Thursday, June 21, 2012

You Only Live Twice

TV Review: Tony Nunes (finally) reviews the "Mad Men" season 5 finale 'The Phantom'

In the finale of what was surely the gloomiest "Mad Men" season to date, the key members of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce seemed to finally embrace their flaws and shortcomings in a moment of simultaneously revelatory montage. That is of course all but the latter of the namesakes, Lane Pryce, who met his cowardly end in the seasons second to last episode. I dare to say there isn't now, nor has there ever been a more well written series on television. "Mad Men" is one of the most well-constructed, cleverly layered accounts of a generation ever created. Season after season has captured the rapidly changing ideals of 1960's America without ever relying on cliched predictability. Season five may well be the fulcrum of that change, a shift that will have lasting consequences on each and every character in this diverse ensemble.

The title of the finale, 'The Phantom,' ominously projects a creeping uncertainty beneath the surface of the episode. Who is the Phantom? It could be Lane, who hung himself in his office. It could also be his office itself, a lingering reminder of his depressing end. The Phantom might be Roger, who incessantly phones Don's house silently waiting for Megan's mother Marie to pick up. Marie herself considers Megan's aspirations of becoming an 
actress a phantom dream. Lots of ambiguity but that's the point.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Seeking Democracy in the End Times of "The Walking Dead"

TV: Tony Nunes reviews the season finale of AMC's "The Walking Dead"

“This is not a democracy anymore.” So proclaimed Rick Grimes on Sunday’s season finale of “The Walking Dead” on AMC, an hour of compelling suspense that teased at not one, but two reveals fans of the comics have been eagerly awaiting. 

The finale began with the biggest action sequence of the series thus far, as literal hordes of the walking dead overtook Hershel’s farm. Hundreds upon hundreds of zombies funneled onto the property, surrounding the group of survivors who fought back with the exact and realistic methods any levelheaded person would have. This is one of the strengths I’ve found with “The Walking Dead” series, a survivalist construct that is both well thought out and convincingly executed. 

It’s refreshing to see horror in long form. The slow-burner aesthetic of “The Walking Dead” has really come into its own over the last half of this second season. I struggled with the pacing and dramatics of the pilot season, but it seems like Kirkman and crew finally have a grasp on what fans want from the show. As a Frank Darabont fan I hate to say this, but his exit from the series, a series he brought to TV in the first place, seems to have breathed much needed new life into the show. 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Touch Hopes We Can All Connect

TV Review: Tony Nunes reviews the new Fox series Touch

"Touch" is a show centered on the idea that everyone in the world is in some way or another connected by a greater force beyond our comprehension. Sounds too ambitious for a cable series, yet, somehow the new Fox series pulls it off. Fox previewed the pilot episode this past week with plans for the show to begin its actual run on Monday March 19th.  "Touch" stars Kiefer Sutherland as Martin Bohm, the father of a young autistic boy who has the incomprehensible ability to actually see and calculate the connections between all people.

Tim Kring, a show-runner best known for his superpower drama "Heroes" is the creator of "Touch." In many ways these two shows are built on the similar theme of superhuman powers and the affect those powers have on the families of the powerful. "Touch" is more thoughtful and uplifting than "Heroes" was, but both involved a young child with an inherent ability to tap into technology.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Golden Globes Are About TV Too

TV: DG Editor Tony Nunes predicts the TV winners of tonight's Golden Globes, and points out some of most annoying snubs among this years nominees

Awards season is in full swing and studios are posturing major nomination campaigns ahead of the Oscars. When it comes to tonight's Golden Globe nominations, most of this years film nods are to be expected pre-Oscar fodder with little or no surprises or snubs. But the TV category for this years awards is full of snubs. In the television world the Golden Globes hold second fiddle to the Emmy’s, but are important nonetheless. In a year when Hollywood seems to have had little to offer (a few rare surprises aside), TV shined with original, bold and innovative programming that elevated the medium to new heights.

So what did I see that the Globes voters didn't? While there are indeed many worthy nominations among the television categories, there seem to be some glaring omissions in the Acting and Best Series brackets. In the end it all comes down to one persons opinion over another's, but some of these snubs are pretty surprising. Shows that topped critics lists and actors who won Emmy’s this past year seem, in some cases, to have been completely overlooked.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Ten Best TV Shows of 2011

TV: DG Editor Tony Nunes continues a look back at 2011's best, with the top 10 TV shows of the year

By now it's no surprise that in order to find the best television, audiences generally have to look beyond the big networks.  Cable networks like AMC and FX, along with subscription based cable networks like HBO and Showtime are dominating the creative markets by taking risks the big networks otherwise shy away from.  Bold and original programming pushes the limits and relies less on generic forms of storytelling.  It's becoming ever more difficult to find captivating and challenging entertainment nowadays, but in many ways TV is quickly becoming one of the greatest sources for intelligent writing.  That's not to say that there isn't more garbage on TV than quality, but still, there's no doubt that the trend of originality is spreading across the networks. 

Looking back at 2011's Best TV, its immediately clear that good television succeeds only as much as its characters.  TV is a character driven medium, and the emotional impacts of the best shows of the past year all derive from the growth, vulnerability and downfalls of some of the strongest characters to grace the airwaves in almost a decade.  From drug kingpins to bipolar spies and kingly little people, here are my picks for the top ten shows of 2011.   

Thursday, December 22, 2011

This Is How the Season Ends?

TV Review: Tony Nunes reviews the 'Dexter" season 6 finale "This Is the Way the World Ends"

Season six of “Dexter” ended with the moment I’ve been waiting for since the series began in 2006.  I’ll get to that in a moment, but first a few thoughts on the sixth season as a whole.  “Dexter” fans like myself need to face the sad fact that our favorite Showtime serial killer won’t ever be able to live up to his earth-shattering fourth season.  That season, you know the one, where John Lithgow transformed from the quirky dad in Harry and the Henderson’s to the endlessly twisted Trinity Killer Arthur Mitchell.  That was one of the greatest seasons of any show ever, so for “Dexter” to have that monkey on its back, the show is doomed for future failures.  TV is a strange thing, a medium which unlike film has to sustain characters and suspense for the long haul. 

Many shows go on too long, passing a peak that they’re unable to meet again.  These shows should have ended while ahead, but didn’t, and therefore lost some of their lasting appeal in the hearts and minds of their viewers (see “X-Files“).  “Dexter” has in many ways become one of these shows.  SPOILERS AHEAD!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Et tu, Darmody?

TV Review: Tony Nunes reviews the Boardwalk Empire season 2 finale "To the Lost"

What a closer.  This was the boldest episode of Boardwalk’s two-season run thus far, and one of the more reckless moves by a television show in recent memory.  Reckless in a good way though.  I can’t say all that happened was entirely unexpected, but there is no doubt that the shocks came with unrelenting momentum.  It’s fitting that the season ended on an emotionally low yet shockingly contradictory high note.

At the start of season two I had a hard time reconnecting to Nucky Thompson and the merry band of misfits and religious ne'er-do-well’s who rule Atlantic City with back-stabbing hypocrisy.  Following an incredible pilot season of twists it seemed to me that Boardwalk Empire's sophomore season may run out of boardwalk.  It took a couple of episodes for that feeling to pass, and by midseason I was back in the “can‘t wait until next weeks episode“ frame of mind week to week thereon.  But with an ending like the finale's, I wonder what’s next, and whether or not Boardwalk Empire will be able to sustain its suspense?  SPOILERS AHEAD! 

Friday, December 2, 2011

"Weed Wars" Serves Up Some New Holiday Greenery

TV Review: Tony Nunes on Discovery's new series "Weed Wars"

Just in time for the holidays, the aromatic greens of rich pine…no, wait, better make that rich sativa fills the air. 

Whether or not you’ve inhaled, Discovery Channel’s new series “Weed Wars” is worth a look.  Discovery launched this bold new series last night with a stern warning beforehand on the dangers and illegality of drug use.  As the disclaiming words faded, viewers were taken behind the curtain of California’s marijuana growing and dispensary business on a trip (excuse the pun) that both humanized and challenged the fight for marijuana reform in the States.  Following an appropriate opening credit song by weed enthusiast Snoop Dogg, so began a show worthy of more serious debate than most primetime jaunts on television.

In the company of “The Deadliest Catch,” “American Chopper,” and “LA Ink,” “Weed Wars” is one of many quirky primetime cable shows highlighting a bizarre or dangerous profession.  What sets “Weed Wars” apart however, is the dynamic nature of the profession it serves to expose, and the implications that profession has on state and federal rights.  The face of the show is Steve DeAngelo owner of Harborside Health Center (HHC), a medicinal marijuana dispensary in Oakland CA that serves tens-of-thousands of patients and brings in tens-of-millions of dollars each year.  The show follows DeAngelo, and the people who work with him at HHC including his brother, their accountant, their dress wearing male co-owner and a sales associate who aspires to become a successful weed grower.  These are all colorful characters, all themselves medical marijuana recipients, however the story progressing character in “Weed Wars” is actually the weed itself.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Philip K. Dick Predicts the Future

TV Review: Prophets of Science Fiction; Philip K. Dick by Tony Nunes

Prophets of Science Fiction, a new show that premiered last week on the Science channel, is an exploration of science fiction’s greatest storytellers, and the predictive nature of their work.  Prophets is hosted by Ridley Scott, a sci-fi innovator in his own right having directed sci-fi film staples Alien, and Blade Runner.  The first episode focused on "Frankenstein" author Mary Shelley and the medical industry.  While the Shelley episode was interesting, it seemed to lack a certain edge in its narration and style, an edge that was fully realized with this weeks episode on sci-fi legend Phillip K. Dick.

Phillip K. Dick’s episode was focused on the overall prophetic nature of Dick himself.  The episode explores how his paranoia and suspect views of technology actually foretold some of the law enforcement and tracking technologies in use today.  Focused quite a bit on Dick’s heightened state of paranoia and drug use, the show presents a very real portrait of a man undone by his own altered states of reality.  There’s no doubting Dick’s genius, but what Prophets shows here is a fragment of that genius in its more vulnerable, schizophrenic state.  

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