Mini reviews of Television seasons old and new. No fuss. No spoilers. Occasional bunnies.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Tremors: The Series (2003)

The short-lived series takes place after the events of Tremors 3: Back to Perfection (2001), so it’s advisable to watch T3 first. I'm going to proceed under the assumption that you already have. If not, then any spoilers you encounter for the first three films from this point onward aren't my fault.

Were back in Perfection Valley, Nevada, home of gun-loving Burt Gummer (Michael Gross) and his very own Moby Dick, the state protected Graboid known as El Blanco. The small community refuse to move, and the indigenous El Blanco is unable to move because of the mountainous regions on either side, so a co-existence is the only answer. Luckily, for us viewers but not for the residents, Perfection Valley has other secrets under its sands, so there’s more than just El Blanco to keep the watchful eye of Burt twitching.

A new guy, Tyler Reed, rolls into town eager to stretch his liability insurance to breaking point by earning a living in the place that does for giant worms what Roswell does for little grey men. Tyler is the everyman, there to balance out Burt’s paranoia with occasional bouts of rationality. A few other returning movie characters cameo from time to time. And what’s even better in my book is that Christopher Lloyd drops in once or twice! A crazy doc makes every show better.

It’s been squeezed to fit the small screen but it’s unmistakably Tremors. The creature of the week scenario is a little overused but it's often a catalyst for the community to come together and for the characters to bond. They’re strongest when standing side by side and sharing a common goal. If that goal turns a profit then it's all the better, because dangerous living costs money.

13 episodes, approximately 43 minutes each.

Six of the episodes are part of an ongoing story arc involving a shady organisation that had been dabbling in things they ought not to have been dabbling in. Burt (not good with people) is tested more than he ever thought possible by the new developments. Sadly, the series was cancelled, so we never got to find out what would've happened when _____ went to _____ and opened _____. Oh, my!

3 twitchometers out of 5

Monday, July 21, 2014

Titus Seasons 1 & 2 (2000-2001)

"The Los Angeles Times states "63% of American families are now considered dysfunctional." That means we're the majority. We're normal. It's the people that had the mom, dad, brother, sister, little white picket fence, those people are the freaks."
Christopher Titus comes from a family that would be considered "dysfunctional". The half hour episodes would open with Titus in a black and white room talking directly to the audience and often relay some quote or story that is thematically part of the plot of the episode which are pulled almost verbatim from his one man comedy show Normal Rockwell Is Bleeding which was itself based on his real life. He grew up with his father who was a hard drinking, smoking, womanizing, 5-time divorcee who perpetually berates and belittles Titus and his idiot, stoner brother Dave in what he sees as a tough love approach to parenting. His mother was a violent, alcoholic, manic-depressive schizophrenic who was in and out of mental hospitals. As an adult he now runs his own hot-rod body shop with his brother and his best friend Tommy who is anxious and effeminate, which means he is constantly the butt of gay jokes despite being heterosexual. Titus is often only managing this craziness with the help of his girlfriend, Erin, who also comes from a dysfunctional family of alcoholic thieves and drug dealers, but has managed to grow into a somewhat normal person. The episodes would then end in the black and white "neutral space" where Titus would reiterate what he said before but now with the meaning skewed and turned on its side.

The show would often take on subject matter that other shows would fear to tread except in a special episode with a viewer discretion disclaimer. Titus would revel in it and crack fun at them while still treating the subject matter with respect whether it was sexual harassment, substance abuse, murder, suicide, etc. This puts the show squarely in the section of black comedy and it was actually part of the show's downfall. The battle with censors and the network over content was constant with Titus relaying one story about how he had to read the script for an episode page by page to an executive on the phone to convince him how it could be funny that they have to convince his father to resume drinking rather than quit because sobriety made him boring and listless. The shows were also different in shooting style as it was shot in real time in front of a studio audience on a set like a play usually in just one location. The laugh track is actually the audience members. Flashbacks and the neutral space interruptions were also played for the audience so it was seen almost exactly as it would be on air. Episodes were mostly self-contained with no overarching story with only a few bits of continuity which was only really thrown out of whack when the network would push episodes out of order for fear of its controversial plot. With its mostly untread material on network TV, its sharp and witty comedic timing and very non politically correct characters, there was nothing quite like it at the time. While it may feel a little dated now, the show still holds up on repeat viewings.

Buyer's Guide:
The DVD sets are now out of print and only available second hand which is a shame as this would be perfect for binge viewing on Netflix or other streaming service. There is a decent amount of bonus content on the discs if one does manage to grab a set.

Don't be a wussy out of 5

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Coma (2005)

A South Korean miniseries set mostly inside a hospital that's almost completely abandoned, having been marked for closure. A young professional woman, Yoon Young (Lee Se Eun), is sent in to check insurance criteria are being met by the few remaining staff members, all of whom are reticent about why there's a single female patient still in the ward. The patient, Lee So Hee (Cha Soo Yun), is in a coma, unable to speak for herself. Why she's there and why she's comatose opens a door to a horror/mystery that leads to a dramatic and creepy conclusion. If you already have a morbid fear of hospitals, then you may want to avoid watching.

The building has ghosts: the dead kind that act independently, with long, face-obscuring hair and a grudge, and the haunting memory kind that are trapped in a moment, destined to replay a tragic event over and over.

Subsequent episodes simultaneously expand upon the sleeping girl's past and offer up new stories with new characters, each somehow tied into it. Within that framework are a small number of different time periods overlapping.

The narrative throws around a lot of what appear to be red herrings as it gathers the disparate threads together, but they weave into a satisfying conclusion, so don't get too frustrated if you feel a little lost from time to time.

It's lit in a very precise way. A lot of the time the colour is either drained out of the picture or the cold, murky appearance of the concrete is extended to every other aspect of production. The closest approximation I can think of is the aesthetic of most survival horror games: the flickering corridor lights, the shit-smeared and blood-stained half-tiled walls, etc.

An over-reliance on the now clich├ęd Asian horror sounds (clicking/grinding bones and scratching/shuffling corpse) was tiresome, but the series was aired in 2005 and that may have been less of an issue then. Had I been lucky enough to see it in 2005 I'm positive that I'd have liked it more.

5 episodes, approx 55 minutes each. The final episode is the best.

3 unsanctioned after hours operations out of 5