Archive for September, 2008

Vamping out over HBO’s “True Blood”

Repeat after me: There is no shame in wearing a red T-shirt proclaiming, “Friends don’t let friends drink friends.”

Moonlight might have been staked, but those of us who like our boys with a little bite can take comfort in the fact that HBO is offering up a tasty new vampire treat on Sept. 7. “True Blood” is based on the popular Sookie Stackhouse novels about a perky waitress from a backwater Louisiana town that’s lousy with leeches — and we aren’t talking the swamp variety.

Ah, Sookie. There’s plenty of sizzle going on between Sookie (Anna Paquin) and Vampire Bill (Stephen Moyer) on HBO’s new series “True Blood.”

Sookie can’t believe it when brooding vampire Bill steps into her backwoods Louisiana diner and orders up a cup of Joe. OK, make that a cup of synthetic Joe blood.

She’s been waiting for this all her life. And vamp fans know exactly how she feels. Fangers may be blood-suckers, but what a way to go. Most of our favorites are tortured souls looking to toss immortality for a sensual relationship with a mortal. Or those mighty queens of the damned. And you can always count on the strong mortals like the spunky Buffys and Sookies to get that vamp blood to boil. While I love curling up on the sofa for a nice wallow in Interview with the Vampire or Lost Boys, the old Dracula movies leave me cold. I like my vampire shows loaded with snark, hold the cheese.

Not since Buffy staked out a place in our hearts has there been a show about vampires we could really sink our teeth into like True Blood. But will viewers tune in? TV history has not been kind to the night dwellers. Check out our top-10 list of TV vamp-centric series:

10. Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel: All hail the creator, Joss Whedon. Both the original series and the Angel spin-off were smartly written and acted. Who can forget when Angel appeared out of the darkness and came into Buffy’s life? Buffy made history with an episode shot almost entirely without dialogue, and also produced one of the best TV musical episodes ever. Buffy was all about girl power, and what just one girl could do. As it said on her tombstone, “She Saved the World. A Lot.” But the excellent spin-off with David Boreanaz as private investigator Angel proved to be a higher ratings grabber.

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“Sons of Anarchy” roars into FX – Here’s some more motorcycle moments

Just for the moment, we’ll disregard the fact that FX’s new series “Sons of Anarchy,” airing at 10 p.m. Wednesday on FX, might actually help swell the ranks of certain unnamed motorcycle clubs, headquartered (let’s say) in Oakland, and running illegal operations (let’s say) in California’s central valley.

Clubs that might refer to themselves by a name that would reflect Lucifer’s fallen status.

Nah, the producers and crew — many of whom came from FX’s The Shield — think of their series about a gun-running motorcycle club that isn’t opposed to murder and mayhem as sort of a take on Hamlet.

Charlie Hunnam and Katey Segal play son and mom in “Sons of Anarchy” on FX

Charlie Hunnam plays sexy bad boy Jax, who has a bit of the poet in him. He’s the Hamlet, with a father who was perhaps murdered by the man who wanted to take over his territory — a man who was also his best friend. That man, Clay (Ron Perlman), took over the gang and married Jax’s mom Gemma (Katey Sagal). Gemma’s one tough momma who loves her son, yet sees him as a threat and isn’t sure how much of his dad is in him.

Like The Sopranos, it’s all about family values. But this family mostly values criminal activity, wrapped up in an odd code of honor that allows despicable acts in the name of solidifying the family.

FX proudly claims that this is the first TV series to center on the motorcycle club subculture, although many films have used the theme. That’s true — even as HBO is trying to get 1% off the ground despite a lawsuit launched by Hell’s Angels leader Sonny Barger — but motorcycles have played an important (if not central) role in other shows. We offer our top-10-bikes-on-TV list:
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Best Moments from “The Shield”

The Mack is back

The ends justify the means in Vic Mackey’s book, and from the first time we met him we knew this wasn’t just another cop on the beat. The Shield brought FX up to the big leagues, with an edgy cop drama unlike anything else on television. You secretly cheered when Mackey, leader of L.A.’s elite, and morally decayed, Strike Team tortured child molesters, drug dealers and other scum bags. But like a mad dog, you never knew when way he was going to turn.

“Good cop and bad cop left for the day,” Mackey says in one episode right before he begins beating up a pedophile to discover where he was hiding a young girl slated to be sold in slavery. “I’m a different kind of cop.”

THE SHIELD: Episode 2: “Snitch” airing 9 p.m. Tuesday on FX. L-R: CCH Pounder and Michael Chiklis. CR: Prashant Gupta / FX

And now, judgment day may finally be at hand for Mackey as The Shield begins its final season at 10 p.m. Sept. 2 on FX. Just to catch you up to speed, Mackey’s still miffed at Det. Shane Vendrell (Walton Goggins) for killing Strike Team guy Lem (Kenneth Johnson), but then everyone thought there was a good chance Lem would turn them all in. Mackey’s in trouble with the Armenians for that little robbery in Season 2, and he’s getting ready to lose his badge if he doesn’t figure out a way to get back into the good graces of the higher ups.

This was FX’s first scripted drama, and it blew the doors off of the competition and opened up the basic cable landscape. Creator Shawn Ryan says he wanted to give FX an ending that the network could be proud of and would set a template for other series.

CCH Pounder, who plays Captain Claudette Wyms on the show, says it’s the greatest finale every. Period.

“Hands down, blew my socks off. I’m not a great fan of The Shield as a watcher in the sense of I’m like a cringy person. I’m a bit of a chicken even though my role is so huge and non-chicken-like, “Pounder says. “But this finale is what Vic Mackey deserves.”

Does he get what he deserves?

“What thrills me about the finale is you will not see this coming,” Michael Chiklis, who pays Mackey, says. “When you look back at you’ll go, holy cow, yeah, that’s exactly right. I think he’s a man who is plagued by regret and the fallout of his actions starting from pretty much day one of the series, and all of those actions have led to other actions and created a sort of course that, as C.C. probably would agree, leads him to where it ends up.

“He’s definitely become a guy that understands that there is tremendous consequence, not just for himself but everyone around him, for the decisions that he’s made.”

Some strands from previous seasons will be picked up, others will never be resolved. Ryan says he took a crash course in The Shield history prior to working on this final season.

“There are a couple of characters that are a blast from the past that we bring back and wrap up in some ways,” Ryan says.

As Catherine Dent, who plays officer Danny Sofer, says, you don’t want to get so wrapped up in the final score that you miss a really great game.

“It’s going to be a great game and you’re not gonna want to know how it ends,” Dent says. “You’re going to want to watch every quarter because it’s so intense.”

For the next 13 episodes, of which I’ve seen eight so far, it’s edge-of-your-seat thrill ride that promises to be one of the best season’s ever. Here’s a top-10 look at some unforgettable moments in The Shield history.
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