2007 may be the last year where we have a chance at some really great entertainment. 2008 looks to start strong, but with the WGA Strike, it's going to get thin fast. Almost all shows have ground to a halt, aside from a few that have cut deals or are back without writers. Dramas can't do that, as this bit called Murder: Unscripted, shows.
Some of my favorite bits came from the striking writers (and wouldn't that make for a great name for a group on Rock Band?) There was the above-mentioned skit, this piece by the writers of The Office, but the masters of snark over at The Daily Show did the best one of all.
If there's a theme to be found, it's of rediscovering what works.
Three of my favorite shows lost their way when they came back. Heroes, Battlestar Galactica and Lost got directionless, bloated and, well, lost a bit of their mojo.
Heroes had a great first episode, then dragged on and on with meandering plotlines about people that were not nearly as interesting as the gang in the first season. Things got back on track for a literal killer season finale. It was also good to see Sylar back on his game.
Battlestar Galactica followed this pattern: a strong start, a bangup finish, but a muddling middle of episodic entries that fell flat as often as they paid off. The end of the season, though, showed they knew what they were doing again, as proven by the ass-kicking fun that is Razor.
Lost: Love That Ben. Ben is charming, calculating, cunning, and one step ahead of everyone, Michael Emerson's performance outshines everyone else.
Even in shows that stayed solid, this theme of finding your way cropped up. Showtime's Dexter, about the serial killer who takes out crooks while working as a blood spatter expert, spent this season with Dexter as he came to terms with being a killer. His need to kill was equated to a drug addiction, and Dexter tried to cope with that, his nemesis, and an FBI manhunt. Dexter spent time not knowing which way was up until a finale that reformed the code, and has Dexter confident in his path once more.
Another show to follow this theme was Burn Notice. An action/comedy about a spy who gets fired mid-mission. Michael hooks up with his ex-girlfriend Fiona (Gabrielle Anwar), and a his buddy Sam (Bruce By-God Campbell). The three take on various A Team-style "helping the helpless" stories while Michael gets to the bottom of who burned him. It had MacGuyver-style spy tips. It had Bruce Campbell. Do I really need to say more?
Not everything followed this theme, however. Doctor Who had a great run this year, and I really like Martha Jones as a companion, even more than Rose. I loved the return of The Doctor's nemesis, The Master, who was even more of an anti-Doctor, having a companion of his own and a laser screwdriver. But the Who highlight was Time Crash. Crackling dialogue, and the return of Peter Davidson, celery and all. Did you donate to the children's charity yet?
The last best show on TV is Pushing Daisies, a sweet fairy tale of a show with macabre sprinkles. I love how it effortlessly slides from serious to funny, the random yet fitting musical numbers, the oddball humor and wordplay, brilliant performances and the narration, which reinforces the storybook essence of this piece of television gold.
The Best in Life: Music
We don't cover music too often here on RevSF, and that's a shame. There's a lot of great geek tunes out there. Voltare's new release Ooky Spooky escaped this year, and feels like a goth party in the midst of the Day of the Dead celebration. Standout songs include Zombie Prostitute, Bomb New Jersey, his first Star Wars filk Cantina (where you learn a rather unorthodox use of a lightsaber), and his great live show song Hell in a Handbasket.
The other great geek songs of the year for me were by Jonathan Coulton. Peggy's already coveredRe: Your Brains, so I'll mention his ending song for Valve Software's near-perfect game Portal, Still Alive, as sung by Ellen McLain, the voice of the mad computer GLaDOS:
The Best In Life: Movies
Two of my favorites have a lot of debate about them, which I like. Nothing like a geek-off to get the blood going.
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. More pirates, more swashbuckling, including one as they were caught in the maelstrom, and an ending that brings us full circle, much like every amusement park ride.
The other film I loved that seems to cause fights is 300. Sure, it's a rah-rah action piece, and you can debate its potential politics for hours, but for me, it was a balls to the wall action flick with great lines, visuals, and intense fights. I'm a sucker for stories where the hero dies a noble death. I indeed give thanks to Leonidas and the bold 300 for entertaining the hell out of me. HA-OOH!
I enjoyed Live Free or Die Hard, and Hot Fuzz. LFoDH had great lines from Willis and his buddy Long, Kevin Smith's cameo, and the first movie since the original Die Hard where it felt like, well, Die Hard.
Hot Fuzz, on the other hand, was another solid hit by Simon Pegg, Edgar Wright and Nick Frost. The movie sent up action movies while also being a great action movie.
Timothy Dalton was a slimy villain, and the shooting match against the town council was thrilling. It's not as good as Shaun of the Dead. But what is?
Three horror movies stood out: 30 Days of Night. Moody, a cut to the bone storyline that mercilessly and gorily killed off cast members on screen made this flick a winner. It made vampires scary again.
1408 deserves special mention as the best King adaptation in a long time that didn't have a prison in it.
Sweeney Todd. I was floored by how well Depp could sing, captivated by Helena Bonham Carter (as usual, she always pushes my buttons quite well) and Rickman once more took a small role and infused it with more character than most leading roles. It helped that Burton adapted someone else, which toned down his usual look which is going from distinctive to overdone for me. Sweeney dripped mood as well as lots of blood.
This leads me to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. A huge book that I just could not put down. I was very happy with the ending. Any book that makes me tear up over the death of a character I found annoying not once but twice is a success.
The Tree of Woe: When Does the Hurting Stop?
There was a good stuff this year, and there was just as much that went wrong.
Reaper. Had a standout first episode, then never reached that level again, sinking lower and lowerdespite Ray Wise's valiant efforts as the Devil.
Bionic Woman, however, didn't even start strong. The first episode was interesting, but I disliked Jamie Summers and her sister, while liking her boss Miguel Ferrer and Katee Sackhoff more. I wanted the Berkut Group to scrap Jamie and start over with Sackhoff.
The last stinker on TV is Moonlight. Here's a vampire show that wants to be all vampire shows to all people, and crams in every cliche inside the first three, then randomly decides which one to revisit each week.
At the movies the pain had a uniting theme: disappointing work from people that we know can do better.
Spider-Man 3 had a few great moments, but Venom was tacked on, Sandman did nothing, and Emo Parker annoyed me to no end. It's not that Spider-Man 3 is a horrible movie. It was a letdown after the awesomeness of the first two. They left me wanting more, and this one left me wanting less.
The next letdown was Rob Zombie's Halloween, which should have been gut-freezing levels of scary awesome, but instead felt like another retread of a much better story. There were glimmers in it that showed Zombie could make a great flick.
But he was too bogged down trying to "flesh out" Michael Myers, who doesn't really need any more fleshing, except for the flesh he puts pointy things in.
Blood & Chocolate was a soap opera werewolf story from the guys behind the Underworld flicks. Those two are fun diversions. Unlike this movie which drags, wimps out on the werewolf transformations, and uses montages in lieu of character development.
Grindhouse. Two powerhouse directors, doing a project based on cinema that inspired them. This movie proves you can't go home, or back to the drive-in, again. The fake trailers were cute, and so were the vintage opening credits, and "reel missing" bits. But you can't set out to make a cheap cult flick on purpose. It feels like a knockoff, no matter how much stunt casting you have or fake blood you spill. Like the other movies on this list, Grindhouse is a missed opportunity.
Dishonorable mention: Pathfinder How do you make a bad movie with Clancy Brown as a rampaging Viking?
Almost all of Squid Ink writer Gary Mitchel has ground to a halt.