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.

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?