Friday, November 27, 2015

Great Shows that Only Lasted Two Seasons

                Many times, fan favorite shows last year after year, even cult shows manage to survive for multiple seasons.  However, there are those shows that did well enough to be renewed for one season, but unfortunately, due to lost momentum in between seasons, that is, ratings fell sharply in the second season, the show was unfortunately cancelled.  Still these two-season shows are worth checking out, as they were critically acclaimed and gained cult followings. 
                Dollhouse: most people gravitate to the one-season Firefly, when they think of that awesome Joss Whedon show on Fox.  However, Eliza Dushku brought Joss back to Fox in order to make a series with Fox, because she had a deal with the network.  In Dollhouse, a group of people (called Actives) who had their memories erased and were being controlled and fed specific memories of others for “missions.”  A corporation housed the Actives in an underground facility and rented out the Actives to wealthy clients.  The episodic nature gave way to an ongoing storyline when the Actives started become aware of their surroundings (they were in a drugged state in the underground facility).  The show lasted twenty-six episodes.
Legend of the Seeker was from producers of the more famous Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: the Warrior Princess.  Legend of the Seeker was based on the fantasy books by Terry Goodkind.  In the TV series, a young man named Richard Cypher saves a woman named Kahlan Amnell, who turns out to be a “confessor” (a woman with the ability to bend others to her will, for the rest of her life).   Kahlan, on the run from the forces of the evil Darken Rhal goes to the retired wizard Zedd along with Richard.  There, they find out that Richard is the Seeker of Truth and is meant to defeat Darken Rhal and bring peace to the land with the Sword of Truth.  Richard agrees to take up the mission and the three fight Darken Rhal and his followers for two seasons.  The show lasted forty-four episodes.
                Pushing Daises may be the quirkiest murder mystery TV show ever produced.  The main character, Ned as a child found out he has the ability to bring to life with his touch for five minutes anything that was dead, and can also put to death with the same touch.  But there’s a catch: if someone he revives stays alive more than five minutes, another person dies in the first person’s place.  In the present, Ned, now working as a pie-maker, finds his childhood friend Charlotte “Chuck” Charles dead, and revives her.  The two, along with private investigator Emerson Cod and waitress Olive Snook, investigate strange murders.  Ned would revive the dead for five minutes, ask the deceased questions about how he died, and return him to death and they would go on their mystery. The show was known for its bright, fantasy-like visuals and quick-fire dialogue but could not recover after its first season was cut short due to the Writer’s Strike of 2007-2008.  The show lasted twenty-two episodes.
                Phil of the Future was on the Disney Channel and while it didn’t reach the popularity of shows like That’s So Raven or the Suite Life of Zach and Cody, which were on at the same time, it was nevertheless a fun and interesting show.  Phil Diffy, along with his dad goofy Lloyd and kind mom Barb, and his troublemaker sister Pim, were from the year 2121 on a time traveling trip and their time machine broke down in the present.  Phil befriends Keely Teslow a bubbly girl who attends H.G. Wells high school along with Phil and Pim.  The characters would go on various comedic adventures, sometimes involving the Diffy’s futuristic gadgets.  The show benefited from the great chemistry between Phil and Keely.  It lasted forty-three episodes.

                The first three shows are available on DVD, and you can find some episodes of Phil of the Future on youtube.  Check out these awesome shows that only lasted two seasons.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Franchises with Seven or More Movies

                These are the big ones… either that or the ones that have become franchise zombies.  Nevertheless, there are the rare movies that have spawned at least six sequels.  This is not counting “universe” movies, like from the Marvel Universe, because they are not direct sequels (though they have direct sequels in them, like Iron Man 3 and Captain America: Winter Soldier).  Star Wars is just about to join the seven movies club with Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  In any case, here are Franchises with seven or more movies.
                James Bond (24 Movies): Perhaps no movie series of 24 titles has had more of an impact than James Bond.  James Bond, 007, is a suave playboy spy who goes on outlandish missions and frequently Finflirts and beds women.  While his more sexist attitudes have been blunted in the most recent movies, the self-assured, super-capable agent with a ton of gadgets has endured from Dr. No (1962) to Specte (2015).
                Star Trek (12 Movies): The original Star Trek movie series was an offshoot of the Star Trek TV Series, about starship crew whose mission was to explore the universe and fight evil.  After the series was a hit in reruns, the original crew came back for six more movies, then after the sequel series (Star Trek: the Next Generation) ended, three of the characters from the original series made an appearance in Star Trek: Generations with the new crew.  The series with the new crew lasted for four movies, and then the series was rebooted (two movies so far) with a new cast for the original characters from the first series.
                Friday the 13th (12 Movies), A Nightmare on Elm Street (9 Movies), Halloween (10 Movies), and Saw (7 movies).  Perhaps no film series more lends itself more to sequels than horror films, whether talking about a serial killer from a summer camp (Friday the 13th) or a serial killer who kills in dreams (Nightmare on Elm Street), a serial killer who kills specifically on Halloween (Saw – just kidding, the Halloween franchise), or serial killer who subjects his victims to games of psychological torture (Saw).  The producers, writers and directors keep coming up with interesting ways for the killer to kill people, and the audience keep coming back for more.
                Police Academy (7 Movies): If there was ever an example of a franchise zombie, this might be it.  The story is that the mayor of a town decided to enact a policy that the police station must accept all recruits…and of course the station gets a bunch of misfits who must prove themselves.  The original movie wasn’t that great to begin with, but it was a success, so every year around the same time another one was released, until the sixth movie.  Finally the five years after the sixth one came out, the seventh one was released, made less than $150,000, and finally put the series out of its misery.
                The Fast and The Furious (7 Movies): This series focuses on a team who illegally street races and many times attempts a fantastic heist.  While the series’ main star, Vin Diesel, did not star in all of the franchised movie, he starred in the original and has been the lead in the fourth through the seventh movies. The second and third movies used different main stars.  What is interesting about the series was that following the fourth film (Fast & Furious), the critical reception and the box office both improved with each sequel.  

                These are just some of the movies that have franchises that have spawned an amazing six sequel.  Not that I’d recommend checking out all them, but it’s worth noting that as long as a series makes some money, the producers and film studios won’t hesitate to make another sequel.  What are some series with at least seven titles that I missed?

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Fascinating Case of Anthony Bourdain

               In the late 1990s, Anthony Bourdain was a successful chef who had run several restaurants in New York City.  As a way of coping with the high pressure environment, he had developed an acerbic, sometimes wildly inappropriate humor and strong outspoken opinions.  In 1999, he published an article called “Don’t Eat before Reading this.”  That article led to his book, “Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly,” which told a surprisingly brutal, honest, and even funny look at what a real kitchen environment looks like in NYC.  Taken from book’s description: “Talking about why you probably shouldn’t order fish on a Monday, why those who favor well-done get the scrapings from the bottom of the barrel, and why seafood frittata is not a wise brunch selection…. But I’m simply not going to deceive anybody about the life as I’ve seen it.”
                The wild success of the book led to an opportunity form Food Network: another book: “A Cook’s Tour” and a 30-minute TV show of the same name.  This TV show involved Bourdain traveling to a city from around the world and partaking in the local food, not always in a fine restaurant but authentic to th4e region.  Many times he meets a local guide on who helps him along with his adventures.  While most episodes are free from the “inappropriateness” that are prevalent in his book, in one early episode where he had to consume a duck fetus in Japan, he gave his less-than-flattering opinion of eating the whole dish.  The show lasted two seasons and thirty-five episodes. 
                After three years, more articles in well known magazines, Anthony Bourdain came back to TV with his most well known TV series, the hour long Anthony Bourdain: No Reservation on the Travel Channel, which premiered in 2005.  The show came with the disclaimer before each episode that, basically, each one may have sexual and other inappropriate moments and viewer discretion is advised.  In this series, Bourdain flourished as television personality.  His tell-it-like-it-is humor and honest opinions were valued in a world of everyone presenting a flattering version of everything they meet (especially in travel and cooking shows).  But overall, the show was positive: Bourdain was in search of great authentic local food from all countries, including the United States.  The show’s original run was for nine seasons and one hundred forty-two episodes, though Travel Channel has repackaged old episodes for into new ones for specific themes, for example all of the Europe episodes together. 
                Anthony Bourdain became a guest celebrity chef on Top Chef during several seasons, and later appeared on the similar Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmerman on the Travel Channel while Andrew appeared in his show.  Towards the end of his run on the Travel Channel, he also hosted a more traditional travel show called “The Layover” which was about what do in a city if you only had 24 hours.  Bourdain completed his transition to celebrity chef with mentoring on the reality cooking completion show, “The Taste,” which lasted three seasons and twenty-three episodes.  This celebrity chef status is ironic considering his less-than kind opinion of some celebrity chefs like Paula Deen, Rachel Ray, and Guy Fieri (though he has also been pointing out good chefs like Ferran AdriĆ”). 
                Today, Bourdain is on the third generation of his TV show, “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown” which premiered in 2013 on CNN and is currently in its sixth season.  Again, he travels around the world and experiences local culture and good authentic food from the region.  He left his head chef status in real restaurant a long time ago.  But nevertheless, his honest opinions and blunt humor about food around the world will be appreciated by many for years to come.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthony_Bourdain
http://www.amazon.com/Kitchen-Confidential-Updated-Edition-Adventures/dp/0060899220

Friday, November 6, 2015

Friends: Will Ross and Rachel last? (SPOILERS!)

                Towards the final season of Friends, the longest focused on relationship (first hinted at in the pilot, no less) in the show starts heating up again: Ross and Rachel start feeling their attraction towards one another again.  This was in spite of the fact that in the second episode of the final season (in The One Where Ross is Fine), Ross gave his blessing for his friend Joey to go out with Rachel, while Ross was in a committed relationship with Charlie.  But soon Joey and Rachel broke up due to the fact that for both, it was weird to be attempting a relationship (in The One With Ross’s Tan) and Charlie went conveniently back to her ex-boyfriend (in The One With Ross’s Grant),.  This paved the way for Ross and Rachel to suddenly start feeling the attraction again in the final episodes.  Finally, in The Last One, Ross admits to Rachel that he loves her, and Rachel, after initially taking the plane to Paris, admits to Ross that she loves him too.  She did get off the plane, and the two get together for good. 
                Or do they?  Despite the fact that it feels like a nice resolution for the story, the show’s history is of the trust of one of them being broken and them ultimately breaking up or not getting back together.  Back in the second season, in the episode after Ross and Rachel’s first kiss (The One with the List), Ross makes a list comparing his current girlfriend Julie to Rachel, and even though he chooses Rachel in the end, the idea breaks Rachel’s trust when she refuses to go out with him.  It takes another five episodes to get to The One with the Prom Video, the famous episode where Ross and Rachel officially get together, after Rachel (and everyone else) views a video where Ross agrees to be Rachel’s date to the prom at the last minute, only for her to leave with someone else.  Rachel, moved by Ross’s actions, kisses him in front of the group, cementing their relationship.
                Unfortunately, the relationship did not last.  Ross’s trust of Rachel began to deteriorate when he met Rachel’s coworker at Bloomingdale’s, Mark (in The One Where Chandler Can’t Remember Which Sister).  While Rachel assures Ross that the two are just friends, Ross refuses to believe her.  Then Ross goes with Rachel to a fashion seminar so Mark can’t go, but he falls asleep instead of being supportive (in The One with Phoebe’s Ex-Partner).  Then in the next episode (The One Where Ross and Rachel take a Break), Rachel has to work on the One-Year Anniversary and Ross comes to her work, but that only frustrates Rachel and she says that they need to take a break, “a break from us.”  It’s pretty clear to Ross that Rachel is breaking up with him, and when she calls him, only to hear Mark’s voice (though Rachel had no romantic desire for him).  Depressed, he falls into the arms of Chloe.  In the following episode (The One with the Morning After), Rachel gets back together with Ross, but then she finds out about Chloe, despite Ross’s attempts to hide what he did.  After she confronts him, Ross argues that he thought they had broken up for good, while Rachel doesn’t see it that way and tells him that before, she thought she saw Ross as somebody who could never hurt him but now, all she can think about is him and Chloe and everything has changed.  Ross’s actions broke Rachel’s trust for the final time and they broke up. 
From then on, their relationship is series of near misses or quick hookups only for them to break up again.  In the season 4 season premiere, The One With the Jellyfish, Ross gets back together with Rachel, but Rachel is under the impression that he was accepting 100% responsibility for the breakup (which he wasn’t), so they break up in the same episode, showing that they still don’t trust each other.  Near the end of season 4, Ross meets and falls for Emily, a girl from the UK on vacation, and quickly become engaged to her.  Rachel’s feelings for Ross intensifies, but she ultimately decides not to tell him, but he says Rachel’s name at the wedding alter (in The One With Ross’ Wedding) and Emily refuses to go through with the wedding.  In the second episode of season five (The One with all the Kissing), Rachel finally tells Ross how she feels, but the feelings immediately dissipate with the telling and Ross and Rachel agree to be friends.  Then at the end of season five, Ross and Rachel drunkenly get married in Vegas (The One in Vegas), and at the beginning of season six Rachel immediately wants to get an annulment, while Ross at first wants to put off breaking off his impromptu marriage and lies to her that he got an annulment, resulting in Rachel losing her trust in Ross again, and she gets mad at him, writing untrue things on her annulment papers, resulting in Ross’ third divorce (in The One With Joey’s Porsche). This seals their relationship (despite a one episode hookup in The One with Monica’s Thunder at the beginning of season seven) until the end of season seven, when it is revealed that Rachel is pregnant (The One with Monica and Chandler’s Wedding).  At the beginning of season eight, Ross is revealed as the father in The One with the Red Sweater.  During this time, Rachel has been living in a room in Joey’s apartment and Joey has fallen in love with her. At the end of season eight (in The One Where Rachel has A Baby), Ross is given his grandmother’s engagement ring and Ross and Rachel kiss in order speed up the labor.  Rachel’s water breaks and she gives birth, but afterwards freaks out about getting married and Joey accidentally proposes to Rachel when picking up Ross’ ring on the ground; Rachel says yes.  In the One Where No One Proposes, after a series of misunderstandings, Ross and Rachel are back together, but then in the next episode (The One Where Emma Cries) Ross realizes that Rachel said yes to Joey and his trust in Rachel is broken again, because as he sees it, she would have said yes to anyone, and he doesn’t want to be just anyone, and the two have to make the rocky friendship work apart with a baby they share together, which brings us to the end of season nine.

                Looking back on all of Ross and Rachel’s near misses and quick hookups and breakups in throughout seasons three through nine, it’s clear that Ross and Rachel have major trust issues with each other.  Almost every time the couple could have resolved their issues and gotten together, one of them has their trust broken by the other.  Ross and Rachel’s last hookup in the series finale was as rushed as any of their past hookups, the only difference being this time Ross and Rachel were on the same page (and they nearly weren’t, with Rachel almost leaving for Paris).  While having Ross and Rachel get back together did feel emotionally satisfying, I can’t help but wonder, given Ross and Rachel’s trust issues with each other, how long it will really last.