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Westworld Mines Deep

[This post is SPOILER FREE!]
Westworld a good show, but almost impossible to binge watch. It’s digging deep into drama, rather than building a huge world.
I was into other series when it debuted, so I purposefully put off watching it. I’m about 6-7 episodes in now, and I find it hard to watch 2 episodes in a row.
This is a very good thing. 
westworld

Did Wes Anderson frame this shot?

Let’s Compare

Game of Thrones I want to watch & re-watch because the world is so expansive. Characters talks of going beyond where the map ends. Oceans are crossed. Even climates are colliding. This world is huge.

Westworld is the opposite. You know it’s a contained theme-park. You know the violence and gore are purposefully fake, without stakes. This isn’t a “world” you want to see. You want to zip past that stuff, like the first souvenir stands at a theme park. Get past the crowds and first time visitors, and head straight for the big rides.

But this is where Westworld differs. There is no big ride. There’s a long, dark mine shaft, and the drama is on a slow fuse. It’s like old western prospecting. The plot is slowly digging deeper while tension burns like a fuse. And once or twice per episode the fuse ends, EXPLODES, and you’re left with emotional rubble. You sort the characters like debris. “Oh that character was just a useless plot device after all.” And you’re left with a new nugget of gold. So you want to dig deeper. Wondering if the next blast will expose a larger nugget of truth, and increasing the tension that the whole mine could collapse.

What Have We Found (No spoilers I promise)

It’s early, so the nuggets are small, and we know the whole thing isn’t caving in soon. But there’s still some great themes to make the wide-open ‘world’ seem claustrophobic.

  • The world fits on a control table that is looked-down upon by controllers, staff, executives. The smallest details are micro-managed.
  • The company itself is feeling outside pressure from its own executive board, and what looks to be an upcoming hostile takeover. Bandits are casing the place.
  • The benevolent creator is past his prime. Vultures are circling.
  • The ‘benevolent’ creator may control the vultures, bandits, and who knows what else.
  • The inner workings? It’s down an 83-floor elevator to a dank, humid, room crowded with ‘people’.
  • There are constant shots looking down endless floors of a corporation, and employees walking among crisscrossing escalators.
westworld-1-1200x809

Even with scenes like this you feel contained.

All of this puts pressure on the characters. There’s tension. People are maneuvering and preparing for battle, but unlike GoT where characters scheme in different countries & regions. This is all taking place inside of a single building or theme-park. And since all of the day-to-day action is repeating in all the park the characters that matter are concentrating on each other. Gathering strength, intelligence, and allies.

 

But is it a Great Show?

I’m hesitant to call this a great show just yet, but HBO has delivered another compelling show. The slow burn style of the show makes it tough to sit through long stretches of the show. But I love catching tiny details and playing Name That Tune with the player-piano when I review an episode. It is a brilliant show.

Some people have reported they couldn’t get through the first 15 minutes of the first episode. I can understand that. E1 is basically explaining how the park/plot works, and there’s not enough characters to create drama. It seems odd that HBO didn’t debut the show in a two-episode premier like Band of Brothers. Both shows with lots of characters to introduce and no real stakes in the training episode.

It reminds me of a personal favorite, Carnivale, which only lasted two seasons. I still remember three words that summed up that show: “Frustratingly dense mythology”.  It made you feel trapped & confused. Westworld seems to have solved that problem by slowly revealing bits as it mines deeper.

I started by saying I put off watching it. Now I feel compelled to catch up, and wanting more even though it can feel like work to absorb it all.

Mechanics, Ratings, and Numbers

4 stars out of 5….so far.
I don’t care about show budgets, actors/directors getting paid, or Nielsen ratings. Go somewhere else for that.

 

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Posted by on November 30, 2016 in Live Action, TV

 

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Too Many Cooks is One of the Most Creative Things on Recent TV

Title Screen

Title Screen

A few weeks ago Adult Swim on the Cartoon Network aired a continuous 1970 – 1990’s sitcom intro spoof for a show called Too Many Cooks. The 12 minute bit was hidden in your program guide as Off-Air. As I sit typing this I’ve caught another installment called ‘Nature’, but that’s another post. You should watch it too.

Too Many Cooks was a creative, return to the hilarious, surreal genre that began with ‘Space Ghost: Coast-to-Coast’ in the 1990s. Adult Swim started a string of hilarious bizarre comedies, but as it grew in popularity [AS] had devolved into live-action satire of major networks, and 2-3 hours of Seth McFarlane reruns. Shows that are at best retreads of old jokes and just references to pop-culture.

There were higher quality shows in terms of production value, but it didn’t feature the ‘out-there’ content that I had always loved. If I wanted higher quality shows I wouldn’t be watching Cartoon Network. It’s an off-shoot network of TBS that was created because Ted Turner bought a variety pack of bankrupt media outlets like I buy variety packs of cereal. Ted ate up all the Cheerios, Raisin Bran, and Frosted Flakes of media, and was left with a box of Lucky Charms. And so the Cartoon Network was born. I digress.

Space Ghost, Harvey Birdman, AQTHF, and The Venture Bros. had sadly become a bunch of Comedy Central comics making fun of the studios and networks where they all were trying to get jobs. They have some funny episodes, but it’s not great comedy to reverse-engineer the boring cop/legal/medical/political dramas on the major networks. I forgot about Adult Swim for a few years.

By sheer luck I found Too Many Cooks, part of Adult Swim’s Off-Air, and I’m happy I did. It starts out just paroding the classic 1970-90s sitcoms, but it becomes so much more. I’m never going to re-watch an episode of CSI, Scandal, or even watch them once. And I’m not going to watch or re-watch their parodies. However I just found myself re-watching ‘Too Many Cooks’ and then analyzing the video. All of which has caused me to produce this post. Must be some quality in that.

If you want to see a bad case of over-analyzing go check out what the New Yorker had to say.

In an era of ‘journalism’ being a four-sentence blog post that links to another ‘article’ which is nothing but a link or in-line YouTube video, Too Many Cooks demonstrates creating something new is the only way to inspire people to create on their own.

“Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possible can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”
Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country

too-many-cooks-Window

 
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Posted by on November 22, 2014 in Live Action, Reviews

 

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Video Analysis of the Serial Killer on ‘Too Many Cooks’

Video Analysis of the Serial Killer on ‘Too Many Cooks’

The Question
The serial killer is usually noticed after 2 or 3 minutes into the video. So when does he first appear? And how many times is he in the 12 minute bit?

Notes Before We Begin:
You need to watch ‘Too Many Cooks’ to know what the hell is going on.
A hard cut between character credits counts as a separate appearance. Something where he’s changed kill targets or activities.

Notable Appearances
He first can be seen at :21 seconds. Takes a good eye. I caught it the fourth time through when counting.
He doesn’t make his first kill until his eleventh appearance!
His 16th appearance is the chase scene at 4:45 where climbs out from under the bed while the sequence is paused. This is the chase scene. It only counts as one appearance because he is doing the same thing (chasing the girl) for this scene.
21st appearance he takes over the show. He’s on-screen 5 different times inside this section.

  • Standing in the bedroom
  • Peeking in the window
  • Topless in the bedroom
  • Getting a foot out of the oven
  • Having some guests for dinner (GET IT!?)

27th appearance is where his head is on the space ship firing LAZER BEEMZ!

He makes 20 separate appearances ending with being the ‘dad’ at the center of the final family photo.
There are 24 appearances if you include the 4 times with just machete chops and the one where a body is being dragged off the screen. 29 if you separate the appearances when he has taken over the show.

Read my thoughts on Adult Swim’s ‘Off-Air’ episodes & ‘Too Many Cooks’

Timestamps of Appearances (approx.)

too-many-cooks-creepy-killer

  1. :21 – background right, that’s him in the sweater, faceless
  2. :30 – background stairs
  3. 1:14 – behind kid, faceless
  4. 1:37 – left, looking in cabinet
  5. 1:54 – background office ‘worker’
  6. 2:04 – far left, behind wall
  7. 2:24 – background stairs
  8. 3:02 – over cop’s left shoulder
  9. 3:16 – behind cop: This is the first obvious appearance.
  10. 3:40 – animated
  11. 4:14 – KILL 1, faceless
  12. 4:18 – KILL 2, from behind curtain
  13. 4:23 – KILL 3, tennis court
  14. 4:31 – KILL 4, parking garage
  15. 4:34 – KILL 5, drowning in sink
  16. 4:45 – from underneath bed: BEGIN chase scene
    5:38 – KILL 7: END chase scene – Counts as one appearance
  17. 6:07 – KILL 8, machete chop to super heroine, faceless
  18. 6:13 – KILL 9, beheads superhero, faceless
  19. 6:31 – KILL 10, machete chop to detective, faceless
    6:36 – head in the sink, but we don’t see the killer at all or any actions – NOT COUNTED
  20. 6:40 – KILL 11, body dragged away, unseen
  21. 6:44 – dancing in Bedroom – BEGIN Serial Killer’s show takeover
  22. 6:49 – peeping Tom
  23. 6:51 – topless, peeping Tom still in background
  24. 6:56 – cooking foot
  25. 7:04 – having guests for dinner (Fava beans & a nice Chianti not pictured.)
  26. 7:48 – on video screen
  27. 8:04 – spaceship
  28. 8:15 – machete space troops (There are 13-14 clones of him.)
  29. 10:41 – Dad in photo after flash
 
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Posted by on November 22, 2014 in Live Action, Reviews

 

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