No more House calls for a while

On Monday, Swiss television showed the season 3 finales of both House, M.D. and Lost. We haven’t seen the latter yet, but it probably says it all that the best moment of House, at least for me, was the Chase/Cameron kiss. That scene was sweet, but the actual medical case was too vague and the character interaction not very interesting. The House vs. God angle had also been done previously. All in all it felt like the series could do with a couple of months off. Seeing as season 4, cut short by striking writers, is just about over in the States, we might get it fairly soon…

Gregory House, looking dark and depressed in between snarky quips

… but first, we’ve got the grand return of Grey’s Anatomy (at a point where I sometimes feel that if I have to watch McDreamy be a self-righteous, self-infatuated git for another minute, I’ll find the actor and put his face through a meat grinder), doubled up with Private Practice, the Grey spin-off that got started in an atrociously written and at best adequately acted two-parter on its mother series.

How’s a man to cope – especially when this man knows that there are only six more episodes of Deadwood? Like, ever? Come to think of it, I’d like to see a cross-over where some select characters from Grey’s Anatomy and perhaps Desperate Housewives stop by the picturesque little town of Deadwood. Derek Shepherd could open a practice with Dan Doherty as opthalmologist. (If you have no idea what I’m talking about, click here, unless you’re still hoping to watch season 3 of Deadwood.)

Six Feet Under is also almost over – two more episodes. What next? We’ve got a fair choice of series: Rome, The Wire, Carnivàle, season 6 of The Sopranos. Then there’s more escapist or pulpy fare: Heroes, Veronica Mars, Joan of Arcadia, Dexter. I’ve heard very good things about the latter series, especially season 2 – which came as a bit of a surprise, as the second Dexter novel was quite a bit weaker than the first. I guess that sometimes film and TV can improve on books…

And to end this very meandering blog entry, here’s a YouTube clip – the very effective opening credits for Dexter, a show whose ‘hero’ is a serial killer… who is intent on only killing ‘bad guys’:

A death in the family

Phew. He’s dead. And even though I knew it was going to happen – heck, I’d seen it before – it’s still amazing how much it got to me.

Rest in peace, Nathaniel Fisher Jr. You were often frightened, stupid, self-righteous, passive-aggressive (and lately just plain aggressive) and self-centred… but I’ll miss you.

Before Nate died, you did WHAT to him?!

We also watched another episode of Lost yesterday, namely “The Man Behind the Curtain”. It seems that the series makers have realised that you can’t just keep heaping mysteries onto the viewer without also revealing a thing or two, and the series definitely benefits from it. Also, I definitely like John Locke, Zealot more than the dithering Locke in the latter half of season 2. Hey, sometimes you just need to knock out a one-eyed Russian to make your point!

Also, note to all fathers reading this: Never, ever forget your son’s birthday every year – because otherwise he might just end up gassing you to death on some mysterious Hawaiian island. And some con-man from down South may just end up popping the skull off your dessicated remains to make the audience laugh.

Narm!

I guess I now know better than to have an extramarital fling with a deeply kind Quaker while my wife’s pregnant with a child that may or may not be born with serious health problems.

For all those of you who just went “Huh?”or “What the…?”, I’m talking about Six Feet Under, and especially the episode we watched yesterday, called “Singing for our lives” (admittedly, a more evocative title than “The World According to Narm”, which would have been my suggestion).

It’s Narm out there, man…

I’ve always been puzzled with the people on the web who watched Six Feet Under until the final episode but hated Nate Fisher. There seem to be quite a few of them, the series’ reviewer for Television without Pity being a case in point. Yes, Nate is in many ways a self-pitying, egocentric loser – but for one thing, so are many of us a lot of the time… but even more, I always thought that one of the points of Six Feet Under was that it had sympathy and understanding for all its characters, whether they were self-important art school students, neurotics (and boy, were there many of those in the series!), biker dudes, gang leaders, sexually confused young men, druggie sisters, Russian flower shop keepers or dweeby hairdressers. Yes, the series has a strong, at times vicious satiric streak, but I felt that inherently it didn’t really distinguish between good guys and bad guys. It showed you were people were coming from. And it expected at least a willingness to empathise from you.

There are still four episodes for us to watch. And like the first time I watched the series, I will probably want to go back to the beginning and start again. After “Everybody’s Waiting” I felt… bereaved, for want of a better word. I missed the Fishers. In some ways, watching the series again has felt like going through old photo albums and reminding myself of the people who are no longer there.

So, on that happy note: Narm!

Those cheating so-and-sos at the Sci-Fi Channel

I’m back from my Christmas break, with lots of new DVDs to watch and not enough time… Sad, sad, sad.

In any case, we continued with Battlestar Galactica season 3 yesterday, watching “Exodus”, a double episode that ends life under Cylon occupation for the poor denizens of New Caprica. (Who’d have thunk, with a title like that?) The episode was exciting, with some fairly tough scenes in between – but the way they continued from “Precipice” was a disappointing cop-out.

 Last thing we’d seen was Callie, running away after Jammer cut her restraints and told her to get out of there, and then we heard the sound of gunfire… Of course it was unlikely that the guns firing were actually the Cylon executioners cutting down, among others, Tom Zarek and Laura Roslin. It was unlikely that they’d kill both of them off in one fell swoop lifted more or less directly from The Great Escape. But they completely cheated with continuity and editing – when “Exodus” part 1 finally arrives at the scene, it’s plain to see that a) Callie isn’t running next to bushes or trees and b) by the time the guns start firing, she’s already been thrown to the ground by Chief Tyrol. There’s only one thing to say to such blatant cheating:

Your dirty, dirty birdy!

“HE DIDN’T GET OUT OF THE COCKADOODIE CAR!”

Anyway… While the episode fumbled on that one, it was very strong on characterisation. Especially Starbuck and Tigh get fantastic scenes. I never really liked Ellen Tigh as a character, finding her annoying more than anything else, but her last scene with Saul was quite heartbreaking; as was the expression on Kara’s face when she arrives on the Galactica with kiddo Kacey, whom she’s been made to believe is her daughter – and then Kacey’s real mother turns up, sees her child and takes it from Starbuck, crying and thanking her. You can almost see something inside Starbuck breaking.

It’ll be very interesting to see how (or indeed whether) the people who’ve escaped from New Caprica will re-integrate into life aboard the starship. Chances are there are fairly deep psychological scars, and it’s doubtful they’ll heal from one episode to the next.

P.S.: You gotta love Gaeta’s bitter quip to the quivering Baltar: “He believed in the dream of Gaius Baltar. The good life. Booze, pills, hot and cold running interns…”

HBO doesn’t believe in happy marriages

Okay, I haven’t seen Rome yet, or The Wire (which is next on my list of “DVD sets I should bloody well get”), but in the HBO series I’ve been watching marriage pretty much seems to be a recipe for unhappiness of one sort or another. Nate and Brenda (although they did get along better than last week, and for a change Nate had a point under all his aggression), George and Ruth Fisher, Rico and Vanessa… The marriages in Deadwood are somewhat less unhappy and antagonistic, but the happiest couples are the ones that aren’t married: Trixie and Sol (and golly, aren’t they a lovely couple – the whore and the banker?), David and Keith (well, it took them long enough to get their act together!), Dan Dority and Johnny… Okay, that last one doesn’t really count – because we all know that Dan only has eyes for Al.

New career move for Calamity Jane - primary school teacher?

Today’s episode of Deadwood, “I Am Not the Fine Man You Take Me For”, made it clear that the town has been changed by the arrival of Hearst. People seem to be talking in more hushed tones and walking around on tiptoes. Even the sex and violence is no longer as carefree as in the good old days, when the guy shot dead in the saloon wasn’t part of an elaborate power game but just a symptom of Dan Dority having a headache. However, the episode had more humour in it than the season premiere, although some of it was of the “Did E.B. really just say that?!” kind. It’s amazing that the guy’s small intestine hasn’t jumped up his neck yet to choke his brain’s blood supply, to the service of all mankind.

Sometimes I wonder whether Rico doesn’t need a stool to stand on in order to reach the corpses…

We’re steadily getting closer to the end of Six Feet Under, and while I’m already sad about where the season will take us, I’m quite looking forward to getting started on a new series. We’ve got a couple to choose from: Rome season 1, Heroes, Carnivale (I’ve got both seasons), The West Wing, Dexter (you’ve seen him be neurotic and gay for five seasons – now see Michael C. Hall as a cop and a serial killer!). So many series, so little time…

One of us… one of us…

Lost has this habit of introducing characters that I care little about (in some cases, I actively dislike them). Then, within one or two episodes, the series builds them up… and suddenly they’re fascinating!

That’s when I know they’re doomed, and in the next episode they’ll be blown up or eviscerated or shot.

If there is something to my theory, chances are that Juliet is for the chop. We recently watched “One of Us”, the episode where Jack introduces her to the rest of the beach bunnies and says, “Play nicely, kids!” Never mind that the Others abducted Claire, tried to shoot Sawyer, almost killed Charlie. (Okay, that last one may be understandable enough. Ahem.) Is it just me, or is Jack one of the most consistently naive people on that, or indeed any, island? Or is it just when it comes to women smiling at him?

“Either you’ll treat her nicely… or I’ll pout. I do a good pout, me.”

Especially in this episode, Juliet’s really grown on me. She’s almost as fascinating as Benjamin “Henry Gale (hope you haven’t read Wizard of Oz!)” Linus was in season 2. Her backstory’s intriguing, and her motivations murky in a good, wanna-know-more way. Elizabeth Mitchell’s acting, especially in the scenes with Ben (see the YouTube video below, if you’re interested), has also become considerably more complex and interesting.

However, I think what I enjoyed most about this episode was how it started to tie up plot strands from the previous two seasons. While there are still dozens of big, red, blinking question marks when it comes to what watchers of Lost laughingly refer to as “the plot”, there are hints now that the writers do know what they’re doing. If the rest of season 3 can manage to do that while keeping things interesting for the last two seasons, then bring it on, I say. (Just don’t kill Juliet next episode, please!)

The Blue Bird of Sheer Fucking Misery

It’s Nate’s party, and he’ll scream if he wants to – and kill blue birds if they fly into his kitchen and threaten to poop all over the armatures. Symbolic? Especially considering that it follows this exchange between Maggie and Nate:

– I know that if you think life’s a vending machine where you put in virtue and you get out happiness, then you’re probably going to be disappointed.
– Is that what I sound like?
– A little.

 It’s just a bird, silly!

For those of you who are well and truly confused now, I’m talking about the episode of Six Feet Under we just watched over breakfast. (Stilton and Züpfe – the breakfast of champions!) We’re four episodes into season 5 now, and all is not well… well, almost anywhere. Nate’s afraid he can’t love Brenda or, indeed, anyone except himself, and he goes about proving that pretty convincingly at times. Billy’s pretty much batshit, having gone off his meds, so that even self-absorbed Claire notices. Ruth and George aren’t getting anywhere fast, either, in spite of more ECT treatments. At least Rico got his rocks off (second episode in a row! must be his lucky month…) and nothing went too drastically wrong with Keith and David, the latter narrowly avoiding some quick, unplanned sex with a hairdresser.

And reading through the previous paragraph, this sounds like absolute soap opera. But it isn’t, not really – because you buy the characters. They feel real, and so does their pain. But this episode was nasty in how it almost made me believe that it’s hopeful, with the Death of the Week being a 96-year old woman, and her equally ancient friend doing her convincing “It’s okay, she’s lived a long, full life” speech. But trust me, that was as hopeful as it got today.

And there is something very ominous about how the episode didn’t fade to white, as all the others do, but to black.

Two deaths and three funerals… followed by two more deaths

Yesterday’s TV evening was marked by a high number of funerals. The deaths I sort of expected – after all, we did watch Deadwood – but I could have done without the ominous onslaught of funerals. House, M.D. managed to do without a death, as it pulled off its last-minute Eureka! moment, House saving the hard-done by Marc Blucas at the last moment. (As if his breakup with Buffy hadn’t already done enough damage…) Then we zapped into some series with Craig T. Nelson (I don’t know what he’s doing on telly anyway – shouldn’t Poltergeist have taught him to stay away from the flickertube?) and an epic African-American funeral, complete with gospel choir. This was followed by the quite heart-rending Deadwood episode “Let the whores come” (and only Al Swearengen can pull off asking the whore who’s giving him his daily blowjob whether she’s dyed her hair and almost seem considerate).

ep23_seth_coffin.jpg

But the whole thing was topped by the double-funeral, followed by double-death (très E.A. Poe) of Nikki and Paulo, Lost‘s most hated characters since… well, depending on who you ask, since Kate or Ana Lucia or Jack or Charlie or Boone or Shannon or practically anyone. Except Hurley. No one seems to hate Hurley. (Okay, not true. There are people who hate him – but there’s only one TV Hurley that everyone can agree to hate.)

Hurley by name…

What women don’t need…

… well, there’s lots of answers to that (dare I say “More shoes”?), but yesterday’s episode of Six Feet Under (“Take my hand”) gave us one clear answer: mentally unstable boyfriends/husbands. Okay, Claire obviously is oblivious to Billy’s manic behaviour, seeing how she’s lost on Planet Claire and likely to remain there for a while. Ruth, however, couldn’t be more aware of George’s mental and emotional problems if she tried.

I’m finding the George storyline in season 5 quite heartbreaking. After his brief sojourn in hospital, complete with ECT treatment, he’s been trying so hard – but it’s obviously an uphill battle. And while Ruth seems intent on being passive-aggressive (something that all of the Fishers are surprisingly good at), it’s understandable that she’s feeling trapped and depressed. I don’t think I could handle rotting food squirrelled in my partner’s clothes any better.

Happy TV family watching happy TV movies

David and Keith seem to be doing best of all of the series’ relationships. In their case, I’m more worried about the surrogate mother they’ve just had an interview with: that woman sounds like she’s likely to saw off her husband’s head and then make cookies, all the while talking to decapitated hubby. There’s something very, very creepy about her cheerfulness. But then, we’ve already had spousocide in Six Feet Under (frying pan to the head – season 2, perchance?) – and in any case, if anyone’s likely to off their beloved partner, it might just be Billy “Let me carve my name on your ass” Chenowith.

And he’s still a dozen times more likeable than Mother Chenowith. Even Grendel would give her a wide berth, I’d wager.

It’s called Deadwood… What did you expect?

Okay, I know that there’s at least one reader out there who hasn’t seen Deadwood season 2 yet and is planning to do so. This is where I tell you, very politely, to come back tomorrow, lest ye read a spoiler.

Still there? I’m warning you, there be spoilers!

Well, that’s about all I can do. If you’re still reading, well, I won’t take any responsibility. So there.

Yesterday evening, after two middling episodes of House, M.D., we watched the pen-penultimate episode of the sophomore season of Deadwood, aptly entitled “Advances, None Miraculous”. In it, we were reminded (after several episodes that seemed to suggest differently) that Al Swearengen can still be the scariest mother****er in the Valley of Death, if he wants to be. And all without drawing a weapon.

We were also shown that when he needs to be, Sol Star is just as much of a badass. After seeing Al frighten Mrs Isringhausen – not exactly a shrinking violet herself – into signing a piece of paper, accepting $10’000 and getting the hell out of Dodge in a brilliant piece of Al-manship, we get Sol telling him in his face that he won’t stand for bad Jew jokes. Now that takes a pair… or stupidity, but I’ve always thought of Sol as the intelligent one in the Star-Bullock friendship. (Except occasionally, when he’s led by his privates rather than by his brain.)

None miraculous

However, the emotional centrepiece of the episode was the protracted death of William Bullock. It was quite heartrending to see Sheriff Bullock face a crisis that he can’t beat down with his fists. William’s dying was a moving counterpoint to the political wheelings and dealings about the coming annexation of Deadwood, affecting everyone in their own way.

Talking about affecting: I’ve gone on at great length about The Assassination of J.J. by the Coward R.F. before. Yesterday I made the mistake of checking out the Nick Cave/Warren Ellis soundtrack of the movie on Amazon.com. The dark, subtle elegiac tunes (or rather the 20-second clips that Amazon plays for free) got to me to the extent that I felt the pull of the movie all day afterwards. Tunes like “Rather Lovely Thing” or “Song for Jesse” wormed their way into my heart, making me feel sad for semi-fictional characters long dead for hours.

P.S.: When I read who’d composed the music together with Nick Cave, I had this momentary vision of the writer of Transmetropolitan scribbling darkly sentimental tunes on some sheets in between writing another tasteless, hilarious, biting chapter of his near-future satire. For all I know, it is the same Warren Ellis. Then again… No. Probably not.