Sunday, October 05, 2008

Something to Watch

by Thomm

I went to the Baltimore Comicon last Saturday. It was only my second trip to a con, though I've been reading comics consistently for 31 years now. The whole concept never really appealed to me, but I went for the first time last year, mostly because I made a new friend in April of last year. My wife and I were on a vacation trip for our 15th wedding anniversary when we met Vaneta Rogers of Newsarama fame. Not that we knew she was of Newsarama fame at the time. It wasn't until the penultimate night of the trip that Vaneta and I realized we were both into comics, but we were already friends by that point. So, she was coming into town to cover the Baltimore Comicon for Newsarama, which lead me to attend, too.

All of which is a very round about way of getting to my point that a lot of the entertainment I've discovered is in seeing the people in costumes who shouldn't be. Zaftig Zatannas and Poison Ivys. Beer bellied Green Lanterns and black Spidermans. If you don't have the physique to wear the costume, what do you think you're doing? Ok, it's kind of amusing to me, but it's sort of sad, too. Now, there was a Harley Quinn who did it right, but most of the costumes that worked were a) of unnamed characters, and/or b) not skin tight. For instance, there were several Storm Troopers about the place and at least one alien for the old TV show V. The latter took me awhile to place and didn't lock in until I saw him posing for pictures with a couple of girls because he had a fake mouse to eat for the pictures. In both cases the costumes were not skin tight, nor were they of a specific person. Storm Trooper armor can hide a lot of less than Atlas forms, and the V aliens were disguised as regular schulbs, so it didn't matter the physique.

So if you're inclinded to be costumed for a con, pick something that works for your body type, not just something you like.

(The Baltimore Comicon, by the way, was packed on Saturday when I was there. The line for tickets was a half hour and wound out the front door. The Kirkman/Bendis panel on the future of the industry and the desirability of greater creator owned projects was fun and informative.)

Now, on to something else related to our title today. I'm recommending two TV shows to watch, because these are both excellent Imaginary Tales and deserve all the support they can get.

The first is Life, which is on NBC at 10:00 on Fridays. Its season premier was actually this past Monday, but Friday is its normal slot. The premise of the show is that Damian Lewis (a British actor playing an American, probably best known in the US as Major Richard Winters in Band of Brothers) plays a character named Charlie Crews. Crews is a LA police detective who was convicted of killing another cop and his family and sentenced to life in prison. After 12 years in prison he was freed when DNA evidence showed he didn't commit the crime. As a result of his civil suit against the department, he received a $50 mil settlement and was reinstated to his job. He's largely viewed by other cops as the enemy, sometimes including his partner, Dani Reese (played by Sarah Shahi). While in prison Crews developed a Zen philosophy on life and frequently espouses Zen thought processes during investigations. In addition to the investigations of a given crime during an episode, which always wrap up in that one episode, there's an over arching investigation, off the books, by Crews into who set him up for the murders. Because of his settlement, he has a lot of money to work with in doing that. Complicating his relationship with Reese is his discovery that her father, a retired ranking officer, is involved in the conspiracy, not to mention Reese's own issues with her father and a proclivity for anonymous sex with strange men.

The premise alone is a draw, but the execution is nigh on perfect. The fish out of water ex-con detective with a Zen placidity while investigating official crimes but a barely contained anger when confronting those behind the conspiracy that put him in prison is always well written. Lewis is a fantastic actor who brings the same sort of calm in the face of a storm that he brought to Winters in Band of Brothers. When called for, though, he brings out the passion of Crews in tracking down the conspiracy against him, regardless of who it implicates or the opposition of the police department. As an added bonus, Adam Arkin plays Ted Earley, Crews' buddy from prison who's a financial guru. Earley lives with Crews and helps manage his money and helps with the investigation into the conspiracy. I've always been a fan of Arkin (his father, too), and the Earley character provides a balance and reality check to Crews' sometimes tunnel vision in investigating the conspiracy. The show has also added Donal Logue to the cast this year as the station's captain, Kevin Tidwell. He's something of a fish out of water in his own right as a New Yorker transplanted to LA. He's only been in one episode so far, but he looks promising.

Check it out on Fridays. This sophomore show deserves a long and happy run. Like a lot of shows from last year, it was truncated by the writers' strike, so not a lot was missed in story line development if you didn't see the show last year. You can easily pick up what's going on now.

Which brings me to my second recommendation. This is also a sophomore show that was cut short in its rookie year. Pushing Daisies is on ABC on Wednesdays at 8:00. It's like nothing else you've seen on TV. The lead character is Ned(Lee Pace), a pie maker with a unique ability. If he touches someone who has died, they come back to life. The deceased comes back in whatever condition he or she died, so if she's all full of holes from a shooting, or as in this week's episode, all covered with swollen bee stings, it's an interesting conversation. Now, if the dead person remains alive for more than a minute after Ned touches him, someone else dies in a sort of Karmic balance thing. Also, if Ned touches the formerly dead person a second time, that person goes back to being dead. He learned these things when he was about 10 and his mother died of a brain anuerism. She came back when he touched her, but the father of his friend/girlfriend, Chuck (Anna Friel), died when Ned's mom was around for more than a minute. His mother then died again when she kissed him goodnight. Once the person dies the second time, Ned can't bring that person back again.

The rest of the quirky cast has complex circumstances, too. There's Chuck, who Ned had not seen for about 15 years after his mother and her father died, but who he still loves. Chuck was suffocated while on a cruise by an unknown killer. Ned brought her back to life and they've picked up their relationship, but they can never touch one another. There's Olive Snook (Krisetn Chenoweth), who works at the pie shop and also loves Ned, but knows he only has eyes for Chuck. Aside from that, Olive is aware of several other people's secrets, which she is not disclosing and which is driving her to distraction. There's Emerson Cod (Chi McBride), a PI who gets help from Ned and Chuck investigating homicides by talking to the dead people to get leads on who killed them. He also writes a children's pop-up book called Li'l Gumshoe. There are Chuck's aunts, who raised her, Lily (Swoozie Kurtz) and Vivian (Ellen Greene) Charles, former synchronized swimmers and most recently phobics who never left their house. Last but not least, there's Digby, Ned's dog who was hit by a car and killed but brought back to life by Ned. Like Chuck, Ned can't touch Digby.

Each episode is narrated by an unnamed voice so that each tale is told in much the way a fable or fairy tale is related. While Life is a serious show with humerous elements in the Zen detective, this show is entirely humorous, structured around the investigation of bizarre homicides each week. Like Life, though, the individual homicides are solved each week while the over arching story line of the relations between the various characters, and the particular problem of Ned and Chuck having a relationship in which they can't touch one another, moves forward across the episodes.

As with everything, 90% of what's produced for TV is crap. These shows are in the 10% that's not. Give them a look. I think you'll be happy you did.

1 comment:

  1. I'm loving Life so far. I still don't watch Pushing Daisies, but you're not the only friend who recommends it (Jason of Alter Ego Comics, whom you met last year, is also a fan).

    Great recommendations, and you already know I agree with your opinion on costumes! It was very cool seeing you again this year. :)