The Thrilling Adventure Hour Review

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I feel like I came a bit late to The Thrilling Adventure Hour  party. I had heard of the show, or at least that there was a show, for about a year. What I hadn’t heard was what it was about. Back in January when I went to the see the Welcome to Night Vale live show, it was announced that they would be back in Seattle in March for Emerald City Comicon, and to do a cross-over with The Thrilling Adventure Hour. So with that announcement I decided it was time that I find out what The Thrilling Adventure Hour was all about.

And once I did, I was more excited about them coming to town then Welcome to Night Vale.

In short, The Thrilling Adventure Hour is a monthly live show performed at the Largo at the Coronet, a 250 seat theater in Hollywood. It is a show done in the style of old time radio, with the performers standing on stage with scripts in hand and with sound effects added live. Segments of the show are then released weekly, as a podcast by Nerdist Industries.

The show was created in 2005 by Ben Acker and Ben Blacker, when they were developing an animated show to pitch. They liked how the read through sounded, and it inspired them to attempt the old style radio format. A typical live show is broken into three segments, two regular ones and a rotating middle segment. The segments are often broken up by ads for fictitious product brands.

So, from this basic format what was it that made me get really excited about this show? The simple answer would be everything, so let’s get down to specifics.

First is the writing; Acker and Blacker are amazingly talented writers, who found a format that lets them cut loose. The scripts are well plotted and paced with an emphasis on the dialog between characters. Also, you can clearly tell the characters apart just by the dialog, which comes in handy when different actors sometimes have to step in to play an already established character.

On top of that you have an embarrassment of riches in the actors.

The core performers of The Thrilling Adventure Hour are known as the Workjuice Players. They were formed initially from improv actors associated with Second City, and grew to include some of the regular guest stars. The current roster of the Workjuice players is Paget Brewster, Craig Cackowski, John DiMaggio, John Ennis, Mark Gagliardi, Marc Evan Jackson, Hal Lublin, Joshua Malina, Busy Philipps, Autumn Reeser, Annie Savage, Paul F. Tomkins, and James Urbaniak. Additionally, you have the show’s director Aaron Ginsburg, and Musical Director Andy Paley.

On top of the core players, the show has had an amazing array of guest performers. Nathan Fillion has appeared so often he has his own reoccurring segment.  His Castle co-star Molly Quinn also has a reoccurring character. It would be insane to try and cover all the other guest stars, but examples include Weird Al Yankovich, Jon Hamm, Zachary Levi, Karen Gillian, and Clark Gregg.

Part of what attracts such notable guests is that the format requires no memorization, so prep time is minimal. Guest starring on the show has become such a big deal that many of the Workjuice players have said they are glad they got in early, as they are not famous enough to warrant a guest spot now.

It is a formula that works. The monthly live show regularly sells out. And they have regular attendees, as well as people coming to see the show after listening to the podcast. The live nature gives it an energy you just can’t get in a recording booth.

As for the show itself, you can tell that the fans are fully invested because they cheer loudly when familiar segments start.

And about those segments. They cover a wide range of genres, with the unifying factor of almost all of them being funny.

And what are those segments?

The live show traditionally starts with Sparks Nevada, Marshal on Mars. This was the original show that Acker and Blacker were writing as an animated pilot. It is literally a space western, telling the story of Sparks Nevada (Marc Even Jackson), a man from Earth in the 31st century who is the Marshal on Mars. He is aided by Martian native Croach the Tracker (Mark Gagliardi) who accompanies him to fulfill an onus owed to Nevada by his people. This is the one segment that is serialized and needs to be listened to in release order to follow the story. It also has several spin off segments that fit into its continuity, but I’ll get to them in a bit.

The last segment in the live show is Beyond Belief. This follows the adventures of Frank and Sadie Doyle (Paul F. Tompkins and Paget Brewster), a couple who get involved in various supernatural situations. They are pastiches of Nick and Nora Charles from the Thin Man movies. As such they are drinking constantly, and would prefer to be left alone, but always end up helping whoever comes to them for help.

The middle segments of the show rotate each month.

First you have what has become known as the “Sparks Nevada extended universe.” These are stories set in the Sparks Nevada continuity but do not usually feature Sparks himself.  The most common of these is Cactoid Jim, King of the Martian Frontier featuring Nathan Fillion as the title character, a cross between Davy Crockett and Buck Rogers.

Next is The Adventures of Captain Laserbeam, starring John DiMaggio as a Silver Age style superhero. In later episodes it also features Phillip Fathom, Deep Sea Detective (Hal Lublin), who is basically an aquatic version of the Nolan Batman.

Down in Moonshine Holler follows the exploits of a depression era millionaire (Craig Cackowski) who abandons his old life to become a Hobo, as he searches for his love The Hobo Princess.

The Cross-Time Adventures of Colonel Tick-Tock features a Victorian gentleman (Craig Cackowski) who protects the timeline on behalf of Queen Victoria. It has a spin off in The Algonquin Four, where members of the Algonquin Round Table gain the powers of the Fantastic Four.

Tangentially related to Tick-Tock is Amelia Earhart, Fearless Flyer, where the famed pilot faked her disappearance in order to fight time traveling Nazis across history.

The show also has a completed series called Tales from the Black Lagoon, featuring Mark Gagliardi as Ben Chapman, the actor who played the Creature from the Black Lagoon. The story is a Noir alternate history of Hollywood, and the only segment to not play up comedy.

There are also various one or two shot segments that occur from time to time.

All segments, with the occasional exception, are narrated by Hal Lublin.

One of the strengths of the show is that it avoids the common comedy trope of the hero being an incompetent idiot who wins through the luck that comes from the efforts of others. Rather, it mines its comedy from dialog, relationships, and the situations the characters find themselves in.

An example is Sparks Nevada, who is very blasé about everything and a bit egotistical. However, in a crisis his blasé attitude translates into a lack of panic, and his ego gives him confidence in his skills. The humor is usually about his relationship with Croach, or their mutual love interest The Red Plains Rider (Busy Phillips) and how issues involving these come up at the worst possible times.

I give The Thrilling Adventure Hour a grade of A-. Genre fans will love it and non-fans should enjoy most of it. The only reason it gets the minus is not everyone will enjoy every single segment.

Fanboy News Network Episode 12

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Fanboy News Network Episode 12

“Emerald City Comicon 2014″

Jeff talks about Emerald City Comicon 2014.

Subjects include:

This year’s sell out.

Crowd Control

The Anti-harassment policy

The guests

Flipon.tv

The Welcome to Night Vale / Thrilling Adventure Hour crossover

The fan meet-ups

The Vendors

Fanboy News Network Episode 11

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Hidden Gems of Horror Part 2

Jeff is joined by Jennifer Lovely (http://jengaloves.com) and Michael Montoure (http://www.bloodletters.com) as they continue their discussion about little known of rarely viewed horror films that they think horror fans should be paying attention to.

 

The Hole Behind Midnight Episode 9

hole behind midnight cover sketches.inddAnd here is Episode 9 of the Hole Behind Midnight audio book podcast. Book by Clinton J Boomer. Audiobook produced by Julie Hoverson

Everything you ever wanted to know about being a secret king of an emptied empire, but were afraid to ask.

The Hole Behind Midnight is meant for Mature Audiences and contains strong language and adult themes. There we warned you.

You can find the main sight for the podcast here.

And is you are interested in the book, you can find details here

Cosplay is not consent: The latest in the fight against harassment at conventions

ECCC Harassment poster

Convention season is upon us now and with it the questions about acceptable behavior have reared their heads again.

Specifically you had Fan Expo Canada, which was March 7th thru March 9th. In an effort to drum up last minute sales, they sent out an email which included the line “escape the deep freeze this weekend – cuddle a cosplayer.”

This obviously caught the attention of several people and eventually was brought to the attention of Jill Pantozzi of the geek news site The Mary Sue. There was concern that the statement could be seen as encouraging the harassment of cosplayers. Pantozzi reached out to Fan Expo Canada to attempt to get a response on their intent with the ad. The response she got was that they had thought about pointing out that consent was implied but felt bringing focus to the rules all the time would hurt the fun of the convention. They did resend the ad but added “with consent” in brackets to the end of the statement. So far, the only official response to this has been to accuse the Mary Sue of being inflammatory and making false statements. As the convention just happened, I expect more news to be coming out about this story, in the coming weeks.

While this was going on, another issue occurred with the Capital City Comic Con in Austin Texas. The convention, which is going to be held this upcoming July, put out several fliers; one of these was a close up of Power Girl’s Breasts with the tag line “Everything is BIGGER in Austin.” When a commenter complained about this on the convention’s Facebook page, the convention replied that the flier was all in fun and questioned if the commenter had ever been to a convention. A couple of days, later the convention responded to the issue as it started going viral. They stated that both the staffer who made the comment and the designer of the flier were no longer with the con staff, and apologized to the fans for what had happened.

Standing in contrast to this is Emerald City Comicon. The same week the two issues above were occurring, ECCC posted an image of the anti-harassment posters that will be going up around their own convention. The title of the posters is “Cosplay is not consent, and it goes on to detail the convention’s anti-harassment policy, including who to go to if you are harassed and the penalties you face if you violate the policy.

The contrast in the above examples illustrates where we stand in geek culture, in regards to dealing with the issues of harassment and making events safe and inclusive.

On one hand, you have people who have not matured in how they deal with these issues but find themselves running conventions. They want to grab people’s attention and fall back on the old adage “sex sells.” Unfortunately, they do not consider the broader message of what they are putting out, nor how it can ultimately promote a hostile environment. It is not from a place of malice, but ignorance. The best way to handle it is to do what was done above and call them out. Make it clear that even if they don’t see the harm in it, harm is still there. The ones that are receptive to the message will thrive, and the ones that aren’t will find their reputation falter and their event suffer. The ones that take steps to make sure their events are promoted as a safe and inclusive space will find more people wanting to go, and can use it as a means to actually promote their event. With all the concerns about hostility in the convention scene,  the ones that make sure you know they will do everything in their power to make sure you are safe will be the ones that ultimately thrive.

In the shadow of events like Aki Con, (where we saw the worst case scenario play out),and other ongoing tales of harassment, this is going to continue to be a hot button issue. I think this year is going to be very interesting in this regard, and I for one am interested to see how conventions actually play out.

I’ll keep an eye on things, and let you know what comes from this.

Fanboy News Network Episode 10

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Hidden Gems of Horror Part 1

Jeff is joined by Jennifer Lovely (http://jengaloves.com) and Michael Montoure (http://www.bloodletters.com) to discuss little known of rarely viewed horror films that they think horror fans should be paying attention to.

The Hole Behind Midnight Episode 8

hole behind midnight cover sketches.inddAnd here is Episode 8 of the Hole Behind Midnight audio book podcast. Book by Clinton J Boomer. Audiobook produced by Julie Hoverson

Let’s be honest, whom amongst us has from time to time turned to a drunk oracle for advice?

The Hole Behind Midnight is meant for Mature Audiences and contains strong language and adult themes. There we warned you.

You can find the main sight for the podcast here.

And is you are interested in the book, you can find details here.

 

Midnight Ballad for Ghost Theater Review

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Midnight Ballad for Ghost Theater is a 2006 Korean film that is very hard to categorize. Let’s call it a musical comedy that utilizes horror themes.

It is hard to find, as it has never had an official American release; however, it is possible to order  a copy from Korea.

The plot revolves around Seong Sodan (played by Kkobbi Kim), a teen age girl who lives with her Grandmother. One night her grandmother leaves the house, saying she is going to the theater to watch a movie she starred in when she was Sodan’s age. Sodan tracks down the theater to find her grandmother, but no one has seen her. Interrupting a suicide attempt by the theater manager (played by Chun Ho-jin), she is given a job as ticket seller, where she hopes that eventually her grandmother will show up.

It turns out that the theater is haunted by the ghosts of the rest of the theater troop who made the film with Sodan’s grandmother. They are doomed to haunt the theater until they can see that film, (“Minosoo: The Bull-headed Man”) once again.

At first frightened of the ghosts, Sodan befriends them and they help her come out of her shell. She, in turn, tries to find out what happened to the film, both to help her new friends and hopefully to find her grandmother. All the while, the theater manager tries to dissuade her (between his botched suicide attempts), saying that finding the film will lead to tragedy.

If I had to sum up this movie in one word, it would be charming.

The overall feel of the film has a clear Tim Burton-esque feel to it, mainly of his earlier films like BeetleJuice. There is a sense of “what the hell am I watching”, while still enjoying the ghost’s antics.

The characters of the ghosts themselves are immediately engaging. First we have Elisa (played by Joon-myeon Park), who claims to be a Joseon Dynasty Princess. She is loud, bossy, and often threatens to execute the others.

Next is Hiroshi (played by Jo Hie-Bong), a Japanese solider who was stationed in Korea where he fell in love. All of his dialogue is in Japanese, but he can understand Korean, and still be understood by the other ghosts.

Wanda (played by Ae-Ri Han) is a former Kisaeng (similar to a Geisha), who fell out of favor after giving birth to a client’s child. She is bulimic and obsessively counts her hair.

Finally you have Mosquito (played by Yeong-su Park), who is made-up like a demented Harlequin (or let’s be honest, the Crow). Of all the ghosts, he is the only one who is given no back story.

The theater manager is clearly involved with the ghosts’ story, and as Sodan unravels the mystery of the missing film, she learns more of what that is.

All the back story of the ghosts, the manager, and the film itself are done though song. And those songs can be very catchy, even for someone who does not speak Korean.

If you are looking for deep character analysis, Midnight Ballad for Ghost Theater is not the movie you want. It is a light hearted romp, with no real concern for character development.

I give Midnight Ballad for Ghost Theater a B-. It is appealing, and fans of films like BeetleJuice or The Rocky Horror Picture Show will enjoy it and possibly want to own it. Non-fans will likely be left lukewarm by its surreal nature and lack of character depth.

Fanboy News Network Episode 9

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Fanboy News Network Episode 9

A look at the buzz surrounding the release of the Guardians of the Galaxy trailer.

The fan reaction to the announced casting for the new Fantastic Four film.

Casting news for the Constantine and Gotham pilots.

Coverage on the recent drop in overall comic book sales.

Site Update: Schedule Changes

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It dawned on me that I need to reassess how I have been allocating my time.

I recently took the time to look at all the projects I am working on right now:

 

  1. Writing a weekly column for this site.
  2. Producing a weekly podcast.
  3. Developing a comedy audio series.
  4. Voice Acting for various audio dramas.
  5. Helping a friend edit an audio book they are producing.
  6. Improving my studio space for audio recording.

And this is all on top of working a full time job, where we are in the middle of a major project.

Some of the above projects are more time intensive than others. The voice acting isn’t a major drain on my time overall, but usually will eat an entire day when I am needed. The audio book editing is a one off deal that will eventually end.

But I have been seeing signs that I need to readjust some things, as I am missing some weeks on Podcast production, and I often have to rush through my columns to get them to my editor on time. The thing that is getting sacrificed most often is the work on my own audio series, which is the project I really want to get going. But I also don’t really want to drop anything.

So I think I have come up with a compromise that will allow me to keep things going, without causing my work suffer.

There will still be weekly updates every Saturday, but for the time being I will be alternating between columns and podcasts. This will allow me to not have to worry about rushing through writing the columns, and give me more time to prep the podcasts. It should also allow me more time to work on the audio series scripts, in order to have something concert ready for the people I am working with on it.

And, hopefully, I will have some new exciting announcements for you in the near future.