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Tonight was the third Zombie Apocalypse Run, and having run it the first two years as a survivor, I registered this year as an undead. So instead of getting a flag football belt with two rip-away velcro flags and a 2 minute headstart, I waited with a horde of hungry zombies. A lot of them had pretty good makeup and/or costumes to play the part. I wore a red tech shirt and told people it used to be white. (Yes, I'm a spoil sport.)
It was just past 5:25 pm when the survivors started fleeing from us in a frenzy. We were allowed to march up to the start and watch with growling stomachs while the humans did their best to scamper away. There were some fast ones, but oh my were there plenty of not-so-fast ones.
Finally, we were released. Now, when I ran previously as a survivor, there was nothing as terrifying as the loud horn (followed by the inhuman roar) signifiying the fact that there were zombies on the race course. It makes you realize that 2 minutes is not that much of a headstart -- maybe 1/3 of a mile if even that.
But . . . as a zombie, it was such a sweet sound!
I was near the front of the horde, but not the very front, and it was very crowded. I ran fast just to try to get past the clog, but I wasn't going to catch the really fast zombies, like Joe Dudman. Still, I covered the first 1/3 of a mile at better than a 7 minute/mile pace. That's where the first survivors -- which is to say, the ones at the end of the line -- were moving along, with signs pasted to their backs reading, "Don't eat me, I don't taste like chicken!" I would've been happy to see what they tasted like, but unfortunately for me, they were basically nothing more than shuffling carcasses, having been feasted on by the zombies ahead of me.
But after that, I was able to enjoy some feasting of my own. My pace slowed significantly from that point on, because it was a target-rich environment. There were plenty of survivors with one or even two flags left. I felt it was only fair to give some warning of the horrors that were about to befall the helpless (but tasty) survivors, so I usually growled "Rawrrrrrrr" as I approached from behind and snagged a flag.
I wasn't always successful at grabbing flags. Some survivors cheated by blocking or running off the course (both were against the rules). I followed the rules and kept going rather than stop and turn around. Some other survivors did nifty spin moves to save their flags. I also spared kids for the most part -- there was one about 10 or 12 who begged not to be eaten; I told him he was too small to be a filling meal.
The most difficult survivors for me to maul were females who had arranged their flag(s) so that they were draped directly in front between their legs. Um, yeah, those I passed up. . . .
There was one dad who had a single flag left, which he had on his left side. Next to him -- on his left side, of course -- was his little daughter, who still had two flags left. I considered growling, "Rawwrrrrr . . . give me your flag or I'll take one of your daughters," but I showed them some mercy. Well, if it's mercy to leave them to suffer some more on the course before being devoured by the zombies behind me.
I crossed the finish line with a chip time of 26:52, which would be my worst time ever for a 5K, but the course ended up being 3.41 miles according to RunKeeper, so my pace was not my slowest ever -- although almost half a minute slower than my half marathon(!). I think it's slower running as a zombie than as a survivor because (1) the course is much more clogged; (2) weaving in and out and approaching prey is slower than running like hell to get away; and (3) it's harder than you'd think to run while clutching a bunch of flags.
In the end, I had 49 flags. (Four or five of those were ones I scavenged from the ground. Hey, a little mud and dirt doesn't hide the tastiness of brains!) That wasn't enough to win the title of the King/Queen of the Zombies, as someone else had 70+ at the time mine were counted. I was still pleased with the terror I had inflicted.
Speaking of terror, it's so much more fun to run as a zombie! I loved the yelps and screams from the survivors ahead of me as I growled "Rawrrrrrr!" Even better was when a survivor would try to speed up to stay ahead of me. Hey, if I've caught up to you despite your 2 minute head start, I'm running a faster pace. . . . Once I called out, "Resistance is futile" or maybe it was "give in to the inevitable". . . . The palpable look of defeat when they gave up the faster pace was delicious. (Man, I do sound like a ravenous brain-eating zombie.)
After the race, one runner recognized me and wailed (playfully), "Aw, why'd you take my flag?"
Wow, a lot of movement in my TV rankings this week!
1. Once Upon a Time (ABC Sundays) [last week: 1]
Last week's episode (3.2) wasn't quite as good as the premiere and mostly just advanced the "looking for Henry" storyline more than incrementally. But it didn't do anything to warrant being dropped from the top spot.
2. Scandal (ABC Thursdays) [last week: 2]
A very good start, full of the craziness that's marked the show since Season 2. First Lady Mellie and President Grant are now in a hot war -- awesome! Count me as part of Team Mellie.
3. Survivor: Blood vs. Water (CBS Wednesdays) [last week: 6]
This is turning out to be a surprisingly good season. The loathsome Colton Cumbie quit, but not before host Jeff Probst raked him over the coals. The new twists with loved ones/Redemption Island have made things less predictable and more interesting.
4. Hawaii 5-O (CBS Fridays) [last week: 5]
5. Once Upon a Time in Wonderland (ABC Thursdays) [last week: 3]
Premiered tonight. It was interesting and visually striking, but something was missing. The Queen of Hearts came across as blandly blonde, with very little of the presence exhibited by Lana Parilla as Regina Mills/the Evil Queen on "Once Upon a Time." And while I understand that Alice had many years together with her true love, Cyrus (the Genie), we weren't shown enough of anything to understand the deep connection between them. No doubt that love story will unfold over the course of the semester in the same discursive style that "Lost" and "Once Upon a Time" have trailblazed, but considering how much of the pilot here hinged on believing that love, it didn't work as well as it should have.
6. Marvel's Agents of SHIELD (ABC Tuesdays) [last week: 4]
Dropping a bit . . . it's okay, and got a full season order. But it's also forgettable. The characters are . . . okay. The stories are . . . okay.
7. Grimm (NBC Fridays) [last week: 7]
Hasn't premiered yet.
8. The Blacklist (NBC Mondays) [last week: 8]
Premiered but I haven't gotten around to watching the pilot yet. It's also gotten a full season order.
9. White Collar (USA Tuesdays) [last week: 9]
Hasn't premiered yet.
10. Person of Interest (CBS Tuesdays) [last week: NR]
Haven't gotten around to watching the first two episodes of the season yet, but it moves up by default.
(missing the cut) Shark Tank (ABC Fridays), The Voice (NBC Mondays/Tuesdays), Castle (ABC Mondays).
"Castle" shows up. I forgot about this, but TiVo has been dutifully recording them ever since I dumped "Hostages" (see below), which had been ranked above it in priority. "Castle" stopped being must-see for me a couple of seasons ago, but it's still somewhat entertaining. Having Castle and Beckett get together hasn't sunk the show yet.
Cut: Sleepy Hollow (Fox Mondays), Revolution (NBC Wednesdays), Hostages (CBS Mondays). I started to watch the second episode of "Revolution" this season and realized I disliked most of the characters, was displeased when one of them came back to life, and stopped following what was going on. "Hostages" dropped off my list when (1) I forgot to record the second episode and didn't miss it; and (2) I saw that its ratings are really horrific, making it an open question whether it would even fnish out its 15 episodes.
If Hollywood ever makes a movie about Senator Harry Reid's (D-Nev.) political career, is there anyone better suited than Rene Auberjonois (Odo on "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine," or Paul Lewiston on "Boston Legal")?
How about them Tampa Bay Rays, getting past Texas in the tiebreaking 163rd game of the season for the second wild card spot? Now they have to get past Cleveland in another sudden death game, just for the right to face the juggernaut that is Boston . . . and if they get past Boston, they have to play the winner of the Oakland/Detroit playoff. Sheesh!
I became a full-fledged Tampa Rays fan this year, after more than two decades of following the California Angels -- er, excuse me, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim(!). I spent part of my childhood about 15 minutes away from what was then known as Anaheim Stadium, and still have fond memories of falling asleep at night as a pre-teenager while listening to Angels' games on the radio.
But, I haven't lived in the Anaheim/Orange County area since the mid-1980s, and it's been over eleven years since I lived in Southern California. I know that doesn't stop many baseball fans from sticking with their teams even as they move far away, but it did weaken the bond in my case.
Ultimately, though, I stopped rooting for the Angels because I got tired of reading about the latest ridiculous long-term contract they handed out to an aging player. First, there was Vernon Wells, who cost the Angels $20+ million a year for two years, during which he hit .218/.248/.412 and .230/.279/.403. He was 32 when the Angels acquired him, and while 32 is young in the real world, it's in the decline phase for most baseball players.
Then, the Angels went out and signed Albert Pujols to a TEN YEAR deal, starting when he was . . . you guess it, 32 years old. Now Pujols had been an awesome players for the St. Louis Cardinals for ten years, but there were warning signs. In his last year with St. Louis, his batting average, on-base average, and slugging average all dropped to career lows. Is that the time to give the guy a $250 million, 10 year contract??? His first season with the Angels resulted in yet new career lows in those offensive categories, although a late surge made his overall numbers look still respectable. But look at 2013, when he hit .258/.330/.437. The Angels still have EIGHT years to go on that contract. . . .
But wait, I'm not done! At the beginning of this year, the Angels signed Josh Hamilton, another(!) 32 year old player to a 5 year, $125 million contract. Now in 2010, Hamilton almost single-handedly won my fantasy baseball league for me. But he got injured and missed the last month of the season, and my team fell out of first place. And "injuries" and "Josh Hamilton" go together like peanut butter and jelly. There weren't as many red flags in his on-field performance before the signing, but giving a 5 year contract to a fragile player up to age 37 didn't seem like the wisest use of money. And while Hamilton played nearly a full season, it was pretty bad: .250/.307/.432.
The Rays, on the other hand, develop most of their own players, figure out early on which are going to be good, and then sign them to long-term deals when they're still young. They're shrewd traders, often plucking other teams' good young talent (like when they traded an established pitcher in James Shields to Kansas City in exchange for Wil Myers, who hit .293/.354/.478 as a 22-year-old). To fill holes, they sign veteran players, but not aging superstars and certainly not to long-term deals. Compare what the Angels got from Josh Hamilton and his $25 million/year average salary, with the Rays' Kelly Johnson, a more versatile player who played middle infield and outfield; Johnson hit .235/.305/.410 but for only $2.4 million.
Not only is Tampa Bay run smartly, but the Rays have to play in the same division as the freespending New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. To survive and thrive in that environment is admirable.
What's ironic, then, is that my fantasy baseball team (Oregon Drizzles) won easily with almost no contribution from any Tampa Bay players. I had a total of three Rays on my team, and they played a collective 40 games. My team was strongest up the middle, with Buster Posey (C), Brandon Phillips (2B), Ian Desmond (SS), J.J. Hardy (MI), and Adam Jones (CF); and in pitching, with probable AL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer, probable NL Rookie of the Year Jose Fernandez, and Shelby Miller (likely to do well in the NL ROY vote as well).
That makes two years in a row that I've won outright (this year) or shared the league title. Unfortunately, I seem to be much better at fantasy baseball than at fantasy football, as I'm 1-3 in Professor Bainbridge's H2H league. My problem there is summed up in the "C" grade that the computer gave me for my draft. The funny thing is, because I was busy during the draft, I set it to auto-pick. So really, the computer is giving itself a "C."
I've got another football team, and I drafted for myself in that league. However, it's an ongoing league where you have to keep two players from the previous year. My team was so bad last year that I would've preferred to drop everyone and be able to draft fresh while others used their first two picks on their valuable keepers, but that option wasn't available. So in essence, I overpaid with my first two picks, keeping my best players (Victor Cruz and Andre Johnson) who would've been taken otherwise in the 3d or 4th rounds.
Through a dose of good luck, that team is 3-1 and in first place in my division despite being outscored by six of the other nine teams. . . . Obviously that kind of luck can't last, so I have to hope that I can start scoring lots more points. (Do you hear that, David Wilson???)
Whew, the first full week of the new TV season is in the books, although I'm a bit behind with several episodes. (Hey, I lost some prime TV watching time because I went to bed early on Friday for the half marathon the next morning!) But my TV rankings don't actually require that I have watched everything, as they're just my completely subjective rankings based on how excited I feel about the shows at the moment.
1. Once Upon a Time (ABC Sundays) [last week: 1]
Season 3 premiered last night, and it's a measure of how much I love this show that I watched it on the same night. It picked up right after the season 2 cliffhanger, with most of the primary characters on a mission to find Henry in Neverland, and then Neal/Baelfire finding himself back in Fairy Tale Land with Mulan.
Robert Carlyle as Mr. Gold/Rumplestiltskin continues to have too much fun with his role. In the past, he's played Gold somewhat sedately, leaving it to Rumplestiltskin in the flashback scenes to have the scene-chewing mannerisms and intonations. But last night, as Gold (i.e., not looking like Rumplestiltskin), he managed to do the Rumplestiltskin hand motions and intonations, but in a milder way. It was perfect acting.
Neverland looked different from Fairy Tale Land, and from Wonderland for that matter. Neverland is dark and foreboding, as it should be, I suppose. Three people/entities died in the episode, which may be a series high for this show. Sheesh!
2. Scandal (ABC Thursdays) [last week: 2]
Hasn't premiered yet, but breathlessly awaiting the Olivia Pope-Daddy conversation. "Why are you trying to kill me?!?"
3. Once Upon a Time in Wonderland (ABC Thursdays) [last week: 3]
Hasn't premiered yet, but "Once Upon a Time"'s strong start has me giddy with anticipation.
4. Marvel's Agents of SHIELD (ABC Tuesdays) [last week: 4]
I thought the pilot episode was entertaining, and I compared it to USA's "The 4400." Possible downside risks include degenerating into a mutant/superpowered human threat of the week, but there's enough promise of some long-term arc that it earned a season pass from me.
5. Hawaii 5-O (CBS Fridays) [last week: 6]
Premiered last week with a resolution of the cliffhanger that ended season 3. "H50" belongs on CBS, as it's a police procedural that follows a well-worn formula, but it's also sort of different because Steve McGarrett is so superhuman that it can't really expect to be taken seriously. Besides, lots of scenery of Hawaii. . . .
6. Survivor: Blood vs. Water (CBS Wednesdays) [last week: 8]
Two episodes in the bank now. The new twist that allows a player to exchange positions with his or her paired loved one at Redemption Island is actually kind of interesting, as it's led some of the more astute players to consider the game theory implications of sending different players to RI. And the previews make it look like the loathsome Colton might be on his way out . . . yeah, the previews are usually an exercise in misdirection, but I can always hope.
7. Grimm (NBC Fridays) [last week: 7]
Hasn't premiered yet.
8. The Blacklist (NBC Mondays) [last week: 9]
Premiered but I haven't gotten around to watching the pilot yet. It got strong ratings, and with "The Voice" as a lead-in, it should continue to do well, so it's likely to stick around for the entire season.
9. White Collar (USA Tuesdays) [last week: 10]
Hasn't premiered yet.
10. Hostages (CBS Mondays) [last week: 5]
Although this got pretty bad ratings for its first episode, suggesting it might not be long for this world, I watched it, and it was . . . okay. It could've used more scene-chewing by Dylan McDermott. The problem with hostage-taking storylines is that it's hard to see how they play out realistically in any way other than surrender or mass death. The last show to exploit the hostage scenario, I thought, was the mini-series "The Kill Point," and that worked because it wasn't a TV series.
I'm giving this another episode, but it's on life support.
(missing the cut) Person of Interest (CBS Tuesdays), Shark Tank (ABC Fridays), The Voice (NBC Mondays/Tuesdays), Revolution (NBC Wednesdays).
"Person of Interest" premiered but I haven't watched it yet. "Shark Tank" is fun as always, but Mark Cuban is getting to be kind of annoying; he's usually right about why some product or service won't work, but more and more he comes across as some massively egotistical jerk (which is probably a bad thing given the predictions of the upcoming insider trading case against him). "The Voice" wasn't bad; Christina Aguilera seemed to have toned down her obnoxiousness . . . for now; then again, so did Colton on "Survivor" . . . for an episode. "Revolution" premiered, and the episode was hard to follow with multiple time jumps, and a reminder that none of the characters are all that likeable -- or even fun to root against. It, too, is on death's door.
Cut: Sleepy Hollow (Fox Mondays): too much like warmed-over "The X-Files." Too much other TV to watch to make room for this.
My favorite racing organization, Uberthons, has been putting on races in the Portland area since 2011, but it wasn't until this year that it organized a marathon or half-marathon: the Oregon Marathon & Half. I had never run a half (or a full) before, but I went ahead and signed up as soon as registration was open. (Good thing, too, as the half marathon ended up selling out quickly.)
Apart from the start and the last mile and a half or so, the route was the Banks Vernonia Trail, with the half starting just off the halfway point of the full marathon. An extra nice bonus for us half runners was that the halfway point of the full marathon also happened to be the highest point on that route -- meaning that the half was basically downhill or flat for the entire 13.1 miles.
The half was scheduled to start at 7:45 am. Yikes, that's early! But wait, it gets worse. Banks is about 40 minutes away from Portland, so that's more travel time cutting into sleep. But wait, there's even more! Banks was the end of the race, and it was a point-to-point route. The starting point was, well, 13.1 miles away. We were directed to park in Banks and take a shuttle that Uberthons had arranged . . . but the last shuttle on the schedule was leaving around 6:30-6:45.
So I went to bed on Friday night at 9 pm, setting my alarm for 5 am. Yes, the things I do for running.
It rained steadily Friday night and the forecast for Saturday was more rain. As I listened to the rain drumming on our roof while falling asleep, I thought to myself, yes, rain as hard as you want right now; get it all out now!
BZZZZ! My alarm went off at 4:56 am. I felt refreshed, and having not run since Wednesday, my legs felt pretty fresh. It was still raining steadily. (I guess the skies had a lot more rain....) I had carbo-loaded the night before with clam linguine, and I didn't feel too hungry, so I had a carton of key lime flavored yogurt.
I dressed in what I'd laid out before going to bed: longsleeve tech shirt (from Uberthons' Turkeython, so I didn't feel as bad about not wearing the official race shirt), Brooks running jacket (as a rain shield), shorts, and sweatpants for now. It was supposed to be in the 50s all morning, so I didn't think I needed running tights. Also, I added an Uberthons hat that race organizer Darwin Rasmussen gave me at the packet pick-up for having won a contest a while ago or something like that. I figured the bill would keep rain out of my face.
When I left home around 5:30 am, it was dark and raining. I'm in for 13.1 miles of being rained on? I said to myself.
I arrived in Banks a little after 6 am, and it was still dark. I parked in the lot for Sunset Park and then asked some other runners where we were supposed to go. They didn't exactly know either, but they saw people up ahead, so we followed those and sure enough, came to a big parking lot full of school buses. (By the way, I'm not huge or anything; I'm a very average 5'10" but I felt squished in the school bus seats.)
I boarded the first half marathon bus and warmed up inside. The bus filled quickly and we were off. We had to drive around inside the park a bit until we found the right spot, which was obvious from, if nothing else, the row of green porta-potties.
Around 7:30, the bus started to get warm, so I took my sweatpants off and stuck them in a plastic bag to be left for the post-race bag pick-up. Then I headed outside to, I guess, get used to the rain. I saw race organizer Randy Wilder, so I greeted him and asked how long he'd been here already getting things set up. 3 am!! Okay, getting up at 5 didn't seem like nearly the same hardship.... Not long after that, I saw running friends Eileen and MaryAlicia and chatted with them briefly.
At 7:45, Randy got the race started. In typical Uberthons fashion, we went in waves of 10-20 runners so as to minimize overcrowding on the race route, with faster runners encouraged to go in front. I didn't deserve to be in the first wave, but I also didn't want to remain standing in the rain any longer than necessary. I ended up starting with the third wave.
We started with a slight incline to get out of the parking lot before beginning a long descent. Not long after we started, the wind blew my hat off. Argh! I had to double back to pick it up and then adjust the velcro strap in back on the run (so to speak).
After about a mile and a half, we were on the paved Vernonia-Banks State Trail. It's wide enough for two runners to run side-by-side easily, and there's enough room that someone else could squeeze by if needed. I caught up to a group of two men and a woman who seemed to know one another, and for the next two miles, I ran with them, chatting(!). I would never think of chatting during a 5K or 10K run, because if you can chat, you aren't running fast enough. I figured, though, that the half was long enough that it would be okay; if nothing else, it would keep me from running too fast at the start. Plus, RunKeeper was telling me that I was running at a 7:15 pace at the time (aided by the descent), so I wasn't worried.
I did that for a couple of miles and then I went ahead at what seemed like a sustainable pace. My mile splits show this comfortable chat pace:
Mile 1 - 7:07
Mile 2 - 7:06
Mile 3 - 7:26
Mile 4 - 7:24
Mile 5 - 7:04
Mile 6 - 7:00
Mile 7 - 7:17
Those latter miles on the trail were through a heavily forested part, so the rain was lessened by overhead cover, and it was quite pretty. I supposed I could've taken some pictures with my smartphone, but (1) unless I stop, the pictures are blurry; and (2) because of the rain, I had my phone inside a ziplock bag, which would further mess up any pictures.
There were aid stations every 1.5-2 miles, with water, Gatorade, and energy gels available at most of them. I always skip these (politely) during 5K or 10K runs, but I found myself wondering if I should at least get some water. But I wasn't feeling thirsty; maybe the rain was keeping me from losing too much water.
After seven miles, the course flattened out, and we were no longer in the forest. It was mostly running through fields, with the 26 highway alongside at points. When you've been running a not-very-taxing sub-7:15 pace for 7 miles because of a downhill profile, flat ground all of a sudden seems harder than it should.
Miles 8-10 have already blended into a blur of rain; the two runners I drafted behind for a while, then passed, and then was passed by one; and low-level misery. Around mile 9.3, I was thinking, Geez, this is like running a 10K, and then a 5K, and I still have more than a 5K to go?!?
When I hit the mile 10, I thought of the saying that a half marathon is just a 5K race with a 10 mile warm up. Ha ha ha! I was, however, doing some basic math in my head, trying to figure out what pace I needed on the last 5K to finish the race in under 1:40:00. I would've been satisfied with anything under 1:45:00, but with the overall descent, I was figuring that 1:39:59 would be in reach.
At 10.01 miles, the elapsed time was 1:13:28, so I had 26+ minutes to run the last 5K. That seemed doable.
The town of Banks emerged somewhere between miles 11 and 12, and the course transitioned from paved trail to sidewalk. With 12 miles in the bank, I had been running for 1:29:18 -- sub-1:40:00 seemed guaranteed!
I had been running down Main Street, and then I turned on NW Trellis Court, which goes east-west for a tenth of a mile before turning up to parallel a football field, where high school kids were practicing.
In between the lower field and the upper field with the track was a small path, and a race volunteer directed us to turn on to the path. "Turn at those white houses," he said.
And here the wheels (sort of) went off . . . .
I was following the guy who I had passed and then who passed me back in that mile 8-10 stretch, and he missed the turn, which, to be fair to him and to me, wasn't marked and was pretty unclear. I saw him run along the gravel path toward a closed fence, whereupon he threw his hands up and looked back to me. I slowed down. He ran closer to the fence and seemed to think that was the right way to go, and then he stopped and headed back.
"Where is the path?" we both asked. Ah, the perils of not running in a pack.
We found the right opening, but I'd added 0.18 miles to my run, and it was even more for him. Argh! Now I found myself fretting that I would miss breaking the 1:40:00 time because of this "bonus" distance.
The end of the route was a half-spiral at a park. When I hit the second to last corner turn, race director Alan Rasmussen was there and yelled, "Go Tung, the clock's just at 1:40!" and as I ran past, he added, "Your first half marathon!"
(Alan knows me, but one of the nice touches of this race is that almost all of the racing bibs were personalized with the runner's first name, unless you registered within the last month; so others might have gotten the same personal encouragement.)
I wish I could say that I unleashed a massive kick at the end, but all I could manage was 6:30-7:00 pace by then. Then again, I could say that I used up my remaining energy on that 0.18 mile detour....
Finishing time per RunKeeper was 1:39:43! At the finish line, a volunteer handed me a bottle of water, and another handed me a finisher's medal. This is a nice, solid medal:
And sandwiches from Big Town Hero! At first I didn't feel AT ALL like eating, but after standing around a bit, talking with other runners and waiting for the instant results (the rain and wind were causing some problems), I started to get hungry, so I grabbed one of the bags with a turkey sandwich.
I was also feeling very stiff and mildly achy, which I've never felt from the shorter races. I would've stuck around longer but I had to get home for my share of parental duties, so I walked stiffly back to the parking lot. And when I say stiffly, I do mean stiffly.
Usually, Uberthons races have the results available instantly on the website, with multiple monitors on-site to check. The monitors were in the process of getting connected when I left, and the website finally got the results when I got lost on the way home and had to stop to check Google Navigation. For some reason, it had me with a 1:44 time, but by this afternoon, that had been corrected to an official chip time of 1:39:40, good for #22 out of 398 overall, and #2 out of 41 in my age group.
It's still the opening of the fall TV season, but I've already decided to jettison one show off my TiVo, and I have a dilemma with regard to another show.
First, the jettisoning. . . . I watched the second episode of Fox's "Sleepy Hollow" and I'm abandoning the show. To be sure, it wasn't a trainwreck or anything, but it was enough for me to get the strong sense that it's not a show for me. The pilot episode set up potentially interesting possibilities; the second episode really gave an "X-Files" rip-off feel, which in theory wouldn't be so bad, but it felt like a rip-off of the too frequently recycled not-so-good episodes. I don't want to sit through 20 episodes of some supernatural phenomenon arising in modern day Sleepy Hollow, which only Ichabod Crane understands dating back to his original time.
If there were fewer TV programs to watch, I might have given "Sleepy Hollow" a longer leash, but I only have so much time for TV watching, and the competition is stiff! (And it's not just competition from current shows, but also TV on DVD -- most notably "MI-5" as well as Amazon Prime TV.)
Okay, the dilemma concerns CBS's "Hostages," about which I was quite excited. Unfortunately, Nielsen viewers were much less excited than I was, with "Hostages" receiving a 1.8 rating in the 18-49 demographic. (For those of you who aren't TV ratings wonks, for the major networks on nights other than Fridays, 2.0 is kind of the minimally acceptable, with 3.0 being good, and 4.0 being really good.) It came in third in its timeslot behind ABC's "Castle" (2.2 rating) and NBC's "The Blacklist" (3.8) -- the last was no doubt helped by its lead-in, "The Voice" (4.9).
My dilemma is whether to invest time now in "Hostages," or to wait to see if it's going to get a quick yank from the network. If I were a Nielsen viewer, this would be a really bad pickle, because by waiting to watch, I'd be undercutting the show's chance of surviving; but it would be in my personal interest to let episodes accumulate on my TiVo until the show's fate is clear.
With episodic shows, it matters less if they get yanked. With serialized shows (such as "Hostages"), it's really aggravating if the show gets pulled in the middle with no resolution. . . .
The fall TV season has just started, and I'm already WAY behind! I need to find some way of getting the episodes from my TiVo on to my Kindle Fire, and then I can multi-task by watching while I run on a treadmill. . . .
Anyway, I have watched the opening episodes for Fox's "Sleepy Hollow" and ABC's "Marvel's Agents of SHIELD," plus the first episode of new season of NBC's "The Voice."
This is the new supernatural thriller based loosely on Washington Irving's story, where Ichabod Crane "dies" in the late 1700s having bested(?) a mysterious and scary foe on the battlefield -- by decapitating his adversary. He wakes up in his grave, punches his way out, and finds himself still in the town of Sleepy Hollow (population 144,000), but in modern times. Meanwhile, his headless foe also reappears in Sleepy Hollow and predictable carnage ensues. A local female police officer who once had a strange vision consistent with Crane's apparent lunacy starts to believe him, while her superior predictably writes Crane off as delusional.
I like the fact that this show is trying to be unsettling and scary in a way that I haven't really seen since the early days of "The X-Files," but I'm not totally sold on it. It's an overtly religious supernatural programs with little sense of humor other than occasional moments of Crane's surprise at modern technology, which is a combination that reminds me of Fox's "Brimstone" . . . and that didn't last very long. (Admittedly, "Sleepy Hollow"'s premeire earned a very good 3.4 rating -- anything above 2.0 is decent, and above 3.0 is strong. The second episode dipped to 3.1, which is quite normal, and still good.)
Agents of SHIELD
I'll confess upfront that while I acknowledge Joss Whedon's skills as a TV/movie producer, I've been mostly underwhelmed by his work. I watched three episodes of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," and what I remember today about my impression seems pretty much what I would expect if I were to watch Twilight. Ugh!! (I did kind of like the original Buffy movie, though, which was hilariously campy.) Next, I watched most of the first season of "Dollhouse" and got bored. . . . That one might be the fault of Eliza Dushku, who didn't seem up to the challenge of portraying a character who could take on any variety of personas "downloaded" into her. Wooden acting wasn't a problem on "Firefly," and I can see why it has a cult following, but I dunno, I can also see why it tanked with the public. I did like the "Firefly" sequel movie, Serenity, but Whedon's other big screen flick was The Avengers, which was just okay.
Even with my wariness about Whedon's work, though, I knew that "Agents of SHIELD" had very strong buzz and was probably the consensus choice among critics to be the likely #1 new show. We watched it the same night it premeired, jumping ahead of "Hostages," "The Blacklist," and "The Voice."
And it was entertaining. It's set in the same universe as the recent Marvel movies (the three Tobey Maguire Spider-Mans, Fantastic Four, Thor, Captain America, the three Iron Man movies, and The Avengers). I don't think you need to have watched any of those, but there are a number of references to events and characters inThe Avengers. The basic idea is that in a world with superheroes, supervillains, mutants, and incredibly powerful alien beings, we need an organization devoted to containing the threats posed by such entities. SHIELD is kind of like a Mission: Impossible team (with no superhero/mutant powers) that locates these threats and deals with them, although "deals with" does not necessarily mean eliminate/kill.
As with many pilot episodes, this one was more about establishing the main characters, the world, and the structure of the show than with a tight plot. The leader of the group is Agent Phil Coulson, who appeared to have been killed in The Avengers when Loki ran him through the back with a spear. Coulson explains what happened, but the show teases that there is more to the story than what Coulson knows. (A clone perhaps? Or another possibility?)
Production values were very good in this episode. It definitely carries over the sophisticated tech/knowledge that SHIELD displayed in The Avengers. There appears to be a long-term antagonistic group, which is a good thing, as I think the show would probably get stale if it is nothing more than "containing the threat of the week." If you're looking for a prior show to compare this to, I'd suggest USA's "The 4400."
PS. A critic offers more predictions of the show here.
This is now in its fifth season, so the format is well-established. Considering that I can't remember the name of the singer who won last season, but I do recall that she was on Blake Shelton's team, I'd have to agree with those who say that "The Voice" is much more about making (even bigger) stars of the coaches than in actually launching a successful new singer.
The main question for me was whether I would dread the return of Christina Aguilera and Cee Lo Green over the spring season's Shakira and Usher, who I really liked. For one episode, at least, I didn't find Aguilera unbearably self-centered and obnoxious. We'll see if this holds.
All right, well, my TiVo is still brimming with shows, new and returning. I'll post reviews of "Hostages," "The Blacklist," and more as I get to them.