Saturday, January 23, 2010

AND THIS BIRD YOU CANNOT CHANGE: Conan's final monologue and departing remarks are transcribed here, and that all-star musical finale is, for now, still on YouTube. From those remarks:

To all the people watching, I can never thank you enough for your kindness to me and I'll think about it for the rest of my life. All I ask of you is one thing: please don't be cynical. I hate cynicism -- it's my least favorite quality and it doesn't lead anywhere.

Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you're kind, amazing things will happen.

Now, the hard question: was O'Brien's decision to reject NBC's offer to continue to host The Tonight Show at 12:05 am (a) correct, no matter what, as a matter of principle and dignity or (b) only the correct move if he lands an appropriate new perch? Fox at 11pm is not guaranteed to happen, and if not that, then what?

added video: Hanks and O'Brien in the Five-Timers Club (1990); Jimmy Fallon says goodbye.

Friday, January 22, 2010

HOPE FOR HAITI NOW: It goes without saying -- but the need isn't going away anytime soon -- that your money is needed for Haitian relief right now. But this post isn't to preach or hector about that; you know what your obligations are.

This post exists because we are a pop culture blog, and there's a telethon going on (live online here, among other places), and this sort of celebrity-filled thing is our proverbial bread and butter. Alicia Keys just blew me away with "Prelude to a Kiss," and we're just getting started.

for your added consideration: We've come to the point with events like this such that we expect to see superstars like Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder and Bono pitch in and perform. And yet, still, to see Madonna up there performing "Like A Prayer" with a choir and minimal instrumentation ... somehow, that seemed to elevate the specialness of the evening that much more. There's just something about the centrality of her music to my formative years, and her relative absence from the public eye these days, that when she does show up it's really an event.
WHY THE FACE? I probably shouldn't criticize any law firm's marketing decisions -- I am married, after all, to an attorney whose firm embraced Samuel L. Jackson's favorite epithet and exclamation as its nickname and trademark -- but look at Watt Tieder Hoffar & Fitzgerald's logo. My first thought was that it sad "WTF" instead of "WTHF," so why try to camouflage the H? My second thought was "is that a gallows"? Somehow I think that "what the fuck - gallows?" isn't what they were going for.
MAY U LIVE 2 SEE THE KICKOFF: Prince has recorded a fight song for the Minnesota Vikings.

Remember that thing I said that time about how there's nothing that couldn't be improved with the addition of more Prince? I may have to walk that back now -- this is no "New England, the Patriots and We," let alone the awesomeness of 1988's "Buddy's Watching You" or these other sports team hits.

added: Simmons: "Are you kidding me? He could have changed the lyrics of 'Darling Nikki' to 'Darling Sidney' and it would have gotten the Vikes more fired up than 'Purple and Gold.' Quite simply, it's the worst sports song ever made by someone who actually has talent. ... Not since 'Under the Cherry Moon' has Prince been responsible for something this indefensible."
DEBI THOMAS, ARE YOU FREE NEXT MONTH? With the Winter Olympics just weeks away, ALOTT5MA Award-Winning Guest Correspondent Gretchen previews this weekend's figure skating action:
After a great men's championship, the US Figure Skating National Championships gear up this weekend for the ice dancing and women's competition. If you want to see a future Olympic medalist, you'd be better off watching ice dancing than the ladies. Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto, silver medalists in Turin, are back -- but this time, they have competition in Meryl Davis and Charlie White, a pair who are ranked first in the world. If you're a SYTYCD fan who appreciates the Bollywood dances, be sure to check out their Bollywood number. The theme for the original dance this year is a folk dance, which encompasses everything from Russian folk dancing to liederhosen to country line dancing in plaid shirts. [bot only does the competition include Russian folk dancing, but the Russians themselves are doing Australian aboriginal dance. Unshockingly, the Australians are displeased.]

The women's competition will be fascinating. Sasha Cohen says she's back, but she hasn't competed since 2006 and pulled out of all of the preliminary competitions this year. And with only two spots on the Olympic team for American women, she has no time to warm up. Then again, who else would they send? No other American woman has demonstrated the star power, the confidence, or the international success of even a rusty Sasha Cohen.

My money's on Rachael Flatt, a spunky and very consistent skater who had an exuberant performance at Skate America (and who has already submitted all of her college applications, so at least she doesn't have to worry about that). Alissa Czisny has all of the required elements to be a champion, but is so very inconsistent that I have to think that anything less than a national championship would keep her off the team. (While the top two skaters will probably go to the Olympics, that's not a guarantee, as we saw in 2006 when they chose an injured Michelle Kwan to go.) Mirai Nagasu, an angsty teenager who has told the media that she's "not very smart and not very pretty," could win if she could just pull her head together. And that still leaves Michelle Kwan protege Caroline Zhang, Ashley Wagner, and injury-ridden Emily Hughes. No one is a lock -- which should make this a legitimately exciting athletic competition.
added: The short programs were held last night after Gretchen filed this story; Nagasu, Cohen and Flatt lead the women, with Czisny out of the running. Scorecards here.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

IT'S ALREADY MADE ME MISS JEROME BROWN. WHAT'S THE ENCORE?: Fans of ESPN's magnificent 30 for 30 series will rejoice in the spring schedule now announced, including "Winning Time: Reggie Miller vs. The New York Knicks," "June 17, 1994" and Ice Cube's documentary about the his beloved Los Angeles Raiders.
LISTEN TO YOUR FRIEND BILLY ZANE, HE'S A COOL DUDE: ABC's new "It's like Grey's Anatomy, but with lawyers" show The Deep End just finished airing on the East Coast. Now, I haven't watched it yet (indeed, I'm scheduling this post to publish before it even starts airing), but given the demographics of our readership, a thread seems in order for mockery, ridicule, and commentary on the realism or lack thereof--I suspect we won't have lawyers pulling all-nighters reviewing documents to put on a list and then shouting "I already work around the clock!"

ETA: OK, so it wasn't that bad, though the characters aren't particularly interesting or well drawn except for the hot blonde with Tom Amandes Daddy Issues, and there's nothing even approaching reality in the show (new law grad interviewing for a highly prestigious gig at the start of their 3L summer?). But Billy Zane glowers and grunts well, and I'm not entirely sure what Norbert Leo Butz is doing, though it's somewhat interesting.
THE WORLD IS WAITING, AT LEAST IF YOU CAN FIND YOUR NEXT DESTINATION ON A MAP: We have 11 new teams for our next Race. As previously reported, we get former Miss Teen South Carolina and her boyfriend as part of the obligatory "Dating/Models" team, and a pair of Big Brother alumni. Also, we have a female dating couple, "Brothers/Cowboys," a pair of undercover cops, "Moms/Attorneys," a pro baseball coach and his daughter, and I believe our first "Grandmother/Granddaughter" pair. The official CBS site has video and pictures along with a new TAR logo.
THAT'S WHY HIS HAIR IS SO BIG, IT'S FULL OF SECRETS: So, our long national nightmare is apparently over--CoCo and NBC are parting ways. Some interesting tidbits:
  • Conan and the staff have apparently expressed interest in subleasing from NBC the current studio/offices.
  • Conan is apparently getting even more money than his contract termination clause required, both because of the bad PR and because Leno's termination provision was even bigger.
  • Conan's apparently going to put a substantial chunk of his personal settlement funds into a fund to take care of his staffers.
  • There's a non-disparagement/media blackout clause, which prevents Conan from bashing NBC in interviews or doing interviews at all. Sorry--no Conan/Letterman matchup yet.
  • Conan can be on the air in September on another network.
That said, Conan's pulling out all the stops for final shows, with Friday's show giving us Will Ferrell, Tom Hanks, and Neil Young (we assume not performing "Pants On The Ground"), and giving NBC new characters, which "aren't so much funny as they are crazy expensive." (Amusingly, it is quite funny.)
AND THE WORLD MUST COME TOGETHER (AGAIN) AS ONE: Lionel Ritchie and Quincy Jones are inviting the assembled talent visiting LA for the Grammy Awards to stick around an extra day for a 25th anniversary re-recording of "We Are The World" to benefit Haitian aid efforts.

Alright, Thing Throwers, time to assign the contemporary artist to the correct lines/parts. (It's too obvious that Lady Gaga gets the Cyndi Lauper lines, right?)
HER VOICE IS MUCH STRONGER THAN YOUR AVERAGE DISCO FLOOZY (AT HER BEST, SHE RESEMBLES AGUILERA, SUBTRACTING A FEW OCTAVES AND ADDING A LOT OF TASTE): Back in the Age of Christgau when the Village Voice mattered, the annual Pazz & Jop Poll served to reify the critical consensus. In 2010, though, it's an interesting but not essential read on the year in music.

Mazel tov to Animal Collective (album, Merriweather Post Pavillion) and Jay-Z w/Alicia Keys (single, "Empire State of Mind") on their respective wins. For those who follow pop music more closely than I do, how'd the critics do?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

I COME FROM A NEIGHBORHOOD WITH A LOT OF PROSTITUTES: If "Fizbo" represents the potential apex for Modern Family, tonight's "Fifteen Percent" is just one step below -- a well-structured mixing of the families with some nice comic high points, new insights into some of the father-child relationships (Jay-Mitchell, Phil-Haley), a nice guest turn from Chazz Palminteri and another happy ending that didn't feel forced or saccharine. Even when you can see some of the turns from a mile away (Cameron and Manny's "date," Mitchell's gaydar), the execution is just so solid that you don't mind. What a great addition to television this year.
AND IF YOU'RE CARLY SMITHSON YOU NEED NO LINE AT ALL; YOU JUST DESCEND FROM THE CLOUDS: Frequent ALOTT5MA PiƱata Richard Rushfield reminds us what really happens during the American Idol audition process.
I'M JUST A GUY, WRITING FOR A BLOG, ASKING FOR MORE PAGE VIEWS AND COMMENTS: The 100 Cheesiest Movie Quotes of All Time in ten minutes. However, no watermelons were carried during the making of this video.
MEDIOCRE PEOPLE DO EXCEPTIONAL THINGS ALL THE TIME: Remember OK Go, the band with the great treadmill video (and the two albums of thoroughly guilty pop pleasures, which, frankly, I still have in heavy rotation)? Apparently there's a new album coming out, and for you marching band fans, the video for "This Too Shall Pass" guest-stars the Notre Dame marching band. Like the "Here it Goes Again" and "A Million Ways" videos, it's done in a single shot (though the end of the video puts the lie to any do-it-yourself-ness). Also, like everything else the band does, it has a surfeit of amiable goofiness that makes up for the lack of depth.

I should add that the music in the version on the video was recorded with the Notre Dame marching band and is different from the version on the album (which has guitars, bass, a regular drum kit, and better sound engineering, naturally).
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU FIND A STRANGER IN THE ALPS: There's nothing we love more than bad TV censoring of movies--I still vividly recall wondering why, in the TV edit of Quick Change, there was so much discussion of vikings. But what happens when you take Samuel L. Jackson's line in Snakes On A Plane and try to make it both network safe and make sense? Well, you get this.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

AND YOU KNOW THERE'S NOTHING AS DELICIOUS AS KNISHES: In the growing genre of Rap Tributes To Boring Suburbs, Billy Eichner and Rachel Dratch presents a paean to Forest Hills, Queens.

[Same genre, but not as good: the Fairfax Rap response to the Arlington video.]
CONAN SMASH! So remember that Taiwanese news video from about a month ago with the horrifically silly CGI recreation of Tiger Woods' no-good, very bad night?

They've done it again with Conan and Leno. Oh, it's good.
LIVE FROM THE PAST: The world-beating geniuses at NBC are at it again. This time, they've decided to tape-delay the Olympics on the West Coast -- the coast where the games are actually happening -- although they'll show them live on the East Coast. Just to rub it in, they'll call it "live" in both markets.

It may well be that tape-delay is the superior ratings strategy, and any little bit helps when you're busy losing $200 million. But if that were true, why wouldn't they time-shift all football games (and MLB and NBA playoff games, and March Madness) so that they show up in prime time on both coasts? We've established that I'm not the typical consumer of television (I watch Better Off Ted), but given how often I had to choose between going to bed and staying up for the last couple of hours of (delayed) Summer Olympics coverage, it's a viewer-suppressing decision for me.

I will, however, stay up as late as necessary to watch my favorite winter sport, Full-Contact Superhero Entropy, also known as short-track relay.
NO LONGER FOR HIRE: You wouldn't list Robert B. Parker as among the greatest of American writers, but he kept up a unique niche with his 38 Spenser novels. Every novel was tense, sparse, and gritty in the tradition of old-school private eye novelists like Raymond Chandler (whose last, unfinished, Marlowe novel was finished by Parker). However, despite the old-school nature of his writing, Parker's novels were always contemporary--basketball gambling, drug trafficking, and a diverse supporting cast. Add to that 9 novels involving small town police chief Jesse Stone, 6 involving Sunny Randall, a female Spenser figure, and a well-reviewed series of Westerns, and that's quite a body of work. Even now, in his late 70s, Parker regularly turned around 2-3 books a year. Not all of them were of the best quality, but he was writing, which he clearly loved--and there's something fitting that he apparently died at his desk today. (Also dead today--folk singer and mother of Rufus Wainwright Kate McGarrigle.)
GREG HEFFLEY IS NOT PLEASED: For the fourth straight year, we are blessed to have our friend Christy in NYC recap the annual American Library Association children's book awards, handed out yesterday:
Hello, friends! It has come time again to discuss the winners of the many distinguished awards the American Library Association gives out in January to books for young people, announced yesterday morning. I think it's safe to say that the awards this year, in contrast with the past few years' awards, did not contain many surprises. Most of the honored books had been expected, and most of the expected books were honored. But I'm also getting the sense that most observers, rather than being let down by the lack of surprise or controversy, are truly pleased that the books that readers loved this year were also the books that librarians recognized this year.

The Newbery Medal for most distinguished book for children goes to When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. This was the least surprising of the bunch (though the Caldecott is a close second), because as soon as it started being read and reviewed, people immediately recognized it as a practically inevitable award winner and, at the same time, enthusiastically recommended it (the two don't always go hand in hand). Kidlit bloggers use it as the example of a book that has benefitted enormously from organic buzz. It's a difficult book to talk about with people who haven't read it, and the type of book best read without too much information about the story. But it pays big homage to both New York City and A Wrinkle in Time.
THIS WEEK IN CHUCK AND MUSIC: The music of the band Spoon was prominently featured (twice, I believe) on Josh Schwartz's The O.C., so it isn't any surprise to see them turn up twice on last night's Chuck. What was nice was that the show managed to feature a song, "Got Nuffin," on an album, Transference, set to be released the following day. Through the magic of time zones, I downloaded it last night (verdict: if you like Spoon, you'll like it; if you don't, it won't change your mind). So the show benefited from the song, and the band benefited from the placement on the show. Isn't that exactly how this is supposed to work?

Also, though Alan didn't like it, I thought Captain Awesome's bumbling lie about his disappearance was funny, in part because we weren't required to believe that Ellie bought it.
STILL NEIL'S TURN: I thought NPH showed some decent directing chops with last night's HIMYM, in particular drawing the least douchy performance we've seen in a good while out of Josh Radnor and pulling together some nice editing. Sure, it meant we had almost no Barney in the episode, but it's nice to see the show avoiding being overly dependent on the Barney character for laughs. (Though what was with Jason Segel's hair for most of the episode--looked like a bad hairpiece?)

But that's not the biggest NPH news of the day--not only is he in the final stages of negotiating a deal to guest on Glee (subject to CBS's approval), but the episode he'd appear in is the Joss Whedon-directed one (in a part written especially for him, and yes, there will be singing). Hear that over there? That was the sound of some heads exploding in the distance.
HE DECIDEDLY DOES NOT SMELL LIKE TEEN SPIRIT: In helping my father set up his new apartment, I saw something which I didn't know still existed, let alone was still used: a large can of aerosol deodorant. Does anyone under the age of 40 still use this stuff? Under 50?
AND AS THEY SAY, IT'S IN YOUR DNA: How they're writing about Olympic figure skater Johnny Weir without, y'know.

Related ALOTT5MA Classic: the NYT on Prince Albert.

Monday, January 18, 2010

THIS IS ALL BUSINESS. IF YOU DON'T GET THE RATINGS, THEY TAKE YOU OFF THE AIR: Leno has a statement on tonight's show: "How valuable can I be? You fired me twice. How valuable can I be?"
FEATURING MIA WASIKOWSKA AS NAN BRITTON? I am disproportionately excited by the idea that the AMC channel is developing a miniseries on the Teapot Dome scandal, based off Laton McCartney's quite awesome book on the topic.
DON'T DON'T DON'T DON'T: Death Cab (and is it just me or does Zooey Deschanel-era Ben Gibbard look like an entirely different person?), covering "Don't You Forget About Me" in front of a giant montage for the Critic's Choice Awards tribute to John Hughes on VH1 (you might have to expand the story at the bottom of the link to get the video).

That's all.
THE CUPCAKE IS A LIE: Someone has spent way too much time depicting board and video games in cupcake form.

ETA: OK, there are actually 100, but they're not as much fun to do as they are on Sporcle. (I had a perfect score on Sporcle, FWIW).

Sunday, January 17, 2010

TEAM STUHLBARG! I'm safely ensconced in a hidden mountain lair this weekend; Ms. Cosmopolitan is visiting Undisclosed Island Location, and everyone else is still reeling from the results of today's football games (of which I'm unaware, having drafted this post many hours ago to be queued for posting at this very moment.)

Yet somewhere in Beverly Hills at this very moment, a group of obscure and occasionally bribable foreign journalists is about to announce the winners of its annual Golden Globe Awards -- one of which, we must never hesitate to mention, was given to Pia Zadora as New Star of the Year in 1981 for a movie of remarkable suckitude, besting (among others) Kathleen Turner in Body Heat. As with most such awards, these are not necessarily awards of merit but awards which capture a certain cultural consensus, and a show which we look to for entertainment, not education. So let us all hope for one speech as good as Sacha Baron Cohen's in 2007, and I look forward to everyone's ongoing commentary.