Bogner’s TV Guide No. 20

It’s been eight years since Lost first hit our screens. If you haven’t seen the all-time classic series by now, it’s probably because you’ve seen what it did to your Lost-obsessed friends. Still it’s not too late to do yourself a service and at least check out the epic pilot, but for now you can follow David Bogner through this six year “vacation” on a deserted tropical island.

When on September 22, 2004 the first episode was screened for on ABC, its creator Jeffrey Jacob – J. J. – Abrams was already a made man. He had co-created Felicity, a highly acclaimed college drama which – personal note here – I’d been watching in 2001 as the attacks of September 11th were going down, and Alias, a secret agent show with Jennifer Garner. While both of these shows were highly successful, it was clear that after seeing the mind blowing pilot of Lost in which Oceanic Airlines Flight 815 loses control and crash lands on a seemingly deserted island in the middle of the ocean, that was this show which was going to be much, much more than your average TV hit.

The Story

Lost exists in a mysterious universe with a highly elaborate mythology and a shitload of recurring themes. It also deals with fundamental questions of life and death – Hardly what you’d consider ‘light-viewing’. In spite of that, the premise is actually quite simple: a plane crashes on an island and the survivors try their best not to lose hope over a very desperate situation. They need to take care of injuries, build shelter, collect food etc. Every character has their purpose and – more importantly – their own story which is explored through flashbacks showing their life before the crash, with each episode being dedicated to one or a pair of characters.

This would have presented an interesting narrative arc for any drama or a sitcom, but the island which flight 815 crashed on isn’t just any island. And it most definitely isn’t deserted.

The Mythology

Literally Everything in Lost has a meaning. It starts with the names of the characters which reference philosophers and scientists (John Locke, Rousseau, David Hume, Mikahil Bakunin, Minkowski, this list is practically endless), and ‘The Numbers’ – 4, 8, 15, 16, 23 and 42 – which appear enigmatically throughout the show. Oh, and it doesn’t shy away from dealing with the eternal conflict between good and evil. However, arguably the greatest device used in Lost was when it crossed over into the real world (or at least what I like to consider the real world – the internet). Oceanic Airlines and the DHARMA Initiative (watch the show and you’ll understand) had their own websites; recruiting videos were spread online and there were even phone numbers to be found where you could reach the mailbox of some Lost character. As if the show wasn’t eerie enough on its own, being able to interact with the show’s universe made it all feel that much more real. You’d start to see Lost in everything, all the time – if I happened to make the mistake of catching a glimpse of the clock at 8:15 or 23:42, it would all but guarantee a totally sleepless night.

The Influences

J.J. Abrams and his co-creators only stole from the best. They took elements from the novel Lord of the Flies, were partly inspired by aspects of Gilligan’s Island, and the mysterious tones of the first couple of seasons could find their roots in the classic computer game Myst. In the later seasons, there are undoubtedly elements from The Book and even some Goethe present.

Lost ran for six seasons across 121 episodes. The season finale aired on May 23, 2010 and was highly anticipated all over the world. Of course, most viewers were disappointed since it’s hard for a writer to avoid losing track of a few foreshadowed events or subplot lines over such a high number of episodes. An ending that didn’t tie up anywhere near enough of the loose ends unravelled over the course of the show left some of even the most devoted fans fuming. Why? Lost had become a sort of religion for them, and not getting all the answers led to a collective and crazed collapsing of faith. After all, that’s perhaps the best description for Lost: a religious experience. And really, what would religion be if it gave you all the answers?

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Bogner’s TV Guide No. 19

After last week’s episode and what is sure to be another amazing season finale airing this Thursday, we don’t need the Emmys to tell us that Louie is without a doubt the greatest comedy on TV. It may even be the greatest show ever. Follow David Bogner through the last season.

A few weeks ago I told you about the upcoming third season of Louie, a semi-autobiographical masterpiece created by the red haired, balding genius Louis C.K. for FX. Back then I came up with a short introduction to the work of C.K., a stand up comedian with Hungarian roots who believes in masturbation as much as he does self-marketing. This may or may not have compelled you to watch the last season of Louie, but either way, I was so blown away by the power and emotional impact of last week’s episode that I felt the urge to do another post on the topic. Especially, since Louis C.K. won the Emmy on Sunday night for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series, but didn’t get the one for best acting (Charlie Harper – seriously??) and directing (instead Modern Family won). To give you an idea how desperately wrong this decision was, imagine Martin Scorsese never winning an Oscar or Usain Bolt not winning Olympic gold in the 100 meters.

The third season of Louie is exceptional in so many ways, and you need to find a way to watch it immediately after reading this in case you haven’t done so yet. I promise you, you will be on the verge of tears both from laughter and because you care for this character so much and want to see him succeed so badly. Even king of the unsolicited opinion Bret Easton Ellis gives it the thumbs up.

It’s only fair to say that all seasons so far have been great, but while season one and two were more stand up comedy oriented with the shows signature beginning set at the Comedy Cellar in Manhattan, season three changed the formula by having episodes with no stand-up at all. And, despite the initial skepticism, those episodes turned out to be some of the best 20 minutes in TV history. Take “Miami” for example, the episode in which Louie has booked for a few shows at a hotel in Miami and becomes friends with a lifeguard who thinks he saved Louie’s life. With all its absurd comedic elements and funny misunderstandings I still believe I haven’t seen a more heartwarming story on TV ever before. The episode also succeeds in boiling the difficulties of male friendship down to an essence and makes passing fun of men’s fear of homosexuality.

Everything else aside, it’s the writing and – of course – Louis C.K. himself that make the show so exceptional. Another episode I will never forget was the one in which Louie had to face his father but all along the way got constantly sick from fear and anticipation. It’s C.K.’s ability to take dead serious problems from everyday life (like how to deal with your parents after you’ve been avoiding them for years) and alchemise them into comedic art that makes you laugh. Even when making use of stylistic devices like exaggeration and straight up Dadaism you can still relate to everything he does. An example is when he decides to run instead of meeting his father and doesn’t stop to catch his breath until he is far, far away.

http://youtu.be/KpnWlpLrsDk

No “Brother Louie” intro in the last two episodes – sad.

If I wasn’t already convinced of Louie’s dominance in the TV comedy arena, the last two episodes that aired left absolutely no room for doubt. In the interest of your own viewing pleasure, it would do well not to spoil to much, but I can assure you: I’ve never ever rooted more for a character than I did for Louie in these past two episodes. And if you still aren’t convinced (what is wrong with you?) David Lynch makes cameos in all these episodes, but Louie still manages to steal the show. What are you waiting for? Watch it!

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Bogner’s TV Guide No. 17

While last week’s Guide was all about getting into another round of well-established shows, now it’s time to take a look at the newcomers. Find out which network is going to burn a shitload of cash by betting on the wrong horse and who will come up with the next Breaking Bad. The following shows are not necessarily the best, but they will be the ones everybody’s going to be talking about this fall.

 

Elementary

Is this modern-day-Sherlock-Holmes-in-New York show really one of the promising candidates? Hard to say, because the trailer looks a bit overzealous. But Elementary is definitely among the shows to check out this fall. Especially since Benedict Cumberbatch (who plays Holmes in the modern day BBC version Sherlock, which is exceptional by the way) heavily criticized the decision of CBS to cast Johnny Lee Miller as their Sherlock (though he later took everything back and claimed that he was misquoted ). Lucy Liu is going to play Dr. Watson, by the way. Plenty of reasons to take a look at it.

Elementary premieres on September 27 on CBS.

Revolution

J.J. Abrams is the magic word when it comes to Revolution, a show set in a near future where militias rule a world without electricity. Abrams acts as a producer, which is kind of a bad sign—after creating such milestones of TV history as Lost, Alias and Fringe, the shows he produced (Person of Interest and Alcatraz) were all terrible. Will Revolution be a Cormac McCarthy-inspired masterpiece or just a overproduced, softened waste of time? We’ll find out soon enough.

Revolution premieres on September 17 on NBC.

Nashville

Not a big country fan, but I wasn’t into women’s boxing either and Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby blew me away. So I guess as long as the script is well written and the actors are great, a story can be set anywhere. In this case, the outlook is quite exciting: the show is about a fading country music legend (played by Connie Britton) who has to compete with her teen rival, and it might be this seasons biggest hit.

Nashville premieres on October 10 on AMC.

The Mindy Project

I know, I know. Who the heck needs quirky Mindy Kaling from The Office when we’ve got quirky Liz Lemon coming back with another season of 30 Rock with an alleged guest appearance from Bill Clinton? On the other hand, the trailer doesn’t look too bad, Mindy Kaling is quite fun on twitter and I really wanted to include a new comedy show to the list. The alternative to The Mindy Project would have been Ben and Kate, but nobody seriously wants to see that.

The Mindy Project premieres September 25 on FOX.

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Bogner’s TV Guide No. 15

Workaholics was last season’s best comedy – period. I have to admit that my effusive appraisal for the show has been overdue since season three ended four weeks ago, but with so many season finales and comebacks to document, something’s got to give.

Now’s the time to redress that imbalance: Workaholics is a dead stupid, juvenile and shameless stoner comedy which makes it something of a love or hate affair. I obviously fall into the former camp, with nothing but crazy admiration for a show written by its three main leads, Blake Anderson, Adam DeVine and Anders Holm. They more or less play themselves by the way.

As the story is quite simple (three stoner college buddies share a house together, work at the same telemarketing company and end up doing all kinds of stupid shit) allow me to present two reasons why you should be convinced of its greatness … Or not:

1. Tyler the Creator and Taco Bennett were on the show
This happened last September during the first episode of Season Two, ‘Heist School’. Not that guest appearances are something special per se – every other show has tried to beef itself up with the help of movie stars or famous singers since the beginning of television. Still, there’s a difference between Vonda Shepard singing a song in a bar during Ally McBeal and Tyler the Creator and Taco sitting on the roof shooting a paintball gun. That, to quote a certain 90s movie, “ain’t the same fuckin’ ballpark, it ain’t the same league, it ain’t even the same fuckin’ sport”. In this year’s season The Black Keys made a cameo appearance, too.

2. ‘The Lord’s Force’
This episode perfectly sums up what Workaholics is about, both good and bad. At the beginning of the show, the three dudes are smoking weed and watching YouTube videos when they come across an ad for ‘The Lord’s Force’, a bible-inspired show with biblical superhero figures like Samson. In their baked state they get so drawn into it that they decide they want to watch the spectacle in real life. Bam, we’re barely two minutes and we’ve got a funny and absurd premise almost everyone can relate to. When they do meet the stars they find out that they’re a gay couple. Cue grappling with some thorny issues: the absurdity of religion in general and Christianity particularly, but also the main protagonists’ own fear of homosexuality which acts as a set up to some very good jokes.

Okay, so you could argue that this isn’t the way to deal with serious issues such as homophobia, but in my opinion, as the way the world stands now, it kind of is. Blake, Adam and Anders aren’t nefarious members of the Westboro Baptist Church, they are just three guys who have to overcome their own insecurities. In the spectacular ending they do just that because, well, they always do. And the message Workaholics leaves us with is as humanistic as it is simple: be true to yourself.

 

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Bogner’s TV Guide No. 13

The United States of America is a great country: the Declaration of Independence, the first man on the moon, a black president, and that whole kicking Hitler’s ass thing are good enough reasons to get misty-eyed when looking across the pond. However, for my generation (and especially for my column) it’s American pop culture that shapes our perception of the Land of Liberty. For example, when I think of Seattle, it’s Kurt Cobain and grunge that comes to my mind. Woody Allen and Paul Auster and the Wu Tang Clan showed me New York. Los Angeles is the city of Michael Mann. DJ Screw and OG Ron C tell me about Texas. Detroit, the Motor City, was once all about Underground Resistance and techno until Eminem showed up. Finally, Chicago’s been the city of organized crime ever since I saw Brian De Palma’s 1987 crime epic The Untouchables.

Robert De Niro delivered a brilliant performance as legendary gang leader Al Capone, but it was Sean Connery’s wholehearted and honorable officer Jimmy Malone that snatched the Oscar for Best Supporting Role. Looking back, it’s pretty much the same role Gary Oldman played in Nolan’s Batman Trilogy – maybe a hint of what’s to come for the 2013 Oscars? Capone, as his name already indicates, was the son of Italian immigrants, originally born in Brooklyn, NY. He moved to Chicago in his early twenties chasing business opportunities. During Prohibition this mostly meant smuggling alcohol from Canada into the States, but also involved other flourishing rackets like prostitution and bribery. At the age of 26, Capone was already a very powerful man and controlled most of the Chicago underworld. The sort of bloody stories that have come out of his rise to power have fascinated the public for decades – but Capone has another side too, which does more to solidify his mythical status than the countless crimes he committed: ol’ Scarface donated large amounts of his money to various charities, becoming a man who was loved by some as much as he was feared by others. And, of course, his imprisonment in the then-newly built maximum security facility Alcatraz (a part of American pop culture in its own right) did the rest to ensure his place in history.

After The Untouchables, it was 24 years before another program would focus on Chicago crime. Without any information on casting, and with just a single screen shot preceding it in 2011, US premium cable station Starz ordered eight episodes of Boss on the strength of the script. Iranian-American writer Rarhard Safina weaved a tale of power and crime in the 21st century, seemingly much smoother than in the 1920s, but upon closer inspection, disarmingly similar. The main character of the show is Tom Kane, the mayor of Chicago and chief string-puller of the city, exerting influence on everything from labor unions to transport, waste disposal to education. However, the mayor is also suffering from a degenerative neurological disorder, which makes it hard to keep his position of power, and on top of it all, there’s an election looming. Aside from the story, one of the great assets of the show is Kelsey Grammer who embodies this character on the edge of insanity in a brilliant performance, for which he was awarded the Golden Globe for Best Actor.

After eight episodes, Tom Kane managed to avoid having to resign from office, but to find out at what cost, you’ll have to watch the first season yourself. Also, there’s good news: even though the ratings have hardly been spectacular, Boss has been renewed. Season 2 starts – yeah – this week.

 

Photo: Press

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