There are pretenders among us…

The Pretender ran for four all too brief seasons. It had good acting, truly fascinating, lovable and at times heartwrenching characters and twisty, devious plots on the Centre side of things. Jared’s weekly mission plot got to be very formulaic, but it was balanced by the utterly wacky going-ons at the Centre which were never fully explained to anyone’s satisfaction.

The premise of the story is that in 1963 a young boy named Jared was taken from his family by an organization known only as “the Centre,” a secret research facility, among other things. Jared had a high IQ and was used to run simulations and solve problems. He lived there in a miserable little cell for thirty years. Then he escaped in 1996 and has been searching for his family, his past, and who he really is ever since. He also helps other people, bringing justice or saving lives along the way.

Sydney Mihileau (?), who has his own complicated past, works for the Centre and was the person in charge of Jared. Or at least the person that interacted with Jared and taught him, since he technically had no control over Jared’s fate. Sydney came to love Jared like his own son and Jared loves Sydney, the only father that he ever knew, the only person that cared about him in that place.

Miss Parker, once sweet and good, acts like a thoroughly unpleasant hag: nasty, unfeeling and callous of the feelings and needs of others. Her mother died when she was a young girl and her father ignored her. All Miss Parker has ever wanted since then is to be loved by her dad, which has never happened.

Broots is just this normal, rather cowardly guy who works at the Centre. He, Miss Parker, and Sydney are assigned to track down Jared and bring him back. Well, Sydney is always helping Jared. Miss Parker ends up finding out that she and Jared are both on a search for the truth about who they are. And Broots wants to help, but also does not want to end up being killed, courtesy of Mr. Parker, Mr. Raines, Mr. Lyle, Brigitte or another operative of the Triumvirate. It can be very confusing, and also very funny, especially as Jared discovers things that we take for granted, but that fascinate him as he discovers them for the first time, things like Play Dough, Silly Putty, ice cream, Monkeys in a Barrel, Pez and Bazooka Bubble Gum to name a few.

Unfortunately, in 2000, NBC canceled the show on a cliff-hanger ending and although two tv films were made, they did not address the open questions of the series, but rather just raised more. Although there was talk of a third, more conclusive film, none has been made to-date. Still, one of my favorite series, it is a lot of fun and I highly recommend you take a look.

Brief list of characters

Psych (Or find the pineapple)

Psych is USA’s brilliant comedy-mystery series that is partly about crime-solving, partly about fitting in obscure 80’s references and totally about having a zany, fun time. Oh, and finding a pineapple.

Five Reasons to watch Psych by icycolour @ luminous-rose.

Those reasons are pretty accurate. Great cast, they have a ton of fun, its  lighthearted. The one thing that I wish they would do is resolve issues. They open up these huge issues between characters, most specifically Shawn and his dad Henry and then they leave it unresolved. Please, please stop doing this. For instance, has Henry ever told Shawn he loves him or hugged him in his life? I am still watching to see how that father/son relationship is developed. I felt that when Shawn learned the truth about his mom leaving and how his dad tried to protect his mom even then by taking the blame that we should have seen a shift in their attitude toward one another. Especially on Shawn’s part when he realized that his dad was not who he had thought him to be all these years. But it ends before anything meaningful is said and by the next episode it is forgotten or so it would seem…

And there was this one part in “Spelling Bee” where Shawn gets run off the road while riding his motorcycle by the villain and has to go to the hospital overnight. It does not appear in the episode that Henry knew everything that had happened. Then, in “Cloudy with a Chance of Murder,” Henry tips off the cops about Shawn’s illegal parking and gets his bike impounded. He and Shawn then have this spat about Henry having always hated that bike, esp. since Shawn’s “accident.” Are they referring to the accident in “Spelling Bee”? Considering that Henry explodes and says something like “Fine, do whatever you want. Just take me off your emergency contact list so that the next time you get hurt they don’t carry you through that door bleeding,” or the like. He may just have been making a point or referring to another accident. I wasn’t sure, but it was interesting. And if he was referring to the “Spelling Bee” one, why wasn’t he contacted when Shawn was taken to the hospital, since when Shawn comes back to the house the next morning with his brace on, Henry had no idea, or seemed to have no idea of what had happened? I am looking at the far too closely, but I’d like to know.

Anyways, season four started this month and it looks like a good year, with a lot of fun, wacky episodes, and some more serious ones too. One with some background on Lassy, one where Shawn takes a shot, etc. The only thing I am definitely not looking forward to is them having Shawn and Abigail date. Meh.

Fridays @ 9 pm on your USA channel.

Elen, rana, anar, kuluva tiliyana nu vilya.

 

And today, some links for all things Elven.

Elvish Name Translations

Quenya Lapseparma: A Brief History of Nonsense (Elvish names A-Z)

Ardalambion: A World of Language

Behind the Name ~ Because names in general are fascinating and closely related to philology.

Parma Eldalamberon ~ Ever wanted to actually speak one of Tolkien’s elven languages? Head here to get the goods.

Flower Fairy Prints ~ The Artwork of Cicily Mary Barker (Technically not Tolkien…)

NAMES

Think Baby Names

Behind the Name: Saints List

Irish Saints

N.C.I.S.

Six seasons, going on 7th this September, 2009.

I love best the humor of the show, a lightheartedness not often found, esp. in “crime-solving” shows, much less in such abundance. They have a great cast, who work well together and really sell the idea of a working unit that functions more as a family. You have Dad (Gibbs), stern, demanding, authoritative and feared, the undisputed leader and patriarch. He is honorable. He also has quite the protective streak and an affection for his team (read kids) hidden beneath his brusque, cold demeanor. Then there is the cocky older brother (Tony), bit of a womanizer, especially so in the first few seasons, but who is finally maturing, always ready with a joke or quip. Sometimes tries too hard to be respected and in control. And the eternal younger brother (Probie), dutiful, a bit geeky, dull by comparison to his flashier elder sibling, even if he may be the ‘nicer’ person. Kate was the perfect older sister, classy, dignified but with a lot of heart and concern for everyone. Abby is the quirky, eccentric little sister, always doing her own thing. She can be a bit clueless at times and is highly idealistic. Sweet and brilliant, she is cared for and doted on by Dad. And the  boys too. Ducky is the charming great-uncle, with his stories of traveling the world and hundreds of anecdotes and minutiae, ever the gentleman. At last there is the … (this one is tricky because of romantic complications)  girl that is staying with the family from overseas, who never has actually had much of a family and finds that here there is a place where her own unique skills are appreciated and where she is valued as a person, but trouble from her family back in the Middle East might hurt her new family irrevocably.

I love Ziva’s mix-ups with English, esp. idioms. Her Lovely Heart did a neat picspam about that at IconLovely: Here

All the names Tony comes up with for Timothy McGee/ Probie. And I could not forget to mention the headslaps and Gibbs’ rules.

Watch a vid of them here.

 

1. Never screw over your partner. This rule supersedes all other rules.

1. Never let suspects stay together. (Yankee White)

2. Always wear gloves at a crime scene. (Yankee White)

3. Don’t believe what you’re told. (Always) Double check. (Yankee White)

3. Never be unreachable. (Deception)

4. The best way to keep a secret? Keep it to yourself. Second best? Tell one other person – if you must. There is no third best.

4. Never say you’re sorry ( Don’t apologize ). It’s a sign of weakness.

7. Always be specific when you lie. (Reveille)

8. Never take anything for granted. (Probie)

9. Never go anywhere without a knife. (One Shot, One Kill and Missing)

11. When the case is finished, let it go.

12. Never date a co-worker. (Enigma)

13. Never ever involve a lawyer/lawyers. Things are bound to turn nasty. (Collateral Damage)

15. Always work as a team. (Leap of Faith)

18. It’s better to seek forgiveness than ask permission. (Silver War)

22. Never, ever bother Gibbs in interrogation. (Smoked)

23. Never mess with a marine’s coffee ( if you want to live ). (Forced Entry)

38. Your case, your lead. (Bounce)

Some repeat b/c apparently the writers cannot keep them straight and there are gaps for rules that have not yet been revealed. Hopefully they do reveal them all when the series ends. This was as accurate as I could make it.

 

My favorites are Gibbs, Abby and Ducky. Gibbs because he is a leader and honorable. He cares passionately for his people. He’ll protect them at great personal cost.  Abby because she is such a fun, quirky character and I wish she would get more time in the episodes and more exciting stuff to do. Ducky because he is such an amazing man and I love when he is rattling over minutiae and random facts or telling about “that one time when I …”.

Jennifer Thomas: Pianist and Composer

I discovered Jennifer Thomas two years ago through the author Sherwood Smith. And what a fortuitous recommendation. I have given her first cd, Key of Sea, as a gift many times over. And now she has a new compilation album out, which she and her mother collaborated on, called The Lullaby Album. She has some sheet music available. You can listen to snippets from tracks of Key of the Sea here and The Lullaby Album here.

Also, here are some other pieces she has composed that are not yet on a cd. Out of  all her current work, I especially like “Fly Away,” “The Tempest,” “Release,” “Bach Prelude” and “You Don’t Mean A Thing” for its funky, upbeat sound.

Take the time to go check her out. It is well worth it.

Viewing Notes August 2009

I was watching a few older shows on DVD recently, namely J.A.G. and The O.C. Neither were very impressive.

J.A.G. was tolerable, with about a dozen enjoyable episodes. Which is sad given it ran for a whopping 10 seasons. I liked Petty Officer Coates, and Harriet and Bud were usually fun. Admiral Chegwidden was good and Ice Queen, Singer, played the villainess so well.  Mac just was annoying beyond belief and Harm was an idiot far too often. There was not enough of interest in any of the relationships to ever make it worth buying the whole series. My family watched it from about 5th season to its end, which was disappointing to say the least. The one good thing to come of it was the spin-off series, NCIS.

The premise is that of a group of  JAG officers applying the stipulations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and international law as well as providing increasingly ridiculous relationship melodrama and angst.  It was interesting at first to see what the Judge Advocate General office was and the work, however highly fictionalized, that the officers did, but that only lasts for about three episodes when the rest of the story is not that engrossing.  From the beginning, the show regularly incorporated elements of real-life military actions into its storylines, e.g. the aftermath of the Bosnian War, the attack on the USS Cole (DDG-67), the events of the September 11, 2001 attacks and the subsequent War on Terrorism. I think that was a big draw for a lot of viewers, having a show that portrayed military branches and many of the struggles that they went through. I just wish they could have made a better, more intelligent show out of that premise, with stronger characters and tighter writing.

2 out 5. Episodes: 2 x 8, 13; 4 x 1, 2; 5 x 14; 6 x 1,2, 22, 24; That is all the farther that I have rewatched these so 7-10 will have to wait.

The O.C. was the next one I watched. Talk about failed potential!

I liked the Cohens. I really liked that family centered dynamic, with them taking Ryan into their lives and family and how they struggled with the many situations in which they found themselves. I especially liked Seth and Ryan’s friendship as it progressed. The show had some serious potential, but they lost it. I hated every romantic relationship on that show other than Sandy and Kirsten’s. The secondary characters staged a take-over and won. They were ok as the neighbors and as foils and troublemakers; however, I did not care to know them better. I wished that they would have just focused on the Cohen’s, perhaps more on how their lifestyle and community could have been positively impacted by Ryan coming to live with them. Ryan saved their lives and their family (as shown in 4 x 1) and I wished that they would have shown that more powerfully and made it the focus rather than allowing the show to become little else than an evening soap opera that wallowed in self-absorption and pettiness, glamourizing infidelity, selfishness, arrogance and elitism.

I liked the initial premise in those first few episodes. A family in trouble. The ice queen mom Kirsten in real estate. Dad Sandy so focused on solving everyone else’s problems that he fails to see his family’s. Seth, a boy who hates the people around him, recognized the futility and insipidity of their lifestyle. Then Sandy brings Ryan home, a young man from the wrong side of town, with an alcoholic mom, a convict for a dad and a brother well on his way to career criminal. Seth immediately strikes up a friendship with Ryan. And Seth is quite a talker, while Ryan is not big on conversation, so watching them interact can be very amusing. And Kirsten is worried about bringing this troubled teen into her “perfect home. But quickly it dissolved into a teen romance-fest. Booooooring.

2 out of 5. Barely. Episodes:  1 X 1,2,3,4, 13 and 27; 2 X 1 and 2 x 24;  4 x 1, 2 5, and 14 – 16.

Summer Series: Burn Notice

Finally saw the first season of Burn Notice.

What is Burn Notice? Here’s the official synopsis.

When spies get fired, they don’t get a letter from human resources.

They get BURNED…

This summer, USA Network presents the third season of Burn Notice, a sexy, action-packed original series starring Jeffrey Donovan as Michael Westen, a blacklisted spy. After coming face to face with the group of people that burned him, Michael must figure out his next move. All while staying ahead of anyone else that may have him in their crosshairs. In the meantime, he continues to use his unique skills and training to help people in desperate need of assistance.

Burn Notice also stars Gabrielle Anwar as Fiona, a beautiful ex-IRA operative who happens to be Westen’s ex-girlfriend. Bruce CampbellSam, Michael’s closest buddy in town. Sam is a washed up military intelligence contact who is an expert in tactical analysis, cutting through red tape, and finding the quickest route to a cold Mojito. Also starring is Emmy® Award-winner Sharon Gless as Madeline, Michael’s hypochondriac mother, who couldn’t be happier to have her boy back in town .

Created and written by Matt Nix.
I like Michael Westen’s character. Very charismactic, good timing on line delivery and facial expressions. There is a lot of pain and uncertainty in his personal life, tempered by his confidence and assurance in his profession. He is very adept at the spycraft, well-trained in the technical, physical and mental aspects of it. He also has a weird obsession with yogurt.

People with happy families don’t become spies. A bad childhood is the perfect background for covert ops. You don’t trust anyone. You’re used to being smacked around and you never get homesick.”

So, yeah, Michael had an awful childhood. Bad father, rather absent mother and he had to be the one to take care of his mom and younger brother. He left as soon as he could and was soon working as a freelance covert operative. As for secondary characters, his brother is a dead-beat, but by the end of the season there is hope for him. The mom annoys me extremely. She is a hypochondriac and whines constantly about everything. Sam? Well, I am still ambivalent about Sam. And Fiona amuses me. The filming is strange, with a weird stop, pause, go thing every couple minutes (maybe near the commercials when it is on tv?) that really annoyed me. And there a lot of stock images of “Miami,” beach scenes and nightclubs that do nothing more than supposedly give the atmosphere of Miami, which they do just fine on without adding those in. And they are practically the same clips every week anyhow.

Interesting side-note. Jeffrey Donovan played Kyle, Jared’s younger brother in The Pretender. So, it was awesome to see him again in a role where I like his character. And Michael’s weekly “mission,” which usually involves helping someone out, reminds me a lot of Jared’s weekly crusades to help the poor and abused, those taken advantage of and wrongly persecuted.  Probably only fascinating to me. I like to imagine Kyle somehow survived…

Looking forward to seeing seasons 2 and 3. It was renewed for a fourth season of sixteen episodes in 2010. Currently the summer session just ended, with the winter back-half coming up in a few months.

Content advisory: Unlike most of USA’s less mature content shows, like Monk and Psych, Burn Notice is not appropriate for younger viewers. Teens, 15 and up or so. There is drugs, swearing, lots of violence and action, some sensuality, plenty of innuendo for secondary characters, and plenty of shady ethics in general. After all, most of the characters operate outside of the law, like gunrunners and money launderers. You’ve been warned.

Update: October 3, 2009

Saw Season Two on 1 Oct. Michael continues to be a favorite with his wry, cavalier attitude, while the family members become far less grating. Still, not as much backstory as I expected.  My favorite episodes were “Comrades,” “Rough Seas,” “Do No Harm,” end of “Sins of Omission” and “Lesser Evil.” The bright spot of the season for me was seeing Michael Shanks (Daniel Jackson of Stargate SG-1) play the role of would-be assassin Victor. Excellent casting.  Sam really grew on me, while I feel like Fiona needs to grow more as a charcater. I like Michael’s asides throughout each episode. They are the most humorous. Content advisory is the same as before.