Saturday, March 6, 2010

AFTER THE BREAK, LARRY READS A TWITTER: I'm just going to let this excerpt from Larry King's interview of Johnny Weir from earlier this week speak for itself.
KING: Another question from Facebook: Johnny, the question is, how does it feel to be so fierce?

WEIR: Larry, I never heard -- I never thought I'd hear you call something fierce.

KING: I didn't. The Facebook did.

WEIR: I know. Still, you said fierce. Kathy Griffin would be very excited for you right now. But I suppose being fierce is a very good thing, and a very cool thing. But more than fierce, I think I'm a strong person and a strong individual. And that's what I take with me every day.
THREE LITTLE BIRDS SAT ON MY WINDOW, AND THEY TOLD ME I DON'T NEED TO WORRY: Frequent commenter Jenn has discovered a trend:
* * *
Okay, so there are certain things that we know about Simon Cowell. He largely limits his clothes purchasing to t-shirts. He has a very low tolerance for country music. And he apparently has a phobia about birds. I have proof on that last one.

Exhibit 1: Carly Smithson does a lovely job on the Beatles classic "Blackbird," which Simon dismisses as a "song about a blackbird" and tells her that singing it was "not a smart thing to do."

Exhibit 2: David Cook does a great acoustic take on Dolly Parton's lovely "Little Sparrow," and Simon says, "If you can make a song about sparrows good, which actually you did, congratulations.

Exhibit 3: There were many problems with the producers saddling Syesha Mercado with "Hit Me Up," but it allegedly being "a song about penguins" was not the biggest one, you know?

I was going to put Exhibit 4 (Megan Joy sings Rockin' Robin, followed by an incongruous "caw, caw," and Simon loses it, but YouTube is only turning up studio versions of the song. Which I didn't want then. And don't want now.)

So, with that in mind, I suggest that Idol do a performance night of Songs That Drive Simon Nuts, aka, Bird Songs. Here’s a link to an iMix of most of the songs. (Warning: This will seek to open iTunes. Also, if you do check it out, feel free to check out my other iMixes, which you should be able to get to from a link on the page.) In any event, here’s the list:

1. Kelly Hogan, Rubber Duckie. Rubber Duckie, you're the one! Oh, so jazzy.
2. Eva Cassidy, Songbird. And the songbirds keep singing/like they know the score. (orig. Fleetwood Mac)
3. Annie Lennox, Little Bird. I look up to the little bird / That glides across the sky / He sings the clearest melody / It makes me want to cry. Some little Idolette would totally butcher this.
4. Harry Connick, Jr., A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square. And as we kissed and said goodnight, a nightingale sang, a nightingale sang.
5. Josh Ritter, Snow Is Gone. Hello, blackbird! Hello, starling! Winter's over! Be my darling!
INTEREST IN YOUR BOLD REJECTION OF SOCIAL NORMS AS EVIDENCED BY YOUR DYED HAIR: Via (via these guys), "A Trailer for Every Academy Award Winning Movie Ever":

Friday, March 5, 2010

SURF DUDES WITH ATTITUDES -- KINDA' GROOVY: In news only Marsha will appreciate, the cast of California Dreams -- Peter Engel's seventh-best Saturday morning show, behind Saved by the Bell, Saved by the Bell: The New Class, Malibu CA, City Guys, Hang Time, and USA High -- reunited on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.
THE THREE-HORSE RACE: Danny Pudi opened up an early lead with his impression of Don Draper hitting on Annie (bonus: Trudy Campbell's surprised, then overcome, then giddy reaction). Chris Pratt mounted a challenge with his usual cluelessness, both at the shoeshine stand and at the apartment walk-through, but seemed to be running to stay in shape, not to win. In the end, though, Nick Offerman found another gear from the top of the turn through the home stretch, with the fake satisfaction over winning Woman of the Year. Win: Offerman. Place: Pudi. Show: Pratt.
DON DRAPER HITS ON A COLLEAGUE'S WIFE:Because of getting home at midnight (isn't trial preparation fun?), I only got a chance to watch the first 15 minutes of The Office, but did manage to watch Community, which had so much awesome in it that it deserves its own post--Zevon! Zach Braff jokes! A Mad Men joke that's also meta-tastic! Abed's impressions of vampires and Jeff Winger! Britta's discussion of bag-els. "White Abed"/"Brown Joey"! Shirley's remark that "if it's a girl, we need to find her for Abed, and if it's a boy, we need to find him for Jesus!" And, yes, for the ladies, Joel McHale in leather pants and then network TV naked. (And Annie's priceless response thereto.) Seriously, this is a show firing on all cylinders that gets a little lost in the shuffle--it shouldn't.

ETA: And the show (along with The Office and 30 Rock) has officially been picked up for season dos.
I'VE GOT THAT FEELING FROM THE OCEAN: Really, you can sue Fishbone because you didn't know there would be stage diving at the concert? Assumption of risk, anyone?

Related, because I'll never have a more justifiable reason to use this clip: Fishbone f/Annette Funicello, "Jamaican Ska" from 1987's Back to the Beach.
LECTER VS. STARLING, ALL OVER AGAIN: Two provocative suggestions on how to change the Academy Awards in Thursday's online NYT. UCLA's Kim Elsesser:
Since the first Academy Awards ceremony in 1929, separate acting Oscars have been presented to men and women. Women at that time had only recently won the right to vote and were still several decades away from equal rights outside the voting booth, so perhaps it was reasonable to offer them their own acting awards. But in the 21st century women contend with men for titles ranging from the American president to the American Idol. Clearly, there is no reason to still segregate acting Oscars by sex....

[S]eparate is not equal. While it is certainly acceptable for sports competitions like the Olympics to have separate events for male and female athletes, the biological differences do not affect acting performances. The divided Oscar categories merely insult women, because they suggest that women would not be victorious if the categories were combined. In addition, this segregation helps perpetuate the stereotype that the differences between men and women are so great that the two sexes cannot be evaluated as equals in their professions....

Collapsing two major categories into one would have the added value of reducing the length of the awards show, a move that many viewers would laud. But if the academy wanted to preserve the number of acting awards, it could easily follow the lead of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which has, since 1951, offered genre-based Golden Globe honors, for best performances in dramatic, and comedic and musical roles.

For next year’s Oscars, the academy should modify its ballots so that men and women are finally treated as full equals, able to compete together in every category, for every nomination. And if the academy insists on continuing to segregate awards, then it should at least remain consistent and create an Oscar for best directress.
And from an interview with Oscar winner Matt Damon:
“I actually think the way they should do the awards, I really think this, is they should give them out 10 years later,” Mr. Damon said. “Like the way they do the Hall of Fame in Baseball. They do it in five years, but if you did 10 years later, if this year, we were voting on what was the best picture of 2000, I think it would be much more honest. It’s like, when you pick up great old movies and you go, why the hell didn’t Brando win the Oscar for this one? Who won that year? Whatever the sizzle was about that year. 50 years later you’re looking at a movie and going, this is a historic cinematic performance.”

Of course, Mr. Damon added, “nobody would ever host that award show.”
A decade later, does Traffic or Wonder Boys [insert: or Almost Famous**] best Gladiator?

** Seriously, I meant to say that the first time. It's not a perfect movie -- I don't think Fugit was a good enough actor to pull off the angry-at-Penny-in-the-field scene ("There is no Morocco!"), but there are few films about which I have warmer feelings.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

HE'S LIKE THE HOBBIT -- ON CRACK: This week's Survivor was all about trust, where again so much of the players' thinking was based not so much as what they've demonstrated this season as what folks recall from their previous times on the show. But even if you're not sure how someone has played the game before ... if he looks like Gollum and spends all his spare time searching for The One Idol, I'd say you ought to be wary.

No, this season is not a Survivor for fans of hookups, "gosh I hope they catch that chicken" and the cutesy-poo. It's game on and game theory, and it's only in a season like this can you see someone propose a Tribal Council strategy as carefully arranged as a Burt Bacharach number, and in which everyone gets it right away. This season is such a keeper.

added: Sepinwall: "[A]fter an episode that had me repeatedly fist-pumping and caring about the game in a way I didn't think was possible anymore, I'm absolutely on the hook for a long time, and I'll let the DVRs sort it all out later."
DIVERSITY DAY: I say it often, but it's as true as a matter of both voting and talent this week -- none of the four people sent home tonight had yet demonstrated the talent sufficient to become The Next American Idol.

Next week, though, will be a bloodbath of democracy -- taking the pool from 16 down to 12 means each singer has only a 75% chance of survival, tough odds they won't see again until it's May and we're down to the final four.

In the meantime, we can debate the relative douchiness of Danny Gokey's unawaited return to the Idol stage versus twenty people lip-syncing "I Gotta Feeling" without the L'chaim!, and whether there's any possible pattern to these week's evictions.
BECAUSE NO ONE CAN WAIT 47 MONTHS UNTIL SOCHI: ABC has decided to double down on plans to resurrect prime time ice skating in the coming months. First comes a two night "Thin Ice" competition featuring new pairings of professional skaters, with toplist names including Stéphane Lambiel, Jamie Salé and Shae-Lynn Bourne performing before judges Button, Witt and Yamaguchi. Afterwards, they'll resurrect a failed Fox concept to introduce Ice Dancing With The Stars for a six week run -- pairing professional skaters with the best that the B- and C- list can offer, including a likely supply of covert Canadian ringers.
I HAD TO FIND YOU, TELL YOU I NEED YOU, TELL YOU I SET YOU APART: Given my assertion of Grand Unified Theory of Idol #2 I'm not as ready as Alan is to separate the Idol women into Those Who Can Win and Those Who Cannot, which is not to say that he's wrong about which singers distinguished themselves last night.

Crystal Bowersox's "Long As I Can See The Light" was, as Fienberg agrees, the performance of the year so far -- an artistic and medical triumph. She took the leap from "we like her because she's so different" to "wow, those are pipes attached to an artistic sense sufficient to send her straight to the final three."

I'd give Katelyn second place for her take on Coldplay's "The Scientist," not only because it's been about two years since I first started advocating someone perform it on the show because she did the Aimee Mann cover of it real justice. Was it a little slow and off in the phrasing? Perhaps. But compared to where she was last week, it's such a marked improvement that I fear I may have written her off prematurely. (Also, because I want to see the full shoulder tattoo before her run is over.)

No one sang herself out of the competition last night, though I have my doubts about the continuing viability of Lacey Brown given her take on "Kiss Me" which lacked all the dreamy, fifteen-year-old-girl's wistfulness which the song requires. Looks different, sounds boring. Nor do I believe Didi Benami is long for this competition, given that we've seen her act done better by Brooke White and Megan Joy.

Katie Stevens (DeGarmoBot 2.0) is certainly surging. There's something about "Put Your Records On" which can't help but make the singer seem endearing and comforting, and she aced it.

Others, I can't figure out: Siobhan Magnus -- punk rock girl with a huge belting voice, or the adorable-but-unreliable Haeley Vaughn (oh, wait: that's just Paris Bennett 2.0). And Michelle Delamour looks too much like Keanu's colleague's shape-shifting wife in The Devil's Advocate for me to think of anything else while she's singing -- especially when she's unengagingly gender-bending a bad Creed song.

Who I'd send home this week: Lacey, (Didi or Michelle), Jermaine (to make more room for the Team Todrick resurgence), and still Tim Urban. And, yes, Alex Lambert is my tentative Theory #2 test case.

added because we need to keep tabs on him: Frequent ALOTT5MA Piñata Richard Rushfield may have located his 2010 Crush:
While each season sees an early panic of “this year is a disaster” from excitable critics who can’t sit tight until they get to know some of the kids when they reach the Top 12, this year was looking particularly ominous, with no great leader emerging and those few looming possibilities – Casey James, Aaron Kelley – falling sharply on one (cougar) or another (tween) side of the divide.

All that changed tonight when Siobhan Magnus hit her big note. Never did we breathe its pure serene until we heard Siobhan sing out loud and bold. Of all the candidates we’ve seen, only Siobhan could possibly unite the entire Idol Nation. Let’s look at what she brings to the table:

1. She had a mohawk.

2. She makes weird, possibly insane noises to herself with her lips, making her both endearing to the tweens and unthreatening to the cougars. ... [deleted for space]

I could go on, but really what more evidence do we need to declare this season over, a lock for young Magnus? In history, civilizations tend to get the leaders they deserve. And after a year of war and bloodshed, Idol Nation deserves a strong but quirky leader like Siobhan.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

COFFEE IS MORE KING'S TURF: SI's Peter King reported on Monday:
On Friday night, the Saints' staff at the combine gathered in a private room at St. Elmo Steakhouse, an 108-year-old Indy landmark, for a final celebratory nod to the Super Bowl win over the Colts. This is a group that likes its wine, and likes to have fun.

At the restaurant, word passed that Dallas owner Jerry Jones would have his Dallas group in this exact room Saturday night for a team dinner. Jones had even phoned ahead, according to a waiter, to make sure a magnum of a wine he loved, Caymus Special Selection cabernet sauvignon, was ready to be served at dinner.

Sean Payton told the waiter he'd like to have that wine, too. The waiter told him: Sorry, sir. We have only one bottle left, and it's reserved for Mr. Jones.

Payton said he'd like to have the bottle nonetheless. I assume there was much angst on the part of the wait staff at that point. My God! Who do we piss off? One of the most powerful owners in the NFL, or the coach who's the toast of the NFL, the coach who just won the Super Bowl?

Here came the bottle of Caymus Special Selection, and the Saints' party drained it.
But drinking Jones' wine wasn't enough. Payton gave the waiter some instructions, took out his pen ... and, well, the Cowboys party found at the middle of their table the next evening an empty magnum of Caymus Special Selection cabernet sauvignon, with these words hand-written on the fancy label:

World Champions XLIV
Sean Payton

That's the kind of thing Jones will get a big laugh out of. And remember.
I tracked down our anonymous resident oenophile for an explanation of what I regarded as the critical question -- just how good of a wine was this?
It's often a very good wine, but sort of commodified and a super-not-original choice -- kind of like a somewhat-better Silver Oak. To me, Caymus wines (much like Silver Oak) in general often taste "overmade" -- there's too much manipulation to achieve a house "style" and year-to-year consistency in taste. It was a bigger name in the 1990s before the emergence of so many smaller boutique wineries making superior products at similar prices.

To me, the Special Selection is (much like, say, Opus One) one of the most over-priced wines on the American market, but that's not to say it isn't tasty -- it certainly is. And the vintage date might matter a bit to this story -- the 1994 and 2002 are both very highly regarded wines (I tried the 1994 back around the time we graduated, and although it was way too early to be drinking it, I wasn't choosing, buying or complaining -- very nice). More than anything, this is just the type of "reserve selection" I'd expect to see being ordered by the likes of Jerry Jones from the reserve wine list of an Indianapolis steakhouse.
To which Isaac noted, via email, that the last line was "gold-medal condescension if I've ever seen it ... dismissive of Jerry Jones, Indianapolis, and inexpert self-described oenophiles," and our friend responded:
All I mean is that, as a predictive matter, if you had said to me, "Jerry Jones walks into an Indianapolis steakhouse and orders a bottle of high-end wine... what does he order?" this would have been like my second guess.
WE ARE HERE TO SHOW THOSE GUYS THAT ARE INCHING THEIR WAY ON THE FREEWAYS IN THEIR METAL COFFINS THAT THE HUMAN SPIRIT IS STILL ALIVE: With John Hughes slotted for a separate tribute, NYMag forecasts who'll get the "pimp slot" in this year's Oscar Necrology.
THIS TOO SHALL PASS TOO: You may like OK Go and you may not, but you cannot deny that they make videos that demand your attention. A month or so ago, I posted about their one-shot video for "This Too Shall Pass," as filmed and performed with the Notre Dame marching band. Now here's an entirely different version of the video, featuring mostly the album version of the song (with a really cool cameo by some ambient sound from the video), and the greatest Rube Goldberg machine I've ever seen. When you can make a Rube Goldberg machine that is humorous, visually arresting, occasionally musical, and actually builds to a crescendo (notice how the moving parts get bigger, and the collisions get more explosive), you are at the top of your game.
SORRY, BOSTON, THERE WILL BE NO WICKEDMETERS: There is now afoot an effort to make Hella- the official SI prefix for 10^27. As a life long East Bay kid, I have to say this is the most hella cool thing since the I Hella (heart) Oakland t-shirts.
A MAN'S WORLD: There seem to be two schools of thought on how to approach Idol. You can go about it like a job interview, courting the tweens and the grandmas with scrubbed-clean goodness and carefully selected Disney-appropriate songs, or you can just play the music that you yourself would like to hear and let the chips fall where they may. Pick one, and you might have a shot. Pick neither, and you'll end up chasing bad judge advice right into the sing-out. Tonight everybody -- everybody -- said that they were just being themselves. Either they're lying or I don't like many of themselves. Bullets:
  • Kara looks like she just ran straight through a wind tunnel. The wind also blew the top five buttons of Simon's shirt open. He has no chest hair but impressive upper stomach hair.
  • I believe Big Mike just said that he could bench press four naked Seacrests. He sings a James Brown song competently, but without any of the anything that makes Brown special. Mike's one "hey" sounds lonely. The judges, who are confused by large black men with guitars singing frat-boy soul, laud Mike's choice to sing like he looks. The band does him no favors by playing an aggressively funkless funk.
  • John Park was caught in Kara's wind tunnel. An Asian a cappeller? He will fail Anooptacularly. Unless he didn't speak until he turned six, he does not understand how to count to "second language." Park has a reedy voice that thins as it climbs, and he is sitting on a stool, which practically screams "now is the time for sleepy viewers to survey the fridge." This is an optimal song choice for Park, but it's not good. I amuse myself by imagining that Kara is virulently racist and believes that Asians should focus on violin. Suddenly, the hand gestures and facial expressions make sense.
  • Casey James. Whoever said last week in the Lost comments that Emilie de Ravin looks completely different wasn't kidding. The judges criticize James's "I Don't Wanna Be" as pitchy, but they're missing the point. Nobody gives a shit about pitch when a guy is whaling away on a distorted guitar (even if you whiff on the fade-out solo). Have they ever heard rock music? You can be messy if you do it in a good way. My only problem with this is that James has Archuletal dead eyes.
  • Alex Lambert. I don't think that's a mullet -- I think it's a mullet wig. He chose John Legend, a guy with a much larger voice and much more pronounced facial tics than Lambert, and he sings it in front of a band that is murdering the song as squarely as it can. This is just easy listening. Boo, get off the stage.
  • Is Todrick Hall singing Tina Turner? An oldie by a woman? After the judges told him that they associate him too much with dancing? Odd choice. I generally like people who sing behind the beat, but wow, he is too behind the beat. A competent, but hyperactive, vocal on a song that nobody in 2010 would buy, although he did try to update it (naturally, the judges hated that).
  • Jermaine Sellers won me over with the onesie, then lost me with the shark-fin hair. He got as far as "there's too many of you crying," and I was done already. This arrangement is abysmal, total Muzak schmaltz. Marvin Gaye's voice is all about pleading and urgency, and Sellers is singing this like he has nowhere to be. Pass.
  • Andrew Garcia is performing this like Chaz Bono doing an allocution. I'm not fond of the song (or the backup singers who literally joined for only one line), but I like the rasp of Garcia's voice and the head of steam he builds up when he's going for it. Naturally, the judges thought it was pitchy. See Casey James, supra. He is just way better than, say, John Park at exactly the same thing.
  • Frankie MunizAaron Kelly does not know that Motown Night murders contestants in broad daylight. He does "My Girl," a song nearly three times as old as he is, and who would buy this shit? Randy likes it. Why? Because he likes to hear sixteen-year-old-boys sing songs from his father's childhood? Aaron Kelly, incidentally, has the worst falsetto I've ever heard.
  • Oh, Tim Urban's clip package. Now that's the worst falsetto I've ever heard. He does a bit of vote-begging in the interview, saying his warmup is prayer, and then to prove it, he sings a song that I think is about making out with Jesus's approval. Incidentally, what does "the rush of your skin" mean?
  • I'll bet that Lee DeWyze (cough - stage name - cough) always played the date raper at school assemblies. He sings a song that is Idol-current, which means it sounds like late-90s Creed, but he has a big screamy voice, which the judges like. This is the second straight song that refers to lips and angels, but I think the point of this one is that LDW wants to get an angel drunk so that she makes bad choices.

Winners? Casey James, Andrew Garcia, though the judges don't agree. Losers: Tim Urban, maybe Alex Lambert or John Park. I would have said Aaron Kelly, but the judges liked him and he is the kind of tremendously geeky child that the tween/grandma group historically has liked to keep around.

ETA: Fienberg on last night: "If the men were bad last week, what could be better than seeing how they'd do when rushed and underprepared?"
KATE, SEPARATED FROM THE GROUP AGAIN, WISHES SHE HAD NOT SCOFFED AT THE IDEA OF A LINE BUDDY: I suppose that if you're responsible for a six-year epic sci-fi mystery with an ever-proliferating ensemble cast, you'll eventually get tired of writing for them. So you kill them with nosebleeds, with time-confused mom-on-son murder, with live burial, with Keamycide. Those that have tenure get a better deal, though -- a character reboot. Broken, flailing Locke becomes the island Macbeth. Dull, maternal Claire becomes crazy Nouveausseau. When Sayid protested, early in this episode, that he is a good person, I mentally fast-forwarded through an entire episode of Sayid redemption, donned flannel pajamas, drank some warm milk, and fell asleep to a thought balloon of fluffy lambs jumping over a sawn log. Surprise -- the show I watched was better than the one I imagined, not just because of the plot twist, but because of the quiet, expert delivery.

But: is an Iraqi accent, or a pan-Arab one, the most difficult to fake? This episode had all three Jarrahs sounding like The Max Fischer Players Present: Lawrence of Araby.

On another note, I was trying to figure out why I think Hiro Sanada is so effective as Dogen. I think it's because he is done up so much like Toshiro Mifune in Seven Samurai, with the topknotish ponytail and the beard and the raggedy clothes, that he makes me instantly melancholy.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

NO, YOU ARE NOT T-PAIN: Polls have closed, and it seems likely that hair care magnate Farouk Shami will not succeed in his quest to capture the Democratic nomination for Texas Governor, on which he spent several million dollars of his own money. However, he has left us with the campaign's official rap song (released today, and which Burnt Orange Report confirms was paid for by the candidate), featuring excessive use of auto-tune and the chant of "Farouk! Farouk! Farouk is on fire! Serving the community his number one desire!" This will go down beside "Everyone's A Winner At Nixon Peabody," and General Wesley Clark sharing his opinions on OutKast.
WHY WE FIGHT, EASTERN DIVISION: With apologies to fans of Richard Chamberlain and Alex Haley, the greatest miniseries of all time, hands down, please don't bother objecting, was Band of Brothers. I roll my eyes at baby-boomer self-congratulation and loathe reruns, yet I've watched this series in its entirety three times. So, as I've said here before, I'm pretty excited for The Pacific, Spielberg & Hanks's companion to BoB, focusing on the American campaign that fought leftward, rather than rightward. Set your DVRs for March 14.

BoB was largely about heroism and cameraderie, but it also did a good job showing some of the innumerable hellishnesses of war -- cold, confusion, the enormous consequences of both large and seemingly small decisions and mistakes, murderous egotism and bureacracy, painful or numbing attrition, the hollowing out of stout men; to say nothing of the ceaseless violence and inhumanity that they experienced or found. I do not mean to diminish the horrors of the European theater by saying that, from what I've read, the Pacific was far worse. Both sides of the Pacific campaign believed they were fighting a savage and subhuman enemy, something that should have been a mutual fallacy but that became, in some measure, a self-fulfilling truth. Because the Japanese were, for various reasons, unwilling or unable to consider surrender, the territory in play so discrete and small, and the Japanese defensive preparation time so great, the battles were more intense than in Europe. Because the battles were fought on volcanic rocks, not in forests and across farmland, it was impossible for the Americans in the Pacific to dig foxholes or find much decent cover. Because of the greater difficulty in crossing an ocean than in crossing a continent, the forces in the Pacific rotated off the front lines less frequently than did their European cohort. The casualty rate of junior officers -- college boys fresh out of officer training school, targeted by the Japanese because of their leadership and susceptible because of their inexperience -- who landed on Okinawa was ridiculous, something like 80%, if I remember correctly. BoB was brutal, but lyrically so; expect the same, but more so, in The Pacific.*

The emblem, or one emblem, of the brutality in the Pacific theater was the battle for Sugar Loaf Hill, a small mound of barren rock on Okinawa. It took the Marines a week and 2600 casualties to take Sugar Loaf.

Today, it takes a few minutes to climb the stairs up Sugar Loaf -- at least the part of it that's not a luxury-goods mall. For the trickle of veterans who have returned, that's got to be a surreal place.

*Steven and Tom -- if one of you wants to send me a screener, you know where to find me.
MY NAME IS MY NAME: I forgot to throw something up about last night's Chuck. I realize that there's a great deal of frustration among the Chuck-Sarah contingent, and last night seems to have changed the direction of that vector while nicely avoiding clarity about which direction the vector is now pointing. But Chuck is a show that virtually begs you not to think too hard about it, to just enjoy the ride. The ride, thankfully, is fun. Last night gave us a different side of Zack Levi's comic chops, a different depth of Chuck's maturation (and Sarah's too), and a different mystery about Casey's backstory. And the same great music.

Also, the show has done something that too few shows do these days: introduce tension without introducing an irritating character. Brandon Routh's Agent Shaw is, mockingly gratuitous shirtlessness notwithstanding, a good guy who wants the best for all of our characters, even the ones whose hearts he's breaking. I have a feeling he's not long for Chuck's world, but unlike a Bryce or even a Bartowski Senior, they're nicely setting up his dispatch for an emotional wallop.
THE ONE DARK SIDE OF NO MORE LENO: Fair warning folks--there's more than a bit of a DVR pileup at 10 PM tonight, exacerbated by ABC's funny overrun scheduling--the new Lost doesn't end until 10:02, and even with a dual tuner, that creates a mess for my viewing at 10, with the last two minutes of Lost, Good Wife, and the Parenthood premiere (Casey McCall!, Lorelai Gilmore!, Coach!, That d-bag to whom Kristen Bell is inexplicably engaged!) all holding slots). I set up my Parenthood recording to start two minutes late, but note that it's rerunning on Saturday night, and for those who are fans of White Collar, USA will repeat it several times throughout the week.
YES, BUT WHAT DOES A SECRET DWARF HOOKER EAT? Just in time for your Oscar party planning, Epicurious proposes a themed menu inspired by each of the ten films nominated for Best Picture.

To confirm, we will be here live Sunday night to cover the event in all its glory (or lack thereof). You can check out our 2009 marathon live coverage via this link, during which among other things we discussed the Pareto optimality of Jessica Biel, how old you can be while still insisting on being called "Danny," the marketability of "extraordinary nut snacks," and the just-aired last episode of Conan O'Brien ... as the host of Late Night.
LET ME JUST CLEAR ONE THING UP. I RINSE, REPEAT. JUST LIKE NORMAL HAIR. I JUST DON’T HAVE TO FUSS WITH STYLING IT. CONVENIENT! Y'know how you can't tell how the Idol contestants are doing based on iTunes sales because Apple agreed to keep that data private? Well, no such deal was reached with Twitter, Facebook and MySpace (that still exists?), and The TV Addict is tracking the top twenty in terms of their followers on all three platforms, and there is a clear leader.

That said, don't make too much of it as a predictive tool yet, insofar as last week's #3, Tyler Grady, was among those already dispatched to the land of Sabrina Sloan and Sundance Head.

Monday, March 1, 2010

SO YOU THINK YOU CAN SING WITHOUT INSTRUMENTS: Remember how we all loved NBC's The Sing-Off? In a rare spasm of NBC common sense, they're bringing it back, though they're not sure when, how or with whom. (Keep Ben Folds, but the other judges and host can be replaced. As to format, that depends on what will allow the best talent to be available.)
FRENCH INHALER ... IS THAT UNDER FOUR MINUTES? I'LL PLAY IT FAST. ANYTHING BUT WEREWOLVES: Great news for the start of March: Shout! Factory to release The Larry Sanders Show - The Complete Series on DVD this September. It is a show which feels more like a documentary with every passing year.

Here's the Zevon clip from the title to this post (creepily, the episode also features Gene Siskel and John Ritter), as well as an extended clip from the Tim Miller performance artist episode with a punchline at the end confirming that crass opportunism, indeed, never dies.
IT'S NO "SECRET DWARF HOOKER," IF YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN:Given the demographics of our readership, it's probably pretty unlikely many will be attending a screening of the upcoming Robert Pattinson romance Remember Me, which seems to be sold primarily on the concept that it will be Twilight fans' first chance to see the Eclipse trailer. And that's why we'll take New York spoiling the ending, which is seriously sub-Nicholas Sparks territory.
SORRY, GILLIGAN, TATTOO, AND SMOKE MONSTER: This list is of the 10 Scariest Islands in Movie History.
MAZEL TOV: iTunes sold its 10 billionth song last week and in honor of that milestone, AOL Radio Blog has a list of the service's 10 Most Downloaded Songs of All Time with the top song being of no surprise to anyone who has been to a wedding, bar mitzvah, christening, prom, or chili cook-off in the last nine months.

The lucky 10 billionth song purchaser, Louie Sulcer of Woodstock, Georgia, who downloaded "Guess Things Happen That Way" by Johnny Cash, won a $10,000 iTunes gift card, which made me ask my wife what cash equivalent would you take for a $10,000 iTunes gift card (I think I would gladly rather have $500 cash), she, of course, would rather dole out smaller gift cards for the rest of her life to everyone she knows. How's bout you?

And while you're thinking about that, in honor of the start of meteorological spring, enjoy AOL Radio Blog's 10 Best Surf Songs.
PLEASE CONTINUE BELIEVIN': Yes, it's small, but Glee: The Tour is now official--only four cities (Phoenix, LA, Chicago, and New York City's Radio City Music Hall), and only the kids (no Matthew Morrison, Jane Lynch, or Jayma Mays, though we do get Brittany and Santana). Set list will include "Jump," "Don't Rain On My Parade," "Somebody To Love," and "Sweet Caroline."

Sunday, February 28, 2010

ROPIN' THE WIND: Given the gaucho theming of tonight's leg of TAR, it's not altogether surprising which team dominated from start to finish, and I'm still not entirely clear how the teams near the back of the pack switched around, given that we barely saw most of them beyond the Roadblock. Truly frightening that none of the teams seem to be able to navigate (any "drive yourself a decent distance" task, much less the more complicated (but still pretty basic) orienteering that was one side of the Detour, seems to be a pitfall), and perhaps most frightening that the legendarily map-challenged Caite thinks she'd be a better navigator than driver. Right now, while things could always change, sure seems like there are 2-3 teams that have the skills to go the distance, while other teams just hope someone else screws up more than they do in a given leg. Not sure how interesting a season this makes, especially since none of those 2-3 teams is really a strong narrative voice.
JE ME SOUVIENS: An open thread to discuss tonight's Closing Ceremonies, and to talk about what we'll remember from these Olympic Games.

Overall, these Games felt like the coronation of the expected -- Team Canada in hockey and curling (three golds and a silver); Kim Yu-Na and Shen & Zhao on the ice; Shaun White in the air; and Apolo Anton Ohno's farewell lap. The most intriguing surprise was in ice dancing -- a sport about which I ordinarily don't care -- but if you didn't smile seeing Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir and those cute kids from Michigan best the dastardly and more-than-borderline racist presentation from the Russian team, well, I'm not sure what Games you were watching. (Incidentally, if you watch nothing else from the figure skating gala, do watch those plucky Canadians.)

Your memories may vary. Let's hope for a fun closing for tonight, and do chime in when there's something worth noting.
YOU'RE NOT GOING TO FALL FOR THE BANANA IN THE TAILPIPE? The problem with Kevin Smith's Cop Out is that it doesn't quite know if it wants to be an homage to 80s/90s interracial buddy cop flicks or a parody of them. Yes, there are amusing moments, but the tone's all over the place and the movie is indeed something of a mess.

The problem with the movie is, in many ways, the best thing about the movie: Tracy Morgan, who essentially is playing 30 Rock's Tracy Jordan thrown into police work. In other words, he often goes off into these unhinged, nonsensical riffs during the movie -- which, while often funny, undermine the credibility the character needs to remain seen as a competent police officer, which he never does. [You never questioned, by way of contrast, whether Axel Foley was a qualified police officer. Here, you're shocked when he does something right. Also, I felt like there was a whole subplot about Kevin Pollak being a corrupt cop which was snipped from the final version.]

Inserting Tracy-being-Tracy into a script originally written for Robin Williams and James Gandolfini, then Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg (plus the goofiness of the Seann William Scott character) sabotaged the authentic tone which the film was otherwise seeking with its Harold Faltermeyer score and solid Brooklyn location shooting. It added jokes at the expense of coherence, and the result is a movie in which you're never quite sure what kind of movie it is. Wait for cable.