Thursday, December 26, 2013

Latest Binge Watch - Justice League

Say what you will about this mid-season hiatuses, they're a great time to do some binge-watching.  I thought I was going to delve into House of Cards or catch up on Family Guy, but unexpectedly I began watching what I deem to be one of the best animated series in recent (well, 2001, anyway) years:  Justice League

DC Entertainment and whichever studio(s) is releasing the Justice League film in 2017 could really learn a lot from this show.  The characters were thoroughly fleshed out, they commanded respect and they totally kicked ass.  They had hubris, flaws, they challenged each other and they were a cohesive unit that knew how to save the world again and again.  If the movie(s) followed this model, they could really give Marvel, which gets it SO right, a real run for their money.

The first two seasons, called just Justice League, focused on seven founding members:  Superman (George Newbern), Batman (Kevin Conroy), Wonder Woman (Susan Eisenberg), The Flash (Michael Rosenbaum), Green Lantern (Phil LaMarr), Hawkgirl (Maria Canals-Barrera) and J'onn J'onzz (Carl Lumbly).  These actors bring their characters richly to life.  Conroy came over from his own animated series while Newbern is taking over vocal duties from Tim Daly (Superman animated series).

The show did the usual superhero stuff, battling super villains, thwarting alien invasions, etc.  But it also was wrought with political conflicts, philosophical and ethical conundrums and personal issues.  It definitely feels more like an animated series for adults than for kids.

Providing the comic relief - and often a lot of heart - for the show is The Flash, which is my favorite character, largely in part to Rosenbaum's vocalization.  Funny enough, at the same time he was playing a good guy here, he was also playing one of, if not the, ultimate DC Comic super villain, Lex Luthor, on the CW series Smallville.  Flash was the conscience of the League, and watching the character fight next to - and often irritate - his fellow heroes, is quite humorous and very entertaining.  And gets better when he ends up being the hero of the day.

Most of JL's first two seasons consists of two-parters, and the stories and action get quite epic, probably because so much can be done and there's great freedom with animation.  It's a terrific collection of mini-features.


For some reason, come season three the creators didn't feel the original seven were enough, so the show became Justice League Unlimited and introduced countless new heroes that were inducted into the League, including Supergirl, Green Arrow, Aquaman, and many - too many - more.  Each episode now had an original member or two - usually Batman, Superman and/or Wonder Woman - going on adventure with a newbie or three, and it just wasn't the same ... plus now there was just too little of Flash.  It wasn't until the trilogy toward the end of season 4 (Flashpoint-Panic In The Sky-Divided We Fall) that I saw my old JL back again.

But despite that, this is a terrific series and if you are a DC fan, come here to get your fix, at least for now.  Here's hoping the coming movies gets it right.

Justice League/Justice League Unlimited Seasons 1-4 are available for streaming on Netflix.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Year's End - What I'm Still Watching

Happy Almost 2014, TV Tourists! 

It's been a long year of some pretty damn good television (here's looking at you, Breaking Bad) and not-good-at-all TV (for shame, Super Fun Night).  While I did pick up and stay with several new shows, it wasn't as many as in past years.  Maybe because I'm already watching so much already, but more I think that there weren't a lot that gripped and held me enough to work it in to my viewing roster.

Here are some of my winners:

I know most people haven't considered this ABC TV spin-off a slam-dunk for creator Joss Whedon, but I think it's a decent show with some overall entertainment value.  What's lacking is the usual wit and fun we've come to expect from a Whedon show.  The cast is incredibly young overall, and I'm not sure it works, but the characters are finding their footing.  We're still waiting to learn more about Ming Na's Agent May - perhaps the most intriguing character, despite her completely dead-pan delivery.  And we're on the cusp of learning exactly what went down with Agent Coulson's (Clark Gregg) miraculous resurrection.  The episodes have gotten better as the freshman season has progressed, and I appreciate the regular references by the team to the various Avengers, so I'll still be watching when the show returns next year.


This ABC show was a slow burn for me, but it's become a new favorite of mine.  The humorous nostalgia of revisiting the 80s alone is great fun, but this is a real family with individual quirks and flaws that really gel.  Mom Beverly, played to interfering perfection by Wendy McLendon-Covey, is the stand-out, while Jeff Garlin is rather grating and the weak member for me.  Some of the antics and behaviors are played almost too big ... almost.  It actually works.  I was a fan of The Wonder Years, and now I feel like I have my new Arnolds.  And again, love seeing the 80s again!


Yes, the title of this ABC sitcom sucks.  It's just because Malin Ackerman's Kate is anything but.  She really makes the effort to be a parental figure to her new stepkids and you root for her when she triumphs.  This is a very solid team of players, adults and kids alike.  I do, every episode, wonder just HOW Kate and Pete (Bradley Whitford) tolerate so much interference from his previous wives, the perfectly prickly Diane (Marcia Gay Harden) and the fiercely flaky Jackie (Michaela Watkins) - they are incredibly intrusive, but hey, technically they're family, and Kate acknowledges that and incorporates them for the kids' sake, so bring on the continued madness!


I've stuck with these two witch-centric series, though the latter was a little more of a chore to do so.  FX's American Horror Story lost me last season with it's turn in the Asylum, but it's totally back with this seriously disturbing round about witches and voodoo in New Orleans.  Talk about twisted TV!  Lifetime's East End is good enough, and it finished its freshman run fairly strong, so I'll tune back in when it returns next year.  Will be sorry to see AHS:C go, but I've sure enjoyed the ride.


Black is the new hot color in TV.  While not currently airing new episodes till next year, I binge-watched these two terrific series this summer and eagerly await their new seasons.  Tatiana Maslany is astounding as the many, many clones in BBC America's Orphan Black, and Taylor Schilling heads up a fantastic cast in Netflix's prison drama Orange is the New Black.  Catch up now with both shows before we move on to what's next for these fascinating women.

There were other shows I started watching but quickly dropped because they just didn't do it for me:  FOX's Brooklyn Nine-Nine, CBS's Mom and The Crazy Ones (though I did work on an episode, so I'll be watching that for sure).  I've stock-piled FOX's Sleepy Hollow, which I will binge-watch during the winter break.  And I'm hoping to be able to eventually catch up with CBS' Elementary, a show I really like but couldn't watch ... Thursday is a VERY packed night.

Surprisingly I did not tune in to any of the CW's new shows The Originals, The Tomorrow People and Reign.  And that's usually my go-to network.  Who'd have thought ABC would be the season winner of new viewing for me?

I've already said goodbye to Showtime's Dexter and AMC's Breaking Bad, and  I'll soon be saying adieu to the CW's Nikita, which takes its final bow this month.  Lifetime has cancelled The Client List, but USA's Psych is back next month, with the brilliant Suits returning in March to that same network.  And of course there's all my fave shows that I'm still very committed to.

Then there's the slew of new shows premiering early next year that I'll be checking out to see if they'll make my playlist, among them CBS' Intelligence (welcome back Josh Holloway!) and FOX's Rake, starring Greg Kinnear.  Which will make the cut?  Wait and see!

Until then, take the opportunity during this dreaded winter hiatus to catch up on your favorite shows or take the chance to discover new ones, which you can do thanks much in part to Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon Prime.

Happy Holidays, Tourists!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Golden Globe and SAG Award Nominations

Greetings Tourists! 

Award season has begun a major kick-off with the announcement of both the Golden Globe and SAG Award nominees.  As always, I'm just focusing on the contenders for television, but you can find the full lists online.

The Globes have done a great job of adding new blood to the mix of nominees.  Gone is the Modern Family (ABC) and HBO domination of years past (though I do NOT appreciate the total Game of Thrones snub). 

I'm thrilled to see Orphan Black's (BBC America) Tatiana Maslany (above) and Orange is the New Black's (Netflix) Taylor Schilling up for Best Actress.  I discovered and binge-watched these two series this summer and they are fantastic.  Netflix is having a very good year, scoring additional multiple noms for House of Cards.  Starz is also on the map with its original movies The White Queen and Dancing on the Edge.  And Monica Potter FINALLY gets kudos for her terrific work on NBC's Parenthood.  Nice new noms for Hayden Panettiere for her role on ABC's Nashville and Kerry Washington for ABC's Scandal.

Of course there are past nominees as well, including The Big Bang Theory's (CBS) Jim Parsons, Modern Family's Ty Burell and Sofia Vergara and Veep's (HBO) Julia Louis-Dreyfus

But this year should belong, hands down, to Breaking Bad (AMC) and its leads Bryan Cranston (R), and Aaron Paul for their spectacular swan song performances.  Anna Gunn is sadly only nominated for a SAG Award, but I give her an honorary nomination for the Globe, too.

The Television Golden Globe Nominees are:

Drama Series
Breaking Bad (AMC)
Downton Abbey (PBS)
The Good Wife (CBS)
House of Cards (Netflix)
Masters of Sex (Showtime)

Drama - Actor
Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad
Liev Schreiber, Ray Donovan (Showtime)
Michael Sheen, Masters of Sex
Kevin Spacey, House of Cards
James Spader, The Blacklist (NBC)

Drama - Actress
Julianna Marguiles, The Good Wife
Tatiana Maslany, Orphan Black
Taylor Schilling, Orange is the New Black
Kerry Washington, Scandal
Robin Wright, House of Cards

Comedy Series
The Big Bang Theory
Brooklyn Nine-Nine (FOX)
Girls (HBO)
Modern Family
Parks & Recreation (NBC)

Comedy - Actor
Jason Bateman, Arrested Development (Netflix)
Don Cheadle, House of Lies (Showtime)
Michael J. Fox, The Michael J. Fox Show
Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory
Andy Samberg, Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Comedy - Actress
Zooey Deschanel, New Girl (FOX)
Lena Dunham, Girls
Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie (Showtime)
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, VEEP
Amy Poehler, Parks & Recreation

TV Movie or Miniseries
American Horror Story: Coven (FX)
Behind the Candelabra (HBO)
Dancing on the Edge (Starz)
Top of the Lake (Sundance)
The White Queen (Starz)

TV Movie/Miniseries - Actor
Matt Damon, Behind the Candelabra 
Michael Douglas, Behind the Candelabra
Chiwetel Ejofor, Dancing on the Edge
Idris Elba, Luther (BBC America)
Al Pacino, Phil Spector (HBO)

TV Movie/Miniseries - Actress
Helena Bonham-Carter, Burton & Taylor (BBC America)
Rebecca Ferguson, The White Queen
Jessica Lange, American Horror Story: Coven
Helen Mirren, Phil Spector
Elisabeth Moss, Top of the Lake

Supporting Actor
Josh Charles, The Good Wife
Rob Lowe, Behind the Candelabra
Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad
Corey Stoll, House of Cards
Jon Voight, Ray Donovan

Supporting Actress
Jacqueline Bisset, Dancing on the Edge
Janet McTeer, The White Queen
Hayden Panettiere, Nashville
Monica Potter, Parenthood
Sofia Vergara, Modern Family


The SAG Award nominees are a lot of same-old-same old.  Alec Baldwin and Tina Fey AGAIN??  Really glad this is their last year for 30 Rock.  There are a lot of cross-over noms with the Globes - Elisabeth Moss (Top of the Lake), Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad), Kerry Washington (Scandal) and Jessica Lange (American Horror Story: Coven), among others.  HBO's Game of Thrones does get a nom here, and I'm happy for The Big Bang Theory's Mayim Bialik for her nom.

The Television SAG Nominees are:

Male Actor, TV Movie/Miniseries
Matt Damon, Behind the Candelabra
Michael Douglas, Behind the Candelabra
Jeremy Irons, The Hollow Crown (BBC)
Rob Lowe, Killing Kennedy (National Geographic)
Al Pacino, Phil Spector

Female Actor, TV Movie/Miniseries
Angela Bassett, Betty & Coretta (Lifetime)
Helena Bonham-Carter, Burton and Taylor
Holly Hunter, Top of the Lake
Helen Mirren, Phil Spector
Elisabeth Moss, Top of the Lake

Male Actor, Drama
Steve Buscemi, Boardwalk Empire (HBO)
Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad
Jeff Daniels, The Newsroom (HBO)
Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones
Kevin Spacey, House of Cards

Female Actor, Drama
Clare Danes, Homeland
Anna Gunn, Breaking Bad
Jessica Lange, American Horror Story: Coven
Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey
Kerry Washington, Scandal

Male Actor, Comedy
Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock
Jason Bateman, Arrested Development
Ty Burrell, Modern Family
Don Cheadle, House of Lies
Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory

Female Actor, Comedy
Mayim Bialik, The Big Bang Theory
Julie Bowen, Modern Family
Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie
Tina Fey, 30 Rock
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, VEEP

Comedy Ensemble
30 Rock
Arrested Development
The Big Bang Theory
Modern Family

Drama Ensemble
Boardwalk Empire
Breaking Bad
Downton Abbey
Game of Thrones