Thursday, October 30, 2014

Benched - 1.01 - Pilot - Review: This show sure is something.



I don't know about you but I am in love with USA's latest offering in the comedy department, Benched. I found Benched to be one of the best comedy pilots of the 2014 Fall TV season. The casting is phenomenal. The characters are colorful, memorable and relatable, especially Nina which great considering she is the main character.

I will admit that one name in particular, which was of course Eliza Coupe, was my main reason for initially checking this show out. Eliza Coupe as Nina Whitley is superb. It's no secret I've been a huge fan of Coupe's for quite some time. I love that she has great comedic timing as well as a penchant for physical comedy as well. While it's true that the the story of Nina Whitley isn't breaking any new ground (a successful, driven woman tries to have it all but focuses more on her work and loses touch with everything else. She eventually looses her job, in this it is due to being passed over for a promotion and not taking it very well and begins a journey of self-discovery and redemption);the fact that it is funny, has heart as a well a carefully buried message is what sets it apart for me personally.

The thing that made me a little hesitant at first was the fact that it was yet another female led legal drama which seems to be all the rage this TV season. But I took a chance and this show really wowed me. I'm talking serious deep belly laughs. This show is playful on every level, right down to the soundtrack and sound design. The show is full of spirited (and sometimes spite filled) and sarcastic characters so naturally that means it most definitely my kind of party. The first five minutes alone nearly had my sides in stitches. There is nothing like a good old-fashioned emotional meltdown, am I right?

This show reminds me of Judging Amy, only it's on steroids and it's told from the public defenders side of things. I'm pretty sure that's why I'm so smitten. The cast chemistry is through the roof already and everyone has great comedic timing and really sold their character. Even Trent, who didn't get a ton of screen time. Is it just me or does Benched feel like the best of all worlds when it comes to shows about lawyers? I mean we have that fish out water vibe because she was a well-paid corporate lawyer who will now probably have to downsize her life who entering the underdog of all legal professions --being a public defender (I'm pretty sure public defender is even a notch below pro bono lawyer because pro bono lawyers choose to do so and want to affect some positive change into the world in most cases).

Then we get the obvious undertones of a workplace comedy as well as the mundane procedural element of having to deal with cases every week. Although, I also noticed a strong undercurrent of style that seems to being leaning towards an Orange is the New Black vibe but that could just be the show unapologetic coarseness giving off that particular vibe. Only time will tell for sure.

As I mentioned in the Advanced Preview Review, I'm not a shipper at all. But I totally am OK with them setting up the 'will they or won't they' dynamics between Jay Harrington's character and Coupe's. The actors play well of each other and the chemistry is definitely there. As long as the show keeps giving me funny I'm OK with a slow burn between these two. I'm actually looking forward to the evolution of that relationship in particular to be honest.

Another thing that I was excited to see was Maria Bamford. I have waited ages to see her in a TV show. I love her stand up routines. Actually, the whole supporting cast is awesome and I love that they threw in Oscar Nuñez for kicks and giggles. While his character didn't get much screen time in the pilot I have a feeling they are going to eventually let this character shine (and it would awesome if he gave a little Office reference by staring into the camera when someone does something ridiculous at least just one time, am I right?).

All in all the pilot was a great first outing that really showcased this series potential. I am very much looking forward seeing how this show progresses and where it goes from here.

Benched airs every Tuesday at 10:30/9:30 CST

What did you think of this episode? Will you be tuning in for episode 2? On a scale of 1 to 10 how much do you love Eliza Coup? Feel free to leave your thoughts below.

Arrow - 3x04 - The Magician - Review: Enter the Demon


This week’s episode of Arrow, 3x04: The Magician was very interesting and what might prove to be a pivotal turning point in the series. Last week, I briefly discussed how at episode three the season finally felt like it was beginning. Well, this week’s episode subtly kicked into high gear and is back on track to being the Arrow that I’ve come to know and love with some slight improvements.

Nyssa al Ghul (Katrina Law) returns to Starling City. Thea (Willa Holland) begins to rebuild her life and regains control of Verdant. Team Arrow learns that Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman) is alive and he becomes strong suspect in the murder of Sara. Meanwhile, Quentin (Paul Blackthorne) remains in the dark about his daughter’s death. Also in flashback land Oliver completes his first assassination, and learns that Amanda Waller was behind Edward Fyers' actions on the island

To read more click here.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Arrow - 3.03 - Corto Maltese - Review: Finally Setting the Stage


If you are a die hard DC comics fan like me then Corto Maltese probably rang some bells. Batman is my everything and Frank Miller is king when it comes to telling a tale involving the world’s greatest detective. My first encounter with this mysterious little island was when I was reading a Frank Miller tale, ‘The Dark Knight Returns’ and the island is even featured in Tim Burton’s Batman Returns. In DC comic book lore Corto Maltese is an island that is jam packed with adventure, mystery, intrigue and suffering. So in other words Arrow really captured its essence this week.

To read more please follow the link to read it on Voice of TV.

Benched - 1.01 - Pilot - Advanced Preview: 10 Reasons You Should watch.


A few days ago, a ton of buzz swept across the internet about USA’s Benched. I’m not a huge fan of the comedy genre as of late but since it was on USA I thought I’d give it a try as I really enjoyed their other comedy offerings they debuted over the summer which were Sirens and Playing House. So here are my 10 reasons as to why you should watch Benched.

To read more please be sure to follow the link and read the article in full over on Voice of TV.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Reign – 2.03 – Coronation – Review: “Kneel before Frary.”


Hey Royals! It’s time once again to dissect and discuss a brand new episode of Reign. The ratings may be low but the writing quality has really kicked it up a notch. Along with costume design and overall production value. There's so much to love about Reign (especially the talented cast and crew) and this season its potential is so great that I just wish more people would tune in and I'm doing everything I can to encourage others to watch. I hope other Royals are out there doing the same (read: HINT!). But enough of that let's get to the review, shall we?

If I had to make a long story short here's the rundown of what I would say happened over the course of this episode: With France in a state of famine, as well as religious and political unrest, Mary looked for a way to feed the people and risked the wrath of a vengeful Lord Narcisse in doing so. Francis was preoccupied by the harrowing suspicion that his dead father’s spirit can possess the living and is haunting Francis as revenge for his murder. Meanwhile, Catherine made excessive and lavish preparations for a coronation ceremony to give the impression of stability to the realm. Also, Bash was confronted by the harsh realities of a country plagued by fear, bankruptcy, and murder and resolved to stay above reproach.

This episode introduced us to a new collaborator in the writers’ room, a Mr. Harley Peyton. After a little research I must say am impressed with his resume as well as how fast he grasped all the facets of our characters and their interactions. I consider Peyton to be a welcome addition (let me know if you agree in the comments, k?).

After a 19 episode absence I was pleased as ever to see the name Holly Dale beside the designation of ‘directed by’ in the credits this week. Episode 1x03: Kissed was the last time we heard from her. The cinematography featured in this episode was excellent. I do love when we get to do exterior shots in the day time.


The soundtrack for this episode was so pitch perfect and apropos I could die. The song that was my absolute favorite was the song that was used when Francis and Mary were crowned king and queen. It was ‘Hills to Climb’ by Tim Myers. The title alone really just sums up the relationship between Francis and Mary as well how they want to rule and how they plan on getting there. The other song was ‘Wraggle Taggle Gypsies’ by Domnic Ashworth. That song had a very Renaissance Fair vibe going which of course is what makes it blend so well with the show. As for the sound design itself this week, the scoring was subdued and subtle. It had very little ambient noise incorporated into it. The scene where the scoring really stood out as well as enhanced the mood was when Mary went to go speak to Conde.

"Show respect to all people, but grovel to none." - Tecumseh

Character Contemplation

Bash has come so far in such a small amount of time. Back in the middle of the first season there were times when I struggled to find nice things to say about him. So far this season, I haven’t witnessed a thing I don’t like. Every week he just gets better and better. The conversation about Lola’s baby between he and Kenna was a nice little touch to give us some insight into both his and Kenna’s frame of mind (even it was a bit obvious). Bash’s sense of duty is so damn endearing. I’m really enjoying his role as the King’s Deputy so far. Bash’s role is great because we get to see an even seedier side of life at court that Francis and Mary are not experiencing.

Catherine is a saucy little minx who has an endless amount of tricks up her sleeve. Just when you think you can count Catherine down and out she’s starting her shenanigans all over again. I like that they are staying true to the history books about Catherine and her scheming ways to get and maintain power and relevancy. I love her interactions with Francis but they grow more and more suspect by the episode. Another interaction I’m here for is between Catherine and Narcisse. Do I smell another crack ship forming in the ether? The two actors play well off one another and the characters themselves seem like perfect foils for each other. Megan Follows continues to slay in this role and I say she should get a spin off based on an alternate timeline (as long as she takes one of her younger sons, Nostradamus and Clarissa with her).

Conde is such a wonderfully complicated guy. I don’t know what to make of him. I like him which of course means he can’t be trusted. He’s a fast talker and a manipulator. I think he might be this season’s Tomas; which is actually something I don’t want to happen. I think that he could really help shape Francis into being the kind of man I need him to be (if he doesn’t turn out evil that is). I liken Conde to Sir Thomas More (Jeremy Northam) in The Tudors. I loved that relationship until it turned sour and when it turned sour it got even more interesting. Nothing like a bittersweet relationship and it’s kind of even more interesting when both parties are of the same gender (less angst in most cases).

Toby Regbo is nailing it in the tortured and haunted soul department. I don’t like that he is keeping secrets from everyone but it’s a king’s prerogative. I was floored with the twist that it was Francis who killed his father at tournament and never expected this twist. While I think Bash and his history lends itself better to the supernatural, I’m all for shaking things up and letting other characters wander into something outside of their normal boundaries. Maybe it will be Francis who brings back Nostradamus. It this is case that will earn Francis a ton of brownie points. I don’t know if I’m the only one or not but I’m having a super hard time emotionally connecting with Francis. I think the end of this episode was a good push in the right direction. I enjoy the complicated relationship between Francis and Mary but I’m really invested in him being an excellent AND a better man than his father.

Greer got to be the smart and loyal one this episode. Though she did little else besides look fabulous and question Mary on her certainty about her course of action. I’m actually kind of glad they we’ve been able to take a step back from her drama. I liked Greer before the writers wrote her into a love triangle. It’s something about how no matter what show it is, if it’s on The CW an awesome female character is going to get roped into a love triangle and knocked down a peg or two. While I am team Castleroy I’m sure she’ll end up with his money and Leith’s ring on her finger when it’s all said and done. I miss the relationship between Mary and her ladies from the beginning of the series. They drifted so far apart and every last one of them has brought some form of shame on Mary and I’m just not OK with that. So when I get glimpses of the ‘old days’ I cling to them fiercely.

Poor Kenna! This character is just a lovable mess. I don’t begrudge her wanting the finer things in life but come on she’s married to Bash, I take him over a chateau any day. He has the love of his brother the king and she has the love of Mary the queen. If I was Kenna I wouldn’t want to live at court after the messes I’d made their either but things could be worse, a whole lot worse. And did anybody else go, ‘What the hell?’ when Pascal wasn’t brought up? I know we are a few weeks removed but still, come on. I guess we’re glossing over that so that we can “forget” the pagans and The Darkness storyline altogether. I’m bummed but I’ll go along to get along. I like this whole reckoning thing along with Francis being haunted by his father.

I guess I should enjoy this Lola light episode in light of this week’s sneak peak for 2x04: The Lamb and the Slaughter. I really hate this “love” triangle. Babies complicate modern day stories. Throw in a bastard child of a king and well things can easily get derailed and end up hopelessly soapy and never get back on the right track. While I trust the writers of this show that doesn’t mean I’m not nervous every step of the way until we reach our final destination on this particular journey. I know Mary as a queen has to make some personal sacrifices but what really drew me into this show was the girls’ friendship and standing together (and also the relationship between Bash and Francis). Seeing them married off, broken and fractured hurts a little. I thought once they were all paired off we could get back to some female bonding. I guess I was wrong. I think they really cut off the budding friendship between Francis and Lola too soon as well. In that one episode we learned a lot about Lola and their scene really softened Francis in my eyes. Now everything is just awkward and stifled.

I hope I’m not the only one who has mixed emotions about Mary this week. I love her flaws and all. I love that in the end she usually tempers Francis and gives him hope and shows him there is a better way to lead. She is kind, compassionate and head strong. I love that she is a queen in her right; but man sometimes I just want to slap her. She’s a reactionary and that’s dangerous. She needs to learn to be more diplomatic and aware of her surroundings. I’m aware she didn’t have the luxury of learning these things because she was hidden away due to threats on her life but sometimes it feels like life at court hasn’t taught her a damn thing. I feel like she was very lucky that this incident with the German Protestants worked out but I think Francis was right and that some will see it as him losing control of his nobles. Adelaide Kane still brought depth and complexity to the character of Mary and even when things felt dire she still managed to carry an air of regal elegance. I love the infusion of stoicism and burning passion that Kane brings to the role every week and I’m really excited to see Mary go off emotionally next week.

What can I say about Lord Narcisse other than state the fact he’s the pain in my ass that won’t go away. I think the actor who plays Narcisse, Craig Parker, is absolutely killing it when it comes to playing the vengeful, arrogant and maniacal noble. But I think that his goals are a little over the top and I just want Reign to tone it down on the soapy elements a little bit.

Grade: B+

Final Thoughts: Reign just keeps heating up. Every week I'm sitting in front of my TV at 9 PM with bated breath. This season holds a lot of promise and is shaping up to be quite a roller coaster ride. I'm enjoying the build up and I can't even fathom what the climax of this season is going to be. Every week just keeps getting better on every level. This was a show that I definitely thought might be hit with a sophomore slump in terms of writing because of the time frame they are working with but they surprised me and even brought back a factor I thought was a moot point at this stage in the game. They are rebuilding bonds and learning the lessons from what worked and what didn't last season. And as a fan that all you can ever really hope for. It's amazing to feel like you've been heard and that the writers, execs and showrunner think that your opinion matters.

Awards

Character of the Night
• Catherine

Best Character Interactions
• Mary and Conde
• Bash and Kenna
• Catherine and Lord Narcisse

Line of the Night
• Francis: This is not a coronation for a king. This is a coronation for king AND queen.

Scene of the Night
• Francis and Mary are crowned king and queen of France

Favorite Lady-In-Waiting
• Kenna

New Crack Ship Alert
• Tell me I wasn’t the only one who felt the palpable chemistry between Adelaide Kane and Sean Teale (and you guys know I am so NOT a shipper so that’s saying something).

All Kinds of Awkward Award
That awkward moment when you fear Reign is about to turn into Game of Thrones and attempt child murder.

Highlights

Memorable Moments
• Frary love scene (don’t you judge me, you know you liked it too)
• Conde explains to Mary that he was sending his mistress back to her husband and children.
• Francis has a chat with his father via the possessed nanny.

Superb Scenes
• Lord Narcisse and Catherine have a chat over wine when they should be at the post-coronation festivities.
• Mary confronts Conde about the German prisoners
• Francis and Mary rub Lord Narcisse’s nose in the fact that got grain without his help



Lowlights

• No update on Nostradamus.
• There was a miniscule amount of Greer.
• There was also no Leith at court. I want to see more interaction between him and Francis.
• A reminder of the ill-conceived love triangle from last season reared its ugly little head.
• For the love of all things good and sweet, give me some actual Bash and Francis bonding time!

Miscellaneous

Biggest Surprise of the Episode
• It was Lord Conde who took the prisoners.

Side Note: Should I bring back ‘Ratings Round-Up’?


Friendly Reminder
Don’t forget to live tweet with the show (@CWReign) and me (@lilithhellfire) every Thursday night at 9 pm EST.

Well, now it's your turn to sound off in the comments section below. I look forward to reading your thoughts.

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