Posts Tagged ‘tv’

Review: Comic Book Men (Rating: C-)

February 13, 2012

Rating: C-

I was only half-joking when I said on Twitter that Comic Book Men (AMC) will set the comic book community back by about 30 years.

The only thing missing was a basement…but in their defense, this was the pilot and no need to blow everything in the first episode.

A Cold Open Like Clerks, But Not As Funny

In lieu of a basement, the cold open for the show has the staff of The Secret Stash talking about Robin and going over the same dumb jokes that have been said by any number of us…except not as funny.

And it just goes downhill from there.

I take that back.  I suppose this conversation might be funny for those that have not heard it before, but the conversation on tape played like a joke on Two And A Half Men, playing to existing stereotypes and firing right down the middle.

Which is sad since there are moments later in the show of both clarity and insight into comic books.  The problem is that they are so lightly peppered across the one hour broadcast that if you’re checking your Twitter feed for a second you might miss them.

Instead, the show reinforces every “Comic Book Store Guy” stereotype that people already have for us.

Welcome To The Android Dungeon

The reinforcement of the stereotype was the most surprising thing about the show given that  Kevin Smith, of all people, knows the pain of living with the image that has been placed on all of us who read (and love) comic books.

And yet, when given an opportunity to challenge and counter it, he and the producers of this show decided it would easier to just play to what is expected; three white guys (four if you count Smith) and one Asian guy who are all over 30.

No women. No younger people.

In January, Zoe Gulliksen wrote about not making it onto the show, and it still confuses me as to how she did not make it in.

Yes, these are his friends from childhood blah blah blah and one would argue that hiring a woman to the show, specifically for the purpose of casting her so the show would have a female “character” could be seen as sexist (or any number of other things).

But this is television.  It’s not real.  Even if they call it “reality television,” there are still writers and producers and it’s edited.

So, not having a female perspective is one of the most glaring things that hurts this show before they even got off the ground.  It distorts the reality of who the  people that create, read and sell comic books are.

Pawn Star For Nerds (and yes, please be offended by that title)

In so many of the conversations on the show about comic books, other perspectives would have been helpful.

But that said, they really don’t spend too much time talking about comics which again is a shame because the framing device of using the podcast recording sessions to talk comic books was one of the few things I liked about the show.

I can only guess that the studio note was that talking about comic books is too “high art” and too cerebral.  Instead, the producers want a cheap “Pawn Star for nerds” that they can let audiences laugh at the people coming into the store to sell items.

To that point, in this pilot I did not see a single customer actually buying a comic book.  Just people off the street trying to sell stuff (it’s not to say that we won’t see that in future episodes).  It was hinted that there was a “casting call” of sorts to line those people up.  I’m fine with that.  Like I said, it’s television.

Of all the sellers, the only one that was enjoyable came from outside of the core cast.  A very melodramatic man comes in with a case handcuffed to his wrist (seriously) wanting to sell lobby cards and a poster of one of the Romero zombie movies for $800 and $200 respectively.  Since it’s not comic book specific, they call in an expert.  And the expert they call in makes very short work of the melodramatic man.

That and some discussion over signatures being less valuable on a collectable (because they’re not able to certify them) were interesting but they were hidden beneath the “A story” of a  “forced challenge” that had the employees go to the flea market to sell excess merchandise.

Thank you once again, producers.  This “a story” seemed forced (studio note: “We must have conflict”); probably because it was and was utterly boring.

Back To Stereotypes

Of all the people in the store Bryan, who may or may not be an employee (I’m not quite sure), is clearly there to rub people the wrong way and to call comic book readers nerds. He’s quite annoying and while the show (and Kevin) try to paint him as a loveable jester, he came across to me as being a jerk.  I have stopped shopping at comic book stores for less, and if I had to deal with him I’d probably change stores or move to mail-order.

Limited Production When It’s Needed The Most

One of the other misses of this show is in the production.  There are a few moments of interesting discussion over comic books that you’d figure would lend themselves to seeing the panels that are being discussed  (example: confusion over what actually happens in the classic Green Arrow/Green Lantern issue with Speedy doing drugs) and yet they do not show anything other than covers of books being sold.

I don’t know if this is a money thing (can’t afford the rights) or they know how litigious DC and Marvel could be if they tried.  Not being a lawyer I would argue that usage of panels of a comic book in this particular case would fall under “fair use” that’s used for reviews.  But I suppose they’ve never picked up a Comics Journal or copy of Amazing Heroes…

In Summary

The ratings for Comic Book Men were simply OK.  According to Deadline.Com, the show’s lead-in (The Walking Dead) had it’s highest ratings ever at 8.1 million viewers but Comic Book Men lost 75% of that audience which left it with 2 million viewers.

That’s a significant drop off, and it will be interesting to see what the ratings settle into as we get into weeks 2 and beyond.

Overall, this could have been a great opportunity to change the way people see the stereotypes of the comic book community.  However, instead of Lisa Lionheart, we got another Malibu Stacy (but she’s got a new hat).

[Note: @ZeusComics in Dallas tweeted me to let me know about their show “Variants” which is a fiction web series that does have a lead female character.  I have not seen it yet, but will check it out]

Early Review Of Falling Skies

June 13, 2011

The TNT marketing department is wasting no time in trying to get the buzz out for the new show Falling Skies.

Social media folks who have high Klout scores were given “VIP” passes to a pre-party last Thursday at the Highball and then preferential seating at a screening of the premiere episode (really episodes 1 & 2) at the Alamo Drafthouse, followed by a Q&A with Moon Bloodgood.

Before you think I have Klout score that even ranges within the single digits, I was invited by my friend Kat (@katmandelstein, thanks!).

So how was it?

I give the show a B- rating and I will watch it this season to see where it goes.  

While it’s a good show with a lot of room to grow into itself, the comparisons to the Walking Dead are inevitable and I have to point out that as a result, the bar is being set very high.

One of the disadvantages this show has out of the gate are the aliens.  When you think about the Walking Dead, the zombies are not an adversary so much as they are an environmental condition.  The zombies have no strategy.  No plan of attack.  They just exist to foil the humans.  The conflict is entirely within the confines of the human condition; man vs. man.

With Falling Skies, the backdrop of the alien invasion has to divide it’s time between the alien takeover of the planet (“them” vs. us) as well as the human condition elements.  Too many unanswered questions (like what’s their end game? etc.).

While both conflicts are served, they do tend to go back-and-forth a lot.

Not too much has been revealed about the aliens, and I almost would have liked to have had even less information than was given.  The reason being, once you start to peel that band-aid you really want to just keep tearing at it until you rip the entire thing off.

What if the alien plot becomes more interesting than the people?  Stargate always had this problem, where the characters became subservient to the science.  These type of shows only work when it balances out evenly (which is a difficult task).

While there were a few dark elements that speak to how people will respond to what might be the end of civilization, these things are presented and then quickly tucked away.  Which is not a bad thing.  It’s just a thing.  Steven Spielberg is the executive producer of the show and it airs on TNT, so given both of these facts you kinda know going in that if it ever starts to go into dark territory it’s going to refocus back onto the alien conflict and not linger in the depths of the soul of the downtrodden.

For instance: there’s a particular sub-plot about children that should be a lot more disturbing than it actually is and yet they spend very little time on the depth of emotion to be had by this sub-plot and I suspect that later on in the season it will be more about the alien invasion and less about the children affected.

Recently, the show “The Killing” had a stand-alone episode that just focused on the detectives and not on the murder they are investigating.  Some felt it was a cheat.  Others felt it was a brilliant piece of storytelling.  If Falling Skies wanted to be cutting-edge, they’d pull a “Lost” and do a show from the perspective of the children at some point.  Flip the camera around as it were (Tailies, represent!).  But I won’t be holding my breath for that to happen.  10 minutes, maybe.  But not a full episode, sadly.

The first episode was written by series creator Robert Rodat (Saving Private Ryan) and while it was good, the second episode was the stronger of the two  with a number of moments that the audience reacted to (it helps that Graham Yost wrote that second episode).

The cast is solid and Noah Wylie is a great lead (as to be expected).  I will say that Will Patton kinda sticks out a bit. He’s an amazing actor, but I can’t shake the image of him as the bad guy in The Postman.  There’s a post apocalypse “you can’t go home again” joke here; somewhere.

The standout of the cast has to be the character Jimmy (Dylan Authors), a solider who only yesterday was a thirteen year-old boy.  He doesn’t have a ton of screen time, but when he is in a scene he owns it.  I give a huge amount of credit to Falling Skies for getting a leg up on the Walking Dead with this brilliant character.  My challenge to this show is to take advantage of him and bring him to the foreground the way that writers did with Kat on Battlestar Galactica.

This is a solid show, but it’s also family entertainment.  And that’s not a bad thing.  It’s got drama.  It’s got action.  And like I said, if the Walking Dead is a bit too dark of a show, this might be a nice alternative.

And, as a counterpoint to that statement: if you do like the Walking Dead, you might like this show as well.  Just don’t expect to see someone forced into a “hacksaw” type of decision any time soon.

I’ll report back on the blog as the season progresses to let you know where I land on this.

Heroes Volume 4 (Fugitives) In Two Sentences

February 3, 2009

Umm, so to sum up the episode in one sentence:

“Peter, it’s OK to let go.  You know how to fly you idiot!”

**sigh**

Really, NBC? Really?

What’s sad is that you got rid of  your two best writer/producers (Jeph Loeb and Jesse Alexander) and you think you’re going to be able to make a go of it with this fourth season/volume.  Well, I got news for you, it’s gonna be a long Spring…