American Horror Story: Season 1 (2011)

American Horror Story: Season 1 (2011)

American Horror Story is in an anthology format, with the first season focusing on a haunted house while later seasons are focused on an asylum and then a witch coven.

The Harmon family, a father-mother-daughter combo, moves from Boston to Los Angeles on the heels of a family scandal. Ben Harmon (Dylan McDermott) has cheated on his wife, Vivien (Connie Britton) and they hope to reconcile things by moving to a new house in a new part of the country. However, things are not what they seem at their new home – it is a dark place full of tragedies and past murders and lurid secrets, and the Harmons soon discover that they may not have the house all to themselves.

The show has an interesting format. I didn’t expect there to be a different focus for each season, which is a nice touch. I thought for sure that they couldn’t go on with the same premise for more than one season so I’m glad of the focus switch. It really allows for some flexibility with later seasons.

The show is sexy, violent and pretty terrifying at times and seems to blend all of the urban legends and horror stories we’ve all heard over the years into a compelling drama.

Sometimes, it can be a bit over-dramatic and somewhat like a soap opera, so I had to look past that at times but overall it was really enjoyable. The acting was solid, especially from veterans like Jessica Lange and Frances Conroy. Some of the characters are likable but most are pretty damaged and only likable because of their quirks as opposed to any humanity they might have.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

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Hell On Wheels: Season 1 (2011)

Hell On Wheels: Season 1 (2011)

Cullen Bohannon (Anson Mount) is a former Confederate soldier in a country that’s healing after the American Civil War and the assassination of president Abraham Lincoln – and he’s searching for his wife’s killers, most of whom were Union soldiers during the war. Leaving a bunch of corpses in his wake, Cullen finds himself one of the individuals living in Hell On Wheels – the temporary, mobile town following the progress of the Transcontinental Railroad as it spreads west.

When I first saw the description of this show on Netflix, I thought it might be some sort of cheesy programming reserved for late nights at home. I was wrong on that count.

Hell On Wheels, at least the first season, was pretty enjoyable overall. The main character, Cullen, shrugs off traditional southern “Rebel” stereotypes and in a way flips it so that the Union has a few bad eggs in it, too. Cullen has his low points but overall seems to use his own code of honor.

One thing I have to say is that for a man searching for his wife’s killers, he seems to take a while to really get into the hunt. We have a few instances early on in the season where he really digs in but then it almost seems as if he forgets his mission while he’s moving on down the rails.

Since Deadwood hasn’t been on the air, I’ve been looking for similar programming and while this show isn’t as great as Deadwood, it has some of the same, dusty, late 1800’s flavoring that made Deadwood so cool. I’ll definitely be checking out the second season. Hell On Wheels, like many of its characters, is likable even if it has some flaws.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Wilfred: Season 1 (2011)

Wilfred: Season 1 (2011)

Original Air Date: June 23, 2011
Stations Airing: FX
Number Of Episodes In Season: 13

Ryan Newman (Elijah Wood) has had enough of life and decides to take the easy way out. However, when he swallows a bunch of pills and he doesn’t die, he ends up seeing his neighbor’s dog, Wilfred (Jason Gann), as a man in a dog costume…complete with Australian accent. What’s real and what’s not begins to blur as Ryan struggles to regain his sanity.

For the record, I have not seen the original series from the U.K. but I think this American version is great. Not knowing what to expect when I first started watching this, I was pleasantly surprised.

Elijah Wood – I can take him or leave him usually. He’s always just good enough but I have never been a huge fan of his. He was okay in films like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind where he portrayed a creeper, or even in Sin City…but he’s painfully average, in my opinion. He works well for this show, however. His sensibilities come through as genuine and it plays off Jason Gann’s Wilfred very well, who is almost the exact opposite of Ryan…his dark half. Jason Gann is great as the dog and is consistently hilarious.

I found myself laughing out loud as I watched some of the episodes, and I can honestly say that I’ve now witnessed a slow-motion graphic sex scene between a man in a dog costume and a stuffed giraffe. Yup. Also, there are a lot of guest appearances as well like Nestor Carbonell from Lost and Jane Kaczmarek from Malcolm In The Middle, and there are lots of others, too.

This is one of the funniest shows out there right now, so give it a shot.

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Trailer For Wilfred: Season 1 (Promo)

Comic Book Men: Season 1 (2012)

Comic Book Men: Season 1 (2012)

Original Air Date: February 12, 2012
Stations Airing: AMC
Number Of Episodes In Season: 6

Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash is a comic book store located in New Jersey where many familiar faces from Kevin Smith’s films (Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, etc.) are employed. Touted as being unscripted, Comic Book Men centers around the staff’s exploits as well as trying to capture the essence of fanboy culture in the comic book world.

Overall, the first season (and by extension, the show) was interesting. but even though it’s supposed to be unscripted, I can’t imagine that it’s NOT unscripted. Each episode fit neatly into a different theme and many customers came in with items seemingly relevant to the episodes as well. Other reality shows seem to be able to hide the scripted feeling a little better.

The best part of the show is actually the podcast portion, which is usually the only part where you get to see Kevin Smith (for those of you who are fans of his) and is also the only part of the show which feels unscripted and genuine. It’s just a bunch of friends hanging out and talking about geek culture.

Getting to see all the neat back issues and rare toys and artwork is another great reason to watch Comic Book Men. The comic collector in me squeals with joy in seeing the issues that I own being haggled over on television. There is a happy nostalgia and fanboy appreciation that the show encourages and succeeds in fostering.

If you’re a fan of Kevin Smith and/or enjoy Pawn Stars type of programming, or are a fan of seeing comic books and/or toys and artwork, this is the show for you. I will give the second season a chance but I will probably only do so at this point in order to check out all the rare and weird finds.

JOE Rating: ★★★

Trailer For  Comic Book Men

 

Breaking Bad: Season 1 (2008)

Breaking Bad: Season 1 (2008)

Original Air Date: January 20, 2008
Stations Airing: AMC
Number Of Episodes In Season: 7

Walter White (Bryan Cranston) is a high school chemistry teacher who discovers that he only has two more years left to live because of his unexpected stage III cancer. With nothing left to lose, and no other means to provide for his family, he enlists the aid of Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), a bright but broken junkie and former student to help him distribute some crystal meth, which “Walt” is very proficient at creating. Soon, the duo find themselves not only at odds with each other but also crossing paths with heavy-duty drug dealers like the insane and violent Tuco (Raymond Cruz) as Walt and Jesse shoulder in on the meth-dealing business.

I had been extremely excited for this show upon seeing the original trailers on AMC back when I had cable. When it finally came on, I was not disappointed. I missed most of the original airing, but recently caught up on all the episodes using Netflix.

Right off the bat, the series and season one starts off at a decent pace, and you really get to both fear and love Walt by the end. I would say that the beginning half of the season is a nice segway into the dark, frenetic and chaotic second half with episodes like Crazy Handful of Nothin’ where Walt shaves his head and begins to really embrace his inner gangster. The dichotomy of Walter White, chemistry teacher with an extreme illness and Heisenberg, the meth-producing hard-ass is amazing and I can think of no better-written show in memory that could stand up to this series.

The relationship between Walt and Jesse is really, extremely well-done and is the subject of discussion even now among some of my friends. One of my friends, actually, (if you’re interested at all) has many theories about the show, especially when it comes to color symbolism. Check her out, but be careful because there might be spoilers if you haven’t seen the entire series yet. She makes some good points and observations, for sure, though. Her name is Erin Enberg and her website is HERE.

Breaking Bad has inspired so much conversation, between things like plot and characters, to other things like color symbolism. It’s that good. Do yourself a favor and check it out if you haven’t already. Just be prepared to become addicted to the show and not see the light of day until the series is over.

And even if you’ve already followed the show through to its satisfying conclusion, I found that it’s best to re-watch the series again right away from the beginning. You’ll really see how the characters have changed, mostly for the worse. Now get out of here and go watch it.

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Trailer For Season One Of Breaking Bad 

Archer: Season 1 (2009)

Archer: Season 1 (2009)

Original Air Date: January 14, 2010
Stations Airing: FX, Comedy Central
Number Of Episodes In Season: 10

Archer follows several characters, mostly Sterling Archer (H. John Benjamin) – a great spy who is terrible at everything else. ISIS (not to be confused with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) is a spy agency he works at where everyone tries to indulge in their own greedy schemes or pleasures which often ends with disastrous, yet hilarious results.

Season 1 is an introduction to the characters and their world of espionage-gone-awry. We follow Archer and his somewhat-Oedipal interactions with his mother, Malory (Jessica Walters) and his fellow spy and ex-girlfriend Lana Kane (Aisha Tyler). Archer manages to piss off everyone he meets at some point with his extreme chauvinism and ego and I dare you not to laugh at the exchanges between the characters. Also, if you’re a fan of SNL – Chris Parnell voices the role of the cowardly Cyril Figgis.

The animation has a nice style that is reminiscent of other shows like Sealab 2021, which was also created by Adam Reed, and it seems to fit the espionage and retro-60’s feel the show gives off.

Each episode is pretty much stand alone aside from a couple, so you don’t necessarily have to watch them all in order as each one packs its own comedic punch. However, there are many in-jokes and nods to previous episodes as you move on, so as always – it’s best to watch with at least some semblance of continuity – especially in later seasons.

This is one of the funniest shows out there right now, hands down. You should check it out.

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Trailer For Season One Of Archer

 

Ultimate Spider-Man: Season 1 (2012)

Ultimate Spider-Man: Season 1 (2012)

Original Air Date: April 1, 2012
Stations Airing: Disney X D, Disney Channel
Number Of Episodes In Season: 26

Peter Parker (Drake Bell), was bitten by a radioactive spider which granted him spider-like powers such as the ability to crawl on walls and increased strength and agility, as well as an internal warning system he calls “Spider-Sense” which usually lets him dodge incoming attacks.

At the beginning of Season 1, Peter has been Spider-Man for one year. He’s still learning, and when S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury (Chi McBride) offers to give him training that will make him into the “ultimate” Spider-Man, Spidey can’t refuse. The catch is that he has to lead a fledgling group of other superheroes including Iron Fist (Greg Cipes), Power Man (Ogie Banks), Nova (Logan Miller) and White Tiger (Caitlyn Taylor Love) and show them what ropes he DOES know, and he reluctantly agrees.

The show is a good mix of silly with the serious. Spider-Man has always been about the humor, and Deadpool has sort of taken that away from him in recent years…but Spidey, in this series, acts a bit more like Deadpool than is normal, with constant breaking of the fourth wall. To me, this is a good thing at least in context of the show because the show itself is kinetic and hyper-stylized, and is definitely aimed at a younger audience.

Older fans, don’t worry. I am a long-time Spidey fan and I actually really like this series. The team-up is a strange but cool concept, and there are constant throwbacks to story threads found in the Ultimate Marvel Verse. Spider-Man also teams up with other heroes in different episodes, like Thor, Dr. Strange, Iron-Man and others.

All the staple Spidey characters are there, including Aunt May, Flash Thompson, Harry Osborne and Mary Jane Watson.

The action sequences are really well-done, and the humor is usually spot-on. One thing I didn’t really like is how sometimes-annoying Spidey’s voice is. Otherwise, all the voice acting is good.

If you want more serious Spider-Man viewing pleasure, there are definitely other choices, but at least watch this one through the first season because you’ll get a feel for how the rest of the story’s going to go.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Trailer For Season One Of Ultimate Spider-Man