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Babylon 5.1
by Rick Norwood

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For more information, you can try the following sites:
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Ratings
Ratings are based on a four star system.
One star means that the commercials are more entertaining than the program.
Two stars watch if you have nothing better to do.
Three stars is good solid entertainment.
Four stars means you never dreamed television could be this good.

Jeremiah Tarzan and Jeremiah have been cancelled. The remaining three episodes of Tarzan will air. Whether any additional episodes of Jeremiah will be shown depends on you. If you want to see them, write a (polite) letter to www.sho.com/site/util/contact.do and tell them so. For breaking news about Jeremiah, go to http://abyss.hubbe.net/jeremiah/excl/buzz.html. In other news, rumors of the return of Farscape abound.

Enterprise, "Twilight" (***) by Mike Sussman.
Enterprise There's some life in the old girl yet. This is by far the best Enterprise of the third season and Mike Sussman, with or without Phyllis Strong, is the best writer Star Trek has on staff. "Twilight" opens with the destruction of the earth and builds from there, with excellent acting and outstanding special effects. And yet. And yet all the while I was enjoying the show I was thinking, if only they did not have to set everything right to prepare the way for Kirk and Picard. If only what we were seeing was the actual future of the Star Trek universe. What a really great show that would be!

Star Wars: Clone Wars (**).
Though only three minutes long, these pointless cartoons are long enough to be boring. They are from the studio that produces the equally pointless Samurai Jack. Not as bad as Ewoks and Droids, which were shown on Saturday morning television, back when there was such a thing as Saturday morning television. Not as good as the Star Wars cartoon on The Star Wars Christmas Special. Yes, I know, you've heard that The Star Wars Christmas Special stank on ice. It did. Except for the cartoon. There will be ten three-minute episodes of Clone Wars this month, ten more early in 2004, and then the whole thing will be out on DVD.

Enterprise, "North Star" (**) by David A. Goodman.
Enterprise The original Trek had "Spectre of the Gun". Next Generation had "A Fistful of Datas". Now Enterprise tries its hand at a space western. It gets a lot of things right and just enough wrong to spoil the total effect. I liked the sepia tones in the western scenes. The contrast makes the final scene aboard Enterprise quite spectacular. One of the scene transitions is a wipe. (These days that effect is more apt to remind people of Star Wars: A New Hope rather than the source.

George Lucas borrowed it from the first SF western, Gene Autry in The Phantom Empire. (Lucas borrowed more than just a few camera tricks from that Mascot serial.) It's a nice touch. Only two things spoiled my mood. First, there is a commercial flashed on the screen during the program, and where one commercial goes, who can doubt that many will follow. The president of CBS is in denial about the double digit losses in young male viewers. It will never occur to him that commercials -- too many and too intrusive -- drove them away. I am the only person I know who watches network television. The other mood breaker is that twice we see horses in their stalls wearing saddles. Does Hollywood really know so little about horses? Or do they just figure the viewers are too dumb to notice. Little things! Such little things are enough to push the viewer out of his armchair and off about some more rewarding activity.

DVD Reviews

Neverwhere Neverwhere (****) by Neil Gaiman
"Heaven! I'm in heaven." Angel Islington singing that song has been haunting me every since I watched this don't miss DVD. The low budget, which I feared would ruin the series, is not as big a problem as I thought it would be, thanks to great acting and location shooting. The pedestrian directing is more of a problem. Both the transitions and the special effects look like Dr. Who. The transitions are too abrupt, nary a beat between the last word in one scene and the first word in the next. The effects are cheesy. Worst of all, the director doesn't know where to point the camera. Great writing makes up for all that. I never listen to commentaries on DVDs but, well, Neil Gaiman! I listened to the commentary on each episode after watching the episode without commentary. The episodes go very, very fast, because there is so much going on, so you don't mind at all watching them twice. Gaiman mostly sticks to the facts, just the facts, m'am. This happened at such and such a time in such and such a place and here I am now, at this time and in this place, telling you about it. The few insights he offers mostly concern interference by the suits at the BBC, who earn so much more money than writers that they must know more about writing than writers, right?

Mahabharata Mahabharata (****) by Peter Brooks, Jean-Claude Carriere, and Marie-Helene Estienne, adapted from the Indian epic
Very strange and magical, with almost too much fantasy, this production has charismatic actors who introduce you to a dense and, for westerners, alien universe. The original epic is ten times longer than the Iliad and the Odyssey put together. During the weeks I watched this DVD, I also read the abridgement of the epic by Chakravarthi N. Narasimhan. Embedded in the Mahabharata is the section known as the Bhagavad-Gita, on which the film The Legend of Bagger Vance was loosely based. When I got to the Gita, I set aside the abridgement to read it entire in the translation by Barbara Stoler Miller. The most famous quote from the Gita is the one Robert Oppenheimer uttered as he watched the first atomic bomb explode, "I am become death, the destroyer of worlds." Fascinating the ways in which eastern and western civilization intertwine. This DVD is a great introduction to eastern literature and thought.

Dark Shadows Collection 7 (***) by Sam Hall, Gordon Russell, and Ron Sproat
Here is where Dark Shadows really hits its stride. Return from the past. Dr. Lang. The creation of Adam. Cassandra. The Dream Curse. Don't miss it.

Where the Wild Things Are (****) by Maurice Sendak
Also includes In the Night Kitchen. And, since the Really Rosie special is not available on video, this is the only place you can see excerpts from it: Alligators All Around, Pierre, One Was Johnny and Chicken Soup With Rice.

Looney Tunes Golden Collection Looney Tunes Golden Collection (****) by Chuck Jones, Michael Maltese, Maurice Nobel, Mel Blanc, et al.
One of the great works of art our civilization has produced. I do not exaggerate. (Be careful to avoid the abridged DVDs, which are slightly cheaper but which have far fewer cartoons.) Every cartoon on this DVD is memorable, and the reproduction is almost too perfect. My only nit: I wouldn't have put all the Bugs Bunny on one disk and all the Daffy Duck on another -- I think most people prefer variety. Most of the best of the best are here. "Bully for Bugs", "Rabbit of Seville", "Duck Amuck", "The Scarlet Pumpernickel", "Deduce, You Say", "Duck Dodgers in the 24 Century"... . Do they leave out "One Froggy Evening"? Well, there is sure to be a Volume Two.

Copyright © 2003 Rick Norwood

Rick Norwood is a mathematician and writer whose small press publishing house, Manuscript Press, has published books by Hal Clement, R.A. Lafferty, and Hal Foster. He is also the editor of Comics Revue Monthly, which publishes such classic comic strips as Flash Gordon, Sky Masters, Modesty Blaise, Tarzan, Odd Bodkins, Casey Ruggles, The Phantom, Gasoline Alley, Krazy Kat, Alley Oop, Little Orphan Annie, Barnaby, Buz Sawyer, and Steve Canyon.


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