All posts by Sheldon Wiebe

TELEVISION REVIEW: Flash Forward – What Would You Do If You Could Catch a Glimpse of Your Future?

A man crawls from his overturned car, burning his hand on its muffler, which is now close by the window through which he has exited. The scene is chaos – the streets are filled with crashed vehicles; dazed and injured people are in shock. This is the opening of Flash Forward [ABC, Thursdays, 8/7C], one of two series the network hopes will be big for them [the other is ‘V’ which we’ll address in November].

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The man who has crawled out of his vehicle is FBI Special Agent Mark Benford [Joseph Fiennes], who, with his partner, Demetri Noh [John Cho], had been tailing a group of terrorists prior to blacking out. Before long, we find out that apparently everyone in the world blacked out at the exact same time – and regained consciousness exactly two minutes and seventeen seconds later.

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TELEVISION REVIEW: The Mentalist – The Housewife and the Million Dollars!

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The second season premiere of The Mentalist [CBS, Thursdays, 10/9C] gets to a quick start when CIB consultant Patrick Jane [Simon Baker] solves a murder in a department store in a matter of minutes. That the murderer causes a quarter of a million dollars in damages when he tries to flee – and the Sacramento Police file a complaint – but it’s all the same to Jane, who’s been as Agent Lisbon [Robin Tunney] pits it, running hot ever since he and Lisbon’s team narrowly missed capturing Red John [the serial killer who slew Jane’s wife and child to teach him a lesson] in the first season finale.

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GRAPHIC NOVEL: The Surrogates: How Can There Be Human Contact In a World of Surrogates?

The Surrogates is a graphic novel that postulates a world in which we live vicariously through simulacra of ourselves to which we are connected cybernetically. Safe at home, we can work dangerous jobs without fear. A fireman’s surrogate can dash into a flaming building to rescue its inhabitants without any fear of his actual body suffering damage. Someone walking down the sidewalk need not fear falling objects, or an out of control car lurching onto that sidewalk. If an accident occurs, only the surrogate will be damaged. Its human operator will remain, safe and sound, at home.

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In this world, surrogates have become big business – an overwhelming majority of United States citizens either own a surrogate outright, or are buying one on credit terms. This is the world that writer Robert Venditti and artist Brett Weldele have created. On the surface, it seems like an ideal world – once dangerous jobs are now no riskier than doing a crossword puzzle; sexually transmitted diseases no longer bar us from experimenting as we please. Even vanity is swerved – one’s surrogate can be specifically ordered to represent an idealized image of oneself.

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COMIC BOOKS: J. Michael Straczynski Tackles DC Team Book The Brave and The Bold!

For many comics buffs, the news that the creator of Babylon 5 has taken on a new challenge might be old news. But for readers and filmgoers who connect his name to The Changeling, or the upcoming Ninja Assassin, knowing that Straczynski, who prefers to go by Joe, is writing team-ups in The Brave & The Bold might just persuade the, to check the book out.

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Joe’s writing debuts in The Brave and the Bold #27, on stands now, on a tale entitled Death of a H.E.R.O. Besides the Caped Crusader, the main characters are Robby Reed, a teen-ager who found a mysterious dial that allows him to be a unique superhero by simply dialling the letters H-E-R-O and to return to normal by reversing the process, and an unemployed, down on his luck street thug named Travis Milton.

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TELEVISION REVIEW: Eastwick – Third Times The Charm?

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Eastwick [ABC, Wednesdays, 10/9C] is the third attempt to adapt John Updike’s most controversial novel – The Witches of Eastwick –into some form of motion picture. The film was financially successful, but received mixed reviews; an earlier attempt at a TV series was cancelled early in its run. Eastwick, the latest version, was created for television by Maggie Friedman, and takes a much less overt path than the others.

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TELEVISION REVIEW: Cougar Town Lets Courtney Cox Act Her Age… Sorta…

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As ABC continues to find a sitcom that’ll stick with its audience, we get Cougar Town [Wednesdays, 9:30/8:30C] – in which a forty-year old owner of a realty company begins the process of dealing with her age by – wait for it – dating a younger man! Woo-Hoo! That’s a new one!

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TELEVISION REVIEW: Modern Family Mines Truth for Laughs!

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Modern Family [ABC, Wednesdays, 9/8C] is a remarkably smart new series about three families that intertwine in unexpected ways. First, there’s Phil [Ty Burrell] and Claire [Julie Bowen] who have been married for long enough to have a teen daughter, Alex [Ariel Winter], a tween daughter, Haley [Sarah Hyland] and a son, Luke [Nolan Gould], who likes to stick his head in the banister. Then there are Jay [Ed O’Neill] and Gloria [Sofia Vergara] – an older man with a mid-life crisis and a trophy wife, who has an eleven-year old son, Manny [Rico Rodriguez]. Finally, there’s a gay couple – Mitchell [Jesse Tyler Ferguson] and Cameron [Eric Stonestreet] – who have been together for five years and just adopted a Vietnamese child.

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TELEVISION REVIEW: the forgotten is a Procedural of a Different Kind!

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While ABC’s the forgotten [Tuesdays, 10/9C] is definitely a procedural, it’s not a glossy police show with all kinds of cool tools and the crème de la crème of forensics talent. Instead, it’s about a group of part-time volunteers who take on John and Jane Doe cases after the talented guys with the cool toys and decent budgets have given up.

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TELEVISION REVIEW: Missing Artifacts! A Traitor Within! A Killer Cliffhanger! Warehouse 13’s First Season Closes on an Explosive Note!

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Over the course of its first season, Warehouse 13 [Tuesday, Syfy, 9/8C] has become Syfy’s most watched series ever and it’s easy to see why. The oil and water personalities of Agents Pete Lattimer [Eddie McClintock] and Myka Bering [Joanne Kelly] and Warehouse 13 Supervisor/Curator/Cataloguer Artie Nielsen [Saul Rubinek] and kid computer wizard Claudia Donovan [Allison Scagliotti] produces a high ratio of clever banter per episode and allow for a sufficiently diverse group of personality types that pretty every viewer can identify with [or wish they were] one of the four. Add intriguing magical and/pr scientific artifacts that do weird and crazy stuff – and which must, therefore, be removed from easy access and/or nullified, and you have a premise that can go almost anywhere.

To that already intriguing mix, add a carefully built backstory that includes aura-reading Leena [Genelle Williams], the mysterious and dangerous Mrs. Frederic [CCH Pounder], and the ruthless former Warehouse agent, James MacPherson [Roger Rees] and you have the potential for an explosive first-season finale.

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TELEVISION REVIEW: Bones – Murder, Psychics & Goofy Socks!

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The fifth season premiere of Bones [Fox, Thursdays, 8/7C] finds things a bit off kilter for Dr. Temperance “Bones” Brennan [Emily Deschanel] and FBI Special Agent Seeley Booth [David Boreanaz]. It’s six weeks since Booth has come out of his coma [see season four’s finale, The End in the Beginning] and he’s pretty certain he loves Bones – but then, he’s forgotten that he rebels against authority in subtle ways like wearing goofy socks and loud ties. Meanwhile, Bones has been introduced to professed psychic, Avalon Harmonia [Cyndi Lauper], who tells her that many bodies lie beneath a certain fountain.

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DVD REVIEW: Mill Creek Reissue of Wiseguy: The Complete First Season Makes Its Bones

Sometimes, when you watch a show you loved years ago, you wonder why you loved it so much in the first place. Wiseguy is not one of those shows.

The Stephen J. Cannell series revolved around Vincenzo Terranova [Ken Wahl], an undercover member of the Organized Crime Bureau. Terranova had just come out of eighteen-months of jail time and leveraged his way into a position as a right-hand man to mob boss Sonny Steelgrave [Ray Sharkey]. This, ten years before Donnie Brasco…

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Like most of Cannell’s productions, Wiseguy was notable for its solid, frequently brilliant writing and compelling performances. Unlike the majority of Cannell productions, Wiseguy was consistently grittier and nastier than anything else that aired at the time. Whether Vince and Sonny were bare-knuckle boxing [The Pilot], or facing down the attempts of Pat “The Cat” Patrice, the action was harsh, the relationships being juggled were unequalled, and the feel was very real. Even the accountants had attitude!

Another first [or near first] had Vinnie ordered into group therapy because of Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome in an ep called Last Rites For Lucci – and ep that showed both the positive ways therapy can help and what can happen if someone refuses to admit he’s got a problem.

The first season of Wiseguy also featured an arc with Vinnie working on a guy named Mel Profit [Kevin Spacey] who was an entirely different species of silky but crazy evil.

Important regular/recurring cast members included Terranova’s boss/handler, Frank McPike [Jonathan Banks]; “Lifeguard” [Jim Byrnes], his phone/emergency contact, and Carlotta Terranova [Elsa Raven], his mother.

The first season of Wiseguy has been out of circulation for awhile, but thanks to Mill Creek Entertainment, it’s back in a very affordable package. Because Mill Creek has picked up the rights to the series for a decent price, in combination with a very basic package [unique box which contains the four DVDs in black paper envelopes with cellophane on the title side of the discs], they can offer the series for a quarter of what it might cost. The picture and sound are very good, suggesting that Mill Creek had access the show’s masters.

There are no bonus features.

Final Grade: A