Monday, 31 May 2010

Summer programming


I always underestimate the amount of television that's on over the summer, mainly because British TV doesn't really work seasonally like American TV so there's less of an obvious drought. But considering the fact I watch a lot of US shows (or blog about them more often, anyway), it's still going to be slower than usual from now until September. So I thought I'd mention the shows I'm intending to watch over the summer on broadcast TV, or catch-up with on box-set:

On Now: Spartacus (Bravo, Wednesdays) The jury's out because I didn't like the first episode, but I'm prepared to give it a go because I've been told Spartacus picks up remarkably and the finale's fantastic. Who knows, maybe I'll agree. Or maybe I'll never speak to those people ever again for making me sit through weeks of Lucy Lawless' boobs and blood. Yeah, as if that's a bad thing.

7 June: Persons Unknown (NBC, Mondays) A new series about strangers waking up in a weird, remote town and having to escape. It's The Prisoner meets Lost, then. Sounds horribly derivative, but could be great. Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects) is a good writer, so I have hope for something interesting. I will probably review this in its entirety, as I'm a sucker for the concept.

13 June: True Blood (HBO, Sundays) The jewel of summer programming is this sweaty, sexy vampire drama. As usual, I'll be watching and posting reviews every week. Such a shame the UK trails behind with this series, as season 2 has yet to even start on Channel 4.

1 Aug: Rubicon (AMC, Sundays) This brand new conspiracy thriller starring The Pacific's James Badge Dale (right) and Miranda Richardson has my interest. I'll definitely be checking out the first episode, at any rate.

I won't be reviewing...

25 June: Mad Men (AMC, Fridays) I adore the show, and following the game-changing events of last season's finale I'm tempted to start watching at US-pace, but I think I'll resist. I manage to avoid spoilers for the half-year necessary (rather amazingly), and much prefer watching it on BBC HD in spring.

BOX-SETS / SEASON WRAPUPS

I've been watching three TV shows without reviewing them here every week; either because they're not conducive to episodic review, I haven't had the time to fit them into my schedule weekly, or I actually wanted to do a seasonal summary for them instead.

Expect season reviews for In Treatment Season 1 (left), The Good Wife Season 1 and possibly the short-lived US version of Touching Evil from 2004.

That sounds like plenty to be getting on with, but we'll see how it goes. If there are some obvious gaps going unfilled, I may start reviewing a box-set episodically (as I did Twin Peaks last summer), or check out a few pilots for shows readers often recommend to me. If one of those pilots grabs my interest, maybe I'll continue reviewing it in some way.

Suggestions welcome! I'm often tempted to catch-up with some blind spots in my TV viewing every summer, like The Sopranos or The Shield. Let me know if you think there's something I should get on.

'24', 8.22 – "1:00PM – 2:00PM"

WRITER: David Fury
DIRECTOR: Milan Cheylov
GUEST CAST: Gregory Itzin, Michael Madsen, Thomas Ryan, Nick Jameson, John Boyd, Reed Diamond, Jennifer Westfeldt, Graham McTavish, Necar Zadegan & Navid Negahban
[SPOILERS] A very exciting and engrossing hour, with events heating up as we approach the series finale. There's been no change of plan with where the show's headed recently, it's just doing a very effective job of tightening the screws every hour as Jack (Kiefer Sutherland) takes increasingly drastic measures to avenge his girlfriend's murder. While the peace treaty remains only of vague interest as the "stakes" in this game, I'm enjoying the political tangle of Presidents and former-Presidents trying to manoeuvre their way out of a tough situation with Jack as a kind of boogieman that can't be stopped...

To recap: Reporter Meredith (Jennifer Westfeldt) arranged to meet her editor Klausner (Thomas Ryan) to pass on her evidence that the Russians were behind President Hassan's assassination, unaware that President Taylor (Cherry Jones) was aware of her findings and gave the FBI an executive order to arrest her; Jack got a location for Logan (Gregory Itzin) and attacks his motorcade, kidnapping the former-President and demanding answers about who in the Russian government was behind Renee's death; Chloe (Mary Lyn Rajskub) released Cole (Freddie Prinze Jr) from custody to go after Jack's accomplice Ricker (Michael Madsen); Kayla (Nazneen Contractor) received a call from Meredith telling her about the Russian involvement with her father's death; and Logan assured the visiting President Suvarov (Nick Jameson) that Jack will never uncover his role in the day's events, unaware that Jack's planted a listening device on his collar...

There were some great sequences here, particularly Jack's masked assault on Logan's motorcade single-handed, which saw Logan blubbing like a frightened schoolgirl at the mere sight of his nemesis. The interesting thing right now is that Jack's decision to take matters into his own hands has become a bloodbath, and I'm not sure how the show's going to justify his actions in the end. He's working to expose a terrible lie, but this is by far the most extreme way to go about doing that. And how will Taylor possibly come out of this intact? As Logan says, everything has been her decision, so she'll surely have to resign in disgrace as a tragic casualty of his season from a moral standpoint.

Overall, it really does feel like we're building up to a fantastic conclusion with 24 this year, which I'm so relieved to see.

30 MAY 2010: SKY1/HD, 9PM

TV Picks: 31 May – 6 June 2010 (5 O'Clock Show, BAFTA TV Awards, Chuck, Fifth Gear, Pulse, The Secret Diaries Of Miss Anne Lister, and more...)


BANK HOLIDAY MONDAY
The 5 O'Clock Show (Channel 4, 5pm) Brand new teatime chat-show, with Peter Andre as the first guest host. Featuring Louis Walsh & Patsy Palmer. Continues weekdaily.
Britain's Got Talent (ITV1, 7.30pm) The live shows begin, with results at 9.30pm. Continued daily until Saturday's finale.
The Secret Diaries Of Miss Anne Lister (BBC2, 9pm) Drama about Yorkshire landowner, traveller, diarist and industrialist Anne Lister. Stars Maxine Peake & Anna Madely.
Chuck (Virgin1, 9pm) Season 3 of the action spy-comedy drama. Stars Zachary Levi, Yvonne Strahovski & Adam Baldwin.

TUESDAY 1st
World Cup's Most Shocking Moments (BBC3, 8pm) Countdown of the 50 biggest shock of the World Cup. Hosted by Richard Bacon & Peter Crouch.
Bodyshock: I'm Turning Into A Giant (Channel 4, 10pm) The story 31-year-old Tanya Angus, who is 6ft 8 and 32 stone but still growing.

WEDNESDAY 2nd
Atlantis: The Evidence – A Timewatch Special (BBC2, 9pm) Investigation into the legendary Lost City of Atlantis.

THURSDAY 3rd
Fifth Gear (Five, 7.30pm) New series of the motoring magazine show.
Pulse (BBC3, 9pm) Medical-horror pilot about a trainee doctor who realizes the hospital she's being taught at hides a terrifying secret. Stars Claire Foy & Ben Mills.
Little Ships (BBC2, 9.30pm) 50 surviving ships from Dunkirk return to France to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the legendary WWII rescue effort.

FRIDAY 4th
When Romeo Met Juliet (BBC2, 9pm) Two schools work together on a production of Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet.
Fighting The Red Baron (Channel 4, 9pm) Documentary about two modern pilots facing challenges that WWI pilots faced.

SATURDAY 5th
Nothing.

SUNDAY 6th
Scrapheap Challenge (Channel 4, 5.25pm) Engineering challenge show. Hosted by Dick Strawbridge.
Soccer Aid (ITV1, 6pm) Charity match between England and The Rest Of The World. Featuring Robbie Williams, Gordon Ramsay, Mike Myers, Zinedine Zidane, Paolo Maldini & Alan Shearer. Hosted by Dermot O'Leary, Orlando Bloom & Gary Barlow.
BAFTA Television Awards (BBC1, 8pm) Annual awards ceremony. Hosted by Graham Norton.
Hammond Meets Moss (BBC4, 9pm) Top Gear's Richard Hammond meets racing car legend Stirling Moss.
Big Brother Exposed: The Inside Story (Channel 4, 10pm) Documentary looking back at a decade of Big Brother, as the reality show is about to start its final series.
Piers Morgan's World Cup South Africa (ITV1, 10pm) Documentary about the host nation of the football World Cup for 2010.

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Armored (2009) [Blu-ray]

DIRECTOR: Nimród Antal
WRITER: James V. Simpson
CAST: Matt Dillon, Jean Reno, Laurence Fishburne, Amaury Nolasco, Milo Ventimiglia, Skeet Ulrich & Columbus Short
RUNNING TIME: 88 mins. BUDGET: $20m
Directed with unfussy precision by Nimród Antal, Armored is a B-movie heist with an interesting mix of actors helping keep interest in what unfortunately doesn't have a devastating impact, killer twist or unexpected resolution up its sleeve to turn it into a cult classic. It's content to be a serviceable and occasionally inventive crime thriller with a decent premise that's easy to achieve on a relatively low budget and limited locations...

Ty Hackett's (Columbus Short) a veteran of the Iraq War now employed by a security company to transfer money between banks as part of an armoured car transport team. The guardian of his delinquent kid brother following the death of their parents, money's tight and social services are threatening to take Ty's sibling into care, so in desperation he agrees to help his work colleagues steal $42 million from the Federal Reserve by faking their own robbery mid-transit and hiding the cash in an abandoned steel mill. As expected, even simple and apparently infallible plans tend to go awry when you involve so many people and fail to consider every variable -- not least a crisis of conscience...


This is a neat idea for a tight, efficient thriller. Armored proves to be watchable and occasionally compelling, helped by the surprising calibre of the cast: Matt Dillon as greedy ringleader Cochrane, Laurence Fishburne as unhinged Baines, Skeet Ulrich as the desperate Dobbs, a wasted Jean Reno as loner Quinn, Amaury Nolasco (Prison Break) as the conflicted Palmer, and Milo Ventimiglia (Heroes) as a young cop who stumbles upon the heist. Short makes for a decent lead, but this is one of those movies where everyone's on the level of archetypes and he's simply "the black guy with a conscience" who decides to sabotage the robbery once it starts to go off the rails and results in the death of an innocent bystander.

The majority of Armored is a fun and (literally) contained piece of tight drama, particularly once Ty locks himself inside a debilitated armoured truck with $21 million and every intention of raising the alarm, meaning his "friends" are under pressure to neutralize him and retrieve the remaining money before their superiors begin to suspect something's happened.

Armored also works as reflection of widespread public contempt and anger at the banking system, as it essentially boils down to a blue-collar gang stealing back the millions that taxpayers have pumped into the banks to keep them afloat during the global recession. Is it coincidence the security firm's called Eagle Shield, as that bird of prey's the symbol of the United States? The characters in Armored may be stealing, but there's a Robin Hood flavour to their plan, and I have no doubt audiences will feel a degree of sympathy seeing everyday folk recoup some of the public's lost finances, at least until desperation and greed starts to push the characters into dark, unforgivable places.


Blu-ray Review

Picture: (2.35:1, 1080p/AVC MPEG-4) A very detailed and generally pleasing image, especially during close-ups, although the black levels looked crushed occasionally.

Sound: (English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1) A solid sound-mix with clear dialogue, rumbling bass, and a strong dynamic range with good use of speakers, but nothing to raise it above enjoyable.

Special Features

Audio Commentary: Producer Dan Farah joins actors Skeet Ulrich and Milo Ventimiglia for a yak-track consisting of anecdotes and some insight into what didn't make the cut from the script. As expected whenever actors get together, it's a little lacking in many areas and there are some noticeable silences, so I wouldn't recommend this. Shame director Nimród Antal wasn't involved in this.

Planning The Heist: Making Of (HD, 15 mins.) A decent featurette that looks at how the movie was put together and individual characters, plus a nice anecdote from Nimród Antal about how a real armoured truck company severed ties with the production crew when they were robbed shortly after providing the film crew some insight into their working practices. A word of warning: don't watch this if you haven't seen the movie first, as it gives away a few twists.

Armed & Underground: Production Design (HD, 6 mins.) Serviceable EPK about how production designer Jon Gary Steele created the abandoned steel mill (a real location for exteriors, but a sound-stage for the interiors), but this wasn't really engrossing.

Crash Course: Stunts (HD, 11 mins.) Take-it-or-leave-it featurette about the film's stunts by Lance Gilbert, which didn't grab my interest until a reveal that in one sequence Gilbert was strapped onto a truck's roof to drive the vehicle from above, but removed using digital technology.

Previews: Trailers for "2012", "Michael Jackson's This Is It" and the ubiquitous "Blu-ray Is High Definition" promo.

Extras: BD Live and MovieQ functionality is included, for the few people who bother to use them.

'DOCTOR WHO' 5.9 - "Cold Blood"

WRITER: Chris Chibnall
DIRECTOR: Ashley Way
GUEST CAST: Arthur Darvill, Neve McIntosh, Meerya Syal, Robert Pugh, Nia Roberts, Richard Hope, Stephen Moore, Alun Raglan & Samuel Davies
[SPOILERS] A spirited conclusion to last week's scene-setter, if inherently less suspenseful and let down by bathetic moments and a trite voice-over/prologue that gave everything a pretentious feel. "Cold Blood" was nevertheless a bouncy hour, if one that never found a way to become the action-packed instalment it could have easily become, choosing instead to focus on rather dull discussion about the possibility of a Silurian/human alliance...

This was the kind of episode where individual moments worked very well, but the bigger picture disappointed. I loved how companions Amy (Karen Gillan) and Rory (Arthur Darvill) were treated, however; both engaged in stories above and below the surface that separated them from The Doctor (Matt Smith) for awhile, who was instead partnered with Nasreen (Meera Syal). Amy picking a pocket to escape from her restraints and creep around corridors with a giant laser-gun showed her character at its assertive best, until the script started giving her silly quips and showing her in a bad light (head in her arms, bored at a meeting to broker peace with the Silurians.) Failing that, she could usually be found screeching "Doctor!" before and after pouting. It's frustrating because I think Karen Gillan could be marvellous in this role (watch "The Eleventh Hour" again), but most of the writers don't seem to know how to write for a brusque, flirtatious, confident, sexy young woman. So she often just becomes a spikier version of Rose.

The guest cast were stronger this week, particularly Nia Robert's character Ambrose, who wound up electrocuting Silurian prisoner Alaya (Neve McIntosh) to death over her desperation to get her kidnapped son Elliot (Samuel Davies) back home safely. It was a moment that ultimately destroyed any chance of peace between humans and Silurians, much to The Doctor's obvious anger and disappointment as the instrument of that potential peace. It's actually very interesting and mildly shocking whenever The Doctor's faith in humanity is defeated like this. "Cold Blood" also made him appear quite fragile when he was captured and endured a painful Silurian scan. Actually seeing The Doctor in pain (or wrong about trusting people to behave impeccably) doesn't happen all that often, which makes it more dramatic when it does. The Eleventh Doctor's not to everyone's taste, but I appreciate how his presence no longer makes you naturally relax and feel everything's going to be okay in the end. He's more fallible and easily angered than recent incarnations.

Thus episode climaxed on a surprising note of failure for The Doctor, as another "crack" appeared and distracted everyone long enough for anti-human Silurian Restak (Neve McIntosh again) to kill Rory with a fatal laser blast. Even worse, the crack's tendrils of energy snared Rory's body and essentially erased his timeline, rendering the grief-stricken Amy oblivious to her fiancé ever existing a few minutes later in the TARDIS. It was a tragic end for their relationship (similar to Donna Noble's memory-wipe in series 4), and a failure only The Doctor's aware of and thus burdened with. Juicy stuff, to be sure, although the lack of chemistry between Gillan and Darvill meant the moment didn't resonate on an emotional level, and it was unfortunate Rory had recently "died" during "Amy's Choice". Amy losing him and realizing how much she actually loved him has become his sole reason to exist on the show.

Overall, "Cold Blood" could have been a lot more challenging and creative in where its story went, but the use of all the characters was a huge improvement over last week (even Meera Syal was better, if still dull), and there were enough impressive moments to keep you engaged. This was definitely a decent end to a lukewarm start, if unlikely to be an episode you'll ever want to revisit.

Asides
  • The effects and gleaming set design for the Silurian's underground city was excellent, considering the budget. Unlike ABC's remake of V, the use of greenscreen wasn't extensive or prolonged enough for you to notice its falseness., too.
  • Very interesting to see that the "shrapnel" of the explosion that caused the crack appears to be the TARDIS itself. Obviously they're unlikely to destroy the TARDIS in the finale, so I expected The Doctor to prevent the crack from ever appearing. And might that mean Rory's death will be reversed.
  • I enjoyed seeing peace ruined totally by the humans, as it's so often the aliens that are the villains and saboteurs in sci-fi. But here, it was clear that it's the humans who are to blame for everything. I wonder if The Doctor will be tempted to jump forward in time by 1,000 years to see if the amicable return of the Silurian race went ahead? I get the impression those told to spread the word and turn the agreement into legend/religion will just have forgotten.
  • There was a horrible voice-over and a very unnecessary epilogue that actually ruined the story because you knew everything would pan out just fine. Totally unjustified in its use.
  • Writer Chris Chibnall watched the Silurians' debut TV adventure and read the novelisation "Doctor Who And The Cave Monsters" as preparation for this two-part story.
  • Stephen Moore, playing Eldane, is the voice of Marvin the Paranoid Android in the BBC radio adaptation of Douglas Adams' The Hitch-Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy.
  • At one point, The Doctor mentions wanting celery -- a likely call-back to The Fifth Doctor's (Peter Davison) love of the vegetable, which he even pinned a stick of to his jacket's lapel. That trend didn't catch on around '80s playgrounds.
29 MAY 2010: BBC1/HD, 7PM

Next Time...

Saturday, 29 May 2010

(Un)Obsessed With Film


I've decided to leave Obsessed With Film, which at least gives me an opportunity to cite "creative differences". I've always wanted to do that! To explain further, despite OWF's revamp and its ambitious agenda, the site's creators were unhappy with the response from their readership post-relaunch and have decided to reverse May's changes in an effort to woo back lost visitors. Ironically, my reviews were the most popular posts there (definitely in terms of comments), but overall interaction was down. The belief is that existing OWF readers didn't like or understand the new design and were turned off by the changes/improvements.

Now, it was part of the agreement when I joined OWF that the site was to be revamped, partly to take advantage of my input with the new TV section, but also to generally improve and thus attract a wider audience. However, considering the fact OWF's back to being a simple "film blog" with a leaning towards "geekdom", I don't think it's worth my time doing for OWF exactly what I'm doing here at DMD. There can be no true TV "section" in that format and it's basically not what I signed up for.

I don't like the cartoon-y design they've reverted back to, either. I'd have preferred they continue improving the new version, or experimented with a compromise between the two styles. Something that looks sophisticated but is easy to navigate and use. But hey, it was a drastic reversal and therefore I know it was decision that wasn't taken lightly.

I just don't agree with what's happened, but if it works for them -- that's fair enough. It's just not for me. There's little chance to accomplish what I wanted to do at OWF because of this decision, so I think it's best to cut my ties and move on amicably. A shame it didn't last longer, as I was initially very excited about the partnership.

I wish everyone at OWF well (particularly editor Matt Holmes), and a massive thanks to everyone here who supported my short-lived venture over there. It's just a pity OWF's own readership weren't more supportive of the site's changes, or at the very least willing to give constructive feedback. In fact, the experience has made me value the support and sense of community that's been nurtured here all the more. So for that I'm grateful.

And hey, I'm now open to offers of similar work, if more cautious when promises are made...

DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES 6.17 – "Chromolume #7"

WRITER: Marco Pennette
DIRECTOR: Lonny Price
GUEST CAST: Julie Benz, Max Carver, Shawn Pyfrom, Sam Page, Suzanne Costallos, Helena Mattsson, Ellen Crawford, Jonathon Adams, Barry Livingstone, Tracy Fraim, Heidi Klum & Paulina Porizkova
[SPOILERS] If, like me, you read the title of this episode and went "eh?!" then fear not, the answer is at hand: like a majority of the episode titles this season, "Chromolume #7" is taken from a song from a Stephen Sondheim musical. Housewives creator Marc Cherry is a big fan, apparently. According to the resource engine that is Yahoo! Answers: "Chromolume #7" is the name of a fictional color and light machine in the Stephen Sondheim musical "Sunday in the Park with George." If you're still thinking "eh?!" then fear not -- I am, too. Not for the first time in recent memory, I have been totally non-plussed by the frankly ridiculous and seemingly unrelatable choice of episode names. Bringing to light new revelations is the closest association I can think of, and that's at a stretch.

On to the episode itself, and my opinion of that is far more positive. This week's visit to Wisteria Lane felt like it regained a certain punchiness and purposeful direction (as well as a spark to the humour) which elevated it above the rather by-the-numbers installments of late.

The dynamic between Angie (Drea de Matteo) and Gabrielle (Eva Longoria Parker) as they flew to New York to once again break up Danny (Beau Mirchoff) and aspiring model Ana (Mairia Walsh) was superb: Gaby sharing stories (read: bragging) of her glory days as a model to a cagey and uninterested Angie. Running into her former agent Luke Rayfield (Jonathon Adams), as well as notable guest stars Heidi Klum and Paulina Porizkova (both of whom really can't act but just about got by on star appeal), lead Gaby to realize how much of a queen bitch she used to be (duh!). This is her second epiphany in as many episodes -- we soon won't recognize her if this character transformation continues!

Gaby's vow to change starts with owning up to Angie about overhearing her row with husband Nick (Jeffrey Nordling) some weeks ago, only for Angie to reciprocate by revealing a startling amount about her shady past with the enigma that is Patrick Logan -- including the shocking disclosure that Danny is Patrick's son and not Nick's. I find it hard to believe that Angie, having been so careful for 18 years, would suddenly decide to spill -- especially to someone as gossipy as Gaby -- but for the good of plot and character progression, it worked well. Thanks to a tip-off from nosy neighbour Iris (Ellen Crawford) while Angie is picking up Danny from her estranged mother's (Suzanne Costallos) house, it won't be long before Patrick is once again back in the Bolen's life's...

Andrew Van De Kamp's (Shawn Pyfrom) distrust over do-gooder Sam Allen's (Sam Page) promotion within Bree's (Marcia Cross) catering company came to a head this week, resulting in a drunken physical confrontation. Ironically, it turns out that the jealous son's suspicions were correct, when Bree discovers a photograph of a much younger Sam with Bree's ex-husband, the deceased Rex, at Sam's house. Eventually given a chance to explain himself, Sam reveals that Rex and his mother had a one night stand prior to Rex meeting Bree. I cannot believe that this is the end of this speedily exposed storyline (and was surprised at how little Bree seemed to dwell on Rex's secret life), and would like to see it progress further, if only to see how head-strong Andrew reacts to Sam being his half-brother.

Returning from a trip around Europe you never even knew he'd set off on, Preston Scavo (Max Carver) arrived home this week sporting a ridiculous 80s 'tache and a sexy new girlfriend in Russian Irina (Helena Mattsson). Cautious Lynette was instantly unimpressed ("she's way out of his league; what does she really want?!") and set out to prove Irina a gold-digger by swapping her grandmother's engagement ring for a cheap copy, upon learning of Parker's hasty proposal. The indication seems to be that Irina has Lynette figured out, but whether that proves over-protective Mummy Scavo's theory or is just a cunning tactic on the Russian's part is yet to be seen.

Katherine Mayfair (Dana Delaney) is still bewildered after her passionate night with house guest Robin (Julie Benz). Episode writer Marco Pennette chose to take the pressure off the sexually confused housewife by getting Robin out of her hair for the majority of the episode (she was at a family wedding, apparently), leaving Katherine free to chat to Bob (Tuc Watkins) and Lee (Kevin Rahm) about the possibility that she has "turned gay." The couple laugh the suggestion off -- and rightfully so -- but it was a humorously quirky conversation nonetheless, if only for Bob and Lee's bickering. A returning Robin, however, is less willing to believe the night was a "drunken mistake" (funny, I don't remember alcohol being a factor last week?), leading to a rather forced kiss.

Finally this week, Susan Mayer (Teri Hatcher) has used part of the money she received from selling her share in gentleman's club "Double D's" to pay off husband Mike's (James Denton) business loan -- without his knowledge. Coupled with the slowly spreading news of his former partner's "leprechaun" encounter with the former stripper (a chucklesome mishearing), Mike is left feeling somewhat emasculated, and after an attempt to reassert his masculinity with a kitchen romp leads to hilariously embarrassing awkwardness (and a bump on the head), Susan agrees to cancel the bank cheque and allow Mike to pay off the loan by himself.

26 MAY 2010: CHANNEL 4/HD, 9PM

Friday, 28 May 2010

Poll: Which was the best season of Lost?


Lost has come to an end, but now we can look back and gauge which season was the best. Was the purist first season the pinnacle? Did season 2's expansion of the mythology fire your imagination? Was season 3 unfairly derided, in your opinion? Did season 4's flashforwards offer the best narrative device? Did time-travel swell your geek heart in season 5? Or did you enjoy the culmination of season 6?

You can vote by clicking any of the images below, or voting directly in the Flash-driven poll at the bottom of this post:

Season 1: The Survivors
(The Numbers, The Black Rock, The Hatch)


Season 2: The Hatch
(DHARMA, The Tailies, The Others)

Season 3: The Others
(The Hydra, The Barracks, The Cabin)

Season 4: The Freighter
(The Rescuers, The Orchid, The Donkey Wheel)

Season 5: The 1970s
(The Plane, The Bomb, The Four-Toed Statue)

Season 6: The Man In Black
(The Temple, The Candidates, The Cave)



The poll closes on 3 June @5PM (GMT)

BBC One HD arriving this autumn


The BBC have announced their intention to simulcast BBC1 in HD this autumn. The existing BBC HD channel already shows a selection of BBC content in HD every day, but because the BBC have plans to start filming more shows in high definition, it's been decided that BBC1 deserves its own dedicated simulcast. BBC One HD will be available on all platforms (Freeview, Freesat, Sky, Virgin Media) when it launches. BBC HD will continue to exist, with its broadcast time extended from 9 to 12 hours.

How do you feel about this? Obviously, it's great news. The BBC are planning to start filming the following shows in HD, too: EastEnders, Holby City, The One Show, The Apprentice, The Weakest Link, QI, Songs Of Praise, Casualty, Match Of The Day, A Question Of Sport and Blue Peter. I'm sure it will effect the ratings for BBC HD (which won't have exclusive HD content now), but maybe they'll just decide to focus on delivering BBC2, BBC3 and BBC4 shows in HD.

You can read more about BBC One HD in the press release.

LUTHER 1.4

WRITER: Neil Cross
DIRECTOR: Sam Miller
GUEST CAST: Warren Brown, Dermot Crowley, Rob Jarvis, Linda Walker, Anton Saunders, Michael Smiley, Johann Meyer, Stacey Sampson, Okorie Chukwu & Matti Houghton
[SPOILERS] A more typical crime investigation this week, with a killer who wasn't close to anything like a femme fatale getting away with familicide or a creepy "vampire", but instead an everyday husband (Rob Jarvis) with a handbag fetish whose marriage has staled and provoked him into posing as a taxi driver to befriend stray women and kill them. It wasn't a great story in terms of developing Luther's (Idris Elba) character, who was anchored to the office for most of it, but it was less reliant on silly deductive leaps to drive the plot forward and it had more credibility because of that.

The supporting storyline with Alice (Ruth Wilson) continued quite nicely, although I'm not sold on the idea she's Luther's kindred spirit he can't resist giving face-time to. He's indulging her far too much, and it's getting ridiculous, but there is something inherently enjoyable about such a devious character taking a special interest in the only person (a detective, no less) who "gets" her.

Here, Alice infiltrated the hospital where the paedophile Luther let fall to his near-death has awoken from a coma and is muttering Luther's name over and over, choosing to help her "friend" by evacuating the building and suffocating him in his bed to keep Luther's career safe. A surprising move, given how I expected the comatose child-killer to wake up in the finale, and certainly not be eliminated so early. It would seem Luther's got away with severe malpractice (thanks to Alice's unwanted help), but I predict he'll decide to come clean about what happened to exorcise his personal demons.

The main story was routine and unoriginal (the kind of thing any number of detective drama have tackled before), but it was told well and there was great acting from Linda Walker as the wife whose affair with another man (Johann Meyers) tipped her impotent husband Graham over the edge. The scene where she was intentionally left alone in an interview room with the case-file on the murders Graham's committed, unable to resist sneaking a look at the horrors contained within, was particularly well done. Although I still don't understand why that tactic was necessary on Luther's part; wouldn't she have been as cooperative if you'd just told her what other half's been doing at night?

The climax of this episode was ghoulish fun, essentially turning the episode into a horror movie; Graham beating his wife's lover to death with a hammer, calling an escort girl to the house to kill her, only for the cops to warn the call girl and have her hide in the bathroom, which Graham proceeded to smash down in a full-on homage to The Shining. Much to enjoy, but the episode's unexceptional premise, lack of insight into Luther himself, and the increasingly ridiculous Luther/Alice dynamic, made it less interesting overall.

Aside
  • Luther sometimes tries to crack cases by mixing up crime scene photos on the office floor, out of order, as David Bowie does with song lyrics. Later, it's revealed that Alice has heterochromia (mismatched eye colour), as does Bowie. I'm not sure what that's trying to say, but it can't have been coincidence.
25 MAY 2010: BBC1/HD, 9PM

Being Human USA details emerge

A few more details about the Being Human remake: the show will be set in Boston, the "chemistry" of the three characters will be altered slightly, George the werewolf has been renamed Josh, vampire Mitchell will be Jewish, and the plots will be pacier. The Syfy series (developed by Everwood's Anna Fricke and Supernatural's Jeremy Carver) will enter pre-production next month, scheduled to broadcast early 2011.

I know there's some caution about this remake, but I'm actually quite positive about it in principle. If they retain the original's mix of comedy/horror, cast it well, and don't overshadow the characters with pointless special-effects (of which there will almost definitely be more), I think it could work just fine.

DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES 6.16 – "The Chase"

WRITERS: Joey Murphy & John Pardee
DIRECTOR: Larry Shaw
GUEST CAST: Julie Benz, Orson Bean, Shawn Pyfrom, Sam Page, Eric Colton, Richard Gilliland, Les Brandt & Jeffrey Markle
[SPOILERS] Aside from a couple of out-of-the-blue revelations to build upon in the future, "The Chase" felt, overall, like a rather contained instalment of Desperate Housewives. The majority of the episode's multitude of plot strands were introduced and wrapped up within the hour. I wouldn't go so far as to call it filler, but it was enjoyable enough fluff, with a number of new characters and returning oldies injecting the progressing season with a renewed freshness.

Stereotypically over-the-top gay couple Bob (Tuc Watkins) and Lee (Kevin Rahm) were given more screentime then I think they have ever been granted as Gabrielle Solis (Eva Longoria Parker) -- replete with three suitcases of luggage -- came to stay in a bid to avoid catching daughter Celia's (Daniella Baltodano) chickenpox. Nights out on the town, cocktails in the daytime and unplanned house parties made Gaby realise how much she missed her crazy single life of old -- until Bob reveals that they envy her as a mother and hope to adopt a child themselves. It will be interesting to see if the writers follow up Bob and Lee's adoption storyline (they are certainly due one!) and haven't just inserted it as a quick-fix lesson for Gaby on how important her family is to her.

Former regular cast member Andrew Van De Kamp (Shawn Pyfrom) has had literally one brief scene and a blink and you'll miss it appearance so far this season, but in "The Chase" he is witnessed working for Bree's (Marcia Cross) catering company again as if he's been present all along. More screentime of course means more tension between mother and son, the catalyst this time taking the form of smarmy new employee Sam Allen (Sam Page) -- a thoroughly unlikable if overly efficient chap -- who threw a cog in the family business by enlightening Bree to her gay son's affair with useless dogsbody Tad (Eric Colton). Andrew, for those who have forgotten, has been engaged to love Alex since last season. As great as it was to see Shawn Pyfrom back (I always enjoy seeing returning regulars; it gives the show a greater sense of community), quite why the writers feel the need to continuously damage Andrew and Bree's relationship is beyond me -- haven't they mined this plot enough already?

Still on the subject of homosexual relationships is the continuation of last week's bombshell that delicate Katherine (Dana Delaney) is suddenly developing lustful feelings for houseguest and former stripper Robin (Julie Benz). In typically hasty Desperate Housewives style, confused Katherine kicks Robin out -- on the advice of her therapist Dr. Avedon (Richard Gilliland) -- then sleeps with her in the space of five minutes. Is this realistic or just a desperate attempt to garner more ratings with a racy talking point?

Speaking of talking points, Susan Mayer (Teri Hatcher) found herself locking lips with old-timer Roy Bender (Orson Bean) in "The Chase", having developed a ludicrous spur-of-the-moment obsession with seeing Roy and Karen McCluskey (Kathryn Joosten) tie the knot. I get a sense that a lot of viewers like Roy (perhaps because he makes fan favourite Karen McCluskey happy?), but I just can't stand his straight talking manner. I was further put off when he revealed a ridiculous fixation with kissing other women before being "tied down" to marriage (at his age?!) This seemed like a weak and totally implausible character development implemented simply to provide an "ewww" moment with the Susan-Roy kiss, and to allow a "heart warming" change of heart when it is revealed that Mrs. McCluskey has cancer.

Angie Bolen (Drea De Matteo) is concerned when she finds a note from son Danny (Beau Mirchoff, absent this week) saying he has gone camping with mate Eddie (Josh Zuckerman) to clear his head over girlfriend Ana's (Mairia Walsh, also absent) move to New York. Of course, we have known his real destination since last week, so it comes as little surprise when Angie and Nick (Jeffrey Nordling) spot Eddie in the supermarket and get the truth from him. This was little more than obligatory groundwork to get the Bolen's back to the city they have been avoided due to their chequered past, but at least it is developing their season-long story arc, albeit in no great hurry.

Finally, and in another curiously contained story of questionable long-term relevance, Tom (Doug Savant) and Lynette (Felicity Huffman) have forgotten daughter Penny's (Kendall Applegate) birthday -- which is no surprise given how little she has featured this year -- leading the distraught child to run away from home. A cute apology scene between mother and daughter at the hotel Penny paid for on her parent's credit card later, and all is resolved in this clichéd story strand which -- sweet character interaction aside -- felt somewhat redundant. But then, that is true of much of this week's averagely enjoyable episode...

19 MAY 2010: CHANNEL 4/HD, 9PM

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Lost writer explains series finale?


An anonymous commenter from the writers' room of Lost has weighed in on the recent finale's meaning, and explained the longterm arc behind the show's mysteries! It's interesting stuff, confirming a few things in my mind, and also (marvellously) answering a few of the alleged missteps involving Ben's role "purging" DHARMA. I've spellchecked the original post and divided it into easier-to-read paragraphs, but it's pretty much verbatim below:

Update: this is apparently fake, but the explanations are still plausible. Just don't treat this as "from the horse's mouth" information anymore...

Good stuff on here! I can finally throw in my two cents! I've had to bite my tongue for far too long. Also, hopefully I can answer some questions about Dharma and the "pointless breadcrumbs" that really, weren't so pointless... First...

The Island: It was real. Everything that happened on the island that we saw throughout the 6 seasons was real. Forget the final image of the plane crash, it was put in purposely to f*&k with people's heads and show how far the show had come. They really crashed. They really survived. They really discovered Dharma and the Others. The Island keeps the balance of good and evil in the world. It always has and always will perform that role. And the Island will always need a "Protector". Jacob wasn't the first, Hurley won't be the last.

However, Jacob had to deal with a malevolent force (MIB) that his mother, nor Hurley had to deal with. He created the devil and had to find a way to kill him -- even though the rules prevented him from actually doing so. Thus began Jacob's plan to bring candidates to the Island to do the one thing he couldn't do. Kill the MIB. He had a huge list of candidates that spanned generations. Yet every time he brought people there, the MIB corrupted them and caused them to kill one another. That was until Richard came along and helped Jacob understand that if he didn't take a more active role, then his plan would never work.

Enter Dharma. Dharma, like the countless scores of people that were brought to the island before, were brought there by Jacob as part of his plan to kill the MIB. However, the MIB was aware of this plan and interfered by "corrupting" Ben. Making Ben believe he was doing the work of Jacob when in reality he was doing the work of the MIB. This carried over into all of Ben's "off-island" activities. He was the leader. He spoke for Jacob as far as they were concerned. So the "Others" killed Dharma and later were actively trying to kill Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Hurley and all the candidates because that's what the MIB wanted. And what he couldn't do for himself. Dharma was originally brought in to be good. But was turned bad by MIB's corruption and eventually destroyed by his pawn Ben. Now, was Dharma only brought there to help Jack and the other Candidates on their overall quest to kill Smokey? Or did Jacob have another list of Canidates from the Dharma group that we were never aware of? That's a question that is purposely not answered because whatever answer the writers came up with would be worse than the one you come up with for yourself.

Still... Dharma's purpose is not "pointless" or even vague. Hell, it's pretty blatant. Still, despite his grand plan, Jacob wanted to give his "candidates" (our Lostaways) the one thing he, nor his brother, were ever afforded: free will. Hence him bringing a host of "candidates" through the decades and letting them "choose" which one would actually do the job in the end. Maybe he knew Jack would be the one to kill Flocke and that Hurley would be the protector in the end. Maybe he didn't. But that was always the key question of the show: Fate vs Free-will. Science vs Faith. Personally I think Jacob knew from the beginning what was going to happen and that everyone played a part over 6 seasons in helping Jack get to the point where he needed to be to kill Smokey and make Hurley the protector -- I know that's how a lot of the writers viewed it. But again, they won't answer that (nor should they) because that ruins the fun.

In the end, Jack got to do what he always wanted to do from the very first episode of the show: Save his fellow Lostaways. He got Kate and Sawyer off the island and he gave Hurley the purpose in life he'd always been missing. And, in Sideways world (which we'll get to next) he in fact saved everyone by helping them all move on ... Now...

Sideways World: Sideways world is where it gets really cool in terms of theology and metaphysical discussion (for me at least -- because I love history/religion theories and loved all the talks in the writer's room about it). Basically what the show is proposing is that we're all linked to certain people during our lives. Call them soulmates (though it's not exactly the best word). But these people we're linked to are with us during "the most important moments of our lives" as Christian said. These are the people we move through the universe with from lifetime to lifetime.

It's loosely based in Hinduisim with large doses of western religion thrown into the mix. The conceit that the writers created, basing it off these religious philosophies, was that as a group, the Lostaways subconsciously created this "sideways" world where they exist in purgatory until they are "awakened" and find one another. Once they all find one another, they can then move on and move forward. In essence, this is the show's concept of the afterlife. According to the show, everyone creates their own "Sideways" purgatory with their "soulmates" throughout their lives and exist there until they all move on together. That's a beautiful notion. Even if you aren't religious or even spiritual, the idea that we live AND die together is deeply profound and moving. It's a really cool and spiritual concept that fits the whole tone and subtext the show has had from the beginning. These people were SUPPOSED to be together on that plane. They were supposed to live through these events -- not JUST because of Jacob. But because that's what the universe or God (depending on how religious you wish to get) wanted to happen. The show was always about science vs faith -- and it ultimately came down on the side of faith. It answered THE core question of the series. The one question that has been at the root of every island mystery, every character back-story, every plot twist. That, by itself, is quite an accomplishment. How much you want to extrapolate from that is up to you as the viewer.

Think about season 1 when we first found the Hatch. Everyone thought that's THE answer! Whatever is down there is the answer! Then, as we discovered it was just one station of many. One link in a very long chain that kept revealing more, and more of a larger mosaic. But the writer's took it even further this season by contrasting this Sideways "purgatory" with the Island itself. Remember when Michael appeared to Hurley, he said he was not allowed to leave the Island. Just like the MIB. He wasn't allowed into this sideways world and thus, was not afforded the opportunity to move on. Why? Because he had proven himself to be unworthy with his actions on the Island. He failed the test. The others, passed. They made it into Sideways world when they died -- some before Jack, some years later. In Hurley's case, maybe centuries later. They exist in this sideways world until they are "awakened" and they can only move on TOGETHER because they are linked. They are destined to be together for eternity. That was their destiny. They were NOT linked to Anna Lucia, Daniel, Roussou, Alex, Miles, Lupidis, (and all the rest who weren't in the chuch -- basically everyone who wasn't in season 1). Yet those people exist in Sideways world. Why? Well again, here's where they leave it up to you to decide. The way I like to think about it, is that those people who were left behind in Sideways world have to find their own soulmates before they can wake up. It's possible that those links aren't people from the island but from their other life (Anna's partner, the guy she shot --- Roussou's husband, etc etc).

A lot of people have been talking about Ben and why he didn't go into the Church. And if you think of Sideways world in this way, then it gives you the answer to that very question. Ben can't move on yet because he hasn't connected with the people he needs to. It's going to be his job to awaken Roussou, Alex, Anna Lucia (maybe), Ethan, Goodspeed, his father and the rest. He has to atone for his sins more than he did by being Hurley's number two. He has to do what Hurley and Desmond did for our Lostaways with his own people. He has to help them connect. And he can only move on when all the links in his chain are ready to. Same can be said for Faraday, Charlotte, Whidmore, Hawkins etc. It's really a neat, and cool concept. At least to me.

But, from a more "behind the scenes" note: the reason Ben's not in the church, and the reason no one is in the church but for Season 1 people is because they wrote the ending to the show after writing the pilot. And never changed it. The writers always said (and many didn't believe them) that they knew their ending from the very first episode. I applaud them for that. It's pretty fantastic. Originally Ben was supposed to have a 3 episode arc and be done. But he became a big part of the show. They could have easily changed their ending and put him in the church -- but instead they problem solved it. Gave him a BRILLIANT moment with Locke outside the church ... and then that was it. I loved that. For those that wonder -- the original ending started the moment Jack walked into the church and touches the casket to Jack closing his eyes as the other plane flies away. That was always JJ's ending. And they kept it. For me the ending of this show means a lot. Not only because I worked on it, but because as a writer it inspired me in a way the medium had never done before.

I've been inspired to write by great films. Maybe too many to count. And there have been amazing TV shows that I've loved (X-Files, 24, Sopranos, countless 1/2 hour shows). But none did what LOST did for me. None showed me that you could take huge risks (writing a show about faith for network TV) and stick to your creative guns and STILL please the audience. I learned a lot from the show as a writer. I learned even more from being around the incredible writers, producers, PAs, interns and everyone else who slaved on the show for 6 years. In the end, for me, LOST was a touchstone show that dealt with faith, the afterlife, and all these big, spiritual questions that most shows don't touch. And to me, they never once waivered from their core story -- even with all the sci-fi elements they mixed in. To walk that long and daunting of a creative tightrope and survive is simply astounding.
Happier now?

Pulse premieres online


Paul Cornell's medical horror Pulse (one of three drama pilots airing this summer) is scheduled to broadcast on BBC3 next week (3 June @9pm) but it's already premiered online. You can watch it here. I probably won't be reviewing it until 3 June, though. Online premieres are all very nice and cutting-edge, but there's just something about sitting down to watch something go out "live" to the masses. If you watch it early and feel like commenting here, please avoid spoilers.

JUNIOR APPRENTICE - Week Three


There was definitely more of a kid-gloves feel to Week Three, with a cake-selling task that was very similar to Week One's cheese-selling, a gentler performance from Lord Sugar in the boardroom (cracking gags, smiling, trying to reassure the candidates), and the fact Adam was allowed to go home because of a few day's sickness. It was still good fun, though, mainly because of the sweetly clueless Rhys...

Rhys, the shortest and most child-like of the candidates, became project leader of Instinct, which included assertive Kirsty, academic Hannah and whiskered Tim. Zoe (whose red lipstick is probably a byproduct of people she's slain) was chosen to lead Revolution, working alongside sickly Adam, egghead Arjun and sensible Emma.

Instinct decided to theme their cupcakes on "fashion"; while Resolution chose a more imaginative "I Love..." theme, where customers could complete the sentiment with personalized icing messages. Both teams were given prime spots as plush department store Selfridges in the heart of London's shopping district, each splitting themselves into two groups (sellers and manufacturers) and trying to offload as many cakes as they could to passing shoppers.

Problems ensued, naturally.

Zoe's team were undoubtedly better; their themed cakes were more imaginative, Zoe herself proved game by dressing up as a giant cupcake to attract customers, and in general Revolution didn't face many problems throughout the day. Despite the fact Adam's icing skills were nonexistent, and you could tell he just wanted to crawl into bed and die.

Rhys' team had a real nightmare; nobody gave Rhys much support, which knocked his already low confidence, and there were definite signs that everyone was taking a backseat and were planning to blame a loss on their leader. Tim was particularly irritating, in that he shirked becoming the leader again (citing a lack of culinary know-how), but was happy to lead the one aspect of the project that involved food. Kirsty's grumbling became a bore, but she was great at the market research and you could tell she's one of the more mature candidates who stands a chance of winning.

In the boardroom, it was all academic really. Rhys' team failed dismally (only selling nine cupcakes in the first few hours, failing to price their customized cupcakes higher), and ultimately lost £120. Zoe's group squeaked through with a profit of £15.15.

Rhys brought Tim and Hannah back into the boardroom with him to explain their loss, and actually did a very persuasive job of convincing Lord Sugar that a lot of the problem was a lack of support. But it was also clear that Rhys lacked some maturity, definitely didn't come up with a sales strategy for the day, and failed to get his team behind him. So, despite his Lordship's assurance that there was a "special something" to him, Rhys was fired.

But there was some welcome criticism of Tim, who appears to have sneaked his way to Week Three by talking a good game but failing to perform equally as well. He'll now be the project leader for whatever the next task is, having played the "let me prove to you what I can do next time" card. Hannah was also given some food for thought, considering she's the most academically gifted candidate but didn't steer the project to success when it became clear business was bad.

Owing to Adam being sent home to convalesce from the 'flu (or whatever ailment he came down with), there are now just six candidates left. Who looks like the winner at this halfway stage? It surely has to be Zoe. She's not particularly likeable, but she has a can-do attitude and is the only person you could imagine being on the adult Apprentice. Arjun possibly stands a chance if he proves himself good at leading a team, and I think Kirsty's now a strong and assertive possible winner. Tim, Emma and Hannah all fall into the "must do better" category right now.

26 MAY 2010: BBC1/HD, 9PM

Dexter: Julia & Julie


Two interesting pieces of news from the set of Dexter as they prepare to start filming the fifth season; the first quite interesting, the second a major spoiler if you haven't seen season 4 yet:

Julia Stiles (The Bourne Identity, Save The Last Dance) is expected to sign on for a "major, top secret" role in season 5, while Julie Benz (whose character Rita was killed off in last year's finale) is also likely to be back. Insiders have been quick to dismiss theories she'll be reprising her character as a "ghost", leading fans to speculate on a dream sequence or perhaps new material filmed for a wedding video.

Dexter's fifth season is expected to begin late-September on Showtime in the US. In the UK, the fourth season should begin on FX this summer (my guess is late-July), although ITV appear to have lost interest in giving Dexter a terrestrial airing, as it's been two years since they aired season 2 now.

Misfits returning in November


E4's excellent superhero teen-drama Misfits resumes filming this summer, with the second series scheduled to air this November. The press release below:

Everyone's favourite ASBO teens, Nathan (Robert Sheehan), Kelly (BAFTA-nominee Lauren Socha), Curtis (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett), Alisha (Antonia Thomas) and Simon (Iwan Rheon) are back for a second series of E4's hit comedy drama Misfits.

So to recap; a freak storm left our posse of social outcasts with slightly crap super powers; Curtis can turn back time, Kelly can read minds, Simon can turn invisible and Alisha can send people into a sexual frenzy with just one touch. Then there's their two dead probation workers (one is buried under the local environmental monitoring station; the other stored in a freezer in the community centre). And finally, unbeknownst to the others, Nathan is trapped six feet under in a coffin, immortal and very much alive.

But it's not just the ASBO Five who were affected by the storm. With the super-charged local townsfolk going the way of Gotham City, each week as we head back to the community centre our gang will be faced with a whole new world of weird and wild characters.

And just who IS the masked, hooded stranger who seems to be watching their every move? A force for good? An evil arch-nemesis intent on bringing about our gang's destruction? Or just another kid in a hoodie?

The 6 x 60 min series will be produced by Clerkenwell Films (Afterlife, Persuasion) for transmission on E4 in November 2010.
I'm a little disappointed we won't get more than six episodes (having expected a Being Human-style expansion to eight, or more), but otherwise I'm just glad we'll be seeing more from the super-reprobates. How about you?

SPARTACUS: BLOOD & SAND 1.1 - "The Red Serpent"

WRITER: Steven S. DeKnight
DIRECTOR: Rick Jacobson
CAST: Andy Whitfield, John Hannah, Manu Bennett, Erin Cummings, Lucy Lawless, Viva Bianca, Craig Parker, Kyle Rowling, Antonio Te Maioho, John Rawls, Kevin J. Wilson, Craig Walsh Wrightson & Aron Eastwood
[SPOILERS] An ugly fusion of 300 and Gladiator, with a tin-ear for dialogue and a caveman's intention to distract you from its deficiencies with anime-style ultraviolence and full-frontal nudity, Spartacus: Blood & Sand is a grisly video-game you can't control, with John Hannah (The Mummy) and Lucy Lawless (Xena: Warrior Princess) the only recognizable faces in a cast of Adonis's and middle-aged British thesps chasing dollar signs.

The story involved an unnamed Thracian warrior (Andy Whitfield) whose village agreed to join legatus Claudius Glaber (Craig Parker) in a Roman-led offensive against invading Getae hordes. However, when Glaber's nubile wife Ilithyia (Viva Bianca) persuaded her husband to seek greater glory by fighting the Mithradates instead, the betrayed Thracians mutinied and their village was destroyed, leading to the captured Thracian being sent into gladiatorial combat for insubordination, as his sultry wife Sura (Erin Cummings) was sold into slavery. Needless to say, the Thracian proved himself surprisingly adept at butchery in the arena and, upon hearing the crowd's cheers for the unlikely victor, Senator Albinius had the newly-anointed Spartacus' punishment reduced to servitude.

Spartacus is a series that wants to be the TV equivalent of Zack Snyder's greenscreen-enhanced 300, chasing the same target audience who'd rather watch bloodletting and slashed throats than engage with an unpredictable story and rounded characters. There wasn't a single moment in "The Red Serpent" you couldn't predict, as the story merrily raced through a checklist of genre clichés (particularly sex scenes filmed by a concussed, Enya-loving cameraman) and shoving bad dialogue into the gobs of its cast (before leaving for battle, Spartacus tells his wife to "lift your dress, keep me close to your thighs, the thought will warm us both".)

There's little to discuss in terms of plot or character, rather recount your reactions to the smut and violence on display -- all of which elicited an initial eyebrow-raise, but quickly become tedious and ridiculous. The blood looks like it's either been scratched on using a red biro, or literally engulfs the screen like a volcanic plasma blast. It's designed to be arresting and stylish, but only succeeds in assuring you everything's phony and exaggerated tosh. I'm all for a TV series depicting the Roman Empire in a less sanitized way (with sex, nudity, and unflinching violence), but didn't HBO's superior Rome get there first?

Overall, with a creative team comprised of writers/producers from '90s hits Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess, with a creator in Steven S. DeKnight who worked on Buffy The Vampire Slayer, it's alarming to consider they probably view this as a "mature" piece simply because they can show bodies being hacked apart, decapitations, soft porn, and a hirsute vagina. But there's little in the way of charm, humour, ingenuity or surprise in Steven S. DeKnight's script, ensuring the only people who will be satisfied are those who have Deadliest Warrior on series-link.

25 MAY 2010: BRAVO, 10PM

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

THE GOOD GUYS 1.1 - "Pilot"

WRITER: Matt Nix
DIRECTOR: Tim Matheson
CAST: Bradley Whitford, Colin Hanks, Jenny Wade, Diana Maria Riva, Andrew Divoff & Nia Vardalos
It's amusing to see Colin Hanks given the straight-man "Joe Friday" role in The Good Guys, considering how his famous father ("Hollywood nice guy" Tom) was the comic relief in 1987's Dragnet parody, which this buddy cop TV series owes a debt to. Actually, it owes a debt to everything that's ever featured two mismatched detectives, particularly in macho TV shows of the '80s.

Hanks is Jack Bailey, the archetypal by-the-book cop with a sharp suit, partnered with mustachioed, shambolic Dan Stark (Bradley Whitford), a cop who saved the life of the governor's son in the '80s and has been milking that moment of fame to keep his career alive into its autumn years. Dan's since partnered the ambitious Jack on Dallas PD's lowly "routine investigations", but still acts as if he's at the sharp-end of city crime. As comic convention insists, the odd couple detectives have a knack for getting entangled in far bigger cases (a stolen air humidifier led to a golf bag of drugs here), which in turn results in regular shootouts, destruction of public property, and high-speed car chases.

The premise is knowingly unoriginal; aware that a Starsky & Hutch-style series hasn't been seen on TV for awhile, so it's worth trying to revive this sub-genre. Of course, nowadays it's difficult to use the "buddy cop" formula without lacing it with post-modern humour, but The Good Guys just wasn't madcap enough for my tastes (given the possibilities of the concept for riotous action and Hot Fuzz-style laughs), while the characters barely stretched beyond baseline clichés. Hanks was appropriately formal and stiff, Whitford was crass and idiotic, but there wasn't much chemistry between them and neither character felt interesting, original or nuanced. Knowing Whitfield's capabilities as a dramatic actor, I couldn't shake the feeling he's slumming it with a comedy 'tache for a fat pay-cheque (as co-star and producer.)

I also couldn't help thinking The Good Guys would be funnier had it been set in the '80s and embraced the era it clearly wants to evoke, or at least treated Dan's character as a Rip Van Winkle-type who feels like he's been dropped into 2010 direct from 1980. Sure, Dan's "old school" in temperament, loves himself a Pontiac Trans Am, doesn't believe in the existence of DNA, and appears to be a technophobe, but that's about as far as it goes.

The pilot's storyline was robust and relatively complex where it should have been lighthearted and fun, as I don't enjoy comedies that play things straight 70% of the time. Creator/writer Matt Nix (Burn Notice) doesn't have a background in comedy (or a filmography pre-Burn), which may explain why this felt like a standard police drama with sporadic comedy elements and wry dialogue sewn in. The only thing that made me laugh consistently was guest-star Andrew Divoff as a suave Mexican assassin ("the second best in the world") with a pencil moustache and heavy accent, who was so entertaining I started imagining how much funnier a comedy based on his character would be. The Bad Guy?

Overall, The Good Guys is a sore disappointment if you go in expecting a retro slice of buddy cop hilarity and action-packed fun. It's a lame duck with a comedy-to-drama imbalance that forgets to ensure its leads are engaging people with chemistry to draw you back for more. Little wonder it's debuting in the slow summer months and scheduled to partner Human Target in Fox's Friday night "death-slot" later this year. As with all pilots, there's certainly time for things to improve, but there was nothing here to suggest it'll be worth sticking with. Even if Whitford and Hanks were hilarious together (which they're not -- yet), I'm not sure the buddy cop genre's something I want to catch every week on television.

Asides
  • Who decided it would be a great idea to accompany every location legend with a really loud gunshot noise? It's really not.
  • Colin Hanks' similarities to his father are obvious, but it's actually quite unnerving how he's a dead ringer for Toy Story's Woody.
19 MAY 2010: FOX, 9|8c

CHUCK 3.18 & 3.19 – "Chuck Versus The Subway" & "Chuck Versus The Ring: Part II"

WRITERS: Allison Adler & Phil Klemmer (story by Matt Miller) (3.18) & Josh Schwartz & Chris Fedak (3.19)
DIRECTORS: Matt Shakman (3.18) & Robert Duncan McNeill (3.19)
GUEST CAST: Brandon Routh, Scott Bakula, Scott Holroyd, Bonita Friedericy, Jadin Gould, Mekenna Melvin & Joshua Rush
[SPOILERS] If there's one thing that impresses me about Chuck it's the show's ability to pull off consistently excellent season finales that manage to freshen, evolve and incrementally mature the series. "Chuck Versus The Subway" and "Chuck Versus The Ring: Part II" were two of the best episodes Chuck has produced, which is remarkable considering we've just finished the third season of a show that felt in danger of early suffocation...

This week, Chuck (Zachary Levi) caught sight of the supposedly-dead Agent Shaw (Brandon Routh) at a flea market and traced his movements to a top secret Ring base, which was revealed to be the CIA offices Justin (Scott Holroyd) is keeping Ellie (Sarah Lancaster). In a fine twist, it was revealed that Justin has been telling the truth about who he works for, as Chuck embarrassed himself by interrupting a CIA meeting of top brass where General Beckman (Bonita Friedericy) was trying to defend "Operation Bartowski" to prevent its cost-cutting closure.

Shaw was also present, revealed to have been a double agent who believes that Chuck's erratic behaviour and psychological report is proof that the Intersect's damaging his sanity and he'll cause problems for the CIA if he stays active. However, Chuck noticed that Shaw himself "flashed" on a piece of information contained on a presentation (indicating he has an Intersect lodged in his mind), but his attempts to alert everyone to Shaw's deception fell on deaf ears and he was arrested. After later escaping with the help of his father Stephen (Scott Bakula), Chuck vowed to expose Shaw and rescue the incarcerated Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski) and Casey (Adam Baldwin), but after realizing The Ring have infiltrated the government's intelligence agencies Chuck faced a serious setback when Shaw crushed his resolve by shooting his father dead in cold blood.

I'm not going to recap further, but suffice to say these were fantastic episodes. A criticism with Chuck (that I agree with) is how there's never any stakes to situations, or a sense that any harm will come to its main characters, so seeing Stephen die was all the more powerful. He may not have been a regular character, but he was an important part of the show's mythology and someone whose death will have a lasting effect on Chuck and Ellie. It was just a refreshing change to have something that raw and ugly happen on the usually upbeat, lighthearted Chuck. It immediately gave "... Ring: Part 2" a sense of gravity the series rarely delivers.
"This shit just got real," to quote Bad Boys II.

There was also some excellent work from Sarah Lancaster, whose character Ellie has benefitted the most from this final mini-arc of season 3. She's been given things to do that are part of the central storyline for once (not a distracting marital/domestic subplot), and rose to the occasion beautifully. It was a relief to see Ellie discover the truth about Chuck, but even better to see her take a proactive role in coming to his rescue with an ad hoc plan involving Devon (Ryan McPartlin), Morgan (Joshua Gomez) and Casey's tricked-out car. Flashbacks to Ellie and Chuck as youngsters setting up the idea (bluntly, mind) that Ellie once promised her father to keep Chuck safe.

The idea that The Ring have taken over the CIA/NSA was a weighty threat that felt suitably impossible to fight against (even Casey was all for going off-the-grid forever, rather than try to reverse the damage), and the resolve of Chuck to avenge his father's death gave the finale a real sense of passion. It was also great that so much of these episodes took place in the "outside world" (a market, a subway, winding roads), which again gave the show added verisimilitude it doesn't always have. Too often Chuck jumps around sets with the occasional exterior (often a warehouse), but this was the first time it felt like the characters were really existing in our reality. I'm not sure the budget will stretch to regular location shoots in season 4, but it really was a treat to see here.

I was also pleased to see the show take clear steps forward in so many key areas. Casey's long-lost daughter Alex (Mekenna Melvin) was returned to, as it became clear Casey frequents the café she works at just to be close to her, and she inevitably got involved in the storyline on a small level. It was especially fun to see Morgan take a shine to Alex -- even getting her phone number, to the hilarious consternation of possessive dad Casey. There's certainly a lot of potential in the idea of Morgan dating Casey's daughter, which I can't wait to see play out next year. It's actually surprised me how much funnier and likeable Morgan has become this season, simply because he's aware of Chuck's secret and has become the comic relief part of "Team Bartowski". It makes you wonder why the writers were so reticent about letting Morgan know the truth about his best-friend, because doing so has breathed life into Gomez's role. He's now genuinely funny and relevant, plus there's a great double-act forming between Casey/Morgan that never quite took off between Casey/Chuck.


Second of Strahotness: ahem, eyes up

Perhaps the most surprisingly development was ending the season with the destruction of the Buy More, a location I've long disliked and has become gradually less relevant. I can only hope that the Buy More's fiery demise won't result in a brand new (budget-shrunk?) version being built for season 4, as I'd love to see Chuck move away from his "cover" entirely. Only Jeff (Scott Krinsky), Lester (Vik Sahay) and Big Mike (Mark Christopher Lawrence) aren't aware Chuck's a spy now, so is it really worth persevering with? Funnily enough, the Buy More storyline (a fake "closing down" sale to juice profits) actually worked well to provide breathing space from the A-story, and was even funny on occasion (Jeff answering a silent phone because of his tinnitus to end a dramatic moment.) The season ended with them both as fugitives suspected of arson, which will hopefully lead to an amusing manhunt scenario, for a few episodes at least.

The mythology of the show was also taken to a deeper level, when it became clear via flashback that Chuck had downloaded a proto-Intersect from his father's computer in the '80s (did that give him any abilities?), and a posthumous video-message from his father revealed that Stephen was involved in fighting a threat above the capabilities of the US government for the past 20 years. The final scene found Chuck directed to his family home, revealed to be the front for a secret underground room full of case-files protected by lasers, where half of a necklace he broke as a child rested on a desk... the other half belonging to his missing mother Mary Elizabeth Bartowski.

Overall; thrilling, emotional, and keen to once again revolutionize itself, Chuck's two-part finale was just about perfect. The exciting thing is that the show is changing shape into exactly what I've wanted since season 2 (Chuck/Sarah together in love, Morgan's in on Chuck's secret, no stupid Buy More) and there have been other fantastic changes that immediately strengthen the show (Ellie's fully appraised of the truth, Casey's less one-note now he has a daughter.)

Where are we headed for season 4? My guess is that Chuck will honour his sister's request to quit the spy-game, perhaps joined in civilian life by Sarah, but the lure to continue his father's work will be too great to resist and he'll of course want to find his mother. But will she be a villain, hence the reason she left Stephen and her young family? I also get the impression Chuck will be more of a lone superhero-type next year -- alluded to by the Superman T-shirt he wore as a kid, and symbolized by him defeating "Superman" Brandon Routh?

Whatever happens, I'm glad Chuck's coming back for another season. These episodes revitalized the show for the third time in its lifespan, which is kind of amazing when you remember how simplistic and potentially tedious Chuck's concept was back when it started. I love a show that doesn't rest on its laurels and is always improving.

Asides
  • Random trivia: did you know Bonita Friedericy (General Beckman) is married to John Billingsley, the recognisable character actor probably most memorable as Dr. Phlox in Star Trek Enterprise (co-starring with Scott Bakula)?
  • It only just dawned on me that the first half of Stephen J. Bartowski's name is probably in honour of Stephen J. Cannell, purveyor of many '80s TV series like The A-Team and 21 Jump Street.
  • The Chuck vs. Shaw (Intersect vs. Intersect) fight in the Buy More was well done, given a fun Western overtone thanks to Jeffster!'s cheesy cowboy-inspired music video playing on televisions. Black/white T-shirts hammered home their good vs. evil symbolism, too.
  • As I mentioned above, any theories on what the proto-Intersect did to Chuck as a boy? He never "flashed" on anything until Intersect 1.0 was sent to him by Bryce, so... did the prototype not work in the same way? Will this be explained?
  • More of Casey's gadget-equipped car, please. It's kind of strange the show hasn't done much with the gadgetry aspect of the spy genre. Too clichéd even for Chuck?
  • Place your bets: if the Buy More reopens (god forbid), Alex will be working there within five episodes. But can the show stretch to making her a semi-regular, budget-wise?
  • If the Buy More is definitely rubble, is Castle likewise history?
  • Ellie doesn't want Chuck to be a spy, but will she change her mind if she's told of the important work her father's been doing these past 20 years? Something must happen to let Chuck return to duty, obviously.
  • Was it just a coincidence that, in one shot, it looked like Chuck had a literal cape of the Stars & Stripes flag? I couldn't help sensing a superhero vibe to these episodes. Removing "The Governor" watch is effectively Chuck's kryptonite now, too.
  • Any suggestions for who will play Chuck's mother next year? The show tends to cast recognizable faces, particularly from genre shows. Is the actress who appeared as Chuck's mother here definitely who they're going with, or just a shadowy stand-in until they properly cast her?
24 MAY 2010: NBC, 8|7c

LOST 6.17 - "The End"

WRITERS: Carlton Cuse & Damon Lindelof
DIRECTOR: Jack Bender
GUEST CAST: Elizabeth Mitchell, Dylan Minnette, Maggie Grace, Ian Somerhalder, Rebecca Mader, Jeremy Davies, John Terry & Neil Hopkins
[SPOILERS] The curtain finally closes on this epic six-volume mystery, eliciting a mixture of feelings in me as a loyal fan. Was I entirely satisfied? No. Was it frustrating that so many questions were left unanswered? Of course. Did it end the series well? The debate won't die about that. For me, while I wasn't intellectually stimulated (and hopes for a mindspinning final twist were cruelly dashed), I was moved to tears on a handful of occasions during "The End", and that has to count for something in a series finale -- right?

This episode worked very well as a means to remind its audience of touchstones moments from preceding years, and relationships that met often tragic ends. If the intention of Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse was to find a way to gather everything into emotional snowballs and throw them at the audience in rapid succession, I gratefully accepted the hits. I enjoyed the bittersweet experience of watching the end of my favourite TV show, although I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel gypped at times...

Like all of Lost's finales, there was a huge amount of logistical back-and-forth and the narrative jumped around like a flea, so it would quickly bore everyone to attempt an extensive, linear recap. I'll just do my best to cover the broad sweep of the story, together with what worked for me and what failed:

Having become Jacob's successor as protector of the Island, Jack (Matthew Fox) decided on an improvised strategy to stop Locke/Smokey (Terry O'Quinn) from destroying the Island; surprisingly this involved an alliance between Jack's clique (Hurley, Sawyer, Kate) with Locke and Ben (Michael Emerson), once it became clear they'd already found Desmond (Henry Ian Cusick), and both parties agreed to extinguish the Source of the Island's power by lowering Desmond (the "failsafe") into the cave to perform said task. Jack believes that Jacob wanted Widmore to bring Desmond to the Island to accomplish this very task (for some unknown, positive outcome), while Locke believes Desmond's actions will sink the Island forever, allowing him to escape in a yacht.

Meanwhile, Miles (Ken Leung) and Alpert (Nestor Carbonell) retrieved Lapidus (Jeff Fahey) floating with submarine debris in the ocean and travelled to Hydra Island, hooking up with Claire (Emilie de Ravin) and intending to get the Ajira plane operational so they could leave the Island. It's a bit irritating how Lapidus has been kept around for three seasons purely because he's the only character that can fly an airplane, don't you agree? Anyway, I appreciated the moment when Miles noticed a grey hair on Alpert, proving his immortality has been removed following Jacob's death. Let's just hope that folicle isn't a sign his years will catch-up with him rapidly, and he'll soon be a wizened skeleton.

In the flashsideways, the measured pace of character "awakenings" quickened because Desmond had managed to bring key people to Daniel Widmore's (Jeremy Davies) outdoor birthday party, as most people connected to Flight 815 were either guests or serendipitously wound up there. Across town, Jack had performed surgery on Locke, surprised to find he was already able to move his feet shortly after his anaesthetic wore off; Sawyer (Josh Holloway) met true-love Juliet (Elizabeth Mitchell) at a vending machine (why are Apollo bars so damn popular?); Sun (Yunjin Kim) and Jin (Daniel Dae Kim) had their memories restored during an ultrasound scan; Daniel met DriveShaft groupie Charlotte (Rebecca Mader) backstage; Hurley (Jorge Garcia) reunited Sayid (Naveen Andrews) with lover Shannon (Maggie Grace), before getting Charlie (Dominic Monaghan) on-stage for the Widmore bash; and Kate (Evangeline Lilly) helped Claire give birth to Aaron, again.

Every moment was in some way anchored to an emotional beat from earlier in the series' run, relying on audience's connection to the characters and beloved memories. As a fan since the day Flight 815 snapped in half over the Pacific, this device worked brilliantly as a shorthand way to remind us of the highs Lost has given us over six years. I found Claire's labour particularly moving, thanks to excellent work from de Ravin (who was sadly wasted elsewhere) and the odd appeal of her forming a little family with dopey Charlie. In both senses of the word.

The Island-based story was awkward in many ways, as there wasn't really much story being told, and the writers were obviously unable to throw up fresh material and new questions because this was the final chapter. Still, I was pleased that the widely-derided "Glowing Cave" from "Across The Sea" somehow felt more plausible after we'd ventured down inside it, over an interior waterfall, to find a luminescent pool of electromagnetic energy that's been stored by a stone-plug only Desmond can wade through safely. There was a more appealing mystical feeling to the Cave and the Source in this episode somehow, where before it felt like naive fairy tale nonsense.

Also great to still see Jack and "Locke" as opposing forces throughout the first part, especially once Jack had helped cause the destruction of the Island by getting Desmond to remove the stone-plug, and the weather took a turn for the worse as the ground started to tremble from violent earthquakes. This led to a Matrix Revolutions-esque fight sequence in the pouring rain between Jack and Locke (who had become mortal as a result of the pool's energy being drained -- just go with it), which ended with a surprisingly early death for the Smokey after being shot by Kate and kicked over a cliff's edge.

In many ways, the problem with "The End" was that it was two extended episodes full of emotional moments that came in regular bursts, but not so much a genuinely enthralling story. Some moments worked better than others, and I'm glad enough clicked to keep me engaged, but there just wasn't the narrative drive forward you usually got with Lost's finales, perhaps understandably. "The End", for me, became less about the plot and question-answering (of which there was very little) and more about enjoying seeing these characters, one final time...

I loved how Jack (mortally-wounded by Locke during their fight) relinquished his Island protector role to Hurley, partly because Hurley's the perfect sasquatch-like deity a jungle should have, but also because it felt right that the most trusting and honest character should ascend to the top. It was also rather wonderful that Hurley appointed Ben as his "Number Two" (a.k.a the new Richard Alpert), considering how much Ben has wanted that position since he was a little boy. Ben's role in the finale wasn't as integral as I expected, or wanted, but this was a deserved and redeeming grace note for his character.

The final moments of the finale were of mixed success, although the symmetry of having a dying Jack lie down in the same bamboo field he first woke up in, this time closing his eye (and with it the series) was a perfect and retrospectively obvious way to bring Lost full circle. The fact Vincent the dog snuggled up to Jack as he watched the Ajira airplane successfully fly overhead, headed for home, tugged at the heartstrings perfectly. I really couldn't have asked for a better final scene.

But it's season 6's divisive "flashsideways" that most people will pour scorn on, as they ultimately proved to be something of an unfortunate misstep for the show. After hearing all the theories for what the flashsideways are, or represent, it all came down to that hoary chestnut of purgatory/limbo. Worse for British viewers, Ashes To Ashes' finale just three days prior did much the same thing! Fortunately, despite the fact purgatory was a common theory back in season 1, the writers at least managed to avoid explaining the entire series that way (although many people online appear to have totally misunderstood that!) Let me clarify here: only the flashsideways were a plane of existence people enter after death, where you're joined by those significant to your life (who died before and after you, because time has no meaning in "limbo-land") It was a kind of spiritual reunion party for everyone, then. Just don't ask why the deceased have to lose their memories, and certainly don't ponder why the Island was seen underwater in this year's premiere (as that makes zero sense, and was responsible for many armchair theorists hitting mental walls...)

I don't wholeheartedly like the purgatory explanation. I didn't totally hate it, but it did feel like a copout on some levels. Fortunately, the flashsideways only formed part of this final year, and were still a fun way to stir some emotion and spend time with dead characters we've grown attached to. I loved seeing Locke forgive Ben for murdering him, and it was poignant for Jack to have everything explained by his "dead" father Christian (John Terry), whose missing body's been one of Lost's longest-running mysteries. In fact, a mystery that wasn't answered in the reality of the series -- another irritation?

Overall, there were several moments of catharsis in "The End" that I responded to truthfully and honestly; partly due to the effects of watching the conclusion of a TV series that's eaten up six years of my leisure time. The good did outweigh the bad for me, making me forget whatever problems I had with how the story panned out. It didn't wrap everything up with a neat bow (I didn't really expect it to), but there's probably enough information for fans to stitch together a clever unifying theory without the problem of future episodes muddying the water now. Somehow that seems fitting for a series that always seemed to owe 50% of it success down to what audiences experienced inbetween the episodes, amongst themselves. There's still lots to discuss and ponder about the show, which I'm quite happy about.

I've spent many hours watching Lost, nearly as many writing about it, and I've been particularly entertained when debating theories with friends and family. It's a show with flaws and problems (is any show perfect?), but it was by far the most enjoyable, ambitious and compelling mystery I've ever engaged with (in film, TV or literature.) Sure, there are many questions left unanswered, but most aren't questions I was demanding to have explained. The core mythology of the show was demystified adequately this year (even if I didn't agree with the turn into spiritualism late-season 5), and all the loose-ends aren't a big deal to me.

So goodbye DHARMA and cryptic numbers. Farewell polar bears and subterranean hatches. Au revoir crazy French woman and the Black Rock. Bon voyage Smoke Monster and the Others. Bye-bye Locke's moobs, Jack's stubble, Kate's freckles, Claire's bulge, Sawyer's chest, Desmond's hair, Sayid snapping necks, Hurley's sweat patches, Ben's bug-eyes, and all the others. My TV's going to be very boring without you guys wandering through the jungle, stumbling upon underground stations, sonic fences, one-armed scientists, four-toed statues, one-eyed Russians, and frozen donkey wheels.

Thanks for the memories, brother.

Namaste.

Answers, Answers, Answers?

No, not everything was explained. Did you really think it could be? At least they got the main stuff covered in season 6 (what the Island is, what the Smoke Monster is, what the whispers are, why people were brought to the Island, what the numbers meant.) But, here's what we'll just have to debate forever more:
  • Why was Walt special? I guess we'll only have found out if the actor somehow cheated the ageing process, although considering how Lost jumped forward in time 3 years, it was feasible they could have brought Malcolm David Kelley back fulltime.
  • Why couldn't mothers give birth on the Island? I guess it was because Jacob won't allow it, because he gets to select who can come?
  • How did DHARMA get air-dropped supplies? A clear mistake of season 2, when the idea that the Island was "hidden" hadn't taken shape yet.
  • How did Claire manage to give birth to Aaron? Jacob allowed it? Not sure why.
  • What was the significance of Aaron? I guess there wasn't one, no matter what that soothsayer told Claire in season 1.
  • Why was there so much Egyptian statues/hieroglyphics everywhere? I assume Egyptians arrived on the Island after Jacob became the Island's protector, and explained the strange they saw or encountered using their spiritual beliefs? They clearly saw Jacob as "Tawaret" (God of fertility) and built a statue in his honour, then the Temple around a spring connected to the Source, and knew of the Smoke Monster.
  • Who was trapped in Jacob's Cabin surrounded by ash? For me, this is the most maddening question left unanswered. It makes sense that it was Smokey (imprisoned there because of the ash perimeter, and posing as Jacob to Ben), not least because that's where Smokey-as-Christian took Claire, but how come Smokey was often seen terrorizing the Island? Who was breaking the ash perimeter to let him go free sometimes?
  • Why did ash keep Smokey at bay? I'm going to assume that Smokey (as the remnant of a dead man's soul), can't cross paths with other human remains, such as the ash from cremated bodies. Sounds feasible to me.
  • Why did Jacob tell Hurley to save Sayid's life by getting him to The Temple, if doing so turned him "evil" (temporarily)? And what turned the spring's water dirty? Why was Sayid "zombified"? I have no idea. That whole Temple section of season 6 was pretty dumb in retrospect.
24 MAY 2010: SKY1/HD, 5AM