Friday, December 28, 2012

CUBES AND MR. WONDERFUL:  Andy Denhart praises the best in reality tv in 2012, including a Hard Knocks season second only to the Year of Slapdick.
TAXI DRIVER, BE MY SHRINK FOR THE HOUR:  Open line Friday -- tell us about something in pop culture in 2012 which you liked that we haven't talked about all year.

[And, yes, the performance referenced in the title is as all that as you've heard.]

Thursday, December 27, 2012

THEN AGAIN, THERE'S THE $75M+ WHICH THE STATE OF RHODE ISLAND AND PROVIDENCE PLANTATIONS WOULD LIKE TO HAVE BACK:  WEEI's Kirk Minihane puts Curt Schilling's HOF candidacy through the Keltner Test. Stats here; he fell shy of 60% when we surveyed this year's candidates last month.
SIXTEEN AMERICANS, MAROONED: To go back and watch the first season of Survivor, as I've been doing with Lucy over the past few weeks, is to watch a radically different show. You may recall that it's much more about the survival/"building a new civilization" stuff than the more overtly strategy-focused show we watch now, but it's more than that.

Some examples: the challenges are all framed as more jaunty competition than meaningful battle, with Probst not even shouting "[X] ... wins immunity!" at the end but more of a quiet congratulatory handshake thereafter. (Heck, Probst doesn't hector the competitors during the challenges at all, there's no come on! dig in!) There's barely any strategy talk shown at camp between the immunity challenge and tribal council, and tribal council isn't the Probst-led interrogation it is today but more of a group therapy session. (Throughout the whole thing, Probst is much more Buddy than Boss.) There's less misdirection as to who's going home because there's barely any direction as to strategy in the first place, though there's frequent Probst voiceovers on the walk to tribal council (itself described as arduous) as to possible at-risk castaways. Indeed, the whole method by which the game's going to be decided isn't even introduced until the ninth episode, when Greg (the second post-merger elimination) is announced as the first member of the jury. It's that different. (Also, Rudy's less lovable the second time, and more of a crotchety dick.)

So here's my question: what season do I show Lucy next? I feel like Australia is good enough (Skupin, Colby, Jerri, beef jerky) to be worth watching, but after that I don't feel like every season is essential. Marquesas, maybe (Boston Rob, purple rock, peeing); Amazon, probably; but I think only Pearl Islands is a pre-All Stars one must-see, with Africa and Thailand being utterly skippable. Thoughts? I'll go tally the votes.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

ABRAHAM MASLOW GOT SCREWED:  The New Yorker's Gary Belsky ranks (and links to) the top 100 lists of all time.
DVR ALERT:  Tonight is CBS' broadcast of highlights from this year's Kennedy Center Honors ceremony, with this year's rainbow ribbons going to Dustin Hoffman, David Letterman, Buddy Guy, ballerina Natalia Makarova, and Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, and John Paul Jones.

If you're not watching that, what are you watching during this week of no new programming? I found myself sucked into a trio of Lost reruns on G4 two nights ago -- mid-season five stuff with our crew getting integrated into the Dharma Initiative ... really pleasant stuff I was glad to see again.
I DON'T WANT SOME AMORPHOUS SERIES DETAILING SOCIETY'S ILLS. IF YOU LEAVE EVERYTHING IN, SOON YOU'VE GOT NOTHING: Forgive me if "Unconfirmed Reports" (Sepinwall, AVClub) is the first episode of The Wire in a long time (ever?) that mostly didn't work for me.

First off, what did work? Bubbles' painful efforts at sobriety. Walon seems to be one of the few unambiguously good characters on the show, and what he knows is that the Steps matter, and cannot be taken lightly. And it was good to see Avon again, as well as St. Sen. Clay Davis feeling some pressure. Plus, as some commenters have noted, this isn't the first time we've seen Dee Dee, whose sharing opened the episode: in season 3's "Moral Midgetry," we see her fairly cleaned-up and buying an eight-ball in Hamsterdam; late in season 4, she's buying cigarettes from Old Face Andre's store and talking about her pimp. (Never would have noticed myself.)

But between alcoholic McNulty and reporter Scott, you've got ambitious people creating fictions that'll be more sellable to the powers that be than the messy, unpopular facts, in institutions trying to do more with less -- but if I wanted to see that movie, I'd find Shattered Glass on tv again. It just feels a bit been there, done that (and McNulty's stuff seems extreme even for him at his worst), and the Marlo/Chris/Snoop/Michael stuff feels like more of the same, with Michael in the D'Angelo role of questioning why things have to be the way they are.

The shades of grey are separating too cleanly into black and white, whether in the newsroom, Homicide, or City Hall ... it's been a long time since Carcetti did anything admirable, and the cost of his rejecting the state's money just keeps adding up.

Finally, my title quote. Things are just getting a bit too meta in Baltimore, and by the time you get to season 5 you shouldn't have to justify the series' existence. Harumph.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

HELLO? ELTON! OF COURSE. OF, OF COURSE! SEND AN EMBARRASSINGLY BIG CAR AND I'LL BE THERE! As the oddsmakers predicted, the Justice Collective's cover of "He Ain't Heavy He's My Brother," raising funds for the families of 96 Liverpool fans who were stampeded to death at Hillsborough stadium in 1989, is your UK Christmas Number One Single for 2012. The UK's X-Factor winner placed second, and "Fairytale of New York" finished 12th.

In other UK/popularity contest news, the Bank of England is considering who to put on the new £10 note from among this list of 150+ living and dead Britons supplied by the public. (Charles Babbage!)

Monday, December 24, 2012

BECAUSE PREMORSE TAKES NO HOLIDAY BREAK:  Jack Klugman, son of South Philadelphia, star of The Odd Couple and Quincy, M.E., and winner of the 12 Angry Men tontine, has passed away at the age of 90.

updated: Aw, crap. Not a good day for veteran character actors. Charles Durning has died as well. We may remember him most fondly as Doc Hopper in The Muppet Movie or for his supporting work in Tootsie, To Be or Not To Be (one of two Oscar noms), The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas or countless other films, but Durning was also a hero at D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge, and the Purple Heart (3x)/Silver Star winner will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery with the thanks of a grateful nation.

Sunday, December 23, 2012