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Archive for the ‘Elementary’ Category

fallFall has traditionally been the time when the networks unveil their best news shows.  And, amusingly, within two weeks one or two are usually cancelled.  This Fall has been something of an exception with the first show not getting cancelled until after four whole episodes!  What staying power the networks have! I also have to wonder if now that the first domino has fallen if other shows will get the axe next.  I also wonder why American networks don’t simply do what the British networks do and ask for 6 episodes in a season so that if a show doesn’t get renewed at least its story is finished.

I have imagined that people wonder why we don’t watch all the shows that get huge raves from people In the Know, and the primary reason is that we don’t have any premium channels and can’t be bothered to watch things on our computer.  So, yeah, someday we’ll binge watch Veep or maybe Game of Thrones (actually, Sarah will never watch that), but for now, we’re still a broadcast TV family.

To follow-up on a couple of shows from the summer: we actually never even watched Fargo, despite my being excited to watch it.  I read about how violent it was and just decided to give it a miss.  And Halt and Catch Fire was mildly intriguing, but not enough for us to watch more than two episodes.  Two shows that we did enjoy quite a lot were Married (terribly uninspired name, guys) and You’re the Worst.  They were both shockingly raunchy.

Of the two, You’re the Worst was much funnier.  In addition to the two main characters, who were just so unpleasant, the supporting cast was awesome.  I haven’t heard if the show was renewed, but I hope so.  Oh, I see it was, hooray.  Married was a bit more problematic for me, as I love Judy Green and Nat Faxon, but the show just wasn’t all that funny.  It certainly had moments, again mostly from the great supporting cast, but the main plot lines between Greer and Faxon were just so negative and hopeless that it didn’t really inspire much humor.

Two other great comedies that we saw this summer were new to us.  A Comedy Central show that we missed last season but loved this season was Drunk History.  Holy cow is that show funny.  The reenactments are simply genius, and I am so curious to know if these people actually know the history that they are talking about or if they are given scripts or what.  We need to find Season 1 to see what we missed.  And Garfunkel and Oates is a fantastic show starring the great comedy team of, well Garfunkel and Oates.  I’ve enjoyed their music videos a whole lot and was delighted by their show as well.  Hooray for Kate and Riki.

We also watched Welcome to Sweden which was pretty dreadful–so much potential but no chemistry and no comic timing.  I assumed it had been cancelled, but I just read that it was renewed.  Huh.

Anyway, on to the Fall and new shows:

So last time, I did a tally of networks.  Let’s see who wins this time:
ABC: 6 FOX: 5 NBC: 4  CBS: 3  SyFy: 1 Comedy Central: 1

ABC has finally surpassed FOX.  I find that somewhat hard to believe, but they did it.  CBS and NBC just can’t seem to boost those averages.
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may20014SOUNDTRACK: “Elementary, My Dear” (1973).

elemYou have to have a particularly cruel heart if you don’t love School House Rock.

All of the songs, well, most of the songs, are super catchy and by golly if you don’t learn a lot.

And they attack problems in an interesting way.  The premise of using Noah’s Ark to show how to multiply by 2 is genius.

You’ll get that “elementary, my dear” section stuck in your head.  But I’m also impressed at the way the song goes into unexpected chords for “you get an even number.” And I love the way Bob Dorough really gets into it (whooping it up at the end).

Few people would think that the 2 times table is hard, but man is it fun to sing along to.

This song is not as popular as some of the other ones, but it’s still great

[READ: April 14, 2014] “A Study in Sherlock”

A while back I wrote a post about Sherlock Holmes on TV (Sherlock and Elementary) and in the movies (Sherlock Holmes).  I had read a few stories and so I did a brief comparison of the shows.  Since then while I have continued to believe that Sherlock is the better show, I have really grown to appreciate Elementary a lot more.  They almost seem incomparable because they are so very different in structure and intent.  Elementary has actually been a little more satisfying lately because it has so many more episodes that it allows the characters to develop and fail in interesting ways–something that the three episodes of Sherlock simply won’t do.

Laura Miller has done a similar thing with this article.  Although in fairness she did a lot more research than I did and talks a lot more about the original books and stage and early film adaptations, and she talks a lot less about the TV shows.  And no she doesn’t cite my post.

This was an enjoyable piece because it goes beyond the commonly known elements of Conan Doyle–how he did not like Holmes and tried to kill him off twice, that he wanted to write more important fiction–and into what Holmes was like after Doyle was finished with him.  Holmes has entered the public domain in both England and America, and so he is basically free for everyone to use, much like a classic myth or a fairy tale.  The big difference is that we know his origins.

What I especially enjoyed was that so many things that we think of as quintessential Holmes are actually not from Doyle.  His deerstalker hat was added by a book illustrator but is never mentioned in the text.  The calabash pipe came a decade later when a stage actor used it so that the audience could still see his face.  Conan Doyle was still alive while these changes were being made.  Indeed, when a play of Sherlock Holmes was written, the playwrite called and asked if he could give the man a love interest and Conan Doyle replied, “Marry him, murder him or do what you like with him.” (more…)

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2014 continues to throw new shows into the mix while other shows are already reaching their conclusions.  It’s very hard to keep regular track of shows when networks don’t follow the rules.  It also means that new shows pop up and quickly become favorites before going away possibly never to be seen again.

We’ve learned about the cancellation of a number of shows (but fortunately, none of the great ones and surprisingly not all of the bad ones).  And of course I’ll be sad to see How I Met Your Mother end, but it had a very good run.  And Cosmos has been mind blowing.

But I find that more and more my attention is turning to cable shows.  Although we don’t watch horror shows, I’m intrigued by Fargo.  And the cable shows are so much better at taking risks with their comedies.  We started to watch Orphan Black a while ago and then lost it, but I think we’ll be trying to catch up this summer.  And in old TV news, we just learned about Destroy Build Destroy (from 2010) and we are hooked.  Good thing there’s only 20 or so episodes.

So last time, I did a tally of networks.  Let’s see who wins this time (nightly shows like Late Night boost the numbers so I put them in parentheses):
FOX: 5 NBC: 4 (6)  CBS: 3 (4)  ABC: 3 SyFy: 3 Comedy Central: 2 (4) Lifetime: 1  IFC: 1 FX: 1

I can’t believe Fox still wins, but it has four comedies that I really like.  Actually Fox comedies are almost always good until they cancel them.
NBC is teetering away, but Thursday night helps it.
CBS is the old person’s network, and they’re losing a comedy that I like (and none of those promised new comedies look any good).
ABC is slowing building it’s comedy line up back, which is nice
And the cable networks combined really shine.

Oh and speaking of TV…how awesome was the Veronica Mars movie!!!!!!
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Fall 2013 brought in a whole slew of new shows that we wanted to check out.  And while we dropped some after an episode, we still have a few that are lingering on the DVR which we are never really all that excited to watch them.

Perhaps the biggest surprise is that a couple of shows that we thought were sure goners are still around.  And of course, there’s always those shows that we never watched and when we see an ad for it we say, “that’s still on?”

So last time, I did a tally of networks.  Let’s see who wins this time:
NBC: 4  FOX: 6   CBS: 3  Comedy Central: 1  FX: 1  ABC: 3  Lifetime: 1 SyFy: 1   (more…)

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2013 has been cruel to TV that I like.  Between the shows that have been cancelled and the shows that are ending, there’s not much to look forward to for the Spring.  Ben and Kate is gone, the US version of The Inbetweeners is gone, Don’t Trust the B—- is done (but we had stopped watching anyhow), 30 Rock is done, The Office is finishing up, Parenthood & Bunheads have budget issues which means there is some amount of question about their future and The Mindy Show is awful.

And yet, after that introduction, it’s not like there’s nothing on.

So here’s what’s on our schedule as February draws to a close.  I never bothered to tally shows by network before but let’s see:
NBC: 4  FOX: 3   CBS: 3  Comedy Central: 2  FX: 2   PBS: 2  ABC: 1  Lifetime: 1 SyFy: 1  IFC: 1 (more…)

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scarletSOUNDTRACK: ERIC CHENAUX-Guitar & Voice [CST088] (2012).

chenauxThis album is indeed just guitar & voice.  Chenaux is a performer who grows on me.  His music is incredibly slow and drawn out.  And I often find that his vocal melodies don’t always have much to do with the guitar parts he plays.  It feels like everything is improv.  And it’s unsettling at first.  As is the fact that half the songs are pretty ethereal songs with words and the other half is wild and chaotic guitar solos, in which the guitars sound like anything but guitars.

But when you actually listen to the lyrics (which aren’t always easy to follow, he sings them so languidly) they’re quite lovely.  Like, “With the clouds in the sky and the bags under my eyes I wrote your name a thousand times with an old flashlight last night.”  But the more notable thing is the guitar work.  In “Amazing Backgrounds,” he plays a simple, plucked acoustic guitar but the solo is a crazy electric guitar that is played backwards and sounds completely from outer space.  “Dull Lights (White or Grey)” is another beautiful piece with overdubbed guitars playing some great low bass sections while the other guitar plays pretty, high notes (an a cool wah wahed section too).

“Put in Music” sounds the most traditional–the vocal melody is pretty straightforward and his vocal actually has weight (it’s usually up in the ether somewhere).  And I think it works very well as a grounding for the album.  Although the guitar solo sounds like he’s playing more with the tuning pegs rather than bending the strings–it’s cool and disconcerting at the same time.  “However Wildly We Dream” is a very jazzy feeling song–upbeat finger plucking.  It’s the most conventional song and it really packs a wallop (a gentle, airy wallop but a wallop nonetheless).

The second track “Simple/Frontal” is an instrumental.  I assume it is all guitar but it sounds like slightly discordant violins playing against each other.  “Sliabh Aughty” is a nearly nine minute solo that sounds reversed and is a wild meandering piece (played over a constant drone).  It has an Irish feel, which makes sense as the Slieve Aughty (Irish: Sliabh Eachtaí) are a mountain range in the western part of Ireland.  “Le Nouveau Favori” is a short instrumental–two minutes with what sounds again like a bowed violin/drone.  And how can one not enjoy a piece called “Genitalia Domestique” another 2 minute droney instrumental. Chenaux definitely plays with sounds that don’t quite go together, often making an eerie collection of tunes.  Especially when they are compared against the pretty acoustic of the songs with words.

The final track is “Glitzing for Stephen Parkinson” and it continues with that weird bagpipe/organ drone that he pulls out of his guitar (I’d love to see him perform this stuff live–although how would he do the overdubs?)

The stuff takes a  few listens to get used to, and it’s certainly not for everyone, but the sounds he gets out of a guitar is truly amazing.

[READ: February 16, 2013] A Study in Scarlet

I mentioned recently that we have been watching a lot of Sherlock Holmes items.  So it seemed appropriate to read some of his stories as well.  I brought home a collection of the short stories not realizing that there were two novels written before the stories.  Sarah read the stories, but I held out for the debut novel.

The show Sherlock laid an amazing ground work for the books because the show (despite being set over 125 years after the books) is quite faithful to the stories.  Indeed, the way that Holmes and Watson meet is pretty much straight out of the book.  And, also indeed, the first episode took much of the story form this first book.  There were some very key changes to the story, ones that made the show very very different in the end, but the foundation is certainly there.  Interestingly, the way the murder is performed in the book (which we learn very very late in the story) proves to be the same methodology used in a different episode of Sherlock.  Two episodes from one book!

So in this book Watson opens it by giving a little backstory about himself and his quest to find cheap lodging in London (he’s back from the war in Afghanistan–a fascinating coincidence in terms of timeliness of wars) and he has blown through a lot of his stipend.  A mutual friend introduces Watson to Holmes and they agree to live together   I was a little concerned about the pace of the book at first, as it seemed like Watson was going to go into a lot about himself–but he doesn’t.  It’s a brief chapter that gets all the details out of the way.

Then we meet Holmes.  He explains his own eccentricities and how he is a consulting detective (Watson wondered why these people kept appearing and asking Hiolmes questions about who knew what).  And then finally we (the reader and Watson) are invited into a case.  A man was found murdered in a house.  There were no stab wounds, although there was blood.  The only other evidence was a word scratched in blood on the wall: Rache.

If you saw Sherlock this will sound familiar (except that the victim was a woman).  It deviates quite a bit from here (Rache is used in a very different way from the show, which I really liked), but Holmes recognizes the tobacco and is able to deduce a ton of things just from the surroundings.  He doesn’t tell the police right away, for fear that if the criminal knows the police know about him, he will flee).  And as the first half of the book draws to a close, the murderer is apprehended.

Imagine my surprise though when the next chapter opens up in the American Southwest.  All of a sudden the story has shifted utterly to a man and a girl trudging through the mountains,  lacking food and water and clearly near death   What?   (more…)

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[WATCHED: November-December 2012] Sherlock & Elementary

sherlockThis has been the year of Sherlock Holmes for us.  We loved the first Robert Downey Jr Sherlock Holmes movie.  Sarah loved the second one (I fell asleep, but I don’t blame the film).  And then U.S. TV began airing Elementary this year.  It’s a contemporary version of Sherlock Holmes in which Watson is played by Lucy Liu–she is his “sober companion” trying to keep him off drugs and alcohol.  I kind of like this conceit–it’s a fun twist on Watson, and yet it loses some of the interplay that is fabulous between Watson and Holmes, especially since Holmes (played by Johnny Lee Miller) seems to be trying to get away from Watson.  Nonetheless, the show is quite enjoyable and is quintessentially Holmesian.

elementryA back story note: Sarah and I do not like police procedurals.  We don’t watch anything with any of the initials: SVUL&ONCISCSIER5-o, none of it.  Even if t he show is supposed to be awesome, as soon as I hear “police” I refuse to watch it.  And yet here we are hooked on Holmes.  So what is it about these shows?  Well, they focus on little clues (impossible clues, frankly).  They rely on being really smart.  And, this may be the key, they don’t rely on guns, police, judges, or any other tropes of police shows.  They’re like puzzles…puzzles that you don’t mind not being able to figure out yourself because Holmes is so damned smart.  I guess these are technically mysteries rather than cop shows, and that’s pretty cool. (more…)

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This season signals the end of a lot of shows, shows that have been with us for a long time.  This season also promised a slew of new comedies that were going to be amazing (I know they promise that every year, but some of them got really strong praise from objective sources).  And yet, here we are, half way through the season (Grimm is taking a Mid-Winter break or some such thing) and I didn’t really like anything new.

Next season is shaping up to be rather a wasteland. (more…)

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