All posts by Sheldon Wiebe

Television: The Worst of 2003

You’d think that, with over one hundred and twenty programs on the air, it would be hard to pick the best and the worst. It’s not. In the case of the year’s worst, the problem is that there’s so much of it. Kinda sad, really. Anyway, here we go…

15. The West Wing – After the opening arc of Zoe’s kidnapping, this show has rapidly devolved to the point where Josh Lyman, screaming, “”You wanna a piece o’ me?”” is a highlight. Come back, Aaron Sorkin! all is forgiven!14. Tarzan – The pilot was the best version of “”Tarzan In New York”” that I’d ever seen. Unfortunately, not only did he stay there, but they required him to speak. Apparently, the “”adventures of the teen-aged fill-in-the-blank”” WB format only works if the entire cast is good, and the writing is at least good. They should’ve made “”Tarzan”” a movie of the week, and stopped.13. Frazier – Definitely tired, creaky and so over.12. Friends – Only the cast’s talent and chemistry are keeping this show on the air. The writing is so tired that the series has dropped past the self-parody stage. Let it die, please!11. ER – Well into the self-parody phase, this once gripping medical drama is now nothing more than bad “”Chicago Hope”” [ie -“”Chicago Hope”” without Mandy Pantinkin…].10. Hack – This bargain basement “”Equalizer”” lacks the wit, charm, style and intelligence of the Edward Woodward vehicle. David Morse deserves better.9. L.A. Dragnet – Last season, as “”Dragnet””, the series had some pizzazz – showed some promise. This season, it was disemboweled. The Ed O’Neill/Ethan Embry chemistry was sacrificed for a re-working that teamed O’Neill with a bunch of young actors who had zip for chemistry and seemed to each be in their own, separate series. The writing sucked big, too.[pagebreak]8. Coupling – Did not make the transition from the UK to the U.S. Maybe it was the accents.7. The Mullets – Not a lot I can say here. Consistently awful writing, no cast chemistry and a ridiculous premise – no wonder it stinks.6. Stripperella – Stan Lee must have really needed the money.5. Mutant X – This show’s creative team could learn a few lessons from the crew of “”Jake 2.0″”. Instead of re-working a show’s premise over and over, they should have picked a direction and developed it. A little intelligence wouldn’t have hurt, either. I don’t find it coincidental that the show started its rapid descent into hideousness after Howard Chaykin left.4. Andromeda”” – “”The universe is a dangerous place…”” Well, duh! The series lost its vision so there could be more standalone eps, and the captain could get laid more often. From the anti-Trek, to exceedingly awful Trek in just two short seasons, and a bit. Scuttle the Andromeda Ascendant and put it out of our misery.3. American Idol – Wannabe idols singing music to cause unconscious by… Make it stop!2. Threat Matrix – If I want quality spy stuff, I’ll watch “”Alias””, or “”24″”, not this pathetic example of everything that can go wrong with an espionage series. Bad writing,chemistry between only two of the core cast members, stories that are like some awful hybrid of “”The Man From U.N.C.L.E.”” and “”24″”. “”Karen Sisco”” sits until March, while this travesty gets a full season order. There just ain’t no justice! 1. Fear Factor – The most truly revolting show on TV. The people who pitched this should be boiled in oil. The people who came up with the ad campaigns, and the suits who approved them, should be made to suffer a thousand papercuts, rolled in salt and only then,boiled in oil. It’s gotten so that it’s not safe to watch NBC while trying to eat dinner. It’s enough to make a peacable guy go all medieval, y’know?Coming Soon: Animation, Mini-Series and Guilty Pleasures

TV On DVD – The Top 5

From various “”Star Trek”” franchises, to “”Xena: Warrior Princess””, 2003 saw a ton of TV programming released on DVD. These are the top five packages released over the last year.

1.Firefly – The Complete Series – What a difference chronological order makes! Suddenly “”Firefly”” goes from being an intriguing failure, to the beginning of what might have become Joss Whedon’s finest work. The package includes commentaries for half of the series [six regular eps and the double-length pilot, “”Serenity””], three eps that never aired in the U.S., and several other rewarding features: “”Here’s How It Was: The Making of Firefly””; “”Serenity – The Tenth Character””; Joss Tours The Set””; “”Joss Whedon Sings The Theme From Firefly”” [not as hideous as he makes it sound in interviews]; “”Alan Tudyk’s Audition””; “”Deleted Scenes”” and a very funny [but way too short] Gag Reel. Each disc has its own sleek plastic sleeve. Final Grade: The Series: A+ Bonus Material: A+ 2. The Dead Zone – The Complete First Season – An unexpectedly formula-free television adaptation of characters and situations contained in Stephen King’s novel and the fine David Cronenberg film, “”The Dead Zone”” featured solid writing, appropriate effects and terrific direction. The first season DVD release features commentary tracks for every, single episode! Plus, for those who acted immediately upon purchasing the set, a DVD of the series’ original pilot was made available for the cost of postage – and featured selective scene commentaries that illustrated the differences between the two pilots, and the reasons for those differences. Other features include: the series’ creators discussing the genesis of the show; interviews with cast, crew and creators; a featurette that takes you inside writings’ meetings; a tour of the show’s visual effects; a featurette on the series’ music, composed by former Culture Club keyboardist, Roy Hay; and interviews with many of the show’s guest stars.Final grade: The Series: A Bonus Material: A+3. Buffy, the Vampire Slayer – Season Five – Generally considered to be the last great season of the series, “”Buffy”” Season Five, is notable for a number of reasons: Dracula as Rock Star; Glorificus, The Hell God; the realization that Dawn was literally of Buffy’s blood; “”The Gift””; and “”The Body”” among them. Few series ever reach the pinnacle of quality that “”Buffy”” did every week, and even fewer have as many episodes that quality as classic. Season five had two classic eps: “”The Body””, in which Buffy, Dawn and the Scoobies have to deal with the death of Joyce Summers, and “”The Gift””, in which Buffy discovers why her “”gift is death””. There are the usual four commentary tracks – the one for “”The Body”” is particularly interesting. Oddly enough, there is no commentary for “”The Gift””, which was the series’ 100th episode, and would have been the series finale if UPN hadn’t picked up the show – an oversight that, in combination with the unwieldy foldout packaging, costs the set a half-grade. The other bonus material includes: featurettes like “”Buffy Abroad””, “”Casting Buffy””, “”The Story of Season 5″”, and

“”Dreamkeeper”” – A Small Treasure

Buried in the programming burn-offs of the post-Christmas, Pre-New Year’s television wasteland is ABC’s “”Dreamkeeper”” – a mini-series that captures the joy of storytelling and the wonder of life.

Old Pete Chasing Horse [August Schellenberg] is somewhere between eighty-seven and a hundred years old and feels the end approaching. He wants to make it to one last powwow to share the stories he learned from his grandfather, so that they might not pass with him. Shane Crossing Horse [Eddie Spears] is a troubled young man who is so blinded by love that he loses track of everything