Saturday, September 26, 2009

I CAN SEE CLEARLY NOW, THE RAIN HAS COME: A late FlashForward thread.

One of the problems with apocalyptic science fiction is, of course, that everything is broken. Sometimes, the producers dodge this by having people already in the badlands (Road Warrior) or things having trimmed the population down so badly that there is a reliable supply of canned food for the conceivable future (28 Days Later, the Stand). It's hard to look at what happens to society itself in the wake of something very big and very bad. Whitley Striber's WarDay was close - a limited nuclear exchange that destroyed a few American cities, but put America back to about 1930.

FlashForward seems to have found a terrific conceit here: everyone goes blank for 2 minutes and change and that causes a lot of problems. The bones of society ought to largely continue to operate since most big stuff (power plants, water systems, and the like) operates on automatic. So they have the canvas to look at a non-fatal apocalypse and, on the first one, seem to be taking the premise seriously. The question I have, of course, is whether they will follow their own rules. India and China ought to be in the catbird seat, given that they were largely asleep when this happened and if this thing plays out political angles, I'll be mighty disappointed if they don't see that.

I have a few plot quibbles, of course - no doctor is going to go home from the hospital for days after an event like this given the body count, the information flow of what happened was way too smooth, most airplanes are operating on autopilot so 800+ airline crashes seems high. Still, I hope it stays with the thriller/science fiction angels and doesn't spend the entire show staring into its own navel about the emotional fallout of it all.

The cliffhanger itself was a dilly. I was not expecting that. Wow.

But, for now, I'm in. Until it sucks.

N.B.: Notice the advert for Oceanic Airlines on the billboard behind the FBI partners right ahead of the chase scene? I hope that's merely a shoutout and not a suggestion that this has any tie-in with Lost.

Friday, September 25, 2009

IF A SHOW AIRS AND ASHTON KUTCHER TWITTERS ABOUT IT, DOES IT MATTER? I suppose it's possible (albeit highly unlikely) that one of the shows debuting in the next few weeks (Hank, The Middle, Three Rivers, Shark Tank, Trauma, or tonight's debut of Brothers) will be gone after one airing, but we do have a winner in the "first show cancelled by calendar date" portion of the cancellation pool--the CW has yanked The Beautiful Life: TBL effective immediately, replacing it with Melrose Place repeats. I can't say I feel bad, if just because an actress friend of mine who went in for a role reported that the experience was awful, and borderline casting couch-y in a way she hadn't seen before.
TIVOVERDOSE: Apparently, we here at this blog watched so much TV last night that we didn't have time to blog about it. I've apparently given up on Survivor, and just in time. A two-hour NBC comedy block (of which I appreciated the Dwight-Darryl scenes, the Abid-Troy friendship, and the blurry loopiness of P&R, which is new to me), a two-hour Grey's that is only half-watched so far (re the nice touch of showing the extras and minor characters, not just the main characters, grieving for George, I'm both hyper-aware of when my buttons are being pushed but also, sadly, kind of a sucker for getting my buttons pushed; and I think Eric Danes is excellent in comic relief), and the Flash Forward that's waiting on the DVR (about which I think TPE will have something to say later) is a lot of TV.

I write, though, just to enjoy the fact that Grey's, the kind of hour-long drama that NBC wants to die, more than tripled Leno's viewers. I imagine that the key demos were even better. I realize Leno's cost structure may still make him more profitable, but I'm glad that there seem to be fewer people footing that bill.
AM I BUGGIN' YOU? I DON'T MEAN TO BUG YA... OKAY, EDGE, PLAY THE BLUES: The WaPo's Chris Climek ranks U2's studio albums from bottom to top in two parts, from 12 to 7 and 6 to 1. I can't accept Zooropa (no one really wanted U2 sounding "like Beck imitating Prince covering the Talking Heads") or Rattle and Hum being anywhere near the top half (the transcendent "All I Want Is You" does not outweigh the suck), and would replace them with War and All That You Can't Leave Behind (which I might rank as high as #3), but it's a smart, provocative list.
REMEMBER, REMEMBER, REMEMBER: The critics take a good look at the remake of Fame and tell us what they see (and largely, it ain't good) -- Tasha Robinson is pleased ("Hogwarts has nothing on New York’s High School Of Performing Arts. ... largely a raw, uplifting love letter to creativity in every possible form"); but Ebert is sad ("Why take a touching experience and make it into a shallow exercise? Why begin with a R-rated look at plausible kids with real problems and tame it into a PG-rated after-school special?"), and so is Carrie Rickey ("As a demo reel showcasing seven promising young talents from their freshman through senior years, it's pleasant enough. As a movie dramatizing the talent and dedication required to make it, the Fame reboot has fleet feet but lacks heart.")

Meanwhile, my friend Pam Spaulding explores the de-gaying of Fame, and I just wonder if they at least comped Harlemm Lee a ticket.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

THE GLASS, THE ANGLE, THE POUR, THE SETTLE AND THE TOP-OFF: Two hundred fifty years ago, Arthur Guinness signed a 9,000-year lease to open a brewery near St. James's Gate on the edge of Dublin to produce a dry stout bear. Today, we say thank you, and happy birthday for a quarter-millennium's worth of awesome.
BELIEVE IT OR NOT, I'VE ACTUALLY HAD BULL TESTICLES: Yeah, we should have a Top Chef Vegas discussion, and as Scott Tobias suggests the main question coming out of this episode might well be this: what's up with all the Robin animus? A lack of talent or people skills are the options he discusses, but I'll raise a third -- age. She is the oldest contestant this season at 43 (Hector and Ron being closest), and one can easily see the twenty-somethings just choosing not to get along with her regardless of the merits.

As far as this week's cooking, I don't have much. Two fair challenges, Toby Young didn't suck quite as much as usual (please, bring back Jay Rayner), and there's clearly a top group (Volts, Jennifer, Kevin, none of whom are gimmicky) and an "everyone else" at this point. One more thing: if a fellow chef tells you specifically how the guest judge likes a particular dish, you'd better figure out how to pull it off. That was eerie.
CAN YOU FEEL THE DEAD DEER'S HEART STILL BEATING TONIGHT? We do need an asterisk for the winner of Humiliation III, because we have a feeling the "Have you seen Bambi or The Lion King" question may have yielded some screwy responses. But, hey, it won, so Erin wins (139/145 have seen), with The Jetsons (138), The Princess Bride (138) and Charlotte's Web (136) coming closest. As it turns out, The Goonies were not good enough for 36% of us, and I'm rather stunned that more than half here haven't read The Phantom Tollbooth, which is full of punny awesomeness.

Only Shayera (librarians rule!) and Alex Gordon went 25/25 across the board, with jessica, Gretchen, bella wilfer, carried, Ellen, Heather P and kt falling one short -- though, to be fair, if you eliminate Oobi (would that we could), the first five of them also notched perfect scores. Missing out on (a comprehensive exposure to the classics of) childhood the most? Roger, Will, Kevin B, Andrea, Johanna Lapp, Mo1 and RichC. Average response was 18.9 out of 25; the median 20.
THIS IS WHY WE EXTENDED COPYRIGHT TERMS: I am not a regular reader of Elle, but the newsstand/convenience store in my office building always has big pictures of the cover in their windows, so I ask of you, why on earth is Victoria Beckham wearing Mickey Mouse on her boobs?
"IT WILL MAKE US RETHINK THE DARK AGES. THAT'S BASICALLY WHAT IT'S GOING TO DO." This story made me happy. One of those guys who wanders around with a beepy metal detector doohickey gets a ping from somewhere beneath a patch of his friend's farm somewhere in the English countryside, gets excited, starts to dig. But instead of finding some old sardine can, he unearths 1500 pieces of seventh century gold and silver -- the largest Anglo-Saxon treasure stash ever located. 55-year-old Brit Terry Herbert and the unidentified friend who owns the farm now get to split the proceeds when the treasure is officially valued and sold to a museum* -- likely seven figures each. Not a bad day's digging!

* Apparently the process is that a coroner had to certify the find as "treasure" to trigger this whole process. Wonder what that guy does the other 364 days of the year.

In other news, metal detector manufacturers throughout the world are ramping up production, stat.
FROM A FUNCTIONAL NARCISSIST TO A CARING NARCISSIST: As his first self-produced movie nears screens New York magazine asks, Is Tucker Max the Next Tyler Perry?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

FOX HAS OFFICIALLY PUT A RING ON IT: For me, tonight's Glee was the most cosmically linked to date with Ryan Murphy's prior work on Popular. The football game, in particular, was the kind of loopy fun that always made me giggle whenever Mary Cherry's momma, Cherry Cherry, made one of her appearances, or when a character named Exquisite Woo showed up to be wooed by Sugar Daddy, or almost anything having to do with April Tuna. And even though you kind of had to figure that that scene in the 4th quarter was coming, it didn't make it any less hilarious.

Yeah, there was a disconnect between the Glee scenes and the football scenes, and Mr. Shu's sadsack marriage to his coy harpy remains annoying, and Murphy does seem determined not to let Lea Michele ever just happily do something -- wheelchair guy's point about the storming out having less impact every time she does it was positively Hurleyesque in its coulda-come-from-the-audienceness -- but I can't imagine not sticking with this oddball show for as long as Fox keeps it around.
A BROADWAY BABY, NOT ONE BUT TWO McBABIES, A PRINZESS, AND A . . . BIRD: Time for a special game show edition of baby name roundup! Match the baby to the parents. Answers at the bottom.

A. Stella Luna
B. Sparrow James Midnight
C. Charlotte Grace
D. Nancy Leigh a/k/a Naleigh
E. Walker Nathanaiel

1. Katherine Heigl and Josh Kelley
2. Idina Menzel and Taye Diggs
3. Nicole Richie and Joel Madden
4. Ellen Pompeo and Chris Ivery
5. Sarah Michelle Prinze (yep, that's an official name change) and Freddie Prinze Jr.

answer key: Stella Luna, Sparrow James Midnight (which is apparently a rational and logical choice -- who knew?), Charlotte Grace, Naleigh, and Walker Nathaniel.
I JUST CAN'T GET NO RELIEF: You've heard it performed by Queen and a princess (and, I forgot, penguins), but if the early iTunes release is to be believed, tonight the students of the McKinley High School glee club are set to tackle "Somebody to Love." Not reason enough to look forward to tonight's episode? Then there's this too.
HE'S BRINGING THE THING BACK TO THE THING: OK, Timberpants has an acting Emmy now, but I'm not sure what to think of the idea of casting him as Sean Parker in Aaron Sorkin's Facebook movie. (Jesse Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerberg, on the other hand? Pretty much perfect.)
AND MACHINE WASHABLE, DARLING, THAT'S A NEW FEATURE: Part of the reason we settled on Wednesday as weekly Humiliation Day is the lack of bloggable television the preceding evening, but there were a couple of things I wanted to say about NCIS: Los Angeles, which is much improved from the backdoor pilot shown last season, having now at least an effort at a sense of humor and embracing the dorkiness that makes original recipe NCIS so entertaining.

1. Clearly, the pattern for NCIS: LA is "buddy cop," with Chris O'Donnell and LL Cool J as the buddies. The standard racial paradigm for this is, of course, that the white guy is the uptight one and the black guy is the loose cannon (see, e.g., 48 Hours, Tracy Jordan in Black Cop/White Cop). The show, like Lethal Weapon before it, turns the premise on its head, with Cool James playing the stable one, and O'Donnell playing the relative loose cannon. It's an interesting subversion.

2. While billed as a "guest star," thank the lord that Linda Hunt is apparently a regular, since her character (who's basically Edna Mode from The Incredibles if Edna worked for the military cops) is made of win and provides a nice temper to the relentless "cool" vibe that O'Donnell and Cool J try to give off.
ROUND THREE: Our previous romps through the no-longer-fictional game of Humiliation have proven successful enough that it'll be a recurring weekly feature on the site until we run it into the ground like the Police Academy franchise. Rules remain the same -- question is in the form of "Name an [X] that you haven't done which you figure everyone else here has" and we'll compile your most humiliating responses later in the day and poll for a winner -- with the proviso that you can't win if you don't vote, because that would screw up the math.

Anyway, this week's question: Name a classic of children's literature, television or film which you've never read/seen but figure that everyone else here has.

As for me, I have never read any of the Little House on the Prairie books or seen an episode of the tv series. Top that.

added: Ballot is now live. Top 25 answers on the board, please click to indicate which you have seen -- even if you didn't like it, even if you didn't finish. You can't win if you don't vote.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

IT HAS TO BE THAT BLACK EYED PEAS SONG THAT'LL PLAY AT EVERY BAR MITZVAH CANDELIGHTING CEREMONY FOR THE NEXT FIVE YEARS, RIGHT? At 5:19 AM EDT today the sun officially crossed the equator, marking the end of summer and autumn's return. Did we ever settle on a winner for Song of the Summer, 2009?
AND IT'S NOT EVEN FRIDAY: More awesome viral internet cat--Spaghetti Cat ("it was, for lack of a better word, art") or Keyboard Cat?
ALSO DENIED -- THE WOMAN IN THE ZEVON SONG WITH THE "IVY LEAGUE VOODOO": The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation has announced its 2009 recipients of "genius" grants, as always giving the Times the first chance to interview the winners. And as always, with Wile Coyote denied (he's dropping the middle initial in the belief it'll enhance his chances), I rely on you to tell me who the heck these people are, and to suggest others who should be considered for this support. (Our 2006, 2007, 2008 posts.)

Monday, September 21, 2009

I'M NOT A STAR. CHANCES ARE I NEVER AGAIN WILL BE: Now that the tour's over, former Idol contestant Chris Sligh breaks it down for this year's finalists. ("Nothing and I do mean nothing is going to be given to you. 19E is not going to come back around. They're done with you. The music business, for the most part, will treat you like an outsider. And they should. You are just a game show contestant who still needs to prove why you should be here.") To which I can only add this -- read your Albini.
FRANK PEMBLETON AND THE BOX: "Thank you." "You're welcome." Yeah, Alan, House, M.D. did come together a little neatly in the end, but I'm still going to give it a big thumbs up. Any show that brings together such disparate talent as Andre Braugher, Curtis "Booger" Armstrong and a not-running Franka Potente is worth giving the benefit of the doubt, though I'm left with a familiar question which we'll address in the comments.
YOU PRAISE ME FULSOMELY; I PRAISE ME FULLY: Can't remember if we've covered this before, but it came up in one of the questions in the Tom Shales chat that KR linked in the Emmy comments.

While one possible definition of "fulsome" is "abundant or copious," the word has a negative connotation that, for whatever reason, people (including, formerly, me) miss. "Fulsome praise" isn't merely florid; it's disgusting and insincere. When Paul O'Neill says Derek Jeter is a great Yankee having his greatest year, that's praise, but it's not fulsome. When I say that Derek Jeter is the greatest shortstop of all time, a defender so stout that the Russians are threatening to abandon the Nuclear Forces Treaty of 1987 unless he retires, a hitter so clutch that he sets his alarm clock to ring at one-down-man-on-two-outs-in-the-ninth o'clock, and a sexual force so potent that he can pollinate ash trees just by rubbing pine tar into his bat -- that's fulsome. Because I don't mean it, see?
THERE ARE MANY THINGS IRONIC ABOUT SHOW CHOIR: EW is reporting that we have our first show with a 22 episode full year pickup for the fall season--Glee. Safe bet that we'll have a Vampire Diaries pickup in the next week or so as well.
SINCE EVERYONE KNOWS WE'RE NOT GETTING RICKY GERVAIS: As awesome as NPH was last night, it's unlikely he'll be back next year if the Emmys stay on Broadcast TV at least, since the other networks are unlikely to want to promote a "CBS Star" as their host. Even Ellen DeGeneres is now probably off the table for all but Fox, given her new-found Idol position. However, NPH and Hugh Jackman's success means that it's possible networks may look someplace a bit less conventional for hosts in the future--their own programming. Fox has it the easiest in this regard, as Hugh Laurie's an easy choice to don the tux for them. NBC can easily go with any of their Thursday anchors (Carell, Fey/Baldwin, Poehler, and McHale would all be fine, though a bit traditionally comic). ABC has the hardest time finding someone to fill the shoes--Chandra Wilson and Nathan Fillion both would have potential in that sort of role, but neither seems well-known enough to pull it off. Any thoughts for folks who could pull off the gig and who are funny (disqualifying Leno).

Related--man have some weird folks hosted the Emmys in the past--Cheryl Ladd and Henry Winkler, John Forsythe (twice, once solo and once with Marlo Thomas), John Laroquette.
CASTING CALL FOR OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES TO FOLLOW: If I'm John Slattery's agent, aren't I nudging everyone in sight to get a biopic about Justice Louis Brandeis greenlighted? (Source material for said project can be found here.)
SERIOUSLY -- DUCKIE? Full list of Emmy winners here. Let the kvetching continue, as "Motherlover" was robbed.

ETA from Matt--And, unsurprisingly, the Dr. Horrible segment is up on YouTube.
ENJOY THE LIQUOR AND THE DELICATESSEN: Well, that was an eventful episode of Emmy-winning Mad Men. Apparently Matt Weiner has taken all the "Sopranos except with less whacking" commentary to heart in bringing us a (weed-)whacking the likes of which Tony Soprano never dreamed. I'm not sure whether this was the intent, but I laughed for a solid couple of minutes. (And I loved the bit where Pryce and Don stood together at the Dr. Pepper machine giving a big collective "whew" about the professional disaster that they'd both just averted.)

Given all the speculation about Connie's identity, it was fun to see that particular digression pay off. What will happen now that Don's getting a chance to go to the show? If Sterling Cooper's new British overlords aren't going to send Don to London (literally or metaphorically), will Don take this prospective careermaking client and head for greener pastures? One would think that Don will not flub this opportunity, but recall the Brits' short-sightedness on the MSG project.

And then there's poor Joan -- so in need of a good drycleaner and without a dime to pay one. This episode was the Christina Hendricks showcase we've been missing all season. Obviously there's more to the story of what happened to Greg at the office today beyond the no-magic-in-the-fingers conversation, but is Joan's story going to end up being that of a woman trapped in a marriage she thought she wanted, or is it going to be the tale of a woman who figured out how to embrace the new winds starting to blow? Phrased differently: will Peggy be Mad Men's only modern woman, or is Joan hot on her heels?

Lots more that we could discuss, but for now I'll just go back to singing "I'm running you over with a sharp lawnmower that I've never used before . . . ."

Sunday, September 20, 2009

LIVE FROM THE NOKIA THEATRE IN LOS ANGELES, IT'S SUNDAY NIGHT! Live coverage from our couches of tonight's Emmy Awards is below.

IT'S LIKE A SUPERNOVA OF PROFANITY: Before we start with Emmys coverage, what's your reaction to the concept of Chris Rock doing David Mamet, which was apparently the original plan for Mamet's new play this fall?