Saturday, May 9, 2009

COLE HAMELS CAN MAKE SEPTA RUN ON TIME, BUT MATT WIETERS IS SO DAMN GOOD THAT EVEN HIS INTANGIBLES ARE TANGIBLE: Compare and contrast with, then see the BBTF community's efforts at an Adam Eaton Facts list.
HEY, YOU! I KNOW YOU! I KNOW YOU! Set your TiVos now, because NBC has scheduled for weeks a two-hour SNL Short Films special on Sunday, May 17:
This historic special features many of SNL's most celebrated short films over the past 34 seasons, including fan favorites: "Synchronized Swimmers," directed by Christopher Guest and featuring Martin Short; "TV Funhouse," written by Robert Smigel; and the 2007 Emmy Award-winning digital short "D**k in a Box," with pop sensation Justin Timberlake. Also included are "Lazy Sunday," "Japanese Office," "United Way" with football star Peyton Manning, "MacGruber," "Star Wars Screen Tests," "Deep Thoughts" by Jack Handey, "Mr. Bill" and much more.
Timberpants returns for his third (only third?) appearance as host tonight; feel free to discuss here.
RETURN OF THE OCCASIONAL FAUX-NEWSQUIZ: Who said it in this weekend's newspapers, and why?
If you don't need money, and you don't need fame, then you're free.
Your most humorous and least accurate answers are welcome.

Friday, May 8, 2009

BETTER THAN NEIL? For fans of Cap'n Hammer, Michael Ausiello (who's pretty good with these things) is now reporting that a second season of Castle is "a safe bet." The show still needs some tweaking (stronger mysteries, more interesting cops other than Beckett, and actually filming in New York would all help), but a lot of it's already working (the Castle-daughter-mom relationship, the Castle-Beckett chemistry), in no small part due to Nathan Fillion's charm. Glad to see he's finally found a successful vehicle.
THE BARRY GIBB TALK SHOW--ONE CREDIT IN AMERICAN STUDIES: Look, I'm always proud of entertainers or athletes who go back to get their college degree after leaving college to pursue their dreams, even when it's ALOTT5MA designated whipping boy Jimmy Fallon doing so. However, apparently, Fallon presented "a portfolio of his work" to obtain the remaining credits. Seriously? A reputable college is giving someone credits for "Jarret's Room" and Taxi? (OK, "Hi, I'm Carson Daly, and I'm a massive tool." is worth something.)
LET'S PLAY KLINGON BOGGLE AFTERWARDS: The Onion's take on Star Trek has already made the rounds, but seems to me an excellent place for jumping off for a spoiler thread. I'm not seeing it until tomorrow afternoon, but I'm guessing many of you already have.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

AND YOU MUST BE THE WOMAN WHO'S BEEN SCREWING MY HUSBAND: We congratulate one of our long-time readers (and occasional guest diarist) as she marks a nice career accomplishment with the 100th episode of Grey's Anatomy airing tonight. Variety has a package of articles, including a hookup chart and a top 10 maladies list, to amuse and delight.
GLAMBERT! OK, apparently, EW has opted for an Adam Lambert cover this week (last week was Trek). I suppose it's better than yet another Twilight cover (4 since this time last year). I believe this marks the first time an Idol competitor has gotten a solo cover before winning. (Carrie Underwood got the cover in October 2007, Kelly Clarkson in May 2007, and finalists/judges have shared covers before.) Does this help or hurt Adam's chances, especially given that part of the angle of the cover story is apparently speculation about his sexual orientation?
LIKE CAPTAIN AWESOME, BUT REAL AND NOT A DOCTOR: A colleague mentioned to me today that she heard Aisha Tyler on the radio this morning. My friend joked that she hates it when beautiful people are smart and funny -- a description of Tyler with which I can't disagree (I haven't seen Tyler in anything since her guest stint on Friends, I think, but I remember laughing at her goofy stuff on Talk Soup, which I assume was closest to her native element). I would add to the list of adjectives "likeable" and "approachable-seeming." Dig a little deeper and you'll find (and I'm just summarizing her Wiki page here, so watch out for publicist-sponsored resume inflation) that Tyler plays poker for charity, brews her own beer, plays video games, is married to her college boyfriend (a lawyer, so she doesn't have that hates-lawyers thing), and sang in an a cappella group. Although I lived for nine years in LA, where the economy accepts scurrilous gossip about B/C-listers in lieu of cash, I've never heard a single thing about Tyler. Usually I can, like the sidebar says, find something wrong with everything that's good, but I'm drawing a blank here.

About how many people in the entertainment world can you say that?
OH MANNY, WELL YOU CAME AND YOU GAVE WITHOUT TAKING, BUT I SENT YOU AWAY, OH MANNY: We here at ALOTT5MA officially extend our condolences to anyone who’s got Manny Ramirez on his or her roto squad.
CHEESEBURGER IN PARADISE: Not to get all political, but jumping off our "chick-no-pick" discussion and the news that Sean Hannity has gotten all angry that President Obama dared to order "spicy mustard" on his hamburger when he went out with Joe Biden a few days ago, let's talk about preferred condiments on sandwiches. Personally, I'm a minimalist--I like a cheeseburger with a little barbecue or similar sauce, and maybe just a little bit of sauteed onion--I want to enjoy the beef. Such heated discussions as "mayo: essential, or abomination," and "yellow vs. brown mustard" are welcome in the comments.
HEY!, IT'S THAT GUY/GIRL: A question for the ThingThrowers (spurred partially by Felicia Day showing up on My Boys this week)--name a performer who you want to see anchoring their own TV show, especially someone who hasn't worked much in recent years, and pitch a show for them. I'll offer up one to get things started:
  • Sigourney Weaver--Women of Weaver's generation have had quite a bit of difficulty finding solid film roles of late, but there's been a lot of good work for them on TV--see, e.g., Sally Field, Holly Hunter, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Glenn Close, et al. I can see her as a softer version of Glenn Close's character on Damages, maybe dealing with getting laid off and finding a new way in the world? Alternatively, she'd make an interesting lead on a procedural show.
Let's also assume that a substantial part of our population wants to see Josh Charles working again.
YOU FOUGHT IN THE KOREAN WAR? It's been a really good season of Lost, maybe even great. It's nice that even when they were focusing on characters the last month or so, they did it in a way that let them seamlessly transition at the end of "The Variable" back into the stretch-run plot. And snap, just like that, you have a nuclear bomb, an Egyptian temple, two confused and pissed-off militias, and a Mamet play handcuffed to a submarine. What could possibly go wrong?
I WANT TO TOUCH IT BUT I DON'T: Like I said, I'm a sucker for series finales. Right up the middle, but sometimes all you need is right up the middle.

I'm talking about Scrubs, by the way.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

CRY, CRY BABY? [Did America get it right, yet again? To the comments.]

Revised and extended Thursday morning: Yeah, on a certain level -- the whole "justice" thing -- Allison Iraheta's ouster from Idol last night was deeply disappointing, as unjust and shocking as previous Final Four ousters of Tamyra Gray and Chris Daughtry. If anything, it's worse than Tamyra's, because her "New Attitude" did stink (but not nearly as bad as the Gokey Scream.)

But, at the same time, was she going to win this competition? Hard to imagine. I think both Adam and Kris are positioned to be top artists today; as noted in the Comments, Allison is a futures option that will likely pay off in 3-5 years, but not quite yet. I'd rather she had her breakthrough as Young Adult than Precocious Teen. Give her time, because the pipes are there and the personality is there.

In the meantime, I find myself faced with the problem that I don't really hate Hokey Gokey. I think he's got a really nice voice, and seems to be a decent fellow. I just don't think he belongs in a competition for the Next Pop Superstar, certainly not in its final three. Kris, on the other hand? I prefer Adam Lambert, but if Kris wins, he has totally earned it. Next week's "you choose, judge's choose" selections are going to be real interesting.
@SPORTSGUY33: Bill Simmons wants to be the next Minnesota Timberwolves GM.
I'M PICTURING THE GREAT GAZOO, BUT WITH A BEARD: Continuing our narrow fixation on determining how the hell one adapts Moneyball into a film comes word today that the role of Bill James will be played by a cartoon character.
UNCLEAR IF IT CONTAINS THE CHEMICAL THAT MAKES YOU CRAVE IT FORTNIGHTLY: Oprah apparently put on the Internet coupons allowing anyone who printed it out a free two piece grilled chicken meal, including sides and a biscuit. The result? Epic Fail!
I LEFT YOU BEHIND, IT'S BEEN A LONG TIME, AND I'M NOT OVER YOU: Like Let it Be, I Am Trying to Break Your Heart started as a documentary about the making of an album and ended up as a movie about a band more or less breaking up. In it, there's an argument between Wilco's Jeff Tweedy and Jay Bennett over some small thing that becomes a big thing. It's tremendously uncomfortable, especially since, rather than exploding and wasting a lot of energy, the argument seems to cut efficiently deeper and deeper into both men's tissues, doing irreparable damage. Bennett comes off needy, passive-aggressive, and irritating; Tweedy seems like a cruel and dismissive tyrant; it's clear that the two have reached the point where they cannot work with each other, but only one knows that. Shortly after the movie, Bennett put out an album, The Palace at 4 a.m., that included another version of his "My Darling" (he pointedly won't call it a cover, since he wrote it; he calls Wilco's version a cover) and two other songs based on his parts of Bennett-Tweedy collaborations, with the Tweedy parts stripped away. While there's certainly nothing wrong with an artist deciding to release (or re-release) his own material, it certainly didn't dispel the image of Bennett as the jilted lover pointlessly stating his case to mutual friends, the Aniston to Tweedy's Pitt.

Sadly, four years later, Bennett and Tweedy are at it again, with Bennett suing for royalties for the documentary itself (and possibly for some of the albums). And it gets sadder, too, since although the impression will be one of a guy who just can't let it go (Aniston again), the fact is that Bennett needs money. He needs a hip replacement but has no health insurance and can't afford it. I doubt that Wilco made a ton of money off an indie documentary, and I have no idea whether Bennett got his fair share if it did, but I'm not going out of my way to judge a guy desperate to fund an operation. And I think it's just too bad that it came to this -- I wonder if it couldn't have been possible for both sides to just bury the hatchet with a benefit concert for Bennett or something.

Hat tip: Adam and Adlai.
YES, I ACTUALLY AM POSTING SOMETHING (ARGUABLY) PRO A-ROD: I found Doug Glanville's piece in today's NYT to be a fair and thought provoking analysis of the allegation that A-Rod tipped pitches to opposing players.
HEARTBREAK, OLD FRIEND, GOODBYE IT'S ME AGAIN: Just wanted to say some quick, contingent, and possibly premature goodbyes to a show I've watched a long time, a show I've watched for a couple of years, and a show I began watching seven weeks ago.

The reason for the unevenness in this season of Scrubs (finale tonight), I think, is that its main characters have nothing to say that they haven't said before. They seem like a rock band on the second-to-last night of a 100-city world tour, playing the same songs the same way in the same order and just looking forward to a little time off. Meanwhile, the second-tier players elevated to Tier 1a this season -- especially Janitor, but also Ted and Denise/Jo, and, for his brief run, Aziz Ansari -- have been the bright spots. I was sold on this show from the moment in Episode 1 when JD said that Elliot's rear end was like two potato chips nestled together, and I think I described it that season as the spiritual descendant of Parker Lewis Can't Lose (which is intended as praise), but it's time to go. And I'm a sucker for series finales, so I'm looking forward to tonight.

Chuck, on the other hand, I already miss. Usually when shows I like fail, I understand why. They're understated, dark, subtle, too clever by half, contrarian, challenging, or contemptuous of parts of the audience that are necessary for mass popularity. Chuck isn't. It is bright, shiny, optimistic, brisk, pretty. It features excellent acting, physical comedy, and palpable chemistry among both its leads and its supporting players. It is genuinely funny and ably pushes emotional buttons. It plots an easy-to-follow through-line and doesn't sweat minor inconsistencies. It is not prissy about being commercial and is gleefully positive about its product placement. The only show I can think of that so openly and competently courted popularity is Friends. I cannot fathom why Chuck isn't a huge success. To paraphrase a character in a show that was a predictable (if sad) failure, if you can't make money on Chuck you should get out of the money-making business.

Better Off Ted, as I've said, has a much lower ceiling for ratings. But it was a wonderful diversion while it lasted. Spacewoman thought last night was not as great as the middle of the short season, but I really liked it. The joke about the corporation "individualizing" its employees' cubicles with one of four themes (cats, space, classic cars, and Green Bay Packers) was great. As in prior episodes, though, the show paid off what seemed like a throwaway joke with an examination of what would happen if the joke were taken seriously. This show takes the ordinary workplace comedy down completely unexpected paths, and for that alone, I will miss it.

Yes, I realize that all three of these shows are on the bubble in some way or another, but I'm not holding my breath for any of them.
WER HÖREN KANN, ICH WERDE VERSUCHEN FÜR DIE REISE IN DIE BLACK ROCK. BITTE HELFEN SIE UNS! SIE SIND ALLE GESTORBEN: Thing I learned from Darlton on this week's official ABC Lost podcast: in the version of the show dubbed for French audiences, Rousseau speaks German.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

ADAM LAMBERT WANTS TO GIVE YOU EVERY INCH OF HIS LOVE: This week's theme appeared to be Play It Loud, and that was going to be a problem for our non-manic preacher fellows. A big problem, especially in the wake of a Double-A ass-kicking ...

Lambert, "Whole Lotta Love".
Adam: This was pantheon-level awesome. Yes, it was pretty straightforward, but so what? It was Robert f'n Plant, and he nailed it. In terms of presence, in terms of singing, it was spot-on awesome, the best rock performance on the show since Chris Daughtry did "Hemorrhage" in the season five semis.

Kim: Yes, Lambert nailed Robert Plant. (And Adam, if you can’t say Robert Fucking Plant on Rock Night, when can you say it?) What’s keeping it from being over the moon iconic for me is that for the first time, I found Lambert’s performance just the slightest bit karaoke. The best karaoke ever, perhaps, but it was a little mimicky to me. But this is wild nitpickery – it was by far the best solo performance of the night. I’m also so glad that AI paid whatever the hell they had to in order to get Adam the rights to the song he’d most been wanting to sing all season.

Allison, “Cry Baby.”
Kim: Well, thank the Lord that Adam finally stepped in and did what the Idol stylists couldn’t – transform Allison into someone who actually looks like a rock star. I thought this was going to be perfect for Allison when I heard her rehearsal clip. But somehow in the process of losing her nervousness, she lost her rawness. This “Cry Baby” was a little too polished, a little too smooth. Still, an easy #2 solo of the night.

Adam: For once, someone did the song I suggested on the show, and it was twice as good as any Jackie Jormp-Jomp we've seen before on the show. Was it Joss Stone "Cry Baby" good"? No. That's why Joss Stone never had to do Pop Idol before becoming a star. But it was assured and strong and every bit the singer we've been hoping Allison would be during this competition.

Team Jebus, "Renegade"
Adam: I think it's perfectly fine to have the singers do duets during the competition, and want to see this feature come back next season. But this? They harmonized rather well, I thought, but the song was completely forgettable. Not actively bad in any way -- oh, that will come -- but nothing to download later.

Kim: Other than the harmonies, they each looked like they were trying to do their best to forget that the other guy was on the stage. Nice harmonies, though. I wonder how the pairings were done? Because clearly, whoever didn’t get Lambert lost before they even got started. I feel a little bad for these two guys, because it sounds like the marching orders for this week were to locate their inner rock god and let him shine. Other weeks have rewarded the reworking of other songs into one’s own style, but this week seemed to be much more restrictive. Or maybe they just didn’t try. Who knows.

Kris, “Come Together.”
Kim: Now what makes Kris, of all people, pick a song with no melody? “Revolution” would have been better from a “dude jamming with a guitar singing some fun lyrics” standpoint. And he just looked so miserable throughout the whole show – duet, comments, chatting with Ryan, solo, comments. Poor Kris. Nothing he did sucked, but it just wasn’t all that good.

Adam: Remember when Carly Smithson did "Come Together"? Because that was good, and this wasn't. Trying to sing the devil's music, and not very well -- it's a song with absurd lyrics and he had no idea what to do with them. Unless there was some "you must be LOUD" requirement from the producers, this was a night for him to do Eagles, Tom Petty, something mellow but still guitar-based.

Hokey Gokey, "Dream On".
Adam: You want me to say "fuck" tonight, Kim? Because this was a fucking disaster. The whole point of "Dream On" are the screams Steven Tyler pulls off at the end, the ones that Adam Lambert could have pulled off at the end ... and as Gokey was going through this song, it seemed like he was just going to rearrange the song to avoid them. Jen and I kept looking at each other -- now will he? -- and then, when he did, it missed as much as Scott Macintyre missed everything on "The Search Is Over," as much as Corey Clark on "Against All Odds". It was brutal. Both on his cumulative downwards slide and especially on tonight, he deserves to go home now.

Kim: Totally. In a season that didn’t have Adam Lambert, maybe Gokey could have gotten away with the screaming. But knowing that there was someone hanging out backstage who could have matched Steven Tyler screech for screech just made this even worse. What made him think this was a good idea, I do not know.

Team Rock God, “Slow Ride.”
Kim: This. Was. Awesome. This is why having duets on the show hypothetically* makes sense. By far the best performance of the night, and lucky lucky lucky for Allison, as it transformed the ethos of the evening from “Adam then everyone else” into “rockers then those other bozos.” (*But do let me take this opportunity to mock the producers once again for being entirely incapable of squeezing six songs into an hour, much less the eight that this week should have had.)

Adam: At first, I was, like, Foghat? When they could have done Mick-and-Bette? But they elevated each other, and I have to wonder if the producers decided that this was the night to axe half of Team Jebus -- even the Danny half, if necessary -- by putting A/A together, giving them the pimp slot and Adam the opener (primacy and recency!), and keeping Danny's suckfest fresh in viewers' memories. This was just a great duet, and all I can do is gratuitously like to Mick and Tina at Live Aid, because this made me that kind of happy.


Adam: Go home, Danny. But if Kris ends up going on the basis of tonight, it is not unjust.

Kim: Total agreement. It should be Danny. It will be sad if it’s Kris’s time, but he was always kind of the underdog, and tonight he didn’t perform like a guy who thought he should be in the top 3.
IT'S LIKE US FOR OLD PEOPLE: Watch!: The CBS Magazine (which I get for free) seems to be doing OK despite the current wintry economic climate (in which no one is looking for a puppeteer!), being seemingly almost entirely advertising, with a heavy tilt toward drug advertising, but let's recap some of the high points in the 92 page (including both front and back covers) June 2009 issue:
  • Cover--Eva LaRue, Lauren Lee Smith, and Cote de Pablo wearing haute couture gowns, seated on motorcycles. No, I don't know why. A ten page article/photo spread inside includes additional photos and brief profiles of the three ladies, along with a full page of fashion credits.
  • A page long spread of "brainy" quotes from Big Bang Theory, which somehow manages to include only four quotes, and not include any discussion of cloning Leonard Nimoy or of Rock-Paper-Scissors-Lizard-Spock.
  • Two pages of advice from "Satan" to characters on Gossip Girl. Just because you've read The Screwtape Letters does not justify a pale imitation thereof.
  • A two page spread on Alimi Ballard's backyard (apparently, he is on Numb3rs).
  • A full-page discussion of the changing hairstyles of Melody Thomas Scott on The Young and the Restless.
  • A photo spread of Guiding Light's shoot in Orlando. There is no reference to the show's cancellation.
  • A 5 page article on how much the CSI folks love Lawrence Fishburne.
  • An (actually pretty decent) 7 page look back at Murphy Brown, including 2 full pages devoted to her secretaries.
  • David Conrad (from Ghost Whisperer) provides workout advice!
  • Jeff Probst's list of ten favorite songs, including "Everlong," "Purple Rain," and "Crash Into Me."
  • Of the 92 pages, 28.5 (30.9%) are expressly advertising. This does not include product placement, credits for items used on photo shoots, or the fact that the entire magazine is in essence an ad for CBS programming.
METAL ON METAL: I saw "Anvil! The Story of Anvil" on Saturday with my favorite heavy metal fan. The film has received exceptionally good reviews. For example, Anthony Lane of The New Yorker called it "the most stirring release of the year."

I liked it a lot, but I think my expectations were too high. Many of the reviews make the obvious comparison between the (real) band in this film and the fictional band in This is Spinal Tap. There are quite a few parallels. But Anvil is not a comedy like Spinal Tap. It's a portrait of some sweet people clinging to a dream.

I thought Anthony Lane got the essence of the film correct:
This film is not about rock music at all, still less about school lunches in Ontario, or unusual uses for vibrators; it is about time, and how it threatens to fade us out like a song on the radio, and why, risking ridicule, and leaning on love, we should crank up the volume and keep going.
HOPEFULLY, A TREASURE BATH AWAITS HIM IN HEAVEN: R.I.P. Dom DeLuise, 75. Here's some YouTube to remember him by; feel free to share more.
FOR THE LOVE OF THE AMERICAN THEATRE WING: Tony Award nominations are out, and a few things of note:
  • While Billy Elliot, Next To Normal, and (somewhat surprisingly) Shrek: The Musical are nominated across the board in the top musical categories, the fourth slot is filled differently in each of the three categories--best musical, Rock of Ages, best book, [title of show], best score, 9 to 5.
  • Constantine Maroulis becomes (I believe) the first Idol alum to be nominated for a Tony for his performance in Rock of Ages. (Fantasia would have been, but since she didn't originate the part, was not eligible.)
  • God of Carnage scored the difficult task of getting all four of its principal cast members nominated in the leading category, and is the clear frontrunner for Best Play, given that Pulitzer winner Ruined did not transfer.
  • Allison Janney is the only one of the three principals from 9 to 5 to score a nod, where she's almost certainly doomed to lose to Alice Ripley.
  • Surprise snubs include no nod for John Goodman for Waiting for Godot, no nods in any category for the much-praised The Seagull, and no non-technical nods for the Daniel Radcliffe Equus.
Show airs June 7 on CBS. No host yet announced, though widely speculated it will be Will Ferrell.
M. NIGHT SHYALAMAN'S FILMS ARE FEATURED ON BOTH LISTS: I enjoyed reading this list of the 47 best and worst twist endings in movies. Note that there are major spoilers on these lists (although I bet that many of our readers have seen many of these films already).

Hat tip to Lou.
NEXT WEEK, WE VOTE BASED ON THE GROUP NUMBER! Last week, Seacrest announced that this week's AI theme would be rock and roll. Now we're hearing that everyone will be singing two classic rock songs from the 70s and 80s, for a total of six. Six? Apparently in another desperate effort to avoid losing an entire song to producorial incompetence (that's incompetence of the producers, not the greengrocer), the final four will be singing one song each and then one other as a duet with someone else.

First of all, I'm not really loving the idea of rock and roll defined exclusively as a 70s/80s rock night. We've done the 80s already (remember "year you were born night," which threw everyone except Allison into that decade?). And while disco is a different beast than 70s rock, still: it was just two weeks ago that we had disco night. So the whole thing is feeling a little unnecessarily redundant. Then there's the duets thing, which is kind of conceptually fun but logistically painful during a voting episode. What happens if A sucks but B would have been awesome but for A's suckiness? We'll see how it goes. Anyway, our thoughts.

America's Sweetheart, Kris Allen.

I went back and forth on a number of Rolling Stones songs, because that is absolutely the first place any person should ever go when instructed to report to "Classic Rock of the 70s." Ultimately, I picked "Angie" (over "Moonlight Mile," which needs more than 90 seconds, and "Sweet Virginia," which has lyrics that can't be cleared), and while I'm not opposed to a KCosmo approved "solo acoustic version of," I think it's a song that could be done nicely with a standard rock band setup (bass-drums-guitar) and some understated horns. Not the kind of full orchestra that Idol would want to give it, but just something to give it a little bit of tartness. -- Isaac

"Angie" is such a nice pick that I'm loath to quarrel with it, but how about Dire Straits' "Romeo and Juliet" or, as a nod to the Sorkin crowd here, the glory-note-free "Brothers In Arms"? I was going to suggest something off Don Henley's The End of the Innocence, but Henley's burned him once before and I dare not reopen that door. There's always "Dust in the Wind," I suppose. -- Adam

Yeah, "Angie" would be nice for him. I was going down a slightly different road, though -- Dire Straits' "Why Worry." It's such a beautiful song, and sits squarely in Allen's wheelhouse. -- Kim

You Do the Hokey Gokey and You Turn Yourself Around

I like songs for Danny that play up his tone -- to that end, although I realize that it's unarrangeable down to a good 90 seconds, I keep going back to "Behind Blue Eyes." I know everyone here will hate whatever he does, so let him edit a song down into oblivion and earn everyone's ire fair and square. -- Kim

He's been doing a Michael McDonald impression for so long. Would it be heresy to give him a non-McDonald Doobie Brothers song? How about "Listen to the Music"? To which I will respond, "no, thanks." -- Isaac

No one's ever attempted Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight" on the show. Why not? Hell of a climax. I've also recommended Elton John in the past, and I don't have a problem with his trying for "Mona Lisa and Mad Hatters" or even, glurge, "Your Song." (But, then again, no. "Werewolves of London"? Can Gokey have fun again?) -- Adam

She Who Cannot Be Nicknamed

Who says a woman can't do Zeppelin? [Well, no one. Heart seems to have covered the entire Zeppelin catalog. --ed.] "Whole Lotta Love". Or, sneaking in early in 1970, Janis Joplin's "Cry Baby". Let her wail. -- Adam

Let's make Spacewoman really happy and give her Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide." I thought she did a great job controlling her voice last week. This requires more dynamic range (which is not to say a more dynamic range) than anything she's done, but I think she can do it well. But if she doesn't want that, and if I hadn't already given it to Lambert, "Baba O'Riley." I suspect that, like CtCM last year, nobody this season is quite as familiar with the teenage wasteland as is Iraheta. -- Isaac

I like "Landslide," I like Zeppelin. But what I really want to hear is that awesome scotch-and-cigarettes voice applied to something big and 80s like "Pour Some Sugar on Me" or "Kiss Me Deadly." Neither one of which is getting on the show. So, yeah, let her sing "Landslide." -- Kim

The Lambert.
We've talked so long about Axl Rose for Lambert that Appetite for Destruction seems natural. Still, I don't believe he should be telling the good people of America that they are in the jungle and are going to die (although, holy shit, just to hear him do that long opening scream ... please?), and "Patience" is just too friggin low-key for him. I tend to believe that Idols do well when the message of the song is all optimistic and hokey like Idol itself, so why not David Bowie's "Heroes"? Or, since no one else in Idol history has come close to scaling Mt. Mercury accurately, is it "We Are The Champions" time? Because Lambert can pull it off. -- Adam

Setting aside what we think would be great rock songs for these four to sing, fact is that this is final four week and this may be their last chance to sing something that they really think we should hear them sing. Which means that this is the week that Adam is supposed to sing Queen. I'm a little worried that it may be a little too soon after last season for someone to attempt "We Are the Champions" -- although Adam obviously wouldn't need to rethread the melody through a more limited range like Michael Johns did to good effect -- so how about "Somebody to Love"? Much as I'm dying to get Adam back into the uptempo stuff, this might actually be a more singerly song than "Champions." You also get the nice showy guitar solo for Slash, too, although that might be stacking the deck a bit. -- Kim

"Baba O'Riley." Cook did this, and I think I was underwhelmed. The difference between good and bad versions of this is entirely in the ability to convey both the bravado and the desperation in the vocal. Cook was too humble and stable for either., and Adam might be too, so this is a good test As much as Adam lets his voice out to run, he doesn't do that with his emotions. And I'm kind of interested in hearing him do Daltrey. I'd take "Who are You" or the more melodic "Athena" too. -- Isaac


How do you not do "Under Pressure"? Allen and Lambert. For Allison and Gokey, the Springsteen/Etheridge acoustic version of "Thunder Road," only subtracting the guitars because Danny can't play and Allison knows three chords. -- Kim

For Gokey and Iraheta: I know we don't have to give them actual duets, but in the Google of my head, the term "classic rock duet" returns only one search hit: "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around" (actually, there is a second, "Don't Go Breakin' My Heart," but I have set my internal Google filter to exclude it). That means I'm giving Iraheta two Stevie Nicks tunes, even though I'm not positive she can do justice to even one; so be it. The lyrics would be appropriate too -- just a touch creepy, with dad-like Gokey singing to teen Iraheta that there are people in the world who want to "make a meal of some bright-eyed kid/you need someone looking after you." Then, for Allen-Lambert: There would be so many fun things to do with this pairing. "Ramble On" by Led Zeppelin, especially with each taking part of that end-fade where left-speaker Plant is arguing with right-speaker Plant; a goofy, fun-loving "Holiday Road" by Lindsay Buckingham from the Vacation soundtrack; a rousing pub-style singalong of the Kinks' "Lola"; maybe an a cappella "Seven Bridges Road" or "Find the Cost of Freedom" (each minus a voice or two, I guess). Honestly, the way Idol seals its contestants off from each other, it would just be really fun to see the putative top two interact with each other musically, the way The Davids did in the finale last year. -- Isaac

I can go three ways with this, and it's all about highlighting Allison: (1) Iraheta-Lambert do "Beast of Burden", while Gokey-Allen try, hmm, "When Love Comes To Town," with Gokey getting the BB King lines? (2) Iraheta-Gokey do "Paradise by the Dashboard Light," while Allen-Lambert excel on "Under Pressure." Again: let him scale Mt. Mercury. (3) Iraheta-Allen do "Fairytale of New York" (okay, it'll require some editing), while The Presumptive Finalists try to one-up each other on the Bowie-Jagger "Dancing in the Streets." -- Adam

Monday, May 4, 2009

Fame on the Half Shell -

A CELEBRITY HAS MONEY. A CHEF HAS A RESTAURANT. I HAVE NEITHER: The Times checks in with some NYC-based Top Chef alums -- Leah, Hung, Harold and Nikki -- plus a sidebar that surveys the current postings of some others in the area.
HOW I CIRCLED AROUND FOR TWENTY-ONE MINUTES MAKING META JOKES ABOUT THE SERIES UNTIL ... NO, WAIT, REALLY? Well, I guess that counts as progress, but, really, Ted. All the butterfly-wing-flapping-rain-muscle-sexxy-bagel nonsense? You're still a douchebag.
NERF NBC: While Chuck, Law and Order, and My Name Is Earl remain in limbo, and NBC has picked up both some returners and a few new shows, the most exciting renewal confirmation of the day is that The Guild will return for a third, Microsoft-sponsored, season this summer.
STAR WARS EPISODE II: ATTACK OF THE TWEENS: That might be an appropriate title for the MTV Movie Award nominations, which are led by Twilight with 7 nods, HSM3 with 5 nods, and 2 nods for Hannah Montana: The Motion Picture Event. (In an attempt to be taken somewhat seriously, Slumdog Millionaire has 6 nods.) Highlights include:
  • Anne Hathaway nominated for "Best Female Performance," not for Rachel Getting Married, but for Bride Wars, which is a bizarro category, also including Kate Winslet, Angelina Jolie, Kristen Stewart, and Taraji P. Henson, in Benjamin Button's sole nomination.
  • Apparently afraid to take sides in the Edward/Jacob debate, both are nominated for "breakthrough performance, male," for Twilight (though surprisingly, Pattinson is not nominated for Best Male Performance).
  • For the first time in a while, two women (Anna Faris and Amy Poehler) are nominated for Best Comedic Performance.
  • Not one, but two, same sex kisses are nominated for "best kiss"--one comedic (I Love You, Man) and one serious (Milk).
  • New category "Best WTF Moment" includes nominations from Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Slumdog, Baby Mama, Tropic Thunder, and Wanted. Sadly, "Vampire Baseball" from Twilight, which I understand should have been a strong contender, is not nominated.
  • Bruuuuccceee! can't get nominated for an Oscar, but is up for Best Song, along with Miley Cyrus, Paramore, and "Jai Ho."
Any question, given that it's web-based voting, that Twilight will win everything under the sun?
AT LEAST SHE'S PRETTIER THAN ROSEANNE BARR: Denise Richards did quite an "entertaining" rendition of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" a few days ago. Look (and listen) here.
PROCLAIMING ONESELF A BALLBUSTER ON THE FIRST DATE MIGHT NOT BE THE BEST STRATEGY: So we haven’t been talking about the Real Housewives of New York this season, mostly because I’ve been watching it on a two-week-or-so delay, but tomorrow being the big Season Two finale and all, I figured now’s as good a time as any to see who’s out there (besides my neighbor and me).

This has been an entertaining season, largely because of the introduction of Kelly Bensimon as the sixth real housewife. Last season, Jill and Bethenny kept things anchored in some sort of self-aware reality while Luann, err, Mrs. de Lesseps (with the benefit of hindsight, one thinks she might have clung to that honorific a shade too tightly) was off polishing her tiara, Ramona was off flashing her crazy eyes, and Alex and Simon were off twittering (it’s sad that that word has been lost to social networking) about their brilliant multilingual world-traveling offspring.

Most of the returning housewives have picked up a smidgeon of self-awareness by virtue of Season One. Ramona seems to have her nutsiness more or less under control, while husband Mario has finally shown us that he’s as looney-tunesy as she is and sane Avery must be running the family business solo; Alex is blathering less about social strata and comes off a little more like a regular mom trying to make everything work (while wearing a couture burlap feedbag and living in a bordello, naturellement – don’t we all?); and Luann is a little less adamant that everyone kowtow before her titular superiority. Jill, God bless her, is the same as she was last season – everyone’s Jewish mama only with fancier stuff and less chicken soup.

And then there’s Kelly. Kelly is blessed with many, many things, but self-awareness is decidedly not on the list. On the one hand you can’t blame her – unlike the others, she didn’t have the chance to watch herself on TV during season one and to learn the relevant lessons from that experience. But on the other hand – wow, she’s awful. Did she ever watch the show last year, or did her people just tell her that this was a good way to get national exposure? I kind of feel like the whole experience was pitched to her as The Kelly Show, and that the notion of interacting with five other people somehow failed to penetrate her consciousness. Not that there seems to be much consciousness to penetrate.

Where things get interesting is that Kelly has really thrown Bethenny off her game, making for some exceedingly awkward moments. Between the fakety-fake-fake singing of “Hiiiii” and “Byeee” in Bethenny’s general direction and all the Oh, Bethennys, and those “I’m up here and you’re down here” comments, poor Bethenny is being tormented within an inch of her life. But when she tries to react, Kelly apparently forgets that any of it ever happened, and I’m sorry, what was your name again? Bethenny, who was so funny and charming last season, is coming across like a pit bull chained to a tree trying desperately to get to the slab of beef just out of reach. If the previews for tomorrow night’s season finale are accurate, then Kelly may have finally driven Bethenny insane – what else would cause Jill, of all people, to hit the breaking point?

So what do you think? Am I alone on the “Kelly is horrid” bus? Do others like Alex and Simon’s decorating taste more than I? Is Jill not the undeniable heroine of the show?
I CAN NAE CHANGE THE LAWS OF PHYSICS! In honor of this week's Star Trek release (tickets already acquired for a Saturday Imax screening!), let's take a moment to go Star Trekkin' across the universe.
ISAAC, DID THIS EVER HAPPEN ON THE WIRE? I still don't plan to make This Week in the Cape Cod Times a regular feature, but this brief tale of a drug deal gone bad is worth a moment of your time.
IT WAS SWEET WHEN THEY KILLED ELLIS: Good song; great movie. 4:27 of fun. (some language NSFW).

Sunday, May 3, 2009

GOOD WESTERN HEADS LACK FISH, AND LIGHT COMPETITION RED DISHES I'VE PLAYED BEFORE: Y'know, I understand and accept the notion that the Race is plotted out in advance without regard to who the teams will be. That said, when you've got a task requiring reciting Mandarin when one team speaks Mandarin and another team has a competitor who doesn't speak ... well, thank goodness there was another detour option. And subtitles. But for once in the history of this show -- unlike San Francisco, unlike Manhattan, unlike Paris -- a home town advantage really did mean something.

So three of our race favorites came back tonight: killer fatigue, ugly Americanism, and a Beijing leg strongly affected by a gross food challenge towards the end. I imagine, however, that what we're going to end up talking about most is what I'll refer to as the Pause That Refreshes and its impact on the leg, and just how much dignity matters when you're racing for One Million Dollars.
THE TRADITIONAL GIFT IS WOOD: Five years ago today, Adam asked Alex and I to join him, Isaac, and Phil here. Kim, Kingsley, TPE, and Bob joined us a bit later on, but it's still worth commemorating. On this auspicious blogiversary, I wanted to take a few minutes to thank two groups of people.

First are my co-bloggers. I've only had an opportunity to meet some of them in person, but I'm proud to call all of them my friends. Y'all make me laugh and think about things in a new way on a regular basis. Even if we don't agree on everything, we agree on the truly important issues, like the awesomeness of Neil Patrick Harris, that Lost is both maddening and rewarding, and that Jeremy Piven is kind of a douchebag.

Second is all of y'all--our readers and commenters. Isaac schmoopily sang your praises a while ago, and fun as screaming into the wind of the Internet is, knowing that we have readers who will engage with our content makes it worthwhile. This has been a great way to not just reconnect with old friends, but also to make new ones. Thanks to you folks--you're awesome.
NO ONE ON THE CORNER HAS ... Gentlemen, it's time to discuss something which men rarely discuss openly: when a deodorant manufacturer labels its various scents with self-mocking titles like "Swagger" and "Showtime" (designed to "turn up your mansmell"), does that make you more likely or less to purchase the product?
GIVE ME THE GREEN LIGHT: About two weeks ago, Adam asked whether there was any reason to watch this year's NBA Playoffs before the finals. I think we have our answer.

What is widely regarded as the best NBA first-round playoff series of all time concluded last night when the Boston Celtics defeated the Chicago Bulls 109-99 to win the series four games to three. Four of those seven games went into overtime, including the particularly memorable Game 6, which went into triple overtime on Thursday. Five of the games were decided by a margin of three points or fewer.

This was 371 minutes of some of the most intense and exciting basketball you will ever see. ESPN put together video clips documenting the top ten moments of the series.

As Bill Simmons observes, the Bulls-Celtics series reminded us why we love sports (note that Simmons wrote his piece after Game 6, not Game 7). Like Simmons, I am a Boston fan, but I ended up loving the Bulls nearly as much as I love the Celtics. They played one hell of a series. The Bulls are going to be a very impressive team next year.

Looking ahead, the Celtics are unlikely to beat the Cavaliers and there is certainly room for doubt about their chances against Orlando. All that being said, I will treasure this series for many years to come. I will remember Eddie House shooting 5-5 with four threes last night. I will remember Rajon Rondo averaging nearly a triple double during the series. I will remember Ray Allen making one million clutch shots. I will remember Paul Pierce's step-back jumper that won Game 5 with 3 seconds left, the pivotal play of the series' pivotal game. I will remember this team overcoming injuries to two key players and prevailing, just barely.