Wednesday, June 30, 2010

"Because the alternative is unthinkable."

Day 14 - Favorite male character

Well now, here's another question that has a ton of answers. I could say Sgt. Saunders from Combat!, or Captain Kirk or Admiral Nelson or Adam Cartwright or James West or Spike. I love them all, but really, one male character tops them all for me. That would be Methos from Highlander.

Ah, Methos. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. Oldest immortal in the Highlander universe. One of the Four Horseman. Cynical, witty, snarky, still able to fall in love and become completely vulnerable all over again. A survivor. The perfect balance for MacLeod, who represents nobility and integrity, honor and chivalry, goodness. And Methos, who as he says himself was born "long before the age of chivalry." A man who recognizes MacLeod is a better man than he is, and after all those years of surviving, is willing to give up his head to him. Gets all the good dialogue and many of the best emotional moments on the show. Methos is, quite simply, the coolest male character in television. Ever. Not to mention Peter Wingfield is very good-looking and has one of the best voices (and accents). He's one of those actors who could read me the phonebook and make it sound good. He's also a damned fine actor.

I found this youtube compilation of the funniest Methos bits from "Till Death," one of Highlander's lighter episodes.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

"Keep your hobbies off the plot table."

Day 13 - Favorite childhood show

Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. My family was a bit unusual growing up. Other than Looney Tunes and similar cartoons, my mom hated kid's shows, so they simply weren't watched. I've never seen an ep of Sesame Street or the Muppets or probably a dozen other shows most kids of my generation have probably seen. I've seen a couple eps of Electric Company, but only because it was shown at school. At home, we only watched "real" shows, like Star Trek and Voyage and Bonanza. LOL! Voyage was my mom's favorite, so it naturally became mine and my sister's.

These were the days before VCRs, and I remember my sister and I having to be quiet during the best episodes while my mom put a tape recorder up to the tv speaker and recorded the episode for us to listen later. We also made a tape of funny dialog and sound effects. We had to wait for whole seasons to be shown so we could get back to a certain episode, and we knew them so well that my mom could start the tape just in time to capture a five second sound effect. We still have those tapes, and they're hilarious! We had a Voyage game. We had a giant trivia question book my mom created and typed up. We had sailor's caps. We had photos. We each had our favorite characters. This show dominated my early life in ways Star Trek couldn't even begin to compete with, even though it was watched just as often. I cut my writing teeth on this series, writing fanfic with my mom before I even knew what fanfic was.

The first black and white season was the serious season and has the strongest episodes. Those early eps, like Submarine Sunk Here, Doomsday, Mutiny, The Mist of Silence, The Traitor (the first thing I ever saw George Sanders in! He was so suave and cool I learned his name) hold up well over time. They're still solid shows. I always wanted to meet Paul Carr and tell him how much his arm-caught-in-the-gear scene scared me. Those yells of pain and terror always got to me. Once the series went to color, it slowly angled away from spies and traitors and old-fashioned submarine stories to monster/alien-of-the-week shows. Though there's still quite many good episodes in there, mixed among the dreadful ones. They're obviously cheesy by today's standards, but they're still a ton of fun to watch. And there's the flying sub, one of the coolest inventions ever, not to mention the jillion other inventions the Admiral came up with. And there's a mermaid! And it's really hard not to love a show where they got to carry Thompsons around on board a submarine while hunting aliens.

"It doesn't matter."

Day 12 - An episode you’ve watched more than 5 times

A single ep? I've seen whole series (like Star Trek, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea) far more than 5 times! But lessee now. I was going to pick my favorite Buffy episode, but I think I'm going to go with something more obscure that I love just as much.

Lonesome Dove: The Outlaw Years ran just a single season, but, boy howdy, it had some good episodes. It's predessor, Lonesome Dove: The Series was also good, but had a completely different tone. Much lighter, not that many shadows, until the final ep. The Outlaw Years, however, jumped right into the heavy-duty, serious stuff. I couldn't get enough of it when it aired, and I was so mad when they canceled the show. Particularly as the ending leaves off in the bloody middle of everything going to hell in a hand basket! The nerve!

My favorite episode is entitled "Redemption." (Of course!) This ep hits just about all my favorite themes, and hits them well. Redemption, characters who profess not to care but who care and care deeply. Characters trying to evade blame. False accusations and frame-ups. Traitors. Evil corporations. And a big one: characters who choose right over their own personal prejudices. Ah, it's very satisfying episode in a series of satisfying episodes. (Hm, this makes me want to make a list of my 10 favorite episodes, from any show.)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Could have been great... wasn't.

Day 11 - A show that disappointed you


Disappointed is not a strong enough word here. I grew up on the original, of course. I grew to love the Next Generation, particularly after they found their footing in the second season and started making genuinely great episodes. I loved the second season too because they had Pulaski as doc instead of Dr. Crusher, who is probably my least liked regular character in any Star Trek world. Too bad they went back to Crusher after that season though. Deep Space Nine turned out to be surprisingly good as well with great characters. Voyager too, once it got past the first season, kicked into high gear and made some really watchable eps, even a few great ones. And then we hear Enterprise is coming. A new Star Trek! Great premise, and I loved Scott Bakula in Quantum Leap. What could go wrong?

Everything. The show failed on just about every level. Watched about four or five episodes and that was that. My disappointment was so great. At least with the Next Generation, sure, the first season had issues, but it at least had some worthy plots, and it made you care about the characters enough to hang on until they found their footing and the show began to pay off. There was nothing worth hanging onto in Enterprise. As much as I like him elsewhere, Scott Bakula could not have been worse as captain. Just so wrong. Everything about the show stunk, and I had been so looking forward to it.

"If this was a cowboy movie, I'd give you my boots."

Day 10 - A show you thought you wouldn’t like but ended up loving

Hm. I'm going to have to go with Starsky & Hutch here. Oddly (given my family's love of all things action), cop shows were not really watched at my house growing up. The one exception was T.J. Hooker, and that was only because of William Shatner. We only lasted the first season on that one, if I recall. Columbo was always watched, of course, but Columbo was definitely the exception.

My best friend introduced me to Starsky and Hutch. One of the cable channels started playing it one day, and we set the VCR to tape it. She knew I'd love it, and she was right. I don't remember why now I thought I wouldn't like it, but it turned out not to be just a good show, but a great show. I fell in love with the characters, the stories were strong and well-written and a lot more brutal and adult than I thought they'd be. There was also plenty of humor, lots of action, lots of great guest stars (all sorts of actors I know from the '60s TV shows/movies), a different theme song every season. The show is also extremely nostalgic for me, because it was filmed in LA in the late '70s, and that's the LA I grew up with. Seeing old landmarks and just that certain look and feel of the cars, clothes, smog, terrain that I still remember so well... that's my Los Angeles! Starsky and Hutch now ranks among my top five favorite television series of all time.

Friday, June 25, 2010

"Going somewhere?"

Day 09 - Best scene ever

This is quite subjective, of course, but I had no trouble picking one. I have lots of favorite scenes, but there's only one scene that stands out in all my viewing memory as the best scene. Not just because it's a great scene by itself, but because it changed everything about the show and characters. Actually, this whole episode did, which is why it's also my favorite episode of the entire series. The episode is also my Most Favorite TV Episode of All Time pick. You start the episode in one place, and by the end, it's a different world. Highlander did that more than once, wrote episodes that just changed your perceptions of how everything worked. It's just one of the many things that I loved about the show, that make it one of my top five favorite TV series.

So yep, my pick for best scene ever comes from Highlander's fifth season episode "Comes a Horseman." It's the MacLeod/Methos "Did you kill all those people?" scene, sometimes called the jimmy scene by fans for the car they're standing beside. Blew my socks off when I saw it the first time, when the show was airing. Must have watched that specific scene at least fifty times since (the entire episode nearly that many times). I had a video tape that was permanently cued up to the scene.

How you know it's my favorite scene of all time? I haven't actually watched that ep in a few years now. But I can still quote it verbatim without having to put it on now. That's how often this scene got played. It's burned indelibly in my brain. Spoilers ahead! Stop now if you ever want to watch Highlander or even this episode from the beginning, cuz this will ruin it.

Methos: "I'm outta here."
Duncan: "No you're not, you're not out of here. Is what she said true?"
Methos: "The times were different, MacLeod, I was different, the whole bloody world was different, okay?"
Duncan: "Did you kill all those people?"
Methos: "Yes. Is that what you want to hear? Killing was all I knew, is that what you want to hear?"
Duncan: "It's enough."
Methos: "No, it is not enough. I killed, but I didn't just kill fifty, I didn't kill a hundred, I killed a thousand, I killed ten thousand. And I was good at it. And it wasn't for vengeance. It wasn't for greed. It was because... I liked it. Cassandra was nothing. Her village was nothing. Do you know who I was? I was death! Death on a horse. When mothers warned their children that the monster would get them, that monster was me. I was the nightmare that kept them awake at night. The answer is yes... oh yes."
Duncan: "We're through."

ETA: Should have thought of youtube earlier, because, of course, people have the scene posted.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

"What we have here is a Maltese kitty cat."

Day 08 - A show everyone should watch

Another lame question, as tastes vary too much for this to be relevant in the entertainment category. But I would say everyone should watch more Discovery (or science) channel and PBS shows. You can never learn too much, and there's a lot of really nicely produced shows out there.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Two for the price of one

Day 07 - Least favorite episode of your favorite TV show

"Weep No More," a completely lame Combat! episode that really does not deserve any more print time than that.

My friend Tillane, who is playing along, noticed there wasn't originally a Day 07 topic. It had been somehow left out of the line up, and I had to hunt it up online to find out what it actually was. And since it was so lame (who cares what the least favorite is... just to help people avoid it?), he posted about:

Day 07 Alternate - Your first TV crush

Okay, that is much more interesting. For me, that would be Captain Lee Crane (David Hedison) from Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, from watching re-runs in the mid-seventies when I was a kid. He was tall, dark, and handsome, and he commanded a submarine. That made him the perfect man as far as I was concerned. He was my first and main crush all the way to high school. And I have always watched for any movies/tv he stars or guests in.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

"Drink up, Sergeant. The cognac is excellent."

My favorite ep from Combat! is the second season two-parter, "The Long Way Home." It's a squad episode, and all the regulars are here. Saunders and company are captured in the teaser and spend the episode as prisoners of war under an SS Captain Steiner, played by Richard Basehart. He's rather genial on the surface, with a side of sneer, and it makes him quite scary when he finally loses his temper. There's a lot of cat and mouse between Saunders and Steiner, though really, it's more cat and cat. No mice here. Okay, one. A poor soldier who was a grocery clerk and has no stomach for fighting, but even he gets a moment to shine. There's torture and beatings (it's a rather dark and brutal episode, actually), there's questionings, there's escape attempts, there's some clever ingenuity, there's a shower scene AND a "let's do our laundry" scene, which means lack of clothes and water and lots of eye candy for the women in the audience. Ahem. And at the end, Saunders still almost loses to Steiner, which is saying something.

It's a very satisfying episode, one that actually makes use of the full two-part format, rather than some that feel like an hour episode with a lot of filler. It was one of the first eps I watched when I was re-discovering the show, and it was partly what sold me on how great the show was. It wasn't afraid to get its proverbial hands dirty, and I loved that.

Vic Morrow and Richard Basehart face off.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Worse than Chinese water torture

Day 05 - A show you hate

Oh good lord, too many to count. Reality shows. I loathe South Park and Family Guy. And probably at the top of the heap, I cannot stand Seinfeld. Cannot. Stand. Nothing sends me fleeing faster than the wahmp wahmp of that awful bass playing between scenes. Sheer unadulterated hatred. Honestly, I've never really watched the show, so I'm being completely unfair, but I do not like any of the actors, and I really, really, really, really, REALLY cannot stand that bass. Seriously. It sets my hair on end, and I literally cannot sit through even half an episode. I have to leave the room.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

White Rook calling Checkmate King Two

Day 04 - Your favorite show ever

Well, my answer hasn't changed from when I answered this in the last meme... my favorite is still Combat! (1962-1967). I have other shows I love desperately and dearly, but I'll still have to put Combat! up top. Same reasons as before. Well-written, well-acted, with more plots and moral/ethical dilemmas that push my personal happiness buttons than most other shows put together, even my other faves. Also, very few shows make me want to be a better person. They make me want to join the police force, drive fast cars, catch outlaws and criminals, travel through time and space, and captain submarines and star ships, but they don't make me want to change who I am. Combat! does, or rather, Vic Morrow's Sgt. Saunders does. What surprises me about that is that inspiring television characters usually inspire little more than eye rolls and yawns. True integrity is hard to convey honestly, but Vic Morrow does it without ever feeling cliche or easy or fake. Sure the scripts are well-written, but that part, I feel, is all Vic. In someone else's hands, Saunders would not have given that same kind of impression. I don't know how he did that, but Vic was an amazing and underrated actor. And that just makes this even more of a special show to me.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Winter is coming

Day 03 - Your favorite new show (aired this TV season)

Um, that would be... none. I don't get cable or satellite, so no new TV around here. I don't even know what's on the air right now.

But, how about a new show I'm looking forward to? That would be HBO's new series Game of Thrones, even if it won't premiere until 2011. The first book is outstanding, and Sean Bean is playing my favorite character in the book, Eddard Stark. Mr. Bean has a way of doing that... playing my favorite character when a book is given cinematic treatment. Not that I'm complaining mind you. Not one bit. Sigh. There's a teaser preview on the HBO site that shows next to nothing yet, but it's enough to get me excited.

I'll have to wait for this one to come to DVD, and oh will I be waiting! I think it's the only new thing on TV I'm looking forward to right now.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Monday nights at 7 pm

Day 02 - A show that you wish more people were watching

I find this a stupid question. Tastes are so different, what's the point? For example, I'd never inflict Have Gun-Will Travel or Cheyenne or Big Valley or Bonanza on someone who didn't like Westerns, no matter how much I love the shows or want to share them.

What I would answer is that I wish people would watch more television shows made prior to 1970. Most have superior stories, dialogue, and actors to what's produced today, and I wish more people would take the time to sit down with older television shows and discover what they're missing. Whether it's drama or sci fi or westerns or comedy... there are plenty of shows that fit the bill.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

"Helllo, Brrrrrrisco."

So, there's another 30-day meme going around, this one all about TV shows. Looks like fun, so here goes!

The line up:
Day 01 - A show that should never have been canceled
Day 02 - A show that you wish more people were watching
Day 03 - Your favorite new show (aired this TV season)
Day 04 - Your favorite show ever
Day 05 - A show you hate
Day 06 - Favorite episode of your favorite TV show
Day 07 - Least favorite episode of your favorite TV show
Day 08 - A show everyone should watch
Day 09 - Best scene ever
Day 10 - A show you thought you wouldn’t like but ended up loving
Day 11 - A show that disappointed you
Day 12 - An episode you’ve watched more than 5 times
Day 13 - Favorite childhood show
Day 14 - Favorite male character
Day 15 - Favorite female character
Day 16 - Your guilty pleasure show
Day 17 - Favorite mini series
Day 18 - Favorite title sequence
Day 19 - Best TV show cast
Day 20 - Favorite kiss
Day 21 - Favorite ship
Day 22 - Favorite series finale
Day 23 - Most annoying character
Day 24 - Best quote
Day 25 - A show you plan on watching (old or new)
Day 26 - OMG WTF? Season finale
Day 27 - Best pilot episode
Day 28 - First TV show obsession
Day 29 - Current TV show obsession
Day 30 - Saddest character death

Day 01 - A show that should never have been canceled -
This is a hard one. There's a bunch of shows that only ran one season that I wish had been continued. Earth 2, Nowhere Man, Lonesome Dove: The Outlaw Years. But each of those was very good and, despite the cliffhanger-ish endings and the fact that we will never find out what happens next... all three were well done and satisfying just as they are. So, the show I most wish had never been canceled has to be:

This show hadn't quite found its stride yet, but it had a great cast, a great concept, and if it had been given a second season, I think it really would have kicked into high gear and turned out some absolutely fabulous adventures. I couldn't wait each week for the next episode while this show aired. I loved the continuing storylines about the orb and Bly and was sorry to see that arc end. The show changed gears a bit once the orb was gone, and that's where a second season really would have let the show grow. It's a bit of a modern version of Wild West West. It embraced the cheese factor and its B-movie roots and really went to town. The anachronisms are half the fun. Not to mention the fun riffs on other movies, such as Psycho. Just seeing the famous Bates house turn up in an episode is awesome. And of course, you know a shower scene is coming...

Bruce Campbell was the perfect Brisco. (Bruce Campbell is one of those actors I can watch in anything. He's just too much fun. I really want to read his autobiography, simply because the title is so darned funny: If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B-Movie Actor.) Julius Carry was great as Lord Bowler. (It broke my heart when I heard he passed away a few years back, far too young.) Great rivalry early on, even better partnership later. Whatever that mysterious thing is called tv chemistry... they had it. And you can just tell the actors are having fun making this show. That kind of love for the material always shows through and always makes a show even better. And Comet the Wonder Horse gets his own title card in the opening credits! That horse was also one of the best things about the show. How can you not love a horse who's smarter than the people?

There's also John Pyper-Ferguson who guested as recurring bad guy Pete Hutter. I think his eps are my favorite. He's always hilarious. All he has to do is appear on screen and I'm already laughing (this from the girl who hates most comedy). Everyone gets good lines, but he got the choicest dialogue. He also gets the delightful giant painted rocks, Pete's Piece -- "Nobody touches Pete's Piece!" -- and he gets to die and come back repeatedly, each time with a funnier reason for how he survived. Way too much fun. "In all my years, I have never hit a woman. Hit a man in a dress once, but that was another story."

This show sooooo needed a second season, at the very least.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The One That Got Away (1957)

I really enjoyed this British WWII film. It's based on the true story of aviator Franz von Werra who crashes in England in 1940, and his several escape attempts from British POW camps. He was apparently the only German POW to successfully escape and return to Germany. I think what was so enjoyable about the film is that it makes you root for both sides. I loved the patient British who were trying to keep him captive, and I couldn't help but like Von Werra and hope he'd make it. Okay, well, you know from the beginning he's going to make it, but somehow that didn't make it any less suspenseful watching it. Good storytelling that. There's a couple unsuccessful attempts first, so you start to wonder which scheme is going to finally work.

Von Werra is played brilliantly by Hardy Kruger. Now, I admit, I've loved Hardy Kruger from the first time I saw The Flight of the Phoenix and so am a bit biased, but he's perfect here. His von Werra is personable and still so delightfully full of himself. There's a great scene where the British interrogator implacably and politely reveals that he already knows just about everything about his prisoner, and von Werra's reaction is so much fun... by turns astonished, flustered, lost, angry -- reactions he tries hard to hide from the Brit as his little safe image of the world crumbles. The fact that the British have his lies about one of his wartime exploits nailed down, and his own people don't just adds fuel to the fire. He's a very expressive actor, doesn't need dialog to convey what his character is thinking. And I love that the British are nicely on top of things.

My favorite scene is one of his escape attempts, where he brazens his way onto a British airbase intending to steal a plane. You have to admire the sheer nerve of it. Very fun. And you also have to admire the British for stopping him before he gets away with it.

The only weak section is at the end, when he tries to cross the river. Drags on a bit too long and slips out of what has been a matter-of-fact tone and into a wee bit of melodrama. Could be also because they switch to a set for parts of it, and after so much on location shots, it just jars a bit. But only a very little bit.

Definitely one I want to see again.