Monday, July 30, 2007

I Don't Know Butchie Instead

I’m reaching a level of obsession with John from Cincinnati. Part of it is my steamy love affair with David Milch’s dialogue. If it were feasible, I’d carry a little tiny David Milch around with me, and he would handle on-the-spot rewrites of everything I say. Talking to me would no longer be a chore, I can tell you that.

It seems almost like John is a televised Rorschach test. I’m not sure everything necessarily means something, at least not definitively. Everything is open to a variety of interpretations, none more correct than any other. Unless I’m wrong about that. So rather than going on some half-cocked thesis, I thought I’d list some quick observations and theories.

--OK, I think we can agree that John is a valid Christ figure. Between the miracles and the inability to die, and all the talk of his Father’s words. Of course, he couldn’t honestly answer whether his father means well. It’s been argued that John is a Saint, as evidenced by his ability to bi-locate. A Catholic friend explained that you have to bi-locate to even be considered a Saint. That’s like a baseline miracle. Personally, I don’t believe John is at all human, as he doesn’t produce waste, or even understand that’s something that people do. And every time you see a character with the initials ‘J.C.’, you have to at least view it as a possibility. True, those aren’t John’s initials – the ‘C’ stands for Cincinnati. And since this a Milch show, the ‘F’ in ‘From’ stands for ‘Fucking’.

Alternatively, John could be an alien. The repeated image of the radio antenna has to mean something. Aliens probably don’t poo.

--John’s last name, per his credit card, is ‘Monad’. It’s an anagram for ‘Nomad’, which John could be, though I tend to think he only existed for a few seconds before Vietnam Joe found him. A monad, in math, is a unary function. That would, as I understand it, be one less than binary, and thus purely theoretical. And John’s talked about binary a lot – the 1’s and 0’s in Cass’ camera and on the wall. His armless stick person he keeps making is made of a 0 and three 1’s. Actually, as it appeared on the backdrop for his video, none of the straight lines touch or intersect, really bringing home the 1’s and 0’s.

A monad can also refer to a metaphysical view that all is of one essence. With the way John slips in and out of people’s consciousness, that seems significant. And in early biology, a monad was the indivisible life essence. Again, let’s get back to poo. Nothing enters or leaves John. We’ve never seen him eat, it’s unclear whether he needs to breathe. He truly is a monad.

--That symbol of John’s? The aforementioned armless stick person? What if the three 1’s are a shuffleboard stick, and the circle is the shuffleboard round thing? (I don’t know the terminology. Shut up.) Sure, the stick is pointed away from the puck thing, but it’s interesting, especially in light of that new, improperly designed shuffleboard court at the hotel.

Note that Dickstein points out the bottom rung should be a loss of ten points, because you don’t reward failure. Considering that Dickstein’s pretty much enabling Butchie, that’s an interesting thing for him to point out.

--Other than Dickstein’s fiancée, all the women with recurring roles are blonde. That might not mean anything, but I can’t let it go.

--Note that Bill can’t go all the way up his own staircase. When he ‘left the room’ to let Shaun and Butchie talk, he curled up on the top step, rather than actually setting foot on the upper level. That must have something to do with his late wife. Could the second floor of Bill’s house be haunted, just like Room 24?

And yes, Room 24 is haunted. In John’s big monologue, he pulled a body from the room. To me, that’s a clear indication that there really is something to pull from the room. And if it is the Mr. Rollins that Barry’s mentioned, what the hell did he do to Barry? Given that we already know Cissy jacked off her 13-year-old son, nothing’s out of bounds for the secret of Room 24.

--John had two mentions of the future in the most recent episode, and it’s hard to tell what he meant. ‘Shaun will soon be gone’ – did that actually refer to the Sea World trip, like everybody on the show was willing to assume? Or is something still coming? And then there was “I will be murdered twice” – did he count his earlier stabbing in the total?

And by the way, that was a fantastic scene with John and Bill, where John got so frustrated about not having the words to answer his questions that he stabbed himself. John is not comfortable in this role of his, that much is clear.

--I read this somewhere, but it’s worth noting. Whenever Kai is in Butchie’s hotel room, she is the light source. Neat, huh?

--Palaka’s infected tattoo looked to me like a stigmata. Sure, it was on his neck and not his hand, but I’m sure there’s some Saint who bled from the neck.

--I love that Bill is fully on board with receiving telepathic messages from Zip the parakeet, and in fact, embraces it as an advantage. And the Freddie / Bill team is the greatest duo on television. I want them to have their own show.

--Freddie’s references to John as a ‘shapeshifter’ are starting to seem less far-fetched. John seems to switch back and forth between three different outfits, with no logical place to change or keep the outfits he isn’t wearing. And in one scene at the end of Episode Seven, he had Mitch Yost’s hair.

--And where is Mitch anyway? Well, that’s three episodes he’s been gone, and with the pacing of the show, that equals three days. Three day stretches turn up in most major religions. Fast for three days, three days in the grave, three days in the woods. I’m thinking something has happened to him while he’s been gone, and that we’ll see him in the next episode.

--Whether or not John is Christ, Linc is Satan. He got Cissie to sign her grandson over – maybe that’s the kind of ‘gone’ that John meant. That guy is just creepy. All of his scenes have mildly evil overtones, and if you think that tape recorder he dropped in the ocean is gone, I do believe you’re drunk. You just know John’s going to pull it out of his pocket.

I have no answers, but this show is filling my head with all kinds of crazy. I’m so intrigued by the characters that even if it were a completely straightforward story, I’d be absorbed. Throw in the levitating and the telepathic birds, and I want to find a way to freebase this show.

That Thing...

Short stuff today, as I’m working on a Hall of Fame Induction, a John from Cincinnati analysis, and an I Heart Supporting Characters. None of which I will have done on time, but it’s not like you’re paying for it.

--Yay for “The Simpsons Movie”! They went and made an obscene amount of money this weekend, over $70 million. Made more than the next five highest-grossers combined, in fact. By the by, I’ve heard tell that they’re running a preview for the new Batman in front of “The Simpsons Movie”. I saw it twice and didn’t get that trailer. Can anybody verify that this is really happening? Of course, if Batman and The Simpsons came together, I would have slipped into a coma of joy, so it’s probably just as well.

--I’m really loving AMC’s Mad Men. Not only is the Nixon campaign becoming a continuing story, but this week’s episode featured children playing with dry cleaner bags. That’s comedy, folks. I do have one gripe, and it may not be legitimate. I’m just not convinced that drop ceilings existed in 1960. I mean, maybe they did; it’s not like I have any special knowledge or insight. The ceiling at the agency just seems out of place for me. On the other hand, nobody wears seat belts and they smoke in the office, so they got the important stuff.

--I’m sorry I didn’t do a write-up before last week’s final episode of Adult Swim’s Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law. It was a great show, and I’ll miss it. Granted, it took them seven years to produce 39 fifteen-minute episodes, so ending the show only slightly slows their production schedule. A lame 1970’s Hanna-Barbera hero who turned to practicing law, Harvey pretty much laid waste to the HB archives. We’ll never look at Peter Potamus or Apache Chief the same way again. They’re re-running the series from the beginning on Sunday nights, and the whole series is available on DVD. In my pants.

--And in SiteMeter news, yesterday the Swear Jar had a reader who Googled ‘Tarik Tyler’. I’m ridiculously pleased that somebody was actively searching the scary-ass trainer from Shaq’s Big Challenge. I long to be your one-stop blog stop for all your Shaq’s Big Challenge needs.

Hopefully tomorrow you’ll find out the next inductee to the Swear Jar Hall of Fame. Will they, like the first three inductees, be affiliated with both Arrested Development AND Freak Show? Or have I finally exhausted that particular Venn Diagram? Is the tension killing you?

Sunday, July 29, 2007

The Big Brother Report -- Fourth in a Series

150th Post! Does that make me awesome or lonely?

I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to notice, but Big Brother is a very insular little world. Not in the sense that it takes place in a small amount of space, but it’s developed a continuity of its own, and they assume that everybody is familiar with that continuity. It’s rare that you see a reality show where people reference previous seasons of that same show. Big Brother is populated by people who are proud of having watched every previous season. (And yes, I want to be on Big Brother so badly that it hurts.)

This week, Dick referenced Marcellas from BB3. First off, Dick does not strike me as the kind of guy who watches a lot of summer reality shows. Secondly, there was no effort by the editors to explain the reference. They can safely assume that we are familiar with Marcellas’ decision not to take himself off the block when he won POV in the final five. Five years ago. (God, I’m old.)

I think the part of my brain that really gets excited about Big Brother is the same part that grew up on superhero comic books. You get to be in this secret club by learning the continuity, and you’re rewarded with added value if you know the difference between BB3’s Eric the fireman and BB6’s Eric the fireman, or if you remember the mysterious figure lurking outside Animal Man’s house 18 issues ago. EJ loves his continuity.

That said, let’s mention the farting once again. Dick is in the HoH bedroom, talking strategy with a group of men and women. Suddenly he gets up, walks into the adjoining bathroom (leaving the door open), and lets loose an absolutely bone-chilling fart. And then another. And then a little fart rider. These are so loud that the camera microphone picked up the sound. And apparently, they smelled enough that he sprayed the room down. Then he went back into the bedroom, sat down, and resumed his strategy talk while everybody else tried to stifle their gagging. I don’t know what more you people want out of summer television.

Well, I can tell Mike and Zach apart now, given that Mike is no longer in the house. I liked Mike, but he was incredibly stupid this week. Dude gets himself put on the block to honor his alliance, which had already been betrayed by everybody involved. Let’s say your alliance was worth saving. Seems to me the best way to save it is by keeping Jen on the block and getting her voted out. That way, you know, both people in your alliance are still in the house.

And once again, I’m forced to call “Shenanigans”. This week we were told that Jen and Mike are models, even though we’ve been told all along that Jen is a nanny and Mike is a painter. Come on, Big Brother, play fair with us.

Here’s a look at the remaining houseguests:

JESSICA – If they didn’t vote live, we’d never see her at all. I have to assume the producers aren’t happy that Carol was the first one out. Let’s face it, the only mildly interesting thing about Jessica is her enmity. With no place to focus her pointless and unreciprocated bitterness, there is nothing left of her.

ZACH – Every year, somebody’s got to streak the house. I think Zach is probably kind of slow, but he still amuses me. He doesn’t seem to be somebody who thinks he could possibly win – this is his summer vacation. When he’s evicted, he’s not going to mind at all.

KAIL – I’m mentioning it again, because she keeps doing it. Subject/verb agreement, lady! I’ve never seen anybody blow it as badly as her. Also, her revelation that she thinks ‘gay’ and ‘drag queen’ are interchangeable just makes me sad. She strikes me as awfully pathetic. She sells out her alliance at the first opportunity, there’s sobbing and begging; it’s pitiful. Lying is fine in the Big Brother house, but she’s pulled some serious hurtful lies to Daniele about her father. Way to represent Christianity, lady.

AMBER – The crying was at a minimum this week. Sadly, that’s all she’s got going for her. You can’t phase out your gimmick so quickly, unless you’re prepared to actually be interesting. Amber is not prepared to do so.

NICK – I’m starting to hate him. If he’s as decent a guy as he claims to be, maybe he should lay off the full-court press on the girl with a boyfriend. When your attempts to get laid on-camera send Daniele into a fit of conflicted sobbing, you stop. Unless you’re an asshole. Which Nick apparently is. Also, straight guys don’t generally have a list of the five guys they’d do. The term is ‘bi-curious’. Embrace it, and your life will start to make sense. (And for those of you who think he was joking, let me tell you a little story. I’ve been avoiding most Internet coverage of Big Brother, just to save my sanity and give me time to sleep. And then an anonymous Swear Jar reader sent me a YouTube video of topless Jen putting on a show for the camera. Which I watched for research, you understand. Anyway, in my brief YouTube foray, I found video of Nick talking at length about how his life would be different if he were gay, how people would react if he came out on TV, and trying to convince Joe to simulate oral sex on him for the camera. This is a running theme for him.)

DANIELE/DICK – Grouping them together because their relationship was at the fore this week. It really is clear that Dick wants to be in her life and do the right thing, but he doesn’t know how to. And given that Dick is the kind of guy who calls people out on bullshit instantly and publicly, reconciliation must be hard for both parties. I really do hope they get family counseling like Dick suggested. Beyond that, Dick is the best HoH ever, as he’s incapable of subtlety. Also, he keeps his eye on the prize. He made the right nominations all along, and didn’t get swayed by other events. So many people get manipulated into not nominating the people they want out, and before you know it, Evil Will is winning the whole thing.

JAMEKA – We saw a little more of her, and I thought her talk with Dick was really interesting. As the only Black person in the house, there really is extra scrutiny on her. I’m not a fan of the idea that minorities have to represent their race. That puts unnecessary pressure on people. And, you know, some people just suck. I mean, do you really want to say that Michael Vick is representing all Black people? If he doesn’t have to, then Jameka doesn’t have to. Regardless, she feels like she has to, and that’s what’s important to her. It was interesting to see people come out and actually talk about the issue of race on reality TV. And it was gratifying to see her and Dick talk like grown-up. Very cool.

DUSTIN – Yay, Dustin! Way to win Head of Household, buddy! He was kind of low-profile this week, but that’s largely because the theme of the week was ‘Dick and the people who have problems with him’. Clearly we’ll have more to say about him next week.

ERIC – America’s Player! Still likeably nerdy, and low-profile enough that he’ll be around for a while. It seems like everybody likes him, and he did a damn good job of avoiding suspicion with the mustard-squirting incident. Can you imagine what a disaster America’s Player would be if it were one of the dumb people?

JEN – You know, that attempt to have her loved ones talk about her so we’d stop hating her didn’t work. When her own mother says she can be shallow, that ain’t good. And her friend claimed that Jen is incredibly intelligent – I’m not buying it. Sure, it’s possible she’s an evil genius, but anybody who’s played dumb in the past has at least let the act slip in the Diary Room, and Jen is just as vacuous there as she is in the rest of the house. Besides, anybody can declare a double major in college – you’ll note that Jen’s friend did not say anything about graduation. Strange that we didn’t see the family she purportedly works for. I am impressed at how she avoids other people’s drama, but that’s pretty much because she has no concern about anything that’s not her. And as always, I’ve got some suggestions for Jen-themed shirts: “Robert Guillaume is ‘Jenson’”, “Jenpecked”, and “Jenital Herpes”.

Admittedly, Dustin seems much less likely than Dick to fart on-camera repeatedly, but we can keep our fingers crossed.

Friday, July 27, 2007

You Guys, What the Hell?

According to my sitemeter, in the last 24 hours, I've had three people who ended up at this blog by Googling my name. Why would people do that? Have I been in the news recently?

I'm sort of afraid that it's my new employer researching me, and now they know that I spend my time writing about messianic surfers, superheroes, and my man-crush on Paul Rudd. I suspect I'll spend the rest of my career eating my lunch alone...

My Expectations are Met!

I’m not going to say much about the plot of “The Simpsons Movie”, but don’t mistake that for lack of enthusiasm. They just did such a great job of keeping the plot mysterious that I don’t want to spoil it for others. Seriously, I couldn’t imagine how the disparate clips they showed in the advertising could possibly belong to a single story. Bart’s skateboarding naked, there are helicopters and nuclear missiles, Homer’s on a motorcycle, Green Day is out on a barge, Homer’s leading a dog team, the Simpson home is disappearing down a sinkhole, Apu’s begging Mr. Burns for electricity, there’s some business about President Schwarzenegger, and of course, let’s not forget Spider-Pig. You can just tell it has to be one crazy-ass story.

Long story short, Homer falls in love with a pig and causes one of the greatest environmental disasters in history. Just from that, you can tell it has one of the classic Simpsons plot structures, where the first act has almost nothing to do with the remainder of the story.

And let me tell you, it’s excellent. If you have ever been a Simpsons fan, you’re going to love this. It encompasses the multitude of themes that make up the show. If you like the religious or political stuff, it’s in here. The slapstick? Here. The emotionally resonant stories of marriage and faith? Also here. Booze and violence? Oh, they’re here.

There’s an automatic danger with putting The Simpsons on the big screen. With the massive supporting cast, everybody has their favorites, and they run the risk of upsetting people who wanted Disco Stu or Handsome Pete to have a larger role in the story. And if they even try to let all the fan favorites get their bits in, it doesn’t leave any room for the story. I think they handled it the best way possible, by focusing the story on the family. Even major characters like Krusty, Mr. Burns, and Ralph get very limited screen time. The Simpson family is the core of the story, and anybody else who gets a joke in is pure gravy. It helps that the supporting cast’s bits are all golden. Ralph has three lines, but they’re all really funny. Burns’ three scenes are unforgettable. Cletus makes more with his screen time than Ellen Burstyn in that one TV-movie where she got Emmy-Nominated for being an extra. And Martin gets his single greatest moment in 18 years.

Sure, I would have liked Duffman and Gil to get some lines, but at least they were there. Everybody appears onscreen at some point. No, EVERYBODY. Gabbo and Chester J. Lampwick and the President of the Springfield Communist Party all get screen time.

They pull off the difficult task of giving the whole family something to do. It’s very much a Homer story, but everybody else has a plotline, too. Marge, who gets shorted pretty consistently in the series, has a very nice arc, with one of the nicest vocal performances I’ve heard in a long time. Just note the video she leaves for Homer. The voice alone is absolutely heartbreaking. It’s been reported that Julie Kavner did 100 takes of that scene to nail the emotion, and the end result couldn’t be better.

And the animation is absolutely beautiful. As ever, it’s all hand-drawn, and the detail is phenomenal. I assume they used some computer effects for scenes like a lengthy pan through a fully-animated angry mob, but it’s smooth and consistent with the rest of the movie. There’s more shadowing than on the show, which is probably to break up what would otherwise be acres of flat yellow. It’s really a nice reminder to the other studios out there that cel animation is still a viable art form.

I’m not going to bother with listing my favorite jokes, as that would spoil them and it would take forever. Maybe after everybody’s seen it, I’ll revisit my favorite lines. Let me just say that Albert Brooks as evil EPA head Russ Cargill may have the best line in the movie. You’ll know it when you hear it.

I can’t say enough good things about the movie. I even think that people who aren’t fans of the series would enjoy it, but I can’t imagine spending time with people like that. What would we even talk about?

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Interruption in Service

Hey all!

My schedule prevents me from doing a decent post today, but I will bring you the Big Brother Report and a review of "The Simpsons Movie" over the next couple of days.

I really thought I could bang out a Big Brother Report before the movie, but then Dick went and walked out of a strategy session to fart. Repeatedly. Clearly we have much to talk about.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Reality Rodeo!

Time for another look at some of our favorite reality shows.

--While it was great to see last week’s long-awaited elimination of Crazy Mary on Age of Love, I did not approve of Jayanna’s recent ouster. Mark bases his elimination decisions on weird criteria sometimes. Stalker Amanda tells you something Jayanna may or may not have said, so you eliminate Jayanna on the word of somebody who’s crazy and simple?

Meanwhile, Maria is taking up permanent residence on my last nerve. It’s bad enough that every week she resolves to quit, right up until she’s, you know, asked to stay. But then, when Jen laughed at her on the camping trip, Maria turned it into this thing about how Jen was laughing at women in the general sense. I was not aware that Maria represented every woman. Perhaps that’s because she doesn’t. What a nut.

Granted, the whole camping trip was awesomely awkward, but I just don’t get where Mark’s head is at. Amanda’s crazy, dude. She’ll cut you – it’s just a matter of when.

--My puny heart nearly broke over Julia’s Hell’s Kitchen elimination. And then when Ramsay announced he was sending her to Culinary School, I actually cheered out loud. Over a cooking show. Something’s wrong with me. Truly, she held it together in the kitchen better than anybody, but she has severe gaps in her knowledge. That’s fine. You can learn how to make expensive foods. And with her ability to run a kitchen and work fast and consistently, she’s got a bright future. And God bless her for her excitement over the bidet. That was just delightful.

Last week, I loved the Paintball reward. Mostly, I loved that Gordon took them all down. I think he’s just freaky good at everything. And Rock’s assessment of Josh deserves recognition. “If he’d quit screwing everything up, he wouldn’t be the whipping boy anymore. He’d just be good.”

This week, Josh’s mid-service firing was one of the greatest things I saw all summer. He’s never had a good service, and never really done anything even remotely redeemable. I can’t remember if anyone’s been fired during the service before, but if anybody ever deserved it, it was Josh. Particularly impressive was his ability to completely ignore criticism. Just because Chef Ramsay tells you to make the spaghetti to order is no reason to actually make the spaghetti to order. And just because there’s risotto at every service is no reason to learn how to make it. And what do high school kids love? Baked Salmon is what they love! What a douche.

I still like Rock, and I think his ‘temper’ is more ‘sulkiness’. Dude, don’t tell me you have a temper when Ramsay is punching walls and screaming obscenities. He does have a problem with teamwork, though. He still seems like the likely winner, but he’s got some work to do.

I sort of love Bonnie. “Is he keeping me around because I’m entertaining?” I feel like she’s got potential, if she’d stop getting flustered. And the fact that Jen immediately thought of Mariah Carey and the Rock as trendsetters is both endearing and sad.

This week reminded me of why I like Gordon. Did you see how excited he was for the Final Five? He couldn't stop bouncing up and down. He really does want to see people do well.

--My love for Shaq’s Big Challenge continues unabated. I nearly bawled when Walter told the doctor about his mother, and then lost it again when he and the other kids were encouraging the new group. Whether this translates into Shaq changing the school system is still iffy, but the difference he’s made for these kids is just amazing.

Of course, we still have our train wrecks. Tarik Tyler’s inability to understand fun was hilarious, and I couldn’t get enough of Tyler Florence and the lunch ladies. They were not impressed by him. I admire his commitment and his determination, though. He did everything wrong that he possibly could before coming up with a workable meal, and he kept trying. (Though he did attempt to convince that Board Member that a 50% increase in costs was ‘close’. Didn’t go over so well.)

Also, the fact that Shaq knows Tyler Florence bolsters my theory that all famous people know one another. In my world, Jay-Z knows John Updike, and Bruce Campbell hangs out with Judi Dench.

The Principal has really gone above and beyond to accommodate Shaq, which really impressed me. Everybody involved with this show means well, you know? There are no dicks here. Just a lot of people trying their best and breaking my heart every damn week.

Sorry I’m a little short today – still adjusting to my new work schedule. Plus, you know, there’s that little matter of “The Simpsons Movie”. 35 hours away as of this writing. I’m a little distracted.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Counting Down...

Please note that as of this writing, only 49 hours remain until "The Simpsons Movie" opens. I'm having difficulty concentrating on anything else.

Box Set Riot: Weeds Season One and 24 Season Three

Why, it’s another edition of Box Set Riot! This time, a box set I liked, and one I didn’t. Sort of like the comedy and tragedy masks.

--I’m not a fan of pot humor. In general, only people who actually smoke pot think that pot jokes are funny. Personally, I find it irritating and lazy. You know, it’s funny because he’s high! Get it? Eh. Despite this bias, I was pretty excited about Showtime’s Weeds. After all, it’s not a comedy about people getting high and giggling, but rather, a suburban single mom who sells drugs to support her family. Interesting premise. Go on Showtime, entertain me. So I plowed through Season One, and, well, I don’t get it.

I know it’s had all sorts of critical acclaim, but I was really disappointed. Mary Louise-Parker is good in the lead role of Nancy Botwin, but I just don’t care about her character. It’s a ludicrous premise, so in order for it to work, it’s essential that the characters be real. You have to convince us that within their reality, everything makes complete sense. Instead, she bounces between experienced dealer and naïve newbie, as the plot dictates. More importantly, they never really sold the idea that this was a reasonable path for her to take. (Or, if you can’t sell it as a reasonable premise, we have to accept that her character is screwed up enough to think it’s reasonable, and they didn’t pull that off either.)

In fact, I find myself seriously disliking Nancy. Her husband died, so she turned to selling drugs to support her family. So, that’s a big no on just getting a job, then? It’s not as if a single mother is physically incapable of supporting a family. I’m pretty sure that it’s been done. You know who can’t catch a break? Wealthy white women, that’s who.

There were some nice performances from Romany Malco, Elizabeth Perkins, and Justin Kirk, but that didn’t save the series for me. Worst of all, for me at least, was a scene where Justin Kirk and Kevin Nealon debate the Iraq War. Nealon plays a Bush supporter, and the scene is so broadly played, where Nealon makes statements that nobody living in America would actually believe to be true. And this is all so that his arguments can be shot down. It’s that smugness I mentioned before – why even bother having a debate if you’re using a straw man anyway? Not like I’m wearing a ‘These Colors Don’t Run’ shirt, but this was just a boring and condescending way of making a point. In fact, it’s pretty unlikely that there are a lot of Bush supporters watching Weeds, which turns it into one of those ‘Us Vs. Them’ scenes that offend me so. That’s part of what bothers me about Family Guy, among other shows. It’s all humor designed to prop up the members of the target audience and treat everybody else like they’re stupid. The Simpsons and South Park get right down in the mud and take shots at their own audience. It’s part of making people think, you know? Playing it safe and pretending it's edgy is just unforgiveable to me.

And that was a lengthy digression in the midst of my reasons as to why I didn’t like Weeds.

--You know what I did like? Season Three of 24! Aside from the usual Jack Bauer ass kickings, this season introduced fan-favorite Chloe. Played by the great Mary Lynn Rajskub, Chloe is the new addition to the tech side of CTU. What’s great is that her character was not written as particularly interesting, at least initially. It was totally the performance that sold the character. She’s just so sour and off-putting. Even the simplest pleasantries become weird and awkward, and it’s just glorious.

Other new additions to the cast don’t make as much impact. Heroes’ Sylar shows up as Adam, a CTU drone. And Jack’s new partner, Chase, just never really fits in. He’s much more notable as a plot complication than a character. On the plus side, Kim Bauer is now employed at CTU, and thus has much less screen time.

The magic of 24 is that you don’t really think how implausible the day has been until it’s over. The momentum carries you through, almost unquestioningly. Jack starts the day with a heroin problem, and then goes on to start and end a prison riot, fly to Mexico, possibly betray America, run afoul of a crooked virus dealer (as opposed to an honest, Mom-and-Pop virus dealer), get revenge for his wife’s murder, escape custody five or six times, beat confessions out of multiple terrorists, kill a co-worker, and etc. That really only covers two-thirds of the season. In the meantime, Tony takes a bullet, Michelle inhales some bad virus, President Palmer and his idiot brother screw up badly, and it just keeps going. Obviously, it’s ludicrous, but they keep you riveted.

This is the first time where I feel like the overall plot was tinkered with from its original conception: A subplot about blackmailing the President’s girlfriend disappears early in the season with little resolution. The story was dispatched so effectively that the disappearance didn’t seem odd until after I’d finished the season. The replacement storyline was more interesting, with farther reaching consequences. Still, it seems a shame to lose Sherry Palmer and torpedo the Palmer Presidency just because dumbass Keith can’t keep it in his pants. I did like how Palmer had to juggle national security and family drama, not unlike Jack in Season One. Gripes aside, that was a well-constructed plot, with Palmer gradually sliding into an irredeemable ethical area, even as he maintained a solid front when confronted with a nation disaster.

Lost a lot of regulars this season, and I have to admit that Chappelle’s death was so well-done that I felt badly about putting him on my Most Hated list. Damn you, 24!

And I have to say, that was a nice touch in the finale, the way Chase used his belt to tie off his arm so Jack could sever it. Looked exactly like Jack tying off his own arm so he could shoot up in the first episode. And nice work from Carlos Bernard and Reiko Aylesworth as Tony and Michelle. Those two really went through the wringer over the season, and I really want to know what happens to them next. I’m trying to remain unspoiled, but I just know they’re going to die, and I will be crushed when I hit those episodes.

And now, on to Season Four!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Bits of Bloggy Goodness!

Short bits to start the week:

--Started my new job today, and until I’ve got some feel for what level of Internet foolishness I’ll be allowed on company time, my blogging will be consistent, but irregular. Not unlike my bowel movements. For the near future, new material will likely appear at night, rather than in the morning hours to which you’ve become accustomed. You know, because you have nothing else to worry about, so you’re clearly tightly focused on my comings and goings.

--Mysterious Don mildly disagrees with me on Celebrity Apprentice. Technically, he’s probably correct (which is the best kind of correct), but I remain hopeful. The key will be getting celebrities who are significantly invested. Perhaps you remember Corbin Bernsen going all “Beautiful Mind” on Celebrity Mole. Twice. And really, I see The Apprentice as being an ideal vehicle for that kind of investment. Most of the actual contestants would be taking a pay cut were they to win; it’s much more about the exposure and the competition, rather than the prize. In that sense, a former Backstreet Boy playing for charity is probably just as invested in the outcome as a 23-year-old corporate lawyer. At least, that’s what I’m telling myself. I don’t want to live in a world where Donald Trump doesn’t get to inadvertently air the dark corners of his psyche on national television every week.

--Tuesday on FX is the premiere of Damages, the new legal drama starring Glenn Close. Early buzz has been positive, and FX has a pretty good track record. Plus, Ted Danson is in it! Yes, I said nothing funny or interesting there. I'm a hack.

--I may have mentioned, at length, my love from HBO’s Flight of the Conchords. Just when I thought I couldn’t love them anymore, last night’s episode featured a perfect David Bowie parody and a guest shot by John Hodgman. I want to put a wig on that show and pretend like it’s a woman and we’ll spoon all night.

--Good show alert! Thursdays at 10 on AMC is Mad Men. It’s a drama about the advertising business in 1960. Created by former Sopranos writer Matthew Weiner, it’s a great look at the seamy side of an America that didn’t realize the seamy side existed. I’ll have to do a long review after a couple of episodes, but it’s disturbing and funny and darkly satirical, with hints of more darkness to come. Even better, Don Draper, the lead character, is offered a chance to run Nixon’s presidential campaign. First off, the fact that Nixon is referred to as ‘young and handsome’ is the funniest thing ever. Secondly, as anybody who’s seen a Notable Sawyer show will tell you, my personal obsession with the comedic value of Richard Nixon knows no bounds.

--I am actually losing sleep in my anticipation for Friday’s release of “The Simpsons Movie”. I’ll be there at 12:01 AM! If any readers in the Grand Rapids area want to join me for the single most significant cultural event of my life (and no, I’m not joking) drop me a line.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Big Brother Report -- Third in a Series

I actually thought Julie Chen made the funniest joke in Big Brother history, and then I remembered that she is incapable of wit and thus it was completely accidental. When she said to Jen “You really took the ‘uni’ out of ‘unitard’,” I honestly thought Julie was calling her a ‘tard. Which would have been completely inappropriate and yet hysterical. Sadly, this is Julie Chen, and she doesn’t think that far ahead.

Can’t say that I’ll miss Joe. I don’t mind a manipulator on the show, but an utterly witless manipulator is just hard to watch. Plus, he has gotten increasingly less funny since the first episode. And also, I like Dustin and I think he'll be happy with creepy ex-boyfriend out of his life.

Let’s run down the houseguests:

MIKE & ZACH – I still have a hard time remembering which is which, but they seem to be playing the game together anyway. Plus, now I like the both of them. They don’t get too involved in bullshit, and they’re funny. The Jen Drinking Game? That’s great comedy. And the weightlifter commentator bit was goofy and funny. And I enjoyed Zach’s straightforward farewell video for Joe. “You rub me the wrong way.” Good call.

KAIL – Well, she’s still got that problem with her subject/verb agreement. Or, as Kail would say, she’s still got those problem. It doesn’t take much for her to turn on you, since she was totally pro-Dick right up until the end, and she’s sort of an incompetent manipulator. I mean, she didn’t change anybody’s vote, and couldn’t even get her alliance to vote the way she wanted. It’s not smart to show your hand if all you’ve got is a bloody stump.

JESSICA – The voice! She’s a simpleton and boring, but we have bigger fish to fry. As long as they can keep her off camera for most of the week again, I can live with her. Interesting how America hates her – the viewers wanted Eric to get her nominated. We, as a nation, want to save our hearing.

NICK – My sister called bullshit on the ‘pro football player’ thing, and I’m calling bullshit on everything else about him. He’s just so freaking emo, you know? I mean, he gave Daniele the key to his heart, as indicated by an actual key! And then he told her about his secret alliance. (Given that this is the least motivated alliance ever, that’s probably not a huge mistake.) Either this guy has a pathological need to be loved that nearly rivals my own, or he’s the most pathetic guy on the block. Also, I hate it when Houseguests try to hook up with people who are in relationships. That’s so sleazy, and I always want them to get their asses kicked as soon as they’re back in public.

DANIELE – She may actually be a decent player, but I’m still freaked out that I can see her internal organs. Eat a sandwich! She seems to actually like her dad, but she’s more in love with the idea of having an estranged father.

JAMEKA – Quick, tell me one thing she’s done on the show. Yeah, that’s what I thought. Again, she seems exceedingly normal, and is probably quite a nice person. Good luck getting camera time.

DUSTIN – Hee. I like him. Especially when he’s with Mike and/or Zach. You could just see that the very presence of Joe was taking a toll on him. Further, the interview with Dustin’s best friend seemed to confirm the vibe I got that Dustin is kind of awesome and Joe sucks.

DICK – I’m liking him more and more. Sure, he’s got his issues, but dude’s got balls. I have never seen anybody call a Head of Household out like that, prior to the nomination ceremony. And then he called out Kail before the voting. He’s like the freaky-ass Jiminy Cricket of the house. And now that it’s clear that he and Daniele are both somewhat to blame for their problems, I feel a little safer liking him. Glad to see him as Head of Household, and you have to assume he’s nominating Kail and Jen.

ERIC – You know, we don’t see much of him outside of the America’s Player stuff. I’m sure he’s keeping a low profile, but he seems pretty drama-free in general. He’s affably dorky. And you have to admire his attempts to actually use logic to affect Jen’s nominations. A futile attempt, but admirable nonetheless.

AMBER – Damn, can that girl cry. I mean, that’s her thing. She cried when she was nominated. She cried when other people were nominated. She cried when she was selected for the Veto competition. At least she didn’t pray for Reality Show Intercession this week, leaving God free to keep the Earth in its orbit. I’ve shallowly pointed out that she is noticeably un-pretty already. It’s now clear that the constant crying has something to do with that.

JEN – Oy. I have never gone from thinking somebody is hot to hating the sight of them quite so fast. And yet, I still think she’s hot and I hate myself. I mean, you have to admit she was rocking the unitard, and that took me to a very strange Donna Troy place that is best not explored in this venue. That said, she’s tragically stupid and generally awful. She doesn’t know anything. I don’t know how they keep her from drowning in the rain. And she was disappointed that the Head of Household room didn’t have more pictures of her? Personally, I’d want to see my loved ones rather than pictures of myself. I don’t need a pictorial reminder of me, given that I am me. Throw in the self-righteousness (Yeah, she’s ‘ridding the house of negativity’.) and her complete social-retardation, and she’s an absolute disaster of a human being. And yet, she’s so wrapped up in Jen-Land that she will never realize it. They can’t keep her around much longer. Nobody’s breasts are large enough to justify that personality. Finally, I’d like to suggest some more ‘Jen’-themed t-shirts for her. How about “Go, Team Jen-ture”, “Jen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”, and “The Pit and the Jen-dulum”?

Can’t wait to see what Dick does with his power. And I’m on pins and needles to see what his HoH bedroom will look like. The mind boggles.

The Specifics of My Emmy Anger

Hey, it’s Emmy Day! Previously, I mentioned my problems with the nomination process. The actual nominations this year are a mixed bag, where I’m happy for some of my favorites, and absolutely disgusted by some omissions. Let’s take a look at the major ones, and the minor ones that are close to my heart.

Boston Legal
Grey’s Anatomy
The Sopranos

First off, I’ve already mentioned how it’s a travesty that The Wire was not nominated this season. That alone virtually invalidates the legitimacy of the Emmys. Deadwood and Lost also deserved nominations, particularly based on the strength of their submitted episodes. (Did you see anything better this year than the Lost finale? Don’t lie, you totally did not.) Still, I’m thrilled for my boys at Heroes, House, and The Sopranos. Of the nominees, I’d give it to Heroes, but there aren’t any real stinkers in the lineup. And I’m surprised at the complete lack of nominations for The Shield, especially as strong as the season was.

The Office
30 Rock
Two and a Half Men
Ugly Betty

There should have been a Gilmore Girls nomination. It was not their best season, but with Emmy’s single episode nominations, they could have earned a spot on the strength of the finale or the drunken karaoke episodes. So, there’s my bitterness there. Obviously, my allegiance is to The Office, but I’d be really happy for those goofballs at 30 Rock, since they could really use the boost. Two and a Half Men, while generally funny, is a little too old-school for me. I have a strong aversion to laugh tracks and the multi-camera format, basically. I love Entourage, but I don’t really see it as a flat-out comedy, and I totally don’t get the Ugly Betty love. I would have rather seen nominations for Extras and The Sarah Silverman Program. And My Name is Earl. And maybe Scrubs, since their submitted episode was the musical episode. If Ugly Betty beats either of the NBC nominees, I will booze up and riot.

James Gandolfini (The Sopranos)
Hugh Laurie (House)
Denis Leary (Rescue Me)
James Spader (Boston Legal)
Kiefer Sutherland (24)

Well, those are five excellent actors. I can’t really complain…. Wait a minute, where the hell is Ian McShane? Deadwood’s Al Swearengen is one of TV’s greatest characters, and McShane’s performance is never less than perfect. Stupid Academy. Now, since I don’t believe in actors winning more than one Emmy for the same role, I can’t officially support Gandolfini, Spader, or Kiefer. And I do love Hugh Laurie’s performance as House, so he’s my favorite, even though I’m hoping for a McShane upset.

Patricia Arquette (Medium)
Minnie Driver (The Riches)
Edie Falco (The Sopranos)
Sally Field (Brothers & Sisters)
Mariska Hargitay (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit)
Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer)

Huh. I’ve never seen an episode of Medium, The Closer, or Brothers & Sisters. Falco and Hargitay have already won for those shows, so they’re out of my own personal running. (Although Edie Falco is never less than awesome.) That leaves me with Minnie Driver, and I really didn’t care for her performance on The Riches. Personally, I was hoping for a longshot Kirsten Bell nomination. Still, since I haven’t seen half the shows, I’m not really qualified to comment.

Alec Baldwin (30 Rock)
Steve Carell (The Office)
Ricky Gervais (Extras)
Tony Shalhoub (Monk)
Charlie Sheen (Two and a Half Men)

Shalhoub wins every year, and he’ll probably do it again. I really like all the performances here, even though I would have swapped Charlie Sheen for Jason Lee. Nothing against Charlie, but he’s not really acting, you know? That’s pretty much him. Baldwin and Gervais are unstoppable dynamos, but Steve Carell as Michael Scott is one of TV’s most complicated characters. He deserves this one.

America Ferarra (Ugly Betty)
Tina Fey (30 Rock)
Felicity Huffman (Desperate Housewives)
Julia Louis-Dreyfus (New Adventures of Old Christine)
Mary Louise-Parker (Weeds)

I think those last three have already won in these roles. Regardless, Desperate Housewives isn’t a comedy, Old Christine isn’t funny, I was really disappointed by Weeds, and just don’t get Ugly Betty. In a Lauren Graham-less field, and I can’t even tell you how mad I am about that, I’m on Team Fey. That probably sounds like damning with faint praise, but I’m a huge Tina Fey fan, so I really am happy to see her with a nomination. Liz Rocks!

Michael Emerson (Lost)
Michael Imperioli (The Sopranos)
TR Knight (Grey’s Anatomy)
Masi Oka (Heroes)
Terry O’Quinn (Lost)
William Shatner (Boston Legal)

Shatner and Imperioli have already won. And it is not easy for me to pick in a category that pits Locke and Hiro against one another. Then you throw in Lost’s probably evil and definitely creepy Benry, and this is a really strong race. I can’t root against Locke, since he’s my favorite. However, I will secretly be happy for Hiro or Benry.

Lorraine Bracco (The Sopranos)
Rachel Griffiths (Brothers & Sisters)
Katherine Heigl (Grey’s Anatomy)
Sandra Oh (Grey’s Anatomy)
Aida Turturro (The Sopranos)
Chandra Wilson (Grey’s Anatomy)

This is another strong category. I don’t watch Brothers & Sisters, but Rachel Griffiths is good. I don’t watch Grey’s Anatomy, because the only men who watch it watch it with their girlfriends, and I am lonely. Still, all the women nominated are excellent actresses. I’m going to be happy for anybody who wins here, even if I do feel like Lost’s Juliet deserved a nod. And I feel like The Shield’s CCH Pounder deserves a win and maybe sainthood.

Jon Cryer (Two and a Half Men)
Kevin Dillon (Entourage)
Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother)
Jeremy Piven (Entourage)
Rainn Wilson (The Office)

Piven’s won already, so he needs to step back. Let’s see, NPH absolutely owns his show, and Drama is my favorite thing about Entourage. But they can’t beat Dwight! How do you not give Dwight Schrute an Emmy? I think that’ll make up for not giving him a Dundee. I wouldn’t have minded a nomination for 30 Rock’s Tracy Morgan, I feel like Scrubs’ John C. McGinley should always be nominated, and I want Jay Johnston (of The Sarah Silverman Program) should be nominated simply for the line “I’ve seen things that would make you crap a book on how to puke.” But even if they were all nominated, I’d still be rooting for Dwight.

Conchata Ferrell (Two and a Half Men)
Jenna Fischer (The Office)
Elizabeth Perkins (Weeds)
Jamie Pressly (My Name is Earl)
Holland Taylor (Two and a Half Men)
Vanessa Williams (Ugly Betty)

Elizabeth Perkins is really the only one I like on Weeds. Jamie Pressly (Joy) is always hysterical and I love her. But if you think anybody but Pam deserves this award, you’re drunk and high. And stupid. I mean, I don’t know how you wouldn’t root for her on likeability alone. But she was just pitch-perfect in a complicated role this season.

Avatar: The Last Airbender
Robot Chicken
South Park
SpongeBob SquarePants
The Simpsons

I don’t know what Avatar is, but I feel like it’s a toy tie-in. Robot Chicken is about 25% as funny as it thinks it is. I love SpongeBob, but I can’t support it in a South Park / Simpsons face-off. Technically, I always root for The Simpsons, but based on the strength of this year’s submitted episodes, South Park deserves it. Come on, they submitted the World of Warcraft episode! How do you not give that an award? Still, where's the nomination for the always solid King of the Hill? Or how about Harvey Birdman? I believe the "Orientation Video" episode aired during the eligibility window.

There’s more, including my now-annual distress over whether to root for The Daily Show or The Colbert Report, but my two favorite minor category nominations are as follows:

Outstanding Cinematography
Dirty Jobs

Best Original Songs
Scrubs “Everything Comes Down to Poo”

And now, I’m having a hard time here. On the one hand, I’m full of Emmy Anger. On the other hand, Pam and Dwight! It’s a conundrum.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Very Short Review

My one sentence review of "Transformers":

Man, even in a movie where the characters are robots, Michael Bay found a way to kill the Black guy.

And if it pleases the court, two more sentences:

Was the scene of the airplane flying into a skyscraper supposed to be awesome? Because last time I saw that, I distinctly remember that it was not awesome.

Fantasy Network League: The Apprentice

Hey, it's a new feature! Deep down, I think I could run a network. So occasionally I'll spend some time talking about how I'd save a show or set a schedule. Since I have absolutely no power, this will have no bearing on anything at all. But, you know, I was quoted in the L.A. Times. Anyway, This came from a chat with Mysterious Don about The Apprentice. See, it was cancelled, and now it's announced it's coming back as a 'Celebrity Edition'. I think we can agree that will be either awesome or a train wreck, or more likely, both at the same time.

The Apprentice has lost viewers every season, with the most recent season having only about 35% of the viewership of Season One. Part of that's the loss of novelty, part of it's scheduling, part of it is America getting bored with Trump yet again. If the last twenty years have taught us anything, it's that Trump is eternal, yet cyclical.

I sort of feel like The Apprentice is a damaged brand. Once a show like that loses heat, it's not coming back. And when it comes to that, you've got two options. You either give it a godforsaken time slot that you know you're going to lose and be happy with whatever ratings you get (like NBC did last season), or you go for a 'celebrity' season. People will watch celebrities doing things. Remember The Mole? I think that had two seasons, and then 3 more as Celebrity Mole. Personally, I think the celebrity season is the best thing they can do, as far as bringing in new viewers. It's never going to be a hit again, but I think they can get it to a solid mid-level show.

If I were running NBC, I'd use The Apprentice as a summer show. I think reality shows benefit from doing only one season per year -- Survivor's not nearly as popular as it once was, and I think that's because two weeks after one season ends, we're meeting a whole new bunch of castaways. Besides that, with summer shows, a solid mid-level performer is more than enough to carry the night. Further, I'd put it on Thursdays at either 9 or 10 and cross promote it with The Office reruns. I don't think Trump would enoy being likened to Michael Scott, but I don't think he'd pick up on it either.

I'd also play up the Ivanka angle, as she's getting a lot of press as a sex symbol these days. The important thing is to make sure that Trump and his sidekicks are on every episode and in every boardroom. It's not like Simon just starts skipping American Idol, you know? Or every third week they replace him with Clive Davis. Now, Carolyn got fired from the Trump Organization for putting the show above her job, and George has rarely appeared for the last few seasons, because he's putting his job above the show. So you get Ivanka on every episode, and promote the fact that she's on it. The negative publicity Trump tends to create doesn't backsplash onto her. As for the third Boardroom person, no more of those past winners. They're total stiffs in the Boardroom. I think it's important to have a crusty let loveable old guy. If George is too busy to continue, there's got to be somebody else in the organization.

As for show mechanics, I think they should have more tasks that force the Apprentices to do the work themselves. Too often, they get access to a graphics department and designers, and what have you. Make them go out there and sell some damn toothpaste in a mall! And last season's change where the winning Project Manager remains as Manager until they lose is a good change. They should stick with it. Not only does it eliminate the typical 'Fire the PM' result, but it creates internal tension which makes for good viewing. (Poor bastards ending up with Surya week after week...)

I think NBC could have a solid Hell's Kitchen-level performer if they handled it like this. And if they do any of this, I will sue them blind for stealing my ideas.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Famous-ish Last Words

It’s my last day at work today, so I’ll be busy telling everybody what I really thought of them for the last six years.

I thought today I’d present a selection of final lines from some of my favorite completed series. Some of them seem appropriate today, some are just funny, and some are just the last things they said before the cameras stopped.

“That’s what’s wrong with this job; it ain’t got nothing to do with life.”
Homicide: Life on the Street

“Let’s ride!”
Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.

“Hey, you’ve been great. I’ll see you in the cafeteria.”

“How can I win back the trust of an entire planet?”
“One person at a time.”
Superman: The Animated Series

“Haven’t we seen this one?”
Mystery Science Theater 3000

“All right, that’s it. Season’s over. Beat it.”
Mr. Show

“Me and you, pal. Me and you forever!”
“…I know.”

“(He) wants me to tell him something pretty.”

Batman: The Animated Series

“I don’t see it as a series. Maybe a movie.”
Arrested Development

“And now, part eight of our series on the life of Ursula Hitler, the Surrey housewife who revolutionized beekeeping in the 1930’s.”
Monty Python’s Flying Circus

“Oh, do it again!”
The Office (UK)

“The story’s simple. A man lives in prison and dies. How he dies? That’s easy. The who and the why is the complex part. The human part. The only part worth knowing.”

“Keep playing. I want to hear how it ends.”

And let’s go to Bellini for the most appropriate sentiment:
“Thank God that’s over.”
Kids in the Hall

Monday, July 16, 2007

I Made the Papers!

I just found out that one of my posts on The Sopranos finale was quoted in the LA Times. This is approximately the most awesome thing that's ever happened to me.

Check it out!

Pre-emptive Emmy Bitterness

All right, Emmy Nominations today! Now, I might not get a chance to see the nominations and think about them until tonight, so here are some general problems I have with how the whole process is handled. My specific gripes should be arriving later.

1) The nominations for Best Drama and Best Comedy are based around a single submitted episode. That’s a holdover from the olden times, when every episode of every show existed in a little independent bubble, neither influencing any other episodes, nor influenced by any others. Even then, it’s mildly ludicrous to think you can judge 22 episodes based on the quality of a single one. It’s based on the idea of utter homogeneity in entertainment.

It makes even less sense now, in these days of serial dramas and continuity-driven comedy. No longer is there a ‘reset’ button at the end of every episode. Why did Lost win the Best Drama award in Season One and then not even get nominated in Season Two? Well, when you submit the pilot, which by its very nature is introductory and more or less standalone, you’ve got a better shot than with an episode plucked from the middle of Season Two. Imagine seeing only one episode of Lost a season. You would be confused as hell.

I mean, look at The Wire. Last year, it made every major Top Ten list and topped most of them. It won a prestigious Peabody award. And yet, I’ve got five dollars that says the Emmy committee looked at it and decided it wasn’t even worthy of a nomination. Of course. The Wire is telling a rich, complex story over the course of a season. It’s full of complicated character interaction and development. And, of course, it’s impossible to pick one single episode that stands completely on its own. The season finale was arguably the finest hour of TV produced all year, but without the 12 hours of prior build-up, the average Emmy voter is going to be completely adrift. Sure, you could still tell that it’s well-acted and directed, and very good on a technical level, but if you don’t know Bubbles, you’re only getting a fraction of the value from his story. If you aren’t familiar with McNulty and Bodie, the ending is so much less tragic. So no nomination for what was universally recognized as the best show of the season, all because we’re sill mired in a system that was made for Dragnet and Our Miss Brooks.

2) There’s another problem, but this one is at least less crippling to the institution. I firmly believe that in the acting categories, any performer should be limited to one award per character per series. Tony Shalhoub should be allowed exactly one Emmy for playing Monk on Monk. Kelsey Grammer can have one for Frasier on Cheers, and one for Frasier on Frasier. Traditionally, the awards have been dominated by repeat winners, and it’s very upsetting to me that Rhea Perlman has more Emmys than Lauren Graham. I just think it would make the whole process more interesting to get some new blood in there. Year after year, we see the same people in every category, and it gets tiresome.

The fact that Lauren Graham and Ian McShane don’t have more Emmys than they know what to do with is a travesty. And I’m sure its easy to vote for your favorites every year. If you love James Gandolfini one year, you’ll love him the next. Meanwhile, poor Hugh Laurie is sitting there with no Emmys. And I do love Gandolfini, but I’d love him just as much with one Emmy. Share the wealth, T.

Later on, find out just how bitter I can be if the aforementioned Lauren Graham and Ian McShane are not nominated for the final seasons of their respective shows. My bile may stain your monitor.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Friday Housecleaning

--Only two weeks until “The Simpsons Movie”! If you are not already standing in line, I suggest you reassess your priorities.

--There’s usually not much to watch on Friday, but tonight ABC Family brings the encore performance of the Greek premiere. Mysterious Don highly recommends it – check out his blog for the details. I kind of thought that ABC Family existed only to bring us Gilmore Girl reruns, so this is new and confusing. Also, over on USA, Sarah Silverman is guest-starring on Monk. Monk is easy to forget, since it’s on USA on Friday night, but it’s always enjoyable. Plus, there’s no way I’m missing a Sarah Silverman guest appearance. Not while I still draw breath!

--I’m still in love with Burn Notice. Is anybody out there watching it? I really need a TV buddy on this one. (I totally sounded like Bob Talbert there. I will try to be less hacky in the future.)

--Another Open Mic last night, and this time I met an actual Swear Jar reader! See, I sort of thought that it was pretty much just me and Rob and Mysterious Don, stumbling around the place in our underwear, scratching ourselves with our keys. It turns out there are actual cute girls around here, and now I feel all self-conscious. How’s a guy supposed to talk about superheroes when ladies are present?

Have a great weekend! We’ve got Emmy Nominations on Monday, so you can assume I’ll be angry. If Lauren Graham doesn’t pull a nomination this time, I will bring down the whole outmoded awards system around their ears! That’s right, Emmy people. You don’t want me and my three or more readers to get angry.

The Big Brother Report -- Second in a Series

Well, that’s our first full week of Big Brother. And in case you’re new to the show: No, Julie Chen is not going to get any better. Watching her run the HoH challenges is always an uncomfortable experience. Hey, last year she announced the wrong winner once, so we’ve got that to look forward to. Speaking of the challenge, that was a nice trick question about the teacup. Of course, it clearly benefited the person who just had the least understanding of what a ‘gallon’ is, rather than anybody who figured out the trick. (It totally sounds like I’m making this show up, doesn’t it?)

I knew the voting was going to be one-sided. Know how you can tell? When they show you the people in the Diary Room discussing their options, they usually show you how at least a couple of people voted. And usually, they only show you enough to make it a tie. They’ll show you three votes for one and three for the other, to create some suspense as to how the others voted. When it’s 10 to 1, you can’t really do that. Still, I don’t get why everybody voted against Carol. I think you want Amber out, because she keeps playing the “I deserve the money” card. You don’t want that around, because she just might convince a person or two. By the way, Amber, you’re not doing this for your family. “I really want to help my family so I’m leaving them and going on a game show for 90 days. Hope I win!”

Earlier in the week, the Veto Challenge was cruel. Basically forcing the contestants to tear apart the house and the private property of the non-participants is sure to cause some trouble. Good work, CBS!

Here’s a quick look at where I stand with the contestants:

JESSICA – Can’t stand her! Her voice cuts me like a knife, and her personality cuts me even more. It’s clear that her problem with Carol really was the five dollars. Carol seemed like kind of a normal person, but Jessica is just awful. Get her out and put me out of my misery.

DICK/DANIELE – Wow, Daniele really looks bad. I don’t think they’re far off with that ‘eating disorder’ talk. I don’t think I noticed earlier because she was fully clothed, but it’s quite disturbing. I actually sort of like Dick, despite all the strikes against him. Like, I’d never want anything to do with him in real life, but it seems like all the piercing and name-dropping and ‘Evil Dick’ is really just to cover up how badly he wants approval. I’d really like to know the specifics of their relationship, beyond her borrowing money and not paying it back. It seems to me like he’s trying, but this might be such a messed-up situation that he’s only putting on a show for the cameras. I sort of believe him, but I keep putting myself in that situation, and it’s confusing.

JOE/DUSTIN – I like Dustin. He’s funny and he seems like a good guy. Sure, he’s tight with Amber, but nobody’s perfect. Joe is increasingly awful. I think it’s his sense of entitlement that irritates me the most. He assumes the house will act on his whims. “I’m going to do everything in our power to get him out of the house.” ‘Our power’? Dude, there’s a proud tradition of bitchy gay men on Big Brother, and you are no Marcellas.

AMBER – Speaking of entitlement… To recap: She thinks God has more of a vested interest in game shows than any conventional view of religion would support. Further, she wants God to do the ‘right thing’ by helping her win. And of course, she ‘deserves to win’ because she has a family. Beyond that, people keep calling her a strong player, even though she has sucked at every competition so far.

JAMEKA – Still not much screen time, still seems basically normal. I did like her horror at the people tearing apart her laundry to look for the Veto card, though. I totally would have stopped to clean up, too.

MIKE/ZACH – I think they might be the same guy. They’re in an alliance together and they have no distinguishing personalities yet. Mike has crazy guy hair and Zach has crazy guy face. That’s how you tell the difference. Although the revelation that Zach set up Kail’s Beefy Alliance is interesting. We could see something from him yet.

NICK – The other member of the Beefy Alliance. I don’t get how he’s a ‘former’ pro football player, since he appears to be 19. Also, he has emo hair, and I can’t deal with that. The way he ranked women in terms of their ‘flirtworthiness’ was kind of gross, but I love that he called out Jen on being full of crap. I’m not ruling out liking him.

KAIL – I’m torn on her. I actually sort of like her, the way she’s so open to everybody. They sort of made her look like she was going to be all judgmental in the first episode, but she seems to like everyone. She doesn’t want her kids to be gay, but she likes Dustin just fine. Still, I get the feeling she’s not really that bright. For a woman who owns multiple businesses, she’s easily manipulated, and when she speaks, she has a distinct problem with subject-verb agreement.

JEN – I still think she’s hot, but also awful. I loved the way she freaked out over her picture on the wall. The tears were one thing, but taping a potholder over it? That was crazy at its best! And responding to Julie Chen’s question with “I didn’t think I’d have to answer a question” was really a beautiful moment. She’s a mess, but at least she’s an entertaining mess, so she can stick around. I can’t wait to see what kind of crazy lady logic goes into her nominations now that she’s Head of Household. Like a drunk five-year-old with a handgun. Personally, I can’t wait to see what ‘Jen’ shirts are coming next. Either she had a bunch of shirts with ‘Jen’ puns printed up in anticipation of making it to Big Brother, or else that’s how she always dresses. Either way is sad. If she’s out of ideas, how about “It’s Raining Jen”, “Jen Pin Bowling” and “Jen-Phen: May Cause Anal Leakage”?

ERIC – Awesome. First off, I love the fact that he’s watched Big Brother every year and remembers all the contestants and their strategies. It’s sort of like I’m in the house. Second, he’s ‘America’s Player’, and now that I know how messed up that’s going to be, I’m all excited. Not only do we tell him how to vote, but he gets tasks like “Make up a traumatic story from your childhood and confide in a person of our choice.” And I sort of like his attitude. He seems like he might be legitimately funny, rather than somebody who goes on a show convinced that they are funny. Plus, his friends and family seem like they like him. Not every Big Brother contestant can say that.

I should have some sort of wrap-up, but this was written at 1 AM. You’re lucky it’s not just a string of curse words and typos.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Karaoke and Tek Jansen

-How is it that two game shows with the exact same premise aired last night on different networks? We had NBC’s The Singing Bee and FOX’s Don’t Forget the Lyrics. FOX has a habit of waiting for another network to buy the rights to a foreign hit and then rushing their own knockoff to air a month before the legitimate version. (See: Trading Spouses vs. Wife Swap and Nanny 911 vs. Supernanny) You have to admire their commitment to evil, I’ll give them that. I’m not sure if this is an import or not, and I’m not interested enough to do the research, so let’s say that it is.

Either way, why would you schedule them on the same night? That’s just crazy talk! Anyway, I saw a little bit of both. The Singing Bee was not good. Host Joey Fatone tried hard, but the setup is just flawed. There are no decisions to make, nothing that lets you get to know the contestants. The prizes are lame and it tries to be too showy. We need dancers? Seriously? I actually sort of liked Don’t Forget the Lyrics. The format is pretty much a direct steal from Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? But, you know, it’s a good format. The contestant has some control over their destiny, you’ve got Lifelines to vary the game play, the increasing difficulty is built right in – it’s a good format.

Wayne Brady is a genial host – in general, he tends to vacillate between lame and funny with very little warning. His daytime work has been largely excruciating, but some of his guest appearances are very funny. Who can forget his stint on Reno 911!? I need to make some changes in my life that will allow me to quote “That orange is a lovely shade of bitch” more frequently.

I’m certainly not going to miss Big Brother or Shaq’s Big Challenge for it, but I could see watching DFTL again. Now that I’ve seen every episode of Dirty Jobs, I need something to pass the time. Short of leaving the house and having friends, I mean.

-With The Colbert Report in reruns this week, it falls to me to pass updates along to the Colbert Nation. This week saw the release of the first issue of “Stephen Colbert’s Tek Jansen”! That’s right, it’s the comic book adaptation of Stephen’s unpublished sci-fi novel, a long-running joke on the show.

Tek is, of course, an idealized version of Stephen Colbert. In space. The trick is, they have to make it seem like something Colbert the character would actually write. And they do indeed pull it off. It’s got all kinds of ‘Mary Sue’ bits, and the stories incorporate Colbert’s (the character) political stances in what he would undoubtedly consider subtle ways. Plus, it’s just got some great Futurama style-humor. There’s a nice bit about the “Mankind Castration Act”, which prohibits humans from taking violent action against mysterious alien visitors who promise to solve the world’s problems. And Tek enslaves his archenemy (“Meangarr”) in a futuristic birdcage, so he has somebody to talk to. All in all, it’s nicely done.

Best of all, the real Stephen Colbert assisted on writing, giving the dialogue his unique twist. “For a moment, I considered making love to her to boost her self-esteem. And then I remembered I would metaphorically be making love to her whole race, including the males.”

It’s a 6-issue series, and this first issue is priced at $3.99. That’s a little expensive, but it’s a nice package – full-color with thick cardstock covers. Head down to your local retailer and show them some support. Plus, you should buy something with Batman in it. I recommend that in almost all circumstances.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Reality Bites -- You Know, Like That One Movie

I’m all off schedule because of my recent sabbatical, so instead of a full-blown Reality Round-up, we’ll take a quick look at the Big Four.

--I think I’ll just do the Big Brother Report on Fridays, rather than dealing with every episode. That way lies madness. Still, I have to say that I really dislike Joe and Amber. Lady, you absolutely can not play the ‘I deserve the money’ card. This whole game is not set up on the merit system. Further, you don’t get to pray to not be eliminated, either. God’s got better things to do than keep your ass on a game show. In fact, that interview where you said you hope ‘God does the right thing’ was about as arrogant as I’ve ever seen. So if you’re eliminated, than God did the wrong thing? You suck.

Also, Jen is pure crazy and I take back what I said about Daniele being hot. Girl’s a little skeletal. When she pulls back her hair, she looks like one of those anorexic twins from Entertainment Tonight. Her interaction with Dick concerns me. It seems to me like he’s making an effort and she sort of sucks. But if you put my dad and me on a reality show, you’d think the same thing about us. There could be some underlying stuff that just isn’t fixable, you know?

I think the Carol/Jessica ‘enemy’ thing is one-sided. Like, Jessica’s been expending all her energy on this enmity, to the extent that it’s how she defines herself. And Carol really doesn’t seem to have any animosity towards Jessica at all. I think this really is about the five dollars, and Jessica is just a crazy lady.

And I assumed that Eric’s tasks would mostly involve voting a certain way, or saying a phrase or throwing a competition. Not “Eric has to make up a traumatic story from his childhood to one houseguest. Which houseguest will it be?” This has the potential to go totally off the rails.

--Rough day for the blondes on Age of Love. Admit it, you’re going to miss Tessa and Tessa’s Giant Boobs. She was actually sort of likeable this time, I thought. I mean, I think I’d want to kill myself if I spent time with her, but how do you kick her off over Mary? Mary’s just plain awful and she’s difficult to look at, so I don’t know what standards Mark is using.

Mark seems basically nice, but he was putting it out all over the place. I think he kissed more women in an hour than Bachelor Bob did in a whole season. And some of the older women seemed to get their tongues all the way up into his brainpan. It’s weird how I’m pulling for the 40’s, even though none of them really impress me individually. I’m still bitter about Lynn, I think.

--Finally, Melissa is gone! No more crazy lady in Hell’s Kitchen! I loved the whole ‘Pick two nominees. Have you picked them? Melissa, you’re fired’. He’s just making up the rules as he goes along. Now, I was only sort of half-watching this week, due to my sabbatical. However, it’s on the DVR, so I’ll be more fully versed by the weekend.

By the way, lucky how the women won the reward challenge for the photo shoot, isn’t it? Not that I think the challenge was rigged, I just think that if the men had pulled off a miracle and won something, they would not have ended up at a photo shoot. And there’s no way that’ll actually be the cover of “InTouch” magazine. Not while Lohan’s out there doing blow and blowing dudes.

Also, Josh still sucks.

--Still loving Shaq’s Big Challenge! You know that documentary about Terry Gilliam’s attempts to make a Don Quixote movie? The set floods, the star falls of a horse and breaks his back; basically it’s this expensive production that’s sort of wiped out. That’s almost what you have going on here. Parents pulling their kids out of the program, Shaq banned from the school by the new administration, Shaq injuring his knee and jeopardizing his place on the team. This is almost a show about all the possible setbacks you can have trying to create a show.

I was impressed at the way Shaq won over Kit’s father, and Coach Brown’s speech to the faculty was kind of amazing. That guy knows his motivational speaking. Doc, not so much. Poor guy is always in over his head.

We haven’t seen much of Ariel, but she seems like a really sweet kid, and Kevin is sort of a dick. The kid’s a bully, flat out. They’re going to have to break him.

My new goal is to interview somebody associated with a summer reality show. I’m hoping somebody gets here by Googling themselves. With my luck, it’ll be Mary from Age of Love. What the hell do I have to say to her? Mostly "What's wrong with you, lady?" Actually, that could be fun.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Swear Jar Hall of Fame: Will Arnett

EJ: “I sort of want Will Arnett and Amy Poehler to adopt me and raise me as their own. Is that weird?”
Sam: “More like ‘awesome’.”

Chances are, you weren’t familiar with Will Arnett before the fall of 2003. When Arrested Development premiered, he was the most obscure member of the cast. There were TV legends, cult favorites, and kids with some interesting past work, and also Will Arnett. Primarily known for his voice work on commercials and being married to Amy Poehler, our buddy Will was not what you’d call a known commodity. A single episode of Sex and the City, one scene on The Sopranos.

Struggling magician and least favorite Bluth sibling (as determined by Lucille), GOB (George Oscar Bluth) made an instant impression on the audience, riding up on a Segway. And before the first scene was over, you just knew that Will Arnett wasn’t going to remain obscure for much longer.

You know, Rainn Wilson almost won the role of GOB. And of course, God bless him. Love Rainn Wilson. However, if he’d ended up as GOB, we would have missed out on the perfect Dwight. And the perfect GOB for that matter. See, Will Arnett comes off as a natural Alpha Male. He seems like a cool, likeable guy. And yet, he played GOB as almost completely pathetic and heartbreaking. Plus, he still managed to make him occasionally loathsome. (He was a pimp, for God’s sake!) But at the end, was there ever a moment when you didn’t love GOB? Of course not! That’s a delicate balancing act.

One of my favorite themes that evolved over the course of Arrested Development was GOB’s need for Michael’s approval. Always seeking an inappropriate hug or forcing Michael to taste his happy. And yet, given the chance GOB would sabotage Michael’s position in the company just so he’d have room for his pool table. And of course, there was GOB’s puppet, Franklin – possibly my single favorite inanimate object ever.

Since AD wrapped up, Will Arnett’s been a busy guy, always bringing a vague air of menace with disturbing sexual overtones to almost every role. He picked up “Blades of Glory” and ran with it, from the terrific physical comedy in his duel with Will Ferrell to his bizarre one-liners. “Dreams are in your sleep!” “Remember how Mom and Dad used to be alive?” And of course, his incestuous relationship with his sister, played by his real-life wife. Somehow, knowing that doesn’t make their kiss any less creepy.

And there’s Will elevating “Let’s Go to Prison” far beyond what anyone could imagine. As a wealthy layabout who ends up in prison, Will Arnett brings vulnerability and misplaced machismo to what could have been a two-dimensional role. (And by the way, the unrated DVD is much better than the theatrical cut.) “Crying is how your body gets the sad out.” He even manages to play his relationship with the prison rapist as, well, tender.

He’s got all sorts of voiceover work these days, too. But the days of truck ads are long gone. With three simple words in Season Two of Arrested Development, he established himself as having one of the best comedy voices in the business. (All together now: “…with club sauce.”) The voice that used to tell viewers what dangers would face Horatio Caine on CBS ads is now doing Pixar movies. In the current “Ratatouille”, he plays Horst, the possibly psychotic sous chef. It’s a small role, but he gets some of the best jokes. He played a vulture in the second “Ice Age”, and he’s one of the leads in the upcoming “Horton Hears a Who”. And don’t forget his recurring role on the much-missed Freak Show, Duncan Schiesst, corporate weasel extraordinaire. And according to IMDB, he did the narration for the “Don’t” trailer in “Grindhouse”, which was pretty much the best part of the whole three hours.

We’re going to see a lot more of Will, too. He’s in Joey McIntyre’s “On Broadway”, playing a funeral director with dreams of stardom. “I’ve been doing makeup for fifteen years. Men, women, sometimes children.” He’ll be headlining August’s “The Brothers Solomon” with Will Forte, which has me all atwitter. And according to Will, in the upcoming “Hot Rod”, he plays the worst character he’s ever played. And that right there is just about the only thing that could get me to pay eight bucks for a wacky Andy Samberg comedy. (Holy shit, I just found Ian McShane is also in “Hot Rod”. Now I’m actually excited about it.) And there’s a Will Ferrell reunion in winter’s “Semi-Pro”.

Myself, I’m praying to all the major deities that Will’s “Wristcutters: A Love Story” finds its way to a theater near me. I mean, Tom Waits is his co-star and Will plays the Messiah. Name a way that this movie could sound better. See? You can’t.

Let’s not forget his visits to Conan O’Brien’s show. Whether he’s doing an a capella perfomance of the Law & Order theme, or turning a Paris Hilton joke into gold, you’ll want to record any of those episodes.

And so, for GOB, Franklin, Nelson Biederman IV, Horst, Stranz Van Waldenberg, Duncan Shiesst, and all the narrators and announcers, plus all the roles to come, we hereby induct Will Arnett into the Swear Jar Hall of Fame.

You should check out the good people at the Will Arnett Research Project, and I will let you know if that adoption goes through.

Friday, July 6, 2007

The Big Brother Report -- First in a Series!

It’s the best time of year! It’s Big Brother season! What’s especially exciting is that early discovery process where we get to decide who we will like and who we will hate. Granted, that may change over the season, but those first few episodes are just magical.

And it looks like they’ve made over the house once again. The architecture hasn’t changed, like when they added a second floor for Season 6, but the whole thing is decorated in sort of a fairy-tale theme, complete with animal topiary and tiny little doors and beds. It looks sort of cool on TV, but you can tell it would be absolutely maddening for those living inside. That should be fun. Also, I’m thinking they have a much bigger budget, since it’s not just an IKEA nightmare this year. Plus, the challenge had motorized props, and we never see that this early in the season.

Let’s just run through the contestants, in the order in which they received their keys. (And seriously? How do these people just leave their lives for 90 days on one hour’s notice?)

JESSICA – One of the ‘Hidden Three’ at the beginning, and apparently Carol’s rival. She’s part of the ‘enemies’ twist, and nobody seems able to explain what the deal is with her and Carol. The voiceover guy (Ah, how I’ve missed you, voiceover guy.) hinted that there was something huge, but it actually seems to be ridiculously petty. If it really is over that $5 that Carol didn’t pay back, it will be hilarious. She’s made very little impression on me, other than her annoying voice, but she has the potential to be amusingly bitchy.

NICK – He is a large man, and apparently a former professional football player. If anybody out there can confirm that, I’d appreciate it. I suspect he’s a professional the way that The Bachelor’s Jesse Palmer was a star and Age of Love’s Mark Philip Souza is at the peak of his career. He was the odd man out on the Head of Household competition, and I know little else about him. I get sort of an Alpha Male vibe off him, but as a Gamma Male myself, that tends to happen.

ERIC – First off, dude’s got weird ears. He’s kind of a spaz, but basically likeable. He seems like one of those guys who’ll cling to a stronger player and make it about halfway. BUT, he’s also ‘America’s Houseguest’, where the viewers get to assign him tasks, and he receives $10,000 for every five tasks he completes. I’m not sure how CBS determines which viewer tasks make the cut in terms of appropriateness, but I assume we can control his votes and nominations. This is awesome, but I won’t be participating. Basically, if I have some measure of control over Big Brother, I’ll be through the rabbit hole, and you won’t hear from me for a good long time. Better to remain a spectator.

DANIELE – I think she misspells her own name. She does indeed look like a small, hot Anna Nicole Smith. Now that they’ve pointed that out, she will forever make me sad and disgusted. She is 20, and lying about her age so she can drink in the house. I feel like everything we need to know about her is right there. She has an enemy in the house, her estranged father, Dick. Now, the enemies twist is pretty amusing, especially when they’re enemies over petty stuff. I would be OK with having an ‘enemy’ in the house with me, because it’s not like I’m The Riddler, you know? We would regard each other with awkward silences and spend time in different rooms. But if you put me in there with my estranged father, I would lose my shit. I hope the researchers really looked into what their issue is, because it could potentially be horrible.

DICK – Huh. At 44, he’s this year’s oldest player. He also walks around with dyed hair, tattoos, and facial piercings. He’s one of those guys who not only believes his own press, but publishes his own newspaper where he’s the front-page story every day. He claims his nickname is ‘Evil Dick’, which is at least partly descriptive, though not the part he thinks. Of course, if ‘Evil Dick’ was a 3rd Rock from the Sun reference, I’ll be impressed. People who think they’re way cooler than they actually are make for decent reality TV, unless one of them actually wins. (Stupid Boogie.)

JEN – Jen is hot. I’ll just put that out there. However, I can’t help but think she’s the kind of woman who gets less hot as you watch them all summer. She already shows signs of being boring and kind of dumb. Also, she described herself as an ‘actress/model/hostess’ – is ‘hostess’ a euphemism for ‘hooker’? Because I can’t figure out what else it could be. Does she do Tupperware parties?

MIKE – I didn’t write down one single word about Mike. I don’t think he did anything, and other than his alarming hair, I don’t remember him at all. Pass.

KAIL – On the one hand, she did hit all the Evangelical stereotypes within the first hour, but Joe hit all the bitchy gay man stereotypes as well, so it’s kind of a wash. She might actually be all right – she comes off as somebody who can get along with people once she gets to know them. In fact, now that I think about it, she didn’t come off too badly. The thing that everybody is seizing on is her remark that she would be devastated (maybe not the word she used – I have no reference right now) if one of her children were gay. That’s not particularly inflammatory. Not winning any GLAAD awards, but she’s no Isaiah Washington either. As the first Head of Household, it’ll be interesting to see who she nominates – she’s the second-oldest in the house, and I don’t really see her fitting in with most of her housemates.

JOE – As I mentioned, he hit all the stereotypes. Also, per his ex, he has gigantic nipples. I’m looking forward to the Joe/Dustin interactions, as they’re dripping with animosity. And even though Joe is kind of funny, he sort of seems to be a terrible person. It might be a little early to make that call, but I’ll bet I’m right.

CAROL – A Senator’s daughter. Somebody’s staff is going to have to be doing daily damage control. Other than her undefined dark past with Jessica, there’s not much to say just yet.

AMBER – Single mom. Cocktail waitress. From Las Vegas. In reality TV terms, I believe that’s what they call ‘Yahtzee!’. In my notes, I called her ‘Diane 2.0’, referring to the Season 5 contestant. And original Diane was boring, other than inventing ‘backdooring’, which is not as dirty as it sounds. Also, and I’m just being shallow, Amber is distinctly not pretty.

ZACH – He looks like a crazy dude. As near as I can determine, he didn’t do anything in the first episode, but every time he appeared on screen, I flinched a little.

DUSTIN – Joe’s ex-boyfriend and another of the ‘Hidden Three’. While he’s just as much a stereotype as Joe, only even more shrill, I like him better. He’s funnier, and he didn’t take pride in destroying somebody else’s life.

JAMEKA – “I’m not used to spending time around so many white people.” Ha! Jameka is funny. She didn’t get much screen time, possibly because she seems to be well-adjusted. Plus, she was so damn happy about getting on the show.

I’m not willing to pick my favorites yet, because at this point, all I have to go on is who’s hot and who made me laugh at least once.

I’ll be gone for a couple of days, so I might not be blogging until Tuesday. Try not to panic.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Reality Round-Up! (Not Real Reality -- TV Reality)

Boy, it was a great week of reality TV.

First off, the best Hell’s Kitchen EVER. I didn’t think anybody could top Aaron’s awkward incompetence, but Melissa went from being mildly annoying to an absolute freaking crazy person almost instantly. And isn’t that really what it’s all about?

I love that she declared herself the team leader after Ramsay singled her out as the worst person on her team. Of course. And she also turned into one of those people you see on The Apprentice every season who not only wants to control what you do but how you feel. Let’s not even get into the men’s complete inability to calculate $100, because tonight was all about Melissa, the freak.

Now, having a control freak in the kitchen is not a bad thing, necessarily. (Yes, Chef!) But an incompetent control freak is a disaster. Now, I’m not convinced that was a real wedding. Who in God’s name has their reception at Hell’s Kitchen? And who doesn’t have their menu chosen one day prior to the wedding? That said, Melissa’s meltdown was still awesome. I swear, she was actively trying to piss of Ramsay. “We can’t serve them.” Yeah, that’ll work. Of course, the failed duck breast was hilarious, as was the minimalist description. “It’s a…duck breast.”

By the way, I think the reason the men are getting better is that with every elimination, a greater percentage of the team is made up of Rock. A 6-member team is only 16.667%t Rock. At three men, they’re up to 33.333% Rock. If only something would take out Josh, a 50% Rock team would be unbeatable. (Is it possible for a human being to not hate Josh? Do his parents even like him?) Sure, Rock has the annoying habit of referring to himself in the first and third person in the same sentence, but dude can run a kitchen.

Bonnie totally redeemed herself with her threat to strangle Melissa with some chiffon. I think I might love Bonnie a little. Also, I know nothing about cooking, but it’s been explained to me that Melissa’s potato conundrum would not be a problem for anybody who knows how to cover a pan.

And the best part of Hell’s Kitchen? Ramsay can toss out the rules whenever he wants! No elimination for Melissa, we’ll send her to the men’s team! Which should work out swimmingly, given that Rock will kill her within an hour.

--Age of Love continues to be tacky, hurtful fun. I have to admit, Kelli’s stall tactic in the restaurant was sort of brilliant. She was one step away from physically restraining Mark from leaving before the buzzer. Clearly he didn’t resent her for it, since she did make the cut.

Probably not the best move on the 20-something’s part to send the older women on a date involving bathing suits. They’re 40, they’re not dead, you know? I’ll probably talk more about the show next week, because I’m eager to get to Shaq. However, I’m a little upset about the eliminations. How do you eliminate Lynn? You dope! She was my favorite on the show, and probably my official Reality TV Girlfriend for the summer. Stupid Mark. I’m not up in arms about Adelaide’s elimination, but she seemed less objectionable than most of the 20’s. Less busty, also. I get the feeling that’s sort of Mark’s deal-breaker. Why else would you keep Mary over Adelaide? I’ll yell at him next week.

--Two episodes in, Shaq’s Big Challenge has become a show that’s really good, almost in spite of itself. And it remains intensely weird, but that’s mostly Shaq.

First let’s look at the parts that were awesome because of their weirdness. When Shaq enters the gym where the kids have been slacking off at throwing balls at one another, what does he do? He stabs the balls! With a knife! Shaq’s head is a weird place to be.

I wish they’d given us some context as to who new trainer Tarik Tyler is, because he came out of nowhere. I confess, I thought he was a midget, since in the first shot, he’s standing next to Shaq, which makes anybody look tiny. I love that one kid described him as looking like “Mr. T, but ugly. And not as strong.” That’s a mean guy right there. I’m not clear as to how he can make workouts mandatory, unless he’s somehow got power of attorney over these kids. Still, we saw that he’ll show up at your house and make you work out if you miss a session, so maybe he does have some governing power behind him.

I loved Shaq’s chat with the principal about mandatory PE. First off, I was surprised to find out that PE was no longer mandatory, since I remember having it forced on me as a youth. In fact, I needed PE credits to get my degree in college. (For the record, I needed four semesters. I took Walking, Ballroom Dancing, Bowling, and Women’s Personal Defense. That last one is a long story for another time. Also, I am still terrible at dancing and bowling.) Now, obviously you can’t get the curriculum changed based on one meeting with the principal. In fact, I’m pretty sure that change would need to be approved by the Board and Superintendent Chalmers, at the very least. That’s not how Doc sees it. That guy’s a little unhinged, it would seem. Walks in with a plan to make the school day one hour longer and he gets mad when it’s not approved instantly. I think it’s good they let Shaq’s old coach do most of the talking.

By the way, it appears that maybe these kids all go to the same school, so that’s one question answered for me. Even if there are a couple who don’t attend that school, they’re still close geographically. And how cute was it when Shaq visited them in school? I think it might scar a boy for life to be kissed by an NBA star in front of his whole class, but it was still adorable.

Once again, it’s clear that Shaq has no idea what he’s doing, but he’s also willing to learn. He obviously thought this would be really easy, maybe he could just tell kids to exercise and they’d listen. He’s clearly frustrated, but he’s ready to go the distance. This really makes me like him, actually.

And that’s where we get to the part that’s awesome because it’s actually good. Everybody involved is really busting their asses to make a difference. And once again, the show is not inviting us to laugh at fat kids, unless they do something that’s actually funny. Kevin eating candy on the treadmill and then claiming that his weight gain is muscle mass, that’s kind of funny. The kids talking trash about Tarik Tyler? That’s really funny. These kids get to keep their dignity, and you really feel for them. Even crazy-ass Doc is actually emotionally involved.

They’re not skipping over the hard stuff, either. Kit has a panic attack while exercising, so her parents pull her from the show. The interactions with all the parents are very telling, and some will just make you feel sad. Ultimately, this is really a show about positive lifestyle changes, and even if it doesn’t change the world, a few kids are going to be healthier and happier, and that counts for a lot.

That is not to say that I want to lose the parts that are crazy, because they rule. Next week, Shaq confronts Kit’s dad and is banned from the school. Honestly, it looks like he breaks a dumbbell in frustration over that last one, but that can’t be possible, can it?

Remember, Big Brother starts tonight!