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Last week I was invited to a sneak preview of Boardwalk Empire, HBO's new show that is about giving awesome character actors lots of chances to be intense at each other, and also a little bit about Prohibition, I guess. (I am more invested in the former – I feel like in a lot of ways HBO is becoming the BBC, where limited-run shows employ excellent casts purely to make me happy.)

(Steve Buscemi, chairing a meeting of the Character Actors Association.)

From the relatively brief preview I saw, there's a lot to like here. They certainly did their historical research, and I look forward to many montages of Al Capone sneaking Canadian Club whisky across the Detroit River, intercut with something seemingly-unrelated yet thematically relevant, as period-correct music plays. (I have nothing to say in my own defense; I am a sucker.)

(During the preview, when Michael Pitt introduces himself as Jimmy Perspectivecharacter and Stephen Graham says, "Name's Al – Al Capone," half the people gasped. Well done, preview editor!)

A shorter version of the preview we saw is below. Bottom line: it's about Prohibition, jazz music, flapper dresses, Temperance, and character actors. How could I NOT watch this?

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And I thought the first episode was amazing!

I'm not saying it got cheesier. I'm just saying that if I ran a drive-in movie, this would be the summer special.

These men are just confused that they are one of the few promo stills available and 80% of them haven't even appeared in the miniseries yet. Mostly because this miniseries is a battlefield they aren't on. You know who's on that battlefield? The people under this cut.

Five Things About Episode 2 of Pillars of the Earth. )
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So, I'll be doing the episodes of The Pillars of the Earth one at a time, since it's all my ancient laptop can handle before Netflix crashes my computer for the night.

The good news is, this kind of comedy gold is worth every frustrating moment. I'm going to hit five things in every episode worth watching it for. We'll slap it behind a spoiler cut, I guess, though the book's been out for twenty years. (Also, this is so unrelated to the book that it wouldn't matter in any case.)

Look at those hostage eyes. You know you're in for a treat!

Five Reasons to Watch Episode 1 of Pillars of the Earth. )
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The Pillars of the Earth premiered on Friday! It's based on the Ken Follett bestseller, which means that, as with any Ken Follett book, there will be a lot of research into the topic, many people will die in gruesome ways, and women will do ridiculous things at all times for no reason.

Still, that book was my jam when I was 11, so I thought I might as well check it out, since it's got every ham actor who ever hammed. It's an Ultimate Ham-off!

After seeing the first episode, I can tell you with authority: this is the kind of Ham-Off they will write about for a hundred years. And by "they" I mean "me," and by "a hundred years" I mean "for the next three weeks."

I mean, the cast aside (Rufus Sewell, Ian McShane, Donald Sutherland, Sarah Parish, just for starters), the subject matter is perfect for half-starved scenery-chewing. I think most of what I'll be doing the next three weeks is developing a drinking game for this thing, because I suspect it will need it.

For those who doubt how much cheese you can get in less than two minutes of footage, I give you a vaguely-spoilery trailer!

Tomorrow, Episode 1 (A New Ham-off)!
glvalentine: (nerd alert)
Last week I stumbled on what is possibly the best historical doc ever on the Discovery Channel:

Cleopatra, Portrait of a Killer. (To be pronounced "KILLAH!" with Gloria Swanson eyes.)

On the right, Arsinoe. On the left, a KILLAH.

Their premise is that Cleopatra, because she hinted around at various Romans until her brother/husband and her half-sister got bumped off and left her sitting pretty on the throne, is a stone-cold killer. Also they have an extra five minutes to fill, so we're going to reconstruct some bones we found in Arsinoe's tomb and decide where she came from! (Not interesting enough for its own show, I guess, but apparently a nice way to bring home the fact that Arsinoe was dispatched by a KILLAH.)

Here's the problem with that: they must think we have never heard of a royal family before. Killing each other is what royal families more or less exist to do. (Last one standing gets the throne, you guys!) So, the fact that Cleopatra exerted some influence to rid herself of rivals to the throne is business as usual, and doing everything you can to keep yourself in power is not only business as usual, but history sort of vilifies you if you can't manage it, so you might as well really go for it and become Oxnard the Wrathful or whatever instead of Plinkerton the Waffling.

(Also, if we're talking about someone who is not afraid to fight for the throne, the ghost of Henry VIII heard this TV show title and looked up, superoffended.)

On the other hand, "Cleopatra: Portrait of Moderate Political Acumen" doesn't have the same ring to it, I guess.

But long as we're still competing for incestuous, murderous royal families, there's another amber-filtered desert-dwelling monarchy that makes Cleopatra's friends look like an episode of Blackadder. Just saying.

On the plus side, this had the best history-documentary extras EVER. They were really going for it, especially Cleopatra and Arsinoe, who did more intense-head-turns-to-the-camera than any other history documentary has ever attempted.

I think I've talked about this before, but I REALLY love extras. Extras in big movies, extras in small movies, accidental extras in crowd scenes, extras who look right at the camera, extras who are falling asleep, extras who outdance the leads, extras who are into it above and beyond the call of duty and gesticulate wildly in the background having a peas-and-carrots fight. But perhaps no extras are closer to my heart than the extras in historical documentaries, who usually look a little confused as to why they're doing whatever they're doing, but gamely push forward into a castle siege or something, just like they were told.

These extras came to win, though. They threw shade at each other and had silent freakouts and threw jewelry all over the place! I actually enjoy this Cleopatra in a completely non-facetious way, and watched the entire hour because I loved how much fun she was clearly having. You make it happen, Cleopatra!

Below, a clip from the show for your enjoyment. (She was a KILLAH!)

glvalentine: (omg no)
So, as promised, I reviewed Riverworld for

It was...plentiful? I don't even know what to say about it. They somehow managed to undercut most of their good points by accident (though every once in a while my jaw would hit the floor when something egregious stereotyped through the frame).

They did try very hard with the casting, which is generally passable and occasionally enjoyable. Sam Clemens and Allegra the courtesan did very well for themselves, and of course, Peter Wingfield never met an outdoor set he couldn't halfheartedly stage-fight his way across. (I also suspect he had a contract rider that stipulated he be making out for at least 40% of his screen time.)

I'd be surprised if it makes it to a long-term series, only because renting a riverboat like that must be expensive, and because they burned all four hours of it on a Sunday night in April, which doesn't speak much to their confidence about holding an audience from week to week.

But here's the thing: I tease SyFy (and rightly), but I do think that with all this "reimagine-classic miniseries" stuff they're getting closer and closer to something good that they can sustain. I mean, sure, Tin Man was a disaster. And Alice had a decent first half and then kind of imploded, but the cast was actually surprisingly good, and I enjoyed it quite a bit whenever I could forget the WORST PLOT IN THE ENTIRE WORLD. Frankly, if SyFy could have come up with a better premise, I would have tuned in to that show every week, no problems. A nice pulpy hour every week full of actors I like? SOLD.

This one had a multicultural cast (thumbs up) who are mostly sci-fi TV veterans (thumbs up!) in a script with an ensemble feel (thumbs up), in a setting where they can be held hostage by Vikings at any moment (thumb sideways), and a standard Chosen One quest plot (thumbs down) where the hero is looking for his impossible, dull, virginal girlfriend (thumbs down), and where blue aliens manipulate you with cryptic messages and sometimes tie you to a table and taunt you for no reason and then let you escape from your prison and then transport you a hundred miles away from the prison anyway, making your escape moot and leaving you staring at your costar in the middle of the Vancouver woods. (Uh, thumbs down.)

They managed to strike gold for a whole season after the BSG miniseries. (And then three more, which were like brass.) Someday soon, they'll get it right again.

Just...not with this one.
glvalentine: (omg no)
It's gonna be an awesome night.

Mostly it's awesome because I'm watching the Riverworld miniseries so I can report on it for tomorrow. least Peter Wingfield is still getting work? (Whatever, I can't wait. B-Movie Actor Bingo, PLUS, Vancouver looks lovely whatever time of year this was filmed!)

Another thing this weekend that looks great is my new website, courtesy of [ profile] mkhobson, who managed to fulfill all my nitpicky requests in record time! She even helped drag me over the tech threshold to whatever Wordpress is using now, so my dashboard isn't constantly complaining that I never give it nice things. (I guess I still didn't. Whatever, Wordpress, you're not my real dad!)

Now, off to make cereal for dinner and settle in to watch Alan Cumming play a blue bondage monk. Thumbs up, everyone!
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So, this Olympics I've fallen hard for the ice skating. Don't worry, it'll be over in a week and change, and then we'll be back to pictures of horrific advertising as per usual.

The men's short program was last night, and I have a couple of comments, mostly regarding the commentators and editorializing.

They go here, for page-scrolling brevity. )

For anyone who doesn't want to sit through all the awful, endless footage of dudes falling down last night, my three personal-favorite routines, in skate order:

1. Florent Amodio. (If this kid doesn't have a medal eight years from now, I'd like to know why.)

2. Daisuke Takahashi. (If he doesn't have a medal 24 hours from now, I'd like to know why.)

3. Johnny Weir. (Caution: showman at work.)

Puppy Bowl.

Feb. 8th, 2010 03:55 pm
glvalentine: (nerd alert)
So, while everyone else was watching football (and what sounds from everyone's Twitters like a spectacularly misogynist series of ads), I was watching the Puppy Bowl.

Here is what I like about the Puppy Bowl: it is completely a joke and it knows it, but it still tries to not be boring. This year they had maybe 20 puppies (not at any one time, but over the course of the evening), tailgate-party dogs outside watching, a kitten halftime show, rabbit cheerleaders, and a blimp with hamsters in it. Their audience appeal is already wider than the actual Super Bowl's, you know?

I think my favorite running joke was the cheerleaders. Those rabbits fell asleep five minutes in, so if you were lucky you'd cut to them when one of them had one eye partially open, and the announcer would be like, "The cheerleaders can hardly contain themselves!" It's as hokey as it sounds, but when you realize those rabbits have seriously been asleep through the ruckus the ENTIRE TIME, it gets a little amazing.

(The hamsters spent their cutaways frantically standing on each other and/or gnawing at the control panel of the blimp, as per usual for hamsters.)

Another thing I liked was that it seemed relatively well-supervised; if any of the puppies got in a serious fight, or if they fell asleep, the ref appeared to remove the sleeping/ornery pups and replace them. This makes it feel a little less like the unwilling gladiatorial combat it is and more like going to the Union Square dog run when all the hipster couples are busy with their iPhones and don't notice the enormous and violent Jack-London playdate swelling around them until pack mentality has already sprouted and they have to fight the alpha dog to get their pug back.

Here's an example from the Bowl that shows the other best thing about the Bowl: the huge air-hockey table that was the center logo, and where everyone tended to have their fights. I'm not sure why, unless they knew it was hilarious, in which case, well done!

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Today at, I talk about SyFy's new reimagined-fairy-tale movies of the week. First up will be Beauty and the Beast (naturally), starring Estella Warren (naturally).

Do I think this will be awesome? Yes. But it has some serious work to do if it's ever going to compare to the most amazing version of this story ever broadcast, and I think you know which I mean.

This one. (Immortalized here on Greendale Elementary's picture day.)

Now, this show is not amazing for its overall storyline (which was three ounces of story in a two-gallon jug). Nor is it memorable for its individual episodes, which tended to be like the 90s remake of The Tomorrow People, in that almost every episode featured someone new learning about the underground society that has existed in secrecy for decades, except that judging by the discovery rate on the show, by now everyone in New York probably knows about it and just doesn't realize it's common knowledge because it doesn't come up in conversation. The Underground Renaissance Faire: New York's best-kept secret.

But neither one of those is the element that makes the show truly timeless. That would be the wardrobe.

You do not even know how many pictures are under here. )
glvalentine: (omg no)
Over at today, I tackle the first wave of this year's genre pilots coming out of pilot season, including something so awesome/hilarious I can't even speak of it with a straight face: they're making Push into a TV series.

On the surface? Smart. A small group of photogenic people running from a shady government and hooking up with a series of semi-famous guest stars has proven to be sustainable for at least four decent seasons.

However, this pilot has not been picked up by a network yet. I am wondering if maybe they aren't sure how to handle the casting of some of the characters, since our underage heroine was a little underdressed, and that will get super-awkward every week at 9pm, you know?

glvalentine: (nerd alert)
One of my favorite things in the world is watching historical documentaries (generally biographies) that have extras in the background, looking historical and Very Serious. They're never allowed to talk, of course, but sometimes they get to "Peas and carrots" their way through something as historians explain things in the foreground. It's all extras, all the time, and it's awesome!

The best of these I've seen was "The Real Jane Austen," which aired a while ago on PBS, and was amazing because it took the framework of a talking-heads biography with actors as the talking heads. It was narrated by Anna "I always play harridans for some reason" Chancellor, and starred a list of actors I can hardly believe managed to get in the same project just to make my life easier/worse: Gillian "Stuck in a Cookson" Kearney, Jack "Also stuck in a Cookson I haven't recapped yet" Davenport, Lucy "Becoming Jane" Cohu, Oliver "I had two lines in Lorna Doone" Chris, and Beth "Yes, I'm Kate's sister" Winslet.

(Oh, Awesome British Actor Camp, you always know just what to say!)

The one I'm watching at the moment is about the youth of Queen Victoria, with a narrator who seems to be reading her lines off cue cards she has never seen before, and the Queen Victoria extra's job is to look up off-camera and shake her head "No" every time we cut to her, and it's delightful. Also it's about history, I guess.

(If I ever have a month to myself, I should start Best month EVER.)
glvalentine: (omg no)
So! After I vaguely went to bat for Alice Part One, Alice Part Two aired last night, and now I feel like when a friend is visiting a city and you sort of vouch for an old college friend who lives there now as a friend introduction and they end up in a screaming food fight in a diner; totally embarrassed and sad I didn't see it coming.

On the other hand, I called the ending in an email twelve hours before it aired, practically down to the dialogue, so clearly I saw SOMETHING coming.

Too bad it was this thing. has the brunt of my despair, but I'm not done.

Spoilerland. )

Alice, Pt 1

Dec. 7th, 2009 05:01 pm
glvalentine: (omg no)
SyFy aired Alice last night, and after Tin Man, you had better believe I was ready for the worst.

The worst never came! Instead, Passable came, and Passable was so much better than what I had prepared for that by the end I was like, "That was GREAT!" (It is not. It is Passable.) I reviewed it over at

Here, I want to break some things down, to make sure there is no confusion. The plot here is not good. The plot is stupid. The plot involves stealing people and sucking their emotions out, and weird tattoos and a big conspiracy and a magic ring and it's just a mess. But, just like with Beyond Sherwood Forest, it's like the producers sat down and were like, "Here are some likable characters. They'll just run around in the woods while all the rest of it is going on. Also, we'll reference Alice in Wonderland a lot. It should be fine!"

And so they did! (Except that dead guy. The dead guy is not likable. That dude was a jerk.)

I'm glad that skeleton is dead, and other things that might be spoilers! )
glvalentine: (omg no)
Last night I saw A Streetcar Named Desire. It was too awesome for me to process at the moment. Instead, let me share with you what I'll be doing tonight!

I'll be reviewing it for, but if it's anything like Tin Man (and we all know how I felt about Tin Man), you can expect a lot more discussion over here.

I urge you to tune in! (Mostly so I don't have to suffer alone.)
glvalentine: (nerd alert)
This weekend, SyFy gave us all Beyond Sherwood Forest. As I said over at, it was the first good SyFy original production I've ever seen. (No, Tin Man does not count. It will never count. All it did was turn me away from Neal McDonough forever. Now, when I watch Band of Brothers, all I think is, "Shit, dude, you have no idea what's going to happen to your career, do you?" and then I'm sad.)

You have to admit they're trying for quality, though! They even have moody promo stills. (Well, one moody promo still. So they're trying…barely.)

Five things I liked about this movie. )
glvalentine: (nerd alert)

So, The Prisoner remake happened on Sunday. And apparently it's still happening? I fell asleep, so I don't really know, but I wrote it up at, with the headline, "I am not a number! I am a free bland!", which should pretty much give you an idea of what you're in for.

And now, an open letter to Ian McKellen!

Dear Ian,

I know none of this is your fault. I chose a production still where you look grumpy, specifically to highlight how much this is not your fault. You are doing a very good job with what you have, even if what you have is Jamie Campbell Bower, and for this I am very sorry, because that dude is a creepster who cannot act, and with Jim Caviezel as your leading man you're basically not getting ANY help on the co-star front. I feel for you.

To sum up; I hope we are still best friends. I will fly to England the next time you are in a play! I probably will not be able to get tickets to the actual play, but I will fly over there and sort of wave at the theatre as I walk past it, and if you are looking out the window at that moment you will know that I do not hold The Prisoner against you.

Yours sincerely,

P.S. I hope you got to take home some of those suits. You're the only guy I know who can wear a white suit and not look like an ice cream man.
glvalentine: (nerd alert)
So, when I got back from travel one of the first things I did was sit down to review the V pilot for

It was sort of lucky I waited until I got back, though, because my flight experience came in super-handy!

Last week, when the V pilot aired, I was far from home in a place without decent TV (the horror, the horror!).

Which reminds me: you know how you get a meal on an airplane, and it comes on a little tray just the size you expected, and all the food is wrapped tidily in little containers clearly labeled, and you eat it because it’s there, but by the time you land you can hardly remember what you ate, because there was nothing wrong with it, but it just didn’t taste like anything?

In totally unrelated news, I caught up with the V pilot.

Check out the rest over at!

And further, slightly more political thoughts under the cut.

Oh, SHOW. )
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I'm a huge fan of good detail work in any venue, but things like great set dressing always thrill me, which makes this slideshow of Mad Men props pretty much the best thing going on today. Or most days!

My favorite might be this remote:

There are some other amazing things there, though, including Betty's desk set, complete with filigree hairspray holder. (Oh, early 60s, don't ever change.)

I try not to collect things myself, partly because I live in an apartment the size of a shoebox and partly because I tend to go overboard with the collection instinct if I'm not careful (I have completed, and then sold or given away, more collections of questionable items than I care to admit). However, I have a great deal of respect for someone who recognizes something's eventual value, or just happens to take good enough care of their belongings that they still look new fifty years later. Thumbs up, careful item-owners!
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I wanted to tune into White Collar as soon as I heard it was a funny, lightweight show about smart people outsmarting other smart people. I like a few of USA's other shows, but they tend to be like Psych, where smart people outsmart dumb people, or like Burn Notice, where I just can't stop staring at the raw sinew in Gabrielle Anwar's neck. (You were so awesome in The Three Musketeers! Why did Hollywood tell you that you had to weigh 80 pounds?)

(Enjoy this visual metaphor for everyone's relationships!)

And all told, the pilot was kind of awesome.

Spoilahs! )


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Genevieve Valentine

September 2010

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