TV Review: Lost, “Some Like It Hoth”

“Let’s face it… the Ewoks suck, dude.”

Ok, I have a confession to make. When it was revealed that the main characters on ABC’s Lost were sent back in time to 1977, one of the first thoughts that came to my mind was, “Hey! That’s the year Star Wars came out in the theaters!” So tonight’s scenes that featured Hurley (Jorge Garcia) scribbling in his Dharma Initiative composition notebook his own script for George Lucas’ next cinematic epic, The Empire Strikes Back, were some of best fun I’ve had watching TV for a while. I figured out what he was doing when he asked Miles (Ken Leung) how to spell Bounty Hunter in the beginning of a van ride they were taking together. Since the title of tonight’s episode was, “Some Like It Hoth,” it probably wasn’t much of an investigative feat on my part.

In tonight’s episode we got to learn a lot about Miles who is one of my favorite minor characters. I’m really interested in his ability to speak with dead people and I’ve wished for a long time that they’d do more with him. I like the actor who plays him too. Ken Leung has had minor parts in a few movies that I’ve really enjoyed—mostly the Brett Ratner productions Rush Hour, The Family Man, and X-Men: The Last Stand.

We learned from the flashbacks that Miles discovered that he had the ability to speak to dead people at a very young age as his mother was trying to make a life for herself and him in the absence of his father whom he never knew. With all of his emotional baggage being left unresolved by his mother who wasn’t forthcoming about his father and their past, he attempted to fill the empty spaces in his life with money that he could earn by hiring out his services as someone who speaks to dead people for profit… whether or not he actually makes contact with the deceased.

By the end of the flashback, we see Naomi Dorritt (Marsha Thomason), recruiting him to be part of the freighter team being put together by Charles Widmore in an attempt to find the island and remove Benjamin Linus from power. You’ll remember Naomi as the first member of the freighter who was found by the Losties who fooled them into thinking that she was there to rescue them.

Before embarking on his journey to the island on the freighter, Miles was kidnapped whilst eating a fish taco by a group of guys offering him an alternative to working for Charles Widmore. I can only assume that these guys were actually working for Benjamin Linus, but who knows what Ben’s motives would have been for trying to recruit Miles other than to keep him from helping Widmore. It could be that the information that Miles can get from the dead bodies on the island will actually be very important in the grand scheme of things.

Back to the main timeline in 1977, Miles is asked to fill in for Sawyer (Josh Holloway) who is busy trying to cover up what he and Kate (Evangeline Lily) did with the recently shot, young Benjamin Linus. As we see Miles and Hurley on a top secret mission to transport a mysteriously killed person, we discover that Dr. Pierre Chang (François Chau) is none other than Miles’ long lost father who is the leading scientist on the island and is living there with his wife and 3-year-old son who is, of course, Miles. Miles now has the opportunity to get to know his long lost father who appears to be very different from someone who would abandon his wife and child the way his mother had depicted him. It’ll be interesting to see where this storyline takes us.

I realized tonight what a genius move it is to have the main characters go back in time like they have in this season. What better way to show a large amount of the history of the island than to have the main characters travel back to that period and live when that history happened? It’s interesting to see the main characters involves as the history of Dharma unfolds and it’s making me wonder if they’ll even travel farther back in time to see the history of the island during the period when the four-toed statue was in its prime. I’m guessing probably not as much as what they’re doing with Dharma, but it was interesting that one of the guys who abducted Miles in his flashback asked the question, “do you know what lies in the shadow of the statue?” as a test of whether or not he was prepared to make the journey to the island. Perhaps the history of the statue will turn out to be an important element in the grand scheme of things.

One final note, I’m very intrigued by the reappearance of Daniel Faraday at the end of tonight’s episode. They were never very clear about what happened to him, only that he wasn’t with them anymore, so we’ll see!

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TV Review: Parks and Recreation

When NBC decided to take a British show called The Office and make an American version of it, they took the script from the British pilot and almost remade it word for word. For every character, there was an American counterpart. For every joke, it was either retold verbatim or it was rewritten for American sensibilities. The success or failure of the pilot for the American version of The Office owed more to the creative power of Ricky Gervais and Steven Merchant, who created the British version than it did Greg Daniels and Michael Schur, who interpreted it for American audiences.

What could be credited to Greg Daniels and Michael Schur is the subsequent episodes of The Office that took those British version-inspired characters and relationships and put them into very familiar American workplace situations—making it a show that we Yankees could grow to love and appreciate on it’s own merits.

Now NBC brings us “from the team that brought us The Office” a new show starring Amy Poehler (Saturday Night Live) called Parks and Recreation. This show, entirely created by Greg Daniels and Michael Schur, attempts to take the Documentary/Comedy format of The Office and transplant it into a city’s government agency with an entirely new cast of characters.

Apple iTunesAs with any new show, it’s hard to get a real sense of how good this one is going to be by the half-hour pilot, alone, but there’s one thing I noticed as they sandwiched it between two new episodes of The Office in an attempt to gain an audience: there wasn’t much laughter happening in my house caused by Parks and Recreation.

Now, what makes The Office work for me are the familiar situations the characters find themselves in as part of an office. For example, when my friend Derek and I worked in the same office space, we had great fun playing pranks on our co-worker, Shirley. One favorite prank of mine was taking a screenshot of all the windows open on her computer and making that her desktop so when she came back to her desk and tried to click on a window or a folder, nothing would happen because it was just an image and not an actual file. This would make her think her computer was frozen and would then have to restart. She did this a couple of times before we broke it to her that we were playing a joke on her. And so I always get a kick out of the pranks Jim plays on Dwight and secretly wish that I would have thought of that, myself.

Part of my problem identifying with Parks and Recreation was that I’ve never attended a public meeting for city planning before so I just had to assume that the meetings portrayed in last night’s pilot episode would ironically ring true and would be funny if I connected with it.

I must admit, though, that it’s not a total loss. Amy Poehler’s character, Leslie Knope, is in some ways similar to Michael Scott in The Office, but without the crude and brash behavior. She is someone who hasn’t let the city government system suck all the enthusiasm and optimism out of her—much to the chagrin of her co-workers. She is the main subject of a fictional documentary that’s being filmed and she is very aware of being on camera and loves sharing her story with the world. Unfortunately, the camera also see’s everyone else’s lack of enthusiasm and their desire just to put in their time so they can go home.

In the pilot, Leslie Knope conducts a public meeting where community members have the opportunity to air their grievances. During this meeting Ann Perkins (played by Rashida Jones who portrayed Karen, the other woman, in The Office season 3,) who has come to complain about a pit next to her home that was dug by a construction company that promptly went out of business. Ann complains that her worthless (my opinion, not hers) boyfriend accidently fell in the pit and broke both of his legs. Leslie decides that this is her opportunity to make a difference in the world and promptly “pinky promises” to take care of the problem and transform the pit into a park, somehow.

It’s clear that the rest of the 6 episodes that have been produced are going to center around her efforts to get this accomplished. I was amused by the fact that they all celebrated so strongly the permission she got to form a “committee.” Well, isn’t a committee just a body of people that sits around and talks about something but doesn’t actually get anything done? I think she has a long way to go in getting her promise fulfilled.

A slight disconnect with the subject of tonight’s episode, though, is that many of Leslie’s character establishing moments were formed in a very nice park. Doesn’t that go against the idea that this town needs another one? I don’t know, maybe that was the point and it was supposed to be funny, but to me it just seemed a bit clumsy.

I’m not the type of person to bail on a show after the first episode, especially one made by the same people partially responsible for my favorite comedy on television, but I sure hope that Parks and Recreation can find its groove soon or I predict it won’t be around for long.

In case you missed it, you can download the pilot for FREE in HD at iTunes.icon

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TV Review: Lost, “Dead is Dead”


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“As long as the dead guy says there’s a reason, then I guess everything’s gonna be just peachy.”

In last night’s episode of ABC’s Lost, “Dead is Dead,” we abandoned the story of the Oceanic survivor’s escapades in the Dharma of the past, and focused on Ben’s story where he professed to be on a mission to pay the Smoke Monster a visit to atone for his sins. I say “professed” because I never had the impression that he was sincere about what he was telling John Locke regarding his intensions on the main island.

As Ben and Locke were interacting, I really enjoyed watching how Locke treated Ben. It was like a parent asking a child if they took a cookie when the parent already knows the answer to the question, but is testing the child to see if he’s going to tell the truth or not. Obviously Ben is a huge liar who is very much interested in preserving his own self-interests, so there were many opportunities for Locke to test him like that.

It was interesting to see a little into Ben’s history from the flashbacks in tonight’s episode, which actually make me feel a little more sympathetic towards him and his ability to have compassion on helpless babies and children. This, of course, informed his actions when they showed him confronting Penny Widmore in his effort to take out his revenge on his nemesis Charles Widmore for killing Ben’s daughter. Upon seeing Desmond and Penny’s son, Charlie come on deck of the ship Ben had a change of heart and couldn’t kill Penny like he intended to. But since he had already non-fatally shot Desmond, Desmond proceeded to beat the living snot out of him. Good boy!

Later in the episode we got to see Ben’s final confrontation with the Smoke Monster who showed Ben his history with his daughter Alex and the reasons he sought revenge on Charles Widmore. I’ve heard the producers of the Lost, Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, say that each time they show the monster, they want to reveal a little more about it. Well, I’m not sure that I learned anything more about it this time, but it was interesting to see more and to wonder if the manifestation of Alex immediately afterward was a form that the monster was taking or if it was actually a re-embodied Alex who had come back to warn him not to follow through with his intentions to kill John Locke again.

I am believing more and more that the island definitely does have mystical qualities about it and isn’t just some scientific magnetic phenomenon. It’ll be interesting to see how satisfying the final explanations about the island are when all is said and done.

So now we see that Benjamin Linus is fated (or doomed) to play second fiddle to the seemingly well-intentioned John Locke, whom it seems that the island has chosen as its new human leader. So, will Ben go against the wishes of Alex and try to kill Locke and regain his leadership position over the others? I guess only time will tell.

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TV Review: Lost, “Whatever Happened, Happened”

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Being a fan of Science Fiction, you’d think that I’d love stories about time travel, when actually the opposite is true. I’m frequently frustrated when I’m brought through a series challenges and triumphs that the characters are experiencing and something happens to the timeline and everything they had experienced is suddenly wiped away and nobody’s the wiser.

You often see stories like that in Star Trek. I remember one particularly painful episode of Star Trek: Voyager where the ship goes through what was called, “The Year of Hell.” In this year they go through a challenging series of battles and struggles and right up to the brink of destruction when the timeline is changed and everything is reset back to normal and nobody remembers anything about it.

Why this is so frustrating is because one of the reasons to watch a continuing story is to share by proxy the experiences the characters are having. It’s nice to see them grow and change from the beginning of their challenges into different people who become almost like family to us.

This may all seem like a long detour around a short point, but this is one of the reasons I’m loving this season of Lost on ABC. I was initially leery of the introduction of time travel into the story, but I’m a big fan of the theory that they seem to be following that whatever might have happened in the past, actually happened—whether or not they knew they were involved in it—that’s how their present became to be the way it was. Which, by the way, is where this episode got its name, “Whatever Happened, Happened.”

In tonight’s episode we see the immediate after affects of Sayid’s shooting of young Ben at the end of last week’s episode. Apparently Sayid had also watched too much Star Trek and thought that he’d be able to kill Ben and erase all of the terrible things that Ben had him do. Not so.

Apple iTunesWe see too that Jack had also subscribed to the belief that he could allow young Ben to die and that would have prevented his problems as well. It seems to me that in reality, Jack’s refusal to help Ben is exactly what turned him into the heartless person that they all grew to hate. If Jack had done his surgical magic and saved Ben’s life, then Kate and Sawyer never would have taken him to the others for their special brand of voodoo help. Interesting.

Also in this episode’s flashbacks, we see what happened to Kate and what caused her sudden change of heart from refusing to consider returning to the island into another happy passenger on flight 316. It all revolved around Aaron and her decision that he needed to return so she could try to save Claire. That her relationship with Aaron could never be long lasting since there was so much unfinished business left on the island.

I was especially moved during her farewell scene with Aaron. During that scene I grew to respect the writers even more, not just for her character’s growth, bur for the growth of all the characters. It would have been so easy for them to have Sawyer bounce back into pining over Kate and leave Juliet and it would have been easy for Juliet to go back to being the other woman with either Sawyer or Jack, but instead the writers are allowing those 3 years that they spent apart from each other to actually mean something to the characters and to the storyline. It’s a brave thing to do, especially because it’s not looking like we’re going to be liking Jack very much after a while.

This episode left me asking the question, “why had they come back?” According to Kate, she came back to try and save Claire. Sayid thinks that the reason he was there was to kill Ben—which backfired pretty spectacularly—but is there a different reason that we’ll learn soon? I’m sure there is. What about Hurley? I’m sure these are all questions that will be answered in the weeks to come, and as always, there will be more questions presented in the process. I’m confident that this show is only going to continue to get better.

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