Saturday, April 11, 2009

A PLACE WHERE MATHLETES CAN FEEL SAFE: DJ Gallo presents the best and worst of 2009's MLB promotional giveaways. My fellow Amherst graduates should avoid Cleveland on September 12, because this time it's the Indians who are giving out the blankets.

Re "Kids Pirates Pillow Night," Gallo notes: "This one is only available to those 14 and under. So everyone who gets this item will not have been alive the last time the Pirates had a winning season. And they very well might be asked by their father to hold the pillow over his face until he is sent to a place where the Pirates don't suck." (HT: Clutch Hits.)
R-E-S-PEEP-E-C-T: Just like last year, the Washington Post sponsored a Peeps diorama contest for the Easter holiday. Be on the lookout for the Purple Tunnel of Peeps and Steve Jobs Presents the iPeep Nano.

Friday, April 10, 2009

STEAK? MONEY'S TOO TIGHT FOR STEAK. STEAK? ERR, SURE ... STEAK: Restaurants & Institutions Magazine ranks the top-100 grossing independently-owned restaurants (in food & beverage revenue) for 2008, a Vegas and NYC-dominated list. In terms of top 10 for most meals served, however, all roads lead to Frankenmuth, MI.
STARLINE DINER, BERLIN CT, 11AM: An elderly woman approaches the table, and reaches down towards a 16-month-old baby in her high chair:
Woman (to baby): Is the Easter Bunny going to visit your house this weekend?
Baby's Father (leaning over, sotto voce): No, ma'am, he's not.
Woman (to baby): Don't you want to see the Easter Bunny?
Baby's Father (a bit more insistently): Ma'am, we're Jewish.
Woman: Oh.
Queries: (1) since when does the Easter Bunny make house calls? (2) Is there another way this could have been handled?
HOEDOWN THRO-WHA? The NYT looks at Hannah Montana: The Movie in language friendly to its primary target audience. Interestingly, today also marks the release of Dragonball: Evolution, which is the first time in recent memory I can think of an ultra-wide release that didn't seem to have even a tiny display ad in the Times.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

BEST PERSON IN THE WORLD? So, even after the disappointment that was Studio 60, just how much goodwill still exists for a new Aaron Sorkin-penned TV drama that "takes a behind-the-scenes look at a cable news program (think: Keith Olbermann's show on MSNBC)," which EW reports Sorkin is mulling over? Interestingly, our friend Shonda also has a similarly-premised show in production for ABC.
ALOTT5MA STANDARDS AND PRACTICES DEP'T: In checking to make sure the language in my prior post was appropriate, I took a look back, and found the following interesting data on who we have previously determined to be a douchebag:

  • Jason Mesnick from The Bachelor
  • The people of the state of Oklahoma ("proud douchebag buffoons")
  • Aubrey McClendon ("vice-douchebag," but nonetheless, an "impressive douchebag")
  • Clay Bennett ("douchebag-in-chief")
  • Scott Spiezio ("wealthy douchebag")
  • Joe Don Morton, the first "Captain" from short-lived CBS reality show Pirate Master
  • Most people who attempt to sing Queen songs on American Idol
  • Ozzie Guillen
  • Arlen Specter
  • Rene Auberjonois' character on Benson
  • Matt Rogers from American Idol
  • People who believe Paul McCrane actually lost an arm
  • Commander Lock from Matrix Reloaded
  • Luke Skywalker (a "blonde wussy douchebag")

ETA--Clarification from Isaac, via comments--"I did not say that the people of Oklahoma are 'proud douchebag buffoons.' I said that the editorial staff of Oklahoma Today believed the people of Oklahoma to be proud douchebag buffoons, as evidenced by their picking a proud douchebag buffoon (Bennett) as Oklahoman of the Year. . . . I was not insulting Oklahomans, I was saying that the decision of that newspaper was insulting to Oklahomans."

EXACTLY WHAT ROGER WILLIAMS HAD IN MIND: I'm going to Providence tomorrow, so I thought I'd check the Internets to see what to expect. What to expect: Giant drug-addled criminally-indicted small-business-owner bunnies whose fluffy heads hide the somewhat smaller disfigured heads of undead police officers. Really, it's the greatest televised attempt at a serious interview since Carl Monday made Mike Cooper admit to pleasuring himself at the library.

Warming Glow.
THAT WHICH DOES NOT KILL HIM ONLY MAKES HIM STRONGER: Kanye West would like to apologize for how he's been behaving, and notes that "I JUST WANNA BE A DOPER PERSON." Douchebag Intervention, successful!
I SAID CRUEL IS THE RULE, BUT SOMETIMES DEAD IS DEAD: When I post about Lost, I try not to read what anybody else has written about it. I'm guessing, though, that I'm going to be in the minority on "Dead is Dead."

I liked the last two episodes, which returned to the original flashback format, but I think that's at least in part because there had been enough variation in the time structure to make Original Recipe seem fresh. Now, three episodes in, it's starting to show some wear again. I didn't think there was anything particularly surprising last night, either. So basically, how one felt about this episode depended mainly on how much one loves to watch Michael Emerson be Ben Linus.

Me, I didn't love it. I thought that Emerson, or maybe the writers, really underplayed the dread that Ben should have felt throughout the episode (the cheeseball special effects didn't help; nor did the notion that one's age is sufficiently conveyed by the vivacity of one's wig), and I fundamentally disagreed with the direction they decided to take the character. It felt a little like Horn-Rimmed Glasses guy midway through Heroes Season 1, if that makes any sense. And I feel like we've spent enough time with Ben already, so it will be nice next week to get a look inside the one regular for whom we have almost no backstory at all.

Anybody care to enlighten me on the hieroglyphs? And any thoughts on what Locke's plan is?

ETA: I almost forgot -- an episode about Ben, who almost died, and Locke, whose death didn't take, with several vignettes and references involving people who should be dead, were supposed to be dead, or are dead, makes for a good excuse to link to Fienberg's fine -- but extremely spoilery -- rumination on the state of death on television. Read it, but only if you're caught up on all of your shows in which death is an option.
KUDOS FOR RECOGNIZING THAT THE COWBOY BOY'S DEATH ON 90210, WHILE SELF-INFLICTED, WAS ACCIDENTAL: The New York Post lists tv's most shocking character suicides.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

YOU WERE RIGHT HERE AT MY SIDE: First it was the boobs, now it's the nose and whatever else she did to her face -- Kellie Pickler is really taking a page from the Jennifer Grey witness protection manual. Do they keep putting her on the show just so people will recognize her when she performs elsewhere? I mean, from this to this is not accidental.

Oh wait, there were some results, also, and a really tense moment regarding the use of a save. But I'm assuming that your DVR didn't cut off the results, so let's discuss it in the comments.
OK, HERE'S WHY I'M THE BOMB. I'M SUPER-FINE, I'M ROUND-THE-CLOCK HORNY, I'M ROCKING ONE LEG...AND I GOT A CASE OF IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME...THAT'S IBS FOR SHORT, SO TAKE A WALK, BITCHES, 'CAUSE I CAN'T! After a new episode hosted by Zac Efron this week, the April 18 SNL will be a cross-promotional The Best of Amy Poehler, making her the fourth former female cast member to be so honored and compiled.
HE WAS SEVENTEEN FEET TALL, HE HAD A HUNDRED AND FIFTY WIVES: I've liked Jonathan Coulter's "Re: Your Brains" for a while, but never checked out the rest of his stuff. But here, at the dawn of baseball season, his homage to Kenesaw Mountain Landis is worth a listen. (And a free download).
WITH CAMEO BY MUPPET DONAGHY: If NBC is serious about bringing back L&O:SVU without Chris Meloni and Mariska Hargitay, who apparently want more money than NBC is willing to pay anyone whose name isn't Jay Leno, isn't the logical answer Muppets?

Billy Bob Thornton makes an ass of himself on CBC - Full Comment

INTERVIEWER CRUELTY: It's stereotypical but safe to say that Canadians are unnaturally friendly and polite, which makes this interview between a CBC broadcaster and irascible actor musician Billy Bob Thornton such an igry listen. After making the mistake of mentioning that Billy Bob has appeared in a film or two, the CBC's Jian Ghomeshi desperately tries to keep the interview steered in the right direction, whereas I would have liked to have seen Ghomeshi start to use the Sling Blade voice or pepper Billy Bob with Mr. Woodcock questions.
WHOAH: ALOTT5MA World Headquarters was recently abuzz with the realization that The Matrix was released an entire decade ago, and that the anniversary would come upon us before we could concoct a suitable think-piece. The Matrix was a watershed for movie aesthetics, special effects, shiny action excess, and confidently sophomoric pseudo-philosophy. It also caught the popular imagination in a manner that suggests that it might, in retrospect, justly be said to mark the approximate apex of late-90s techno-narcissism. So, basically, hell of a time to be without a think-piece. Fortunately, the web abhors a vacuum, and XKCD rode promptly to the rescue with a pithy cartoon commentary.
IF THE MYTH OF SISYPHUS WERE MADE INTO A REALITY SHOW, THIS WOULD BE IT: Fresh Air's Terry Gross is apparently a TAR fan, and interviews Mel and Mike White about their time on the show, as well as their lives beyond the race, including some very interesting statements from Mel about his struggles with and through faith. A warning--there is a lot of political content in the interview, particularly in the second half of it, and let's keep it civil in the comments.
NPH + DARLTON + DUFRESNE = MUST SEE TV: Coming this summer to Bravo tv, it's twenty-four of America's finest professional chefs competing in the spin-off series "Top Chef Masters".
#11: PILLARS OF SMOKE. UM, HELLO? I don't know if Beliefnet's Esther Kustanowitz is deliberately trying to disprove the notion that Jews are inherently funny, but between her absurd take on the Top 10 Jewish Movie Characters and this week's "10 Ways Passover is like Lost," she's doing a good job. If you're going to do such a list, what about noting that the taking of the first-born (WAAAAALT! Aaron!) seems to be a major plot device in both works, or Sawyer & Kate's slave labor in building the runway on the Hydra island, or all the questions that are raised at the beginning of both that may never be answered.

Or, as Isaac noted in the Boardroom, "If you're not in the target audience, it makes no f'ing sense and you just wish people would stop trying to explain it to you."
HAD THE TIMES MERELY SAID THAT CONSTANTINE MAROULIS DIDN'T EMBARRASS HIMSELF AND MIGHT HAVE A FUTURE IN BETTER PRODUCTIONS, DAYENU: But instead, it's a 100% rave from The Gray Lady for the 80s jukebox musical Rock of Ages, about which we've spoken before, for which the Times says that the Idol alum possesses "a soulful, pure and intense voice that negotiates the mountains of melisma and cuts through the electricity with ease" in "a seriously silly, absurdly enjoyable arena-rock musical," and that "for anyone whose youth coincided with the time period in question, the siren call of those screaming guitars and singalong choruses may be impossible to resist."

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

STAND BY "ME," WHERE "ME" = "MY ABILITY TO CHEAT THE RULES OF THE ASSIGNMENT: Gee, thank you Idol producers, because I didn't set the TiVo to run long and as such missed all of Adam Lambert's apparent pantheon performance of Tears for Fears' "Mad World". [Available online here -- HT to many of you.] For an instant reaction I turn to Kim, who writes:
So: Mad World. Not a song with which I am familiar, neither having seen Donnie Darko nor having gotten into Tears for Fears until “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” and thereafter. But what a beautiful performance of a gorgeous, melodic, interesting song that 99% of the population cannot even contemplate being able to sing. I think that one thing Adam has done really well for the last few weeks is to alternate his over-the-top he sang what?? performances with quieter, purer ones. So Ring of Fire followed by Tracks of My Tears; Play that Funky Music followed by this. And I think it’s worth pointing out that in addition to the vocal being stripped down, Adam himself stripped away a lot of the physical shtick this week. No eyeliner, normal hair, non-confrontational clothing, and the makeup people have finally figured out what brand of foundation works best on his skin. (Don’t underestimate the significance of that last point – Adam can be tough to watch in HD.)
My brief rundown of the rest, in a rough order from decent to below-meh:

Allison indeed chose one of the most boring songs of 1992. When I suggested "I Can't Make You Love Me" in the ALOTT5MA Boardroom (our official snacks: the tan m&ms, Pringles and Apollo bars), Isaac said: "Can't Make You Love Me was released as a single in 1991. Otherwise, I agree that it would be (a) an easy choice; and (b) certain to put her in the bottom, let's say, two." Let's hope not . Despite another messed-up outfit, a fine performance from The Inevitable Runner-Up. It just kills me that there were so many great choices out there for her this week and she went with the Raitt instead.

Anoop! Song choice! "True Colors" is a hard song to mess up, and easy to sell. Lovely. (He's still not winning.)

[Big gap]

Matt rescued "Part-Time Lover" from Chicken Little but as with Lil (see below), in this case I just kept imagining how Elliot Yamin would have been singing it better. Not nearly as good as the judges thought it was.

[small gap]

Lil got back in her box with Tina Turner, of course, but all I kept thinking about was how much better Melinda Doolittle was when she did Tina. And the judges indeed said, no, get out of the box! (Ahem, Isaac and Kim.)

Hokey Danny Gokey and Kris Allen take it to smooth jazz night. Has Kris' guitar ever been heard? Yawn.

[gaping chasm]

Scott Macintyre shouldn't be singing songs about searches and looking into people's eyes and seeing forever. I mean, unless he's okay with the rude facial reactions I make in response. That said, it was fine until the last twenty seconds or so, and then it was the bomb, but not in the sense of being Da Bomb, but in the sense of "if I were in a crowded theater and heard someone shout like that, I'd flee for shelter immediately no matter how much chaos it caused." Okay, no, it wasn't that bad, but he does not belong in this competition any more.
I'D CHRISTEN HER 'VICTORY,' AND SHE'D MAKE IT: By popular demand Because Isaac and I were emailing last night after the UNC-MSU game fell well out of reach, the first in a possible series of fantasy-booked "if Idol had more interesting theme weeks" sessions, starting this week -- and here, there was at least some demand (thanks, moo-shu) -- with The Songs of Polly Jean Harvey.

(Seacrest: "During the early-'90s alternative rock explosion, perhaps no female artist had a more distinctive vision, or was more critically praised, than England's Polly Jean Harvey. Over the course of her first three albums, Harvey established herself as one of the most individual and influential performers of the era, with her songs addressing love, sex, obsession, religion and the male-female power dynamic with remarkable intensity. These days, Harvey continues ...")

Our assignments:

Rounds: Missed. Maybe a little on-the-nose, but how could I give the song to anyone other than the remaining mother? (Isaac)

Macintyre: Dry. I think a person, which is not to say Macintyre, could do a nice piano-centric version of this song. Beef up the chords on the verses and layer them over each other. Then remember, on the choruses, that the piano is a percussion instrument. This song doesn't require spectacular vocal talent, and it could be done well by someone with imagination. Yes, I realize this is totally non-traditional casting. (Isaac)

Lambert: 50 Ft Queenie, and preferably the 4-Track Demos version. I don't think there's a better song for him to brag, wail and gender-shift than this one. (Adam)

Iraheta: Getting to pick for Iraheta in PJ Harvey Week is like choosing a song for Bo Bice during Southern Rock Week -- it's all in the wheelhouse, and it's just a question of making it perfect. It's a coinflip between "Sheela-na-gig" and "Dress" off the first album, each of which has tremendous power behind it, and I'll go with the latter, if only because the rapidity of the lyrics at the end of the former might be a bit much for the 16-year-old. (Adam)

[Isaac: How I would pay for someone on Idol to sing "put money in your idle (Idol?) hole." Incidentally, I have fantasized that both of these songs would be put to good use on Grey's Anatomy -- "Dress" during the "Ava is crazy" reveal last season, and "Sheela-Na-Gig" for the moment when Kevin McKidd's PTSD simmered, then boiled over with the choking. PJ Harvey would be perfect for a show built around a number of characters who are both strong, independent, successful women and also sometimes dark and twisty, as they tell us.]

Gokey: This feels a little easy, but "Victory." A big crowd pleaser with a giant chorus, no need for subtlety or self-awareness. You could see him in a leather jacket, waving his arm around with the squint-smile while the lights go all white and David Cook rock starry behind him. (Isaac)

Giraud: Perhaps the hardest to peg in this round, because he doesn't do "angry" well. And something like "Snake," which I think he could hit tonally, just can't be sung by a straight guy. "Meet Ze Monsta" maybe, but he doesn't have the swagger; "Oh My Lover" can probably be converted into something piano-centric and a bit brisker, almost with a Coldplay feel. (Oh, wait: Giraud + Coldplay? Oh well.) (Adam)

Desai: another tough one. I'll go with the melodic, but weird and inappropriate, "Happy and Bleeding." Mainly I don't want to give him anything too strong, like "Man Size," which would put him in his not-credible angry strut mode, or too lush, like "Send His (Her?) Love to Me," which I don't think he could handle. (Isaac)

Allen: "Send His Her Love To Me". How can you not go with the one song that's based off an acoustic, flamenco-ish guitar riff? Easy song to sell, clear lyrics, soulful delivery -- Kris might win this week. (Adam)
I'M NOT A FOOL, AND AS A RULE, I DO NOT BOND: Dear lord--there's a direct to ABC Family spinoff of Legally Blonde coming? Wiki has more details, which makes it sound like they've taken the Legally pretty much out of it. (Though somewhat awesome? It's directed by the guy who created the Whammy.)
I THOUGHT WHAT YOU DID WAS A HEROIC THING: As Adam noted, TNT reran "Love's Labor Lost," pretty much unquestionably the high point of ER, this morning, and I, working from home as I get over a bout of stomach illness, watched. I hadn't seen it in years (maybe even since its first airing), and some thoughts:
  • Man, everyone looks so young and many of them had so much more hair (particularly Edwards and Whitford)--though Sherry Stringfield's hair maybe looks even better now than it used to.
  • Because of how great the Greene plotline is, it's easy to forget about the very brief Benton subplot, in which Benton has to deal with his mother's broken hip, which featured some really nice work from Eriq La Salle, and some nice, not excessively anvilicious, parallelism with the Greene plot. (Similarly, even though Clooney was the breakout star of the show, he's barely in this episode--nor is Julianna Margulies.)
  • The camera work throughout is just extraordinary--Long, carefully choreographed Steadicam shot as we move from one trauma room to another, POV shots which look particularly stunning in the HD version aired on TNT HD. Sadly, director Mimi Leder has never done anything as good since, going on to direct Deep Impact and (shiver!) Pay It Forward.
  • What's fascinating is how the show demonstrated that even our heroes on ER could and would often be fallible and make mistakes. Even though Greene is our hero, he screws this case up, and screws it up badly. That's where the show lost its way more than anything else--it stopped being about folks who screwed up sometimes and started being about perfect heroes who invariably saved the day.
  • The emotional payoff in a lot of ways is a scene that's nothing more than Greene breathing heavily and the sound of a flatline--there's no screaming, shouting, or overpowering score telling us how to feel--just darn fine wordless acting. Similarly, we don't hear the Edwards/Whitford confrontation--we just see it through the glass of the hospital room. Contrast with current shows, which probably would have used a pop song to tell us what we should be feeling, rather than trusting the viewer to find their own emotion. Similarly, there's no real comic relief plot (aside from an early "show me your teeth" joke)--this is an episode devoid of laughter.
Anyone else watch and have thoughts? Particularly interesting would be those who now have kids and haven't viewed the episode since pre-childbirth.
TO BOLDLY SPLIT INFINITIVES THAT HAVE NEVER BEEN SPLIT BEFORE: Apparently, J.J. Abrams' Star Trek screened (largely unannounced) in Austin last night, to an audience riddled with hard-core Trek fans as a double feature with Wrath of Khan. Harry Knowles' response (which contains some spoilers) seems relatively representative, and can charitably be described as geekgasmic.

Monday, April 6, 2009

EVERYBODY LIES TO THEMSELVES: With HIMYM and Gossip Girl in reruns tonight, I suspect many folks opted for tonight's House, which scored big points for having a genuinely shocking revelation in the first 10 minutes. Saying more pretty much requires spoilage, and since we haven't aired on the West Coast, let's keep it in the comments.
FULL COVERAGE: Dolly Parton covering Fine Young Cannibals--spectacular, or sick and wrong? (Related: Dolly Parton covering Collective Soul.)
HOT HITS! WCAU-FM: Given that most of our bloggers spent our formative years in the 80s and early 90s, it should come as no surprise that we love the idea of “Songs from the Year You Were Born” week on AI. (But for the existence of the tender young Miss Iraheta, they may as well just have called it 80s Week – the days of contestants born in the 70s are officially behind us. Eek.) Because this theme makes us feel a trifle, well, indulgent, we decided each to offer our own suggestions as to which songs Your.Top.Eight. should sing tomorrow night. The judges for this endeavor are: Isaac (b. 1970, Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs”), Kim (b. 1971, Janis Joplin’s “Me and Bobby McGee”), and Adam (b.1972, Elton John’s “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters”).

[Methodology Note. We paid no attention whatsoever to whether AI could get the rights to any of these songs. We also didn’t work too hard on figuring out which year a song belonged to. For example, we’ve got “No One Is to Blame” recommended for both 1985 and 1986. The album came out in ’85, but the song wasn’t released as a single until ’86. So let’s not get too hung up on release date nitpickery.]

Gokey. 1980.
Isaac: There's a ton of stuff Gokey could do from 1980. "Shining Star" is right up his The Redeemer (tm Fienberg) alley, assuming he isn't Danny the Cheeseball Entertainer this week and therefore doesn't just pick the most obvious Queen/Billy Joel song near the top of the charts. By the way, London Calling came out in 1980 in the US and I didn't even give it a thought.

Adam: C'mon, it's obvious: "Grandpa pissed his pants again/He don't give a damn," Warren Zevon's searing "Play It All Night Long." As a fallback, I guess Paul Simon's "Late in the Evening" or Hall & Oates' "Every Time You Go Away" could do -- but the people want their brucellosis.

Kim: I don’t love 1980 as a source for Danny – too many of the vanilla big ballads he’s been leaning on. I’d much rather throw him into 1992 with Allison and let him tackle any number of songs from that period. (“Jeremy”!) But 1980 it is – I’m going to resist the siren call of the lite-FM highlights of my youth and offer up “Heartache Tonight.” It’s got some opportunity to riff, some nice notes in that gruff-shouty zone everyone seems to like, and it’s neither boppy nor too glurgey. If he can’t resist the slow stuff, let him take on Mr. Raspy himself, Kenny Rogers, with “Don’t Fall in Love with a Dreamer.”
Lambert. 1982.
Kim: The whole ethos of Lambertosity cries out for a performance of “Tainted Love.” But if that’s either not singerly enough for him (although he has not been shy about reaching to the stratosphere to create new high notes where none previously existed), he should add a riff on Steve Perry to his repertoire. “Don’t Stop Believin’” is presumably off the table, given last week’s group sing, but Adam could do a mean “Open Arms.”

Adam: When Kim and I first started discussing this, we started with Lambert, and both of us gravitated to "Tainted Love" right away -- it gives him plenty of opportunities to wail and insinuate. He'd be fine with Journey, but not freaky. "Wall of Death" isn't going to happen ... but it could.

Isaac: I'd guess he'd pick a song like "Harden My Heart," which would give him a chance to do some more showy yelling at the top of his register, but I'd rather hear the Stones' "Waitin' On a Friend." The mood and tempo would prevent him from screaming like he's just been stabbed, but the song would still let him strut his Jagger-lite stuff and it has a nice very high falsetto part that Lambert could actually sing better than Mick.
Lil. 1984.
Isaac: She's kind of disappeared from the competition and needs to get back on track. "What's Love Got to Do With It" was hugely popular (#2 of the year), is recognizable for everybody in the Idol audience, would bring Rounds back to the self-reliant vibe that propelled her into the finals, and is by a certified diva. Or she could do "99 Luftballoons." [ed. note: in German? ] [author response: ja.]

Adam: She needs her swagger back, but staying in her box with Tina is too predictable; she's not winning the competition that way. Want a game-changer? Culture Club, "Church of the Poison Mind," a soul-gospel number that just happened to be recorded by a white man in drag.

Kim: Lil needs her groove back, in a serious, serious way. This is not the week for her to sing anything except “What’s Love Got to Do with It?” The thing is, Lil has been outside her box for so many weeks that getting back into it won’t be predictable – it will be a relief. Get back into your box, Lil, now! It’s a good box! If she tries to experiment with anything else, on the heels of meh performance after meh performance, she deserves to go home.
Matt. 1985.
Kim: Interestingly, this is the only year with multiple contestants. Kris, Matt, and Scott will all be battling it out for the best of 1985. First of all, someone needs to sing “Sea of Love” (which is one of my favorite songs, even if it’s not really from 1985), and while I will pluck my eyes out with a steak knife if it’s Scott, I’m kind of ambivalent as between Matt and Kris. Matt could do a nice bluesy take on it, which should satisfy both the judges and the viewers for a change. But for some reason I’m liking the idea of a more aggressive, predatory angle for Matt – I suspect that “I’m on Fire” might alienate more people than it would attract, but I’d like it, anyway.

Isaac: 1985 is either the high or low point for what we think of as 80s music, depending upon whether you wore your bra on the inside or outside of your shirt, I guess. Hard to find an obvious midtempo falsetto R&B song in 1985 to please the judges. He's going to have to rearrange, and I'll bet he could do a pretty good bluesy piano-bar reimagining of "Saving All My Love for You" that would please the judges and get him through to the next round. It would have to be piano-only; this is the kind of stuff that Ricky Minor's arranging absolutely ruins.

Adam: Whoever draws "No One Is To Blame" wins. I'd like it to be Matt.
Kris. 1985.
Adam. "All You Zombies"? It is Pesach week, after all. Dire Straits' "So Far Away" has a nice tone to it that he can match, as would Cougar's "Lonely Ol' Night" or "Small Town."

Kim: In contrast to Matt’s more bluesy take on “Sea of Love,” this could be another of those Tender Kris songs that everyone, myself included, seems to enjoy. Ditto “Heaven.” But Kris has been smart, smart, smart about song choice, and I suspect that he might want to consider moving in another direction to avoid pigeonholing. So here’s a different approach: how about something from Dream of the Blue Turtles? I know that the Sting’s rhythms can be tough, but I could imagine Kris pulling off something like a stripped-down guitar-only take on “Fortress Around Your Heart,” if it didn’t come off too stalkery. But hey, “Every Breath You Take” has been sung twice on the show without negative repercussions.

Isaac: He's at his best with a really strong melody. A guitar-only "Careless Whisper"? Or "Sea of Love," which, of course, is cheating. It's weird -- I have no desire to penalize Allen, unlike other contestants, for doing the most obvious songs.
Scott. 1985.
Isaac: You know he's going to do the most pointless dull filler, like "You Belong to the City" or "One More Night," but I have two suggestions. "We Built This City," which is indisputably the worst collection of sounds assembled together intentionally since the dawn of time, but which seems just about right, vocally and stylistically, for McIntyre; or, my preference, "Miami Vice Theme."

Adam: "Careless Whisper". Or "Part-Time Lover"; even though it didn't sink Covais, it's due.

Kim: I can’t waste any mental energy coming up with a serious song suggestion for Scott. As far as I’m concerned, there is one song and one song only for Scott to sing from 1985: “Too Late for Goodbyes.” Hyuk!
Anoop. 1986.
Adam: The problem with Anoop is that he's not a good enough dancer to sell the stuff that he's most amusing performing. He's reached his limit. So, yeah, there's a lot of stuff on Janet Jackson's "Control" on which he could underwhelm (or "Dancing on the Ceiling") but I'd rather he go straight ahead for the ironic exit and take on Glass Tiger's "Don't Forget Me (When I'm Gone)." Either that, or pluck Gen X heartstrings with "In Your Eyes," or our parents' with Billy Joel's "This Is the Time."

Isaac: He has to do "Kiss," right? Why would he do anything else? Incidentally, "Party All the Time" was the #7 song of 1986, which is flabbergasting.

Kim: I hope Anoop resists the temptation of “Kiss,” because that song represents everything that Anoop wants to be and just isn’t. I think he’s stronger in the ballad realm, and it’s where the judges seem to like him as well. “No One Is to Blame” would showcase the nicer aspects of his voice, and if he could find a way to inject his personality into a ballad (i.e., without having to dance all over the stage wearing a Star Trek uniform and a sneer), so much the better.
Allison. 1992.
Isaac: 1992, to me, was musically the greatest of all years. Sadly, it's all music Iraheta has never heard of. "November Rain" could work, though it might need four times the 90 seconds allowed. I would be interested, which is not to say enthused, about hearing Iraheta on En Vogue's "Never Gonna Get It" or REM's "Man on the Moon" (which Ricky Minor, again, would screw up, so forget it). It's more fun to fantasize about what I would do if I were given a chance at 1992, the year of Dry, Slanted and Enchanted, The Chronic, Harvest Moon, Incesticide, Let Me Come Over, March 16-20, 1992, Hollywood Town Hall, Check Your Head, and Joshua Judges Ruth.

Kim: She has lucked out, being the only contestant young enough to pick from the early 90s instead of the 80s. Allison needs to connect with the audience in a way that she usually doesn’t – she has a tendency to sing to the rafters rather than the viewers. I think she’d do a knockout job on “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” especially if she used the Tori Amos arrangement. Ditto on something from Achtung Baby – a dialed-back performance of “One” without too much involvement from the band could be really amazing.

Adam: So many good albums from that year, and I agree on Achtung Baby as being a source, but I'd go with the album closer "Love Is Blindness," a bit obscure off that album but a song with some serious emotion to sell. Among the better-known songs of that year, no one's ever attempted Annie Lennox's "Why" on Idol, and Iraheta has the pipes to try it. One tip, if she does: when you get to "this is what I feel" towards the end? Have the music stop before the line, and just stop right there. Just like Lennox at Live 8. [Added note: Tori Amos' "Little Earthquakes" is also 1992, but a 16-year-old singing "Boy you best pray that I bleed real soon -- how's that thought for you?" is not something I expect to see on Idol. Or, per Isaac's suggestion, "Sheela-na-gig."]
YOUTUBER'S DIGEST: NY1's Pat Kiernan has developed more than a bit of a following in New York for his In Today's Papers segment (memorably sent up on HIMYM a couple of years ago), as well as for his deadpan hosting of World Series of Pop Culture. He's now gone national, with, in which he summarizes the essential headlines of the day--from North Korea's missile testing to the gunfire at the Brady/Bundchen wedding.
CO-STARRING DONALD'S HAIRPIECE: I'm only somewhat ashamed to admit that I continue to watch The Celebrity Apprentice. This week, we had the shocking(!) twist that both teams lost, and two people would be going home. It seemed exceedingly clear that Clint Black, the project manager for one team, would be fired, as he charged into a concept for a video (which he wrote, directed, and starred in) that was clearly inappropriate for the target audience. However, Trump decides not to eliminate Clint for his endlessly bad video, but instead launches into a tirade against Khloe Kardashian for having a DUI (a fact of which he was apparently unaware prior to this episode, despite having Perez Hilton as a special guest judge). The sense I got was that the producers told Trump that Black (along with Joan Rivers) is one of the very few recognizable "celebrities" left (could you pick Natalie Gulbis, Annie Duke, Brian McKnight, or Brande Roderick out of a lineup?) and told Trump he needed to find someone else to fire.
I BELIEVE WE ALL KNOW HER LAST NAME: If there were any doubt that, occasionally, American Idol does create The Next Pop Musical Superstars, last night Carrie Underwood was awarded the Academy of Country Music's Entertainer of the Year Award, breaking Kenny Chesney's four-year win streak and becoming the seventh female artist to be so honored, her predecessors being Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, Barbara Mandrell, Reba McEntire, Shania Twain and the Dixie Chicks.

What's becoming increasingly troubling to me about Hokey Danny Gokey (a/k/a DWG, RDJJ, etc.), along these lines, is that why he may be very good in a competition of "best singer within the confines of weekly American Idol performances," I just don't see the future in which he becomes the Next Pop Superstar. In that vein, he reminds me a lot of Taylor Hicks with his un-contemporary sound and kitschy performance style, and perhaps even more accurately someone like Melrose on America's Next Top Model -- someone who could shine within the artificial constructs of a televised competition, but with no hopes of major stardom outside that contrived realm. There are people within this year's competition who have legitimate aspirations to future stardom, but I just don't think he's one of them.
SINCE WE DON'T HAVE TO LISTEN TO BILLY PACKER, EVERYONE WINS: Our annual tournament pool concludes tonight. If UNC wins, Finch J. Bowman wins; if the Spartans triumph it's the "cg" entry by "B. Hurley".

Toss-up question: best men's college basketball team you've seen in the last twenty years? Without looking at any numbers at all, I'm just going to say the Larry Johnson-Stacey Augmon UNLV Runnin' Rebels of the early 1990s, whose athleticism and swarming defense were stunning; the runner-up would probably be Pitino's 1996 Kentucky championship team, which was just ridiculously deep -- Antoine Walker, Tony Delk, Walter McCarty, Derek Anderson and Ron Mercer (and others) all moving on to the NBA. As much as I like this UNC team, they're nowhere near as dominating as what we grew up seeing.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

DR MAX REGRETS TO INFORM YOU: Early CNN fixture Tom Braden has died. While I liked Crossfire back in the early days, it never occurred to me that Tom Braden was the fellow who wrote Eight Is Enough, on which the Bradford family was based. Now, I think it would have been more interesting if Abby/Betty Buckley was having an affair with Robert McNamara, such opportunities were written out of the show by setting it in Sacramento.

I don't recall our ever having an Eight is Enough thread and given that it launched the careers of Scott Baio Ralph Macchio and Willie Aames, I trust our commentariat has something to say of the fine folks from Macarthur Park.
NO FLIPPING: ALOTT5MA presents the Adam Lambert Roundtable: A Discussion of Arts, Politics, and Culture.

"I THINK THE PROFESSOR HAS A BOYFRIEND": Well, no, NYT Styles Section, I haven't "CONSIDER[ed] the erotic potential between blogger and commenters" as your lede implores (and nor should you until we run our Win A Date With Matt sweepstakes), but that doesn't prevent me from being happy that our longtime online friend Ann Althouse is engaged to be wed.
GOD HELP THEM IF THEY SCREW UP ON PLINKO:This week's NYT magazine contains a correction concerning the crossword puzzle of two weeks ago, which apparently was not closely edited by a fan of The Price Is Right, who could explain the difference between the "Showcase Showdown" and the "Showcase." I was also reminded of the bit in the West Wing pilot (seemingly not available on YouTube) where Leo berates the Times for a bad spelling in the puzzle.