Category: TV


Review by C.J. Bunce

Following up on The Toys That Made Us (previously reviewed here at borg), Netflix’s surprise hit documentary series leaning on viewers’ nostalgia with a look behind select high-profile toy lines of the past, last December the streaming provider added a new series based on the same formula, The Movies That Made Us.  The series looked at four movies in four hour-long episodes, including the modern Christmas staples, Home Alone and Die Hard.  This December, Netflix is adding two new surveys of holiday movies to the mix: Jon Favreau’s Elf (2003) and Tim Burton’s A Nightmare Before Christmas (1993).  Check out a preview below.

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Jem movie poster

G.I. Joe: Retaliation director Jon M. Chu is transforming another 1980s animated television series into a live action theatrical release.  The series Jem ran three seasons and 65 episodes, between 1985 and 1988.  Jerrica Benton was the secret leader of the glam rock, all-girl band in the original series.  The band’s name, Jem and the Holograms, will soon be the title of the live action film.  The original Jem prompted a successful toy line from Hasbro, one of the companies bringing the series to the big screen.

The magical elements of Jem do not appear to have made it to the new movie.  In the animated series Jerrica projected a holographic image over her own to disguise herself.  Aubrey Peeples (Sharknado), who could almost be a ringer for actress/singer Zooey Deschanel, now stars as Jerrica, who takes on the persona of Jem as her career in music takes off, thanks to a music producer played by Juliette Lewis.  The 1980s brat pack star Molly Ringwald co-stars.

Ryan Hansen Jem and the Holograms

Isn’t that Ryan Hansen, Dick Casablancas from Veronica Mars, at the end of the trailer, getting an autograph from Jem?

Check out this preview for Jem and the Holograms:

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New Girl Season 2 DVD

If you want to know why three cast members of the Fox TV series New Girl were up for Emmys last year, just get a copy of New Girl: The Complete Second Season, now available on DVD.  With yet another episode last night, New Girl is still cranking out laughs in its third season every Tuesday night.  New Girl has become the surest way to get a quick dose of laugh-out-loud humor on network or cable television.  The only frustrating thing about New Girl is that each episode is less than half an hour, and it always feels like it is over too fast.  And that makes it that much more fun to watch 25 episodes at a few hours per viewing with the DVD set.

Jess models a car in New Girl episode Models

Season Two finally saw series star Zooey Deschanel’s Jess hook up with Jake Johnson’s Nick, the poster boy for the lazy post-college set.  Deschanel was nominated for leading actress in a comedy series for her work in Season Two and it’s no wonder–she’s fun, quirky, and smart.  Season Two also saw Max Greenfield’s performance as Schmidt nominated for best supporting actor in a comedy series.  It’s hard to think of the last actor that worked as hard as Greenfield does for a laugh, finding himself constantly in the most embarrassing and over-the-top circumstances.  Deschanel and Greenfield have made themselves actors to watch for whether in TV appearances (Deschanel in Bones and Weeds, Greenfield in Veronica Mars and Castle) or in movies (Deschanel in Elf and The Happening).

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Argo film about a film wins Best Motion Picture Golden Globe 2013

It probably makes sense that the Golden Globes allows for more genre win opportunities than the more drama-oriented Academy Awards.  Still, the Globes didn’t go as far as they could with the best of what is on TV and in movies.  Zooey Deschanel and Max Greenfield not winning in the comedy categories for New Girl is a big miss.  Kevin Costner is a great actor but I don’t see how anyone was a better actor on TV or film this year than Benedict Cumberbatch in Sherlock.  Fans of genre fave show The Big Bang Theory will be bummed to see that show slighted for best comedy series.  The BBC’s drama The Hour was the best of television for the past two years so there is another miss.

So here is what they got right:

Argo as Best Film.  Check.

Ben Affleck as Best Director for Argo.  Check.

Brave as Best Animated Film.  Check.

Adele for Best Original Song for Skyfall.  Check.

Quentin Tarantino for Best Screenplay for Django Unchained.  Check.

Christoph Waltz for Best Supporting Actor for Django Unchained.  Check.

Brave wins Best Animated Film Golden Globe 2013

Although we’re having a hard time getting excited about Homeland‘s slow building second season after its great first season (but we plan to be caught up soon), it’s great to see Homeland lead the TV awards with best drama and acting nods for the always great acting of Daniel Lewis and Claire Danes.

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What’s funny and what is not is subjective.  But I watched a lot of TV last year and only one TV series made me laugh out loud–a lot–in every single episode.  Jess, Schmidt, Nick, Winston, and Cece return tomorrow night for another season of great actors, great characters, (we hope) great writing, and gut-busting humor with a two-episode premiere at 7C/8E on Fox (note: Fox is sneaking in another half hour show so episode 2 starts at 8C/9E).  So don’t forget to set the DVR.  Look for Parker Posey guest starring in the first episode, “Re-launch.”

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Syfy New logo

Last night the Syfy Channel premiered a new show documenting its 20 years of bringing science fiction and related programming to cable TV.  The Syfy Channel 20th Anniversary Special chronicles the key landmarks of the channel going back to its inception in 1992 as a network of mostly reruns of classic sci-fi series like The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits and the original Star Trek, as well as collecting and expanding upon series that didn’t make it on other networks, like Sliders and Andromeda.  The 2-hour show is a great way to reminisce about all the good–and bad–TV that has sucked you in, featuring commentary by series creators and cast, and narrated by Lois and Clark star Dean Cain.

Actors Amanda Tapping, Christopher Judge and Michael Shanks discuss the first big hit for the network originally called the Sci Fi Channel: the Stargate franchise, including Stargate SG-1, and spinoffs Stargate Atlantis and Stargate Universe, as well as the made-for-TV movies.

Then there were early series that didn’t last long, like USA Network series that moved to Sci Fi, like Good vs. Evil, The Invisible Man, Welcome to Paradox, and Mission Genesis.

Ben Browder and Claudia Black chat about the four seasons of the Australian production, Farscape, the next big series for the Sci Fi Channel.  The renaissance of science fiction fans fighting for a series to return occurred with Farscape, resulting in Brian Henson bring a 4-hour mini-series event to round out and tie up the loose ends of the series.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Renaissance gal Zooey Deschanel seems to be at the top of her game in many respects.  She has headlined major motion pictures, such as Jon Favreau’s Elf and M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening, she’s the star of the funniest sitcom on TV this year, The New Girl, and she has cut several albums with Portland singer-songwriter M. Ward in her group She & Him.  With their new album, A Very She & Him Christmas, you won’t be alone if you think you’re listening to old vinyl LPs of excerpts from the 1950s and 1960s, of tunes and voicings evoking The Mamas and the Papas, The Beach Boys, The Carpenters, Patsy Cline and Dusty Springfield, backed up by a solid Willie Nelson-inspired guitar.  It’s not every day you listen to an album four times in a row, trying to determine who sang that song before, who this singer seems to sound just like, and wondering if you’ve just heard this album somewhere before.

With Christmas albums, either you want something new, or more likely, you’re after that feel of the familiar, nostalgic tune that you’ve heard so many times over the years that you have the lyrics committed to memory.  With A Very She & Him Christmas, you get not only nostalgia, you get some 1950s rock, some Hawaiian vibes, some beach music, some lounge/1960s mod, most soulful, a few cheery, and all ultimately sentimental and sweetly sung.   Look for some nice acoustic walking guitar lines, as well as some cool reverb electric guitar a la Del Shannon’s Runaway.  Don’t look for a lot of Deschanel’s typical layered alto, leathery smooth voice.  It still is a sophisticated sound, but more adherence is given to classic renditions of these mostly familiar songs than improvising or toying with the classics.

Expect little of the often labeled “cutesy Zooey Deschanel”–here instead is a more mature Dusty Springfield style of emoting, some Patsy Cline-inspired sounds mixed with some Karen Carpenter-esque aching loneliness and all with a Mama Cass Eliot level of a Deschanel’s full volumed voice.

This is a great addition to your Christmas CD collection or iPod.  The album cover says it all, with its That Thing You Do retro feel.  Some highlights of the recordings on A Very She & Him Christmas include:

1. The Christmas Waltz.  A lazy and quirky version of a classic that feels like Deschanel is stuck inside on a wintry day, passing away the hours, looking out on the world she is missing.

2.  Christmas Day.  A hip and up-tempo ice 1950s electric guitar, breezy, California Christmas.  An unfamiliar but nice tune, that feels a bit like it could have been written by George Harrison while singing with the Travelling Wilburys.

3. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.  Melancholy and melancholy.  Almost a creepy dark , soulful vibe.  Will have you wondering if you left a Carpenters album in the stereo.

4.  I’ll be Home for Christmas.  Tinny and tinselly classic rock version of a usually bland and dreary, sentimental song.  Still soulful, this version’s background skips along with some actual hopefulness.

5.  Christmas Wish.  This song has the feel of a California beach Christmas tune.  Very Beach Boys influenced, almost feels like this should be on the Beach Boys Pet Sounds album.  reminiscent of the old Coca-Cola commercial sound “I’d like to teach the world to sing.”

6.  Sleigh Ride.  A great up-tempo, cheery tune you’d expect on a Zooey Deschanel album.  She sings on the back beat of the normal tune, more than just playing with the syncopation of the tune.   At first gives you a bit of a start.  And she does this holding of notes on consonants that is unusual but kind of cool.  Ultimately the playfulness of the back and forth between Deschanel and Ward make this a highlight of the album.

7.  Rockin’ Around the Christmas.  The best song on the album.  Upbeat 1950s, great use of background singers.  Sounds as if you pulled a vinyl Christmas album out of a vinyl retro shop and spun it on the 50-year-old stereo you’ve kept in the attic.  And not just any album… a Patsy Cline Christmas album.  You’d swear it was Cline on the last line of the song.

8.  Silver Bells.  A cool idea, Silver Bells, only Hawaiian style, backed with Deschanel playing ukelele.  A lot less of the full sound we’ve heard before from Deshanel as far as voice goes.  But that’s a good thing here because instead she mirrors the nostalgic singing style of Rosemary Clooney.

9.  Baby, It’s Cold Outside.  Tons more playful than her brief version from the movie Elf, Deschanel and Ward really balance each other equally in a classic rendition of the song.

10.  Blue Christmas.  Probably the best version of this song I have ever heard, and it’s pretty much my least favorite Christmas song, so that’s saying something.  Deschanel is more expressive and soulful than on the other songs on the album.  It also has a little Country pop ballad twist, which is a nice interpretation of this song since Country often equates to “blue” lyrics.  You get the feel she is singing to a few folks from atop a stool with her guitar in some off the highway, Alabama roadhouse bar.

11.  Little Saint Nick.  Another fun, California Christmas song.  Nice use of background voices.  Sang sweetly, again with a touch of that ukelele played by Deschanel.

12.  The Christmas Song.  A drifting, willowy, mature, satiny version of the classic.  Another album highlight.

Years ago you couldn’t get through any New Year’s Eve without seeing or hearing Guy Lombardo playing “Roll Out the Barrel” and “Auld Lang Syne” and, hey, I really am not that old.  We also had Dick Clark, the man who never ages, and the big old ball drop in Times Square in New York City, that still keeps rolling along.

This is the album by Guy Lombardo and the Royal Canadians, Auld Lang Syne, now available on CD for only $2.99, that, back in 33 1/3 LP form, got worn out by several families across the U.S.:

One of the classic holiday tunes that is also all about New Years’ is Nancy Wilson’s What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?

In the world of viral videos on You Tube, it is awesome and appropriate that one of our favorite celebrities of 2011 uploaded a free song to celebrate the New Year, Zooey Deschanel and her cool ukelele, accompanied by her good pal Joseph (Joe) Gordon-Levitt, hangin’ around the house singing.  But the result is great.  Check it out:

If you’re not keeping up with the year, Deschanel has had a super year.  You may know her from several movies, both drama and comedy, including one of the holiday season’s best new classics, Elf, with Will Farrell, or from her musical duo She & Him, and more recently by her hit comedy series on ABC, New Girl, that has garnered her a Golden Globe nomination.  We reviewed her new Christmas album a few weeks ago here, and we’ve been loving her TV series all season, and discussed it here, too.

You’ll recognize “RegularJoe” Joe Gordon-Levitt from everything from a kid on Family Ties to Dark Shadows to Quantum Leap, from Roseanne to The Outer Limits to the show that made him well known, 3rd Rock from the Sun, from films like G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra to Inception.  Next year will be a big year for Gordon-Levitt, as he will have roles in both The Dark Knight Rises, and play President Lincoln’s son in Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, based on a Doris Kearns-Goodwin book.

Sounds like Deschanel and Gordon-Levitt are not an “item,” but they sure look cute together, right?  It makes you wonder if anyone is paying attention.  How about a musical like A Knight’s Tale, Ella Enchanted starring these two?  And how cool to give a song out like this for free?

Have a happy and safe New Year’s Eve!

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

Review by C.J. Bunce

If the pilot is any indication, Zooey Deschanel, the cute and quirky co-star of Elf, Jimmy Fallon’s girlfriend in his “Idiot Boyfriend” video, and the  gritty-sultry voice of the pop group She and Him, will be right at home in her new sitcom, New Girl, premiering September 20 on Fox.

The New Girl of the title is Deschanel’s Jess, who we meet shortly after she leaves after finding her boyfriend with another woman.  Jess quickly answers a Craig’s List ad for three guys seeking a fourth roomie, and despite her moody, post-boyfriend psychosis, the mention that her friends are all models causes the trio (or at least two of the trio) to bring her onboard after a brief interview process.

Jess is a school teacher, but the show isn’t about that, it’s about a young woman on the edge being brought back from the cliff by a group of good guys, and it is thankfully far more comedy than drama.  The leader of the roommates and apparent Scarecrow of Zooey’s Dorothy-like character is the often-shirtless Schmidt played by Max Greenfield, best known as the too-nice-for-his-own-good Leo, friend of Veronica on Veronica Mars.  Damon Wayans, Jr. who plays Coach only in the series pilot (to be replaced by Lamorne Morris as a series regular), is a serious fitness instructor with no understanding of women (clearly the Tin Man in our analogy) with Jake M. Johnson as Nick, who also lost his girlfriend recently, as the weepy other roommate and empathetic new friend (and gentle Lion).

Jess gives Zooey a chance to sing, including creating her own theme song amongst her roommates (did I say she’s a little quirky?), when depressed she watches Dirty Dancing sometimes six times per day, and she lacks a certain fashion sense, starting with her large, retro eyeglasses.  What must include some improvisation to focus on Deschanel’s back and forth from deadpan to Jack-in-the-box-quick, boisterous humor, the show has our lead well-settled in her role as if she had played this character for years.  The style of the setting of New Girl offers a certain romp and sillyness like the trendiness of Marlo Thomas’s That Girl, Mary Tyler Moore’s hat-throwing intro in the classic Mary Tyler Moore Show, and Caroline Dhavernas’s dry humor and situation comedy antics from Wonderfalls.

For a half-hour pilot, the producers managed to pack a lot of story into the introduction of these characters.  If the writers can stick with the momentum and humor from the pilot, New Girl may be a new fall sitcom worth tuning in for.

By the borg.com Writing Staff

As the spring TV season winds down, we thought we’d take a moment to reflect back on this season’s viewing, looking at what ultimately made our “must watch” list, and what didn’t.  Look back to see our reviews, then check out our weekly lineup!

Let’s start with what didn’t make it for us:

  • The Firm.  Although we enjoyed the performances, and the overall series mystery seemed intriguing, the focus on courtroom melodrama bogged this one down.  The fatal moment, though, was an episode in which the Rules of Criminal Procedure were so wildly distorted as to kill any suspension of disbelief.  Note to courtroom drama writers: We’ve all watched twenty years of Law & Order.  You need to step up the writing if you want to succeed.
  • Terra Nova.  This series just lost us.  The pilot was serviceable and showed us the great potential the ideas behind this series had, but episodes quickly devolved into a weak combination of weekly world-destroying strawman threats (yawn) that just felt more and more incredibly contrived, and a confusing (and, IMO, un-needed) effort to create a dark, mysterious, earth-shattering plot with shadowy characters and alignments similar to the epic Lost.  The last two episodes we watched (in January) were literally painful to watch, mainly due to the largely wasted potential that a time-traveling colony in the Cretaceous era. WeI’ve heard that the last few episodes in this season showed promise, but we won’t be tuning in unless we hear some positive buzz on the show once it starts again in the fall.
  • The Killing.  This is the only show that Jason can remember where he actively rooted against it succeeding.  The first season treated viewers with such contempt for their intelligence, after a promising pilot and first couple of episodes, and that means any resolutions for the plot or characters are unimportant.

Hanging on by a Thread:

  • Once Upon a Time.  This one is still nabbed weekly by our DVR, but we missed a couple of episodes during the holidays and never bothered to get caught up again.  There was nothing really wrong with it; we were enjoying it–but other series (see below) bumped it from the tight nightly schedule.
  • Ringer.  See OUAT, above.  The ongoing soap opera gained momentum after the midseason, but ultimately fell victim to things that held our attention a little bit more.  Escalating outrageousness and cringe-inducing (in a good way!) plot twists raised the stakes for the series, so this one deserves a marathon to get caught up.
  • Falling Skies.  Our review of this summer series here at borg.com remains unchanged; we saw great potential, and though the series had its issues, it also had its positive aspects, and we’ll be tuning in this summer when episodes resume on TNT on June 17th at 9pm Eastern Time.  Hopefully the second season comes out with a bang and delivers on this series’ massive potential.  And you can catch a promising glimpse of the season opener here.
  • 30 Rock.  One of the favorites of past years, it isn’t at the top of viewing lists anymore, though if the episode focus is on Liz Lemon and Jack Donaghy, it can still be magic.  Because it only streams on his computer, it is tough for Jason to watch now.

So, what are the big winners this season at borg.com?

Lost Girl.  We are loving this lighthearted adult urban fantasy!  Satisfying world building based in European fairy lore combines with strong performances by the supporting cast to make this a weekly guilty pleasure.  It’s like Buffy for grownups–what Angel was trying to be, only done right.

Awake.  Launched in the same Thursday night time slot as The Firm, (which also hosted another fine debut series, Prime Suspect), this paranormal crime drama only gets better.  Jason Isaacs makes a compelling lead, and the series writers have wisely increased the genre stakes for the series, giving it extra pull.  They’re teasing the paranormal plot out very slowly, but when the moments hit, they pack a wallop.  We’re looking forward to seeing the mystery build.

Grimm.  Elizabeth’s personal favorite this season!  After a compelling pilot, this series has taken a while to get going.  But, as with Awake, they’re finally starting to really build the ongoing genre plot, adding complications to the established “monster murder of the week” formula.  New characters and a stronger focus on the otherworldly underbelly have given Grimm a much-needed boost, and we were happy to see that it’s been picked up for another season!  Friday nights just haven’t been the same without Chuck.  One thing we’d like to see more of, please: strong women characters.

New Girl.  C.J.’s favorite comedy of the past ten years and favorite series of the year.  He still cannot believe each episode is only a half an hour, since the writers crammed so much into each show.  Zooey Deschanel’s Jess is as put-upon as any classic female comedy lead in the Mary Richards variety, and is as brilliantly funny, smart and zany.  The supporting cast only got better throughout the first season, but the funny stories didn’t really explode with humor until they finally linked-up Max Greenfield’s Schmidt with Hannah Simone’s Cece.

Psych.  Still occupying the top spot in our must-watch lineup, the second half of the Psych season really delivered.  From beginning (the great season re-opener guest starring Cary Elwes) to end (that CLIFFHANGER!), with very few missteps in between (not sure what to make of “Let’s Do-Wop It Again,” with Shawn in the hospital and minus Keenan Thompson), all around, the show’s still got it.

The Walking Dead.  The second season of this series just got better and better, with deeper storylines, clever surprises, and a real aura of uncertainty around favorite characters survivability.  And the season finale was one of the best of the year (Michone!!!).  It’s the one series I simply cannot wait to resume in the fall.

Community.  This is Jason’s only show he will watch in real time.  The characters keep developing and adding depth and when the writers create a personality quirk, it is in service of character and not the story of the week.  He would visit the Greendale campus (and did as a background extra) to see all the characters, but attending Greendale would be the worst decision of his or anyone’s life except for those that want to learn to make a diorama.

House, M.D.  After Dr. Greg House (Hugh Laurie) drove his car into Dr. Cuddy’s home we thought this series was pretty much done for.  We still had doubts that we’d need another season after House’s prison stint.  Then BAM!  This last season is on par with the best of its eight season run, especially because the writers have let Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard) be Wilson, Chase (Jesse Spencer) be Chase, and Russian bride-in-name-only Dominika (Karolina Wydra) almost make it as House’s single perfect mate.  Although Charlene Yi and Odette Annable are fine as Drs. Park and Adams, the show still struggles with the one note Cameron/Thirteen replacement role.  We wish we had Amber Tamblyn back.  Although Omar Epps’s Dr. Foreman pretty much vanished, Peter Jacobson’s Dr. Taub continues to amuse to the bitter (?) end.

Fairly Legal.  Although we’ve fallen behind thanks to new diversions like Awake and Lost Girl, the sophomore season of this unusual, lighthearted legal drama continues to entertain. Star Sarah Shahi is cute and engaging (although we liked her better as a cynical cop in Life and as Gus’s adrenaline junkie girlfriend in a guest spot on Psych), even if her harried approach to life gets a little exhausting.  We’re hoping for a bigger role for Gerald McRaney this season.

In Plain Sight.  We’ve let the final season of this solid crime drama get backed up on our DVR, but from what we’ve seen so far, they’re going to round the series out nicely, with the same sharp dialogue and complex relationships that have given this series staying power despite a history of scheduling mishaps.  It’s nice to see Tangie Ambrose (Agent Parmalee) get a stronger role, Tia Carrere is always fun, and all things considered, I think everyone prefers baby Norah to Jinx and Brandi.

Parks and Recreation.  April Ludgate, Andy Dwyer and Ron Swanson continue to be three of the best characters on television.

A few other shows we’re thinking about, but haven’t mentioned here before:

  • Surburgatory. Jason has no clue what makes this interesting.  He laughs and that’s a big part.  The supporting cast (Alan Tudyk (Firefly), Ana Gasteyer and Chris Parnell (SNL) and Cheryl Hines (Curb Your Enthusiasm) is just so, goofy and fun. Mostly, it is earnest father and daughter relationship of the two leads, Jeremy Sisto and Jane Levy.
  • Modern Family.  The second season of this award-winning series was side-splitting.  Better than the great comedic actors and fantastic use of the “mockumentary” format is the terrific writing of the scribes behind the show, particularly Jeffery Richman  & creator Steven Levitan. The stories of the three households making up the dysfunctional Modern Family intertwine effortlessly to create the funniest half-hour on network television.
  • CSI (Crime Scene Investigation).  After a dozen seasons in the bag and numerous cast changes, CSI could easily be slipping off of most people’s radar, especially with the mid-season exit of long-time favorite Marg Helgenberger.  And though it will never likely recover the viewership it enjoyed when William Peterson was on the cast, the new additions of Ted Danson and Elisabeth Shue has been a breath of creative fresh air.  After missteps with recently departed cast, especially the badly conceived Dr. Ray Langston character portrayed by the excellent Lawrence Fishburne, the series seems to be back on an even keel and cranking out the crafty, clever alternative plotlines to the rote procedurals currently on the air everywhere else. Amen.
  • Don’t Trust the B in Apartment 23.  Only four episodes in, but having James Van Der Beek play a cartoon version of himself, keeps paying funny dividends.  If that lasts, this will be a keeper.
  • Mad Men.  Jason got rid of his cable and finding this show in a legal manner can be tough, but he knows it is worth it.
  • Archer.  Jason says, “Give me the voice of H. Jon Benjamin in crazy spy situations or give me death!”
  • Bob’s Burgers.  Jason says, “Give me the voice of H. Jon Benjamin in crazy burger joint situations or give me death!”
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