Monday, February 25, 2008

And Belzer Makes it Eight!

--I know that nobody cares how much I love The Wire, but it's a lot. Last week, I squealed with delight as Richard Belzer made a brief cameo as his Homicide character, John Munch. That's eight series where he's played Munch, and it means that The Wire now exists in the same continuity as Arrested Development and The X-Files. If only Bubbles could get a job at the banana stand...

--So, it's not like I've got anything bad to say about Tina Fey ever, but her episode of Saturday Night Live pretty well rocked the joint. This was the first episode in probably two years where I didn't fast-forward at least one sketch. Sure, the "I Drink Your Milkshake" never really went anywhere, but at least Bill Hader's performance was funny. And I'll tell you right now, the "Annuale" ad is going to show up in their prime-time clip shows for the next ten years.

--My Oscar thoughts will be up on spunkybean soon, but the one thing I want to say here is that I realized during the show that I liked Enchanted so much better than There Will Be Blood. That's right, I said it. Also, if I ever were to meet Amy Adams in person, I would just giggle like an idiot until she got all uncomfortable and walked away.

--I'll review it later this week, but I just watched the premiere of My Dad is Better than Your Dad, and if you go on this show, you're a bad parent. You're a bad parent, and your kid's going to grow up to be a prick unless Mom steps in and fixes things.

I have to go watch last night's episodes of The Wire and Breaking Bad. It's a feel-good evening of TV all around!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The All-Pilot Project -- Welcome to the Captain

Welcome to the Captain
CBS, Monday, 8:30

THE PREMISE: A guy moves into a Hollywood apartment building with all sorts of wacky tenants. It’s not a good sign when you can’t state the premise without using the word ‘wacky’.

THE PERSONNEL: Chris Klein plays the lead character’s best friend, and he’s trying so hard to be Neil Patrick Harris that your heart will die a little. I know Barney Stinson, American Pie dude, and you are no Barney Stinson. Raquel Welch plays a former Dynasty star, which is weird and random. And our beloved Pop-pop, Jeffrey Tambor, plays Uncle Sol. I love Jeffrey Tambor!

THE REVIEW: I can sort of admire this show, as they’re definitely trying to do something that’s quirky and fast-paced. They fail more often than not, but I admire the attempt.

The lead character, Josh Flug (trying way too hard for a funny name) is a struggling screenwriter. When he moves into El Capitan with his friend Marty. Hey, that even sounds a little like Barney. Dammit, show! Stop ripping off a better show.

Of course, he falls in love with a masseuse who lives in the building, and the premise of the series is firmly established. On the one hand, that’s about the most worn-out setup for a sitcom since smart-mouth kids were invented. On the other hand, the masseuse in question is really pretty. That goes a long way toward balancing it out.

They’re trying too hard to set up any number of hilarious characters. That kind of thing has to come naturally, you can’t cram them all into every episode and hope some of them stick. Every character has some kind of a bit, which may be funny once (but not necessarily), but without anything to back up their tics, all you get is the one joke.

Jeffrey Tambor, at least, is reliably funny. His character, who insists on being called “Uncle Sol”, is a former Three’s Company writer. He mentions that as often as possible, and brings unrelated discussions back to Three’s Company at the drop of a hat. And the real genius? He always calls the show “T. Co.”! Like it’s the hip nickname for Three’s Company. It’s stupid, but also really funny. Tambor sells the character, and “T. Co.” is kind of addictive. It sort of makes me want people to bring up Three’s Company.

THE VERDICT: It’s decent, but not great. Certainly watchable, if only for Tambor and the pretty masseuse. Not going on the “Record All” list, but I’m not going to run away screaming either. I think it actually could be a gateway sitcom. It’s mildly quirky, and it moves fast enough that it could lead people to Arrested Development and 30 Rock. That’s right, I’m praising it for the possibility that it could lead people to better shows. That’s something, isn’t it?

The All-Pilot Project -- The Moment of Truth

The Moment of Truth
FOX

THE PREMISE: Strap a person to a lie detector, ask them embarrassing personal questions, and then give them money for telling the truth. Yeah. FOX is squirting class all over our televisions.

THE PERSONNEL: The best we get is host Mark Wahlberg. No, not the cool one. Mark L. Wahlberg, host of Temptation Island.

THE REVIEW: First off, I’m running late. This has already been pushed off the air by American Idol. It’s not like you were going to watch it anyway.

Now the obvious problem is that lie detectors are not 100% accurate. There’s a reason they aren’t admissible in court – they don’t measure whether you’re telling the truth. They measure how you react to a question. If you have a strong emotional reaction to a question, your answer will register as a lie, no matter how you answer. So, you know, you can’t actually win at this show. If they ask a question that bothers you, or has a more complex answer than “True” or “False”, you’re a liar.

Interestingly (and I use the word loosely), they aren’t actually attached to the lie detector when they’re on the show. Contestants are asked questions ahead of time, and the lie detector results from that session are the ones used. So not only do the contestants know what questions will be used on television, they have time to re-think their answers. That’s going to skew the results. That really should irritate me, but I don’t care.

This is the kind of show FOX used to air years ago, the ones we all look back at and ask “Was that an actual show? On TV? In America?” The premise is stupid. The pacing is glacial. The production values are public-access level. I don’t even have anything to say, and anyway, it’s already gone.

THE VERDICT: We’re done with this. Stupid show. Hey, did you know that the writer who created Wonder Woman also invented the lie detector? I bring that fact up often in my daily life.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Year Two Begins Here!

Well, here we are at the beginning of my second year. I probably should have written something on my actual blogiversary, but I was celebrating. You know, living it up the way I do. I’ve kind of let things slide around here since spunkybean came along, but between my spiffy new computer and a better sense of what works there versus what works here, I think I should be able to get back on track. I plan to get caught up on the All-Pilot Project by the end of the week, and the first weekly Big Brother Report will show up, too. I didn’t do one last week because too many people didn’t really get enough screen time for me to form an opinion. Like, say, every blonde in the house. I can’t keep these people straight yet. (By the way, Myndi’s recapping Big Brother 9 for the ‘bean, and she’s hilarious as ever.)

I’m also going to try and link my specific spunkybean pieces, because quite frankly, I’m not nearly as popular as Mysterious Don, and it’s more than a little vexing. (Don, by the way, is rocking the American Idol recaps.) I’m doing weekly Lost and Celebrity Apprentice write-ups, so you should check those out. I figured out, based on my average word count, by the time the season is over, I’ll have written the equivalent of a novel about Celebrity Apprentice. I can’t decide if that’s the coolest thing about me or the saddest. It’s probably both.

--So, my Lost writing is primarily at spunkybean, but hasn’t this season been fantastic? Three episodes, three endings that have blown my mind. I love the addition of the Fantastic Foursome to the cast, especially Twitchy Daniel. (By the way, if any of them die, I will start referring to them as the Fantastic FTOMO, for “Four Times One Minus One”, because there’s never a time when a gratuitous Mr. Show reference isn’t funny.)

I can’t decide if I want Locke to be one of the Oceanic Six or not. I mean, he doesn’t want to leave the Island, but if he’s definitely alive in the future, then, you know, he’s definitely alive. I don’t think that the flash forwards represent the end of their story, by the way. If I had to guess, I’d say Season Five will end with them leaving the Island, while the flash-forwards in that same episode feature the Six returning to the Island and setting up the final season.

And I think I said this on spunkybean, but whoever was in the coffin last season is not one of the Six. Given their apparent celebrity, one of them would not have had an empty funeral. It has to be either an Other, somebody who was never on the Island, or possibly one of the Oceanic passengers who left the Island some other way (as Benry apparently did). Based on the size of the coffin, the lack of personal pronouns in the discussion of the funeral, and the way Jack almost caresses the coffin lid, I think it’s a woman in there. Specifically, I think it’s Juliet. I know it sounds crazy, but my old theory of Christian being Jacob is looking less and less crazy, isn’t it?

You know what’s even better than the brain-exploding revelation that Sayid is working for Benry in the future? (Will work for Benry in the future? Flash-forwards are tough on grammar.) It means Benry’s not dying anytime soon, and more Benry appearances mean more chances for somebody to actually call him ‘Benry’. When that happens, I am going to freak out.

--You know that spiffy new computer I mentioned? I’ve got high-speed Internet now! I have been using dial-up on a computer I bought in 1998, like some kind of caveman. It turns out, there are pictures and sound and even video on the Internet. Did you know about this? I thought it was all text and ASCII graphics.

--For those of you who’ve been actively concerned, I finally have some Wire friends. They’re not caught up all the way yet, but at least I have friends who are familiar with McNulty and Stringer Bell. I’m thrilled, but I actively dread their trip through Season Two. I’m not sure they can handle what happens to poor D’Angelo…

--The new Dancing with the Stars contestants are going to be announced on Tuesday! Myndi and I will be recapping the show for spunkybean – we’re sort of the Woodward and Bernstein of celebrity ballroom dancing. (Which I guess makes Mysterious Don “Deep Throat”. You know, because he’s mysterious. And also the porn.)


Stay tuned to the Swear Jar and spunkybean for all manner of foolishness in the very near future!

Monday, February 11, 2008

RIP, Steve Gerber

One of my big influences passed away over the weekend.

Steve Gerber created Howard the Duck -- as a comic book, not the awful movie. He was as far away from the movie as a man could get. Howard was sort of an iconic figure in the 70's, and there's just not a good way to express how ahead of his time Steve Gerber was. Howard satirized political correctness and the Moral Majority before either one actually existed. I went through a serious obsession with his work in high school, a good 15-20 years after it was published.

Actually, Gerber was the first writer to scare the living hell out of me. Back when I was five or six years old, I had a bunch of audio comics. They were basically an issue of a Marvel comic book which included a 45 of actors reading the script. Like a low budget radio play. I loved those things. One of them, however, was an issue of Steve Gerber's Man-Thing. The lead character was a mindless swamp monster, and "Whatever know fear burns at the touch of the Man-Thing". And of course, that's the only sensible response to a mindless swamp monster. Anyway, given the lead character's lack of personality or sentience, the series lent itself to morality plays and horror stories. The one that I had was about a clown who goes to the swamp to kill himself. I don't remember all the details, but the point is that the clown actually does blow his brains out with a handgun. Clowns are creepy anyway, but that's like the most damaging image I can think of. I couldn't even get through the record, but I could man up and read the comic. And it scared me shitless every single time.

Rest in peace, Steve. You screwed me up for life, and I thank you for it.

In Which I Go All Letterman On You...

--Friday is my blogiversary. That's right, one year of this nonsense. I would like presents.

--So, I've got a new computer. This should help my productivity immensely. I've been using the old computer for ten years, and looking into the dictionary on Word is sort of a window into madness. See, I'm pretty good at spelling, but there are words I use often enough that it just made sense to add them to the dictionary, so I wouldn't get that damn red line all the time. Here, for your enjoyment, are the Top Ten Words I Added to My Dictionary. (Note: These are all real.)

10. Lostaway
9. Schrute
8. Craphole
7. Palladino
6. Aquaman
5. Butchie
4. Zapp Brannigan
3. Cyborg
2. Benry

And the number one word I've added to my dictionary:
1. Clusterfuck

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Don't You Judge Me!

This is a little embarrassing. See, I think my DVR staged an intervention. I set the upcoming Big Brother season to ‘Record All’, and it refused. Apparently, I can only have 50 entries in my Prioritizer. That’s right, I have FIFTY SHOWS set to record all episodes. True, I still have Shaq’s Big Challenge on there, but I want to be prepared in case Shaq works with another group of fat kids. I can’t miss that! And I have The Drinky Crow Show, which won’t have any more episodes until 2009, but I don’t want to run the risk of forgetting. It actually gets sadder when you realize there are several series I don’t put on there. Certain shows, usually on FX or Adult Swim, will record the same episode multiple times in a week, because all airings of an original episode are considered ‘New’. I have to manually select The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, otherwise the DVR records the same episode four times a day. And sure, I can convince myself that not all of my shows run at the same time of year. There are a bunch of summer shows on there, after all.

The fact remains, I have 50 series on my DVR as ‘Record All’. I can’t decide if that’s awesome, or the saddest thing ever. Either way, my DVR shouldn’t be the one to judge me. The DVR is a happy place – a place of welcoming.

By the way, this means I finally deleted Bionic Woman. I cut the cord, baby!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Light at the End of the Tunnel?

--It’s finally starting to look positive on the Strike front. It’s been reported that they’re close to a deal, and Jon Stewart actually mentioned the progress on The Daily Show Monday. I’ve heard that a quick settlement would allow them time to finish up another eight episodes of Lost for the season, and that’s really all I can ask for.

Sure, Chuck and House saved some episodes for a rainy day, but it’s really been a long time for some of my favorites. I’ve been without The Office for months now, and it’s wearing on me. I’m actually more comfortable being stuck with a cliffhanger (like Heroes or My Name is Earl) than an abrupt end. And if I don’t get some 30 Rock soon, I’m going to lose my mind. I’ve tried to stay positive this whole time, and I’ve found plenty of shows to occupy my time, but with the resolution imminent, I’m really starting to feel it. I’m watching boring and stupid John Connor and his boring and stupid robot friend on Monday, when I should be watching Hiro and Chuck and Jack Bauer and Barney Stinson.

I miss my TV friends.

--Speaking of the largely boring and stupid Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Monday’s episode represented a significant improvement. The Terminator who’s stalking them is now played by Garrett Dillahunt. People who are me know him as Dr. Smith on John from Cincinnati, and as both Jack McCall and Frances Woolcott on Deadwood. This officially makes him awesome.

--Well, the late night shows on Monday were fantastic! The Colbert/Conan feud has been hilarious all along, and having Stephen Colbert, Conan O’Brien, and Jon Stewart showing up on each other’s shows all night to fight was truly inspired. It’s like I’m their target audience or something.

--I really thought I’d have more to say, but it’s cold and I’m tired. I’ll try to be less lame in the future.