Friday, October 5, 2012

TRIPLE LINDY: From the same mindset which gave us reality tv competitions featuring celebrities learning ballroom dancing, figure skating, survivor-y stuff, business apprenticeship, and military skills comes word that ABC has optioned a Dutch show which can be reduced to two words: Celebrity Diving.
ROOT ROOT ROOT:  Apparently they still hold the playoffs even if the Phillies fall short of qualifying (based on skewed records, mind you). I can't say I have much of a rooting interest beyond my ingrained pro-Bal'mer, anti-Yankees biases, but those who do care about today's results and beyond (including the young Spacemen) may want to express hopes, fears, and that other stuff.

Meanwhile, we all agree that while Miguel Cabrera had a rare and extraordinary season, Mike Trout was the most valuable player in the American League, right?  Right?

Also, I have enjoyed the hell out of booing Larry "Chipper" Jones throughout the course of his career, yet admire and have feared him plenty, so I will have a small sad when his season ends. Still, go Cardinals!
HE WILL RECEIVE A LAUREL, AND HEARTY HANDSHAKE:  The American Film Institute will honor Mel Brooks with a lifetime achievement award next June, ceremonies to be broadcast on TNT. The EGOT winner appears to be the only AFI honoree to have devoted his career solely to comedy.
THE DEAD DOVE STORE:  I only ask one thing of 30 Rock: deliver the ha-ha. So welcome back, beloved joke factory. Homonyms! "You're my oldest friend, and also I've know you for a long time." "Why are they blue?"

I peacock this show. (Related: Liz Lemon Soundbard. Does not contain old Dick.)

Thursday, October 4, 2012

BANK ERROR IN YOUR FAVOR:  Hasbro has signed a deal to develop three more film adaptations of its properties, including Monopoly and, yes, Hungry Hungry Hippos.

[Added: the Triple-H film will be animated for children, and not the live-action epic for which we had been hoping.]

Worth noting: the notorious Jon Lovitz/Damon Wayans "Mr. Monopoly" SNL sketch is online, and it is funnier and less weird than its reputation would suggest.
NEVER MIND I'LL ASSASSINATE SOMEONE LIKE YOU: Adele's theme for Skyfall has leaked, and it's pretty much exactly what you'd expect--lushly orchestrated, symphonic, and an utter throwback to Shirley Bassey.  After a long run of pretty awful themes (I actually kind of like You Know My Name and The World Is Not Enough, but I'm well aware that's a minority opinion), it's very traditional and old school--will be interesting to see how the movie follows in its footsteps. 

Complicating matters is that the orchestral track clearly samples and is based on the original, longstanding, and beloved Bond Theme.  In order to qualify for an Oscar, the words and music of the song must be "original and written specifically for the motion picture."  This rule has led to some odd disqualifications in recent history--the scores for There Will Be Blood and True Grit were both deemed ineligible due to incorporating preexisiting music, and controversy spurred over Falling Slowly, as it had been recorded previously, even though it was originally written for the film. 
I GOT SO MUCH TROUBLE ON MY MIND / I REFUSE TO LOSE:  Rev up your Keltner lists, because the fifteen nominees vying for induction into the Rock and Roll Non-Country Popular Music of the 1950s and Beyond Hall of Fame include first-time nominees Deep Purple and, yes, Rush; rap legends N.W.A. and Public Enemy; the RRHOF's equivalent of Jim Rice and Bert Blyleven in Donna Summer and Chic; plus The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Heart, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Albert King, Kraftwerk, The Marvelettes, The Meters, Randy Newman, and Procol Harum.

So let's do a Doodle poll again. Vote for as many or as few artists as you wish, and we'll see how the numbers shake out. (Typically, artists require 50%+ support to be nominated and the top 5-7 get in, unless Jann Wenner decides otherwise.)

[Among those not nominated: first-time eligibles The Pixies, as well as Stevie Ray Vaughan, KISS, and The Spinners.]

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

CHESSMEN, MILANO, AND THE RUNNERS-UP:  Leon Neyfakh traveled to Pepperidge Farm headquarters in Norwalk, Conn., learned some history, and tried every single cookie they offer:
PF cookies are great because they manage to be refined without coming off as pretentious. This is not a trivial accomplishment. It’s hard to imagine a better example of middlebrow philistinism than an elaborately crafted cookie that’s been randomly named after a fancy European city—the kind of cookie that Nabokov’s Charlotte Haze would keep in her cupboard and nibble while listening to the vulgar ringing of her wind chimes. But something rescues Pepperidge Farm cookies from evoking such lowly associations. And having eaten them all, I think that thing is that … they’re cookies. By their very nature, they are guileless and eager to please, and insofar as they play at sophistication, they do so with jauntiness, and without desperation....

... Unlike most other cookies—I’m thinking of Oreos and Chips Ahoy, but even Lu’s supposedly upmarket Petite Ecolier—they shine brighter under scrutiny. Just go ahead and put a Chessman, a Bordeaux, or a Gingerman in your mouth and start chewing. It might strike you as unremarkable at first. But soon the hard, crunchy cookie will turn into a pleasing goop that resembles melted ice cream or sweetened condensed milk. The flavor will make itself known gradually, growing more intense with time. The goop will get dense but you will be able to swish it around freely—an extraordinary feeling. In the end, it will feel like you are saying goodbye to something you’ve fought for. You will hesitate to swallow until you remember there are more in the bag—a fact that is easy enough to forget thanks to PF’s unique approach to packaging, with the cookies neatly divided into three vertically stacked paper cups.
THE THING ABOUT THE OLD DAYS ... THEY THE OLD DAYS:  We may not appreciate it from our brisk rewind, but twenty-one months had passed since season three of The Wire aired before season four debuted, and with two episodes already in the books fans must have been getting antsy about the lack of Omar, even though Michael K. Williams was listed in the opening credits.

In "Home Rooms," (Sepinwall / Guardian / Goodman), Omar makes his return, and it's just as triumphant and cinematic as one could have hoped ... and even more naked. (A reader emailed last night to wonder whether HBO had requested more male nudity this season.) But Omar's not central to the plot this week ... we just get more evidence of his legendary status and moxie.
GAME 162: So it's not quite going to be as crazy as last year, but here's a rundown of the five games that matter, and why.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

WE, HOWEVER, WILL STICK WITH "SNOWPOCALYPSE" AND "BLIZZAPOCALYPSE":  For 2012-13, the Weather Channel will start giving winter storms names like Draco, Khan, and Xerxes, because why should hurricanes have all the fun?
A QUARTER MILLION MILES ISN'T REALLY THAT FAR. IT TOOK ME TWO CHEVYS BUT I'VE DONE IT IN A CAR: I just want to note how much time I've wasted in the last two weeks playing Kerbal Space Program. It's a space program simulation game that's in early Beta and it's about the coolest game I've played in years. You run a space program and, using various technologies, try to bring glory to your people. And you will kill a lot of astronauts in the process.

A lot.

And it is awesome.

(Demo mode is free. Early Beta is $18 and entitles you to all improvements from here on out. Lots of features are hinted at, but it is completely awesome as-is.)
TRAGEDY OF THE SANDWICH CARD: Today, as I often do, I bought a sandwich at Whole Foods and dutifully had my sandwich card stamped. Except, the cashier gave me a sly wink and with a low voice pointed out that he was intentionally double-stamping my sandwich card. No question as to whether he might have mistook the number of sandwiches I purchased and there was no long line or other inconvenience that might merited additional compensation from Whole Foods. This was a completely gratuitous giveaway of Whole Foods property.

To wit, what are my ethical obligations here? Do I have a duty to report the cashier? This seems overly harsh. Should I simply decline to get my card stamped next time to render whole Whole Foods? Should I destroy the other 1-stamp sandwich card in my wallet to render Whole Foods whole? Can I ethically assume that cashiers have discretion to double-stamp cards at will? Does my complete (although certainly penetrable) ignorance of that authority change my ethical calculus?

Does this deadweight loss in the sandwich program impart upon me an obligation to other people who rely upon sandwich cards?

Is it relevant that the chicken sandwich with roasted peppers was pretty damned good?

NO, NO, NO, YOU WON'T GET WHAT YOU WANT: Despite an alleged offer from Coachella to throw a 100% vegetarian festival for a reunion show, the Smiths' Morrissey (through a rep) declines: "The Smiths are never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever going to reunite — ever."
NO ONE IS ALONE AT THIS READING: No one is yet confirmed, but BroadwayWorld alleges that they have a list of the cast that did the table reading of the screenplay for Into The Woods earlier this week.  Some pleasant surprises (Nina Arianda and James Corden as the Bakers?), some exactly what you'd expect (Meryl Streep allegedly in talks for the Witch, Anna Kendrick as Cinderella, Patrick Wilson and Cheyenne Jackson as the Princes), and a surprising number of non-movie names, perhaps in the thought that Meryl and the concept are enough to sell tickets.
WE HAVE TO GO BACK: A Twitter exchange between Our Friends Alan Sepinwall and Linda Holmes reminded me that two shows I watch on Mondays--HIMYM and Castle--have a similar problem, but have dealt with it in altogether different ways.  In both cases, the "mythology" of the series--in HIMYM's case, not only the Mother story but all the various flashbacks and flashforwards they've set, and in Castle's case, the "conspiracy that killed Beckett's mom" storyline--has become an utter bore.  The difference is, the two shows have handled the problem very differently.  HIMYM now feels painted in--it's impossible to get invested in any of the relationships we currently have on the show because we know they're going to come to an end.   We knew Barney and Quinn were going to breakup, we just didn't know how that'd happen.

In contrast, Castle takes the opposite track, completely ignoring the "mythology" in at least half the episodes, and having much more fun when it does.  (Last night's was a great example of that, as well as of how they've managed to handle and overcome the so-called "Moonlighting curse" and keep things funny and spry despite resolving the unresolved sexual tension between Castle and Beckett.)
COMMUNITY OF TOMORROW:  EPCOT turned 30 yesterday -- televised grand opening with Danny Kaye, Drew Barrymore and others here -- and I can't help but wonder: does the non-World Showcase half of the site work?  Isn't there a better use for all the faux-World's Fair facilities?  [I'm not saying I have the answer.]

Monday, October 1, 2012

I'M JUST SAYING, WHY NOT HAVE TWO GENIUSES IN THE FAMILY? SORT OF A SPARE IN CASE BART'S BRAIN BLOWS UP:  The NYT has leaked the names of this year's John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur "Genius Grant" Fellows, and once again both Marilyn vos Savant and I have been denied recognition. Instead, honorees receiving the $100K x 5yrs include author Junot Diaz, mandolinist/composer Chris Thile, WaPo reporter David Finkel, historian Dylan Penningroth, and economist Raj Chetty.

[Our 2006-11 discussions can be found here.]
THERE WILL BE FUNNY VOICES AND A MEDIOCRE SONG:  Ted will almost certainly remain the year's top-grossing comedy (at least in the live-action division), so I guess it kind of makes sense that Seth MacFarlane will host the 2013 Academy Awards.  It's a particularly interesting choice given that this year seems likely to be dominated by throwbacks to the 70s (Argo, The Master) and stuff that is VERY traditional (Les Mis, Lincoln).
YES, BUT WILL HE CATCH A GRENADE WHILE HOSTING?  After a week off this week (fortunate, if just because it spared us a longer version of the Replacement Refs sketch we got on Weekend Update Thursday), SNL returns live on Saturday with Daniel Craig hosting, and NBC has announced the other two hosts for this month and seems to be playing small, with Christina Applegate getting a second crack at hosting next weekend, and more oddly, Bruno Mars pulling double duty as host and musical guest on October 20.  The 27th may have a live show, and would love to see Tom Hanks promoting Cloud Atlas there.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

ON THE IDIOT BOX:  A few quick thoughts on fall TV that we haven't covered here already (starting with Monday):
  • Revolution:  I think I'm sold for at least a while longer, though I think the show would be far more interesting if it focused more on the adults and less on the whiny teenagers and more on the adults, perhaps with a more flashback-intensive structure.  I'm fascinated in particular by how Google guy was and wasn't changed by the blackout, and we haven't really explored it at all.
  • NCIS:  We don't talk about TV's #1 drama much here, but despite the lack of real consequences stemming from the cliffhanger and the annoying disappearance of Jamie Lee Curtis' character, that was a darn solid season opener.  Particular credit to the writers for making Harper Deering both a legitimate Big Bad who could go toe to toe with Gibbs while not letting him descend into mustache-twirling villainy.
  • Private Practice:  I run hot and cold on the show (with the "Charlotte gets raped" plot being the high point), and was both hot and cold on the premiere, but have to give credit for a pretty darn audacious chronological structure in the premiere, which also has the benefit of showing how the show might work without Kate Walsh.
  • Vegas:  I'd be much more interested in the cable version of this show, with a clear ending, rather than what it seems like we're going to get, which is "Dennis Quaid kicks ass of crimes which are masterminded by Michael Chiklis."  And creepy to see Ron Butterfield playing a character with moral ambiguity.
  • Last Resort:  Man, that was one hell of a pilot, and I can see this spinning a very good yarn for 10 episodes, but spinning it for 22 episodes, much less multiple seasons?  That's a dicey proposition.  The good news is that ratings suggest we're likely not going to see more than 13.  I hope ABC lets Shawn Ryan and his team wrap it up (and gets Andre Braugher an Emmy for Best Actor--Miniseries/Movie next year).
  • Elementary--On Sherlock, the title character describes himself as "a high-functioning sociopath."  Here, he's kind of just an asshole, and the show winds up pretty devoid of humor as a result.  I do like the Miller/Liu quasi-bromantic chemistry, though, and it'll get a few more episodes to prove itself.
  • Made In Jersey--Filmed in and around my office building, so I felt obliged to watch, but man, that's a show that desperately needs a legal consultant.  The Good Wife manages to wring good drama while still being somewhat realistic about what lawyers actually do, and I wish this show could as well.