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Beware the Ides of May!

(Suck it, Shakespeare—I can fabricate ominous phrases, too.)

For those of you not hip to the inner workings of the TV biz, May marks the end of the traditional television season, when networks start cancelling underperforming series. In other words, they’re gonna kill your favorite show! It’s personal vendetta against you and your impeccable TV taste! I know; I’ve been there.

No amount of critical buzz, and especially no “Save Our Show!” online petition, can stay the execution of a barely watched gem. Many great series have been put down after only a single season, most infamously Firefly and Freaks and Geeks. Neither will be discussed here, because … infamy.

Instead, this month’s Content Shifter will turn you onto 13 under-the-radar shows that met their untimely demise after Season 1:

Terriers (Season 1 on Amazon and iTunes): This confusingly titled show was cancelled by FX in 2010. Ex-cop Hank Dolworth (Donal Logue) runs a low-rent, beachside private-detective operation in Ocean Park, Calif., pining for his ex-wife and generally slacking off. But when a small-time case leads to a big-time political scandal, and bodies start dropping, he’s in way over his head—and, like a terrier, Hank won’t let go. Thirteen episodes of SoCal crime-noir at its finest (and grungiest).

Action (Season 1 on Amazon and iTunes): In 1999, Fox produced a bitterly pointed, caustically funny dark comedy that took a Schwarzenegger-sized shit all over the Hollywood business of show, led by a scumbag character named “Peter Dragon” (Jay Mohr)—and yet somehow Action didn’t catch on. HBO or Showtime would have been a better home for Action (Fox only aired eight of 13 episodes, dumping the rest to cable), but glorious asshole Peter Dragon wasn’t built to last.

Wonderfalls (Season 1 on DailyMotion): Star Caroline Dhavernas once described her 2004 Fox series Wonderfalls as “Touched by an Angel on acid,” and I won’t even attempt to improve upon that. Dhavernas (later of Hannibal and obscure treasure Mary Kills People) and writer/producer Bryan Fuller created such a weird world of talking toy animals and existential angst that it’s a wonder that Wonderfalls managed to air 13 episodes on network TV. Best watched with herbal enhancement.

The Grinder (Season 1 on Hulu and Crackle): Again, Fox? Why you gotta cancel everything? In 2015-2016’s The Grinder, Rob Lowe played an actor who played a lawyer on a hit legal drama call The Grinder—follow? After the show is cancelled, Lowe returns to his small Idaho hometown to work in a law firm run by his attorney brother (Fred Savage); life-imitating-and-irritating-art shenanigans ensue. The Grinder was supremely stoopid, but still smarter and funnier than most everything Fox has produced since.

Constantine (Season 1 on CW Seed): After a rocky start in 2014, NBC’s Constantine (based on the DC/Vertigo comic book Hellblazer) evolved into a highly entertaining supernatural series … just in time to be cancelled after 13 episodes. British actor Matt Ryan injected sorcerer/demon hunter John Constantine with a snarky cynicism that did the comic justice; NBC just didn’t know what to do with him. Constantine, the character, lives on in The CW’s Legends of Tomorrow.

The Middleman (Season 1 on Amazon and Google Play): Another comic-book adaptation, 2008’s The Middleman was a goofy romp notable for its rapid-fire pop-cultural references, odd-fit home (ABC Family?!), and co-star Natalie Morales in leather pants (inappropriately, yet magnificently, bootylicious for a Disney channel). The Middleman (Matt Keeslar) battles alien and supernatural threats, Men in Black-style; Wendy (Morales) is his wiseacre apprentice; much big dumb fun is had.

Trophy Wife (Season 1 on ABC.com and ABC App): A party girl (Malin Akerman) falls in love with and marries an older man (Bradley Whitford), much to the dismay/disgust of her BFF (hey, Natalie Morales again) and his two ex-wives (Marcia Gay Harden and Michaela Watkins). Saddled with a divisive and misleading title, 2013’s Trophy Wife had a killer cast, sharp writing and critical acclaim to burn, lasting 22 episodes before the ax dropped. Whitford can’t catch a break.

The Good Guys (Season 1 on Amazon): Case in point: The Good Guys, a 2010 Fox (ugh …) series that was 50 percent buddy-cop drama and 210 percent lunacy, featured a mustachioed Whitford at his freak-flag funniest, only to be shut down after 20 episodes. Dallas detective Dan Stark (Whitford) is an old-school, loose-cannon cop who hates “computer machines” and “smarty phones”; Det. Jack Bailey (Colin Hanks) is his by-the-book partner. A cop show for people who hate cop shows.

Warren the Ape (Season 1 on Amazon and iTunes): This whole column could be about single-season MTV shows, but 2010’s Warren the Ape (an unlikely spinoff of equally unlikely 2002 Fox series Greg the Bunny) was easily the most eff’dup. Thespian monkey puppet Warren’s career spirals into drug-debauched chaos following the cancellation of Greg’s hit kids’ show, leading him into exploitation flicks, cheap porn and, worse, off-off-Broadway theater. Dr. Drew (as himself) is no help.

Death Valley (Season 1 on Amazon and iTunes): Another one-and-done MTV series, 2011’s Death Valley followed the twilight cop cases of the Undead Task Force, charged with policing vampire, werewolf and zombie crimes in the San Fernando Valley. MTV wasn’t the place for a bloody blend of dark comedy and genuine horror; Death Valley probably would have lasted longer than 12 episodes on Syfy, or any other cable outlet. Still, it gave Tania Raymonde’s (Lost) eyebrows a chance to be funny.

Quarry (Season 1 on Max Go and Amazon): Quarry was the Memphis-barbecued second season of True Detective everybody really wanted—too bad it went unwatched on Cinemax instead of HBO proper. This ’70s crime-noir series was grittily crafted and spun with jarring twists, and Logan Marshall-Green’s seething performance as a Vietnam vet-turned-reluctant hitman should have won all the awards. Instead, Cinemax cancelled Quarry after an eight-episode run in 2016.

Moonlight (Season 1 on CW Seed): Not so much “good” as “so hilariously bad it’s ironically good,” 2007 CBS vampire drama Moonlight was either a ripoff of Angel or an attempt to cash in on pretty-vamp Twilight mania. Whatever the plan, it didn’t work: CBS staked L.A. private dick Mick St. John (Alex O’Loughlin) after 16 ridiculous episodes. Even funnier than a vampire detective was his girlfriend, a “famous” “Internet journalist.” In 2007? And she’s not on TMZ? Please.

Kolchak: The Night Stalker (Season 1 on Amazon and iTunes): Now here’s a supernatural investigator and a real journalist, Carl Kolchak! Kolchak: The Night Stalker only lasted 20 episodes over 1974 and ’75, but actor Darren McGavin’s rumpled Chicago newspaper reporter inspired myriad sci-fi series over the decades—most famously, The X-Files. Sure, it looks cheesy now, but Kolchak was groundbreaking, disturbing stuff in the post-Exorcist ’70s. Warning: Avoid the 2005 reboot, as it suuucks.

Bill Frost talks about television on the TV Tan podcast (BillFrost.tv) and tweets about it at @Bill_Frost.

Published in TV

Moonlight is the little film that could. It basically came out of nowhere to upset La La Land at this year’s Oscars and take the Best Picture award. Did Moonlight deserve it?

Well, no. It’s a very good movie, but La La Land, Manchester by the Sea and even The Witch were better films. That’s not to say it wasn’t deserving of the nominations for Best Picture and in some acting categories.

The sophomore feature from director Barry Jenkins is indeed a thing of beauty. A young boy grows into a man in the film’s three parts, and Jenkins cast the roles perfectly. Alex R. Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes all play the central character at different ages, and they are all spectacular. The movie had one of 2016’s best ensemble casts. It’s also a very good-looking movie, beautifully shot and edited.

Mahershala Ali, the Oscar winner for Best Supporting Actor, plays a drug dealer who winds up being a mentor to the young boy; he’s the ultimate in conflicted characters. Ali brings an unexpected warmth to the role. Naomie Harris, also nominated for an Oscar, is memorable as the boy’s drug-addicted mother.

Moonlight is certainly one of 2016’s best and important films—just not the best. It doesn’t really matter what I think; it got the award, even if it had a weird time getting it. (Poor Warren Beatty.)

Special Features: A director’s audio commentary, interviews with the cast and a doc on the music round out the features.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

On this week's stamina-laden weekly Independent comics page: Jen Sorenson talks to someone who is NOT with Hillary; The K Chronicles analyzes Donald Trump's debate excuses; This Modern World ponders the eternal optimism of Trump supporters; and Red Meat enjoys the moonlight.

Published in Comics

Hanni El Khatib opened his Pappy and Harriet’s show on Friday, Jan. 16, with “Melt Me,” from his new release Moonlight.

It was a great way to start the show: The song got the Pappy and Harriet’s audience dancing to the beat while doppelgangers of Jesus Christ and Macaulay Culkin tried to ram through to the front of the stage, breaking the strict no-mosh rule. As a result, they made friends with no one: Everyone else just wanted to party to the reverberating Gibson held confidently in the hands of El Khatib.

El Khatib followed up with “Build. Destroy. Rebuild.” a strong tune with great emotive complexity from his debut 2011 release, Will the Guns Come Out. A hot admirer, wearing her best vampire look, looked on as her companion—wearing comic-book spaghetti-Western wear—absorbed every moment of the show.

The packed floor got wild as “You Rascal You” required everyone to dance along with El Khatib’s resonating, pure rock ’n’ roll vocals. The frenzy required bouncer Big Dave, who is the size of a sequoia, to position himself in the center of the audience to try to mellow things out.

Hanni featured “Dance Hall,” from Moonlight, which is his third album; the song was well received. Hanni commented: “For those of you asking for new shit, that was new shit.” He was interrupted by some drunk fan; El Khatib responded, “You should be banned from the bar.” Khatib later asked: “Everyone drinking as a team?” 

El Khatib later joined in the wildness when he decided to crowd-surf while playing his fuzzy electric guitar, which required him to squeeze between the heads of his fans and the low ceiling.

He mellowed out his set with the punky-blues song “Family,” from his sophomore album, Head in the Dirt, produced by Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys. That set the tone for the rest of his set.

A new song, “Two Brothers,” from his latest release, was the final song of El Khatib’s amazing performance. “This one is dedicated to my two uncles that passed away,” he said, leading into the jam about his father’s two brothers passing away back to back. With heartache, he sang, “I lost two brothers this year; I hope they died without fear, ’cause they know that I love them, put no one above them. I promise I’m near, with you in your hearts, even though you’re underground, I know that you have found peace, and it’s clear, just know that we love you, your brother still loves you, your mother she loves you, your children they love you, I hope that you know.”

It was a perfect closer to an amazing night.

Read and see more from Guillermo Prieto at irockphotos.net and www.facebook.com/irockkphotos.

Published in Reviews

In 2011, Hanni El Khatib released his debut album Will the Guns Come Out—and ever since, he’s been a rising star in the indie-rock world.

He’ll be heading to Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace on Friday, Jan. 16, to promote the release of his third record, Moonlight.

El Khatib seemingly appeared out of nowhere with Will the Guns Come Out in 2011. His music has since been included on the soundtracks for Hung, Suits, Californication and United States of Tara. His sound is a mixture of blues, classic rock and even punk.

During a recent phone interview, he explained how he was guided by his love of music.

“I like everything,” El Khatib said, “everything from classic rock to the Delta blues to hip-hop to electronic music. I’m very wide in my influences.”

While his sound is based in the blues, he said he doesn’t consider himself to be a blues musician.

“I’m not really a blues guy. I definitely like the blues, but I was listening to Black Sabbath more than I was listening to Robert Johnson,” he said.

El Khatib said he had no idea where his music would take him after releasing Will the Guns Come Out.

“I recorded all that stuff in a friend’s bedroom. I didn’t really have any intent of starting a music career,” he said. “I was just sort of doing it as a hobby and on the side whenever I had spare time from my day job, which was being a creative director for a skateboarding company. That took all my time. It’s not like the music came secondary, but was more just a hobby.

“I quickly realized what was going on with my music being chosen for television shows. I was also asked to go on some really big tours; I opened up on a tour with Florence and the Machine. I was playing for 30 people in a bar one night, and then 3,000 nightly shortly after. It was just sort of like, ‘Wow, there’s something here.’ You kind of look up and realize you hit all these milestones without even realizing it.”

Skateboarding remains important to El Khatib; he said it helped shaped his mentality.

“I grew up skateboarding in San Francisco, and I still skate, actually,” he said. “The owner of the company I used to work for was a pro skater for 15 years, or maybe more. I knew him for years before I started working for him.

“Skateboarding is a newer sport, but it’s unique in the sense that when it first hit the scene, it was sort of like an outcast sport. It was long before the days of it being a corporate monster like it is now. I started to build a really tight-knit family based on the fact you just skateboard. That was reason enough to be friends with someone. … You could find a friend of a friend who would let you sleep on his couch, and you could skate the city with them. That sort of mentality has carried on to everything I do now. … I feel like skateboarding is responsible for my open-mindedness.”

He said he tried a different approach while recording Moonlight.

“Every process is different so far, which is normal. I like to jump around, experiment and try new things,” he said. “The first record was a home-recording process; the second record, I recorded in Nashville with Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys, so that was its own special thing. … This record, I wanted to split the difference between the first and the second, with knowledge from the second mixed with that time to explore, experiment and be introverted and see where the music took me; it was best for me to do it on my own. I can play a lot of different instruments in the studio. I didn’t really need to bring in musicians every day, but I did bring in my live drummer, who’s been playing with me for the past couple of years now.”

El Khatib said he loves the desert; in fact, he said intends to purchase a home in the desert. He’s a co-founder of his record label, Innovative Leisure, and some label-mates previously played at Pappy and Harriet’s. That got him interested in playing at the venue himself.

“I love it, and I go often,” he said of the desert. “I try to get out there as much as I can. I spent a total of a month out there basically just getting inspired and writing songs for the new record last January and February. There’s something about the bare landscape, and everywhere you go, it looks like unchartered territory. There’s something that draws me to it all the time: the imagery, the landscape, the plant life, and just being able to escape to the place that seems to find you.”

Hanni El Khatib will perform at 8 p.m., Friday, Jan. 16, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $15. For tickets or more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit pappyandharriets.com.

Published in Previews