Vera – itv series

I have been on a British police procedural show binge lately, with shows like Hinterland, Shetland, DCI Banks, and Wallander, all extremely well produced, and very entertaining.

A couple of weeks ago, Hulu recommended a new show, “Vera” based on characters by Ann Cleeves, and some fantastic acting by the cast. Based on cases, murders, and well developed stories. 4 episodes per season, and 3 seasons on Hulu (out of 8, BOO!) Continue reading →

Review: Forensic Files

One day, a long time ago, I began watching Forensic Files on Netflix. It started as a way to kill time, something in the background, but since it had 9 “collections” of up to 70 episodes each, it took quite a while to get through it.

The premise is each episode is a crime (usually murder, but not always), and how forensic and scientific evidence helped capture the guilty parties, sometimes after years of the case going cold. Continue reading →

NCIS at 13

A week or so ago, the magic icon on Netflix appeared, “New Episodes” for NCIS. Cool. Season 12 left with a cliff hangar of Agent Gibbs being shot by a child member of “The Calling” and I needed closure.

So, we tucked into some binge watching of the latest season of NCIS, re-watching the final episode of season 12 to get in the groove.

What a disappointment. It was a pretty weak closure of the cliff hangar (di Nozzo shoots the master mind in China), and then it got into the absurd. Seriously, they are called in to a massacre on a quasi “Doctors without Boarders” camp in South Sudan, and find out that the missing doctor is the husband of Jean Benoit? Are you fucking kidding me? How cheesy is that plot twist. Continue reading →

It’s Over (Sopranos)

Not quite a marathon of binge watching, but as I have posted a couple of times already, we have been working our way through The Sopranos a couple of episodes a night. It took about a month with a few breaks (notably a week in Baja California), so it really wasn’t a binge, per se.

In my other observations, I mentioned how unsympathetic the characters are, how callous their actions, and how quick to violence or murder they are. The last few episodes took this to an extreme. From Chris shooting his screenwriting “partner” in a alcohol and narcotics fueled rage, to Tony’s hastening the demise of Chris Moltisanto after the auto wreck (you really can’t feel too sorry for his death, he superbly played the “dick” druggie throughout the series), and the escalation of the war of the families near the end. Continue reading →

Mid series checkin – Sopranos

A while back, I posted about (finally) watching The Sopranos, and how I became hooked. I am now about halfway through season 4, and completely addicted. From the catchy opening credit music, to the music that indicates the outro, I just can’t put these down.

It is good that so many of the actors/actresses from Goodfellas found work. Including Spider (Michael Imperioli) whom Joe Pesci shot in the card game scene.

But, like Mad Men before it, the characters that you get into, that draw you into the episodes are so utterly horrible, so unsympathetic, that you can’t stop. Like the womanizing Don Draper, Tony Soprano is unfaithful, a louse, a fairly poor manager of his “crew”, with members of said crew testing their boundaries that contribute to chaos. Continue reading →

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Late to the Party – The Sopranos

I just started watching The Sopranos. Yeah, I am lame. Of course I heard all the raving and wonderful reviews, but I didn’t have HBO, and I never rented the DVD’s.

Now, with the Roamio, I have connected both my Netflix account and my Amazon Prime account for streaming. The Amazon app recommended “The Sopranos.”

I am hooked, about to start the 5th episode of the first season, and it is intoxicating.

It is also good to see all the actors from Goodfella’s getting some more work.

Yeah, I know how it ends, but it has been long enough since it originally aired, I can really enjoy it.

The first episode wasn’t quite enough to capture my attention, but it has grown on me.


Hawaii Five-O Observations

I have mentioned in the past about watching classic TV on Netflix and singled out Hawaii Five O as endlessly entertaining.

jack-lord-4Lately, I have swung back into that series, and I have a few observations:

  • 12 seasons – how on earth did that show last for 12 seasons? Seriously, by the 4th season it was becoming tiring to watch, and the plots have become super predictable.
  • Rain in Hawaii – Knowing that the islands get a pretty consistent amount of rain, it is remarkable that there are almost no scenes where they are prancing around policing in the rain. But every trip McGarrett takes to the mainland? You guessed it, he is under an umbrella. (it takes until season 8 before they are chasing a suspect and it is raining.)
  • Tourism Promotion – I get it, the show is a thinly veiled tourism promotion vehicle (as well as a way for Jack Lord to get paid to live in a garden paradise). But all that crime? Oy vey, according to Five-O, the islands are awash in gangs, prostitution, gambling, and Chinese spies. Not a very inviting place to vacation, eh?
  • Gunplay – The quantity of shootouts is truly staggering. I believe every episode has gun battles with bad guys being gunned down by the righteous agents of Five-O. In the real world, far fewer police actions involve firing their weapons. I get that it is the late 1960’s in the show, but holy hell, do they shoot a lot of people.
  • Drugs – One persistent theme is the scourge that is illicit drugs. In many of the episodes, there is the specter of LSD, marijuana, and even methamphetamines awash in the island. I know it is a sign of the times, but the portrayal of the strung out dopers is hilarious.

I know my parents looked forward to the weekly exploits of McGarrett and Danny Williams. 30 years on, meh. Give me the Rockford Files any day of the week.

House Journal – New TV

I have been MIA lately, the move, unpacking, and some insane deadlines at work have meant that I had no time to write, but I will begin to rectify that.

With the move, the trusty Pioneer Plasma screen was showing its age. When we bought it in 2006, the LCD panels at the time sucked big tool. Side by side, there was no comparison, the plasma kicked their ass all over the playground.

It was a 42″ unit, and a solid performer, but it was input constrained, and while the picture quality was superb, it was a bit of a power hog.

With our new house, we knew we wanted something a bit larger (but not too large, as our viewing room was modest) with smart TV capability, and more HDMI inputs.

I looked long and hard at the 4K screens, but at the size we were interested in, 55″ it just wasn’t compelling. No real content (some netflix, and some DirecTV) and to get something with a good refresh rate, you need to drop about $2K.

Much browsing at Bestbuy, looking at the Samsung, LG and Sony panels in our range, and they were all good, and apart from the Sony, comparably priced. However, the Bestbuy sales droid pointed me at the Panasonc Bravia 55″. On clearance, and a size exclusive to Bestbuy, the screen was sweet. 240hz refresh rate, excellent colors, and a compelling price, I was sold.

Hanging it on the wall was a breeze, and our electricians made passthroughs for the cables, so it is almost clutter free.

Quality of the display is impressive. Bluray movies “pop”. I tossed in The Matrix, and Casino Royale, and the quality is superb.

I haven’t explored much of the apps yet, but the Netflix app, built in (and a netflix button on the remote to boot) makes it super easy to watch streaming videos. Way better than the old way, firing up the Xbox, and using the app there. That takes about a minute and a half until you can begin watching. Now, about 20 seconds, and you are streaming.

Our Tivo hooked right up, and covers our DVR/live TV needs.

HD resolution, on the 55″, at the viewing distances we have is plenty good. I am not regretting the choice of not going to the 4K resolution. This thing is awesome.

And being a LED backlit display, this unit uses less than 1/4 the juice that the Plasma screen did.

We did donate the plasma screen, and it has a new home at one of our movers, I am sure it will continue to be a great screen, but we aren’t pining for it.

Drugs Inc. – An at times brutal view of the drug trade

Life with Netflix Streaming is never dull. As they increase their library, and more importantly, improve their algorithms for matching what I would like, I get some great recommendations. One such recommendations is a show on the National Geographic Channel called Drugs Inc.

Netflix is missing the first season, but I practically binged on the two seasons that are available. In a nutshell, it is a behind the scenes view of the narcotics trade from production, transportation, trafficking, and a look on the users and communities that are the end users.

Continue reading →

Classic TV – The Rockford Files

With the recent passing of the legendary James Garner I have once again tossed the hit TV series “The Rockford Files” onto my Netflix streaming list. I had gone through the series a few years ago, reminiscing about my childhood, but this time it was to honor the memory of James.

It is astounding how well the stories hold up to time. Written and filmed in the mid 1970’s, the stories are timeless, and entertaining today. Yes, technology is better, and a lot of the tricks of the trade employed by the main character wouldn’t fly today, in all it still makes for amazingly entertaining watching.

One fixture in the show, is Rockford’s trailer, parked on the beach. Unassuming from the outside, and remarkably spacious on the inside, it is a comforting prop to the show.

Of course, now that I am looking for a house here in California, and I might slip down into “manufactured home” territory (thanks to my shitty relocation company) I look on Rockford’s trailer with envy. Great location, and boy, how spacious is it inside.

Answer: far more spacious than it really is. Alas, the interior filming was done on a sound stage, the main reason why the trailer shots aren’t cramped.

Still, a man can dream.

If you have Netflix streaming, I highly recommend tossing this on your list, and watching a few episodes. You will be sucked in and enjoy the time spent.