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True Blood: Strange Love (2008)
HBO tries to pull it's next big hit with True Blood - they've been trying to get a ratings winner since The Sopranos ended last year. There has been a multimillion dollar marketing campaign for the series - but did it all pay off? I have no problem with HBO picking up True Blood, but trying to make it their new signature show is definitely pushing it - were none of them at Alan Ball's pitch meeting to them - or do they assume that because Alan Ball is producing it, then it must be fairly similar Six Feet Under. It was stated by Alan Ball himself that this series was a more than slight departure from his previous work - that's not to say that it is stupid television - he labelled it popcorn TV for smart people. But it doesn't have the immediate large-scale appeal that shows such as The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, and Sex In The City had. It seems much more suited or limited to have a small cult following, and HBO have never been big on them - with the exception of The Wire.
This series was adapted by Alan Ball from the vampire novels authored by Charlaine Harris. Ball wrote and directed the pilot episode - along with taking the helm of the show for the foreseeable future. True Blood is centered around Sookie Stackhouse who is played by Academy Award winner Anna Paquin, a barmaid living in Louisiana who can read people's minds. When Vampire Bill (Stephen Moyer) shows up at the bar she is entranced by him; due to not being able to read his thoughts. Vampires have been 'out of the coffin' for a couple of years due to a synthetic blood drink that was developed to fulfill all of their nutritional needs - so they can live normally in society - I'm sure a lot of them don't take to assimilation too well. Vampires that are prominent in society and the media claim that they just want to be understood, and have the same rights that any human has. This show will probably use Vampires as a metaphor for other minority groups: homosexuals, African-American's, even Aboriginals; if they decide to delve into the complexities of assimilation. Sookie is joined by her over-sexed brother Jason, played by Ryan Kwanten (Vinnie from Home and Away), and her 'Gran' that they live with. At the bar there is Sam Merlotte, the owner of Merlotte Bar, where Sookie works. He is 'secretly' in love with Sookie, but how could you keep anything a secret from somebody who hears others thoughts. There is also Sookie's loud-mouthed best friend Tara (Rutina Wesley - who replaced Brook Kerr from the pre-air pilot) who has a thing for Jason.
It is very hard to judge how this series will turn out, but, so far I like it; the acting has been good, and the direction solid. I can't say too much on the writing because everything is still very vague - is that a comment in itself? With Alan Ball in charge I will definitely stick around for the season. Those expecting Six Feet Under will be disappointed, but that isn't to say that it will have any less depth - as Buffy did in it's time: there was so much depth hidden under and around all that genre-busting and camp. HBO must have seen something in this... there was a full season order, that has already been shot.
The West Wing: Pilot (1999)
A typical day at The West Wing
In this fairly light and fun introduction to The West Wing: Josh faces losing his job after offending Christians during an appearance on a talk show.
Leo must deal with 137 Cuban refugees who escaped on rafts and are seeking asylum.
Each character is introduced finding out on phone or pager about the President having a bicycle accident. This was a wonderful way of introducing the characters, it briefly shared some character traits and boasted a few nice looking sets.
The set of The West Wing was wonderfully put together and looked genuine. There is a long tracking shot through many rooms of the set and I was very impressed by their detail and that the rooms were all connected.
The character of Sam holds the episodes melodrama by accidentally sleeping with a call girl then telling unknowingly tells Leo's daughter about it. This may put his career on the line.
The pilot had a very upbeat and comedic tone. The dialogue was fast-paced and witty. The characters were interesting and they are the main reason I shall continue watching. The nature of the show allows them to deal with very serious subject matter which I am sure they will. This episode didn't delve into anything of great depth, but the light-hearted comedy was interesting enough. However, the great dialogue mixed with character-study and serious political subject matter is what I am hoping for.
Rome: The Spoils (2005)
Vorenus and Pullo
This is the episode I have been waiting for... kinda.
I'm not going to discuss what happened outside of Vorenus and Pullo's story. It didn't hold my attention and I found it to be the letdown of 'The Spoils'. Thankfully, Vorenus and Pullo make up more than half of the episode which is a first.
Pullo discovers the one thing he involved himself emotionally in wasn't real. He begins the inevitable down spiral involving: murder, solitude, more murder, and giving up completely.
When this is all done and giving up doesn't work, he stands up and remains loyal to the only thing left in his life that he can be proud of and that is: the thirteenth. Vorenus is touched and has forgiven Pullo on a very personal level. He helps Pullo and shows his loyalty and pride for the thirteenth. Vorenus has made a sacrifice and I suspect there will be great consequence to his actions.
The Second Homecoming
Vorenus and Pullo put down their swords and return to the city once again. Niobe and Lyde run a profitable butcher shop and convince reluctant Vorenus and Pullo to work there. Everything seems to be going well for Vorenus until he makes waves with a local thug, now crime lord. Pullo seemed envious of Vorenus' situation at home and is searching for meaning and happiness. He grows closer to the slave Eirene during this time and seems happier with her.
Octavian returns home from military school and Caesar appoints him a pontiff despite his age.
Servilia takes Atia's role of master manipulator this episode when she persuades Octavia to find out more regarding Caesar's affliction from Octavian. Octavia's method of extracting the truth from Octavian results in dire consequences for both of them, and Servilia.
I have always loved the relationship between Vorenus and Pullo and this episode shows more of that. Pullo is just so loyal Vorenus - I love it. Vorenus being promoted by Caesar may not help Pullo's questionable emotional state and loyalty to his friend.
The scene with the defeated Cato and Sciopio is shot wonderfully and has a gorgeous look to it. The background of the city from the outdoor-ish scene between Octavia and Octavian also had me in awe.
Rome: An Owl in a Thornbush (2005)
Caesar continues on to Rome while the citizens are forced to pick sides.
Pompey forces the Roman citizens to pick sides and orders a strategic retreat from the city.
Atia recruits Timon to do her dirty work for her, this demonstrates just what Atia will do to get what she wants.
My favourite parts of the episode were Lucius and Titus bonding while on a scouting mission. Their exchanges of dialogue were funny and their characterisation interesting.
Atia's home under siege by an angry mob was a highly entertaining scene. The family discuss who will each other if the mob makes it inside.
'An Owl in a Thornbush' is as good, if not better than 'How Titus Pullo Brought Down the Republic'
Titus and Lucius: Homecoming
After eight years at war and the recent recovery of the eagle standard and Octavian, Titus and Lucius probably thought they would have received a hero's homecoming.
Lucius' wife and children are emotionally distant from their long awaited husband and father. His daughter has a baby and wants to marry the father who is not yet a man.
Titus' care-free existence is put on an early hold when he gets into a bar fight with scam artists and is nearly killed.
Atia continues her soap-inspired scheming and plotting.
Caesar begins his angry return trip to Rome.
There was more activity in this episode than 'The Stolen Eagle'. Excepting a few flat acting performances it was good. The episode kept me in anticipation of Caesar's return to Rome and I look forward to seeing 'An Owl in a Thornbush'.
Rome: The Stolen Eagle (2005)
The foundations of a power struggle seesaw are laid
Firstly, I have no interest in accents or historical accuracy.
The aspect of Rome that stood out the most were the sets. The art direction and attention to detail are magnificent.
While that is probably a bad thing; I have always respected television shows that feel they need to put money into sets and detail.
Judging by the pilot, the story that will run throughout the duration of the series will be the power struggle between Gaius Julius Caesar, and Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus.
Rome is governed equally between these two men. Ceaser has been away at war in Gaul for eight years and has gained popularity due to his success. Pompeius is threatened and jealous and wishes to throw Ceaser out of government. The struggle begins.
My biggest problem with the pilot is the dialogue. I found it extremely amateur, many lines were dull or cringe worthy.
However the pilot kept my attention and I will give Rome a few more episodes to improve.
Dexter: Waiting to Exhale (2007)
Dexter takes a masterclass in failure and rebirth
'Waiting to Exhale' kicks off right where the second season premiere left us. The themes and plots continue to grow from 'It's Alive!'
Deb's psychological state is put on presentation, while on the clock.
Dexter makes rushed decisions and goes places he never thought he would. He also puts things to rest after observing others do the same.
Suspenseful and eventful.
This episode marks a crossroads where certain elements are tied up but the effect they made still lingers strongly. The show could go anywhere from here.
The sub-plot involving Lt. Esmee Pasquale is the only thing holding back a 10/10.
Dexter: It's Alive! (2007)
All of Dexter's strengths are demonstrated while new dynamics are added
This is probably the best episode yet of Dexter.
It's been 38 days since Dexter's last kill and he is in desperate need for a fix. Sgt. Doakes has been watching him like a hawk, so he has had to try blend in even more than before. How better to blend in than to join a bowling team with Angel! The opening narration mirroring the pilot episode was hilarious as the reality behind it was revealed.
Everything I love about Dexter was in this episode. The show took a different turn and many new dynamics were added to the mix. All of the characters stories are introduced and begin to take shape in this episode, with Dexter dealing with quite a number of conflicts in this episode alone.
Morally conflicted Dexter is forced to make difficult choices
Firstly Dexter is an examination of the human condition using a morally disjointed protagonist.
The Sopranos deals with this theme in much greater depth and detail. Dexter doesn't hold a candle to it.
The ice-truck killer was everything I expected and more. I was somewhat disappointed in the unveiling of said individual, and the way the story unfolded after the revelation.
The way the ice-truck killer impacted and conflicted Dexter was excellent - just as any good villain should - but the episodes didn't examine these psychological conflicts the way I thought they should have.
Dexter took it's time revealing and unfolding the story of the ice-truck killer, but the moral conflicts of Dexter were dealt with quickly (that's not to say his moral conflicts are resolved) and could have used longer study time.
The show has somewhat worked as a plot-driven character study. But I want less plot and more character.
I have disliked the narration in Dexter except for a few comedic lines. So much of the narration is repeated information in the form of something much easier to understand.
Naturally the nature and plot of this show will generate fan-boy praise. I just hope people never see this show as something as good or better than The Sopranos. But, hey - it's only the first season.