Man or Muppet: This season’s Bachelors are made of felt and ping-pong balls

Try NatGeo’s Badlands for Making a Murderer Withdrawals

NatGeo has had some programming highs and lows in the last decade or so, and until recently I’ve been unable to find something truly binge-worthy in its line-up.

But I stumbled onto Badlands, Texas during a particularly slow viewing night and got hooked. It has true crime, human interest, a slice of Americana…not unlike a certain Netflix docu-series that’s been making the rounds lately. I actually started watching Badlands before Making a Murderer, though at the traditional real-time TV pace once a week, so it’s still going strong.

The show tells the stories of the residents of Terlingua, an off-grid border town in Texas. It’s filmed in an almost impressionist style, with a lot of badlands b-roll and abstract visual sequences like glass shattering in slow-mo, or puzzle pieces falling into place on a stark white table.

Some of the characters add to this eerie feel, in particular a man I just refer to as The Stranger (but whose real name is Ty Mitchell) because he reminds me so much of Sam Elliot’s role in The Big Lebowski. He couldn’t have been written any better in a fictional script…he’s got a 10-gallon hat, snake-skin boots, a leather eye patch, a gnarly scar down one cheek, and a bottle of beer set next to his propped up legs on a rustic table, while he holds a cup of black coffee at the same time.

https://i0.wp.com/www.foxflash.com/sites/default/files/imagecache/336x235/ep101_002_badlandstexas.jpg

At first, I thought the show would be focused solely on telling the stories of Terlingua’s residents, which would have been fine. But nay; as soon as we’re introduced to The Stranger, Trailer-Rental Ronda (who is strikingly gorgeous), ‘Doctor Doug’ and the rest of the cast of characters, we’re on to the real meat of the matter: one of this tiny town’s residents killed another resident. They were both loved, they were both drunk, and now one is dead and the other doesn’t remember doing the deed.

Cue the trial; cue Episode 2.

Badlands, Texas is on NatGeo and available on Hulu.

 

 

 

FearFest is back and I don’t want to leave my couch

...Here comes the rain again.

…Here comes the rain again.

As I type, Jason Vorhees is attacking a random teenager and a young Corey Feldman just inexplicably cut his hair off in the bathroom.

These are the days I live for – AMC’s two-week celebration of gore, Fear Fest. When October 13 rolls around, I know my television viewing is secure until November. The good, the bad, and the ugly — all valid choices when it comes to horror flicks — are packed into marathon-style blocks and churned out over and over for days on end. I couldn’t be happier. I’m knee deep in the Friday the 13th series now — just finishing off IV (The Final Chapter) and skating into V (A New Beginning). I still don’t have an answer as to why Corey Feldman needed to pull a Britney to save the day, but that’s what happened.

From what I can tell, there are no major changes this year to the Fear Fest repertoire… Kevin Smith seems to have been given the boot after hosting last year, although his show is still on. The quizzes and online extras are still at AMCtv.com, but I haven’t seen much promotion for them. The big additions look to be airing the Child’s Play franchise and premiere showings of a handful of films, the best of which being The Omen (1976), the worst seemingly Tremors 4: The Legend Begins.

That said, the streaming horror franchises I already know and love are enough to keep me glued to the flatscreen. Tonight it’s Jason, tomorrow Michael, Chucky, or Freddy. It’s like an undead Chippendales in here.

Emmy Noms: So Delicious

I pored over this year’s Emmy Nominations list when it was released last week with my usual zeal for both awards shows and lists.

What I saw were many signs of life in the creative arm of the entertainment industry: renewed battles between veterans and newcomers, multiple nominations among actors, writers, and directors, and recognizable names in all sorts of categories, from cinematography to choreography, to name a few.

Regarding the latter, let’s start with Writing for a Variety Series: Fred Armisen and former Sleater-Kinney rocker Carrie Brownstein for the win, anyone? There’s also an oddly celebrified Voice-over Performance Category; Seth MacFarlane and Seth Green go without saying here, but Sam Elliott and Lily Tomlin? The playing field has widened.

I love the new and still-evolving award categories, too, like Best Interactive Program. While I think those at the helm of said programs need to put a little more work into the titles — Game Of Thrones Season Three Enhanced Digital Experience is kind of a mouthful — the fact that they even exist is a nod and-a-half to the power of social media. Holla.

Then there are the categories that probably aren’t new, but are no less intriguing to me in today’s fast-paced media climate. They stand out as growing pains. I can’t help but wonder: does there really need to be a category for Documentary or Nonfiction Series, Documentary or Nonfiction Special, and an Informational Series or Special? I gather that ‘Informational Series’ is geared more toward educational or awareness material, but it still makes me think of George Carlin’s Flammable-Inflammable Rant.

Special Visual Effects in a Supporting Role confuses me too. Is it the effects we’re talking about here? Or special effects surrounding one character, like Barnabas Collins of Dark Shadows? The nominees in this category don’t help me, either. Two are for pilots and four are for shows on premium channels that I don’t get. I honestly didn’t even know Starz still existed but way to go, Da Vinci’s Demons.

Circling back to the stars and the shows they’re on, though, because hey — they’re fun — there are a slew of people to root for. I, of course, focus on the shows that I follow and by no means is that an exhaustive treatment of what’s on t.v. today. That said, I do have a few favorites:

Best Drama Series

While I watch both Mad Men and Breaking Bad, and both had amazing seasons, I have to give this year to Walter White and Company. The writers started with a high school chemistry teacher and will ultimately end with a character of whom any reasonably minded human is terrified. Recognize.

Actress in a Drama

I want Elisabeth Moss to take the Emmy home; Peggy Olson is the glue that holds the Mad house together. That said, I don’t think she will. I watched Robin Wright in House of Cards and Vera Farmiga in Bates Motel, and if I had to choose between the three I’d take Farmiga for the knock-out, but I also think Wright has the critics’ support.

Actor in a Comedy
Jason Bateman stands out in this category for me not just because I really want him to win — call it Sympathy for Nichael Bluth — but also because he’s surrounded by a flock of award-winners. Give the little guy a chance.

Supporting Actress in a Comedy
The supporting categories are more interesting to me than the Lead noms most years, and especially this year. These are the character players. The funny women after my own heart. The sauce.

Vying for the nostalgia vote are former child stars Mayim Bialik (The Big Bang Theory) and Anna Chlumsky (Veep), joined by now-seasoned comedy veterans Jane Lynch (Glee), Sofia Vergara (Modern Family), Jane Krakowski (30 Rock), and Julie Bowen (Modern Family). Merritt Wever (Nurse Jackie) is my top candidate. Her portrayal of the warm-hearted, socially awkward, professionally adept Nurse Zoe is one of the best performances on television in its nuances alone.

Guest Actor in a Drama

I Tweeted earlier in the year that I though Harry Hamlin’s turn as the latest partner at Sterling Coop was his best, and apparently, the critics agree.

Guest Actress in a Drama

Many of us didn’t know whether to cheer or shed a tear when we saw Linda Cardellini, our beloved Freaks and Geeks Lindsay, getting all Betty Rubble Cray Cray on Mad Men. With an award at hand, now we can just cheer. Ironically, of course.

My ultimate favorite in this category has to go to two-time nominee Joan Cusack as agoraphobic Sheila on Shameless, though. No one can play a house-bound housewife with a sex-toy fetish like Joan Cusack. And I mean that as a compliment.

Honorable Mentions

  • Anthony Bourdain is nominated for three — three — Emmys. I’m beginning to think I should add ‘win an Emmy’ to my bucket list. Apparently it’s more attainable than I previously thought*.
  • Christina Hendricks, you have some tough competition. But I want this be your year. And so does Johnny Walker.
  • Liz & Dick managed to squeak an Emmy nom under its belt before fading into obscurity: for hairstyling.
  • There’s all sorts of buzz around the Netflix-based nominees this year, but FunnyorDie.com? For the Emmy? That’s progress.
  • Rory Kennedy is nominated for Direction of a documentary about her mother, Ethel.
  • Betty White.

The Lifetime Achievement Award goes to:

The Simpsons on its Emmy nom for Treehouse of Horror: XXIII.

Final Thoughts

It’s true that the fame-names drew me into further discovery of those lesser-known categories. But the categories themselves kept me looking, and hopefully there are future writers, composers, editors and producers out there doing the same… the opportunities are only growing.

* I kid. He’s actually a multiple Emmy winner. I just wanted to dish it out.