Wednesday, July 26, 2006

TV Talk: My Hero

My Hero can be seen on BBC America, as well as on some PBS stations. If you aren't lucky enough to catch it on either of those, I'll try to give you an idea of what it's like.

My Hero is a BBC television sitcom about an alien from another planet living on Earth with an Earth woman, and the wacky things that ensue...

...and pretty much there is where the parallels between My Hero and Mork and Mindy end.

The alien in My Hero is named George Sunday, but he's also the super-hero Thermoman, from the planet Altron. Altron sends their citizens to planets throughout the universe, armed with super-powers, in an attempt to help out all the civilized planets.

Thermoman's powers include super-strength, flight, various heat-related powers, super-breath, mind-reading, the ability to erase memories, cure people of alien diseases (by kissing them -- a side-effect of this is that if he does it too much, he transfers some of his powers to them), and a host of others that come into play as needed. The extent of his powers isn't really important... we know that he can fly fast enough that when he smells an emergency on the other side of the planet (yes, that's right, I said he smells emergencies) he can fly there fast enough to save the day.

George lives with Janet Dawkins in Northolt, England. Janet is a nurse at the Northolt Health Centre, and they met when Thermoman saved her from falling into the Grand Canyon. After this rescue, and she returns from her vacation, George relocates to Northolt to open a health food store and to pursue Janet. The two quickly fall in love, move in together, Janet becomes pregant with their first child, they marry (minutes before their son, Ollie, is born -- that pregnancy lasted about three weeks, I believe), and eventually they have a second child, a daughter named Cassie.

Janet's boss is Dr. Piers Crispin, a general practitioner who appears to be less interested in healing and curing people than he is with making it big in television. As the series begins, he's a regular feature on a morning news/talk show, but as the show progresses, he makes several attempts to get his own program.

Also working in Janet's office is Mrs. Raven, who is probably the most evil sitcom character in the world. She lives to make people suffer; she's cruel, rude, insulting, and considers her triplets to be the ultimate curse in her life.

Ollie, George and Janet's son, is able to speak from the moment he's born (actually, even before he's born), and displays several of George's powers right away, from flight to even being able to smell disasters. I've only seen one episode with Cassie, the second baby, but Wikipedia says she has the ability to see the future.

Other characters on the show are Janet's parents -- Mrs. Dawkins thinks Janet's made the biggest mistake of her life marrying George, and still hopes that she'll leave George and marry Dr. Crispin instead. Mr. Dawkins doesn't care that much for George himself, but I think he hates his wife even more!

George and Janet's neighbor in the flat across the hall is Tyler, who's a complete space case... I don't know if he's just psychotic (not dangerously so, though) or if he suffers from mental burnout from drug use. Tyler is one of the few people who knows George is Theroman, and refers to George as "Master." Tyler has several voices in his head, and thinks of them as individual people that only he sees. He's also certain that he's been abducted by aliens several times, that he has a cottage on another planet, and that Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future is real (well, he thinks most science fiction characters are real).

The only other person on Earth who knows George is Thermoman is George's cousin, Arnie, who used to be Earth's hero before George, Polarman, until he got his powers taken away for charging people to be rescued by him. When the series starts, Arnie's running a diner in New York City, but later has relocated to Las Vegas, running a casino/bar before moving to Northolt. Arnie and Mrs. Raven have a bit of a love affair going on.

Now, so far as the stories go... well, you rarely see Thermoman in action, aside from some flying around. Thermoman isn't involved with crime fighting at all, but is more focused on rescuing people from disasters.

Some of the regular gags in the show relate to how certain English words and names have completely different meanings on Altron, Tyler's talking about these adventures he supposedly had, and so forth.

It's really hard to try to get across in text here just why I enjoy watching this show so much... I suppose part of it is that it could well be the first real successful live-action superhero program in a long time, but really, it's that it's honestly funny!

If you want to read more about the show, I suggest reading the Wikipedia entry, which also has links to some other My Hero pages.

I was hoping to maybe find a YouTube clip to share here, but it appears I'm out of luck!


Monday, July 24, 2006

TV Talk: The Dog Whisperer

OK, this is probably coming way out of left field for regular readers of this blog... but I'm going to talk (briefly) about The Dog Whisperer, a show that's on the National Geographic channel (which you probably don't have unless you have digital cable or an expanded satellite feed). The show stars Cesar Milan, who's an expert on rehabilitating dogs and training their owners.

The show had been on in a half-hour format, but with this new season, it's expanded to an hour.

If you have a dog, no matter how well-behaved or well-trained it is, I highly recommend this show. Every episode, it seems Jessi and I learn something new from it that we can use with Krypto and KO on those rare occasions they seem out of our control.

The funny thing about it is, once Cesar explains what needs to be done by the owners of the dogs featured on the show, it all seems so obvious. The mistake they all make is they treat their dogs like humans, and don't take the pack leader role. Pretty much everything they need to do with their dogs has to do with that simple thing: Being pack leader.

It's way too easy for us to forget that our dogs are descended from wolves, and that any group of dogs that spends time together will form their own pack (Krypto and KO are part of a dog pack when we take them for their walks on the weekends, with fellow boxers Jaeger and Claude -- and they definitely behave like a pack, although which one is the Alpha seems to change sometimes from moment to moment!). Dogs need an authority figure, someone in charge, or they'll end up taking over.

For example: Let's say there's a dog that's scared of something in the household... like, say, the toaster (to use an example from an episode Jessi and I watched earlier). Most pet owners, when they see their dog is frightened of something, will give it attention, petting it and saying, "It's all right, it's okay."

While something like that works for human children, for a dog it just teaches them that this is the kind of behavior it needs to engage in to get affection.

So, when should you give your dog affection? When it does what you want it to. If it doesn't, you need to correct the behavior. If it's afraid of something, for example, leash the dog and hold it so it can't get away, and then bring whatever is scaring it to the dog, and expose it to that item, watching for any signs that the dog is reacting to it, and then giving it a correction, such as a slight jerk on the leash (Cesar also uses a "Sh!" quite often -- not yelling, but being authoritative).

As I said, watching the show is very educational... and it's defintely making me think it would be a good idea to track down his books to learn more!



So, any of my readers wondering how I'm doing, healthwise, eight days after having emergency gall bladder surgery?

The answer is: Remarkably well! My surgeon really did a fantastic job, and I'm nearly back to 100 percent. I've taken back the cooking chores here at Casa Knutson (I can call it that now, since Jessi and I are married), and today I went back to work.

Funny thing about going back to work, though... everyone was under the impression that I was only supposed to be going back for four hours today, no more! And therein lies a story of sorts.

Last week, on Wednesday or Thursday (I forget which day, but it doesn't matter), Jessi and I went into the office to see about rescheduling my vacation. While we were there, I told them I planned to be back to work on Monday (today), and Jessi mentioned that after her surgery, when she went back to work, she only did four hours before she had to go home.

Somehow, her mentioning that got everyone thinking I had doctor's orders not to put in a full day of work... so just to get them to stop asking me over and over why I was still there around five, I left work at 5:30, which was about an hour and a half early (the remaining time will go on my card as sick leave).

So, that's that story! Aren't you glad I shared?


Sunday, July 23, 2006

Superman Returns (and I finally saw it)

So, Jessi and I saw Superman Returns today... and here's what I thought about it (if you haven't seen it, be warned, Here There Be Spoilers...

Overall, it was a decent movie. I liked it, for the most part, and didn't feel like it was a complete let-down. Let me give you the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of it...

The Good:

The special effects were all top-notch. Visually, this movie had the kind of stuff that we've been wanting to see in a Superman movie, but never could... the flying, all the super-powers, the super-speed (they definitely took some pointers from Smallville for the super-speed -- there's a sequence where we went into what Smallville vans call "Clark Time" that looked fantastic -- as well as heat vision effects).

The casting for Perry White was dead-on perfect, so far as I'm concerned.

The sequence where Superman saves the Space Shuttle and the jetliner kicked major ass, and is my favorite part of the entire movie.

The Bad:

As many others have complained, there are too many parts where the movie just drags... as if it was padded to make it two and a half hours long. Why did we need a flashback sequence to when Clark Kent learned he could fly? While it looked cool, it was a complete waste of time. There's lots of other stuff that was also just dull, but fortunately, the extreme heat around here seems to have burnt those sequences out of my memory.

Brandon Routh, this movie's Superman, struck me as just plain odd. There were times he looked like Superman and Clark Kent come out of the comics pages, and other times when he just looked weird. Vocally, he did a great job, but visually, I don't think he carried himself quite right.

The whole Richard White and Jason subplot didn't work for me. I wonder if the writers realized that when Superman disappeared, Lois Lane ended up getting involved with (literally) a Rich White guy? In Superman: The Movie, Lois seemed to have zero interest in romance until Superman, and I could've easily bought that with Superman gone, she would've pursued her career full-force once again.

The actress who played Lois, Kate Bosworth, does not work as Lois to me. They needed a much stronger actress who could've played Lois as properly gutsy, IMHO. The gal from Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, for example, would've worked better as Lois for my tastes (sorry, her name escapes me now, and I can't be bothered to look it up).

The kid who plays Lois' son, Jason, has my vote for Creepiest Kid in a Movie 2006. He wasn't loveable, or even interesting. Jimmy Olsen was wasted in this movie, too -- and the actor who played him didn't really do much with what little he got, either.

Final casting gripe: Kevin Spacey could've set a new example for playing a comic book super-villain on the big screen... but honestly, he spends a lot of this movie channelling Gene Hackman's version. The scene where Lois and Jason are on his yacht, and he's taunting them, is more or less what I was hoping for Luthor through the entire thing... but that was the only real edge we got, at least until the scene where he stabs Supes with the Kryptonite dagger.

Final bad: Way, WAY, WAY too much referencing to Superman: The Movie, including lifting all kinds of dialogue from it.

The Ugly:

Jor-El wasn't smart enough to create a computer system that only his son could operate? You mean any schmoe could put the crystal in the right place to access all that information? Come on, not even a simple password? Then again, later in the movie, we find out that Lois' password to log in at the Daily Planet is "Superman," so apparently nobody was thinking very much about computer security when writing this.

So, after Lex has started growing his island (which I can't see anyone wanting to live on except for Goths and super-villains, because it's all black crystals, and it looks foreboding, nothing like the kind of land mass I could see anyone shelling out big bucks for), which is laced with Kryptonite, Superman lands on it and doesn't even realize he's in trouble? No wonder Lex yelled at him, "Didn't your father ever teach you to look before you leap?" I'm sure it's been five years since Superman was exposed to Green K, but I think if you're invulnerable except to one thing, you'd notice when you were getting ready to land on an entire island laced with the stuff!

And then, after being stabbed by Green K and beaten up and dropped off a cliff into water, Superman's rescued by Lois and Richard White, Lois pulls out the K-Dagger (but not all of it, as is evidenced by the later hospital scene), and Superman's able to just get up, fly over the clouds and bathe in the sun for a few minutes, and he's then recharged enough to grab that island out of the ground and fly it into space???

Just a few minutes to get back to normal after taking all that? Come on -- that's way too Birdman for me.

It's also never mentioned in the movie that the whole Superman leaving earth thing was a plot by Luthor to begin with -- that's in the comics adaptation (which, if you haven't purchased it yet, don't -- it's really awful).

Oh, yeah, and I still don't like the costume they used for this movie. The colors are wrong, the 3-D insignia looks weird, I hate that belt buckle, the cape looks leathery (and isn't attached to the suit correctly), the yellow shield on the cape is gone entirely... and the boots looked a bit goofy, too.

Sequel Possibilities?

Yeah, there's possibilities for the next Superman movie, if they make one. It could even tie in with this movie, if needs be.

My sequel would feature Brainiac, and I'd borrow his origin from the animated series... altered to fit the movie continuity. I would have Brainiac being the ultimate computer virus on Krypton, who smuggled itself into the starship as part of the crystal network (and would've provided access at the Fortress of Solitude to Luthor, explaining why Lex could access it). The Brainiac virus wrote itself to one of the crystals that Lex took, and which Kitty later dropped out of the helicopter.

Of course, that crystal's stuck in the water, and we haven't seen that these specific crystals can grow anything but Fortreses and Goth Islands, so we'll say it stayed at the bottom of the water, but after the whole situation in Superman Returns, some geologist wanted to get samples before Superman collected them all and destroyed them, and finds the Braniac crystal, not knowing what it was (nobody but Lex, Superman, Kitty, Lois and Richard -- and maybe Jason -- know what the crystals are used for) takes it home and uses his computer to try to scan it, which lets Brainiac upload itself into the system... and eventually is able to create a body for himself.

I'd have Brainiac act behind the scenes, not wanting to confront Superman directly. He avoids the use of Kryptonite in his immediate presence, because it causes problems with his neural network or something like that (which could be another reason he stayed inactive during Superman Returns). But acting behind the scenes, perhaps he could use the knowledge he has (which would include just about everything Jor-El sent with his son) to create some movie versions of classic Superman villains... say, Titano the Super-Ape, and Metallo. Maybe a few others. Brainiac wants to, of course, absorb all Earthly knowledge, but realizes that first, he'll have to take out Superman -- and concerned that Superman might be able to wipe him out if he confronts him directly, using his mutated and transformed minions might be the best way to do it.

Of course, we'd have to see how he intends to accomplish his goals, and determine if he wants to take over the Earth, or destroy it when he's done with it. And you know, I'm even thinking it could be cool if the geologist who finds the crystal was named Milton Fine, and after Brainiac's uploaded into Fine's computer, he causes a headpiece for Fine to wear that would let him directly operate his body that resembles the immediately pre-Crisis Brainiac's head.

Anyway, those are some of my thoughts... I may have more another night!


Brady Sunday

So, today (and probably yesterday, too), TV Land was showing a major Brady Bunch marathon... including a Top Ten Episodes list (and marathon) as well as a reunion show with the surviving cast members (which basically means everyone except Robert Reed, who passed away a while back -- oh, and the guy who played Cousin Oliver didn't show, either, so far as I can tell -- TV Land started running stuff late, so the last few minutes of the show were cut off of our DVR recording!).

I hadn't watched any of these episodes in a long, long time... my family were devoted Brady Bunch viewers, and I know we saw nearly all of them in their original network runs. Jessi, who also watched the Brady Bunch growing up, of course was too young (heck, she wasn't even born yet when the show started) to see them on the networks, so her memories are of watching them five days a week in syndication.

The shows we saw were more entertaining than I expected, to be honest... it's always a danger when watching shows you haven't seen since you were a kid, because sometimes you discover they were really, really bad -- you just lacked the proper perspective as a child to realize it back then. But you know, these weren't bad. They're certainly no more realistic than any other sitcom (the Brady parents were just too perfect -- they were always ready to believe their kids when they'd say they didn't do something, or wouldn't do it again... heck, when Greg has a ciggie, and his 'rents find out, they don't even punish him!).

Can I just say, though, that Maureen McCormick, who played Marsha (or was that Marcia? I never can remember which way it's spelled) was always a babe -- and still is today!


Viral Videos: Vanished

So, I don't know if any of you have seen promos for the upcoming TV series Vanished (to be honest, while I know I have, I'm not sure if the show's going to be on NBC or Fox -- got to be one of those, as I know they're about the only networks I watch, although there's a chance it could be CBS), but since I happened to mention Cold Case here the other day (the one show I watch on CBS), someone involved in a "Viral Video" (you know, those shared internet vids that get linked to and shared all over the place) emailed me with these two videos from Vanished he thought I'd like to share with my readers... so here they are!

Would I be willing to host more videos like these? It's entirely possible!