Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Dancing with the Stars -- Week the Finalth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Good News, Everyone!

-Happy “Bender’s Big Score” Day!

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 26, 2007

Dancing with the Stars -- Week the Tenth

All right, here we are at the finale! Unfortunately, having written about it ever week, I don’t have much new to say leading up to the performances. Some of my blogging compatriots are not happy about Marie’s presence in the Final Three, but I’m OK with it. I would have rather seen Cameron up there, but there you go. Actually, I would have liked to see Albert Reed make it to the end, if only because his partner was my Dancing girlfriend, Anna.

I think I’m actually kind of jealous of the Osmonds because I want to be in a performing family. Sure, my brother’s married, and my sister’s got the whole law thing going, and I’m not really good at things, so our chances of making it are minimal at best. But what we lack in commitment and talent, we make up in heart!

Regardless, I think Marie’s done a nice job and shown steady improvement. Besides, it’s really a race between Helio and Mel B. anyway. Personally, and I’m writing this before the show begins, I’m going with Helio. The finale is traditionally won or lost on the Freestyle. Kelly Monaco excepted, the Freestyle is generally better for the men. They can throw their partners around, and they generally have more pyrotechnics available to them. In terms of getting people’s attention, it’s hard to beat hurling your partner into the air and catching them. And people would rather vote for somebody who’s happy – Mel usually comes off as angry in her best dances. Every winner has been somebody who’s done a big, exuberant Freestyle. (Remember how badly angry Stacy Kiebler choked in that round?)

But then, I may feel different after they’ve actually danced. Let’s find out, shall we?

MEL B. (Cha Cha 9-9-10) – For the other two contestants, the judges picked the dances where they choked. Since Mel really hasn’t biffed any of her performances, they just went with the first dance she did all season. It was a good start, but I feel like they need to take their first dance very seriously so they can let loose in the Freestyle. Plus, Len’s always going to dock you a point for screwing around with comedy bits during the dance. For a finale dance, I think there were too many bits where Mel posed while Maks danced around her. That’s first week stuff. Still, she really doesn’t make mistakes with her footwork.
(Freestyle 9-9-9) That was disappointing. Like I said, she doesn’t make mistakes, but there wasn’t enough flash here. The fact is, Maks actually did most of the cool stuff. Lifts aren’t the way to go for a women’s Freestyle (and again, I point to Kelly Monaco for the way to do it), because it looks like the professional dancer is doing all the real work of manipulating the star and not dropping them. If they’d committed to the hip-hop style they busted out at the end, they might have had something really memorable. I think both of her dances last week were far more exciting than this Freestyle. And since it’s not likely to come up again, how is it that anyone thinks Posh Beckham is attractive? Girl is hard to look at.

MARIE OSMOND (Samba 8-8-8) – Wow, the fainting dance. Generally, she isn’t as good at Latin as she is at Ballroom, so she was at a disadvantage here. On the one hand, for a woman in her late 40’s who had never danced before this fall, it was fantastic. For somebody who’s in the Final Three, it was nice but not impressive. It was significantly better than her first Samba, though. Any other week, that would have pulled straight 9’s.
(Freestyle 8-7-7) – Dude. That was the Weirdest Damn Thing I Have Ever Seen. Seriously, if you missed it, find this dance on YouTube. Just search “The Weirdest Damn Thing I Have Ever Seen”. So, Marie Osmond is dressed as a giant wind-up doll, and she’s dancing to “Start Me Up” (Third appearance of the Stones this season!), and sometimes she winds down and goes all spastic, and it will blow your damn mind. On the one hand, it wasn’t really ‘dancing’ in any sort of traditional sense. On the other hand, it was mind-blowingly awesome. Anybody who has that level of crazy in them deserves my respect. How many other dance routines will actually haunt your dreams? I’m seriously burning this routine onto DVD so I can totally freak people out.

HELIO CASTRONEVES – (Jive 8-8-9) – A Jive in the finals? Why? I sort of wish I hadn’t blown my ‘Two spastic hobos who are happy because they found a nickel’ description back in Week Three. Save the A material, dammit! I liked this better than the judges, despite the fact that it’s a Jive. The things they picked on were much more technical than I’d ever be able to notice, but I think they deserve credit for doing a Jive that didn’t have choreography straight from “Newsies”. I don’t know, I guess I’m not passionate about this dance but I did like it.
(Freestyle 9-10-10) – And that was a Freestyle right there! Honestly, it fell short of the standard set by Drew Lachey and Emmett Smith, but this was still really good. Cool, tricky choreography, impressive lifts, lots of exuberance – this was a good dance. I mean, that whole two-person cartwheel thing they were doing was really impressive. I thought a couple of times that Julianne had to scramble to get into the right position, but that doesn’t take away from the overall effect of the performance. His point total may be one off from Mel’s, but I think Helio’s getting the votes.

All right, I’m still predicting Helio, but I have this whole new respect for Marie. I can not do justice to what an insane spectacle that was. You know how people still talk about how freaking weird Pink Lady and Jeff was? This was that amount of crazy, condensed into 90 seconds. Do not mix prescription medication and Marie Osmond’s Freestyle. (Does anybody know what I’m talking about with Pink Lady and Jeff? Is that one of those things that I consider common knowledge, only I’m wrong? It’s like when I went through that brief phase where I thought “Can a playa get a table dance?” was an acceptable slang term for expressing agreement. I was not correct.)

This season was a lot of fun, and once again, I got emotionally attached to people I’d never heard of before. And, wonder of wonders, I found myself liking Maks.

More thoughts after tomorrow’s finale.

Heroes 2-10 -- "Truth & Consequences"

I don’t know how I’m supposed to think about anything else for the next seven days after seeing that preview.

Less action and anguished screaming this week, but a really nice job of moving all the storylines forward and getting everybody in place for the mid-season finale. (Or season finale, if the strike continues. I think I’m more concerned about the writer’s strike than some of the people who are financially affected.) Monica still seems unattached to the overall story, but at least things are happening. For the first time this season, I watched an episode in real time, which is how I know that American Gladiators is making a comeback. My sister will be very excited.

Alas, poor Alejandro. You left us long before I was tired of pointing out that you look just like Orlando from Strangers with Candy. I can’t help but think that when we’re on the verge of a virus breakout, the death of a guy whose power was to prevent his sister from killing people with the plague is kind of important. What if the Shanti Virus is a fakeout and it’s Maya who’s responsible for all the death? I’m not committing to that opinion, but I am putting it out there so I can retroactively commit to it if need be.

Note the ticking clock in several of Sylar’s scenes – I think that means his powers are coming back. It’s been all broken clocks and shattered watches ever since he went powerless. And am I wrong, or is the idea of Sylar making out with Maya just too creepy? Maya, he only wants you for your mind! Your juicy, juicy mind.

So how exactly does the Shanti Virus spread? Niki said she wouldn’t infect Micah. If strain 138 is the only one that’s communicable, how did the Haitian and Molly get the curable strain? I mean, Niki’s not the sharpest crayon in the box, and Bob is not what you’d call trustworthy. He could well have sent her on her way with smallpox blankets. Actually, she doesn’t seem to be sick – she just lost her powers, though Mohinder seems concerned that she’s dying. Molly and the Haitian actually got sick. The Company has a lot of viruses! Well, I suppose ‘Strain 138’ is sort of a giveaway. Clearly their germ warfare division didn’t stop in the single digits.

I really like the way David Anders is playing Adam Monroe. Usually, when you have an evil guy who’s trying to win somebody over, they still do all these evil guy things to remind the viewer that they are, in fact, evil. I can totally buy that Peter would believe him. Nice job, Sark!

Everybody seems sure that blowing Sark’s head off will kill him for good. That is consistent with what we’ve seen – last season, both Claire and Peter remained dead when they had foreign objects lodged in their brain. I’m just wondering how the people in the show figured that out. Was there another healer who met his end at the barrel of a shotgun?

For all that buildup, Victoria Pratt didn’t amount to much, did she? I love that she kept a shotgun within arm’s reach while she was gardening. That’s awesome. I sort of picture all the members of the Company having heavy ordinance at hand while completing mundane tasks. Bennett’s probably got a water cooler full of napalm in his office.

So, Kaito could have put a stop to all this virus development thirty years ago. That sort of casts him in a new light. I understand creating a virus that could take powers away, but he elected to hide Strain 138, rather than destroy it. I feel like there’s going to be more backstory there, as Kaito has been portrayed as a guy who makes the right decisions. (By the way – I hate to nitpick, because I love this show more than I love cheese and cleavage combined, but could they have found an Asian actor who looked LESS like George Takei?)

It seemed to me like Monica’s powers froze up on her, but that might have been panic. Like I said, she doesn’t seem to be tying in to the story at large just yet. I thought it was kind of funny that the arsonists for hire took the time to steal a kid’s comics, but they did seem like all-around lowlifes. Also, that Damon is really irritating. It’d be a challenge not to rip him off and send him on his way.

Bob’s a jerk. I mean, we know he’s evil, but he is not a good father. Dude, show a little sympathy for your electric daughter. She got shot! By the way, it seemed to me that Bob didn’t know Bennett was alive. Still, Mohinder sucks at keeping secrets. Even if he thinks Bennett’s a surprise, everybody’s probably just pretending not to know so he’ll feel better about himself.

Claire has really had to act for the last couple of episodes. I never thought I’d say it, but that was a really nice scene with West. (I know!) Poor Claire. I liked how she wants to forget her father, while Micah is fighting to get back a memento of his. Nice job, writers! And Claire’s threats to go public are genius. That’s the one thing that could really freak the Company out. And once again, it ties in nicely with how she’s thought about how she could help people with her powers all season. (Dear Tim Kring: Please stop apologizing for the slow pace of this season’s early episodes. We will learn to trust you.)

Peter vs. Hiro! It looks like, oh, EVERYTHING happens next week. I am not happy with this ‘Two Heroes Fall’ thing, though. For the record, when the announcer says that, Nathan, Matt, Claire, Hiro, and Elle are onscreen. I hope it’s not two from that group! Well, I’d accept Claire, because she’d get better. I’m betting it’s ‘none of the above’, personally. Still, in a show full of characters I like, I’d prefer that they stay alive. I’m going to be very nervous all week.

I’m ridiculously excited for next week’s climax. There just may be a Season Two marathon this weekend.

Cyber Monday

--Hey, it’s Cyber Monday – the biggest online shopping day of the year. If only you were reading a blog that had an Amazon button that you could click, you know? Almost like you could thank him for providing year-round entertainment in the form of cruel personal attacks and boner jokes. Hey, what’s that over to the right?

--I’ve been behind on blogging Project Runway and the Amazing Race. You should check out Myndi for the former and Mysterious Don for the latter. (Actually, Myndi also blogs the Race, but I like to spread the links around.) I will say that last night’s unveiling of the U-Turn was genius. You can make any team behind you have to complete both detour options. It’s slightly less mean than the Yield, in that the screwees still control their fate to some degree. Actually having to do something does leave you less helpless than sitting and waiting.

And in all honesty, it was good strategy for the Blondes to use the U-Turn when they did. If you’re near the back of the pack, that’s the best time to slow down somebody behind you. Particularly when you’re sort of bad at challenges, like the Blondes have been up to this point. And now that guy who wouldn’t let Rory sit under her tree and seems to think marriage involves having your free will surgically removed is gone, as is his shrieky girlfriend.

--I saw the Coen Bothers “No Country for Old Men” over the weekend. I thought it was fantastic, but I’m puzzled by the ending. I’m not sure how the dialogue that ended the movie fit in to the overall themes. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I feel like I missed something significant. So if anybody saw it and can tell me what I missed, I’d appreciate it.

Don’t let my confusion deter you, either. One of the best movies I’ve seen all year, and even though it’s adapted from a Cormac McCarthy novel, it’s got plenty of Coen touches. Strangely, despite their penchant for re-using actors, Stephen Root was the only person I recognized as having worked with the Coens before. I’m not very good at reviewing movies, so I feel like I would only do the film a disservice by going any further. It’s great, though.

--Only one day until the release of “Bender’s Big Score”, the original Futurama movie. I’m squealing like Mysterious Don at a Clay Aiken concert, I tell you what. Guest-voices include Al Gore, Coolio, and Sarah Silverman. Tell me that’s not awesome! Also, the bonus features include a full-length episode of Everybody Loves Hypno-Toad. I’m not sure I can properly express my excitement, so let’s just say, it’s immense. I might care more about “Bender’s Big Score” than I do about love.

I’ll be back tonight with Heroes and the Dancing with the Stars finale. Just try and pretend you’re not excited!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Catching up on New Stuff

I hope everybody had a Happy Thanksgiving.

I haven’t really been writing about the new shows this season that made it to ‘Record All’ status. I would say it’s time to check in on the eight new series that made it to my playlist. Let’s start with the first four, arranging them in alphabetical order.

Aliens in America – Unfortunately, this delightful comedy (Am I really the kind of person who says ‘delightful’?) was an early casualty of the Monday Night TV Explosion. Everything worked out just fine as long as I could go to a friend’s house to watch Dancing with the Stars. Unfortunately, two weeks into the season, I was no longer welcome in that particular house. I’d rather not get into the details, but let’s just say that you should not answer your phone if somebody calls you while you’re at a birthday party. Apparently, that’s the sort of anger that can fester for up to four months, and then come bursting out without prompting during a commercial break.

Luckily, the CW started airing repeats on Sunday night, so I’m gradually getting caught up. The show remains very funny, with a fairly-high cringe factor. Raja joins the model rocket club and you can convince yourself they’re not going to go there, and not only do they go there, they spend a lot of time there. I appreciate any show where the characters are allowed to make the wrong decisions.

The characters are reliable – the ones who need to be three-dimensional are, and the one-joke characters have are consistently funny. Scott Patterson’s role has more depth than the pilot indicated, which is welcome. For some reason, Amy Pietz has started trying to do a Midwestern accent, which isn’t working for her. She didn’t do it in the first episode, and it is not a welcome addition.

Bad “Fargo” impression aside, I’m totally on board.

Bionic Woman – I really want to like this show, and I don’t know why. I am not a sci-fi fan (says the man who obsesses over Heroes and Lost on a regular basis). I’m just a little too young to have grown up with the original, so there’s not nostalgia there. And yet, I was inordinately excited about this series.

Sadly, it’s just not very good. The writing needs to be more clever, the action needs to be more exciting, the threats need to be more, I don’t know, threatening. And yes, the characters need to be more interesting. It’s all very dour, really. Once you have a character who’s actually bionic, all sorts of fun things are possible. Unfortunately, Jamie Sommers can’t keep up with Sidney Bristow or Jack Bauer or even Chuck’s Sarah and Major Casey. The stunts are minimal, although the fight scenes are generally well put-together, even if they lack excitement.

Bionic Woman can’t decide whether to be a smart genre show like Battlestar Galactica, or stupid fun like, I don’t know, Mutant X. Their aspirations to quality fall consistently short, and they can’t quite commit to the cheesiness necessary to go in the other direction. (And they may not even be trying for cheese, which would really be sad. If somebody thought “Need I remind you that you’re bionic?” was actually a good line, I fear for them.) Even Miguel Ferrer, who’s spent times on both sides of the crap fence, doesn’t make any kind of impression.

Weirdly, the most interesting character is Bionic Woman 1.0 (yes, I forgot her character’s name), played by Katee Sackhoff. I may have mentioned how much I hate Battlestar Galactica’s Starbuck, and I don’t blame Sackhoff for that. She’s just an irritating character. But her conflicted, rogue cyborg is the closest thing to emotional realism that this show has to offer. Unfortunately, she’s not a regular character.

Michelle Ryan is probably good in the lead role, but I might be biased because she’s pretty and British. It would be nice to see her doing something interesting, though. Unfortunately, she’s playing one of three new characters this season who have to hide their double life from friends and family, and she’s easily the least compelling. (Chuck and Reaper both handle their premises with more wit and imagination.)

And yet, I keep watching. Well, at least I keep recording. Bionic Woman usually ends up as background noise while I blog. For some reason, I just keep thinking that it’s going to get really good, and I don’t want to miss it.

Carpoolers – It seems like this show has been largely ignored. Before the season began, it sort of got lumped in with Cavemen, which just isn’t fair at all. Instead, it’s a great surrealist sitcom, and I feel like only Mysterious Don and I have ever watched it.

Unfortunately, ABC advertises the show as being about relationships and how men relate to one another. That’s not this show at all. It’s a show with minimal character development, ridiculous plots, and lots of authentic, crazy laughs.

In the best episodes, all three plotlines feel like they could have been Kids in the Hall sketches. One friend bribes another into performing manual labor, a man is devastated by news of his low sperm count, an attempt at relying on the barter system spins out of control. There you go.

Even when the plots are sitcom standard, they bring an unexpected twist. When Laird gets back together with his ex-wife, she has almost supernatural powers of perception, and her appearance is often accompanied by a lightning strike or a door that slams shut on its own. This isn’t a show about real people at all, and when they embrace that idea, it’s great fun.

The show falters on occasion when the writers are more familiar with the advertising campaign than with the show itself. One or two episodes have tried to hard to focus on the inner workings of marriage, which just really isn’t that funny anymore. But when they remember that it’s set in a world where rival gangs of carpoolers rumble in the parking lot and men savagely attack ATMs, well, it’s glorious.

Chuck – I really don’t write enough about Chuck. Thanks to my viewing and blogging responsibilities on Monday night, I usually don’t get to watch it until Tuesday, and by that time, my commentary is no longer piping hot. (Bet you didn’t know you cared so much about my viewing schedule, did you?) That said, Chuck is easily my favorite new show of the season.

My big worry after seeing the pilot was that it would be too difficult to maintain the tone they’d set. A mixture of action and humor always runs the risk of either spiraling into slapstick and self-parody or turning into mean-spirited violence. Miraculously, Chuck hit that balance right off the bat and then stuck to it. (I realize we’re only nine episodes in, but that’s nine episodes without a misstep.) Chuck is likeable, the supporting characters are well-developed, and the plotting is ingenious.

Chuck’s home life is interesting. His friends at the Buy-More are entertaining. The action sequences are exciting, and all the emotions feel real. The scene three or four episodes in where Chuck asks Sarah for her middle name (she can’t use her real name, what with the whole secret agent thing), and it’s only when he leaves the room that she says it, and you can tell it’s killing her to have to lie to this nice man who never wanted to be a part of this world; that was the first scene this season to make me authentically tear up. Well, aside from the Dwight and Angela break-up. I took that really hard.

I’m especially impressed by how well they’ve handled the meta-story. Almost every episode in some way advances the overall plot arc for the season. Rather than have Chuck get into a bind where Sarah and Casey have to rescue him every week, we’ve seen Chuck struggle to strike a balance in his life, cope with the fake relationship that he desperately wants, and even solve one of the great mysteries of his own past. And last week’s revelation that Bryce is still alive, well, that’s a bold move to make. That’s like when Sidney brought down SD-6 over the course of a single episode and completely changed the direction of Alias.

Chuck is a fun ride that’s hitting all the right emotional buttons with me. And that’s not just because they’ve had a Kevin Weisman guest-appearance as well as a regular character named Captain Awesome and frequent “Zork” references. All that stuff is just gilding the lily.

Enjoy the weekend! There’s a new Coen Brothers movie in theaters, as well as a movie where Timothy Olyphant kills a lot of people and it’s based on a videogame. I will be seeing both. Possibly back-to-back.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Giving Thanks for Stephen Baldwin

As we head into the Thanksgiving holiday, let’s give thanks for the bounty that is upon us. I speak, of course, of the fact that soon Stephen Baldwin and Donald Trump will be on television together.

That’s right, they’ve announced the lineup for Celebrity Apprentice! Some of these people are a little iffy as celebrities go, but there are some others I am authentically excited about seeing. I remain firm in my belief that a celebrity edition could re-invigorate the Apprentice franchise. Even if it doesn’t we still get to watch faded stars try to figure out how best to sell toothpaste to mall shoppers, and isn’t that really what it’s all about?

Thanks to my sister for sending me the link to the lineup, and now it’s time for one of my patented lists:

VINCENT PASTORE – Big Pussy! Sure, he wussed out on Dancing with the Stars last season, but I’ve got high hopes for him. I strongly support cast members of The Sopranos appearing on just about anything. He had quite a temper on Celebrity Fit Club, so I’m expecting great things.

OMAROSA – Do you really count as a celebrity when you’re famous for being on the show to which you’re returning? No, no you don’t. Still, she’s crazy. Remember how she got hit by a chunk of drywall, and she ended up being too tired to work on the next two tasks? And she and Janice Dickinson (Is that right? Am I thinking of the right person?) really got into it on The Surreal Life. She has learned nothing. Yay!

CAROL ALT – Is it weird that I can only recognize models from the 1980’s? It’s like the whole industry came to an end when I stopped grabbing my dad’s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issues from out of the mailbox. There are two ways that models can age – they become savvy businesswomen or they go freaking crazy. For her sake, I hope for the former. For TV purposes, I hope for the latter.

NELY GALAN – OK, I call shenanigans on this one. Who’s that? Oh crap, the life coach from The Swan! That creepy-ass FOX show where the women got plastic surgery but couldn’t look in the mirror until the moment they were forced onstage in a bikini, and then they all ended up looking like somebody was trying to create an exact duplicate of Wonder Woman! (Isn’t it hard to believe that most FOX reality shows were actual real things at one point? Did we all hallucinate Forever Eden?)

TRACE ADKINS – He is a country star, and thus I know nothing about him. I do believe he’s kind of a big name, though. Plus, he plays one of Lucky’s friends on King of the Hill, so he’s got plenty of bonus points for that.

NADIA COMANECI – If you can find a gymnast I actually know, they have to be big names. Basically I know her, Kerri Strug, and the girl from “Stick It” who played Candace on Heroes. Now, doesn’t she go back quite a bit? Like, I sort of think Gilda Radner played her on Saturday Night Live. I’ve never seen a middle-aged gymnast. I wonder if she’s started her period yet. (I am ashamed of that one, yet I’ve chosen not to delete it.)

TIFFANY FALLON – The 2005 Playboy Playmate of the Year. That gives me nothing to work with. I mean, I do like having pretty girls on my TV screen, so that’s a plus. And Trump gets so weird when he’s around attractive women. Not awkward like me, just weird. It's like he turns everything up for their benefit. It’ll be fun to watch. Huh. I just did a Google search to find out who she is. Let me tell you, it takes no effort at all to find naked pictures of this woman. I was just trying to put a face with the name, and I ended up putting areolas with the name.

JENNIE FINCH – Another Olympic gold medallist, this one for softball. Wait, softball is an Olympic sport? I honestly would have gotten that wrong on a game show. I Googled her, and I’m moderately disappointed that she’s young. I think it would be awesome to have some woman who won a gold medal in 1948 or something.

LENNOX LEWIS – Hey, a boxer that I actually know! He beat Mike Tyson, which is something that more people should do. I think Trump’s interactions with him will be entertaining. You just know Trump’s going to mention being afraid of him as often as he can. And when his team loses, Trump will inevitably say “What happened Lennox? I thought you were a world champion.”

PIERS MORGAN – He’s a judge on America’s Got Talent. I’ve never seen that show, but it’s popular enough that the bulk of the viewing audience will recognize him. I will not be doing any more Google searches to research contestants tonight. I’m still thrown off by the surprise nudity earlier. The last thing I need is a shot of wang. (Which will be my band name.)

TITO ORTIZ – An Ultimate Fighting champ. I only know that one guy who was on Entourage last season. I have heard the name, so he’s probably well-known to people who actually pay attention. I’ve already decided he and Lennox Lewis will fight. So we’ve established that I don’t know anything about athletes, people who pose nude, or country singers. Clearly this show needs more cartoonists and TV chefs.

MARILU HENNER – Seriously? On the one hand, she hasn’t done anything since Taxi. On the other hand, Taxi was awesome. I like to assume that people who had one big hit and then dropped off the radar did so because they invested wisely and can afford to retire. Gabe Kaplan never acted again after Welcome Back, Kotter – he didn’t need to. He invested his money so well, he’s lived off that series ever since and can still buy and sell me several times over. Anyway, she may end up being really good at this. Or she’s been eating dog food for 25 years. The joy is in the discovery.

GENE SIMMONS – Oy. There are very few people I hate more than Gene Simmons. He’s arrogant and creepy and hateful and still manages to be boring. Remember when he showed up for the celebrity auction a couple of years ago on The Apprentice, and he hit on the women and tried to get them to touch him, and Rebecca (It was Rebecca, right?) just totally emasculated him? I so want to see him humiliated. I’ll be devastated if he wins. There will be cursing.

STEPHEN BALDWIN – That’s right. Savor that. Stephen Baldwin. You remember him being insane on Celebrity Mole, right? People were afraid of him! This is going to be amazing. Best of all, these days he can’t get through a sentence without talking about Jesus. But not the way that your aunt does it, where she’s always giving thanks. No, Stephen Baldwin wants religion to hurt a little bit. See, being passionate about religion doesn’t make you crazy. Being crazy makes you crazy, and any other interests you pick up just add new colors to the crayon box. I can not wait. Because of him, my sister and I will be calling back and forth during every commercial break to discuss where he falls on the Wacky Scale. Not many Apprentice contestants have been weirder than Trump, but Stephen Baldwin can pull it off in his sleep.

Coming in January. It will be glorious.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A Public Service Message

Note:
The original Futurama movie “Bender’s Big Score” will be released in seven days.

Please plan your week accordingly.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Dancing with the Stars -- Week the Ninth

Isn’t it weird to see Len walking around and being out in the world? I guess I don’t think of him as having legs. It’s all torso and desk.

Also, I really need to make friends with somebody who has a Nintendo Wii so that I can play the Dancing with the Stars video game.

MARIE OSMOND – (Quick Step 10-10-9) So, one of Marie’s sons went into rehab this week. Coming right after her father’s death, this had to have been a hard week for her. I really like the way she doesn’t exploit this kind of thing for sympathy. That woman has a great attitude, when she really has every reason to just curl up in the fetal position for a week or two. Anyway, I really liked her quick step. It was nice and straightforward, and just really professional looking. Not flashy, but it was very precise. That was a really good job.
(Mambo 9-9-9) I know two of the judges picked on her footwork, but I it actually seemed better to me than other dances where they didn’t say anything. There is a reason I’m not a judge. I liked this mambo – this was one of those dances where I understand what they mean when they say the dance has ‘a story’. There were some very cool bits, and I think this is the fastest we’ve ever seen Marie move. And best of all, they avoided the dreaded ‘pretend the woman’s ass is a bongo’ move that so often shows up in the mambo. Good job, Marie!

MEL B. – (Viennese Waltz 10-10-10) Dude, Posh Spice is hard to look at. Is she one of the Grays? I think she’s a Gray. This was pretty much the coolest waltz I’ve ever seen. The bit where she crossed the floor by doing the splits (I’m sure there’s probably a technical name for it) was really amazing, and something I’d never seen done. Now, to me it looked like they were a little out of sync when they broke hold, and it seemed like Maks had a hard time finding her arms, but maybe that’s all part of the waltz. Like I know anything. Yeah, I’m starting to like Mel. Once she got out of the ‘Scary Spice’ character, she got a lot more fun.
(Paso Doble 10-10-10) Wow, the second Rolling Stones song in two weeks! I actually didn’t like this one as much as I liked their paso doble from a couple of weeks back. I really think they bumped into each other a couple of times. That’s not to say it was bad by any means. It’s another well-executed, well-choreographed dance for her, and it was really fun to watch. I actually sort of wish they still had somebody who sucks on the show so that my recaps would be funnier. We didn’t know what we had in Floyd Mayweather until he was gone…

JENNIE GARTH – (Tango 9-10-9) Is anybody else a little worried that if Jennie doesn’t win, she’s going to have a complete breakdown and end up snuggled in the corner, eating her own hair? To me, it looked like they bobbled the footwork a couple of times – there was one particular step where their legs smacked into each other, and I’m sure that wasn’t planned. Still, like the judges said, she really let go. Intensity is not her strong suit, but she really sold it this time out. And this was one of the more interesting tangos I’ve seen – some very cool holds and poses. I’m still not sure why she was dressed like Chun Li, but it beats last week’s salad outfit.
(Cha-Cha 10-10-10) Wow. She seriously rocked this dance. Usually with her, the judges find some little thing that’s off, even when they praise her. Not this time. Awesome, I say. And I don’t think I’ve ever seen somebody so happy to get a perfect score.

HELIO CASTRONEVES – (Foxtrot 10-10-10) Why is Rascal Flatts on my TV? I’ve gone to great lengths to avoid Rascal Flatts, and now they’re sneaking up on me. Ah, well. Poor Julianne had to pretend to care, so it could be worse. It’s hard to believe Helio had never danced before. Not only does he have really great energy, but he’s so self-assured. He just took to it so naturally. As I’ve said over and over, I’m still not clear on what defines a foxtrot, so I never know what I’m looking at. Regardless, this was a nice dance with good energy, but without all the flashy stuff he pulls out. I think this was to show off how good his footwork’s gotten, and then he’ll go crazy in the Latin round.
(Cha-Cha 10-10-10) Not only was this really good, but it was good in a different way than he usually is. Rather than going off on his own and using his freaky grasshopper legs, all the cool stuff was in his interaction with Julianne. And it was a nice genre-bending kind of dance. I really hope he makes it to next week, because his freestyle is going to be spectacular.

It’s going to be sad to see anybody leave. Why can’t I have just one person I hate in the competition? I need an enemy! Wait, Avril Lavigne and Michael Flatley are on the results show? At last, enemies!

Heroes 2-9 -- Cautionary Tales

You’ll have to excuse me, I’m on a bit of an emotional roller coaster. Perhaps you heard my agonized scream about 45 minutes into the episode. But we’ll get to Bennett later.

We finally saw the heretofore unrevealed picture #2 – A broken Claire lying on the ground. It’s clearly from when she and West played their prank on the drunken cheerleader, so I’m not sure why they avoided showing it to us. It may have just been that they were trying to make sure the more crucial paintings made it on to the screen, rather than the one that had already happened. Of course, it seems like Bennett assumed that painting actually meant Claire was going to be injured, so that was a nice reveal that his motives were based in something more than self-preservation.

Well, that’s confirmation that Veronica Mars is Bob’s daughter. Man, his wife must be hot. What Bennett said about her childhood was interesting – it sounded like her powers actually came from the Company experimenting on her. That’s a first, as far as we know. An attempt to recreate whatever genetic accident created the Heroes? Or perhaps they were forcing her power to manifest, or even control what her power would be. That’s kind of an interesting idea – you have a baby who is going to have powers, so you expose her to electricity to make sure that those powers are electric in nature. That’s creepy. Oh, and now we know their last name is ‘Bishop’. You know, in case you had a betting pool going.

Didn’t take long for Parkman to start abusing his powers, did it? In last season’s “Five Years Later” episode, we saw that he went all evil and fascist. I guess you can see how he got started on that path, eh? I liked the bit at the end where he had the mystery woman’s name filled in. Ma Petrelli’s warnings about becoming his father did not take hold. I’d hate to see Parkman actually go bad, because I like him, and he’s way more fun when things don’t work out for him.

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that my brother and I are always delighted whenever mental powers cause somebody’s nose to bleed, and I’m not going to let the opportunity for a Maxwell Lord reference slip by.

Mystery woman’s name is Victoria Pratt. I don’t remember that name coming up before, but there’s speculation that the actress in the picture is Joanna Cassidy of “Blade Runner” and Six Feet Under fame. Do with that as you will. I’m having some association with ‘Pratt’ that I can’t quite put my finger on, and it will make me crazy. I’m probably thinking of a whole different show, though.

You know, shooting Bennett in the face aside, I’m feeling a little better about how dumb Mohinder’s been of late. I mean, if the Company managed to trick Bennett, they can fool just about anybody. I’m not saying I’m willing to trust the guy with my breakables just yet, but at least I’m starting to feel like he’s less cripplingly stupid.

I really liked the Hiro story this week, schmaltzy as it was. He and Takei really sold it this week, and they broke my tiny little heart. Hiro’s getting more and more comfortable with attempting to change history, though. As he gets more comfortable in his power, he’s abusing it, just like Parkman. Well, not as creepy as Parkman, but you know what I mean.

Ah, Sark. We knew he had to be George Takei’s killer, but that didn’t make it any less distressing. When he appeared, Hiro’s dad said “Of all of them, I never expected it would be you.” That’s interesting. At the time, it was indicated that he and Ma Petrelli believed one of the Twelve to be the killer, and I thought that’s what he meant by “Of all of them…”. But now that we know more about the Twelve, it’s pretty clear that Sark would be the most likely suspect in a string of murders, what with his clear motivation for revenge. I think Takei was referring to something else altogether. Maybe Sark isn’t the only skeleton in their closet. Maybe they locked up a bunch of other Heroes, all of whom they deemed dangerous. The great shame of theirs may not be the fact that they imprisoned a 400-year-old psycho who’d sworn to destroy one of them. There’s more to come with the Twelve, mark my words.

By the way, I was irritated that Hiro returned to the present without figuring out who the murderer was, so I was quite happy when time stopped. (Two years ago, I never thought I’d type a sentence like that.) Good thinking, Hiro!

OK, so I totally bought it when Bennett took that shot to the eye. I was horrified. There may have been tears, but I’m not willing to commit to that. So you can imagine my excitement at that last scene. On the one hand, I sort of wish they had held off for a week or two on that reveal, but with the pre-Writer’s Strike episodes running out, I would have been a disaster if I’d had to wait months for his fate. Some of you may remember last season on Lost when Locke seemed dead for three weeks. It wasn’t pretty.

Now, the fact that Claire’s blood can cure death is sort of a big matzo ball to leave out there. They’ve sort of lowered the stakes on everything if there are at least three characters that could potentially resurrect the dead with a transfusion. Still, we don’t have all the facts just yet, so I’m waiting to see where that goes. These people have earned my faith, so I’m not going to go complaining just yet. Besides that, who the heck resurrected him? Did the Company use their one bag of Miracle Blood to bring back a traitor? Or did Sark and Peter bring him back? I’m baffled.

Death and corruption and betrayal and West not being a complete tool (I know!) – I’m kind of all used up.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – Elle is crazy!

Two more episodes to go in this arc, before the holiday/strike break begins.

See the Storm Through

Some quick bits this morning –

--Swear Jar Buddy Sam has gone and released his solo album. It’s available for download at DigStation. 99 cents a song, or $9.99 for the whole album. You’ll find it under ‘S’ for ‘Sam Kenny’. They aren’t so good with the filing over at DigStation. Regardless, it’s a great album, and you should all go and download “Southwest Chief” or “Winter Nuclear” and see if you like them. Or just take my word for it and download the whole thing.

And then you should go to my other website, and download 40 minutes of stand-up comedy for $5, as long as you’ve already got you wallet out. All proceeds go toward buying Season Three of Veronica Mars.

--I saw “Beowulf” this weekend. I hate rotoscoping, but I love writer Neil Gaiman, so I thought it would all balance out. It had some good stuff, and the rotoscoping wasn’t as hard to look at as in, say “Polar Express”, but it’s far from perfect. Some of the characters, notably Anthony Hopkins’ Hrothgar and Beowulf’s sidekick, looked really good and expressive throughout the whole film. Beowulf himself was a mixed bag, with a few really creepy missteps, and there was no point where Robin Wright Penn’s Queen was anything other than artificial and poorly-rendered. Most of the background characters looked almost exactly like the “Shrek” background cast, which is probably not the effect they were going for. The action scenes were gorgeous, and the animation on the pure fantasy creatures was immaculate. The horse, however, looked awful. People were actually laughing at the animation on the horses. All in all, a mixed bag.

On the writing side, it seems the whole third act was written for the movie. I mean, I haven’t read “Beowulf” since college, so the details are a little fuzzy. It was enjoyable enough, if a little humorless. That’s really all I have to say. There’s a reason I don’t review movies very often.

--Speaking of movies, have you seen the preview for “Juno”? OK, it’s directed by Jason Reitman (“Thank You for Smoking”) and written by a former stripper named Diablo Cody. So basically, they already have my money. Anyway, the cast includes Jason Bateman, Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner, Rainn Wilson, and J.K. Simmons. Yes, that means we’ve got Michael and George-Michael Bluth, Sidney Bristow, Dwight Schrute, and Verne Schillinger, all in a single movie? Is there any way this movie could possibly be any better? Short of adding a scene where Batman fights a cyborg bear, it could not.

--I don’t have time for a full-length post on The Amazing Race today, but my heart broke a little when the very nice (and hot) sister team was eliminated. On the other hand, we did get to see the greatest freak-out since Colin broke his ox. Poor Lorena. And, you know, I realize that her partner can’t actually assist her in the Roadblock, as Jason reminded us, but that doesn’t absolve you from having to be, oh, supportive or understanding. When your girlfriend is freaking out like that, you can’t very well just stand there and think about monkeys playing cymbals. I knew that guy was no good – first he wouldn’t let Rory sit under her tree, and now this. (How long will it take me to get bored with mentioning that Jason was on an episode of Gilmore Girls? Probably until one episode after he’s eliminated.)

--In exciting news, I’m going to be getting a new laptop computer soon. This should upgrade my blogging capabilities immensely. I may even spring for faster Internet service. Really, this won’t affect your life at all, but I’m pretty charged up about it.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Yes! Prescription Shampoo!

-Those of you who want a quick rundown of all 15 Project Runway designers should check out Myndi’s awesome blog. I didn’t think it was possible this early in the season, but she went and did it. She also seems to know things about fashion, so she uses correct terminology and stuff. And for those who didn’t read my comments, the both of us remarked on our love of the way Heidi says “Nina Garcia”. We’re TV soulmates, I tell you! (Other than her love of The Big Bang Theory. But we all have our skeletons. I mean, I’m still watching Bionic Woman.)

-It’s been a nice week for some of my old favorites. Rachel Bilson and Marshall from Alias showed up on Chuck, and fit the show perfectly. (Yes, I know Marshall has a real name. Still, he will always be Marshall.) I particularly liked Marshall as an athletic villain – very effective. And, or course, Edie Falco began her 30 Rock guest stint last night. That was really weird, actually. I just can’t see her as anyone but Carmela Soprano. (Well, also Diane Whittlesey on Oz, but that was a long time ago. And yes, that’s my third Oz reference in three days.) Still, she’s got a nice deadpan delivery that really worked.

And by the way, it’s my mission to mention 30 Rock every week until everybody is watching it. Last night had the second-funniest product placement ever, a scene which actually ended with Tina Fey looking into the camera and asking “Can we have our money now?” (For the record, the funniest product placement ever was in Season Two of Arrested Development. That’s right, the Burger King scene.)

“Pants! Pants! Pants!”

-I just realized that I haven’t talked much about The Office yet this season. That shouldn’t be taken as a lack of interest, as I think this season has been fantastic. I guess I’m just running out of ways to say that it’s the greatest show ever. Last night’s episode made me cry a little bit, though. I love when they turn it around and make us feel sorry for Michael. That was just brutal.

I can’t imagine a situation where his man-crush on Ryan would not be funny.

-I wrote the rest of this entry at 11. Now it’s 5:30. It’s been a bad day.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Yes, she said 'pooing fabric'...

Life just feels better when Project Runway is on. There’s a host of new designers with their yet-to-be-discovered idiosyncrasies, each of them a potential Andrae or a Daniel in the making. You get the early weeks of truly insane designs from the cannon fodder, and the gradual joy of finding a new favorite. And of course, there’s Tim Gunn, TV’s greatest mentor. Am I the only one who feels like Tim Gunn could fix all that is wrong with me if he just had a couple of hours to kill?

Isn’t it weird to see Heidi Klum not being pregnant? I mean, how often does that happen? In all honesty, Heidi does a really good job of hosting this show, and I’m always delighted when she accidentally reveals that she’s a little bit crazy. Plus, the way she introduces Nina Garcia makes me laugh every single week. Something about Heidi’s accent and that name just go together like oil and water, and it’s a hilarious mishmash of syllables. And this week, she said ‘pooing fabric’. I don’t know what more you could ask for!

Now, I’m not going to do my usual breakdown of all the participants just yet. Fifteen designers in an hour are a little too much, and about half of them didn’t get enough screen time to make any kind of impression. Even inaugural winner Rami just spent enough time on screen to show you he was going to kick ass. And then he did.

But let’s talk about Elise. My immediate reaction to her was: “Oh, she’s that girl.” You know that girl! You’ve met that girl. Your best friend has dated that girl, and you’ve had to hold your tongue until he realizes she was that girl, and then everything she’s ever said that’s irritated you comes out at once and it feels great!

Elise is the girl who was never interesting enough to have an actual personality, so she put together a collection of quirks just to make sure everybody was always looking at her. She’s rubbing her fabric into the ground to ruin it, I mean ‘imbue it with nature’. (By the way, she didn’t use a lot of that nature-imbued fabric when she actually made the dress, did she?) She’s using herself as a dress form so that she can make a big deal about how much more ‘alive’ it is. Lady, I’ve seen people use themselves as dress forms before. It’s so they can tell if the design has enough ‘give’ to allow movement. That’s the same thing you’re doing, only not expressed as stupidly. A sentence that a normal person would begin with ‘I know…’, she begins with ‘I intuitively know…’. Plus, she looks like Oz’s Shirley Bellinger. Not so much like the actress, really, but sort of like the ‘real’ Shirley Bellinger, if that makes any sense. And given that the Venn Diagram showing Oz fans and Project Runway fans pretty much only intersects at me, it probably doesn’t make sense.

Now, her concept of having fabric ‘poof out’ behind the dress as the model walked was, you know, silly. Not to mention that anybody with a cursory idea of how physical objects behave in the real world could tell that it wouldn’t work. And, as I mentioned earlier, Heidi said it looked like she was pooing fabric. Still, I think the judges were right not to send her home. Don’t get me wrong, I find her utterly, dismally irritating. Still, the part of the dress that didn’t look like crap was really pretty. And Simone, who seems like she may be very nice, just made a bad dress. It was kind of ugly, but my instincts weren’t always right on this sort of thing. But if I can tell that it’s poorly made, then something’s gone horribly wrong.

Oh, this season is going to be awesome! I’m particularly interested to see what’s going on with Chris. He seems like a cross between Season One winner Jay McCarroll and Kevin Smith. Also, the bulk of his experience seems to come from making costumes for drag queens. You know Tim Gunn is going to question his level of taste. Probably frequently.

The unfortunate part is that my sister is without Bravo, so we can’t discuss it until Christmas, when, thanks to the Magic DVR Box, there will be a marathon.

All we need now is a trip to Mood. If I find myself in New York anytime soon, I’m totally going to Mood to buy some fabric. I probably won’t rub it in the grass, though. That’s just weird.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

..and McNulty is drinking again.

-Well, I did it. After almost seven years, I cancelled my HBO service. I’ll get it back in January when The Wire returns, but after that, it could be a long time before we mend our fences. If you keep canceling David Milch’s shows, I’m afraid you’re not welcome in my house. I’ll probably write more about the dissolution of this relationship later, but the wound is still too fresh.

-Along those lines, the ads for the new season of The Wire are incredibly effective. If you haven’t seen them, it’s a tight shot of a computer monitor, as somebody types up the bullet points - Sort of like the end of every episode of Doogie Howser. Anyway, it spells out Baltimore’s problems, and then it ends with “and McNulty is drinking again”. Chilling.

-You know, Mel was acting so squirrelly last night on Dancing with the Stars that I thought maybe she’d gotten a heads-up that she’d been eliminated. I’ve never noticed her acting like that on elimination night before. Maybe it’s nothing unusual, and it’s just that the ever-decreasing number of stars means more screen time for everybody.

I was sorry to see Cameron go, but he took it really well. I think everybody knows the final two will be Mel and Helio, so they’re all just riding it out. Marie will take her eventual elimination well, Jennie will not. Probably it’ll be nice for him not to have to fly across the country four times a week.

Plus, there are two things you know when somebody actually sings along with “All Out of Love” during their send-off: 1) They are clearly not in any sort of great emotional turmoil, and 2) They are awesome.

-Here’s something I learned from Carpoolers last night: Scott Thompson aged more in the five-year run of Kids in the Hall than he has in the 13 years since the series ended. (Man, I’m old.) Season Five Scott looked like Season One Scott’s Dad. Carpoolers Scott looks like Season Five Scott’s slightly older brother.

-As you may know, I’m sort of a credits geek. That’s why I know that last night’s episode of House was written by Sean Whitesell. Sean Whitesell is best known (at least in my house) for playing cannibal Donald Groves in Season One of Oz. I can’t imagine this being of interest to anybody but me, but there you go. Now it’s in your head, and you have some idea of what it’s like to be me.

-Project Runway returns tonight! Is it wrong for a man who dresses primarily in Batman-themed shirts to be this excited about a competitive fashion design series? If it is, I don’t want to be right!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Dancing with the Stars -- Week the Eighth

Hey, last week I was right about Jane’s ouster and her breast implants. (Which she confirmed on Access Hollywood.)

So, this season, two of the stars have lost parents during or immediately after a live broadcast. One fainted on camera, one had food poisoning, and several had their homes threatened by wildfire. I think everybody’s going to rest easier once this season is over.

JENNIE GARTH (Jive 8-8-8) – I’m so confused. She’s dressed like Poison Ivy, Derek’s dressed like Han Solo, Richard Simmons is talking to her about self-esteem. Am I drunk? How is this all happening? This was not my favorite of her dances, but you know, jive. It’s all “Newsies”, really. Anyway, I feel like it deserved better comments from the judges, but I can’t fault the scoring.
(Foxtrot 9-9-8) This one was much better. She is really acing the poses lately. Nice footwork in this one. She has really good movement, but she excels at the slower ballroom stuff – it’s all about the flow with her. Not the same fireworks as some of the other contestants, but she hasn’t really blown it since week two when she fell.

CAMERON MATHISON (Viennese Waltz 9-9-9) – I hadn’t realized that he’s the only one in the competition who hasn’t scored a ten yet. This waltz was really beautiful, actually. He’s a big, athletic guy, and he was absolutely gliding. This was a pretty dance, and very well done. Again, I like him, and I would really like to see him get to the finals. Once they can do lifts, he’s going to be able to pitch Edyta all over the place. And on a man-note, it was nice to see Season One winner Kelly Monaco again. Damn, that woman is hot.
(Cha Cha 8-8-8) “Brown Sugar”? Seriously? OK, I love the Stones, but a cha cha to “Brown Sugar”? The song that uses the slave trade as a metaphor for heroin addiction? And even if you use just the middle section, as they did here, it sounds like it’s about underage Black girls. Besides all that, this dance was kind of boring and loose. Clearly they spend most of their time on the Waltz, and just hoped that energy would carry them through on this one.

MARIE OSMOND (Rumba 8-8-8) – You know, I’m not going to criticize somebody who lost her father in the last week. I know the judges have to, you know, judge, but there’s a reason there weren’t many moves in her dance this week. What with the mourning and everything, her hip action has probably not been at the front of her mind. On a happier note, I didn’t realize her partner Jonathan was married to my crazy-ass Dancing with the Stars girlfriend, Anna. Always happy to see her again. Actually, I think there are a few couples amongst the dancers. Edyta and Alec are married, I believe. There’s another pair that I’m blanking on, too. And of course, Maks is married to his own reflection.
(Jive 8-9-8) Oh man, another jive. Actually, I think she sold it better than a lot of people do. She’s from that showbiz tradition where you had to be able to do everything, and you had to pull off some pretty cheesy stuff. You never knew when you’d have to dress up like a carrot and dance with Paul Lynde on a Christmas special, you know? I actually really liked her little wave to the camera mid-dance – it was endearing. All in all, it was not her best week, but it’s better than almost anybody else could have done under the circumstances.

HELIO CASTRONEVES (Paso Doble 9-9-9) – Capes! Could that be why I like the paso doble so much? I’m basically Bobby Hill. (I’ve made that joke before, haven’t I? Clearly, this is the ideal time to start writing for a second website.) The thing I’m really liking about Helio is that he’s really working to iron out the weaknesses in his performances. He had the speed and the personality to coast, but his footwork has gotten so much better, and he actually had some intensity for this dance. And his arms were good, a necessity for cape work. In past dances, that’s been a weak point for him.
(Quickstep 10-10-10) Dude, is he dressed like the Mask? Awesome. (Remember how that movie was such a big hit and now nobody’s thought about it for twelve years?) This was his best dance yet, I think. Combining the energy and speed of his early performances with his increasingly precise choreography, this was really fun to watch. Helio’s a serious contender for the top prize, I have to say.

MEL B. (Tango 9-9-9) – Holy crap, did I just see Scary Spice tango to “Personal Jesus”? That was weird. Do they even play that song outside of strip clubs and the alternative station in “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas”? I sort of wanted to run over a drug dealer. Anyway, this was another solid dance from Mel. I’m actually (don’t tell anyone) starting to like her. I mean, I don’t see myself ever voting for her, but her dancing is always really good and fun to watch. Plus, she made Maks funny, which we all appreciate.
(Mambo 9-10-10) Another good dance. In all honesty, I feel like she and Maks got a little out of sync on the turns. I mean, there was all kinds of nice footwork and plenty of crazy mambo gyrations, but I think the two of them just got a bit out of step. Unless maybe they’re supposed to do that in a mambo. It would be easier to write about this show if I knew stuff.

I have no idea who’s going home this week. Really, these people are all good. Any one of them could actually win. I think I’ve said that before, too. Man, I’m in a rut.

Heroes 2-8 -- Four Months Ago

Man, Veronica Mars is crazy!

Nice job this week – filled in a lot of the blanks, and yet still plenty of surprises. I don’t have a lot to say this time around, mostly because of the nature of the episode. Revealing things pretty significantly cuts down on conjecture, you know?

I’d sort of been under the impression that Maya and Alejandro were poverty-stricken street people. Kind of surprising to see them at a big fancy wedding. Also, I didn’t realize until this week how much Alejandro looks like Orlando from Strangers with Candy. Now that I’ve realized it, I can’t unrealize it. And it’s clear now that Maya’s powers are connected to her emotional state, not her proximity to Alejandro.

Now that we’ve seen DL again, I forgot how much I liked him. And I know Don’s going to complain about this, but I’m assuming that he never even saw the gun before the guy shot him. Because, you know, he passes through things. Of course, that's the second time this intangible guy has been shot. You'd think he would have learned after the first time. And we’re up to three personalities now for Niki. Now, Jessica was her sister, but Gina is a persona she created for herself. Her problems go deeper than anybody realized. If somebody mispronounces her name at the post office, that’s a new personality. Now I have to wonder who’s been in the driver’s seat the various times we’ve seen her this season. And by the way, I was relieved that one her personalities didn’t kill DL. That would have been horrifying.

It was cute how Micah wanted his family to go into the superhero business. That’s sort of what all kids want, in my experience.

I’m not sure, but I think maybe Ma Petrelli was using powers to convince Heidi to leave Nathan. We’ve seen indication that she has mental powers, and being able to mentally coerce people would be sort of a subset of Bad Dad’s powers. They’ve been so darned cagey about the older generation’s powers!

Well, I was wrong about that being Burned Peter when Nathan looked in the mirror. But, in my defense, I didn’t think Nathan could actually have been that severely burned. That was legitimately surprising, healing him with Sark’s blood. (Yes, he has two names on this show, and I’m not using either of them. Just be grateful I stopped calling Peter ‘Jess’.) I mean, they’ve been setting it up all season with Clare’s biology classes and everything, and I still didn’t see it coming. Nice makeup and effects with Nathan’s injuries, too. Disturbing, without being flashy. Clearly Ma Petrelli figured out what happened – they’re the ones who locked up Adam for trying to take his abilities public. I’m thinking she had a better idea of what was going on at the beginning of the season than she let on.

I also can’t believe I didn’t figure out that the Haitian took Peter’s memory. (I didn’t, did I? I can no longer remember what I said more than a few minutes ago. Why did I write ‘Remember Sammy Jankiss’ on my hand?) Now, sometime after he took Peter’s memory, he contracted the Shanti virus. I’m assuming Bob figured out what happened and went all punishment-crazy. (By the way, can Peter take people’s powers and memories now? Or does the fact that proximity to the Haitian cancels his powers mean that he can never copy them?) And I like the current moral ambiguity, too. In the present, we really haven’t seen Sark do anything evil. Is it possible that he’s right and the Twelve are wrong? Given that two of the Twelve are psychos, their record isn’t so good. It’ll be interesting to see their reasoning for locking him away. Unless, of course, he’s lying about everything. That’s not impossible. Heck, he’s Sark. It’s not even improbable.

Peter’s cell is way nicer than Mohinder’s apartment.

I really like Elle’s character, and not just because she’s Veronica Mars. I knew she was going to be awesome, but she’s actually interesting, too.

Three episodes to go in the first arc! You have to appreciate the fact that they worked far enough ahead that the Writer’s Strike wouldn’t disrupt the first story.

Norman Mailer, the Real-Life Cotton Hill

A tip of the hat to Norman Mailer, who died over the weekend. I don’t claim to be an expert on Mailer, but a few of his books were big influences on me. In The Executioner’s Song, he single-handedly defined the journalistic novel. The Naked and The Dead is pretty much the best thing ever written on Vietnam and it will absolutely destroy you. His biography of Lee Harvey Oswald is required reading for anybody who has strong feelings either way on conspiracy theory, and his weird, giant, Harlot’s Ghost is a fantastic novel about the CIA. Pretty much anything written about espionage has been shaped by this book, and I’m still angry that after 1000 pages it ends on a cliffhanger.

And of course, we can’t forget his guest appearance on Season Five of Gilmore Girls. (“Norman Mailer, I’m Pregnant”) It was easily one of the weirdest guest-appearances I’ve ever seen. I’m not sure he realized he was on TV, and he certainly didn’t know why a strange woman physically accosted him. It was sort of glorious.

No doubt he’s already punched two or three other authors in the afterlife.

Cotton Hill, American

--You know, I was going to write up a full-fledged obituary for Cotton Hill, who died on last night’s King of the Hill. It would have been hilarious. However, with today actually being Veteran’s Day, there’s a certain question of taste there. I’m not really comfortable eulogizing an animated war hero on the day we remember actual war heroes.

Suffice it to say, it was a good episode, and Cotton will be missed. I particularly like the way he always called Peggy “Hank’s wife”, and I credit him with one of the funniest lines ever. “The Tojo’s was comin’ at me faster than I could guts ‘em, so I had to guts ‘em faster.” Farewell, Cotton. You and your shins are reunited at last.

--Big news is on the way! I’m going to be writing for a brand new website very soon, along with some of America’s Favorite Bloggers. It’ll be more of the same incisive pop-culture commentary and boob jokes that you’ve come to expect from me. As soon as everything’s in place, I’ll make the official announcement.

And these new responsibilities will not affect A Nickel for the Swear Jar, so you’ll still be getting fresh hot content as often as I can come up with new mean-spirited jabs at The Big Bang Theory.

--One of my compatriots in this endeavor is Myndi, a frequent commenter over here. I didn’t even know she had a blog until this weekend. But she does, and it’s awesome. Check it out right here!

That’s all for now. I’ll be back tonight with Heroes and Dancing with the Stars!

Friday, November 9, 2007

In the Rubble of Green Week

--OK, here’s a quick summation of how the NBC shows I watched this week dealt with the corporate-mandated ‘Green Week’.

-As I mentioned earlier, on Chuck, assistant manager Harry Tang (hee!) explained that corporate environmentalism was merely a way to “exploit the burgeoning conscience of our customer”.

-Over on Heroes, well, not so much. One could probably make that case that unleashing a virus that destroyed 93% of the world’s population would probably be good for the environment. Nobody tells Bennett he has to talk about carbon footprints if he doesn’t feel like it!

-On Phenomenon, Criss Angel recycled 100% of his persona and act. Also, he has stuck to a long-term policy of not releasing any waste products. (Yes, that’s a ‘full of crap’ joke.)

-I haven’t actually watched this week’s Bionic Woman yet. Also, I tend to not remember what the episode was about after it’s done. Mostly, I just spend an hour thinking “…so pretty…” So even after I’ve watched it, I won’t be able to tell you what it said about the icecaps.

-On My Name is Earl, the warden asked Earl to fit environmental themes into his “Scared Straight” presentation. Earl pointed out that it would be awkward and obvious, and I laughed like a fool

-30 Rock satirized the whole mandate, with corporate-friendly environmental mascot Greenzo spreading the word and eventually going crazy. (If this episode had aired two weeks earlier, I totally would have been Greenzo for Halloween.) Al Gore showed up to give some actual facts and then save a whale, and Jack behaved much as I assume real NBC executives probably behaved this week. (And how is this show not a runaway hit?)

-NBC tried to convince us that The Office tied in to the theme because Michael was in the woods. Nice try, NBC. “I have duct tape and a knife. I can fashion a shelter, and, if necessary, some sort of water vessel.” By the way, Creed mentioned earlier this season that his birthday was in November. Nice continuity, guys!

-The Janitor on Scrubs became obsessed with environmental causes after 36 hours, at which point, he got bored with the whole thing. “If you litter, I make you lick a battery. Or eat a lightbulb. Your choice.”

I guess the moral of the story is that creative people don’t respond well to broad corporate mandates, even in the name of a good cause. Who knew?

Thursday, November 8, 2007

The 24 Report: Season Four

I was going to do a full-fledged Box Set Riot, but I'm feeling a little but under the weather, so let's just make it a 24 Report.

As I’ve mentioned about a thousand times, I had never seen a single episode of 24 before this year, and I’ve now plowed through the first four seasons. 24 is like televised crack, and I’m basically freebasing it. (Do you freebase crack? Or did I confuse my drugs?)

This season I remember being controversial when it aired. For the first time, the villains are actually Arab terrorists, including long-time residents of the United States. I guess it didn’t bother me, if only because it took four years to get there. And as always, they did a good job of balancing out the terrorists with positive characters. Plus, they also threw in a Haliburton-esque defense contractor, so it certainly wasn’t the right-wing propaganda that it’s often accused of being.

To me, this season, while enjoyable, seemed to jettison a lot of material early on. Sure, the terror plot didn’t make a damn bit of sense until late in the season, but it did hang together. (For the most part. I mean, they had a backup plan just in case melting down every nuclear power plant in the country didn’t work? I would think once you come up with that plan, you call it a day.) Erin Driscoll, the new head of CTU, is written out halfway through the season, and never referenced again. I understand that they wanted to bring in Michelle as the acting head, but it seemed an elaborate way to go about it. Driscoll had just started to get interesting, and then her daughter killed herself, so she was gone. Even stranger is the sudden exit of Lana Parrilla’s Sarah Gavin. As a CTU agent mistakenly implicated in a terror plot and subsequently tortured, her arc had a lot of potential. And then her character got fired. You know, because you can afford to antagonize the person you unfairly tortured. I wonder if there was some behind-the-scenes tension there, because it was an abrupt exit.

This season marked the arrival of CTU analyst Edgar Stiles (known forever in my circle as The Sopranos’ Special Agent Lispy Skip), as well as (Vice-)President Logan, the worst leader of the free world ever. I’m not familiar with Gregory Itzin, but he’s really effective as the craven Vice-President forced to take office when the President is incapacitated. (Because a stealth bomber blew up Air Force One. They don’t do anything small on 24.) I understand he’s a major part of Season Five, so I’m looking forward to that. William DeVane is lots of fun as the Secretary of Defense, even if his character eventually becomes superfluous. Shoreh Aghdashloo as Dina Araz, a housewife and mother involved in the terror plot is excellent. I wish she could have stuck around longer, but her exit made sense in plot terms. It’s really an impressive piece of work in regards to her character, putting a human face on terrorism.

And of course, there’s Arnold Vosloo as the lead villain, Habib Marwan. He’s a little more indestructible than I would have liked, but at least the guy is scary.

Old favorites like Chloe, Tony, and Michelle are awesome as ever. And the greatest moment of the season comes when Logan calls in former President Palmer as a consultant. Man, that guy’s good.

And best of all? Kim Bauer does not appear at all this season!

To me, it wasn't as solid as the first three seasons, but still enjoyable. Season Five is the Emmy-winning season, so I'm looking forward to that. And once again, I'm still surprised at the torture scenes. They've been played up as a major aspect of the series, and they're really not that prevalent. I mean, sure, there's more torture than in an episode of, you know, King of the Hill, but it's not presented as the be-all and end-all of strategies. I'm of the belief that the number of torture scenes that fail to yield results or involve an innocent person far outweighs the number of scenes where it gets results. But that would be some creepy-ass research, so I'm not going any farther with that.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

250 Posts! How Awesome Am I?

You know what this is? This is my 250th post! And that’s in less than a year. I’ve been more than keeping up my goal of five posts a week, so I’m kind of proud of myself. And of those 250, something like nine of them have actually been pretty good. I’m not going to tell you which ones, but feel free to search the archives.

--Over in the comments section of my most recent Dancing with the Stars post, Mysterious Don asks why people watch the show, since we, as a nation don’t pay attention to ballroom dancing at any other time. Except he asks it in a funnier way. I was going to respond in the comments, but it turned out lengthier than I thought. Anyway, I’m thinking that we, as a nation, care more about dancing than it might seem at first glance. Dance-themed television shows have existed for almost as long as TV itself. The Lawrence Welk Show, Solid Gold, Dance Fever, American Bandstand, even Fame. And those are just the network shows. Once you start getting into cable programming, it’ll blow your mind. And audiences really respond to dance scenes in TV and movies. Busby Berkeley spent a lifetime choreographing elaborate dance numbers, and even today, if there’s a tango in a movie, that’s what people remember. Seriously, do you think Al Pacino won an Oscar for “Scent of a Woman” because of the scene where he talked about what vaginas smell like? Dude won because he tangoed. And if you’re old enough, ‘going dancing’ was probably a regular weekend activity for your parents. And I don’t think it’s a euphemism, either. Britney Spears and the Pussycat Dolls don’t even sing, but people go to their elaborately choreographed concerts. I think it’s sort of in our national DNA that we care about dancing. The difference between dancing and singing is that singing has a definite consumer end product. The winner of American Idol, and everybody else who abuts the season, will release a CD that you can buy and listen to. (Remember in the first season, when the losers were not allowed to release an album until six months after the winner?) With any sort of dance production, there isn’t an economic, physical product created, and that’s why it’s not a behemoth industry.

And it’s not like I’m a devotee of the dancing arts or anything. Other than Dancing with the Stars, my knowledge of ballroom dancing is limited to the one semester I took in college to meet my PE requirement. And I sucked at it. Honestly, I’m not sure why I watched the show in the first place. I mean, I was actually enthused about it before it premiered, and I really don’t know what interested me. And now I’ve watched it for five seasons and blogged it for two. And I vote. My point is, and I know I sound like Emily Gilmore here, don’t count out dancing.

--And because my obsessions are spastic and random, the Heroes hardcover comes out today. It collects all of the online comics material from Season One. It sounds like there may be some original material in there, too. Of course, I didn’t read the online stuff, so it’s all new to me. - I don’t like the way a traditionally formatted comic page looks on the Internet. You either have to shrink the page to illegibility in order to see it, or you zoom in and see a small portion at a time. Once you do that, you lose the cohesion of the page and the panel progression. If it had been a small amount of material, I would have bitten the bullet and gone with it, but they put a lot of stuff online. Regardless, now it’s all collected in a swell volume. I’ll try to have a review next week.

--So with that Heroes hardcover, it’s a big week. Yesterday, Season One of Flight of the Conchords, The Best of The Colbert Report, and Ratatouille all hit on DVD. You should support my habit by clicking on my ads, or using my button to buy these fine products through Amazon. Or, hey, why not stop by Sammy Shirts and buy a t-shirt or mug?

--Last of all, it’s “Green Week” over on NBC. The producers and writers have been encouraged to work environmental themes into this week’s episodes. While I’m not a fan of theme weeks, this is certainly a good cause. And it seems like most of the shows will be either subtle or creative, with The Office sending Michael on a one-man wilderness retreat and 30 Rock doing a satire of the corporate mandate. I can get behind that. And I support the environment, because that’s where the animals spend their time.

Still, and I want to be careful about this, I’m uneasy. NBC is my favorite network, and I think the creative personnel have all the best intentions. And I’m even willing to give the corporate people at the network the benefit of the doubt. But NBC (a division of the Sheinberg Wig Company) is owned by GE, a company that does not exactly have the best track record with the environment. I can’t help but feel that Harry Tang over on Chuck may have actually given us the reasoning behind the corporate policy. “We’re exploiting the burgeoning conscience of the consumer. It makes good business sense.”

Also, when I typed that, I just now got how dirty the name “Harry Tang” is. Did everybody else already know that? Am I really that slow?

Monday, November 5, 2007

Dancing with the Stars -- Week the Seventh

In case you didn’t hear, Sabrina Bryan was eliminated last week. You’d think they’d mention something like that ONE MILLION TIMES.

We’re up to two dances a week. I really don’t know how they do it. Although this year, everybody still in the competition is a contender. There’s no Billy Ray Cyrus sliding through to the final five this year.

How did they do? Let’s take a look.

HELIO CASTRONEVES – (Tango 9-8-8) Clearly, somebody’s been paying attention, because we got our second Bowie song of the season. And I believe that a tango to “Jean Genie” is in the running for the second weirdest musical choice of all time. His tango was nice, but it didn’t really land for me. I know Len had a lot of comments about heel leads and such, but that’s Greek to me. I still think he’s improving, because he’s pulling off straightforward dances without camouflaging his footwork and hip work.
(Samba 9-9-9) This was really the dance that shows how far he’s come. He’s scored in the Latin rounds on pure energy before, but this was a really solid dance that was still fun to watch. A month ago, he would have had a long coat to hide his lack of hip movement, but this week, he was really very fluid. The last couple of weeks he’s really lived up to his hype.

MARIE OSMOND – (Quick Step 10-9-9) First thought from the rehearsal video: Holy crap, her kids are young. I mean, I knew there were a lot of them, but I didn’t realize she had all nine in a three-year span. Anyway, her Quick Step was really good. It was nice all the way through, with a great performance and choreography that was interesting without being distracting. She knocked it out of the park here.
(Cha-Cha 8-8-8) I liked this better than the judges did. She really took a lot of risks with this one. We’ve all seen how dances involving boas or somebody sitting in a chair can go horribly wrong, but she really pulled this off. I thought there was a great energy throughout the whole thing, too.

MEL B. – (Foxtrot 8-8-8) When did Maks get funny? His irritation with Mel has gotten sort of hilarious. If I hadn’t known this was a foxtrot, I wouldn’t have guessed. I know I make that comment a lot, but I’ve gotten to the point where I can identify most dances now. It just seemed kind of sloppy and lazy. They weren’t really in sync, and I sort of get the feeling she planned to coast on this dance.
(Paso Doble 10-10-10) I’m not a Mel fan, but this was terrific. I really like a good paso doble, and this was just perfect. And she was absolutely out there too – not a lot of holds, and not a lot of eye contact. Maks couldn’t correct any missteps, like the pros often have to do. This was a really impressive dance, and one of the few times the perfect score is really warranted.

JANE SEYMOUR – (Quick Step 8-8-8) OK, I’m calling bullshit here. I love Jane Seymour, but how is she calling her chance to dance to a Johnny Cash song ‘the most emotional moment of the show’? Didn’t she find out after one of the live shows that her mother died? I mean, she’s had a rough season, with that and the wildfires and last week’s food poisoning, but that’s just a pantload. And man, it’s weird seeing Jane Seymour’s home videos of Johnny Cash. All that aside, this was not a good dance for her. Really sloppy footwork, the holds were kind of a mess, and there was this bit in the middle where she totally lost the choreography. It was like foot salad in there.
(Cha-Cha 8-9-9) This didn’t look Latin to me, but I’m no expert. This was solid and well done, but really basic. She’s not going to stay in much longer if she doesn’t start putting a personal stamp on her performances. It was good, but it was just too rote.

JENNIE GARTH – (Viennese Waltz 8-8-9) I actually really liked her footwork, but her arms were not doing what they needed to. Their hands weren’t making contact when they needed to. It seems like they grabbed at each other’s wrists a lot. But she didn’t seem nervous like in previous weeks. Considering this was the first week of two dances, it’s really impressive, actually.
(Rumba 9-9-10) OK, this was really good. I usually sort of laugh at the judges when they talk about telling a story, but I got it this time. This was a cool dance with a dead-on performance. You could tell it was a rumba, but it didn’t look like every rumba you’ve ever seen, either. Derek’s a weird little bobblehead of a man, but he’s one hell of a choreographer.

CAMERON MATHISON – (Quick Step 8-8-8) Len was right about the messy bits, but when they were in their hold, it was spectacular. Dude’s got a lot of energy. I liked it better than the judges did, because the sloppy parts had all kinds of cool jumps and running around. Considering that last jump could have crushed Edyta’s leg if he’d been a little off, I’m giving them some serious points for balls.
(Jive 9-9-9) I’ve made it clear how I feel about the jive. As far as jives go, this was good, but a jive can only be so good. Actually, I feel like they slowed it down a little bit, so it looked less like a seizure than it ordinarily would. I liked the energy, and as always, he’s willing to hurl himself and Edyta all around the floor, so that really helps the watchability. Really, there was nothing wrong with the dance, except that it was a jive.

Only 4 points separate first from last place, so it’s all coming down to viewer votes. I think this is going to be the week Jane goes home. I like her, but she’s too technical to really pull in the fans. Of course, the most important thing is that tonight’s results show features the return of Kenny Mayne and Jerry Rice in “Dance Center”. Last year’s installment was hilarious, and I’m eagerly looking forward to seeing Kenny make fun of this year’s crop. That’s right, I’m actually excited about a results show!

Heroes 2-7 -- "Out of Time"

That? Was awesome.

I told you Kensei was still alive! And now we know that Linderman was his disciple and Nightmare Man was doing his bidding, I do believe we officially have our Big Bad for the season.

Before we get into that, last week Swear Jar Buddy Lana was irritated that Sylar and his Traveling Roadshow of Murder were so sweaty. They were in a nice new car that probably had air conditioning, and they didn’t even roll down the windows. The sweatiness could have been avoided. That’s the kind of thing I wouldn’t think about in a million years.

So this week, we saw #5 and 6 of Isaac’s painting series. When Peter looked through the window at the dead bodies, that was #5, and #6 was the swordfight. And now Mohinder has a broken nose, just like in #7. Poor Bennett. That bullet is headed his way. (I just realized – they’ve been so cagey about showing #2. If the paintings are in chronological order, #2 may have happened during the four missing months, and we’ll find out next week.)

So, per Bob, Matt can control minds and influence people’s senses. I’m wondering if maybe there are actually fewer kinds of powers than we think. You could argue that Matt, Candice, and Claude all have a variation of that power. (Candice can control what people’s senses experience, and Claude’s invisibility could actually be a way of influencing viewers’ minds.) So maybe those three all have the same set of powers but can only access a small portion of them. This is largely academic, as Candice is dead and Claude has, you know, disappeared. Still, it’s the kind of thing I think about. And do you think Nathan feels kind of ripped off on the power front? Like, flying is cool and all, but when all your friends regenerate or control people’s minds or travel through time, flying has to be a little bit disappointing.

Now, when Bob was talking to Nathan, I thought the implication was that Adam Monroe had caused the snowstorm in Miami. If that’s true, he’s got more powers than just the healing. And, in fact, he’s either immortal or he has Hiro’s time powers. Regardless, it sounds like their decision to imprison him might be what broke up the Twelve. If Linderman was his ‘disciple’, clearly Adam had a lot of sway with the Twelve. He may actually have been one of them – we didn’t really see twelve faces in the group picture.

The first time Niki saw DL, it didn’t seem like Morrie was actually causing it. Sadly, that means her actual life is her nightmare. And by the way, Matt’s confrontation with his dad was pretty cool. I mean, not like I can identify with a guy who spent years blaming himself for his father’s choices and turned it into a big ball of self-loathing or anything. Um, let’s move on.

Every week we have to ask ourselves, “Is Mohinder really that dumb?” He keeps trusting Bob, even though he has absolutely no reason to do so. Heck, this week, apparently the fact that somebody wanted Bob dead was enough to win Mohinder over. “Hey, if somebody wants to kill you, you can’t be all bad.” Still, last season we all thought he was a dope when he went on his road trip with Sylar, and then he turned out that he was planning a trap. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that our boy still has a couple brain cells to rub together.

By the way, I’ve already talked to somebody who was confused as to why Niki injected herself. The virus takes away people’s powers (either temporarily or permanently) – if she lost her strength, she wouldn’t be a danger to others even if she stayed trapped in her nightmare. Pretty good move, really.

The virus, by the way, is referred to as the ‘Shanti Virus’. ‘Shanti’ is Sanskrit for ‘inner peace’. There’s a foundation that helps people with life-threatening illnesses called ‘The Shanti Project’. The jury’s out on whether that was intentionally or accidentally ironic.

Man, things are messed up a year from now. (I did get a good laugh at Peter following protocol and sitting at the ‘L-Q’ table in an empty room.) The fact that Ma Petrelli is alive indicates that they manage to stop Adam before he wipes out the 12. But, you know, 93% of the population died, so it’s not really a win for the good guys. At the end, it’s unclear whether Peter moved through time, or stayed in the future and just teleported to Montreal. I actually think he went back to the present but left Caitlin behind. We’ll find out, though.

I still hate West, in case you were wondering. And look, all those biology class scenes where Claire questions whether her power could help others went and paid off. Now that’s Mohinder’s mission! Those guys have a plan and everything.

Ah, Hiro. That was a really satisfying end to that arc. It hit all the right notes at the end. After the explosion, Kensei’s badly burned body is clearly visible in the rubble, so it’s not as if Hiro had a brain fart and forgot about the healing power. There’s a dead body there. Now, the story that Hiro referenced, the one about “Kensei and the Dragon” sort of confused me. Who was Kensei in that story? Was it Hiro or Kensei? And if it referred to Hiro, well, the ‘dragon who taught him the way of the sword’ would be his dad, right? I mean, except for the dragon part. (Unless his power was seriously awesome.) Well, it’s not like that story is over yet.

Next week, it’s the missing four months! And Veronica Mars comes back! Or makes her first appearance, chronologically. Regardless, it looks like there’s a fistfight where one of the participants is on fire. That’s the only thing cooler than a regular fistfight.

The Amazing Race 12 -- A Love Letter to the Planet

Well, the writers are on strike. And yes, there’s a mounting sense of panic as I realize what this could mean for the TV season, but I still feel kind of warm inside. Know why? The Amazing Race 12, that’s why!

The season is off to a fine start – nobody injured themselves in the initial run for the backpacks, and the most irritating team went home. Everything I could say about why I hate Ari has already been said (and quite hilariously) by Mysterious Don. I’ll just say that I take a great deal of pleasure in seeing the team that was mean to their donkey be eliminated. Let’s take a look at the remaining teams in my patented “List everybody and them talk about them method”. I’ll take them in the order that they’re listed on the CBS website.

KYNT & VYXSIN – The ‘Dating Goths’. They didn’t have a lot of screen time, but they do irritate me. I don’t have a lot of patience for the Goth scene. It’s this whole teenage alienation that we all have, built up into a defining lifestyle. I spent years working at a comic book store, and the thing I miss least about that is the scrawny dudes in pancake makeup asking me where we keep Jhonen Vasquez’ stuff. Still, the thing I really don’t like about Goths (aside from the attention-whore factor) is the very deliberate disaffectedness. These two actually seem like they enjoy life, which actually makes them faux-Goths. Not much better, but salvageable at least.

JENNIFER & NATHAN – The dating couple with ‘trust issues’. Their trust issue is that he cheated on her. That’s not a trust issue so much as a dirtbag issue. He’s one of those hypercompetitive guys who tends to yell a lot – time will tell if he’s actually decent or not. Given the cheating, he’s about two steps back right off the bat. Despite being referred to as ‘very athletic’, she’s not much of a runner. First leg is way too early to start walking! And by the way, it can’t be good for your trust issues when you go on a show with your cheating boyfriend and find out you’re the third most attractive blonde in the Race (and the second hottest ‘Jennifer’). A meltdown is imminent.

RONALD & CRISTINA – Father and daughter. They didn’t get much screen time, but they seem very nice. As the second-oldest person on the Race this season, he did a pretty good job of keeping up. It looks like there’s some yelling next week, but they didn’t really do enough to create any kind of impression this week. (EDIT: Actually he’s the third oldest. That does not make his performance any less impressive.)

SHANA & JENNIFER – Hot friends. I couldn’t get a read off them, other than being hot. In a good sign, they didn’t talk about using their looks to their advantage, or how people underestimate them because of their looks, so they could actually be a fun team. And they did an excellent job of coming back from last place, all based on their skill with a donkey. I like people who do well with animal challenges – they always seem to be a good indicator of whether somebody sucks or not. Donkeys don’t want to let some butthole lead them around.

AZARIA & HENDEKEA – Brother and sister, and they’re both scientists. I’m not a big fan when teams lead off by saying they’re the smartest people on the show (especially the last people to say that were the Cho brothers, who had the brilliant strategy of waiting around for the last-place team to finish the task), but these two probably really are. They talked a lot about sibling rivalry, and how they might butt heads, but they really didn’t. They’re off to a good start, both personality- and Race-wise. I’m sure they’re glad I approve.

LORENA & JASON – Dating couple with commitment issues. Or, as Jason put it, “I always have one foot out the door.” Thank you, Val Kilmer in “Heat”. For a guy whose favorite hobby is yoga, dude’s got quite a temper. I mean, he’s not violent, but he’s another screamer. And I think they might be the ones who had a real issue with directions. She made no impression on me at all, but considering she’s dating a guy with one foot out the door who yells at her, she’s obviously got some problems. (And yet, I remain alone. Maybe I need to yell more.)

NICOLAS & DONALD – Grandson and grandfather. Best of all, Donald is one of those crusty grandfathers who curses. I find old guys incredibly entertaining. This is another team that didn’t show up much but had a decent finish. I’m immediately inclined to like them, because Nicolas seems endearingly dorky. Also, I love the idea of a grandson / grandfather team. I would love to go on the Race with my grandfather. Not for novelty purposes or anything, just because my grandfather is awesome, and it would really be cool to see the world with him. (Sidebar: Last year, I was trying to figure out if somebody thought we were dating or not, so I suggested we apply for Amazing Race, and then I’d know by how she defined our relationship on the application.)

MARIANNA & JULIA – Sisters. Hot sisters. Too early to tell, but I think they might be kind of unstable. Their was a lot of shrieking over nothing in particular. These two could totally blow up on one another. The fact that they describe themselves as ‘best friends and worst enemies’ worries me. I rarely assign any degree of enmity to my friends. ‘This is my friend Sean. One day, we will destroy each other.’ Still, they managed to recover from a peat spill. I can’t decide about these two just yet.

RACHEL & TK – Dating for almost one year. First off, if this guy actually has initials for a name, he and I will be friends forever. (Scene from virtually every day of my life: “What does the ‘E’ stand for?” “Nothing. It’s just ‘E’.” “No, seriously. What does it stand for?”) He knows my pain. This is what is feels like when doves cry. Beyond that, I didn’t get much of a read off of them. They seem friendly, and you can just tell that they smell like Otto’s jacket. (Two Simpsons references in one bio!)

KATE & PAT – Married lesbian ministers. No, read that again. Kick it around in your brain. Savor it. If that’s your bullet point, you can write your own ticket onto any reality show ever. There’s not a casting director in the world who’s going to make it past that line. “Married…. SOLD!” Only time will tell if they can live up to the awesomeness of their bio. I liked that one of them called the Race “A love letter to the planet.” There’s a lot of truth in that.

So there you go. Scientists, hot girls, angry dudes, married lesbian ministers, willful donkeys, trust issues, and Phil! Oh, Amazing Race, it’s good to feel your sweet embrace once more.