Saturday, February 13, 2010

PASCHAL ENGLISH'S SECOND CHANCE: When asked in a recent EW interview about bringing back Michael Skupin for All Stars III, Survivor host Jeff Probst said, basically, it's hard to call him an "all star hero" among the five men being picked since his injury kept him from making it to the merge, but wouldn't it be fun to have a "what if?" season for folks who deserved second chances, citing as well Hunter Ellis from Season 4 (Marquesas). Beside Stacey Stillman's obvious deserving of such an opportunity (which I imagine she'd never take), what other non-star bootees would you like to see given another run?

Also, Probst claims, Yul Kwon wasn't archetypically heroic enough to cast again.
THAT'S MY SHIKSA! Join the Masked Scheduler for Parts I, II and III of his inside history of how NBC's Must See TV Thursdays came to be in the early 1990s.
THERE'S A CHOICE WE'RE MAKING: Speaking of disappointments tonight, the "We Are Still The World" "We Are The World 25" video, released tonight, after the break:

Friday, February 12, 2010

THIS! IS! THE O-LYM-PIC THEME SONG! YOU ARE WATCHING THE GAMES ON NBC [DUM DUM DUM]! Seriously, those are the lyrics. I swear. Our livecast of the Opening Ceremonies begins now; please join us.

edited, 12:15am:
Liveblog done. West Coasters and recappers, to the Comments.

THE REVOLUTION WILL NOT BE TELEVISED: We're running a little late on CoverItLive, but it's coming. Stay tuned. And man, this luge news just adds to the grey skies of Vancouver.
MOVIES THAT GIVE LOVE A BAD NAME: Looking to escape a going-nowhere relationship this Valentine's Day weekend? Try watching one of the films from Moviefone's list of the 25 Worst Romantic Comedies Ever. I luckily have escaped fairly unscathed, having only actually seen one film on the list, the awful Because I Said So, though I once did see that horrendous Madonna movie where she played a yoga instructor in the theater (and it was so painful I don't even want to IMDB it).

Friday bonus lists: Slash's 10 favorite guitar riffs and the 10 funniest characters on TV right now.
NEXT UP, MICROSOFT ADVERTISES WINDOWS BY DISCUSSING ANTITRUST CONCEPTS:You know what sells pizza? Discussions of major concepts in advertising law.
SKATE WING REMAINS THE SUSAN LUCCI OF THESE AWARDS: In awards we're just catching up to, Bon Appetit magazine named meatballs the Dish of the Year for 2009 and Huy Fong's Sriracha "rooster" hot sauce 2009's best ingredient.
MOUSE RAT IS KIND OF AWESOME. SHOULD HAVE SEEN THAT COMING: There are those who think that Nick Offerman is the greatest thing about Thursday night television, and for them, last night was a good night. There are others who think that Chris Pratt is the greatest thing about Thursday night television, and for them, last night was a great night. As long as this battle is being fought, everybody wins.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

EVERYONE HERE IS A THREAT. IF THEY WEREN'T THREATENING, THEY WOULDN'T BE HERE: A separated shoulder, a broken toe, blurred nipples, an odd showmance, Boston Rob doing something unexpected, free-range chickens and Rupert being bitter -- yes, Survivor is back with a blessedly double-length episode on the first three days. How badass, by the way, was the young lady who had her shoulder separated, popped back in, and then competed in the physically demanding half of tonight's immunity challenge?

The last twenty minutes of this show was one of the most fascinating sequences of strategy and theory I've seen in quite some time, and what makes this show so compelling: ten bright people who've played this game before, using what they know of each other's history to predict what was in their personal and tribal best interests. I can't say I was surprised by the outcome, nor do I think it was a mistake.

One interesting meta point: in all other seasons of Survivor, players are identified by their hometown and occupation; in an All-Star season, all that matters is your past history on the show. (What's Boston Rob's current occupation, anyway?)

Fienberg recaps
("[B]y the end there are blurred nipples everywhere, difficult to assign different body parts to different women, like Mark Burnett's version of a Picasso painting"), and then my spoilery thoughts after the break:
  • Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo
  • Alvin and the Chipmunks II: The Squeakuel
  • Porky's 2: The Streakuel
  • The Birds II: The Beakuel
  • The Road II: The Bleakuel
  • Bee Movie II: The Beequel
  • Ray II: The See-Quel
  • The Miracle Worker 2: The Speak Well
  • Godfather II: A Twofer You Can't Refuse
  • Everybody Says I Love You Again: Out of Twone
  • Upstairs Downstairs 2: Second Story
  • Nine 2: Eighteen
  • Trainspotting 2: Over-Dos
  • The Orphan III: Threecret Dwarf Hooker
NO, ROD, WE DO NOT THINK YA SEXY: Billboard has released its list of the 50 sexiest songs of all time (with mucho YouTubage), ranging from soulful slow jams to poppy odes to self-pleasure to stripper songs to songs that don't seemt dirty till you really start listening to the lyrics, at which point you realize they're really dirty. Linda Holmes has some issues with the list, particularly the utterly inexplicable #1 pick. I'm sure we can do better.
PITCHERS AND CATCHERS ARE PACKING THEIR BAGS: A few baseball bullet points as we shift from the NFL to MLB/Idol/Survivor season:

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

'CAUSE I'VE BEEN ACTING LIKE SOUR MILK ALL ON THE FLOOR IT'S YOUR FAULT YOU DIDN'T SHUT THE REFRIGERATOR MAYBE THAT'S THE REASON I'VE BEEN ACTING SO COLD [WOOHOO, YEEHOO]: "Don't beg. It's not cool." Hollywood Week is where American is most like other reality shows -- with a wealth of personal drama and group dynamics from which to choose, the producers almost couldn't fail to deliver great hours of television at this point in the season. And it's always satisfying, even if it's the same beats each season -- The Group That Couldn't Come Together Because Of A Demanding Leader; The Folks Who Didn't Rehearse Enough; The Soloist You Hope Isn't Dragged Down By The Group. So thank you, Mary Powers, for being the through line that paid off this week.

What was frustrating about the hour was how little singing there seemed to be -- it was about twenty-five minutes into the episode before the first group took the stage. Seriously, is there a reason why 19 Entertainment can't put all the full group performances online now so we can figure out who's great?

We've now gone from 96 to 71 (and Fienberg, as always, has the details); next Tuesday is presumably the Four Rooms episode, followed by The Long March To The Little Chair next Wednesday and, finally, the Wacky Dancing Parade which we've come to know and love. I can't say I have any favorites yet, but I'm certainly hooked again -- and that's what Idol is all about.

added: Hinky things are going on with the comments to this post. Dunno why.
I AM SHIVA THE DESTROYER, YOUR HARBINGER OF DOOM THIS EVENING: Meet India's lone Winter Olympic entrant, luger Shiva Keshavan. The self-described India's Fastest Man is competing in his fourth Games. (Via @Shayera.)
THEY'RE GONNA DO IT ...: Laverne & Shirley, The Movie? Sure. Starring Jessica Biel and Jennifer Garner, however? Um, I'd rather not. What about Leslie Mann and Rachel Dratch? (Okay, neither can open a movie. Amy Adams as Shirley Feeney?) Michael Showalter and Michael Ian Black are Lenny and Squiggy?
SNOWPOCALYPSE II: ELECTRIC QUICKENING BOOGALOO, THE SQUEAKQUEL: SNOW HARDER: I hope all my fellow Northeast dwellers are indoors, safe and sound today. Let us know what's going in in your neck of the woods, and what we can do to amuse you.
AN OUTRAGEOUSLY DECADENT GUSTATORY ASSAULT COURSE, FROM WHICH IT WAS A MIRACLE THAT WE ESCAPED WITHOUT A GUSHING EMBOLISM EACH: Squee! Cheftestants for Top Chef Masters 2 have been announced, including Rick Tramanto (TRU, Chicago); Marcus Samuelsson (Aquavit, NYC) and back-for-another-go-round Wylie Dufresne, Rick Moonen and Ludo Lefebvre. TRU was my favorite Chicago restaurant, and you're going to love what Tramanto can do.

Kelly Choi will host, with Gael Greene, Gail Simmons, James Oseland (!!) and Jay Rayner (!!!) returning as judges after a fantastic first season. The season begins on April 7.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

I AM NOT A GREAT FOOL, SO I CAN CLEARLY NOT CHOOSE THE GREEN PILL IN FRONT OF YOU: After all these years, I think that Lost has progressed to the point that I am no longer capable of offering anything vaguely resembling insightful commentary. So instead, here are a few thoughts to get the "huh?" train rolling.

  • So I guess those weren't Rousseau's traps after all.
  • I didn't remember bitter vindictive jailer guy at all. But does that declaration officially render these guys Others? And who constitutes an Other at this point anyway?
  • Trying to remember when various things happened is making my head hurt. (E.g., the moment when I turned to Mr. Cosmo and said "wait, that meaningful look that Kate just shot Jack . . . this part is after they were off the island, right?")
  • This isn't specific to tonight's episode, but I think it's interesting that Jughead blew everyone back to the exact time they would have been in if they hadn't been teleported off the plane back into the '70s. Which strikes me as too conceptually perfect to not have a catch.
  • And then there's the illness. How many people have had this illness, exactly? And has there only been one illness on the island since the beginning of the show? And how does it come to pass that the illness gives one some serious backwoods survival skills?
  • Are the Goodspeeds of Lost and The Rock related?
  • I have felt for a couple of seasons now that Emilie de Ravin looks 100% different than she did on the first season or two. Why is that?
  • Poor Sawyer.

Feel to add your own sources of befuddlement or points of unusual clarity in the comments.

STRAIGHT UP, NOW, TELL ME: There's nothing like Hollywood Week to restore one's faith in the American Idol franchise. Structurally, it cannot fail; the only failure was that one season when the producers didn't give us enough of it. Take the best and force them to shine to locate the best of the best, with just enough background on the singers to catch up those of us who skip the audition rounds.

Our Friend Dan Fienberg's recap covers the details better than I could. Beyond the reason for this post's title (Andrew Garcia), I was particularly impressed by Mary Powers (the mom who nailed Pink's "Sober"), the hunky guitar player Jen called a Smith Jerrod lookalike, Lilly Scott (who sang Ella Fitzgerald) and the country-western version of Paris Bennett. And most of all, perhaps, I liked Ellen DeGeneres, who fit into the judges' panel with ease and good humor.

Tomorrow, it gets even better: group sing! Who will be the Kimberly Caldwell and Julia DeMato of 2010?
WE WEREN'T REALLY SURE WHO THEY WERE: On this date in 1964, the comedy duo of Mitzi McCall and Charlie Brill made their first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, along with impressionist Frank Gorshin, an unknown Davy Jones and the cast of Oliver!, Welsh singer Tessie O'Shea ... and a quartet of moptops from Liverpool who attracted most of the attention.

I so love the McCall & Brill story, available from David Segal in both WaPo and This American Life (Act 1, "Take My Break, Please") formats.
BUGS VS. DAFFY DIDN'T COME UP: Somehow, we don't have a thread to talk about last night's television, be it the highly polarizing episode of Chuck (see both the Commentpocalypse over at Sepinwall and Linda Holmes' awesome response), a Big Bang Theory that didn't explain why on earth the show is apparently the subject of a shot-for-shot remake in Belarus, a continuity-happy How I Met Your Mother (Ranjit! The Naked Man! Barney's Blog!), an episode of Castle that proves the Murder, She Wrote theory of guest stars, or something else (surprising pleasure Life Unexpected, for instance). So let's talk about both television and people talking about television below.
WHEN CHILDREN RULE THE WORLD ... TONIGHT! Let this be your first reminder that Friday night, we will be providing full live team coverage to the Vancouver Winter Olympic Opening Ceremonies. As a bonus, unlike the Grammy Awards livecast this is something for which we actually know more than a little something about the subject matter, given that Friday night will require a deep knowledge of Canadian pop stars, symbology, ritual, fun facts about Alphabet of Nations as the delegations enter the arena, and rampant speculation as to who will be chosen as Canada's Greatest Athlete to light the torch. (Elizabeth Manley? Jamie Salé? Brian Orser? Mike Sharpe?)

The Jamaican bobsleighers won't be there, but American speedskater Shani Davis sure will be -- and he's still, um, difficult. Or compelling. I'm not sure.
HE IS SO CALMLY CHARMING THAT TONIGHT, HE MAY BE THE ONLY STAR IN THE BUSINESS WHO CAN MAKE GEORGE CLOONEY LOOK LIKE HE'S TRYING TOO HARD: Author/EW columnist Mark Harris (still nearing ALOTT5MA Fave status) explains why Jeff Bridges will win Best Actor (two words: It's Time) and more in this NYMag exploration of Oscar campaign season.

Monday, February 8, 2010

WE ARE HOPE, DESPITE THE TIMES: Simon Cowell assembled an array of singing talent (as well as the members of Westlife) to perform an REM standard for Haitian aid efforts:

Idolator has the who's-singing-what list.
A BIRD'S NEST WITH NO EGGS: Remember all that amazing architecture Beijing built for the 2008 Summer Olympics? Mostly abandoned now.
ALL RIGHT NOW (AND I DON'T MEAN THAT IN A PAUL RODGERS KIND OF WAY): A good review of a creative work, it seems to me, has to do at least one of three things. The most basic form of review -- the little paragraph synopses in the now-playing section of the New Yorker, for example -- suggests whether you will like something. A slightly more ambitious review will contain an argument, in a tone ranging from subtle to Pitchfork, about why you should or shouldn't like something. This may sound hectoring, but it doesn't have to be. A a reviewer has tastes, and either can't or shouldn't be utterly objective. The third basic element of reviews is, perhaps, the most helpful. It attempts to explain a work -- to show what materials or influences or life experiences or processes were blended into the final product. There are innumerable other things a review can do (tell personal histories; belittle the work's target audience), but I think those three are the irreducible minima. If a reviewer can't do one of those three things, then it shouldn't be called a review.

I didn't learn about Continuum Books' 33 1/3 series until recently, but it is a great idea. Each novella-sized book in the currently seventy-volume series focuses on one widely-appreciated album (the selections are all from the popular canon, but otherwise are quite diverse, ranging from James Brown to Joni Mitchell to Captain Beefheart to the dearly lamented Neutral Milk Hotel). Most or all, I am given to understand, hit all three of my elements of a good review, but they're not all straightforward reviews. Many spend quite a bit of time examining the social context of an album or the actual recording sessions (Buffalo Tom's Bill Janovitz unravels some mysteries about the recording of Exile on Main Street, for example, although the participants in those sessions are famously unreliable). There is a preaching-to-the-converted twist to this series, since the authors, many of whom are themselves musicians influenced by the works, obviously picked works they loved, and few readers are likely to pay $10 for a book about an album that means nothing to them.

The reason for this post, though, is that I wanted to laud John Darnielle's entry on Black Sabbath's Master of Reality for hitting all three of my elements of good reviews, and then surging past them to make something special. Darnielle's book is a work of fiction, a bifurcated series of letters from a 15-year-old kid shipped to a private mental institution after attempting suicide, then stashed away for a few more years in a state institution. In the first, truncated set of letters, the kid tries to explain to his therapist why it would help his mental state if he were allowed to listen to his Master of Reality tape, and exactly what he hears when he listens to the songs; ten years later, he writes to finish the job.

This is more than a way to flesh out an essay on an album that resists critical introspection and lacks an interesting historical context. It is a haunting story, simply and well told in two voices, the urgent one of a messed-up but ultimately optimistic kid trying to avoid being filed away in a state institution, and the broken one of the adult who didn't succeed. It works perfectly, right down to the sarcastic second meaning the album title takes as the title of the book. The genius of this trick is that it predisposes the reader to hear the album again as it was meant to be heard -- through the ears of an adolescent in 1985, not those of a 40-year-old in 2010. In away, it becomes a sympathetic review of the audience itself. It's far more than I expected from a review. (It also has one of the great opening lines from an adolescent narrator that you'll ever read.)

Maybe I'm overrating the book because I'm comically close to its first-half narrator (I was a long-haired 15-year-old in a Black Sabbath t-shirt in 1985), but I don't think so. It probably won't work for you if you didn't like Black Sabbath back in the day, but for the half-dozen of you who did (or do), there's plenty of humor (especially the part where the author tries to figure out what happened to the songs that are included on the track list but aren't on the album) and heartbreak in this one.
THIS IS WHY I STICK WITH MEAT LOAF: An ALOTT5MA Travel Tip--when in a karaoke bar in the Philippines, stay away from "My Way" as your song choice. (Apparently, in Thailand, the culprit is 'Take Me Home, Country Roads.")
AND YOU THOUGHT IT COULDN'T GET WORSE THAN "CHECKS OUT MOZART WHILE SHE DOES TAE-BO": It's rare that a song makes it into the Insipidness Hall of Fame as quickly as Train's "Hey Soul Sister" has. Let's count a few of the infractions:
  • Painful Jack Johnson/Jason Mraz wannabe opening, featuring ukelele (repeated throughout song).
  • The opening lyric of "Your lipstick stains/on the front lobe/of my left side brains."
  • Gratuitous reference to awesomely bad rock band Mister Mister.
  • Reference to "Love Connection."
  • The effort to rhyme "Madonna" and "want to."
  • The singer proclaiming himself "So gangster, I'm so thug." Said singer is not Jay-Z, in which case it might be defensible.
Arrrrghhh! This is currently a top 10 single? Really?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

YES. THE YO GABBA GABBA CHARACTER WHO LOOKS LIKE A MARITAL AID IS NOW SHILLING FOR KIA MOTORS: Open post-Season Ending Big Game discussion thread. Can anyone locate the Carrie Underwood anthem length or Townsend windmill data? (The latter number was high, but what a lousy, joy-thwarting performance.)

As for the football, be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid. Goethe sid that.

added: Bill Carter (who else?) on how the Letterman/Leno/Winfrey ad was done; Stuart Elliott reviews the ads, as do James Poniewozik and AdAge's Bob Garfield, who gives top marks to Audi's anti-green green car ad, the Dodge Charger daily affirmation and the FloTV Nantz/lingerie ad.

added further: Betty White and Abe Vigoda FTW in the 22nd Annual USA Today Ad Meter, marking the second straight year without Anheuser-Busch winning. Alice in Wonderland topped the movies on a disappointing night for film ads (where was my Toy Story 3 or Iron Man 2?), which means that I believe Scott is a repeat winner for our Super Bowl pool, having predicted a Saints win with Brees MVP, a relative high number of Townsend windmills and Carrie Underwood clearly going over 1:42 with the Anthem.

breaking!, and eventually we'll have a new post up on something today: Megan Fox used a thumb double. And Bill Simmons has a second half diary: "Let's be honest: The Denny's free Grand Slam sounds fantastic until you're actually eating it. It's like getting a free Thai massage or a free DVD of 'John From Cincinnati.'"
SURE, I LIED -- BUT SINCE I WAS LYING TO JERRI I WON'T LOSE ANY SLEEP OVER IT: The "Surviving Survivor" recap/preview show has made me irrationally excited for the upcoming Survivor: Heroes v. Villains season. I may even have to recap this one.

That said, I know basically nothing about contestants from seasons 13-18 (I know enough about Russell -- how could you not?) -- so if someone wants to brief me on Tyson, Randy, Amanda, Sugar, Parvati, JT, "Coach", Candace and Courtney, I'd appreciate it.
CLINT MALARCHUK, YOU'VE BEEN REPLACED: According to the NYT's Virginia Heffernan, folks like watching videos of figure skaters falling down. Yes, she includes links.