Tag: ashes to ashes

Read Before Watching: March 8th

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.”

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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‚Äôs 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.”

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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.

Weekly Roundup
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!

Read Before Watching: March 1st

This week’s column is brought to you by the 1980s as I take a look at the BBC America premiere of Ashes To Ashes, the sequel to the immensely popular Life On Mars. Like it’s predessesor, Ashes To Ashes features a police officer in present day being mortally injured, only to awaken in a similar identity decades in the past. The first show brought us the raging 1970s in Manchester. This time around it’s London in 1981 complete with glam rock soundtrack and a few familiar faces from the previous incarnation. Gene Hunt (Philip Glenister), Ray Carling (Dean Andrews) and Chris Skelton (Marshall Lancaster) have transferred to London subsequent to the death of the original series’ time-lost Sam Tyler. Enter DI Alex Drake (Keeley Hawes). From Drake’s 2008 perspective Sam Tyler committed suicide after awakening from a coma where he experienced his temporal shift. Having extensively studied Tyler’s notes and case, when she awakens in 1981 following being shot at point blank range, Drake immediately calls hallucination. As per Life On Mars, Hunt et al. refuse to go gently into that good diagnoses. Drake must stumble through a harsher remake of That ’80s Show while trying to find a trigger to awaken herself in 2008. Dramatic hi-jinks ensue.

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Alex Drake is, in many ways, a more vulnerable character that Sam Tyler ever was. Not only is she a woman in an era that was still reproachfully indignant towards the “fairer sex,” but she also has a daughter back in the present. As any parent would, she misses her daughter and that sometimes steals her concentration when she instead should be steeling her resolve. Keeley Hawes does a great job of portraying Drake losing it as she becomes less sure this is all in her head as well as the moments when she does what’s needed to get the job done. Drake is more than capable of keeping up with Gene Hunt and dishing back to him his snarkiness and sexism in a much more effective and disarming a way than Sam Tyler ever could.

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No offense to the hugely talented Harvey Keitel (who plays Gene Hunt in the American Life On Mars remake), but no one can play the Gene Genie like Philip Glenister. True, he had the advantage of originating the character, but he dances with being an asshole with a heart of tarnished gold with incredible ease. Glenister’s Hunt is one of those characters that is so instantly iconic that he threatens to overshadow the characters that the series premise is based on. Both Life On Mars and Ashes To Ashes would not work without Gene Hunt for the protagonists to play off of and Hunt would be either too cartooney or laughably ineffective without Glenister in the role. Ashes is just about to start it’s second series in England and I sincerely hope it has a couple more to go. Gene Hunt is a character that will be impossible to say goodbye to.

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So, if you need to, brush up on things with Life On Mars on DVD and tune in on Saturday at 9:00PM EST for the BBC America premiere of the latest outstanding British show, Ashes To Ashes.

Read Before Watching: February 22nd

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!