Category Archives: Television

Test Case of Music Exposure: Kari Kimmel – “Black”

Black cover art

I admit that I am a “Walking Dead” fan. Despite all of the frustrations associated with watching this show (Carl…Lori….so useless) I cannot help but continue to stick around to see if the program can live up to its full potential based off of its neat premise. Here is The Walking Dead Season 3 trailer from Comic-Con. Premieres October 14th on AMC.

Not going to lie here, the music  that starts at the 2:43 mark is pretty badass. It’s got me giddy for the Walking Dead again, even though I was exhausted from the atrocious pacing from Season 2. Oh well, it’s time to strap up and jump back into it again. However, since the tv discussion is best left to Dylan and his expertise (Although I like how he’s the lone supporter of the Newsroom haha), I must redirect the focus back to the music.

Although the comments on the youtube video of the music I will link below is dominated by nothing but Walking Dead discussion, I must admit that the track is pretty good as a stand-alone. It’s definitely a Wild Wild West kind of track with those twangs and devil may care attitude that is evoked.

According to her bio, she has done everything from writing, recording and co-producing her own music to placing her songs in over 250 film and tv shows from House and Being Human, it’s safe to say that Miss Kimmel is a well known artist among the sound people in Hollywood.  To provide context in how music and television are linked together, I pulled this Youtube comment out: “The day The Walking Dead trailer came out I found this song. It had 16k Views. Now it has close to 107k.” That was only a week ago. So here’s my question: How much of Kari Kimmel’s popularity is attributed to her talent, which attracted attention from producers and featured her work? To what degree is it the other way around? Finally, the question that remains is this: Does it matter anyway?

Quick thoughts to muse about, but in the meantime enjoy that track.

“Awkward.” – Season 2 TV Review

A solid, witty, intriguing start to the second season of a solid, witty, intriguing and not-really-guilty-pleasure MTV show. Definitely worth a watch, for dudes too.

I miss MTV’s The Hard Times of RJ Berger. That show was funny and vulgar and sweet and wonderful for all us nerdy dudes out there who had self-esteem issues.

But that show got canceled, so I thought I had to settle for what basically amounted to the girl version of Hard Times, Awkward. (period included), which traded the vulgarity for hot dudes and extra dramatic spice. Initially skeptical, I gradually warmed to Awkward. throughout its first season for its wit, charm and dramatic undertones that Hard Times never totally delved into.

After attending a panel in which they screened the first two episodes of the second season, it’s clear that all the good wit, and the good drama, is in full force. For those of you who don’t know, the show centers on Jenna Hamilton (the brilliant Ashley Rickards–I’m not being hyperbolic when I say she’s brilliant, she’s in MENSA), initially an awkward social outcast, who, after an accident misconstrued as a suicide attempt caused by a ‘carefrontation letter’ sent by an anonymous party and an ostensibly awkward first time at camp with school hottie Matty McKibben (Beau Mirchoff), begins to get noticed by her peers. With the help of her friends Tamara (the fast-talking delight Jillian Rose Reed–marry me) and Ming (Jessica Lu), her guidance-counselor-that-needs-counseling Valerie Marks (Desi Lydic), and her well-meaning-but-obviously-terrible parents Kevin (Mike Faiola) and Lacey (the underrated Nikki DeLoach), Jenna navigates the ‘savage’ waters of liking two boys who like her back, popular but insecure and at times douchey Matty, and popular and nice but a bit bland Jake Rosati (the incredibly funny Brett Davern, who, according to Rickards, is the better kisser… just thought you’d like to know, America). Recurring subplots include the dramatic quest for identity of the author of the carefrontation letter, Jenna’s encounters with school bitch Sadie (the exquisitely hilarious Molly Tarlov, you’re welcome), Tamara’s on-off relationship with Ricky Schwartz and Jenna’s relationship with dumb, abstinent blonde Lissa (fellow Trojan Greer Grammer), Jake’s ex-girlfriend.

You should watch Season 1 to catch up (it’s all on online), but you could jump in if you wanted to having only seen the pilot (from what I hear).

Creator and head writer Lauren Iungerich has created an excellent world of nuanced, realistic characters (at least in the female department) and serves you up with a great deal of humor that comes from unexpected places (the season’s second episode in particular serves up a wonderful dose of reverse racism jokes–Vincent, you’ll enjoy).

The acting, from Rickards and DeLoach in particular, is surprisingly excellent. Rickards–who you would think upon hearing her speak in real life would be totally out of her element in a role like Jenna–aces it, and DeLoach brings an incredibly layered portrayal to Lacey, who is in my opinion one of the best, most underrated characters in all of television. Everyone else is good, if not great in their roles, each of them bringing something unique to the comedic and/or dramatic tables.

The one element I don’t like about the show is the characterization of Matty McKibben. He’s the female fantasy–he’s a hot jerk at the start who ‘changes’ and becomes a nice hot guy. This is why my female friends continue to date people who aren’t good for them–they think he’ll change. Right. And I’m gonna grow a vagina.

Jake is a reasonable character, and right now the show seems to be doing a good job of handling him, but my one minor quibble is that almost because he’s a nice guy, he’s too bland and white-bread for Jenna, who, by the way, went from total social outcast to #firstworldproblems with two incredibly attractive men fawning over every step she takes.

Not that I don’t respect and appreciate female empowerment/fantasy (I mean, I’d be a total hypocrite if I said I didn’t wanna see R.J. Berger in a triangle with two hot females), but at least dude fantasies in these types of shows are generally monogamous in nature. R.J. only pined for dream-girl Jenny, but realized that he truly liked Lily, his not-too-attractive friend. The love triangle on that show was awkward-hot-friend. The love triangle on this show is awkward-hot-hot. The balance is off.

But I digress. It seems like I’m harping, but in reality, I’m just nitpicking.

The show is marvelous and if you have some free time, you should check it out. You won’t regret it. Even if you’re a dude.

The Newsroom – TV Review

Best. Show. On. Television. Period.

” [America’s] not the greatest country in the world….but it could be” – Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels).

In the most basic terms, this is how we open Aaron Sorkin‘s beautiful new HBO drama The Newsroom, which makes everything else on TV feel absolutely underwhelming (save for maybe AMC’s brilliant Breaking Bad). It is simultaneously funnier than the vast majority of sitcoms on TV and incredibly sharp drama that crackles and keeps you watching like no other.

Because I feel like this review could boil over into a gushing love rant, I’m going to organize it categorically:

CHARACTERS and PLOT: The show centers on Will McAvoy, a self-absorbed, angry and brilliant news anchor who’s popular ‘because he doesn’t bother anyone’, like a ‘Jay Leno of news anchors’. When he goes off on a sorority girl, ranting at an event at Northwestern University that America isn’t the greatest country anymore, he fears he’s gonna lose his audience and prepares to backtrack. Unfortunately, Charlie Skinner (Sam Waterston), his boss, the news division head at ACN, won’t let him. Charlie orchestrates a simple scheme in which king realist and Executive Producer Don (Thomas Sadoski) jumps ship to the 10 o’clock show (which he wanted to do anyway), which allows Charlie to bring on human sparkplug Mackenzie McHale (a brilliant Emily Mortimer) to run Will’s show, much to the anchor’s disdain. Will hates Mackenzie and doesn’t want to ever see her again, much less let her run the show. But Charlie insists, so Will does something crazy–he lowers his salary by a million dollars(!) (apparently chump change for the hotshot anchor)–so that he can fire her anytime he wants. It turns out that Will hates Mackenzie for some good reason–she apparently did a terrible thing to him three years prior, when they were apparently dating (Sorkin makes you play catch-up, it’s always fun). However, Mackenzie longs to be the Don Quixote of news, and on Will’s show she has a chance to be. The crux of the show lies on the debate that Mackenzie has with Will about the news, and the country in general. Mackenzie argues that Will can do a real news show, a good news show, a smart news show and be popular at the same time. Will argues that that’s impossible. Welcome to the newsroom.

In the meantime, we also meet Don’s girlfriend (whom he doesn’t treat too well), Maggie (the marvelous Allison Pill), Will’s intern (whom he continually forgets about), who’s young and nervous and neurotic enough to warrant Mackenzie’s attention, as well as the attention of the paralyzingly awkward Jim Harper (John Gallagher, Jr.), Mackenzie’s young number two. The interactions between Maggie and Jim are probably my favorite thing about the show, and Jim has to be my favorite character–though our true protagonist Mackenzie would be a close second with Will in a tight race for third. Plus, we meet Neal (Dev Patel, aka Slumdog Millionaire), a bright guy on the news squad that writes Will’s blog, and Sloan (Olivia Munn), whose scenes were all but gone in the rough cut version of the pilot I watched, though she is intriguing for the 30 seconds in which she does appear–stay tuned.

The plot is a minor concern for me, not because it’s poorly executed, but because it is simply unlike anything else that has ever aired on TV before–which could end up amazing or…not-so-much. It’s a huge risk, but I admire Sorkin for taking it. The first episode is primarily set on April 20, 2010–the day of the BP oil spill. Guess what the story of the day is. Revisionist history? Not really. It’s simple in the pilot, but we’ll see how that goes moving forward.

There’s one teeny element I didn’t like about the plot that popped up in the last 10 seconds of the show, but I assume that won’t be a problem in the final cut. I’ll follow up on that.

DIRECTION: Greg Mottola is generally known for lighthearted stuff like Superbad and the underrated Adventureland, but he brings a madcap energy to the show present in The West Wing when Alex Graves directed (he directs episode 2, by the way). A lot of handheld stuff, docu-style. The pacing and rhythm are great, but the humor is amped up, which I have to assume was helped by Mottola’s experience in comedy. Excellent work.

WRITING: Pure Aaron Sorkin. Perfect rhythm, great intellectual debate, surprisingly funny humor, well-defined and multidimensional characters, refreshing idealism, controversial social satire and of course the dialogue of a great theatrical work all in an episode of television. He is the greatest writer currently alive and I can only dream of being half as good. I could spend weeks ranting about exactly why, but I won’t bore you with such trivialities.

PERFORMANCE: Every actor and actress is on the ball, but I’d like to give a particular shout-out to Daniels, Mortimer, Waterston, Pill and Gallagher. Daniels plays a weathered soul to perfection, giving us both sides of a dangerously (and brilliantly) designed coin. Mortimer raises the energy in the room tenfold, and you can tell that her character is Will’s muse, whether he wants to admit it or not. Waterston plays his character lightly, but with an unprecedented depth–a tough feat to accomplish when Sorkin writes the character like that. Not many actors could pull that off, but he did. Allison Pill has had a great run as a supporting player in art films (see Midnight In Paris, Milk) and here she gets to go to town on Sorkin’s finest material. Her character is intentionally young and naïve in episode one, but that gives her room to grow, and develop her relationship with Gallagher’s character, whose social naïvete is given a reprieve by his intense professional acumen and chutzpah. Gallagher (the other lead in Broadway’s Spring Awakening) treads a fine line, playing socially awkward but rebellious, and he aces it.

CAMEOS: There’s a doozy of a cameo from a big-name star of one of Sorkin’s films as a caller in the pilot. Bonus points for anyone who guesses the correct answer. It’s magnificent casting.

IF I HAD TO CRITICIZE ONE THING ABOUT THIS SHOW: “Drop the ‘the’. Just ‘Newsroom’. It’s cleaner.” – Sean Parker, paraphrased.

OVERALL: If you don’t watch this show, you’re missing out on what could potentially be the best show of the decade, and most definitely the best new show of the season.

The 10 Best NEW Shows of the 2011-12 Season

After a full season of TV, it’s that time of year when I judge, harshly, all that I have seen in the past year.

So here’s some new stuff I liked (bolded are must-watchers):

The Rules: Has to have premiered in the 2011-2012 season to be eligible (McDuh). Though I loved Breaking Bad‘s fourth season likely more than the first seasons of all the shows on this list, it can’t be on this list.

Notable New Shows I’ve Wanted To See But Remain Unseen: Veep (HBO), Life’s Too Short (HBO), Luck (HBO), Boss (Starz), Loiter Squad (Adult Swim), Bent (NBC), Up All Night (NBC), Person of Interest (CBS), Hell on Wheels (AMC), Wilfred (FX)

Honorable Mention: The show-within-a-show Bombshell from Smash (NBC). After an incredibly intriguing pilot, the actual show dropped off in quality severely. However, the songs developed for Bombshell, and the performances of those songs by the obviously-better-than-everyone-else Megan Hilty in particular, provide hope for a show that underwent a total turnover this offseason in preparation for a Season 2 that could raise the show to the expectations set by its solid pilot.

10. Revenge (ABC) – Though most of its Desperate Housewives-fangirl viewership doesn’t quite get the literary overtones that make the show a lot smarter than it should be (Count of Monte Cristo, anyone?), it serves as a good guilty pleasure. Plus, full disclosure, a friend of mine cameo-ed in the Season Finale.

9. New Girl (Fox) – I will admit that I don’t totally like this show… yet. But Liz Meriweather is a very funny person and many of my friends say it does get better (I’ve only seen the episodes that aired through December). Plus, the scene in which Zooey Deschanel tries to seduce Justin Long with a Jimmy Stewart impression is absolutely hilarious.

8. Don’t Trust The B—- In Apartment 23 (ABC) – A solid, if not spectacular conglomeration of absurd, lewd humor carried by the winning performances of its leads (Krysten Ritter especially), edgy writing from Nahnatchka Khan and of course, James f***ing Van Der Beek (aka Dawson). I’ll be watching to see if it can keep up.

7. Enlightened (HBO) – While I hated to see Bored to Death go, if there were any show to replace it, it’d be this one. Laura Dern is brilliant, as usual, and Mike White‘s writing gives the show a really cool, unique tone.

6. Suburgatory (ABC) – Though my initial praise for it was a bit too high (Freaks and Geeks, it most certainly is not), I can safely say that it’s a fun show that occasionally broaches dramatic subjects with a fair sense of heightened realism through its style of unconventional humor.

5. Awake (NBC) – Cancelled (again, duh), but a fun ride while it lasted. The second episode added an element I really didn’t like, but it still managed to be smart, visually interesting and engrossing network TV, a rarity for any network, especially NBC. Kyle Killen is a champ.

4. Girls (HBO) – Lena Dunham is a polarizing figure. Half hate her and the show, half love them. Right now, I’m in the like-a-lot category with the show, but I think she’s just great. Met her once. Had a nice conversation about the merits of cult classic Felicity. Go watch her film Tiny Furniture. It’s quite funny.

3. Homeland (Showtime) – DAMN this show had a fantastic first season. Everything about it–the writing, which managed to stay fairly non-partisan despite the political nature of the show, the acting, from Damian Lewis and Clare Danes especially, and the interwoven plot structure–intersects perfectly to create a high-wire political thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Though I worry that the writers may have burned through too much story too soon, the finale set up an incredibly intriguing second season, if they handle the twist well enough. If not, I suppose the first season will always be magic. If that’s not enough, President Obama has admitted his fandom for the show.

2. Scandal (ABC) – Shonda Rhimes, normally of light dramedy fare (see Grey’s Anatomy), delves into darker territory here with the lightning-paced political/romance drama that deserves some serious Emmy consideration. It should also be noted that the show is the only one currently on network TV with a black female lead. Everyone brings their A game in a show that can only be described as the sex, gorgeous characterization and stakes of Game of Thrones meeting the speed and wit of an Aaron Sorkin production. It even finds a way to make Republicans interesting! Full disclosure: A show like this is built for me. This would be my favorite new show if it weren’t for

1. The Newsroom (HBO) – I know it hasn’t premiered yet, but it’s already my favorite of the season. Why, you ask? The God of Dialogue Aaron Sorkin of course. Cast is stellar, crew is stellar, show is stellar. Check the trailer here:

Introducing: Bear Attack – “August”

Meet Bear Attack. They are, in this blogger’s humble opinion, the best band to come out of USC’s Popular Music Program (which has produced such brilliant talents as The Voice‘s Lily Elise, Jayme Dee [featured on the soundtrack for the upcoming film The Hunger Games], at least one of the members of The Miracals, and Rozzi Crane [also featured on The Hunger Games soundtrack, in collaboration with Maroon 5]).

Their signature restrained male-female harmonic interplay reminds one of a female Simon & Garfunkel, The Head and the Heart, or The Swell Season, and their heavily acoustic instrumentation is so clearly arranged, so crisply tuned, that I couldn’t help but notice when they took the stage at a party at my frat. This inspired some serious facebook fandom, and many listens to their impeccably-produced EP (which they funded through Kickstarter).

They just received some notice in the LA Times, as their song “August” was featured in the recent season finale of the ABC Family hit Pretty Little Liars. Every piece of attention and exposure they get is deserved. Having heard them live, I have to say that they maintain and, dare I say it, even surpass the sound in the recorded versions of their songs.

In their ‘influences’ section of their Facebook page, the band lists Eric Whitacre as an influence. Whitacre, as any true choir nerd knows, is the preeminent modern choral composer, and his influence is discernible in the band’s music. Their chord changes are complex and infectious, and their harmonies are as tight as any great band on the road today (The Head and the Heart again come to mind). Their drummer also deserves some serious recognition for playing restrained, driving backbeats that even fellow blogger (and talented percussionist) Chris would be proud of, dynamicizing the song perfectly along with the other instrumental tracks.

Don’t believe me? Check them out below, and on Facebook for further proof of their awesomeness.

“Awake” – TV Review

Tonight, a new show will premiere on NBC, and ten weeks from now, it will probably be gone from the airwaves. So whatever your plans are tonight, take an hour from 10-11 (or 9-10 CST) and watch the best new network show of the season, Awake.

From brilliant writer and USC film school alum Kyle Killen (who continues to get work due to his incredible level of skill with delicate high-concept material despite its continual failure to attract a mainstream audience [see Lone Star, brilliant, and Black List-topper The Beaver]), this show is too good for network TV, which is why I predict its imminent cancellation. This is a show that belongs on HBO, Showtime, FX, AMC, anyplace but the doldrums of NBC after the decaying remains of a once-staunch, ratings-wise, Thursday night comedy lineup.

The show, shot beautifully with a great deal of attention to color paid by stylistic champion and director David Slade (Hard Candy, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse), opens with a devastating car accident. The driver is Detective Michael Britten, played by Lucius Malfoy (Jason Isaacs, always a brilliant actor), and in the car are his wife (Laura Allen) and son (Dylan Minnette). “After the crash, Britten discovers that every time he goes to sleep he switches between two realities, one in which his wife died in the crash and one in which his son died. In the reality where his wife is alive he is partnered with rookie Efrem Vega (Wilmer Valderrama) and is seeing a confrontational department-recommended psychiatrist Dr. Lee (B.D. Wong). His wife has redecorated the house and begins pushing him to move in an apparent effort to move past their son’s death. In the reality in which his son is alive, Britten maintains his long time partner Isaiah “Bird” Freeman (Steve Harris) and sees a more nurturing psychologist, Dr. Evans (Cherry Jones). His son, previously a football player, has recently returned to playing tennis, and is coached by Hannah’s former doubles partner Tara (Michaela McManus). Britten remains unsure which of the two realities, if either, is real, and begins to worry he is losing his sanity when details begin to cross over between the two” (NBC via Wikipedia).

Hot damn, what a brilliant premise. And hot damn, the execution of that premise. The pilot sets up an opportunity for a brilliant show, and helping Killen execute his unique and interesting vision is Howard Gordon, the co-mastermind of the season’s best new show, Homeland.

I won’t say more, because I wouldn’t want to spoil it for you. Tune in tonight. It’s worth your time.

“I’d Rather Be With You” – Joshua Radin

Yesterday, I was hanging out with a member of my co-ed film fraternity (you’re gonna hear a lot about this, I’m a pledge and this is my life for a couple months), and we were learning about each other and bonding over Scrubs, a mutual favorite show; we recognize its merits as an inherently cheesy, yet somehow grounded sitcom.

Recent experiences have forced me to evaluate (and continually re-evaluate) my perspective on relationships, of all kinds. Familial relationships, friendly relationships, and, yes, romantic relationships. Scrubs, of course, was the perfect jumping-off point for a conversation about such things.

The active, who’s in a long-term relationship, discussed the key points of successful relationships; I discussed why mine had failed. We compared notes, though she was clearly the more experienced of us.

It got me thinking about Joshua Radin, the singer/songwriter consistently featured on Scrubs (he’s a personal friend of indie music godfather Zach Braff).

His song, “I’d Rather Be With You”, provides a peppy, upbeat setting for lyrics of sadness, solitude and longing, which, not to say that I’m depressed or anything even remotely like that, have recently pervaded my thoughts:

Sitting here, on this lonely dock
Watch the rain play on the ocean top
All the things I feel I need to say
I can’t explain in any other way

I need to be bold
Need to jump in the cold water
Need to grow older with a girl like you
Finally see you are naturally
The one to make it so easy
When you show me the truth
Yeah, I’d rather be with you
Say you want the same thing too

Now here’s the sun, come to dry the rain
Warm my shoulders and relieve my pain
You’re the one thing that I’m missing here
With you beside me I no longer fear

I need to be bold
Need to jump in the cold water
Need to grow older with a girl like you
Finally see you are naturally
The one to make it so easy
When you show me the truth
Yeah, I’d rather be with you
Say you want the same thing too

I could have saved so much time for us
Had I seen the way to get to where I am today
You waited on me for so long
So now, listen to me say:

I need to be bold
Need to jump in the cold water
Need to grow older with a girl like you
Finally see you are naturally
The one to make it so easy
When you show me the truth
Yeah, I’d rather be with you
Say you want the same thing too
Say you feel the way I do

It’s been a crazy couple of days. A lot has happened, or rather, a lot hasn’t happened. Stagnation as opposed to regression, which at times feels worse. But it’s an eternal comfort to know that someone else has been there, too. That’s the beauty of music. We can see ourselves in it, reflect in it, hope in it. It’s a timeless beauty, one that I hope is never lost on society as music continues to evolve (or devolve).

Right-click: Joshua Radin – I’d Rather Be With You (mp3)