Is THE VENTURE BROTHERS the Best-Written Show on TV?

We lurves us our VENTURE BROTHERS for many reasons, and, yeppers, writing is at the top of the list. In the following article, Jeff Rindskopf of CheatSheet shows how good a writer he is as well:

Brock-Venture-Bros.by Jeff Rindskopf

It takes a lot of talent to make something as deliriously silly as Adult Swim’s ultra-violent Johnny Quest parodyThe Venture Bros. into something that is often genuinely touching. Luckily, there’s a lot of talent and time put into making The Venture Bros., a series that has slowly evolved from a thin parody of Saturday morning cartoons into perhaps the best written series on television.

It’s certainly the most dense. Obscure pop culture references, episode callbacks, and character-based jokes whiz by like bullets in any given episode, far too fast for anyone to catch everything in one viewing. The density of the joke-writing is outmatched by the complexity of the series’ continuity, which routinely turns one-off throwaway characters into important players a season or two down the line. What other series would turn a modern day wannabe pirate or a slightly sociopathic parody of Mr. Fantastic of the Fantastic Four into fully-fledged characters who mature between episodes in unexpected, hilarious, and often vaguely tragic ways. Before the long-awaited season premiere last Sunday, the last episode was the hour-long special “All This and Gargantua 2,” which serves as an impressive showcase for the series’ enormous roster of characters and the creators’ ability to juggle them all somehow.

 Of course, the series wasn’t always like this. When the show first premiered in 2003, it was comparatively simple, a straightforward if brutal parody show whose characters were barely one-dimensional — from the self-involved failed super scientist Rusty Venture living in his father’s shadow to the bloodthirsty beefcake bodyguard and airheaded sons he dragged around with him.

In five short seasons, the series has deepened that core cast, often by fearlessly upsetting their status quo with each new season, while building out the supporting cast to include hundreds of heroes and villains — though actual morality is rarely so cut and dry in the Venture-verse….

Read it all at TV Cheat Sheet

Diana Vacc Sees THE SHANNARA CHRONICLES

Shannara-official1

by Diana Vaccarelli

MTV original programming adapts the SHANNARA CHRONICLES, a series of novels written by the late Terry Brooks from 1977 through 2015.
The TV version begins with the world in great danger because the Ellcyrs tree, which is the only piece of magic that is protecting the world from Demons, is dying. Will our little band of warriors succeed in saving the day?

THE GOOD:

• The best parts of SHANNARA are the special effects and the set designs. You really feel like you’re a part of a fascinating new world. The series is visually stunning. And let’s not forget the Demons. Their appearance is simply brilliant.
• The acting is topnotch. Especially that of Manu Bennett, who plays Allanon, a Human Druid with magical powers.

THE BAD:

• The writing just doesn’t make it for me. Storywise, it was like revisiting THE LORD OF THE RINGS. The hero, Wil (yes, that’s how it’s spelled), even has to go on a quest (for stones) way too similar to a certain quest for “the one ring to rule over all.”
• The writing is off in other ways as well. Especially the dialog, which is, in a word, cheesey. Come on, Hollywood, let’s use our brains. OUTLANDER manages to keep us in suspense while remaining true to the basics of the story and the setting in the books by giving us fascinating characters and plot twists…and dialog that never makes us wince.

OVERALL:

Diehard fans of the SHANARRA books probably will be more than satisfied with THE SHANNARA CHRONICLES simply because it brings them to life. But if you’ve never read the books, the similarities to THE LORD OF THE RINGS may turn you off. If you’re unfamiliar with both series of books and are one of the three people in the world who haven’t seen the LOTL films, the look and acting just might hook you into sticking around to see how the story ends. As for me, I’ll continue to watch because…well, because it’s Shanarra! In the “flesh!”

Guess I’m just one of those diehards.


Diana Vaccarelli is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor. Learn more about her HERE

Firestorm? More like Fire Storm!

This article about the new series LEGENDS OF TOMORROW could have been called “Geting It Wrong.” But writer Marc Alan Fishman takes a much more creative approach, which, fortunately, is neither kinder nor gentler than the subject matter deserves:

Firestormby Marc Alan Fishman

Just as my ComicMix cohort, the Legend of Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow Denny O’Neil, I have jumped gently back into the TV fracas again with DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. Denny was quick to note in the macro that the show harkens to a very base pulp root – that of myth of the voyage. But my gaze is far more acutely focused on but a single moment from the first episode of the CW’s titular team up.

Shortly after The Doctor – um, I mean Rip Hunter – has pitched woo to each of his would-be Legends, we’re treated to the monotony of joining each member as they pack up their lives to go adventuring. With seemingly everyone on board, we assume smooth sailing… until we reach the immaculate home of Professor Martin Stein. There, amidst his country bumpkin bric-a-brac, Stein and his young ward (Jax Jackson, because all other actual comic-approved merger-buddies are not living…) minced mean words. You see Mr. Jackson, with his youth and a future in tact, wasn’t as elated to traipse across time and space with a band of would-be time cops. Stein frankly couldn’t care less.

And that my friends, is where the show jumped the King Shark.

The known pacifist who was shown previously to prioritize his love of his wife above all else felt it OK to drug his would-be co-hero and drag his sleepy ass onto the ersatz-Tardis because he wanted to. This of course led to Jax waking up, getting angry, eventually getting into plot-driven danger, and ultimately seeing Stein’s way of thinking. It helps that he’s only as smart as the story requires him to be. So a little metaphorical football teamwork was all it took for Jax to forgive and forget. The show of course is in its infancy and perhaps I’m being needlessly picky. But I digress, you see. Being needlessly picky is sort of my super power.

Up until this point, I’ve kept a keen eye on Firestorm in the the DC-CW-TV-U. Amidst all the typical TV dramady tropes revolving around love, revenge, justice, love, romance, kissing, punching, and love, Firestorm has been a calming presence once his origin was ironed out. Stein is as he was in the comics – level-headed, intelligent, and wiser then his would-be counterparts. It’s really the whole hook of the character when you think on it. By pairing the super scientist with jocks and jackanapes the character becomes an inner-monologue of arguments while all the action happens on panel. And as we catch up with Firestorm on Legends of Tomorrow, it’s as close to a comic book scene that reintroduces us to the pair: Jax pilots the body, hurling fireballs at the assailants, while Stein barks orders to refrain from igniting any of the precariously placed chemical receptors around the crime scene. When the criminals are captured, and Firestorm de-Firestorms, Stein and Jackson bicker boisterously as they should….

Read it all at Comic Mix

2015: The Year Television Figured Out How to Present Mental Illness

TV has always featured crazy characters. Now, however, television writers are finally being allowed to present mental illness as it really is. Could the Dark Ages when sufferers were depicted as either still or evil be over at last?

illness

by Alison Herman

Television’s defining trait as a medium is its length. We spend anywhere from four to 24 hours a year with our shows, which breeds both intimacy (hence, “our shows”) and inevitable frustrations. It’s no coincidence that we refer to so many of the shorter, pricier series found on cable and streaming, and the more deliberate visual style they allow for, as “cinematic” TV; we still think of the perfunctory direction that comes with cranking out episodes as the price we pay for weekly entertainment. It’s also no coincidence that TV’s greatest leaps forward involve using the platform’s extended, open-ended nature to its advantage. 

That advantage often lies in characters — our investment in them, our knowledge of likes and dislikes, phobias and foibles accrued over years spent in their company. Mad Men, one of the finest shows in recent memory, ultimately spanned a decade in its protagonists’ lives, covering any number of breakdowns and breakthroughs while maintaining its unhurried pace. Yet it’s not Mad Men I turn to when thinking of the shifts 2015 has brought to the medium, but a cluster of shows that are just beginning their runs and the unlikely theme that unites them.

I remember the exact moment I was sold on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the best new show of the year and the only network debut this fall to leave a lasting impression. Our antiheroine, Rebecca Bunch, has just abandoned her high-paying job as a New York corporate attorney to chase her former summer camp beau Josh, and the idea of blissful simplicity he represents, to West Covina, California (just two hours from the beach!). Cringe comedy is a hard sell for me, even when done well; though I trusted creator-star Rachel Bloom enough to resist judging her show by its title, I felt ready to relegate it to the Veep-topped pile of shows I’d catch up on when I had the stomach for it.

And then it showed us Rebecca defiantly flushing her meds down the sink. Huh, I thought. That’s such a casual way to mention she’s on meds. No overblown reveal or anything. How nice! 

Read it all at Flavorwire

Diana Vacc Sees ASH VS. EVIL DEAD

ash-vs-evil-dead-bloodby Diana Vaccarelli

Starz Network does it again with their great original programming. First came SPARTACUS, then OUTLANDER, and now ASH VS. EVIL DEAD. The series follows Bruce Campbell as the chainsaw-armed character of Ash 30 years after he was last seen in the film ARMY OF DARKNESS. Ash has been living a quiet life in a small town, but now the evil dead are back and it’s up to him to save the world…again.

THE GOOD:

• This is funny and scary at the same time. I both laughed out loud and jumped in shock at various moments. Sometimes at the same time.

• Creators Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell bring back a cult classic that many enjoyed and don’t disappoint. The writing and dialogue are better than ever, and the story line is fantastic in every way. Case in point: Ash is now a middle-aged slacker. At last – something I haven’t seen before!

THE BAD:

• The special effects were awful and extremely unrealistic. In this type of genre I want to see blood and guts in full, gritty, practical effects or CGI reality, not cheesy tomato sauce poured all over my screen.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

Cult fans of the films who are looking for an update without a special effects upgrade will be extremely satisfied with Ash’s return to our lives. Others may be a tad disappointed, but I know I’m going to do my best to be grateful for these dead.

Enjoy, and happy TV watching!


Diana Vacc is TVWriter™’s Critic-At-Large. Find out more about her HERE

munchman sees A VERY MURRAY CHRISTMAS

Robert Mitchum's corpse gives us his best Bill Murray face...and fails

Robert Mitchum’s corpse gives us his best Bill Murray face…and fails

by munchman

Talk about a predicament!

On the one hand, Yer Friendly Neighborhood munchola has to confess here and now that he absolutely lurves Bill Murray. Many’s the night, in fact, that I’ve YouTubed myself to sleep listening to My Hero spend a magnificent 59 seconds doing his inimitable rendition of the STAR WARS theme. Nobody does it like Billy Baby, not even Ella Fitzgerald.

On the other hand, I Netflixed A VERY MURRAY CHRISTMAS the other night, and, well, let me put it this way: Why the hell was the fantastically unfunny – and D-E-A-D Robert Mitchum running around the Carlyle Hotel pretending to be the Murrayman in a Christmas special so unspecial that it made director Sofia Coppola’s snoozily inept LOST IN TRANSLATION (which starred the real Bill Murray) look like (no, not an Oscar winner – never!) a Golden Globe nominee?

Here’s my tally:

THE GOOD:

  • Maya Rudolph can really fucking sing!
  • So can Miley Cyrus, who at her tender age, whatever the fuck it is, has blossomed into the one thing her father could never be – a consumate pro.
  • David Johansen lives and does a wonderful Tom Waits!
  • Paul Shaffer is a much better piano player than his David Letterman personality would ever have led me to believe.

THE BAD:

  • Bob Mitchum’s corpse’s terrible impersonation of My Beloved Bill.
  • The script, by Mitchum (I presume because it’s so damn dead), the gloriously connected and ingloriously untalented Ms. Coppola, and Mitch Glazer, who wrote the okay-because-it-starred-the-Real-Bill SCROOGED and who was married to the extremely cool Wendie Malick for a couple days, reminded me so much of THE EMPEROR’S NEW CLOTHES that I kept screaming, over and over, “There’s nothing there!”
  • Everything else but the music, which would have actually been kind of good if it wasn’t all, you know, that overtired Christmas stuff.

CONCLUSION:

Goddammit, you know what the conclusion’s gonna be: Stay away from this thing and the people who made it cuz the only thing they could possibly have been thinking of was was how much contempt they had for Netflix. Or Bill Murray fans. Or, I dunno, everyone.

munchmanavatarlg

yer friendly neighborhood muncher!


The grinch who calls himself munchman is TVWriter™’s official, authorized scapegoat. Now, just between us, aren’t you glad we have the lovely Diana Vaccarelli doing most of our reviews these days? Don’t you wish she’d done this one?