New TV: Last Resort

I just watched the premiere. Brilliant. Out of the five new series premieres so far this season, Last Resort is hands-down the best. The story, acting, cinematography, and pace are all spot-on. There’s nothing like it on television right now – not since The Unit and 24 went off air.

Much like Revolution, Last Resort started really quickly. It was just another day in the Navy, until a nuclear launch order came in over a secondary channel. The order was just far enough outside protocol to send up some red flags. For a civilian like myself, any nuclear launch order would give me pause. They way the crew handled it almost makes me think nuclear launch commands are standard fare aboard a nuclear sub. Then again, I suspect nuclear launch drills happen often enough that going through the motions during the “real deal” would be a matter of muscle memory. But the Captain and his XO are sharp enough to notice the oddities in the order (specifically, the way it was delivered). Suddenly, they’re questioning orders, fighting a small mutiny, getting shot at, and taking over an island nation.

Andre Braugher did a great job of being the Captain that the crew needed. Someone who could kick back to La Bamba, launch a nuke, handle insubordinate crew members, not launch a nuke, break away from his own government, take over an island, and post an awesomely intense Youtube video explaining the situation (not necessarily in that order). Of course, that sucks for the guy playing the XO, since he was overshadowed at every turn. It was Sam Kendal, played by Scott Speedman – because you forgot already.

I didn’t know women could serve on submarines, but I guess they can. It makes for an interesting plot device (plus, nobody would watch a show with a 100% male cast). So far, it’s only added another dimension to the mutiny storyline. The big payout could be that Lieutenant Shepard (Daisy Betts) has an Admiral for a father, and he seems to be involved in the big arc.

The filming locations – specifically that island – are reminiscent of LOST. In fact, the island scenes were on Oahu, not far from the LOST set. I’m pretty sure I drove past that NATO early warning post every day back in high school. Of course it had no satellite dishes or radome (the big golf ball) on the roof.

As of the end of episode 1, I count up to seven different arcs. It’s a lot, but I like how they’re handling them. Note that only six are really touched on. There’s a seventh that I’m speculating at. It’s probably something we’ll see come up as we end the first season.

Some other thoughts:
Max Adler (Glee‘s Karofsky) was there.
– I saw Robert Patrick there, and expected him to die in the first episode. Atlantis flashbacks. He survived somehow.
Autumn Reeser is the best. Her pillow talk may end up getting someone killed though. i.e. Loose lips sink ships. Literally.
Jessy Schram got more screentime as a picture than in person. Loved her in Falling Skies.
– Storing a body next to fresh fruit and milk? Seems like a bad idea.
David Rees Snell was the wounded SEAL. You may know him as Ronnie Gardocki from The Shield.

I really like where this show is going. There’s enough going on to keep me intrigued for the full forty. Some may find the number of arcs excessive, but I enjoy rolling through several during any given episode. The important part is that none of the arcs are remotely boring. I’m in for the full season.

On TV: Fall 2012 Season

It’s that time of year again. Every September, my Summer shows start to air their finales, and my Fall shows warm up their premieres. Over the past four years, I’ve honed my Fall schedule to 20-24 hours of weekly scripted television. Reality TV is not my thing.

New to my schedule this Fall: Revolution, The Mob Doctor, Vegas, Elementary, 666 Park Avenue, and Last Resort.

RevolutionI reviewed this one earlier. J.J. Abrams tells a good story. There’s a mystery that I’d like to see solved in Revolution. Even with the mixed reaction among the critics, I’m in for the season.

The Mob Doctor – Why I’m interested: I need a TV doctor show to replace House. After seeing the premiere last week, I suppose this fits the bill. The double-life of Jordana Spiro is an interesting plot device. However, I’d probably agree with critics that the plot twists are a little too cut-and-dry. The net morality of her situation sat absolutely even at the end of the show. I was hoping for something a little dirtier.

Vegas – Why I’m interested: Michael Chiklis. The Commish gets to play a true gangster this time. It’s like Vic Mackey unleashed in old school Vegas. As long as CBS doesn’t shackle the writers by keeping him ‘PG,’ I’d buy in for the whole season.

Elementary – Why I’m interested: Sherlock (BBC), and Sherlock (Hollywood). The deck is stacked pretty heavily against this show. The only thing it has going for it is Lucy Liu as a female Watson. Sherlock Holmes is a bit of a hero to me – specifically Benedict Cumberbacht’s version. He says what we all wish we could say (let alone notice). On the character alone, I’ll give this one a chance.

666 Park Avenue – Why I’m interested: John Locke (Terry O’Quinn). On the strength of his acting alone, I’ll watch this show. I’m not really in the market for a sexy supernatural horror/thriller right now. I have American Horror Story for that.

Last Resort – Why I’m interested: Andre Braugher. Some have called this “LOST with a submarine.” It might be, but I’m hoping it’ll be something more. I’m a fan of military dramas (like The Unit), and a fan of political intrigue. This show seems to have them both in spades. Also: Jessy Schram.

So that’s my Fall 2012 new TV roundup. I’ll be back later this week with a rundown of my returning shows – if I find time between work, sleep, and TV.

New TV: Revolution

The Fall TV season started this week. I’m a big TV buff; I regularly watch 20+ hours of scripted television each week. It’s a lot of time to invest in sitting around, so I don’t do it lightly. Every season (0ften twice a season), I check out a few new shows to see if they can earn a spot in my rotation. This week, it was a couple of early series premieres: NBC’s Revolution, and FOX’s The Mob Doctor. Given the hype around the Abrams/Favreau show, I figured I should do a little write-up on Revolution.

Within a minute of Carson Daily’s lead-in (he’s on The Voice, I guess), the premise of the show was delivered – a world without technology. It wasn’t a classic cold open like LOST; to which this show has been compared. It wasn’t even a soft-cold open like the children narrating the start of Falling Skies. We got a quick picture of today, and the abrupt sense at which ‘today’ became 15 years post-techno-apocalypse (known as “the blackout”). The rest of the pilot was about the first steps into unraveling the mystery of the blackout.

The premise is clear: a world without technology. Everybody loves a post-apocalypse story (see: The Walking Dead). Some of the scenes feel straight out of Discovery Channel’s Life After People series. Since it’s a J.J. Abrams and Jon Favreau thing, I’ll just go with it. Plus, they claim to have answers to the big arc already. I’ve even heard that J.J. Abrams himself stated they’d make the big reveal before the end of the first season. Part of me wants to believe this, but part of me doesn’t think the show could last if they took away the magic. After all, would we have kept watching LOST if we knew that the island was a time traveling magic cork controlled by some immortal brothers, one of whom is a smoke monster with no name, and everyone simply died for no reason other than… because magic cork?

The characters are hit-or-miss. Gus Fring, whom I have the utmost respect for, got another henchman role. He was the Magic Mirror on Once Upon A Time. I just couldn’t watch him as Wicked Queen’s sniveling yes-man. It was too far from the cold ruthlessness of his role as meth kingpin in Breaking Bad. The same goes for his mid-ranking military role in the Monroe Republic.

Tim Guinee is (presumably) a scientist with the key to unlocking the mystery. Side note: Tim Guinee has been in pretty much every TV show since the mid 80’s. He’s like the white, less famous, TV actor version of Samuel L. Jackson. I suspect we’ll see many, many flashbacks of him and his pre-blackout wife (the lovely Elizabeth Mitchell) in future episodes. Both he and his wife seemed to know about the impending blackout.

Tracy Spiridakos was actually very watchable. It’s not just because she’s easy on the eyes. Her character has a solid motivation, and acts towards it. Need to get my idiot brother back from the militia? Okay, better go find uncle Myles, who is “good at killing people.” Saved twice by militia teenage heartthrob guy? Better trust him. She’s probably the only character acting on her immediate needs, and not guarding some future plot point around the blackout mystery. That makes her relatively relateable.

Then there’s the doctor, the Google millionaire, the techno-resistance algebra teacher (she probably wasn’t really a teacher pre-blackout), and a few other characters. A 43 minute episode really isn’t enough time to get to know everyone. The Google millionaire, however, is an interesting paradox. While I feel like he’ll be pivotal on the whole “technology” front of the blackout arc, he seems entirely out of place. Even 15 years post-blackout, he carries himself like he was just on Reddit an hour ago. That makes him really stand out. Hopefully they can “dirty him up” a bit in future episodes.

Some scientific qualms: Why did the airplanes, after having lost power, still have their wing lights on? Then, why did they fall straight down, instead of on a ballistic trajectory? Why do fire, candles, gunpowder, and the sun still work, but internal combustion doesn’t? I’m not gonna bother questioning the magic USB locket. Not yet, at least.

Magic USB Thing

So that’s my take on Revolution. It’s getting a really split reaction on the rest of the internet. While the ratings were excellent, the critics weren’t as kind. Personally, I’ll keep watching. I’m investing in the promise of a good mystery. Plus, I need to know more about the magic USB locket, and I really want to believe that the writers already have the big reveal written-in before the end of the first season. Now, if I could only be so certain that the show will actually survive to the end of the season.

The New iPhone

Apple announced their new iPhone today: the iPhone 5. I, along with the rest of the world, have been waiting for this day since the iPhone 4S was announced back in October of 2011. In fact, I’ve been dead set on purchasing the iPhone 5 sight-unseen, for the past ten months. Why? I like toys, and I trust in product evolution.

I’ve been carrying a cellular phone since I started college. Back in my day (read in the standard crotchety old-man voice), we used the Nokia 5160, got 200 minutes per month, no texting, no data, and we liked it. The alternative was the pager, which was a fad for a while, but you still needed a payphone to go with it. Eventually, I went on to use the 6190, then the 8100 (which I bought an aftermarket kit to imitate the top-of-the-line 8800 slider). The Motorola RAZR, however, was the first phone I really fell in love with. I even ditched my old carrier (T-mobile) for the AT&T (then Cingular) exclusive. When the iPhone was first introduced, I ignored it as a fad. After all, who would want to use such a feature-rich device as a phone? It seemed like it was trying to do too much. I said the same for the iPhone 3G. I did, however, pick up an iPod Touch. It was at this time that I started to get into the iTunes media ecosystem. Pepsi had their free iTunes download promotion a few years earlier, which really got my music library started. When the 3GS was introduced, I bought-in.

Since then, I’ve become entirely dependent on the iTunes storefront for all of my media. I rent movies on my AppleTV. If I miss a television episode and can’t find it on Comcast’s OnDemand service or on the broadcaster’s website, I’ll buy the episode through iTunes. I’m even happy to buy full seasons of really good television (Game of Thrones, Sherlock, etc.). It’s safe to say that I can never stop using iTunes, because my media library would be worthless.

When the iPhone 4 hit, I immediately upgraded. When the 4S was announced, I felt something was lacking. I’m pretty sure I was stopped by the fact that it looked exactly like the 4, and only offered a few speed improvements. That’s how I knew the 5 would be incredible. Apple took some heat over their perceived lack of innovation with the 4S. The 5 would have to astound; they really had no choice in the matter.

Here are my notes from today’s keynote:

  • Earpods: 10/10 will buy.
  • iPhone 5: 11/10 will buy.
  • Faster/thinner/taller/lighter
  • Dig the lightning connector
  • LTE with the same battery life? Unpossible!
  • Facetime HD
  • Three microphones, and wide-band audio <– This one is huge. iPhone voice quality has always been garbage. Carriers need to add support ASAP.
  • So glad they named it iPhone 5 instead of “the new iPhone.”

The last two bullets are important for me. I’ve always thought that the call quality on the iPhone was pretty terrible. Even with a nice headset, the outgoing voice quality was barely intelligible. It was much better through Facetime. If the wide band audio over cellular works even half as well as Facetime’s audio, it’s worth the upgrade on that alone.

Also, I would have been really disappointed if they tried to push their “the new X” product scheme on me. I bought “the new iPad,” and I call it the “iPad 3,” because that’s what it is. Sticking “the new” in front of a product name is worthless as an identifier for more than 2 seconds. Imagine if people tried that with their kids. Meet “the new Smith.” 30 Years later, “the new Smith” introduces you to his son, “the new Smith.” And so on. It was a bad marketing idea, and I hope that it died with “the new iPad”(3).

Some might call me a “fanboy.” That’s okay. I wouldn’t categorize myself that way, even though I fit all of the criteria. I’m just happily married to the Apple iTunes ecosystem, and everything that entails – including the iPhone and iPad. I may also technically be trapped in the same ecosystem, but so far, I haven’t seen anything that really makes me want to leave, so I don’t worry about it.

I’ll be up past my bedtime on Thursday night, refreshing Apple’s website until I can get my preorder in. It’s worth it.

Facebook, Revisited

Yes, Facebook, I’m single. I get it. I’m not sure how the “Saturday Night Church” got into my ad stream, but that’s a thing as well.

It’s been three weeks since I joined the unstoppable social-juggernaut that is Facebook. Since then, the stock is down nearly 10%. Causal? Probably not, but I can’t be certain. Coincidence? Not entirely.

Although I was inspired to join Facebook by the ever-changing life events of my moderately large extended family, I’ve had an interest in their stock since the IPO. I remember considering calling my broker when the $38 price point was announced. It seemed like a good deal at the time. Now that it’s trading for less than half of the IPO price, I suppose it’s a good thing apathy stayed my hand.

But who could stop Facebook? It seems like social networking will always be around. Barring the possibility that German-style social modesty becomes a fad in America, we’ll always be driven to show-off, or peep into virtual windows (or both). I only mention “German-style social modesty” because a friend mentioned that his friends and family in Germany found it odd and “borderline offensive” to provide such a detailed account of one’s life.

The closest competitor to Facebook is Linkedin. While they’re also a social network, Linkedin targets a slightly different audience, for a wholly different purpose. Then, there’s Twitter. While they don’t compete in the same realm as Facebook, it seems like Twitter may have an advantage: transience. Where Facebook relies on person-to-person mutual connections (“friends” in both an exact, and yet very loose sense of the word), Twitter uses “followers.” Followers aren’t necessarily “friends” in any sense of the word. You can follow someone you don’t even know on Twitter – no mutual acceptance required. While it opens the door to some obvious cyberstalking issues, it has the advantage of being quick and almost anonymous. Anonymity is, after all, one of the cornerstones of the internet. The method of sharing is also simple: 140 characters to your followers. There’s no timeline, tagging, or liking to worry about. Just don’t try to use it for private messaging. It’s not a good idea.

The bottom line is that Twitter brings in almost double the ad revenue that Facebook does. Does this mean I’ll be investing in Twitter if/when they announce an IPO? Probably not. Not yet, at least. While I like their core concept, I still feel like the experience is missing something. Maybe it’s the lack of a rich social web that shows up when you have a two-way connection. Or maybe it’s because Twitter doesn’t know I’m single, so I feel offended when it doesn’t try to hook me up with hundreds of singles in my area. Who knows?