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Opportunity Assassins: State of Affairs

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I know many of you are wondering "What the hell happened to the geniuses over at Opportunity Assassins?" The others among you aren't wondering what's happening, because what's a procrastinator without procrastination. Well, wonder no more.

The Opportunity Assassins haven't necessarily taken a leave of absence, but we've been toiling behind the scenes to bring you far more worthy content instead of half assing our posts and generally being bored by repetition. We love the format of our Lazy Ass Reviews and the ratings from our Opportunity Assassins Album Reviews have been nothing short of magical, but the real world schedules of the two of us have left little time for attacking the items on our plan sheets.

So what do we have up our sleeves? Well, first off is a revamp of the Opportunity Assassins blog. While many love the look of things here (especially the large image in the background), general readability can be vastly improved. Second, instead of having a set posting schedule, we'll be far more sporadic and only post when the mood strikes or the creative juices are flowing. Third, we'll be introducing some newer and better content. We here at the Opportunity Assassins have a good amount of ideas beyond the video and audio based entertainment industries. I have a general affinity for technology while Pete has a thirst for most if not all things sports. On top of this, we both have plenty of reasons to rant about any and all things but no place to put such rants. Opportunity Assassins will be the perfect home for these until we can find the time and resources to create the website we've been after from the start.

Anyway, that's it for now. Stay tuned...there's much more to come.

Lazy Ass Reviews: Trouble with the Curve (2012)

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Trouble with the Curve (2012)
A movie starring the epitome of the crazy old coot, Clint Eastwood (this time not talking to empty chairs), surprisingly good actor Justin Timberlake and red headed hotty (not to mention busy gal) Amy Adams, "Trouble with the Curve" takes a look into the life of the only MLB scout not using computers (and the only person with vision problems not smoking the reefer). This story could be said to be about baseball, but that's just a ruse for the world's collective girlfriends to get their boyfriends off the couch during MLB playoffs and see a semi-sappy movie with them. Have no doubt that this is actually a love story between a distanced father and daughter and an workaholic and walled up woman succumbing to the wily charms of a young heart throb - but guys, it's worth scoring a few points with your lady friends (plus you won't hate it).

OAAR: Drowning Pool - Sinner (2001)

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Back in the early 2000's (or as some would say, the aughts), a small band came out of nowhere in much the same way that many otherwise unknown acts came around - movie soundtracks. Drowning Pool was one of those bands. The first single off their debut album, Sinner, showed up in the trailer for the Vin Diesel version of Mission Impossible or James Bond flick for the new "Xtreme" generation, XXX (pronounced Triple X). This first single was a song that would go on to pollute every remotely action oriented movie, but would also launch the careers of friends of Pantera greats Dimebag Darrell (RIP) and Vinnie Paul into the stratosphere with Drowning Pool playing the second stage of 2001's Ozzfest (the first Ozzfest of my storied concert-going history). Shortly after the end of Ozzfest (and only months after Pete and I saw them) and during the beginning of what could have been a fantastic career, a heart defect would claim the life of front man Dave Williams (RIP). So with this in mind, the Opportunity Assassins bring you the only Drowning Pool album featuring the original lineup, Sinner.

The album opens fairly strongly with the title track, "Sinner." We get our first look at what Drowning Pool will be like and to be quite fair, quite a bit of what you'll hear for the rest of the album. This isn't to say that this album is bad, it's just pretty much middle of the road. It's actually unfortunate that "Sinner" is followed up by the aforementioned single, "Bodies," a toxic waste dump of a song that for whatever reason became so insanely popular that you still hear it to this day when someone's beating the shit out of someone. Now that over 10 years have passed I feel comfortable enough to say it once again..."Bodies" is probably one of the top 10 most pervasive shitstorms of a song of all time. Luckily for "Bodies" enough time has passed that I can feel comfortable giving it a 1, simply because it wasn't written or performed by LMFAO.

On the upside, the best song of the album, "Tear Away" washes out all the hurt caused by the previous track.  Williams does a lot of interesting things with either his voice or with the effects throughout the rest of the album, but musically, there's not all that much variation from song to song. The last quality track on the album is "Sermon," not surprisingly, also the second longest track after "Tear Away" and also the second most interesting. It's one of the few tracks that doesn't just go verse, chorus, verse, chorus and actually drops some changes of tempo and tone enough to keep you with it. Also, "Sermon" ends with some foreshadowing of a later Saliva single (and PS3 advert) plus some backwards stuff. Back when Sinner first came out, I actually grabbed down the end of "Sermon" and dropped it in a program to play it backwards and find out what Dave Williams says. Turns out it's "Tell me what you believe." I'll be damned.
Author: Jake

Drowning Pool is one of many turn of the century nĂ¼-metal bands that, a decade from now, will probably fade into obscurity.  Often, this is a result of lacking either the skill or the cojones to experiment with a sound, which, coincidentally, is something we here at Opportunity Assassins regularly rip into bands for.  But you can get an "A" for effort from us even if the experiment fails.  Sadly, Sinner is a foreshadowing of a band spitting out the same song eleven times on an album, so in anticipation of hearing the same shit over and over again we have both given this album an F (see sidebar).

Sinner is not without catchy riffs, solid hooks, and a couple ("Sinner" and "Tear Away") playlist-worthy songs.  But, much like Jake, having lived through the album's release I am unable to wash away the stink of "Bodies", which somehow became a cliche before it became popular, and went on (along with Papa Roach's "Last Resort") to infiltrate every high school hillbilly jock's playlist.  When you're one of two 3 minute breaks from a solid life of country music, you've already sort of abandoned the heavy metal community you sought acceptance from.  I don't begrudge the guys in Drowning Pool their royalty money from the song, which hit it big as a soundtrack offering upon release, but taken in context it's a huge disappointment.  Other up and coming bands (think Mudvayne's "Dig", or Seether's "Gasoline") actually released good songs before they got all gimmicky, which has earned them much more leeway on the music front.  I had a hard time rating this album, because I heard it so many times as a teenager that I know the words to basically all the songs, and in fairness the scores should be lower, but I felt like doing so would tear out a part of my history (and I own a ton of AC/DC albums, and all they do is make the same song over and over again, but at least their songs are good).  Regardless, if you've never heard this album, you're missing nothing at all.  And if you're going to try and defend "Bodies", remember this, it's a sonic abortion and I'm pro-choice.
Author: Pete

Lazy Ass Reviews: End of Watch (2012)

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End of Watch (2012)
Not just another cop movie, and the inside look in End of Watch is far different and more intense than Training Day.  It's very real and intense a la The Wire, but is much more about emotion than political commentary.  You could take a date to this movie, but it might get awkward, and I guarantee you'll be able to enjoy it solo too.

Cable-pocalypse: CBS

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It probably is an initial shock when looking at the OA Channel Rankings to see the bottom three rounded out by three of the major basic cable networks.  Let's be clear: they have much bigger shoes to fill.  If we looked based on an average programming rating for 24/7, stations like USA and TNT would move even higher in the rankings as they are able to cherry pick great dramas like House or Bones into their regular lineup.  Also remember that these rankings are composites of both my preferences and Jake's, and I'm fairly certain that helped bring CBS down a notch, but whatever.  Anyway, let's take a quick gander through the highs and lows of America's (supposedly) most-watched network.

Depending entirely on personal preference, CBS's comedy flagship is either How I Met Your Mother or The Big Bang Theory.  Personally, it's the latter, as I find all of the Big Bang characters to be great, while How I Met Your Mother relies a bit too heavily on Neil Patrick Harris's Barney Stinson. I tried 2 Broke Girls last year, but it's a collection of one-liners that's mashed together for 22 minutes every Monday and that's about it.  Whitney Cummings is a creator, and her humor is stamped all over this, but it's executed far more poorly than her own show (Whitney, NBC), and that's saying something.  Mike & Molly is evidence that CBS is far and away more willing to aim outside traditional success paradigms, as this is essentially a plus-sized comedy, and although I've only seen one episode, it was enjoyable.  Rules of Engagement has a few funny moments, but I think it's kept afloat by two-way lead-in viewers, and Two and A Half Men hasn't been the same since Charlie Sheen left (duh) (#notwinning).  Partners, the lone comedy premiere on CBS for this fall has made my short list of new shows, but only out of allegiance to David Krumholz, who was great as Charlie Eppes on Numb3rs.

I gave Blue Bloods a little more than two seasons of my attention, and while it does reach an impressively wide demographic (thanks to it starring both Donnie Wahlberg and Tom Selleck), it was falsely advertised as a conspiracy drama in its inception but instead is overly heavy handed with moralizing subplots and Sunday dinners.  I am now, however, planted firmly in the camp of "Tom Brady left Bridget Moynahan for Gisele?  What a dumbass."  Bridget, if you ever read this, call me.  (Also Tom, if you ever read this, you can call me too.  We can share hairstyle tips and talk about how awesome we are, and maybe even have a catch.)
With David Caruso and CSI:Miami getting the axe that leaves just the original and CSI:NY.  Also returning is the NCIS pairing (original and :Los Angeles), which, like the CSI pairing, are very watchable procedurals but hardly the best shows on the network, let alone TV. The last two seasons CBS has turned away from procedurals, but remains steadfast with the darkest show on network TV, Criminal Minds.  I'm intrigued by this show, and have enjoyed the episodes I've seen enough to consider catching up and adding it to my watch list, even though I think FBI profiling is bullcrap.
Among the other strong dramatic standouts are The Good Wife, Hawaii Five-O, The Mentalist, and my personal favorite new show from last year, Person of Interest.  Of the three new dramas the network is offering up this fall, I have no desire to see Made In Jersey, but have already programmed Elementary and Vegas into my TiVo.  Sherlock Holmes and Batman are my two favorite characters of all time, so Elementary is a shoe-in for my viewership and I will probably be unable to be rational about the show until well after the first season is over.  As for Vegas, it is a monumental moment, as I have reneged on my vow to never willingly watch anything with Dennis Quaid in it ever again.  If he lets me down for the 385th consecutive time (The Day After Tomorrow counted for at least 250) I will not be responsible for the ensuing violence.

CBS launched all of this reality garbage with Survivor over a decade ago, and I still haven't watched an episode (although I do hope Jeff Kent gets bit by a snake or something, that asshole).  Big Brother and The Amazing Race have very loyal followings, and that's important because neither will pull down the numbers of an American Idol.  At least CBS has pretty much avoided singing talent competitions, although they have a show called 3, that looks to be a poor adaptation of the dating reality shows.  As for "scripted" reality TV, there's the animal-friendly Dogs in the City, as well as the class conflict based weekly restore-your-faith-in-humanity tearjerker Undercover Boss.

CBS has anchored its talk show timeslots with David Letterman since I was born, and while I understand the merit and quality of his show, I'm beginning to truly feel that these preferences are very much generational (I personally am an unwavering Jimmy Kimmel apologist).  The Late Late Show, once manned by top five "Where is he now?" personality Craig Kilborn is now hosted by Craig Ferguson (Mr. Wick of The Drew Carey Show fame).  Ferguson is funny, but he is rarely appointment television and, in fact, might just be insane.

When CBS cut their contract with Gus Johnson, I was ready to riot, but then he got the FOX job.  CBS's coverage of the NFL is much better than their competitors, even if their eternally grainy standard definition signal is so burned into my corneas that I can't watch the games in HD without hallucinating static and color spots.  Their newly combined promotion (with TNT, TBS, and TruTV) and coverage of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament solidifies the network's place atop the sports coverage ratings in my eyes, as they have done a masterful job providing viewers with a chance to witness every game – if you have enough TVs – of the most exciting four day's in sports: the tournament's opening weekend.  The largest blemish on their resume is the fact that my cable provider (Time Warner Cocksucker Cable Company) wants to charge me $5.95 to receive the satellite station CBS Sports in an upgraded sports tier.

While some Soaps are dying (All My Children), CBS is still holding strong with both The Bold and the Beautiful and The Young and the Restless, even though the OnDemand features and strong scripted shows on cable channels are simultaneously shrinking and obliterating the appointment television demographic.  CBS still provides a number of game shows that were a major portion of my kindergarten-5th grade viewing experience, and although I don't watch regularly, every now and then I'll be surfing through the channels and stop on The Price is Right or Jeopardy! or Wheel of Fortune.

Again (and forever) I don't watch the news, but CBS's specialized news programming – 60 Minutes and 48 Hours – make up two-thirds of the staples from my youth (the other being ABC's 20/20).

Overall CBS does the best to reach the largest demographic of the four major networks, varying their types of programming and avoiding niche with their comedies and their dramas.  Why, then, you ask, is CBS currently rated at 9 on the Opportunity Assassins' Cable-pocalypse rating chart?  Part of it is precisely that the station reaches the largest demographic of the four major networks.  When that is the case, I'm far less likely to ever start watching certain shows (The David Letterman Show) and more likely to end my relationship with others (Blue Bloods).  In the months to come, with a more in depth look at each station's programming, I predict and upward trend for the eye.  To CBS's credit, their schedule features more truly scripted primetime television than the other three majors, and that fact will be even more beneficial for the network if their fall premieres are as strong as they look to be.  But only time, and Dennis Quaid, can truly tell.

OAAR: Audioslave - Revelations (2006)

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If there's nothing else I love about these Opportunity Assassins Album Reviews, it's the opportunity to get around to albums I haven't had the chance to hear yet. In true Opportunity Assassins form, Audioslave's third and final album, Revelations, has been an album I just haven't had the chance to get around to until tonight. So while I'm sure I've heard at least a couple singles from this album, the entire experience is new to me. So let's get down to wrapping up Audioslave, shall we?

Revelations stars off with what would appear to be an Audioslave standard with pretty straightforward title track, "Revelations." Sure, it's a decent way to start out the third album by leading with the firmed up Audioslave song, but it just doesn't really get me into the album. We'll leave that job to "One and the Same," a great track featuring solid vocals and a great classic Tom Morello guitar solo complete with fun effects. "Sound of a Gun" keeps things going with a solid heavy sound and simple guitar riffs that make the third track actually quite catchy. While Audioslave pulls back and delivers a somewhat mediocre effort with "Until We Fall," they quickly turn it right back around with "Original Fire," a song that I'm sure will one day be considered a great example of what Audioslave rock was all about.

The middle part of Revelations is a pretty strong showing of some great Audioslave chemistry from "Broken City" to "Wide Awake." While none of these tracks in particular really stands out head and shoulders above the rest, the funky jam of "Somedays" is probably sitting out on the highest peak in that particular range. After coming down a bit in the middle, the last two songs provide a really nice bookend to the Audioslave experiment that lasted about four years in total. "Nothing Left to Say But Goodbye," while not exactly the greatest song title for the second to last track brings us quite well into the finale, "Moth," which reminds us just what kind of song writing abilities the band has. Oddly enough, though, they decided to fade out on the last track which just doesn't quite give the satisfaction of completion that I was looking for. Oh well, though. They can always get back together down the road, right?
Author: Jake

Audioslave's final album, Revelations, provides some mixed reaction as it showcases both intricate songwriting and what are easily the best lyrics that Cornell produced within the group.  There is no better example of this than the album's first single, "Original Fire", which is a horrible song that is saved from a 2 or worse rating by the refrain – "The original fire has died and gone, but the riot inside moves on" – which is a metaphor that plays out very strongly throughout the album, the band's history, and probably even connects with each listener in a very specific way.  In essence, "Original Fire" is the exact opposite of Out of Exile's "Be Yourself". 

Another solid lyrical offering is the album's penultimate track "Nothing Left To Say But Goodbye", which offers the sorrowful observation:

"Just like a rescue of a stray dog in the rain I was hungry when you found me
And you can tell by my tail and my ribcage what was once around me"Politics begin to creep in through the Hurricane Katrina-inspired "Wide Awake", but surprisingly the song as a whole delivers so well I was unable to mark it down for that, while the heavy jam "Broken City" is full of cool dystopian lyrics, not the least of which is "...no one cares about climbin' stairs, nothin' at the top no more".

For all the good lyrics and varied riffs that weave an enjoyable picture, Revelations is ultimately just okay, and thus ultimately forgettable.  While filled with metaphors both simple and deep, the album is unable to escape the metaphor (perhaps for the band itself?) that its opening and title track, "Revelations", is by far the best song on the album, and all the others are simply marking time until the end.  In Cornell's own words, "I know what I know why don't you fill in the rest?"
Author:  Pete

OAAR: Led Zeppelin - Houses of the Holy (1973)

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Led Zeppelin's fifth studio album, Houses of the Holy is the first non-numbered album (depending what you call Led Zeppelin IV). So far we've come to expect nothing but classic tune after classic tune from our boys from across the pond so I have to say, after looking at the track list and for being the first time listening to this album, I'm interested to see what Led Zeppelin will bring to the party for the fifth outing - whether it's more of the same or more of an experimental good time.

Opening up Houses of the Holy is the song "The Song Remains the Same," which is a title that doesn't quite capture the more instrumental heavy first track with a bit of vocals spread in for good measure. I love Page's guitar riffs John Paul Jones' prominent bass lines which, on their own, get the opening track a score of 4, but without more subdued vocal track from Plant, I just can't give it a perfect 5. After a more subdued but musically superb second track where the production quality really stands out, we're welcomed by our first classic tune from the fifth compilation of tracks, "Over the Hills and Far Away." I love Jimmy Page's clean strumming guitar over a shining example of great bass playing leading into Plant's vocals. The solo, to no one's surprise, is a fun dual guitar riffing good time. Everything from the first note to the last chord is a masterpiece. Of course, the first half of the album wouldn't be complete without the funky bass lines and swinging time signatures found in "The Crunge." Going into this album, I was thinking what an odd name for a song that was, but now that I've heard it, I now completely understand. Where is that confounded bridge anyway?

Leading off the second half of Houses is the recognizable riff, but overall less well known track, "Dancing Days." Another great new tune with a bit of a Hawaiian flare and featuring Plant's fantastic vocal acumen is difficult to correctly pronounce by just looking at the title, "D'yer Mak'er," which I have no clue what that means. Regardless, it's another recognizable Zeppelin song and as some of the Brits would say, a stonking good time. Probably the most surprising (pleasantly so) addition is the almost instrumental "No Quarter," adding synthesized keys and some piano along with a good amount of distorted guitar. It's an auditory pleasure or, as Kevin Smith (Silent Bob) would say, an Ear-gasm (Pete calls it an Aur-gasm). Closing out the album is the equally enjoyable "The Ocean." All in all, I didn't think I would like any albums better than Led Zeppelin IV, but I have to say, Houses of the Holy is quite the enjoyable experience and takes over as the top album reviewed so far.
Author: Jake

It's obvious very early on in Houses of the Holy that Zeppelin are both willing to experiment with their songwriting and that their experiments are successes.  (As we will see down the road, however, even for Zeppelin this doesn't last.)  The songs on Houses of the Holy can fit into two basic categories: traditional rock'n'roll song, and everything else.  The traditional songs, ("The Song Remains The Same", "The Rain Song", "Dancing Days", and "The Ocean") are strong offerings, but not phenomenal.  I was especially disappointed with the album's only true ballad "Rain Song", which pales in comparative quality to "Tangerine" (LZIII) or even "Going To California (LZIV/Zoso).

As for the 'everything else' songs, "No Quarter" is the rare instance of a song that is good, but is out-shined entirely by an inspired cover, in this case by prog-metal deities TOOL.  "Over The Hills And Far Away" could perhaps be considered traditional in its sound, but the number of distinct themes spread over the five minutes have me put it in the "other" category.  Along with "Bring It On Home", "Hills" is a rather hidden Zeppelin gem that sits firmly in my top rotation from now until eternity.  The weird, zydeco-reggae-slow-jam that is "D'yer Mak'er" is easily the most unique song on the album, and a second listen through makes me wonder why I didn't give it a 5, while "The Crunge" is unique in a kind of unsettling way, as Robert Plant channels his inner performance artist to – as far as I can tell – complain about a bridge.

Overall, Houses of the Holy has the great feature that it is just as good listening straight through as it is skipping around or taking in only a song or two at a time.  Variety and solid songwriting, along with some very memorable melodies and, quite simply, some memorable sounds, made for an enjoyable return listen, and many of the songs will see a bump in my iTunes playlist going forward.
Author: Pete

OAAR: Audioslave - Out of Exile (2005)

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I was such a big fan of the first Audioslave album that I'm actually surprised I never picked up the second or third iterations of Audioslave tune collections. So this is actually the first time I've heard Out of Exile in its entirety. Of course, since I listen to enough rock, I've heard the four singles off Out of Exile but the rest of the album will be a mystery.

Opening up the album is "Your Time Has Come," a solid rock track, with a bit of Tom Morello thrown in for good measure, but compared to how Audioslave opened, the sophomore album from Audioslave more or less eases you into the music as opposed to slapping you in the face with an auditory sledge hammer. What starts becoming apparent once you hit "Be Yourself" and "Dosen't Remind Me" is that fact that while we still have Chris Cornell and Tom Morello, we have less of their wholly independent musical identities and more of a meld between the two artists leaving us with the more pure Rock & Roll experience. It's also no wonder that the first four tracks of Out of Exile were the four singles released from the album because of their more mainstream appeal.

A weird thing seems to happen around the middle of the album though. You know when you come to a stop behind another car at the lights, then the lights turn green and you and the car in front of you accelerates but you're accelerating a bit faster so you have to completely pull your foot off the gas while the car in front picks up speed and gets to a point where you can speed up again? That jarring moment when your car's clutch kicks in perfectly describes how the three track set of "Drown Me Slowly," "Heaven's Dead" and "The Worm" feels to me. Sure, you can count on Audioslave to bring their talent to all of these tracks, but through "Man or Animal," there wasn't a single moment that made me say "Wow." Overall while Out of Exile isn't a bad album, it's pretty forgetful for the most part. I'm not really sure what happened between the first two albums, but it just doesn't have the punch that the first one did. There really isn't much else to say.
Author: Jake

Out of Exile is a near perfectly crafted follow up to the band's 2002 self-title debut – at least as far as my criticism of that album is concerned.  The opening track, "Your Time Has Come", is hauntingly reminiscent of the whole of Audioslave in its construction and at first made me wonder whether this album too would be an hour of wonderful aural stasis, but stasis nonetheless.  Then the album's title track kicked in and all my worries were washed away in uptempo rock and doubled and harmonized vocal lines.  Out of Exile, much like its predecessor, is full of strong songwriting, but it is far more varied in individual song stylings, which nets it a high experience score while keeping the album's overall score a bit lower.  It is evident by the midway point that what we're being treated to is truly the sophomore effort of Audioslave, and not just a second run at a supergroup album, and that's a very enjoyable reality.

While the flow from uptempo rock to ballads and back is more traditional, the album's two most popular songs, "Be Yourself" and "Doesn't Remind Me", provide a unique pairing early in the album.  "Be Yourself", which was the album's first single, is a terrible song.  Its positive refrain of "to be yourself is all that you can do" seems like it should be the slogan for one of the new anti-bullying campaigns that are all the rage now in America.  The lyric comes across as forced and phony and fails to acknowledge anything about the real world; it's place more at home in a G.I. Joe cartoon than on a rock album.  And, like all cheesy, crappy lyrics, the band has decided it is the only line of the refrain, so you're forced to listen to it over and over again.  In contrast, the anti-nostalgia of "Doesn't Remind Me" is refreshing, and the lyrics may be the best Cornell has written for an Audioslave song.  The whole premise of the song – that Cornell is looking to enjoy things for which he has no historical memory or nostalgia; in essence, to experience something truly new – is fascinating to me personally, and the song is crafted and executed extremely well.  It's easily the only 5 on the album, and I might have tried to get away with giving it a 7 were it not for the fact that it has to pull the listening audience up from the four and a half minutes of landfill that "Be Yourself" is.  If you take nothing else away from this review, get "Doesn't Remind Me" on your iPod, pronto.
Author: Pete

Lazy Ass Reviews: Lawless (2012)

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Tom Hardy is the man (obviously), and he's great in this particular role as bootlegger Forrest Bonderant.  Ever since the release of The Dark Knight, there seems to have been an uptick in taking unique villains seriously, and Guy Pearce does an exceptional job as the eccentric (dare we say flamboyant?) Special Deputy Charlie Rakes.  Characters are important in this movie, especially because the plot is a bit thin, but the movie is extremely enjoyable and worth your time and money, even if you just hit a budget theater in a couple weeks.

Lazy Ass Reviews: The Apparition (2012)

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I keep going to horror movies and expecting them to have some redeeming qualities.  Much to no one's surprise, this movie has none.  A bad plot is poorly executed, bad dialog is poorly delivered, and a refund is your only thought as soon as the opening credits hit.  Ashley Greene looks good; in fact the actual "apparition" should be her legs, which have a prominent role in the early minutes of the movie.  But after the first "tense" scene (in which Greene is wearing panties that are probably, thankfully, a size too small) the "seriousness" gets amped up and the clothes stay on.  Don't waste your time, and especially don't waste your money.

White Hot Anticipation: Borderlands 2

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We here at Opportunity Assassins have mainly focused on Movies, Music, and TV so far. We haven't yet really spent much time on the number one procrastination tool, Video Games, so today we're introducing our new segment called "White Hot Anticipation." The purpose of White Hot Anticipation will be to look forward to games that are coming out soon. These games may be new properties, sequels or otherwise but the one key will be that the games we'll look at are games we'll actually buy new right around release time (like idiots) instead of waiting until the inevitable Game of the Year edition is released (like smart people). The first will look at one of the best games I've played in recent history returning with a vengeance for a second round, Borderlands 2

For those of you out there who are not familiar with Borderlands, the game is a first person shooter based RPG more or less. There are a few key features that made Borderlands stand out: the bazillions of different guns, the hilariously creative characters, the cell shaded art style and the open map all made Borderlands a unique experience. On top of that, the RPG elements weren't too much of a pain in the ass. Of course there were the classic "I need a bunch of this shit, so go get it for me" type quests, but if you stuck with it the whole way through, you didn't need to go "grind" it out (just killing a bunch of random monsters to level up) in order to take down the next boss. Rather than telling you all about the kinds of humor and animation found in the game, why don't I just show you one of the "Making Of" clips starring the best character in the game, Claptrap.

This character is so beloved by fans of the game that the great folks over at Gearbox have provided videos for marriage proposals and even a heartfelt memorial to a big Borderlands Fan. See them both in order below.

She said yes, by the way (watch it here).

In addition to the Eulogy, Gearbox has promised to add a new NPC in Borderlands 2 called "Mamaril" in honor of Michael. I've never seen such commitment from a developer to their fans and they are, indeed, a class act over at Gearbox.

This brings us to Borderlands 2, the extremely ambitious sequel to an already ambitious initial offering of Borderlands. No doubt, if you were watching the NFL on FOX during week 1 you saw a live action commercial promoting Borderlands 2 plus a little thing with Claptrap and the FOX NFL robot Cleatus. What has me really excited for Borderlands 2, though, are all the new character classes they're bringing. For the first time in these types of games, I actually want to play all of the different character classes: the dual wielding Gunzerker named Salvador, stealth killer Assassin named Zero, magic wielding Siren named Maya and gun turret champion Commando named Axton. Not only those four, but Gearbox is adding a fifth character class, whose "pets" are big robots , the Mechromancer named Gaige. The mechromancer class will be available on October 10 for $10 or is free to those who preorder. Each character is insanely unique and with the new level up system Gearbox added to Borderlands 2, it'll be worth playing through with each character.

In addition to the new character classes, Gearbox has upgraded pretty much everything about the game. They've added more possible weapon combinations, including the grenades, and more variety of enemies. In Borderlands, the landscapes weren't all that varying so it's awesome to see that they've added some additional awesome locals. And, of course, Claptrap is back in the sequel. What I'm looking forward to the most is the story and how the Gearbox team will bring the humor and feeling of the first iteration back to the sequel. Everything I've seen so far points to it being as good as, if not better than, the original Borderlands. But that's enough jabbering from me. Why don't I just let Sir Hammerlock tell you all about the wonderful world of Borderlands 2.

Borderlands 2 comes out on Tuesday, September 18. You can find me in then out in Pandora under PSN ID: VladDracul1431.

Cable-pocalypse: NBC

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We start our Cable-pocalypse ratings rants with NBC, a station that pulls down only 1 of the insane 26 television programs that I currently watch on a regular basis (Whitney).  I've flirted with NBC before, though.  In fact, it was the success of the first season of Heroes, that wonderfully conceived, horrifically executed semi-drama, that got me back into watching a lot of scripted TV.  NBC's track record is shaky at best with dramas, however.  Last Fall's Awake was a really intriguing concept that was axed mid-season and ended in the most cliched way possible, souring me simultaneously to the network and to the show's creators, because I couldn't figure out who had a bigger hand in the awful end.  Fellow Opportunity Assassin Jake was a huge fan of Chuck, and although I've never seen an episode I imagine that the show tapped into a niche group that is still wandering in the television ether, not fully content to change the channel to SyFy nor to USA.  And at the core, I think their poor grasp of demographic aim is what fails NBC the most.

An insane amount of NBC's time is dedicated to its comedic shows.  30 Rock, Animal Practice, Betty White's Off Their Rockers, Community, Go On, The Office, Parenthood, Parks and Recreation, Saturday Night Live, Up All Night, and Whitney are comedies that currently occupy programming slots for the network.  Add in this fall's Guys with Kids, and The New Normal and that means a full third of NBC programs are comedies.  When you step back and take stock of these thirteen shows you see that they only aim for a single niche within the comedy audience.  Perhaps best described as the quirky, off-beat comedies that could be arguably loosely based on the original The Office and will be fervently consumed by Arrested Development fans, too much of this block of programming is hit or miss.  Parenthood skates by as a "dramedy", and Go On and Guys With Kids appear to be more traditional sitcoms and that does not bode well for either on NBC.
Saturday Night Live is at a crossroads.  The show's apex in the early '90s will never be topped and it's foolish for us to imagine that possibility, but the heavy political direction of the show in recent years (remember all those politics-themed special half hours?) are edging the SNL crew dangerously close to Daily Show/Colbert Report territory.  And the minds that bring you SNL weekly are more pure comedians and less the expert satirists who work on The Daily Show.
I know, even as I watch the episodes, that Whitney is a mediocre show that fails more often than not, but I enjoy Chris D'Elia and Whitney Cummings both, and were they ever to transition this show to a network and time where they could be a little more free with their subject matter (and maybe get some better writers) it could survive.  Survival is unlikely, however, as the condition of the show has gone terminal.  A dreaded move to Fridays at 8 coupled with the even more dreaded mid-season premiere (Oct. 19) for a returning poor performer likely spells the end for this so-so 3.8% of my TV viewing schedule.

For far too many years, NBC has staked an unsafe portion of their dramas with the various Law & Order procedurals.  They've finally whittled it down to only one, but have done a poor job of replacing it.  Smash, as I've written earlier, is a phenomenally executed concept that provides the network with a chance to make an impact play on Monday nights now that House has pulled the plug.  In the same vein, the surprisingly well-received Grimm may draw viewers who are looking to find a stable replacement for another soon-ending FOX drama, Fringe.  The fall additions are once again luring me back in, as the blackout-aftermath Revolution is the latest J.J. Abrams project to hit TV, and Chicago Fire will get my eyes for at least two episodes simply because Dr. Chase from House is in it.
Depending upon how old you are, dear reader, you might consider Parenthood more on the drama side of 'dramedy' and, bingo, there's your problem.  Saving Hope's problem is that it sounds just like FOX's (detecting a theme yet?) Raising Hope, which is a comedy, not a drama, and way funnier.  Okay, actually the problem with Saving Hope is that I had no fucking idea what it was about until I clicked on it in NBC's show list.

I begin with the full disclaimer that I never watch either of these kind of shows because they're absolute garbage.  That said, it makes a lot of sense to have a few on hand to draw in the lemmings and buoy ratings.  (Or, if you're FOX, keep your schedule alive on the cheap while you cancel all the actual good scripted programming.)
Let's be honest, The Voice should pay royalties to Susan Boyle, because it's a show about how you don't have to "look good" to be a good singer.  HOLY SHIT I HAD NO IDEA.  Appropriately, one of the judges is midget Cee-Lo Green, while the other three people are attractive.  Anyway, this is not some performance-over-appearance TV show, because once the judges see you they're biased (probably).  If NBC really wanted to revolutionize the singing competition, they'd keep all the contestants behind screens for the duration of the show and give them fake names.  Do you know how much internet buzz that would create?  As for America's Got Talent, at least they let you show off doing something other than singing or dancing...although I've never watched an episode so I don't know if that actually happens.
Stars Earn Stripes was obviously conceived by someone looking to exploit patriotism and troop appreciation (and get Dean Cain back on TV), and whoever that was should be immediately turned into an IED.  Not to be outdone, NBC is somehow on a second season of a show called American Ninja Warrior, and when I clicked on this link I got really confused, and then sad, trying to figure out what it was, so you should probably only view it as punishment for a seriously original sin.  Speaking of original sins, Love in the Wild, anyone?
Fashion Star is either a spin-off of Project Runway or a secret social experiment to see if there's any time I would not sleep with Jessica Simpson (hint: yes, on this show).  I think the fact that the Celebrity Apprentice money goes to charity is cool, and when Adam Carolla was on I almost watched it.  I say almost because it was more exciting listening to him talk about it on his podcast than it would have been to actually watch the show.
The show I have the biggest issue with, however, is Biggest Loser.  Now, the premise is great.  As someone who struggles routinely to counter his fatass tendencies, I know that sometimes you just need a serious kick in the ass to change your ways, and man-boobing my television is an embarrassment on that level.  I once had a roommate who cried regularly during this show, and I couldn't understand why.  She said something about being happy for them or whatever (not really sure, I was probably mesmerized - not in the good way - by another topless weigh-in).  But my point has always been this: If I was morbidly obese, say 500 pounds, and I went on a show where they basically told me that they were going to shame me into losing weight, and that the result would be that I lived a longer, better life and they were footing the bill, it would be really fucking difficult not to succeed.  What I would like to see is Biggest Loser:10 Years Later and see how many people who lost over half their bodyweight have put 50 pounds back on.  I'm not saying the show isn't positive for some, maybe even most, of the contestants.  What I'm saying is the spectacle of self-congratulation that people take from watching this show is sickening.  It's like The Hunger Games, or The Running Man but in real life, shilled as captivating prime-time television.  Oh the humanity.

After the great Conan Debacle of 2011, Jay Leno is back hosting The Tonight Show.  I rarely tune to any talk show, but he and Letterman still land the biggest guests per capita so they usually get my eyes every once in a while.  Leno sadly might be the only place NBC is able to pull in the senior citizen demo, which, in fairness, is horribly underrepresented on all networks.  I haven't watched Carson Daly do anything since he was playing 43 seconds of each music video that a bunch of nubile teenagers "voted" on.  I also don't watch Jimmy Fallon, because I personally don't think him that funny.  He definitely has a fitting personality for talk shows, however, and hopefully people that really enjoy this genre tune in to him or Jimmy Kimmel (by far the best host on TV) instead of Conan, because....UNPOPULAR OPINION ALERT...Conan O'Brien isn't funny.  Like at all.  Weird how that turned out to be the shrewdest move NBC has made in years.

To be honest, NBC's sports coverage is pretty good.  Sunday Night Football and its lead-in, Football Night in America, are both great shows if you take a bathroom break when Peter King is on and have the mute button handy depending on how blowhard Costas is being on a given day.  NBC would get huge points for not overexerting themselves and excelling at one show if they hadn't summarily tanked their coverage of the London Olympics.  Sadly, I don't see them growing their sports coverage much (it was pulling teeth just to get the Stanley Cup Finals onto network TV) and that means that my dear Michelle Beadle has gone on to a network that will hide her much more than they should.  Hope they paid you well, Beads.

I'm not even sure who hosts Today because I don't get up before noon, but they probably get paid too much to do it, and the show lost any hope of my viewership when I saw on the webiste that they were boasting a live performance by Train.  At least the flesh-eating virus girl got top billing and Days of Our Lives is still kicking.

I don't watch any news save Sportscenter, but Dateline rings a bell with me and Rock Center with Brian Williams seems to be what John Stossel wishes he could have been but cooler, so I'm down with that even though I'll never watch.

Overall, NBC appears to be the network of "good enough".  They have a few genre and demographic niches that they pull in with stunning regularity, but unlike the cable stations (primarily AMC, FX, and USA) they are loathe to experiment in any serious way.  It seems as though they are waiting for a weakness to be exposed with one of the other rival major networks and jump at it, but I don't see that happening any time soon.  NBC's most unique characteristic – and the one that may just pull it out of the cellar one day – is how often their scripted TV features elements of fantasy or supernatural literature writing (i.e. Grimm or Revolution).  But try as they might, stations like FOX (Fringe) and ABC (Once Upon A Time) seem to hit home runs effortlessly while NBC is endlessly striking out.  With the last season of comedy flagship The Office set to premiere (amidst steady ratings drops the past three years), it could be a long Fall/Winter for the peacock.

You Must Watch This: The Newsroom (Ep 9-10)

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I realize that by now, the first season of The Newsroom has been wrapped up for about 2-3 weeks, so sue me (please don't), but with all the greatness we've been bringing you here at Opportunity Assassins, I figured it was ok to delay this because hey, I run this joint. So let's get on with putting a lid on the first season of The Newsroom and wrapping up the first series of "You Must Watch This."

Episode 9: The Blackout: Part II
Last we left the crew, the gang was pre-taping an interview with some bimbo about Anthony Wiener's wiener when the lights went out in the entire building. So when Will asks what they do if the power doesn't come on by showtime, Mac has her moment to rally the troops with her own version of the "Braveheart" speech (FREEEEEEEEEDOM!) when, in another fantastic moment of comedic timing right as she's wrapping up her speech...the lights come back on and Mac screams "Son of a Bitch!" Thankfully, the internet has provided us with this moment, so you can relive it (or live it for the first time if you still haven't seen this show.)

See? Genius.
The character focus in this episode is the relationship square dance between Jim, Lisa (Maggie's roomate, played by Kelen Coleman), Maggie and Don. I'm not so thrilled with the will they/won't they of this story because we all know they eventually will. On the upside, once again we're seeing the teeth on Sloan (Olivia Munn) as she continues to try to get the importance of the Debt Ceiling debates up above the prattle of the Casey Anthony/Anthony Wiener "stories." All the while, Sampat is trying to get the story on internet trolls by dragging Sloan's name through the mud on an economic message board. As a result, we get to see some more of the really great day/night transformations of Sloan's character when she goes from "awwe" to yelling at Sampat. The best part of the episode was finally seeing the reveal of what they all have been working for in a debate format. I, for one, would love to see the debates run that way instead of the kid gloves that our candidates are treated with on most occasions. Anyway, the episode ends with Sampat goading the person who made the death threat on McAvoy setting up the last episode of the first season.

Episode 10: The Greater Fool (Season Finale)
The finale starts off seemingly right where we left off, except we're now two months after the end of Ep. 9 after the article on McAvoy is printed in New York magazine. Will is discovered passed out in his bathroom after combining too many anti-depressants mixed with bourbon and painkillers. This lands him in the hospital where he threatens not to return to the show. In the mean time, we're still coming toward a resolution on the getting Will fired arc set up in Episode 3. We've got the NSA insider set up during the bin Laden episode who has evidence against ACN's parent company but isn't a credible witness due to his past indiscretions. Of course, nothing is ever easy as the screw is turned even further when it turns out that the NSA insider commits suicide later. It turns out, though, before he did he sent a message to Skinner dropping one of the last puzzle pieces in place. This motivates Skinner to go to McAvoy and bring him out of his funk by calling his detractors "pussy-ass coward-ass pussified pussies" and bringing a personalized Voter ID story to McAvoy's attention via his nurse.

This combination of Skinner's glorious phrase, the Voter ID story and the discovery that Mac's phone was apparently hacked to give TMI (the tabloid under the same parent company as ACN) half of a story on Will being high the night of the bin Laden broadcast, lights a fire under Will's ass and cues a montage set to The Who's "Baba O'Riley". The montage shows the team building the show that has been interspersed throughout the episode. One of the more humorous moments of the episode is when Maggie goes off on a Sex and the City tour bus that Jim just so happens to be on. Of course, Jim chases Maggie down, they kiss..blah blah blah and Jim's nice guy/burden of knowledge once more prevents them from finally hooking up. Oh yeah...McAvoy's report confirms what we all have known all along - Jesus is a socialist. Finally, we get to the moment this whole season has been working toward, the face-off between Skinner/McAvoy and Reese/Laona Lansing. No surprises here, the Lansings lose and McAvoy and Mackenzie go on and put together one of the best shows to date.

So where does this leave us for season 2? Well, Sampat is still looking for the person making the death threats against Will, which will take at least a temporary focus. Maggie's with Don and Jim is with Lisa even though they all know who should be with who. Will and Mac are still dancing around getting back together. We've circled all the way back to the beginning with Will hiring on the girl who asked the question that started this whole thing off as an intern, and touched back on several characters that I thought would just be forgotten. And probably my favorite part is that Terry Crewes is still McAvoy's bodyguard thanks to Sampat.

All in all, The Newsroom had an excellent first season. Do I still think it falls in the top 5 series of all time? No, but it could very well elevate to new heights with the second season. I'd still love to see more with Sloan's character because Olivia Munn plays her perfectly. While I agree with much of what Sorkin is saying with this show, I'd also like to see the Democrats held up to the same lens that the Tea Party is being burned with. I want less of the Maggie/Don/Jim triangle as realistic as those relationships might be (but I won't get that, for sure). Finally, I want more Skinner and his incredibly delivered lines. I'm really looking forward to Season 2 which will return AFTER the presidential elections, but I'm concerned how the show's tone might be tempered if Sorkin's boy, Obama, doesn't get re-elected as the Tea Party makes for an easy target right now.

For Opportunity Assassins, this is Jake signing off. Thanks for watching "The Newsroom."

OAAR: Audioslave - Audioslave (2002)

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There is an interesting concept out there called a "Supergroup" or, in other words, a band made of extremely talented members of other bands that get together and have a big sonic baby (no, not the fast blue hedgehog type). Apparently there have been several bands put together that could fall under this category, but two particular ones jump out at me from the modern music perspective: Audioslave and Velvet Revolver. Each band brings together a unique set of flavors from each member but while Velvet Revolver was highly touted, it probably wouldn't have been as popular if it weren't for the success of Audioslave.

When Audioslave came on the scene with the self-titled album, Audioslave, the combination of members being touted was some of the best group of individuals I could have put together short of the members of Tool. After the success of political rap-rock group Rage Against the Machine and subsequent departure of Zack de la Rocha, guitar god Tom Morello and the other two members of Rage didn't really have much going on. They decided they'd continue to play together but needed a new frontman. Fast forward a bit and you'll come to the point where ex-Soundgarden singer, Chris Cornell, enters the fray. Bringing in some great vocal history to mix with the instrumental focus of Rage Against the Machine turned out to be quite a winning combination for a few years.

Audioslave starts off letting you know, for the most part, who the players are. Starting off with "Cochise" is the unmistakable sound of Tom Morello's guitar effects, then layers in some drums, and finally adds in the familiar raspy voice of Chris Cornell. This is a fantastic way to introduce you to a new group of individuals, to the key players and probably most importantly of all, to make sure you realize that this is something new instead of a rehash of past musical lives. While "Cochise" is a great song, it's the second track, "Show Me How to Live," that really defines how a supergroup should sound. Cornell's vocals in this song are top notch (especially the thing Cornell does with his voice at the end) and so are the incredible things that Morello does with his guitar. It's the perfect mix of insanely unique artists.

This whole album is an incredible collection of music, but there are definitely a couple standouts a bit later in the album. "Shadow on the Sun" is a great melding of clean guitar with the bass lines overlaid behind Cornell's controlled vocals followed by the heavier chorus. Of course, Tom Morello throws in a really unique sounding, very tasteful, solo that doesn't overpower or take anything away from the track. Even the screaming at the end of the track doesn't take away from the perfection of "Shadow on the Sun" which is a tough task to accomplish. The last track that really stands out to me is the smooth jam, "Getaway Car." As we've seen throughout the entirety of Audioslave, Chris Cornell has an incredibly powerful and versatile voice, but in "Getaway Car," he pulls back to give his voice a certain purity that isn't found on other tracks. All this and more makes Audioslave one of the top all around modern rock albums and is well worth the 65 minutes you'll spend enjoying this auditory delight.
Author: Jake

The debate over "supergroups" is like the debate for the perfect woman.  You never quite get everything you're looking for, and every positive trait carries with it one that might be regrettable later on down the line.  Want perfect curves?  She's a vegetarian.  Want a highly intellectual professional woman who exudes sexuality (and I do: apply within)?  She's probably a Vikings fan with daddy issues.  How about finally getting Metallica to do a 'supergroup' album?  They pick that piece of shit Lou Reed to team with and make you question your manhood.  Somehow, though, Audioslave has managed to entirely circumvent all of the attachment caveats.

Rage Against the Machine is/was at times great, often good, but too often barely tolerable with their overt political messages.  Soundgarden has always been out of place in the grunge scene, at least according to my musical pallet, and their song construction style has always resembled A Perfect Circle more than Nirvana or Alice In Chains.  But when you take the best parts of both and mash it together into a single band, Chris Cornell's awesome vocals mix with the tight, simple, melody-driven rhythm section of RATM so seamlessly that you begin to wonder why no one thought of this before.  And, in fact, simplicity is the key to the success of Audioslave's self-titled debut.  Cornell's vocals would probably be just as comfortable on a new Soundgarden album, and Morello's collection of one-note melodies could easily be layered under Zack de la Rocha whining about George Bush or lack of public subsidies or whatever.  Instead, they're together, here, on this album, in what is the sneakiest aural orgasm (aur-gasm?) you'll ever be a part of.  This album is top notch from front to back, aided in large part because the tempo of almost every song is the same (a possible nod to AC/DC) and thus the listen is very smooth.

The album's top singles, "Cochise" and "Show Me How To Live", are catchy tunes that showcase Cornell's ability to weave between a pleasant tenor and screaming staccato phrasing and have understandably endured.  The best display of talent and songwriting comes near the disc's end, however, as the straightforward rock of "Light My Way" is succeeded with the tastefully simple chord progression that drives "Getaway Car".  The scoresheet above shows that I've littered Audioslave with 4s and a couple 5s.  The 2 for experience, however, is in fact a reflection of the album's success.  It is so smooth and even from open to close that you find yourself wishing for a straightforward thrasher just so that particular song can stick out like a sore thumb.  But overall, if you can say you go about your business in an "Audioslave" mood you're probably leading an enjoyable life...and your girl/guy is probably a 14/10.  You lucky bastard.
Author: Pete

OAAR: Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin IV (1971)

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Led Zeppelin at the time of their fourth album, Led Zeppelin IV could probably have been the first true Opportunity Assassin band because rather than coming up with album titles, they simply numbered them, making our lives far easier when figuring out which came first. Luckily for us, however, four albums in and Led Zeppelin still hasn't phoned in a single album. I'm pretty sure I've established this already, but these OAARs on Led Zeppelin's discography is the first time I'm hearing these albums in their entirety and not only am I surprised that they are still as obviously important now as they were when they came out but also that even in the age of vinyl, we've been given some of the greatest album experiences to date. That brings me to what I can easily consider to be the best Led Zeppelin album that I've experienced so far and while I'm sure it's painfully obvious to those of you Zeppelin fans out there, I'll break some of the high points down for the rest of you who, like me, have yet to experience the magic that is Led Zeppelin IV.

Zeppelin IV starts off being yet another Led Zeppelin album bringing forth another iconic Zeppelin tune in "Black Dog." Of course it wouldn't be Zeppelin if they rested on their laurels, so they brought forth an even more iconic tune, "Rock and Roll" to follow it up. Finally, we get the song that everyone who's not deaf knows which is the exceedingly famous "Stairway to Heaven." What's the chance of Led Zeppelin's most notable track not getting a score of 5? If you said anything other than "zero" or one of its synonyms, then you obviously haven't been paying attention to anything we've said so far and you should probably quit now before you make an even larger fool of yourself. Anyway, nothing more needs to be said about the perfection of "Stairway to Heaven" so let's flip the album if you will and move on.

"Misty Mountain Hop" is one of those songs that often times falls by the wayside when people start lining up the greatest Zeppelin songs of all time, but it shows why Robert Plant is so incredibly amazing. Moving between the repeated three notes (plus harmonies) and his vocal freestyle riffs shows a creativity that can only be reproduced with an equal amount of genius or a large amount of drugs plus a good helping of talent. "Four Sticks" is one of the very few Zeppelin songs I'm discovering I haven't heard yet at one time or another. As I'm finding out, when Zeppelin moves away from the normal, the result can end up being a lot of fun, especially the combination of the drum beat and the guitar riff. This must be a studio track or something, though, because the vocal part doesn't even really sound like Plant.  I especially love everything about "Going to California," especially Jimmy Page's use of mandolin. Led Zeppelin IV is easily one of the best if not the best Zeppelin album of all time, but we still have a long way to go so I'm sticking with a discography score of 4.
Author: Jake

Is it really Led Zeppelin IV? Just IV? Is it Zoso? Do we care?  No.  What Led Zeppelin's fourth album is is the best collection of the band's varied sounds.  Sadly, that will almost always be an oh-by-the-way fact behind it being "that album with 'Stairway' on it".   The fact that "Stairway to Heaven" is one of the greatest (and most famous) songs of all time – and that without the drums or bass entering until the song is half over! – has forever been offset by the legion of guitar playing wannabes who know only the first melody, but play it as a badge of pride.  Know this: if a song released in 1971 can be a joke in a movie in 1992 (Wayne's World) and still be understood in 2012, chances are it's a pretty damn good song.  And it is.  There's something that seems to be unique about long, complicated songs with multiple extensive melodies (think "Free Bird" or "Hotel California" or "Layla") that gives them a timeless edge.

Aside from containing the band's most famous song, thought, IV is in many ways a perfect homage to the many influences that made up Led Zeppelin.  The blues roots are most obvious on "Rock and Roll", especially with Page's trademark 'sloppy' guitar soloing, but are also very much present on "Black Dog", where phrase and answer verses showcase Plant's vocal ability as well as the band's overall knack for unique phrasing – here using a 5/4 time signature to create a very original melody.  Where Zeppelin's sound peaks on this album (the raw session sounds don't bleed through on songs like "Kashmir" or the opus "Achilles' Last Stand") the songwriting once again outperforms expectations.  "When the Levee Breaks" has always lands in my top two of favorite Zeppelin songs, as the wailing harmonica and grungy, heavy lead riff actually provide a window into the sound that would eventually become known as heavy metal.

My largest appreciation of this album has always been for Page's guitar work, and although oddities like the mandolin in "Going to California" or the subject matter of the now Tolkein-cult classic "The Battle of Evermore" swallow some of Page's genius, it shines through plenty on all the other tracks.  Despite an all-star lineup of songs, IV gets downgraded in the overall marks department for two reasons.  Incredibly, it isn't Zeppelin's best album overall; that nod goes (perhaps even more incredibly) to the double-disc Physical Graffiti.  Moreover, the subtle flavors that allowed for Led Zeppelin II to mature with time are almost wholly absent from IV.  Your first aural tour of the album will evoke immediate and visceral reactions that will not be tempered or augmented with age.  I've probably listened through IV at least a hundred times, and I still enjoy it the same way I did the first time I heard it.  Sometimes, though, it's nice to know exactly what you're getting with an album, and Led Zeppelin has never had any pretensions as far as that goes, even if there is a bustle in your hedgerow.
Author: Pete

OAAR: Linkin Park - Hybrid Theory (2000)

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Hybrid Theory, the very first album from new band (in 2000), Linkin Park. It was back in the era of music videos on MTV (believe it or not) which I'm pretty sure is how I discovered Linkin Park back then. I remember them coming on the scene with their first single, "One Step Closer," which is still one of the most popular Linkin Park songs. I also remember thinking, after picking up the album, how short the CD is, coming in right around 35min. The album is so good that I always wanted to have more which made both listening to this album and waiting for Meteora that much more of a pain.

Hybrid Theory definitely comes on with a strong beginning, opening with "Papercut" and introducing us to the heavy riffs, Mr. Hahn's samples, Mike Shinoda's relatively simple rhymes and Chester Bennington's sometimes clean/sometimes gravely voice. Moving right along to the head nod worthy "One Step Closer," Linkin Park gives us a clearer view of Chester's singing and screaming abilities while piling on the heavy riffage. Continuing on through the first third of Hybrid Theory, Linkin Park's sole purpose is to convince you that their equation for music is one you want to subscribe to with more great examples of how both Chester and Mike can work together to give something more than what you might have been used to at that time.   This brings us to the next third of the album kicking off with one of my personal favorites, "Crawling." In high school, most of the excitement came around new music video releases, and the music video for "Crawling" was no different. Of course at a time like High School where you're trying to establish an identity, the video can speak to you, but really, it was the combination of the smoking hot chick plus the subtle blue hair that Shinoda was sporting at the time that stuck out to me (I never actually got around to dying my hair the same color unfortunately).

It's funny, actually, listening to this album again 12 years later (christ, it's been that long already?) because much like Meteora, I never realized how much Shinoda is the lead. It was always billed as being Chester's deal and Mike is just the backup/guitars, but after looking at this and all the other Linkin Park albums, I've realized how important Mike Shinoda is to the whole thing.  After "Crawling," the rest of Hybrid Theory is very good, but nothing ever quite gets back to that 5 level. What was interesting was Mr. Hahn's feature track, "Cure for the Itch" which is a fun track but is just a bit out of place here. The last track, "Pushing Me Away" pulls this whole crazy first outing together with the guitar riff made of the muted harmonics which, at the time, I learned how to play. It's close to perfect but just doesn't quite get to as good as it could so it'll have to settle for a 4. Overall, I think this is still one of the best Linkin Park albums of all time and still is a cohesive album so it's one of the higher scores on OAAR to date.
Author: Jake

About the turn of the century, as I was entering high school, there were four* rock/metal albums that came out that significantly shaped my musical appreciation and dreams of rock stardom.  Linkin Park's debut, Hybrid Theory, was one of them.  Easily the most original take on the rap-metal hybrid that would eventually become part of the nu-metal sonic spectrum, Linkin Park's sound was catchy, aggressive, and radio-friendly (in a way that say, Disturbed, was not), but never bowed too far in the sappy/plastic direction (I'm looking at you, Staind).

The true strength of Hybrid Theory is how many sides of the same sound the band is able to present, coherently, in just around three minutes a pop.  Take "A Place For My Head" for example.  A staccato and simple opening guitar riff is built on with some complementary sampling by Mr. Hahn before the vocals kick in, and once they do the complex rap Mike Shinoda delivers is the closest thing I've ever heard to rap poetry.  The song is a three minute intensity plateau (hence its 3 rating) but is also a hint at how good Linkin Park could – and can – be when it comes to song composition.

The uniqueness of Linkin Park's sound is obvious on the first three tracks ("Papercut", "One Step Closer", "With You") as the send and receive between the sung vocals and rapped phrases is presented so seamlessly you would believe it occurred in every song in history that has at least three chords.  The highlight of the band's musical gamesmanship, however, is the Hahn showpiece "Cure For The Itch", which illustrates how to use a DJ in a way that is more than just sound effects and samples.  The angry edge that is present on so much of this album – even the heavily melodic tracks like "Crawling" and "In The End" – is probably responsible in some pseudo-psychological way for how much I enjoy this album.  Even though the more raw aspects of Hybrid Theory appear in decreased amounts (if at all) on the band's subsequent albums, the hook was essentially set the first time I heard "One Step Closer" driving around in my cousin's car one Friday night looking for something fun to do.  Music history is littered with debut albums that were followed up by disappearing acts, but this is most definitely not one of those cases.  Hybrid Theory remains Linkin Park's most compelling album to date, and if you don't believe me cue up iTunes and give yourself over to 38 minutes of nu-metal nostalgia.  You can thank me later.
Author: Pete

(*) The four were:
Disturbed - The Sickness

Godsmack - Godsmack
Linkin Park - Hybrid Theory
Staind - Dysfunction

Cable-pocalypse TV Preview: Fall 2012

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Well, we've come to that time of year again. That time where all of the networks on TV step up to the table and place their bets on a hand full of new shows hoping to catch a lucky break and becoming the next Sopranos or Lost. If you were with us back in January, you'll be familiar with the format, but for those of you who have just joined us in learning the fine arts of the Opportunity Assassins, let me break it down for you.

The two biggest seasons for TV have been built around what I can only assume is a subtle celebration of Football season where the weather starts getting cooler and every Sunday (along with Monday night, Thursday night and most of Saturday) become occasions to drink beer, eat chips, don your team colors and pray to the Football Gods that your team wins. The entire month of August is pre-season for us all - including the networks. It's their job to get you to draft their team and watch their new rising stars week after week through advertising. When September kicks off, they hope that their team is ready to go and keep the momentum to make it through to the playoffs (awards season and sweeps). If not, the networks mourn the end of Football season by adding several backup shows (think CFL) for their mid-season lineups typically starting in February.

So now it's pre-season and in order for you to know where to spend those precious hours glued to the TV in between football games, you turn to the Opportunity Assassins. Here, we don't yet get the treatment from the networks that we deserve (they'll learn soon enough) which means we don't get to see the pilot before you do. Over the years and out of necessity, we have come to finely hone the craft of not only determining whether a show is worth your time but also being able to predict how long the show will last. For the winter 2012 season, the Opportunity Assassins ended up with right around a 66% accuracy or, in other words, our predictions were correct for 2 out of every 3 shows that debuted at mid-season. All this from simply watching the preview reels found on YouTube and you can bet we'll do it again for the new shows making the leap to your TV screens this Fall. So follow along, OA Apprentices, as I tell you which new shows to watch and which to avoid like the plague in alphabetical order (all times listed are Eastern time)

Warning: This is a long one, so if you have a particular show in mind, jump right to it.

666 Park Avenue (ABC, Premiers 9/30 at 10PM)
As history would show, anything with the number 666 in the title isn't going to be involving a place called "Happy Happy Fun Time Land" so we already know we're in for some devilish happenings that take place at 666 Park Ave. After watching the trailer, I actually know only a slight bit more about the show that I did after reading the title. Apparently new residents Henry Martin (Dave Annable from Brothers & Sisters) and Jane Van Veen (Rachael Taylor, Hacker chick from Transformers) move into some swanky new digs at 999 Park Avenue in NYC (see what they did there? The devil's a sneaky fella). The residents at this place are super nice but like everyone moving into a new apartment, Jane absolutely MUST investigate the entire building from top to bottom. This is where she finds a mysterious book with strange writing and pictures in it - spooky. Eventually Gavin Doran (Terry O'Quinn, TV mainstay recognized from LOST), who is obviously the devil or at least the devil's helper and manager of the building, offers people the world for a small price in return - THEIR SOUL..muhahaHAHAHA *cough* - ahem, sorry. Anyway, residents keep disappearing in to blindingly bright lights in the walls which I can only assume will be cause for concern. After watching the trailer, I have absolutely no idea where they'll take the plot lines. ABC lost big with The River at mid-season so I imagine they're trying to find a spooky mainstay for their more grown-up audience, but you can tell they've hedged their bets this time around by hiring on mostly unknown actors (at least to me). ABC has ordered 13 episodes produced and I just can't see them ordering anymore.
Prediction: 666 Park Avenue will make it through the 13 episode run, but will not be back for more after that.

Arrow (CW, Premiers 10/10 at 8PM)
With the end of CW mainstay Smallville, CW and DC are trying to find a way to keep that large chunk of guys that stuck around to see good ole Clark Kent become Superman. They aim to do this (get it, aim?) by bringing back Green Arrow and giving the character a reboot. The rebooted Green Arrow character is meant to be more gritty than the Smallville incarnation but still a do-gooder. Now, the Green Arrow of Smallville was well acted but the costume was a bit cartoonish for my tastes. Based on the trailer, though, CW is distancing itself from that character, first by calling him "Arrow" instead of "Green Arrow", moving him from Metropolis to Starling City, and apparently keeping the enemies firmly planted in the realm of humanity. They're still hanging on to the back story of becoming the person he is simply due to survival instincts and he's still called Oliver Queen, so the uninitiated can quickly be brought to speed if they were following Smallville. Arrow stars a relative unknown in Stephen Amell (HBO's Hung) as Oliver Queen and Katie Cassidy (mostly ignored best friend from Taken) as love interest Laurel Lance. Personally, I'm hoping that this gritty feel, paired with Arrow not having Superman forcing his morality on Queen all the time makes for a great show. Of course, the moment Arrow starts moving away from the realm of reality and adding villains from the Justice League/Superman, that could be the moment Arrow jumps the shark. Assuming that's a while down the road though as a way to bring in more viewers, I think Arrow looks to be a good show and will definitely be added to my list of shows for the Fall 2012 season.
Prediction: Arrow will pick up a full season order and be renewed for at least a second season. If I had to put an end date on it, I'm guessing either after 4 or 5 good seasons.

Beauty & The Beast (CW, Premiers 10/11 at 9PM)
Oh CW, how you love the niche audiences you bring in every year with the teens. That oh-so-coveted 18-25 age slot is yours to gain and yours to lose as you bring in the teens and hope to hang on to them. Well, CW is at it again with Kristin Kreuk's return to the network after her last appearance as Lana Lang in Smallville. This time around Ms. Kreuk is a NYC detective extraordinaire named Catherine Chandler who is out to find out who killed her mother 9 years prior (and find who saved her back then as well) at least according to the trailer. Enter the Beast, a thought to be dead doc named Vincent Keller (Jay Ryan, most recently in a few episodes of Terra Nova), who is the only surviving genetically enhanced super soldier (no, not Capt. America) that has returned to NYC to protect the innocent with his enhanced speed and strength. I can't really tell by the trailer, but the dude is a step or two away from a Werewolf which basically tells me all I need to know about this show. During the episodes you can expect Kreuk's character to get her ass saved at least once per episode. You can also expect Chandler to fall in love with Keller, as would be expected. I also imagine Chandler will find out here mom had something to do with the drug given to Keller and discover that the gov't is out to get her and Keller. Can anyone say predictable? As you can imagine, I'm not thrilled with this show and will not be adding it to my viewing list, even considering Kreuk's attractiveness.
Prediction: The CW has been known to stick it out with shows that bring in viewers with the stars that are cast, and I expect this to be no different. I imagine Beauty & The Beast will get a full season order and will probably be renewed for a second, but won't probably make it too far after that.

Ben & Kate (FOX, Premiers 9/25 at 8:30PM)
FOX gets its turn up at bat with new sitcom Ben & Kate, an attempt to capture some of the same magic that makes ABC favorite Modern Family such a great show. Ben (comedian Nat Faxon) and his sister Kate (Dakota Johnson) have a (not so) unique relationship in that Ben, the immature perennial screwup, and Kate, the mature single mom, are always there for each other when they're needed the most. Of course, what would a show like this be without an adorable child to provide a measuring stick for Ben's immaturity. That's where Maddie (Maggie Elizabeth Jones, Matt Damon's daughter in We Bought a Zoo) comes in. As the trailer shows, Maddie doesn't say much, but her silence is often times a good counterbalance to fast talking Ben. Ben & Kate actually have a chance on FOX as it seems to be using a fairly successful equation for comedy success by using the cute child to pull at the heartstrings of America, a funny screw-up of a male character not too easy to hate and the accessible adult female roll. If Ben & Kate can bring with it some chuckle worthy moments and some equally important serious and cute moments, FOX might have a non-animated hit on their hands.
Prediction: Ben & Kate is situated between strong lead-in Raising Hope and quirky New Girl, so it's in a position to carry with it quite a high viewership on Tuesdays. If the writing is up to par, Ben & Kate can make it quite a few seasons, but it's also extremely vulnerable at the 8:30 time slot. If FOX sees viewers leaving, you can bet Ben & Kate will get the boot quickly. I predict a full first season order and a second season return, but probably just a half season order to begin with.

Brickleberry (Comedy Central, Premiers 9/25 at 10:30PM)
Comedy Central, how I love you so. Your series can be smart or slapstick or dirty or all of the above. Your hands aren't tied like the big four (NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX) so you can get away with more. Enter Brickleberry, an animated show about a national or state wildlife park and the crazy stuff that goes on as they try to stay afloat. The trailer, titled "Welcome to Brickleberry" is a majestic scene of nature that suddenly takes a turn for the dirty when pairs of animals are shown to be doing the nasty. Of course, producer Daniel Tosh takes it a step further by taking it up a notch just when you're comfortable. There isn't much else to say after watching the trailer except that you should probably expect talking animals, plenty of random attacks, and great hilarious moments. This is definitely not a show for the kiddies.
Prediction: Brickleberry does fairly well on Comedy Central and, while not hitting the success level set by South Park, sticks around for a few seasons.

Chicago Fire (NBC, Premiers 10/10 at 10PM)
There's no doubt about it, NBC has been struggling to find its footing as of late. After personal favorite Chuck ended last season, there really hasn't been much reason outside of Sunday night football to turn the dial over to NBC. Sure, they have a stable of nerd comedies that I sometimes pay attention to (mostly after they've hit Netflix), but outside of that and possibly Grimm, NBC just is driving down easy street with its reality TV lineup. Enter Chicago Fire, the first opportunity NBC has to get back in the game. Being as big of a fan of Rescue Me that I was, something about a Firefighter drama is appealing. Of course the trailer shows me that it's all drama all day with a minor attempt to alleviate the weight of the job with a small spattering of comedic moments. Returning to TV after concluding his job as Dr. Chase on FOX heavyweight, House, Jesse Spencer tosses his Aussie accent to the side and becomes an American named Matthew Casey. Joined by relative unknowns Taylor Kinney (playing Kevin Severide) and Lie to Me's Monica Raymund (playing Gabriela Dawson), Chicago Fire is stacked with the hot bodies to pull in the viewers. Firefighting is an easy premise for drama, so if the writing and situations are as realistic as Rescue Me's firefighting scenes were (even with the toned down language), it could make for a great staple on NBC. This one's a bit tougher to call, though, since there are a lot of variables going into this, but I think I'll give Chicago Fire a chance.
Prediction: Chicago Fire will probably do well enough to warrant a full season order and will get renewed for a second season. If the scenarios are interesting enough and we can come to care about the characters enough, expect a 4-5 season run. If not, season 2 will be the end of Chicago Fire.

Elementary (CBS, Premiers 9/27 at 10PM)
For whatever reason, Sherlock Holmes is hot right now. Given the success of the two movies starring Robert Downey Junior, it seems like everyone wants in on their own version of the eccentric detective. CBS is next up to taking on Holmes and as such, they've decided to bring him into the 21st century and make Watson a woman. In this version, Holmes (Johnny Lee Miller, Dexter's foe from Season 5) is a recovering addict who worked as a consultant for Scotland Yard and who now has moved to NYC to take consultation work for the NYPD. Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) is essentially Holmes' case worker, assigned to him to make sure he stays clean. Of course former Dr. Watson, who used to be a surgeon, will become a bit of a translator/handler for channeling Holmes' eccentricity, while applying her medical knowledge to no doubt help Holmes solve some cases. As the trailer for Elementary shows, Miller does a great job of capturing the Holmes character's key traits and while I'm not particularly a fan of Liu's looks (I find them occasionally distracting and not in a good way), she is a fitting anchor for the wild Holmes. The character of Holmes is fantastically timeless so, if written well enough, he'll fit right in to modern times. Miller's performance reminds me a lot of the lead from The Finder and House combined, so if they pull those two seamlessly together, CBS will have a hit on their hands.
Prediction: Elementary has a really good chance of  becoming a viewing staple of mine. Miller and Liu are great choices to star in this show so the whole package depends on the quality of the writing. Elementary should get a full season order and be back for at least 2-3 more seasons. We might see Holmes on our TV screen for quite a long time.

Emily Owens, MD (CW, Premiers 10/16 at 9PM)
Scrubs is back! Oh wait..it's just Emily Owens, MD. Damn. Female J.D, Emily Owens (Mamie Gummer) is joined by the Green Arrow (no, not the new one, the old one), Will Rider (Justin Hartley) in a medical sitcom that finds itself on CW instead of ABC (probably because CW grew Justin Hartley in a lab and owns his soul). From the trailer, it would appear that this show brings all the same building blocks from personal favorite Scrubs (through season 8) just painted a different color. On its own, I suppose this show could be a decent one for CW as it plays with the key demographic of awkward high school females, but I just see too many people comparing it to Scrubs for it to make it through the gauntlet of network sitcoms. Airing on Tuesdays at 9PM, CW has placed this up against FOX's New Girl which will be difficult combination. Beyond this, Emily Owens, MD is a one hour sitcom, meaning it has to find a way to combat the short attention span of the sitcom audience.
Prediction: While Emily Owens, MD could be a decent sitcom, it appears that the deck is stacked against it. Now, CW doesn't exactly have a reputation of being too quick on the cancellation trigger, so you can expect a full season out of this, but I don't see it being renewed for a second season.

Guys with Kids (NBC, Premiers 9/12 at 10PM)
NBC adds yet another sitcom to its lineup already packed with sitcoms this fall with new series Guys with Kids. I know that NBC is stacking the bullpen with possible replacements for NBC mainstays The Office and 30 Rock, both in their final seasons this year, so next up (and strangely leading into Law&Order: SVU) is Guys with Kids. While watching the trailer, I enjoyed the chemistry of the cast made up of funny man Anthony Anderson (playing Gary), familiar face (but not sure from where) Jesse Bradford (playing Chris) and The Whitest Kids U'Know favorite Zach Cregger (playing Nick). Add to that Meadow Soprano (Jamie-Lynn Sigler as Nick's wife Emily) as some added eye candy, and you're well on your way to a sitcom along the lines of Three Men and a Baby. But while watching the trailer, I heard a combination of two words with a name that scares the living shit out of me: Executive Producer Jimmy Fallon. Current follow-up to Leno on NBC's Late Night lineup, I've never exactly found Jimmy Fallon to be all that funny both on SNL and now on his talk show, so I would hope he's mostly hands off. Guys with Kids appears to be NBC's big bet to be eventual replacement for The Office or 30 Rock, so I'm hoping they'll have brought on a writer with a history of success but without that, they're running a sinking ship. This one's NBC's to lose.
Prediction: Guys with Kids, while promising, will be underwhelming. I'm not sure this one will get a full season order and instead will just air the 13 episodes they've ordered and end it there.

Last Resort (ABC, Premiers 9/27 at 8PM)
It would appear that ABC is hedging its bets with 666 Park Avenue because it's putting all its chips on Last Resort. Based on the trailer, I would say that this is a smart bet. Watching the trailer, you'll notice a few familiar faces including powerhouse actors Andre Braugher (House's Therapist) as Capt. Marcus Chaplin, Bruce Davison (X-Men's Senator Kelley) as Admiral Arthur Shepard and Robert Patrick (Terminator 2's T-1000). Add to the cast the creator/writer of The Shield, Shawn Ryan and you're left with a formula for success. The trailer shows an interesting plot where Naval sub USS Colorado is given orders to fire upon Pakistan but Capt. Chaplin defies direct orders which turns the US Gov't against them. As the US goes to war with Pakistan, the crew of the Colorado find a tropical island to set up a home base while they try to dodge attacks from the US Military and attempt to find a way to get back home. Desperate to survive, it appears the Colorado will take all necessary steps to assure its safety including launching an assumed nuclear missile at the US itself. This show has drama and conflict written all over it and I admit, it has me hooked already. Of course, all this hype that the trailer brings can easily collapse on itself with a few missteps, plus going up against Big Bang Theory/Two and a Half Men on CBS, The X Factor on FOX and 30 Rock/Up All Night on NBC could make for an interesting battle for the 8PM Thursday slot.
Prediction: Last Resort with a spectacular cast and The Shield caliber writing will be ABC's next dramatic success. Consider this one probably the best bet for a second season return.

Made in Jersey (CBS, Premiers 9/28 at 9PM)
Well, my worst nightmare is coming true. All the idiots in America have the ratings clout to take one of the worlds worst accents and give it the leading roll in an hour long girl power show. Now listen, I'm not against a show or movie that stars a strong female roll, but when you add on the nails on a chalkboard Jersey accent, it's just a step away from Jersey Shore. Besides, as the trailer shows, the writing is horrendous. The fact that the lead, Martina Garetti (Janet Montgomery) uses her street smarts, essentially beauty salon knowledge is just depressing to say the least. We've already seen court procedurals fail in the past, given the recent reduction of Law and Order shows from 3 to 1 and the failure of mid-season's The Firm so the future looks bleak. Also, Made in Jersey has been dropped into the 9PM Friday slot, which tends to be a death sentence to any show that's not Fringe. All in all, it doesn't bode well for Made in Jersey.
Prediction: I don't think Made in Jersey is bad enough to get the early ax after only a few episodes, but I highly doubt it will make it past the first order of episodes and into a lengthened first season let alone a second season.

Malibu Country (ABC, Premiers 11/2 at 8:30PM)
Much like Winter's look into Napoleon Dynamite, I'm going to keep this one short. I hated Reba and I hate Country, so this fish out of water sitcom will get nothing from me outside of hopes for a quick series cancellation. Unfortunately, Reba McEntire's last show was a hit and this one, following Last Man Standing on Fridays will most likely live long enough to be a pain in my ass. Give the trailer a look if you're a glutton for punishment and absolutely must see for yourself, but don't say I didn't warn you.
Prediction: I hope this one doesn't get renewed for a second season, but Friday needs another half hour sitcom to pair with Last Man Standing. Expect this one back for a second season, unfortunately.

The Mindy Project (FOX, Premiers 9/25 at 9:30PM)
Our second awkward doctor show new to the fall lineup belongs to FOX with The Mindy Project. Starring 40 Year Old Virgin's Mindy Kaling as Dr. Mindy Lahiri, a most likely 30-something Dr. trying to figure her life out, The Mindy Project is bound to be another show trying too hard to be funny. You'll see a few familiar faces in the trailer with Bill Hader (Seth Rogan's partner in Superbad) and Ed Helms (Hangover's Dr. Stu), which are Mindy's old and new love interests respectively. The Mindy Project is hoping to hold viewers over from lead-in New Girl on what could be a very strong Thursday comedy lineup, but much like with Ben & Kate, The Mindy Project will get a lot of scrutiny week in and week out and as a result could end up getting the chopping block fairly early on. With a strong cast and equally strong writing, though, it could very well succeed here, but I'm not getting my hopes up as FOX has a history of quickly pulling the trigger on these shows.
Prediction: The Mindy Project is mostly going up against a handful of new shows and Don't Trust the B in Apt. 23 which was renewed for a second season, but doesn't have a strong following. Just through a lack of competition at the 9:30PM timeslot, I think it will return for a half order for season 2, but FOX will be looking to give the golden timeslot a show that keeps the viewers.

The Mob Doctor (FOX, Premiers 9/17 at 9PM)
FOX had itself a great 1-2 punch and almost sole ownership of primetime TV on Monday nights with Bones leading into House. Now, with House done, FOX is looking for a follow-up to Bones to keep viewers from changing the channel to ABC's Dancing with the Stars or NBC's The Voice. Their hope is new medical drama, The Mob Doctor starring Jordana Spiro (My Boys) as Dr. Grace Devlin. As you can see in the trailer, Devlin's character is the sister of Nate Devlin (Jesse Lee Soffer, As the World Turns) who owes a debt to the Chicago Mob. As a way to get her brother out of debt with the mob, she makes a deal with Mob Boss Paul Moretti (Michael Rappaport). Constantine Alexander (William Forsythe), who appears to have both mob and family ties to Devlin, acts as some kind of mob handler/sounding board. I'm not really sure what Forsythe's character's roll will be as the show goes on, but I imagine he'll play a large roll as possibly a protector who will eventually turn on Devlin. Ultimately, The Mob Doctor could have the weight to be a good show, but I don't think it fits the Monday lineup because it just doesn't carry the same tone as Bones does and House did but I could be wrong.
Prediction: The Mob Doctor can be some compelling TV for FOX especially with the cast they've lined up for the show. I imagine it will get a full season order and come back for a season 2, just on a different day. If it does make it to a season 2, that's probably when I'll add it to my viewing list.

Nashville (ABC, Premiers 10/10 at 10PM)
Nashville is ABC's attempt at capturing the same type of magic that keeps shows like FOX's Glee and NBC's Smash on the air but to me suffers from the same issues I see in both. The problem with these kinds of shows is that the most compelling piece of the plot is gone as soon as the competition is over. Once the lead character defeats her nemesis, where is there to go except to drop in a new nemesis and do it all over again? As the trailer shows, Nashville stars Connie Britton as Rayna, the washed up country artist fighting to keep up the act against newcomers like Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere) who have looks but no talent. The problem I have with these kinds of shows is that they're far better suited to be a movie than a TV show. Surprisingly to me, it appears that both Britton and Panettiere actually sing during the show but the songs sound so manufactured, it's tough to really tell that it's them. The main problem is that Nashville is dealing with the lead-in from ABC's powerhouse Wednesday comedy lineup and going toe to to with newcomer Chicago Fire and long in the tooth CSI over on CBS so it has its work cut out for it.
Prediction: Nashville will do a respectable job of hanging onto its lead in viewers which will be just enough for it to be renewed for a second season. After that, though, only the strength of the second season plot will allow it to continue past that.

The Neighbors (ABC, Premiers 9/26 at 9:30PM)
In what could possibly be the first cancellation of the Fall 2012 season, The Neighbors features a family that moves from what looked like the big city out to the suburbs. The trailer shows the Weaver Family, headed up by Marty Weaver (played by familiar face Lenny Venito) and Debbie Weaver (Jami Gertz), are greeted in their new cookie cutter suburban neighborhood by an army of what appears to be multi-racial clones. Of course, the Weavers know that something is up, but what they had in mind was definitely not what they expected. The Weaver kids are playing games with one of the clone kids when they find out, much to their surprise, that he's an alien. Of course, this prompts the entire neighborhood to reveal that they, too, are aliens. Yawn. Here's the problem with these forced fish out of water stories - they've been done to death. Even with the odd relationship that grows between the family and the aliens this show probably won't be very good. You can also imagine the added pressure of following up The Middle and leading into ABC powerhouse Modern Family. If this show doesn't hold on to The Middle's viewers and keeps them around for Modern Family, you bet ABC will pull the trigger and replace The Neighbors before you even hear the shot.
Prediction: The Neighbors will grace us with an early season cancellation. I predict 5-6 episodes air, tops.

The New Normal (NBC, Premiers 9/11 at 9:30PM)
Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, wants a piece of the Modern Family pie. The problem is that so far, no one has figured out what exactly makes Modern Family so successful. So the trailer shows that NBC is trying to capture that lightning in a bottle with a cast of mostly unknowns including a woman out to start over (Georgia King as Goldie Clemmons) with her daughter (Bebe Wood as Shania Clemmons) by escaping the Midwest and heading to California. Here, Goldie dreams about going back to school and becoming a lawyer (apparently she doesn't know that law students aren't in high demand right now) but first she needs the cash. So like any sane single woman, she decides she wants to become a surrogate mother for a "quick" $35k to get that ball rolling. Enter the hopeful parents (you might see the Modern Family influence here) Bryan Buckley (Video Game/Cartoon voice actor Andrew Rannells) and David Murray (Doug from The Hangover, Justin Bartha). The gay couple happens across Goldie's application and decides she would be a fitting surrogate. Enter the extremely homophobic and racist (and unbelievably young) grandmother of Goldie, Jane Forrest (Ellen Barkin, who guest starred on Modern Family) and here NBC hopes to have a recipe for success. I don't know if they'll strike gold, but I do think this show could pull in the female crowd at the very least. It'll be interesting to see if they can pull in the male crowd as well because the trailer was more sweet on tone and less humorous, but the interaction with the grandmother is a wild card.
Prediction: I think The New Normal will be slow going, but it'll garner enough of an audience for NBC to pull in a second season where it will really start to improve. This will be one to keep an eye on.

Partners (CBS, Premiers 9/24 at 8:30PM)
Will and Grace is back, except this time Grace is a dude played by Professor Charles Eppes (David Krumholtz as Joe). At least that's what I'm assuming because I've never seen a single episode of Will and Grace but this show is brought to you by the same fellas that brought you Will and Grace oh so long ago. So this show, as seen in the trailer, is about Joe and his best friend Louis (played by Ugly Betty's Michael Urie) who happens to be gay. Both Joe and Louis are in serious relationships: Joe with Ali (Sophia Bush from One Tree Hill) and Louis with Wyatt/Superman (Brandon Routh). My guess is that Partners will have most of the Will and Grace fans all wrapped up already and that alone will keep this show pretty successful, but there's the possibility of having some pretty funny interactions considering the cast. The way Joe and Louis interact remind me of Ted and Marshall interact in How I Met Your Mother, except one of them would be gay.
Prediction: The Will and Grace fans will most likely come back to Partners, bringing with them an almost sure-fire bet of a second season return. Add that to the lead-in crowd from previously mentioned How I Met Your Mother and you've got a pretty sure bet even if Partners isn't great.

Revolution (NBC, Premiers 9/17 at 10PM)
NBC has been scraping and clawing in an attempt to become relevant again. As we mentioned during the review of Chicago Fire, NBC just doesn't have much going for it with Chuck ending last year and heavy hitters 30 Rock and The Office ending this season. But NBC is betting on the city of Chicago to help pull them back out of the hole they started digging with the later seasons of Heroes. Well, as the trailer shows, this time we've found ourselves in Chicago 15 years after some kind of worldwide EMP goes off. The world has devolved back to the days where everyone is a hunter/gatherer out of necessity and small armed groups of people become the most powerful. Directed by Jon Favreau (Iron Man 1&2) and produced by TV superstar J.J. Abrams (Fringe) come together to bring us a show as wild as Terra Nova but with far less CG it would appear. I'm definitely intrigued by the character of Miles Matheson (Billy Burke known to me from Season 2 of 24), a badass dude who has a killer sword fight in the trailer. As you'll see, the plot of this show revolves around some kind of pendant that is either responsible for the EMP or acts as a shield from a persistent EMP. I have a few questions from the trailer already, though. I'm sure gasoline is scarce, but old cars aren't controlled by computer chips. Why are they using black powder rifles? You can still make decent ammo without electronics so modern guns are still useful. Well, I will definitely be watching to find out the answers to these questions.
Prediction: Lately, J.J. Abrams shows haven't had a great track record, but the fans of his shows are loyal. I'm betting on Revolution being a good enough show that the fans will keep it around for a second season. Besides, with NBC's low standards, Revolution has a lower bar set for it.

Vegas (CBS, Premiers 9/25 at 10PM)
Last, but very certainly not least, is CBS's new drama Vegas. Obviously CBS is taking the name of the show at heart because they have thrown everything they can on this show. They're definitely betting big as can be seen by the powerhouse cast that graces the YouTubes. As the trailer clearly shows, Vegas is a mixture of FX staple Justified and HBO favorite Boardwalk Empire. Actually, a show like this is somewhat surprising to have landed on CBS to begin with since the content is extremely suited for FX or HBO, not surprisingly. Vegas definitely brings some huge names with it starring Dennis Quaid as rancher Ralph Lamb, Michael Chiklis (The Shield) as mobster Vincent Savino and Carrie-Anne Moss (The Matrix) as A.D.A Katherine O'Connell. This show takes place back in the 60's when Las Vegas was just starting to accelerate in growth with the various mobsters moving in and making their claim at pieces of Sin City. Ralph Lamb is seeing his city and his land threatened by these out of towners coming in and throwing their weight around so he takes up the mantle to defend his turf against these gangsters (and some would say the winds of fate). The trailer was tension packed and if the show is written anywhere near as well as it has been cast than CBS has its brand new multi-season hit. I will definitely be adding this to my watch list.
Prediction; With a powerhouse cast and good writing, Vegas is a sure bet. I just hope it doesn't feel gimped by not being on a network like FX or HBO where there's a bit more freedom. Vegas will be back for a season 2, no doubt about it.

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