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Category: TV


These_are_the_voyages_TOS_season_two_first_edition_cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

Marc Cushman’s second volume of These Are the Voyages, his unprecedented treatise on Star Trek, the original series, is an improvement on his first volume, reviewed last year here at borg.com, which was a thorough history of the landmark series’ first season.  But where Volume 1 was a good read–an assemblage of facts from multiple sources not easily obtainable otherwise and an accounting of television history from 1966–Volume 2 qualifies a great read.  With more in-depth stories, anecdotes and interviews, from original sources as well as recent reminiscences from actors and production staff, Volume 2 provides a superb history of the production of Season Two and the world of American TV studios in 1967-68.

Highlights of Season Two recounted by Cushman include key changes to the show, such as the introduction of Walter Koenig as Pavel Chekov, which often led to the reduction in the roles of Sulu and Uhura.  James Doohan’s Scotty was made third in command in Season Two, based on the writers’ efforts to keep Spock and Kirk together and expand the show to strange new worlds away from the Enterprise.  The book includes modern accounts from the actors as they reflect back on their interpersonal relationships during production–everyone from George Takei to William Shatner seems surprised in retrospect by each other’s reported dismay during the series.

Shatner on set

Volume 2 reveals Star Trek in its prime form—after a year of world-building in Season One, the first half of Season Two includes some of the best Star Trek episodes the series had to offer.  Much of this was thanks to writer Gene L. Coon, whose selection of material lightened up the tone of the show, broadening appeal to viewers.  Coon created the Klingons and the Prime Directive and the humorous relationship of Spock and McCoy.  His influence can be seen in Season One’s “Space Seed” as well as Season Two’s classics “City on the Edge of Forever,” “Mirror, Mirror,” and “The Trouble With Tribbles.”  Sadly his mid-season departure led to more campy elements seeping into the series toward the end of the season.

Many components spice up what could otherwise have been a bland, encyclopedic offering.  The seemingly endless writing process during production that is recounted by Cushman is simply… fascinating.  Robert Justman’s hilarious (but always spot-on) script notes alone make the book worth reading.  The often eloquent and usually contentious back and forth battle on paper between Dorothy (D.C.) Fontana and Gene Coon and Robert Justman and Gene Roddenberry would make modern email battles seem lightweight.

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orphan-black-season-2-poster9 orphan-black-season-2-poster6

Who needs a Clone Army?   Set your DVRs now.  You won’t want to miss the return of BBC America’s Orphan Black and star Tatiana Maslany, featuring the best TV series, and best actor, of 2013.

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Here is a trailer for Season 2, while you’re waiting for Saturday:

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grimm below the surface

Last week’s episode of Grimm may have been one of the best on TV this year, bringing together threads formed since the beginning of the show.  The result proved the old adage “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” and pitted the “good” guys together with the “bad” guys against the “even worse” guys.  The most unlikely of pairings occurred in nearly every scene.  It was brilliant TV, and we can likely expect even more fun on this Friday’s episode.

Previously we reviewed The Official Companion to Supernatural Season Seven, a well-formatted look-back for fans of the series, with previous editions released annually.  The Official Companion serves as both a souvenir book and behind the scenes look at the creators of the show.  Many series have released works that were similar.  Doctor Who has done this in magazine form, for example.  Movies like The Hobbit released different variations of behind the scenes books, with different price points and trade or hardbound editions targeted at different audiences.  The first behind the scenes look at NBC’s hit TV series Grimm is now at bookstores, and it follows a format similar to the Official Companion concept Supernatural uses, except it contains glossy, full color images, which will be a plus for diehard fans of the show.

Looking back from the end of Season Two of NBC’s hit series, Grimm: Below the Surface–The Insider’s Guide to the Show provides plenty of information not available elsewhere.  It includes stories and interviews from the series executive producers and showrunner, each of the actors playing main characters (Nick, Monroe, Juliette, Hank, Rosalee, Renard, Adalind, and Sergeant Wu), writers, production designers, the make-up and special effects team, casting, the stunt team, and the props and costume creators.

Grimm - Season 2

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Warehouse 13 crew

The caretakers of the most dangerous (and strangest) artifacts from history, Pete Lattimer, Myka Bering, Artie Nielsen, and Claudia Donovan, return tonight for the fifth season of Warehouse 13, after a seemingly endless eight-month hiatus.  But the return is bittersweet, as the Syfy Channel’s homegrown, weekly, sci-fi extravaganza was signed for only six more episodes, and not renewed for a seventh season.  Petitions and outcry from the show’s many fans didn’t convince the network to keep the artifact hunting going.

So put on your purple gloves, get your Tesla and your Farnsworth, and get ready for the closing of the famous warehouse that revealed the secrets behind Anne Bonny’s cutlass, Catherine O’Leary’s cowbell, D.B. Cooper’s parachute, Frank Lloyd Wright’s pickup sticks, Houdini’s wallet, Pavlov’s bell, Pasteur’s milk bottle, Mata Hari’s stockings, Nero’s lyre, Paul Tibbets’ binoculars, Nixon’s shoes, Robert the Bruce’s tartan, Scott Joplin’s cigarette case, Sitting Bull’s riding blanket, and U.S. Grant’s flask.

Warehouse 13

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Grimm book banner

Review by C.J. Bunce

Grimm the TV series is “grim” to the extent of its various Wesen creatures—some stars of the show like Monroe and Rosalie and the villainous Adalind—as they woge into the faces of a horror movie special effects artist’s dream project.  Strange murders and other crimes from their dark fantasy world come across weekly on NBC with a footing in the reality of a Portland, Oregon police precinct.  But there is an equal balance of humor that can often make you forget the show is so dark.  The comic book spin-off of the series, reviewed here at borg.com last year, allows Nick, Hank, and Monroe to venture off to locations too expensive for a network TV series.  The tie-in Book of Lore highlights the fictional monster culture behind the series stories.  Now a new tie-in novel takes the darkest elements of the TV series even further, to more horrific places that could never make it to network TV.

Bram Stoker Award winning horror author John Passarella takes on the Grimm universe with a new criminal element in Grimm: The Chopping Block, a new paperback novel just released. It’s The Freshman meets Silence of the Lambs meets Fat Tuesday. The remnants of boiled human bones are turning up in multiple places around Portland.  And the victims have nothing in common.  It’s not long before Detectives Nick Burkhardt and Hank Griffin, along with Captain Renard and Sergeant Wu, discover that what the victims don’t have in common says all they need to know about the true nature of the crime.

Grimm The Chopping Block

Humans become livestock under the knives of a Wesen butcher.  Any reader may go along with our favorite character Monroe by book’s end and go Vegan.  Be prepared for descriptions you’d find in any meat-packing plant or Food Network series, only with an unusual meat substitute.  Food prep takes on new meaning.  And the story features a dinner event that The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover only scratched the surface with.

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How I Married Your Mother finale

It always pays to be wary of grandiose statements and definitive pronouncements.  When I first watched Forrest Gump in the theater, one-third of the way through the movie it occurred to me I might be watching the greatest production of all time, and walking out of the theater I carried that thought with me.  But time changes things.  Now I see it as a fun film, but it’s not at the top of any of my “best of” lists.  Professor Schofield advised that you can’t really objectively analyze something, an art movement, a political figure, a fad–anything worth analyzing–unless several years had transpired and you could have the value of time and distance, contemplation and reflection, to look back with.

So it is with a bit of reservation that I am asserting that the series finale to How I Met Your Mother that aired Monday night should top any list of great finales.  The writers, producers, and actors simply got it just right.  Exactly right.  Airing the first episode of season one just before the finale aired really showcased how this ending was exactly what viewers deserved after nine seasons of sticking with the show.  Consider all the series finales that were promoted over the years, and despite the biggest of viewing audiences, you might find that most last hoorahs miss the mark, try too hard, or just do something that didn’t reflect the best of the series.

Trek TNG All Good Things

The granddaddy of all finales was the 1983 M*A*S*H extended episode “Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen.”  Although some elements were right, like a bounty of typical and appropriate sad goodbyes, Captain Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce, (one of the best characters of all time) after more than a decade of using laughter to beat the odds and help his unit survive the Korean War, cracks at the very end.  NBC’s comedy spy series Chuck made a similar mistake, wiping the memory of Chuck’s hard-earned love interest Sarah after we cheered him on all those years, requiring the story to basically start over from scratch in some far off place after the series wrapped.  Another less than satisfying but at least appropriate-to-the-series finale was the end of the monumental 20th year of the original Law & Order.  We basically got to see a fairly typical episode of the series, which certainly fit the seriousness of the show’s drama.  But we also got a goodbye scene and were left on a positive note with “Lieut’s” good news about her hard-fought illness.

Before that, you might have seen the last episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show on Nick at Nite or other classic rerun network if you weren’t old enough to catch it in its initial run.  The TV network that was the subject of the series fires everyone including Mary at the end, except Ted Knight’s character Ted Baxter.  The annoying guy that we loved for being annoying gets to stay.  A funny series with a funny end, as well as the requisite bittersweet goodbye scene.  A similarly funny sitcom, Psych, wrapped its eighth and final season last month, tying up all its remaining loose ends.  Psych took a different path, taking its angst-inducing character, Detective-then-Chief Lassiter, and with a redemption of sorts, switched up his role in the last two seasons to become a guy viewers could cheer on.

Newhart finale

Another comedy, Newhart, gave us a completely bizarre ending for an otherwise enjoyable comedy series.  Yet it was saved literally in the last two minutes by a brilliantly concocted stunt–bring back Bob’s wife from his original series, The Bob Newhart Show, the lovely Suzanne Pleshette, revealing the whole series was just a dream.  It’s a gimmick that didn’t work for a series like the original Dallas (recall Bobby Ewing died then came back to life with a “poof”), but for a comedy wrap-up, it couldn’t have been better timed.

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Martin Freeman in Fargo

Did you hear the one about the British actor who played a guy from Minnesooootah?

Following in the footsteps of the dark 1970 Donald Sutherland and Elliot Gould comedy flick M*A*S*H, the Coen Brothers are taking their Oscar-winning script from their movie Fargo to the small screen, turning the setting into a new series on the FX Network.  An all-star cast will make TV viewers who might not have liked the Coen Brothers humor in the film give the idea another chance.

With an all-new “true crime” story with a new case and new characters, and that far-North Central U.S. accent that drifts from Wisconsin to Minnesota, The Hobbit and Sherlock star Martin Freeman will play a put-upon local who encounters a troublemaking outsider played by Oscar winner Billy Bob Thornton (Sling Blade).  Orange County star Colin Hanks plays a Duluth police deputy.  Other cast includes Allison Tolman, Oliver Platt (A Time to Kill, Beethoven), Keith Carradine (The Long Riders), Bob Odenkirk (Breaking Bad, Nebraska), Brian Markinson (Arrow, Continuum), Kate Walsh (The Drew Carey Show), and Adam Goldberg (Dazed and Confused, Zodiac).

Here’s the trailer for the new series, Fargo:

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How I Met Your Your Mother cast

If you haven’t been a loyal viewer of How I Met Your Mother since it premiered nine years ago on CBS, you couldn’t help but pick up episodes from time to time in syndication.  Tonight we finally get to see how Ted (Josh Radnor) met his kids’ mother in a one-hour series finale.

Ted’s first meeting with the unseen mother of his two children will be a part of tonight’s show.  It’s expected to follow the characters from 2013 to 2030, where the story began with future Ted (voiced by Bob Saget) talking to his kids.

This season has seen many changes you could not have predicted back in 2005, including the wedding of Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) and Robin (Cobie Smulders), and a second child for Marshall (Jason Segel) and Lily (Alyson Hannigan).  If you haven’t been watching the show in its current network run, don’t expect a big reveal of who “the Mother” is to come as a surprise for series regular watchers, as she had her own episode “How Your Mother Met Me” earlier this season and has appeared in 24 episodes since the eighth season.  She will be played again tonight by actress Cristin Milioti.  The big reveal tonight is the “How” of the title.

Ted and The Mother

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thousand dollar tan line rob thomas jennifer graham veronica mars novel

Fresh on the heels of the theatrical release of the Veronica Mars movie (reviewed last week here at borg.com), series creator and movie director Rob Thomas (along with writer Jennifer Graham) have just released its sequel, Veronica Mars: The Thousand Dollar Tan Line We’re reviewed several franchise tie-ins and this new novel is among the best.  All that you think you’d need, the familiar characters, setting, and mood are here, but the most important is that inner monologue of Veronica.  Who better to scribe the next story, the immediate aftermath of the events of the movie, and Veronica’s voice than Thomas?

If you’re not already a Veronica Mars fan, the novel has enough of a standalone detective story to make for a good entry point for the series that genre king Joss Whedon referred to as “Best. Show. Ever.  Seriously, I’ve never gotten more wrapped up in a show I wasn’t making, and maybe even more than those… These guys know what they’re doing on a level that intimidates me.  It’s the Harry Potter of shows.”

Veronica back at Mars Investigations

Picking up in the days after the events of the movie and taking place literally in March 2014, the novel allows Veronica and hacker pal Mac to use all the resources of social media and modern technologies to sleuth out two missing young women who vanished on Spring break in the seedy beach town of Neptune, California (as Piz says in the movie, there really is a Hellmouth under there).  Veronica’s dad Keith is slowly recovering from his car wreck injuries.  Logan is off on an aircraft carrier in the Navy.  And Veronica is dead serious about partnering with her dad full-time at Mars Investigations, to his disappointment.

We get to catch up with a character from the series from Veronica’s distant past, as well as a new character that will likely play a key role in future stories for both Veronica and Keith.

Hacker Mac Veronica Mars

Just as true to life as the original series was, Veronica’s relationship with her dad couldn’t be more believable.  She really isn’t going back to New York to become a lawyer.  And she lives at home again.  As much as we’ve cheered Veronica on, as successful as she could be, like Michael Corleone they keep pulling her back to Neptune.  And it turns out the success we hoped to see Mac achieve (shouldn’t she be CEO of a Google or Facebook by now?) is also on a backtrack, as she quits her prestigious job at Kane Software to work for Veronica as hacker and researcher.  How could all of this have gone so wrong for these two?  Rob Thomas’s choices, if disappointing for all who have cheered on these characters, does something important:  it creates the possibility of future movies and novels.

If the Veronica Mars movie and this first Veronica Mars novel is any indication, then fans will be begging for even more Veronica Mars, no matter the format.

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Rocky and Bullwinkle cover 1

“Hey, Rocky, watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat.”

It must be pretty hard to take a classic property and bring it to the present with the same zing that made it popular years ago.  Publishers continue to try over and over again and usually the effort misses the mark–the original voice is hard to mimic, and the heart of the characterization is never grasped just right.  The exceptions can be found in places like Dynamite Comics’ pulp masked hero monthlies.  Now IDW Publishing has managed to bring the humor and look that we remember so well from the mind of Jay Ward in the 1960s and 1970s back to us as if it never left with its new Rocky & Bullwinkle series.

Like the original series, which featured the moose named Bullwinkle and his flying squirrel pal Rocky, we get the arch-enemies of Boris and Natasha.  Interspersed between stories of Rocky & Bullwinkle we also get that affable Canadian Mountie Dudley Do-Right and his classic moustached villain, Snidely.  Mr. Peabody and Sherman, who played in segments in the original cartoon, now have their own monthly at IDW, so we don’t know if we’ll see them back here very soon.  But in Issue #1 we get plenty of the same humor and art stylings that we enjoyed in the original cartoons with the other characters.  The voice of each of Bullwinkle and Rocky are simply dead-on.  Even the voice of the narrator, the sign fonts, the environments, and the other characters, all mirror the original show.

If nostalgia is your thing, and you’re after some of that innocent humor kids of all ages will appreciate, look no further than the new Rocky & Bullwinkle.  After the break, check out a seven-page preview of Issue #1, courtesy of IDW Publishing:

R&B p3

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