Saturday, July 22, 2006

NARF-CISSISM: Notwithstanding all the negative reviews and such, I did check out Lady In The Water tonight, and, man, I don't know when I last saw a cinematic act of such a level of onanism. What makes it all the sadder? There's a nice little "fairy tale/bedtime story" at the core of the film--the whole "narf is a messenger" storyline is actually nice, and the mythos is generally well thought out--in fact, with the exception of the embarassing Paul Giamatti "tell me a story!" scene, the throughline of the story is actually OK. Two problems, though, kill the movie:
  • The part Shyamalan has chosen to cast himself in. Shyamalan's actually fine in it, especially given that there's an opportunity for the character to be relentlessly overacted and overdone--he resists that. However, by casting himself in the role, he's made the movie "about him." As Adam pointed out, this decision is on the level of Mel Gibson deciding to cast himself as Jesus. It's a killer.
  • Just as significantly, the "villain" of the piece is (I'm not making this up) a movie critic who "doesn't understand the message!" Of course, this is made worse by the fact that the character is given supposedly witty things to say and comment on the action, turning it into an utter mess of commentary on commentary on commentary. My head hurts.

What's ironic is that the excerpts I've read from Michael Bamberger's book on the making of the movie all indicate that had Shyamalan listened to the folks at Disney, he would have had a much better movie. Sadly for all of us, he didn't.

I DIDN'T NEED TO KNOW HOW MUCH DONAL LOGUE LOVES SNAUSAGES AGAIN: Memo to VH1--please provide accurate program information to the fine folks at TiVo/TV Guide. I would like to watch the entirety of episodes of World Series of Pop Culture and Best Week Ever, not "all but the last 5 minutes of the episode." (Sci-Fi needs a similar smack upside the head from time to time.)
GOOD NIGHT, AND HAVE A PLEASANT TOMORROW: So Tina Fey is done with SNL, it seems. Given how bad "Weekend Update With Amy Poehler and Horatio Sanz" was early this season, seems Update will need a substantial reboot. Let's assume for the moment that Update still has a place in which snarky news humor can be grabbed on a nightly basis (and news humor written better than Update has been in years). Best proposal I can come up with for a new Update team from the current cast? Poehler and Andy Samberg, making an effort to recapture the Fey/Fallon smart girl/frat boy dynamic.
RIDE AROUND ON MY BICYCLE LIKE A PONY: How cool is American cyclist Floyd Landis? I asked Bill from SoQuoted to explain:

On Thursday, Floyd Landis rode into the cycling history books with what many say is one of the greatest single day rides, ever. Counted out just the day before, he is once again expected to win the Tour de France. Combined with his total collapse on Wednesday, I think this could rate as one of the most epic performances in any sport. Rather than try to explain how Floyd's ride compares to Lemond or Merckx or a handful of others most of us have never heard of, I'll compare to a few other sports.

I came up with a few other epic performances under pressure. What Landis did beats most, if not all, of these. Any others to add to the list?

Listed in no particular order and with the admission I was a Twins fan and no World Series is better than 1991.

  • Don Larsen's perfect World Series game
  • Tiger Woods' 1997 Masters. Set or tied 25 Master's records
  • Magic Johnson, game 6, 1980 finals: 42 points, 15 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 steals
  • Kirby Puckett, 1991 World Series, game 6. Game-winning home run, single, triple, sacrifice fly, stole a base, scored a run, robbed Ron Gant of an extra base hit.
  • Jack Morris, 1991 World Series, game 7, Ten shutout innings.
  • Michael Jordan "flu game." 1997 championship against Utah. Suffering from a stomach virus, scored 38 points.
  • 1980 Wimblebon final - Borg and McEnroe.
For what it's worth, I've always been partial to Pete Sampras' quarterfinals win over Alex Correjta at the 1996 US Open.

Commenting on today's time trials is more than welcome.
IF I WAS A BLOGGER, BUT THEN AGAIN NO...: The Boston Phoenix lists the 32 worst song lyrics of all time and while there are plenty of worthy ones listed, I think the ALOTT5MA community can waste the weekend coming up with some good bad ones to add to the ranks.

Besides the Elton John line referenced above, which has driven my friend Ron crazy for years, I'd like to add Bono's belt of "Well tonight thank God it's them instead of you" from "Do They Know It's Christmas" (maybe that's why he works so tirelessly on behalf of Third-World causes today) and Lita Ford's lazy refrain from "Kiss Me Deadly," "I went to a party last Saturday night/I told you that story, it'd be alright."

Add your bad lyrics in the comments. (Link via Popwatch.)

Friday, July 21, 2006

PLENTY OF TIME TO DRIVE BACK AND FORTH BETWEEN SCRANTON AND STAMFORD: The good news, folks? Two short months from today, we get to find out what has been of Jim and Pam (not to mention Michael and Dwight), as new episodes of The Office return September 21. NBC's Schedule for premieres apart from that is generally unsurprising--Studio 60 is the first show to debut (on September 18), while Friday Night Lights, 20 Good Years, and 30 Rock get delayed starts in October (perhaps lending credence to rumors that 30 Rock is being massively retooled).
UNLIKELY CELEBRITY FEUD OF THE WEEK MONTH YEAR DECADE: Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, better known as Steely Dan are upset with Owen Wilson for co-opting the character of Dupree from his new film "You, Me, and Dupree" from their 2001 single "Cousin Dupree."

Read the duo's open appeal to Owen's brother, Luke, who appears to have bigger problems with his own acting career to deal with, here.

And if you think Becker and Fagen are upset with Owen now, wait until they hear about the Butterscotch Stallion's next film, a romantic comedy in which he plays Ricky, an absent-minded accountant who one night meets the girl of his dreams (Cameron Diaz), but loses her phone number. High jinx ensue as Ricky, aided by his sad sack best friend Deacon (Ben Stiller), who himself is hope;lessly in love with a foreign movie buff named Peg (Maggie Gyllenhal), goes to great lengths to find that number.
THE KING OF STEAKS: Philadelphia legend Harry Olivieri, the man who invented cheese steaks, has passed away at the age of 90. How did he do it? One day in 1933, he just got tired of eating hot dogs:
Harry and his older brother, Pat, had been selling hot dogs at a stand at 9th and Wharton streets in South Philadelphia since 1930.

It was a time when horses still plodded the streets and there was a water trough for the steeds in front of the hot-dog stand.

Pat suggested that Harry go to a local grocery store and pick up a slab of beef. Harry went, paying 7 cents for a pound.

He took it back to the stand, sliced it up, put some raw onions on the grill and, unknown to them, a legend began sizzling right there in front of them. The world's first steak sandwich was born.

Pat and Harry slapped the meat on rolls and were about to devour their meal when a cab driver, a longtime fan of the brothers' hot dogs, arrived for his meal and smelled the delicious aroma of meat frying in onions.

"I want one of those," the driver said.

"But it's our dinner," the brothers protested.

The cab driver was insistent. He was about to become the first of a long line of Philly steak-sandwich addicts, stretching through the decades and around the globe, with billions of the succulent fare devoured.

"Sell him yours," Pat said. After all, he was the oldest, and in an Italian family, the oldest sibling ruled.

Harry handed it over. They charged the driver 5 cents.
Read the whole thing.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

THIS IS SIMPLY SCRUMTRILESCENT: If there's one thing that's always funny, it's straight laced white guys reading rap songs as if they were poetry (big laughs guaranteed? "Gettin' Jiggy Wid' It"). Of course, the apex of that underappreciated art form? James Lipton reading Kevin Federline's PopoZao for Conan O'Brien. YouTube has the video. Related--Will Ferrell as Lipton interviews Alec Baldwin as Charles Nelson Reilly.
FROM THE TOO-MUCH-SHYAMALAMADINGDONG-FOR-ONE-WEEK CATEGORY: The way-less-of-a-cutie-than-he-used-to-be Haley Joel Osment was injured in a one-car crash early this morning. Apparently Osment's car collided with a pillar and flipped over. Looks like the scrunts got to him. Or was it the dead people? Or the blue fairy, for that matter? The world may never know.
HOW MY POOR HEART ACHES WHEN PRICES ESCALATE: There are many ways to react to not being chosen as the new chair of the Federal Reserve Board. I didn't expect this to be one of them.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

NOT TO BE CONFUSED WITH THE SHERMAN HEMSLEY ACT, WHICH APPLIES ONLY TO PEOPLE MOVIN' ON UP: For once, anti-trust lawyers are making news someone actually cares about. I (and I'm sure many other readers) got the opt-out notice for the BARBRI antitrust class action, and a bunch of poker players are suing the World Poker Tour in a combined Sherman Act/right of publicity claim. What sort of antitrust claims do you think need to be made in a pop-cultural universe?
THAT CAN'T GO THERE. IT WILL LOOK LIKE SHE'S POOPING: A great client-driven challenge on Project Runway tonight, and I'll try to avoid spoiling things. But we need to discuss Keith's overly flirtatious (dare we say Daniel Franco-esque?) client pitch, the laziest teammate ever, the humanization of Malan, and someone ought to be able to prescribe better medication for Vincent.

Are Kayne and Robert the new Nick and Andrae? Is there such a thing as too much ruching? Is there a show you thought you were less likely to hear the term "feminazi" than this one? And after criticizing the show last season for keeping Santino around despite several poor performances, will we have another season in which being "good tv" is more important than being a good designer? To the comments!
THE AMAZING WORKOUT REUNION: Mrs. Earthling and I are just catching the premier of Bravo's Workout -- and who is employed as a personal trainer in the gymnasium-to-the-stars? None other than Rebecca, Hellboy's girlfriend from The Amazing Race 6. Better yet, who is her trainee? Victoria, happily-abused-woman-to-spa-provider-to-the-stars Jonathan.
I DON'T BELIEVE IN PETER PAN, FRANKENSTEIN OR SUPERMAN. ALL I WANNA DO IS . . . After today's events in L'Alpe d'Huez, I imagine people want another Tour de France discussion thread.
EVEN MEL GIBSON HAD ENOUGH COMMON SENSE NOT TO CAST HIMSELF AS JESUS: The early reviews for Lady in the Water are in, and, oh, dear:
Reader Tim Harden: "I wanted to like this movie. Going to a movie knowing that it will be different (and not in the 'This time the gay cowboys will be transgendered, and fighting the Nazis in space!' way) is exciting. And I like both suspense and fantasy movies. Yet . . . 'Lady' is just not a good movie, and it borders on very, very bad."

Variety: "Vindication is rarely as swift or complete as that likely awaiting the Disney execs who passed on M. Night Shyamalan's latest effort 'Lady in the Water' After Disney balked, the director carted the project to Burbank neighbor Warner Bros., then lambasted his former studio for a lack of vision in a tie-in, tell-some book. Disney's misgivings were well founded, as Shyamalan has followed 'The Village' with another disappointment -- a ponderous, self-indulgent bedtime tale."

Philadelphia Weekly: "Has M. Night Shyamalan lost his goddamn mind? That's the only logical excuse for Lady in the Water, the Philly-based writer/director/egomaniac's convulsive seizure of narcissism that's so nakedly personal—and also so unintentionally, hilariously revealing—watching the movie feels a bit like walking in on your roommate while he's masturbating … to a picture of himself."
There is, however, an intriguing defense of Shyamalan in this week's Village Voice.

edited to add in the further interests of equal time: Desson Thomson in the WaPo: "'Lady in the Water,' a captivating amalgam of mystery, thriller and mythic fantasy, eclipses his 1999 debut for sheer inventiveness, audacity and narrative derring-do. . . . Until now, Shyamalan's work has been one of masterful trickery, designed to keep audiences spellbound until the end credits. But for the first time, the filmmaker illuminates a world beyond scheme, beyond the shell games of his earlier films. In 'Lady in the Water,' we no longer think of his characters as mere slaves of the narrative but mazes unto themselves. The eventual outcome of their lives is something we contemplate long after the movie has ended. That's the mark of an artist who makes it his business to push the boundaries of storytelling in Hollywood. And that's exciting."
BIG PAPI IS THE STEVEN GERRARD OF BASEBALL: It's rare that I feel like linking to Bill Simmons anymore -- either because he's gotten predictable or because his readers are His Readers and there's no reason to distribute his stuff more widely. But today's magnum opus on picking which Premiereship team to support is Simmons at his best -- given something new to focus on, he dove in deep, and it's quite good writing. And there's a lot of it, including massive sidebar articles with emails from supporters of various squads pressing their case.

Speaking of which, I may end up going that route as well -- would you recommend the same team to me that Simmons chose for himself?
NEW BOB: Someone at Sony mistakenly posted snippets from the new Bob Dylan CD, "Modern Times," which isn't scheduled to drop until August 29. Though the song samples are no longer there, Rolling Stone's new blog has the scoop on where you can download them.
KLATTU VERADA...NICKEL? Evil Dead: The Musical!, featuring songs such as "All the Men in my Life Keep Getting Killed by Candarian Demons," "Look Who's Evil Now" and "Do the Necronomicon," will arrive off-Broadway this fall.
LIKE CELEBRITY DEATHS, DO WALK OUTS OCCUR IN THREES? Joining Joel Siegel in the getting-up-and-walking-out club is former vice president Dan Quayle, who walked out of a recent John Mellencamp concert after his fellow Hoosier had the chutzpah to criticize the current president.
YOU'RE ALWAYS YAP-YAP-YAPPIN' ALL THE TIME, YOU'RE GIVIN' ME A F****N' HEADACHE! Does the fact that Joel Siegel walked out of a screening of Clerks II, finding it "so foul and mean and repulsive, I finally realized I could not say anything positive," make you more or less likely to see the film? Personally, I'm a firm believer that the less Jay and Silent Bob Smith has in a movie, the better it's likely to be. (There's a reason Chasing Amy is the best of the "Askewniverse" films, and you have to admire Jersey Girl for featuring a full scale rendition of "God That's Good!" from Sweeney Todd at a school talent show.) Personally, I'm looking forward to Smith's much-delayed first turn in a major role that he didn't write, direct, or product, in the Susannah Grant/Jennifer Garner vehicle Catch and Release, far more than yet another series of toilet and weed jokes.
DECIDEDLY NOT KILLING TIME BY FILLING OUT FORMS OR STANDING IN LINE: When was someone going to tell me that Reading, PA had gotten hip all of a sudden by turning a vacant goggle factory into a lively community arts center?
AREA MAN WELCOMES NEW INSECT OVERLORDS? Viacom may be buying The Onion. Your suggested headlines are welcome.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

WRONG WAY ON A ONE-WAY TRACK: I only saw the first fight from the return of The Contender, but it was enough to tell me that the show may have lost too much in its transition from NBC to basic cable.

Because what made the show so good last time, more than anything else, were the production values during the fights themselves -- smart, extremely well-edited use of multiple cameras and slow motion that really got you into the ring and told the story of each fight well. Now that they're on ESPN, it's a step behind and it shows -- fewer cameras and less fluid editing, with extrinsic sound effects thrown in by a very busy foley artist as an audio shortcut to indicate the impact of blows. It's not the same, and I don't know how much of it I'll watch.

On the other hand, Rock Star: Tommy Lee Is A Horndog continues to shine, with Dilana (The Cranberries' "Zombie"), Storm (The Cars' "Just What I Needed") and Lukas ("Let's Spend the Night Together") clearly bringing the theatricality and dirtiness that this hard rock band seems to want. It's a job audition, after all, so lovely acoustic covers of "Come As You Are" (Josh) and a wussy take on "Runaway Train" (Toby) just aren't going to cut it; half the performers just don't have the intensity to win this, though Ryan ("Fortunate Son") and Phil ("White Rabbit") brought a little more this week than they have in the past.

Finally: there may be nothing funnier on summer tv than watching former Metallica bassist Jason Newsted make his "I'm really thinking hard" face during the performances. Just saying, is all. Who else is watching? edited to add: Sepinwall is, and he was at the theater for the taping.
ALBUMS UNDER THE INFLUENCE: The Velevet Underground and Nico's 1967 eponymous debut gets another laurel this week, getting picked as the Most Influential Album in the history of pop music by the blokes at the UK's Sunday Observer.
WILL THEY ALSO HAND OUT FREE POPCORN? Living in a city where movies can cost as much as $11 a pop, a question of particular relevance--will AMC's new program of $4-6 flicks before noon on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays get you to the theatre more, or are you too attracted to the idea of going to movies in the evening? Personally, there may be a few movies I'd see this way that I wouldn't see otherwise. Paying even the discounted pass rate I use to see Monster House seems a bit much, but $6? I might just buy.
THEREBY ENSURING THAT NOT A SINGLE MYSTERY WILL BE CLEARED UP UNTIL AT LEAST EPISODE EIGHT: Finally taking a page from Fox's 24/Prison Break playbook, ABC is airing Season 3 of that little undeserving-of-a-best-drama-Emmy show called Lost in two uninterrupted chunks. The first six or seven episodes will run in October and November; thirteen weeks later, we'll get the back sixteen.

Although ABC claims that story arcs are being tailored to fit the new schedule, I suspect that the fall episodes will serve as something of an amuse-bouche until the really meaty stuff comes in February. And I'm good with that -- much as I love Lost, I've never watched a rerun (except for one or two reairings of Walkabout). And the only thing that kept me hanging on until the end of this past season of 24 was the fact that I never had to take a week off. So all in all, I think this is a good thing. I'm sure that the Lemon-Lyman-level lunatics on some of the chat boards are whining about how the only acceptable resolution is a season with 36 new episodes, but given the constraints of reality, this seems a solid solution.
LET'S START BY CUTTING "CRITICAL SHOPPER" AND ONLY ALLOWING FRANK RICH TO WRITE THE SAME COLUMN TWICE A MONTH: So, the New York Times is going to become an inch and a half less wide. Given how much of a chore it can be to get through the Times some days, I'm sure there's plenty to cut, and Gawker has an initial suggestion (better still? Cut the "Metropolitan Diary" on Mondays, which is made obsolete by Overheard in New York). So what do you want to cut from a smaller Times?
AND YOU CAN TRY TO STOP HER DANCIN' FEET BUT SHE JUST CANNOT STAND STILL: Updated Hairspray casting news -- seventeen-year-old Cold Stone Creamery scooper Nikki Blonsky of Great Neck, NY, is your Tracy Turnblad, and Grease 2 star Michelle Pfeiffer is in talks to play Velma Von Tussel. (And for those who remember The Fabulous Baker Boys, I believe she can sing.)

In addition, through various sources, the other teens will be Amanda Bynes (Penny), American Dreams' Brittany Snow (Amber), Take the Lead's Elijah Kelly (Seaweed) and High School Musical's Zac Efron (Link), joining already confirmed grownups John Travolta (Edna), Billy Crystal (Wilbur) and Queen Latifah (Motormouth Maybelle). All we need now is a Corny Collins, and we're set.

Monday, July 17, 2006

IT DOESN'T SAY ANYTHING ABOUT FIRST-COME, FIRST-SERVED. AND WE'RE BIGGER: It's only a few months away -- meet the twelve teams competing in The Tenth Amazing Race. New dynamics include father/gay daughter, single mothers, Muslim cousins, Asian brothers, an Indian-American husband and wife and a pair of male models . . . who became best friends in rehab. Oh, and one team has an odd number of limbs.
MEANWHILE, PENNY MARSHALL IS IN KAZAKHSTAN FILMING 'ENCYCLOPEDIA BROWN': Up until the very end of Sunday's episode, I had thought it was pretty safe to season three of Entourage had no aspiration (yet) to be anything other than light wish fulfillment, Sex and the City for the other gender on the other coast, and with none of the emotional depth that SatC developed in its later seasons.

Now, however, things may have taken a turn in happy town, and I'm intrigued. And even if it doesn't, we still have Drama and Turtle.
DON'T TOUCH MY ELEVATOR! While at the lovely Peabody Hotel in Memphis yesterday afternoon, it was hot enough that I didn't want to go out or fight the foot traffic in the lobby before the duck parade, so I turned on Starz, where I caught much of 1999's Blast From The Past--the comedy about a kid born and raised in a bomb shelter by parents convinced that nuclear war destroyed the world who comes to "the surface" in search of supplies and a wife. What I'd forgotten was just how many H!ITG! types the film features. Leaving aside your principals (Brendan Fraser, Alicia Silverstone, Christopher Walken, and Sissy Spacek), there's brief turns in the movie from Dave Foley (as Silverstone's gay buddy), Joey Slotnick (as the leader of a cult that arises around the bomb shelter), and Nathan Fillion (as Silverstone's assholish ex-boyfriend). Priceless.
IT GOES LIKE THIS, THE TWENTY-EIGHTH, THE TWENTY-NINTH: Via Althouse, you can listen to a great many variations of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah".
REASON #342 WHY BLENDER IS COOLER THAN SPIN OR ROLLING STONE: Because this month, we learn that The Roots' drummer ?uestlove is a big fan of both Scrabble and a certain book series. He offers some advice, including:

When in doubt, cheat. Make sure there's a mirror behind your opponent so you can see his tiles. We have two buses when we tour: Slytherin, which is the smut bus, and Gryffindor, which is the Scrabble bus. And Gryffindor has a mirror in the lounge near the back. You need every advantage you can get.

On the Hufflepuff bus, I gather, they just play Sorry! and Candy Land.
ZEKE IS BAKING CREME BRULEE: Okay, so before The Amazing Treasure Hunting Code Across America came on, I finally got to catch about a half hour of Disney's High School Musical, and, yes, it is indeed the bomb-dizzle of sweet, innocent cuteness. Just goes to show that From Justin To Kelly came about five years too late . . . and still sucked.

But seriously, yo? I can see why the kids are all crazy about it. It's a lot like Grease, only without that hussy Cha Cha DiGregorio, which is to say that everyone loves show featuring teens breaking out of their social cliques to sing! and dance! I will certainly try to catch the whole thing next time it airs.

As for Treasure, I can't remember a more exhausting leg ever on the Race -- in all, drive from NYC to South Carolina, do a day-long hike through a swamp in ninety-degree heat, then drive to Georgia, capped with a 5-6 hour needle-in-a-haystack dig? Damn. It's still solid, if not remarkable tv.
NOW THAT WE KNOW WHO YOU ARE, I KNOW WHO I AM. I'M NOT A MISTAKE: Articles over the past 24 hours ask -- is M. Night Shyamalan a master of self-promotion, underappreciated by the critical establishment or both? In terms of profitability, notes Carrie Rickey in the latter piece, there's no question:
His last four films, all made by Disney, have each earned at least a quarter of a billion dollars at theaters worldwide. Collectively, they've taken in more than $1.5 billion. Consider that box office represents on average 16 percent of a film's revenues, and... well, you do the math. It's close to $10 bil.

"Only John Lasseter at Pixar can boast a record like Night's," says [Anne] Thompson [of the Hollywood Reporter]. And Lasseter didn't write and direct all his movies.
Right now, my attitude towards The Lady in the Water is the same that I have towards most summer films -- I'll see it if the reviews are good, but I'm not, like, ooh! new Shyamalan! must go now! anymore.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

UNLIKE THE CBS VERSION, WE'LL ACTUALLY DISCUSS BOOKS: Summer is here, and that means that I ought to reopen the ALOTT5MA Book Club so that y'all can let everyone know what you're reading these days, and maybe we all can get some good ideas for what to read next.

I recently completed Bill Buford's Heat: An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany, and it was quite good. If you're familiar with his food writing in the New Yorker, then you know what you're in for -- wonderfully detailed and alive writing about passionate cooks, a real picture of the obsessions which drive a kitchen. He starts off by apprenticing with Mario Batali at Babbo, and then, to Italy, as he explained in a recent interview with the magazine:
What makes our food so plentiful has ruined what makes it interesting. Basically, if you can refrigerate it and ship it, then it’s ruined. What I learned from all these people in Italy — they’re all extreme in their traditionalism — is how to make food with your hands, and how the kind of food that you can make with your hands is going to be idiosyncratic, expressive, and unique to the place where you are. You’re trying to make food that’s unique to the place it comes from. That’s what it comes down to, in a nutshell. The closer the food is to the place, the more intense the flavors — more vibrant, more alive, more of the earth.

If you haven't read it yet, Buford's Among the Thugs -- his memoir of time spent following British soccer hooligans -- is pretty darn essential reading.

What's occupying your reading time these days?
IN PART TWO, THEY EXPLORE WHETHER CHEESECAKE IS SERVED INSIDE: Apparently demonstrating its new commitment to critical public investigations during the Brian Tierney era, today's Philadelphia Inquirer reports in a front page story that when you go to eat at a Cheesecake Factory or Outback Steakhouse, you may have to wait a long time to be seated.

This thread is open to your current thoughts on which casual dining chain restaurants are most tolerable -- or, heck, even good. Right now, for me, that's the Longhorn Steakhouse, where I've had some surprisingly good grilled steaks in a Lucy-friendly environment.