Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Lesson of Binging Bad

It's been called one of the greatest television series of all time. After five seasons, all of which came to a conclusion a little over a year ago, the conversation keeps going and yet there seems to be no debate that Breaking Bad is the best.

It took a while, but I finally decided to check out all the hype with a month-long binge about a financially-struggling, chemistry-teaching dad (Bryan Cranston) who discovers he has terminally-ill lung cancer. Once Walter White comes to terms with his life-changing news, he decides to take up cooking and selling methamphetamine with former student, Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), in order to provide for his family once he's gone.

Long story short: I loved it! Beyond the sheer entertainment value of discovering the dangerous process of drug dealing right along with Walter and the multitude of tension-infused moments of possibly getting caught, I was sucked in by some of the best acting, and the best character development, that I've ever seen on the small screen.

However, when I was done with the final episode, I found myself feeling a little cheated. It was one of the greatest television series of all time—and I had experienced all five seasons of it in a single month. I sat there on the edge of my bed contemplating my credibility as a true fan.

Binging TV is all the craze these days. We get to go back in time and take journeys through programming without a weekly wait or a need for seasonal recaps. It's instant-gratificational bliss! But do we miss out by not watching shows like Breaking Bad for five years? Is the lack of waiting and anticipation detrimental to the viewing experience?

As much as I thoroughly enjoyed pummeling through this one-of-a-kind, Emmy-winning series, I know, for certain, that I would have loved it a whole lot more if my commitment to it lasted for its entire run, rather than just one month. One of the best things about television is that it tells stories over time. You get to know characters and places more and more, year after year, season after season. You grow with your show. Ultimately, the feeling I was left with was that I had basically just watched the spectacle of Breaking Bad in one very long season. The show deserved more than that—and so did I.

So next time you watch the season finale of one of your favorite shows in real time, don't sulk in despair as you count the months 'til a new season. Reflect on what you've seen. Embrace all of the cliffhanging anticipation. And just enjoy the ride.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

TV Gets Freak-y

Afraid of clowns? Well after watching the first two episodes of American Horror Story's fourth incarnation, Freak Show, it's easy to see that Ryan Murphy and Co. are pulling out all the stops to terrorize and terrify us every Wednesday night with a carnivalesque themed plot.

The standard AHS protocol is back: the same actors portraying different characters, the eerie opening (with a new circus-y feel to the usual tune), and a shock value guaranteed to rival any other cable TV show today.

Taking place in the early 50's, in the town of Jupiter, FL, we're introduced to one of the last remaining freak shows in America, struggling to survive in a world newly-introduced to television. The first moments of the show take us to our first "freak(s)", conjoined twins Bette and Dot Tattler (Sarah Paulson), who catch the eye of the freak show's owner, Elsa Mars (Jessica Lange).

While Elsa lines up the twins to be the new headliners meant to save her show, the town is threatened by television's creepiest clown since IT's Pennywise and the intended chaos begins to ensue.

Freak Show looks to be AHS's scariest season yet. Viewers could easily find Twisty the Clown (yet to be named on the show) as a staple in their weekly nightmares, with his lifeless stare, dirty costume, and his deranged wide-smile mask (wait 'til you see what's underneath!).

The talent on this show, as always, bring their A-game. You can tell that Jessica Lange trained like a beast to perfect Elsa's German accent, something that started out distracting but quickly turned impressive. I'm already sensing that the Emmy-makers are in the process of etching her name on a statue as we speak. Her performance is as solid as ever.

Kathy Bates is Ethel Darling, our bearded lady and mother to Jimmy Darling, Evan Peters' ladies man with deformed (and surprisingly talented) hands. Angela Bassett and Michael Chiklis enter in the second episode as a three-breasted hermaphrodite and the world's strongest man, and we're still waiting to see what they'll be bringing to the story.

Another creepy addition to the show is a man-child who drinks bourbon from a baby bottle and is fascinated by freaks, Dandy Mott (Finn Wittrock). When Dandy is introduced to Twisty by his socialite mother, Gloria (played by the phenomenal Frances Conroy), a strange relationship begins to take shape.

What sets Freak Show aside from other seasons is the casting of people with actual deformities. There's a guy with undeveloped arms, a lady who walks around without legs, and the world's smallest women among the "freaks" of Elsa's show. They practically steal the scenes that they're in, and they add an authenticity to the show that the CGI of the double-headed Tattler twins and Kathy Bates' beard are unable to. They take us deeper into this crazy world.

There's a scene in the second episode where Jimmy Darling takes his misunderstood troupe of entertainers out into the world in a failed attempt to have the town get to know who they truly are. Well we're excited to get to know these characters as they add a fresh dimension to this already-incredible new season.

Just be prepared to watch a light-hearted sitcom before heading to bed.

Friday, May 9, 2014

The Sting of Cancellation

It's that time of year when networks make a choice.

Most of us dread the day when our favorite shows get the ax, especially when they're sitting on the bubble for most of the season. Sometimes, we get lucky (ie. Fringe), but often we find ourselves feeling the pangs of lost potential (ie, Pushing Daisies, Veronica Mars, Dark Angel, Firefly and many, many more). Yeah, I know Dark Angel is kinda ancient, but I'm still feelin' the pain after all these years.

Fortunately, due to the vast accessibility to television programming thanks to streaming media and On-Demand, I've managed to avoid the disappointment of feeling so cheated after tuning in week after week after week after week.

I wait.

Unless the pilot is unlike anything I've ever seen before (ie. American Horror Story), I tend to avoid weekly viewing until I hear all the reaffirming feedback. For me personally, this isn't too difficult with so much great television to watch. And the all-too-enjoyable practice of binge-watching leaves something to look forward to, once you know you're in the clear and ready to dedicate your time.

I can't say that I'm surprised with the ones sent packing this season, tho I did expect Believe to last a bit longer. At least they make for room for some potential awesomeness in the fall!

The Birth of a Whovian

The proudest of Potatoes get busy. Life gets in the way and we're often redirected, distracted, and consumed by all it throws at us. Alas, here we are, and there's never been a better time for TV...

In a television era dominated by streaming media providers like Netflix, couch potatoes everywhere are now revisiting shows long-since-premiered, such as fan-faves Breaking Bad and The West Wing. Remember the days when you missed a show and you actually missed a show? When you only held out hope for those potential reruns? Gotta love technology! Well, during my hiatus, I decided to try out an old series to add to my already-extraordinarily-long list of television viewing: Doctor Who.

Doctor Who, a BBC television program that's dated back to the early '60's, was rebooted in 2005, which is where I decided to begin my journey through time and space.

Now, my decision to delve into this show was far from an instant one. For some reason, I had this hesitation to jump into the craze, like one of the those indie music lovers who have that innate disdain for popular music. Doctor Who, somehow, was just a little too geeky for me... so I've ignored it for years. It took my 13 year-old sister and multiple visits to Hot Topic to peak my interest in a show about a regenerating "doctor" alien.

Truth is, I'm a total geek. Always have been. Which is probably why I instantly became so fascinated with this show. My little sister loved it and I wondered why. Hot Topic, a store that sells some of the coolest television memorabilia, was apparently obsessed with it, and I wondered why. I had no choice but to find out what the big deal was.

Doctor Who is pure escapist entertainment. Getting to know The Doctor, a Time Lord (the last of his kind) who travels through time to wonderful worlds, forever saving the day, has been a super-satisfyingly distracting experience. Doctor Who tickles the imagination in ways that many shows don't. The spectacular array of alien lifeforms, from the cute and cuddly (ie. the Adipose) to the downright gross and evil (ie. the Daleks), is reason enough to tune in to this epic series. I'm always excited to discover where we'll go next and who we'll meet along the way.

Sci-fi adventures aside, the true soul of Doctor Who that shines the brightest is its cast of characters, essentially The Doctor and his rotating carousel of companions.

The shows that tend to stay with me, the ones that hold a special place in my heart, are the ones that impart something greater than its intended entertainment. In watching Doctor Who, I've learned a lot about accepting loss. In this life, we're always saying goodbye, whether it be a break-up, friends parting ways, or the passing of a loved one. It may be considered silly to compare life to a science fiction television program, but art is art. And art can be profoundly inspiring. This is why I love television.

The companions of Doctor Who are ever-changing. Once you find yourself getting used to these individually-unique, super-likable travelers, The Doctor is bidding them adieu by season's end, some in tragic and surprisingly emotional ways (ie. Rose Tyler). The Doctor himself, who regenerates into a new body upon being fatally injured, offers the series a way to introduce new actors into the title role. These Doctor "exits" have occasionally been some of the most heart-wrenching scenes in television (ie. the amazing David Tennant). It's not easy saying farewell to our favorite characters so often in a single series, but Doctor Who has been a special TV show that's gotten me used to the idea. An idea that could even ring true in one's own life.

I'm not caught up to the latest seventh season just yet. And I'm still getting used to the 11th Doctor, portrayed by Matt Smith. I am, however, undoubtedly hooked on this space-age story. I've learned to adore and appreciate the show's token cheesiness, and I've come to view the TARDIS as probably the coolest spaceship ever.

I've also noticed that I've been frequently saying what's been suggested to me for quite some time now...

"You need to watch Doctor Who!"

Saturday, December 10, 2011

'Proud' to Be Back

I went away. Took a moment. More than a commercial break. More like a summer hiatus. Sometimes you need to take a step back to move ahead. Onwards we go.

I started this website because I love television. My relationship with the small screen has only been surpassed in length by the one I have with my own family. Like them, television has nurtured and inspired me, in ways that some of my closest friends haven't. But rather than using The Proud Potato to convey this love and passion for TV, I've been devoting my time to it in an attempt to do what other sites are doing better.

The Proud Potato will no longer focus on news stories that I alone cannot keep up with. It will not focus on shows that I honestly couldn't care less about or the latest poster promotion. It will only be dedicated to what moves me the most - the moments that contribute to this enduring relationship I have with television.

'Cuz, remember... I started this website because I love television - and it's certainly about that time to talk about it. And, hopefully, to find others who feel the same as I in the process.

Where are the other Proud Potatoes at?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The New Spartacus

The Spartacus series is, without a doubt, in the top three when it comes to my favorite shows on the air these days. Just when I thought True Blood mastered the shock value when it came to violence and sex, Spartacus came along and raised the bar on the mature meter much, much higher. This shouldn't suggest that the explicit nature is the sole reason for the show's greatness, but I'd certainly be lying if I said that it didn't add to all the fun.

Spartacus: Blood and Sand pushed the envelope as far as a television series could. It remained unapologetic when it came to truly telling the story and placing you in that particularly savage time period. The writing was phenomenal. The entertainment value in the dialogue alone was remarkable. Lucy Lawless (Lucretia) and John Hannah (Batiatus) were incredible as the manipulative heads of a Roman ludus - a training school for gladiators. The rest of the cast followed along with their brilliance as well, especially Mr. Andy Whitfield (Spartacus).

Spartacus: Gods of the Arena was a short prequel, absent Spartacus due to Whitfield's real-life battle with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. The prequel itself was supposedly meant to whet the fans' gladiatorial appetite until Whitfield recovered in time for an official second season. Surprisingly, even Spartacus-free, the series found continued success with all its daring, the amazing writing, and its ├╝ber talented cast. Sadly (very very sadly), after Whitfield was ready to return to his career-altering role, he received news that his illness was not completely eradicated and that he had to undergo further aggressive treatment. It was then that he announced his official departure from the hit series.

Spartacus: Vengeance will be the next chapter in the tale of the rebellious gladiator. After Starz decided they were going to continue the series, it was then time for them to search for a new Spartacus. They found one in Australian actor Liam McIntyre. This news-of-the-week is that we finally have a view of the new Spartacus in action, via pics from Entertainment Weekly:

Now, I have no doubts at all that the show will remain to be top-notch. I definitely can't wait for it to come back. It's all very exciting. The cast proved that they could carry a show without the fantastic Andy Whitfield. I'm just now sure how I'm gonna feel about a character that I've become so invested in being a completely different person. Yeah, they look similar. But can Liam McIntyre pull off the emotional intensity that Whitfield had done so effortlessly? When Spartacus crosses paths again with his nemesis, Ilithyia, will the seething hatred come across so seamlessly as it did before? Or will it feel as if they just met? I honestly don't know what to expect.

Putting all speculations regarding the new Spartacus aside, however, I wish that someone would report on Andy Whitfield's current status. It was tremendously sickening when I first heard about his diagnosis. So it will certainly be a sincerely joyous moment when I hear about his clean bill of health. I hope to hear it soon.

Get better, Andy.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Major Three Leave Glee

This just in. It's official.

The upcoming third season of Glee will be the last for Rachel (Lea Michele), Finn (Cory Monteith), and Kurt (Chris Colfer).

I don't think I've ever seen a show make a move so bold. Three of the the hit show's most popular characters. Gone.

No need to delve into this. We kinda saw it coming.

Glee Goes 3D

It was only about a week or two ago that Glee Live! wrapped up its summer tour in Dublin. For those who didn't have the time, cash, or motivation to attend this year, you still have a chance to check it out when Glee: The 3D Concert Movie hits theaters on Aug. 12 in limited cities nationwide.

Yes, this news is about two months old, just about as old as this site itself. The relevancy, however, is the fact that the tickets go on sale today. And if you decide to buy tickets for the advanced screening on Aug. 10, you apparently get a bunch of goodies that include: a Glee logo lapel pin, a commemorative ticket and lanyard, a silicone bracelet, a hat, commemorative Glee RealD 3D glasses, and a backpack.

Gleeks can head here to purchase said tickets/goodies.

I remember last year when I tried to purchase tickets for Glee Live!... anxiously holding my cell, waiting for the Ticketmaster time to arrive, only to find that they sold out in like half a second. It kinda took the wind out of my summer tour sails, and I never attempted it again. This film may be the closest I ever get to partaking in an actual Glee concert.

Or, at the very least, it could be the last time to hear Sam Evans sing a song ever again.

How Ally McBeal Made Me Feel

Every now and then, very far and few between, there's a show that comes along and does quite a remarkable thing. Using television as its medium, it tests the limits of what we're capable of feeling as emotional beings by exposing us to material that's both immensely uplifting and downright heart-wrenching - all in the span of a single hour.

I'll never forget a particular episode of Ally McBeal that aired in its very first season. It introduced the tragic tale of a transsexual prostitute who manages to run into our lovably quirky little lawyer (played by Calista Flockhart, who will only and always be Ally to me). After Ally befriends him and attempts to recruit him to her firm, with the hopes of a better life, he retreats back to his old lifestyle with an all-too-dreadful conclusion. I cried a lot. But what astonished me the most was the fact that, only moments before, I was laughing hysterically at a gospel tribute to a man who hated short people.

That was the magic of Ally McBeal. It tugged at our heartstrings, tickled our funny bones, and touched our souls through the power of music, each and every week. Even the whimsical world of Glee hasn't managed to evoke the same as effectively and, ultimately, as realistically as Ally.

Ally McBeal was a show about love. The search for love. The hope for love. The love in self-acceptance and that between the dearest of friends. It far surpassed anything that would be expected from a show about a bunch of lawyers. This was no standard courtroom drama.

The cast was phenomenal. My personal faves were the neurotic, Porky Pig-channeling John Cage (Peter MacNicol) and Elaine Vassal (Jane Krakowski), the office vixen/inventor (face bra, anyone?) who'd burst into a song and dance at every opportunity. There were, of course, some additions in later seasons that I could have done without, but for the most part - I loved these people.

The guest stars were frequent and consistently fabulous (ie. Tracey Ullman, Robert Downey Jr., Dame Edna Everage). The Christmas episodes were always a festive treat. And there was a very shocking death in the middle of the series that'd immediately send anyone grasping for the tissue box.

In the end, Ally McBeal made it okay to be a little loony. It made me a fan of Vonda Shepard and dancing babies. It encouraged a new appreciation for Barry White and unisex bathrooms. And it managed to inspire me to embark on a personal journey in discovering my very own theme song.

It was truly one-of-a-kind.

I still believe that it could have gone on for more than five seasons, despite the ratings slump (which I blame on the "less silly, more mature" Ally). And the final episode still remains a rushed disappointment. Still, no show is perfect. It is what it is.


Here, now, is a tiny peek into the aforementioned episode... a small glimpse of my favorite law office... a quick glance at a very tragic character... and a not-so-nice ode to short people, courtesy of Jennifer Holliday: