Hello, from the Halloween Disco!

Happy Halloween!

To get your Halloween hip to the music, I thought I’d share a flashback from one of our ever-favorite series, One Tree Hill. Why they’re dancing, I have no clue. But here we have Saturday Night Fever meeting the Angel of Death, all in the Halloween groove.

Enjoy your day of trick and treats! Have this one on us:

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A Look Back at BtVS ‘Family’

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER: 5.06 “Family”

Today’s my birthday. So it only seems natural to avoid writing about the things I really need to (BunheadsDrop Dead Diva) and write about someone else’s birthday. How about the 20th birthday of Tara McClay?

I’ve written about this episode before. But this time, on this day of days when you can think about how you’ve grown up, it only really makes sense to look at how this episode really shows off Tara in all her glory (pardon the Season 5 pun).

When we first met Tara, there wasn’t much to write home about. She was hunched over, quiet, and tended to stick to the shadows. Wallflower isn’t exactly the right word, since I think the Tara of Season 4 would probably prefer to be in another room than sticking to the wall. She was unsure of herself and lacked confidence — so much so that most words out of her mouth came out with a signature stutter. In fact, quite frankly, I didn’t really think much about her.

But throughout Season 4, she became one of the gang. She had a more prominent role, we got to really learn who she was, and before our unseeing eyes, she began to grow in confidence and develop.

Why do I say unseeing? Well, let’s look at “Family.” The Tara at the beginning of the episode is the one we’re used to. There’s no change here. She’s happy and comfortable with Willow. She’s good with the group (though perhaps not completely one of the gang yet). But we don’t really think of that odd character of Season 4 beginnings. We see the character we know.

In fact, we forget about what she used to be with her made-up face and pretty hair until her family arrives. Once she sees them, the stutter is back. She starts to shrink down to what she used to be. And suddenly, we the viewers realize what having the Scoobies around — particularly Willow — has done for Tara. She really grew into a new woman.

We all know the rest of the story (and if you haven’t, I suggest reading my previous post — or even better, watch the episode), and there’s even more to be said about Tara later this season and into the next. But this episode really reveals what just a year with the Scooby gang did for this girl, and it is just so interesting to see how we may not have seen it. We’re used to getting to know someone and starting to like them as they enter a series (Dawn may be an exception). But I just love the subtle way that Tara became the strong, confident Tara, and the great way that growth is revealed on her 20th birthday.

Some Very Late First Thoughts on Breaking Bad

I’m pretty late to the Breaking Bad bandwagon; so late, in fact, that I only just started watching it last weekend (We got a late start on Mad Men too, in case you didn’t see. Don’t blame us; we do things at our own pace here at Raked). Back when the first season aired, I caught a bit of the second episode, but for some reason it didn’t resonate with me and I never returned to it. I follow the cultural TV zeitgeist, though, so I’ve heard how great the show is supposed to be, and I’ve heard about plenty of plot spoilers along the way. During some downtime this weekend, I figured that I would watch a couple of episodes and see what all the fuss is about.

And yes, the show is good. Really good. I spent basically all of Sunday watching the first season, and tacked on two more episodes from the start of the second season the next day. The acting is great and there’s a fair bit more action so far than I had expected. I’m no cinematographer; in fact, I don’t think I have much of an eye for visual design at all in general, but the show so far has done some interesting visual montages that I keep thinking back on. One that stands out in my mind is the montage of Jesse and Badger cooking meth in the RV out in the desert. There are a couple of other instances of this, and I find them all delightfully welcome surprises, especially since it seems to me like the rest of the show is shot in a fairly straightforward way (then again, I could be completely wrong; like I said, I don’t think I have much of an eye for design, nor do I have the kind of visual understanding or vocabulary that can really help me express what I’m seeing).

But I’ve got to say, as much as I’ve enjoyed the show so far, marathoning it is draining in a way completely unlike any other show I’ve marathoned before. In the past, I could (and did) watch several episodes of LostMad Men, and Battlestar Galactica every night for weeks without getting worn down, but after my extended viewing Sunday through Monday, I feel emotionally worn out. The existential dread that Walt carries around with him is depressing. The fact that each episode seems to pick right up after the last one left off only seems to drive home the fact that every moment is absolutely important because there could be so few of them left. I’d also imagine this worn out feeling I have has something to do with the fact that I know, in a general sense, how this story is probably going to end. This is not a tale of a man’s descent into corruption but eventual redemption. It’s the story of a man being liberated by his supposedly terminal diagnosis, but not in a hackneyed way that allows him to appreciate the beauty in sunsets and blades of grass; his cancer and his bitterness in an unfulfilled life have liberated him from having to care at all about anyone else’s feelings. We are watching a man become a monster, one slow, compromised moral step at a time. It’s fascinating and horrifying all at the same time.

The last episode I watched on Monday was Season 2, Episode 3 “Bit By a Dead Bee.” Walt and Jesse have narrowly escaped death at Tuco’s hands. Near the end of the episode, an exhausted Jesse calls Walt to inform him that the DEA suspects nothing. Walt immediately instructs Jesse to get ready to make another batch of meth.

“You still want to cook? Seriously?” says Jesse, incredulously.

“What’s changed, Jesse?” Walt replies, in a flat, dull voice that gave me chills.

I like this show, but after that line, I may be watching it a slower pace than before.

Looking Back on Gilmore Girls, Season 5 Finale

GILMORE GIRLS: 5.22 “A House Is Not a Home”

Once great thing about summer is that I get to spend some time watching some old favorites. I’ve been walking JC through Gilmore Girls. We’ve just finished season five, and I haven’t seen that finale since it was first aired. I kind-of forgot the shock it brings.

I’ve spent some time discussing Rory on this site (well, at least one blog post). While she had some reckless decisions this season from someone we typically think of as rational and down-to-earth, I contend that her actions aren’t all that out of character for her. But that’s not the real point here.

The real point is how much this episode was really a punch in the stomach for our favorite characters, namely, Lorelai. After Rory stole the boat (and got caught), she decided that she wasn’t going back to Yale. Lorelai wouldn’t have it, and she went to her parents for help. After all we’ve gone through this season, we’ve finally moved through our ups and downs with Emily and Richard. Lorelai and Richard are probably experiencing the best father/daughter relationship they’ve ever had, and Emily and Lorelai are frankly getting along (which is all you can really ask for, considering). So you almost forget who they are when they agree to help Lorelai point Rory back in the right direction.

But then, we forget that soft spot in Richard’s heart when he sees Rory cry. Suddenly, at Friday night dinner, Lorelai is blindsided by the two people she trusted — her supposed allies — turning against her. They’ve decided: Rory will take a break from Yale. She will live in the pool house with them. And they will piece her life back together.

The look on Lorelai’s face. The shock and disbelief. It was the same experience we all were feeling as we felt that moment. This was taking Rory off-track. This wasn’t right. And it was the ultimate betrayal.

But the worst? Seeing Rory unpacking her belongings, not even telling her mother what she’s chosen to do. Rory’s moving in with her grandparents, choosing the life that Lorelai never wanted from her, another betrayal.

It was certainly a twist that no one saw coming, Lorelai and viewers alike. There was only one thing that could help that moment of darkness and disappointment, that hollowed out feeling in the viewers’ chests as they saw the mother and daughter break apart. And that was five little words:

Luke, will you marry me?

Recap Review: Wainy Days

WAINY DAYS: SEASONS 1-4 DVD

You know I love web series. I’m woefully  behind on them (I’m so sorry, The Guild!), but I’m a big fan of independent artists doing their own thing to make TV — even on this crazy medium we call the internet. Well, Wainy Days is one such series, and I’m embarrassed to say that this series missed my radar, despite the glorious number of great actors and actresses that have guested on this series.

Well, miss it no more. The first four seasons are now available on DVD starting today, which you can pick up, own, and watch in the comfort of your own home. In fact, you could even have a PJ party in honor of the DVD. Heck, David Wain did; it’s one of the bonuses of owning the DVD, brand-new footage with 23 cameos.

And I really do enjoy the cameos. This show has tons of guest appearances of some of my favorite stars, including Rashida Jones, Paul Rudd, Ron Swanson (does he have a real name?), and of course, Party Down‘s own Ken Marino, who even directed some of the episodes. I like seeing these guys out of their element (or regular TV shows).

But I will say, this show is strange. What was a line used in one of the episodes? “Naughty but witty.” That pretty much puts it in black and white terms. I really appreciate some of the one-liners and strange situations. It’s just whacky (it even has musical numbers). But I will say, it might not entirely my type of humor sometimes. It is rather crass and, well, blatant in its sexuality and explicitness. And I’m not always a fan of that. So in its extremes, I was rather turned off.

But you know, I’m not like everyone. And if you’re a fan of David Wain (of Wet Hot American SummerRole Models, and the upcoming Wanderlust fame), you’ll probably love this series inside and out. And I’d recommend it for the casual viewer, even if there are a handful of episodes I’d personally skip.

So brace yourself for an off-the-wall comedy — and the chance to watch back-to-back episodes without having to click your mouse. And if that doesn’t convince you, maybe Garfunkel and Oates will. This song, “David Wain Is Sexy,” is a bonus on the DVD, and, well, it’s just damn entertaining.

Merry Christmas from Raked, the Happy Conquerer

Merry Christmas! Well, despite a late-in-the-game obsession with Farscape that tried to distract me from the Christmas Challenge, I successfully watched and reviewed 25 Christmas episodes of old TV shows this December. I hope you enjoyed it. I did my best to choose episodes old and new — but not too new. Episodes from this fall didn’t count, as I really wanted to make sure I was watching something additional to my usual lot.

Now we have a great sea of recommendations — things that I loved, liked, and hated. And if you didn’t catch all the reviews, check out the slideshow below, which tells you exactly what to watch and what to miss this Christmas.

And of course, I hope your holidays were filled with nothing but happiness and joy. And good TV.

Merry Christmas!

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Christmas Challenge: Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip

STUDIO 60: 1.11 “The Christmas Show”

I’ve saved the best for last. What an amazing episode. Studio 60 was a show cancelled long before its time, and this episode shows that every time I watch it. Man, I love this show, and I love this episode in particular.

It’s a good blend of humor and sentiment. Matt wants to do a Christmas show (despite his being a Jew), and the entire episode is like pulling teeth trying to get a Christmas show done. After all, it’s 85 degrees in LA. People are going to the beach, not wishing for snow. And frankly, the show’s never done a Christmas episode before.

What commences is just something hilarious. The writers are constantly telling Matt reasons why the Christmas story — and the nativity, for that matter — couldn’t actually happen. My personal favorite is when they calculate how many reindeer and how fast they’d need to go in order to get Santa to deliver two presents to every kid.

Meanwhile, Cal is actually excited about the show, but every step of the way, he’s got hilarious moments. He tries to break open a coconut for snow, only to break a table instead. He brings over a Santa that looks demented with crazy eyes and a Nazi salute. And when he finally gets the snow working, he ends up cooking it with the lights!

But it’s not all Christmas ridiculousness. There’s a good, serious storyline about what Jack has to do after a live newscast broadcasts the F-word in a military environment. What ensues is a fantastic display of debate and discussion about what’s right and what’s wrong — and when rules need to be broken.

Finally, there’s relationship acceleration. Danny and Jordan are by far some of the cutest people together in the world, and seeing Danny finally “say it” (as Matt kept telling him to do) at the end of the episode is fantastic. She has the cute cheeks filled with sandwich and has no response to his profession of interest.

But the best part is the end. After discovering that musicians were calling out sick all over the city so homeless musicians from New Orleans can sit in, they arrange for an unbelievable song on the show, complete with images from New Orleans in the background. It’s made that much more poignant when you see the one that says, “All I want for Christmas is my city back.” It’s beautiful and just so well done. Kudos.

Recommendation: This is a must-watch every Christmas. I already do! Every year, I can’t wait to hear the final song, “O Holy Night.” Definitely add this to your annual viewing.

And as a Christmas treat, check out the wonderful performance below.