Saturday, June 9, 2007

WHAT A WAY TO MAKE A LIVIN': I'm not a particularly big fan of Dolly Parton generally or of 9 to 5 in particular, but Allison Janney in a Broadway musical version of 9 to 5 (alongside Bebe Neuwirth and Marc Kudisch)? That'd sell me a ticket.

Friday, June 8, 2007

ANOTHER SET OF JERSEY BOYS: Sure, most TV sets in these parts will be tuned to the Sopranos finale on Sunday night, but there's also another show that features award-winning sopranos airing then--the Tony Awards. This year's awards are unusual in two ways. First, the show is going completely hostless, instead depending solely on presenters and musical numbers to move the show along. Second, unlike most years, there hasn't been a show that's been both a critical and a commercial phenomenon this year. Indeed, critical favorites this year like Journey's End and Company have limped along slowly bleeding money, with other critical favorites like Spring Awakening and Grey Gardens managing to pull out adequate numbers, but barely making any money. Even "sure things" Mary Poppins and The Year Of Magical Thinking wound up being less than the mega-hits that were probably anticipated, and there were a few complete misses in Deuce and The Pirate Queen.

That makes this year's awards interesting, because there's not a single show that looks like it has "sweep potential" (at least in the musical categories--in the play category, Tom Stoppard's nine hour epic Coast of Utopia became a substantial snob hit, and is likely to pick up the tech and direction awards, as well as the big "Best Play" award, and the complete raves for commercial bomb Journey's End will probably get it the revival award). Ultimately, my guess is that you're going to see one of the more spread-out sets of Tonys in a long time, with Grey Gardens getting Actress, Featured Actress, and Book, Spring Awakening getting Director, Featured Actor, Score, and Musical, Poppins getting most of the technical awards (flying nanny is worth something), and Company getting Best Actor and probably revival.

Closest race this year? Leading actress in a play, which pits the beloved Angela Lansbury and Vanessa Redgrave (both of whom garnered mixed-to-negative reviews) against Brit Eve Best and Julie White. White's performance was a force of nature, but it'll be interesting if she can pull out a win for a comedy that closed in February.
BORK BORK BORK BORK: Things I probably shouldn't find funny, but I do--Robert H. Bork, personal injury plaintiff. I assume the complaint is wholly economically efficient.

Vaguely related--Robot Chicken + Swedish Chef.
ARISE! YE SONS OF THE BAYMEN'S CLAN. PUT ON YOUR ARMOURS, CLEAR THE LAND! DRIVE BACK THE TYRANTS LET DESPOTS FLEE! LAND OF THE FREE BY THE CARIB SEA: Avast! I didn't get to watch Pirate Master last night, nor is it on the TiVo. But if you did, comment away.

e.t.a. by Adam: YAAR! I did watch the show, and per the pirate tradition, I'm boarding this post and taking over.

Here's what's awesome about the show: the costumes. The over-the-topness of all the pirate stuff, like the actual serving of gruel. That there's not much else to watch this summer.

Here's what's not awesome about the show: I feel like there's a level of producers' intervention that's above and beyond what we normally expect from Mark Burnett shows (especially in the post-Stacey Stillman era) which we're not seeing -- such as the captain's decision to assign roles, and his general decision to be a douchebag insofar as how he's treating the rest of the crew. Like, did he really believed the deck needed swabbing?

So, here's my question: assuming the captain remains stingy with the doubloons, what incentive is there for the members of his crew to remain loyal to him during challenges, as opposed to sabotaging their chances and making a preemptive deal with a captain-in-waiting on the other crew?

Thursday, June 7, 2007

KENNY WASN'T LIKE THE OTHER KIDS: Having recently upgraded my home theatre speaker system so I can really watch TV and DVD's in 5.1 and because my DVD player kept on breaking, I can say that despite the fact that it took nearly two hours to get it largely programmed, the Logitech Harmony 659 is an amazing, amazing thing, basically allowing me to go from four remotes down to one and be able to choose what input on my TV I want to watch with immediate button presses. Highly recommended for those who want fewer buttons to press.

Also good? About 2/3 of tonight's Studio 60--even the Matt/Harriet material worked (mostly), Nate Corddry has become an impressive dramatic actor, and we're not beaten over the head with the Aaron Sorkin=Matt Albie=Genius property (heck, Matt is depicted as being wrong about something other than his drug use). Sure, the Danny/Jordan plotline didn't really work or make sense, but that's OK.

Exclusive! Grey's Fires Isaiah Washington - Ausiello Report |

A-X-E-D: ABC has confirmed that Isaiah Washington will not be returning to Grey's Anatomy in the fall.
WELL, IT'S BETTER THAN SMASH MOUTH: We have a few things at ALOTT5MA with which all the bloggers agree, and I think one of them is that People Need To Hear More Leonard Cohen Songs. That said, just imagining Bon Jovi covering "Hallelujah" at a new MTV Unplugged taping fills me with dread.

You know what else Bon Jovi-related fills me with dread? Keltner or not, they're getting into the Rock Hall, right?

Random Roles: Janeane Garofalo | The A.V. Club

BAPTISM BY SWEET, CREAMY CHOCOLATE: Remember when Janeane Garofalo was working steadily as an actress, and served as an snarky icon for us Gen-Xers? Well, she still does, and she reviews some of her more significant roles with the A.V. Club today, including references to the two, yes two movies in which she appeared with Robert DeNiro. Anyone care to offer her unsolicited career advice?
WHO'LL MAKE HIS MARK, THE CAPTAIN CRIED. TO THE DEVIL DRINK A TOAST. WE'LL GLUT THE HOLD WITH CUPS OF GOLD. AND WE'LL FEED THE SEA WITH GHOSTS: I gave Pirate Master a go last Thursday night and, if you'll accept the apology for the late thread, here are a few thoughts ahead of tonight's episode. The Television Without Pity summary can be found here.

The premise is a perfectly solid one: Fourteen (sixteen?) pirates are put aboard a ship to engage in various pirate-themed reality contests. It otherwise works as any other show: Beauty shots, daily grind, task, elimination strategy, elimination.

The cool thing here is that one fellow is made Captain and, if the initial rule set is the controlling one, he gets half of all the treasure and his two hand-picked officers get one-eighth each. While the Captain and the officers chose who will be set for elimination, the rest of the crew can either vote to bounce one of those guys, or -- if unanimous -- mutiny against the captain. I assume that, over time, the Captain accumulating a half-share will annoy the crap out of everyone else. So it could be good.

There's not much weight given to any sort of coherent narrative when the ultimate treasure (of $1M) is found in the Chest of Zanizbar, on a ship named the Pitcairn something or other, and they're off the coast of Dominica, three points on the globe scarcely to be further apart from one other. But, by gosh, those things sound piratey!

Anyway, I'm not really sure about this show. But I'll try to keep a thread going as long as their is some interest. If nothing else, I'm sure I can find good piratey-titles.

UPDATE: In a related note, Professor Bainbridge looks at the economics of pirate organizations.
DEFENDING THE POPE: Given the little kerfuffle with Benedict XVI today, I was glad Slate magazine had a shout-out to the Swiss Guards today. Turns out, I'm friends with a fellow who used to be one. I'm pretty sure I'd like him on my side in a bar fight. I'm damned sure I want him to make me fondue.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

DON'T DANCE, DON'T TELL: I guess I'm posting about a rerun of SYTYCD, but I just watched what I thought was a new episode only to find that the TwoP recaplet went up almost a week ago. Whatever, Kim didn't post on it, so it's new to you. Anyway, I just wanted to raise, shockingly, a serious question about this show. Namely: is it easier or harder for a dance show to deal with homosexuality?

I ask because of the Miles Johnson story this week. According to the featurette, Johnson was a star football player, but started ballet to help rehab from a broken leg and ended up loving it so much that he quit the gridiron altogether. Then he became estranged from his cro-magnon father, who tearfully told the camera, "I had the All-American quarterback of the football team, dating the cheerleader ... but it's not what he wanted, I guess." As Billy Madison as this setup is, the editing is weirdly vague, and, conspicuously, nobody ever says that the reason that dad "disowned" Miles was the dancing itself. It looked, to my untrained eye, like this was a coming-out story where all references to coming out were left on the cutting-room floor, so that "dancing" became a euphemism for "gay." I'm not saying that's what happened; it's just what it looked like to me. I mean, otherwise, why would the ballet mean that he couldn't date the cheerleader anymore?

This is weird, right? You can have openly or semi-openly gay characters on everything from The Wire to Too Close for Comfort, but not on a dance show? Or is it because this is a dance show, which means that people like Johnson's dad think it is inherently gay, that SYTYCD, more than other television, needs to butch it up? But if that's true, why not just skip the story altogether? This was just a baffling decision all around.
SOMEHOW THE VITAL CONNECTION IS MADE: Just wanted to take a moment to piggyback off Dan McQuade's piece on the awesomeness of the new Radio 104.5 in Philadelphia -- within a half-hour period driving tonight, I heard Elastica, "Connection"; The Smithereens, "A Girl Like You", Ok Go, "Here It Goes Again"; "By the Way", Red Hot Chili Peppers and "It's the End of the World As We Know It (and I Feel Fine)" by R.E.M.

Recently, I've heard them bust out one-hit wonders like Luscious Jackson's "Naked Eye", "I've Been Downhearted Baby", "Deeper Shade of Soul", "Closing Time" and "I Could Never Be Your Woman", and I've noticed their occasional stabs at recency with that Ok Go song or a handful of hits by The Killers.

But basically, they've thawed out a "modern rock" station frozen in the mid-90s, and I couldn't be happier. Bring on the Soup Dragons!
ACTUAL RETAIL PRICE WITHOUT GOING OVER IS ... Did they really tape the last "The Price Is Right" without having Bob Barker play Hole In One (Or Two) one last time? No Cliff Hangers? I'm disappointed.

It will air next Friday, June 15, both in daytime and on primetime.
KNOCKED OUT: Having not read her book, I can't say whether Rebecca Eckler's claim that Judd Apatow stole parts of Knocked Up from her book of the same title holds water, but the similarities she points out don't seem particularly persuasive (indeed, the entire "one night stand" and "buddies" parts of the movie's plot seem to be completely independent of her claim). And from what lawyer did she get the advice that "if I went through with the lawsuit and lost, I would, in addition to my own legal fees, have to pay theirs?" I'm sure Universal's lawyers threatened and all that, but the odds of a court doing that are probably pretty damn low.

Update: Here's her complaint. Notably, she does not allege (and a quick search of U.S. Copyright Office registrations appears to confirm) that she owns a U.S. copyright registration for the work. This is a serious problem for her under Section 411 of the Copyright Act.
ALL DUE RESPECT: Alan Sepinwall, as part of his paper's "quest to outdo the rest of the world in 'Sopranos' finale coverage," has listed his top ten episodes. There are some surprises -- no "Pine Barrens," no "Long-Term Parking" -- that even Alan calls "heresies." I so seldom disagree with Alan that the omission of those two episodes feels personal, like he just slammed my kid's art project.
LIKE A MADCAP MANOS: HANDS OF FATE, PLUS SIXTY MILLION DOLLARS: I'm still enraged by the awful previews before Knocked Up, and I was wondering if I could realistically cast a big-budget comedy -- maybe $60-70MM -- that would be the worst movie ever made. Voila, Finding Fanning:

LA natives Dane Cook, an architect, and Drew Barrymore, an artist, had a baby six months ago, and they are going crazy because they haven't had a moment to themselves since. They plan a weekend getaway to Mexico, but their flaky babysitter, Lauren Collins (DeGrassi's Paige Michaelchuk) cancels at the last minute because she gets cast as the beautiful star of a teen musical about a rich girl who falls in love with the immigrant son of Mexican rebels (Wilmer Valderrama?). The couple instead leaves their daughter with Drew's hilariously mentally unstable mom, Sally Field. Field accidentally loses the daughter in Griffith Park, where she is found by Ben Stiller and Sarah Jessica Parker (who are on a marriage-bonding hike ordered by their unconventional therapist, Martin Short), two Hollywood execs who have been trying to have a baby for ages. At Short's urging, Stiller and Parker decide to keep the baby and raise her as their own, while Field and an incompetent gumshoe (Tim Allen) look for her. Meanwhile, Cook and Barrymore's Mexican trip goes awry as they stumble into the plot of Collins's musical, which they think is real, and which they royally screw up while trying to foil the rebels' planned attack. Matters come to a head as Stiller and Parker, with baby, therapist, Field, and Allen in tow, rush to Mexico to get the production back on track. All ends well as Cook and Barrymore realize how much they've missed their daughter; Short, Field, and Allen concoct a crazy story to hide the fact that she ever went missing and explain their appearance in Mexico; Allen turns out to be Collins's dad and they have a bonding moment; and Stiller and Parker find out that they're pregnant. Oh, yeah, the baby's name is Fanning.

Every character and actor in this movie makes me want pull out my own teeth and eat them. Ergo, it would probably make its money back.

What, you think you could do better?
MATRIMONY FOR NOTHING: What I learned from the coming attractions before Knocked Up (speaking of which, how happy was I that nobody tipped me off ahead of time to the brilliant and unexplained wardrobe decision to just make Baruchel up like either Travis Bickle or Joe Strummer? And was that really "Jonah Hill," or did somebody reanimate Chris Penn? And where was the ER/estrogen contingent for the Freaks reunion? So many questions):
  • Sham marriages between straight men posing as gay men are funny.
  • Ill-considered marriages featuring honeymoon adultery are funny.
  • Dane Cook's marriage-inducing penis is funny.
  • Borscht-Belt priests attempting to derail the tallest celebrity marriage in history are funny.
  • It's Good Morning Vietnam, except instead of Vietnam, it's the ghetto, and instead of Robin Williams, it's the Ladies Man Don Cheadle.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

EVERYTHING YOU OWN IN A BOX TO THE LEFT: Is it just me, or have we had a series of very depressing (lyrically at least) songs at the top of the Hot 100 in recent months? These include:
  • "Irreplacable" (10 weeks at #1), which is all about the dumping of a man.
  • "What Goes Around...Comes Around," which is all about a cheating girlfriend.
  • "Girlfriend," which, for all its peppy vaguely cheerleader-y-ness, has a chorus of "Hey! Hey! You! You! I don't like your girlfriend."

Also, this is the first year since 2002 to not feature a single #1 (so far) from anyone associated with Idol. (Another interesting thing I didn't realize--Kelly Clarkson's only #1 thus far? "A Moment Like This." "Breakaway" topped out at #3, "Since U Been Gone" at #2, "Behind These Hazel Eyes" at #6, and "Because of You" at #7)

ENDUT! HOCH HECH! Ed Copeland explains why season 4 (1992-93) of The Simpsons was the "Best. Season. Ever." as part of a growing Simpsons blogathon this week.

Between "Krusty Gets Kancelled" (featuring Eastern Europe's favorite cat and mouse team, Worker and Parasite), "A Streetcar Named Marge", "Whacking Day", "Marge vs. the Monorail" (heh heh -- mule) and "I Love Lisa", it's quite easy to choo-choo-choose it as the best, and that's even without Copeland mentioning such season 4 gems as "Clown Without Pity" (from Treehouse III), "Homer's Triple Bypass" and "Last Exit to Springfield," a/k/a DENTAL PLAN!

100 Words Every High School Graduate Should Know published by Houghton Mifflin Company

WHAT ABOUT KAKISTOCRACY? The editors of the American Heritage dictionaries have listed the 100 words they believe every high school graduate should know.

The Expanding Meatball Universe, From Mama’s Table to Esca - New York Times

ATTENTION, HERE'S AN UPDATE ON TONIGHT'S DINNER. IT WAS VEAL -- I REPEAT, VEAL: The NYT is reporting that "there’s never been a better time to order meatballs in America". And I believe the Philadelphians here already know that the lamb meatballs with shaved manchego at Amada are, like, totally awesome.
LAHGE REGULAH: On why New Englanders love their Dunkin' Donuts:
“I talked to a pretty wealthy lawyer in Cambridge, and he won’t go to Starbucks,” says [Temple University history professor Bryant] Simon. “For him, it’s an expression of his relationship to New England, but also to working people. Like he’s more populist through that.”

Then again, Simon says, “Lots of working people go to Starbucks. It’s pretty clear that Starbucks is increasingly becoming more middle-market, but they go in a different way. They go for aspiration. ‘By drinking this am I acting middle class?’ My dental hygienist gets Dunkin’ Donuts every day. That’s her coffee. But on Friday, when she gets paid, she goes to Starbucks to treat herself.”

Fair or not, these are the stereotypes. Starbucks is fancy, indulgent, haute-bourgeois. Dunkin’ is simple, unpretentious, to the point. One encourages lounging and relaxation, one encourages getting in, getting out, and getting on with your day. Look deeper, and it’s fascinating how these conventions play out.

“Starbucks regulars hate the idea that their individuality is somehow compromised in Dunkin’ Donuts,” says Simon. “They don’t have many choices, they can’t put their own milk and sugar in. Part of what they’re buying [at Starbucks] is this sense of individuality.”

On the other hand, Dunkin’ sometimes seems to keep certain, perhaps more culturally loaded aspects of itself under wraps — or at least keep them understated. “All of Dunkin’ Donuts espresso drinks are fair-trade coffee,” Simon points out. “But all they do is put a little circle [fair trade symbol] on the door.” It’s as if they want to do the right thing, he says, but also know that “their customers don’t like all that value-added shit.”
In April 2006, reports the Wall Street Journal, "Dunkin' Donuts last year paid dozens of faithful customers in Phoenix, Chicago and Charlotte, N.C., $100 a week to buy coffee at Starbucks instead. At the same time, the no-frills coffee chain paid Starbucks customers to make the opposite switch. When it later debriefed the two groups, Dunkin' says it found them so polarized that company researchers dubbed them 'tribes' -- each of whom loathed the very things that made the other tribe loyal to their coffee shop. Dunkin' fans viewed Starbucks as pretentious and trendy, while Starbucks loyalists saw Dunkin' as austere and unoriginal. 'I don't get it,' one Dunkin' regular told researchers after visiting Starbucks. 'If I want to sit on a couch, I stay at home.'"

Meanwhile, it's time to remake the donuts, as the chain prepares for NYC's trans fat ban.

Monday, June 4, 2007

SAY, SAY, SAY WHAT YOU WANT: Macca has a new album out Tuesday, and there's a really lovely profile of him in last week's New Yorker ("When I'm Sixty-Four," by John Colapinto) that talks about the burden it can be to be A Former Beatle, but also the joy he recognizes in what he's accomplished:
I mentioned that the song ["That Was Me"] seems to express amazement at the life he has led.

“That’s exactly it, and I am amazed,” he said. “How could I not be? Unless I just totally blocked it off. There were four people in the Beatles, and I was one of them. There were two people in the Lennon-McCartney songwriting team, and I was one of them. I mean, right there, that’s enough for anyone’s life. And there was one guy who wrote ‘Yesterday,’ and I was him. One guy who wrote ‘Let It Be,’ ‘Fool on the Hill,’ ‘Lady Madonna’—and I was him, too. All of these things would be enough for anyone’s life. So to be involved in all of them is pretty surprising. And you have to pinch yourself. That’s what that song [”That Was Me”] is about.”

The profile reminds us that as accomplished as Macca is as a songwriter and as a bass player, he's also a hell of a good singer, with a voice "he could alter to fit whatever style of song he was playing: throwing his voice into an ecstatic high register, like a young Elvis Presley, on a song like 'Can't Buy Me Love,' or belting like Little Richard on 'I'm Down.' 'I'm very luck with my voice,' McCartney said. 'I have no idea how it happens.'"

Every time I listen to something like "Golden Slumbers" or "Hey Jude" (note: not the Dr. Hizzy version), the vocals . . . well, everything still blows me away. I mean, c'mon: it's Paul McCartney. Is there any way to describe everything that makes him genius?
AT A STAGE IN LIFE WHEN OTHER MEN PROSPER, I'M REDUCED TO LIVING IN PHILADELPHIA: Road Trip! It has been proposed that we gather the ThingThrowers together for an audience-participation version of the musical "1776", being held Friday nights at 7pm this summer at the Independence Living History Center, the former visitor's center located at 3rd and Chestnut Streets in Philadelphia.

Right now, we're looking at Friday, July 13, so please let us know (a) if you can attend on that date, or (b) you really want to attend, but on some other date. Once a date's established, we'll try to get a group rate on the tickets, and determine places to meet and hang out perhaps before and certainly after the festivities. Cool, cool considerate men (and women) -- sign up!
WHAT ABOUT HURL FURL? Yes, the government can take positions on important issues, such as whether the term "Yak Sak" means exactly what you think it does. (And no, not a feedbag for a large Asian bovine.)
FIDDLE ME THIS: Having unexpectedly landed a babysitter at the last minute, Mr. Cosmo and I were not only able to see "Knocked Up" this weekend, but also to score the walk-in table at Craft for a feast of the spring vegetables I tasted last week for the first time. Our menu: roasted fiddlehead ferns; sauteed fava beans; morels; and lemon & ramp risotto.

(As I think I've mentioned here before, my goal for the year is to eat at Craft once a quarter in order to work my way through the seasonal vegetable offerings -- pretty much my idea of culinary heaven. Winter and spring are now checked off.)

Everything was scrumptious, but I just wanted to mention our surprise at discovering that Craft's fiddleheads were only about 20% better than the ones I made last week, instead of the 2-3x better I'd been assuming. Go me! Or at least go apparently unscrewupable fiddleheads!

Sunday, June 3, 2007

THE ONE THING THAT COULD IMPROVE THIS MOVIE? MORE BATEMAN: I think we can all agree that the potential for a movie starring Jack Black and Michael Cera, written by Harold Ramis and the folks who wrote "Traveling Salesmen," "The Return," and "Women's Appreciation" for The Office, and produced by Judd Apatow nears limitless.
THE BLUE COMET: Over the course of the past two Sopranos half-seasons, we've had time to say goodbye to a score of characters, or at least spend enough time with each that we understand where their lives will be after the television show ends. Tonight, many more significant doors were closed in an hour that was both depressing and gripping, with dread accompanying the opening of every door, every car pulling up, every train a'comin 'round the bend.

It may all come back to the Seven Souls. I'm not sure. But it definitely feels like Berlin, April 1945 to me.

e.t.a.: Yochelson and Samenow summarized. And Sepinwall summarizes: "Chase is making every effort to ensure that we go out with no illusions about who these characters are and the impact they have on the world around them."