Saturday, January 16, 2010

EXEUNT, NOT PURSUED BY A BEAR:Reports indicate that the NBC/Conan debacle is about to come to an end, with Conan getting a large payout, substantial severance for his writers and crew, and no restrictions on his right to compete, and a final week of Tonight Show episodes airing this week. Sadly, part of the deal is that the characters and bits Conan and his writers created will remain in NBC's name , though there's some lack of clarity about the fate of Triumph the Insult Comic Dog. Interestingly, the linked story (aside from having an awesome headline) indicates that Conan wasn't terribly interested in keeping rights to any of those characters, which might give hints as to his future plans.

Friday, January 15, 2010

NEVER BURN BRIDGES. TODAY'S JUNIOR PRICK -- TOMORROW'S SENIOR PARTNER: This weekend, Sigourney Weaver will establish a new SNL record for longest gap between hosting appearances, it being twenty-three years and two months since her last time. (Good episode, too: debuts for Phil Hartman, Dana Carvey, Kevin Nealon, Victoria Jackson and Jan Hooks; skits included "Chopping Broccoli," Pathological Liar, Church Lady, Subliminal Man.)

So here's my question: given this chronological list of SNL hosts, who would you like to see come back and beat Weaver's record? It's unlikely that Eddie Murphy (12-15-84) will ever return, but why not Jeff Bridges, who last hosted (with his brother Beau) on February 26, 1983? Of course, if they could ever lure Jodie Foster back it might set an unbreakable record -- she last hosted on November 27, 1976.
A REVIEW OF A MOVIE I BARELY REMEMBER*: With Parenthood, a TV show, debuting some time this fall on the Haiti of TV networks, I thought it would be worth a quick, research-free examination of the show's source material, 1989's Parenthood, a movie.

When Parenthood (pronounced, according to my friends' unfunny joke, "Paren Thood") came out in 1989, the world was a different place. Everybody in America lived in large colonial revival houses in leafy suburbs. You may not remember this, but back then, before European explorers discovered gay urban gentrification and the entertainment value of gunplay, it was quite common to make a movie like Parenthood. So common that Steve Martin managed to make two, simultaneously, on the same set, with the same director and many of the same actors -- in fact, both Parenthood and Father of the Bride even use common footage spliced into both reels. This doesn't quite explain why, at 19 years old, I saw the movie, and frankly, I cannot remember or imagine the circumstances that led me to the theater, although I'm sure it happened. In that respect, this movie is like sleep-eating or an alien abduction.

The central struggle in Parenthood is that Steve Martin is extremely successful but feels like maybe he should be only very successful, because his father is a dick. Essentially, he wants to be exactly successful enough to assume the role of patriarch of his extended family without worrying about the mortgage on his large colonial revival house in a leafy suburb, and any of his success beyond that is just wasted success. He has one son who he believes is a psychotic murderer in training, but who actually is only a chronic masturbator who sexualizes a brown paper bag and is exactly as weird as the actor playing him will grow up to be. His other son wears a garbage can on his head and runs into walls.

Nobody in the entire extended family looks the least bit alike. If you were to do a statistical study of caucasian DNA and identify the ten or so samples least like each other, you would have identified the cast of Parenthood.

A lot of the middle parts of this are hazy, but I'm pretty sure three things happen: (1) somebody walks in on Martha Plimpton having sex; (2) somebody accidentally activates Dianne Wiest's vibrator in the middle of a family gathering; and (3) Steve Martin's brother, Tom Hulce, shows up, unannounced, with a biracial son named Cool in tow. You could think a long time about what it's supposed to signify that Hulce's son is a ridiculously named biracial kid and that the family is scandalized, either by the race or the profession (Las Vegas showgirl, anachronistic even in 1989) of the mother, but don't get too worked up. Nothing in this movie means anything -- it is a grab-bag of prefabricated folly slapped together without concern for cogency, so if you try to dig into subtext you'll hurt only yourself. Anyway, Hulce is the black sheep of the family, the anti-Steve Martin, because his self-loathing has its roots in failure (rather than excessive success) and his response to it is to fail more (rather than succeeding).

As an aside, it is difficult to decide which was worse: Hulce's performance or his being cast in the first place. He is supposed to be a chronic fuckup and self-styled rebel with fraying ties to his middle-class past, but Hulce makes no effort to suppress his college-theater diction and demeanor, relying instead on a bad MTV Veejay Mark Goodman Halloween costume to create the character for him. Hulce as a dead-end drifter must rank up there with Denise Richards as a nuclear physicist and Tara Reid as a southern trophy wife in the annals of credulity-straining performances.

I'm quite sure some other things happen, including Hulce's inevitable and welcome disappearance, but I can't remember exactly what. What I do recall is that the movie ends with everybody suddenly and simultaneously giving birth.

You can see why this needed to be made into a television series.

*Due to fading memory, some facts in this review may be inaccurate.
WHERE THEY ARE NOW: When we last saw ANTM's Jenascia, she was tearfully talking herself into going back to Hooters waitresshood, the hell reserved for beautiful models too short to change a lightbulb without a ladder. Thanks, though, to the Spaceboys' newfound love of Wheel of Fortune (an entirely different hell), I'm happy to report that Jenascia is: (a) the fashion director for a magazine in Seattle; (b) the kind of person who would run the table on Wheel against a lawyer and an economics grad student but for the poor spin that brought her to "lose a turn"; (c) someone who can figure out the bonus puzzle before choosing her letters; and (d) the winner, in a half-hour, of half the $100,000 prize money that went to her season's ANTM victor, Yoanna House. And she cried at the end again, this time in happiness.
FROM NEW YORK CITY, THE GREATEST CITY IN THE WORLD: It generally seems that it's a foregone conclusion that The Nighty-Night Show with CoCo will wind up on Fox, possibly as early as September 2010, but I think there's a different play which could be much more interesting. As soon as any contractual issues are resolved, Conan appears on Late Show With David Letterman, where he and Dave make the following announcement:
  • Effective September 2010, Late Show will no longer air a show taped earlier in the week on Fridays. Instead, there will be a new Late Show, taped on Friday, and hosted by Conan.
  • Conan becomes Dave's permanent guest host when Dave takes vacation. (Both of these mirror the model that Carson used in the years before his departure.)
  • Dave leaves the desk either in August 2011 or August 2012, handing over the show to Conan, who's given a long-term contract with timeslot guarantee.
  • In the interim, Conan remains under contract with CBS/Viacom, and will do things like host awards shows, develop new sitcoms and other programming, and the like.
This lets Conan return to NYC (which he clearly never wanted to leave), gives a gigantic middle finger from both Dave and Conan to NBC, which they clearly relish, gives CBS a stable future in late night and allows them to youthen their image from the "Tiffany Network," and lets Letterman (at least potentially) go out on top as he deserves. Obviously, there are a lot of moving parts and other players there--Craig Ferguson was beating Conan at one point in the late night slots, and Viacom also has cable talent like Stewart and Colbert who may have their eye on the Letterman show, but if they could work it out, I think it would be a PR coup.

ETA: One thing I wasn't clear on here--what's critically important to this plan being even remotely plausible is for Letterman to be 100% on board with no bitterness whatsoever and to willingly be riding the pony off into the sunset. If there's any sense Dave's being forced out or doesn't want to go, it kills the idea.
At the start of the interview (which has not yet been posted in its entirety on Mr. Leno’s official Web site), Mr. Kimmel’s answers were merely snarky. He said that his impression of Mr. Leno was equal parts Curly Howard of the Three Stooges and the cartoon characters Sylvester the Cat and Scrappy-Doo. And when Mr. Leno asked, “Besides impersonating me, what’s the worst idea your writers have ever pitched you?”, Mr. Kimmel replied, “Actually that was my idea.”

But as the interview progressed, Mr. Kimmel’s responses became more scathing. Asked what was the best prank he ever pulled, he answered: “I told a guy that five years from now, I’m going to give you my show. Then when the five years came, I took it back almost instantly.” And when Mr. Leno inquired if there was anything Mr. Kimmel wanted to host but hadn’t yet, Mr. Kimmel replied, “Oh, this is a trick, right, where you get me to host the ‘Tonight Show’ and then take it back from me? Listen, Lucy, I’m not Charlie Brown - I don’t fall for that trick.”

Even when the interview appeared to be over, Mr. Kimmel made one last appeal on behalf of himself and Mr. O’Brien. “Listen, Jay, Conan and I have children,” he said. “All you have is cars. We have lives to lead here. You have $800 million. For God’s sake, leave our shows alone.” Mr. Leno could not do much more than awkwardly thank his guest and go to a commercial break.
About half of that video is here, and here and here are more compiled highlights from last night's shows. Among other things, Dave's enjoying this and Conan's putting the show for sale on Craigslist. Meanwhile, NBC's Dick Ebersol has finally tried to turn the PR war in their direction, stating that O'Brien is “chicken-hearted and gutless to blame a guy you couldn’t beat in the ratings" and that “what this is really all about is an astounding failure by Conan" to maintain the Tonight Show's ratings.

added: Via NYMag (via Fark), a 10-23-92 NYT article in which Leno explains what he would do if NBC tried to bump him backwards from his 11:30p slot. "I am disappointed," Mr. Leno said. "I feel like a guy who has bought a car from somebody, painted it, fixed it up and made it look nice and then the guy comes back and says he promised to sell the car to his brother-in-law."
MISOGYNY PRETENDING TO BE FEMINISM: NYMag polls 43 major film critics to determine the ten worst films of 2009. The critics' comments on particular nominees include:
  • It's not possible for the greatest action hero of comic book lore to have a boring backstory, right? Wrong.
  • I wouldn't be surprised if seeing what his beloved genre had been reduced to may have hurried John Hughes to his grave.
  • I like overblown digi-super-spectaculars as much as the next guy, but seriously. Smurf tigers getting their Baraka on under the Tree of Life?
  • The last note I took for this movie was "Just die already." If wishing death upon one of the twentieth century's great feminist icons is what Mira Nair had in mind, bravissima.
  • A special sort of train wreck that unfolds like some fever-dream, recycled-parts mash-up of Anchorman, Mad Love, and a drunkenly self-amused improv sketch.
  • Finally, a film that deals with the plight of the wealthy Canadian immigrant.
NONE OF THE COPS DOUBTED FOR A SECOND THAT IF HARRISON WAS A PLUMBER OR A UPS DRIVER INSTEAD OF A FAMOUS ATHLETE, HE'D HAVE LONG SINCE BEEN ARRESTED: GQ's Jason Fagone has a lengthy piece on all that Marvin Harrison stuff we'd rather not think about, Disappointing, disturbing, you name it.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

O PITEOUS KNAVE!—MY ONLY HOPE REMAINS THAT IN HIS ANGER, THE LEBOWSKI BIG KILLS ME ERE THESE GERMANS CUT MY LANCE: Adam Bertocci, who wrote Two Gentlemen of Lebowski, talks to BSCreview about his craft:
For the most part, the script proved pretty easily adaptable no matter where we were in the plot or on the recognizability scale, with one exception: profanity. For a film with this liberal a helping of the f-word, that’s just an issue a guy’s gotta deal with. Sometimes overcoming these challenges was a real blast; the early scene between the Dude and Bunny allowed me to work with one of Shakespeare’s favorite tropes, the sly sexual reference.

But sometimes this was difficult. The hardest thing by far was Walter’s “do you see what happens, Larry?” speech–I was fine with most of the lines after one or two passes, but I must have rewritten that outburst at least ten times, and I’m still not happy with it. In the end, I’ve just realized that “This is what happens when you fuck a stranger in the ass” is so perfect a line that Shakespeare himself could not improve upon it....

Anything involving a phone was kind of a pain. On the language side, well, there aren’t many promising rhymes for “Johnson.” Things I like: as sad as this will sound, the more famous a line is, the more pleasure I got from sneaking it in. I nearly giggled myself to death when I realized I could shoehorn in “exit, pursued by a bear.”

I will take this opportunity to point out possibly my favorite little hidden gag, which I’ve never seen anyone comment on: Walter’s remark “not eight but l’ouef” is meant to hide a pun, “not hate but love.” Which doesn’t mean a damn thing, really, but….

The play makes its NYC theatrical premiere (for real) on March 18.
JUST IN CASE ALL THOSE END OF THE DECADE FILM LISTS WEREN'T ALREADY CLOGGING UP YOUR NETFLIX QUEUE: How I've never seen this list before both baffles and saddens me, but the genius behind They Shoot Pictures, Don't They has done his annual update of the 1,000 Greatest Movies of All Time. Lest you think these are the random opinions of just some guy, the lists is compiled using a weighted system utilizing the opinions and lists of "2,041 critics, filmmakers, reviewers, scholars and other likely film types." You can download the whole list as an Excel spreadsheet and re-sort it by year (the earliest film is 1902's Le Voyage Dans La Lune at 449, the most recent in 2008's The Dark Knight at 890), genre, director. And it will come as no surprise that the top film of all time remains Weekend at Bernie's Citizen Kane.
NOT BEING CANCELLED: While the Leno/Conan struggle remains unresolved, NBC's announced its post-Jay Leno Show and Olympics primetime plan, which includes an earlier-than-expected return for Friday Night Lights, Parenthood getting the primo slot out of Biggest Loser, the creatively resurgent Law & Order taking on Castle and CSI: Miami on Mondays, and miraculously, only 3 hours of Dateline.
SOMEWHERE, THERE'S A CLARENCE THOMAS JOKE HERE: In further celebrity genital mutiliation news, Channing Tatum (that guy from GI Joe and Step Up) apparently had an incident involving scalding water. This isn't news so much as a chance for us to be fair and balanced from a gender perspective over here at the Celebrity Overshare Desk.
TWITTER'S LIKE A BOX OF CHOCOLATES: In yet another sign that Twitter may be crossing over the bell curve from hip to passe, Tom Hanks is now tweeting. Amusingly, he still has 1.6 million fewer followers than Felicia Day does. Who's the bigger star now, Tom?
JUST TRUST IN ME, LIKE I TRUST IN YOU: Philly soul legend Teddy Pendergrass passed away last night at the age of 59, following a long and ultimately unsuccessful recovery from colon cancer surgery. As lead singer of Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes ("If You Don't Know Me By Now," "Wake Up Everybody," "The Love I Lost") and as a solo artist ("Love T.K.O.," "The More I Get The More I Want," "Close the Door"), he was the archetypical soul crooner, doing "Ladies Only" concert tours long before the R. Kellys of the world.

And then, in 1982, came the paralyzing accident on Wissahickon Drive, for which a reader has located a fascinating contemporaneous Q & A in Jet Magazine. "They don't fill you with hope after something like this," Pendergrass told the Philadelphia Daily News in 2007. "They tell you that your life is going to be shorter, but they don't know by how much."

This 2008 Philadelphia Weekly cover story by Brian McManus is an insightful profile what Pendergrass did with the chance he had, not only in extending his musical career (he duetted with Whitney Houston on her first album) but also his work with spinal cord victims. "He's climbed the mountain himself, and now he's building elevators so people don't have to climb like he did," said Pendergrass' doctor. Sad day here in Philadelphia. Videos after the break.

NO GRAMMIES, NO GRAMMIES, NO GRAMMIES ... STOP! I believe I just watched a lotto-like game show called "How Many Percent Yes?"

(That's Idol, see. Because Randy Jackson ... oh, never mind.)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

ALMOST THE LEVEL OF TONI BENTLEY: If you thought Jay Leno was horrifying, we may have worse--on Lopez Tonight, Jennifer Love Hewitt apparently discussed "vagazzling" at length when she was being interviewed. Does this mean she's going to be elevated to high cultural icon and given permission to review books for the NYT Book Review?
YES, WE ALL KNOW WHO WROTE 'REGARDING HENRY': PTI, heads-on-sticks, last one tonight:
Wilbon: You're Harrison Ford. How come you're not working harder?
Kornheiser-as-Ford: You want to know how I work? I already WORK around the clock!
As I noted here back in 2003:
Indeed, here's his last movies: Sabrina, The Devil's Own, Air Force One, Six Days Seven Nights, Random Hearts, What Lies Beneath, K-19: The Widowmaker and Hollywood Homicide. Not only is there nothing Raiders-level in the bunch, there's nothing Presumed Innocent level either -- though, to be sure, Air Force One and What Lies Beneath both made buckets of money.

So is it that Ford's not getting good scripts? Not at all. In fact [] Ford was offered, and accepted, the role in Steven Soderbergh's Traffic that eventually went to Michael Douglas. ... (Indeed Douglas, his contemporary, picks much more wisely: why didn't Ford take on Douglas' parts in Wonder Boys, Falling Down or even Basic Instinct? All would have worked for him.)

Ford's a great actor, with a nice comic touch (see: Working Girl). It'd be nice if he started picking roles that were up to the standards of his pre-Regarding Henry career.
Six and a half years later, and we're still waiting.
YES, BUT I WOULDN'T EAT THAT FROOT LOOP AFTERWARDS: Will Leitch pens an appreciation of Kurt Warner, whose final NFL game could come any Sunday:
It's difficult to describe Warner, when he's on, when he's '99 Warner, as anything other than bionic. He is a robotically constructed quarterback machine, showing no emotion, no fear, no joy, no panic: He throws the ball exactly where it's supposed to go because that's where it's supposed to go. It's not the chaos of Favre, or the nerdy precision of Manning, or the All-American faux heroism of Brady. There's nothing to it at all: Warner just hits exactly his spot and then jogs down the field to do it again. It's unnerving. It's inhuman. It does not compute.

Kurt Warner plays like football like most people take out the mail, or pour milk on their cereal, or pump gas. He just happens to be brilliant at it. There is no mess. He is a reasonable, removed man playing a savage game, and he barely seems to notice.
I may have told this story before -- in the first season of the Vai Sikahema Football League (1999), I had drafted the Rams' Trent Green as my quarterback in the fifth round. As you may recall, he was injured in the preseason, and it occurred to me just before the season started that if I believed in the Faulk-led Rams offense that much I might as well take a flier on his replacement before the season starts -- because if he did well in week one, I might not be able to obtain him via waivers. You know the rest.
UH-OH: The guy who invented SpaghettiOs died. Impromptu ranking:
  1. Chef Boyardee Beef Ravioli
  2. SpaghettiOs
  3. Franco-American Spaghetti and Meatballs
  4. Things that are like SpaghettiOs, but in other shapes.
  5. Beef-A-Roni
RACHEL ZEVITA, COME BACK! As a reminder to the veterans (and in case new visitors were wondering), while this blog promises (and delivers) the best American Idol team coverage you'll find on any website averaging around 10,000 visits/week, we don't generally cover the audition rounds on a show-by-show basis absent something as awesome as the second coming of twee urchin Josiah Leming. There's just too much crap to fast-forward past, which is why we rely on friends like Dan Fienberg to recap these early episodes to find out if The Next American Idol may be sitting on the TiVo -- and phrases such as "he's like an Italian Taylor Hicks" suggest I haven't missed anything. Did I? [Use this thread for tonight's episode as well.]

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

YOU'VE GOT SOME...LENO...ON YOU: We've spent too much time today talking about this year's model of The Late Shift (which I've never read, though I've seen the movie--guess I need to head to Barnes and Noble tomorrow), but two questions:

1. We have to assume there's a book about this entire mess--assume it begins with the press conference where they announce the impending handover to Conan, hitting not just on the current Conan/Leno mess, but also the Letterman sex scandal. Obviously, we don't have the ending yet, but I'm guessing it'll be Conan taking the stage on his new show for the first time. Who writes it? Bill Carter again as a career-capper? Someone new?

2. Looking down the road, who plays these folks in the inevitable movie? Daniel Roebuck is still available to play Leno (his most recent memorable role? Arzt!), and John Michael Higgins could probably be persuaded to play Letterman again, but who plays Conan? Jeff Zucker? Of course, the most memorable turns in the original movie came from actors playing agents and managers, and those stories will take a while to tell.
HE'S HERE ON A SPECIAL WORK PROGRAM. HE'S SLOW, YOU KNOW, IN HIS BRAIN: The AV Club talks to actor Brian Baumgartner about the craft of creating the character of Kevin Malone on The Office.
BIG RED STANDS UP: Bill Carter recounts a sequence of events towards the end of The Late Shift when Letterman was finally offered The Tonight Show by NBC (after Leno had already started in the slot), only under certain conditions -- no offer on paper, less money than the CBS offer, and Leno would continue hosting the show until his contract expired seventeen months later. It's a crappy offer, yet Letterman is so attracted to the legacy of The Tonight Show that he wants to take it. Producer Peter Lassally begs Letterman to understand -- the Tonight Show that he fell in love with didn't exist anymore, having ceased to exist once the show had been handed over from Carson to Leno.

[added: Found the quote: "It's damaged goods," Lassally said. "You're not taking over for Johnny Carson. You're taking for a show that no longer has any class. That's not worth anything; that's not any kind of victory. We can start from scratch at CBS and it will be your victory and it will be your show and you're not taking over for this damaged show." Bill Carter, The Late Shift p. 214.]

So Lassally pulls out his final card -- Carson himself -- and as Carter recounts:
Lassally went back to Dave. Call Johnny, Lassally urged him. Ask him what you should do.

"Why are you doing this to me?" he snapped at Lassally. "Don't you understand? I don't care. I cannot lose 'The Tonight Show' twice."

Letterman had never been so conflicted in his life. He knew he had to tell Ovitz which way he was going. He had very little time left. He was running out of ways to analyze it. But he still needed help. So he called Johnny Carson....

"You have to do what's best for your career," Carson told Letterman. "Do what's in your heart." The problem for Letterman, of course, was that in this instance those two sentiments didn't precisely coincide. He asked Carson what he really wanted to know: "What would you do if you were in this situation, Johnny?"

Carson didn't dodge the question. "I'd probably walk," he said. "I'm not telling you to do that, David. But if you're asking me what I'd do, if I had been treated like that, I would probably walk."
This afternoon, Conan O'Brien is probably walking, and for the same reasons. From his statement:
It was my mistaken belief that, like my predecessor, I would have the benefit of some time and, just as important, some degree of ratings support from the prime-time schedule. Building a lasting audience at 11:30 is impossible without both.

But sadly, we were never given that chance. After only seven months, with my Tonight Show in its infancy, NBC has decided to react to their terrible difficulties in prime-time by making a change in their long-established late night schedule.

Last Thursday, NBC executives told me they intended to move the Tonight Show to 12:05 to accommodate the Jay Leno Show at 11:35. For 60 years the Tonight Show has aired immediately following the late local news. I sincerely believe that delaying the Tonight Show into the next day to accommodate another comedy program will seriously damage what I consider to be the greatest franchise in the history of broadcasting. The Tonight Show at 12:05 simply isn’t the Tonight Show. Also, if I accept this move I will be knocking the Late Night show, which I inherited from David Letterman and passed on to Jimmy Fallon, out of its long-held time slot. That would hurt the other NBC franchise that I love, and it would be unfair to Jimmy.

So it has come to this: I cannot express in words how much I enjoy hosting this program and what an enormous personal disappointment it is for me to consider losing it. My staff and I have worked unbelievably hard and we are very proud of our contribution to the legacy of The Tonight Show. But I cannot participate in what I honestly believe is its destruction.
The word "consider" before losing indicates that Conan's not walking yet -- the ball remains in NBC's court. The Tonight Show stays at 11:35p, or Conan goes.
HOW I STILL DIDN'T MEET YOUR MOTHER: I'll leave most of the discussion of the production number to the production-number-lovers. I have but two observations from last night's HIMYM:
  1. In any singing/dancing number, it is impossible to turn away from Jason Segel. He is not a good singer or dancer, but he is funnier with less effort in song than anyone who comes to mind right now.
  2. Your Mother is cooler than Ted by several orders of magnitude, and out of his league by a comparable margin (as, obviously, is Rachel Bilson).
YOUR WORLD FRIGHTENS AND CONFUSES ME! SOMETIMES WHEN I FLY TO EUROPE ON THE CONCORDE, I WONDER, AM I INSIDE SOME SORT OF GIANT BIRD? AM I GONNA BE DIGESTED? I DON'T KNOW, BECAUSE I'M A CAVEMAN, AND THAT'S THE WAY I THINK! WHEN I'M COURTSIDE AT A KNICKS GAME, I WONDER IF THE BALL IS SOME SORT OF FOOD THEY'RE FIGHTING OVER: Can I call bullshit on this alleged "urban caveman" trend? I do not believe that there are so-called "paleos" out feasting on organ meat and deer ribs, avoiding foods unavailable before the rise of agriculture and then fasting for 36-hour periods, while engaging in workouts consisting of "scooting around the underbrush on all fours, leaping between boulders, [and] playing catch with stones."

[That said, obvs, I'm fine with the whole "at war with the vegans because they're a rival tribe" thing.]

For a truly awesome trend story, on the other hand, see Sunday's Cape Cod Times for the menacing tome "Hoodies: Fashion and Fear."
PERHAPS THIS IS WHY THE OPED PAGE HAS FAILED TO CONDEMN THE TACTICS OF BAD HORSE: Apparently, there are a lot of Whedon fans at the NYT, especially amongst the editorial page folks. Hell, I'm just endlessly amused by the statement from columnist Gail Collins--"I had this very big discussion with Paul Krugman about Firefly; that was fun."

Monday, January 11, 2010

I SUPPOSE IT'S IMPOSSIBLE FOR HELEN KUSHNICK TO HAVE PLANTED THE LATTER STORY: More TCA News -- Bravo has officially announced the Top Chef: People Who Can Actually Make Desserts spinoff (to be hosted by Gail Simmons), with Top Chef Masters II starting on April 7. In other news (possibly regarded as spoiler to some regarding a beloved NBC sitcom, so highlight the blank spaces), Kathy Bates will be joining The Office for a multi-episode arc as the head of the secretive company which takes over Dunder Mifflin.
THE 'X' DOES NOT STAND FOR XTINA: So, you may be wondering, what distinguishes X-Factor from American Idol? Based on my conversations with friends who've spent time in the UK and osmosis over the years, here's the basics:
  • Eligibility is broader, including older singers and singing groups. That said, a group has never won the competition, nor has an over-24 performer since the show's first season in 2004. This, not Pop Idol, is the one Leona Lewis won.
  • Audition rounds may be held in front of live audiences instead of in a private room.
  • Judges play a more active role in the process and take ownership over various groups of performers -- one judge will mentor the ladies under 24, another the under-24 men, another the older performers and one for the singing groups. After the X-equivalent of the Hollywood Round, there's a series of episodes where the judges put their own groups through a sort of boot camp at luxurious remote locations, honing their skills. Each judge eliminates half his/her assigned performers, bringing us down to 12 acts for the live performance rounds.
  • Accordingly, the coaches have an explicit rooting interest in their people when it comes to the live performance rounds -- they lobby for and defend their mentees, and there's no pretense of impartiality.
  • Performance rounds may involve backup dancers.
  • A member of the Minogue family may judge.
  • Eliminations are different -- public vote reduces it to a bottom two each week; they perform again; judges decide who goes home. If the four judges tie, then the public vote decides it.
  • At the completion of the series, full voting results for each week (including percentages) are released.
  • But otherwise, it's a lot like Idol.
GUESS WHO'S HERE TO TALK ABOUT THE PAST? Mark McGwire admits to using human growth hormone and steroids during his career.
I DON'T THINK THOSE WORDS MEAN WHAT YOU THINK THEY MEAN: Fox's big executive session at TCA Press Tour is about to begin, which means we could have big news shortly (Cowell leaving Idol for a U.S. version of X-Factor and a potential resolution to As Conan's Head Spins are the most likely big stories), but until then, let's follow what Linda Holmes has informed us is "Incredibly Significant Breaking News"--Bradley Whitford (the West Wing actor, not the Aerosmith member) has a bitchin' 'stache. (Better picture, via Sepinwall.)

ETA: No Conan news, but yes, this will be the last Cowell-driven season of Idol, with X-Factor to arrive on US shores in 2011. Idol is (apparently) planned to stay on Fox, though not sure who Simon's replacement will be (or if there will be one). Also, Idol and X-Factor will air in different segments of the year. Right now, I think we have to assume Idol for Fall 2010, and X-Factor for Spring 2011, since Cowell is committed to X-Factor in the UK in Fall 2010.
THE SEARCH FOR THE NEXT LEA MICHELE: Not only has Glee gotten an early pickup for a second season, but Fox is trying something new--three new cast members will be added to the already large cast, through a nationwide search that will become a reality show that somehow crosses Idol with Search For The Next Elle Woods. I see a serious problem with keeping the result under wraps, since the new characters will debut on the Season 2 premiere, which will be filming by the time the reality show airs. No word on a potential summer tour, which I'm sure would sell more than a few tickets to you, readers.
DEAR AMERICA, WE SWEAR OUR PIZZA DOESN'T SUCK ANYMORE: There are a lot of ways to evaluate the new Domino's "pizza turnaround" campaign, but how's this -- what message does "we're sorry we were serving you ketchup on top of cardboard all these years" convey to the people who were loyal to the brand before?

In related news, as good as our neighbors at Pizzeria Stella are, we hit Tacconelli's in Moorestown last night, and it may be better. Excellent charring on the thin crust, and our white pie with shrimp and sausage was transcendent.

added: Slate's Seth Stevenson:
Of course it seems risky for a brand to go negative on itself. But imagine if Domino's had spent two years and tens of millions of dollars reformulating its pizza (which it did), and then launched the revamped pie with a simple "new and improved" spot. A "We took our great pizza and made it even yummier!" kind of ad. Would anyone notice? Would anyone talk or tweet about the fact that the Domino's recipe had been altered? "Google the words new and improved," says Domino's chief marketing officer Russell Weiner, "and I think you'll get about 160 million hits. They're two of the more overused words in marketing. They've become wallpaper."
YOU'RE THE SHIT AND I'M KNEE-DEEP IN IT: It amuses me that (1) Chuck has now used three songs from Frightened Rabbit's Midnight Organ Fight to punch up big emotional moments; (2) 67% of those songs have featured prominent, difficult to circumvent profanity; and (3) they went ahead and used that profanity, unbleeped, repeatedly, this episode.

Did Chuck just break the 9:00 network shit barrier?