Friday, May 10, 2013

NO CONTEST: Who cares about Jerry and his pals struggling to keep their hands busy? You call Dr. Greene's tragic turn in obstetrics drama? And speaking of babies, I can't ever remember why Phoebe was having them. No, when it comes to the high point of episodic TV in the '90s, "Donna Martin Graduates" stands alone. To commemorate the 20th(!) anniversary of the Beverly Hills 90210 gang standing up for their drunken classmate, Vulture has an exclusive interview with Donna Martin herself, Tori Spelling.
ONE OF THE MOST POWERFUL SHOWRUNNERS IN THE BUSINESS, FULL STOP: Willa Paskin's profile in this Sunday's NYT Magazine has many nice things to say about our friend Shonda Rhimes and her hitmaking, zeitgeist-shaping prowess.

[Also, ZOMG: the mole!]
JOFFREY, HOWEVER, REMAINS OUTSIDE THE TOP THOUSAND: Because I too love our readership -- and because I want you to blow your Friday even further -- ten years to the day after I first had to commit on this question, the Social Security Administration has released its Popular Baby Names data for 2012.

Jacob (14 straight years) and Sophia (2d time) are the most popular overall;&nbsp Major and Gael, and Arya and Perla, are the highest one-year risers for each sex. Lots of -lynns rising for girls: Raelyn(n), Ad(a)/(e)lyn(n), Marilyn; on the boys' side, aspirationals forever rising: Major, Maverick, Knox, Messiah, King, Remington, Lincoln, and, um, Archer among them.

Outside the top 1000, the Baby Name Wizard blog says to keep an eye on Cataleya and all its variants, based on the film Colombiana, as well as "liquid names" -- "they flow smoothly, like water down a glass streambed with no rocks or branches to impede its path. You can speak names like Anaya, Aliya, and Eliana with every sound drawn out long, and without visibly moving your mouth. Pure flow." [Our 2012 discussion is here.]
FROM BERLIN DOWN TO BELIZE Because I love our readership -- and because I want you to blow your Friday -- I offer you my recent discovery of GeoGuessr. It drops you somewhere in the world in Google Street View. You need to figure out where you are.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

U OF C SCAV HUNT 2013: It's on, including:
CJ, Sam, and Josh may be the masters of the walk-and-talk, but surely you can do better. At 11:00 a.m. on Thursday, Chief of Staff Leo McScavvy will be walking briskly down the hallway in Cobb. When your team name is called, you should be ready to give of one minute of your best Sorkin banter regarding any pressing Scav issue of the day. You’d better look the part, and interrupting your fellow staffers is bad form. [6 points] 
Hello—is it me you’re looking for? Send your most sensitive sculptor and your most statuesque team member to room 028 in the Logan Center for the Arts at 2:00 p.m. on Friday. [Up to 25 points]
NARD DOG:  In the history of network television, where does (continuing the show and) elevating Robert California, then Andy Bernard as Dunder Mifflin's Scranton regional manager rank as a creative blunder? Up there with Bobby Ewing's lost season on Dallas? I don't even know what other examples to employ, in terms of creative mistakes (and not merely failed single episodes) made by otherwise successful shows -- the third-season stalling on Lost? the Scott Templeton plot in The Wire's last season? Roseanne's last season?

After "Search Committee," the show was in a position to elevate Jim Halpert as someone finally recognizing (a) now that he and Pam have a kid, Scranton is their life; and (b) no one else can do a good a job of running that branch as he can. And I don't think the show needed to have an incompetent boss in order to succeed creatively; the cast is rich enough that Jim can remain the sane one sorting out the madness swirling around him.

Instead, they went from James Woods' (but that would've been something) Spader's wackiness to Ed Helms' varying between Michael Scott Lite and Just Plain Annoying; at no point did the show really seem to gel around either. Even elevating a not-artificially-made-stupid Darryl Philbin would have been better than this. What a shame.

added: Via Twitter, between Matt, Isaac, and Randy, we can add: the Doumanian season of SNL; Landry and Tyra kill a dude; and the Kalinda & Nick stuff from TGW. And more.
BLUE HEAVEN: Don't call it a comeback ... but, okay, maybe Rick Moranis is returning after 15+ years largely away from show business.
RULE NUMBER TWO--DO NOT TRY TO WIN THE FAMILY REWARD: We can talk about the strategery of last night's episode, and our hopes and dreams for Sunday's finale, or, gang, just watch this additional footage of Cochran talking about his mom pre-challenge and smile.  (Rule Number One remains the Car Curse.)

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

EGOT RED ALERT:  In the oddest team-up ever, Burt Bacharach (EGO), Elvis Costello (Grammy Winner, Oscar Nominee), and Chuck Lorre (oodles of Emmy nominations but no wins), are apparently at work on a musical based on the Bacharach/Costello album "Painted From Memory." 
ANATOMY OF A DOODLE: Today's Google doodle highlighting the movie credit genius Saul Bass (Psycho, West Side Story, Ocean's 11) on what would be his 93rd birthday is nothing short of awesome.
ONCE WON ONCE, WON TWICE, THEN ONCE WON MORE:  NPH to host this year's Tony Awards, his fourth.
I WANT TO LIVE IN A VAN, DOWN BY THE RIVER: In "time to feel old" news, today marks the 20th anniversary of the debut of "Matt Foley, Motivational Speaker."
THPTPTH: Exactly how does one depict in letters the sound of one's making a raspberry, or "Bronx cheer"? An illustrated investigation.
TWIVO:  Congratulations to 17-year-old high school senior Jennie Lamere of Nashua, NH, who in 10 hours and 150 lines of code won a recent Boston hackathon by creating an extension to Google Chrome browser which allows users to block posts containing certain words from their Twitter fees for a particular period of time -- allowing people to stay on Twitter while others are tweeting about shows they haven't had a chance to see yet.  Sounds like godsend for West Coast viewers in general, or anyone who engages in time-shifted programming.

Oh, and this: she was the only female entrant among the eighty who competed, and the only one coding solo. She'll attend Rochester Institute of Technology this fall.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

IS HE HAVING FUN YET?  So, apparently Hot Tub Time Machine 2 is happening (2 Hot Tub 2 Furious?), with Adam Scott replacing John Cusack as the front man,  My assumption is that we'll get cheap 90s jokes rather than cheap 80s jokes, right?
"THE BEST PURE ATHLETE IN AMERICA TODAY": So wrote an anonymous baseball scout in 1985 regarding Bo Jackson, despite his "Don Baylor (Yanks) type body."
COME TO THE DARK SIDE: If you're in the Orlando area and want to join the Galactic Imperial Army, now you can.  For a mere $100, plus theme park admission, you can get your own personalized stormtrooper action figure.  (Sadly, the promotion is only offered during Star Wars Weekends at Disney, and is not generally available.)
TO SAY THAT BOTH THE MEAL AND ITS MAKER HAVE CHALLENGED MY PRECONCEPTIONS ABOUT FINE COOKING IS A GROSS UNDERSTATEMENT. THEY HAVE ROCKED ME TO MY CORE: When your new favorite brunch place has a rat problem, can you still go to the restaurant's other locations?

Monday, May 6, 2013

IN COLOR! There's no question that Saturday's SNL was weird, as one would expect from a Zach Galifianakis-hosted show.  So what was so weird that it didn't make the cut?  This sketch about a failed 70s cop show, including a Bill Hader impression of Judd Hirsch.
THE WORLD IS WAITING FOR YOU TO GET BETTER:  We didn't write much about this season of TAR, because, frankly, it was kind of boring.  We had way too much talk of "alliances" from early in the game, some of the stupidest teams we've seen thus far (particularly shown in Berlin, when teams were unable to identify what president demanded "tear down this wall!" or said "Ich bin ein Berliner"), and a very physically strong team that pretty clearly dominated the race from beginning to end.  Add to that a final leg that was a mixture of very linear tasks ("get your picture taken with 'the President'") and tasks that were largely luck (the spy briefcase task, the baseball drop/throw), and you had a pretty boring ending. 

So, what's wrong with the show and can it be fixed?  I expect no small part of it could be fixed with some fresher casting--let's avoid trying to cast pre-existing pseudo-celebs or folks who are designed to fit a mold (e.g., Chuck and Wynonna, who were clearly "Team Duck Dynasty"), and find some interesting folks.  Heck, make a season that's "brain vs. brawn" (perhaps with a twist that says you can only do a set number of "brain" or "brawn" Detour choices), or consider teams that don't have a pre-existing relationship.  Any other thoughts out there?
THE GODS WILL NOT SAVE YOU:  James Poniewozik uses last night's episode as an opening to discuss how Game of Thrones is like The Wire, especially with this week's themes of "the destructive powers of ambition, and the tension between the individual and group loyalty—if loyalty exists at all," and indeed, as he notes, seeing Arya this week "giving a fuck when it ain’t her turn to give a fuck."
SCIENCE!  Two cups of mint Oreo and a cup and a half of self-rising flour later, my daughters and I confirmed this weekend that you really can bake some quite tasty bread using just ice cream and flour.