Tag Archives: Showtime

TELEVISION: Weeds – New Lows for Nancy and Celia; New Highs for Most Everyone Else!

After a lacklustre fourth season in which the world’s most selfish mother wound up pregnant by a Mexican drug lord to keep herself alive, Weeds’ [Showtime, Mondays, 10/9C] Nancy Botwin [Mary-Louise Parker] finds herself, once more, in potentially fatal circumstances – while her former best friend, Celia [Elizabeth Perkins], discovers that everyone hates her, a lot!

weeds S5 poster

Weeds’ fifth season premiere finds Nancy having to undergo another, witnessed, sonogram to convince Esteban [Demian Bichir] that she’s really pregnant – and getting a bodyguard to keep her company until he decides whether to kill her after the baby is born. Meanwhile, hijinx ensue when Andy [Justin Kirk], Silas [Hunter Parrish] and Doug [Kevin Nealon] decide to use San Diego County’s Cleveland National Forest as a place to set up a worry-free pot farm – and Quinn [Haley Hudson] has a conniption fit when she learns that no one wants to pay her mother’s ransom.

In Wonderful, Wonderful, series creator Jenji Kohan has crafted an episode that eclipses much of the fourth season in its wit and dark, twisted plotting. Scott Ellis brings out the best in his cast and returns the show to a deftness of performance and pacing that produce more genuine humor and drama than almost any part of last season.

There are many ironies that are almost playful in set up and yet, almost poignant in their unexpectedness. Celia is at the center of one of the best examples of this and Perkins is up to playing every note with an almost harrowing truthfulness. There are so many examples of why this one episode is so much better than anything in season four, but to say much of anything about them – beyond what I’ve already said – would be to ruin the surprises.

Weeds is back, baby! ‘bout time, too!

Final Grade: B+

Eclipse Review by Sheldon Wiebe

Posted June 7, 2009

TELEVISION: Season One Finale of United States of Tara Is a Breakthrough!

The unique United States of Tara [Showtime, 10-9C] reaches its first season finale this weekend with an episode appropriately entitled Miracle. It’s an ambitious episode that attempts to both tie together a number plot and character arcs and create a fresh beginning leading into season two.

UNITED STATES OF TARA

Since the series’ premiere, we’ve seen the Gillespie family pulled in different directions as Tara [Toni Collette] has slowly become disconnected from her family – husband Max [John Corbett], Daughter Kate [Brie Larson], son Marshall [Keir Gilchrist] and sister Charmaine [Rosemarie DeWitt] – have been subjected to increasingly odd situations, including the appearance of a new alter, Gimme. Gimme is an animalistic creature; pre-verbal and, apparently, governed solely by emotions.

Max has become frustrated by the actions of Buck, T and Alice; Marshall has had his dreams of a relationship with first love, Jason, thwarted by T, and Charmaine has slowly come to realize that the alters are not just Tara pretending to avoid stuff – and is more than a little freaked out by that until Buck becomes her “booby buddy.” Kate finally discovers that her boss is something more than just a creep – something that makes her more appreciative of her mother’s many, shall we say, facets.

Over the last few episodes, we’ve learned of a bad date that Tara went on in boarding school, and, in Miracle, she makes the call and faces the man responsible. The results are not what anyone is expecting. The ep also extols the use of bowling as family therapy – and the final scene of the ep is literally mind-expanding. I think I can guarantee you won’t see it coming.

Miracle was written by series creator Diablo Cody and features the kind of crackling dialogue and character insights for which she has  become known. The direction, by Craig Gillespie, is as fractured as Tara’s personality – and that’s a good thing. The ep’s pacing is determined by the characters and Tara’s alters. Over the course of its first season, the characters of United States of Tara have really been developed – especially the kids, who were more a collection of sarcastic dialogue and costumes, but are now recognizable people.

As I mentioned above, one of the most important things about Miracle is that it has to provide a satisfying conclusion to the season while simultaneously setting the stage for season two. Somehow, with everything else it has to accomplish, it does this particularly well. Kudos to Ms Cody and Mr. Gillespie.

Final Grade: A

TELEVISION: The United States of Tara Takes a Unique Approach to Dissociative Identity Disorder!

Tara Gregson [Toni Collette] is a struggling artist/designer with a charming husband, Max [John Corbett] and two kids – studious Marshall [Kier Gilchrist] and uber-brat Kate [Brie Larson]. She also has three more personalities [slutty teen, T; macho redneck Buck, and super Betty Crocker, Alice – and a sister, Charmaine [Rosemarie DeWitt] who thinks she’s faking [“that’s not even a real disease,” she tells Max after an early incident]. Fortunately, Max is a little more open minded than she is – though the exchange does basically set up two schools of thought on DID. The United States of Tara [Showtime, Sundays, 10/9C] is yet another reason that Showtime is sometimes referred to as “the new HBO.”

tara

UST was created by Steven Spielberg and developed by Diablo Cody – which as likely a combination as Juno and Paulie from Cody’s first film, and turns out to be as an unexpectedly good one. It takes a lot of nerve to tackle DID in the manner of UST – the premise is that Tara has gone of her meds with the approval of her family and therapist in the hope that the appearance and behaviour of her alter-egos might lead to the discovery of the events that led her to develop them in the first place. Not the simplest premise, and one that probably be watched closely by mental health professionals and families of DID victims.

From the moment we meet each of Tara’s “alters,” it becomes apparent that Cody is playing for keeps. There moments with each alter that reach almost profound levels of accuracy – and the humor that arises from these situations ranges from dark to light to dark again. In most instances, the humor is used to relieve the impact of the drama, as when Alice takes umbrage with Kate’s attitude and language in the third ep, Aftermath [in which the family attempts to clean up after the damage T and Buck caused in the first two eps.

The United States of Tara is not an easy show to watch, but despite it flaws [the children are woefully underdeveloped and it’s a tribute to Gilchrist and Larson that they have any presence at all], it is smart and refuses to take it easy on its audience. There are moments that are genuinely raw – that will definitely have an impact on you – and moments that leave you rolling with laughter [and you might feel guilty only about half the time].

The United States of Tara will make you think and feel – and isn’t that what the best television should do?

Final Grade: B+

TELEVISION: Showtime Partners Up with Summit Entertainment & Twilight!

Showtime Networks Inc., the home of such unique programming as Dexter and Californication have bumped up their movie slate by entering into an exclusive output agreement which includes up to forty-two of Summit’s films to be theatrically released between 2008 and 2012 for airing on the network.  The agreement includes the studio’s box office hit Twilight and future instalments in the newly-minted franchise. 

twilight

Besides the Twilight franchise, Summit has several highly anticipated releases set for 2009 and beyond, all of which will air under the agreement with Showtime.  Titles include Knowing, directed by Alex Proyas (I Robot, The Crow) and starring Academy Award® Winner Nicolas Cage and Rose Byrne; Push, starring Chris Evans, Dakota Fanning, two-time Academy Award® nominee Djimon Hounsou and Camilla Belle; Next Day Air featuring Donald Faison, Mos Def, and Mike Epps; Bandslam starring Vanessa Hudgens, Alyson Michalka, and Lisa Kudrow; and Sorority Row, with Rumer Willis and Briana Evigan.

TELEVISION: Dexter – TV’s Peabody Award Winning Serial Killer Renewed For Two More Seasons!

Dexter, the eponymous Showtime series about a serial killer who only targets other serial killers, is going to avoid capture for at least two more seasons. Showtime announced today that the Peabody Award-winning series has been renewed for seasons four and five. The series is in the midst of broadcasting its third season. Season four will begin shooting next spring.

dexter_3_miami_0009

The series, which is Showtime’s highest rated drama series, is built around the character of Dexter Morgan [Michael C. Hall], a blood spatter expert for the Miami-Dade Police who moonlights as a serial killer who targets serial killers who have avoided capture, or been freed on technicalities.

Based on the first of a series of best-selling novels by Jeff Lindsay, Dexter has taken the novel’s characters into different – if equally intriguing – directions. Besides winning the Peabody Award, the series has also received two Emmy Awards and several other nominations [including Hall for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, this year], four Saturn Award nominations – with Hall winning for Best Actor in a Television Program; two TCA Awards nominations – with Hall taking the award for Individual Achievement in Drama – along with nominations for Alma Awards, Edgar Awards, Screen Actors Guild Awards and the Vision Awards. Dexter has also been twice named one of AFI’s top ten television programs.

TELEVISION: Dexter: Life Gets Interesting For Dexter!

A couple of interesting things happen over the first four episodes of the third season of Dexter [Showtime, Sundays, 9/8C]: Dexter [Michael C. Hall] commits a spontaneous act that calls into question Harry’s Code, and Dexter makes a friend in the person of an Assistant District Attorney named Miguel Prado [Jimmy Smits]. The spontaneous act is the murder of Prado’s brother, whom he thinks is a drug dealer named Freebo [Mike Erwin] – and the manner in which he has to cover up this act while dealing with the police investigation and Miguel.

GQ

Otherwise, Dex’s life is pretty good. He no longer has the FBI on his trail; he and Rita [Julie Benz] seem to be in a good place [and he dotes on her kids], and his sister, Debra [Jennifer Carpenter], seems to have sworn off men, drinking and smoking – if not cussing. The thing of it is he doesn’t refer to himself as a monster every so often, either. Somehow, while he would probably vehemently disagree, Dexter is becoming more human – maybe not much more, but enough that it is noticeable.

The Showtime series does continue to play with the idea of morality, though. Dex’s moment of spontaneity has him rethinking Harry’s code even further when he spies a creepy guy asking Rita’s daughter Christina Robinson] for directions in a supermarket. His fierce feeling of protectiveness for the kids is as human as anything he’s ever felt. Couple that with his growing friendship with Miguel, and there are moments that find him seeming practically normal.

Dexter continues to be one of the most compelling dramas on television. From its opening sequence that emphasizes the violence of the everyday, to the odd relationship between Dexter and Rita, to his day job as a blood spatter expert for the Miami-Dade Police, Dexter is an examination of all the kinds of violence that permeate our existence. It has some of the best dialogue anywhere and a cast that serves it up perfectly – and manages a perfect balance between drama, melodrama and gallows humor.

The exceptional ensemble also continues to warrant intriguing arcs as well. Angel [David Zayas] gets promoted to sergeant – and has to deal with the sometimes unhappy responsibilities that come with his new position. Vince [C.S. Lee] has an article printed in a prestigious forensics journal but can’t find a way to persuade anyone to help him celebrate his success. Debra finds her swearing off of men challenged by a most unlikely guy – and is harassed by Internal Affairs to spy on the new guy in the division, Quinn [Desmond Harrington]. The richness of the plotting and the depth of the characterization remain amongst the absolute best on TV. Even the jaunty theme music is oddly creepy and utterly appropriate.

Dexter may not be for everyone, but for those of us who are into it, it is a treasure.

Final Grade: A

Dexter: Darkly Dreaming Dexter Hits The Mainstream!

Dexter [Edited] Review EclipseMagazine.com Television 

Showtime’s Dexter – one of the five or ten best series on television comes to CBS [Sundays, 10/9C] in a somewhat different, but equally effective form. The series, which features a serial killer who only targets other serial killers – and lives by a code instilled in him by his late adoptive father – does not glorify the character but, rather, seeks to understand what kind of circumstances can lead to the creation of a psychopathic personality, while tackling a truly bizarre myster!.

Continue reading Dexter: Darkly Dreaming Dexter Hits The Mainstream!