TV Stuff: From The Bloody To The Baldie – The Collapse of ‘Dexter’ and Knockout Of ‘Breaking Bad’

Breaking Bad & Dexter

I can’t say much more about Breaking Bad than hasn’t been said already from all of you. Nearly all that have seen it love it, and the final dance with the bald devil is setting new personal records by the week. It’s so good that I don’t need to tell you it’s so good.

But on a weekly basis, I can’t help but compare it to another anti-hero Sunday series coming to a close in Dexter. Just a few years ago, I wrote in this very space how entranced I was by all that was Dexter, and I still consider its first season and the amazing fourth ‘Trinity Killer’ season among my favorite in TV history. That’s why it’s infuriating how badly the series has tumbled, especially in this final turn.

I’m stunned this season’s premiere yielded series record ratings, and how the viewership numbers have stayed equally consistent throughout the year. Perhaps it’s because we’re all looking for the end game payoff and ultimately the answer to the question of whether Dexter Morgan will have to atone for his sins. But instead of a pulse-pounding cat and mouse chase between the Miami P.D. and Dexter or an excellently woven tale that puts everyone at odds, we’ve been left with a dull, bland, emotionless ride that is unfit of a character that played a special role in bringing Showtime to the hour-long drama table.

The main problem is this cast of characters isn’t really that interesting. Do we really care about Deb, Quinn, Masuka, or Angel Batista? I mean, seriously, do you? The amount of time spent on Masuka and his newly-discovered daughter is mind-numbing. What is the point? Perhaps if they were in pursuit of Dexter, and we were allowed to go through the emotions of them realizing everything they knew about their friend was a lie, would they actually have an impact. Instead, everyone is just taking up time in a story that isn’t any good.

And Harrison, poor Harrison, is relegated to being involved in one of the worst scenes in recent TV history. Watch this over and over. It gets better and worse at the same time. The show has devolved into something you’d see on a new CBS campaign called ‘CBS After Dark’. (As Showtime and CBS are owned by Viacom, this can’t be a coincidence.) It looks like a more gory version of CSI or any other of those Tiffany Network cop procedurals, doesn’t it?

So as Dexter plods towards its series finale Sunday, what are hoping to learn? Ultimately, does he escape with Hannah and Harrison (cute family names, eh?) to Argentina and beat the storm, does he die, or does he stay? Does anyone learn anything? What about the son of the psychiatrist we were supposed to care about? Do we care if Deb lives?

Meanwhile, all eyes and minds will be on the Breaking Bad bullet train with two episodes remaining and still so much to unravel. But in history, have you been more confident in a satisfying conclusion ever? While one show took the ‘That show went how long?’ route, another is doing its damndest to ensure you never, ever forget their name. Ever.

Dexter Series Suggestion: Watch Dexter seasons 1-4 for sure, and 5-6 if you have time. Skip 7 and 8. We’ll tell you what happens.

Breaking Bad Suggestion: Watch every episode of Breaking Bad several times, and then, watch them again in different languages.

Other TV Stuff

  • I finished up the second season of The Newsroom, and overall, it was pretty good. It was a good chance of pace from the first season where they seemed to be ahead of every story before every other news outlet. Without a doubt, it’s a very ‘smart’ show that sometimes gets too deep into heady dialogue that normal people would never say in conversation. I feel like I should add in a snarky line about Aaron Sorkin, but I haven’t watched much else of his TV outside Studio 60.
  • I have a few things to say about the news of a Walking Dead spinoff, but I’ll save those for next week.
  • Starting to collect dust on the DVR: Ray Donovan. I’m roughly three behind for no other reason than time.
  • Just kicked off: Sons Of Anarchy, It’s Always Sunny, and The League.
  • And now, your 12-minute moment of Zen:

When New Becomes Old: The Growing Trend Of 90s Bands With New Singers

In one of the many music discussions/arguments my friend Brett and I have had in the nearly 10 years I’ve known him, one always sticks out: where 90s music fits in comparison to other decades.

Born in ’78, my first jump into music was in the late 80s and intensified as the decade turned to 1990. I went through tapes, mix tapes, the era of CDs, and our current mishmash of whatever it is you call MP3s/Spotify/Pandora/streaming everywhere.

But BMG Music, man, that’s where I really found music. You remember BMG, right? Get 11 CDs for 1 cent and just pay in full for the other? There was always supposed to be a limit per year, but by changing a family name, work address or just waiting for them to make another offer, you could load up a collection and fast.

5+1+6? What a deal!

That’s where I found what was beyond the radio and MTV in an era where that’s all you had to find out what else was out there. That’s where I found Nirvana, the Smashing Pumpkins, Green Day, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Pearl Jam, the Wu Tang Clan, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and plenty before and after. My books got filled, my CD player ran non-stop, and life was good.

(If you’re in your mid to late 30s, you might have shaken your head yes a few times. Younger than that and you’re probably tweeting, texting and watching TV all at once.)

Sugar Ray’s Mark McGrath & Everclear’s Art Alexakis in happier times.

A funny thing happened in the last two years: 90s musical acts began joining forces and going on tour. Sure, there had been previous triple bills (Counting Crows/Live/Collective Soul comes to mind), but this summer especially saw a glut of shows featuring a mix of those still hanging around and those that elicit a “They’re still alive?” response. Here’s a smattering:

Under The Sun Tour: Sugar Ray, Smashmouth, Fastball, Gin Blossoms, Vertical Horizon

– The original members of Soundgarden reunited last year, put out a well respected new album and went touring all over the place

– Pearl Jam is back on the road this year with a new album impending. (I don’t consider them a nostalgia act by any means, but they’re on here as a tie-in.)

– Even pop bands have got into the act. 98 Degrees and Boyz II Men are supporting New Kids On The Block on their recent tour.

I’m sure I’m forgetting and leaving out some, but what spurred this blog was the Summerland tour I saw this past weekend. The brainchild of Everclear frontman Art Alexakis, he helped kick things off last year with bands like Lit, Marcy Playground, and Sugar Ray with his own group headlining. In year two, Live, Filter and Sponge joined Everclear on a fairly expansive tour that saw over 35 dates this year.

As a fan of three of the bands, it was a no-brainer, so my g/f and other good friend headed to Hampton Beach, NH, for a warm Saturday night of music that came out nearly 20 years ago. And without a doubt, the hits were there. This wasn’t a gimmick show where there’s a few songs you want to hear and you get a bunch of new tracks you’re not into. Alexakis said as much between sets in addressing the crowd. If the Summerland tour tagline was “You’ll get everything you want,” that would be apropos.

I had the fortune to tell my friend Blaine that Ed Kowalczyk was no longer the lead singer of Live as the band is in quite a dispute with their former lead singer. But as we watched their seven song co-headlining set, we both came to the realization that we didn’t care who the new frontman was — they still sounded great.

As the night went on, I couldn’t get the thought out of my mind that this is happening with more frequency to 90s alternative bands than most others that I can remember.

Ed Kowalczyk & Chad Taylor of Live in happier times. (See a trend?)

Seriously, here’s five (with an *) off the top of my head:

Live: The aforementioned Pennsylvanians are now fronted by Chris Shinn, who is best known as being the son of New Orleans Pelicans’ owner George Shinn. He is also very talented.

Stone Temple Pilots: In one of the more bizarre combos, Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington takes over for Scott Weiland who is out of the group due to tenuous circumstances. (See a trend there?)

Fuel: Lead singer Brett Scallions left Fuel in 2006 and the rumor was then-American Idol singer Chris Daughtry might take over. That never happened and after a few lead singers and other member departures later, Scallions is leading a reformed Fuel and is touring.

Alice In Chains: In one of the more discussed and eventually accepted shifts, William DuVall joined AiC in 2005, just a few years after Layne Staley’s death. They are also touring and put out one of my favorite rock discs in a few years, Black Gives Way To Blue, in ’09.

Smashing Pumpkins: This is more in reverse, but lead man Billy Corgan is the only one that remains from the original foursome. It’s been hard to recapture the magic of those discs, mainly because of Corgan’s insistence on putting out A) too much music and B) music that isn’t connecting with anyone. I saw the latest incarnation of the group perform Oceania in full and then ripped into five or so hits. What do you think got over with the crowd more?

Nirvana: If you follow rock music, you know the story that broke this year about Paul McCartney doing some songs with Krist Novacelic, Dave Grohl, and later member Pat Smear. Then “Cut Me Some Slack” came out, the name “Sirvana” was created, but ultimately, it hasn’t amounted to McCartney busting out Something In The Way or Rape Me on his current tour. It’s a thing, but not a full thing. (Actually, I guess they don’t belong on this list, but what the hell.)

‘Sirvana’ on SNL.

A lead singer is essentially the band’s spokeman, the one who is heard the most and pretty much represents what the audience is supposed to know, feel and relate to. That’s why they call it ‘frontman’s disease’ and not ‘bass player’s disease’. There’s a certain swagger and attention one gets from being a lead singer, which is why it seems like such a freakin’ awesome job to so many people.

But at some point, fans decided to not care anymore about who fronted these bands, but just that they started playing the music those old frontmen used to sing. It’s a weird phenomenon and one that I think gives the aforementioned Brett a leg up in our debate.

However, there are plenty of 80s bands that have decided to undergo frontman facelifts. Van Halen (who went from Dave Lee Roth to Sammy Hagar to Gary Cherone back to Hagar and then back to Roth) and Journey come to mind, while Guns ‘n’ Roses went the route of Corgan with essentially only Axl Rose calling the shots.

But imagine Pearl Jam without Eddie Vedder or the Chili Peppers without Anthony Kiedis or House Of Pain without Everlast (ok, maybe that last one doesn’t work). On the flipside, an interesting point of discussion is how revered the former two bands would be if their lead singer committed suicide instead of Kurt Cobain. Had that happened, perhaps Sir Paul would have been belting out Black or Under The Bridge on SNL this season instead.

As the summer winds down and more 90s tours emerge, I’m reminded of a sentiment I heard somewhere on a podcast: bands are becoming like blockbuster movies. The successful ones break up and eventually reboot so they can make tons of money. Perhaps this current decade of more prone to this phenomenon than others. Maybe it’s the talent or just a pure coincidence, but it’s happening and fans of this era of music don’t seem to mind.

Count me among them.

GSP’s Striking Coach Phil Nurse Featured In November’s FIGHT! Magazine

Ever interviewed someone when you’re sitting in a closet? Yep, that was me on Memorial Day Weekend 2011 when I talked with famed MMA/Muay Thai striking coach Phil Nurse. I’ve talked to people in a lot of odd places, but this was a definite first.

The 48-year-old Nurse was visiting his home country of England at the time of our chat, so I had to attempt to figure out a crazy international calling card plan so my phone bill didn’t get jacked up. When we talked, the phone connection was a bit low in volume and thanks to some noisy neighbors that were barbequing outside my apartment, I needed to find a quiet spot in my four room abode.

The only spot? My bedroom closet. Technology in 2011, everyone.

Nurse was a great interview, talking about his background in Muay Thai, heading up his school and fight team in New York, how he transitioned to MMA and the awesome story of how he eventually met Georges St. Pierre despite turning down the opportunity several times initially. It was definitely one of those “What if” moments as the two have been linked for years.

Read my feature on Nurse in November’s FIGHT! Magazine and if you’re in New York City, stop by The WAT, Kru’s gym.

Fight Magazine - November 2011

UFC: Phil Davis And His Pink Trunks Featured In October’s FIGHT! Magazine

Phil Davis Pink Trunks UFCMost Americans are probably aware that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, something especially evident in our sports culture. Notice a lot of your favorite NFL players wearing a bit more pink these days? It’s the league’s nod toward this high-visibility cause.

MMA has its own beacon of awareness in UFC light heavyweight Phil Davis. The world’s largest MMA organization didn’t tell Davis to wear pink trunks but rather it was Davis’ decision to don a color not exactly associated with a tough guy sport. He does so to honor his mom and his late aunt who battled cancer.

After getting a lead from my editor, I interviewed Davis for October’s FIGHT! Magazine (available on newsstands with Carlos Condit on the cover) about how he came to the decision, what cancer has done to his family and what’s going on with his career.

This was definitely a last-minute story idea, written over Labor Day weekend with the interview done in my car on the way up to Maine and the piece written the next day. This isn’t anything new for journalists/feature writers, but it’s still fun to take people behind the curtain.

Pick up the magazine, follow Phil on Twitter and if you like my writing, check out my WrestlingObserver MMA interview series with Bryan Alvarez, my weekly show with PJ Huot on WGAM/ESPN Radio NH or my work on Bloody Elbow.