Saturday, September 11, 2004

BIGGEST COMPLAINT? GENERAL LACK OF A********G: Ana Marie Cox branches off from her day job with this book review of Kristin Gore's "Sammy's Hill," which I finished on Friday. I liked the book better than she did, finding the excess of quirkiness and wonkiness appealing rather than a turn-off, but Ana Marie's snark shines through, even if she doesn't get to use her favorite word.
THE DUDE ABIDES, AND HE ALSO CAMPAIGNS: Yes, it's the endorsement you've been waiting for. Jeff Dowd, the man on whom Joel and Ethan Coen based "The Dude" in "The Big Lebowski," has strongly endorsed John Kerry. Apparently, Kerry gave him a bearskin rug that really helped to hold the room together. This looks to be almost as helpful as Ashton Kutcher's endorsement of John Edwards.

Friday, September 10, 2004

ANNOUNCERS WORKING OVERTIME: The guys calling tonight's big Miami-Florida State game will have their work cut out for them according to this list of great first names culled from the teams' rosters by Ben over at Snap Culture. While you have to love Craphonso Thorpe on the FSU side, with a Lovon, Quadtrine, Sinorice, and Calais, Miami wins the Name Game, at least.
WELL, BETTER THAN THAT SILLY BOCHCO SHOW: Well, apparently, New York is now "five minutes ago," and Philly is "in." It starts with The Real World: Philadelphia, with its inexplicable 70s logo saying "Philadelphia" in a font reminiscent of something you might see on a Funk Brothers album circa 1972. I hven't watched, but if we're lucky, they'll wreck as much havoc as their predecessors have. More frighteningly, there's news of a planned reality show following reporters for the "Inquirer." Yes, cameras following folks on their trips to Pat's and Geno's will make for fascinating TV every time, as we learned in 2000. And while I have no opinion between Pat's and Geno's (having never visited either), I'm a firm believer that the provolone is preferable to the Cheez Whiz.

Thursday, September 9, 2004

"MY PENIS IS GROWING EVERY SECOND:" So what important lessons did we learn from Donald Trump's alleged televised MBA this week? Red pants look good on no one, especially when accompanied by spats. Canes are not a particularly appropriate fashion accessory. Raj may, in fact, be the new Sam. Choosing a "fruity-tooty" name for your company will not endear yourself to the Donald. Just because a product name rhymes does not make it a good idea. Carolyn Kepcher still rules. Yep, "The Apprentice" is back, and it still doesn't suck.

More shockingly, neither does "Joey," though I suspect LeBlanc's "so, so stupid" routine will wear thin quickly, and the supporting cast isn't nearly as sharp as the one Kelsey Grammer benefited from on "Frasier." Anything that gets Jennifer Coolidge on TV sets, though, is A-OK with me, and Drea De Matteo is showing something of a gift for comedy. I'm worried about the "sexy neighbor" character, though, given that she's helplessly generic thus far.
BETTER THAN TALKING ABOUT "MAN ON DOG" WITH RICK SANTORUM: Sen. Joe Lieberman, best known for making Al Gore seem like a whirling cyclone of charisma four years ago and for coining the unfortunate phrase "Joe-mentum" during his unsuccessful presidential campaign earlier this year, paid his own tribute to his state's own ESPN yesterday in a speech that concluded: “I think the most fitting one-word tribute I can use to close a celebration on the Senate floor of ESPN's first great 25 years is to say simply and enthusiastically: Booyah.” Booyah, indeed, Mr. Lieberman.
RES IPSA LOQUITOR: A scheduling highlight from Philadelphia Live Arts Festival & Philly Fringe Festival:
Wally Joyner Was Not My Monkey
In 1986, Wally Joyner was a phenomenon, clubbing 22 home runs and leading the California Angels to within an inch of the World Series. The same year, Courtney Love narrowly missed landing the role of Nancy Spungen (she instead scored a bit part) in Sid and Nancy. Both of these tragic figures missed greatness at the outset of their careers and sputtered in mediocrity ever after. If only they'd had each other to lean on. See what could have been in "Wally Joyner Was Not My Monkey," a display of low-budget, Punch and Judy-style puppetry where Courtney falls in and out of love with Wally.
Sept. 17, midnight; Sept. 18, 7:30 p.m. and midnight; free, Upstairs at Tattooed Mom's, 530 South St., 30 min.

Up next: Mike Witt meets Apollonia.

Wednesday, September 8, 2004

GUESS THEY DON'T LIKE POLKA MUCH: Really, does anything more need to be said about this than the headline--"Weird Al" Yankovic Attacked by Green Moths?
YET ANOTHER THING FOR LYNNE TRUSS TO GET ALL HOT AND BOTHERED ABOUT: Since Adam's taking a break from his usual sports beat, guess I'll fill in for a moment. This article about how new Red Sox shortstop Orlando Cabrera is dealing with replacing the beloved No-mah is interesting enough as it is, but what drew my attention to it is the headline: "Red Sox' New Shortstop Fits Like a Glove" Perhaps it's just me, but shouldn't there be an "s" after that apostrophe? Obviously, it's not a common rule of grammar (since there are very few plurals that are properly formed ending in an "x"), but wouldn't the proper form be "Red Sox's New Shortstop Fits Like a Glove?" Maddening, to be sure.

Tuesday, September 7, 2004

HERE'S TO SHUTTING UP: And with that, I am going to be taking a break from posting for a while.

There's fifty-six days to go in this campaign, and between that and other obligations, I need to step away from any formal involvement in this place for the time being.

Between Matt, Alex, Isaac, Phil and Kingsley, you all will be in very good hands.

I wish you well, and I'll see you soon.
NEW ZEALANDERS USE THIS FOR, WELL, CHEAP THRILLS: The Lord can help you dig through mud. In a choice between slow-but-safe and quick-but-dangerous, always take the latter. Zorbs bounce. And, um, Chip?

It's a race! Hello!

All this and more (less?) in an episode deceptively edited to feel close, but, really, there wasn't that much teams could do to separate themselves other than choose the right detour task -- at least, that's what the change in lighting at the end suggested. But, really, how do you do a leg in New Zealand and not ask the teams to return the one true ring to Morrrrdor?

NEXT, JOHN WOO AND MOLLY SHANNON TO TEAM UP ON SITCOM: My TiVo managed to make the suffering that was "SNL: The Best of Cheri Oteri" much briefer. Sure, Oteri had her bright moments (in particular, her Barbara Walters impression), but so much of what she did on the show was the exact same thing--"I'm shrill, I'm angry, and I'm going to shout at you!" or the slight variant "I'm going to yell loudly and behave in a sexually inappropriate manner!" So today's announcement that she'll be teaming up with "Alias," "Felicity," and "Lost" creator J.J. Abrams for a sitcom leaves the mind boggling. That said, Abrams has a remarkable facility with casting choices. After seeing an episode of "The Office," could you picture Ricky Gervais' David Brent as an IRA bomb wizard? I couldn't either, but Abrams made it work. Motormouth director Quentin Tarantino as a jaded secret agent? Abrams made it work. Vivica A. Fox actually, y'know, acting? Abrams made it work. I have my doubts, but we'll wait and see.
WHAT IS 'OVER'? Our wait for new Ken Jennings appearances on Jeopardy!

Monday, September 6, 2004

THIS LIFE HAS BEEN A TEST: As we head toward the fall TV season, it's time to look back for a moment to ten years ago. Ten years ago, around this time, what turned out to be probably the two most influential TV shows of the past 10 year premiered. What happened to them at the time couldn't have been more different. One left the air after a mere 19 episodes. The other finally left the air this spring amidst of storm of memories and has spawned a spinoff. One is available on multiple channels in syndication, multiple times a day--the other, only on a relatively obscure high-tier digital cable channel from time to time.

The first is, of course, "Friends." Remember that at the time "Friends" premiered, "Cheers" had recently left the air, and pundits were proclaiming the death of the sitcom. Yet out of a cast of relative unknowns with one washout, the creators managed to create a critical and commercial success for a new era. The show spawned a hit theme song, and at least one thriving movie career. Every sitcom after "Friends" takes something from it. Without "Friends," there could be no "Sex and the City," for instance. Yes, the show, especially in its later seasons, grew tiresome with the incessant Ross and Rachel tango, and ever increasingly ludicrous plot twists like the "Rachel is pregnant, who's the daddy" storyline. Nonetheless, in terms of influence, there hasn't been a more copied sitcom since "Cheers," and perhaps ever.

The second is the beloved-round-these-parts "My So-Called Life." "MSCL" was, pretty much without question, the most brutal, honest, and real story of adolescence ever. I was in my senior year of high school when "MSCL" debuted, and for the first time, had a show that I really related to (mostly to dorky best friend Brian Krakow, but to other characters too). The youthful characters and the adult characters were all beautifully drawn, even if they often didn't understand each other. My parents had had "thirtysomething." I had this. I leave it to those more eloquent than I to explain its greatness (this week's "EW" has a nice piece), but watch one episode, and you'll understand.

As for the influence? Leaving aside the fact that it served as the launching ground for Claire Danes and Jared Leto's movie careers, a substantial achievement in and of itself, "MSCL" can be credited (both for good and ill) with the creation of the WB network and the willingness of networks to try to do serious and creative things for teenagers. Without "MSCL," there would be no "Buffy," no "Freaks and Geeks," no "O.C." Now, none of those shows, at least in my view, reaches the heights that "MSCL" did, even if only in 19 episodes, but the influence is undeniable.

In a decidedly unexciting fall season, where the most-hyped shows involve a computer-animated family of lions, Jason Alexander trying to break the "Seinfeld curse" (and apparently failing again), and "Wife Swap," let's remember 10 years ago, and hope that maybe one of those lesser-seen shows will be what those two were.

Sunday, September 5, 2004

NEXT UP, "JANE EYRE" SET IN THE AFRICAN BUSH: After my trip this afternoon to see Mira Nair's very pretty but somewhat narratively incoherent "Vanity Fair", with an utterly inexplicable Bollywood dance sequence led by a visibly pregnant Reese Witherspoon, I wandered through the IMDB. Did you know there's a Mormon version of "Pride and Prejudice?" A forthcoming full-scale Bollywood version of "Pride and Prejudice?" Even more inexplicably, Alexis Bledel is apparently appearing in that last one. Any other bizarre influences in literary adaptations are welcome for discussion.

On an unrelated note, can someone (anyone) explain to me why there were piles of "Passion of the Christ" DVDs available for purchase at Toys R Us in Times Square? I haven't seen the film, but by all accounts, it's very much not suitable for childrens' viewing.