Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Judy, Zapp, and Chuck

--Yes, the All-Pilot Project has been languishing, largely due to a spate of pilots I couldn't stand. I think I'm going to do a mass review this weekend. If you think I can devote more than a few minutes to Unhitched or Lipstick Jungle, you clearly have an unrealistic idea of my attention span. And this is my attention span that we're talking about. I've been known to spend 45 minutes looking for evidence of Photoshop on a Steak 'n' Shake placemat. Unhitched was especially bad, I thought. It actually had some funny situations, but the jokes and reactions weren't funny at all. Rashida Jones deserves better, and I really want her to return to The Office in a recurring role, sort of like Ryan's.

On the other hand, ABC's Miss Guided is awesome. They keep playing up producer Ashton Kutcher's involvement, but don't let that scare you. Judy Greer (who rocks) plays Becky Freely, a high school guidance conunselor. She is, as you'd expect from Judy Greer, awkward and odd. I'm not familiar with most of the supporting cast, but Chris Parnell (best known as Dr. Leo Spaceman) has a great part. This one gets a full review later, because I loved it. Four more episodes this season, two each this Thursday and next. EJ says to watch it. Or else write a damn good excuse explaining why not.

--Myndi and I are recapping Dancing with the Stars over at spunkybean. As cynical as I am, I am just absolutely floored by Marlee Matlin. We've heard so many contestants talk about how proud they are that they went outside their comfort zones, and here we have a woman who is dancing on live network television, and is also deaf. We're not talking old, we're not talking about somebody who just somebody who hade a baby. We're talking somebody who can not hear. I would be impressed with her even if she sucked, but she's doing really well, with all 8's for her first two dances. Once again, can't get excited about American Idol, but I just get all giddy about my Dancing.

--New Futurama action figures are out! The new batch consists of Leela and Zapp Brannigan. Both figures look fantastic, although they have significantly less articulation than the Fry figure. Joints at the shoulders and neck, basically. But they're meant for display anyway. I'm impressed with Leela, because her hair doesn't make sense in three dimensions. They cheated her bangs (not really bangs, but I don't know how to describe cartoon hair) a little to the side, and it really makes the design work. Leela comes with a couple of guns, which look like re-uses from the old MAC line. Strangely, she does not come with Nibbler. How do you leave Nibbler out? Still, the MAC Nibbler (and his litterbox) are in scale with the new releases, so I'm OK. People without the older figures are short a Nibbler, though. Zapp, for his first time as an action figure, is swell. He's got a great pose and all the details are just perfect. Best of all, his accessories are a podium and the head of Earth President Richard Nixon. Nixon fits perfectly on the podium, and he looks exactly like the Futurama Nixon. Possibly the greatest accessory ever. Next time out, we get Bender and Kiff. The Planet Express crew is looking a little bit lonely without Bender.

--And in delightful Nerd News, DC is publishing a Chuck comic book this summer. Six issues, written by one of the show's writers (Sadly, not Phil Klemmer. But you can't have everything.), this should fill the Chuck-shaped hole in my heart. Not something I was expecting, but I'm quite excited.

Three weeks until I go on vacation! Not that anybody will notice, because my blogging has been haphazard lately. Nonetheless, I'm excited. Can't you people be happy for me?

Monday, March 17, 2008

Hey, SNL Stopped Sucking!

Wow, that's four episodes since Saturday Night Live came back from the Strike, and none of them have sucked. I mean, they've actually been consistently strong. Who knew that was still possible?

Sure, with Tina Fey, Ellen Page, Amy Adams, and Jonah Hill as hosts, I'm pretty well on board to begin with. But still, I haven't fast-forwarded a sketch in four weeks. A strong cast, sharp writing, well-utilized hosts, this is strange and confusing to me. I used to be able to zip through an episode in about 30 minutes. Sure, not every sketch has been gold, but there hasn't been anything painful either.

They seem to have phased out Talk Show sketches. A couple of years ago, every other sketch was somebody hosting a talk show. One of those per week is pushing it, so four or five in one episode is sheer punishment. If I remember correctly, the only one we've seen so far is The Dakota Fanning Show, but that's actually pretty funny. It's a one-joke sketch, but it's a funny joke. The Digital Shorts have been funny, Weekend Update has been sharp, the endlessly recurring characters have been kept to a minimum.

I do have one complaint. See, I love Kristen Wiig. She makes every sketch better just by being awesome. Unfortunately, they've beaten the Penelope character into the ground. The first few times it was hilarious. And it's still a funny performance, but every sketch has the exact same arc. If they're going to keep using her, they need to toss her into new situations, or maybe have her pass through other sketches. They don't have to do the same sketch over and over. I think she'd work better as a Mr. Show-style recurring character, like Senator Tankerbell or Droopy. They appeared multiple times, but generally they weren't the focus of the scene. And now I shall never criticise Kristen Wiig again.

I think it's interesting the way the media latched on to the political sketches. See, I don't think they were as pro-Hillary as everybody made them out to be. I think that focusing the sketches on the media's treatment of the candidates let them give Barack Obama a pass entirely. Hillary comes off as brittle and mildly insane, the media looks like a bunch of fawning dopes, and then Obama doesn't really have to say or do anything. I think it's people who support Obama trying to be evenhanded. At least, that's how it came off to me. But what do I know? I just think it was a mistake for Hillary to keep citing sketches that make her look like a crazy lady.

Regardless, four non-sucky episodes! Put that in your pipe and smoke it!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Crossing My Fingers

--Tonight is the premiere of FOX's The Return of Jezebel James. Now, this show is created by Amy Sherman-Palladino (creator of Gilmore Girls, and thus, a saint). It stars Parker Posey (True Story: While watching Superman Returns, Swear Jar Buddy Sam turned to me during a Posey scene and said "I would murder you and everybody I know for the chance to smell her hair.") and Lauren Ambrose (Who is not a selling point for me as much as for others. I found Claire to be absolutely unbearable right around Season Four of Six Feet Under, and her character never fully recovered), so one would think this should be really good and not something that FOX would bury on Friday nights. Right?

Well, the reviews have been absolutely toxic. Until spunkybean goes legit, I don't get to see preview copies of anything, so I've got nothing to go on, but the word of mouth is absolutely terrible. This just breaks my heart. I'm still going to watch it, because sometimes people are full of crap. Still, the distaste has been wide-ranging. I really want Amy to knock it out of the park a second time, so my fingers are crossed.

On a semi-related note, is that Lauren Graham doing voiceover for the American Express Plum Card? I'm pretty sure that's her. And you know what? There is no good reason for her not to be on my television on a weekly basis. Get on that, entertainment industry!

--As you may know, my weekly Lost essays are over at the aforementioned spunkybean. However, there's something I mentioned that I want to bounce off people. According to the promos, the Oceanic Six have now been revealed. This means that Baby Aaron counts among the Six. I've been arguing that he shouldn't count, since he wasn't actually on the plane so much as inside Claire while she was on the plane. So yes, I was wrong. But, last night's episode hinged on believing that both Sun and Jin were among the Six. So I was wrong, but I was wrong in a way that the show needed me to be in order to sucker me with yet another surprise ending. I'm almost proud of myself for helping them out like that.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

I Display My Shame...

Are you guys ready to be horrified? Mysterious Don keeps his TiVo list running off to the side of his blog, proudly proclaiming to all and sundry that he’s recording both Breaking Bad and The Backyardigans. Don’t even try and figure out what’s going on his head – it’s a freaking snakepit!

Anyway, I feel like we’ve been at this a while, so I feel like I can safely present you with my current DVR recording list. Now, some of these shows aren’t currently airing, so it’s not like I’m watching this all every week. On the other hand, certain reality shows change their title every season, so the ones that aren’t airing right now aren’t included. You won’t see The Amazing Race on there, because my DVR lists it by season. When Season 13 hits the schedule, I’ll add it. And to make matters worse, FX and HBO tend to make my DVR explode, since they often mark every airing of a new episode during the week as being “New”, so it records every time. Shows on those networks, I have to record them manually off the guide. I’ll list them at the end, just to give you a fuller picture of the extent of my sickness. I'll also list the Adult Swim shows that I manually record, since they're not airing new episodes currently, and I have to keep the number blow 50, or else the DVR starts judging me.

Those of you with weak stomachs or an overly-developed sense of pity should look away.

1. Lost -- Maybe I haven't mentioned it, but I'm a fan...
2. The Office
3. Big Brother 9 -- So much better since they broke up the pairs. I've fallen in love again.
4. Heroes
5. 30 Rock
6. The Simpsons
7. My Name is Earl
8. Scrubs
9. House
10. Celebrity Apprentice -- So entertaining I can almost hardly eat my pineapple.
11. King of the Hill
12. Dancing with the Stars
13. Chuck
14. 24 - Yes, I know we're not getting any new episodes until next January. Do you want to be the one to tell Jack Bauer he's losing his slot?
15. South Park
16. The Sarah Silverman Program
17. Frisky Dingo
18. Venture Bros.
19. Survivor: Micronesia
20. Kitchen Nighmares
21. Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares -- Yes, I record the American and British versions.
22. Project Runway
23. How I Met Your Mother
24. The Daily Show
25. The Colbert Report
26. Reaper -- The new timeslot opposite Lost and Apprentice is seriously vexing me.
27. Shaq’s Big Challenge -- I haven't heard news of a second season, but I need to be ready.
28. American Gladiators
29. Mad Men
30. Breaking Bad
31. Burn Notice
32. Pushing Daisies -- I just realized how much I miss this show. Not coming back until September, either. I'll even take the narration, just to have the Pie Hole back.
33. Home Movies
34. Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace -- Sure, there are only six episodes, and I've already burned them to DVD. I'll stop recording them as soon as they stop cracking me up.
35. The Drinky Crow Show -- There's only a pilot so far, and the regular series doesn't start until 2009, but I'm supporting my guys.
36. Space Ghost: Coast to Coast -- This has been off the air for years, but every once in a blue moon, Adult Swim slips in a rerun. I don't want to miss it when that happens.
37. Reno 911!
38. Dirty Sexy Money
39. Hell’s Kitchen
40. Dirty Jobs
41. Carpoolers -- I suspect we've seen the last of this series, but it stays on this list until I have confirmation.
42. Top Chef -- For those of you paying attention, this is the fourth cooking show in the lineup. Apparently, I'm Bobby Hill.
43. Xavier: Renegade Angel -- I can't decide if this show is good or not. I'm not even sure if they're striving for insight or mocking such endeavors. I like the visual design and the philosophical wordplay, and I think it's funny, but I don't know if I'm laughing at the right things.
44. Bones -- A guilty pleasure, but it's generally pretty clever. Plus, Emily Deschanel is so darn pretty.
45. Saturday Night Live
46. Late Night with Conan O'Brien
47. Beauty and the Geek -- I do not care for this season's "Vs." format, but I'll give it some time. It is only a matter of time before I get the call from Swear Jar Buddy Lana, who will tell me which geek reminds her of me.

Manually Recorded:
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Flight of the Conchords
The Shield
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia -- I came in late on this one, but Don and Ben double-teamed me until I broke.
Aqua Teen Hunger Force -- This new season has been fantastic, by the way!
Lucy, Daughter of the Devil

You guys, I'm sick.

Monday, March 10, 2008

The All-Pilot Project: My Dad is Better than Your Dad

My Dad is Better than Your Dad
NBC, Monday

THE PREMISE: Apparently kids brag about the superiority of their dads? Is that something kids do? Whatever.

THE PERSONNEL: Hosted by fame barnacle Dan Cortese. For the life of me, I can’t remember what it is that he was famous for at one time. I remember an episode of Seinfeld, and I remember Burger King commercials. But there’s something he was famous for, right? Maybe he hosted something on MTV. At this point, Dan Cortese is the only one who can tell us what Dan Cortese is famous for.

THE REVIEW: This is one of those shows that vexes me, because I can’t figure out who the target audience could possibly be. Is this something kids would watch? I’m not certain that it is.

It’s kind of like an old Nickelodeon game show, actually. Little kids are paired with their fathers, who compete in various contests of strength, wits, and agility. And this means you get to enjoy the spectacle of grown men running around like idiots while their children scream at them to go faster. If it doesn’t make you die inside, then, my friend, you are already dead.

Even if your kid is a pretty decent kid overall, the moment they scream at you on national television to go faster and throw harder, they become an insufferable brat. I’ve got enough problems with people’s real-life bratty kids without having to deal with them on TV. And it seems to me that, as a parent, you have ceded a certain degree of your authority once you agree to participate in this contest. It’s just a weird dynamic, and I think it probably does more harm than good.

In addition to the physical challenges, there’s a round of kid-oriented trivia, only the dads have to answer the questions. The kids ring in if they think their father knows, but every kid rings in on every question. Kids don’t know anything about strategy. Also, their questions are easy and thus, boring.

Even more boring is the final round with the winning Dad answering trivia questions about his child. Minutiae are only interesting when related to people or things that interest me. I don’t care what some brat’s favorite food is. I’m sure it’s all adorable to people who actually know the kids on the show, but the rest of us are never going to care.

THE VERDICT: Man, did this suck. Boring and stupid, and it made me feel bad about the state of today’s youth and their parents. I’m just going to pretend it’s already cancelled, if nobody minds.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Whither TWOP?

--One of my favorite websites ever is Television Without Pity. I haven't been following it as psychotically as I used to, partly because of my work schedule, partly because I spend so much time writing about TV or reading my fellow spunkybean writers. I still check it on a regular basis, and I'll probably spend some serious time there over the summer.

Anyway, they got bought by Bravo last year, which really did work out well for all concerned. TWOP could afford to cover a much broader array of shows, and Bravo didn't seem to interfere editorially. Still, today it was announced that the founders are leaving the site. That makes me sad, and I don't know if there's more to the story or not. Sure, Sars, Wing Chun, and Glark didn't do all that much recapping, but they were such a strong editorial presence. (And does this mean no more Glarkware? I love Glarkware!)

I really hope there's not some sort of behind-the-scenes tension, but for all three to leave at once, it has to make you wonder. Regardless, I wish them the best and I have all the respect in the world for the way they turned a tiny little operation into one of the best entertainment sites on the Web.

--Speaking of, I've mentioned spunkybean about a hundred times now. And I really do feel badly about the way I've neglected the Swear Jar lately, but between the Writer's Strike and trying to contribute to two sites, it's been tough. Once Celebrity Apprentice wraps up, I'll have more time, as those recaps are seriously time-consuming.

Anyway, this spunkybean thing is really turning into something cool. Long-time blog buddies Mysterious Don and Myndi have been rocking their respective features, and there are all sorts of writers there who are doing really great work. It's just a great atmosphere of creative people with a nice variety of interests and styles. For my part, I've got weekly Lost analysis (and we can all agree that this season is awesome, right?) and the aformentioned Celebrity Apprentice. If you find me even vaguely amusing, you should read the Apprentice write-ups, as they're just about the most fun I have all week. And in a couple of weeks, Myndi and I will be tag-teaming Dancing with the Stars. Dude, Penn Jillette is going to be dancing! If that doesn't have you giggling already, you're dead inside.

--So, I haven't been doing the Big Brother Report this season. I'm still watching and marvelling at it, but I find so many of these people to be completely useless. Everybody appears to be either dumb, psychotic, and skanky. Breaking up the couples may help, since now there's individual strategy, rather than eliminating people who are saddles with awful partners.

I'd rather not even go into it, but if you do any research on Joshuah, you will be disturbed. This dude's got all sorts of stuff going on. Seriously, you're probably better off taking my word for it than opening that Pandora's box.

--We've established that I'm no fan of Survivor host Jeff Probst. He's gradually gone from "smarmy" to "butthole". This season, the guy's been unbearable. First off, he's totally biased toward the Favorites. I think he assumes that they're all buddies. Also, you can tell he would really rather the show just be about dudes hitting each other. He's awfully contemptuous of the women. Dude's always kind of surprised when women are able to affect the game. And I am so tired of him trying to influence votes at Tribal Council. Even the Chenbot doesn't pull that crap.

I think he pushed me over the edge this week when he excitedly announced the specifics of the injuries incurred during the reward challenge. And seriously, who designed that? People pulling each by ropes through a thicket of logs? The only way to make that more dangerous is to have people shooting at them. They're lucky nobody got a concussion, really. Way to go Probst, injuries are awesome!

--But on a happier note, John from Cincinnati comes out on DVD on April 1. It makes me sad to think that it will be labelled "The Complete Series" rather than "The Complete First Season", but we have to take what we can get. I am going to watch the hell out of that set!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Slideshow! This Blog's in it!

--I'm late to the party on this one, but I've just realized that Frisky Dingo might be the greatest thing ever. When Adult Swim is on, man, are they on. This might actually be challenging Venture Bros. for the top spot in my heart, and I feel a little dirty saying that. It's ostensibly a superhero series, only there isn't really any action. There's a villain who wants to destroy the world on a budget, and a billionaire superhero, but they spend most of their time getting forced into sweatshops or hanging out in the emergency room. And in the second season, running for President. It's absolutely absurd and hilarious and I love it so much. I love the insanely complicated plotting, as well as the way they're willing to just bail on a plot when it outlives its usefulness. The first season is coming out on DVD this month, and you need to buy it and watch it and then write to me so we can talk about it.

--Only one episode left for The Wire. I'm just crushed to think that there won't be a happy ending. Of couse, it wouldn't be true to the series if it were. Still, I want some of my guys to head off into the sunset with a win under their belts. I'm just devastated for Lester to see how his case is going to fall apart. McNulty, much as I love the guy, is a self-serving prick who revels in his own bad decisions. Lester is a good man whose only mistake was getting too emotionally involved with the case. The one bright spot for me is that Bubbles looks like he might be clean for good now. If something happens to him in the finale, I will absolutely lose my mind.

The worst part about The Wire ending is that there are more stories to tell. At some point, the story of Lost will be told, and the book will close. There isn't an end to The Wire. Sure, some of them won't live to see another day, and some of them will be swept under the rug and forgotten. But Bunk's going to work another murder, and another one after that. If Lester manages to keep his career, he's going to keep on building cases. Bubbles is going to have to fight to stay clean for the rest of his life. Prez will keep fighting the good fight in the schools. It doesn't have to be over.

Between Homicide, The Corner, and The Wire, I've spent 15 years in David Simon's version of Baltimore. That's more time than I spent in Deadwood, Stars Hollow, the newsroom at WNYX, or even Arlen, Texas. It's weird to think about how it's coming to an end.

--Seriously, if you're not watching Breaking Bad, you're missing out. I'm still kind of torn up from last night's episode, so I'll get into it later. You're also missing out if you're not reading spunkybean, because it's awesome. More than 500 readers on my last Lost write-up, which I suspect means that Mysterious Don was sending out mass e-mails that promised hot girl-on-girl action. Read it so you'll understand all of my new comedy catchphrases. I can almost hardly eat my pineapple, after all.