Stuart’s Entertainment Review July 2015 (Inc. WWE, UnReal, Nashville, N++, Rocket League etc)

August 4, 2015

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of my Entertainment Review articles, but seeing as I’ve been playing plenty of games and watching a few different things on TV throughout the month of July, I thought I’d exhume the format.

TV

As you’ll know, most American TV shows run between September and May, with the US market seemingly believing that nobody watches TV during the summer.

However, you will get the occasional programme running almost unopposed around this time, and one such example of that is UnReal, which finished its first season last night.

A drama about the behind the scenes running of a reality TV show called Everlasting (which is basically The Bachelor), UnReal ‘exposes’ the reality format and captures not only how stage-managed everything that goes on in these shows actually is, but also the ruthless and selfish types of people both in front and behind the camera.

Whether I truly enjoyed it is something I’m not all that sure of. Yes, I watched every episode and it kept my attention, but I’m struggling to understand how it can go beyond a single season without retreading over old ground. Now we know that everyone involved is an arsehole and that the show will always be run a certain way, surely any new season would just be a repeat of what we’ve already seen.

What’s also interesting is that there isn’t really a single character in it who is likeable. Everyone is out for themselves and though they try to portray the main character Rachel (Shiri Appleby) as sympathetic, she’s arguably the biggest prick of the lot.

Viewers of Entourage and House of Cards watching this must also come to the conclusion that Constance Zimmer has managed to become typecast as the very niche character of ‘Single Minded Woman In The Media’.

Apart from UnReal, here’s what else I’ve been watching…

Nashville: I took a punt at watching Nashville on Sky On Demand after unsuccessfully trying to be interested in the dull as dishwater Ray Donovan, and I was surprised at just how enjoyable it is. Not only does it

Seriously, look at the size of her forehead.

Seriously, look at the size of her forehead.

have a wide range of characters who are all written with some amount of depth, but the storylines are also interesting and it’s all supported well by catchy tunes. And I previously didn’t even like Country music. I think the biggest surprise of all is that previously wooden actress Hayden Panettiere – who I thought ruined Heroes by the time I stopped watching – is actually really good in it. I’m currently on Season Two so I don’t know anything about the most recent episodes, but I’m in this for the long haul.

Under The Dome: When I reviewed the first season of Under the Dome, I took the view that it was shit, but I forgave it because it was so unintentionally amusing. When Season Two came out I gave up after about three episodes, but with the news that it’s on its final season this year, I went back and watched the rest of the second one. Wow, was that a mistake. Season Two of Under the Dome is shit, but it’s not unintentionally amusing, it’s just shit. I don’t really know where to begin. Is it the tenuous way a host of new characters managed to come into it despite the confines of the setting? Is it the terrible acting, not least from the girl with The Largest Forehead In The Universe? Is it that the new science teacher character  is written so one-dimensionally ‘sciency’ that she doesn’t come across as a genuine human being? Is it that the plot became so garbled and confusing that I honestly have no idea what it’s even about anymore? Is it that they have situations like Julia getting stabbed through the leg one week and only surviving her predicament by literally dying of hypothermia so her blood stopped pumping and then in the next week she’s running around with a bandage over her jeans and not even a hint of a limp? Or is it all of the above? I will finish Under the Dome, but only because I feel I’ve put in too much time for me not to. But it’s really shit, so if you haven’t seen it, don’t bother.

Out of the Unknown: Ok, so I was doing reviews of Out of the Unknown, but I’m throwing in the towel. But for one or two episodes, it was just really boring. I couldn’t face watching another one.

1997 Editions of WWE Raw: I’m a subscriber to the WWE Network, and despite the fact that it must not get as many subscribers as WWE clearly wants it to, I would say it offers fantastic value for money for any wrestling fan. But what it also does is serve as a reminder that in almost all ways, wrestling in 2015 is rubbbish compared to what I personally feel was its heyday, 1997. On the Network at the moment is every single episode of Raw from 1997 (and indeed I think it has everything from 1993 up until 2000) and I have been happily sitting through episode after episode from that year. With the exception of the athleticism of the wrestlers involved, everything about that era – from the recognisability of the wrestlers through to the quality of the storylines – was just so superior to what we’ve got now, it’s quite sad. Most wrestling fans will point to 1998 – the year the Attitude Era came into full swing and when WWE turned the tables on WCW – as the best of times, but not me.

There’s just something – and pardon the pun here – raw about 1997. In March of that year they moved to the new set and thetwo-hour format that the show is most synonymous with, and yet at the same time

Part of the appeal of the 1997 Raws is seeing incongruous stuff like Steve Austin squaring up to Gorilla Monsoon. Naturally, not one for taking shit off of people, Monsoon doesn't back down an inch. Legend.

Part of the appeal of the 1997 Raws is seeing incongruous stuff like Steve Austin squaring up to Gorilla Monsoon. Naturally, not one for taking shit off of people, Monsoon doesn’t back down an inch. Legend.

it feels a completely different era has been placed in that setting. Everything about the environment will remind fans of Austin vs McMahon, DX vs The Nation, The Undertaker vs Kane and everything else associated with Attitude, but for the most part, 1997 isn’t about that at all. There’s Vince McMahon on commentary, Gorilla Monsoon as the President who is not in the least bit intimidated by Steve Austin (who plays the heel for much of the time and is at his best at this point), voiceovers by Todd Pettengil and appearances by guys who you’d be forgiven for forgetting were still around, like Sid, The Patriot, Barry Horrowitz and The Honky Tonk Man.

The Hart Foundation storyline – and everything that came along with it – remains my absolute favourite wrestling storyline of all time. I said earlier that it felt raw, and this is the best example of it. Bret Hart’s attitude towards the way his character was no longer accepted as the hero in the US was genuine. His dislike for Shawn Michaels (and vice versa) was very real, and the exchanges between the two hit so close to the bone that with hindsight (especially knowing how Hart would be screwed at Montreal and forced out of the company) it makes for compelling viewing. There’s nothing they could do now that could touch this for authenticity.

Like I say, I believe 1997 is wrestling’s heyday. Every episode starts with a reprisal and ends with a cliffhanger, just like a good TV show should. It’ll never get this good again, but at least for $9.99 you can relive it and remember what it was like when wrestling was actually entertaining.

The Last Ship: Another show I’ve attempted to get hooked on is The Last Ship, but it’s failing to keep me interested. It’s just a bit corny and it’s difficult to take lead actors (Eric Dane of Grey’s Anatomy and Adam Baldwin from Chuck) seriously because of their past playing more comedic characters. Also, knowing that it was renewed for a second season which is currently airing just makes me think that the overall plot will just end up being stretched much further than it should.

Games

Meanwhile, I’ve been fairly busy on the gaming front as well. Here are some examples of games I’ve played over the last month.

N++ (PS4): Here’s a game I’ve been waiting to come out for years. The sequel to the Xbox 360 game N+, this was supposed to be released around the same time as the PS4, but the developers just kept holding it back and holding it back, Now this is a top game, and has a single player mode every bit as good and challenging as its predecessor, which came in at #8 in my Top 100 Games Of The Last Generation article series, but I won’t lie; I’m a little disappointed with it. One of the best parts of N+ was the ability to play online Co-Op mode with friends. That’s gone, and it’s a shame. The developers came up with a long-winded explanation for why they didn’t add it in, which seemed reasonable, but considering the game came out two years later than it should have and considering it’s not exactly inexpensive for a PS Store game at £15, I just don’t have much sympathy for them or their ‘woe is us’ excuses. All I know is that if the games developer I work for released a game two years late and with expected features missing, we’d be slaughtered.

Rocket League (PS4): Contrast N++ to Rocket League, which came free with July’s PS Plus membership and has been accepted with open arms around the world. Yes, I totally accept the difference between

Looks great, plays great. Fantastic.

Looks great, plays great. Fantastic.

one developer getting support from Sony and another having to go it alone, but Rocket League doesn’t come with a sob story attached (N++ literally does have a sob story which you can click on on the main menu). A simple concept of rocket fueled cars playing football, it’s fast, furious, frustrating and fun. And you can play it online with your friends, not just on the PS4 but on the PC too, which is a breakthrough in cross-platform gaming as far as I’m concerned. My only problem with it is that sometimes struggles to cope with my network connection and can be a tad laggy when playing online. Still great though.

Splatoon (Wii U): I love Nintendo, but I’m going to go against the grain here and say I don’t find Splatoon as enjoyable as I think I’m supposed to. I should love it; it’s bright and colourful, it’s a Nintendo game and it gets fantastic reviews from all corners, but there’s just something about it I struggled with. It felt samey and the controls were a bit awkward. Plus, more than the likes of Call of Duty, I felt that the weapons that more experienced players had unlocked made it nigh on impossible to triumph against with the entry-level options. I’ll try to give it another go, but it feels a bit disappointing to me.

Kirby And The Rainbow Paintbrush (Wii U): I was also surprisingly disappointed by this game, but for a different reason. Kirby is challenging and does what it’s supposed to well enough. It’s never going to be as good as a Mario game but it provides you with a few hours of solid platforming fun. The thing is though it has a huge design flaw; while it looks fantastic, you get no chance to actually enjoy how it looks because the need to use the touch screen on the Wii U Gamepad the entire time. This means that you don’t get a chance to lift your head up to actually see the beautiful graphics on your expensive 55″ TV screen. Madness.

The Secret of Monkey Island 2 – LeChuck’s Revenge (Xbox 360): First released in the late 80s/early 90s heyday of LucasArts adventure games, Monkey Island 2 is regarded by many as one of the all time great games. I take issue with this. It’s amusing and it has been lovingly remastered to look swish on the 360, but I just don’t see the point in a game that you can’t complete without reading a walkthrough. Now you might come to me and say “Stuart, maybe you’re just not clever enough to work out some of the puzzles” but I’d argue that point. Maybe I’m not, but maybe it’s that these games were designed with the post-purchase money-spinner of getting players to phone up hotlines or buy guidebooks to get help finding solutions to these puzzles? Maybe also people had a greater tolerance to devoting time to thinking about all the possible tenuous ways to complete some of the more obscure brain teasers? But put it this way; there’s a puzzle where to get money you have to get a job. To get the job you have to get the cook in the pub sacked. How do you do this? You’ve got to pick up a rat. How do you pick up a rat? You have to pick up a cheese puff, a piece of string and stick and add them all together to create a trap with a cardboard box that’s sitting in a corner in the same screen as the rat. Without any hints, how is anyone supposed to conclude that’s what you have to do to move on? People who have too much time to think most likely.

Professor Leyton and The Miracle Mask (3DS): Speaking of puzzles, the Leyton games are famous for their brain teasers that require actual thought and cognitive reasoning. And that’s fantastic. The Leyton games however are also famous for being absolutely bogged down in layer upon layer of uninteresting storylines that you have to sit through before getting to the next puzzle. I suppose without the storyline the game would feel utterly bare-bones, but for me the puzzles are the only interesting part, so it made it a real struggle to get through it.

TwoDots (Android): My current go-to game for a quick fix is TwoDots, a sort of Bust-a-Move/Zookeeper/Candy Crush affair available on mobile platforms. It’s good, but success is entirely random. Sometimes the way the dots fall (you have to link up the same colours to clear them) means there’s just no way you can complete a level in the required moves while other times it just falls into place easily. After a while you realise there’s no skill involved. I’m guessing this is a deliberate ploy to sell in-app purchases like extra lives and weapons. You can do well without them of course, but you just need that little bit of patience. It’s free and it’s fun, but my advice is to keep calm and avoid paying out for these extras.

Assuming I remember, I’ll be back with more next month!

Calls to Action

Remember to…

a) Like Stuart Reviews Stuff on Facebook or Twitter

b) Read about my books – focussing on reviews of Doctor Who from the very beginning – here

c) If you appreciate my sense of humour, go ‘Stuart’s Exciting Anecdote of the Day’ 

 

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Stuart’s Television Review – May 2014 (including Continuum, Game of Thrones, Legends House and More)

May 16, 2014

It’s been a long time since I’ve written one of my Entertainment Review posts, with the last one being back in February, and with the US TV Season drawing to a close for another year, it’s time to catch up.

Here are my thoughts on some of the shows I’ve been watching lately…

24: Live Another Day

Yes, Jack is back (three words that have probably been used together in just about every single review of the show since it made its return last week) and this time he’s in London.

On hearing the news that Kate Ramsay, with her smug smile and Auton-like face had been killed off in Neighbours, I watched it again

On hearing the news that Kate Ramsay, with her smug smile and Auton-like face had been killed off in Neighbours, I watched it again

What can you say? Well it’s the tried, tested and a little bit tired formula all over again, with the first three episodes focusing on the Level One villains who will ultimately be killed off by someone higher up than them on the food chain.

But it’s been a while since 24 was on our screens and so even though it’s not breaking any new ground, it’s still entertaining.

I’m gutted about Maurice being killed off between seasons though.

The Big Bang Theory

As much of a fan of this show as I am, there’s no doubt the quality is going downhill. It’s not going downhill as fast as Kaley Cuoco’s appearance (cue angry feminist comments being left), but it’s still suffering from a drop in quality. Much of that has to do with the repetitiveness of it all, but with some level of character development in the past few weeks, I’m still confident that this is a show that will still be worth watching next year.

Castle

Castle, meanwhile, is a show that is going from strength to strength. But for one episode in the 2012/13 season that was a rushed clip episode, it has remained one of the most consistently entertaining shows on TV.

The recent instalment with the mobster who still believed it was the late 1970s was well written and superbly funny.

If you’ve not given this show a go yet, do so ASAP.

Community

It’s been cancelled! Nooooooooo!!!

Creatively, you could argue that it was time for it to go, because it finished on a happy ending and for the characters to still be hanging around Greendale for another year would just seem tenuous.

But I’m still disappointed as I’ve been mostly enjoying this latest season. With the exception of the episode centring around the phone app – which turned into yet another post-apocalyptic, Hunger-Games style war – it was of a high standard throughout.

My favourite episode – and one that I would implore you to watch, even though it didn’t get the ratings in the US – is the GI Joe one. By presenting most of the episode in an authentic GI Joe cartoon from the 80s, it was just one of the smartest/coolest/geekiest things I’ve ever seen.

Continuum

Now here’s a show I’ve just recently starting watching.

And better yet, Doug Willis is back!

And better yet, Doug Willis is back!

A Canadian Time Travel/Police Drama that is somewhere between Life on Mars and The Butterfly Effect, I have been thoroughly enjoying this, and would recommend it highly.

Starring Rachel Nichols from the final season of Alias, it has had me hooked for the past week of binge watching. Now I’ve read some people say it’s a bit too complex for them, and I can sympathise with that, but I’ve had no problems keeping up.

After a few episodes, I was wondering how they would keep the show fresh and interesting, but they’ve managed that by developing the storylines and characters and not being afraid of making key changes to the dynamic.

What I also like about it is the location. Because the show is made in Vancouver and primarily uses lesser known Canadian actors in the cast, it gives the show a different look and feel to the majority of shows from across the pond filmed in New York or Los Angeles.

On the whole, I’d give this a hearty thumbs up.

Game of Thrones

I just don’t get the hype.

I’m a few episodes behind on this, and that says it all about my desire to see this show.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think Game of Thrones is bad – indeed I think it’s quite good – but the way you read people fawning all over it on social media baffles me.

It especially baffles me that some of the people who think it’s the coolest thing going are the sorts of people who’ll go out of their way to criticise shows like Doctor Who as being “sad”. It’s apparently acceptable geekery.

Personally, I do think it’s a case of style over substance, and has several issues, including a cast that is too expansive for the average viewer to fully invest in or even recognise the characters they play, and a narrative flow that is uneven at best.

There are some episodes where nothing happens, and if people weren’t willing the show to do so well, you would be right to say that the storyline with Daenerys Targaryen (I had to look her name up there despite watching this from the start) is moving at far too slow a pace.

Maybe I’m being too critical here, but I think there are plenty of more entertaining TV shows out there and that this is the classic example of a show that is best watched in bulk rather than episode by episode.

But it looks nice.

p.s. Don’t get upset…this is just my opinion. If you like it then good for you 😉

Grey’s Anatomy

The GI Joe Episode of Community was one of the most inventive episodes of a TV show I've seen. Class.

The GI Joe Episode of Community was one of the most inventive episodes of a TV show I’ve seen. Class.

I can just see the anger on the faces of some blokey readers getting past my entry about Game of Thrones and then seeing me praise Grey’s Anatomy. How dare I!

It’s been a decent season of Grey’s, although probably the weakest one they’ve done.

Like a couple more programmes I plan on discussing, this is one show that could probably have finished for good here, with most of the story arcs of the characters being wrapped up nicely.

With original cast-member Sandra Oh leaving, and potential storyline exits for the likes of Meredith, Derek and Alex also hinted at in the last few episodes, it could well have ended here and nobody could complain from a creative standpoint.

But it will continue, and that’s not a bad thing. My only concern is that the end of season cliffhanger – that the new Head of Cardio is Meredith’s half-sister and the Chief’s long-lost daughter – feels like a Jumping The Shark moment.

Let’s hope it’s not.

Neighbours

I’ve got back into Neighbours!! Well..sort of.

Continuum - Well worth your time

Continuum – Well worth your time

Having read that one of the characters that put me off the show so much that I stopped watching it was getting killed off (the horribly smug Kate Ramsey with her Auton-like head), while the Living Legend, Doug Willis, was making a comeback, I decided to give it another go.

It’s been ok. It turns out that there’s been an almost entire turnover of cast since I stopped watching, but I’ve picked it up again.

I’m not hooked, but my brother and I are having a sort of ironic laugh watching it again.

Oh, and quite clearly Susan and Karl Kennedy are immortals. They just don’t age.

Revenge

Another show that probably should have ended this year is Revenge.

As hilariously bad, yet weirdly engrossing as it is, the whole point of the show was for an undercover Emily to avenge her father’s death and to bring those responsible for his incarceration to justice. And she did that.

And now everyone knows exactly who she is, removing that element from it too.

And yet it was renewed for another season.

Why?

Probably because it makes money, and that seems to be more important than making a creatively satisfying show.

The season ended with Conrad and Aiden murdered, Victoria in a mental institution and most ridiculously of all, David Clarke returning from the dead.

As much as I’m sure I’ll have a laugh when it returns, this show should have ended by now.

Scandal

And so should Scandal.

Olivia Pope from Scandal - a deeply unpleasant woman

Olivia Pope from Scandal – a deeply unpleasant woman

Here’s a show that has long outlived its welcome, despite only running for three seasons.

Unlike Grey’s Anatomy and Revenge, what’s even more ridiculous about Scandal getting a new season is that every storyline was wrapped up at the conclusion of the last episode. Why would it need to come back, and how can it come back without it seeming ridiculous?

The problem is that over the last season and a half, it moved away from being a show about a team of political fixers taking on a new case every week and put all its eggs into the one basket – Olivia’s relationship with the President.

And though I did watch the season all the way through, it got really fucking boring by the end. Every single episode had a scene shoe-horned in where Olivia and the President – a man who she’s having an affair with – talk about their feelings while that incongruous incidental music that makes me want to slam my fist through the TV played over it. Just awful.

But what gets me about Scandal the most is that – not unlike Shonda Rhimes other shows like Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice – the lead character is supremely unlikable. Olivia Pope is – I think – written to be a strong and independent black woman (with the “black” part being important, hence why I highlighted it), presumably because that’s how the show’s creator sees herself, but what she actually comes across as is an overconfident, hypocritical and deeply unlikable bitch. Meanwhile, the First Lady, who I imagine is written to be a villain, comes across as someone who is victimized and more often than not in the right.

The scene where Olivia tells the guy having an affair with the First Lady that he has to stop sleeping with her or she’ll destroy him – while she herself is openly having a relationship with the President in front of his wife – took the cake.

This is one show I may not return to.

Two and a Half Men

This is not so much a TV show that I’m watching at US Pace, but one that I decided to get into recently by watching the DVDs from the start.

I feel quite underwhelmed by it, and it amazes me that it’s still on TV now.

A bit like when I watched the boxed set of NCIS, I just sort of drifted away from it by the third season.

It made me smile, but not laugh, and I found myself frustrated, hoping that Alan’s ex-wife would get some level of comeuppance. I even googled it to find out if she did.

But she didn’t as far as I can see.

Meh.

WWE Legends House

Hillbilly Jim is back on our screens in 2014. Result!

Hillbilly Jim is back on our screens in 2014. Result!

Finally, as a fan of WWE going back years, the idea of the likes of Hacksaw Duggan, Hillbilly Jim, Mean Gene, Roddy Piper and Jimmy Hart living in a house together is the perfect show.

Filmed years ago (as evidenced by the now UK based Ashley Roberts working as the host) but never picked up by any TV network, this has finally seen the light of day on the WWE Network.

And it’s crap, but a great laugh.

If you don’t know the characters, you won’t get it, but if you do, you will.

Simple.

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Stuart’s Entertainment Review Feb 10 (Including 2 Broke Girls, Community, Scandal & WWE)

February 10, 2014

It’s time for a long overdue Entertainment Review (or in particular, TV Review)

2 Broke Girls: I started watching this in spite of warnings not to from people on Twitter. I’m glad I did, because it’s brilliant. Sure, it’s never going to win any awards for subtle humour, but unlike the sort of show you’ll find on BBC3, this

Better than many give it credit for

Better than many give it credit for

 

show manages to be quite clever along with the sledgehammer-esque crude jokes. It’s not rude for the sake of it, and it has a direction and plot.

The cast is pretty good too. Although I initially looked at the performances of the likes of Beth Behrs, Matthew Moy and Jennifer Coolidge and winced, I soon realised that was part of the charm.

Top stuff. If you haven’t given it a go, do so.

Celebrity Big Brother: Another show that gets looked down upon by the masses, Celebrity Big Brother was immense this year. While people will look at it and think of Big Brother as a tired old concept, the fact is that with the right group of people in the house, it’ll never get old. That’s where Channel 4 and Channel 5 have gone wrong in the past, filling the house with wannabees and try-hards rather than people who have a little bit of depth and interest in them.

So while I didn’t bother with the previous CBB for more than a few days because it focused on crap like the girl from Geordie Shore pissing the bed and Lauren Harries being…well…Lauren Harries, this edition actually had decent people in it.

More importantly, it had good storylines too. Jim Davidson’s war with Coleen Nolan & Louisa Zussman was epic, while the love triangle with that cad Lee Ryan and the two girls whose names I’ve now forgotten also provided a bit of drama.

And let’s face it, who ever thought you’d see the visual of Lionel Blair dressed in PVC aggressively shouting “Suck my dick” at someone. Class.

The best thing about it was that neither Sam Faiers nor Ollie Locke won, thus proving the general public has a sense of free will.

Community: Community’s back! Yay! And all the signs are that in spite of the departures of Chevy Chase and Donald Glover, the return of original show runner Dan Harmon has brought with it an increase in quality on Season 4.

It’s not like Season 4 was bad, but it certainly wasn’t as good as it had been in the past.

The only thing I’d like is if there were more “normal” episodes rather than deliberately “Meta” ones.

The Musketeers: Tried it, fell asleep. Didn’t bother to watch it again.

Scandal: Considering I think Grey’s Anatomy is one of the greatest TV shows ever (and I don’t care if that loses me man points, because it is) it’s strange that I hadn’t given Shonda Rhimes’ political fixer drama a go before now. But now that I have, I’m glad. It’s another (mostly) well written TV show that does a great job on cliffhangers. Almost every episode ends with some startling revelation or event that makes you want to watch the next episode immediately.

What drags it down though is the relationship between main character Olivia Pope and the President of the United States. Their tiresome love affair hasn’t moved along an inch in the near two seasons I’ve seen, and yet every…single…episode involves a scene where they stare longingly at each other while that same irritating piece of incidental music plays over it.

Since I’m not up to date with it yet, I don’t know if it has moved forward or not, but my attitude right now to it is “Shit or get off the pot”.

The thing is, it’s like Rhimes thinks that a TV show won’t appeal to people – or more likely to women of a certain demographic – unless there’s a love story in there. And while Grey’s Anatomy has that too, I can count on one hand the amount of episodes where that becomes more important than the medical drama side of things.

With Scandal it’s too often the centre point.

I’d sooner it focussed on Huck killing more people in morally ambiguous ways.

WWE: Right now, WWE is fascinating to watch because of the turmoil surrounding it.

I don't know whether to boo or yawn

I don’t know whether to boo or yawn

Fans are openly rejecting the product on offer by booing the people the writers want them to cheer, and cheering those that they’d rather they didn’t.

The recent Royal Rumble almost became uncomfortable to watch. The guy the crowd unanimously wanted to win the Rumble match wasn’t even in it, and when the final entrant came in and they realised this, they booed. And booed. And booed some more. And when it was over, the guy who won it – who was supposed to the returning hero – was met with almost feral levels of hostility.

Meanwhile, one of the biggest stars in the company – CM Punk – appears to have quit without warning and the whole situation has left management scrambling for ways to sort things out in time for the upcoming Wrestlemania 30 (or as they’ve stupidly called it, Wrestlemania XXX, which is probably already commercially available as a porno).


Stuart Reviews Stuff 2013 Entertainment Awards

January 9, 2014

2013 was a transitional year for media.

Plenty of terrific TV shows came to an end, while the gaming industry moved on to its next generation.

But what came out on top and what failed to cut the mustard?

Here’s my take on 2013.

Films

At the cinema in 2013, I saw the following films…

The Impossible, Django Unchained, Lincoln, Flight, Hitchcock, Wreck-It Ralph, Side Effects, Iron Man 3, Star Trek Into Darkness, Man of Steel, Behind the Candelabra, Rush, Thor: Dark World, Gravity, Captain Phillips, Saving Mr Banks

A wonderful cinematic experience

A wonderful cinematic experience

and Frozen.

Surprisingly enough that means I got value out of my Unlimited Card. Huzzah!

What’s not surprising though is the seasonal pattern of good films to bad. From January to March you get good films, then in the spring and summer months there’s nothing but big budget dross, and then things improve again around October.

I suppose that’s just the nature of the industry though.

But what came out on top?

Well for a long time it looked like Side Effects would take the prize, but it was knocked off the no.1 spot late on by…

Best Film: Gravity

Both in terms of story and visualisation, Gravity was superb. Sometimes a film can be a work of art, and this is exactly that.

The only thing that will go against it is that I doubt it’ll seem have as impressive when watching it home on your own TV.

Runner Up: Side Effects

While the likes of Captain Phillips and Saving Mr Banks ran it close, I thought Side Effects was the best story of the year. I went in not knowing what to expect and was pleasantly surprised by what I described as a “Modern Day Hitchcock film”.

Worst Film: Man of Steel

I’ve had many a debate with friends and acquaintances over this, but I just thought it was garbage. Utter dross. Who wants to watch two blokes no-selling each other for an hour in yet another “epic” fight scene where a city gets destroyed? Big fucking whoop.

Runner Up: Lincoln

Over long and ultra dull.

Biggest Surprise: Frozen

I went to Frozen on a whim one afternoon in December and was taken aback by how good it was. A strong music score, beautiful animation and a fun plot.

Biggest Disappointment: Hitchcock

It should have been so much better.

Television

To give awards for television shows is a bit of an odd one for me.

I tend to wait until a show has already started and has achieved some critical success before giving it a go.

So while this year, two of my favourite “new” shows have been Luther and New Girl, neither are actually new.

On a similar note, this year I also got into plenty of other old shows thanks to NetFlix. So while the likes of Cracker, Forbrydelsen, Californication and Suits aren’t new, these are the types of show that have commanded my attention.

In terms of actual new TV, I gave the first episode of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D a go and was seriously underwhelmed, while I’ve put the good-on-the-face-of-it Sleepy Hollow on the back-burner until it has enough episodes for me to have a binge watch.

Really, the only standout show that debuted this year that I can think of right now is House of Cards, which was excellent. Well…that and the preposterous Under the Dome.

So here are some alternative TV Awards…

The “Ruined A Sure Thing” Award goes to Arrested Development.

Like any true fan, I watched the Arrested Development NetFlix season with hopeful optimism. I wanted to love it, and in my review I was quite complimentary, though still had reservations. It’s been almost a year now since it was released

and in retrospect I can say it was a bit of a cock-up. Arrested Development’s biggest strength was the interaction between the members of the Bluth Family, and that’s the thing they decided to strip away from the new episodes. Sure, there

Aaaaah!!! It's The Eighth Doctor!!!!!!!

Aaaaah!!! It’s The Eighth Doctor!!!!!!!

were still plenty of amusing moments, but it could have seen so, so much better.

The “Damp Squib” Award goes to the final season of Dexter

I mean…come on. I still liked it, but compared to the drama of other seasons, this was crap. The season was filled with pointless storylines that went nowhere – such as Masuka’s daughter and Quinn’s attempts to become sergeant – and Dexter’s own fate just felt like a cop-out, or as Dundonians would say, a “Wet pump”.

The “So Bad It’s Amazing” Award goes to Revenge.

Revenge is over the top, dodgily acted, ridiculously plotted and just sort of crap, but I love it.

The “What The Hell Am I Watching Here?!” Award goes to the Doctor Who episode “The Crimson Horror”

Doctor Who fans are a positive bunch…well…they used to be. It’s not often I’ll watch an episode of Doctor Who and hate it – it’s my favourite TV show after all – but The Crimson Horror was just insultingly bad.

The “Now That’s How You Do A Final Season” Award goes to Breaking Bad

Everything about the final season of Breaking Bad was spot on. Having Walter & Hank face off at the end of the first episode was a masterstroke, and it just ramped up and up until the exhilarating finale. Dexter writers, take note!

The Funniest Television Moment of the Year goes to The Dead Daughter Argument from Big Brother

Just watch. Honest to God…

Coolest Television Moment of the Year goes to Night of the Doctor

Because it’s a new Paul McGann Doctor Who episode in 2013. Superb.

The “Just Fucking End” Award goes to How I Met Your Mother

Drawing out an entire season of that shit over the course of three days in the characters lives just feels like the writers are kicking us in the nuts for fun now.

Worst Television Character goes to Luke from Modern Family

The boy stumbles over his lines in every scene and drags down an otherwise good show. The runner-up to that, by the way, would be Raj from The Big Bang Theory, who hasn’t had an even half-way decent storyline for a few years now.

Best TV Theme goes to New Girl

Got to love a catchy and cheery tune.

The “I Don’t See How They Can Come Back From This” Award goes to The Newsroom

It’s not that the writers have written themselves into a corner in terms of a character dying or something like that, but the last episode of Newsroom’s second season neatly wrapped up every storyline. Where does the show go from here?

And finally, the Best Television Moment of 2013 goes to the return of 9 missing Doctor Who episodes. #Omnirumour

Obviously. And there’s a great chance things could get even better on that score in 2014. Fantastic.

Video Games

Like I said in my intro, 2013 was a transitional year for the gaming industry. The old veteran consoles – the Xbox 360 and PS3 – made way for the Xbox One and PS4. Meanwhile, Nintendo suffered from poor market share due to the initially threadbare title selection for the Wii U.

Late in the year, I took the plunge and bought both a Wii U and a PS4, which surprised me. But Microsoft really cocked up their Xbox One launch with all that nonsense about licenses for games etc. I think they backtracked, but it was too late; I’d already made my mind up.

2013 was also another year for cheap gaming in the Steam Sales. So it’s inevitable that I’m now in a position where I have a huge backlog of games that I’ve bought but just haven’t had the time to play.

Unsurprisingly, for the most part my gaming was the standard mix of FIFA, Call of Duty Multiplayer and Football Manager, but there have been other games that have grabbed my attention too, both in a good and bad way.

Easily 2013's best game

Easily 2013’s best game

Best Game of 2013 goes to Super Mario 3D World

When they are on form, no other video game developers in the land can touch Nintendo. I mean, do they ever do a bad game?

Super Mario 3D World is superb and has rightly won game of the year awards from most reviewers. It’s sleek, looks great and is just a joy to play.

But I’d still prefer it if it was structured like Mario 64…

Worst Game of 2013 goes to Bioshock Infinite

I’m sorry, but I just cannot get on board with the hype. The ultimate in style over substance, this felt like a game that wanted to give the impression it was open world, but really wasn’t. Poor on all scores for me.

Biggest Gaming Disappointment goes to Halo 4

Though this came out in 2012, I played it in 2013 and instantly regretted the purchase. The Halo franchise is the proverbial dead horse being flogged. They ended it nicely in Halo 3, then brought it back again with the same tiresome villains and visuals.

Console of the Year goes to the Wii U

Like I said above, when it came out there weren’t too many games available for the Wii U. It’s a little bit cumbersome and it doesn’t have the graphical prowess of a PS4 or Xbox One, but right now, the Wii U has a killer lineup of solid – mostly Nintendo made – titles that any gamer could enjoy.

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Stuart Reviews Stuff is a free entertainment blog. If you enjoyed this or any other article on the site, please consider taking a moment to Like the official Facebook page. You can do that by clicking like on the side panel, or visiting the site here

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Stuart’s Entertainment Review – August 7th (or “Everything From Total Divas to The Twilight Zone”)

August 7, 2013

It’s been a while since I wrote one of my general entertainment reviews, so it’s time to go back to it.

Here’s some of the TV I’ve watched over the last month or so.

Big Brother

I know it’s not the done thing to say it anymore, but I’ve enjoyed Big Brother on Channel 5 this year.

Sure, the concept is a little bit old hat now, but the idea that the show can’t be good these days is nonsense. It entirely depends upon the quality of the people they bring in to be housemates. Where Endemol, Channel 4 and Channel 5 have gone wrong in recent years is in casting some of the most fame hungry, attention seeking dregs of society to take part. I have no interest in watching that sort of thing, so I stopped a few years ago. But I had heard the newest series was quite good, so I gave it a go and found that it was. On the whole it has a decent mix of characters who – up until very recently – kept my attention without being caricatures. Well…maybe except for those awful twins.

But there has definitely been some entertainment to be gotten from Big Brother, with everyone on their toes wondering what the next swerve will be, and some of the stupidest conversations I’ve ever seen on TV.

For example, one woman – who was one of those people who has done whatever you’ve done, but better or more extreme – claimed her daughter had died in her arms in a bid to have a bigger sob story than another woman who said her daughter had seen her grandmother die. But it turns out her daughter hadn’t died, and had simply stopped breathing for a few minutes before being resuscitated.

And so kicked off one of the best/worst arguments I’ve ever seen.

That’s one of the funniest things I’ve seen in a long time.

Anyway, as with all seasons of Big Brother, all the housemates who bring entertainment and controversy have been kicked out now, so it’s winding down to a halt.

Dexter

 So you’ll know that Dexter is one of my Top 10 TV Dramas of all time, but sadly, this final season has started with a whimper. As of today I’m a couple of episodes behind, so it could have kicked off by now, but as of the last time I saw it, it certainly dexterhadn’t.

The thing is, I’m a binge watcher when it comes to TV shows, so when people say that a show like Dexter is meant to be watched one week at a time, I think this season disproves that. I’m sure it will all come to an exciting conclusion and looking back on it, the season as a whole will be remembered well, but when it’s going as slowly as it is, I almost think it would be better to wait and let the show get to its final week and then watch it all together.

Suits

Suits is also back, although is hasn’t really had a chance to kick into gear.

What I’ve found most interesting is that they’ve hired some rather pedestrian British actors like Max Beesley and Adam Godley to take on major parts.

It’s still good, but it needs a more interesting and different approach, otherwise it’ll get old quite fast.

The Great War:

This isn’t a TV show that’s on now, but rather the DVD boxed set of a 1964 BBC documentary series made to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the First World War.

It’s interesting on a number of levels. First of all, I’m learning a lot about WW1 that I never knew about before.

Before I watched this, had you asked me to describe the war, I – and I assume many people – would talk about the trench warfare in Western Europe between the Allies and Germany, because that’s what all the TV shows about it these days focus on, but there’s so much more to it. I didn’t really know about the military plans and advances that got them to the trenches, nor did I know about the different battles and wars raging in the other parts of the world that don’t really get spoken about anymore. Thanks to this documentary, I can talk with some authority about the Schlieffen Plan. So there!

Another reason that the documentary is interesting is because of the graphic nature of it. They don’t hold back with the footage that they show, and so you’re exposed to seeing people shot, corpses rotting away in mass graves and recently hung people swinging from the gallows. It’s incredible that sort of footage was shown back then on prime time BBC. This must have been before Mary Whitehouse and her gang kicked up a fuss.

Finally, what’s captivating about it is the amount and clarity of some of the footage available. The world at that point was a completely different place in terms of how places looked and people dressed. Ok, I know that’s obvious, but what I mean is that to see it in footage captured at the time seems utterly incongruous.

I’d recommend this DVD to anyone with even a passing interest in the world from this era.

The Killing:

I’ve started watching the critically acclaimed Forbrydelsen, or as it’s called in English, The Killing.

Before starting it, I had to make the choice between watching the US or Danish version. Plenty of people recommended the Danish one, but you can never be sure whether or not they are recommending it because it’s actually better or because they want to feel more arty and high brow by saying they got more enjoyment out of a foreign language TV show.

But since nobody recommended the US one over it, I gave the original a go.

Is it good? Well I’m only seven episodes in, but I’m enjoying it. It takes a while to warm up, and I don’t feel it has the moreish quality of certain US TV shows but I think that’s because you’re essentially reading it rather than watching it. Unlike a show in English, you can’t multitask and look away without missing potentially crucial lines of dialogue.

Ach well.

But I’ll continue on with it.

The Newsroom:

Another TV show that’s back for a summer season is the Newsroom.The_Newsroom_HBO

As I said in my Top 50 TV Dramas I went back to watch the first season again in preparation, and in hindsight it should have been further up my list.

Season Two has started off well with the Operation Genoa storyline and the fun – if not entirely predictable – storyline of Jim on the campaign bus.

Again, the problem with it is that they’ll never be able to do a really juicy storyline since they base their news stories on real life, so as much as Jim wanted to interview Mitt Romney, we knew he never would.

Best characters? Well they remain Will McAvoy and Sloan Sabbath for me, while my least favourite is still the self-absorbed Maggie, who I think we’re supposed to think is cute (as in “Awwww isn’t she nice” rather than meaning her looks), but who I just think is annoying.

My brother criticises it for having dialogue that people wouldn’t actually say in reality, and while I think that’s a fair criticism, and one I have used in plenty of reviews in the past, I’m not too fussed by it here because the dialogue is – to use a tired expression – sparkling.

The Twilight Zone

I’ve always wanted to watch the Twilight Zone since becoming a major fan of the Tower of Terror ride at Disney’s Hollywood Studios (a ride, by the way that I consider one of – if not the – best theme park attraction in the entire world for the complete experience), and finally I’ve had a chance to do so.

I’ve only seen three episodes, but I’ve liked what I have seen. Episodes One and Three were fine, but I was actually taken aback by how much I enjoyed the second episode. It’s about an old salesman who is visited by Death and warned he is about to die that night. He manages to convince Death that he should be allowed to live until he makes the one big sales pitch he’s never managed, but then reneges on that deal.

As such, Death is forced to take action and tries to take a young child in his place. So his big sales pitch ends up being to convince Death to take him instead.

It’s a well acted and rather touching piece, and it’s incredible that they managed to do it in a mere 20 minutes.

What’s also interesting is that you’d never be able to do that episode now. Society was clearly different back then; it was innocent enough to have a story involving an old bachelor who gives toys to children, invites them round to his house and openly says that he “loves them”.

Ah society was simpler before The Rise of the Paedos in the 1990s.

Total Divas

Now here’s a show I didn’t think I’d watch, but after two weeks of reading nothing but positive reviews, I gave it a shot.totaldivas

Total Divas is one of these E! channel reality shows like Jersey Shore or The Only Way Is Essex, but it’s about some of WWE’s female wrestlers.

And it’s surprisingly good.

What’s interesting for me as a wrestling fan is that it gives quite an open look at the backstage workings of WWE. And it’s especially odd seeing how everyone freely admits to playing characters in wrestling. Gone are the days of Kayfabe, dear reader.

So while the Bella Twins are the ultimate bitchy heels on Raw and Smackdown, over on the E! Channel they are a couple of normal sisters (although Nikki Bella is still a bitch) going out with John Cena and Daniel Bryan (or as they call him here, Bryan Danielson). That’s right, two of the biggest villains are going out with two of the biggest heroes. Furthermore, there are open admissions of matches having “Dress rehearsals” and road agents discussing how the matches will be constructed with the wrestlers before they go to the ring.

Now sure, we live in a world where everyone knows wrestling is predetermined, but it’s still an interesting watch.

Since it is WWE though, there is – as you’d expect – some level of fakeness about it. There’s no way that Eva Marie would have gotten away with lying about being a ballroom dancer in front of the E! cameras without it getting back to the Talent Relations Dept first.

Still, it’s enjoyable enough.

Under The Dome

Finally we move to Under the Dome, the new show based on a Stephen King novel of the same name.

“The Internet” doesn’t seem to like this show, and having initially praised it have turned on it badly.

Me? Well I quite like it. It keeps me entertained, and though I don’t think it should be dragged out beyond one season (even though it definitely will be), it has me interested and keen to know what’ll happen next.

Cos there’s no way I’m going to read the book to find out.


Stuart’s Entertainment Review – April 2013 (Everything from Suits to Six Numbers)

May 9, 2013

Considering we’re now 9 days into May, this article comes a bit late, but I’ve just not had time to do it.

Yes, it’s time once again for Stuart’s Entertainment Review of the Month…of April.

So here’s a rundown of what I’ve been watching/playing since the last update.

Television

The Big Bang Theory: Well you all know that I love BBT and thankfully, the past few episodes have maintained the level of consistency that I’ve come to expect from the best comedy on US TV. I’ve got to say though, the show would be better without Raj, who offers practically nothing these days. Not too keen on his new love interest either. She’s one of these actresses who gets jobs based on her looking a bit weird rather than because she’s a good actress.

Britain’s Got Talent: Can’t say I’m enjoying it as much this year. The whole thing just seems too staged, and that’s most likely because it is. When you’ve got members of the audience microphoned up to react in exactly the way the producers

Big Bang Theory - still the best comedy on US TV (oh, and I've not chosen this picture to increase traffic through Google Images - honest)

Big Bang Theory – still the best comedy on US TV (oh, and I’ve not chosen this picture to increase traffic through Google Images – honest)

want, you have to ask questions. Similarly, people backstage have mics on them for them they say “wacky” things to each other. As for the ‘talent’, well I’ve not been bowled over. For me, the clear choice right now to win is the Shadow Theatre from the first week. They were tremendous. And as always, let me say that I hope no singers get through – they should stick to the X-Factor.

Castle: I’m all up to speed with Castle at US pace now. The 100th Episode – the one with the Rear Window theme – was one of the best they’ve ever done. Funny and with a great twist. I have to say though that I was very disappointed with last week’s one. Castle does not need a clip show FFS!

Community: I would say it remains inconsistent. Some of the episodes – like the one with the puppets – were pretty bloody poor. They relied upon a gimmick rather than writing an interesting and humorous script. However, the last three – The Christmas, Freaky Friday and Origins episodes – have been of a higher standard than we’ve seen all season. Let’s hope it gets saved for another year!

8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown: I enjoy 8 Out of 10 Cats as it is, but the Countdown episodes have been superb. Unfortunately Sean Locke was ill when they were filmed, but he was replaced by “Comedy Panel Show Captain For Hire” Lee Mack. Best bits as always are when Joe Wilkinson turns up. I must track down the sitcom he’s in.

Grey’s Anatomy: After a shaky start to the season it’s back to some level of form. Have to say though that it’s getting a little bit far-fetched with them now owning the hospital. Also, you’ll notice that Arizona has done a Paul Robinson and is walking around forgetting she’s supposed to only have one leg. One thing I found interesting about the most recent episode was that they had a teenager needing a stomach replacement as a result of a dry-ice cocktail gone wrong. So the writers read the papers then…

Happy Endings: Many expect Happy Endings to be cancelled at the end of the season, and I can’t say I’d be too surprised. While it doesn’t churn out rotten episodes like How I Met Your Mother and Parks & Recreation seem to do with alarming regularity these days, neither does it ever produce anything really funny. Indeed, it’s all a bit samey. The only characters I like are Alex and Brad.

How I Met Your Mother: *Shudder* Did any of you see the Time Travel episode? Possibly the worst episode they’ve ever done, and that’s saying something. Yes, they are desperately running out of ideas to keep the series going until Ted finally meets his wife, but having him hallucinate time travelling versions of himself and Barney in the pub just makes him seem like he’s mentally ill. Which he is of course. HIMYM really has become a pitiful TV show.

Parks & Recreation: On a similar note, Parks & Rec is becoming a pale shadow of its former self. Like I said before, it seems to be a case of turning the characters into caricatures. I think to be fair since I last did one of these articles they did the

Suits - they wear suits in it. And they carry out lawsuits. It's a double meaning. Genius.

Suits – they wear suits in it. And they carry out lawsuits. It’s a double meaning. Genius.

wedding episode, which was good and had the brilliant “You’re On With Ron” TV show, but the past few have been painful to endure. If they want to improve it, they need to get rid of stupid characters like Councilman Jam and Jean-Ralphio’s sister.

Samantha Who: Watched a few episodes on NetFlix when I was bed-ridden with food poisoning. Not a single laugh in it.

Sons of Anarchy: Similarly, I gave Sons of Anarchy a try. In truth, I watched the first episode about a year ago and couldn’t be bothered going back to it. Then six months ago I did the same with the second one. But since I had nowhere else to go and nothing else to do, I knuckled down and watched the whole of the first season. And…I didn’t like it. I dunno if it’s the unattractive setting, the unattractive cast or the repetitive nature of it all, but I just couldn’t get into it. When the season ended and I saw the synopsis for Season 2 on NetFlix I just decided I couldn’t be arsed with it. So instead I moved onto…

Suits: Now this is what I’m talking about! Suits – a show about a bloke with an eidetic memory who scams his way into working in a top NY law office despite not going to Harvard – is tremendous  The best new TV show I’ve seen this year so far.

Engaging plots, interesting characters, a nice setting, good actors and plenty of twists, this has it all. Stuart Recommends Suits!

The Office: For anyone who has been reading my Top Sitcoms list, you’ll know I got back into watching the US Office after a couple of years off. It’s been superb. There’s been a quality and consistency in Seasons 7-9 that most sitcoms could only dream of. What I particularly like is that they’ve softened the relationship between Dwight and Jim compared to what it was at the start, and it looks like Dwight will get a proper send-off, having been made manager in the most recent episode. But there’s been so much to praise it for in the episodes I’ve just watched. The love triangle with the Senator, Angela and Oscar, the slow burning Pam/Jim marriage troubles, the Robert California stuff, anything involving Kevin and also the fourth wall breaking stuff with the boom mic guy. Indeed, the episode where Pam breaks down at the end was pretty gripping. And you know what? It works better without Michael Scott. When I watched the Season 7 episodes with him in it, I was bored with the character. He’d been done to death. The show ends next week, so let’s hope it goes out on a high, and let’s be thankful The Farm (the potential spin-off that had a back-door pilot in Season 9) didn’t get turned into a series.

WWE: I’ve been a fan of WWE since 1991. But I have to say that creatively, the show is the worst it’s ever been right now. I find Raw to be a chore; something that I feel obligated to spin on through on a Tuesday rather than a show to enjoy. It’s just the same old shit every week, and it needs to change or they’ll lose me as a viewer. Last year I stopped watching Neighbours, and I’d been a viewer of that since 1987, so me quitting watching WWE is not beyond the realms of possibility…

Games:

Not much to report on the gaming front. It’s been the usual case of playing FIFA and Call of Duty, with the occasional pick-up-and-play game on the side.

Felt like a case of style over substance

Felt like a case of style over substance

I got sucked back in to Candy Crush Saga because I refused to be beaten by Level 70. Completing that was a matter of luck ahead of skill though, and it’s clear that they want you to buy the consumables to help you get past certain levels, but sod that. If a game is free, then I’ll beat it without parting with my cash.

Over on my iPad, I got Six Numbers, which is a free game based on the numbers round from Countdown. Simple in its execution and easy to get lost in, it’s worth your time.

The only other new game I gave a shot to was Bioshock: Infinite – a game that received rave reviews and was mooted for Game of the Year.

But I just didn’t enjoy it. It seemed a case of Style over Substance and another one of these games that offers the pretence of being free roaming, but you’re really moving in a straight line the whole time. Also, the combat system is awful. People have told me to stick with it, but I already feel the game is lost to me.

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

March 22, 2013

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.