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

Friday, August 22, 2014

Tabitha: Complete Series (1976–78)

It was sad to see Bewitched (1964-72) end but it had a heck of a good run and it struggled in the final season to keep the format interesting. A series that focussed on a grown up Tabitha Stephens seemed like the next natural choice.

There were two pilots; neither of which stray too far from the established format. The first was set in San Francisco and acknowledged the changing times, specifically the role of women who were no longer unfairly depicted as dutiful housewives. It had Tabitha (played by Liberty Williams) working as an editorial assistant (secretary). She’s joined by her brother Adam (David Ankrum), a Warlock who relies on his powers frequently. The comedy is targeted toward a slightly younger adult demographic than Bewitched had been.

It was unfairly scrapped and a second, inferior pilot commissioned. Liberty Williams was replaced by Lisa Hartman. The drama was moved to Los Angeles and Tabataha became a Production Assistant at a Television studio. She follows in Samantha’s footsteps by choosing to live among mortals as one of them.
In a complete reversal, her brother Adam, who is inexplicably older than his sister despite having been born second, struggles to get her to refrain from using her twitchy-witchy powers. He essentially becomes Darrin, expect he’s not married to his witch because that would be weird.

Samantha’s flamboyant Aunt Minerva (Karen Morrow) is a regular. Her character is a desperate attempt to compensate for the lack of Endora, but you can’t replace Agnes Moorehead no matter how much you may want or need to.

I don’t think it’s the travesty that many people claim, but the magic is absent - I mean the character type, not the witch type. It was beholden to something much better than it could ever hope to be, so from day one it was caught between a rock and a hard place; i.e. Bewitched and a Bewitched fan’s expectations.

13 episodes (inc. pilots), approximately 24 minutes each.

2 family secrets out of 5

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Unusuals (2009)

Be on the lookout for a male wearing a hot dog costume, last seen running west on Halston Street. Suspect may or may not be wielding a samurai sword.
Casey Schraeger is young detective working in the Vice department of the NYPD when she is suddenly transferred to homicide to replace a cop who was just murdered. That is all on the surface, but she is also tasked by her new sergeant to secretly uncover any secrets and improprieties of not only the murdered cop, but also his former partner/her new partner, Jason Walsh as well as the other detectives in the department. Detective Banks is so paranoid that he will die that he sleeps in his bulletproof vest, has foam padding around the edge of his desk, and replaced all his furniture with inflate-able chairs. Detective Delahoy has recently found out he has a brain tumor, but hasn't told anyone and refused treatment out of fear of what the treatment might do to him which ironically has made him somewhat more fearless in contrast with his partner, Banks. There is also Detective Cole who is a hardcore Christian whose faith is unwavering and his partner Detective Beaumont who is a tough, no nonsense Hispanic woman.

They will all work to solve cases that are rather unusual with the gritty atmosphere mashing with comedic insanity. Like the murder of a naked man running down the street, or the disappearance of a nursing home patient despite him being declared dead. What seems like another police procedural is actually a black comedy that is focused less on the procedure and more on the characters who are all interesting and nuanced and only become more so as viewers get to know them and as Casey learns more about their secrets. The shows premise is a good one even if the whole secrets shtick is finished about halfway through the 10 episode run. The conclusion of that particular plotline would have made a decent finale other than the episode that became the finale because of cancellation. It was a fine episode, just not a spectacle like most finales are, but the episodes after that are still good, one of them being my personal favorite. Great characters, full of wit and some decent action. I only torture myself wishing it would come back for more than 10 episodes when I know it won't.

Buyer's Guide:
Available on a 2 disc DVD set, the dvd mail part of Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, and for free on digital streaming service Crackle.

Unusual interrogations of cat murderers out of 5

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Silicon Valley (2014)

Kid Rock is the poorest person here aside from you guys. There is 40 billion dollars of net worth walking around this party and you guys are standing around drinking shrimp and talking about what cum tastes like.
Richard Hendricks is a programmer who works at Hooli, a fictional facsimile of tech companies like Google, who lives in an incubator: a group home for programmers who pay rent with a share of any future programs they may or may not sell. When a piece of code he writes shows promise, he is quickly thrust into the high stakes world of Silicon Valley venture capitalists and billionaire CEO's, a situation which he is completely unprepared for with just being a stereotypical tech nerd who is prone to panic attacks and anxiety induced vomiting. To help build his new tech start-up he enlists his incubator roommates, Dinesh and Guilfoyle, along with the incubator landlord, Erlich Bachman, who comes along since the terms of the incubator gives him 10 percent of the new company. They all bring something to the table despite their idiosyncrasies like Dinesh and Guilfoyle's constant competition with each other and Erlich's penchant for grandstanding and taking copious amounts of drugs.

Mike Judge uses his insider knowledge of the tech world to make a hilarious and witty send-up of tech culture. The humor from the show uses nerd stereotypes, but in a way that isn't watered down with offensively inoffensive sitcom jokes. It both prods and revels in geekdom  like Big Bang Theory wishes it did. There is much less of the technobabble that is part of most other shows since the creators and producers are steeped in the culture or did their research so jokes made about, say, videogames sounds natural instead of forced and borderline insulting and derisive. The show is well produced which isn't surprising given the HBO pedigree and the only real shame is there is only 8 episodes.

Buyer's Guide:
Available streaming on HBO GO and iTunes as well as DVD and BluRay sets from

5 Fucking Billionaires out of 5

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Daimajin Kanon (2010)

A Japanese tokusatsu show that has the usual explosive combat scenes scattered throughout, but the masked heroes aren't the main focus of the narrative. Instead, the story revolves around a pretty, young University student, Misaki Kanon, who moves to Tokyo in the hope of becoming a successful lyricist and singer. In order to survive in a harsh environment we need to adopt an equally harsh attitude; for Misaki the city is that environment. Her usual sensitive, fragile personality will be eaten alive if she doesn't do something uncharacteristic to protect it.

If you've watched any amount of anime you’ll likely have encountered a similar set-up, but Misaki isn't as simpering and hateful as the full-blown animated stereotype typically is. The ups and downs are mostly predicable and there are times when you could legitimately accuse her of making a mountain out of a molehill, but the setbacks and departures from the daily routine add to the overall story when you consider her role in each one. Remember, character growth needs challenges, irrespective of whether they're real or imagined.

Action is courtesy of a small group of masked heroes known as Onbake. They go where needed to fight Ipadada, evil spirits that can possess a human and use him/her to summon soul drones. If the Ipadada aren't stopped in time they’ll consume and destroy everything in their path. There is, of course, a connection between the Onbake and Misaki that ties everything together, but, like I said previously, they play second fiddle to her story.

The all-important first episode sets the tone for what follows. It’s thoughtful but also light-hearted. It never feels the need to quicken the pace too much, so it may bore anyone seeking a typical action series. It’s not complex or filled with hidden depths but nor is it too self-indulgent or wispy. Some stories are best told simply; Daimajin Kanon is one of them. It came along at the perfect time for me and I really, really enjoyed it.

The current Wikipedia article claims the series is a retelling of the original Daimajin movie (1966), but if you've viewed both film and series you’ll know that’s not strictly true. There are similarities to how Majin (here called Bujin) transforms and in the scarcity of his actual appearances but the differences in every other aspect of his personality outweigh them. It's a new story, not a retelling. The Daimajin name was in all probability an easy way to create interest. Change his appearance and you’d never know he was supposed to be that old stone god.

26 episodes, approx 24 minutes each.

3½ responsibilities out of 5