Monday, December 31, 2007

In Memoriam, 2007

It is customary for entertainment outlets, at the end of the year, to look back on those who passed over the course of the year. Given my tenuous grasp on reality, instead of actual people, I’m going to look back at some of the TV characters who passed on in 2007. This list is by no means comprehensive, but here are some of my favorites.

HEROES
(Please note: All Heroes deaths are subject to reversal at any time, based on emergence of new powers or an infusion of cheerleader blood.)
Nathan Petrelli
First Appearance: “Genesis” 9-25-06
Death: “Powerless” 12-3-07
Assassinated at a press conference before revealing his powers to the world.

D.L. Hawkins
First Appearance: “Hiros” 10-23-06
Death: “Four Months Ago” 11-12-07
Dead as a result of apparently forgetting his ability to pass through things.

Isaac Mendez
First Appearance: “Genesis”
Death: “The Hard Part” 5-7-07
Killed by Sylar

Candice Wilmer
First Appearance: “Company Man” 2-26-07
Death: “Kindred” 10-8-07
Killed by Sylar.

Niki Sanders
First Appearance: “Genesis”
Death: “Powerless”
Pinned down in a burning building without her powers.

Ted Sprague
First Appearance: “Nothing to Hide” 11-6-06
Death: “Landslide” 5-14-07
Killed by Sylar.

Alejandro Herrera
First Appearance: “Four Months Later” 9-24-07
Death: “Truth & Consequences” 11-26-07
Killed by Sylar.

Linderman (First Name Unknown)
First Appearance: “Parasite”
Death: “Landslide”
Brain crushed from the inside by D.L.

Simone Deveaux
First Appearance: “Genesis”
Death: “Parasite” 3-4-07
Accidentally shot by Isaac

Kaito Nakamura
First Appearance: “The Fix” 1-29-07
Death: “Four Months Later” and again in “Cautionary Tales” 11-19-07
Thrown off a building by Adam “Sark” Monroe.



LOST
(Please note: All Lost deaths are subject to reversal at any time, based on the whims of Island Magic. Except for Paolo and Nikki.)
Charlie Pace
First Appearance: “Pilot, Part 1” 9-22-04
Death: “Through the Looking Glass” 5-22-07
Drowned in the Looking Glass to save Desmond.

Tom Friendly / Zeke
First Appearance: “Exodus, Part 2” 5-25-05
Death: “Through the Looking Glass”
Killed, along with several other Others, in a raid on Camp Lostaway.

Anthony Cooper
First Appearance: “Deus Ex Machina” 3-30-05
Death: “The Brig” 5-2-07
Strangled by Sawyer after being revealed as the man who caused the deaths of his parents.

Paulo (Last Name Unknown)
Nikki Fernandez

Pretend First Appearance: “Pilot, Part 1”
Actual First Appearance: “Further Instructions” 10-18-06
Death: “Through the Looking Glass”
Buried alive after incompetently poisoning one another.

Mikhail Bakunin
First Appearance: “The Cost of Living” 11-1-06
Death: “Through the Looking Glass”
After surviving brain melting and a shooting, he presumably finally died while blowing himself up underwater.

Miss Klugh
First Appearance: “Three Minutes” 5-17-06
Death: “Enter 77” 3-7-07
Shot by Mikhail to save her from being taken hostage.

Naomi Dorritt
First Appearance: “Catch-22” 4-18-07
Death: “Through the Looking Glass”
Stabbed by Locke.

Bonnie and Greta (Last Names Unknown)
First Appearance: “Greatest Hits” 5-16-07
Death: “Through the Looking Glass”
Shot in the Looking Glass battle.


THE SOPRANOS
Christopher Moltisanti
First Appearance: “Pilot” 1-10-99
Death: “Kennedy and Heidi” 5-13-07
Suffocated by Tony Soprano after an auto accident.

Bobby ‘Bacala’ Baccaliere
First Appearance: “Guy Walks into a Psychiatrist’s Office” 1-16-00
Death: “The Blue Comet” 6-3-07
Shot on orders from Phil Leotardo.

Silvio Dante
First Appearance: “Pilot”
Death: “The Blue Comet”
Shot on orders from Phil Leotardo. (Note: Technically only brain-dead – when last seen, he was being kept alive by a respirator.)

Phil Leotardo
First Appearance: “Two Tonys” 3-7-04
Death: “Made in America” 6-10-07
Shot in reprisal for the previous two murders. Also, his head was crushed by a minivan.

John ‘Johnny Sack’ Sacramoni
First Appearance: “Pax Soprana” 2-14-99
Death: “Stage 5” 4-15-07
Succumbed to cancer while in prison

J.T. Dolan
First Appearance: “In Camelot” 4-18-04
Death: “Walk Like a Man” 5-6-07
Shot by Christopher Moltisanti


MISCELLANEOUS

Sherrif Don Lamb
First Appearance: Veronica Mars “Pilot” 9-22-04
Death: “Mars, Bars” 2-20-07
Bludgeoned while in pursuit of a suspect. He smelled bread.

Harvey Birdman
First Appearance: Birdman and the Galaxy Trio (untitled episode) 9-9-67
Death: Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law “The Death of Harvey” 7-22-07
After returning to his super-hero roots to defeat a former client, Harvey was run over by a bus driven by his (previously thought deceased) boss, Phil Ken Sebben.

Cotton Hill
First Appearance: King of the Hill “Shins of the Father” 3-23-97
Death: “Death Picks Cotton” 11-11-07
Died (eventually) after suffering massive internal and external injuries caused by choking on a shrimp and collapsing onto a table grill.

Dr. Nick Riviera
First Appearance: The Simpsons “Bart Gets Hit by a Car” 1-10-91
Death: “The Simpsons Movie” (Summer, 2007)
Crushed by debris when Homer destroyed the dome surrounding Springfield.

Tad Eustace Ghostal AKA Space Ghost
First Appearance: Space Ghost “The Heat Thing” 9-10-66
Death: “Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Move Film for Theaters” (Spring, 2007)
Killed when a missile accidentally launched by Meatwad blew up the Ghost Planet.

Farewell, brave soldiers. We are diminished by your loss. Well, except for Paulo and Nikki.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

How You Got Here, Probably

Well, I tallied it up, and I’d like to present the Top Five Google searches that led people to the Swear Jar.

5. “EJ Feddes blog” – That one terrifies me. Why would somebody Google me in the first place? And it’s not like it was just my name they searched. People specifically set out to see if I have a blog. And it happened frequently throughout the year! That means multiple people who know me found themselves wondering if I have a blog, and they set out to do some research. I can not imagine who those people would be, and why there are so many of them. It’s unsettling.
4. “Samantha Harris’ breasts” – I have to think these people were disappointed. It’s not like I had pictures or anything. You may recall that pregnancy had a certain effect on the Dancing with the Stars co-host. People called me during the show to express their alarm. We are talking freaky-big breasts here, people.
3. “Never follow a hippie to a second location” – From the greatest episode of 30 Rock ever. I don’t understand why people would search that phrase in particular. Is there a rich history behind it? Did they hear somebody say it and not want to look ignorant as to its origins? It’s peculiar. Given that my own browser history contains “+cereal mascot +bears”, I guess I’m in no position to judge.
2. “Torgo’s Executive Powder” – From Bender’s Big Score. Oddly, I received no traffic from general searches on Bender’s Big Score. But people who wanted to find out more about that one particular joke came over by the score.

And the most popular Google Search this year:
1. “I don’t know Butchie instead” – Awesome. Nearly a third of my traffic came from searches related to John from Cincinnati, and almost 10% of my total traffic was this specific phrase. This one makes a little more sense, as the phrase appeared in almost every episode, and if you happened to miss the pilot, there was no explanation. And among us Monad-heads, it’s almost like a secret handshake.

There you go. That’s how people ended up here this year. It’s sort of disheartening, after all the work I’ve put in, to have so much traffic come from people who just want to see boobs. But somehow, the fact that one person got here by searching “Criss Angel douche” makes it all worthwhile.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Seriously, the Botanical Garden!

--I saw “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story”, after an entire holiday season of delays. (Who knew that movie theaters closed early on Christmas Eve? And then Steak & Shake wasn’t open either. Ended up at Chili’s on Christmas Eve, in the best Ricky Bobby / Michael Scott tradition. Please note that I do, in fact, consider Chili’s to be a step down from Steak & Shake. Actually, most things are a step down from Steak & Shake)

Like most good things in life, “Walk Hard” comes from Judd Apatow, who serves as a co-writer and producer here. It’s a consistently funny, occasionally brilliant parody of music biopics, most notably “Walk the Line”.

I’m not sure when John C. Reilly got funny, but ever since “Talladega Nights”, that’s pretty much what he does. (I love his recurring role as Steve Brule on Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job.) His Dewey Cox is a simple man, not unlike Ron Burgundy or Ricky Bobby. In fact, it could be a role that was written for Will Ferrell, but Reilly’s got this weatherbeaten weariness to him that really sells it. (One of the best jokes for me was that Reilly plays Dewey at age 14, and the other characters mention his age as often as possible.)

Like most Apatow productions, there’s a heart behind the craziness. Despite the insanity around him, Dewey is actually kind of believable as a character. And like most Apatow productions, there’s a ridiculous amount of comedic talent in the cast. I’ve never thought of Tim Meadows as particularly hilarious, but his half-assed attempts to keep Dewey away from drugs killed me every time. (“We’re taking uppers and downers. It’s the logical next step for you!”) Kristen Wiig and Jenna Fischer are fantastic as Dewey’s first and second wives, respectively. Jack Black and Paul Rudd have a single scene as Paul McCartney and John Lennon, and it’s everything you could hope for. Chris Parnell, who seems to be an Apatow favorite, gives his second funniest performance here. (Number one being 30 Rock’s Dr. Leo Spaceman, of course.) John Michael Higgins (better know as Attorney Wayne Jarvis and/or Mentok, the Mind Taker) gets a great bit as a radio producer. There’s such a wealth of funny available that Jack McBrayer and Ed Helms actually get wasted in tiny roles. I kind of think the Director’s Cut will be six hours long.

Some of the jokes just don’t land, which is unfortunate. Dewey’s elaborate production for his attempted comeback never gets as funny as it needs to be, for example. But that can be forgiven. For every flop, there are four or five really funny jokes, many of which involve being cut in half by a machete. And the songs are actually well done. From the Dylan parody to the midget protest song, from the innocuous song about hand-holding that somehow causes spontaneous vomiting in the crowd to the title song, “Walk Hard” rivals “A Mighty Wind” for musical hilarity. And the closing song, “Dewey Cox Died Today” is actually surprisingly pretty.

While not as aggressively perfect as “40-Year-Old Virgin” or “Knocked Up”, “Walk Hard” is a worthy addition to the Apatow canon. And because I don’t have any place else to mention it, my friend Becky met John C. Reilly at a local botanical garden. That sort of blows my mind.

--I also saw “Alien vs. Predator: Requiem”. Don’t you judge me. Swear Jar Buddy Sam was really excited about this movie, and in fact, any movie with ‘vs.’ in the title. It’s like the movie was Hollywood’s Christmas present to Sam.

Here’s the thing: I actually enjoyed this movie. The first “Alien vs. Predator” movie was a little bit low on scenes of Aliens actually fighting Predators. That’s not a problem here. In fact, the Predator fights not only regular Aliens, but also an Alien-Predator hybrid. I’m a simple man with simple tastes, I’ll admit. Still, you have to agree: That is officially awesome. I’m not a giant fan of either franchise, but it is always cool when freaky monsters tear each other apart.

Of course, the scenes with humans interacting are generally poorly-written and boring. Practically every character who lacks the good fortune to be either an Alien or a Predator is dull, two-dimensional, and unlikable. But the great part is the deep cynicism at work. Just about any character who usually gets to survive this kind of movie dies horribly. Small children, pregnant women, comic relief stoners, even the high school girl who appears to be 30. Hell, the Predator Alien runs rampant though a maternity ward! I mean, surely our heroes will manage to prevent the government from nuking the whole town at the last second. Or so you would think.

And actually, Reiko Aylesworth (my 24 girlfriend) does a pretty decent job in her role as a recently returned Iraq vet. I don’t actually remember her character’s name or anything, but at least her scenes in which things didn’t blow up were still watchable. As Sam said, “She’s got the good-natured spunk that allows her to survive a movie.”

I’m still not clear on why the Predator destroyed all the Alien bodies with freaky blue liquid. What does a Predator care about Alien corpses left behind on Earth? And the last scene is just flat-out obtuse. The very end of the movie assumes a much more intimate knowledge of the “Alien” franchise than the average moviegoer probably possesses. We actually thought that they were bringing a third franchise in at the end, and had finally settled on “Halo”. Yes, we were actually discussing, at length, the ending of “Alien vs. Predator: Requiem”. So, it’s really not that different from “No Country for Old Men”, right?

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Go, Team Otto's Jacket!!!

Have I mentioned how much I love the Magic DVR Box? In one of my more shameful lapses this year, I totally forgot that Amazing Race was on, because my family was having a Christmas celebration that night. Luckily, the Magic Box doesn’t take time off for holidays, and I had a steaming cup of Race just waiting for me.

While I wish the non-elimination leg had turned up to save Azaria and Hendekea, I’m intrigued by the “Speed Bump” penalty. I hated the ‘stripping them of their money and possessions’ penalty they used in years past. Well, except for those times when a last-place team would put on every piece of clothing they owned before stepping on the mat, just in case. (Or when brothers Brian and Greg stripped to their underwear. How hilarious would it have been for them to start a leg with no money and only briefs to their name.) Last season’s time penalty was a significant improvement, but between the Speed Bump and the U-Turn replacing Yield, it seems like they’re eliminating time penalties and giving teams a more active role in their own destinies. I’m just hoping the Speed Bump isn’t right before a lengthy airport wait, rendering it meaningless.

TK and Rachel sort of remind me of Season Six’s Kris and Jon. Both teams had this really nice, completely functional relationship. This week, both TK and Rachel had big giant screw-ups, and they both got frustrated and a little bit panicked, but they were so sweet to one another the whole time, and they got back on track. Plus, they recovered from a flat tire. Of the three dating couples left in the race, TK and Rachel are the only ones who seem to even like one another. (I’ve got my fingers crossed that Vyxsin realizes what a huge mistake she’s made by the end of the race. I’m also hope that Nate and Jen stay together, just so neither of them gets to make anybody else miserable.)

For me, it was a big surprise to find out that Ronald has at least one other daughter. You would think somebody with more kids to practice on might have figured out how to be a decent father. To me, it kind of casts a new light on their relationship. I thought of him as just a butthole, but what if he’s nice to his other children and he never clicked with Cristina, and the Race is her way of forging a bond with her father? She might just be desperate for Daddy’s approval. I mean, he’s probably just a butthole, but either way, it makes me feel a little sad for Cristina. Is there any way that she and Vyxsin can form a team?

With Amazing Race as just about the only original programming I have to look forward to for the next couple of weeks, this could start to get unhealthy.

Hope your Christmas was suitably merry and your holidays were full of joy.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Late Night and Time Loops

I know I signed off for the holidays, but here I am, at work on Christmas Eve. It’s inhuman, I tell ya!

--Who’s happy to see that the late night talk shows are coming back? Once again, we at the Swear Jar are 100% in support of the striking writers, however, it will be nice to see actual new episodes again.

It sounds like David Letterman’s writers are negotiating a separate contract with his production company, so he, at least, will be back to business as usual. And really, Letterman on the air is a powerful weapon for the writers. He’s the one guy that’s always going to speak from the heart on this sort of thing, and he’s the elder statesman of the group these days.

I think Conan will do all right freestyling. Conan’s really inventive and he’s good at improv. You’re not going to hear much of a monologue, but I could see him going on the streets with a camera crew on a regular basis. And this might mean more interviews with friends of his, which are always better than interviews with some schmuck who’s got a movie to pitch. He doesn’t need writers to prep an interview if he’s talking to Will Arnett or Paget Brewster.

As for Jay Leno, I don’t know. I don’t really care for his show on the best of days, but he’s a decent interviewer, and he did stand-up for about a thousand years. He’s very much in the Catskills tradition of performers, so it’s not going to be cutting-edge or particularly hilarious, but he’ll entertain your parents. There really could be jokes about airline food or his mother-in-law, but there won’t be dead air.

I don’t know how Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are going to pull it off. Both are smart, funny guys. Stewart has a stand-up background and Colbert did Second City for years, so they can fill a half-hour of air (or in Colbert’s case, ert) without breaking a sweat. Still, their shows are going to be tough. Nobody can put together a half-hour of solid political satire every night. I could see the guest correspondents playing a bigger role in The Daily Show until the strike is over. One guy can’t pull thirty clips of Dick Cheney contradicting himself every night, but he can certainly fill eight minutes of airtime by talking with Rob Riggle. I’m cautiously optimistic for Jon Stewart.

I am, however, actively worried about Stephen Colbert. Not only is his show particularly labor-intensive to write, he’s doing the whole show in character. Jon Stewart can fill a few minutes with his honest reaction to things. Stephen Colbert can’t do that. I know he’s really good at staying in character now – just look at how much better his interviews have been. But that’s going to be a tall order for him. It’s possible that he’s been stocking up on filmed “Difference Makers” and “Better Know a District” segments, which would help. And I wouldn’t mind seeing some of his comedy buddies show up for character interviews. David Cross’ left-wing radio host would be fun to see again. Get Amy Sedaris or Paul Dinello to play a character and fight with Stephen, for pete’s sake!

It’ll be interesting to see what Stewart and Colbert have to say about the strike. I can imagine Jon Stewart will let his views be know, but I don’t know if it’ll make it to air. CBS can afford to let Letterman criticize them at 11:30 before an audience of college students, bloggers, and insomniacs. Comedy Central and Paramount are unlikely to allow such criticism on their flagship show. Unless they’re more concerned with keeping Jon Stewart happy, which is a possibility. And of course, Stephen Colbert wouldn’t support organized labor anyway.

--Buddy Sam and I have been discussing the Futurama movie Bender’s Big Score. Well, ‘gushing about’ is more accurate than ‘discussing’, but you get the idea. Anyway, here’s an interesting realization that we came upon: (Spoilers, just in case you haven’t seen it yet. And if you haven’t, what’s wrong with you?) Both the Bender tattoo and the ‘Lars’ exist solely within the time loop and are not actually created at any point. The Bender tattoo is pulled off of Lars/Fry in 3007 and placed on Fry in 2000. The tattoo was never created – it’s on Fry because it was removed from Fry, sent backwards in time, and affixed to Fry. And Fry’s inspiration to adopt the Lars identity came from meeting Lars (a.k.a. his future self). He took the name and appearance of Lars because he met himself after he’d done just that.

This is not in any way a complaint. The Futurama writers are much smarter than I, so I assume that this paradox was intentional. I haven’t listened to the commentary track yet, but I’m sure David X. Cohen has a perfectly good explanation, probably one that invokes math that I will never understand. I’m really just telling you so that you can have your minds blown.

Merry Christmas! For real, this time!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Christmas Wishes

Before we head into the holidays, I’d just like to take the opportunity to get all soppy and thank some of the people who’ve made this all possible.

In order of appearance:

Thanks to my sister and brother for reading and commenting and, you know, growing up with me. My sister has always been there to turn me on to the best and worst (and therefore best) reality shows (she’s to blame for my Gordon Ramsay fixation), and my brother shares a disturbing number of my man crushes.

Big thanks to Dr. Brian, for being the real-life version of Fry, and for being my best friend since high school. Even after he got cool and I stayed like I am…

Thanks to Lana, without whom there would be no Swear Jar at all. She pulled me kicking and screaming back into writing some years back, and she was my friend back when I didn't think I could have a friend. (Yes, I know that's what Sipowicz said at Bobby's funeral. Leave me alone.) Detailing her awesomeness could fill a blog on its own, and there are already six or seven of those. Including the one my mother runs.

Big-ass props to my dear friends and comedy partners in Notable Sawyer. It’s a real privilege to work creatively with people who are close friends and also really good at what they do. Thanks to Sam for providing way more encouragement than is strictly warranted, and also for not reminding me that he’s so much funnier than I am. Thanks to Sean for being the facilitator for virtually everything creative that I’ve done in the last five years, and for being remarkably cool for his advanced age. Thanks to Becky for being way nice and also transparent, and for rocking the local art world on a regular basis.

Waves and salutations to Colleen, who is missing SO MUCH television while she’s making the world a better place. I’m stressed out on her behalf. Thanks to Billy for being generally swell and trying to convince girls that I’m cooler than I am, and also for coining the phrase “What’s the slaps, barbecue?”

Giant hugs to Rachael for giving good advice and ensuring I’m not the only giant Dutch person in our circle of wee friends. Thanks to Bruce for being even more giant and also the best possible person to have at an Improv show.

Special thanks to Kelli for keeping me centered, which is not as easy as you might think, and also for not getting offended by my antics.

Thanks to Brad and Becke for being my grown-up friends. (They once argued about zoning issues for 20 minutes!) Thanks for all the Thursday night TV and for laughing at the same uncomfortable stuff I do! (Their kids are also cool, and I don’t even like kids.)

High-fives to Rob for being one of the first to comment on this blog, and for being an actual cool guy who likes nerdier stuff than I do, thus validating me in some way.
Thanks also to Shmoopie for all the kind words and video work, and for sharing my love of Sarah Silverman.

And of course, I’d like to thank the whole spunkybean crew for pulling me kicking and screaming into their venture. Thanks especially to Mysterious Don and Myndi, for being my incestuous blog circle and pop-culture soulmates.

Finally, thanks to everybody who I’ve met through this blog, either in person or through e-mail. It’s always great to chat with somebody who has the same name as the paper supplier on Heroes, or any of the great John from Cincinnati fans who’ve contacted me, or the people who’ve actually come to see me do stand-up. Wind beneath my wings, every last one of you!

Merry Christmas, everybody!

Top 15, Over at the Bean

We're all putting out end-of-year lists up at spunkybean, and now my list of the Top 15 in TV is up. How did I narrow it down to 15? Did Shaq make the list? Did I list Lost multiple times?

Find out, if you dare!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Christmas 2005 -- The Best Secret Santa Ever

Now for something a little different. Every year, my siblings and I each write a Christmas Story. This story is read to the family at Christmas Eve. For my part, I keep to a strict word count, which means my plots are often resolved abruptly. Also, I go with my first draft and I don't write the story before December 22nd. So, these stories are often glimpses into insanity.

Anyway, here's the story I wrote for 2005: "The Best Secret Santa Ever". It uses much of the cast of my dream sitcom that I'm developing in my head, but that's neither here nor there. Anyway, I hope you enjoy!

THE BEST SECRET SANTA EVER
They’re trying to get me to quit. That’s the only possibility. First off, Secret Santa participation is supposed to be voluntary. As in, you can elect to participate, or you can elect not to. That’s how I interpret ‘voluntary’, at least. Perhaps there’s a new dictionary, probably online, that defines it as ‘a state of being forcibly volunteered’. My boss stopped by and told me “I’m putting your name in for Secret Santa”. I naturally assumed he was joking, because who forces somebody to do Secret Santa?
Not joking, as it turns out. And apparently the drawing was done under the most secret of conditions. I imagine angry German Shepherds and barbed wire flanking the perimeter. Nobody actually saw the names being drawn, and yet, nobody was willing to question the veracity of said drawing. But maybe that’s because nobody else got stuck with Popcorn Q. Richdale.
I don’t even know where to begin with Popcorn Q. Richdale. Back in the 60’s his parents were on a game show sponsored by Orville Redenbacher. It was sort of like The Newlywed Game crossed with Let’s Make a Deal. At one point, each couple was offered a color TV to sign a legal affidavit promising to name their first child after the sponsor. The first couple jumped at the name ‘Orville’. The second couple could take the TV from the first couple by naming their child ‘Popcorn’. They turned it down, but couple #3, the Richdales, jumped at it. I assume something similar was at work when they gave his younger sister the middle name ‘Vagisil’.
By the way, I had to research that myself. Popcorn Q. Richdale doesn’t like to share personal information. Or socialize. Or restrain his hatred of all other human beings.
The other thing about Popcorn Q. Richdale, the third thing I guess, with his odd name being number one and his dickishness being number two, the third thing about Popcorn Q. Richdale is that he hasn’t been in the office in almost two years.
Popcorn Q. Richdale was lucky enough to fall down the stairs at work. He bumped and skidded his way down two flights, which is sort of like winning the lottery of clumsiness. His lawsuit against the company is still pending, and they’re trying to settle amicably. Thus, he officially stays employed at an increased salary, and he never comes to work. Since the fall landed him in a wheelchair (Figuratively. It’s not like there was a wheelchair at the bottom of the stairs. Actually, there was a wheelchair at the bottom of the stairs, but he missed it. Which is just as well, because as luck would have it, there was a sick kid occupying the wheelchair at the time, and that’s serious nightmare fuel right there.), they can’t fire him without violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.
So, having made a short story really quite lengthy, Popcorn Q. Richdale was still considered my co-worker, even though he didn’t do any work and never entered the building. With this lack of participation, I had to assume that he didn’t know that he was in the Secret Santa, and it seemed unlikely at best that anybody was getting a gift from him.
Since I still harbored an unreasonable belief in logic and basic social mores, I went to see my boss.
“I don’t want to do Secret Santa.”
My boss, who often claims that he was the inspiration for the character of Bugs Meany in the Encyclopedia Brown series, did not look moved by this announcement, so I continued. “Everybody said it was voluntary, and I didn’t volunteer, and now I got stuck with a guy who doesn’t even actually work here. I mean, how would I even get a gift to him?”
“You’re going to bring it to his house.”
“That really doesn’t sound like something I’d do.”
“Look, Harris. I don’t think it’s any secret that we’re facing some tough times at this company.”
“Yeah, I kind of picked up on that when they started charging us for using the parking lot.”
“We’ve all had to tighten our belts.”
“I know, sir. Oh, is that a new picture of your second home on your desk there? I don’t think I’ve ever seen it with your gray Porsche in front like that.”
“Actually, that’s the silver Porsche. I was having a hard time with the new camera.”
“It’s a hard knock life, sir.”
“Point is, very soon it’s going to come down to the question of who is a team player and who isn’t. A team player.”
“Go team.”
“And let’s face it; team players participate in Secret Santa.”
“Actually, it’s mostly unmarried middle-aged women and the simple who participate in Secret Santa.”
“When the axes start falling, they’re going to be looking for team players, Harris.”
“The axes are looking? I’m not sure I want any qualities that would cause an ax to look for me. Are they magic axes?”
“I know you’re not happy about it now, but in a year, you’ll be thanking me for saving your job.”
“Somehow, I don’t see it coming to that, sir.”
“Aw, hell. What do I know? Is that what you’re saying, Harris? You think I need the solution printed backwards in the back of the book?”
“I’m going to go back to work, sir.”
And so, I went back to work. By which I mean, I sat at my desk and looked up pictures of penguins and obese cats on the Internet until 5:00.
* * *
Later that evening, I met my friend Davis at the mall. I figured that since he knew Popcorn Q. Richdale exactly as well as I did, he could help pick something out. And he likes hot pretzels, so it worked out for everybody.
“Do his hands still work? You could buy him gloves.”
“I don’t know. I thought it was just below the waist, but I’m not really sure.”
“Really, I guess you could give him gloves either way. Dead hands still get cold. I think.”
“But if his hands are dead, how would he put them on? And I don’t even think he leaves the house, so he doesn’t really need gloves. Nope, gloves are out.”
“Well, I’m out of ideas.”
“One idea? That’s all you’ve got? You’re supposed to be helping me here.”
Davis started to say something and abruptly stopped. Then he said something entirely different from what he was going to say before he stopped.
“The hot girl is at Lotions, Lotions, Lotions.”
“Which hot girl?”
“The one who works at Lotions, Lotions, Lotions.”
“Oh yeah. She is hot.”
“We have to stop in for a hand massage.”
“Is that legal?”
“They’re premiering this new hand lotion that’s supposed to moisturize without over-drying, or dry without over-hydrating, or some damn thing.”
“And your hands do seem to need both drying and moisturizing.”
“No, see, if you go in there, they’ll ask if you want to try the new lotion, and if you say yes, the salesperson will soak your hands and rub lotion, and it’s like they give your hands a massage.”
“Man, that sounds really creepy.”
“Hey, it’s the lotion business. What can you do?”
“What I would do is not take advantage of some college senior who’s contractually obligated to rub stranger’s hands. But that’s me.”
“But then I can talk to her and ask her out. If she’s rubbed my hands, she might as well date me. It would save so much time.”
“Fine. Go be perverse. I’m going to find a present for a crippled man who doesn’t really know me at all.”
“Then we have a deal.” Davis hustled for Lotions, Lotions, Lotions and I ducked into Radio Shack, because I was just that desperate. I’d never been inside a Radio Shack before. For all I knew, the whole chain was a front for some white-slavery operation. Sure, it seemed to be all electronics and cables and a couple of robot gorillas, but that’s what back rooms are for.
The stench of sadness settled in immediately, and I worried it would stain my clothing. I backed out, keeping tabs on the greasy clerk without ever making eye contact, and then I saw it. The S/V Cable.
I don’t know what an S/V Cable is. I mean, I understand cables and that it’s necessary to connect some electronic component to some other electronic component. I’m not sure what the ‘S’ or the ‘V’ stand for, and I don’t really know what it connects. All I know is that my friend Kenny said at least six times last year ‘This would work much better with an S/V Cable. When he hooked up my DVD burner, when he bought a new camera, when he wired a Playstation 2 to a Plasma Screen TV, he always needed an S/V Cable. Clearly, this was the most useful of all cables.
I brought an S/V Cable to the register. The clerk didn’t stop mumbling to himself as he rang me up. I’m pretty sure his mutterings had something to do with Firefly, or perhaps FireFox, but I didn’t want to take that detour into Crazy Town. Point is, I had an S/V Cable as a fallback gift. If I found something else for Popcorn Q. Richdale, I could give the cable to Kenny, and everybody would be happy.
Next, I tried out the calendar store. It only exists for 30 days every year, not unlike Brigadoon. Did they really make enough money in that month to justify their existence? I realize that there’s no money to be made from the sale of calendars eleven months a year, but I didn’t realize that one month could pay the bills for the whole year. Probably calendars are the way to go when it comes to short-term windfalls.
It never ceases to amaze me, the depth and breadth of calendar selection. Name a television show, there’s a calendar. It makes sense for cartoons, and for shows with pretty stars who’d be worth looking at for an entire year. I’m totally onboard with the Gilmore Girls calendar, especially since Jess left the show and I don’t need to deal with his little weasel eyes. But how can anyone expect to be a productive member of society when they’re greeted each morning with the cast of The Sopranos? These are not people I want on my refrigerator for the entire year. You look at Silvio for 30 days, and then you get to turn the calendar, thinking it has to be better, only it turns out to be Uncle Junior or Big Pussy, or Wide Guy. And the picture for November actually comes from the scene in Season Three when Gigi Cestone dies on the toilet Thanksgiving night. That’ll freak a brother out.
Calendars from movies that didn’t even have 12 interesting shots, calendars of pop stars, and an array of increasingly specific animal-themed calendars. I’m on board with 12 months of dogs. Dogs are cute. I can even see 12 months of Yorkies or German Shepherds, for the fanatical pet owners. But when you get into 12 months of Butterscotch Golden Retrievers, all of whom are photographed next to a watering can, you’ve lost me. If your tastes are that specific, just buy a poster.
I ended up buying a 365 days of kittens calendar, just in case. I decided that a kitty calendar was exactly the opposite of an S/V Cable, so he’d have to like one of them. And then I’d give the other one to Kenny. Every gift was a good gift for Kenny; if it was something he couldn’t use in the conventional way, he’d end up filming it falling from a great height, or use it in a stop-motion short about a man besieged by office supplies.
I found Davis hanging around the entrance of Lotions, Lotions, Lotions – his hands smooth and supple.
“Turns out, a hand massage is not nearly as hot as you might think.”
“Did you ask her out?”
“No. Just…no. It didn’t go well.”
“Your hands look nice, if that counts for anything.”
“You know, it sort of does.”
* * *
Popcorn Q. Richdale’s house looked, appropriately, like the house of a man who couldn’t stand up under his own power. Wild and overgrown lawn, peeling paint, broken shutters. It also looked like the house of a man who was disliked by his neighbors. Ragged strips of toilet paper clumped in the branches of the trees. Large blots of what appeared to be mucus dotted the walls at random intervals. Presumably, somebody egged his house on Halloween and the eggs just festered for nearly two months. That was my preferred rationale, at least. I suppose it was possible that somebody actually spread mucus on a man’s house, but I didn’t want to think about that possibility and more than necessary.
I rang the doorbell, wondering when, if ever, it was acceptable to use ‘ringed’ as the past tense of ‘ring’.
“Go to hell,” a tinny voice blared from the speaker above the recently-ringed doorbell.
“Popcorn Q. Richdale?”
“Shut up.”
“It’s me. Uh, Adam Harris. I work in that building where you don’t work.”
“What do you want?”
“I’m your, well, Secret Santa. I brought you a present.”
“Secret Santa? Are you some kind of homo?”
“Dad?”
“What?”
“Never mind. Uh, do you want me to just leave your present by the door?”
“Sure. Make a man in a wheelchair pick stuff up off the ground like some kind of monkey. Bring your crap in.” With a click, the door swung open.
Stepping through the doorway, it felt like I stepped over my own grave. And then I saw him, a gray little man in a wheelchair. He actually had a blanket over his legs, like Patrick Stewart in "X-Men". Unlike Patrick Stewart’s portrayal of Professor X, he was wearing a t-shirt bearing a screenprinted photograph of a masturbating chimpanzee. I think that particular wardrobe addition would have made the movie way better, but it’s too late for that.
“Give me my present.” He was a tight little ball of anger, that Popcorn Q. Richdale.
“Actually, I’ve got two, and you can, you know, choose your favorite.”
“I want ‘em both.”
“First off, you don’t even know what they are. Second, no. That’s just plain greedy. You get one present. You can choose from this lovely S/V Cable, or the 365 Days of Kittens.”
“Both. I’m spending the rest of my life in this chair, I want both presents.”
“That’s not the way it works.”
“I’ll call our boss, whatsisname. He’ll sort you out, you little bastard.”
“Fine. Take them both. But that’s not what Christmas is all about.” I handed him the presents very slowly, allowing him the maximum amount of time to be infected with the spirit of Christmas. Sadly, it didn’t happen and he grabbed the cable and the calendar from my hands.
I waited again, first for a sudden infusion of Christmas spirit, then for simple social courtesy. Finally, I primed the pump. “You’re welcome.”
He blinked at me, and then turned back to the cable.
“Well, Merry Christmas. I guess I’d better be going.”
“Guess you’d better.”
“I could, you know, pick up your Secret Santa present if you’d like.”
He thought for a moment. “Damnedest thing. I got an e-mail from work saying that I picked Adam Harris in the Secret Santa. Is that you?”
“That would be me.” Was it a Christmas Miracle, or was the whole thing rigged to create a closed loop so nobody except me had to interact with Popcorn Q. Richdale? I didn’t need a mirror to read that solution.
“There’s a tuna sandwich in the refrigerator. Merry Christmas.”
“Oh. Well, thanks. For the Christmas sandwich.”
“Now get out. I have to take a crap.”
“How does that work?”
“What’s the matter with you? You homo freak!”
“I just mean, uh, can you, you know, do that? I thought if you were paralyzed, uh, well, I thought your butt was also paralyzed. I’m sorry. Now I’ll know next time I encounter a person in a wheelchair.”
“Get the hell out of my house!”
There was nothing more to say, so I went into the kitchen, took the tuna sandwich, and left the house.

I’d like to be able to report that Popcorn Q. Richdale’s heart grew three sizes that day, and he became a decent and loving human being. And I suppose I could, since you wouldn’t do the necessary legwork to find out if that statement were true. But, let’s not lie to each other. He sucked then, he still sucks, and he will suck right up until the cold hand of death forces him to stop sucking, and even then he’ll probably cling to sucking for a little while.
It would be nice if there were a moral, or even a conclusion, but sometimes, stuff just happens. It was a pretty good sandwich, I guess. Maybe that’s enough of a resolution for you. Sorry I don’t have a ghostly narrator with an irritating manner of speaking to tie together events using a series of groaningly obvious puns. So, you know, Merry Christmas, I guess.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Ask me about my strategy...

--I can’t believe I forgot to say anything about “The Simpsons Movie” DVD Release yesterday. I am a fool and I hope you can forgive me. I mean, it’s not like I forgot to buy it or anything. Between Christmas and the spunkybean launch and end-of-year stuff at work, my blogging has suffered of late. I’m going to try to get back on track as soon as possible, though. I can’t promise to try, but I can promise to try to try.

--It seems to me like they made a little too much of Todd’s Survivor strategy on the finale. Bottom line is, if James had played an immunity idol, Todd would have been out weeks ago. And then he would have been out again if Denise had understood math or Peih Gee hadn’t been so darned unpleasant. You don’t get to be a strategic genius when your win is ultimately the result of somebody else doing something dumb. He played a good game, but dumb luck was much more of a factor than any of his much-ballyhooed strategy.

Next season’s “Super Fans vs. Fan Favorites” sounds interesting. I just hope they don’t try to cram Poochie, I mean Rupert, down out throat for a third time. They already gave him the special Rupert prize of exactly as much as an actual winner gets. I don’t think we should have to deal with him anymore. And we’re all in agreement that James is the player from this season who’ll be appearing next season, right? That’s what I thought.

And you know, just because you’re a really big fan of Survivor doesn’t mean you’d actually be any good at it. “I spent a lot of time watching people play a physically demanding game in the wilderness, thus, I would probably win.” You know who I’m a big fan of? Batman. Do you know who would suck at fighting crime? Me!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The All-Pilot Project -- Crowned: The Mother of All Pageants

Crowned: The Mother of All Pageants
CW, Wednesday, 8 PM

THE PREMISE: It’s a beauty pageant, only with mother/daughter teams! So you get pageant girls and stage mothers all mixed in together! Isn’t that just super?

THE PERSONNEL: Well, one of the judges is Shanna Moakler. She used to be a pageant winner, she’s married to Travis Barker of Blink-182 (Are they still married? That keeps changing.), and she once punched Paris Hilton. I care about exactly one of those things. Also, she was on Dancing with the Stars, but she left too early to make any kind of impact. Carson Kressley of Queer Eye is another judge. You remember him – he’s the one who’s funny at first and then gets really tiresome.

THE REVIEW: Man, I can’t even feign interest. I’m offended on behalf of women, actually. (And given that I was offended on behalf of Jewish people earlier this week, Jewish women get double points!) All these sad pageant girls and their mothers, all of whom have pageant backgrounds, are thrown into a house where every week, they compete in something pageant-y. I’m not even interested in breaking down each team, because they’re boring and stupid. By the way, the first person on any reality show who talks about their intelligence will do something phenomenally stupid before the end of the first episode. Possibly while they’re telling you how smart they are.

So in the first episode, each pair had to pick a team name and establish an identity. Two of the teams used ‘Bombshells’ in their name, one used the name ‘Hot and Not’, and best of all, one team named themselves after a fart. Seriously, how do you not get that connotation from ‘Silent But Deadly’? Ninjas and farts, that’s pretty much it. (By the way, I call “Farting Ninjas” as the name of my punk band.)

Then there’s the interminable judging scene where each team makes their presentation. I don’t even get this. There are all these weirdly scripted performances where they rhyme at each other or burst into two bars of song. Is this what people do in pageants? Is this why I’ve never cared about them?

Based on the premiere, we’ve already been set up with a villain and an underdog, and I assume that we will learn an important lesson about eating disorders. (The important lesson is: Eating disorders are bad, but we’re going to give the prize to a skinny girl.) It’s just so unpleasant, and everybody has the same weird pageant personality. They’re not even crazy enough to be interesting. They’re the boring kind of crazy!

THE VERDICT: Oh, I’m never watching this again, unless my sister convinces me that it’s turning into a train wreck after a couple of weeks. She’s got a real eye for disaster. Still, stupid and boring, and I want no part of it.

Monday, December 17, 2007

EJ's got the Shanti Virus!

I’m sorry about my lack of blogging of late. I’ve been sick lately. I’ve got some sort of evil flu that’s keeping me down. There is an excellent chance that it’s the Shanti Virus, so I can only hope Mohinder gets here soon.

--I don’t usually watch Family Guy, for a variety of reasons. However, I ended up seeing about two minutes of it last night. In that time, I saw a Colin Farrell joke that came out a 2002 time capsule (note that it still would not have been funny back then, but it would have been current) and then I saw a character who was a vicious anti-Semitic caricature. And there didn’t seem to be any irony or subtlety where it was a joke about the caricature. Sure, it’s possible that there was something contextual or something that paid off at the end, because I only saw the two minutes. Still, it was a little disturbing. For the regular viewers, is this par for the course with Family Guy? What I saw was out-and-out racism. I didn’t really notice that in the episodes that I’ve seen before, but my experience is pretty limited. I’m just interested in whether I missed something that put the racism in context, or if it was just racism.

--I was going to write about the Golden Globes Nominations, but I lack the strength to get properly incensed. Suffice it to say, I don’t know how it’s possible not to include The Office in the Best Comedy category? Californication was funnier? Really? Entourage? I mean, I usually enjoy Entourage, even if I wouldn’t put it on the same level as The Office. I do think this most recent season was, well, crappy. I put most of the blame on Walsh, the lamest one-joke character around. For three seasons, I’ve had to just grit my teeth whenever he shows up. But then they built the whole fourth season around him, and it caused me physical pain.

And the dramas, oh, the dramas. No Lost, Heroes, or The Sopranos. Nothing for The Wire either, but they’re doomed to go unrecognized forever. Poor bastards. I do believe that’s four strikes right there. And I can actually understand blowing off The Sopranos this year, because the finale really bothered some people. Still, how do you not nominate Gandolfini? That’s ridiculous! Essentially, the Golden Globes have no credibility this year.

The one thing that saves the drama field is all the love they’re giving Mad Men. Best Drama and Best Actor in a Drama for Jon “Don Draper” Hamm. That makes me really happy, and I’m almost willing to overlook those high-profile snubs just because of this recognition for one of the season’s best shows.

Note that I said ‘almost’. Ignore Lost and you’re dead to me! Dead!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

spunkybean Heals the Pain!

--Note: In the event that you are my sister, this post contains Project Runway spoilers. After the first section, I promote my other ventures.

Every year I tell myself I’m not going to get emotionally attached. Project Runway is a cruel mistress, and no matter what kind of skill a designer exhibits over the course of the season, it can all be destroyed by a single challenge. And when there’s a chance that the challenge will involve making an outfit out of garbage, you can see why that would be frustrating. Plus, there’s always a chance that the guest judge at the finale will be stupid Debra Messing who’s going to pick Chloe over Daniel Vosovic. Seeing Daniel V. take second because of stupid Grace, that’s just not cool.

I tell myself this every year, and every year it falls apart. Last night, with Steven (my most loved contestant) and Elise (my most hated) as the bottom two, I was on the edge of my seat. And then… NOOOOOO! Delightful Steven who said hilarious things in his funny monotone delivery, and who was so happy about everything – how could you leave me? And knowing we were that close to losing Elise… My heart, she is rent asunder.

Yes, Steven’s dress was not good. On the one hand, poor guy got stuck having to convert a wedding dress. He was at a disadvantage from the beginning. On the other hand, he screwed up by using only tiny swatches from the actual dress. When you get handed a wedding dress, you might as well go crazy. Sure, it will probably suck, and they’ll say it’s “too costume-y”, but as long as you’re on the runway with Chris (who I am happy to see back), who actually had to be talked down from making a sailor suit, you’re never going to be the most over-the-top.

Sad about Jack, but his Diary Room segments would indicate that he’s doing much better now. He handled it well, though, and I wish him good health.

Farwell, Steven. In my heart, you will always accompany Tim Gunn and Andrae to Red Lobster.

--If you are my sister, you can continue reading now.

Remember to click my Google ad and use my Amazon button for any shopping needs this holiday season. All proceeds go toward that awesome new “Blade Runner” DVD release.

And of course, there’s always Sammy Shirts – for all your pop-culture clothing needs. Don’t forget our best-selling Arrested Development line!

--Are you reading spunkybean yet? If not, get on it! Myndi and Don are putting out plenty of awesome on a regular basis. In the last couple of days I’ve posted a review of the Lost Season Three Set (New orientation film in the extras!) and a lost interview with beloved character actor Chewbacca. You’ll want to get in on spunkybean, while we’re a spiky-haired punk. Don’t wait for us to become a bloated arena band before you jump on the bandwagon. (Blatantly ripped off from Dale Gribble.)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

What all the dumb guys are watching...

Other than The Office, most of my favorite shows have thus far seemed unaffected by the Writer’s Strike. All of my shows have still brought me new episodes consistently, right up until last week, when they started to fade. Tonight I’ve got Pushing Daisies, and tomorrow there’s a new 30 Rock, but from here on out, I think there’s only a few episodes of The Simpsons and Scrubs that are still completed. And since I don’t watch American Idol, the networks will be of little use to me.

I don’t write much about the Writer’s Strike because, you know, I don’t actually know things. People who have actual information are much better in a situation like this. I totally support the writers, and I hope they stay strong and get what they want, but I miss Creed so much that I could cry.

One unexpected consequence of the Strike is my realization of just how dumb I am. Without The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, my grasp of world knowledge is tenuous at best. And I can’t really put the things I know into any context. I wasn’t prepared when I found out that Mike Huckabee was polling at 32% in Iowa. He used to be in the low single digits! I remember when the Colbert Bump took him from 2 to 3%! Things are happening, and I have no idea how or why.

This is not the ideal time to be writing about TV for two different websites. (Have you checked out spunkybean yet? It’s really good!) You should plan on seeing a lot of new inductees to the Swear Jar Hall of Fame in the coming weeks, I guess. I mean, you don’t have to plan on it, really. It’s not like you should not go out to dinner because I’ll be posting about Patrick Warburton. That would just be silly.

Anyway, just to give you a glimpse into my madness, here’s some of what my DVR is currently recording to fill my spare time. Not everything, though. I’m going to have to fill a lot of blog entries in the coming weeks…

1. Amazing Race reruns (Game Show Network) – GSN runs Amazing Race in the middle of the night, almost every night. I’ve never seen the first few seasons, so this has really been great. Right now they’re just past the halfway point of Season Two, and it’s fantastic! I sort of wish they kept up the Fast Forward on every leg, as it’s strategically interesting, though the actual tasks didn’t really make for compelling viewing. Currently, I’m marveling at the toolishness of Wil and the sheer, desperate unfunniness of Gary and Dave. They’re trying so hard, and they clearly find themselves hilarious, but it’s hard to imagine anybody less funny.

2. Adult Swim (Cartoon Network) – Honestly, Adult Swim is hurting right now. Most of their good shows aren’t running right now. No Aqua Teen Hungerforce, Frisky Dingo, Lucy: Daughter of the Devil, Metalocalypse, or Harvey Birdman episodes are on the schedule right now. Not even repeats! Right now they’re pretty much tied up with Futurama, Family Guy, and anime blocks. My eyes and brain can’t process anime. I’ve never enjoyed Family Guy, no matter how convinced people are that I’ll love it, and I’ve got all the Futurama DVD’s. Right now I’m getting by on repeats of Home Movies, Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, and Venture Brothers. True, I have the Venture Brothers on DVD, but I need something to watch in that sleepy gap between waking up and getting ready for work. If Brock Samson and Dr. Girlfriend can’t start you off right, nothing can!

3. Gordon Ramsay’s many, many shows (BBC America) – I’ve mentioned my love of Kitchen Nighmares and Hell’s Kitchen before. What I didn’t realize is that chef Gordon Ramsay is apparently revered as a God in England. He has five series that I’m aware of: Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares (like the American version, only with less bleeping), Gordon Ramsay’s F Word (sort of like HBO’s Real Sports, only it’s about food and chefs instead of sports), and Ramsay’s Boiling Point (apparently a reality show about Ramsay). In addition, Kitchen Nightmares and Boiling Point each have a Revisited edition, where Ramsay returns to the restaurants he’s updated. I’m not sure how Boiling Point Revisited works, but the point is clear. Ramsay rules the airwaves! And those are just the series that show up on BBC America. For all we know, he could have 30 shows in England.

See? If you search the schedule, there’s all sorts of glorious stuff to be found. And we didn’t even get into Ninja Warrior!

Monday, December 10, 2007

"I'm Trying to Row" "I Hate You!"

--I saw “Enchanted” this weekend, because I am apparently a woman. It was fun and inventive, and generally enjoyable.

Amy Adams is really good as a Disney heroine come to life. She does sort of look like the template that most Disney females are based on, and she really sells an irony-free performance. I’m sort of in love with her, but I think I’ve only ever seen her as Jim’s girlfriend in the early episodes of The Office, and in “Talladega Nights”. I know she was Oscar-nominated a year or two ago, but not for anything that I saw. Unless it was for “Talladega Nights”. Is that possible? (Also, I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to tell the difference between Amy Adams and Isla Fisher. Truly, they are the Paula Marshall / Carla Gugino of the new millennium.)

I actually really liked the animated sequence that opened the movie. It was nice, classic Disney hand-drawn animation. At the time, I thought it was a huge mistake when they laid off their entire traditional animation division. Their cel animated films had tanked in recent years not because computer animation is inherently superior, but because the scripts sucked. The best thing Pixar did when they took control of Disney’s animation division was to bring back the traditional animators. The scenes in “Enchanted” look more like old-school Disney animation, too. The facial expressions and acting were pre-“Little Mermaid”, which nicely took Amy Adams’ Giselle character out of the faux-feminist mode favored in recent years. Her arc is better if she really does just start out waiting for her prince, rather than the whole “Pocohontas” thing where she has to go on a journey of discovery to realize that she’s just waiting for her prince.

Anyway, I liked it a lot. However, I don’t necessarily recommend seeing it by yourself on a Saturday night. All the talk of true love and such will just make you want to die a little.

--Amidst the previews was an ad for the new season of Lost. That’s right, an ad at the movies! I have a total nerd boner right now. And yes, I know there’s a good chance that we’re only getting eight episodes this season, but for the moment, my enthusiasm is unabated.

Since this was on a movie screen, I didn’t have to ability to go back and Zapruder the footage. So naturally, it was full of quick cuts. A lot of Dharma logos, a lot of people looking horrified, and what appeared to be a cow.

“Whatever they’re here for, it isn’t us!”

--Did anybody else expect a non-elimination leg on Amazing Race last night? I was sure of it, and then… Poor Hendekea. I liked her a lot. Azaria got really creepy in the airport, so I’m kind of glad he left before I had to completely reassess him. I’ve never seen such a strong team eliminated on somebody else’s mistake like that. How do you deal with the fact that a ticket agent blew your shot at a million dollars?

And wow, do I hate Nate and Jennifer. They’re both dreadful, but her overreactions led me to believe he was poking her with knitting needles just off-camera. When an argument over rowing technique heads straight to “I hate you!” without any stops in between, I have to assume that he was somehow causing her physical pain at the time.

--I’ll be back later tonight for a look at Heroes – Oh, wait. Look at that, I just made myself sad.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Happy Birthday, Tom Waits!

That’s right, Tom Waits is 58 today! Happy birthday to the coolest man in America and its protectorates.

Annual whiskey shot in honor of Tom tonight! Swear Jar Buddy Lana will attest to the fact that one year, it took me the better part of 15 minutes to get the shot down. I’m such a 12-year-old girl…

Annals of Douchery

I haven’t even finished watching last night’s Survivor, but I’m really offended. Ordinarily, this wouldn’t rate its own post, but there’s no way this is sharing space with Tom Waits’ birthday.

They had the traditional “Loved Ones Visit Camp to Participate in a Challenge” episode. Todd (the elfin gay Mormon – he’s got a lot going on) saw his sister and embracing, asked about their other (pregnant) sister. Todd’s sister told him that she lost the baby, which is sad and awful. I’m no Todd fan, but my heart goes out to anybody who has to deal with that, especially when they’re on the emotional roller coaster of seeing a loved-one for the first time in 31 days, and then getting bad news, and having more questions than she can possibly answer in that space of time.

Anyway, stupid Probst then made Todd repeat what he had heard for the rest of the group. That’s right, he made him announce his sister’s miscarriage to the whole group, most of whom heard it the first time. And the man betrayed no trace of emotion while he did this. He didn’t have any comforting words for Todd or anything. Help out or shut up, you know?

I’ve never been a Probst fan, as he’s smarmy and kind of sexist, but this took the cake. Dude’s a gaping butthole of the highest magnitude.

There was slight vindication when Courtney (who I’m ordinarily not that sold on) replied to his challenge commentary with “Shut it, Probst!” Kudos to that weird little skeletal brat.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Catching Up on Catching Up

I think I promised to do this last week, but it’s time to follow up on the new series I added to “Record All” this season. Or rather finish up on following up, since I started last week, or maybe the week before. Everything’s blurring together. Was Night Court on the list? What year is this?

DIRTY SEXY MONEY – Every year, there’s a show that I watch in a vacuum. A show that nobody I know watches, and thus a show I can not discuss with my friends. There’s a certain loneliness to that. It makes me feel like I’m doing something wrong, something that should best be done behind closed doors.

I’ve been enjoying this show a lot. For the most part, it’s just over-the-top fun, but Donald Sutherland and Jill Clayburgh keep it grounded. Sutherland in particular is doing the work of his career as a man who’s fantastically successful and yet completely broken. The show has such a great cast, and everybody raises their game in their scenes with Donald Sutherland.

I’m not completely sold on the unifying mystery of which Darling killed Nick’s father. The characters have been developed enough that it’ll be sad when somebody turns out to be a killer. Sort of like the way Desperate Housewives completely fell apart once we learned why Mary-Alice killed herself. The Simon Elder storyline is enough to give the plot the forward momentum it needs. I’m hoping they can come up with an interesting twist that will prevent the resolution from derailing the show.

The storyline with Brian and his illegitimate son was well-done and very effective, especially when you consider what a turd he was at the beginning of the season. The only character who hasn’t really gone anywhere is youngest daughter Juliet, and I’m starting to think that Samaire Armstrong hasn’t lived up to her potential. Only four years ago, she convinced us all that she was a valid rival for Rachel Bilson in the quest for Seth Cohen’s affections. And ever since then, every time she turns up, she’s a slightly worse actress and she looks a little weirder. I’m worried about her.

KITCHEN NIGHTMARES – Holy crap, I love this show! I’ve mentioned my unaccountable fascination with Gordon Ramsay before, so there’s no need to go into it again. Basically, I love his evolution in every season of Hell’s Kitchen where he starts off tearing people down, and then when a small group meets his standards, he gets so excited that he can barely stand still. With Kitchen Nightmares, you get to see that transition every week.

It’s a different venue for him, too. Hell’s Kitchen is pure competition, while here, he tries to fix failing restaurants. His interactions with people are much different, and I’m always surprised to see how charming he is toward those who don’t piss him off.

The best episodes are those where there’s something really glaringly wrong with the restaurant, especially if that thing is a tool of a manager. Rotting food or a manager who tries to beat up vendors who have the audacity to ask for money, that’s good TV. When something big is wrong, he can do something big to fix it, and it’s much more exciting. Every once in a while there’s an episode where an establishment just isn’t quite gelling for indefinable reasons. Maybe those are of more interest to people who understand restaurant management, but for me, it doesn’t get any better than a guy who insists on presenting a giant menu of ‘flavor concepts’ and occasionally breaking down and crying.

I really thought this show was sort of a one-trick pony, but it’s always entertaining and interesting. And I’ve spend the last three months watching both the American and British versions, so I have seen a lot of bad restaurants. I will not rest until I’ve eaten at one, by the way. Anybody want a road trip?

PUSHING DAISIES – This show has really won me over. I was guardedly optimistic about the pilot, and even though the things that worried me didn’t go away, I’ve just accepted them. The narration still bugs, but they have enough good narrator jokes that I can look past it. (Except for when he gives the exact age of the supporting characters. Sweet mercy, when will the hurting stop?)

I love the design, I love the dialogue, and I’m even starting to love the whimsy. Sometimes it goes too far, but they usually make their way back in short order. Personally, I credit Kristin Chenoweth and Chi McBride for that. Their characters are always quick to stomp out cuteness wherever it may fester. Which is weird, because the only way Chenoweth could be more adorable is if she were a puppy.

The logic problems that bothered me have largely fallen away, now that I view the series as more of a fairy tale. The individual mysteries have been witty and complicated enough to keep me from fretting about why Ned doesn’t just wear gloves. It’s a sweet ad good-natured show with a sharp sense of humor, and I like it.

I get the feeling the opening sequences with young Ned are actually leading to something. Sure, they often tie it to the main theme of the episode, but I think there’s a parallel storyline with a payoff just waiting for us.

In all honesty, though, I’m still the weird kid who collected “The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe” when I was 8, and I’m mildly obsessed with why Ned doesn’t resurrect food and fabric with his touch on a regular basis. I know. I’m not normal and I should keep certain parts of myself hidden away from the good and decent people.

REAPER – As much as I like this show, it fell into a rut pretty quickly. Every week, Sam gets a vessel to capture an escaped soul. In their first encounter, he can’t get the vessel to work. In the second encounter, he ensnares them at the last second. Along the way, the Devil shows him a crime scene and messes with his head. The characters are well-handled and the dialogue is quick, but it was more than a little formulaic.

That’s not to say it isn’t an entertaining formula – I was never in danger of giving up on Reaper, but it slid further down the viewing list. However, in the last five or six weeks, the storylines started to vary, and my interest increased. For me, everything started to click again when the Devil warned Sam against telling potential girlfriend Andy about his new life. It made everything so much more complicated, and allowed some more evolution than they’d had.

The meta-story hasn’t advanced nearly as well as in Chuck, but the potential is there. Hopefully the post-strike episodes will follow up on the scene in which Sam’s dad tore a page from the soul contract. That was a mysterious thing to do, you know? And the recent addition of the Devil’s daughter to the cast was a welcome turn. (No, not Lucy. The other daughter of the Devil. And now that I’ve said that, I desperately want H. Jon Benjamin to turn up on Reaper. He and Ray Wise can have a Devil battle.)

Sam’s relationship with the Devil has changed, too. Initially, Ray Wise came off as charming and only mildly manipulative. In recent episodes, we’ve been reminded that he is, by definition, pure evil. It’s a nice performance on Wise’s part.

All in all, just when it looked like a static premise, Reaper really started to move forward. I hope they get more room to build in the near future.

Basically, I remain pleased with seven of the eight shows I added this season (Bionic Woman, why must you underperform? Why can’t you be more like Chuck?), and my magic DVR box continues to work overtime.

Meanwhile, over at spunkybean....

Over at spunkybean, I’ve got a reaction to the Entertainment Weekly list of TV Icons, and a couple of other pieces. I’m quite proud of this one, though.

Mysterious Don reviews Blake Lewis’ CD. He writes like somebody who knows a lot about music, and yet, he has Clay Aiken bedsheets.

Myndi looks at what happened after your favorite 80’s movies, and cracks my ass up.

Nyxadora writes about knitting. You don’t know it’s going to be about knitting until suddenly, it’s about knitting. Check it out!

Every week, I'll have a TV Viewing Schedule previously only available to close personal friends, some reviews, and an occasional lengthier piece. Unless I discover girls, then it's all out the window!

This is really shaping up to be cool, so you should check it out frequently.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

"I'm Really Good at Counting"

I’ve been remiss in my reality recaps lately. I hope you’ve been enjoying Mysterious Don and Myndi, and their recaps of Amazing Race and Project Runway. Let’s jump back into the Race, and Project Runway will come later in the week. Or maybe next week. I live by my own calendar, baby.

I may be crazy, but it seems to me like there’s been less grouping this season. In recent seasons, virtually every leg began with teams waiting for someplace to open so that everybody started the Detour at the same time, regardless of where they finished the previous leg. Most of the gains or losses are made in the tasks themselves, which makes for more interesting viewing. And it’s too early to tell, but it looks like they corrected whatever it was they were doing wrong in the All-Star season. You remember, when teams were routinely stuck in an airport for 18 hours because there was only one flight available and they ran out of seats? I can understand that happening once, but it happened three times last season.

So far, the tasks have been interesting this season – a nice variety of physical and mental, and just plain weird. Nice to see they can still come up with tasks we haven’t seen before, too. Pole vaulting, teaching English, dancing – not just climbing and rappelling this year.

All right, here come the teams. We’ll start with the recently eliminated teams.

MARIANNA and JULIA – I feel like I was the only person who liked them, but that’s mostly because they are pretty. And also their accents went from non-existent to cartoonish is the space of a single sentence. They didn’t really do enough to make an impression, though. When the winners are running for that mat, and we get shots of all the other teams waiting and cheering, I think we’ll all wonder who these two are and if they weren’t maybe on a different season.

LORENA and JASON – Are you bored with me mentioning that Jason wouldn’t let Rory study under her tree yet? I found her to be incredibly shrill and irritating, and Jason’s pathological aversion to marriage actually sort of made sense. You want to keep every escape route open that you can, when you’re dating Shrieky McHysteria. Still, her camel-milking freakout was second only to Colin’s classic “My ox is broken” rant.

SHANNA and JENNIFER – You know, I was way into them at first. By the third leg, they’d already lost their looks. Clearly, these two were held together with makeup, Botox, and complicated underwear, because they looked disturbingly skeletal almost immediately. Of course, if they’d been cool, it wouldn’t have mattered. Nope. They ended up being loud and incompetent. Couldn’t do tasks, couldn’t read maps, couldn’t avoid backing into the path of an oncoming bus.

And the contenders:

KENT and VICKIE – I’m taking Myndi’s lead and spelling their names like a normal human would. You can either wear pancake makeup and pink leopard print, or you can have an eccentric spelling of your name. Not both. I’m getting the weirdest vibe off of him. Like, I think something’s actually wrong with him. They both work from the assumption that he can’t handle physical tasks. Does he have Imminent Death Syndrome? Did he hurt his back lifting his copy of “Absolute Sandman Volume One”? (For the record, I don’t mean to imply that all Neil Gaiman fans are pasty, androgynous attention whores. However, all pasty, androgynous, attention whores are Neil Gaiman fans. If I had the skill, I’d put in a Venn Diagram to make my point.) Also, even though the screen claims that they’re dating, I don’t believe that for a moment. He’s kind of grossed out by her, I think. I actually really like her, as she seems to have interesting and genuine reactions to what she sees. I sort of think she’s going to grow out of this phase and be a real grown-up at some point. Once that happens, I’m not sure who’ll shield Kent from accidental jostling when he wants to go to Hot Topic, but I can’t concern myself with that.

TK and RACHEL – Otherwise known as “Team Smells-like-Otto’s-jacket”. Despite my natural aversion to hippies (More Patton Oswalt-esque than Cartman-like.), I like these two. They’re a nice, functional team, and they’re darned good at most of the challenges. They’re very supportive and good to each other, and I could see them in the finals. I would not, however, follow them to a second location.

AZARIA and HENDEKEA – Another team where somebody seems to be dying. He’s always talking about her ‘physical limitations’, and I’m glad she called him out on it. They’re funny, and I like them. Mostly I like her, as Azaria has a certain prickishness to him. I still like him, but I can see how people wouldn’t. And I feel like he’d be really irritating in person. They’re darned good, though.

NATHAN and JENNIFER – Or “Butt-Chin”, as Myndi calls her. I hate these two. They’re both awful on their own, and then they bring out the absolute worst in one another. I just can’t even imagine a time when these two liked each other. Sometimes when awful people are in a couple, they at least make one another happy. Nope. They hate each other! And they say it. Often. It really doesn’t take much to set them off, either. One of them is running faster than the other? “I hate you! You’re the worst person I’ve ever met.” Despite telling us how athletic they are, both of them have cramped up, at various times, within seconds of starting a brisk jog. And let’s not forget Jennifer demanding that Azaria and Hendekea let them come in first. And THEN complaining that it wasn't fair that they didn't go for that! Most people would just try harder in that situation, but it is an interesting strategy... I call it "The Floyd Mayweather".

NICHOLAS and DONALD – I really like these two. Crusty old guys are always kind of awesome, so I totally support Donald. I’m still partially blind from him stripping down to his underwear in order to jump a stream, though. Great logic on that, by the way. “Huh. I’m unable to jump this stream with clothes on. Might as well take them off.” He’s really carrying the team – he’s done more than his share of roadblocks. Both he and Nicholas seem to realize that Nicholas isn’t really good at things. There’s something I really like about a kid who’d so on Amazing Race with his grandfather, and a kid that age who’s realized that grandfather can kick his ass, well, that’s sort of endearing. I always like those teams where you can tell that a failure in the Race isn’t going to destroy their relationship. Sadly, they’re at the back of the pack too often, and I fear for their longevity.

RONALD and CRISTINA – I can’t believe I was supportive of Ronald after the first episode. In all fairness, he didn’t appear much in that episode. The man is self-righteous, annoying, pushy, and hypocritical. No exchange with him ever ends! Even when he’s wrong, he’ll continue telling Cristina how he was sort of right, and it’s more important to be gracious than right, and she really needs to rethink how she approaches the game, and whatever else he can come up with to condescend to her. He took the time to chastise Nicholas for how he talked to a ticket clerk, in the process being more abrasive than Nicholas had been originally. At least we’ll forever have Ronald’s dance in the African village, which was weird and upsetting, especially since he claimed that he was good at dancing. He chose dancing. And then came up with that glimpse into insanity. Sure, it was no Marie Osmond Freestyle, but it still did things to my brain. As for Cristina, she’s pleasant, but I’m not convinced that she has a personality. Ronald sort of expands to fill the screen whenever they’re around. Maybe she could switch partners and team up with Vickie.

So that’s one team I hate, two teams where I like one of the members, and three teams I like. That’s a pretty good mix. Five of the six teams are gender-mixed, which is unusual. Usually by the time you get to the final six, you can count the number of female contestants on one hand, and still have fingers left over for important pinching-related tasks.

By the way, I’ve been watching the early episodes on GSN lately, and I had totally forgotten that Phil used to only show up to greet the eliminated team. I like that he’s at the Amazing Mat all the time now. The idea that a Phil sighting is a bad sign makes me sad. One should never say “Oh crap. It’s Phil.” Probst, sure. Anytime you see Probst, it’s appropriate to feel a little dread, even if you run into him at the grocery store.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Heroes 2-11 -- "Powerless"

“I didn’t mean to. She was just so weepy and earnest.”

So, 2008? And it’s not even like Heroes will be back right at the beginning of 2008. I give it six weeks before I start to really get the shakes.

I was so caught up that I forgot to take notes for most of the episode. We’ll be relying on my memory, which right now is buzzed like a six-year old at one of those magical toy shops that Christmas movies have led me to believe are commonplace.

Once again, the New Orleans stuff feels like a distraction from the main arc, but at least the story moves along. Unfortunately, her status as a side story leads me to believe that Niki really is gone. It felt more like tying up loose ends than setting up future stories. I can’t believe I didn’t catch it before, but clearly fire had to play a part in this story. Monica’s character in “9th Wonders” is named “St. Joan”. Joan of Arc, burned at the stake, and I didn’t catch it until she was in a burning building. What are you people paying me for? I’m worried about Little Orphan Micah now. When you think about it, he’s crazy powerful, and when machines do the bidding of a traumatized child, that can’t end well.

Clearly, Bob is the worst father in the world. (And yet, only the second worst parent on this show.) His relationship with Elle really upsets me, and I’m hoping Bennett garrotes him at the first available opportunity. On the other hand, he did have a hilarious picture of himself on his desk – he’s posing with a big fish, and he’s so damn pleased with himself in the picture. You can take Stephen Tobolowsky out of “Groundhog Day”, but you can’t take Ned Ryerson out of Stephen Tobolowsky.

The scene with Bennett and Elle? Awesome. Just bouncing that ball while he messed with her head. I would totally watch a spin-off with just those two characters. He’s already working to bring down the Company. It’ll be interesting to see what the Company does with him now. Sure, you can blackmail Bennett into working for you, but he’s already figured out exactly how you’re going to die. It’s not like you’re dealing with Mohinder, you know? Just give Mohinder some syringes and a dead guy’s loft, and he’s placated.

Did anybody hear the crazy ticking clock in Sylar’s first scene? Either their sound design team is made up of freaking geniuses, or I have some sort of disorder that causes me to hear things. I like how Sylar had the upper hand the whole way through, even without his powers. There’s a good villain for you. I also admired his commitment to just start shooting up with whatever syringes were handy.

Clearly, people who are injected with healing blood don’t retain the healing abilities, but I think Sylar might. He copies powers, after all. And they’ve indicated that he might actually eat brains. If he does that, I would think having healing blood coursing through his veins may be a more effective way to copy a power than a brain in the belly. Time will tell. Oh, so much time.

Those guys in the paper warehouse were not too alarmed by the guy walking around with a sword and passed-out Hiro on their floor, were they? I have two explanations – either Peter was using his (rarely-used) invisibility on the three of them, or else this particular paper warehouse was not unlike the Dunder-Mifflin warehouse, and they’re sort of ready for anything.

Hey, that’s the first time Parkman and Hiro have met (in this timeline)! For some reason, I like everybody better when they’re paired up with Parkman, so just imagine the heights Hiro could reach now. And seriously, the joyous “Flying Man!” will always be funny. I mean, for as long as Nathan’s around…. Oh, yeah.

The Hiro / Peter fight was really good. I would have liked to see it go on longer, but Hiro is definitely overpowered there. Still, Hiro is getting more and more adept, and more like his “Five Years Later” incarnation. Sadly, Parkman is getting far too comfortable with mentally manipulating people, which moves him in that direction, too.

Again, they did a good job with Sark not playing it too evil – it was plausible that Peter would follow him as far as he did. He kept a lid on the whole part where he thinks he’s God. (Remember how Bob mentioned flooding early on in conjunction with Adam? Not the first time he’s given that speech. And hey, we’ve already got a Noah. Nice.) And the other stuff in the vault was hilarious. There was a brain, a poker hand, and a giant key, among other things. You can see why that would warrant the same security as the virus that can destroy mankind. What the heck is the Company doing with their time and money? (Actually, and I feel like the cool kids are going to beat me up, I think most of the visible items were specific references to the Justice League Trophy Room. This episode was written by a longtime “Superman” writer, after all.)

I actually liked the way Hiro dealt with Sark. Entombing an immortal is a darned good idea. Plus, it leaves the door open for his return. And it showed us that Hiro is still unwilling to kill. That’s consistent with his character and was a nice reminder that even after everything he’s seen, he’s still a nice guy who knows that with great power comes great responsibility. (And we’ve established that I think David Anders is doing a great job in his role, but that coffin scene freaked me right out. That was believable terror, right there.)

I really thought Nathan would start levitating at the press conference (insert Mitch Yost reference here). I could feel it happening. I was on the edge of my seat, and I totally didn’t see that one coming. Crap! I realize that once you’ve established the healing blood, there’s an open door with every death, but it’s not like anybody at the press conference is going to have a syringe handy so Peter can draw some of his own blood and then inject his brother. Which, by the way, would probably be an even more effective demonstration than floating. First off, nobody had Nathan in the death pool. Second of all, Crap! And Ma Petrelli was OK with it! Not only is she pure evil, but she would seem to still be involved with the Company. She almost had to be talking to Bob at the end there.

Oh, cruel fate. If you had to kill one flying character, why couldn’t it be West? Farewell, Nathan and Niki. I hope you’re only Bennett-dead and not Isaac-dead.

Next up, “Villains”. Yeah, that’ll be awesome.

All in all, this arc started slowly and really picked up steam mid-way through. (You know, exactly like Season One. Faith, people! That’s all I’m asking.) Hard to believe only two months ago there were lengthy scenes of Claire sitting in biology class, you know?

And now it’s off to bed, where I dream sweet dreams of Odessa, Texas.

Presenting... spunkybean!

Have you ever found yourself thinking: “That EJ is one heck of a guy, but I wish there were someplace I could go to find out his opinions on pop culture besides this website where I am right now?"

For those of you who have thought that, we present http://spunkybean.com/!

That’s right, I’m now writing for a professional website featuring people who know what they’re doing. You should recognize several of the contributors from their own mad blogging skillz.

Right now I’ve got a Bob Talbert-esque piece with some rapid-fire opinions, and there’s some other swell stuff too. Check it out, read some articles and bios, and come back often for more fun. Later this week, I’ll be making the case that Space Ghost should have been on the “Entertainment Weekly” list of TV icons, and there will be more awesomeness from people like Mysterious Don, Myndi, and other shadowy figures who I can not confirm actually exist in the physical realm.

I'll still be here at the Swear Jar, too. But this spunkybean should be very cool, and I hope you'll check it out.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Torgo's Executive Powder

I am pleased to report that the original Futurama movie “Bender’s Big Score” lives up to my incredibly high expectations. And when you consider the release date has been on my calendar since last year, those are some serious expectations.

Short version of the story: Nudist alien scammers take control of Planet Express and reprogram Bender for complete obedience. Discovering the secret of time travel tattooed on Fry’s ass, they send everybody’s favorite alcoholic robot back in time to steal history’s greatest treasures. This leads to numerous trips through time, multiple duplicates of Bender, Fry, and Hermes, and a paradox that could destroy reality. Also, Earth goes bankrupt. Clearly, you can already tell that this is the greatest thing ever.

With the length and complexity, they’re able to weave multiple plots and themes, making sure there’s something for all the Futurama fans. There’s the Fry and Leela love story, Bender causing mayhem, exciting space battles, continuity porn for the obsessives, and penis jokes. It’s everything that’s great about Futurama.

You can enjoy the movie without overthinking it, and you don’t need a PhD in Futurama studies. If you’re a longtime fan, though, the rewards are numerous. The time travel fits seamlessly into established continuity, while still putting a different face on events that we first saw years ago. The night Fry was frozen is getting more and more complicated, but it still works. And you’ll learn who piloted the flying saucers that destroyed the city in the series-opening montage. That’s not a question I thought needed answering, but it’s very satisfying.

And for the long-time fans, here’s a PARTIAL list of the supporting characters who manage to play a role in the story: Zapp Brannigan and Kiff, Earth President Nixon, Scruffy, Barbados Slim, Hedonism-Bot, Robot Santa Claus and Kwanzaa-Bot (and the first appearance of the previously referenced but heretofore unseen Hanukah Zombie), The Robot Mafia, Al Gore (both pre- and post- ‘head in a jar’ status), Seymour Butts, Mr. Panucci, Tinny Tim, and God. (Or possibly the remains of a computerized spaceship that collided with God.) It’s a glorious re-introduction to the Futurama Universe, without losing sight of the Planet Express crew.

If you like Futurama at all, “Bender’s Big Score” is the answer to your prayers. If you’re new to Futurama, there’s still plenty of fun to be had. Everything you need to know about the characters is right there, and the continuity stuff is funny enough on its own that even if you don’t know the significance of Fry’s dog, you can still enjoy it. And if you don’t like Futurama, you should consider the possibility that you’re wrong. There’s no shame in that, as long as you realize your mistake in time.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Dancing with the Stars -- Week the Finalth

And so we come to the end of our Dancing with the Stars odyssey. As much as I complain about the filler on the results shows, this one was actually fun to watch. Sure, you could have excised Celine Dion and a couple of the rapid-fire clip packages and taken the running time down a bit, but I was still entertained. Of course, everybody involved was so slap-happy that you had to love it. With a couple of notable exceptions, I really enjoyed the lineup this year, and it was good to see everybody who wasn’t named “Floyd Mayweather” or “Mark Cuban”.

This is the first time they’ve ever handled the finals this way. In seasons One, Three, and Four, they had a two-person Final Round. In Season Two, they had three, but all of them danced for their final judge’s scores before the eliminations began. This year, three people went to the finals, but Marie was eliminated before the final dance. And since Mel and Helio both received perfect scores on their final dance, the only thing it really accomplished was to reduce even further the mathematical significance of Mel’s one-point advantage.

I also liked that all of the eliminated couples got a chance to do a full routine, instead of the usual ten seconds they get in the finals. Mostly I like that Cameron did my favorite dance again. A Superman-themed paso doble! I don’t believe for one moment that Floyd’s doctor wouldn’t let him dance for 90 seconds. Cry-baby. You may remember how it’s everybody’s fault but Floyd’s that Floyd is a bad dancer. I’m kind of surprised that Wayne Newton is going on the tour, though. He wasn’t exactly good, and I don’t think he was really that excited about it anyway. (Side note: I am really battling with myself over whether to go see the tour this year. I can tell myself that I only went twice last year because a woman made me go, but it really was a lot of fun. If the tour actually comes to a local venue, I’ll go see it. I can’t justify driving across the state, though. I really need a girlfriend so I can credit my love of things like Dancing with the Stars and Gilmore Girls to an outside influence.)

I thought Jane’s dance was kind of awkward, and Josie was, unsurprisingly, not good at all. I still like her, because she’s surprisingly funny and her partner described her as ‘deceptively unfit’.

I really didn’t mind the clip packages this time around. It’s one thing during the season when you see clips of the dance you say just 24 hours ago, but I sort of like the walks down memory lane. There were a lot of fun performances this season from a lineup that did not excite me initially. (I am still unsure as to what exactly a “Cheetah Girl” is.)

Anybody else think that next season Cheryl and Julianna are going to have it out? Cheryl does not like being eliminated, and now that somebody else is sharing her back-to-back wins status, there may be a beatdown. Or else they’re the best of friends and I’m totally just creating this rivalry, which is likely. I’m hoping I can get famous and end up on the show in a future season. That’s pretty much the sole motivating force behind my desire for fame.

I can’t decide if I’ll watch Dance War or not. It looks fairly lame, and that’s more Carrie-Anne than I can handle. Still, if the strike is still on (God forbid!) I’m going to need something to write about. (Seriously, after Chuck and Heroes next week, it’s looking like you guys are going to get stuck with lengthy and frequent write-ups on Mythbusters.)

I’m alarmingly late writing this up, so it’s time to finish. I like Helio a lot, and I’m happy for the guy. It would have been nice to have a woman win for the first time since Season One, but deep down, I was pulling for him. (At least a woman made it to the Final Two. Man, ever since Kelly Monaco, it’s been a total sausage fest.)

Despite all the wildfires and deaths in the family and food poisoning and fainting and falls and Mark Cuban and not one, but TWO sets of alarming breasts (Mel B. and post-baby Samantha Harris), it was a fun season, and that’s really all I can ask for. I can hardly wait until the teasers for the next batch of celebrities.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Good News, Everyone!

-Happy “Bender’s Big Score” Day!

Doesn’t the world just seem like a brighter place? There is new Futurama to be watched! It’s been years since there’s been Futurama footage that would be new to me, and it’s like Christmas came early.

In a rare show of restraint, I’m waiting until Friday to watch it. That way I can make it a full night of viewing with commentary tracks and special features and everything else. I’m so excited! I’m just going to start at the box, with its cool lenticular insert. Man, that’s pretty.

I bought four copies at lunch today. (There is a good chance you’re getting “Bender’s Big Score” for Christmas.) When the clerk looked at me like I was crazy, I said “Now, EJ is a smart consumer!” He didn’t get the reference to the final episode, so I just looked extra crazy. I’m willing to look crazy for Futurama, though. On the Great Entertainment Moments of the Year scale, this is on par with the release of “The Simpsons Movie” and my day at an amusement park.

Expect a full review this weekend. And by ‘full review’, there is a chance that I mean ‘Awesome’ followed by an unwieldy number of exclamation points.

-And here’s a sobering thought. Last night on How I Met Your Mother, Barney lost his confidence and gave up on all hopes of talking to woman. To illustrate his fall, he was shown at a bar wearing jeans and a blue hoodie, which was a pretty funny visual. Sadly, last time I went to a bar, that is EXACTLY what I wore. I seriously said “Hey, we have the same hoodie!” during the episode. So, my actual life is how TV demonstrates that somebody has given up. If I think about that too much, I’m going to get seriously depressed.