Saturday, September 12, 2009

NOT HOSTED BY RUSSELL BRAND: The big Emmys (NPH! A live superstar band! A Shaiman/Wittman song for NPH!) aren't for another week, but the technical ones are being handed out right now, and results are here. A few things of interest.
  • Pushing Daisies gets a well-deserved award in art direction (for the Chinese restaurant episode, which also wins for makeup), and it also picks up a costumes award (for the honey/bees episode).
  • Casting in a comedy series goes as expected to 30 Rock, but drama sees a rather inexplicable win for True Blood over Mad Men, Damages, The Tudors, and FNL.
  • The four SYTYCD and one DWTS nominees apparently split votes all over the place, so best choreography goes to the Jackman/Efron/Hudgens "Musicals Are Back!" number from the Oscars.
  • Two of the four guest actor awards have been announced, and SNL has won an acting award for the first time since Dana Carvey won in 1993 for Justin Timberlake. ETA--make that two--Comedy guest actors go to Timberlake and Fey for SNL, and drama to Michael J. Fox for Rescue Me and Ellen Burstyn for playing Mama Stabler on SVU
  • United States of Tara wins the award for its opening credits.
  • Heroes for visual effects? Over the Fringe pilot and the BSG finale? Really?
  • Chuck wins an Emmy! Admittedly, for stunts, but, still, it's an EMMY!
  • ETA--Yes, Dr. Horrible can add "Emmy-winning" to its resume!
ETA--Dr. Horrible co-writer and performer Maurissa Tancharoen is tweeting up a storm from the show, with multiple pics.
TEENAGE ANGST HAS PAID OFF WELL, OR "XBOX-FRIENDLY UNIT SHIFTER": A brouhaha minicap: Courtney Love is pissed that Activision's Guitar Hero 5 not only puts Kurt Cobain into the uncanny valley but also lets him do this:

Except, um, she apparently signed the license letting Activision do it and Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic want and have nothing to do with it, urging Activision to re-lock the feature. ("It's hard to watch an image of Kurt pantomiming other artists' music alongside cartoon characters. Kurt Cobain wrote songs that hold a lot of meaning to people all over the world. We feel he deserves better.")

The moral of the story, of course, is to hire good IP lawyers. It's Courtney Love's moral and legal responsibility to protect her late husband's legacy and image, not Activision's. One wonders, by the way, how the Cash family feels.

[One also wonders, on the eve of another VMAs (should we liveblog?), whether Krist would license the rights to reproduce this moment of his.]
WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF I SANG OUT OF TUNE? I'D TURN ON NO FAIL MODE: Having now spent a fair amount of time with The Beatles: Rock Band, it's a great package, even for someone who's not hard-core into the Beatles, but I'm wondering if it's actually going to have the opposite effect to what is hoped. Because of the nature of the Beatles' music, there's not a lot of elaborate guitar work involved in many of the songs--the brilliance of the Beatles wasn't face-melting guitar solos or fanatic drumming, but a simple melody and the combination of all the elements. I'm easily scoring in the 90's on medium guitar on my first try, even on songs I'm less familiar with. The vocals are harder, and I haven't tried drumming yet. In contrast, I routinely failed songs in Guitar Hero and regular Rock Band when I first played them. I'm wondering if some folks for whom this is the first (or at least an early) exposure to the music of the Beatles to discount their musical achievement because it's not "Through The Fire and Flames," rather than getting a full understand of the band's historical and musical import.

Friday, September 11, 2009

DEPARTMENT OF DOING MY JOB FOR ME DEPARTMENT: Slate slags Runway! Has it really been this bad?

It was disappointing when the cute incompetent outlasted the two eccentrics. Eight seconds of the Klum Modeling School spin-off were enough to tell me that even if it turned out to be a worthy look inside the models' end of the industry it would not be sufficiently captivating. I have no feelings about swapping the network responsible for Real Housewives out for the network responsible for Wife Swap, except that the latter is not available in HD here. So, is the magic gone?

What have you all got?
THROUGH EARLY MORNING FOG I SEE VISIONS OF THE THINGS TO BE, REDUX: Famed comedy writer, screenwriter and playwright Larry Gelbart has died. He was 81. Gelbart, who led a varied and storied career, is of course best known for somewhat successfully adapting Robert Altman's M*A*S*H for TV. Quoted in his obit, Gelbart had this to say about the TV's show's unique tone:
"The thing that most appealed to me about 'MASH' was not even the movie. It was the theme song ['Suicide is Painless' written by Johnny Mandel and Mike Altman], the movie music, which was written in a very minor key and appealed to me emotionally. And I know that I pegged all that comedy to that sound."

Among Gelbart's other credits were the screenplay to Tootsie, the book for A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and numerous jokes as a staff writer on Caesar's Hour Your Show of Shows alongside Mel Brooks and Neil Simon.

PLEASE DO STOP THE MUSIC: Y'know, Lea Michele's "Take A Bow" on Glee wasn't the only reinvention of a Rihanna song this week. Far more emotionally scarring is Charo (yes, that Charo) taking a crack at "Don't Stop The Music" as part of the Jerry Lewis MDA telethon, including Charo grinding on Jerry Lewis. One can only imagine what Joel McHale will have to say about this tonight. (HT: Jezebel).
THE MISSION, THE PLAN, JUST BREATHE, YOU DON'T HAVE TO UNDERSTAND: Random thought induced by both my current obsession with the BSG DVDs and my choice of workout music yesterday: Does it strike anybody else that The Thermals' The Body, The Blood, The Machine is the perfect soundtrack for Battlestar Galactica, tonally, thematically, titularly, and sometimes literally? I suppose it's inevitable that an album uses the story of Noah's Ark to depict a flight from fascist oppressors would share some content with BSG, but sometimes it's uncanny.
YOU KNOW HOW TO WHISTLE, DON'T YOU, STEVE: The first victims of the unfortunate decision to move all the lifetime achievement Oscars to a November dinner have been announced -- former Sony Pictures Entertainment and United Artists chairman (and Meg Tilly's ex-husband) John Calley will receive the Thalberg; and honorary Oscars will be presented to Lauren Bacall, Roger Corman and cinematographer Gordon Willis. It is a shame they will not be recognized as part of the main awards extravaganza.

The honoraries require little explanation, though I will point you to this great 2007 profile of Willis and this obligatory Lauren Bacall clip, filmed when she was only nineteen.

For Calley, who doesn't (yet) have a Wikipedia page, this data point: while at Warner Brothers in the 1970s, he was responsible for shepherding such films as Dirty Harry, A Clockwork Orange, McCabe And Mrs. Miller, Deliverance, Enter The Dragon, Mean Streets, The Exorcist, Blazing Saddles, The Towering Inferno, Dog Day Afternoon, Superman, and Chariots of Fire. (See, related, this 1993 article.) Indeed, early in his Sony reign, he said: "I don't think you can decide how many films you are going to make. You have to make films you are crazy about."
WE REMEMBER: Eight years, already? We've talked in years past on this date about the cultural legacy of 9/11 and the alleged end to the age of irony. This morning, I thought I'd just cede this space to two of the men who helped us move forward:

David Letterman, 9/17/01 (video): ... The 20 years we’ve been here in NYC we’ve worked closely with police officers and fire fighters and fortunately most of us don’t really have to think too much about what these men and women do on a daily basis and the phrase "New York's Finest" and "New York's Bravest" you know, did it mean anything to us personally, first-hand, well maybe, hopefully but probably not, but boy it means something now doesn’t it, they put themselves in harm's way to protect people like us and the men and women from the fire fighters and the police department who are lost are going to be missed by this city for a very, very long time, and my hope for myself and everybody else not only in New York but everywhere is that we never ever take these people for granted absolutely never take them for granted.

I just want to go through this, and again forgive me if this is more for me than it is for people watching, I’m sorry but I just I have to go through this. The reason we were attacked, the reason these people are dead, these people are missing and dead, they weren’t doing anything wrong. They were living their lives, they were going to work, they were travelling, they were doing what they normally do. As I understand it -- and my understanding of this is vague at best -- another smaller group of people stole some airplanes and crashed them into buildings, and we’re told they were zealots fueled by religious fervor, religious fervor, and if you live to be a thousand years old will that make any sense to you, will that make any goddamn sense?

(Dave takes a deep breath to prevent himself from crying)

I’ll tell ya about a thing that happened last night, there’s a town in Montana by the name of Choteau. It's about 100 miles south of the Canadian border and I know a little something about this town, it's 1600 people, 1600 people and it’s a – an ag-business community which means farming and ranching and Montana‘s been in the middle of a drought for, I don’t know, three years and if you got no rain you can't grow anything and if you cant grow anything you can't farm, if you can't grow anything you can't ranch because the cattle don’t have anything to eat and that’s the way life is in this small town. 1600 people, last night at the high school auditorium in Choteau, Montana they had a rally -– home of the Bulldogs by the way -- they had a rally for NYC and not just a rally for NYC but a rally to raise money, to raise money for NYC and if that doesn’t tell you everything you need to know about the spirit the United States then I cant help ya, (Dave tears up) I’m sorry.

(Audience applauds)

And I have one more thing to say and then thank god Regis is here so we have something to make fun of. (Audience laughs) If you didn’t believe it before and it's easy to understand how you might have been skeptical on this point if you didn’t believe it before you can absolutely believe it now, NYC is the greatest city in the world. (Audience applauds) We’re going to – we’re gonna try and feel our way through this and we’ll just see how it goes take it a day at a time, we’re lucky enough tonight to have two fantastic representatives of this town, Dan Rather and Regis Philbin and we’ll be right back.

Jon Stewart, 9/20/01 (video): They said to get back to work. There were no jobs available for a man in the fetal position under his desk crying, which I would have gladly taken. So I came back here.

Tonight’s show is obviously not a regular show. We looked through the vaults, we found some clips that we thought might make you smile, which is really what’s necessary, I think, right about now. A lot of folks have asked me, "What are you going to do when you get back? What are you going to say?" I mean, what a terrible thing to have to do. I don’t see it as a burden at all. I see it as a privilege. I see it as a privilege and everyone here does see it that way. The show in general, we feel like is a privilege. Just even the idea that we can sit in the back of the country and make wisecracks, which is really what we do. We sit in the back and we throw spitballs, but never forgetting the fact that is a luxury in this country that allows us to do that. This is a country that allows for open satire, and I know that sounds basic and it sounds as though it goes without saying - but that’s really what this whole situation is about. It’s the difference between closed and open. It’s the difference between free and burden and we don’t take that for granted here by any stretch of the imagination and our show has changed. I don’t doubt that. What it’s become, I don’t know. "Subliminable" is not a punch line anymore. One day it will become that again, and Lord willing, it will become that again because that means we have ridden out the storm.

But the main reason that I wanted to speak tonight is not to tell you what the show is going to be. Not to tell you about all the incredibly brave people that are here in New York and in Washington and around the country. But we’ve had an enduring pain here - an endurable pain. I wanted to tell you why I grieve, but why I don’t despair…I’m sorry. Luckily we can edit this. One of my first memories is of Martin Luther King being shot. I was five and if you wonder if this feeling will pass…When I was five, he was shot. Here’s what I remember about it. I was in a school in Trenton. They shut the lights off and we got to sit under our desks and we thought that was really cool and they gave us cottage cheese, which was a cold lunch because there was rioting, but we didn’t know that. We just thought that “My God. We get to sit under our desks and eat cottage cheese.” That’s what I remember about it. That was a tremendous test of this country’s fabric and this country’s had many tests before that and after that.

The reason I don’t despair is because this attack happened. It’s not a dream. But the aftermath of it, the recovery is a dream realized. And that is Martin Luther King's dream. Whatever barriers we've put up are gone even if it's momentary. We're judging people by not the color of their skin but the content of their character. You know, all this talk about "These guys are criminal masterminds. They’ve gotten together and their extraordinary guile…and their wit and their skill." It's a lie. Any fool can blow something up. Any fool can destroy. But to see these guys, these firefighters, these policemen and people from all over the country, literally, with buckets rebuilding. That's extraordinary. That's why we've already won. It's light. It's democracy. We've already won. They can't shut that down. They live in chaos and chaos… it can't sustain itself. It never could. It's too easy and it's too unsatisfying.

The view from my apartment was the World Trade Center and now it's gone. They attacked it. This symbol of American ingenuity and strength and labor and imagination and commerce and it is gone. But you know what the view is now? The Statue of Liberty. The view from the south of Manhattan is now the Statue of Liberty. You can't beat that.

So we're going to take a break and I'm going to stop slobbering on myself and on the desk. We’re going to get back to this. It's gonna be fun and funny and it's going to be the same as it was and I thank you. We'll be right back.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Michaela Watkins Club: 21 Other SNL Cast Members Who Only Lasted a Season (or Less) -- Vulture

I DON'T WRITE FOR FELT: New York magazine welcomes Michaela Watkins to the club of 21 Other SNL Cast Members Who Only Lasted a Season (or Less). Tom Shales says she "may have been just too classically pretty to be hilarious" which, combined with the Casey Wilson thing, um, yeah.

Also announced today: the next three episodes after the Megan Fox/U2 opener will be Ryan Reynolds/Lady Gaga, Drew Barrymore/Regina Spektor and Gerard Butler/Shakira.
THE SMALL JOYS OF BLOGGING: I am delighted, per our Sitemeter, to learn that we're the #2 hit on Google for "what year did Prince show up to the Grammys in the buttless yellow pants." [Answer: None. It was the 1991 MTV VMAs, performing "Gett Off."]
SINCE THEY MADE IT THERE, IT ONLY FOLLOWS THEY COULD HAVE MADE IT ANYWHERE, NO? The Museum of the City of New York is honoring the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson stumbling into what would become NYC by choosing the 400 most important New Yorkers. It's an interesting and inclusive list, with historical and contemporary figures from all walks of life, but while the likes of the Donald, Walt Frazier, Broadway Joe, and Jerry Seinfeld made the cut, missing are Derek Jeter, Patrick Ewing, Mickey Mantle, and David Letterman.

So, who else (co-Bloggers, excluded), should have been included amongst the best Big Applers?

AMERICA'S NEXT TOP WINNER OF AMERICA'S NEXT TOP MODEL: I don't plan on blogging, or even watching, much of ANTM this season, but I couldn't let last night go without comment. Since about Season 3, the show has basically operated under an uneasy agreement with its contestants and audience: the latter won't make too big of a deal about how success on the show has nothing to do with success in modeling (beyond giving the contestants some professional shots to stick in their portfolios), and the show will go on promoting its participants as superstars in the hope that that hype would be self-fulfilling. So I was wondering how the show would deal with the 5'7" height limitation this season, which to me seemed like an admission of fashion irrelevance.

I expected some spin, but really -- well, let's let Tyra say it: "When I announced my intention to change the standards in the fashion industry ...." On its face, the statement is breathtakingly self-aggrandizing, but then the vehicle of change turned out to be 14 more-anorexic-than-usual waifs being lauded for looking taller than they are. If the median weight for the remaining contestants is over 90 pounds, I'll eat my weave. I guess that's a fresh approach to attacking unrealistic beauty standards (hey, remember how enthusiastically Tyra patted herself on the back for picking a plus-sized winner a couple of seasons back?). How can it possibly be that people don't loathe this woman?

Incidentally, last night featured the return of a recurring ANTM feature: Tyra adopting a terrible French accent for entire segments without purpose or explanation.
LIKE FACING BABE RUTH, LOU GEHRIG, JIMMIE FOXX, AL SIMMONS AND JOE CRONIN IN A ROW, EXCEPT THERE ARE NO CARL HUBBELLS AMONG THE CHEFTESTANTS: I mean, seriously, has there ever been a Judge's Table on any reality show ever as accomplished and fearsome as Robuchon, Keller, Tourondel, Boulud and Joho? [I've eaten at three of their restaurants -- Boulud's Daniel and db Bistro Moderne and Tourondel's BLT Steak -- and, yeah, reputation well-earned. As for Robuchon, let Jay Rayner explain.]

I don't have much else to say about last night's Top Chef Vegas show -- at this point, Jennifer Carroll not making the finals would be as shocking as Daughtry's ouster from Idol, and the eliminations were justified on the record. Vegas is a great city for foodies, and this has been a solid, solid season.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

SQUEE? Obligatory return-to-Glee thread. I am very much digging the tone and writing of the show, but more than a bit bugged by the amount of lip-synching (and in some cases, over the vocals of others?) going on. I know it takes more time and doesn't create the pristine iTunes-ready versions of the songs they need, but live recording would be so much better.

Still, yes, I am enjoying this show.
HAPPY DANCE SYNERGY: American Idol just replaced Paula Abdul on a permanent basis, and the new hire is a bombshell: Ellen DeGeneres. DeGeneres has been an unapologetic fan of the show and didn't embarrass herself in her guest shot last season. If you look at Paula as the panelist who was supposed to focus on the celebrity/fame aspect of the music industry (with Randy as craft and Simon as business), DeGeneres is a good pick.

Plus, it's nice to think that DeGeneres helped launch Fox as a network (with her early sitcom, Open House; she may also have been on Duet, I forget) and is now being rewarded with a role on its most important property.
ICK: Noted via Matt Welch, but -- yeah -- this is the worst thing ever written about sports. It may, in fact, be the worst thing ever written.

Edited by Isaac to add: We at ALOTT5MA always have to walk a fine line between reporting vile things and driving traffic to them. It's safe to say that this will be the most read, and therefore in a strange way the most successful, article that Mark Whicker has written. I therefore propose the following compromise: If you click through to see what's so wrong about Whicker's article, why don't you also drop him a line (, with a copy to Register CEO Terry Horne ( and Editor/Publisher Julio Saenz ( Editor Ken Brusic ( to let him know what you think?
"BECAUSE YOU WROTE BRIDE WARS" MIGHT HAVE BEEN MORE ACCEPTABLE: E! is reporting that a major factor in Casey Wilson's departure from SNL is not merely the mixed reviews she got, but that she declined to comply with a production ultimatum that she lose 30 pounds. Of course, probably the funniest thing Wilson did last year was the Mad Men sketch in which she played Joan, a bit made possible by the fact that she's not stick-thin. Wilson also excelled at playing the straight woman to the wackier antics of Kristin Wiig in particular. SNL is at its best when it's got a diversity of talent--right now, its female cast is 4 very skinny girls. (Also, of last season's 22 episodes, only three were hosted by women.) It certainly raises some questions.
LET'S DANCE AGAIN, LIKE WE DID LAST SUMMER: There's always something extremely cute and somehow all-American about stars who are big fans of a particular TV show. Particularly when that show is SYTYCD. Enjoy.

I can't believe it's already time for another season of the dancing. I don't plan to cover the audition episodes regularly, but will post if/when the mood hits me. See you in Vegas.
EACH TO BE PRESENTED WITH A LAUREL, AND HEARTY HANDSHAKE: The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts has announced its honorees for 2009, recognizing lifetime contributions to American culture through the performing arts.

The list begins with one for whom such recognition is long overdue: writer, composer, actor, director, and producer Mel Brooks. Also being honored are pianist/composer Dave Brubeck; opera singer Grace Bumbry; actor, director, and producer Robert De Niro; and some guy named Bruce Springsteen. Past honorees are listed here.
THE WORLD IS WAITING: And we have our 12 teams racing for one million dollars in the latest RaceAroundTheWorld. Interesting pairs include:
  • A team of two female professional poker players.
  • A "self made trial attorney and black belt in karate" and his fiancee, which ring of Rahb and Ambah.
  • Team Harlem Globetrotters.
  • Weezer and Geezer 2.0, this time described as "Gary is a PC, Matt is a Mac."
  • Former Miss America Ericka Dunlap and her husband, the first interracial married couple on the Race.
  • "Married Yoga Teachers."
  • Two brothers who "will tell you that being gay is only one of the many aspects of their lives."
  • Team Asperger's Syndrome.
The race begins on September 27.
APPARENTLY LIV TYLER NEEDS FREE PRESS MORE THAN JEN GARNER DOES: Three episodes into the new season of The Rachel Zoe Project, and it feels like the show has really hit its stride vis-à-vis last year. These first few eps have been really tight -- there's a situation, the situation presents issues needing to be resolved, there's some drama surrounding the resolution, and the issue is resolved. Less of Taylor whining about Brad and more of the clothes and the styling -- these are good developments!

This may just be my own bias, but I am hoping that as the season progresses, we'll get more of the "Liv Tyler needs an everyday wardrobe" stuff. The red carpet dress selection process is fun as far as it goes, but it seems to be more about access to great dresses (not to mention access to designers who are willing to indulge Rachel's whims about possible reworkings) than about exceptional personal styling. I am actually getting more of a kick out of seeing how Rachel styles herself than I am out of seeing her figure out which ballgown Anne Hathaway should wear when she chats with Joan Rivers.

Who's watching?
LORD KNOWS THE COPYRIGHT ISSUES ARE FASCINATING: With little more than a month to burn before the First Monday in October, Slate SCOTUS correspondent Dahlia Lithwick is attempting to write a chick-lit novel in part through crowd-sourcing. Lithwick is an insightful writer on SCOTUS issues who's taking her first real crack at fiction, and this will be an interesting experiment to watch.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

WILL HUNTING'S FATHER IS FINALLY OFF THE HOOK: Is something wrong in your world? Blame can be assigned to the responsible No. 5 at
THROUGH EARLY MORNING FOG I SEE VISIONS OF THE THINGS TO BE: Don't forget to enter the free ALOTT5MA football suicide pool, hosted by ESPN.
Q ON FILM: Quentin Tarantino picks his 20 favorite films of the last 17 years (basically the time period that he has been directing films). His overwhelming choice as his favorite is the Japanese film Battle Royale, which you may know by its American title, Battle Quarter Pounder. Among the various Korean and Japanese films, are more mainstream choices Boogie Nights, Dazed and Confused, Fight Club, Fridays, Lost in Translation, The Insider, The Matrix (despite its sequels), Speed (despite the last 20 minutes after the bus explodes), Team America, and Unbreakable.

PHONY BEATLEMANIA HAS BITTEN THE DUST: The Fab Four -- mono v. stereo v. Rock Band -- do you care? Should we? Might Seth Schiesel be right that "With all due respect to Wii Sports, no video game has ever brought more parents together with their teenage and adult children than The Beatles: Rock Band likely will in the months and years to come"?

added: Klosterman: "It is not easy to categorize the Beatles’ music; more than any other group, their sound can be described as 'Beatlesque.' It’s akin to a combination of Badfinger, Oasis, Corner Shop, and everyother rock band that’s ever existed."

Monday, September 7, 2009

LEAD FELL LIKE A SHOWER AT ELEVEN MILES PER HOUR: Vanity Fair has a terrific piece on the commissioning, writing, and publication of William Manchester's Death of a President, the Kennedy Family-sanctioned history of the events of November 22-25 1963. This may well have been the first grown-up history I ever read. And William Manchester remains one of my favorite historians.

The Kennedy family understood that a book about the assassination would be in the works immediately and chose Mr Manchester in order to both beat others to the punch, but also to be sure that they could give their comments for posterity and be done with it. The sort of access was incredible -- ten hours of interviews with Mrs. Kennedy in the spring of 1964 and no one, save President Johnson (who answered in writing) and Marina Oswald refused to be interviewed -- but also a testament to the Kennedy's family's sense of history and public grace that they did.
GUESS WE KNOW WHO LAUREN CONRAD IS VOTING FOR IN 2012: Now, I don't want to get into any of the political issues associated with President Obama's speech to schools tomorrow, but in looking at the text, one remark seemed worthy of noting here:
I know that sometimes, you get the sense from TV that you can be rich and successful without any hard work -- that your ticket to success is through rapping or basketball or being a reality TV star.
This sentence may well mark the first time that the President of the United States has discussed "rapping" and is almost certainly the first time that the "occupation" of "reality TV star" has been referenced by a President. And really, someone in the White House speechwriting office apparently watches (or is at least aware of) reality TV? Gabba gabba one of us!