Why “Terra Nova” is the best new TV show this Fall

Despite the negative outlook I had after reading about production issues, budget overruns, and schedule push backs, I must say I really liked the 2-hour premiere of Fox’s “Terra Nova“. Let’s get the brontosaurus in the room out of the way: Yes it does allude to a few other popular movies and television shows of the past, mainly “Jurassic Park“, “Avatar“, and “Lost“. Despite these comparisons, it’s a completely fresh concept that has tons of potential to entertain viewers. And from the Tweets I was following during the show, many people would agree with me. Here are a few reasons why I think “Terra Nova” is the best new show on television:

1. It sends a great message without being preachy

In “Terra Nova”, humans have almost destroyed the earth and are now transporting themselves back in time to start over. They are lucky to have technology with them, but they are basically living like early settlers. Unfortunately in the real world we don’t have the ability to time travel, yet. This show can help set a precedent of what can happen in the future and how humans with have to deal, all packaged in a slick, entertaining package. In a way like “Avatar.”

2. It’s breathtakingly beautiful

Television shows are a means of escapism for the general public, and “Terra Nova” does an amazing job of taking viewers to another world filled with lush tropical landscapes and fantastic sets. While there could be a little more work with the CGI dinosaurs, they are dealing with episodes that need to be produced on tighter deadline than movies. The show is filmed in Australia, therefore tons of eye candy to look forward to, especially if your watching in HD.

3. Mythology and storytelling are the foundation

Yes it’s bound to be compared to “Lost”, with a few plot points that are vaguely similar. The mythology that’s been planted from the first episode adds a reason for viewers to keep coming back for more and become engaged. What’s the point of a television show where everything is spelled out to the viewer upfront? The storytelling is also great, with many interesting characters that a broad base of viewers can relate to. In this day of social networking, mythology & the ability to relate are great ways for viewers to connect with each other, share and discuss. In the end building more buzz and drawing in more viewers. No one thought Lost would survive, and yet it lasted for 6 seasons because of this.

4. It’s cheesy in a fun way

The dinosaurs have nicknames like “howlers” and “slashers.” People keep getting killed left, right and centre, and Stephen Lang from “Avatar” is basically playing the same character all over again. While the show is considered a drama, this thick layer of cheese adds to the love I have for this show from the first episode.

5. No matter how hard you try, you will think of “Jurassic Park”, and that’s a good thing

Maybe it’s because Steven Spielberg is an executive producer, or simply that there are dinosaurs involved. Or maybe it’s because a few scenes and set pieces tread awfully close to similar ones in the JP films (I was hoping for electrified fences!). Regardless, the entire time I was thinking about “Jurassic Park”, how awesome it was, and how it’s great to have the same feeling about dinosaurs again as I did when I was 8 years old.

I truly believe “Terra Nova” is going to get enough viewers to stay alive. This show is very risky, especially on a network like Fox. Big budget, big sets, big dinos= big expectations. It will be interesting to see the numbers over the next few weeks. In the meantime, I’m going to pop in a DVD of “Jurassic Park”, and maybe follow it up with “Avatar” on Blu-Ray!

Niagara Falls Adventures

Over the weekend I got to take a quick trip to Niagara Falls with my friend Steph. She works for ISX, which is an educational tour company that does trips to French Canada, Chicago, New York City and other fun places. I was invited along as a complimentary buddy, and had a blast. Not only did I get to see Steph’s tour guide persona, I checked off a few things from my list of to-do’s in the Niagara Falls area. Our first stop was Konzelmann Estate Winery for a tour and tasting. I’ve never been there, and love wine so it was exciting to try a different place. The highlight was a peach wine they had, very fruit forward and tasty. Also had a 13.5% alcohol volume, tasty!

Next up we went to Niagara on the Lake for lunch then headed to The Falls. I was lucky enough to get a complimentary ticket for Maid of the Mist, something I have never experienced in all my trips to The Falls. Needless to say I got wet, but not nearly as much as I expected. I must mention this attraction is run like a well oiled machine. They have it set up so they can move large groups of people in and out quickly, thereby minimising wait times and maximizing profits. I also made friends as I usually do in random places. A nice couple that go to U of T for their medical degrees. I’m normally fine with doing things alone, but its nice to have people to talk to when your out doing things by yourself. They also had the usual assortment of tacky souvenirs at the end as they usher you through the giftshop. Just like Disney. I love it!

Lastly I had some free time so headed around the tackiness of Clifton Hill and people watched while the rain poured down. I checked out the Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville, which was a hugh disappointment. Refer to the blog below for details.

The 5 best “Are You Afraid of the Dark” episodes

Are You Afraid of the Dark” is an immensely popular kids show from the mid-1990’s that is cited as one of the all time favourite shows for Generation Y. Personally, I can watch episodes of this show over and over, never getting tired of the “Midnight Society” and cheesy 90’s-ness of the whole thing. I’m proud that it’s Canadian, and that it’s become such a popular show over the years despite being over 10 years old now. I have never heard anyone speak badly of it, and it tends to come up as a favourite with many people when speaking of favourite kids shows.  Nickelodeon in the U.S. will beairing it on “TeenNick” as part of their “the 90’s are all that” nighttime broadcast slot. It stirs my emotions in the same way as “Saved By The Bell” and “Full House“. Reflecting upon the show now, it’s the type of show that would not be made in this day in age. Some of the themes are very dark and scary for kids. Goosebumps was created to fill the gap for tamer fare in same kids horror genre, but it never lived up to the standard set by “Are You Afraid of the Dark.” I recently downloaded the entire series from the web. I intended on purchasing them, but DVD copies are out of print and fetch hundreds of dollars on eBay. In case you weren’t aware, the show had 5 original seasons, went off the air, then had a revival for another 2 seasons. While the original series is amazing, the revival never lived up to the original premise of the show. Regardless, in the spirit of nostalgia, here is my countdown of the best 5 episodes of the show. You’ll notice they are from the first season, as it’s best and more frequently aired.

“The Tale of the Nightly Neighbors”: Emma and Dayday Toll suspect that their new neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Braun and their son Lex, may be vampires when people in town start to get sick. The Brauns are originally from Eastern Europe, wear black, collect blood, and only are active at night.

This episode scared me so much as a kid that I still have thoughts of vampires flying through my window in the middle of the night. As a kid I would sleep with the blankets wrapped around my neck so that if they did get into my house, they couldn’t suck my blood. Super creepy!

“The Tale of the Lonely Ghost“:  A girl, Amanda Cameron, goes to stay with her Aunt Dottie and desperately wants to be friends with her snotty cousin, Beth, and her group of friends agrees to spend the night in the haunted house next door, which is rumored to be haunted by the spirit of a preteen girl, to become part of the group. Beth’s nanny tries to warn Amanda to stay away from that place.

This episode comes to mind everytime I think of the show. It’s such a touching story, not as scary as many other episodes. It also has the girl from “Ready or Not” so it gets bonus points.

“The Tale of the Phantom Cab”: Two brothers, Denny and Buzz Crocker, get lost in the woods, and come across a mysterious cab driver, Flynn, and a very unusual man, a reclusive backwoods scientist by the name of Dr. Vink, who won’t let any of his victims go unless they solve a riddle: “What is it that has no weight, can be seen by the naked eye, and if you put it into a barrel, it will make the barrel lighter?”

This episode is excellent because it introduces us to an awesome character named Dr. Vink. He makes appearances throughout the series and is always fun to watch.

“The Tale of the Pinball Wizard”: Campbell, a mischievous kid who is obsessed with pinball, finds himself trapped in the mall at closing time after he loses track of time when working at a repair shop for Mr. Olson—and the protagonist of a real life pinball game. He must use all of his skills to escape the enchanted mall and save Princess Sophie, but soon learns that he is not the only one playing.

An excellent episode that takes place in a mall and always reminded me of the Stoneroad Mall in Guelph, ON.

“The Tale of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice”: Berkham, a high school outcast, awakens an ancient secret hidden in the school about an evil wizard named Goth after a lesson with Dr. Oliver. After his friend, Alix, discovers what’s going on and is the only one that knows, and it’s up to her alone to not only save Dean, but stop him from releasing the evil sorcerer.

The coolest part of this episode is the secret swimming pool and the sorcerers staff, which always reminded me of  the one that”Jafar” had in the Disney movie “Aladdin.”

Remember Hitclips?

Does anyone else remember Hitclips? They were made by Tiger Electronics and came out in 2000 with a major push from McDonald’s and commercials with Britney Spears and N*Sync. They were little flash drive type plastic squares that you put into a small Walkman type player, and they would play a 60 second clip of that song. They were basically the precursor to MP3s and the iPod. I remember getting a few on our way to Cedar Point, because at the time they were only available in the United States. Check out the ad for them below. Doesn’t it make them look so exciting! Ultimately they just never caught on because they were expensive, weren’t full songs and also a proprietary format. Regardless they were kinda cool!

Garden Upgrade

Today I decided to finalize my hydroponic garden setup. I got a timer for the lights and fan to make my life easier. This allows the plants to be on a perfect day/night cycle without me having to worry about it. I also took some cuttings of peppers from my Dad’s garden, and one from the healthiest looking tomato plant from my own garden. I am very impatient, so I feel like starting half the garden from cuttings will speed the process of growth up and give me the results I want a lot faster. I’m still learning about hydroponics everyday, but is it becoming quite an addiction for me. It’s also getting chilly outside, so I brought in my basil plants to the warmth of the fluorescent lights. I lined the walls with aluminum foil to reflect the light, and the whole setup is pretty sweet. Last but not least, I got a great deal on a refill pack for my Aerogarden, it’s the type you can plant whatever type of seeds you have. I decided that spinach looked easy enough and would work well in that setup. Soon my whole house is going to be full of plants that will provide us with fresh produce to eat. Tomatoes, hot peppers, sweet peppers, basil and spinach so far. I keep wanting to plant more and more, but I’m going to wait and see how everything I have on the go turns out first.



Adventures in Hydroponics

I finally have my entire setup for my super-fantastic garden of the future! Using hydroponics technology! Today I made the run to the hydroponics supply store to grab my nutrients, PH tester, rock-wool and lighting for my garden. It was a little sketchy, a lot of people there were obviously not growing tomatoes like I am. Regardless, I’m not here to judge. Hydroponics gets a bad rap because it is used to grow marijuana, the reasoning is that it works. But the same techniques can be used to grow almost every other vegetable. My plan is to grow things I eat in the winter, instead of buying the crappy, overpriced produce from the grocery store. I spend about $100 total for everything, making this weekend project cost a total of about $130 so far. I decided on getting fluorescent grow lights as I’m not looking at turning my whole basement into a hydroponics farm and don’t want to use too much power. I am using the empty closet in my basement, as it already had the rail I am hanging my light from, and a desk to put the garden unit and supplies on top. I’m still learning about all the intricacies of how to make sure I use the right amount of nutrients and light to be successful. Regardless, it’s up and running so well see in a week or so how its going! I’m starting with 8 plants, tomatoes and peppers.

Here’s a fascinating look at how Hydroponic Lettuce is grown: