Saturday, October 23, 2010


* Credit, when I can note it, to SFGate's Peter Hartlaub.
AND SHE CAN'T EVEN DRINK LEGALLY YET: The days of mega-debuts on the Billboard album chart seem over, with the biggest selling opening week this week going to Eminem's Recovery, with just under 750k sold. (In contrast, NSync's No Strings Attached sold nearly 2.5M copies just in its first week.) That said, given the media frenzy (OMG! Which song is about Taylor Lautner?), I could see Taylor Swift's Speak Now, which arrives on Tuesday, opening close to a million. The album will ship double platinum--2M copies, and first single Mine sold nearly 300K digital downloads in its opening week (it's now just over 1.1M downloads), with the title track having accumulated 217K downloads in its opening week despite limited non-country radio play. Fearless opened just under 600K, on its way to over 6M copies sold, so it's not that big of a leap, and between the Grammys, the Kanye incident, and general mainstream pop crossover, I think it's very very possible.
I'M WAITING FOR JOAN'S RESPONSE BOOK: Sterling's Gold, the memoirs and observations of Roger Sterling, will be available at your local bookstore in November.
$206 MILLION JUST DOESN'T BUY WHAT IT USED TO: Congratulations to the New York Yankees, whose historic titanicism epicly clutchstoried their legendy meaningfulness all over the hapless Texas Rangers who won the right to dam up a river of money for Cliff Lee to swim in once he hits free agency in two weeks. Seriously, if one's own team can't win the World Series, is there any better consolation prize than the Red Sox missing the playoffs and the Yankees getting eliminated in a mismatch against a team that a month or two ago was sold in a contested bankruptcy auction? The Yankees should have just bought the Rangers in the auction.

Friday, October 22, 2010

YOU LOOK LIKE YOU COULD USE A COLD ONE: Sure, Hollywood types occasionally swear they will move to Canada under certain political circumstances, but rarely do they actually seek political asylum from Hollywood itself.
HEY, LOOK. I'M SORRY I DRAGGED YOU AWAY FROM WHATEVER GAY-SERIAL-KILLERS-WHO-RIDE-HORSES-AND-LIKE-TO-PLAY-GOLF-TOUCHY-FEELY-PICTURE YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO BE DOING THIS WEEK:  This week's We're Not Calling it Fame Audit Anymore, But It's Totally The Fametracker Fame Audit is of Matt Damon, and while we can discuss the parallels to George Clooney's career (we assume he's smart and making smart choices, and accept that his films don't always make a ton of money but he's unquestionably A Star), there's a broader point about the Star Market that we've before which is worth noting:
Ten years ago, his recent string of low grossers would diminish his power, but today is a different world, where names on a movie poster don't mean what they used to. In the words of an agent, "Maybe he doesn’t guarantee an opening, but he makes a movie a ‘go.’ If you define ‘movie star’ as someone who opens a movie, then there are no movie stars anymore, except maybe Will Smith. But since almost no movie stars are opening movies, the definition of 'star' changes: Nowadays, a movie ‘star’ is someone who gets a movie made, and Damon definitely gets a movie made.” Says a manager, “If you see Matt Damon in a movie, it says, ‘good, classy, intelligent.’ He’s a movie star in that sense.”
Is Will Smith, indeed, the last movie star, or does Seven Pounds (and nothing since) start to knock him out of the running too?  (Sandra Bullock?)
BOBOS ON TELEVISION: Normally, David Brooks' pieces on the op-ed page of the Times are outside the scope of this blog, but when he talks about television, as he does today, it falls squarely within our bailiwick. Part of Brooks' thesis today is that sitcoms in particular have moved away from being "family-based" to shows about "groups of unrelated friends who have the time to lounge around apartments, coffee shops and workplaces exchanging witticisms about each other and the passing scene." Three issues I have with him here:
  • Brooks ignores that the most successful, both critically and commercially, sitcom of the past few years is Modern Family, which is unquestionably a "family-based" sitcom, and the current top-rated sitcom on television is Two And A Half Men, which revolves around an admittedly unorthodox and dysfunctional family unit of its own. (He also overlooks that non-family-based sitcoms have a long and distinguished history--Mary Tyler Moore, M*A*S*H, Taxi, and Cheers all were not family-based, and even Dick Van Dyke had plotlines that were workplace-centric.)
  • Inexplicably, Brooks, citing a Neal Gabler piece from the LA Times, asserts that new sitcoms Better With You and Raising Hope aren't family-based. Better With You is most assuredly about a family unit (mother, father, two adult daughters, and the daughters' romantic partners), and Raising Hope is largely based on a family unit (though has regulars from outside the unit).
  • Brooks cites a lot of shows (past and present) that don't involve traditional family units--Friends, Glee, HIMYM, Big Bang Theory. However, almost every one of those shows is centered around characters who because of geography, family discord, or other reasons, may not have a family in the traditional sense near them, and how the group of friends become a family unit of their own (this is particularly true for Friends and HIMYM, and is perhaps the overriding theme of The Office).
Seems to me David Brooks needs to spend a little more time watching TV.
I DON'T HATE YOU. I LOVE THE FAT ALBERT MOVIES:  From last night's A Night of Too Many Stars, Chris Rock and Tracy Morgan perform "Scarborough Fair" and "Gin and Juice" with the help of a special guest, while Stephen Colbert and Steve Carell debut "The Sully Song".  The telethon was a fundraiser for the New York for Autism, which you can support via this link.
TENSE AND NERVOUS. CAN'T RELAX:  EW is running a 32-person bracket to determine the scariest big-screen psycho killer of all.  They're up to Elite Eight voting today -- Norman Bates v. Michael Myers, and Jack Torrance v. Annie Wilkes.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

THIS WILL NOT REPLACE THE KOZINSKI QUOTE IN THE SIDEBAR:  From today's NYT: "Most of Adam is a deep dark brown; his penis, though, is worn golden from extensive handling.... People touch and pose with Adam’s penis for many reasons. Because it’s unusual. Because it’s funny. Because it’s just the right combination of naughty and not-too-naughty."
THEY SHOULD HAVE LOCKED HIM IN A BATHROOM WITH MIKE TYSON'S TIGER: Mel Gibson's planned cameo in The Hangover 2 has been axed because the cast did not want to work with him.

Credit to Zach Galifianakis --  you can't tell him nothin'.
I'MMMA LET YOU FINISH:Apparently not having learned his lesson, Kanye West has proclaimed that the last few Grammy Albums of the Year didn't deserve the honor, including last year's winner, Taylor Swift. That said, he's at least arguably right on a couple of ones he's singled out as unworthy--Ray Charles' posthumous Genius Loves Company rather inexplicably beat out Usher's Confessions (the last album to go Diamond), American Idiot, and West's own College Dropout, a case can certainly be made for Timberlake to beat the Dixie Chicks, and River: The Joni Letters won in a strange year (Amy Winehouse won pretty much everything else, and the album nominees were pretty weak--Winehouse, Vince Gill, Foo Fighters, and Kanye).
IT DON'T MATTER IF YOU'RE BLACK OR WHITE: As promised, our very own Maret provides us with a taster's eye view of last night's challenge on Top Chef: Just Desserts.

Back in March the marketing department at the LA Times was emailed by our PR department saying there was going to be an LA Times challenge on the forthcoming show Top Chef: Just Desserts and we were all invited to be guests at the challenge that weekend and could invite others if we wanted. Given that the event involved potentially being on TV plus eating a lot of dessert , I would say a good 70% of us signed up. We were given directions to a warehouse where the "party" was being filmed, told to wear nice black and white attire, and showed up, signed a release form, and headed inside.

Once we got inside, we were basically told that we could go station to station in whatever order we wanted, so everyone began making the rounds. Before I watched the episode last night I have to say I couldn't remember all of the desserts. The one I remembered best, was my favorite, and happily the judges agreed with me: Yigit's was amazing. Little factoid - the little lighter chocolate crumbles you saw on top of the cake were Cocoa Krispies. The texture they added was fun and the blackberry compote he made complimented the layers of chocolate really well. It was sweet, but not too sweet, and rich, but not too rich. My next favorite was Eric's (my sister-in-law liked his best) so I was happy both he and Yigit were in the top. As for the rest of the guys, I thought Zac's deep fried whoopee pie was good, but not amazing, and I remember waiting around to get his dessert because he could only deep-fry so many at once, so there was always a bit of a logjam around his station. And while Morgan's was nice to look at, I wasn't all that impressed with its taste, although this many months later I don't remember exactly why (one of my friends says the cake was dry, so maybe the judges got a better batch than we did).

As for the ladies, I remember Danielle's being my least favorite - the 1 in the 128 was far too rich for my tastes, the 2 wasn't light enough, and the 8 just tasted bad. That said, Danielle was really sweet and nice - we talked to her for a while because when the judges were at the station opposite us the producers wanted people in the background, so we stayed and talked to Danielle even after we had eaten the dessert. I don't really remember much about Heather's at all. And I was REALLY surprised to see Erica eliminated - at least because her ice cream was bad. No one I was there with remembers the ice cream tasting like soap - we liked it! So maybe she made two batches, and the judges got the worst of it.

Other behind-the-scenes tidbits: while we mostly had free reign to roam station-to-station, occasionally, as I mentioned, we'd be asked to either stay in one place longer so there were people in the background, or we'd be moved out of line because the judges were going to go to that station.

At one point a friend and I were off to the side eating and noticed the camera aimed directly at us. Our conversation at that moment went something like:
"Shoot. Let's talk more eloquently about the dessert."
"You don't think we'll be featured saying NOM NOM NOM?"
A nice close-up shot from that time was featured, but they didn't interview us. I guess we looked better than we sounded.

We actually tasted more desserts than were on the episode. I'm assuming to prevent blabbermouths like myself from knowing which contestants were legit and spoiling things for others. They had three additional stations and we had no idea they weren't real. I only recall one in detail - because it was a brownie that was supposed to have some sort of whipped topping but the chef ran out of the topping by the time I was there, and I thought she might be eliminated because of that (I thought it would be either her or Danielle.) I don't remember much about the other planted desserts, but my friend remembers one was another, more traditional whoopee pie and the other was some sort of pudding - and that seems about right to me.

As fun as eating a bunch of desserts over the course of an hour or so sounds, it certainly has an effect on your body. At one point I remember we were all talking really fast and were super animated due to the massive sugar rush, and on the way home we all started crashing hard - pretty much everyone I know who was there either got a bad headache or took a long nap after they left - I experienced both.

My biggest disappointment? As soon as I heard "black & white desserts" I was convinced there would be a marshmallow/chocolate combo involved. I love marshmallow and chocolate. And I am still sad no one made me a s'more. But other than the lack of s'more, it was a really fun experience and for the most part, a delicious one.
DUNPHY TOWERS IS FALLING DOWN: We haven't talked about Modern Family in a while, but I wanted to talk a little bit about this season. There's been a lot of funny stuff, but it seems like the writing staff hasn't learned from Season 1 what really makes the show take off--and that's either getting the whole extended family together (as in "Fizbo" or the airport episode) or mixing the family units to give characters a chance to collide off one another who might not otherwise (e.g., Cameron and Jay go to the gym, Gloria and Cameron go out for Latin food, Manny and Claire discuss parenting).

Last night's, like most of the episodes this season, kept the family units largely separate--indeed, the only intersection of the three plots was Mitchell's seeking Claire's counsel about schools. Admittedly, there's some funny stuff within the family units (the "Haley teaches Alex how to be cool" plotline was both funnier and truer than most of the teenage shenanigans over on Glee, for instance), but the show needs to get back to what it does best.
THAT'S WHAT WIVES ARE FOR!  Two farewell-to-Mad-Men-for-now links via Buzzfeed: 13 vintage ads that would be banned today; an incredibly detailed Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce office floor plan.  (On the first link, there's one shockingly NSFW word on one of the ads, but otherwise it's NSF2010 attitudes.)
A MAN THAT MADE WEARING A BANDANA AND SPANDEX BIKER SHORTS IN PUBLIC CREDIBLE BY SHEER FORCE OF PERSONALITY:   Steve Hyden waxes klostermaniacally about Axl Rose, the excesses of Use Your Illusion, and Kurt Cobain in an essay worth your time today. Excerpt below the fold:

¡GIGANTES! : I can't really speak to whether the Giants ought to be beating the Phillies or not (who, after all, were very recently WFC and only needed to put together 11 games and all that), but they are. The Giants are doing everything right and the Phillies, not quite so much. Still plenty of time for those guys to come back -- they are a mighty good team -- but this is turning out to be one hell of a series.

(Confidential to Our North Texas Readership: Come on, Rangers!)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A FEW WORDS ABOUT DIANNA AGRON THAT ARE NOT ABOUT HER IN HER UNDERWEAR: Hey, did you know that she directed a video for her friend Thao Nguyen, of Thao with the Get Down Stay Down, and then premiered it on Oxfam's web site in what I assume was an effort to raise either money for or awareness about, um, poverty and injustice? I hope it raised money, because it didn't actually raise my awareness any. But it was for a good cause, and around here we like both music and charity. Agron also placed second (and first in fundraising) in a celebrity spelling bee that included John Krasinski, Dave Eggers, Spike Jonze, and Jimmy Kimmel (only one of whom I have seen in his underwear), for the benefit of 826LA, the LA outpost of Eggers's arts-and-writing charity. We like spelling here. And, as I mentioned in April, she can sing a little (though, frankly, I prefer Thao's voice). Music again! Why, that Agron character seems almost like an actual grown woman, with thoughts and ambitions and talents and stuff.
CLEARLY, IN THE PHOTOS, THERE WAS NO DIRECTION TO "PULL YOUR KNEES IN TIGHT:" After it briefly leaked on to YouTube yesterday, Fox has put up the entire "Time Warp" number from next week's Glee on Hulu. Interesting in that it's a group number where Lea Michele doesn't get a solo, but a number of other folks do, including Jenna Ushkowitz and Dianna Agron (as well as a surprisingly non-processed-sounding Cory Monteith). Also, while a lot of the costuming is right on, one major RHPS character seems absent, or at least substantially over-dressed.

On the flip side, Monteith, Michele, and Agron have a shoot for GQ where the ladies at least are far from over-dressed, which the Parents Television Council has already denounced. I'm wondering if the choice as to which actress would wear less was the choice of the magazine or whether the more-clad actress put her foot down about doing underwear shoots. I kind of expect it was the latter, and credit to her if that's the case.
AND HE SMELLS LIKE STRAWBERRIES: Michael Cieply of the NYT wonders why it's been so long since a movie line became ubiquitous in our culture like the ones on the American Film Institute's Top 100 Movie Quotes list.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

SO YOU WERE PRE-MED, AND GOT A 'C' IN ORGANIC CHEMISTRY?  Tonight's The Good Wife was mostly about shining a flashlight at a lot of tunnels we won't necessarily explore until weeks from now, plus an unexpected Ashcroft's hospital bed allusion and more production from a bat than what the Phillies displayed today, so instead let's focus on the real practice of law, via Gretchen and others:

HOW I MET YOUR UNPLANNED MOTHERHOOD: I just thought that it was kind of funny that there was one actress who appeared on both How I Met Your Mother and House last night, and it wasn't Jennifer Morrison. Who was it?
MR. C:  Tom Bosley, beloved by so many in my generation as TV's Howard Cunningham on "Happy Days," has passed away. I can think of no better clip to remember him by than his last words on the show, this fourth-wall acknowledging toast at Joanie and Chachi's wedding:

Added: Linda Holmes, who has clips: "Very often, sitcoms offer fathers who are either loving but slightly remote and intimidating (like Ward Cleaver) or lovable but bumbling (like Tim Taylor on Home Improvement). Happy Days offered up Howard Cunningham, who genuinely fell somewhere in between.... Howard wasn't a guy who brought a briefcase home and wore a suit; he owned a hardware store. But although he could certainly be silly (the show got no end of jokes from his Leopard Lodge membership and the dream of becoming Grand Poobah), he wasn't a goof. He was a good dad and a good guy, and he loved his kids warmly and with humor."
YOU SAY HELLO, I SAY ZUMBYE: According to the Washington Post, a capella singers are now considered "cool" on college campuses.

Related: this week's eliminated Racers speak.
NEW IS NOT ALWAYS BETTER:  I do not want Dr. Cameron to be The Mother, and last night's episode neither wants me to see more of her nor the show in general.  As competent and enjoyable-if-not-overwhelming as last week's subway race was, this wasn't, and my incipient prudishness does not need to hear the phrase "small penis" repeated that many times in the 8:00 hour.  Seriously, if you're going to use the word that much, do it right.
YET AGAIN, HUSKER DU'S GREG NORTON REMAINS THE SUSAN LUCCI OF THESE AWARDS: Voting is open for the American Mustache Institute's 2010 Robert Goulet Memorial Mustached** American of the Year Award, "the person who best-represents or contributes to the Mustached American community over the past year." Finalists include Twins pitcher Carl Pavano, noted voicemail leaver Pat O'Brien, documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock and the candidate whom I urge you to support early and often, two-time Pulitzer Prize winning writer Gene Weingarten -- the man who is to features writing what Daniel Day-Lewis is to acting.

Last year's winner was Diamondback reliever Clay Zavada, beating out Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger and others,  accepting the award in person at Stache Bash 2009.  And if you plan to attend this year, note that the official guidance states: "Mustaches should be worn at the individual's own risk, and AMI is not responsible for mustaches that make men look like child molesters or Dave Navarro. Wearing a 'Dictator' mustache may lead to repeated beatings. ... If your mustache causes you to have an erection for more than four hours, seek immediate attention from a doctor, spouse, girlfriend, or Dave Navarro. In extremely rare cases, mustaches may cause significant decreases in sexual activity, friendships, and approval by society at large. Unibrows, commonly referred to as 'forehead mustaches,' are not recognized by AMI."

** ALOTT5MA Style Guide says "Mustachioed" is the preferred term.

Monday, October 18, 2010

LET'S DO THE TIME WARP AGAIN: What are your feelings about a Rocky Horror Picture Show remake from Ryan Murphy, and who do you think needs to play key roles? Suggestions of Matthew Morrison as Brad will be greeted with appropriate derision. Cf. pics from next week's Rocky Horror Glee Show episode, with Chris Colfer making an excellent-looking Riff Raff.
WHAT HATH THE FCC WROUGHT? At least here in New York, I've lately been getting bombarded by ads reminding us that our local CW affiliate is airing syndicated repeats of Curb Your Enthusiasm and Entourage in late night slots. I haven't watched, but I assume that both have been cut to meet non-pay-cable standards, removing profanity, nudity, drug use, etc., as well as to fit a commercial-sponsored timeslot. For Curb, it's easy to see how you do it. It's an adult show, to be sure, but most of that is in the easily redubbable language (though it's tough to cut down stuff to fit a network timeslot and leave the complicated plots intact). With Entourage, on the other hand, it seems to have a hard enough time finding a half hour of content even with gratuitous nudity, sex, and profanity. You cut all that out, and you're left with, what, 15 minutes of usable content? There's little enough reason to watch pay cable Entourage--is there any reason at all to watch a sanitized version?
SHUT THE DOOR, HAVE A GLASS:  So who is Don Draper?  Jim Poniewozik says he chose between two versions of himself while Alan Sepinwall keys on Henry Francis' line about the impossibility of "fresh starts."

I'd rather talk about Peggy's place in all this.

A FINE LINE: Happiness is discovering that there is a fourth installment to the Tremors franchise. (Special thanks to Michael Gross for his dedication to the role of Burt Gummer down the years.) Madness is watching it on Telemundo when one's facility with the Spanish language barely extends beyond the boundaries of a taqueria menu.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

TRAIPSING THROUGH THE EXHIBIT HALL: The National Museum of American Jewish History is set to move from its tiny digs at a Center City synagogue to a striking new structure on Independence Mall, joining Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell and the National Constitution Center at this central tourist location. But will it be open on Shabbat? The Philadelphia Inquirer's Michael Klein explains the solution the board of directors reached.