REVIEW: ANOTHER DAY IN PARADISE

CAST

James Woods (Be Cool)
Melanie Griffith (Tempo)
Vincent Kartheiser (Angel)
Natasha Gregson Wagner (Wonderland)
James Otis (The Black Dahlia)
Brent Briscoe (Spider-Man 2)
Peter Sarsgaard (Knight and Day)
Lou Diamond Phillips (Young Guns)

A vending machine robbery by small-time thief and drug addict Bobbie (Vincent Kartheiser) goes badly awry, and his friends contact street-wise thief and part-time druggie Mel (James Woods) to patch him up.Recognizing a kindred spirit, Mel befriends Bobbie and his girlfriend Rosie (Natasha Gregson Wagner), inviting them to join him and his long-suffering girlfriend Sid (Melanie Griffith) on a drug robbery which should set them up for life. The seemingly simple robbery is a great success, but the sale of the drugs afterward fails badly, and Mel and Bobbie are shot.The four take refuge with the Reverend, who charges them half of their haul from the robbery to care for them. In a desperate attempt to recover their losses, Mel involves the crew in a disastrous, ill-advised jewelry robbery, and they become caught up in a web of violence that rapidly spirals out of control.Clark’s cinema vérité style of direction (a la KIDS) supplies the feeling of uneasiness throughout the film and heightens the impact of the jarring violence. The soundtrack of great soul tunes effectively mirrors the contradictory feelings of despair and hope that plague the characters. The film is not without flaws but comes highly recommended

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REVIEW: THE CLEVELAND SHOW – SEASON 1-4

MAIN CAST

Mike Henry (Family Guy)
Sanaa Lathan (Blade)
Nia Long (Stigmata)
Reagan Gomez-Preston (Jerry Maguire)
Kevin Michael Richardson (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2012)
Jason Sudeikis (Son of Zorn)
Seth MacFarlane (Ted)
Jess Harnell (Animaniacs)
Arianna Huffington (Edtv)
Jamie Kennedy (Son of The Mask)
David Lynch (Twin Peaks)
Aseem Batra (Scrubs)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Alex Borstein (Faily Guy)
Fergie (Nine)
Seth Green (Idle Hands)
Corey Holcomb (The Wedding Ringer)
Mila Kunis (Bad Moms)
Jennifer Tilly (Curse of Chucky)
Fred Tatasciore (Hulk Vs)
Patrick Warburton (Ted)
Kristen Bell (The Good Place)
Glenn Howerton (That 80s Show)
Nat Faxon (Reno 911)
Maurice LaMarche (Futurama)
Marina Sirtis (Star Trek: TNG)
Frances Callier  (He’s Just Not That Into You)
Craig Robinson (This Is The End)
Will Forte (The Lego Movie)
Stockhard Channing (The Business of Strangers)
Jane Lynch (Glee)
Lucas Grabeel (Smallville)
Josh Gad (Frozen)
Edward Asner (Elf)
Will Sasso (Movie 43)
Matthew Morrison (Glee)
Kanye West (Anchorman 2)
Bebe Neuwirth (Jumanji)
Kit Pongetti (Scrubs)
Taraji P. Henson (Hidden Figures)
Keke Palmer (Scream Queens)
Nancy Cartwright (The Simpsons)
Emily Deschanel (Bones)
Lea Michele (Scream Queens)
Mike Judge (King of The Hill)
Quinton “Rampage” Jackson (The A-Team)
Rob Riggle (21 Jump Street)
Niecy Nash (scream Queens)
Dawnn Lewis (Futurama)
Carl Reiner (Two and a Half Men)
Amber Heard (Zombieland)
Cory Monteith (Glee)
Wilmer Valderrama (That 70s Show)
Vincent Katheiser (Angel)
Christine Lakin (Family Guy)
Justin Timberlake (The Social Network)
Will.i.am (X-Men Origins)
James Karen (Wall Street)
Lizzy Caplan (Cloverfield)
Sofia Vergara (Machete Kills)
Hank Azaria (The Simpsons)
Eliza Dushku (Tru Calling)
Mark Hamill (Star Wars)
Katee Sackhoff (Battlestar Galactica)
Danny Trejo (Machete)
Robert Rodriguez (Sin City)
Ric Flair (Uncle Grandpa)
John Slattery (Mad Men)
Owain Yeoman (Supergirl)
Tom Kenny (Super Hero Squad)
Rosie Perez (Pineappe Express)
Edy Ganem (Devious Maids)
Ella North (Criminal Minds)
Florence Henderson (The BRady Bunch)
Rutina Wesley (Hannibal)
Darren Criss (Glee)
Bryan Cranston (Argo)
Loretta Devine (Crash)
Phylicia Rashad (Creed)
Will Arnett (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Krysten Ritter (Jessica Jones)
Jan Hooks (3rd Rock From The Sun)

This is a good solid comedy who everybody should enjoy, it can have some abusive language but it is expected to as this is from the same minds who thought up Family Guy but in this they make it funny rather than offensive. I would reccomend this product to anyone and tell others who sometimes get a product based on the strength of different reviews is to ignore those who have given one star as they are all people criticize it for essentially not being Family Guy or American Dad.

EPISODE HIGHLIGHTS ARE

1.1) Pilot

After having his house damaged by Peter once again, Cleveland Brown and Cleveland Jr decide to leave Quahog and head to California to pursue his dream of being a minor league scout for a professional baseball organization. While passing through his hometown of Stoolbend, Virginia he bumps into his old flame, Donna Tubbs. She invites him to stay at her house for a couple of days, where Donna relays to Cleveland how she needs a father figure around for her kids after splitting with her husband, Robert. While at Donna’s house, he is introduced to Rallo and Roberta, Donna’s kids, and the neighbors, including the local redneck and the family of bears, which include father Tim, his wife, and son Raymond.

1.2) Da Doggone Daddy-Daughter Dinner Dance

Cleveland tries to make inroads with his new stepdaughter Roberta by asking her to accompany him to the school’s father/daughter dance. Last year Robert did not show up. The evening seems to be going smoothly until Cleveland runs over the family pet on his way to get an ice cream cake for celebration. Then his redneck neighbor Lester takes it and eats it. This kills his chances of being accepted by his new kids. Rallo and Cleveland look for meadowlark lemon and Cleveland dives in nasty places looking to keep the secret but Lester and the others tell him to be honest

1.3) The One About Friends

Cleveland notices his son, Cleveland Jr. has no friends, and sets out to find him a good friend. He finds out that Lester’s son, Ernie, has no friends, which Cleveland realizes is a perfect opportunity to have his son make friends with another friendless child. It goes well, but things take a turn for the worse. Ernie leaves his family and joins the Brown family, much to their dismay. Ernie is unsanitary and disgusting, which pushes Donna to make Cleveland call child services and get Ernie back in his home.

1.4) Birth of a Salesman

Cleveland looks for a job, first trying to be a grizzled police officer two days from retirement and also as a singing salesman at the Stoolbend Flea Market. Tim helps him get a job at Waterman Cable as a phone solicitor. Cleveland runs into an old high-school friend, Terry Kimple who is working as a cable installer for Waterman. When they were in school, Terry took the rap when they were busted for drugs. When Cleveland excels as a salesman, causing business to dry up for Tim, Tim prays for bad things to happen to Cleveland. Meanwhile, Roberta and Rallo feel resentment towards Cleveland Jr. for stealing their mother’s affections from them and try to make him look bad until they learn the true extent of his feelings towards his own mother.

1.5) Cleveland Jr.’s Cherry Bomb

While watching a baseball game at Stoolbend Stadium, Cleveland sees Roberta kissing with Federline Jones. Cleveland tries to talk to Roberta about maintaining her virginity but while she admits she has yet to do anything, makes it clear that it is none of his business. Following the advice of his friends, he takes the family to church to hear about maintaining purity. Cleveland Jr. gets carried away in the moment and pledges his purity to Cleveland’s dismay.

1.7) A Browns Thanksgiving

Cleveland celebrates his first Thanksgiving with his new family. His parents, Cookie Brown and Levar ‘Freight Train’ Brown arrive for Thanksgiving. Cleveland’s dismal relationship with his father nearly lands him in a fight with his own father, until Donna’s Auntie Momma shows up. She starts making comments on how outrageous she is after farting. Freight Train gains an infatuation over Auntie Momma and decides to have sex with her after a game of football. However, when Cleveland was taking out the garbage, he saw Auntie Momma in the bathroom, with a penis. Despite that Freight Train had sex with Auntie Momma (who secretly is a man), he did not even know about it.

1.9) A Cleveland Brown Christmas

Cleveland and the family go to pick out a Christmas tree at Lester’s lot. Cleveland has his eye on a nice large tree but Rallo insists on a smaller tree. Cleveland finds out that Donna and the family have been lying to Rallo, telling him the reason Robert cannot come around during the holidays is that he is an FBI agent. When Cleveland fills in as Santa Claus at his office holiday party, he has one too many egg nogs and lets the truth slip about Rallo’s father. Rallo fails to connect that it was Cleveland posing as Santa and takes out his hostility on the figure of Santa. With Rallo’s admiration for his dad destroyed, Cleveland tries to reconnect father and son in an attempt to save Rallo’s Christmas spirit.

1.10) Field of Streams

After a nostalgic flashback to the glory days as his high school’s baseball all-star, Cleveland visits his alma mater to find out there is no longer a team because he and his friends insulted Wally as a teen. Now Principal Wally gives Cleveland one week to raise money to re-build the stadium before the season begins. They raise the cash from a generous donation by Mr. Waterman and organize the team on time. Cleveland then steps in as head coach and dusts off his retired jersey in an attempt to convince Cleveland Jr. to play ball instead of joining the math club. Cleveland Jr. turns out to have no skills, even going as far as deliberately interfering with a play to save a ladybug.

1.11) Love Rollercoaster

Cleveland Jr. is building a model rocket for the school science fair. Roberta’s new teacher, Ms. Eck challenges Roberta to prove she can get by without her looks and has her alter her appearance by wearing a ‘fat suit’. Her first day as ‘Tyra’ gets off in an inauspicious start when she is rejected by Federline and the teachers she previously had wrapped around her finger. Cleveland Jr. sees her alone in the cafeteria and warms up to her. When he shows her his model rocket, which is not only failing but is being outmatched by the geeks who are translating Klingon, she helps him with the design flaw. They win the science fair – probably because of the TIE fighters the rocket deployed to attack the geeks – and Ms. Eck gives Roberta and A Grade for proving she more than just looks.

1.12) Our Gang

When the worst kids in the school go too far and Principal Wally expels the group, Coach Cleveland comes to the rescue by taking a group of delinquent teens under his wing. In an effort to teach them life skills, he proposes they go into business making and selling cookies. The kids however, misinterpret his baking terms for drugs and start dealing. Business is good until another gang takes over the area, stealing the drugs and money from the Crazy Eights. Cleveland rushes in to steal back the goods still believing them to be cookies. When he finds out they are drugs, he destroys them by flushing them down the toilet but faces a demand to return them or lose Cleveland Jr. who was captured. Cleveland rallies the Crazy Eights but becomes endangered himself.

1.13) Buried Pleasure

At Stoolfest, a local community festival, Cleveland calls Holt to tell him of a concert. he finds Holt out shopping with his mother and unable to go. Later that night at The Broken Stool, the guys tell Holt he is too accommodating to his mother’s wishes. When Donna sees Holt in a rage from their bedroom, she shows Cleveland and when they see Holt rolling up a figure in a carpet and take it away they assume Holt killed his mother. Cleveland helps the police set up a police sting operation and get Holt to show them where he buried the body…a sex doll that Holt decided he needed to get away from. Holt admits to Cleveland he has not had luck with real women and they set Holt up with Jane, a girl from the Waterman Cable office.

1.15) Once Upon A Tyne In New York

When Donna is not thrilled by marred life, Cleveland reveals that he and Donna have not yet taken their honeymoon. When soliciting ideas from the gang, Coach McFall reveals his former fling with Tyne Daly in New York City. Inspired, Cleveland takes Donna on a road trip to the Big Apple, and to Donna’s dismay, Cleveland allows the Stoolbend gang to tag along while the kids are left with Terry. The next morning, Donna and Cleveland try to enjoy their time while the rest of the gang wander off but they soon get into trouble, requiring Cleveland to come to the rescue and break off his day with Donna. Cleveland tries to make it up by taking Donna to a Broadway show but it is a cover for helping Coach McFall reunite with Tyne Daly. When Coach McFall actually meets Tyne Daly, they find his breakup was not exactly under pleasant circumstances. Frustrated with being neglected by Cleveland, she leaves and returns to the hotel bar.

1.16) The Brown Knight

After a stressful day at the school, Donna comes home and is in no mood for Cleveland’s shenanigans. At The Broken Stool, the guys tease Cleveland about Donna running things. When he confronts Donna, she admits she had to develop a take-charge attitude to survive being a single mom but agrees to lighten up a little for Cleveland. At an ATM, a robber attempts to take their money and Donna’s wedding ring. While Donna struggles with the thief to protect her ring, Cleveland runs around helplessly. When the thief’s gun goes off and Cleveland is shot, Donna feels horrible and agrees to restrain herself more for Cleveland.

1.17) Gone With The Wind

When Cleveland is diagnosed with high cholesterol, Donna puts him on a new high-fiber diet, which causes an intestinal backlash. When it begins to affect his work, he goes to see Dr. Fist who gives him a written note card explaining that he has a medical condition which he soon takes advantage of. Cleveland quickly realizes his gas might score him a few points in the Broken Stool’s karaoke contest. Donna is appalled that Cleveland should resort to such disgusting behavior but they are interrupted by a call that brings news of Loretta’s death. Cleveland’s old friend Quagmire from Quahog arrives with the body and explains that she was accidentally killed by the bathtub falling out of the damaged house gag when Peter tried to decorate his & Lois’ bedroom with a brachiosaurus skeleton Brian dug up, but unintentionally dropped his hardhat on a lever, causing the crane to lose control and slam the skeleton on Loretta’s house, of which Cleveland had survived numerous times. Worried for Cleveland Jr., they try to break the news gently and find he has already put his mother’s death behind him. The guilt of having survived the same accident that killed Loretta multiple times causes Cleveland to break down for a while, until he realises why he is upset when Donna helps him move on as well, prior to winning the karaoke competition.

1.18) Brotherly Love

Acting as his brother’s wingman, Rallo gives Cleveland Jr. a few pointers on how to win over the girl of his dreams, Chanel. Although when Cleveland Jr. finds out that her boyfriend is local rap star Kenny West. Cleveland Jr challenges Kenny to a rap battle to win Chanel’s heart. Meanwhile, during a cable installation, Cleveland and Terry somehow get mistaken for male strippers and decide to make a new career out of it. But not if Donna has anything to say about it.

1.19) Brown History Month

Cleveland and Cleveland Jr. teach Donna and the kids their tradition of celebrating Black History Month. However, when Rallo learns about his heritage at school, he provokes Cleveland into a battle royale with neighbor, Lester.

1.20) Cleveland’s Angels

After Cleveland gambles away Roberta’s college fund, Kendra discovers that Cleveland was actually cheated out of his money and recruits Donna and Arianna for a “Cleveland’s Angels” mission.

1.21) You’re the Best Man, Cleveland Brown

Cleveland finds out that Cleveland Jr. will inherit all of his ex-wife’s belongings and that his parents, Cookie and Freight Train, plan to remarry. To add insult to injury, Freight Train dumps Cleveland as his best man in favor of Donna’s ex-husband, Robert.

2.1 ) Harder, Better, Faster, Browner

Cleveland attempts to get Kenny West’s rap career off the ground and President Barack Hussein Obama pays Stoolbend a visit.

2.2) Cleveland Live!

In an animation first, The Cleveland Show offers the audience a behind-the-scenes look at the “filming” of the episode. When Cleveland and Donna attempt to celebrate their anniversary, their unruly kids and disruptive friends, including Donna’s ex-husband, Robert, get in their way

2.3) How Cleveland Got His Groove Back

Instead of continuing on their family-heritage trip to Africa, Cleveland and the family end up turning their layover into a tropical vacation.

2.4) It’s The Great Pancake, Cleveland Brown

Cleveland crushes Cleveland Jr.’s spirit when he forbids him from trick-or-treating because he thinks he is too old. Junior reinvents himself as a “cool kid” and is invited to attend a Halloween party with Roberta. Meanwhile, Rallo goes against his mom’s wishes and eats way more Halloween candy than his teeth can handle.

2.5) Little Man on Campus

Coach Cleveland gets greedy to win the high school baseball state championship game and turns to cheating when his star pitcher goes out for the season.

2.8) Murray Christmas

When Rallo’s teacher forces him to spend the weekend at a retirement home to get to know the senior citizens during the holidays, he meets Murray, who teaches him about Hanukkah. In an attempt to rekindle Murray’s holiday spirit, Rallo helps him escape, but when his new friend’s health begins to suffer, Rallo has to bring Murray back to the home. Meanwhile, Cleveland trains for a boxing match against his bully of a father, Freight Train, which ends with some bumps and bruises.

2.9) Beer Walk

Donna, frustrated by her husband’s laziness on the weekends, nags Cleveland to help her around the house and to do something more with his life. To prove to Donna he can be as charitable as her, Cleveland recruits his buddies from Quahog and Stoolbend to participate in the First Annual Charity Beer Walk. When Donna gets injured at the event, Cleveland has to take over the housework.

2.13) A Short Story and a Tall Tale

Cleveland and Donna celebrate Valentine’s Day with a trip to Los Angeles after scoring courtside seats to the all-star basketball game featuring Kevin Garnett, Dwight Howard, LeBron James, Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki, Shaquille O’Neal and Dwyane Wade. Caught up in the excitement, Cleveland gets rowdy and talks smack to the players from the sideline throughout the game. The basketball champs, feeling hurt, seek revenge by paying a surprise visit to Stoolbend and putting Cleveland in his place.

2.14) Terry Unmarried

When Cleveland discovers he and his wife are not actually married, and his best friend Terry is gay and in a relationship, they all decide to go to Vermont for a double wedding; Cleveland Jr. tries to get Rallo to break a nasty habit.

2.15) The Blue, The Gray and The Brown

After Cleveland fights to save the town’s drive-in movie theater, his efforts to preserve the town’s history is noticed by the Stoolbend Preservation Society and he is invited to attend a private dinner party at the home of the great-great-grandson of the town’s founding father. While at the event, Cleveland learns of the town’s legacy and decides to take back his beloved town.

2.16) The Way The Cookie Crumbles

After Cleveland learns that his parents have been scammed out of their life savings, he plans to bring down the con man who targeted his mother.

2.18) The Essence of Cleveland

Cleveland is reunited with an old classmate “Fatty Patty”, who is now skinny and beautiful and still has a crush on Cleveland.

2.22) Hot Cocoa Bang Bang

Cleveland takes the entire family to a comic convention in an attempt to sell his comic book, “Waderman.” While there, Donna is horrified to find out that Robert Rodriguez is screening a Blaxploitation film that she starred in when she was younger, and Cleveland Jr., tired of Comic-Con being a playground for Hollywood to peddle their projects, gathers a band of geeks together to take the Con back to its true origins.

3.1) BFFs

Cleveland is upset when he finds out that his best friend Peter Griffin came to Stoolbend and did not call him to hang out. In an effort to bond with the guys, Cleveland takes them on a camping trip hosted by guest star Ric Flair.

3.2) The Hurricane!

When a storm hits Stoolbend, the Browns are forced to salvage what’s left of their vacation and Cleveland, Jr. shocks everyone with a proclamation of his religious beliefs.

3.3) Nightmare on Grace Street

Donna makes Cleveland and Rallo spend the night in a haunted house. Meanwhile, Cleveland’s new friend goes on a murderous rampage and Roberta is stuck in love triangle between a vampire and a wolf.

3.5) Yemen Party

When Donna joins a women’s support group and starts to complain about how Cleveland treats her, Cleveland dresses up as a woman to infiltrate the group and show Donna how good her life really is. Meanwhile, Cleveland Jr. and Rallo join forces to stop the playground bully, Rodney.

3.6) Sex and The Biddy

Rallo suspicions that Murray’s new girlfriend is a gold digger are confirmed, but not before it’s too late, and Cleveland finds a shortcut to working out and improving his body to impress Donna.


3.7) Die Semi-Hard

While staging their own live nativity scene, Cleveland tells his family his version of the greatest holiday-themed blockbuster movie ever told. This is the first episode parodying a film.

3.8)  Y Tu Junior Tambien

When Junior starts dating a very attractive young lady named Cecelia, Cleveland gets green with envy because Junior’s one-upped him and suspicious of her motives. When things start to get serious between the two lovers, Cleveland suspects that the young woman is using Junior to get a green card. But it goes too far. Lester calls the immigration agency, and in an attempt to keep Cecelia in the country, Cleveland Jr. marries Cecelia and moves out. Meanwhile, Junior attempts to get used to living on his own.

3.9) There Goes El Neighborhood

After getting himself into several cultural misunderstandings with his new and popular Latina neighbor, Cleveland attempts to make amends by demonstrating his knowledge of Latino culture. But Cleveland gets into a bind when he offers to babysit Choni’s son and winds up losing him. Meanwhile, Junior sets up his new wife Cecelia on a Valentine’s Day date but his jealousy gets the best of him.

3.10) Dancing With The Stools

Determined to claim the first place trophy at the annual “Dancing with the Stools” ballroom dance competition, Donna recruits Cleveland Jr. to be her partner. But their hopes of taking home the big prize misses a beat when Cleveland Jr. professes his love for Donna just moments before their well-rehearsed routine. Meanwhile, Roberta babysits Rallo for a week, and learns that domestic responsibilities are not as easy as they seem.

3.11) Brown Magic

Excited to spend quality father-stepson bonding time with Rallo, Cleveland takes Rallo to his very first magic show, where they get hired to be the opening act. Thanks to Rallo’s sharp wit in the role of the puppet, Cleveland and Rallo’s ventriloquist act becomes a hit. As their act gets rave reviews by fans and ventriloquist critic Graham Kensington, Rallo grows tired of Cleveland taking all the credit for their success. Not one to be taken for a dummy, Rallo proves that he is the heart of their comedic act.

3.15) The Men In Me

Cleveland is labeled “The Whitest Black Man in America” after he wins a dance competition for the chance to attend a pop sensation’s concert. Unable to shake off his new reputation, Cleveland is determined to understand his roots and where he came from. Everything starts to make sense when he is reunited with his former nanny Barbara (voiced by Florence Henderson), a high class woman with a taste for refined culture. But even though Cleveland’s nanny influenced many of his interests growing up, Cleveland finally learns that happiness comes from being comfortable in your own skin.

3.16) Frapp Attack!

After Donna becomes jealous when Cleveland gets too close to a female co-worker, a music video made from footage of his workplace shenanigans goes viral and attracts the attention of a big-time music producer. He is attracted to Donna as well, making Cleveland jealous.

3.17) American Prankster

One of Rallo’s pranks goes too far and gets Cleveland, Jr. kicked out of the scouts. Cleveland takes matters into his own hands and threatens to send Rallo to juvenile detention, but things backfire when Rallo runs away.

3.19) Jesus Walks

Devout church choir girl Vanessa (Fergie) catches Cleveland, Jr.’s eye, and he eagerly volunteers to go on a church trip to be in her good graces. Vanessa’s fellow choir member, Hunter (Darren Criss), confronts him for going to church for the wrong reasons, but the tables turn when Vanessa winds up being a handful for the boys. Meanwhile, Donna’s ex-boyfriend returns home from Iraq and discovers that she is married.

3.20) Flush of Genius

Cleveland Jr. profiles his dad for a report on his favorite American, but when Cleveland falls off the toilet and suffers a concussion, he loses Cleveland Jr.’s admiration. Meanwhile, Rallo gets excited when he realises he has grown tall enough to ride his favorite roller coaster.

3.21) Mama Drama

Hoping to lift Donna’s spirits on Mother’s Day, Cleveland hires an actress to play Donna’s estranged mother, Dee Dee Tubbs (Phylicia Rashād). But when an unexpected event leads the real Dee Dee to find Cleveland, he stages one last effort to reunite Donna with her mother, and the unlikely meeting helps the two women forge a new mother-daughter bond.

3.22) All You Can Eat

After Cleveland Jr. gets bullied by Oliver Wilkerson and his gang again, Roberta gives him a makeover, and his stylish new look gives him the confidence to approach Daisy, a misfit who catches his attention. But when Daisy mistakes Cleveland Jr. for a woman, they decide to make a statement and go to the prom as a gay couple. Meanwhile, Cleveland’s authority as his favorite snack food’s ultimate expert is threatened by another fan.

4.1) Escape from Goochland

Cleveland and the gang visit their rival high school in Goochland for the annual football game, but when Federline, the gang’s designated driver (who Cleveland only brought along because he was the original designated driver and he wanted to drink), destroys the car belonging to Cleveland’s nemesis Chet Butler, they must find a way to escape their enemy’s home turf. Meanwhile, Donna takes back Roberta’s Halloween hooker costume, but decides to wear it instead, and Roberta and Cleveland Jr. play pranks around Stoolbend when they dress up as Donna and Cleveland.

4.2) Menace II Secret Society

Cleveland confronts now super-famous rapper Kenny West about not sharing credit for the megahit they created together, “Be-Cleve in Yourself”. He soon discovers Kenny’s involvement in a secret hip-hop society with will.i.am, ?uestlove, Bruno Mars and Nicki Minaj. Meanwhile, Cleveland Jr. starts a polka band after being rejected by his school’s marching band.

4.3) A General Thanksgiving Episode

When Holt misses his plane to Florida for Thanksgiving, he reveals that he was not even invited to his estranged family’s holiday dinner. To help him get over his Thanksgiving blues, Rallo invites Holt’s father over for the holidays, which ends up making Holt’s family relationship worse. Meanwhile, Cleveland tries to open an airport bar, but ends up drunk and flying a stolen airplane.

4.4) Turkey Pot Die

Cleveland’s idea to take Cleveland Jr. to a turkey farm to bag one for Thanksgiving dinner does not fly with the young guy, who instead hatches a plan to free the birds. Meanwhile, Rallo and Donna team to construct a Thanksgiving Day float.

4.6) Tis The Cleveland To Be Sorry

Cleveland discovers that the food served at the local homeless shelter is much better than it is at home, so he pretends to be homeless to benefit from the meals. But when the community catches onto his ill-spirited scheme, they confront him and he must apologize to everyone. Meanwhile, chauvinistic store owner Harris Grundle hires Roberta as a Christmas elf, but requires all of Santa’s female helpers to wear sexy elf costumes.

4.8) Wide World of Cleveland Show

Cleveland hosts a special episode showing what The Cleveland Show is like in different parts of the world.

4.9) Here Comes The Bribe

After Cleveland botches his part during the renewal of their wedding vows, Donna hustles him to marriage counseling, where the mediator informs Cleveland that, for a price, he can slant the “treatments” the husband’s way. Meanwhile, Junior’s refrigerator breaks, so he and Rallo turn it into a hotel-style minibar.

4.10) When a Man (or a Freight Train) Loves His Cookie

When Freight Train misses his and Cookie’s anniversary bash, she decides to hit the road with George Clinton and the P-Funk All-Stars, leaving Freight Train and Cleveland to track her down. Meanwhile, Junior’s visit to an office-supply store sparks an elaborate fantasy.

4.11) Brownsized

With the promise of six-months severance pay (in exchange for everyone else losing their health benefits), Cleveland deep-sixes his job, but is having a tough time trying to find a way to tell Donna. Meanwhile, Federline forgets his and Roberta’s anniversary, so Rallo finds her a handsome new man, Devon (voiced by Kid Cudi), but finds that Devon is straitlaced and boring to the point of being annoying and holier than thou.

4.13) A Rodent Like This

A rat running rampant in the house sends Donna and the children to stay with her mother, while Cleveland is left behind to deal with the rodent. Reveling in having the place to himself, Cleveland soon bonds with his new pet pal, whom he names Rat Lauer. Meanwhile, Rallo and Junior play spies, but not all goes well when Junior refuses to reveal what is in his secret-agent briefcase.

4.14) The Hangover: Part Tubbs

Donna tries to run for the school board, but her plans are thwarted when Cleveland accidentally kills a new friend playing a game. Meanwhile, Cleveland Jr. discovers that he is an excellent diver, but has doubts about joining the team because of the skimpy Speedo he must wear.

4.15) California Dreamin’ (All the Cleves Are Brown)

Cleveland and his family move to California so he can pursue his dream of becoming a baseball scout.

4.16) Who Done Did It?

After Cleveland eggs Arianna’s house defending Donna’s honor, he decides to seek revenge against everyone by pelting them with eggs — which lands him in prison for killing Mr. Waterman’s sham wife, Lydia. Meanwhile, Rallo and Cleveland, Jr. discover that Freight Train writes whodunit novels under a woman’s name and become his students on how to write and solve a mystery, using Lydia Waterman’s death as inspiration for a new book.

4.17) The Fist and the Furious

Cleveland decides to make Dr. Fist  one of his friends, but fears for his safety when he discovers Dr. Fist’s mob association. Meanwhile, Rallo and Cleveland Jr. open a food truck business.

4.20) Of Lice and Men

A lice outbreak at school means Rallo must lop off his beloved Afro, and when the other kids start making fun of him, Junior has his back. Meanwhile, Cleveland house-sits at Freight Train and Cookie’s, where things take a bad turn after his pals show up.

4.21) Mr & Mrs. Brown

Donna is incensed when Cleveland and his mom are mistaken for husband and wife on a visit to a retirement home. Meanwhile, Rallo rips off a candy bar from a vendor, and then tries to get Junior to take the rap for the theft.

4.23: Wheel of Family!

Donna and Cleveland try to fix the kids’ hectic schedules, while Cleveland Jr. finds his pole-dancing talent. Cleveland later finds out that Robert and Dee-Dee have become an item, and they adopt and raise a child.

REVIEW: THE UNSAID

CAST

Andy Garcia (Ocean’s Eleven)
Vincent Kartheiser (Angel)
Trevor Blumas (Ice Princess)
Linda Cardellini (Scooby-Doo)
Sam Bottoms (Return To Eden)
August Schellenberg (The New World)
Chelsea Field (Masters of The Universe)
Brendan Fletcher (Freddy vs Jason)
Teri Polo (Meet The Fockers)
Sarah Deakins (Andromeda)

Image result for THE UNSAID (2001)Psychiatrist Michael Hunter (Andy García) and his wife are watching their daughter Shelly’s school play. Their son Kyle, who is suffering from depression, stays at home, because he can not stand being among people as he says. While the parents are applauding Shelly, Kyle commits suicide in family’s garage.
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Several years later the family has fallen apart because of their loss. Michael retreats, writes books, holds speeches for University students, but he no longer treats patients. When his former student Barbara Wagner approaches him asking for help with a case he initially refuses, but then gives in to taking over the case of 17-year-old Thomas “Tommy” Caffey (Vincent Kartheiser), who had had to watch his father murder his mother. It is Michael’s job to decide if the teenager can leave the psychiatric facility when he turns 18. But while working with Tommy, Michael realizes how much the boy reminds him of his own son Kyle and feelings of guilt arise in the psychologist.
Image result for THE UNSAID (2001)In flashbacks and conversations, the viewer receives background information of Kyle’s suicide. Michael had his son see a therapist — an old university friend named Harry Quinlan — instead of taking medication. In his son’s suicide letter, Michael finds out that Kyle was sexually abused by Quinlan. When Michael tries to confront Quinlan, the therapist won’t unlock the front door. Michael goes to the glass back door, through which he sees Quinlan pull a gun out of a drawer. As Quinlan places the barrel in his mouth, Michael angrily yells at him to shoot himself, which the therapist does. Tommy kills a girl at a party because she wanted to have sex with him. At the same party, Tommy befriends Shelly and they become closer. Shelly tells Tommy about Kyle. From then on, Tommy uses the information in therapy sessions and manipulates Michael, who more and more sees his own son in him.  When Michael visits Tommy’s father in prison he finds out that Tommy’s mother misused the boy as a lover and slept with him regularly. This is the reason why the father, who came home early one day, bludgeoned the mother to death.
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In the last part of the movie, Tommy tries to make Barbara release him to an independent life. When she refuses, he pushes her through a glass window. After she crawls to a telephone and attempts to call police, Tommy beats her with the handset. He flees in a stolen car and, armed with a weapon, picks up Shelly from her mother’s house and speeds away. Michael finds the severely wounded Barbara in her apartment. As she is being treated, Barbara warns Michael about Tommy’s plan. Michael races to his ex-wife’s house, narrowly missing the boy, whom he chases. The boy’s flight comes to an end near train tracks, where he holds Shelly at gunpoint. Michael confronts Tommy with what his mother did and Tommy surrenders the girl and the gun. When a train approaches, Tommy tears loose from Michael’s embrace and runs onto the tracks. At the last second, Tommy stops on the tracks, throws up his arms, and awaits impact. Michael grabs Tommy and they fall away from the locomotive. In the closing scene, Michael and Tommy light-heartedly play handball at the institution.Related imageThe Unsaid is a very well produced, compelling and thought provoking movie. Vincent Kartheiser is excellent. Andy Garcia is as stoic and watchable as always. There are a few details of the plot that would be contestable but overall an excellent movie.

REVIEW: ALPHA DOG

CAST

Emile Hirsch (Speed Racer)
Justin Timberlake (The Social Network)
Ben Foster (The Punisher)
Shawn Hatosy (The Faculty)
Anton Yelchin (Star Trek)
Sharon Stone (Total Recall)
Bruce Willis (Die Hard)
Chris Marquette (Freddy vs Jason)
Dominique Swain (Praire Fever)
Olivia Wilde (Cowboys & Aliens)
Amanda Seyfried (Ted 2)
Vincent Kartheiser (Angel)
Lukas Haas (Mars Attacks)
Heather Wahlquist (John Q)
Harry Dean Stanton (Avengers Assemble)
Joshua Alba (Unrest)
Amber Heard (Zombieland)

Johnny Truelove is a young marijuana dealer living in Southern California. His father, Sonny, supplies him with marijuana, which Johnny distributes to his gang of friends, including Jake Mazursky, who owes Johnny a $1,200 drug debt. Mazursky makes a failed attempt at asking his father, Butch, and stepmother Olivia for the money. Meanwhile, Butch and Olivia are dealing with their rebellious teenage son Zack- Jake’s half-brother. A fight breaks out between Jake and Johnny when Jake tries to pay Johnny only part of his debt. After back and forth retaliation, Johnny and his two henchmen, Frankie Ballenbacher and Tiko Martinez, go to confront Jake in person, but when they go to his house he is nowhere to be found. As they leave, they find Zack walking and decide to kidnap him with the intent of holding onto him until Jake pays his debt.
Wanting a break from his home life, Zack makes no effort to escape. Johnny pawns Zack off on Frankie, who offers him a chance to escape, but Zack declines the offer, not wanting to cause any trouble for his brother. Zack stays with Frankie at his father’s house, and the two strike up an unlikely friendship. The next day, he ingratiates himself with Frankie’s friends, including Keith Stratten and Julie, the youngest member of the group. A number of friends of the gang learn of Zack’s kidnapping, though Susan is the only one who seems concerned. Frankie grows nervous when Johnny tells him they could be in serious trouble for the kidnapping, and hypothetically offers him $2,500 to murder Zack. Frankie furiously declines and Johnny claims it was just a joke. Instead, Johnny agrees to Frankie’s plan to pay Zack to keep his mouth shut. However, after a threatening phone call from Jake, and his lawyer who reveals that he could face life in prison for kidnapping, he decides the risk of ending up dead or in prison is too great to let Zack go. Johnny calls Elvis Schmidt and offers to erase his drug debt if he kills Zack. Frankie and his friends still believe Zack will be returning home at the end of the night and throw a raucous going away party. Zack has a good time at the party and later goes skinny-dipping with Julie and her friend Alma in the pool, which leads to a three-some. After the party, Julie gives Zack her number and Alma gives him a good-bye kiss on the cheek.
Elvis arrives at the hotel where Zack is waiting to be picked up, and Frankie and Elvis begin to argue when Elvis reveals that Johnny has sent him there to kill Zack. Frankie ends up leaving, and Elvis takes Keith to dig a grave. Frankie offers Zack a final opportunity to escape, but believing that he is now part of the group and will be returning home soon, Zack prefers to wait at the hotel for Elvis to return. Meanwhile, Sonny, Cosmo (Johnny’s godfather), and Johnny’s lawyer confront Johnny, who refuses to call off the hit. Elvis and Keith return to the hotel, and Frankie and Elvis go outside to talk. Frankie, reluctant because of the friendship he has formed with Zack, finally relents when Elvis tells him they could face life in prison if Zack tells someone what happened.
Frankie, Elvis, Zack, and Keith arrive at the grave site. Zack is not aware of what’s going on and grows suspicious when a deeply saddened Keith tells Frankie he can’t go through with it, and goes to wait in the car after giving Zack a goodbye hug. Zack sees the grave and begins to break down, begging Frankie and Elvis to let him go. Frankie tells Elvis they shouldn’t go through with it, but Elvis is keen on the job he’s been given. Frankie calms Zack down, and ties him up with duct tape. He is surprised when Elvis knocks Zack into the grave with a shovel, and shoots him multiple times with an automatic Tec 9, killing him.
Zack’s body is found three days later. The epilogue shows the aftermath of the crime: Olivia, now suffering from obesity and depression, is interviewed, and talks candidly about her failed suicide attempts and the loss that she has experienced from her son’s death. Susan angrily confronts Frankie over Zack’s death and goes to the authorities. Elvis is caught while trying to secure a ride out of L.A. Johnny flees the city and arrives at the house of old classmate Buzz Fecske, who drives him back to his godfather Cosmo’s house, where he enters and is not seen again. Tiko, Keith and Frankie are arrested. After being convicted, they all serve their respective sentences: Tiko serves nine years in prison for kidnapping; Keith serves time at a juvenile facility until the age of 25 for digging Zack’s grave; Frankie serves seven years to life for kidnapping and second-degree murder; and Elvis is put on death row for murdering Zack. Johnny, however, is nowhere to be found. The interviewer asks Sonny how Johnny was able to escape authorities for four years without help, but Sonny assures him that he doesn’t know where Johnny is. In 2005, after over five years of being on the America’s most wanted list, Johnny is finally found and arrested in Paraguay. Text informs the audience that Johnny is in California awaiting trial, and, if proven guilty, faces the death penalty.
Alpha Dog is based on the real life story of LA drug dealer Jesse James Hollywood who may just have a sillier name than his onscreen counterpart.  The story jumps around a lot but there are some very well filmed and well acted moments that make this better than just another LA crime film.

REVIEW: ANGEL – SEASON 1-5

 

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MAIN CAST

David Boreanaz (Bones)
Charisma Carpenter (Scream Queens)
Glenn Quinn (R.S.V.P)
Alxis Denisof (Dollhouse)
J. August Richards (Agents of SHIELD)
Amy Acker (The Cabin In The Woods)
Vincent Kartheiser (Mad Men)
Andy Hallett (Chance)
James Marsters (Smallville)
Mercedes McNab (The Addams Family)

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RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Tracy Middendorf (Scream: The Series)
Christian Kane (Just Married)
Josh Holloway (Lost)
Sarah Michelle Gellar (Ringer)
Michael Mantell (The Ides of March)
Elisabeth Rohm (Joy)
Obi Ndefo (Stargate SG.1)
Johnny Messner (Anacondas)
Jennifer Tung (Masked Rider)
Seth Green (Family Guy)
Andy Umberger (Deja Vu)
Tushka Bergen (Mad Max 3)
Beth Grant (Wonderfalls)
Bai Ling (The Crow)
Jesse James (Blow)
J. Kenneth Campbell (Mars Attacks)
Henri Lubatti True Blood)
Christina Hendricks (Mad Men)
John Mahon (Zodiac)
Kristin Dattilo (Intolerable Cruelty)
Carlos Jacott (3rd Rock From The Sun)
Lee Arenberg (Once Upon A Time)
Jeremy Renner (Avengers Assemble)
Ken Marino (Veronica Mars)
Stephanie Romanov (Thirtten Days)
Tamara Gorski (Man With The Screaming Brain)
Julie Benz (Punisher: Warzone)
Eliza Dushku (Tru Calling)
Alastair Duncan (The Batman)
Sam Anderson (Lost)
Todd Stashwick (The Originals)
Justina Machado (Final Destination 2)
Matthew James (American Crime)
J.P. Manoux (Birds of Prey)
Tony Amendola (Stargate SG.1)
David Herman (Futurama)
Edwin Hodge (The Purge)
Daisy McCrackin (Halloween 8)
Juliet Landau (Ed Wood)
Brigid Brannagh (Army Wives)
W. Earl Brown (Bates Motel)
Tony Todd (Wishmaster)
Jim Piddock (The Prestige)
Julia Lee (A Man Apart)
Gerry Becker(Spider-Man)
Eric Lange (Lost)
Leah Pipes (The Originals)
Thomas Kopache (Catch Me If You Can)
Brody Hutzler (Days of Our Lives)
Persia White (The Vampire Diaries)
Daniel Dae Kim (Lost)
Mark Lutz (Bitch Slap)
Alyson Hannigan (How I Met Your Mother)
Keith Szarabajka (The Dark Knight)
Frank Salsedo (Power Rangers Zeo)
David Denman (Outcast)
Justin Shilton (Little Miss Sunshine)
Rance Howard (Chinatown)
Kristoffer Polaha (Ringer)
Jack Conley (Payback)
Jim Ortlieb (Roswell)
Laurel Holloman (Boogie Nights)
Jeffrey Dean Morgan (The Losers)
Sunny Mabrey (Snakes On A Plane)
Summer Glau (Firefly)
John Rubinstein (Red Dragon)
Alexa Davalos (Clash of The Titans)
Kay Panabaker (No Ordinary Family)
Joel David Moore (Bones)
Adrienne Wilkinson (Xena)
Gina Torres (Hannibal)
Annie Wersching (The Vampire Diaries)
Danny Woodburn (Watchmen)
Sarah Thompson (Cruel Intentions 2)
Jonathan M. Woodard (Firefly)
T.J. Thyne (Bones)
John Billingsley (Star Trek: Enterprise)
Simon Templeman (Black Road)
Roy Dotrice (Beauty and the Beast)
Brendan Hines (Lie to Me)
Tom Lenk (Argo)
Navi Rawat (Feast)
Roy Werner (Power Rangers Time Force)
Alec Newman (Dune)
Adam Baldwin (Chuck)
Jaime Bergman (Soulkeeper)
Stacey Travis (Easy A)
Dennis Christopher (Django Uncahined)

When Joss Whedon pitched Angel: the Series, he described it as a detective-style film-noir-themed take on the supernatural, much in the same way Buffy was pitched as a look from the viewpoint of the Horror genre. Buffy’s style took some time to get right, but the aesthetics of this show in its first year are well thought out and crafted; darkness and emotive shadow creep over, tense musical swells linger, and the picture is shot in a large resolution to provide just a bit of grain. I’d be damned if it didn’t seem intentional. Joss also said that where Buffy looked, metaphorically, at the hell of High School, Angel’s show would look at life past it in your early adulthood and the life and relationship issues of that unique, big city world. This metaphor is dominant in the first season, and is one of the main themes.

Angel, as a series, is always and will always be about redemption, but the themes of its respective seasons are about the different facets to it. Exploring what it is, losing the chance at it or the responsibility one pledges to it is all covered over the duration of the show. With season one, it was most direct: How do you get it? At the start of the season we see Angel arrive in LA, see him save lives, but we also watch him slip deeply into apathy about his goal. To understand the importance and worth of a human and life and soul, Angel learns in “City of” (1×01) that one must have a human connection; friends and allies that make his life worth living so his mission can be worth fighting for, and most importantly so that he doesn’t become detached from (and even dangerous to) those he hopes to save.

The season, as I mentioned, does lack a cohesive arc, but it also has a tremendous amount of hugely entertaining and well-written standalones. Many of them focus on Angel’s mission: “helping the helpless.” Angel makes it his goal to not only save lives, but save souls and make life worth living for others, and as a result of this his connections are solidified as he carries this out. He and his group slowly form into a legitimate investigation team which takes cases and makes money off of them, and many of the seasons situations out of which the characters are developed are a result of these cases. Cordelia, who in “Rm w a Vu” (1×05) is still defining herself by her possessions, searches for a place to live. Instead what she finds is a stronger sense of self, and in that a connection to the world of humans rather the one of plastic. Doyle and Wesley both find their own connections, as well. Episodes such as these are the season’s order, in every one of which something new happens that alters the main or supporting characters, or teaches the audience something about them.

This is, in my opinion, what sets shows like Buffy and Angel apart: relevance. More than any other show, each episode contains progressive, ongoing development that charts development in a very realistic way. On a more specific level, this particular season has an extremely strong episode to episode consistency, with each individual showing striking its own tone and exploring the main theme in different ways. A few larger, more exciting events may have helped, but at the same time I appreciate this season for what it is and how it does something a bit different from most other seasons of Buffy or Angel. There’s a lot more to talk about, including the metaphorical basis’ used and what we’re being fed through them, as well as the general ups and downs. The strongest suit this season has is its extremely fluid use of theme. Though the ponderings on connection, redemption and starting a new life are not as intricately detailed, subtle or socially penetrating as the themes of any other season, the careful and consistent way they’re used to develop characters and give the stories real world relevance is masterful. Angel made it his mission to save souls, and we were shown him connecting with people by helping them, failing to help them, or losing them altogether. All the supporting characters followed, gaining their own redemption through helping Angel and the helpless.

With the exception of Wesley being overly bumbling at times, nothing felt out of character this season, and that’s extremely impressive considering the length of a season. Doyle’s sacrifice in “Hero” (1×09), Angel’s re-ignited belief in himself in “To Shanshu in LA” [1×22] or Kate’s decision to see Angel kiss daylight in “Sanctuary” [1×19] were all thematically conclusive, resonant and well built up to.

The preceding season was,strong and coherent. While looking at the tribulations of life after High School in the big city, it managed to do so in a way that developed the characters within another major theme: Connection; Human emotions and growth that make us a part of the world, make us human. By the end of the season, Angel had been given a purpose, both short and long term, and a mission to fight for: Fighting in the final battles and surviving to be made a breathing human being again. Season Two, with a much broader theme, builds logically on that, and asks our vampire hero just what it means to really be human. Much of the season’s development is split in that way, with Angel increasingly being led off into his own world, with his friends developing entirely in a place away from him.screen-shot-2016-09-09-at-10-18-22-am-e1473430782777While he and the fate that ties him to Darla explore the complexities of human existence, Cordelia, Wesley and Gunn become forced to suffer through and succeed in it on their own. Though not as characterized by pain and hopelessness as much as S3 post “Sleep Tight” [3×16] through to the end of the series is, there’s much darkness and suffering abound, especially for Angel. His epic trials and will for revenge separate him harshly from humanity, only for him to realize that his worst actions are indeed wholly human, and that this is what humanity really can be. Season Two has such interesting ideas in spades, and its theme looks at all the best (“Untouched” [2×04], “Guise Will Be Guise” [2×06], “Epiphany” [2×16]) and worst (“Reunion” [2×10], “Reprise” [2×15]) sides of our existence: forgiveness, self-control, image, obsession, revenge, victory, belonging and the very nature of evil itself. By the time the season closes, Angel’s re-examined entirely what his mission is and how he’s to fight it, and goes from a champion vampire-with-a-soul to simply a genuinely good human being who helps people.fake-dwarvesWith the exception of the brilliant period piece Are You Now or Have You Ever Been?, and a few rare others, the season doesn’t have quite as much use for pure standalones. Its arc employs its best metaphors and situations in the interest of exploring all sides of the characters’ journey, and as such, the season gives the impression that more happens this year than last because of the depth of each phase of the arc: the four episode standalone period, the first part of the Darla arc (“Dear Boy” [2×05] to “Reunion” [2×10]), the second part of the Darla arc (“Redefinition” [2×11] to “Epiphany” [2×16]), another couple of standalones (“Disharmony” [2×17] and “Dead End” [2×18]) and the Pylea arc (“Belonging” [2×19] to “There’s No Place Like Plrtz Glrb” [2×22]).

This is likely why the season finds such a strong and undivided following. While some dispute the worth of the standalones or the Pylea arc, others like them, and everyone loves the story arc; there’s something for everyone. The best aspect of this year of the character’s journey in L.A. is how broad and all encompassing the season is. With the exception of Season Five, I find this to be the best season of the show. It has a few great metaphors, an engaging, unpredictable story arc, fun standalones, important character development, strong drama, and some of the most intelligent moral and social considerations I’ve ever seen on a TV show or in a movie.

Like at the start of Season Two, the writers seemed to have a clear direction in mind at the start of Season Three, and they wisely picked up the story at the logical introductory point: With Angel having conquered his innermost doubts about his own humanity. He begins to live a truly human life. He’s accepted his role in the world as a good person rather than a champion, and recognizes the world as a wide-open, random place with no greater destiny or order about it. It’s the kind of world where even the smallest acts of kindness mean everything, because they mean someone is able to shrug off the horrible burdens of life long enough to make another life better.screen-shot-2016-09-09-at-10-18-22-am-e1473430782777It opens with a six episode prelude looking at various facets of the responsibilities and obligations of normal human life, and then really begins with “Offspring” [3×07] when Darla returns to L.A. in a very, very pregnant state. Like “Dear Boy” [2×05] was for S2, this is where the beginning of S3 truly lies. With Darla’s death and the birth of baby Connor (“Lullaby” [3×09]) as the emotional forces driving the season, the writers used the question of responsibility and all the ideas that fall under it (justice, deserving, chaos and guilt) to create some truly, gut-wrenchingly impossible situations for our characters to face. If I have to commend this year for one thing alone, it’s the painstaking drama that the writers plunge the characters into throughout the main arc and in the mini-arcs that follow. Although there’s not nearly as much thematic depth as S2 or as much consistency as S1, the tragedies and difficult moral situations our beloved Angel Investigations team members are forced to face moved me deeper than a lot of other episodes in the series.

Aesthetically, S3 also has a much more sprawling scope than the previous two seasons. While the first six episodes were essentially standalones, everything that followed “Offspring” [3×07] was in some way tied to the main plot arc of the show, even when some of its key players disappeared following the epic tragedy of “Sleep Tight” [3×16]. Just when it seemed the story was about to move in another Pylea-like offshoot after the main storyline concluded, Connor and Holtz returned and the plot kept on chugging. This led to some problems, of course, as all season-long arcs eventually do. Tension sometimes tried to take the place of real content and it often showed. It also led to there being an uncomfortable setup/payoff ratio on the episode list. But on the plus side, S3 (and S4, which moves even further in this direction) had a feeling of epic scope that no other seasons manage, so to even think of the better aspects that lie within strikes me. Such a sprawl is one of the reasons many people love S3 even if they haven’t looked very deeply at it.Image result for angel forgiving“Forgiving” [3×17] was another gem, as it looked at the human need to assume we live in an ordered world where someone is responsible for everything that happens. But it’s never that easy, and watching Angel struggle with that was fascinating. The final three episodes (“A New World” [3×20], “Benediction” [3×21], “Tomorrow” [3×22]) made up another interesting stretch where we saw how our characters could be motivated by pain, hatred or love and the effects of all those things.

Having already been on the air for three years, Angel had more then enough time to establish its theme, characters, and relationships. It was in its fourth year that it would bring all of these elements to the forefront and then mix them up in a season that would come to be known for its complex twists and turns.The season begins with our title character trapped at the bottom of the ocean – put there by his son – with the rest of his gang broken up. From this grim beginning, things only get darker – literally. Enter the Beast, a rock-encrusted devil whose arrival is heralded by a rain of fire and promptly blocks out the sun over L.A. All signs are pointing to the apocalypse, and it’s up to Angel and the rest of his demon-fighting crew to put a stop to it. From a storytelling point of view things just keep getting worse and worse and it’s a credit to the writers that they somehow manage to end it all on a positive note.Since Season 2 Angel has been a very arc-heavy show, but in its fourth year it would approach almost 24 levels of continuity and follow-through. In addition to being very cool to watch, the interlinked episodes add up to a season that is one big experience unto itself. It’s as if the entire season is one episode with many chapters.This year we get to watch everything get shaken up. Wedges are slowly driven between certain relationships while jealousy quickly divides others. The great thing about it is that you get to see what has caused all of these problems. Despite their best efforts to hold together, these characters have no choice but to push each other apart. It makes for gripping television.Visually and stylistically the show is very well put together. The directing efforts of Joss Whedon (who is always excellent), Tim Minear (who has grown by leaps and bounds over the course of the series), and even Sean Astin (yes that Sean Astin) give the show a very polished and theatrical feel. The producers repeatedly stated that they were going for an ‘operatic’ feel to the season and they pulled it off very well. The use of darkness and shadow deserves special mention as does the great use of wide shots and the directors’ ability to fill each frame with as much information as possible. Wesley goes from bumbling dork to dark James Bond. Cool! While the twists and turns are great, the really cool thing to the season is the multiple layers that you’ll find within. Just when you think you know who the real ‘big bad’ is or in which direction the show is going, the rug is pulled out from under your feet. The entire season keeps you guessing from start to finish. Of course, our heroes win in the end — but everyone is left wondering if they did the right thing. And that’s what sets the show apart: It’s action with substance.

Nobody, not the producers, not the actors, and certainly not the fans could have predicted where this show would go. Where it could go. After all, this is an hour-long fantasy about a guy who spends so much time sitting in the shadows and brooding so much he would give Batman a run for his money. Or utility belt, as the case may be. So why is it that after five years and over a hundred episodes this show was still one of the freshest on TV? Simple: this is a story about something. What started off as just a Buffy spin-off has ended up as a massive epic that challenges, if not surpasses, its parent show. Unfortunately, the WB didn’t think so. After giving the producers a hard time and insisting on several changes, the network decided to bring the show back for a fifth, and what would be its final year.

 

So, in previous seasons we’ve had operatic apocalypses, quests for meaning, and our hero even went evil for a while. There’s only one place left to go. Into the belly of the beast, into hell itself: a law firm. Based on the out-of-left-field plot twist that was thrown at Angel and the gang in previous season’s finale, the team is now in charge of wolfram and hart the evil law firm that they’ve spent the entire series battling. The trick then becomes changing the system from the inside, all the while making sure that it doesn’t change them.


Unfortunately when the network decided to renew the show for a fifth year, there were conditions. First and foremost, it had to be more stand-alone. No more back-to-back cliffhangers. Next, the budget was cut. And finally, to sweeten the deal, the producers decided to bring over Spike – who was barbequed in the Buffy finale – in the hopes that his fans would follow. Luckily the introduction of Spike worked out well. He added a nice flavor to the show and helped flesh out Angel’s character in a way that nobody else could have. The punky vampire brought out the worst in our hero, which ended up resulting in some great comedy. Even if this Spike was different from whom he became on Buffy, he made for a nice addition.

The most unwelcome change was the standalone mandate. Yes, it can work, but it’s just not as good. The greatest strength of this show has always been its own history and tying the hands of the writers was a mistake. It resulted in a bump in the show’s overall flow. Even though it seems rushed, things tie up nicely and the finale certainly puts the “grand” in grandiose; now there’s a balls-to-the wall showstopper for you. Most people will agree that the show finished with perfect thematic closure. These characters fight an impossible fight knowing they’ll probably lose, but that’s not the point. They fight, not to win, but because that’s who they are. They don’t give up. No matter what.