Legend of the Seeker

Season two has arrived! This series, directed by the directors of Xena and Hercules, is a fantasy series that I really enjoy. In fact, it inspired me to read the entire 12 book series. Which got admittedly preachy as it progressed, but still was quite good otherwise. Some people were upset about the lack of goofball type humor in the series that Xena and Hercules employed but I rather like this slightly more serious version of fantasy.

Anyway, the season premiere: It was mostly awesome with couple of moments of COME ON mixed in.

I guess I’ll start with the irritations. Now, I understand the difference between book and film. I very clearly understand that books have the liberty to share far more information and events than a movie can. After all, movies are limited by time while books can be as long as the author writes it to be. TV of course is a whole different story. On the one hand it has more time, on the other, they must make everything visual and so not everything can be as it was in the book. (Or they can do something lame and uncreative like voice over, but as I said, it’s lame.) Plus change tends to happen much more gradually, characters don’t change in drastic ways unless it’s over a period of time (think of how long it took Seven of Nine to really become human again). The only time I complain about changes between book and screen is when the change is for no reason. (Or at least, for reasons I don’t like.) In this episode, that primary change was have Cara be gay. It’s not that I have anything against gay people, but there’s another Mord Sith in the series that was gay while Cara has an entirely different story which I do not want to ruin for anyone who decides to read the books. And why make her gay? All for the onscreen, two second kiss. Not even two second at that. It just seems like a gratuitous moment where someone said “let’s get hot girls to kiss!!!”

My other complaint about the show was that it actually decided to portray the underworld and not altogether well. For starters, it didn’t actually look too bad, largely because you couldn’t really see much other than the fact that Lord Rahl was naked. And also, it did not make the Keeper look very scary.

Now onto the good. The Skreeling, for one. So creepy looking! And the way they killed it, while certainly not the most unique idea, was still done with good effects.

Aside from the gay thing, I really like the way they brought Cara into the story. It was even more exciting than the way it was done in the books. In particular, I think they got a great actress to play her. Sufficient stare that could stop most in their tracks. I kind of felt bad for her when the others turned, but that’s probably just because of what I know of her from the books.

Other details about the Mord Sith: Charisma Carpenter plays one of them. Hooray Buffy/Angel alums. Well done with every bit of their storyline really. The taking of the little girls, threatening Rachel while she tries to comfort the others.

I’m also not upset about the way they changed it so that Richard and Kahlan still can’t be together. I would like to see it happen at some point, but I don’t mind it being drawn out for longer. They were maybe a little too lovey-dovey in the book (for lack of a better word).

I forget what the deal with the three signs and Richard are, but I was surprised by Shota’s arrival and am excited to see how it all pans out.

I think that the battle with the Keeper requires a more careful handling than that of Darken Rahl (since special effects can just as easily make things cheesy as excellent, particularly without a huge budget).

So far we haven’t seen any sign of the Mud People (sadly) or the Sisters of the Light (a little less sadly), but any number of things are in store for the coming season. I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.

(Totally unrelated to the actual episode comments: Not a fan of Richard’s new look and also, anyone else think that the Confessor’s dress is not only unflattering but completely impractical?)

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What I’m Catching Up On…

I’m always looking for shows to catch up, specifically, to watch from beginning to end while waiting for something else to watch. So, this is the list that I’m currently on, if you have any suggestions, please add them.

Catching Up On:
-Fringe
-Southland
-Rescue Me
-Mentalist
-Nip/Tuck
-Big Love

I wanted to include a list of all the shows I’ve already watched but quite frankly, there are just too many. So instead I will tell you what I do and don’t like:
-I don’t like dating shows or reality shows that follow people just talking (ie Real World, NYC Prep, Miami Social).
-I love most competitive reality shows. I like international shows (though I could not do Coupling so maybe it’s more the international reality and sci fi/fantasy stuff that I like).
-Not really a soap opera fan though I did a bit of Passions and Days of Our Lives once upon a time. (During finals time in high school we got home at 12 and I needed something to do.)
-Disney shows are just as fair game as NBC or ABC.

But I’m also willing to try new things,

All that being said, if there’s a show you think I should be watching, let me know!

24: Seasons 1-7

If You Like…Buffy

It’s frustrating when looking for a tv show and not knowing where to look to find one that you like. So I decided to make some lists to help. There can be any number of reasons why someone likes a show, so I will try to get a few different options.

The first one, if you like Buffy the Vampire Slayer:

The obvious next option is Angel, since not only is it a spin off that carries many of Buffy’s characters (Angel, Cordelia, later Spike), but it has many crossovers with Buffy. For those who don’t know, the show follows Angel, a vampire with a soul, who moves to LA and sets up a group that works to help innocent people. Also obvious choices are Dollhouse and Firefly as they are Joss Whedon’s other TV show creations. I would also recommend checking out his online smash hit Dr. Horrible’s Sing-along Blog.

If what you like about the show is magic and the slightly silly lines while kicking butt, a great option is Charmed. This show follows 3 sisters who learn they are witches, the Charmed Ones, to be specific. Their job is to fight the forces of evil and protect the world, while trying to maintain a normal life. There’s also Eastwick which is very similar to Charmed but not quite as good.

If it’s the vampires and mythology that you enjoy, True Blood, a current show, is a good option. Sookie Stackhouse, a telepath in love withe the vampire Bill Compton (he’s the show’s Angel, tall dark, mysterious, and human-like in his morals). Vampires have revealed themselves to the world and want equality and the world is reeling. Can vampires ever fit in with the rest of the world. This is a more serious show than Buffy with none of the snappy dialogue and a lot more sex.

Not to be outdone on the vampire-front, the CW has The Vampire Diaries this fall, about two vampire brothers who are interested in a girl whose parents died and who is trying to get on with her life.

Also a vampire-related show is the new show on ABC, The Gates. It follows a closed off community that has some supernatural residents who are trying to live normal lives but can’t seem to escape their supernatural selves. Not the best description but so far it has been pretty good.

One more vampire show in the mix (though this one is not exclusively vampires) is Being Human. This show follows a vampire, a werewolf, and a ghost as they try to figure out what it means to be human and attempt to live normal lives. There is actually a British and an American version of this show. Both are solid in their own ways and are some of the best genre writing I have seen in a while (perhaps because this is a bit darker and more morally ambiguous than a lot of what is on TV these days). The British version also has a spin off webseries called Becoming Human which is a fun bonus.

Another werewolf option is MTV’s Teen Wolf about Scott, a teenager who gets turned into a werewolf when bitten and must learn to control his abilities. The show is full of teen romance, mystery, and excitement. The writers said they looked to Buffy as an example of how they wanted to shape the series, so that should be a good sign for what’s to come.

If what you like about Buffy is the superhero action, then Heroes is a show for you. It’s an X-men type show, humans with abilities like flying, healing, time/space traveling, super strength, etc. The show was canceled, but I’ve found it pretty good all the way through. Most people will say only Season One was good though.

The 4400 is another people with abilities show, though this one is more out there because its premise is that 4400 people were abducted throughout history and then they were returned to earth at the same time, unchanged, except for the development of unique abilities. They too experience fear and discrimination from people who assume they must be dangerous because of their abilities.

The CW’s Smallville and Supernatural are also options. Smallville follows Clark Kent as he grows into his Superman abilities while Supernatural follows a pair of brothers (later 3 brothers) as they look into supernatural occurances and (in the beginning) search for their father. If you like the teen-type shows (like Buffy) then these shows could be a good option for you. While I’m not a fan of Supernatural (it’s too formulaic for me), I find Smallville to be a lot of fun, largely because I grew up on Superman.

Fringe is like the grown up version of Supernatural, on Fox. While I didn’t take to this fantasy show at first, I gave it another shot at my sister’s recommendation and found that I was missing out on a great show..

For some really old school magic-filled options, shows like Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Bewitched, and I Dream of Jeannie are some fun options to watch. Sabrina is closer to the Buffy style of show, while the others are a lot older, though still fun.

Legend of the Seeker is another show that I really enjoy that is shrouded by magic and action. Unlike the other shows on this list, it does not take place in the modern world, rather being a part of the typical fantasy medieval ages, but it’s still a show to consider if you like a tragic love story, a quest to save the world, and magical intrigue.

Two shows coming from out of country that I would also add to this list are The Listener and Merlin. Merlin, like Legend of the Seeker, is a medieval times type magic story (following Merlin before he was Arthur’s personal wizard), but I find it interesting for the same reason that I enjoy Smallville. I like retellings of old stories. The Listener, though it wasn’t well received in the US, is a show I enjoy. It tells the story of an EMT who, like Sookie Stackhouse, can read minds. He uses his abilities to help people, while hiding what he can do from others and trying to put together the missing pieces of his past.

Lost and Ghost Whisperer both fit into this list as well. Ghost Whisperer staring Jennifer Love Hewitt, is about a woman who can see ghosts and helps them move on into the next life. Her gift constantly disrupts her social life, but it often comes in handy too. Lost is a completely different type of show, following a group of plane crash survivors who landed on a mysterious island where unexplainable things happen. You’ll have to keep watching to see where that story is going.

Finally, I am going to offer something different to the list. These shows only marginally fit the category, but are still worth considering anyway. Pushing Daisies and Dead Like Me, both dark comedies, are shows that are surrounded by the supernatural world. Dead Like Me follows Georgia Lass after she dies and, instead of moving on, remains on earth to act as a grim reaper, collecting the souls of people before they die. Pushing Daisies follows Ned, a pie maker who can bring things and people back from the dead. The catch, if they live for more than a min, someone else will die and if he touches them again, they die for good. This becomes complicated when he brings back his childhood sweetheart and the two, though in love, can’t touch ever again. Both were sadly canceled after two seasons, but they are definitely worth taking a look at.

That’s my list for now, anything else you think should be on this list?

For more “If You Likes…” check out these lists: Star Trek, Full House, Heroes, 24, and Friends.

Buy these great shows on dvd!
Buffy The Vampire Slayer – Collector’s Set (40 discs)
Angel: Seasons 1-5 (Collectors Set)
Dark Angel – The Complete Series

Legend of the Seeker

I’m not sure what stirred more news  when it was announced that the Legend of the Seeker was being made: Sam Raimi, the producer of Xena and Hercules was making a new show, or that Terry Goodkinds’s Sword of Truth series, which has a massive following, was coming to television. I came across this show somewhat by accident, so the fanfare isn’t something I followed all that much. I will say, the show was good enough to prompt me to read the entire 12 book series in a semester. It’s possible I liked the show better because I started watching it before reading the books and therefore didn’t have the comparison, but I finished the series long before the season finale of the show, so I doubt that.

The show is about a young woods guide named Richard Cypher who grew up in Westland, a place cut off from the rest of the world by a magical barrier and completely magic-less (or so they thought anyway). His world is turned upside down when his father is brutally murdered and he comes across a young woman, Kahlan Amnell being chased by a group of men. After helping her, Richard learns that Kahlan is no ordinary woman. She is a Confessor, a being of power that he does not understand at first, and she is searching for a great wizard. The reason for her search: Darken Rahl is an evil, powerful wizard who is taking over  the Midlands and she needs to wizard to appoint a Seeker of Truth who can defeat Rahl. The wizard, it turns out, is Richard’s looney friend, Zeddicus Z’ul Zorander (Zed) and he names Richard the Seeker. The Seeker carries a magical sword, called the Sword of Truth, which he uses to carry out justice. But they must hurry, as Darken Rahl seeks the Boxes of Orden, which would give him unquestioned control over life and death. Should he put the boxes together, there will be no stopping him. The trio experience many bumps along the way, one of which is the growing love between Richard and Kahlan, a love which can never be, because of Kahlan’s magic. With a single touch, a Confessor changes a person into an obedient servant, they are no longer who they were but live to please their Confessor. So long as a Confessor maintains tight control on the magic, she can keep her touch from doing unintended harm but if something–such as sex–should make them forget that control, the person they touch would be lost until the Confessor dies.

Unlike Raimi’s previous productions, the Seeker isn’t campy, bad acted action. I loved Lucy Lawless as Xena as much as the next person, but I can’t say this is the disappointment I have read others call it. (No there is no warrior battle cry, how did Lucy Lawless ever make that sound anyway?) The acting is much more subtle in this show, so it doesn’t constantly remind you that it’s fake. It also has twelve books to draw its stories from, whereas Xena and Hercules pulled things from biblical and mythological times, so the plot sometimes seemed forced. Bridget Regan and Craig Horner fit their parts quite well, if not how you imagined them while reading the book. (Kahlan’s hair is supposed to be unusually long, a mark of a Confessor and Richard is supposed to be quite big and muscular.)

For all the fans who complain about how different the book and show is, keep in mind that Terry Goodkind has been a consultant on the show and given his approval so though some of the mythology of the universe has changed it is usually in minor ways. (For Example, Kahlan is not the last Confessor or the Mother Confessor as she is in the book, which is only confusing in that she is dressed accordingly in the first episode, but not after wards.) Having taking some screenwriting classes, I understand the distinction between film and books and how they require altering some of the drama. Not everything that works in a book plays out well visually (sometimes it is dull and slow to watch) and not everything on screen can be given the same range of intensity as on the screen. Each has their own strengths, but they are different medium and as such must be different. I also understand the difficultly of adaptation. Time, money, clarity, are all things that play a part in what does and doesn’t make it onto the screen. A show, unlike a movie though, is not as limited by time and has longer to explain things so the need to cut things out or change them isn’t as great, which is why so many of the episodes follow so closely to the book.

I do wonder why, if they were following the first book from season one, they felt the need to pull characters, etc. from later books in the series (ie- Jensen, Richard’s half-sister). Each individual book was jam packed with adventure, so you would think they have enough to work with.Perhaps for cast continuitybetween the seasons? Maybe to bring in more characters since having only three people to follow is somewhat difficult on a show when all three are together. Part of what gets a show through an episode s being able to cut back and forth between the different stories happening at once and with only 3 main characters there can’t be much in the way of subplots.

A particular change between the books and show that I appreciate is the way that Richard defeats Rahl. While I thought the book was very clever in its solution and employed various bits of knowledge gained over the course of the book, I also don’t think it would have played well visually. And it also a little melodramatic. Plus, in the book, Kahlan and Richard solve their touching dilemma and while that was nice to see, it was annoying for the problem to be solved so early on as the drama between them became about having a baby or getting separated, which is less compelling than overcoming love’s obstacles. I also like that they introduced Cara, a Mord Sith (with the use of a magical weapon called an Agiel they capture, control, torture, and train those with magic) who plays a major role after the first book. As one of my favorite characters in the book, I was more than pleased to see her enter the picture.

The scenery is breathtaking and the action, while certainly nothing groundbreaking, is certainly fun to watch. Its ratings were high enough to earn it a second season and I for one am excited to see where it will go next. (Catch all of season one on hulu now.)

Check out my book review of the series.

Buy season one and catch up now: Legend of the Seeker: The Complete First Season

Dead Like Me

I recently went through the the entire series of Dead Like Me, including the movie. (You’ll notice that general sentence a lot, which tells you what I do all day.)

How She Died

How She Died

Dead Like Me is a dark comedy following Georgia Lass, an unambitious eighteen-year-old who rarely smiles and is going nowhere in life. In the first episode, George dies. More specifically she is hit by a space debris–a toilet seat–that fell from a Russian space station. You may wonder where the show can go when the main character dies, but though Lost executives turned down this idea for Jack Shepherd, this is a situation where the death was necessary, as it introduces us to the mythology of the show. Instead of moving on to an after life, George is relegated to the undead role of Grim Reaper. Her job is to collect the souls of people right before they die so that they do not feel any pain when the death occurs and then guide the soul into the afterlife.

George is slowly but surely trained in the ways of a Reaper by a merry band of reapers:

Rubin, the father of the family who doles out post it notes with the time and place where the reaping will be

Roxy, the tough mother figure with a fiery temper who works as a meter maid (later a police officer)

Mason, the teenage rebel who goofs off and has a weakness for sex, drugs, alcohol, and law breaking

Betty, the spirited wild-child who disappears midway through the first season

Daisy, the devious starlet who likes to scheme to make money with minimum effort

And the rules are for the most part well-established in this show (excluding the movie, which seems to decide it can ignore all of the rules for no good reason). George slowly but surely learns the rules and the consequences of their job, though that doesn’t keep her from fighting her position as a Reaper wherever she can.

The most mundane thing in life declaring the end of someones life.

The most mundane thing in life declaring the end of someone's life.

There’s a catch to being a Reaper though. Two actually. The first- No paycheck. Hardly seems fair, but there it is. So everything they get is either taken from the dead or earned through side jobs, which is how George ends up at Happy Time, a temp agency where she worked for a single day before her death. As a reaper, George appears different to the world and goes by the name Millie. The second- you don’t actually know who you are going to reap, you need to figure it out yourself. The post its only provide the first initial and last name, which has led to complications on more than one occasion.

Meanwhile, George’s family has to deal with the loss. George’s inept mother, emotionally confused father, and STRANGE sister all grieve in their own ways. (I say strange because what other way is there to describe a girl who steals toilet seats and lies to the neighbors saying her mother won’t let her go to the bathroom?) Though Georgia can never come home and reveal herself to her family (there are rules and consequences preventing that) George still looks in on the family she cared little about during her first life. She occasionally leaves small tokens of comfort for the family she can’t be a part of and tries to take pieces back with her whenever she can.

Part of the show’s charm is that it is so different than anything out there and it didn’t run for long enough to “jump the shark” (though the movie managed to do that all on its own). The writers are creative, developing not just a unique lifestyle but also unique phrases that make the plotline feel all encompassing. Everything but the movie are posted on hulu and if you’re looking for something to watch, this is definitely a good option. The most unfortunate thing about the show is it got canceled before we could learn everything there was to know about this world and before we could see George finish growing up and move on.

Own the complete series: Dead Like Me: The Complete Collection

True Blood

I love vampires as much as the next person. I have seen every episode of Buffy and Angel (though I haven’t gotten around to Twilight so I guess I’m missing something). And with Twilight becoming such a big deal, it didn’t surprise me that a new vampire show would rise. The show is based off of the Southern Vampire Mysteries by Charlaine Harris. (I have not read the books yet and therefore cannot compare but I hope to remedy that at some point by at least getting the first book.)

Now that I’ve seen every episode so far, I have some thoughts about True Blood. For one thing, I like that the show (supplied by the book series) has given the typical vampire story a new spin. While there are still those vampires who skulk around in the dark and scare everyone, they are not a secret like in Buffy. Vampires have revealed themselves to the world in the hopes of gaining equal rights. A step towards this goal has been the development of Tru Blood, which comes in the flavors A+/-, B+/-, AB+/-, or O+/-, and allows vampires to have an alternative food source other than human beings. There aren’t only vampires in the world of course, other storybook creatures like werewolves and shape shifters exist too. And the main character is a telepath.

The writers have done a good job of fleshing out the vampire hierarchy and the general vampire world, showing the vampires as intelligent and calculating rather than simply blood thirsty undead. (Whereas in Buffy, a vampire could only be good should they acquire a soul or a chip to tame them.)

At the same time, there is a lot lacking in this otherwise fleshed out world. The characters themselves fall short of the creativity present in the rest of the show:

Sookie Stackhouse is perhaps the blandest of the Bon Temps citizens, which doesn’t bode well since she is the main character. Mostly she is a weak, frightened girl that everyone else has to protect, though on occasion she does show some spine and stick up for herself or someone else. Everyone around her thinks she is helpless, which alternately pisses her off and ends up to her advantage. The fact that she is a telepath, which her closest friends and family know, gives her an interesting twist but it’s the kind of thing that would be interesting no matter who had the ability. I might be biased though, as I really dislike Anna Paquin (she completely ruined the character of Rogue for me, who had previously been my favorite X-men).

Bill Compton, the True Blood equivalent of Angel (he’s the vampire with a “soul” which in this case just means he wants to tame his animalistic side), is equally flat. His entire personality is “I love Sookie and I must protect her” and “I don’t want to be an evil vampire.” The second part is interesting, particularly because other than the vampire on TV who we constantly see in a polished suit talking about vampire rights, he is the only civilized undead we see. (Which begs the question, if none of them are really civilized why did they reveal themselves in the first place? And why is Bill the only one who seems to care?) His past, the story of his family and what he lost when he became a vampire is what makes him sympathetic, but I think we need more of his story and what makes him the way he is.

(In part, I think the love story between Sookie and Bill is underdeveloped. Loving him simply because he’s a vampire and she can’t read his thoughts isn’t enough.)

Jason Stackhouse, Sookie’s brother spends the show being Sookie’s polar opposite, though which extreme he is leaving with changes. In the first season he was a sex-loving, vampire blood-drinking wild child who was always getting himself into trouble. In the second season he has gone the opposite route, joining the Fellowship of the Sun, the most vocal anti-vampire church around. You can’t help but wonder how he gets by with so little brainpower buy you can’t help but be glad for the comic relief. He does have a few redeeming moments, like when he talks Luke over the fence rather than choosing to leave him behind, but he also slaps Sookie across the face in one episode so it’s hard to really get a handle on his personality.

Forming Sookie’s merry band is Sam, a shape shifter who owns the bar she works at and has harbored a secret crush for her, and Tara Lee, Sookie’s best friend who grew up in an abusive home and has a big mouth that gets her into trouble. Tara Lee is probably one of the most compelling characters, dealing with the very real emotional scars left by an alcoholic mother while trying to find a place for herself. Sam has the potential to draw your attention, but his character winds up being the adult version of an emo teen.

There are some minor characters who pull you into the story:

Jessica is a teenage girl Bill was forced to turn into a vampire as punishment and who he is now responsible for, Jessica serves both as another way of “humanizing” Bill, as well as shows the way a vampire comes to terms with their new life and the ways they can be molded based on their makers and their surroundings

Lafayette is Tara’s drug dealing and fast talking cousin. For a while he was the sure of himself guy always scheming to make a quick buck (and generally succeeding) but when his ways finally catch up to him, we see a more defeated, quieter side. Lafayette has just made his return after being held captive by some vampires (thanks to Sookie’s help) and who he will be now is anyone’s guess.

There is also Eric, the sheriff of area 5 who has a fascination for Sookie and a constant need to mark his territory. This week’s episode showed a new side to this vampire–loyalty and respect–as he leads the search for Godric, a 2,000 year old vampire who has gone missing. On the one hand he is a violent, bloodthirsty vampire,but on the other, he takes vampire honor very seriously and I think that the more we learn about him the more he will surprise us.

A definite plus for True Blood is that it doesn’t shy away from anything. Murder, sex, nothing is too much to put on air, allowing viewers the full impact of important moments. (Not to say there aren’t numerous gratuitous sex scenes as well.)

True Blood, HBO’s most successful show since The Sopranos and Sex in the City, is about to delve even further into the dark and I despite the characters that annoy me, certainly want to be there to see where it’s going.

Own True Blood Now: True Blood: The Complete First Season (HBO Series) and True Blood: The Complete Second Season (HBO Series)