Archive for the ‘Television’ Category

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!

 

I’ll admit – I have a very weak stomach and cannot tolerate watching zombie shows and movies.  From their slow, slithering ways to their rotting flesh, zombies are a bit more than I can handle.  Add to this their mindless, instinct-driven desire to consume copious amounts of human flesh, and I basically run when anything zombie is on television.  I cannot even bring myself to watch The Walking Dead, (from what I hear) a fantastic show depicted the troubled times of the last humans trying to survive a zombie apocalypse.

But today I started thinking about it.  What if that actually happened?  Instead of going through how terrible things would be if that occurred, I decided to actually take a moment and think of the highlights of an event such as this.

1.  Disintegration of government on multiple levels – If you’re not a fan of the bureaucracy of government these days (and who is), maybe a zombie apocalypse isn’t such a bad thing after all.  I just spent two hours today at the Division of Motor Vehicles getting my truck inspected.  After interacting with the employees there, I can tell you that if there were ever to be a zombie apocalypse, it would most definitely start in government somewhere. 

2. Bad Neighbors?  Eat them!  Imagine this – your neighbor is always in your business.  He causes trouble, trespasses on your property and tries to pick fights with you on a weekly basis.  Bam!  The zombie apocalypse begins.  If you turn, the last thought you’ll have about your neighbor is how good he’ll taste while you’re chewing his flesh.  Not a bad motivator right there.

3. No more debt – I love this one.  Think about it – while zombies are marching along the face of the earth devouring any and all living flesh in sight, I doubt Capital One will be trying to get you to make your credit card payment that month.  It’s the end of any and all debt.

4. Free food!   With all those helpless humans running around screaming, you’ll never have to worry about buying food again.  Just grab one and start chewing!  However, if you decide to try to stay human, good luck trying to find a grocery store that’ll have fresh food, or a place to prepare and cook the food without endless zombies running toward you once the smell tips them off.  Yeah… zombie’s definitely the way to go with this one.

5. Stabilization of the world’s population – I love this one!  So many people are genuinely concerned about the fate of the earth with her population booming more than ever before.  While it’s true that most if not all of the humans would eventually become zombies and thus, still take up place on the earth, procreation would come to an end.  At some point no new humans would be born.  And since they wouldn’t be using fossil fuels, they’d be contributing to reducing our carbon footprint!

While I once thought a zombie apocalypse would be horrible, I can see that it actually wouldn’t be so terrible at all!  Feel like adding to the list?  Do so below!

Bon Temps is one of those towns where you a) should feel grateful you don’t live there and b) wonder why anyone else does.   We’re nearing the end of this season of True Blood.  In just a few weeks’ time, we’ll have an idea of how the vampires are going to stop Antonia, what repercussions Jessica and Jason will suffer for their “extracurricular activity” in the back of Jason’s pick up, whether or not Sookie’s dreams will come true, and more.  In the meantime though, let’s focus on what you might’ve missed if you failed to watch it last night.

Sookie survives being shot in the stomach with a wooden bullet (predictable, I know). Bill’s blood did the trick, and while Alcide and Bill are both hovering over her she demands to know where Eric is.  Alcide has had enough, and he walks out.  Bill promises to go find him.

Then Sookie has a most interesting dream… she begins to fantasize about both Eric and Bill, telling each that she loves them and wants to have them together.  Aside from being a totally hot, sexy scene, there’s a bit of a revealing here – Sookie is in love with the two leading vampires in her life.  Decisions, decisions…

The witches regroup at Moongoddess Emporium.  Antonia informs all who are present that she has special plans for the vampires during their “Festival of Tolerance,” but Tara and the rest of the girls want out.  Roy decides to stay – of course he does – what guy doesn’t want to see vampire guts explode all over the place?  The others try to leave but Antonia holds them hostage along with her new “pet,” Eric.

Meanwhile Jessica tries to find sympathy in Nan… yeah, that sounds like a bad idea to me, too.  Uncaring and not wanting to hear any of it, she tells Jessica that listening to her whining has cured her of the urge to ever become a Maker. Niiiiiice. Bill arrives and brings her up-to-date on the whole situation with Eric and the witches.  He tries to convince her to cancel the “Festival of Peace” but Nan refuses.

So imagine this – you’re Hoyt, and your super hot vampire girlfriend just dumped you.   So you decide that by making yourself feel better you’re going to get a box, fill it up with her stuff and mark it, “For you, Monster.”  Then maybe you’ll get drunk and pass out. OK – seems reasonable. But I would think you’d never expect to see a possessed Lafayette storm through your door with a gun and a baby (Arlene’s in fact) in hand, demanding you leave your own house!   Poor, poor Hoyt.

Andy’s too hopped up on V to be able to do anything except make the matter worse, and Jason can’t seem to get the job done.  So Arlene calls Jesus and asks him to help.  He arrives and enters the house.  After awhile Mavis warms up to him and reveals exactly what happened to her at the hands of her former lover.  She hasn’t left because there’s something she needs to do – she needs to hold her baby one last time.  Based on what Mavis told them, the boys start digging in the backyard and find her remains along with her baby’s.  They hand the swaddled, skeletal remains of her child to her, and she embraces him, singing a lullaby.  Just then, her spirit leaves Lafayette and disappears.  Wild!

Then Hoyt asks Jason to bring Jess’ belongings to her, since he’s his best friend and all.  While Jason does decline the offer to come into Bill’s house, that doesn’t stop him and Jessica from having sex in the bed of his pickup truck.  Jason!  Weren’t you just serially raped a few episodes ago?  Geesh!
Debbie knows that Alcide’s hanging out with Sookie and, falling into a depression, she goes back to using V.  She then approaches Sookie and tells her she genuinely wants to help her (I don’t care what you say, even with Sookie reading her thoughts I STILL don’t trust her). 

Anyway, they head off to the Emporium.  Debbie distracts Antonia while Sookie finds Eric.  She tries to get him to leave but to no avail; the spell is too strong.  Tara holds a gun to Sookie as an act and warns her telepathically that they’re being held against their will.  Sookie and Debbie escape and find their way to Shreveport to alert Bill that the plan is for Eric to kill him.  Just as she arrives, Eric is vamp-speeding toward Bill as Sookie screams to him, “RUN!”

Tommy transforms into Sam to handle an issue between him and the pack leader of the werewolves.  When he cracks some jokes about having his way with Luna, the boys beat him within an inch of his life.  While on the ground he transforms back into Tommy; Alcide steps in and protects him while carrying him away to safety.

Credit: Hubble Telescope

I dig Doctor Who.

For the better of the last six months I believe I have watched an episode every day or at least popped up some version of the theme on YouTube. Just this past birthday I asked my family for Doctor Who memorabilia (considering I turned 37, I still feel like a kid). So how in the world did a show about an eccentric man with a British accent who travels around the universe and in and out of time capture my fantasy?
 
Simply, he falls into an archetype that has been cut from the same cloth as Sherlock Holmes, or even Ferris Bueller. These are the type of guys who can walk into a room, look around, smile and say, “I got this under control!”

Each of the 11 people who officially played the role of the Doctor have a habit of showing him facing an enemy and essentially ask, “Is this the best you’ve got?” Don’t get me wrong; he shows vulnerability, heartbreak, happiness, excitement and the like, but each of the 11 men have a habit of playing it in different aspects. One of the actors will emphasize a certain personality trait more than another will.

Trying to explain what I like about Doctor Who is difficult. I mean, as silly as it sounds, what appeals to me is that he is put in these Luke Skywalker-like adventures and he wears a tie and coat. I mean, you are more apt to see him dressed like someone who is going to tea or a night at the opera circa 1850 London more than you expect him to be dressed in fatigues and be armed with cannons and weapons the same way the Punisher is. Instead, he is armed with a sonic screw driver that can do almost anything.

So if you are a novice to “Doctor Who” and want to know where the best place to begin is, I would encourage you to check out Season 5 episode 11 titled “The Lodger”. In the story the Doctor gets trapped outside of his TARDIS (his spaceship) while his companion Amy is stuck inside. The Doctor then takes up residence in the first floor of a house while he attempts to investigate the upstairs neighbor who seems to be killing passersby. 

To keep a low profile the Doctor does his best to fit in the life of his flat mate Craig. Craig is an average fellow who works for a telecom company, enjoys soccer, and sharing a night of “pizza, booze, tellie” with Sophie, a woman he seems unable to confess his true feelings for. 

With just the slightest bit of “What About Bob,” this episode captures the genius and epitomizes what Doctor Who is and even explains what is happening throughout the rest of the series. 

Check out this clip where the Doctor has just met Craig and made him lunch as a way to let him entice him to let the Doctor stay:

I had my buddy Sabrina, a non-fan of Doctor Who, watch this episode and she said, “Prior to watching that episode I was not a fan, but I was able to understand the backstory and I enjoyed it very much because it was funny and exciting at the same time.” 

As to where to find it, I confirmed it is on Netflix at the moment and it is easy to find the episode anywhere online (though I am not condoning an illegal download of it). 

However, the Doctor will dig you doing it.