Another television series cancelled too soon, Better Off Ted center around the Research and Development department of a giant, evil coropration called Veridian Dynamics.  Its common practices include freezing an employee and trying to convince him not to sue, attempting to create products like synthetic meat, and covering up products that have unexpected negative side effects (like perfume).  The main character and narrator is Ted, the beloved head of the department who is often left struggling with what to do with his company’s outlandish requests.    Ted is also coming to terms with his feelings for new co-worker and the show’s moral compass Linda despite his brief fling with his ice-cold supervisor Veronica, played by scene-stealing Portia de Rossi.

The show is certainly unusual,  with its heavy satire and frequent breaking of the fourth wall by Ted speaking directly to the viewers.  But fans of Arrested Development (another show cancelled before its time) will enjoy this unique and often hilarious series.  It lasted for two seasons, and so far only the first has been released on DVD.  I’m still anxiously awaiting the release of season two, and I’m sure I’m not the only one!

American on Purpose by Craig Ferguson isn’t really a celebrity memoir about the Hollywood life.  It’s the story of a young man, struggling with addiction, who wants nothing more than to get to America.  Beginning with his childhood in Glasgow, Scotland, Ferguson describes the events of his life that made him who he is today, including dropping out of school at age 16, working in construction, becoming a drummer in various bands, and finally making his mark in the acting and comedy worlds.  It was through his career as a drummer that Ferguson first developed a problem with alcohol, which he recounts with much painful detail.

This book is a powerful story about overcoming addiction and working hard to make your dreams come true.  Since he was a child and visited the States with his uncle, all Ferguson wanted to do was move to the United States, and anyone who has seen The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson knows that he did indeed make this happen.  Though he tells a serious story, the book of course has lots of humor and funny moments in it.  I would recommend this book not just for people who enjoy celebrity memoirs, but also for anyone looking for an inspiring story about overcoming the odds and making a better life for yourself.

Is it good for your mind? No. Is it a titillating hi-def splatterfest with Matrix/300 bullet-time effects enjoyable to watch? A definite yes. You wouldn’t be lying if you told your friends there were love stories and a healthy amount of unpredictable plot twists and skullduggery either.

I came upon Spartacus: Blood and Sand due to its free streams on the Roku box last year. I stayed because I could not look away, despite the thinly-veiled disclaimer at the beginning of the historical drama assuring us “the sensuality, brutality and language is to suggest and authentic representation of that period.”  Come on, it’s based on actual history.  Does that count?

The production and costuming is exemplary. Virtually every ancient Roman has the standard-issue Shakespearean lilt and some 20th century vulgarities.   You’re too busy watching heads and period garb falling off to care about the anachronism.  Lucy Lawless will NEVER be able to be called a warrior “Princess” again.

Sadly, production was suspended last spring for star Andy Whitfield’s (Spartacus) health, as he was treated for lymphoma. When it was determined he would need a more aggressive regimen, Whitfield bid the franchise and the most physically demanding role on television goodbye.

In just a few weeks on January 21st, a stopgap measure 6-episode prequel will begin on Starz network, Spartacus: Gods of the Arena. Whitfield is rumored to make a couple cameo appearances among the regular cast of seeming professional body builders.  Casting has begun on his Dick Sargent-esque replacement in Season 3.

I, for one, will lament the loss of Whitfield and hope for his full return to good health.

In other news, Kirk Douglas is 94 years old and could probably still reprise his original motion picture role. I wouldn’t rule that bruiser out as a replacement.

January 4

Dinner for Schmucks –  Steve Carell, Paul Rudd

Tim is a guy on the verge of having it all. The only thing standing between him and total career success is finding the perfect guest to bring to his boss’ annual Dinner for Extraordinary People, an event where the winner of the evening brings the most eccentric character as his guest. Enter Barry, a guy with a passion for dressing mice up in tiny outfits to recreate great works of art. When the duo shows up to dine, the lunacy kicks into high gear.

Catfish– Henry Joost

In late 2007, filmmakers Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost sensed a story unfolding as they began to film the life of Ariel’s brother, Nev. They had no idea that their project would lead to the most exhilarating and unsettling months of their lives. A reality thriller that is a shocking product of our times, Catfish is a riveting story of love, deception, and grace within a labyrinth of online intrigue.

Big Love – Season 4 – Bill Paxton, Jeanne Triplehorn

For years, Bill Henrickson wished for a world free from the corrupt ‘Prophet’ of Juniper Creek, Roman Grant. Now that Roman appears to be out of the picture, Bill and his family can breathe easily, or can they? Season 4 continues the Henricksons’ story, as Bill launches another business venture: a Mormon-friendly casino. At the same time, Bill eschews a chance to seize the Prophet mantle at Juniper Creek in favor of an even more high-profile calling: running for State Senate in Utah.

January 11

Piranha – Jerry O’Connell, Elisabeth Shue

A group of strangers on Lake Victoria must band together to survive after a sudden underwater tremor sets free prehistoric man-eating fish

January 18

Justified – Season 1 – Timothy Olyphant

Due to his old-school style, U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens is reassigned from Miami to his childhood home in the poor, rural coal-mining towns in Eastern Kentucky. Lawman Givens is a tough, soft-spoken gentleman who never gives an inch. Contained are thirteen episodes, such as: Fire in the Hole; Riverbrook; Fixer; Long in the Tooth; and more.

January 25

The Girl that Kicked the Hornet’s Nest (Swedish) – Noomi Rapace

The final installment of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy. Lisbeth Salander is fighting for her life in more ways than one. In an intensive care unit and charged with three murders, she will have to not only prove her innocence, but also identify and denounce the same corruptgovernment institutions that nearly destroyed her life. Once upon a time, she was a victim. Now, Lisbeth Salander is fighting back.

Secretariat –  Diane Lane, John Malkovich

Behind every legend lies an impossible dream. Witness the spectacular journey of an incredible horse named Secretariat and the moving story of his unlikely owner, a housewife who risked everything to make him a champion.

I was walking by the new history books yesterday, and wow, what a gem!  The reason WOC: Davenport’s AM-FM-TV probably slipped under the publishing radar is, though incredibly relevant to its local audience, the lack of a national following.   I would think this would have at least warranted a half page writeup to herald its arrival.

Coopman has written/contributed to a  couple books on our hallowed QC media icons, so the arrival of  a new one is certainly like seeing an old friend after many years.

As you would imagine, the work’s value lies in the wealth of vintage photographs, from the eccentric BJ Palmer to the separated radio and television enterprises of the present-day — and the tons of archaic equipment that bridged those eras.  We rely on Coopman to furnish us with color commentary and background detail about the sharp minds that contributed to station growth without necessarily walking in front of a camera or microphone.

See the REAL veterans of the late night wars as they blossom from fresh-faced youngsters right out of journalism school to Quad Cities institutions.  That kid they called “Dutch” from Dixon..did he ever amount to anything?

With Caprica Season 1.0 about to be released on DVD, I think this is a great time to revisit its predecessor.  It isn’t often that my husband and I can both sit down and enjoy the same TV series, but when I brought home Battlestar Galactica: Season 1 from the library, we were both instantly hooked. 

The show starts off with a familiar concept:  a few decades ago, humans created artificial intelligence called Cylons in order to make their lives easier, but the Cylons eventually waged war on their human masters.  A truce was declared, and the Cylons weren’t heard from for 40 years.  But just as the fleet’s oldest ship (the Battlestar Galactica) is about to be decomissioned, the Cylons return and attack the colonies, leaving only about 50,000 humans alive.  All while being hunted by the Cylons, the last living humans must search the galaxy for their new home:  a mythical place called Earth.

With a cast of compelling and complex characters (including Galactica’s Commander, his son the pilot, the newly sworn in President of the colonies,  a pilot with a BIG secret, and a morally conflicted scientist), the show is not just another action-packed sci-fi adventure.  It is also filled with drama, political strife, theological questions, and even some romance here and there.  The twists and turns are shocking, and the plotlines really make you think about our society today.  The way the seasons are packaged is a little annoying (it goes season 1, 2.0, 2.5, 3, 4.0, and 4.5) so it’s important to make sure you don’t accidentally skip a season.  I could write pages and pages about this show, but I think I should stop now so that I don’t ruin any surprises.  Trust me, you don’t want to be spoiled.  Stop by the library to pick up a copy of Season 1I can almost guarantee you’ll be coming back for Season 2.0 within days.

Some of today’s most popular movies and television series started off as books.  Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris is a mystery starring Sookie Stackhouse, a telepathic barmaid from Bon Temps, Louisiana.  The story takes place after vampires have made their existence known to the world and are beginning to be accepted into mainstream society in America.  One night at work, Sookie’s dream comes true and a vampire named Bill walks into the bar.  After rescuing Bill from a couple attempting to drain his blood, Sookie and the vampire embark on a romance and Sookie learns that there are many more interesting creatures in this world than she ever knew of before.  If you like vampire novels with a splash of romance and mystery, this book is for you.  It’s an entertaining bit of light reading that will force you to leave the comfy confines of your home and race back to the library for the sequel.

Following the success of this book and its sequels, HBO adapted it into a television series.  Starring Anna Paquin as Sookie, True Blood: The Complete First Season follows the events of Dead Until Dark.  The main storyline remains the same, with Sookie and the residents of Bon Temps trying to figure out who is murdering local women.  Not everything is exactly the same as the book:  characters who are minor in the novel are given their own important storylines (with Sookie’s brother Jason becoming addicted to vampire blood), and characters who don’t appear until later novels are transplanted into this first season and are given new personalities (like Tara and her new “don’t take any you-know-what” attitude).

Personally, I enjoyed the book much more than the TV series.  While the HBO series was spot-on concerning the main events of the novel, the changes that were made from what was originally in the book didn’t seem fitting to me.  However, the casting is excellent and most of the characters are exactly as I saw them in my head while reading the book.  My only other complaint is that I am a bit squeamish, and due to the graphic nature of the show, some of the scenes were a little hard to watch.  But overall, reading the bok and watching the show are both fun escapes from reality.

But enough about what I think.  Which did YOU enjoy more:  the book, or the DVD?

You may already be familiar with Marc Marrone – he has appeared on the Martha Stewart Show many times as a pet expert, giving helpful advice and information all while surrounded by a menagerie of animals. It’s a fascinating sight – birds, bunnies, kittens, gerbils – all adorable, all  in perfect harmony, the living embodiment of a peaceable kingdom. Meanwhile, Marc calmly explains the best way to brush your cat’s teeth, or gives tips on caring for your iguana, while Harry, his giant red Amazon parrot perches on his shoulder.

A Man for All Species is Marc’s story and, while it’s not a guide to keeping pets, you’ll pick up all kinds of fascinating details that will help you enjoy and understand your pet. Marc owns Parrots of the World, one of the largest pet stores in the world, he is one of the largest exporters of ferrets to Japan (where they are wildly popular) and now Europe, exports birds (many of which he has bred and raised himself) all over the world but always makes time for the smallest birds and animals in his care. Cleanliness and their comfort and safety is always his primary concern.

Some of the most interesting sections of the book include his helping Orthodox Jews during Passover (no grain is allowed in the house during Passover so he has developed grain-free food for birds and small pets; also many cannot have an animal in the house during Passover and board their pets with Marc at his store) and his relationship with Martha Stewart – taping live television segments with animals can forge a strong friendship!

Through all the ups and downs and adventures of all sorts, Marc’s love of animals of all kinds remains unwavering and he shares that love and fascination with us in this fun book.

If you’re a fan of television it’s probably happened to you – and probably more than once. You start watching a new show, you really enjoy it and start to follow it and then – BAM! – it gets canceled, usually before an important story line is finished. A lot of these shows are critical darlings, but never found a large audience, or they’re the victim of being moved to different nights and times too often. The Hollywood writer’s strike two years ago was devastating for several shows. While we can’t fire up production again on some of these beloved shows, thanks to DVDs the library can give you a chance to go back and re-live many shows, even those with too short of a run to go to syndication. Here’s just a sampling of what we have available:

Veronica Mars (victim of network tinkering, the first season is outstanding, 2nd and 3rd seasons go progressively downhill)

Firefly (yanked by FOX despite rabid fan following; those fans helped push the making of the feature film, Serenity)

Better Off Ted (funnier than The Office, this corporate snark-fest was big on laughs, low on viewers partly because it’s schedule changed constantly)

Eli Stone (creative thinking outside the box and the writer’s strike spelled doom for this fun drama)

Pushing Daisies (nothing else quite like it on tv – funny, romantic, silly, profound, and colorful with pies! – the writer’s strike prevented it from picking up the audience it deserved)

What about you? Any short-lived tv series you’d love to see again?

Many years ago, one summer evening I was switching channels, trying to find something other than reruns. On IPTV, I came across a charming show about a village in Ireland. It had quirky characters, an English Catholic priest who didn’t want to be there and an feisty Irish lady Barkeep. Thus began my love affair with Ballykissangel. It was a wonderful BBC soap opera, which was broadcast 1996 – 2001. There is humor and sadness. Peter Clifford, ( Stephen Tompkinson) a young Catholic priest from Manchester, is transferred to the village of Ballykissangel, Ireland, and is taken by the dry-humored publican Assumpta Fitzgerald (Dervla Kirwan) who has almost the exact opposite of his good nature and dislikes the organized church. As soap operas, go this one was very good. The third season was the best as Peter and Assumpta declare their love and are going to leave Ballykissangel.

Both Stephen Tompkinson and Dervla Kriwan left the show at the end of the third season. The 4th, 5th and 6th seasons were good, but didn’t compare to the first 3 seasons. During the last 3 seasons a young actor, Col Farrell, joined the show. He is now know as Colin Farrell, star of many major motion pictures. Stephen Tompkinson now stars in a IPTV show called Wild at Heart, which we also own.