Sunday, November 27, 2011

Family TV Time

Currently, the two best shows on television are Breaking Bad and Mad Men (although neither are this season, I still count them as the best shows on TV). One features a high school chemistry teacher turned meth cook, and the other deals with a 1960's New York advertising agency, complete with its debauchery, drinking and womanizing.

Neither are exactly family friendly.

So if you're looking for a little family tv time, something to get everyone around the tube and not only be safe for viewing by children but that would also inspire discussion, then the best place to look is DVD (or getting with the times, Blu-Ray). So what are the most family friendly shows available for rental or purchase?

1. Lost
One of the most Catholic and religious shows to come out in a long time, Lost was an example of ambitious storytelling, excellent character development and plot twists. Seasons 1 and 3 are nearly flawless in their epic scope, but that doesn't take away from the other seasons (6 total). There is imagery (including baptism), thematic elements (faith and reason is the main theme of the whole show, as well as destiny vs. free will).

There is virtually no sex, which is rare for a network show, and there is no swearing. The violence is minimal and is never glamorous. The bottom line is that you never have to worry about your children watching this show.

Just prepared to get hooked from the beginning and you will miss it when it's over.

2. Friday Night Lights
Often written off as another campy teenage high school show, FNL is anything but. Sure, there are high school relationships, the show maintains a lot of the problems that high schoolers have and in the first couple seasons, can blow these out of proportion. But what high school student doesn't think that his inability to speak with girls is the worst thing that will possibly happen to him?

Being a high school drama, there is instances of sex and references to sex, and unfortunately with the society we live in, that is come to be expected. But there is no gratuitous scenes (it is an NBC show after all), and that is never the focus of an episode or show.

Coach Eric Taylor actually gives one of most positive role models on television, probably of all time. He is dedicated to his players, he helps them and makes them winners (in life and in football, because cheese is sometimes a good thing), and he is also a wonderful husband and father. Coach and Mrs. Coach offer the best marriage on television, love and respect, disagreements and resolution, compromise and care. If you want to catch a glimpse of the best marriage on television, as well as an excellent football show, give Friday Night Lights a shot.

3. Battlestar Galactica (with an asterisk)
I am placing an asterisk next to this because this is by far the most mature of the shows on this list. In the first few episodes, Gaius Baltar simulates sex with at times a real Cylon and at times an imaginary one. There are few instances of this, but they do exist. But they also exist for a purpose, and there is never any nudity involved.

The topics that will come up from this series could last an entire month by themselves. It follows the travels of the final 47,000 people in the galaxy after the colonies have been nuked by the evil Cylons. Abortion, politics, terrorism, freedom, love, justice, everything is discussed and presented.

Similar to Lost, one of Galactica's main themes is monotheism vs. polytheism. Religion and faith play a central role in the flesh and blood humans and the robotic Cylons. Both of them have reasons for believing in what they do, and both argue with each other.

4. Firefly
Do you like science fiction? Do you like westerns? Have you ever wanted to see what would happen if the two were combined into one? Well then do we have the show for you!

Created by Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel) and starring Nathan Fillion, Firefly only lasted 1 season comprised of 13 episodes, but each episode will leave you wanting more, and when those 13 episodes are done, there is a movie to give you somewhat closure and whet your appetite for more (Serenity).

It really is a wonderful show, and while lacking the religious themes of Lost or Galactica, its approaches to humanity and loyalty are unraveled, and when you're done, you will put Malcolm Reynolds in your top 5 characters.

But most importantly, there is rarely sex, the violence is never over the top, and there is no swearing (it aired on Fox, who is the reason for its demise, and you will express anger at them when you are done watching the short season).

Your family will enjoy this without a doubt, and children of all ages will consider themselves lucky to be able to view such a wonderful project.

5. The Simpsons
Given a bad rap for years because of the backtalking Bart, the first 10 years are unrivaled in their brilliance, wit and imagination. The stories are clever and one of the best forms of satire available in a relatively available medium.

Are there instances of crassness and crudeness? Sure. But what show doesn't have these nowadays? That's an unfortunate side effect of society, but give the first 4 or 5 seasons a chance, parents, teenagers, young adults will all be watching and laughing.

Besides, there is the constant that drives the show. Homer loves Marge and Marge loves Homer. The whole Simpsons family is based on their love and understanding, and the hijinks are caused by one of them trying to either impress the other or participate in their children's lives.

It really is a wonderful achievement in storytelling and one that should not be ignored because of the stupidity of the last 10 years or so.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

REVIEW: Once Upon a Time

ABC - Sunday 7 pm

A show with more potential than any other network offering, Once Upon a Time suffers from the pilot blues, with poor acting, poor dialogue, and at times missed opportunities.

1. Does it entertain me?
At times, yes it did. I have watched the first 3 episodes, and I am slowly getting into the story as a whole. The pilot is such a mess and features one of the worst acting performances in television history by Josh Dallas' Prince Charming. The dialogue tries to sound grand and epic, but they fail miserably. I actually don't know why, but I'm guessing it's because the actors don't have the acting chops to deliver that and still be taken seriously.

However, after the pilot things do pick up at least. Lost writers Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis borrow heavily from Lost's way of doing things and work flashbacks into the main story, flipping between the real world and the fairy tale world.

See, this is the way the universe of Once Upon a Time works: There was a fairy tale world, where all our favorite characters live and breathe and interact. Then the Evil Queen puts a spell on the world, and they are all transferred to Storybrooke, Maine, where each character lives as a regular person with a regular job. They don't know they were once great fairy tale characters, though. They just think they are regular people. Jimminy Cricket is a therapist. Snow White a teacher. The Evil Queen the mayor. And so on and so forth.

The daughter of Snow White is now destined to break the spell, so she has been brought here to get the job done.

It's exciting to find out who each real world character is, and what fairy tale they were once a part of. The show toys with many variations of this one theme, and this does at least make the show watchable.

The big problem is that this is the best part of the show. Seeing the fairytale world is fun, but the real world gets boring. The characters aren't strong enough and the writing isn't good enough to last as anything more than escapist fun, which is fine. But the potential is there to rise above a simple fantasy show.

2. Is it realistic?
Sure, who doesn't want to believe that Gepetto works at Home Depot? I see guys who look like him all the time.

The rules all make sense, characters behave like stupid people most of the time, but that's easy to chalk up to the fact that they were once one of the 7 dwarves.

The bottom line is that I haven't wanted to kill off any of the characters yet, but Prince Charming needs to watch himself.

3. Are immoral actions defended?
The Evil Queen killed her father to take his heart in order to enact the Curse of 1,000 Horrible Deaths or something like that, but you know what? She's the Evil Queen! That's what evil queens do. So I'm going to allow that to happen.

This is a fairytale world, and like comic books, fairy tales are usually pretty good about showing things that are black and white good and bad.

This is also a family show, marketed as a family show, and there are very few reasons to think of it otherwise.

4. How does the show deal with the family and traditional family values?
Family values appear to be upheld as well. Emma, Snow White's daughter, did have a child and is not married, and we don't meet the father (yet), that she gave up for adoption (the child, not the father. That one would be weird). The mayor (once the Evil Queen) adopted said child, which makes for sparks flying and "You haven't been around for 10 years in this boy's life, I don't care if you gave birth to him, I raised him so I am his father" kinda things. But that's all fine and dandy.

No one else in the town seems to have children, although there are lots of children running around the school, so at some point, various fairy tale characters must have procreated (come on, we were all hoping Robin Hood and Maid Marian would have kiddos).
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Overall, the question with Once Upon a Time that remains is is this show going to get better? Is it going to get past "what fairy tale character is that?" as the most important and most intriguing aspect of the show? If it can do that, then it could rise above a lot of the mediocre dregs on television (and even farther above the crappy dregs (cough Whitney cough)) on television.

At least Horowitz and Kitsis get credit for using 108 as house number.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival 11/6/11

This is a new feature on this blog, moved over from RAnn's site. This is like the Sunday edition of the paper, bigger, full of ads, and most importantly, more expensive. Possibly.

But no crossword puzzle.

Yet.

Or Get Fuzzy.

Only one post here recently, teaching has been getting in the way of my TV watching. I still need to get reviews of Once Upon a Time and Grimm up, both series that need work but have potential if they can find their footing.

Head on over here to read my take on Breaking Bad's season finale, and most importantly, the morality of Walter White.