Monthly Archives: May 2013

The Top 5 Best Shows on Television- #4

Geektyrant.com

Geektyrant.com

#4- Boardwalk Empire (2010-Present) 3 Seasons

If there was ever a show to be right up my ally, it’s Boardwalk Empire. Anything that deals with organized crime, mafia figures, HBO and Prohibition, I’m all in on. As a teenager I grew up on the romanticism of organized crime and the prominent people that make up it’s history. Boardwalk Empire is all that and more. So it was easy for me to pick up the various gangsters and know who ran with what syndicate and crime family. So for the uneducated mafia fan, picking up the secondary gangsters was probably a tough deal, considering when fully dressed, they all look the same; coat, tie and fedora. But when you get past that part, Boardwalk is such an entertaining show due to its level of story offered over the span of 3 seasons. It mixes and switches gangsters, booze, women and violence. But its deeper than that, it weaves characters from Philly to Ohio to the shores of Jersey in an all-encompassing drama. After Boardwalk identifies the players in the political game and criminal game (yes the main complaint is the first half of season 1 is a little slow), the show takes off. And as of right now, just like its main character Enoch “Nucky” Thompson, shows no signs of slowing down.

Much Like our #5 show Homeland, Boardwalk has gotten better every season. The potential it shows over the long haul for both storytelling and character development are exciting (doesn’t hurt to know how the mafia element will unfold in the coming years, excitement might be an understatement). The progression that the main character, Nucky has shown, is captivating. As the motto for season 3 goes, “you can’t just be half a gangster.” His killing of Jimmy Darmody in the season 2 finale was a benchmark moment from him. And his all out war with Gip Rosetti in season 3, put an exclamation point on the series as a whole. Buscemi nails the quick witted, business savvy and ruthless (yes i said ruthless) Enoch Thompson. The Nucky character has grown exponentially over the three seasons. He is now his own man, his own force, his own boss. To be respected in the circles of other syndicates and crime leaders. When it comes to dynamic leading men, he doesn’t look to be the whole package but he definitely is.

But what makes the show strong is its plethora of secondary characters. The phantom masked Richard Harrow, who has gone from quiet background noise to full fledged lethal assassin in no time adds a dimension of unpredictability. For anybody who saw the season 3 finale, he went into freak-mode against a whole brothel full of Rossetti’s gangsters. To say that scene was riveting might not be doing it full justice. He’s almost become the Omar (from The Wire) for Boardwalk Empire, proving that anyone can be got. Speaking of Omar, our former “Robin Hood of West Baltimore” trades in his trenchcoat and shotgun for the dapper dressed Chalky White in Boardwalk Empire. His vital role in protecting and keeping Nucky alive while also ensuring equality or a chance at it on the boardwalk should be a major role in season 4. While he’s not as charismatic as Omar was in The Wire, Chalky more than has his share of moments. The villains in season 2 and especially season 3 just bring more nail-biting drama to the show. While Jimmy Darmody wore the bad guy hat well in season 2. Few can top what Gip Rosetti pulled off in season 3. His fly by night ruthlessness and reasoning always had you on your toes. You never knew what he was capable of. One of the better villains I’ve seen from a drama series that only lasted one season. I could go on and on about Boardwalk’s endless list of characters but those are just a few. A strong show can always lean on an assortment personalities and Boardwalk is a reminder of that.

To wrap up, Boardwalk’s arrow is pointing up. It laid the groundwork in season 1. Built and expanded on what it did well in season 2. I really enjoyed the power struggle between Nucky and Jimmy. And the rise and certain fall of the young, dynamic Jimmy Darmody, but let’s face it, he had to die. And at the hands of Nucky was the only way it should have went down. Season 3, well, they just upped the ante ten fold. If the first 2 seasons were about the setup, then season 3 cashed in on every dramatic turn. It was a season full of edge of your seat twist and turns, by the end you were almost dizzy. But everything felt viable and not out of the realm of possibility. And the progression of certain characters and the storylines that are now open for the following season just make everything so exciting. When a show can mix visual eye candy with good acting across the board, it has something. When the storyline keeps getting better and better without losing its audience or integrity, you really have something. When you can mix all that together, you have a can’t miss program. Boardwalk, well done.

-MikeV87

The Top 5 Best Shows on Television- #5

#5- Homeland (2011-Present) 2 Seasons

I was a year late to this smash hit, but as they say, better late then never. I had heard from a friend that this was the best show on TV (not the best, but 5 aint bad). Like with every other TV show I was stubborn to get into Homeland. It wasn’t until my brother and a friend finally said, “Look! You need to watch Homeland, shit is dirty”. I trusted their opinion and haven’t looked back. If you read my “Honorable Mention” (if not, http://btlsports.net/2013/05/15/the-top-5-best-tv-shows-on-television-honorable-mention/), I left The Walking Dead out of the Top 5 because as of right now, it was fluttering in mediocrity. Homeland was the exact opposite. If any show has the “most potential to be the best show on TV and under 3 seasons” label, it’s Homeland (Thrones is also in that discussion). What I saw in the first 2 seasons was a combination of superior drama mixed with twists and turns that left you speechless at times. In 2 seasons Homeland has ascended through the TV ranks like a draft prospect at the NFL Combine. And the way they left Season 2 with the bombing at the CIA building is stuff of legend. I was completely blown away (pun intended). I have no idea where they’re going with Season 3, and that is a good thing. One of the marks of a great TV show.

If the “WOW factor” is Homeland’s calling card, the acting isn’t far behind. Damien Lewis does a great job as the POW Marine Nicholas Brody (although there is no way in hell he deserved the 2012 Emmy over Cranston. It’s as big of an atrocity since Al Pacino got robbed for Godfather Part II). Claire Danes as Carrie is probably the best acting job on the show. Playing the smart, head-strong, slightly delusional and sometimes downright crazy CIA agent is no easy task. Her performance at the end of Season 1 and Season 2 was simply outstanding. But I think the heart of the acting chops lie with the strong supporting cast, from Saul Berenson to David Estes and everyone one in between, the depth to their characters and stories keep them noteworthy and not just fluff. The villain Abu Nazir is one of the better ones on TV. His speech in season 2, when Carrie is his hostage, about his people’s will to fight sent chills down my spine. You almost felt that he was just in his actions and that there would be no failure to “their cause”.

And as a testament to how strong the show is, Nazir is killed off in the second to last episode. Most of the time the show’s story is not strong enough to withstand that loss. The whole face of evil and the villain is wiped away. Everybody and the audience too is lulled into a false sense of ease. But the bombing at the CIA funeral just shows that even in death, Nazir’s reach is never too far away. As Brody said. “Nazir would’ve died a thousand deaths to make this day happen.” Now, as the POW Marine/Muslim terrorist/politician/converted US countrymen/most wanted fugitive on American soil, where does Brody go from here? He’s gone through all that, nearly killed the entire oval staff and now is to blame for the second worst terror attack in US history on the most guarded estate and the very symbol of the country’s war on terror. He has no choice but to run but at the same time, he has to make it on his own.  But Carrie is going to some how play both sides and clear his name right? You want edge of your seat drama, few shows do it better than Homeland.

I love shows like this. Everything that happened is not out of the realm of possibility, when it comes to US counter-terror and Islamist extremists, anything goes. And what’s even better is when the show can separate from their main calling card, Brody as an unknown terrorist working against the US, to now the most wanted man even though he is wrongly accused and hiding from the US. They flipped the script without losing their credibility and the audience. Being able to do that gives it all the potential in the world to climb the ladder to the Pantheon of television. Question is, can they build on their own success and not play out the same ole same ole. It’s tough for a show to keep getting better and better. To reinvent what they do from time to time while still holding true to their roots. Nip/Tuck couldn’t, The Walking Dead is having trouble. Heck even The Wire tripped up, but they recovered (masterfully I might add, talk about out doing yourself). Homeland has a solid base to start, it’s up to them to make the leap, the leap that’s only reserved for best. Ball is in your court Brody.

Stay tuned next week as I reveal #4 and #3 on BTL’s list.

-MikeV87

  

The Top 5 Best TV Shows On Television- Honorable Mention

We kickoff our BTL Top 5 with an honorable mention post. These are shows that are worthy to be in the conversation of the Top 5 shows but for some reason or another, simply didn’t make the cut. Now I will set the ground rules and basis of my rankings so we are all clear on how I determined my Top 5.

– This is a TOP 5 shows on TV list as of “Right Now”. Whatever happened in previous seasons are not all that important if the show has dropped off since then. The show is judged mainly on how it is performing currently. 

– Story/Plot-line: No big surprise here, the story is practically the heart and soul of the show.

– Acting: Again pretty straightforward, probably the second or third crucial part to a show.

– WOW factor: Can be taken in a board sense but the WOW factor includes; intensity, nail-biting moments, visual satisfaction from special effects/scenery etc, shocking cliff hangers etc.

************* SPOILER ALERT, YOU’VE BEEN WARNED. DON’T BLAME ME IF YOU’RE NOT CAUGHT UP. FIGURE IT OUT*******************************************************

HONORABLE MENTION:

DEXTER (2006-Present) 8 Seasons

stuffpoint.com

stuffpoint.com

There was a time where Dexter could do no wrong, both in the show and as a TV series. Dexter used to sit upon my Pantheon of television. Now the show has regressed and gone stale from the over-saturation of the same old story line. Dexter getting caught. While seasons 5-7 were less than desirable(one of the reasons it got bumped out of the Top 5). We still must give credit to it’s first half as a show. Seasons 1-4 can stand against any series’ 4 year run.

Michael C. Hall’s acting as the the mad scientist Dexter still shows through in later seasons. And the intensity of the scenes and the edge of your seat drama(Dexter’s calling card) are still present. Problem is, while those fill maybe 3-4 episodes per season, the rest is just unwatchable filler at this point. Dexter ran the course of a show that just stayed around too long. It is embarking on it’s 8th and final season when it should have taken a page out of Seinfeld’s and The Wire’s book and go out on top. Leave the audience wanting more. Not dreading when it’s going to be over.

But it is still a show that is worth watching and finishing. With one season left, a lot of story-lines still need to be tied up. And with all due respect, the first half of Dexter was something magical. Especially Season 4, to this day I still claim that Season 4 Dexter is the single greatest TV season ever. It had everything; riveting story, edge of your seat intensity, two acting behemoths trading blows for 15 rounds (Lithgow is flat out amazing) and the greatest season finale cliff hanger of possibly all time. It had that magic, and maybe, just maybe, it can capture that magic again and close the chapter to Dexter Morgan.

MAD MEN (2007-Present) 6 Seasons

mad_men_2734_color_wide-6f17b2a9f3fc938d59bd16a0c237cea26154c7cb-s6-c10

NPR.org

It was a show I had always heard about but never taken the time to invest in. Always seeing commercials and promos for it on AMC but it still didn’t catch on………till last year that was. Netflix decided to stream it on instant queue, I took a chance and I was hooked. Now while I was used to the intense dramas of Dexter, SOA and the such. Mad Men was a deviation from the norm. It’s aesthetically pleasing portrayal of 1960s New York and Madison Avenue were captivating and a breath of fresh air. And being able to make the world of advertising an attention capturing show without the threat of over the top violence and chaos is not easy. All the while being able to depict the historical themes of the times; women in the workplace, racial equality and the ever changing America, seamlessly in sync with the plot is rare for a show.

But where Mad Men gets its chops and hangs its hat, is and will always be, the acting. Don Draper is as enigmatic and eccentric character as you will find on TV. And while that is the job of the leading man, Jon Hamm portrays Draper better than anyone ever could or ever will. The greatest compliment you can ever give an actor is that “they are the character”. But it doesn’t stop there. Draper is flanked by the equally strong Peggy Olson and Peter Campbell. Elizabeth Moss depiction of the innocent and naive outsider, as she turns into the independent, confident and head strong Copy Writer is something to marvel at. And as for Vincent Kartheiser job as Peter Campbell, it’s easy to be a good guy and be loved (looking at you Harry Crane) but it’s completely something else to be hated and still be on the good side. That’s the difference between playing the part and acting. And Mad Men does this better than anybody.

I could go on and on about the abundance of characters that Mad Men has to offer but you know the list as well as I do. And good thing too because Mad Men lacks the necessary jolt of excitement or edge of your seat thrill that most other shows encompass. While it does project to probably a little bit older audience because of the themes and the historical aspects, it is still one of the better ones on TV, even for the under 30 crowd. Yes it might lack the over the top drama and may seem a bit slow at times. But as long as Jon Hamm is Don Draper, this show will be a must watch. He’s that good, it’s a shame he never won an Emmy for his portrayal of Draper. Hmmmmm………

The Walking Dead (2010-Present) 3 Seasons

pixlbit.com

pixlbit.com

It was very hard to leave The Walking Dead out of my Top 5.  But as you will see with my #5 choice, I went with “right now”. And Walking Dead did not leave a good taste in my mouth as it finished up its third season this spring. I feel that it may being straying away from its roots and it’s core theme too much. And the show itself is not all to blame, the people who run it are. There have been three seasons of The Walking Dead, and coincidentally there have been 3 different show-runners calling the shots. Continuity in the plot/story-line while sticking to its core beliefs just has not been there. Now I know that this is adapted from a comic book and that the 3 show-runners have stuck with the comic book to varying degrees, but this is not a winning formula to a good show.

The Walking Dead use to be the best new show on television but in my opinion it couldn’t build on its own success. The premise of The Walking Dead is intriguing, the post-apocalyptic world is always captivating to an audience. It’s part future and part unknown. What made the show so good early on is in some way or another, people related to that. The audience wondered how they would survive/act when put into Rick’s situation in the first season. That was relatable to a degree. The zombies were the real threat and the purpose was sole survival. When Rick marches into Atlanta and tries to out smart hundreds of zombies, everybody has been there. Whether it’d be a video-game, a bad dream or sheer imagination. When Rick was going through that, so were we too. The intensity and drama in finding a way to escape a hoard of zombies is what the post-apocalyptic world should be about. Survival against the dead.

And while The Walking Dead still does bring that to the table, it’s not the show’s calling card anymore. 3 seasons in, the zombies are almost like white noise. Background filler to satisfy the gore quota and the blood thirsty enthusiast. While The Walking Dead will get you your fill of intense moments and gory special effects of zombie-killing. What made it go in the first place is slowly slipping out of grasp.

In Season 1, it was about Rick and the humans survival against a nightmare world with hopes for a cure. Season 2 brought them human contact with Hershel’s farm. Sans the Sophia scene (which single-handily saved season 2), it was down right boring. The apocalyptic world had shrunk to the bubble of Hershel’s farm, a zombie here, Shane going crazy there……..yawn. Season 3 brought us a change of scenery, the jail. And a villain, The Governor. And while “kill the dead and fear the living” was it’s slogan, I felt season 3 fell flat on it’s face. They strung along the “going to war” card too long and never delivered. Maybe that’s why the latest show-runner got the boot after season 3.

Sorry if it seems that I’m shitting all over The Walking Dead but I’m so disappointed in where it is now. I’m not saying it’s not a good show, it’s a fine show. But it has so much more potential then this. It has a unique background story that could really make it take off. But the continuity of the core values and the plot of the show just aren’t there. Maybe this next show-runner will get it right. Either way, its too good of a show to not watch and it has too much potential too give up on it right now. It’s like the Josh Hamilton of TV shows, all the potential in the world, just need to put it all together…………let’s just hope Season 4 is 2008 all over again.

Stay tuned for the #5 best show on TV later this week.

-MikeV87