Awake (NBC) -vs- Fringe (Fox)

April 30, 2012 Mark Sanchez

It’s the lucky ones among us who get the luxury of a “do over,” a chance to take the road less traveled. Poet Robert Frost isn’t the first person to actively wonder what lies on the other side of the life we’ve made. A pair of admired TV programs work that street of possibilities, although maybe not for long.

Let’s touch on the newer and more endangered series first. NBC announced Awake as a mid-season replacement for 2012. This is a cop show with a twist that marks it as a fresh entry in a tired, overplayed genre. Propelled by advance hosannas at the Critics’ Choice Television Awards, the series premiered on March 1 to more than six million viewers, but despite the healthy start, low ratings may put Awake to sleep before it gets a shot at Season 2. […]

Breaking Bad (AMC) -vs- Weeds (Showtime)

March 25, 2012 Arthur Tiersky

When tragedy strikes, what’s a mild-mannered suburban parent to do to support the family but dive headfirst into the illegal drug business? That’s the question posed by two controversial and critically lauded TV series, Showtime’s long-running, half-serious comedy Weeds, and AMC’s hour-long, half-funny drama Breaking Bad, whose legion of fans currently awaits its fifth and presumably final season. […]

The Walking Dead (AMC) vs. Falling Skies (TNT)

March 7, 2012 Bryce Zabel

There’s just something about ragtag teams of extended families trying to get by after an apocalypse. It feels like a particularly American fantasy — that when the chips are down, we’ll all put aside our petty differences, realize what’s truly important and come together to kick some ass, whether it be Nazi or Commie or even alien or zombie. The point is that our melting pot really doesn’t get cooking until the heat is applied and the burner’s on high.

These two series are flagship action pieces for their respective networks — The Walking Dead came first on AMC, followed within a year by Falling Skies on TNT. The former has its second season finale this Sunday and the latter comes back this summer for its sophomore year. Both are in their prime when it comes to the life of any TV series — enough of a run to fix some early mistakes but not so much as to render the week-to-week predictable. […]

Dark Skies vs. Dark Skies

March 1, 2012 Bryce Zabel

Our “Dark Skies” has established itself in the minds of a significant number of science fiction fans as a gripping piece of conspiracy drama set in the world of UFOs and abductions. It anchored NBC’s Saturday night “Thrillogy” concept in the 1996 season premiere and starred Eric Close (“Nashville”) and the late film character actor J.T. Walsh (“Sling Blade”). Its main title design won the Emmy award and its pilot screenplay received a Writers Guild nomination. The Syfy Channel aired the entire series multiple times. Since 2010 there’s been a Facebook page where thousands of fans from many different countries push Sony for a TV revival. […]

Man on a Ledge (2012) -vs- Inside Man (2006)

January 26, 2012 Arthur Tiersky

A bank robbery that isn’t really a bank robbery!

A suicide attempt that isn’t really a suicide attempt!

A Jodie Foster performance that isn’t really good!

A movie star who isn’t really an actor!

Yes, nothing is what it seems this week, except that this really is a Smackdown of the new Man on a Ledge and 2006’s Inside Man, two heist movies, each set mostly on one long day in Manhattan, and neither of them are Dog Day Afternoon. Are you kiddin’ me? Fuhgetaboutit. […]

Haywire (2011) -vs- Salt (2010)

January 19, 2012 Art Tiersky

“All you need for a film is a girl and a gun.”

– Jean-Luc Godard

Well, and film, I reckon, but Jean-Luc’s point is well taken, and this Smackdown brings us two movies that attempt to put it to the test.

In this corner, a comely mixed martial arts champion making her screen acting debut.

And in this corner…Screw it, you know her already.

Ding! […]

We Need to Talk About Kevin (2012) -vs- The War Zone (1999)

January 17, 2012 Arthur Tiersky

British actress Tilda Swinton is best known here for her Oscar-winning supporting turn as an icy, villainous lawyer in Michael Clayton (2007), but neither the role nor the performance really demonstrates what this woman is capable of. Again and again, she’s shown a willingness to take on roles that would terrify most actresses, be it due to the subject matter, the character’s off-putting actions, or what the part physically demands (she is apparently comfortable with all manner of nudity and sex scenes; ever see Young Adam?), and it is this complete lack of fear or modesty combined with her striking physical features (alabaster skin, bright red hair, really damn tall) and just plain uniqueness that have made her such a darling of the independent film world. […]

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