Thursday, May 31, 2007

100 Posts and a Birthday!

You know what this is? This is my 100th post! I feel like I should get a little star by my name, like with eBay feedback.

Unfortunately, today's work schedule doesn't allow me a lot of time for blogging. Post 100 will not be terribly groundbreaking or lengthy, I'm afraid. Still, I'd like to thank everybody who's been reading, and especially those of you who post comments. Special MVP awards to Mysterious Don, who launched me into the blogging world, and Lana and Rob, who have been faithful readers all along. Technically, Lana's been reading my goofy crap since before I had a blog, so she's eligible for Hall of Fame status.

If I may self-promote, I have some stand-up comedy available for free listening at:

Also, my compatriots and I have merchandise available at:

A lot of it is TV-related, unsurprisingly. I make a very small amount of money with every purchase.

My good friend and mad talented producer/editor Sean has some of his work available for viewing at:

And of course, there's Mysterious Don's Mysterious Blog:

He will American Idol you into submission, I tell you what. We're still arguing over who has to...I mean 'gets to' recap the CW's Farmer Takes a Wife next fall.

Also, Sunday is my birthday. Another year older and I haven't learned a damn thing. My exciting birthday event will consist of heading out to see "Knocked Up" with a bunch of friends. Who knows how to party? EJ knows how to party!

Thanks for your super viewing eyeballs and all your other forms of support. I want to personally make out with all of you. Unless you're dudes, then we can high-five.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Look Back in Bragony

Another look back at a random assortment of shows! Let’s get to it, shall we?

HOUSE – I rarely write about House, but that’s not because of any lack of love on my part. No, House tends toward self-contained episodes, so there isn’t a lot of continuity to follow or speculation in which to indulge. However, if I’d been blogging back during the Tritter story arc from this season, I’d have been all over it. I know there were a lot of fans who weren’t happy, but I really liked the arc. It was nice to see House have to scramble to come out on top, and Hugh Laurie got to act his ass off.

House is one of my favorite TV characters right now, and it’s a pleasure to see his world fleshed out a little more. We know more about the rest of the cast than we did at the beginning of the season, and the revelation that House and Cuddy had sex at some point won me five dollars from a skeptical co-worker. The Chase / Cameron relationship developed nicely. It wasn’t necessarily gripping, but it did make Chase more interesting.

My favorite episodes of the year include “House on a Plane” and “House Fakes Cancer”. (These are probably not the official titles, but you know which ones I’m talking about.) It’s impressive how they can keep creating variations on the “Disease of the Week” format without getting gimmicky.

Bottom Line: If Hugh Laurie doesn’t get an Emmy this year, I will hurt somebody.

THE SIMPSONS – Here’s the thing. I’m a Simpsons fan. I mean, that’s how a lot of people would probably describe me. “EJ? Oh, you mean the Simpsons fan.” So even when they have a bad episode or even a bad season, I tend to keep it to myself. It's sort of like keeping a family squabble within family. I know there's a fairly heavy online contingent who've made a rallying cry out of "Worst Episode Ever" and have been complaining since Season Four that the show's not as good as it used to be, but I'm not one of those fans. They've entertained me for 17 years now, I owe them a certain courtesy. True, I can recognize when they're not up to snuff, but that's between me and the Simpsons, thank you very much.

That said, I honestly feel like this was one of the strongest seasons in years. The clunkers were at a minimum, and there were more than a few excellent episodes. "Revenge is a Dish Best Served Three Times", "Springfield Up", "Stop or My Dog Will Shoot", "Homerazzi", and "24 Minutes" were all standouts. This is the most enthused I've been about the series in years, and I am tearing my hair out waiting for the movie.

Basically, after untold hours watching the show, thinking about the show, and shopping for licensed merchandise, The Simpsons continues to reward my time, and that's saying a lot.

KING OF THE HILL -- Sort of a stealth show. It doesn't have the profile of The Simpsons, it doesn't cause controversy like South Park, it doesn't have the rampant following of frat guys who can't tell humor from pop-culture references like Family Guy. And yet, King of the Hill just keeps chugging away as one of the most consistent shows on the air.

FOX isn't going to show it any love, and in fact, it was briefly cancelled last year. But King just keeps delivering. Bad episodes are few and far between, and not many shows can say that after eleven seasons. And they handle subjects that aren't even going to show up on most shows' radar screens. Mega-churches, city council, even gimmicky ice cream shops. And they rarely weight the scales when it comes to disagreement. Hank's not always right, but he's not always wrong, either. It's a nice balancing act.

BONES -- This is the rare show that I watch when I can, but don't go out of my way to catch it. For an obsessive like myself, that's pretty unusual. It's pretty good, with some occasional glaring lapses in logic. I like the relationship between Bones and Booth, and Bones' awkwardness when dealing with normal social interaction. Not much more to say, but it's solidly above average.

ARE YOU SMARTER THAN A 5th GRADER? -- Sorry, but seeing adults who lack the ability to do simple math just makes me sad. Get out of here, Foxworthy.

NIP/TUCK -- This season was a breath of fresh air after the steaming mess of Season Three. (Although last season worked better on DVD, but I'll get into that in a Box Set Riot at some point.) Without the Carver story or the obligatory "Sean and Christian go their separate ways" arc, they just settled in and delivered the twisted story and fetishized sleaze that we've come to expect.

Kimber and Matt as Scientologists? Amazing. Julia's affair with a little person? Gold! The return of Escobar Gallardo? Woo-hoo! Sure, they head for style over substance, and they're not quite as clever as they think they are, but it's absolutely addictive.

Personally, I'm glad to see them move the practice to Hollywood, just for the stories it opens up. I want me some Hollywood satire, and McNamara/Troy are the ones to deliver it. (Did that sound hacky to anybody else? I feel like maybe I started to suck right there.)

NOTES FROM THE UNDERBELLY – I kind of like this show. It’s got one of the worst titles ever, and it regularly lapses into sitcom cliché. However, it’s got Rachael Harris, who was on The Daily Show and is, therefore, awesome. She’s just dripping with bitterness at all time, and I love it.

It is a little weird that the husband is the narrator on a pregnancy-themed show. I don’t know what to make of that. And isn’t pregnancy an inherently limiting concept for a series? She’s got to have that baby sooner or later. And babies, man, babies are death to comedy. (Unless they’re Maggie Simpson, of course.) What exactly are they going to do next season? Somehow, I don’t think they’ve really thought about that.

GILMORE GIRLS – I’ve mostly discussed the cancellation, so I really should look at the actual season. It’s unfortunate that so much screen time went to the Lorelai-Christopher relationship and (shudder) marriage. Everybody knew it wasn’t going to work, and we were stuck waiting it out. And it’s not like anybody likes Christopher. NOBODY likes Christopher.

Still, there was a lot to like in the final season. The return of Marty, even if he did turn out to be all sullen and weird, for example. Lisa Weil, as Paris, has remained an episode-saver after all these years. Luke’s custody battle was far-fetched, but entertaining and kind of sweet. And let’s face it, everything after Christopher found Lorelai’s letter was awesome.

Grandpa’s heart attack put me through the wringer. That poor guy had more foreshadowing of his death than Charlie, after all. All he needed was a Scottish man telling him that he would die. Thankfully, they were just toying with us, because a world without Richard Gilmore is not a world I want to visit.

I liked seeing the awkwardness between Lorelai and Luke. Also good was the way that Lorelai’s relationship with Emily got ever more complicated. Drunken karaoke, Rory’s graduation, Lane’s babies… Maybe it wasn’t the best year in Stars Hollow, but it was still pretty damn good.

VERONICA MARS – Another one I’ve only really discussed in relation to cancellation. Sadly, this was the weakest season. That’s not to say it was bad, but if you actually go back and watch Season One on DVD, there’s a noticeable drop in quality. I really think they needed a season-long mystery to drive the series. I also feel like the move to college presented a lot of opportunities that were never fully exploited. True, the kids at Neptune High acted like they were 30, so it’s not like college offered a lot of new vistas in terms of sex, drugs, or murder. Still, a university is a rich setting that they should have used better. Maybe they could have played off the disparity between the native kids from Neptune and the other students. Somehow work with the idea that the city of Neptune is profoundly screwed up, and then deal with how these college kids from other parts of the country react to it.

And, let’s face it, using a serial rapist as the first mini-mystery presents all kinds of problems. I’m pretty unflappable when presented with unpleasant behavior in quality entertainment. (In real life, however, I’m easily flapped.) And even for me, eight episodes about college girls being raped was a little too much. I can only imagine that people who aren’t members of the OZ fan club were completely put off.

It’s like I said before, this season, the show didn’t live up to the characters. Veronica is one of the single-most interesting characters on network TV, and she just didn’t get to do anything that was worthy of her. The ‘Veronica in Jail’ episode was a delight, if only because it gave her the opportunity to do something.

It makes me sad that I’m picking on a show I loved this much. I really would have loved to see it back. Even sub-par Veronica is better than no Veronica, and in fact, better than most of the network offerings. At least I’d like a TV-movie wrapping up the series. That final episode was not meant as a series finale.

Tune in tomorrow for more recaps and my 100th post!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

That Was the Season that Was

Well, the season has pretty much wrapped up. There are a lot of shows that I didn’t really talk about much, so I think it’s time to rectify that. Buckle your seat belts, because we’re heading in for a look at the shows I watched this year. This won’t be a comprehensive list, because I watch a lot of stuff. I’ll just limit it to the shows where I have something to say. And this will mostly be shows that I like, because there’s really no point in kicking the corpse of Studio 60 around any more.

No rhyme or reason to the order. I’ll just do a bunch every day until I burn through the list. We’ll do reality shows today.

AMAZING RACE – My favorite reality show. (Aside from Big Brother, and we’re not really ready to talk about that just yet.) We had two races this season, and way more Mirna than I ever wanted to see. The All-Star series was fun, with mostly well-chosen contestants. Some of them were a little too forgettable for a second run, in my opinion. And I don’t know what’s wrong with Drew, but it made me sad to see him again. Something’s seriously wrong with his health. He and Kevin were the couple I was most looking forward to, and it was just sad. At least we still have Season One.

The All-Star round suffered from some poor planning. It shouldn’t happen that people are separated by 24 hours due to a lack of flights, and it sure as hell shouldn’t happen multiple times. Still, you really have to admire Eric and Danielle. They had the worst luck with flights, including getting kicked off a plane after they boarded. They were yielded twice, and they made some bad roadblock decisions, and they still made it through. They earned that win. If Mirna had won, I would have absolutely freaked out. Stupid Mirna. She’s so insulting. Borderline racist, condescending, and sanctimonious – that’s a thoroughly unlikable combination.

In the season’s first round, I mostly wanted to smack the Cho Brothers. Dudes, you can’t win if you aren’t willing to pass people. Nice guys, but not bright. I was also glad to see Bilal and Saeed eliminated quickly. I really liked them, and I admire their commitment to their Muslim faith. Still, stopping to bow to Mecca in an airport is going to bring trouble on your heads. It sucks, but it’s a fact. They seemed like such nice men that I would have spent all season actively worrying about the obstacles that they’d face.

Also, I still say that one of the Beauty Queens was really hot, and the other was kind of scary, but I can’t remember which was which. I mean, I can pick them out by sight, but I can’t keep their names straight.

DANCING WITH THE STARS – I’ve written at length about the most recent season, so I don’t really have much to add. At first, I enjoyed it ironically, and now I have my own ‘10’ paddle. I have to assume Samantha Harris won’t be back next season, as she’ll be deeply pregnant by then. I’ll miss her drunken incompetence.

I think the best thing about the show is that in four seasons, I’ve liked all the winners. There’s no Cyrus or Kiebler screwing with the flow. By the way, I got a friend tour tickets for Christmas last year, so feel free to mock me. Still, it was quite a show, and Lisa Rinna looks way better in person than she does on TV. I think the camera emphasizes her various surgeries, or something. I never saw myself as the kind of guy who’d be sitting there, applauding Drew Lachey, but my life has taken some odd turns.

PROJECT RUNWAY – My second favorite reality show! It’s just so well put-together and compulsively watchable. Plus, Tim Gunn is the third member in my personal TV trinity, (Locke and Dwight are the other two.) and the turtle poop incident is right up there with Red Lobster in his personal highlight reel. The contestants were interesting, with eventual winner Jeffrey as probably the most polarizing designer ever on the show. Personally, I think Uli’s final collection was the best, but there you go.

And it’s great to find out that Heidi Klum is actually crazy. I don’t know if it’s the constant pregnancies or what, but that woman is nuts. Speaking of nuts, who will ever forget Vincent? It’s not bad enough that he was creepy and prone to fits of anger, but his regular expression of approval was “It gets me off.” Shudder.

I think there should be a new season premiering this summer, and everybody should watch it. Don’t blow it off because it’s about fashion. I mean, I rarely go a week without wearing a Batman shirt, but that doesn’t stop me.

THE SEARCH FOR THE NEXT PUSSYCAT DOLL – I feel so dirty, but this show was absolute sleazy fun. Ideally, it should bother me about the image of women presented, but when you’ve got wannabe dancers vomiting at their auditions because of a rampant stomach virus, you’ve got all kinds of fun.

Sure, Asia probably shouldn’t have won it, but she hasn’t exactly been seen with the Dolls since, so it’s not really much of a prize. It’s like how nobody ever gets married on The Bachelor. The point is the journey and the train wrecks along the way.

The conventional wisdom is that the success of Doll killed Veronica Mars, but that’s crazy talk. And I’m not saying that of the two shows, Doll is in any way superior, but that’s the show that people watched. Watching this show didn’t prevent anybody from watching Veronica. True, it took Veronica’s time slot, but considering that first-run episodes of Veronica Mars generally place 6th out of five networks, it’s not like the repeats that would have run in the time slot would have saved the show.

Let’s face it, watching a bunch of teenage girls freaking the hell out over getting to meet a Pussycat Doll for the sixth time will always be funny.

THE APPRENTICE – Yeah, I’m going to miss it. I’ve talked at length about it here before, but this went from being an interesting show about the business world to the weirdest damn experiment in psychological warfare that you’ve ever seen. Either way, you can’t take your eyes off it.

The really unfortunate this is that I won’t be able to put a new season on my Magic DVR Box. In past seasons, there have been times when a contestant seemingly appeared midway through the season, and I always want to go back and confirm that they were actually on the premiere. There’s still a contestant from Season Three (I can’t remember his name), about whom I’m convinced that he was actually a member of the crew who mistakenly got on camera so they had him fake it. Farwell, sweet Trump.

Wow, this is going to take a lot more time than I thought. Tomorrow, more shows! And feel free to let me know if you have any Summer viewing picks. I’m running out of stored episodes of Dirty Jobs, and I need your suggestions.

Weekend Movie Viewing: Shrek the Third

I like the “Shrek” franchise way more than I should. Now, I’ll freely admit to being Pixar’s bitch. I’ve loved all of their movies to an almost disturbing degree. Until recently, though, most of the computer-animated movies from other studios have disappointed me. There’s a difference between putting mature humor in a cartoon and packing it with pop-culture references that kids won’t get. Pixar excels at the former, too many other movies have been spoiled by the latter. Will the Britney Spears gags in “Robots” still be funny in five years? Considering they weren’t even that funny when the movie was released, I’d have to say no. In the last year or so, “Monster House” and “Happy Feet” remained blissfully free of Best Week Ever-style jokes like that, so it’s possible that timelessness is starting to catch on.

The first two “Shrek” movies are stuffed with parodies. Granted, most of them are broad enough that they’ll probably retain their appeal. “Matrix” and “Ghostbusters” jokes age well. Still, it’s a slippery slope. And the cast is made up of people I can’t stand. Mike Myers is becoming increasingly one-note and irrelevant, I don’t even know where to begin with Eddie Murphy, and the presence of Cameron Diaz will generally keep me away from a movie. And yet, I love their “Shrek” characters. I don’t care about “Norbit” right now; Donkey’s just plain funny.

In “Shrek the Third”, there’s an unfortunate tendency to bring back all the characters who got laughs in the first two movies to do their shtick once again. Granted, most of this shtick is funny, but it’s starting to get bloated. Any affection for the lead characters depends on your familiarity with the first two movies, because Shrek and Fiona don’t have any room to breathe. (However, the body-switching with Donkey and Puss is genius. It gives them a lot to do with limited screen time. Nice work on that.)

And casting Justin Timberlake as Arthur is just unfortunate. Not everybody’s cut out to be a voice actor. Even worse, the character sort of looks like JT, which is just disorienting. (I’m telling you right now, by the time he’s 45, Timberlake will look exactly like Larry Fine.) It’s too bad they wasted John Krasinski (Jim!) in such a small role, because he would have nailed it.

Maybe injecting father issues into the “Shrek” franchise wasn’t the greatest idea anyone’s ever had. “Shrek” works best when it plays with standard fairy tale tropes, and absentee fathers aren’t really a recurring theme there.

However, I do have that affection I spoke of earlier, so I’m predisposed to like the movie. And what really sold it was the appearance of a quartet of fairy tale princesses, in particular Snow White (Amy Poehler) and Cinderella (Amy Sedaris). The whole thing, with the princesses taking control of their own fates, was a lot of fun, and I wish the movie would have focused more on the gender roles in fairy tales. That was what paid off the most for me.

There’s some great voice casting: Eric Idle and John Cleese are reliably funny. Larry King and Regis Philbin as the stepsisters is absolutely inspired casting. And best of all, Ian McShane (Deadwood’s Al Swearengen) as Captain Hook! And since Tom Waits provided Hook’s singing voice in the second movie, he’s clearly the greatest character in movie history.

Sue me, I liked it. The jokes were funny, and the story hit most of the notes that it needed. I’d suggest that they dump Artie and give the leads more to do in the next movie. Also, I’d pay good money to see a full-length movie starring the Shrek version of Cinderella. That’s good stuff.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Son of Ten Little Things I Love about TV

I'm still sort of a twitchy mass from the Heroes and Lost finales. Throw in Dancing with the Stars and what seems to be 1000 other finales that I saw this week, I'm awfully tired. That means it's high time for another installment of Ten Little Things I Love about TV!

1. (Dancing with the Stars) The coveted mirrorball trophy! It's the ugliest award on television, and it apparently cost about twelve dollars to make. I love when ten weeks of back-breaking work is awarded with that ugly-ass trophy.

2. (Aqua Teen Hunger Force) Whenever Master Shake drops or throws an object, it explodes. I'm told there's an episode that explains this, but I really don't care. All I know is it's funny every time it happens.

3. (Veronica Mars) Public Defender Cliff! He's the best character on the show. He'll be getting an "I Heart Supporting Characters" post of his own one of these days.

4. (My Name is Earl) Mr. Turtle. Come on, admit it. You all love Mr. Turtle, too.

5. (Curb Your Enthusiasm) Larry David's "Jewish" voice. Used to best effect in Season Five when he tried to befriend a strict Orthodox Jew, it's absolutely hilarious. It might even be funnier than his WASP voice, and that's really funny.

6. (Entourage) Viking Quest, baby! Johnny Drama's short-lived cult show, it live on in the hearts of its fans. Victory! Now, how about producing an episode for the DVD's? Please?

7. (Futurama) America's second favorite janitor, Scruffy. A man of few words, every single one of those words is funny. "Scruffy's wheelin' in a large pill."

8. (The Office) Did you know Andy Bernard went to Cornell? I'm sure he's mentioned it...

9. (House) You know that big pinkish ball that sits on House's desk? It looks like a greatly ovesized tennis ball? Yeah, that one. I don't know where that ball came from or who makes garishly-colored, non-regulation tennis balls, but it soothes me somehow. Especially when House does tricks with it.

10. (Lost) Locke's alive! I know that's not technically a 'little thing', but it makes me so happy that it bears repeating. You can't even imagine the mess I'd be if they left his fate up in the air at the season finale. You know, like they did last year. Those were dark times.

I hope all of you have a fine Memorial Day weekend! I'll be back Tuesday for more fun.

And Now, a Message from John Locke

This morning, I received the following e-mail from "John Locke". My reaction was similar to that of Dwight receiving a fax from Future Dwight.

With Locke's permission, here's his e-mail.

Hiya, EJ:
So sorry I couldn't get in touch with you last week'll understand during Season 3 me.
Anyway, I'm fine.
I probably shouldn't tell ya, but I will. It's not me in the casket. That's all I can say. I hope you understand. I mean, look at last night, for example. If I would have simply explained to Jack why he shouldn't contact the rescue boat it would have saved ..helped.
Hope you understand, though. You will. In time. Basically, once you know, then you'll know why me and Ben can only make cryptic statements and claims but can't actually verbalize the "why" and "how" of it all.
What? You look like you've seen a ghost? Haha. Just a little island humor for ya.
p.s. I love your blog.

LOST 3-22 "Through the Looking Glass"

That was an emotional roller coaster, wasn’t it? I’m still a little shaky. I have witnesses who can verify that my pen actually flew out of my hand when Locke showed up.

First off,

Dear Lost writers,
Thank you for saving Locke. I never doubted you for a minute. If you need me to wash your car or run some errands for you, or maybe you need a donor organ, you know where to reach me.
Your friend,


Dear Purgatory theorists,
Your friend,

I’m kind of a mess right now, but let’s start with the reverse flashbacks. Flash-forwards? Now, there are some who will claim that the island scenes are actually flashbacks, but we saw scenes in which Jack wasn’t present. It’s a pedantic point, but that’s what we do here. There were clues that this was post-island time, notably Jack’s cell phone – they didn’t have slim cell phones before 2004. Or else they did and I just couldn’t afford one. Still, I think they did a really good job of keeping us on the hook right up until the last scene there. By the by, Mysterious Don sent a link from Lostpedia that points out the name of the funeral parlor “Hoffs / Drawlar” is an anagram for ‘Flash forward’. Nice!

We know that Jack is viewed as a hero – the doctor called him ‘a hero twice over’. Once was for saving the woman in the crash, the other must have been leading his people to safety. And when the guy in the pharmacy recognized him from the news, he was probably referring to a certain island rescue. Something tells me Jack didn’t do a lot of interviews after saving Ms. Arlen from the wreck. And note that Mrs. Arlen had a fractured back, like Sarah and Locke.

Jack’s popping pills like Dr. House! Or Paula Abdul, for that matter. If he’s that miserable, it leads us to the creepy possibility that Benry was actually telling the truth for once. And once that happens, everything’s gone topsy-turvy. And as Sean said, it’s probably a lot easier to score painkillers if you shower and put on a clean shirt first.

“Why don’t you call my father down here, and if I’m drunker than he is, you can fire me right now.” First off, I started to make that joke, but Jack beat me to it. That line sounds like Christian is alive (and you know I’ve got my suspicions about him), but in retrospect, it could also be Jack playing the ‘Dead Dad’ card. We know Christian’s alcoholism was pretty widely known and largely tolerated at the hospital, so it’s not unreasonable to look at it that way. “Hey, remember my dead dad? You didn’t care when he was drunk!”

And then there’s that last scene. Note all the maps around Jack’s apartment – there has to be a reason that he can’t find the island. You would think that once they were rescued, the island would be pretty easy to find. We’re going to see some rough stuff over the next few seasons. (The fact that Oceanic Air gave them golden passes cracks me up, by the way.) As somebody pointed out last night, Kate never says to him “Why don’t you go back, then?” She just says that he can’t go back. And why isn’t Kate in jail? I imagine that she could have gone to trial and gotten a sympathetic jury. (“That poor girl who was marooned killed her abusive father. I’m sure he had it coming.”) Or she adopted the name of one of the dead. I’m sure they have their reasons.

So, who was in the casket? Lengthy discussion last night pointed to Sawyer. That’s why Jack assumed that Kate in particular would be there. And who else would go to Sawyer’s funeral? And it’s not hard to imagine that Sawyer will be able to make Kate hate him at some point in the future. He’s already working on it. Still, it could be almost anybody. Could be Locke, maybe Benry. Michael? It’s somebody Jack described as neither friend nor family, and I think he’d be more charitable toward most of the Lostaways. I’m willing to rule out Hurley, Sun or Jin, and Rose or Bernard, as they would all have at least one person who’d attend their funeral. And Kate is married to or living with somebody. Could that be Sawyer?

Pretty bold move to show us that not only will at least two of the cast members get off the island, but life will suck hard for them after. You have to admire that.

And now the island section. First, let’s say good-bye to those we lost.
Eight unnamed Others
Big Violent Ryan
Mikhail (possibly)
Tom aka Zeke aka Big Smith
And of course, Charlie

This was a bloodbath! True, Mikhail has survived bloody head holes and a spear gun attack, so I’m not entirely sure that a grenade would do him in. I think we might see him again.

So Benry was once again lying to everybody, and it seems they’re getting sick of it. I think any support he had among the Others is pretty well gone. I like that Benry told Mikhail and the other Others that Bonnie and Greta were ‘on assignment in Canada’. That’s sort of the go-to for lies. Remember how Ethan told the Lostaways he was from Canada? And how when Benry was in school, he used to tell people that he had a girlfriend, but she lived in Canada and he was going to go visit her for the summer, and then he did a lot of research about Canada so he could fool everybody when school started again? Oh, did I say Benry did that? I meant ‘EJ’. Sorry. Still, you get my point.

Man, Benry’s willing to kill every last person to make sure nobody leaves the island. And yet, he had his people fake the deaths of Sayid, Jin, and Bernard. He’s much more willing to kill his own people than the Lostaways. Not exactly an inspiring quality in a leader. Plus, he says Jacob told him to lie. I’m not inclined to believe that.

Benry told Richard “BatManuel” Halprin to lead the Others to ‘the temple’. This, I believe, is the first we’ve heard of a temple. I mean, it makes sense that they’d have one, what with the altars and cult behavior, but the actual existence of a temple unsettles me.

By the way, did anybody else see that Jin was really mad when Bernard broke down? Jin was totally ready to take that bullet. Also, I’m so happy they didn’t kill Bernard. He’s not my favorite character or anything, but I always like to see him and Rose. Last week it seemed like the most obvious foreshadowing ever that he would die.

I can’t decide if Charlie was the best prisoner ever, or the worst. I mean, he pretty much blew Juliet’s cover and the Lostaways’ plan, but he did believe that as long as he shut off the machine, everybody would be rescued. I think that’s why he locked himself into the cabin before the grenade exploded. He knew how Desmond’s flashes work. If he didn’t drown, that might mean no rescue helicopter for Claire.

Now, Charlie and I have had our differences. There have been times when I’ve actively encouraged Desmond to take a day off from the whole ‘keeping Charlie alive’ thing. But I am going to miss that weird little man. And he died doing something he rarely got to do in life – advancing the plot. Godspeed, little Hobbit. You all, everybody.

I absolutely loved Juliet and Sawyer together. “We’re building a runway. For the aliens, of course.” Cracked me right up. Besides, it really did give me hope that there’s somebody keeping track of all these unexplained details. When the characters are asking why they’re breaking rocks, somewhere there’s a writer who knows the answer.

You know, I’m starting to think that Benry really would allow the Lostaways to live in peace if they just left him alone. He told Alex he was taking her to her ‘new family’. I suspect he was going to banish her and leave her with Jack and friends. True, the guy could talk you into tearing your own throat out and thanking him for the opportunity, but I really do think he’d be willing to let them all return to their camp safely.

Happiest moment of the season: It’s Locke! I watched this in a room full of people who immediately recognized a close-up of Locke’s eye. My friends are nerds, too! And then we all cheered. And then he turned the gun on himself, and we all freaked out. And then Walt showed up, and we made loud confused noises. So, what’s up with Walt appearing? I assume that wasn’t the real Walt. You’ll remember how his image appeared to Shannon in Season Two, only he talked backwards and inadvertently got Shannon killed. Does Walt bi-locate? Was that actually Jacob? That’s what I think. I don’t know why Jacob appeared as Walt, but that kid has weird powers.

You know, now that I think about it, Naomi’s gear didn’t have any Dharma logos on it. We know that Penny is involved (on some level) with Dharma/Hanso, so Naomi and her boat are a whole different set of players. She knew Desmond’s name and had his picture, so Desmond is very important to somebody. Who that is, we don’t know. But if Benry calls them ‘the bad guys’, they’re either very bad indeed, or actually good guys. Don’t even try reading that guy’s moral compass.

If anybody has ever deserved a savage beating, it’s Benry. He had every single punch coming. And the reunion of Rousseau and Alex was really nice. “I’m your mother. Help me tie him up.”

The hostage rescue on Camp Lostaway was really satisfying, wasn’t it? I mean, first you have Hurley saving the day, then Sayid, still tied up, snaps a man’s neck with his legs. And then Sawyer guns down Tom after he surrendered. “I didn’t believe him.” Hee. Tom was a hard guy to read. He was sort of Benry’s go-to, but at the end it seemed like it wouldn’t take much to get him over to Team Locke. And Jack sure looked happy playing football with him. Psycho or nice guy? You were a mystery, Tom.

Once again, we’ve got a case where Penny has the details but not the big picture. She knows how to contact the island, but doesn’t know where it is or even that it’s an island. Either she’s been left out on a lot of things, or else Hanso is not so good with the record keeping. We’re going to have to get more information next season. (Hey, producers – what happened to that promise that we were going to find out more about Ice Station Impossible this season? I’m not going to pitch a fit, because of all the other awesome you’ve dealt out. Still, I’m keeping an eye on you.)

And at the end, once again we have Locke and Benry with the same basic goal, but for different reasons. You have to admit, it was pretty awesome how Locke took Naomi out with the knife. And Locke isn’t a killer – for him to do that, he must know that the consequences of the phone call are going to be devastating. While we were watching, somebody in the room asked why he didn’t just explain it to Jack rather than going for the gun. Since his explanation would begin with “I met an invisible man who only talks to me…” and ends with “…Ghost Walt fixed my legs and told me we can’t leave the island.”, I can’t imagine it would have helped his case. Still, that glimpse into the future shows us that Locke is right!

Hey, just got sent a screen shot of the obituary. It clearly says “Man found dead in downtown loft” – The paper is actually folded where the name is, but the first letter is clearly ‘J’ and the last name seems to end in “-antham”. If you strain your eyes terribly, you can see that he was found dead by his doorman, hanging from a beam in his apartment. The name doesn’t fit anybody we know, and now that I think about it, that was kind of a small casket. The mystery deepens.

And another update! I just got an e-mail from John Locke! This is the most awesome thing ever. He assures me that it’s not him in the casket, and that one day I’ll understand. And really, I think we’ve all learned that it’s best to take Locke at his word. I’ll post his message on my blog if he gives me permission.

There’s probably more to say, but this is reaching thesis length. If I come up with anything more, on the re-watch, I’ll let you know. Thanks for all the support and kind words this season. Thanks to Sean (the real-life Locke) for all of his theories and Mysterious Don (the real-life Jacob) for screencaps, translation, and obsessiveness. Thanks to Sam (the real-life, I don’t know, Jin?) for history lessons and anagrams. Thanks to Becky (the real-life Melissa) and Melissa (the real-life Becky) for spreading these e-mails all over the place. And thanks to Sara (the real-life Johnny Drama), Kelli (the real-life Agent Weiss), and Ben (the real-life Benry, probably) for their input and kind words. If I forgot to thank you, please let me know who you’re the real-life version of, strictly for record-keeping purposes.

Ever yours,

The Real-Life Andy Barker, P.I.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

How to Stop an Exploding Man

Every week, I send out a Lost e-mail to a group of friends, acquaintances, and virtual pals. I cut and paste those e-mails to this blog every Thursday. The earliest one I still have on file went out halfway through Season One, and consisted of two paragraphs sent to three people. Now, they run about 2-3 pages and I have confirmed at least 30 recipients. Anyway, that's why occasionally you'll notice references to friends of mine showing up in the recaps. (Particularly Sean, the real life Locke.) About a month ago, somebody suggested I do Heroes, too. Since I LOVE Heroes, that seemed like a good idea. They're not quite as in-depth as the Lost recaps, since it's only Season One, and I don't have a readily available DVD archive.

Anyway, since the finale was awesome, here's my recap, as taken from the mailing list. You will note many references to people I know, but many of them had theories and I wanted to credit them properly.

Wow. That was a finale, right there! I'm looking through my notes and I see several points where I simply wrote 'Yay!' Also, near the beginning I wrote 'Peter's blind faith makes me sad.'

An interesting question posed by Rob: Why didn't Peter use his own power of flight to get away from everybody? Lana's theory is that he can only use one power at a time, and I don't think we've seen anything to contradict that. I seem to remember him turning visible before flying a while back, so that seems like a sound hypothesis. In the future-set episode, he never used more than one power at a time, either. Personally, I thought that since he was losing control, he couldn't get any of his powers to work properly. However, now I like the 'one power at a time' idea better.

Another Rob point is that Candice should have changed into some giant hideous woman when she was knocked out, as she indicated last week that what we see isn't her real form. If I could fan-wank a response, I'd say that since she keeps that illusion up all the time, it's almost an automatic function for her. (And don't you feel sorry for that actress? "So, for the finale, we just need you to lay on the floor for a second. See you next fall!" Still, that's one more second of screen time than Hanna Kittelman got.) Since her illusions didn't all disappear simultaneously – first she reverted back to Candice, then Micah disappeared – maybe in another couple seconds, we would have seen the real Candice. (Maybe Candice is really a man. That would be super creepy. Get on that for next season, Kring!)

And Rob's next suggestion (God almighty, get your own blog!) is that Mohinder might have a healing power, since he seemed to get DL on his feet without much trouble. I hadn't thought of that, but I wouldn't be surprised to find out Mohinder has a power -- he does seem to be adept with the healing. Besides helping DL, we've seen that he's packed full of child-saving antibodies. So far we haven't seen any duplication of powers, but there's no reason he couldn't have the same power as Linderman. There's probably more than one flying man out there.

So Simone's father was part of the previous generation of Heroes, too. You knew when they cast Shaft in that role, he had to have some back story. It seems there was a serious ideological split in that group, with Ma Petrelli and Linderman on one side, Shaft and George Takei on the other. I can't wait to see more about them. It seems to me that with the non-destruction and the deaths of Linderman and Thompson, anybody else who was on their side might be a little bit miffed.

Before Sylar's eyes went dead at the end, they flashed a montage of his victims, ending with Matt. First off, don't die, Matt! Second of all, what do you suppose he was doing in that Montage of the Brain-Eaten? If Parkman survives, I don't think he's going to have a pleasant time next season.

I may be wrong, but it seemed to me like Niki and Jessica merged. When Niki rescued Micah, she looked in the mirror and saw herself, which never happens. Also, now that Peter's met her, he has her Crazy Lady Super Strength.

Hey, Bennett's first name is Noah! I've been calling him 'Aaron' all season. Did anybody every actually call him by that name, or did I make that up because I used to work with a guy named 'Aaron Bennett'? He wore horn-rimmed glasses, too. But he called everybody 'Chief', which I can't really imagine Bennett doing. If I've been wrong all this time, I'm going to be so embarrassed. Don't look at me. I'm hideous!

So there's somebody out there worse than Sylar. "When I think about him, he can see me." Man, that's creepy. Now, either Sylar dragged himself down that manhole, or somebody did it for him. Sylar looked seriously dead to me, but that guy's got all kinds of tricks. In the last shot of the scene, there was a cockroach on the manhole cover. Early in the season, I seem to remember there were always roaches at the scene of Sylar attacks. (Unless this is another 'Aaron' thing where I've just lost my mind.) That whole thing dropped off once we actually met our favorite psycho brain-eater, so maybe they were actually a harbinger of this other guy.

I've wondered whether or not Peter would absorb all of Sylar's acquired powers or not. The only one he seemed to pick up was Sylar's telekinesis. When he was training with Claude, he had to think of how he felt about Claire or Nathan to use their powers. He never met Super-Hearing Lady, so he has no feelings toward her, therefore, no way to access the powers. I'm hoping they deal with that next season. Or maybe he has to know about the power to copy it -- we know that Pa Petrelli had an unspecified power, and possibly Ma as well, and Peter hasn't pulled those out yet.

I have to assume Peter's alive -- after all, in Future Hiro's future, he survived exploding. Still, you'd think that regenerating after you're blown to atoms will take a while. And then there's the matter of where he'll turn up. He could be anywhere. Somehow, I don't thnk we're going to see him right away.

Technically, Future Hiro's 'Save the Cheerleader, Save the World' was incorrect. We saw in his future that Claire was still alive, so whatever Sylar did to survive was not connected to her. However, by sending Peter to save her, he connected her to the Petrellis. Without Claire, Nathan would have totally bought into Linderman's plan, and Peter would have exploded on the ground. This means that Future Hiro is so awesome that he can save the world even when he's working from incorrect information. Way to go, Hiro!

You know, if you asked how I thought they'd end the season, I would not have said "Hiro ends up in feudal Japan". They really don't let up, do they? I thought the opening of that scene was a tribute to "Army of Darkness", personally. You just know that eclipse is not good news – that's how this whole thing started back in the first episode.

I'll keep everybody posted on any Heroes news or viral marketing over the summer. It's entirely possible that when the DVD's come out in August, I may take them to bed with me. (Just to cuddle. Nothing kinky.) Thanks to Sara who suggested that I start the list, and to all the participants. There are a couple of you I've never met, who may or may not exist. In your minds, I probably have walls covered with maps and pushpins, not unlike Mohinder.

In the words of one Dwight Schrute: "I'm not a hero. You know who's a hero? Hiro, from 'Heroes'. He's a real hero. Also, Bono."

Ever yours,


And You Shall Know Us by the Trail of the Dead

Let's take a minute to look back at some of the shows that ended this season. This is not a comprehensive list, by any means. These are just the ones on which I have an opinion. I can't really fake an interest in the cancellation of Crossing Jordan. Never saw it, not quite sure what it was. As you may have gleaned, some of these cancellations made me sad. Still, we all survived the loss of Arrested Development, so we can make it through damn near anything.
Let's go in alphabetical order:

According to Jim – This show was a depressing reminder of what all of television used to be. In the thirty or so years it was on the air, the only good thing to come out of it was a pretty funny joke on Freak Show.

Andy Parker, P.I. – I loved this show. You could sort of tell it was doomed from the beginning, but it deserved a long run. "Some guy in hell is putting the wood to a quality broad." I really wish this one could have found an audience.

The Apprentice -- Awww. This show was such a guilty pleasure. Especially over the last couple of seasons where it got so damn weird that it might as well have been filmed in a parallel universe. Still, I'm sure Trump will be foisting his inherent strangeness on us in some other form real soon.

The Black Donnellys – I went off on the pilot a while back, and it never got better. It was one of those shows that should be good, but it really wasn't. In a way, that's worse than a show that didn't even try.

The Class – Otherwise known as "The show I watch while waiting for Heroes to start." Not very funny, and most episodes featured the worst sound sync I've ever seen on television.

Day Break – I actually watched this show just to see the Lost previews. They went through some impressive logical convolutions to make the premise sustainable, but it still sucked. Hard.

Drive – You know, FOX really gave this a lot of promotion, and it tanked hard and fast. I enjoyed it, but it was phenomenally stupid. I think if it had gone a full season I would have started to hate it, but it would have been nice to have the chance.

George Lopez – I like how George says his cancellation was because Americans weren't ready for Latinos on TV. Yeah, that must be it. Couldn't possibly be because it was a standard, unfunny 'dopey dad' sitcom that we've seen exactly one thousand times before.

Gilmore Girls – Yeah, I'm still not ready to go there. It was an excellent finale, though.

Help Me Help You – This was surprisingly good. Ted Danson's group therapy sitcom, it had a great cast and a crack team of writers. And yet, nobody watched it. It's not a gut-wrenching loss, but it was a funny show.

Justice – Kind of a bland courtroom drama, but I liked it. I mean, it's Jack Bristow and Kareem Said, together at last! They tried making Victor Garber into the legal version of Greg House, but that's not really an unusual TV characterization for lawyers. I enjoyed it, but it's not like I'm campaigning for a DVD release.

The Knights of Prosperity – This one, on the other hand, better come out with a DVD set. I really liked this show – strong writing, likeable characters, loopy plots. What the hell, ABC?

The Nine – I liked it, but I didn't really miss it when it was gone. I couldn't keep the characters straight, and the bank robbery flashbacks weren't really interesting enough to sustain the show. I'd like to see how Egan ended up, though. Good character.

The O.C. – Another guilty pleasure. They pretty well recovered from the crummy third season, which was an accomplishment in and of itself. I'll miss the gang, and it would have been fun to see where the show could have gone with the new directions they instituted this season.

Raines – Jeff Goldblum imagines dead people. I sort of liked it, but it's kind of a one-note premise.

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip – I toughed it out through the first ten episodes, even though I stopped enjoying it sometime before the end of episode two. I really wanted to like it. I tried. Ultimately, I ended up hating it, and it sort of retroactively ruined Sorkin's earlier work. This series is the first thing I would Eternal Sunshine from my mind if given the opportunity, simply so I could enjoy Sports Night again.

Veronica Mars – So, last week I expressed my misgivings about the stated direction for next season. I didn't mean for this to happen. Who knew the CW reads my blog? Sam doesn't even read my blog! This was a really good show, but it's not like they didn't have a chance. Three seasons with a fairly stable time slot, late night slots on MTV, summer airings on CBS, and it still couldn't get an audience. Worse, this season, the stories didn't live up to the characters, which is just a crying shame. Another one I'm really going to miss.

Some of those cancellations were pretty tough, but I'll make it. I mean, 30 Rock got renewed, so there's still joy in the world.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Dancing with the Stars -- Week Ten

I’m not sure what I’m looking at if Cheryl isn’t in the finals. It throws off my whole view of reality.

The judges sort of went beyond bickering last night. Len and Bruno sort of lost it on one another. First off, you have to admire Tom Bergeron for keeping this show on anything close to a schedule. Second, Len and Bruno are judges on the British version of the show as well. So they’re doing four shows and making two trans-Atlantic trips every week. So really, it’s kind of surprising they don’t turn on each other more often.

And here’s a look at the final round of dancing:

LAILA ALI – The only dancer without a perfect score tonight. It was a nice paso doble, but as usual with her, nothing that got me too excited. It seemed weird that they were taking swings at each other during the dance. I get that she’s a boxer, but I don’t think the story of the dance should be one of domestic violence. And they just biffed the freestyle. Bottom line, the competition is won on the freestyle. And there they are, dancing like Seth Rogen in the ads for “Knocked Up”. She’s doing the dice thing too much. And I know the conventional wisdom is that female stars are at a disadvantage in the finals, since they can’t toss their partner around or do any of the lifts. I have two words: Kelly Monaco. They put together an amazing routine that focused on her strengths as a dancer. Laila’s routine was just half-assed. You’ve got a giant oak tree of a woman – it shouldn’t be hard to come up with a dance that exploits that.

APOLO OHNO – I kind of don’t remember his first dance. I know it’s the one that caused the big Bruno/Len blowout, and it was all over a 1 point difference. I remember liking it, so I guess that’s what matters. Bruno said they made love on the dance floor, and I remember agreeing with it. They took a risk with the breakdancing freestyle, though. I thought Len was going to hate it, since there was very little that was recognizable as ballroom, but I was glad to be incorrect. When a guy breakdances blindfolded, you’ve got to give it to him. I enjoyed it, especially the way they stood on the edge of disaster the entire time. At any second, it could have gone completely into self-parody, but those kids pulled it off. That’s the kind of freestyle that gets people voting.

JOEY FATONE – See, I really liked the whole puppeteer thing in the first dance. Yeah, it probably didn’t fit the cha cha format, but it was well done. I’m not always a fan of the gimmicks, but if you pull it off that well, I salute you. And at this point, it’s probably smart to risk losing a point or two from the judges to bring in the home votes. And that freestyle was pretty damn cool. The whole thing where they strip to their space suits made me think of “Blades of Glory”, which made me wish somebody would try a JFK-themed freestyle. And damn, that Kym is flexible. Who would have thought Joey could jump over her, by the way. Cool airplane move at the end, and the judges say it incorporated approved moves from all sorts of standard dances. I don’t know enough to comment on that, but that’s pretty impressive if true.

I think if Joey hadn’t gone last, he’d have the trophy in the bag. As it is, Apolo picked up a lot of ‘Hey, that was cool’ votes that he wouldn’t have gotten if Joey’s freestyle had come first. I think I’ve been wrong in my predictions every week, so I’m not even going to try. Enjoy the results show!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Delicious, Delicious Merchandising

I’m sort of a merchandising whore. I’m not proud of it, but I admit it. I have Simpsons action figures and play sets occupying a significant portion of my shelf space. I regularly wear an Oz t-shirt. A ‘Making of’ book? Sold!

I picked up a couple of notable pieces of merchandising this weekend. Actually, I was also given a Talking Simpsons watch. It’s from the Burger King promotion back in (I think) 2002. I got three of the four watches back then, but I’ve always been missing one. And this weekend, my friend Rachael gave me the missing piece. I nearly wept with joy.

Anyway, my first purchase was the video game “The Sopranos: Road to Respect”. I haven’t spent much time playing it, but it’s simultaneously awesome and not very good at all. First the awesome: Your character is Big Pussy’s son, trying to move up in the ranks of the Jersey mob. You interact with digitized versions of Tony, Christopher, Paulie, Silvio, and even the much-missed Vito (aka “Wide Guy”), voiced by the original actors. It’s a well-rendered game, with plenty of attention to detail. The first level takes place in the Bada Bing!, and the layout is dead-on. For a big fan like me, that’s quite a thrill. (Also, this is the first video game I’ve ever seen with naked breasts. I don’t know if that’s common, since I buy maybe four games a year. It’s kind of weird and skeevy.)

And then the “not very good at all”. As a game, it’s not that good. The controls are mushy, and the interactivity is at a minimum. During fights, there are an impressive array of objects you can use as a weapon, but there are just too many people and objects that don’t even register your presence. Also, it’s a very straightforward game. Somebody tells you Paulie wants you, so you go find Paulie, who sends you to Atlantic City. Suddenly, you’re in Atlantic City. That’s just not acceptable in a post-“Grand Theft Auto” world. Theoretically, there are all these moves you’re supposed to be able to use in a fight, but they all look like slap fighting. The controls and gameplay almost feel like an old 8-bit Nintendo game, only with strippers instead of wizards. I’m still playing it all the way through, because I get all geeky about taking orders from Tony Soprano, but they really blew an opportunity here.

My other purchase was quite delightful – Ice cream! Ben & Jerry released “Stephen Colbert’s Americone Dream”, based on everybody’s favorite faux-conservative. The packaging has some good jokes, and the ice cream itself is delicious. It’s vanilla with a caramel swirl, packed with fudge-covered cone pieces. I mean, I would have bought a Colbert-themed ice cream even if it contained ants, so the deliciousness was really just a bonus. But damn, it’s really good.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Talking 'bout My Box

It's been nearly a month since I got my Tifaux, and I love it. The magical recording box has actually changed my life. I can go to bed at a reasonable hour, knowing that a fresh hot cup of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert will be waiting for me in the morning. If a social event comes up, I don't have to run home to set the VCR for House -- The Magic Box knows that I want to watch House and takes care of everything for me. (Not that I really have any social events to attend. But the point is, I could if I wanted to and if anybody ever invited me.)

For the last three weeks, I've come home on Wednesday to find that there's a Project Runway marathon awaiting my receptive eyes. It's like a little present from Tim Gunn to me. And no more running throughout the house to coordinate VCR's. As it turns out, the only good reason I have to leave the house is to give The Magic Box time to fill itself up with all manner of delightful surprises.

A few things I've learned over the last month:

--Don't set The Magic Box to record all episodes of Mythbusters. It seems to air in time slots that are only theoretical, somehow running dozens of episodes a day.

--The Magic Box does not judge. The fact that I'm recording both Project Runway and The Shield might cause amusement or concern in some circles. But The Magic Box doesn't care. The Magic Box will record Gilmore Girls and Aqua Teen Hunger Force simultaneously, and not question my lifestyle.

--For some reason, The Magic Box does not believe that HBO airs new episodes. I have to manually set it for The Sopranos and Entourage every week, unless I use 'record all', and then I get all 700 airings of either series each week. If anybody out there with DirecTV knows how I can get past this, I'd appreciate any advice. It's quite vexing.

--I can't bring myself to delete a single episode of The Office. I've tried. It's not like I'm not going to buy the DVD's the instant they come out, either. Worst case scenario, I'd go maybe four months without immediate access to the episode about the obscene watermark. That's four months too long, bro.

--I can really haul through an episode of Saturday Night Live. Sub-par musical guests, parodies of movies I have no intention of seeing, any sketch where somebody is hosting a talk show, any special guest on "Weekend Update" who's not portrayed by Will Forte or Kristen Wiig, I can blast through those in an instant. A strong episode takes between 45 minutes and an hour, an episode with a lousy host or one of those mind-numbingly long and unfunny Donatella Versace sketches, those take less than 30 minutes. Actually, they need to keep that in mind when producing an episode. On any given sketch, they shoud think "Will somebody sit through this if they have the option not to?" And if the answer is 'no', then that sketch is gone. Sure, this means that they'd cut it down to a one-hour show and Maya Rudolph would be out of a job, but everybody has to make sacrifices.

Man, I love that Magic Box.

LOST 3-21 "Greatest Hits"

Dear Lost writers:

I know you're very busy with the end of the season and all, but I can't help but notice that you didn't get around to showing Locke this week. And he wasn't in the preview for next week either. It's just, you know, I'm kind of worried about him. I mean, I'm sure he's OK, but I think we'd all feel better if he popped in. So, can you make sure you get a nice "Locke's alive!" sequence in the finale?

Your friend,

Sorry. I had to get it out of the way. Actually, if the writers are listening, it would be the greatest moment of my life (and I will make a list if need be) if somebody could actually call our favorite villain 'Benry'. Fingers crossed.

First, I have to point out two completely obscure references. The writers of this episode, Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, were referenced on The Shield last night. Somebody mentioned 'Agents Kitsis and Horowitz', and I couldn't figure out why that sounded so familiar.

Also, when Charlie is talking to Naomi, at one point, she says "Are you having a laugh?" That is the second time they've referenced Ricky Gervais reference in a Charlie flashback episode. In the first season, he applied for a job at a 'paper company in Slough', which would be the office from the UK version of The Office. And "Are you having a laugh?" was the catchphrase of the show within the show on Office creator Gervais' follow-up Extras. I'm not entirely sure that was intentional, but there you go. I've forced useless knowledge on you.

OK, moving on to the actual episode…. I might be kind of disjointed this week, so please bear with me.

Hey, there's one of the show's very first mysteries, finally solved. Sayid tripped over that cable back in the sixth episode or thereabouts. Man, life was simpler then. And now we know what Rousseau wanted with all that dynamite.

So, Juliet is supposed to mark the tents of the pregnant women with white rocks, and they're filling the tents with dynamite from the Black Rock. White rocks and black rocks… They're finally coming back to the backgammon theme from way back when. Remember Locke explaining to Walt about good and evil using the colored stones? And there was the old visual motif they used to do where if a white rock was in the shot, it would always be accompanied by a black rock. I'm not sure if they kept that up, but I wouldn't be surprised if they did.

Another hatch! I'm going to have to check the orientation films again, but I seem to recall being told that there were seven hatches. So far we've seen:
1: The Swan (The main hatch with the countdown computer)
2: The Pearl (The surveillance station with the pneumatic tubes to nowhere.
3: The Staff (The medical station)
4: The Arrow (The one where the Tail Section group found a Bible, radio, and glass eye.)
5: The Flame (Mikhail's communication station)
6: The Looking Glass

I think we saw an entrance to another hatch when Michael met Miss Klugh, so we just might have every hatch accounted for. I tried to Google the six names that we know, just to see if they had some connection. Unfortunately, the first hundred links that turned up were all references to the show.

“The Looking Glass" is an 'Alice in Wonderland' reference, and with all the rabbits showing up lately, we may have a whole new set of themes. And last week had the ‘Wizard of Oz’ references… Two weeks in a row with the references to fantastic places which you can’t access by conventional means. Huh. (Well, technically the Wizard got to Oz in a balloon. Just like poor dead Henry Gale.)

Speaking of rabbits, when Alex runs into the woods to meet with Karl, he says "I thought you were bringing rabbit". Not only is she sneaking him food, but we've seen how Benry kind of likes his rabbits. She's feeding Fake Dad's pets to her fugitive boyfriend. That's a healthy relationship, isn't it?

Looks like death was good for Charlie's career. The best part is that he seemed really happy about it. When you get right down to it, Charlie is not a complicated man.

Rose and Bernard! I'd be a lot happier to see them if I didn't think they were sending Bernard straight to the slaughter. No, Bernard, don’t offer to be one of the shooters! What are you, crazy?

Here's a question: Do you think Desmond saw all of that coming and he misled Charlie, or was the Freaky FutureVision ™ wrong? Because if he somehow screwed up time, I don't think they should count on those helicopters showing up anytime soon. And the Freaky FutureVision ™ has never been this far off. Personally, I think Desmond knew it, and he lied to Charlie to make sure that things happened the way they're supposed to. Let’s face it, even when Charlie has the best of intentions, odd are, he’s going to screw up. And who do you suppose those women are? Benry's going around telling The Others that the Looking Glass is flooded, so he's clearly keeping them a secret. And yes, Benry knows they're down there. Benry knows everything. Hey, do you think little Annie grew up to be one of those women?

Heck, does the Looking Glass even jam radio transmissions, or was that a lie too?

I actually think Benry’s going to make a mistake. (Other than shooting Locke. Big mistake, bro.) He’s letting his anger get the best of him. Jacob didn’t tell him to take the pregnant women that night. Jacob doesn’t even talk to Benry! That guy is lying to everybody all the time.

It’s the secret origin of Charlie’s ‘DS’ ring. I’m sorry I made fun of him weeks back for wearing a ring with his own band’s logo, since the ring actually came before the band. He mentioned it goes back to an ancestor named ‘Dexter Stratton’. I Googled that name and found out it’s one of the top Spam sender names. That’s either a coincidence or a really obscure joke that I don’t get.

We met another Other – Big Violent Ryan. Usually when an Other gets a name, they turn out to be important, so I’m thinking we’ll spend some serious time with his raid next week.

I love that Charlie was counting down the best moments of his life. You could totally hear Casey Kasem there. “And now, the number one favorite moment of Charlie’s life. It’s a little ditty I like to call ‘When I met you’.” And that number two moment… Why, that was Sayid’s lost love, Nadia, that Charlie rescued! Also, that scene begins with Charlie playing “Wonderwall” in the streets for money. We saw that before in Desmond’s flashback. That lends credence to the idea that Desmond’s flashback was showing things as they really happened. Desmond wouldn’t have known that was a song Charlie played in the street unless he’d seen it at some point. And since we know that White Oracle was a real person (from her picture in the monastery), that Desmond episode just might have been a literal version of events. If so, then it wasn’t the hatch explosion that gave him Freaky FutureVision ™. He certainly didn’t act like a man who knew the future when he was living in the Hatch, but I’m sure there’s a story there.

I liked Charlie and Hurley’s last moments. Poor Hurley. Also, I liked Karl ratting out Juliet to the Lostaways. “They already know. But thanks.”

Two hour finale next week! Looks like we’ve got a standoff, another appearance of Ice Station: Impossible (gratuitous reference just for Sam), and previews that are completely devoid of Locke. Anybody trying to talk to me about any other subject for the next week will be out of luck.

Ever yours,

Big Violent Ryan

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

And I Could Have Sworn that her Name was Veronica

I’m not quite ready to talk about the Gilmore Girls finale. (Five words: Cried like a prison bitch.) Instead, I’ll talk about my other favorite CW show, Veronica Mars. (This is not exactly the manliest thing I’ve ever typed.)

Veronica is on the bubble for a 4th season renewal. Officially, we’ll find out tomorrow. The scenario currently going around is that this theoretical season would jump forward four years, to Veronica’s first year in the FBI. Now, I’ll take my Veronica Mars any way I can get it, but I see a couple of problems with this scenario.

The first, and more important, problem is that they’re going to have to change the whole tone of the show. It’s a high school noir. Well, college this season, but you know what I mean. By taking out the teen drama and the private eye aspect, you run the risk of being left with a standard, if witty, procedural. This move would also necessitate losing most of the established supporting cast. And I’m not willing to lose Cliff or Vinnie VanLowe, just to get Veronica a new job.

At the very least, they have to return to the season long mysteries, with side cases along the way. The last few self-contained episodes have demonstrated that they need the full-season mystery as a structure. She solved the Lily Kane murder – finding a lost backpack isn’t much of a challenge. Further, making Veronica a Federal Agent is going to require upping the ante considerably. You can’t have her involved with cases that are easier than the ones she solved in high school, and they’ve set the bar pretty high there. Again, I feel like the whole identity of the show is at risk. When you strip the supporting cast, themes, and even genre, all you have left is Veronica Mars. And Veronica is one of the stronger characters on TV, but there’s going to be an artificial four-year gap. What we’ve been watching her go through will be gone and forgotten.

The other problem, which is remarkably petty but will obsess me nonetheless, is that four year gap. Does this mean next season will be set in 2011? Or will this season retroactively be moved back to 2003? For a show as pop-culture intensive as Veronica Mars, neither option really works. I realize there’s a suspension of disbelief involved. I can buy that Billy in “The Family Circus” has a seventh birthday every year. I accept that Batman has only aged a few years in his career. However, Billy lives in a continuity-free universe, and Batman lives in a world with limited pop-culture references, and where agelessness and gradual revisionism are standard tropes. Veronica doesn’t live in either of these worlds. This is going to make me crazy. Apparently, I’m just going to have to accept that 2007 + 4 = 2007. And that’s math I just can’t do.

And this isn’t like the famous two-year gap in Alias. First off, Sydney didn’t remember the missing two years, so the viewers weren’t cheated. And Alias was always light on specific pop-culture references. Further, they used the gaps between episode airdates to gradually catch up to real time. Even for an obsessive like me, the transition was smooth as could be.

I’m putting a lot of faith in Rob Thomas and friends to keep up the quality. I think it could work, but it won’t be easy. That four year gap, though…. I’m never going to feel better about that.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Dancing with the Stars -- Week Nine

Now that was some good dancing! Only three points away from an entire night of perfect scores, and that’s never happened before. Last year the Final Four still pulled some 8’s, this year, the few 9’s were met with derision and outrage from the audience. And everybody was in such a good mood tonight, with the possible exception of Maks. But he’s always defensive.

I liked seeing Len visit the dancers and giving pointers. Still, they probably didn’t need to make that whole segment seem exactly like Tim Gunn visiting the designers at home to check on the progress of their collections. I like Len, but he’s no Tim Gunn. And really, who among us is? Carry on.

APOLO OHNO – Their quick step was rather spectacular, I must say. They’re both so tiny, it’s like watching little dancing pixies. That particular dance really played to his strengths, and it’s good to see that he’s really working on doing things with his arms. He usually keeps them tucked away. I wasn’t terribly bothered by their porno cha cha, but I knew Len was going to be upset. That’s a little much for him. Carrie Ann and Bruno got a little steamed up though, eh? I sort of felt like I shouldn’t be looking at them. A good show all around for that strange little man.

IAN ZIERING – Man, I was so happy for him when he got that first 10. This guy has worked so hard and the judges just keep picking away at him. The whole life coach thing was very weird, but it seems like it helped, so there you go. I really thought his footwork in the first round was the best he’s done up to that point. And then, well, I watched 90210’s Steve Sanders dressed up as Elvis Presley. It might be the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen on this show, and it was completely awesome. I’m not just saying this because the Ian Ziering Fan Club spammed my comments last time, but I sort of want him to win. And I really want to see what crazy-ass dance Cheryl will put together for the freestyle round. That woman can put together a routine.

LAILA ALI – I’m missing the boat on this one. I thought her footwork in the quick step was really mushy, and she moved poorly whenever they were in a hold. To me, it looked like a dance that would have been lauded in the first three weeks of the show, but it just wasn’t good enough for the semi-finals. But, what do I know? The judges have just been eating her up with a spoon. Her second dance made almost no impression on me, and I can’t really recall the specifics. Still, the judges loved her. I’m not getting it.

JOEY FATONE – Now, I’m not usually a man who complains about breasts, but Kym needs to cover up a little more when she performs at Disneyland. Think of the children, you know? Anyway, I really liked both of Joey’s dances. His foxtrot was one of the few interesting foxtrots I’ve ever seen on this show. Up until now, nobody’s ever really done much with it. And on the Latin round, well, I was completely amazed at how limber that guy is. He’s really lost a lot of weight, and he can do surprising things with his legs. And as a bonus, the toolishness is almost completely gone now.

With the scores clustered so tightly, it’s going to depend entirely on viewer votes. If Ian had enough votes to make up an eleven-point gap last week, I think this week’s two-point gap won’t be a problem. I know Joey was in the bottom two last week, but I think it’ll be Laila going home. Of the four, she was the only one who didn’t do anything particularly inspiring. The judges love her, but she never really pulls off a routine that’s going to get the viewers out of their seats and on the phone. I don’t know from a ‘butterfly’ or a ‘sickle’, but I know when somebody jumps halfway across the floor or works the Elvis moves. I am the lowest common denominator.

Heidi and Kennedy

OK, if you haven’t seen The Sopranos yet, consider this a SPOILER WARNING.

Wow. I honestly thought Christopher was going to be the last man standing when all was said and done. He’s survived more than any TV character this side of Tobias Beecher. He’s been gunned down, losing his spleen in the process. He’s put enough drugs in his system to wipe out a dozen lesser men. He’s crossed Paulie Walnuts, Phil Leotardo, and Tony Soprano, and has lived to tell about it. Seriously, in Season One he provided Meadow with speed, and in Season Five, he actually pulled a gun on Tony.

Now, I’m no doctor, but I think we’re meant to believe that Christopher would have survived if Tony hadn’t intervened. He didn’t die of internal injuries, after all. He died by choking on his own blood. And Tony shows no signs of remorse at all – we can see how far he’s fallen. Years back, he was wracked with guilt over killing Pussy. And remember, he knew for certain that Pussy was talking to the Feds. He found the wire and everything. Tony convinced himself that Christopher was, at some point in the future, likely to rat him out, and he killed him without question. And the thing is, we know Christopher never would have done it. Last week, Christopher went to JT’s in a drunken rage, and after alluding to the things that he could tell the authorities if he chose, he murdered his friend to make sure that even that tiny slip would remain a secret. Christopher, even drunk and hurt, chose Tony over AA and his career in Hollywood, and Tony will never know. (It’s a little bit like the current arc on The Shield, actually. Shane killed Lem to insure his silence, only to find out that Lem turned down IAD’s deal.)

I think I might have to wait until the series is wrapped up before I try any sort of significant piece on it, so instead, I’m just going to fixate on a small detail. (As I tend to do.) The girl driving the other car was ‘Kennedy’. Now, I can’t quite put it together yet, but John F. Kennedy has played a key role in several earlier arcs. Back in Season Two (maybe Three), Uncle Junior was obsessed with his oncologist, for no other reason than that his last name was ‘Kennedy’. And Tony has a fair degree of hero-worship for JFK – he bought one of his hats at auction. In Season Five, he met one of his father’s former mistresses, who claimed to have also had an affair with JFK. She was a living connection to Tony’s two heroes. (If only he could have gotten Gary Cooper in there somehow.) When he realized that she was either lying or delusional about Kennedy, he turned his back on her for good. I just can’t put together these three prominent ‘Kennedy Events’ but there must be something there.

That’s right, I spent a whole post detailing how I can’t figure something out. I am nothing if not honest in my failings.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Ten Little Things I Love about TV: Gilmore Girls edition

Between cancellation, confrontations, and gunshot wounds, TV has really stressed me out this week. I think it’s time for another Ten Little Things I Love about TV. And this week, in honor of the upcoming finale, it’s the All-Gilmore Girls Edition!

1. Bizarre stunt-casting! Rather than following the conventional wisdom of stunt-casting a big name that’s going to bring in the viewers, Gilmore has stuck with people you’d never expect to see on scripted televisionr. Sebastian Bach, Madeline Albright, Traci Lords, Norman Mailer, Paul Anka (the person), and Christiane Amanpour – those are just a few of the seemingly random visitors who’ve passed through Stars Hollow.

2. Town Meetings. Second only to Springfield in number and lunacy, Stars Hollow loves their town meetings. Either they’re going to unite behind something silly or they’re going to be remarkably contentious on a minor point. As long as Taylor’s up at that podium, you know you’re going to see something crazy. And if Kirk has to wear a costume, all the better.

3. Cyrus the dog. Sure, we all knew Digger wasn’t going to make it as Lorelai’s boyfriend, what with being a tool and all. Still, his dog was awesome! A cute little beagle who usually remained perfectly still, he understood the command ‘A little to the left’. But not to the right. When he ran out of wall, Digger had to turn him around. I love that dog. Actually, pretty much every dog that appeared on the show was great.

4. Luke’s secret past as a Trekkie. He actually wore a Starfleet uniform to school! Every once in a while, Luke’s sci-fi bias crept out. The final “Star Wars” movie irritated him, for the same reasons it irritated all right-thinking people. He read a lot of Phillip K. Dick. It was an interesting character detail, and it’s just funny to think of Luke in an Enterprise crew uniform.

5. Madeline and Louise, the original Mean Girls. The Chilton clique that ostracized Rory and then grudgingly accepted her, their every scene is gold. I love how they’re involved with all of the Chilton teams and extracurricular activities, even though they don’t actually participate. I suppose it’s too much to hope that they’ll come to Rory’s graduation party…

6. The Stars Hollow Elementary production of ‘Fiddler on the Roof’. Sure, it helped reunite Luke and Lorelai, which is always a good thing. And then when you add Kirk’s performance as Tevya, right down to his hard-to-pull cart, you have got yourself a show!

7. Any scene where Lorelai puts her business degree to work. It’s so gratifying to the viewers when her parents are impressed with her, and it gives the relationship so much depth. I count the episode where she helps her father open up his own agency as one of the best ever. Makes me cry a little. Shut up.

8. Richard and Emily! Sure, they’re not exactly a little thing, but Edward Herriman and Kelly Bishop don’t get nearly enough attention for their performances. They’re just so good. And they’re at their best when they have to interact with the characters who are outside their usual circle. I could watch Richard and Paris all day.

9. The fine background performances in Season Two by good ol’ Sean! That guy can extra with the best of them. I’m especially fond of the scene where he’s sitting behind Sookie during Kirk’s movie. She stands up, and there’s Sean! But his best scene is outdoor book sale. He’s not as recognizable, since he’s all bundled up. But you’ll see an extra working his ass off to stay in the shot, and that’s our guy. It’s a rich, layered performance.

10. Drunk Lorelai! Whether delivering the worst wedding toast ever, or hitting the Karaoke stage for a complete rendition of “I Will Always Love You”, drunk Lorelai scenes are the best! Usually stomach-churning in the discomfort they produce, you still can’t look away. Or if you’re me, you can’t stop yourself from watching them repeatedly.

Now I made myself sad, thinking of all the good times. Just don’t mention John Locke, or I will completely freak out.

LOST 3-20 "The Man Behind the Curtain" aka "EJ Completely Freaks Out"

OK, I'm freaking out here. Somebody better talk me off the ledge. I know they said there'd be four deaths before the end of the season, but there's no way Locke is one of them, right? Come on, Island Magic! I'm seriously losing it here. This will not be an easy week for me.

I'm going to try as best I can to get through this. Every couple of paragraphs, you should imagine me getting up and walking around, muttering to myself "He'll be OK. He has to be OK." Also, there is every chance that I might cry a little.

Well, Benry's dad was played by John Gries, better known as Uncle Rico from "Napoleon Dynamite" and Lazlo from "Real Genius". I think you can tell a lot about a person based on which of those roles they remember first. I'm not sure what you can tell, but I know it's something. Thus far, there is a correlation between the movies and height. The people who identified him as Uncle Rico are taller than the Lazlo fans. Please let me know your height, and which role you associated with him, so I can run the data on that.

So, Benry (who I may have to hate forever now) is a dirty, filthy liar. He was born 32 miles from Portland. 32 is 23 reversed, so we've sort of got one of the numbers. Also, Portland came up during Juliet's first flashback episode. Hey, do you think it's Portland in Oregon or Maine? Is that even important?

And I do believe Benry is a Christmas baby, or at least very close. Juliet examined Sun on Day 90, which would put us at December 21, based on the September 22nd crash date. At least one day has passed since then, so it's December 22 at the earliest. You know, according to both the Ancient Incas and Terrence McKenna (and the finale of "X-Files", now that I think about it), the world is supposed to end on December 22, 2012. So if Benry's birthday is the 22nd, this episode takes place eight years before the scheduled end of the world. And 'eight' is one of our magic numbers!

He'll be OK, right? They wouldn't kill Locke. He's the heart of the show. And all shows, really.

Wow, Benry's dad is Roger Work Man. You may remember that Hurley and Sawyer accidentally knocked his skull off while trying to get the bus running. Now we know why he had all that beer in the back. Roger Work Man never went anywhere without beer!

I was right about Other Town being the Dharma barracks! Perhaps that little triumph will wipe away the tears tonight. We see a little bit of yet another orientation video, but it's hard to hear. Dr. Marvin Candle mentions the island's diverse wildlife and that it has 'properties that exist nowhere else in the world'. Beyond that, I couldn't make much out. (And yes, I know his name is actually Wickstrom, but he used the Marvin Candle name when we first met him in the Swan Orientation video, and that's how I think of him.)

And ‘Namaste’, as seen on the welcome sign (it’s also spoken by Dr. Marvin Candle in the orientation films.) is a Hindi word meaning “I bow to you”. It’s associated with that ‘bowing with your hands together’ move that you see in movies. It’s also the title of a Beastie Boys song.

Benry has a little friend named Annie. Do you think she was wiped out in the massacre? Or did she get pregnant and die of baby plague? And I think 'Annie' might have been the name Benry used for his fake wife when he was pretending to be Henry Gale. I'm going to have to check that out. I feel like there’s been an ‘Annie’ somewhere in Lost history. When they first meet, she gives him an Apollo Bar, which is the same brand of candy Kate swiped back when they first let her in the hatch. Oddly, it's the only non-Dharma Brand we've seen on the island.

Is that classroom scene the first time we heard that the island had a volcano? That seemed like news to me. Nice to see young Benry with a bunny – remember adult Benry using a rabbit to trick Sawyer into believing he had a pacemaker? (You know, that was a weird sentence I just typed.)

Does anybody else thing Benry's mom was the smoke monster? Man, Benry’s got serious guilt about his mother, doesn’t he? Of course, when Roger Work Man keeps reminding him about it, guilt is sort of inevitable.

The code to shut down the pylons is 54439. That probably doesn't mean anything, but pointless trivia is distracting me from sadness. And when Young Benry went into the woods, that sounded like creepy backwards whispering, like Shannon heard back in the 'Ghost Walt'
days. Perhaps when Sean gets back to America, he can use his power of technology to decode the whispers.

Wait a minute. That appears to be Richard "BatManuel" Halprin in the woods. Only, he's the same age as he is in the present. There's a strange line early in the episode where Benry asks him "Do you even remember birthdays?" Perhaps BatManuel doesn't age? I don't know.
That's a thinker. Hold him down so we can count his toes. I wouldn't be surprised to see four on each foot.

Benry helped The Hostiles slaughter the rest of the Dharma Initiative. So that mean Mikhail told the truth (sort of) about what happened. Now we've got this question of where The Hostiles come from. Also, Benry said most of The Others are people that he brought over. Other than BatManuel, we didn't really get a look at any Hostiles. I wonder if we'd see any familiar Other faces. Also, note that the attack happens at 4 o'clock. (Magic number!) Also, Benry does love solving problems with gas, doesn't he?

Maybe we should all get together this weekend, and we can talk about what's so great about Locke. You know? I think it would probably help us through what's sure to be a tough week.

I'm still trying to decide what to make of the dolls Annie gave young Benry. Hey, maybe he should break them open! Seriously, there was heroin in the Virgin Mary statues, and diamonds in Paolo's nesting dolls. Tiny handmade people always have stuff hidden inside them!

Back in the present, we've got Mikhail's explanation for not being dead. Who knew sonic pylons had a non-lethal setting? I'm going to let it go, because that's way less weird than the fact that everything's be controlled by Benry's invisible friend. According to Mikhail, Naomi's freighter is located 130 clicks to the west. That means that Lost Beach is facing the freighter, though I have no idea what a 'click' really is.

Even The Others know how awesome Locke is. They've got no problem with him beating the tar out of their buddy. And you have to wonder what experience Alex had with Jacob, that she thought Locke would need a gun. Well, he sort of did need a gun, but not so much for Jacob.

Juliet may not be as evil as previously believed, if she told Jack about Benry's plan. Of course, as Mysterious Don pointed out, Benry's about six steps ahead of everybody else, so that might actually have been in his plan. It is kind of sad that, after playing the tape, everybody but Jin knows about his sterility. (I'm assuming his English isn't that good yet.)

I could have sworn there was a painting of a sheepdog in Jacob's room, but I'm not willing to argue the point. Also, Benry makes a Wizard of Oz reference, assuring Locke that he isn't the 'man behind the curtain'. So, with last season's 'Henry Gale', and the Wicked Witch of the East in Desmond's flashback, we have an official motif!

I can't even speculate as to what Jacob is. Weird that Benry could communicate with him (it?), but he couldn't hear what Jacob said to Locke. This is a seriously weird situation. I'm convinced that there was something there, what with the way the room freaked out over Locke's flashlight. I'm not necessarily convinced that Benry was actually talking to Jacob, however. I think that was part of a show he was putting on. The island won't heal him, Jacob won't talk to him. And what does 'Help me' mean? It seemed to shake up Benry pretty badly, though.

Maybe my DVR cut off the last minute, but I'm pretty sure there was a scene at the end where Locke stood up and took a broken bottle of ketchup out of his shirt, right? Right?

There’s some stuff I need to Google, so there may be an update later. This is all I can handle for now, with the panic and all. I have to review the Jacob scenes and desperately check my notes for an Annie.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Hey, a Poll!

Well, between the second-to-last episode of Gilmore Girls, the Vic/Shane confrontation on The Shield, and the awesomeness that was Paul Rudd’s guest appearance on Veronica Mars, I’m feeling kind of trained today. (And I haven’t even watched House yet! Tuesdays are very hard on me.)

While I process everything, I’m going to run a poll. I usually do these on my voicemail, but I suppose it’s theoretically possible that I have readers who don’t regularly call me. I don’t think this site is set up for actual polls, so just reply in the comments with your choice.

Favorite TV Restaurant?

Luke’s Diner (Gilmore Girls)
Skip Church (Arrested Development)
Vesuvio’s (The Sopranos)
Krusty Burger (The Simpsons)
Monk’s (Seinfeld)
Fat Ammy’s (Arrested Development)
The Crab Shack (My Name is Earl)
Sugarfoot’s (King of the Hill)
Elzar’s Fine Cuisine (Futurama)
The Grand Hotel (Deadwood)
Oswald State Penitentiary Cafeteria (Oz)

Yeah, there are two Arrested Development choices on there. There used to be four, so I feel like I’ve made progress.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Dancing with the Stars -- Week Eight

Anybody get the feeling the judges need a little break? They fought with each other, they fought with the stars, they even fought with the professional dancers. It was a weird night. It seems like they get over it quickly, though. Len is not one to hold a grudge.

This episode marked the point where Billy Ray gave up his biggest selling point and I believe we’ve seen the season’s weirdest musical selection. Nothing will ever measure up to Lisa Rinna’s “Final Countdown” waltz, but Apolo Ohno doing the tango to “Jesse’s Girl” is close. Plus, we had a scoring controversy, host-on-judge violence, and Samantha Harris, seemingly drunker than ever. It’s possible that she’s not really drunk and her problems lie elsewhere, but I’m really worried this kid is going to have Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. And he’ll be a mean drunk.

IAN ZIERING – I should go back and check, but doesn’t it seem like Ian has to go first an awful lot? This was not his best week, but the gap between him and the top three is not as great as the scores indicate. Similarly, the difference in scores between Ian and Billy Ray doesn’t even hint at the difference in quality. As I’ve said, I appreciate that the judges are giving him constructive criticism, but I feel like they expect him to be Dancing Jesus, absolving us of our sins through his footwork. It’d be nice to judge him based on what he did as opposed to how they felt it measured up to his potential. Also, I’ve decided that the reason he seemed uncomfortable this week is that he fell in love with Cheryl. I have nothing concrete to base this on, but I’m going to run with it. Only one more cannon fodder elimination – he’s going to have to step it up.

JOEY FATONE – And here we have the dangers of trying to please everybody. Len was just plain out of step with the other two tonight. Not a good situation when you tailor your performance to reflect his criticism. His waltz was nice, but it really is difficult to do anything flashy with a waltz. You either make the steps or you don’t – I don’t think I’ve ever seen anybody choreograph a really outstanding waltz on this show. His Latin round, however, was quite spectacular. I like how, sooner or later, everybody tries the low walking pioneered by Antonio Banderas in “Desperado”. (Honestly, it probably wasn’t pioneered by Banderas, but my background in Latin Music is pretty well limited to the Spanish verse in Warren Zevon’s ‘Veracruz’.) I’m still saying he and Apolo are the Final Two.

BILLY RAY CYRUS – First off: Dude, they’re judges. It is their job to critique or ‘judge’ your performance. Secondly, you have gotten a free ride on personality alone for longer than anybody could reasonably expect. You have subjected us to some truly horrific dancing, and every week your scores are always tempered with ‘But it was entertaining’, or ‘You’re having fun out there, and that’s what counts’. You don’t get to complain about your low scores when you’re not actually any good. That’s how a competition works. Sure, it wasn’t cool that Bruno called your first dance ‘crap’, but a) it just slipped out, and b) it sort of was. You’re sailing through on likeability, and being an asshole is just going to torpedo you. You don’t like when they say you’re a bad dancer? Here’s a suggestion: DANCE BETTER!

LAILA ALI – I do have to say, it was kind of awesome that her father came to the show. Ordinarily, I’d be a little more cynical about playing the Ailing Sports Legend Dad card, but Muhammad Ali’s family has been very respectful and classy all along. If he was there, it’s because he wanted to be there. It’s hard to see him, because he’s so far gone, but you have to admire the man. That said, this was not Laila’s best week. Her ballroom number was nicely done, but not exceptionally memorable. And I’m not a fan of the props, so the pillow and roses just seemed like pointless theatrics to me. I really didn’t like her Latin dance. It was messy and too cutesy. I’ve never seen the judges chew out a professional like they did Maks, but it was sort of warranted. I’m not sure what I was looking at, but it wasn’t a Latin dance. Of course, at this point, she could walk onto the dance floor, hike up her skirt and take a dump, and still get 8’s across the board.

APOLO OHNO – Have I mentioned the “Jessie’s Girl” tango? Because that was weird. I thought it was a really strong dance, and didn’t understand Len’s bile. Of course, neither did the other judges, so I wasn’t alone on that one. And I’m not at all convinced that there was a ‘computer error’ on the scoring. When Carrie Ann holds up a ‘10’ paddle and shouts ‘Ten!’, it doesn’t seem likely that “She meant to give you a 9.” I absolutely believe that Samantha Harris just screwed the whole thing up. Because she’s drunk. Their Paso Doble was excellent. Not much to say about it other than that. Those two adorable dancing sprites just nailed it this week.

This week, it’s got to be Billy Ray going home. How can it not be? I think Ian will be in the bottom two, and I’ll be nervous straight through to ten o’clock. Hopefully Jimmy Kimmel will ease the pain. (Dear DWTS producers: Both Jimmy Kimmel and Kenny Mayne should be on every results show. Thanks.)

Monday, May 7, 2007

Did EJ Like Spider-Man 3???

Well, it’s not like anybody thought I wasn’t going to like “Spider-Man 3”. Let’s be honest, here.

Man, I loved this movie. The combination of Sam Raimi and Spider-Man is pretty well unstoppable. I didn’t think it was possible to handle three villains in a movie, but they pulled it off. It helped that one of the three was an established character (Harry Osborn), and one was mostly a plot device and not actually a separate character until the end (Venom). Still, the previews had me believing this thing was going to be ten hours long.

I’m having a really hard time writing about this coherently, for some reason. My last draft drifted off into Ayn Rand and my venomous hatred for John Byrne. (Rand’s not a stretch, as Spidey’s co-creator is a serious Objectivist. And also a hermit.) I think it’s going to be easier to just go character by character. Plus, I like lists.

SPIDER-MAN / PETER PARKER – They’ve done a fantastic job of handling Spidey since the beginning. The important thing is to make sure Peter is as interesting as possible, and costumed people who want to kill him are not necessarily his biggest problem. Tobey Maguire has nailed the performance once again. It was a bold move to spend so much screen time making Peter an asshole, put the payoff was there. I especially liked the moment when he shifted from cool to creepy. Also, in the jazz club scene, I sort of got the feeling that’s actually how Sam Raimi thinks a cool guy acts.
It was also nice to see his success as Spider-Man going to his head – that’s an idea that has never really been developed in the Spider-Man mythos. These guys know their Spider-Man.

MARY-JANE WATSON – I’m always surprised at how much I like Kirsten Dunst’s performance in these movies. She spends the years in between Spider-Man movies being boring and attending awards shows in bizarre clothing, and then Spider-Man shows up and I like her again. I do feel that she’d be the easiest to replace, if it came to that. She’s very much a supporting character this time around, but her scenes are good, and it’s interesting to watch her struggle with her boyfriend’s fame. Again, sort of a new take, and much appreciated.

HARRY OSBORN – First off, didn’t you really want to hang out with Amnesia Harry? He seemed like a cool guy. I liked how the events of this movie deviated slightly from Harry’s established arc, so there were some surprises for old-timers like myself. All of his Goblin appearances were very well done, and I actually really liked the Harry/Peter fight in their civilian clothes. It wasn’t good vs. evil, it was just two guys with serious issues.

SANDMAN – Awesome. I love Thomas Haden Church, and this is sort of an ideal role for him. I mean, he looks like Steve Ditko drew him. He really does come off as being redeemable – even in his full-on crime spree, he’s doing his best not to hurt anybody. The character was a major part of my early fandom, and it was really gratifying to see him in live-action. And the scene where he first pulls himself together is absolutely amazing.

EDDIE BROCK / VENOM – I hate Venom. Never gave a rat’s ass about the character. Neither does Sam Raimi, based on the interviews I’ve seen. Luckily, he managed to make it work, by dumping all of the baggage and extraneous stupidity. The symbiote stuff was handled really well, and I loved Topher Grace’s Eddie Brock scenes. So smarmy and irritating – the anti-Parker. I personally liked that most of the movie was spent developing the symbiote itself, with Venom only active in the final battle. I think it helped the movie flow better, but Venom fans may disagree. Excellent job taking a character I hate and making him very effective. (By the way, Sam totally called it that the symbiote’s arrival on earth was an homage to “The Blob”. Nice catch, Sam.)

MAITRE D’ – That’s right, it’s the obligatory Bruce Campbell appearance. This time, he’s the maitre d’. Cracked me up, he did. I choose to believe that his character was only pretending to be French, but it’s funny either way. “I am French, of course.” Hee.

And the old reliables were great as ever. Aunt May didn’t have a lot of screen time, but she made the best of it. JK Simmons is always a highlight as J. Jonah Jameson, and Bryce Dallas Howard was terrific as Gwen Stacy. (Weird how they sort of reversed Gwen and Mary Jane’s personalities from the comic.) I’ve never really thought of her as hot before, either, but the evidence is indisputable.

Once the buzz has worn off, I think Number 2 will probably hold up as the best in the franchise, but that doesn’t diminish the third entry in any way. Go figure, EJ is excited about a Spider-Man movie!