Sunday, June 17, 2012

Why television is so great

For me, summer is all about television. Surprising, I know, since nothing of real substance is on (unless you count premium channels). But for me, it's the chance to start new shows, catch up on old shows or re-watch some of my favorite shows. For example I have used previous summers to discover Dexter, 24, Community, The Big C and last summer Friday Night Lights. In the past week I randomly watched the first episode of FNL, which resulted in my familiar addiction, leading me to watch almost the whole series. This a show that reminds me why I believe television to be so great. It is one of the few shows that gave me goosebumps on a continual basis. I am not kidding, when anything emotional, triumphant or just plan awesome, I would get the goosebumps. It's an odd thing to feel so connected to fictional characters with made up lives. It is one of the truest shows I have ever seen, and sometimes that's a lot harder to pull off than great effects or epic plots.

For example, look at any doctor or crime show. Yes, they have a real world premise but many of the story lines are relatively unrealistic. I don't see that with FNL, I believe it to the point where something happens to a character and I have an emotion a friend would feel. The writing is unbelievable, the actors are terrific, but there is some element that makes it addicting to watch. One of the best things about FNL though, is the music. It is packed with Explosions in the Sky songs (if you don't know who they are check them out, it's great study music), which is enough but on top of it they find these rich, emotional songs. I don't know if there is a better sequence with so much raw emotion and action than the scenes of the last football game in the series finale.

It is pretty remarkable that for the second time watching this series, I have the exact same emotions as I did the last time. You could even argue that I love the characters even more now. I've never lived in Texas, I've never been connected to high school football, but watching this show makes me feel like I know everything about what it's talking about. It is a show about real people with real problems mixed with some pretty great football games.

What is great about television, however, is I can go from this small town of Dillon, Texas watching football to seeing the 1960s advertising period with Mad Men. The great shows grab you and connect with you but the thing about the best shows is they have characters. The plot and drama is what makes it exciting but it is the connection with the characters that have people coming back. That is why I can watch a show like Game of Thrones and a show like Grey's Anatomy. Polar opposites, but still diverse characters.

Obviously movies have these similar qualities, and so do books, but there is something about TV where you have to come back week after week and go on a journey with a variety of characters. Why do you think there was such an uproar when Shonda Rhimes killed off a chief character of Grey's Anatomy this past season? Why do you think people get so upset when any character dies on any television show? It's because they learn about them, care about them, and it grows week by week. The most brilliant shows, and the ones that win Emmys, are the ones who can make you hate a character but still make you love them. They can make people seem human and add characteristics that anyone can connect to.

That is why television is so great. That is why I have so many shows I watch. I get something different and new out of every show I watch. Of course the plots are what can help turn people away (Izzie seeing Denny's ghost, Lost getting too complicated, Mad Men getting too weird), but hear me when I say I come and stay for the characters. If I don't care about them, I don't want to invest my time. So do yourself a favor and watch Friday Night Lights because within one episode, 42 minutes of television, you have all kinds of emotions for everyone included.

With that I have some random side notes a greatness.
1. The first photos of the Twilight final film have surfaced and I'm sure a lot of people are excited but personally, I'm not overly enthused. Sure it's a big franchise but I plan to see the last movie once and be done with it. Seeing Kristen Stewart as a vampire is kind of cool, though.
2. I saw Avengers for a second time last week and can assure you it is even better another time around. This makes me extremely excited about the third Iron Man, which had a new photo released. It has a May 3, 2013 release date.
3. It's official I have my Dark Knight Rises midnight ticket all set, and can I say how difficult it was. My good friend was looking up tickets for our local theater for IMAX and five days after they went on sale, they were sold out. Pretty remarkable.

With that I say... Live long and prosper.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Why you need to watch this show

As you all know, I watch a lot of television. If you didn't know that then go back a few blogs and you'll figure out that I have quite a few TV shows (I think I'm at 15 right now). I like to consider myself as someone who watches quality programing by only watching one reality show and nothing on CW or ABC Family (not that I'm judging the people who do, it's just not my cup of tea.) I am also a big fan of encouraging people to watch certain shows, most recently Revenge or Homeland. I've tried to get people into Dexter or Mad Men along with several other shows. But now, the time has come where there is one show that the entire world needs to watch.

It might be hard because it is on HBO but I suggest you all need to find it somewhere, whether it means you buy HBO or get it illegally. The situation is that serious. It is easily the best show on television but more importantly, I have never been more entertained since Lost. The amount characters might be confusing, the names might be hard to say but that should be no reason for you to not watch Game of Thrones.

That's right folks, I am telling you to watch a high fantasy show with dragons, sword fighting and magic. However, the show is so much more than that at its core. It deals with topics from the desire of power and who earns it, to family drama. It's about being accepted as a person and finding how you fit in. The most recent season, which ended Sunday, focused on what it means to have power. More so than anything, though, it is the characters that drive this story full steam ahead, it is the characters who have you coming back each week and it is the actors performances that make you smile, cringe and have you wanting to throw the remote at the TV.

Some of this fantasy may sound familiar and in the same realm as Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings, but Game of Thrones is much different. It's mature, much more mature than Harry Potter (I mean it deals with incest on a daily basis) and it is more modern than LOTR. By modern I mean it's a little more relatable in the sense that the major plot lines are about war instead of a magical ring. There is of course fantasy aspects to it (I mean it raises questions like, how can a woman birth a shadowy thing or another woman birth dragons) but that just factors in the entertainment element.

I have yet to meet anyone who has attempted watching the show and did not like it. The fact that it's a TV show is remarkable because it must cost a fortune. If you were to turn it on just on a whim, not knowing what it was, you would think it was a film production. The sets, the costumes, the lighting, the amount of people, it is incredible. Granted, it is on HBO, but still, one of the most quality shows I have seen in a long time. And if it does not win the Emmy this year for best drama, it will be an outrage.

There is of course Mad Men to consider. The quality of that show has rarely faltered in its five seasons and the production value is also high. But, what I think is different between the two, is Game of Thrones tackled about 45 subplots and made me interested in every single one. It made me yearn for just a glimpse of a conversation between Arya and Tywin or a scene where Tyrion outsmarts someone. I can't say the same for Mad Men. Anytime Betty comes on screen I sigh, hoping it won't last too long.

My point is, you're not doing anything important this summer until you watch Game of Thrones. It received its season 3 renewal just two episodes into season 2 and the season 2 finale had 4.2 million viewers, the most for the series and a 1.2 million increase from the season 1 finale. Hence, the show is only growing, meaning if you don't start watching this show soon, you'll be out of the loop. So get at it.

With that I give you some random side notes:
1. Emma Watson is no longer Hermione. A trailer for her first starring film since Harry Potter was released this week and looks awesome. She is equipped with her short hair and an American accent starring alongside Logan Lerman and Ezra Miller. It looks so good, I think I would want to see it even if Emma wasn't in it ... hmm maybe not.
2. Uh, did anyone else watch Mad Men from Sunday? Pretty crazy if you ask me, that scene with Lane was one of the most disturbing I've ever witnessed on TV. Finale happens Sunday along with the premiere of True Blood. Get excited for the return of vampires, because the promos look amazing and I can't wait to see what is in store this season.
3. If you haven't heard, another member of the SNL cast has left, leaving many, or me, skeptical about its return in the fall. That's right, Andy Sandberg announced last week he is joining Kristen Wiig and not returning next season. It's another one of those "how will they be able to survive next season?" that everyone said when Will Ferrell left, when Jimmy Fallon left, when Tina Fey left, and when Amy Poehler left (and a lot more people). But the show survived back then, so we'll just have to wait and see what happens in the fall.

With that I say... Live long and prosper.