Archive for the ‘Television’ Category

With the vast array of television entertainment available to us today, many of the shows and characters seem perpetually boring and terribly predictable.  So when I finally come across one that stands apart from the rest, one that really causes me to reconsider everything that I’ve ever known to be true,  I know I’ve found something (or someone) special.  And this is the point of this new series of articles I’ll be writing – to share, in detail, everything I can about a character that is worthy to be discussed.  I’ll try to ensure that the shows are current and are still running, but there might be times when I revisit ones that are no longer airing because, yes, the person of interest is that important to warrant a visit back in time.

So let’s talk True Blood, shall we?  And if you watch the show, you are more than acquainted with the lovely yet troubled Tara Thorton.
 
Tara walks around Bon Temps with a chip on her shoulder, a roughness that exudes from her very core.  We find out through the progression of the show (not discussing the book form this time around, just HBO’s version) that she came from a rough home life.  Her mother was an alcoholic, and quite often Tara would find refuge at Sookie’s grandmother’s home.  The girls grew up as best friends, but did Tara’s rough beginning cause her to be as jaded as she is?  I mean, Sookie and Jason lost their parents at a young age, and neither have as much hatred toward the world as Tara does.

But as she ages, life doesn’t get any better for Tara.  She lives through a series of terrible events – mostly at the hands of vampires. From the death of Eggs to being kidnapped and raped by the vampire Franklin, to the breakup with her girlfriend from New Orleans, Tara is a mess.  And yet, in probably the most selfless act imaginable, she gives her life to save Sookie’s – who then has her turned into a vampire because she can’t live without Tara. Selflessness is repaid with selfishness.

Tara contains varying degrees of rage and has shown herself to be vicious with both words and actions.  I don’t believe she deserves the bad rap that she seems to get from the other cast members.  Life isn’t fair; we all know this.  Tara has had her share of hard knocks, some of which would bring the much of the world down to their knees.  Yet she’s still standing. 

Make no mistake; Tara is a survivor. While she does have a very well-hidden and barely visible soft side, she will do whatever she has to do in order to ensure her survival.  And for her, it’s a day by day basis.  This girl falls into the worst kind of bad luck imaginable.  It makes one wonder what she could’ve possible done to piss karma off as the attacks are unrelenting.  As I watch season after season unfold, I continually ask myself, “How much can one girl take?”

Yet through all of this, she just wants to be loved.  I know, I know – it’s such a  cliché, yet it’s true.  Tara is ferocious until someone continually shows her love and compassion.  If they can hold out beyond her nastiness, if they can get her to see that it’s not a façade but the real deal, she will often open enough for some semblance of a relationship to take place.  It’s getting to that point that’s tricky for her though.  How many times can one be burned before giving up seems like the only viable option?

That’s Tara in a nutshell.  Stay tuned for the next article in this series when I discuss another very popular character and their inner workings and motivations!


The DW-Time Zone

The New York Comic Con at the Jacob Javitz Center has come and gone, and while the new Avengers movie took center stage, fans of a certain Time Lord showed their support and dressed like the beloved Time Lord.

I, too, could not resist showing up in my TARDIS T-Shirt and I would randomly walk up to the fans and say, “I am collecting ‘Doctor Who’ photos” and the attendees were kind enough to allow me to photograph them. I snapped photos of people dressed as the 10th Doctor or the 11th Doctor. My favorite was the 11th Doctors because I would say (derisively), “I can’t believe you are wearing a bow tie!” and I would not leave them alone until they said, “Bow ties are cool!” And each one was kind enough to do so.

To you people who thought I was harassing you (and I was), thank you and enjoy the following photographs of “Doctor Who” fans from the New York Comic Con.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome back! This is my third article in this series where I take a look at past sci-fi shows and evaluate their technology to see if it has been introduced into today’s society.   Previously I talked about ‘Star Trek’ and ‘Babylon 5,’ but this time we’re going to shift gears and think back to the times when ‘The Six Million Dollar Man’ aired.

I can’t believe I’m admitting this, but I remember watching ‘The Six Million Dollar Man’ on television.  I’m not reluctant to admit this because I’m ashamed I watched the show – that couldn’t be further from the truth.  This show was, in my opinion, one of the best ever.  My shame comes because I’m actually at an age where I can recall its appearance on TV as part of regular programming.  Yes, I’m getting old.  Mid-thirties, actually.  But to my credit, I’ve only ever watched the reruns.  By the time it was taken off the air in 1978, I was a mere 16 months old.

If you’ve never seen it (and many of you “youngin’s” haven’t) it’s about a man named Steve Austin who’s severely injured in a crash.  He’s subsequently rebuilt during an operation that (you guessed it) cost about six million dollars.  Because of the enhancements he received, he experiences increased speed, hearing and vision which far surpass a normal human’s ability.

The purpose of this article isn’t to get into a history of the show (which I could easily continue to do since I loved it so).  My goal here is to discuss technology, so let’s switch gears a bit, shall we?

So – is it possible that people could have mechanical parts which would allow them to live full lives?  Some would argue that a pacemaker is a good example of this, and they wouldn’t be wrong.  But I want you to think bigger than this.  Think prosthetics, but not the usual kind that one would attach and detach from themselves.

According to an article by The Telegraph, people are already receiving “bionic implants” to help them achieve a higher quality of life than before.

For those who suffer from hearing loss, cochlear implants have made a world of difference.  These little robotic devices are installed in the patient.  They turn sound into electronic pulses, which in turn the brain is able to interpret, thus allowing the wearer to “hear.”  Amazing stuff.

But what’s even more exciting is what’s being done in the realm of limb replacement.  A perfect example of this is a little boy by the name of Patrick Kane.  When Kane was just 9 months old, he lost his left hand after contracting meningitis.

This prosthesis is unlike many others out on the market.  His actually works with sensors. Basically when he tenses his muscles in his arm, two electrodes that make contact with the skin transmit electricity from the nerves and cause the hand to open or close respectively.

“It’s the little things that the hand allows me to do that have really made the difference. I can open bottles with both hands now, hold my fork and tie my shoelaces,” said Patrick.

Another interesting case is that of Claudia Mitchell.  In 2004 Mitchell was in a motorcycle accident that caused her to lose her left arm.  However, thanks to some cutting edge technological bionic implants, she’s able to live an independent life.  The bionic limb, designed by  Todd Kulken, helps her by rerouting the nerves that would’ve normally ended in her arm and hand to end in her chest.  It is here that the bionic arm is able to pick up on those nerve impulses.  So when Claudia thinks about moving her arm, it does just that.  A computer in her arm interprets her thoughts and turns it into motion.

But what if you’re looking for something even more advanced than this?  What if limb replacement isn’t enough?

Researchers are currently trying to find ways to replace individual muscles with bionic implants.  Some are experimenting with synthetic polymer gels which expand and contract similarly to that of real muscle tissue.  This type of implant is actually geared toward those who are suffering from serious types of sports injuries or who may have lost muscles in accidents.

Amazingly enough, researchers at the University of Texas have actually produced artificial muscles that are 100 times stronger than their human counterparts.  Wild, isn’t it?

But what about the sense of touch?  Many who have used prosthetics have complained that not being able to feel is very frustrating to wearers.  Well, this may very well be an issue of the past.   Scientists in Italy are currently designing a synthetic skin that actually allows robots to have a sense of touch.  While this was initially designed just for our robotic friends, there are other researchers who are attempting to adapt this technology to allow amputees and others who have lost limbs a chance to actually feel again.  They’re trying to find a way to bond the robot skin to a human’s nerve cells.

Are we close to building our own Steve Austin?  Not yet, but we’re not as far off as one would think…

This is the first article in a series that will look at past sci-fi shows that unfortunately didn’t stand the test of time, yet deserve to be recognized for their excellence.  The first to debut this column is none other than The 4400 (pronounced forty-four hundred).

If there was ever a show that didn’t deserve to die such an early death, this was it.  Back when it aired on a regular basis, I was practically glued to my television set each week watching the plot unfold.

Not familiar with this series?  It revolves around 4400 individuals who were taken during various years starting from 1946, and none of them aged since their disappearance.  They reappear near Mount Rainier, Washington, but none of them remember what happened from when they were taken to present day.  It also becomes clear that they exhibit certain special abilities.  These abilities cause a line to be drawn – there are those who support the 4400, and others who oppose them and the use of their special powers.  It reminds me of the mutants in the X-Men movies in the fact that there was such strong opposition against them as well.

The main characters were two NTAC (government) agents who, along with Maia (a young girl who is one of the 4400 and was adopted by one of the agents during season two) try to make sense of why these people were taken and what happened to them while they were gone.

This show was absolutely riveting!  It was extremely well-written to the point of being absolutely believable.   The characters were perfectly cast, and their acting was impressive.  Each episode had its own perfect amount of humor, suspense and action.

If you don’t already know, right about now you might be asking yourself “If it was so great, why was it canceled?”  I’ll give you a hint; it wasn’t due to ratings.  The 4400 ended their final season with a major cliffhanger.  The show had every intention of continuing – but then the writers’ strike occurred in 2007 and caused the cancellation of this show and others that were phenomenal in their own right.

Unfortunately we (the viewers) never got to find out the mystery of the 4400.  Don’t let that stop you from checking it out though!  You can catch the first season of The 4400 on Netflix – click HERE to find out more.

Calling all ‘Supernatural’ fans – I know you haven’t forgotten that the new season premieres this Friday (the 23rd), right?  To kick off the event, I have something very special to share with you today.

It’s not often I get the opportunity to interview someone who not only has had such a rich career in Hollywood, but who’s also a very deep, genuine man who gives much thought to the state of the world these days.  I’m very honored to be able to bring this to you.

Recently actor Jim Beaver took some time out of his very hectic schedule to answer some questions for me.  Mr. Beaver is currently co-starring in ‘Supernatural’ as Bobby, a second father to both Dean and Sam Winchester.   You can also see his past work in ‘Deadwood,’ ‘Big Love,’ ‘Reasonable Doubts,’ ‘3rd Rock from the Sun’ and was in such movies as ‘Sliver,’ ‘Magnolia,’ ‘The Life of David Gale,’ and more.

He also published a memoir entitled, “Life’s That Way” in 2009.  In it he shares personal email updates he sent to family and friends regarding his wife’s health and how they were both coping as they battled her cancer together. 

You’ll see that in question six I reference past conversations with Mr. Beaver – he and I have found ourselves in disagreement before on certain specific political issues via Facebook and Twitter.  I want to say though that they were unlike any other political debate I’ve ever gotten into before.  Mr. Beaver was extremely gracious, respectful and listened to my perspective, and his demeanor left a lasting impression on me.  In fact, afterward I realized something - THIS is how debate should be; that we (as Americans) have been doing it wrong all this time.  I walked away feeling as though I gained a greater understanding of the issues at hand, and I was so happy and relieved to know that he believes (as I do) that differing opinions doesn’t automatically make someone an adversary.  He’s a man of very strong character, and it’s so refreshing to see these characteristics portrayed in this day and age.

Much gratitude to Mr. Beaver making this interview possible – for taking the time to share some insight into what life’s like for him these days, his connection to his character, Bobby, and more!

1.    You’ve had quite a rich history in the entertainment industry (‘Deadwood,’ ‘Supernatural,’ ‘John From Cincinnati,’ ‘Day Break,’ to name just a few)…did you always want to be an actor, or did you originally have other aspirations in mind?

Although I’d acted a couple of times in elementary school plays and auditioned for a couple of high school plays, I’d never had any particular inclination to be an actor.  I wanted to be a stuntman during my high school days.  A school friend used to rag on me that I’d never be a stuntman in a million years, so I looked him up a few months ago to tell him I’d gotten my first stunt check on ‘Supernatural’ recently!  It wasn’t until I got back from Vietnam that I seriously considered acting.  At the time, what I really wanted was to be a film historian.  There were no film courses at my college, so I took theatre instead, figuring it was sort of related.  The first time I auditioned for something, I was pretty much hooked on acting.  I haven’t really ever looked back–though I ended up still doing a lot of film history work.  Just not for a living!

 

 
2.    I’ve read that you joined the Marine Corp after high school and spent some time in Vietnam.  What was life like for you during that time?  How have your experiences over there shape you into who you are today?

It’s a bit of a cliche, but I went into the Marines a boy and came out a man.  It matured me in a lot of ways, primarily in terms of confidence in myself.  It didn’t eradicate my natural shyness, but it certainly reduced it.  And it made me realize what I was capable of, that if I’d survived that experience, there were few things I would face that I couldn’t get through much more easily.  It expanded my world view significantly and made me a much more political person.  It gave me stories to write and experiences to draw on that ended up benefiting my career substantially, both as a television writer and as an actor.  For a time, I was one of a handful of Vietnam veteran writers in Hollywood who were frequently called on whenever a project about the war was being considered, and my first big break as an actor was directly related to my being a Vietnam veteran.  It was also in Vietnam that I happened to encounter my first significant exposure to Shakespeare, which had a profound effect on me.  I wouldn’t want to do it again, but I’m grateful for those experiences.
 

3.    In your role as Bobby in ‘Supernatural,’ how much of your personality comes through in your portrayal of him?  What similarities or differences are there between the two of you?

Bobby is in some ways the unsmoothed-over version of me.  His tenderness, his good-hearted nature, his irony and sarcasm, are, I like to think, all very much the same as mine.  His gruffness, his hardness are also part of who I am, but they’re parts I generally sublimate to the best of my ability.  I have a fearsome temper, but it doesn’t get provoked very much.  The big difference between me and Bobby is that he’s an incredibly brave man and I’m a chicken.

 

4.    It’s no secret that a career in acting can be, well…invasive at times.  How has adjusting to a life in the public eye affected you?

Unlike some people who find themselves in the public eye (a much better phrase than “celebrity,” which seems so unlike my experience of what’s happened), I have deliberately and with some real consideration decided to be very accessible.  I find life more interesting the more doors I keep open, so I’m all over the place with social networking and public events, much more than some actors would be comfortable being.  It has, overall, been incredibly enriching.  There are always going to be people who take it too far, who want to involve you in their lives in inappropriate ways, who want to believe that because they know your character on a show that they then know *you*.  And there are always people who want to use you to advance their own hopes and dreams.  I find most of this tolerable and quite counter-balanced by the benefit I get from being in real connection with people I wouldn’t otherwise know.  Sometimes it can be painful — telling people “no” is very difficult for me, but increasingly necessary.  For the most part, though, it has been wildly rewarding.  Having people tell you they like your work, or that you’ve touched their hearts in some way, is a magnificent gift.  I treasure my privacy, but I like to keep myself open to as much life as I can.

 
5.    Since his debut in “Devil’s Trap,” Bobby has seen and endured much (possession, paralysis, the theft of his soul to name a few).  How has his past experiences changed him from who he was in the beginning to who he is currently?

It’s hard for me to say how Bobby’s experiences have changed him.  It’s like asking how heating up the water has affected the faucet.  I’m just the guy Bobby comes through.  In all probability, the writers give much more thought to Bobby’s inner feelings than I do.  That’s not to say I don’t consider them, but I consider how to interpret them, not what they are or how they change.  That’s the writers’ job.  The soul of Bobby Singer is really found inside Eric Kripke and Sera Gamble and Ben Edlund and their cohorts.  They jointly and singly decide how these changes affect him.  I just read what they wrote and try to make it clear in performance.  If I had to commit to an opinion on this, I’d simply quote “That which does not kill me makes me stronger.”  I’d say Bobby has grown stronger through adversity and has prevailed.  So far!

 

 
6.    Based on our past conversations I can tell you are a man of strong convictions, and it is a very admirable quality.  What do you think is the strongest issue facing us as a global community today, and what are your suggestions for remedying it?

In the myriad of issues facing the world, I can think of none more troubling than the increasing shift toward coarseness, discourtesy, division, and inhumanity (in increasing order of distressfulness) in our public and private discourse, and our decreasing respect for education, wisdom, knowledge, scientific and intellectual awareness in favor of emotional responses to the problems of the day.  When people deal with problems and disagreements by angry and recriminatory means rather than thoughtful ones, when any disagreement is the sign of an “enemy,” when people believe that how “good” a leader makes them feel is more important than what he knows and can articulate, when the importance of education is diminished in comparison with that of personal gain, then I think the world is in grave danger, and all the other issues can be seen as merely outcroppings of those basic ones.  I live by two rules:  Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, and gain all the knowledge you can.  It seems to me that being true to those two guidelines, on both a personal and a community level, would resolve pretty much everything threatening the peace of the world.

 

7.    I’ve recently read your book entitled “Life’s That Way.”  It is such a touching memoir..words cannot adequately convey how moved I was by it.  In a time of such intense pain, you showed great bravery and found the necessary strength that helped you to put your emotions into words, thus allowing you to share your experience with others.  If you don’t mind sharing, what made you decide to go forward with the publishing of your emails?   What advice do you have for those who are grieving the loss of a loved one?
 
I was at first somewhat reluctant to publish the emails that make up “Life’s That Way.”  Though an audience of thousands had read the original emails as I sent them out night after night, they were in a way too private still to consider making them available to the public at large, and to do all the selling and promoting necessary to market such a book seemed undignified and diminishing.  But one person in particular changed my mind.  A woman I’d known as a casual friend for many years (though I’d clearly not known her as well as I thought) talked to me about the emails once.  She told me that 25 years previously (before I’d known her), she had lost her husband and her son within 6 weeks, and she’d never talked about it to anyone.  After reading my emails about my own experience with fear and loss, she had begun talking to people about hers, and that doing so had, in her words, “changed my life.”  She had found what I had found, the richness that comes of sharing pain and sorrow with souls who care.  I instantly knew that if my emails could have that effect, then there were many others who might benefit as well.  I’ve found it to be true.  I get thousands of letters and emails from people who had just that response in their own lives.  It is unbelievably moving to me.  The book has a lot of what I would advise people who are grieving and those who care about them, too much to recount here.  I believe it is effective, because people tell me it is.  If there’s a core piece of advice, it’s to open oneself to the experience, talk about it, share it, express it, and welcome the wise (and even the unwise) attempts of others to participate in it with you.

 

8.  Are there any charities you give to that are near and dear to your heart?

The charity that I am most deeply involved with, the one I direct my friends to participate in to the extent of their ability, is the John Wayne Cancer Foundation (http://www.jwcf.org/).  I’ve been involved with others (Autism Speaks, The Actors Fund, etc.), but the John Wayne Cancer Foundation is the closest to my heart.

 
9.  You (and Misha) seem to enjoy being in touch with your fans via Twitter and Facebook.  What personally made you decide to join?

I think my reasons for getting involved in Facebook and Twitter are pretty well explained in my earlier comments about choosing to be less hidden away, less secretive, less cloistered than some people who achieve a certain public notice.  A lot of that feeling comes from my experiences that led to my book, when I learned the power of being open and available and more revelatory than I was used to being.  I’ve found that nothing makes me feel safer than allowing myself to be vulnerable.  Twitter and Facebook are a way for me to do that, without having a hundred thousand people show up at my house!
 

10.  After all he’s been through, what do you think is in store for Bobby in the future?  Does he stands a chance of growing old and enjoying a peaceful, normal life?

If Bobby didn’t think he had a chance to grow old in a peaceful world, I don’t think he’d bother with being a grumpy knight errant.  Hope springs eternal!

11.  What are some things you enjoy doing that help you wind down after a stressful day?

I’m an internet junkie in the worst way–have a very hard time staying away from it, despite the fact that it has seriously clobbered my artistic productivity as a writer.  Aside from that, reading and movies are my two great loves.  I try to read at least a little every day, and I’m pretty successful at that.  And as Facebook friends know, I’m a voracious movie watcher.  I love to watch them and then to write my impressions.  These are my every-single-day relaxations and enjoyments.  I deeply love a wide variety of music, and I like baseball, but I don’t devote nearly as much time to those.

12.  Working in Vancouver while having a life in the States must be tricky.  How do you manage to keep things running smoothly at home while you’re away on set? 

The biggest drawback to working in Vancouver is that I have a young daughter and a home in Los Angeles.  Were it not for my daughter, I would be wonderfully satisfied living long stretches in a hotel in Vancouver.  I’m a bit of a loner, and have a great time being by myself, so being on my own away from home is no problem usually.  But I have to be away from my daughter far too much.  Fortunately, she has a nanny who is really the only mother she remembers, a wonderful woman named Maribel who has been with her since she was 6 months old, and she cares for Maddie as though she were her own.  So I can always leave, even at a moment’s notice, knowing my daughter is in excellent, patient, loving hands.  And I have a dear friend, actress and producer Paula Rhodes, who drops by my house every few days to make sure the mail is in order and that I know about any bills that need tending.  It’s a great situation in most ways.  Fortunately for me, I love being home and I love being away, just as I love working and I love having days off.  I’m very happy and grateful for my situation these days.
 

13.  Are you living your dream right now?

You bet your ass I’m living my dream!