Best and Worst Police Procedural’s on Amazon Prime! Under Construction

THE SHIELD- Shawn Ryan’s THE SHIELD is a show glorifying a racist bunch of dirty cops, and the un-redeeming stereotypes they beat on. It’s a dire, depressing, largely detestable show, that is not dissimilar to a slog through the sewers.

I watched a couple episodes in season #1 and then an episode in season #7, and there is absolutely no growth in the show, what a waste. Three episodes more than enough of this show. A classic example of Black faces, White messages. It’s a modern day minstrel show.

How it made it seven seasons, says something about the acceptance of great doses of bigotry. Not my thing. Pass on this and see either HOMICIDE or NYPD BLUE Season 1 instead.

NYPD BLUE- I’ve never been a fan of police procedurals, but the first season of NYPD BLUE was something else, a game changer in terms of dramatic intensity for television, and a clinic in style and the acting prowess of David Caruso. He was effectively the show. Which left later seasons… uninteresting. Get season 1, forget the rest.

JUSTIFIED- I found this modern cowboy drama incredibly uninteresting in the first season with largely unlikeable characters. Pass on this and see LONGMIRE or DEADWOOD instead.

LIFE- Both seasons are fantastic. Transcends a simple police procedural, by its protagonists quirky pursuit of Zen and Justice.

COPPER- Police work late 19th century style. Not really interested.

LUTHER- First few episodes are magnificent, though it loses its way toward the end, but still season 1 is a recommended view. Season 2 however is utter garbage.

HOMICIDE- Clearly the best police procedural ever, and largely because it is not about the procedure. A rich, ethnically strong cast of powerhouse actors, especially Andre Braugher in a star making performance, creates that rarest of television shows… a smart one. Highest recommendation.

What I’m Watching : TORCHWOOD MIRACLE DAY

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Russell T. Davies the man who nearly single-handedly spearheaded the resurrection of the DOCTOR WHO franchise after its decades long demise, created the boundary pushing spin-off series TORCHWOOD. Revolving around the popular Doctor Who character Capt. Jack Harness, Torchwood allowed Davies to create a show for adults. While American audiences are relatively comfortable with violence, Davies wanted to create a more mature show, laced with sex and sexuality and relationships in this fragile 21st century.

From a rough and awkward first season, every subsequent season of TORCHWOOD became better both in terms of budget, story and scope, until the third season, CHILDREN OF EARTH, which is largely and I think rightly considered some of the best and most ambitious and heartfelt television the BBC has produced.

So it’s in the shadow of that huge popularity and success of season 3, that season 4 of TORCHWOOD, MIRACLE DAY was born. A ten episode series, it met with less than stellar reviews upon its release. Season 4 set in the US, and financed by a US company, possibly fell afoul of an American audience expecting the standard Sci-Fi tropes, an audience possibly unprepared for the depth and level of sophistication and level of sex and sensuality, sometimes transgressively so, showcased in the season.

For the mythological middle America demographic that ratings are supposedly based on, MIRACLE DAY had a lot in it to buck the expected trends, Black guy on White woman, guy on guy, multiple characters of color, characters of color as heroic and smart, non-stereotypical writing. Davies (whose take on characters of color in his early work on Doctor Who bordered on the minstrel and offensive) in all categories is pushing the boundaries of his latest adult scifi epic, and especially in exploring the sexuality of its protagonist.

So MIRACLE DAY took its share of hits from those threatened by all the above, as well as the British audience feeling the show had gone American, and to be fair there is a bit in here to make even me uncomfortable. But if Davies comes down a bit heavy on the skin and sexuality, to push his own inclinations, it is his right, and thankfully the excesses never come at the expense of the story, and for the most part are always done artistically; and scifi has always been the perfect place for pushing boundaries and being a little bit dangerous.

And here watching MIRACLE DAY for the first time, courtesy of Amazon Prime and Roku, I have to say ignore the naysayers, Season 4 of TORCHWOOD stands the test of time as some of the best and most epic writing Russell T. Davies has produced, which means this ten part epic is among the best and most satisfying TV produced… period.

It’s not perfect, the first couple of episodes are a slow build, the character of Rex perhaps more annoying than he needs to be, or perhaps it’s the actor Mekhi Phifer who tends to grate and be a little too belligerent and obnoxious for me in all his performances [I think the series would have been better with another actor cast, say Michael Ealy (ALMOST HUMAN) or Taye Diggs (DAY BREAK], and while a strong Season, CHILDREN OF EARTH still edges it out as the high-water mark for Russell T. Davies and Torchwood and arguably BBC. But those stumbles along the way just make MIRACLE DAY sticking its landing all the better, and stick its landing it does, a great end to a great season.

And an especially valid watch (episode 10 in particular) on Father’s Day! Grade: Highly Recommended.

Watch it for free courtesy of streaming [Get a free 30 day Trial of Amazon Prime (One Year Membership) here!] and then if you are as impressed with it as I was, buy it and the other seasons of TORCHWOOD, here:

Torchwood: The Complete Original UK Series [Blu-ray]

Torchwood [Blu-ray]

Torchwood: Miracle Day [Blu-ray]

MASTERPIECE THEATER : MR. SELFRIDGE Season 2 Now Available!

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One of the many discoveries of the 2013 television season was stumbling across season 1 of Masterpiece Theater’s MR. SELFRIDGE. A show about an American Entrepreneur creating one of the world’s first Department Stores in early 20th century London. While such a premise doesn’t sound like it would be gripping, it absolutely is.

And how refreshing to have a show that doesn’t involve solving the murder of the week. I found it far more enjoyable than more acclaimed shows such as DOWNTOWN ABBEY or SHERLOCK.

Season 2 is now available and it moves the series forward five years, but losing none of the richness and drama and period detail of the first season, while introducing decidedly new wrinkles to deal with.

You can catch the 2nd season via over the air broadcast or streaming via your local pbs affiliate.

RATING THE SEASONS : The Best Television of All Time – Alfred Hitchcock’s THE GLASS EYE

“The loneliness… the desolation of her life, were beyond belief. For she herself was unaware of how lonely and desolate it really was.”

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And with that line, we are introduced to one of two great ventriloquist themed episodes from the original 1950s run of ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS, namely 1957’s THE GLASS EYE.

Starring the great Jessica Tandy and narrated by an extremely young, pre-Star Trek William Shatner, it is a shining example of that currently extinct format, the 30 minute dramatic anthology. These are tales that have been much retold in the 6 decades since their inception, but arguably never better than in these original shows.

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The endings naturally are hard-pressed to surprise a jaded 21st century audience that grew up on 4th and 5th generation tawdry knockoffs, but knowing where the story is going does not change the masterful solemnity in which these tales are told (written by the prolific and justifiably acclaimed Stirling Silliphant).

This episode in particular, poetically directed by the stellar Robert Stevens, almost 6 decades after its making; remains an excellent way to pass 25 minutes. Grade: Imminently Re-watchable.

Get this Emmy Winning episode and the rest of season 3 here:
Alfred Hitchcock Presents – Season Three

Roku On-Demand Watching Guide NETFLIX Edition

This Week’s (Sunday 19 Jan 2014 to Saturday 25 Jan 2014) On-Demand Recommended watching Guide for NetFlix!

You’ll need ideally a Roku device Roku 3 Streaming Media Player
and a Netflix account: NETFLIX

For the young and young at heart I recommend the following cartoons:

DEXTER’S LABORATORY
BATMAN THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD
THE SUPERHERO SQUAD

For the action fans:

ip_man_ver3_xlgIP MAN (all three movies are available, I’ve seen the first two so far and they are great. Director Wilson Yip and star Donnie Yen crafting a dramatic biopic anchored with brutal and impressive martial arts scenes. That one man could have lived such an influential and pivotal life is truly inspiring)

SOLOMON KANE – this disappeared out of the theaters quickly, but once you get past the weak opening, it is an enjoyable fantasy, action film, led by the always solid James Purefoy.

arrow_ver11 arrow_ver7 arrow_ver10ARROW- probably my favorite television show discovery in a while, nearly every episode of the ARROW has been outstanding (I tend to like my heroes, to not be killers, so the later episodes, are getting a bit bloody and hypocritical for my liking. I’m starting to root for anyone except the titular hero. The series creators will need to watch that) .

Who knew the CW could make a show I actually like. The first season is on NetFlix, and sports fun stories, a strong lead, and perhaps a particular selling point for me, a large and diverse cast with multiple actors and actresses of color. I personally just can’t be bothered with shows that sport no characters of color or only the one token character of color. ARROW is a well acted, directed, and written show and provides lots of diverse actors in non-stereotypical roles. It’s a gem in a sea of sameness. Loving that first season enough to pick up the Bluray.

For the SciFi and Horror Fans out there I recommend:

EUROPA REPORT, THE FRANKENSTEIN THEORY and TROLL HUNTER are all three, enjoyable examples of the found footage film.
RIPPER STREET
THE WALKING DEAD – I’m not a Darabont fan, typically because he doesn’t have a subtle bone in his body, and his usage of characters of color shows a pattern of being unflattering at best. I understand the Walking Dead TV show is going to be a different animal from the Walking Dead book, that said changes when they happen should improve upon the source material, not diminish it. And I feel the first few episodes of THE WALKING DEAD unnecessarily takes a dumbed down approach, to very innovative material.

On the Drama/Thriller side I recommend:

hummingbird_ver7_xlrgREDEMPTION (aka by the less intriguing title HUMMINGBIRD)- starring Jason Statham, is a surprisingly well acted film from the typically taciturn action star. Along with SAFE and THE EXPENDABLES it is one of his best films.

LIE TO ME- Based on an Israeli TV show, this is one of the few police procedurals I enjoy.  Incredibly engrossing and informative.

BURN NOTICE- is another enjoyable series. I like to describe it as, Macgyver if it was good. :).

For the gastronomically inclined among you I recommend:

MARCEL’S QUANTUM KITCHEN
KITCHEN NIGHTMARES US Version

Those are the ones to seek out, some to avoid on Netflix are:

KILL ‘EM ALL
TACTICAL FORCE- interesting cast, but the directing, writing is subpar
THE FROZEN – couple stranded in the cold and hunted, sounds like an intriguing premise. But is a recipe for boredom in this film.
THE INNKEEPERS- I was and am a huge fan of Ti West’s HOUSE OF THE DEVIL, so was very much looking forward to watching THE INNKEEPERS, but unfortunately while it sports the wonderful Ti West use of Framing and Camera angles, the movie has no real substance or interest. The writing, plot is a major failing, with dumb and annoying characters choosing to do dumb things which immediately takes me out of a movie. Plus the scare scenes are poorly done and edited, the movie lacks any real power, and end of day is both predictable and empty. Rating is: Avoid.

As far as the ones to own:

Arrow: The Complete First Season [Blu-ray]

Ip Man [Blu-ray]

TV Review : BEING HUMAN UK

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This review is on the original UK series BEING HUMAN. The quick one sentence breakdown on this series? This five season series, goes on two seasons two long.

The first three seasons tells the unconventional tale of a werewolf, and vampire, and ghost that end up sharing the same house. REAL WORLD for the universal monster set. Alternately funny and imaginative and dramatic the series over three seasons sports first and foremost solid casting, actors who are magnetic and likable and you want to follow their journey. That’a a significant point, that I think gets missed by too many shows, the casting and the chemistry of the cast.

Shows like AGENTS OF SHIELD sport bland cookie cutter casts with negative star power, and then have an uphill battle making the audience care enough to follow the boring cast. Thankfully for the first three seasons the UKs BEING HUMAN had a cast with chemistry, great writing, wonderful performances, and excellent effects all building up to a great cliffhanger third season finale.

For all intents and purposes that’s really where the show ends. After that  a pitiful fourth and fifth season limps out with largely a new cast and atrocious writing. The saying ‘jumped the shark’ is never truer than with season 4 and 5 of BEING HUMAN UK. My advice get the first three seasons, and let this series end in your memory with that intriguing cliffhanger and erase all belief that a season 4 or 5 was ever made (much like season 2 of SPACE 1999 and season 4 of BATTLE STAR GALACTICA [new series] should likewise be forgotten). Grade: Great for seasons 1 to 3! Price Blurays below.

Being Human: Season 1 [Blu-ray]

Being Human: Season Two [Blu-ray]

Being Human: Season Three [Blu-ray]

Being Human – Series 1-5 Boxset [Blu-ray] (Region Free)

Deal of the Day!! Winegard FL5000 Digital HDTV Antenna

Okay so if 2013 was the year of Roku, Roku 3 Streaming Media Player (Click here for more) as my tech device of the year, then the Winegard FL5000 Indoor HDTV Antenna is setting up to be an early contender as my favorite tech device of 2014.

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I dislike monopolies, and I dislike multi-year contracts, all of that translates into me not being a huge fan of cable or satellite companies. And I really disliked the highway looting and theft of American analog airwaves by government and big business. This eradication of the analog airwaves a few years ago in essence made your traditional rabbit ears useless; and was a boon to paid tv options, leaving the majority of the American population to choose between suffering with subpar reception or buying into pricey paid options to enjoy their television.

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Thankfully the infrastructure and technology of local stations has caught up, finally, with the demands of digital viewing. And add to that we now have affordable digital reception devices such as the Winegard FL5000, and free television is suddenly once again a viable reality. The Winegard FL5000 I can report after a couple of weeks of using it is awesome! If you are in a typical large city the un-powered FL-5000 will do the trick fine, bringing in numerous digital channels, with great pictures and sound, and an info option that lets you see details on the program you are watching. Combine the free coverage from the Winegard with the Roku on-demand channels and there is no reason to remain a slave to over-priced cable companies and locked-in punitive satellite services.

Put simply the Winegard FL5000 is the deal of the day!Winegard Company FL-5000 FlatWave HDTV Indoor Digital Flat Antenna – Made in USA (Click here for recent discounts and savings)

Review : Keifer Sutherland’s 24 Seasons 2-5

Courtesy of Amazon Prime and Roku I’ve been able to catchup on a series that I was indifferent to when it first aired, namely Keifer Sutherland’s 24.

Season 1 was reviewed a few years back on this blog and I said of that season “sporadic and haphazard’, and that description extends to these recent seasons that for the most part suffer from those same failings.

Seasons 2 through 4 suffering from the same contrived writing and illogical (stepping over into idiotic) character decisions/choices and quite a few cliches/stereotypes. Add to that a general formula, every season sporting a traitor in CTU, and Jack Bauher distrusted and hunted by a belligerant boss and it is a recipe for annoying, ‘must miss’ television. Grade : Not worth finishing.

Season 5 I am happy to say is much tighter and better paced than previous seasons, and keeps to a minimum the soap opera family asides and diversions that is always the weakest part of any season. Each episode has a satisfying, cinematic action scope and feel, and is well directed by a rotating group of directors, to include Brad Turner.

All in all season 5 Of 24, 11 episodes in is far more entertaining than previous seasons and sofar I’m sticking with it. However with 13 episodes to go there is a lot of room there for the ball to get dropped.

Will update as I move further through the season. View the season for yourself via Amazon Prime or Dvd (I can already tell this is a season worth having and rewatching on Dvd, the commentaries alone makes it a deal).

24: Season Five

Recommended On-Demand TV Show of the Day : CHOPPED

There is a lot to strongly dislike if not outright hate about the proliferation of reality television. Prominent among the bullet points are the devaluation of the role of writer, and the lowest common denominator nature of the ‘reality’ that is provided as entertainment.

However thankfully there are exceptions, and gems that rise against all probability from the mire. One of those gems, is the Food channel flagship show… CHOPPED.

It avoids the cartoony caricatures and idiocy of shows like IRON CHEF and just plays it straight, as a solid cooking competition, with worthy contenders and judges you can respect; and is just incredibly entertaining because of it.

At only half an hour it is the perfect length, and is completely addictive. It’s a great show for the girl or guy in your life to watch with you, especially if you are both fresh food and healthy food eaters, and constant cooks, like we are here in house Heroic Times. :) .

We have steamrolled through seasons of the show, thanks to Roku and Amazon Prime, and they just get better and better. In addition to being entertaining, CHOPPED is very informative to anyone who cooks or aspires to be a better cook. A great show!

This show appears to be on its 17th season, I say appears because how it designates a season seems to be a bit arbitrary and haphazard, but on the whole you get four seasons per year. Another failing is the show is not available on DVD or Blu-Ray. A failing because I think a DVD with special features, and extended episodes would be great. I would buy a nice DVD collection of a full year of shows. But till then we are stuck with on-demand and streaming.

The Big Scoop [HD]

What I’m Watching! Free Shows on ROKU/Amazon Prime!

THE GREAT

GRIMM Season 1- Surprisingly entertaining fantasy show that works in a way that other shows such as WAREHOUSE 13 do not
LIFE Season 1- A wry and off-kilter and charming and undeniably different tv drama. tinged with a whimsy and a bit of magical realism that makes it more than a simple police procedural
TOP SHOT Season 1, 2, 4- I’m not a ‘reality’ tv fan, but this history channel competition show is nothing short of  fantastic. Additive and fun watching

THE OKAY

TOP SHOT Season 3 – One competitor and the drama he introduces (the words functional psychopath come to mind) almost makes the season unwatchable. Thankfully he gets removed, and allows for an exciting season finale.

PRIMEVIL Season 1, 2

THE MEDIOCRE OR JUST PLAIN AWFUL

24 Season 1
24 Season 2- horrible and moronic writing and painfully contrived plot choices, and overblown performances makes this ultimately a waste of time