REVIEW: 8 SIMPLE RULES – SEASON 1-3

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MAIN CAST

John Ritter (Bad Santa)
Katey Sagal (Futurama)
Kaley Cuoco (The Big bang Theory)
Amy Davidson (Goyband)
Martin Spanjers (Good Luck Charlie)
James Garner (The Notebook)
David Spade (Rules of Engagement)

 

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Larry Miller (10 Things I Hate About You)
Mo Gaffney (That 7os Show)
Billy Aaron Brown (Jeepers Creepers 2)
Brian Sites (Gigli)
Patrick Warburton (Ted)
Rachel Bilson (Chuck)
Cole Williams (North Country)
Jason Priestley (Tru Calling)
Shelley Long (Cheers)
John Ratzberger (Up)
Cybil Shepherd (Moonlighting)
Cindy Williams (American Graffiti)
Paul Wesley (The Vampire Diaries)
Suzanne Pleshette (The Birds)
Amanda MacDonald (The Naked Ape)
Lisa Rinna (Veronica mars)
Ethan Philips (Star Trek: Voyager)
Jonathan Taylor Thomas (Smallville)
Tatum O’Neal (Paper Moon)
Keir O’Donnell (Wedding Crashers)
Lee Garlington (Flashforward)
Adam Arkin (Hitch)
Jan Hoag (Scream Queens)
Eric Jungmann (Sabrina: TTW)
Raquel Welch (Fantastic Voyage)
Pamela Anderson (Scooby-Doo)
Ed O’Neill (Married With Children)
Beth Grant (Wonderfalls)
Danny Woodburn (Watchmen)
Leighton Meester (The Judge)
Matt Lanter (Heroes)
Rachael Harris (Lucifer)
Nicole Richie (Chuck)
Kenneth Kimmins (Lois & Clark)

8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter (Later Shortened to 8 Simple Rules)  had an auspicious start. The supremely-talented Tom Shadyac was involved in the project. This meant that the comedy would be nothing less of spectacular, and that’s exactly what happened: the show remains one of the freshest, funniest, wittiest shows made in a very long time. Every line, facial expression, casting choice, scene, all wreaked of perfection. There was not one episode after which I thought, “Man that wasn’t as good as the rest”. Each one was a standout. Again, this is the kind of perfectionism that we’ve come to expect from Tom. For those who don’t know, Tom Shadyac is the director of Ace Ventura (first movie), The Nutty Professor (first one) and Liar Liar. Quite a résumé. He’s a producer here not a director, but his magic touch is felt in every episode.The family consists of:

The Father: Paul Hennessy (John Ritter): nice, slightly neurotic, can be a pushover from time to time, works as a sports writer. John unfortunately passed away in 2003 leaving a fond memory and near-sure cancellation contemplations by the suits.

The Mother: Cate (Katey Sagal): come on, who didn’t fall in love with Katey when she played Peg on Married With Children? Al Bundy was our hero. We viewers gave him the respect and love he never had. But without Peg’s nonchalant, parasitic, lazy lifestyle, Al would’ve probably been just another Chicago dad instead of the mess that Peg (life, actually) caused him to be. Katey was a MILF back then and still is: a brune now (instead of a redhead) and just as buxom as ever. Cate is the conservative mom and loving wife. I know it sounds boring, but comedically, she fits perfectly.

The Ditzy Blonde Daughter: Bridget (played to perfection by Kaley Cuoco): almost never has an idiot been played so well. Aside of Gob on Arrested Development, Bridget may well be a shoe-in for any awards given to this archetype. Bridget is shallow, self-centered, not very bright and a tad slutty in his look. She plays the dumb blonde role better than absolutely anyone IMO. Perfection. One of the high-points of the show.

The Overlooked Geeky Daughter: Kerry (Amy Davidson): a brune and a geek, she gets no love from life or circumstances. Feels overlooked, under-appreciated and neglected most of the time. She’s Bridget’s younger sister (in reality she’s older than her) and the two’s extremely opposite personalities and brains cause endless clashes, to much of our amusement.

The Son: Rory (Martin Spanjers): was the second funniest character IMO before the passing of Ritter, then John passes, new characters come and Rory is not the wise-cracking verbal-trouble-maker that he used to: that went mostly to David Spade’s character.


Those characters were the main ones at the time of John Ritter. Unfortunately enough, the insanely hilarious Larry Miller (one of my favorites) did not get lots of screen time. He played Paul’s co-worker/competitor. After an aortic dissection cost Ritter his life in 2003 (September 11th), the show was on hiatus for a while. No one thought it could come back, but it did later on, with a couple of new additions. This began the second phase of the show, and the new characters were:  The strict, confident school principal: Ed (Adam Arkin): I saw Adam here and there on talk shows. This was the first time that I saw him do anything. Impressed, is the word I use. His performance was very impressive. Sad he wasn’t brought in earlier. He also plays Cate’s potential love interest after Paul passes. The gradual progress towards this point (which would’ve sounded crazy at the beginning) earns the creators lots of praise. It was done slowly, carefully and excellently, with constant respect paid to the Paul (Ritter).

The Attitude Grandpa: Jim Egan (James Garner): a surprisingly welcome addition to the series, he was cannon fodder for endless ‘old’ jokes, mainly by… The 35-year-old unemployed wise-cracking half-brother of the mom: CJ (played to insanely funny heights by David Spade): I knew Spade was funny, I just didn’t know he was THIS funny. Somehow, Spade’s very familiar presence is sensed inside his character (as opposed to a separable character), which is understandable, since he’s a comic and he’s on a comedy show. This eerie feeling is kinda like seeing someone borrow lots of material from David Spade’s appearances in movies, talk shows and functions (award shows, etc.) and delivering a superb impersonation of Spade’s voice and comedy style, except, that it IS Spade. By that I mean you realize he’s not trying to play someone else, or a whole new character: he’s being the goofy, funny Spade we’ve come to know, and he takes this pleasantly humorous formula to the absolute top. Every line he uttered, every sarcasm he begot, all classics, literally. Spade was CRAZY-funny; so, SO funny.

The show’s humor and drama were both upped after the show was back, but audiences thought, “John passed, it ain’t gonna be the same anymore”. This is understandable, considering we are talking about a group of people (American viewers) who gave ‘Yes Dear’ a free ride but caused Andy Richter Controls the Universe to be cancelled in no time. As the show’s quality increased, its ratings declined. Soon it was no more, sadly.

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12 DAYS OF CHRISTAMS REVIEW: TRU CALLING: TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS…AGAIN

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CAST
Eliza Dushku (Buffy)
Zach Galifanakis (The Hangover)
Shawn Reeves (Dandelion)
Jason Preistley (Haven)
GUEST CAST
Liz Vassey (Two and a Half Men)
Cotter Smith (Alias)
Eric Christian Olsen (Not Another Teen Movie)
Lizzy Caplan (Mean Girls)
Parry Shen (The New Guy)
Michael Reilly Burke (Mars Attacks)
Sue Cremin (The Tao of Steve)
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Befitting the last episode of the formula-breaking second season, “Twas the Night Before Christmas … Again” once again threw Tru into an unknown situation with her case of the week. On the one hand, this further engaged the audience and kept them guessing what would happen because of this new set of circumstances, but on the other hand, it also lowered the stakes for this particular case and created a more mellow episode than what we have grown accustomed to. The series did not go out with a bang, but it did go out on an intriguing note. Overall, this makeshift series finale partially satisfied the audience while still leaving room to imagine what happened next. must give props to the writers for coming up with six consecutive stories this short season that each took a different approach to the victim needing help. Each came with their additional challenges, and each still felt organic to the individual victim. My major note of praise is that these diversions from the first season did not feel like a ploy to attract more audience members or simply shock the already committed audience, but rather they were a natural progression of Tru’s gift.
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Other than the unique nature of the case and watching Tru and Jack team up, the story itself was rather lackluster. The murder of a mistress and her lover being suspected of the crime is a story we have seen time and time again across different procedurals, as well as a child taking revenge against his or her parent’s murderer. At least this episode added another layer of mystery by having both of these common stories piled on top of one another. Although this episode did a sufficient job diverting attention from the true murderer in both cases, the reveals were still not as shocking or unique as they could have been. One wonderful, long-awaited aspect that this episode delved into was mending the relationship between Tru and Jack. While they should not be friends because of their opposite jobs, they should have a mutual respect and understanding that the other is simply trying to carry out that job which he/she has been chosen for. This episode provided minor indications that they were headed in this direction. Tru came closer to understanding that Jack is not the monster she claimed he originally was, and Jack sees that Tru does more good than just saving the victim. Whether it was because of their team up or the holiday season, the episode’s conclusion especially allowed these two rivals to end on a peaceful note. “Twas the Night Before Christmas … Again” concluded Tru Calling in a calm way. It did not leave off on a massive cliffhanger with any character in mortal danger. For the first time in a while, Tru was happy with her friends, family, and love life, while Harrison was making a solid name for himself. Davis was also happy, though it was a false happiness on his girlfriend’s part. Despite these positives, it did leave the audience with several lingering questions, especially regarding the future of Tru’s secret. Having this episode rewind before Harrison could tell Tru about their father’s involvement with Jack gave us a glimpse of a potential future storyline, but ripped it away with no indication if it would in fact come true later down the line.
This episode ended Tru Calling, it’s a decent episode but as a series finale it was lacking but that was not the fault of the writers as the season was meant to have 13 episodes not 6 ,but fox pulled the plug.

REVIEW: FAMILY GUY – STEWIE GRIFFIN: THE UNTOLD STORY

CAST (VOICES)

Seth MacFarlane (Flashforward)
Alex Borstein (Power Rangers Zeo)
Seth Green (IT)
Mila Kunis (Black Swan)
Mike Henry (Ted)
Jennifer Tilly (Curse of Chucky)
Patrick Warburton (Scream 3)
Adam West (60s Batman)
Lori Alan (Wall-E)
Drew Barrymore (Poison Ivy)
Phil LaMarr (Free Enteprise)
Ron Livingston (The Conjuring)
Rachael MacFarlane (American Dad)
Kevin Michael Richardson (The Cleveland Show)
Will Sasso (Movie 43)
Rene Auberjonois (Star Trek: DS9)
Jennie Garth (What I Like About You)
Jason Priestley (Tru Calling)
Tori Spelling (Smallville)
Michael Clarke Duncan (Sin City)
Busy Phipps (Terminator: TSCC)

Image result for family guy stewie griffin the untold storyThe DVD stars with  the premiere of the film, where celebrities such as Drew Barrymore date the Kool-Aid Man, the Greased-Up Deaf Guy, the Evil Monkey, David Bowie, and the Griffins. Everyone goes into the theatre where Channel 5 reveals they have hired Glenn Quagmire to provide them with a bootleg copy of the film. We then see an advertisement for a new movie, People Who Look Like They Never Sleep… starring Susan Sarandon and Vince Vaughn, and another film, The Littlest Bunny. After this, the film begins.

When the Griffins go swimming at the Quahog Community Pool, Peter tries teaching Stewie to swim and attempts to toss him into the pool, despite Stewie begging to be put down. Lois takes Stewie to swimming lessons, where Stewie meets Brad, a child about his age who is the “Star Swimmer.” In jealousy, Stewie does everything he can to steal Brad’s glory. As a last resort he tries to kill him by rigging a lifeguard chair with dynamite and luring Brad beneath it with marzipan; however, Stewie’s detonator malfunctions, blowing up the legs of chair and causing it to fall on Stewie himself. He ends up in hell with Steve Allen. When Stewie is revived by Lois, he believes it is a sign for him to be a good boy.

After Peter learns that the new video store will not let him rent pornography, he vents his frustration in front of newscaster Tom Tucker, who gives him a job at Quahog 5 hosting a segment called “What Really Grinds My Gears,” in which he rants about things that bother him. Peter becomes extremely popular, overshadowing Tucker, who is fired after attempting to distract Peter during filming.

Stewie attempts to be a good boy by smothering Brian with affection. Brian finally goads Stewie into reverting to his old, violent ways by crushing a spider web and eating the spider. Stewie starts drinking heavily, following Brian’s way of coping. Brian attempts to cure Stewie of his alcoholism by taking him out for a night of drinking at the Drunken Clam. While drunk, Stewie crashes Brian’s car through the wall of the bar. Knowing Stewie is Peter’s son, Tom takes advantage of the situation and presents footage of the accident at the news station. Peter is fired and Tom is rehired as the anchor. The next morning, Stewie has a hangover and realizes his lonely existence in the world, wishing that there were someone else to whom he could relate. At the end Stewie says it is good that he stopped drinking now, so that it would not have any repercussions later in life.

Peter buys a TiVo. Watching it, Stewie spots a man in San Francisco on the news that has the same face and hairstyle as him. Stewie then believes that he may be his true father. Learning that Quagmire is going on a cross-country tour in which he plans to have sex with a different woman in every state of America, Brian and Stewie hitch a ride in his RV. At a motel in New Jersey, Quagmire is handcuffed to a bed and mugged by the latest woman. Then Stewie and Brian drive off with his RV leaving Quagmire at the motel.
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Meanwhile, Peter and Lois are trying to get intimate, but are constantly interrupted by Chris and Meg. To solve this problem, Peter and Lois decide to teach the children how to find dates. After several “lessons”, Peter and Lois send them to the mall. However, Lois is concerned that people will think they’re bad parents simply because they wanted their children out of the way. Stewie crashes the RV in the desert after going insane from ingesting an entire bottle of “West Coast Turnarounds”. After wandering through the desert, Stewie breaks down crying and nearly decides to give up until Brian encourages him to keep going. The two manage to get a rental car and arrive in San Francisco. Stewie mysteriously leaves Brian and confronts the man from TV on a cable car, and is shocked to discover that the man is actually himself from 30 years in the future.
Image result for family guy stewie griffin the untold story“Stu”, as Stewie’s future self is called, tells Stewie that he is on vacation (Stu explains that rather than just simply travel to different places in the world, people from his time travel to other time periods). Stu reveals he cannot tell anyone about his time and leaves for his time, Stewie stows away with him. Stewie learns he will not become ruler of the world but rather “a 35-year-old Parade magazine-reading virgin”. Stu passes off Stewie as a Nicaraguan boy named Pablo to everyone until Stu can send him back to his own time. Stewie learns he will also work at the Quahog Circuit Shack and still lives with Rupert, his childhood teddy bear, in a filthy apartment. Disgusted with the way his life will turn out, Stewie remodels Stu’s apartment and gets him to lose his virginity to his co-worker, Fran (though he spends more time crying than having sex). The next day, Fran tells everyone about the humiliating experience, costing Stu his job for having relations with a co-worker. Returning home, he finds that his apartment is in flames due to the stress-relieving candles Stewie put there.

His life now ruined, Stu laments the day of his near-death experience at the community pool, revealing that memories of the experience will re-surface when Stewie is 20 years old, causing him to repress most of his major emotions and preventing him from taking any risks. They visit Lois (who reveals that she had recognized “Pablo” as her “little Stewie” immediately) at a retirement home for a loan and get a new time travel watch. Stewie travels back in time to the day of the accident and prevents himself from getting crushed by the chair. However, future Stewie gets vaporized by present Stewie, thus creating a paradox and skipping the formalities of Future Stewie disappearing eventually. As the family packs up and heads for home, Meg bids farewell to a boy to whom she’s been talking to, considering how much she likes his name: Ron.
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After the film Tricia Takanawa talks with the fans and asks them how they liked the film, receiving completely negative feedback. After this, Tricia asks the family what they did during the show’s cancellation from Seasons 3 to 4. Peter talks about how he did several part-time jobs which involved wearing costumes, although he always wound up fired because he kept peeing in them because he thought it was like an astronaut suit, but when he finally did become an astronaut, he did not believe he had to pee in the suit and almost died. Brian talks about how he met his fans and competed in the Iditarod Dog Race, only to get very tired and lose. Lois talks about how she became a prostitute and shows video footage of her trying to beat up a policemen and of her having an argument in a convenience store over her wanting to taste the chips. Meg talks about entertaining the U.S. Navy by singing and dressing like Cher for “If I Could Turn Back Time”. However, she was actually repulsing the Navy-men causing them to abandon and sink the ship. Stewie talks about his appearances in those “damn” talk shows. Chris then talks about his guest appearance on The West Wing.

This ‘Untold Story’ focuses on perhaps the most entertaining character in the Griffin household, little baby Stewie. However don’t be expecting light-hearted gags and innocent jokes because this, like the majority of family guy material can sometimes get quite close to the bone and they don’t seem to care who or what they have a go at. Indeed the makers seem to have cranked the level up a bit for this movie

REVIEW: SUPERMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES – VOLUME 1-3

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MAIN CAST

Tim Daly (Wings)
Dana Delaney (Hand of God)
David Kaufman (Justice League: Doom)
Clancy Brown (Highlander)
Corey Burton (Critters)
Michael Ironside (Total Recall)
Joseph Bologna (The Nanny)
George Dzundza (Species II)
Lisa Edelstein (House)
Lauren Tom (Futurama)
Mike Farrell (MASH)
Shelley Fabares (Coach)
Joely Fisher (Til Death)
Victor Brandt (T.J. Hooker)
Joanna Cassidy (Blade Runner)

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RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Christopher McDonald (Fanboys)
Finola Hughes (General Hospital)
Tony Jay (Lois & Clark)
Malcolm McDowell (Heroes)
Tress MacNeille (Futurama)
Jason Marsden (Full House)
Dorian Harewood (Earth: Final ConflicT)
Brad Garrett (Finding Nemo)
Bruce Weitz (Hill Street Blues)
Kevin Michael Richardson (The Cleveland Show)
Robert Patrick (Terminator 2)
Brion James (Blade Runner)
Sherman Howard (Superboy)
Richard Moll (Scary Movie 2)
Frank Welker (The Simpsons)
Larry Drake (Firefly)
Michael York (Logans Run)
Ron Perlman (Hellboy)
Ron Glass (Firefly)
Miguel Ferrer (Robocop)
Carl Lumbly (Alias)
Marion Ross (That 70s Show)
Cam Clarke (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 80s)
Robert Hays (Airplane)
Gilbert Gottfried (Aladdin)
Sandra Bernmhard (2 Broke Girls)
Ernie Hudson (Ghostbusters)
Lori Petty (Tank Girl)
Mae Whitman (Boogeyman 2)
Michael Dorn (Star Trek: TNG)
Arleen Sorkin (Duet)
Mark Hamill (Star Wars)
Bob Hastings (McHale’s Navy)
Robert Costanzo (Total Recall)
Kevin Conroy (Batman: The Killing Joke)
Efrem Zimbalist Jr. (77 Sunset Strip)
Ted Levine (The Silence of The Lambs)
Jennifer Lien (Star Trek: Voyager)
Cree Summer (Batman Beyond)
Xander Berkeley (Kick-Ass)
Carolyn Seymour (Congo)
Edward Asner (Elf)
Dennis Haysbert (24)
Peter Gallagher (American Beauty)
Roddy McDowall (Planet of The Apes)
Paul Williams(The Muppet Movie)
John Glover (Smallville)
Henry Silva (Above The Law)
Melissa Joan Hart (Sabrina: TTW)
Jason Priestly (Tru Calling)
Chad Lowe (Unfaithful)
Sarah Douglas (Superman 2)
Billy West (Futurama)
Peri Gilpin (Frasier)
Miguel Sandoval (Medium)
Nicholle Tom (Gotham)
Olivia Hussey (IT)
David Warner (Tron)
Charles Napier (The Silence of The Lambs)

I think people can generally divided into two categories: Batman people or Superman people. Either you are into the dark, gloomy and atmospheric or the optimistic and all-American. I’ve always considered myself a Batman guy. As such, I was estatic when “Batman: The Animated Series” hit the airwaves. An excellent portrayal of the Caped Crusader, it set a new standard for cartoons, not on in terms of the look, but also the stories. Cartoons didn’t have to be made for children, but could aim higher.

So after the success of “Batman: TAS,” it was only natural for Superman to get a new chance at the small screen. The creative minds behind the Dark Knight’s cartoon renaissance took on Big Blue, and took him to heights not seen since the early Fleischer cartoons made him the original animated superhero standard bearer. By sticking to the character’s roots, but not allowing themselves to be restricted by a slavish attention to the comic books or movies, the creators created a cartoon Superman that fans could embrace, but those without a comic-book education would enjoy as well.

The majority of the episodes follow something of a pattern, as Supes faces a challenge from a villain, is overcome and figures out how to overcome that challenge just in time to get the bad guy before 22 minutes are over (unless it’s a multi-episode story arc.) When the show shakes free those format shackles is the moment when the series shines. Episodes like the series-opening three-show “The Last Son of Krypton,” “Speed Demons,” which co-stars The Flash and “My Girl,” which introduces the all-grown-up Lana Lang, are among some of the most enjoyable in this volume. That’s not to say that the straightforward adventures aren’t fun, as “Two’s a Crowd” and “Fun and Games” show.

Superman aficionados will enjoy appearances by Toyman, Bibbo, Metallo, Brainiac, Darkseid and a raucous two-episode appearance by the Main Man, Lobo. There’s also plenty of celebrity voices to listen for, including Lori Petty, Tim Daly, Dana Delaney, Ron Pearlman, Leslie Easterbrook, Lauren Tom, Brad Garrett, Mike Farrell, Shelley Fabares, Christopher McDonald, Malcolm McDowell, Bud Cort, Joe Bologna, Michael York and Joely Fisher. If you don’t know which characters they play, I won’t ruin it. It adds another layer of enjoyment to watching the show.

these shows are great, with great writing and animation in every episode. Highlights from this second volume include the episodes “Identitiy Crisis” which introduces Bizarro and “Heavy Metal” which introduces fellow superhero Steel, who teams up with Superman to battle Metallo.

“World’s Finest” is a three-part episode that teams Superman with Batman for the first time as they both take on their respective arch-nemesis, Lex Luthor and the Joker.

Other episodes feature appearances by a variety of villains and guest heroes – Dr. Fate shows up in “The Hand of Fate” – but the best episode of the collection has no guest appearance by a crime fighter or a super villain. “The Late Mr. Kent” is perhaps the most complex and best written of the 18 episodes in this volume – and perhaps the entire series. The story revolves around Clark Kent’s attempts to clear a man on death row before he is executed. For his troubles, someone tries to kill the intrepid reporter, and most people believe he is dead, leaving Superman alone, without his alter ego to rely upon. For a show that clocks in at less than thirty minutes, it offers some complex insights into the relationship between mild-mannered Clark Kent and his crime-fighting counterpart Superman.

The main arc of this season borrows from the comic book universe and brings Darkseid and his homeworld to the forefront. Hinted at earlier in the show, it’s in this third volume that the Lord of Apokolips finally gets his payoff – and his payback. In a trio of two-parters, Apokolips… Now!, Little Girl Lost, and Legacy, Superman fights one of his most ruthless foes in a series of episodes that offer some excellent action, drama, and science fiction fun.

While these episodes are very faithful to the mythos, we’ve also got a great selection of original stories that go to prove that with a character like Superman, there is no limit to the stories that you can tell. One of my favorites is Knight Time. When Batman goes missing, Superman pays a visit to Gotham City and tries to find out where his friend has gone. Supes inadvertently ends up masquerading as Batman – dressing up in the Dark Knight’s costume and everything! – and teams up with Robin to solve the mystery of the missing Bruce Wayne. Not only is the episode entertaining, but it’s also got a great sense of humor. Seeing Superman do his best impersonation of Batman is wonderful – Clark doesn’t know which utility pockets contain what, and his attempts at being grim (nodding his head instead of speaking) are great.

Watching these shows you get the feeling that it was during this final stretch of episodes that the show’s producers were finding new ways of playing with the formula that they had designed, and perfected, with both Batman: The Animated Series and Superman: The Animated Series. Not only do these Superman episodes have a lot of two-parters, but we’ve also got some great guest-stars; it seems that this show is the precursor to Justice League.

We’ve got heroes, Kyle Rayner from In Brightest Day, and villains, Ra’s Al Ghul in The Demon Reborn, and everyone in between – everyone’s favorite master of the sea, Aquaman in Fish Story. We also get an expansion of the Superman supporting cast when Supergirl makes a welcome appearance in the Little Girl Lost two-parter.

In one of the episodes found in this collection, Superman pays his final respects to a recently departed friend. In the graveyard, Superman comes to realize something very important: “In the end, the world didn’t really need a Super man. Just a brave one.” This show gives us a character who is both brave and super. It gives us a real hero. It gives us Superman… as good as he’s ever been.

REVIEW:TRU CALLING – SEASON 1 & 2

MAIN CAST

Eliza Dushku (Wrong Turn)
Shawn Reaves (Shadowheart)
Zach Galifianakis (The Hangover)
A.J. Cook (Final Destination 2)
Jessica Collins (Lois & Clark)
Benjamin Benitez (True Detective)
Jason Priestley (Beverly Hills, 90210)

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RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Matthew Bomer (Chuck)
Kristopher Polaha (Ringer)
Hudson Leick (Xena)
Heath Freeman (Bones)
John Newton (Superboy)
Callum Rennie (Flashforward)
Michael Trucco (Battlestar Galactica)
Missy Peregrym (Heroes)
Cobie Smulders (How I Met YOur Mother)
Joe Flanigan (Stargate: Atlantis)
Leonard Roberts (Smallville)
Kal Penn (Van Wilder)
Alaina Huffman (Stargate Universe)
Brendan Fletcher (News Movie)
Evangeline Lilly (Lost)
Ryan Kwanten (True Blood)
Mary Elizabeth Winstead (10 Cloverfield Lane)
Garwin Sanford (Stargate SG.1)
Chris William Martin (The Vampire Diaries)
Christina Hendricks (Mad Men)
Emily Holmes (Dark Angel)
Jodi Lyn O’Keefe (The Vampire Diaries)
Jennifer Spence (Stargate Universe)
Devon Gummersall (Roswell)
Sarah Deakins (Andromeda)
Clare Kramer (Buffy)
Alexandra Holden (The Hot Chick)
Michelle Harrison (The Flash)
Erica Durance (Smallville)
Rachel Hayward (Jingle All The Way 2)
Cotter Smith (Alias)
Wade Williams (Gangster Squad)
Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Watchmen)
Agam Darshi (Sanctuary)
Alec Newman (Dune)
Jesse Moss (Ginger Snaps)
Derek Hamilton (Disturbing Behavior)
Nick Wechsler (Roswell)
Daivd Lipper (Full house)
John Reardon (The Killing)
Carly Pope (Arrow)
Liz Vassey (Two and a Half Men)
Eric Christian Olsen (Not Another Teen Movie)
Lizzy Caplan (Cloverfield)
Parry Shen (Hatchet)
Erick Avari (Stargate)
Dominic Zamprogna (Odyssey 5)
Maggie Lawson (Two and a Half Men)
William Sadler (Iron Man 3)

Image result for tru callingAfter the grant sponsoring her internship loses funding, an aspiring medical student (Tru Davies) takes a job at the local morgue. On her first day of work, incidentally the 10th anniversary of her mother’s death, one of the bodies from the crypt springs to life for a brief moment and asks her for help. Instantly, her day “rewinds” and she quickly realizes that it’s her responsibility to try and save the woman who called out to her from a death that should not have happened, all the while trying to repair the lives of her immature brother and drug-addicted sister. With the help of her clumsy but loveable boss at the morgue, Tru strives to put right what once when wrong and hoping each time that her next leap will be the leap home.

Eliza Dushku played prominent characters in a few popular films before Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but it was her portrayal of Faith in the 3rd season of the popular television show that helped set her on the path to becoming a star. It’s understandable, then, that fans of the show were not particularly happy with her when she turned down a chance for a television series based around the Faith character in favor of Tru Calling. However, it’s equally understandable that as an actor, she would want to try new things, and carrying an unproven series with a new character offered her that opportunity.

On the surface, Tru Calling is a formula show. Borrowing elements from Quantum Leap, Early Edition and Goundhog Day, each episode follows a similar pattern. A body arrives in the morgue and asks for help triggering a rewind before the opening titles, and Tru spends the rest of the episode trying to piece together what caused the death and how to prevent it. The premise sounds interesting enough, but without clever writing and entertaining characters, such a concept could get stale very quickly, especially over an entire television season. Thankfully, the show’s creators appear to recognize this early on and make efforts to tweak the formula just enough to keep the stories fresh and interesting.

As with any show that hopes to build an audience, Tru Calling is not just about the “Death of the Week.” While it is the focus of each episode, not every day is a rewind, and Tru still has a life of her own and a family she cares about. The death of their mother and subsequent remarriage and general absence of their father has made things difficult on the Davies family, and Tru is struggling to keep them together. This is not an easy task as her sister Meredith (Jessica Collins) is a fast-paced businesswoman in denial over her drug habit, and her brother Harrison (Shawn Reaves) has a bit of a responsibility problem. And what superhero story would be complete without the lead character’s romantic relationships suffering from the strains of a secret double-life? Certainly not this one. All the pieces are there, including the loveable but awkward mentor (Zach Galifianakis) who always seems to know just a little more than he lets on.

The character of Tru is likeable and well meaning, and as she comes to empathize with those she is trying to help, the audience cannot help but do the same. Offsetting much of the dramatic tension is quite a bit of humor with Shawn Reaves’s performance as Harrison. He’s a complete screw-up, but he’s so charming and creative (not to mention very loyal to Tru) that his misadventures are a continuing source of entertainment. Equally effective is Davis who, although clumsy in his interactions with others, serves as a surrogate older brother and sounding board for Tru, something she desperately needs considering the double burden she carries.

Tru Calling is an excellent example of a television series that can flourish if given time to grow. Many of the early episodes aren’t anything special. They’re a bit predictable and formulaic, but underneath them is a level of quality worth exploring. As they find their rhythm and tweak the show a bit, everything falls into place, and by the season finale, it’s a pretty darn good show. While Eliza Dushku is a capable actress and portrays Tru very well, much of the show’s quality can be attributed to outstanding performances by the supporting cast, most notably Zach Galifianakis and Shawn Reaves, as well as the addition of Jason Priestley, who elevates the show to another level. What he brings to the character and the show is both nuanced and compelling, and it’s fascinating to watch him on screen.

The second season only offered a very brief six episodes before being pulled.  Once again, the season continues to improve over the early goings, ratcheting up the tension between Jack and Tru, which is effective due to the chemistry between the two and the fact that Priestley’s menacing performance is his finest work. It’s really too bad that the series couldn’t have at least finished out this second season, as it continued to improve and the final episode here really isn’t much of a conclusion.

REVIEW: MY NAME IS EARL – SEASON 1-4

MAIN CAST

Jason Lee (Dogma)
Ethan Suplee (Mallrats)
Jaime Pressly (Mom)
Nadine Velazquez (War)
Eddie Steeples (Raising Hope)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Leo Fitzpatrick (Bully)
Gregg Binkley (Galaxy Quest)
Dale Dickey (Iron Man 3)
Carson Daly (Josie and The Pussycats)
Trace Adkins (The Virginian)
Silas Weir Mitchell (Birds of Prey)
Kathryn Joosten (Desperate Housewives)
Tracy Ashton (Stuck on You)
Jesse Heiman (ChucK)
Dax Shepard (Zathura)
Montel Williams (Golden Shoes)
Giovanni Ribisi (Avatar)
Abdoulaye NGom (VR Troopers)
Missi Pyle (Dodgeball)
Timothy Stack (Cast Away)
Chloe Grace Moretz (The Fifth Wave)
Johnny Galecki (The Big Bang Theory)
Kristina Hayes (Expelled)
Beau Bridges (Stargate SG.1)
Niecy Nash (The Soul Man)
Blake Clark (50 First Dates)
Brett Butler (Anger Management)
John Ducey (Sabrina: TTW)
Jon Favreau (Iron Man)
Jeremy Howard (Accepted)
Lindsay Hollister (Bluberella)
Jessica Cauffiel (White Chicks)
Mark Christopher Lawrence (Chuck)
Patricia Belcher (Bones)
Adam Goldberg (Deja Vu)
Christine Taylor (Zoolander)
Samm Levine (Veronica Mars)
Ben Falcone (New Girl)
Timothy Olyphant (Go)
Malcolm David Kelley (Lost)
Juliette Lewis (Some Girl)
Clint Howard (Apollo 13)
Max Perlich (Blow)
Geoffrey Lewis (The Devil’s Rejects)
Miriam Shor (Bedazzled)
Shailene Woodley (Divergent)
John DiMaggio (Futurama)
Burt Reynolds (Boogie Nights)
Judy Greer (Jurassic World)
Marlee Matlin (Reasonable Doubts)
Jonathan Slavin (Free Enterprise)
Beth Grant (Wonderfalls)
Jenny McCarthy (Two and a Half Men)
Johnny Sneed (The Heartbreak Kid)
Christian Slater (True Romance)
John Leguizamo (Kick-Ass 2)
Jimmi Simpson (Date Night)
Ray Santiago (Ash vs Evil Dead)
DJ Qualls (Road Trip)
Bob Clendenin (That 70s Show)
Norm MacDonald (Dr. Dolittle)
Kurt Fuller (Ghostbusters 2)
Sean Astin (The Goonies)
Ben Foster (The Punisher)
Craig T. Nelson (The Incredibles)
Dee Wallace (E.T.)
Raymond Cruz (Training Day)
Alyssa Milano (Charmed)
Billy Gardell (Mike & Molly)
Mike O’ Malley (R.I.P.D.)
Tamala Jones (Castle)
Shawn Hatosy (Alpha Dog)
Jane Lynch (Glee)
Paris Hilton (Bottoms Up)
Kevin Sussman (The Big Bang Theory)
Michael Pena (American Hustle)
Jon Heder (Blades of Glory)
Bonita Friedericy (Chuck)
Deborah Ann Woll (Daredevil)
Nancy Lenehan (Sex Tape)
Mindy Sterling (Austin Powers)
Seth Green (Family Guy)
Suzy Nakamura (8mm)
Brandon Soo Hoo (Tropic Thunder)
David Arquette (Scream)
Katy Mixon (Mike & Molly)
Jenna Elfman (EdTV)
Brooke Nevin (The Comebacks)
Scoot McNairy (Argo)
Michael Pena (American Hustle)
Joel David Moore (Julia X)
Courtney Gains (Children of The Corn)
Jane Seymour (Smallville)
Jason Priestley (Tru Calling)
Eric Lange (Lost)
Neil Hopkins (The Net 2.0)
Eric Allan Kramer (The Incredible Hulk Returns)
Morgan Fairchild (Chuck)
Danny Glover (Earthsea)
Curtis Armstrong (New Girl)

 

When I heard that Jason Lee has going to be starring in a new TV series, I was psyched. Ever since his star-making turn in Mallrats,  Earl (Lee), a 250-time loser and minor criminal, won $100,000 on a scratch-off ticket, and was promptly hit by a car. While healing in the hospital, he learns about karma from Carson Daly (on TV) and decides to change his life by making a list of all the people he’s wronged and making it up to them. It’s a simple concept.Earl’s family and friends, including his brother Randy (Ethan Suplee), his ex-wife Joy (Jamie Pressly), her husband Darnell the Crabman (Eddie Steeples) and his friend Catalina (Nadine Velazquez), are alternately positive and negative influences as he tries to fulfill his debt to karma. Randy, a dopey man-child, helps his brother as much as he can, but because he’s not too bright, he tends to screw things up. That’s ok though, as he may have the purest intentions of anyone in the show, since he’s unable to truly be underhanded. The only person purer than Randy is Darnell, otherwise known as Crabman. Even more innocent than Randy, he lives a simple life and is a simple man. That he’s married to Joy, a woman to whom no level of evil is out of reach, shows what he can put up with in life and remain good-natured. She’s also incredibly funny, as Pressly does the best work of her career, playing this trailer bitch to the max. She’s balanced by Earl and Randy’s pal Catalina, the highly sexy maid at their hotel. Though she’s good at heart, there’s an inherent darkness in her that shines through with solid comic timing.Though there’s not a lot of story that progresses from episode to episode, the theme of the list ties everything together nicely. Whether he’s helping a suicidal man find a reason to live or giving his mom the Mother’s Day she deserved, Earl spreads his “golden rule” message, making the show one of the few TV comedies today where there’s a positive message but not a ton of cheese. There are episodes that have as much heartfelt sentiment as any “very special effort” just without the melodrama. Instead, the series is very real in the way it depicts people. They are neither all good or all bad. They just are, and they do what they need to to get by. Darnell isn’t ruled by a strict code of ethics. He just does what feels right. Earl has a thread of bad-guy in him, but he believes in the concept of good. The writers have managed to create some of the most complete sitcom characters in recent history, as one can see in “Dad’s Car,” when Joy’s love for her kids is revealed.There’s something special in this show that you only see in truly great ensemble casts, and that’s memorable supporting characters that aren’t your average “wacky neighbors.” It’s almost guaranteed that a laugh is coming when Crabman or Catalina are on screen. Even one-time characters, like Earl’s clingy ex-girlfriend or the many fantastic guest stars, make the most of their screentime by integrating seamlessly with the regulars, creativing a cohesive universe, giving you more reason to come back and visit with your friends in Camden County.It’s not just the writing and acting that’s top-notch though. The choice of music is often inspired, with pop and rock songs helping the show reach new emotional and comedic heights, including a beautiful use of “I’ve Got a Golden Ticket” in the season finale. Today, you expect soundtracks with such popular, well-known songs to end up replaced on DVD, but it seems that these shows are presented with  the music intact. Just as creative are the inventive visuals, which help tell bigger stories in the small amount of time the show has. It’s the small details like this that show the kind of effort that goes into the series.

The second season of the show didn’t mess with success, maintaining the things that worked so well for the series, including a very funny cast, a well-developed dynamic and a style that’s unique and energetic. What did change was part of a natural evolution, as the show’s smaller stories, which make up Earl’s karmic quest, are joined by a larger, season-long arc surrounding his ex-wife Joy (Jaime Pressly) and her effort to get revenge on a local store for refusing her return without a receipt. Not exactly the brightest bulb, she decides that the scales will be balanced if she steals one of the store’s trucks. Unfortunately for her, worst-laid plans are especially susceptible to failure and things spiral well out of her control, as, when she’s inevitably caught, it’s her third strike, which would mean a prison term, thus setting up Earl and his friends’ attempt to keep Joy out of the big house. Of course, this isn’t exactly a crackerjack squad of schemers, so things certainly don’t go smoothly, which makes for a hilarious running subplot.Despite the overarching Joy in Jail plot, the show doesn’t lose sight of its core concept: Earl and his list. As he knocks off item after item on the record of bad things he’s done, we get to meet more of the residents of Camden County, including the members of a circus freak show, a French exchange student Earl ran out of the country and an aging rocker. There are also a few familiar faces to help, including his gay friend Kenny, the lovably laid-back Crabman (Eddie Steeples, one of the TV’s most underrated actors) and Earl Hickey. Yep, after realizing he wrecked his own life, Earl adds himself to the list and spends a few episodes taking care of his own business.Earl’s not the only Hickey in the spotlight though this season, as his adorably simple brother Randy (played wonderfully by Suplee) is increasingly a focus on the show, even getting a few love interests, including the gorgeous and hilarious Catalina (Nadine Velazquez.) A huge part of what’s so beautifully and positively human about the series emanates from the good-hearted Randy, who, in many ways lives to be loved, especially by Earl. It’s that personality that makes an episode like “South of the Border,” in which Randy feels wronged by Earl, and the hurt overwhelms him. In Suplee’s capable hands, a character that might otherwise be a cartoon, is fully realized and truly real, as “Larceny of a Kitty Cat” shows, in exploring how Randy reacts to heartbreak, with the help of “Strangers with Candy” star Amy Sedaris.Sedaris is one of many guest stars who are seamlessly integrated into Earl’s world, including Christian Slater, Roseanne Barr, Judy Greer, Jenny McCarthy, John Leguizamo, Kathy Kinney, Mike O’Malley, DJ Qualls, Dog the Bounty Hunter, Charles S. Dutton, Sean Astin and John Waters. Each one works great in the context of the series, especially returning guests like Beau Bridges (as Earl’s dad,) Giovanni Ribisi (Earl’s insane friend Ralph) and Tim Stack (portraying TV’s Tim Stack in a great meta joke) and repeated guest star Marlee Matlin, who’s fantastic as Joy’s deaf lawyer (along with her interpreter Jonathan Slavin.) But none of them were as fantastic or as inspired as the addition of Chubby, the owner of the local strip club, dry cleaner and rib restaurant. Considering Lee’s use of the phrase “Reynolds style” in films and Earl’s glorious ‘stache, getting Burt Reynolds to play the utterly mental Chubby was brilliant, as was his performance in “Jump for Joy,” the Catalina-centered episode that will make any hetero man a fan of “Jump Around.” But even better than that, was the appearance of Chubby’s son in “Two Balls, Two Strikes.” If Reynolds’ casting was inspired, there is no phrase to describe the choice of Norm MacDonald to play his son, considering MacDonald’s famously bad “SNL” impersonation.It’s this kind of decision-making that makes the series so original and fun, and its seen frequently throughout the season. “Buried Treasure” takes the old “Rashomon” concept and recasts it into a series of mini episodes of “Earl,” using the show’s style (and iconic opening) to great result, while “Our ‘Cops’ is On” takes the popular police show and brings it to Earl’s neighborhood. Though the concept is pretty consistent from episode to episode, there’s no such thing as your average installment of “Earl,” as each is a 20-minute masterpiece of comedy and creativity, starring one of the finest comedic casts working today.

By putting Earl behind bars for almost half the season, the series proved it was bigger than its concept, as the situation let him be the man he’s been for two seasons, while changing him organically, as he adapts to prison life. Admittedly, his time in jail isn’t too different for him, with the warden (a marvelously inept Craig T. Nelson) taking Karma’s place, as Earl helps him out in exchange for an early release. But the warden isn’t quite as generous as his cosmic benefactor, so life isn’t quite as rewarding, which pushes Earl back toward the dark side. Not to spoil anything, but Karma’s not a big fan of Bad Earl, and let’s him know so, quite forcibly.

Things aren’t all bad for Earl though, as his pals, including his dense brother Randy and Joy’s husband Crabman, help him out when he really needs it, which this season is for an extended period of time that sets up one of the show’s more unique conceits, as Earl finds himself in a fantasy sitcom world that’s genuinely amusing to enjoy. Earl also meets a special new lady in his life, when he falls for Billie (Alyssa Milano) the girlfriend of his prison pal Frank (Michael Rappaport.) Though we’ve seen Earl on the short end of the relationship stick, this new girl tests Earl’s patience, as well as what he believes he is all about. To say that Billie is a bit on the confusing side, is a massive understatement, as her mood swings and mindset change with the breeze. That said, we have rarely seen Earl under these conditions, it makes for some genuine comedy. The two-part season finale, which pits Billie against Earl’s list brings everything back to center.

One of the best parts about the show is the world in which these characters live, which has been enhanced by repeat guest stars and unique episode concepts. In addition to Nelson as the warden, new arrivals to Camden County include Vincent Pastore, Jane Lynch, Paris Hilton, Jon Hader, John Henson and Shawn Hatosy, some of whom fit in better than others.  Meanwhile, returning this season as guests are Giovanni Ribisi, Tim Stack, Beau Bridges and DJ Qualls, who help make Camden County feel real. Thus, when the show goes back to the well for a two-part “Cops” episode, this time titled “Our Other ‘Cops’ Is On,” it just makes sense that this town could be captured twice by the cameras of the popular police show, and feel no shame about it.Though the unique situations in this season make for some great episodes, the best would have to be “Creative Writing,” which finds Earl taking part in a creative writing class in prison. Though Earl struggles with the inspiration to write, it quickly spreads to his friends and family, which results in ridiculous fantasy scenes, including an animated sequence, Randy’s spy fantasy, a telenovela starring Catalina and, best of all, a smooth R&B jam from Crabman. It’s the show’s ability to bounce between the more realistic adventures of Earl and pals and sequences like these that makes it such a treat to watch a show on a regular basis, because you never know what you’re going to see next.

The season continues to see Earl visiting others he’s wronged from his past, including one episode that involves his own parents (“Monkeys Take a Bath”). In the episode, Earl and Randy decide they want to apologize to their sensitive childhood neighbor (played by David Paymer). While the two thought the neighbor moved because of their teasing, he actually moved because of an affair with Randy and Earl’s mom. When Joy finds out, she approaches Earl’s mom, first calling her a hypocrite, then wondering why they couldn’t have gotten along if they were both so similar. Of course, Joy gets a negative – and, not surprisingly, familiar – response.
Later in the season, “Nature’s Game Show” offers up another darkly amusing gag as a twister (and the show’s attempt at showing a twister coming through is about the most hilariously cheap portrayal of a twister I’ve seen in ages) passes by the town, resulting in a “commonly accepted rule” coming into play: the rule of “finders keepers”, as townsfolk scatter to pick up whatever they can from the items that have been blown around by the twister.However, one of the biggest highlights of the season comes in the second half, with “Darnell Outed”, a 2-parter that starts with Earl trying to help Joy get on the new reality show, “Estrada or Nada”, starring the former “C.H.I.P.S.” actor. Upon seeing the ad for the show, Earl proclaims to Randy, “We truly live in the golden age of television.” Shortly after, Earl introduces Joy’s audition tape for “Fear Factor”. While Pressley has offered up some very funny performances during the four seasons of this series, this is certainly one of the best, even offering up a few genuinely touching moments. The episode sees Joy getting humiliated, which also results in Darnell’s witness protection program cover being blown. The second half has Joy (who renames herself Goldie) and Darnell finding themselves in a new life in the ‘burbs. Upset that he couldn’t make Joy’s dream of being famous come true, he sets off to find her – by mailing himself and Randy to Joy’s new forwarding address. A few episodes later, Earl and Randy have to explain to Mr. Turtle (who has had a long journey) what happened.
My Name is Earl remains a great series and the series certainly goes out on a high note with this terrific fourth and final season – there’s not a bad episode in the bunch, and a few are particularly funny. It does end on a cliffhanger so be warned.