people that can jump through time – exist or existed.

Oceanic Airlines in FlashForward is in effect a portal that connects both ways between the people and events of Lost and the people and events of FlashForward. Since FlashForward takes place in the present and six months into future, and Lost takes place a little and much further back in the past, that can work.

The people part of the portal are especially significant to consider. Jack in Lost could end up in some episode of FlashForward – not just the actor Matthew Fox but the character Dr. Jack Shephard. Mark Benford from FlashForward could appear in Lost.

In some cases, though, it could get a little complicated. Olivia Benford in FlashForward is played by Sonya Walger, who also plays Penny in Lost. So the actress would pretty much always have to be Olivia in FlashForward, and Penny in Lost, lest the viewers get totally confused and crazy. If Simon, played by Dominic Monaghan in FlashForward (we haven’t really met him yet on the series), were to show up in Lost, viewers would have a hard time understanding why “Simon” looked just like the late Charlie Pace.

Fortunately, Robert J. Sawyer, the author of the FlashForward novel upon which the series is based, doesn’t look much like James Sawyer from Lost, so we would be ok on that score.

But whichever ways these two series go, we could be in for some fascinating crossovers, or, who knows, maybe none at all.

See also FlashForward Debuts

Listen to 40-minute interview with Robert J. Sawyer

review of Lost Season 5 finale, with links to reviews of earlier episodes


6-min podcast episode about Oceanic








Special Discount Coupons for Angie's List, Avis, Budget Rent-a-Car, eBags, eHarmony, eMusic, Nutrisystem






Monday, September 28, 2009

House 6.2: The Gang is Back and Fractured

Well, the gang's back at the hospital on House 6.2 tonight, but House is not, and that means neither will the gang before too long.

House has his license back, but quits his job at the hospital, on the logic that he can't just go back to his old way of life and stay clean and sane. We've seen this before in earlier seasons - House presumably cured, and what he think he has to do to stay cured - but not quite like this.

Foreman wants House's job, and Cuddy reluctantly agrees to give it try for one case - one strike for Foreman and he's out. The case he and the team get is a tough one, involving a video-game designer who's suffering from some sort of weird illness. (Hey, maybe Jack Thompson is right that video games have dangerous effects ... nah, only kidding, see my debate with Thompson on CNBC a few years ago.)

The case at first stumps Foreman and everyone - just as it would likely have done if House were there. But the pressure and working without House is having an additional impact on the team. Taub quits - nothing against Foreman, but he signed up to work with House. And Foreman and 13's romantic relationship is suffering.

In the end, Foreman does come up with the right solution, just as House would have done. So does 13 - but, actually, as she explains, she saw the solution online, in responses to the patient putting his case on the Internet (another victory for New New Media).

I guessed that House provided it, as indeed he did. He can't keep away from diagnosis - embracing rather than leaving it may be the only he can stay cured. His leg had started hurting again ... will coming back to the hospital keep him off drugs, when that was where he got so deeply into vicodin in the first place?

Well, it will be good viewing for us to see if it does. But we won't be seeing 13 on the team in the next episode and maybe more, either. Foreman, not happy with the toll his being boss was having on their relationship, fired her.

That makes at least two ways Foreman was like House tonight, and that's good viewing, too.







6-min podcast review of House



See also House Reborn in Season Six?






The Plot to Save Socrates


"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book


more about The Plot to Save Socrates...

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Read the first chapter of The Plot to Save Socrates
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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Mad Men 3.7: Brutal Edges

A brutally honest episode 3.7 of Mad Men tonight, that starts with Peggy out cold with a man in bed, Don beaten unconscious on some hotel room floor, and centers around Don's unwillingness to sign a three-year contract with Sterling Cooper.

In the flashbacks which mostly roll out the story, Conrad Hilton wants Don and Sterling Cooper to do the ad work for three big Hilton hotels in the New York area. Don thinks Connie's happy to do this on handshake, but as Cooper puts it, apparently Hilton's lawyers are not, and neither are the execs at Sterling Cooper. They all want the security of a contract with Don - which he, clearly, does not.

The reason, as Don explains to Betty in a tongue-lashing in which he also says that she understands nothing about his work, is that without a contract, Don holds all the cards. Sterling Cooper has to try harder to please him, since he can walk at any time.

But tonight's episode is less about what Don really wants, and more about his ugly side, which is once again revealed. Peggy gets a tongue lashing, too, when she tries to learn what is going on with the Hilton account - with an eye towards being part of it - by coming in to Don's office to talk him on a pretext. Don not only tells her he resents the pretext - perhaps fair enough - but then proceeds to tell her he can't think of one thing she's done for the company since she was exalted from her secretarial post that he "couldn't live without".

Peggy is more shaken by Don's verbal brutality than Betty - Betty's a little more used it - and this is likely what drives Peggy to Duck's hotel room, to personally decline his offer to hire her away from Sterling Cooper. But she doesn't decline his passionate offer to spend the night with him, and Duck indeed is the man in bed with Peggy the next morning. I've got to say that Duck is a much better character this year than last, and I was glad to see the two together. After they wake up, Duck tells her he really likes the morning, and that's enough for another roll...

As for Don, he winds up in a hotel room that same night, too, with not so fine results. He has driven away from home after the argument with Betty, picks up a couple on the road, and accepts the Phenobarbital and alcohol they offer him. Once again, when Don's personally under pressure, he gets self-destructive (in contrast to when he's needed by others, which brings his better instincts). He's beaten and passed out. At least the couple don't steal his car.

Next morning, Peggy and Don arrive at the office the same time, neither of course having a clue as to what happened the night before to the other. Peggy is likely not aware that Don being cruel to her was the impetus, but if we think her being with Duck is good for her, then Don's words to her had an unintended positive result.

And what about Don's contract? Cooper in effect blackmails Don, by reminding Don that Cooper knows Don is not really Don, and Don signs his - Don's - name to the contract.

Those Mad Men - or, least the Mad Man who is "Don Draper" - live and work in a rough world indeed, which nothing, not even booze and women, can really take the edge off...







8-min podcast review of Mad Men


See also: Mad Men Back for 3 and 3.2: Carvel, Penn Station, and Diet Soda and 3.3: Gibbon, Blackface, and Eliot and 3.4: Caned Seats and a Multiple Choice about Sal's Patio Furniture and 3.5: Admiral TV, MLK, and a Baby Boy and 3.6: A Saving John Deere

And from Season Two: Mad Men Returns with a Xerox and a Call Girl ... 2.2: The Advertising Devil and the Deep Blue Sea ... 2.3 Double-Barreled Power ... 2.4: Betty and Don's Son ... 2.5: Best Montage Since Hitchcock ... 2.6: Jackie, Marilyn, and Liberty Valance ... 2.7: Double Dons ... 2.8: Did Don Get What He Deserved? ... 2.9: Don and Roger ... 2.10: Between Ray Bradbury and Telstar ... 2.11: Welcome to the Hotel California ... 2.12 The Day the Earth Stood Still on Mad Men ... 2.13 Saving the Best for Last on Mad Men

And from Season One: Mad Men Debuts on AMC: Cigarette Companies and Nixon ... Mad Men 2: Smoke and Television ... Mad Men 3: Hot 1960 Kiss ... Mad Men 4 and 5: Double Mad Men ... Mad Men 6: The Medium is the Message! ... Mad Men 7: Revenge of the Mollusk ... Mad Men 8: Weed, Twist, Hobo ... Mad Man 9: Betty Grace Kelly ... Mad men 10: Life, Death, and Politics ... Mad Men 11: Heat! ... Mad Men 12: Admirable Don ... Mad 13: Double-Endings, Lascaux, and Holes

20-minute interview with Rich Sommer (Harry Crane) at Light On Light Through






The Plot to Save Socrates


"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book


more about The Plot to Save Socrates...

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Read the first chapter of The Plot to Save Socrates
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Friday, September 25, 2009

Fringe 2.2 and the Mole People

A rich, tight episode of 2.2 of Fringe tonight, which told a fine new macabre story, as it advanced the central, underlying one.

Actually, underlying was the subject of the new story, too, as people near a rural Pennsylvania house get pulled underground - literally, as in The Mole People, one of my favorite 1950s science fiction movies. Makes sense, because the 1950s is often the science fiction field tilled on Fringe, with teleportation and creatures and whatnot.

The science and story underneath what is going on under the ground around the house is good: a scientist impregnated his wife, who had lupus. This would ordinarily have prevented her from coming to term, because the immune disorder at the basis of lupus would have attacked and destroyed the fetus. So the scientist got some scorpion and mole-rat DNA into the embryo - according to Walter - and this worked, sort of. The mother died. The baby apparently died. But it dug its way out of the little casket, and proceeded to take up residence underground...

Meanwhile, above ground, Olivia is still not quite herself. She almost shoots Peter in the head. Her hearing is super-acute. She has no specific memory of her visit to the alternate universe. But Walter tells her that's where she's been, and pseudo-Charley - still taking his orders from another dimension via typewriter - also broaches the topic, needing to find out what she knows. Olivia is at the very beginning of getting a little suspicious.

But most interesting of all, Nina comes to Olivia, and gives her the name of someone who can help her. Sam Weiss works in a bowling alley. People with strange powers in common, everyday places.

Gimme that ol' time science fiction!

See also Top Notch Return of Fringe Second Season

See also reviews of Season One Fringe Begins ... Fringe 2 and 3: The Anthology Tightrope ... 4: The Eternal Bald Observer ... 7: A Bullet Can Scramble a Dead Brain's Transmission ... 8. Heroic Walter and Apple Through Steel ... 9. Razor-Tipped Butterflies of the Mind ... 10. Shattered Pieces Come Together Through Space and Times ... 11. A Traitor, a Crimimal, and a Lunatic ... 12, 13, 14: Fringe and Teleportation ... 15: Fringe is Back with Feral Child, Pheromones, and Bald Men ... 17. Fringe in New York, with Oliva as Her Suspect ... 18. Heroes and Villains across Fringe ... Stephen King, Arthur C. Clarke, and Star Trek in Penultimate Fringe ... Fringe Alternate Reality Finale: Science Fiction At Its Best








6-min podcast review of Fringe




And this Fringe 101 refresher that SciFi Wire commissioned ... and Fringe Bloggers Roundtable about Season One Finale

Bones 5.2: Anonymous Donors and Pipes

I thought the two best parts of Bones 5.2 tonight were outside of the central James Bondian story, but crucial to the story of the central characters.

Wendell, one of the group of brilliant assistants, is losing his scholarship - not because of any bad work, but because of the bad economy. Sufficient money from anyone will save his job. But Jack, who's fabulously wealthy, says the economy has tied up his funds. And Bones, who's making a bundle from her best-selling novel, isn't offering.

In the end, anonymous donors come up with the money - enough to provide for three times the scholarship Wendell requires. Ok, Jack came through, and so did Bones. But who was the third donor? Any guesses? Or did Jack or Bones each contribute twice the money needed?

Meanwhile, Booth still has residual mental loss - he's not the plumber he used to be. Bones buys him a book - "An Imbecile's Guide to Plumbing," as she says - and the last scene finds the two of them working on the pipes, in another almost erotic scene. Predictably, the pipe that they fix springs a leak - but that's it.

Well, it makes sense that Bones would have no special talent for pipes. Her specialty, after all, is the skeleton not the circulatory system. But she does have a heart, and someday ... well, the ways of true love move slowly in television...


See also
Bones: Hilarity and Crime and Bones is Back For Season 5: What Is Love?









6-min podcast review of Bones







The Plot to Save Socrates


"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book


more about The Plot to Save Socrates...

Get your own at Profile Pitstop.com



Read the first chapter of The Plot to Save Socrates
.... FREE!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

FlashForward Debuts: Irresistible Human Stories and Science Fiction

Before I review the first episode of FlashForward - which I thought was splendid - I should tell you, in the spirit of full disclosure, that the novel FlashForward upon which this ABC-TV series is based was written by my good friend, Robert J. Sawyer. That said, I should add that I'm especially delighted that I enjoyed the premiere of this series so much, because I would have had no choice but to be honest with you if I did not, or I might not have reviewed the series at all. And I promise to give you my candid views of every episode that I review.

The second preambling point I should make is that the series story is different in many ways from the novel, and at the same time it draws upon many of its powerful themes, but I won't spend any time here at all with comparisons pro, con, or otherwise to the novel. Instead, as I have been doing with True Blood - based also on a series of novels - I'll be reviewing the television series FlashForward totally on its own terms.

So here goes ... (as with all of my reviews, expect spoilers) ...

Everyone in the world (or, as is revealed near the end of show, everyone other than at least one) blacks out for 2 minutes and 17 seventeen seconds. But it's not really a black out, because almost everyone (again, minus at least one, and not the one indicated above), has a vision of the future six months into the future.

The first important point in the plot, confirmed in a variety of effective, emotionally compelling ways, is that the vision is proven as in some sense real, not a mass hallucination. An FBI guy in Los Angeles recalls being in a meeting with his counterpart in New Scotland Yard six months from now, and she confirms it, too, down to the detail of a bird flying into a window.

The most compelling confirmation comes from Mark Benford (well played by Joseph Fiennes), an FBI agent married to a doctor, Olivia. She's played by Sonya Walger, who is always a pleasure to see in any role on the screen, including The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Tell Me You Love Me, and, of course, as Penny in Lost. Mark's vision provides the foundation of the investigative part of this story - he sees himself in the future looking at names on a board as part of a case, and this gets the case started in our present (more on this in the next two paragraphs). Olivia's vision sees her happy and in love with another man - a vision which upsets her, to say the least, since she is very happily married to Mark, and this in effect sets her and Mark on a path of making sure the future she saw does not come into being, even if it might have benefits for other people. A part of Mark is hoping that the vision may somehow not be real - but the hope is dashed when his young daughter asks him in a quietly wrenching last scene to put on a friendship bracelet she made for him. Mark has seen this on his hand in the future.

The issue of pre-determination versus free-will is always on the table when people see the future, either by traveling to it, or somehow viewing it, in science fiction. Indeed, one of the reasons I think time travel is impossible, though I love to write and read and see it, is that I believe in free will. If you know the future, and that has any meaning, that must mean you have no free will - you cannot change what you saw or otherwise know about the future.

An appealing intellectual game for people who like time travel is a future, which hasn't happened yet, causing itself to happen by influencing the past. FlashForward has this intriguing reversal of cause and effect, in Mark's investigation in the present ignited by what he saw in the future, and that in itself makes it exceptional television.

Lost has some of this, too, and there are some similarities - for the good, I'd say - between the two series (as well as a billboard for Oceanic Airlines in an early FlashForward scene). A kangaroo running through Los Angeles, a mysterious hooded figure who did not black out (he's caught on a video taken at a stadium - I suspect he's the character played by Dominic Monaghan, by the way, but that's just a guess), and of course people who know what's going to happen (obviously just about everyone in FlashForward) all have echoes of Lost.

But FlashForward has a multiplicity of powerful stories all its own, including one character, Mark's partner Demetri (John Choe), who has no vision of the future at all. Does that mean he's bound to die? The answer will no doubt not be even close to that simple, but the tableau of conflicting interests, ranging from wanting to ensure to wanting to prevent the glimpsed future, makes for an irresistible story.

The premiere of FlashForward will be on ABC again tomorrow evening - well worth seeing if you missed or didn't TiVo or DVR it. I'll be back here next week and every week it's on - which I suspect will be years - with a review of FlashForward.

You might enjoy my in-depth interview with Robert J. Sawyer from last week.






10-min podcast review of FlashForward 1.1




 
another kind of time bending

#SFWApro

Amazon, Big Brother, and the Kindle

My latest book, New New Media, was published by Penguin Academics on September 5, 2009.  As I point out on the first page, the book is about media so new that some of them - such as Twitter and YouTube - did not even exist five years ago.   I wrote the book as close to the bone of current events as possible.   The use of Twitter by protestors in Iran in June 2009, for example, is prominently included in the book's Twitter chapter.

But I turned the book's final revisions into the publisher in July, and the pace of important developments in the world of media has of course not slackened in the slightest.   This blog post is the first of a running series I will be posting here, there, and everywhere about these newest of new developments.

One of the most significant of such developments occurred in mid-July, when Amazon abruptly reached into the Kindles of every Kindle owner and removed George Orwell's 1984, which Amazon said it discovered it did not have the legal right to sell.   Kindle owners and the online world at large were furious, especially because annotations which Kindle owners had made on their purchased copies of 1984 were removed with the book.   If Amazon had wanted to demonstrate that the Big Brother information control in 1984 was alive and kicking in our digital age, it could not have put forth a better example.

Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos soon apologized, calling its solution to the copyright problem "stupid, thoughtless, and painfully out of line with our principles."  Amazon offered to either refund the $30 which the Kindle edition cost, or re-delver the copy of 1984, along with any absconded annotations.

But this series of events provides an instructive example of the difference between new media and new new media, which I discuss throughout the book.  "New" media exist on the Web, alongside of new new media.   But "new" media often operate in accordance with older, top-down principles of information control.   In the case of a newspaper online, such as The New York Times, the older approach is manifest in the selection of stories by editors.   In true new new media, stories are selected and even written by readers - that is the case in any personal blog.   In the case of iTunes and Amazon, consumers are charged for the content.  In new new media such as Twitter and YouTube, the content is free.

Amazon took a huge step into the past by not only charging for its Kindle books, but removing one of them after it had been purchased.   Its apology was certainly welcome.   But the lesson endures that there is a very big difference between older ways of doing business on the web, and the newer more liberated ways of new new media.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Interview with Robert J. Sawyer about FlashForward

As a lead-up to the premiere of ABC's new series FlashForward this Thursday - which I'll be reviewing here, and every subsequent episode - I thought you might enjoy this in-depth interview I conducted week before last with Robert J. Sawyer, author of the novel upon which the series is based.

Rob talks about how his novel progressed from page to screen, his assessment of the cast, what it feels like to be author of a novel made into a television series, the different paths in the novel and the television series, and much more....







interview with Robert J. Sawyer about FlashForward

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Heroes Season 4 Premiere: Metaphysics, University, and Carnival

Heroes returned for Season 4 last night, with a two-hour premiere that was less apocalyptic than usual, and therefore I actually found more enjoyable. For the first time I can recall with Heroes, I was able to sit down and relax with it. In part this was because of the story lines, in part this was because the heroes are almost becoming old friends that we haven't seen in a few months, and it was good to see again.

Among the highlights, Sylar killed Nathan at the end of Season 3 and shape shifted into Nathan, but Angela got Matt Parkman to make Sylar in Nathan's body think he (Sylar) is really Nathan. But Parkman learns he has a price to pay - Sylar's persona is now inhabiting part of Parkman's head, and he comes out to advise and needle Parkman and otherwise make life difficult for him. We've of course seen this set-up before with Baltar and Six on Battlestar Galactica, and even with House and Amber, but Zachary Quinto did a good job of it anyway as Parkman's internal nemesis.

Over in Tokyo, we do get some bad news - Hiro is dying - but, as always, nothing is necessarily permanent with time travel. I've got to admit that I'm always in the mood for a time travel story, and Heroes has done well with such threads over the years. Hiro at first vows he'll never again try to change the past - he realizes, in prime metaphysician form, that it's too dangerous (and he's right) - but he goes back more than a decade into the past anyway, and does a good deed for Ando's love life. He accidentally stops Ando from spilling a slushy all on Kimiko (Hiro's sister), which open the door to their falling in love. The takeaway for Hiro: he now knows he can change the past for the better, and he'll use his powers to correct his own mistakes in the past, the punishing metaphysics of time travel notwithstanding.

Apropos such high falutin' terminology like metaphysics, Claire's a freshman in college now, and so is Gretchen (new to Heroes, played by Madeline Zima from Californication, which will also be back on Showtime this Sunday). HRG's turning into about as good a guy we've so far seen, and he's creating an alliance with Tracy.

At the other side of the spectrum from university life, there are a new group of possible villains led by Samuel, centered around a carnival. Too soon to tell yet what they're really up to, but like most else in this premiere they were refreshing to see.

I'll keep you letting you know how it all works out.







8-min podcast review of Heroes


See also reviews of Season 3 Heroes Gets Lost ... Heroes 3 Begins: Best Yet, Riddled with Time Travel and Paradox ... Sylar's Redemption and other Heroes and Villains Mergers ... Costa Nuclear ... Hearts of Gold and the Debased ... Seeing the Future Trumps Time Travel ... Superpowered Chess with Shifting Pieces ... Villains and Backstories ... The Redemption of Sylar ... Thoughts on the Eclipse, Part I ... The Lore of the Comic Book Store ... Hiro's Time Traveling Closure ... Augmented ... Shades of Recalibration ... Baby, Rebel, and Last Fantasy ... All that Shape Changes Remains the Same? ... Season 3 Finale: Hopeful Deceptions




Monday, September 21, 2009

House Reborn in Season Six?

A quieter, change of pace, nonetheless satisfying two-hour premiere of House, Season 6, on Fox tonight. House may be the most brilliant show on television - in fact, I think it is - with the astonishing logic of misanthropic Gregory House, MD, often playing a central role, and the occasional glints of almost genius of the doctors on his team also in the mix. It's medical mystery, angst in the extreme, and jab in the gut humor, like no other show on television.

Tonight's start of the sixth season had almost none of this - none of the regulars except a brief phone conversation with Wilson, no strange medical conditions all but inexplicable to everyone except eventually House. What it did have was Andre Braugher (of Homicide fame) as the head shrink Dr. Darryl Nolan in the mental institution House voluntarily committed himself to at the end of last season. Nolan moves from arch antagonist who won't give House the letter he needs to practice medicine again (it was great to see Braugher vs. Hugh Laurie as House), to a friend and supporter. House gets his letter, and in the process has a semi-normal start of a relationship with Lydia (played by Franka Potente, who was perfect in The Bourne Identity, as she was in this episode of House), who unfortunately is married. But this was probably the most normal we've ever seen House, certainly for most of two hours.

How did House get there? The suicide of Kutner was a little more than his tenuous grip on reality could take last season. Just for the record, I won't be surprised if somewhere along the future line it turns out that House's initial insistence was right that Kutner was murdered, after all. It's also worth noting, as everyone in our world outside of television knows, that Kutner had to leave the show because Kal Penn accepted a post in the Obama administration as Associate Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement. This was consistent - if contributing a lot more to the public good - with a connection between House and our real world that runs through all of the show like a live wire, with House revealing to the real world of viewers the identity of Keyser Sose in the The Usual Suspects (don't worry, I won't), cracking wise about Heroes (which runs opposite House on NBC), and more in just Season Five.

But what will happen now in Season Six? Is House truly cured of his vicodin dependency, has he really found a way to handle his daily pain and deal with unexpected pain without resort to that little bottle? In the past, such liberations have always been temporary. Because, if permanent, we would have had a significantly different character from the flawed, troubled genius who has been such a commanding, exhilirating presence over the past five years.

The series has been so superb, so far, that I'm betting whatever way House goes, we'll find him no less provocative and riveting. And I'll be reviewing every episode right here.







8-min podcast review of House






The Plot to Save Socrates


"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book


more about The Plot to Save Socrates...

Get your own at Profile Pitstop.com



Read the first chapter of The Plot to Save Socrates
.... FREE!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A Saving John Deere in Mad Men 3.6

Mad Men won the Emmy for Best Drama for the second straight year tonight - against competition that included "Big Love," "Breaking Bad," "Damages," "Dexter," "House," "Lost" - and while it's almost impossible for me to choose among such very different, brilliant contenders, I think the award was eminently well deserved, and tonight's episode 3.6 shows why.

The Brits come over on the eve of our July 4, 1963 to evaluate and reshuffle the leadership of the firm. Bert tells Don that he expects the Brits to move Don up to a joint US-UK exec position, but it turns out that all they really have in mind is moving Lane to India, moving Harry up to higher television position, forgetting to even put Roger on the new flow-chart (but they have no problem writing him in), and installing a young British hotshot as head of a triumvirate over Bert and Don that will run Sterling Cooper and eventually who knows what else.

No one except Harry - of course - is happy about this in our gang. But fate lends a hand - or takes a foot - in the form of a new John Deere riding lawnmower that Ken brings into the office to celebrate his landing of that dear account. During the party the Brits throw in honor of the shakeup, one of the secretaries gets behind the controls of the John Deere and accidentally rides it right over the hotshot's foot.

The best laid plans. The Brits say can't rely on a wunderkind sans one foot. So Lane stays put in New York.

Meanwhile, Don is called to a meeting by Connie - Conrad Hilton, whom Don met at the country club a few episodes ago - and gets the Hilton account for Sterling Cooper. He's great saying goodbye to Joan - who's likely leaving the company, but not the show. And back home, he's a good, loving father again to Sally, who's finding it hard to adjust to baby Gene, who looks just like grandpa Gene, as she says (babies and grandparents do look similar).

And that's the unique magic of Mad Men. Flawed people in a world in many ways more cruel than ours, but some - like Don, and, for that matter, Joan - with hearts that can shine through the glitter and tarnish.

See also: Mad Men Back for 3 and 3.2: Carvel, Penn Station, and Diet Soda and 3.3: Gibbon, Blackface, and Eliot and 3.4: Caned Seats and a Multiple Choice about Sal's Patio Furniture and 3.5: Admiral TV, MLK, and a Baby Boy

And from Season Two: Mad Men Returns with a Xerox and a Call Girl ... 2.2: The Advertising Devil and the Deep Blue Sea ... 2.3 Double-Barreled Power ... 2.4: Betty and Don's Son ... 2.5: Best Montage Since Hitchcock ... 2.6: Jackie, Marilyn, and Liberty Valance ... 2.7: Double Dons ... 2.8: Did Don Get What He Deserved? ... 2.9: Don and Roger ... 2.10: Between Ray Bradbury and Telstar ... 2.11: Welcome to the Hotel California ... 2.12 The Day the Earth Stood Still on Mad Men ... 2.13 Saving the Best for Last on Mad Men

And from Season One: Mad Men Debuts on AMC: Cigarette Companies and Nixon ... Mad Men 2: Smoke and Television ... Mad Men 3: Hot 1960 Kiss ... Mad Men 4 and 5: Double Mad Men ... Mad Men 6: The Medium is the Message! ... Mad Men 7: Revenge of the Mollusk ... Mad Men 8: Weed, Twist, Hobo ... Mad Man 9: Betty Grace Kelly ... Mad men 10: Life, Death, and Politics ... Mad Men 11: Heat! ... Mad Men 12: Admirable Don ... Mad 13: Double-Endings, Lascaux, and Holes

20-minute interview with Rich Sommer (Harry Crane) at Light On Light Through







8-min podcast review of Mad Men






The Plot to Save Socrates


"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book


more about The Plot to Save Socrates...

Get your own at Profile Pitstop.com



Read the first chapter of The Plot to Save Socrates
.... FREE!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Bones is Back is for Season Five: What is Love?

Bones came back for its fifth season on Fox tonight, with an opening episode that gave us a satisfying exploration of the feelings between Bones and Booth, which of course were left unresolved, if a little closer to what we'd all like to see.

Booth is pretty much recovered from his brain dangers and adventures at the end of last season, which featured him dreaming in his hospital bed after surgery that he and Bones were married and night-club owners. Booth took a long time to wake up, with Bones by his side. Was that purely due to medical reasons, or in part because he was happy, fulfilled, to be with Bones in that dream?

The answer resides in the extent to which he is actually not yet 100% tonight. Sweets shows Booth that the emotional part of his brain is much more charged than it was before Booth was hospitalized - is this an effect of the operation?

In contrast, the appealing tarot-card reader played by Cindy Lauper says Booth and Bones really do just want to have deep fun - i.e., he loves her truly, not just because of his traumatized brain, and she loves him.

Whom should we and Booth believe? He does seem to have lost his loathing for clowns - is that another consequence of the intervention on his brain?

Well, romantic that I am, I'm wondering if the two possibilities - true feelings vs. feelings brought on by surgery - may not both be at work here. Maybe the surgery released Booth's true feeling for Bones?

We likely won't get a definitive answer this season, but it will be fun watching it all play out...

See also
Bones: Hilarity and Crime







6-min podcast review of Bones






The Plot to Save Socrates


"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book


more about The Plot to Save Socrates...

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Read the first chapter of The Plot to Save Socrates
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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Top Notch Return of Fringe Second Season: Double Realities and Double Agents

Fringe came back leaner, cleaner, with more attention to its riveting, incredible central storyline tonight than last year. In short, just what we want from a series that meandered in Season One, but ended with a tour-de-force introduction to alternate universes - or one alternate universe, in which JFK and the World Trade Center live, and Agent Olivia Dunham from our universe ends up...

Tonight she's back in our universe, in a car that crashes in New York City, without much memory of how she get there, or where she had been. This raises a major, so far unaddressed question: what happens when two versions of the same person from different universes come to inhabit the same universe? Of all of the characters in Fringe, only Peter has made the move from one universe to another - kidnapped from the alternate universe to this one by his father Walter, after the Peter in this universe had died - and Peter seems to be doing ok. But what happens when two live versions of the same person end up in the same universe? Does the universe expel one of them? Is this what happened to Olivia?

Tonight's episode 2.1 was about different versions of the same person in more ways than one. Olivia's loyal partner Charlie is killed by a murderous shape shifter (from the alternate universe?) who almost kills Olivia in the hospital. The shape shifter takes Charlie's shape, so Fringe Division now has a double agent par excellence in its midst.

But it almost didn't survive tonight, courtesy of a jackass Senate committee that almost put it out of business. (Penny-pinching myopic Senate committees ... hmmm ... sounds a lot like some the of Senate committees in our reality, outside of Fringe, which are often on the verge of strangling crucial, beneficial programs.)

Peter comes to the rescue, with some evidence - broken tech from the alternate universe - which he found on the scene of Olivia's cab crash. The Senate committee told Broyles it needed some evidence, and this could be it.

So Fringe is off and running in the strange night. All of the regular gang are back (albeit Charlie now as a villain shape shifter), and we learn in a nice reveal that Nina and Broyles had and may still have a physical relationship; we have a bright, attractive new agent Amy Jessup; and an intriguing new mystery on top of everything else:

Why did Olivia, when she first woke up, speak to Peter the same Greek advice that he recalled from his mother?

Looking forward to more.

See also reviews of Season One Fringe Begins ... Fringe 2 and 3: The Anthology Tightrope ... 4: The Eternal Bald Observer ... 7: A Bullet Can Scramble a Dead Brain's Transmission ... 8. Heroic Walter and Apple Through Steel ... 9. Razor-Tipped Butterflies of the Mind ... 10. Shattered Pieces Come Together Through Space and Times ... 11. A Traitor, a Crimimal, and a Lunatic ... 12, 13, 14: Fringe and Teleportation ... 15: Fringe is Back with Feral Child, Pheromones, and Bald Men ... 17. Fringe in New York, with Oliva as Her Suspect ... 18. Heroes and Villains across Fringe ... Stephen King, Arthur C. Clarke, and Star Trek in Penultimate Fringe ... Fringe Alternate Reality Finale: Science Fiction At Its Best

And this Fringe 101 refresher that I wrote for scifiwire earlier today... and Fringe Bloggers Roundtable about Season One Finale I participated in last May ...







8-min podcast review of Fringe

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Grim Reaping Summer Continues: Now Mary Travers

I don't ever remember a summer with so many good people, from so many parts of our lives, dying. From politics and good governance, Ted Kennedy. From news reporting, Walter Cronkite and Don Hewitt. From music, Michael Jackson and Ellie Greenwich.

And tonight Mary Travers of Peter, Paul, and Mary. Here she is singing "If I Had Hammer" with Peter and Paul in the summer of 1963. A face, a voice, as wild and powerful and rebellious and cleansing as the winds of change...



The obits say she was 72. But she and her voice and message are in-your-face timeless and ever-gleaming.

Monday, September 14, 2009

True Blood Season 2 Finale

Well, I said earlier that joining of forces would be the way to defeat Maryann in True Blood, and it sure was, but the joining consisted of fewer forces, which in turn led to a surprise at the very end.

With all humans under Maryann's power, it's up to Bill and Sam to bring her down, which they do with Sam almost sacrificing himself, Bill quietly reviving him, and Sam coming back as a Dionysius bull to Maryann. She embraces him, thinking him her god, and Sam gores her to death (she's vulnerable in the presence of an entity she at first believes to be her god).

So far, so good. The town is slowly coming back to as normal as it can be, given some of its denizens. Bill asks Sookie out to dinner, and proposes. She doesn't say yes immediately. Is she thinking of Eric?

Eric was absent from the destruction of Maryann. He earlier tells the Queen that he intends to take care of Bill, and not in a good way.

In some ways, I think the ending would have been stronger had Eric come to Sookie, while she was in the powder room, thinking what to do about Eric's proposal ... and gone away with Eric...

Instead, it's Bill who is apparently taken away by Eric - or someone - against his will. Sookie decides to say yes, only to find him gone...

So Sookie's left alone to start the next season. If Eric kidnapped Bill, Eric will surely come back to consummate his relationship Sookie. If someone else kidnapped Bill, Eric and Sookie could join forces to rescue Bill. Either way, there's some face time ahead for Eric and Sookie, and the possibilities are, as always with True Blood, intriguing. Bring on the bad things of Season 3.

See also Love and True Blood in the Air and Likes Coming Together in True Blood and True Blood Boiling and Godric, Eric, and Sookie on the Roof and Maryann vs. the Good in True Blood and Illusion, Eisenhower, and Texting








6-min podcast review of True Blood






The Plot to Save Socrates


"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book


more about The Plot to Save Socrates...

Get your own at Profile Pitstop.com



Read the first chapter of The Plot to Save Socrates
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Mad Men 3.5: Admiral TV, MLK, and a Baby Boy

Another fascinating, tough and tender mix of social commentary and piercing personal psychology circa early 1960s on Mad Men 3.5 tonight.

The social: Pete is given the flat Admiral television account - not flat TV sets (those would be decades in the future) but flat sales of Admiral television sets. Pete looks carefully at the sales figures across the U.S., and discovers that Admiral sets are selling well - in fact increasing - in "Negro" areas.

He proposes to Admiral that they focus their ads in Negro media (Ebony, Jet, the Amsterdam News) and markets. Harry seems to agree - though, ever careful, he tells the client that his specialty is television "air not sets".

Admiral balks at the cost of producing a double set of ads - one for white and another for black markets. Pete comes back with the idea of a single campaign of integrated commercials - featuring black and white consumers.

"Isn't that illegal?" one of the Admiral people says. Pete assures them it's legal. But Admiral isn't buying it, and, predictably, Bert and Roger chew Pete out, with Roger asking Pete if he's Martin Luther King.

All of this against the backdrop of Medgar Evers being murdered - about as trenchant a piece of period social commentary as you're likely to see on television...

The personal: Medgar Evers' murder also figures in tonight's personal story, as Betty gives birth to a baby boy in what seem barbaric hospital conditions - barbaric psychological conditions, with the father kept completely out of the picture, and the mother treated as if she were in psych ward.

Betty sees and feels connected to her father, who died last week. In one softly nightmarish scene, she sees Gene mopping up blood on the floor, and her mother at a table with a black man ... who is likely Medgar Evers. Sally's teacher (whom Don is attracted to, and vice versa, but that's another story for another time) mentions Evers' murder when Betty and Don come see her at school.

But everything works out ok with Betty and the baby. Though her naming the baby Gene was not something Don especially wanted.

All in all, a big, good step forward for this complex family.

And, once again, some very fine capturing of life in the 1950s and early 60s. I remember standing outside the hospital and waving to my mother when my sister was born, just as Don and the two kids did with Betty and the baby. And we had an Admiral television set in the Levinson household in the Bronx...

See also: Mad Men Back for 3 and 3.2: Carvel, Penn Station, and Diet Soda and 3.3: Gibbon, Blackface, and Eliot and 3.4: Caned Seats and a Multiple Choice about Sal's Patio Furniture

And from Season Two: Mad Men Returns with a Xerox and a Call Girl ... 2.2: The Advertising Devil and the Deep Blue Sea ... 2.3 Double-Barreled Power ... 2.4: Betty and Don's Son ... 2.5: Best Montage Since Hitchcock ... 2.6: Jackie, Marilyn, and Liberty Valance ... 2.7: Double Dons ... 2.8: Did Don Get What He Deserved? ... 2.9: Don and Roger ... 2.10: Between Ray Bradbury and Telstar ... 2.11: Welcome to the Hotel California ... 2.12 The Day the Earth Stood Still on Mad Men ... 2.13 Saving the Best for Last on Mad Men

And from Season One: Mad Men Debuts on AMC: Cigarette Companies and Nixon ... Mad Men 2: Smoke and Television ... Mad Men 3: Hot 1960 Kiss ... Mad Men 4 and 5: Double Mad Men ... Mad Men 6: The Medium is the Message! ... Mad Men 7: Revenge of the Mollusk ... Mad Men 8: Weed, Twist, Hobo ... Mad Man 9: Betty Grace Kelly ... Mad men 10: Life, Death, and Politics ... Mad Men 11: Heat! ... Mad Men 12: Admirable Don ... Mad 13: Double-Endings, Lascaux, and Holes

20-minute interview with Rich Sommer (Harry Crane) at Light On Light Through







8-min podcast review of Mad Men






The Plot to Save Socrates


"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book


more about The Plot to Save Socrates...

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Read the first chapter of The Plot to Save Socrates
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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Dexter Season 4: Sneak Preview Non-Spoiler Review: Fabulous!

Well, my wife and I saw the first four episodes of the new season of Dexter last night - season 4 - courtesy of Showtime's advance screener copy, and I'm bursting to tell you how superb indeed this new season is, on its way to being perhaps the best season of Dexter yet (high praise indeed, because the first three seasons were outstanding), but I don't want to spoil any of this for you, so here instead are some non-specific highlights -

1. Dexter as a new father is sleep deprived. Watch for all kinds of consequences from that. He's now essentially juggling three jobs - blood specialist for the police, serial killer, and dad.

2. Super-agent serial-killer hunter Frank Lundy is back. Debra has feelings for him, even though she's in a relationship with Anton, and Lundy has feelings for Debra. Watch for some real surprises here...

3. John Lithgow has joined the show as arch-villain. He's a soft-spoken, brutal serial killer, with almost nothing in common with Dex.

4. Romantic developments and surprises abound with some of the other major police characters. I'm especially glad to see one of them.

Dexter has become one of the titans of great contemporary television - right up there with Lost, The Sopranos, The Wire, and The Shield. But unlike any of those other superb shows, Dexter features an utterly improbable yet thoroughly convincing character - Dexter - whose stories are presented with airtight, exacting, thrilling precision.

Season 4 of Dexter premieres on Showtime September 27, at 9pm.

See also reviews of Season 3: Season's Happy Endings? ... Double Surprise ... Psychotic Law vs. Sociopath Science ... The Bright, Elusive Butterfly of Dexter ... The True Nature of Miguel ... Si Se Puede on Dexter ... and Dexter 3: Sneak Preview Review

Reviews of Season 2: Dexter's Back: A Preview and Dexter Meets Heroes and 6. Dexter and De-Lila-h and 7. Best Line About Dexter - from Lila and 8. How Will Dexter Get Out of This? and The Plot Gets Tighter and Sharper and Dex, Doakes, and Harry and Deb's Belief Saves Dex and All's ... Well

See also about Season 1: First Place to Dexter







6-min podcast review of Dexter






The Plot to Save Socrates


"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book


more about The Plot to Save Socrates...

Get your own at Profile Pitstop.com



Read the first chapter of The Plot to Save Socrates
.... FREE!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Obama's Powerful Health Care Speech, and the Same Old Republican Answer

Barack Obama gave a powerful, specific, inspiring speech to Congress and the American people tonight. He reached out to Republicans, saying he would pursue medical malpractice insurance reform, something Republicans have long and justifiably sought. He explained that he was not interested in ramming a public option down anyone's throat, only providing it as a choice for those who seek it. And even then, Obama made clear that what he's most interested in was significant reform, which could even be accomplished without a public option. He indicated that he would "call out" and otherwise not tolerate any misrepresentations of the health care reforms. And in Rooseveltian terms, he concluded by saying that he and Congress didn't come to Washington to fear the future, but to help shape it.

The Republican response? Rep. Boustany insisted that Republicans would stand firm against a government takeover of health care in the United States.

It would have been nice had the Republicans responded to the speech Obama delivered, rather than one they imagined. (Keith Olbermann made much the same point about Republicans responding to a non-existent speech.)

So where do we stand?

Obama has spelled out specific health care reforms. If Republicans don't want to seriously negotiate about this, Obama and the Democrats should move ahead without them. Tonight was an important step forward, with or without Republicans.
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