Rob’s Book Club: THE LEFTOVERS

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Kind of like Oprah, I thought I’d start my own book club. Kind of not like Oprah, I’m the only person in my book club, which is kind of better, in a way, in that I don’t have to sift through half-assed posts about the novel or some irrelevant theories with no substantial textual evidence.

Anyway, the first book I chose was Tom Perrotta’s The Leftovers, a five-part drama set in the small community of Mapleton, after a Rapture-like event causes the disappearance of millions of people worldwide. Quite simply put, the citizens feel like nothing but leftovers from this (un)godly act – idly waiting to be plucked from the fridge and finished off like the rest of the people from the previous meal.

The novel is something of a surreal feat; a dystopian society that seemed to only hiccup on October 14th as family and friends disappeared before their loved-ones’ eyes.

Perrotta sets his book three years after what has been deemed “The Sudden Departure,” and the world is still not quite back to its old self. Sure, Congress is still in session and the MLB is back in full swing (pun intended), filling the holes in their line-ups with minor leaguers and retired all-stars, but the people are still grasping for answers.

At the center of the story lies the Garvey family. Kevin, the town’s mayor, is left to care for his bright, but troubled daughter, Jill, when his wife, Laurie, joins the Guilty Remnant – a cult draped in white that takes a Vow of Silence in forgiveness for not being taken on October 14th. Kevin’s son, Tom, has discontinued his studies at Syracuse University to follow the Holy Wayne, a sweet-talking figurehead of the Healing Huggers. Soon, Wayne is arrested and Tom is entrusted with one of his many under-aged wives; one of them, Wayne preaches, will birth the Miracle Child that will save all of humanity.

Another figure in the town is Nora Durst, also known as The Woman Who Lost Everything, whose husband and two children were victims of The Sudden Departure. Nora struggles to find meaning in life, while trying not to feed into the town’s pity for her. Oddly enough, she finds peace in religiously watching and re-watching episodes of SpongeBob Squarepants and documenting the deeper meanings on a notepad.

While this novel doesn’t have the suspenseful elements of a thriller or a traditional rising action/climax/resolution format, I still found it to be quite the page-turner. I would best describe it as a psychological character study – and a pretty accurate one at that – of how people would react to the disappearance of millions around the world.

Now, you may be thinking, “Rob, I thought this was a TV blog. What gives?” And, my response would be that HBO has picked up the pilot. It’s writer and executive producer? Lost and Star Trek writer/producer Damon Lindelof. Needless to say, I am beyond excited for how the show (or movie/mini-series) will pan out.

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So far, the casting is scattered and uncertain. Justin Theroux (American Psycho) will be playing Kevin Garvey, Broadway star Carrie Coon will play Nora Durst, and Liv Tyler (Lord of the Rings Trilogy) will play Meg, a beautiful, yet timid Trainee for the Guilty Remnant.

The release date will hopefully be sometime in 2014, which gives you ample time to be a hipster and read the book first!

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Mireille Enos and My On-Again, Off-Again Relationship with THE KILLING

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After Mireille Enos’ very convincing performance in the box office smash-hit World War Z, my on-again, off-again relationship with The Killing is back in full swing.

Although Enos’ role as Karin Lane, wife to U.N. globetrotter Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt), allots her little face time, her ability to steal the early scenes of the apocalypse is uncanny.

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Much like her character Sarah Linden in The Killing, Karin appears to be a sheepish soccer mom of two, but she’s equipped with quite the roundhouse kick when the world falls to pieces.

The second season of the AMC crime drama is a continuation of season one’s Rosie Larson case, and the pieces are slowly, but surely, falling into place. Most critics wrote the show off in its second season, after becoming entranced with the surreal vibes from the first season. For this reason, there was a long hiatus to ultimately produced the show’s third season, currently airing Sunday nights on AMC – a nice liaison between the end of Mad Men and the beginning of Breaking Bad‘s final, eight episode stretch.

However, I like the “Big Brother” feeling that surrounds the second season of The Killing. By turning Linden against the police department and practically writing off Mitch Larson, the show is able to better delve into the Linden/Holder relationship and explore Sarah’s troubled past with Reggie and her various foster families.

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The female detective is becoming an increasingly prominent role in television these days. From Claire Danes in Homeland to Elisabeth Moss in Top of the Lake to Sarah Paulson in American Horror Story: Asylum (shown above, left to right), these women all share a similar troubled past and an extreme work ethic, which leaves them almost void of emotion. However, I feel as though Enos most powerfully conveys her detachment from herself and her family as the Rosie Larsen case comes to consume her and her son’s life.

Funny enough, the three women above are likely to each take home an Emmy in their respective categories – Danes for Actress in a Drama Series, Moss for Actress in a Movie or Mini-Series, and Paulson for Supporting Actress in a Movie or Mini-Series. Poor Enos. Maybe the writers should make Sarah develop a psychiatric disorder to get the voters’ attention!

A New Dawn: MAD MEN Season 6 Finale

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Like so many of our favorite heroes (Superman, Batman, James Bond, etc.), Don Draper has to return to his origins before he can move on. Unfortunately for the slick ad man, his stomping grounds aren’t as breathtaking as Krypton or Skyfall; he’s stuck with the disheveled whorehouse.

This is where we leave Don Draper at the end of the sixth season of AMC’s Mad Men. Although not as fun and exciting as their previous family trip to Disney Land, the Draper clan seem to finally understand their father. As the rebellious Sally muttered phrases like, “I know nothing about you,” and “My father’s never given me anything,” throughout this season, her little moment with Don at the end of this episode washed those sorrows away.

While the season finale didn’t put any closure on my “Don Draper is already dead” theory, we did reach an ultimatum, much like the SC&P partners did, on Don’s downward spiral. The final straw on the camel’s back is the Hershey pitch – in which he relays his childhood attachment to the beloved candy bar. By revealing his dark past, Don becomes a wide-open book. We’ve caught glimpses of Don’s humanity throughout the series – noting the Carousel pitch and his emotional breakdown after the death of his closest friend and confidant, Anna. Heck, he even had a little moment with his secretary, Dawn. Is this the dawn of a new Don?!

I’d be remiss if I ranted about Mr. Draper for the entirety of this post, especially since so much happened around the newly named SC&P office.

A very sexually-confused/frustrated Ted brings his family into the office, which sparks Peggy to become equally as sexually-confused/frustrated.

Luckily for her, she has a skimpy dress with a big, red bow just chilling in her office, along with some “Chanel Number 5,” which Cutler pins right as she walks into his office.

Meanwhile, Pete receives a telegram that his mother has married Dr. Manolo on a cruise, and subsequently jumped ship and is now presumed dead. In one of the best Peter Campbell scenes to date, Pete and Bob stand in an elevator and Bob asks how he’s holding up, to which Pete snaps, “NOT GOOD, BOB!” When the two of them arrive at the Chevy meeting in Detroit, Bob coaxes Pete to test out one of the sports’ cars, followed by jeering from the Chevy executives. Now, I was thinking this was gunna be another “lawn mower” scene, but all Pete did was back it up into a GM display, which embarrassed him enough to drop the account, giving Bob exactly what he wanted all along.

Bob’s good fortune begins to rub off on Peggy. Although she appears heartbroken when Ted decides to leave her to start life anew in California with his family, she ends the episode sitting (quite literally) in Don Draper’s seat – her dream has become a reality.

These two characters reveal powerful underlying social commentary on the times. Bob, a gay man, is now in charge of the biggest accounts in the office, and Peggy, a woman, is the firms sole Creative Director.

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The greatest scene from last night’s episode, however, comes from the Campbell home, shown above. A messy couch divides the living room – to the left is Trudy, to the right is Pete. Trudy’s side is well put together and bright, whereas Pete’s side looks like it had been ransacked and the light from the window doesn’t creep far enough to illuminate his face. Clearly, Trudy has the upper hand – another bit of commentary on the rise of women at the turn of the decade.

Like many recent episodes, the finale ended with Judy Collins’ “Both Sides Now,” a quite literal depiction of how Sally and SC&P are able to see the two sides of the tortured Don Draper.

While season six does not live up to the Mad Men we used to love (seasons 1-4), this season finale will surely bring the show back into Emmy contention – especially Jon Hamm as Don Draper and James Wolk as Bob Benson.

My Short-Lived Run with ORPHAN BLACK

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After Tatiana Maslany’s shocking win over the likes of Claire Danes (Homeland), Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men), and Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife) at the Critics’ Choice Television Awards, I felt the need to watch her performance in Orphan Black. What I found, however, left me less than impressed.

The BBC America produced, sci-fi drama follows Sarah Manning (Maslany), a streetwise hustler, who so happens to catch a glimpse at a woman who appears to be her twin just before she jumps in front of a train. Thinking she can leave her troubled past and abusive relationship, Manning decides to steal this woman’s identity, becoming Elizabeth Childs. The conflict? Childs is a cop.

As the episodes go on, we come to learn that Manning is one of eight-or-so clones, and her creator is killing them off one-by-one.

Sure, Maslany is tasked with developing a host of accents, postures, and demeanors to differentiate the clones, but all of the characters are very one-dimensional. The “uptight soccer mom” clone is just an uptight soccer mom. The “German” clone is just German. And the “lab geek” clone is basically just a rip off of Abby from NCIS.

I think the leading factor in my dislike for this show is that it’s a British show. So far in my nineteen years of existence, I’ve had a hard time stomaching a show from across the pond. I’ve tried The Office (U.K.) with very little success, followed by Torchwood, which justified my dislike for British television even more. The only two exceptions I’ve made are Downton Abbey and Sherlock – but who wouldn’t?

Who knows – maybe I’ll give Orphan Black another chance once my Instant Queue has been depleted. But, for now, it’s a drop.

Netflix Pick: ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT

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After more than a month of fighting the urge to binge on the fourth and final season of Netflix’s “semi-original” series, I finally finished all fifteen new episodes of Arrested Development.

From mastermind Mitchell Hurwitz comes the final installment of the Bluth family saga, set five years after the show was “abruptly cancelled” by Fox, after winning multiple Emmy’s, including Outstanding Comedy Series in 2004.

Each of the fifteen episodes in this season follows a specific character, as Ron Howard notes in the opening credits, “It’s (insert character’s name)’s Arrested Development.”

Because this season spans five years and follows the separate journeys of all nine Bluths (and Fünkes) to their ultimate meeting point at the “Cinco de Cuatro” festival, it takes a few episodes to kick into the fast-paced gear that veteran Arrested Development fans are used to.

While Hurwitz brings back fan favorites like Lucille (II) Austero (Liza Minnelli), Berry Zuckerkorn (Henry Winkler), Ann Veal (Mae Whitman), and Kitty Sanchez (Judy Greer), he also added some scene-stealers in this new season. Kristin Wiig and Seth Rogen joined the cast as Young Lucille and Young George Sr. in this season’s many flashbacks. John Slattery (Mad Men) and Mary Lynn Rajskub (24) are hysterical as Doctor Norman and his spiritual partner, Heartfire, a mute whose thoughts float across the screen.

Likewise, the writers were able to incorporate the many recurring jokes from the original series, like “I’ve made a huge mistake,” “I’m afraid I blue myself,” and, my favorite, “…her?” While I was glad the writers continued with these jokes, it was clear that the new season did not use the first three as a crutch to get pity laughs.

Looking forward, both Hurwitz and Ron Howard have alluded to a possible Arrested Development film in the coming years. In the meantime, I’ll be reevaluating my life to the tune of “Sound of Silence.”

Flashback: My “Red Wedding” Reaction

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Before I had my wisdom teeth surgery, I binged on Game of Thrones like so many Americans do on the daily. However, before embarking on my journey to the medieval lands of Westeros and Essos, Twitter spoiled something that I would come to know (and hate) as “The Red Wedding,” from Season 3, Episode 9’s now-imfamous episode, “The Rains of Castamere.” Knowing the spoiler, I thought I was ready for the brutal massacre of some of our beloved characters, but, alas, I was still caught off guard. Here is the series of events that transpired, reenacted by my friends…

First, I realized that I was about to watch “The Red Wedding” episode. Clearly, I was excited.

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Then, the scene came. I noticed a guard in the background close and lock the hall doors. What’s gonna happen?

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Then, the killing started.

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Followed by more killing.

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By the end of it, I didn’t know how to express my emotions. The result looked a little like this:

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But, when I finally finished my tantrum and calmed down, I realized how great of an episode it truly was.

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Wisdom Teeth

In a little under an hour I will be heavily sedated, under the knife. When the procedure is completed, I will be four wisdom teeth lighter and will return home with pain meds on pain meds on pain meds. Because of this, there are two equally likely outcomes. One, that I will not blog about the many shows I will be watching on bed rest. Or two, that there will be an abundance of incoherent rants posted in the coming days. Again, equally likely outcomes.

My television goals for my four day post-op recovery are:

-to finish the fourth season of Netflix’s Arrested Development 

-to finish season one of FX’s The Americans

-to start and finish the short-lived high school comedy Freaks and Geeks on Netflix

-and if I’m feeling ambitious, I’ll throw in some of HBO’s The Newsroom.

Also, I finished Game of Thrones season 3 just the other day, so I’d like to share my thoughts on those as well.