Monday, June 15, 2015

833. On the Passing of Christopher Lee

I delayed this tribute a little because I suspected there'd be a flood of them.  Sure enough there was.  And of course Christopher Lee deserves it.  The funny thing is a lot of what he's known for today skims only the surface of his life, the recent past, what one wonders he himself might have considered all that important in his experiences.  But this is what many of us have to work with.

And that means two roles, Saruman and Count Dooku.  Peter Jackson's greatest accomplishment in his Lord of the Rings trilogy was in the casting.  In truth given such a ridiculous bounty and a relatively thankless villain's role contrasted against Ian McKellen, Lee was almost easy to lose in the shuffle.  Then George Lucas came along and added him to the Star Wars prequels beginning with Attack of the Clones, in which he becomes the embodiment of Sith potency.  I've long championed these films and many a head has been scratched in trying to figure out why.  One of the reasons is Christopher Lee.  Having been introduced to him, in effect, through a relatively disappointing role, I found his Dooku a revelation.  During his discussion with the captive Obi-Wan Kenobi, Dooku dispenses with his apparent innocence in such a casual manner, the mark of a truly confident actor, and of course it's the acting that fans most complain about in these films, yet there's Lee commanding the scene so effortlessly, setting the stage for Ian McDiarmid's best work as Palpatine in Revenge of the Sith, and it's here that perhaps the whole story Lucas has attempted to convey should be understood: Anakin Skywalker's fall is about frustrated youth, the extravagance of inexperience, everything we're denied so happily in the fallen world of the original trilogy with its very casual interpretation of heroism, the very thing Dooku shatters so elegantly...

The last time we see Lee in epic mode is in The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.  It's more of a cameo than anything, but the remarkable thing is that Saruman is reclaimed from the abyss in an instant, summoned for a moment of great heroism, the complete opposite of everything we'd seen previously from him.  It is very much like a fond farewell, not so much to the character but to the actor.  I realized as I was watching what a cherished moment this was set up to be, and it is undeniably the best sequence in the movie, perhaps the true justification of Jackson's return to Middle-Earth.

All of which is to say, farewell Christopher Lee.  You accomplished many things in your life.  One of them was to imprint yourself into our memories, in a way that will only continue to unfold.  As they say, the road goes ever on and on...

Sunday, June 14, 2015

832. The Top 50 TV Shows from the 2014-2015 Season

As reported in the June 8-21 edition of TV Guide, here are the top-rated (using a combination of live and delayed viewing) TV shows from the 2014-2015 season, with commentary.

1. The Big Bang Theory (CBS)
Eighth season.
This is one of those popular things that's surprisingly unpopular on the Internet, mostly because the Internet is inevitably the home of people who "don't feel adequately represented" in the sitcom's depiction of geek culture.  I've longed self-identified myself with geek culture, and I've loved Big Bang Theory from the start.  Besides, it's one of the rare things I love that's also extremely popular.

2. NFL Sunday Night Football (NBC)

Twelfth season.
Officially survived the loss of Ziva.

4. The Walking Dead (AMC)
Fifth season.
Officially the geek alternative to The Big Bang Theory, by the way.  I maintain that it hasn't been worth watching since the death of Shane.  But at least Darryl is still around.

5. NCIS: New Orleans (CBS)
First season.
This counts as vindication for Star Trek: Enterprise, by the way.  Officially did not kill the career of Scott Bakula.

6. Empire (Fox)
First season.
I count this as a victory in the career of Terrence Howard first and foremost.

7. NFL Thursday Night Football (CBS/NFL Network)

8. Scorpion (CBS)
First season.
I think this technically counts as the procedural version of The Big Bang Theory.

9. Blue Bloods (CBS)
Fifth season.
I've enjoyed this series in the past.  No real idea what it's been up to lately.

10. The Blacklist (NBC)
Second season.
James Spader in this particular version of creepy procedural.

11. How to Get Away with Murder (ABC)
First season.
Shonda Rhymes with her newest and currently most successful series.

12. Dancing with the Stars (ABC)
Nineteenth and twentieth seasons.
They just keep finding people who want to be famous who previously had other such opportunities not strictly related to dancing... 

13. Madam Secretary (CBS)
First season.
Political shows are periodically successful.  This is one of those.

14. Criminal Minds (CBS)
Tenth season.
Another show I've watched in the past.

15. The Voice (NBC)
16. The Voice (NBC)
Seventh and eighth seasons.
The series that single-handedly...made Adam Levine more mainstream than he already was.  Moves like Jagger!

17. Modern Family (ABC)
Sixth season.
Unlike Big Bang Theory hasn't proven particularly durable.

18. NFL Monday Night Football (ESPN)
Football is big business.  As if you didn't know.

19. Person of Interest (CBS)
Fourth season.
I haven't been able to watch a lot of TV lately.  This is the series I most regret losing track of.

20. Downton Abbey (PBS)
Fifth season.
Proof that success in television these days is absolutely not restricted to the networks or premium cable.

21. Scandal (ABC)
Fourth season.
The second of three Shonda Rhymes blockbusters.

22. NCIS: Los Angeles (CBS)
Sixth season.
Ladies love cool James.

23. 60 Minutes (CBS)
Forty-seventh season.

24. Hawaii Five-O (CBS)
Fifth season.
The last time I caught it, I didn't see Scott Caan.  They can't take him away!

25. Castle (ABC)
Seventh season.
Something-something Nathan Fillion.

26. The Good Wife (CBS)
Sixth season.
At a certain point, doesn't the premise become entirely cancelled out?

27. Two and a Half Men (CBS)
Twelfth season.
So long and thanks for all the laughs.

28. The Mentalist (CBS)
Seventh season.
After the big reveal of Red John induced complete apathy, it was inevitable to learn this series was in fact about to be done.

29. Mom (CBS)
Second season.
Counts as the most successful new sitcom of the past two seasons.

30. American Idol (Fox)
Fourteenth season.
As if no one saw coming that the producers succeeded in killing its impact.  And so it's soon to be gone.  Finally.

31. Grey's Anatomy (ABC)
Eleventh season.
They just killed off McDreamy.  But it'll take more than that the finish off the leader of the Shonda Rhymes brand.

32. Survivor (CBS)
Twenty-ninth and thirtieth seasons.
Long-time fan of this, so I can't complain.  And I was happy with one (Mike) of the two most recent winners, so can't complain.

33. The Odd Couple (CBS)
First season.
Some people hate remakes.  Some people have no concept that the whole history of mankind is littered with remakes.  This one is pretty good.

34. Elementary (CBS)
Third season.
Haven't watched it in a while but support it in general.  Because, Lucy Liu.

35. CSI (CBS)
Fifteenth season.
Just announced as finally being put to pasture.

36. CSI: Cyber (CBS)
First season.
But don't worry, this will still be around.

37. Chicago Fire (NBC)
Third season.
Inexplicably the lead in a whole franchise.

38. American Idol (Fox)
The fact that they kept up two nights all that time is kind of the reason...

39. Stalker (CBS)
First season.
Was actually cancelled.  They cancelled Maggie Q???

40. Chicago P.D. (NBC)
Second season.
The second in the Chicago franchise.  Inexplicably does not feature CM Punk at all.

41. Law & Order: SVU (NBC)
Sixteenth season.
Listen, I'm happy this is the one that ended up lasting.  But even I wonder why it still exists.

42. Mike & Molly (CBS)
Fifth season.
The fact that Melissa McCarthy is so popular at the box office but nonexistent in a TV series she's been doing simultaneously...Mike & Molly, you're doing something horribly wrong.  How is it that you still haven't figured that out???

43. The Bachelor (ABC)
Nineteenth season.
Women like to watch.

44. Gotham (Fox)
First season.
The most successful of a generous helping of superhero TV series.

45. Game of Thrones (HBO)
Fifth season.
Hey, this is the season that features Alexander Siddig, right?  I might actually have to care about this series for a change...

46. 2 Broke Girls (CBS)
Fourth season.
I love this show's snark.

47. The Middle (ABC)
Sixth season.
I don't think it can be stressed enough how unfortunate it is that someone actually thought a sanitized version of Malcolm in the Middle was a good idea.

48. black-ish (ABC)
First season.
I hope this series is decent.

49. Once Upon a Time (ABC)
Fourth season.
So, bringing in Frozen did not make it a ratings juggernaut after all...

50. The Goldbergs (ABC)
Second season.
If you love the '80s...

It's worth noting that the series I most want to catch up with at some point is the CW's The Flash, which is a TV show I never thought could possibly happen, not only a second attempt for DC's scarlet speedster (after a similarly genius but short-lived version from a quarter-century earlier), but one that acknowledges that earlier series, does superheroes directly and without apologies, and shamelessly evokes familiar comic book material.

And Yahoo! just helped Community conclude a six season run, and that was a pleasure to see unfold among those expanded outlets that are also incredibly popular these days.

What did you watch?


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