I must start out this article with a stick of my own truth: I haven’t gotten to actually PLAY South Park: Stick of Truth yet. However, we are so excited about the game’s release that we wanted to round up all the important information from the interwebs and put it in one convenient place for you. So here we go: an expose on what I found out about Stick of Truth via the internet.
Science is a funny thing. There’s been this traditional stereotype about scientists rolling through life with pocket protectors and slide rules, cloaked in a lab coat and hunched over their microscopes. But over the last few years the subject has picked up a few more fans. TV shows like Through the Wormhole hosted by Morgan Freeman and great programming on Science Channel and other educational outlets have started to help pull science into the mainstream, by making it more accessible to everyday people. Even on the local level for me in Philadelphia I see big events like the Philadelphia Science Festival and can easily see the rise in interest this kind of accessibility can bring.
There’s a few scientists that specialize in just that – you have guys like Bill Nye (the Science Guy, and the guy that taught me the art of the bow tie) that have spent their lives making sure that science was accessible and fun for kids, starting from his eponymous show in the 90′s to his cemented place in today’s geek culture. In the same vein, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has done the same thing – in addition to running the show at the Hayden Planetarium he’s done the late night circuit many times, payed visits to Stephen Colbert on the Colbert Report, and even hangs out with Philadelphia’s morning radio DJ’s Preston and Steve on WMMR from time to time. Oh he writes books too.
And unless you’ve been living in a geek vacuum over the last few months, you’ll see he’s now part of a project far more ambitious than guesting on the late night tour. He’s the host of a new series on FOX called COSMOS, premiering this weekend. The show is a new take on Dr. Carl Sagan’s classic series of lectures from the early 1980’s. Dr. Tyson’s teamed up with some serious names – Brannon Braga, Mitchell Cannold, and Ann Druyan – to make an updated version of our favorite televised class on space and time.
The best part about it was that I got to talk to them about it.
See back in October (yeah I know it was a ways back) I got to meet the COSMOS crew at New York Comic Con, and talk to them about the vision and the motivation behind the series re-launch. The first round was with Cannold and Braga. Braga described the project as a huge undertaking, with every episode tackling “some sort of massive subject matter” with a varied palette of special effects, live action, and even animated sequences. While the show does feature original content, there will still be a number of homages to Carl Sagan’s original vision – for example fans of the original series will be happy to know that the Cosmic Calendar is still a mainstay in this new edition.
One of the more surprising topics discussed was the role of Seth MacFarlane (yes, the same Family Guy Seth MacFarlane) who is one of the driving forces behind the show. Cannold put the collaborative efforts best, and it might surprise those of you who classify MacFarlane with only animated comedy. “Don’t underestimate Seth MacFarlane – this man is a DaVinci. Among other things, he happens to be a brilliant science geek.” The team in fact turned down other studios first in favor of him as someone who could drive the process and execute while respecting the process. Cannold went on “he became our Godfather, champion, emissary at FOX and since then has made an enormous contribution.” These contributions included introducing Braga to the crew, who brings scores of experience having written and produced for the Star Trek franchise since The Next Generation as well as other hits like 24.
Next up was Ann Druyan and the man himself, Dr. Tyson. Druyan was the writer of the original COSMOS with Dr. Sagan (and wife of the good doctor as well). Tyson started off describing Carl Sagan’s shoes as “awesome shoes to fill,” and how if he tried to fill them he’d just fail, following it up with “But I could be a really good version of myself.” The series, according to him, isn’t just an “homage to Carl” but something people can follow him into the future by watching. Druyan talked about how special it was working with Tyson, having known him for so long with Carl. “It was not just that Neil has the science and the ability to connect, but it’s also true that Carl reached out to Neil when he was a 17 year old kid in the Bronx.” And it’s true – Dr. Sagan took Tyson under his wing from an early age and he became very close with his family. It was great hearing her speak about the project with such passion and love.
After talking about COSMOS I got to talk to Dr. Tyson about a bunch of random things like a scientific basis for astrology and science skewed by cognitive bias – he actually took the time well past the press event to shoot the breeze with me. He is 100% the awesome science rockstar we all see on television, with a huge personality to match that sciencey mind of his. While talking cognitive bias we got to the topic of dowsing rods – you know, using sticks to find water like I’m sure you’ve seen on TV. He says to me, “If you give anyone a dowsing rod and tell them to find water, they will, pretty much 100% of the time. And you know why?” At this point he leans in a little closer to me and continues – “Because there’s water fucking everywhere! It’s called the water table!” Comedy and science – an excellent combination.
Fast forward a few months back to New York City and I’m at the American Museum of Natural History at the world premiere event of the show, which lived up to every promise that was made about it (as you can see, the line to get in was crazy long and speaks to Dr. Tyson’s fanbase). The first episode introduced the cosmic calendar and the ship of the imagination, and let me tell you, Dr. Tyson is an absolute natural hosting and narrating this production. The content, varying between special effects to live action film of Dr. Tyson to an animated short about Giordiano Bruno all blend exceptionally well together and make for not only education and information accessible to the masses, but a truly enjoyable program that brings science to the people.
COSMOS: A Spacetime Odyssey premieres this Sunday night at 9pm on FOX.
Last year we listed some of our favorite fictional couples. WELL GUESS WHAT? This year I’m turning the spotlight on some of our fictional ladies who manage to ride solo (and one who does that literally OH SNAP), and still succeed. In order to qualify for this list, the ladies didn’t necessarily have to remain single til their dying day, but they did need to remain independent, and getting their man could not be one of their main goals.
I had a great time at NYCC this year. There was a bunch of stuff to see, some great cosplayers (which you can see in the IHOGeek Facebook galleries), and of course a good list of panels to check out. On the latter I had the side-splitting pleasure of experiencing the Adult Swim treatment on Friday night, catching back to back panels from the Venture Brothers and Robot Chicken. Two hours of Adult Swim personalities answering fan questions, cutting up and going nuts, and well, just hijinx in general.
… And you know how I feel about hijinx, kids. Love ‘em.
Starting with Queen’s “Princes of the Universe” hitting the speaker system, The Venture Brothers‘ Doc Hammer and Jackson Publick came out to the stage rocking black jumpsuits to a wall of pure sound from the audience. After playing it up a little, they sat at the table and answered some fan questions. It was a strange panel in the sense that there was no footage from the show like some of the other panels I attended, but it really wasn’t all that surprising. Doc and Jackson let us know that they had just started working on the new season 6, and even though it was going to take a while that it is “going to be awesome” (don’t expect it until 2015). SO i guess without any content to give you, I can at least give you some of the Q&A schtick that they put on -
On underwear: Jackson’s underwear costs $60 a pair. Sixty. and Doc rocks boxer briefs. We’ll just have to take his word on that though – when chants to show the crowd came up he declared he couldn’t, because he has no ass.
On continuity: When asked whether continuity helps or hurts the show’s comedy. Big surprise, it hurts.
On music: Doc doesn’t care who your favorite guitarist is – your favorite guitarist is Johnny Marr.
On giant robot cosplay: If you ask a question dressed as a giant robot, Doc Hammer will go into strike mode (as he appeared to do) and state his desire to jump across the table and knock you out.
Throughout the answers was of course the nutty behavior we expect from these two fancy lads, but it was their last act that got the biggest round of applause from the audience, myself included. A young lady stepped up to the microphone and upon trying to speak, saw that she couldn’t find her words. “I’m too nervous to ask a question,” she said. Without missing a step Doc Hammer comes back with “are you too nervous to DANCE with me?” and proceeded to dance with the young lady while the DJ played “Greased Lightning.” And a grand time was had by all. Check it out from Adult Swim here.
Next up was Robot Chicken. The whole crew was out in force – Seth Green, Matthew Senreich, Clare Grant, Breckin Meyer all clad in cat ears, including an unannounced appearance by Macauly Culkin, who is indeed, as it appeared to me, alive and well. The crew made a couple of big announcements, the first being a sequel to the wildly popular DC Comics Special entitled DC Comics Special II: Villains in Paradise. They showed some footage from the special, focusing on Batman’s embarrassment about being dragged around in Green Lantern’s green bubble. A musical bromance ensues between the two, with Batman being floated along in a green sailboat construct.
Seth Green also talked about Übermansion – a joint project between the Robot Chicken crew and Bryan Cranston, who is fresh off the heels of the success of Breaking Bad. Cranston voices Titanium Rex, an elderly superhero who fights the day to day perils of, you know, being old sharing the mansion with this super-team. It’s stop motion like Robot Chicken, and from the trailer we were shown the humor is unrefined, juvenile, and let’s face it kids, right up your alley.
There wasn’t much commentary on future Robot Chicken seasons, but they did announce their Born Again Virgin Christmas Special, which will air this December.
Early in the panel a young lad by the name of Emmett got up to the microphone to ask a questions. The panel addressed him as “the young man in the brown hat.” After snarkily replying “first off, it’s a Borderlands hat, so…” he went on imply that by Seth Green taking on his series Dads that it could take away from the writing of Robot Chicken. After some more sass and Green’s “I’ma point at you and yell” antics Breckin Meyer jumped in to Green’s defense – “Hey Seth’s working REALLY HARD!” After that Emmett became a running gag for the entire panel, cracking me up more than any of the other antics the panelists had, aside from meth jokes at the expense of Macauly Culkin. Afterwards, in response to a simple “Hi how are you?” from a fan, Breckin’s answer was “Well I was having a great day until I met this douchebag named Emmett.” And this went on and on for the entire panel. Please, do yourself a favor and watch the panel here. Warning though – the panel features a moment between Seth Green and Doc Hammer’s nipple, who made an impromptu cameo.
Stay tuned for my next installment where I talk about that time i met Neil DeGrasse Tyson!
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. finally premiered this week–I say finally for many reasons, not the least of which being that Joss Whedon is FINALLY back on TV. Second, of course, is that we’ve been hearing about this show coming out for quite some time now, and it’s no surprise that the pilot set an insanely high new standard for the viewing numbers of television premieres (though to be fair, the show does come equipped with multiple arsenals of built-in fan bases).
A show like “S.H.I.E.L.D.” can’t, and shouldn’t, premiere without expectations, critics, and insta-lovers. As always, I fall somewhere firmly in the middle of the pack, though I have to say that so far my positive thoughts are outweighing the negatives. Perhaps it’s not even fair to call them “negatives” at this point in the game, as we’ve only gotten one episode and there’s no way to know where the show is really going yet.
My biggest problem is that the premise of the show seems…cliche. There are heroes in the world, and everyone knows about them, and they all have to make decisions about revealing themselves or remaining hidden. Didn’t this already happen? Didn’t this already happen IN THIS FORMAT? Is this a show about superheroes at all? No–and maybe that’s where the difference lies. The show isn’t called “New York Post-Avengers”, it’s not the “Real Housewives of Stark Tower”, it’s “Agents of SHIELD”. This will be a show about HUMANITY and how it is affected by superheroes walking among us. So does that mean we’ve come full-circle on super heroes? After all, we’ve seen science fiction do this cake walk already: start out debating and imagining what could be possible, then find out whether or not it should be. That genre took fifty years to get deep and meta…maybe now it’s time for superheroes to do the same within mass media. Of course Whedon has done this before, shifting the focus from hero to villain and questioning the meaning of “right” and “wrong”, now he shifts the lens entirely from the Supers to the Humans and asks if there’s really any difference at all.
If it wasn’t already clear, I’m talking about 2008′s “Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog”, which is still among my favorite things ever created. While the two “shows” are wildly different, they also have plenty in common, not the least of which is their quotability. “S.H.I.E.L.D.” had some elements that blended in to the superhero genre, but it is definitely going to be loved for its language. The dialogue at once makes the show self-aware of, (“someone really wanted our initials to spell shield”) and a parody of (“I think there’s a bulb out” and “I think it’s a little poop. With knives sticking out of it.”) the superhero genre, and I hope we get to see more of this blend as the series continues. I don’t know that Whedon could do it any other way.
Or better yet, let your British Wonder twins tell me instead. Yes. This thought pleases me.
My view of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is unfortunately that it didn’t meet my expectations. It wasn’t what I really expected. I’m cautiously optimistic, but I can’t shake the feeling that the show was missing something. Not sure what though, but I’ll name what bothered me.
First of all it annoyed me how much screen time the damsel in distress, quite literally saved from a burning building, got.
I’m sure you all saw this shot in the trailer. It appeals to teenage boys hoping to save a cute damsel in distress, and Whedon made sure to frame it so that just enough leg was there to make sure that “sex sells” angle was there. Then this still shot of him saving her became a clue and no opportunity was missed to plaster this image on the background monitors as other characters spoke. Which brings me to my second complaint.
The dialogue. No, no, no, put down your pitchforks. What I mean is that the writing sounded good. Most of the episodes charming moments came from dialogue. But oh sweet lord, the direction and pacing sucked. I was never on the edge of my seat. The dialogue was the shows only strength. I had to double-check that Whedon directed and sure enough, he does. What happened man? This is the first episode and I expected a bit more dazzle. Instead you gave me something akin to an episode six, where the characters meander aimlessly on some small issue. It tried to be big with a secret evil organization and an explosion in the beginning, but it never felt big. Maybe that’s a financial issue like the fact that the whole thing felt….
Cheap. The CGI was far from convincing, the camera angles did nothing to inspire, and the little action there was consisted of eight camera cuts to hide how poorly choreographed it all was. You even stole the ending to Back to the Future and somehow managed to make the flying car look cheaper than visual effects from thirty years ago. We all know The Avengers made more money than religion so why couldn’t you guys invest a few more dollars in the spin-off? Is it because it is an almost guaranteed success and you don’t have to try? Or was that premiere simply the pilot you pitched to get the show greenlit in the first place?
It may be hard to believe, but I didn’t hate the show. I think it has potential and I’m hoping the following episodes change my perspective. Right now I’m not a fan, but a casual onlooker. Come on Whedon, make me care about these characters.