Saturday, August 26, 2006

THE PAULA MARSHALL AWARD: We're a little late (since the first new show has already premiered, and the second, Justice, begins on Wednesday), but it's time for the annual ALOTT5MA cancellation pool. Make your pick for what show on the fall schedule will bite it first. Both earliest in terms of number of episodes aired and in date of cancellation are winners! My picks? In the comedy category, I'm going with 20 Good Years, which I'm hearing is just awful, despite the promising pairing of John Lithgow and Jeffrey Tambor (to be replaced by Scrubs or The Singles Table). In the drama, I'm going to go off the board, and foresee What About Brian? being the first to go, despite its surprise renewal, to be replaced by something utterly disposable (Greg Behrendt's Wake-Up Call) that better fits with the lead-in.

Winners receive The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeffer: The Complete Series in the unlikely event it ever arrives on DVD.

Friday, August 25, 2006

YOU CAN DROP YOUR RESPONSES INTO S. EPATHA MERKERSON'S BRA: Emmys on Sunday, and the most logical question is one that others have asked as well -- what nominees are you most rooting for, and what loss would depress you most?

For me, it's about Daily Show alums -- I want to see Steve Carell get Outstanding Lead Actor In A Comedy Series, where Monk is the only real competition, and Stephen Colbert for Outstanding Individual Performance In A Variety Or Music Program, in which I guess David Letterman could get the Oh, I Always Vote For Him from the more senior voters.

Basically, I want The Office to win everything possible. Last night's reruns again reminded me how many brilliant moments there have been -- such as Ryan's silent horror after Dwight and Angela's "Don't expect any cookie"/"But what if I'm hungry?" conversation. And beyond that, I want to see Shonda Rhimes up there at least once. You?
THE 15-17% SOLUTION: Steve Wynn (the mastermind behind the Mirage, TI, Bellagio, and now, his eponymous Vegas casino) has decreed that tips for table game dealers must be shared with "supervisors"/pit bosses. Is this policy fair? Would it change how you tip? What are your personal tipping policies? Personally (for food), I'm generally a "double the sales tax" person when eating in NYC, which results in an 18% pre-tax tip, and a "keep the change" person when dealing with cabs--though cabs frequently present the tough issue of what do you do when the meter is (for instance) $8.10? Do you go on the low end with $9, tipping a little more than 10%, or do you go with $10, leading to a tip of almost 25%?
THE WEDDING iPOD: Yesterday's WSJ had an article on couples using iPods to provide wedding music in lieu of a band or a DJ (no link since it's subscription only). Indeed, in the past year I have been asked twice to program iPods for friends who are getting married.

Using a iPod in this manner is cost efficient and convenient. It also allows the couple more or less complete control over the songs since they are not constrained by the breadth of a DJ's collection or a band's repertoire.

All that being said, I'm not especially wild about the trend because there is no way an iPod can match the magic of a live band or the creativity of an experienced DJ. A DJ or a band leader can think on the fly and choose songs based upon how the guests have reacted to earlier songs. A wedding reception is a dynamic event. An iPod cannot respond to the ebbs and flows of the audience.

I do agree that an iPod might be a good choice for a rehearsal dinner or during various interludes in the main wedding reception (e.g., the cocktail hour while wedding photographs are being taken). Any thoughts? What songs would be on your own wedding iPod?

Thursday, August 24, 2006

ONE FINGER ON THE BUTTON: Because comedy is involved, I can repeat this US News report on the President:
He loves to cuss, gets a jolly when a mountain biker wipes out trying to keep up with him, and now we're learning that the first frat boy loves flatulence jokes. A top insider let that slip when explaining why President Bush is paranoid around women, always worried about his behavior. But he's still a funny, earthy guy who, for example, can't get enough of fart jokes. He's also known to cut a few for laughs, especially when greeting new young aides, but forget about getting people to gas about that.

See, there is something he has in common with the French.
DOWN WITH POSEIDON: So apparently the nail in Pluto's coffin was the fact that its orbit overlaps with Neptune's. Which seems rather unfair toward the small iceball -- why cut Pluto? Why not Neptune? Seems like size discrimination to me. Shouldn't dwarfs be a protected class and their demotion from the privileged planet class therefore be subject to strict scrutiny?
FURTHER COMMENTS FROM PLUTO: "Fans, for the past few hours you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest planet, err dwarf planet, on the face of this solar system. I have been included with the major planets for 76 years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans.

Look at these grand planets. Which of you wouldn't consider it the highlight of your celestial existence just to associate with them for even one day? Sure, I'm lucky. Who wouldn't consider it an honor to have known Jupiter? Also, the star of the others orbit around, The Sun? To have spent years with that wonderful little planet, Mercury? Then to have spent the next nine years with that outstanding leader, that smart student of psychology, the best planet in the solar system today, Earth? Sure, I'm lucky.

When Neptune, a planet whose orbit you would give all the methane in your atmosphere to intersect, and vice versa, sends you a gift - that's something. When everybody down to the asteroids and those meteors remember you with trophies - that's something. When you have a wonderful moon, Charon, who takes sides with you in squabbles with your other two moons, Nix and Hydra, - that's something. When you have a gravitational field that works so you can have a spherical body - it's a blessing. When you have an inclined orbit who has been a tower of strength and shown more courage than you dreamed existed - that's the finest I know.

So I close in saying that I may have had a tough break, but I have an awful lot to live for."
THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU LEAVE IT TO A SMALL GROUP OF PARTISANS: Henceforth, Pluto is not a planet. We take you live to Pluto's concession speech:

Just before coming down to speak with you, I called Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Saturn, Jupiter, Neptune and Uranus and congratulated them on their success today. As I see it, in this campaign, we've just finished the first half and the Classical Planet team is ahead, but in the second half, our team -- Team Pluto -- is going to surge forward to victory.

I am, of course, disappointed by the results, but I am not discouraged. I am not disappointed because I lost my planetary status, but because the old politics of scholarship and intellectual integrity won today.

I expect my opponents will continue to do in the future what they have done today: Belittle me instead of coming up with ideas to avoid having to rewrite science textbooks. I will continue to offer the astronomers a different path forward to make my Solar System and orbit a better place to live and work, and that's what I want to do for another six million more years.

I know a lot of people in this system, and not just "classical planets", are angry about the direction in which the Solar System is moving, and so am I.

Tomorrow morning, our campaign will file the necessary petition with the International Astronomical Union so that we can continue this campaign for a new astronomy of unity and purpose. I will always do what is right for my orbit and Solar system regardless of what the political consequences may be. Tomorrow is a brand new day. Tomorrow we launch a new campaign -- Team Pluto -- Asteroids, non-conforming celestial objects and planets.

Yes, we will run this one into the ground.
MATT, YOU BEING GLIB. ME STUDY COOKIES: Matt Lauer gets to the bottom of an important issue--are cookies only a sometimes food, or an always food?--by interviewing an authority on the subject.
THIS IS YOUR BRAIN ON MUSIC: This book has garnered considerable acclaim in recent articles in Paste and the Boston Globe, among other publications. From the Publisher's Weekly review:

"Think of a song that resonates deep down in your being. Now imagine sitting down with someone who was there when the song was recorded and can tell you how that series of sounds was committed to tape, and who can also explain why that particular combination of rhythms, timbres and pitches has lodged in your memory, making your pulse race and your heart swell every time you hear it. Remarkably, Levitin does all this and more, interrogating the basic nature of hearing and of music making (this is likely the only book whose jacket sports blurbs from both Oliver Sacks and Stevie Wonder), without losing an affectionate appreciation for the songs he's reducing to neural impulses."

I ordered a copy today.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

I THINK GOD GOT DRUNK TODAY: Your dead giveaway Heidi dubbed-in voiceover of the week? "....but at least I see your point of view here." I don't know what it is about my ears that I can pick up on the shift in sound quality, because generally my hearing isn't that precise, but when it's done on this show I can pick it out right away.

Anyway, the Project Runway Mom-a-thon. Uli does good prints. Michael's always solid. Laura designs for Laura. And in the end, it's the age-old battle between Strong-But-Wrong Editorial Stance and Nice-But-Unspectacular, and I think we know by now who wins that fight every time. So go ahead and visit Comme Des Garçons in the Amish Country, but then please join us in the comments thereafter.
JUST PLAY WITH ME AND YOU WON'T GET BURNED: On the Supernova results show, Magni and Toby did better than anyone did in the competition round last night. Lukas and Ryan take a step backwards just by not getting another chance to perform, and Dilana takes a step backwards every time there's a microphone near her, apparently.

The chaff is gone. Six left, and I go back to Top Model II (Yoanna-Mercedes-Shandi-April-Camille-Sara) to find a reality season in which a final group that large had so many equally interesting potential winners remaining, each with their own talents. But you know I've got a thing for that cycle.
THE SHARKS ARE GONNA HAVE THEIR WAY . . . TONIGHT! I believe we can officially refer to the thirteenth season of Survivor as Survivor: West Side Story. Twenty castaways, divided by race into four tribes, and you can meet the new famewhores via this link. Says Probst:
“The idea for this actually came from the criticism that Survivor was not ethnically diverse enough, because for whatever reason, we always have a low number of minority applicants apply to the show. So we set out and said, let’s turn this criticism into creative for the show. And I think it fits in perfectly with what Survivor does, which is, it is a social experiment, and this is adding another layer to that experiment which is taking the show to a completely different level.”

Later, he said, “Our original idea was simply to have the most ethnically diverse group of people on TV. It wasn’t until we got to casting and started noticing this theme of ethnic pride that you’re alluding to that we started thinking, wow, if culture is still playing such a big part in these people’s lives, that’s our idea. Let’s divide them based on ethnicity. So, yes, I think it’s very natural to assume that certain groups are going to have audience members rooting for them simply because they share ethnicity.”
Intrigued, offended, or irrelevant, given that Survivor is up against Office/Earl and Ugly Betty this fall?
TURNING THE TABLES ON RACHEL ZOE: This is the one and only reason I will be watching any of this year's beleaguered Emmy coverage.
MANY MORE LAZY SUNDAYS ARE AHEAD: The L.A. Times is reporting that Chris Parnell, Horatio Sanz, and Kenan Thompson are being given walking papers by SNL (with Darrell Hammond likely departing as well) and that Update reins will be handed off to Jason Sudeikis. Poehler's apparently staying, despite being dumped from Update. The Post disagrees about Hammond, but adds the tidbit that Seth Myers (who was co-head writer with Fey last season) will become sole head writer. The Sanz departure is overdue, and Sudeikis as an Update anchor seems a good call, but a Myers-run show? Not exactly reassuring.
SHE'S GONE: I enjoyed the first episode of Vanished. Did any of you see it?
NEXT ON THE AGENDA IS REEVALUATION OF GOOFY'S SPECIES: Astronomers at a meeting in Prague are currently engaged in heated debate over whether Pluto should continue to be deemed a planet. It's interesting if random reading. To let you know where my own heart lies on this burning question: I'm not looking forward to explaining to Cosmo Girl why her recitation of the planets should in future eliminate "Pluto, the cold planet," so apparently I'm gunning for Charon, Ceres, and new girl in town Xena to join the party as well.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

WELL, MAYBE HE DOESN'T WANT WHAT YOU WANT. THERE'S MORE TO LIFE THAN A F***ING FIELDS MEDAL: Yes, just about the only thing that can get me to link to a story in Science Times is an obvious Good Will Hunting reference.
ELMO IS A BLACK MAN: You learn something new every day.
TOMMY, COME OVER HERE AND TAKE IT, [FEMALE DOG]: RockStar: Can We Get To The Final Four Already? quick recap of a week in which no one blew me away:

The Good: Ryan Star was Good Chris Chambers again. The only one to really impress me this week. Toby gets high marks for energy, but not so much for the actual singing.
The Competent: Magni, Lukas, and Dilana, and it's mostly because of my bias against misinterpretations of what Sting has referred to as "a quite evil song about surveillance and controlling another person. The fact that it was couched in a seductive and romantic disguise made it all the more sinister for me."
The Needs To Go Home: Patrice, Dilana's fake eyelashes, Magni's ski cap.

After the long-necessary axing of Patrice, next week it starts getting tough.
THE HURTING, THE HURTING: When she's old enough, I will enjoy showing Lucy episodes of Animaniacs, now out on DVD, which I started watching religiously during my senior year of college.

That said, I don't know that I'll be starting her with the brilliant short "Hearts of Twilight". It's not many cartoons which reward knowledge of Apocalypse Now, Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse as well as Jerry Lewis' The Day The Clown Cried, after all. Thank goodness this one did.
THE PICASSO CODE: I highly reccomend this excellent article from New York, which tries to figure out exactly who paid $85 million for Picasso's Dora Maar au Chat in May. Not only does it provide a fascinating mystery/detective story, but it also takes you inside the rareified world of art auctions. Excellent stuff.
AND I DIDN'T EVEN WIN A MAJOR SPORTING EVENT: As part of my continuing quest to ensure that I experience as much AmericanaKitsch as possible, I will be taking a trip to Walt Disney World in lovely Orlando, Florida at the end of next month. Having not been there since sometime in the mid-80s, I'm well aware that there is much new to do and see, but, faithful readers, is there anything I should make sure to do, see, and/or eat while there?

IT IS A TRUTH UNIVERSALLY ACKNOWLEDGED, THAT A MAN IN POSSESSION OF A BOOGIE BOARD MUST BE IN WANT OF GOOD WAVES AND WARM WATER: For the past week or so in Truro, the town's best beach has had ideal conditions for boogie boarding -- low tide near noon, warm water, and, perhaps most important, big waves that break about 100 yards offshore.

I have noticed that there appear to be two basic techniques. One involves holding the board with straight arms so that your head ends up near the middle of the board and your body trails behind it (the "Superman position"). The other involves holding the board with bent arms so that your head is near the front of the board and most of your body is on top of the board (the "sphinx position"). I strongly prefer the sphinx position, but I happen to be unusually tall (and thus heavy). Which one do you prefer? More generally, isn't boogie boarding an amazingly reliable path to happiness?

Monday, August 21, 2006

HIP HOP IS MY PASSION. I LOVE TO POP, AND LOCK, AND JAM, AND BREAK: Three notes on the winners of the Creative Arts Primetime Emmys, presented Saturday night, as they relate to favorites here: (1) High School Musical wins for best choreography and best children's programming, and seriously, folks -- even us adult folks -- you need to see it already, because it's just wonderful, whether you want to snark on it or just enjoy it; (2) Random Simpsons episode beats South Park's "Trapped in the Closet" for best animated program, and Kelsey Grammer wins best voiceover for Sideshow Bob; and (3) Rome won a bunch of awards for its technical virtues -- art direction, costumes, visual effects and hair. It's a shame it didn't show up more in the acting and writing nominations.

In honor of the XIIIth! and the show's DVD release, here's a YouTube link to the scene previously presented with the annual It's Not Just TV; It's HBO Award: witness Titus Pullo, Gladiator. You can fast-forward to about 3 minutes in, and it's pure violence from there. By the time you get to 4:28, you'll understand why the award was uncontested. NSFW, unless you work in a slaughterhouse.
THE HUNT IS OVER: One last appropriately complicated clue, and that's all it took to find winners of The Amazing American Hunting Treasure Quest Secret Code Thingy. Beyond that, not much to say -- the audience for the live finale was quite raucous, given the non-national-sensation nature of the show, but it was all padding -- let's ask forgettable teams how being on two episodes has Changed Their Lives! -- though, there was a high moment of unintentional comedy when Laird had to shepherd the winners away from a group hug to keep things moving along and started yoinking arms out of sockets. And it was nice to see the amount of the final prize, which merited all the lofty words about The Treasure from the start of the season.

I'd like to see the show come back, so long as they actually have a host who travels with the production, an editor with a better sense for drama, and producers more willing to be transparent about their role in the whole enterprise. Bottom line: smart shows in which the clues are actually clues and intelligence is rewarded ought to be encouraged, and for all its flaws, Treasure Hunters was a step in the right direction for reality tv.
SOMEONE'S GOT IT IN FOR ZIMMY, THEY'RE PLANTING STORIES IN THE PRESS: We here at ALOTT5MA are connoisseurs of snark, to be sure. But there are some icons with whom you do not mess.

I'm sure WaPo freelancer Chris Richards was very proud of his ability to string together a few words to diss Bob Dylan's latest concert, and that his hipster friends with their chunky plastic-framed glasses toasted him with a few PBRs. But I have a strange feeling that Mr. Dylan is going to be able to get over it.
WELL, THERE GOES MY PLANS FOR 'RATS IN THE OPERATING ROOM': Dan Fienberg tries to figure out why more people didn't see the MF Snakes on the MF Plane this weekend. What's your excuse?
PROPS FOR INCLUDING UNFROZEN CAVEMAN LAWYER! Joss Whedon's "Top 25 TV Characters of All Time" (in no particular order and excluding characters he created) List is well worth your reading time and discussion. Whedon's taste ranges widely, hitting, among others, Miami Vice, Hill Street Blues, The West Wing, The Office, and House. Agree, disagree, or offer your own suggestions below.
LET'S HUG IT OUT: In one of my occaisional examples of being a bit behind the times, I've been catching up with the second season of Entourage on DVD over the past few days. While Jeremy Piven's very funny and very profane turn as Ari Gold gets most of the attention, the more I think about it, the more convinced I am that the true MVP of the show is Kevin Dillon as Johnny Drama. The meta-ness is enough to earn some love (somewhat B-list actor Kevin Dillon, overshadowed by his brother's career, plays a D-list actor overshadowed by his brother's career), but Dillon manages to make Drama simultaneously pathetic, disgusting, and bizarrely emphatetic. In guest stars, you have to give credit to Constance Zimmer (the new Paula Marshall--patron saint of doomed shows--with parts on In Justice, Joan of Arcadia, and Good Morning Miami in her recent past) for playing a tough as nails executive who can put Ari in his place.
BIG MAN: There is virtually nothing to be said about last night's Deadwood that won't spoil it. I'll try, but if I fail, sorry. All I can say is that I will miss my favorite secondary character, even if he was too saintly for his own good.
IT'S EVEN GOT A ONE-ARMED MAN: Although I am entirely unwilling to concede that summer may be drawing to a close, I am happy to see the fall TV schedule getting underway with tonight's premiere of Prison Break: How Will the Tattoos Help Us Now That We're Not in Prison No More? It'll be good to see Michael and the Fox River boys again, although I question the wisdom of revealing the outcome of Dr. Tancredi's overdose in the season two promos (not to mention my larger concern about the absence of Patricia Wettig). Bellick looks to be front and center in the new season, which strikes me as a good idea.

Also, I think it's a fabulous move on Fox's part to launch Vanished right after the first premiere of the season -- because really, what else is there to watch at this point? I'll tune in if only for a change of pace from my pleasant but repetitive diet of Entourage, Project Runway, SYTYCD, and reruns of House, SVU, and Without a Trace.

In case Cosmo Baby doesn't permit me to watch the premieres in a timely fashion, feel free to discuss them here.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

DR. MCMANIPULATIVE BASTARD: EW has a fascinating story about House this week, which reveals that Denis Leary, Patrick Dempsey, and Rob Morrow were all considered for the role before it went to Hugh Laurie. Dempsey and Morrow would have been disastrous, but Leary might just have pulled it off. I see two directions we can go from here. First, offer up other names of people who you think could have played famous television parts (Lauren Graham as CJ Cregg? John Cusack as Sam Seaborn?). Second, discuss other "near misses." (Tom Selleck as Indiana Jones comes to mind immediately.)
ODD NYT RECURRING THEME OF THE WEEKEND: Ben Vereen, through his daughter Karon, as mentor to the hip-hop generation. According to a pair of articles this weekend, the legendary song-and-dance-and-Webster's-Uncle-Phillip performer is the one who has guided Usher to Broadway and helped Outkast learn their history for Idlewild.

Still, my favorite note in the two articles was Usher's anti-anecdote about what led him to want to play Chicago's Billy Flynn on Broadway:
So what’s Usher’s experience with Broadway?

It came into his orbit, he said, when he was about 15 and had arrived in New York to work on his first album. “After seeing ‘Cats’ on Broadway — well, I never went to see it — but after seeing the advertising for it, I always kind of had an open eye,” he said. “And then when I found out about Fosse, I was like, man, this is it.”

Take that and rewind it back for a minute. Heh.