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Saturday, April 30, 2011
TV Round-Up: Doctor Who, "Day of the Moon"

Reviewed by: Michael Hickerson (Slice of SciFi Editor)

If "The Impossible Astronaut" was all set-up, then "Day of the Moon" should have been mostly pay-off. And, for the most part, it was. Except for the fact that watching this two part opener to series six, I couldn't shake the feeling I used to get during Lost and The X-Files--namely that we were answering one question only to replace it with six or eight more.

At this point, I still have faith in Steven Moffat to deliver the answers. But I still have a bad feeling no matter what answer we get to the puzzle that is River Song, it won't be nearly as satisfying or as interesting as many of us have speculated and dreamed up on our own. (Or worse yet, it won't jive with what we've dreamed up and we'll take it out on the show in a backlash).

But, for now, I'm mostly satisfied.

"Day of the Moon" was a less frantic episode than we saw last week. Last week was all atmosphere and exposition. This week was trying to be about resolution, but it still seemed to be missing some of the atmosphere that we had last week.

That's not to say it was terrible. It just wasn't quite what I expected.

The Doctor discovers that the Silence aren't invading Earth, but they've been here the entire time. They've been out there, manipulating human history...but for what reason? We find out they want and need a space suit and send humanity to the moon, but we don't really see why. Was it somehow the Doctor manipulating them into doing this so he could expose them? Or are the Silence trying to expand their empire across time and space?

And has the Doctor made some kind of new, profound enemy that will haunt him across the season? It certainly seems like we aren't done with the Silence.

I did like the way in which Moffat pulled in pieces from the past to show the Silence have been with the show all during the Matt Smith era. We had the blatant foreshadowing from "The Eleventh Hour" referenced, but we also saw how the word Silence has been mentioned. Add in that last year's "The Lodger" saw a Silence control console in the upper room and it's clear that the Doctor has been a thorn in the side of the Silence for some time now--he probably just wasn't aware of who or what he was battling.

We're still left with a lot of pieces that don't quite fit yet. Again, back to my X-Files comparison, it's frustrating to have an episode that sets up some potentially long-term, game-changing threads for the series only to have the show try and go back to some jolly adventure next week. If you watched The X-Files as it unfolded, you may recall that some of the most frustrating episodes were those right after the mythology stories. But, given how we saw the series has been putting building blocks into place since Smith took over, I'm willing to give the show the benefit of the doubt that even the standalone stories won't be too standalone in the grand scheme of things.

I also have to wonder if somehow history has been changed for various characters. I refer specifically to the River's kiss of the Doctor and her statements following it and the question of whether or not Amy is really pregnant. It feels like we have two realities unfolding here and that we could create some kind of time paradox. I have a feeling this is more the case with River and it makes me wonder if the terrible day she refers to in the future is part of her memories and the Doctor's memories coming together and not meshing. It they're passing at different points in their timeline, then at some point there has to be a middle..and I have a feeling that middle or crossroads will be the dark day River has referenced several times.

When it all comes down to it, I was hoping for more definitive answers than we got. And while I'm sure that Moffat has a plan for this season and beyond, I hope it does't take too long to get to those answers.

A couple of quick, random points.

  • Kind of implied that the Doctor creates the Watergate tapes. Nice nod.
  • I'm willing to accept that the TARDIS can jaunt all over and reach specific points in time and space as needed because River was there. Using it to shuttle Nixon around was nicely done.
  • Anyone think the Doctor was being shut inside another Pandorica as Canton was building the box? And whose idea was it? Surely the Doctor must have given it to him since I can't imagine Canton would know the type of material to use to shut out the universe.
  • Back to last week's story. In 1969, was Star Trek a big enough show or in the public mind enough for the doomed woman to reference it on seeing the Silence?
  • Hopefully we can bury the Rory jealousy thread for good.
  • Moffat is good at creating monsters that are like waking nightmares. However, at times the Silence felt a bit like a combination of greatest hits of various other monsters he's used in previous scripts.
  • I did like how the Silence were defeated by exposing them via the moon landing broadcast. That just seems Doctor-like.
  • I did wonder how the Silence got into the TARDIS and if it might still be there. I'm assuming it's not but it could be a thread and threat for later this season.

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posted by Michael Hickerson at 4/30/2011 09:10:00 PM | |

30 Day of Doctor Who: Least Favorite Companion
On the one hand, it would be tempting to put Rose down as my least favorite companion. But it's not that I don't like her...I just didn't like the direction the character took in her one season with David Tennant and the fact that the show wouldn't let her be gone for good once she stopped traveling with the Doctor.

But I liked her enough in the first season and enjoyed her work enough with Christopher Eccleston to keep her from the absolute bottom of my list of companions.

And it'd also be easy to take the chance to name proverbial Doctor Who whipping boy Adric as the least favorite. Again, it goes back to how Adric was written, especially in the Davison years. (The fact that he was constantly changing sides against the Doctor got old REALLY fast). But without Adric, you don't have one of the defining moments of the 80s for Doctor Who and one of the defining moments of the entire series run.

So, I'll have to go and say my least favorite companion is Grace Holloway. It's not really fair, but it's true. She only featured in one story and she didn't really make all that great an impression. Part of it could have been how the Fox back door pilot movie was promoted at the time. And maybe given some time to travel with the McGann Doctor, she might have developed into something more. But I honestly don't love her, but I don't hate her. She's not the most memorable part of her single story and I wasn't all that upset to think she might not be a series regular if Fox had picked up the show. And that's why she's my least favorite....for simply not making enough of a first-impression.

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posted by Michael Hickerson at 4/30/2011 10:47:00 AM | |
Friday, April 29, 2011
30 Day of Doctor Who: Favorite Companion
Picking a favorite companion on Doctor Who is almost worse than picking a favorite Doctor, if only because there are nearly twice as many people who've traveled in the TARDIS with the good Doctor over the years.

And many of you who know may be may think I'd pick Peri as my favorite companion. And while I like certain aspects of Peri (and Nicola Bryant)*, I'd have to say that Peri isn't my favorite companion.

That honor goes to Ace.

She traveled with my favorite Doctor and was part of what I considered a renaissance for the show in its later years. As a character Ace had a story arc and as a female companion, more was asked of her than to just scream at the various monsters and to get into trouble. Her famous nitro nine was just one aspect of this.

Ace doesn't quite fit the mold of a companion, but that may be why I like her. Whatever the reasons, she's my favorite companion.

* (If you want to find the aspects of Nicola Bryant that really appealed to me as a young fan (and even today for that matter) just do a Google search for Peri bikini "Planet of Fire." That should explain it all...)

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posted by Michael Hickerson at 4/29/2011 02:01:00 PM | |
Thursday, April 28, 2011
30 Days of Doctor Who: Least Favorite Doctor
Today's category is a difficult one for me.

I don't mean to sound like a huge Doctor Who apologist, but I can honestly find something I like about each era of Doctor Who and each actor who has played the role over the years. So, choosing a "least favorite" Doctor is probably a great deal more difficult than choosing a favorite.

In my earliest days, I might have said William Hartnell was my least favorite Doctor. But that was before I re-watched and re-evaluated the first Doctor's era and came to appreciate it. And it'd be easy to cite him since just a few days ago, I cited "The Web Planet" as my least favorite story from the show's long tenure.

So, I've really thought long and hard about this and I've come up with my answer. My least favorite Doctor is David Tennant. I don't say this as some kind of classic Doctor Who snob, but more out of a reaction to the end of his era and the end of Russell T. Davies time as producer. It's not that Tennant was a bad Doctor, but I think his victory lap season of specials really just rubbed me the wrong way. In just four stories, you saw every excess of the era on display, especially in the final two parter "The End of Time." Tennant was good when he first took over the role, but like Tom Baker he did better when reigned in more. And, unfortunately, the longer his era ran the less reigned in he got.

I'd still be curious to see what a season from Tennant and Steven Moffat would have looked like. I'm of the firm belief that the thing that helped Tom Baker's last season be so good was his being reigned in by John Nathan Turner and Christopher H. Bidmead.

Anyway, I'm sure I've just offended three-quarters of the fans who've only watched the new series. But, in a way, some of those fans are to blame for this reaction. It's their blind devotion to Tennant and his era and the claim that no other Doctor can be as good or better (sorry, folks but Matt Smith is better), that may be contributing to part of this choice. But as it stands right now, David Tennant is my least favorite Doctor.

But don't worry...that could all change in a couple of years when some time has passed and I can re-evaluate the era again.

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posted by Michael Hickerson at 4/28/2011 06:17:00 AM | |
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
30 Days of Doctor Who: Favorite Doctor
One of the interesting things about being a fan of Doctor Who for so long now is watching how the opinion on certain actors, eras and stories has ebbed and waned over the years. And while in the long run, Tom Baker will probably end up being the favorite Doctor of a majority of Doctor Who fans, it's interesting to save David Tennant take over the top spot in the most recent polls.

It reminds me of the fact that for a couple of years in the late 80's, it was the seventh Doctor Who took the top spot in the polls as Favorite Doctor.

That position certainly agreed with my assessment at the time. And the seventh Doctor is still my favorite to this day.

Of course, there's a bit of a story behind it. In a way, I was probably pre-disposed to like the Sylvester McCoy era even before I saw the first few minutes of it on my television screen. During the early years of my fandom, I lived in San Jose, California, one of the bastions of Doctor Who in the 80s. KTEH showed Doctor Who six days a week--a single episode each evening and a complete story in episode format Saturday nights. The station lived and died by Doctor Who and they worked hard to make sure we had the newest episodes as soon as possible. They also sponsored gatherings and events for fans, including a local fan club and a convention.

I never got to go to the local fan club or a convention. But I dig get to go the traveling Who-mobile. It was basically an 18-wheeler trailer that you went inside and saw various costumes and sets from the show, including the TARDIS and a Dalek. Outside was a replica of Bessie, the car the third Doctor drove during his time on Earth. As part of the experience, an actor from the show was brought along to drum up business and to make you feel like you were getting more for your money than an tractor trailer full of props.

For the Who-mobile's stop at KTEH, the actor involved was McCoy. This was right after he'd completed work on his first season on the show. I begged my parents to take me and my dad finally said he'd take me Sunday afternoon. So, off we went to see the Who-mobile and attend a Q&A with McCoy. McCoy was charming, entertaining and had at least one young Who fan in the palm of his hand. After getting an autographed copy of Doctor Who Magazine with McCoy on the cover, I was ready for his episodes to debut--especially given how great he'd made "Time and the Rani" and "Delta and the Bannermen" sound.

If you're a fan, you're probably snickering now because you'll know those two stories aren't exactly the pinnacle of Doctor Who greatness. And even then, I knew they weren't. But even though I generally didn't like those two and "Paradise Towers" the first time I saw them, I still liked McCoy. The season ended with "Dragonfire" and I saw potential. And then season 25 rolled around and I was hooked. McCoy knocked Tom Baker out of my top slot as my favorite Doctor and he's been there ever since.

Sure, his era isn't perfect. But no era is. And part of my love for the McCoy era and his Doctor comes from the work done in the New Adventures. But his work on the show and the stories in seasons 25 and 26 are enough to put him on the top of my list....

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posted by Michael Hickerson at 4/27/2011 06:15:00 AM | |
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
30 Days of Doctor Who: Least Favorite Story
"The Web Planet"

For a series that's entering its 32nd season, Doctor Who has had some ups and its had some downs. Every era has its classics and then every era has those stories you'd just rather forget about it.

When I first began collecting the full run of Doctor Who years ago, I knew there'd be some stories I'd add to the collection simply to be a complete-ist and not because I necessarily wanted to revisit them on a regular basis. But at the top of that list was a six-part story from the first Doctor era, "The Web Planet."

Set on the plant Vortis, this six-part story from the William Harntell era finds the TARDIS landing on a web planet where several races of giant insects are in conflict. Called an "experimental" story at the time, it's one of many such attempts by the show over its run to push the boundaries of sci-fi television. And, unfortunately, it fails in just about every aspect. There's a legend among fans of the show that if you watch carefully, you can see the exact moment when series star William Russell decides it's time to leave the series. I'm not sure this is necessarily the case, but it's easy to see why Russell might believe the show is running out of steam.

The various insects are brought to life by a variety of techniques. Some are paper mache ants, others are people dressed up butterfly and bumblebee suits. It might be easier to forgive if not for the fact that the voices for the various insects can be a bit grating and that large chunks of this story are filmed with Vaseline smeared on the lenses. It's supposed to make Vortis look unearthly and alien. Instead it makes it appear fuzzy and like you should adjust the focus on your set.

On top of all that, the story isn't really that interesting or exciting. It's slow moving and it has a tendency to bore me to tears. Sure there are a lot of other stories that get a lot of things wrong, but at least they're not dull. This one is and that's why it's my least favorite Doctor Who story.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 4/26/2011 05:02:00 AM | |
Monday, April 25, 2011
30 Days of Doctor Who: Favorite Story
I've seen a couple of people doing this over on Facebook. And since this will eventually be pulled over to Facebook, here we go with 30 Days of Doctor Who Challenge.

First up....Favorite Story. (I'm reposting this from an entry I did in October of last year).


My answer is the seventh Doctor classic "The Curse of Fenric."

It's been my favorite since I first saw it years ago on my local PBS station and it's continued to top my list ever since. It's among my top five of all shows ever.

I even love it in spite of all the various versions that are out there. We have the original TV edit, the VHS extended edition and then the special edition movie version on the second disc of the DVD release. I've got all three (the TV edit and the special edition movie are on the DVD release), though I will say that I prefer the episodic extended edition on VHS. It helps make a jumpy episode one flow a lot more smoothly. (I'd almost say a three-disc "definitive" edition with all the versions on it should be released since the BBC is now starting to double-dip on the range).

And that doesn't even include the Target novel, which is among one of the best the range ever offered. (I've still got it along with my full run of all the seventh Doctor Target books since they were harder to find as the range ran its course). If there was a novel screaming for an audio release, it's this one.

It's not a great story to bring people into the Doctor Who fold, but it's still my favorite.

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posted by Michael Hickerson at 4/25/2011 05:00:00 PM | |

TV Round-Up: Game of Thrones -- The Kingsroad

Let's start at the beginning--how cool are the opening credits for Game of Thrones? In a day and age when credits and theme songs are being cut to make room for more commercials, it's nice to know that at least on HBO we can have an opening title sequence that not only features a well done theme song, but also offers some clues to what's coming up in the episode. No, it's not snippets of what's to come in the hour as we saw with Battlestar Galactica. Instead, it's the map of Westeros showing us where much of the dramatic action will center that week.

This week, the story is split between the Wall, King's Landing, Winterfell and the land to the East. If last week's story was about getting us to dive into this world, this week's was about getting our bearings a bit and building up many of the characters we met last week.

Watching the story unfold, it's hard to not read too much into certain things, especially in light of having read the first two novels in this series. I think a lot of this is my adding shades of meaning and foreshadowing to certain lines and moments simply based on my knowledge of what's to come for certain characters and how their fates will play out (if the series remains as faithful to the books as these first two episodes have). It leads me to believe that Thrones could be one of those series that is rewarding to watch multiple times in order to pick up clues and hints once the audience has an idea of the bigger tapestry at work.

As Eddard reluctantly leaves Winterfell to assume his role as the King's Hand, Catelyn remains behind to care for Bran, who is unconscious after being shoved out of the tower last week by Jamie Lannister. Bran saw Jamie and his twin sister, who is also the queen, Cersei in a compromising position. One early scene finds the two discussing his fate and saying how it would be more merciful if Bran were to die instead of being crippled for life. As I said before, this is one of those scenes that takes on more meaning for the audience than some characters involved. Seeing Cersei go to Catelyn to offer comfort, the audience has to wonder if Cersei hasn't gone to try and end Bran's life or to determine how such a thing should be done. It doesn't help that an assassin shows up later to do just that, only stopped by Catelyn and Bran's direwolf.

It's interesting that one direwolf should save the family only to see that one has to be put down by the family as the episode concludes. Arrya is giving a sword by Jon Snow and is training with the butcher's boy. Joffrey comes across them and challenges the boy to duel. The scene shows the cruelty and arrogance of Joffrey, as well as his sense of entitlement. His arrogance catches up with him when Arrya defends her friend and her direwolf becomes involved. Joffrey is humiliated and Arrya flings his sword into the river. Joff covers it up to his mother and the king and Sansa doesn't help things. It's clear to see that Sansa is torn in her loyalties here, but she ends up siding with Joffrey and losing her direwolf in the bargain. (And having just finished up Clash of Kings over the weekend, this scene took on even greater nuances if you know where the Sansa/Joffrey storyline is headed).

At the center of this is Ned, trying to come to terms with his new role as the King's Hand and his love for his family. Ned and Robert sitting under the trees discussing their conquests and days at war was one of the highlight as the episode, as was the warning that war is coming. Ned quickly dismisses the threat of the Targaryens and the Dothraki alliance, saying that the alliance doesn't have the ships to make it to King's Landing much less begin to overthrow Robert. As the episode unfolds, you begin to get the feeling that Robert may have been the wrong man for the job as king.

Meanwhile, across the sea, Daenerys is coming to terms with what marriage to Drago really means. Watching her ask her maid for help in learning how to please Drago and not be taken so brutally was nicely done. Again, I think Emlia Clarke is one of the great assets the series has and she shows it here.

And all that doesn't even begin to get into getting our first real glimpse of the Wall. And it looks as spectacular as we all hoped it would.

The second week of the show may be even stronger than the first. While we're still getting a good deal of exposition, there's still enough rewards here to keep things interesting. I was amazed at how quickly the hour went by watching the latest installment.

It's hard to say which I enjoyed more--this episode or the return of Doctor Who. Both were solid and each can make their claim as one of the best things I saw last week.

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posted by Michael Hickerson at 4/25/2011 03:40:00 AM | |
Sunday, April 24, 2011
TV Round-Up: Doctor Who, "The Impossible Astronaut"
Seven years ago, I was really, really excited about the return of Doctor Who. As a long-time fan, I'd endured the wilderness years when being a Doctor Who fan wasn't necessarily cool, when merchandise was hard to find and every year on April 1, we got that inevitable the show is coming back thread cropping up. So, when news came that Doctor Who was returning in the spring of 2005, I was excited but skeptical. Finally, my skepticism was put to rest that Easter weekend in 2005 when the new series debuted and a new era of Doctor Who was born.

Seven years later, I was even more excited for the sixth series premiere of the revived Doctor Who. After a stellar season first series under the guidance of Steven Moffat and the acting of Matt Smith, I was eager to see where things would go next. Each rumor I heard, each preview sent tingles down my spine in a way that hasn't happened since season twenty-five of the classic series.

Add in that the series featured a two-part opener filmed in America and that the United States was getting the episodes on the same day as the U.K., and my expectations for series six in general and "The Impossible Astronaut" in particular were enormously high.

But were they too high? Could one episode live up to all of that hype in mind? Could Steven Moffat deliver again?

Thankfully, the answer so far is, yes, yes he can.

If you haven't seen the episode yet, here's where the heavy SPOILERS are going to start. And as with all Moffat penned stories, the twists and turns are better if you go in completely unaware of them. Just let the episode wash over you and enjoy it.

That's what I did.

Once again, Moffat's script is intent on playing with the notion that Doctor Who is a show about time travel. And while it could seem that Moffat falling back on old strengths, it's interesting that each story he's done investigating how time travel impacts the Doctor and those he comes into contact with has kept raising the stakes. Last year, the nature of time travel was used to save the entire universe. This time around, it's more personal with the Doctor killed in the opening ten minutes and Amy, Rory and River left to pick up the pieces. The Doctor has apparently sent invitations to several of those involved in creating the scenario in which someone in an astronaut suit will gun him down and then shoot him again mid-regeneration. But what led to this and why? And what is the Doctor up to with sending warnings and setting up this scenario? Is he trying to avoid the situation or is he creating it?

Moffat's script doesn't try to answer these questions just yet, but I have a feeling that even beyond the resolution in next week's story of this plotline, these questions will continue to inform series six. Also, the line of the Doctor running harder than he ever has is interesting. What is trying to catch up to him? Is it part of the silence falling that we heard about last year, but was left unresolved? Is it part of the cracks in time from last year?

But back to the specifics of this episode.

Moffat has been a writer who can create monsters that are creepy and unsettling. We've got the Weeping Angels as well as the gas mask children from series one. This time out, the monsters are something that are recognized when see but quickly fade from memory when not in view. They're encountered at various points in the story by everyone but the Doctor.

After assembling the old team, the Doctor and company head to 1969 and a mysterious call that President Nixon is getting each night from a child. The child is asking for help from the astronaut man. The Doctor inserts himself into the situation and begins to figure out what the calls mean and where they're coming from. The leads to Florida, where the same person in a spacesuit shows up again as do the mysterious creatures. Amy and River are trying to figure out if they should be working to make sure the Doctor doesn't die in the future they saw and its implications. Amy takes matters into her own hands when the astronaut suit reappears, leading to a cliffhanger than has be on the edge of my seat for next week.

As a story, "The Impossible Astronaut" is all about set-up. It dripped with atmosphere, tension and solid work from the leads. But to judge it fully, we'll have to wait until next week when Moffat begins to give us some answers and knock over the chess pieces he's put into play. I can't wait...


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posted by Michael Hickerson at 4/24/2011 07:24:00 PM | |
Monday, April 18, 2011
TV Round-Up: Game of Thrones -- Winter Is Coming
Before the Lord of the Rings hit theaters a few years ago, I attempted to wade through the trilogy again by signing up for an on-line book club with Barnes and Nobel. In the forum, I recall a discussion about what was being kept for the movies and what wasn't. One fan posted they already hated the films and were going to weep during their entire viewing of Fellowship of the Ring because Peter Jackson and company had decided the subplot with Tom Bombadil would be cut.

The conversation just goes to show what a fine line has to be walked when it comes to adapting a beloved novel or series of novels for either television or movies. Keep too much to please the hard core fans and you alienate (and possibly bore) the casual fans who have dropped by to see what all the fuss is about. Leave out too much and you run the risk of having your core fan base turn on you or call you a sell out.

Thankfully, it appears that A Game of Thrones has found that happy medium that Lord of the Rings found (weeping Tom Bombadil fans aside) in adapting a much-loved fantasy series for the visual medium. A lot of that credit has to go to the producers getting George R.R. Martin on board as part of the project. While Martin has said he wrote the series to unfilmable, it's his background in television writing and storytelling for that medium combined with his knowledge of how this universe works that gives this adaptation a huge leg-up.

Of course, having a good sized budget and airing on HBO also helps a lot. This allows the books to keep the violence and the more adult themes in tact and not having to water them down too much for broadcast or basic cable audience. As the first hour of A Game of Thrones showed, this world isn't a magical fantasy one where everything is good. It's a dark, harsh and often cruel world in which a lot of good and bad things happen....and whether it's good or bad really depends on which character you are.

I've read the first installment in the epic fantasy series by Martin, so I had some idea coming in of who was who and where various alliances and loyalties lay in the universe of Westeros. And while it took a few moments to reconcile my own image of the characters with the actors cast, it didn't take long for me to pick up on who is who and how they all relate. I'm not sure if the series was quite as accessible to those making their first visit to Westeros, but I think this episode did enough to establish the big players in the saga and we'll see the other players fleshed out a bit more in future installments.

Of course, it's easy to single out the work done by actors Sean Bean and Peter Dinklage in this first installment. Part of this is name recognition and part of this is that both actors are perfectly cast as Ned Stark and Tyrion Lannister respectively. The other big name that jumped out is Lena Headey, familiar from her work on Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. She doesn't make quite the impression here she will in future episodes, though the end of the episode does pivot around here (I have to give myself props for predicting where episode one would end.)

But beyond the three most recognizable names, there were a lot of other great performances. Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Tagarayan rose to the top. Watching as Daenerys is used as a pawn by her brother to help launch his bid to retake the throne of Westeros was compelling, as was Clarke's fear of her wedding night with her new husband. When you start off with hearing that a wedding isn't a wedding unless there's at least three people disemboweled and then turn to the stark statement that about what her brother would allow to happen to her to insure his return to power, the series works to establish how different this world is from ours..and how brutal it can be.

But where the show's success really rests most is the casting of the children. For every Haley Joel Osment, there are a dozen other child actors who just don't quite ring true. And with the children carrying a lot of the various plotlines in Thrones, their casting was essential to get right. Thankfully, it appears they've done just that. The Stark children are all well cast with Bran being memorable early, if only because of his part in the final moments of the episode.

There are a lot of opportunities here for the show to swing and miss. Thankfully for this first episode, it's a swing and a home run. It's obvious that A Game of Thrones is going to require a bit more of viewers in terms of actively watching the series and recalling details. But that's what good television can and often does demand of its viewers. I can see this one becoming easily as well thought of by fans of HBO shows The Sopranos, which also demanded fans keep up with plot threads and actively watch the series.

For the next weeks, we'll get new Doctor Who on Saturdays and new A Game of Thrones on Sundays. Talk about a perfect way to spend your weekend....

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posted by Michael Hickerson at 4/18/2011 06:00:00 AM | |
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Happy Birthday, Beverly Cleary
If there's one early influence bigger than Dr. Suess in my love of reading, it would have to be Beverly Cleary.

The children's book writer gave us the classic characters of Henry, Ribsy, Ralph S. Mouse, Beezus and, of course Romana.

I consumed her books growing up, reading each one multiple times. I can probably still recite passages from many of my favorites. Some of my favorite moments include Henry Huggins catching a salmon, Ramona's first day in kindergarten ("Sit here for the present.") and Beezus' disastrous haircut.

I've given her books to youngsters for b'days and other occasions, hoping they'll catch the same love of reading. I hope that someday if I'm blessed with children I can share the world Beverly Cleary created with them.

Today is Cleary's 95th birthday. So, let me add my wishes for a great birthday to Beverly Cleary and a thanks for helping open the door to a lifetime love of reading.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 4/13/2011 07:11:00 AM | |
Monday, April 04, 2011
A New Personal Best
Three years ago, I signed up for for the indoor triathlon at the Y. I'd just started running on a regular basis after years of avoiding it like the plague (unless I was being chased by bears or Alabama fans), but I felt like my swimming would be solid and my biking from spin class would be decent. Again, it's indoor so it's not like I'm doing hills...I can put on as much or as little tension as I want.

My goal then was to finish.

I finished that year in about an hour and fifteen minutes. Maybe an hour and twenty. I think I posted my time on the blog. Needless to say, I completed my goal--to finish.

I even took second place in the first time competitor division. All that and a cool t-shirt.

Last year, I decided to participate again. A lot of my drive last year was to show some improvement. Part of it was personal, part of it was that we had a couple of teams trying to one-up each other. I improved a lot--by as much as ten to fifteen minutes of time trimmed off my first run. I was happiest that I'd improved my swimming time a great deal. I'd worked hard on it and was happy with the results.

I got my t-shirt, ate some doughnuts (mmmmm...Krispy Kreme) and was pleased with my gain.

I also figured that I'm made one big step forward and that another one like it probably wasn't in the cards for the next year. But I still signed up because I wanted to at least maintain where I was or shave off a few seconds. (I really wanted to improve on my swim team, if we're being honest here, since it's my favorite leg of the triathlon.)

No friendly competition this year, but just a lot of familiar faces all seeing what we could do. I like to do the first heat to get it done and to sit back and help out or encourage my friends who are also participating. And this year, while my swimming wasn't as fast as last year, I still managed to set a new personal best, swimming 10 laps (500 meters), biking 12 miles and running 3 miles in 55:02. I'd hoped to maybe hit at about an hour this year and was happy to get under an hour.

For someone who could barely stomach the thought of running more than a mile a little over three years ago, to run 3 miles in about 25 minutes is a big accomplishment. Of course, it helps that the indoor triathlon lets you use your iPod while participating. A good mix of music helps a lot (especially when you start off with one of the greatest songs in the known universe, "Rocky Top" (did you really expect anything else?)).

Once again, I hit a personal best. And I had fun doing it. Oh sure, maybe in the midst of pounding out miles on the spin bike, it wasn't exactly a walk in the park, but on some level I enjoyed it. And the rush you get when done (and cooled down) is fantastic.

But beyond the benefits of proving something to myself and being in better shape, I've found one of the biggest benefits of training is the friendships. I have friends from the shared miles running, spin classes and working on our swim techniques and form that I might not normally have. I'm amazed at some of them--how hard they work and the time they put into training. And I am slowly being tempted to try and actual outdoor triathlon at some point. I just need to find a bike.

And then I can start over on finding a new set of personal bests....

posted by Michael Hickerson at 4/04/2011 02:03:00 PM | |
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