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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.

CABLE-POCALYPSE! (The Fall 2012 Rankings)

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Becuase rankings are both lazy and controversial, we here at Opportunity Assassins love them.  That said, we decided to arbitrarily rank 10 major television networks to spark controversy or debate or something.  In reality, it's just an excuse to justify the amount of TV we currently watch plus get us to watch even more TV.

Of course nothing we do here at Opportunity Assassins is without ulterior motive. In an effort to refine our weekly posts, we're introducing our TV focused "Cable-pocalypse" segment in which we continually rank and re-rank the top ten networks based on overall viewing quality on the networks. Also under the "Cable-pocalypse" umbrella are our Winter and Fall TV previews which will inevitably be used by Vegas in the newest betting sensation/reality TV phenomenon called "Cancellation Wars."

This all starts with Pete's thorough investigation into each of our current top 10 candidates from last to first with NBC dropping later today. We'll follow this up with Jake's Fall 2012 TV Preview in which he predicts the fate of various new TV series based solely on the trailer. In the coming weeks, we'll actually start watching some of these shows that we deem worthy.  For now, though, read 'em and weep!

  1. FX
  2. AMC
  3. HBO
  4. USA
  5. FOX
  6. TNT
  8. ABC
  9. CBS
  10. NBC

OAAR: Linkin Park - Meteora (2003)

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Linkin Park's second album, Meteora, is just one big con. There, I said it. By no means is it a bad album or something you should avoid listening to if you're a Linkin Park fan, but just be aware that the goods sold to you on the second listed track are not what Meteora is all about. Let me paint a picture for you. Imagine you've been waiting three years for a new Linkin Park album after listening to their first, and arguably best, album. But those three years have felt more like 5. So you go to the local Sam Goody (remember those?) and buy the Meteora Special Edition (because you can..also, remember those?). From there, you go out to your car and unwrap the CD like a man possessed. You take that fresh disk out and slide it into the aftermarket CD player you paid $300 for. "What do you hear first?" I hear you ask.

Well, once you pop the CD in, you're greeted with an explosion than sounds of anvils or something like that on the track "Foreword." A right proper title for the first track if you ask me (no, I'm not British). The excitement starts to build because what is there to follow some really cool sound effects but a masterpiece. Well, this first track ushers us perfectly into the first actual song on the album, "Don't Stay." A grin starts to spread across your face as Mr. Han's samples lead to a single, heavily distorted guitar then from there, BAM. The whole band comes in to usher you into the next, heaviest, Linkin Park album. Chester greets you with his vocals, effortlessly transitioning from the melodic to the harsh raspiness he will be known to over-utilize only one album later. Linkin Park is back!

But then, "Somewhere I Belong" starts up and the heavy guitars are replaced with some strange sounds from Mr. Han and some clean guitars. You worry for a moment only to have the distortion come back. So you think you're ok, and then the distortion drops out again and Mike Shinoda starts rapping. Chester comes in here and there reminding you that he's still here and promising that you'll hear more from him, which you do in the chorus when the distortion comes back. But from here on out, the album is never the same. Shinoda seems to have replaced Chester as front-man. He's giving a decent performance, sure, but you just feel like the songs could be better. There are some brighter spots than others, like the popular "Faint", the Chester fronted "Breaking the Habit"  and Mr Han's solo in "Session" but it just seems like Meteora never quite reaches as high as it could have. At least until "Numb" where Chester and Shinoda finally come together to lay down a fantastic track.

Again, don't get me wrong. I still enjoy this album and the very solid flow from track to track which makes for a spectacular overall experience but like I said, I feel somewhat cheated. Hopefully, next time you wander back down Meteora way, you'll better remember what you've really signed up for and have a much better time as a result. P.S. - Take a look at our scores for "Don't Stay" then think about the score while listening to the end of the track. Do you think they knew how we'd score it?
Author: Jake

In a world full of bands who suffer the "sophomore slump", it's always exciting when one band hits back with an album as good as - dare I say better? No, no I don't - than the first.  And when it happens it is the most natural thing in the world to wonder "What's the secret?  Why don't other bands follow this model?"  There's a long and complicated answer probably, but let's cut all the bull.  Linkin Park took the most surefire way of repeating debut success, make the same damn album again.  Now, of course this should bother you some, but not too much.  Remember, bad music (modern country) and good music (AC/DC) have parlayed the repeated album motif into millions of dollars.

In Linkin Park's case, Meteora is very much akin to Hybrid Theory.  Yet where the latter was driven by guitar riffs and an inspired new ("nu-") blend of metal, the former is filled with catchy vocal melodies, hooks, and sequences (probably a main contributing factor to Jake and I having a 10 point difference in rating).  The combination of these disparate parts forms into perhaps the most sonically cohesive album in the band's catalog, but at the same time you, the listener, are experiencing sonic stasis.  If you're jacked when the album starts, you're jacked when it's over, yet somehow the same experience goes for sadness, indifference, and the desperate need to pee.  The songs are very good, overall, as evidenced by the litany of 4s I handed out.  Whether it's "Breaking The Habit", "Don't Stay", or "Easier To Run" that comes on, I'm pleasantly surprised and do enjoy my 3 minutes of turn of the century reminiscence. "Somewhere I Belong" is a top notch track, that reminds you that you're listening to the same band, just three years later.  "Numb", which I would posit is the best Linkin Park song ever, leaves you with promises of what's to come.  But all in all, Meteora does the same thing Hybrid Theory did, it announces the band's legitimacy and teases the future.  And as enjoyable as this album is that fact will make it always good, but never great.
Author: Pete

OAAR: Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin III (1970)

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By the end of Led Zeppelin's third album, aptly titled Led Zeppelin III, I thought to myself, "Well, they can't all be winners." Truly not a bad album by any stretch of the imagination, LZ3 just didn't have the magic found on their debut or their follow-up albums. But much like every Led Zeppelin album to date, there's at least one classic that can be found on this album. Of course it's no surprise that this classic is "Immigrant Song", one of the most recognizable Zeppelin jams and unfortunately for all of us, the shortest song on the album. As a matter of fact, I think "Immigrant Song" is so fantastic and so much fun that I just don't want it to end. Ever. I actually never even noticed the bass lines during that song because in between rocking out, singing along and not really listening to the track, it can get easily lost in the shuffle but everything about the opening track is spectacular.

Unfortunately, much like a roller coaster, you never quite get as high as the highest point without a bit of help. A roller coaster is actually a great comparison to the experience of this album because right after the highs, there is a speedy descent then some climbing and another steep descent then one more climb and a final descent. The first high point is obviously "Immigrant Song" as I stated before, but my next favorite song on this album is a complete 180. "Since I've Been Lovin You" can probably best be described with common 70's terms like "mellow" and "groovy" because sometimes you just want to mellow out and groove with the music. It just so happens to be the longest track on the album clocking in at over 7 minutes. Overall, though, Led Zeppelin III is better than many modern albums today and is definitely a collection of songs you should check out.
Author: Jake

"Immigrant Song" may the be the absolute apex of Robert Plant's vocal experience in Led Zeppelin.  The song, although short, portends a tour de force of the skills of Zeppelin's members...but the album falls short.  My personal experience with this album is that it sits divisively on the fence with Zeppelin fans.  In many ways, the more melodic, softer side of Zeppelin shines through here, especially on tracks like "Gallows Pole" and "Tangerine".  Jimmy Page employs a number of open tunings for his guitar, and Robert Plant lets his intense vocals fly throughout, the highlights being (of course) "Immigrant Song" and "Celebration Day".

Overall, Led Zeppelin III remains a very unique record.  Its insane cover (and multiple version from 1970) fit well into its contents, which are hit or miss, but undoubtably cohesive.  From beginning to end, it is the best Zeppelin record other than Physical Graffiti, but its top end doesn't stand out the way the first two albums did.  One idea that we hope the Opportunity Assassins haven't planted in your head is that two or three quality songs could ever outweigh an album as beautifully constructed as Led Zeppelin III.  It's not full of five star songs, but when you get out of work on a Friday and want to just relax with a drink, crank some LZIII and get your "Friends" on.
Author: Pete

Lazy Ass Reviews: Young Adult (2011)

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 Young Adult (2011)

I got word from some friends that this movie was secretly better than expected, and it turns out that they're liars.  Another Diablo Cody joint that manages to only partially satisfy, Young Adult has great performances by Charlize Theron and Patton Oswalt, but the plot and music predictably suck ass.  If you don't have an ├╝ber crush on either Theron or Oswalt, there's no need to see this movie because you'll just be miserable when it's over.

OAAR: Linkin Park - Minutes to Midnight (2007)

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Ah, yes..Minutes to Midnight, Linkin Park's third studio album and follow up to Meteora released 4 years prior. I remember the first time I listened through Minutes, not for any of the songs in particular, but more for the fact that Chester dropped the word "fuck" for the first time after two albums (and seven years after the release of Hybrid Theory) of not saying anything worse than "damn" (if my memory serves me correctly). Now, I wouldn't call this a controversial move, nor a necessarily surprising move lyrically but it was definitely an "it's about time" moment for a band as heavy as Linkin Park was in the early days. It's funny, actually, giving Minutes to Midnight another dedicated listen through because it felt like Linkin Park decided to make up for lost opportunities to offend this time around.

So what did I think of Minutes to Midnight? Well, let's take a look at some highlights and low lights. First up is the track "Given Up" which is the last song Chester screams in that he actually doesn't ruin or at least take away from the track as a whole. Paired with lead in track "Wake" we're greeted with a pretty decent beginning of an album. "Bleed It Out", Mike Shinoda's first vocal lead opportunity, is a fun tune with simple hip hop lyrics but features what can be considered to be my favorite way to build out a track starting with a simple lead in then building and layering instruments on top coming to a section where you just can't help but to tap your toes. Unfortunately, though, Chester's screaming once again prevents this track from reaching a perfect 5 score.

The middle of Minutes to Midnight is littered with mediocre tracks including low points "Shadow of the Day" and "Hands Held High" - two of the most boring and lackluster tracks on the album. Luckily, toward the end, the songs improve quite a bit. "In Between" once again provides another example of how great Mike's singing voice is and how well it and Chester's blend when used wisely for harmonies or vocal doubling. Finally, we're left with a good closing tune featuring some great vocal harmonies and excellent drumming in "The Little Things Give You Away". Quite honestly it's probably the best closing track of the Linkin Park albums we Opportunity Assassins have reviewed to date not to mention it surprisingly exceeds the 6 minute mark, a rarity for Linkin Park. Overall, I'm reminded of a question a professor asked me because it perfectly describes Minutes to Midnight -  "Are you striving for mediocrity?"
Author: Jake

It's no surprise that everyone considers Minutes to Midnight Linkin Park's 'experimental' album, but it needs to receive equal pub for how badly the experiment failed.  As you can see, I gave the album a 0 for experience score, because quite frankly there is no rhyme or reason to the songs or the order or anything that happens over its 43 minutes, and I refuse to allow you, dear reader, or anyone else to argue that "it's held together by intentionally sounding nothing like any other Linkin Park album!"  Let's parse Minutes to Midnight from top to bottom for no other reason than because we can do so and not lose any intrinsic values.

I handed out a 1 for Discography Score simply because "Bleed It Out" and "What I've Done" make my 5-star/road trip/party perpetual playlist.  "What I've Done" may be a bit too catchy, but both of these songs share the weave of intensity and melody that has been a Linkin Park trademark since the beginning.  I've come to establish Linkin Park as a "4" band in my head, meaning that I would almost never change the song/station should my iPod or the radio flip over to one of their songs.  "Shadow of the Day" and "No More Sorrow" are exactly that, and would probably have worked better as songs on other albums.

The real problem comes when get to the 3s and below.  "Wake" is quite literally an arbitrary instrumental opening track, although it sounds cool despite its uselessness.  "Given Up", "Leave Out All The Rest", "In Pieces", and "The Little Things You Give Away" all suffer from incompleteness or band-formulaic writing, and a surprising number of the tracks on this album seem to end abruptly amidst a lengthened out-chorus.  The shit really storms on "Hands Held High", as the album's nadir squanders a cool marching snare beat and well constructed vocal harmony melody by overlaying Mike Shinoda's incessant political rap.  This track is a paramount example of what happens when you take a political message and force it into song form, rather than creating a song that also carries a message.  A band like Rage Against the Machine can pull off the latter (and may still piss you off), but the world should have taken it's cue in 2004 from Eminem's sonic abortion "Mosh".  Much like "Hands Held High", "Valentine's Day" and "In Between" are saved from 1s by a couple redeeming melodic points and nothing more.

I understand that music is rebellious by nature, but Minutes to Midnight seems to simply rebel against good music.  Hopefully Linkin Park never forces us to go back there.
Author: Pete

Lazy Ass Review: The Bourne Legacy (2012)

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 The Bourne Legacy (2012)

It would not be a stretch to say that Jeremy Renner is on his way to becoming a mega super duper star, as his last four years have pumped out an endless stream of better-than-you-expected movies...until now.  Renner is good as Aaron Cross, but neither his performance nor the plot of The Bourne Legacy can outperform expectations.  This movie is exactly what it purports to be in the trailer: an action-packed government thriller that simultaneously continues a previous story and sets up countless future sequels, all of which should be patiently streamed on to your favorite viewing device.

Lazy Ass Reviews: The Expendables 2 (2012)

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 The Expendables 2

There's no denying that the Expendables is a movie series with a niche audience.  Where the first was surprisingly well done, The Expendables 2 is a little too tongue in cheek, especially during the Chuck Norris and Arnold Schwarzenegger scenes.  Still, the sonic abuse of gunfire is best experienced in seats of a movie theater with all the unhealthiest, hedonistic elements at hand – even if you only paid $2 for the ticket.

OAAR: Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin II (1969)

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The 1969 follow-up to their first iconic album, Led Zeppelin's Led Zeppelin II carries with it even more memorable songs that will turn out to be classic tunes recognized to this day. Led Zeppelin II off with "Whole Lotta Love", a song whose title you don't say as much as you sing it then follow it up with the guitar slide. One of the best parts of this song is the breakdown jam section leading into the guitar solo. I bet you could ask a few generations of music fans if they could hum or whistle this solo and about 85% could actually rock it off the top of their heads. This is just one example of how classic this song is. "The Lemon Song" was probably one of the lower points on this album with the song not seemingly able to decide whether it wants to be structured or a jam session, but even having said that, the vocals and fantastic bass presence backing the guitar solos help keep the song above the average mark.

The "second side" of the album, starting with "Heartbreaker" really helps to lift this album up to new heights. The key to this are the three iconic riffs that pretty much all classic rock fans recognize anytime they hear them. The high point of this album, though, has to be "Ramble On" with its smoking bass riff, hard hitting chorus and just an all around fantastic song structure. The last noteworthy track is the instrumental "Moby Dick" featuring fun guitar solos but what really stands out is John Bonham's drum solo which sounds like is mainly accomplished with his fingers and not the use of drum sticks (at least for the most part) which is an incredible feat in and of itself. As a whole, Led Zeppelin II doesn't really make it on experience score for the same reasons as the first album, but is a wholly better album than Led Zeppelin I.
Author: Jake

I mean holy shit I forgot how good this album is.  Where Led Zeppelin paid homage to the blues that had gone before, Led Zeppelin II is 41+ minutes of Page, Plant, Jones, and Bonham taking the blues and making it their own.  (With a few borrowed bits from Willie Dixon, of course.)  Everyone gets their chance to shine, but Jimmy Page's guitar drives the album from the opening hook of "Whole Lotta Love" to the surprisingly catchy hook in "Bring It On Home".   The arrangement of the songs, whether pure accident or intentional, sets a perfect flow, as the more gentle middle tracks are bookended by some heavy, aggressive cuts.

Yet, as a whole, the album still feels incomplete.  Zeppelin produced a great sophomore effort before it was important to do so, and the songwriting on Led Zeppelin II is far superior to that of the debut, but the band's ability to produce a true opus wouldn't finally appear until Physical Graffiti.  It may only be a semantic distinction, but it's important to remember that in 1969, most albums were intended to be considered in their entirety.  The modern convenience of surrounding two or three single-quality songs with some ambient noise and throwaway tracks would have resulted in a short career at best.  Much like Led Zeppelin, the songs of Led Zeppelin II all stand out on their own - even the instrumental "Moby Dick" - but Led Zeppelin II  gets a more favorable rating because the songs are better.  I have always viewed Zeppelin's albums as representative tours de force (even if this does prejudge the more unique releases like Led Zeppelin III  and In Through The Out Door) and as such, Led Zeppelin II seems now, 43 years later, to be the apex of the band's studio releases.
Author: Pete

Why Network TV Is Losing Its Edge (Part I)

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As I spent the summer helping my parents out with a bunch of housework (and eating for free, a super important aspect of any life choice for a grad student) I had the pleasure of enjoying the use of their TiVo Premier, which is cooler than my TiVo because it picks up an HD signal.  Anyway, good ol' me got a little loose with the Season Pass trigger and ended up trusting the TNT hype machine and trying out one of their new series, Perception.  Whoops.  Holy shit whoops.  Now, I enjoy Eric McCormack when he's good, and Rachel Leigh Cook is the cutest, least-believable federal agent in recent memory but this show is awful.  What it really is, at its core, is an attempt to capitalize on the new "niche" of terribly flawed main characters.  But where Gregory House was super smart and mostly a prick, or Tony Shalhoub was a germophobe as Adrian Monk - and arguably originated the whole trope - Dr. Daniel Pierce (McCormack) is just a neuroscientist with schizophrenia.

Characters like House, Monk, Temperance Brennan (Bones), Cal Lightman (Lie To Me*), or even Charlie Eppes (Numb3rs) have in common an uncanny brilliance that can be positively applied to the world by the right "handler", for lack of a better term. Their brilliance has limited their ability to engage and play nicely with the "normal" people in society, but eventually the communication line kicks through and the case gets solved.  Perception, however, uses Pierce's schizophrenia as some combination of a superpower and deus ex machina to make sure that each episode clocks in at under 48 minutes.  Mental illness is not the added quirk that is a tradeoff for spectacular reasoning or interpretive capabilities.  Instead the good Dr. Pierce uses his schizophrenia to entirely solve his cases.  The actual science that he engages in lies within the purview of a first-year nursing student, so the only thing that's actually impressive is that Dr. Pierce somehow solves all these cases by talking to imaginary people who are supposed manifestations of his subconscious.  And his subconscious already knows all the deepest darkest secrets of the villain in custody or whatever.  Basically, TNT randomly flipped open a medical diagnosis textbook and pointed to a condition and gifted the world this asinine hour of television on Monday nights.  Please don't watch this show.  It's not good.

You may be saying to yourself, "If this article is supposed to be about how network TV is losing its edge to cable and premium stations, why is he bellyaching for two paragraphs about a show on cable!?"  Good question.  Better answer: Because five years ago cable stations wouldn't have had the balls to even try a show like Perception!  And that's what the crux of this and a number of ensuing articles is going to focus on.  Station-by-station we're going to semi-live, semi-regularly, possibly drunkenly explore all the things that various network, cable, and premium stations are doing right and wrong.  Out of this will come a fluid network power ranking, which will be based on show variety, originality, quality, and the all important aspect of taking a chance with programming.  (If you're TV savvy, you'll realize that this means FOX will be losing mondo points for American Idol, NBC will lose even more points for The Voice, and that AMC is probably the fucking New York Yankees of TV until further notice.)  Quick on the heels of this belated post (which should have been up on the 15th but it was my birthday last week so deal with it) will be an exploration of the network TV station that I watch the absolute least: NBC.  So look for an out of order, 'bonus' post from us here at Opportunity Assassins.

Until then, it's your time. Waste it how you see fit.

You Must Watch This: The Newsroom (Episodes 7-8)

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Episode 7 of The Newsroom focuses around what could be considered the most iconic moment of Obama's first term as president - the assassination of Osama bin Laden. "5/1" is an episode that seems like it should have some more weight around it. Of course there were a couple nice moments when the show pays tribute to those most closely affected by the attacks of 9/11, pilots, police and military, but the whole air around this episode was a bit too lighthearted for such an important event. All in all, this was an episode where we didn't learn much about any characters we didn't already know. Don is being a big baby over the possibility (read: inevitability) of losing Maggie. Will is letting loose at some party for apparently no reason, ending up high as a kite for what would appear to be absolutely no reason other than to apparently show that the events of 5/1 are sobering.

Once more, Sam Waterston's Skinner is the standout role of the episode followed in close second by Lonny Church (Terry Crewes) and his run in with the cops. The rest of the cast was wholly invisible, including Neal Sampat's girlfriend who had what felt like a forced moment when she dropped the news that her father died in one of the WTC towers. The problem with this moment is that I have no emotional investment in her character (I don't even know her name) to begin with so this moment comes off as too little an effort to pull at our collective heart strings. It's a shame that this episode as good as it should have been, because such a major moment should have held more weight. The best part of this episode was Will's announcement of Osama bin Laden's death leading right into Obama's address to the public going into the closing credits.

Episode 8 is the first part of a two part plot line where the crew of The Newsroom throw everything they stand for out the window in order to regain ratings (and in return receive nod to moderate a republican debate where they will rewrite the rules) and protect Will McAvoy's career but also everything that they've worked so hard to accomplish from the network owner, Leona Lansing (Jane Fonda). Much improved from the last episode, we're actually given a few really strong performances from a character that's been strong all season long and a character that I've been waiting to see a glimmer of light from. The event focus is around ACN throwing the "real news" to the side in order to cover the Casey Anthony trial. Also taking place around this time is the Anthony Wiener scandal which just piles on the "not actually news the world should be concerned about" hurt.Of course in the hunt for ratings, an order given from the top, these are the stories that ACN will lead with.

A few of my favorite moments from "The Blackout Part 1: Tragedy Porn" was Don "Master of the Dark Arts" Keefer breaking down the ridiculous coverage of Nancy Grace (ooh..finally bashing a liberal and a voice/face not even a mother could love) showing all the ways that CNN is manipulating the hearts of the mainly female viewers. I wish I had a clip of this scene because it's pure gold. On another note, Sloan Sabbith (Olivia Munn) finally bares some teeth in this episode while trying to convince Mac to run the story about the debt ceiling debates as just the doubt involved would destabilize the dollar as a world currency. The other great Sloan moment was when Neal suggests that Sloan has a big ass at which point she slams him against the wall then when he tries to explain that a lot of men like big asses, she slams him against the wall again asking "They do? Never mind." and storms off confused. Then, of course, there's Skinner's moment in the library where he meets with the mysterious NSA contact from "5/1" except he mistakes another guy for the contact in the library because he's wearing a carnation on his lapel. Just part of another series of great moments from Waterston (the reference to "The Dark Knight" was a treat as well).

Of course every Part 1 must have a Part 2 (unless you're Mel Brooks' "History of the World: Part I"), so we must be left in the dark until next week. So in order to get there, cue Mac: "God, Please give me a sign I'm not doing a big thing badly" At that moment, all the lights in the building go out, which a few people comment on. Of course, Mac follows this up with: "I didn't know he had that kind of comic timing". Good stuff all around. I'm looking forward to Part 2 airing Sunday, Aug 19.

OAAR: Linkin Park - A Thousand Suns (2010)

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Linkin Park's A Thousand Suns is easily the band's most unique album.  The first time I ever heard it, I was super hungover driving home from a friend's wedding.  I had my iPod on shuffle (accidentally) and when I was done listening I thought that the album was unique.  I know now that the reality is A Thousand Suns has two qualities that are exceedingly different from the band's other albums.  The first is the hypnotizing opening trifecta of "The Requiem", "The Radiance", and "Burning In the Skies".  As the melody from "The Requiem" foreshadows "Burning in the Skies", it is interrupted by a wonderfully placed vocal reconstruction of Robert Oppenheimer's explanation of how the Bhagavad Gita served as his moment of clarity regarding nuclear power and the Manhattan Project (this is of course "The Radiance").  I'm not much for Linkin Park's dabbling with politics (see: Minutes to Midnight) but there is a level of artistic perfection here that is not celebrated enough in the modern world of internet singles.  Moreover, this opening trifecta is somewhat hypnotizing, as for days I never got past "Burning in the Skies" on the disc, restarting from the beginning over and over.

Once you move forward, the album does disappoint a bit.  The downslide begins after "When They Come For Me", a cool track with a haunting tribal groove melody that pairs well with Mike Shinoda's caustic challenge to "start tryin' to catch up motherfucker."  Going forward, the tracks by themselves are rather unspectacular, although the sonic experiments of "Blackout" and "Wretches and Kings" are the most non-traditional tracks in the current Linkin Park catalog.  In succession, however, the 10 tracks after "When They Come For Me" hold to the album's flow well.  A Thousand Suns is definitely an album meant to be experienced song by song front to back.  If you don't have the patience for that, your loss.
Author: Pete

A Thousand Suns is an album considered by most (including Linkin Park) an experimental album. Why they consider it such, I don't know, but I imagine it has something to do with it being an album where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Considering how we here at Opportunity Assassins take a look at an album - bit by bit with the whole in mind - some of our scores might seem surprising. Filler track "Empty Spaces" is mostly junk on its own but when considered with the whole around it, it's found to be surprisingly fitting. I didn't quite have the hypnotizing reaction as Pete did with the opening three tracks, but I also didn't perceive them as being individual tracks. Don't get me wrong, opening with "The Requiem", featuring GLaDOS is a mood setting decision, and following it up with the entrancing Oppenheimer speech found in "The Radiance" is a fitting lead in for "Burning in the Skies", but only the third entity can stand on its own.

 The most spectacular part of this album is the fact that it's meant to be experienced as a whole and in order, a rare accomplishment in the age of singles. Add in the rarity of the Linkin Park 4+ minute track and you're left with an overall feeling of awe at the end of "The Catalyst" only to be roughly dragged down the road during the unnecessarily scream-y "The Messenger". As we hear in "Robot Boy", Chester Bennington has the ability to sing high notes with great clarity so it's understandable to question the finale to such a great journey. All that said, though, Mike Shinoda's very apparent influence, felt in his additional presence on both vocals and piano and some of the head nodding beats like those in mega fun prehistoric jungle beat-laden "When They Come For Me" and "Wretches and Kings", help steer this album to an overall success and a definite high point in the Linkin Park catalog. A Thousand Suns is absolutely a must-own for any fan of the album experience as the next time this claim can be made about any album might be a few decades away (hopefully not).
Author: Jake

Lazy Ass Reviews: Ted (2012)

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I pretty much hate Family Guy, but Seth McFarlane does a good job in Ted of proving that he can write a plot.  Until Ted, I hadn't cried from laughter since I saw Bad Santa in theaters...in 2003.  If you like dick jokes, 9/11 jokes, racist jokes, stoner jokes, creepy Giovanni Ribisi, or laughing in general you will go see this movie now, multiple times, and if you don't you're not an American.

OAAR: Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin (1969)

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We've already introduced you to Opportunity Assassins Album Reviews with our Contemporary Tuesdays, but now it's time for the first of our Retro Fridays where we take a look back at artists that have mostly already come and gone and left behind either a legacy of greatness or a legacy of shit.

Kicking off Retro Fridays is an incredible band with a storied history and that made a huge impact on generations of musicians especially guitarists and vocalists. The beauty of Led Zeppelin is that even on the first go round, they created classic tracks like Dazed and Confused and Good Times Bad Times.

To be perfectly honest, this was my first full listen through of Led Zeppelin's self titled first album.I didn't really go in with any expectations good or bad, so I was a bit surprised to see how great of a sound a band could make in the late 60's. What is even more impressive is that Robert Plant's vocals are untouched by modern essentials (for most bands these days) called Pro Tools or Auto-Tune. Sure they're not perfect, but it's the imperfections that make Plant's voice so wonderful. What really impressed me the most though is how closely Plant's voice and Jimmy Page's guitar notes matched up in spectacular blues tune "You Shook Me". Besides...who can't love Page and Plant's dual at the end.

As a whole, Zeppelin's first foray into the world is a far better than average album which is better than most can say on their first crack at the big leagues. That being said, it's very obvious to me that as the tracks were recorded and arranged, it was not with an album as a whole in mind. While this is not a bad thing (as evidenced by my Experience Score), I imagine it was partially in an effort to fit the longer than radio average tracks onto the 2 sides of vinyl. Now since this was the first Zeppelin album I've heard in its entirety, I don't have anything to compare to for the Discography Score, so I reserve the right to modify it as we review the rest of the Led Zeppelin albums.
Author: Jake

How you experience Led Zeppelin's albums says a lot about your musical taste.  The first four  Zeppelin albums are almost entirely about instrumental skill, and everybody in the band gets a chance to show off.  Because Led Zeppelin is most rooted in the blues, listeners are treated to to the shredding cocaine tones of Jimmy Page's guitar as it complements and pairs well with Robert Plant's soaring vocals.  Powerhouse covers of "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You" and "I Can't Quit You Baby" fit nicely with the (more) original "How Many More Times".

This album is more than just a blues homage by a group of extremely talented musicians, however, as songs branch out into other genres: rock 'n' roll ("Good Times Bad Times", "Communication Breakdown"), classical (Page's wonderful instrumental "Black Mountain Side") and theatrical rock (think precursor to Pink Floyd next time you listen to "Your Time Is Gonna Come" and you'll thank me later; this might be the most underrated Zeppelin song of all time).  Led Zeppelin starts strong, the first four songs might be the best four-song album beginning in the history of music, and "Dazed and Confused" is the best Zep song of all time.  You do have to listen to the rest of the discography to fully realize your appreciation of Led Zeppelin, but if it's not painfully obvious how good this album is the first time you hear it, you're an idiot.
Author: Pete

Lazy Ass Reviews: Contraband (2012)

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Contraband (2012)

Contraband is a movie about smuggling and stealing.  That leads to an interesting parallel as Mark Wahlberg, Giovanni Ribisi, and the rest of the cast are stealing your money and wasting your time if you happen to see this movie.  And you thought Max Payne was bad.  

Opportunity Assassins: Tools for the Lazy

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The last new content piece for Opportunity Assassins is our weekly "big" article. As we stated during our launch, we'll find something interesting to talk about then do the heavy lifting so you, our dear readers, don't have to. We here at OA don't have and fancy pants name for this section so we'll settle for a fabulously lazy name of "OA Wednesday Post". There are no rules for this content - no word counts, no formatting, no nothing. Just information you need to perfect your procrastination skills to become the next Opportunity Assassin.

Becoming an Opportuinty Assassin (read: professional procrastinator), you need several tools to help speed life along so that you don't have to worry about the blur. We have only 1 thing that we look for when selecting the best tools for the job - Can I reach it while laying down on my couch? Well, it turns out there are amazing tools that accomplish just that and I'll tell you three of my favorite.

The Coin Toss
It's time for an Opportunity Assassins History Moment [1]. Since the invention of two sided items, the world's most important decisions have been made by which side lands face up. Of course, the advent of the money system, and more specifically coins, not only gave The Coin Toss its name, but made decision making portable. Examples of history's best and worst coin toss decisions include: the invention of Beer, Napoleon attempting to invade Russia, the invention of Whiskey, Hitler attempting to invade Russia, the invention of Pizza, Russia moving ICBMs to Cuba,  the invention of Air Conditioning, the invention of Golf, the invention of Football and mullets. As any Opportunity Assassin knows, no decision was ever made with a single coin toss. As a matter of fact, it's a universal law that no decision is final until after the third toss - a law called the Definitive Triumvirate Law.

The Opportunity Assassins Approved tricks of the trade for satisfying the Definitive Triumvirate Law are:
Any Coin
Any two-faced item
Random.org's Coin Flipper

The Universal Remote
A Universal Remote is the cornerstone for any good Opportunity Assassin's coffee table. While the Logitech Harmony family of is probably the best known and most popular of universal remotes on the market. The programmability, flexibility and ease of setup really helps the Harmony excel, but it's missing the one important feature included in the remote to receive the Opportunity Assassins Stamp of Approval - Bluetooth to control my home theater center Playstation 3. The Opportunity Assassins approved solution is the SMK-Link Blu-Link Universal Remote a combination PS3/RF remote. This allows me to control my music, movies, Netflix and plenty of other distractions from the comfort of my couch. The big benefit is that I can actually turn on just my surround sound and my PS3 then take the remote to another room where I can control my music without direct line of sight to my TV.

A Deck of Cards
Here's your next Opportunity Assassins History Moment. [2]There is no single distraction older than a deck of cards. It's a well known and well documented fact that raptors used to set up campfires all around Pangaea after a good T-Rex hunt and play games of Smear. Fast forward to a small Croatian village in the late 1800s and you'll find Nikolai Tesla playing games of Solitaire in a chain mail suit between two powered Tesla Coils. Second only to the Coin Toss in the list of procrastination's highest value historical contributions, a deck of cards is a savior to all species of creatures the world over. In a pinch, it's simple to shuffle up a deck of cards and deal out a game of King's Corners, play a game of Memory or the quickest card game of all - 52 Pick-Up. Perfect for everything from drinking games to picking Fantasy Football draft orders, a deck of cards is a life-saver in a pinch and a great way to waste time the Opportunity Assassins's way.

But hey, it's your time. Waste it how you see fit.

What's your favorite procrastination tool that would meet our stringent approvals?

[1] Opportunity Assassins History Moments are fictional creations because we're simply too lazy to do real research.

OAAR: Linkin Park - Living Things (2012)

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Welcome to Opportunity Assassins Album Reviews (OAAR), where we put each album to the test to determine which is the best of all time so you don't have to. You've just so happened to trip over OAAR on Contemporary Artist Tuesday (ignore the fact we posted this at 1AM on Wednesday), where we take a look at bands that are now or were recognized to be tearing up stages all over the world during the 21st century. We explained the rules behind the Opportunity Assassins Album Reviews using the super impressive statistical formula but here's a quick refresher course for the forgetful (or the lazy, whom we embrace with open arms).

1) Every track is scored on a 0-5 scale.
2) The scores are totaled up to create a weighted average based on run time.
3) Each album receives a score of 0-5 for how it is in comparison with the other albums in the artists's discography.
4) Each album receives an "experience score" for how good the album stands as a whole over time.
5) All of the numbers from steps 2-4 are gathered up to give us the Total Opportunity Assassin Album Review Score.

That's it. Simple as creating a good old fashioned Wisconsin Bonfire. With that, let's jump into our first Opportunity Assassins Album Review with Linkin Park's 2012 album, Living Things.

Living Things, the fifth independent studio effort by Linkin Park definitely hearkens back to the edgier, guitar-driven days of Hybrid Theory and Meteora.  Sadly, the album does little more than hearken.

Linkin Park appear to have fallen into a trap of recycling albums in the best AC/DC tradition.  Living Things, like many of its predecessors, begins with a more heavy metal sound, evolving into melody driven pieces then devolving into electronica-rap experimentation, ending finally with a song that plays like the album's end credits.

Strong tracks like "In My Remains", "Burn It Down", and "Skin to Bone" are offset by tracks that seem to be a recycling of Chester Bennington's favorite melodies ("Roads Untraveled") or Mike Shinoda's favorite cadences ("Until It Breaks").  When the album's best cut ("Burn It Down") seems to be one long hook, rather than a complex song, it's hard to get too excited.  Don't be surprised upon first listen to think, "Have I heard this album before?"  You have.  And that's not necessarily a good thing.
Author: Pete

Living Things provides us with quite a lot of good mixed up with a lot of bad held together by mediocre. Vocally, I'm thrilled to hear more singing out of both Chester and Mike especially when providing doubling duties on some tracks. An obviously Mr. Hahn (samples) heavy influence in writing Living Things actually works quite well in several cases while missing on others. The worst tracks stem from disruptive bridges, of which there are plenty, poor track layout and an obvious "single track" writing style (as opposed to a "single album" writing style). This is probably part of why the album doesn't even hit the 40 minute mark in total length.

At the shitty end of the spectrum is the midpoint track, "Victimized". Honestly, I don't think there's a better title for this song, as it accurately describes your auditory senses after having to suffer through this mess. Not only that but book-ended by two of the better songs on Living Things that are night and day different. Add to that the heavy screaming that Chester is still holding onto for whatever reason, I guess it's a good thing "Victimized" is only a short 106 seconds long. After the audacity (a word that should be used more often in music related articles) of "Victimized" who would've expected such a spectral 180? "Roads Untraveled" is not only a wonderful track, but is also a song that is an automotive karaoke delight you can't just help but sing along with. Hell, even if you don't sing, I'm sure one day you'll find yourself whistling or humming the tune while walking down the street. Simple, not weighed down by too many vocal flairs and featuring the subtle use of Chester doubling Mike's chorus line after the second verse, Roads Untraveled is the shining light of Living Things.
Author: Jake

But hey, it's your time. Waste it how you see fit.

Agree or disagree? Think we're the coolest cats on the planet? Let us know in the comments below.

Lazy Ass Review: The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

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**Disclaimer: Most Lazy Ass Reviews won't have this disclaimer (duh).  However, an explanatory note is rather necessary, at least at first.  All Lazy Ass Reviews are simplified into three sentences or less.  Our mastery of the English language will allow us to convey to you, dear reader, all of the pertinent aspects of the movie in such a short frame, and you won't have to suffer any blowhard, super deep, quasi-intellectual reviews.  If three sentences are too much for you, each review is complemented by a nice banner graphic at the bottom, urging you to do one of four things:

1) Sell your soul to the devil to see this movie, and get all the amenities: IMAX, large popcorn drowned in butter, etc. 
2) Make sure you get the theater experience (second run theaters okay and, in fact, wholly approved)
3) Wait for Netflix/Hulu/RedBox, etc., as it's worth a view, but not for much more than the cost of freedom (a buck-oh-five). 
4) Avoid this movie like all the plagues ever in the history of mankind were rolled into the fat Kardashian.

That's it!  So here's the first of many, enjoy the Lazy Ass Review for The Dark Knight Rises.

The Dark Knight Rises

It's not the best of the Nolan-Era Batman movies, but that's because it's not The Dark Knight.  Still, it's a character and gadget loaded, plot driven tour de force in the best Nolan tradition.  Thomas Hardy as Bane is alone worth all the money you'll spend to see this movie, the rest is just a bonus.

But hey, it's your time. Waste it how you see fit.

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