The SmarK DVD Rant – Sex & Violence!

Man, just when you’re thinking that values in our great country have gone completely by the wayside, along come three releases to make you feel good about the state of our great country. By which I of course mean Canada, because apparently the US is going to hell in a handbasket now that the Democrats are in power again.

I present as evidence three new releases from Paramount.


Exhibit A: Californication – The Complete Second Season

Continuing on from the surprise hit first season, Showtime’s Californication follows washed-up writer Hank Moody as he drinks and screws his way through LA’s party scene, while attempting to reconcile his very confusing family situation. This was originally a show I had never even heard about before getting a review copy, but quickly grew to become one of my most anticipated second seasons. Unfortunately while the second season is still great TV, it’s somewhat lost focus from the stellar first season, having to artificially generate conflict to keep Hank unhappy instead of letting the laughs flow from his big mouth and overactive libido. The biggest laugh of the season is probably in the second episode, as arrogant agent Charlie Runkle gets caught masturbating in his office…sixteen times. Charlie’s fall from grace and quest to become the king of low budget porn mostly dominates the season, but seems kind of unfocused like everything else about the show. Fortunately the material is still strong enough to carry the show through a few boring episodes, as new addition Callum Keith Rennie (as debauched rock producer Lew Ashby) proves to be a perfect match for Hank’s sense of humor and worldview. And as always, this is the filthiest show on TV, as Hank will have sex with anything that moves and you generally get to see and hear about it in detail. And despite his status as one of the worst human beings on the planet, there’s something very likeable about Moody and his struggles with mid-life crises and attempts to bond with his daughter.

By the way, for fans of the show, this may be the coolest thing ever: God Hates Us All

Strong recommendation here, although the more talky and melancholy the show gets, the duller it gets, so be prepared for a couple of clunkers in between Hank’s conquests.


Exhibit B: Dexter – The Complete Third Season

Speaking of protagonists who are surprisingly easy to love, you’ve got serial killer Dexter Morgan. This has long been one of my favorite shows, period, and it’s possibly the most brilliant concept on TV: A forensic analyst working for the Miami police department, who is secretly the most horrific serial killer that the state has ever seen. But he’s a killer with a code (except that "don’t marry your TV sister in real life" apparently isn’t part of the code…EWWWW, weird!) and as the third season begins, a baby on the way. Given that girlfriend (and eventual wife) Rita is one of the most fascinatingly screwed-up characters in her own right, you have to fear for the sanity of that poor baby. The second season suffered a bit due to the presence of raging succubus Lila, who was so annoying that she made the serial killer look sympathetic, and her grating non-chemistry made parts of the second season a bit of a chore to watch when she was on. Luckily we all what happened to her at the end of that season and now the show is batting a thousand again, thanks to the addition of Jimmy Smits as a crime-obsessed DA who happens to be the brother of a guy that Dexter accidentally kills in the first episode. Whoops. And yet from this seemingly horrific act grows a friendship between the two men that is something truly wonderful to behold, as Dexter comes closest to finding someone who truly understands him and can act as a confidant where his own family can’t. Smits, oddly submitted to the Emmys as a "guest star", was robbed of the award for his performance here, as he manages to be menacing and yet convey a real sense of family to the audience. It’s a complex and meaty performance and made the third season so addicting that it even sucked my wife into getting hooked on it despite her not having seen the show before. The only real weak point is the "villain" of the season, the serial killer dubbed "The Skinner" by the media, who isn’t nearly evil enough to challenge either Dexter or Miguel for that matter, making the big showdown in the finale into more of an anti-climax than it should have been. Still, minor griping aside, Dexter remains one of the best shows on television and only looks to get better as season four premieres. Another strong recommendation.


Exhibit C: 90210 – The Complete First Season

And then there’s the state of high schools today, which hopefully aren’t represented by the one portrayed in the remake of Beverly Hills 90210. This was a show I really wanted to give a chance and enjoy because I love the original Melrose Place so much, but man this was a show that had the fingerprints of network tampering all over it and it suffers greatly for it. I should point out that my wife loves this show, so the CW’s goal of attracting women must be working, but after a trash-rific pilot that recalls everything great about the Darren Star glory days of TV, the show falls fast. Part of it is growing pains, as the original script was penned and overseen by Rob Thomas of Veronica Mars fame and the show has gone through several behind-the-scenes changes since then, but most of it is due to the characters being such unlikeable douchenozzles. Annie in particular is supposed to the hero of the show and yet spends so much of the first season mugging and stealing screen time that you’re left wishing she was hit by a car instead of the anonymous victim at the end of the season. The writing in particular has some of the worst case of ADD I’ve seen in a weekly show, as plots twist and turn so fast that you have to wonder if they’ll run out of story ideas by season 2. For instance, about halfway through they introduce a shady young man who is apparently the bastard son of Annie’s father, but turns out to be a con man. We think. The storyline is only around for one episode before getting quickly blown off and moved onto the next improbable plot twist and forgotten about. It was kind of funny when Melrose used to do that sort of thing, but at least they’d milk three or four episodes’ worth of pathos out of it, and even then the show was so goofy that there was no point in taking it seriously anyway. This is a show that we’re supposed to actually find INTERESTING, apparently. But to be perfectly fair, I’m totally not the target audience for this drek so it’s probably not fair to make me sit through 24 episodes of characters constantly changing motivations and personalities and expect me not to gripe about it. I will say that people who enjoy this show REALLY enjoy it, but I’m not part of that group. Maybe if Annie and Dixon both die in a plane crash at some point and the show focuses on the rest of the slightly-tolerable crew, but until then, just no. Recommendation to avoid.

So there you go, Dexter is a pretty clear winner of both best show on DVD this month and also best indication that the world is going to hell, but for TV like that it’s worth it.

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