Friday, October 24, 2008

The Week's New Shows

Hulu busted out some nice offerings this week. Enjoy!

Presented from Worst to First

The Losers

Survival School

Episodes: Five 24 minute episodes
Clips: 26 clips broken down into 5 different categories, including "Obama Girl"
Network/Studio: Mojo
Grade: C
Mojo unveils their latest stab at low-budget reality, and I have to say that this one is not really worth watching. The idea is to spotlight a five month long wilderness survival course for US airmen. Like "The Academy," it makes the order-barking instructors the heroes of the show, while the recruits all struggle to follow orders well enough to blend in. There's a lot of puke-inducing attempts at tearjerking, and the show does its damnedest to make every situation look as life-threatening as possible. I would recommend the far superior "Carrier," which takes a comprehensive documentarian approach to all aspects of life aboard a military air force carrier.

Episodes: One 24 minute episode
Clips: None
Network/Studio: FUNimation
Grade: C
Is it wrong to complain about a cartoon being surreal? This subtitled japanime offering is about a living dead woman named Makina Hoshimura. She is charged with hunting down other living dead so that she may one day find peace. It's a heavy theme, and many of the settings and characters are eerie and sombre. That's the part I like. But, in a fit of schizophrenia, every second or third scene is loaded down with bizarre slapstick humor that could only appeal to the kiddies. One minute, a creepy serial killer reminiscent of Heath Ledger's Joker is jumping out of a window. The next, a goofy man steals food from the plates of children and gets smacked in the head with a frying pan (with over-the-top sound effects). The art is similarly schizoid, with moody realism giving way to hepped up emoticons on a regular basis. There's a half of a good cartoon here-- maybe even halves of two good cartoons. I suppose there's some reasoning to blending the two forms in such a jarring manner, and maybe I'm just too ignorant about anime to "get it." Whatever the case, this didn't impress me at all.

The Winners

Back on Topps

: 7 "episodes," each about five minutes long
Clips: None
Network/Studio: Vuguru
Grade: B+
It looks like some people are finally getting the hang of this short-format comedy thing. The premise in this one involves the two Topps brothers, who are the rightful heirs to the Topps baseball card company, but who are instead forced to work beneath a boss who hates them. It's an innovative setting, and lends itself easily to a variety of gags. It's similar in a way to The Office, with a sometimes acknowledged camera crew that is there under another pretense. But it also has a flavor all it's own, with some up-temp side jokes and a parade of cameos, most of them involving sports figures or sketch-comedy regulars. I watched and enjoyed all 7 episodes, and am adding this to my subscription list, at least for now (the nice thing about short-format is that it's not such a time commitment). Consider this one recommended. You can also read a nice review of the series at panelist Emmett Hawkins' blog here.

Historic Campaign Ads

Episodes: None
Clips: 32 clips, broken down by decades, which cover 50s & 60s, 70s, and 80s
Network/Studio: iCue
Grade: B+
It's always fun to look at the hopes and fears of an era, with the smug superiority that comes with retrospective knowledge. This gives us a novel and succinct way to look at the best and the worst of Nixon, Reagan, Eisenhower, Mondale, old Bush, Cheney, Ford, Carter, Goldwater, and Johnson. Many of the ads are famous, such as the racially charged Willie Horton ad run by Bush the elder, or Johnson's "Daisy Ad," which suggests the wrong presidential choice could lead to nuclear holocaust. Some of them are interesting because of what came after, such as Dick Cheney's congressional race ads from the 70s. I recommend this as the best show of the week: it's interesting, it's educational, and it's topical. The rare triple-threat.


The Hulu Man
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