Entry for December 07, 2007: Birthday break and “Tin Man”

Friends, I hope you've had a good week. I've been busy with work and taking some time off to celebrate Janice's birthday. Also, Happy Hanukkah and happy birthdays to Ron J.K. and Brian F.!

On Saturday, 1 December 2007, Janice and I raked the last leaves of autumn; ate brunch at Fresco in downtown Needham, Massachusetts; and did a bit more hardware and holiday shopping. We also drove down to New England Comics in Norwood for my subscription, and Janice found a dress at Sym's for an upcoming wedding in New York City.

On Sunday, I briefly played City of Heroes online before going into Boston with Janice for the Wadaiko Yamato: Shin-On concert at the Cutler Majestic Theater of Emerson College. The Japanese drumming troupe was excellent, blending technical skill, high energy, and a sense of humor!

We stayed in on Monday, using up some vacation time. After shoveling a bit of snow, we caught up on recorded genre television. The penultimate episodes of animated fantasy Avatar: the Last Airbender featured a major battle with an interestingly inconclusive ending.

Espionage comedy Chuck was decent, although I still like Reaper more, since the characters in the latter show act relatively intelligently, even though they're supposed to be dumb, whereas on Chuck, the characters are supposed to be smart but often act illogically. Of course, romantic complications are a staple of both.

The half-season finale (perhaps the full-season finale, depending on the ongoing writers' strike) of Heroes was fairly satisfying, if a bit rushed. Still, the metahuman ensemble drama recovered from its sophomore slump, while Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood and Stargate SG1 spin-off Atlantis have struggled to make their teams both impressive and sympathetic.

While I wait for the series finale of time-travel drama Journeyman, I had to content myself with belated episodes of Smallville and Legion of Superheroes (I've still missed some of The Batman). Tonight will be the return of very different sleuths in Women's Murder Club and a holiday special for Psych. Speaking of winter revels, Janice and I have been watching several of the classic (and not-so-classic) shows by Rankin-Bass and others on ABC Family. What are your favorites?

The biggest event in this past week's SFTV was the SciFi Channel's Tin Man, the latest riff on The Wizard of Oz. If you're familiar with L. Frank Baum's children's books or the classic 1939 movie musical, you'll recognize many elements and tributes in this miniseries, which is something between a sequel and a remake.

Zoey Deschanel (also seen in the recent Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy flick) was a bit stiff as "D.G.," an analogue to the original's Dorothy Gale. She was accompanied by "Glitch" (X-Men 2's Alan Cumming), this version's Scarecrow, and by a "Tin Man," a former cop and prisoner played by Star Trek: First Contact's Neal McDonough, who brought heart to the production (pun intended).

They were later joined by "Raw" (the Cowardly Lion, played by Raoul Trujillo) in their quest to defeat wicked Princess Azkadellia (played by Kathleen Robertson). Richard Dreyfuss (Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind) had a cameo as the Magic Man (the Wizard), and Due South and Battlestar Galactica's Callum Keith Rennie played Zero, the brutal head of the security force.

Although Tin Man was occasionally hampered by weak dialogue/script and Vancouver sets shared with the lame Flash Gordon, it handled some folkloric concepts well, including the creation of a secondary world and the hero's journey (as friends and I studied in Libby Tucker's class in college and the books of Joseph Campbell). I think Baum himself might have approved.

The supporting cast was surprisingly strong (and McDonough hopes the network will pick up Tin Man as an ongoing series), and the retro steampunk style was fitting, reminding me of another quirky Halmi brothers miniseries, White Dwarf. Like the Dune miniseries, as reinterpretations go, I was mostly pleased with Tin Man, which was better than the SciFi Channel's recent offerings of schlock horror, "reality" shows, and professional wrestling.

Speaking of fantasy, the latest D&D3.5 "Vanished Lands: the Broken Chains" session went well, but the "Holy Steel" teleconferencing teeam is still dealing with scheduling problems.

This coming weekend, the birthday celebration for Janice continues with a visit by her family and the Bay Colony Dog Show in Boston. We're also planning to meet some of the local gamers to screen the adaptation of The Golden Compass. Have a good one!