Conscience of the Conservative


What happens when a conservative Republican ex-president, who has been out of office for more than two decades, decides he’s completely out of fucks to give, and starts looking at the damage his policies caused?

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This is the premise of Epix’s TV series Graves, which began airing last year. Somehow I’d not heard of it. I’m guessing I was too busy paying attention to real politics. Or perhaps their PR just sucked. But either way, I’m glad to have found it now..

Nick Nolte plays the titular character, who, it is implied, was a two-term Republican president that came along after Reagan but before Clinton. He’s now retired and living in New Mexico, and is becoming very unhappy with his life. After a confrontation with former New Mexican governor Bill Richardson, he starts looking at the way his time in office is being remembered. He starts to realize some of the consequences that were experienced by the American public when he did things like cut cancer research, “get tough” on illegal immigration, or speak out against gay marriage.

He looks at these things with the distance of time and wisdom and doesn’t like what he sees. So he starts acting up and speaking out. As this is going on, his wife is being courted by the Republican establishment to run for the Senate, his daughter is going through a divorce, and his estranged son has returned from service overseas.

To a great extent the series is a liberal wank-fest. We all want to have someone like Bush 41 or W admit that they were wrong in what they believed and fought for. We want to have a moment where they say, “Yeah, I fucked up, and shouldn’t have done X, Y, or Z.”

But the show does this liberal wank-fest in a very entertaining way. Nick Nolte is absolutely magnificent as the main character, and Sela Ward is fantastic as the former First Lady. The rest of the cast is spot-on, as well, and there are many cameos by the likes of Bill Richardson, Rudy Giuliani, Barney Frank, Michael Steele, and others.

If you’ve got a hankering for an enjoyable diversion of a political series, do check this out. It isn’t quite as sharp as Alpha House, but it’s still very good. You can find it through Epix’s channel on Sling, and possibly your cable provider. It’s also available on the various streaming services. Vudu has the first two episodes for free, and the series as a whole is only $20 through them. Not bad!

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Television Review – The Grand Tour – S01E01 – “The Holy Trinity”


Last night Amazon released the first episode of the highly-anticipated, “Not technically Top Gear, but everything you love about that show, without Chris Evans”, new series, The Grand Tour. It has these guys in it.

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Larry, Moe, and the Hamster.

There are many fun moments in the first episode, and many, many references to the way that Clarkson, especially, left Top Gear. But once the initial dust settles, we get to see the boys in all their glory, driving around in a McLaren, a Porsche, and a Ferrari. You can decide for yourself if the titular “holy trinity” is the cars or the men.

The episode did have everything you’d expect from this crowd, and a bit more. We got a genuinely funny bit about the RAF, got to watch some….interesting…moments with three celebrities, and got introduced to the new test track, which includes wildlife, an old woman’s home, and live electricity. Because of course it does.

There really wasn’t much of anything I disliked here. I’m quite sure the show will continue on as the spiritual successor of “proper” Top Gear, and with luck that show will improve itself, and we’ll have two versions of a great program.

In the meantime, go check this out. If you don’t already have Prime, Amazon is doing a limited-time sale where you can get a whole year for only $79. It’s worth it, believe me.

TV Review – Doctor Who – 8.1 – “Deep Breath”


Well, that’s in the bag. After months of rumors, speculation and the Who community waiting with bated breath to see what the new Doctor would be like, now we know. And if the episode we got isn’t up there with “Spearhead from Space” or “Castrovalva”, well, at least it isn’t “The Twin Dilemma”.

The story begins in Victorian London with the Paternoster Gang, who I feel are very much in danger of overstaying their welcome, see a Tyranasaurus Rex stomping around. This is an oversized sci-fi T-rex that’s about three hundred eye-rolling feet tall, but never mind. It soon coughs up the TARDIS, and inside we find Clara and the newly-regenerated Doctor. There is a lot of post-regeneration silliness, some of which works quite well, and a plot involving a robot that’s stealing parts from humans to repair itself.

By the end, the bad guys are defeated, the Doctor is back to himself, we have the set up for the season arc and a special surprise that I already knew about, but enjoyed a lot more than I had expected I would.

The episode was good, but not great. It will probably hold up ok over the years, and does a great job of setting this new Doctor apart and different from the old ones. The story also did an interesting job of exploring what it would be like to see someone you know and love suddenly show up with a different face and personality. The one problem with this is that it is Clara, who, alone among all the companions, has met all thirteen versions of the Doctor, and she’s the one we see trying to come to grips with it. So, yeah. Sara Jane Smith had fewer problems.

There were also a few eye-rolling moments, as I mentioned. Madam Vastra and friends are a fun group in very small doses, but I’m really over them, and if we never see them again, I’m ok with that. The story also felt more than a little padded. Not “The War Games” level of padded, but it would have benefited from being a standard 45 minute episode. It didn’t really need the extra half hour.

All that aside, it was a fun little adventure. I really like the new Doctor, and I’m looking forward to seeing what happens with him in the future.

TV Review – Doctor Who – “Closing Time”


The Cybermen often feel like second-tier Doctor Who villains. They’re a bit more interesting than the daleks in many ways, but never rate as highly as the daleks do. True, they’re basically proto-Borg, but it’s important to remember that the very first time the Doctor dealt with them, it messed him up so badly he had to regenerate for the first time. The daleks couldn’t even pull that one off.

“Closing Time” features the return of the Cybermen. It also features the return of the Doctor’s roommate, Craig, previously seen in the series five episode “The Lodger”. Craig and his girlfriend have moved to a new place and now have a relentlessly cute baby that, according to the Doctor, calls himself Stormagedeon. Whether this is true or the Doctor just messing with Craig is up for discussion.

Anyhow, there’s a series of power outages happening in the area, and the Doctor eventually connects them to a Cybermat scuttling around. He investigates that, tries to work out just what the Cybermen are up to and gets a job in a department store. All of this while Craig tries his hardest to take care of his baby and keep up with what’s going on.

This episode worked very well. There were some nice bits of comedy and a real sense of dread when one character is about to be turned into a Cyberleader. I was doing a bit of eye-rolling at the eventual resolution, which even one of the characters seemed to complain about, but that’s ok. I could accept it.

What I found a little harder to accept, and what seemed a bit out of place, was a prolonged epilogue that showed River Song doing things. Clearly this is a lead-up to next week’s episode, but I feel it would have worked better put at the front of that story rather than at the end of this one.

Still, I really enjoyed this episode! Another winner from a series that has, thus far, been made of pure win.

TV Review – Doctor Who – “The Doctor’s Wife”


Yes, I skipped reviewing “Day of the Moon” and “Curse of the Black Spot”. For the record, both were pretty good!I loved the WTF moment at the end of “Day of the Moon” and was confused by the missing crewman at the end of “Curse of the Black Spot”, but otherwise these were dandy. I skipped them because I hadn’t intended to do reviews of every episode. I figured I’d do one again once an episode really caught my eye. So say hello to “The Doctor’s Wife”.

Yes, this is the episode written by Neil Gaiman.I’m not a huge fan of his. Some of what he’s done has been quite good and domse has just been… well, we can’t all score 100 on everything. So I figured his episode would be creepy, atmospheric, thick on odd dialogue and really interesting. If it was good, that would be a nice bonus.

Fortunately this episode was all the above, including good. It begins with the Doctor receiving a hypercube. If you’ve watched enough of the show, you’ll remember it’s been quite a while since we last saw one of those. It contains a distress signal from a Time Lord called the Corsair. Excited, the Doctor sets course for a bubble universe where he comes to believe many Time Lords might be hiding. There he meets Aunt, Uncle, Nephew and a very odd, possibly insane, woman. From there, things happen.

I really did rather like this episode. I’m sure some people will bitch about the title being misleading and possibly it was, but given the identity of one of the main characters, it seems quite apt to me. I also really loved the acting, particularly by the woman who plays Idris. She put me very much in mind of Romana, which is appropriate, I suppose. I also very much enjoyed seeing parts of the TARDIS we haven’t seen before, even if they weren’t much, and I did rather like seeing one part we’d seen quite a lot of back in the day, though it wasn’t quite as old as I’d hoped it would be.

Overall, I think this is one that might divide fans quite a bit. I liked it, but I can see why others might find it twee or obnoxious. But I really enjoyed it, and I’d like to see Gaiman do more of the show (as well as Stephen Fry and J K Rowling, both of whom were supposed to write for it at one point). Also, for the record, I’ve figured out what the last words of one of the characters meant, and anyone who wants to can ask me for my theory. I know you won’t. 😉

Next week, the Doctor gets to deal with some sort of body horror thing. Sounds fun!

Television Review – Doctor Who – “The Impossible Astronaut”


Series six of the long-lived BBC program has began, and it’s… hard to judge, actually.

See what we saw was part one of the series opener. Part two is going to air next week (while I’m at Leprecon, but you can bet I’ll be watching it on my laptop). There’s not a lot of resolution in this episode, just a lot of set up. But that’s ok, because the set up is quite good.

Our story opens with Amy and Rory relaxing at home talking about the Doctor. They then receive a message from him. Somewhere across time, Professor/Doctor River Song receives one as well and promptly breaks out of prison. All three end up in Utah and from there… a lot of things happen. There’s shooting, there’s shouting, there’s slapping, there’s Silence and there’s Nixon. It’s really hard to describe without giving away much of the plot. In fact I couldn’t use the opening line from A Christmas Carol in this review as I’d wanted to.

So it’s good, but it’s hard to judge just how good until I see part two. I will say it was great to see Amy, Rory, the Doctor and River again. Seeing the footage that was shot in the USA was great and it looked spectacular. Mark Shepperd did his usual great job as a former FBI agent and the aliens were really creepy (but not as much as some in the past have been). Really the show was firing on all cylinders.

And yet… I can’t escape a fear of mine. Given the plot point that was set up at the beginning, I have a horrible feeling we might end up with another paradox resolution to the plot. I hope we don’t. The set up is really good and I hope the payoff is worth it.

On a side note, this episode contained a tribute to Elisabeth Sladen at the beginning, which was fine, but I’d hoped there’d be some mention of Nicholas Courtney as well. Also CBBC aired a great tribute video to Elisabeth, and I really recommend trying to see it if you can. It’s sweet and wonderful, just like she was.

TV Review – Game of Thrones – “Winter is Coming”


I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I’d heard HBO was adapting George RR Martin’s fantastic “A Song of Ice and Fire” series into a TV show. Only HBO could do the series justice, I thought. Now I’ll admit in theory Showtime or Starz could as well. But consider the nightmare possibilities had SyFy gotten their hands on this. *shudder*

The first season of the series (already renewed for a second season on the back of a huge audience watching the first episode. One wonders what will happen with HBO when the inevitable drop-off happens with episode two), is based off the first book in the series, A Game of Thrones. I read it once about two years ago, along with the other books, and was immediately hooked. Martin has created a world with great detail and imagination and one that feels every but as real as anything in world history.

The story of the first episode centers around Eddard Stark (Sean Bean), and his family. Stark has been asked by the King (Mark Addy), to become his new Hand (basically the King’s Bitch). It’s a position that carries great prestige and it’s probably no surprise that the previous Hand seems to have died by, as it were, accidentally brutally cutting his head off while brushing his teeth. Stark is not happy at the idea of being the new Hand, but knows he needs to do his duty. Interweaved among this is the Lannister family, including Queen Cersi (Lena Headey), her son Joffery and her brother Jamie (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau).

A parallel story centers around two people whose names I cannot spell. Wikipedia says they are Viserys and Daenerys. They are brother and sister and the girl is about to marry a fellow with the fun name of Drongo. Ole Drongo is basically Conan, and is played by Jason Momoa, who will be seen this summer playing… er… Conan. This is part of a plot by Viserys to retake the throne of Westeros on behalf of his family. His plot is somewhat complicated by the fact that he seems to have a hard on for his sister, which is not uncommon in these stories (and, while not mentioned on the TV show, it is in fact their family’s custom to marry brother to sister).

If this sounds like a lot of people to keep track of, it is, and I haven’t even touched on the likes of Jon Snow or Tyrion Lannister. While the pilot is somewhat confusing in the “let’s get everyone some face time” kind of way, at no point did I have trouble keeping up and knowing who was whom (though the fact that I’ve read the books likely helped).

I must say that I was very impressed with the pilot. The acting by everyone was superb, and the sets looked amazing. It was filmed on location in places like Ireland and Malta and it really shows! HBO clearly spent a lot of money on this show and it’s money well spent. There was nothing about this episode that did not work for me and I cannot wait to see the rest. HBO is off to a fantastic start with this series!