Saturday, April 7, 2007

Throwing Things -

WHO DO WE ASK FOR HELP WHEN WE DON'T KNOW WHICH WAY TO GO? Every once in a while, I check out the map showing the locations of our 100 most recent visitors. It's always comforting to see our fan at Elmendorf Air Force Base near Anchorage, Alaska, but today I saw something new: Visitor No. 875,885, from "Kuy-e Bimeh-ye Bazergnan, Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran."

And what brought our new visitor here? A search for pictures of Princess Ardala on Buck Rogers, of course.

Breaking up is hard to do

VIKING QUEST: The other show that's returning to HBO on Sunday is Entourage, which remains a male wish-fulfillment fantasy with The Piven's performance and Johnny Drama in the Vegas episode as the only things worth watching. As Isaac noted in August 2005, "It is SATC with guys instead of women, less sentimentality, and modestly more plot. In other words, instead of being a gay man's fantasy about what it's like to be a fabulous woman in NY, it's an adolescent guy's fantasy about what it's like to be hip in LA."

As Sepinwall notes, the show's lack of introspection can be a real disappointment, as Vince's bad choices (in women, in roles) remain consequence-free: "[T]he writers don't want to acknowledge how Vince's laid-back impulsiveness has derailed his career at least as much as Ari's behavior." It will be a weird chaser to The Sopranos this season, no doubt.

Friday, April 6, 2007

SOMETHING TO ADD TO THE SAYING ABOUT LAWS AND SAUSAGES: Sure, that Tarantino/Rodriguez flick is going to get all the attention (and shockingly good reviews) this weekend, but at least in NY/LA, there are other options. I went with Jake Kasdan's The TV Set. Kasdan, son of director Lawrence Kasdan and producer/director of Freaks and Geeks, has made a movie about television that's funny, insightful, and just a little painful. David Duchovny plays Mike, a TV writer who's crafted a pilot script called The Wexler Chronicles about a guy who returns to his hometown after his brother's suicide. (Kind of like October Road, except not bad.) Sigourney Weaver and Ioan Gruffudd play the network suits who he's pitching it to. We begin with the final casting sessions, and go all the way through the process from there, including network notes demanding that the title be changed, that the brother's suicide be removed because "it's such a downer," and demanding casting that Mike hates. It's a really funny backstage comedy, filled with H!ITG! types (Judy Greer as Mike's agent! Justine Bateman as Mike's wife! Willie Garson as the pilot director! Lindsay Sloane as the leading lady! Lucy Davis as Gruffudd's wife! Mrs. Landingham as a foulmouthed editor!), and a few cameos (there's a post-credits scene with Seth Green playing himself that's just priceless). This is going to be WAY too inside for the average viewer, I expect, but for those of us who enjoyed at least the concept of the network politics side of Studio 60 (or who want to support Kasdan's apparent venting about what the network did to Freaks and Geeks), it's well worth your time and cash.
HOW COME THERE AIN'T NO MUPPETS ON THE WALL? It's the hottest day of the summer on Sesame Street, and the lines between Muppet and human are drawn. This Fisher-Price Little People video reminds us to Do The Right Thing (NSFW).
AND THEN A HOCKEY GAME BROKE OUT: Too much fighting in hockey? Ask these teeny-tiny children who adorably fail to pummel each other into submission. And was there not a coach anywhere in sight to break it up?

Edited to add: I know I said this in the comments, but I beg you to watch the last 30 seconds or so of that video after first burning into your synapses the last little bit of the Sopranos' Long Term Parking. Sorry the latter video is slow-load; I can't find a shorter one.
PREVIOUSLY, IN NORTH JERSEY: We were all a bit unsatisfied by the stalling at the end of the last run of Sopranos episodes, but assuming you're caught up now, well, the show's back on Sunday, and Alan Sepinwall says by the episode, "I understood Tony better than ever, which is no mean feat after nine years and 77 previous episodes."

Excited? Already pre-mourning the end of the show? Do you trust David Chase to provide enough closure and resolution in these nine episodes? And, if you like, feel free to offer any predictions you may have as to the state of things when it's all over, and any significant deaths you'd like to predict.

e.t.a. ReverseShot has some smart thoughts on where we are: ("If the season seems to have asked if redemption is possible for any of these characters, it’s fair to say that David Chase and his writers came down with a hard negative assessment. So season six set up a serious of false starts and dead ends, leaving everyone, in the end, pretty much where it found them, and pissing off fickle Sopranos fans across the country ... While it may not have been conventionally satisfying in a straightforward (read: boring) way, though, there was something incendiary and brilliant about how Chase and his writers set up such clear moral tests for each of these characters and then let them all fail at them systematically and nearly without exception.")
2 STARS, 1 SLOT -- NERDS IN PRINT EDITION: As long as Fametracker remains on indefinite hiatus, I'm stealing their shtick. There can be only one:
Law: Jeffrey Toobin v. Jeffrey Rosen
Medicine: Dr. Atul Gawande v. Dr. Jerome Groopman
Explain your reasoning; show all work.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

POP QUIZ: Two starting pitchers, signed as free agents during the off-season for multi-million dollar deals, each making his debut for his new team today:
Pitcher A: 7.0 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 10 K
Pitcher B: 4.2 IP, 7 H, 8 R, 7 ER, 4 BB, 3 K
Guess which one's on the Phillies.
NORM! Norm Peterson and the bar where he was ensconced for all those years loom large (pun intended) on two TV lists--Television's Top 10 Greatest Fatmen and The 18 Greatest TV Drinkeries. Norm only finishes eight on the generous-sized gentlemen list, but his favorite haunt, Cheers, tops the drinkery list (but Central Perk, No. 2, meh). The only other double-doubles are scored by Homer J. Simpson and Moe's and Peter Griffin and The Drunken Clam.
PIPPITY POPPITY, GIVE 'EM THE ZOPPITY: Both The Office and 30 Rock had their moments of brilliance tonight, and all I'll say now for the West Coasters is that if you like your Darryl, tonight's a night you'll want to set your TiVo on "never, ever delete". Also, we learn that a "hero" isn't just something we see on Heroes, and that an entire episode of 30 Rock can pass without Jane Krakowski appearing, and yet, you'll barely notice given all the kissing going on.
WHY COULDN'T HE JUST SAY THAT THE SHOW LACKED THE THIRD HEAT? I didn't post the LA Times story about 30 Rock because the point of the story was how it was on the bubble, and it hit my doorstep about 30 minutes before NBC announced the the show's renewal. My inner pedant wouldn't let it go, though, so I write to point out a pair of malapropisms in Martin Miller's story.

First, he says that 30 Rock suffers from "Nielsenitis." The suffix "-itis" denotes an inflammation. 30 Rock, I assure you, does not suffer from inflamed Nielsen ratings. I think "Nielsenemia," though technically gibberish, would have conveyed the idea better.

Second, he says that the "half-life of shows continues to shrink." The only context in which one should use "half-life" is when referring to something that doesn't have a measurable end point, like radioactive material that will keep emitting radiation (in exponentially smaller doses) forever. If something can die or be cancelled, why not just say "life"?

I realize that Miller is a professional writer and that a blogger correcting him is kind of like Tracy Jordan schooling Twofer on the difference between "well" and "good," but let's let Sam Zell actually take possession of the rag before we throw the standards out the window, okay?
Apples: various (red, green, yellow) (+1)
Oranges: one (orange), but possibly named after the item (+1)

Apples: refreshingly tart (green); mildly sweet (red) (+1)
Oranges: refreshingly tart and sweet (+3)

Apples: Infantilizing (0)
Oranges: Satisfying but easily spoiled (+1)

Cultural associations:
Apples: portable music, Beatles, expulsion from paradise, scion of musicothespian mediocraristocracy (+1)
Oranges: self-obsessed rich teens; harbinger of mafia death, oppressor of Roman Catholics and subduer of Irish (+1)

Conclusion: when one "compares apples to oranges," one really is saying that the second thing is much better than the first one.

That is all.
NEWS FROM AND ABOUT THE REPORTERS WHO COVER TV: The WaPo's Lisa de Moraes wonders why "30 Rock" was saved, given that "Studio 60" surpassed it in all the key ratings numbers, while here in Philadelphia, Gail Shister bids farewell to her tv news column of the past 27 years. Shister was the industry's Romenesko when Jim Romenesko was a mere lad, and also served as the Inq's first female sports reporter and its first openly gay journalist, period. "I will still cover TV, albeit not in column form or on a day-to-day basis," she explains, concluding: "My mission - to serve you - has not changed. It will just appear irregularly and in a different form. I have only one request. Stay with me."
BEING THERE: Some things to like about this week's Lost:
  • Reauthorization of the Deadwood Ladies' Full Employment Act
  • Everybody in gas masks: never gets old
  • Handcuffed wet t-shirt girlfights
  • Handcuffed women's mud-wrestling
  • The strobe-flash monster (I think Greg, Peter, and Bobby rigged this one up in the attic)
  • Hurley
Some things not to like about this week's Lost:
  • Outcast Hurley having to teach professional con man Sawyer how to gain the trust of others
  • Hurley's plan
  • That skin tag on Kate's throat

    RE: PLAY

    Folks, that is why I watch television. A showcase for Landry, and Jesse Plemons (with typically excellent support from Adrianne Palicki; who knew from North Shore, South Beach, and Robinsons: Lost in Space (original title: West Cove) that she had the chops?) certainly was up to the task. I don't want to defend all of Landry's behavior throughout the episode, but let's face it, I think a lot of us were Landry at some point in our lives, and even if it wasn't comfortable, his emotional myopia at the end of the episode rang true.

    And as usual, the show gave us one moment of frame-by-frame mute-button acting master class, this time in the cuts from Landry achingly unwilling to do what he knows he has to do, to Mrs. Coach realizing that the problem was deeper than she wanted it to be, to Tyra answering the door and looking through Mrs. Coach to the car with her Kill Lyla Garrity eyes, to Landry fidgeting in the car and then looking away.

    I know Alan has his beautiful-corpse theory for why it might be best to end FNL now, but after tonight I really can't bear the thought, likely as it may be (and as Alan reports, it may be likelier now than it was a few weeks ago).

    Wednesday, April 4, 2007

    Pilot season - British actors - Television - New York Times

    GREETINGS, I'M TITUS PULLO. WHICH WAY TO THE WESTBURY MUSIC FAIR? Yes, Ray Stevenson is playing a Lawn Guyland police officer in the possibly-forthcoming CBS series “Babylon Fields,” one of the many 2007-08 pilots featuring British thespians. Why? “Hugh Laurie opened the door,” explained one casting chief, and everyone loved Rome. So Polly Walker (Atia of the Julii) and Zuleikha Robinson (Gaia) have booked their own pilots, as well as Kevin McKidd (Lucius Vorenus), who “is playing the lead in the NBC pilot 'Journeyman,' about a time traveler.”

    As for legionary Titus Pullo, “I’m not exactly sure what my show is about yet,” he said. “But it’s all good.”
    DID TONY BENNETT HAVE A HEART ATTACK LAST NIGHT? Well, that was kind of a poignant sing-off song, wasn't it? A few takeaways from tonight's booting:
    • The bootee seems to have been well-regarded by the other contestants.
    • Stillllllll going . . .
    • has become entirely useless.

    PC World - The 50 Best Tech Products of All Time

    PAGEMAKER! BRØDERBUND PRINT SHOP! THE EPSON MX-80! "Trying to explain HyperCard to someone who's never used it is a bit like explaining a thesaurus to a three-year-old," and yet that didn't stop PC World from ranking it among the 50 Best Tech Products of All Time. Still, no love for Lemonade Stand?
    WILL SOMEONE STOP THE DAMN MATCH? This weblog has been criticized in some circles for the depressing nature of our our regular "dead wrestler of the month" feature, because, really, why don't we ever talk about about wrestling injuries and mishaps that result in something less-than-death? Via Bill Simmons, this highlight reel should suffice. For pure comedy, Kurt Angle's inability to open a steel cage (at 2:45) is where you'll want to start. So good, and still somehow, they left out the worst injury I've ever seen in the ring. NSF-delicate-stomachs.

    e.t.a. Days later, the NYT now condescendingly covers WrestleMania.
    MAKE THEM THINK THEY STAND A CHANCE THEN REFUSE TO SEE IT THROUGH: Granted, it's Michael Riedel, but can dozens of screaming Things Throwers really be so, so wrong?

    In fairness to Mr. Riedel and those who agree with him, it is most assuredly true that Max Crumm needs to change his name, pronto. But who are all these people who thought that Austin the supreme cameralicker and Ashley the all-too-forgettable Jane-Krakowski-wannabe were so much better than Max and Laura that they bought Grease tickets for the show long before the winners were announced and then demanded refunds when America disagreed?

    And while the folks around here (in which I include all of you who have been part of our ongoing Project Broadway conversation) aren't Riedel's "Broadway community," it's safe to say that we're not total philistines when it comes to either (a) musicals or (b) reality TV competitions -- and as for the intersection of the two, I think we're not half bad.

    So . . . what are we missing?
    PAGING DR. SPACEMAN: Yes, Tracy Jordan will be fully and properly medicated for a while longer, since 30 Rock will return next season. And given that Friday Night Lights won a Peabody today with the citation that "No dramatic series, broadcast or cable, is more grounded incontemporary American reality than this clear eyed serial about the hopes, dreams, livelihoods and egos intertwined with the fate of high-school football in a Texas town," a return for that seems likely as well.
    JOHN EDWARDS' TWO AMERICAS, RESTAURANT-STYLE: Ever since our very first date, Jen and I have used "Do you think they know we're Jewish?" as a our stock phrase at restaurants to attempt to explain why our service seems so delinquent compared to other parties. On the basis of his review of NYC's Four Seasons Restaurant today, Frank Bruni may be an honorary member of the Tribe, decrying "a restaurant that runs on two tracks -- one for the anonymous, another for the anointed". And yet he still gave it two stars -- go figure.

    There's a notorious bistro on Rittenhouse Square that once explained to Jen that they didn't take reservations for lunch -- and then, when she arrived for a business meeting, was told she couldn't be seated at an open table because it had been reserved for other guests. But you told me on the phone . . . // We don't, but we allow certain clients . . . and the result of the angry-gram we sent was for the restaurant to promise to place us on the secret list as well. We've chosen not to return.

    Surely, you've had a disappointing experience like that. Share.
    YOU CAN ALWAYS SNORT WHAT YOU WANT, APPARENTLY: Yes, Keith Richards now claims he snorted some of his father's cremated ashes with a cocaine chaser.

    Tuesday, April 3, 2007

    Pat Summitt - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    SEVEN NATIONAL TITLES, SEVENTEEN FINAL FOUR APPEARANCES, AND HER TEAMS HAVE NEVER MISSED THE NCAA SWEET SIXTEEN: For real, is there a better coach in America in any sport than Tennessee's Pat Summitt? Her Volunteers captured their seventh women's college basketball national title in a win over Rutgers tonight.
    ARE YOU ALRIGHT? Dr. Hizzy got surprisingly moving towards the end tonight -- you won't see the moment coming, and then it hits you, and, wow. I hope you remembered to TiVo Alien tonight, so you could watch Dr. Lisa Cuddy in the role of Dr. Gregory House. All this episode needed was more Wilson, but it was still pretty great.
    YA GOTTA KEEP 'EM SEPARATED: Oh, where to begin, where to begin. How about with cleavage: boobal separation is never acceptable. Or perhaps with blasphemy: Tony Bennett is a doddering old man. Or maybe with some oogies: I thought Lakisha was going to lick the camera at the end of her performance.

    I have no particular insight as to whether this will finally be the week in which The Universe of Sanjaya implodes. Assuming that it isn't, I have to think that Phil and Gina will find themselves firmly on the chopping block. Phil sounded positively funereal and Gina was just kind of boring. Or maybe I was just distracted by the Bride of Frankenstein stitches running along the top of her skull. (Who is styling this girl?) Haley's slightly schizophrenic performance proved, at least, that she has perfected the staccato forward shoulder shrug that I seem to recall working well for Kelly Clarkson during Big Band Week.

    I particularly enjoyed Chris Richardson this week. Also Blake, even though the slightly afterlifelike aspect of all his performances is a little disconcerting. Melinda was her usual impeccable self, although if girlfriend doesn't show that she can hit something contemporary out of the park, I'm not sure she won't accidentally get knocked off some week. Jordin didn't move me, and I'm so over Lakisha. (I was never really under Lakisha, but she's lost whatever good will I had toward her.)

    As for Tony Bennett: well, I'm glad for him that he thinks Charlie Chaplin wrote a nice song and Chris Richardson would benefit from learning his lyrics. Where's Barry??
    NOW WARMING UP IN THE MARINERS BULLPEN: The mayor of Cincinnati threw out the first pitch on opening day yesterday. He has a cannon for an arm but is still fine-tuning his control. When he has to sign important documents, do his aides set them down eight feet to his left?

    Hey, it's baseball season and King Felix is has a commanding lead in the Cy Young race! Yay for the part of the baseball season before all hopes are dashed!
    NOT EVEN TOM BRADY COULD SOLVE THIS ONE: In sad news for the many Josh Charles fans who showed up earlier this week, Six Degrees is done forever and ever, being replaced with Wife Swap repeats. Other scheduling moves of note in there:
    • Having utterly failed with an attempt to high-brow the 10 PM Monday hour with Studio 60 and Black Donnellys, NBC will try reality comedy The Real Wedding Crashers when Heroes returns on April 23.
    • The zombified corpse of 7th Heaven has been taken down with a headshot, and will not return next year.
    • While Jennifer Westfeldt/Rachel Harris comedy Notes From The Underbelly will get the benefit of premiering after Grey's on April 12, October Road will return the week thereafter (and is looking likely for a pickup for next season, I think).
    • The Wedding Bells (aka, "Is this the best you could do, David E. Kelley, Teri Polo, and Missi Pyle?") airs a final original episode this week before being dumped for airings of White Chicks.
    THE SHAREEF DON'T LIKE IT: Errr, no. The shareef did not like Billy Ray Cyrus dancing to "Rock the Casbah."

    Monday, April 2, 2007

    IT'S PROVOCATIVE, IT GETS THE PEOPLE GOING: There are such things as good covers of good songs, and bad covers of good songs. And most covers of bad songs are themselves bad. But Alanis Morisette is giving us great cover of bad song, with her solo piano rendition of "My Humps," where she confrontionally asks us what we're gonna do with all that junk, all that junk inside your trunk.
    I'M HOLDING OUT FOR KARR: Yes, one of the four original KITT's is for sale in California. Yes, you can jump in my car.
    TAKE ONLY THE CHILDREN, OR WHAT'S LEFT OF THEM, AND GO: Another YouTube/Sopranos undertaking -- every killing in the show's history, or so it is claimed.

    e.t.a. Also, Eddie Copeland pens an appreciation of Paulie Walnuts.
    IF THE JUDGE GRANTS THE PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION, TURN TO PAGE 72: In news likely to spawn nostalgia in readers of a certain age, R.A. Montgomery is suing folks for using CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE without his consent.
    GOOD TIMES. GOOD TIMES: So not every talent competition can be American Idol or Dancing With The Stars and draw millions of viewers each and every week--two that definitely won't are The Next Maytag Repairman Search and The Public Radio Talent Quest,

    Sunday, April 1, 2007

    GOOD RACING WILL SET YOU FREE: I'm okay with a leg in which the TARstars visit Auschwitz, place a Yahrzeit candle and move on without having to search the grounds as part of a task. I'm okay with a gross eating challenge that involves vomiting and dick jokes. And I'm definitely okay with a leg in which Charla comes out looking like Twiki from Buck Rogers. I'm just not sure they should have been combined in the same hour.

    All that, and just some really weird, poor race construction that all but guaranteed that the team marked for elimination in the first hour would be Philiminated in the second. Five teams left, and I think I'd rather watch the teams that are gone than the teams which remain.

    Judge orders man who lied under oath to read 'Integrity' -

    THE THOMPSON TWINS APPROVE: A Worcester (MA) judge has ordered a man convicted of perjury to read YLS Prof. Stephen L. Carter's book Integrity and write an essay on it.

    If convicted again, he may be forced to read The Emperor of Ocean Park.
    ALONGSIDE CASEY MCCALL: I know we have a number of fans of Josh Charles in these parts, so it's probably worth noting that judging from previews, he'll be making a return to series television next week playing a love interest for Bridget Moynahan on now-back-on-ABC's-schedule series Six Degrees.
    THIS IDEA IS ALL WET: Google has a significant announcement today that's well worth a few moments of your time.
    HEY, YOU. GET YOUR DAMN HANDS OFF HER: There's a very interesting favorite screenplays blog-a-thon going on, and I found Miriam Paschal's structural analysis of the drafts of Back to the Future to be particularly interesting:
    Marty is more an anti-hero than a real hero. Just like Dorothy, he travels to another time, or dimension, by accident, and his whole journey from there is just to get back home.

    Snyder, Trottier, Hauge, Vogler, and other screenwriting experts tell us over and over that the turning points of the story turn on the action of the hero. A passive hero is death to your story. If the hero doesn't take action, or make a decision, nothing is going to happen. The protag should happen to the story, not the other way around.

    So making a story about somebody who starts his journey by accident is tricky. If he never wanted to take it in the first place, how do you show that the journey starts on his active decision?

    The answer is that he makes a mistake. This is the epitome of the anti-hero. He starts off as kind of a bumbling fool, a Don Quixote if you will, stumbles around for a while, and finally finds himself in a situation (of his own making of course) from which he has to extricate himself. In doing so, he discovers that he's really not such a bumbling fool.
    See also Eddie Copeland on The Purple Rose of Cairo.