I often make jokes about CBS Films since they churn out one clunker after another (and most of them seem like lousy films from the jump) but they might have picked up a winner with “Afflicted”. Yes, it’s found footage which can be annoying. Yes, it’s reminiscent of “Chronicle”. But the trailer looks great and the travelog device seems like it could work well in a film. Color me intrigued.
On the bright side, Amazon does seem to have found two interesting shows in their latest batch of pilots. “Transparent” is an interesting dramedy about a family of people dealing with issues of self and selfishness. Jeffrey Tambor gives a tremendous performance as the father who is dealing with coming out while also coming to grips that his children are self-involved. “Mozart in the Jungle” is an interesting look at the classical music scene in NY, although it doesn’t really seem that much different than any other scene in NY (or, at least, as portrayed by TV.) Gael Garcia Bernal is great but the breakout star is Lola Kirke, who is kind of like a quieter, more vulnerable Rashida Jones vibe.
The downside is that both shows have a niche vibe to them. “Transparent” is as LA as “Mozart” is New York and I’m not sure how well either will play in Peoria. While I could see both garnering some critical acclaim, I can’t imagine either will garner much of a wide audience, which is what Amazon needs most as it continues to try to launch Prime as a contender to Netflix’s throne. Amazon does have a few shows aimed at that target but they all miss. “Bosch” is the best of this bunch; it stars Titus Welliver as a cold and worn down homicide cop who lives for the job. So much so that he gives away Celtics/Lakers tickets to other cops so they won’t be available for weekend duty and he’ll be able to take their shifts. Written by best selling author Michael Connelly, the show isn’t bad but it is about as generic as a cop show can get. In a world in which TV cops are almost all anti-heroes, Bosch leaves too much of a been there, done better feel impression. And, yes, that’s the best of the rest of the shows.
The other drama, “The After” is from X-Files creator Chris Carter and it feels like something that might have seemed fresh around the time X-Files was out but it just comes off as another “Lost” rip-off that, with chaos hitting the streets of Los Angeles follows a group of people trying to stay alive. Stay alive from what? Who knows? Because for most of the show, the only thing that we know is going wrong is that the power is out. Yet people are running around like mad. And there’s a laughable, inexplicable helicopter crash. The ending revelation pushes the show towards something that could be pandering to the red states but I can’t imagine anyone, liberal or conservative, having much interest in watching the wholly unlikeable cast. Compared to these guys, The Walking Dead cast comes off like the Huxtables. Finally, there’s one more comedy, “Rebels”, which is about a widow who takes over a football team. It’s another Hollywood treatment of pro sports that seems to be written by someone who has no idea how pro sports work (the upcoming movie “Draft Day” is another example.) The show is billed as a comedy but there’s not many laughs. This show fails to clear the very low bar that past football based shows have set and I’ll be stunned if it sees a second episode.
In the end, Amazon still seems to be competing with cable channels like IFC or SyFy rather than HBO or the networks or, hell, even AMC. Nevermind that the writing isn’t as sharp but the drama pilots don’t even look that great. SyFy’s Continuum and Helix both blow these shows out of the water. Even a failure like AMC’s “Low Winter Sun” at least looks like a big league swing-and-miss as opposed to the straight-to-DVD caliber productions Amazon’s hoisted out there.
One issue might be the lack of commitment that Amazon is making to these series. Rather than half-assedly tossing out pilots, Amazon needs to commit to two of three shows and throw legit budgets out there and give the shows a vote of confidence that will allow them to attract the top writers and actors and crews. While the rest of Hollywood seems to be moving away from pilot season, Amazon is betting their entire launch on it. This makes some sense when the original pitch was that Amazon was making pilots based on works of unproduced writers and directors but since that was mostly a ruse and Amazon is making shows from established professionals, they need to put their money on the table and invest in making at least a short run series that can garner attention and make them a viable player instead of a mere threat. With their cash and reach, Amazon is primed (no pun intended) to make waves in the entertainment industry but as of now, that potential remains unfulfilled.
No! Not the flashforward!
Season 2 of Hannibal kicks off with one of my least favorite cliches in modern television which is the flash forward. We see a fight between Hannibal and Jack Crawford and then at a crucial moment, we cut to black and “12 Weeks Earlier”. The gimmick screams lack of confidence in an episode; it felt like an exec gave a note that he wanted a boost of energy in the beginning to keep people tuned in. In this case, the flash forward is even worse because, as fans of Silence of the Lambs know, neither of the parties in the fight can die and showing us that Laurence Fishburne’s Jack Crawford knows the truth about Hannibal defuses what one would believe is the main thrust of season 2 – Will Graham trying to convince people that he isn’t a killer. Now the season becomes focused more on HOW Will will recover his memories but that’s a far more internal and less filmic struggle and not one that I have much faith in NBC (and a show that relies on the flash forward) being able to pull off. Even in season 1, the show didn’t really get doing until the puzzle pieces fell into the place; the mental instability of Will Graham was the focus of the slog of middle episodes.
The strength of the show is still its look and its creepiness and the show ends with a doozy of a final shot but my fear is that this is going to feel like an off-kilter season. With Hannibal as Will Graham, investigating scenes being the more interesting background element and the jailed Will Graham angle being the less intriguing forefront.
To me, the premiere and this season of Hannibal should focus most on, well, Hannibal. Will Graham trying to prove his innocence isn’t as strong of a show as Hannibal’s mindset. There’s a hint of that in the discussion between Hannibal and Gillian Anderson’s character when she says that Hannibal doesn’t know what a threat he is but I’m just afraid that the focus of this is going to be far too much on Will. We know that Hannibal still thinks he and Will are friends but I’d like to see more of the mindset that can believe that setting someone up for a lethal injection doesn’t mean they’re still not friends. Ironically, showing Hannibal’s inhuman mindset will humanize him since, right now, he’s little more than a well spoken, creepier version of your text book psychokiller. I’d argue that we’ve gotten less of a sense of Hannibal’s character in a season of “Hannibal” than we did in “Silence of the Lambs.”
I know a lot of critics are throwing “Best Show on TV” comments out there but, to me, that has more to do with the tone of the show and the easily grasped yet cerebral one liners/dialogue than anything else. And in terms of a TV show that will win over more viewers, I think Bryan Fuller and company should be planning for this to be the final season or start talking to Netflix and Amazon ASAP. Although, being released in the All-at-Once Netflix style is probably best for this show so getting cancelled from NBC could be a blessing in disguise. “Hannibal” is best served as a single meal rather than a course a week.
Explosions in the Sky and Eluvium, two great post-rock bands, have teamed up for an album. The first single is below and it’s a little more electronic and droning than I had hoped. I need to give it another listen but this has tempered my expectations more than it whet my appetite.
After coming up with the plan for 12 Years a Slave 2, the Execs shift their focus to Gravity. The biggest hurdle? How to get more Clooney the second time around.
OK, not really. But I made a short/mashup with my friends about the subject and here it is. Watch it, share it, hopefully don’t be offended by it!
“The Lego Movie” isn’t a perfect movie but, let’s be real here, what movie about legos really could be. It’s a fun, silly ride that is fast paced and keeps the jokes coming although part of me wonders how much of the humor will land with kids as many of the jokes are juvenile but seem aged up a bit. And at times, I wondered if kids would be able to follow the storyline because of the quick pacing. That being said, I had a great time at the movies and the song “Everything is Awesome!” will likely be stuck in my head for the next week (although Batman’s song actually made me laugh more.)
If you’ve got 100 minutes to spare on this long weekend, I’d definitely recommend checking out The Lego Movie. In fact, it’s much better as the equally ridiculous first episode of House of Cards, which pretty much cemented my disinterest in rushing to watch the second season of Netflix’s drama.
Another quick post to make up for not posting enough. This week’s Tryout if Hooray for Riff Raff, who Wikipedia describes as an “American folk-blues and southern gothic Americana band from New Orleans, Louisiana.” Check ‘em out! They just got a nice write-up in Spin magazine so they may be about to get some more, much deserved attention.
Amazon’s second foray into original programming is now up and you can check out the pilots for their new dramas. Their original push into TV featured half hour comedies and the results were not great. They spent money on the rights to Zombieland and then the pilot didn’t even get picked up after it (rightfully) received less than glowing reviews from the public. The two biggest pilots were Alpha House and Betas and neither made much of an impression.
The latest batch of pilots include a return of The X-Files’ Chris Carter with “The After”, Titus Welliver in Michael Connelly’s “Bosch”, Roman Coppola and Jason Schwartzman’s comedy “Mozart in the Jungle”, up-and-coming director Jill Soloway’s “Transparent”, and “The Rebels” – a sports comedy produced by Ice Cube and Michael Strahan.
Bands to Watch 2014
Terriers: A couple of down and out private detectives get in over their head. From The Shield's Shawn Ryan and Ocean's 11 scribe Ted Griffin. 13 episodes on Netflix.
Luther: Starring Idris Elba (Stringer Bell in The Wire) as a driven, angry, and dangerous London detective who pushes the limits and sometimes steps over the line. 10 episodes on Netflix (Season 3 not yet available.)
Sherlock: Modern day take on Sherlock Holmes. 6 episodes on Netflix (episodes are longer than normal, around 90 minutes or so.)
The Good Wife: Alicia Florick gave up her dreams of being an attorney when she became the wife of a rising politician. When he is arrested and sent to jail, she has to decide whether to stand by her philandering man while raising her family and getting back into the legal world. Season 1 - 4 on Hulu Plus.
The Deli Magazine: Highlighting Los Angeles's up and coming bands.
BIRP!: Blalock's Indie Rock Playlist's monthly playlist lets you download 100+ indie songs for free.
Seattle's KEXP: A leading indie radio station.
Daytrotter: A music site that is constantly getting top notch indie bands to come in for intimate live performances.
BBC Radio One: Check out what's charting across the pond.
ANBAD: A new band a day!