Lucifer, Season One (2016)

Premiered January 25th, 2016, ended April 25th, 2016

“Lucifer is a TV show where the devil, the literal devil, solves crimes with an LAPD detective in a buddy-cop procedural crime format.”

When I tell people that, I hear back “really?” or “wow” or “so… is that on Netflix or?” Quite frankly, it’s that ridiculous premise that brought me to the show in the first place, and it’s what kept me around through the end of the season. Lucifer is not an intelligent show. Lucifer is basically the “popcorn movie” of television, something that’s best enjoyed by turning off your brain and trying to enjoy the spectacle of it all. But even with your brain on low-power mode, I suspect you’ll notice that the writing is cringe-worthy, the crimes are like jigsaw puzzles for children (the culprit is always the second or third person you meet), and even the spectacle of having an immortal super-powerful demons and angels as part of the cast is underused.

So, that sounds like a lot of negatives, and I’m far from suggesting the show to anybody without caveats, but here’s why I want to make the case for Lucifer. In the midst of this Golden Age of Television (if I can call it that), where there is no shortage of amazing, critically acclaimed dramas, comedies, thrillers, etc. why would I watch the mediocre, middling Lucifer all the way through? Because I’m overwhelmed by good television. With so many suggestions out there like Better Call Saul, The Americans, Jessica Jones, Master of None, Narcos… not to mention my outstanding series left unfinished like The Wire, House of Cards, The X-Files, Twin Peaks, among others… with so many great, great shows piling up, the easiest choice to make is to begin none of them, and sit back and watch something like Lucifer.

Tom Ellis plays a handsome-enough, charming-enough Lucifer who’s really at his best when he’s playing it as a calm, cool, enraged Lucy, rather than a playboy. Lauren German deserves more credit than she gets for keeping the show alive as detective Chloe Decker, who has Lucifer forced on her as a crime-solving partner. Lucifer is often very whiny, and the ways in which he is portrayed to be “cool” would have been more convincing if I were 8-10 years younger – Chloe Decker helps balance things out, challenging Lucy’s too-cool persona and forcing him to occasionally grow up. With any luck the show’s writers will spend less time in Season Two reminding us that the devil likes to fuck, and more time bringing these two closer together and giving Chloe definitive proof that she’s working with the real devil.

Again, I think part of the reason I’m drawn to Lucifer is because I find the mountain of critically-acclaimed television piling up a paralyzing feat. Choosing one show to start is intimidating, and the thought of falling into a Netflix hole again is not appealing. It’s easier to dedicate one hour a week to this show that doesn’t really require my full attention. And you know what? It’s fun to drop that bomb on people. “I’m watching this show where the devil, the literal devil, is in a buddy-cop crime show.”

“Is it any good?” they may ask.
“Eh. No” I may say, “but it doesn’t really matter. The devil’s a cop and that premise is good enough to keep me watching.”

What’s Up? (Broadchurch Edition)

It would be a huge mistake for me to let another day go by without writing about Broadchurch. It’s a British murder-mystery drama that I started on December 17th, and finished on December 19th. In a year where I got to watch Fargo, True Detective, House of Cards, and other television greats – I can’t believe something could top all of that. Okay, so, Broadchurch isn’t as good as True Detective or Fargo, but I liked it more than either show. I felt less tense, less miserable – I had a great time theorizing “whodunit” without going through the agonizing… hmm… anxiety? that shows like Fargo or Breaking Bad could cause me to experience. (The kind of tension that makes you want to pause or fast-forward a show).

Broadchurch took place in a quaint seaside town that I thought was beautiful. The Jurassic Coast is wonderful, and something I never knew I wanted to see until now. David Tennant gets to be Scottish, weird, and kind of an ass to people. It’s nice to see him out of the loveable Doctor role and inside something much darker – the troubled detective. Olivia Colman’s great as his detective-sergeant, though I’ve never seen her in anything before. And I can’t believe I’m saying this but… I loved Arthur Darvill as the town Priest. Honestly. The cast is so small that I liked a little bit of most everyone. Oh man! And David Bradley too (Lord Walder Frey, Filch, so on!)

The show does what it promises to do in the first episode. Find the killer. We have two detectives, a small town, and while it may not disturb the formula – it’s a good time. Question everybody, come up with your own theories, and have a good time doing it. It was hard to stop watching, and when the credits rolled – I cried! I cried a little bit, yes! Congratulations Broadchurch. Not many TV shows will ever make me cry.

So please, do yourself a favor – if you have Netflix just give the first episode a try. If the serious tone and the brooding, methodical detective work isn’t your thing, then fine. For me it was, and I’m already thinking about re-watching those precious six hours of Broadchurch. It’s weird… but this show might be the highlight of winter break so far.

Charmed: “Something Wicca This Way Comes” (1×01)

Once upon a time I was flipping channels and stumbled upon an episode of Charmed. I suppose what I saw was a late-season episode on TNT. I didn’t stick around for long before I knew that Charmed was a series I wanted to watch from the beginning. Weeks later I found myself here, with the first episode of Charmed streaming across Netflix. Lets call this a list of impressions rather than an actual review, for now.

The Sisters Three
I absolutely love the sister dynamic in this episode. Charmed introduces its three sisters in a rather expository way, but it works. (And it’s a first episode, what do you expect!?). We have Prew, Piper, and Phoebe. Prew rejected her boss/ex-boyfriend’s marriage proposal. Now she’s romantically involved with the detective investigating her mother’s occult murder. After episode one, she’s my second-favorite. My favorite has to be Phoebe right now. She doesn’t need a man! (Though Prew thinks she got involved with her ex-boyfriend). Also, Phoebe’s the youngest and most-okay with this magic stuff- so she’s by default, the most fun. Then there’s Piper who tries to bring Phoebe and Prew closer together (it’s not working). Piper’s a good cook, her boyfriend turned out to be a Warlock, and she’s got middle-sister neutrality. This makes her least interesting as of the first episode, unfortunately.

Magic!
I liked the way Charmed handled and dealt out magic this first episode. The show based the sisters’ witch-magic at least partly in Wicca stuff, with other occult things mixed in. I like that there’s an obviously magical cat, who doesn’t talk or do anything magical in the first episode. (You just know its magic). The thing I like most is how each sister gets her own magical specialty. Prew has telekinesis, Piper can stop time, and Phoebe can read minds (telepathy?). The powers are dished out quickly, Charmed doesn’t waste any time showing you how they master these powers, they just get them. Some prophecy says that these three sisters will be the most powerful witches of all time. So even though they kill Piper’s Warlock-boyfriend in a very underwhelming way, I have hopes that their magic will become cooler in future episodes.

In The End…
Charmed seems like a show that will become much, much better than this first episode. The Sisters will develop, I’ll get to know them better, their dialogue will become more natural. (We won’t hear sentences like, “But my sister slept with my boyfriend!” or “She doesn’t have sex with anyone but herself!”). By all means I hope the show continues with its cheesy lighthearted attitude, I just want it to turn into the type of cheesiness that I can laugh with, not at.

2004 Retrospective: House, M.D.

I had been planning on having a ten-year retrospective for House for a while, and by sheer coincidence, House actually first aired ten-years from today’s date, November 16th, 2004. Lucky break on my part! Totally didn’t plan for this. Anyways, let’s get down to it. I watched a few episodes of the first season of House, and noticed that things were very different than how I remembered them. The color scheme of the show was way more desaturated than I remembered, and the show lacked the iconic “Teardrop” by Massive Attack that became known as the “theme from House.” It was also bizarre to see how House and his doctors, Chase, Cameron, and Foreman, didn’t know each other as well… Watching the first episodes of House only highlighted that my memory of the show was basically defined by the middle seasons.

I suppose House is a show whose beginning and ending I have never watched. It’s one of the few shows I watched with my Mother on a regular basis, and I never would have hopped on during Season 2 or 3 if it weren’t for her. Whatever the reasons, I never saw House all the way through, I didn’t even finish Season 7 – though I’ve read over and over again how the show ends in Season 8. Regardless, Hugh Laurie’s Doctor House is one of the better primetime television characters we’ve had the pleasure of experiencing in the last decade, and it really reminds me of Peter Dinklage’s performance as Tyrion.

Some observations…

  • I didn’t know House was a vicodin addict from episode one, I thought he developed that problem over time.
  • Already, in the very first episode, I don’t like Foreman.
  • The four tropes of an episode of House are all here.
    • We spend the first five minutes of an episode waiting for horrible things to happen in ordinary situations, thus revealing the patient.
    • House complains at / yells at somebody for doing something idiotic, and he gets an idea for treating the patient.
    • House suggests breaking and entering in order to learn more about the patient.
    • The patient’s first treatment works until halfway through the episode, and then it turns out House only made things worse.
  • Seriously, what’s with the colors in the first episode of House? It’s practically in black and white!
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Plants are supposed to add a little bit of Green to the room, but in House, it’s just a different shade of grey.

I don’t have very nuanced things to say about House except, I suppose it’s good fun – and a little more than that. The pattern of a medical procedure show is fun to watch, and House adds a bit more character to the formula. Hugh Laurie’s great in the roll, and while I couldn’t find it in myself to finish the show – I could watch the first five seasons again – in time. It’s not the type of show I’d marathon, but I’m glad it’s in syndication. When it’s late at night and you’re flipping channels and you find a rerun of House on, it’s not a bad watch at all.

2004 Retrospective: Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends

Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends: Aired August 2004

There was no shortage of kids my age talking about and watching Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends. It’s a show that captivated me with its premise; that all abandoned imaginary friends stayed at a Foster Home, and executed on everything that its world had to offer. Everything about the world of the show clicked: the kazoo-and-piano frenzy of a soundtrack, the flatly shaded art style, and the aesthetic of the Foster Home itself.

Most importantly the show had good characters and everybody had their favorite: Bloo, Wilt, Eduardo, Coco, Mac, Frankie, Madame Foster, Dutchess, Herriman… and if you were really unfortunate you knew somebody who liked Cheese. My favorite characters were Coco and Frankie (voiced by Grey DeLisle) and they both really shine in Season 1, Episode 4: “Store Wars.” It opens with Frankie Foster struggling to organize a surprise party for her grandmother Madame Foster. Like Yumi before her, Frankie embodied this no funny-business attitude that I identified with when I was 11. She’s an overworked teenager/young adult in a house full of chaos and imaginary nonsense – and the way she coped with that was pretty hilarious.

Frankie has to go to the Mall to pick up last minute party supplies, and of course Bloo complicates things by inviting the gang along to go shopping too. Everybody has money for gifts, except for Coco, the odd, deranged, 1/3 Bird, 1/3 Palm, 1/3 Airplane imaginary friend who’s kind of the Charlie Kelly of the group. The Mall is a great setting for the episode: an elevator-musak rendition of the theme-song loops in the background, and the shops lightly parody those found in your typical mall. Victoria’s Secret becomes “Victorian Indiscretions,” and all the characters react differently to the lingerie on display (Mac and Frankie both smile but for different reasons I presume).

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Frankie finds herself falling asleep on a massage chair at Pointier Image, during which time Coco gets hired at the Mall’s foot court. With the group separated during her nap, Frankie spends the rest of the episode trying to reign in the chaos. Meanwhile Coco climbs up the Mall-job ladder, running the Information Booth in once scene and then becoming a Mall-cop just minutes later. I really like “Store Wars” as a representative episode of Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends. It balances the chaos created by imaginary friends perfectly with the stress and craziness that the human characters experience while trying to control that chaos. The episode ends with Coco giving Madame Foster an expensive gift with the money she earned by working at the Mall, though Frankie gets no such happy ending.

I’ll be the first to say that Foster’s can be a bit annoying now that I’m ten years older, but it occupied a special place in my heart back then, and it still does. The premise is just so darn heart-warming that I’ll put up with a little extra kinetic energy just to live in that world for 22 minutes at a time.

2004 Retrospective: Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi

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Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi: Aired November 2004

I wanted to start my 2004 Retrospective with a television show that I never really talked about with friends before, Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi. It was a show that I watched in secret largely because my younger brother would make fun of me for watching, and my Mom indirectly disapproved of. If you’re not familiar with the show, it follows two brightly colored J-Pop stars Ami and Yumi who are actually real-life J-Pop stars. I suppose it bothered my Mother a great deal that her 11-year old son would watch a show with two female protagonists. She would ask “What is this? Why are you watching it?” in the overly-judgey tone that she often used to shame me into abandoning things she disapproved of. I don’t know why, but I resisted the shame and watched the show whenever I could be alone to enjoy it. I remember flipping channels when people would come into the room to avoid negative comments and stares… But now ten years later, I’m going to just sit back and watch the first episode in peace, finally.

The two things I remember most fondly about the show remain the two best parts still: the J-Pop music, and Yumi. The theme song is one of the catchiest anthems of all the cartoons I watched as a kid, and the music used during montages makes otherwise boring montages fun to watch. Now let’s talk about Yumi because she’s a total badass. That’s probably a large part about what kept me around as a kid. The combat-boot, spiked-bracelet, and collar-wearing punk of the duo was the one always making the wise remarks as I remember, and I’ll be honest I totally did (and maybe still do) have a thing for punk/goth characters. They’re always level headed and wiser than their years, usually independent, and they embraced alternative clothing options. Coincidentally Yumi’s voiceactor, Grey DeLisle, also voiced Sam, another goth character that would debut in 2004’s Danny Phantom.

I can’t say the first episode is full of laughs; it first deals with a stalker fan, who inexplicably shows up wherever Ami and Yumi go. In an amazing Alien reference, the stalker bursts out of the chest of Yumi while they’re on the moon. There’s tons of great throwaway gags though, like the girls wanting to get “Pizza on a Stick” while at the mall, or Yumi learning ninja-skills from a mail-order biodegradable monkey who tragically biodegrades… As a whole the episode was entertaining enough to a 21-year old, and I take that as a sign that the show holds up pretty well. I really appreciate that the show doesn’t shy away from using Japanese songs or language on-the-fly either, it certainly lends to an overall sense of character. The songs are fun, the art’s pretty good, and the show’s packed with clever jokes – so just about ten years later I’d say Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi is still work watching.