Friday, June 10, 2011

[THIRTY-SIX] SCORE AND [NINTEEN] YEARS AGO OUR FATHERS BROUGHT FORTH [BELOW] THIS [SEPTIC TANK] A [SMELLY] NATON: Leonard B. Stern, the creator of Mad Libs and the person who taught me that the term "Septic Tank" makes everything funny, has died at the age of 88.

Rightly, plenty of obituaries are drawing from the Mad Libs stylebook but I assume that most of you, like me, had a favorite word that always worked with Mad Libs. Please share.
I'LL TAKE SPORTS HYPERBOLE FOR $400, ALEX:  You might have thought it was ridiculous (or entertaining as hell) to compare LeBron James to a Salvador Dali chair, but it's still much more rational than this:
Charles Barkley, as vocal a critic as the Heat has had all season, asked Thursday for everyone to please back off of LeBron. And here’s what TNT’S Steve Kerr said, too:

“He’s got more pressure on him than anybody in the history of sports. It is bizarre and unfortunate. I feel so sorry for him.”
Okay, let's see: Jesse Owens, 1936; Jackie Robinson, 1947; Hank Aaron, 1973-74; anyone ever coached by Bela Karolyi; the Aztec and Mayan athletes in that Mesoamerican quasi-basketball game where members of the losing team were sacrificed to appease the gods ....
ALOTT5MA FRIDAY [THIS FEATURE NEEDS A NAME]:  Last week's Playlist feature was ridiculously popular, so we're going to make this a regular segment.

For this week: songs that compel you to dance, and I'll start it off with Deee-Lite, "Groove Is In The Heart."
ALOTT5MA FRIDAY GRAMMAR RODEO:  I know you've been bemused by this regular feature, but this chart of 10 Commonly Misunderstood Words may literally be the last Friday Grammar Rodeo for a bit.  (I have a feeling you can expand the list further to include other words whose usage you find continuously problematic.)
WOULD YOU LIKE TO READ A MOST AMAZING BOOK FOR A MUSICAL? It's a weird year for Sunday's Tony Awards. Not only are they in exile from their traditional Radio City home due to a Cirque du Soleil summer production taking up residence this year (the awards will be broadcast live from the Beacon Theatre on the Upper West Side), but it's been a strange season. Yes, there were 11 new musicals opening this year, but only Book of Mormon has managed to find a solid sweet spot both critically and commercially among new musicals. Some hit the sweet spots with critics but couldn't find an audience (Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, Scottsboro Boys), some are finding an audience despite mixed to negative reviews (Priscilla: Queen of the Desert, Sister Act), and some found no support anywhere (Wonderland, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown). Add to it that the season's biggest story was a show that managed to be in previews or on hold for almost the entire season (Spider-Man) and a lack of revivals (only two this year, both of which have hit solidly with audiences and critics), and you have a strange season. Sunday night's pretty likely to be a Mormon sweep (and apparently deservedly so), with Anything Goes picking up most of the musical awards Mormon doesn't. (The Mormon OCR is on sale through Monday at Amazon for $1.99.)

Some races are closer--the actor in a play race, which early in the season looked like a lock for Al Pacino, is a real horserace with Pacino a dark horse against Joe Mantello for Normal Heart and Mark Rylance for Jerusalem, and Best Play pits a pair of British imports against two very American shows--while Good People is probably a front-runner, no winner would surprise me. We won't be Covering It Live, but there'll be a thread for your comments.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

HE HAS A LEVEL OF OBLIVIOUSNESS THAT IS, TO ME, MORE AKIN TO A DOG PERSONALITY: Ty Burrell explains the thinking behind his portrayal of Modern Family's Phil Dunphy.
TIME-WASTER OF THE DAY: received access to the raw data at, so now you can create graphs tracking an individual actor's or director's critical reactions over time.  The American actor whose films have the highest average critical response?  John Ratzenberger, of course.
SKEE PATROL:  I was listening to an old Hang Up and Listen podcast this morning when they discussed a contest in which I believe we would have done well -- based on the air hockey documentary Way of the Puck, they solicited titles for other potential documentaries on obscure sports and competitions, suggesting Going Rouge: A History of Canadian Football, Five Dice One Cup (yahtzee), and Back-Log (caber tossing) among the titles.

We can do better.  ...And I'm Okay: the 2011 Lumberjack World Championships, perhaps?  Curd Freak: The American Cheesemaking Championships?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

ROLY-POLY LITTLE BAT-FACED GIRL: Below the fold, David Byrne joined Paul Simon on stage Monday night for an exuberant and awkwardly danced** rendition of "You Can Call Me Al."

** Seriously, check out 1:49.
YOU JUST MADE ME PICTURE DOUG COLLINS RUNNING DOWN A BEACH IN SHORT SHORTS ALONGSIDE ELTON BRAND. I WILL NOW GO LIGHT MYSELF ON FIRE:  We had waited long enough for Simmons's latest project, and today it arrived -- the first reader mailbag column by "Phil Simmons," the Philly Sports Guy, and if you're into pitch-perfect parody like "How is the current Phillies team like the characters on Lost," well ....
Placido Polanco- Sayid: Never got the same amount of attention as Jack, Saywer and Locke, but was the backbone of the series. Forming a faction on the island? You want Sayid. Need someone to solve a problem with lives on the line? You send Sayid to do it. In the rare instances where he was injured, he’d walk it off, and he seemed to be the most dependable castaway, always doing the right thing.
If you hear my voice in more than one question there, well, you know my ongoing concerns.

Also, Grantland debuted today.
THE BEST OF TV WHO FILLED OUT THE PAPERWORK: Emmy nominating ballots are out, and there's some interesting choices:
  • SyFy original Eureka is running as a comedy, not a drama. Hellcats and Shameless are running dramas, not comedies.
  • Bizarre entries for lead actor in a comedy--Doug Savant (Desperate Housewives), Rob Lowe (Parks & Rec). Interestingly, Christian Slater dropped down to supporting actor for Breaking In.
  • For Game of Thrones, Sean Bean and Lena Headey are running as leads, Mark Addy, Peter Dinklage, Aidan Gillen, Kit Harrington, Jason Momoa, Emila Clarke, and Michelle Fairley as supporting.
  • Sherlock is eligible as a mini-series/movie--Benedict Cumberbatch submitted Study In Pink. (Primarily British produced shows are typically ineligible, so Doctor Who is not in the mix.)
  • Rather than the traditional "everyone goes supporting" route, the cast of Mad Love, with the exception of Judy Greer, submitted as leads.
  • Oddball submissions--Max Adler (Karofsky from Glee) as supporting actor, Heather Morris as supporting actress. Given that, Darren Criss' submission as guest actor is really strange. (The unquestioned winner for weirdness, though--"Dane Cook, Outstanding Guest Actor, Drama.")
  • Interesting missing folks? No submission from Alex O'Loughlin for Five-0, though his co-stars submitted, no submission from Blake Lively for Gossip Girl.
  • Hosts of SNL who submitted as guest actors? Dana Carvey, Jim Carrey, Zach Galifianakis, Timberlake, Miley Cyrus, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler.
FOLLOW THE PAROL EVIDENCE RULE: I've never regularly watched CSI: Original Recipe, though it's one of those shows that I'll enjoy when I do watch, particularly the earlier years, when they reveled in the nerdery of the characters. It's gotten downgraded from its Thursday slot for the fall, and now there's news that the show will be looking for new leads, with Laurence Fishburne opting out and Marg Helgenberger wanting to reduce her workload. Given budget constraints, I don't see them going down the road of "hire a big movie star" again, but there are a number of TV names out there who'd be interesting choices. Joshua Malina as an unabashedly nerdy investigator? Alexis Bledel as the new/naive girl? Treat Williams as a gather figure type? Steven Weber to bring some snark? The franchise has been smart about casting in the past (Sela Ward joining CSI: Blue Filters last year was a smart call from a creative/talent standpoint), so going to be interesting to see where they go. Any suggestions from y'all?
I WAS USING MY PHOOOOONE AS A FLASHLIGHT: As part of our continuing series of animated adaptations of coarse phone calls involving Texans, a customer complains about the Alamo Drafthouse theater's no-texting rule.
GOTTA RUN FOR SHELTER, GOTTA RUN FOR SHADE: This, indeed, is hot enough for me.
FROM KINTORE EAST TO YUENDEMU: Travel advice for Maret in the land where women glow and men plunder?
I'm going to Australia for 12 days in August with two friends...we're spending 4 days each in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide and would love tips from any Thing Throwers who have spent time down under about what we should see, where we should go, and places to eat. Hotels were part of the package so we're set there. It'll be winter, so beach time/snorkeling aren't on the agenda but we're open to all ideas and hope to take a day trip outside of Melbourne and/or Adelaide there, so thoughts on where me might go from those towns would be great. And if you've used any particular tour companies or public transportation that you recommend, we'd love to hear about it...

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

ONTO-LOOGY: For a baseball fan who roots for a chronically bad-to-mediocre team, there are few days that occasion as much hope as those of the amateur draft, which kicked off yesterday afternoon. "Give us a teenager, or perhaps a 21-year-old," we say, "that we may invest in him the expectation that he will deliver to us the fulfillment and contentment that have eluded us in our miserable lives." But it's also unsatisfying, because, unlike in the NFL or NBA draft (usually), you have no frame of reference. Consider what even a pretty well-informed (but not obsessive) fan doesn't know:
  • We don't know most of these players
  • We've never seen any of them play an actual baseball game
  • Of those whose names we know, we don't know anything about them other than what we've read in the two-paragraph summaries we read on baseball web sites
  • We don't know if they're injured
  • We don't know if they're injury-prone
  • We don't know what makes a baseball player injury-prone
  • If they're in high school, we don't know if they're going to go to college
  • We don't know how crazy much money Scott Boras is going to demand on their behalf to avoid college or even just because he can
  • We don't know if they have the kind of skills that translate when measured against better competition
  • We don't know what kind of skills translate when measured against better competition
  • We don't know if they'll be better than the international players our teams sign outside the draft context
  • We don't know what needs our teams will have two or four years down the road when they're hopefully good enough to play in the major leagues
  • We don't know if they're ever going to be good enough to play in the major leagues
  • We don't know if they're jerks or have plans to grow annoying facial hair or both (Bryce Harper)
It usually takes college players at least two years, and high school players at least four, to make it to the majors; it takes an additional couple of years for them to become meaningful contributors and a couple more for them to reach elite status. Better luck in 2020, Pirates and Mariners! In the mean time, remind me why I bother to follow this.
WINGER SPEECH TO BRING IT HOME: Today, the AV Club begins running an epic interview with Community showrunner Dan Harmon, wherein he takes us episode by episode through the show's sometimes erratic, but still reliably funny, second season, including how NBC's choice of how the first episode would end changed the season's arc (IMHO, sounds like for the worse), the mistakes made in marketing the space simulator episode (which reairs on Thursday), and which character he has had the hardest time getting his head around. Parts 2-4 will follow the rest of this week, and look to be well worth your time.
THERE MUST HAVE BEEN A DEATH STAR CANTEEN, YEAH? An alleged list of the 100 funniest British people**.

** "who became famous for comedy on British tv." (Added)
HEADS (UP), CAROLINA: One of the takeaways from the still-continuing Roll Call thread is that we have many readers in the Carolinas who'd like to meet up. Please indicate your interest here, and/or email reneelipson at gmail dot com to organize a shindig in the land where barbecue involves vinegar or mustard.

Monday, June 6, 2011

THIS IS HER NEW PHILOSOPHY: Kristin Chenoweth is halfway to EGOT, but I don't think her new effort at being a mainstream country star is going to get her the "G" she needs (or be a crossover success), and while it shows that she's more than capable of playing something different from her traditional character, it kind of wastes her voice.
THE HERO OF CANTON, THE MAN THEY CALL WAKA WAKA! I picked up Firefly on Blu-Ray in an Amazon Gold Box special a few weeks back and was rewatching a couple of episodes yesterday, and wow, the Blu-Ray makes a difference. As Kaylee might say, "shiny!" (Though a minor complaint--how about listing which episodes are on which disc on the packaging?) In particular, I rewatched "Our Mrs. Reynolds" and "Out of Gas," and looking back at who won Emmys that year, the "Out of Gas" direction really should have been nominated, because that is just a masterfully put-together and cut episode. (It's tougher to make out an acting case for anyone, since that was the last Sorkin year of West Wing, the glory days of Sopranos and Six Feet Under, and SpyDaddy isn't getting dropped from my list, though Christina Hendricks as guest actress has a case to be made.) Of course, I might have loved it even more if it had starred the Muppets.
FROM THE ALOTT5MA ONOMASTICS DESK:  What ever happened to athlete nicknames? Are we just stuck with First Initial-First Syllable of Last Name, or will we someday again see the return of such monikers as Death to Flying ThingsThe Freshest Man on Earth, and El Presidente?
THERE IS ONLY ONE THING WE SAY TO DEATH -- NOT TODAY: Back in the heyday of The Sopranos and Deadwood, I was a wreck on Sunday nights. Sometimes even when nothing really happened -- "Pine Barrens," say, or maybe a certain other episode -- I would be wound up as tight as the substrata of a baseball. Game of Thrones tonight made me feel exactly the same way. Everything, and not just Robb Stark and his bannermen, was going south in a hurry today.

And what a great job by Richard Madden, Emilia Clarke, and Charles Dance as the the old general Tywin Lannister, new general Robb Stark, and not-quite general Dany Targaryen brushing off challenges to their authority with sheer resolve. Tyrion was right when he said that Tywin and Robb would like each other, but he could have been speaking of Dany as well. Just an excellent portrait of power in motion this episode.

And for once, the exposition speech was boob-free. Whether that's a plus or a minus is up to you.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

TAKE ME TO 30 ROCKEFELLER CENTER, PLEASE:  NBC has signed Cash Cab host Ben Bailey for its upcoming game show Who's Still Standing?, an adaptation of an Israeli show involving trivia and trap doors you can see here.

The last time we imported a game show concept from Israel, FWIW, was Survivor Israel's pioneering of the "Island of the Dead" concept, which became Survivor 22's Redemption Island.