Thursday, March 22, 2007 

23 Shows You Should Be Watching: No. 18, Heroes

Synopsis: Everyday, normal folks all over the world are suddenly finding themselves imbued with amazing powers. It's nothing that us comic-book geeks haven't seen several hundred times, but for the rest of y'all, it's brand-spankin'-new.
Why You Should Watch: I'll spare you the whole treatise on how comic book fans have been on to something all along because humanity's truest, most resonant tales are those of people empowered to mythological proportions (Gilgamesh, Achilles, Superman, Anna Nicole's rack). Heroes works because there's not a single costume to be found anywhere, because the person, not the power, is at the heart of this series. Again, this kind of street-level characterization of godlike beings is the kind of thing that the X-Men was doing back in 1973, but hey--whatever works to get the rest of the world to dig on comic-style stuff.
Key Scene: Every revelation of powers has been a good one, particularly those that misdirect--we think Peter Petrelli can fly, but it turns out he's only leeching off the powers of his brother, who can. And the real-world use of superpowers is dead-on--who wouldn't use invisibility to swipe a purse or knock over a jackass or two? My personal favorite, though, involves Hiro the merry time-stopping Japanese guy. Trying to save his beloved from having her skull opened like a can-opener, he disappears from a diner, leaving his friend Ando sitting there alone. And then, Ando walks over to a wall of pictures and sees Hiro in one of them, in a picture taken six months before.
Key Quote: "Save the cheerleader, save the world." It's all there--apocalypse and goofiness, destiny and tongue-in-cheekiness.
Fun Fact: NBC is going all-out on promoting Heroes, from running free episodes to publishing a graphic novel to putting together a video game to...jeez, who knows. If you've got more time than I do, though, you could get seriously lost in the NBC Heroes mini-site.

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Friday, March 16, 2007 

23 Shows You Should Be Watching: No. 19, The Black Donnellys

Synopsis: Four Irish brothers find themselves awash in crime, drinking, brawling, gunplay, and broken hearts. It sounds like Stereotype Hell...but somehow it both embraces and transcends these well-traveled streets.
Why You Should Watch: Because it combines humor and violence, hope and hopelessness in a near-perfect balance that you don't often see on television. Most shows trying to balance on that line -- The Shield, say, or Rescue Me -- tilt too far in one direction or the other. The only reason The Black Donnellys is ranked this low is that we're only three episodes into the series -- there's plenty of time for it to move up the list.
Key Scene: At the end of the first episode, Tommy Donnelly realizes that the Italian mob is going to kill his brother Jimmy for kidnapping one of their bookies. So Tommy, until now a law-abiding guy, ices the head of the local Italian family -- and, for good measure, the head of the Irish family who was there to sell Jimmy out.
Key Quote: "He could have made it out, only he was never gonna let his brother get hurt again. And so Tommy became everything he never wanted. And whether he realized it or not, with Huey dead, Tommy'd just taken over the neighborhood." --Joey Ice Cream, friend of the brothers, recounting in an interrogation what Tommy did to the mobsters.
Key Quote 2: "Not those bodies." --One of the detectives, after Joey Ice Cream had told the hour-long story of Tommy's descent into the abyss. The episode began with the detective asking, "Where are the bodies?" and ended with the detective belting the camera -- Joey's POV -- with a telephone book.
Fun fact: The series was originally titled "The Truth According To Joey Ice Cream." Thankfully, that horrific title didn't survive to the second draft.
Fun fact 2: You can watch all the old episodes, plus an ultra-violent "web only" episode too rough for TV, by going to NBC's Black Donnellys site. Enjoy!

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Bio

Jay Busbee runs Yahoo! Sports' NASCAR Blog From The Marbles, Atlanta Magazine's Atlanta sports blog Right Down Peachtree, and the Southern sports/humor blog Sports Gone South. He also writes for damn near anybody who'll throw him a buck and a byline, and he's at work on the books The Quiet Dynasty: The History Of The Atlanta Braves' Championship Run (2009, Sports Publishing LLC) and God Is A Bulldog: Georgia, Florida, And The Greatest Play In College Football History (2010, Sports Publishing LLC). Click below for more info on his novels, articles, and comics.
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