TV Review: Blackadder (1983-1989)

Also known as: The Black Adder (Series 1), Blackadder II (Series 2), Blackadder the Third (Series 3), Blackadder Goes Forth (Series 4)
Original Run: June 15th, 1983 – November, 1989
Directed by: various
Written by: Richard Curtis, Rowan Atkinson, Ben Elton
Music by: Howard Goodall
Cast: Rowan Atkinson, Tony Robinson, Tim McInnerny, Miranda Richardson, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Rik Mayall (cameos)

2entertain, BBC, 24 Episodes (plus 3 specials), 30 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*Written in 2014.

Rowan Atkinson is pretty much a comedic genius. Add in Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Tony Robinson, Tim McInnerny, Miranda Richardson, Brian Best and a bit of Rik Mayall and you’ve got a dream team of British comedic talent.

This is one of the best sitcoms ever produced. It is also quite unique in that each series was different and completely new. Series 1 took place in the British Middle Ages, Series 2 was set during the reign of Elizabeth I, Series 3 takes place during the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th, while Series 4 takes place on the Western Front during World War I. The one thing connecting all the shows is Rowan Atkinson’s character Edmund Blackadder or just “The Blackadder”, who is a different character each series, although each incarnation is a part of the same lineage. Many of the characters on the show are also different people within their own long lineages.

Out of the series, I really enjoy the fourth series the best. All of them are good but for some reason, in the fourth, they really hit their stride and knocked it out of the park in each episode. Going backwards, I also loved series 3, as it brought Hugh Laurie in full-time and gave the show a new and permanent dynamic that really upped the ante. Series 2 is my least favorite overall but it is still a level above the majority of televisions shows from that same era. The first series is pretty fantastic too and as good as Atkinson is in it, Brian Blessed really brings something exceptional to the show.

To this day, the show still feels timeless, is pretty damned hilarious and never really seems to get old. Maybe the the fact that each series is its own period piece, helps this show have that timeless vibe. I probably watch through each series almost annually. I feel like Atkinson’s Mr. Bean has become a more popular character, at least in the United States, but his greatest work comes here, as Edmund Blackadder.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: A Bit of Fry & Laurie and The New Statesman.

TV Review: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero – The DiC Era (1989-1992)

Release Date: September 2nd, 1989 – January 20th, 1992
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Larry Hama
Music by: Stephen James Taylor
Cast (voices): Kevin Conway, Chris Latta, Sgt. Slaughter, Ed Gilbert, Maurice LaMarche, Morgan Lofting, Dale Wilson, Scott McNeil, Garry Chalk, Ted Harrison

DiC Entertainment, Hasbro, Claster Television, 44 Episodes, 22 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

“What am I paying you for, anyhow?” – Cobra Commander, “You’re not paying me! I haven’t seen a dime from you in months!” – Destro, “…Minor detail.” – Cobra Commander

I recently reviewed the feature length miniseries that kicked off this era. I didn’t think that G.I. Joe could sink to lower depths than Operation Dragonfire but this series that followed proved me wrong.

Sure, I had seen these episodes before but not since I was in middle school when I didn’t have a refined palate.

The DiC era of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero is an example of what can happen when you take something perfect and try to replicate it with less money and shoddy resources. It’s not even like a Chinese knockoff it’s more like a North Korean knockoff. And for some reason, even though “American” is still int he show’s title, G.I. Joe are now presented as “international heroes”. So are they a U.N. thing? Or is that because the United States has a base in nearly every country anyway and this cartoon was pointing that out in a tongue and cheek sort of way? I doubt that it is the latter, as the people behind this show don’t seem smart enough to know how to flush a toilet let alone create some sort of clever, subtle and sarcastic “fuck you” to U.S. foreign policy and the military.

Well, this is an inadvertent “fuck you” to the military regardless, as it takes once heroic and badass soldiers that defended Old Glory and turns them into the Three Stooges with laser rifles. I have never seen dumber characters fighting for freedom than the ones represented here. And really, it’s a big “fuck you” to all the fans that loved G.I. Joe because the quality of the stuff before this (excluding The Movie) was friggin’ solid.

The biggest complaints I have about this era of G.I. Joe are the same as those I discussed in my Operation Dragonfire review. But to summarize, the character designs are ugly, the dialogue is atrocious, the animation looks like shit and the writing is painful and baffling.

Granted, Hasbro is probably to blame for the character designs but this show does nothing to make them better and in fact, it enhances the vibrant colors and goofy flourishes.

G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero was once my favorite thing on television. Then DiC Entertainment came along and took a giant f’n shit on it.

And my god, man… that theme song they did is enough to make your eyeballs melt and your ears explode.

I must run this turd pile through the trusty Cinespiria Shitometer. The results read, “Type 2 Stool: Sausage-shaped but lumpy.”

Rating: 2/10
Pairs well with: Nothing good.

 

Documentary Review: Robert Kirkman’s Secret History of Comics (2017- )

Release Date: November 12th, 2017 – current
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: various

AMC, 6 Episodes (so far), 43 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

Since Robert Kirkman can do whatever the hell he wants at AMC, considering that The Walking Dead is such a giant money generator, he gave us this show.

I’m pretty happy with the result though because there really hasn’t been a lot of comic book documentaries in the mainstream. This show serves to tell some of the most important stories in the long history of that industry.

Kirkman isn’t on screen for this series and each episode seems to be made by different people but generally, it all has a cohesive style and each episode is pretty interesting.

So far, there is just a single season comprised of six episodes. These episodes cover the formation of Marvel and the relationship of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the creation of Wonder Woman, the legal battles of the rights to Superman, how comic books responded to 9/11, the history of Milestone Comics and lastly, the history of Image Comics.

Each episode is pretty solid and provides a lot of information that even I didn’t know about, even though I’ve known about the gist of all these stories. My favorite episode was the one about Milestone Comics because it is a story that is really important and hasn’t been told yet.

I hope that the first season did well enough to make a second season possible. I really enjoyed the show, loved the format and thought that it was marvelously produced and executed on screen.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: Some of the more recent documentaries on comic books: The Image Revolution and Chris Claremont’s X-Men.

TV Review: Orange Is the New Black (2013- )

Release Date: July 11th, 2013 – current
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: Orange Is the New Black: My Year In a Women’s Prison by Piper Kerman
Music by: Regina Spektor (theme), Scott Doherty, Brandon Jay, Gwendolyn Sanford
Cast: Taylor Schilling, Laura Prepon, Michael Harney, Michelle Hurst, Kate Mulgrew, Jason Biggs, Uzo Aduba, Danielle Brooks, Natasha Lyonne, Taryn Manning, Selenis Leyva, Adrienne C. Moore, Dascha Polanco, Nick Sandow, Yael Stone, Samira Wiley, Jackie Cruz, Lea DeLaria, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Jessica Pimentel, Mary Steenburgen

Lionsgate Television, Tilted Productions, Netflix, 65 Episodes (so far), 51-92 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*Written in 2014.

I finally got around to watching Orange Is the New Black. I’m really glad that I did. I am on a mission to watch all the Netflix shows, in order to rank them for a future countdown post and finally I got to this one, which just may be the cream of the crop.

I had heard nothing but good things about this show and had planned on watching it for a while. Time passed, I was busy and all of a sudden, the second season was out and I hadn’t yet watched the first.

This show is pretty remarkable. The plots aren’t overly complex but they are well thought out and pretty layered, which is probably due to what I hear is great source material, which was the memoir Orange Is the New Black: My Year In a Women’s Prison by Piper Kerman. I’m not sure how closely the show follows the biographical account but the characters and plots feel incredibly real. Which is a testament to the creators, producers, directors, writers and most importantly, the actors.

In fact, the acting is stellar. Taylor Schilling (who plays the lead character, Piper) is really good and I can’t say anything bad about her work here but she is often times overshadowed by the brilliance of those around her. Kate Mulgrew, who was amazing as the lead on Star Trek: Voyager, is even more amazing on this show. Uzo Aduba, who plays Crazy Eyes, may be one of the best actresses I have ever seen and that is something I don’t just throw around. Laura Prepon, who starred on That ’70s Show, is a welcome addition to the cast and gives her best performance to date. Other spectacular presences on this show are Natasha Lyonne, Jason Biggs, Taryn Manning, Lea DeLaria, Laverne Cox, Danielle Brooks, Samira Wiley and Vicky Jeudy. Yael Stone is also fantastic and incredibly adorable as Lorna. Then there is Michael Healy, who brings a great dynamic to the show, as he goes from a caring sort of father figure to a complete tyrannical douchebag.

There are few, if any shows, as well acted as Orange Is the New Black. In fact, the only thing right now that comes to mind is Netflix’s other big hit House of Cards and AMC’s Mad Men.

Now I don’t know if this is a show that can sustain beyond a few seasons but while the ride is good, I will certainly stay on. I know that a third season is coming and I can imagine that several people on this show are now getting good work elsewhere. It’ll be interesting to see how long this lasts and if they can get the cast to stick around, assuming this stays a hit and goes on well into the future. Then again, prison is a revolving door of characters, so why should this show be any different.

And to make a point, I have often times heard this described as the female Oz. While both shows take place in a prison, this is no lady Oz. It is a great balance of comedy, drama and just life. It brings a charm to the table that the extremely hard-edged Oz didn’t have with its brutal and gritty ambiance. I would also go on to say that Orange Is the New Black is the superior show out of the two.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: WeedsOz… simply because of similar themes but there is real contrast in the tones of these two shows.

TV Review: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero – Season 2 (1986)

Also known as: Action Force (UK)
Release Date: September 15th, 1986 – November 20th, 1986
Directed by: Ray Lee
Written by: various
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Larry Hama
Music by: Johnny Douglas
Cast (voices): Michael Bell, Arthur Burghardt, Corey Burton, William Callaway, Brian Cummings, Dick Gautier, Ed Gilbert, Chris Latta, Morgan Lofting, Mary McDonald-Lewis, Bill Ratner, Sgt. Slaughter, B.J. Ward

Hasbro, Sunbow Productions, Marvel, Toei, Claster Television, 30 Episodes, 22 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

“Know that I am the one you seek! I am the one born to rule, destined to conquer! Let those who fear me follow me. Let those who oppose me die! For I am Serpentor, and this I command!” – Serpentor

As I discussed in my review of Arise, Serpentor, Arise!, which was the start of this season of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, this was where a lot of new members of G.I. Joe and Cobra debuted, as well as a slew of new vehicles. The cartoon was a vehicle to sell toys; so with every new year, this 22 minute, daily advertisement had to evolve to reflect the new product that was hitting the shelves.

The fact that this was a glorified toy advertisement worked to the show’s advantage and also, in certain regards, worked against it. Season two isn’t as good as season one but I’ll explain.

For the most part, everything is the same from a style point of view. We have the same animation, the same voice actors, the same music and everything is right tonally. However, the inclusion of a bunch of new characters forces some of the beloved characters from season one to take a back seat. The show did really well in its first season developing characters and fleshing out backstories. In season two, you really wanted to see the continued adventures of many of those unique individuals but instead, they’re brushed aside. You can’t give us that great Shipwreck story that was the finale to season one and not properly check back in with him. In season two, he’s just a buffoon that shows up for comedic relief and is usually the butt of jokes for the newer recruits.

Additionally, there isn’t a whole lot of Duke, Snake Eyes or Storm Shadow. But then again, even the newcomers sort of get shafted due to how many characters are now packed into the series and because season two was really only half the length of season one. There just wasn’t enough time to tackle it all.

Even Serpentor, who is created to be the new leader of Cobra, doesn’t get much screen time. At least, he doesn’t get nearly as much as Cobra Commander did in season one and really, Cobra Commander probably still has more screen time than Serpentor in season two, as he’s always got some scheme to try and overthrow the new Cobra emperor.

Most of the episodes, at least in the first half of the season, aren’t quite the same quality of the majority of the season one episodes. In the back half of the season, things really start to improve but by the time the season finds a good groove, it’s over.

Following season two was G.I. Joe: The Movie, which I will review at a later date. Then the show was given to DiC to produce after that and it really dropped in quality. This season was the last of the great Marvel/Sunbow era and despite my complaints about it, it was still a damn fine show.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: The other Marvel/Sunbow G.I. Joe and Transformers stuff.

TV Review: C.O.P.S. (1988-1989)

Also known as: CyberCOPS (rebranded in later syndication)
Original Run: October 5th, 1988 – February 20th, 1989
Created by: Hasbro
Directed by: Kevin Altieri, Rick Morrison
Written by: various
Based on: C.O.P.S. ‘N’ Crooks toy line by Hasbro
Music by: various
Cast: Ken Ryan, Jane Schoettle, Brent Titcomb, Mary Long, Paul De La Rosa, Nick Nichols, Dan Hennessey

DiC Entertainment, Crawleys Animation, Hasbro, Claster Television, 65 Episodes, 22 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*written in 2015.

C.O.P.S. (also one-time branded as CyberCOPS in an effort not to create confusion with the reality show Cops) was one of my favorite after school treats when I was nine years-old in 1988. It was produced by DiC, who made some quality stuff at the time and it was tied into a really badass Hasbro toy line (similar to the G.I. Joe and Transformers brands) and it had a comic book series published by DC Comics.

Every few years, I revisit G.I. Joe and Transformers and am still entertained, as those two animated series have held up tremendously. Remembering C.O.P.S. almost as fondly, I always wanted to give it another watch through. It wasn’t as easy to access and I actually just got my hands on it, as I found a DVD set of the series for $5 in a discount bin.

Well, it definitely hasn’t held up as well as those other great shows from my childhood. The animation isn’t fantastic. I can’t say that it is bad, as some scenes are well done but there is a lack of fluidity at times and the character design is pretty generic. Additionally, the voice acting is borderline cheesy in every scene. Yes, it is a cartoon made for an audience of ten year-old boys in the ’80s but so were G.I. Joe and Transformers and they were just so much better in dialogue, voice acting and overall quality.

The characters in C.O.P.S. are interesting at first glance and each has their own unique and cool gimmick. The problem though, is that there is little-to-no character development. Comparing it to the competition of the time and going back to G.I. Joe, look at how well and awesome of a character Shipwreck turned out to be by the end of the first season. Look at Shipwreck’s character journey, it is pretty amazing for a little cartoon just made to sell some toys. C.O.P.S. doesn’t present the audience with anything close to that level of character development.

Each episode is pretty generic and the criminals are just complete idiots – all of them. At least in G.I. Joe and Transformers you had good strong villains to offset the bumbling ones. For Cobra Commander there was Destro and Serpentor. For Starscream there was Megatron and Soundwave. For Beserko… well, there were just more bumbling idiots.

I wanted to feel the nostalgia; I wanted to really get re-immersed in this. It just didn’t happen and I found this hard to watch after giving it a chance with five or six episodes.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: any other DiC Entertainment animated show from the era: the later G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero seasons, Hulk Hogan’s Rock ‘n’ WrestlingM.A.S.K.Jayce and the Wheeled WarriorsThe Real Ghostbusters, etc.

TV Review: Red Dwarf – The Modern Era (2012- )

Original Run: October 4th, 2012 – current
Created by: Doug Naylor
Directed by: Doug Naylor
Written by: Doug Naylor
Based on: Dave Hollis: Space Cadet by Rob Grant, Doug Naylor
Music by: Howard Goodall
Cast: Craig Charles, Chris Barrie, Danny John-Jules, Robert Llewellyn

Grant Naylor, Baby Cow Productions, BBC, Dave, 18 Episodes (so far), 28-30 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

After the success of Red Dwarf: Back to Earth in 2009, Doug Naylor and the Red Dwarf crew came back together for a full season in 2012. Since then, we’ve had seasons in 2016 and 2017 with even more on their way, from what Naylor has said.

I was hugely impressed with the tenth season when it debuted in 2012 and it was my favorite season since the sixth, way back in 1993. Everything about it just felt right. Additionally, I loved the look of the show. While Red Dwarf had lots of set changes from season to season, this one had my favorite sets since the first two seasons of the show. Plus, the writing for Red Dwarf X was absolutely stellar and there are episodes in this series that I consider classics now.

I didn’t like Red Dwarf XI as much as X but it was still pretty damn satisfying. I wasn’t a fan of the set changes but for the most part, I was captivated by these episodes. Again, good stories and great execution of the material from the cast, who, at this point, are so comfortable together that they feel like actual family.

The most recent season, Red Dwarf XII just debuted a few months ago. I got to check it out with my Britbox add-on for my FireStick. It was a pretty good season but out of the modern stuff, I still like Red Dwarf X the best. The last episode of the season was nice though, as there were some cameos of old school Red Dwarf characters that haven’t been seen since the classic run of the show in the ’90s.

The modern era of Red Dwarf is a great continuation of the series that is more in line with the show at its peak than Back to Earth and the last few seasons of the classic era.

To be honest, I would watch Red Dwarf till the end of time and there’s a part of me that hopes that we get to check in with these guys once in awhile for years to come.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: Anything Red Dwarf.