Saturday, December 5, 2009
- Correction of the Year nominee -- WaPo, Thursday: "A Nov. 26 article in the District edition of Local Living incorrectly said a Public Enemy song declared 9/11 a joke. The song refers to 911, the emergency phone number."
- Dead Wrestler of the Month: That would be Eddie Fatu, who wrestled for the WWE under the name Umaga, dead of a heart attack yesterday at 36. But don't blame Vince! The WWE's terse press release makes sure you know they fired him earlier this year for failing to go to rehab, having previously suspended Fatu and nine colleagues in 2007 for steroid abuse. Fatu was a member of the fabled Anoa'i/Fatu wrestling clan from Samoa, including his uncles Afa and Sika (the Wild Samoans), older brother Rikishi and cousins Dwayne "the Rock" Johnson and the late Yokozuna.
The ceremony will be held Sunday night, and air on CBS sometime towards the end of the year. Last year's honorees were profiled here.
Wednesday's episode (which I just watched tonight) was sublime. It's interesting, though, that it was sublime in a manner different from the way the show was sublime in its first superlative season. Back then, the show reserved its showy dramatics and grand speeches for the football scenes -- the part of the show's world that was self-conscious spectacle -- and told the off-field personal stories with smaller gestures, quieter words, and less polish. Even when hell was breaking loose, as in my favorite FNL scene, when Tyra's mom confronted Buddy Garrity coming out of church, it was the look that passed between Tyra and Lyla, and not any of the commotion, that carried the freight.
That was not the style of Wednesday's episode, in which a character struggles with something while everybody else tries ineffectually to help. This episode was not about wordless glances. People opened their mouths and spilled; they emoted; they made speeches. The show was pushing every button. It made no apologies, though, and it needed none, because, oof, the buttons it pushed were the right ones.
One other thing, and this one is a minor plot spoiler, so STOP READING. You'd have to be pretty dense not to suspect, at least, where Tim and Becky are headed, but I'm going to regret it when they get there. Becky is really growing on me as a tragic-spunky Tyra replacement, and broken and self-destructive (but loyal and devoted) Tim Riggins as accidental surrogate dad, something that could build on all the maturing Tim did since his relationship with Tyra 1.0, is one of the most intriguing things the show has done. I am not anxious for it to end.
Friday, December 4, 2009
Thursday, December 3, 2009
ETA: Missed the Onion's list of 25 orphans and personal favorites, which includes such worthy films as 40 Year Old Virgin, Idiocracy, Far From Heaven and Sideways.
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
I don't much care whether this is good for the team -- in fact, I hope it doesn't improve them enough to launch the 76ers into playoff contention. (We need the lottery picks. Several of them.) I just want to care about professional basketball in Philadelphia again, and signing Allen Iverson and giving him a chance for a dignified exit from he sport he loves accomplishes that. Like NBC's Treasure Hunters or the Star Wars Christmas Special (HT: Isaac), it's okay for something to suck as long as it sucks in interesting ways.
- Best Actress/Comedy features nominees Sandra Bullock for The Proposal and Katherine Heigl for The Ugly Truth.
- Emily Blunt is a double nominee--Lead Actress/Drama for Young Victoria and Supporting Actress for Sunshine Cleaning.
- Zach Galifinakis is snubbed, but Bradley Cooper is in for The Hangover.
- Big love for The Stoning of Soraya M.
- Nary a nomination for House (not even Laurie!), but The Good Wife gets into the Best Drama race, and both Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic are nominated for acting on Castle.
- Glee gets 4 acting nominations--Morrison and Michele as leads, Colfer and Lynch as supporting preformers, plus a best comedy series nomination. Modern Family? Sole nomination goes to Julie Bowen as leading actress.
Although Scrubs debuted nine years ago, it aged in the strangest possible way. While it suffered from the familiarity and repetition problems that plague old shows, the way that NBC (and then ABC) constantly yanked it around and the maturing of its central conceit (newbie doctors aging into experienced veterans) also gave it a constant foal-finding-its-legs feel. It was both immature and decrepit, but still amusing and a little bit disarming.
Which kind of summarizes its return last night. It was jarring that the reboot -- a cast and setting change that seems a sensible, if incomplete, response to repetitiveness issues -- started with the same characters to whom the show had just said an emotional goodbye a few months ago. I understand why Bill Lawrence wants to give us a soft transition, but opening with ten solid minutes of Scrubs's Greatest Hits seemed very strange.
As for the new cast, who presumably will gradually push aside the old cast, I find them all very likable, and suitably promising. I particularly like that they didn't just try to replicate the same characters with whom they started the show. I have three issues with them, though: (1) what made this show (and its mopier analogue, Grey's Anatomy) work in the first place was the instant chemistry and camaraderie between the new interns. There was little interaction among the med students, and no positive interaction, so I hope the show really works on this. (2) I think they missed an opportunity to carry over some of the last class of reboot candidates -- Aziz Ansari is well used elsewhere, but it would be nice to have Sunny, the large Asian guy, and the dork with the Coke-bottle glasses (okay to lose the Elliot-alike) as recurring characters (and Keith Dudemeister -- the show needs Keith back). (3) Counting Denise/Jo, the new characters are three hot skinny blondes and two cocky pretty boys with Twilight hair. I was under the impression that some med schools now allow Asians, South Asians, Jews, and non-underwear-models to matriculate.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
He talks a good deal about the live shows, but the quote I want to highlight regards his prolificacy relative to thirty years ago, when it took three years to get from Born to Run to Darkness on the Edge of Town: "Looking back, I was very interested in shaping what I was about and who what I wanted to be. For every record we released, there was a record I didn't release. I was very cautious and wanted my records to have very strong identities and be about a very particular thing. The nice thing about where we are now is that the rules are much fewer and further between. I had this huge folk band that I toured and recorded with, and that was a wonderful experience. I toured solo and I loved that, and I have the E Street band at full power. I can do all these things now and really record whatever kind of music comes into my mind. Who you are and what you do is already established, so you don't have those identity concerns that you had back in the day."
Monday, November 30, 2009
Reality tv, I think, contains two big categories -- competitions and observational shows.
Competition: there's some kind of artificial situation that's been constructed with a set of rules that usually leads to some kind of elimination and the declaration of a winner within a finite period of time. (In that sense, we don't include a show like HBO's Hard Knocks -- it's a documentary about an aspect of real life that happens to function like reality tv, only the same competition would have happened even had no cameras been there.)
And within that, there's the win-a-job shows (Idol, Top Model, Top Chef, ESPN's Dream Job), the win-money-by-playing-the-rules shows (Survivor, Race, the Mole), and the love-seeking shows (Bachelor, Bachelorettes in Alaska, etc.) Every episode usually features some type of merit-testing challenge. For each subgenre, there's a further split in terms of how eliminations are determined -- by the rules/structure of the competition itself (Race, Mole), by the choices of the competitors against each other (Survivor, Big Brother after the first season or two), by judges or some other non-competing decisionmaker (Top Chef, Apprentice, the dating shows) or by the public (Idol). These are the shows which interest me.
Observational: in situations that vary in their level of contrivance and authenticity, we're just watching people in a documentary-like format, with no real goal or end. Ranges from Osbournes/Hills/Real Housewives to Hard Knocks and MTV's sadly-forgotten Sorority Life on the continuum of authenticity, the latter two of which were actual competitions which happened to be filmed.
What makes a great reality tv show: Watching the choices that people make under pressure, and the skill of editors (and competitors-as-narrators -- see Hatch, Richard) to help us understand these choices. The flipside of this is that shows don't work when the editorial manipulation feels excessive -- that the decisions of producers override the merits of the competitors (think: Uchenna and Joyce's magical jetway), or the narrative otherwise makes no sense. The challenges need to seem like some fair test of the competitors' abilities, and hopefully the ending is one that is both justified by what we've seen and is emotionally satisfactory. (The Flo Rule.)
Things you can look forward to: more praise of Richard Hatch; significant disputes over whether Ian on the buoys was dumber than Colby choosing Tina; reminders of the awesomeness (truly) of Joe Millionaire; and someone's going to bring up Paradise Hotel. Be patient -- we've got a lot to write.
All that is beyond what I'm going to discuss, other than to say that while the movie is noble in its intentions it does not claim that easy answers exist. The acting is superb throughout; Lee Daniels' direction is showy, but the mix of gritty realism with lyricism and fantasy is necessary to give the audience any space to breathe. I'm not sure if it's a great movie, but it is a necessary and important one, taking me back to my 1995-97 law school work with women like Precious, making me wonder what's stopping me from finding opportunities to use my talents on their behalves again.
I'm sure the subject matter might be holding you back from seeing this movie. See this movie.
[I do feel bad for Gabourey Sidibe, though: she's phenomenal in this, creating a credible person in Precious when she could have been a walking cliche, but like former Academy Award nominee Jaye Davidson before her I just worry that there will never be another major role specifically geared for her like this again. But thank goodness they found her for this.]
Sunday, November 29, 2009
As to that decision: there are 120 ways to arrange five letters. Assuming even two minutes per attempt, it's not worth the four hour penalty no matter how frustrated you are.
added: HitFix's Myles McNutt calls it "unquestionably the dumbest decision in Race history"; I'd put Heather and Eve's taxi ride ahead of it as well as Team Guido's "slow Forward," and expect to remember others sooner or later.
more! Flight Time and Big Easy speak with EW:
EW: Flight Time, no anger that Big Easy botched that task?
Flight Time: We had a plan going into the race that we would each do six of the road blocks. I had kept notes from the race because we thought the last challenge would be a memory thing. So we had each done 5 road blocks and I was planning to do the last one so he had to do this one. But there are no regrets.