Saturday, March 26, 2005

Blow by Blow Review: "24" March 21st, 2005

I read a really great article about "24" and a quick state of other shows on television that I encourage you to read. That is an ongoing series of articles and they are fantastic. The author's name is David Michael Wharton and after a quick Google search on him I found a variety of articles that really a pleasure to read. I greatly enjoy his sense of comedic irony and encourage all of you to take some time to read through his articles.

With that said, let's get to this week's edition of the "24" Blow by Blow...

Blow by Blow Review: "24" March 21st, 2005

-- A Convinced President: Recently, my father told me how much he disliked this President that is being used in this rendition of "24" and I think I share a little bit of that. He's been very mechanical, almost painted as a secondary character though. I wonder if that might have something to do with the fact that we don't really "know" this President as intimately as knew David Palmer of previous seasons. In any case, this President states that he is convinced that another event of terrorism domestically will cause great civil unrest. Huh? I guess I have to almost completely disagree there. While surely we will tear eather apart at many times, if anything history has shown that in times of national crisis, we almost, across the board, band together to unite (even if for a sadly short period of time). The beginnings of the World Wars, catastrophic events like any of the natural disasters that have befallen our nation (hell, even OTHER nations), 9/11 - the list goes on. Why is this President so sure of this? I've no idea why.

-- "Can I Talk to You For a Second? Forget About the Dude Bleeding Out for a Minute" I was almost floored when Jack approaches the medtech that's caring for Paul (even though my disdain for him has been documented multiple times) and asks if he can speak to him for a minute? How about letting the dude have the attention that he needs to care for he patient? :) I also wonder where the direct pressure to Paul's gunshot wounds is. I'm a First Aid Certified Jackass and even I know that :)

-- What "24" is All About - Anticipation: One of the coolest pieces of "24" is the sense of anticipation that the show creates. Everytime any one of the characters says the words, "Well, there's only thing thing we can do", my heart swells and the anicipation factor kicks in. In this case, it was Michelle that said these words before issuing the overriding orders to ...

Send Jack in undercover? No! To send in Tony undercover? No! To send in Edgar undercover? No! (at this point my head is ready to explode and finally Michelle announces...)

"We will be sending Dina Araz in undercover...." (a bit of a let down because it's not involving Jack)

"...with JackBauer in tow as her hostage."


One of the other hallmarks of this show is also that though this move makes tactically little sense, and provides almost sure DOOM in Jack's case (I can't believe that Marwan would really not kill him on sight, but more on that later), it gets your heart racing and grabs you attention span by the suspenders and rakes you along at rollercoaster pace. That is the magic of this show, folks.

-- Ignored Pilot: Looking back at my previous entries, I have sadly almost completely ignored the "Pilot in uniform" that has been poking his head in for the last 3-4 hours of showtime and this is the episode that begins his journey into character clarity. We've learned his ruthlessness, we've learned just enough of the plot to make us completely interested in what he's going to be doing over the next couple of hours of story, and more importantly - he's one of the whitest guys on the planet - complete with red hair. Who is he, what is his story? Why is he bending sideways to assist a radical muslim sect to cause chaos? All of this and more is on it's way and like so many other aspects of this show: It is intoxicating.

-- You Say Dori, Captioning Says Laurie: For whatever reason, the captioning in this episode shows the pilots' wife's name as "Laurie" rather than the "Dori" that is used in the audio. More intrigue and oddities all thanks to "24". :)

-- Dina's Terminal Cliche': You can almost see the red "X" put over the visual portion of Dina the instant that she agrees to assist Michelle and CTU in the mission to take Jack to Marwan. As we see below, it sucks for Dina for me to be right.

-- Exposition Sucks in Television - Usually: I was listening to the new DVD commentary track for STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT recently, and Director Jonathan Frakes mentions that STAR TREK has always been great at providing actors that can handle exposition with fantastic dialog. He also mentions that finding actors that can pull it off without sounding like they're reading the line up of tomorrow's baseball game is also one of the largest challenges that a director can face.

I wholeheartedly agree.

Finding the razor's edge of being interesting, yet finding the unique ability to bring people up to speed, with lots of details, storytelling and NOT LOSE PEOPLE's INTEREST is incredibly hard as the many show that fail to succeed at this can attest to.

Kudos to the majestic and intrigue-weaving writing crew of "24" for what is easily some of the best expositionary dialog in entertainment today.

-- (Mike Hears "JAWS" Theme Music and Sees a Pouting Lip On It's Way Back): Let's get one thing straight: I HATE the character of CHLOE. She has been a whiner, a purpose-stacking complainer to the level that makes me want to reach through my 26" screen and strangle her. And that's what many people LOVE about her! A friend of mine was also referring to the time span between Michelle's re-recruting call to Chloe and Chloe's arrival being magically short. I'll have to go back and review that, but it sounds like he has a valid argument. In any case, I wasn't all that satisfied with her coming back and we can only hope that he contracts one of the many computer-borne viruses she is privy to.

-- Newspaper Headline: "One Armed Drugged Up Woman Overtakes a Ridiculously Verile CTU Agent": While I enjoy the ride that "24" provides, this one had me a bit mystified. Dina, the drugged up, one-good-arm housewife/terrorist has just somehow overtaken Jack Bauer, CTU agent and man that lead the hunt for Marwan. And here they are on a plate. Marwan knew base on instinct that this was a farce - and so did we. I have no idea how they thought this would pan out, but it does service to put Jack in the spotlight again. To jump topic for a moment, one of the great things about "The Grid" was that "the stars" weren't always in the spotlight and were even often not in frame for a very long period of time. This isn't so much a tic I want to pick on the show, but more of some common sense that has to be worked around. I look forward to see what's going to happen and perhaps that's exactly what the writers think when they make scenes like this.

-- The Peril of Tunnels: Can you name me any one film that shows good things happening in tunnels? I didn't think so. How is it that if a 35 year-old web designer can know this -- that CTU doesn't know this?

-- The Pilot Engages: There are many ways that the pilot can be "inserted" into the story. Will he be a supplement for Air Force One (probably not because they already did that with Harrison Ford). Will he be the pilot for one of the jets that will be providing support dover for Air Force One? Will he be a replacement for one of the agents carrying the "football?" Is he going to take the fighter jet shown and crash it into something or fire it's missles at something? The possibilities go on and on and I am eager to see what awaits.

-- The Visceral Death of Dina: Sadly, that picture is one that we're trying to erase in Iraq, but that is something that I would imagine happened often. Dina's death, while short and surely not sweet, is something we can take as a signpost of what is ahead - the "bad guys will act swiftly, without mercy, and unless we step to the plate and take those gallant swings, all will be lost.

3 and 2, 1 out in the 7th with bases loaded, guys. Time to get a hit.

Another great episode that I think I will go back and rewatch the last 20 minues off. So much happened in that last set of time that I'm sure I've missed something that I wanted to comment on. Look for additions to this insert soon.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Over at the Cinescape of the Crime...

I was reading around the net this morning before work and found a really great article (it's a bit long, but which great articles aren't :) ) and thought I would share a link to it:

Article at Cinescape by David Michael Wharton.

There are some fantastic points that he hits on and I've started crafting an Email to him - if you think you've got something to add, go for it. He sounds like he's eager to hear from fans of just about any show and the schedule that he has listed on the bottom along with a brief "blow by blow" format is solid.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Blow by Blow Review: "24" March 14th, 2005

Something I find is that the episodes of this show I like the most, I write less about. Hence, this edition of the "24" Blow by Blow is much smaller.

This was a fantastic episode, filled with straightforward points, cool lines of discussion and valiant thought sometimes unrealistic attempts at trying to show that good really does win out. with that said, on to this edition of the Blow by Blow - 3-14-2005...

-- Heroic Moment of the Arab Brothers: I had caught a syndicated radio show last week that wanted to turn this in all directions. Everything from "This is where they're encouraging the Arab-Muslim community to not stand for what the other Muslims are calling a holy war", to "this is so that they can do whatever they want on the show because they've already given props to the community on which they want to bash." I'm not a fan of either of those theories. Very often the point that you want to make is right in front of you - unencumbered with political correctness, unfettered by "what will be best for the show" and just laid out bold - The Arab Brothers aren't just making a "one nation under God" Speech, they're making a "what is right" speech, because they know (as does Jack, via his letting them stay in the store) that what they are going to do and want to do IS right. Nothing more, nothing less.

-- Ugly Side of Nature is Never Easy to Like: Audrey conveys the fact that she is very scared about seeing another side of Jack - which she should be. The man has a single purpose, a steadfast determination and woe to the people or things that get in his way. Often things that seem simple have come at a price none of us can imagine and I find it irritating sometimes that people are unable to jump out of something other than their point of view regardless of the consequences. Consequences is something that is quickly evaporating in our communities, workplaces and society overall in an what has become a veiled effort to make more things available to more people. while everyone is allowed to dream, to imagine the impossible, to chase the brass ring of the future, there are things that some people just shouldn't "do." Jack has found that one thing that he has no problem doing is ensuring the safety of the nation - if Audrey really has a problem with that, there is always the stuffy careless Brit that calls her from time to time and calls her "wife."

-- Sarah, the Door - The Door, Sarah: This moment in the episode is one of those "things of LEGEND" items that you hardly ever hear about. Sarah comes to call only minutes after Driscoll, the mother of a 14 year-old suicide victim to ensure that the expunging of her record and two-level pay grade increase is still intact with Michelle now inplace. While it was certainly a noteworthy item as per my last blog, her tact left much to be desired. As TV watchers, all of us are screaming at the screen: "You BITCH Man I wish they'd fire her!"

And they do!

Recognizing that someone doesn't have the priorities of what's needed and CONSEQUENCES for doing so (as listed above no less) is something that is great to see yet hardly ever witnessed. Kudos to the rights and the actors (including the poor gal that portrayed Sarah :) ) on some very well executed story-telling.

-- Perimeter vs Trailing Potential Locations: In many of my Blow by Blows, I have been picking some rather bold nits that have come up. This is one of the first episodes that not only addresses my nits as fast as I can type the notes about them down in my Sidekick, but initiates action to "solve" the nitpicking! That being said - in addition to Sarah being fired you get:

Michelle decides that the Perimeter rather than trailing potential locations is the way to go with support for Jack, even though Tony, who clearly knows how Jack works, believes that there is a better way to go. Everyone says to yourself _"Lady, just because he's your ex-husband doesn't mean he doesn't know anything." You also say "she really should apologize to him about the "drinking effecting your life" comments.

And she does! By the episodes end she rights both of those wrong and more.

-- Why Not Try to Use the Store Owners to Deflect Interest? As Jack begins his long discussion with the store owners, the thought comes to me: Why not use the store owners to help deflect interest in the store and let the special forces teams go on their merry way to search for Jack? Put Jack and Paul and the document in an air duct or one of the display tents shown on the screen? Hell, anywhere in that store would have been fine considering how dark it was in there. The size of the special strike unit wasn't all that large and they wouldn't have been able to cover the city.

-- Gun Shop Vs. Sporting Goods Store: For the first and last time in my articles, it's a "sporting goods store" not a gun store. How does Mike know this? From the bullet-ridden door and 25 foot sign outside the building, Jackasses :)

-- Nice Impassioned Speech But Who's Watching Outside? I, like most red-blooded flag-waving Americans appreciate the solid, fact-filled "for our father and our country" speech from the brothers. Meantime, who the hell is watching the street where the assault force will be arriving in just a few minutes?

-- Assault Force Vs a CTU Agent, a Diplomat, and Two Arab Sporting Goods Store Clerks: I didn't originally insert this one, but I also was completely unimpressed with the make up of the assault force. The "captain" for instance really seemed out of place and "not in charge." How many were there? Where they hell was a coordinated attack? While I would say that Jack & company would be screwed against a S.W.A.T Team, these people were surely something less than that. Where were the grenades to clear the front door? How about some gas? What kind of assault force doesn't have at least Tear Gas? How about some sniper action to take out the unfriendlies at the window? Some flanking action? I'm a graphic designer and only watch shows and movies that feature things like that but -- nothing like this from "the Assault Force" of McClennan-Forster.

-- Thanks from Paul = Terminal Cliche? I continue to amaze myself with the ratio of "Terminal Cliche" I've made so far this season. As we know by the end of the episode, Paul is shot at near point blank range by the dying Security Chief from McLennan-Forster. We'll see if there is significantly less in the way of competition for Jack and Audrey's relationship in about an episode probably.

-- Some People Are More Comfortable in Hell: Secretary Heller provides some noteworthy blow by blow of his own in this episode: He states that "some people are more comfortable in Hell" which I know to be true from my many interactions with people during my short 35 years. Strife, arguments, quick decision-making, on-the-move - all of those things and more make many people uncomfortable, while many actually thrive on it. Jack is surely one of those who can "exist" but only lives while on the ragged edge of something much larger than himself. Might that be the "Terminal Cliche'" for Audrey's and Jack's relationship regardless of what Paul's fate is? Could be. We'll find out soon enough.

-- Newfound Respect for Sporting Good Departments and Stores: The next time that I am in the middle of an corporate company EMP-induced city-wide blackout, I will remember that in lieu of heading for the local police station, that I will head for the Walmart down the street, and make a bold dash to the Sporting Goods Department.

As I stated above, this was an excellent episode. While there were few nitpicks in this one, it was very solid and yet another shining example of why people should be watching this excellent show.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

I Spy a Not So Covert Wallet Thief...

Having been a Timothy Hutton fan, and a fan of political intrigue and spy movies made "Aldrich Ames: Traitor Within" a slam dunk for me when I cought the last 45-minutes of it on HBO several months ago. I was watching "Sum of All Fears" the other day listening to the commentary track of the director Phil Alden Robinson and novelist Tom Clancy and they'd mentioned how prolific an influence Aldrich Ames escapades were and that touched off my memory of wanting to acquire that movie.

A quick search online and what do I find?


"Aldrich Ames: Traitor Within [VHS] (1998)
This riveting true story tells of the exploits of Aldrich Ames, the high level CIA director of Soviet counter-intelligence, who was convicted in 1994 of selling information on spies he, the CIA and the FBI recruited to the Soviets. Timothy Hutton, Joan Plowright and Elizabeth Pena star in this look at America's greatest traitor since Benedict Arnold. 97 min.

Rated: PG Color
Was $99.99 Now Just $89.99 VHS #062858"

That's right! $89!?

Needless to say, if YOU see this film online someplace, or perhaps in a store someplace, please make sure to make me away. I can remember the sickening days that movies actually cost this much, but I am sad that they are apparently not gone.

It's a great (what I saw of it) film and I would very much like to make it a piece of my collection.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Blow by Blow Review: "24" March 7th, 2005

The path to finding Marwan and the guessing game for the next piece of peril contnues this week on "24". Let's get to this week's Blow by Blow Review...

Blow by Blow Review: "24" March 7th, 2005

-- Paul Offers to Help Jack at Mclennen-Forster to Extract Information? Have we at all found that Paul is no longer a suspect in the kidnapping of his wife and the Secretary of the United States? If not, why is it he is still free to roam and then actually have access to real-life data that Marwan may have left over at Mclennen-Forster? I have no idea why Jack would allow him to help at this point even thought "one of his companies designed the software."

-- Edgar Thinks Out Loud Just as We Do: Shows that do this always get my kudos. We ALL were thinking (check the previous Blow by Blow for more details) why wasn't Erin Driscoll's daughter being watched while in her angered schizophrenic state? Sounds like they're going to build more there and with all of the holes erected in CTU over the last three seasons, why not? Another layer of interest and story telling is a good thing.

-- "It's Not Over": It is truly great to see this being the focus rather than "we're done and on to the next problem" that plagues so many other shows. With the resources that are apparent in their hunt and with Marwan on the loose, they realize that it's time to kick it into a higher gear and not slack. Very solid storytelling.

-- Did Marwan Pay to Get on the Bus: (Mike puts on black and white stripes, a black hat and wraps a whistle around his hand) Tweeeeet! After further review, we assume that Marwan did not pay to get on the bus. There was no way that he was able to reach in and get exact change, or nab his wallet in the time that is shown on the screen. He also wasn't putting his wallet or a coin purse back in his pocket as he was sitting down. I guess the bus driver was Egyptian and didn't want to mess with the High Priest, Imotep.

-- Only 60% on Only viable Lead: As far as I can tell, the best lead they have currently is the information at Mclennen-Forster. Sure, Marwan is on the loose, but how hard a fist can be made on a city block when the guy is wandering around as a CTU Stormtrooper and disappears into the ether?

-- Suspecting Sabootage at Corporate Level When CTU Does It? I think the staff at CTU are being pretty ignorant when they don't make a supposition that the perssonel at Mclennen-Forster will provide all information and accomodate them to the nth degree. If anything (and Curtis and Erin of all at this point) they should expect deception and roll in whatever informational professional personnel can be spared to ensure that the information they need is collected and any "holes" in the data get due attention.

-- Audrey Asks Jack to "Take Care of Paul?" You have got to be kidding me here. First, we don't know that Paul isn't tied into this somehow. Second: There has always been a nagging feeling in the back of my brain that the daughter, Audrey, has had something to do with the kidnapping that lead off this season: The brother has been vindicated for the moment and the only other person that knew they were going to the brother's house was the Secretary himself. So if it wasn't the Secretary, and it wasn't the Brother, who's left? That's right: Jack's lover and confidante - the one that's in the center of it all. I would even say that her asking Jack to "take care of Paul" would be an indirect way of hampering his efforts at collecting information at Mclennen-Forster - I mean think about it: The goal is to find the man that may launch even more terrorist attacks and now he not only has to think about all those ramifications, but he has to "take care of the business mogul soon-to-be--ex-husband of the woman he's in love with? How is that not going to hamper his ability to deal with things?

-- Hitting When Not Expecting It: The Secretary says something very bold: he believes that Marwan will "probably try to attack immediately" when he thinks the terrorists will think that CTUs resources will be too busy to tend to everything. I think that real-life experience actually points in the other direction. Take 9-11 for example - while we know that resources, a new department in general and overall awareness have helped us prevent "another" terrorist attack, often times something as devestating as what happened on 9-11 or the even in this season so far of "24" would take years to establish and roll on. I think that collecting the information about Marwan and hunting him down while he's still viable locally is a much better tack.

-- Get Something to Eat for Erin? How about a cup of unfit for duty for Erin? While we haven't had any devestating loss of productivity during the last few hours, CERTAINLY we're going to see things slip at this point. I am happy it only takes less than an hour for her to be removed, and more importantly - for the staff around her to realize that she would be serving the overall effort in general by stepping down.

-- Someone at CTU Called Mclennen-Forster to Refer to Possible Subterfuge? Wouldn't the CTU staff just show up at a place like Mclennen-Forster to get the information needed rather than call them to tell them that agents were on the way to check information? Why insert the potential for possible subterfuge at this time? After all, that information is the only thing that is a lead to Marwan's potential future involvement.

-- Finally a CEO Wants to Do the Right Thing! I just about shat myself when I saw that Mr. Mclennen wanted to go to the authorities so that they could get the information that they needed to help nab a potential terrorist. And wouldn't you know it -- The UNDERLINGS are the ones that want to create deception! A pox on the Underlings!

-- Stop Today's Attack? What About Future Ones? The Chief Information Officer uses the fact that they can't stop the attacks/events that have arleady happened and so they should do everything possible to stop CTUs intervention and discovery process. But - what about FUTURE attacks that might be stopped with the information they have in hand? Clearly they ALL are going to be out of a job regardless of what CTU finds, so why not try to stop the potential deaths and destruction by helping provide information?

-- Paul at the Proverbial Wheel: Folks, your eyes aren't deceiving you: That is the soon-to-be-ex husband of Audrey, who has potentially hidden vital information and may be involved in this whole thing with his hands on the only computer that can help us find more details of Marwan's plans. I am still aghast that they haven't tried to "clear" him more than they have.

-- When in Doubt - EMP: What the two underlings don't realize in general, is that not only with the EMP take down the building and it's computers, but also a good deal of the city with it. What else are they forgetting? Anyone with a pacemaker DIES. I hope that Mr. Mclennen wasn't the recipient of a pacemaker.

-- Louder, Harder and Sronger: At the returning 06:38:44 mark the beeps & pounds of the indicative sound effects for "24", the intensity of each of the beeps and pounds becomes more pronounced and LOUDER. Interesting.

-- Erin Bails and Get's a Standing Cavalcade: If I am not mistaken, Edgar was able to solve the whole override problem in the time it takes Erin to leave the room a couple of hours ago. How about everyone getting back to work to help save the day and not provide Erin with more guilt that she's leaving?

-- Leadership and Laying out Goals: One of the hallmarks of successful projects is goals and Leadership. Tony has been on the job less than two hours and is able to effectively articulate his goals and clear line of leadership. Kudos to the writers for that - I have high hopes that will somehow spill into everyone's real life.

-- Skeletons in the Television: I think an accurate portrayal of how "24" is able to succeed invovles skeletons. "24" brings it's viewers to the table with a skeleton of a story that rides throughout the reason at breakneck pace. Each episode "fleshes" out the entire storyline in general. Sometimes you get a small tendon, other times you'll have a vital organ like the heart inserted. No matter the case, when you reach the end of the season, you have a solid "body" of work that really makes sense and entertains. Those of you that were looking for the paragraph description of why you love this show just found it. :)

-- How About Holding Off Until More People Can Arrive? Clearly, Paul's process has caught the underlings of Mclennen-Forster off-guard. Clearly Jack and Paul know that something's up. Rather that diving in blindly, why not call for reinforcementsto lock down the facility so that the potential loss of data is minimized? How about Jack goes into the main room and kicks some ass? It just seems to me that there would be a better way to proceed than to do what they're doing and lose everything.

-- Calling the Dude in the EMP Room: While the digital record of the call to the dude downstairs will be destroyed with the EMP going off, the person won't disappear (soon at least) which means that there's still a dangling participle to the underlings plans.

-- No Phone - Computers Are Going Wonky - No Cell Phone - How About Instant Messenger? If the cell & land phone lines aren't working -- if the computer network is breaking down, how is it that a magic instant messenger can be established between Tony and Jack? More supporting information is below.

-- Detail, Details! Paul asks Jack for an "Ethernet Address" to transfer the instant message details to. Sadly, EDGAR back at CTU would need the same kind of information or no connection can be established. If Jack, two computers over needs to provide an ethernet address, why wouldn't Edgar?

-- It's All in the Sound Effects: Kudos to the producers of the sound of the EMP "throbbing." What an outstanding sound that really makes a solid impact.

-- Universal Signage for Bad Guys and Governmental Defense Contractors: Apparently Jack is able to sit at the control panel and in a matter of seconds find the "Close Protective Door So the EMP Won't Destroy All Vital Data" button. I get that the close "almost averts disaster" but damn: a little common sense built in there would be grand.

-- In Strides Michele: It's good to see Michele for nostalgia purposes, but I hope that the reunion visitors to this season have finally come to an end. I was never a fan of Michele in general in the previous incarnations and I am certainly not ready nor should I see Kim, Chase, their baby, or anyone else from the first 3 seasons. The sprinking of frosting with the introduction of Tony was outstanding, but enough is enough.

-- Input and Review Previews: I had one of the readers here touch base about the lack of "reviewing the preview" and I figure it this way. I'd rather give you my time of inserting my thoughts of what's going on in the trailer in context for when they appear in the real episode rather than spurt out ideas and conjecture. Thank you again for your input though. It's always great to have it and it helps me craft the next edition of the "24" Blow by Blow.

Thanks and look right here for another edition later this week!

Friday, March 11, 2005

The Shield: A Study in Duality - A Review of the Emmy Award-winning "The Shield"

There's a new sheriff, well - at least a new cop in town, with his own custom made "Strike Team" and his name is Vic Mackey. Together with his merry band of twisted and multi-skilled partners, The Strike Team take on Farmington, California's gang and vice problem each week in a show on FX called "The Shield" which starts it's fourth season this next week Tuesday, March 15th.

Those of you that have long come to love the "cop/crime show genre" are in for a very wild and unanticipated ride with "The Shield." My initial draw to the show was a now completely bald Michael Chiklis, who's been on the acting radar for sometime with me since his acting debut in 1989 in "Wired" - a very dark and sad portrayal of John Belushi's life and eventual downfall. His participation in the critically-received show. "The Commish" (also now available on DVD) was also a strike of unabated talent which follows him to a new level in "The Shield." His character, Vic Mackey is unlike any cop model used in modern television. He is both "the hero" of the show, but is also riding a very thick line of what needs to be done to not only benefit the community at large, but what will also get himself satiated. Often his choices lean heavily toward the latter. Vic's family life is less than stellar: a soon-to-be-ex wife, a teenage daughter (portrayed by Chiklis' real-life daughter, Autumn Chiklis) dealing with their ensuing divorce, a 5 year-old autistic son, and a 2 year-old daughter who was also just recently diagnosed with the same condition.

Let me be frank about "The Shield" and it's content: If you thought the occasional crime scene review or zoom-in-tech shot on any of the CSI incarnations was "raw" you can look forward to something very different with "The Shield." Murder, Rape, Serial Killers, Gangland clashes, Extortion, Community Political Intrigue, Internal Police Department Politics and more are all very common with many episodes featuring more than just the "two vein" treatment that most cop shows have today. The detail in the show is extraordinary and offers some real insight into how things work in a police station, in city government, and more importantly, in relationships where you literally have someone else's life in your hands. There is also a solid propensity for strong language that isn't usually captured on network television cop portrayals. While many would say that only adds shock value, I believe that it adds even more to the twisted nature of the show and lends credibility to many of the story lines that are conveyed through the eyes of the many directors that take the mantle of control for "The Shield."

The extras on any of the first three seasons of DVD's for "The Shield" feature a great many viewpoints from over 10 different directors who have all adopted "the style" of filming that "The Shield" offers. For those of you that see a new episode of "Law & Order" you're seeing a show that is produced over a series of 2-3 weeks. "The Shield" episodes are filmed in 7 days. This again adds a flavor, style and viewpoint that carries you thru the episode at a rapid pace, and reminds me greatly of the pace of the military intrigue novels I read back in the mid-80's. Speedy, to-the-point, and absolutely upfront with no holds barred.

The Shield is more than "just a cop show" and while I am able to compare a variety of details of it and the other cop shows above, there really isn't a way to quantify why The Shield is better than any other law-drama on television other than to watch it. The newest season, with new regular cast member Glenn Close starts on March 15th on FX and you may consider this a personal invitation to jump into the Barn (the departmental name for the station house in "The Shield") and see what you're missing.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Blow by Blow Review: "24" February 28th, 2005

Our adventure towards Nuclear Armageddon in the US Continues in "24"! Let's get straight to this episodes blow by blow. Special Note: As I finished typing this edition of the Blow by Blow, I ironically experienced a POWER FAILURE! Gone, were the succulent paragraphs that I had penned, enrage was I - a television Jedi with no mojo. I have taken the time to recraft a semblance of my Blow by Blow and hope you enjoy it!

-- Asking Audrey to Leave the Room: While I am certain that his picture is colored in general, Jack certainly understands the benefit of having one's former (current?) loved one in proximity when torture is imminent. Jack could use and SHOULD use the emotional tie to Paul to extract the information - after all - it's on the fate of millions, right?

-- "I Have Nothing to Say to You...": Paul's exclamation of denial to Jack is an instant switch that should turn the torture machine on in my opinion. Paul, if he is innocent has absolutely no reason to be tight-lipped at this point, regardless of the situation with Audrey and Jack.

-- Back Off, Audrey! Finally, Jack become "Jacklike" again and tells Audrey to back off. Something I have noticed in the show recently is that my thoughts trail "just in front" of what's going to happen which I think is a good thing at this point. Does that mean the show is becoming predictable? I don't think so: I think it more lends itself to being a show that is in essence listening to it's audience and towing them in at least some direction that they might anticipate, but then spinning the wheel hard to the right when you least expect it. Exhilarating totally. The next point is a great sample.

-- Let Paul Get the Information From the Computer? You have got to be kidding me: We're going to let the dude that just said that he's got nothing to say to you loose to go play with the computer that might have the only lead to the override on it? What are the chances that Paul would delete it or make the information unusable? The chances that he wastes more time "finding" the right information? Jack has plenty of advanced computer experience that would be at least good enough to get him through Paul's direction to get to the information that they need. Strange...

-- Quirky Captioning: For those of you that don't have the Closed Captioning function activated on your television, you are missing an even more interesting world of dialog and SPELLING in each episode of "24". Recently, they changed the spelling of "Madwan" to "Marwan" as characters other than those of foreign decent began saying the name more often. Strange what you'll see when you also have captions augmenting the viewing of a television episode.

-- Imotep Kicks Egyptian Ass! Once again, my whole-hearted kudos to the casting people in putting Imotep himself, one of my favorite actors, Arnold Vosloo as Marwan, our current villain and master of steely glare. He is able to stride into any room and command attention instantly. He strides like a high priest even out of costume in this episode. A wonderful piece of a continually growing delicious recipe.

-- GQ Imotep = IT Guy? I don't know about you, but I work in an IT department in a company, and no one (even me that is the wearer of a tie often) doesn't look like Marwan does in this episode. Also, a black turtle neck on a hot summer day? True, it makes him look outstanding and more menacing, but - just a large touch out of place that would make him even more noticeable. As I look at the scene, there are three people total wearing black: Jack is one, Marwan is another and the other is one of the workers in the building (a woman). Too bad they didn't have a physical description of the man.

-- BIG BLINKING NUCLEAR ICONS: I am unsure if a device like the override actually exists, but if it does,what are the chances of it having 1&1/4" RED BLINKING NUCLEAR icons on it? Wouldn't the bad dudes attempt to cover these up with something so as to make it less recognizable? I understand them taking the show to a "common denominator" demographic, but come on now.

-- Left Cross! Knee to the Groin! Noisemaker Neckbreaker! No we're not watching the WWE's most recent entry: we're watching Curtis kick some major league ass after "waking up" from having been knocked out last episode. Waiter, I'll have a cup of ItoldYaSo with a side order of gloat!

-- Kudos to the Fight Coordinator: A great many kudos to a great segment of combat that is much more realistic and realistically quick than most in television today. Today's fight in a situation like this would include much more grappling and close quarter combat as shown in this episode than the wild-throwing cowboy punches that we see in so many other shows.

-- Door Closes with a Potential Terrorist and Your Lover Behind It? I am FLABBERGASTED when the door in the hotel closes with Audrey and Paul (LOOSE no less!) behind him so that he can take a phone call! There is nothing to this point that justifies that Jack should believe Paul and I just don't understand that decision in general.

-- Choosy Mothers Choose SDT: Why has the torture for the extraction of nation-saving information on Dina not yet begun? Her deal breaking when her son has reached safety is again one of those things that should be an instant trigger. Where did I put those cool silver headphones and slick futuristic goggles? :)

-- Marwan is an Engineer - Apparently Not the Scotty Kind: The goal of the terrorists, as I have been able to see it, has been to make the government agencies chase their tails long enough to allow the reactors to all meltdown. With that being said, indulge me for a moment while I wax imaginatively: The bad guys only need 5 extra minute - MAX! - to meltdown. Ok. I am a terrorist sitting in front of a computer that needs little to no attention to have the override continue to cause the meltdown of nine nuclear reactors around our nation. I know that agents of the US Government are in the building, hunting me. I need 5 minutes until the meltdown of the reactors. Why don't I:

1. Close the door to the box that is now showing at least 5 large 1&1/4" diameter RED BLINKING NUCLEAR ICONS.

2. Ensure that the program that the override is utilizing will reach is appropriate conclusion.

3. Open Excel and open up some innocuous business-related spreadsheet that is readily available in my "My Documents" folder.

4. Unplug the keyboard from the system.

5. Unplug the mouse from the system.

6. Walk to another unoccupied terminal.

7. Open up a Google window and search for "Map for Nuclear Reactors in the US" and open the first page that is ironically located at the International Nuclear Safety Commission Website.

8. Stare at the map while looking over my shoulders every few seconds.

9. Look maniacal.

These short yet effective items would have been the way that Scotty, were he a bad guy, would have followed to ensure that the mission would have been a success.

-- Don't Call Me Daughter: While it's true that this was the title of a successful song in the mid 90's it is also indicative of the fate of daughters in general in the "24" realm. I say it's time to not only eliminate all cell phones inside of CTU, but also time to ensure that no one's daughter is on the CTU grounds. The attention that Erin is having to pay to her daughter just might be what tips the scales of chance into the terrorists favor and it cannot be afforded.

-- Let Your Cell Phone Ring Three Time's and You'll Be Home! Two hours ago we learned that cell phones can be traced after three rings. Surely Curtis' phone would have this feature as well. Why not let it ring and then find out where the phone is? Worst case scenario is that if Curtis is dead, at least you'll have found out where the phone was - it may even be on one of the bad guys moving his body. In any case, that it's not being answered is not a lost cause.

-- It's Always Been a Matter of Trust: I am still amazed at the corporation that Tony is getting as being installed as the Interim Director of CTU. I have to believe that they'll have someone in parcel that will take over that post in the very near future or -- Tony will be a bad guy or he will die. :)

-- Proximity, Meet Weapon, Weapon, Meet Proximity: Not sure why I have only just noticed this in the last four or so episodes, but the distance of armed people standing next to bad people is becoming bothersome. I think I'm going to find someone that knows more about close-quarters armed combat and see what they say about that.

-- Dr. Imcompetent to CTU HQ - Dr. Imcompetent to CTU HQ: Besides a cute and insincere rhyme, this has also become something noteworthy in the last three or so episodes: With the level of activity in CTU, I have to believe that the Dr. and his staff either understand that or have been advised that there are some serious problems going on upstairs and that Erin clearly has more important things to worry about other than her daughter not getting along with the medical staff at CTU. How about some sedatives for our friendly neighborhood offspring, at least until - oh say - the NUCLEAR REACTORS ARE DISARMED?

-- No Back Up? This is the bane of television existence, and while I understand that there is some expediency involved here, the lack of support and back up is super strange. The saving grace? A throaty-pace, the question of what's happening next, and the desire to see wrong things righted. MMmm, gotta' LOVE this show!

-- White (and Unprepared) Castle: What is the story with Castle and his lack of helmet and associated gear? I believe he may be suffering from an affliction called "Eomer's (Eh-oh-mare-z) Disease" This is the associated disorder that falls into the family of actors that wear helmets while doing their good deeds. Perhaps the actor or the director wanted to ensure that people knew "who" Castle was and hence, unclad him from the claustrophobic world of Kevlar.

-- Direction and Misdirection: A Study in Creative Direction: My compliments to the people that introduced us to the office space in this episode. As the camera pulls back from Marwan as he enters the room and blends in to the flashing of people in office space, we as an audience finally understand the monumental task of trying to find someone in the mix that is "office space" when you have little to no physical description.

-- (Music swells) "He's Playing Solitaire!" It's funny - the "solitaire" scenario is very much along the lines of what I was thinking with the Scotty comment above. Imagine the time that could have been spent trying to subdue him and then reconnect an unplugged keyboard, mouse, open programs etc. The solitaire move was a nice touch. I still have to wonder why they didn't take him to the ground and verify that he WASN'T Marwan. What if he had been him?

-- First Real "24" Disappointment: I have to admit my first real disappointment in the show with the "few second fix" that Edgar the Wonderboy pulls off in this segment. Connecting remotely, to a completely unfamiliar and surely secured network via the Internet, breaking down the function and understanding of the software that drives the override, being familiar with what will happen if he does X to the override, knowing what to do if something goes wrong - all in a few seconds of almost complete unfamiliarity is disturbing. While brevity and expediency are the true friends of great story telling, I think they missed the mark here.

-- Override Being Secured: Where the Hell is Erin Going? We've just eliminated/gained control of the threat to meltdown nine nuclear reactors in our nation. We have apparently chased the engineer terrorist away from the terminal and our one on-site operative is in pursuit. How about securing the override that can cause the complete downfall of our nation? What would it take to have Marwan or an unknown, white accomplice sit down at the station and initiate another roll with the override? While we're talking about securing the override and the situation? Where the hell is Erin going? To latch back to an ever-present STAR TREK theme, "the needs of the many, outweigh the needs of a few - or the one." Certainly her daughter has fallen in a tragic and soon-to-be-lawsuit-filled environment, but get it together. There are lives to be saved.

As we complete this edition of the Blow by Blow for "24", we hear the digital pulses of numbers that tick like the hands of time against our temples. Another "24" is right around the corner.

The Wonder of a Slide...

I dropped my wife off at work this evening and took my daugher to the mall nearby to get on over to Waldenbooks to get an old gift certificate out of the way. I bought a new book on digital photography and then the Jadester and I headed to the Information Booth to see about a Zoomer Stroller and a free balloon that she always loves to get when we go to the mall. We also stopped off at the mall's play center and she got her first feel for a slide.

It is a wonder to watch the gears in her head as she tries to get one step close to the top level of the three step slide and it is truly magical. It's funny how many things in life, are very much like the task of "learning the slide."

You learn to take your steps one by one, keep your balance as you ascend the steps one by one. As confidence is collected you're able to stand high atop the highest most peek, ready to begin your quick descent. As you prepare yourself for the plunge, you can feel your heart to race - your face becomes itchy and the hair on the back your neck rises - euphoric anticipation takes over.


You plummet down the trough of excitement to find yourself back on Earth with the anticipation of the next attempt. Remembering where your next steps can be placed or altered to make your ascent more efficient - faster.

Over and over the jubilation of success and the satisfaction of the congratulatory slide thru giddy and utter joy. You knock back a tear and once again, head for the steps hoping for an even more successful round of experience as it heads your way.

For those that haven't made the steps into parenthood - it is good. :)

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Solid Quality Online Entertainment...

If you've ever thought about it, it's probably on the web. In fact there are clearly things on the web that you have never thought about. The problem with the web is that so many things are of such substandard quality it's hard to sift thru to find that diamond in the rough - and I've just added another diamond to my Favorites Folder.

I am so very proud to have inspired many people in my life, but none more so recently than one of the people I work with - Brian Sirimaturos.

Brian and I collaborated recently to get him a family website that has become a JOY to read, review, and share with other people that either want or have considered a website.

His blog entries are solid and entertaining, his gem of a child just glows as do the parents, and it's great to see the family community that is coming to his website participate in an online experience that makes my gums stretch so regularly every time I read it.

Please take just a few minutes to visit his website at:

Be sure to "Register" as well so that you can get to the very entertaining blog entries, the polls and more: You will enjoy it - surely.