DVD Review: Call Me Fitz: The Complete First Season

Hi again!

Since I got to college, I have been known as Fitz. My Dad was known as Fitz before me. Now my wife is known as Dr. Fitz… Suffice it to say there are a lot of Fitz’s in my family. But none of them – not one – are as sick, wrong, demented, and as big a self-centered a-hole as Richard Fitzpatrick (aka “Fitz”) (Jason Priestley, Haven, Tru Calling, Beverly Hills, 90120), the car salesman in Call Me Fitz.

Call Me Fitz is a half-hour comedy series that has not been widely broadcast here in the US (except on DirecTV‘s Channel 101). It has been quite successful in Canada and just began airing season 2 in September 2011, with production already beginning on Season 3. It features Fitz, the bizarre behavior that is the norm at Fitzpatrick Motors, and a cast of side characters that get drawn into the wake of the trouble he causes.

Anybody who knows me will tell you I’m a pretty conservative, buttoned down kind of guy in blue jeans. So Priestley’s Fitz is about as far from me as you can get. He’s the classic slimy, misogynistic used car salesman with a drinking and drug problem. But somehow Priestley plays the character with a flair that makes him seem salvageable… sometimes.

So why is Call Me Fitz so much fun if it’s about a largely unlikable character?

I honestly think it’s not about Fitz at all – it’s about his relationship with Larry (Ernie Grunwald, Supernatural, Psych, CSI ). Larry is the opposite pole to Fitz’s depravity. He’s the show’s conscience. Where Fitz is slimy, Larry is upstanding and righteous. And though Larry is innocent and pure, he still manages to get drawn into Fitz’s schemes.

But don’t think that they’re alone in this world where swearing is the main form of communication. There’s the cantankerous and demented family patriarch, Ken Fitzpatrick (Peter MacNeill, Rookie Blue, Queer as Folk). There’s Fitz’s sister, Meghan (Tracy Dawson, Wild Card, The Gavin Crawford Show). There’s the pothead car lot mechanic Josh McTaggert (Donavon Stinson, Reaper, Eureka). There’s the car lot secretary Sonja Lester (Brooke Nevin, Breakout Kings, How I Met Your Mother, NCIS, The 4400) trying to be a salesperson even as she’s taken advantage of by the staff. There’s comatose potential car buyer Babs Devon (Phyllis Ellis, Three Chords from the Truth, Murdoch Mysteries, The Wilkinsons) and her lawyer daughter Ali (Kathleen Munroe, Haven, Stargate Universe, Survival of the Dead) seeking to pin Fitz to the wall. There’s the twisted girl scout Kara (Gillian Ferrier, Second Honeymoon, Ice Castles (2010)) seeking to help the lawyer…

The whole series reminds me of an even more twisted Arrested Development, but with more strippers, drugs, and alcohol and a vaguely Charlie Sheen bad-boy weekend vibe… If you’re not a fan of swearing, drinking, rampant drug use, misogynistic behavior, or sex on TV, I’d definitely skip the series. But I think that’s part of the its charm. By losing all inhibitions and letting these characters do and say whatever they feel like, you are along for the ride and almost feel like encouraging behavior that would at the very least get you slapped in public and probably get you arrested.

Call Me Fitz: The Complete First Season includes all 13 episodes of the debut season along with some brief features. It starts with Fitz taking Babs on a test drive of a beautiful late-60s cherry red convertible Ford Mustang and getting into an accident to avoid hitting a white rabbit in the road. And it ends with an all out war on Fitz by his various conquests throughout the season. The road to self discovery in Fitz’s case seems to be through the bottom of several bottles of whiskey and more than a few bedrooms.

One of my favorite episodes is “Long Con Silver” which pits Fitz against the mother who abandoned him as a child – Elaine (Joanna Cassidy, Blade Runner, Hawthorne, Boston Legal). When Fitz has to find his mother to see if Larry is actually a blood relation, it leads to all sorts of fun revelations and a con game the whole dealership gets wrapped up in.

And another favorite was “The Upside of Matricide” which pairs Fitz with Larry and Ali to dispose of Babs’ body in the way she requested in her will. Not only did I get to see more of the beautiful and talented Kathleen Munroe use her comedy talents, but I reveled in the absurdity of using 130 pounds of pork ribs to replace a body before cremation.

The DVD set includes a few short interviews with cast and crew, bloopers, and a season 2 sneak peek, but I wish there were more extras. The bloopers are fun, but all of the features seemed very short and clipped so hopefully they’ll do more when season 2 is released.

If you’re a fan of shows with self-centered a-holes in the lead like Archer or House, Call Me Fitz should be right up your alley. Call Me Fitz: The Complete First Season is out on DVD now and I look forward to seeing the second season when it gets the DVD treatment sometime next year!

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

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Book Review: Supernatural: Coyote’s Kiss by Christa Faust

Hi all…

When the Wichester boys, Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles), began slaying monsters back in the Fall of 2009 on television, we were hooked right away. Each week they’d fight demons or monsters from folklore and urban legends to save the lives of people who didn’t believe in such things. And as the battle raged between good and evil, Heaven and Hell, they kept my interest for a long time. Five seasons. More than 100 episodes. When they put the Devil back in his box, I was ready for the journey to end.

So when season six started in 2010, I watched a few episodes but after a while it started to flounder a bit in a world without God or the Devil calling the plays on the sidelines. Eventually I stopped watching. And when the seventh season starts this month, I’ll probably catch an episode or two to see if the show got its mojo back, but I’m not holding my breath.

Why did I tell you all this? What does it have to do with a Supernatural novel? Well, late last year I read Supernatural: War of the Sons by Rebecca Dessertine and David Reed. The boys (sometime during the season five timeline) traveled back in time to 1954 to stop a demon from finding a weapon that would unbalance the battle between demons and angels. I don’t usually like reading tie-in novels, but Dessertine and Reed managed to capture the snarky banter between the brothers and the atmosphere of monster hunters winging it on the run. I enjoyed it, much to my own surprise.

This time, with Supernatural: Coyote’s Kiss by Christina Faust, the Winchester boys are going to the southern border of the United States. Set sometime in the timeline of season six, they are investigating the deaths of illegal immigrants slaughtered while trying to cross the border and the border patrolmen unlucky enough to find them. And this is definitely a whole new world for the Winchesters.

But they’re not fighting evil alone. A small, beautiful, but feisty Mexican monster hunter by the name of Xochi rides into the picture on a hot motorcycle. Will Sam and Dean survive working with her? She has her own secrets and comes from a whole different world – at one point the angel Castiel even pops to say he can’t help them. Who knew that there was an agreement between the deities of different pantheons around the world to not interfere with the mortal realms under their power?

Instead of the Christian concept of the hosts of Heaven and Hell holding sway over Mexico, it’s the old gods – the Aztec gods like Huehuecoyotl – a god of music, luck, and storytelling. Will the fickle Huehuecoyotl help Xochi and the Winchesters stop the Borderwalker before she kills more innocent people? Will Xochi’s family squabbles get in the way? Only time and a few trips back and forth across the Mexican border will tell.

Again, Faust managed to recreate the witty banter, the sarcasm, and the sharp wit of the Supernatural universe for me, making this a fun read. At nearly 350 pages, it went quickly and felt more like an extended episode of the series than anything else. I would have liked to have seen an episode or two made out of this story arc during the season, possibly even a made-for-DVD movie since it easily can stand on its own.

If you like the world of Supernatural and want more adventures with Sam and Dean Winchester, I’d definitely encourage you to pick up Supernatural: Coyote’s Kiss by Christa Faust.

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org http://blogcritics.org/books/article/book-review-supernatural-coyotes-kiss-by/.

–Fitz

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DVD Review: Shaun the Sheep: Animal Antics

Hi again!

Before I begin this review, I must confess something. I’m a 41 year old married father of two and I still like cartoons just as much as when I was a kid. There, I said it! By now it’s probably no secret that I have a soft spot in my heart for well-written and animated cartoons, but I can’t stop. Hopefully I won’t have to stop until I stop breathing!

So why this confession? Because I need to explain my fascination and admiration for Shaun the Sheep. HIT Entertainment has just released a new collection of shorts called Shaun the Sheep: Animal Antics, and I have to say it’s one of my favorite collections since Shaun the Sheep: One Giant Leap for Lambkind. The DVD includes seven great stories this time covering everything from golf and garage sales to a persistent fox doing his best to find some dinner.

What? You don’t know about Shaun? Well, let’s remedy that!

Shaun the Sheep is a stop-motion animated series from Aardman Animations, the studio behind such great features as Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were Rabbit, Chicken Run, and Flushed Away. Shaun himself is a smart sheep with more than a touch of creativity that gets him in and out of trouble. He first appeared in the Wallace & Gromit short feature A Close Shave when he saved his flock from an evil mechanical dog that wanted to turn the flock into dog food!

The Shaun the Sheep series started airing in the UK on the BBC back in 2007, but started gaining quite a following in the US when the shorts started airing on the Disney Channel. Since then, HIT Entertainment has been releasing the shorts in DVD collections. Each short is painstakingly created frame by frame by the animators working with actual sets and plasticine/clay figures that can be posed in myriad positions. If every second of an episode is composed of 24 frames, you’re looking at more than 1,400 frames for one minute of animation – and each short is around five minutes long. That’s a long process and I have an amazing amount of respect for the artists involved.

The beautiful part of these shorts is the absolute lack of spoken words. Each character grunts, baa’s, barks, or grumbles its way through any “lines” that must be said – so it’s almost more like a silent film than a modern cartoon. The stories are told through facial expressions and gestures, which makes every frame that much more critical to making sure the intent is understood. As a result, you have a show that’s enjoyable for people of any age and language isn’t a barrier. It’s as though Charlie Chaplin has been channeled to a whole new audience.

Shaun is obviously the star of the show, but he has a lot of help on the farm. The Farmer has no idea at all what goes on when he’s not looking, but his ignorance is one of the things that gets made fun of quite a bit. The Farmer’s dog, Bitzer, really runs the farm along with Shaun and tries to keep the flock out of trouble. Shirley is the biggest sheep of the flock and is really an eating machine – and if she didn’t eat it but it was lost on the farm, it might be found in her thick wool coat. Timmy’s Mother tries to keep her baby, Timmy, out of trouble and succeeds sometimes. (Timmy has his own new spin-off show called Timmy Time for preschoolers.) The Pigs live next door to the flock and are constantly trying to get the sheep in trouble. And there are many other characters that crop up now and again to keep Shaun, Bitzer, and the flock on their toes.

Among the seven shorts on Shaun the Sheep: Animal Antics, there were three that really made me giggle as I watched with my two daughters ages 6 and 10.

  • “Foxy Laddie” not only introduces some new sheep to Shaun’s flock, but a Fox who tries to infiltrate the flock in an attempt to eat Timmy. Seeing the Fox in disguise really made us all giggle. And he almost fools the flock until Shaun and Bitzer catch on.
  • “Frantic Romantic” shows that the Farmer really needs a lot of help to impress his date. He can’t cook at all and Shaun has to step in to cook a “gourmet” meal out of scraps while Bitzer scrambles acting like a waiter at a fancy restaurant.
  • And “Everything Must Go” proves what I already knew – that garage sales get crazy. When the Farmer decides to sell some of his produce in a little stand along the road outside the farm, he gets a lot of interest and soon hands it off to Bitzer to run. When Bitzer gets tired, he hands it off to Shaun and Shaun decides he likes selling things… He and the flock manage to sell everything but the kitchen sink while the Farmer and Bitzer aren’t looking!

In addition to the seven shorts included, there’s also a feature on “Building a Pig” that features one of the animators, Harriet Thomas, working with a group of kids to show them how to create one of the naughty pigs out of clay. There’s also a short video from Timmy Time.

If you haven’t seen Shaun the Sheep yet and want something to share with your kids, I recommend picking up any of the DVDs that have come out so far. Shaun the Sheep: Animal Antics continues the hilarity and would be a great addition to any family DVD collection. To learn more about Shaun the Sheep, be sure to check out the series website and watch for other great productions from Aardman Animation!

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

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