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The Top Fifteen Episodes of TV in 2015 — Part One!

Last week I listed by Top Twenty Movies of 2015.  (Click here for part one of my list, numbers twenty through sixteen.  Click here for part two of my list, numbers fifteen through elevenClick here for part three of my list, numbers ten through six.  Click here for part four of my list, numbers five through one.)

Now I am excited to look back all of the great TV we were blessed with in 2015.  This was a tremendous year for TV.  I watched a LOT of great TV.  And yet, as always, there was a lot of great TV that I didn’t get to.  More than ever, it felt like!  Our current age of “Peak TV” (click here if you don’t know what I’m talking about) is a blessing and a curse.  2015 TV series that I didn’t have time to watch include: Fargo season two, Better Caul Saul season one, The Americans season three (I’m still catching up with season two, only a few episodes to go), Transparent, Justified, The Man in the High Castle, Review, Documentary Now!, Halt and Catch Fire, The Leftovers, Red Oaks, Silicon Valley, The Knick, The Last Man on Earth, Inside Amy Schumer, Broad City, and more.  That’s a lot of amazing TV that I didn’t get to see!  All of those are shows that I hope to catch up with, one of these days.

But enough lamenting the TV I didn’t get to watch.  Let’s bask in the glow of my Fifteen Favorite Episodes of TV in 2015!


Honorable Mention: Robot Chicken DC Comics Special 3: Magical Friendship (aired on 10/8/15) — I’ve loved Robot Chicken’s two previous DC Comics specials and his third one did not disappoint.  While there are several of the expected random skits, this special has a more distinct than usual for Robot Chicken story that carries through the episode, a focus on the very funny friendship/rivalry between Batman and Superman that was introduced in the previous two specials.  Robot Chicken co-creators and show-runners Breckin Meyer and Seth Green voice Superman and Batman, respectively, and they are magnificent.  In this installment, Superman and Batman’s escalating rivalry builds to a spot-on spoof of DC’s regular “Crisis” events, one that allows the Robot Chicken gang to jam in all sorts of wonderfully obscure jokes and references, including great appearances by the Batman and Robin of the 1960’s TV show, with both Adam West and Burt Ward reprising their roles.  Great fun.


15. Show Me a Hero: “Parts 1 & 2” (aired on 8/16/15) –The Wire’s David Simon returned to TV with this gripping miniseries, telling the story of the … [continued]

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This “Modern Seinfeld” twitter feed is pretty amusing.  I guess the premise is these guys are coming up with Seinfeld ideas, if the show was being made today.  This one really made me laugh: George gets dumped for being a “toilet texter.” GEORGE: “What else are you supposed to do in there?!” JERRY: “I can think of a couple things.”

This is awesome: A New Yorker’s Tour of Ghostbusters.

Did you catch the second Robot Chicken DC Special earlier this month?  So funny.  This DC All Access video contains some of the great bits, and a peek behind-the-scenes:

This article about Police Academy sort of makes me want to re-watch it!  I haven’t seen any of those films in YEARS, but Police Academy #1-4 were HUGE parts of my childhood!!

How Gravity should have ended:

A new animated Batman short by Bruce Timm (mastermind behind Batman: The Animated Series) in honor of Batman’s 75th anniversary?  And it’s a retro pulp adventure?  And Kevin Conroy voices Batman?  YES PLEASE!

The funniest thing about this new trailer for 24: Live Another Day is the “red-band” text that opens it:

I have absolutely zero interest in the film Sabotage, but this article’s description of star Josh Holloway as “America’s Sean Bean” made me laugh and laugh.  HAS Mr. Holloway actually lived to the end of a movie he’s been in…??

I learned about Operation: Paperclip as a kid from The X-Files.  It was real, and represents a fascinating (and morally ambiguous) era of American history.  I was pleased to see it referenced as part of the fictional S.H.I.E.L.D./Hydra back-story in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.  More on Operation: Paperclip and the Marvel universe can be found here.… [continued]

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Did you enjoy the new Hobbit trailer I posted last week?  If you haven’t seen them, here are all of the other alternate endings to that trailer.

Uh oh.  Looks like Rise of the Planet of the Apes director Rupert Wyatt has dropped out of work on the sequel, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, apparently because Fox is rushing the film to meet the release date the studio had chosen.  This is not a good sign.

This past weekend, on the eve of Treme’s season 3 premiere came the good news/bad news that HBO had renewed the show for a fourth and final season (four seasons was apparently David Simon’s ideal length for the run of the show), albeit a shortened season.  The exact length of this shortened fourth season, what Mr. Simon refers to as “season 3.5,” is TBD.  I’m bummed the show couldn’t swing a full final season, but I’m thrilled that HBO is at least giving Mr. Simon and his team some episodes to bring their television masterpiece to a conclusion of their choosing.

Well,  now I know why Robot Chicken did a DC Comics special this year, rather than a fourth Star Wars one.  It’s because Seth Green and many of the rest of the Robot Chicken gang are working on a whole new Star Wars parody show, Star Wars Detours. This first trailer is funny, though I’m not sure why this is a whole new show and not just more Robot Chicken…

Speaking of Star Wars, it looks like Episode II and Episode III will be getting a 3-D theatrical re-release in 2013.  I sat out the Episode I re-release (I must admit I was a little tempted, but that film is just so bad I couldn’t see spending the money, even though I was curious about the look of the 3-D), and I’m not that much more interested in seeing Episode II. But seeing Episode III back on the big screen, and in 3-D?  That just might have my ticket.  But I am really waiting to see if they re-release the Original Trilogy.  Any excuse to see those films on the big screen again is exciting for me, no matter how much new digital fiddling Mr. Lucas and his minions have done…

This is an interesting list of the Top 5 Best-Acted Moments in a Steven Spielberg Film.  I definitely agree with numbers 5, 4, and 1, not so sure about 3 and 2…

I was already interested in Judd Apatow’s new film, This is 40, and this interview with Robert Smigel and Albert Brooks, both of whom are appearing in the film, has … [continued]

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News Around the Net!

Raiders of the Lost Ark is being re-released to theaters!!  IN IMAX!!!  I am so there.  Here’s a trailer!

My mind is reeling with the possibilities of Days of Future Past, the newly-announced upcoming X-Men film.  I agree with every suggestion on this list of 10 cameos that would be great to see in the X-Men sequel.

They’re really making Kick Ass 2?? And they’re courting Jim Carrey to appear in the film??  I am so happy.

While I’m on a role with super hero movie sequel news, this is a great idea.

I loved the early seasons of The Office, but I’ve been dissatisfied with the last few years and I finally gave up on the show about halfway through the last season.  But with the recent news that this coming season will be the show’s last, I’m considering tuning back in to see how things wrap up.  We’ll see…  (Here’s some more info on the end of the show.)

Looks like Ron Howard’s proposed TV-and-film adaptation of The Dark Tower has hit another snag.  I have nervousness about the idea of Akiva Goldsman being involved in the scripting, but boy would I love to see this incredible property done right.  I agree 100% with Devin’s opinions in that piece (both about wishing fervently that Viggo Mortensen would take the title role, and feeling that a  cable TV series adaptation is the best way to go, rather than a film trilogy…).

Sad news that actor William Windom, who played Commodore Matt Decker on the Classic Star Trek episode “The Doomsday Machine,” has passed away at age 88.

“Meanwhile, at the Legion of Doom…”

Wow, that is targeted exactly to my funny bone.  Can’t wait!… [continued]

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The Top 10 Episodes of TV of 2010 — Part One!

All right!  So here we are at last at my final 2010 Top 10 list — my list of the Top 10 Episodes of TV of 2010!  I hope you’ve all enjoyed my previous lists: The Top 10 Movies of 2010 (click here for part one, and here for part two), The Top 10 DVDs/Blu-Rays of 2010 (click here for part one, and here for part two), and the Top 15 Comic Books of 2010 (click here for part one, and here for part two).

Before we begin, I should note that there are a few 2010 TV shows that I haven’t had a chance to see any of (though I hope to remedy this soon, through the magic of DVD.  Just need to find the time!!)  These include: Louie, Eastbound and Down, Bored to Death, and Boardwalk Empire. So, if you’re wondering why no episodes from those (apparently great) shows made the list, now you know!

OK, here we go:

10. Mad Men: “The Beautiful Girls” (Season 4, episode, 9, aired on 9/19/10) — This was an interesting episode of Mad Men that spotlighted many of the women in the ensemble.  Sally, miserable living with her mother, runs away to find Don at his office, and begs him to let her live with him.  Faye is put in the uncomfortable position of having to comfort this distraught child.  Peggy has a rough series of interactions with the young fella who Joyce set her up with, who doesn’t seem to have a clue as to what sort of woman Peggy is and how to connect with her.  Joan, lonely after the departure of her husband Greg for Vietnam, finally accepts Roger Stirling’s offer of dinner — which proves momentous because of what goes down after the two of them are mugged.  And then, of course, there is poor Mrs. Blankenship, whose untimely demise leads to a laugh-out-loud sequence in which the folks at Stirling, Cooper, Draper, Price try to prevent the presence of a dead body from interrupting their regular business.  It’s my favorite moment of the entire season of Mad Men.

9. Parks and Recreation: “Woman of the Year” (Season 2, episode 17, aired 3/4/2010) — Leslie Knope expects to be chosen as the Woman of the Year by the Indiana Organization of Women, but she’s horrified to learn that their choice is actually her mustachioed boss, Ron Swanson.  There’s a lot of comic fun to be had from Ron’s gleeful torturing of Leslie (“Which of these objects most represents women, for this portrait?”), but what I love about this episode is the surprising amount of sweetness that … [continued]

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It’s a Trap! Family Guy and Robot Chicken take on Return of the Jedi!

January 12th, 2011
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It’s difficult to express just how much fun I’ve had watching the dueling Star Wars specials that both Family Guy and Robot Chicken have been releasing over the past few years!  I was blown away by both shows’ initial Star Wars episodes (Robot Chicken’s Star Wars Special and Family Guy‘s episode Blue Harvest, an hour-long parody of the original Star Wars), and I have been thrilled that the continuing installments have become something of an annual tradition.  The end of December saw both the broadcast of Robot Chicken’s Star Wars: Episode III as well as the release of the DVD/blu-ray of Family Guy’s Return of the Jedi episode, It’s a Trap!

Of the two, I prefer the Robot Chicken special, but it’s pretty close!  As usual, the Robot Chicken episode is a collection of skits — some just a few seconds long, others lasting several minutes — having fun with the whole breadth and scope of the Star Wars saga.  As with their Robot Chicken Star Wars: Episode II special (which focused on The Empire Strikes Backclick here for my review), Episode III focuses on one of the films — in this case, no surprise, Return of the Jedi — though as always there are still skits throughout the show referencing all five of the other films.

The episode begins at the end of Return of the Jedi, with Darth Vader having thrown the Emperor down the deep trench of the Death Star.  The video freeze-frames mid-fall, and we hear the Emperor — once again voiced with an extraordinary amount of sardonic bitterness by Family Guy‘s Seth McFarlane (just one of many crossovers of talent between the two shows) — asking, in voice-over, just how the heck he got into that position!  McFarlane’s hilarious depiction of the Emperor as a grouchy fellow constantly beset by life’s circumstances was one of the stand-out characters of the first Robot Chicken Star Wars special, and the shows creators have wisely chosen to again spotlight him here.  The other character who gets a spotlight — surprising to me, but pleasantly so! — is the unnamed Stormtrooper voiced by Scrubs’ Donald Faison.  He gets some choice moments in the show (we see his mishaps driving the Death Star and at Lars and Beru’s home), and Faison is an absolute riot.

Other great skits include a spot-on evisceration of the ridiculous Padme/Anakin scenes from Episode II (“This is my room for talking about non-sexual matters”); a musical version of Emperor Palpatine’s first 66 orders; a dark take on the cave scene from Empire (“Think you would cut his head off, I did not!!”); and … [continued]

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Let the Best of 2009 lists continue!  I hope you all enjoyed my list of the Top 10 TV Episodes of 2009.

Now let’s dive into my list of the Top 10 DVDs (or Blu-Rays) released in 2009!

First, I’d like to give Honorable Mentions to the complete series sets of three amazing TV shows that I had just about given up all hope of ever seeing on DVD: It’s Garry Shandling’s Show, Andy Richter Controls the Universe, and Andy Barker, P.I. So why aren’t these shows on my list?  Because I can’t put anything on this list that I haven’t actually watched, and I’ve been way, way too busy to get through any of these sets.  Of the three, the only one I own is Andy Richter Controls the Universe.  (That one came out first, and I’m not going to purchase the other two sets until I actually have time to watch them.)  But I take great delight in knowing that these three DVD sets exist here on planet Earth, and I know that I’ll get to them all in good time.

10. Watchmen: The Ultimate Cut (Blu-ray) — I’ve seen Watchmen quite a few times since it was released early in 2009, and while the film certainly has some weaknesses, I remain overwhelmed by the enormity of its successes.  It’s hard to believe that Zach Snyder brought this seminal graphic novel by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons, which long had been considered unadaptable, to life.  It thrills me to see such a faithful take on the material and that the filmmakers had the confidence to craft a super-hero film that was aimed squarely at adults.  The Ultimate Cut of the film is Zach Snyder’s longest version, stitching together his Director’s Cut with the animated Tales of the Black Freighter sequences.  It’s pretty astounding.  This Blu-Ray set would be much higher on this list were it not for the paltry special features.  Not only are the special features lame (this is a movie that cries out for a full-fledged making-of documentary), but this set just reproduces the special features that were already released on the Director’s Cut set.  (I guess I’ve been spoiled by the amazing extended editions of the Lord of the Rings films, which came not just with phenomenal extended versions of the films but with extraordinarily elaborate making-of documentaries that didn’t duplicate the special features on the theatrical version DVDs.)  (Read my review of the theatrical version of Watchmen here, and of the Director’s Cut here.)

9. Contact (Blu-Ray) — A beautiful film that manages to combine a serious, cerebral sci-fi tale with an effecting story of the personal journey … [continued]

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News Around the Net

Haven’t done one of these in a while…

Here’s some of the fun stuff floating around the interwebs these days:

The Simpsons has moved to HD!  This has apparently necessitated a change in the show’s iconic opening credits sequence, which has remained constant for 19 years.  (Can you believe it’s been that long??)  Fear not, fans, the new credits sequence is quite spectacular.  It follows the general pattern of the old opening, bringing us through Springfield — from Bart writing on the blackboard to Homer working in the plant to Lisa in band class to Marge shopping with Maggie, etc etc.  But there are a LOT of great new gags, and new appearances by many of the popular characters who weren’t around when the show originally launched (Groundskeeper Willie, Otto, Ralph Wiggum, Pattie & Selma, Sideshow Bob, Apu and his Octuplets, and many more).  And the new animation is terrific.  If you missed yesterday’s episode, check out the new opening by clicking here.  Note that the couch gag is, of course, just this week’s version — that ending joke will continue to change every week.  By the way, after watching this clip, do you find yourself missing Bleeding Gums Murphy?  (He’s one of the characters Bart used to skateboard past, who has now been removed.)  Don’t worry, he’s still there!  Check out the pictures on the wall behind the kids in Lisa’s band class…

Just like the year when there were two asteroid-hitting-the-earth movies (Deep Impact and Armageddon) or the year when there were two volcano movies (Dante’s Peak and Volcano), this year there are two Mall Cop flicks coming out.  Perhaps you, like me, chose to pass on Paul Blart: Mall Cop, starring Kevin James.  But you might still be interested in Seth Rogen’s much, much darker take on the idea.  Click here to see a trailer for Observe and Report.

Speaking of trailers, Quentin Tarantino’s let’s-go-kill-some-Nazis flick Inglourious Basterds (yes, that is how the title is spelled) has a teaser trailer that was just released.  Click here to check it out.

Is Joaquin Phoenix melting down before our eyes, or is this all some kind of hoax for the documentary that Casey Affleck is apparently filming about Phoenix’s attempt at a rap career?  I have no idea, but click here to watch his truly bizarre appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman, and judge for yourself.

If you’re a Watchmen fan who is chomping at the bit for the movie to be released (Match 6th is coming!!), then you definitely need to click here to watch the teaser for the Tales of the Black Freighter direct-to-DVD release. 

Finally, I … [continued]

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OK, here we are with my final “Best-of” list, the Top 10 DVDs of 2008!  To be included on this list, the DVD in question had to contain a high-quality TV show, movie, or special and also a great presentation on DVD, with lots of cool special features.  Behold my list:

10.  Mystery Science Theatre 3000:  20th Anniversary Edition — I adore this show, and this 20th anniversary celebration of its existence just rocked.  On this set, the gang haves fun with four great/terrible films: First Spaceship on Venus (1960), Laserblast (1978), Werewolf (1996) and Future War (1997).  Even better is the inclusion of an in-depth 3-part documentary on the making of the show, from its creation through to its end.  The icing on the cake was the neat tin case that included fun stuff like a little model of Crowe T. Robot, which now sits proudly on my desk.

9.  John, Paul, Tom & Ringo: The Tomorrow Show with Tom Snyder — This DVD contains three lengthy, rare interviews that Tom Synder conducted with Paul McCartney (in 1979), Ringo Starr (in 1981), and John Lennon (in 1975).  The Lennon interview is the last televised interview that John gave before his death.  Snyder is an engaging interviewer, and these lengthy conversations with 3 of the 4 Beatles are a real find.

8.  The Office: The Complete Fourth Season and 30 Rock: The Complete Second Season — Complete season sets of these two NBC shows at the top of their game were released in ’08, I can’t tell you how many hours of enjoyment I got out of these DVDs.  In the fourth season of The Office, Ryan the temp is promoted, moves to New York City, and falls to pieces; Andy begins dating Angela; Stanley finally loses it with Michael (“did I stutter?”), Michael is deposed in Jan’s case against Dunder Mifflin; the gang creates an ad to run on local television and participates in Michael’s “fun run” towards a cure for rabies; Toby finally leaves for Costa Rica; and of course Michael and Jan invite Jim and Pam over for a dinner party.  Over on 30 Rock, Jack launches a new reality series called  MILF Island; Tracy and Jenna feud over Liz’s attentions; Liz adopts a hippie writer (played by Carrie Fisher) as her mentor; Devon Banks (Arrested Development‘s Will Arnett) feuds with Jack over the top spot at GE; Jerry Seinfeld discovers Jack’s plan to digitally insert him into all of NBC’s new fall shows; Jack falls in love with a Democratic Congresswoman from Vermont (Edie Falco); and while Liz Lemon faces a pregnancy scare, Jack takes a job working in the Bush Administration along … [continued]

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Top 10 Episodes of TV in 2008 — Part Two!

Today we continue my list of the 10 best things I saw on TV in 2008!  (Click here to read yesterday’s installment, listing numbers 10-6 and several honorable mentions, if you missed it.)

5.  Battlestar Galactica: “The Hub” (season 4, episode 9, aired on 6/6/08).  Trapped on a Cyclon basestar with Gaius Baltar, cancer-stricken President Laura Roslin begins seeing visions of her long-dead friend (who bought it on Kobol in season 2) Elosha, and Helo is given an order that puts him at odds with his conscience (as well as his Cylon wife).  In one of my favorite moments of the entire fourth season, Baltar attempts to preach to a mechanical Cylon Centurian.  But the emotional climax of the episode comes at the end, when Roslin must decide whether to let Baltar, who she now knows to be responsible for the genocidal Cylon attack on the Twelve Colonies that nearly eradicated humaity, bleed out and die.  In any other show we’d be certain that, by the end of the episode, she’d “do the right thing” and let him live.  In Battlestar Galactica, in which there are never any easy answers or easy decisions, the result is terrific suspense and gripping character drama of the best kind.

4.  30 Rock: “Believe in the Stars” (season 3, episode 2, aired on 11/6/08).  30 Rock has made great use of some phenomenal guest stars in the past (Steve Martin, Jennifer Aniston, Carrie Fisher, Paul Reubens, Isabella Rossellini, Edie Falco, Matthew Broderick, Will Arnett, Rip Torn, and so many others), but Liz Lemon’s hilarious plane ride seated next to Oprah Winfrey takes the cake.  That story-line alone would make this episode a winner, but there is so much more fun to be had as Jack puts Kenneth’s country-boy morality to the test and Tracy and Jenna begin a bizarre social experiment in order to see who has it harder in America: blacks or women.  Best line of the episode comes from Tracy:  “I watched Boston Legal nine times before I realized it wasn’t a new Star Trek!”

3.  Robot Chicken Star Wars Special: Episode II (aired on 11/16/08).  I’m not sure what more can be said that I didn’t already cover in my initial review of this special on 11/24/08.  For 22 gut-busting minutes the Robot Chicken gang mercilessly skewer all six Star Wars films in their second Star Wars special.  The jokes are delightfully random, from the House parody “Dr. Ball, M.D.” (“she lost the will to live?  What is your degree in, poetry??”) to the Cantina Band’s attempt to pitch a commercial jingle (“it works better as an instrumental”), to an awkward meal on Cloud City (Leah to … [continued]

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Spend a Threevening with Kevin Smith & Robot Chicken!

I’ve seen some very funny movies in the theatres lately, but let me tell you about the two best pieces of entertainment that I’ve seen this week:

Sold Out: A Threevening With Kevin Smith — Back in 2002, film-maker Kevin Smith (Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, etc…) released a two-DVD compilation of the best moments of five lengthy Q & A sessions he had held at various college campuses.  This little slice of comic genius was called An Evening With Kevin Smith.  It is a raucous, profane, and relentlessly entertaining four hours spent learning FAR more than you probably ever wanted to know about Kevin Smith’s life, career, show-biz interactions, and sexual habits.  The kids ask Smith questions on all sorts of topics, and he answers with surprising honesty and brilliant humor.  The man is a spectacular story-teller.  There are so many gems to be found on this DVD set (one of the most-watched in my large DVD collection), but my two favorites concern Smith’s experiences filming documentary footage for Prince (“Chaka mad?  Chaka real mad!”), and his lengthy tale of the year he spent, in the late 90’s, working on a Superman movie script for Warner Brothers.  In addition to being one of the funniest stories I have ever heard (as Smith goes into painful, hilarious detail of the ins and outs of trying to get the relaunch made in crazy Hollywoodland), that tale also serves to explain (to me, at least) why so many big-budget Hollywood movies wind up being so awful.  Oh, and the epilogue to the story, about Smith’s public fight with Tim Burton, is a classic as well.  Oh, OK, and I must also mention the tale of Smith’s first hook-up with the woman who would become his wife.  This story might sound innocuous, but it has to be heard to be believed.  (Remember what I wrote before about Smith’s honesty?  Let’s just say that it is on full display here.)

In 2006, Smith released An Evening With Kevin Smith 2: Evening Harder.  While bearing a phenomenal title, this set contained footage from just two Q & A shows, and as a result it was a bit weaker.  (There was less material to draw from.)  However, that’s not to say that there’s not a lot of fun to be had.  The discussion of Jason Mewes’ “half-half-whole” technique (which I will not explain any further here) in particular is a winner, and left me anticipating the hopeful future release of a third DVD set.

Which brings us to Threevening.  This double-DVD contains footage from just one show, but it’s a doozy: Kevin Smith’s celebration of his 37th birthday with an almost … [continued]