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Archive for the ‘Television’ Category

So, as usual, the job has been insane this month, and has kept me away from here for a week and a half.  But, upon seeing this spot, the first trailer for HBO’s upcoming series Treme,  I have come running back.

My reaction?  Oh.  Hell.  Yes.  I can’t even put into words how stoked I am about this show.  I have heaped tons of adulation on David Simon in the past, and probably have even mentioned that based on The Wire and Generation Kill, he has earned enough good faith from me that I will pretty much geek out on anything he does.  However, looking at this first teaser, I don’t think there exists a world where I wouldn’t be super excited based on what I’ve seen.

The whole thing is light on characters and dialogue, but oh-so-heavy on mood and music.  I really like the the direction that this show looks to be heading in.  Hell, the final title shot with the trombone was enough to have me grinning from ear to ear.

New Orleans is a city that’s rich with culture and history, not to mention recent social and political developments, and that has always been largely reflected in its music.  This spot suggests to me that Treme is going to crush the musical aspects of the series right out of the park (for those of you who wonder whether David Simon knows his music as well as he knows his words, I suggest you check this out).

April 11th can’t come fast enough.  Here’s the official site for the show over at HBO if you want to check out more.

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So I’m probably the very last person in the world to put this trailer up (it dropped last week, and was kind of a big deal), but I’m going to post the new trailer for the upcoming “A-Team” movie anyway.  Now, I never watched the show, and don’t really have even the slightest of nostalgic connections to material, but I am intrigued enough by the parts involved where I find it to be curiously interesting.  For starts, Bradley Cooper, Liam Neeson, Sharlto Copley, and “Rampage” Jackson is a bizzare cast no matter how you shake it.  Toss in one of my favorite directors in Joe Carnahan (Oh, why did “White Jazz” have to fall apart?  Why!?) and I just can’t look away.  I’m pretty convinced that even a by-the-numbers TV adaptation from Carnahan would be better than 90% of the summer movies that get trucked out each year, so it’s going to take a lot to dissuade me from being optimistic about this one.

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Remember back when HBO seemed to have the market cornered when it came to great original programming?  Well, it looks like those days might be returning soon.   Already boasting three of televisions most exciting upcoming premieres in “Boardwalk Empire,” “Treme,” and “The Pacific,” the Home Box Office has shown that they’re not yet satisfied.  According to Variety, the network has decided to stay in the David Milch business by ordering a pilot from the writer for his a new show called “Luck,” that is to be centered around the world of horse racing.

Are you one of the crazy few who aren’t excited by the prospect of this great voice and wonderful concept? Well, then I should probably also mention that Michael Mann is in talks to direct the hour long pilot. Allow me be to be far from the first to say; wow.  HBO, way to constantly reward my faith in you and not give me cause to cancel my subscription.  Seriously, David Milch, the world of horse racing, and Michael Mann might just be a trio made in heaven.  Add that to the three previously mentioned series and some guilty-pleasure comedies like “Eastbound and Down,” “Bored to Death,” and “Entourage,” and I’m more than willing to forgive the weird cultural phenomenon that is “True Blood.”

All hyperbole and kidding aside, the world of horse-racing, and of course race gambling, seems to be absolutely ripe for Milch’s no-holds-barred writing style.  The world is seedy, classic, and kind of exotic all at the same time, but also full of a tragic humanity that I am pretty much foaming at the mouth to see the writer tackle.  Hopefully my main man Kem Nunn will be getting a little race track love on this one as well. I’m going to be keeping a close eye on this one, as well as hoping for some involvement of Ian McShane.

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There’s a nice little feature over at Paste about David Simon’s upcoming show for HBO, Treme. The series, which recently started principal production, is centered around the lives of a group of musicians in post-Katrina New Orleans.  Now, Simon can pretty much do no wrong in my eyes, after absolutely knocking his last two series (The Wire and Generation Kill) out of the park, especially when it comes to a feeling of authenticity.  Naturally then, it’s no surprise that when the article spoke a little bit about David Simon’s writing process, I couldn’t help but be especially intrigued.

“Simon intends to train his sniper-like eye for detail and authenticity on New Orleans, just as he did with Baltimore. But he readily admits that—while he sees similarities between the two cities—New Orleans is as bewildering to newcomers as any in America. Although he’s been visiting for 20 years, Simon isn’t kidding himself—he’s still an outsider. If he was to get New Orleans right for Treme, he needed to assemble a team of local writers, actors and consultants. Simon cold-called musicians and chefs, met with cops and politicians, and approached bandleaders like Kermit Ruffins before gigs. He tracked down eccentric New Orleans DJ/musician Davis Rogan while Rogan was an artist-in-residence in the Loire Valley in France.”

There’s something to be said for a writer knowing when he needs to bring in the hook, so to speak.  That’s something that has always impressed me about Simon, his willingness to go outside the traditional boundaries of show-business to achieve the feel he’s looking for.  The Wire was populated by a litany of former reporters and policemen, both behind and and in front of the camera.  Meanwhile, Generation Kill was littered with soldiers who had been Marines on the ground during the invasion of Iraq.  It’s encouraging to see that he is following a similar path on his newest piece of work.

Viewers watching Treme will notice some familiar faces as Wire veterans like Clarke Peters and Wendell Pierce have roles in the show, but there are some new faces as well.  On of those mugs will belong to Steve Zahn, who seems an atypically famous actor to appear in a David Simon show.  That doesn’t necessarily mean I think his presence is a bad thing, just an usual one.  However, perhaps this is just Simon trying something new, for as the Paste piece points out, we shouldn’t just expect more of the same; “Simon cautions that Treme will not be The Wire: New Orleans. Its seasons will not be loosely divided by subject, and the show will provide a smaller, more intimate focus on people picking up the pieces without much help.”

Whatever the finished product is going to look like, my anticipation is already meeting almost unreachable levels without me having seen a single frame. Normally I would think that I was setting myself up for disappointment, but somehow David Simon always seems to exceed my expectations. Sometime in 2010 I’ll find out if he can do it yet again.  I can’t wait.

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V

ABC, in their ever-continuing quest to duplicate the success of Lost, debuted their new remake of the 1980’s sci-fi series V.  Now, the people who watched it seemed to have had two almost universal critiques of the show.  The first was that it was only so-so, not terrible television, but not great either. The second was that it was very, very, surprisingly, specifically, critical of President Obama through the use of some ham-fisted metaphors.  Hold on, what the what?

Over at The New Republic, Jonathon Chait (a favorite here at the Void) wrote a little summary and reaction to the show that you should almost certainly read for yourself.  Before I let you go scurrying over there though, here’s one of my favorite highlights of Chait’s write up:

“The visitors are young, charismatic, futuristic, and have a one-worldish vision of peace. They target the young by enticing them to join an idealistic (but, in reality, sinister) youth group. A few perceptive humans warn of the dangers of hopping on the bandwagon before we know what the bandwagon is really about. The alien leader, Ana, promises to use futuristic technology to heal humans. “You mean universal health care!” gapes a reporter, who, naturally, has been co-opted by the aliens. Anna soothes skeptics by declaring that accepting change can be difficult. A small band of human resistors forms. The lead character is skeptical–what proof do you have she asks, besides some scary thing “you read on the internet.” But the seemingly hysterical message from the internet is true! The charismatic new leader is masking her true identity! The death panels are real! Etc., etc.”

In fairness, I should say that Chait later points out that there is still plenty of liberal bias in Hollywood (personally, I say that compassion and reality have a liberal bias, but that’s just me), and one show that has a conservative spin is hardly the end of the world.  I can agree with that.  Additionally, I’ve noticed that even when shows seem to exude principles that conservatives should appreciate, that particular crowd seems slow to catch on (I mean, Kings was based on the Book of David and it couldn’t find an audience?  Come on conservatives!).  So it’s not like the end of the world or anything, even if it is misguided and kind of a waste.

Additionally, I’ve got to admit, while this most definitely sounds like something that I should hate, the weird thing is, it might just prompt me into watching!  You see unlike Chait, I don’t have any nostalgia for the original series, in fact, I found it to be dull.  So originally I had planned on skipping V all together!  But now that it’s being describes as a sci-fi series for the Fox News crowd (and one that possess all the subtly of… well, Fox News), I don’t know if I will be able to keep myself from checking out the pilot.  If anybody is feeling similarly curious, you should be able to view the episode on ABC’s webpage for the show, but be forewarned, this might have been what those crafty ABC folks had in mind all along.

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NPH

Wow.  That’s just about the only word that I can use to describe New York Magazine‘s feature on actor Neil Patrick Harris. The article is a crazy, Dadaist, whirlwind of a read that focuses on Harris’ unique success as an openly gay male actor in Hollywood.

Interestingly, the expansive nature of the article really mirror’s Harris’ career, to an extent.   It explores his early beginnings as a child star on Doogie Houser, his work on the stage, his time away from acting, and his more uber-straight roles such as those in the Harold & Kumar franchise and his long running gig on How I Met Your Mother.  All with Harris musing on magic, sexuality, show business, Cirque du Soleil, strip clubs, and even sneaking in a couple little shots at David Letterman and Alec Baldwin.  Oh yeah, he’s also hosting the Emmys.

The article’s author, Emily Nussbaum, has done a wonderfully engrossing job in giving us a brief look at the world of an actor whose success actually has some positive implications regarding the evolution of our society.  In terms of crossover gale male stars, for a long time there have been few and far between, but Harris is going a long way to change that.  It’s interesting that at one point he shies away from Nussbaum’s hopes that he can be the actor to really carry that mantle and pave the way for others, because like or not, that’s probably what is happening.

You should definitely give the article a read, whether you’re already a fan of Harris’ work or not.  Though, in good conscience I probably should tell you, side effects may include wanting to watch this years Emmys.  Consider yourself warned.

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Stewart

There’s been much said, both negative and positive, about the rise in Comedy Central’s two political personalities as people’s source of news.  Now, I’m not entirely sold on whether or not this is a good or bad thing for the future of political media, but I will say that I enjoy both Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s programs immensely.  And while I got more entertainment out of Colbert’s show, I would have to say that I still consider Jon Stewart to be the more “serious” political personality.

This largely has to do with the quality of the guests that appear on Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show and the nature of the discourse that often takes place.  Now, one would think that given the fact that the program is viewed as being left of anything that you’re likely to see on MSNBC, I’m often very surprised by the people who are willing to come on the show.  Well, over at the New York Magazine they take a moment to examine this phenomenon by talking with some of the neoconservatives that have appeared on Stewart’s program.  The consensus?  They go on because they enjoy some of the very same things that I enjoy, namely Stewart’s articulate and balanced discourse that he has with the guests on his show, regardless (or perhaps even because of) of their personal political position.

As far as I’m concerned, it’s this very fact that makes Stewart’s The Daily Show objectively superior to it’s conservative counterparts, even putting aside any kind of political ideology.  While personalities like Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity are content to dress down and talk over the political opposites that they host on their shows, giving his guests an opportunity to have an honest and fair conversation is what Stewart’s show thrives on.  In all fairness to the conservatives, the same comparison could probably be made when comparing Jon Stewart to somebody closer to his side of the political spectrum, such as The Countdown‘s Keith Olbermann.  Simply put, if you’re looking for good-old fashioned political discourse, The Daily Show is one of the last reliable sources on television.

So what does it mean when a funnyman is one of the few credible political pundits on television?  Is it a good thing, or a bad one?  I don’t claim to know whether it is good or bad for the short term, but I will wager that ultimately it could end up being either.  The way that it can end up being a good thing is that if what used to comprise the elite of the political media take notice of the fact that they are losing ground compared to a former-comedian, that their credibility is slipping, and that in order to change this they’re going to have to either shape up or move on down the road.  And if this doesn’t happen?  I suppose at least we’ll still have Stewart to help make us laugh as modern media continues to spiral down the drain.

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