Stuart’s Entertainment Review – March 2013 (From Community to Californication and a bit of Risk Legacy in Between)

It’s mostly been a case of watching what’s old over the past month for me.

For example, at Christmas I was given the NCIS Season 1-8 Boxed Set, available for a mere £40 from Amazon.

I hadn’t seen the show before but enough people I know recommended it to me to make me think it was worth the investment, and it has been.

Sure, it’s formulaic, but you could say the same for most TV shows I suppose, and it must be doing something right to be dubbed “TV’s #1 Show” due to its consistently high ratings.

What annoyed me though was that the actual box gives out spoilers, and if there’s one thing I hate, it’s spoilers.

For example, one of the original characters leaves the show at some point in the series. That’s fine, but if you have the regular cast on the front of each of the series sets contained within the box, it becomes painfully obvious who is and who is not making it through each season. What’s more, the episode synopses on the boxes actually say “Someone dies”.

As such, what would probably have come a great surprise to me was ruined.

And I know, I know, it’s an old show so maybe the spoiler rule doesn’t apply anymore in the same way as there is a statute of limitations on some crimes, but it’s still irritating.

Mind you, I wasn’t as annoyed as I would have been if – like someone I know – I was still making my way through Breaking Bad and I saw that cinema advert for the Season 4 boxed set that showed a key scene from the final episode. Whoever made that advert was a spoiler-happy dick.

Anyway, here’s what else I’ve been watching lately…

Community

Twitter has been ablaze with Community fans cursing the latest season for not being nearly as good as it was in the past. I’m not so bothered by it. The episodes have ranged from all right to pretty good as far as I’m concerned, and they are

The latest season of Community is garnering mixed reviews, but when it sticks to its core - a sitcom set in a Community College - it's a winner for me

The latest season of Community is garnering mixed reviews, but when it sticks to its core – a sitcom set in a Community College – it’s a winner for me

certainly better than the ones from the tail end of Season 3. That Evil Abed episode was grim.

The show works better when they stick to keeping the show within the confines of the Community College though. The episode that was on last night seemed more like the sort of thing we got in the first two seasons, rather than being another set piece episode like the ones with the Haunted House and Shawshank Redemption themes.

Whether it manages to stick around for another season is the question. Personally, I think it’s 50/50. On the one hand, ratings have been reasonably good for the show, but on the other, NBC doesn’t seem to have much faith in it. Who knows, but one thing that will be interesting is seeing how the show copes with the loss of Chevy Chase, who I believe will not be in some of the upcoming episodes.

I just wish Chang would leave as well…

Castle

I’ve finally caught up with Castle. Having started watching it about six months ago, I just recently watched the two part kidnap episode.

Now you know I love this show, and there have been some absolutely brilliant comedy episodes lately, like “Murder, He Wrote”, which – you’ll not be surprised to hear – is a piss-take on a famous mystery show we all know but never watch. Similarly, there was a recent episode with another staple of modern TV; an episode where a TV Documentary crew follows them about.

And I know what you’re thinking; what’s so special about that? Well what I thought made this stand out ahead of other examples of this type of theme was that the actors both looked and acted  in a noticeably differently way to a standard ep. The female characters like Beckett and Laney looked a little less ‘made up’ than usual, with messier hair and the look of a normal person rather than a TV character. And all the characters – one way or another – changed their behaviour to suit the camera. Some were showing off, others were shy. It made for a great departure from the norm, and showed other TV shows how this sort of thing should be done.

But to go back to that Kidnap episode, what I thought was particularly noteworthy was that we got to see Nathan Fillion (Castle) flex his acting muscles a little bit and explore the darker side of the usually light-hearted crime writer. The bit where he tortures the guy was alarmingly good.

Let me state this again – if you haven’t seen Castle, you should give it a try.

Californication

And speaking of giving a show a try, I started watching Californication thanks to my NetFlix subscription.

I’ve enjoyed it sufficiently to power through the first four seasons in a month. Each episode lasts 30 minutes and there are 12 episodes per season so it’s not as bad as it sounds.

I found Mia from Californication to be one of the most unlikeable characters in Television history. Was I supposed to?

I found Mia from Californication to be one of the most unlikeable characters in Television history. Was I supposed to?

It has moments that can make you laugh out loud, and some episodes – like the The Raw & The Cooked from Season 2, The Apartment from Season 3 and Monkey Business from Season 4 – are genius, but I fear that the show may become a little bit formulaic.

For example, I’ve started Season 5 and it seems to be a case of same old, same old. Hank has a thing for someone who should be unattainable, Charley has some weird sexual misadventure on the go and Karen & the poorly cast Becca (why they cast her considering what her parents look like is a mystery to me) are just sort of ‘there’.

Still, at least Mia is gone. I’m not exactly sure what I – as a viewer – was supposed to think of her, but she came across as one of the most detestable characters in television history to me.

From looking online, people seem to think Californication has gone down hill, so I’ll be better placed to comment on that next time.

Oh, and one other thing. Have you ever noticed how English accents always sound so fake in US TV shows? I see that the wonderfully or ridiculously named (depending on your outlook) Camilla Luddington – now of Grey’s Anatomy – is in this. She’s an English actress presumably performing with her real accent, but it sounds so fake, while – oddly enough – her fake accent in Greys sounds more real.

Weird, eh?

Up All Night

Got bored of it; stopped watching.

Gaming

As for gaming, I can’t say I’ve done a massive amount of that lately, having divided my time between TV, work and writing.

Quality Board Game Action

Quality Board Game Action

But what I did do was settle in to play a board game last weekend; Risk Legacy. 

It’s obviously a take on normal Risk, but with slightly different rules and a replayability factor where every time you have a game, it impacts on the next one. For example, I won the first game, and in doing so, I got to claim one of the continents

on the board as my own going forward. As you play, your own faction develops added skills and power ups for subsequent games, and if something momentous happens, you get to open sealed envelopes that impact upon future plays also.

Overall it has a life span of about 15 games, but considering how often we actually get together to play these games, I reckon my friends and I will finish it in about 2019.

Value for money then.

When it comes to video games, all I have to report is that I made the life affirming decision to stop playing Candy Crush Saga.

It got to the point where the business model kicked in. If I had any hope of progressing past the level I was on I either needed luck or to pay for power ups.

“Sod that”, said the cheapskate/realist within me, and I haven’t played it since.

It was a good ride while it lasted.

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