Archive for the 'TV' Category

Vietnamese Rule Reality

Hung Huynh Chloe Dao

Vietnamese Americans are taking over, man! And last night was the latest salvo. Hung Huynh’s culinary prowess torpedoed all comers as he won Top Chef Miami, stunning some of the toughest taste buds in the industry with an impeccably produced, culturally infused four-courser.

And last year, Chloe Dao wowed us with her thoughtfully composed collection at the world famous Fashion Week in NYC and beat down two talented guys to win Project Runway season 2.

Seems like Bravo might as well hang it up and admit that .5% of the US population is going to be responsible for just about 100% of the wins on their talent-based reality shows, eh? I can tell you that’s a good thing. After all, my wife is Vietnamese… and “she approved this message.”

Find more on the good and bad of winning Bravo’s competitions at New York Magazine’s The Near-Fame Experience. And get more Hung and Chloe.

Bobby Wheeler Reloaded

Jeff Conaway Vincent Libretti

Is Grease and Taxi star Jeff Conaway (left) reborn in the form of Project Runway contestant Vincent Libretti? Sure looks that way. And it wouldn’t be Conaway’s first brush with reality tv, either. Remember his fabulously loaded shennanigans on Celebrity Fit Club earlier this year? (Shades of Crispin Glover’s batshit insane appearance on Letterman back in 1987.) And I thought Jeff hit bottom when he did Babylon 5…

Maybe Runway curators Heidi and Tim can whip his ass into shape. After all, a heart breaks every minute he stays flabby and deranged.

First Black Man in the Fleet

Plotting Evil Threatening People Quite Dead

Plotting evil, threatening people, quite dead. It’s sad that we still have to have this conversation, but is there any good reason why the only black male character to appear on Ron Moore’s otherwise outstanding Battlestar Galactica is a demon that needs to be put out of his misery?

In a recent episode (somewhat ironically titled “Black Market”) we find the first black man in the fleet to get screen time (Bill Duke as “Phelan”) trafficking in everything from murder to booze to stolen goods to, oh yeah, child sex (all white kids, mind you). And he’s killed at the hands of Apollo’s righteous vigilante justice in his first episode. Shades of Dirty Harry?

Now, I’m first to say that the exploration of moral ambiguity is one of Galactica’s strongest aspects (especially in the current political climate), but this character has no grays — heck, he doesn’t live long enough to develop any! And perhaps the argument that it was morally questionable for Apollo to shoot the guy in cold blood holds some water, but not much. Ultimately, by nearly any cinema metric you choose to apply, Phelan deserves death. It’s depressing to see a show that makes its living going against stereotype go down this kind of road.

With black folks still struggling to find decent roles in film, it’s particularly sad that science fiction of all things can’t at least invent a future where black men aren’t still portrayed as being at the bottom of all the bad stuff. As it is, Hollywood Shuffle remains relevant nearly 20 years on. Ron, I know it’s not your job to fix the industry, but I still thought you were better than this.

The continuing poor representation of African Americans in film was previously scoped in Snubbed.


Rachel in Blade Runner Sharon in Battlestar Galactica

From the beginning, the new Battlestar Galactica has taken ideas from many sources (including its namesake, of course), but the most notable borrowing point for my money has been Philip Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. To put it simply: both feature robots that look like humans and explore the moral and practical implications of that notion. And, well, both feature some flesh and blood robots that want to help humans and some that want to kill them. In Electric Sheep, they’re called replicants; in Galactica, cylons.

What’s interesting in Galactica, though, is the way it has turned the tables on some of Dick’s ideas. For instance, it’s the robots who are on the run in Electric Sheep where the humans are the hunted in Galactica. In Dick’s book, the robots are individuals, each one different. In Galactica, the robots are copies of specific humans and each has hundreds of duplicates.

Another clever reversal takes place in the most recent Battlestar episode (207). Fans may recall a scene at the end of Blade Runner (the film adaptation of Electric Sheep) where human Rick Deckard looks to gather replicant Rachel and go on the run, hiding her from authorities who would “retire” her. Rick asks her: “Do you love me?” She nods. “Do you trust me?” She nods again. And they’re out the door.

In last week’s Battlestar, a similarly tense situation arises when cylon Sharon makes a disturbingly vague assertion about needing to take matters into her own hands. When Helo expresses concern, she asks him: “Do you love me?” He nods. “Do you trust me?” He nods again. And the new Sharon goes on to prove herself where the old Sharon failed.

Continue reading ‘Replicated’

Galactica Goes Legit

Battlestar 1978 keeps it real

Who would have thought a remake of a classically campy late-70’s flop could actually serve up some of the best science fiction to air in years? Sure it’s still a little campy, sure it has stolen ideas everywhere from Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep to Alien to *cough* Voyager *cough*, but heck if this new Battlestar isn’t really great television.

The character acting is mostly good and it improves significantly whenever Olmos or McDonnell is on screen (they tower). The special effects are stellar in their visceral shaky-cam style — making up for what they lack in technical prowess with sheer imagination (and making you wonder if you’re really watching the same channel that’s airing sfx bellwethers like Snake King every week). What really sets the show apart, though, is that it has taken what was Wagon Train (or Mormons?) in space in the original show and turned into a genuine drama with real political intrigue and, at times, the kind of thought-provoking parallels that the best science fiction aspires to. And of course there’s some quality action. What this amounts to is that, well, you don’t really end up feeling like you’re watching science fiction — at least not in that Star Trek, Babylon 5 kind of way. The show is somehow not nearly as self-conscious as those, even in its first season.

All this isn’t to say that Galactica Revisited is absent rough edges. Some of the acting feels a bit over the top (the doctor and his in-head Cylon buddy come to mind). Not all of the sub-plots work so well, either. And what the heck happened to having at least a token semi-major African-American character? (Spiritual advisors don’t count!) Hell, even the original Battlestar got that one right. Considering, though, how far the show has come from the somewhat shaky miniseries to the green light to a bang-up season finale, it’s clear we’ve got a lot to look forward to.

For more, see creator Ron Moore’s blog

image via fark

New Vintage Vice

Crockett & Tubbs as the 80s Peaked

The Vice is back; we just don’t know it yet. From Rockstar North’s Vice City to a certain CBS wannabe, it’s creeping up on us. Heck, Kenneth Cole recently ran a city-wide ad campaign mirroring the above image with new faces. Just another day in the re-emergence of the cultural force once known as MTV Cops.

Of particular note, though, is that Michael Mann has re-taken the helm. We should have guessed that he’d return since Vice has so clearly defined his style from Heat to Robbery Homicide Division to Collateral. Now, with the announcement of a Miami Vice film for next year — starring Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx, no less — Vice fans finally have something concrete to look forward to. And something to help us forget the unfortunate Mr. Bridges and a certain short-lived recording career. Olmos has aged well, though, and should be cast again — he can make anything good. Oh, and ya think Tubbs could get some lines this time around?

For more on Mann’s style, see That Miami Vice Feeling.

image grabbed from wildhorse

That Miami Vice Feeling

On the surface, Michael Mann‘s 80s classic Miami Vice and his new film Collateral really don’t have much in common. Different location, different premise, different era. But his ability to bring cities to life through the spectacle of their lights while creating an undertow of tension and longing permeates each show. His trademark mixing of gritty realism (gunfights aren’t in slow-mo; they take place at ferocious speed) with the surreal milky emptiness of night is just as much in evidence now as it was then.

While Mann’s recent TV flop, Robbery Homicide Division, took a stab at bringing out the lights of LA and had some visuals that sang (though it periodically descended into typical crime drama cliches), Collateral takes it up a notch. In Collateral, Mann takes a virtually empty Los Angeles night and allows his characters (Tom Cruise’s cocky self-justifying hitman and Jamie Foxx’s soft-spoken dream deferred cab driver) to grow and fill the space. Only when we visit night clubs, bars, and the occasional populated street do we meet the other characters who help add color to this quietly tense world. Sound familiar?

Though Collateral certainly isn’t Miami Vice, it does in many ways represent what Michael Mann does best. It’s nice to see him doing something at once familiar and so different.

images grabbed from wildhorse and filmforce

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