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Mad Men: The Doorway, Part 1 (2013)
One of the worst episodes of the later seasons
While many of the early episodes were solid episodes that helped establish the tone of the series and develop the characters, it was the middle and later season episodes that really made the show one of the best dramas in the history of television. Each season finale ended with some sort of change that would create anticipation for the next season. Sadly, this episode fails to build on the momentum of the previous season.
It takes place only a few months after the season 5 finale. However, it seems like so much has changed in the interim. Don is back to his old drinking and womanizing ways for about the hundredth time even though they don't really give a clue as to what caused it this time (the Lane Pryce drama would be my guess). Roger, normally one of the most intriguing and charming characters, is all of a sudden belligerent and obnoxious following bad news about his mother. Peggy is struggling with her new position but without the SCDP people around, it seems less interesting. Betty, whose character has essentially become useless since the divorce, is involved in a pointless story line with one of Sally's friends and a violin. I'm still not sure what the whole point of this was especially since Sally's friend was never seen before this episode and never seen again. Maybe they felt obliged to give Betty screen time since her role has diminished. The only good story line turned out to be Don and Megan's new relationship with the new neighbors which would be a major plot throughout the season. Not only are the characters and story lines uninteresting but the episode is slow moving not unlike the early episodes.
It seems like the best episodes of the series are the ones that are evenly balanced between the workplace happenings and the characters' personal lives. This one seems to focus way too much on the character's personal lives. They could have come up with something interesting with one of Pete's accounts yet Pete is barely seen in this episode. They could have built more upon the death of Lane Pryce and how it impacted the company. Thankfully, this episode was not an indication of what the entire season would be like. Season 6 as a whole turned out to be one of the best seasons of the series in spite of this episode.
Jackie Robinson (2016)
Much more complete than the prior movies
Ken Burns hits a home run with this documentary chronicling the life of Jackie Robinson. This PBS documentary is about as complete of a biography as you will see on the baseball legend. It includes rare footage from Jackie's playing career, interviews with friends, teammates and family (including Jackie's 93 year-old widow), and clips from Jackie's post-career endeavors.
Unlike the previous movies and biographies, the documentary highlights Jackie's failures as well as his triumphs. While "42" was a terrific movie, it only focused on Jackie's early career when he broke the color barrier and the short time following it. This documentary highlights the years following Jackie's breakthrough where he became much more outspoken and ruffled many feathers among teammates and media members. It also documents Jackie's post playing career where he faced a backlash due to his political views and had a strained relationship with his eldest son who preceded him in death. While most people would have been satisfied with a place in baseball history and a peaceful retirement, Jackie continued the fight for black civil rights even as his health took a turn for the worst. Younger athletes like Muhammad Ali and Jim Brown were becoming the voice of the 1960s civil rights movement and Jackie's influence began to fade. As with the case of many legends, Jackie's impact was not fully realized until many years after his death.
In the end, this 4-hour journey helps to establish a more human perspective of Jackie Robinson's life while not tarnishing his legacy.
Plays out like one long public service announcement
While most shows go out with highly publicized series finales, "Highway to Heaven", which ran for 5 seasons, went out with a whimper. This episode, which was supposed to air around the holidays, was relegated to the lightly-viewed summer schedule as NBC was "burning off" the remaining episodes. By this time, the show had long been canceled, series star Victor French had passed away and Michael Landon had moved on to his next project.
The episode is set on Christmas Eve with three separate stories intertwined with one moral: the danger of industrial chemicals and pollution. Jonathan and Mark appear to three different men: an energy official, a farmer and the President of the United States (who is supposed to resemble then president George H. Bush). They try to convince the men that pollution will destroy the Earth and that they are now in a prominent position to stop it. First, they do it through talk and when that doesn't work they appear via eerie futuristic dreams. One of the dreams is a glimpse of the future where there is a shortage of pure water and people are getting shot for the limited resource.
While through its run, this show had taught many lessons and made people aware of many social issues, this episode comes across as way too preachy. Landon uses examples from several disasters and meltdowns to drive home the point. Had this been any other show or any other star, I highly doubt that a major network would have allowed it to air for an hour in prime time. It reminded me of one of those corny public service videos that they used to show us in grade school. Only those videos did not last for an hour and had D-list actors. Sadly, this would be one of Landon's last television appearances as he would die nearly two years later. This episode was hardly the best way for Landon, French, and the five-year series to go out.
Bay City Blues (1983)
Good Show...just not very original
When "Bay City Blues" premiered in 1983, the producers made no secret that it was an exact copy of the formula that made "Hill Street Blues" a critical success. From the similar sounding title to the same producers (Steven Bochco and Jeffrey Lewis) to the same actors (Ken Olin, Dennis Franz, Peter Jurasik, Pat Corley), it was easy to spot the similarities. The only major difference was that the setting was a baseball diamond instead of a police station.
The show followed the struggles of the minor league baseball team, the Bay City Blue Birds. The character similarities to "Hill Street Blues" were very remarkable. Manager Joe Rohner (Michael Nouri) was basically the same character as Frank Furillo. He was a stern but fair authority figure, who was generally a calming influence in a hectic clubhouse. Similar to HSB, he was secretly having an affair with a high profile woman (Sunny Hayward) that eventually went public. Ozzie Peoples was the equivalent of Phil Esterhouse. He was a wise and very well-respected veteran who was nearing retirement. Rocky Padillo was similar to Andrew Renko. He was good at what he did but somewhat immature and cocky. Angelo Carbone (Dennis Franz) was well very similar to Sal Benedetto and Norman Buntz, both also played by Franz. He was kind of a loose cannon who did not always follow conventional methods. Some of the other character with key roles were: Ray Holtz who owned the team, Frenchy Nuckles, a star pitcher whose marriage to Judy was falling apart, and Mitch Klein, the team's announcer who was always trying to come upon a juicy story.
Since the show only ran eight episodes and had a large ensemble cast, many of the characters (Lynwood Scott, Deejay Cunningham) were never fully developed. The show dealt with many common issues that were prevalent in baseball such as drug and alcohol abuse, infidelity, and the struggle to make the big time.
Though the show was well written and well acted, its lack of success is not surprising. From the start, it had two strikes against it. It was a sports-themed show which generally don't score high ratings and it was copying a show that was not exactly a ratings powerhouse to begin with. Since its cancellation, the show has been mostly recognized as the first major role for Sharon Stone, who would hit it big in "Basic Instinct".
Good show that deserved better than 5 episodes
"Clubhouse" was a well-meaning family series that deserved much more than a 5 episode run. Its biggest problem was that it had limited appeal to a changing television audience. From the start, the odds were stacked against it. Sport-themed TV series rarely ever succeed in the ratings. From past shows such as "The White Shadow" and "Bay City Blues" to more recent series such as "Friday Night Lights", "Sports Night" "Playmakers" and "Lights Outs", none have been able to garner high ratings. It came out around the time that audience tastes were beginning to change. Family-theme dramas such as "Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman", "Touched By An Angel" and "Early Edition" were beginning to wane in popularity. Audiences were leaving the big networks in favor of cable programming. They were tuning in to edgier shows such as "Nip/Tuck" and "The Shield" and crime procedure shows as "CSI" and "NCIS". Finally, add the fact that the producers of the show were not able to secure the license to use Major League Baseball and The New York Yankees team. Not being to use actual baseball teams gave the show a generic feel.
The show centered around a 16-year old boy, Pete Young (Jeremy Sumpter), who had realized his dream by getting a job as a bat boy for the New York Empires. His single mother (Mare Winningham) was a real estate agent struggling to keep the family together. His sister, Betsy (Kirsten Storms), was a rebellious high school senior who tried to grow up too fast. Many of the shows focused on Pete's new-found popularity among his peers, his relationships with the team's All-Star slugger Conrad Dean and equipment manager Lou Russo, and his mom's conflicts with Betsy. The show taught good lessons on relationships and family.
Although the show was enjoyable and well meaning, it had plenty of flaws. The talents of Christopher Lloyd who played equipment manager, Lou Russo, were essentially wasted on this show. His character had little charisma and came across as indifferent and uncaring at times. Too bad he couldn't have jumped in the time machine and stopped himself from taking this role.
The show sometimes tried to be too cute to the point where it was corny and unrealistic. Many times, the bat boys and equipment managers seemed to play too much of a role in the team games and news media. They seemed to neglect a lot of things that would be associated with a team clubhouse. I often found myself wondering who was the manager of the Empires and wouldn't you think that he would have more interactions with Pete (It was Joe Ross who was rarely seen)? They never even mentioned anything about the road games. It was almost as if they played all their games at home.
Lastly, the biggest thing going against the show was that it just did not have broad appeal. It appealed to teens because of Jeremy Sumpter and Kirsten Storms. It also appealed to baseball fans because of the premise but most of those fans were probably skipping the show to watch the 2004 MLB playoffs and World Series. However, it had no appeal to the adults who were not baseball fans, which accounts for a big chunk of the television audience. Even the show "Friday Night Lights" which was low-rated but ran for five seasons had broader appeal. It was based on a more popular book/movie, it centered around a more popular sport, it had a better supporting cast and it was much better written (It also starred an older Jeremy Sumpter).
While the show is far from perfect, it is worth viewing. It occasionally airs on the Universal HD network and I would recommend viewing all 11 episodes (5 original plus 6 unaired).
Very Biased and One-Sided
I'll admit that I was never a huge fan of the Ultimate Warrior. He was never a great technical wrestler and his physique was way too good to be true. However, I felt that he was a good entertainer and made a lot of money for the WWE. When I saw "The Self Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior", it played out as Vince McMahon's way of exacting revenge on the Warrior for tying up the WWE in litigation for years and all of the other stunts that he allegedly pulled. Given that Vince McMahon has a reputation for being ruthless and he was practically portrayed as a saint for tolerating the Warrior, it was hard to take this video seriously. The video is the equivalent of a husband trashing his ex-wife after she just cleaned him out in divorce court.
During the video, the Warrior is given almost no credit for becoming one of the most popular wrestlers in the business. First, McMahon states that he was responsible for changing the gimmick from Dingo Warrior to The Ultimate Warrior which was crucial in the Warrior's rise to fame. He then stated that the Warrior's opening music was also a huge reason why fans rooted for him. Rick Rude was given credit for helping the Warrior look good in the ring in his first high profile feud. Then, it was later stated that Hulk Hogan allowing the Warrior to beat him at Wrestlemania VI was what propelled the Warrior to super-stardom. The Warrior's credibility was further brought into question when it was mentioned that he had tested positive for steroids, which lead to his departure. Can you actually name a WWE star in the 1980s/early 1990s that didn't use steroids?
Most of the interviews were with former wrestlers and ring personalities that are still employed with the WWE and being paid by Vince McMahon. For example, Triple H's comments about the Warrior ruining his first Wrestlemania experience seem to hold no water given that he is married to McMahon's daughter and will likely inherit the company. While I'm sure that the Warrior was probably no picnic to work with, it would have been nice to hear his side of the story. Since he allegedly refused to participate in the video, it would have been nice to at least hear from someone was at least close to the Warrior. Without anyone defending the Warrior, this was the equivalent of beating a dead horse into the ground.
So the message that they use almost two hours to repeatedly drive home is as follows: The Warrior was a "flash in the pan" who was not successful because of his talent. He was successful because of Rick Rude, Vince McMahon, Hulk Hogan, a catchy name and gimmick, great entrance music and steroids. He was not liked by anyone especially people who still have ties to Vince McMahon and are most likely still on his payroll.
In 2014, McMahon would ultimately resolve his differences with The Warrior, induct him into the Hall of Fame and produce a more favorable video of his career. Sadly, it was all overshadowed by The Warrior's death within the same week of the video release and induction. So in the end, at least this 2005 video would not prove to be the final nail in The Warrior's coffin.
Mad Men: The Suitcase (2010)
One of the best episodes of the series
The episode "The Suitcase" is a prime example of why "Mad Men" is among the best written shows on television. The Don Draper character is by far one of the most complex characters that television has ever seen. This episode showcases every facet of his complex personality and examines his tough love relationship with Peggy Olson. On one hand, you see the arrogant, vindictive, verbally abusive personality that is prevalent in the office and the board room. This personality has helped him overcome childhood poverty and tragedy to become one of the top ad men in the business. However, as the episodes progresses, you also see the vulnerable side of a tortured soul who had lost the only person who really knew him and understood him.
Prior to this episode, Don and Peggy were involved in a strictly business relationship with Don being a very difficult and overly critical boss. However, Don begins to let down his guard and opens up a little about himself. Soon Peggy begins to realizes that there is much more to this guy than a lonely, heavy-drinking tyrant. When given the chance to abandon ship, she ultimately realizes that Don needs her and she also need him.
If there is one episode that brings together every facet of the Don Draper persona, this is the one to see.
Bad...but more tolerable in High-Def
When this movie came out, I thought it would be a rip off of "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory". Even had it been "Willy Wonka in a Toy Store", it would have been much better than this incoherent mess of a movie. The characters go from being extremely annoying to extremely dull. Many of the story lines make absolutely no sense. The only saving grace of the film is its great use of special effects that are enhanced in high definition.
Dustin Hoffman stars as Mr. Edward Magorium, a 243-year old owner of a magical toy shop. Natalie Portman plays Molly Mahoney, a one-time child prodigy who has lost her focus in life and now manages the store. Jason Bateman plays Henry Weston, an accountant who Magorium hires to look over the finances. When Magorium announces that he is "leaving", the toy store begins to "rebel".
The biggest problem with the movie is that nothing seems to add up. Add that to the fact that the Mr. Magorium character is one of the most annoying characters in movie history and you have a very disappointing movie. Even with the Willy Wonka character, there is a dark mystique about him which makes him interesting. The Mr. Magorium is just plain annoying. It is never explained how he is able to live to be 243 years old. It is also never really explained why he, all of sudden, wants to no longer live. He is not sick and nothing is found to be wrong with him. For a movie that is marketed for kids, a suicidal character does not seem all that appropriate. When he does finally die about half way through the movie, you are so sick of his character that you really don't miss him. After that, the Henry Weston character becomes a key character in the movie, which is not necessarily a good thing. He is neither very likable nor villainous, which makes him really boring. As the movie progresses, it becomes apparent that the main theme of the film, Molly Mahoney regaining her faith in the store and life in general, is just plain tiresome. At around the 90 minute mark, you begin to realize that the movie was much more style than actual substance.
A History of Violence (2005)
One of the worst movies I've seen in a while
This movie had to have been one of the most disappointing movies that I've seen in a while. I saw the previews with Ed Harris, Viggo Mortensen, and William Hurt and it looked like it had a very interesting and intriguing plot. However, the plot about a former mobster escaping and starting a new life turned out to be as dull as dishwater. The fact that the movie progresses about as fast as an Amish buggy drag race didn't really help things either. Roger Ebert remarked "This is not a movie about plot, but about character", which is another way of saying "You will be bored to tears." I kept expecting some kind of plot twist OR anything that would make this movie interesting and nothing seemed to happen. I could not believe that William Hurt was nominated for Best Supporting Actor. His screen time spanned a whole five minutes. There must have been a really weak class of performances to choose from in 2005. The only good thing that I can think of to say about this movie was that it was only 96 minutes long. That is 96 minutes of my life that I will never get back.
The Bill Cosby Show (1969)
A Good Comedy Series That Was Not Formulaic
As a child, I remember watching this show when the reruns aired on CBN (Now the ABC Family Channel) and really enjoying it. So when I saw the First Season DVD on eBay for a low price, I could not resist buying it.
The show centered around Chet Kincaid who was a gym teacher, football and basketball coach, and valuable member of the community. His willingness to help other people always seemed to get him into unenviable situations as well as hurting his love life. For instance, there was one episode where he agreed to do his sick nephew's paper route for one day and he ended up spending all morning trying to get the papers to the right houses. Much of the plot was clean, light-hearted fare. There were no episodes that focused on serious topics like racism. The good thing about the show was that it did not follow the same formula as most other sitcoms at the time. There was no laugh track which was almost unheard of at the time. The episodes focused more on character and situational development instead of laugh-out-loud comedy. Much of the dialog by Bill Cosby seemed like it was ad libbed which gave the show kind of a natural quality. It was also one of the first series to have an African American in a leading role and Cosby served as a great role model.
Puts the Drag in "Dragnet"
This new version of the popular 50s and 60s show had absolutely none of the magic of the old series. It still had the narration, the investigation, and the mugshots at the end. However with little star power, zombie-like acting, lame dialog and cheap production, it didn't exactly remind anyone of the original series. The producers tried to keep it serious like the old series but it simply did not work with the two actors. They seemed so awkwardly matched and their dialog seemed so forced that it was painful to watch at times. Many of the car rides scenes were so solemn that it was almost as if they were returning from a funeral. In their interactions with the criminals, they were always using corny lines, some of which were so bad they were unintentionally funny. Watching the plot develop was slow and painful and had essentially the same entertainment value as watching paint dry. I remember this show airing late at night in syndication which was perfect because I'm sure it helped many insomniacs fall asleep. One of the few things in it's favor was that it aired in conjunction with the new version of "Adam-12" which was much worse, making the new version of "Dragnet" look good by comparison.
Doogie Howser, M.D. (1989)
Interesting and unique show that quickly flat-lined
When it first came out, "Doogie Howser M.D." was one of the more unique shows to grace the airwaves. It centered around a 16-year old child prodigy, Douglas "Doogie" Howser, who was a doctor at a Los Angeles area hospital. He lived with his parents and had a girlfriend, Wanda, and an obnoxious best friend who often came into his house via a window. Each episode ended with Doogie typing up an entry in his personal computer diary. The entry was usually a wise proverb from a lesson learned in the episode.
The show was developed by Steven Bochco who created ground-breaking shows like "L.A. Law" and "Hill Street Blues". Although not nearly as acclaimed as those two shows (the only Emmy awards it was nominated for were for Sound Mixing and Cinematography), it had a satisfying blend of comedy and drama that kept the show interesting but not too serious. Since the two main characters were both teenagers, this lead many people to dismiss it as a kid's show. However, it was much deeper than a kid's show as most of the episodes centered on adult themes such as AIDS, death, and racism. The acting was also very solid. Long before he gained recognition for the show "How I Met Your Mother", I always felt that Neil Patrick Harris was a very underrated actor. Very few teenage actors could have pulled off playing a child prodigy the way he did. It would be hard to imagine anyone else playing the Doogie Howser role.
The first and second season were terrific as they focused around Doogie's struggles to be a normal teenager despite the demands of his job. A common theme was discrimination as he was often discriminated based on his age by patients and even other doctors. He was not afraid, though, to express his views, even if it meant clashing with more seasoned and respected doctors. By the third or fourth season, the show had lost some of its novelty as Doogie was no longer a child prodigy but just a very smart adult. This must have really made it hard for the writers to come up with interesting story lines and it showed. The show began to focus more on Doogie's personal life and Vinnie quirky adventures and less on the hospital. By this time, Doogie had moved out of his parent's house to live in an apartment which meant that less time was devoted to his parents who were an integral part of the show. The ratings declined and a show that seemed like it would be on the air for many years was canceled after only four.
Equal Justice (1990)
Great Cast + Great Show + Low Ratings = Early Cancellation
I remember watching this show when it first aired and hoping it would stay on the air for a while. But despite having an impressive cast and great dramatic story lines, it only lasted about a season and a half. Unlike many quality shows that get canceled too soon and develop a cult following, I can tell by the lack of posts and comments that this show has largely been forgotten.
The biggest problem was that many people including critics unfairly dismissed it as nothing more than an "LA Law" ripoff. In my opinion, the only similarities were that both were legal dramas and had ensemble casts. "LA Law" had humorous elements and focused a lot on quirky or glamorous cases while "Equal Justice" was more serious and focused on tough topics like racism and gang violence. Another thing going against it was that back in the early 90s, series television was overloaded with courtroom dramas. With "L.A. Law","Matlock", "Civil Wars", and "Law & Order", to name a few, all on the air, I don't think that viewers really could stomach another television courtroom.
Unfortunately, with the lack of quality programs on television today, a show like this would be a welcome addition especially on a network like ABC. You can check out a few episodes that are available on Hulu.com (hopefully they will add more in the future). Take notice of the great cast which includes Sarah Jessica Parker, Joe Morton, Jane Kaczmarek and a Christian Bale lookalike named Cotter Smith.
Morton & Hayes (1991)
Very Clever Show . Unfortunately Clever does not equal success.
I remember being one the few people to watch this show and thinking how different and clever it was. It was one of those shows that did not fit into one particular television category or genre. It had elements that were similar to "This Is Spinal Tap" which was also directed by Rob Reiner.
Reiner would narrate each episode about a fictional Laurel-and-Hardy-esquire comedy act from the golden age of television whose archive footage was lost and recently found. All episodes were in black and white and were made to look exactly like the 1920s. Like early television, episodes had little dialog and were thin on plots.
If you enjoyed watching the "Three Stooge" or "Abbott & Costello", this was great show for you. Unfortunately, CBS was not too high on this show and aired it in the middle of the summer. Despite having some recognizable names attached to it (Reiner, Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Kevin Pollack), the network did little to promote the show. Predictably, no one really watched. Even had it aired in the fall, it is doubtful that it would have found an audience as viewers at the time were into younger shows like "Beverly Hills 90210" and have shown that they will not watch nostalgic shows from before like 1960 (ie."Brooklyn Bridge","Clubhouse", "I'll Fly Away").
Decent but very predictable
When I saw the positive reviews for this movie, I thought this would be a very fresh and suspenseful thriller. However, I was disappointed to realize that it was very unoriginal and predictable. It was still watchable and had some good points but I can't really give it more than an average rating.
First of all, there wasn't really anything original about the plot. I've seen it on countless movies, sitcoms and drama series. It goes like this. New neighbor moves in. Main character decides to spy on the new neighbor and sees something suspicious. Main character continues to spy and sees a pattern of behavior that makes the neighbor look like a murderer. Main character becomes obsessed with finding out the truth about the neighbor. The only thing that was really different here was that the boy in this case was on house arrest and he had several high tech gadgets at hand that he could use to spy.
Secondly, there was really nothing surprising about any of the plot twists either. Maybe it was me, but right away I knew exactly that it would go something like this. Main character does more detective work that continues to support his theory of the murderous neighbor. Neighbor catches on to the fact that he is being spied upon and has interactions with friends and family members of the main character, seemingly putting them in danger. Main character tries to alert these friends and family members as well as police to the suspicious neighbor. They don't believe him given his past behavior. Neighbor seems clean in their eyes. Boy cries wolf one too many times.
On a positive note, the acting was very good. Shia LaBeouf was excellent as Kale Brecht, a well-meaning but troubled teen who was burdened by the death of his father. David Morse once again played the role of dark, emotionally disturbed psychopath to perfection. It seems like every time they are casting a part like that in a movie, David Morse is on speed dial. Sarah Roemer, while very charming as girl next door, Ashley Carlson, seemed nothing more than eye candy in the whole scheme of things. The subplot about the romance between her and Kale did not seem necessary to the plot.
It's not that "Disturbia" is a bad movie, it was just a somewhat disappointing movie. Had I watched it with lower expectations, I may have felt better about it. I would still recommend it since I've heard many other people say that they did enjoy it.
St. Elsewhere (1982)
One of the best shows ever
"St. Elsewhere" is probably the most under-appreciated show of all time. Unlike other shows that are shown in reruns and enjoyed by younger generations, "St. Elsewhere" seems to only be enjoyed by the loyal fans who watched the show when it originally aired in the 1980s.
It centered around a seedy, New England hospital, St. Eligius, which was commonly referred to as St. Elsewhere. The hospital was run by the triumvirate of Dr. Donald Westphall, Dr. Mark Craig, and Dr. Daniel Auschlander. Westphall, the director of medicine, was a very caring and fair man who had to deal with the stress of being a single parent raising an autistic son. He could be stubborn and rigid at times but was generally respected by everyone at the hospital. Craig, the head of surgery, was one of the top surgeons in the nation and had a huge ego to match. He was very difficult to work with as he was often verbally abusive to staff members. Auschlander was the elderly, wise physician who was fighting his own battle with cancer. He was beloved by the residents because he was not as abrasive as Craig and not as serious as Westphall.
Many of the other hospital staff came and went during the show's six-year run. The original cast was led by Ben Samuels, a veteran doctor who had a reputation for sleeping around. Hugh Beale was the laid-back psychiatrist who dealt with many seriously disturbed patients. Both Beale and Samuels were seen less frequently as the first season progressed and eventually left after season's end. Jack Morrison was a quiet, young resident whose wife tragically passed away and had his competency tested in the later seasons. Helen Rosenthal was the much-married, sometimes moody, nursing supervisor who was treated for breast cancer. Philip Chandler was the black Harvard grad who became a doctor mostly to please his father. Victor Ehrlich was the young male-chauvinistic surgeon who always seemed to get the brunt of Craig's wrath. Peter White was the troubled resident turned drug-addict turned rapist. Wayne Fiscus was the goofy ER doctor who often cracked corny jokes and whose immaturity often landed him in Westphall's doghouse. Shirley Daniels was the emotionally fragile ER nurse who went to prison for fatally shooting Peter White. Cathy Martin was the strange but attractive pathologist who made attempts to seduce almost every male staff member at the hospital. Annie Cavanero was the young female doctor who put her career ahead of her personal life and quietly disappeared from the show. Vijay Kochar was the shy anesthesiologist who was gradually phased out of the show. Jacqueline Wade was the young female resident who appeared in nearly every episode but was rarely involved in any of the major story lines. Luther Hawkins was the smooth talking orderly who provided much of the show's comic relief.
The second season saw some cast changes. Bobby Caldwell was the hot-shot plastic surgeon who had an eye for the ladies. Joan Halloran was the attractive city budget adviser who was a thorn in the side of Westphall and Craig and carried on a secret affair with Caldwell. Later years saw the addition of Elliot Axelrod, the overweight internal medicine doctor who lacked confidence and got no respect, even in death; Seth Griffin, the young, gifted resident who went from arrogant jerk to born-again Christian after nearly contracting AIDs; Carol Novino, the former nurse-turned-resident who carried on a brief affair with Westphall; Paulette Kiem, the foreign-born surgeon who showed the same compassion as Westphall and John Gideon, the temperamental administrator who took over the hospital after it was sold by the city to a private company.
The show was very much ahead of its time. There was a memorable episode in 1983 in which a major politician is diagnosed with AIDS. It must be noted that in 1983, there were only a handful of AIDS cases and no one really knew much about it and the fear showed on the episode. On the following episode, a patient has a personal computer in his hospital bed and uses it to diagnose patients and hack into the hospital's records. Once again, this was 1983 and the personal computer, the internet, security breaches and WebMD were not part of pop culture yet.
Like many of today's dramas, the story lines were very edgy, at times quirky, and frequently shocking. Even before "Nip/Tuck" and "House", this show had episodes which focused on odd diagnoses and quirky hospital behavior. Many times, the writers did not fall into the trap of creating the feel good happy ending to a storyline. The last episode exemplified this when the beloved Dr. Auschlander, who appeared to be beating cancer and had saved the hospital from closing, fell victim to a deadly stroke.
The show did have a few flaws. The most annoying of them was that the writers had a habit of destroying momentum by creating episodes which veered from the ongoing storyline. For instance in the second season, after the killing of Peter White, they aired an episode in which many of the character's dream sequences were shown. Other than the final scene, the episode had absolutely nothing to do with the ongoing storyline and really hurt the show's momentum.
Also, the final episode is generally considered one of the worst endings ever to a series. It was revealed in the last scene that Westphall's autistic son had dreamed up the entire series. To believe that a preteen, autistic child could think up something so elaborate is absurd. I know they were trying to come up with something shocking, but to basically tell people that what they've been watching for six years was nothing but a figment of someone's imagination was very unsatisfying to say the least.
Some have dismissed it as "Hill Street Blues" in a hospital, the show will still take its place as one of the most memorable, groundbreaking shows of its time.
"Boomtown" was about as close to a perfect drama as you will find on television. The show had everything that that you'd want in a television drama: great ensemble cast, terrific acting, intriguing characters, entertaining and edgy story lines, sharp dialog, near-perfect direction and originality. Its only drawback, if you consider it a drawback, was that it required too much thinking for the average viewer. Proof of that is the fact that mindless garbage like "Fear Factor" stayed on NBC for five seasons while a thought-provoking show like "Boomtown" barely lasted more than one season.
Each week stories focused on a particular storyline from multiple points of view, each one being different. The stories centered around seven characters: two detectives, two uniform cops, a paramedic, a news reporter and an attorney. Every character was very multi-dimensional, with each having their flaws and vulnerabilities.
Joel Stevens, terrifically played by Donnie Wahlberg, was the serious and sometimes hotheaded detective who put on a brave face despite having to deal with the death of his newborn baby and his wife's subsequent suicide attempt. His job always seemed to be interfering with his family life. "Fearless" was a former Desert Storm soldier turned detective who lived life to the fullest. He lived out of a motel, had sex with prostitutes, told war stories, and even had a list of things that he would like to do before he died. Ray Heckler was the old-school cop who was under close investigation for corruption. Although he often spoke too often and frequently put his foot in his mouth, he was one of the most respected cops on the squad. David McNaughton was the cocky district attorney who had problems with alcoholism and fidelity. A "human train wreck", he was universally despised by just about everyone on the squad. Teresa Ortiz was the sensitive and caring EMT who really took things she saw to heart. In one episode, she shot a hostage taker and then felt it necessary to try and revive him. Andrea Little was an attractive and persistent news reporter who always seemed to be first on the scene of a breaking story, thanks to her inside source, David NcNaughton, with whom she was carrying on a secret affair with. She lived lavishly thanks to a trust fund left by her wealthy parents. Tom Turcotte was a young hotshot cop who had the unenviable task of having to follow in the footsteps of his tough father. He was really the only character that was never fully developed, as there were some moments later in the first season where you doubted if he was one of the good guys.
The recurring theme of the show was that "Things aren't always as they same". A typical episode would start off with a sequence of events and what followed would explain what led up to that point through each character's point of view. Many episodes would end with some kind of shocking revelation. That same theme applied to a lot the characters, as with episode, viewers would learn more about each character and there was lot more to them than what meets the eye.
After the first season, despite marginal ratings NBC decided to renew "Boomtown". However, it was moved from its cushy Sunday night slot to a tougher Friday night slot and the format was retooled, making it easier for the viewer to follow. The producers essentially abandoned the unique point of view storyteller that made the show so terrific in its first season. In an effort to boost ratings, the producers brought in Vanessa Williams as detective, Katherine Pierce. In order to make room for her, they axed Andrea Little, who was key part of the show. Though the show was still watchable, it suffered a decline in quality (and ratings). Not surprisingly, the new format did not lead to a "boom" in the ratings and the show was canceled.
"Boomtown" is a prime example of a terrific show that should been given more of a chance to build an audience. Instead of flooding the airwaves with cheap reality garbage, networks need to make more of an effort to keep quality programs on the air even if they don't generate huge ratings from the start. A good, quality show can generate good word of mouth, which in turn may lead to improved ratings in the long run. "Boomtown" would have been more suited to air on F/X as it would have fit in better with the network's edgier series and would not have had the high expectations that it did on NBC.
If you happen to come upon the first season of "Boomtown" on DVD for a reasonable price, I would highly recommend buying it. You will be both amazed and depressed at the same time. You'll be amazed at how great of a dramatic series that it was and depressed at how NBC could cancel such a promising series with such a great cast.
Effectively Corny! A Guilty Pleasure!
I must admit every single one of these so-called "Behind The Camera" or "What Really Happened" movies about former sitcoms is like a train wreck. You know it will be bad. However you cannot help but keep watching and it is very hard to leave or turn off in this case, especially if you are big fan of the series. Whether it be "Mork & Mindy" or "Three's Company", every one of these movies has followed the same pattern: bad acting, cheesy dialog, actors who look or act nothing like the original stars, and story lines which make almost everyone look selfish or difficult. You can basically just watch the "E!True Hollywood Story" and get the same information but what fun would it be without the above-mentioned flaws.
So when the hundredth re-enactment of the "Diff'rent Strokes" story aired on NBC, it was no surprise that it resembled all of the previous TV movies. It was also no surprise that, being a big fan of the sitcom, I was unable to change the channel.
It starts out from the beginning of the sitcom and spans to the present day with interviews from Todd Bridges and Gary Coleman who were most likely consultants on the project. The bad acting and cheesy dialog right away became evident as most of the actors were unknowns and it was obvious that Quentin Tarentino was not in charge of the script. The scene where security guard Gary Coleman punched the lady who asked him for an autograph was a classic in cheesy scenes.
True to form, the actors really did not resemble the original cast members. The only one that bore somewhat of a resemblance to the actors was Dana Plato. The actor who played Mr. Drummond (Conrad Bain) looked like him but you could tell he was wearing tons of makeup. The guy who played the grown-up Gary Coleman was the absolute worst. Other than being short and black, he had nothing in common with the original actor or the other two actors who played Coleman in the movie. They should have just gotten Gary Coleman himself to play the role.
Finally, the storyline made just about everyone look bad. The people that looked the worst were the parents of the sitcom stars. Dana Plato's mother was an unfit parent who put drugs and sex ahead of her daughter. Todd Bridge's father was abusive and estranged from him and his mom. Gary Coleman's dad looked the worst of anyone in the movie, which is saying a lot. He forced Gary to continue with the show when he was really sick, took Gary's money, fought with the producers, made a scene almost everywhere he went, etc. Next, the producers of the show were just a step below the parents. They only seemed to care about the show and how much money they could make off it and did not give a damn about troubled stars whose lives were spiraling downward. I remember a scene where someone tells Gary Coleman that there are no friends in the acting business just professional acquaintances.
The stars themselves came out looking bad, albeit victims of mistreatment and bad parenting. Gary Coleman was portrayed as a bitter and ungrateful child actor who was always feuding with the producers, his parents and other stars of the show. They could have probably added another hour solely based on his relationship with his estranged wife and subsequent death at age 42. Todd Bridges and Dana Plato came across as washed-up actors who were given chance after chance to clean up their act and still could not. One surprising thing to come out of the movie was that they were carrying on an affair (something you wouldn't have gotten from the "E! True Hollywood Story"). The only person who came out looking good in the movie was Conrad Bain who seemed to genuinely care about the three stars.
Watching a movie is all about expectations. If you watch a movie expecting the next "Godfather", you're probably going to grade it much tougher and be disappointed. However, with this movie I don't think anyone expected a five-star masterpiece. While this movie is not good by the standards that a lot of movies are: plot, acting, dialog, etc. It is good in the fact that it meets people expectations and is entertaining to watch.
Boiler Room (2000)
Very Entertaining and Flashy From Start to Finish
"Boiler Room" is one of those few movies that is able to keep your interest throughout the whole two hours. When I first watched it, I wasn't expecting too much. However, I was so impressed with the witty dialog, the flashy characters and the sky's-the-limit premise, that I could not turn it off and I've since watched it many times over again.
It starts out with Seth Davis (Giovanni Ribisi) who is a recent college dropout. He is able to make a good living running a 24-7 poker game from his apartment. However, he is the midst of a moral crisis. On one hand, he wants to make a lot of money, which he is able to do through his poker parlor. But on the other hand, he wants to satisfy his hard-to-please father who is a judge and does not approve of his illegal venture. He soon runs into a childhood friend who turns him on to a job which will seemingly allow him to do both.
Seth starts working at the stock-selling firm JT Marlin which is miles away from Wall Street, both literally and figuratively. While there, he is surrounded by several aggressive, type-A personalities who are "f***ing millionaires" but have little in the way of discipline or morals. The movie does a great job in illustrating the kind of lifestyle that they lead. They live in huge mansions, are seen driving fancy cars, go out to classy bars and expensive restaurants, etc, etc.
His co-workers are wonderfully played by Ben Affleck, Vin Diesel, Nick Katt, and Thomas Everett Scott. Affleck has a relatively small role as the head recruiter who gives clever and motivational speeches to the trainees. His main purpose in the film is for comic relief, which he seems to have a knack for. Diesel, not usually know for his acting, gives a solid performance as fast-talking Chris Varick, who is the master at closing out clients over the phone. Katt plays Greg, a broker who takes Seth under his wing but soon becomes jealous of Seth and his quick rise to the top. It was a little bit disappointing that his character did not play as prominent of a role in the ending. I was expecting some kind of climax to the tension that was building up between him and Seth. However, the build-up seemed to be wasted in the end. Scott has a disappointingly small role as the two-faced head of the firm, Michael Brantley. He could have been a really interesting character in the movie but unfortunately very little time was devoted to him.
As Seth gets settled in to the firm and becomes very good at his job, he begins to question how the firm is able to legally pay out the large sums of money to its brokers. He soon finds out that everything is not all that it is cracked up to be. He goes from an innocent pawn with dreams of being a millionaire to a conscientious sympathizer who feels bad about the damage that he unknowingly has done. Toward the end, you begin to notice a change in both his demeanor and appearance. Ribisi, in one of his first starring roles, does a magnificent job in portraying Seth through his metamorphosis.
The biggest flaw in this movie is the romance between Seth and Abbie (Nia Long). I felt the movie could have better without it as it only really slowed down an otherwise fast-paced and entertaining movie. Its only purpose is to create tension between Seth and Greg (which never gets resolved) and to set Seth up for the ultimate betrayal (which could have been done by other means).
By the end, you (and Seth) begin to ask the question of "What if". Although the ending is a little bit disappointing, you definitely feel that sitting through the movie was two hours very well spent. The snappy dialog and colorful characters alone make it well worth-watching.
A Good Tale of Getting Revenge on the System
"Sleepers" is an underrated tale of loyalty, friendship and ultimate revenge on the American Justice System. Despite having an all-star cast which includes stars Brad Pitt, Robert DeNiro, Kevin Bacon, and Dustin Hoffman plus future stars in Minnie Drive and Billy Crudup, the movie never became a major box office hit and has become almost forgotten many years after its theatrical release.
The story starts out following the lives of four children growing up in the Hells Kitchen section of New York. The kids decide to pull a prank which goes horribly wrong and lands them in a juvenile detention facility. While at the facility, the boys are verbally and sexually abused by the guards. Once they get released, they make a pact never to talk about what went on at the facility. Fast forward to adulthood where two of the kids turn out to be criminals. They have a chance encounter with one of the guards (Kevin Bacon) at a restaurant and decide to take out years of frustration on him. With the other two boys being a defense attorney and a newspaper reporter, respectively, they decided to rig the murder trial while getting revenge on all people who were associated with the juvenile detention facility while they were there.
Thought slow moving at time, "Sleepers" does a great job in showing how loyalty and friendship can triumph over the Justice System which was supposed to protect them but ultimately failed them. It shows how one incident can change several people's life, for both the better and the worse. I liked how they made Brad Pitt's district attorney character come across as an effective prosecutor without making it obvious that he was trying to purposely lose the case. Robert DeNiro does an excellent job as a priest who mentors the main characters as kids and faces a moral crisis of remaining loyal to them when they are on trial.
Though the movie seems to come across as a true story, there are many plot holes. First, no judge in any court would sentence all four boys who are obvious close friends to the same detention facility. Secondly, the detention facility would never get away with killing Rizzo like they did in this movie. Anytime someone dies at a prison or juvenile facility, there is a thorough investigation. Thirdly, I find it hard to believe that no one would find a connection between the four boys, the juvenile detention center, and Sean Nokes. It was only 13 years ago and I'm sure that the murder would be all over the newspapers and someone would put two and two together. Lastly, what are the odds that Brad Pitt's character would actually get the case. There are probably thousands of other district attorneys in New York who would have a shot at prosecuting the case.
Despite these plot holes and an overly long running time (2 1/2 hours), I still recommend this movie and give it an 8/10.
The Family Man (2000)
Very Good Holiday Movie Despite It's Predictability
While this may not be a holiday classic, it is definitely an uplifting movie that is worth watching. It has a very good premise although that combines elements of two other Christmas movies ("It's A Wonderful Life" and "A Christmas Carol"). Nicolas Cage plays Jack Campbell, a self-centered business tycoon who is motivated by money and loves the city life. One day, he wakes and is living in the suburbs with a wife and two kids. Once this happens, the movie become a little bit campy and very predictable. It is easy to predict that he will hate his new life at first but eventually get used to it and change into a less self-centered person. Anyone with half a brain can figure out that Jack's family life will be a dream and Jack will wake up a changed man. Also, a lot of the scenes with Cash (Don Cheadle) are somewhat campy and do very little for the movie as a whole.
Despite all this, the movie is still very entertaining and funny. There are a lot of funny moments when Jack first realizes that his new life, responsibilities and budget are much different than his old one. He begins to realize that it may not be as lucrative but is definitely more rewarding.
While "The Family Man" may not be the best or most original movie you'll ever see, it is a very uplifting film with a good message about the importance of family.
Good Times (1974)
Great show early ...but suffered a decline in quality in later seasons
When "Good Times" premiered in 1974, it was one the first black family sitcoms. It centered on the poor Chicago-based Evans family and their struggles to make ends meet. Most of the early episodes focused on the parents, James and Florida Evans, and their struggle to provide for the family. John Amos and Esther Rolle were the best part of the show. They were terrific actors and had great chemistry as James and Florida Evans. They had three kids: J.J., Thelma, and Michael. J.J. was the skirt-chasing but well-meaning teenage son who made up for his lack of subtlety with artistic talent. Thelma was an attractive, bright girl who was constantly trading insults with J.J. Michael was a near child prodigy who was well-educated on social issues and was destined to become a lawyer.
In 1976, the producers made a huge mistake by firing John Amos, literally killing off his character. This really changed the focus, and not for the good I might add. The shows began to focus more on J.J. and his buffoon-like behavior which angered black viewers as well as series star Esther Rolle, who left after the next season. Instead of a show that focused on key African-American issues that existed in society at the time, viewers got shows that were overloaded with skirt chasing and fat jokes.
Once Esther Rolle left, the quality of the show suffered even more. Although it was still watchable, it was no longer the great ground-breaking show that it once was.
Although Esther Rolle came back for the 1978 season, it became obvious that the show was on its last legs. All loose ends were tied up during that season and the show quietly faded off the air.
First three season: A. Last three seasons: C+.
One Hour Photo (2002)
Underrated gem of a movie. SPOILERS!!!
While this movie was neither a huge box office success nor is one of Robin William's more popular films, I found it to be very well-made and realistic.
Most thrillers nowadays are very far-fetched and often tend to portray the antagonist as a one-dimensional psycho. This movie was very believable and did a terrific job of portraying Robin William's character Sy Parrish as a sympathetic but very disturbed figure. It is really hard to hate his character who seemingly just wanted to have a family of his own.
Throughout the movie, you learn that he is very lonely, has no family and loves his job as a photo tech. You also learn that has become obsessed with one of his customers and her family, has illegally amassed tons of their family photos and frequently stalks them outside their home. As the movie progresses, Sy becomes more disgruntled until he eventually snaps. Even when he ultimately snaps, you still kind of feel bad for him in a way.
While it may be argued that nothing was really resolved in the ending, I thought it was very appropriate. I really liked the fact that neither Sy (nor anyone else for that matter) was killed in the end. A lot of other movies will usually kill the villain because it is generally believed that he deserved to die. But that wasn't the case here as Sy was a very complex character.
Lastly I felt that this movie was not overly long and really flowed well. It's one of the few movies on home video that I can actually watch without hitting the stop or pause button at least once.
The Minus Man (1999)
Unbelievable Waste of Time
I cannot believe I just wasted two hours of my life on this movie. Normally if a movie is boring, I'll usually turn it off. But this movie was slow moving but kind of intriguing from the start. I kept thinking that something interesting would eventually happen but it never did. By the end of the movie, you're left feeling that very little happened and nothing was resolved. They could have saved a lot of money and effort by just making this into a faster paced one-hour episode of "Law & Order" instead of dragging this movie on for two hours.
Also, wasn't this the same movie as "American Psycho" except a lot less entertaining? I would suggest that movie instead.
What a Dummy (1990)
If this isn't the worst show ever, it definitely is the worst idea for a show.
As embarrassed as I am to admit it, I actually watched this show when I was little. Most short-lived shows that I've watched, I usually forget about. But this show was stupid to the point where you almost couldn't forget it. Back in the late 1980s/early 1990s, almost every syndicated show was awful ("Small Wonder", "Out Of This World", "Learning The Ropes", "She's The Sheriff", "The Munsters Today") and the bar was already set pretty low.
The thing that gets me is how in the world someone could pitch an idea of a family comedy which centers around a talking dummy and not get laughed out of the room. The fact that this show was actually picked for syndication makes me wonder what in the world these people were thinking. Didn't someone have the courage to stand up and say how unbelievably stupid of an idea this show was? I mean come on: A talking dummy? That is sure to give people nightmares for years to come.
I know that "Mr. Ed" had a far-fetched plot about a talking horse and became a successful sitcom. However, that show had wit and charm and a talking horse is a lot less freakier than a talking dummy.
I remember that every episode would use the same joke. Someone would say something stupid and the dummy would always respond by saying, "And they call me the dummy?"
Well, no, you're not the only dummy. The people who decided to put trash like this on the air are beyond stupid.