Welcome

Thank you for visiting 2nd First Look! Check out our latest post on our Home page. You can also read dozens of more articles on film, television, music, literature, gaming, and the arts by clicking on the designated buttons. We'd love to hear your opinions so make sure to leave comments!
Showing posts with label Jav Rivera. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jav Rivera. Show all posts

2017/09/03

Jason Bateman: Actor & Director

by Jav Rivera

As a child of the '80s, I grew up with a lot of high-concept sitcoms. Shows like "Diff'rent Strokes" or "Silver Spoons" focused on wealthy families trying to relate to the commoners. More often than not these involved children who helped bridge that gap. And for every good kid there was always a snotty bad kid. For "Silver Spoons," that character was Derek Taylor, played by child actor Jason Bateman.

Jason Bateman as Derek Taylor and Ricky Schroder as Ricky Stratton
Even as a kid, I leaned towards Bateman's character. I didn't agree with his villainy per se, but I thought Derek was a more compelling character than Ricky. Bateman, as an actor, didn't seem to play to the camera as much as Schroder. So it came as no surprise when I learned (as an adult) that the reason Bateman was replaced in the second season was due to the fact that NBC was concerned about Bateman's popularity outshining Schroder's. "Silver Spoons" continued on for another four seasons, and Bateman got his own show, "It's Your Move." It didn't last long, but it would be one of the many projects that began to shape the actor and future director.

Jason Bateman got his big break on the Michael Landon series "Little House on the Prairie." From there he was cast in small roles in a variety of other television shows. Eventually, he landed the Derek role on "Silver Spoons." This is when his popularity started to grow. Though recognizable, none of his shows lasted much more than one season.

Valerie Harper and Bateman ("Valerie")
That is until "Valerie," starring Valerie Harper. The series lasted 6 seasons, from 1986 - 1991, and was where Bateman got his first chance working behind the scenes. Bateman may have only directed three episodes, but at the age of 18, he was the youngest member of the Directors Guild of America.

Now that Bateman had directing experience on "Valerie," he went on to direct other shows including "Family Matters," "Brother's Keeper," "Two of a Kind," "For Your Love" and "Do Not Disturb." The early-to-mid '90s weren't Bateman's most popular era during his career, but then he was given a gift from Mitchell Hurwitz in the form of the much-loved series "Arrested Development." For those of you who aren't familiar, the show follows the Bluths, a wealthy, dysfunctional family who lost everything. Bateman plays Michael Bluth, the one son who's trying to save the company, and essentially, the family as well. The show was a success as far as fans, critics, and several awards, but unfortunately it couldn't get the viewership needed for FOX to keep it on the air. It was cancelled after three seasons but fan support brought it back, this time as a Netflix (semi) Original series.

It's hard to shed new light on "Arrested Development" since so many articles have already been written about it. And justly so. It's in my top three favorite shows and most of the show's fans are devoted, hardcore lovers of the Bluth family. The cast includes Tony Hale (as Buster), Alia Shawkat (as Maeby), Michael Cera (as George Michael), Jessica Walter (as Lucille), Jeffrey Tambor (as George Sr.), Portia de Rossi (as Lindsay), David Cross (as Tobias), Will Arnett (as GOB), and Ron Howard (as the Narrator).

What's interesting is that Bateman almost didn't get the role of Michael, due to his waning career at the time. But after he auditioned, Mitchell Hurwitz, who created the series, didn't want anyone else. In an interview, Hurwitz stated that he was so impressed by Bateman's portrayal that he ran down the hall to tell Bateman not to audition for a different series. I honestly couldn't imagine Michael Bluth played by anyone else. And just like Bateman, I couldn't imagine any of these actors being replaced.

L-R: Tony Hale (Buster), Alia Shawkat (Maeby), Michael Cera (George Michael), Jessica Walter (Lucille), Bateman (Michael),
Jeffrey Tambor (George Sr.), Portia de Rossi (Lindsay), David Cross (Tobias), and Will Arnett (GOB)
Bateman directed one of my favorite "Arrested Development" episodes entitled "Afternoon Delight" (season 2, episode 6). This, I think, is where Bateman began to use editing as a comedic tool. There's a running joke in the episode about GOB Bluth's expensive suit. GOB, played by Will Arnett, argues that his suit deems him worthy of avoiding any social interactions and physical labor. Not only is the joke funny because of how many times it's used, but also how GOB's sentence gets edited throughout the episode.

Scene from "Arrested Development" L-R: Jessica Walter, Will Arnett, and Jason Bateman
For me, this felt like Bateman's comeback. Since "Arrested Development" in 1999, Bateman has had a steady work of great films including Juno, Extract, Up in the Air, and the popular Horrible Bosses. He's also taken on more serious projects like Shawn Levy's 2014 film This Is Where I Leave You and Joel Edgerton's eerie 2015 film, The Gift. But I have to mention his scene-stealing bit part on Joe Carnahan's 2006 film Smokin' Aces. I'm sure the makeup department deserves some credit for making his character Rip Reed look as disgusting as possible, but it's Bateman's performance that stands out.



This is where I first noticed Bateman's hidden abilities. He's mostly worked on comedies, and usually plays the straight man character, but there seems to be a lot more to him. He's lent his voice to various animated series including "King of the Hill," "Justice League Unlimited," and the under-appreciated series "Sit Down Shut Up" which deserved many more seasons. He was also the uncredited narrator for the NBC series "Growing Up Fisher" starring J.K. Simmons, and voiced the fox, Nick Wilde, in Disney's Zootopia.

In 2010, I remember seeing posters all around town for his film The Switch with Jennifer Aniston. I didn't know anything about the movie and figured it was another stereotypical romantic comedy, so I didn't bother with it. Many years later I found it on Netflix and upon remembering the poster, I decided to give it a shot. Since that day, I've watched The Switch half a dozen times, and it never gets old.

Bateman stars as Wally, an introverted man with harsh personality traits and a bleak outlook on life; of course he describes himself as a realist. Jennifer Aniston co-stars as Kassie, a woman who's reached a point where she's ready for a baby, despite being single. She decides to go through an artificial insemination procedure and asks her best friend, Wally, to help her find a donor.

Seemingly unnoticed, Aniston and Bateman have worked together on several films, each time as very different characters in very different relationships. The two have always had great chemistry onscreen so it was nice to finally see them in such an intimate partnership. The Switch does tread on rom-com waters but it's such a unique story with heart-warming performances that I never felt like I was watching a trendy date movie. Besides the two leads and their supporting cast, Jeff Goldblum, Juliette Lewis, and Patrick Wilson, there's another actor who made the movie stand out: Thomas Robinson, as Kassie's son Sebastian.



As odd as it may be to think this, there's something really cute about a child having such introspective -- and often negative -- thoughts. Maybe it's just the way Robinson delivers his lines. And although the entire movie is great, I mostly love the scenes between Bateman and Robinson. The two played off of each other naturally, and in their own way the two created an onscreen bond much like that of Dustin Hoffman and Justin Henry from the film Kramer vs. Kramer. In fact, there's even homage to the 1979 film in a scene where Bateman and Robinson are making pancakes together. For me, The Switch is one of those movies that I'm ready to re-watch as soon as it ends.

In the past few years, Bateman has widened his talents seemingly under the radar. In 2013, Bateman starred in and directed the film Bad Words. Though he had directed several TV shows, this was his first feature film, and in my opinion, a successful debut. It walks a fine line between comedy and drama without ever watering down either genre.

Bateman stars as Guy Tribly, a forty-something spelling bee contestant competing against children. His character comes across as crude for nearly the entire film and Bateman plays the character unapologetically. Whether he's trash talking his competition, like telling a boy that his parents are getting a divorce or psyching out a girl about her first period (using a packet of ketchup), Tribly's not at all concerned about how he wins. It co-stars Philip Baker Hall, Rohan Chand, and the always great Kathryn Hahn.

We're introduced to Tribly's world through one of his spelling bee competitions and a narration by his character. Without revealing too much, the narration sets the stage for a somewhat mysterious character and his many poor choices. On a side note, the marketing department nailed it perfectly when they created the movie poster for Bad Words, a close-up photo of Bateman in mid-sentence. And it's safe to say that the next word begins with an "F". I don't know whose idea it was, but I really hope it was Bateman himself, as it embodies the character and film in a very unflattering way.

Already a fan of Bateman's acting, I was beyond impressed by Bad Words and hoped he would direct more. Then just a few months ago, out of nowhere, I discovered his second feature film as a director, The Family Fang, on the STARZ app. It was technically completed in September of 2015, but I never knew about it until recently. Talk about under the radar! In my defense, the film had a limited release in the United States, roughly 50 movie theatres in 2016.

The Family Fang focuses on a family of performance artists whose parents go the extreme to justify their art. Once again Bateman both starred and directed, but this time he co-stars with some heavy hitters. Nicole Kidman, who bought the rights for the novel by Kevin Wilson on which the film is based, also stars as Bateman's sister. Their father is played by Christopher Walken, who could have easily been awarded for his performance, Kidman too for that matter. Maryann Plunkett plays their present day mother. In the flashback scenes, Kathryn Hahn and Jason Butler Harner play their younger mother and father. Hahn and Harner shine as the younger versions, matching extremely well with the Walken and Plunkett versions.

Like Bad Words, The Family Fang plays with both comedy and drama elements, though because of the storyline the film falls more into the drama category. Credit is due to Bateman's performance as well, but it's his direction that deserves the accolades. Bateman expertly blends the past and present as we are slowly given insight into all the characters. It seems as if Bateman has already honed his skills as a director in the short couple years since Bad Words. So what came next for Bateman? Netflix.

In July of 2017, the Netflix Original series "Ozark" was released. Bateman stars as the main character Marty Byrde, a money launderer whose partner gets him into hot water with the Mexican cartel. Bateman channels a much darker and more layered character than he's ever played. His performance alone has already gained some positive attention. His cast mates, also turning some heads, include Laura Linney (The Truman Show) as Marty's wife and Jason Butler Harner (The Family Fang) as an obsessed FBI agent. They're supported by Julia Garner (We Are What We Are) as Ruth, a 19-year old criminal out to steal Marty's cartel money, Skylar Gaertner ("Daredevil") as Marty's 13-year old son Jonah, Sofia Hublitz as Marty's 15-year old daughter Charlotte, and veteran actor Harris Yulin as the Byrde's live-in tenant Buddy. That doesn't even begin to cover all the supporting actors who help make this one of the best -- and darkest -- Netflix Originals to date.


In fact, the series is so good that I've already watched all ten episodes twice, catching more the second time. Bateman directed four of the ten episodes including the first ("Sugarwood") and last ("The Toll"). He's clearly got a handle on his directing skills and it would seem a waste if he didn't continue. It was recently announced that the show has been renewed for a second season, and though the future of "Ozark" after that hasn't been determined yet, executive producer Chris Mundy envisions a total of five seasons if Netflix agrees to it. I personally hope that happens.

Bateman has long-since established himself as a film and television star. Following his career, you can see the stages of his development as an actor and director. Though only 48 years old, he's already a screen veteran, and one of the few success stories of child actors. I imagine he will continue acting, especially with new "Arrested Development" episodes on the way, and I hope that his directing career has just started.

For more information, visit IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000867

TRIVIA: Jason Bateman's co-star from "Valerie," Steve Witting, has appeared in many of Bateman's projects including Bad Words, The Family Fang, and "Ozark."





2017/06/04

Chris Isaak's Beyond The Sun

by Jav Rivera

There must be some kind of magic at Sun Studio in Memphis, Tennessee. The studio was home for musicians like Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash. There's a distinct sound that comes from that studio and it is unlike anything else. In 2011, Chris Isaak recaptured that magic in his album, "Beyond the Sun."


The deluxe version of the album consists of 25 tracks honoring some of the most iconic music that came from Sun Studio. There are also two original songs written by Isaak. Those two sound so much like that of Presley, Orbison, and Lee Lewis that I hadn't noticed they were written by Isaak until I read the liner notes.

Chris Isaak
"Beyond the Sun" is proof of how much Isaak cherishes the history of rock music, and the liner notes read almost like a mini-biography of the Sun Studio era. There's no question of the amount of respect he has for those musicians. It's also clear by the same liner notes, as well as in interviews, that Isaak regards his band to the highest degree.

To appreciate his sentiment, you might need some background on recording music. Today, just about anyone can plug in a guitar and microphone to a computer and record something. There are endless software programs that can tweak, improve, or flat out replace mistakes. Before this technology, however, bands had to rehearse a song until it was perfect. From there they would all gather in a small studio and record the song from beginning to end without error. Take after take, the band would play until they got the best -- most flawless -- version.

As easy as it would have been to use today's technology, Isaak and his band chose the latter. They booked time at Sun Studio, and recorded all 25 tracks just like Elvis or Johnny Cash would have. The result is a record that sounds so authentic to the Sun Studio era that if you didn't know any better, you'd think that Isaak and company hopped inside a time machine. Prior to "Beyond the Sun" any Isaak fan would have told you that he has one of the tightest bands around. They gel so well you wonder if they're just a bunch of clones. And for me, this album is the finest display of their talent.

L-R: Scott Plunkett, Hershel Yatovitz, Rafael Padilla, Rowland Salley, Chris Isaak, and Kenney Dale Johnson
Sun Studio is no stranger to historians and music aficionados. It's a place of legend and even a tourist stop. It's amazing how a small building has made such a huge impact on music, history, and America. I hate to think how different music would sound today if it weren't for this little space in Memphis.

Through the liner notes, I learned about Sam Phillips -- someone who seems to be under-appreciated by the general public. Phillips can be credited for creating the Rock and Roll sound, and also for finding some of the greatest artists, including Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, and Elvis. Isaak tells a wonderful story about an article he read about Phillips, but instead of repeating the end of his story, I'll entice you by saying that it's worth it to seek out the liner notes to read it for yourself.

 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, TN 38103
Prior to "Beyond the Sun," there was another album that featured music from the Sun Studio era. Released in 2001, it was entitled "Good Rockin' Tonight: The Legacy of Sun Records," and was produced by Ahmet Ertegun (founder of Atlantic Records). PBS' American Masters also featured Sun Records on one of their episodes. Paul McCartney, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, Elton John, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, and many more can be found paying homage to the Sun Record Company. Chris Isaak even has a track on it -- his cover of "It Wouldn't Be The Same Without You." And though this record is full of wonderful artists, the tracks are, for the most part, covered in the artists' own style and not quite the authentic sound that Isaak captured for his 2011 record.

Album cover and back sleeve for "Good Rockin' Tonight: The Legacy of Sun Records"
Given Chris Isaak's style -- which is highly-influenced by the Sun Studio era -- it makes more sense then that "Beyond the Sun" feels like a better representation. Below is a list of my favorite tracks from the album, beginning with my absolute favorite ("That Lucky Old Sun"). Keep in mind this album is great from beginning to end; the list below just happens to be of songs I crank the volume up slightly higher for:

  • "That Lucky Old Sun"
  • "My Happiness"
  • "Miss Pearl"
  • "Live It Up"
  • "How's the World Treating You"
  • "Trying to Get to You"





Ever since I was young, I've had a love/hate relationship with covers. Some artists know how to take someone else's song and make it their own, keeping the spirit of the song intact. Others just want to make a quick buck by covering a famous song. "Beyond the Sun" is all love. No one else but Chris Isaak and his band could have done what they did.

For more information, visit Isaak's official website: www.chrisisaak.com

TRIVIA: While in college, Chris Isaak was an amateur light heavyweight boxer.





2017/03/05

Paul Feig's Other Space

by Jav Rivera


One of the main reasons this site exists is to showcase art that most people have never seen/heard. And in doing so, we hope that others will find something wonderful that may have never been discovered otherwise. Every once in a while I'll get asked how I find these hidden treasures. The truth is that there are a variety of ways. Sometimes it's a friend's recommendation. Sometimes it's by accident. And sometimes it's completely intentional.

"Other Space" was mostly intentional. I've been a fan of Paul Feig ever since I watched "Freaks and Geeks" way back when. Although Judd Apatow (40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up) got most of the credit for the show, it was Feig who originally created it, and his fingerprints are definitely what make the series work. Being a huge "Freaks and Geeks" fan, I tried to keep tabs on what Feig was working on. His more famous film projects include Ghostbusters (2016), Spy (2015), The Heat (2013), and Bridesmaids (2011).

L-R: Trace Beaulieu, Joel Hodgson, Milana Vayntrub, Eugene Cordero, Paul Feig, Karan Soni, Bess Rous, Neil Casey, and Conor Leslie
Feig has also directed episodes of popular television series such as "The Office," "Arrested Development," "Nurse Jackie," "Parks and Recreation," "Weeds," and "30 Rock," some of which he also worked on as executive producer. But for some reason, "Other Space" came in under the radar. Perhaps it's because of the whole Yahoo Screen debacle (more on that later), but this show deserves some recognition. And like most of Feig's projects, it's not just because of his involvement; his casting is (once again) spot-on.

"Past the moon. Past Mars. Let us sail to the stars!"

Released in April 2015, "Other Space" is set in...well...space, in the year 2105. But due to an encounter with a strange portal, the crew is transported to another universe -- or to an Other Space. It's been described as "The Office" in space, or even "The Office" meets "Lost in Space." It's also been compared to the much-loved British series "Red Dwarf."

The crew, within the UMP Cruiser, is a mixed bag of nuts. And though some of their characteristics can be traced back to stereotypical sci-fi shows, the cast of "Other Space" bring their own charm and talent. I honestly couldn't picture anyone else except these actors as their characters, especially given how easy these actors made it to love these oddballs.

L-R: Gypsy, Crow, Joel, and Tom Servo
And I'm elated that they're mostly unknown actors. I've written about the lack of attention to lesser-known actors before, specifically in my article about the series "Detectorists," and "Other Space" is another prime example of untapped talent finally being explored. In fact, the most famous of the bunch are Joel Hodgson and Trace Beaulieu, both of whom achieved fame for their series "Mystery Science Theater 3000" (MST3K). And even that isn't all that famous outside of the cult fans (myself included). I'll even admit that my original reason for wanting to watch "Other Space" was because of Hodgson and Beaulieu. When I discovered Feig's involvement I thought, "Yup. This has a lot of potential to be great comedy."

Hodgson, who created "MST3K," and Beaulieu, who voiced (as well as worked as puppeteer for) the character of Crow T. Robot, bring some comedy weight to the show. Both are in perfect form as their characters Zalian (played by Hodgson) the crew's engineer, and A.R.T. (played by Beaulieu), Zalian's robotic sidekick. What's surprising is that it's hard to tell if the rest of the cast is keeping up with Hodgson and Beaulieu or if it's the other way around. And we probably can thank Allison Jones for that.

Jones has become the go-to casting director for some of the best comedic projects, including "Family Ties," "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," "Freaks and Geeks," "Parks and Recreation," and "Curb Your Enthusiam." Some of her film credits include SuperBad, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Scott Pilgrim vs. the WorldStep Brothers, and many, many more. To date, Jones has nearly 100 credits to her name, many of which have incredibly strong ensembles. Having worked with Feig on many of his previous projects, it comes to no surprise that the cast of "Other Space" is as tight as they can get. As I mentioned before, I can't picture anyone else in these characters' shoes. Jones was particularly important because Feig is known for creating shows that are character-based, and I'd say that most of "Other Space's" success as a series is because of this. The cast includes:
  • Trace Beaulieu as A.R.T. 
  • Neil Casey as Kent
  • Eugene Cordero as Michael
  • Joel Hodgson as Zalian 
  • Conor Leslie as Natasha
  • Bess Rous as Karen Lipinski
  • Karan Soni as Captain Stewart Lipinski 
  • Milana Vayntrub as Tina


If their names don't look familiar, their faces might. All of these young actors have been working for years, bringing their talent to TV and film in mostly smaller roles. But this will hopefully change in the near future because they each have unique comedic skills that more shows and movies could (and should) all be taking advantage of.

The Captain (played by Karan Soni), for example, might look familiar if you've seen Ryan Reynold's 2016 Deadpool film. Soni played the cab driver named Dopinder. I was so happy to see Soni in the film because, by that point, I had already seen him in "Other Space." All his scenes in Deadpool got some of the biggest laughs and I'm sure director Tim Miller and actor Reynolds were well aware. I wouldn't be surprised if Dopinder's character had been expanded for the film just because of Soni. On a side note, there's a rumor that Dopinder will be brought back for the Deadpool sequel, and the fans couldn't be happier. But Soni isn't the only one.

Milana Vayntrub in an AT&T commercial
Tina (played by Milana Vayntrub) might look familiar too. She's Lily, the really cute and friendly AT&T girl. Despite having over 40 projects under her belt (some of which I've seen), I've never noticed Vayntrub. And it's probably because she wasn't given anything with as much meat as she deserves. Now that I've seen her true talent being utilized on "Other Space" I'm a fan, and I'm looking forward to seeing her in future performances.

Eugene Cordero as Michael
Eugene Cordero (who plays Michael) has appeared in over 75 projects since 1999, including "Arrested Development," "House of Lies," "Parks and Recreation," and "The Good Place." Most of these parts are extremely small, which is probably why you can't quite remember if you've seen him or not. But of the entire "Other Space" cast, I'd keep a closer eye on Cordero because one day someone's going to realize his talent and make him huge. It's good to see that "Other Space" has created a bigger role for him. And though there's a running joke in the series that his character Michael is terribly forgettable, Cordero still makes him endearing. Whether Michael is getting yelled at or if he suddenly turns vengeful, Cordero transforms into whatever personality he needs at the moment -- often times flipping back and forth between them within seconds.

The character Kent (played straight-faced by Neil Casey) comes across as a combination of Spock and Data (both, of course, from the Star Trek universe). Kent shares the emotionless of a Vulcan and the intelligence of an android. Casey's take, however, plays with inappropriateness. He displays a lack of sensitivity by providing valid yet ill-timed information. Throughout the season Kent transforms into a (slightly) more human version but Casey doesn't lose all of his character's awkwardness. One of my favorite Kent moments involves him waking up and regurgitating a mucus-like substance. I won't say more because it's more of a visual and sound-based gag, but it was completely unexpected, especially since his character is typically the most composed of the crew.

Of course I can't leave out Conor Leslie and Bess Rous, who play Natasha and Karen Lipinski, respectively. Natasha is the ship's computer, but don't let the good looks fool you. She's just as out of place as the rest of the crew. There's an interesting development with her and another character throughout the season, but it's more than that. Her attempts to interact with each of the crew members are usually awkward, and, of course, fun to watch.

Karen, the crew's first officer, just happens to be the captain's older sister. As it turns out, UMP put her there simply because they're all terrified of her. That should tell you a lot about Karen. Every sci-fi crew has to have one of those strict, by-the-book characters. But Rous takes that stereotype into new territory. Instead of playing Karen as the average "B" word, Rous plays her more of an insecure and jealous sibling. Fortunately, the writers do a great job avoiding stereotypical sitcom storylines and characters. There is eventually a moment in each of the episodes when you can tell that the writers are just having fun or playing around with sci-fi standards and clichés.

Captain Lipinski wearing UMP-issued pajamas
Staff writer Shelby Fero leads the series' writing crew of Matteo Borghese, Owen Ellickson, Ben Smith, Rob Turbovsky, Jacob Young, and of course Paul Feig, who wrote the pilot. It's tough to find a favorite episode but I'd have to go with the sixth entry, entitled "Trouble's Brewing." The scenes with Tina and Michael are so full of comedy gold that I didn't want it to end. It's once again proof that the writers on the show wanted to create something unique by playing off of stereotypes. They may use old sitcom tricks as a platform, but where they jump to is something no one can predict.

So with this writing crew, this cast, and a creator like Feig, why aren't more people aware of "Other Space?" I think the biggest reason is due to the fact that Yahoo's streaming app (Yahoo Screen) didn't take off. Unfortunately, by the time "Other Space" was released, Yahoo Screen was already dying. Not long after its release, the app was removed from the digital world, and all of Yahoo's shows were then "archived" on their site somewhere (note: At the bottom of this article, I provided a link to "Other Space" in Yahoo's archival location). What's worse is that it leaves Feig's labor of love in the vast vacuum of space. Now that Yahoo won't be creating original content, "Other Space" needs a new home.

My gut reaction is to hate Yahoo, which isn't hard since their email service continually gets worse. But interviews with Feig have me second-guessing. Apparently Yahoo gave Feig all the creative space he needed while producing the show. Furthermore, Yahoo went above and beyond when the production went over budget (due to the special effects). I still don't like Yahoo Mail but I've got to give it up for Yahoo's support for Feig and the show.

UMP Crusier
Feig is currently looking for someone to broadcast the show, as well as continue the series. Fortunately for Feig, the entire cast is eager to get back out into space. Feig has been proactively interviewing around cyberspace to explain his dilemma. The biggest struggle has been a lack of viewers. Those of us who couldn't wait for the show's release back in 2015 became instant fans. Upon hearing the news that he wants to get a season 2 made, fans around the world are starting to spread the word. Heck, I even bypassed a different article for this month (about Chris Isaak) just to help Feig get the word out sooner! The show needs a bigger audience and the best way to do that is to share this show with your friends and family. That's what I'm trying to do -- just like other recent articles and interviews about "Other Space" are doing. And you can help too!

If you like the show, use your social networking abilities. Make sure to use #ShareOtherSpace to get others on board. You may want to include Paul Feig's Twitter handle (@paulfeig) to let him know we're out there. Another way to help is to get onto Rotten Tomatoes (link below) and add a rating and maybe even a review.


There's no doubt that "Other Space" deserves more attention. When I re-watched the series to help write this article, it became clear to me that I didn't just like it back in 2015, I adored it! It's a shame that two years have gone by since it was released, and not many people in my social circle have even heard of it. But the show is wonderful, and it's even better the second time around. I know that I'll be watching it again. And again. And again.

For more information, visit their IMDb page: www.imdb.com/title/tt4561950

To watch the entire first season for free, visit: www.yahoo.com/tv/tagged/other-space. Most Smart TVs also have a Yahoo app which can play the series.

Don't forget to help the show's rating on Rotten Tomatoes by adding your rating here: www.rottentomatoes.com/tv/other_space/s01

TRIVIA: "Other Space" was originally created by Paul Feig around 2005 for NBC. This was one of Feig's only older ideas that he felt the need to bring back from the dead. Feig also insisted on having all 8 episodes released at the same time to take advantage of the binging trend.





2016/12/04

Black Jesus

by Jav Rivera

I've always been a fan of things that weren't afraid to be funny, no matter who they might offend. And it's not because they're trying to offend that makes it funny for me. It's more because of the fact that the artist tackles something that in truth is funny, but just happens to be a bit taboo.

With that said, "Black Jesus" may or may not be for you, though I do urge you to look past its cover, because what's beneath has a lot of heart.

"Slink" Johnson as "Black Jesus"
Created by Aaron McGruder and Mike Clattenburg, the show is a perfect combination of the animated series "The Boondocks" and the Canadian cult series "Trailer Park Boys." And it just so happens that both McGruder and Clattenburg were the creators of those shows, respectively. "Black Jesus" shows us the life of an African-American Jesus living in Compton, CA trying to spread the good word while getting high and drinking a 40. And yet, oddly enough, "Black Jesus" feels relevant for current television. With other shows and movies promoting drug use, alcohol, and violence it makes sense that we see religion being represented in modern times.



The titular role is played by the incredibly cast Gerald "Slink" Johnson. Johnson brings a joyous spirit to his character, much like what you'd expect a Savior to have. His castmates bring a perfect balance of reality to over-the-top scenarios. Black Jesus' main crew are full believers while antagonists Vic (Charlie Murphy) and Lloyd (John Witherspoon) question his identity. In fact, Vic, who does believe in God, is a downright vicious non-believer of Johnson's character. He takes offense that Black Jesus is the real Lord Savior. Lloyd, on the other hand, flip-flops between believing or not, depending on if he gets what he prays for.

Lloyd (John Witherspoon) and Vic (Charlie Murphy)
If you're familiar with the great John Witherspoon, you won't be disappointed. He brings his comedy genius to every scene. There's something about how he delivers his lines that make any sentence sound funny. And it's nice to see that Charlie Murphy has finally graduated from his work on "Chappelle's Show". It made me sad to see Murphy get mostly bit parts knowing that he was a skillful comedic actor. On "Black Jesus" he's given the chance to shine.

Most of the gang, L-R: Boonie (Corey Holcomb), Black Jesus, Trayvon (Andrew Bachelor),
Maggie (Kali Hawk), and Fish (Andra Fuller)
But it's not just the bad guys; the good guys bring the funny too. Besides Johnson's outstanding portrayal of a modern day Jesus, his co-stars add a nice range of characters. For me, Boonie (Corey Holcomb) and his mom Ms. Tudi (Angela Elayne Gibbs) have the best chemistry. She cuts him down at every given moment, and he takes the beatings like a slow-witted child. And though the rest of the crew make the show more rounded, it's scenes with Boonie and Ms. Tudi (whether they're together or separated) that have the show's best laughs.

[warning: explicit language]


The only other character that might be able to compete with Gibbs' chemistry with Holcomb is Boonie's ex-wife Shalinka (played by Dominique Witten). Witten who's already a talented stand up comedian, dumbs it down for her character. She only appears once in a great while but she's always well worth the wait. And in season two, the underrated Keith David appears as Reverend Otis. It's always nice to see David appear in films and television, but when he's given a meaty role like he has in "Black Jesus," you wonder why more people don't give him the credit he deserves.

Every episode furthers the overall story arc per season, but the individual episodes have their own mini stories. I often felt like I was watching a McGruder version of "Trailer Park Boys," though the show never feels like it's a ripoff of the Canadian series. If anything, "Black Jesus" is honoring Clattenburg's incredible creation. And even though its "Trailer Park Boys" similarities is probably one of the show's best features, "Black Jesus" has enough originality to have other redeeming features. As I said, there actually is a lot of heart to the show despite its crude humor. Black Jesus really is trying to spread the good word to the modern world; he just happens to enjoy smoking a bud or two while he does it.


Just because a show like "Black Jesus" isn't politically correct doesn't mean it's all-out blasphemy. McGruder and Clattenburg have done a good job of showing just enough innocence and love through the lives of a group of sinners. Indeed, there are a lot of good lessons to be learned if you can look past the vulgarity.

For more information, visit their IMDb page: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3589872

TRIVIA: Some of the cast members previously worked with Aaron McGruder on his animated series, "The Boondocks," including John Witherspoon, who was the voice of "Granddad."





2016/11/06

Bart Simpson Sells His Soul

by Jav Rivera

Many, many, many years ago (in 1995), The Simpsons aired one of their best episodes, entitled "Bart Sells His Soul." It was during their seventh season (they're currently on their 28th season!), and it has easily become one of the more classic episodes to fans and critics.

For me, personally, it made a huge difference in more than one way. First of all, it was one of the first episodes that changed my view of the show from being a fun animated series to more of a work of art. I thought to myself, "If I ever direct a feature film, I would use this episode as my guide." But this also made me think, way back when, that The Simpsons should have a college course based on its themes and art. (More on that later.)

Bart, Milhouse, and Bart's Soul
The episode starts with Bart handing out hymns to the church-goers as they enter Sunday mass. As it turns out, the hymn is actually a rock song by the band Iron Butterfly. Because of this prank, Bart gets in trouble from the priest. During a discussion with his best friend Milhouse, Bart argues that there's no such thing as a soul, and just to prove his point, he eventually sells his soul to Milhouse.


It was written by Greg Daniels, who's famous for also writing and producing King of the Hill, Parks and Recreation, and the US version of The Office. Daniels wrote several more episodes of The Simpsons, many of which are now referred to as classic.

[On a side note, I was surprised one year to find myself sitting behind Greg Daniels during the Austin Film Festival. At first I didn't know it was him, because as the announcer was introducing Daniels (who was scheduled to talk), I could hear him talking to his parents. The conversation was very ordinary and he even sounded a bit neurotic. When he stood up and headed to the front, my eyes widened because that conversation made me think differently of him. I suddenly saw him as an everyday man who just happened to have extraordinary writing skills.]

As the episode plays out, Bart finds himself in several predicaments that make him believe something is amiss. He runs into motion-controlled sliding doors that don't open for him, he can't produce condensation on a window, he can't even laugh at his father's tragic, yet hilarious, accidents.

Lisa attempts to make Bart laugh at Homer's accident.
The Simpsons have been in my life ever since The Tracey Ullman Show premiered these boundary-pushing characters in 1987, and I've been a huge fan ever since. I've collected DVDs, toys, artwork, books, T-shirts, etc. My oldest nephew (born in 1991) doesn't know a world without The Simpsons. As they continue to make more and more episodes, it seems the only way the show will end is when the voice actors either retire or pass away.

The show has impacted my life in many ways, and going back to those older episodes now, it's become more obvious to me why. They were dismissed by a huge population as a silly cartoon. Others called the show too controversial. Fans knew what the show really was: groundbreaking.


I remember being on a train reading one of their first books (The Simpsons: A Complete Guide to Our Favorite Family) and an older man in his 30s or 40s scoffed at me. I looked up and asked him, "What?" He told me that it was ironic that someone was reading a book about The Simpsons. In other words, he was telling me that the show was not deserving of literature. (In a way, he was also insulting my intelligence). I replied, "Actually, the show is really well-written and isn't just a cartoon." He shrugged me off. (I admit I had the urge to punch him in the face.)

Fortunately, time has been extremely good to the series and its reputation is no longer that of a dumb show. Even though the show first focused on Bart and his rambunctious behavior, the writers quickly began to explore the other characters and themes. Even though "Bart Sells His Soul" was released in the seventh season, you can find heart-warming episodes as early as the first season.  

Milhouse gets rowed by his two souls.
One of my favorite scenes in "Bart Sells His Soul" is when Bart has a dream. All his classmates are on a beach with a castle-like structure (which looks an awful like the Emerald City from The Wizard of Oz) way off on a distant island. The children are all playing with their souls, and at one point they hop onto row boats towards the castle. Milhouse, with two souls (his and Bart's) rides carefree while the two souls row. Bart, left alone, rows in a circle.

There are so many philosophical and cultural references throughout the episode, especially during this dream sequence. There's the idea of the Emerald City being some kind of spiritual destiny, or perhaps a place for heavenly existence. There's the idea of rowing yourself through the long ocean of life. In a scene when Bart is praying, he says, "Are you there, God? It's me, Bart Simpson," which is a reference to the Judy Blume book Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. At one point Lisa references poet Pablo Neruda. There's so much in this episode, it's as if the team couldn't hold back because of the quality of the episode's story.

Bart runs into a sliding door.
A few months ago I was asked if I would be interested in teaching an honors course of my own creation. The course had to include a subject that a student would normally take (mathematics, literature, history, etc.). It was suggested to me by my boss that I teach something relating to The Simpsons since I was such a huge fan. It took all of 24 hours for me to get the idea of teaching a course that focused on The Simpsons and everyday issues. Later, the course description became more about the show and philosophy. I pitched the idea to the head of the honors program and it appears the course will be offered in the fall of 2017.

Although this is the first time that this university will offer a course like this, I'm not the first to have this idea. In fact, many universities have been teaching something relating to The Simpsons for many years. I was always jealous of those students because I would have loved to take a course like this. My point being that the series has not only gained respect over the decades, it has become a cultural staple.

If you never watch another episode, at the very least you should watch "Bart Sells His Soul". To list the best of the series would be impossible, but this is easily one of my top favorite episodes. You can bet that it'll be shown in my course next fall.

For more information about "Bart Sells His Soul" visit IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt0763025

TRIVIA: Writer Greg Daniels was inspired by an experience in his youth when he tricked a bully into selling his soul to him.





2016/10/02

Up In The Air

by Jav Rivera

Have you ever watched a movie that meant one thing at one point in your life and something different at another point? Back in 2009, when the film Up in the Air was released, I sat in the theatre watching the credits thinking about the film's theme. As people started leaving their seats, I was processing the idea of leaving behind your baggage and pushing yourself to stay in constant movement.

I was 33 years old at the time and not so happy with my career. I thought to myself, "Am I weighed down by my own baggage? Have I really challenged myself? Have I reached the goals I set for myself in my twenties?" By the summer of 2010, I sold everything I owned: clothes, furniture, and even my DVD and CD collections. I only kept what I could fit in my Volkswagon Golf. I scraped together all the money I had and moved to Los Angeles to pursue my dream of working in the film industry. But that was just one version of my interpretation.


Directed by Jason Reitman (director of Juno, Thank You For Smoking, and the little-known but excellent film Labor Day), Up in the Air proved once again that Reitman is a filmmaker to keep an eye on. And not just because the film was nominated for (and won) several awards. He values characters more than spectacle. And though his films typically get categorized as dramas, he knows when and how much humor to bring to the story. The film, based on a book by Walter Kirn (who gets a cameo during the "Glocal" scene), follows the life of Ryan Bingham. But more importantly it examines the topic of family, and the various points of views people have of it, which is probably why it can be interpreted in multiple ways.

George Clooney as "Ryan Bingham"
George Clooney takes the lead as Ryan Bingham, a representative for an HR consultant firm. His job is to assist in the termination of employees for other companies. Although most people would have issues with this kind of job, Bingham's philosophy on life affords him freedom from guilt. On the side, Bingham is a motivational speaker; his seminars focus on living a life without baggage. In other words, by not getting involved in relationships (friends, family, etc.), a person is free to roam and truly live life more fully. Of course, things get sticky when Bingham's job and lifestyle are challenged.

Bingham must be both charming and cutthroat. There's little room for his character to sway. He can't be too kind, but he still has to show some sympathy. Clooney was a great choice for the role, with his charm and wit combined with his ability to bring fierceness to his characters. He owned the role, and when you watch the film you forget that he's megastar George Clooney.


On the other side of the spectrum is Anna Kendrick's character, Natalie. She believes in technological conveniences, and their benefits towards family time. The clash between the two never feel like the stereotypical odd couple. Instead, their relationship is a constant challenging of each other's philosophical points of view.

Bingham consoles Natalie (Anna Kendrick)
Bingham is bombarded by more than just Natalie. His siblings, who he spends little-to-no time with, ask him to help take photos with a cardboard cut out all around the States. Since he has to travel to different cities anyway, why not? Not pleased with this familial duty, Bingham reluctantly adds baggage to his compact luggage lifestyle.

Melanie Lynskey, Danny McBride, and Clooney
Then he has to face one more challenge: Alex, played by Vera Farmiga. Though she started out as a casual encounter, Bingham quickly falls for the seemingly cold Alex (cold in the sense that she enjoys the casualness of her new partner). The difference between Alex and the other challenges is that Bingham is to blame for this new risk.

Vera Farmiga as "Alex"
Though I view this film as excellent storytelling, I must include the quality of the cinematography (by Eric Steelberg) and editing (by Dana E. Glauberman). Glauberman's best example is early on when we're introduced to Bingham's airport-loving routine. It's a quick scene that compresses Bingham's life in just a few seconds -- appropriate considering his lifestyle. Reitman doesn't overuse these aspects though, and focuses more on the acting. That seems to be his strongest trait as a director and is always a reason I enjoy his films. By this point in his career he seems to have graduated from teenagers (as featured in Juno) to middle-aged adults. If Juno can be considered his pop song, Thank You for Smoking as his alternative rock tune, and Labor Day as a romantic jazz song, then Up In the Air should be his classical piece.


Up In the Air remains one of my favorites. Once the film was available on bluray, it became one of those films that I liked to share with others. And little at a time, the way I viewed the theme changed. Maybe life wasn't so much about moving. Maybe life is found in the people that surround you. Maybe family doesn't weigh you down, but instead lifts you up. And I admit that this new point of view coincided with my real life. I began looking for ways to plant my roots and be closer to people. Maybe it's just my age, but I prefer to think that films like these affect my life. And who knows? Maybe in my late 40s I'll reinterpret the film yet again.

For more information, visit the film's IMDb page: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1193138

TRIVIA: The theme of unemployment and downsizing was not meant to coincide with real life events. As the film was nearing completion, the economic crisis in the United States just happened to be peaking. Because of this, interviews with non-actors who had lost their jobs were filmed and interwoven into the film's beginning and ending.

2016/07/03

The Boondocks

by Jav Rivera

Around the fall of 2005, I saw an ad for a show titled, "The Boondocks," in one of the magazines I was reading. I mentioned it to a friend and he stated that it was probably going to be bad, for such and such reasons. At the time I held his opinion so high that I let him convince me to completely ignore it.

I never thought about the show again until sometime in early 2016. A different friend kept telling me about certain scenarios on the show and each one made me laugh. One weekend he showed me an episode and I was totally on board. From there, I watched one to two episodes a day until all four seasons were complete.


The Boondocks is an animated series that focuses on the Freeman family, a trio of characters made up of Huey, Riley, and Granddad. After Huey and Riley's parents died, Granddad decided to take their inheritance to move to the wealthy (and prominently "white") suburb of Woodcrest. Just that alone makes for fun writing -- a clash of cultures being the main storylines for several of the episodes.

But before I get into more of the actual show itself, let me express my love for Asheru's music and lyrics (listed below) for "The Boondocks" theme song. Though the song was a remix of Asheru's tune "Judo Flip," the song still matches the show seamlessly. Not only does it complement the egotism of the show's characters, but it gives so much more dimension to the strength of their backstories.



The Boondocks Theme Song
by Asheru

I am the stone that the builder refused
I am the visual, the inspiration
That made Lady sing the blues

I'm the spark that makes your idea bright
The same spark that lights the dark
So that you can know your left from your right

I am the ballot in your box, the bullet in the gun
The inner glow that lets you know to call your brother son
The story that just begun, the promise of what's to come
And I'mma remain a soldier till the war is won

[Judo flip...chop chop chop]

L-R: Uncle Ruckus, Thugnificent, Riley, Huey, Granddad, Tom, and Stinkmeaner
And while we're on the subject of the characters and their backstories, let's talk about one of the best features of the series: the way each character is introduced is almost the same way people in our lives are introduced. We get a first impression and we typically categorize them. Over time we get more insight into their personality. "The Boondocks" slowly explore their characters in the same manner. 

Aaron McGruder
Creator Aaron McGruder based the show on his comic strip, and was able to get an excellent cast, starting with Regina King as both Huey and Riley. King has been acting since an early age, with an impressive list of shows such as "227" and "Southland." She thrives as a dramatic actress with good comedic timing. Seeing her name in the credits was a bit unexpected, but it makes sense after viewing all four seasons. Playing both characters utilizes both drama and comedy. Huey is a leftist radical black revolutionary, while Riley is more laid back with dreams of living a gangsta rapper lifestyle.

Comedy great John Witherspoon (Friday and "The Wayans Bros.") plays Granddad. Don't be fooled though; Granddad is not your typical elderly character. He dates, he blows through money, and he has a rich history in political events. Often I think that Huey and Riley are his shoulder angels. Granddad seems to have a mixture of both of their traits and can be swayed to do good or bad, depending on which of his angels is more convincing (or convenient) at the time.

Outside of the main trio is a collection of very odd characters. The show boasts a roster of great actors, including Cedric Yarbrough, Samuel L. Jackson, Ed Asner, Charlie Murphy, Mos Def, Xzibit, Fred Willard, Snoop Dog, Busta Rhymes, Cee-Lo Green, and Katt Williams.

Uncle Ruckus
One of my favorites is Uncle Ruckus (voiced by Gary Anthony Williams), someone you love to hate. Every time he's onscreen his theme music comes on, and it's not a flattering theme at that. Sometimes we hear the music just before he gets onscreen which makes his impending appearance all that more enjoyable. I'm always surprised when he appears because he pops up in random places. Since he has about 32 jobs that he works throughout a week, you never know where he is at any given time.

Ruckus is often found supporting white people, claiming that he himself is white and that he has "the opposite skin condition that Michael Jackson had" (vitiligo). Ruckus is truly a character. Though he gets the Freemans in trouble, you wouldn't want an episode without him.

Another aspect that I get a kick out of are the multitude of references and homages. Sometimes it could be a historical event (recent or past), sometimes a scene is picked straight out of other movies or TV shows (like "Breaking Bad" for example), and sometimes it could be a character design. Side characters/bit parts are made to look exactly like someone from an old show, usually from an African-Amercian based show. There's even a character that looks exactly like Pearl (played by Helen Martin) from "227." In a season 3 episode titled "Stinkmeaner 3: The Hateocracy," Stinkmeaner is joined by three other characters, all of whom have very distinctive designs. Crabmiser looks like Fred Sanford (Redd Foxx's character on "Sanford and Son"). Gripenasty looks like Aunt Esther (from the same show), and Pissedofferson is an obvious take on J.J. from "Good Times."

Stinkmeaner, Lord Rufus Crabmiser, Lady Esmeralda Gripenasty, and George Pissedofferson
The show is more than just a series of goofy jokes though. There are also cultural messages. Though "Boondocks" has been given a lot of beef over its use of the "N" word and its representation of races, there's still a lot to gain from the humor. Much like Dave Chappelle's show back in 2003 ("Chappelle's Show"), poking fun at stereotypes and misinterpretations of cultures makes understanding more accessible. After all, it's easier to relate to a point of view through a funny story than an argument.

"Boondocks" homage "Breaking Bad"
The show has too much to cover in one article, but needless to say, I'm a fan. It's another lesson to make my own decisions on what or what not to watch. Try it out yourself and discover a show unlike most.

For more information, visit their official site: www.boondockstv.com


TRIVIA: The music that plays when Uncle Ruckus appears is a variation of John Williams's "Jabba's Theme" from Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983).





2016/06/05

Detectorists

by Jav Rivera

There's so many times when I think to myself, "That guy is such a great actor. It's a shame that he only gets small parts." I wonder why some actors aren't given the praise and opportunities they deserve. They're usually bit parts that appear bigger because of their onscreen presence. And though many of these actors are underrated, sometimes they get a chance to take center stage.

In 2014, actor Mackenzie Crook took things into his own hands and wrote, directed, and starred in the BBC series, "Detectorists."

Toby Jones & Mackenzie Crook
Though Mackenzie Crook has had plenty of acting work, he's mostly known for his portrayal of Gareth on "The Office" (the original UK version). Gareth was the basis for the Dwight character (played by Rainn Wilson) on the US version. Crook may also look familiar because he had a recurring role in the Pirates of the Caribbean films; he played Ragetti, the pirate with the wooden eye. And yet, despite these high profile projects, he never seemed to get his due recognition.

Mackenzie Crook as "Andy"
His "Detectorists" co-star, Toby Jones, has had a similar career. Looking at his extensive list of projects you might think, "Oh! He was in that?" I admit I overlooked him in earlier films too. I first took real notice of Jones on Captain America: The First Avenger where he played Dr. Arnim Zola. I was instantly engaged by his presence, so much so that I decided to look him up. I found a brilliant film titled Berberian Sound Studio in which he stars. The film is uniquely odd and at times unsettling. Jones deservedly won a Best Actor award from the 2012 British Independent Film Awards.

Toby Jones as "Dr. Arnim Zola" in Captain America: The First Avenger
Being a fan of both Crook and Jones I was so happy to see their names listed on a the show "Detectorists." I didn't even know the show existed until December of 2015 when I saw it on Netflix. I've only watched season 1 so far, but I love it so much that I've already watched it twice!

From the title of the show I had expected some kind of detective series that involved two blokes and their metal detectors. It turns out I was half right. There's definitely two blokes with metal detectors, but it has nothing to do with crime-solving. Instead the series focuses on Andy (Mackenzie Crook) and Lance (Toby Jones), two friends with a passion for metal detecting. They live in a small, fictional town in Essex, England and are surrounded by eccentric locals.

They each have simple lives and deal with everyday issues, be it at home, work, or within their detecting group, the Danebury Metal Detecting Club (DMDC). And there's plenty of content per episode because Crook was smart enough to create an excellent cast of characters. And perhaps it's because of his insight to background characters, or maybe it's just because he's a great writer, but "Detectorists" boasts an excellent cast.

L-R: Orion Ben ("Varde"),  Laura Checkley ("Louise"), Toby Jones, Mackenzie Crook,
Gerard Horan ("Terry"), Divian Ladwa ("Hugh"), and Pearce Quigley ("Russell")
Crook also combines subtle humor with well-placed drama. The relationship between his character and Becky (played by Rachael Stirling) feels authentic. Becky doesn't understand Andy's hobby, and often pokes fun at him about it, but at the same time she accepts him for who he is. They're not a perfect match and they each bring flaws to the relationship, but that's what makes it real. 

Crook ("Andy") and Rachael Stirling ("Becky")
There was a part of me that was worried when the Sophie character was introduced because it looked like the stereotypical love triangle scenario. Fortunately, Crook didn't go that route and what he did instead should further justify his work behind the camera. And I'm sure Aimee-Ffion Edwards, who plays Sophie, was pleased because it gave her role much more dimension. The love triangle is such an old gimmick that actors probably roll their eyes anytime they get the part of the "affair." This, again, makes me think that Crook has played enough side characters to understand the lack of quality side players usually get. Additionally, Crook wrote strong roles for the women on the show. It never feels like a "guy" show with women. It feels more like great actors playing great roles.

Jones, Crook, and Aimee-Ffion Edwards ("Sophie")
Crook even makes "crazy" seem natural. The Larry Bishop character, played by David Sterne, could have easily been written to be as bland as most "crazy old guy" characters. But instead Crook gave Bishop something more than nonsensical dialogue. In fact, I wonder if "Detectorists" may have had some influence from the excellent '90s show "Northern Exposure." It would make sense, considering the amount of characters who, alone, seem unusual, but together, all seem to fit.

And to the credit of the actors on "Detectorists", they've all embraced their parts, Sterne being a great example. What I really enjoy about the Bishop character is that as mad as he may be, it's never overplayed. And though he's clearly out of his mind, he still has enough sense to understand the difference between good and evil, allowing some room for emotion.

David Sterne as "Larry Bishop"
That brings me to the evil duo of the so-called Simon & Garfunkel. Simon Farnaby (who has a standout performance in the little-known film Bunny and the Bull) plays Art, and Paul Casar plays Paul. They're both connected with a rival detecting group named the Antiquisearchers. They tend to use detecting laws and regulations to their advantage, specifically to take over land that has already been claimed. It's a great rivalry between the DMDC and the Antiquisearchers, and any time I see Farnaby's frizzy hair in the distance I grin because I know I'm going to have a laugh in the near future.

Simon Farnaby ("Art") and Paul Casar ("Paul") aka Simon & Garfunkel
It would seem that Crook didn't just give the best bits to his character; each of his co-stars have enough content to head their own series. Toby Jones, for example, takes on a character with closure issues. He lets himself get taken advantage of by his ex-wife Maggie and her new -- much younger and more fit -- beau, Tony, played by Lucy Benjamin and Adam Riches respectively. Their characters have so much dimension that you could see why Maggie and Lance were once together. The history of their relationship doesn't need the use of flashbacks. It's all there in their performances.

Adam Riches ("Tony") and Lucy Benjamin ("Maggie")
There are so many interesting characters that I would imagine the show could go on for years and years. This article is just a blip on the metal detector. There's so much more to uncover. I haven't even written about the Detectorists club members, nor the secret behind Lance's yellow 1977 Triumph TR7. And keep in mind that I've only addressed season 1 of the show. There's just so much detail in the show, so for now this'll have to do.

When you first watch "Detectorists" you may be taken back by its pace and style, but give it a few minutes and hopefully you'll understand why I fell in love with it. After a few days watching it the first time around, I took a step back and realized that the show seems to be comprised of background characters that happen to be put to the forefront. And if that's true, then Mackenzie Crook truly was the best man for the job. It's about damn time someone paid attention to those background characters!

For more information visit their IMDb page: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4082744/

TRIVIA: "Detectorists" is Mackenzie Crook's directorial debut.