Category Archives: Television

Review: DEPARTURE by Jeane Wong and Roy Stewart

DEPARTURE by Jeane Wong and Roy Stewart

DEPARTURE by Jeane Wong and Roy Stewart

DEPARTURE is another comic that has recently intrigued me with its low-key approach. It is one of those comics that creeps up on you, panel by panel. It’s not an easy story to tell. It begins with the domestic violence that two brothers must endure at the hands of their father growing up in the backwaters of Louisiana. This puts their mother in great harm. And it’s only a matter of time before Michael and Rafe must confront the situation. Written by Jeane Wong, and drawn by Roy Stewart, this comic can be considered a stand-alone, and also serves as a prequel and back story to a television pilot Wong has written.

Reading DEPARTURE

Reading DEPARTURE

Jeane Wong’s script is lean with the right hints of pathos. Roy Stewart’s artwork neatly mirrors the style and mood of the script. Stewart’s spare linework keeps the vibe somber and tense. Among Jeane Wong’s work, she wrote for “The Vampire Diaries” for D.C. Comics. Among Roy Stewart’s work, he did the artwork for the graphic novel, “Aleister Crowley: Wandering the Waste.”

Panel excerpt from DEPARTURE

Panel excerpt from DEPARTURE

The issue I picked up proves to be a good teaser for a larger work. Apparently, since this 16-page edition first came out in 2015, a new 32-page edition is now available at Amazon and you can check it out right here. From the description, I can tell that this latest version expands upon the initial opener. Beyond this introductory story is a larger work which involves an alternate America where segregation still exists. That is Wong’s TV pilot. It’s interesting how, once a work is out there in the world, it takes on a life of its own. So, if you pick this comic up, unaware of a bigger story down the road, you’ll still find much to like. On the strength of this initial effort, I look forward to more work from both Wong and Stewart.

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Filed under Comics, Comics Reviews, Minicomics, Television, writing

Congrats to Combat Flip Flops on ‘Shark Tank’: Interview With CEO Matthew Griffin

Former Rangers Donald Lee, left, and Matthew Griffin pitch their company Combat Flip Flops on "Shark Tank." (Photo: ABC/Tyler Golden)

Former Rangers Donald Lee, left, and Matthew Griffin pitch their company Combat Flip Flops on “Shark Tank.” (Photo: ABC/Tyler Golden)

Fans of “Shark Tank” got to see an impressive three shark win this Friday night for the founders of Combat Flip Flops, Matthew ‘Griff’ Griffin, CEO, and fellow Ranger Donald Lee. Combat Flip Flops are uniquely made with combat boot rubber and have a special charitable connection to Afghanistan and other war-torn regions. At the end of the day, Combat Flip Flops proved to be a superior product that got the financial backing of three wealthy investors on the popular show on ABC.

Matthew "Griff" Griffin models The Cashmagh

Matthew “Griff” Griffin models The Cashmagh

I had the honor of interviewing Matthew Griffin, back in March of last year, prior to the Shark Tank notoriety. Listen to my interview by clicking the link below:

As with any impressive appearance on Shark Tank, all eyes are on where to learn more. Go visit our friends at Combat Flip Flops right here.

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Filed under Business, Combat Flip Flops, Entrepreneurship, flip flops, Mark Cuban, pop culture, Shark Tank, Television

THE X-FILES 2016: Scully and Mulder are back!

Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) and Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) are back on "The X-Files!"

Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) and Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) are back on “The X-Files!”

THE X-FILES are back! I really didn’t know what to expect. The spoof on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” on ABC was actually a good place to start. If you saw it, you know that Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny were good sports to let themselves be done up as lame updates of their characters. They looked old and tired and the ongoing joke was how out of touch they were to such things as smartphones and the internet.

A lighter side to Mulder and Scully on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" on ABC

A lighter side to Mulder and Scully on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” on ABC

While the show began in 1993, when AOL ruled the young internet, it did go on for nine seasons, well into 2002! Anyway, stereotypes are good for an easy laugh. In fact, Kimmel got it wrong on the skit in a more significant way. These two characters were hardly as naive as depicted. Yes, they had done more than consummated their relationship. As any true fan knows, the two had a child, one they chose to give up for adoption due to all the complications of their field work into aliens from outer space.

THE X-FILES in 2016 appears to be everything that a fan or casual observer would want. The opening scenes quickly get you up to speed on Mulder’s personal obsession to find out the truth of aliens from outer space. As an ironic twist, given that this is a FOX show, the catalyst for this story is a right-wing talk show host. Tad O’Malley (played by Joel McHale) is the host of “Truth Squad,” that believes in false flag conspiracies. We steadily discover that Tad O’Malley may be onto something.

With this reboot, you get the two stars of the show looking and acting far more on point than the Kimmel satire. However, who knows if perhaps the satire isn’t totally off the mark in some respects. Is the reboot more a curiosity than a legitimate heir to the original? Here’s the deal, the original show created by Chris Carter was ahead of its time taking its cues from only a few predecessors like, “The Twilight Zone.” And it got pretty complex. There was the whole deal with Mulder’s sister who was abducted by aliens and part of quite a web of intrigue.

Now, this reboot dabbles in a number of adjustments to a post-9/11 world, which is all good. What bodes well is the title of the first episode, “My Struggle,” a nod to cult writer Karl Ove Knausgaard who covers such themes as the history of angels on Earth. This new version of the classic show is back for a special six-episode run. While there are no plans to continue, perhaps the success of the new X-Files will lead to even more. For more details, visit FOX right here.

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Filed under Fox, Television, The Twilight Zone, The X-Files

Review: THE GREAT AMERICAN DREAM MACHINE

Great-American-Dream-Machine

There is much to discover in the offbeat television program, “The Great American Dream Machine,” now collected for the first time on DVD by S’More Entertainment. It first aired on PBS for two seasons from 1971-1972. And it remains unusual even today in its honest and idiosyncratic approach. It has been labeled as a “political satire” but it was more than that as it held true to a Sixties idealism. Here you find extended pieces that simply celebrated a people power ethos: interviews with average Americans on the topic of the American Dream; an urban artist who creates art from manhole covers; or a decidedly unplugged segment hanging out with the popular daredevil of the era, Evel Knievel.

Amanda Ambrose

Amanda Ambrose

The best way to view this collection is to skip around the way you would if you happened to stumble upon a curious item in your attic or thrift store, or think of it this way: this program is like surfing the internet if it existed back in the Sixties. Here is a veritable cornucopia of content. In one respect, it recalls the ambitious installations created by Charles and Ray Eames overflowing with information. What makes this program notable is how well it holds up today and that is because it was carefully curated, not just controlled chaos.

Host Marshall Efron

Host Marshall Efron

I would not necessarily watch it from the very first episode onward. In fact, the first episode is a bit clunky as the program was still finding its feet. I think it may have been leaning towards being a show for teens and, later on, it became more of a show for teens on up. It was a trailblazer for the mashup of news and entertainment we know today but without the glitz and sensationalism. And, with its people power energy, it foresaw YouTube and citizen journalism. What it did so well was evoke a feeling of flipping through a magazine or exploring randomly. One program would run the gamut from a segment on a marriage between four people living in a Volkswagen van to children interviewing another child playing the role of God to a tour of the program host’s tiny cluttered apartment. With great panache, Marshall Efron assures us that he created his home from a plastic kit that only costs $4.95.

Studs Terkel

Studs Terkel

Among recurring segments, there was journalist Studs Terkel moderating a gathering of average citizens discussing current events. The discussion would begin with a somewhat uncertain tone but would steadily gain ground. A construction worker, who seemed all full of hot air, would emerge as more insightful than given credit for. His insistence that he, and his working class and middle class neighbors, should not bear the burden of paying for federal social programs is initially met with scorn by Terkel. But the guy’s argument remains measured. Why don’t those at a much higher level of income pay their fair share? he asks. To that, Terkel nods in agreement.

A marriage between four people living in a Volkswagen van

A marriage between four people living in a Volkswagen van

Much in the same spirit as the magazine Adbusters, here was a program that could be a bit didactic, yet clever, with its social commentary. There’s one segment led by journalist Nicholas von Hoffman that takes aim at advertising commonly found in medical journals and stitches them together into a soap opera. It’s pretty easy given all the seduction used to sell everything from anti-depressants to laxatives. That segment segues to a dramatic piece with Linda Lavin and Rob Leibman. They create their satirical ode to romance which includes reciting advice on love from a teen magazine.

Sidney Poitier

Sidney Poitier

What will ultimately strike the viewer is a spirited vision and sincerity. Just listen to the stirring words of Ron Dellums, who had just been elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. In a montage segment of interviews, his eloquent advocacy for racial harmony remains relevant today. And then there is a segment with Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte on the set of “Buck and the Preacher,” a Western with a focus on the black experience. Poitier speaks to black history and how it is part of a bigger picture, that of human history. And he speaks to moving beyond dreams, and nightmares. With determination, and against excruciating odds, an African American would someday become President of the United States.

"Up is Down" animated short

“Up is Down” animated short

“The Great American Dream Machine” wholeheartedly embraced the counterculture just as a new golden era of television was on the horizon. It was to be a heady time for offbeat humor spiked with social commentary. This would include, to varying degrees, such programs as Tom Snyder’s “Tomorrow” and Martin Mull’s “Fernwood 2 Night.” It is a legacy that was to be carried on by such programs as “The Daily Show,” “This American Life,” and “Saturday Night Live.”

THE GREAT AMERICAN DREAM MACHINE is a 4 DVD set brought to you by S’More Entertainment and available at Amazon.

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Filed under Counterculture, Entertainment, pop culture, Television

Review: THE WALKING DEAD: THE POP-UP BOOK

The zombie book of the season!

The zombie book of the season!

It is ingrained in our DNA to thirst for bloody horror. Oh, wait, I think I just used that opening line recently. Well, it’s a good one and it certainly applies to The Walking Dead. I firmly believe that, when you strike the right balance of evenly spaced blood splatters and evenly paced plotting, it will resonate with an audience. It’s the next phase a horror creator wants to get to and fast just like Robert Kirkman has succeeded in doing. In tribute to horror done right, behold “The Walking Dead: The Pop-Up Book,” published by Insight Editions.

Lots of details and hidden goodies

Lots of details and hidden goodies!

This is no mere pop-up book! Look it over form every angle, there is plenty to look at and marvel over. This masterful work is created by paper engineers David Hawcock (Journal of Inventions: Leonardo Da Vinci) and Becca Zerkin, with text by Stephani Danelle Perry, and illustrated by Sally Elizabeth Jackson.

AMC Walking Dead Insight Editions

Zombie Surprise!

Zombie Surprise!

Based on AMC’s hit television series, “The Walking Dead,” this has got to be the ultimate gift idea for many a friend and loved one into zombies, horror movies, or pop culture in general. It’s big but also compact enough to fit comfortably on your coffee table or wherever you like to keep groovy ghoulies.

THE WALKING DEAD: THE POP-UP BOOK is a hardcover featuring five glorious page spreads and over 20 pop-ups. For more details, visit our friends at Insight Editions right here.

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Filed under Books, Gifts, Holidays, Insight Editions, Television, The Walking Dead

Kickstarter: VOYAGER – A Sci-Fi Series Based On Events From A Near Future

Voyager-sci-fi-tv-show

The most innovative and realistic TV series about space exploration and extra-terrestrial life – because we want to believe.

Check out a most deserving Kickstarter campaign. VOYAGER is a new breed of sci-fi television set in the present day and using real science.

VOYAGER is also new in that it welcomes your input. It has launched as of today, August 8th. Visit the campaign right here.

So real, it will inspire your belief in sci-fi. It is also the first network-bound narrative TV series to welcome crowdsourcing and fan endorsement at the most strategic and determining stage of its development.

Among many compelling elements to this show, the connection to science fiction and real science is very appealing. Have you read about the possibility of finding life on Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons? That is one of the missions that VOYAGER will take on.

Similar to how adventurers of yesteryear once sailed the seas or took to the skies in search of the unknown, the show follows a group of unique and conflicted characters, including beings of artificial intelligence, all led by an eccentric and daring Russian billionairess, as they explore new worlds and weird, terrifying reality.

VOYAGER is co-created and written by Richard Christian Matheson, son of legendary writer Richard Matheson, and a master of horror and science fiction in his own right. If you are looking for the next exciting sci-fi tv show, consider VOYAGER and visit their Kickstarter campaign going on thru September 12th, right here.

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Filed under Kickstarter, Richard Matheson, Sci-Fi, science fiction, Television

TV Review: WELCOME TO SWEDEN

welcome-to-sweden-NBC-2015

Editor’s Note: Vote for me on the Laugh Your Way to Sweden contest! I’m at the bottom row wearing a striped shirt. My skit is called, “People Don’t Stop Anymore.” Just go here.

Welcome to Sweden,” NBC’s comedy about a NYC accountant who falls in love with a Swedish tourist (Sundays 8/7c) has a very funny challenge. Sweden is not known for being funny. Now, England, there’s a funny country. But Sweden, not so much. It’s this dichotomy of unfunny versus funny that makes this comedy so appealing.

There’s a great mix of deadpan and absurd humor to be found here. And you’d expect that from Amy Poehler. And now we come to also appreciate the comedic talents of her brother, Greg Poehler. After 12 years as a lawyer, in 2012, Greg Poehler started doing stand-up comedy in Sweden. At the same time, he began writing the script for what became his first TV series, Welcome to Sweden, in which he plays the lead part, in addition to his roles as head writer and producer. His sister, Amy Poehler, decided to produce the show after proofreading the script.

The first episode sets the tone for this quirky romantic comedy. While most of the characters choose to hide behind a Scandinavian reserve, they are also quite crafty and/or blunt when pushed. We begin with what should be a mild, if not pleasant, exchange between a young man asking for the blessing from the father of the woman he loves. Bruce Evans (played by Greg Poehler) starts out hoping for some goodwill from Birger Wiik (played by Claes Månsson). Instead, he gets a tidal wave of passive-aggressive shyness and resistance. And it turns out that Bruce did want more than just a handshake or a pat on the back. If it were left up to him, he would have gotten full-on validation and the longest and warmest of hugs. No such luck with Papa Wiik. Then, to really floor him, Bruce gets an unequivocal answer. Viveka Börjesson (played by Lena Olin), the woman that Bruce thinks he wants as his mother-in-law, simply says no.

NBC-Welcome-to-Sweden

The premise of the show is that one person in this equation is clearly a fish out of water. Bruce has uprooted himself to Sweden to be with the woman he loves. However, the woman he loves, Emma Wiik (played by Josephine Bornebusch) is not totally in her own element even though she has home court advantage. Emma is a bank executive. She’s the boss. People call her the “chairman of the board.” But Emma has met her match when a marketing expert seems to take over operations as she devises how to best give the bank a much needed image makeover. Diane (played by Neve Campbell) is a social media genius. Emma doesn’t even know what a meme is. Each time Diane attempts to take a flattering photo of Emma, it’s the same pained expression over and over. Diane, in frustration, tells Emma it should be impossible to maintain that same expression. This problem, like a meme, takes on a life of its own with very funny results.

I’m so glad this show popped up on my radar. It’s definitely something different. With an appealing self-deprecating charm, Greg Poehler makes a great fish out of water. It will be fun to see him at least try to overcome his situation.

To check out the show and watch free episodes, got to NBC right here.

And there’s a contest underway, that’s in its final days, where you can vote on your favorite fan tributes to the show. I couldn’t help entering. I feel that I tapped into some of that quirk factor working so well on the show. Whoever wins the most votes gets to go see the show on location in Sweden. Show your support and vote for my entry, People Don’t Stop Anymore, on the contest page right here.

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Filed under Amy Poehler, Comedy, Greg Poehler, Humor, NBC, NBC Universal, Sweden, Television

Review: Discovery Channel’s TREASURE QUEST: SNAKE ISLAND

Treasure-Quest-Snake-Island

There’s a disturbing scene in the new treasure hunt series from Discovery Channel. And it’s not about a shark attack or a snake attack. It’s during a meeting with the crew and the expedition leader, Cork Graham, is making a case for going to Snake Island to find a buried treasure of Incan gold. The island is crazy dangerous for many reasons. As final proof that they’re on the right track, Graham takes an overlay from a legendary map said to hold the treasure and places it directly over a map of modern day Snake Island, off the south eastern coast of Brazil. He keeps it there for all to see. But it’s not a match. It’s sort of a match. But not quite. And that symbolizes the leap of faith everyone is taking.

Herpetologist Bryan Fry and the Golden Lancehead pit viper.

Herpetologist Bryan Fry and the Golden Lancehead pit viper.

But it was never just about the gold, was it? No, it was never that simple. Look, we can go down the line. Take Graham, he’s as much in it to prove a youthful hunch from years ago. Then there’s ole Cappy, the boat captain. He’s in it for the glory. Mehgan, the expedition dive master, seems most interested with the historical significance of what they may find. Jeremy, the ship’s mechanic, seems most into the adventure and then with the possible big payday. And Bryan, the ship’s herpetologist, or snake expert, is in it for the snakes! Yeah, he is most eager to match wits with the legendary and dangerous golden lancehead pit viper. Sounds like a crew out of the pages of “Moby Dick” or “Jaws.” Surely, this is a cut above your typical reality TV show.

Treasure-Quest-2015

The more details you get about this expedition, the more of a mystery it becomes. So, yeah, maybe there is hidden Incan gold somewhere on Snake Island. Maybe all the theories add up. But, even if they did, how will this modern day crew do better than other missions going back hundreds of years? To add to the challenge, as the show makes clear, our crew may be made up of seasoned professionals but they’re also pretty much fish out of water. And, to their dismay and possible horror, they weren’t counting on modern day pirates. They thought about them in theory. But no so much in reality. And they’re very real. All in all, this is a story that should keep you hooked to the very end.

The six part series premieres on Friday, July 17 at 10 PM ET/PT on the Discovery Channel. For more details, visit our friends at Discovery right here.

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Filed under Discovery Channel, Reality TV, Television

Book and TV Pilot Review: ‘The Man in the High Castle’

Philip K.Dick's 1962 novel, "The Man in the High Castle"

Philip K.Dick’s 1962 novel, “The Man in the High Castle”

One nice perk at Comic-Con in San Diego this year will be Amazon unveiling a new episode of their adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s 1962 alternate history novel, “The Man in the High Castle.” The pilot episode, in a nutshell, is pretty awesome in how it presents a world in which the Axis powers won World War II. The ten-episode thriller comes to Amazon this fall. I think it should prove to be one of Amazon’s best offerings. It inspired me to go ahead and read the original novel. I was ready to expect it to be a different animal, much in the same way that the “Bladerunner” movie and novel differ. And I was pleasantly surprised.

Amazon's "The Man in the High Castle"

Amazon’s “The Man in the High Castle”

Comparing the pilot episode with the novel, I appreciate just how action-oriented this Amazon TV offering is. I admire what Amazon has done since they truly adapted the work from one medium to another. It really comes down to one big thing, that was taken from the novel, and will power the television series. That is to be found in the title itself. The novel treats it one way. The television series treats it another way. I won’t spoil anything for you, but if you’re one of those types who doesn’t want to know anything beforehand, then consider yourself warned.

What it takes the length of a novel to explore can be distilled into a compelling visual lasting only a few seconds on film or television. For the purposes of television, the essence, as it were, taken from another medium, cannot only be distilled but then stretched out to infinity, or for however many seasons. Here we have characters living in a world where Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan won the war and carved up the former United States. But there are pockets of resistance questioning the status quo. The biggest pocket of questioning resides with “The Man in the High Castle.” In the novel, this individual is easy enough to find. In the television series, this individual is cloaked in mystery.

And here’s the thing, the thing that makes the novel such a great read and which gives the TV show every opportunity to succeed: this business of questioning can get pretty interesting. At the end of the day, the questioning is about reality itself. Now, here’s the kicker: in the novel, Philip K. Dick was perfectly content to have a novel that raises these questions about what is going on and suggests a world where the Allied forces won the war. It is readily available in any bookstore and it’s even a bestseller. In the TV series, it’s not a novel but copies of newsreel footage showing the Allies as victors. This is totally an underground thing. And spooky. How do you fake newsreel footage showing such elaborate scenes? Sure, they could be faked but they sure don’t look faked. And so this hints at something supernatural. It sure hints at something that is not explicitly in the novel. What it does, however, is instantly evoke that delicious uneasy feeling of suspense that you get from reading the original novel. And that could very well prove a recipe for one successful run on Amazon.

At this year’s Comic-Con in San Diego, Amazon will host a special screening of the first two episodes of The Man in the High Castle. No worries if you can’t attend this year since the entire event will be live-streamed on EW.com. Check out Entertainment Weekly’s interview with Ridley Scott and his role as an executive producer on the TV series right here.

The special event takes place on Friday, July 10 at the San Diego Civic Theater. In addition to the first two episodes – the second of which has never been seen before – there will also be a Q&A with the cast at the venue.

Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle stars Alexa Davalos (Mob City), Luke Kleintank (Pretty Little Liars), Rupert Evans (The Village), Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (Mortal Kombat Legacy), Joel De La Fuente (Hemlock Grove), Rufus Sewell (Eleventh Hour) and DJ Qualls (Z Nation). David Semel (Heroes) directed the pilot episode, which was written by Frank Spotnitz (The X-Files). Both serve as executive producers alongside Ridley Scott and David W. Zucker.

Check out a teaser for The Man in the High Castle above. You can see what I mean about the spooky newsreel motif. The pilot episode can be seen over at Amazon right here. Suffice it to say, you can expect the 10-episode thriller and original novel to prove to be very distinct animals all the way to the end. You can find Philip K. Dick’s novel, The Man in the High Castle, over at Amazon right here.

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Filed under Amazon, Amazon Originals, Philip K. Dick, Television

Review: The Walking Dead Hardcover Ruled Journal from Insight Editions

The Walking Dead Hardcover Ruled Journal

With Season 6 of AMC’s The Walking Dead set for this October, a perfect addition for any fan’s gear is The Walking Dead Hardcover Ruled Journal. This is another in a line of pop culture treats from Insight Editions. Take notes. Draw your own zombies. Write your own zombie story. Whatever you choose to pen down, this is a fine specimen, with a durable hide that can withstand any zombie attack.

AMC The Walking Dead

This is the real deal. A beautiful and rugged journal, 192 pages of archival ruled paper, with artwork gracing the inside cover and endpapers. There’s also a secret pocket on the back cover, just in case you need to save some zombie-related notes. Or just plain notes.

The Walking Dead Insight Editions

You’ll find a card in that back pocket letting you know about Insight Editions’ The Walking Dead poster books. Each poster is easy to remove and perfect for displaying.

AMC The Walking Dead 2015

A perfect little gift to give yourself or someone special. You’ve got four versions to choose from. For more details, visit our friends at Insight Editions right here. You can also find this item here and here.

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Filed under AMC, Gifts, Insight Editions, Television, The Walking Dead, Zombies