Tag Archives: NCIS

My Year End Wrap Up 2011

Another year comes to a close, so now it’s time to reflect back over what entertained me in 2011.  I just looked at the wrap up from last year, to get an idea of how far I’ve come in twelve months.  It’s clear that my focus has shifted in two directions.   I spent a large part of this year with my head in London, after watching the 25th anniversary concert of Les Misérables in March.  I also headed back to the past in a big way, once I started watching RetroTV and MeTV during a summer of unbearable television on the big networks.   These two obsessions have a major influence on my best and worst list of 2011.

Best Books:  Most of the novels I liked this year were written for children and teens.  I particularly enjoyed Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool (the 2011 Newbery Award winner) and Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John.  Guitar Boy by MJ Auch and Countdown by Deborah Wiles weren’t perfect, but they each stayed with me long after reading.  My favorite non-fiction book was The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean, which managed to make the periodic table interesting to someone who barely paid attention to science in high school.  The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan was a little book filled with some gems, and it goes into the “hard to categorize” category.  The funniest books were Demitri Martin’s This is A Book, and Heads You Lose by Lisa Lutz & David Hayward.  The biggest disappointments were The Sherlockian by Graham Moore and The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz.  The lesson here is to give up on Sherlock Holmes in books and stick to the BBC.

Best Television:  The Big Bang Theory remains my favorite sitcom, just for being consistently funny.  The best line: “Let’s hurry up and watch this Star Wars blu-ray before George Lucas changes it again!” (Sorry for the paraphrase.)  NCIS consistently underwhelmed me, and I’m can’t help wondering if I’ll give up on it soon.  In spite of my declaration to boycott Masterpiece on PBS, I still watched and enjoyed Downton Abbey, Rufus Sewell as Aurelio Zen, Jason Isaac as Jackson Brodie, and the Inspector Lewis mysteries.  I spent my summer wrapped up in the old series Da Vinci’s Inquest, and my winter has been dominated by reruns of The Rifleman.  Overall, the television program with the biggest impact this year was the Les Mis concert on PBS.

Best Twitter:  Last year, Matthew Gray Gubler was my favorite tweeter.  He’s still whimsical and original, but now most of his tweets are links to his tumblr page.  I hate tumbr, so this is a big strike against him.  Sorry, Gube.  West End performer Hadley Fraser can be great on twitter, but he goes quiet for long stretches.  Ramin Karimloo tweets with sincerity, but all those tattoo photos freak me out!  Matt Lucas, Josh Groban and Yigit Pura have been consistently entertaining, and Shah Rukh Khan’s twitter feed has a good balance of the personal and professional.

Best Movies:  I did slightly better than last year getting out to see new films on the big screen.  I really enjoyed X-Men: First Class, The Descendants, and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.   I’m not sure The Phantom of The Opera 25th Anniversary simulcast even counts in this category!  At the Frameline Film Festival, I enjoyed Kawa and Spork.  I have many more late 2011 films to see on DVD when they’re released in 2012.

Best DVDs:  I watched a lot of bad DVDs this year, just because they featured actors that I liked.  I really need to get over this habit!  While not necessarily bad, I endured a lot of fighting and CGI in movies like Thor, Captain America, and Centurion, just so I could see actors Tom Hiddleston, Chris Hemsworth, JJ Feild, and Michael Fassbender.  I tried to watch all ten Best Picture Oscar nominees on DVD, but I faltered at 7½.  I did love The King’s Speech.  I hate to admit it, but I think my most entertaining DVD experience this year was re-watching JJ Abrams’ Star Trek with a friend.

Best StreamingDa Vinci’s Inquest and The Rifleman on hulu were great, even though I was also watching these series on broadcast television.  The worst: when Netflix split their charges for DVDs by mail versus streaming.  I tried a month of streaming only.  It was a disaster.  Nothing I wanted to watch would play without long pauses to reload.  Now that I’m getting DVDs only, the Netflix site doesn’t tell me what is available streaming only.  Netflix, you’ve got a long way to go before you win back my trust.  One free DVD rental for Christmas isn’t enough.

Best TheatreLes Mis and The Phantom of the Opera, obviously, even though I didn’t see either show live in an actual theatre.  I had some fun at San Francisco’s BATS Improv, especially seeing their Spontaneous Broadway.

Best Music:  I’ve spent most of my time listening to Josh Groban, Hadley Fraser, Sheytoons (Hadley Fraser and Ramin Karimloo), and Johnny Crawford.   Another favorite is the song Electricity from Billy Elliot (the stage musical).  Still, nothing beats Hadley Fraser singing Again.  The worst music this year?  Whatever was playing in the trailer for The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.  Gack.

Best Music Video:  It really doesn’t count, but I can’t help it.  I love Josh Groban Sings Kanye West Tweets.

Best Entertainment News:  Following the news from London about West End performers from the Les Mis concert has entertained me at least as much as the concert itself.  It brought me new friendships with fellow fans from all over, and it kicked off the practice of having guest bloggers here at The Ugly Bug Ball.  If I’m blogging less about the West End, it’s only because things are pretty quiet right now.  2012 promises some guest reviews of Ramin Karimloo as Valjean.

Entertainer of The Year:  Last year was easy.  This year, it’s difficult to choose.  Johnny Crawford is great, but he came along late, at the end of November.  I blogged the most often about Hadley Fraser.  He provided me with a rich variety of entertainment, between the Les Mis and Phantom of the Opera performances, the online news and tweets, the music recordings and the YouTube videos.  Still, Ian Tracey beats Fraser out for sheer volume.  Tracey has been working steadily since he was a teenager, and even without an online presence (no tweets, fansites, or facebook page) he provided me with the most hours of entertainment.  I’m going to have to declare a tie between Hadley Fraser and Ian Tracey.  Congratulations, guys.  There’s no prize, but you get my sincere thanks.  I’m sorry I can’t promise you my exclusive loyalty, because there’s always going to be a Johnny-Come-Lately waiting in the wings!

Hadley Fraser and Ian Tracey

Hadley Fraser as Grantaire in the Les Mis concert; Ian Tracey as Adam Worth in Sanctuary

Next: What I’m excited about in 2012.  Happy New Year, everyone!

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Week One

So, the first week of the new fall TV season has come and gone.  Here are my thoughts on what I’ve seen so far.

Hawaii Five-O:  It certainly started off with a bang.  The budget for the pilot was big, with helicopters and hummers and lots of explosions.  I would prefer less violence, but that’s pretty much always the case, and maybe I’m watching shows like this for the wrong reasons!  Alex O’Loughlin looks great, although for a guy living in Hawaii he needs to get more sun on that awesome chest of his. Oh, that’s right, his character just came back to Hawaii, so maybe they’ll let us watch him get that suntan.  Scott Caan is funny, but I want him to shave.  I like Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park, too.  Now that the show has gotten our attention, let’s hope they settle down into some character development and good ensemble teamwork.

Lone Star:  I really want to like this show.  The cast is excellent, and it has a lot going for it.  Unfortunately, it caused me acute anxiety to watch this fellow trying to juggle two separate lives.  I don’t find anxiety a fun emotion.  Besides, as sincere as the fellow is about being in love with two different women, he’s still cheating on both of them.  The show got really bad ratings, and there is already a campaign on zap2it to save it.  I wish the show luck, but I don’t think I can continue watching.

NCIS:  This favorite came through in a big way.  I was dismayed at the cliffhanger last spring, when Gibbs’ father was confronted by the woman seeking revenge, but I underestimated the man.  He held his own in true Gibbs family fashion.  The rest of the hour was tightly paced, and they wrapped up the revenge storyline swiftly and to my satisfaction.  Everybody was in top form, and I’m looking forward to more.

NCIS: Los Angeles:  I keep watching this show, hoping it will settle and find its footing.  It’s still marinating, though.  This NCIS spin-off just doesn’t have the same balance of humor, ensemble rapport, and character appeal as the original.  I suppose I shouldn’t expect it to be the same, but it hasn’t yet carved out its own niche, either.  The new cast member is kind of cool, but again, I want him to shave.  I know it seems like I want to shave all the guys (yeah, you too, Chris O’Donnell) but I just don’t think facial scruff is attractive.

Criminal Minds:  I was worried that Tim Curry would be too creepy.  And he was.  Oh, my.  As the show bids goodbye to A.J. Cook, the writers are giving her some great material, and the fact that she’s performing it so well is a direct indictment of their decision to dump her.  I’ve said it before—I watch this show for the ensemble of good actors, especially Matthew Gray Gubler.  Recently the focus has shifted away from the group to center on Morgan, Shemar Moore’s character, and I hope that doesn’t continue.  The premiere did not inspire my confidence.

The Big Bang Theory:  It was a great season premiere, but the writers and producers are going to have to pay closer attention to the fact that the show is on now at 8:00pm instead of 9:30pm.  When Howard got a robotic hand stuck around his…privates, it was hysterically funny, but the watchdog groups may have a fit.

The Event: There’s no doubt the last few minutes of the pilot were amazing, and unexpected, but getting there was kind of confusing.  The story was going back and forth between several different timelines, or multiple flashbacks, and I suppose it will continue to do so.  Whether I will care enough to keep watching is less certain.

Chase: This is a show about a female US marshal named Annie Frost, who runs really fast, much faster than her male partners, so she catches up with the fugitives first, and they fight, and she overwhelms them and cuffs them just as the guys are arriving on the scene.  It would be more convincing if Ms Frost wasn’t as scrawny as a fashion model.  It would also be more satisfying to see her using her brains more than her arguable brawn.  And wasn’t it cooperative of the first fugitive to wear a bright red sweat jacket, so you could always spot him running through the crowds?  I don’t know, I suspect that this nod to female empowerment is quite possibly just male fantasy fulfillment.

I attempted to watch Blue Bloods, The Good Guys, The Mentalist, The Defenders, and CSI, but I’ve fallen out of the habit of watching three straight hours of television every night, and my attention wandered.  I’m not giving up on these shows, and I’m not criticizing them either.  I just have to try watching them again.

So, what are your thoughts?

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Anticipation

I’ve been waiting all summer long for this week, and it’s finally here.  New TV shows to check out, new episodes of returning favorites, a new weekly schedule to memorize—and the question, will it all live up to my high expectations?

I’m most nervous about two of my favorite shows, NCIS and Criminal Minds. NCIS lost some of its sparkle last season, and I never learned to like the annoying lady lawyer.  I’m hoping for a return to good form in the coming weeks, if they can quickly wrap up the Mexico revenge storyline.  Criminal Minds rearranged its cast this year, dumping A.J. Cook and reducing the appearances of Paget Brewster.  The end-of-season cliffhanger/first episode features a ridiculously disturbing Tim Curry, and I hope it doesn’t signify a trend.  If the episodes get too graphic, I simply can’t watch. 

 It can be tough squeezing in all the shows you want to watch without a DVR.  At least I don’t have cable, so those shows are off the table until they come out on DVD.  CBS moved The Big Bang Theory to Thursday night, and that’s going to be tough on me.  It’s difficult enough that Glee is on at the same time as NCIS.  Moving CSI: Miami to Sunday night now means that I will have to sacrifice it for Masterpiece Whatever (Mystery, Classic, Contemporary).  Why can’t they move something I enjoy to the wasteland that is Saturday night? 

 The new shows that I’m most excited about are Hawaii Five-O (since I adore Alex O’Loughlin) and Lone Star.  I’m going to take the time to check out The Defenders, Blue Bloods, The Whole Truth, The Event, and No Ordinary Family.  I have no real sense yet if I’ll take to any of them.  I know I already hate Rob Morrow’s scruffy beard.  I’m hoping the judge in his courtroom will order him to shave before he gets charged with contempt. 

 What are you excited about?

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Loving NCIS

Like all fans of NCIS, I’m dismayed at the news that contract negotiations are going badly for key cast members, as the seventh season comes to a close.  Michael Weatherly, Pauley Perrette and Sean Murray have not yet signed new contracts for the upcoming season.  Reports indicate that CBS is not offering the kind of money that these actors on the highest rated scripted TV drama of the season deserve.  I refuse to panic at the thought that this ensemble may not come back intact next fall.  I have to have faith that CBS couldn’t be that stupid.

I’ve been watching NCIS regularly since season four.  This year I went back and watched all the seasons I’d missed.  Like many viewers, I don’t really care about the plot of any given episode.  I enjoy the characters, the banter, the rapport between the actors.  It’s the only show I can think of where I like everybody in the cast.  Not to say I don’t have favorites, but nobody annoys me.  That’s incredibly rare.

It’s a hard call, but I’d have to say my favorite cast member is Tony.  As a movie buff, I eagerly await his mandatory film references.  Of course Michael Weatherly is very good looking, but I don’t usually go for his type of classic handsome.  It’s Tony’s sense of humor that I most enjoy.  With another actor, Tony might come across as a total jerk, but Weatherly manages to make him entertaining and watchable. 

Pauley Perrette is another actor who takes a character who could be annoying and makes her endearing.  Abby gets all the best costumes, especially footwear.  She also gets some of the best lines.  And she gets to hug Mark Harmon.  A lot.  Lucky her. 

Sean Murray as McGee was a late addition to NCIS, but it’s impossible to imagine the team without him.  He balances Tony’s arrogance with a kind of sweetness.   I commend the actor’s recent weight loss, since I’m sure it’s better for his health, but I miss the roundness of his face.  His appearance matched his character so well.

Mark Harmon is the best, Cote de Pablo is awesome, and David McCallum is amazingly vigorous for his age.  Everybody plays their part and contributes to the success of the show.  It’s the careful combination and ensemble work of these talented actors that make NCIS work.

It’s true that the show has survived several cast changes over the years.  We’ve come to expect the rotation of the NCIS chief, since we’re on the third one so far.  Cote de Pablo defied expectations and won our hearts during the third season.  I just hope CBS realizes that NCIS is not the type of show that can easily be reconfigured with new faces.  The fans know better.

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