Posts Tagged ‘friends’

I’ve wanted to do this series for a very long time. I first had the idea when I watched Homeland, and realized that the biggest competitor HBO has is Showtime. Granted, HBO holds a level of esteem that practically no other network can hope to match, but I wanted to compare all the “best” TV shows of each network with each other and then decide which is more superior. I was really surprised by some of the choices I ended up making, and I really grew to appreciate both networks greatly when I started this. Without further ado – I’ll save some for later – here’s Round One of HBO vs. Showtime.

ImageEntourage vs. Episodes

They’re both about show business, they both have actors that play a fictionalized version of themselves, and they’re both incredibly funny. So, naturally, I matched them against each other.

Entourage is about a rising superstar of an actor, Vincent Chase, as he brings his best friends along for the ride.

Episodes is about two British writers and their disastrous attempt to remake their beloved TV series in Hollywood.

Entourage has received dozens of award nominations over the course of eight seasons, garnering a Golden Globe for Jeremy Piven. Episodes has also garnered plenty of award nominations, and even got Matt LeBlanc a well deserved Golden Globe. I’m going to start by ‘reviewing’ Entourage since it concluded in late 2011, whereas Episodes is still ongoing.

 Entourage Analysis

Image

I’ve been hearing about Entourage since I was a kid. It was the show I wasn’t allowed to see, the show that I saw mentioned time and time again on the Simpsons or Family Guy, and the show that seemed to be as popular among men as Sex and the City was for women. So, when I first watched the first episode, I was a bit disappointed.

It was a solid Pilot, but considering all the hype I’d heard about since I was a child, it wasn’t as good as I thought it would be. The Pilot dealt with Vince releasing his newest movie, and his best friend Eric ( “The Pizza Boy”, as he is mocked constantly by the awesome Jeremy Piven who plays Vince’s agent ) trying to decide if he should stay and ride his best friend’s coattails.

I thought that the show faced the biggest problem head on. Reading a summary of Entourage, it sounds pretty sad for Eric, Turtle, and Vince’s older brother, Johnny “Drama” Chase. They’re just a bunch of guys riding on Vince’s coattails. There seemed to be not much room for development beyond that, and honestly, a less mature show wouldn’t attempt to do any of that.

I’ve read a lot of reviews saying that the show is every bit as immature as its characters, and it knows that. It’s why the storyline of the Pilot is so significant because the show itself was straining against the preconceived notions of people, and at the end of the episode, Eric decides to continue riding on his friend’s coattails, and maybe help Vince out along the way. Eric ends up running a managing firm by the end, Johnny discovers that he has a future in acting outside of live action television, and even Turtle achieves something. Ari Gold, the raging agent, ends up happy with the wife that disapproved of his dedication to his clients after eight seasons.

Image

Jeremy Piven as Ari Gold. Definitely one of my favorite performances in a Tv show.

I think we’ve grown to overlook these types of shows with the rise of the antiheroes. The show is not very philosophical, and I don’t think it tries to be. It simply wants to leave its characters having grown as people, and maybe leave you smiling too. I sure smiled at the finale.

The show also has at least one guest star each episode, and more often than not, the guest star plays himself/herself. My favorite has to be the episode where Bono and Matt Damon pressure Vince into donating more to charity. It was one of the high points of Entourage, showing great self awareness and also showing that these celebrities have sense of humors as well.

Now, it did have its problems. For pretty much every fan of Entourage, the huge blemish on its reputation was the seventh season. When I first watched Entourage, I loved the fact that it didn’t immediately show all actors as these coke addicted divas. Only some of them were. And Vince became one of those coke addicted divas in the seventh season when he struck up a relationship with real life pornographic star, Sasha Grey.

The season was admirable in showing the “dark side” of fame, but regardless of dark side or not, it just wasn’t done well. I respect the idea, but I do not love the execution. (I did enjoy Eminem decking Vince, though). It also highlighted the overall problem with the show.

I remember reading somewhere that people watched Entourage to see the glamorous lifestyle these beautiful, talented people lead. (Most likely true.) But, the seventh season simply pissed people off. Vince wasted all the things that people coveted. I certainly wanted to have a big mansion like him, and he threw it all away. There is a certain point when you realize that these people are shallow, but they have redeeming qualities. But there is also a certain point where the superficialness can just make you grimace in disdain.

The show did get back on track with the eighth season, and at the end of the day, I love this show. I can still recall some famous actor pointedly mocking themselves, or an incredible director making a surprising appearance. (Scorsese, man! Bring in Spielberg and Fincher, and I would have been content.)

 Episodes

Image

Now that I’ve finished talking about Entourage, the discussion about Episodes can begin. I already gave a brief summary of the show, but I want to describe the opening scene of the Pilot first. It features Beverly Lincoln (Tamsin Greig from Black Books) leaving her co-writer and husband Sean Lincoln (the great Stephen Mangan) because she’s convinced he slept with some woman we haven’t seen yet. She pulls out of the driveway while Sean is urgently trying to tell her that she’s driving on the wrong side of the road, and she misinterprets it as his way of telling her she’s wrong. (To be fair, it could have been better clarified.)

It cuts to Matt LeBlanc (literally Matt LeBlanc playing himself. He’s from a little show called Friends. Mayhaps you’ve have heard of it?) driving while talking to someone about his new restaurant, and the scene ends with the impact of Matt and Beverly Lincoln. Then it rewinds to when Sean and Beverly were happy and critically acclaimed in England.

The beginning proudly states the sheer ambition of the show, and the hilarity to come. It featured great acting, great comedy ( Stephen Magnan’s frantic movements are a highlight), and just great writing.

The show is primarily written by David Crane and Jeffrey Klarik. David Crane is known for being one of the creators of the incredibly funny and successful sitcom, Friends. (Starring Matt LeBlanc as a clueless actor.) It would’ve been enough if this show were hilarious (which it is), but it knows drama. There’s a scene in season 3 where Sean and Bev are laughing wholeheartedly about something (don’t want to spoil it too much, so I’ll make it ambiguous), and watch as their laughter becomes strained and awkward, the way they – and the viewer – slowly realize the ramifications of the episode’s events.

Image

Episodes knows how to do proper drama, and that’s not something you’d expect from a comedy. I’m not saying they can’t be dramatic, but the difference between Episodes and the other black comedies is that it still puts a smile on my face. I watched an episode of Girls, and while I can appreciate the satire and the drama, it’s neither funny enough nor dramatic enough for me to watch avidly.

Whenever there’s a new episode of Episodes, I can’t wait to watch it. It doesn’t tout famous guest stars like Entourage, but what it lacks in star power, it more than makes up for in witty writing, great dramatic moments, and amazing acting. The fictionalized Matt LeBlanc is selfish, destructive, mysoginistic, and yet charming, generous, and kind.

Like Tony Soprano, it makes the viewer question why they like Matt LeBlanc, and it’s because he’s a lot more human than he first seems.

While Entourage certainly had moments like that, I never felt engrossed in it as much as I am when watching Episodes. (Episodes is my favorite comedy.)

Both shows have flaws, and both shows have high moments. Entourage has proven that it can end a show satisfactorily, but with only three seasons, Episodes has as many comedic moments and as much (if not more) dramatic weight than Entourage. The first round goes to Showtime.

photo

Advertisements

This should have been great. It’s on a network I love (The USA Network, which is home to great shows like Suits, Psych, White Collar, Burn Notice, etc.), and the concept is original by centering the show about a team of paramedics. It’s not another sitcom about a group of friends at a bar/coffee shop, or about a dysfunctional family. The difference is that at least Friends and Modern Family are funny, and Sirens is not. 

The opening scene involves one of the main characters, Hank St. Clare (not even going to comment on the name), talking about whether or not someone on television is gay. He wraps up the scene with him proclaiming that he slept with the aforementioned Tv personality last week. He feels like a terribly politically correct character. He’s African American and he’s gay. Way to kill two birds with one stone, Sirens. 

The main character is Johnny Farrell, an egotistical smartass with commitment issues. Incredibly unique character there. Not like I’ve seen this type of character in a dozen other, better shows. 

When I first read the summary, I assumed it was a clone of Brooklyn Nine-Nine. (Brooklyn Nine-Nine is arguably a clone of the Office and Modern Family, though.) The main character there is also an egotistical guy with commitment issues (as well as parent issues) that can’t seem to grow up. The difference is Andy Samberg is hilarious in the show, and when he does stumble and fail, the extremely funny supporting cast helps him out. 

Johnny and Hank are forced to have a newbie (Brian Czyk played by Kevin Bigley) tag along with them, which allows them to explain each other’s personality traits to the viewer in some boring expositional ‘banter’. The beginning is mostly masturbation jokes, but it’s “funny” because these characters save lives! Yeah, not really. I have to say, though, that the only times that I did crack a smile was when the newbie Brian did or said something funny.

It can be cliched, sure, but it’s not as cliche as anything Johnny and Hank say. Oh, the story. Yeah, the pilot episode concerns Johnny trying to get his police officer girlfriend back without having to move in with her. 

It’s funny how the dramas of the USA Network are infinitely more funny than this entire episode. Now, is this a drama hiding in a comedy? Is this a black comedy like Episodes or Louie? 

Nope. I think a lot of people (or at least this show’s writers) mistake drama for painfully dull chemistry and forgettable dialogue. I watched the Pilot twenty minutes ago, and I can’t recall any funny jokes.

I wish I could write a longwinded review comparing the show’s aspects with Brooklyn Nine-Nine or It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, but the only thing this show has in common with the other incredibly funny shows it tries hard to imitate is that they both fill a half hour time slot. Sirens has crass characters, crass dialogue, and is just boring to watch. I could’ve watched the second episode, but the Pilot was enough for me. Yeah, it’s not fair to judge a show based on the pilot, but I find it funny how that’s what people say only when the show is bad. If the show has a brilliant pilot, then judge away. 

The Cosby Show’s pilot featured a completely different house, and in the next episode, they even tweaked a few of the characters. However, people didn’t care because the Pilot was still hilarious. I hope I never accidentally catch another second of this show. 

0.5 out of 6

Image

 

(Note: This is a review of the American adaptation of the UK Tv Series. It’s possible that the original is the funniest show in history, but after watching this, I have no interest in giving the original a shot.)

It’s been awhile since my last post, and I apologize to all the loyal followers that were distraught over this. (Uh, Jian, the only follower that was remotely bothered was… you.)

Ignore the parenthesis. Anyways, I wanted to talk about the pros and cons about networking. What I mean by networking is social network sites such as Twitter, Facebook, forums, Goodreads, blogs, and all that stuff. They’re all very important for writers. We want people to read our work, but how do we let people know about our work? Say it with me – Networking. So, I thought long and hard about it, and came up with a Pros and Cons.

Let me start with the cons.

1. In Twitter, if you’re new and want a lot of Followers, you simply follow a whole lot of people. What I do (and most likely, what a lot of others do) is look for other writers with about 200 some followers, and if you see they more or less follow the same number of people, that means they will likely follow you back if you were to follow them. That’s how I got to 200 Followers. However, the problem is that your Twitter feed is bombarded with advertisements, blogposts, etc. I’m okay with that, but the thing is… very few actually click the links. Why? Because it’s very easy to get hacked on Twitter, and no one wants to risk getting hacked. In fact, my Twitter account got hacked awhile ago, through a Private Message. In fact, I got hacked more than once. This is really annoying, because it means I had to change my password several times. And several more times after that because I kept forgetting them. (Your memory is awesome, Jian!)

So, odds are, if you’re posting links to your latest blogpost or book, only five out of twenty people actually click it. It’s unfortunate, but it’s true.

2. Here’s something I made a mistake of not doing. When I initially started following people at random, I didn’t really look at their Tweets before doing so. What ended up happening was that a week later, I kept seeing Tweets about some really inappropriate stuff… and praises of Fifty Shades of Grey. Which is just as bad as Tweeting inappropriate stuff, if you ask me. So, of course, I unfollowed. But, I became a lot less attentive to tweets because I just didn’t want to end up clicking a link and seeing inappropriate stuff. That’s a mistake that didn’t have to happen, so it’s something to look out for.

3. Character limit. I don’t know about you, but I am really talkative and wordy. (We know already…) And since people aren’t always going to click your links to your book’s excerpts, you’d benefit by including a short summary or a short excerpt from your book. Unfortunately, there is a 160 Character Limit on Twitter which prevents you from doing that. So, people are normally forced to post four different tweets where all they do is continue from where they left off.

4. So far, I’ve only been talking about Twitter, but let’s talk about Facebook, too. The reason why people normally use Twitter for advertising is because Facebook is where all their friends and family are. And they don’t want random people adding them as friends on Facebook due to an advertisement. They could block their photos, and choose only a “select” group of people to see them… but that’s a real bothersome process. You could start a Facebook page, but it works both ways, really. Three out of ten people will not Like because they do not want some random person to suddenly add them. May not seem a lot, but it adds up.

5. Trolls on Twitter. Considering the fact that we literally cannot choose our Followers on Twitter (unless you privatize your account, which defeats the purpose of using it to advertise), the chances of having trolls exponentially increases vis-a-vis Facebook. Whether you’re Tweeting a link to Neil Gaiman’s new book, or Tweeting about the movie you are currently watching, there is always a risk of a troll trying to dampen your spirits. They aren’t as numerous I guess, as they are in Youtube comment sections, but they’re still there, and you should keep an eye out for them.

6. This is actually a “spin-off” from the #1. Since you can normally get Followers by first following a lot of people, your Twitter feed is clogged with advertisements. However, the problem is that you may be following friends, family, or authors you love, and it’ll be difficult to see their latest Tweets. Unless you obsessively check their Twitter pages to see their latest Tweet… which I did, but seriously, it’s not for everyone. Unless you’re a big-time actor, celebrity, or writer – you won’t get Followers easy, and that means it’s hard to be selective of which people you follow.

I think that’s about it. I know, it sounds like I really hate Facebook and Twitter. But now, I’ll move unto the Pros.

Pros:

1. Like I said, you can’t be selective about the people you Follow, but in my experience, this has worked out to my benefit at certain times. Because of this, I got to see a Tweet from Bane of Kings about a Guest post, and I was able to send him a Private Message about doing a guest post. And he, surprisingly enough, agreed! Imagine my surprise! I was really ecstatic when this happened. So, you may find a plethora of new opportunities in Twitter.

2. Everyone has a chance of becoming a friend. It’s true. It’s very easy to make friends on Twitter, and I’ve become friends with a lot of writers through Twitter. It’s also a great place to get some writing advice. For example, when I first started using Twitter, Ben Galley, one of the youngest Self-Pubbed authors followed me. And he was nice enough to respond to a few of my writing questions. It was really great.

3. Easy to keep in touch. You can do this both on Facebook and Twitter. My old friend and I, for example, live in completely different timezones. So, if neither of us get to come online on Skype to have a chat about what happened and all, we Tweet to each other. Normally, I just tweet to him: “You’re horrid at keeping your appointments.” And he Tweets back a witty reply. This can be done on Facebook, as well, but considering the fact that I don’t have a character limit there, I spend thirty minutes writing a long letter. The amount of witty jokes I can fit in is immeasurable!

4. Blogs. Oh, they’re tons of fun to read. I’ve followed quite a few people on WordPress, and the majority of them are writers, and I get to read about cool, new interesting stuff. My friend, Caleb Hill, writes reviews on books I’d never even heard of, and that’s always a joy to read. I learn a little something about poetry from Louise. And I learn about realism in writing from my beta readers, T.K. Trian.

5. What blogs can do for you. Up above, I talk about what you can find out. Now, I’ll talk about what you can do with blogs. For example, I can write about Networking as much as I want in a blog, and someone may Like it. As writers, we love to be validated. And if even a single person Likes one of our posts, we are over the moon.

31 Likes

Imagine my surprise and happiness when I saw that 31 people, in all, had Liked my post on the mistakes I made as a writer. If I’m over the moon at just one Like, then I was out of this solar system when 31 people Liked it. It’s really great to see that people think your views are cool, and that your writing was good enough that they weren’t cringing the entire time they read it.

Of course, it takes awhile to get to a point where there’s a reasonable chance of you getting 1 Like per post. In fact, when I first started out, I didn’t get Likes for a few months. So, you need to stick it out, but it will pay off.

6. Support. You can receive the support of your cool Followers just by asking them. For example, awhile ago, I talked about how I was going to submit one of my stories for serialization, and I got a lot of Likes. Some of my good writer friends commented or messaged me and told me that they had my vote. I was incredibly happy when I saw this, and it just made me want to succeed even more. Just so that their faith wasn’t lost. It’s really great.

7. Inspiration. When I get a writer’s block, and can no longer write about my characters… I just write a blog post about my writer’s block. That’s what I do when I can’t write in any of my stories. I write a blogpost. It clears my mind, and I can get back to writing immediately after.

And last, but not least… It is fun. Yeah. I’ve said it so many times, but really. It is fun. It’s fun to Tweet to authors you like, and hope they may respond. It’s fun to see that someone “Favorited” your tweet about how bored you were. It’s fun to see someone commenting on your last blogpost to disagree with you. It’s fun when you get to engage with them about how your point was correct. It’s all so much fun. And that’s why I write, you know.

Because it is fun.

So, network may be a pain.. for a very long time. And  the pain will never disappear, but the fun times, when they do happen, completely wash away the pain of accidentally clicking on a link to a 4 star (out of 4) review of Fifty Shades of Grey. Yeah…

Thanks for reading. Hope you Like, Comment, and Follow. Hopefully, all three. And that’s all for now. Thanks again!

~J.A. Romano