Halloween Scene: Scream Season One (2015)

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I didn’t think much of the announcement that Scream would continue as an MTV series. I’m not as big a fan of the first movie as I thought I was and even if I was I could always go back and watch that. I’m not the kind of person who gets bent out of shape about the mere existence of remakes and reboots.

But, I was curious to see if this new version of Scream was any good, so I watched the first episode on On Demand a few episodes into the season and was instantly hooked. This wasn’t necessarily groundbreaking entertainment, but it had plenty of mystery, surprisingly gory kills and a cast of characters I actually found myself liking (partially because many of them reminded me of older actors I already like).

The basic plot of the show is that high school student Emma finds herself in the middle of a series of murders that lead to plenty of discovers about her friends and family members. Like any good slasher, you’re not quite sure who to trust because the show is packed with shifty characters with something to hide. As the 10 episodes progress, names start falling off the suspect list — mostly because they get killed — but you’re still not quite sure who it could be or why (though I did figure it out about three episodes before the finale or so).

One of the more interesting aspects of the show is that it unfolds fairly naturally. Instead of front-loading everything with the kind of information you don’t necessarily need right off the bat (like that Brooke and Jake actually have an interesting and complicated relationship that goes back years), those details are revealed as needed. In a world where horror movies feel the need to info dump like crazy in the first 20 minutes, this was a nice change. Relationships and their intricacies should be revealed over time, not all at once for the audience’s absorption.

I should probably note at this point that the only horror shows I’ve ever watched with any consistency are Tales From The Crypt as a kid and Dexter. Overall, I enjoyed the experience and, even though I agreed with the kid who looks like a Topher Grace clone that a slasher probably couldn’t sustain a show, I was impressed with the engine driving the series. scream the series cast

So, what about the finale reveal of the killer’s identity? I have to say that I called it a few episodes out from the end. Let’s call this SPOILER TERRITORY, though I won’t say specifically who was involved. Based on what I’d seen, I was fairly certain that none of the kids were slicing up the townspeople because of what we’d seen and the way they acted (unless the writers decided to cheat the ending, which I was a bit worried about). Because of that, I assumed the bad guy was probably one of the older characters, but even that list continued getting narrowed down.

Want to hear some of the more outlandish theories that popped into my head? At one point I wondered if the sheriff was actually Brandon James. At another, I wondered if the mom was actually testing Emma to see if she was worthy of their weird family. There was also one about the roguish, often-disappearing Kieran, maybe that he was also the son of Brandon James, but that would have made everything with Emma ultra weird.

All in all I’ve had a great time watching this new take on Scream. I liked the films when they first came out, but never fell hard for them like I did earlier franchises or even Final Destination, but there’s plenty of building blocks to work with (masked killer, voice changer, unknown killer(s?), teen antics) to play with and make something brand new. I’m not sure if I want to fill my viewing time up with horror shows — it can be a lot watching hours and hours of murders/investigations/scares instead of just 90 minutes — but  I enjoyed this experience and will be back next season to see what happens.

Great In ’88 – A Few Memories Of The Year’s Top Pop Hits

I’m wrapping up this week looking back at 1988 with a few videos from that year that I have fond memories of. This was several years before I really got into music, but I was still of the world and hearing the pop hits of the day. I didn’t watch MTV back then, but I think there was a video show on Nickelodeon or maybe USA that catered to kid-friendly pop. I intended to write about an album from this year that I came to later in life like Jane’s Addiction’s Nothing’s Shocking or Public Enemy’s It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back, but I’m not sure if I’ve absorbed either album enough to really write about them.

Back when I was 5, I didn’t know who George Harrison was. Heck, I probably didn’t even know who The Beatles were, but I knew that I liked “Got My Mind Set On You.” From doing the tiniest bit of research possible, I’ve discovered something else I didn’t know, this song was a cover. Harrison recorded in for his 1987 album Cloud Nine, but it wound up being the third most popular song on the Billboard Hot 100 the following year. I also had no idea that there were two versions of the video, the one above set in an arcade and the one below which finds everything coming alive in Harrison’s study like a far more lighthearted version of Evil Dead. It’s the latter I remember from being a kid.

The 45-year-old Harrison became an MTV star years after being in the biggest band the world has ever seen, which is pretty impressive. I specifically remember seeing this video while out visiting people with my Grandma in Cleveland. I’m sure I’d seen the video before or at least heard the song, but we were in a place that my memory tells me was like a huge log cabin house, but people lived there, people with teenaged children, so MTV was on. This was one of the videos playing…

And, as it happens, George Michael’s “Faith” was one of the others. That song was the number one most popular song that year, which makes sense ’cause it’s super catchy. The single helped Michael push Wham even further in the rear-view mirror and  transformed him into the “bad boy” sex symbol he would be know as for a decade or so.

When it came to the late 80s pop war between Debbie Gibson and Tiffany, my allegiances firmly lied with the latter. “I Think We’re Alone Now” is just impossible to beat. But that jam came out in ’87 and Tiff’s big hit of this year was “Could’ve Been” which is okay, but not as fun as Debbie’s “Shake Your Love.” The Billboard charts don’t agree with me, though, as Tiffany’s track clocked in at the 8 spot for the year while Gibson’s was at 22. Unlike the other videos on the list, I don’t remember this one was well, but that song was EVERYWHERE.

Finally, you can’t talk about the late 80s without talking about Guns N’ Roses’ “Sweet Child O’ Mine” off of Appetite For Destruction from the previous year. I eventually picked this record up at a used CD store in the late 90s, but even a decade later it hadn’t lost it’s punch and power. I try not to play “What if?” too often, but I can’t help wondering what this band could have evolved into had they kept the wheels on the bus (and their sanity) to make a prolonged go at it.

Listening to these songs and watching the videos was a huge trip down memory lane. Some of the things I wrote about in this week’s review of 1988 were familiar to me then like the Transformers toy commercial and playing Mario 2, but most were things I came to much later like Animal Man, Green Arrow, Not Of This Earth and Bloodsport. It’s kind of nice to end with some tunes like this that I remember so vividly from that year.

Live Blogging The Challenge Battle Of The Seasons Episode 6

Howdy gang, sorry about the delay in getting this post up, I took my notes even though I didn’t plan on it and wound up getting busy with other stuff, so the post didn’t go up. Anyway, I found myself thinking much less of a few people I used to like before this season, specifically Frank and Alton. Frank comes off as a total dick this episode. He’s playing the game so hard that it’s almost painful to watch. Dude thinks he’s super crafty too which doesn’t seem to be the case. He just lucked out and happens to be on a season packed with people who don’t know what they’re doing. Put him on a season with Johnny, Kenny and Evan and he’s nothing. Case closed. I dislike Alton because I really don’t know what his game is. He basically asked to be thrown in and was going to screw over one of his female teammates by quitting in the Arena, but then didn’t. What’s he doing? I mostly don’t even care anymore.

The challenge this episode was pretty funny and I’m glad it was played straight for the most part, but I keep thinking that, if your most interesting challenges involve hitting people with fish and trivia, then you don’t have much of a season. I wonder how this season is doing ratings-wise because it’s pretty boring. There’s always got to be a wave of new viewers who were big fans of the recent Real World season though. It does look like the rest of the season is going to be pretty explosive. Dustin looks like he’s going to get into a number of fights along with everyone else. These kids don’t seem to know how to turn the game off. The obvious Rookies vs. Vets follow-up to this season should be pretty damn intersting though.

Continue reading Live Blogging The Challenge Battle Of The Seasons Episode 6

The Return Of Beavis & Butt-head

Two things in the early 90s changed the face of pop culture as far as I knew it: rap and Beavis & Butt-head. Interestingly enough, both lead my parents to ban me from watching MTV as it was the source for both. I still did though. Not all the time and not for either of these two cultural revolutions, but mostly to watch Real World and rock videos. I wasn’t really interested in either movement. At the time, I didn’t understand gangsta rap, where it was coming from, what the MCs were trying to say or what it all meant. Plus, those dudes were pretty scary to 10 year old kid from the suburbs. On the other hand, Beavis and Butt-head just seemed stupid. The animation was weird, they sounded like idiots and I didn’t want to watch cartoons comment on music videos.

Whatever my personal views on Mike Judge’s animated series were at the time, though, you can not deny its influence. I went to a fairly small Catholic grade school (K-8 for you people who went to middle school and junior high) with about 60 kids per grade split between two classes and even we had a pocket of kids who almost instantly started talking like Beavis and Butt-head. That “huh-huh, huh-huh” and impressions of their voices spread even further amongst my fellow students. I’m sure I joined in too because fitting in was important, but I wasn’t a fan.

If memory serves, those B&B mimics kept with the voice and attitude of their animated heroes all the way through eight grade. I hung out with them for most of that year, though I was definitely a sideline member of the group both because I was newer and because I wasn’t really a bad kid at heart. I was just disillusioned. My point here is that the show was incredibly influential for at least a few years (it ran from 1993-1997), but I wonder if it will have the same kind of impact with today’s kids. Seems to me that you can see pretty much anything the animated Beavis and Butt-head did on YouTube but with real people.

I have caught an episode since they returned to MTV and you know what? It was really damn funny. When I was younger, I didn’t get that maybe, just maybe the people behind the show were offering the two leads up as clowns for us all to laugh at. They were never meant to be role models, even if that’s what they became to some. I had a similar realization while listening to Alice Coopers’s 2000 record Brutal Planet and it’s 2001 follow up Dragontown. Some of the tracks on those unfortunately overlooked albums are from the perspective of bad people doing bad things, but I realized that, as the singer, Alice Cooper was being sarcastic or presenting one side of an opinion or issue in such a way to get you to think about it from a new angle. I don’t know if I’d put that much emphasis on something like Beavis and Butt-head, but when the show was originally on, I wasn’t developed enough as a viewer to understand that the things being said by the characters might not be the opinions of the authors. It’s a lot like watching It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. Those characters do awful, atrocious things and the humor isn’t always in the act, but in how blasse they are about their own lack of morality. Maybe kids today will actually get that aspect of Beavis and Butt-head better than my classmates did.

Put The Tape In The VCR: Guns n Roses at VMAs 2002

It’s old man time. Here goes. Back in my day, we didn’t have your fancy DVR rto record our favorite programs. We had to sit around with a blank video tape and hit record at just the right time to capture our shows or important events. I was a big fan of my VCR using it to record and keep my favorite shows like Buffy, Batman Beyond and Daria, but also various cartoons and music events. I was pretty organized, even going so far as to have many different blanks and black hard shell cases for storage. One of the last times my parents visited they brought some boxes which included a bunch of those tapes. I tossed the Buffy and Batman Beyond ones because I either have or want to get those on DVD. I also threw out a tape filled with band performances and videos I wish I had kept. But I did keep a second music tape which I spent all day going through and then after that whole time decided to copy the tape onto DVD.

Anyway, I figured it would be fun to reminisce about some of the things I taped thanks to the glory of YouTube. Of all the things I saw (and there’s a LOT on there) this clip of the ridiculous 2002 Guns n Roses lineup on MTV’s Video Music Awards not only gave me the idea for the recurring title (thanks to host Jimmy Fallon) but also seemed like a good place to start. I’d never really been a big Guns n Roses fan, but like everyone else my age I have Appetite For Destruction and was pretty excited when I heard that this Chinese Democracy might be coming out soon with a kind of supergroup fronted by Axel Rose. So, when I saw this…I was surprised. Buckethead is rad, but just look at this mish mash of people. It looks ridiculous. But, hey, maybe the album would be good…five years later. I never checked it out, but I did see Buckethead live at the first Bonnaroo which was cool.

My Life As Liz Offers Lame Take On Comics

Anyone who watches as embarrassing an amount of MTV as I do at 26-almost-27 has seen the commercials for their new faux reality show My Life As Liz. It’s about this “nerdy” girl named Liz who hangs out with real nerds (LARPers, ya’ll), complains about the blonde popular girls, looks like the girl from Paramore and pines for a dude named Bryson (worst name ever? It’s certainly up there). Anyway, I finally got around to watching an episode and wasn’t very impressed. The episode I saw had Liz going back and forth about trying out for the talent show even though the popular girls always win!

Aside from feeling really flat and one-note (aren’t the emo girls supposed to be to smart or cool to be bothered by bitchy blondes? Have Avril Lavign videos taught us nothing?!), there were some incredibly stupid comments made about comic books that peeved me off. Also, real quick, Daria was way better and I found that annoying when I watched it recently, so take that as you will.  Okay, so the offending comments? Liz, in the beginning of the episode when she’s complaining about the mean girls says something along the lines of: “That’s why I like comic books, everything’s black and white, good and evil and the good guy always wins.” Ugh. Not only has this exact same line been spouted off in tons of movies and TV shows for years isn’t what bugs me, but the fact that it doesn’t really reflect modern comic books. Even when the good guys win, there’s always something else going on. I guess you could read them that way, but it would ignore the complexity of storytelling involved in a lot of comics.

I sound like such a dork don’t I? I guess it bugs me because they could have easily not tried to co-opt an outdated view of comics in the show and just gone with something else describing good and bad. But they had to go and talk smack about comics and I can’t have that. Especially since I have this blog and can voice my opinion to more people than just my cat. Oh, also, here’s the superhero she pictured herself as.

RIP Ken Ober 1957-2009

While watching tonight’s episode of The Ruins, I saw a commercial from MTV informing me that Ken Ober, the host of Remote Control, passed away. Usually these things don’t hit me hard, but this was like getting a punch in the gut. I loved watching Remote Control as a kid. This was before my parents didn’t want me watching videos of guys disrespecting women (which was probably happening back then anyway, but who knows). I even bought the NES game in college because I liked it so much. Tonight, I’m drinking an extra gin and sour mix for you Ken.

Here’s a clip from the first episode.

Josie and the Pussycats: The Movie!

I know there’s been a lot of talk about Josie and the Pussycats (2001) on the internet lately (well, Jim mentioned the soundtrack over on Enemy of Peanuts and also watched it last night at the same time I was and Kiel‘s been telling me to watch it for years). Well I finally checked it out and it was definitely surprising.

Did you fall for the hook? I hope so, because I loved this movie way more than I thought I would. Sure, I love Can’t Hardly Wait, which was written and directed by the same team as Josie (Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont), but this is a movie based on an Archie comic. That would seem to limit the comedic potential, right?

Fortunately no. First of all, I was surprised with how many “bitches” and “shits” we got at the end of the movie, but nowhere near as much as in the beginning when Tara Reid’s character causes a car crash by holding up a sign that, at first glance, reads “Honk if you love pussy.” She pulls the sign out from behind something to reveal that it actually says “pussycats,” but I was still surprised that joke made it into the movie. You always hear horror stories about really funny ideas being nixed because parent companies are worried about how it’ll make their property look. Apparently Archie Comics is pretty cool, or just weren’t paying attention.

The basic plot is that Alan Cumming (who I thought was Paul Reubens at first, sorry Alan) is a manager for a big record company looking for a new band to replace with the boy band whose plane he let crash (code “Put the Chevy to the levy”). He stumbles across Josie and the Pussycats and signs them, but it later turns out that Parker Posey, who runs the record company, has been encrypting subliminal messages in the music for various reasons. It’s a really goofy plot, exactly the kind you’d expect for a movie like this, but there are enough winks to the audience and tongues in cheek to let you in on the joke that the writers are making fun of movies just like this. It’s oddly subversive.

In honor of the marketing-to-kids theme/satirization, the filmmakers do quite a few things that I liked. First off, anytime the Pussycats are out in public, everyone else is where the “it” color of the moment (starting with pink, then orange and on and on). I noticed it before it was explained (the record company is controlling fashion and slang though these impressionable kids with tons of disposable income, as explained by Eugene Levy playing himself in a filmstrip), which made the reveal all the more satisfying. There’s also enough product placement to make Michael Bay jealous. According to IMDb, they didn’t actually receive any money for all the shout-outs as they were, again, there to show how crazy intense the marketing towards kids can be.

Josie also works as a strange kind of time capsule. TRL and Carson Daly play a somewhat important role in the movie. Daly and Reid have some screen time together and, as anyone who’s anyone will remember, they dated for some time (though I couldn’t remember when that happened or when they broke up, which made the scene both funny and awkward, like watching episodes of Newleyweds after Nick and Jessica got divorced). We also get glimpses of Behind the Music (a show they should really bring back along with Pop Up Video) and Serena Altschul of MTV News fame. If you were a way-too-avid watched of MTV in the late 90s, you’ll remember Serena, if not, she’ll just be another face on the screen, but man, that was a fun little flashback.

Lastly, I’ve got to talk about the cast. First up, you’ve got the Pussycats played by the aforementioned Reid, Rachel Leigh Cook (what is she doing nowadays?) and Rosario Dawson (I had no idea she was in this until the credits rolled). They’re all very serviceable in their roles, but they’re significantly outshined in my opinion by the members of Du Jour, the boy band (another 90s flashback now that I think about it) from the beginning of the movie consisting of Breckin Meyer, Seth Green Donald Faison and a guy named Alexander Martin who played the foreign exchange student in Can’t Hardly Wait. Now CHW fans will remember that Faison and Meyer played two members of the band at the party. I’d like to think that they ditched the other two guys, grabbed Green’s Kenny, taught the foreign kid to speak English and blew up on the boy band scene. These guys are hilarious from the very first moment they’re on screen to their inevitable plane crash.

After a quick look at the Robot Chicken IMDb page, I wonder if this is where Green met Meyer and Cook, both of whom who have regularly contributed voices along with tons of other late 90s “teen” actors. Maybe they can get a good script together and give us a new movie with all those familiar faces dealing with being in their late 20s/early 30s. I could go for that, how about you guys?

What I’m Thankful For: The Real World

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My name is TJ and I am, in fact, a Real World-aholic. It feels good to admit it in public, but, to be honest, I have no problem talking about my problem. I’ve been a fan of the Real World for a long time now, which doesn’t necessarily vindicate me, but it might explain some things. 1996’s season in Miami really sticks out in my memory. I would have been 13 or 14 at the time. The funny thing is that, in the early 90s, my parents sat me down and told me they didn’t want me watching MTV because of shows like Beavis and Butthead and rap videos objectifying women.

I followed that rule for a while, but eventually started watching MTV after school and whenever I’d stay up late. The funny thing is that I never liked B&B and I really didn’t like rap at the time (and I’m still playing catch up today). But the show that really caught my attention was The Real World. I have a basic knowledge of the seasons before Miami (I’ve probably seen most of them in reruns by now), but Miami was the first one that really grabbed my attention, partly because of theaforementioned inclusion of Wilstorm Editor Sarah Becker. But the whole cast really intrigued me. These were the kinds of people I didn’t experience in my everyday life and it was really cool to see them all together and trying to start a business (which, if memory serves, never took off).

Real Worlds Boston and Seattle were also pretty big deals at the time and probably the last seasons where they didn’t stunt cast as much as they do today. I remember talking to my friend Shannon on the phone in high school for hours and one of the big topics of conversation was always the Real World. She was the first person I talked on the phone with for more then two minutes. I don’t know why that’s important, but it’s fun.

After that things started getting crazy with all the drama of Hawaii, then New Orleans and heading back to New York for the tenth anniversary. That was one of the first things in pop culture that actually made me feel old because I actually remembered ten years of something on TV. Of course now I know it to be just the first of many events to make me feel old.

I don’t remember much about Chicago by name except for the fact that two guys I would go on to know in college, Jeff and Pat got their way onto the show, though I didn’t know them when the episode aired and haven’t seen it since. As I’ve heard the story, they found out where the show was while they were filming and actually set up a lemonade stand outside the house. Eventually they got noticed by the housemates and made their way onto the show! My friends tell me that you can actually see them in the background of an episode that I would love to see.

After Chicago was the game changing Las Vegas which I remember watching every week in Jacob’s room in college. It’s weird how such a debaucherous show could bring people together (he was in my wedding party). By this time I wasn’t talking to Shannon about every episode anymore, but Jacob filled that space pretty well. You know a season’s gonna be crazy when there’s practically a threesome on the first episode. Jacob (who was a year older) and I would watch the next few seasons together until he graduated.

After that things definitely get fuzzy and I have to refer to the Wikipedia page just to remember who was in what cast, but I was also equally enamored with the Real World/Road Rules Challenges which would pit casts from the two shows against each other in games of a physical nature. I was also a Road Rules fan until they decided to take a Survivor approach and kick people off. “Why become more like the show that’s trying to steal your original concept?” I thought. Anyway, I appreciated how they’d schedule Real World seasons to follow Road Rules and vice versa and then once Road Rules tanked for whatever reason they’d fill in with the various challenges.

After college I spent a few months at home where I worked most mornings at Barry’s Bagel Place at Westgate and most nights at the Chad/Chad/Toth house (I really miss that place) watching whatever was on MTV (I regret to say that that included The Hills along with the less embarassing Real World and Challenges.

Luckily, when I moved out here to New York I found a kindred Real World spirit in Rickey, who shared my love of how ridiculous the show had become. You see, back when I was a kid I actually wanted to be on the show and now I’ve reached the peak age at which I could make it onto the show (a realization that struck me a lot harder than it should have). In three months I’ll be too old. Depressing. But after a while, that desire to be one of them transformed into an amazement at how self obsessed some people can be as well as a kind of character study. Sure the inclusion of camera will change how people act, but Real World definitely offers the budding writer (which I still consider myself, until I hit the top of that age limit as well) a great look at some truly interesting characters. But, let’s be clear, I don’t want to sound all literary and whatnot, I do like watching people get drunk and make bad decisions. It’s the same part of me that liked watching Jerry Springer when I was younger.

Anyway, Rickey and I stayed pretty well caught up, though I did fall of the wagon for a season until he told me how awesome it was and I caught up with episodes online (I wish every season was available online, I’d watch the crap out of that). Since then I’ve been watching every season and challenge as they come out.

What I like about the challenges is that you get to see these characters that you got pretty close to in previous seasons. To me they’re real people but also just characters on a TV show and seeing them all together on another show is like seeing a cool comic book team-up where you get to see a group of characters you never thought you’d get to see again.

Like I said above, I do have a problem and I accept that. I’ve known for a while that my love for the Real World and it’s bastard offspring is somewhat unnatural, but it really hit home yesterday when I realized that there wouldn’t be any new shows this weekend as The Island (the latest challenged) aired it’s last episode two weeks ago and it’s reunion show last week. I guess I’ve just got to wait until the new season hits which features a cast in Brooklyn. How crazy is it that I’ve been living this close to a Real World house and not set up a lemonade stand yet? Hmm, maybe there’s still time. What do you say Rickey? Interested?