Spotlight: WCG Ultimate Gamer
Tuesday night sees the debut of a new reality series on SCI FI, WCG Ultimate Gamer. Just so you know, as a rule I do not watch reality show. TV is meant for escapist entertainment and if I want to see real people being idiots or in competition with other real people I’ll go to the mall (also something else I like to avoid). However, if you’re talking about a show that is designed to find the best video gamer in the country and features the contestants not only playing the games, but real life versions of said games…ok, I’m in.
The show starts with twelve gamers chosen from a wide spectrum who move into a loft together and enter into various competitions collectively and individually. There was a wide net cast in regards to recruiting for the show. According to Executive Producer Dwight Smith in a recent conference call, “We did a national casting call and we had open auditions in cities across the country and solicited people through gaming sites and through different gaming organizations. And they were tested on various criteria. Obviously personality is a huge part of being cast on a reality show but on this particular show skill was also extremely important. So they were put through multiple rigorous gaming tests where they were tested in their skills and abilities at games in all different genres. Because our show was looking for the best overall gamer we tested them in multiple genres at different times.”
It looks like each of the eight episodes will focus on one particular game, as the first episode focuses on Rock Band 2. However, before they actually play the game, the group is broken up into three bands who must learn a song by The Donnas and then perform the song to not only a live audience, but to four judges, The Donnas themselves. Then the the line-up of the three bands is rearranged with each performing Lit’s “My Own Worst Enemy” in the game itself. Both of these competitions determine the ranking of all twelve players with the lowest scoring player having to face off in a one-on-one elimination game with another player chosen by the person in first place.
To make things more interesting, all twelve players move in together into a loft for the duration of the series. Sure, this may seem like a soap opera excess, but what happens there directly effects other aspects of the competition as friendships (presumably romances, eventually) and alliances are formed. This all begins to alter how each person plays with, against, the others. Executive Producer Michael Agbabian said, “I think people are going to be surprised at how much reality plays out in this series. It is a show about gaming certainly but there’s a lot that happens on the reality side. And not only in terms of like strategy and alliances and love interests and all that stuff but it really starts playing into the game play itself in terms of like outcomes of certain episodes.”
Hosts Hannah Simone and Joel Gourdin probably play things way more seriously than they need to be and there are camera shots at certain moments that back that up, but I doubt there would be many people that would watch a dozen people silently playing video games for an hour. I’ll admit that I was rolling my eyes at the melodrama of it all during the first few minutes of the show, but by the fifteen minute mark I was pretty much hooked. Ultimately, WCG Ultimate Gamer has two things going for it: A likable group of kick-ass gamers and the fact that the show is, wisely, limited to only eight episodes. This isn’t a The Real World with video games, but there is enough there to get you attached to some of the players as well as developing a vested interested in seeing how it all turns out. The series premiere is Tuesday at 10:00PM on SCI FI.
Photos courtesy of SCI FI Channel.
Here are the other show I will be checking out this week:
Chuck (NBC, Monday 8:00PM): This week it looks like the erstwhile James Bond, MI-6 Agent Cole Barker (Jonathan Cake), is still around this week. I’m starting to get tired of the whole back and forth romance with Chuck and Sarah. I am not interested in seeing it continue this way for the entirety of the series. Resolve it one way or the other and soon.
Heroes (NBC, Monday 9:00PM): Parkman is da bomb, Claire wants a geeky job and Sylar meets daddy.
Castle (ABC, Monday 10:00PM): The only reason I’m even wtaching the first episode of this new series is because of Mr. Nathan Fillion. I’ll let you know next week if I plan to continue.
Lie To Me (Fox, Wednesday 8:00PM): I hope the erratic airing and schedule jumping this show has done hasn’t already doomed it to failure. The quality has consistently been going up and it is very enjoyable.
Dollhouse (Fox, Friday 9:00PM): This show is still all over the place as far as quality, but last week was good enough to keep me watching. This week is supposed to offer more show mythology goodness.
Battlestar Galactica (SCI FI, Friday 10:00PM): It’s all been leading to this, the first hour of the three hour series conclusion. The dominoes will all be falling into place as over five years of story are brought to an end. My series wrap-up of this show will be up the weekend after the finale airs.
Ashes To Ashes (BBC America, Saturday 9:00PM): Sharp writing and a heavy dollop of nostalgia, good times.
Next week I’ll take a look at the premiere of Kings. Until then, keep the dial right here!
Another week, another clutch of shows (herd of shows? Murder of shows?). I’m going to eschew structure and free-form it again this week. First of all, let’s address the elephant in the room that looks like Dollhouse. Last week’s episode was much more like what I would expect from a Joss Whedon show. The humor that was sorely missing from the pilot was present and accounted for and the pacing was much better balanced. Plus, hey, the episode touched about all kinds of mythology elements. I just hope they have an idea of where they are going so things pay off in a respectable manner. I’m in for the long-haul now, however the ratings plummeted which means it probably won’t last until my birthday (May 23rd, for those of you playing at home), but I would love to be proven wrong. Bottom line, I can, in all good conscience, recommend you tune to Fox Friday at 9:00PM to check out this show.
However, that day and time will conflict with the other show I’m buzzing about this week, that being Battlestar Galactica. With only four episodes remaining you would expect this show to be in a wind-up pattern, but that is simply not the case. True, they are maneuvering the pieces in a end of series way, but there are many more things that are being set in motion that makes me wonder how there will be any sort of satisfying resolution in the time alloted. I still have the feeling it isn’t going to end all that well for the majority of the characters, but there are several that I previously thought hopeless that are on a more positive path. I think Baltar may have finally found his inner unselfishness and Tigh has given up the bottle in favor of true love at last. Looks like this week we may get some insight as to what the frak is up with Starbuck and I’m interested to see where they’re going with Anders sudden return of brain activity. I know at some point I will have to re-watch the entire series from start to finish. tune in for the penultimate penultimate penultimate episode Friday at 9:00PM on SCI FI.
Leverage wraps up a stellar first season this week. This show has been consistently good fun with excellent stories, look and acting right out of the gate. I am very happy that a second season is on the way. This week sees the second part of the season finale that was set up last week. Executive producer Dean Devlin hinted to me last year that the season would not end on a huge cliffhanger, so we’ll see if that was misdirection or not. Now that the team has blown up their headquarters and seemingly split up, there is the proverbial “Where do we go from here” plot thread to tie up this week. I trust that it will lead to somewhere unexpected through the usual twisty route. Tune in Tuesday at 10:00PM on TNT to see how it all shakes out.
Sweet mother of unexpected plot twists, Lost is just rocking my world this year! I just can’t even begin to offer up any theories on where things are going. Instead, I’m just enjoying the ride. I thought we would have to wait until the end of the season for the Oceanic Six to make it back to Time-Jump Island. Instead, they are now back and half of them have run into Jin, who’s in a Dharma Initiative jumpsuit driving one of their vans. And, just as soon as the show answers a packet of questions, it blindsides you with a whole bunch of new ones. None of it seems forced, however, and, as strange and mysterious as things have gotten, I really feel like it’s all heading somewhere. I can’t wait until Wednesday at 9:00PM (ABC is the network) to find out what happens next. And does anyone else have a feeling concerning the well being of Penny?
To wrap things up, I will also be watching Chuck (NBC Monday 8:00PM), Heroes (NBC Monday 9:00PM), The Mentalist (CBS Tuesday 9:00PM) and Lie To Me (Fox Wednesday 8:00PM). This week we’re still Fringe-less, unfortunately. More on that last show in a future installment. Also, next week I’ll be previewing Ashes to Ashes, making it’s American debut on March 7th (BBC America). Until then, stay tuned!
Here’s what Joe is looking forward to over the next seven days on the small screen [PLEASE NOTE: The next edition of Read Before Watching has been delayed until Saturday, February 7th]:
Lost has returned and how. Back for a fifth season, the creators have really turned things sideways just in the first two episodes. I like that the flashbacks are about the people on the island jumping around in time and the flash forwards are about the “Oceanic Six” (plus Ben) off the island and trying to get back. The two-part season premiere had a large amount of geeky moments, including the return of several characters, some dead and some…mysterious. Now that there are only a set number of episodes left in the run of the series it appears that the cast and crew are taking care to make every moment on screen count. According to the lucky sods that have been able to view episode 5.03 in advance, this one will increase the involuntary jaw-dropping. You have been warned. Lost airs Wednesdays at 9:00PM on ABC.
Heroes returns from the holiday break with the start of “Volume Four: Fugitives.” I know a lot of people greatly disliked “Volume Three: Villains”, but I will gladly go on record as saying that I really enjoyed it. They did some different things and shook up the characters a bit. We got to see where a lot of characters stand and what side of the whole good-bad thing they truly fall on, especially if they no longer had their powers. That’s not to say i thought it was perfect. I agree that the time travel element got overused. I also thought that everything was put back to where it was a little too tidily. I wish they would have kept Sylar on the redemptive path. But overall? I was entertained and looked forward to see each episode. The tease for “Volume Four” was pretty great. Michael Dorn is the President! I hope that wasn’t just a cameo and that he has a prominent role in the rest of the season. “Volume Four: Fugitives” starts with “Chapter One: A Clear and Present Danger” on Monday at 9:00PM on NBC.
Leading up to Heroes is one of the most consistently enjoyable shows on television, Chuck. There are easily half a dozen laugh-out-loud moments each episode and more geek references than you can shake a stick at (they have Comic Con posters in the background! And, Ben Lo Pan!). Adam Baldwin alone makes this must-see TV and the rest of the cast carries things along perfectly. I really can’t think of any missteps by this show and it will great to have it back after a long Winter break. The previous episode shook some things up and it will be interesting to see how it all plays out. NBC is the station, Monday at 8:00PM is the time.
Honorable Mention: I haven’t forgotten about Battlestar Galactica, but, to be honest, I’m only really sticking with this show because there are only a baker’s half-dozen episodes left. The increasingly soul-crushing and relentlessly grim and dirty tone of this show is overwhelming at this point. Hell of a show, but it is definitely time to put the characters (and us) out of their misery. My question is, will we actually like any of the characters by the time it’s done? Fridays at 10:00PM on SCI FI.
If you are a fan of the Halo novels, you know the name Eric Nylund, he wrote three of them. What you may not know is he has also served as a writer and a consultant helping to shape the Halo game at Microsoft Game Studios. As well, he has worked with some of the biggest names in games; including Bioware, Ensemble Studios, and Epic Games. Apparently a man who likes to keep busy, he has both a graphic novel, Halo Genesis, and a comic miniseries based on the TV show Battlestar Galactica due out this year. On top of all this, he has a new novel which is about to be released as well.
The novel, his first since the selling over two million Halo novels, blends ancient mythology and urban fantasy into an original story set in the modern world. Fiona and Eliot Post, are painfully ordinary siblings- or so it seems. Little does anyone suspect that the a the pair are actually the result of forbidden union, one between an immortal goddess and Lucifer himself. Shrouded in obscurity for their own protection, as they reach fifteen years of age the secret not even they were aware of reaches the families of their parents. As each side vies to control of the twins they are set to a series of heroic tasks and diabolical temptations meant to test them while each one draws them deeper into mysterious pockets of living myths made real.
This first book of a five book series will force the pair to depend on each other as they learn to use their developing powers while possibly bringing about an apocalyptic war.
PCZ is fortunate to have been been given an excerpt of the book, which will be released on February 3rd. Click the link below to download the first three chapters of the book.
January is traditionally a dumping ground for both late summer hits and bombs. This month is no different, with each week being jam packed with releases, many of which are not worth your time. Choose wisely.
Battlestar will always be my pick of the week, whether the release release is a season box set, movie or a set of Pez dispensers. By the time I rewatch this season, I will be foaming at the mouth waiting for the last episodes to drop starting on the 16th. The only strike against this release is that includes the movie Razor, which I bought on DVD when it was first released as any wild fan would have. Now I feel dumb and will have two copies.
– NEW RELEASES –
Pineapple Express (Two-Disc Unrated Edition + Digital Copy): I regret not getting to this in the theater, so I will make amends by grabbing the two-disc edition this week. Even if I don’t like the movie, I am interested in the features that the Apatow clan have been dreaming up. Features on this release highlight their many improvised scenes of dialogue and table reads. The behind-the-scenes views are getting better and better, and I love seeing a comedic troupe hammer out the funny.
Righteous Kill: Watch Heat instead. If you get tired of Heat 40 years from now, then you can sample this to refresh your love of the Michael Mann classic.
Babylon A.D. (Two-Disc Special Edition): I keep rooting for Vin Diesel’s return to glory and now I have to start thinking about whether or not I still want him back. I thought he might be the heir apparent to Action Deity Sylvester Stallone, but the last few Diesel’s films have beaten me about the face.
The Alphabet Killer: Straight to DVD and straight to my Netflix queue for this cheapish looking thriller starring Eliza Dushku, Cary Elwes and Timothy Hutton. I don’t expect to be amazed, but I look forward to zipping through this on a late night. I can’t tell if I am a sucker for thrillers, Eliza Dushku or Cary Elwes. No… it’s Cary Elwes hands down.
Disaster Movie: I am filled with sadness each time one of these things is made.
The Wackness: An Olsen twin makes out with Sir Ben Kingsley? Ok, I’m intrigued, but not enough to buy it. Although, the film did make enough money to allow the inclusion of a few featurettes for all you indie fans. I just wish Sir Kingsley showed up on the commentary.
Ed Harris is a good director (Pollock) who may someday draw comparisons to Clint Eastwood. As he walks down a similar path, I must see his foray into the dramatic western. It also helps to have him joined on screen by Viggo Mortensen and Renee Zellweger. This also gets the pick of the week because Ed Harris provides us with a commentary that will surely be enlightening and entertaining, not to mention four featurettes of typical ‘behind the scenes’ material.
– NEW RELEASES –
Mirrors: My first guess at viewing the trailer for this film was that it was cashing in on the latest craze of Asian-style horror flicks. Lo and behold, it is indeed a remake of a South Korean horror film. While Hollywood’s mining of genre of horror has been hit or miss, I think I’ll give Kiefer Sutherland a chance. I just hope they don’t screw up the ending, a trait that has been really aggravating in recent American adaptations of Asian horror films.
My Best Friend’s Girl: I enjoy Dane Cook’s comedy but he seems to struggle onscreen. My advice is that he sticks to well-crafted side characters instead of lead roles. If I got around to seeing this film, it would probably only be to see Alec Baldwin’s performance.
Swing Vote: This smells like a silly political commentary to feed on our rabid hunger for punditry around election time. I hope its lack of sales keep this from happening again. Kevin Costner should know better.
Family That Preys: Tyler Perry (Diary of a Mad Black Woman) releases another touching family drama, although this time he treads into bi-racial waters. The cast is pretty stacked with character actors (Kathy Bates, Alfre Woodward, Cole Hauser, Sanaa Lathan) and he definitely has proven that he knows how to create entertaining and impacting drama. I would recommend this film as at least a rental based on its pedigree.
– TV & RE ISSUES –
Make ‘Em Laugh: The Funny Business Of America: This PBS miniseries will air on TV around the same time, but you can grab the DVD series with additional footage today. It traces American comedy back to its roots and features all the names you would expect, from Dick Van Dyke to George Carlin. It is also hosted by Billy Crystal and narrated by Amy Sedaris. I will probably watch it on TV but if I like the series it will likely wind up on my shelf.
Breakfast At Tiffany’s and Funny Face Centennial Collection: Audrey Hepburn gets some love as Paramount releases two of her classics yet again on DVD. The features are rather extensive and I would file this away in your mind under good gift ideas for Mother’s Day.
Four Weddings and a Funeral (Deluxe Edition): Valentines Day alert. Hugh Grant strikes again with a re-issue of his 1994 classic. It looks like they skimped on special features but you get a new cover and a bargain price.
Metallica Collectors Box Set: Metallica again delves into the documentary realm with this mixed bag of Metallica goodness. This ‘Collectors Box Set’ features live performances including the band’s set at Woodstock, an interview with the terribly unappreciated Jason Newstead (I’ll buy their stuff again if he comes back) on why he left the band, and some booklets featuring more interviews and pictures. This is a limited edition set, so grab one for any Metallica fan in case it goes out of print quickly.
Supercop: Supercop is an underrated Jackie Chan classic which will eventually find its way into my house so I can throw away my faded VHS copy.
PICK OF THE WEEK: Chris Rock: Kill the Messenger (Three-Disc Collector’s Edition): I’m not a huge Chris Rock fan but the choices this week make this release of his HBO special look amazing. The three-disc edition features complete shows from London and New York as well as the HBO version which spliced them together with a third act from Africa. We also get more behind the scenes access and interviews with Rock himself.
– NEW RELEASES –
City of Ember: I was interested in seeing this film, but this DVD is the definition of bare bones. This thing comes with fewer features than most first generation DVD’s. You know, the ones that touted their special features as including interactive menus.
Max Payne: This has potential as a low-expectations action flick. It’s also nice to see Mila Kunis’ comeback continue after Forgetting Sarah Marshall. There is a two-disc edition available, but it is really just for a digital copy of the film, so only buy that if you intend on adding some Payne to your iPod.
Repo! The Genetic Opera: This freaky rock opera has cult classic written all over it. Even if it is terrible it will probably be ridiculously funny enough to be worth your money. I almost made this the pick of the week, but I thought that would be odd since I know virtually nothing about it. If you are already a fan, think about picking up the Blu-Ray release which has more features like a sing-along and some previously released webisodes.
The Express: Dennis Quaid as a football coach? Good enough for me. The bonus of getting Jim Brown to come back as a football coach and to take part in the documentary highlighting the historical significance of Ernie Davis makes it worth the purchase. I have also heard that the football scenes in this film are unequaled in realism and intensity, and this DVD includes an intricate feature on how they were shot.
– TV & RE ISSUES –
The Notebook (Limited Edition Gift Set): Another Valentine’s Day idea, this release of The Notebook has no new DVD features but comes in a fancy new case and includes a scrapbooking set where you can import your own pictures into a book inspired by the main characters from the Nicolas Sparks novel.
PICK OF THE WEEK: RocknRolla (Two-Disc Special Edition + Digital Copy): Guy Ritchie apparently returns to his action roots and I will celebrate this return and subsequent escape from the Bastille of Madonna’s Kabbalah prison. The single-disc version of this release is bare-bones, so grab the deluxe set to get your commentary, digital copy and other special features.
– NEW RELEASES –
Lakeview Terrace: I’m scared of Samuel L. Jackson when he’s the good guy, so I can’t imagine how much he’ll freak me out when he’s plays bad cop sans good cop. This also features Cole Hauser, who I am hoping will gain some fame over the coming year.
The Rocker – Born To Rock Special Edition [Digital Copy]: I like many of the actors present in this movie but I have nothing but doubt about this film’s possibilities. However, if you are a fan than you’ll enjoy this jam-packed DVD, which includes gag reels, two separate commentaries and at least six featurettes.
College: This is a bare bones release of a movie that nobody saw. You do get a gag reel, so the movie was at least a little funny to the people who made it.
– TV & RE ISSUES –
Cheers – The Final Season: Even if you haven’t been keeping up with the release of previous seasons, be sure to catch this one which cap’s off the series and includes the amazing finale.
Mary Poppins (45th Anniversary Special Edition): I smell a 50th Anniversary coming only three years after the 47th Anniversary edition! Yes, they are releasing it again. If you still haven’t procured any of the previous releases you might as well grab this one. It’s got all the same features as the last release with a new slipcase.
Pink Panther Film Collection: This classic series gets a makeover with a decked-out collection. Or you can also grab the ones you want individually. I would lean toward the collection myself, which includes A Shot in the Dark, where much of the magic of Peter Sellers’ Clouseau character is unleashed.
The Secret Policeman’s Balls: This is a collection of British comedy gods raising money for charity during the late 1970’s and through the 80’s. The talent includes everyone from Monty Python and also features Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, Rowan Atkinson, Hugh Laurie and Jennifer Saunders. You also get a slew of musical guests including Sting, Phil Collins, Pete Townsend, Peter Gabriel, Jackson Browne, Lou Reed, Eric Clapton, Mark Knopfler and Jeff Beck. If you enjoy British humor I would consider this a must.