Tuesday, November 20, 2012

'The Walking Dead' So Far: Ghosts, Warriors, and Woodbury Weirdness

The biggest criticism of The Walking Dead's second season is that little happens in the first six episodes. But with all the action and character dynamics in play throughout the first half-dozen episodes of Season 3, no one will be able to fault the show for treading narrative water this time. Because after two seasons of mostly setup, it's clear that Season 3 is all about payoffs.

So much has happened since the last time I wrote. This season's fourth episode, "Killer Within," was maybe the most devastating to date. Prisoner Andrew, who we all assumed was as good as dead when Rick trapped him in a courtyard with a handful of walkers (and who we now know was the one surveilling the prison from the woods), ended up escaping. Then, in giving new meaning to the expression "paybacks are hell," he lured more walkers into the prison and waited for the shit to hit the fan. When it did, T-Dog unexpectedly and disappointingly bit the dust (so much for having a bigger role this season), Carol was presumed dead, and Lori didn't survive childbirth while hiding from a horde inside the prison.

How's that for karma?

"Man, can't we just have one good day?" asked Glenn before all hell broke loose. On The Walking Dead, the answer is no. But the bigger message the show is reminding us of early on? No one's safe, no matter where they are.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

'The Walking Dead' So Far: From Dog Food to Canned Cans

If you were wondering what the survivors in The Walking Dead have been up to since we last saw them sitting anxiously around a campfire seven months ago, the wordless five-minute opening scene in "Seed," the Season 3 premiere, says it all. No longer inexperienced and insulated from danger, the survivors have become a well-oiled army of zombie killers and marksmen who efficiently scavenge and quietly secure premises in a matter of minutes. They've become good at this, but their nomadic lifestyle has them looking more haggard and hungrier than ever as they continue looking for a more permanent safe haven. Worse, time's running out to find a proper place where Lori can give birth to Rick (or Shane's) baby.

Enter the prison, whose relative proximity as it appeared in the closing shot of Season 2 made it seem like an imminent discovery, but was somehow overlooked all winter when the survivors were going in circles trying to find a way out of the immediate area.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Nothing But Heart

"Five years is something that you have to pay attention to... A five-year contract—that's not something that comes along every day."

2010 was a year that saw some remarkable television shows say goodbye. I've already written about the epic swan song of Lost and the overdue conclusion of 24, but I haven't gotten around to blogging about NBC's beloved high school football drama, Friday Night Lights. Although most fans didn't watch the show's fifth and final season until it aired on NBC in 2011, the series wrapped in 2010, with Season 5 airing exclusively on DirecTV that Fall. So, technically speaking, three of my favorite shows—three that are considered the decade's best—saw themselves to the door in 2010.

I didn't start watching Friday Night Lights until the Spring of 2008 when the show was in its second season. A female co-worker had recommended it and lent me the Season 1 DVDs. I have to admit that I hadn't paid much attention to the series up to that point. Even though I liked the 2004 film (then an adaptation of the 1990 book by H.G. Bissinger), I wondered if a more drawn-out TV adaptation was really necessary, and if it could really be better than the movie.

That doubt of mine was quickly quelled after watching a few episodes on DVD. It didn't take long before I preferred the TV series to its silver-screen counterpart, even though it's never fair to compare apples to oranges. If anything, the difference between the two mediums speaks more about the inherent advantage television shows have in getting far more time to develop stories and characters. As it turns out, this was the primary reason why Peter Berg, who directed the film version of Friday Night Lights, wanted to delve deeper into the world with the TV edition, since he had to leave so much out of the book in making the movie.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Swing Your Sword

During his time at Texas Tech, I really grew to love Mike Leach and his "Air Raid" offense. Having grown accustomed to Ohio State eking out cardiac-arresting wins with its conservative Tresselball offense, Texas Tech's aggressive spread attack was quite the antithesis. And as college football offenses evolved in more creative, wide-open ways in the mid-2000s, I only grew to appreciate it more.

I've always been envious that Ohio State hasn't had an offensively minded coach like Leach who could strategically create mismatches and make teams pay. Too many times throughout Tressel's tenure, OSU either lost close, winnable games, or won games that shouldn't have been so tight by allowing lesser teams to hang around. Either way, the conservative approach has handicapped Ohio State for years, with the players having to rely on their athletic ability to compensate for the poor position the coaches put them in. With an offensive philosophy like Leach's, there would have been higher scores, more wins, and much fewer palpitations.

Leach has had success everywhere he's coached. The before-and-after statistics at Iowa Wesleyan, Valdosta State, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Texas Tech are dramatic. He's developed ordinary players into stars, whether it's once walk-on Wes Welker or quarterbacks Josh Heupel and Tim Couch, both Heisman Trophy finalists. And even though his oddly named quarterbacks at Texas Tech have earned reputations as system QBs, you can't ignore their success, throwing anywhere from 3,000 to over 6,000 yards a season. If those are system QBs, those are QBs I want in my system.

Leach's recently published biography, Swing Your Sword: Leading the Charge in Football and Life, gives great insight into his coaching philosophies. I've never played organized football, but if I coached it, the armchair quarterback in me would adopt many of them. What follows are the excerpts from Leach's book that I identified with the most.