Saturday, August 19, 2006

OF COURSE, NOTHING CAN KILL A SHOW LIKE TOO MUCH EXPOSITION: New York asks America -- why aren't you watching our Broadway shows when we send them to your town?

My attitude is that there's no such thing as a bad production of a good musical; if the book is good, no cast can ruin it badly enough as to make it not worth watching.

Friday, August 18, 2006

AND HANS WILL LEARN ABOUT ASIAN DAWN THREE DAYS SOONER: Time Magazine, believing itself to have fallen behind the news curve, will soon start publishing new issues on Fridays, not Mondays.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

O'MALLEY, STOP LOOKING AT MY VA-JAY-JAY: Tonight (sorry about the belated warning), ABC is re-airing the Shonda-penned Super Bowl episodes of Grey's Anatomy -- "It's The End Of The World" (your original comments here) and "(As We Know It)" (our thread here). Shonda's posts about the episodes, well worth your time, remain here.

Great episodes, or greatest episodes?
SEE, THERE'S SNAKES. AND THEY'RE ON A PLANE! In light of our discussion earlier this week about the brilliance that was Mansquito (OK, at least the title) and in honor of a movie about airborne slithering reptiles that opens tonight, I figure it's time to open the floor for discussion of movies with titles that are more awesome than the movie itself could hope to be. One that comes to mind is the recent Awesome...I __________ Shot That! Alternatively, we can always discuss movies with titles that make little or sense. The Squid and The Whale, anyone? Where was the squid? Where was the whale? I demand a Noah Baumbach movie about fighting aquatic creatures!
OOPS, I DID IT AGAIN: Britney Spears has announced to the public that her current pregnancy "just kind of happened." Other things that Britney asserts "just kind of happened:"
  • The Slave 4 U video.
  • The entirety of Britney & Kevin: Chaotic.
  • Her guest-starring appearance on Will & Grace.
  • The current cover of Harper's Bazzar.
  • The "hands cupping breasts" dance move in the Toxic video.
  • The war in Iraq.
DA-DA-DA-DA-DA-DA-DA-DA DOG ON FIRE: It is good and right that The Daily Show is celebrating 10 years on the air this year (the actual 10 year date was July 22, but the "Ten F**king Years" segments continue). However, one thing bugs. TDS didn't originate with Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and Steve Carrell. I don't think we've seen a single clip from the Kilborn years, which, while rather different, were still pretty darn funny. A related question--whatever happened to Beth Littleford? After leaving TDS, she kind of disappeared, which is a shame, because she was very funny.
SORRY SEEMS TO BE THE HARDEST WORD: As the DN's Ronnie Polaneczky makes clear today, we probably all owe Patsy Ramsey an unbelievably profound apology, and she's no longer around to hear it. Unlike Richard Jewell, she points out, Mrs. Ramsey did not live to see her (presumed) exoneration, and I don't know what words properly convey how unfair and hurtful all those presumptions of guilt now feel.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

THE NEW SONGS BETTER FEATURE PLENTY OF COWBELL: The much-turned-over part of Wilbur Turnblad in Hairspray allegedly has turned over again--out is Jim Broadbent, and in is Christopher Walken?
DON'T JUST STAND THERE, LET'S GET TO IT: Watching this afternoon's PTI informed me that today marks Madonna Louise Veronica Cicconne's 48th birthday. So what's your favorite Madonna contribution to pop culture? Is it her wedding dress-wearing "Like A Virgin" at the VMA's? Is it her channelling Marilyn Monroe in "Material Girl?"Or do you prefer your Madonna singing Lloyd Webber? Or how about modern Madonna in the pretty darn fantastic "Ray of Light?"And I'll submit that "The Immaculate Collection" is well-deserving of a place in pretty much anybody's CD collection.
"IT ENDED UP LOOKING LIKE A TOAD EXPLODED ALL OVER IT", OR "SHE LOOKS LIKE A PAPER BRIOCHE": Holy shit. I have never seen an episode of Project Runway with that high of a bitchiness factor before. Probably two-thirds of the designers said something catty about a competitor during the episode. And then Michael Kors showed up, and he was vicious. And then even after the judging . . . wow, there's a sense of self-righteousness and arrogance in that room that's really unfortunate -- but great tv.

So we made the trek to Sopranoland (nice musical cue, almost as good as the Vincent Is Nuts theme) for a challenge that really pressed the designers for time and creativity, and the gap between the best and the worst was as high as we've ever seen. I'd have selected the runner-up as the winner, but that's me. Laura's in a total Daniel Franco zone right now --impeccable construction, not much flash, but certainly competent enough to stay alive. If I had to guarantee one person for the final three right now, it's Uli, who's just pretty damn (quietly) awesome each and every week, with Michael and Kayne filling out the final three.

The downside is that I can't remember an episode that was edited this obviously before -- the three designers in the middle had the least screen-time during the episode, and a rather obvious overdub from Tim mid-episode flagged the loser to me pretty clearly. (Query: What does it say about Heidi's value system that that aesthetic error is the most unforgiveable sin?)

So there wasn't a lot of drama this week, but a hell of a lot of entertainment. Comment time, people -- let's make it work.
THE PRINCE OF TIDES, SELLING COWORKERS' COATS ON EBAY, AND WHAT IT MEANS TO BE "JUSTIFIED": We haven't been talking about the webisodes of The Office that have been airing this summer, but you ought to be watching them -- I just watched the most recent four. Brian Baumgartner, who plays Kevin (of Scrantonicity fame) is just freakin' brilliant, and there's at least one LOL moment in each short piece.
DAMN YOU, JON LIEBER: You're not supposed to give me hope again. The current wild card standings are here.
SO YOU THINK YOUR VACATION HOUSE SHOULD HAVE TIVO: Mine does not. Which means that I haven't even watched last week's danceoff, much less any part of tonight's finale. Benji v. Travis? Did one of the girls make a last minute rally for victory? I have no idea, but far be it from me to deprive the world of a venue to discuss dancetasy. I'll chime in when I get home this weekend and get caught up on my viewing.
THE SUPERNOVA DANCE SQUAD MUST DIE. NOW: And I hope you noticed the severe crowd under-reaction when Mr. Lee praised them. That said, it is quite clear that Dilana can front this band -- indeed, I still think that only she, Storm and Lukas have the presence and talent to not be completely overshadowed by the veterans. I like Magni as a singer, but his presence is still too introverted, I think. But I like him.

Bottom three had two obvious candidates, and one stunner. Seriously, Magni in the bottom three? As the song he performed tonight ("Creep") aptly says, "What the hell am I doing here? I don't belong here." The band, duh, agreed, and someone who was never going to end up winning this thing is going home. As it should be.

Does anyone believe someone other than Dilana, Lukas or Storm can win this?
PERHAPS IT WASN'T TIM AND ANDRAE AT RED LOBSTER: Or so a gossipy Project Runway producer suggests, claiming that rumors flitted about concerning a contestant hookup among two designers last season. (Even more bizarrely? The story is revealed in an interview conducted by Ralph Fiennes, who's apparently a big Runway fan.)
RUNNERS-UP INCLUDED BRINGING UP BABY AND GRIZZLY MAN: The A.V. Club also catalogs 12 Acceptable Man-Vs.-Beast Films for some reason this week. Since they included The Deep Blue Sea, though they spoiled the "why" (does anyone not yet know about the twist?), it's an acceptable list.
INNER REALITY: Intereresting post on The A.V. Club today about the importance of transparency on reality tv, the idea that the genre's more successful when the producers put everything in front of you, and you don't feel like decisions or manipulations are happening of which you're not aware. To that, I'd add the importance of allowing eliminated contestants to do interviews, because Lord knows we've got some questions about the assistance provided in Treasure Hunters.

Part of the success of Project Runway is that Tim Gunn is so forthcoming with his analysis after the fact, and other blogs on the show's site have even let Keith Michael tell his side of the eviction story. On the other hand, American Idol notoriously withholds its vote totals, and it's always been a drawback on the show, as far as I'm concerned.
JAVA JIVE: Now, my wife enjoys her iced coffee, no question, but I can't imagine her taking the extra step of freezing coffee ice cubes just for that purpose, as Kim Severson advocates in today's NYT:
There is nothing worse than watery, cold coffee, which is what one gets when conventional ice cubes go into the glass. This task is easily accomplished by pouring your leftover morning coffee into ice cube trays. Once they’re frozen, pop them into a freezer bag.
You? This thread is open, as is one at least every summer here, for discussions of your current favorite summer beverages.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

SAUTEED IN "WRONG SAUCE"? Ryan Star is clearly the Chris Chambers of this season of Rockstar:None of Our Shirts Have Buttons, and I'm only partially saying that because I completed a fantasy football draft tonight. But every time you write the guy off, he delivers a great performance -- and on a Phil Collins song, at that.

Magni was solid, as he's been lately, and Dilana was good -- just not as good as she's been. I liked her more when she scared me, not when she was doing 1970s middle-of-the-road songs. Still, what shocked me about this episode was how harsh the judges were towards Storm: her cover of "I Will Survive" wasn't exceptional (definitive cover: Cake's version), but nor did it deserve the scorn heaped upon it.

Patrice and Zayra just need to go. They cannot possibly win this.

edited to add: Sepinwall also calls shenanigans on the anti-Storm talk.
DOWNER? Two bits of news from Planet Lorne: Rachel Dratch is shifting from one role to multiple minor parts on '30 Rock', and the SNL cast is being pruned from 15-16 down to ten.

How's this for ten: Hader, Samberg, Forte, Armisen, Wiig, Poehler, Rudolph (if she'll return), and three new cast members, including a solid political impressionist and some diversity?
IT'S A TOSSUP BETWEEN "YOU MADE A WOMAN MEOW??" AND SOME CRACK ABOUT A SHREK DOLL: Veteran character actor Bruno Kirby died yesterday of complications from leukemia. I hate when people whose work I appreciate unexpectedly die.
DAMN YOU, ABC! Previously, I was going to take ABC's much re-tooled (there's still not a final pilot) Brothers AND Sisters (the weird capitalization is ABC's), as my pick in the annual ALOTT5MA fall season cancellation pool. But with today's news that following the departure of much reviled former Buffy showrunner Marti Noxon and pilot writer Jon Robin Baitz (writer of the worst episode of The West Wing ever), Greg Berlanti is taking over the reins of the show, I'm far more likely to give it a shot. I'm now torn between Runaway, Smith, and Men In Trees for my "first to go" pick. We'll see.
I MADE IT TO IT. NOW WILL I MAKE IT THROUGH IT? The WaPo let one of its own review Tony Kornheiser's MNF debut. The results were not pretty:
Tony Kornheiser played it safe in his "Monday Night Football" announcing debut last night, making few missteps but offering little for the highlight reel. It wasn't exactly clear at times why he was there at all.

It's still early, as the coaches like to say. But on the basis of his first preseason game, Kornheiser, the Post sports columnist and co-host of ESPN's "Pardon the Interruption," wasn't many of the things that ESPN hired him for. He wasn't especially witty, provocative or insightful in calling the Raiders' 16-13 win over the Vikings from the Metrodome in Minneapolis. . . .

Kornheiser's challenge is to translate his familiar "PTI" personality -- opinionated, sarcastic, bombastic, a little curmudgeonly -- into the announcing booth. That's a tough assignment. Sarcasm can sound mean in the wrong hands. Tougher still, Kornheiser doesn't have Michael Wilbon, his fellow Post sports columnist and "PTI" co-host, in the booth with him. "PTI" is watchable primarily because of the verbal fireworks and good-natured banter between the two.

On "MNF," Kornheiser's foil is Theismann, who -- and let's be charitable to a Redskins legend -- is kind of a stiff. Kornheiser should be bouncing off of him like a Superball. Theismann is plainly knowledgeable about the game but often goes off on his own personal lecture circuit. He's also so smug and pretentious -- did he mention that he used to play the game? Oh, yes, about 12 times -- that he invites deflation. All this could be a good thing, at least from Kornheiser's perspective. Sticking the pin in the Theismann blimp could create some nice tension from week to week.
That said, the Associated Press said at least he was better than the failed sitcom "Listen Up".** Heck, the LA Times even said he was "the star of the show", "less obnoxious than Howard Cosell, and funnier than Dennis Miller".

** edited, because I didn't realize that the Sun-Times just carried the AP feed. Deadspin has more round-up.

Monday, August 14, 2006

A LONG, LONG WAY FROM DRUMTHWACKET: Joan Rivers is hosting a new talk show on Bravo this fall that she's calling "a queer version of 'The View'". Among the ten finalists for one of the three male slots? Former Garden State Governor Jim McGreevey.

(In truth, I only posted this item because I like spelling Drumthwacket.)
THE FRANCIS SCOTT KEY...KEY: On tonight's final non-live episode of Treasure Hunters, teams demonstrated their utter inability to use a library card catalog, reflected a general lack of navigational ability, and a shocking lack of hours of operation, which would have seemed like natural bars throughout. However, like too many TAR finales, it's already clear that one team's been lapped, and it's tough to wring drama out of their plight.
THE GIRL WHO TALKED BEHIND EVERYONE'S BACK: Ninety-nine percent of the time when a former reality tv competitor tries to transition into permanent celebrity status, I mutter "famewhore" and root against future success.

When it comes to ANTM5's Kim Stolz however, I am totally rooting for a fellow Little Three alum, and glad to hear that she is using her brains and looks for an on-air role on mtvU.
POINTLESS DEBATES RELATING TO PRONUNCIATION: You know that game you play with a racket and a shuttlecock? Do you pronounce it Bad-MIT-en? Or is it Bad-MIN-ten? suggests that both pronunciations are acceptable, but where do you stand on this crucial issue?
WHOA! GIRL! I've never watched an episode of Dancing With The Stars, but there seems to be demand for a thread to discuss this morning's announcement of next season's cast, featuring Joe (no "Y," dammit!) Lawrence, Willa "I Wanna Be Bad" Ford, Emmitt Smith, Jerry Springer, and Harry Hamlin.
#51, OF COURSE, IS ANY SITE THAT HAS THE OBAMA THEME SONG: Time Magazine again presents its list of the 50 Coolest Websites, and we are nowhere near it, though our friends at Deadspin are. Do sites like MySpace and YouTube really need to be listed? To me, those sites, along with Google, IMDB and Wikipedia, are so firmly established and essential as to need no further kudos . . . though, I imagine, I'd have said that about Yahoo back in 1997, Salon before it went behind the subscription wall, or CDNow back in the day.

So maybe that's a better question -- what's a site that used to be essential to you but is no longer?
WORST COACH EVER? Both Philadelphia sportstalk radio stations were yammering about this doozy today, reported by SI's Rick Reilly:
In a nine- and 10-year-old PONY league championship game in Bountiful, Utah, the Yankees lead the Red Sox by one run. The Sox are up in the bottom of the last inning, two outs, a runner on third. At the plate is the Sox' best hitter, a kid named Jordan. On deck is the Sox' worst hitter, a kid named Romney. He's a scrawny cancer survivor who has to take human growth hormone and has a shunt in his brain.

So, you're the coach: Do you intentionally walk the star hitter so you can face the kid who can barely swing?

Yep. The Salt Lake Tribune has more.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

LOVIE SMITH AND THE TRAMPOLINE BEARS: In one of the more eagerly awaited fall season premieres (in these parts), Tony Kornheiser makes his Monday Night Football debut this week as Oakland faces Minnesota. Will you (like me) check in on this stinkin' preseason game even after halftime just to see how he's doing? He diaries his journey towards football competence in his most recent columns, and he is (for show? for real?) nervous.
PROVE TO ME THAT YOU'RE NO FOOL, WALK ACROSS MY SWIMMING POOL: I'm not usually a big Andrew Lloyd Webber fan, but Jack Black playing King Herod in Jesus Christ Superstar strikes me as potential brilliance in the making.
WE WERE PREPARED FOR EVERYTHING. JUST NOT THIS. As I mentioned in the comments to an earlier post, I found Oliver Stone's World Trade Center incredibly effective and affecting. I should preface my remarks by saying that I'm far from a Stone fan--Any Given Sunday is the only Stone film I've managed to get all the way through (I tried JFK, which gave me a headache)--I find it hard to watch the hyperkinetic editing style he tends to use.

WTC is the exact opposite of that. Lots of long, silent shots with just Craig Armstrong's simple score over them. While the movie is long (about 2.5 hours), there's probably not a substantive line of dialogue until the 10-15 minute mark, and long periods of silence and static shots throughout. More shockingly, there's nothing "political" about the film--it simply tells interlocking stories of Officers Will Jimeno and John McLaughlin (the 18th and 19th of the 20 people to be pulled alive from the rubble of the WTC), their wives, and the people who played a role in their rescue. Rather than focusing on the indisputable horror of 9/11, it instead focuses on the hope and goodness that it brought out in folks in the days and hours thereafter, a story that's gotten too lost among folks trying to exploit 9/11 for political gain and to point out that exploitation and the "Truthies." Stone's made a fine film that is shockingly non-cynical, but instead, hopeful about what America and Americans are and can be, a reminder that's sorely needed right now. It's not for everyone--these wounds are still raw--but if you're thinking about seeing it, it's worth your time.
IF YOU CAN FIND SOMEBODY WHO SAYS SOMETHING BAD ABOUT HER, THAT PERSON OUGHT TO BE INVESTIGATED: As she retires this month from professional basketball, Philadelphia basketball legend Dawn Staley is the subject of a nice online package from, including clips dating back to 1987.

As John Smallwood enumerates: "Three Olympic gold medals (1996, 2000, 2004); two FIBA world championships (1998, 2002); two NCAA National Player of the Year Awards and three Final Fours at the University of Virginia; founding member of the American Basketball League, four WNBA All-Star teams and a spot on the just-announced 10-player WNBA All-Decade Team. They all tell only a part of Staley's impact on women's basketball."