Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Big Brother Report -- Ninth in a Series

Ah, what a glorious week. I just feel…good. I wonder why that could be. Could it maybe because the Big Brother house, as well as 78% of voters, and possibly God Himself got together to fire the SHUT UP, AMBER! heard ‘round the world? Yeah, that’s probably it.

So this is my last time to tally up the awfulness of Amber. Well, there’s the crying and her continued belief in her own overwhelming goodness and likeability. We’re pretty much used to all that by now. (Though her exit interview was pretty great. Did you know they voted her out because everybody knew they couldn’t beat her? Apparently, the fact that they actually beat her doesn’t count.) And then you’ve got her always bizarre ideas on religion. I don’t know why she has to go into the Diary Room to pray, and I certainly don’t know why she always says ‘God bless you’ to end her prayers. You know, when she’s talking to God. And she retains her belief in an almighty being who is routinely stymied by Veto Competitions. (Let’s go to the exit interview again. “I think God wanted me to win, but I made a lot of mistakes.”)

It was nice to see that the Big Brother editors hate Amber as much as I do. On Tuesday, Amber talked at length about how she could be a model. (Because Amber is the greatest person ever. In case you hadn’t heard. From Amber.) Now, Amber is not a pretty girl to begin with, but they ran the most horrifying footage of Amber in their library to punctuate her speech. It was great!

And then we had her Power of 10 disaster. First off, she’s not much of a game player. Second, we already knew that she didn’t know the word ‘scrutinize’, but it was comforting to hear her admit it on stage. Also, she clearly doesn’t know who Karl Rove is, and she defended Michael Vick. Granted, last time she read a paper the scandal hadn’t hit yet, but it was still hilarious. (Oh, who are we kidding? Amber’s never read a paper in her life.)

Please remember, by the way, I’m not reveling in her embarrassment because she’s dumb and hard to look at. I’m reveling in her embarrassment because she’s trashy, self-righteous, and a vicious racist.

And if anybody’s watching the Internet coverage and would like to let me know who won Head of Household, I’d appreciate it. I’m not too sure about that challenge, by the way. Essentially, they’re being forced to run seven miles on a butter-covered bowling lane. That seems like a little much, you know?

For the first time, here’s a rundown of the remaining Houseguests, none of whom I hate!

DANIELE – I still can’t figure her out. Now I’m starting to think she’s basically OK, but she likes to retroactively claim that her actual emotions were strategy. Maybe she’s not even sure any more. And all jokes aside, I think something really is physically wrong with her. Dick’s always reminding her to eat and he mentions her vitamins so often that I feel healthier just listening. Did she maybe have an eating disorder at one time? Also, I sort of hope her real boyfriend has come to his senses and bailed. She’s had weeks to mythologize Nick now, and that’s probably worse than watching their creepy flirting. I mean, if he were still in the house, at least she’d have the chance to realize that he’s actually gay. (Yeah, I went there. And I stand by it.)

DICK – Man, he did not have much to say this week. I didn’t really notice him smoking, but he wasn’t talking about not smoking either. Did Big Brother give him some new cigarettes? Or is he maybe just not obsessive about it? I mean, he brought four cases, which indicates a heavy smoker, but it seemed like he still had three unopened cases when Jen went crazy. Dale Gribble would have been done with that in a week. (I’ve been watching a LOT of King of the Hill lately…) He pretty much seemed to get along with everybody this week, and I enjoyed his visible discomfort with the Naked Food Challenge. Yeah, not so cool when you might accidentally see your daughter, is it?

JAMEKA – I still like her. I think her occasional ‘holier than thou’ fits will probably subside without Amber being there to feed it. Personally, I think Jameka can’t stand Amber, and she’s just messing with her. I mean, what other reason is there to tell Amber that she should go into modeling. Those are the words of somebody looking to watch spectacular failure. It was nice seeing her family and pastor, too. Those segments are always a little boring, but they make me happy. It makes people seem more real, and I like to think about who they’ll talk to about me when I’m on Big Brother. (And if they talk to you, be sure you mention the Swear Jar, and maybe Sammy Shirts.)

JESSICA – The only houseguest left who’s never been nominated for eviction. I find she’s got a little bit of Janelle Syndrome, where she tends to believe whatever she heard most recently. Although I tend to think that she is just too sympathetic towards people, as opposed to the way Janelle was living in her crazy-ass world. I thought her talk with Jameka about religion was kind of sweet. Not deep thinkers, either of them, but they’re basically nice people who feel comfortable with one another. Dammit, I think I like Jessica.

ZACH – He gets nominated and he still can’t pull any screen time. What’s a guy have to do? His rich inner life continues (“When I win Head of Household next week” – Dude, you haven’t won a single competition yet.), and he clearly put a lot of work into crafting his Veto and Eviction Night speeches, and they still both sucked. He’s basically likeable, though. Kind of socially retarded, but I don’t think he’s capable of being mean. When the season is over, none of the Houseguests will remember him, though.

ERIC – Come on, America! You had the opportunity to make Eric try to kiss Dick, and you passed it up? What’s the matter with you people? I mean, I like Eric, but think of the comedy value! Everybody who thinks Eric is just playing Jessica is clearly not watching the show. Boy’s got no game. I don’t even think he’d know game if he saw it. And this is coming from me! I enjoyed how he obsessively washed his mouth before every kiss. It was a pleasant counter-point to The Pick-Up Artist’s makeout assembly line episode, in which there was not even a trace of oral hygiene. And by the way, Eric’s “girlfriend”? Crazy lady. It seems odd how both of Eric’s brothers say that there’s no relationship, and the lady with the crazy eyes is talking back to her TV.

Double Eviction next week! They haven’t really messed with the format all season, so that should throw them off. I like to think they’re doing it just so they can get done in time for the All-Pilot Project. I need those three hours a week!

What are You, a Guy or Something?

--Actual conversation with my optometrist yesterday:
“Your eyes have really changed since you got these glasses.”
“For the worse?”
“It’s not really a matter of ‘better’ or ‘worse’. They’re different.”
“Good different or bad different?”
“Bad different.”

My optometrist is funny! And also, I am apparently blind.

--I should have mentioned this earlier, but Mystery Science Theater 3000 is back! Well, in a way. There’s a new DVD series called “The Film Crew” which reunites MST3K writers Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy (also the voice of Tom Servo), and Bill Corbett (the voice of Crow on the Sci-Fi Channel episodes). And they’re doing what they do best, making fun of bad movies! The cut-out silhouettes are gone, as are the robots, but it’s the same guys we know and love.

There have been two releases so far: “Hollywood after Dark” and “Killers from Space”, with two more slated this year. I’ll be watching “Hollywood…” this weekend and report back. Yes, I know it’s lame to talk about something I’m going to be watching, but this really hasn’t gotten the publicity it deserves.

All the reviews I’ve read mention that the new format means they’re not limited to sci-fi titles anymore. When the hell was MST3K ever limited to sci-fi? Does anybody remember “Skydivers”? “Mitchell”? “I Accuse my Parents”? What about “Red Zone Cuba”? (For my money, the actual worst movie ever made. “Plan 9 from Outer Space” gets all the publicity, but “Red Zone Cuba” is not only poorly made, but actively hateful.) Stupid reviewers.

It should be noted that “Hollywood after Dark” stars a young(er) Rue McClanahan. Come on, Golden Girls jokes!

--At the store yesterday I found a Flight of the Conchords EP! (Do they still call them EPs? I’m so old…) You can imagine my excitement. And on the front was a sticker announcing their full-length debut album in October. (Why can’t it be October now?)

The EP, “The Distant Future” sells for about five bucks, which gets you three studio tracks, two live recordings, and some banter. (In which they discuss banter.) Tracks are:

1. It’s Business Time – Slightly different from the television version, mostly changing lyrics that hinge on visual jokes. I hope to one day be in a relationship with somebody who will let me announce “It’s business time” as a prelude to romance.

2. If You’re Into It – Jemaine’s vocal on this cracks me up every time. Best of all it’s Bret’s line “I don’t know if Stewart’s keen to / but if you want, we could double team you.” He sounds so good natured when he says it.

3. I’m Not Crying – I love this one. And it’s still funny even without the accompanying 80’s style video. “I’m not crying ‘cause you’re going away / My eyes are just a little bit sweaty today”.

4. The Most Beautiful Girl in the Room (live) – Otherwise known as the scene in the first episode where I fell in love. “You’re so beautiful / you could be a part-time model. / But you’d probably still have to keep your normal job.”

5. Robots from the Year 2000 – If you can’t appreciate a chorus of “The humans are dead” and a good binary solo, I’m not sure if we can even relate to one another.

Does anybody have a track listing for the full-length release? I’m really hoping “Love is Like Tape”, and “Rhyme-noceros” make it to the final product. And once the CD comes out, all other music will be rendered obsolete. Sorry, Music. You had a good run.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Who's Dancing with Which Stars?

I am reminded once again that I can never mock Mysterious Don for his American Idol obsession, because the new Dancing with the Stars pairs were announced today, and I’m giddy as a schoolgirl. Never mind that I can not identify five of the twelve celebrities – they’re going to be dancing! For my entertainment!

Even though this information is readily available all over the Internet, I’m going to spend a day writing it up.

--Sabrina Bryan, who is apparently a ‘Cheetah Girl’. I don’t know what that means. Are they like a band or something? Exotic dancers? I have no idea. I don’t dare look it up at work. Her partner is Mark Ballas who’s new to the show. I have no opinions on either of these people.

--Helio Castroneves, two-time Indy 500 winner. I don’t know who he is, either, but at least I’ve heard of the Indy 500. (Bobby Hill: “500 what? Nurses? Midgets? I can’t wait!”) He’s dancing with Julianne Hough, the adorable little pixie who won last season with partner Apolo Ohno.

--Cameron Mathison, who stars on All My Children. Another zero for me, but just knowing he’s a soap actor, I can sort of picture what he looks like. It’s like they’re all clones! His partner is Edyta Sliwinska, who’s been on every season of the show, usually dancing with the oldest guy on the show. I have made mean remarks about her horse face in the past, but she looks much better in person.

--Marie Osmond, who is famous for being an Osmond. I actually know her! She’s quite likeable, but she will be competing with Jane Seymour for the “Women over (specified age) can do anything they put their minds to” story arc. Her partner is Jonathan Roberts, a painfully earnest young man who got stuck with Heather Mills last season and ended up as a background player in her drama.

--Mark Cuban, billionaire. He owns the Dallas Mavericks, and starred briefly in his own Apprentice rip-off, The Benefactor. I might be crazy, but I think that was the first reality show cancelled in mid-run. His partner is the distractingly hot Kym Johnson, who has danced with Jerry Springer and Jerry Fatone in the past. I want to say Mark Cuban is less likely to wear a hilarious hat than those two, but I don’t have any faith in that statement.

--Josie Maran, actress and model. As long as someone appends ‘and model’ to their title as ‘actress’, it means the acting career is not going so well. She apparently appeared in “Van Helsing”. I remember nothing about that movie, other than that it wasn’t very good. Oh, also the director had an obsession with people swinging on cables, and people frequently had weapons knocked from their hands. Her partner is Season One winner Alec Mazo, who I am told causes girl boners.

--Jennie Garth, star of Beverly Hills, 90210 and What I Like About You. I watch this show with an unrepentant 90210 fan, so there will be much excitement this season. Her partner is Brian Hough, Julianne’s brother. He showed up on a couple of the results shows, and seemed pleasant.

--Albert Reed, model and former competitive surfer. Male models and surfing, two things I know almost nothing about. The only surfers I care about have a problem with spontaneous levitation. His partner is Anna Trebunskaya, who I believe was Clyde Drexler’s partner last season. Clyde wasn’t around long, so I don’t know much about her.

--Melanie Brown, aka Scary Spice, aka Eddie Murphy’s Baby Momma. This one’s sort of out of left field. I guess she fills the 90’s pop band slot, and the newly created ‘center of controversy’ slot. This could be flat out crazy. Her partner is Maksim Chmerkovskiy, who spent all last season having his masculinity maligned.

--Floyd Mayweather, welterweight boxer. No more retired athletes, I guess. This guy’s the current champion! Expect lots of rehearsal footage of him visiting a boxing ring with his partner to show her how he practices. Karina Smirnoff, who I continue to believe got way hotter in between Season Three and Four, is his partner.

--Jane Seymour! I think she’ll be really good – she’s studied ballet if I remember correctly. Her partner is Tony Dovolani, who sort of comes off like he wants to hump all of his partners.

--Wayne Newton! This may be a disaster, but it’s also awesome. I can’t wait to see Wayne in action. How often do you think he’ll dance to his own songs? I’m guessing it’ll be every time. His partner is two-time winner Cheryl Burke, who is probably not happy with this particular pairing.

It’s back September 24! Along with Heroes, and three or four pilots. The following day’s blogging will be rough. Prescription painkillers may well be involved.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

In Which EJ Overthinks a Simple Purchase...

As you may have ascertained from the big red circle around today’s date on your calendar, Heroes Season One comes out on DVD today.

This is reason for rejoicing. And if you’ve noticed, all of the major retailers have a fantastic price – 7 discs for under $40. Now, I usually check the Sunday ads and find the cheapest price, but in this case there’s no more than a dollar difference. The problem comes that each of the three major retailers offers a different bonus with a purchase. Now, I love me some free stuff. And being all obsessive, it’s going to bother me that no matter what I do, I’m going to miss out on some Heroes swag.

--Target has what is theoretically the best bonus: An extra disc with 45 minutes of material and four mini-replicas of Isaac’s paintings. Obviously, if I were the kind of guy who could go passing up Tim Sale art, I’d be a completely different person. And then there’s that extra disc. However, Target is actually charging for their bonuses. The regular edition is $37.99 and the “Bonus Edition” is $44.99. Technically, that extra disc is bringing the per-disc average price up, and that’s unacceptable. And there’s no information as to what’s on that extra disc. Considering there’s already a full disc of bonus material, I’m guessing it’s leftovers. “The Wardrobe of Heroes”, or some such. I can’t go paying an extra seven dollars for a mystery disc.

--Circuit City has a Heroes trading card set, free with purchase. That’s pretty cool, but they lack specifics as to how many cards there are. Is it a mini-sheet of four cards, all of which depict Eric Roberts? That’s worth investigating. Still, I’m not big on cards. I mean, I like them in theory, but in practice I just don’t get that excited. Recently I uncovered an unopened box of “Bloom County” cards and an unopened box of “Groo the Wanderer”, which my research indicates I bought when I was in college. If my deep and abiding love of Opus and Groo can’t get me to open up a box of cards, perhaps I’m better off walking away from trading cards.

--Best Buy has the set a dollar cheaper than anybody else, and their bonus is a free comic book. I’m sort of hoping it’s a replica issue of “Ninth Wonders”, but it’s more likely made up of some of the online comic material they spent all year plugging. Either way, that’s pretty exciting. However, DC is collecting all of the online material into a big old 240-page hardcover later this year. (Yes, I’ve already pre-ordered it.) So it’s probably not the must-have it would ordinarily be. Unless this is new material that won’t be collected. It’s a conundrum.

Yes, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to decide where I should buy a bargain-priced DVD of a show that I love to get the best possible free stuff. It’s a hard life. I am not unlike Job, when you think about it. (I am, however, not much like GOB. That guy’s awesome!) I do believe I’m going with Best Buy and the free comic book. Still, I’m easily distracted by shiny things, so it may simply be a matter of which store is the closest.

Also, I’ve seen Season One of Friday Night Lights advertised for $19.99. I didn’t watch the show this season due to regrettable scheduling, but I’ve heard enough about it that it’s definitely worth checking out at that price. So a low-rated by critically acclaimed NBC series that’s looking for a boost going into its second season is selling for the astonishing price of $20 for 22 one-hour episodes. I’m hoping that sales model carries over and next month’s release of 30 Rock goes for ten bucks.

Monday, August 27, 2007

The All Pilot Project

One Man.
Four Weeks.
Five Networks.
Twenty-Nine Pilots.
No Life.

That’s right. I’m going to be undertaking a massive feat here. This is the 2007 All Pilot Project. I will watch and review every network pilot this fall. Drama, comedy, reality – whatever they put out there. Whether I’m eagerly awaiting it (Chuck) or actively dreading it (Back to You), each show will be watched and reviewed for your reading pleasure. Get in on the ground floor of EVERYTHING! Tell your friends! (“Hey! Some crazy guy who doesn’t leave the house much is writing about lousy new shows,” is a good example of what you should tell them.)

(At this point, twenty-nine new series are set to premiere between mid-September and mid-October. However, I’m not married to that number. If anything else hits this fall, it’s going on the review list.)

Assisting me in this task will be Blog Buddy Mysterious Don, who has loved ones and everything. He’ll be doing some reviewing to keep this desperate little project on track. Distressingly, the rural dating show Farmer Takes a Wife is not on the CW’s Fall Schedule, as originally announced. He was totally going to end up with that one, just for the sheer horror value.

If this works out, it’ll continue through mid-season, as there are some interesting entries already slated for January.

And if you don’t think I’m going to use this project to try and impress women, then you don’t know me at all. They, as a gender, are unlikely to be impressed. Nonetheless, I soldier on.

Look for the All Pilot Project beginning in mid-September!

Selling Out to the Man

The eagle-eyed among you might have noticed a couple of ads on the Swear Jar. Up top, underneath the fruit-throwing orangutan, you’ll see a tiny little ad. If you click the ad, I get a few cents. Your contribution will allow me to buy stuff, which I will appreciate greatly. Best of all, the specific ads are decided by content of my site, so this weekend saw an ad for Big Brother live feeds, as well as one for nickel-plated outlet covers. Support the Swear Jar and its sponsors with a single click.

Also, to the right you’ll see an button. If you’re inspired to watch, read, or listen to anything I recommend, use the button to go to Amazon. Your prices stay the same, but I get a couple bucks. Let’s face it, you’re going to buy Season Three of The Office anyway, you might as well let me get lunch out of it.

That’s all for the shameless hucksterism. At least until we get the John from Cincinnati designs up on Sammy Shirts. I’m going to retire off of those…

Friday, August 24, 2007

The Big Brother Report -- Eighth in a Series

Ah, what a delightful train wreck. You know how people claimed Jen was smarter than we thought and only trying to fool everybody into thinking she was dumb and vain? Yeah, those people were way off. Jen is exactly who she seemed to be, and she flamed out in glorious fashion.

It was actually sort of an uneventful week, other than Amber’s crying and overall hatefulness. (And I really don’t usually talk about religion this much, but notice the difference between Amber and Jameka. When Jameka gets nominated, she chalks it up to part of God’s plan. When Amber gets nominated, it’s because God let her down. Nice, huh?) Well, it was uneventful right up until the end, when Jen went bonkers.

I’m never a fan of the “Poor me” approach to nomination. You’re playing a game. The other people playing the game want to win, so they want you to not win. There are certain things you can do to stay in longer, like maybe win a challenge that doesn’t involve standing still. Or, you can try to make people not hate you. But even if they like you, they still want you to not win. That’s how games work.

And Jen, she embraced self-pity in a most unattractive way. We really saw her at her absolute worst on Thursday’s show. I mean, I’ve got a problem with smoking, too. (Nothing personal, smokers. I’ve got allergies and you make my throat bleed.) Still, I would never destroy somebody’s cigarettes. Property destruction is not cool, yo. Anyway, then we moved into her violation of the slop restrictions, which resulted in a penalty vote against her. Which is, of course, not terribly important when the vote is unanimous anyway. (I was praying that Rob was watching – he was confused by the voting procedure last week, just imagine his reaction to seeing how five people cast six votes.) Regardless, that led us into the fight. And here’s the thing about that. It is not good to burn somebody with a cigarette. Unless you’re Jack Bauer, in which case you probably have a good reason. Still, considering she was trying to take a lit cigarette out of his hand, you have to expect some collateral damage.

Farewell, Jen. You will not be missed. And poor, poor Dustin. Stuck in the jury house with you. Ick.

Also, the thing I dislike most about Jen really came out this week. It’s the way she acts like everybody is stupid, all the time. Anything people say to her, she responds like they’re idiots. When Julie Chen said “We’ll see you back here for the finale”, Jen said “OK” in the same tone of voice you’d use to address the crazy guy on the bus. There was no reason to get all snotty in that situation, she’s just awful. Stupid Jen.

Does the special Power of 10 trip mean that we don’t get the annual “Houseguests compete for an advanced showing of an upcoming movie” episode? I love those episodes! Especially when they have to fake excitement for a sucky movie. Although last year, they got to see “Talladega Nights”, which meant that “Shake and Bake” was a catchphrase on the show before anybody outside the house knew what it meant.

Time for the Houseguest Rundown!

JAMEKA – One of the most drama-free nominees ever. Deep down, I have to believe that she, like all good people, hates Amber. She’s just putting up with her for strategic reasons. I have little else to say about Jameka this week. Don’t you know when you get nominated you’re supposed to freak the hell out and scream at people? Who do you think you are, Jameka? Some kind of grown-up?

ZACH – Hey, he actually got some screen time this week. Probably less than anybody else, but his percentage definitely went up. If he makes the Final Two, he’ll probably be clearly visible in 30 or 40 minutes of the three hours of weekly programming. I sort of like his obvious glee in cockblocking Eric. He’s sort of like your dopey friend who doesn’t realize he’s freaking out the women. Also, Zach clearly has a rich internal life. He is, in his own words, a ‘silent assassin’. Yeah, there’s a dude who’s pulling the strings.

DANIELE – So Nick was her special guest on Power of 10? Man, CBS can’t crap down her actual boyfriend’s throat hard enough, can they? Poor guy. She’s doing a good job of playing both sides, I must say. She lets her dad make all her decisions, and then tearfully declares to everybody else that it’s not fair to assume that’s what he’s doing. I sort of think she’ll be horrified when she watches the show to see how she came off. Jen and Amber live in their bubbles of delusion, and no amount of exposure to their own awfulness will make an impression; I think Daniele might end up dealing with some uncomfortable reality. That said, I still sort of like her. I don’t want to ever meet her, but her presence on my TV does not anger me.

AMBER – SHUT UP, AMBER! I’ve given up on counting her crying jags, because my calculator caught fire after his week. She’s having visions where God assures her that she’s staying in the house, which takes her into Crazy Lady territory. If you sincerely believe you’ve had a religious vision, I’ll hear you out. It’s a big old cosmos, and everything is possible. But I’ve already mentioned my feeling on God and reality shows, and I’m completely certain that He doesn’t waste epiphanies on Anti-Semites who are sad about maybe leaving a game show. And how about the bit where she told the Power of 10 makeup lady about what a good person she (Amber) is, and how much America will love her. I hate her so much. Her level of delusion is disgusting. I did think it was hilarious that she talked about what a great boyfriend Dustin is. That’s everything you need to know about her right there. You know those women who never have female friends, and they really only connect with gay men? And in their heads, they’re totally Will and Grace, and it’s really a deeper and more real than any other kind of relationship? You’ve all met these women. Amber is these women times 1000. And also, she hates Jews.

JESSICA – Still not getting a real feel for her, still taking Eric’s word for it. There just doesn’t seem to be much there, you know? I mean, she may well be awesome and she’s just not getting screen time because she doesn’t really have all the drama. At least she seems fairly sweet and occasionally funny. Her voice still makes me want to die, though.

DICK – Our relationship is complicated. I am just done with him at least once a week, and he always brings me back. Other than the Great Jen Freakout of ’07, he played it pretty quiet this week. I think he’s realizing that the Final Two is not that far off, and he maybe needs some people to vote for him in the end. I think Zach and Jessica are the only people he hasn’t brought to tears already, so he’s got a lot of damage control. Still, he seemed so damn happy to see Jen leave -- you had to like him for that right there.

ERIC – Here’s my question. If he makes the Final Two, will they tell the jury about “America’s Player” or not? Either way, it seems like it would hurt his chances of winning. Either he’s a spazzy game player who betrayed everybody all the time, or he was a tool of America who made no decisions on his own. Really, he’s playing very well, incorporating our random whims into his strategy. However, the Jury is crazy. Remember last year how they vilified Erika for letting Mike have sex with her, so they voted Mike the winner over her? “How could you let that troll have his way with you? Have some money, troll.” Anyway, I’m still pro-Eric, and it’s fascinating to watch those wheels spin.

Let’s keep our fingers crossed that Amber did not win anything on Power of 10, and we can look forward to another crazy-ass week. Honestly, either Jessica betrays the alliance and Dick freaks out, or she sticks with the plan and it’s another journey to the dark side of the soul with Amber. Either way, it’ll be interesting.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Ten Little Things I Love About Summer TV

Since my unexplained sadness is still lingering, I think we should take some time to focus on the happy. So, here’s another Ten Little Things I Love About TV – Summer Edition!

1. (King of the Hill) Emily the Hall Monitor! She’s one of those stealth characters who always gets a laugh, and it’s not until you spend the summer burning reruns to DVD that you realize she’s in more episodes than you’d think. So dedicated and no-nonsense. If you see a blond girl wearing an orange vest in a scene, you know there’s a good joke coming.

2. (Slacker Cats) Niecy Nash as Mrs. Boots! I’m undecided as to whether this animated series is perversely funny or sophomoric and gross, but Mrs. Boots is a riot. “Where’s Mr. Boots? Come on, where’s Mr. Boots?”

3. (Hell’s Kitchen) That moment near the end of the season where Gordon Ramsay switches from trying to destroy the chefs to being really happy for them. He’s all bouncy and excited, and it’s really very endearing. (Runner-up: Jean-Philippe and his ability to convey sincere interest and complete disdain in the same breath. He hopes you enjoy your dining experience, but doesn’t care if you live or die. Plus, I’m not sure he’s really French. I keep thinking of Bruce Campbell in “Spider-Man 3”. I am, as you know, French.

4. (Dirty Jobs) The ‘Monkey Caretaker’ episode. Technically, I love all episodes of Dirty Jobs, but this one’s almost like a horror move. Mike and the crew go out on a job that doesn’t pan out, so they swing by a nearby monkey sanctuary, thinking they can get a segment out of it. They end up stranded and under assault by psychotic monkeys, and by the end, multiple crew members have been injured. It’s a weird and unnerving experience.

5. (Monk) Randy Newman’s Monk theme. I’m a big Randy Newman fan anyway (yes, I know how cool I sound right now), and the theme strikes a nice balance between his peppy soundtrack stuff and his cynical album work. Plus, it’s a neat throwback to the days of lengthy theme songs. Not like I want to see every show suddenly have valuable real estate taken up with a theme song, but every once in a while, it's a pleasant addition.

6. (Shaq’s Big Challenge) Shaq’s continued belief that the best way to motivate kids is threatening to kiss them in public. I wouldn’t have thought of that, and I certainly never would have considered following up on that threat. That’s how Shaq and I differ. That’s the only way in which Shaq and I differ, come to think of it.

7. (Burn Notice) Everything about Bruce Campbell’s performance as Sam, but especially the fact that his line from the pilot, “You know spies. Bunch of bitchy little girls”, is in the pre-credits sequence of every episode. Every episode of a show about spies.

8. (John from Cincinnati) That armless stick figure. It’s so simple, and yet mesmerizing. It gets into your thoughts and stakes out its territory. It could mean anything, you know? I feel like it’s floating at the edge of my brain, and if I can figure it out, everything will make sense. Not on the show – in life. It’s perfectly iconic.

9. (Flight of the Conchords) “Who Likes to Rock the Party?” Whenever we see the Conchords in an actual performance, that’s always the song they’re playing. See that title? Those are the lyrics, occasionally answered with “We like to rock the party.” If I could get a full-length version, I would totally put it on my iPod. If I had an iPod. (True Story – I was walking down the hall at work, and without realizing it, I was singing “All the Ladies in the World”. Both parts. People are beginning to suspect that I’m weird.)

10. (Big Brother) “God is so gangsta. That’s why I love him.” Best line of the summer!

Wow. That’s ten, and I didn’t even get to “Monkey on the Lam”, the Quickfire Challenge, Joan from Mad Men, or Senior Black Correspondent: Larry Wilmore. Truly, we live in an age of wonders

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Some days, you just want to keep the streak going

It’s a short day, because I’m feeling inexplicably sad.

--Hey, my favorite shows have happy casting news. Veronica Mars herself will appear in a Heroes arc early in the season. And Lance Reddick, best known among people related to me as Johnny Basil on Oz and Lt. Daniels on The Wire, will be appearing on Lost. Whether he’s on the island, or a flashback character, or even a flash-forward character, is unknown. He will, however, join Mr. Eko and Michael in the fraternity of Lost cast members who got stabbed to death in Oz.

I’m not sure what this says about Reddick’s role on The Wire this season. I thought I heard they were shooting Season Five right now, so unless Daniels doesn’t make it through the seasons, he could end up shuttling from Baltimore to Hawaii and back again. I don’t know why I’m obsessing over Lance Reddick’s shooting schedule. Let’s just write it up as one of those quirky things I do.

--So, you know how “Borat” was awesome? I recently went and watched Da Ali G Show, and I loved it. I liked Borat and Bruno right away, but it took some time for me to warm up to Ali G himself. That said, do not go out there thinking that the Ali G movie will be as brilliant as “Borat”. “Ali G Indahouse” is, well, sort of awful. It’s the opposite of funny. If I could convince myself it was a parody of crappy 80’s comedies, I’d feel better about it, but I think it might just suck. Trust me, you will need to immediately watch “Talladega Nights” to remind yourself that Sacha Baron Cohen is funny.

Told you I was short today.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

This is My Wingman, J-Dogg

In two days, two different people have referenced The Pick-Up Artist in conversation with me. Usually, I’ve heard about things, at the very least. But I had no idea what they were talking about. Still, I could make some assumptions given that my friend Lana said “It kind of reminded me of you.” Other things that have reminded Lana of me include Beauty and the Geek, the ‘Before’ on every makeover show, and the early scenes of “The 40-Year-Old Virgin”. Paints a pretty picture, doesn’t it? (Note: I am not saying that it’s an inaccurate picture. I’m basically Dwight Schrute, only without the secret girlfriend.)

Apparently there’s this guy called ‘Mystery’, who’s the greatest pick-up artist in the world. I don’t know how this is measured, but we’ll move on. Along with his wingmen, ‘Matador’ and ‘J-Dogg’, he’s training nerds how to pick up women. First off, I assume the codenames and costumes are so that he can retain his air of, well, mystery. There’s no way a dude who wears a feathered top hat and has a friend named ‘Matador’ ever meets women. Anyway, it’s a competitive reality show where the worst performer is sent home every week.

Now, I should hate this. I mean, this is real ‘Fall of the Roman Empire’ stuff. Combining sex and competition is not good, and you tend to end up with the Spur Posse. (I’m so old.) Basically, the idea is to teach you how to get laid, and if you’re not good enough at it, you don’t get to play anymore. Any you can just tell that Mystery would be absolutely unbearable in real life. He’s sort of gross, and anybody who devotes their life to scoring doesn’t really spend a lot of time on, oh, knowing things or being halfway interesting.

Unfortunately, I ended up liking the series quite a bit. The contestants, well, these aren’t guys who are going to go out and spread their seed to the far corners of the Earth. These are guys who, as a result of being on this show, will maybe be able to not throw up when the waitress at Steak ‘n’ Shake greets them. They really seem like decent guys who just need a clue. (Except for Creepy Fred. Something about him unsettled me.) Granted, I’ve only seen two episodes (I think it’s up to Episode 3), and I think I still liked Jen from Big Brother after two episodes, but they really do seem all right.

The early part of the episode is kind of hysterical, with the contestants practicing to ‘open’ their ‘sets’. (Mystery talks almost entirely in air quotes.) I mean, is it normal to rehearse conversation like that? Come to think of it, is that something guys do? Do they discuss opening lines? I mean, I’ve been male all my life, and I don’t think that I have ever once worked out a strategy for social interactions. Other than trying to not unsettle the various women who approach Brian on a regular basis, that is. Seriously, I can’t determine if this show has a weird outlook, or if my social circle is somehow damaged.

For the elimination challenge, each contestant has to walk into a club and start a conversation. This is fascinating to watch, because I would seriously rather be whacked in the crotch with rebar than have to start a conversation with a stranger. I mean, making people do this is, to me, sort of like demanding that they jump high enough to grab a piece of moon cheese. And believe me, these guys have some openers. Like the guy who thinks breakdancing is a good way to impress people. Or the one who opened with “Did you just see that guy breakdancing?” It’s kind of great, because it’s just a generalized fear of rejection, instead of fixating on one person like The Bachelor. It’s way less gross, at this point at least. True, next week appears to feature the contestants practicing their kissing on blindfolded women. Honestly, I think that might offend me, but I’ll let them provide me with context before I commit.

It’s pretty clear that Mystery and friends have issues with women, but the show itself has (thus far) been respectful. It’s a fine line they’re walking, but I’m on board for now. Next week they have to get phone numbers, which is just unfathomable to me.

If you listen closely, you can hear the sound of Lana applying me for Season Two.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Stewart Takes the Stand

It’s a big week for my Comedy Central boys. First off, Stephen Colbert will be airing the interview with billionaire turd-cutter Richard Branson that was taped last week. It’s already made the news, because Branson actually poured water on Stephen. It sounds like it was bitter and tense the whole way through, and we’ll get to see what happened on Wednesday.

In the early days of the show, Colbert’s interviews were often kind of uncomfortable. Since he’s doing a character, he often had to suppress his natural response to the guest, and a lot of them just didn’t get it. Even now, every once in a while, he still ends up with an utterly humorless guest who’s never seen the show, and thinks that Stephen is actually advocating burning books. And sometimes he can even disagree with a guest in-character and as himself, and that’s always delightful. I’m guessing that’s what happened with Branson, but we’ll find out on Wednesday.

And speaking of The Colbert Report, is there anybody else who’s absolutely tickled by ‘Monkey on the Lam’. I almost want to release a monkey into a populated area, just so he can run the title graphic. (Please note, A Nickel for the Swear Jar does not actually advocate endangering monkey and human life for comedic purposes.)

Over on The Daily Show, correspondent Rob Riggle will actually be in Iraq all week. (You may recognize Riggle as the Captain on the ‘Booze Cruise’ episode of The Office, or the conservative politician who snuggled Buster when he was faking his coma on Arrested Development.) Not only is Rob Riggle very funny, but he’s also a behemoth of a man, and a former Navy SEAL. He knows more about the military than anybody on the show, and you can tell he’s got a very real anger over how the war is being handled. This will be interesting to watch.

And then there’s the news that Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert may be asked to testify in Viacom’s billion-dollar lawsuit against YouTube. My natural reaction is that it’s kind of awesome. Still, other than their celebrity and respectability, I don’t think they’re going to help Viacom’s case as much as they should.

Here’s the thing. I am completely opposed to bootlegging, illegal downloading, and anything that devalues creative work. It hurts both honest people and the creators involved. And I do agree that posting of copyrighted material on YouTube without the consent of the copyright holders is wrong.

However, there are cases when the financial damage done by such posting is minimal. For example, when somebody posts a hilarious commercial, nobody’s hurt. Heck, it allows more people to see the commercial. And in these DVR days, I feel like advertisers are probably thrilled that somebody’s taking the time to disseminate their work. That’s how I found out Bruce Campbell was doing Old Spice ads, for example. And yes, that made me change brands. I’m pathetic. (If I may digress, it’s a good thing that the people I like aren’t really in demand for commercial spots. I once bought a shirt because it looked like one that Larry David wore, and I’m seriously thinking about getting a Kobold watch like Jack Bauer wears. If Lauren Graham or Hugh Laurie did ads, I’d have to change my cellular provider, drink high-end bottled water, or drive an SUV over rugged terrain. Pray that advertisers never find out about me.)

And there are cases where the value of an episode after its initial airdate is minimal. They rarely run an episode of The Daily Show or Colbert Report that’s more than a week or two old. Neither series is ever going to be syndicated, given the time-sensitive nature of the material. And with the massive number of episodes, DVD releases are minimal. (I would totally buy a 20-disc Colbert Report Season One set, but I doubt I’m in the majority there.) My point is, it’s still wrong to violate copyright, but there is little to no financial damage to the creators or the parent company. If I watch an episode of The Daily Show from two years ago online, Comedy Central’s not losing anything.

I understand there are thorny legal issues at work, and it’s important that Viacom maintain their control of the material they own. Still, I think they should focus on creators who are actually going to be hurt by illegal downloading and bit torrents. If I can get episodes of South Park online, I’m not going to buy the season sets. If everybody’s downloading episodes, the syndication deal isn’t going to be nearly as valuable, and Matt and Trey are actually losing money. Repeats of The Sarah Silverman Program won’t bring in advertiser dollars if they’re all out there on YouTube, and if it’s not profitable, Sarah Silverman would be out of work. (Technically, that would mean that co-creator Rob Schrab would have the time to finish “Scud: Disposable Assassin”, but losing Officer Jay and the gay-bors wouldn’t be worth it. You know, sometimes I worry that not even I am catching all my references.) If I miss the first airing of Reno 911! and then download it rather than catching the Tuesday repeat, that hurts their ratings. These are the people that the lawsuit needs to focus on – the people who are actually being hurt.

I agree in principle with Viacom. (And boy, do I feel dirty saying that.) But Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert aren’t being hurt by YouTube. The people testifying should be Matt and Trey, and Sarah Silverman, and Thomas Lennon… Huh. Yeah, maybe it should be Stewart and Colbert on the stand. I mean, it's not like Jon Stewart is unlikely to make a dick joke, but at least he's less likely...

Friday, August 17, 2007

The Big Brother Report -- Seventh in a Series

You know, this has been one very weird season. Who knew people would pass up the opportunity to vote Dick out? Not even as a strategy thing, just because he has this habit of making people cry. It just seems like it would be easier to get through the day without him. To me, there’s a self-preservation instinct that has to kick in. But then, I’m not there. (By the way, I will be sending in an application for next season, and I’m citing all of you as references.)

I like Dustin, and I’ll miss him. I think he really started getting a bad rap, and I don’t find him nearly as irritating as some other people do. Plus, he is one million times more likeable than Joe, whose appearance last night reminded me of how happy I was when he got evicted. Farewell, Dustin! Enjoy the Sequester House, and know that we are all better for having met Gay Wolverine.

And I LOVE whenever they let performers into the house for challenges. The houseguests always freak out to see other human beings, and when those people are a riddle-spouting midget, a human statue, a barbershop quartet, and a pirate on stilts, you can sort of see their brains shut down. Especially hilarious were their reactions to the midget. “He’s moving!” There was definitely some vague sense of terror. Does anybody remember a few seasons back when that mime was in the house for hours? I can’t remember what season that was…. Either 5 or 6. I’m going to say Season 6, because I seem to recall James being especially rattled.

Most of what I have to say is Houseguest-specific this week. With any luck, this entry won’t be another novel.

JAMEKA – I can’t tell if she’s crazy or awesome. Her use of hand-clapping as an offensive weapon could easily fit into either camp. She actually took Dick’s abuse pretty well, and those were some childish shots at religion he was taking. I think she’s probably regretting sitting out 5 HoH competitions, though.

AMBER – Shut up, Amber! Burst into tears four times during the Thursday episode alone, including in her theoretical farewell video for Dustin. Seriously, when you record it, you don’t even know who’s going to be evicted. She’s crying about a possible future. Just imagine telling Amber about Schroedinger’s Cat. She’d weep hysterically for that poor cat. And more importantly, how it made her feel. Now, we’ve established that I, along with all right-thinking people, hate Amber. And I would never judge somebody for going on a reality show. Sure, I judge people on reality shows all the time, but I don’t judge them for being on. Anyway, how does a single mom justify leaving her child for the summer? And also, what crazy-ass school is her daughter attending that she starts in the middle of August?

DANIELE – I’m not sure what to do with her. Every time I start to feel sorry for her, she makes me feel like I’ve been suckered. I can’t determine if she has the ability to fake hysteria or to fake composure after a bout of hysteria. Possibly the best moment of the week was her freak-out in the HoH room. Especially when she and Jameka really got into it. “You probably don’t even know the name of Amber’s daugher!” Damned if Daniele didn’t know it – including the middle name. Jameka played the wrong card there. I’ve got no idea who she’s going to nominate this week. Amber and Jameka seem likely, since they’re the farthest on the outs, but I’m not convinced that she’s done with Eric.

ZACH – Did you know there’s a guy named Zach on this show? Like sometimes in the food competitions, you’ll see a tall guy who’s not scrawny? It turns out, that’s Zach! Maybe one of these episodes he’ll get to talk or something.

DICK – Despite everything, I kind of like him. He’s an asshole, but there’s a degree to which that’s an act. And his pot-stirring strategy is fun to watch, if nothing else. Still, I like him significantly less than I did three or four weeks ago. And maybe “I’ll make everybody hate me so they vote me out instead of my daughter” is a strategy you save for after the Veto. That was three days of pure hatred wasted.

JESSICA – Damn it, I’m starting to like her. Again, it’s more because of her friendship with Eric, but at least she has something beside her hatred of Carol to define her. She sort of had Daniele syndrome this week, where she came to a largely correct conclusion through faulty logic. I don’t know how “Dustin wants to be put up against Dick, therefore they’re in an alliance” makes sense on any planet, and I don’t know how that gets her to “I’m suspicious of Eric.” And I’m not sure what the whole thing was with stripping down to her t-shirt in front of Eric, but her offhand “Those are boobs” cracked me up. Also, her voice still makes me want to kill myself.

ERIC – Hee. I really like him, and that poor bastard really has to do some fancy footwork to keep up now. I’m not sure if the fans have turned on him, or if they’ve just realized that they can have all kinds of fun with their new toy. The last few ‘America’s Player’ votes have really jeopardized his position in the house. It was one thing when America focused their hatred on Jen and Kail, but now we’re sending the poor boy mixed messages. Convince Jessica you’re taking her to the final two, but also give her the silent treatment. With only five votes in the upcoming eviction, it’s going to be impossible to hide a vote – America could really leave him hanging. The fact he’s made it as far as he has is simply amazing. And last week, I totally forgot with all the talk of Amber’s anti-Semitism that Eric is Jewish. I do believe that boy’s justified in calling her ‘garbage’ on Thursday’s episode.

JEN – It’s increasingly clear that the dumb act is not an act. Seriously, this girl is barely coherent. She’s going to become a target again soon – she’s been able to lay low simply by virtue of not giving a crap about anybody. I wouldn’t have believed that she would get so boring so quickly, but there you are. And Jen, you need to knock off the whole act every time Julie Chen asks you a question. That whole “Me? Why does she always want to talk to me?” We know you love attention, and also that you have nothing interesting to say. As always, we’ve got some more ‘Jen’ shirt ideas: “Jen-eration X”, “The Book of Jen-esis”, and “March of the Jen-guins.”

Something tells me in a week or two, this is going to be the most uncomfortable Sequester House ever. Well, except for Howie, George, and Marcellas in ‘All-Stars’. That was hard to watch.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

You Are Not as Awesome as Michael Cera!

Every young person in Hollywood is The Next Big Thing. Anybody under 21 who turns in a half-decent performance is inevitably heralded as The Next Big Thing. For most of them, it’s not even vaguely true. In some cases (Lindsay Lohan), the ‘Thing’ in question is ‘Coke Whore’. And in some cases, their Big Thing-hood is long in the making. We’ve been hearing that Shia LaBouef is The Next Big Thing for nigh-on five years now, and finally he’s had a couple of hits. (Granted, one of them was about fighting robots, so his presence was not the main draw.) But I’m telling you, if there’s any justice in Hollywood, Michael Cera is The Next Big Thing.

If there’s any chance of us ever being friends, you no doubt remember him from Arrested Development. As George-Michael Bluth, he was the sweetly awkward emotional core of the funniest sitcom ever. And we’ll save discussions on that point for a later date. Anyway, Cera just scored in every scene. This was a cast that included Jeffrey Tambor, Will Arnett, Jason Bateman, and David Cross, to name a few, and Michael Cera’s performance was the standout.

And here he is, bringing his A-game to “Superbad”. I got to see an early preview – not because I’m considered an important part of the industry, but because I picked up some free passes – and I’m firmly in love with “Superbad”.

Even putting aside the Michael Cera factor, you knew this had to be good. It’s written by Seth Rogen, an object of mild obsession over at Swear Jar Headquarters. Judd Apatow, who is the source of all things good, has a producer credit. Right there, you have got yourself a movie.

Now, “Superbad” is, in many ways, a throwback to old-fashioned teenage sex comedies. Except that it’s actually funny, and there really isn’t any sex. Guys talk about it. They plan for is. But they don’t actually get to have it. There’s no exploitation involved, and the movie’s got a big giant heart. It’s two best friends in their last week of high school. Before they go off to different colleges, they want to buy beer, go to the big party and get laid. That’s it. That’s the plot. But since everybody involved is awesome, it’s so much more than that.

It’s funny all the way through, from McLovin to the penis drawings. Since the movie’s more about jokes than plot, I don’t have a lot to say, other than simply recounting my favorite bits. Really, my main point in writing about it is to say that Michael Cera absolutely rocks. His character, Evan, is a (slightly) less repressed George-Michael, and he’s just heartbreaking. Mark my words, Michael Cera is the best young comedic actor working today, and he will be a major star. It’s just a matter of time.

You know, this has been a great summer for comedies. “Superbad”, “Knocked Up”, “Ratatouille”, “The Simpsons Movie”, “Eagle vs. Shark” – We’ve been very lucky. Personally, I enjoy things that are funny, and I hope you do too. (Yes, that was a shitty conclusion. It’s been a long day and I’m already girding my loins for The Big Brother Report.)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Fun Fact for Rob

I don't have a lot of blog time today, so here's a Fun Fact which will probably only interest Rob:

Bret, from Flight of the Conchords, plays a role in "Lord of the Rings: Return of the King" as an 'Elf Escort'. I guess that makes sense, since he's all tiny. I think he might be bulimic.

Sorry I don't have much today. Tomorrow I'll talk about "Superbad", and how awesome Michael Cera is.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Wrist Strong, Rock Hard

--Congratulations to Rock on winning Hell’s Kitchen! Occasional hissy fits aside, I liked him, and I think I might have started calling him the winner back when Aaron was still on the show. And I have never seen second place on a reality show be so authentically happy for the winner. Bonnie’s kind of awesome, and I hope she does well.

And the best part? Josh still can’t cook anything! This guy is a total disaster as a chef, so it’s a good thing he’s still got his personality going for him. Oh, right.

Personally, I’m salivating over the upcoming American version of Kitchen Nightmares. I really need more Gordon Ramsay in my life. That crazy, foul-mouthed British man…. I hope he brings Jean-Philippe along, because there’s a man who’s mastered subliminal contempt. With barely a change in the tone of his voice, he can convey absolute dripping hatred. We all need more of that.

--I think part of the reason I like Mad Men so much is that it’s structured just like The Sopranos. Given that creator Matthew Weiner and most of the directors worked on Tony and the gang, that’s not surprising. They’ve kept a lot of their production tricks. Scenes are rarely, if ever, intercut. The only time they use background music (that isn’t actually part of the scene) is right at the end, with each episode ending in a smash cut to black. And since most of the production crew worked on The Sopranos, there’s a weird familiarity to the end credits. If they didn’t use a different font, I’d lose track of what show I was watching.

I liked the show initially, and I feel like it’s steadily improving. They were a little blatant about certain things in the first couple of episodes, but they’ve found their subtlety. Yes, the guy from the art department is secretly gay. We figured that out after ever one of his lines in the first two episodes had a double meaning. Now that they’ve gotten that out of their system, he can finally be interesting. I’m really enjoying seeing the class and gender politics at work. It’s strange how this is really the era when TV was born, and yet television has never really assessed the period. Any look back at the 1960’s involves rose-colored glasses. From the 70’s on, it’s pretty much fair game when it comes to cynical assessments, so it’s refreshing to go a little further back.

And with the 1960 presidential election as a recurring plot point, hopefully that means more Nixon. It always makes me laugh when people talk about Nixon. Clearly, I have issues.

--On Burn Notice this week, it looks like we’re going to find out who ordered the, well, burn notice on Michael. I’m predicting it’s his father, who’s not as dead as we had believed. The very fact that the reveal is a cliffhanger indicates to me that it’s a name we’ll know. Since the names in the power structure aren’t really established, that leads me to Michael’s dad, who’s been referenced an awful lot. Otherwise, it’s probably a (fictionalized) government official. The Vice-President, perhaps. Of course, it would really be great if it were a real life political figure. Dick Cheney ordered the burn notice, pal. You think you can take him on? Just imagine Michael’s voiceover for that episode. “Taking on a crazy old man with a heart condition isn’t as easy as you might think.”

--A Nickel for the Swear Jar is a proud supporter of Stephen Colbert’s campaign against wrist violence. In fact, I’m writing this with an ergonomic Wrist Rest protecting my body’s most important joints. Stay strong, Wrists of America!

Monday, August 13, 2007

My Father Freelances in Cass' Camera

Man, nothing makes my head swim like John from Cincinnati. In some ways, John’s little sit-down with Linc gave us more information than ever about John Monad, but for every nugget of information, we also got new layers of obfuscation. The dialogue was ingenious, because everything John said could point to the Jesus interpretation just as easily as the extraterrestrial reading. Were John and Shaun in Heaven for the day (which was the Eighth day of John’s visit, and in a literal reading of Genesis 1, is the first day in which God’s whereabouts are not documented), or were they, in fact, Surfing on Jupiter? (I’ve been waiting all season to drop a Psychofunkapus reference!) Wherever they were, Shaun can’t remember, but he seems to have enjoyed it, and whoever he saw there is willing to sponsor him.

--Linc showed a certain talent for getting answers out of John – not necessarily useful answers, but more than just the repetition that Bill and the others got. We found out that John’s Mother is his Father, and that John’s Father’s Father speaks to John’s Father, but not to John. Also, Mitch Yost needs to get back in the game, but Linc needs to get in the game – Linc was never in it. That leads us to ask what ‘the game’ is? John’s original recitation of the phrase came from parroting Linc, and yet it means something more. Also, could there be a connection between the trinity of John, John’s Father, and John’s Father’s Father and the trinity of Shaun, Butchie (Shaun’s Father), and Mitch (Shaun’s Father’s Father)?

--Then we have all of John’s references to 9-11, which has now been expanded to 9-11-14. Presumably, that refers to a date. (The date when ‘we’re coming’, per John.) However, 91114 is also the zip code for Pasadena, CA. Not Cincinnati or Imperial Beach, unfortunately. I feel like somebody mentioned Pasadena early on – maybe that’s where Vietnam Joe thought John came from when they met? Sam has my early episodes, so I’m just working from memory here. And my memory, she is not entirely reliable. I feel like it must be a zip code, because it came up in conversation with Linc, who in a previous TV incarnation, lived in the most famous TV zip code ever.

--I forgot to mention this last week, but there is a Spanish conversation between Ramon and the woman with the Avon catalogs. In the first episode, while Cissie is in the holding cell, a woman speaks Spanish to her and if I’m not mistaken (see above, re: my memory), she hands something that we can’t see to Cissie. A connection? I feel like it has to be, but my Spanish is beyond rusty.

--So, Cass’ camera now transmits fullscreen video in real-time directly to the Internet. That almost seems like one of those mistakes in any movie that purports to be about technology or ‘hackers’, but Dwayne pointed out that it was impossible. John done magicked that camera up! We know that Cass’ camera is the key to John’s Father’s words, so I believe that her camera is there to bear witness and testify. And now that her camera really is a direct portal to the Internet (The Internet is big. Big and huge don’t begin to cover it.), it really is all about the 1’s and 0’s.

--I didn’t pay enough attention to the structure of Freddie’s criminal organization, so I have to go back to make sense of that. Regardless, I squealed with delight when I saw Mr. Wu. Swedgin!

--The more I think about it, the more significant the owner of the car dealership seems. Not only did he understand John, he seemed to have the same knowledge of things John has said as John has of things the other characters have said. (Try diagramming that sentence. I dare you.) It’s tough to tell whether he was profoundly symbolic, or merely a standard David Milch ‘Crusty old man’. Either way, I suspect we’ll see a lot of him come Season Two. Plus, that scene heralded the return of John’s Pockets o’ Plenty.

--This is in no way significant, but Shaun and John’s new wetsuits made me laugh. They reminded me of that period in the mid-1980’s when Aquaman wore ‘underwater camouflage’. I only mention this because I will take any opportunity to cite Keith Giffen’s body of work.

--Hey, the ‘10 Off’ got fixed on the shuffleboard court! Of course, all the other numbers are wrong, and I'm forced to spend a year pondering the meaning of 9-11-14.

--Bill made it up the stairs, and we saw that it was the room where his wife died. She clearly had been very sick, and I wonder if his crippling guilt means that he euthanized her, or maybe that he wishes he had. And the window appeared to be closed, so Zip must have been hiding there the whole time. Really nice scene for Bill.

--During the opening montage (and I now believe that every season finale should have a montage set to "Series of Dreams"), Dickstein is (apparently) awakened by Daphne performing oral sex on him. Back in the first episode, John said "All it took was one good blowjob to rock the Jew lawyer's world." It will be interesting to see how this blowjob changes him. (I live in fear that my mother or employer will stumble on this blog.)

--I can't tell if they were holding Mitch down at the end because he was still floating, or they wanted to be ready in case he started again.

--One of the greatest finale endings ever. When your titular character is an addled prophet, you might as well have him tell us what's coming up next season. And since it's John, it could be symbolic, literal, or a repetition of something he heard. Let's go line by line:
"Dr. Smith comes back 20 years younger from Cincinnati." No Dr. Smith in the finale, by the way. That could be figurative or literal, and it could be actual Cincinnati, or the one that John is from. I'm not sure what to make of this one.
"Cissie gets knocked up. She's bigger than Leona Helmsley." If that's literal, than we're in for a rough ride. Pregnant Cissie? Damn. The 'Leona Helmsley' line sounds like a Butchie repetition. She's not particularly known for being large, but Butchie's not exactly the go-to guy for commentary.
"Earth puts Dickstein on retainer." Maybe he becomes an environmental lawyer?
"Daphne keeps his head straight." Are we back to oral sex? Or is the blowjob a metaphor for the way that she 'keeps his head straight.'
"Jerri needs a slew of new harelips." Dwayne is the 'harelip'. Does he leave her? The way John speaks this line, it sounds like a repetition. Are these peripheral characters going to be more important next season? Dwayne is the key to the 1's and 0's, after all.
"My Father four-walls Barry's bar." Wow. First, is John's Father going to take an active role? And what does 'four-walls' mean? It sounds to me like maybe He strips it to the bare walls. I could be wrong, but we're going to have to watch that bar.
"Dr. Smith trains Dwayne and Ramon." Fairly straightforward, unless Dr. Smith is 20 years younger.
"My Father freelances in Cass' camera." Well, if we knew what that meant, we'd have this think licked, wouldn't we?

And then there's the last line of the season. "Mother of God, Cass Kai." Is that a binary equation where either Cass or Kai is the Mother of God? It's Schroedinger's Cat! Either one could be the mother of God, until you open the box! (First off, I apologize for using 'box' in a discussion of childbirth, and also, mentioning Schroedinger's Cat gets me mentioned in the LA Times.) Whatever this is, it's going to be huge.

Notably, most of the leads are not mentioned in the end prophecies. Mitch, Butchie, Sean, Bill, Freddie, and Palaka are all absent. I don't know what to make of that.

Well, that was an amazing season. This show has messed with my head, and I love it so much, it hurts a little. And you have no idea how much traffic I've gotten from people Googling 'I don't know Butchie instead.' Also, I really want people to start referring to handjobs as 'a Cissie Yost special'. Anyway, I don't know what it all means, but I can't stop thinking about it. I hope John and the residents of Imperial Beach are back soon.

Friday, August 10, 2007

The Big Brother Report -- Sixth in a Series

I’ve just been busting to talk about Big Brother all week, and the time has finally come!

Most of what I have to say will be covered in the individual entries for each player, but there are a few general points. First off, having people wear bunny suits for five days as part of the Veto competition was a nice touch. Too bad Dick and Eric weren’t in that competition, because having them dressed like rabbits while they scream at each other would have been pure joy.

Really, I have two general issues, and they both sort of relate to Amber. I’m not listing them with her, because one relates to the meta-game, and one to the world in general.

First, we have the unpleasant issue of Amber’s anti-Semitism. Her diatribe didn’t air on CBS, which is probably the right choice. They have a policy of not using controversial or polarizing incidents that don’t actually relate to game play. (None of Ivette’s anti-Arab racism actually aired in Season Six, except when she brought it up on live episodes. Broken record, that girl.) On a show like Big Brother, the network is making the best choice by not airing unchallenged racism.

My point however, is that Amber sucks. The whole thing was just disgusting. This wasn’t some simple dumbass remark about controlling the money supply, either. The words ‘awful people with big noses’ were used. So, clearly, Amber is a late 19th Century racist, to be going to that well. And also, Amber shouldn’t be going to the ‘big nose’ place anyway. Pot and kettle, if you now what I mean.

The larger idea here that perplexes me is that I can’t even reconcile how somebody justifies anti-Semitism in this day and age. It’s not like I’m saying other forms of racism are justified, but in this case, we’ve seen it carried out (or attempted) to its logical extreme, and it’s sort of the measure by which evil is judged. How does somebody in 2007 walk around knowing that they agree with Hitler? I mean, this is a cocktail waitress from Vegas – it’s not like we’re talking about Vern Schillinger here. It boggles my mind.

And in other reasons why Amber sucks, can I just mention the whole ‘swearing on the life of my daughter’ thing? She’s compelled to keep Eric, because she swore on the life of her daughter. Even when she changed her mind, she was bound by the swear. For one thing, we know that Amber goes to the God place at inappropriate times. (By the way, Amber, you know who the Bible is about? Jewish people!) It seems to me that Bible God (as opposed to the more frequently-invoked ‘Reality Show God’) does not approve of swearing or vowing. In fact, it’s specifically described as ‘evil’. For another thing, does she actually believe that her daughter will die if she breaks her vow? Because if she does, why the hell does she promise that in any case? If she doesn’t believe that, why compel yourself to follow said vow? It’s just ridiculous and schoolyard and you see it all the time on reality shows.

Amber is just flat-out awful, and I hope she Googles herself and ends up here. I mean, I slam a lot of people here – Jen, Mary from Age of Love, Josh from Hell’s Kitchen, to name just a few. But really, most of those people are just jerks or have unpleasant personalities. Amber is actually an awful person, and she does not deserve one second of happiness until she gets her act together.

I am bored with talking about Kail, and I’m glad that she’s gone so that I no longer have to.

On a lighter note, and before I get into the contestants, the competitions this year have been very well-designed. I liked last night’s Head of Household, where the winner of each round got to pick the next two to compete. Nice job, producers! Now maybe we can have a live show without technical glitches or Julie Chen screwing up the competitions.

ERIC – Poor guy got a raw deal this week. Sure, he was the ‘mystery vote’ who didn’t go along with his alliance for two weeks, but he had no say in that. America made him do it! I’m really glad he stayed, but I think he handled the situation all wrong. See, even though Daniele and Dick arrived at the right answer, their logic was flawed. Since they couldn’t possibly know about ‘America’s Player’, the fact that they fingered Eric is a masterpiece of poor thinking.

Daniele assumed that Eric was the vote against Kail two weeks in a row. (True.) They also assumed that Eric wanted Nick out. (True – but also mandated by America.) It would make sense for Eric to vote against Kail the first time in order to cast suspicion on Nick, but he would have to be an idiot to vote against Kail the second time, without Nick to blame. Further, their logic dictates that Eric wanted Nick out, thus he voted to keep him. They even went so far as to say that Eric was in a secret alliance with Jen and Kail, Putting aside that if Nick was so great, they shouldn’t have voted against him, their argument only works if Eric is clinically brain-dead.

Here’s what Eric should have done: Within the first day, take Dick aside, and explain it to him like so: “I was the vote to keep Nick. I knew he was going home, and I saw how badly the mystery vote against Kail rattled her last week, so I wanted to throw her off her game. I hoped she would assume that we were all voting together and that Jen had turned on her. I did it to try to break them up. It was a last-minute decision, and I’m sorry it upset Daniele.” Still, Dick’s a crazy guy, and it must be hard to think while he’s screaming at you.

DANIELE – Eh. I do think she’s going to make it far in the game, but I’m completely irritated that she managed to be right through bad logic. It’s sort of like when Dale Gribble gets to the right conclusion but involves aliens and the Rand Corporation. Still, she actually seems much happier without Nick there, trying to ruin her life so he can score on TV. The fact that she’s happy made me feel happy, so I guess that means I like her. I’m as surprised as anybody by that.

DUSTIN – Dude, Dustin’s kind of awesome. As hilarious as his tough guy act was on Sunday (Was he really trying to do a Wolverine impression?), he really pulled through on voting day. Not only will Amber be mad (And that was great strategy, by the way. “No, you swore on your daughter’s life. I’ll vote Eric out for you.” And then, you know, do the opposite.), but he saw this week how Dick flips out when people don’t vote the way he’s been promised that they will. It’s harder to hide a mystery vote every week, and he stuck with Eric, and lied to Dick’s face, knowing full well he’d be called out. I could actually see him winning the whole thing.

JAMEKA – She’s tough, man. She really worked for the Veto, and I don’t blame her at all for crapping out on the end. Seriously, do you want to give up half of the grand prize money just to keep one of your friends off the block? There was some criticism for her onscreen prayer, but let’s face it, she can’t pray anywhere without the possibility of it being onscreen. And she crashed hard after that PoV. I don’t blame her for one second. And, to her credit, she prayed for strength and not for anything specifically game-related. If you’re going to put religion into a reality show, that’s the way to do it.

ZACH – Not a lot of screen time this week. He’s actually making me kind of sad. Nobody likes him, and he doesn’t know why. From what we’ve seen, he doesn’t seem that objectionable. He’s actually kind of funny, in fact. Still, I’m not living with the dude either.

JESSICA – You know, I was happy to see her get HoH. I still haven’t seen any actual personality from her, but Eric likes her and Dustin was elated by her win, so she’s OK with me. The fact that she’s so easily swayed by Dick and Jen making crap up is worrisome, but they seem to be able to get he back to the good side with very little effort. If she’s smart, she’ll put up Dick and Daniele this week. If one of them gets Vetoed, swap them out with Jen or Zach (depending on the circumstances). But they’ve got the votes to get one of those two out, and that’s what’s important. Ideally, they’re going to want Dick out, just to get the house to a state of relative normality.

DICK – Speaking of… I’m disappointed in him that he couldn’t see the flaw in Daniele’s logic as to the mystery vote. I have to say, I’m impressed by his ability to change allegiance on a dime, but he’s much more interesting as a bully when he’s not bullying people that I like. I get the feeling he probably doesn’t flip out on people in real life, though. We know he’s a big fan of the show, and this might just be a strategy he hasn’t seen before.

However, that video package meant to convince us that Dick has a lot of famous friends was kind of hilarious. First off, why does he spell ‘Evil’ as ‘Evel’? Is it an Evel Knievel reference? A trademark thing? But did you recognize any of those ‘famous friends’ of his? He was throwing out names like Mick Jagger, and they’ve got the bass player for LA Guns to back up that claim? Regardless, he seems to have a lot of friends, which is pretty cool regardless of whether or not he’s lying about Bono.

AMBER – Shut up, Amber! OK, we’ve talked about the crying, the racism, the ugliness, and the hypocrisy. Oh, and that she’s kind of dumb. Let’s move on and talk about her dirty little secret. Now, we only saw a little of what she said to Eric, but she told him that she lied to her boyfriend about being pregnant twice. I hope we find out what happened next. She got him to pay for fictional abortions? She wore a pillow under her shirt and then stole a baby from the supermarket and pretended she gave birth while he was at work? Whatever it was, she fooled him twice. This would indicate that the guy is not bright. Given that he’s dating Amber, that’s probably a given.

Anyway, I loved her complete freak-out in front of everybody where she screamed about how it was a stupid lie she told while she was on drugs. Like adding that made her look better. “I’m not a liar, I’m a junkie!” I seem to remember her explaining on Sunday that “If I tried to lie, the words literally could not come out of my mouth.” I had planned to mock her for that, but there was so much else going on with her this week.

JEN – Regrettably, other than some incompetent attempts at lying, there wasn’t much to Jen this week. All of her interactions are so awkward, because she’s vacuous and self-absorbed and it makes me crazy that she’s showing up on my TV all summer. I could probably form some specific complaints, but this is turning into a novel already. I believe I’ll just suggest some more ‘Jen’-themed shirts and call it a day. Let’s go with “Jen-eral Electric”, “Je-tal Hygienist”, and “Uncle Jen’s Converted Rice”.

Have a good weekend y’all!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Short Bits about Cartoons

And it’s another low content day, as I’m still on my Comedy Class schedule. Just some quick blurbs about cartoons, and I’m calling it a day.

--The Simpsons Season 10 came out on DVD this week! We are officially into the ‘pleasantly surprising’ phase of the DVD’s. See, Seasons 4-8 are the Golden Age. Not a bad episode in five years there. And generally, the following seasons get a bad rap for not living up to those standards, but as with December’s Season 9 release, there are a lot of episodes on these discs where you’ll say, “Oh yeah, I love that episode.”

There’s not a lot of classics, but it’s pretty much a season of strong episodes. I know I’m damning with faint praise, but that’s not what I’m getting at. Nothing’s ever going to be as good as Season 8. If you can accept that and move on, you’re really going to enjoy this set. Personally, I’m thrilled to finally have a permanent copy of episodes like “They Saved Lisa’s Brain”, “Homer to the Max”, and “Lard of the Dance”. What’s funnier than an episode devoted to grease?

And it occurs to me that if anybody is keeping track, Matt Groening should hold the world record for participating in the most DVD commentaries. Both Futurama and The Simpsons have commentary on every episode. He’s on all 72 Futurama commentaries, and of the 200+ Simpsons commentaries released, I’d say he missed less than twenty. It’s a miracle he gets anything else done.

--Speaking of Futurama, the first direct-to-DVD movie is set for release this November, with three more to follow in 2008. It sounds like the first Comedy Central season will consist of those movies divided into 30-minute episodes. Futurama is one of my favorite series of all time, and it’s been sorely missed. My little nerd heart is floating on a cloud of love right now.

--And just to keep up the theme, I’ve been burning syndicated episodes of King of the Hill to DVD for the last month. FOX has put the season sets on hiatus, and I can’t handle not having Season Seven and up available for easy viewing. First off, this project would be nearly impossible without DVR. I’ve got a friend who recorded every episode of Seinfeld a couple of years back, and it was all videotapes and printed schedules. I can’t even imagine how that nutty bastard did it. Second, this project has confirmed that King is probably the most consistent series on the air. In 11 seasons and 200 or so episodes, there’s been maybe five or six bad episodes. You can watch any random episode, and you’ve got a 97% chance of catching a good one. That’s phenomenal when you think about it. And yet, FOX treats the show like a red-headed stepchild. Stupid FOX.

It’s the Big Brother Report tomorrow! Mark your calendars!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Fun with Site Traffic

As ever, I'm checking my site traffic, and I found some interesting search results.

--Popular search phrases from the last several weeks include: 'Mark Consuelos disappears from Age of Love' and 'Big Brother Jen naked'. I imagine the people searching that last one were horribly disappointed.

--As of this moment, I have the exact same number of searches for 'Tarik Tyler', the crazy trainer on Shaq's Big Challenge as I do for 'Lauren Graham', my soon-to-be ex-TV Girlfriend. (You can't be my TV Girlfriend if you don't have a weekly series. Sorry, but I don't make the rules.)

--References to John from Cincinnati bring in more search engine traffic than any other show. I don't know Butchie instead.

That's all I've got today -- it's off to Comedy Class!

For Facebook Fans

We're in low content mode for a couple of days, since Comedy Class is taking up all my viewing and writing time.

In the meantime, check out this link from Swear Jar Buddy Rob:
"If 100,000 people join, my wife will let me name my second child Spider-Pig"

I set up a facebook account just to join this group!

Can he swing from a web?
No, he can't,
he's a pig.

God bless the Internet!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Reality R-Word

--Hey, we get an extra week of Hell’s Kitchen! I’m not sure an episode with less than three minutes of cooking actually warrants a full hour, though. I wonder if double eliminations throw off the scheduling to such an extent that a filler episode is warranted. Actually, I’m really interested in the timeline here. From people’s reactions to Rock and Bonnie, it seemed like maybe the show had started airing by the time this episode was filmed. Or else strangers were just chanting names based on the cut of their jib.

Not a whole lot to say about an episode where little happened. Thrilled that Josh was chosen last, though. I think Ramsay was as happy about it as I was. I’m not sure what to make of Julia’s crying jag. On the one hand, she comes off as petulant, on the other, well, I don’t know her background. I don’t know what she had to go through to get to the Waffle House, so I’ve got no judgment.

I like how Bonnie and Rock were exact opposites when discussing their restaurants. I also love that Bonnie is just full of crazy-ass ideas, and she just can’t wait to toss them out there whether they make sense of not. She’s like a perky Grant Morrison. Their interactions are fun to watch, with Rock attempting to psych her out, and really not being terribly good at it. The fact that nobody thinks Rock is as tough as he himself thinks he is makes me like him better.

Next week, looks like we’ve got meltdowns on both sides. I do think Bonnie will have a better service, even if Julia craps out. After all, Melissa was mostly good until she went insane. Rock’s stuck with Josh and Vinnie, neither of whom can cook a damn thing. Still, I see Rock winning, as he’s been consistent from Day One. Bonnie’s getting steadily better, but she’s got a couple of massive screw-ups that might be factored into the decision. Also, I am so excited about Kitchen Nightmares, I can barely stand it.

--I really started feeling bitter toward Age of Love the last couple of weeks. I’m assuming Mark Consuelos did, too. He hasn’t been seen in about four episodes. Don’t let Chris Harrison know that a dating show can run without a host. Poor guy will lose it.

The problem is, by the end of the show, the bachelor becomes an asshole. It doesn’t matter how you start out – by the end of the show, you’re evil. Because even if you’re not scoring left and right, you’re still complicit in leading all of these women on. Unless it’s actually a coin toss, you know who you’re going to choose. And thus, you have to lie to everybody else.

The problem is, it’s really about a complete disregard for others feelings, and that’s just hard to watch. And by the end, more than one person is involved enough that it’s basically just sad to see how it ends.

Really, you knew Mark was going to choose Amanda. He’s spent weeks eliminating anybody who has a disagreement with her. They’ve probably broken up already, or else she’s stabbed him, because she is crazy. And by the way, ‘shy’ is one thing. ‘Boring’ is another, Amanda. Don’t confuse the two. Also, her giant mouth freaks me out.

I don’t know, the whole thing just petered out for me. Weirdly, the listing for this episode claimed that Mark took the Final Three women to Australia, and his family eliminated one of them. Since only two women made it Down Under, I have to think a lot of things didn’t really go as planned.

For you women out there, does Amanda make your soul die? “I’m the happiest girl in the world, because I’ve got my man.” It just upsets me so much that there are still people out there who believe that you’d better find a man, any man, so that you can be complete. Of course, I might just be bitter because I’m lonely. In fact, I definitely am.

What might have been interesting is to actually hear Mark’s rationale for choosing Amanda over Jen. Was it actually a ‘youth beats age’, or was there more to it. For example, does he really want children? If so, that had to be a factor. Did his family actually sway him one way or another?

Most importantly, did Jayanna make it back from the forest? I’ve been very worried.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Enigmatic Surfers and Farty Walruses

I’ve got Comedy Class the next couple of nights, so my blogging may suffer. I’ll barely have time to watch any TV, much less write about it. That’s a small price to pay to have a professional comedian tell me at length why I’ll never make it. Can’t put a price on knowledge like that.

--I’m traumatized by the sudden knowledge that next week is the season finale of John from Cincinnati. (And it had better be a season finale. The Yosts had damn well better be back next summer, HBO.) I had assumed a 12-episode season, as is common for HBO. And they usually start advertising the ‘final three episodes of the season’. Nope, one week notice for us John fans. (I spent 45 minutes trying to come up with a clever name for us, and I’ve got nothing.)

Anyway, I refuse to believe that John is going to harm Shaun. Based on some of Shaun’s dialogue last week, I sort of think he’s already dead. Like he was resurrected without his soul. His appearance in the hotel bar along with Mr. Rollins’ corpse would seem to indicate that, as well. Regardless, he and Zip disappeared together, and neither of them should have been able to get out unseen.

I liked Freddie’s dialogue about the thing that scared him out of the volcano 25 years ago. For one thing, you can totally picture him hanging out in a volcano. For another, it gives us a little context for his presence. Remember, he showed up to kick Butchie’s ass, and now he’s hanging around standing guard. He saw something back in the volcano, and John and Shaun and Zip all resonate in that part of him.

At the end there were sixteen stick figures on the computer screen and above the bar. I would have expected 12, since I’m still going for a Gospel interpretation. I’m not sure what to make of sixteen. Sure, it’s one of Hurley’s numbers, but a Lost crossover seems unlikely. (Though it would be awesome, wouldn’t it? You just know Locke and John would hit it off.) It’s four squared, two to the fourth power, and in binary, it’s 10000. With all that talk of ones and zeros, there’d better be some binary code in here!

--I saw “Arctic Tale” this weekend. It was a preview showing, and I believe it opens August 17. Anyway, it’s an arctic documentary about polar bears and walruses, sort of the spiritual successor to “March of the Penguins”. I recommend seeing it, because there’s some stunning footage, but it falls short on a number of levels. By presenting it as the story of a single polar bear and a single walrus, it anthropomorphizes them too much. Obviously, since it covers an eight-year span, it’s not the same bear the whole time. We’re seeing a variety of bears and being told that each one is Nanu, for the sake of the narrative. (And I totally call ‘shenanigans’ on slipping in footage from Thomas Mangelsen’s “Polar Dance” and pretending it’s the same bear. That’s pretty much the most famous piece of polar bear footage ever. It’s sort of like trying to work the Oswald assassination film into your movie and claiming that Oswald is actually Jason Bourne. Or something.)

“Penguins” proved that we can handle science in our nature films. I’m not sure we need a story. Then again, I am probably not the target audience. Queen Latifah’s more colloquial narration is clearly aimed at children. And as much as I would like to see more science and fewer jokes, I certainly can’t begrudge them trying to teach kids about nature and personalize the problem of global warming.

Anyway, if you have kids, you should definitely see it. If not, you should still probably see it because you will see some amazing stuff, and it’s good to support nature documentaries. And despite the emphasis on narrative, you will learn things. I didn’t know that walruses use their whiskers to memorize each other’s faces. Or that they fart so much.

And really, who doesn’t enjoy some good polar bear footage?

Friday, August 3, 2007

The Big Brother Report -- Fifth in a Series

Let me just say that I’m not a fan of endurance challenges on Big Brother. I mean, I will like watching the footage on Sunday, but I don’t like not knowing who the Head of Household is for another couple of days. Sure, I could find out online, but I’m limiting my Big Brother access in order to save my soul. Of course, if somebody wants to post a comment letting me know, I’d make them an official Swear Jar Buddy.

And Nick is gone! First, his was the third consecutive elimination where the person put up in place of a vetoed nominee ended up going home. I’m not sure I understand that. You put up Jen and Kail because you want one of them to go home. If Jen comes off the block, it seems like you would just vote out Kail, rather than uniting the house against Nick. It’s also interesting that the Veto has been used in three out of four eliminations. Past seasons have been rather Veto-averse, but they’re all over it this year. (This is, of course, not counting Season 6 and 7’s James and Janelle, who were freaking Veto monsters. James took himself off the block three times before breakfast on a good day.)

More importantly, Nick sucked and I’m glad he’s gone. Hopefully he and his floppy emo hair did not ruin Daniele’s life too badly. I’m sure you’ve noted how he became a complete dick to her as soon as he was nominated, by the way. And then there was the head-shaving. He gets nominated, so he has to prove how tough he is with a Travis Bickle haircut. Loser. Farewell, Nick. It turns out, there is nothing about you that isn’t a cliché.

We’ll discuss this more in Jameka’s section, but the best line of the week had to be: “God is so gangsta. That’s why I love him.” Ha! Does Yahweh have to choke a bitch?

ZACH – We hadn’t seen much of Zach prior to this week – I hadn’t realized he was roundly disliked. He does seem like a weird dude, which we hadn’t really seen before. Loved the time-lapse scenes of people evacuating a room whenever he entered, though. I think with all his buddies gone, he could drop off the radar for a while. What’s Zach ever going to do? Nothing, that’s what.

AMBER – Shut up, Amber! Let’s see, she cried because she was happy that Dustin won HoH. Then she cried because she argued with Dick. And then she cried (hysterically this time) because Dustin gave up his advantage in a completely meaningless Veto competition to get $5000 and a vacation. She cried after the Veto ceremony. She cried every time she talked to or about Nick. She cried when she voted. She cried more this week than Bunky did in an entire season. I can’t deal with any more Amber. Don’t you just imagine that she has a lot of male friends who crash at her place when they’re too drunk to make it home? And then she gets up really early to make breakfast for everybody, and then she sees that they brought girls they picked up at the bar and then she goes back to her bedroom and cries. This is a weekly occurrence in Amber’s house.

DUSTIN – I still like him. Personally, I think he’d have been crazy not to take the prizes in the Veto competition. He was Head of Household. He had two viable nominees in place as well as two back-up nominees. There is absolutely no reason for anybody to be even mildly upset that he threw away his lead. When you have two people you want out, just vote for the one who’s still on the block! Is it greedy to lose ground in a meaningless competition for money? Especially when the result of said competition absolutely can not put you or your allies at risk? I think nominating Nick instead of Zach was the right choice, too. Still, sooner or later they’re going to have to vote out Kail.

KAIL – They’re not kidding when they say she’s on the edge of a nervous breakdown. One more nomination and she’s going to be in the fetal position, eating her own hair. I have nothing else to say, because other than her strange use of grammar, there is nothing interesting about her.

DANIELE - Not much to say about her either, since she's almost completely defined by her relationships with other people. Interesting that she voted to evict Nick. Is that actual strategy, like Lisa in BB3, or does she just let other people tell her what to do. Either way, her real-life boyfriend is breathing easier. I like when she and Dick really try to talk, because they're both trying so damn hard, but they just can't get it together. I've got my fingers crossed for them.

DICK - I alternate between liking him and thinking he's an asshole. I don't really think he's verbally abusive, as is the popular consensus. He's pretty much calling people out on stuff that's true. He can be cruel to Jen, but she doesn't care what he thinks, so it works out. Personally, I think dumping iced tea on Jen's head was both hilarious and well-deserved, but I can see why other people are bothered by it. I'm actually sort of impressed how he just backs out rather than fight with somebody he likes. He and Jameka will never agree on religion, so he bows out. That's not a bad way to handle things, actually.

JAMEKA - OK, we need to talk about this. I'm pro-Jameka. And I don't mind people bringing their religion to the game, as long as they don't get self-righteous or work from the assumption that God cares about reality shows. As I've said before, He's got a lot on His plate. Pirate Master is not a priority, you know? Anyway, here logic was that since Jen picked her name out of the bag for the Veto competition, that meant God wanted here to get Jen off the block. Oh, Jameka. Maybe, if we accept your proposition that God is a Big Brother viewer, maybe He wanted you in the game to prevent Jen from winning. I mean, I'm impressed that you stuck to your guns and made an unpopular decision, but you need to give yourself a little more credit. Thinking of yourself as a faceless agent of God's will can take you on a scary path. That said, we're still buddies.

JESSICA -- I don't like her. She makes my brain hurt. Eric likes her, so I have to give her a pass. Also, they only really show her during the food competition, so I can deal.

ERIC -- I think he might have kind of a mean sense of humor. Still, it's kind of amusing, so there you go. I didn't realize that he has no free will at all during the voting, though. That could cause him some trouble, if America keeps making him vote against the rest of the house. He's got fewer scapegoats every week. The fact is, he's an excellent gameplayer -- "America's Houseguest" could have completely derailed him. I am a little disturbed by the nipple piercing, though.

JEN -- Now, I've read that Jen is much more likeable on the live feeds, and that CBS editors are giving her a hatchet job. This is not a unanimous consensus, and I suspect the people who say this are mostly people who've seen her naked on the Internet. Just pointing out that there are Jen apologists out there. I don't think she's quite as awful as Dick makes her out to be, but then she's always talking shit to and about Dick's daughter. He's got a right to get in her face. Her unflappability should make her awesome, but there's so much that's unpleasant about her. Anything that's not Jen doesn't show up on her radar. And if I hear one more time that she's playing a game and she's really bright, I'll lose my damn mind. The girl is dumber than mud. As always, I have some more 'Jen' puns for her to put on shirts: "Doc Magnus and the Metal Jen", "Jenard, Part 6", and "Jenator Daltrey". Since that last one is actually a reference to my pet parakeet, it probably won't play to a wider audience, but I'm still putting it out there.

Remember, if anybody wants to tip me off to the results of the HoH competition, I'll love them up real good.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Swear Jar Hall of Fame: Bruce Campbell

Have you ever tried to explain who Bruce Campbell is? You know, you’re talking about issues of the day, and you mention Bruce, as we all do from time to time. And let’s say you’re having a conversation with somebody who doesn’t have an automatic Bruce Campbell association. It is almost impossible to come up with something that will make the uninformed listener say “Oh yeah, that guy!” If you don’t know Bruce, I can’t show you Bruce. Thus, I try to avoid conversations with the uninitiated. It’s too much work.

Bruce Campbell is, for lack of a better word, awesome. He spent decades in cheesy horror movies and obscure thrillers, and he worked damn hard. And none of that sleepwalking through an unchallenging role that’s so common in B-movies. No, you’d never see a Bruce Campbell performance described as ‘flat’ or ‘bland’. More like ‘quirky’. The word ‘gusto’ could be properly applied. And Bruce wasn’t ashamed of it either. This is a guy who loves B-movies.

For a long time, he was best known as Ash in the “Evil Dead” trilogy. Now, I don’t like horror movies, but I love the “Evil Dead” trilogy. Grotesquely violent with a Three Stooges sensibility, these movies are close to my heart. And as the dumbass who unwittingly releases the dead, time and time again, Bruce absolutely shines. Huge chunks of these movies involve Ash being violently beaten by zombies, inanimate objects, and his own possessed hand. Needless to say, it’s just about the greatest thing ever.

In another era, Bruce Campbell would have been king. If he’d been born thirty years earlier, he’d have been Steve McQueen. Instead, he has to settle for playing the single best Elvis Presley in movie history.

Hear me out. In “Bubba Ho-Tep”, Bruce plays an elderly Elvis, who long ago switched places with an Elvis impersonator. Now he lives in a retirement home with the Lone Ranger and JFK. (Also, JFK is Black. He has a perfectly good explanation.) It’s an exquisite portrayal of the King past his prime. Honestly, and I am completely serious here, his performance would have been an Oscar contender if it weren’t for the fact that he spent the movie battling a cowboy mummy who sucked senior citizen’s souls out of their asses. Love this movie so much! Cowboy mummy aside, it’s very funny and sad, and has a lot to say about America’s heroes and the simple fact of aging.

There are other treasures out there, too. The early Sam Raimi / Coen Brothers collaboration “Crimewave”, features Bruce as a Heel. The kind of heel who hates guys who hate heels. And he’s in all three “Spider-Man” movies, as a different character each time. He’s a wrestling announcer, a snooty usher, and a maitre’ d who may or may not actually be French. He has cameos in almost all of the Coen Brothers movies, usually as a soap opera actor. There’s a funny role as the gym teacher in the not-particularly-funny “Sky High”, and he’s the heretofore-unseen fourth member of the Aqua Teen Hunger Force in their movie.

Plus, there’s “The Man with the Screaming Brain”, where he’s the star, writer, and director. It’s a goofy Sci-Fi Channel original where Bruce really wears his love of B-movies on his sleeve. It could have been a disaster (he gives Ted Raimi time to mug!), but it’s likeable and funny. And he spends a good portion of the movie beating himself up, which is always fun.

But let’s not forget TV. He’s had some great guest-spots over the years. He was a reformed demon who just wanted a son on The X-Files. On Lois and Clark, he ran Metropolis’ criminal underground. There was a recurring role on Ellen as her boss, and his appearances on Hercules and Xena as Autolycus, the King of Thieves. On Homicide, he had an arc as a cop pushed to the edge by his father’s murder, and he’s legitimately scary in a rare appearance as a villain.

Most importantly, we have The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. Bruce starred as the titular cowboy, in TV’s greatest comedy sci-fi western. It only ran for one season, but it’s like a perfect little TV diamond.

These days, Bruce has, like all of us, gotten older. Of course, when you’ve built your career on playing the ironic alpha male, age isn’t a factor. He’s in a series of Old Spice commercials, playing sort of a Hugh Hefner version of himself. And over on USA’s Burn Notice, he’s got a regular gig playing Sam, a lecherous and easygoing retired spy. Sam hasn’t beat himself up yet, but it’s only a matter of time.

Also recommended are his two books, particularly his memoir “If Chins Could Kill” – it’s a very funny take on Hollywood from a guy who’s seen the ass end of the industry. His novel, “Make Love the Bruce Campbell Way” is endearingly silly as well.

I met Bruce Campbell a couple of years ago, and I’ve written about that here before. He came across as a hell of a nice guy who loves what he does and understands the importance of fans. And back in the days when the Internet was a-borning, Bruce was known for personally answering fan questions via e-mail. It was a happy moment for college-EJ when Bruce Campbell identified Grand Rapids as the ‘Office Furniture Capital of the World’.

So, when somebody stops the conversation dead by asking, “Who’s Bruce Campbell?” you may have to set those poor souls straight. If you love them, you’ll make them watch some Brisco County or “Bubba Ho-Tep” and bring them in to the fold. Otherwise, just roll your eyes and say “He was the usher in ‘Spider-Man 2’,” and continue on with your life, your relationship with that ill-informed person irrevocably eroded.

And so, for being the guy we all want to be and being too nice to brag about it, I hereby induct Bruce Campbell into the Swear Jar Hall of Fame.