Saturday, March 24, 2012

KAZAKHSTAN NUMBER ONE EXPORTER OF POTASSIUM! OTHER COUNTRIES HAVE INFERIOR POTASSIUM!: Apparently, someone played the wrong version of the Kazakh national anthem.

Friday, March 23, 2012

A/K/A "WHY I LOVE MY TWITTER FEED":  Which picture is more awesome -- pictures of a guy dressed as Batman pulled over by the police in his black Lamborghini, or a shark high-fiving a diver?
IDLE MUSINGS:  This actual season of American Idol, at the moment, isn't nearly as interesting for me as the discussion/mock draft Bill Simmons hosted on the B.S. Report this week: if you had an unlimited budget, and the people you ask would say yes, what's your dream American Idol judging panel?  Timberlake-Madonna-Prince, anyone?  Harry Connick Jr-Stevie Wonder-Cyndi Lauper?

[Yes, Isaac, you can pick NPR NPH and Anne Hathaway.]

Thursday, March 22, 2012

IN HONOR OF GLORIA STEINEM'S BIRTHDAY: Smash has been renewed for a second season, but creator (and primary writer for Season 1) Theresa Rebeck is going to be out as showrunner. Given how messy the season's been, it's not surprising, but what concerns me is that I believe it leaves Our Friend Shonda Rhimes (who, admittedly, will soon have 3 shows she's running on ABC's schedule) and Michelle King (who co-runs The Good Wife with her husband) as the only female drama showrunners on the big 4 networks (adding in comedy does help, as Suburgatory, Up All Night, and New Girl are all created/run by women). Even shows with strong female leads (Revenge, Missing) are run by men, and that's troubling--admittedly, there are a bunch of great women working on behind-the-scenes stuff (Jane Espenson is heavily involved in Once Upon A Time, Susannah Grant created A Gifted Man), but more female voices are a good thing, right?
YES, I LINKED DIRECTLY TO THAT ONE:  NYMag slideshows Great Pajamas in Mad Men History.

P.S. In re-watching Season 4 with the AMC reruns, I'm struck by how completely foreshadowed Don's decision in "Tomorrowland" was.  Very excited for Sunday -- who doesn't like the beginnings of things?
PIXAR'S GOOD LUCK CHARM:  John Ratzenberger talks to the AV Club:
I auditioned for Norm, or the part that became Norm, anyway. I was actually on my way out the door, and I stopped and turned and looked into the writers’ room and said, “Do you have a bar know-it-all?” And they looked up, and I think it was Glen Charles who asked, “What are you talking about?” So I stepped back in the room and explained that it’s a necessity for a bar know-it-all, especially in a New England bar. He’s the guy that everybody defers questions to. Whether the answers are right or wrong, it doesn’t make any difference. [Laughs.] You just need someone with a voice of authority to answer the questions or settle any bar bet or controversy. So I gave them an example—I made up what I thought the character would be like—and they started laughing to the point that I was able to leave with my dignity. Two days later, I got the call that they wanted to try that character out for seven episodes. And 11 years later, I was still there.
TRUMP SHOWS UP IN THE FINAL EPISODE TO FIRE THEM ALL: With news that Paul Lieberstein wants out as showrunner (to focus on the Schrute-centric spinoff), that Ed Helms is guesting on Mindy Kaling's Fox comedy pilot (along with Bill Hader and Richard Schiff), which seems guaranteed a pickup to be a companion to New Girl, and the first article's revelation that negotiations for Helms, Krasinski, Novak, and Fischer to return are "stalled for the moment," it more and more seems to me like The Office should come to an end this year. Unfortunately, because of NBC's dire straits, I can't imagine them doing that unless the Schrute pilot can be ready for the fall, and even if it could be, that'd be dicey. My biggest fear? In their search for a new showrunner, they throw a ton of money at Mike Schur to return, and since Schur doesn't want to run two shows, this leads to the cancellation of Parks & Rec. More likely is that they have to throw big money at a few of them (likely Fischer, Krasinski, and Helms), and maybe do an abbreviated/split season next year.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

WE EITHER STEP UP, OR WE STEP THE FUCK OFF. THAT'S THE GAME, YO. THAT'S THE FUCKIN' GAME:  "Cleaning Up," the penultimate episode of season one of The Wire (Sepinwall, Ariano), is all about stepping up -- choosing between obligations to colleagues, and doing what you know is right. The problem, of course, is that you might convince yourself you're doing the latter when you're actually doing the former, and the phrase "we take care of our own" means something different to every player in the game.

Lieutenant Daniels steps up in a big way. So does Shardene -- each of them choosing to do the right thing, and not what's expected - at great personal risk. Poot and Bodie, on the other hand, nervously lead each other in the opposite direction, convincing themselves they have to do what they know is wrong, but believe is necessary to stay in the game.  And then there's D'Angelo, who knows that he could have chosen a different path, could have warned his friend more strongly to keep him out of the game, and realizes too late the consequences of his silence.

Where's Wallace at? ... Where's the boy, String?... Where's Wallace? That's all I wanna know.

We can't do this without spoilers.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

PAGING MR. LOAF:  In an article about the trend of comedians selling their specials directly to fans over the Internet, the NYT makes clear its stylistic determination that Louis C.K. is only to be referred to as "Louis C.K." in full, and never as "Mr. C.K.", "Szekely," or any other variant.
FIRST ACT BOOK PROBLEMS: We haven't written about Smash in several weeks, and with the show reaching a turning point this week--the workshop doesn't go nearly as well as most of the characters had hoped--I think it's an apropos time to talk about it. Two things that come to mind:

  • We've talked in the past about the Studio 60 problem--in which that show constantly jammed down our throats how brilliant, edgy, and funny the show within the show supposedly was, yet whenever we saw segments from the show within the show, it didn't deliver on that promise. 30 Rock has solved that problem in an intriguing way, by basically acknowledging that TGS is not actually good at all (even though 30 Rock itself is), and this week, Smash addresses that problem by having outsiders come to see Marilyn! (they've never formally put an exclamation point on the end, but it has to be there, right?) and tell the characters that it's a hot mess. It's an interesting way of reoslving the issue, and we'll see if it works.

  • Interestingly, both Smash and Marilyn! share a common thread--in both cases, the original songs are pretty damn great ("Let Me Be Your Star" is a darn fine opening number, "20th Century Fox Mambo" and "National Pasttime" are both nice big production numbers, and "History Is Made At Night" is a good character/romance song), but the book, in both cases, has problems. For Marilyn!, I have no idea what the take on Monroe is--I think it's "naif seduced by fame gets lost in it," but without an ending. For Smash, we're all over the place, and only seem to be really working when we're focused on the show itself (if Debra Messing's rebellious teenage son disappeared forever, would anyone actually mind?).

Of course, even when it's working, there are questions--apparently, no one (not even longterm friends) knew that Ivy's mother was an uber-famous Broadway star? I'm pretty sure that when Mamie and Grace Gummer read for parts, folks know who their mother is, even if there's a different last name (amusingly, looks like Grace Gummer is going to show up in future episodes). I'm still watching, because the musical numbers are pretty darn great, but I'm hoping the show finds a way to fix its book problems and make its characters likable again (pretty much all of them, save Tom and maybe Karen, seem like pretty awful people at this point).

I AM JUST AN ORDINARY CITIZEN WHO RELIES ON THE TIMES CROSSWORD FOR STIMULATION: Hey, everyone, I’m Professor Jeff. You may remember me from such guest posts as THE EXHIBITION OF MOVING PICTURES IS A BUSINESS, PURE AND SIMPLE and 57 CHANNELS (AND NOTHIN' ON). As I mentioned in a comment a few weeks ago, I’d been preparing to compete in the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, which took place last weekend. Adam has been kind enough to let me borrow the keys to the blog again, so that I can offer a report on my experiences. Be warned: this is a really long post with lots of geeky detail. I kept trying to make it shorter, but then I realized that if any blog’s audience would be interested in the arcana of a word-related contest, it’s this one. So, if you’d like a peek inside the world of cruciverbalist competition, then follow me across the jump and into the grid…

... YOU BEST NOT MISS:  Following up on our earlier story, Wendy's has indeed passed Burger King to become America's #2 fast food burger chain. BK has accordingly retired its Howard Eskin lookalike mascot "and launched a new advertising campaign focused more on food."

Subway and Starbucks remain 2-3 on the overall "restaurant chain" list, and the list of fastest-growing chains (with sales of at least $200M) is topped by Five Guys, Chipotle, and Jimmy John's.

Monday, March 19, 2012

25 OR 6 TO INDUCT: Spurred by that last post about the city of Chicago, the band Chicago has been eligible for Rock Hall induction for almost 20 years now, but have never even made the ballot. I am far from a huge fan, so can't Keltnerize them, but just off stats, they'd seem to have a good case--touring and recording pretty regularly for 45 years now (admittedly with a good deal of variation in the lineup, though four members have been with the band throughout), and the discography gives us 18 Platinum albums, another 4 Gold albums, 20 Top 10 singles (3 of which went to #1), a bunch of which are (admittedly cheesy) standards--"Hard To Say I'm Sorry," "You're The Inspiration," and "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?" Admittedly, they're cornball (especially the 80s output), and the Hall hasn't been that kind to jazz rock noodling, but that statistical case is really solid.
CITY OF BROAD SHOULDERS: As previously discussed, a substantial group of ThingThrowers will be gathering in Chicago this weekend, and detailed plans have now been developed for Sunday:
  • 2 PM--gather at the Art Institute for museum going and excitement. Particularly since it's Sunday, a visit to Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte is in order.

  • Post Art Institute (ETA 5 PM)--Dinner, drinks, both, or neither (your choice) at a local restaurant near the Art Institute. Suggestions are invited in the comments.
Things will wrap up in time for you to get back to your television set for the 8 PM CST Mad Men premiere, when we hope we'll finally find out what the money is for. All are welcome, including regular commenters and lurkers (we don't bite! we promise!), and Amy Watts has been deputized as organizer--she can be reached at her name at gmail--and will get you the details if you need more. Have fun, folks.

ETA: Further info for those coming. Folks will gather around 2 at the Michigan Avenue entrance of the Art Institute between the lions. Amy will be wearing/carrying an orange scarf. Drinks/dinner will be at Exchequer, which boasts a 4 star review from Roger Ebert, so that's worth something. If you want more info, contact Amy as above.