It’s bleak, baby

Ah, Sunday. Relaxing before the work week with these cheery programs.

Sunday is supposed to be a restful day. The last bastion of a carefree weekend, in which you recoup for the work week ahead.

So why is there so much heavy (albeit good) TV on this night? My lineup for Sunday consists of The Walking Dead, Dexter and Boardwalk Empire. Does this sound like a restful evening?

To preserve my glass-half-full outlook on life, I spread these three shows out and watch them on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from my DVR. Otherwise, I lie awake Sunday night, with dreams of gangsters scalping cronies, religious zealots dismembering runners, and nice people getting torn apart by walkers, dancing in my head.

It’s bleak baby. Does anyone else watch all of these shows? If so, do you have the stones to watch all three on Sunday night?

10 girl crushes: My favorite ladies of TV

I just love the wit and wisdom of Dr. Temperance Brennan.


On the way to work this morning, I was thinking about Bones. That got me thinking about Dr. Brennan, and how much I love her character, which got me thinking about some of the other cool ladies on TV right now.

My co-blogger, Mark, has said that we are in a Golden Age of TV. I tend to agree – there are so many good things to watch right now. Part of the appeal of many of the shows I watch is the strong leading lady. It used to be that such strong women on TV were few and far between. Of course, the ‘90s gave us Dana Scully and Buffy Summers, two monoliths of TV womanhood. But to my knowledge there has never been a time when so many women dominated the tube. And the great thing about these leading ladies is that they are such diverse characters – gone are the days of the token strong-willed woman trying to eke out a living among the boys. Here are some ladies of note.

  • Dr. Temperance Brennan (aka Bones, of Bones) – Leader of squints and lover of guns, she’s a highly objective scientist who blows away the stereotype of the overly emotional woman.
  • Annie Walker (of Covert Affairs) – This rookie CIA agent doesn’t need a partner to take down the bad guys in her way. She’s spunky and fresh, not your typical tough girl, and she’s a one-woman wolf pack.
  • Fiona Glenanne (of Burn Notice) – How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. You build bombs. You rescue boys. You kill bad guys. You have impeccable style. You have such a sharp sense of humor.  And I love the way you say, “Shall we shoot them?”
  • Debra Morgan (of Dexter) – She’s hot mess when it comes to the opposite sex, and she’s got a mouth like a sailor. In seasons past, her vulnerability bordered on annoying, but this year she has really come into her own.
  • Liz Lemon (of 30 Rock) – LL is the funniest woman on TV, simply put. She’s a proud nerd who’s not afraid to admit to wearing a bathing suit as underwear. Need I say more?
  • Margene Heffman, Nicki Grant and Barb Henrickson (of Big Love) – Three very different women (who I am counting as one, polygamist girl crush), married to one man. In four seasons, each has shown strength of character and vulnerability. The complexities of their relationships to one another go beyond the challenges of polygamy, and delve into the differences between each one’s ideas of what it means to be a woman, wife and mother.
  • Caroline Forbes (of Vampire Diaries) – Not the obvious choice from this show (that would be the main star, Elena), but I really like Caroline. And what’s more, I think she’s a good example for young ladies. Last year, she was shallow and mean. But over time, her character grew (and changed into a vampire) into a much deeper person capable of true friendship, love and compassion. This season, she has weathered her change with grace, and even stepped up to the plate to help Tyler handle his own change. She’s a nice example of how a young woman can transcend the cliques, gossip and stereotyping of high school.
  • Olivia Dunham (of Fringe) ­ – Olivia is a smart agent who follows her instincts. She not only solves mysteries in our world, she crosses to other universes as well. She is a fascinating character, capable of great emotional depth as well as detachment.   
  • Myka Bering (of Warehouse 13) – Myka left her gig with the Warehouse at the end of last season following the debacle with H.G. Wells. But if you ask me, the empathy she showed for H.G.’s loss added a new dimension to her previously businesslike demeanor. But don’t get me wrong – I have always appreciated her focus on being the best agent she can be, and putting that before her personal feelings.
  • Pam Swynford De Beaufort (of True Blood) – Again, not the obvious choice, which would be Sookie Stackhouse. However, I just love Pam. Classy and ruthless, she is equally commanding in the pleather Fangtasia costumes as she is in her two-piece pink suits.

Three shows that you simply must watch

  1. Dexter, Showtime, 9 p.m.
  2. Boardwalk Empire, HBO, 9 p.m.
  3. The Walking Dead, AMC, 10 p.m.

I’ve blogged of my admiration for Dexter and Boardwalk Empire before, so I won’t belabor the point with a long review of each one, but if you aren’t already, you should definitely be watching. And yes, I realize that they are on premium channels (not a recession-proof commodity, to be sure) but I would argue that they are well worth the money. One way to look at it – for about the price of two movie tickets, you can get a month of both Showtime and HBO, and hours of excellent original programming, documentaries and blockbuster movies. This is starting to sound like a commercial.

Rick, played by Andrew Lincoln, is a true hero. While anti-heroes abound on other networks, he’s a breath of fresh, honest-to-goodness air.

I haven’t devoted any blog space to AMC’s The Walking Dead. Trust me it’s not for lack of interest. The show is completely amazing. I think I’ve mentioned before that the husband and I are avid horror fans, so I was prepared for disappointment. What I got was quite surprise. Here are some reasons why I like The Walking Dead.

  • The zombies are slow. Thank the gods – in recent years zombies have been fast and fierce, with super strength, and people have had little to no chance of escape. Boring rubbish if you ask me. These zombies are dead, rotting, walking corpses – slow and dumb but deadly in packs. Just like I like them.
  • Andrew Lincoln, who plays the lead character, Rick Grimes. What’s not to love in this protagonist? If you’re tired of anti-heroes, look no further for a bona-fide good guy. Rick is a nice guy, family man, good cop – you get the picture. He’s the type of guy you want to mow your lawn and then come in the house for a nice, cool lemonade.
  • It’s not all CGI. Kudos to the make-up team. The zombies look better than most of those that have graced the silver screen in the last decade.
  • It’s gory. Human entrails? Check. Horse guts? Check. Splattered brains? Check.  Even on the premium channels, you won’t find a gorier show.
  • The tragedy hits home. This is what I like the most about the show, and it’s really a culmination of all the preceding points. Zombie films of recent years lost this sense of deep melancholy in their hurried edits, metal soundtracks and CGI effects. Because of the slow pace, the superior effects, the excellent characters and stark realism, this show does something remarkable – it makes you feel.

Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about

                    Last night I made no-bake cookies, grabbed a tall glass of cold milk, and sat down to watch Dexter. It was a great moment, because the no-bakes were perfect, and Showtime was 100 percent back on its game with Dexter.

All at once, the major plotlines have blossomed like drops of blood on a slide – Dexter stalked and killed Cole, Lumen finally saw the real Dexter, LaGuerta revealed herself to be the back-stabbing ice queen we all knew her to be, Dexter zeroed in on Jordan Chase and Stan Liddy came this close to catching Dexter and Lumen in the act of disposing a body.

If you haven’t already watched last night’s episode, don’t wait. In spite of the season’s slow start, it was an excellent hour of TV. Go ahead – take it.

Gasp! A TV-free weekend (almost)

L to R: Me, my husband's brother, and my husband, in costume.
On Friday after work, I met my husband and his colleagues for drinks. Before I knew it, the night was nearly over, and I was headed home in a food coma, induced by a ½ pound Louie’s burger and Guinness (fellow Akronites, you’ve been there). I had every intention of settling down in front of the TV to watch Jersey Shore and It’s Always Sunny on DVR, but I fell into a deep slumber.

The next morning, I ate my standard breakfast of yogurt and All Bran, and hit the gym for my daily 3.5 mile run and 30 minutes of cross training. From there, it was on to the grocery store, and home to make chocolate chip cookies for a bonfire on Saturday night. I promised myself, “I’ll get home early so I can relax and watch a little TV.” That didn’t happen.

Enter Sunday morning, and preparations for Sunday supper (pot roast, in case you were wondering) with my parents, grandparents, and in-laws. After everyone left at 5:30, the husband and I donned our costumes (mad scientists) and passed out candy for trick-or-treat, which lasted until 8 p.m.

After two completely TV-free days, I hardly knew what to do with myself on Sunday at 9 p.m., when I finally had a chance to plop down in front of the boob tube.  

What luck! I was rewarded with the first solid Dexter episode of the season. In addition to some exciting developments in Lumen’s storyline, Dexter finally gave fans a bite-sized, one-off kill. Albeit a sloppy kill, the episode was a winner – a perfect blend of Dexter’s sardonic humor, dark passenger and sincere effort to be a loving father.

After Dexter, I tuned into Boardwalk Empire on my DVR, and was treated to a stellar installment of this series. The writers peeled back another layer of Nucky’s character — revealing a childhood tainted by an abusive father. As Nucky and Margaret wrestle his demons and try to find a comfortable level of intimacy, on the Chicago front, Jimmy becomes friends with a disfigured war veteran and exacts final revenge on the man who cut Pearl. This is TV at its best.

This morning, I realized I forgot to watch the premiere of The Walking Dead on AMC. After such a busy weekend of friends, family and food, topped off by two great shows, I can’t say I’m too disappointed.

Come on, Dexter, pick up the pace

I’d like a little less of this…

Dear, patient readers – has it really been 12 days since my last post? Where did the time go? Possibly to fall festivities, a few movies, a steady streak of going to the gym, dinners with my charming husband and a seriously busy week at work. So here’s a long overdue post-Sunday night post.

I didn’t have time to watch Boardwalk Empire yesterday, but I did tune in for Dexter (a reversal of my pledge to start watch Boardwalk Empire during the Sunday 9 p.m. time slot).

I’ve mentioned it before, but it’s been a slow start this year for Dexter. Not a lot of killing going on (unless you count the case that Deb’s working on). And since that’s the major draw of this show, it’s struggled to captivate.

Last week’s, and this week’s installments have been better. The introduction of Julia Stiles, while uncharacteristically sloppy for the meticulous Dexter Morgan, has added some intrigue to the show, which was starting to feel like a rated R version of Daddy Daycare. Also, I am enjoying Dexter’s obvious dislike of Quinn, and Deb’s newfound self-assurance. As of late, her relationship with Quinn has been rather humorous as well.

…And a little more of this, please.

While I appreciate a good, long story arc, what needs to happen next is more one-off kills from Dexter. At the beginning of the series, he killed a killer almost every week (even as the longer plots, such as the ice truck killer and Dexter’s biological family, took place). This season, Dexter had one random, rage-fueled kill in a rest stop bathroom, and the murder of Boyd last week. Five episodes into the fifth season, fans of this show expect more. Sure, it was bad what happened to Rita, and it’s tough being a single dad, but a little multi-tasking is in order. Particularly now that super-nanny (who is clearly not all that she seems) is on board, there should be more time for Dexter’s extracurricular activities.

Dexter vs. Boardwalk Empire

                 Let me start out by saying that I love Dexter. In fact, it was one of the reasons I got cable last year and I consistently rate it among the highest quality shows on TV right now. In the past, Dexter hasn’t had much competition for the fall, 9 p.m. Sunday slot.

Enter Boardwalk Empire, the new show helmed by Terrence Winter (creator of The Sopranos) and Martin Scorcese. In three words: I love it. Why?

It’s stylish. Set in Prohibition Era New Jersey, the sets are rich tapestries of Americana. The costumes are beautiful – wing tips, three-piece suits, flapper dresses, I could go on and on. Its visual decadence is unmatched.

It’s smart. This cast of characters is intriguing. Played by Steve Buscemi, Nucky Thompson is a savvy politician who walks the line between good and evil. He is supported by a host of excellent actors – Michael Pitt as the up-and-coming gangster Jimmy, Kelly Macdonald as the charming Mrs. Schroeder, Michael Shannon as the intense FBI Agent Van Alden, and so many more. Three episodes in, it’s easy to see the skill of the actors and writers that goes into the making of each episode.

It’s all about the stories. Each week, a new layer of this world is revealed. The politics of the time – including prohibition, women’s suffrage, early civil rights – are fascinating. But the personal stories are just as riveting – the growing interest Nucky shows in Mrs. Schroeder, Jimmy’s friendship with Al Capone, Jimmy’s relationship with the mother of his son, Jimmy’s relationship with his showgirl mother – I could go on and on.

With Dexter off to a slow start (I know, I know the last episode was better than previous weeks), Boardwalk Empire has firmly jumped to the lead for best show on Sunday at 9 p.m.

Mea culpa and fall TV

Fringe is back for another great season, along with a host of other shows.

It’s been a long time, and I have to apologize for my absence from Remotely Entertaining. With a full lineup of fall TV, a tidal wave of work and more than a few social calls, it’s been tough to find time to write in the last couple weeks. Kudos to my co-blogger, Mark, for keeping things fresh.

Wow! What a fall lineup we have. Here’s what I’m loving:

  • Fringe – Every season seems better than the last. Last week’s premiere delved into Olivia’s predicament on the other side, and set the stage for another very interesting season. In interviews, I’ve heard the show’s writers say that they intend to fully develop the alternate characters, rather than simply setting them up as ne’er do well dopplegangers. Next week, I’m hoping for a good monster of the week, as this show does mythology and one-off episodes equally good.
  • 30 Rock – You’re my pube shirt. Enough said.
  • Boardwalk Empire – We all knew this would be great, and guess what? It is. From the excellent cast (particularly Steve Buscemi) to the directing and writing to the costumes and sets, this show is nothing short of enthralling. It’s no surprise that after one episode, it was picked up for a second season.
  • Dexter – To be sure, it was a depressing first hour of Dexter on Sunday. With Rita gone, Dexter is definitely off his game. Deb is trying to pick up the pieces whilst sleeping with Quinn (who is quite nice, I might add), and the kids are a wreck. From week to week, I can never predict where this show is going, but I’m on the edge of my seat the entire time I’m watching.
  • Vampire Diaries – This show hit the ground running, and the twist of Caroline becoming a vampire is a great one. Also, I love that Damon continues to be a bad guy and I was genuinely shocked when he snapped Jeremy’s neck in episode one. The werewolf element is also promising, and the show has a unique mythology related to its supernatural elements.

Like I said, there’s lot to watch right now. I also have a few new and returning shows that I’m not loving as much, but I’ll save that commentary for another post.

Did I mention I like lists? Most disturbing TV scenes by EW

Last week’s episode of True Blood was the inspiration for Entertainment Weekly’s list.

Entertainment Weekly published a list of the top 20 most disturbing scenes on TV. I haven’t seen a lot of the shows that made the list, but here’s what I thought of the ones I do know about.

First up is the scene from last week’s episode of True Blood, in which Bill and his maker, Lorena, have some really bizarre and violent sex that involves her head being twisted 180 degrees, as she chokes out “I still love you” whilst coughing up blood and smiling sickly. That was weird, and disturbing, and surprising. Definitely not for the kiddos. I think most True Blood fans would agree that Bill has usually been portrayed in a more gentlemanly fashion than, say, Eric. So this behavior was shocking coming from him, but also shocking behavior in general.

The next scene I recognized was from The X-Files episode “Home.” This scene, in which Mulder and Scully find the mother of a family of imbreds hiding under a bed, is a classic moment in a show with a lot of creepy, memorable scenes. I’m glad this made the list, as “Home” was truly a great hour in TV history, and is almost universally recognized as the best episode of The X-Files.

Also on the list is a scene from Dexter. The last season of this show brought us many jarring scenes, thanks to the expert portrayal of the Trinity Killer by John Lithgow. Entertainment Weekly points out the Thanksgiving scene, where Dexter snapped and nearly killed Trinity in front of his family, as the most disturbing. To be sure, this was memorable, but for me, the most disturbing scene of this season (aside from the shocking ending, which is the obvious choice) was the first time we saw Trinity kill in the bathtub. Who will ever forget those dead eyes, staring into the eyes of his victim, as the water turned crimson from her blood?

 I also took issue with the scene EW picked from Deadwood. If I had to pick a most disturbing scene from this HBO drama, I would not have picked this one. To me, the most disturbing scene came when Al Swearengen (expertly portrayed by Ian McShane) was taken ill with kidney stones. You could literally feel the agony as he tried to pass them, having stroke in the process. I think it’s safe to say there was a universal wince when he squeezed out a few, bloody, foamy drops of urine. I just winced again as I wrote that.

From the Twilight Zone, EW chose one of the most classic episodes, and one that is oft-quoted in jest in the Rogers Household. Have you ever wished your spouse into the cornfield? I have.

EW also picked the scene from Lost where the guy gets sucked into the plane during the pilot. However, to me this really wasn’t very disturbing. Truthfully, while there were many crazy twists and turns in Lost, I didn’t find any of them to be as disturbing as some of the other items on the EW list. It seems like they just wanted to include something from Lost.

A few things I thought should have made the list:

  • A scene from The Sopranos. There were a lot of disturbing moments in this show (which I have only watched two seasons of) that could have been mentioned.
  • Spike’s attempted rape of Buffy in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, season six, episode 19, “Seeing Red.”
  • Any one of the cruel and unusual punishments doled out by Henry VIII on The Tudors. Probably the most disturbing for me was the execution of Katherine Howard.

The crown jewel of Showtime’s lineup

I can’t say I was sad for Henry at the end, but I was a bit sorry for him.

I watched the series finale of The Tudors last night, and while I already discussed a lot of my feelings about the show last week, I did want to talk a little bit about the last hour of this outstanding four-season historical drama on Showtime.

Series creator Michael Hirst discussed the last episode in a brief segment after the credits, mentioning that he wanted to end the show on a balanced note, which is why we didn’t actually see Henry’s death. Hirst’s rationale was that if Henry simply died, his character would be remembered for the cruelties and excesses alone. As I mentioned in my last post, there has been little to like about Henry this season. He’s been brutal, and I agree that if he would have just died, with no reflection on his past deeds, it would have seemed flat. Kudos to Hirst for realizing this.

Instead, Hirst said he tried to elevate the episode, and I believe he succeeded in this goal. The dream sequences with the white horse were beautifully filmed, and the use of young Henry was perfectly orchestrated to evoke authentic sympathy for a man who was undoubtedly cruel, but also complex and very conflicted in his life. The scenes in which former wives appeared, particularly Anne Boleyn, served as a reminder that Henry was obviously a man of great passion, often ruled by emotions and therefore fallible in life and love.

As I mentioned before, this show was filled with outstanding actors. In this final hour, the meeting between Charles Brandon, the Duke of Suffolk (played by Henry Cavill) and Henry VIII (played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers) was genuinely touching. What a sad turn the Duke’s health took – sad for his mistress who could not morn him in public and deeply sad for Henry, his lifelong friend who mistakenly believed he had the divine power to will him back to health.

The final montage of happy scenes from the show was effective in two ways. First it reminded me of how gorgeous Rhys Meyers is without all of that aging makeup. Second, it allowed the audience to rethink his character. Was he a true villain? Was he a misunderstood monarch? Or was he just a man with too much power and influence for his own good, capable of extreme cruelty but also pure love? Maybe the lesson is that he was all of these things.

I often wonder, in 500 years, how history will portray current heads of state. Who will be revered? Who will be forgotten? Who will be hated? This leads me to the other lesson of The Tudors, one about the passing of time and history, which Henry vocalized in this scene:

Henry: “What loss, your Grace, is to man most irrecoverable?”
Charles Brandon: “His virtue.”
Henry: “No, for by his actions he may redeem his virtue.”
Charles Brandon: “Then his honor.”
Henry: “No, for again, he may find the means to recover it, even as a man recovers some fortune he has lost.”
Charles Brandon: “Then I cannot say your majesty.”
Henry: “Time, your Grace. Of all losses, time is the most irrecoverable for it can never be redeemed.”