Friday, August 09, 2013

I'm Not Ready for Breaking Bad's Return

On Sunday night, Breaking Bad begins its final run, and I just don't want it to happen. I feel like a little kid who's spent the whole day at the zoo and now it's closing time and I'm kicking and screaming because I don't want to go home.

Yeah, I'm psyched to watch new episodes again just like everybody else. But there are only eight left, and so with each one we see, we're that much closer to never seeing any new installments again. And that makes me so, so depressed.

If you never read this post I wrote nearly a year ago about how I finally caved and started watching the series, you should check it out, because it was written before last fall's mid-season finale and contains several of my predictions for what will happen to each character by the end.

I just re-read it myself, and I wouldn't really change anything I thought back then. But I will, however, call out my absolute astonishment that the mid-season finale ended exactly as I thought it would:

"I always thought that the mid-season finale HAD to close with the audience seeing that the light bulb has finally gone off in Hank's mind. I envisioned this "Holy. Shit." look coming over his face... and then the end credits rolling."

And then this ended up happening (though I never would've guessed it all would've gone down with Hank on the toilet!):

The dump where he realizes he's been duped
Holy Shit, indeed.

I didn't have time to do any sort of series re-watch, but I did make it a point to catch "Gliding Over All" (the mid-season finale/a.k.a the last new episode) again. My stream-of-consciousness thoughts are in bullet point format below for your reading pleasure, followed by a few updated predictions for how the series might draw to a close.
Let's both not think AT ALL about how much danger we put our children in on a daily basis, m'kay?
I heard you're in the empire business?
  • Walt had Todd get rid of Mike's car? Oh god now they're going to dissolve Mike's body in a bucket. He deserves so much better than that. (And I still choose to believe that his granddaughter somehow ended up with all the money he'd saved for her. . . despite the fact that even the show's writers said that's not what would've happened.)
  • By the way, I hate Todd.
  • Lydia is a freakin' NERVOUS NELLIE as she waits for Walt/Heisenberg to show up at the café. And I guess she had a right to be, since we later saw that he had the ricin ready to use on her. 
  • I gotta say Walt looks pretty ridiculous with the Heisenberg hat and shades on walking into the café — doesn't seem natural there like it did out in the desert in the "say my name" scene.
  • So Lydia knows that Walt killed Mike. If things went south, would SHE tell Jesse this news? Because right now Jesse thinks Mike busted out of the country in the nick of time.
  • Can I just say that I think the actress who plays Lydia is the worst — I know she's supposed to be all mega-fidgety, but she doesn't come off as realistic. She's always been too stilted. "All of it … right at my fingertips … a laptop click away." Who says that? Anyway, Walt only saw dollar signs during her speech so he's in. The Czech Republic meth-heads won't know what hit 'em.
  • So Walt decides not to kill Lydia, agrees to the new business scheme, gets the names of Mike's guys, and arranges a meeting with Todd's uncle to figure out how to "take care of the problem."
  • Todd's uncle/that whole crew = WTF.
  • I can't even with that jailhouse massacre scene.
  • By the way, THERE IS NOT ENOUGH JESSE IN THIS EPISODE!?! But I won't let that happen with this post, so here:
He's talking to Vince Gilligan on the phone
Yo, why am I not in this episode more, bitch?
  • Now Hank gets home after the jailhouse massacre and Walt's there visiting Baby Holly and dammit Hank needs a drink. He goes on to tell Walt about an old summer job that was easy and simple and how he misses those days. "Tagging trees is a lot better than chasing monsters." Walt's face = unreadable. Oooohhhh, Hank is gonna feel SO STUPID after finally figuring out that that Walt = W.W. = Heisenberg! I can't bear it.
  • Now there's the montage of all the money rolling in. Business is booming. Everything is going smoothly, it seems. 
  • Next we see Skyler visiting Baby Holly. Ha, Marie always has purple on — and now Baby Holly had purple pants on. So. Much. Purple.
    THE PURPLE is The Danger.
    All that's missing is a framed Purple Rain album cover.
  •  Marie is like "Um... we've kinda had your kids for, like, way too long now." And Skyler is like . . . well, she doesn't say anything. Because she can't say, "But if we take them back they may be in great danger because of the meth operation my husband's been running right under your husband's nose."
  • Skyler decides she's had enough and that THEY have enough. Enough money, that is. She takes Walt to see it all. It's a Scrooge-McDuck-worthy pile.
Make it rain!
Mo' money, mo' problems.
  • Surely you know that a bunch of nerds figured out how much money was there, right?
  • Skyler requests her life and her kids back, thankyouverymuchyoumaniacalbastard.
  • Now they show Walt going in for a scan at the hospital. This confirms my suspicion that his cancer has returned. Why else would they have that scene? Especially since afterward in the bathroom he sees the same hand-drying station he punched before when he learned he was in remission, with the dent still there for proof.  
  • YES... Jesse is finally in the episode again. Walt goes to Jesse's house and knocks on the door and Jesse is like, "Uh-oh." After stating that he has no intention of returning to the biz and Walt saying he wasn't there for that, the two ex-cooking partners have a totally awkward conversation about the good ol' days, and then Jesse is like, "Um, even though it's obvious that I have no plans and nothing to do, I'm going to tell you I do so that you'll leave because you are weirding me out." So Walt leaves, but not before he tells Jesse that he's left something for him.
  • It would've been funny if it was a bunch of magnets.
    What is it what is it what is it what IS IT?
  • Was anyone else scared for Jesse when he opened the bags on the porch? I mean, 90% of me was thinking it had to be a huge stash of cash, but the other 10% was worried it would be something awful like Mike's head. That is what this show does to me.
  • After he drags the duffel bags back inside, we see that Jesse had grabbed a gun . . . just in case.
  • Walt gets home and tells Skyler "I'm out." I was confused about this, because it seems like it would've been a BIG part of the story to show HOW Walt got out of the business. Granted, that creepy Todd guy had been taking notes on how to make the meth and I'm sure everyone involved would just want to make MORE money if Walt's cut could now be split amongst them, but it just doesn't seem like it could possibly be that easy for Walt to simply disengage. Wouldn't Todd or Lydia now consider Walt to be a "loose end" that they would want to "take care of" like so many others before?
  • Then it shows some fast-forwarded scenes of sunsets and nature and stuff, and I was assuming that a few more months had passed. But then I read a recap where it said "Later that weekend..." and I was like, "What?!?" I had assumed the final final scene with the gang hanging out around the pool was at least several weeks after Walt told Skyler he was out. Did anyone else have that impression? After all, things seemed so normal, and Skyler and Walt even exchanged a nice little smile with each other. Could they have made amends THAT quickly after everything that's happened?

Marie is not wearing purple = ominous sign.
All I knew was that odds were ANOTHER plane was not going to fall from the sky over their house.
  • Either way, at this point in the episode there was like five minutes left and I remember the first time I watched it I was FREAKING OUT because I figured something huge still had to happen. Since both Walt Jr. and Baby Holly were in the scene, I was positive something bad was going to happen to them. I watched the TV through my hands.
  • And then Hank walked into the bathroom. As soon as that happened, I knew what was going to go down, since they'd made a point of showing that book in the bathroom before. But still, wow, what an incredible ending.


I really hope that we get to see the rest of that scene with Hank play out and that they don't fast-forward through to some other point in time so that we never get to watch how Hank acts when he first walks back outside to join the group. If they show that, my guess would be that he starts mumbling about being sick and excuses himself and Marie in a hurry. I do not think he'll spill anything to Marie right away, though.

I have more questions than I do theories about what else might happen in the final eight episodes. Here are a few of them:
  • Aside from the "W.W" connection Hank has discovered, linking Walt to Heisenberg through Gale's old journal, did Walt cover the rest of his tracks well enough? If he's truly out of the business now, will Hank be able to pin anything on him? Or if the other still-active meth-peeps get word that the DEA has figured out who Heisenberg is, will THEY want to kill Walt immediately so that he doesn't name any of them if he's caught?
  • Dammit now I'm hungry for Denny's.
    How are the Moons Over My Hammy?
    Is Walt dying anyway? I re-watched the opening scene of Season 5 — the one with the flash-forward to Walt's 52nd birthday. He has a full head of hair but is coughing and popping pills and his voice sounded hoarse. I feel like maybe he just decided to not go through any treatments again and is figuring he'll just die or be killed soon and then his family will have all of the money he made, just like he always wanted. 
  • But if that's what Walt really wanted, then I don't think he's going to get it. That would be too easy and it would pretty much be a "happy ending" for him. I think there's a possibility that something really dark could happen — like the rest of the family is killed and Walt survives (and then may or may not spend the rest of his life rotting behind bars), or that he'll still die but he'll see awful things transpire (that are his fault) before he goes. For example, I always worried that Walt Jr. was going to get into a car wreck with the Dodge Challenger (the second one) that Walt bought him.
  • How will Jesse play into the next eight episodes if he's been out of the business for quite some time now? Will he find out what really happened to Mike? Will he ever find out that it was Walt who poisoned little Brock? Will Skyer and Jesse have a reason to team up against Walt . . . OR to save Walt from Hank?
  • And why does Walt need that huge-ass machine gun he bought in the Season 5 premiere? To me it seems like that would only be needed if he was planning to go up against the entire DEA team OR if he he just knew he was going to be totally on his own against whomever and needs something ridiculous like that.
Is a manual REALLY going to help?

Here's an exchange between me and my friend JZ (yes, it's the REAL Jay Z, shh, don't tell anyone) about some theories:

JZ: MY prediction.. I'm not sure if it's stupid or not... They keep showing Walt hiding the ricin. The fact that they keep showing it and hiding it over and over leads me to believe it's going to be important. I think Walt is going to kill himself with the ricin. After he does some major damage of course. It shows in the flash-forward that he's coughing. I believe that the cancer is back. The gun he bought... I think that might be meant for Todd or whoever Todd and his gang may be working with now. My dad even said, "Walt better watch out! I think that kid is playing stupid." I think Walt will end up redeeming himself in someway by taking everyone out and then himself. I keep imagining Hank rolling up and sirens blaring just as the ricin kicks in and Walt dies in front of him.

I know so much about shady ways to kill people because of this show.
I will use you. Oh yes, I WILL use you.
e: I never thought about Walt using the ricin on HIMSELF and dying right before Hank can get him. Wow, that would actually be a classic ending — with Hank remaining always one small step behind Walt — and I swear I will now probably be disappointed if that's not what happens. Either way, you've gotta be right that the ricin will come into play or else why keep showing it?

I also thought the cancer was back because they showed him doing another CT scan in the finale and then it was like he did this 180 about wanting to get out of the business. I thought that was fishy. Why show the CT scan if it didn't mean something? I totally forgot in the flash-forward that he was coughing, so that's more evidence for sure.

I keep wondering if Jesse will ever find out that Walt was the one who poisoned Brock, but probably not at this point. At Comic-Con or somewhere someone asked how Walt did it and they said he smashed it up and put it in a drink box or something random like that.

It seemed like in the finale that several months had passed since he'd been out of the business, which is why it was kind of ironic that that's when Hank finally got a clue. So that's why I kept having a hard time picturing who the "final bad guy" would be if Walt seemingly was able to get out of the biz with no backlash already. But clearly he's getting ready to fight someone (I thought there were TONS of guns in the trunk, not just one?) and Todd is definitely a good guess. I said the same thing your dad said. Not only was that kid NOT stupid, but he was clearly ruthless AND he was writing down every damn thing. He wasn't going to need Walt anymore...

Todd = The. Worst.
One of the most awful scenes ever.
JZ: It wasn't a bunch of guns in the trunk, it was one HUGE-ass gun that needs to be assembled, which leads me to believe that it's meant for something huge. Also the ricin. It was made for Gus, then he tried to give it to what's-her-face but didn't. He then goes to the trouble of hiding it again. The fact that they KEEP showing it and it's so well hidden and hasn't been broken or lost yet leads me to believe that it is meant for something huge as well. It's about a year ahead in the flash-forward I think? What ep did he have his last bday in? It shows him making that bday bacon again in the flash-forward. 

[Walt's 51st birthday was in the fourth episode of Season 5, entitled, as it were, "Fifty-One."]

Continuing with the stream-of-consciousness-ness of this this post, my brother saw me tweet about how I hoped we'd get to see what happened as soon as Hank left the bathroom. Here's what he thought:

My brother: "I saw your re-tweet about what is going to happen after Hank walks out of the bathroom.  I think the simple answer is "nothing." While Hank finally realizes that Walt is Heisenberg, Walt has no idea that Hank is on to him. This is a reversal of the prevailing dynamic where Walt has been able to stay ahead of Hank for years by being his confidant. I think the ultimate resolution is that Hank somehow redeems himself as a decent person/husband/whatever, and other people, unfortunately, will die.

Now this is what I call bathroom reading!
My reply: "In the last line do you mean that WALT will redeem himself? Because I didn't get the impression Hank needed to redeem himself for anything, really. Except maybe at work."

My brother: "He's definitely been a jerk at times in the series, but I think in the end he'll be the "hero," which will include protecting Walt's family somehow and taking on Walt Jr. as an adopted son or whatever. Walt can only really redeem himself by taking the fall for Jesse. He's probably beyond redemption, though, considering the poisoning of the kid, etc."

Oh yes, I think it's fair to say that Walt is waaay beyond redemption already. My bigger concern is whether everyone else will survive to the end. I really hope they all do, but that's probably wishful thinking, huh? 

As I mentioned before, the rest of my predictions about the series' final run are here

OK, I gotta wrap this up because Sunday is almost upon us!

If you'd like to read some much more well-thought-out and in-depth articles about Breaking Bad, here are the three best I've come across recently. (And yes, I've seen the middle-school musical thing, but that just kind of creeped me out.)

"And Then We Came to the End" - GREAT (but long) Grantland piece about TV finales in general, and then specifically about how Breaking Bad (in the author's mind) will most certainly end with Walt dying, but the bigger question is "why" and "how."

"The Big Secret of Breaking Bad: Walter White Was Always a Bad Guy" - Atlantic article (written before the mid-season-5 finale) whose title speaks for itself.

 "Death and Walter White" - From NPR's Money See blog, about how deaths actually mean something on the show.

I'm much more likely to tweet my thoughts about the remaining episodes than I am to write another recap or analysis (until after the VERY end, at least), so if you're on Twitter, you can find me here.

Enjoy the show this weekend! It's the beginning of the end. Sob.

- e

Thursday, February 21, 2013

What I Watched/Am Watching/Will Watch

Hello my dear friends -

Since I am often asked what TV shows I watch now that LOST has been off the air for a while, I intended to give a rundown of my favorites, oh, I don't know... back when the fall season started in September. Six months have passed, which should give you an idea of how things have been going around here.

BUT, since I know many people are like me and don't always watch shows/series in real time and since I've already spent a few weeks cobbling together this post, I thought it would still be fun to go through my list. I've grouped it by days of the week, although I hardly watch anything live. Following the day-by-day lists is a section for the shows I've watched or am currently watching via On Demand or DVD.


Gossip Girl 
... because he's Chuck Bass. Do I need to say it again?This was one of the few shows I tried to watch the night it aired because I need me my teen/20-something angst! Alas, its run has now ended (and for what it's worth, I LOVED its finale, especially the last ten minutes) and there's no way in hell I'm watching The Carrie Diaries (a girl's gotta draw the line somewhere), so now there's a huge hole in my life. I'm hoping a new series in the vein of The OC and Gossip Girl will pop up before too long. But there will never, ever be another Chuck Bass. Because he's Chuck Bass.

Currently I don't watch any shows that air on Mondays—it's usually a "catch-up" night for DVR'd or On Demand shows if I have some spare time. I did try Revolution for the first five episodes, but it just wasn't my thing. I considered The Following because of all the hype, but then I decided against it because I get too freaked out by that kind of show and am just looking for happy escapism.


How can we get people to watch our show? This sucks.Smash
I LOVED the first season of Smash. Honestly and truly. I have fond memories of tuning in during those precious few weeks I wasn't working right after Des was born. So there was no hate-watching going on over here. (Although I agree with many of the complaints in that article, they never overwhelmed the rest of the show for me).

I was prepared for the worst with the Season 2 premiere, however, as I knew that the show had undergone dramatic changes during the break, including the departure of its creator. But I still enjoyed it, and remain hopeful despite the fact that I've heard things get a little messy once there are a few different productions (Bombshell, Jennifer Hudson's character's, and that bitter bartender dude's) in the mix. I like the British guy (Derek) SO much, though, that I'll keep tuning in just for him, no matter what.

Wild Things with Dominic Monaghan 
I've only watched the premiere so far and liked how it's a lot more about travel and different countries and cultures than just, you know, bugs and creepy crawlies. But I find those fascinating, too, so I'll be saving this series for a catch-up evening.


Our DVR works hardest on Wednesdays, and therefore I usually try to watch at least a few of these shows that same night. One that's not listed below is The Americans. I watched the pilot and thought it was OK, but not compelling enough to stick with at this point (as you'll see, I'm not one for dramas).

American Idol
4 Divas and KeithI have never been a Mariah Carey fan, didn't know who Keith Urban was until he married Nicole Kidman and then judged him by his ridiculously girly hair, could take or leave Randy Jackson, and thought I would despise Nicki Minaj. But I also had doubts about J Lo and Steven Tyler when they came on board a few years ago, so I decided to at least give the new judges a chance.

I'm really glad I did, because I think Nicki is the best judge they've ever had. Yeah, I said it—even better than Simon. She has really grown on me, and I truly like Keith as well. The faces he makes when someone he likes is singing are hilarious. Mariah... well, the jury's still out on her. Mostly I wish both she and Nicki would stop faking British accents so much.

As for the contestants? It's always too hard to say this early on. I've been rooting for Lazaro Arbos because I think his story (he's the one with the heavy stutter) is inspiring, he seems like a genuinely nice kid, and because he reminds me of a Cuban version of my cousin Brad, I can't lie.

Malcolm in the middleSurvivor Caramoan: Fans vs. Favorites
I was a huge, HUGE Survivor fan when the show first premiered back in 2000. I stuck with it for several years, then stopped for quite a while (I think I skipped seasons 9-14), and was finally drawn back in for the China season in 2007. This show never fails to fascinate me—I think it's one of the best displays of the human-nature spectrum there is. Plus, there's something oddly reassuring to me about hearing Jeff Probst holler "Come on in, guys!" and declare "With that, it's time to vote," and all of his other catchphrases week after week. I can't explain it.

The latest season just kicked off two weeks ago, and I'm not too thrilled with the "Favorites" who returned. A lot of them weren't very memorable to me... or I just didn't like them in their original seasons, which means they're kind of the opposite of a Favorite. But my boy Malcom is there, so I'll keep watching.

Modern Family
I only started watching Modern Family last year, and really only because my husband started watching it, and he only did that because of how many awards it was getting and how many people were talking about it in the early seasons. I have a feeling it's not as good now as it was when it first hit the scene. I like it, but I could do without the three young kids. They are just very stiff and unnatural to me... but then again, I've been known to be especially hard on kid actors. Sofia Vergara also bugs that crap out of me. But everyone else is so funny that I guess they outweigh my annoyances. Needless to say, this isn't a show that I consider "must-see TV" when it airs.

They're BOTH Aussies!I had zero intention of watching this series because: 1) I'm not a country music fan, 2) Hayden Panettiere has always bothered me for some reason (and I didn't even watch Heroes), and 3) I had no idea who the lead (Connie Britton) was because I didn't watch Friday Night Lights (something I plan to remedy eventually).

However, I did hear all of the glowing reviews, and so did my husband. He is a musician, loves guitars (but is no country fan, either), and wanted to at least tune in to the premiere. So we did... and we were hooked. There are a few things that bug me about the show, however: Rayna's whiny squirrelly husband, and everything about Scarlett except her singing voice (I especially can't stand her nasally speaking voice and pinched-up face and maddening expressions, but am chalking it up to the fact that she's Australian in real life and must be trying reeealllly hard to nail a Southern accent).

But the music. Oh, THE MUSIC. The music is what keeps me coming back, and the guitars (and the music) are what hooked my husband. He's always shouting out "That's a [some kind of guitar]! That costs like $45,000!" and stuff like that. Anyway, we have fun watching this one. And Gunnar and Scarlett's duets kill me. All of them. So, so good. I've downloaded two from iTunes and am sure I'll buy the whole lot eventually.

Top Chef: Seattle
I don't cook at all (seriously—nothing), am vegetarian, and although I like Tom, Padma usually annoys me because she just NEVER seems unrehearsed or natural. But I do appreciate high-end restaurants and cuisine and learning who the best chefs around the world are, so I keep watching this show. I used to spend a lot of time in Seattle, so it's been cool to see places like Pike Place Market again. I'm now lucky enough to have THREE previous Cheftestants' restaurants right here in my 'hood! And word is they'll be coming back to Chicago next year, so I will of course have to tune in for that.

Stefan was my favorite this season, so now that he's gone I'm not really rooting for anyone in particular in the finale. (Not sure if the finale was last night or if it's next week. But I haven't watched last night's episode yet, either way!)


The Office 
I keep DVRing this even though I haven't watched one episode all season. I'll probably forward through the last few right before the finale. Steve Carell's Michael Scott annoyed me for the last couple of years of his run, and then the show only went downhill afterward. The original British version remains superior! David Brent was a madman. And their Jim (Tim) is now Bilbo Baggins. You can't really top that, hellloooo.

All of the GE jokes were spot-on, too. (My husband works there.)
30 Rock
I thought its final few episodes were great. When Liz met her twins? Just PERFECT. Brilliant stuff. So was the final final scene with Kenneth. But it was time for this show to end, so I can't say I'll miss it.

All I've EVER done with Glee is forward through to the musical numbers. From what I can tell, I don't like any of the new cast members. But it's really not about the acting and storylines for me with this one.


Nothing—this is a true catch-up or watch-a-movie or read-a-book night. And no, I never watched Fringe. That's a choice I regret because there are so many people who share my tastes that loved this series. It sucks because now I already know what happens throughout each season, thanks to Twitter. But I still do intend to watch the entire series one day after the final season is released on DVD or Instant.


Saturday Night Live
What I do with this one is read reactions on Twitter, read my girl Claire Zulkey's recaps for the L.A. Times and my man Ryan McGee's recaps on Hitfix, and then forward through to the best skits based on their takes.


666 Park Avenue
Sob. This was my favorite new show of the year, but it was cancelled. And I swear I didn't like it solely because it starred LOST's Terry O'Quinn. I REALLY loved it, and so did my husband, who's waaaaay pickier than I am.

The special effects left something to be desired, but this show had a great cast (meaning they were all really good actors), an awesome soundtrack and cranked out the suspense and creepiness week after week. I was 100% prepared for it to be, dumb, too. On that note, I think it suffered from an awful title that deterred people. I mean, *I* almost didn't want to tune in, and I'm one of Terry's biggest fans! They should've just called it The Drake.

Ah, well. Apparently they're going to air the final few episodes this summer. I'll find a way to watch them one way or the other in order to get some closure. But I really wish The Man had given this series a chance and had marketed it better. If there ends up being a way to watch all of the first season, you should check it out.

He's really not that charming. Let's be honest.
Once Upon a Time
My feelings about this show haven't changed a ton since I wrote about it last season. I'm glad they toned down all of the LOST references since then, although I almost died laughing with Belle was watching Exposé in the hospital a few weeks ago. A sly nod like that I appreciate, just don't bang us over the head with it.

This current season has been dragging a little for me... until the most recent episode ("Manhattan"). I think it might've been the best of the series. I'm still no fan of Henry, Emma, or really any of the characters on their own, but I continue to love the twists on classic fairy tales and appreciate the overall sense of hope and optimism in the series. My husband won't come near the TV when I watch this show, though. I married a cynic.

The Amazing Race
I haven't watched this season's premiere yet, and bowed out of last season about midway through. I mostly watch this series for travel ideas and to learn about new places, but if the teams aren't interesting to me, I lose enthusiasm quickly. Here's hoping there are some people worth rooting for this time around. Phil's eyebrow can't do ALL the work.


Jesse = the bestBreaking Bad
Since I already wrote about Breaking Bad here and intend to write another post before its final episodes start up again this summer, I won't say a ton more today except that this is my new favorite show. Nothing else that's currently on the air even comes close to touching Breaking Bad. I'm still surprised that I started watching it at all, but I'm so, so glad I did. And did I call how the midseason finale would end or what?

I am kind of depressed because I have no more new episodes left to watch. I had caught up with the series completely out of order, and until last weekend still had two Season 4 episodes ("Box Cutter" and "Thirty-Eight Snub") outstanding. I waited to watch them for a while because I knew I'd get all sad afterward, and I was right. Now that I've seen them, it just reminds me that I don't watch anything right now that can even remotely hold a candle to this show.

(If you're like I was and are still reluctant to watch this series, you really need to read this post of mine.)

Lucky girl.
My birthday present to myself last month was to spend 45 minutes on the phone with DirecTV, negotiating a way to get HBO and Showtime for "free" in order for me to be able to continue my Homeland binge. Unfortunately my husband didn't get my several hints that this was something I wanted him to take care of... either that, or he resented my inappropriate crush on Officer Brody. By the way, does ANYONE else think it's weird that people only call him Brody? Even his wife does. That's his LAST NAME. I don't get it. And while I'm venting, can I ask if it's weird that I like the bad-guy characters more than Brody's mopey stoner daughter? I seriously can't stand her.

Anyway, I'd watched Season One on DVD and the Season Two premiere was available on the Showtime site for free, but then I was jonesing for more. I couldn't take waiting—I NEEDED TO WATCH THE REST RIGHT NOW. And so thankfully I got my cable deal and am all caught up. I'd say that while it's not on the same level as Breaking Bad, Homeland is still up there and is probably my #2 favorite show right now. It's another one I didn't think I'd like before I started watching it. But it's hard to resist Inigo Montoya.

I'm mostly looking forward to watching this one with the rest of the world in real time going forward... but part of me is sorry I'll no longer be consuming episodes in a vacuum. I thought Season Two was just fine, and I feel like if I'd been keeping up with Twitter while I watched it I would've had my opinion swayed and would've been more sarcastic and negative about the show as a result. Twitter is dangerous that way—for me, at least. I don't like to feel stupid or wrong for enjoying something.

Oh, and I didn't realize until I watched the extras that both Brody and Estes are British in real life?!?! That blew my mind.

And never forget: Mandy. Patinkin. HOLLA!

Seriously. TOO evil.Game of Thrones
I read the first Game of Thrones book and then saw Season One on DVD. Now that we have HBO, I just caught all of Season Two via On Demand a few weeks ago. Now I wait with everyone else until Season Three premieres at the end of March.

I enjoy Game of Thrones, but not as much as everyone else seems to. I think it's because the stuff Joffrey does makes me physically nauseous most of the time. I know it's Not Real and all of that, but come on—killing babies? Torturing women? It's too much. I just wanna see the dragons grow up and then torch him. (No spoilers there: I only read the first book so I don't know if that's what will happen. I actually think they'll never kill off Joffrey because he's too good of a villain. But if they do I hope it's Arya or Sansa taking care of business!)

Anyway, I thought the Season Two finale was totally anticlimactic, especially following the very tense "Blackwater" episode. And I think all those zombie soldier things are lame, so I hope that's not going to be a huge storyline next year. BUT I enjoy the majority of the cast and this series is still better than 99% of everything else on TV, so obviously I'm going to keep watching. Tyrion 4eva.

Good luck, guys.
The Walking Dead
I've only watched the six episodes of Season One so far, so I feel like there's not much I can say about this series just yet. I liked it, but since I almost had a heart attack when the DVD menu popped up featuring a bloody zombie girl and have now suffered a few restless evenings filled with zombie nightmares, I'm not sure if it's a good idea that I keep watching this series.

I know everyone else loves it, though, and I AM curious to see how things progress for the poor survivors. So odds are I'll watch all of Season Two via On Demand, continue to have bad dreams, and then be bitter about how there's no way for me to watch the first half of Season Three right now. (If there IS a way that I don't know about, please tell me!) I am DVRing the last half of Season Three that recently started up again. Perhaps they'll have a marathon of Season Three sometime soon? Does AMC do that?

(P.S. If zombies ARE your thing, you should check out The Harvesting by fellow LOST fan Melanie Karsak, who contacted me about reviewing her book a loooong time ago. I still intend to (I read it and liked it, just haven't had time to put down my thoughts in a post), but in the meantime you should give it a whirl—the sequel's coming out soon!


As I mentioned above, I intend to watch all of Friday Night Lights at some point. And Fringe.

I tried out Mad Men and it's just not my thing, so there's no going back with that one. I also have no interest in Downton Abbey (my general avoidance of period pieces and dramas is kicking in), despite everyone trying to convince me otherwise. I don't want to watch Girls (I'm just not that cool) or Sons of Anarchy (too violent) either. What else have I missed? I need guidance. And quick, before the spring/summer movie season heats up and I have even less time at night to watch TV!

- e

Saturday, February 02, 2013

56 Up (and the entire "Up" documentary series)

Hello my dear friends -

I spent a good chunk of the past two days searching and searching and searching the bowels of this blog because I could have SWORN that I'd written about the Up documentary series before. But if I did, that post has been sacrificed to the Blogger demons and I just can't find it. It's gonna drive me nuts.

Since I can't reference the post I thought I wrote in order to give you some background, let me start out by saying that the Up series is — by far — one of the best, if not THE best, film-viewing experiences of my life. It has affected me profoundly, and I think it will do the same for you, which is why I chose to not only fire up this long-neglected site today, but also promote a competitor's product (56 Up is now in select theaters, but Netflix has all of the past Up movies on DVD and Instant (as you guys all know, I've been a freelance writer for Redbox since 2008) Also, since I first posted this an hour ago, others have let me know that the past installments are often at public libraries as well).

The series began in 1964, when a British filmmaker decided to test out the maxim "Give me the boy until he is seven, and I will give you the man." Ten seven-year-old boys and four seven-year-old girls were interviewed that year to establish their attitudes about certain issues, their dreams and their life plans, and then these same individuals were revisited every seven years since to see how they've changed and how things actually turned out.

TOTALLY AMAZINGLY, all but one of them have remained a part of this grand cinematic experiment for nearly half a century. (And happy spoiler alert: they're all still alive, which I guess is also pretty amazing.) The great irony is that the one guy who dropped out, Charles Furneaux, went on to become a documentary producer himself.

Michael Apted, who was a researcher on the first film (entitled Seven Up!), took over the reins with the next installment (7 Plus Seven) and has stayed with the project ever since. While you can't see him in 56 Up, you can hear him — and the age creeping into his voice (he's 71). Thankfully he has made arrangements for the series to continue on when he is no longer around to do the interviews.

My hope is that the interviewees will want to continue on after that point, too. The series was enormously popular in Britain, and the participants experienced a strange sort of fame. Almost all of them have struggled with how their "characters" have been depicted, and they clearly have a strong love/hate relationship with the project — and I'm sure with Apted himself to some extent.

Despite the negatives that have come with the series for the thirteen participants, after watching 56 Up my husband and I were talking about how cool it would be to have your life documented in this way. What a gift these people have for their children, their friends and their other family members! And really, themselves, too. How many of us would jump at the chance to see and hear what we were like at 7, 14, 21, 28, 35, 42, 49 and 56? To be reminded what we thought about the issues of the day and what are dreams were at that point in time? It would be nothing short of extraordinary. It's not the same as home videos.

So now I guess I better talk a little bit about why I feel so strongly about the Up series, besides the Cool Factor mentioned above.

I love these movies because — for the most part — they radiate a sense of hope, a sense of peace, a sense of happiness, and a sense that everything's going to work out. However, they accomplish this in a way that is very much NOT what the original filmmaker planned. He seemed to be out to prove that a British family's educational, class and social standing would ultimately determine how their children ended up. That's true for some of the participants, but couldn't be further from the truth for others—coming from money didn't always guarantee happiness, and growing up poor didn't always prevent success. Luck, determination, optimism and personality have played HUGE roles in the interviewees' lives. Perhaps they, too, have realized this at age 56, because few of them have any real regrets (even when what's happened to them isn't all rainbows and puppy dogs). The general sense seems to be "I've done the best I could, and for the most part I'm happy."

One of the most memorable interviewees is Tony, whose boundless energy has hardly waned since he was a wee lad. Here is a person who had big dreams, went after them, and achieved almost all of them despite great odds. But he's not perfect, and his many personal and professional missteps have been documented right along with his achievements.

Tony through the years

Then there's Neil—one of my favorites from the original installment—who was just a bundle of personality at age seven. But at some point before he turned 21, things went horribly off track. His is the most concerning of the updates in 56 Up, though my hope is that he's currently more content than he lets on.

Neil, now and then
If you are able to watch the very first film in the series, I'll forewarn you that there's lots of talk about the British school system, and all of that went over my head. But you'll still get the point the director is attempting to set up for the rest of the project, and the UK-specific parts lessen as the series progresses.

You don't need to see all of the other films first because they recap the life story of each of the interviewees and show clips from all of the previous Up films ... BUT I think if you have some time, I would do everything you can to at least try to catch a few of the early installments beforehand. It would be hard to have much of an emotional connection to the group otherwise. Though make no mistake, if all you can make time for is to only see 56 Up, do it. It will still be an incredible and moving experience.

If you're here in Chicago, 56 Up is playing at the beloved Music Box Theatre all week.

If you're not in Chicago, you can see when 56 Up is coming to a theater near you here.

I'd love to hear from anyone who's watched any of the Up installments. Are you as obsessed with them as I am?

A trio of friends from the series