Saturday, August 6, 2005

WHO WANTS TO GET CHOKED, HAVE A CHAIR THROWN AT HIM AND VERBALLY ABUSED? Move over Donald Trump -- you're no longer hte biggest a--hole to be hosting a Who Wants To Work For Me? reality show. Welcome Bobby Knight to the genre, though I bet Tyra Banks could kick his ass in a streetfight.
SO, YOU THINK YOU'RE BETTER THAN SAGET: The makers of (the very funny) The Aristocrats have a challenge for you. You now know the joke (and, if you've seen the movie, as you should, several variations on and reversals of the joke), so tell it. The top live action and non-live action "tells" will be forever ensconced on the forthcoming DVD. You must keep it to ten minutes or less, and make it funny. Get to it!
TIME TO TEACH YOU A LESSON: It's Friday night, late summer, and there's really no excuse--it's time to take advantage of the joy of Fox's Arrested Development Friday marathons. Experience the joy of Lucille's "Rape Horn," Dr. Funke's 100% Natural Good Time Family Band Solution, the true evidence of WMD's in Iraq, and perhaps the weirdest love triangle in all of television--George Michael, Maeby, and Ann. Catch up before it very nicely fills the entertainment void that is Monday television next season.

Even better--if you're a cheapskate and don't want to shell out for the Season 1 DVD's, Fox 5 New York is airing the entire first season in a "mini-marathon" of two episodes per night for two weeks at midnight starting next Monday (the 15th).
BASEBALL IS NINETY PERCENT MENTAL. THE OTHER HALF IS PHYSICAL: Nice compilation of quotes on of players expressing desire to give 110, 120, 180, even 200 percent effort in their games. My favorite, from former Bear Richard Dent in 1994: "A lot of guys play 110 percent, and that's fine. But then there's another 60-70 percent that's mental. Now you've got 180 percent, so what do you do?"

Friday, August 5, 2005

OOOOOOO-O-O-O-O, OOOOOOOO-O-O-O-O: The NCAA has banned teams with American Indian Mascots from playing in the postseason.

THE ONE AWARDS SHOW THAT WILL NOT FEATURE JESSICA SIMPSON: Quill Award nominations (kinda like the People's Choice Awards for books) are out. Some winners are no-brainers, like Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince winning "Children's Chapter Book." Oddly, Half-Blood Prince doesn't get to compete in the big "General Fiction" category, which would pit it against a range of books from Nick Hornby to Philip Roth, or in the "SciFi/Fantasy/Horror" category, which would seem to be a veritable sure thing (at least among litcrit types) for Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. Other nominees include Jim Wallis' God's Politics, Anne Lamott's Plan B (both of which had better stomp Joel Osteen's Your Best Life Now in the religion category), French Women Don't Get Fat, He's Just Not That Into You, and America: The Book by Jon Stewart. My favorite "literary" novel of last year (Jodi Picoult's My Sister's Keeper) didn't get nomintated, but for the most part, it's pretty solid stuff.
THAT'S FOURTEEN FEET, SEVEN INCHES OF FIGHT: Via Bill Simmons, read about the tallest training camp brawl in NBA history.
A DETOUR IS A CHOICE BETWEEN TWO SMALL NEWS ITEMS, EACH WITH ITS OWN PROS AND CONS: The Amazing Family Caravan will have a two-hour premiere on Tuesday, September 27; meanwhile, these 'Blogger Twins' want to join the Season 9 competition.
JUST WHEN YOU'RE THINKING YOU'RE INTELLECTUALLY ALONE IN THE WORLD: Now that we all know what ALOTT5MA's readers are reading this summer, here's what some other people are reading, including Bill Clinton, Heidi Klum, Yo Yo Ma, Frank Gehry, Michael Ian Black, Ann Patchett, and Tom Wolfe, among others.

The column also underscores the fact that Jonathan Franzen is the single most pretentious human being on the planet.
THEY TELL US WE'RE NOT REAL ACTORS: Out of curiosity, is anyone watching Kill Reality? I watched part of the premiere last night (the first two episodes are being re-aired approximately every ten minutes, so it can be readily caught up with), and I have to say, it's got some potential in a waiting-for-the-inevitable-trainwreck sort of way.

The central conceit: Reality TV veterans (the crazier the better -- we've got Jonny Fairplay of the undead grandmother from Survivor, Stacie J of the magic 8 ball from the Apprentice, Trish the stalker from the Bachelor, and my all-time favorite insane wackjob, Toni Ferrari from Paradise Hotel and Love Cruise) have been cast in a horror movie written by Survivor's Rob Cesternino. Naturally, the entire cast has to live together during the filming of the flick, thereby proving that this is, in fact, reality TV.

It helps to have seen the reality shows that made the "actors" into recognized names -- and if you haven't, this is not the show for you. I'm not a Real World person, so this Steven Hill guy (why does everyone call him Steven Hill instead of just Steven?) as well as Tonya Cooley and Trishelle Cannatella are unknown quantities to me. But you've got your Ethan Zohn, your Reichen Lehmkuhl, your Jennas Lewis and Morasca, your Bob Guiney -- fun stuff.

For anyone who watched Paradise Hotel -- by far the guiltiest pleasure of a TV show I have ever gotten myself hooked on -- seeing Toni Ferrari try to restrain her inner (and outer) drama queen when she finds out that she's got seven lines is priceless. Reichen's got himself some hot love scenes with Tonya, which ought to prove interesting. And hey, did I mention Jonny Fairplay?
AT A STAGE IN LIFE WHEN OTHER MEN PROSPER, I'M REDUCED TO LIVING IN PHILADELPHIA: News that will make at least two regulars here giddy -- Once Upon A Nation, the group which brings history to life in Philadelphia's Independence Historic District, is doing sing-along, prop-filled audience participation showings of the movie musical '1776' every weekend, all summer long.
DUDE, YOU'VE GOT SOME ARZT ON YOU: According to pretty much everyone connected with Lost (all of whom seem to be hanging around the Television Critics Press Tour on a full-time basis), the mystery of what's down the hatch is going to be explained over the course of the season's first few episodes. And according to the guy with the best line from the season finale, what's down the hatch is on a par with Locke in a wheelchair. And since Locke in a wheelchair was the single finest moment of the show's first season, that's quite a promise.

No word yet on when (or whether) any of Lost's other 47 mysteries will be cleared up.

Thursday, August 4, 2005

WE WILL, WE WILL BARACK YOU: Happy birthday to Senator Barack Obama. The "skinny kid with a funny name" is 44 today. And, the Washington Post reports that Sen. Obama will be playing "Not My Job" on NPR's (frequently quite funny) news quiz, Wait Wait, Don't Tell Me, the show that features the most prized reward in all of radio gameshows--the chance to have Carl Kassell record your outgoing answering machine message. Memo to producers: we're available to serve as panelists in a pinch.
OLD MAN RIVER: I'd been on a bit of a drought of good science fiction -- having busied myself with the terrific King of California a history of San Joaquin Valley cotton farming and the Boswell land fortune -- but yesterday picked up (and early this morning finished) John Scalzi's Old Man's War. Nothing I can do to sum up the novel better than has been done over at Amazon, but it may well be the best science fiction novel I've read in the last ten years. An interesting universe, cool technology, and a touching, sentimental story that doesn't skimp on the alien carnage.
JURY'S STILL OUT: OK, the number of things that bug me about tonight's episode of The Law Firm mounted throughout the night. First, because they're doing two cases an hour, we don't get any semblance of continuity and compelteness of the case--things jump back and forth, and without a powerful personality (like last week's nutcase mastiff owner), things tend to blur together. Add to this mediocre lawyering, horrible teamwork (folks, review each other's cross outlines beforehand), and confusing trial rules (a video deposition is SOLELY to preserve testimony for trial? no document or deposition discovery? documents appearing from nowhere?), and the narrative can get a little muddled. The cake topper, though, is the judges, who (in both cases tonight) seemed to me to get it wrong on the law, with horrible or nonexistent explanations for their rulings. And NBC, do recall that people are TiVoing, and I'd like to watch the WHOLE SHOW rather than see it cut off. (Wasn't the last time this happened enough to explain the import?)

All those problems, though, are almost outweighed by Olivier, who's a fascinating, cocky, jackass who might well win this thing, despite (or perhaps because of) his vague resemblance to Mark Wahlberg and his actual talent. Most of the other "associates" are kind of a bore, but he's utterly captiviating to watch, and could become a Colin-esque model of Intensity.
AND HER MUSIC KINDA SUCKS, TO BOOT: Memo to the various entertainment magazines--I do not need to know anything more about the following things:
  • The state of Jessica Simpson's marriage.
  • How "hot" Jessica Simpson looks in bikini or other scanty clothing.
  • Whether Jessica Simpson is sleeping with Johnny Knoxville. (In fact, anyone sleeping with Mr. Knoxville has entirely too high an "ew!" factor to warrant any publicity.)
  • Jessica Simpson's intellect.
  • Whether or not Jessica Simpson is pregnant.
  • The possibility that Jessica Simpson may have had plastic surgery.
  • Jessica Simpson's rather creepy relationship with her father.
  • Jessica Simpson's sister, Ashlee.
  • The size of Jessica Simpson's breasts, particularly when referred to by her father.
  • Jessica Simpson's "personal style," including, but not limited to, her makeup line.

Seriously, would anyone, other than some very devoted readers of FHM, really notice and/or care if Ms. Simpson simply disappeared from the face of the earth tomorrow? Needless to say, I won't be seeing The Dukes of Hazard tomorrow.

AND THEN I'LL ALSO GET RID OF THE YELLOW HAIR, RESTART THE COUNTDOWN-TO-CONSENT CLOCK, REACQUAINT MYSELF WITH THE MAGICAL CHARMS OF WILDER VALDERRAMA, AND UNMAKE HERBIE: FULLY LOADED: Lindsay Lohan, responding to mounting public pressure to bring back the pubescent jiggle, has hired a trainer to undo the work of evil pro-anorexia stylist Rachel Zoe.
WHAT? THIS ISN'T 'ALAN KEYES IS MAKING SENSE'? Want to see Bob Novak completely lose his marbles? Video here and here, as seen live on CNN an hour ago. Mild profanity.
AND FEATURING RUSH LIMBAUGH AS AQUAMAN: Ever wondered what radio host Sean Hannity would look like as a cyborg superhero in a totalitarian future? Well, wonder no more. More details on the project are here.
DOVE BAR: Noting Matt's post below on Dove's very positive Campaign for Real Beauty, the SF Chronicle had a profile of the very attractive Sigrid.
IT'S SO HOT, HE WORE A "BLANK" TO WORK: As you've probably heard (or experienced), it's kind of warm in New York today--as I type, temperatures are in the low 90s. There's the final summer associate event tonight, and admittedly, it's something of a walk from the subway (it's at a restaurant on the East River--maybe 20 minute walk from the office and 10 minute walk from the nearest subway station). But is this the sort of (and I quote from the officewide e-mail) "extreme heat" that necessitates a fleet of cars to carry the summer associates and attorneys over there? Shouldn't that be reserved for 100 degrees or more?
SHE'S MIGHTY MIGHTY: OK, I'm a big fan of Dove's new "Campaign for Real Beauty" ad campaign, not just because it sends generally very positive messages about body image or because it's resulted in photographs of women in their underwear being splayed throughout the city. (The whole of the Grand Central subway station is full of Dove advertising, which I'm sure has resulted in any number of embarassing conversations and awkward moments between teenage boys and their parents and/or friends.) But am I the only one kind of scared of model Julie? The message her photos send to me are not "damn! I look good!" but "I will crush you between my two fingers!"
YEAH, THAT'S GOING TO MAKE UP FOR TINA FEY AND MAYA RUDOLPH'S SIMULTANEOUS MATERNITY LEAVE: SNL featured player Finesse Mitchell has finally been promoted to full cast in his third year:
"I've got some new ideas, like 'The Morgan Freeman Show.' It's a talk show for actors who never get to have sex in their movies," he said.

With many of his proposed sketches ending up on the pitch room floor in the last two years -- his Black SpongeBob idea was rejected for being too close to Eddie Murphy's Gumby -- Mitchell admits that his appearances on the show only picked up whenever black guest hosts like Janet Jackson or Queen Latifah rolled through.

'Then maybe I get in six sketches,' he jokes, 'because Halle Berry needs a boyfriend, or whatever.'"

Actually, let's work on that list: actors or actresses who have never had sex on-screen. I don't think I've ever seen Christopher Walken hit the skins . . .
BUT IT COULD BE THOMETHING THPETHIAL JUTHT FOR ME: All of a sudden, it's the home stretch of summer. With August vacations coming up, it's time to read all the books that we've been meaning to get to but, gosh darn it, have been distracted from by GSN's reairing of the Amazing Races #1 and #2, not to mention those dancing shows.

Having finished up the sixth book about that wizardy kid a while ago, I'm wondering what Amazon should bring me next. Which new book have you enjoyed the most this beach season?
SHUT UP AND DANCE: Originally I was determined to resist So You Think You Can Dance. But such determination was how I managed to miss out on the first seasons of Survivor, The Amazing Race, and American Idol. So I TiVoed the first episode and figured I'd bedoop bedoop bedoop through it and see if there was anything worth watching.

I am so hooked.

The format, thus far, appears to be classic American Idol -- not surprising, given that the executive producer and chief judge is AI Svengali Nigel Lythgoe. So you've got a few audition episodes around the country that are a mixture of the sublime and the ridiculous, followed by the far more interesting process of winnowing the crop down to the final 16 in Hollywood.

SYTYCD's audition process was significantly more rigorous than AI's. Each auditioner performed a dance of their choosing to the music of their choosing in front of the panel of judges (more on the judges in a moment). If dancers made it past that initial screening, they went on to round two: learning and performing choreography. And those who survived the choreography went into round three, in which they had to learn and perform new choreography with a randomly selected partner, also from the round three audition pool. The top fifty nationwide got to hear the standard AI success mantra -- "you're going to Hollywood!"

What made the auditions interesting was the diversity of dance types. Everything from classical ballet to breakdancing to clogging to primitive jazz to flamenco to bellydancing to some guy on stilts to salsa to all sorts of hip-hop variations, the names of which I have never heard. (I realize that my street cred is fairly non-existent, but a fair amount of attention was paid to the notion of crumping versus popping versus locking and so forth.) It also seems that Britney Spears has become her own genre of dance.

The auditions also revealed the potential tragic flaw of SYTYCD (sadly, that acronym doesn't exactly roll off the tongue) -- the judges. Nigel himself is relatively interesting in a Simon Cowellish sort of way, but the other two have shown zero sign of a personality in four hours of audition coverage. One of them is apparently Nigel's wife, and the other is just some other British guy who has not yet disagreed with anything Nigel has said.

Once the show made its way to Hollywood -- last night was the first of two Hollywood episodes -- things got good. The 50 were divided into groups of 10 to work with five different choreographers, one per day. The choreographers (who, as best I can tell, are highly regarded in their field) represent a range of styles: ballroom, lyrical, salsa, hip hop, and, um, more hip hop. At the end of each day, the judges ranked the dancers in their groups from 10-1. And at the end of the five days, the choreographers got together and cut 24 of the 50 dancers.

The choreographers themselves are alternately snarky and supportive -- exactly what you want to see in judges. The ballroom choreographer, Mary Murphy, has a nice Janice Dickinson streak to her, ordering one contestant to lose his fauxhawk because mohawks just aren't all that Fred Astaire, and bemoaning another contestant's see-through skirt because in ballroom, you don't want to see someone's crotch. Hip hop choreographer #1 Dan Karaty has that Rob Mariano talent for reality TV narration -- his commentary on the two dancers who appear to have faked injuries in order to disguise their lack of ability was a hoot.

Next week we're still in Hollywood, and the 24 will go to 16. As we move into the round of 16, ALOTT5MA will look at the remaining dancers one by one. In the meantime, for anyone who hasn't watched yet, here are a few people to keep your eyes on: Blake, the professional dancer whose already blossoming dance career and cocky-as-all-get-out attitude has the other contestants fuming; Melodie, the lovely lyrical dancer whose inner peace is contagious, Alan a/k/a "Big Poppa," whose size and sunny attitude have the choreographers in conflict; Maricza, the hip hop dance teacher who chose dance over her husband; and any number of others who will be pimped in front of the cameras next week.
WHISTLING DIXIE? In a 2005 movie regarding two good ol' boys from Hazzard County, Georgia, should the Confederate flag be considered problematic?

Wednesday, August 3, 2005

THIS WILL PROBABLY DO BETTER BOX OFFICE THAN 'THE LADYKILLERS': So, there's this book called 'The Da Vinci Code' by some Amherst grad that Tom Hanks and Ron Howard are making into a movie, but the adaptation might not quite be . . . faithful:
Studio officials have consulted with Catholic and other Christian specialists on how they might alter the plot of the novel to avoid offending the devout. In doing so, the studio has been asked to consider such measures as making the central premise - that Jesus had a child with Mary Magdalene - more ambiguous, and removing the name of Opus Dei. . . .

Whether the screenwriter, Mr. Goldsman, has made any of those changes is uncertain, though the studio has publicly hinted that the film is a thriller that will play down religious themes.

Now, I'm one of the five people who hasn't read the book yet, but I take it this is going to annoy some of you.
FILE, AGAIN, UNDER 'CRIPES, IS THERE ANOTHER REALITY SHOW I NEED TO WATCH'? The NYT checks in on Janice Dickinson, Omarosa and 'The Surreal Life V:
Before "The Surreal Life," Ms. Dickinson could be found eviscerating aspiring catwalkers on Tyra Banks's UPN series "America's Next Top Model." Ms. Dickinson said she was no longer with that show because of money issues. "I think I was asking for too much," she said over lunch recently at Da Silvano, the downtown Italian restaurant.

Dressed in a low-cut blouse and a plaid H&M skirt the size of a handkerchief, Ms. Dickinson, who says she is 50, discussed her reason for appearing on "The Surreal Life." "For 12 days of work I made enough to pay for two years of my daughter's private school education," she said, plowing through a bread basket (yes, she eats).

Within minutes of being in Ms. Dickinson's presence, it became painfully clear that she is the avatar of reality television: zany, bizarre, at times comical, at times sad and always eager to entertain. Ms. Dickinson even encouraged this reporter to inspect her sizable breast implants. "Touch 'em honey," she urged. "Don't they feel real?" They did indeed. She then gave a shout-out to her plastic surgeons (she's had liposuction and a face-lift) and rattled off their telephone numbers. . . .

On the set, [Janice and Omarosa] nearly came to blows. 'I was so close to breaking that chick's neck,' Ms. Manigault-Stallworth said. 'I was just sitting there thinking, 'How many years will I get for killing this old supermodel?' '"

Also in Thursday's A&L: has Mariah topped Gwen to claim Song of the Summer honors?. Bananas, I say.
WITHIN TWO YEARS, THIS ISSUE WILL COME BEFORE JUSTICE ROBERTS: The Jersey shore town of Belmar has banned outdoor games of beer pong and quarters.
I WAS OUT OF MY HEAD WHEN HE WASN'T AROUND: Following up on our previous reporting, I am happy to report that Daryl Hall has recovered from Lyme disease and is ready to give "1,000 percent" on stage.

I don't know about you, but I'd have settled for 75%.
SERIOUSLY. YOU LOOK ABOUT ELEVENTY: Every once in a while, GFY nails it -- What the hell happened to Jessica Lange's face? Compare to this Sundance picture from two years ago . . .
'SCUSE ME WHILE I KISS THIS GUY: Wonder no more how Jimi Hendrix avoided serving in Vietnam.

edited: TSG has more.
AIN'T NO ANGEL GONNA GREET THEM; IT'S JUST YOU AND I, MY FRIEND: Paul Newman wants to hold a major Indy-car race on the streets of Philadelphia?

Tuesday, August 2, 2005

OH, ALRIGHT, WE'LL GIVE SOME LAND TO THE [ ] AND THE [ ], BUT WE DON'T WANT THE IRISH! Definitely interesting Chicago Tribune article on what actually happend on ABC's unaired 'Welcome to the Neighborhood' series. Be sure to stick around for the twist ending.
TOUT D'ABORD, MON NOM, CE N'EST PAS MICHAEL VAUGHN: One of the highlights of Alias for the twitterpated-by-Vaughn crowd has always been those missions that are set in France. Pourquoi? Because Michael Vartan was born in France (and in fact his first couple of movies were French), and thus his French is quite flawless.

It thus should not come as a surprise that the newest casting announcement for Alias's fifth season is Elodie Bouchez, a two-time César winner. Bouchez has been cast, according to the Hollywood Reporter, as an "internationally wanted criminal who, unbeknownst to Sydney, has been secretly working with Vaughn for several years."

As they say in ze show biz, oh là là.
YES, BUT WHERE'S MALO? TVGasm spots Real World Hawaii's Amaya as a correspondent on Al Gore's new tv channel.

Seriously, when we look at the Real World pantheon, it's either Hawaii or San Francisco on top, and I think my money's on Teck.
DELIVERING THE ONLINE WEDGIE? Among the courses that Minneapolis high school students can take online? Gym.

Read more via this link. Basically, it's the honor sysem: "Students will pursue proficiency in one or more lifetime sports or activities during this course and document their experience by keeping a daily journal. Through participation in their chosen sport or activity students will use a variety of basic and advanced motor skills, apply movement concepts and principles, and integrate performance strategies . . . . Participation must be documented with a parent/guardian or coach/trainer signature."

One nice aspect of this -- by taking gym out of a social setting, you get rid of the hierarchization and humiliation that's so typical in gym class -- you're never the slowest or the clumsiest. And if that's the case, then, maybe, physical activity doesn't become something one dreads, but something which builds self-esteem among the nerd class of which I was a part and becomes part of lifelong good habits.

Monday, August 1, 2005

DON'T ASK ME WHAT YOU KNOW IS TRUE: The Wall Street Journal wants to know -- between the disappointments of The Casino, The Contender and Rock Star: INXS, has reality guru Mark Burnett lost his touch?
THE LONDON UNDERGROUND IS NOT A POLITICAL MOVEMENT: God bless cable; A Fish Called Wanda is on tonight. Which leads to a question: has anyone ever won an Oscar for playing a dumber character than Kevin Kline's Otto?

Let's be honest: Rain Man beats Otto in chess. I reckon even Forrest Gump might've bested Otto watching Jeopardy! on the tv set. So, who, then? Jack Nicholson's post-lobotomy McMurphy in Cuckoo's Nest?
AMONG THE NOMINEES FOR INANIMATE OBJECT OF THE YEAR ARE DR. HOUSE'S CANE, THE AMAZING YELLOW LINE AND A CERTAIN BEDAZZLER: Voting in the 2004-05 Tubey Awards, TWoP's annual efforts to recognize the best in television, is now open.

Yes, I'll be voting for Survivor's Stephenie as Bad Ass of the Year.
THAT'S ONE CHILD WHO'S UNLIKELY TO END UP IN THE PLAYBOY MANSION: Tina Fey plans short maternity leave, quick return to SNL.
THE WISDOM OF CROWDS: I need your advice on a quick FFL keeper league question. Fairly basic scoring system; can only keep one of these three QBs for the 2005 season: David Carr, Brett Favre or Chad Pennington. Am flummoxed as to what to do. Please advice, explaining your reasoning and showing all work. Thanks.