Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Arrested Devlopment - A General Season 4 Review

So, Arrested Development is back...a fact that makes me very, very happy. I have longed for the return of the Bluth family for years, and here they are again, thanks to Netflix.

I almost had a breakdown on early Sunday morning when I realized our internet had taken a crap. I fiddled and jiggered, and CByrd found our password...all was well. (Although, it simply reinforced to me that I will NEVER give up physical media, period.) We watched all fifteen episodes, something like seven and a half hours, in one sitting.

I'm not going to go over the finer points of the plot, or the performances. It's just too much to delve into, and frankly it's simply too damn complicated to breakdown in a simple way. What I intend to do is break down what I thought worked, and what didn't.

The primary thing that worked, is that it "feels" like Arrested Development - Everyone fell pretty easily back into the roles (although, Portia de Rossi - what have you done to yourself!?!?). The way the episodes are shot melds with the original. The "voice" of the show is intact. The jokes are snappy, and I was really thankful that they didn't let not being on broadcast TV stop them from bleeping swearing. Frankly, all the way back to the rumors of the show going to Showtime, with people excited about "uncensored" Bluths, struck me as not understanding the show. The bleeps are funnier than anything they could actually have said. It felt like reuniting with old friends, or at least a group of people I enjoy watching endure disaster after disaster.

I was very happy with the new episodes, and I laughed a lot, so take what I'm about to say with that in mind.

This was too much of a good thing.

The plot is, or plots are, needlessly complicated, and, frankly, by the time to reach episode 14 and 15, George Sr. and Lucille appear, and you realize you have almost completely forgotten about them. You also realize that their plotlines, ultimately, weren't all that memorable. They also, to a point, have no bearing whatsoever on the George Michael and Maeby plotlines, that dominate the last few episodes. In short, if you had to watch these with weeklong breaks, you'd probably lose your place.

I understand, just on a pure scheduling level, why the idea of each episode focusing on specific characters, to the point where Ron Howard's narration starts each episode with "It's GOB's Arrested Development!" Or whoever is the focus. In some places it works, in others....eh. For example, Buster is funniest when bouncing off other members of the family, especially Lucille, but his episode quickly cuts him loose from the family. Likewise, Tobias spends almost his entire episode with a new set of characters.

Even that would've been fun and interesting, but I wish Hurwitz and his team had kept themselves to a 20-min running time, as if the show was still for broadcast. The running times vary from, I believe, around 25 minutes to almost 40. Brevity is the soul of wit, and the longer episodes do feel long. I can't believe Fox, or Imagine, won't eventually try to fold these into the original run for a syndication package (which would be great!), and I would love to see 20-minute "broadcast edits" of some of these episodes. In order to refine the sprall, and concentrate the laughs.

I don't want to give anyone the impression I'm saying "it sucks," because my feelings are far, far from that. However, I do think that Hurwitz and company might've done well to give themselves limits, even if Netflix was offering a free pass for creativity. I also do not recommend watching the season in one sitting. It's too overwhelming, and you see the same events so many times, your brain will "frost over" the - sometimes VERY minute - changes.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Stuck in My Head: Adam Raised a Cain

Early on in my Springsteen fandom, I was at a show that opened with this song. The seasoned fan near us said, "oh he's pissed tonight." I always marveled at the perfection of that. The song seethes with power and rage, generation after generation.

I've been reading Bruce by Peter A Carlin, and it has a really awesome story about the mastering of this song:
Coaching mixer Chuck Plotkin on how the song should sound, Bruce described a movie scene showing two young lovers sharing a picnic in a sunlit park. The sun would be shining, the grass would be emerald, the ducks paddled across the pond before them. Then the camera would zoom out to reveal, just behind them, a human corpse lying in the bushes behind them. Aiieee! “This song,” Bruce told Plotkin, “is the dead body.”

Adam Raised a Cain
by Bruce Springsteen

In the summer that I was baptized, my father held me to his side
As they put me to the water, he said how on that day I cried
We were prisoners of love, a love in chains
He was standin' in the door, I was standin' in the rain
With the same hot blood burning in our veins
Adam raised a Cain

All of the old faces ask you why you're back
They fit you with position and the keys to your daddy's Cadillac
In the darkness of your room your mother calls you by your true name
You remember the faces, the places, the names
You know it's never over, it's relentless as the rain
Adam raised a Cain

In the Bible, mamma, Cain slew Abel and East of Eden, mamma, he was cast
You're born into this life paying for the sins of somebody else's past
Well Daddy worked his whole life for nothing but the pain
Now he walks these empty rooms looking for something to blame
But you inherit the sins, you inherit the flames
Adam raised a Cain

Lost but not forgotten from the dark heart of a dream
Adam raised a Cain

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Home Again, Home Again, Or: Theatrical Events in The United Kingdom

Back from another lovely trek across the pond. Still fairly jet-lagged, but back at work.

I may have more to write on these later, but for right now, a quick wrap up:

The Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff

Fun as hell, except for the lame 3D section...and a TERRIFIC museum (except for the screen constantly replaying Tennant's oh-so-overwrought regeneration over his TARDIS set).

Hamlet at the RSC in Stratford

Most expensive show we saw, and the most aggravating. I think I hated it, but I really would like to sit own with the director and just say, "OK...what?" Greg Hicks, as Claudius (doubled as the ghost), was really, really great. I also enjoyed the way they handled Ophelia's corpse, as in the picture above, onstage from the burial scene thru the rest of the show.

They simply did something odd in the character of Hamlet. Actor was too old, the performance was cold and uncharismatic, which was multiplied, and therefore I read it as intentional, by some maddening cuts in the text.

Full price 60 pounds, I think

 The Audience by Peter Morgan

Helen Mirren as the Queen, in a dramatization of her Tuesday -morning meetings with the Prime Minister. Lovely performances, lovely script (same writer as Frost/Nixon). I'm gonna take a guess and say it'll never play as well in the US. Requires too much knowledge of UK history. Quite funny and moving, for me. Mirren is pretty much perfection, and her hair and make-up team (with ON STAGE changes, in, literally, the blink of an eye) is probably moreso.

10 pound standing tickets

Passion Play by Peter Nichols

A really great show with a demanding concept...there are two versions of both lead roles. The character, and the character's inner voice. Sexy and compelling. Also with Zoe Wanamaker - who you may know as Cassandra, the last living human, in Doctor Who

1/2 price booth tickets. I think around 30 pounds.

Peter and Alice by John Logan

I'm guessing Judy Dench's final stage performance, what with her rapidly failing eyesight (pure supposition on my part). Regrettably, I was starting to get really sick when the show started (damn beef bourginon). Very talky and staid, and I found the direction rather too restrained, but you cannot fault the performances by Dame Dench and the really magnetic Ben Wishaw. CByrd found it beautiful and sad...crying by the end. Also neat because of Logan's Chicago connections.

10 pound day-of seats (matinee)

The Weir by Connor McPherson

Oh, my God, what a show. THE highlight of our theatre experiences. Great cast, with Brian Cox being simply, blindingly, magnificent. Dervla Kirwan (Miss Hartigan in "the Next Doctor") was also just....stunning. An incredibly, intimate, simple show. Felt like Chicago, in a way. 250 seat house, everyone was so close, but with some (probably unavoidable) poor sightlines. It's the first time we've seen a show by a non-profit company, with a season, and not a for-profit enterprise in a leased theatre, in London. Magic. 

7.50 pound day-of, standing, balcony seats. Then a couple waved us over, because they had two unused tickets and offered those seats to us.

I think this year was ALMOST as good as our first Treats/The Glass Menagerie/Equus/The 39 Steps year, but we spent so much less, and got into "completely sold out" (The Audience, Peter and Alice & The Weir) shows, by using the day seats offers, being willing to get up REALLY early to stand in line, and being willing, if need be, to stand in the theatre.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Stuck In My Head: I Ain't Ever Satisfied

I Ain't Ever Satisfied 
by Steve Earle

I was born by the railroad tracks
Well the train whistle wailed and i wailed right back
Well papa left mama when i was quite young
He said now "one of these days you're gonna follow me son"

I ain't ever satisfied
I ain't ever satisfied

Now i had me a woman she was my world
But i ran off with my back street girl
Now my back street woman could not be true
She left me standin' on the boulevard thinkin' bout you

I got an empty feeling deep inside
I'm going over to the other side

Last night i dreamed i made it to the promise land
I was standin' at the gate and i had the key in my hand
Saint peter said "come on in boy, you're finally home"
I said "no thanks pete, i'll just be moving along"