Saturday, April 3, 2010

RIPPED FROM THE HEADLINES: Look, I'm all for keeping shows grounded in real situations, but did Law and Order really need to mash up the climate science e-mail dispute, the Goldman/Brazil custody case, and Balloon Boy all into a single episode? (Also, can someone please advise casting agents that attempting to cast Tony Hale as a plotting mastermind isn't going to be terribly effective? As soon as I see him, all I think is Buster Bluth.)
I WANTED TO BECOME THE ARTIST I AM TODAY, AND IT TOOK YEARS: Give NYMag's Vanessa Grigoriadis credit for a pretty damn insightful thinkpiece on how NYC native Stefani Germanotta became Lady Gaga. Excerpt below the fold, which should be enough to tantalize even more than my telling you that you'll get to find out what much-beloved role she had in her high school's musical:

Friday, April 2, 2010

IN ALL OTHER WEEKS, WE DO NOT MENTION JUSTIN BIEBER EVEN ONCE; WHY, IN THIS WEEK, DO I LINK TO PAGES INVOLVING HIM TWICE? In a feature we haven't looked at in four years, The Boston Phoenix again ranks the 100 un-sexiest men of the year. Find out who they think looks like a cross between Stevie Wonder and Mel Brooks, who's "a caramelized monument to syrupy-sweet pseudo-romantic dross," and which singer was described as sounding "like someone has kidnapped Death Cab’s Ben Gibbard, cut off his testicles, and is holding him for ransom in a church basement decorated with rainbows and unicorn."
NOBODY GOES THERE ANYMORE. IT'S TOO CROWDED: Commenter Meghan alerts us to the publication of the newest edition of Restaurants & Institutions Magazine's list of the Top 100 Grossing Independent Restaurants in America, which we managed to discuss last year as well. While fifty of the top 100 are in NYC or Las Vegas, it's impressive to see Philadelphia's Parc debut at #66, one of three local Stephen Starr locations on the list.

In terms of total meals served, DC's Old Ebbitt Grill believes it has topped the titans of Frankenmuth. It also happens to be the only restaurant I know of that prints the scientific nomenclature of its oysters on the menu.
HELLO, ANGELS: ALOTT5MA, with great premorse, announces the death of John Forsythe, aged 92.
IT'S NOT BROKEN; DON'T FIX IT: I am flummoxed as to why -- other than greed for more tv dollars -- anyone would support expanding the NCAA Division I men's basketball championship from 65 teams to 96.

There's simply no competitive justification -- every team that demonstrates during the regular season any possible claim to being the best team in the nation has no problem gaining entry into the field. Disputes over worthy "bubble teams" almost never concern teams which could reach the Final Four (#11 George Mason, a 2006 at-large bid), let alone have a legitimate claim to championship-seeking. This will only further reduce the importance of both the regular season and the conference tournaments, and, really: are you excited about two days of games featuring matchups of the 33rd and 96th best teams in the country, or between 15th and 18th-seeded teams? Is America yearning to see mediocre big-conference teams face off against decent mid-majors lacking pedigree?

The tournament is entertaining because some #2-#4 seeds are vulnerable to some seeded #13-#15 in the opening two days, and yes those games will still happen a round later. But do we really care if an 11 seed is "knocked off" by a team seeded 22nd?
I KNOW I'M FUNNIER THAN DAT PHAN: Season 4 winner Vecepia Towery Robinson is pissed she's never been invited back to a Survivor all-star season.

The Mercury News article notes that she was named #2 on a random website's list of the worst reality tv winners ever (warning: slideshow!), and while they got #1 pretty much right, I have a feeling we might be able to improve upon the list. For instance: what about Project Runway 2's Chloe Dao, TAR 6's Freddy and Kendra, ANTM's Jaslene Gonzalez or, of course, Harlemm Lee? Your turn.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

A BANDY-LEGGED LITTLE TROLL: I feel much the same way about tonight's Survivor that Alan does, but let's go into spoiler mode to discuss.
TWO SEPARATE, YET EQUALLY IMPORTANT ITEMS: I rather suspect our audience cares more that S. Epatha Merkerson will leave Law & Order after 16 years as Lt. Anita van Buren at the end of this season than about rumors that Charlie Sheen wants out of Two And A Half Men. Merkerson has been quietly excellent for years in a pretty thankless role, and while I don't normally like my L&O with a side order of personal life, her cancer storyline has helped reinvigorate the mothership this year (along with the cop pairing finding its footing and the Roache-Waterston relationship)--she'll be missed. As for Sheen, well, I'll let someone who's made it through more than 1 or 2 episodes of Men opine.
IT KINDA, SORTA RHYMES: Your next three hosts for Saturday Night Live will be Fey, Phillippe and Sidibe.

[Trivia question: Prior to Gabourey Sidibe, who was the last African American woman to host Saturday Night Live?]
THERE'S A RIOT GOING ON: The Washington Post compiles some of David Mills' best music writing for the newspaper, including a fascinating profile of Morris Day struggling to figure out where it all fell apart.
ANYTHING THAT'S NOT BIEBER, DIES: Funny Or Die has been taken over today.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

WILL YOU EVER WIN? If you've subscribed to our Tier Theory of Idol -- that so long as The Ones Who Weren't Going To Win go home before The Ones Who Might, it's not worth freaking out over the results -- then there isn't much to say about tonight's Idol results. We did not lose The Next American Idol tonight, and it's not worth crying over the results.
EVEN MORE SHAME-INDUCING THAN HOT TUB TIME MACHINE: Given that The Last Song is based on a Nicholas Sparks novel, it's a pretty safe assumption that someone dies at the end--and Wikipedia saves you the sit-through (assuming they didn't change the ending). See also our previous Nicholas Sparks spoilage.
THIS IS NOT WHAT I WANT, THIS IS NOT WHAT I PLANNED -- AND I JUST GOTTA SAY I DO NOT UNDERSTAND: And the winner of the award for First High School Musical Cast Member To Give Up On Hopes Of Broader Stardom And Agree To Cash In With Another Spinoff is Ashley Tisdale, who'll be starring for the fourth time as Sharpay Evans in "Sharpay's Fabulous Adventure," a made-for-the-Disney-Channel movie on her character's efforts to make it on Broadway. Next stop: DwtS?
DAVID MILLS: We all have been enriched through the years from the work of David Mills, whether through his Undercover Black Man blog (and his occasional commenting here, esp. during Bee season) or his superior television writing -- NYPD Blue, The Wire, The Corner, Homicide: Life on the Street, ER and the upcoming Treme. As Isaac wrote last May when David temporarily shut down the blog to focus on Treme, "A guy who spends a decade writing for some of the best-written shows on television needn't waste his talent and time blogging. It's more important that he generate great stuff that we amateurs can blog about." And yet, soon enough, David was back blogging again, and we'd email back and forth on discoveries of new Misidentified Black People and Giant Negroes in the NYT archives.

So I am stunned and saddened beyond words to have to report that on the eve of Treme's premiere, David has died of brain aneurysm in the city of New Orleans at the age of 48.

Just a few weeks ago, David told the New York Times:
“I’m a fan of TV. I can even watch an episode of ‘Hawaii Five-0’ and appreciate the way it’s constructed to satisfy you. People used to think, It’s HBO; you get to curse; it’s gotta be better. But I wrote for The Washington Post. Just because there are certain words you can’t use in The Post that, say, you can in The Village Voice, does not mean that the writing in The Village Voice is necessarily better than The Post. The liberty you have with HBO has nothing to do with the quality of storytelling. You have to earn it.”

His resume as a storyteller speaks for itself, and we will always have his tv shows and the archives writing to enjoy. Still, what a terrible loss. So, so sad. Alan Sepinwall has much more, calling Mills "the very first friend I made in the TV business, and one of the few for whom I wouldn't have to put quote marks around the word."
YOUR APHASIA STRIKES A BARGAIN WITH THE BARTER YARDIE -- I GOT TO BOX YOU FOR THE MONEY: Here I was, saying the same thing about what I want from Lost all season, and then the last twenty minutes of this thing, I was going, "no, not that, not this way." I can't be pleased, you hear me? But in a good way.

Though I did like the flash-sideways. Everything was well set-up, and we got another nice reintroduction to a tertiary character (who just can't avoid the signature injury, no matter what reality he's in).

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

MASTERPEEPS: As always, the winner and runners-up in the Washington Post's annual Peeps diorama contest are worth your time. Can't quarrel with the top five, though I'm fond of Georgia O'Peep as well.
CALCULUS DOES NOT HAVE TO BE MADE EASY -- IT IS EASY ALREADY: Legendary East L.A. math teacher Jaime Escalante, subject of the excellent biopic Stand and Deliver, has passed away.
HOLD ON. I'M COMING: It's second seder night on American Idol, so let me grab an easy theme:
  • The Wise Children: Crystal Bowersox, for having the best control of phrasing on this show other than, maybe, Melinda Doolittle; Lee Dewyze, for returning to secret-sleeper status with a solid performance; The Outlaw Casey James, for staying in his box and doing it well; Big Mike Lynche, who took an India.Arie song I've never heard before, arranged it interestingly and sold it well; and Andrew Garcia, who delivered his before performance since That One on that wedding procession song. He's not going to win this thing, nor should he, but on its own that was nice.
  • The Simple Children: Katie and Aaron seem totally competent, and neither of these children interest me at all.
  • The Children Who Don't Know How To Improve: Tim Urban, who gets props for reviving Anita Baker's "Sweet Love" but had nothing interesting to do with it; Didi Benami, perhaps appropriately, delivered an unleavened performance. That pile of dough did not rise.
  • The Wicked Child: Oh, Siobhan, you're awesome -- but that was legitimately the worst performance of the night. Sharp, shrieky, wrong. And she'd absolutely deserve Idol Immunity, but they didn't use it for Alexis Grace just one week sooner in the competition last year. Let's hope it doesn't come to that.
For Crystal's performance of "Midnight Train to Georgia," two obligatory links to previous Idol performances: Paris Bennett's precious brilliance, and Gladys Knight with some new Pips.
JUST NOT ROB AND AMBER AGAIN: Buried deep in Daniel Fienberg's amusingly post-Seder recap of a strong episode of Chuck -- much like I'm burying the point of this sentence here -- is a fun game. Fienberg, realizing that he would love to see Chuck's Jeff and Lester on The Amazing Race (Fienberg-suggested chyron: "co-workers/stalkers") muses on other fictional character pairings who he'd be thrilled to watch bald-snarking and killer-fatiguing their way all over the globe.

This is a great exercise. Who would you like to see? Dan and Casey? Kima and Bubbles? Sydney and Sloan? Alf and the Small Wonder robot? Help me out here.

Monday, March 29, 2010

PITCHING MOLLY? In an effort to raise needed funds, the State of New Jersey may start selling naming rights to its legendary Turnpike rest stops. Who will stand up for The Vince?
SEAN HAYES, YOU'VE GOT COMPETITION: In what likely gets ranked as the second-least-surprising Yep, I'm Gay of 2010, once-biggest-singer-in-the-world Ricky Martin wants y'all to know that he is "proud to say that I am a fortunate homosexual man. I am very blessed to be who I am." Poignantly, he writes:
If someone asked me today, "Ricky, what are you afraid of?" I would answer "the blood that runs through the streets of countries at war...child slavery, terrorism... the cynicism of some people in positions of power, the misinterpretation of faith." But fear of my truth? Not at all! On the contrary, It fills me with strength and courage. This is just what I need especially now that I am the father of two beautiful boys that are so full of light and who with their outlook teach me new things every day. To keep living as I did up until today would be to indirectly diminish the glow that my kids where born with. Enough is enough. This has to change.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

CUDDY, YOU'VE GOT SOME 'SPLAINING TO DO: In decidedly unshocking news, a study in the Journal of Medical Ethics indicates that the doctors of Seattle Grace and Princeton Plainsboro hospitals are maybe not conducting themselves ideally. In particularly unshocking news, especially given that the show analyzed Season 2 of Grey's, with the Denny and the LVAD wire plotline, the writers saw 58 incidents of "sexual misconduct" there.
YOU MAKE SURE THAT YOU SAY WHAT YOU ACTUALLY THINK AND WE MAKE SURE THAT WE WRITE WHAT YOU ACTUALLY SAY: Our friend Dan Fienberg on Chloƫ Sevigny, John Mayer, and the art of telling the truth: "Much of my job is conducting interviews and I know the tremendous rush that comes from a subject going off-message. Sometimes you sense they're saying things that might blow up in their faces, but that doesn't really give me an Interviewer's High. What gives me that high is when I can hear that they're thinking about answers, rather than just regurgitating the same old bullet points."
HAILING FROM THE ISLE OF MALTA (REALLY): WWE Hall of Fame inductee "Baron" Mikel Scicluna, your Dead Wrestler of the Month at the age of 80. Here's some vintage footage of him wrestling at the Philadelphia Spectrum. (No, was not the most exciting. Granted.)

Inducted last night to join Scicluna the Hall were the Million Dollar Man, Ted DiBiase (truly, one of the federation's fun heels -- found my favorite promo); Antonio Inoki; Wendi Richter; Maurice "Mad Dog" Vachon; celebrity inductee Bob Uecker and posthumous inductees Gorgeous George and Hart family patriarch Stu Hart, in whose dungeon were trained scores of legendary wrestlers, ranging from his sons Bret and Owen to son-in-law Davey Boy Smith to Jushin Liger, the Honky Tonk Man, Chris Jericho and the guy we don't talk about anymore.

Learn more about the inductees via this link, and whenever I post something nice and nostalgic about the WWE, for balance I ought to link again to the Waxman Committee investigation.
COMPLETING THE SPIT: We just need one more owner to round up our h2h fantasy baseball league to sixteen owners. Details here; draft is Thursday night. Let us know if you're interested.