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Season Finales and Stuff 2015

Some season finale observations or overall season overviews. There might be more television posts later; we’ll see. Anyway, spoilers ahead, or if you don’t care, read on.

As I’ve said before about “Elementary” (see my 2014 year in review commentary), I wish the show did a better job at being an ensemble show. The acting is great, but the reality is that the show is very much the Sherlock Holmes and Joan Watson show (and even then, more the Sherlock show, as well it should be). However, the moments with Detective Marcus Bell (Jon Michael Hill) and Captain Thomas Gregson (Aidan Quinn) have been notable and they sort of had arcs this season. I’d like to see more of that – to see a coherent expansion of the Holmesian universe.

For instance, Bell slowly developed a friendship of sorts with Sherlock and he realized that he deserved a life (to avoid, as Sherlock pointed out, the life of personal isolation that Sherlock, Joan, and Gregson each seemed to have carved for themselves).

Meanwhile, Gregson got confronted with how his daughter was a victim of abuse from a failed romantic relationship with another cop, and how her ambition as a cop might not make her the most upstanding cop. And, maybe some amount of corruption or power play might push Gregson to a promotion he didn’t seek or want, which might lead to problems for Sherlock, Joan, and Bell.

But, the arcs of Bell and Gregson felt a little flat ultimately (it didn’t help that the season finale didn’t touch on their mindsets very much, beyond Gregson’s frustration that Sherlock was putting himself in danger).

And, even Joan’s storyline was troubling for how her boyfriend died and how that led to her moving back to the Holmes brownstone and socially isolating herself (or, as she put it, fully committing to detective work).

The most recent season finale didn’t really end on a cliffhanger note (not to me, anyway), when it concerned the threat of Sherlock’s addiction relapse. Sherlock’s addiction problem was left hanging (or never went away) since the season finale of the previous season, when he took the heroine from his safe. And, I would have to go back to the season premiere of this season, but I really thought he had relapsed already, and he never denied that relapse was a threat that still haunted him (the never-ending problem of being an addict).

On the other hand, I was kind of hoping that Sherlock’s realization that he needed friends and his growing acceptance of Joan, Bell, and Alfredo (Sherlock’s former Narcotics Anonymous sponsor) as friends meant more for his character development – especially since he was as someone who was so flawed and rejected his family.

And, I could have sworn that we viewers were left hanging as far as the state of friendship between Sherlock and Gregson (or what passes for friendship). Way back in Season 1, Sherlock pretty much burned Gregson by doing some really dubious things, and Gregson has been left with the thankless role of Supportive Boss of Authority over Sherlock, Joan, and Bell (a fairly stereotyped role of police procedural tv series and movies). There could have been some fleshing out of this whole friendship theme of this season.

I ended up liking the “Kitty as Sherlock’s new protege” storyline far more than I expected, because it made Sherlock aware of how he impacted lives. Even Kitty, as a jarring character during the 1st half of the season, grew on me (even if she was pretty brutal). What I like about Sherlock Holmes of “Elementary” is that he is so human. But… the big but…

But, as the A.V. Club‘s Myles McNutt noted in his reviews of the 2nd half of this third season, things got weird. McNutt got frustrated that the episodes seemed so determined to have a murder as a hook, even though the plot would get very meandering and away from the original murder. I agree that, with such rich characters, there could and should be an easier way to have the procedural part, than what often felt like incoherent messes with terrific Sherlock dialog.

(also, I enjoyed McNutt’s season finale critique, and I’m sorry that he’s moving on from the “Elementary” assignment on the A.V. Club! Hope his successor goes as deep).

When a series makes it obvious that the guest star is the suspect and did do the murder, I would strongly suggest going back to the drawing board. This ain’t Columbo (and even the “Elementary” episode that was in a Columbo style – where the viewer knows who did the murder, even if the why has to be unfolded – didn’t exactly work all that well, because the why still made no sense).

I have hope for “Elementary,” since the cinematography is great (I love how Long Island City ends up being a stand-in for just about every part of the city, and how the city just looks good on the show) and the cast – I like the cast! But, come on, writers: be focused and use the strengths of your cast!

Meanwhile, “Dancing With the Stars” managed to be its usual fun. I don’t think I’ll ever understand how the adapted music on that show works for the ballroom dancing stuff, but the pro dancers are so talented. I have enormous respect for Derek Hough as a choreographer, but I was rooting for Val Chmerkovskiy to win finally. The time when he and Artem Chigvintsev did the trio paso doble with Rumer Willis – whoa. Hot stuff. I couldn’t get my eyes off of Val and Artem! See below!

But, yes, in dancing with Val during this latest round of “Dancing With the Stars,” Rumer has done a great job showing us viewers that she is more than the daughter of Bruce Willis and Demi Moore. She has a lot of talent and hopefully this can help her with whatever her next gig is. The season finale was pretty bloated though, dragging out the tension while still being entertaining.

I watched the farewell to David Letterman on the “Late Show with David Letterman” on CBS this past Wednesday.  It was actually David Letterman Day in the City of New York (well, “Late Show with David Letterman” Day, per the mayor’s proclamation for that day).

I’m not much of a late night tv viewer, but I admired how Letterman became such a New York City icon, from his days of returning to work after 9/11/01, and how he made his return from the writers’ strike.  Letterman was funny about his sarcasm and candidness (his skewering certain politicians could be fun to watch), and his human moments (his family, his heart surgery) were human.  And, those odd bits (Rupert Jee and the South Asian guys from the early days of the series’ CBS incarnation) were … odd bits.

Anyway, I thought that the farewell episode was sweet for remembering old guests (especially those who passed away).   Also, the Top 10 was hilarious, just for being a fun roast of Letterman (not a new thing, but a nice way to end things).

It’s not clear what Letterman plans to do in his retirement, other than spending time with his family.  He’s entitled to do nothing during retirement.  But, as I’ve mentioned before, I could easily imagine him doing a Charlie Rose-style of project, covering topics he wants to do or whatever he cares about.  Best wishes and congrats, Letterman, and be good in whatever you’ll do next.

Sidenote stuff: See here on FC’s post on Calvert DeForest, who was best known as “Larry (Bud) Melman” on the old “Late, Late Night with David Letterman” on NBC (the Melman name couldn’t go to CBS during Letterman’s transition); I thought it was nice that a clip of him was on the finale.

If you do a search of “Letterman,” on the triscribe blog, you can find more commentary that we made about stuff we saw on his show over the years of triscribe.  Oh, and check out the blog post by Emil Guillermo, over at the website of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), regarding Asian Pacific Americans who have been on the Letterman show (even when it got real uncomfortable – see my reference above on the odd bits’ being odd).

I still have to catch up on a lot of shows. But, hopefully summer television could be fun.

Super Bowl Sunday!

(The following was written as I was more or less watching the game, posted belated due to some server connection problems…).

Get ready for some football!

The commercials so far haven’t been too awful. (and they can be).  Paralympic snowboarder Amy Purdy was inspirational as ever in a commercial (I believe it was for a car; I’ll check again later), with the commercial depicting her snowboarding, dancing, and modeling.

The Minions (from the “Despicable Me” movies) are getting their own movie this summer (called – what else? – “Minions”). The cute commercial was making fun of both the Minions and the ridiculous antics of fans in the stadiums.

1st quarter ends with no points.  Someone ought to remind Seattle that you need some points on the board. But, at least their defense is holding up.  (umm, speaking as a casual fan, that is).

Such a cute Budweiser commercial, with the Clydesdales’ missing their lost puppy and then saving the puppy from a lone wolf. Aww!

It doesn’t make me want to drink beer, but – puppy!  Clydesdales!  Aww!

The commercial for the upcoming Terminator movie did not motivate me to want to watch the upcoming Terminator movie.  Maybe it had to do with the “Let’s see if we can bring Arnold Schwarzenegger back again!” part.  It didn’t interest me at all.

Coca Cola tried to make us stop bullying and being insanely partisan, as well as tried to encourage us to drink Coke. I liked that commercial, even if it was a little odd.

The “1st Draft Ever” commercial, where God was announcing what country got what species was hilarious for reminding me why we all like avocados. Also: too bad Mexico did not draft the polar bear (who even wore a sombrero to get drafted for a warm country).

Wow. Half-time ended on a tie (awesomely competitive); half-time show was pretty darn good (Katy Perry! Lenny Kravitz! Missy Elliott!); and Seahawks are doing well as the 3rd quarter began. Commercials – not awful.

Odd, snotty Budweiser commercial about how they’re a popular brand of beer because they’re made for drinking, not for tasting like some namby-pamby pumpkin microbrew ale. I thought people accepted Budweiser because it’s bland enough to be handled by everyone. That it’s not a microbrew doesn’t make it better or worse, or make the microbrews terrible. Can’t we all just get along? (Notably, I don’t drink beers anyway, and if I do drink, I end up drinking cider because I’m boring. And, I think that I’ve tried a lager. Evidently, I’m not a Bud drinker). That also made me miss the old Bud Bowl ads. They were fun, not snotty.

New England Patriots are not giving up in the 4th quarter.

OMG. New England takes the lead, with two minutes left.

Come to think of it, why hasn’t Lenny Kravitz been given a half-time show? Hmm!

Can’t believe this. Seattle makes some dumb mistakes; interception?! The frustration is believable and palpable. Don’t fight now! Ugh.

Then, Seattle loses. So close. I guess I’d say congrats to New England, but man…

Ugh. Quite a game, even if it was not the way (or the team) that I wanted. So weird and crazy. Maybe it’s me – why is it that the teams I root for lose? Eh. At least the commercials were a nice distraction, except when they were morbid. But, even the morbid ones were not badly done.  They just did not fit in a Super Bowl context.  Feel free to check out the pretty comprehensive commercial overview on Slate.

The pre-pre game coverage was something I generally ignored (seven hours of what…?). But, I did catch some Bob Costas bantering with Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinsky, bringing back some flashbacks of Costas’ Sochi Olympics 2014 and how Weir and Lipinsky were so popular with their mix of professional and campy analysis of figure skaing. Oh, wait, this was football.   Never mind.

On to the next sports/pop culture event!

A Review of Reading/Literary Highlights of 2014

An extra long post!  As a follow up to the previous yearsposts on analysis of the year of highlights: in 2014, I had a total of 60 books read, this was probably the least I’ve read since I started counting what I read since 2009 (and I started the count late that year, so it’s not like I can say whether 60 is least at all for me).

A breakdown of the reading list of 2014: 5 literary fiction; 4 children’s lit; 18 comics/graphic novels; 4 memoirs (5 counting Congressman John Lewis’ March); 3 on writing; 3 on law (technically); 8 mystery/thriller; 2 philosophy; 2 spiritual (technically); 1 on living tips (technically); 2 poetry; 10 collection/anthology (not counting the comics/graphic novels); 4 comedy/satire books 39 fiction and 19 non-fiction (not counting the 2 poetry).  21 ebooks.  2 or 3 were rereads.  5 were books for book club.  On, and a list of incomplete reads (for any number of reasons, and I’m hardly going to list the incomplete books, since I gave up trying to keep track of that).

Thanks to the Brooklyn and New York Public Libraries for the majority of the books read (as usual).

I was surprised by how much comics/graphic novels ended up on the list, most of which I read simply because they were available from the library and I was curious to see what they were and if they were any good (mixed reaction, really).   I really enjoyed Hawkeye, Vol. 1: My Life as a Weapon, a great read, which went along with my reading of writing books, which lead to this year’s NaNoWriMo project of writing a sort-of superhero story.

I really binged on ebooks during the middle of the year, to the point that it was probably unsurprising that I haven’t exactly gotten back to my Nook by the end of the year (well, NaNoWriMo was, as usual, a big disruption to my usual reading).

It turned out that 2014 was not the year in which I finally read Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, or Umberto Eco’s In the Name of the Rose, as much as I was hoping to do last January.  I also didn’t get to Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park, even though it somehow was the top of a pile at one point.  And, unfortunately, Linda Greenhouse’s Becoming Justice Blackman was unfinished in 2014, but hopefully will be finished in 2015 (I can’t be that terrible).

Another Barnes & Noble close occurred in 2014, in the form of the closing of the old flagship store.  There was also the closing of Rizzoli.

I really enjoyed the appearance of Congressman John Lewis at Strand, promoting the graphic novel, March, Book 1, which he co-wrote with Andrew Aydin, one of his aides.  Hopefully, Book 2 will come out soon.  With the movie Selma out, there are a lot of ways to explore and re-examine the Civil Rights Movement, and the timing could not be better.

I got sad (and continue to be sad) about not keeping up with the technology of e-reading, as Barnes & Noble discontinued the Simple Touch.  I also increased buying books from Strand.

2014 was the year that I finally read a book by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Chronicle of a Death Foretold.  Such a fascinating book.  (unfortunately, 2014 was also the year during which Gabriel Garcia Marquez passed away).

2014 was also the year of the passing of Maya Angelou.  There was also the passing of Eric Hill, the author and illustrator of the Spot the Dog series; author PD James; the passing of Norman Bridwell, the author and illustrator of the Clifford the Big Red Dog series; and the passing of many others that I gave some pause outside of this blog (including, but not limited to, actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, Robin Williams, Joan Rivers, and others).

I checked out the New York Public Library’s exhibits on The Beatles and on Sesame Street (see here and here on the promotions of the Sesame Street exhibit).

LeVar Burton’s Kickstarter project to get Reading Rainbow as a different kind of experiment for the 21st Century brought up a lot of thoughts.

The recent question of North Korea and hacking concerns reminded me of my reading Adam Johnson’s The Orphan Master’s Son – a lot of confusion, fear, and absurdity (real or fiction?  Who knows anymore?).

I also read Oscar Hijuelos’ Empress of the Splendid Season; fascinating reading.  And other authors who I’m so glad to have finally read: Sherman Alexie’s The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven was a rich and moving read, and turned out to have been a balance to reading Larry Watson’s Montana 1948, a book on the questions of balancing law and morality in the immediate post-World War II Montana, from the late 20th century outlook and dry but poignant writing.

I attended the Brooklyn Book Festival (and did not resist getting books). I did post some photos from the Festival.

I read a bunch of fascinating memoirs in 2014.  I highly recommend Neil deGrasse Tyson’s book, The Sky is Not the Limit, to inspire and encourage minorities and women in pursuit of fields that they would not have pursued.  Vaclav Havel’s To the Castle and Back was an insightful read, as I notedThe Night My Mother Met Bruce Lee: Observations on Not Fitting In by Paisley Rekdal and The Rice Room: Growing Up Chinese American From Number Two Son to Rock n’ Roll by Ben Fong-Torres were really fascinating for presenting different perspectives on Asian-American experiences.

Re-reading Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep was a good time.

I’m glad to have attended what I could of the Moby Dick reading marathon and the reading of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol at Housing Works Bookstore and Cafe in November and December 2014.

I continued reading my favorites, of Batman and Nero Wolfe.  Batman: The Court of Owls was a strange read (if only because DC Comics’ New 52 made things feel a little off) and Batman: L’il Gotham was great fun (Dustin Nguyen’s playing with the Batman characters in the pre-DC Comics New 52 world).

Author Robert Goldsborough revisited the world of Archie Goodwin and Nero Wolfe, by covering how they met in Archie Meets Nero Wolfe – a fun but weird read, since Archie’s 1st person narration didn’t quite have a period feel of the 1930’s and he seemed older than he was (which, with Archie never aging beyond the age of 30, tends to happen, I think, even when Rex Stout wrote the series).  Rex Stout’s Over My Dead Body was a strange but funny read – the habits of Wolfe and Archie are thrown off the rails by the appearance of Wolfe’s long-lost (adopted) daughter, an adult whose secrets weren’t fully fleshed out (which also tends to happens with Stout’s works).

I closed out the year reading former US Poet Laureate Billy Collins’ Horoscopes for the Dead.  It was funny, poignant, and sometimes even profound.  Full of images and sound, words and feelings; Collins is one of my favorites, and I’m not much of a poetry reader. I was glad to have ended 2014 with this book.  On with reading in 2015!

(cross-posted at