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Fri, Oct. 23rd, 2015, 06:13 pm
Just Sit Right Back And You'll Hear a Tale

10 Favorite/Best TV Show Intros of all time, in no particular order.  This isn't about the quality of the show necessarily, just how I feel about the opening sequence.

1. Dynasty.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wTA66L8rUTg

Before reality tv, and before Shondaland, your go-to for an evening of trashy, soapy escapism were the glitzy evening soaps.  Knots Landing, Falcon Crest, The Colbys, Dynasty, Dallas.  For the most part, these shows weren't trying to be aspirational, you were never going to be rich like them.  It was pure Reagan-era, Greed Is Good wealth science fiction.  Now, nothing will beat Dallas for overall cultural impact, JR Ewing is an all-time hall of fame villain and "Who Shot JR?" is a top 5 TV cultural event (Non News Category).

But Dynasty had the better opening, mostly because of the theme music, especially the killer horn flourish right at the end.  It had that kind of British-ish feel that classed up the joint, in the era before TV producers realized they didn't have to pay real actors like Diahann Carroll and Joan Collins real money to mud wrestle or whatever on camera, when they could get an endless pool of college students to do it in exchange for tequila shots.  Nearly every member of the cast in the opening credits looks just one volcano lair short of being a Bond villain (except for Pamela Sue Martin.  I have no idea what acting choice she thinks she was making in her opening credits shot, or why the producers kept it.  Dull Surprise indeed).


2.  The Equalizer.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g87nDBIyqeU


If Dynasty is Reagan-era affluence fantasy Metropolis, the opening of The Equalizer is Reagan era Gotham.  This opening is scarier than the opening credits of actual horror shows, it's a world full of poorly lit streets, grafitti and muggers and rapists and suspicious ethnic minorities, an incredibly precise distillation of at least pre-9-11 conservative fear politics, all set to a driving, heart racing off balance synthy score.  Happily there's an old white guy here to fix it! I will say though, for the lady trapped on the subway platform, that dude mostly looks like he's your manager disappointed you didn't put a cover letter on your TPS reports.


3.  All in the Family. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=72bPUXefB8c

TV shows have different types of opening.  One of them is the catchy opening song (Non-Expository).  And of course this is one of the all time classics.  Two middle aged folks, affectionately/regretfully singing about when everything made sense. It's the gentle song version of Abe Simpson's "I used to be with it, but then they changed what *it* was." speech.  Or the gentle song version of the second season of The Wire.  Also the song that indirectly taught me what the hell a LaSalle (and from there, many other now defunct brands of car) was.


4.  Uchuu Senkan Yamato/Space Battleship Yamato/Star Blazers.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mSF2mvtjDYU

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ItKC89IVEJc

And here's one for catchy opening song, expository.  The Japanese and English versions of the theme song have different lyrics (the English lyrics go into more specific story detail), but the sentiment is roughly the same:  Earth is dying (due to nuclear bombardment by evil aliens), we're leaving to go on a long voyage to save her (via a good alien ally who can give is Earth-fixing tech if we can reach her home planet), we're sad but also brave and hopeful we can return and save the ones we've left behind.

Obviously there's a ton of stuff here about Japan's post-WW2 attitude towards the military and nuclear weapons, I mean, the ship that's going to rescue the human race is literally the WW2 Yamato, repaired and extensively retrofitted (with the help of some alien technology) to be a spaceship, and this song has been regularly played by Japanese military bands.

I've linked the Japanese version from the recent, very good animated remake, Yamato 2199, mostly because the visuals for the new version are so good.


5.  Dragnet.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JQcLrOKJPb4#t=0m33s

Simple.  Dramatic.  Just the facts, maam.


6.  The Outer Limits

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8CtjhWhw2I8

Okay, if I had to put only one "Creepy Sci-Fi/Horror Anthology Series" into the TV Show Hall of Fame, yeah, I'd go with The Twilight Zone.  But I think the opening for the Outer Limits is cleverer and scarier.  Of course kids today in a post-cathode ray tube world won't connect with the screen maipulation stuff (maybe that makes it even weirder and scarier).


7.  Challenge of the Superfriends.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZL8i_AnZQ18

The Timmverse DC superhero shows were better, of course (Batman the Animated Series, Justice League/Unlimited, etc).  But for pure "Here's my pile of action figures on the living room shag carpet, the fight choreography is mashing good guys and bad guys together while making "Chrsshsh!  Pwoosh!" noises.", nothing beats this.  THE JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA, VERSUS THE LEGION OF DOOM.  Bless Ted Knight's narration, and the amazing score.


8. Miami Vice

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dEjXPY9jOx8

ER changed the way we think about pacing on TV shows.  Miami Vice made us change the way we thought about the use of popular music to inform the narrative.  Nothing looked like Miami Vice, and nothing sounded like it.  If you can, I highly recommend tracking down the last episode of the show, they do a flashback/montage of various scenes from the show and some of the shots are utterly stunning.  Also, while I stand by this choice, I think you can't mention it without acknowledging its spiritual parent:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uQ9xfNn09eQ


9.  Babylon 5, particularly seasons 1-3.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BtrUhIuEqdY
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bhc_Oem8Whc
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d9EbGd1AlMg

Babylon 5 was an early, ambitious exercise in long form storytelling on TV.  Each season had a different opening reflecting or explaining the current state of things in the Bab5 universe.  The openings of seasons 1-3 in particular condense things down to one tragic narrative arc:  Babylon 5 was built to prevent war... and it failed.  Grim stuff, especially for the time.  Excellent music from Christopher Franke, groundbreaking for the time graphics.

10.  Misfits of Science.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WRZWKfeN1u4


Short lived, largely forgotten show, fine.  But the intro is so much fun (there were surprisingly few superhero TV shows in the 80's), and the intro song is like some perfect piece of 80's New Wave beamed in from an alternate Earth where the show was super successful.  Hi, super adorable, just slightly post-Dancing In The Dark Courtney Cox!


Honorable mentions:  Any show with opening music by Mike Post.  Any opening of a show produced by Glenn A Larson.

Tue, Aug. 21st, 2012, 02:18 pm
Time Keeps On Slippin Slippin...Into the Future...

James Marsters (Spike) turns 50 years old today.

Look, I knew even back when he was on Buffy and Angel that the actor was significantly older than people had first assumed when the character was introduced.  But man, 50?  Oy.

Tue, Aug. 7th, 2012, 06:14 pm
This May Sound Crazy, But

Battleship was awesome.

I just watched it, and I loved it.  I laughed, I cried, I clapped, literally.

Here's the conventional wisdom on Battleship:  It's a movie from the Michael Bay school of incoherent, mindless, cynical marketing tie-in driven Hollywood blockbuster.  It's a movie based on a board game, made to fulfill someone's legal obligations to some IPs purchased from Hasbro.  A movie that's kind of required to feature a class of ship no world Navy even uses any more (they've all been retired for more than a decade).

So, a stupid movie based on a stupid idea made for a stupid reason.

And you know what, Battleship is stupid.  You can see plot holes in it a mile wide.  It's corny, it's cheeseball, there's a billion implausibilities.

But.  It's also funny.  Funny in a way Bay's Transformer movies never managed to be funny despite his repeated, painful efforts.  The action is generally coherent and easy to follow.  The movie is pretty heavily male, but the two women in the cast do more and are leered at less than in any Bay film.  The minorities aren't embarrassing or offensive.  And it's just rousing and fun.

The director, Peter Berg, stated in some interviews that the movie is intended as a love letter to battleships and battleship crews and it shows.  Not to spoil excessively, but there's a sequence involving people who are not actors, who are clearly having so much fucking fun, every scene with them makes me grin.

In some ways Battleship reminds me of Independence Day and The Core, in terms of being cheesy, sentimental and fun action sci-fi junk food.  But I think Battleship, for the kind of movie it is, will age better than ID4.  If you're bored on rainy Saturday afternoon or something, give it a shot.

Mon, Jul. 2nd, 2012, 07:24 pm
The Newsroom

Newsroom episode 2 was terrible .Truly terrible.  Basically a high toned episode of Threes Company.  Alison Pill needs to punch someone in the face for the shit they have her doing in the scripts.

Mon, Apr. 30th, 2012, 09:56 pm
----->

In the grand philosophical scheme of things, this is a silly video, I suppose, but I guess I was just in the right mood where I found it kind of affecting.

It's only a couple minutes long, give it a shot.  Especially if you're maybe in a rough patch right now.




Mon, Apr. 9th, 2012, 02:48 pm
Disappointed

So, I just tried to watch Bridesmaids, and you know?  I gave up on it, after about 20 minutes.  I just didn't find it all that funny.  The pace felt really slow, and it just seemed to be a lot of people standing around being socially awkward with each other in a forced way.

Tue, Apr. 3rd, 2012, 09:09 am
Music I've Been Listening To A Lot Lately

Not necessarily new, just stuff I've been listening to lately.  Mostly either from the SSX 2012 soundtrack or various TV show soundtracks.


Foster the People, Houdini



Violet Vision - Yeled



Frank Ocean - We All Try



Florence and the Machine - Seven Devils



Kraddy - Android Porn

Thu, Mar. 22nd, 2012, 02:29 pm

I ignored Angry Birds.  I ignored Farmville.  But Draw Something got me.  The vil part is the replay.  Being able to see the process of the drawing being done makes it so much better than just "Pictionary With Friends."

Although man, it makes me deeply wish for an iPad.  And a stylus.

(For the record, I have the iPhone version).

Mon, Mar. 19th, 2012, 11:44 am
Bleah.

I hope this clip is fake.  because if it's real, it depresses me on several levels.  Neither one of them comes off well here.




Fri, Mar. 16th, 2012, 02:55 pm

I tired the free trial of Star Wars: The Old Republic MMO.  25(!) gigs to download.  I made a Smuggler and a Jedi Counselor.  About an hour and a half later I had uninstalled.

Terrible game.  Terrible combat, weak animations, boring missions, sub par character creation, buggy, and unpolished. One of the minor amusing bits of sloppiness I noticed last night was the skin color of my character's hands remained white in all cutscenes, of which there were many, despite my character being dark skinned (in the face).



I'm really surprised it launched in this condition, there's no excuse for it in 2012.   Seeing it get an 85 cumulative rating on Metacritic makes me think I've taken crazy pills.  After having  a decent time checking out Aion and Rifts and DC Online, and even Champions Online, this is a real letdown.  Definite thumbs down.

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