Saturday, September 16, 2006

SURPASSING JUDD WINICK: Despite a seriously miscast Rachel Bilson (sweetie, biting your lip does not make an acting performance), The Last Kiss is one of the best films I've seen this year. Sadly, I expect it will find difficulty finding an audience, as it's not the wacky romantic comedy that the ads make it out to be--this is a movie veritably drenched in sorrow and anger, especially given that an epilogue scene was shot and cut (according to this interview) which would have changed things dramatically--and Zach Braff's character is not exactly likable. But the biggest revelation in the film in Jacinda Barrett--previously best known for being "the model on the boringest season of The Real World," and roles like "plucky single mother" in Poseidon, "hot lesbian" in Bridget Jones 2, and "long-suffering spouse of firefighter" in Ladder 49, got called in at the last minute to replace Rachel McAdams, and does the part most proud, thus taking over from Winick and Eric Nies the title of "most successful Real World alumnus."
BOB NEWHART WOULD BE PROUD: Also referenced in today's Times, Emperor Palpatine takes a phone call from Darth Vader on "Robot Chicken". And, while we're at it, "Robot Chicken" takes on Harry Potter and the monster Pubertus.
THE GREY LADY ERRS: There is so much to recommend in this weekend's Times, until they piss it all away with a spoiler so awful that all responsibile should be drawn, quartered, decapitated and/or placed on indefinite leave, and perhaps all four.

The good: inside Guant√°namo with Tim Golden, a fantastic profile of director Michael Gondry by the normally cynical Lynn Hirschberg, TNR's Lee Siegel waxing idiotically again about bloggers and an insightful piece on ventriloquist Jay Johnson, set to take Broadway by storm. Add in a whimsical piece on Bronx cartography, and you've got yourself a Saturday.

Then there's a minor South Park error in an overview of contemporary satire --"Cartman, the obese, morally repugnant child" did not eat the parents of a kid he disliked. As everyone who has enjoyed Scott Tenorman Must Die (perhaps my favorite SP episode) knows, Cartman tricks Scott Tenorman into eating his own parents. Do you like it? Do you like it, Scott? I call it, "Mr. & Mrs. Tenorman Chili." Okay, fine.

But then, oh Lord, for this I wish Lacuna was still in business: in a profile of tv producer Ben Silverman that leads the Arts & Leisure section -- to which I will not link, so vile is this information -- they let slip what happens to Pam and Jim on The Office. Oh no, they didn't? Yes, they did. We have waited and wondered since May 11, 2006 when "Casino Night" first aired, and with just five days to go, boom!, they ruin the suspense. Ruin it. Do not read this article. I cannot stress this enough. I am livid.
DUBBA-DUBBA-DUBBA-BYE: After UPN disappeared not with a bang but a whimper a few weeks ago to make way for MyNetworkTV (it's like Myspace, except without the porn, and on television!), the WB departs Sunday night with something actually classy--they're repeating the pilots of four of their best known shows (Buffy, Angel, Felicity, and Dawson's Creek), mixed with old "image campaigns" and reminders. Here's something worth discussing--what's the WB's most endearing contribution to culture?--some suggestions:
  • Ryan Murphy, now creator of Nip/Tuck and Running With Scissors, got his start with the WB's Popular.
  • J.J. Abrams got his big break with Felicity.
  • Quietly, short-lived dramedy Jack & Jill marked first major media exposure for Amanda Peet and Sarah Paulson, and first major media exposure with clothes on for Jamie Pressly.
  • Joss Whedon and the rest of the folks involved with Buffy.
  • Greg Berlanti, who first led Dawson's Creek to its brief period of not sucking, and then created Everwood and Jack and Bobby.
  • Popstars, which led to the Pussycat Dolls.
  • An outlet for African-American comics--in particular Steve Harvey, Jamie Foxx, and the Wayans Bros.
AN EPISODE OF LOVE BOAT '68? Former Brat Packer and Mighty Duck Emilio Estevez wanted to write/direct a movie about RFK's assasination and invited such stars as Anthony Hopkins, Ashton Kutcher, Harry Belafonte, Laurence Fishburne, Christian Slater, William H. Macy, Lindsay Lohan, Pacey, Rollergirl and his dad to join in. The results were not pretty, according to many critics:
"Bobby" is reasonably well-directed but scripted with painful obviousness. It stands to impress only the politically naive and hardened lovers of camp, the latter of whom will delight in the endlessly bizarre casting (Ashton Kutcher as a hippie acid dealer) and the chance to see Demi Moore (as a drunken lounge singer) in a battle-of-the-titans acting match with Sharon Stone (as the hotel's salon stylist).
The trades, however, liked it.
WE RAISE OUR VOICES IN ONE GREAT CHORUS, JUST TO MAKE THEM UNDERSTAND: So, who are the most loyal pro football fans in all the land? By weighing such factors as attendance (volume, percentage of capacity and consistency) and the degree of difficulty of supporting a team (winning percentage, local population and income, December weather), the statheads have an answer.

Friday, September 15, 2006

WHERE'S MY QUAD-TUNER HD? For those of us without a dual tuner TiVo or DVR, premiere week begins a series of nasty decisions about what gets priority. So what are the challenging timeslots for you? Mine are:
  • Sundays 8 PM--Amazing Race 10 vs. The Simpsons--I go with TAR because I know Fox will pick up the reruns either in the summer or during the endless rounds of syndication, while TAR is tougher to pick up (especially without missing an episode) later in the game.
  • Sundays 10 PM--Brothers AND Sisters vs. Without A Trace vs. The Wire--I'm going with Brothers AND Sisters for the moment because it seems like a trainwreck not to be missed, but that could actually get good. Without A Trace can be picked up non-sequentially in reruns, and The Wire (which I know I oughta be watching), repeats ad infinitum.
  • Tuesdays 8 PM--Dancing With The Stars vs. House vs. Friday Night Lights vs. Gilmore Girls--The head spins. I'm going with Gilmore Girls, at least until we've got an idea how the Klum-stalker is working out, but may be persuaded to switch. (Thankfully, Hizzy moves to 9 PM in October, where I'm far more free, though Veronica Mars is tempting--I'd love Hizzy vs. Veronica.)
  • Wednesdays 8 PM--Dancing With The Stars vs. Jericho vs. 30 Rock/Twenty Good Years vs. America's Next Top Model--If 30 Rock had a better timeslot companion (paging Dr. Dorian? Dr. John Dorian?), this'd be a walkover, but Jericho could quickly enthrall me, and the reality programming here certainly has its fans hereabouts.
  • Thursdays 8 PM--Survivor: Politically Incorrect vs. Earl/Office vs. Ugly Betty--I hope Ugly Betty gets repeated in another timeslot (say Fridays, rather than Home Videos repeats?), because I'd like to give it a shot, but the fine folks at Dunder Mifflin win the slot for me.

Also, my ballsy schedule move of the day? If NBC gets a breakout drama hit this fall (particularly one of the Monday shows or Friday Night Lights), why not move it against Desperate Housewives, which needs to get better and funnier right quick or be susceptible to losing a bunch of its audience?

RAISE YOUR HAND IF YOU MISS KARA SAUN'S FLIGHT-INSPIRED RUNWAY SHOW: They had the Project Runway Bryant Park finale show today, and if you want some spoilers (though not as to who won, because no one knows that yet), the Philadelphia Inquirer's Elizabeth Wellington has three minutes of audio about the show, and you can see pictures of the collections of Michael, Jeffrey, Laura and Uli via those four links. No word on who's the decoy.
. . . AND YOU HAVE TO BE DEAD: So, the interview tonight with the Hungarian Ambassador to the United States over the bridge thing is one of those things that makes The Colbert Report so wonderful, with Colbert's quick wit on full display, but that interview with Bill Simmons? Reminds us all that some people are meant to be on tv, and some are meant to remain writers, as Simmons himself has admitted in the past.

Meanwhile, Stephen Jr. is all the way to Fraser Lake, B.C. by now . . .

edited to add: The segment with the ambassador is now online. Thanks, Bill.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

IMMUNITY, BACK UP FOR GRABS: So, a Survivor featuring spiritual Black people, Asians into mystical healing remedies and a white man trying to exploit the manual labor of others? Gee, thanks Mark Burnett . . . you're really the 21st century's Norman Lear.

The Office returns next week. Thank goodness.
DOWNEASTER SAILING SOLO: I didn't know that she was doing this. Man, I feel old.
UP NEXT -- CAPTAIN NOAH, LARRY FERRARI, AND THE AL ALBERTS SHOWCASE: For a distinct slice of this blog's readership, the news that there's a website devoted to Channel 10's old show "Starstuff" and that Channel 10 will be re-airing episodes of the "Candy Apple News Company" during Tuesdays this fall as part of an extensive broadcast flashback series and online video vault will strike a deep and important nostalgic chord.

For the rest of you, carry on. We'll be enjoying our Kandy Kakes.
THE WAL-MART OF SARCASTIC INTERNET COMMENTARY: The Nick Denton Gawker Media Empire today extends its monopoly on an essentially unmonopolizable market with the addition of Idolator, a poorly-named gossip aggregator about pop music whose name will be so dated in about four years. That means that a Dentonite is right now working a self-referential comment about getting drunk into a post on New York; Hollywood and all Firecrotch-related happenings; the scintillating social world of Silicon Valley; politics and Washington (I was going to say "Republican anal sex," but really, that was like four years ago); music; gadgetry; cars; sports; porn; computer games (I'm fairly certain this is just a fake screen that pops up from a panic button on the Fleshbot page); shopping; urban travel (wha?); information and time management (so hip you can smell the velvet rope); and stuff on my cat. Okay, that last one is independent. In other words, if you live in, visit, listen to, watch, play, drive, struggle to understand the features of, masturbate to, buy, or feel impelled to alphabetize it, Denton is covering it. If you put it on your cat, go elsewhere, you sicko.

I'm pretty sure that, with the exception of blind spots in books (who reads 'em!), gambling (Gawker Media used to cover this, but ironically lost oddjack.com in a bet with a shadowy Taiwanese businessman), and places where you can't get food from Nobu Matsuhisa, Gawker Media is now officially omniscient.

Incidentally, Denton, drunk with his god-like power, is rumored to be contemplating fiendish Dr. Moreau-ish experiments on his blogs. Fear the Defamwag (covering the Ojai gossip scene) and the Fleshmodo (porn gadgetry).
DON'T BE THE BUNNY AND BUY TICKETS TO THIS SHOW: Not even the presence of John Cullum as the narrator will entice me into buying tickets for Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas: The Musical!
SHE, ALONE, WILL STAND AGAINST THE VAMPIRES, THE DEMONS, AND THE FORCES OF DARKNESS: Props of the day for engagement with popular culture go to the fine folks at St. Francis Episcopal Church in Macon, Georgia, which will be offering a class this fall on the spirituality and ethics of Buffy The Vampire Slayer.
THE "FAB FOUR" FIGHT FLAB: Given this blog's focus on dancing, pop music inspired by the 1980's sound, and clever You Tube videos, I think you will enjoy this one.
YES, SOMEONE OTHER THAN BARACK OBAMA ONCE GAVE A KEYNOTE: Not to get political here, but the fact that former Governor of Texas Ann Richards has died strikes me as worth noting. Whatever you thought of her politics, she was one of the few politicians who was always there with a quip at the ready that frequently made you think as much as laugh. Wikiquote alleges that she was the first to observe that "Ginger Rogers did everything that Fred Astaire did. She just did it backwards and in high heels." And her daughter has carried on in her mother's footsteps. I wish we had more like her.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

THERE'S NEVER A F***KIN' PARTY: Tonight on Project Runway, we finally discover what the "benefits" of winning are, and it might well have been an excellent episode had the winner not been telegraphed so early (classic reality show storyline number 6--the burnout regains their confidence and rallies) and had the dresses not overall been a huge miss (only two managed not to have serious problems, in my view). Add to this that the preplanned twist could have been great, but due to how the season worked out? Not so much. So, looks like we have one firm slot for the finals now, with the other competitors all duking it out to see if they can transcend their repetitive styles. Don't forget to use all your excess scraps of fabric in the comments.
I LET THE MELODY SHINE, LET IT CLEANSE MY MIND, I FEEL FREE NOW: The Rockstar Name Subject To Change finale was just odd -- rather than elevate the game by having everyone perform with the band all hour, it was just more of the same, song after song that we've seen before. Compare it to Idol, where the finale is in a larger venue, with new songs and just a sense that This Is An Event. Mark Burnett, you let me down.

As far as the result's concerned, well, that's their choice and I wish them well, whatever they're going to be called.
AS IT TURNS OUT, BOBBY, SHE WILL NOT, IN FACT, ALWAYS LOVE YOU: Troubled singer Whitney Houston (is that her full legal name now?) has filed for divorce, and I only had about twenty different titles for this post:

  • WASN'T THIS HIS PREROGATIVE?
  • HOPEFULLY, SHE WAS SAVING AT LEAST SOME OF HER LOVE FOR SOMEONE ELSE
  • WHERE DO BROKEN HEARTS GO? TO A LAWYER.
You get the idea. Feel free to till this fertile loam as much as you want.
MY BABY LOVES TO DO THE CHA CHA CHA: The stars, they are a-dancin'. I personally find the foxtrot to be a wholly uninteresting dance, so the men and their cha chas had something of an intrinsic advantage over the women's largely clumsy-footed attempts at a little Ginger Rogers. There are way too many uninteresting competitors to do anything like a full recap at this point, but just a few comments:
  • Emmitt Smith could not be more adorable.
  • Joey Lawrence is scary without hair.
  • Mario Lopez has doublejointed hips.
  • Harry Hamlin seems as intense as his wife, Lisa Rinna, was last time around. I couldn't stop laughing at his facial expressions.
  • Poor Tucker Carlson, present as the Kenny Mayne inaugural amuse-bouche for the wolves.
  • Jerry Springer lacks the suavit√© of George Hamilton (whose name I always need to look up after I type George Harrison), but should still pick up some of the silver-hair vote for a week or two.
  • Didn't much care about any of the women, mainly for the foxtrot reason mentioned earlier. But who, pray tell, is Willa Ford?

HIZZY STARDUST VS. THE SPIDERS FROM MARS: I realize we lack a thread to discuss last night's House, featuring extensive Cuddy-taunting, Cameron-saintliness, and Dr. Wilson being more than a little bit of a dick. Discuss below.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

THEY WERE TOO BUSY SINGING TO PUT ANYBODY DOWN: Hey, hey, today is the 40th anniversary of the debut of The Monkees, meaning it's also the 20th anniversary of their 20th Anniversary comeback/reunion tour (orchestrated by MTV), when I saw them perform mid-field after a Temple football game at the Vet. I, too, was a believer, so say something nice about the band.
SHE BROKE MY HEART, BUT I LOVE HER JUST THE SAME NOW: I really have nothing new to say about Rockstar: SuperNova at this point -- with fifteen competitors and only one double-elimination week, we really got more than a complete picture of the final four.

The Dilana who dominated the first 5-6 weeks of the competition deserves to win it and would be a solid match for the band, but I don't know if she still exists -- her media and physical snafus seem to have really beaten her down. So, barring the band still maintaining that faith in her, I still predict Toby as the winner, for all the reasons we've been through. You?
THANKS, ALEX, I'LL TAKE "BOOKS THAT WERE VERY POPULAR AMONG MEN WHO DON'T READ MANY BOOKS, BUT SHOULDN'T BE ADAPTED INTO OTHER MEDIA" FOR $400, PLEASE: With songs or without, I just can't see "Moneyball" turned into a movie.
WHAT IS GREEDO SHOOTS DWIGHT FIRST IN ORDER TO BRING THE SEXYBACK? Today's a big day for various pop-cultural releases. Among the biggies I count:

So how are you spending your hard-earned pop-cultural dollars?

TOP FIVE REASONS THIS IS GOING TO SUCK MORE THAN ANYTHING HAS SUCKED BEFORE: High Fidelity, the Nick Hornby book and John Cusack movie, is coming to Broadway, and rather than trying to secure the rights to all the awesome music that is the crux of both the book and movie, the brains behind this project have opted for an original soundtrack of songs that make Rent's "Seasons of Love" sound like "War Pigs."

Go ahead, click on the video link for the video for "Top Five Breakups," and try to make it all the way through.
I'M ON A ROLL: And it's time to list the 50 Greatest Guitar Solos, as chosen by the editors of Guitar One magazine.
IMPRESS THEM WITH YOUR PROWESS, BUT NOT UNTIL DECEMBER: Citing a perceived disproportionate impact on poor and working class students who don't know how to game the system and are more dependent on the ultimate aid package offered, Harvard is ending Early Admission.
HELLO . .. IS IT HIM YOU'RE LOOKING FOR? Ladies and gentlemen, Lionel Richie is back.

Monday, September 11, 2006

CAN WE BE FUNNY? WHY START NOW? So I finally saw Little Miss Sunshine this weekend, after the urging of many, and I guess I just didn't get it.

I mean, it's cute, and it's well-done and exceptionally well-acted, but the fuss? I felt like it was Royal Tenenbaums, only not as good, not as deep, with too much of the planned joy based upon a hide-the-ball-until-the-big-finale gag that's a lot less funny to me in a post-JonBenet, post-Living Dolls world. Is that what the whole movie was really building towards?

So if you've seen it, let's roll the Big Yellow VW Mini-Bus of Metaphor into the comments, and tell me what I'm missing.
DEFENDANT'S REPEATED SUGGESTIONS THAT PLAINTIFF SIMPLY REBRAND HIMSELF AS "DIDDY UK" WERE NEVER SERIOUSLY CONSIDERED: Sean Combs can no longer promote himself as "Diddy" to the great market across the pond. While the CNN blurb linked there does not divulge any anticipated alternate moniker for the multi-industry mogul, I do hope once again to be pleasantly confused by his selection.
FIVE YEARS AGO: It might be difficult for us to have a thread about the September 11th tragedy that doesn't pivot into a discussion of contemporary politics, but it would be worse for us not to try.

This is an open thread, but let me suggest one angle on this anniversary: five years ago, there was a significant cultural discussion at the time about whether we had reached the end of The Age of Irony; clearly, those who believe that we had not have won. How do you feel about things being as back-to-normal as they now are, or, are there in fact ways in which our culture has changed as a result? (Possible answer: greater respect and sensitivity in fictional depictions of police officers and firemen.)

In addition, the Times today revisits some of the families from its epic Portraits of Grief coverage. Think about spending a few minutes over there.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

ATTENTION, TV CRITICS OF AMERICA -- YOU CAN STOP NOW: I get it -- HBO's The Wire is the greatest show ever created, and, yes, I will start watching it tonight, despite having never watched it before.

The folks at The House Next Door have a week's worth of analysis to help catch you up on the world of 'The Wire'. But if you're already a fan, tell us what we should know.
ZEKE, OF COURSE, HAS ENROLLED AT JOHNSON AND WALES: The WaPo updates us on what the 'High School Musical' cast is doing now.