Tag Archive for television

Watch: Santa Clarita Diet

If you enjoy horror or dark comedy, then you need to check out Santa Clarita Diet on Netflix.

I shotgunned the whole first season in an evening. The best part is each episode is about a half hour long, so the show moves along quickly and doesn’t get bogged down in back story, dramatic dialog, or lingering shots of scenery to create atmosphere.

The plot is fun. Even if you’re tired of zombies, Santa Clarita Diet brings its own spin to the table. And while it’s definitely a comedy, it’s not a rehash of Shawn of the Dead, either. It’s very much focused on how a boring suburban family—including a soccer mom, an aging dad who has lost his cool, and a bored, rebellious teenager—copes with a major, bizarre change in their lifestyle after mom has to eat people now.

Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant play well off one another, and the supporting cast is a lot of fun. The writing is sharp and witty, and the plot teases out just enough back story over the course of the season to keep the audience interested. Nor do the writers make the viewers suffer through an “information dump” episode. There are a few instances the writers appear to set up a trope from horror or zombie flicks, only to take it in a different direction.

Even better, the characters actually grow and change. The first episode dives right in without wasting time on setup. The stakes are raised for the characters throughout the season, both in terms of the family’s relationship and the dangers of their circumstances. While I feel the characters are archetypes reflecting the humorous side of the series, they still evolve with each new challenge.

I’m ready for season two. Bring it on.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

American Horror Story

This Fall has been insane, but I’m finally getting some breathing room. I reclaimed some time to catch up with some television, and when I found out American Horror Story Season 1 made it to Netflix, I put it near the top of the queue.

I’ve heard a lot of back and forth about the show, but a number of people I trust have really enjoyed it and they sold me on it. It’s also a rare beast: a successful, episodic horror television show on a network which will allow it to play to its strengths and earn an audience rather than strip itself down to appeal to anyone too lazy to change the channel from the previous show.

In the first season, a family purchases a house in Los Angeles. The couple’s marriage is on shaky ground, their daughter has become rebellious and distant, and now the house they’re hoping to establish their last chance in is haunted. So far, fairly standard horror fare, right? Maybe even a bit cliché.

Yet this is where the show shines. No, the haunted house story isn’t new, nor are a number of the tropes sprinkled throughout the season. Rather than trying to surprise us, I think the creators concentrated instead on making these tropes their own. They told a good story with characters I cared about, and I enjoyed the pacing of the show and the way they gave us a little more back story at the beginning of each episode.

In short, they sucked me in. Maybe not on the level I enjoy Justified or Sons of Anarchy, but enough I wanted to know what happens next.

Alexandra Breckenridge as Moira

And then there was this.

My only beef, in fact, came into play during the season finale. I didn’t dislike the way it ended, but I felt a significant portion of the episode lost the tone of the season. Instead of the constant dread and suspense we were treated to all along, it became fifteen to twenty minutes of black comedy. It made sense for the ending they chose (and the episode did climax on a dark note), but I felt like they may have given the audience the ending they wanted instead of the ending the show may have earned or deserved.

Of course, I have a bias toward a good downer ending. Your mileage may vary.

In the end, I give it a solid four out of five stars. Far better than I expected. Unless you’re a hardcore horror snob, I say give it a shot. If you’re a Netflix or Amazon Prime subscriber, it’s already waiting for you to click. (And no commercials! Bliss.)

I’m also glad to hear Season 2 is starting over with a whole new story. Carrying on the first season would have been a mistake, as the problem with tropes like a haunted house is it doesn’t take long to milk them dry. Season 2, I understand, deals with alien conspiracies, and that should also fit nicely within the confines of a single season without wearing thin (*cough*X-Files*cough*). My biggest decision will be whether to wait until it’s on Netflix or rent it through Amazon when time permits.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Summer Revisited

I found this quick picture buried in my email. My son and I went to a Cubs game over the summer, and because of where we sat, we ended up on TV quite a bit. My mother-in-law snapped this shot of her TV.

My son and I on TV

Our 15 seconds of fame

Yeah, I blogged about it before. But it still surprises me how my seat ended up on TV so often.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

The New Face of Television

Best Buy is dumping analog televisions effective immediately in anticipation of television going all HD in 2009. I say good for them, because it’s pointless for anyone to purchase an analog television that’s only going to be watchable for a year and a half. They’ll also be stocking the idiotic bail-out coupons the gov conjured up to facilitate America’s transition from the old, sagging electric tit to the shiny new high-def tit.

I’d give the FCC a thumbs-up on this, too, but a while back Jon Torres sent me an article where the FCC is discussing putting disclaimer crawls across the bottom of the screen whenever there’s an incident of product placement. In other words, if a character on TV drinks a Pepsi, you may get a message across the bottom of the screen informing you this may be an advertisement.

Between that and their current censorship of the airwaves, they can go pound sand.

Unfortunately the Writers Guild of America, West supports the proposal:

“We believe that, in order to protect viewers, there has to be disclosure that adequately reveals product integration. The FCC should require a crawl to run at the bottom of the screen during the integration that would identify the product, its promoter, and the fact that the writers and actors do not personally endorse the product’s use,” stated WGAW President Verrone.

Verrone further explained that: “This form of disclosure would be no more intrusive than the warnings broadcast on pharmaceutical ads or the distracting promotions for what’s coming on next that are commonly seen in the lower part of the TV screen.”

He can go pound sand, too. No more intrusive than what we see now? What, the ad crawls as they are now aren’t bad enough? They cover captions, they distract from what’s happening on screen, and the persistent ones can cause burn-in in some sets.

Here’s a thought: how about we put the disclaimers in the credits, where they belong? Thanks, Mr. Verrone, for assuming I’m so stupid I can’t spot a blatant product placement when I see one, and that I’m going to automatically start chugging Pepsi because I happened to see Hiro Nakamura down a can in Heroes.

What a dick.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.