Saturday, May 17, 2008

IT MIGHT BE THE OLDEST RIDE IN THE PARK, BUT IT STILL HAS THE LONGEST LINES. WOO! What to do with only three hours to spend at the Magic Kingdom during our retreat outings today? Four of us vowed to cover Mts. Splash and Space, plus either Pirates or the Haunted Mansion, plus shopping for the kids. And here's what happened:

Entering the park at 2pm with instructions to board the monorail back to the bus at 5pm, we proceeded as follows: Go directly to FastPass pickup for Splash Mountain. (Entrance allotted for 4:15p-5:15pm.) Walk quickly across back the back end of Fantasyland to Space Mountain. Can't pick up a second FastPass, but we decided to accept a 50m quoted wait time given how hot it is here. Wait ended up being only about a half-hour, and, damn, that ride just rocks. I am not a coaster fan by any means, but that was just a sweet set of banks, drops and darkness-assisted single file disorientation. Ran into the tail end of the Dreams Come True parade on the way back towards Adventure/Frontierland (hi Flora, Fauna and Merryweather!), then caught short line for Pirates of the Caribbean -- and holy crap are the Capt. Jack Sparrow animatronic robots kickass. At this point it's 4pm, so with 15m to kill before Splash Mountain we caught the Toy Story cowpokes staring a parade and did light shopping. Then, Splash Mountain ... and we got to the front pretty quickly ... and the ride shut down. Technical difficulties. Damn. They think it's 10-15m from reopening, but we don't have the time for that and shopping. Chose the kids, headed back to Main Street, grabbed appropriate paraphernalia, caught the Flag Retreat, and back on the monorail we went.

What struck me during this brief revisit -- other than the fact that the plan was perfect but Disney failed us, and that OMG am I glad that when we first took Lucy here it was on a Thursday morning, not Saturday afternoon -- was how many nice little unnecessary things there are around the Magic Kingdom, the little musical acts and greeters that fill all the nooks and crannies beyond the featured characters, parades and attractions. These interstitial retro remnants of Walt Disney's vision for the park help fill the narrative universe in creating a space that's more than just a collection of rides and characters, but a reincarnation of a pristine American past that may never have really existed, but is awfully nice to visit for a while.
GREETINGS FROM SUNNY ORLANDO: I'm here for the weekend for a firm retreat, and our dinner/festivities on the New York lot of Universal Studios left me with three questions regarding the Universal characters who greeted us and circulated throughout the evening:
  • What, if anything, is the enduring appeal of Woody Woodpecker and Betty Boop for contemporary audiences?
  • Is Judy Belushi Pisano adequately compensated for the travesty of a faux-Blues Brothers revue we witnessed? Our "Joliet" Jake Blues was insufficiently stout, and how do you not have them perform "Sweet Home Chicago"?
  • Setting aside the question of whether it misapprehended the audience in the first place to have The Man in the Yellow Hat, Curious George, Jimmy Neutron and Dora the Explorer as characters circulating during an all-grownups law firm event -- were my eyes mistaken, or did Dora have a tramp stamp last night?

The House Next Door: 5 for the Day: Jeff Bridges

"NATURAL SOURNESS": The House Next Door's Sheila O'Malley pens an appreciation of actor Jeff Bridges and five notable roles of his:
Jeff Bridges is untouchable. Has he ever repeated himself? It seems that his curiosity about his fellow man and his openness to stepping into another person's shoes keeps him from repetition. He also, unlike many big movie stars, does not have a set persona. There isn't such a thing as a "Jeff Bridges role." He is too versatile for that. Perhaps his ego is uninvolved. Perhaps he has nothing to prove. What constitutes genius in an actor?

There are many possible answers, and we all have our own criteria. For me, it is a willingness to put aside self, and make me believe, without a doubt, that he is that other person. My goal when I go to the movies is to get lost. Jeff Bridges seems singularly uninterested in reminding us of who he is. There is a catalog of indelible characters he has not just created, but inhabited... and they live on in my memory, as separate from who he is as an actor. Some actors are what I would call precious when they create characters. They make a fetish of things like gestures, walks, accents... It's a "show." The actor hovers over his character protectively, wanting to be congratulated or noticed for all the work he has done. Jeff Bridges is beyond that.

Friday, May 16, 2008

FULL FIGURES AND HALF-TRUTHS: So another season of ANTM came and went, and I awoke from a nap late yesterday afternoon to find ALOTT5MA management poking me with instructions to open up a thread. By now, you know that Whitney won, and when you think about it, the only thing surprising about it was that Tyra decided to postpone her orgy of self-congratulation about picking a full-figured model, presumably until she had a chance to put Whitney on her talk show. Whitney looked stunning in the walk-off (especially in that pink dress), took some great pictures and consistently good ones, fits the Covergirl/Seventeen Magazine Top Model prĂ©cis, and to my thoroughly untrained eye has no less a likelihood of success in the niche field of full-figured modeling than any of the other winners has in the business of general modeling. More importantly, she satisfies the real qualifications for topmodelhood: spokespersonality with a garnish of empowerment and an inability to draw attention away from Tyra’s fierceness (not to be confused with ferocity). Once you acknowledge that winning Top Model opens the door to no more non-tie-in modeling jobs than winning, say, Flavor of Love, and you accordingly narrow the selection criteria, the choice this season (at least among the final three) was easy. Don’t embarrass Covergirl, don’t require subtitling on your “My Life as a Covergirl” segments (Jaslene and Anya eye each other uneasily), do give Tyra a reason to tout herself as the Branch Rickey of the fashion-adjacent industry for breaking the size-8 barrier.

For me, though, the real story this season was how irritating I found it. It was an ugly season from the beginning, which always annoys me because “most attractive non-beautiful model” is a bit like “tallest average-height person.” And it only got more ridiculous when they kept eliminating the most model-like women in favor of contestants who looked old and ugly (Dominique) or plain and harsh (Marvita, who, to my surprise, I liked). Query: if “edgy” is so much more important than “pretty,” what explains the success of luminous but edgeless judges Tyra and Paulina (not to mention the victories of Whitney – whose name I tellingly keep typing as “Whitey” – Saleisha, Caridee, Nicole, Eva, Yoanna, and whatshername Brady, who have nary a sharp edge to share, lookswise)? And every time Tyra trots out old chestnuts like “we can’t see your personality” (translation: “you’re too well-adjusted for us to write you a redemption arc”) or “you don’t want to be here” (translation: “you are insufficiently enthusiastic about Tyra”) it makes me forget why I ever watched this show in the first place. I feel like I’m probably through with this show. I’ve felt that before, only to be brought back in by a pretty cycle, but after the way that the show ruined the last pretty cycle – giving the title to the Saleishuleta, who knew Tyra, went to Tyra Camp, and modeled for two Tyra shows before going on the show – I can’t imagine the prospect of seeing my favorite contestant eliminated in Week 6 in favor of an old-looking drag queen with a goiter and Tourette’s is going to bring me back.
AND SPEAKING OF PRETTY WOMEN: SI swimsuit cover model Marisa Miller tops this year's Maxim 100 list.
MERCY: Roy Orbison's "Oh, Pretty Woman" is one of the 25 recordings added this year to the prestigious National Recording Registry. Among the others honored this year: Michael Jackson's Thriller album, Smokey Robinson's "Tracks of My Tears," and New York City mayor Fiorello LaGuardia reading the newspaper comics to kids during a newspaper strike in 1945. Tragically excluded from the list, this NSFW dance remix of Bill O'Reilly's Inside Edition rant.
HE'S THE ONE THAT THEY WANT: Woo! Taylor Hicks will join the critically lambasted, but highly commercially successful production of Grease currently playing Broadway as Teen Angel. Members of the Soul Patrol are cordially invited to visit and mourn his career as a legitimate recording artist.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

I ALWAYS HAVE A PLAN: There are a whole lot of people in a whole lot of places, and presumably we'll get from there to here sometime during the final two hours of the Lost season. But there's really nothing to talk about out here, so pick up your Jesus Christ statuette and come look for prowlers in the comments.
IT WAS EASY TO GET IN, BUT IMPOSSIBLE TO RISE UP: Season finales of The Office tend to lean more towards unearthing emotional truths about the characters than they focus on being laugh-out-loud funny -- I think about the Pam/Jim revelations of "Casino Night" and "The Job," and how they each moved the characters forward to the point they reached tonight.

That said, and I hope I'm not alone on this, but the stuff between Kevin and new HR director Holly was, seriously, among the most brilliantly cruel/funny stuff that the show has ever done. And unlike some of Michael's more outrageous stuff, it didn't require any character to behave any differently than how they always do.

But, yes, there were the affairs of the heart and of Chekhov's gun tonight, and to discuss any of them in this post would be to spoil the fun. Let me just make one thing clear: you must stay until the post-credits sequence. Oh. My. GOD. We have much to discuss.
PLANNING YOUR DVR USAGE: With all the network schedules (save MyNetworkTV, which doesn't really count) conveniently available here, plot out your conflicts. My big one--Monday at 8: Chuck v. HIMYM v. Gossip Girl v. Sarah Connor (Fall)/Dollhouse (Spring)---ARRRGH!!! I'm sure Gossip Girl will continue to rerun, so it loses out of that viewing opportunity, but this is one hell of a pileup. Tuesday at 10, with Eli Stone, L&O:SVU, and Without a Trace, is also a mess. Sadly, I think Pushing Daisies may be doomed, now that it's against Knight Rider, Old Christine, and Bones.
WELL, CATFANCY IS STILL KICKING AROUND: Sometimes I wonder whether magazine and media narrowcasting has become too severe. The revelation today that Know: A Magazine For Paralegals will soon launch was one of those moments.
ARE YOU FAMILIAR WITH THE TRI-VECTION OVEN? As GE is apparently planning to sell its appliance division, one must assume that Jack Donaghy will have a hard time returning to his previous position as Vice President of East Coast Television and Microwave Oven Programming.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008 (3589646) Photoshop theme: Muppet movie-poster mash-up. LGT inspiration

THE BEEKERCIST: Almost all Fark photoshop contests are entertaining as timesucks, but few have been better of late than the Muppet/movie poster challenge.
WELCOME TO THE BOOMTOWN: What was more surprising -- tonight's Idol result, Fantasia's hairstyle or Fantasia's newly invigorated dancing style? Lord knows, Simon looked honestly taken aback for the first time in a long time.

Want to reconcile yourself to how much Idol has passed this season? Here's your Wacky Dancing Parade of the Final 24, from less than three months ago.

e.t.a. Thursday morning: Obvs, there was nothing surprising about the result -- not now and not for a while. I still think that Michael Johns was the only other performer with a legitimate shot at the final two, though I grievously misjudged David Cook early on and reduced him to "Constantine's slot as the I'm too hip to be here, but I'm here grownup" because it wasn't really until "Music of the Night" that we knew he could sing. (Then again, I did think Constantine was pretty awesome back in the day.) Still, Young David Archuleta entered the round of twelve as the biggest favorite since Chris Daughtry, and the crown is presumably still his to wear, dead eyes and all.

Actually, you can go back even further -- Fienberg, Hollywood Week: "Another ringer, Star Search winner David Archuleta, may be my current prediction to win. He isn't a bad singer and he reminds me of Ryan Pinkston from Quintuplets. You likee? He's not my cup-o-tea, but I think his delayed pubescent charm will play great with the teenage girls, as well as with their mothers, who will think he's like Danny Noriega, only he doesn't prompt the same awkward questions."

CBS PressExpress - CBS Entertainment - CBS ANNOUNCES NEW 2008-2009 PRIMETIME SCHEDULE

THE WORLD IS WAITING FOR YOU. GOOD LUCK. TRAVEL SAFE. GO! Left out of Matt's review of the new CBS lineup? That our Race will return for a thirteenth season this fall, albeit in that ever-shifting Sunday night post-football, post-60 Minutes timeslot.
UNHAPPY TRAILS: A melancholy farewell as Tony Kornheiser, first and foremost a "newspaper guy," has accepted a buyout from the Washington Post after 29 years of journalism there. Quoth the Bald Brother:

There was not enough wine in the world, there wasn't, not last night. I'm watching 'Idol,' and I'm thinking about all these things, and I don't know who I'm supposed to talk to about this....It just feels odd. It feels odd and it feels bad. It doesn't feel sad, there's no sadness to it, it just feels wrong.
Thank goodness Kornheiser has other platforms and paychecks to follow, but too many good, experienced journalists are being pushed towards the door in D.C., Philadelphia and elsewhere by publishers who have not figured out how to adapt their business structures to the online, Craigslist-is-killing-your-classifieds era. I am no blog-triumphalist; there are many bloggers who are great analysts and media critics, but it still takes on-the-ground fact-gathering journalists to provide the raw material which powers these sites, and the blogosphere hasn't generated too many of those yet.

Speaking of which: Bill Simmons may soon replace Theo Ratliff as having the most intriguing expiring contract in sports, as he's currently pissed at ESPN and severely curtailing his written output for reasons listed as "certain promises were not kept". This may relate to ESPN's canceling of a scheduled podcast interview by Simmons of Sen. Obama, but who knows? I would bet that at this point, a standalone advertiser-supported Simmons site with community discussion boards would be extremely lucrative for him.
WHITE PANTS SEASON BEGINS 12 DAYS: Back during the Carter Administration when I first started blogging about lists (actually my five-year blogiversary is coming up next month, I'll let you know where I am registered), I never could have imagined that one day I would be able to bring you the list of Five Foods That Cause Anal Leakage.
WE KNOW A CERTAIN FJORD IN NORWAY: In an effort to continue to bring you the best in rant-based entertainment, here's a roll from Gawker of the Top 10 Angry On-Camera Meltdowns (wonderfully NSFW) and Stephen Colbert's own on-air outburst back from his days as the midday anchor at WPTS in Patterson Springs, N.C.
HEY YOU GUYS!!! The Electric Company is coming back. I am intrigued by the notion that the show is aimed at "reducing the literacy gap between low- and middle-income families" -- was the audience of the original Electric Company really low-income families? In any event, I look forward to seeing what Sesame Workshop (which I assume used to be Children's Television Workshop) comes up with this time around. Coming to a television near you in January 2009.
I'M STILL UPSET ABOUT INSIDE SCHWARTZ: Every year at upfronts there is one show about which there is wailing and gnashing of teeth when its cancellation is announced, either from critics or its small (but highly devoted!) fanbase. In recent years, these have included Everwood, Jericho, and basically every Whedon show ever. This year, it's apparently CBS's vampire private eye show Moonlight. The comments over at Nikki Finke's place illustrate the spectacular level of denial--in particular the "not on fall schedule, maybe at midseason" post (full of pleading for a pickup), the announcement of cancellation by CBS (filled with condemnations of CBS), and, now, the distant hope of a pickup by the CW (filled with discussion of how this single pickup will save the CW 4-Evah!). I eagerly await the non-pickup notice from the CW, which will complete the circle of denial.

Edit: And the last shoe drops.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

I DON'T WANT TO MISS A THING DESPITE MY FEVER AND THE FACT THAT I AIN'T GOT YOU: Justin Guarini! Lloyd from Entourage! Big-time handlebar mustaches! And nine performances, none of them awful, but none tremendous:
  • Judges' Picks: YDA and Syesha -- perfectly lovely. Look, I think "If I Ain't Got You" is a song so classic and perfect that we'll be it hearing sixty, seventy years from now when our grandkids are getting married, so I'm glad Syesha handled it so well. David Cook, however, was better: your face, your face, your face, your faaaaaaace! was a nice way for him to do something different (if predictable) with it.
  • Singers' Picks: There are few songs with the word "boo" in them as a noun that are singers' songs, and that Chris Brown uptempo number isn't one of them. YDA shouldn't sing any song that requires movement, and whoever I read this week that suggested he sing some Coldplay ("The Scientist"?) was more right than this song certainly was. Syesha's "Fever" looked a little better than it sounded, and I'm not sure that it told us anything new about her. And David Cook ... yeah, nothing new. But nice. No one seems to want to win this competition. Say what you will about Jordin Sparks now, but her peak performances ("I Who Have Nothing", "Broken Wing", "You'll Never Walk Alone") were a lot better than anything we've seen since Hollywood from this final three. Okay, except for Cook's "Music of the Night".
  • Producers' Picks: Yes, we all have scandalous tattoos of Dan Fogerburb Fogelberg; that doesn't mean we didn't need to hear that crappy song again. Ever. I could survive the rest of this competition without another superfluous Syesha singing run, and probably will. And David Cook, David Cook, loved it ... until the unnecessary shift to a Rock-and/or-Roll ending. Worked much better just the way it was, because it wasn't making me think about how he didn't sound like Steven Tyler.
Let me make a modest prediction: none of the final three this season will be terribly successful as recording artists. However, we haven't heard the last from Josiah Leming yet.

Fienberg: "Look, I've criticized David for doing the same thing week-after-week, but as his songs tonight have proven, what David does he does very well and he's incapable of doing anything else. Why would he change? What would be the American Idol advantage to David showing range he doesn't have? It's up to the producers of his album to decide if he can really sell a CD with 12 socially aware power ballads. Archuleta's job is to win a reality show and he isn't going to do it by singing Chris Brown."

Zulkey: "I am not feeling this final three at all. Maybe I've been watching Idol too long or it's been on too long or I'm too jaded, but really I just think these particular kids seem too hard and polished. They don't seem like they LOVE to sing, like Carly did, or that they get a boner just by being on stage, like Danny Noriega did. I'll continue to root for David Archuleta because I don't want his dad to hurt him next week if he doesn't win."

Sepinwall: "I vastly prefer David C's schtick to David A's, but the longer the season goes on, the more he starts to seem like yet another 'Idol' one-trick pony."
DARCY EDWARDS GRADUATES: I don't know how I missed this, but here's some very cracksmoky casting news from the 90210 remake. First, Shenae Grimes -- DeGrassi's Darcy -- will be the main character, presumably the Shannon Doherty stand-in. Part of me wants to be outraged that a girl who attended the least attractive high school in North America is going to be popular in Beverly Hills, but the fact is that Darcy was a ringer. Of all the credulity-straining plotlines that DeGrassi did (from Emma's bracelet-bartering abandoned-van throat-gonorrhea to gay JT's baby-supporting Oxycontin dealership to Sean's townie-deafening fisticuffs), the least believable was probably the one where Spinner thought Darcy and Paige were roughly equal catches.

Incidentally, Darcy transferred to DeGrassi in probably grade 11 (they go 13 rounds up there) and has spent three years at the school (unconfirmed -- I missed the last two years), so assuming she spends a couple of years at BHHS, she'll have had seven years of high school. Which brings me to the next casting tidbit -- Jessica Stroup. Stroup will have been in high school even longer, say eight years, since her recurring gig this year was meeting up with Reaper's Sam at bars (drinking age in Seattle is 21) and generally serving as counterpoint to Missy Peregrym's weirdly expansive nose. STICK IT!

Finally, Arrested Development's Lucille Bluth plays grandma. Hopefully drunk and suffocating.

Very weird, that last one, but not as weird as the idea that they're going to film a show about BHHS where none of the main characters is Persian.

ETA: Sepinwall has the cast photo. That explains why I didn't recognize Tristan Wilds -- he's smiling. If the guy off to the right is supposed to be Persian, and I can't really see very well so don't get mad at me, but he looks Persian like Mickey Rooney looks Japanese.
WE KNOW A REMOTE FARM IN LINCOLNSHIRE WHERE MRS. BUCKLEY LIVES: Nothing like a good rant. Here's a pre-Factor hirsute Bill O'Reilly having a little fit over the closing an episode of "Inside Edition."
SHE KNOWS THIS IS A BIT: By my count, I'm somewhere between the third- and fifth- most likely, among contributors to this blog, to put up a post about HIMYM -- behind Matt and Kim; ahead of Phil, Alex, and TPE; unclear about Adam and Bob; unsure where we are right now on the existence of Kingsley Shacklebolt. Yet here I am, testing demand for a regular weekly thread with a lukewarm post about a meh episode. On the one hand, the Marshall-Lily stuff worked, in part because the actors clearly love their characters and in part because one of production's running gags on this show clearly has been how awful Lily's painting is.

On the other hand, it's not that Britney is terrible (though the longer her lines, the worse her delivery, plus for a dancer she sure is stiff); it's just that she belongs nowhere near this show. HIMYM generally steers clear of the broadest kinds of comedy and the dimmest and most unsubtle of characters, and both Britney and the Abby character seem to occupy a world apart from the Manhattan of the show. I guess if the network thinks she's going to boost ratings, Bays and Thomas aren't in a position to say no, but I wish they could.
SURPRISINGLY, NO MONKEY WRENCH REQUESTED: The current tour rider for the Foo Fighters is well worth a few minutes of your time, including their thoughts on bacon and the precise definition of "a mess of fruit," and allowing us to wonder what magazines we might provide them that "show us you have a brain and fantastic interests."
ALMOST AS WIDELY WATCHED AS THE PEOPLE'S CHOICE AWARDS: The nominations for the 62nd annual Tony Awards arrived this morning. A few surprises and notes:
  • Your nomination leader? New musical In The Heights with 13, including Best Musical, Best Book, Best Score, Best Actor, Best Featured Actor, Best Featured Actress, Best Direction (the only new musical in that category), Best Choreography, and oodles of technical nominations. Theoretically, Heights could break the Producers record, as it's nominated in 13 separate categories. (Won't happen, since it's an ultra-long shot in the featured acting and director categories.)
  • The panned musical Cry-Baby (with music from the guys behind Fountains of Wayne and lyrics by former Daily Show writer David Javerbaum) surprises, getting the fourth slot for Best Musical, as well as book and score nominations, without a single acting nod.
  • While August: Osage County has begun its inexorable march toward the Best Play Tony, it only racked up two three acting nominations, not the cornucopia many expected.
  • All five nominees for Featured Actor in a Play come from shows that are long-closed.
  • Shut out? Aaron Sorkin's The Farnsworth Invention, the all-African-American Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, Harvey Fierstein's book/performance for Catered Affair, Norbert Leo Butz in Is He Dead?, and, aside from a compulsory Best Revival nomination to fill the category, Grease was not the one the nominators wanted.
  • A lifetime achievement award to Stephen Sondheim.

Monday, May 12, 2008

FOR A GOOD TIME CALL (303) 499-7111: Every year, those in charge of the University of Chicago Scavenger Hunt find new ways to perplex the nerds across the Midway in Hyde Park, and this year's list of objects and performances requested was no exception:
  • To shave-a da face. To cut-a da hair. Require a grace. Require a flair! Provide one Demon Barber (with glistening friends) and one balloon, to vie for the quickest, closest (but not too close!) shave. Prove yourself worthy to shave-a da Pope!
  • Remember when you were in elementary school and you had to make a model of a volcano out of papier-mache and baking soda? Well, do that again. Only really big. There is a limit on the number of points you can win, but there's no limit on how big your volcano can be.
  • CJ Minard made a map, a very famous map. Douglas MacArthur organized a campaign, an infamous campaign. Please plot the United States' advance into and retreat from North Korea using Minard's form. You determine how you would like to illustrate the Chinese intervention.
  • Get Obama's haircut at Obama's barbershop.
  • The Blues Brothers set future Chicagoans up for a major disappointment: since moving here, I have never once seen enormous groups of strangers moved, as if part of a flash mob, to spontaneously burst into elaborately choreographed song-and-dance numbers in iconic locations. Fix that.
  • Passed your OWLS? Breezed through your NEWTS? It's time you showed off your skills now that you're in college! Perform one or more of the following: Wingardium Leviosa, Relashio, Engorgio. If you really think you have what it takes to do them all, topping it off with a corporeal Patronus should be a piece of cake. [5 points per spell]
  • ScavenFeast 2k8: the penultimate Top Chef challenge. At 7 PM on Saturday, present a mighty repast in eX Libris wherein Judges, team cooks, and some element of captaincy might break bread and satisfy their deepest hungers. Those hungers consisting, of course, of an: I. Appetizer: clearly illustrating utilization of the latest techniques in molecular gastronomy; II. Entree: featuring a Secret Theme Ingredient to be revealed at the Samurai Showdown; and III. Dessert: We all know Baked Alaska is delicious, but so few people are from Alaska it is difficult to ind true kinship with the dish. With that in mind, we would have you prepare Baked [Your Home State], in which you produce a baked dessert you believe best exemplifes your own state. For all dishes, be prepared to explain yourself and certainly bring enough to share.
New for 2008? A lot more of the competition on YouTube, as well as blogs by competitors and the Maroon's staff. Oh, and a single member per team had a pillowcase pulled over his/her head at 3:30 am on Thursday, driven to Midway Airport, and asked to find these objects in Las Vegas.
COMMA IRRETRIEVABLY: You know what show I miss? Lost. Not the Lost that I'm currently watching -- the one that bucked its formula and re-injected suspense and urgency -- but the old one.

From the time that I started waching Lost about four episodes in (shortly after KCosmo sent Spacewoman and Ime a multi-page synopsis telling us what we needed to know) until the moment, a couple of minutes into the Season 2 premiere, that we backed away from Desmond's eye through the barrel of the telescope, bouncing off the mirrors and up the hatch, Lost was something completely different. It fed off of claustrophobia and paranoia, forty-odd people with overlapping character flaws scurrying between a beach and a cave while stalked by a monster, a vague island-terror, and the hint of an opposing army. The threats were in every shadow, and on the few occasions when they ventured into light -- the attack of a polar bear, the mysterious conversion of banyans into gallows, the anagrammatical name missing from the manifest -- they were not clues as much as disjointed fragments of clues, yielding no details of the bigger picture but nonetheless conveying the truth that that picture was a lot bigger and weirder than anybody realized. We didn't know who or what was killing people, how many Others there were, or what they wanted. We knew little enough to be terrified right along with Jin when he came running over the dune, vine-shackled, with a blurry Eko and Ana Lucia in pursuit (yes, that was Season 2, but it really was the end of Sawyer and Jin's Season 1 arc). We knew so little that we could actually catalog what little we did know. I know that people complained that the mystery never moved forward, but I never thought this was really the problem -- I love a slow-moving mystery, and my only complaint (I hope I'm remembering this right) was that the show kept introducing brand-new mysteries instead of slowly paying out the old one.

There is nothing wrong with the new Lost -- I like it. I like Desmond, I kind of like Ben (though I wish he weren't so frequently the focus), I like the new Jacob stuff. Let's get something clear, though -- this is just not the same show. The old show was a mystery (how did I get here, how do I get out, and who are these people trying to kill me?); the new show is a war melodrama (or maybe just a straightforward WWII pic, with the freighter substituting for Germany and the Others playing the Russians). The old show was about what we didn't know; the new show details every motivation and neurosis of every character, right down to the point where we have a front-row seat to some actual Other therapy. A hirsuite silhouette of a salty sea captain on a rusty tug saying "thing is, we're going to need the boy" is far scarier than the umpteenth annoyed warning of the bespectacled nebbish with the jealousy issues. And don't get me started on the silliness of fearing a society that included Alex and Karl (not to mention Juliet, beardless ineffectual Tom, or love-struck Goodwin).

So while I'm quite happy seeing how this war plays out, and figuring out whether Claire is dead or just loam-drugged, and following Desmond following his time-shifting bliss (incidentally, nice Horace nosebleed to tell us last week that he was time-traveling, and not just a hallucination), and watching this week to see Tyra hand Jack, ClaireOpie, Aaron, Sun, Hurley, and Sayid their photographs and tell them, rapping, to "pack your bags, y'all, you're going to the mainland," there's also a big part of me that just misses the dark, confusing mess that was Season 1 Lost.
WITH AN ASSIST FROM DOBBY THE CHICKEN: Probst last night said that this was the best season of Survivor since Season 1, and while I don't think that's true, I think he's off by only one season (Season 2, with Colby/Tina, insufferable Keith, pre-plasticized Elizabeth Hasselbeck nee Filarsky, the vegan-vs.-bodybuilder finger-wagging fight between Kimmi and Alicia, beanpole Mitchell, Michael Skupin narcolepsying himself into the fire and a medivac, and archvillain Jerri Manthey and her then-mute henchman, Amber). The first half of this season (which seems like a million years ago, I mean, Jonny Fairplay? Joel dragging Chet into a wood fence? Was that really this season?) was just too uneven, the fans too dull and obsequious, to rank it too highly. Too much of the value of this season, too, was in the tribal councils, and not in the challenges and bonding. In the post-merge show, though, those tribal councils were doozies, including blindsides, mind-boggling idiocy (and I have to disagree with Sepinwall here -- I thought it was hilarious), and -- am I forgetting something? -- the first proper use of a hidden immunity idol. There was nothing as great as the time that self-proclaimed geniuses Alex, Mookie, and Edgardo got played by the Earl-Yau Man troupe, but the aggregate level of backstabbery was impressive. And the phrase "who would go for that? I feel stupid just listening to you" should go right into Bartlett's.

The finales are always a little disappointing -- one never wants to see the Ozzies and Amandas bloat up upon their return, or to figure out who is a Stephanie LaGrossa All-Star (a person who looks better unwashed than in makeup) -- but this time, I liked three of the four finalists (and all of the final three). One thing I will say, though -- if one is looking for a way to explain the result, I offer two: (1) I think that Survivor juries (and not just the men on them) tend to penalize women and reward men for playing the game a certain way, and I think the second-place finisher may have suffered from that; and (2) the smartest change this show ever made was going to a three-person finale, because that meant the jury had to vote for somebody instead of just voting against somebody (thus eliminating flying below-the-radar as a viable strategy), and the return to the two-person final was as dumb as the original change was smart.

ETA: I forgot to mention the Spacehold's favorite part of the episode. The March of the Vanquished segment is always the editors' chance to tell us what they secretly thought of the contestants. One of the funniest things ever on Survivor was the Bobby Jon montage, which consisted of uninterrupted spazziness and flailing. Last night's victim was Kathy, whose montage went: (1) completely whiffing in trying to tackle Amanda and ending up with a faceful of lagoon; (2) dry-heaving a bite of bat; (3) crying; (4) crying a different time. Awesome.
THE INTERNET IS FOR...: Trekkie Monster's investing advice in a volatile market is proving wrong, as Playboy Enterprises' stock has taken a substantial dip in recent days.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

NBC Names Jimmy Fallon to Succeed Conan O’Brien on ‘Late Night’ - New York Times

HORATIO SANZ SITS PATIENTLY BY HIS PHONE: Once described as a "dime store mimbo" by The New Republic, NBC will announce Jimmy Fallon's ascension to the Late Night chair in a press conference on Monday.

Former SNL co-star Tracy Morgan once said of Fallon, "Laughing and all that dumb s--t he used to do — he wouldn't mess with me because I didn't f---ing play that s--t. That's taking all the attention off of everybody else and putting it on you, like, Oh, look at me, I'm the cute one. I told him not to do that s--t in my sketches, so he never did."
  1. Why is it that you never hear Billy Idol music anymore? The guy had some big hits - shouldn't I occasionally hear "White Wedding" or "Rebel Yell" on the XM Radio 80s station?
  2. The box amusingly labeled "adult DVDs" (as distinguished from kids' DVDs) apparently went off into storage instead of coming to Current Casa Cosmo for the summer, and so both my Deadwood Season 1 and my Battlestar Galactica Season 1 -- our planned spring/summer viewing -- are trapped in a storage facility far, far away from my DVD player. Anyone feel like giving their well-loved DVDs a temporary home in our temporary home?

Sunday Magazine | The Onion - America's Finest News Source

WALTER SCOTT & MARILYN VOS SAVANT TREMBLE IN ITS WAKE: Did you know that The Onion has a Sunday magazine section?