Thursday, November 30, 2017

RIP Jim Nabors

Actor and singer Jim Nabors passed away, he was 87.

This time of year has always made me think of Jim Nabors.  Yes, my very early years were filled with memories of Gomer Pyle, either on Andy Griffith or his own show, a highlight of those shows for me and my family was those occasions when Jim Nabors would sing, and sometimes in the Christmas holiday season he would sing on various variety shows and specials as well.

One particular Christmas season I remember helping my big brother put up the outside Christmas lights and decorations after he had bought our Mom Jim Nabors’ Christmas album.  I can still remember his version of “Go Tell It on the Mountain” as we put up the lights.  It’s a good memory, and one I miss very much here in Florida where we barely get a chill in December. 

I have later memories of Jim Nabors, like his slapstick robot role with Ruth Buzzi on Sid and Marty Krofft’s “The Lost Saucer” and his coming out and finally marriage to his lover of many years.  Jim Nabors will be missed. 

Friday, November 24, 2017

Arrow S06 E07: Thanksgiving

In the lull between the two-part Deathstroke backdoor pilot and the big crossover this year (Barry and Iris’ wedding/Crisis on Earth-X) we’re getting a quiet little holiday episode.  And if you believe that, I bet you’ll also believe Oliver won’t be suiting up as the Green Arrow again.  Villains are on the march this Thanksgiving, and only Team Arrow can stop them. 

As we open on Oliver doing charity work and opening ground on the new police headquarters, and of course as always dodging claims that he is actually the Green Arrow.  Before the real action starts, I am stunned that reporters are still pulling at the secret identity thread.  Has no one noticed the juicier stories of the on again/off again girlfriend, the suddenly appearing son, and a sister in a coma?  Seems to me there are other stories to report. 

Regardless the ceremony is broken by the very public arrest by FBI agent Samanda Watson for his crimes as the Green Arrow. She seems to have it all worked out, including that John Diggle is now the Green Arrow and Roy Harper was The Hood, all under Oliver’s directives.  From the previews and the opening sequences, it’s all too easy to see what will happen here. Multiple attacks by villains, principally Cayden James and the Black Siren, will convince Watson that the Green Arrow is needed. 

With Oliver under heavy watch and Diggle’s drug problems blowing up in everyone’s face, this is not a good Thanksgiving.  Felicity is feeling left out as it’s Curtis that put their company’s prototype in Diggle’s system.  It would seem that Felicity only has leadership skills when the writers want her to. We do see an intriguing consistency with Oliver however, he’s a better leader out of costume than in costume.  Does the Green Arrow costume itself lower the wearer’s IQ?

We get some interesting name drops and returns this episode.  Jean Loring, who in the comics was Ray Palmer’s wife and later Eclipso, is Oliver’s lawyer once again.  The Sunderland Corporation is one of the places raided by the Black Siren.  Sunderland in the comics is a typical evil corporation with ties to Lex Luthor, Doctor Moon, and the Floronic Man that has run afoul of the Swamp Thing on several occasions, among others. 

And then there’s Billy Joel, what the hell was that about?  We also got a few moments with poor forgotten Thea who miraculously woke up in time for the ending of the episode.  The whole plan of the villains was to get a one on one conversation between Cayden James and Oliver, to let him know this vendetta was for his son Owen, and to get video footage to sway the vigilante vote. 

As always, like a tradition, the pre-crossover episode has represented a temporary tying of loose ends, a leveling of the field, and this year is no different.  I just wish it was.  This show is always better when it’s not predictable.

For my other reviews of the entire "Arrow" series, click here. And if you'd like to discuss this episode, anything else in the Arrowverse, or anything in the Marvel or DC television or cinematic universes, please join the Marvel DC Movies TV group on Facebook.

Next: Crisis on Earth-X!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

RIP David Cassidy

After a frightening few days, actor/musician/songwriter David Cassidy has passed away at the age of 67. We have lost more than a couple folks in the last few days, but this one has hit me the hardest, perhaps because he was such a part of my childhood.

Mel Tillis was more of someone I heard about than heard from, most as a joke on "The Tonight Show;" Della Reese was a great talent, but other than "Touched by an Angel," I was for the most part unfamiliar with her; Charles Manson haunted the recesses of my formative years, was legend if nothing else, and if I'm being honest, Steve Railsback's portrayal of him in the TV movie Helter Skelter was far more frightening than the real thing I saw cavorting in his cell on Tom Snyder's "Tomorrow;" and Malcolm Young of AC/DC was a great loss, but let's be honest, the band's golden age was decades ago, and that's coming from a fan. But David Cassidy, this one resounded with me.

David Cassidy was Friday night after "The Brady Bunch." And although I preferred the Bradys over "The Partridge Family," the latter was much cooler, much hipper, and more real to me. Perhaps I remember hearing somewhere that they were real, or based on real people (I know now it was the Cowsills), but the Family, their bus, and especially David Cassidy's Keith Partridge, were all way cooler than the Bradys. When David's little brother came along later, I liked him, but still remember thinking David was cooler.

One of my favorite underrated and lost TV series featured David Cassidy as an undercover cop in high school and was a backdoor pilot and spin-off from "Police Story." The premise of cop in high school worked better the first few episodes then fizzled out, but I still remember the oddly titled "David Cassidy: Man Undercover" fondly. It was the godfather of "21 Jump Street," and to this day I think it was better.

Later I discovered his music, both solo and with what passed for the Partridge Family on vinyl, the nerd in me loved his role of Mirror Master in the original 1990 "The Flash" TV series, and I still enjoy his daughter Katie on "Arrow" as both the Black Canary, and now the Black Siren.

David Cassidy was a star of TV, stage, and music, and will be missed.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Torso, Justice League, and the Russian Avengers

Confession time.  I hadn’t thought about this in years, decades really, but it came up recently in a Twitter conversation with friend and fellow Biff Bam Popper Tim Murr.  He’d just seen the 1973 pre-slasher era horror classic Torso and I’d mentioned I’d seen it in its initial run, when I was ten.  I wasn’t a bad kid really I wasn’t, but let’s face it, I was that night.

On what might seem like a dare, but was more like a don’t be a body part Trump thinks he can grab without permission, three other boys in my class and I sneaked out after nine during the summer and watched Torso at the drive-in with no sound from the woods near the screen.  My siblings are probably shocked right now, and my parents both passed would have kicked my butt majorly if they’d known, but yeah, I did it.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Arrow S06 E06: Promises Kept

This episode continues the presumed Deathstroke back door pilot, a character whose sudden popularity can thank the Justice League movie.  Of course one has to wonder if a pilot is really in the offing as the Suicide Squad movie also killed similar plans here on “Arrow” leading to the death of Deadshot and scrapping of more than a subtle cameo by Harley Quinn.  All that said, I can’t imagine anyone but Manu Bennett in the role of Deathstroke the Terminator.

Previously we had seen Deathstroke recruit Oliver Queen to help him rescue his son Joe from terrorists in Kasnia called the Jackals.  We were left with an intriguing cliffhanger when Joe turns out not to be the metahuman Jericho as in the comics but instead a chip off the treacherous block, one of, if not leading, the Jackals.  Father and son make nice while Oliver hides in the shadows.  Slade tries to send Oliver home, but we all know that ain't happening.

Meanwhile back in Star City, Team Arrow is up against a criminal known as the Dragon.  There’s a bit of trickery and playing fast and loose with the source material here.  Ricardo Diaz Sr., played by great heavy actor Kirk Acevedo, is not only the Dragon, but also the guy supplying John with his enhancement drugs.  Not only that he’s stealing tech for a 3-D printer to make designer drugs.  A good student of Oliver’s, John of course says nothing. 

There is another comics connection here with another Ricardo Diaz AKA Richard Dragon.  Co-created by Denny O’Neil in one of his long-lost novels, martial artist Richard Dragon was brought to DC Comics and utilized as first a super martial arts hero with his own comic, and then later, like Wildcat, as one of those heroes who trained other heroes.  Among his students in the comics are The Question, Black Canary, the Huntress, Batman, Robin, and Green Arrow.  In the New 52 however, the character has become a Green Arrow villain, son of the original Richard Dragon, and claiming to have killed that man after being trained by him. 

Our flashbacks are to the ASIS, the Australian Secret Intelligence Agency, where Joe and his father are training after Deathstroke is found off the Philippine coast after his season ending clash with Oliver a few years back, seven in show time.  We see Shado, or more accurately the mirakuru ghost of Shado, goading Slade into destroying Oliver Queen, in a nice connect-the-dots sequence filling in his backstory. 

As with last time, I am unimpressed by Deathstroke’s story, and if he does get a series, if it’s anything like this, Manu Bennett or not, I’ll probably watch it as I hate-watched “Marvel’s The Inhumans,” with one eye open and a finger on the Fast Forward button. 

For my other reviews of the entire "Arrow" series, click here. And if you'd like to discuss this episode, anything else in the Arrowverse, or anything in the Marvel or DC television or cinematic universes, please join the Marvel DC Movies TV group on Facebook.

Next: Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 10, 2017

Arrow S06 E05: Deathstroke Returns

When Deathstroke returned last season I wondered aloud if a spin-off was in the wind.  Certainly there’s been more effort to spotlight the character on “Arrow” than the other two spin-offs, one successful (“The Flash”) and one aborted (“Suicide Squad”) in favor of a movie.  Here again in this episode, it seems they’re trying again. 

Thematically this season with Oliver abandoning his Green Arrow identity to make more time for his son William, he has much in common with Slade Wilson who is searching for his lost son.  In the comics, Slade’s son Joseph was the New Teen Titan known as Jericho, a deaf hero who not only had the ability to possess people by eye contact, but also frequently fought against his father with the Titans.  With a Teen Titans TV series in production, one wonders how much, if any, of that will translate to “Arrow.”

Considering that Joe has changed his name to Kane Wolfman (Nice homage to his co-creator Marv Wolfman) and Slade has been tracking him around the world, I’m guessing it won’t.  Kane has also gone into the ‘intelligence’ business and has wound up a prisoner in Kasnia, a fictional nation of tumultuous leadership that has turned up time and again in the DC Animated Universe, once even being ruled over by Vandal Savage.  Slade needs Oliver’s help to save his son. 

If this is a backdoor pilot for a Deathstroke, it’s a poor one.  Despite the title of this episode I was bored.  The B-plot back in Star City was far more interesting and compelling, if predictable, even with the dark matter twist.  Anyway, we get some bad espionage that reminded me of some of the more boring Bratva episodes of last season, followed by Deathstroke going all Punisher on the generic bad guys before being confronted by his son, the new leader of the Jackals.  Slade will get another chance to prove himself show worthy next episode. 

We actually open however on the councilwoman, who is pushing for vigilante legislation, being targeted by a sniper.  Based on the ‘previously on Arrow’ catch-up showing Vigilante, and realizing, hey, he’s still at large, it’s obviously him.  Prometheus made us forget all about this weak subplot that by all intentions should have been Adrian Chase. 

In a clash with Black Canary, where her sonic cry shattered Vigilante’s visor, he took off his mask and she got a good look at him.  He’s Vincent Sobol, her old partner, whose face looks like he somehow survived that gunshot to the head.  That of course is his metahuman ability, some sort of regeneration, possibly coupled with brain damage or derangement.  Either way it looks like he’ll be hanging around a bit, forgotten subplot or not. 

Samanda Watson continues to question and investigate.  She is either playing dumb of she’s figured out exactly who everyone on Team Arrow is.  If nothing else, shouldn’t have found that all these folks all hang out at the same abandoned warehouse at all hours of the day?  And how is it the FBI can’t cooperate with say, the DEO or ARGUS on this investigation?  She’d have all the answers, and a cease and desist as well by now. 

Our ‘flashback island’ this episode is thirteen years ago, in New Zealand, as Slade tries to balance his secret life with a camping trip with son Joe.  The analogy to Oliver and William painfully obvious and my back hurts from being hammered only moments in.  I did find it intriguing that Slade calls his son ‘kid’ just like he does Oliver.  Too bad he probably also traumatized his son for life, but we’ll see for sure next time.

I found it interesting that Felicity mentioned attending Iris West’s bachelorette party over on “The Flash,” but there’s no reason given why Oliver didn’t attend Barry’s bachelor party, nor is it even acknowledged.  I know Oliver can be a real stick in the mud and funless at times, but could it be he wasn’t invited?  Would Barry choose party crasher Ralph Dibny over Oliver? 

Another nice bit was Nylander calling Slade the Terminator.  Interesting sidenote, Deathstroke the Terminator was originally the villain’s full name until some James Cameron flick called The Terminator came out and DC Comics toned down its use of that term.  We also get another piece of the puzzle of what happened on Lian Yu in last season’s cliffhanger.  John says to Felicity that Slade left them in the island. 

For my other reviews of the entire "Arrow" series, click here. And if you'd like to discuss this episode, anything else in the Arrowverse, or anything in the Marvel or DC television or cinematic universes, please join the Marvel DC Movies TV group on Facebook.

Next: Promises Kept!

Friday, November 03, 2017

Arrow S06 E04: Reversal

With the help of performance enhancing drugs John Diggle is in the Green Arrow gear while Oliver spends time with his son and hides from the FBI investigating the possibility that he is Green Arrow.  How long can this ruse be kept up as the Black Siren attacks again, and the looming threat of the return of Cayden James?  We’ll see in this episode of “Arrow.”

I have to wonder what the endgame is with Black Siren.  What did the showrunners really have in mind when they killed Katie Cassidy’s version of the Black Canary?  Was it always planned she would come back as a villain?  Did the actress herself want this?  This is episode four of the sixth season and I think Black Siren has had as much screen time if not more than some of the regulars.  Is she the new Malcolm Merlyn?  The bad guy who’s always there in the background? 

We open on a date night with Oliver and Felicity, the former really taking advantage of his free time to spend with his son.  The date feels like at best foreplay and at worst to show the role reversal (like the episode title) between Oliver and Felicity when she gets called to Team Arrow and he doesn’t.  One wonders how long Oliver can put up with this.  Will it take John crashing and burning?  I hope not. 

Here’s the gist, the guy who’s ordering the Black Siren around is Cayden James, the super hacker I predicted would be this season’s big bad, and he’s now in the villain game.  Enter Alena, the hacktivist from Helix who groomed Felicity last season.  She of course shows up in Felicity’s apartment looking for help against James.  Apparently his time in ARGUS’ custody turns him into a master villain and he’s planning on wiping out 4% of the world’s population.  And in case you think that’s not a lot - it’s 300 million people.  What else can Felicity do?

Reversal is indeed the name of the game.  Oliver interferes with Felicity and Alena’s mission to find a tech dealer named Amnesiac, just like old times, but in this case Felicity is the hero and Oliver the one who needs to stay safe, of course on the other hand, if Felicity, playing very much the Oliver role, had shared resources and knowledge with Team Arrow, neither would be flying blind against their foes. 

Arclight seems to be the name of Cayden James’ plan to take down the internet.  The conceit is that there’s a vault that physically holds the internet.  No, seriously.  That’s where the final fight, physical and cyberspatial, takes place, with surprisingly Oliver in the Overwatch position.  I wonder if the FBI is watching.  With the internet saved, James’ plan, still vague, seems a bit clearer.  He only wanted Felicity to take down the firewall so he could upload something sinister.  Riiiight. 

I love that Curtis is an Olicity shipper, and also the Corto Maltese name drop.  I have to say that John looks very awkward carrying the crossbow weapon, but it’s a little better on his back.  We saw neither William nor Samanda this episode despite their presence leaning heavily on events here.  We also get a name a mission statement for Felicity and Curtis’ startup - Helix Dynamics.  How long before they start creating metahumans

For my other reviews of the entire "Arrow" series, click here. And if you'd like to discuss this episode, anything else in the Arrowverse, or anything in the Marvel or DC television or cinematic universes, please join the Marvel DC Movies TV group on Facebook.

Next: Deathstroke returns in the aptly titled “Deathstroke Returns!”

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

31 Days of Horror at Biff Bam Pop!

If you've been to the Biff Bam Pop! website, you know that other than the regular pop culture features, we're all big horror fans there. As always, special for the month of October, and culminating today on Halloween is 31 Days of Horror.

31 Days of Horror takes a look at the past and present in horror movies, television, horror television, horror comics, and even horror animation.

This year we had guest blogger Monica S. Kuebler write about Midnight Son; Loretta Sisco gave us a peek at her Halloween playlist, as well as her regular column, True Crime Corner, and her reviews of the television series Outlander; and Robin Renee gave us a tour of Halloween Haunt at Kings Dominion.

Newcomer to the site from over at the late great Popshifter, but terrific writer and whirlwind of terror, Tim Murr gave us looks at Red Christmas, Halloween III, the brilliant Psycho documentary 78/52, Pumpkinhead, Mike Thorn's Darkest Hours, and the latest album by Werewolves in Siberia, as well as his music column Let Us Now Praise Noise. Also from Popshifter, and a terrific comics reviewer, E.A. Henson brought us Alien Toilet Monsters and the seven essential Halloween specials you MUST WATCH this year.

As well as her awesome column Creations of Chaos, about animation and anime films, Sarah Hawkins-Miduski gave us her thoughts on Neil Gaiman's Coraline, Edgar Allan Poe's Mystery Dinner Party, and four creepy animated shorts. JP Fallavollita took us on a tour of the Tomb of Dracula, and also featured horror in ever October edition of his comics column The Wednesday Run. Jim Knipp gave us a look at the deadly dollies of horror films, and Marie Gilbert served up some Soylent Green for the Halloween holiday dinner.

Co-editor-in-chief and founder of Popshifter, the amazing Less Lee Moore gave us reviews of Alone in the Dark, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, and The Asphyx, as well as her regular columns, Pump Up the Jam and Now Streaming on Shudder.

Founder and publisher Andy Burns provided insights on Stephen King and Owen King's recent appearance in Toronto, the Creepshow graphic novel and The Dark Tower: The Art of the Film, the games Resident Evil: Biohazard and Outlast Trinity, as well as his popular weekly Box Office Predictions and awesomely on-topiv column The Week in Horror.

Besides my regular reviews of the television series The Flash, and infusing the 31 Days of Horror theme into my comics review column Heroes and Villains, I got my grubby little hands in there too, writing about the classic rat movies Willard and Ben, fellow Biff Bam Popper Lucas Mangum's Engines of Ruin, The Car, Beware the Slenderman, and Halloween in the Marvel Animated Universe.

Don't forget about the other regular columns at Biff Bam Pop! like The Ten Percent by K. Dale Koontz and Ensley F. Guffey, and By the Book by Jim Knipp, and our other great staff writers like Luke Sneyd, Richard Kirwin, Mat Langford, and David Ward.

Clicky-clicky, come on by Biff Bam Pop! and check out 31 Days of Horror. It's the best way to celebrate Halloween!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Arrow S06 E03: Next of Kin

Back during the time of late high school and college when I wasn’t actively reading comics any more (I know, shocking), a lot of things happened.  One of them was the first appearance of Onyx, a naive vigilante who Green Arrow crossed paths with in Star City.  Sheltered in a monastery she learned martial arts, and in a move that would make Batman proud, Onyx went out into the world to do good, her parents having been murdered years before. 

Later she was completely revamped as a Batman associate in the War Games story arc.  Now she was trained by the League of Assassins, and no longer naive.  Personally I liked the original teenaged Onyx with the cape better, but it’s the later version who has been brought to the small screen on “,a href="">Arrow.” 

Continuing from this season’s first episode, Team Arrow is in pursuit of Alex Faust, with John Diggle taking over as the Green Arrow.  He took on the mantle at the end of the last episode, in spite of the degenerative cell damage he suffered on Lian Yu.  So far only Black Canary also knows, but neither has told Oliver.  Seems like Oliver has definitely rubbed off on the team. 

This pursuit has John pulling the insane stunt of jumping off a building and letting Black Canary’s scream propel him across to another building.  It sounds nuts and comic booky, but the way it was executed I totally believed it.  Bravo.  Also notable the opening gauntlet of symbols lacked one for Spartan, giving more commitment to the idea that John is now the Green Arrow.  Nice touch. 

When Oliver shows up for work the next day Samanda is waiting for him.  She’s not stupid, and despite Oliver’s airtight alibi, she knows someone else was playing Green Arrow, someone who’s not an archer.  Samanda also brings up how the cops might feel slighted (at best) with the mayor leaning on a vigilante.  It’s a thought I had as a little kid watching the original “Batman” TV show - why do the Gotham police even bother showing up to work?  They’re either bored or disillusioned, right? 

Meanwhile the slick Onyx, here a crooked ex-CIA operative named Onyx Adams, breaks into Kord Industries (will we ever see Blue Beetle?) and downloads some serious intel, including a deadly nerve gas (Kord makes nerve gas???).  When Team Arrow protects the gas shipment, Onyx takes them out pretty easily.  I did like Rene’s “Surprise, bitch.” though.  We need more Rene in the show as he gets the best lines.  Why not put him in the Green Arrow suit?  Or Dinah or Felicity, they seem to be leading as well. 

Rene asks Oliver to come back, but he gives John a pep talk instead.  So, the team is splintered when it next goes into action against Onyx and her team - who having seen John in action are unimpressed and don’t see him or his team a threat.  Not good.  Things do turn around however, and the fight sequences of the last act are quite impressive, and a vast improvement over the first episode this season.  And John proves himself. 

Unfortunately, as the end stinger reveals, John is using performance enhancing drugs to stabilize his tremors.  Well, that’s not going to come back to bite anyone in the ass.  There’s more soap with William as Oliver finally allows Felicity into his life.  There was a lot to like about this episode, but all things considered, I’d rather have Oliver as Green Arrow.  This is like one of those tired cliche comic arcs where the hero is replaced.  I’m just waiting for the real Green Arrow. 

Something I talked about last time, but have since given further thought to is the existence of Batman in the Arrowverse.  After a brief exchange with friend Tim Murr on Twitter I’ve reconsidered my position.  There may well be a Batman in the Arrowverse.  And while I’m thinking of it, check out Tim’s work at Biff Bam Pop! right here.  He’s only been with us a couple of months, coming over from the late Popshifter, but he’s written some great stuff.  And a book too.  Check him out. 

So maybe Batman does exist.  After all, we’ve seen Harley Quinn, right?  Felicity wouldn’t take the name Oracle (she does it again subtly in this very episode) when suggested because it was already in use. And then there’s Rip Hunter from “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow” who remarked from a dark future that he’d seen dark knights and men of steel fall.  That’s pretty conclusive. And there’s no reason why Green Arrow couldn’t have fought all those Bat-villains before Batman did, right? 

For my other reviews of the entire "Arrow" series, click here. And if you'd like to discuss this episode, anything else in the Arrowverse, or anything in the Marvel or DC television or cinematic universes, please join the Marvel DC Movies TV group on Facebook.

Next: The Black Siren returns in “Reversal!”

Friday, October 27, 2017

Bionic Nostalgia - The Legacy

Fairly quickly after the television debut of "The Six Million Dollar Man" the word 'bionic' entered the lexicon permanently, going from a science fiction term to a science fact in recent years.  While no one has been granted super-strength, speed, or senses from their bionics (that we know of), cybernetic replacement of limbs, as well as things like cochlear implants are almost everyday things. 

As we've seen, the television universe was too big to have just one bionic man.  Soon Steve Austin was joined by the Seven Million Dollar Man, the Bionic Woman, and Maximilian the Bionic Dog.  In 1976, during Lee Majors' bad mustache phase, Vincent Van Patten became the Bionic Boy in a backdoor pilot that failed to go to series.  Both series, "The Six Million Dollar Man" and "The Bionic Woman," left the air in 1978, but would return in just under a decade. 

Three TV movies would follow starting in 1987.  The first, simply and awkwardly called The Return of the Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman, was similar to the Bionic Boy in two ways - it was a failed pilot and involved a young man getting bionics, in this case, Austin's illegitimate son. The last two, coming in 1989 and 1994, were Bionic Showdown and Bionic Ever After?

The legacy of Martin Caidin's Cyborg novel, and the "Six Million Dollar Man" television series that was based on it continues to today. There are novels, comic books, jigsaw puzzles, the "Bionic Six" animated series (among dozens that feature bionics within them), a new, if short-lived, "Bionic Woman" show, and of course the always-threatened-but-never-announced theatrical film. Bionics remains a part of our lives and pop culture decades later.

Check out the rest of my posts in this series here.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

RIP Robert Guillaume

We lost award-winning actor, singer, and star of stage, television, and film Robert Guillaume today. He was 89.

The prime-time soap opera sitcom "Soap" is rather dated by today's standards, and doesn't hold up all that well on rewatch if I'm being honest, but one thing does stand up and shine through the years - the talent and comic timing of Robert Guillaume, who played the butler Benson on the first few seasons of the show. In hindsight, it is hard to see just how amazing and groundbreaking the show was, how it was water cooler television, and the show to watch back in the day. The character of Benson was and remains the highlight of the complex soap parody. He later broke out into a solo self-titled spin-off as advisor to a governor, but as it was a more conventional sitcom, it didn't really appeal to me.

Guillaume would later star in "Sports Night," and guest on many shows and films of the eighties and nineties. He was always a star of the stage, appearing in such productions as Guys and Dolls, Finian's Rainbow, and The Phantom of the Opera, and receiving at least one Tony nomination, and much acclaim. Guillaume would gain new notoriety as audiences as the voice of Rafiki in Disney's The Lion King. he continued doing this role in associated sequels, games, and shows, winning a Grammy for one such project.

We have lost one of the great entertainers, Robert Guillaume will be missed.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Arrow S06 E02: Tribute

Like last episode, we seem to be bouncing off of the previous episode’s cliffhanger, in this case, the news media’s reveal of Oliver Queen as the Green Arrow, a story so big it was even noted in last week’s episode of “The Flash.” We open with Oliver confronting the press, and denying he is Green Arrow, saying that photos can be doctored, and anyone’s head could have been put on that body, even Bruce Wayne. 

That’s an interesting name drop to make, especially for the Arrowverse.  For five seasons now it has seemed that Green Arrow has been playing proxy for Bruce Wayne AKA Batman.  He has faced so many Bat-foes, including Talia and Nyssa, the League of Assassins, Deadshot, the Dollmaker, Prometheus, Solomon Grundy, the Huntress, and most of all, R’as Al Ghul, that one might speculate that Batman doesn’t exist in the Arrowverse as Oliver has filled that role. 

Of course, to be fair, Green Arrow has also faced a truckload of Teen Titans, Flash, and even (who would have thought?) Green Arrow villains over five seasons as well, so it might not mean anything.  And while it is the first name drop of Bruce Wayne or Gotham, Bludhaven has been mentioned numerous times.  All that said, I wouldn’t mind a Bat in the Arrowverse if only to see him interact with Oliver. 

In his office, Oliver has a surprise waiting, FBI Agent Samanda Watson, there to investigate the allegation that Oliver is the Green Arrow.  While Samanda seems to be a new character with no counterpart in the comics, she is played by Syndelle Noel, who does have a very cool comic book connection.  She’ll be playing one of the Dora Milaje in the Black Panther movie.  Folks might also know her as Cherry ‘Junk Chain’ Bang from “GLOW.”  The show is really rocking its wrestling connections. 

When we cut to the only-seconds-long title sequence we get a new treat.  It’s not just an arrowhead symbol and the word ‘Arrow’ any more.  We see new stylized symbols for Black Canary, Wild Dog, Mr. Terrific, Overwatch, Spartan, and Green Arrow.  I guess it wasn’t unveiled until this episode so as not to spoil who survived Lian Yu.  Nice, I like it, like the mention of the Human Target moments after it.  It’s a big universe, why not a Batman too?

Team Arrow is obviously under pressure with Oliver’s identity possibly out in the open and the authorities having him under a microscope.  Much like Batman and his own team, once Oliver’s identity is compromised, it’s a short jump and a straight line as to who the rest of Team Arrow actually is.  I was pleased that at least the showrunners acknowledge this. 

Another comics name drop in the episode is one that has appeared often, Markovia.  Oliver is trying to bring their Vortex Industries to Star City to create jobs, but the press won’t let go of the Green Arrow thing.  One has to wonder though, with all this talk of Markov and Vortex, will we see Geo-Force, Terra, or maybe Count Vertigo soon?  The wondering does not last long as the entourage is attacked by the KGBeast and his men.  However Anatoly and the Bratva are not after Oliver, they’re after the Markovians. 

Like the Black Siren last episode, this is another villain seeking revenge.  Team Arrow suspects its Anatoly who leaked the photo of the unmasked Oliver in costume to tie his hands in this current operation.  He’s holding the Markovians hostage for $20 million, the exact amount the insurance paid out for the police station the Siren blew up.  Coincidence?  I think not. 

In soap opera corner, Oliver continues to spar with William.  I gotta say I love the kid’s Flash backpack, a callback to the first time the character appeared and he liked the Flash better.  Further complications arise with the possibility that Watson may interrogate William regarding his father and mother.  John’s subplot has been revealed as degenerative cell damage from shrapnel he caught on Lian Yu.  And I dig that Dr. Schwartz is slowly becoming an honorary member of the team. 

In the end, Oliver and Anatoly part honorable enemies, and Oliver promises to be a better dad to William.  We know how his promises work out, Oliver never changes.  He is going to try however, the first step is pass the mantle of the Green Arrow to John.  But John is pulling an Oliver and not telling him about his handicap. Looks like we’re going to see a hero fall sooner or later...

For my other reviews of the entire "Arrow" series, click here. And if you'd like to discuss this episode, anything else in the Arrowverse, or anything in the Marvel or DC television or cinematic universes, please join the Marvel DC Movies TV group on Facebook.

Next: The live action debut of another Green Arrow villain from the comics - Onyx - in “Next of Kin!” 

Friday, October 13, 2017

Arrow S06 E01: Fallout

If I’m being honest, which I always am, it was hard to concentrate on anything happening in the first few minutes of this sixth season opening episode of “Arrow” because I was too busy taking attendance.  After the way the island of Lian Yu, which I nicknamed Flashback Island after its use for that titular plot device, blew up with the entire cast, sans Oliver, on it, what else could I do?  I hated that cliffhanger when it aired, and hate it just as much now. 

Again, I was happy as I counted them off - Green Arrow, Spartan, Wild Dog (in a slick red and black outfit, counter to last season’s look and his costume in the comics), Mr. Terrific, and Overwatch - all taking down a criminal terrorist named Alex Faust (any relation to Felix? With John Constantine in the Arrowverse, so is sorcerer Felix Faust).  It was a little disappointing that Felicity was only there as tentative romantic interest for Oliver, and to hand out Big Belly Burger to the men. 

We are shown the caption tag ‘five months later,’ which in itself in interesting.  Over on “The Flash,” Central City has been ill-protected since Barry Allen entered the Speed Force, and we’re uncertain what the status quo is in Star City only a few minutes into the episode.  It would seem to me that the gaps between seasons on both shows might actually be more interesting than the pick-up almost a year later. 

Nevertheless time has moved on.  Oliver is struggling to raise his son William without a mother, indicating that she probably did not survive Lian Yu; Oliver and Felicity seem to still have a tenuous relationship, and she may or not still be a part of Team Arrow; and Rene is apparently rocking a suit and writing speeches for Oliver.  We also meet a new(?) character, Raisa, who helped raise Oliver and is now doing the same for William.

If you listen close to Team Arrow’s conversation after they nab Faust, you’ll know that Dinah also survived, we finally see her a couple scenes later interrogating the psycho villain.  We also find that Quentin is still with us (did anyone die in the island?) playing mind games with his own perceived guilt and alcoholism.  When Dinah goes to help him through it, Faust helps break himself out with another Lian Yu survivor, and his boss, the Black Siren.  She and her goons blow the hell out of the police station, all before we see the opening title card. 

When Team Archer regroups, the reveal of Black Siren is a surprise as they all thought she died on Lian Yu.  Quentin seems to think she went to the police station looking for him.  We get a great little street fight between Team Arrow and the bad guys, with Canary against Siren.  Wild Dog is injured when Spartan hesitates.  And the whole fight has weird aerial cinematography as if shot from one of the T-Spheres.  I did not like it. 

Oliver was missing for five years, and with “Arrow” having run five seasons, the flashbacks have come full circle.  So now it seems the flashbacks will work on the five months since the cliffhanger, letting us know what happened in that time frame.  It’s not a matter of who didn’t make it, but how they did or didn’t.  Every moment of this episode shows us someone else alive, either seeing them or mentioning them.  Add Deathstroke and Nyssa to that list.  Would Talia, Captain Boomerang, Merlyn, Speedy, and William’s mother be the only ones who didn’t make it?  Or not.  We’ll see. 

The soap opera kicks in heavy with Quentin’s guilt coming from him trying to kill Black Siren on the island.  And William knows his dad is the Green Arrow, and blames him for his mom’s death.  Just like he was boyfriend of the year, it looks like he’ll be father of the year too.  Throw in John’s problem as a subplot too, and that’s at least enough to start the season.  At least William and Oliver get a little closer at the end, but the latest cliffhanger should undo that...

In the meantime, it turns out the Black Siren’s real target is the Bunker, or as I like to call it, the Arrowcave.  The question is, was she trying to blow the place up, or something else maybe?  Was she trying to steal something?  In multiple epilogues we find Thea in a coma; Deathstroke and Wild Dog both benefiting from Oliver helping them be better fathers; and John not using his gun because of seemingly PTS from shrapnel received on the island.  And then there’s the TV news stinger revealing that Oliver Queen is the Green Arrow...

This episode was good, but affected negatively by the last season end, its piecemeal vibe, and almost immediate dive into soap opera and subplot.  It’s just too soon. 

For my other reviews of the entire "Arrow" series, click here. And if you'd like to discuss this episode, anything else in the Arrowverse, or anything in the Marvel or DC television or cinematic universes, please join the Marvel DC Movies TV group on Facebook.

Next: “Tribute!”

Thursday, October 05, 2017

The Live PD Phenomenon

The Bride and I are hardcore "Cops" fans, for well over two decades.  We have even had "Cops" parties watching best of tapes (yes, tapes).  The show is one of the reality television genre that actually is reality as cameras follow law enforcement as they do their jobs.  Certainly however there is an editing process to produce the half-hour program with its three segment formula. 

Still we love it, The Bride to see the good guys doing their job, and myself with the darker sense of humor just for the schadenfreude, a German word meaning taking pleasure in the misery of others.  I have no shame as I know I’m not alone.  If I was alone, no form of reality TV would thrive at all in this country.  We’re all sick voyeurs to one degree or another. 

This past summer we discovered a new series on A&E that goes "Cops" one better.  On Friday and Saturday nights, the busiest of the week for police officers, "Live PD" follows various law enforcement from across the country live as they do their jobs.  This is not an edited down version of a week spent on camera, this is the police on the job, live.

Hosted in the New York studio by Dan Abrams, a legal consultant for ABC News, and veteran police officer Tom Morris, Jr., the show is pulled from precincts across the country as they happen.  Dan and Tom are sometimes joined by Sean “Sticks” Larkin, an officer from the Tulsa Gang Unit and fan favorite, as well as officers featured on the show live, who offer color commentary and explanations during breaks. The hosts and the cops have become stars in their own right. 

The show has become so popular that A&E not only repeats it constantly but has also spun off two or three shows from it, some postscripts to what happened in the real show.  Ironically the show being live, sometimes it ends in the middle of it getting good.  We have waited a whole week sometimes to find out what happened after the cameras go black. 

The Twitter phenomenon of "Live PD" however is something else altogether.  Imagine if "Cops" was not only live, but interactive. That's what is happening here. On Friday and Saturday nights, Twitter is on fire with this show as thousands of viewers Tweet as they watch, they have even helped the police, seeing things on television the cops on the scene missed, like a baggy of drugs thrown out a window in a police chase. Don't forget to use the hashtag #LivePD.

Various places on the show, like bars and hotels and stores in the precincts monitored have become famous, and a bizarre and fun bingo game has developed based on what happens typically on the show. Google LivePD Bingo for a variety of different versions and cards to play along.

"Live PD" returns Friday, so get ready, get your phone out to Tweet along, and your Bingo cards printed up to play along. It's a blast!