Saturday, September 23, 2006

TREADING DANGEROUSLY ON HUCKAPOO'S TURF: Brought to you by the same impressarios who assembled the Pussycat Dollas, the Slumber Party Girls are the next pre-fab teen girl pop group. Maybe, unlike their predecessors, they'll actually release an album.
TWO SEPARATE, YET EQUALLY IMPORTANT PARTS: I didn't mind much the introduction of hot chicks into Law and Order: Original Recipe--Milena Govich was sufficiently hard-edged as Green's new partner (and Jesse Martin's lecture about lessons was nicely written and delivered) and Alana De La Garza added a bit of an edge to the junior ADA part (which has been lacking ever since Angie Harmon left--need I say more than "Is this because I'm a lesbian?"). What I did have a problem with is that it looks like we're introducing an overarching "arc plot" as part of a campaign to earn Sam Waterston an Emmy for acting (no wins in six nominations) about McCoy reconciling with his daughter. While I would argue that the greatest L&O of all time is "Aftershock" (an episode that's all character, no crime), part of what has made the show so effective for so long is that it is almost entirely self-contained. Waterston's tremendously talented--his lacking of an award is sad, but this doesn't strike me as the way to get it. (And anyway, the fine folks at the Emmys know it's Hugh Laurie's turn this time anyway.)

Friday, September 22, 2006

MY WEEKEND GIFT TO YOU: Possibly the creepiest g-rated photo album I have ever seen.
L'SHANA TOVA: While I am pleased to wish Sen. George Allen and all my fellow MOTTs a Happy New Year, I thought I'd do a little cleaning before 5767 rolls around (I know I will be writing 5766 on all my checks for the next month). Here's a whole bunch of lists that have been weighing down my bookmarks for days, weeks, and months (and I apologize in advance for not crediting those from whom I found these links).

I WILL LOVE YOU SOONISH? Four posts mentioning Grey's in the last 24 hours isn't sufficient to give you guys a forum to discuss the premiere? I hated the medicine, enjoyed the flashbacks, found the entire episode wildly disjointed, and thought the whole thing had sound issues making everything hard to understand, especially Izzie's speech on the floor.

Oh, and apparently our neighbors north of the border can't tell the difference between a tape labeled "episode one" and one labeled "episode two" and aired the second ep last night instead of the premiere. (Shonda the Spoiler Nazi must be PISSED.) So if you're dying to know what happens next, talk to a Canadian. Or read the spoiler thread on TWoP. (I won't link to it so as not to be an enabler.) It sounds pretty steamy, if you ask me.
NOW THAT'S MCDREAMY FOR BUSINESS: Not only did Grey's Anatomy beat CSI in the fast nationals last night (by over two million viewers, no less!), the 8 PM clip show almost beat Survivor: Race Wars and solidly defeated Earl and The Office. In another victory for quality TV, Deal or No Deal and Celebrity Duets both got creamed at 9 PM. More interestingly, without Without A Trace, ER regained supremacy at 10 PM, barely edging Shark, and Six Degrees may well be headed for a rapid death, given that it lost nearly half of the Grey's lead-in and finished last in its timeslot. Looks like ABC's risky dice roll could pay dividends.
I AAAAAAAAAAAAAM AN INNOCENT MAN: Victor Garber? Still a big draw for me even when playing a role where he gets to smile occasionally. I can't say whether I'll continue to watch Justice once I have a full slate on the DVR, but for now, four episodes in, I'm still enjoying it. (And if it replaces the foundering Vanished in the Monday 9 pm slot -- which seems not unlikely given that the initially strong Justice got tromped this week-- that will give me something to do between Prison Break and Studio 60 in the fictitious universe in which I watch TV in real time.) But I do question the producers' wisdom on one major issue that will likely kill the show for me if it doesn't resolve itself soon.

Thus far, we've got four not-guilty verdicts -- not surprising, given that TNT&G is supposed to be a firm that doesn't lose trials. Fine. The surprise is that we've also got four innocent defendants. How impressed are we supposed to be that the firm is managing to get people acquitted who haven't actually done anything wrong other than find themselves in precarious straits? Every week I watch, thinking "ah, this will be the first week where the defendant has actually killed someone." And every week I am astounded to find that no, TNT&G has helped save another innocent person. Any criminal defense lawyer would love to have this many clients who didn't commit any crime.

Attention Jerry Bruckheimer: it's time to impress me by using all these glitzy trial techniques to get some actual murderers off scot-free. It's the American way, after all.
NO KEVIN BACON? So, who else stayed tuned for Six Degrees after Grey's? Anyone? The Hope Davis storyline is nice, but will wear thin after a while, and the Erika Christensen storyline is interesting for a start, but needs to go somewhere quickly to reward the viewer. (And "What's In The Box" had better make more sense than it did the last time J.J. tried that plot device.) The other four characters? Eh, though Bridget Moynihan is pretty and her scene with Davis bonding over manicures was sharply written (nice to see Davis playing a hipster when she's been stuck in a rut of playing the uptight wife/sister). And any show that will not only feature Sarah Vowell, but allow her to say the words "lychee martini" earns at least a couple of weeks of my viewing loyalty, unless I hear that Shark kicked major ass or ER spontaneously stopped sucking and got good again.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

SOMETIMES IT PAYS TO BE GAY: To reveal whether tonight's Office confirmed the spoiler would itself constitute a spoiler, so let me just say for now that the episode was excruciatingly funny, answered all of the questions remaining from the cliffhanger, and provided a wonderful return of the continuity fairy. To the comments, folks, where I do have one or two gripes.
GREY AREA: OK, ALOTT5MA readers, I need your advice. I didn't get around to seeing the first season of Grey's Anatomy until this summer on DVD and have yet to see the second season and know little if nothing that happened in season 2. Time constraints and general cheapness have prevented me from yet purchasing and/or viewing the Season 2 DVDs. I Tivo'd tonight's Season 2 recap and Season 3 premiere. Do I skip Season 2, watch the recap and dive into this season? Do I wait and watch the Season 2 DVDs, Tivoing this season as I go along?

What would you do?
THE BOOK THAT KEPT HUGO AWAKE AT NIGHT: Look out Oprah, sulfur-sniffing Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez may be launching his own book club.
LOCAL VETERINARIANS ARE ADVISED NOT TO REATTACH THE SEVERED HANDS OF ANY SUSPICIOUS CUSTOMERS: I'm probably not the only person whose first thought upon seeing this story was that the best way to catch these guys is to have someone shadow Dr. Sarah.

Basically, this season is just like all the rest, except not as pervasively ugly as the last. A shopping list:
  • The short-haired lesbian
  • The rocker chick
  • The short girl with the big personality who's just as cute as a button and has no chance of winning but who will stick around until near the end because the judges just kind of like her
  • The really, really beautiful women who will be dismissed in weeks 6-9 because they are too "conventional" and who will go on to have more successful careers than everybody who outlasts them
  • Tyra's Self-Esteem Project, because Tyra hasn't figured out yet that spending the first two weeks of the season telling a (plus-sized/ethnic/homeless-looking) woman how beautiful she is and then spending the next three weeks telling her that she has lost her spark and seems beaten-down actually may not be the shortest path to self-acceptance (Note to Tyra: why not just sing Xtina's "Beautiful" to them? I'll bet that would work)
  • The girl who is such a bitch that she might print copies of her rules, including "I will treat you the same or worse than you treat me"
  • The ones who look like they wandered on the set accidentally because, really, models, really? (One of whom looks like an elongated Fiona Apple, by the way)
  • The girl who looks like she can unhinge her jaw and swallow a live boar (I swear, there's one every season)
Check, check, and check.

If you're in a discussion group, please consider the following topics:

1. If you were trying to fake having peed on a bed, would you sprinkle it all over? I don't think you have to be Encyclopedia Brown to know that most people don't amble when they pee.

2. Who ya got?

3. More likely to have a picture of self on nightstand: Trump or Tyra?
TONIGHT'S THE McNIGHT: In case you've missed all the hype surrounding Grey's Anatomy's move to Thursdays as well as tonight's Season 3 premiere, the big night has arrived. Finally.

If one more article is published about the phenomenon that Shonda's little engine that could has become, the weight of all that newsprint might just set the world spinning off its axis. Seriously. Come to think of it, I might have to stop using the word "seriously" altogether, because the media hype has transformed it into pure Grey's metaspeak rather than somewhat subtle Grey's allusion for the show's devotees. Not to mention McAnything. (Va-jay-jay, however, remains entirely appropriate for use in casual conversation.)

In anticipation of tonight's purportedly pantyrific proceedings, feel free to use the comments thread to share your hopes and dreams for tonight's premiere or the new season in general. Bonus points to anyone who guesses the number of times the word "Denny" is spoken. The over-under currently sits at 47.

THE BEST POP CD OF THE PAST 20 YEARS: Adam's recent post about this being the 20-year anniversary of the release of Graceland prompted him to wonder whether that CD was the best pop CD of the past 20 years. I made what is assuredly an incomplete list of some other noteworthy CDs of the past 20 years below. Let us know what you think is the best. Note -- I am adopting a broad definition of "pop". The contenders:

Guns N’ Roses "Appetite for Destruction"
U2 "Joshua Tree"
Public Enemy "It Takes a Nation"
Liz Phair “Exile in Guyville”
Red Hot Chili Peppers “Blood Sugar Sex Magic”
Bonnie Raitt “Nick of Time”
Nirvana “Nevermind”
R.E.M. “Automatic for the People”
D’Angelo “Brown Sugar”
Beck “Odelay”, “Sea Change”, “Mutations”, or “Mellow Gold”
Maxwell “Maxwell’s Urban Hang Suite”
Radiohead “Kid A” or “OK Computer”
Missy “Supa Dupa Fly” or “This is not a Test”
Lucinda Williams “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road
Lauryn Hill “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill”
Outkast “Stankonia” or “Speakerbox”
Wilco “Yankee Hotel”

A PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: Heads up, folks--make sure to set your TiVo season passes carefully. ABC is (with minimal fanfare) rerunning last season's Lost finale on Monday night from 9 to 11, so if you have a Lost season pass for first run and repeat episodes, this can screw with your Studio 60 and Heroes recordings (or Two and A Half Men and CSI: Miami, if that's your speed) if the priority does not place one of those two shows above Lost. Also, for tonight, the Grey's Anatomy recap special at 8 is "new" to TiVo, so if you want to watch The Office and/or Earl rather than the recap, TiVo should be set appropriately. Also, make sure your CW season passes are set appropriately--in most markets for most shows, this isn't an issue, since the CW inherited WB affiliates, but for Veronica Mars and Top Model, you'll need a new season pass, and because of the direct conflict, if you've got a single tuner, make sure House and Gilmore Girls are in your preferred order.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

FREE WILLIE: I'm waiting for the t-shirt. Seriously.

Can't a red-headed stranger get a break in this town? Or that town? And how do you get off with a midemeanor citation -- if reports are to be credited -- for a pound-and-a-half?

Is "Angry American" Toby Keith to blame?
KATE MOSS, WE HE HARDLY KNEW YA: According to the Captivate Network ("It's Not Just News, It's a Thought Experiment"), and as confirmed by some Australian paper, the Madrid Fashion Show has banned overly-skinny girls from its runways. There is predictable outrage from modeling agencies, who decry this discrimination against "naturally 'gazelle-like'" girls. Because, I guess, cocaine powder is native to the veldt. In any event, "medics" will filter the girls using the quaint pseudo-scientific "body mass index," which I understand is really just a fuzzily-inaccurate way of reverse-engineering numbers that conform to what you can see with your own damn eyes.

No word yet on whether there are any models that can actually pass the test.

Corrected to reflect that it is the Madrid Fashion Show that demands trunk-junkiness, thus leaving Milan skeletal-friendly.
I'M NOT CAROL! SNL changes officially confirmed!
  • Out: Horatio Sanz, Chris Parnell, and Finesse Mitchell, as well as director Beth McCarthy Miller, and the previously confirmed departures of Rachel Dratch and Tina Fey.
  • Still In: Amy Poehler at Update, likely to be paired with Seth Meyers (who stays as head writer), along with the remaining cast members, including folks rumored/hoped for departures like Darrell Hammond and Kenan Thompson.
  • Dane Cook to be painfully unfunny as host of season premiere.
HE DOESN'T SPEAK THE LANGUAGE. HE HOLDS NO CURRENCY. HE IS A FOREIGN MAN. HE IS SURROUNDED BY THE SOUND, THE SOUND: While the PopWatchers note that we just marked the 15th anniversary of Nevermind, we almost let slip an equally significant marker, having just passed the twentieth anniversary of the release of Paul Simon's Graceland.

Has there been a better pop album since? No. I remember when Simon first started promoting the album, appearing with Ladysmith Black Mambazo on SNL and everywhere else, and it was easy to leap over the exoticness to just realize, wow, what great songs. I don't believe I yet have the words to describe the joy this album still provides. At the time, Bob Christgau wrote:
Opposed though I am to universalist humanism, this is a pretty damn universal record. Within the democratic bounds of pop accessibility, its biculturalism is striking, engaging, unprecedented -- sprightly yet spunky, fresh yet friendly, so strange, so sweet, so willful, so radically incongruous and plainly beautiful. . . . The singing has lost none of its studied wimpiness, and he still writes like an English major, but this is the first album he's ever recorded rhythm tracks first, and it gives up a groove so buoyant you could float a loan to Zimbabwe on it. . . . he's found his "shot of redemption," escaping alienation without denying its continuing truth. It's the rare English major who can make such a claim.

Buoyant. That's about the best word I can come up with, and I still don't know how to describe that palindromic bass solo in "You Can Call Me Al". I could pick out a hundred different lines from the album to quote right now, but for the moment let's go with this one:
These are the days of miracle and wonder
And don't cry baby, don't cry
Don't cry
ON SUNSET IT'S A TRIP WHERE THE A.C.'S COLD AND THE GIRLS STILL STRIP: Where exactly on the Sunset Strip is this studio? Well, from the proximity to the clubs and from what appeared to be a somewhat fake shot of the 9000 Sunset Building (one side of which is covered by a gigantic billboard), it appears to have been plopped down square on top of the legendary Rainbow Bar and Grill, which, let me tell you, is not going to please Sebastian Bach. On the bright side, it seems to have flattened the Roxy as well.

This is, of course, a curious place for a 70-year-old deco theater to land, since it is surrounded entirely by 70s and 80s-era plaster boxes. So from where did it come? Well, it appears that the bottom half -- including both parts of the marquee -- was uprooted from a decidedly non-Strip part of Sunset a few miles to the East, where it used to be called the Palladium. Somewhere above Miyagi's, the erstwhile Palladium collided with most of the design cues from the exquisite Pan Pacific Theater, which mercifully burned down in the 1980s before the hideous fake Italianate condos were heaved up across the street from it on the dystopian Park LaBrea campus.

This still begs the question: where exactly are they hiding Studios 1-59 on the Sunset Strip?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

REMINDS ME OF THE ENCYCLOPEDIA ENTRY THAT SAYS "'SEA WATER', SEE 'WATER, SEA'": The band from "Rock Star: Supernova", faced with an injunction forbidding them from being called Supernova, will henceforth be known as Rock Star Supernova.
ATTENTION PHILADELPHIANS: Looking for something to do tomorrow night, and you're not sure if you want to go to a literary event or support a strong progressive candidate in one of the most important congressional races in the country?

Why not do both? LitPAC is hosting a fundraiser for Lois Murphy (PA-6) at the Khyber Wednesday night, where the featured guests include Buzz Bissinger, Curtis Sittenfeld, Duncan Black, The Wife and others. It's going to be a fun night. Details here.
WHERE HAVE YOU GONE J.J. JACKSON? With the art form of music video enjoying a renaissance of sorts thanks to YouTube, it's time to revisit the question of the greatest awful video of all time.

For years, the popular pick has been Journey's "Separate Ways," but then this clip for a "I Wanna Love You Tender" by Finnish stars Armi & Danny surfaced.

Well Steve Perry and Armi & Danny will have to surrender their golden fiddles at the feet of late Danish superstar Tommy Seebach, whose "Apache,"...well, do yourself a favor and stop reading this drivel and just click on the link.
ART CONTINUES TO GET ITS ASS KICKED: The good news for NBC last night? It won the night, with Deal or No Deal demolishing everything at 8 PM, and squeaking past Charlie Sheen at 9. Studio 60 apparently improved on the prior Medium ratings in the timeslot, as well. The bad news? Studio 60 not only got beaten by 4 share points by CSI: Do Not Stare Into Caruso's Eyes, but also lost considerable viewers (2.5 million) in the second half hour.
NOT SINCE VANILLA ICE: Are you ready to take it to the extreme? I give you Tickle Me Xtreme Elmo (seriously), which is anticipated to be one of the hottest toy products of the holiday season. Looks like we have another 5 points for Item 154 on the 2002 U. Chicago ScavHunt list.
FOR WHAT IT'S WORTH, WILE E. COYOTE HAS NEVER WON, EITHER: Yet again, none of the bloggers at this site, and none of its regular readers (so far as I know) will be receiving a MacArthur Foundation "genius grant" this year.

The two names you're most likely to recognize from the list are New Yorker author/surgeon Atul Gawande and journalist Adrian Nicole LeBlanc. Is there anyone you'd like to nominate?

Monday, September 18, 2006

YOU'VE GOTTA ASK YOURSELF -- WHAT IF SHE'S FOR REAL?: What with YouTube, Netflix, and NBC's series of just-a-hair-short-of-infomercials plugging Studio 60 to the hilt, tonight's premiere wasn't so much a pilot as an extended series of previouslies getting us up to speed for next week's start to the season. It's not a brilliant pilot, but I think the show is for real.

Blah blah blah Schlamme camerawork blah blah blah Sorkin dialogue. For me, the wonderment in this episode came from watching Matthew Perry show that he can out-Sorkin Bradley Whitford. I hate to use the word multi-layered, since it's been done already, but man, the guy is practically a Vidalia. I always felt that he was the heart and soul of Friends, and I strongly suspect that he'll be the guy delivering the Moment in Any Sorkin Show Where I Get Misty more than his fair share of the time. (For what it's worth, I thought that the pilot lacked such a moment -- the closest thing was when Matt and Danny jumped onto the stage and ran out to meet the company of Studio 60.)

A few other minutiae:
  • Jordan McDeere seems a lot more like Dana Whitaker than like the president of a network. So it's not even her first day -- is she the president of a network or not? Even Isaac Jaffe seemed to have more authority. She is awfully pretty, though.
  • Funniest moment: Jack Rudolph sucking the inside of his lip when Jordan asked where her office was. I'd seen it in fifteen different previews, and Steven Weber's timing still cracked me up.
  • Harriet/Harry is a jarring name for Sarah Paulson's character. It just bothered me. I don't know why.
  • Did Whitford get his hair highlighted red to differentiate him from Perry, or was his hair always that color?

See you next week. Have fun.

IN THE WORDS OF THE SONGWRITER EARL WARREN: Taking Matt's post about song lyrics in legal writing as a jumping-off point, what about the use of legal writing in song lyrics?

I have two, one of which is cheating: (1) Soul Coughing's Soft Serve ("my sister/your words can be held against you in a court of law"); and (2) the greatest of all Schoolhouse Rock tunes, the optimistic and ambitious Preamble to the Constitution, which my band used to play in a medley with "Powderfinger."

I'm sure Toby Keith, or perhaps Rage Against the Machine, must have something that fits the bill. Let's be the ones to undertake the definitive study.
CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE TRAVEL: Watching TAR kick off in a drizzle last night in my much-missed hometown, and imagining how I would have beat everybody to the airport (Gas Works to I-5? I scoff!), I started thinking: how would I design a leg in Seattle?

Answer: Take a bus from the airport to downtown. Find the Pike Place Market. Detour: Catch Fish or Cut Bait. Teams must choose either to sell x number of large fish, throw, catch, and wrap them at the market at the end of Pike Street, or they can choose to run all the way down the stairs to Elliot Bay, find the Aquarium, prepare x pounds of chum to feed the sharks, then run back up the stairs (this is a very long way up) to get the next clue. Then take a rental car to the house in Montlake that has bronze statues buried in the driveway (think of frozen Han Solo for the effect -- this is pretty esoteric locals-only knowledge; even with an address it would be hard but not impossible), where the next clue sends teams to Husky Stadium. There, they have a road block: one person has to canoe into the marshes and find the next clue. From there, it's bicycles uphill to the Drumheller Fountain on the UW campus (where hopefully the Mountain is out) and the pit stop.

How would you design a leg in your neck of the woods?
IN THE WORDS OF THE PHILOSPHER JAGGER: No, one of us did not write what (as far as I know) is the first comprehensive study of the use of song lyrics in legal writing. Sadly, due to a methodological choice made by the author, Vanilla Ice does not make the list, which, unsurprisingly, is topped by Bob Dylan.
IT'S MONDAY FRIDAY NIGHT IN HOLLYWOOD: Alessandra Stanley loves it while Alan Sepinwall is a bit lukewarm, but Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip arrives on TV screens everywhere tonight. And an interesting comment--critics don't always get it right--look at this review of the (brilliant) Alias pilot for the New York Post, which awards the show no stars and suggested it would be much improved if Jennifer Garner were replaced by Chyna.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

DO MUSLIMS BELIEVE IN BUDDHA? I DON'T KNOW: And with "male models who met in drug rehab" seriously in need of a nickname already, our Race is back.

The Race went for diversity this season in a different way than Survivor did -- it just found interesting people, cast them, and threw them into the Race like normal. Okay, so there will be some surprises, like Team Did He Stink Of The Lamp? learning Chinese phrases pretty quickly, and a gross-out eating challenge that actually wasn't too gross.

For what it's worth, I'm not sure what to make of the team I'm trying not to call "Team 3 1/2" but is really Charla/Mirna 2.0 -- again, a differently-abled woman, and the teammate who alternately praises her for her endurance and not being disabled, but still exploits that disability as a means to get ahead vis-a-vis other teams. I can't imagine that leg's easy to get through airport security, for what it's worth.

The best part about this episode was the final task, a perfectly constructed physical challenge that let you see how each team dealt with stress, and how the members supported each other. So, who ya got?
E! A! G! And then, you know, just quit before the second half.

I tend to only blog about the Iggles after devastating losses, and today is no exception. Seriously, it's something I say in politics that applies equally in sports: when you want to kill a snake, you don't keep poking at it with sticks. When you have the opportunity, you chop its bleepin' head off, and that's it.

So many missed opportunities, and just piss-poor second-half offensive execution. They got soft on both sides of the ball, and, ouch. Ugh. Yech.

This thread is free to complain about the Eagles or your own teams, real or fantasy.
A JUMBO-SIZED PR CONCERN? So, where do today's top high school seniors really want to go to college? Ask an economist -- three of them, actually -- who ran a "matriculation tournament" to determine who's actually most in demand. I.e., "Hey, top high school senior, if you were admitted to both Penn and Dartmouth, which would you attend? What about Georgetown vs. Cornell?" And so on, across more than 3000 "high-achieving students" and a 100+ colleges and universities. They then used these revealed preferences to produce a "truer" ranking of America's top schools, and since it places Amherst markedly ahead of both Swarthmore and The Dark Place, it's indubitably accurate.

You can find a summary of some key results in this graphic, and the full findings by clicking on the "download" link here.