Dish Network may Remove AMC from Channel Lineup

There is bad news for fans of good TV that subscribe to Dish Network.  It seem a legal scuffle from back in 2008 between AMC and Dish Network has the satellite TV provider contemplating dropping AMC.  AMC filed a lawsuit against Dish Network for failing to fulfill and agreement to air AMC’s Voom HD channels.  Dish Network has put the idea of dropping AMC on June 30th in retaliation to the lawsuit.

Unless an agreement is made, Dish Subscribers could miss out on hit shows, such as Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and The Walking Dead.  Since almost anyone I talk to these days is watching at least one or more of these shows on a regular basis, I can already see some angry Dish customers switching over to a competitor.  AMC has a website, http://www.keepamcnetworks.com/send-them-a-message, where viewers can send an email to complain to Dish Network about the decision.

Source: Wired.com

The Walking Dead: The Game: The Review


The Walking Dead is a long running comic book series that has the misfortune of being simply amazingly written while at the same time having a TV show based on it that has never really understood the tone of the comics.  Given the continued vitriol the internet has recently found against the show, and the way that the last game by this publisher (Jurassic Park) was received expectations of this game were expectedly low.  Happily that made the entire experience that much more enjoyable when nothing about this game was awful at all.

The first, and most striking, aspect of the game is the art style.  Everything is cell-shaded to look like the characters from the comic book and looks simply amazing, which is interesting because this is built on the aging Telltale engine that has been kicking for almost a decade at this point. Even without that consideration made this game looks fantastic, and from start to finish it remained impressive looking.

The Walking Dead also manages to escape all of the common adventure game trappings of needing to find random objects and combine them to proceed.  Most of the environments in the game are small and don’t require most puzzle solving, and when they do most of the time the characters in the game either know exactly how to proceed and inform the play as such or the solution is as simple as glancing over the world for interaction points.

Even though the world is populated by the living dead most of the action in the game comes from the dialog choices presented to the player, as they are all timed.  This might not seem like much as most games have done this in the past, but the results are what really define the game.  Most of the time when a choice is given in a speech tree it directly impacts how the NPCs of the world interact with the avatar, so instead of taking time and reading each choice carefully there is a real sense of having to think on the fly.  The way that the game only allows auto saves means that while the game can be reset to a previous state there is going to be some content that has to be played between choices, so most decisions have to be lived with.

The voice acting is on par with almost all of the other games from Telltale as well; which is to say amazing.  The content of the game could very easily be construed to be that of a B movie and largely hammed up, but it is good to see that while the TV series might not really understand character development this game does.

This game falls into line with the old purchasing structure of the old Telltale model, the episodes have to be purchased as they come out monthly.  The first episode (of five) goes for five dollars, which is pretty reasonable.  This will probably mean that the total series will end up costing about 25 dollars, and since the first game ran me just over two hours long the series will probably end up between 10 and 12 hours.  That said I think I played this game in one sitting, which might not sound like much but I thought that I had only been playing for a quarter of that time.  This might be the best game that Telltale has put out yet.

First featured on Mygamer.com

5(+1) TV Show Too Good for the General Public

You won’t find any FireFly(s) or Twins Peaks on this list, nothing that famous or well noted for the general public to pretend they remember watching the show as it aired (and they clearly didn’t because they would still be on the air if they did).  This is a list of shows that seemed too good for people to latch onto, even after their untimely death.  If it was ever possible that critics and people with general good taste could keep a show on the air simply by their high opinion I have come up with the four best cases for that happen.  All of them got two or less seasons on the air and a complete lack of conclusion.

Eerie Indiana (1991)

A teenager moves to a new town where everything is crazy instead of gravity.  The show was half comical and half super creepy, the first episode was about a woman who was so into Tupperware that she would seal herself and family in the vacuum protected devices before going to sleep, causing them to never age.  That one episode ended with the hero sneaking into their house and popping the seal on all of the sleeping containers at night causing the family to suddenly age.  So the first impression anyone really got of the show was basically an attempted murder while two young boys being given the responsibility of middle aged men.  I sure that ended well.

Why it Cancelled:

It was the monster of the week show before Buffy the Vampire Slayer or X-Files, meaning that the show was about 10 years too clever for its own good.  Almost a decade later it would receive a second life through reruns, and become popular enough to have a spin-off series in a different dimension.  That series lasted four episodes less than the first one (so 9).  Even speaking as someone who liked the series, this was amazingly weird and I have no idea how this show ever was allowed on TV in the first place.  I think that the Futurama experiment with an entire TV season direct to DVD would work well with everything on the list, with this one a highlight.

Pushing Daises (2007)

A pie-baker can bring the dead back to life with a single touch. He uses this power to question the dead about who killed them, with which he tells his private investigator friend, receives a reward, and covers most of the cost of his failing business with; also he only puts spoiled food into his pies because everyone just throws that away and he can touch it and make it fresh again so free supplies.  There is a complicated love story that unfolds throughout the series, and while the entire thing might sound super lame it is hard to watch a single episode of the show and not have a smile on your face by the end.

The concept of the show was to make everything bigger and brighter, and probably happier, than anything in real life—you know, while dealing with constant death—a goal that it pretty much succeeded  to do in every single aspect without fail.  I have seen people on drugs that can’t get nearly as happy as a single episode of this show.

Why it Cancelled:

Honesty I don’t know if Bryan Fuller can keep a show on TV.  Dead Like Me, Wonderfalls, and this are literally created by this one guy.  If you wanted to combine every award nomination into one thing, and give him the cash equivalent this man would fly a plane made of money to a money moon staffed only by his money monkey butlers.  If that made sense you probably should just Netflix all three of those series and cry yourself to sleep at night on their cancelations.  Every single one of them can quickly manage to make any sane person sit and watch an entire season in one sitting.

This was pretty much a causality of the writer’s strike as well as prety much anything that was on during that time as they took a massive hit in ratings and every person in charge of making those calls of “renewing things” decided it was the shows fault, and not something about no one having any idea of when any show was on ever.

Better Off Ted (2009)

The concept is that the main character works for one of the largest companies in the world, too bad he pretty much leads a group of research scientists (boarder line mad-scientists all of them) that have all of their products quickly turned into something terribly evil.  From pumpkins turning into plague spreading devices or bullet proof cloth into motivational/insanity causing chairs the show finds a way to make it seem like super science is just something that everyone can do whenever they want, even if it just an Octo-Chicken.

Why it Cancelled:

You know when Fox likes to change air dates of show without notice, make up reasons why fans don’t follow the show even though they never advertised it, then cancel it?  That is pretty much what ABC did with this, but instead claims that it never managed to find a fan following in the first place.  I get cancelling shows that have low ratings, I really do; the problem is that when it seems like a company is actively trying to make the show have those ratings—then not show the last couple of episodes when they said they were going to, because screw it—that kind of tells me that they didn’t want it in the first place.  I think that Better off Ted probably slept with someone’s wife that it shouldn’t have.

Party Down (2008)

So the joke in Hollywood is that when you are waiting for your career to take off you are a waiter.  I believe the concept is that when your life has failed to do that you work in catering.  The show’s main character has finally given up on life and decided to go back to his old crap job after being type cast due to a commercial he had done years before.  The rest of the cast is rounded out with people who range from failed comedians to failed screen writers, and while it might not sound that amazing in description it has a deadpan humor that is almost infectious towards the end. Think Curb Your Enthusiasm, but good.

Why it Cancelled:

Low ratings.  I don’t know how ignored something on Starz has to before someone has to pull the plug, my guess would be a number below the four TVs left on to scare away robbers, but I guess that happens from time to time. The show also managed to cast people who didn’t have a career at the time, but quickly managed to pull one either out of thin air or from the shambling zombie corpse of something thoroughly ignored since the late 80’s.  The reason isn’t really well known, but come on it was on Starz.  That is almost as bad of a channel to have an original series on as ABC Family.  Oh…

The Middleman (2008)

The series was conceived as a TV show that had been adopted from a comic book, even though there was no comic book at the time.  Three “seasons” of the comic was produced before the first episode aired, and it showed more characterization in its few than things have in their entire multi-series run.  12 episodes end up feeling more like an insult to the experience than anything. If I can say anything else positive about this show before I attempt to drown myself from the sorrow in my own tears it is that I enjoyed this more than the new Dr. Who, and that is a lot.

Why it Cancelled:

It is a show where super science is a thing that happens constantly, there are no superheroes—just super villains, and the sidekick/main character spits out wittier dialog than Juno thrown into a bag with Tina Fey and told to satire their way out, we were lucky to have 12 episodes and not have the Bush administration declare it terrorist training because 90% of America “didn’t get it”.  Also, who puts a show like this on ABC Family?  How is that a channel?

Honorable Mention:
Heat Vision and Jack (1999)

Ron Silver plays himself; a NASA employed bounty hunter with acting as one of his “amusing distractions”.  If that isn’t enough Jack Black gains the power to know everything when exposed to Sunlight, because that causes his brain to rise like fresh bread.  Owen Wilson also voices a sentient motorcycle and Jack Black’s character’s old roommate.  At any point during explaining the casting of the show I would green light this series for as many seasons as the cast was able to keep acting in it, regardless of quality of product.  Sadly the pilot episode was enough for Fox to never pick it up ever again.

Oddly this had such a cult following that there was a brief discussion of a movie, but that was before Ron Silver died.  For those of you, like me, who love this episode you can see the fictional Universe of Tropic Thunder were Jack Black’s character managed to star in that show, have it be a success and become the world’s biggest comic actor ever.

Why it Cancelled:

It wasn’t ever really picked up, but mainly that Ben Stiller trusted Fox again after getting his academy award winning show, “The Ben Stiller Show” cancelled.  Who didn’t see that happening?  Probably Joss Wheadon, that poor bastard.

Making a Good Game Worse: Monster Rancher the Anime

Probably in an attempt to prove that there are no good instances of a game crossing over into either anime or movies, the late 90’s gave us the perfect example of things that you probably didn’t want to see in the way of Monster Rancher the anime.  Based on a video game with so little plot that they could have easily made it about a man who raises monsters only to sell them for drug money and still have managed to make it fall well within the game’s cannon, the writers of this show instead decided to go the Never Ending Story route and have a child from Earth sucked into the world of the game where they he has free license to act like a moron and ask questions about things that he should know from his own world.

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Very similar to that terrible internet music video “Friday” the intro to this show somehow manages to be the worst thing ever and so addictive that days later it is easy to catch one’s self mumbling the lyrics out load.  The show aired Saturday mornings, while I was in high school, so it managed to fall in that perfect time period where I had nothing to do until noon on any given weekend, and was also too lazy to not lie in bed and watch whatever crap I got on a TV that only could get local channels—this basically meant that during the week most people within ear shot wanted me dead for mumbling something about a world where monsters rule.

The plot of the show follows a small child, Genki, who manages to win a Monster Battle Tournament –which is so meaningless in context of the game that I have no idea what they are even hinting at– and receives a super-secret game disc shipped to him a few weeks later.  What really annoys me about the first episode is that there is an attempt to show Monster Rancher off as having the same depth as another fighting game, say Street Fighter, but the entire problem with that is that it is more of an RPG than anything and contains monsters that are so overly broken by design that they can kill pretty much anything in one hit.  Anyone who played that game for anyone amount of time knows that you just spam the strongest attack that any monster has and blindly hope that it lands every time, trying to pretend that there is strategy or depth just insults everyone involved.

After receiving the “beta” of the new game coming out, something that would never happen now because the first thing that anyone would do would be to upload it to the internet, Genki throws it into his PS1.  Oddly the new game seems to be less of a pre-release and more gateway into a world where all kinds of monsters want to kill him as quickly and painfully as they can manage.  Oddly this seems to be more of a punishment for being the best Monster Rancher player on the planet as opposed to the reward that he was promised.

I find it interesting that the 90’s also proved to be a time for anime where it could have a couple hundred episodes, most of which almost never have anything that even resembles plot movement.  The VHS that I own, which contains the first three episodes, has about a grand total of 3/4 of an episode worth of plot.  Sure, most first episodes of many shows serve only to introduce the main character and are by definition worthless, but the second episode of this show seems to be more about the fact that he was sucked into another world without shoes on.

No, really, there is an entire 30 seconds of the second episode where he simply puts on shoes and a jacket/cloak.  I guess there is an argument to the level of detail that the show follows that he wasn’t wearing shoes when he came to this world, as he was in his bedroom playing a video game, but in the same breath he also has rollerblades that he doesn’t wear because they make walking up hills complicated.  I might not have been the biggest fan of skates back in the day, but I do remember that they only ever worked on completely evenly paved roads–this entire world is devoid of those and yet he still makes them work through his seemingly demon-like fountains of energy and uncaringness about physics.  Also he doesn’t have any socks, and personal experience taught me that skates with no socks is a great way to get massive blisters.

The third episode isn’t any better.  Sure, there is an addition to the main cast, but that is also the only thing that happens.  The first half of the episode is about Genki wandering aimlessly and loudly through some woods to find where the stone golem lives, and a chunk of the later half is the crew acting like the new guy is going to eat them.  Oddly it ends up seemingly like they are being more racist then protective of themselves, and I secretly hoped that the rock dude was going to call them on it.

As the way that plot goes that is pretty much it, nothing of great meaning happens.  From what little research I did online it seems that the show “gets good” later on, seemingly getting very dark in some of the later episodes.  I really have to say that besides being really impressed that anyone out there even remembers that this show exists is that there are people who actively defend how awesome “it gets”.

I wouldn’t really know about that because let’s be honest, like every other show that was ever on Saturday mornings only the first 10 episodes where ever really shown, everything else was probably a one shot deal when Fox decided to run a marathon for the contractual obligation they signed.  If you remember anything about this show getting “dark” you were probably way more devoted to this than was healthy.  I mean the only reason that I own this tape is because while ordering a large chunk of other anime I was given the choice of adding this in for 50 cents.

The story of how I sat through the pilot of Breaking In

I decided I would watch the pilot for Christian Slater’s new vehicle on Fox, “Breaking In” and take notes as I went along. I will allow myself to look things up, but for the sake of purity of first impressions, I will not go back and watch it again before writing this. Please note that it is spoilery in nature, as it is my recap of the entire show.

In the interest of full disclosure, screenshots were apprehended after this entire piece was written.

The pilot starts with a cool-looking dude (Cameron, played by Bret Harrison) walking around his college campus. The music playing is apparently “I Love College” by Asher Roth, but all I heard was “I danced my face off” which is a little bizarre. Anyway, you can tell this kid Loves College. He is fist bumpin’ guys, looking a hot co-eds over his sunglasses, the whole bit. He then meanders over to what appears to be the largest concentration of wooden benches I have ever seen on a college campus. He gives a dude a piece of paper revealing the password to the creative writing professor’s computer. I think the recipient of this slip of paper is from The Whitest Kids U’Know, Trevor Moore.

fistbump!
We're cool college kids! Yeah!

So Cameron goes into his dorm room and whaaaa?! There’s Christian Slater, sitting at Cameron’s desk, smoking a cigar! How can you do that? So stinky and smoke-detector unfriendly! He explains his name is Oz and he runs a security company where people hire him to break into their companies to discover weaknesses and abate them, I guess. Some sassy pretty, mid-20s brunette is there too (played by Odette Annable), sassing Cameron along side Oz. And Trevor Moore is back, as he is Josh, an employee of Christian Slater, too, and was a plant in Cameron’s French class. I am pretty sure Christian Slater is wearing a rug. His forehead is as epic and shiny as we’ve grown to know and love over the years, but the hairline looks real weird. He also looks significantly younger than the last crappy TV show he was in that I never watched.

With a forehead this massive and shiny, of course I wear shades All The Time.

Within a few moments the entire origin story of the show materializes, being: Cameron is some kind of supergenius with computer hacking and manipulation, having hacked his way into college and full-boat scholarship, and two adjacent dorm rooms to himself (he said he was twins. Ok ….), and Oz has blackmailed Cameron into being an intern at his company.

What else has materialized is really abysmal joke writing. It is cheap humor, which thinks it is more clever than it is. Oz is supposed to be quick and witty, but comes off as someone pretending to be smart but actually using words they don’t understand the meaning of.

The next day, presumably, Cameron goes to work at Contra Security. Which fits in nicely with last week’s podcast. Cameron comes in and is instantly accosted by his new coworker, the black MegaNerd. Except, that while he is dressed as Han Solo, making Wookiee noises and saying how excited he is about DragonCon, I just don’t buy it. He is too socially adept and, well, cool. He does not commit to the dorkiness, and so I find this character to be wildly unbelievable.

Next follows a Family Guy-esque montage of hazing pranks that the blerd (actual character name: Cash) plays on Cameron that would impress both Jim Halpert and Dwight Schrute, as they are all over the top. Just like the blerd himself. If you like flashback or tangential montages, this is your show. They just keep on coming. And, as the episode goes on, the ridiculousness continues to ratchet up. Desk cemented to the ceiling? That is nothing. Blerd got his job when Oz was hired to remove him from the property of William Shatner, who he was stalking. Of course! An obsessed weirdo is a perfect addition to any corporate team!

There is another coworker who I guess is supposed to be in HR or a receptionist or something? She has a really weird mouth and kept talking about cookiepuss and how that is supposed to indicate to me “ice cream cake” but it doesn’t and I am confused and disturbed. A running gag is introduced of Cameron’s personal history of being pantsed, as illustrated by another flashback montage.

There is a potential love interest on the show with the sassy brunette Melanie, who is the company safe-cracker. However, just as Cameron attempts to ask her out, her boyfriend shows up in a yellow Hummer, wearing Uggs. I thought those were for girls? He is Michael Rosenbaum, who was Lex Luthor on Smallville nine thousand years ago. His name is Dutch and he made Melanie a little house out of matchbooks collected from every restaurant they’ve been to, and he makes mad bank by selling clean pee on the Internet. Delightful fellow, really, and Cameron’s heart is soundly pooped on.

Look at how bleached his vetical bangs are. Sign of true love.

Now that all the expository and character information is out of the way, they are going to do some work! They have to steal a car from a place and some Mission Impossible style heist things.

You brought extra batteries for this helicopter, right Ninja?

Of course, the plan doesn’t work as well as they like, and Cameron and Trevor (who has Great Deals of Animosity toward Cameron) must work together to fix the problem to make Oz proud, and also work out their issues so they can be happy by the end of 22 minutes. Of course they do, with bad jokes all along the way. There is the slight potential of cleverness on the edge of a lot of the things they do and say, but it is executed so … absurdly and over the top, that it loses its cred almost immediately.

I am not sure how I feel about this… it feels like a bit of a mess, but I think it just not be my type of humor. It left me … confused. The last frame after the credits explained everything to me, though. Happy Madison Productions. That explains everything!

I knew I recognized that humor style from somewhere...