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Tag Archive: Eureka


Sesame Street at NerdHQ

Nerd HQ offered up a great variety of panels from the best of TV Saturday.  Here are some great panels to check out.  After four years of 45 minute panels offered just yards from San Diego Comic-Con, many of these have become a source for stand-up comedy from the actors.  See for yourself.

First up what may be the best panel idea ever, the voices and muppets themselves, from Sesame Street, Grover, Cookie Monster, Bert, and Murray.  And Grover reveals the true identity of Super Grover.  This one can’t be missed.

A Conversation with Sesame Street

Intruders TV Series Panel with John Simm, Mira Sorvino & Glen Morgan

Orphan Black Panel with Tatiana Maslany and Other Cast Members

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Jaime Ray Newman

You may have first seen Jaime Ray Newman in The Drew Carey Show episode “The Warsaw Closes.”  She had a small part opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in the hit Steven Spielberg film Catch Me If You Can.  Soap fans may know her from her 68 episodes  as Kristina Cassadine on General Hospital. 

Versatile, endearing, and attractive, sometimes tough, sometimes sensitive, often devious and other times just plain fun, you just can’t help running across actress Jaime Ray Newman when getting caught up on TV series from the past several years.  Since her role on General Hospital, Newman has turned up everywhere you look, and we’ve seen her in so many genre roles since 2005 that we think she is someone everyone should keep an eye out for, and an actress we can’t get enough of.

Newman as Amanda Walker in Supernatural

Newman played Amanda Walker in the episode “Phantom Traveler” in Supernatural in 2005.  In the same year she played Lieutenant Laura Cadman in two episodes of Stargate: Atlantis.

Newman as Laura Cadman on Stargate Atlantis

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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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Rod Roddenberry’s website (where the son of Gene Roddenberry sells and promotes a lot of Star Trek replica merchandise, among other things) put me onto a new Internet series on gaming.  It’s not about video games.  It’s about good old-fashioned “game night” games, board games with dice and cards and tokens, and it’s called TableTop.

If you’re a fan of Wil Wheaton, it’s the show for you.  Wheaton is best known for his role as Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation and as the young star of the Rob Reiner/Steven King film Stand By Me, but he has been quickly branching out as a stellar guest star on series like Leverage (as a superb IT villain) and Big Bang Theory (where he often plays himself), showing he’s gone beyond the kid actor thing.  And even if you’re not a Wheaton fan–like you thought Wesley Crusher should have been left on Rubicun III–give this series a try anyway.

Tsuro game in play on Tabletop.

My favorite thing about Wil Wheaton is he seems to thrive at all things geek and nerd.  He’s not apologetic in the least, and in chatting up his love for games and TV and books, he is bringing everyone along for a fun ride.  He’s a regular at San Diego Comic-Con, and I saw him at a Star Trek writers panel with Star Trek authors where he showed a great rapport with fans, and seemed to love talking about what he liked (and didn’t like) about Trek.

Wil Wheaton with authors Kevin Dilmore and Dayton Ward on a panel at Comic-Con in 2008.

TableTop is an online half-hour, biweekly series just beginning and in its first five episodes, which is a bit like Comic Book Men and Celebrity Poker, but far, far better than both of those shows.  In fact, the introduction, production values, and content should get some network exec to take notice.  This is the first online-only series we’ve taken note of here at borg.com that we think is worthy of another look and we think a wider audience is out there for this show.

TableTop has host Wheaton playing a few board or dice games with some friends, including explaining quickly and clearly the game’s rules, and just chatting it up around the table with people like Rod Roddenberry, Felicia Day (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Monk, House, M.D., Eureka), Colin Ferguson (Eureka),  Grant Imahara (Mythbusters), James Kyson (Heroes, Hawaii 5-0), and Neil Grayston (Eureka).  I think it would be an interesting twist to add in other celebrities, maybe genre actors or legends Wheaton himself is a fan of, but may not previously know personally.  I’d love to see someone like Billy Mumy do an episode and see what these guys would talk about while playing Apples to Apples, or pull some obscure old games out of the game closet that are long forgotten but still fun, like Bionic Crisis or the Star Wars board game.

Which brings us to the episode with Rod Roddenberry, where they covered a few games including TsuroThe episode intrigued me enough that I wandered past a game shop this weekend while hanging out with family and I bought it.  We were able to pull out the board and playing pieces and start playing at a local coffee shop in minutes.  Just as I had discovered watching the players in the episode of TableTopTsuro is a blast.  In a nutshell, you have 35 cardboard tiles that players lay out one by one, in turn, and each tile has a different set of paths, some straight, some crisscrossed, some coming back at you.  The goal is to create a path for yourself and maybe even knock others off the board and be last player on the board.  Even the barista stopped by and commented how awesome the game looks (it has the beautiful Chinese red dragon board, parchment divider page, and cool rune playing tokens) and I passed along Wheaton’s show and the game shop across the street that had one more copy in stock.

We’ve played it three times so far and I can’t wait to play Tsuro again.  Thanks, Wil Wheaton!

Update: I met Wil and his lovely wife Anne and a few friends outside the Starbucks at Comic-Con 2013. His wife graciously snapped this shot of us.

wheaton-and-bunce

(and for the record I look like this after staying up without sleep in Ballroom 20 lines at SDCC for 40 hours straight) I relayed the above and how much we enjoyed his online show.  A very nice accidental run-in and fun to be able to give him feedback on his show directly.

Back in Beginner Computing class in junior high, we learned the BASIC computer language on Commodore VIC 20s.  The first program you learn to write is this:

10 PRINT HELLO

20 GOTO 10

The end result is a loop, printing the word HELLO over and over again infinitely like this:

HELLOHELLOHELLOHELLOHELLOHELLOHELLO

HELLOHELLOHELLOHELLOHELLOHELLOHELLO

HELLOHELLOHELLOHELLOHELLOHELLOHELLO

HELLOHELLOHELLOHELLOHELLOHELLOHELLO …

It’s an easy way to illustrate a temporal loop or time loop, a recurring story element in science fiction and fantasy works.

In 1905 Spanish philosopher George Santayana wrote “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  He didn’t mean this literally.  As science and science fiction would later speculate, repeating the past may be a possibility one day.

It is difficult to determine who first put the literal repeat of history into story form, but it is a recurring science fiction device that is often used to great effect.  Classic sci-fi writer Philip K. Dick used the time loop in his 1975 short story “A Little Something for Us Tempunauts.”  The best and most well known example of this is the Bill Murray movie Groundhog Day, where for for some unknown reason a weatherman’s day is repeated until something happens that is supposed to happen–he gets the day exactly right.

Unlike later uses of this device, in his short story Philip K. Dick did not express the element as a repeat of the actual narrative story, but an explanation of cause and effect.  In his story, time traveling astronauts go on a mission, where destruction of the mission results in a time loop that may or may not result in the preservation of an eternal life for everyone.  We don’t see the result, but hear from the tempunauts they have been there, done that, before.  Over and over.

Usually use of a time loop on sci-fi/fantasy genre tales involves at least one person being able to realize the existence of the repetition.  Bill Murray’s weatherman knows the day is repeating in Groundhog Day.  Yet the other characters are not aware at all.  In other uses, characters get to experience deja vu or even fatigue from living time over and over.

This week’s episode of the Syfy Channel’s Haven, the series based on a Stephen King story, is titled “Audrey Parker’s Day Off,” and is one of the best of the series so far.  The main character Audrey Parker, played by Emily Rose, wakes up to repeat a day after she comes upon a death at a crime scene.  She is in bed with friend Chris, played by Jason Priestley, to whom she must explain a different plan for each new day.  In each new day she tries to figure out how to not cause any death, by changing the variables of each day.  In the context of the mystic “troubles” the town of Haven is dealing with, Audrey as the only person person unaffected by the troubles.  With Audrey the show uses this story device quite well.  The parallels to Groundhog Day are unmistakable, but viewers can’t help but like it when it is adapted in a new way as was done here.

Jason Priestley may be strangely tied to time loops, as he also appeared in a television series entirely about time loops, called Tru Calling, one of borg.com’s favorite series.  In Tru Calling, a graduate student and morgue worker named Tru played by Eliza Dushku is able to relive days in the hope of saving the life of someone who died on that day.  Usually she has several opportunities to do this.  Priestley’s character later in the series comes along as an agent of death to undo the seemingly good that Tru has been doing.  His view is that Tru is interfering with the proper course of events, as if only one timeline is correct, and with him it is the first timeline.

Early Edition was another series focusing on the ability to “do over.”  The loop also occurs in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode “Life Serial,” on the series Eureka in the episode “I Do Over,” the X-Files episode “Monday,” and the Xena, Warrier Princess episode “Been There, Done That.”

In theaters now is the fifth film in the Final Destination franchise.  This series presents a variant on going back to change the past, without the ability to try again via repeats, although with the character of Clear played by Ali Larter in the first two movies, the repeat effort seems to be there all the same.  In the world of the Final Destination films, an individual lives out a horrible accident, then snaps back in sort of a deja vu state, with only seconds to try to prevent the course of events from happening.  However, like Priestley’s character in Tru Calling, an unseen power, like his agent of death, is set about to return the normal and proper timeline, even if it means the death of dozens.

In Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, Vonnegut’s hero Billy Pilgrim similarly becomes what Vonnegut calls “unstuck in time”.  He has no choice, he appears in various stages of his own life, but with the choice of changing events.  This also happens in the episode of Angel called “Time Bomb.”

Captain Picard  (Patrick Stewart) experienced the same problem a few times in Star Trek: The Next Generation.  In  the episode “Tapestry,” John de Lancie’s omnipotent character Q plunges Picard into the past to allow Picard to not only revisit his past, but to change it if he wishes.  With no regrets, Picard changes nothing, even when that means a Nausicaan will again put a pool cue through his heart, resulting in Picard again needing an artificial heart for the rest of his life.  But whereas revisiting the past in story form has been around for centuries–think Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol–a temporal loop requires repeated visits to the past.  Luckily Scrooge gets it right after merely watching his past, and Q is just fine with Picard’s choices the second time around.

Actually the best Star Trek representation of the temporal loop is the Next Generation episode “Cause and Effect,” which might as well be an essay on how time loops work.  The episode starts with a poker game between the bridge officers.  The ship then experiences a temporal distortion and a ship comes out of nowhere to collide with the USS Enterprise, resulting in the destruction of both ships.  Then we have a commercial break, and the show appears to repeat again.  I know of at least one person who almost turned off the show, thinking there was something wrong with the network feed.  Brilliantly, the audience must be confused.  What did we miss?  In this story, characters are impacted by the repetition, they feel tired, and they experience deja vu.  Luckily Lt. Commander Data figures out how to leave a subtle clue for the next repeat, allowing him to save the ship before the end of the hour of the episode.  His crew had been repeating the event for mere days, but the other ship caught in the anomaly, the USS Bozeman helmed by a captain played by Kelsey Grammer, has unknowingly re-lived the same day for decades, and the show ends with Picard informing the other captain of some pretty bad news about his lost time.  Breaking a time loop is also the focus of the Charmed episode “The Good, The Bad, and The Cursed.”

Writers use time loops again and again because they are fun, and modern audiences understand them, mostly because of the success of Groundhog Day.  In fact in this week’s episode of Haven, “Audrey Parker’s Day Off,” when Audrey explains all this to Interim Chief of Police Nathan Wournos, his response is “you’re stuck in my second favorite Bill Murray movie.”  When on the following day Audrey has to explain the recurring events yet again, she cuts him off when he is about to repeat the line and finishes it for him.

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com