Saturday, May 11, 2013

Amazon Comedy Pilots

Last week, I got one of those Amazon emails that draw your attention to some special feature or offer they have.  In this instance, they were asking for people to view and review their new comedy tv show pilots, and since it was free I thought, why not?  So, over a few days, I took the time to look at the eight pilots, and gave my opinion on seven of them.  I'll now take a moment to go over my impression of each proposed series.

Before giving my assessments, I will say that I am very surprised that every single pilot has received more 5-star reviews than non-5-star reviews.  Even the best of these shows only rated 4 stars in my book, and I honestly can't tell what people are basing their votes on.  Are they really that easily entertained, that they think this stuff is the best of the best?  Or are they just so eager to pump up a few select shows that they're inflating their vote?  I think the latter is probably true.

Also, note that most of these shows have a lot of cursing in them.  It seems the writers went wild with f-bombs and the like, since these aren't on the air yet.  If any of these shows went on network tv, they'd just edit that out, I guess.  You have been warned.

Now, on with my three cents worth on each of the series.

Alpha House:  This one was weak satire, which did little more than make fun of Republicans.  The humor wasn't my cup of tea, and I think a more balanced approach would have made this a more promising pilot.  I could see this running half a season (at most), but by then even the Bill Maher fans will get bored with the clichéd jokes and stereotyped characters.  John Goodman's renown would be the only thing that could make this thing stay afloat for more than a few episodes.  A 2-star effort.

Betas:  A comedy for computer geeks.  The humor in this one was more subtle and serious.  To be fair, this show seems more suited to being a 1-hour drama program, rather than a comedy.  The first ten minutes or so were very dull for me, but after that it really picked up, and I started to get a fondness for the characters (except that mid 30's washed-up stoner guy).  This also has a brief shot of a naked lady in it, but the stoner guy was just chatting to some online hooker, so I guess that's okay (not).  I think if this was expanded to the hour (aka 40-45 minute) format, we'd have more time for character development, and thus the show would be able to flourish.  3-stars, with room to grow.

Browsers:  Comedy + musical?  This is the one show I couldn't get through.  The musical numbers just threw me off, and prevented me from enjoying the show.  It's a novel idea, but I wouldn't watch it.  No star-rating given, since I couldn't even get through the show to review the whole episode.

Dark Minions:  An animated comedy which was only half made.  They use that stop-motion animation technique, and I guess the creators didn't want to waste time making an entire episode until they had a contract for a full series.  However, what's there is intriguing.  It's a sci-fi comedy that could devolve into the next Futurama, or flourish as an animated cross between Family Guy and Red Dwarf, with some Douglas Adams thrown in.  In its present form, it seems a bit juvenile, and the drug usage is a little stupid. (I never got the idea of dope in space, how is that funny?)  The characters were a bit two-dimensional.  3-stars.

Onion News Empire:  A parody of the mainstream media, this one was fair and balanced.  There are some really funny moments, and bit of character development, and a few really outrageous elements tossed in.  Of all the Amazon pilots, this one felt the most professional, in my opinion.  It also had a lot of really good talent, most notable in my book being William Sadler (is he really that fat these days, or is that just a costume?).  I gave this one 4-stars.

Supanatural:  This one is a parody of the supernatural/horror/Ancient Aliens genre.  The main characters really grated on my nerves; a couple of divas with bad attitudes who work in a mall and on the side save the world from the paranormal.  The storyline was amusing, and the evil doomsday skull really stole the show.  If they spent some time making the ladies more likeable, this could fit in with the growing number of adult animated series, but in its present form it only rates 3-stars.

Those Who Can't:  A cynical comedy about High School teachers, which has a bit more truth than fiction to it.  Yes, there are obvious exaggerations, and the comedy is sometimes over the top, but it is almost believable at times.  The hippy-like principal is a nice touch, as well.  I give this one a 4-star rating, it being my 2nd favorite of the bunch.

Zombieland:  The series picks up where the movie left off, only with a new cast and less humor.  This felt like a really weak attempt to recreate something that has already been done, and it gets old really fast.  When it comes down to it, this just wasn't all that funny, and it has nowhere to go but down.  Zombies just aren't funny enough to sustain an entire series.  That, and the new actors can't compete with the big-name movie stars who defined their roles (really, who could ever replace Woody Harrelson?).  A weak 2-stars.  I almost want my half hour back for watching this one.  Unless you're a die-hard zombie fan, don't waste your time here.

Okay, so that pretty much sums it up.  Amazon also has five kid show pilots, but I didn't watch those, since I'm not really into that stuff (even though I have 4 young children).  Now it's your turn.  Go over to Amazon and watch a few of the shows there.  See what you think.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Madison Rising's "The Star Spangled Banner"

A few weeks ago, I ran across a link on facebook to a hard-rock youtube video of The Star Spangled Banner by Madison Rising.  While I'm generally more of a moderate rock kind of guy, this new version of America's national anthem appealed to me.  Now, for some inexplicable reason, facebook has been deleting the link to the video from people's walls.  Accusations of censorship are running rampant.  It's probably just the work of a few disgruntled facebook employees who don't like the video for whatever reason, but some people say it's a concerted effort at censorship.  All I know is, the video link I shared on my wall vanished recently, just as it has from many other people's walls.

You'll see there is nothing offensive, pornographic, or otherwise ban-worthy in this video.  Your 5 year old could watch this and hear the song without any ill effects.  It's a very patriotic American message.

I reposted the link on my profile page today.  We'll see how long it stays there this time.  Feel free to share it on your fb walls, as well.  It's worth a listen.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

VFW: The Cover Revealed!

Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to commission a few new pieces of artwork for forthcoming Martinus Publishing anthologies.  One of those pieces is for the VFW: Veterans of the Future Wars anthology, which is a collection of military sci-fi stories.  So, let's get right to it.  Here is the artwork for the VFW anthology, illustrated by Mark Vatsel (check out his portfolio here):

The submission period for VFW: Veterans of the Future Wars is still in full swing.  Spread the word, and send in your own military sci-fi story for consideration!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

2 New Anthologies from Martinus Publishing

It's barely May, but Martinus Publishing is gearing up for a new set of anthologies that will be opening for submissions in the fall.  There are a number of really great ideas still being bandied about, but there are two certain collections that will be assembled:

To Hell with Dante: A Cynical Afterlife Anthology— From evil men getting what they deserve, to super-villains facing their fate, and your run-of-the-mill demon facing the day, To Hell with Dante! seeks to feature cynical stories about the dark side of the afterlife.  Face your fears with a little farce and a touch of justice.  Is Hell a magical realm, or a bureaucratic morass?  Stretch your preconceptions, and explore the wacky world of the damned!

We Were Heroes: A Super-Powered Anthology—A collection all about super-powered individuals in their waning years.  Retired crime-fighters with special talents and technology, crusading vigilantes who find their bodies failing, and old warriors passing the torch to the next generation; this anthology will show us what life is like for these people as they get old.  Go beyond their heyday, and show what these legendary heroes will become.

There are currently 3 Martinus Publishing Anthologies accepting submissions:  VFW: Veterans of the Future Wars, Altered America, and Life of the Dead.  Once these anthologies begin to fill up (and I have more time to read for other collections), then you can expect To Hell With Dante and We Were Heroes to hit the scene.  Submissions will likely open sometime in September.  There are a few other concepts still on the drawing board, so keep your eyes open for even more from Martinus Publishing in the coming months.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Quests, Curses, & Vengeance Line-Up (+Hit of the Month)

It's the first of the month, so you know what that means.  It's time for May's "Hit of the Month" free story!  Head on over to Martinus Publishing's Hit of the Month page and read Curse of the Bottle by Nye Joell Hardy.  This is the first free sample story from the forthcoming Quests, Curses, & Vengeance anthology.

I am also pleased to announce the Table of Contents for QCV.  The final publishing contracts have come in, so all of these stories are now officially a part of the collection, even though many of them are still in the editing phase:

The Quest:
1:  Burn It Up, Burn It Down –by Philip Overby
2: Quest through the Ages –by J. L. Mo
3: Hooked on Questing –by Gerald Costlow
4: El Dorado –by Mel Obedoza
5:  Project Hellguard –by A.C. Hall
6:  Life or Death –by Stacey Jaine McIntosh
7: Odin's Spear –by Susan A. Royal
8:  A Bridge Too Near –by Martin T. Ingham
9: Ashes to Ashes –by Shawn Cook
10: More Precious than Rubies –by Chris Allinotte
11: All That Glitters –by Edmund Wells
12:  All in a Day's Work –by Karl G. Rich

13: Family Curse –by Gerald Costlow
14: Exiled –by Stacey Jaine McIntosh
15: Wipeout –by A. C. Hall
16: Gold Fever –by Bruno Lombardi
17: The Dance of Five Hells –by Philip Overby
18: The Long Night –by Shawn Cook
19: Are You Worthy? –by Edmund Wells
20: Curse of the Bottle –by Nye Joell Hardy
21: Curses May Not Be Returned, Refunded, or Exchanged –by Lauren A. Forry
22: Sometimes You Get the Curse, Sometimes the Curse Gets... –by Karl G. Rich

23:  Poetic Justice –by Edmund Wells
24   Abducted –by Shawn Cook
25: Morríghan –by Stacey Jaine McIntosh
26: Be Careful What You Wish For... –by Mel Obedoza
27: Ashtown –by A. C. Hall
28: Red Paint –by Philip Overby
29:  Revenge, Inc. –by Nye Joell Hardy
30: But I Know We'll Meet Again Some Sunny Day –by Lauren A. Forry
31: Digging Up The Past –by Gerald Costlow
32: Vengeance Is Mine, Sayeth Me –by Karl G. Rich

As you can see, the book will be partitioned into 3 distinct parts, to fit the three themes.  It will be one thrilling set of stories.