Agents of SHIELD comes to ABC this fall

14-May-13 4:38 PM by
Filed under Television; 1 comment.

It's not enough that Marvel will, by the end of this year, have produced three Iron Man movies, two Incredible Hulks, two Thors, a Captain America, and The Avengers. Having dominated the silver screen, they're now moving to master the smaller screen with this fall's debut of the television series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. The show, which has been in production since 2012, officially passed the pilot stage on May 10 and is scheduled to air Tuesdays at 8 PM this fall on ABC, made official by the trailer:

(There's also a 30-second teaser trailer that's rather uninspiring.)

After watching the above, I'm curious what previous shows S.H.I.E.L.D. will draw upon. The trailer makes the agency sound like hunters of the superpowered, which is too reminiscent of Heroes, a show that started with great promise but quickly crashed and burned. Or will Marvel's show eschew a serial nature in favor of a phenomenon of the week, in the style of The X-Files?

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Application to SHIELD

26-Sep-12 3:12 PM by
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In 2012, four Marvel superheroes combined their franchises into one summer blockbuster: The Avengers. This team consisting of Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and The Incredible Hulk was assembled by agents of the secret military agency known as Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division — SHIELD for short.

ABC wants to know more about this agency and has ordered a television pilot. Best of all, they're tapping Avengers director Joss Whedon — creator of Buffy, Dollhouse, and Dr. Horrible — to co-write and possibly direct.

Just as SHIELD did, Whedon is assembling an all-star team, and graphic designer Adam Levermore wants in. He has worked on the Battlestar Galactica, Serenity, and The Guild franchises, which he feels make him the perfect candidate to work in the super nerdy world of superheroes. Although I'm not familiar with his name and only vaguely familiar with his work, I have to admit that he makes a convincing case for his application to the SHIELD series:

I'd hire him. Wouldn't you?

And if you don't get the closing joke to Adam, you need to see "Once More, With Feeling"!

(Hat tip to Cheezburger)

Pixar's Up Floats to Life

07-Mar-11 3:37 PM by
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Pixar films wonderfully meld the familiar with the fantastic: whether it's a childhood spent with favorite toys, or an incredible family that bonds over a shared challenge, the stories create characters and scenarios we recognize and to which we relate.

But what if, instead of taking the realistic and making it magical, we took the fiction and made fact? That's what some engineers were inspired to do after seeing the 2009 film Up. As part of a new National Geographic television series called How Hard Can It Be?, they set out to make a house fly:

If a house is designed to be lightweight enough to fly, then it's not all that surprising that it should be able to fly. That realization does nothing to diminish the smile brought to my face at the sight of an actual house floating across the sky.

(Hat tip to Alexa Lash)

Dancing Among the Stars

02-Mar-10 5:03 PM by
Filed under Celebrities, Television; Comments Off on Dancing Among the Stars

ABC's Dancing with the Stars continues to redefine the definition of "celebrity", finding its contestants beyond the stage, screen, and sports field and choosing famous figures of significant historical value. This practice continues in the show's tenth season later in March when it introduces the first celebrity to have literally danced among the stars.

Buzz Aldrin, who earlier this year turned eighty, will be the show's next contestant, as he confirmed via Twitter: "Yes, it's true — I'm going to be on Dancing w/the Stars. Make sure to tune in to ABC for the premiere on Mon, Mar 22." His dance partner will be Ashly DelGrosso-Costa, who appeared on the show's first three seasons.

It's exciting to see pop culture acknowledge the value of science and technology. When Steve Wozniak broke the geek mold to defy all expectations on Dancing with the Stars, I was right there with him. And when the show took a Star Wars turn, I cheered for the spaceport tango. Though the dancing skills of an eighty-year-old retired astronaut remain untested, for being so brave and stalwart a hero, Buzz Aldrin has already earned my vote.

As others have said: that's one small two-step for mankind!

Defying Gravity's Bold Launch

11-Sep-09 12:31 PM by
Filed under Television; 3 comments.

The traditional television schedule seems to be a thing of the past, with new series starting whenever in the year they please. One recent example is Defying Gravity, which ABC premiered on August 2nd. While it's common for shows like Heroes and Sarah Connor to stream its new episodes on their Web sites, I've never been satisfied with the experience of watching a television show in a Web browser. So imagine my pleasant surprise to find that the first three episodes of Defying Gravity were, for a limited time, available as a free download from iTunes, allowing me an opportunity I'd otherwise get only on DVD.

The year is 2052, eleven years before First Contact. The International Space Organziation (ISO) is set to launch a single six-year manned mission to the solar system's seven planets (discounting Earth and Pluto). Eight astronauts and their ground support are eager to confront the unknown… but before they know it, the unknown comes to them. A mysterious entity is pulling the mission's strings, which only the upper echelons of the ISO are aware of — and oddly, they seem more than willing to cooperate.

Ron Livingston of Office Space is the show's main character and narrator. In the eyes of the public, Maddux Donner is a fallen hero, ever since he abandoned two astronauts on a mission to Mars, although the movie's pilot makes clear he made the right decision and obeyed orders. He opens and closes each episode with a monologue, with other storytelling elements including the flashbacks, personal video logs, and one character whose sole purpose seems to be to document the ship's happenings for the edification of terrestrial grade school students.

More central to the plot than Donner's public image is his relationship with the rest of the crew, and them with each other. Multiple flashbacks to five years prior show us how this crew came to know each other during the application and training for the mission, at which time it seems everyone slept with each other at least once. Now spacebound, the astronauts are supposedly limited by HALOs — hormone-activated libido oppressors that impact one's physical performance but not emotional desire, thus doing nothing to prevent sexual awkwardness.

HALOs are one of the few technological developments humanity has achieved in the next 50 years. The Antares ship must have some sort of improved propulsion to make a six-year solar tour, but there's no evidence of warp drive. Further, the application of antigravity is inconsistent. It's stated early on that nanofibers in the crew uniforms keep them upright and attached, and we see tossed objects and even vomit moving laterally across a room in support of that theory. But in other scenes, baseballs sail in graceful arcs, and an exercise room's weight machine functions normally. Perhaps crew quarters rotate, offering centripetal force that isn't present elsewhere. Regardless, Defying Gravity is closer to our own level of advancement than most science fiction.

Likewise, culture and society has seen few changes, though I appreciate that the possibility for more sweeping evolution is subtle. The existence of the ISO suggests a a world unification, or at least collaboration beyond a single space station. Home pregnancy tests are now illegal. And Donner longs for "the mountains and what's left of the beaches", suggesting some consequence of global warming. But the broader environment in which this mission was launched is not the show's focus, and picking up on these clues is more a reward for the astute viewer than being hit over the head with more jarring differences would be.

If only the rest of the show was as shrewd. The macguffin of the unknown puppet master is intended to keep viewers hooked, but it's too obvious a plot device for me. I prefer hidden elements to be subtle and not critical to the show's very foundation. A particular character can have a secret, or a particular episode or story arc may need a deus ex machina — but this entire show seems driven by a creature named "Beta" who we may not be seeing for some time.

Fortunately, any problems I have with the script do not extend to the cast. Livingston seemed somewhat clueless in Office Space and has a similar air here, but at least he's earnest about it. Ty Olsson, who played Captain Aaron Kelly on BSG and Magento's guard in X-Men 2, is tough but thoughtful Rollie Crane. Among the astronauts, there is a lack of independent female role models, but mission control includes Karen LeBlanc as assistant flight director Eve Weller-Shaw and Claire Dereux as Maxim Roy, who know how to get a grip (when they're not pining for their cosmic boyfriends).

Defying Gravity, which has been described as Lost in space (har, har) or Grey's Anatomy in space, came strongly recommended from someone who said these three episodes had justified committing to the rest of the season. Such a strong first impression is rare: if I'd had to judge Star Trek: TNG or DS9 that quickly, I might not have stuck around. Defying Gravity may likewise mature into a fine show, but since I have no television service, I'm left with the decision of buying the show online or on DVD, or not at all. Given what I've seen so far, I'll save my money and leave others to boldly go. In the meantime, only the behind-the-scenes featurette remains a free download from iTunes, while full episodes can be watched on ABC.com by installing their spyware plug-in.

Dancing with the Woz, Round 4.0

31-Mar-09 7:23 AM by
Filed under Celebrities, Television; 1 comment.

Last night, Steve Wozniak appeared on Dancing with the Stars for his fourth performance. Since last week, I joined the official "Vote for Woz" Facebook group and was surprised to learn its members receive regular missives from the Woz himself. He really is as nice a guy as he seems: one lengthy message was asking his fans' forgiveness for not replying to each individual email he received. Apparently that is a typical practice for him, keeping him up until the wee hours of the morning, even when he needs to get up early for dance practice. He asked his fans to understand how the demands of the show may cause him to temporarily re-prioritize. I think we can afford you that one luxury, Woz.

Woz's last performance earned him and his partner the lowest scores the judges had given in three years — yet the popular vote brought him back for more. Declaring his intent to earn the fan's trust and prove the judges wrong, Woz vowed to work hard and surprise us all this week. Here is his resulting tango:

I thought Woz did a great job, but I was bit disappointed by the choreography: it seemed like his partner was doing all the sexy and challenging moves. As Carrie Ann said last week, has the novelty worn off? If you don't think so, then be sure to vote for Woz. Follow his progress on Twitter for more updates!

Dancing with the Woz, Round ///

24-Mar-09 9:50 AM by
Filed under Celebrities, Television; 1 comment.

We've been watching Steve Wozniak on Dancing with the Stars here on Showbits, giving him more attention than we previously have to any other topic. It can't be helped — the man invented the Apple II computer, which set this blogger on a path that ultimately led to this very site. Having the opportunity to watch the industry's progenitor get fancy on the dance floor is an honor.

After debuting with a mediocre cha-cha, Woz returned last week and performed a more respectable quickstep, despite having a fractured foot. Last night, his third dance was compounded by a pulled hamstring that made an already challenging samba even more arduous. Here are the results of his third and potentially final performance:

I've already applauded Woz for his daring and demeanor, and I think the judges both were unnecessarily harsh and didn't take into account Woz's physical limitations. Nonetheless, based not on the scores but on the routine itself, even I have to admit this could be the end of Woz's dancing career.

But remember: it's all relative. To get this far, Woz has worked harder than most of us could, proving himself a better dancer than anyone I personally know. A regular dancer myself, I was once told: "As long as you're smiling, you're doing it right." I admire anyone who would willingly put himself through the physical and social trials Woz has and still come out grinning.

Dancing with the Woz, Round ][

17-Mar-09 11:19 AM by
Filed under Celebrities, Television; 1 comment.

I blogged yesterday about Woz's Dancing with the Stars debut. Here's round two of his performance!

Could geekdom ask for a better representative?