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Saturday, 25 of May of 2019

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Dan Harmon Leaving Is Okay

Or how Community will be your new Sugar Ray

Oh noooooooooooo!

I promise this won’t be another blog post about the rise and fall of Dan Harmon or one that bemoans the death of greatness at the hands of an industry that can’t appreciate talent or one that demands Dan Harmon be installed as supreme leader of Must-See TV or I WILL BURN THIS PLACE TO THE GROUND. We here at Monsters of Television tend to have a more sober approach to television scandals and news (sometimes to our own Google-Analytical demise, see the low statistics for our thoughts on Girls) and the same will be said for a look at the changing of the guard on one of our favorite shows. I won’t speak for Noel (I’m sure he’ll have his own addendum or companion piece [dissenting opinion?] if this doesn’t line up precisely with his thoughts) but here’s my take on everything, based on the last twenty-four hours of the Twitter news cycle.

It’ll be fine. It won’t be the same. But it’ll be — fine.

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The Perils and Problems of Toonami’s Return

Toonami was a programming block on Cartoon Network the started in 1997. Airing in the afternoons, no doubt modeled after (and to compete with) The Disney Afternoon block, the block was retooled in July of 1999 and began airing as the Toonami Midnight Run on Saturday nights starting at midnight. From there on, it was 6 hours of anime and the block’s host T.O.M., a 3D CGI robot voiced by Steve Blum (known for his work as Spike in the dub for Cowboy Bebop).

Toonami Website

Really? "Bitches"? Sigh.

The Midnight Run programming block was dropped after a little less than a year (around March 2000 or so) and was retool with multiple shows airing during its block during the afternoons and then Saturday evenings, mostly anime but some American animation as well before finally being shut down in 2008.

The Midnight Run block was arguably the most popular iteration of Toonami. It laid the groundwork for its ancestor, the wildly successful Adult Swim, with its use of bumps and interstitials between commercials and the shows, and speaking to the audience though those (Adult Swim would, of course, engage in a more minimalist approach). A case could be made for Toonami popularizing anime in the United States (I wouldn’t argue it was the only thing, but probably a contributing factor), which in turn was assisted by Adult Swim’s early emphasis on anime, before they started producing their own program.

On April 1 of this year, Adult Swim was suddenly reprogrammed and it was Toonami Midnight Run again. (You can see all the bumps and interstitials here). And then on May 16, the return of Toonami was announced for May 26.

But why in the world is it even coming back? Read more »


I was sick, so I watched a lot of TV

Sick lolcat

This was me. I was just as adorable, too.

I was sick this past weekend. I had a sore throat that made it difficult to swallow even saliva, let alone food. I was, paradoxically, suffering from both a stuffy and a runny nose, I had chest and head congestion, I had a fever, and by Saturday night, was pretty much unable to maintain a lucid conversation with someone over the phone. I had somewhat improved by Sunday, thanks to different over the counter medications, though the fever remained.

As is the case with some people when they’re sick, I turned to television to be my nursemaid, particularly on Saturday during the worst of it, to keep me company, to tell me that I was, very likely, not going to die as a result of teh_sick. Typically my habit is to watch stuff I have on DVD, with my normal standbys being Sports Night and Batman: The Animated Series. Both shows are comfort foods of mine, and I know the episodes by heart so that if I zone out or fall asleep, I haven’t “missed” anything.

But thanks to advances in technology since the last time I was this sick (which has easily been at least 5 years), I didn’t have to drag my sick and feeble body off the couch or out of bed to change the discs of whatever I was watching. I could just hit ‘Next episode’ on Netflix and remain curled up in blankets, cats, used tissues, and mugs of tea.  It. Was. Wonderful.

So here are thoughts about what I watched over the weekend. I watched, by the way, entirely too much stuff. Really. It’s kind of pathetic. Read more »


Why Falling Skies is better than The Walking Dead

Obviously, plenty of spoilers for both shows follow.

Post-apocalyptic survival has always been a great source of entertainment and storytelling and no two shows have garnered more buzz in the last year than AMC’s The Walking Dead and TNT’s Falling Skies. While the two programs give us very different looks at a very similar overall idea (scrounging for survival), the differences between the shows indicate one is clearly superior to the other.

AAAAAND FIGHT!

For starters, the shows treat action in very different ways. The Walking Dead is actually pretty boring when it comes to this point. For its six episode first season there is not a lot going on in terms of excitement. Is there peril? Sure, but there is not nearly enough ass-kicking, head-exploding action one would expect from the genre. Some will make the argument that AMC has made a “classy” zombie show. They weren’t looking to be all gore and scares, you know, things inherent of the genre. Yeah they kill a zombie every now and then and yeah there was that terrible (CG wise, not plot wise. Well…plot wise too) explosion in the finale, but I needed more! With Falling Skies, we get action left and right. Between the aliens (who we actually get to see. Take that, V!) and the mechs and the ships and the outlaw group there is plenty of stuff to shoot at, hide from and blow up.  The show is incredibly action-packed. When you’re fighting for survival it’s nice to see some actual fighting. And they did it in one-third the amount of episodes. Read more »


Why You Should Be Watching: Being Human (US)

Josh, Aidan, and Sally from Being Human (US)

Would a smile kill you guys?

I’m completely over monster movie zeitgeists in our culture lately. The legends of undead villains and armies have been tampered with so much recently that people are running thin on ideas. What’s next? Unearthed mummies involved in romantic comedies? Finding a reason for Dr Frankenstein to make covens of monsters? Would they be covens? Gaggles? Maybe take after crows and be a murder? That might be a little too on the nose.

But it is getting a little silly. Zombies are showing up in remixes of classic literature and are being codified in fake survival guides. The Walking Dead has its heart in the right place (at least they carry on the tradition of zombies not actually being called zombies a la Night of the Living Dead) but is kind of ridiculous in every other aspect of its television being. How long until they go the path of the vampire, the story of whom has become so romanticized in the last decade that it’s almost centrist, somewhere between blood-curdling horror and wacky but lovable character. Do the people on Team Edward ever stop to think that the dude is a monster that drains to empty the blood out of things with teeth like a violent bestial killer while he’s amassed centuries of knowledge in stealth, slaughter, and being sparkly?

Such is the trouble with a lot of the yesteryear’s legends existing in our time of post-modernist reboot. We tire of these larger-than-life icons existing on a plane separate from us. We want to see their human-ish struggle. It’s even evident in superhero reboots, where Superman has a child, Iron Man is dying of the thing that saves him (to be fair, Marvel had a head start on the human hero thing), and Diana is riddled with neuroses as she tries to find a man (is anyone hopeful for the Wonder Woman reboot? I’ve already given up).

The problem with these things isn’t that we want to see these human sides of otherworldly characters. The issue is what we end up doing with them. Vampires have been taken to a treacly place that pop culture begs them to be in, at least a little while, until the backlash comes and they forget all about Sookie and their terrible Foghorn-Leghorn accents to become violent monsters again. No, showing a monster struggle isn’t a terrible thing but there needs to be a balance. Show the drama in a formerly human horror figure dealing with that which makes him or her other. Keep the humanity with the beast because that is the conflict. And Being Human does exactly that.

Didn’t think I’d get back to it, did you?

Read more »


“Parenthood” and the Complexities of Interracial Relationships

Parenthood made me cry today.

The show is fantastic. It’s superbly acted, well cast and it hits on a lot of problems that families go through. I’m sure that once I am a parent, many many moons from now, I’ll think back to “What did Adam Braverman do in situations like this”? And for better or for worse, I’ll know what to do. Or what not to do.

But that’s not the point of what I want to talk about. There’s another aspect of the show that hits very close to home for me. It’s not about familial ties or issues with siblings or growing up.

It’s about the complexities of interracial relationships.

Read more »


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The Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear

You go.  Then I’ll go.  You go then I’ll go.  You go then I’ll go–Oh my God, is that an NRA sticker on your car?  Is that an Obama sticker on your car? Well, that’s okay—you go and then I’ll go..

The key issue to remember, if you watched the event on TV, the event wasn’t designed for television. Watching the event on TV probably seemed like something of a disaster for the home audience. It probably stopped and stalled and you wondered what the hell you were watching.

Indeed, even I wondered why I was there for a bit. The Roots, John Legend, and (as charming as they were) the Mythbusters, seemed like stalls for time. I didn’t come for the music. I came for the sanity. I came for the fear. I came for a group satirical event laced with utter sincerity. And while it took a while to get there, I got it at the end. Read more »


Law & Order: Los Angeles, or When Zombie Shows Attack

Shows jump networks. Most recently, Scrubs and Medium changed networks after their original nets passed on renewal. While I can’t speak to Medium‘s transition from NBC to CBS, Scrubs retooled itself as a med school show, with some of the old regulars hanging around, interacting with the new interns. The vibe never really took off for me (I’m told it got better after the first few episodes, but I didn’t stick around to find out) and it was cancelled.

Shows also get uncancelled. Futurama and Family Guy being the most prominent examples. Cancelled by Fox, the shows managed to live in syndication and DVD sales, motivating new pick-ups by either the old network or a new one. To what degree these shows maintain their quality is debatable (I liked early Family Guy episodes, but found its return episode to be dismal; Futurama has been hit or miss, depending on the movie or the episode).

Finally, one last bit: When Lost was on the air, a joke was that the final season would be a zombie season. While this joke, in a very metaphysical way, may’ve turned out to be true in the final season, it wasn’t like the final season just went through the motions, or that Jack devoured Hurley’s brains. Which might’ve been cool, actually…

What does all of this have to do with Law & Order: Los Angeles (or LOLA as seems to be the popular shortening)? Well, LOLA finds itself in the weird position of be a spin-off of a institutional franchise that itself was just cancelled, feels like a slightly re-tooled version of that cancelled show, but, above all, feels like a reanimated corpse of that cancelled show. Read more »


What to Look Out For This Week

As you’ve probably read a thousand times today in your friends’ Facebook statuses and uninspired tweets, Labor Day marks the end of summer. But that means it’s only the beginning for television. The fall season is fast approaching and, with it, a slew of new content to watch, consume, and make you feel good about life/hate the hacks that trick you into watching stuff on the picture tube. Here at Monsters of Television, we hope to help you cut through the garbage and check out the things we’re looking forward to this week.

Mad Men – “The Suitcase”

I know this aired on Sunday night but the episode is that good. If you haven’t caught it yet, set your DVRs for the re-runs this week. Then read the reviews (including ours).

Gilmore Girls

You’ve heard me mention it about a hundred times on this site, between Parenthood reviews and any opportunity I can fit it in (it’s like Lost with Matt), but it’s time you caught up. ABC Family will start the re-run cycle of Gilmore Girls this Tuesday and play the entire series in order from the beginning. Stick with it. It’s good. Swear, dude. Well, until Season 3 and then it goes bad for a while. But come back for late season 3, early season 4. I defy you to deny Lorelai Gilmore. Starting Tuesday, 5PM on ABC Family

Warehouse 13 – “Where and When”

Bridging the gap between the end of summer TV and the beginning of the fall season, Warehouse 13 continues blending historical fiction with science fiction and adding to the reasons why Syfy might actually be able to compete with network and cable original programming. Allison Scagliotti (who plays Claudia Donovan, a student of the Veronica Mars school of snark) teased via her twitter account: “Ever wonder what would happen if #Warehouse13 ate an episode of #MadMen? Tune in tonight for a blast from the past.” Tuesday, 9PM on Syfy

Hellcats – “A Word Full of Strangers”

Stars Alyson Michalka and Ashley Tisdale aren’t just trying out for the competitive cheer squad, they’re gonna have to prove to the audience that they can step up from their Disney Channel pasts. Keeping with the CW staple of very pretty pretty young people and a Top 40 soundtrack, Hellcats is hoping to help land its network at the top of the pyramid. Will it stick the landing? Wednesday, 8PM on The CW

White Collar – “Point Blank”

The summer finale looks to explore what’s inside of the music box, a lazy plot point that has meandered through this season, ranking in importance just under what happened to Kate (something Neal has only had a casual interest in this season). Interesting in the promo is Neal’s use of a gun, which, as any viewer knows, is the mark of dubious characters in the series. 98% of me says that it’s part of a con but part of me thinks it might be the act of a desperate man (plus, Alex comes back — hooray!). Tuesday, 10PM on USA

Psych – “One, Maybe Two, Ways Out”

So Psych’s summer finale probably won’t finish as strong as the season finale (or probably most of the episodes coming up on the latter half of this season) but it should be a fun romp, especially now that they’ve introduced the possibility of Shules (though odds that something important in that relationship will occur here: slim). Wednesday, 10PM on USA

Terriers – “Pilot”

The pedigree is strong with the writer of Ocean’s 11 and Shawn Ryan from The Shield. Donal Logue appears to be playing the character I wanted Jason Lee to play in Memphis Beat, a detective down on his luck, sinking to rock bottom, hustling, trying to make it all work. It looks good and has a lot of potential, even though FX is throwing a ton of marketing behind it (which, as we know from Paul Blart, Mall Cop, that means they’re not sure the show can sell itself). Wednesday, 10PM on FX

Nikita – “Pilot

Remember when USA aired an action show about a highly trained operative with vague ties to the government? No, no, not Burn Notice. Le Femme Nikita! Yeah, it aired on USA from 1997 to 2001 (right before the network’s retooling began), and has no been remade with the ever awesome Maggie Q. No doubt some things have changed, but as long as there’s conspiracy and ass-kicking, it’ll hopefully be entertaining. Thursday 9PM on The CW

Chuck Presents – Buy Hard: The Jeff and Lester Story

While not necessarily something that’s going to air on television, the people at Chuck did the thing we hoped they would by making a webisode series based on Jeff and Lester going on the lam. (Un)fortunately, they used this opportunity to also tie in some sponsorship so the series will serve as a paid advertising for Halo: Reach. You can catch the web series all this week on the Warner Bros. page for Chuck.


Padma Lakshmi: An Outlier

Top Chef is back, and it has invaded the nation’s capitol. This means, among other things, that Nancy Pelosi will be guesting on the program (!). The contestants seem reasonably adequate. So far, Kenny and Angelo are running at the head of the pack, with Angelo’s ego spotlighted by the editing. But ever since Hosea’s (devastating, to me) win, I’ve suspected that consistent mediocrity may be a better strategy than taking the lead at the sound of the starting gun.

But let’s get real—you don’t care about that, right? I know I was on the edge of my seat to see how Padma Lakshmi looks this year, post-baby. And? She looks…

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