Saturday, October 18, 2003

THE RETURN OF MMMMMM. (SLURP) (SLURP) (GULP): Will The Next Joe Millionaire be any good? I have no idea.

But I do know what were the real things that made the first season so damn irresistible, so let me set forth what I think are the necessary preconditions to Season Two being a success:
1. A likeable 'Joe'. For the show to work, we have to have sympathy for the guy. Evan Marriott worked really well because he was uncomfortable with the whole enterprise, that he wasn't crazy about lying to the women about his background. Also, he wasn't that good at lying in the first place. Remember when he couldn't make up a fake middle name?

This was also a guy who could toss of lines like "She looked like a million dollars . . . not that I know what a million dollars looks like," and be endearing as heck doing so.

2. Who are the real sadists? Only the producers. For the show to work, we can't see our fake millionaire enjoying this at all. The moment he starts taking pleasure from deceiving these Eurobimbos is the second our sympathies shift and it all starts becoming something less than entertaining. We're all better off if our cowboy had no idea what he was getting into, just like the women.

3. Cheeky editing. Tone is crucial. Remember Zora's Disney montage? I knew you did. Perceptive editors with a sense of humor, more than anything else, made that first season so great.

4. The butler does it. Again, it's all about the tone, and Paul Hogan set the table last season by bringing the right mix of snark and sweetness to his part. To the extent that anyone on-screen was "the bad guy", he took the role without being cruel about it. Alex McLeod, of course, is gone. She has been replaced. (She seemed to leave the chateau halfway through season one once the producers realized what a good thing they had in Hogan.)

The only thing I'd like to see more of? "Millionaire training". I loved the whole "which wine?" session from last season's pilot, and I want to see more like it.

Season Two can work, but it's by no means guaranteed. The first season invited us to laugh at all the contestants, including Joe M. himself, by finding the right balance between seriousness-within-the-relationship-seeking versus spoofing the people caught up in the game. (MoJo! The poem!)

So sit back, catch up on the TWoP recaps from last season to remind you of what fun we had, and let's hope for the best Monday night.

Friday, October 17, 2003


Do I like it enough to enter a contest where I'm dressed like one of the characters? Um, no. But if you're ever in the mood for a mood-perfect parody of early 1980s summer camp movie cliches, with some absolutely priceless scenes (the trip to town, everything with Amy Poehler or Michael Showalter), then it's worth the rental.

(If you get the DVD, be sure to catch the deleted scene where Paul Rudd and Marguerite Moreau recreate, line for line, move for move, the Donald Sutherland-Karen Allen sweater scene from Animal House).

Most critics missed the point, treating it as a straight, crappy movie rather than a witty, loving homage to a specific subset of crappy movies. I think you have to be between the ages of 25 and 35 to really get it -- but if you're in the target group and saw the movies it's referencing, this is one you'll want to seek out.
IN THE INTERESTS OF EQUAL TIME: William Grady Little, 53, works in a managerial capacity for the Boston Red Sox, a sports franchise based in the Kenmore Square area of Boston. Little, a 1968 graduate of Garinger High School in Charlotte, NC, makes his off-season home in the Pinehurst, NC area.
GRADY LITTLE GOT MUTILATED LATE LAST NIGHT: No, you don't leave a pitcher in for 123 pitches when you've got a bullpen that's allowed one run in 16 1/3 innings at the ready. Pedro Martinez shouldn't have started that inning, and he sure shouldn't have stayed in as the run of doubles started.

"What Johnny Pesky did for relay throws and Bill Buckner did for routine ground balls," writes Thomas Boswell in the WaPo today, "Grady Little did for managing Thursday night in Yankee Stadium."

It's not just Little's fault. Boston's 1-4 hitters -- Damon, Walker, Garciaparra and Ramirez -- batted 3-for-20 on the night, no walks, no extra base hits, no runs.

Also: if you're a cursed franchise, don't start painting the World Series logo on your field until you're actually in the World Series. Is that too hard to ask for?

Yes, all the credit Mariano Rivera, Mike Mussina, blah blah blah, but this was not a game the Yankees could win until Grady Little let them. Both Dusty Baker and Grady Little rode their horses too long in their respective game sevens, and both paid the price.

And so Red Sox Nation, Scratchy to their franchise's Itchy, join the good people of Chicagoland starting tomorrow night to watch the World Series matchup that America didn't want. Or not watch: hey, new episodes of "Hack" and "The District" on CBS this Saturday!

This is why it's better to be a fan of a team that generally gets the heart-breaking over by the end of July.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

BONIN, J., CONCURRING IN PART AND DISSENTING IN PART: With all due respect to my left coast colleague, I must disagree with his take on the Sun-Times' decision to "out" the fan in question.

Is it newsworthy? Yes. Millions of people were watching the game, and the fan's interference with the game was the big story. His picture was on the front page of newspapers across the country. He was already deemed the latest goat in a city's history of futiliy from Mrs. O'Leary to Leon Durham to Dan Rostenkowski to Mel Reynolds. Everyone wanted to know who he was, and why he did it.

(He has now made a statement apologizing for his actions, but, of course he might not have had to, or had to attach his name to it, without the Sun-Times' publishing his name.)

Had the Sun-Times guessed about his name, had they used surreptitious or deceitful means, that'd be one thing. But both his father and several of his friends confirmed his identity, and that's enough for me. They're all adults, and they understood (or should have understood) the consequences of their speaking to the press.

This isn't like publishing the name of a rape victim, or like websites that publish the names of doctors who perform abortions. This gentleman chose to insert himself into the action, and I do not predict that he will actually suffer physical harm as a result. The Sun-Times article does not attempt to incite violence against him, and, hey, if Mitch Williams, Bill Buckner and Ralph Branca can still walk the earth freely, so will this guy. Heck, Fred Merkle lived to the age of 68, despite his massive boner.

Where I share Mr. Spaceman's concerns is when it comes to publishing the name of this guy's employer, or of his home town, or of any other identifying information that does make it easy for lightly-motivated troglodytes to harass him. It wasn't necessary to print that information, even if the company was dumb enough to confirm his employment to the press. That's their fault, but there was still no need for the Sun-Times to risk his losing his job now.

Bottom line: don't screw up in public in front of a national audience, and if you do, get a cool nickname like "Soy Bomb" so people don't find out your real name. I trust the good people of Chicago to nevertheless behave themselves with regards to him, and we'll see.

One final question, based on all the Fox broadcasts I've seen: is his father the district attorney?
NEXT UP: SUPPER CLUB, ANOTHER KIND OF WONDERFUL, AND SHE'S HAVING HER SECOND BABY: They're making a TV-movie sequel to 'Sixteen Candles' (working title: 'Thirty-Two Candles'). No word on whether Ringwald or Cusack will appear, but my guess is that Anthony Michael Hall and Gedde Watanabe are available.
CITY OF BIG SHOULDERS, MEET FACE OF BROKEN NOSES: Forget your Bill O'Reilly-Terry Gross-Al Franken dustup. Forget your Geraldo troop-movement disclosures, your dancing around the identity of Kobe Bryant's accuser, and your unmasking CIA operatives. In my opinion, the most gratuitously irresponsible piece of journalism I've seen this year is the Chicago Sun Times's naming (followed by the inevitable pickup by other organizations, including of the Cubs fan who took the foul ball away from Alou last night. We've all had momentary lapses where we commit seemingly small acts that have large repercussions -- poor choices of words, mis-addressed emails, the decision to try to get a free soda by rocking the machine back and forth. Most of us, though, don't have them in ways that interfere at critical times with the success of teams synonymous in the sports world with "long-suffering" and in places where even predictably happy events (Bulls championships, New Year's Eves) cause gleefully violent riots. Just deplorable.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

LIKE 'MOOSE MURDERS', ONLY WITHOUT THE ANTLERS: The new London musical Money To Burn is closing after just two days. Why? And why should we care?

Let's see what the critics had to say about it. From the Guardian U.K.:
[A] show, written and directed by Daniel Abineri, that describes itself as a "musical comedy thriller" and that manages to miss all three of its chosen targets. . .

Faced with such dross as this, one's first inclination is to flee screaming into the night. But, having stayed the course, one starts to wonder what on earth is happening to the West End. . . . [T]his is a woefully misbegotten enterprise that seems to have been written by someone lately sojourning on Mars. At the end Mr Blake begs us not to reveal the plot twist. I can assure him the show's secret is safe with me.

From the Telegraph:
You remember the plot of The Producers? A down-at-heel impresario massively overcapitalises a show, raking in millions of dollars from sweet little old ladies, then stages a production specifically designed to flop so that he won't have to pay them back a penny.

Watching this jaw-droppingly dreadful new musical, there are moments when one can't help wondering whether a similar scam is in operation. In the Mel Brooks movie, of course, Springtime for Hitler proved so insanely terrible that it became a smash hit. Unfortunately, Money to Burn (and how prophetic that title is likely to prove) doesn't even make it into the cherished so-bad-it's-good category. . . .

The dialogue is lifeless, the plotting pathetically predictable, the characterisation a compendium of cliches, the jokes abysmal. Poor Abineri (no, I've never heard of him either) seems to believe that a script is bound to be funky if you use the f-word a lot. He also has a fatal addiction to fourth-form humour. When a character breaks wind after drinking absinthe, he can't resist pointing out that "absinthe makes the fart blow stronger". . .

[Lead actor Peter] Blake heroically gives the impression that he believes in a show that he must secretly know to be the nadir of his career. Everyone else in the eight-strong strong cast seems merely desperate, with ample reason, and it would be uncharitable to name them.

Collectors of dud musicals should hurry. Unless the show's backers really do have money to burn, its run is likely to prove nasty, brutish and short.

My only regret is that Frank Rich probably didn't have a chance to see it.
HOPE YOU GUESS HER NAME: I don't know if this says more about how irrelevant the Stones are now or how lazy Yahoo News is, but here's the complete caption for a nice picture of Bill Wyman out for an evening on the town:

Rolling Stones member Bill Wyman (news) arrives with his unidentified wife for the Shumi restaurant launch party in central London Monday, Oct. 13, 2003. The Italian eaterie is part-owned by actor Sir Roger Moore (news)'s son Geoffrey. (AP Photo/ PA, Andy Butterton )

"Unidentified wife"? At least Mandy Wyman got "child bride" (or, sometimes, "the thirteen-year-old reason why Wyman can't travel to civilized countries"). And how insulting is when your wife gets less respect than Roger Moore's son?

Monday, October 13, 2003

A HELPING HAND? SOMEONE WHO UNDERSTANDS? From the same part of my brain that wanted to know if there was a more stirring emotional crescendo in soft rock history than the ending of Air Supply's "Making Love Out Of Nothing At All", this question that's been vexing me for years:

So, what is the deal with the bridge in Lionel Richie's "Say You, Say Me"?

You remember the song, I'm sure, from the soundtrack to the 1985 Gregory Hines/Mikhail Baryshnikov dancing spy thriller White Nights. A slow romantic ballad, with a warm, if somewhat unintelligible chorus:
Say you, say me; say it for always
That's the way it should be
Say you, say me; say it together

Slow, slow, slow, and then, out of nowhere, we go uptempo for the bridge:
So you think you know the answers -- oh, no!
'Cause the whole world has got you dancing
That's right -- I'm telling you
It's time to start believing -- oh, yes!
Believing who you are
You are a shining star

And back to the chorus.

Tell me it's not just me thinking it's weird, but that, yes, you agree, there are no weirder, less natural-sounding transitions in all of pop music. (If there's worse, let me know.) Tell me if you've ever heard Lionel Richie -- or anyone else -- explain the thought process here.

A preemptive answer to the inevitable Lionel Richie followup question: the consensus is "Tom bo li de say de moi ya/ Yeah, Jambo Jumbo/ Way to parti' o we goin'/ Oh, jambali/ Tom bo li de say de moi ya/ Yeah, jumbo jumbo!" So now you know.
PAST PERFORMANCE IS NO GUARANTEE OF FUTURE FUNCTIONALITY: And from first-hand experience, I can assure you of that much.

We here at Throwing Things are pleased to alert you to a unique investment opportunity: my freshman year roommate, Jonathon Keats, author of the novel The Pathology of Lies, about 100 columns under the "Conservate Corollary" label for The Amherst Student as well as a petition trying to persuade the city of Berkeley, California, to adopt the law that every entity is equal to itself, is now offering you the opportunity to purchase futures contracts on his mind:
On May 14, 2003, Jonathon Keats filed with the United States Copyright Office for intellectual property protection on his mind. Because Title 17 of the United States Code stipulates that copyright "endures for a term consisting of the life of the author and 70 years after the author's death", experts have calculated that Jonathon Keats's mind will survive, legally speaking, for precisely seven decades after his body stops working. In order to exploit this opportunity, he will transfer all intellectual property rights to the Jonathon Keats Holding Company immediately upon his death. Proceeds from the sale of his neurons, an anticipated $60,000,000, will cover operating expenses while the Holding Company enters into licensing arrangements to keep Jonathon Keats's mind active for the duration of copyright.

The full prospectus is available here.

The IPO will debut next Thursday, October 23, from 5:30 pm to 8 pm at Modernism, 685 Market Street, San Francisco, CA. Refreshments will be served.

edited to add: Wired Magazine has more.
HEY RUBIK, HOW ABOUT IF I REARRANGE YOUR FACE? The worst Halloween costumes ever, including such gems as Easy Reader, Asteroids Guy and poker maven Gabe Kaplan.

Via A List A Day.
THERE WILL BE PEACE 4 THOSE WHO LOVE GOD A LOT: From the Minneapolis Star-Tribune (if reg needed, user=bselig; pw=bselig), in our res ipsa loquitor division:
Proselytizing for Jehovah's Witnesses during last Sunday's Vikings game wasn't the smoothest call Prince has ever made. An Eden Prairie woman, who prefers to be identified only as Rochelle, said, "Door bell rings. My husband runs upstairs and says, 'Prince is at the door!' I said, 'No way.' " Even though this was an inopportune time, they let in the man who introduced himself at "Prince Nelson" and another man. "I'm terrible with names," Rochelle said. "He was a bass player for some group, a long time ago. Older gentleman." Larry Graham? "Very good," Rochelle said. "This is Sunday about 2 o'clock. And it's the night of Yom Kippur. My first thought is 'Cool, cool, cool. He wants to use my house for a set. I'm glad! Demolish the whole thing! Start over!' Then they start in on this Jehovah's Witnesses stuff. I said, 'You know what? You've walked into a Jewish household, and this is not something I'm interested in.' He says, Can I just finish? Then the other guy, Larry Graham, gets out his little Bible and starts reading scriptures about being Jewish and the land of Israel." Uh-oh. Rochelle said she could not help but think, the Vikings had possession of the ball about two seconds ago. "They stayed for about 25 minutes," Rochelle said. "Left us a pamphlet." She should have asked Symbolina for an autograph. "There's no reason to slam him," she said. "He didn't do anything wrong; he was very kind. We watched him leave. Outside is a big black truck with a woman, long dark hair, in the front seat and they left." The woman met the general description of Prince's supposed wife, Manuella. Rochelle seemed perplexed that Prince didn't seem to stop at any other houses in her neighborhood. "They go door-to-door. Walking. He wasn't walking. He was driving." Hey, he was knocking on doors during a Vikings-Falcons game -- you can't expect Symbolina to follow ALL the rules of the religion he declared as his new faith in a 2001 magazine interview. "It was so bizarre, you would have just laughed," she said. The perfect esprit d'escalier came to Rochelle after Prince left: "If I showed up at Paisley [Park], would you let me in your front door to talk about Judaism?" There was no response from Paisley Park, where a note seeking a comment was delivered Thursday.

Okay, but raise your hand if, like me, you had no idea Prince remarried. (And what does this say about Prince's fallen star? About us?)
THANK YOU. THANK YOU VERY MUCH: The new Bruce Campbell joint, co-starring Ossie Davis and directed by Don Coscarelli, has been previewing around the country seeking to establish it's audience. Bubba Ho-tep has been on a limited number of screens during the last week and, locally to me, will run at San Fran's Fabulous Castro Theater through Thursday.

Bubba Ho-tep is pulled off with good acting and good filmaking -- good theater, well-mediated on film by disciplined professionals who don't have billions to burn. The action sequences manage to be viscerally affecting despite using special effects reminiscent of Puppetmaster II and/or my little brother snapping the lights on and off while making thunder noises.

Some might call it a not-ready-for-prime-time cross between Cocoon and A Nightmare On Elm Street, or Tough Guys and The Mummy, but only if they hadn't seen Duplex Planet and Meet the Feebles. And others might beat dead the very horse that pulls the Bruce Campbell bandwagon, overselling the film like an artless regime change in Mesopotamia. Then there are some whose darker motivations for supporting Bubba Ho-tep can only be guessed at.

Unlike Army of Darkness, which brilliantly refreshed the horror genre through parody, Bubba Ho-tep uses genre as license to play with icons of American culture at a cartoonish level of vulgar intimacy. Depending on how seriously you're willing to take it, Bubba Ho-tep could have been written either by a young Don DeLillo interning for a summer at The Weekly World News or a younger Ken Burns drinking way too much Dr. Pepper and then annotating the bejesus out of a Halloween themed Mad-Lib. Also, it could have been written by Joe R. Landsdale, which it was. I invite you to take him as seriously as you can.