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Entries in TV (589)


Checking Into The "Bates Motel" on Hitchcock's Birthday

Glenn here. Can I talk a little bit more about Alfred Hitchcock? After all, he was born on this day 114 years ago and it's pretty astounding that his works are still being mimicked, adapted and homaged to this day. So few classic directors can be spoken about in this day and age and still have new and interesting things to be said. My personal favourite is Psycho (1960), but then I've always had a softer spot for his more pulpy work. Think of others like The Birds (1963) and The 39 Steps (1935) for instance. He's known for refined, classy, adult thrillers, the likes of which are barely made today, but it was his embrace of genre that continues to impress me the most. He supposedly hated horror movies and wanted to go about reinventing them. It's hard to deny he succeeded.

Several sequels followed, including Psycho II, which is actually quite impressive if still nowhere near the genius of Hitchcock's original. That one was directed by Richard Franklin who, much like Brian DePalma, frequently lifts Hitchcock wholesale for his own movies to sometimes incredible effect (see Road Games with Stacy Keach and Jamie Lee Curtis for a rather fantastic open road retelling of Rear Window). I'm also a huge, huge fan of Gus Van Sant's much-maligned 1998 remake starring Vince Vaughn, Anne Heche, Julianne Moore and Viggo Mortensen. It's the last mainstream experimental film and the very reason people hate it is why I think it works so well.

And now in 2013 Psycho has been reinvented once more in the form of A&E's Bates Motel


A preposterously absurd, but wickedly entertaining series that reposits Norma and Norman Bates to the modern day and surrounds them in all sorts of wacky, grisly, mysterious events. It's a prequel and it's fun watching the writers insert little bits and pieces from the movie into the plot: Norman learns taxidermy! Norma fights city planners to keep a bypass from being constructed! Norman has "blackouts"! It's not subtle, but I was entertained so much by the first season that I can't wait to see how the show weaves its way towards the ultimate conclusion. Mother won't be happy. As Gawker succinctly put it:

[Like] Jessica Lange on the first season of American Horror Story... there's something about macabre television that brings the best-worst out of its women."

What's curious about Bates Motel, however, is that despite its origins as a riff on Psycho, it is David Lynch's Twin Peaks that the show most resembles. And deliberately so. Bates Motel is like the unofficial sequel to that groundbreaking prime time murder mystery soap opera of the early 1990s that we never knew was coming. The action of Bates Motel has been moved from California to the same region as Twin Peaks, it's set in a small town where murders and drug dealing and all sorts of illegal activity take place below the surface just like Twin Peaks, and there's a secret diary of sorts that the high school kids try to solve just like Twin Peaks. The series even utilised Twin Peaks iconography in its marketing, not to mention favoured Lynchian directorial trademarks like buzzing neon and car accidents.

Audrey, Shelly, and Donna piece clues together in "Twin Peaks"

I recently returned from Twin Peaks Fest, a fan convention held in the town where Peaks and its cinematic prequel were films. It was basically one of the greatest weekends of my life, but while I was there I asked if any of the other Twin Peaks obsessives had watched the show. They hadn't, but I hope they do. I can't imagine Alfred Hitchcock would have liked it all that much, but it stands as one of the zanier and more entertaining ways that the Master of Suspence's legacy lives on.

Recent Hitchcockian Goodies
The Hitchcock Ten
Shadow of a Doubt Best Shot
Top Ten Memorable Performances
Great Moments in Gayness: Suspicion 
Oscar Horrors: Terrifying Mrs Danvers in Rebecca 


Lisa, it's your birthday...

She’s now had 50 years on this Earth, and I think we can safely say that Lisa Kudrow – who’s certainly smarter than any of the characters she’s played – has given a lot of joy to the world in that time. Dave here to pay the Film Experience's respects to this fine actress. To the world at large, Kudrow will always be Phoebe Buffay, but of all the Friends, she’s surely the one with the spiciest CV after the show. It’s only her affinity for hard-edged, pitiful characters that's kept her from continued mainstream success. For the connoisseur, Kudrow remains one of the most adept comic actresses working. We salute you, Lisa, on your special day.

Watch, learn, and don’t eat her cookie.


Phoebe Buffay, Friends 

If you want to receive e-mails about my upcoming shows, then please, give me money so I can buy a computer.

six more indelible characters after the jump!
which is your favorite?

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Where to Now, Ms. Close?

Andrew here to talk about one of the finest women in the last decade of television, and the woman who created her. Let's talk Patty Hewes. With all five seasons of Damages newly available on DVD and Amazon Instant Video, it's time.

When Glenn Close won her second of two Emmy Awards for her work on Damages she coyly thanked the creators of the show for giving her what was...

 ….maybe….the best role of my career.”

At the time I couldn’t help but react with incredulity considering this was the woman who had given us Alex Forrest (Fatal Attraction), Marquise Isabelle de Merteuil (Dangerous Liaisons) and Norma Desmond and Paulina Salas on stage. Could this TV role really be the role of her lifetime?

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Orange Is The New (Fabulous) Black

Move aside, House of Cards. There's a new reigning champ in the Netflix world. Jenji Kohan's follow up to Weeds called Orange is the New Black has earned the designation of being the strongest television debut of the year. The series about an upper class woman Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling) whose life is derailed by a prison sentence for a drug mule crime committed in her wilder (lesbian) youth. It features strong, multi-layered female characters, a solid dramatization of the source material and one of the best ensembles from any medium in 2013.

Nathaniel will touch on the series more soon but here are some things I, Beau, enjoyed about it as well as some 'room for improvement' items from its first season. [more...]

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Teen Wolf Eye Gougings (& Shark Jumpings?)

Teen Baby WolfIf my eyes were to glow like a werewolves on Teen Wolf I'd want them to be purple or green -- my signature colors. But, since werewolf eyes seem to be mood driven, right now they'd be ice blue. After the TV highs of last week when we got Orange is the New Black (so good!) on Netflix, a decent Emmy nomination list with a little something for everyone and fun to play with, Sunday and Monday were brutal: True Blood began to truly suck again despite the vague sense that it was limping back towards former mojo after the debacle of Season 5 (please stake this show!), Bunheads was cancelled just as it was really hitting its stride (those last few episodes were giant leaps forward for a show that was clearly only just starting to hit its stride) and Teen Wolf...? well my guilty pleasure that I've kept telling people not to feel guilty about, delivered its single worst episode. And made me feel guilty for watching it. 

I was so bored and annoyed I felt like the eye-gouging scene was basically projection. And what's with the sparkler effect on punctured lupine eyes? Last week I joked that Teen Wolf goes everyone but to high school these days but this episode was a disaster, accomplishing  a truly bizarre thing no TV series should want to accomplish: it had an entire episode devoted to backstory exposition starring actors who are tertiary characters or playing younger versions of the characters in which NONE of the show's central players got more than a few minutes of air time. No Lydia and very little Allison, Scott, Derek or Stiles? No thanks! 

Do you agree that flashback / backstory episodes are The Worst? To me it nearly always signals creative trouble. Even shows as consistently excellent as my two all time favorites (Mad Men and Buffy the Vampire Slayer) tend to trip up when they leave their main actors behind or put them in bad wigs to tell us some story from days of yore.


Goodbye, Bunheads

Andrew here with a eulogy. Nathaniel just can't.

You have heard by now that ABC Family has officially pulled the plug on the comedy musical series Bunheads. It’s been five months since the show aired the final episode of its first, and only season, ironically titled “Next”. Since then the network has failed to definitively address the issue of whether or not the show was done for good. The statement the network released Monday afternoon reads, thus:

Bunheads is a wonderful series that we are very proud to have aired," ABC Family says in a statement. "The series had amazing storytelling, the most talented cast and a passionate and loyal fan base. Recognizing all of this, we took extra time to try and find ways to bring the series back for another season, but in the end it simply wasn’t possible.  We wish the cast and crew the best in their future endeavors”

It’s difficult to speculate on the veracity of a claim like “we took extra time to try and find ways to bring the series back” but to the outside eye the line reeks of the disingenuous. [more...]

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