The Walking Dead Recap: Ep 1.1 "Days Gone By"
Sunday, October 31, 2010 | Author: Mad Typist
Zombie stories are almost never about the monsters themselves, when you get to the heart of it. Zombies have no personalities, no real reason or motivation for what they do (save for a love for tasty, tasty brains). What they provide is a framework to see how regular people respond to a specific set of parameters: a high-danger, post apocalyptic world, where your loved ones can turn on you at the drop of a hat. Zombies aren't the villains of these types of stories - WE are, because we're forced to do horrible things to each other in order to survive. You can rationalize all you want, but it's still a terrible thing for a character to be forced to shoot his wife between the eyes, while their son cowers and cries in another room.

The reason you see so many zombie stories out there is because they provide a framework to tell a multitude of stories. I'm not tired of zombies yet, because I think there's still a lot of new and interesting ways to examine those stories. That's why it's a bit disappointing to see the pilot episode of The Walking Dead repeat a lot of tropes we've already seen many times before.

Pilot episodes are burdened with having to set up the universe and establish the main characters. Still, I'm not convinced that The Walking Dead needed to take 90 whole minutes to set up what should be fairly familiar to audiences. Sheriff deputy Rick Grimes was already having a no-good, very bad day. His partner Shane is an idiot whose views on women begin and end at the sentiment, "Bitch, are you too stupid to turn off a light bulb?" He's having marital troubles with his wife Lori. Then to top it all off, he gets himself shot, because apparently in Georgia, engaging in idle chatter with your partner is a priority over clearing the crime scene. He then wakes up in a hospital some indeterminate amount of time later (a la 28 Days Later) and quickly finds out that a zombie apocalypse has occurred while he was sleeping. I say "quickly" but really, it's 30 minutes into the 90-min episode before Rick actually figures out that the shambling, rotting things in the street are zombies.

Look, just because certain shows on AMC are slow and methodical, doesn't mean ALL the shows have to follow that model. I think the show could have benefited from getting to the action a little faster. Did we really need a sequence where Rick's saviors - a man and his young son - dance around the issue with Rick for at least 5-10 minutes, with lots of nonsensical yelling and using ambiguous terms like "walkers"? In the original graphic novel, this bit of exposition is wrapped up in just 6 panels, with the actual explanation happening "off screen." Zombies are a well-covered topic in American pop culture, so I'm pretty sure that no one would have a problem with a character going, "Oh, didn't you know? There was totally a zombie outbreak and now the world has gone to hell. Don't forget to shoot them in the head, which you should probably already know, since this has been covered dozens of times over the past 20 some years of cinema."

However, despite these quibbles, there's plenty to like in this episode as well. There are some lovely sequences, such as when Rick returns to find the female zombie he first encountered after leaving the hospital. Andrew Lincoln does great work here showing the compassion and sorrow in Rick's face, as he commits an act of mercy by putting down the pathetic creature, who has been reduced to an emaciated torso and head only. Another gorgeous shot involves Rick literally riding into Atlanta on horseback, a duffel bag bursting with rifles and shotguns strapped to his back, his deputy's hat fixed firmly on his head.

In addition, the last third of the episode introduces some nuggets that are interesting enough to pique interest for where the story is going to go. The most immediate and terrifying plot point involves Rick trapped inside an abandoned tank in downtown Atlanta, with zombies literally swarming over the tank and feasting outside on the remains of his poor horse. We end the episode there, just as a mysterious voice comes over the CB radio, chiding him for stupidly getting stuck in the tank.

Of course, Rick is only in that situation because he's in Atlanta looking for his missing wife and son. Luckily for Rick, they survived the apocalypse and are safe outside the city in the care of his partner Shane. Unfortunately for Rick, Shane's definition of "caring" seems involve shoving his tongue down Rick's wife's throat. Even worse - Lori seems to welcome the attention. Uh oh.

Again, I wished they had covered a little more ground, instead of dwelling on establishing whatever atmosphere they were shooting for. There are only 6 episodes in the season, so a little more sense of urgency would be nice. For those of us watching because we trust AMC and we know the source material, waiting an episode or two isn't going to be hard, but I'm not sure that as a stand-alone episode this really did a good job grabbing a more neutral audience. Overall, though, the quality of the show was evident, and the leading man was compelling enough that I'm looking forward to seeing where Rick's story goes from here.
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New TV For Your Consideration
Friday, October 29, 2010 | Author: Mad Typist
So, there's been much wailing and gnashing of teeth out in the blogosphere about the state of network television. Yes, I'm as horrified as the next person about the fact that mediocre shows like Outsourced, The Event and Chase have been given full orders, while awesome shows like Parks & Recreation remain in limbo.

However.... there are several shows out there that I'd like to submit for your approval.

The Walking Dead. DVR ALERT: This show premieres this Sunday at 10pm on AMC. You must record and watch it. Why? One, because zombies are awesome. Two, because the graphic novel it's based on is excellent, which means there's a high probability that the show will also be excellent. Three, because it's on AMC, which is 2-for-2 so far in terms of making interesting quality shows (Breaking Bad and Mad Men). Four, because I'm flirting with recapping it, and my recaps are much more fun if you actually watch the show.

Quick summary, for those of you who haven't heard about the show: zombie apocalypse goes down, rag-tag group of survivors must make their way through the world. If the show follows the plot of the book closely, expect a lot more examination of the relationships between the various characters than zombie action. The zombies are certainly a concern for the characters, but the first two volumes of the graphic novel were more about the group coming together, experiencing conflict with one another, and dealing with logistics such as lodging and food. I'm not sure how much violence the show will actually put out there, but rest assured - people will be chased and eaten by zombies too.

The Walking Dead airs on Sundays at pm on AMC.

Terriers. This is hands down the best new show of the season so far. It's one of those shows that suffers from both incredibly poor advertising decisions by the network (FX) and the fact that it's a very difficult show to "pitch" to friends. On a surface level, the show is about a pair of private investigators, Hank and Britt, played by the excellent Donal Logue and Michael Raymond-James (Rene from True Blood) respectively. Both men have pasts that make them good at what they do - Hank is a former cop and Britt is a former thief. Each week they investigate different cases.

Move past your initial impression of the show, however, and you find that the show has a richly realized universe that it exists in. The recurring characters are excellent - particularly Hank's sister (played by Donal Logue's real life sister) and Britt's girlfriend. While sometimes the focus might be on a one-off plot, there are really interesting and complex subplots weaving across multiple episodes. There's a dark undercurrent of drama, balanced nicely by the lighter moments (Donal Logue is a funny dude when he wants to be). In many ways, it reminds me a lot of how FX's Justified evolved over time. Like Terriers, that show felt like it was going to be a mystery-of-the-week show before the larger world and story arcs emerged to make it worthy of a Season Pass in my DVR. In fact, this show makes a natural pairing with the sensibilities of Justified, and might have had a better audience if FX had waited till Justified returned, in order to pair the shows up as timeslot buddies.

In any case, I love this show, it's on the bubble, and I really urge you to check it out while you still have a chance.

Terriers airs on Wednesdays at 10pm on FX.

Raising Hope. My final suggestion is a show that I almost skipped because I saw a couple of poor reviews before it premiered. However, I went with my gut, and my gut says that anything starring Martha Plimpton and Garret Dillahunt can't be all bad, so I tuned in anyway. I loved the pilot episode, and subsequent episodes have made this one of those shows that I make a point to watch the same night it airs.

The show centers around Jimmy (Lucas Neff) and his family of low class, but lovable, misfits who unexpectedly find themselves raising Jimmy's infant daughter after her serial killer mother is executed. Yes, you read that right. It sounds like it should be a horrible concept, but the show manages to make the image of Jimmy holding Hope (nee Princess Beyonce, as her mother originally named her) on his lap while the mother gets zapped in the electric chair the most hilarious thing I've seen all year.

Now, to temper your expectations, let me say that I'm not selling this show as the greatest comedy of all time (or even of the year). But it's a solid source of laughs each week - on par with another favorite of mine that I've urged you to check out: The Middle. If you liked My Name is Earl (Greg Garcia created both that, and this show) and/or Malcolm in the Middle, I think you'll really enjoy this show. It's funny, and it can go to some dark sounding places, but it's never mean spirited. Martha Plimpton is excellent as Jimmy's mother (the math works out, since the show explains she had him when she was 16 years old). The baby they've cast is absolutely adorable. And much like My Name is Earl, the show seems to be building a larger world than just the home that the main characters reside in.

Raising Hope airs on Tuesdays at 9pm on FOX.
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NFL Week 7 Breakdown
Sunday, October 24, 2010 | Author: Mad Typist
And then there was one. There's nothing worse than going an entire season without a win. Just ask the Detroit Lions what that did to their psyche. The Carolina Panthers took advantage of Alex Smith's injury and pulled out the tough first win of the year for them. Credit to coach John Fox, who prematurely benched QB Matt Moore earlier in the year, for admitting his mistake and reinserting Moore this week.

So that leaves on the Buffalo Bills as the lone team who hasn't won yet this year. You can't really fault the offense, however. QB Ryan Fitzpatrick played magnificently (29/43, 374 yds, 4 TDs), as he did in a close loss against New England earlier in the season. However, as the saying goes, "Good teams find a way to win, bad teams find a way to lose," and that was true yet again. Great players like Ray Lewis know how to force the big turnover when the game is on the line. Bad players commit devastating penalties, such as the Bills player who took his helmet off after Lewis forced the fumble, drawing an unsportsmanlike penalty. The 15 yard penalty pretty much moved the ball from the 45 yard line, where the defense MIGHT have made a stand, to the 30 yard line, where it was well within field goal range.

Of old men and young whippersnappers. Kudos to Kerry Collins, who proved why he's one of the best backups in the league right now. The 37 year old QB is one of the few players who can come into a game cold and run an offense without a hitch. At the same time, he's very clear about the fact that he's just the backup and has no intention of challenging Vince Young for the starting position. That creates an ideal situation - you've got a veteran who can come in and have instant trust with the other guys in the huddle, but won't rock the boat in terms of creating a QB controversy.

Meanwhile, on the opposite end of the age spectrum, you have to love the youth movement the Kansas City Chiefs have going. This is a team that's going to be scary for a long time. I think they could make the playoffs this year, though I don't predict a postseason win for them yet. While I love the speed they show on offense and defense, they still could use a seasoned old man to help guide them - I remain unconvinced that Matt Cassel is the answer for this team at QB. I dislike his throwing motion, and am not sure that he has the leadership required to make this team a true contender.

Studs of the week. This week was the sort of game that showed what the Raiders were looking for when they drafted Darren McFadden (196 total yds, 4 TDs) in the first round. After the Redskins DEF got raked over the coals last week for not being able to catch a ball, DeAngelo Hall responded this week with a dominating performance (4 INTs, 1 returned for a TD). Kenny Britt had an amazing day for the Titans (7 catches, 225 yds, 3 TDs). Consider that those gaudy numbers came in a game where Britt was benched for an entire quarter for off-field problems. Roddy White doesn't get as much attention as other WRs, because he's pretty much the anti-diva. All he does is keep his mouth shut and perform week after week. This week he was devastating, posting 11 catches for 201 yds and 2 TDs. Finally, how great is Peyton Hillis? He touched the ball at least 10 times in a clock-crushing drive in the 4th quarter, not only ripping off touch runs, but even throwing a pass at one point.

Duds of the week. I love Drew Brees, but boy, did he kill his team today with 4 INTs (two of which were returned for TDs). I don't love Brett Favre, and he has hurt his team much more than he's helped them this year. You can look into his eyes and see this "Jesus, my ankle hurts and my head hurts and I am too old for this crap and man why didn't I stay down on the farm?" expression in his eyes.

Teams I like this week. I like the Atlanta Falcons, who are sitting on top of a pretty sweet 5-2 record at this point, for sole possession of first place in the NFC South. I also like the Cleveland Browns for playing tough on defense and showing some guts and ingenuity in their play calling. I also really like the Washington Redskins who keep finding ways to win, even they are UGLY wins. However, the knock on this team is that they find a way to play up to the level of better teams and play down to the level of worse teams, so with the Lions due up next week, we'll see if they can head into the bye week at 5-3. Finally, I like the Oakland Raiders for coming out huge on the road, putting up 31 points in the first quarter alone.

Teams I don't like this week. The St Louis Rams need to win games against teams like Tampa Bay. Next week's matchup at Carolina will tell us a lot about whether the Rams have what it takes to make a run for the playoffs in the second half of the season. I also don't like the Philadelphia Eagles, who let Old Man Collins tear them apart. Is it finally time to acknowledge that this is more than the usual "slow start" for the San Diego Chargers?

Photo credits:
*Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis strips the ball from Buffalo Bills tight end Shawn Nelson during overtime in an NFL football game in Baltimore, Sunday, Oct. 24, 2010. The Ravens won 37-34. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)

*Oakland Raiders running back Darren McFadden (20) runs with the football as Denver Broncos defensive tackle Ronald Fields (91) gives chase during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 24, 2010, in Denver. (AP Photo/ Joe Mahoney)

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NFL Week 6 Breakdown
Monday, October 18, 2010 | Author: Mad Typist
Welcome to 10 Easy Ways to Lose a Football Game - the week 6 edition.

1. Fail to make the easy interception. Yes, good for the Redskins defense for forcing 3 fumbles. But the defensive backs were simply terrible last night, dropping not 1, not 2, but 3 INTs. The first drop by Carlos Rodgers (who has the worst hands in football) would have given the Redskins the ball at midfield. Instead, Manning converted the first down on the next play, and then proceeded to lead the first of many time consuming, point producing drives that ended making the difference in this game.

2. Play undisciplined. The Cowboys could have beaten the Minnesota Vikings, but yet again were undone by penalties and stupid turnovers. Yes, I know the celebration penalty is stupid, but since the Cowboys' Marc Columbo got that called on him last week (a penalty which ended up largely costing them the game), you'd think that the Cowboys would have been smart enough to avoid any sort of activity post touchdown that might draw a yellow flag (spoiler: they weren't). The Cowboys had 11 penalties called on them yesterday. To me, that reeks of a team lacking in discipline.

3. Play poorly on special teams. The San Diego Chargers have one of the elite QBs in the league, and they're ranked #1 in both total offense and defense. Unfortunately, they also have given up 4 TDs on special teams, had 9 fumbles, several blocked punts (one of which resulted in a safety) and pretty much been eaten up by the opposition. Makes you wonder just what they were thinking when they let special teams ace Kassim Osgood go.

4. Suffer too many injuries. Last year, it was the Atlanta Falcons who were the highly touted team that seemed unable to overcome injuries to key players. This year, it's the Green Bay Packers, who seem to have lost half their key starters to some kind of injury this season.

5. Have a rookie QB start his first game against the Steelers defense. Honestly, Colt McCoy showed a lot of promise in the loss to Pittsburgh, so that's good news for the Cleveland Browns. But they still lost because QBs forced to start before they've had time to sit and learn usually don't have what it takes to beat a halfway decent team. Again, McCoy showed a lot of promise, but the original plan had been to "red shirt" him a year behind veteran QBs so he had time to fully absorb the game.

6. Allow your QB to get hit too much. Poor Jay Cutler was sacked 9 times against NY two weeks ago, before he was finally knocked out of the game with a concussion. You'd think that Mike Martz would have come up with a way to fix the protection scheme in the two weeks since. However, it was more of the same this week, as Cutler returned to start, only to suffer through another 6 sacks against the Seahawks. At this point, Chicago is going to lose a lot more games, especially since Cutler will only be MORE prone to panicked throws (leading to INTs) the more he gets hit over the course of the season.

7. Fail to pressure the QB. #6 points out that you will lose if your QB gets hit too much, but the inverse is also true - if you DON'T hit the opposing QB, he is able to just sit comfortably in the pocket and wait for one of his receivers to eventually get open. This applies both to the Redskins last night (yet again, Peyton Manning's pristine white jersey doesn't need to washed at all after the game) and the Atlanta Falcons, who only managed to get to Kevin Kolb once the entire game. Kolb played lights out against Atlanta, which handicapped what they were able to do offensively, as they were forced into passing most of the game due to the early points deficit.

8. Be a team from California. Really, that's the only explanation I have for the poor performances this year of the San Diego Chargers, Oakland Raiders and San Francisco 49ers. The only reason one of them won yesterday was because they were playing one of the others (in this case, San Fran triumphed in a dreadfully boring 17-9 game).

9. Fail to consistently run the ball. Matt Forte has had some amazing games this year, but he's also had several dreadful rushing games this year. Part of his gaudy stats in the wins were due to catching short passes out of the backfield, but when forced to be a traditional run attack, the Bears are woefully inconsistent. I've harped on the Broncos lack of a running game as well, and yet again it took inserting Tim Tebow to finally get a decent run and score from the run attack. The Broncos' backs are poor runners, and suffer from injury to boot. Expect to see more Tebow as the year progresses.

10. Play against better teams. Yes, it sounds simple, but it's true. Sometimes teams benefit from a weak early schedule and seem better than they actually are (see: the 2008 Buffalo Bills, who got out to a 5-1 start against terrible teams). This year, it seems like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were who were thought they were - a young team with some talent that still needs to grow more before they can run with the big boys in the league. They started strong, but against weak opponents like the Bengals, Panthers and Browns, but against the Saints and Steelers, it wasn't even close.

Studs of the week. Don't look now, but there's another QB controversy in Philly. Kevin Kolb was brilliant this week (23/29, 326 yds, 3 TDs). Matt Schaub (25/33, 305 yds, 2 TDs) brought his team back in the 4th quarter with a great comeback. They may not be well known among NFL fans yet, but if Chris Ivory (15 rushes, 158 yds) and Ryan Torain (20 rushes, 100 yds, 2 TDs) have a few more weeks like this one, they will be.

Duds of the week. This week the duds are the players who took what looked like really cheap shots at an opposing player. Brandon Merriweather may be getting hit with a suspension this week for a nasty hit where he clearly launches his head into Todd Heap's head. When Bill Bellicheck, your own coach, is upset enough about that hit to bench you, you know that it's not kosher. Similarly, James Harrison knocked out not one, but TWO opposing players from the Browns. Look at the tape - you'll see that Harrison is clearly leading with his head, his arms pinned down at his sides, because he has no intention of attempting to wrap up a tackle. He just wants to hurt someone. He's admitted as much in the press. He won't get suspended, but he sure deserves to be.

Teams I like this week. Kudos to the NY Jets, New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers for showing why they're the teams to fear this season. Can't say there's an NFC team playing nearly as steady as these three contenders. New England may be a little up-and-down sometimes, but they can beat any team in the league on the right day.

Teams I don't like this week. Pretty much anyone who got called out above qualifies this week, though special anti-kudos must go out to the Dallas Cowboys for yet again failing to wrap up a game they had well in hand.
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Fringe Recap: Ep 3.4 "Do Shapeshifters Dream of Electric Sheep?"
Thursday, October 14, 2010 | Author: Mad Typist
"We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be." - Kurt Vonnegut.
Tonight's episode is entitled "Do Shapeshifters Dream of Electric Sheep?" and much like the Philip K. Dick story that inspired the title, the episode is concerned with the question of what it means to be human. The episode explores the notion that faking an emotion for long enough can have the effect of causing an actual real emotion to form, even in the most hardened of hearts (synthetic or otherwise). It brings up the question: who is more human here? The artificial Ray, who sincerely felt love for his family, or the organic Alt-livia, who can only fake affection for Peter and who uses the appearance of emotion to forward her own sinister goals?

In Dick's story, because the androids lacked empathy, their responses were noticeably slow and emotions could only be feigned at best. Ironically, in the Fringe universe, it's the flesh-and-blood Alt-livia who best fits this description, not the synthetic shapeshifters. While Thomas Newton is able to remain emotionally detached from the meatbags around him, other shapeshifters under deep cover on Earth-1 aren't so lucky. This epsiode introduces two shifters who, having been under deep cover in a single identity for years, have formed actual emotional attachments to the people in their lives.

This week's Fringe returns us back to the blue universe of Earth-1. Peter and Olivia are at dinner playing the game where you invent stories for what the other couples in the restaurant might be up to. At one point Peter mentions that another couple in the restaurant are clearly working up to their first intimate moment. There's some awkward glances between Peter and Alt-livia at this. Alt-livia knows where this is going and she doesn't look happy about it. She has a mini freak out in the ladies room, though it's unclear whether she's bothered by the thought of developing feelings for Peter or is just grossed out by the idea of having sex with him.

We cut to a scene with the good Dennis Van Horn: U.S. senator, loving husband to Patricia, good friend to one Philip Broyles, and newly revealed shapeshifter. We've seen Van Horn in previous episodes, so it's quite shocking to realize that this whole time he's been working for Walternate and Newton. I suppose it goes a long way towards explaining his involvement with Fringe division. In any case, this is the last we'll see of Senator Van Horn, as he is gravely injured in a car crash, and then Thomas Newton shows up to murder both Van Horn and about a dozen other people at the hospital where he's being treated.

Meanwhile across town, new CEO Walter Bishop is busy holding court with the scientists of Massive Dynamic. Walter horrifies the crowd with some inappropriate touching and spontaneous stripping. I guess these eggheads are more used to a boss who takes his morning coffee with a dash of Splenda, versus a massive dose of hallucinogens. Peter and Nina Sharp laugh at the whole thing, because that is, like, so Walter. Luckily for the HR department of Massive Dynamic, Walter and Peter are summoned away to deal with the Van Horn situation before it can get too sexually harrass-y in the room.

Fringe team gets debriefed by Broyles, who is pretty upset that he fell for Van Horn's doppleganger. Alt-livia is pretty upset too, but for a different reason: she's got this expression on her face that screams, "Curse these fool minions! Must I do everything myself?" While Walter and Peter work the body, Alt-livia goes off to grill Newton via cell phone about what Van Horn knew. Newton gives Alt-livia a lot of sassy attitude, as he questions her commitment to the cause and intimates that Peter Bishop probably suspects that she's not his Olivia, before admitting that Van Horn pretty much knew all about Alt-livia's mission and was in fact the one who compiled the "Idiot's Guide to Being Olivia Dunham" file that she was studying.

Walter is already starting to get a crazy, not good gleam in his eye when he talks about using the resources of Massive Dynamic to reanimate the shapeshifter. Alt-livia comes in just in time to see the shapeshifter start to twitch back to life. The naked panic on her face is crazy - I half expected her to whip out her gun and murder everyone right then and there. While that would have been amusing, I suppose it would not have boded well for future seasons of the show.

Astrid "Astro" Farnsworth shows up at Massive Dynamic with a box full of Walter's things. Key items include a strip of candy dots, an issue of "Hump" magazine and a framed photo of George W. Bush. Feel free to insert your own dirty masturbation-related joke in here. There's what appears to be a throw away line about how Walter finally gets Astrid's name right, but you could certainly make a case that there are subtle hints that Walter is already being changed by taking over Massive Dynamic. In the previous scene he was clearly thrilled at the power at his fingertips now that he owns Massive Dynamic. If he pretends to be like William Bell, does that mean he will actually end up like him - coherent enough to finally remember the help's names, but also prone to the same ethically gray scientific practices as well?

Alt-livia and Peter head off to investigate the Senator's office. Or rather Peter investigates while Alt-livia is frantically trying to hide any incriminating evidence. A little misdirection occurs when Peter pulls out a locked box that has Olivia's picture in it, and you think maybe the jig is up for Alt-livia. But then it's revealed that the entire Fringe team has dossiers in the box. Alt-livia looks relieved, but also a little disappointed that she didn't get an excuse to shoot Peter in the face.

Ray the shapeshifter gets activated by Newton. Newton orders him to get Van Horn's body back and then take a new identity. He makes an ominous statement that Ray should leave "no traces left behind", which probably doesn't bode well for his wife and young son.

Walter briefs the Fringe team on his theory that pretending to have feelings caused real ones to form for Van Horn. There's a fairly unsubtle cut to Alt-livia as that line is uttered. Alt-livia tries to derail this train of thought, but she is just the worst actress ever (Alt-livia that is, not Anna Torv, who is absolutely killing it this season) so she fails. The team decides to go ahead with the plan to bring in the senator's wife to jog his mercury powered memories.

Back from commercial, Ray the shifter clearly has doubts about his mission. There's some interplay with the son and a parable about monsters with hearts of gold and it's all very sad. Pity the poor shapeshifters, with their tiny ass-brains and giant throbbing mercury hearts.

Patricia Van Horn helps the team and agrees talk to her husband. He pops back to life, but only to rattle off a series of places he had planned to go with his wife on their anniversary. Again, Alt-livia is spared the need to commit mass murder, as Walter sadly declares that there's no way to recover Van Horn's memories.

Alt-livia gets a text from Ray notifying her to clear the building, because the killin' is about to start. She thoughtfully takes the Fringe team with her, distracting Walter with promises of cafeteria food. Unfortunately, after Walter is left alone with Astrid, banter about animals crackers leads into talk about dinosaurs talk which leads to Walter getting a brilliant idea about how to recover Van Horn's memory. Did you know that the stegosaurus had a brain above its butt? Well, you do now. In his rush to get back to the lab to test his ass-brain theory, he ends up on the same elevator as Ray.

Peter is totally being a chick here, as he calls out Alt-livia on being different lately. Unfortunately, Peter just thinks it's a result of whatever Alt-livia saw on the other side, versus him actually figuring out that in a universe with shapeshifters and doppelgangers, you might want to be a little more suspicious about that sort of behavior. God, Peter. At this point, I'm predicting that Olivia's 8 year old niece will assemble this puzzle before the allegedly brilliant Peter Bishop. In any case, this line of inquiry has to wait, because they realize with alarm that Walter has disappeared.

Ray tussles with Walter in the lab and absconds with the memory disk. While Peter tends to his father, Alt-livia halfheartedly pretends to give chase. She probably just stands outside the office stomping her feet so that it sounds like she's running off in the distance.

Ray heads home, where Newton tricks him into revealing that he had no intention of giving up his family. Again, it's sad and ironic - Ray's spent his whole existence as a shapeshifter feigning real emotion in order to pass, and yet in the end it's his inability to hide emotion that is his undoing. Newton shoots Ray in the head and shoves his body in the trunk. Peter and Alt-livia show up just in time to get into a car chase with him. Did you know that the Ford Taurus is an excellent vehicle for driving on wet surfaces, making quick evasive maneuvers and running down errant shapeshifters? Because it is.

Newton wrecks because he is not driving the excellent Ford Taurus, and Alt-livia scurries overs to search his unconscious body while Peter calls for backup. She retrieves the memory module at the last minute.

Later Alt-livia visits Newton in prison and slips him the shapeshifter version of a cyanide capsule. See ya, Newton - it was nice knowing you. Before he offs himself, Newton again mocks Alt-livia about her emotions and how they will prevent her from completing her mission. Alt-livia looks disturbed as she walks away from Newton.

The next thing we know, she texts Peter to come over and then promptly seduces him when he shows up at her apartment. No, Peter, don't do it! There's melancholy music on the soundtrack, as scenes of Alt-livia and Peter getting busy are intercut with scenes of Newton dying, his silver brains slowly leaking away, just like the last of Alt-livia's morals.

This was a very thought-provoking episode, with some major implications for Peter and Olivia's relationship moving forward. However, I'm a little tired of the constant ping-ponging between Earth-1 and Earth-2 every week. It's starting to disrupt the narrative - just when you start to get into the groove of what's happening with the team in one reality, you're forced to shift focus the next week to the parallel plots of other universe and you lose some of the momentum gained from the episode you just saw. This is about to be compounded by the fact that now it's time for baseball (go Yankees), which means new no Fringe until November. During the break I'm going to watch the Earth-1 and Earth-2 episodes together, to see if it flows better. I suspect it will.

Summary: Careful - that twinkle in your lover's eye might just be his mercury blood catching the light just so.
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NFL Week 5 Breakdown
Sunday, October 10, 2010 | Author: Mad Typist
This week's post is a little shorter (and probably more incoherent) than usual, because I am very tired this morning.

Say goodbye to perfection. Last year we were biting our nails late into the season, with both the Saints and the Colts looking like they might make a run at 16-0. Well, we won't have that problem this year, since the Colts defeated the only remaining undefeated team left this week. This isn't necessarily a bad thing - I must admit that last year and in 2007 when the Patriots did go 16-0 in the regular season, it was a bit annoying to have the topic brought up on every single pregame show each week. I imagine it might the sort of thing that actually distracts a team.

Buffalo... There are no words to describe how lousy you are. However, on the flip side it is also massively distracting for a team when the opposite happens and they continue to be winless as the season progresses. While it's annoying to field "Do you think you can go 16-0?" when being interviewed, it's likely 100 times worse to hear "Is it possible that you'll go 0-16?". Right now, I see one team playing as poorly as the legendary 2007 Detroit Lions squad: the Buffalo Bills. I am fairly sure that the other 0-5 teams, the San Francisco 49ers and Carolina Panthers, will figure out a way to win somehow. However, there's just SO many things wrong in Buffalo right now that I can't see a light at the end of the tunnel:

1) They cut their starting QB, even though he played well enough to win the job in training camp.

2) They don't seem to have any building block players in place. Other teams may be losing, but there are players secured on the roster for the future. For example, St Louis only won 1 game last year, but they had young defensive players from the 2008 and 2009 draft that were still learning their craft. Those players are now starting to blossom and the team has already doubled the number of wins from last year (hanging in there at 2-3). In addition, St Louis used this year's draft to select their QB of the future, and it seems like Sam Bradford (though he may have times he struggles this year), will be in St Louis for a long time. In other words, there's promise there on that roster. Contrast that with Buffalo. For every promising player, such as CJ Spiller, that they add, they lose 2-3 others: former 1st round draft pick Marshawn Lynch was the latest loss, they cut 2008's 2nd round pick WR James Hardy at the beginning of the year, not to mention that the WR corps was futher diminished because they wasted money and a roster slot on a guy (Terrell Owens) that they knew they weren't going to keep around for more than a year.

3) They have poor management in place. It's fine to give up on Lynch, because you've got two other good RBs. However, with several teams in the league desperate for a starting RB (Green Bay pops to mind immediately), you'd think the Bills would get good value. But instead they trade him for a 4th round pick in 2011 and a conditional pick (5th or 6th round) in 2012. That surprised me, because I assumed that some other team would have topped that. Well, per Jay Glazer, other teams DID want Lynch and would have traded a higher set of picks for him - but the Bills never bothered to call anyone to ask.

4) The team is in chaos. Safety Donte Whitner described his team as "the laughingstock of the NFL". I can't imagine that the locker room is a fun place to be right now. This is the sort of team that quality players run screaming away from (see: the Oakland Raiders of past years), and also the kind of team that quality players won't easily be persuaded to join and help turn around.

Medic! Two weeks ago the Packers were done in by penalties. This week injuries played a major role in their loss to the Redskins. The most significant injury was to TE Jermichael Finley, because it completely changed the way the Packers had to approached the game. Finley is a major component of their passing attack Their second TE Donald Lee went out shortly afterwards, which really limited what Rodgers could do. Meanwhile, the defense could have taken advantage of the fact that the Redskins offensive line is terrible, but they were without sack master Clay Matthews for most of the game after he pulled a hamstring (not to mention the fact that they were already without starting LB Nick Barnett, who is out for the season with a wrist injury). Finally, one more key injury may impact the team moving forward - QB Aaron Rodgers suffered a concussion late in the game, as given how that's affected other starting QBs around the league, it's possible that the Packers may be without their star QB for at least a game. This team had a ton of promise at the beginning of the season, but at this point, I don't think this battered and mistake-prone squad has a Super Bowl in their future this season.

Studs of the week. Hakeem Nicks (12 catches, 130 yds, 2 TDs) had a stellar game in the Giants victory. Ray Rice finally broke through this week with 159 total yards from scrimmage and 2 TDs. QB Josh Freeman might not be putting up huge numbers, but he is the real deal - when the game has been on the line, when a first down HAS to be made, Freeman has been clutch the whole way. Matt Forte continues to baffle, as this week he puts up great numbers (166 yds, 2 TDs) and will probably suck again next week.

Duds of the week. Drew Brees absolutely killed his team with his interceptions. Alex Smith continues to be maddeningly inconsistent, and worse, appears too mentally weak to fire himself up to be a real leader. Dwayne Bowe, long criticized for his inability to catch the ball, dropped what might have been a game changing TD.

Teams I like this week. The Baltimore Ravens look better every week I see them, and very soon they'll get back superstar Ed Reed. While everyone was busy praising the Rams for their improvement and rookie QB Sam Bradford was getting featured on Fox's NFL pregame show, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were quietly working their way towards a 3-1 start. Congrats to the plucky Oakland Raiders this week for their upset win over San Diego (and congrats to Jason Campbell, who really deserves a break one of these days, God).

Teams I don't like this week. Undisciplined. Lacking in leadership. A collection of individuals versus a coherent single team. These are all things that describe the Dallas Cowboys this year. Joining them on the "Way too packed with talent to be this bad" list are the San Francisco 49ers, who find new and terrible ways to lose games they should probably win. I also don't like the San Diego Chargers, who make too many mental mistakes.

Teams I can't figure out this week. The following teams are so wildly inconsistent with how they win and lose so far this season that I've officially decided that I have no idea how to predict their play from week to week: N.Y. Giants, Tennessee Titans, Arizona Cardinals.
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Fringe Recap: Ep 3.3 "The Plateau"
Thursday, October 07, 2010 | Author: Mad Typist
The red hued credits of Fringe welcome us to back to Earth-2, where ballpoint pens are rare collectible items, the Aruba war is still fresh in people's minds, and avocados are worth their weight in gold.

This week's episode features a Monster of the Week style storyline involving a Fringe suspect named Milo, whose medically-induced prognostication powers allow him to make seemingly insignificant occurrences cause murderous chains of events. The opening scene demonstrates this ability, as Milo drops a pen, which attracts the attention of a man nearby who goes to pick up the pen, putting him into the path of a bike messenger who swerves and crashes. The spectacle then distracts a passing bus driver long enough that he accidentally runs a red light, plowing over a female pedestrian (Milo's intended victim all along) in a horrifically realistic manner. Milo smiles creepily and heads off as the credits roll.

This week Olivia is still under the impression that she's Alt-livia, which is to say that she is acting like a fun and pleasant co-worker while going about her day at Fringe Division. Broyles and Walternate know the truth, however, and as they watch Olivia through the glass of Walternate's office, Broyles grouses about having a fake version of his agent hanging around. Walternate patiently explains that Olivia can travel between dimensions without damaging herself, and that if they can convince her that she's Alt-livia then she'll be more likely to submit to the series of nefarious experiments Walternate has planned for her. Broyles admits that that would be a handy power to figure out. He also talks earnestly about having the ability to defend themselves against Earth-1 - another nice touch that explains that while Earth-2 Fringe agents might be super intense and willing to cross some ethical lines, they really do seem to believe that they are the "good guys" in this scenario.

There's some more chatter and... I'm sorry, but honestly Lance Reddick is rocking this tight black t-shirt and the man has zero bodyfat and an upper torso that is triangle-shaped, and it's all just very distracting. Go rent The Wire and enjoy the uncensored HBO version of what Lance Reddick brings to the table, folks. Meanwhile, I applaud Earth-2 Fringe Division's commitment to tight fitting t-shirts and sensible cargo pants.

Anyway, Agent Lincoln Lee is back again, and looking slightly less scaly this week. While he and Charlie help work the bus accident scene, Olivia is momentarily distracted by visions of Peter in his adorable pea coat. The Fringe team discovers the pen used by Milo, and realize that it's a significant clue. They head back to the lab to check in with the Earth-2's Asperger's Syndrome version of Astrid.

Earth-2's version of Charlie is much more saavy than Earth-1's Charlie (which is probably why he's alive while original Charlie is not) and he correctly hypothesizes to Lincoln that perhaps the woman before them is really the Earth-1 Olivia, and not their own Alt-livia. Lincoln dismisses that idea, and he and Charlie spar over who knows and loves Alt-livia better. These shenanigans are interrupted by word of another bus accident.

After narrowly missing Milo at the crime scene (he escapes thanks to his ability), the team eventually tracks down his origin story. Milo was mentally handicapped, and had been undergoing experimental drug trials to increase his cognitive ability. Even though one dose of the drug made him able to memorize Pi to a thousand digits, the doctors decided it would be a good idea to give him four more doses before attempting to revert him to his original mental ability at around an IQ of 54. Milo thought better of that, and began using his abilities to kill the people in charge of the drug trials so that they couldn't take his abilities away. It's very reminiscent of Flowers for Algernon, right up to the tragic conclusion of Milo/Charly's story.

Olivia and Charlie get back on Milo's trail, but he's hunting them at the same time. The team attempts to outsmart Milo, drawing on Astrid's help to decide whether or not to follow a clue that might have been left behind to lure them into a trap. Astrid gets into a logic loop that invokes Wallace Shawn's famous rant in The Princess Bride about which cup has the lidocaine powder. They decide to take the bait and follow Milo.

Milo has predicted this of course and knows that a series of events will occur that culminates in Olivia crushed to death under a pile of cinder blocks. What he fails to predict, however, is that the Olivia that is chasing him is slightly out of sync with the world, and because Olivia fails to pull a key memory from Alt-livia's knowledge bank (specifically that one should stop to get a respirator when entering particular toxic zones), she breaks the pattern and manages to apprehend him.

The episode ends with Milo locked away in a facility. While he gets his wish to hold onto his new found mental abilities, it's a hollow victory, as his brain power increases to a point where he can no longer process the base physical world around him, and he is unable to relate to (or even perceive) his beloved younger sister beside him. Meanwhile, Olivia is dealing with some mental tweaks of her own, as she's once again visited by a vision of Peter, who kisses her and reminds her to hold on to who she really is. That sound you just heard? That was all the fun getting sucked out of the room, as Olivia's smile fades away and that old familiar sourpuss expression emerges. Which can only mean one thing: Olivia is back, baby!

I really enjoyed this week's episode. While Milo was a one-shot villain this week (albeit a very creepy and effective one), his storyline does tie into the larger themes that the show has been exploring for some time. The show began in the very first episode with the idea that seemingly random strange events tied into a larger Pattern (with a capital "P"). Similarly, the Fringe agents use patterns in their day to day work as detectives to spot anomalies in crime scenes and to predict how suspects might behave. This is exactly what Milo can do, but he takes it to the extreme due to the medication that enhances his ability. The fact that he has this ability only because Earth-2 scientists crossed a line with their medical experimentation also echoes back to last week's episode, where we saw that Earth-1's Walter struggled with the temptation to use science to cross boundaries that perhaps shouldn't be crossed. Milo's fate is a reminder that the other characters should be careful what they wish for.

Speaking of recurring motifs and uncomfortable applications of science, one of the final scenes between Walternate and Brandon the scientist reveals that we the viewers are about to see a familiar pattern: the infamous immersion tank that featured so heavily in the first part of season one. Hooray!

Summary: Never fall victim to one of the classic blunders. The most famous is never get involved in a land war in Asia, but only slightly less well-known is this: never go in against Olivia Dunham when death is on the line! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha...*thud*
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NFL Week 4 Breakdown
Sunday, October 03, 2010 | Author: Mad Typist
Welcome to week 4, where old dogs still have a few tricks left in them and quality QBs are in dangerously short supply.

Lovable Losing Lions. I know this sounds crazy, but the Detroit Lions might be better than 40-50% of the league, despite having a 0-4 record. They might be losing, but aside from a blow out against Minnesota, they've played extremely tough against some pretty good opponents. They have some great young talent - Matthew Stafford has a huge arm and has shown good leadership, Jahvid Best has game breaking talent, and Ndamukong Suh has been exactly as advertised (he already has 3 sacks this year). The next few weeks against the young St Louis Rams and the struggling N.Y. Giants might be their chance to turn their losing ways around. They're probably still looking at a losing season overall (I think 6-10 would be optimistic at this point, given their schedule). But I think that the Lions have a good foundation for the future, and meanwhile they're at least making it exciting to watch them for the first quarter of this season.

*Crunch*. Analysts had noted going into today's game that Michael Vick had already been hit 27 times this season. Part of that was due to a poor offensive line, but part of that was due to the fact that Vick still tends to run the ball more than the average QB. Vick is not one to slide with the ball if he thinks he can make a play. Now, Vick is undoubtedly a great athlete, but if you look at his body type, you see that he isn't built to take major hits. This point was driven home in sickening fashion (especially if you were a Philly fan) early in the first quarter of the Redskins/Eagles game, as Vick attempted to dive into the end zone after a long run, and was sandwiched between two defenders in midair. If you watch the replay you can literally see his rib cage compress in from both sides. With Vick out of the game, the Eagles struggled all game under Kevin Kolb, who certainly didn't do enough to start a QB controversy in his favor.

Last night, the Bears poor offensive line finally caught up to them as well, as they managed to get both their starting AND backup QB knocked out of the game. Here's how bad it was: in their first 22 plays, the Bears had 5 yards of total offense and 8 sacks. Horrific. Yes, some of those were due to Jay Cutler holding the ball too long, but honestly, after the Bears let one of the Giant defenders charge right up the middle, even though there were TWO linemen assigned to block him, you can't really blame Cutler for getting antsy in the pocket. After 9 sacks, Cutler was taken out with a concussion, and then late in the game backup Todd Collins was absolutely destroyed by a blitzing safety as he threw. See this excellent Yahoo! Sports article for more on how Martz's system might lead to a lot more nights like this for Cutler in the future.

All of this has happened before, all of this will happen again... There are several teams going through a sense of deja vu this year already. Take for example the San Diego Chargers, who yet again start slowly, but start to pick it up once October hits. Also the Washington Redskins, who were supposed to be much improved under the new regime and new QB, and yet still find themselves in the same position as last year - playing to level of their opponents, losing games they should easily win and barely eeking out victories against seemingly better teams. They started strong against Philadelphia, but just when it looked like it might be a blow out, they politely allowed Philly to stay in it till the very end. The Redskins are incapable of throwing the killer punch. Out in Arizona they find themselves right back where they were three years ago right before they brought in Kurt Warner - a team in search of a starting QB. Finally, the Bills still suck. Deja vu indeed.

Studs of the week. Congrats to Donovan McNabb, who had a mediocre day stat-wise, but finally got the Philly monkey off his back by guiding his team to a win on the road. Today LaDanian Tomlinson reminded us that while he might not be a first round pick in your fantasy league anymore, he's still got plenty of gas left in his tank. LT had his best day in years (19 carries, 133 yds, 2 TD), and crossed another career milestone, supplanting Tony Dorsett on the all-time rushing yardage list. Congrats to a tremendous player and seemingly excellent human being. Terrell Owens had a beastly day (10 rec, 222 yds, 1 TD) in a losing effort for the Bengals. Kyle Orton got a one year extension on his contract before the season started, but the way he's been playing lately (this week going 35/50, 341 yds, 2 TDs against a quality DEF) he's making a case for a much longer, much richer contract. The Raiders gave the Texans all they could handle today and Zach Miller (11 rec, 122 yds, 1 TD) was a big part of that effort. However, Arian Foster helped his team overcome the loss of Andre Johnson by putting up great numbers (131 yds, 1 TD rushing, 56 yds, 1 TD receiving) even though he was benched the first quarter. Antonio Gates looked great today (7 rec, 144 yds, 2 TD) as his team throttled the Cards. Lastly, congrats to Josh Scobee, who booted a 59 yd FG to win the game for the Jags.

Duds of the week. My biggest pet peeve is when a defender recovers a turnover and then runs like an idiot, thinking only of his own personal glory when going for a TD. Here's the thing though - defensive players don't get to handle the ball a lot, which means that they are susceptible to fumbling. Nate Clements of the 49ers intercepted the ball with his team leading 14-13 and only 91 seconds left in the game. If he had any situational awareness, he would have fallen to the ground immediately, ensuing his team could run almost all the time off the clock. Instead he went for glory, and was stripped from behind by the Falcons. The Falcons promptly took advantage and drove down for the winning FG.

Teams I like this week. I love the way Mark Sanchez has been playing for the N.Y. Jets lately. Not only are they running great, but Sanchez seems to be hitting a groove in the passing game, as they dismantled the Bills in all facets of the game (going 3-0 in the division in the process). Santonio Holmes finally returns from suspension next week, and just in time because the Vikings are a major test for this team. I talked up the Lions above, but the St. Louis Rams are also stacked with young talent. The difference is that the Rams' talent is blossoming NOW, with Sam Bradford showing incredible poise and the defense starting to take on the character of their tough coach Steve Spagnoulo. They are now tied for first in the NFC West, a division that is up for grabs this year

Teams I don't like this week. The Cincinnati Bengals' ugly play finally caught up to them this week, as they dropped a game to their divisional rival the Cleveland Browns. With the Ravens and Steelers around, the Bengals need to win games like this. Looks like another mediocre season might be in the making. The Arizona Cardinals got absolutely blown out of the water by the Chargers. I know they really liked their young rookie QB Max Hall, but you have to look at the Derek Anderson/Matt Leinart thing as a terrible mishandling of their QB personnel in general. Remember - this is a team that could have made a play for Donovan McNabb in the offseason. I also don't like the Chicago Bears - they have serious offensive line issues, and they can't really run the ball to take any pressure off the passing game. Finally, I don't like the Tennessee Titans to do much this year. Warren Sapp noted a few weeks ago that no defense in the league is scared by Vince Young, and really... he's totally right. When your starting QB throws for only 154, 66, 118 and 173 yards in his first four games, you just aren't going to win consistently.

*photos from the official website
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