Friday, January 7, 2005

GUESS THIS MEANS "THE TRAMPOLINE BEAR SHOW" IS OFF THE SCHEDULE: The Baltimore Sun (reg. required, bugmenot) picks up where Kornheiser and Wilbon left off in a brief "PTI" segment yesterday with this question--should ESPN eliminate their own "shout shows" in response to CNN's elimination of "Crossfire?" I'm perfectly fine with losing "Around The Horn" and "The Sports Reporters," but please, let's not lump "PTI," a sports news and debate show lively enough for even a non-sports-fan like myself to enjoy, in with those. I will note that "PTI" demonstrates the importance of host choice in this sort of show--the show is almost incapable of functioning without the Kornheiser/Wilbon duo both present, something producers seem to have picked up on in recent months, rarely using substitutes but instead arranging for remotes for the travelling half of the pair or just not having a show.

Thursday, January 6, 2005

PLEASE, LET THIS BLOG BE "IN:" For those of you, like I, a bit frustrated that this season of TAR is (especially after this week) short on the "likeable," it's not time to abandon TAR (Jonathan's eventual and assured comeuppance is reason enough to keep watching), but it's time to add Project Runway to your viewing schedule (if it isn't already). The early process has eliminated most of the truly egregious and uninteresting candidates, and many truly likeable contestants remain, including Austin Scarlett, possibly the only man who can make Carson Kressley seem straight, Nora, who stands a decent shot at becoming this show's Omarosa, and Wendy, the mother hen of the group, and one of my favorite reality contestants in a long time. Aside from some overly blatant product placements ("Cotton is the official fabric of 'Project Runway'") and an oddball show ending disclaimer that notes that producers and Bravo had input into elimination decisions rather than straight scores determining it (a fact that may have saved Nora and/or Austin this week), it's well worth the TiVo, even with Wednesday nights already being a TiVo overload for me (the "Alias"/"West Wing" conflict is killing me--I watched "West Wing" on one TV while TiVoing "Alias" on the other).
TRADING UP? For those of you who might care, previously announced January 15 "SNL" hostess Jennifer Garner has dropped out due to illness. Her replacement? "That 70's Show" star Topher Grace. IMHO, Grace is a seriously underrated actor, whose goofy charm is one of the few things that's made "70's Show" watchable, who's shown nice chops for self-parody in "Ocean's 11" and "Ocean's 12," and who actually can act as demonstrated in "Traffic." Will be interesting to see how the last-minute switch works, especially since "SNL" isn't going with one of their standard stable of last second hosts (John Goodman, Alec Baldwin, or Tom Hanks).

Wednesday, January 5, 2005

BUT WHAT HE REALLY WANTS TO DO IS DIRECT: Now, we already knew that Brad Whitford is a damn fine actor, but tonight's nearly note-perfect episode of West Wing (which marked Whitford's writing debut) demonstrates that he's as good a writer as he is an actor--writing great dialogue and scenes not just for his character, but for almost every other character on the show. If Brad's not staying with the show, can we at least get him to write for it?
KEEPING IT REAL: January is here, and with it, a new slate of reality competition programming -- The Will, Project Runway (love it), the Missy Elliot thing, a Bachelorette without a California mansion, questionable changes afoot on American Idol, and, perhaps most anticipated of all, Who Wants To Be The New Martha?, debuting this Thursday in the Survivor slot, which the NYT's Alessandra Stanley just plain lurves.

So, what are you looking forward to?
DANIEL MENAKER IS A DIRTY OLD MAN WHO WANTS TO BEFRIEND THE 'GENEROUS MOUTH' OF NELLIE MCKAY: It's barely even the subtext of Menaker's profile of pop singer McKay in Sunday's NYT Magazine, which is much more about How I, Daniel Menaker, Have Figured Out The Real Nellie McKay much more than it is about, y'know, McKay herself.

While most of the article was merely solipsistic and goofy, one parenthetical floored me:
She is related to Dylan Thomas -- as some press releases say -- or, according to Thomas's daughter, Aeronwy Thomas, she isn't. (Well, we're all descended from one guy in the Caucasus 50,000 years ago.)

Now, I'm no anthropologist, but who's this "we" he's referring to, kemo sabe? Aren't there millions of Americans -- many of whom also read the New York Times on Sundays -- who are not descended from the Caucasus Mountains?
NEVE'S CAMEL TOE: If you, like me, were feeling a little fatigued by the bevy of best of 2004 lists over the last month, then perhaps the Top 20 Nude Scenes of 2004 will cure what ails you. (Unless you work somewhere where they don't frown upon you gazing at still shots of starlets in various form of undress or you are planning on quitting anyway, you may want to wait until you get home tonight to click on that link.) Among the notables this year are several actresses I am guessing that many of the readers here have been curious--from a strictly clinical standpoint--to see butt nekkid, including Natalie Portman, Claire Daines, and Neve Campbell. Sadly, those three make the list based more on the novelty of their nudity than on quantity/quality, but there are plenty of others here for you to cut and paste straight into your Netflix cue.
NEXT UP, IT'S COMING TO YOUR TELEVISION SCREEN: While joining the American Constitution Society this afternoon, I noticed that they offer this interesting service. Yes, it's "The Constitution for iPod." So as you're singing along to "Float On," you can also contemplate the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment with the text right in front of you. No word on whether the Constitution will come bundled with future iPods, along with a selection of fine music to accompany thoughts of the Constitution (heavy on the 2Live Crew, of course).
EVEL KNIEVEL IS A PIMP: Well, not really, but if my keen legal mind reads this decision this decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals correctly, I have the right to call the famed daredevil such as long as it's understood by you, dear readers, that I don't mean to imply by the nature of this blog that he actually is trafficking prostitutes.

Link via How Appealing.

Tuesday, January 4, 2005

"I MISS AOL:" Well, in spite of exceedingly blatant product placement, an excess of game changing bunching, an overly "Fear Factor"-esque food challenge and Fast Forward, yet another solid episode of the Race, made even more awesome by one of the most enthusiastic local greeters we've seen in ages. A few questions--how should the "fruit basket turnover" that took place at the first task of the morning been handled? How big a lead did that FF give the team who took it? Is anyone (and I mean anyone) still willing to defend Jonathan? Saying more is a spoiler, so I'll leave that to you in the comments.
BUT JUST LOOK AT THE PRETTY: So what do Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera and The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou have in common (aside from the fact that I've seen them both in the past few days? Their awards-deservingness. Both are muddled messes of a story--POTO due to godawful diction from many of the singers as well as the Lloyd Webber tendency toward bombast and inanity, and Life Aquatic due to enfant terrible Wes Anderson trying to grow up too fast and tell a story about whether it's better to burn out than fade away--but both deserve Oscars for the astounding technical work involved.

POTO is the more "Oscar traditional" film--a period piece with massive sets, over the top costumes, and much bosom being heaved. I can understand why Dave Poland said in late November after seeing the movie, but before the advent of Million Dollar Baby and the end-of-year critical awards-gushing for Sideways and Eternal Sunshine, that it was a likely front-runner for best picture. It's old-fashioned and pretty to look at, which has proven to be a winning best picture formula in the past, even when the movie's not that good. The problem? A ludicrous love triangle that might well have worked well on stage (I've never seen the stage show), with the problems amplified by the fact that Emmy Rossum generates no chemistry whatsoever with her "true love" Patrick Wilson (though Rossum's bosom heaves appealingly throughout). Rossum and Gerard Butler (as the Phantom) sing solidly enough throughout, though Rossum's trilly soprano grows a tad tiresome. Expect well-deserved Oscar nominations for set and costume design, a nod for the original song sung over the credits, and maybe, because Oscar loves women who sing and the field is so weak, a nod for Rossum.

The Life Aquatic, on the other hand, is unlikely to get any Oscar attention at all. The film's a bit of a muddled mess, perhaps in part because Anderson's regular co-writer, Owen Wilson, has been so busy making movies that Anderson co-wrote this one with pretentious indie filmmaker Noah Baumbach. Wilson nonetheless appears, doing a bad Kentucky accent, as an airplane pilot who might be Steve Zissou's long-lost son. Ultimately, Zissou, his son, and his crew of oddballs go on a quest to find the "jaguar shark" that killed Zissou's friend, while getting waylaid by pirates, fighting with a competing oceanographer (Jeff Goldblum), dealing with a near mutiny by angry interns, and addressing romantic entanglements. There's so much plot there that nothing really seems to happen (though stuff blows up really nice). But the true joy is the detail of the sets and design. Somehow, Anderson managed to convince Disney to shell out money to build a full-scale cut away replica of Zissou's ship, which is fully dressed. Anderson does several tracking shots through the ship, letting us see the full scale of the design work, littered with little details he leaves. Similarly, excerpts from Zissou's documentaries nail the vaguely retro feel that Anderson's films always have--that the film takes place not in the now nor in the past, but somewhere where both the past and present coexist. And, as always, Anderson comes up with an eclectic and quirky soundtrack, partially from composer Mark Mothersbaugh, partially from his own bizarre record collection, and partly in the form of Portugese bossa nova renditions of David Bowie songs. Unfortunately, the rest of the film doesn't live up to the detail and love lavished on it in those areas. If only it did, it would be one to truly remember.

Monday, January 3, 2005

AND ACTUALLY, THE WHOLE GEORGE W. BUSH PRESIDENCY IS JUST AN ELABORATE SETUP FOR "JOE SCHMO 3:" With word that former general and presidential candidate Wes Clark is planning an autobiographical sitcom (though, haven't we seen this before?), thoughts turn to the rest of the Democratic primary field and what they'll be doing in television in the future.

Al Sharpton: Already has a decent media career, so doesn't have much to worry about.

Carol Moseley Braun: Will take over for Star Jones on "The View."

Dennis Kuicinch: Will star in remake of "Darby O'Gill and the Little People."

Bob Graham: Will create quasi-reality sitcom based on his diaries. I already can't wait for the episode based on "8:50-9:15 kitchen - brew coffee - eat breakfast (Raisin Bran cereal)."

John Edwards: Joins "Boston Legal" to play "John Edwards," a former presidential candidate who joins Crane, Poole, and Schmidt to give it some much needed credibility. Edwards/DennyCrane '08!

Howard Dean: Will join "Everwood" as yet another cantakerous local doctor who decides to run against Rose Abbott for mayor, clashing with both Drs. Brown and Abbott in the process.