You are here: Beginning Reviews TV

TwitterPops

TV Reviews


Wednesday, 18 September 2013 09:20 Jennifer Devore
Print PDF

Like many a standard of American literature, Washington Irving's 1819 short-story, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, has seen more facelifts and resurrections than Hillary Clinton's political career: varied adaptations on the usual theme, always entertaining and sketchy, nightmare fare for some. Irving's Sleepy Hollow is uniquely American, but its roots reach far under the lightning-charred, tulip trees of time back to Germany's Middle Ages and the wicked warnings of the folkloric Wild Huntsman, der Wilde Jäger: a headless ghoul who galloped through the forests of Northern Europe at preternatural speeds, seeking bad little children who failed to eat their wegetables, greedy men of ill-repute and stray women of low moral fiber. Be good or der Wilde Jäger vill get you, meinen Kinder!

Fox TV is the latest raconteur to tell the tale of Sleepy Hollow, the town "that holds a spell over the minds of the good people, causing them to walk in a continual reverie." (This is the second Sleepy endeavor for FOX; the first being 1999's Night of the Headless Horseman, a CGI animation.) The most flexible thus far in its use of artistic license, this latest narration of the ageless myth benefits from the cleverness and vision of  Fringe creators Robert Orci and Alex Kurtzman. Fundamentally, they follow the basic, chilling spine of the tale and keep pivotal characters in play. Pleasingly, for one never knows what presumptions Hollywood will take, the powers that be kept Irving's tale exactly where it was intended: Westchester County, New York, in a little hamlet along the Hudson River which "abounds with local tales, haunted spots and twilight superstitions". Once known as North Tarrytown, the good townfolk of this wee burg finally voted in 1996 to have the town's name officially changed to Sleepy Hollow.

Accordingly, Washington Irving himself is entombed in the south end of Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. This is not to be confused, though oft is, with the adjacent Old Dutch Church and its colonial-era graveyard where Irving's tale is actually set. With no marked boundaries bewtixt the two, they are generally thought of as one. Irving's own grave sits on a small hill overlooking Old Dutch and its nightly goings-on. If Autumn, Halloween, New England graveyards and Pumpkin Spice Lattes bring you a toothy grin, the imagery of fluttering leaves, glowing porch lights, colonial burying grounds and Dutch colonial houses in the Hudson Valley will provide, at the very least, a much appreciated gallop through Hallowe'en Town, U.S.A..

Ichabod Crane, Irving's everyman-antihero, has gone through many a change since his literary birth in 1819, though most iterations adhere to the tenets of what it means to be Ichabod Crane: nebbish, hand-wringing, superstitious, studious and shy. Based on a mesh of two men Irving met during his life, a Sackets Harbor army captain actually named Ichabod Crane and a Kinderhook, NY schoolteacher named Jesse Merwin, the fictional Ichabod Crane has himself become somewhat of an eponym in his neuroses. Animation or live-action, most versions of the fidgety, living scarecrow have been true to form: skittish schoolteacher or hystrionic headmaster. From Walt Disney's The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949) to Wishbone's Halloween Hound: The Legend of Creepy Collars (1998) to Jeff Goldblum's pitch-perfect portrayal in NBC's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1980) the good Mr. Crane has served his calling well, forever fearful of his own shadow, lanky and awkward in carriage, tongue-tied around the beauteous Katrina and gullible to the core.

Even Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow (1999), arguably one of the best resurrections yet, sees Ichabod as a very proper reincarnation, if not more mathematically attractive than those whom came before Johnny Depp. Though Burton and Depp massaged and molded Ichabod into an Industrial-era, New York City detective, trading in Cotton Mather's dog-eared Witchcraft in New England for a doctor's bag full of newfangled, scientific tools, the scaredy cat is still in there, clinging to the proverbial ceiling. The wild woods of Westchester Co. and haunting beauty, and wealth, of Katrina Van Tassel (Christina Ricci) ruffle his fur justly and deliver unto us the flustered Ichabod we have all come to pity. Now, FOX is tweaking the mold again, and adding a bit more clay; this time he's a beefier, meatier Ichabod Crane.

More Abercrombie & Fitch than Compugear, the newest Ichabod Crane is played adroitly and very well-sculpted by Englishman Tom Mison (Henry IV, Poirot, Lost in Austen). So obviously theatre-trained, Shakespearean- in fact, Mison brings a decidedly non-telly flip-of-the-cape to primetime viewing. His stage and film background emanates from him like an after-sex radiance, giving him the unchallenged spotlight. But for Mison, the rest of the cast would be good. In his presence, they are good enough. Mison's Ichabod is neither scared nor hesitant; he is impatient and determined. The divergences from the traditional Ichabod are vast and numbered; a rugged, take-charge, 250-year old Ichabod with a Colin Farrellesque beard is the least of them.

As much a fish-out-of-water tale as it is a horror story, Sleepy Hollow the series addresses sudden time-travel with a healthy bit of tongue-in-cheek. 'Tis no easy task keeping a 19thC. folktale about 18thC. history pertinent to 21stC. viewers, many of whom might have difficulty differentiating betwixt George Washington and Washington Irving. To remedy this, FOX has added the requisite components. Neither a pathetic, grade-school teacher nor a fussy science geek, Ichabod is redefined as a fetching, Revolutionary War soldier, the very one whom takes the head of a Redcoat amidst "some nameless battle". (Although, Irving depicted that his head "had been carried away by a cannon-ball") It is this Redcoat who will soon haunt Ichabod from far beyond the grave and time.

A point of detail, mostly of interest to history and literary sticklers, the Headless Horseman was not a British soldier, but in fact a Hessian jäger: a German-mercenary sharpshooter and horseman hired by the British Crown, like a land-roving, Teutonic pirate. Ichabod's bio, so the new story goes, tells us he was once a professor of history at Oxford until involuntarily enlisted by His Majesty King George III to fight the American rabble in the Colonies. Once on American shores, he found he could no longer serve under or support tyranny: over to the American patriots he defected, serving bravely under Gen. George Washington. Nothing nebbish there. Certainly more Ralph Fiennes than Woody Allen.

To boot, because cop shows set in New York just will not go away, FOX had to add that facet to the series. Blessedly, instead of Manhattan, it is properly mis-en-scène along the Hudson River Valley. Although, if a visit to the lovely Sleepy Hollow you shall see each Monday night is in your tarot cards, keep in mind the series was filmed on location far below Yankee-tax territory in the right-to-work and healthy tax-incentive state of North Carolina, Wilmington to be precise.

Whilst Ichabod is not the cop this time around, he does play helpful investigator and expert witness to no-nonsense, African-American, female cop Abbie Mills, played affably by Nicole Beharie (42, Woman Thou Art Loosed, The Good Wife). Make way, folks, for numerous, and predictable, one-liners about emancipation, slavery, female lieutenants and ladies-in-trousers. Add Ichabod's befuddlement about cell phones, electric car-windows, Starbucks, flashlights and asphalt; then sprinkle with Troopers vs. Horseman shootouts using semi-automatic shotguns and a magical axe, and the series can sometimes taste a bit like New York Cheddar: cheesy.

Occasional elements of Charmed and Highlander aside, Sleepy Hollow is a ripping good hour of entertaining television. To boot, the pilot is tight. Even the best of shows have a cringe factor and growing pains in early episodes. (Remember Seinfeld S1?) Sleepy Hollow's cast gels right from the start and the production values and writing are as quality as Ichabod's bespoke frock coat. It's a brilliant embarkation.

Mison's Ichabod Crane is the giant spoon that stirs the cauldron, but the cauldron is a mighty fine melange of mystery, dark humour, American history (tweaked just a bit for dramatic effect, of course), 18thC. costuming (if you drool over such things) and the spooky, blue lighting that's been missing from nighttime television since The X-Files went off the air. With Autumn approaching in mere days, FOX might have nailed this one right on the, well, noggin. If broadcast TV has a drama this season that requires a quiet house, flickering pumpkin candles and a glass of port wine in a colonial shrub glass to enhance viewing, Sleepy Hollow is it.

As the Headless Horseman rode off into the sunrise of the Sleepy Hollow premiere, for he must skedaddle back to the sanctuary of his Old Dutch Church grave by each morning's light, he is seen in silhouette resting a Tommy gun over his broad, frock-coated, headless shoulder, having apparently traded in his magical, Hessian broad axe, for the moment anyway. At least until he regains his head and reconnoiters with his fellow Horsemen of the Apocalypse later in the series to commence mankind's final demise, thus proving George Washington's hunch correct, as confided to Ichabod Crane on the battlefield in 1781: the Revolution is not about fighting for America's freedom, but to save every man, woman and child on the planet.

Oh, wait. That's not in the book. I'll bet you a Pumpkin Head Latte Washington Irving never saw that angle coming.

 

Sleepy Hollow airs Mondays @9/8c on FOX

For some excellent, pre-Revolutionary, historical-fiction featuring another Herr Ichabod, visit Jennifer Devore's Amazon Author Page!

 
Sunday, 05 May 2013 09:52 Jennifer Devore
Print PDF

 

JavaScript is disabled!
To display this content, you need a JavaScript capable browser.

Michael: It's just hard to accept that it's really come to begging.
George: Sometimes, it's the only way to stay in the game.
Narrator (Ron Howard): Please, tell your friends about this show!

Ron Howard, we did. We looked the other way, for a just a second, and they snatched Arrested Development from our sticky, chocolate-covered banana hands with swift and heartless indifference. So, we told on the offenders. We told our parents, our teachers, our friends, our families, our congressmen and our pets. We wrote, emailed, blogged, Tweeted, Facebooked and clipped up YouTube homages in the multi-millions of copyright infringement violations. Apparently, it all worked.

May 26, 2013 at 12:01 a.m. PST (That's O.C.-time, kids.), hordes of rabid Bluth devotées will commence their Memorial Day celebrations with Trader Joe's frozen bananas, Grey Goose Vanilla and O.J. hiballs, Gangytinis and the words that started it all ... And that's why you always leave a note!

After Fox cancelled Arrested Development, similar to their unwise, initial cancellation of Family Guy, executive producer Mitchell Hurwitz explained he was not interested in Showtime's offer to pick up the show, nor any other network offer for that matter. Even though his show was brutally cut short after a mere three seasons, Hurwitz was "more worried about letting down the fans in terms of the quality of the show dropping" than he was worried about letting down fans by leaving them without it altogether. Hurwtiz offered hope to fans everywhere by further stating, "If there's a way to continue this in a form that's not weekly episodic series television, I'd be up for it." In 2011, Netflix snapped the towel off the competition and exposed their cutoffs, leaving them crying in the shower. Netflix earned distribution of the long-awaited fourth season. Steve Holt!

Read more...
 
Wednesday, 02 January 2013 16:31 Jennifer Devore
Print PDF

The Holidays have come and gone. The gift cards have been defrayed with frightening speed and, for some of us, Comic-Con is still a staggering seven months away. What's a creative spirit to do in the grey bane of post-gifting, post-cocktail Winter? Prepare for Season 3 of Portlandia on IFC, of course. Get ready to get your Pacific Northwest-weird on, America!

From weird to Wired frames-of-reference, Primetime Emmy Awards-nominated and Gracie Allen Awards-winning Portlandia proffers an Übermodern vaudeville steeped in a homey and comforting grey and rainy respite of Northwestern coffee culture and smells just slightly of a musty vintage shop. Amidst a television culture of all-too-shiny, all-too-sparkly drama and desperate, hacky, wannabe comedy usually set in New York or L.A., Portlandia scratches an itch that one can only get from wearing the same rarely-cleaned, wool, REI sweater too many days in a row. (Apropos to NYC/LA: Producers, enough with where you live. We love landing at LAX and JFK, too; but there are other population centers across this vast country. Get out once in a while.)

Read more...
 
Sunday, 21 October 2012 10:56 Jennifer Devore
Print PDF

Happy Hallowe’en, all you eerie black cats! Every time I think Christmas is my fave time of year, October sallies into town and, bonkers I go! Travel, parties, costumes and ghostly film & TV marathons: my pally JennyPop has a fab viewing list! What’s better than a Hallowe’en viewing party? Watching with spookily stylized treats and drinkies! Sippy, sippy? Salem’s Hawthorne Hotel, where I shall be spending this Samhain soiree, is proffering the perfect pumpkin pie martini. Um, yes, please!

Back here in Cali, up in wine country for the après-Salem festivities, Dr. Lucy and her deathly devoted Dr. Devorkian shall be serving up Dr. Meechele’s Eyeball Martinis: Belvedere vodka with pimento-stuffed, skewered, black olives and bleeding vampire teeth ice cubes.  (Need some ghoulishly good entertaining ideas, your own self? Thank Jebus, Sunset magazine knows not all Westerners want BBQ and hiking trail articles all the time!) Last year’s Napa bash? So ominously pleasing, I’m mildly concerned as to what this year could bring. Fret not, though. Should Lucy and I survive, updates will follow. Survive, you query? Yes, so much fun that even two living dead girls might not make it out alive.

To boot, I finally decided on a costume: Abby Sciuto of NCIS. True, I was already Abby one year and I am loathe to repeat a costume. Yet, that was five or more years ago and, in my defense, I had nowhere to go. So, I spent Devil’s Night in Colonial Williamsburg and roamed the town, frightening the upper-crusty and upper-dusty of the Old Dominion. They make the real dead n’ dusty, like Mum & Dad, Boston’s own Dr. Harvey & Hildy- look like Haunted Mansion party crashers. Holy moly, what a stuffy set of bones, those Virginians. (Hey. How many Virginians does it take to change a light bulb? Seven. One to change it and six to talk about how great the old one was. Ha!) Natch, this ennui does not include the vast array of CW performers, interpreters and artists. Yikes! Those beans can par-tee har-dee!! Stephen Christoff, Sterling Fry and Lance Pedigo … I’m talking directly to you, boys!

So, whilst searching for NCIS on Netflix, I happened across an eery series, parfait for this time of year, called Oddities: Science Channel’s own answer to History Channel’s Pawn Stars. Well, I knew in the thump of a tell-tale heart that our Dr. Lucy needed to see this. Funny enough, she recognized some little friends amidst the bottles and glass domes on display at Obscura Antiques and Oddities: the Downtown Manhattan-based curio shop where Oddities is shot. You’ll recall our excursion to Dr. Watson’s Steampunk Odditorium here in sunny San Diego? This place makes Dr. Watson’s cabinets look like glass cases of Betsey Johnson accessories at Macy’s. This stuff is freaky, even for Moi.

Recall the X-Files episode “Humbug” (S2E20), wherein Scully and Mulder travel to Florida to investigate murders in a carnival freak show? Well, move Pawn Stars to this episode and you’ve got Oddities. So much so, I would not be surprised if Leonard, the freak show murderer and underdeveloped, free-range, conjoined twin of Lanny (actor Vincent Schiavelli) was either preserved in one of the shop’s formaldehyde bottles or skittering freely amidst Obscura in the wee hours of the morn, pinning antique butterflies and dung beetles to Chatty Cathy doll faces.

Owners Mike Zohn and Evan Michelson claim Obscura “ain’t your grandmother’s antique shop”. True dat, as they say. My own Beacon Hill Granny would freak at the idea of petrified whale cochlea and fossilized mammoth dung … and she’s dined with both Mussolini and Joan Crawford. Better dressed and far funkier than the desert rats and t-shirted schlubs of Las Vegas’ Gold and Silver Pawn , the patrons and staff of Obscura are reality TV’s antidote for those with a greater interest in rhesus monkey skulls and Thai snake wine, than Rat Pack memorabilia and John Wayne saddles. Beyond the odd customer (I do mean odd), there seems to be an irregular parade of collectors, artists, performers and seasoned antiquers ebbing and flowing into the shop: like a perpetual tide of 1920s carnival workers and sideshow talent. Best of all, for yours truly and her Hallowe’en viewing habits, this is exactly the kind of place Miss Abby Sciuto would haunt; ergo, it’s the perfect, seasonal viewing pour Moi during costume fittings!

Kids, keep your Saturday nights at 9:00 free! Set your DVR if need be or just watch via Netflix. Note though, Netflix has only Season 1 thus far. Although, S1 does contain my, so far, fave episode! You’ll make the Addams Familyesque acquaintance of an unearthly and creepily adorable, oh-so-odd beauty whom, after careers of both a mortician and a model (runway, I presume, by her lovely, lanky looks) has made the natural progression to fashion designer. Now she needs an embalming table for her latest collection. Why? You’ll just have to watch: S1E4 “Model Mortician”. Besides, where else on reality TV, besides The Real Housewives of Orange County, will you hear the following three declarations?

“I don’t think I’ll be spending $400 today on a walrus penis.”

“Finding a perfect monkey skull is not an easy task.”

“I’ve exhausted my resources trying to find a grade-A monkey skull.”

For my two centimes, similar to The X-Files, the show is best watched at night and with a glass of Cabernet. Noontime and a cup of green tea? Not so much. The Hellraiser skull pins, antique dentures and 19thC. straight jackets are a bit unsettling too early in the day.

To boot, this year Science Channel is running an Oddities Hallowe'en Day marathon!

Right-o then, chickadees. Back to my Hallowe’en preparations. I need the right pair of Demonia-style, Marilyn Manson, platform boots, a new mini-kilt (purple, pink and black if possible) and just the right, final piece of jewelry: maybe a pirate ring. Ah, yesss. Excellent. I require a replica of Captain Jack Sparrow’s emerald ring. Precious. Preciousss! Lucy? Are you paying attention?

 
Tuesday, 06 March 2012 00:00 Jennifer Devore
Print PDF

Hey, kids! It's me, Miss Hannah Hart, ghostdame of The Del and ring-a-ding-ding it’s like Springtime for Hitler around here! The set-design faeries must have had a March 1st deadline and, boyzo did they ever make it! 85 degrees, postcard blue skies, a sparkling ocean view that just won’t quit and a rainbow of pastels and brights everywhere you look! Dames are in their sugar-pink dresses, guys are sportin’ their Peeps-yellow polos and the air smells like strawberry salt water taffy and lemonheads. San Diego’s ready for spring and so am I!

Being a ghostie girl, I’m kippy enough to get to haunt the Hotel del Coronado, as many of you know. Now that I’m all moved into my new digs in the Resort Suites, I’ve packed away my velvet opera coat, my tweed jackets and my fur-topped pirate boots and moved my warm weather gear front-and-center stage. Hello, Betsey Johnson floral tea dresses, JLo floppy hats and 1970s wooden platforms! Unless you’re allergic to fun, smiles, hibiscus cocktails and feeling good, get yourself out here and enjoy our warming, welcoming, California sunshine.

What else fills my noodle in the spring, besides fouffy dresses and perfume that smells like caramel corn and cotton candy -Miss Dior Chérie by Christian Dior is just such a scent- ? Flowers! Springtime means flowers and when I think of flowers, I think of forests; when I think of forests, I think of der Schwarzwald; wenn ich denke an dem Schwarzwald, I think of fairy tales. When ich denke of fairy tales I think of Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel, The Pied Piper of Hamlin, Three Little Pigs and Little Snow White. When I think of them, I think of … American network television? One thing I have been enjoying, when not out sunning my chilly gams by the pool, is watching loads of Grimm and Once Upon a Time on Hulu. Scripted television, fantasy-themed at that, is back, babies!

No! It can’t be true, Miss Hannah! Surely you jest! Scripted television? You and your ghost tales of the good old days! No, little children, ’tis true. Yes, I’ve been dead and holed up in The Del for nearly a century, but I consume far more media than the living and wow, have your modern viewing habits gone to dust over recent years! Some of you are probably too young to remember, but if you sit back and sip your champagne coolies I’ll tell you a story, a fairy tale of wonder and woe.

Once upon a time there was a magical place called The Writers’ Room where smart and witty folk thought about fresh ideas and interesting characters and how to best interpret and present them to entertain the good people of TV Land. Then, the gruesome and greedy producers emerged from the fjords and hollers and swathed the land in the blackness of Reality TeeVee …

Television, unlike film, has gone the way of Wal-Mart: cheap and easy to produce, cheap and easy to market to the lowest common denominator. It’s a sure fire return on investment: no actors, no scripts, just a flat-fee to participants, some base expenses like housing and booze and maybe a prize for the last one standing. It’s good enough … in the absence of anything else. So is Grapeade, but ick. Don’t get me wrong, kids, film can be total schlock, too. Ever seen the Fred franchise? Heavens to Murgatroid! Yet, we’re talking television here and this medium still reigns supreme where garbage stacks up like London’s Daily Mail in a shut-in’s Yorkshire cottage.

Certainly, one can always turn to the likes of the BBC for trips into the fantastic: Being Human, Whitechapel; Masterpiece Classics for, well, classics: Downton Abbey, Sherlock ; and HBO & Showtime for something freaky and fab: Game of Thrones, True Blood. Further, as many a Hannah reader knows, American television rules where comedy is concerned, when producers care to take a leap of yuks. Yet the broadcast airways of the big four generally run scared when presented with concepts outside reality and talent show programming. Happily though, it seems as of late the powers that be of network teevee have begun their commendable trek back into the dark and misty forests of fantasy. We may ne’er see the likes of The Twilight Zone, Star Trek or The X-Files again, but ABC, NBC and Fox are making remarkable efforts to reward us for sitting through years of The Bachelor, The Biggest Loser and American Idol.

Those who oft read me, know my love for FX’s American Horror Story. Thrillingly, I now have a few more options for fantasy via Grimm and Once Upon a Time . ABC and NBC have both brought the medieval fairy tales to the small screen; though, I think ABC has an edge. Once has the benefit of two Lost writers, which explains the bouncing around, parallel-universe storylines: Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis. It also has the benefit of, as Rolling Stone reviewed, “the first hot Snow White ever.” Ginnifer Goodwin’s Snowy is certainly a more grown up version than the Jessie Wilcox Smith or Walt Disney reiterations we’re used to, but if you ask me, Snowy’s always been a bit of a hot patootie, especially the truly Teutonic version with long, blue-black, curly hair and sky-blue eyes. Bonkers hot! That’s the reason she was left behind in the forest, then later hunted by her mother’s goon, in the first place. Original tale by the Brothers Grimm lends a far more sinister version than the colourful Disney tale we all know, and which I love equally. (No implied cannibalism with Disney! No, Sir! Don’t know the cannibal-angle? Read the original.)

A bit stormier than The Happiest Place on Earth’s Fantasyland, and taking itself very tongue-in-cheek, the sylvan hamlet of Storybrooke, Maine is where the world’s fairy tale characters have been sent to live in exile by the Wicked Queen, a hateful gift thrust upon fairyland at the wedding of Snow White and Prince Charming. Storybrooke? Seriously? asks Emma Swan, played by golden girl Jennifer Morrison, the unwitting offspring of Snow White and Prince Charming, and soon-to-be the sweet-and-spicy sheriff of Storybrooke. Natch, not only Grimm characters reside in Storybrooke.

Perrault’s Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood make their lovely but forced homes there and Collodi’s Geppetto, Pinocchio and Jiminy Cricket are trapped as well. A perfect example of that tongue-in-cheek? Jiminy, looking like a poor, literature professor, is Dr. Hopper, Ph.D., psychologist. Continuing the Grimm thread, Robert Carlyle plays a captivating, slimy, slithering Rumpelstiltskin, spinning gold and profiting from desperation and the Evil Queen herself, Ruby, serves as mayor of this Stephen Kingesque burg.

It’s a darker setting than The Magic Kingdom, but it’s done remarkably well and beautifully shot: cinematography by Stephen Jackson. Similar to American Horror Story and The X-Files, this is a tale best watched at night and with a glass of red. Also similar to The X-Files, it’s shot on location in Vancouver. Not to put too fine a point on it, but just like AHS, X-Files and Grimm, Once uses very cool, spooky and blue-hazed opening titles to keep us from trolling for other programming during the first commercial break. Finally, apropos and pivotal to fantasy television, another Northwest metropolis serves as backdrop for yet another reiteration of the grim, children’s tales.

If Law and Order SVU relocated from Manhattan to the Black Forest, you’d have Grimm. It takes the NBC model of cop shows they just can’t seem to chuck and turns an affable, modern-day Grimm (traditional hunters of the supernatural in this version) into a detective working homicide cases in the eerie outskirts of Portland, Oregon. Amidst his work, he sees the supernatural beasties and, lo and behold, they seem to be at the heart of every crime scene. Hitler himself, according to the latest episode (S1E13) Three Coins in a Fuchsbau, it seems was a Blutbad, a werewolf. In Grimm, the Mausehertz, Lausenschlange, Fuchsbau, Eisbiber and a host of other creatures replace the antagonists in your standard cop show; these guys just happen to morph in and out of their animal forms.

Supposing the audience knows more about Grimm’s Fairy Stories than they probably do, each episode is fitted with an opening quote from the originating tale. Pleasingly so, there is also a nice smattering of German in each episode, thanks to he whom carries the show: a Big Bad Wolf, or Blutbad, named Monroe and portrayed brilliantly by Silas Weir Mitchell. Funny enough, Mitchell’s first role ever was Hansel, in a grade-school production of Grimm’s Hansel und Gretel. Mitchell plays a reformed Blutbad whom has assimilated nicely, has a quiet business fixing antique cuckoo clocks and sustains his bloodlust with handy-dandy, blood ice cubes in his soup.  He’s the conduit to the supernatural and has all the answers for Detective Nick Burkhardt, a newbie to the supernatural whom had no clue he was a Grimm until his auntie, his nearest living kin, passed away and passed down the family business … and a trailer full of what looks like props left over from the attic set of Charmed.

Although the characters and mythical figures are well represented, Grimm‘s plots are certainly stretched and reshaped, like a shrunken cashmere sweater on a drying rack, to embrace modern issues and appeal more to the CSI viewer whom likes his steak rare, and less to the Snow White of us whom like a deep cabernet with our pink rose cupcakes.

Overall, it’s just peaches to see the fairy tale genre taking hold once again. Fairy tales have been around, be it oral tradition or written, for centuries. They are the stuff of human interaction and, moreover, offer up the most primal of emotions: fear. Fairy tales are the tales of mankind: good vs. evil, right over wrong, romance and terror. Steampunk Dr. Lucy, my fellow ghost pal at the hotel, loves fairy tales as much as I; she finds the rebirth sehr interressant, in her words, “because too much of magic has left the world”. She certainly has a point. Star Wars is even fairy tale fodder, as much as is Sleeping Beauty: good vs. evil, larger-than-life villain and a steamy romance, to boot! Han Solo in those breeches and jack boots?! Sweet biscuits!

I’m just happy to see that some bravehearts in the decision-making, turreted towers of TVLand have the strength and courage to wield their broadswords and fight the dragons and trolls whom have led us headlong into harm, feeding the masses incrementally more and more poisonous, shiny, shiny candied apples.

As a side note, yours truly was at the original premiere of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs … looking smashing in Chanel, if I I might say. Yeah, I was dead by then; but it made for no less of an event. (I did have to get my Chanel dress on a dead girl before I could actually wear it, but that all worked out just fine.) Sure, with a packed house, too, I had to sit on Clark Gable’s lap, but zowie! He never knew what he missed!

It was Christmastime in L.A., 1937, and the history-making film was introduced to the world at the Carthay Circle Theater in L.A. What a lineup of stars and lookers who showed up to see 90 minutes of animation! Shirley Temple was there (total doll) and Charlie Chaplin (what a smooth talker). Marlene Dietrich graced the place (What a face, but what a piece of work! Honey, you ain’t the only one in H-town with a million-dollar caboose!) and funny men Milton Berle and George Burns helped fill the celeb seats. Cary Grant showed up (What a man!) as did the luscious Ginger Rogers. What a set of getaway sticks on that broad! The place sold out and at five bucks a ticket, that was a lot of chicken feed back then, cats! Left 30,000 un-ticketed fans pouting outside the theater. (Sounds like this year’s Comic Con.)  Good for Mr. Disney!

The naysayers called it Disney’s Folly, but they were a bunch of mooks and flat tires. Little did they know the markers Walt and Snowy would set: first feature-length cel animation, first full-colour animation, first American feature-length animation, first Walt Disney Productions production. Whilst the theater is long gone, with the exception of a replica facade at the Walt Disney Studios, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and die Bruder Grimm continue to bring us generations of dreamy fairy tales, lingering nightmares and the brilliant juxtapositions of  mayhem, cannibalism and really, really pretty dresses.

Bis später, alligator!

 

Update: May 1, 2014: Since this original scribbling, I am happy to report a huge uptick in scripted television, especially historical-fiction! Notably, Sleepy Hollow, Turn, Salem, Reign and Complete Works. Let us hope the trend continues!

Looking for more Hannah Hart rants, kids? Here I am!

 
Saturday, 25 February 2012 00:00 Jennifer Devore
Print PDF

Cheers, JennyPop readers! You know I love my animation and I was thrilled to see nestled snuggly in my Hulu queue The Simpsons 500th episode: At Long Last Leave, (s23e14). Five-hundred episodes, in this flighty and fickle culture? What a feat!

There’s a simple reason The Simpsons has surpassed just about every comedic expectation and mile marker unwittingly set during its twenty-three seasons. To date, it’s a triple threat as the longest-running cartoon, sitcom and scripted prime-time production in American television history. Creator Matt Groening clearly achieved his “vague idea of invading pop culture” when he set about inventing a jaundiced version of his real-life nuclear plant father in the fairy tale burg of Springfield, U.S.A.. Only Groening and the writers know the true secret of the show; but I, purely as a fan, have my own theory. What a shock, Hannah has a theory. Well, here it is, babies … it’s timing!

The animation wunderkind-cum-wunderkonig remains relevant and relative after decades of the pop culture pendulum swinging this way and that, actor/producer negotiations, competing animation and the never ending need for a new couch gag. Still, the show sallies forth gallantly not merely because of an endless string of puns, zingers, quips, gambols, japes and jibes but because of the flawless delivery of said-craft. Comedy isn’t just the writing.

Writing is a talent, performing comedy is a talent: few posses both. True comedy is about relativity and what must appear to be an effortless gift. Woody Allen, Tina Fey, Steve Martin, Conan O’Brien, Ricky Gervais and Jerry Seinfeld can deliver their own jokes, without equal. The delivery has to be lightning-quick like a snap of Indy’s bullwhip: no stutters, no stammers, no pauses and no hesitation.

Check comedy through the ages. I’m sure there was a dingy Neanderthal, or an Australopithecus who knew naturally what to do with the termite stick to bring the rest of the clan to a howling good time. To that end, give Will Arnett a termite stick and just wait for the yuks! The Greeks were funny, I’m pretty sure; but, I don’t know about the Egyptians. They seem like a tough crowd, even today.  Shakespeare’s comedic lines were ribald and blue and they were handed over lickety-split to the rowdy audiences without a break or a beat, lest they received a rotten tomato upside the backside of their pumpkin pants. In my day, Vaudeville was king and, similar to an Elizabethan crowd, those rowdies were neither forgiving nor patient. They wanted a hard pratfall, a smart jive or, if the jokes were bad and music off-key, boobies. In the 1920s and ’30s the likes of  Red Skelton, Laurel and Hardy, Joe Marks, The Three Stooges and Groucho Marx delivered it all, minus the boobies, on a silver platter … tripping à la Dick Van Dyke over the ottoman in the process.

Even in the television age, from its dawn to the present, take a gander at your finest examples; the older ones still resonate and the contemporaries have all the hallmarks that will carry them through to comedy eternity: I Love Lucy, M*A*S*H*, All in the Family, Cheers, Seinfeld, Family Guy, American Dad, Frasier, Arrested Development, 30 Rock … all deliver a joke about every ten seconds, all without missing a beat. Quality and successful comedy is not only knowing your audience, but hitting a high note about every other line. Like a game of Whack-a-Mole, just keep up the pace. Nobody cracks a one-liner out of the park like Homer, Lucy, Hawkeye, Archie, Woody, Jerry, Stewie, Roger, Niles, Gob or Liz.

The Simpsons has it all, in spades: preternatural writing, talent and timing. The writers and artists clearly have a comfort level with and amongst each other that has gelled into a sublime and facile pulchritude over the years, like Raquel Welch or the narrative fiction of Steve Martin. The Simpsons‘ writing is pithy, witty, sharp, topical, blessedly geek-oriented and simply superb; but it’s the easy flow that elicits the elusive belly laugh. Whilst flipping through comic book boxes at The Android’s Dungeon or attending one of Professor Frink’s symposia, the jokes bring a time signature of hoots and guffaws in perfect 2/4 tempo and snappy, unrelenting duple quavers of hilarity.

Even in the much-hyped 500th episode, that laugh quotient shines through, although more like beats of intermittent sunlight on an overcast beach day, rather than the blazing summer sun we’d greased ourselves up for so eagerly. Yes, the 500th episode was good if not excellent; and the Julian Assange tease left many wanting, like a busty and bodacious burlesque stripper with her damned, huge, feather fans. To the end, similar to a first car or grade-school puppy love, we shall always feel a warm fondness for Lisa, Homer, Bart, Marge, Maggie, Comic Book Guy and the rest of the Springfield citizenry. They don’t have to be knee-slapping funny every time we meet and we’re okay with that.

Think about the zaniest egg you know. Do they work at it, or do the one-liners just lurch up at regular intervals, like waves on the beach or heart palpitations at a 1912 Coney Island Bathing Beauty Brigade? Do they “tell jokes”, or are their organic responses to the environment of everyday conversation quick and brutal snaps, like a frog on a fly? For my money, it’s that precious timing and the no sweat, at least to us, delivery. Was there a caveman Afarensis named Bill with a termite stick and, if so, was he funny? Probably. There had to be one. Comedy didn’t actually start with The Simpsons … it just feels that way.

Hey! Puns are lazy writing, jerk! -Krusty the Clown

 

Abyssinia @JennyPopNet!

 

Need more Simpsons? Read Bartbarians at the Gate: 20 Years of Bongo on the Digital Frontier, Jenny's article from the official 2013 San Diego Comic-Con Souvenir Book!

 
Friday, 13 January 2012 00:00 Jennifer Devore
Print PDF
Ciao, dolls! Now that the holidays and the New Year hangovers have settled, Dr. Lucy and I have mellowed back into our very fine grooves, haunting our lovely Hotel Del. Although, some of the staff and their common manners are severely lacking as of late, odd for such a hallmark in the world of service: P.R. department in particular. I think we might have some fun with them in these quiet days of January. My pally in the elevator, Edward, may be able to help us offer up a scare or two even. Going down?What fun for winter boredom!

In the meanwhile, babies, I’ve been making keen use of my Christmas Kindle and watching loads of, not just Ghost Hunters, Midsomer Murders and Warehouse 13, but a new fave: American Horror Story. Not since The X-Files or late night shoots with Errol Flynn have I looked more forward to moonlight. Not to mention watching on a night like this: Friday the 13th! Murder! (You don’t suffer from triskaidekaphobia, do you? Silly kittens!) Also, not unlike The X-Files, this horror story simply cannot be thoroughly enjoyed during daylight hours and is best not attempted without a bottle of red or, at the very least, a Washington martini: gin-soaked, filthy and with three fat olives, each one representing the three branches of government. You do know your three branches, don’t you?

Not for the spiritually or visually squeamish, and you cats know I’m neither, AHS is a satisfying, ocular cocktail with equal parts Hitchcock suspense, unsettling 1930s carnival freakshow, vintage L.A. funk and scads of sexual oddities: all with just enough shock-and-awe to coat the glass and remind you it might be television, but it’s definitely cable. Zowie! (Standards and Practices aren’t the wet blankets they were in my day, are they?!)

Naturally, as with too many wicked-smaht series running amuck in TV’s own dead house à la The Others (Arrested Development, for one glaring example), there is a universal fear, as great as that of coming face-to-face with James Carville in an abandoned cabin in the Maine woods -egad!- , that Middle America might not tolerate the Golden Globe-nominated for Best Drama Series for TV American Horror Story with the same religious devotion as some of we Coasters do. Although, Season Two is already in high gear and I await anxiously the return of my fave Haunted Mansion, north of Anaheim at any rate.

Screaming for a swell, club-mix soundtrack infused with Rage Against the Machine, The Smiths, Marilyn Manson and maybe a touch of Beastie Boys for the lighter, bouncier freak fare, AHS punches up more stomach-jarring drops and reality jolts into darkness than a Wright Brothers’ transatlantic Red Eye. With enough characters and flashbacks to rival a time-travel, Celtic fantasy novel, the oft comic-noir (to those of us with a taste for gallows humor), bloody series invites us into a veritable palace of the dead, the 10K sq. ft. 1908 Rosenheim Mansion in L.A.’s posh Hancock Park, and proves that the afterlife, much like alcohol and fame, merely magnifies personality traits, and billable disorders.

Guided by the chilly, blue hands of the curious brains behind the likes of Nip/Tuck, Entourage, The X-Files (natch), Dollhouse, Midnight Cowboy, Glee, Roswell and even true horror entertainment like ABC’s The Bachelor and the Julia Roberts feature Eat, Pray, Love, we are led into a Green Room, hovering type of existence populated with far too much relationship muck and back-stabbing, literally, to even attempt a back story here. Suffice it to say the lead male is a psychologist treating patients, living, undead and otherwise, in his haunted home. Red flag, babies! Not since Alan Thicke’s Dr. Seaver on Growing Pains was there a more obtuse shrink. Dr. Ben Harmon, however, may top the charts. Played beautifully, aesthetically as well as dramatically, by the very fine Dylan McDermott, his man foibles are almost forgivable, almost … until his potently sympathetic family (Boston transplants like me!) comprised of wife Vivien, daughter Violet, and their precious pup Hallie Harmon, plead with you not to be so quick to alleviate his guilt. Not to be bested on any facet, though, is the phenomenal, SAG- and Golden Globe-nominated Jessica Lange.

Part Designing Women‘s Julia Sugarbaker and part 1980′s Nancy Reagan, Jessica Lange’s Constance Langdon is as icily polite and hospitably, politically incorrect as a 1960s Virginia country club conceding to diversity applicants. She’s an utter pleasure on-screen and, with apologies to a very worthy cast, carries the show on her regal shoulders. I shudder to think what might happen were she to bail. With an upper middle-class ’60s sensibility and a coiffure that is almost certainly wrapped and pinned in bathroom tissue each night, she bakes up delightfully toxic pleasantries in an accent far more suited to the drooping humidity of a Richmond summer than to the bright and shiny California climes where she finds herself and her spectral, wastrel wards forever more. So unnerving, arresting and dead-on is her FFV (First Family of Virginia) demeanor, and trust me, I know a few by which to judge, one just might partake in one of her pretty, rat poison cupcakes served up with coffee, lest Constance takes note of one’s lacking, social graces.

Now, my take on the afterlife is that it’s simply divine. Of course, I met my demise in the Hotel del Coronado, so I get to spend eternity with room service, a poolside bar and pricey gift shops galore. The bee’s knees, I tell ya!  I do have the “dresses on a dead girl” issue and the poor etiquette of the hotel’s P.R. people who just blow my wig at every turn, but that’s all manageable, if not terribly easy or amusing. Whatever your take on death is, ashes to ashes and dust to dust, or forever reside where you died, I think we all might agree, dead or alive, on a given opinion.

Like reality TV, take Real Housewives of Beverly Hills for a glittering example, American Horror Story is aces fun to watch; but, my afterlife reality is sheer, smooth bliss. If you find yourself in an AHS afterlife situation, you have to ask yourself, What did I do to get here? and How the Hell do I get out? Until then, get your wine, light your candles and have your priest on speed dial … just in case.

Abyssinia the afterlife, cats!

Love dishing about #AmericanHorrorStory?

 

SAG Awards Update to American Horror Story post: January 29, 2012

Ditto, what I wrote below about the Golden Globes, including the part about Dr. Lucy and me having Kir Royales and watching the 18th Annual SAG Awards in our Hotel Del. Additionally, Miss Jessica Lange just scooped Outstanding Performance By A Female Actor In A Drama Series for her role as Constance Langdon in FX’s American Horror Story. Brava, Ms. Lange!

Golden Globe Update to American Horror Story post: January 15, 2012
Some of you cats may have preconceived notions of us ghosties. Well, listen up, Wheat. As much as it pains me to say, we are not prescient, we do not have extrasensory perception (ESP); we can neither see into nor predict the future. We are just like you, except we can travel with preternatural speed and levity, can pinch wine from the bar and blame it on the night crew, and have remarkably long histories. Just like you, we also watch Hollywood awards shows and have gut-feelings and strong opinions about whom will take home what. (Dr. Lucy and I are enjoying the 69th Annual Golden Globe Awards a ce moment inside my turret room at the Hotel Del. Kir Royales, anyone?) As it behooves the following piece, the legendary Jessica Lange did indeed earn a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress/TV for her role as Constance Langdon on FX’s American Horror Story. Jessica Lange praises American Horror Story writers [at the Globes], saying, “More than anything, I want to thank the writers, because I find it more and more rare, or rarer, every year to find a piece of work that is really beautifully written, and gives you something to do.”, according to CNN Showbiz journalist David Daniel @CNNLADavid. Congratulations and well done, Ms. Lange!

 
<< Start < Prev 1 2 3 Next > End >>

Page 2 of 3

Savannah on Facebook

Shop JennyPop on Amazon

Darlings on Facebook

Good to be a Geek on Facebook

JennyPopcorn: Netflix New Releases

  • The Circle

    Ambitious Mae Holland can't believe her good luck when the mightiest tech company on Earth -- The Circle -- hires her. But Mae's enthusiasm for her new job wavers after meeting a colleague who's skeptical of the company's objectives.
  • Gifted

    When his sister dies, 30-something bachelor Frank Adler assumes the care of her 7-year-old daughter. But his plans to raise her are threatened when the child reveals herself to be a math prodigy, and his mom suddenly gets involved.
  • The Boss Baby

    An addition to the family in the form of a suit-wearing baby brother has 7-year-old Tim worried about losing his parents' affection. But when a corporate plot threatens the balance of love in the world, Tim teams with his sibling to foil the scheme.
  • Colossal

    Gloria (Anne Hathaway) is an out-of-work party girl who, after getting kicked out of her apartment by her boyfriend (Dan Stevens), is forced to leave her life in New York and move back to her hometown where she's reunited with her childhood friend (Jason Sudeikis). When news...

Meet Miss JennyPop

Jennifer Susannah Devore

Jenny Pop is the acclaimed Author of the Savannah of Williamsburg series of books and The Darlings of Orange County. In addition, Jen is a prolific consumer of media and pop culture. Never leaving the house without her journal and fave Waterman pen, an old-fashioned, analog book (usually Hunter S. Thompson) and a fresh coat of lipstick, she is constantly on the hunt for fun, espresso, animation  and comics of any kind and always ready for an impromptu day at Disneyland.  JennyPop.net is a natural extension of  Jen's World; so, spend some time visiting. You'll have fun, she promises!

Meet The Darlings

The Darlings of Orange County

The sexy, cashmere beaches of southern California aren't always what they seem. The dirty little secret here is what it takes to survive. Everyone has a trick up their silk sleeve. Liz Lemon meets Parker Posey, Veronica Darling is smart enough to know what it takes and is willing to soil her soul to bring Hollywood to the California Riviera. The Darlings of Orange County is a salacious, hilarious, harrowing romp chock full of eco-terrorism, horse-racing scandals, weed deals and the obligatory lipstick-lesbian affair that inevitably leads to murder. It all climaxes in a white-knuckled, glitzy, celebrity-stacked Laguna Beach Film Premiere that spells success for Veronica Darling and trouble for her friends and family.

Meet Miss Savannah Squirrel

Savannah Prudence Squirrel

Savannah Prudence Squirrel

Meet Miss Savannah of Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia. Equal parts Amelia Earhart, Lucy Honeychurch, Scarlett O'Hara and Miss Piggy, Savannah is a scholar, adventurer and a lady. Moreover, she is a pebble in the silver-buckled shoe of injustice and with her best pals she is not a squirrel to challenge. She carries  the Magna Carta in one paw and the latest Parisian silk bag in her other. Whether fighting to end slavery, arguing for freedom of the press or scheming to end a duel, Miss Savannah does so with wit and persistence. Read more to meet her best friends and accomplices: Ichabod Wolfgang and Dante Marcus Pritchen. Prepare to also meet pirates, a Venetian fox and an Irish gull, The Commodore!

PopShots

disneyxmas 062.jpg

Meet Miss Hannah

Hannah Hart, ghost dame of the Hotel del Coronado

Hannah Hart, ghost dame of the Hotel del Coronado

So, here's the low down, all you Joes and Janes ... I'm Hannah Hart, dead girl. Don't fret, it's actually a sweet dish being dead. Having perished in 1934 in a terrifically vicious accessories incident with actress Ida Lupino, I reside where I died: San Diego's gorgeous Hotel del Coronado. It ain't a bad gig at all, really! Great weather, swanky guests (not to mention a few fellow ghosties), amazing amenities, my own private turret overlooking the sea and all the java juice and giggle water I can handle; plus, these bartenders know how to make a Planter's Punch like nobody's business! See, I've been waiting for this Internet thing forever ... now, instead of slamming doors and moving lamps, I get to wag my tongue all I like at goodtobeageek.com

Abyssinia, kids!