Category Archives: TV

Mistakes of Season 4 of Arrested Development, to Avoid in Season 5.

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I love Arrested Development (I ranked it as my 2nd all-time comedy http://bm23tvreviews.wordpress.com/2013/06/19/20-greatest-comedies-of-all-time/), the only thing that I don’t love about AD is that they quite frankly didn’t make enough of them (only 3 seasons!).  So imagine my excitement when I heard that there were rumours that Netflix were bringing the Bluth’s back.

Initially the talk was of a series leading into a movie; however the talk of a movie has recently died down, and although it is believed to still be in the pipeline, another series is more likely going to happen before then.

When the fourth season (and first on Netflix) was officially announced there was a lot of excitement and buzz.  When Netflix announced that they would be releasing all 15 episodes at once, there was more excitement and buzz at the unusual nature of how the show was being released.

Most people (myself included) watched all 15 shows in a few days.  After watching the final episode and being full of glee you couldn’t help but think ‘hm, that wasn’t as good as the original series’.

The honest truth is that the Netflix season of AD was not of the high quality that had been set by the original AD.  It is hard to maintain or regain the quality of the original three seasons, but season 4 failed to do that.  It was always going to be hard (because of the time gap between season 3 and 4), to explain what happened in the time gap of 7 years, and they gave it a go.

With the 5th season of AD inevitably being announced recently, it will be interesting to see if they will be able to regain the magic that was lost in the previous season.  Here are the mistakes that they will have to avoid in order to so.

 

The Episode Format

The worst thing about the 4th season of AD was how the episodes were produced.  If you don’t understand what I mean, you clearly didn’t watch the show (so go watch it already).  Basically the whole of season 4 was one massive timeline episode, now usually timeline episodes are awesome and a good change of pace.  However to make a whole season a timeline, was too much.

Due to the episode format, it took about 5 episodes to truly get into the season.  That left the first 4 episodes lagging behind because everything just seemed muddled and confusing.

As the season progressed you learned what events you had seen earlier on had actually meant or how they were affected by one of the other characters.  Usually in timeline episodes these create funny moments, as you get to see a situation from a totally different point of view and all of a sudden it takes on a different meaning, however in AD it was more of an ‘ah’ than a ‘ha’, which was a problem.

I understand that the writers had to deal with the problem of the time gap, and also couldn’t get all the actors together at the one time (due to other commitments), but the format really hurt the season as a whole and left big chunks of the season feeling meaningless or like wasted time.

 

Guest Appearances

If I were to write out a list of the guest actors in the 4th season of AD, I could be here all day.  I’m not against guest actors; I think it can add a nice change of pace to an episode when a famous face shows up.  However when too many famous faces show up, it becomes too much.

Some of the guest actors worked, like Jeff Garlin, Ed Helms or Ben Stiller (to name a few).  All the really good guest actor appearances also happened to have been in the original series, a coincidence?  I think not.  The reason these worked, were because they didn’t feel forced.

The major problem with the other guest actors was that they did feel forced.  Did we really need 5 seconds of John Krasinski?  No anyone could’ve played that role.  The awesome John Slattery was also in this season, but you wouldn’t realise that he was awesome because the writers managed to waste his immense talents.  There were several of these situations throughout the season, and too many to bother writing them all out (so I won’t).

As much as the pointless cameos annoyed me, nothing annoyed me worse than Seth Rogen and Kristen Wiig.  It isn’t because I dislike either actor (I don’t); it was the role they played in the show, Rogen as young Georgle Bluth and Wiig as young Lucille Bluth.  The problem with this is that in the previous seasons they had just stuck a wig on Jeffrey Tambor and Jessica Walter and went with it.  It was funny because of the lack of effort they had put into trying to make them look younger (and to see the differing wigs of George) and who is better at playing the characters than the actual actors.  By putting in Rogen and Wiig, the flashbacks lost the quirkiness that the original series’ flashbacks had and it just seemed like an excuse to put in two famous people for the sake of it.

 

Over Exposure and Under Exposure

Another major problem with this season was the lack of time we got to see of some strong characters and the opposite effect with some of the weaker characters.  I understand that there were scheduling conflicts for some of the actors and this is why it happened, but it hurt the season’s fluidity.

When I talk about over exposure of certain characters I refer to Lindsay and George.  Before this season I would have said that both characters were really well written and could handle being put into a larger role.  After watching this season I realise that this is not the case.  Both characters stories dragged and made the 30 minute format seem too long and both received two episodes dedicated to them, it was just too much.  Lindsay and George are really good at being the people for the other characters to play off of, but as the centre of the episode both characters struggle to grab your attention.  It didn’t help that neither George nor Lindsay’s story was that interesting or relevant to the other characters and this also didn’t help.

When I refer to the under exposure of characters I refer to Maeby, George-Michael, Buster and Lucille.  George-Michael barely shows up outside of the first episode until the last few, which I don’t understand, Maeby suffered from similar problems to George-Michael, Buster was only really in one episode, which is surprising because he is a really good character.  Now I can understand how this happened because they all had scheduling problems (especially Buster filming Veep).  What I don’t understand is why Lucille had a smaller role.  Lucille is one of my favourite characters, she is ridiculous and works really well as the matriarch of the family that nobody likes (excluding Buster).  The problem with these four characters being underused was that because of the under exposure of four of the stronger characters, we got the over exposure of some of the weaker characters, and overall it just messed up how well the show flowed.

 

Too Much Ron Howard

This is meant in two different ways; firstly that the character Ron Howard played too big a role in the seasons, and secondly that the voiceover Ron Howard seemed to talk too much and sometimes even talked over the actors, which was annoying.

 

Green Screen Acting

Again I understand that there were scheduling issues, but at several points in the season you could quite clearly tell that two actors were not in the same room and that removes you from the spectacle.

 

No Chicken Dancing

Booooooooooooo.

 

You Haven’t Aged Well

This is directed more to Lindsay and George-Michael who both seemed to age much more than the rest of the cast in the 7 year hiatus.  Aging isn’t an issue in general because it is set well after the original series, the problem is when you are going back to the day of the last episode in season 3 and trying to make me think Lindsay and George-Michael are as young as they are meant to be when quite clearly they are not.

 

The Conclusion

After a sluggish start AD began to gather momentum towards the end with a number of strong episodes with characters who either hadn’t had their pov episodes yet (Lucille, George-Michael, Maeby & Buster) or strong characters receiving their second episode (GOB & Tobias).  However it then ended abruptly leaving a whole host of loose ends not solved.  I know that this was meant to lead into a movie and may now just lead into another season before leading into a movie, but it is going to take at least half of whatever comes next to sort out the mess at the end of the 4th season, effectively tying the hands of the writers.

I especially didn’t like how they ended the Michael/George-Michael.  I was like, is that it?  It felt so very anti-climactic.  It felt more like the conclusion of a single episode in the middle of a season, rather than the conclusion of a season.

 

 

 

Overall I did like this season of AD, I thought that Buster, GOB and Tobias were standouts in this season and really worked well in taking their bigger roles.  If this had been any other TV show (or a new show) I’m sure I would be talking about how great it was and how it is a much watch.  The problem is that when you compare this to the original AD it just isn’t in the same ball park, and that is really the problem, this was a good comedy not an outstanding comedy.

If (or when) the 5th season (or movie) comes out then they will have to avoid the issues that I have set out which the 4th season fell into.  Some of them they will avoid easily; such as the aging of actor’s issue or the chicken dancing.  Some however will be harder to work around; such as the scheduling conflicts (green screen acting, under/over exposure of characters) or the conclusion.

If I were to pick one thing that I could change for season 5 it would be to take the show back to the old fashioned episode format.  In doing this it would force most of the other problems to fall into line (no more scheduling issues) and would surely then help the pacing of the writing and therefore the overall quality of the show.

I am looking forward to the next step in Arrested Development and am of the belief that this weaker season had to happen so that future AD could return to the old quality (or so I hope).  Here’s hoping for the future of the greatest scripted comedy of all time.

 

Leave a comment on the post or just to proclaim your love for Arrested Development (or hate for the new season of the show).  All comments are welcome.

5 Defining Moments in Breaking Bad.

In under 3 weeks the television community will join together in a collected celebration as Breaking Bad’s 5th and final season returns from its year long hiatus and delivers the final chapter in this outstanding television series.

I am a massive fan of Breaking Bad and believe that it is the best show currently on TV but is also a top 5 show of all time and could potentially become the greatest show ever if the final half of season 5 delivers a conclusion that is on the same level as the rest of the series.

Naturally this review will contain *spoilers* so read at your own peril, and if you are one of the people who for some reason has not watched Breaking Bad yet, I cannot stress greatly enough how much you have missed an amazing show.

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So here it is 5 Defining moments in Breaking Bad.

 

Hank and the Twins

Wow what a scene, Hank gets a phone call telling him two men are coming to kill him, naturally he is skeptical but waits around (for some reason) to see what happens.  What follows is about 4 of the best minutes of TV ever.  Two bald men begin to approach (it’s a bald off), Hank gets tetchy (because he no longer has his gun) before he catches one of them in his rear mirror and slams the car into reverse as the man begins to release his clip into Hank and his car.  Hank then crushes the twin’s lower half as he hits him with his car and crushes him.

The other twin approaches firing at Hank (now 2 bullets in his body) as Hank dives into the back of his car to retrieve the gun the twin he crushed dropped.  Hank has disappeared and after checking on his now crippled brother he begins to follow the blood trail before putting some bullets into some poor passer by, followed by him reloading and dropping an explosive bullet.

Hank appears and enters what is left of his clip into the remaining twin (who sadly was wearing a Kevlar vest) before being shot again and floored gasping for air as the twin walks up to finish him off, before deciding that he would rather kill him more painfully.

Hank scrambles for the bullet the twin dropped as the twin fetches an axe (scraping it along the ground as he walks), the twin lifts the axe above his head (to finish Hank off) before his head is blown off by Hank’s last bit of strength as he fires the bullet, leaving 4 men lying in a pile of blood as the camera zooms out to show the parking lot.

Breaking Bad has a tendency to make amazing sequences that last around 5 minutes and this is one of many.  What (for me) makes it even greater is that this happened on episode 7 of a 13 episode season.  A scene like this is usually kept to the last couple of episodes in other shows, but Breaking Bad breaks the mold (as it has a tendency to do) and does it half way through a season.

The scene is shot beautifully with tense music, brilliant camera work (especially in the final sequence) and amazing visuals (such as the scraping of the axe or the clicking of the boots).  In incredible scene in what was an incredible season.

 

Walter Saves Jesse

Walter has saved Jesse on several occasions but this was the biggest of the lot.  Jesse discovers that the guys who killed Combo also killed Tomas (Jesse’s girlfriend’s brother), so he decides that enough is enough and that they must be dealt with (after previous failed attempts by Jesse).  He sits in his car and shoots up for courage, he gets out and begins to walk towards the two men he begins draw his gun and the drug dealers do the same, as they begin to lift their arms to fire on Jesse a car comes flying from Jesse’s right and runs the two men over.  Out of the car comes Walt who quickly finishes off one of the men who is still alive (with the guys gun) and turns to Jesse (as the camera flashes onto Walt’s face) as he tells him ‘run’.

The scene is shot beautifully, with the music resembling the heartbeat of Jesse as he approaches his two targets.  The coldness of Walt as he shoots the second of the two in the head is soul chilling, to run them over could of been done in the heat of the moment but finishing the alive guy off so quickly and with such ease shows that Walt is willing to do anything to protect Jesse.  It is also the start of Walt’s slip away from morality and the beginning of his massive ego trip.  Which leads us to……

 

Jesse Kills Gale

There is no greater scene in Breaking Bad in my opinion.  It has everything; Walt’s reaction to knowing that he is going to be killed, Victor and Mike’s reaction to realising what Walt had just told Jesse to do, that moment of desperation in Gale’s eyes when he realises his life is coming to an end, the look on Jesse’s face as he is about to kill an innocent man as the final seconds of the scene zooms in on the the barrel of the gun as it is fired and instantly fades to black finishing the season and leaving us asking the question of what just happened?

It is the defining moment of Breaking Bad and is the culmination of the souring of the relationship between Gus and Walt.  After this event it was a partnership of convenience (between Gus and Walt) and began the chase of who was going to off who first.

This scene further solidified that Walt would do anything to protect himself and above all else that was the most important thing to him.  It was also the first direct killing of an innocent person that Walt and Jesse partook in and further pushed Walter into his ego trip.  Jesse killing Gale concluded the best season (so far) of Breaking Bad, it was the perfect finish to an incredible sequence.

 

I am the one who knocks

How could you make any Breaking Bad list without including what is quite probably the most iconic scene?  It is brilliant, the scene only lasts about 1 minute at most, yet is so memorable because Bryan Cranston is so imperious in the scene.

Skyler is bitching at Walt about whether or not he is safe in the drug production business and you can see that Walt is beginning to become frustrated.  This is followed by him putting her in her place by telling her that he is in control and that ‘I am the one who knocks’.

If you didn’t realise that Walt had began to turn away from his previous morals then you can no longer ignore it.  There is no doubt that this is the beginning of Skyler realising the change in Walt but also in many ways Walt realising that he is now a changed man.  It is an iconic scene and in many ways defines the series.

 

Hank Finds Out

Throughout Breaking Bad you always felt that at some point Walt was going to be discovered as a drug producer, the writers teased it constantly.  However it wasn’t until the final scene in season 5’s first half where we find ourselves in the odd situation of being in the toilet with Hank taking a shit (ewwww) that it happened.

The run up to the final scenes of the episode had lead you into a false sense of security (even though you knew it would happen because of the first scene in season 5) so when Hank picked up the Walt Whitman book which Gale had gifted to Walt, you panicked, when Hank flicked through the pages and found himself on the note that Gale had written to Walt (which he wrote in gifting the book)  both Hank and the audience went ‘oh shit’ and we faded to black.

The whole run up to this scene was fantastic, everything seemed to finally be going so well for Walt and everyone seemed to be happy with their lives and then this happened.  You knew it was coming and yet when it did you just couldn’t believe it.  There is an interesting question about whether Walt deliberately left this incriminating book in plain sight so as he would get caught or is it just that his ego was so large he thought he would never be caught?

Much like the shooting of Gale, Breaking Bad has made us think about this scene and the consequences of this scene for a year (damn they’re cruel) and the anticipation that has built up for the final half of season 5 is massive, a large part of that massive anticipation is this scene.  What is Hank going to do?  How does Walt get away?  Does Hank confront Walt there and then?  Hank finding out about Walt’s dirty little secret is an incredible cliff hanger (another thing Breaking Bad do so well) and makes everyone want just that little bit more.

 

So there you go, 5 defining moments in Breaking Bad.  It is interesting to note that 3 of those came from the excellent season 3 and only 1 came from the also excellent (but not quite as excellent as season 3) season 4 & 5.  Also all 5 defining moments contained Walt, who may I add is also an excellent anti hero and main character.

 

Leave a comment about your love for Breaking Bad or alternatively tell me about some of your favourite moments in the series.  All comments are appreciated and enjoy the second half of season 5, I know I will.

The Best Recurring TV Characters of All Time.

I decided to make a list of the best recurring characters of all time.  If you are wondering what my criteria for this is (and why wouldn’t you be) I am referring to characters who are not in a TV show as a main character yet have appeared in a number of episodes but not all of them (less than 50%), I am however excluding guest actors or actors who have only appeared in a grouping of episodes.  Initially I intended this to be a list across all genres but as I wrote down the names that I felt deserved to be on the list they were all from comedy shows.  I think this may stem from the fact that dramas do not lend themselves to strong non starring characters the way comedies do.

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