Monthly Archives: January 2010

Archer: A Brief Reaction

Archer on FX
Archer on FX

I think it would be better to see more than just two episodes of FX’s new animated comedy/adventure series, Archer, before making a full analysis of the show. But after only two episodes (the show premiered at 10 PM with two episodes on January 14), I find myself giving it a Season Pass status on my Tivo and looking forward to the next new episode. The show’s premise as defined at the website is “an animated, half-hour comedy set at the International Secret Intelligence Service (ISIS), a spy agency where espionage and global crises are merely opportunities for its highly trained employees to confuse, undermine, betray and royally screw each other.”

The animation is incredibly rudimentary, possibly in an effort to emulate the vibe of a great many of Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim shows. In fact, the show’s creator, Adam Reed (according to Wikipedia) has been an actor/writer/director/producer on Sealab 2021 and Frisky Dingo at Cartoon Network. But I could care less about the animation–the appeal to this show is partially its writing, but mostly the voice casting. Fans of 2003’s Arrested Development will be pleased to see Jessica Walters cast in the show, she plays the head of ISIS, as well as Archer’s mother. Walters plays the character almost as acerbic, witty and dysfunctional as her character on Arrested Development. As a fan long ago of Comedy Central’s Dr. Katz, I was pleasantly surprised to find that H. Jon Benjamin (best known as Ben Katz [the doctor’s unambitious, quirky son]) was cast in the lead role of Archer.

In the episode’s premiere (described here), Archer is training another series cast regular, Cyril, on how to be a spy. Cyril asks if he will be taught karate as part of training, leading to my favorite bit of dialogue so far, when Archer responds: “Karate: : The Dane Cook of martial arts?”

It’s a quirky and great show so far, but be advised, to say the show features adult themes and language is an understatement.

Shows Cancelled Too Soon: 2007’s Journeyman

Another series partially hurt by the Writer’s Strike of 2007, but mostly canceled due to low ratings, was 2007’s Journeyman. While the show, about an unwilling time traveler (played by Kevin McKidd) and its impact on his family, only last 13 episodes, it’s a delightfully far-reaching 13 episodes. Set in San Francisco, in one episode toward the end of the 13-episode run, they even deal with the 1989 earthquake. Despite its limited run, I loved how the show explored family dynamics, like an adult son’s sense of abandonment (from when his father left the family) coupled with his fear that his time-traveling would force him to abandon his own son.

The casting of Reed Diamond as McKidd’s brother was an amazing bit of casting–as they looked like they could be brothers.

It’s unlikely to ever be released on DVD, but fortunately Hulu hosts the entire 13-episode run.

To get you started, here’s the pilot.

Jamie S. Rich on Film Criticism

Many folks that I have met in the comic industry are multi-tasking, multi-talented people. Case in point: writer/critic Jamie S. Rich. When Jamie S. Rich is not writing graphic novels (his and Joëlle Jones’ You Have Killed Me made my top books for 2009 at Robot 6), his critical analysis can frequently be read at DVD Talk or at his own blog, Confessions of A Pop Fan. I recently email interviewed him to get some of the thinking behind his critical analysis.

Tim O’Shea: In a recent post, on the topic of best of 2009 movie lists you wrote: “in case you’re not sick of best-of lists yet (I’ve avoided most, and it’s still like a lot of white noise to me)”. What annoyed you about from a most of the best of movie lists from 2009?

Jamie S. Rich: It’s nothing about any specific choices, it’s just that there is so many lists out there now, the chorus has gotten too large. There is no definitive voice, no standards. I mean, there are now lists just to keep up with the lists, a conglomeration of top 10s and top 15s and the like. What with the end of the decade countdowns also going on, I am just at a loss to see what purpose it serves anymore. I’m not a big fan of crowdsourcing, because I think that it eventually kills the formation of legitimate opinions. Even before that was a term, you could see how certain lines of thinking took root and critics and fans alike would start parroting one another. It’s something I wrote about when I reviewed the most recent DVD release of The Godfather trilogy. People don’t bother to watch the third one and react to it in their own way, they already have the common thinking to draw on. It’s like, right now, I can log on to Facebook, and I’ll see ten updates in my friends list about Avatar, and all say the same thing. “Looked great, but the story was boring,” like this is some new opinion of great value. Okay, sure, and…?

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Film Criticism: Museum of the Moving Image

In wandering the Internet, I discovered Moving Image Source, the website for the Museum of the Moving Image. The site is ” devoted to the history of film, television, and digital media. It features original articles by leading critics, authors, and scholars; a calendar that highlights major retrospectives, festivals, and gallery exhibitions at venues around the world; and a regularly updated guide to online research resources.”

Any site that interviews Carter Burwell is a great resource to me. Check it out.

Suggestions for NBC to Fill the 10 PM Slot (Expanded)

OK, so the other day, I said I lost the draft of a post. It appears that I misplaced it. Since this version is a tad more informative and less primal, I present it for you. Sorry for the technical snafu folks.

Something amazes me about NBC’s primetime/late night challenges. The Jay Leno 10 PM experiment did not work and will stop by mid-February 2010 (as confirmed by NBC and detailed in this New York Times article). Now NBC is struggling to quickly fill the slot in the short term, while ordering up multiple new pilots for the long run (including one that I’m very excited to hear about, a reworking of the Rockford Files, produced by House co-creator David Shore and Office star, Steve Carrell).

What amazes me about the short-term struggle is that after a few years of placing some of the Law & Order product on USA Network, why has NBC never considered airing Burn Notice (or any of the USA Network [owned by NBC Universal] original series),  in the 10 PM slot? Back in August 2009, as noted in this TV Squad article, Burn Notice’s “August airings are burning down nine million viewers at a pop”. NBC wishes Leno could have pulled numbers on that level at 10 PM consistently.

Things I Almost Missed from December: TMBG on Ferguson

So, I’m finally catching up on some missed Craig Ferguson episodes that were still residing on my Tivo list. Back in mid-December, They Might Be Giants (TMBG) were on the show, promoting their latest children’s release (CD & DVD), Here Comes the Science.

And much to my delight, they played one of my alltime favorite TMBG tunes, Why Does the Sun Shine? (The Sun is a Mass of Incandescent Gas).


Remembering My Childhood: Lewis Grizzard

I was a kind of an odd kid growing up. When you share a room with your teenage brother, and typically found yourself falling to sleep, hearing him type short stories to submit to the New Yorker–well I doubt most people grew up that way. My brother’s path ultimately led him away from fiction and toward journalism. As a result, I got to tag along with my brother to cover the opening of one of the first MARTA rail stations–among other unique things in my life.

The average kid my age did not have an affinity for reading Lewis Grizzard or listening to his step-brother, Ludlow Porch, on the radio. I did.

Grizzard was a Southern icon for my childhood, he’s part of Atlanta’s past. He died in 1994 at the age of 47. My memory’s faulty, I always assumed he was older than that. To think in a little more than five years I will be the age Grizzard was when he died amazes me.

The mid-1990s is when Atlanta changed for me–and not for the better. The Olympics attracted a great many transplants. The mid-1990s brought a rush hour starting around 5 AM. Old Atlanta, like Lewis Grizzard, is dead. I see glimpses of it, every once and awhile. But rarely. It might be why I like to drive around town late at night, it reminds me of what the city used to be–when I was a kid. Don’t get me wrong, there are many great things about my hometown, that construction and technology and overcrowding cannot kill. And I’m grateful for that.

TCM’s Essentials: Man I Should Tivo Them

I am always forgetting to set my Tivo to snag TCM’s weekly Essentials installment. What is TCM Essentials? The Essentials is a show where host Robert Osborne and a star (for the past year or so, it’s been Alec Baldwin) discuss the appeal of a film that they consider classic–or to be an essential film that one should know about.

I often miss the broadcasts (originally aired on Saturday night and rebroadcast on Sunday night). But I love reading the education that TCM offers at its website. For example, last weekend’s selection of Stanley Kubrick’s Lolita (1962), includes this morsel of information, under the specification Pop Culture 101.

“When Lolita first appeared in print in the U.S. the Cincinnati Public Library refused to buy it, and the town of Lolita, TX, almost changed its name to Jackson.”

Anna Trodglen on Radial Cafe Art Opening

Tea Party: This is a tea party depicting the fictional meeting of Beatrix Potter (rabbit), Tasha Tudor (corgi dog), and Louis Wain (cat).  Beatrix Potter is of course the beloved creator of Peter Rabbit.  Tasha Tudor was an American children's illustrator who loved to paint her corgi dogs.  Louis Wain was a famous cat artist of the Victorian era and painted from an asylum for forty years.  I wanted them so much to meet and share animal stories.  This is a very special painting for me.
Tea Party: This is a tea party depicting the fictional meeting of Beatrix Potter (rabbit), Tasha Tudor (corgi dog), and Louis Wain (cat). Beatrix Potter is of course the beloved creator of Peter Rabbit. Tasha Tudor was an American children's illustrator who loved to paint her corgi dogs. Louis Wain was a famous cat artist of the Victorian era and painted from an asylum for forty years. I wanted them so much to meet and share animal stories. This is a very special painting for me.

Anna Trodglen (or her musical pseudonym Grace Braun) is a name you likely recognize from the Atlanta music scene, given that she has fronted the band DQE since the mid-1980s as its singer/songwriter. In addition to her musical pursuits, Trodglen is a painter who is in the final stages of prepping for her January 8 Art Show at the Radial Cafe (1530 DeKalb Ave NE Atlanta GA 30307), where Trodglen’s paintings and prints will be on display. In addition, as detailed at a recent Facebook announcement: “Anna and her DQE bandmates Dugan and John will be performing a short acoustic set at 9pm. There will also be a raffle for a free custom painting. Food and wine will be served. Anna’s paintings will be hanging at Radial Cafe through the month of January.” We also got a chance to discuss the children’s book she is currently working on, City Mouse, Country Mouse. My thanks to Trodglen for her time and to my friend, Dugan Trodglen (Anna’s bandmate and husband) for helping make this interview feasible. Each art piece in this interview is accompanied by a description by Anna. The art opening is this Friday, January 8, 2010, from 8:00 to 10:00 pm at at Radial Cafe.

Tim O’Shea: How did the Radial show come about?

Anna Trodglen: Susan Archie, the talented and well known graphic artist and designer, introduced me to the idea and gave me the contact information.

O’Shea: The show will feature your paintings and prints–how long have you been painting pieces in this style? How many pieces will be in the show–and was it hard for you to pick which pieces of yours would appear?

Trodglen: I have been painting exclusively animals (mostly cats and dogs) since July of 2008 when I began working with dogs at a doggie day care, boarding and grooming facility called Paws Playhouse. I initially painted the dogs of Paws Playhouse to decorate the facility and amuse the workers and clients. Gradually with support and encouragement I began to paint in this style more and more frequently until it became a life calling. There will be between fifteen and twenty paintings in the show of various sizes, depending on what will fit. The paintings chosen will be based on the smile factor- what I think will make me happiest and hopefully the viewer as well. It is never too hard to pick. I generally keep the best ones of my dog Jack for myself, Like Dorian Grey, Jack has a painting in the attic and…

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