Saturday, April 8, 2006
And just to clarify my basic point: it's not that I don't think the Couric move is unimportant -- it's quite important symbolically, and I'll be interested in seeing how she leads their breaking news coverage -- but that I can't imagine myself ever waiting for a daily 6:30 pm network news show to find out what's going on in the world. Watching the network news is like still using a rotary phone in a cellular world.
Friday, April 7, 2006
- Ben Stiller, Flirting With Disaster. Let's not forget he was briefly on the show; let's also not forget there was a time when we weren't completely sick of him.
- Billy Crystal, When Harry Met Sally. Speaking of which . . .
- Robert Downey Jr., Black and White. So many to choose from for him. Less Than Zero was contemporaneous with his SNL stay; I know Chaplin was supposed to be good, but I never saw it. So I'll take the one with the Mike Tyson scene that you'll never believe if I just describe it to you.
- Michael McKean, Best In Show: we all liked it, right?
- Gilbert Gottfried, The Aristocrats: If you're going to list Sarah Silverman, how about the guy who told the joke the best? Also, Aladdin.
- Joe Piscopo, Johnny Dangerously: My mother let me see that movie once. Once.
- Jay Mohr, Jerry Maguire: Bob Sugar was a perfect use of Mohr's smarmitude.
The second took place on Saturday when I saw Slo-Mo. It's a band unlike any other I know. Picture a jam band. Now picture a jam band with a talented hip hop front man. Now picture that band with a steel guitar as the key instrument. Finally, picture three amazing female vocalists. As one critic put it, the band is "rocking, hip-hopping, swinging and grooving all at once."
Check out their songs "My Buzz Comes Back" and "Shackamoxon". Then buy the CD (look for "Buy It Now"). Then go see the band perform live. You won't be disappointed.
Thursday, April 6, 2006
For The Amazing Race and Survivor, the problem seems to be predictability. The elite have been established, and there's not enough in the way each game is structured this year to shake things up. For Idol, of course, it's the opposite problem -- good, popular performers are disappearing for no reason at all, while jokes like Bucky, Ace and Pickler not only remain in the game but aren't even threatened.
Let's talk about fixes:
- For Survivor, I just feel like the traditional 16-20 people, 2-3 tribes formula is played out, and when the game is played well by the dominant team, it should be boring to watch. We got lucky the past two seasons -- with Fireman Tom & Ian v. The Tribe That Couldn't Win followed by Judd, Hogeboom, Steph and Danni, we had two drama-filled seasons with great characters and good gameplay, but it's not inherent in the game that it'll always be interesting. (Remember PornBoy Brian? Hell, were it not for the Rupert/Fairplay season, Survivor might be on hiatus right now.) The lack of inter-tribe shakeups pre-merge this season may have been fatal, because there just was no reason for anyone other than Bruce to even consider dual loyalties once united. Maybe it's time for some theme casting -- an all law enforcement or armed forces edition? an all-lawyer edition?
- For American Idol, look: the goal of the show is not to produce the next great superstar. (If that happens, great, but it's not necessary from Fox's or 19Entertainment's perspective.) The goal of the show is to get you to watch the next episode. So from their perspective, unpredictability is good, because if you knew that Bucky and Ace were going to leave in the next two weeks, you'd probably skip 'em and come back later. But seeing potential winners leave early, year after year, is unsatisfying. Two solutions come to mind: first, and most obviously, pick genres of music with contemporary relevance that allow the best singers to shine. Second, consider adding an immunity-like element to the game itself, either by protecting each week's top performer the following week, or by giving the judges the power to "protect" an at-risk singer -- perhaps, each judge gets to use the power once during the season?
- And, finally, the Race, and there, I'm a bit flummoxed. This season is showing that maybe too much bunching is better, from an excitement standpoint, than too little bunching. The top two teams have been so well-protected by the race structure lately (and the teams at the bottom given such little opportunity to gain ground) that the race meritocracy I had long sought turns out to be . . boring. It's surprising -- I had always assumed that the nature of the Race was such that as long as you picked eleven decently interesting teams of two and sent them around the world, it was bound to be compelling television. Ain't so.
Meanwhile, the show that has ended up being indestructible and irreplaceable is America's Next Top Model, in its sixth straight great season. Unlike Idol, the judges are in charge of elimination -- and that means that one's body of work (and not just that week) always matters. It's a show that casts well, features relatively consistent challenges that are fair approximations of the career being sought, and is blessed by two of the greatest personalities in the genre in Tyra Banks and Miss J. Alexander. (I'll say it again: I'd love to see Tyra host Survivor or The Apprentice.)
For Survivor and TAR, there's still hope that once we get down to the last 2-3 episodes and the truly elite teams, that things will be entertaining again. (Idol, however, is dead to me, and the Daughtry/McPhee finale will be a non-event.) In the meantime, let's hope that someone comes up with the next great reality concept, because the old favorites just feel played out right now.
- Assuming The View survives, who should replace Ms. Vieira? (And Star Jones is getting fired, right?)
- Assuming syndicated Who Wants To Be A Millionaire survives, who should take over as host(ess)?
Wednesday, April 5, 2006
Your theories as to how tonight's interesting outcome came to pass are welcomed in the comments.
Personally, I find this odd. I am far -- FAR -- from the most religiously observant girl on the block, but even I like spending eight days eating the traditional Passover foods and being careful to avoid the ones you're supposed to avoid. I think of Passover the same way many think of Lent -- a time to deprive oneself to honor the religion and the tradition. The sort of approach being adopted by the rabbis cited in the article strikes me as similar to those who marketed low-carb pastas during the Atkins frenzy -- why bother?
I'm not a fan, and it has nothing to do with price or value. It's control. I think especially given my somewhat finicky eating preferences, given the option between the chef's choice and my own, I'll take fewer options and ensure that every dish is something that I want. You?
After she and fellow homeschooler Tim Best dispatched the other spellers in sixteen rounds, it took an additional twenty-five one-on-one rounds for Wright to finally best her rival, Best. Four-and-a-half hours later, and Wright was finally right twice in a row after her challenger Best's efforts were not enough.
Among the words you'll want to work on from her epic scrum are dee-fuhr-VEHS-uhns, the abatement of a fever, and YOO-fyoo-izz-um, which is some crazy-fancy writing style.
Tuesday, April 4, 2006
From the sublime to the, well, not, tonight was country night on AI. Setting aside my bummedness that no one delivered up a classic Kenny Rogers or Patsy Cline tune, I enjoyed a couple of people -- both of whom, interestingly, join us from last week's bottom three. Ace, in particular, connected with both the song (Keith Urban's "I Wanna Cry," for those of you who, like me, aren't so plugged into the country thing) and the audience in a way that he normally does not and which was quite unusual in tonight's performances. And Katharine's "Bringing Out the Elvis" was great, except for some swallowing of the low notes. Actually, it was this performance that made me go hunting around for the Clarkson clip -- I want a big band night!
But generally, this wasn't a spectacular night in Idoland. Elliott, Daughtry, and Bucky were all fine if uninspiring, although I thought this was a weird week for Daughtry to decide to sing a straight and relatively dull ballad. Mandisa was better than the judges gave her credit for being. Kellie did as good a job as one would expect during white trash week -- hey, don't yell at me, did you listen to those lyrics? She came across as some sort of weird automaton, though, particularly with all the wiggly-eyebrow nonsense.* And to round out the evening, inhabiting the "ouch" category with gusto: Taylor and Paris. Yick. Double yick.
(*I also don't buy her "explanation" of the seafood pronunciations, although I love that the contestants are being made to answer for the internet chatter after each week's episode. Such is our great power -- mwah hah hah!)
So who goes home? I have no clue. I am expecting to see Paris in the bottom three, but beyond that I just don't know. Does Bucky finally get his long-overdue boot during country week? Other than Ace, all of the repeat bottom three types are gone. Should be interesting.
Edited to add: Ok, that was twisty. Watching 24 knowing that something big was a-coming made for a very tense hour.
edited by Adam: Oops! Turns out the original Beckinsdale item was improperly sourced. Or, put another way, totally made up. IMDB based it off of an April Fools' joke that it failed to treat as such. Thanks, Dan.
ISN'T ANYBODY AT FOX RIVER ACTUALLY EVIL? Last night's Prison Break was quite Losty, I thought, in terms of the various pieces of flashback crossover. Sucre/Linc, Dr. Sara/Bellick -- all quite interesting. Some random thoughts:
- I suspect that the relevance of Dr. Sara's backstory has not been fully revealed. Kudos to the makeup people, by the way, who did some fine work on her during both the hospital and the on-the-street scene.
- With all the "good men doing bad things for good reasons" backstories, I'm glad to see that at least one of the convicts is as eeeeevil as he seems. And we are now well set up for that particular character's plot arc during season 2.
- Three points about Michael: (1) he has more than a little John Nash about him, no? (2) glad to see that his actions have been motivated by something more than just man, I feel bad for not taking Lincoln's phone call. (3) I want his office.
- Unsurprisingly, not a peep about Westmoreland's past.
- Any guesses as to what's actually going on with the VP?
- Even if we'll all concede that this matters in terms of a glass ceiling breaking moment, will this matter in terms of your life? When was the last time you watched a network evening news show? (And relatedly, does the anchor determine which channel you'll watch for breaking news?)
- When Katie Couric is criticized for lacking "gravitas", is it just chauvinism?
- Who would you like to see replace Couric on Today? Can The View's Meredith Vieira get back whatever gravitas she needs to do the news interviews the show requires?
Monday, April 3, 2006
Because ladies and gentlemen, at the age of twelve, Samir Patel has earned a slot in his fourth straight Nationals. Among the words he spelled correctly:
- HUN-dreff: 5250 minutes, as compared to a year
- kore-nuh-KO-pee-uh: a whole wide mess o'stuff
- ESS-kuh-tahl-uh-gee: the study of Duncan Black's website
- uh-FAY-jee-uh: loss of the ability to swallow
- dee-HISS-uhnse: the process of rupturing, releasing an object's contents.
Patel immediately becomes the odds-on favorite to win this thing, but we've got two months to profile his competition.
Comments open to speculation as to what each contestant should sing on Hypothetical Prince Night (Ace -- "I Wanna Be Your Lover", Daughtry -- "When U Were Mine" can be guitar'd and anger'd up), as well as tomorrow night's actual Country Competition.
It still strikes me as Top Model but with lamer competitors, relentless cheeriness and no one as quirky as Miss Jay or Janice, but still, probably, exactly what they need.
Sunday, April 2, 2006
edited by Adam to add: Confirmation via Shonda: "Yeah, that was my shout out to the guys at Throwing Things! And to the spellers!" We are humbled.
edited to add: Sepinwall's review: "[I]f there's a character changing right here and now, it's Carmela. When she warned Tony about Vito, it was the first professional counsel she's offered him in the series. For her entire adult life, she's tried to enjoy the spoils of Tony's work while holding herself apart from it. But after she confessed to Dr. Melfi last week that she had no illusions about Tony's career -- and that she was attracted to that part of him in the first place -- maybe she's prepared to become less Kay Corleone and more Lady Macbeth."
My balot, for what it's worth, was topped by American Beauty, a movie that overwhelms you with its mood on the first viewing, and completely falls apart on
(Oddly, the smaller one's role in that movie, generally the more success one's career has had thereafter, with John Cho and Marissa Jaret Winokur making much better choices than Wes Bentley, Thora Birch, Mena Suvari and, of course, Kevin Spacey.)
Washington, D.C.: Tim - I am among the ranks of those that love the show and you. My question is 'Where is andre?' Seriously though, I honestly felt like the runway show of season 1 (particularly Kara Saun and Jay) were far and beyond superior to the designers of season 2. The outfits felt more complete, more highly stylized - more runway! Do you agree? And did the show encourage season 2 designers to make the clothes less runway and more wearable?
Tim Gunn: Thank you for this interesting and provocative question. I believe that the season two designers are stronger than season one's as a whole. I also believe that the absence of immunity in season two removed the incentive to win the individual challenges. The designers just wanted to be IN, so risk-taking was seen as being just that, a RISK.
I mean, he's right, right? About the immunity issue, at least. (I don't think that anyone other than Daniel V. could've really competed with last year's top three, do you?) Shows need to reward good work -- Survivor does it with immunity, TAR with early departures on the next leg and occasional added prizes -- but Runway didn't this year, and neither does Idol. Should American Idol introduce an immunity factor? Top Model? Should Runway bring it back?