Sunday, May 22, 2011

Summer Viewing Project

The traditional television season is coming to an end. While the rise of original cable programming means there will still be some quality new programming over the summer (see Breaking Bad, Louie, In Plain Sight, White Collar), it's still a lighter time for our DVRs and weeknight schedules.

Sure, you could spend that time outdoors or with loved ones, but the sun is known to cause skin disease and your loved ones get annoying fast. Why not use this time to catch up on some series that you might have heard about but haven't watched, need some love and aren't so far in as too take long to catch up? The MightyMartian is here with four suggestions.


Hands down, Fringe is the best sci-fi show since Firefly went off the air, and a worthy successor to Lost fanaticism. However, if Lost annoyed the crap out of you by building up mysteries with lengthy and/or no payoff (I admit it and I'm a huge fan), Fringe will boggle your mind but keeps the story flowing organically and quickly.

Without revealing too much about the plot, the show essentially revolves around a trio of fantastic actors (Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson and Emmy-worthy John Noble) who are investigating "fringe" science mysteries. These mysteries are apparently part of a Pattern that slowly come together over the course of the first season, culminating in a finale that changes the nature of the series and kicks off everything that's happened since.

The sci-fi is so cool because it's mostly incredibly believable. Nearly every episode routinely features at least one shocking moment (I call it the "holy fuck" moment after what I frequently exclaim), are slickly directed and feature smart, but not intrusive, special effects.

The fact that Fringe has lasted as long as it has is a testament to how good it is, its devoted fans and the pedigree of acting, writing (often surprisingly witty) and production that goes into it. Seasons 1 and 2 are on blu-ray/DVD now with the 3rd likely available in September. If you are already a fan, give a copy to a friend or two and create more.


It's hard to refer to Justified as a cop show when it's obviously rooted in the sensibility and swagger of a Western. Timothy Olyphant is immensely charismatic and watchable as Marshall Raylan Givens, a lawman more apt to shoot first and ask questions later. He's come back to his old Kentucky stomping grounds after stirring up trouble in Florida but trouble is something he doesn't do well at avoiding.

Raylan is one of those "women want him, guys want to be him" characters...effortlessly cool, always in control and occasionally morally ambiguous. In the first season, he deals with childhood friend turned white-supremacist turned religious zealot Boyd Crowder. Season two pits him against the Bennett family, drug runners who have been harmless until their world collides with Raylan's.

Justified is filled with unexpected moments of violence, character depth and humor. Season one is on blu-ray/DVD now. Season 2 should appear by year's end or early next.


If you're reading my reviews, you're probably a fan of a lot of TV and film. You're quite likely a little geeky (it's okay, we're kinda running the world now) and you love irreverent comedy that references your obsessions. In essence, you're "meta" and Community is the series for you.

You might have watched early episodes and wrote it off as a quirky sitcom that wouldn't last long. I strongly urge you to pick up where you left off. Community has evolved into a brilliant collection of spoofs of media cliche. Be it action movie styled paintball wars, "My Dinner With Abed/Andre" or the indelible Halloween episodes...this is a comedy that takes "situation" to a different level.


I hope the story of Southland, dumped by NBC after one season and resurrected on TNT, is one that will become duplicated with other struggling but excellent series neglected by the "big four" networks.

A spiritual successor to shows like NYPD Blue and Homicide, Southland isn't really interested in the cases the cops and detectives investigate, only the characters and the toll their jobs take on them professionally and personally. The lessons are often brutal, poignant and unflinching. The most recent season featured a sudden death that left me as a viewer reeling as much as the characters.

Three seasons are down on Southland, but TNT's have been brief (ten episodes) so catching up won't take too long.

Feel free to indulge any and all of these series over the can thank me later when all your friends are fit and sunburned.

Saturday, May 14, 2011


I admit, I was pleasantly surprised at how good Thor is.

I shouldn't have been. The architects of the Marvel movie-verse (at least the Avengers side of it) haven't really let us down yet and their commitment to building a cinematic world that all of these beloved characters co-exist in. Beginning with Iron Man, it continued into The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man 2. Thor and Captain America in a couple months complete the first phase before next year's Avengers bring them all together.

The best part of all this is that you don't need any real knowledge of the Marvel comic world or even the other films to appreciate each piece, much like how the original comics introduced all these diverse characters before bringing them together.

Thor has never been one of my favorite characters...a fantastical take on Norse mythology to fit into superhero parameters. He spoke in archaic "thous" and "verilys" and occasionally took on human form to mingle among us lower beings.

Thor the movie does an amazing job of taking a character that is vain and mighty and, well, pardon the pun, bringing him down to earth. When the son of Odin (Anthony Hopkins) makes a brash decision that puts their people and kingdom on the brink of war, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is cast down to our realm, along with his magic hammer, Mjolnir, denied return until he is worthy. Meanwhile, his brother Loki schemes to control the kingdom of Asgard in his place.

While the world of the Asgardians and their blend of science and magic is fantastically realized and special effects brilliant, it's Thor's time on earth that sells the picture. The screenplay plays the fish out of water premise with successful wit and his relationship with Natalie Portman's Jane isn't mired down with romance.

Hemsworth has put a stamp on this character that makes it easy to imagine him alongside Robert Downey, Jr. and Samuel L. Jackson in Avengers. The big-screen Marvel Universe is becoming just as grand and exciting as Stan Lee imagined it on the four-color page decades ago.

Rating: A