The Grand Glory of Galavant

Galavant was one of those shows that came on TV and everyone I know told me I needed to watch it.  Unfortunately for both me (and the show if I represent its target audience) I’m not the kind of person to watch programmed TV.  I’m in the streaming video generation.

Luckily for people like me, the show is now on Netflix and even though it represents essentially everything I don’t like in a show…I can honestly say it’s one of the best new IPs I’ve seen in years.

What don’t I normally like that this show somehow masters?  Well…

  • It’s a Musical: I’ll just say it: I don’t like musicals. Sometimes the music is ok, but mixed into the story I’m often too much of a realist to suspend disbelief long enough to understand why all these characters are suddenly singing.  I can count the number of musicals I like on essentially one hand and not even use most of the fingers…but Galavant somehow makes musical work.  Partially (like one of the musicals I do like, Candide) it works because it knows it’s ridiculous and embraces it.  It keeps the premise simple but makes the details absurd but unlike a lot of absurdist storytelling it doesn’t just behave like the dodo from Loony Tunes and sticks to its narrative.  Also the songs are quite excellent and remarkably in character.  They remind me of the songs from Futurama or David Brent: Life on the Road.  The joke isn’t that the songs are bad, but the characters singing the songs sing them from their own perspective without snarky irony.  One of my favorites is when meat-headed henchman Gareth (portrayed by tough-guy Vinnie Jones) sings the most stereotypical love song in the most literal way possible and it’s lyrics and performance are entirely in character.  It’s the kind of show that can have a comedy king sing about self-esteem to a bearded dragon and make you cheer.

  • Fourth Wall Breaks: For those who don’t know, a fourth wall break is when the characters in the show break the reality of the narrative to acknowledge they are fictional characters in a fictional world. It can be as simple as a classic wink to camera, or as blatant as mentioning production details of their show.  The classic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon used to do it all the time to get a quick laugh (often inaccurately spouting off incorrect show titles or details).  The character of Deadpool is essentially based around fourth wall breaks and I’m one of the few people in the world who can’t stand the character.  I think of this kind of snark as “internet storytelling” where storytellers have the chance to do everything as a cliché then make fun of it for being a cliché…while still doing the cliché.  Breaking the fourth wall is often a cheap way to get a joke.  And Galavant does it and gets some cheap jokes, but it is done less for snarky cheap reasons than it is just to point out absurdity in an absurd story.  It’s hard to fully explain why it works in the show to have the narrator sing of the cliffhanger, to hear a character chime in that they can’t die because there’s one more episode left, or have someone comment that it’s awfully early in the season for a main character to almost die.  But it does.  It works  because of the production and delivery.  It’s not done as a wink to camera or a “ha-ha look at us pointing this out” with the comedy pause.  Essentially all of the characters are anachronistic for the supposed 13th Century vaguely European setting.  And when one of them says something equally anachronistic or out-of-narrative it fits.  The jokes are often also subtle and not dwelt upon.  They are usually just part of the dialogue thrown in casually and quickly passed over.  It’s the kind of narrative treatment that so many have tried and failed to do…and Galavant does so well.

  • Network TV: When was the last time I saw something on network TV worth watching? Call it a prejudice but I can’t think of a show I tuned into on the big networks in the last decade.  Most of what I watched have been cable shows or smaller network shows (Monk, Psych, Supernatural, River Monsters) and syndicated shows re-run on cable networks (Futurama, The Simpsons, etc)  To think a Network produced this show for TWO seasons is SHOCKING.  They found some budget in between reality TV, contest shows, and legal dramas to make something unique, risky, and entertaining.  The entire first show of the second season is dedicated to the idea that they can’t believe they’re back for a second season.  If  networks would take more risks to produce more content like this maybe they’d win back some of the viewers who have defected to other forms of entertainment…like me.

Those are the main reasons the show shouldn’t have worked but did.  The straight positives are far too numerous to list.  The ENTIRE cast is brilliant.  Stand outs for me are Timothy Omundson as King Richard (he is legitimately show-stealing…), Mallory Jansen as Queen Madalena (who is both hilariously evil and remarkably sympathetic…and who has joined the list of fictional characters I want to marry), and Vinnie Jones as Gareth (who somehow creates a character who is a self-described “horrible person” but isn’t “entirely evil.”)  Add to that all the cameos from amazing guest stars just kind of thrown in (Weird Al AND Ricky Gervais?!  Yes please) and you get one hell of a show gone far too soon.

Who knows maybe it’ll gain traction from viewers like me who missed it the first time and we’ll get an even more unexpected THIRD season!

Right now its episodes are 18 perfect little jewels and definitely not to be missed.

psych tuesday 17th

Psych Tuesday the 17th: Must Watch Halloween 2016

Psych’s Tuesday the 17th ranks in my top three, if not No. 1, in my favorite Psych episodes. It’s the perfect mix of horror/comedy and has some of the most memorable scenes from any episode. Also, anyone who enjoys the Friday the 13th series will enjoy it, as audiences can see the Psych crew loves the series just as much. So much so that James Roday was interviewed in His Name Was Jason, the documentary that spans the 30-year franchise.

For those reasons and many more, I’ve picked Tuesday the 13th as the must watch for this Halloween. Here’s why:

Friday the 13th – Psych Style

As a fan of the earlier Friday the 13th movies, I was beyond excited when Psych released the trailer for their Tuesday the 17th episode, which aired on Friday the 13. Imagine … Camp Tikihama (Camp Crystal Lake, Camp Blood), with stereotyped counselors, a creepy old guy, and Shawn and Gus.

I won’t go into much detail because I don’t want to ruin anything, but the Psych crew did an amazing job with this episode. The first half is the set-up, packed full of comedy and suspense as everyone looks for a missing counselor, Annie. You may recognize the name as the optimistic counselor from the original who’s hitchhiking her way to camp. Then the twist happens, and the second half goes much darker. Even though it goes dark, it never loses its Psych sense of humor.

Homage to Friday the 13th

Tuesday the 17th pays homage to the first two films. And the show references the movies throughout the entire process. Here are just a few examples:

  • It’s shot in classic 80s style atmosphere. Usually, Psych episodes are bright and crystal clear, but not this one. It’s a little fuzzy with smart use of lighting, playing on light vs. dark. Psych actually does this much better than most horror movies that have been released in the last 10 years.
  • The entire episode takes place at the camp in the woods.
  • The group plays a game of strip cribbage, similar to the strip Monopoly in the original movie.
  • Erwin. The creepy old janitor who yells, “You’re all doomed,” which is a throwback to the second movie.
  • There is a Jason. No spoilers!
    They reference the movie and the fact that they’re in a slasher-movie scenario. There is indeed a killer on the loose, and he’s wearing a potato sack.

Role Reversal

The audience immediately knows this episode will be different because Shawn and Gus switch roles. From the beginning, Shawn is skeptical of the entire situation, while Gus shows no fear. Any Psych fan knows Gus is not fearless and runs from danger, so it’s nice to see him in a more fearless role, and he is hilarious.

Lassie’s Side Plot

Psych often had a couple of plots in each episode, ensuring the show never got too silly or too dramatic and the audience never got bored. When not at Camp Tikihama, the audience is with Lassiter during a very important life change. As it happens, you’re a little thrown off, but it’s huge in Lassiter’s character development. Each subplot scene lasts only a couple of minutes, and by the end, you know nothing will be the same … for anyone.

Rewatch Value

When this episode premiered in 2009, I was still recording on DVD. This was before the wonderful DVR was available. The night it premiered, I fell in love. I watched it twice that night, then several times over the weekend, and I’ve seen it a hundred times since. It’s that good.

It pairs well with the Friday the 13th traditions of watching the movies on every Friday the 13th, as you can watch Psych the following Tuesday on the 17th. I also recommend watching Friday the 13th 1 and 2, then watching Psych to get all the references.

If you love horror and horror/comedy, this show is a must. Also, I you’ve never seen the show, then watch this one episode. Tuesday the 17th is Psych doing everything the cast and crew loves to do: Have fun and keep the audience entertained while paying homage to a horror classic.

We hope you enjoy it and have a happy Halloween!

A quick note to Netflix fans: Netflix has announced it will remove Psych on November 1, so this Halloween may be your last chance to see it there.

The Strange Brilliance of Stranger Things

Stranger Things was sold to me inaccurately.  I came to the show very late (I just watched it last week) but I was told by multiple parties “If you love 80s horror you’ll love this show!”  That couldn’t be less accurate.  A more true statement would be “If you love the 80s AND love horror you’ll love this show!”  I do love both and, like everyone else who has seen it, I love this show.  At its core it’s just a story about a missing boy, but surrounded by excellent high-concept storytelling that takes it to the next level.  It’s part Goonies, a little X-Files, some Monster Squad, with a bit of Twin Peaks thrown in for good measure.

So what makes this series another spectacular notch on Netflix’s already festooned original content belt?

  • Characters: it always comes down to characters. You can hang the simplest story on phenomenal characters and make something special (Star Wars anyone?), but a complex epic story is just white noise if the characters are flat and useless (looking at you Jupiter Ascending).  And this is where Stranger Things gets it all right every time.  A dorky science teacher is 100% accurate, but science dork isn’t ALL he is (he knows DnD, he helps with a search, he’s on a date).  Surly Chief Hopper has a reason to be surly, but he also has backstory with other characters (that’s rumored and speculated and nothing more) and also an obvious reason to be obsessed with the disappearance of Will Beyers.  Even the characters on the periphery have deep characters built up, like Steve the would-be boyfriend.  He’s not Johnny from Karate Kid who’s just kind of a jerk to be a jerk. Steve has good qualities and his character arc isn’t what you expect it to be.  The same is true for Nancy and Jonathan, who have realistic and believable character arcs.  The show is stolen by Winona Ryder as Joyce Byers and Millie Bobby Brown, Gaten Matarazzo, Finn Wolfhard, Caleb McLaughlin, and Noah Schnapp as the main child leads.  Ryder’s performance as a frantic, but determined and brave mother is terrific and I can’t recall when I’ve seen such authentic child characters.

  • Tone: The show is a masterpiece of pacing and tone. It’s set from the opening battle with monsters in a make believe fantasy setting during a Dungeons and Dragons game.  It then becomes a battle with real monsters and a real fantasy setting and never loses its authenticity.  You believe in this world, its characters, and its lore.  You believe in interdimensional monsters and psychic kids.  Strangely the tone isn’t one of traditional “horror” either.  While yes there are monsters and victims, I never found it to be scary in a normal way.  It has a feeling of tense suspense, with the tension coming from a desire to see as little harm as possible come to these great characters.  Or alternatively see the deserving ones get the chop.

  • Concept and Execution: This is a story that is unique and original. It’s not based on a treatment of a comic book or from the characters featured in a novel.  It’s a new idea encompassing everything we love about the time period and bringing in elements of modern science fiction horror from films like Super 8.  It even gives subtle nods to period-specific media, from the music (which isn’t ALL accurate, some of that is post 1983 people…) to movies (kids riding their bikes from imposing authority figures anyone?)  It’s a slickly made, well-executed piece of storytelling that again continues the gradual shift from single-narrative feature films to the expansive mini-series formula as the potential preferred medium of up-and-coming creators.  And it also shows just how well it can be done.

It’s not all roses of course.  I think the creature is significantly scarier the less we see of it (it was never more frightening than the first glimpses Will sees of it while riding home) and even though they may have needed to show the creature for the themes they were going for, I think less is more for it.  Also the vague “government” enemy is a little bit of a cliché, but it does tie in nicely to the 1980s Cold War fear mongering prevalent in the period.

Stranger Things shows just how much can be done when the right group of creators, meets the right distributor, and mixes the perfect cast with the right idea.  It’s perfect for the Halloween season, and if you haven’t seen it yet catch it right now!  If you have seen it, hell catch it again;  I definitely intend to!

Supernatural: Then vs. Now

Attention Supernatural Fans: I mean no harm. I know the show has surpassed popularity no one thought possible, however as a fan since season 3, Supernatural has betrayed me.

supernatural then vs now

It’s been awhile since I’ve discussed Supernatural and my love/hate relationship with the show. I have not seen a full season since season 9, but I have seen episodes from all of them, even the most recent wrestling one.

That’s what sparked this post. As I watched the overly dramatic episode that I thought would be fun and pay homage to the greats, I thought, “Wow. Supernatural used to be so good. What happened?” I feel like the writers and producers have betrayed the show’s origins and ripped away what made it special. Let’s take a look at Supernatural Then vs. Now: (contains spoilers)

The Plots

I loved Supernatural’s main plots – whether it was finding their dad or defeating Lucifer – but the plots after season 6 aren’t as appealing. Seasons 7-11 have been heavily focused on “biblical” characters and plots, which has made the show less fun and interesting. With seasons 7-8 I enjoyed everything except for the main plot, and season 7 really lost my interest when they killed off the beloved Bobby. The early plots were simple at their core. They focused on natural good vs. evil, family relationships, and supernatural lore. All wins. However, once season 8 started, it focused the Men of Letters and characters who aren’t really interesting or relatable. The current plots are slow, boring, and convoluted.

Stories Within the Plots

This infuriates me. Supernatural has crossed a line with me in its current season. It has betrayed many of the major-minor characters by placing them in situations they would never have allowed five seasons ago. Cas, one of my favorite characters, has been possessed or accepted to serve as Lucifer’s vessel. No. Crowley is beaten and worn down and looks like a hobo. Um, no. Some speculate that Crowley will become human and start hunting. Really? The Darkness (Amara) threatens the world’s fate, but Dean can’t fight her because he’s in love with her. Sigh. And on and on.

The Boys

Sam and Dean aren’t the same. Sure, they’ve matured and been through everything imaginable, but their characters have become dry. In the early seasons, you appreciated Sam’s independence and struggle. Dean was somewhat unstable but always did what was right. As you watched the early seasons, both have relatable qualities that engage the audience. Now, they’re pretty much the same person. There’s no passion, and any brotherly conflict feels written. Since season 8, the characters actually feel like fictional characters instead of real people. The “this feels real” feeling you get when you watch the earlier episodes is priceless because you are on the adventure with them. Now, and since season 9, you’re just watching. And it’s not even interesting.

Misc. Issues With Supernatural

Aside from these issues, there are tons of little things wrong:

  • The first few seasons had amazing soundtracks, and now the music is just TV music.
  • The “fun” episodes – some of my favorites – do not exist. I’ve watched several that start strong, then half-way through, they go dark and grim. The show isn’t fun anymore.
  • Where’s the lore? Why are we learning about WWII and the Nazis? Oh, that’s right. The Nazis practiced dark magic because that makes sense.
  • Skeazy hotels no longer serve a purpose. They live in the Men of Letters bunker (yawn). No more Dean enjoying vibrating beds; no more picking up ladies; no more fairies in microwaves.
  • It’s now a drama. This hurts me the most. I don’t watch dramas because I like my entertainment to make me laugh. The world is serious enough, so I need fun, humor, and creativity. Supernatural hasn’t had that in a long time.

This will probably be my last Supernatural post that discusses current episodes or recent seasons. It is with a heavy heart that I say I will probably stop trying to watch it. I still love many of the seasons, but it has taken a direction that no longer interests or entertains me. I think I’ll stick to the reruns.
Feel free to let us know what you think in the comments!

Family Feud: For Families or Just Adults?

Family Feud, one of the most popular game shows of our time, has been around since 1976. I have seen the show progress throughout my life, enjoyed yelling answers at the T.V., and calling contestants idiots for not thinking of obvious answers.

Until recently, I hadn’t watched it in years, so I was a little unprepared a few weeks ago when my son and I were watching.

The question: Name something a woman puts in a male stripper’s g-string.

Ummm… what?

I didn’t freak out because he is a teenager, however I thought about all those families with small kids who may be watching. I can only imagine an 8-year-old asking, “Mom, what’s a g-string? What’s a stripper? And parents having some tough decisions to make.

Sure enough, my kid asked what a g-string was. With pink cheeks, I chose the honest answer even though I would have rather said, “a string in the shape of a G” (wink, wink). One answer was “her mouth,” which I did feel was a bit much. Isn’t this supposed to be a family-friendly show?

This is what inspired this post. Family Feud isn’t really for families. It hasn’t always been either. In fact, in the ’70s the show was slightly promiscuous with host Richard Dawson, but not because of the questions, but because he was a ladies man who loved the flirt and kiss them. Some questions provoked “adult” words, like sex, but for the most part it was nothing shocking, especially for the late ’70s and early ’80s.

As the show progressed with the times, it became more tame. Either I was conditioned to it as a kid (the last time I watched it with host Ray Combs), or I didn’t care, but nothing seemed very thought-provoking or too grown up. In the early 2000s, hosts Louie Anderson and Richard Karn brought the show into the 21st century, and I admit I only watched a few episodes, thinking it was a little boring or predictable.

Now in 2015, with host Steve Harvey, there’s definitely some spice, and most questions are way too adult for younger audiences. Recently, I’ve seen answers on the board such as “hot nurse”, “hoo hoo” (in reference to a female’s part), and heard questions like “name one thing you’d do if your husband was wearing a thong.”

I’m not opposed to the show, just opposed to it airing during early evening hours when many families are flipping channels before/after dinner. I’m a little surprised its allowed due to the content and the fact they won’t even show cartoons that are too adult before 9 p.m. It seems like bad taste, and I would hate for a small child to know too much too soon from watching a “family” game show that’s very age specific – 13 and up seems appropriate.

Overall, I enjoy the show, but I do warn those with younger kids to keep flipping channels for a few years. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below, and enjoy these clips!

Supernatural: Ellen and Jo

Jo and Ellen Supernatural
Photo from

During my recent Supernatural binge, I remembered two of my favorite characters, mother-daughter team Ellen (Samantha Ferris) and Jo (Alona Tal). I often jump around, but I stopped to watch the episodes featuring these characters, who are so well done. TV shows and movies need more women like them.

Beauty Within the Beast

Pop culture is big on women right now. We have strong female characters assuming more masculine roles, but if you think about it, few are really attractive or feminine. As much as I love Michonne from The Walking Dead or Ripley from the Alien movies, these ladies are not considered beautiful by today’s standards.

This is one reason Ellen and Jo are different. Especially for her age, Ellen is a simple but elegant woman. She will kick your a$$ in a heartbeat, though. The producers seem to have wanted her to be beautiful even though she runs a saloon. Her hair is always down, she always wears a little makeup, and has a nice figure, especially for a woman now pushing 50. Her facial expressions make her tough looking, but she still has nurturing eyes and worry lines to show the caring, softer side.

Simply put, Jo is a tiny hot blonde. When you think of petite blondes, you may think fragile and not very bright. Jo is tough and smart. Upon first meeting (Everybody Loves a Clown), Dean takes her shotgun away, and she punches him in the face. At first, he’s actually scared of her. Jo proves you can have a small, trim figure, long blonde hair and a great smile, and still beat the crap out of anyone who gets in the way.

Hard on the Outside, Soft in the Center

Sounds like a strawberry bon bon, doesn’t it? That’s the best way I can describe these two ladies. They are tough as nails on the outside through verbal expression, mannerisms, and weapon usage, but both are sensitive souls underneath.

In the show, Ellen instantly becomes a maternal figure for Dean and Sam, but shows she won’t take their crap. She wants to help them but kicks them out when they resist. She doesn’t want the same life for Jo as they have. In Good God, Ya’ll, she hugs Dean, then slaps him across the face for not calling to check in. Ellen cares for hunters, providing food, shelter, and much needed booze. She is every hunter’s mother.

Jo may punch you in the face, but you can see her vulnerability. In No Exit, Jo joins Dean and Sam on the hunt and is taken hostage. She’s terrified, but nothing will stop her from escaping and putting the spirit to rest. She even offers herself as bait, even though you see both her fear and insecurity. Jo seems fearless but learns quickly she needs Dean and Sam, and they need her.

The show’s producers don’t over testosterone these female characters or make them anti-men. Many producers create female characters on one end of the spectrum or the other, but Supernatural delivers both the independent and dependent spirit of the true modern-day woman. It’s not that women need men, or vise-versa, it’s that we all need each other.

If you haven’t seen the show or the older seasons recently, I recommend them – the older seasons rank among my favorite TV of all time. Happy hunting!