TV Archive

I've been watching a lot of classic TV via my Netflix account, streaming through my Blu-Ray player. Seeing the old shows has been like seeing old childhood friends.

Last night, I continued my viewing of Dragnet, the archtypical cop show. In one episode, Sergeant Joe Friday speaks to a group of recent high school graduates from the inner city, trying to gain new recruits for the LAPD.

He made arguments that, I think, would stand up well more than 40 years later. Heck, if I were young and physically capable, I might consider a career in law enforcement, based on Friday's sales pitch.

One of the young men in the meeting, however, clearly did not pay enough attention.

Yeah... that's O. J. Simpson. Murderer, currently doing time for robbery.

Seeing him in that meeting on-screen was more jarring than his appearances in the Naked Gun comedies.

Last night — this morning, really — after work, via the Netflix streaming capability of my Blu-Ray player (woohoo!) I watched a bunch of episodes of that great classic police show, Adam-12.


During the episode "I'm Still A Cop," wherein Officer Malloy (Martin Milner) balances his duty as a law enforcement officer with his part-time attendance at a local college, the students do what students did in the '60s: riot. The student radicals seize an administration building and hold the college president in his office. The police rescue him without violence; ultimately, Malloy foils a bomb plot staged by one of the radicals.

Being a 1960s TV show, the hippies depicted therein were rather more clean-cut than one might expect of 1960s college students. They dressed fairly well, and all of them appeared to have bathed in the recent past.

No, I don't like hippies — even fictional recently-washed hippies. If I see a clean hippie, I expect fire hoses and wire brushes to have been involved in the cleaning.

As I watched, I couldn't help but wish that episode had gone down the path of Maximum Baton Utilization.

The road not taken....

*sigh*

Quick Netflix Review

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Dexter: Season 1
Starring Michael C. Hall, Julie Benz, Jennifer Carpenter, Erik King

Quick review: How and why did it take so long for there to be an entry in the vigilante serial killer genre? And... is it wrong to occasionally root for the serial killer?

4½ stars


It's a Showtime production, so caveats about language and adult content are definitely applicable.

You might also be prepared for gruesomeness.

That said, this is a remarkable series. The viewer sees things from the viewpoint of sociopath Dexter Morgan who, having been adopted and raised by a cop, has been taught to cover his tracks exceptionally well. So well, in fact, that he blends invisibly into society, working as a police forensics expert, and going through the motions of dating a woman — and doing surprisingly well at the latter, despite his utter lack of emotion or empathy.

The one slightly redeeming aspect to his behaviour is that he only kills those who, being guilty of the worst crimes, have escaped judicial punishment.

Dexter's inner monologue is unexpectedly fascinating, and occasionally laugh-out-loud funny, as he describes the lengths he goes to put on the appearance of being normal. By the end of the first episode, I actually felt pity for the character.

Michael C. Hall is outstanding in the lead, and is backed by a terrific ensemble cast. James Remar's scenes as Dexter's late father, shown in flashbacks, are particularly noteworthy, and show much of how Dexter came to be who he is.

All in all, a well-done series, worth watching.

Coulter in Canada

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Ann Coulter had, shall we say, a bit of difficulty getting her message out to college students in Ottawa earlier this week. The intolerance of the Left was on full display.

Fortunately, however, she had a full hour, free from rude interruptions or censorship, on Canadian TV with chat show host Michael Coren.* Smitty at The Other McCain points to the first of five parts, but the whole show is fun viewing if you like Coulter... and probably head-asplodingly infuriating if you don't.

Me, I liked it.


Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5


* Smitty calls Coren "a cheap Canadian imitation of Bill O’Reilly." This is grossly unfair towards Coren. Bill O'Reilly is a pompous windbag, and a poor imitation of actual class acts like Michael Coren.

Coincidence?

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I've gotten a ton of traffic this past week — the usual search result for "naked chicks with guns" having been supplanted as #1 by searches for pictures of curling.

Odd, that. I can't imagine why either would be a popular search....

For the record, I have in fact been watching a lot of curling during this Olympic season. It seems to me to be the perfect sport for a geek to enjoy. It's rather a lot like the engineering field in some respects: it requires precision and finesse, and a small mistake can lead to disaster.

As Mætenloch says over at Ace of Spades HQ,

Everyone should watch it once. But only a fool watches it twice. You have been warned.

I'm only putting it here for your viewing "pleasure." I've already seen it, while I was on convalescent leave after surgury two years ago. I think it delayed my recovery.

The mere memory of it makes me want to scrub my eyeballs.

Brain Dead

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I'm operating on a total lack of sleep last night/this morning, so I'm not at my thinkin'est best... indeed, I'm a vitual zombie at this point.

I've been led to believe there have been some elections today; I hear the New Jersey governor's race is within the margin of fraud. I suppose I could turn the TV on to a news channel to find out more... but if I get bored and fall asleep right now, my body clock will be completely hosed for the work week ahead.

I think I have an episode of Top Gear on the DVR... that'll keep me awake for an hour. After that, we'll see.

Geek Bliss

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One really, truly great thing about being a denizen of the wee hours of the morning: I'm getting about three T1s of download speed — and not irritating my neighbors while doing so. I'm getting a bunch of episodes of Law & Order: UK.

Yes, that's right — UK. They're everywhere.

Mycah vs. Mycah

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I've always thought Mycah was a pretty cute girl.

Via my referrer logs, I see there's another Mycah out there... with two M's in "Emmerson," as opposed to the just one in use hereabouts.

There must be something about the name "Mycah."

I see entirely too much late-night TV. "Too much" not because what I watch is bad — hello? Red Eye, anyone? — but rather due to the commercials. Whether they're actually full-blown insipid, or just have a slight something that annoys, they all get under my skin.

Some of the ones seen this week:

Dr. Frank's — What is it about playing tennis that makes this spray the ne plus ultra of successful pain relief? And then there's the Joint Pain Relief Spray for dogs and cats. Do the dogs and cats play tennis? And is there any point to walking the dog if you have to put it in a stroller?

High Plains Bison — Look, I'm sure this "bison" of which they speak is tasty and all... but is it any better than buffalo?

Free Credit Report dot com — Does anyone believe that guy has a "posse," or that might he ever, even theoretically, be found "lookin' fly" and/or "rollin' phat"? Should he not, in fact, be beaten on sight?

Cancer Treatment Centers of America — Look, I hope they're a good outfit, I really do... but they have been using the same one woman in their ads for at least a year. Her story is compelling, yes, but is she their only success story?

Earthshare — "Help restore balance to the world." Um, I'll concentrate on restoring my own balance thankyouverymuch.

Viagra — Note to the ad execs responsible for this latest campaign: You bastards. There were maybe three Elvis songs that I liked, and you had to go and ruin one of them. For the last 25 years I haven't been able to listen to Pachelbel's Canon in D without thinking of GE soft white light bulbs, and now this. Die, you scum.

These are why I love my DVR's fast-forward button.

Packet the TV connoisseur

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Packet has become a TV junkie. Cat Sitter is his favorite DVD so far.

Rodents and birds are not the only things he likes to watch. He seems to enjoy Good Eats as much as I do, and he's a regular Red Eye viewer. He's a big fan of ombudsman Andy Levy.

He's probably hoping to get an autographed picture of Andy's cats, Pixel and Stormy.


Start your weekend at The Modulator's Friday Ark.

The Carnival of the Cats this week is hosted at the M-cats Club.

And as always, for your every day cat needs, a visit to the Cat Blogosphere is recommended.

Go Fight Win

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While covering the news last night on FNC's Red Eye (you are DVRing it nightly, are you not?) Fox Business Network reporter Tracy Byrnes defended cheerleading as a "sport."

Utter nonsense.

Cheerleading, Ice Dancing, and Synchronized Swimming may all be competitive endeavours requiring athletic ability, but they aren't sports.

Here are two simple rules of thumb by which you can tell if the activity in which you are engaged is a sport, when victory is determined by your score:

  • If a score is awarded based on judges' arbitrary opinion of the quality of your performance, it's not a sport.
  • If the score is determined solely by the completion of a specific task, it is a sport.

Discuss.

I think I've been watching too much cable TV news. Everything is starting to look like this to me:


Breaking News: Series Of Concentric Circles Emanating From Glowing Red Dot

Holiday Irritant

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The best part of tomorrow being Valentine's Day? Knowing that the most extraordinarily insipid TV ads ever created will be going away for a year.

Ticking me off this year, as every year: Vermont Teddy Bears, PajamaGrams.

I'm such a grouch.

Friday night has, for the last several years, been "Monk" night for my DVR. Great show.

Recently, however, I ran into a show that seems (by visuals and the script) to be based in my hometown, Santa Barbara: Psych, on the USA network, immediately following Monk.

I'd seen promos for the show while watching recorded episodes of Monk, but one night during my recent convalescence, I caught Monk live, and left the TV tuned to USA, and Psych began. I was initially uninterested, until the supposed locale* caught my attention. I watched.

Wow. This may be one of the most entertaining shows I've seen in a long time. It's very cleverly written, with rapid-fire dialogue, interesting story lines and a cast of engaging characters led by stars James Roday and Dulé Hill. Plus, it is very funny.

The general story line: a novice sleuth (Roday) is hired by the police after he cons them into thinking he has psychic powers that help solve crimes. With the assistance of his reluctant best friend (Hill) the duo solve crimes.

Roday shines in this series as the faux-psychic Shawn Spencer. Nothing seems too outlandish for him, and the witty dialogue uses his considerable talent to full effect. Hill excels as the rather-more-serious (and usually much smarter) sidekick Burton "Gus" Guster. The two are inseparable, sharing virtually every scene, and playing off of each other to great effect.

If you enjoy a neat little mystery, and (like me) are a sucker for strong writing with a heavy dose of quirky humor, I strongly recommend that you record and/or watch Psych on USA Network. it should be on Friday nights everywhere, but check your local listings just in case.

(Plus, you can watch full episodes at the USA website.)

* Though set in Santa Barbara, with plenty of stock footage and set dressing, the show is actualy filmed in British Columbia.

Easy Pickings

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It happens to be "Kid's Week" on Jeopardy. A bunch of snot-nosed juveniles competing for cash.

I'm pretty sure I could take any of them.

It might be easier to let them finish and then mug the winner.

A modicum of sanity in Oregon, where charges of felonious butt-swatting against two 13-year-old boys have been dropped. I don't care who you are, butt-swatting when a 13-year-old should in no way mark you as a sex offender for life. Indeed, I can't think of too many things a 13-year-old can do that ought to label them for life. Are you the same person now that you were when you were 13?


Steve H. prognosticates. He may be on to something there. Me, I think we're looking at a major redefinition of the term "boob-tube."


No, Gary, it's not just you.


Garofalo to join cast of "24." Fonzie to jump shark.


Louisiana Democrats attack Bobby Jindal's religion. (Isn't Louisiana a heavily Catholic state?) They once tried a whisper campaign about his ethnicity, so this really comes as no surprise. That they have to take his words out of context is not only unsurprising, it's pretty much the standard modus operandi for Democrats these days.


John Edwards: not so bright. Less bright: the people who ever voted for him for anything.


Breaking and entering? Illegal. Squatting? Not so much.


LOL, cat.

Letdown

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Last night I spent some time watching the History International channel, a program called The Imperial Japanese Navy: Kaigun, which covered the IJN from it's inception during the Meiji Restoration up until the present day. An interesting program, but ultimately disappointing.

So basically, I spent two hours hearing things I already knew from other sources. Two hours of my life that I won't get back. Two hours during which I could have been watching DVRed episodes of Cash in the Attic or How It's Made, or possibly even New Yankee Workshop. But no, I watched something redundantly educational.

Worst of all: two whole hours of documentary, and not one single solitary reference to Godzilla.

You'd think a 400-foot tall lizard would at least rate a mention.

I sense a coverup.

Magnificent

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Most of us go through our lives doing whatever it is we do, without being particularly good at those things. Mere competence at the things people are allegedly paid to do for a living, for instance, is sometimes so rare it can surprise us when we encounter it.

It is the rare person who is exceptionally good at what they do. I'm a pretty good network engineer, but by no means am I the best — not even close. I am pretty good at some of the things I do for my own enjoyment, though.

But to be phenomenally good at anything — be it one's vocation or one's hobby — is so rare as to provoke comment.

I don't know how, but Ith at Absinthe & Cookies found a cellphone salesman who is phenomenally good at his hobby. So good that overnight he's become a TV star in Britain, and is likely to become famous around the world.

Ith calls Paul Potts "amazing." I think she vastly understates the case.

"The Unit" Rocks

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I've TIVOed CBS's The Unit from Day 1 — Dennis Haysbert is just too cool — though to be honest I can do without the entirety of the wife-driven soap-opera half of the show. But I intend to continue watching, because of scenes like what follows, from last night's episode.

Object Lesson

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Part 1 of ABC's docudrama The Path to 9/11 airs tonight and, as Tigerhawk points out (h/t: Prof R) due to the Democrats' incessant blathering in every available media outlet about the unfairness of it all, it'll likely have a significantly larger audience than it would have, had the community of Clinton defenders simply pretended the miniseries didn't exist.

No one I know of is claiming that the miniseries is completely accurate, any more than The Longest Day was a 100% completely faithful account of the D-Day landings — but that movie is still a good way to learn about the Normandy invasion.

Perhaps this can be an object lesson for the Left on the difference between "reality" and "reality-based."

Heh

At home after the usual Friday night at the office, I've turned the TV to VH1 Classic, just for a change of pace. Lots of good classic stuff. Then came a band and a song to which I am not particularly favorably disposed — Blue Oyster Cult's "(Don't Fear) The Reaper."

As the opening notes sounded, the first thing I thought was "more cowbell!"

And then it occurred to me: I'll never have to hear that song the "old" way again.

Television: is there anything it can't do?

Objects at Rest

"Long after we are gone ... our voices will linger in these walls for as long as this place remains." — G'Kar

Actor Andreas Katsulas passed away February 13th. For Babylon 5 fans, his unforgettable voice lingers.

OK, I'll Watch

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I found a reason to watch some of the 2006 Winter Olympics coverage — the Swedish Women's Curling Team:

Homina homina hawah...

Seriously Ticked Off

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My DVR completely and utterly failed to record the season premiere of 24 last night. I am a bit unhappy about that.

Define "a bit" however you like... but you'll probably underestimate the irritability in this household today.

I wonder if any of my neighbors managed to record it?

Reviews and Recommendations

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[Updated and revised.]

One thing those of you who have read my occasional TV, DVD, movie or music reviews might have noticed is that I don't do in-depth reviews of anything after viewing or listening just once. Usually, that's because I don't partake in entertainment in order to write a review. I simply try to enjoy it.

Add to that the fact that I rarely actually go to the movies, and I don't buy, willy-nilly, every CD that comes out, nor do I watch the "popular" TV shows. Most of them are utter dreck. (Well, I do watch NCIS and CSI and its variants. Good stuff, but I don't ever expect to write reviews of them.)

Nonetheless, there is quality entertainment to be had. One aspect of quality, per se, is the ability to stand the test of time. Perhaps that's why the CDs I occasionally buy were usually released a few years before I buy them.

Sometimes, however, the label "instant classic" really does apply. Something need not be twenty or more years old to have demonstrated qualities that will let it hold its own in the future. By way of example, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, which is now just two years old, is one such film. I recommended it here, and received some very good feedback. It is, I think, a film that will be eminently watchable for generations to come.

So if you see an in-depth review of mine, it will probably not be something that aired on TV last night, it probably won't be something you can still go see in the theaters, and it probably will not be something currently on the Billboard top-100 list. Probably not.

Furthermore, I don't intend to review too many things I would not recommend. My time is too valuable to me to waste becoming familiar enough with something I don't like, just to write a full review. If there's something don't like, I'll say so and move along.

Rather, I intend my reviews to be justifications for my recommendations. (Again, refer to M&C.) If I recommend something, you can be sure I either already own it, or it's in my shopping basket — putting my money where my mouth is, you might say.

All that having been said, I expect my next reviews to be of the 1996 movie That Thing You Do! and the CD Welcome Interstate Managers from 2003. Both, as you might expect, will be recommended.

Hysterical / Historical

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When your cable company provides upwards of three hundred channels, not even a DVR is going to help you find the good stuff on TV... and yes, there are some good things on the air wire.

Historyonics is a BBC production that currently airs on History International, but could just as easily be shown on Comedy Central. It takes a very funny look at some of the major events in English history — the battle of Hastings, the tale of Robin Hood, and so on — while imparting some actual historical knowledge to the viewer.

And when I say it's very funny, I mean it's fall-out-of-your-chair hilarious, if British style humor is your thing. I have the bruised hip to prove it. Examples:

• The Battle of Stamford Bridge rages, set to the song "Everybody was kung-fu fighting...."

• William the Bastard, having just sailed from Normandy across the English Channel with his army, disembarks upon the shores of England; he is about to go through the legal forms required to change his name to William the Conqueror. First, however, he summons his soothsayer to give him the, er, sooth.

William: Bring forth my soothsayer!

Knight: He drowned on ze way over, Sire.

William: As omens go, that's probably a bad one.

If you are fortunate enough to get History International on your cable or satellite system, I urge you to give this program a look. It will probably be listed in your TV Guide as "Almanac." For air times search the H.I. website for "Historyonics."

Figure of Speech

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A Tennessee law professor blogger who shall remain nameless posts a link to some sort of article on California business. The expression "nibbled to death by ducks" makes an appearance.

As that unnamed blogger might say, "heh."

My all-time favorite TV series (which, in the Grand Scheme Of Things, ranks in importance somewhere between a favorite grandparent and a favorite flavor of icecream) is Babylon 5. (The full set of DVDs is in my wish list... but I may pop for it myself one of these days.)

Yes, I'm a geek.

Yes, there's a connection. Bear with me.

Babylon 5 was smartly-written: gritty, suspenseful, thrilling and realistic (well... as realistic as science fiction can reasonably be), with grand themes surrounding the day-to-day action. Characters had failings, flaws and deep dark secrets — no prissy Jean-Luc Picards anywhere to be seen. The problems of everyday life intruded into the characters' lives. The tip-off for me was that the space station had bathrooms, and characters actually used them.

[I'm convinced the missions of Star Trek's vessels were mainly concerned searching for planets with decent lavatory facilities, since no commodes are apparent on Star Fleet's ships.]

As the saying goes, for science fiction to be good science fiction, it must first be good fiction. By any standard, B5 scored on that count. It was such a good show that, given Hollywood's penchant for killing quality projects, I still think it's a miracle it made it to the airwaves at all, much less made it through its complete 5-year storyline.

If you never followed it, I can only say: it's not too late.

Not only was B5 one great big terrific story, but almost all episodes (there were a couple of stinkers) were good stories in and of themselves. Throughout the series were moments that would have any normal person shivering with anticipation, cheering, saddened, or laughing out loud.

Hence this post. We began with ducks, and end with one of my favorite "gems" of dialog from the program.

Londo: "... I think I will stick my head in the station's fusion reactor. It would be quicker. And I suspect, after a while I might even come to enjoy it. But this — this, this, this is like being nibbled to death by... what are those Earth creatures called? Feathers, long bill, webbed feet .. go 'quack'...?"

Vir: "Cats."

Londo: "Cats. I'm being nibbled to death by cats."

Cracks me up every time.

[I always thought the expression was "nibbled to death by cats" rather than "by ducks." A quick Google of both phrases yields 2,910 hits for "cats" and a mere 695 for "ducks," but that's beside the point....]

[Point? What point?]

This Missive: Dismissive

"Friends"? That was a TV show? Hmm, I must have been busy with something else....

I have never seen a single episode of Friends. Not once. If it were a choice between Friends and turning off the TV, I'd be reaching for the remote faster than you can say "annoying theme song."

It's going off the air? Feh. Tonight is the last episode? So what?

Nor, I might add, have I ever seen Buffy, or 90210, Baywatch, Survivor or ER (despite the fact that I went to junior high school with Anthony Edwards, who didn't mind being called "Tony" back in the '70s.). I don't make it a practice to watch any sitcom currently running, except The Simpsons.

I only ever saw one episode of Seinfeld. I hated it. Passionately. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I've watched Fraser.

Dramas? Ya, I watch 24 and CSI. Oh, and Monk, but that's syndication-only, so I don't think it really counts. Babylon 5 ruled. So did Firefly. It's a pity they're gone.

Reality shows? Oh, puh-leeze. I'd sooner crazy-glue my eyes shut, then nail them down just to be safe.

Glad I got that off my chest.

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