Stormtrooper Terry

Stormtrooper Terry

Friday, December 30, 2011

My Favorite Movies of 2011

Sorry, no Fiction Friday this week. With everything that happened this week my head hasn't been in the right place for any kind of real attempt at writing fiction. Besides, I wanted to get this list in before we all hang up our new calendars tomorrow night. It's a list of all the movies that came out this year that I gave four, four and a half, or five stars to; special thanks to Flixster (even though I hate their new design) for making this an easy list to compile. I had initially planned to write a little bit about all of them, but once I realized there were thirteen movies that I gave four or more stars to, I decided to just list the four star ones and write a little about the four and a half star ones as, interestingly enough, there were no five star ones. Also, just as a preface, this isn't exactly a complete list as I haven't seen every movie that came out this year, although it certainly felt like it sometimes. Now, without any further ado, the list!

4 Stars
The Hangover Part II
Hanna
Insidious
The Muppets
Puss In Boots
Take Me Home Tonight
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
X-Men First Class

4.5 Stars
Captain America: The First Avenger

C'mon, tell me that's not an awesome poster!

In my opinion, easily the best Marvel movie since the first Iron Man. I had been skeptical of Chris Evans from the beginning, much as I was about Robert Downey Jr. initially, but I was proven wrong. Good story, terrific cast, Hugo Weaving awesomely chewing up all the scenery he could get his hands on, the brilliant USO segments, and the Avengers teaser at the end... this one had it all.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

He's practicing for the last scene in that remake of The Breakfast Club he's trying out for.

I was infinitely surprised by the fact that this turned out to be the smartest sci-fi movie I've seen in a long time. It asked ethical questions the way science fiction is supposed to, while being entertaining and thrilling. And enough cannot be said about Andy Serkis' talents when it comes to doing what he does. I'm not the least bit surprised there's a motion out there to get him an Academy Awards nomination for his performance; he was more entertaining and realistic as a chimp than a lot of actors can manage to be as, you know, humans.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

"Yeah, I nailed your sister. So what?"

Let's face it, RDJ is infinitely entertaining, and if Tony Stark is the role he was born to play, Holmes comes in at a close second. Much like the first movie, he carries the film on his shoulders, appearing in almost every scene in one way or another. His talent is elevated by his supporting cast, and his rapport with Jude Law is even more entertaining this time around. You just know there's going to be a third movie and I, for one, can't wait.

Super 8

I got nothin' for this one.

In what should come as a shock to absolutely no one, Spielberg and Abrams is a winning combination. A throwback to the days when movies inspired awe in people, this alien adventure was about humans more than aliens, heart and characters more than UFOs and special effects, although it did have quite a few awesome effects as well. For once, the kids in a sci-fi movie aren't annoying; they're actually likable characters and capable actors, turning in great performances; Kyle Chandler is, of course, fantastic as well as a father trying to hold it all together. Just a terrific movie all the way around.

Warrior

Move along, nothing homoerotic to see here, folks.

Another movie that took me by surprise, I had no idea I'd love this movie as much as I did. In a lot of ways it was a throwback to the days of great 80's fight movies, taking the best parts of flicks like Lionheart and Rocky and then making them better. Hardy, Edgerton, and Nick Nolte put in a trifecta of brilliant performances in a movie that is equal parts action-packed and heartwarming. Anytime you get to the main event of a fight movie and you don't know who you want to win, the movie must be doing something right.

So there you have it, the movies that got the highest ratings from me this year. The question now is, which one is my favorite movie of the year? (Past winners of this award go to Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist in 2008, 500 Days of Summer in 2009, and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World last year.) I think the title this year has to go to Super 8. It made me nostalgic for simpler days, when everything about movies was awe-inspiring; when I could just be amazed by what I was watching and not thinking about the script or the cinematography in my head. Simultaneously, it also made me hopeful for the future, that more movies like it could be made... all while keeping me entertained the whole way through!

Alright, criticize my picks, agree with them, or just tell me yours... go ahead, use the comment box, that's what it's there for!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Saying Goodbye

My grandfather passed away a little bit before six a.m. yesterday morning. Many people have heard me complain about my grandfather over the years... he was cranky, demanding, unforgiving, mean to my grandmother, selfish, etc... and for the most part, that was all true. He was all of those things, even more so over the last year, but it wasn't entirely his fault; for a man as proud and independent as he always was, it couldn't be easy to have his body fail on him the way he did to leave him completely dependent on other people for every living thing. So yes, I did complain often about his negative traits. But here are some of the things I didn't say often enough:

When things fell apart between my parents when I was a baby, he agreed to take me in with my grandmother and raise me during the week.

He used to buy toys for me and hide them for a day when I was really good or deserved a reward, and when I inevitably found the presents early he let me have them just because.

He used to play Lincoln Logs with me and let me use his old train set, and let me watch whatever I wanted in the living room.

He taught me about baseball.

He'd drive me and my friend around to all the comic book stores in Queens sometimes on random hunts for comics we wanted. He'd drive my friends home after they came over the house for whatever reason. In fact, he'd usually drive me wherever I wanted to go, even in recent years when the weather was awful or I was running late.

Almost everything I know about doing things around the house, I learned from him.

When I went back to finish getting my degree, he sold some of the stock he loved so much to help me pay for some of the tuition.

In short, pretty much whatever he could do for me, really for any of his grandchildren, he did.

I wish I had more to say, but words have been failing me for the last day or so. Was he a hard man to live with and at times even a difficult man to like? Absolutely.  But he was my grandfather... and more than that, a father to me for almost all of my life. I loved him, and I'll miss him.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Fiction Friday - The Problem With Demons, Part 2

I'm back with another Fiction Friday post. This is the second installment of a story I started last week (found here) that was seemingly well-received, and more was requested, so here it is. We'll see if part two goes over as well and if there will be a part three or not next week!

    Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about. Everyone knows demons are all about screwing people over and getting their souls in return, right? You’ve heard the story a million times: guy wants a promotion, or is maybe desperate to bang that one celebrity chick he’d give his left nut for, a demon shows up, waves a contract at him, and… wham! Poor schmuck gets his heart’s desire, and in a few years time he croaks and his soul spends eternity in hell. Or maybe he signs up with a particularly devilish demon and he gets hit by a car five minutes after the promotion, or the nut he busts with that celebrity triggers a fatal heart attack. Either way, it’s all about the deal and the soul.
    To me, that’s dull. Anyone can sell a life preserver to a drowning man. It’s not an achievement, it’s artless. Real talent is being able to lead someone to absolute ruination without them ever knowing you were even there.
    Take Norbert Cumbersol, for instance. I discovered Bert a few years ago. He was one of those good guys, you know? Married the girl he loved in high school, Monica Lesbicki, but not before she cheated in him under the bleachers with the captain of the football team, Chet Hestings, who of course promised to pull out before most decidedly not pulling out and leaving her with a lifelong parasite to remember him by. Bert forgave her, married her, and even raised her bastard son Timmy as his own, dropping out of college and getting a mcjob to support them, eventually becoming the manager of a franchise. Not that any of that was enough for Monica, who constantly belittled him for having a job that barely made ends meet and insulted his manhood by every so often declaring she’d give anything to have ended up with Chet instead. But Bert took it all in stride, because he loved the kid and for some completely incomprehensible reason he loved Monica too.
    So this goes on for ten years, and their high school reunion comes around. Monica is all excited about seeing everybody, but poor Bert has to work the night shift that night. So he says goodbye to his wife, drops Timmy off at Monica’s mom’s house and goes to his normally boring job, not realizing that I had been watching him and had a trick or two ready. Namely, I had placed an anonymous call to the restaurant chain’s regional manager to complain about sanitary conditions, so he was making a surprise inspection of the place during business hours once our boy Norbert got there. Once the inspection starts, I finish up the crappy dinner I was having there and head towards the door, “accidentally” tripping and kicking a hole in the wall with my foot. Then it’s just a little demon illusion magic, and everyone sees a swarm of roaches come pouring out of the hole, revealing the maggot-infested corpses of a few dead rats. Customers start screaming and running out of the place. The regional manager is furious and fires Bert on the spot. He goes home early, dreading breaking the news to dear Monica, only to find her performing a very heartfelt cowgirl impression on Chet Hestings, who she had met at the reunion, in the bed she had shared with Norbert for the last decade. Shocked and heartbroken, Bert walks out of the bedroom and sits on the couch in the living room, while Monica and Chet don’t even have the decency to stop what they’re doing. Eventually, Chet comes out and walks past our boy as if he isn’t even there. Monica comes out next and without a word of explanation of her own, asks him what the fuck he’s doing home so early.
    Still in shock, Norbert can’t even think to question her in return, so he tells her he got fired. Monica flips and goes off on a tear, calling him all sorts of things, basically insinuating that he isn’t a man and is a total failure, all while walking in and out of the bedroom as she gets dressed and packs a suitcase. Finally dressed and packed, she tells him she’s tired of him and is going to go live with her mother until she can find a real man, and that he doesn’t have to worry about ever seeing her again. He starts to ask about Timmy, and she reminds him in no uncertain terms that Timmy isn’t really his son and is no longer his concern before storming out of the house.
    So Norbert has just lost his job, his wife, and his son in the span of an hour. He goes into the kitchen and has a beer, then goes into the bedroom and opens the closet door, taking a shoebox out. He retrieves the gun they kept for security reasons out of the shoebox, and without another thought, eats a bullet.
    There was no deal for his soul. I didn’t sell him anything. I didn’t even talk to him. I just looked at the complete pile of shit his life was, even if he didn’t realize it, put the straw on the camel’s back, and he wound up just as dead.
    If there was no deal, what about his soul, right? That is, after all, what demons are after.
    Well, suicide is a mortal sin, after all. Do not pass the pearly gates, do not collect your just rewards. Norbert Cumbersol’s soul went directly to Hell.
    Now that’s talent.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

My Movies Fave Five

I started off the month talking about my five all-time favorite television shows in a post that can be found here, so I thought I'd follow that up with a list of my favorite movies. Before anyone reads the list and gets all up in arms about some of the picks, I want to be clear: I'm saying they're my favorite movies inasmuch that's how much I love them; I'm not saying they're the best movies ever made in terms of quality. I'm also totally cheating in a couple of the categories because I couldn't quite narrow it down to five. If you don't like it... well, tough, its my blog!

5.) The Breakfast Club/Ferris Bueller's Day Off

True story: the original version of this pic also had Sixteen Candles and Pretty in Pink on it
but I took them off because, well, who cares? 

Call it the Shermer, Illinois connection, if you want. Were you alive in the 80's? If yes, I don't really need to explain why these are on the list, do I? And if you weren't alive in the 80's... well, I'm not going to explain it, because you'll just never get it. I mean, you probably don't even know who Abe Froman is...

Talk about a double entendre...

And don't even get me started on poor Larry Lester.

4.) Empire Records

Damn the man, save the Empire!

I always thought Empire Records was the answer to the question "What if John Hughes made The Breakfast Club in the late 90's instead of the 80's?" Kids stuck in a central location, one authority figure, great characters played by a bunch of actors who for the most part never did anything all that great, quotable lines, and an awesome soundtrack... it all fits. Plus, one of my favorite karaoke songs is on the soundtrack!


3.) The Empire Strikes Back/The Two Towers


It's impossible for me to say which one of these sagas I love more. Consequently, I can't pick which saga I think has the better cream of the crop movie. And don't argue with me, we all know Empire is the better movie out of the original trilogy. As for The Two Towers, I prefer it over Return of the King. I think it's just a tighter movie overall... maybe that's because it doesn't have eighteen endings that make it feel like it drags on interminably at times. Also, I just think the battle at Helm's Deep was the best battle scene in the trilogy.


2.) Garden State


Y'know, I can't really say why I love this movie so much. It helps that I'm a huge fan of both of the leads, Zach Braff and Natalie Portman and that they both put in what I think is, to date, the finest performances of their careers. It also helps that the supporting cast is wonderful as well, and that the story has a lot going on emotionally. I can really identify with the sort of lost, coming-of-age thing Braff's character is going through. Plus, great visual storytelling and an awesome soundtrack. Here's one of my favorite parts:


1.) The Crow


This should come as a surprise to absolutely no one who knows me, but this right here is my favorite movie of all time. I could go on and on, describing everything good about it... the story, Brandon Lee's performance, the cinematography, Ernie Hudson, the amazing soundtrack... really, I'd be here all night. Instead, I'm going to direct you to a previous blog I wrote about this movie on good ol' Heckling from the Balcony back when it was still going entitled "Picture Perfect - Brandon lee: The Only Crow" and give you one last clip:


There you go. Like my faves? Hate them? Want to share yours? That's what the comment box is there for, folks!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Goodreads Book Review - Shadow Raiders

Shadow Raiders: Book 1 of the Dragon BrigadeShadow Raiders: Book 1 of the Dragon Brigade by Margaret Weis

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


I've been a fan of Margaret Weis for almost twenty years and have read almost all of her novels, whether they've been ones she's written herself or with her frequent writing partner Tracy Hickman or other partners like Don Perrin and have, for the most part, enjoyed them thoroughly. So, having said that, I feel like I have to blame the fact that this book broke that streak on her partner this time around, Robert Krammes. Don't get me wrong, the book isn't all bad. There are likeable characters here and there, especially the Sherlock Holmes-style investigation team of Father Jacob, Sir Ander, and Brother Barnaby, and there are a couple of thrilling sequences peppered throughout the book. Those sequences, though are linked by scores and scores of dull pages cluttered with an over-reliance on clunky, repetitive exposition that took me out of the story by boring me to tears. I know there will be another book in the series and I honestly don't think I want to read it, but I probably will, just in hopes that Weis' talent will shine through more next time around.



View all my reviews

Friday, December 16, 2011

Fiction Friday - The Problem With Demons


Hey, what do we have here? Some fiction, for a change! Not much, admittedly, but I used writing to get my mind off of stuff today, and it worked, at least for a little while. You might notice, if you follow what I've been writing, that this has nothing to do with any of my other posts. That might not be the problem with demons, but it is the problem with me; I start stories and then never finish them. My theory is that it's because I just haven't found a story I really want to tell yet. Yeah, that's the ticket. Anyway, read it, enjoy it, or don't... either way, let me know! Maybe there'll be more if it next week.

“That’s the problem with demons.”
             
            I say that a lot. You could say it’s my catchphrase. But what I never do is actually explain what the trouble with demons actually is. I never really wanted to pin it down for anyone else before, and I never had a reason to. It was enough that I knew… and knowledge is power, right? And one thing you should never do is share power… but I’ll get to that later.
             
            So, the problem with demons. It all started in a little neighborhood in Manhattan called Hell’s Kitchen, between 34th and 49th, and from 8th Avenue all the way down to the Hudson, a body of water so foul I’m convinced it’s a tributary of the River Styx.  Back in the day, the Kitchen was a real vile spot, full of shoddy, cheap housing and even cheaper people; druggies, rapists, the Mafia… you know, if the Mafia existed. You couldn’t cross the street without seeing one sin or another happening on either corner. Now? That hideous bitch Progress has cleaned it up a bit, filled with actors and artists and the like.
             
            Which means the Kitchen still cooks with sin, just sins of a different kind.
             
            Right smack in the middle of it all is a little bar called The Devil’s Cauldron. It’s a little hole-in-the-wall place that takes the term “dive bar” to a whole new level; from the neon sign above the door that rarely has three of the letters in the bar’s name lit up at one time, to the stools that are missing legs, the pool table with strips missing out of the felt and a cracked eight ball, the jukebox that has over five hundred songs listed but only fifty that work, all the way down to the bathrooms that are covered in all the myriad forms of DNA that would make the bulb in a black light crack itself out of self-preservation, the Cauldron was a miserable place. Easy to see why it would be a wet dream for demons, why it was their favorite after-hours hangout.
            
            The Devil’s Cauldron in Hell’s Kitchen… you could say the problem with demons is that they like shit a little too on-the-nose. And they do. But that’s not the problem with demons, although it’s part of it.
            
            No, the problem with demons is that they’re way too tied up in the traditional, the old-fashioned. And that right there is what makes the problem with demons MY problem.
             
            Y’see, I’ve just never been an old-fashioned kinda demon.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Batman vs. The Christmas Spirit Opossum


Trust me, he looks worse than he is...

Ah, the opossum. The Frenchmen of the Animal Kingdom. While that surly-looking fellow seen above is just chilling on a fence or something, the opossum are famous for laying down and pretending to be dead as a way to escape predators. What they do when they come across a predator who has no problem eating something he didn't kill himself, I have no idea. Still, "playing possum" seems to work for these little guys. And right now, it seems to be working for my Christmas spirit as well.

Last Monday, I posted a blog kicking off the Christmas season for me, a season I very much look forward to every year. Twenty-four hours after that, life sort of went to hell in a handcart, and my Christmas spirit was tied to the bumper of the handcart like tin cans to a wedding limo. A few days ago, though, I was catching up on some of the comic books I had missed over the last two weeks ago, and came across a graphic novel that maybe... just maybe... started pulling my Christmas spirit back from the depths of Hades...


Batman: Noel is a graphic novel that just came out recently from DC Comics. I'll pause for a minute to let any of my friends who know how I feel stop and gasp over the fact that I'm about to say something nice about a DC project. This roughly ninety-page story is basically a version of A Christmas Carol that puts Batman squarely in the role of Ebenezer Scrooge. There will be spoilers ahoy here, so if you don't want to know, get out now while the gettings good.

The story starts with an unknown narrator telling someone that he's going to tell them a story, but that he isn't good at that kind of thing. As he starts telling us the story of Bob Cratchit and his son and his horrible boss Scrooge, we see a man who is a small-time bagman for "The Clown," being terrorized by Batman, who lets him go to use as bait. He pauses to notice the bagman left the money he was supposed to be carrying behind and, without concern, notes the the Clown won't forgive him for that. We then see an example of Batman in his Batcave, being mean to trusty Alfred, showing just how driven and Scrooge-like he is. He sees a Robin suit in his display case (I presume it's the suit of Jason Todd, the second Robin who was killed by the Joker, but they never specify). This is his Jacob Marley moment, folks.

Or the Marley Brothers, if you prefer the Muppets. That's Michael Caine as Scrooge...
didn't he play Alfred too? Wait a minute...

Soon after that, he receives a tip from Commissioner Gordon, which leads him to Catwoman, his Ghost of Christmas Past. She leads him on a merry, flirtatious chase which he wants no part of, as she reminds him of how much fun they used to have when they were younger. At the end of the chase, he takes a nasty tumble off of a gargoyle and is rescued by none other than... Superman. Who better to be the Ghost of Christmas Present for Scrooge McBats than his friend, the Big Blue Buffoon? He flies around with Supes, taking in the happier sights of Gotham, like Commissioner Gordon celebrating Christmas with his wife and an on-duty cop as they say nice things about the Dark Knight. He even checks in on the bagman he terrorized earlier and watches as he plays with his son. Superman drops Batman off at the Batmobile and flies off, right before the Batmobile explodes.

No, Superman, with his super-hearing, doesn't hear that and fly right back. Sure, that would make sense. But this is the world of comic books, people, leave sense at the door. Besides, if Supes flew back, Bats couldn't be confronted by the scariest of the visions, the Ghost of Christmas Future. And really, who else could that vision for Batman be but the Joker?

Why so serious? It's Christmas!

Joker, as silent at the Ghost of Christmas Present should be, drags Batman off and drops him in an open grave, where he experiences visions of Gotham's future without him... Alfred lost and alone, gang warfare everywhere, Gordon in chains for harboring a fugitive vigilante... before finally dragging himself out as a better man. He hurries to the home of the bagman from the beginning, arriving in time to stop Joker from killing the man's son to make up for losing his money at the start of the story. After a brief scuffle, he looks up to find the bagman with a gun to the Joker's head, wanting to kill him for threatening his son. Batman, in his full-on changed Ebenezer Scrooge moment, goes from thinking earlier the bagman was scum and his son had no hope of turning out any better to saying to the bagman, "Put down the gun. Show your son what a real hero, a real man, does." The bagman listens, Batman takes Joker away, and everyone is happy. We also find out, although it was fairly obvious, that it was the bagman narrating the story of Scrooge to his son the whole time.

The story has it's drawbacks; namely, the writing, by Lee Bermejo, is pretty simplistic, but that's because Bermejo is mainly an artist, and his art on the book is beautiful (he also worked on another Batman graphic novel, The Joker, which was written by Brian Azzarello and might be the second greatest Joker story ever, behind The Killing Joke). The story itself is nicely done though, and is a good adaptation of the classic story.

In the end, how did Batman fare against my opossum-like Christmas spirit? Not well. Even with reinforcements from a great Glee Christmas episode last night, the soundtrack of which I'm listening to as I type this, current events still have my Christmas spirit nearly nonexistent.

But the Caped Crusader never gives up, and neither will I.

Monday, December 5, 2011

'Tis the Season...

We're just under three weeks to Christmas... or an even three weeks to Festivus if that is more your cup of tea... so I thought it would be a good time to let you all in on the things I watch pretty much every year to get into the Christmas spirit. Despite what a cranky, cantankerous bastard I am all year long, I do love Christmas and celebrating it with my family and friends. This is going to be another picture-heavy affair, I hope you enjoy these. No, I don't, I don't care, I enjoy them, that's all that matters. How's that for Christmas spirit! Now here, in no particular order, are the TV shows and movies that help me do that!

The Family Man

 
Yeah, I know. Nic Cage. It's incredibly hokey. And did I mention Nic Cage? But it's sweet and sentimental and funny sometimes too and I like it so shut up!

Bad Santa


Specifically the "Badder Santa" version. Absolutely hysterical.

Roswell Christmas Episodes


The very underrated Roswell had Christmas episodes in its second and third seasons, "A Roswell Christmas Carol" and "Samuel Rising." Each are incredibly sweet, well-written episodes that are full of the Christmas spirit, but "A Roswell Christmas Carol" is the better of the two.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer - "Amends"


This third season episode is the only Christmas episode they ever did, a poignant story about redemption that is one of my favorite episodes of the whole series. Foreshadowing the series' biggest villains and the final season, laying the foundation for the "Angel" spin-off, and asking questions about whether we can ever really make up for the awful things we do... well, anytime it snows in California, you've probably got your answer.

Doctor Who - A Christmas Carol


Sure, I know it's not the only Doctor Who Christmas Special, but it's the only one that actually centers around Christmas, with the Doctor staging a Dickensian-style intervention on a Scrooge of his own, played by Michael Friggin' Dumbledore Gambon. This is the episode that finally got me to jump onto the Doctor Who bandwagon, and I can't wait for this year's "The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe," which is obviously an adaptation of...

The Chronicles of Narnia - The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe


Sure, I know it's technically not Christmasy, but it feels like it to me. Leave me alone.

A Christmas Carol

Specifically, this...


and this...


...each for reasons that should need no explanations whatsoever.

The Lord of the Rings


Nothing to do with Christmas at all, I realize. And yet, because the movies came out in late December and I went to see them with my friends, my brain associates the trilogy with the Christmas season, so you can rest assured at some point in the next twenty days or so, I'll spend an entire day watching these three movies.

The Rankin-Bass Christmas Specials.

Any of them really, I love them all. But "A Year Without a Santa Claus" will always be my favorite because of Heat Miser and Snow Miser...


A Charlie Brown Christmas


I saved the best for last, and of course this is on the top of the list. Anyone who isn't instantly overwhelmed with the Christmas spirit after watching this just has no soul. By the way, it's going to be on ABC in about 12 minutes. How's that for Christmas synergy?

Friday, December 2, 2011

My TV Fave Five

Yeah, I know it's Friday, and technically I should be posting a Fiction Friday installment. I might still do that later, there's an idea I'm kicking around in my head but it has to take shape a little bit more before I can do anything with it. While I ruminate on that, I thought since I spend so much time talking about television, I should let me faithful readers in on my favorite TV shows of all time, especially since I just realized this list has changed dramatically in the last few years from what i always thought it was. I've always said my favorite shows were Quantum Leap, Babylon 5, Saved by the Bell, Boy Meets World, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel (I count them as one show, for obvious reasons). Now that I'm almost thirty-one, the level of amazing television I've been exposed to over the last decade or so has changed this list dramatically. So, here we go! And yes, this is going to be a photo/video-heavy blog.

5.) How I Met Your Mother


The fact that I ignored this show's existence for so long shows that I'm clearly an idiot. I didn't start watching HIMYM until some friends of mine recommended it to me over and over again. Finally, over a sick weekend where I barely ever left my bed, I downloaded the first three seasons and watched them all in three days. I was hooked. At its best, HIMYM is full of equal parts heart and humor... and at its worst, it's just hysterical with the legend... wait for it... ary Neil Patrick Harris stealing just about every minute he's on screen with his antics as Barney Stinson.

I totally apply this rule to my personal life...

Aside from a whole lot of comedy and romance within the overarching mystery of just who Ted Mosby is going to marry and when the hell he'll meet her already, HIMYM has given us such gems as the Bro Code, the above Hot Crazy Scale, "Suit Up!", Robin Sparkles, Ranjit the Taxi/Limo Driver, Swarley,... the list goes on. My personal favorite being Slap Bet, which of course led to Slapsgiving...

HAPPY SLAPS-GIVING! from Rich Shook on Vimeo.

Oh, and spoiler alert... it's the only show on the list that is actually still on, so you should watch it.

4.) The West Wing

I was going to use a full cast photo, but, c'mon, he's Martin Sheen!

Sure, the show was naive as hell, creating an administration that was far too idealistic to ever actually exist in American government. And sure, it dropped off a bit after creator/writer Aaron Sorkin left at the end of the fourth season. Criticisms aside, the show was built and carried on the back of solid acting performances from an incredibly talented cast and some of the most amazing, snappy, smart dialogue I've ever seen. People who have read my writing will say that dialogue is what I'm best at, and Sorkin's writing style on this show has a lot to do with that. Here's one of my favorite examples of why I love this show:


If only we had real presidents that awesome...

3.) Friday Night Lights


Anyone who's known me over the last five years knew this was going to be on the list. I watched the first episode when it aired on a whim because it was a Wednesday night and there was nothing else on, and I was hooked from the first moment. Nominally about a high school football team, this is a show about anything but. Life, love, growing up, family... all the bases are covered. The show really centers around Coach Taylor and his family, as well as the kids on his team and their friends/girlfriends/family. Coach Taylor, by the way, is easily one of the greatest television characters ever. While it never really caught on in the ratings, this was a show so beloved by its fans and critics everywhere that for the first time, a major network split the costs of a show with a channel on DTV and let them air episodes in the fall, followed by NBC then airing those episodes as a summer replacement for the last three of the show's five seasons. The show was just too good to cancel. I wanted to show you a clip that proves that, but NBC is apparently a tightass about FNL clips online, so you get this instead:


2.) Scrubs

Easily the funniest show I've ever watched. i can literally watch episodes of this over and over again. It's hysterical, full of heart, with great characters, and it never really goes the way you expect. It's a show that embodies the phrase "from the ridiculous to the sublime." Plus, Percival Ulysses Cox, M.D., is another of TV's greatest characters. Not counting the final bastardized season, it had an almost perfect run, punctuated by what I think is the greatest closing sequence of a series finale ever:


Boy, that was short. Can you tell I'm out of steam?

1.) Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel


I don't think this one is ever changing. There's nothing I could say about these two shows that I haven't already said, and I'm tired of writing. Joss Whedon is my master now. That is all. The end. Grr, argh.

Like any of these shows? Hate any of them? Want to tell me what your faves are? That's what the comments section is for... hop to it, people!