Regarding NBC’s Constantine

I should say from the start that I am not a John Constantine die hard fan.  In fact, until Justice League Dark, I really wasn’t terribly familiar with the character.  I knew of him, but that was really about it.

When I heard NBC planned to air a show using the character, I got excited.  When the first photograph arrived featuring Matt Ryan bedecked in the brown trench coat, loose tie, and disheveled white shirt, I got even more excited.  It appeared as though NBC took this effort seriously.

I’ve watched the show from the start, and though I’ve had an opinion about it for a long time, I wanted to keep watching and keep watching before I voiced that opinion.  We’re now at January 28th, and I think the show has probably found its identity as much as it can for this first season.

I first want to say that Matt Ryan, in my opinion, is perfect.  He looks the part, he acts the part, and he sounds the part.  He’s got swagger, he’s got the hair, he’s got the thin frame – I think this is expert casting.  Furthermore, his face actually looks like it’s lived.  It’s got lines, it looks weathered, I believe this man has seen some serious stuff.  But it’s Ryan’s eyes that really make me believe he’s John Constantine.  When the camera pulls in tight on Ryan’s eyes, they shimmer like little beads and look both haunted, demented, and hopeful all at once.

I also appreciate the “look” of the show.  Each episode looks like a little movie.  The locations are always interesting and vivid.  Furthermore, the special effects are more than respectable, especially for being a weekly show on the small screen.

And while I watch Constantine and enjoy it, I won’t pretend it’s perfect.  The dialogue is sometimes downright awful.  The stories, supposedly based off of classic Hellblazer comics, don’t always translate well to mainstream television.  Some are better than others, and they’ve all entertained me, but none of them ever made me sit up in awe.

But the biggest problem in my mind is the acting.  Other than Matt Ryan, I don’t believe in any of the show’s characters, particularly Zed and Chas.  I realize bad dialogue can impact acting, but the actors playing Zed and Chas always feel a little off to me.  The timing is never quite right, the tone and inflection don’t ever quite fit, and, to be honest, even the body language is awkward at moments.  They may very well be wonderful actors, but I’m not connecting with their takes on Chas and Zed.

I would personally like to see Constantine take on greater scope.  “The Rising Darkness” is so generic and plot driven – I can’t really take it seriously.  I would really like to see Constantine dive into the dark side of the DC Universe.  I don’t know if NBC has rights to characters like Zatanna, Dr. Fate, Swamp Thing, Dr. Occult, The Demon, Tim Hunter, Dr. 13, and Deadman, but their inclusion would truly heighten interest in the show and juxtapose Constantine more powerfully than the sporadic evils he faces weekly.  The best we’ve gotten is Felix Faust, which speaks volumes.

I will keep watching Constantine.  I want it to succeed, I’m rooting for it to prevail and get a second season, yet, at the same moment, I must admit it’s not a show I feel comfortable recommending to friends.   I think the creators and actors are giving it their best effort, and I commend them for making something very watchable, but I don’t feel they’ve yet found an identity that amazes the audience with each episode.

The Flash’s Second Wind

Earlier this month, I bemoaned the fact that I thought The Flash television show began to stale.  I said that the episodes were beginning to feel too formulaic and did not provide enough depth to the main character, Barry Allen.  Other than Eddie Thawne and Dr. Harrison Wells, I didn’t find any of The Flash’s characters particularly interesting.  (Though for the record, I find Tom Cavanagh and Jesse L. Martin by far the best actors on the show.)

I’m happy to report that last night The Flash hit its stride again and matched the action, emotion, and charisma of its premier episode.  The man in yellow, or the Reverse-Flash as comic book aficionados refer to him, brought a whole new element to the show.  Seeing Flash battle one of his greatest enemies with excellent special effects was a true joy.  Plus, they brought the perfect level of creepiness to Reverse-Flash, especially by keeping him in a constant blur with those glowing eyes.

For a life-long fan of The Flash, last night’s episode satisfied on every level.  I like that they finally pushed Barry’s love for Iris in a new direction, that Ronnie Raymond is back and very cool as Firestorm, that Caitlin Snow is rounding out a bit, and that Eddie may have a developing problem with Barry that could become very serious in the future.  I love that they made Firestorm look cool, and that when he flew, it felt more like an ignition than anything.  But, the big moment, the huge reveal at the very end, that was what made me jump out of my seat.  I had my suspicions as to the man in yellow’s true identity, as I’m sure you did, too, but it’s a whole new game when it’s laid right out there.

Of course, I don’t think it’s completely cut and dried.  But now The Flash has a much-needed new layer of complexity, and there are myriad directions for this plot twist to take.  I can’t wait to see how the man in the yellow suit story plays out, what they do with Ronnie and Caitlin, and what the new dynamic is between Iris and Barry.

The Flash picked the perfect time to catch its second wind.

The Flash Versus Arrow

I found myself pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed Arrow when it first arrived on the CW a few years ago.  Don’t misunderstand – I love the character Green Arrow, but I wasn’t much of a CW guy.  (I thought I was too old for the station.)  The show didn’t strike me as perfect, but it got a lot of things right, particularly the way it continuously built upon its own mythos.  The flashbacks, the twists, the sheer angst – it hooked me.

Because of Arrow’s success, I felt positively giddy when Barry Allen appeared on the show and then nearly passed out when they announced a Flash series.  I have loved the Flash character for as long as I can remember.  And though I’m really more of a Wally West guy, Barry Allen was my first Flash in the early Eighties.

The Flash’s premier hit all the right chords.  It was a home run.  Since then, though, it’s fallen a little flat for me.  It’s still my favorite show, don’t get me wrong, but it definitely seems a bit inert and even formulaic to a fault.  All of the actors are terribly charismatic, especially Grant Gustin, but they aren’t being given much to work with.  Other than the scenes between Barry and his father, emotionally speaking, I’m not all that invested.

Seeing Arrow on The Flash drove this point home even more.  Watching Oliver and Diggle interact with Barry, Joe, Cisco, and Caitlin helped me realize that other than Dr. Wells, the Flash’s cast doesn’t have much depth.  Not like Arrow’s.  Granted, The Flash is just starting, but Arrow had already established a deep mythology with the Island by this time in it’s first season.  We had the Queens, the Merlyns, Diggle, the Lances – an assortment of characters each with their own problems to overcome.

Truthfully, I don’t want The Flash to be as dark as Arrow, or as violent.  I like Flash as a hero the people can look up to, a positive force of light.  At the same time, though, I really don’t know any more about Barry Allen than I did in the premier, and I get no sense there is more to Barry Allen.  I think it’s fascinating that the two characters I’m most interested in, Dr. Wells and Eddie Thawne, appear to be the greatest threats to Barry.

I have no doubt Arrow will continue to be excellent – last season’s Deathstroke story line absolutely satisfied.  I also believe The Flash will find it’s way, I just didn’t expect it to stumble after such a strong start.  But, when it finally finds it’s footing, I’ll be cheering the loudest.

My Initial Impression Of the Twelfth Doctor

Last night Peter Capaldi properly debuted as the Twelfth Doctor.  I happen to really like what I’ve previously seen of Capaldi, both as an actor and as an actor being interviewed (I can’t claim to actually know him as a person).  I must admit that I rooted for Capaldi to have a fantastic first appearance.

But did I like him as the Doctor?  I honestly don’t know yet.  I imagine this is what a lot of people are saying, because the first episode is just that – the first episode.  I wasn’t sold on the Ninth Doctor or the Tenth Doctor when they first appeared.  The Eleventh Doctor won me over immediately, but how could he not when he was so kind to little Amelia Pond?  Most Doctors need a little time to bounce back from the regeneration, and most actors need a little time to really sort out their interpretation of the icon.  The good news is that I’ve ended up loving all the Doctors, and I have no doubt I’ll love Capaldi as well.

But, frankly, I don’t love him yet.

There’s a few things working against him, most of which are beyond his control.  For example, like most fans I worked myself into an anticipatory frenzy awaiting his debut – and it was a long wait.  Could his debut ever live up to that kind of prolonged excitement?  Furthermore, I didn’t really enjoy the actual story of his debut episode.  Let’s be honest – most Doctor Who episodes aren’t very complete from a pure story standpoint.  Oftentimes the actors outshine the story, so no one notices, and that’s totally find with me.  I’m there for the Doctor.  (Of course there are exceptions, and there have been some brilliantly written episodes.  I’m speaking in generalities.)  Lastly, I don’t think he got enough Doctor moments.  In fact, the episode seemed to focus on Clara more than anything.  I understand this approach – giving the fans an anchor for which they are familiar makes sense.

But, even with all that being said, the Twelfth Doctor had a few standout moments.  For example, describing his frown to the homeless man really proved a pleasing moment.  The final scene on the streets of Glasgow also proved effective and gave Capaldi a chance to show his range.

Speaking of which, I saw some wonderful acting from Capaldi, and I am positive he will probably be the best “actor” of the recent group, but I’m not yet certain he has that intangible charisma that made Ten and Eleven so dynamic.

But that’s okay.  Most of Ten and Eleven’s magnetism came from funny, sweet moments, or outright silliness, and that does not suit Twelve.  It’s already obvious that Capladi will not don goofy hats or sneakers.

Where will Capaldi take Twelve?  I don’t know, but I am of course along for the ride.  I’m sure by the year’s end I will be raving about Twelve, but as of right now, I’m just not totally enraptured.

For a Guy Who Doesn’t Watch a Lot Of TV, I’m About To Watch a Lot Of TV

I’ll be honest, I don’t consider myself much of television guy, but when thinking about my DVR settings I realized that next season I will be a full-0n couch potato.  Here are the shows I currently watch …

  • Doctor Who
  • Sherlock
  • Orphan Black
  • Mountain Men
  • Arrow

The good news is that most of those shows have very short seasons, so I don’t have to commit too much of myself to them.  Unfortunately, that’s all about to change.  Here are the shows I want to add to my viewing …

  • The Flash
  • Gotham
  • Constantine
  • Scalped
  • Preacher
  • DMZ

Yes, these are all shows based on comic books, and if that surprises you then you don’t really know me at all, do you?  But hey, The Walking Dead came from the comic book realm, and it seems to be doing okay (even if I did quit it).

Oh, by the way, the list would be even longer if I had Netflix.  You could add Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and AKA Jessica Jones.

Which of these new shows will I stick with?  I can pretty much guarantee The Flash (lifelong fan), Gotham (lifelong fan), and DMZ (amazing Vertigo comic series).  The others are “wait and see.”

Honestly, added on to my love of NFL football, this is just too much TV.

 

Why I Quit AMC’s The Walking Dead

I’ll be honest with you, when AMC’s The Walking Dead came out, I touted it as the next L O S T.  The acting wasn’t superb, but the production was magnificent, the effects breathtaking, and the storylines captivating.  It thrilled me on a weekly basis, made my palms sweat, and kept me coming back for more.  The dynamics between the characters intrigued me to no end, and I truly cared about them.  When they started dying off, it stunned me, but it didn’t anger me.  As a fan of Cormac McCarthy, I’m accustomed to major characters dying.  I actually relish it in books and movies, when done intelligently, because it heightens the suspense.

Seasons One and Two just blew me away.  And though some serious characters were killed off, characters who drove storylines and oozed charisma (Shane and Dale, in particular), they were replaced with worthy men and women such as Michonne and Hershel and allowed existing characters such as Daryl the chance to rise to the top.

Season Three tried my patience, but I stuck with it.  Lori’s death advanced the plot, but I knew the end was near for me with the birth of Judith.  I knew of her fate in the comic books, and I remember telling my friends that if they show that sort of thing on the TV show, I’m out.  Andrea’s death seemed completely pointless, as did much of the violence of the season.  With each character’s death, the dynamic got smaller and smaller, and so the characters were, as a whole, suddenly becoming less interesting to me.  Rick, honestly, has never been the hook in my eyes, and so now the show rested primarily on Hershel, Daryl, and, to a lesser extent, Michonne.  Woodbury proved an interesting premise, but it got stale in my eyes, and the prison took away one of the aspects that I found most entrancing – survivors constantly on the move.  Suddenly they were in the same setting all the time, and not a very interesting one at that.  The Merle plotline saved a largely tiresome season, but I think we can all agree it didn’t live up to Seasons One and Two.  But, I was still an avid fan.  I still had to watch it the night it aired, could not stand the idea of watching it on DVR after the fact.  Had to talk about it the next day.  There were some trends forming that I found disturbing, one that started with Sophia, but I could deal with it.

And then Season Four Point One arrived.  Okay, the prison is now a refugee camp, that’s a neat idea.  I can roll with that.  Oh, a deadly flu breaks out.  I like that.  That definitely raises the suspense – that can’t be fought using their conventional methods.  Children are being taught to kill … I don’t know if I like where this is going … Children are sick and orphaned.  Hmm.  The Governor is back, has adopted a family, has a little girl to be like a daughter to him, goes nuts again, wants the prison for his own camp, is willing to kill to make it happen.  I’m kind of tired of that – didn’t we do all that already?  We did that in Season Three.  I like the Governor’s character, and I love David Morrissey, but I really had no interest in his return.  And what’s going on with Rick’s baby?  Does the guy ever interact with her?  Frankly, when she first arrived, as already mentioned, I had a sneaking suspicion she was there for shock factor, that they had something dastardly planned for her …

Then the mid-season finale came.  The Walking Dead has always been a violent show, but it, for the most part, seemed to play a role in the actual storyline unfolding.  Yes, there were moments of ghastliness, but they were usually reserved for the dispatching of zombies.  The finale seemed to abandon all attempts at a meaningful story and just go for our throats.  The prison raid had been done before, the Governor had been done before, and while I like that the survivors are on the move again, I cannot abide the “shocking” scenes involving children shooting adults, Hershel’s graphic beheading, and the bloody baby carrier.

In fact, violence against children has turned into quite the trend with The Walking Dead.  There is much I can turn a blind eye to, but this is not among those things.  I knew the moment they introduced Judith that they planned to kill her, and while she may not actually be dead, as some have suggested, the bloody baby carrier was simply done in poor taste.  Seriously, during that attack, Rick’s only action should have been about guaranteeing both of his children’s safety.  Trusting his prison mates to keep his child safe is a character flaw I cannot overlook.  In fact, the idea that no one stopped to keep Judith safe, that not one adult took it upon themselves to save a baby, is something that has deterred any interest for me in following these characters.  But it doesn’t end there, yet another child died in the Governor’s foster daughter, which was, again, over the top.  Finally, the absolutely unnecessary dragging out of Hershel’s decapitation did not thrill me, it sickened me, it made me wonder what was wrong with the people producing the show, and it sealed the fact that this show had no intention of telling a story any longer.

The Walking Dead has sunk to a gratuitous low.  This show was once about human interaction amongst a horrible set of circumstances, but now it has simply become about killing off characters and abusing children for the sake of “shock value.”  I cannot continue watching it if this is the direction it’s taking, and, from all indications, it is.  You should know that I’ve thought about this since the night the finale aired.  I wanted to give myself time to really mull it over, to make sure I wasn’t having a kneejerk reaction.  And while I certainly do not bemoan any who continue watching the show, just know that it is no longer for me.

My New Favorite TV Shows

Note: Originally Posted 10-18-06

If you know me personally, you already know I’m perpetually behind the curve when it comes to all things, “cool” in the world of television and music.  Because I don’t have time to write a twenty-page entry, we’ll focus on TV today. Take LOST for instance.  It was well into its second season before I got hooked.  Same thing with Arrested Development

Well, keeping with my trend, I’ve recently discovered two new shows that I LOVE (new to me, that is).

The first is the HBO original series, Rome.  I love Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, so this one is right up my alley.  My wife is a big history nut, so it fits nicely into her tastes as well.  The show highlights Caesar’s rise to power while focusing on all the power players of the time period as well as the daily lives of two Roman soldiers.  It truly is a fascinating show as it gives us glimpses into what history may have been and the drama of lives purely imagined.  As you may have heard, the costumes are incredible, the acting is very well done, and each episode feels like a mini-movie, which makes sense on a network called Home Box Office.  My wife and I were stunned at the level of nudity and sex in the first two episodes (even for HBO, it was very graphic), but that quickly tapered off and the meat of the storyline got rolling with episodes three through five.  I personally think that they included all the sex and full frontal for the causal viewer who couldn’t care less about Caesar or Rome in order to get them hooked on the actual story as it took place between sex scenes.  We haven’t finished the entire season yet on DVD so I can’t comment on how it ends.  I don’t believe the second season has started yet.  It will be interesting to see if they merely take it up to Caesar’s assassination (don’t tell me I spoiled it for you, you’ve been in World History), or if they will take it all the way through the aftermath of his murder as did Shakespeare.

My other new favorite show that I’m way behind the curve on is Entourage.  It’s just plain funny.  There’s no other way to say it.  The characters are completely hilarious and charismatic.  The show has that something that makes it hard to resist.  If you’re not familiar with it, it is also a show on HBO that follows a young up-and-coming actor in Hollywood with his two friends and older brother.  One of his friends is the responsible pseudo-manager, the other friend is the wanna-be ladies man gopher, and the older brother (my favorite character) is a washed-up actor living vicariously through his younger brother and picking up any scrap parts he can manage.  The young actor’s agent is completely a scum sucking jerk and side-splittingly funny.  I’ll admit it, this show is kind of a guilty pleasure.  If you give it a shot, beware.  The F-Bombs drop like they’re going out of style. 

So there you go.  My new favorite shows.  I’m well on my way to becoming a TV junkie.  Crap.