Titans, S2 Ep 2&3, “Rose” “Ghosts” Review by Case Wright


Halloween is over and now it’s time for all good persons to rally together and watch Titans! This season is following a tried and true method of bringing the gang back together, but they are emotionally apart and will hopefully return together.  This season’s Big Bad is Deathstroke (Esai Morales) and it’s AWESOME!

“Rose” is about well Rose who is in peril.  She’s missing an eye and is getting chased by the police.  Dick intervenes and takes her in for some reason, but it turns out Rose is Deathstroke’s daughter…Dun Dun Dun!!!! She also has a lot of snark, which the show needs more of.  It also has Jason Todd as a budding superhero looking for acceptance by Dick Grayson as he tries to fit into the Titans.  I’m glad that Curran Walters is a series regular, BUT I feel like his talent and his character is being wasted; he should be on his own show and have him evolve into the anti-hero- Red Hood.

Where’s the rest of our heroes? Hank and Dawn are out in Wyoming trying to go straight by running a horse riding camp for addicts.  Apparently, their need to fight crime was feeding Hank’s addiction.  But, is Dawn hanging up the cape and spandex???? NOPE! She’s out beating meth cookers within an inch of their lives! Yes, she’s returned to badassery.  Their utopia crashes down when their car explodes.  Why did the car go boom?  Deathstroke sprung Doctor Light from prison. He can manipulate energy and blow things up.

This episode dovetails perfectly into Ghosts- Episode 3.  The old Titans- Donna, Hank, and Dawn are back at the HQ and learn that Doctor Light is on the loose, Deathstroke is after them, Dick is harboring Deathstroke’s daughter, and the sushi he fed them came from a gas station.  Basically, everything is terrible and Dick is so busy trying to be a Dad that he forgot that he had to also be an angry badass.  Who is Doctor Light?  He’s a Mad Max looking supervillain who according to the comics is a serial sex offender and murderer.

The old gang tries to find Doctor Light and excludes any of the New Titans from the fight. Why? Because Dick’s trying to protect them and do things differently from Batman, but he didn’t bother to tell the New Titans that the last time they tangled with Deathstroke, it was a disaster. They hint at the disaster that they keep teasing at, forcing us to guess how terrible it was.

There is a secondary story of Starfire being pulled back home to be Queen.  Honestly, I hate this subplot.  She brings so much to the show and this subplot feels like a sidelining to me.

While Dick is trying to be a TV Dad, Jason is determined to prove himself.  He and Beast Boy go after Doctor Light and they find him, but IT’S A TRAP!!!! Jason gives a good fight, but is captured by Deathstroke!!!! OH NO!

These episodes fit together well and act as a great vehicle to ramp up the tension and suspense.  The cast is really bringing it again this season and Esai Morales was born to play this role.  He encapsulates the quiet rage and evil brilliantly!



Horror on TV: The Twilight Zone 3.24 “To Serve Man” (dir by Richard L. Bare)

“It’s a cookbook!”

During the month of October, we like to share classic episodes of horror-themed television.  That was easier to do when we first started doing our annual October horrorthon here at the Shattered Lens because every single episode of the original, black-and-white Twilight Zone was available on YouTube.  Sadly, that’s no longer the case.  In fact, there is exactly one episode of the original Twilight Zone on YouTube.

Fortunately, that episode is a classic.  In 1962’s To Serve Man, an alien (Richard Kiel) comes to Earth and invites people to return to his home planet with him.  He leaves behind a book.  When everyone learns that the title of the book is To Serve Man, they excitedly decide that the book must be an instruction manual on how to help mankind.  The truth, as we learn in the episode’s classic finale, is something a little bit different.

Here’s the episode!  Watch it before YouTube yanks it down.

(This episode originally aired on October 2nd, 1962.  It was directed by Richard L. Bare from a script by Rod Serling.  It was based on a short story by Damon Knight.)


Great Moments In Television History: Ghostwatch Traumatizes The UK

On this date, twenty-seven years ago, children across the UK were scarred for life.

It was on Halloween night that the BBC aired a live call-in discussion show called Ghostwatch.  Recognizable BBC reporters like Craig Charles and Sarah Greene were seen investigating a reputedly haunted house and playing Halloween pranks on each other.  In the studio, host Michael Parkinson interviewed an expert on the paranormal and invited viewers to call in tell their own stories of the supernatural.  Many people called throughout the show, telling stories about how they had been haunted by a malevolent spirit called Pipes.  Even as Parkinson laughed off the stories, strange things started to happen in the house and the studio.  A mirror fell off the wall and landed on a member of the crew.  The calls into the show started to get increasingly desperate as the callers said that they were being attacked by Pipes at that very moment!  The show’s paranormal expert said that the show was acting as a “national seance” and soon poltergeists would be attacking ever home in the UK!  Suddenly, viewers saw something inside the haunted house grab Sarah Greene and drag her off camera!  Inside the studio, the lights exploded and everyone fled, except for Michael Parkinson.  After saying he wasn’t sure if anyone was still out there who could hear him, Parkinson suddenly started to recite a nonsense rhyme.  But his voice was different and viewers realized that Parkinson had been possessed by Pipes!  “Fee fi fo fum!” Parkinson threateningly intoned before the picture finally went dead.

Ghostwatch, of course, was an enormous prank.  Though it was presented as being a live broadcast, the whole thing had actually been filmed a few weeks before.  Even though Michael Parkinson gave out the BBC’s actual number when he asked viewers to call in with their ghost stories, viewers who called during the airing of Ghostwatch heard a message telling them that the show was fictional.  (Unfortunately, so many people tried to call during the show that most callers got a busy signal instead.)  Michael Parkinson, Craig Charles, and Sarah Greene were all recognizable, real-life BBC news personalities but none of them were actually attacked by ghosts or possessed on Halloween night.

Just try telling that to the children who watched Ghostwatch.  Some were reportedly so traumatized by the show that they were still having nightmares weeks after it aired.  Despite the fact that Ghostwatch had aired as a part of Screen One, many were convinced that they had just seen Sarah Greene killed by a ghost and Michael Parkinson possessed by Pipes.  Even though Sarah Greene made an appearance on Children’s BBC to assure young viewers that she had not been killed (despite that ghost dragging her under the cupboard while the entire nation watched), many were not convinced.  What if Sarah Greene had become possessed just like Michael Parkinson?

Always eager for a chance to condemn the BBC, the British press had a field day condemning Ghostwatch.  The BBC responded by placing a 10-year ban on the show.  Ghostwatch would not be released on video until 2002 and it has never again aired on the BBC.  You can watch it on Shudder, though … if you dare!

Previous Great Moments In Television History:

  1. Planet of the Apes The TV Series
  2. Lonely Water

Horror on TV: Halloween Is Grinch Night (dir by Gerard Baldwin)

So, we all know that the Grinch once tried to steal to Christmas and then his heart grew a few sizes but did you know that apparently, the Grinch also tried to steal Halloween?

Until a few days ago, I did not.  I was going through YouTube, searching for horror films that I could share here on the Shattered Lens, and guess what I came across?

A TV special from 1977 entitled Halloween is Grinch Night!

Unlike How The Grinch Stole Christmas, Halloween is Grinch Night apparently never became a holiday classic.  Perhaps that’s because Halloween is Grinch Night is not exactly the most heart-warming of holiday specials.  Whereas How The Grinch Stole Christmas tells us about how the Grinch learned the true meaning of Christmas, Halloween is Grinch Night gives us a Grinch who has no redeeming features.  There is no hope for this Grinch.  This Grinch will steal your soul and probably drink your blood.  This Grinch is pure Grinchy evil.

This is the Grinch of our nightmares.

Check out Halloween is Grinch Night below and hope the Grinch doesn’t capture you this Halloween…

Horror On TV: The Great Bear Scare (dir by Hal Mason)

I came across this old cartoon on YouTube.  Apparently, it aired in October of 1983.

It’s about bears living in Bearbank.  Halloween is approaching and they’re worried about getting invaded by the monsters who live on Monster Mountain.  Well, that makes sense.  My question is why would you buy a house near a location called Monster Mountain?  And really, shouldn’t the monsters be in the houses and the bears in the mountains?  This cartoon is weird.

Anyway, the bears are getting ready to feel the city but little Ted E. Bear sets out to confront his fears!  Woo hoo!

I don’t know.  It’s from 1983.  That was a strange year, I guess.


Guilty Pleasure No. 45: Utopia

Utopia ended on a Halloween.

Now, I’m not talking about utopia as a concept.  I imagine that there are still people out there who think that the idea of creating a utopia is a a viable one.  (I’m not one of those people but that’s mostly because I think living in a perfect world would be hella dull.)  Instead, I’m talking about a reality television show that premiered in September of 2014 and which was canceled one month later.

Though it’s pretty much forgotten today, Utopia was a pretty big deal in the months leading up to its first episode.  It’s estimated that Fox spent 50 million dollars to develop and promote the show.  Not only would Utopia air twice a week but, much in the style of Big Brother, audiences would be able to watch the show’s participants interact live online.  The commercials, which were inescapable that summer, explained that 12 people with radically different philosophies would be expected to come together and form a new society on a California farm.  An atheist would live with a minister!  A libertarian would have to work with a socialist!  An attorney would have to find common ground with an ex-con!  A huntress would eat at the same table as a vegetarian!  The show was an experiment that would last an entire year and it would answer the question: Can different people come together to start a brave new world?

I have to admit that I was kind of excited for the show.  Utopia started just as the 16th season of Big Brother came to an end.  That season was one of the worst in the history of Big Brother, largely as the result of the show’s producers putting the insufferable Frankie Grande in the House and then trying to rig the show in his favor.  After a terrible season of Big Brother, I was actually had hope that maybe Utopia would be everything that Big Brother had ceased being.

Of course, I was wrong.  From the first episode of Utopia, it became obvious that we would never learn whether people could come together to start a brave new world because, for the most part, no one on the show was interested in doing that.  There was a lot of drinking, of course.  There was also an entire episode devoted to one of the Utopians, a pastor, worrying that he would lust in his heart for the female Utopians unless they started wearing more clothes.  For two episodes, a redneck named Red announced that he wanted to start his own society in the woods but eventually he changed his mind.  The Utopians lived on a farm but only doomsday prepper Bella seemed to have any farming experience and, as quickly became obvious in her case, having experience doesn’t necessarily mean that you know what you’re doing.

It was a weird show.  I’m assuming that Fox thought that there would be instant conflict if they put a libertarian and a socialist together but, for the most part, no one on the show ever discussed their differing philosophies.  In fact, it was hard to see that any of them had any philosophy as all.  Hex was regularly described as being a “huntress,” despite the fact that we never saw her hunt.  Rob was described as being a libertarian but we never actually saw him discuss what that meant and he acted like just as much of a petty authoritarian as the other members of the cast.  The show tried to create the appearance of conflict but, like most Americans outside of Twitter, the cast dealt with their differences by not really discussing them.  So, as a result, we ended up with entire episodes devoted to doomsday prepper Bella getting upset because veterinary assistant Bri wanted to have some say in how the farm animals were fed.

The one thing that kept all of this from being unbearable dull was that the show’s perpetually optimistic host, Dan Piraro, described every minor event in breathless detail.  When one of the Utopians got too drunk and acted like an ass, he was put on a trial.  The end result of the trial?  Everyone asked him to please not get drunk and act like an ass again.  “And so the Utopians have created a legal system!” Piraro exclaimed.

As the show progressed, the Utopians started to get bored.  Some of them voluntarily left Utopia, largely because they just wanted to find something better to do with their time.  After the show’s producers tried to turn attorney Mike Quinn into the star of the show and centered a few episodes around his relationship with “polyamorous Dedeker,” he abruptly left.  (“And so Mike leaves Utopia….”)  Whenever an old Utopian left, two prospective new ones would be brought in and would explain why they should be selected to live in Utopia but the new Utopians soon proved themselves to be just as boring as the old ones.  The Utopians attempted to raise money for food by opening up their farm to the general public.  Huntress Hex gave hunting lessons and revealed that she wasn’t really sure how to use a bow and arrow.  One of the new arrivals attempted to create a website for the farm, just to have the site besieged by online trolls.  Ratings crashed and the show soon went from airing twice a week to only airing on Fridays.

And yet, the worse the show got, the more fascinating it became.  Utopia offered audiences the opportunity to watch a month-long train wreck as it unfolded.  It was so bad that you couldn’t look away and each attempt by Fox to somehow spice up the show only made it more of a disaster.  I would watch each episode just to see how much more pointless the show could become.

The final episode aired on Halloween and it featured the host wearing a cape and, if I remember correctly, plastic fangs at one point.  By this point, Fox had changed the show’s concept.  Now, the viewers would vote each week on who they wanted to banish from Utopia.  (“But I’m an atheist!” Hex wailed, “America’s going to hate me!”)  Or, at least, that’s what the show’s producers said was going to happen.  Instead, Utopia was canceled before America ever got a chance to vote.

Interestingly, the only people shocked by Utopia‘s cancellation were the people living on the farm.  Apparently, the day after Halloween started out normally for them and for whoever might have been watching them on the live feeds.  Sometime in the afternoon, the feeds abruptly went down and never came back up.  From what I’ve read, the Utopians were called into a meeting and told that they were going home immediately.

Utopia has never been tried again but I fondly remember watching it.  The Utopians failed to create a brave new world but they kept me amused for 12 episodes.

Previous Guilty Pleasures

  1. Half-Baked
  2. Save The Last Dance
  3. Every Rose Has Its Thorns
  4. The Jeremy Kyle Show
  5. Invasion USA
  6. The Golden Child
  7. Final Destination 2
  8. Paparazzi
  9. The Principal
  10. The Substitute
  11. Terror In The Family
  12. Pandorum
  13. Lambada
  14. Fear
  15. Cocktail
  16. Keep Off The Grass
  17. Girls, Girls, Girls
  18. Class
  19. Tart
  20. King Kong vs. Godzilla
  21. Hawk the Slayer
  22. Battle Beyond the Stars
  23. Meridian
  24. Walk of Shame
  25. From Justin To Kelly
  26. Project Greenlight
  27. Sex Decoy: Love Stings
  28. Swimfan
  29. On the Line
  30. Wolfen
  31. Hail Caesar!
  32. It’s So Cold In The D
  33. In the Mix
  34. Healed By Grace
  35. Valley of the Dolls
  36. The Legend of Billie Jean
  37. Death Wish
  38. Shipping Wars
  39. Ghost Whisperer
  40. Parking Wars
  41. The Dead Are After Me
  42. Harper’s Island
  43. The Resurrection of Gavin Stone
  44. Paranormal State

Great Moments In Television History: Lonely Water (1973, directed by Jeff Grant)

From the end of World War II to 2007, the UK’s Central Office of Information used to produced Public Information Films (known as PIFs), which would often air on television during children’s programming.  These were the British equivalent of the “More You Know” PSAs that appear on American television.  A typical PIF would deal with a safety issue, warning children to be careful crossing the street or while visiting a farm or when thinking of sticking a fork into an electrical socket.

One of the most notorious PIFs was first broadcast in 1973 and aired for several years after that.  Lonely Water warned children about the danger of foolish behavior and risk-taking at lakes, ponds, and other pools of standing water.  Aimed at the 7-to-12 year-old age bracket, Lonely Water was narrated by Donald Pleasence and featured a black-clad figure watching as children foolishly dived into danger.  Even though the children ultimately do the right thing, it only leads to Pleasence declaring, “I’LL BE BACK!”

Lonely Water reportedly scarred a generation for life and led to several traumatized British children deciding to never learn how to swim at all.  In 2006, it was voted as the UK’s 4th-favorite PIF of all time.

Previous Great Moments In Television History

  1. Planet of the Apes The TV Series