Thursday, December 31, 2009

Top 50 films of the decade

My list:
1. City of God, Fernando Meirelles (02)- Alexandre Rodriguez, Leandro Firmino, Phellipe Haggensen
2. Gladiator, Ridley Scott (00) Russell Crowe, Djimon Hotsou, Joaquin Pheonix, Richard Harris, Connie Nielsen
3. Seabiscuit, Gary Ross (03) Tobey Maguire, Chris Cooper, Jeff Bridges, William H. Macy, Elizabeth Banks
4. Little Miss Sunshine, Valerie Harris and Johnothan Dayton (06) Alan Arkin, Toni Collette, Greg Kinnear, Paul Dano, Steve Carrell, Abigail Breslin
5. Cold Mountain, Anthony Minghellia (03) Jude Law, Nicole Kidman, Rene Zellweger, Brendan Gleasson, Jack White, Ethan Suplee, Giovanni Ribisi, Natalie Portman, Phillip Seymour Hoffman
6. Gangs of New York, Martin Scorsese (02) Leo DiCaprio, Brendan Gleason, Cameron Diaz, Daniel Day-Lewis, Liam Niesson, John C. Reilly
7. Gran Torino, Clint Eastwood (08) Clint Eastwood, Bee Vang, Auhney Hor
8. Wonderboys, Curtis Hanson (00) Michael Douglas, Tobey Maguire, Rob Downey Jr., Frances McDormand, Katie Homes, Rip Torn
9. Royal Tannenbaums, Wes Anderson (01) Ben Stiller, Luke Wilson, Gwenyth Paltrow, Gene Hackman, Owen Wilson, Danny Glover, Anjelica Huston, Bill Murray
10. Slumdog Millionaire, Danny Boyle (08) Dev Patel, Frida Pinto, Anil Kapoor
11. Blood Diamond, Ed Zwick (06) Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Connelly, Djimon Hotsou, Arnold Vosloo
12. Pirates of the Carribean, Gore Verbinski (03) Jonny Depp, Geoffery Rush, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightly, Jonothan Pryce, Jack Davenport
13. Departed, Martin Scorsesee (06) Leo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Alec Baldwin, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, Vera Farminga, Ray Winstone
14. Life Aquatic, Wes Anderson (04) Bill Murray, Anjelica Huston, Owen Wilson, Cate Blanchett, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Michael Gambon
15. New World, Terrence Malick (05)-Colin Farrell, Christian Bale, Quiriana Kilcher, Christopher Plummer, Noah Taylor
16. Last Samurai, Ed Zwick (03)-Tom Cruise, Ken Watanabe, Koyuki, Billy Connelly
17. 3:10 to Yuma, James Mangold (07)-Christian Bale, Russell Crowe, Ben Foster, Alan Tudyk, Gretchen Mol, Peter Fonda
18. Michael Clayton, Tony Gileroy (07)- George Clooney, Tilda Swinton, Tom Wilkinson, Sidney Pollack
19. Sideways, Alexander Payne (04) - Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church, Virginia Madsen, Sandrah Oh
20. Road to Perdition, Sam Mendes (02)-Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jude Law, Daniel Craig, Tyler Hoechlin
21. The Aviator, Martin Scorsesee (04)-Leonardo DiCaprio, Alec Baldwin, Cate Blanchett, Kate Beckinsdale, John C Reilly, Ian Holm, Alan Alda, Gwen Stefani
22. Frost/Nixon, Ron Howard (08)- Frank Langella, Michael Sheen, Oliver Platt, Sam Rockwell, Kevin Bacon, Rebecca Hall, Tobey Jones
23. Catch Me If You Can, Stephen Spielberg (02) - Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, Christopher Walken, Martin Sheen, Amy Adams, Jennifer Garner
24. Almost Famous, Cameron Crowe (00) - Patrick Fugit, Frances McDormand, Zoe Deschannel, Kate Hudson, Jason Lee, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Jimmy Fallon
25. Wall-E, Andrew Staunton (08) - Ben Burtt, Sigourney Weaver, John Ratzenberger
26. Master and Commander, Paul and Chris Weicz (03) - Russell Crowe, Paul Bettany
27. X-Men 2, Bryan Singer (03) - Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellan, Famke Jameson, James Marsden, Anna Paquin, Halle Berry, Rebecca Rojmain, Brian Cox, Kelly Hu, Shawn Ashmore
28. Ghost World, Thora Birch (01)- Thora Birch, Scarlett Johannsen, Steve Buscemi, Bob Balaban, Illieana Douglas
29. Hollywoodland, Allan Coulter (05)-Ben Affleck, Dianne Lane, Adrian Brody, Robyn Tuney, Bob Hoskins
30. House of Sand and Fog, Vladim Perelman (03)-Jennifer Connelly, Ben Kinglsey, Ron Eldard, Shoreh Aghdoshloo, Johnothan Ahdout
31. About a Boy, Paul and Chris Weicz (02) - Hugh Grant, Rachel Weicz, Toni Collette, Nicholas Hoult
32. Up in the Air, Jason Reitman (09)- George Clooney, Vera Farminga, Anna Kendrick, Melanie Lynskey, Danny McBride, Amy Morton, Jason Bateman
33. Prairie Home Companion, Rob Altman (06)- Garrison Kiellor, Meryl Streep, Lilly Tomlin, Virginia Madsen, Tommy Lee Jones, Kevin Klein, Woody Harrelson, John C Reilly, Lindsay Lohan, Maya Rudolph
34. Oh Brother Where Art Thou, Joel and Ethan Coen (00)- George Clooney, Tim Blake Nelson, John Turturro, Holly Hunter, Stephen Root, John Goodman, Chris Thomas King
35. Anchorman, Adam McKay (04)- Will Ferrell, Paul Rudd, David Koechner, Steve Carrell, Chris Parnell, Christina Applegate, Vince Vaughn
36. Dreamgirls, Bill Condon (06)- Jamie Foxx, Beyoncee Knowles, Eddie Murphy, Anika Rose Cairo, Jennifer Hudson
37. Finding Nemo, Andrew Staunton (03)- Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, Geoffery Rush
38. 25th Hour, Spike Lee (02)- Ed Norton, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Barry Pepper, Rosario Dawson, Brian Cox, Anna Paquin
39. Sunshine State, John Sayles (02)- Angela Bassett, Edie Falco, Mary Steenburgen, Timothy Hutton, Alan King, Jane Alexander, Clifton James, Amanda Wing, Miguel Ferrer
40. Manchurian Candidate, Johnothan Demme (04)- Denzel Washington, Meryl Streep, Liev Schreiber, Jon Voight, Vera Farminga, Kimberly Elise, Jeffrey Wright
41. Burn After Reading, Joel and Ethan Coen (08)- Brad Pitt, Frances McDormand, George Clooney, Tilda Swinton, John Malkovitch, J.K. Simmons, Richard Jenkins
42. Junebug, Phil Morrison (05)- Allesandro Nivola, Embeth Davitz, Amy Adams, Ben MacKenzie, Celia Weston
43. Doubt, John Patrick Shaney (08)- Meryl Streep, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, Viola Davis, Scott Wilson
44. Up, Peter Dreco (09)- Ed Asner, Christopher Plummer, Jordan Nagai
45. Great Debaters, Denzel Washington (08) - Denzel Washington, Forrest Whitaker, Denzel Whitaker, Nate Parker, Jurnee Smullett
46. Lost in Translation, Sophia Coppola (03) - Bill Murray, Scarlett Johannsen, Giovanni Ribisi, Anna Faris
47. Stephen Soderbergh, Good German (06) - George Clooney, Tobey MaGuire, Cate Blanchett, Leland Oser, Beau Bridges
48. Finding Neverland, Marc Forrester (04) - Jonny Depp, Kate Winslet, Freddy Highmore, Julie Christie, Dustin Hoffman, Radha Mitchell, McKenzie Crook
49. Be Kind Rewind, Michael Gondry (08) - Jack Black, Mos Def, Danny Glover, Muriel Hemmingway
50. A Mighty Wind, Chris Guest (03) - Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, Christopher Guest, Eugene Levy, Catherine O'Hara, Parker Posey, Bob Balaban, Jane Lynch, John Michael Higgins, Christopher Moynihan, Ed Begley Jr., Paul Dooley, Fred Willard

Judging best directors in the off-years

A quick informal post judging the merit of directors who got nominated for directorial nods without a Best Picture Oscar Nomination:

1998-Peter Weir: The Truman Show-I tend to think of Weir's strength as delicately structured epics with sweeping visuals. "The Truman Show" was certainly a shift for Weir but he's a great director, brought great performances in his cast, and this is one of the best films of 1998 period. With snubs for Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Supporting Actress, I'm glad this film got rewarded somewhere.
Grade: B+

1999-Spike Jonze: Being John Malkovich is more of a Charlie Kaufman film than a Spike Jonze film. This was earlier in Kaufman's career, so the Academy probably wasn't aware that Kaufman was the genius who made it happen. It's also unfortunate that Frank Darabont got snubbed here for a film that's still highly regarded and when one considers that he also got snubbed for "The Shawshank Redemption." If they were going to snub "Green Mile", I would have preferred the Academy have gone with "Talented Mr. Ripley" and Anthony Minghella.
Grade: C-

2000-Stephen Daldry: Billy Elliot- I'm not too opposed to Lasse Holstrom getting snubbed since he got nominated the year prior and "Chocolat" is very much Oscar-bait film of the least deserved BP nom of the decade. But why Daldry? Rob Zemeckis, who's always quite innovative even if he's not recognized very widely for it, made "Cast Away" ring with great intensity despite the fact that it was a one man show. Cameron Crowe made a very personal picture in "Almost Famous" as well. The Oscars love Daldry as evidenced by "Hours" and "The Reader"'s accolades. On the other hand, "Billy Elliott" wasn't yet at a point where Daldry started getting overly sappy.
Grade: C+

2001-David Lynch: Mulholland Drive and Ridley Scott: Black Hawk Down: Both great directors who deserve nods so no complaints here. Still, it's too bad Todd Fields wasn't nominated for "In the Bedroom."
Grade: A-

2002-Pedro Almodovar: Talk to Her: This nod baffles me the most. First, I would have thought foreign film enthusiasts might have gravitated toward Alfonso Cuaron's "Y Tu Mama Tambien" or "Monsoon Wedding" or at the very least, there would have been a foreign film bote split. However, Alexander Payne, who was 3 for 3 with critical hits at the time, however should have been a strong contender for a directorial nomination, Then there's Todd Haynes' Sirk send-up "Far From Heaven", Sam Mendes' "Road to Peridtion" or critical darling Spike Jonze's juggling of two Nicholas Cages with a great ensemble in "Adaptation" and Alfanso Cuaron himself. I might be able to imagine Pedro Almodovar's body of work being rewarded but it was such a competitive year. The nomi
Grade: B

2003-Fernando Meirelles truly deserves a nomination but I was just baffled by the year in which it came. "City of God" was nominated for the Golden Globes, a BAFTA and the Broadcast Film Socety in 2002. How many voters would even assume it was still eligible the following year?
Grade: B+

2004-Mike Leigh already had a nomination for "Secrets and Lies" and while "Vera Drake" had a deserving accolade it seemed like not much more than a biopic. In the meantime, Bill Condon (Kinsey), Michael Mann (Collateral) or Mike Nichols (who's Closer was somewhat of a comeback) were waiting in the wings
Grade: D

2006-Paul Greengrass: United 93: This was was a pretty good pick for the alternate slot since he's Australian (not exclusively foreign-language), chopped his teeth with the Bourne Supremacy and made a hit picture out of an ensemble (not a single star in the United 93 cast)
Grade: B+

2007-"Julian Schnabel for the Diving Bell and the Butterfly": Another instance in the 2000's where the last slot went to a foreign director. This is a fairly good entry for a genre that's vastly overrewarded (see: "My Left Foot", "The Sea Inside", "Elephant Man", "I Am Sam"). There were a few other directors like Sidney Lumet, Ridley Scott, and  Tim Burton who would have been nice to see in this category as opposed to Schnabel who was essentially a newbie.
Grade: B-

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Being familiar with old music vs. old movies

This is a great article:
Also, great articles can be found here so please click (which gives me my revenue):

The article is by Paul Shirley. If no one knows who he is, he spent the last 6 or 7 years on 15 different professional basketball temas ranging from defunct minor league basketball teams in Bismark, North Dakota and Idaho to Siberia, Greece, and 3 or 4 s...tints on professional basketball teams as the 12th man where he's scored a total of 37 pointsin his entire career. he started blogging from the bench out of boredom about 4 years ago and became an instant internet sensation and has his own best-selling book about being on the fringes of fame. anyway, that's a long intro and he's not talking about basketball, but check out paul shirley sometime for some interesting reading.

In the above-mentioned article he talks about music (he's been writing about that a lot lately) and makes the case that the Beatles can't possibly be experienced by today's generation the same way as it was for people who grew up during that time, simply because we didn't experience it historically. He says that therefore: "I understand that The Beatles are culturally significant and important in the historical progression of rock music. And I understand that they're talented. But unless you were locked in a time capsule like Brendan Fraser in "Blast From the Past," they cannot be your favorite band. If you're younger than 50 and you do make such a claim, you're either (A) trying to impress someone with what you think will be received as good taste, or (B) woefully behind in your consumption of music. If it's A, I'm disappointed in you. If it's B, there's hope -- we only have to help you find the good stuff"

I think this is absolutely true. One example that comes to mind is that a lot of people in the 7th grade went through a sudden Beatles phase because the "cool kids" liked the Beatles and 7th grade is a most contagious time for peer pressure. I think with music, it is culturally unacceptable to be unfamiliar with a number of bands that have been around since before we were born. I didn't know who Niel Young was once when I was about 20 and people found that very strange. A couple years later I got blank stares from my friends when I expressed to them as we came across the Val Kilmer biobic "The Doors" on TV, that I had no idea who that band was. In the meantime, I am moderately sure I have never listened to anything by the Rolling Stones, if only by accident and I know only a handful of songs by Bob Dylan, mostly through the TV or music soundtracks they have appeared on. In the meantime, my head is full with bands that are currently on the radio.

At the same time, I think with movies it's the exact opposite. There's absolutely no shame in not seeing any film before 1970 and most people are very loosely familiar with films before 1960. I wonder why that is.

Top ten tv shows of the year

1. It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, FX-No comedy had me flat-out marvelling at the directions it dared to take their characters. Although it's been five seasons, the show has really hit its stride and what I love is that it seems like the characters have evolved and the writing has gotten even better. You could take practically 75% of the scenes and set them alone as comic set pieces which would be funnier than most skits on SNL. The show's characters have truly become fleshed-out and differentiated from each other at this point, yet they all share that singular humor that makes them so off-center from the rest of the world. It's like these guys are Abbott and anyone who comes into their circle of insanity is Costello.

2. In Treatment, HBO-The raw drama, the power of the performances, the insight into the human psyche is, to quote Shawn Stockman on NBC' The Sing-Off (and if you saw his critique of Committed on that show you'd know what I was talking about), "What it's all about, man." The root of what makes drama good is right here. There's nothing but a room, a couch and a chair with a patient who we slowly learn about as the weeks go on and a psychiatrist who's pretty damn good at his job. More specifically, we're watching a guy who's pretty damn good at his job go to work in four out of every five episodes. On every 5th episode, we learn how much of a basket case he is when he visits a psychiatrist of his own (Editorial note: I have restrained myself from watching the "Paul goes to therapy" episodes because I find it ruins the illusion).

3. The Office, NBC-The first half of season 4 once Ryan got fired and Pam and Jim started becoming more insular in coupledom was somewhat disappointing, but the writers took us for a massive twist or two that threatened to destroy the safe confines the sitcom had built up for four years. Michael quits the company and competes against his own business and hires Ryan and Pam. It was both an entirely game-changing development in the Office universe and also one that stayed as true to the characters as we come to expect from a show that creates such a sesne of realism. The show was also improved by the addition of three great additions: Idris Elba, Amy Ryan and Ellie Kemper as guest stars (the third now a permanent cast member).

4. Breaking Bad, AMC-Holy crap, this show really became intense in the second season. The show erased any moral limits to Walter White and while it might not be realistic (although the show tries within limits to make moral decay realistic), there is a palpable sense of suspense over how far removed from his original moral center White will get. In the meantime, Jessie has become a voice of reason and the uneasy alliance between the high school dropout and his former teacher really has taken on another dimension of instability. Beautifully shot backdrops, drugs, violence, sex, and lots of high school chemistry, what more could you ask?

5. Better off Ted, ABC-Very few shows get as good mileage out of just five characters and that's all the more impressive when you consider that they fit into such classic stock conventions: the straight leading man, the two bickering nerds, the beautiful girl-next-door whose free-spirited personality often tips the scales towards looniness, and the sexually threatening boss without a conscience. Maybe that boss figure (Portia de Rossi) truly is an original with the way she can say the most inhumane things with a wink and a smile. Better off Ted, technically in its second season, is a workplace comedy that satirizes the nonsensical social norms and mores of the modern workplace better than anything I've seen in a while

6. Glee, Fox-Like an old MGM musical where you're just as intrigued by the dance numbers as you are by the story, Glee has some fantastic song-and-dance numbers that make hypocrites out of us all for going gaga over the show's mp3 downloads when we were being so condescending to our younger cousins and siblings when they did so with High School Musical. The characters are also absurdly caricatured but real enough to keep us tuned in. Some acknowledge that Glee is kind of weak on consistency and stretches believability but the show is widely watched and spurs a lot of water cooler talk, a lot of which centers on just how to interpret the show and its flaws therein. The bottom line is that it's entered the cultural conversation.

7. Royal Pains, USA-There are a million shows about doctors on TV but this is the only one that intrigued me enough to watch in the first place and there was a lot to keep me going once that happened. In the same way that something like Touched by an Angel and Joan of Arcadia serves as entertainment that reaffirms our faith in the world, there's something in Royal Pains that also does that in a very topical way. In the midst of this health care debate, Hank symbolizes what we all need: A doctor who is fully committed to doing good and is willing to put his career on the line for it. Hank is insistent on treating people whether they can pay for it or not despite the musings of his accountant brother who is concerned about the bottom line. The show paints its characters in pretty broad strokes (Hank's medical assistant is part of that glamorous world with her exotic accent and expensive dresses) but it's somewhat satirical of that world as well.

8. Dollhouse, FOX-Joss Wheedon's appeal at creating thought-provoking feminist dramas shines once again in his latest series which takes us into a futuristic world where Eliza Dushku is one of several vagabonds who signed away their free will to a shady underworld company that practices its own rules of ethics. The show features a arcing storyling in the style of Lost but the episodes also stand alone well. Bonus points for the casting of Rushmore's Olivia Williiams.

9. Flight of the Conchords, HBO-This New Zealand import wrapped up its second (and possibly last) season just in time for me to stumble upon this gem. Because both styles of comedy center around the pathos of the mundane, Flight of the Conchords initially struck me as a Ricky Gervaise comedy (particularly Extras) with songs. However, the show grew on me rapidly for its unique spin on the regular-guys-eeking-it-out-en-route-to-stardom premise: Flight of the Conchords is about two guys who are successfully being deluded by the people around them into thinking that their sad, aimless existence is actually some micro-form of stardom. Compliments for pulling of this premise hillariously go to the deluders: Rhys Darby as their clueless pushpin manager and Wendy Schaal as the borderline psychotic fanbase of one.

10. Sit Down Shut Up, FOX-The show from Mitch Hurwitz started out terribly, but really found its strides in its "second season" (technically, this was just the network burning off the remaining nine episodes of the first season). Whatever problems the show had, it had a great cast that never let the show down and created interesting characters out of the lines that were given to them. The basis of any good comedy is good characters and Sit Down Shut Up had that base so when the plots were clicking (as what happened more often in the season's second half) the show really came on fire. I also loved how unapologetic the show was about never involving the students into the picture.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Top 40 TV shows of the decade

I'm sorry, I haven't been posting much. Recently, I started realizing that I have to be consistent with all the things I could do and that i can't slack off. I should be able to put at least 5 posts a month on here. So here's post #1.

40 Best TV shows of the decade. This is one of those things where I see a list somewhere else and feel a need to imitate it. In this case it was the AV Club's list followed by Alan Speinwall's list and EW's list.

Here's my opinion of what have been the most significant and well-received shows of the decade. It's not my opinion of what's been the best. Shows that came really late or really early in the decade don't count here.
1. Wire, HBO-I've never seen it but all the other lists say it's the best show of the decade and the best thing since sliced bread. And a show exploring the issues of drugs and Baltimore sounds a lot more intriguing than that other show I've never seen that's considered the best thing of the decade as well....
2. Sopranos, HBO-Never seen it. Doesn't even sound intriguing. Like that SNL parody points out, Sopranos is too critically loved to death for me to put it anywhere else
3. Deadwood, HBO-Just like MASH was based on a Rob Altman movie that turned the war genre upside down, I feel like Deadwood is the successor to Altman's 1971 masterpiece McCabe and Mrs. Miller. Kind of an improved version of that film.
4. Arrested Development, FOX-It is truly a blessing that now everyone loves AD. There are a number of great series this decade but no other show had such intricate layers of humor, a cast that we'd grow to love so much and root for in their future careers, and moments of warmth that are given with an ironic wink because we know that this temporary happy ending is going to fall apart so quickly.
5. Lost, ABC-Added points for influencing other shows such as Heroes and Flash Foward
6. Office, BBC-Doesn't compare with the American version in terms of quantity, but it rarely ever missed a note.
7. Colbert Report, Comedy Central-People criticized me for not adding the daily show if I'm adding this, but Colbert is playing a character so this is a fictional TV show.
8. Mad Men, AMC-Revisionist 60's series treats the decade as a pretty hellish place to live if you're female or a minority. Don and Peggy are really the only two characters that give me reason to anxiously tune into this series. They're the heart of the show. There's also the appeal of watching the masters of spin in action as they take on a client's mundane product and turn it into something appealling before your very eyes.
9. 24, Fox-It's just a matter of watching it yourself and seeing how intense it is in a way that spells quality.
10. The Office, NBC-The last season in which Michael Scott quit and started a rival company (among other things) shows that the writers room isn't one of laziness. When things get dull, the writers have the ability to take these very real characters and take them in unlikely directions. They pull it off in flying colors.
11. Tudors, Showtime-John Rhys-Meyers has long been a star in the making. It was quite an epiphany to whomever noticed that all the scandals in the Tudor Dynasty of England would make for a sexy cable series
12. Battlestar Gallactica, Sci-Fi-Created by a Star Trek scribe who was responsible for the intricacies of DS9 and who quit Voyager. Battlestar Gallactica took the possibilities that sci-fi had to offer and gave it to a larger audience.
13. Practice/Boston Legal, ABC-I've never seen the Practice but my understanding is BL spun off from the Practice, so I'll place them both here. Just like Aaron Sorkin, David E Kelly has a unique style that has it's appeal.
14. 30 Rock, NBC-If nothing else, when the show's characters start to get sloppy, 30 Rock never lets the brilliant level of dialogue slip. The show's jokes are so well-crafted that you want to stop and dissect them before moving onto the next one. The cast is excellent in Tracy Morgan, Jane Krakowski and Alec Baldwin and while some complained that in season 3, they became a little sloppier, the actors have always been excellent.
15. Damages, FX-I hear it's comparable to the Sopranos. Never watched it
16. Breaking Bad, AMC-The photography is amazing. The premise was a winner from the start and the show occurs at a pace that keeps you glued in through the whole hour. And that was before things started to get really interesting and really messy. The show keeps you at the very edge of what might be plausible for this man to descend to.
17. Desperate Housewives, ABC-There are a number of female-audience centered shows that have hit it big this decade and in distinguishing from fluff (i.e. Grey's Anatomy) verses something like Desperate Housewives, the latter doesn't aim to sensationalize. Desperate Housewives aims for quality.
18. Firefly, Fox-The western meets sci-fi had a cast of characters that enjoyed relatively good post-sitcom success and a fanbase that spurned a movie.
19. CSI, CBS- How many other shows have sparked people to choose their college major. CSI has coincided with a rise in forensics science majors all over the country. It's got good ratings largely because it's not dependent upon continuity but that's not necessarily a bad thing.
20. Futurama, Fox- I used to think Family Guy was the definitive animated show of the decade but I think it's declined in recent seasons and hurt its legacy, whereas Futurama won't yet have the opportunity to ruin its legacy until next season so it's a toss-up. Futurama is infectious. Groening has stated that as a kid who used to draw spaceships and futuristic contraptions in class and now he can't believe he's getting away with it. The fun of using the future as a playground for Greoning's wacky ideas is very easy to join in on.
21. House, Fox-I tended to think of House as the Ray of TV. Starring Jamie Foxx, Ray coasted to a best picture nomination solely on the basis of the lead actor's performance. Over time, House has developed a supporting cast to the point where it's not just about House and that's quite a strength that Hugh Laurie doesn't jsut overshadow the cast.
22. Pushing Daisies, ABC-The tone of the series was truly unique. It was a world you wanted to live in. It was also quite a creative achievement that although the pie maker had the power to solve all murder myteries in 60 seconds, no caper was ever that simple.
23. West Wing, NBC-Sorkin also had Studio 60 which was a fairly admirable failure
24. Everybody Loves Raymond, CBS- I feel like it's less pretentious and snotty than Curb Your Enthusiasm and if I had to pick a traditional tv sitcom that aged well into this new era of handheld camera comedies, it would be this one. I also didn't feel it started getting popular until halfway through its run as the ensemble chemistry started to gel
25. Flight of the Concords, HBO-Like Glee (which would've made the list if it came out a season or two earlier), the music is part of the fun.

26. Big Love, HBO-An intimate look at a corner of society that's certainly frowned upon.
27. Extras, HBO-Poignant and poetic, it certainly picked up steam in the second season with the true moral of the series: once you get fame, it's no picnic either, if you can't still be an artist
28. Friday Night Lights, NBC-I'm not much of a football fan (even fictional football) so I haven't watched this but I keep hearing it's quite good. It's placement on this list is a rough estimate. It's high on critical acclaim and low on cultural buzz.
29. Prison Break, FOX-Certainly one that I've been addicted to. When you think about it, Wentworth Miller ins't that charismatic of a lead but maybe that's kind of the point.
30. Family Guy, Fox-Unapologetically disjointed and unabashadly hillarious most of the time, Family Guy has its fans and detractors. One can't argue that their fans have been effective, since it's come back from the dead twice. Personally, I'm a fan
31. How I Met Your Mother, CBS-This decade's equivalent of Friends.
32. Six Feet Under, HBO-Don't get much HBO so I haven't seen it. In my first draft of this list, the omission of this drew the most protests.
33. Joan of Arcadia, CBS-Touched by an Angel meets the high school melodrama. For the first year, it was both acclaimed and popular and it featured two vets in Mary Steenburgen and Jason Mantenga doing good work.
34. Heroes, NBC-As far as I can remember, I don't remember sci-fi ever becoming so mainstream as when Heroes took over the waves it's first season. Comics often try to portray their heroes as ordinary Joes, but this really resonated in that respect.
35. Monk, USA-Inspired a number of copy-offs from USA. One criticism is it's a little too safe but it infused comedy into the murder mystery genre in a way that consistently worked week-in and week-out. The chemistry between Monk and Sharona followed by Monk and Natalie was also one of the best couples on TV.
36. My Name is Earl, Fox-Jamie Pressley, Nadine Vasquez, and Ethan Suplee had some of the most memorable supporting roles I can remember in this allegorical series of a lowlife trying to make good. There was something uplifting about this series that made it grow on me. One of the high points of NBC's schedule for a good four seasons.
37. Curb Your Enthusiasm, HBO-Although, I personally hate it
38. South Park, Comedy Central-It started in the 90's and while it's crude, it's become very relevant in pop culture the way the Simpsons was in the 90's. It is an equal-opportunity offender and offends in a way that shows that while its creators might be rediculously immature, they have their pulse on the zitgeist and know how to exploit it
39. Weeds, Showtime-It can be unpleasantly dark in the way American Beauty was, but it's earned accolades for a great cast and the show knows how to build suspense
40. SNL, NBC-It had it's good years and bad years and while the Bad Boys came out of the early 90's, there's the case to be made that there was a more solid chemistry to the cast in this decade
Let me see if I can make it all the way to 50:
41. Ugly Betty, ABC-Definitely a chick-flick of a TV show but one that has more cross-gender appeal than say, Sex in the City. Like Pushing Daisies it definitely has a unique surreal tone it establishes. It also is a celebration of multiculturalism and deals with issues of illegal immigration, preteen homosexuality and more without ever making an issue of any of those things.
42. Malcolm in the Middle, Fox-The family sitcom on crack. A precursor to shows like Grounded for Life, Everybody Hates Chris, The Bernie Mac Show (even though it only predates that show by 2 years, I believe) or American Dad
43. It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, FX-A personal favorite of mine.
44. In Treatment, HBO-Gabriel Bryne stars as a shrink who needs one of his own. The series focuses on interactions between Bryne and four of his patients as well as the doctor with his own head doctor.
45. Veronica Mars, UPN-A Nancy Drewish series with heavier plots that was a perfect fit for UPN.
46. Studio 60, NBC-A very noble failure featuring some of the best actors assembled for one show. The show's biggest flaw was that the writing was too idiosynchratic and the characters all sounded alike, but the show had it a certain electricity to it that made it so effortlessly watchable at times.

Friday, November 13, 2009

30 Rock back episodes: Audition Day and Stone Mountain

Audition Day A

This show was just cooky anarchy as Tracy and Jenna were recuriting gay and black people off the street, Brian Williams got in on the act, and more hijinks ensued. It was one single premise pushed to extremes: Open the auditions to one new person and the flodgates will come breaking open and they pushed it to extremes. It showed some of the brilliance the show was known for to keep holding our laughter and slowly remove us from reality as the show got more insane. The show also ended on the right twist.

Stone Mountain A-
Tracy was just the kind of off-the-wall bizarre plot that showed the ever-so-slight semblance to something in reality so that it plays on our perceptions of how celebrities might act. It's classic 30 Rock. It shows one character being a complete nut job but slowly reveals to him existing in a universe where other people in his world are equally as nutty. Betty White and Fallon are just as crazy as he is. That was great.

I thought the Liz and Jack plot was kind of the territory where some sort of moral argument or theme is presented through the disagreement between the two. The theme this week is whether such a thing as the real America exists in small towns: Usually it's the opposite where Jack is the cynic which I thought was a good change. Not as funny, and some of the gimmicks fell-flat, but it was a well-developed plot. Usually, the plots aren't that well-developed anyways.

The Jenna plot was the weakest of the three but not that bad. Reminded me too much of Parks and Recreations in that it was just a Halloween episode. It did give Lutz, Twofer, and Frank something to do. By the way: Why is Frank a full-on cast member and his partners-in-crime are just guest stars?

Community Backlog: Home Economics and Statistics

Home Economics B+

Pierce trying to mingle with the young people as a savant of sorts is mildly amusing, you have to admit. Again, the plot wasn’t too Jeff-Britta heavy and when it was it wasn’t even a will-they or won’t-they issue, although it was funny how Abed approached it so directly. You also saw Jeff just plain hit rock-bottom.

Annie is one of the brighter characters and in my opinion, the potential breakout star (being good-looking never hurts, after all). If the Troy-Annie subplot wasn’t working on all cylinders, the show manages to make up for it with a genuinely sweet and heartfelt ending that’s capable of surprising you. I’ve lately been concluding that the thing that saves this show from its corny jokes and somewhat forced set-ups between characters is the last two or three minutes from the show. In the endings that strike just the right balance between the happy and sad. These characters’ happy endings aren’t so much everything working out for them but them accepting their lot and making the best out of the situation. In this episode, Annie didn’t have the guts just yet to announce her love to Troy in a dramatic fashion.

Intro to Statistics: B-
I think the show was slowly building up in the last two weeks towards a level of comfort but this week had too many moments that made me cringe.
I think everyone will have their own list of characters they like and dislike. Personally, I find Sherri very stereotypical and that makes her the weak link of the ensemble. Her link to being divorced and hating Jeff’s new prospective girlfriend was far-fetched for me.

We've already established Jeff reluctantly likes the college a little and the people in the group. Is he going to go on a tirade every week and try to disown his group of friends only to realize in a sappy ending that they're not that bad after all? I know the episodes have aired a little out of order, but it seems like a step backwards.

Still, the episode had a good Senor Chang moment.

Community: Intro to Debate

Intro to Debate…B-

Of the three sub-plots this week, none of them entirely worked out for me so it’s hard to put this anywhere north of the B range. However, the plots collectively the episode had enough moments to invoke a general feeling of gooey goodness in me by episode's end. A lot of it came down to the climax of the debate where the hot shot debater in the wheelchair does something completely unexpected to seemingly win the debate until Annie does something even more unexpected to really win the debate and tie up the B-plot nicely. Tying plot points together in a Seinfeldesque manner like that is always impressive enough to at least partially redeem an episode's lackluster plotting.

In the A-plot, Dean Pelton wants the debate team to do well and Jeff is seen as a prime candidate. He offers a carrot on a stick of sorts to get him to join. This plot’s been used before two or three times but maybe it’s the show’s go-to-move and I’m not supposed to dock it points for unoriginality. Annie wanting to be popular again convinces Jeff to put more effort into what he’s doing. It’s a redo of the episode where Annie bawls her eyes out to get Jeff to attend her Halloween party.

As for the B-plot, I would think it's a little early in the series for Abed’s meta-textual gags to work. Besides, where is he getting the free time and actors to create another TV show? The B-story ties into the A-story because Abed has a strange ability to predict the future and he predicts that Shirley will be chased by a werewolf and that Jeff and Annie will make out. Jeff and Annie start feeling (strangely) unexplained chemistry (kind of abrupt, since they've had zero up to this point). The A.V. Club’s review says that the sudden falling-in-love scene was supposed to be mocking the convention of how the librarian starts becoming sexy once she lets her hair out. Not buying it. The chemistry becomes hastily explained by Shirley telling this week’s will-they-won’t-they pair about Abed’s prediction.

The problems with the debate scenes themselves is symptomatic of one of the show’s main problems: Painted in too broad a stroke. The theme of the debate-within-a-show (that occupies a little too much screen time, in my opinion, btw) is whether man good or evil.

Lastly, the C-story is about Britta trying to quit cigarettes and Pierce volunteering to hypnotize her out of it. I might have missed this: Was he claiming to be an amateur psychologist in addition to being a toastmaster, keyboardist and fashion consultant (as when he designed the mascot) Sometimes it stretches it that Pierce is like the jack-of-all-trades until you remember that he’s not particularly adept at anything. Instead, he’s just that eager beaver who is willing to pick up any extracurricular activity and volunteer for any task because he wants to fit in and be respected so badly. That’s actually a relatable character in any college or group, so I have to give it that.

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Last two weeks of the Office: Murder and Double Date reviews

Murder B
This was a somewhat breezy and inconsequential episode and kind of a pleasant one at that. It showed the staff being themselves and dealing with some typical team situation –the staff forgetting the impending problems of doom and immersing themselves into a board game- in the quirky way that this body of people reacts. They are almost like a large dysfunctional family: Andy and Dwight got really into the game while Angela and Stanley got bored to death and the rest of the crew members fell somewhere in between. Oscar, a more sensible member of the group, insisted on keeping his blackberry throughout because the reason the group was playing this game to forget that the company might be bankrupt.

The show also pitted Michael and Jim against each other in a way that created
meaningful conflict and then simmered the tension down in a realistic way. You have to wonder how the hell Jim can have any credibility telling the group to get back to work knowing he was the goofball for several years up until he realized had a kid and a mortgage to support. Still, the fact that the office calls him out on it is great.

There was also the Erin and Andy subplot and if you don’t like mushy romance, you’ll find this amusing. The plot development between them is straight out of a romantic comedy film but it seemed slightly hipper and done in a way only the Office could pull off.

I gave the show a B, however, because it seemed kind of rushed and not exactly funny.

Oh wait----Just as I concluded on giving the show a B, the show’s closing scene of Pam, Dwight, Andy, and Steve in a show-down put a smile on my face. Ehhh....still a B.

Double Date C-
This left such a bitter taste in my mouth because the Jim and Pam show isn’t that exciting anymore. I feel like Jim’s development as a character has gone in a negative direction and I don’t believe John Krasinski or the writers see the character the way I do. They still think Jim is as likable a guy as he was in the first couple seasons.

In contrast, I think he’s a goofball who suddenly feels holier than thou in relationship to Michael and his other coworkers because he’s got a baby on the way and a mortgage to support and, all of a sudden, he has to be more responsible. I can almost no longer tolerate watching Michael and Jim scenes. There were moments like when Jim says “Stop!” to Michael that I cringe and not in a good way.

In the episode, Michael joins Pam and Jim for a birthday lunch for Mrs. Beasley. The episode started picking up steam when Michael insensitively dumps Pam’s mom (did not see that coming) and Pam gets pissed off. In contrast to Jim, I can still stay on board Pam’s character even if I don’t approve of what Pam is doing. I think Pam is a rational person but she’s just sort of gone nuts and has lost it. We as the audience aren't really supposed to be condoning Pam’s actions as recognizing that Pam is in a Oepedial state of regression at seeing her mother date her boss. I believe the writers are more aware of this.

In the third act, Pam gets pissed off and Michael concedes her a single punch if it will make everything feel better. The episode also showed Toby completely ignoring his HR duties by giving Pam boxing advice. I thought that since the monumental hug, Toby and Michael were getting along better now, especially since that monumental hug. Another problem with this whole thing was that Toby seems too apathetic to want to risk getting himself in trouble over a desire to punch Michael. It's a central trait of Toby that he gets pushed around a lot and he doesn't push back because he's too timid.

The episode builds up to that one punch (or at least the promise of it) and all the hype is a little too hard to deliver. Maybe that was the point?

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Parks and Recreation back log: Greg Pikitis and Kaboom

Greg Pikitis: B
The major strength of this episode was that every character had a moment or two that was funny. The creepy attraction of Tom towards Anne has been played out for laughs from episode one and it’s still effective here. Anne pretty much tolerates Tom but obviously finds him unpleasant and when she throws a Halloween party, she doesn’t want to invite him. I love Tom and find him to be one of my true breakout characters because he thinks he’s so convinced that he’s the life of the party even when he isn’t. Unfortunately, Tom isn’t really the main A or B-story. The A-story mostly centers around Anne worrying that her party is lame. That’s not much of a plot and there’s not too much more excitement out of this than being surprised by people’s Halloween costumes. April’s straight boyfriend’s gay boyfriend wins hands-down for being a straight guy.

The B-plot showed how sweet Leslie’s romance with the cop is because the two are so awkward together. If he wasn’t such a nebbish guy, there’s no way he would put up with too much more of her, but he seems like he’s too shy to ask out more than one person a year and knows it might be a while before the next person comes along who’s willing to go out with him. The B-plot worked slightly better for me. Greg Pikitis gave us more of that normal-crazy dichotomy off of Leslie where he did something that wasn’t that big of a deal but to Leslie, it was the equivalent of a national scandal. The episode was cringe-worthy but was more so predictable. The actor who played Greg nailed his part well and Andy had some very strong moments.

Andy’s best moment and the episode’s best moment came out of an off-screen allusion to him: One of the best moments in the episode was how the nurses appeared to like Andy so much more than Mark. Hillarious.

Kaboom: B+
Part of the theme of small-town comedies and dramedies is that small-towns are one big grown-up version of high school. People have known each other forever and their world seems kind of small by comparison. If this makes sense to you, you might get a Breakfast- Club-kind of joy out of seeing a friendship form between two polar opposites. Andy is the dumb jock who’s not into doing work and Leslie, is the goody two-shoes type. It also indicates in a sweet way that Andy is really coming around and willing to change. Andy develops in a way that doesn’t make him any less dense or dumb.

The show starts out with Leslie getting foolishly inspired by Kaboom (a real organization that in this parallel universe is part of a nonsensical scam) to do something impulsive. In a great Ann-and-Leslie moment (one of the key relationships of the show and the best-developed in my opinion), Leslie hops on board her stupidity and the two fill in the park on their own. Unfortunately, Andy’s still living in the pit (although he claims he isn’t) living in the park and he gets badly injured by a torrent of dirt that a crane drops on him.

Andy then has the choice to sue the city or not and the episode takes a good turn that makes a winner out of both Andy and the Parks department. It’s nice to have a good ending after things usually go so haywire for Leslie. Like Michael Scott’s development, the show isn’t worth rooting for if they don’t make Leslie semi-competent once in a while.

30 Rock review: Problem Solvers

30 Rock: The Problem Solvers C+

I would call this the weakest episode of the season on the basis that two of the subplots didn’t work and the main plot was devoid of funniness. I’ve written on a few occasions that the show’s writers posses godlike levels of talent in terms of dialogue and carefully constructed jokes but when the jokes fall a little short, we’re reminded that the show uses the same five or six plots over again:
1. Kenneth being naïve
2. Jenna and Tracy either turning the world upside down with their selfishness
3. The inverse of #2: Jenna and Tracy trying to compensate for being selfish by being selfless and still managing to make cause an equal amount of disaster than if they’d just been selfish to begin with
4. Either Liz or Jack finding love but realizing it can’t mix with their professional lives
5. Liz, the most grounded character on the show, feeling power-hungry
6. The inverse of #5: Jack, the most aloof character on the show through his inseperable wealth, feeling like one of the little people and being humbled

I previously liked Stone Mountain so much because it mixed up plots 5 and 6 so much and brought Jack from feeling grounded to a state of condescending aloofness (which was really his natural state) and did the reverse to Liz so that they both cathartically shared the same worldview at episode’s end.

This episode just had a complete recycling of plot points in the A-plot. Liz feels she’s too god for Jack and takes bad advice from Tracy and Jenna. Not one change from the Rosemary’s Baby episode or anything along those lines. What was worse was that it wasn’t funny. The two guest stars who played rival agents weren’t memorable and when few jokes are falling you’re reminded of unoriginality. The romantic ending cliché also didn’t work that well in my opinion.

The B-plot was even more painfully unoriginal. I won’t even spell it out for you because it was pretty much plot three and its only gag was that Jenna and Tracy got so enthusiastic about what they were doing that they created t-shirts.

The best plot was the C-plot which introduced a new cast member and played off Kenneth’s naivette. This was Kenneth at his best. They took his naïve helpfulness and turned it upside down. The new cast member was very eager to please and was Kenneth-like in nature in that sense. The twist was that Kenneth viewed the new cast member’s willingness to do things for himself rather than asking an assistant to do it for him, as stepping on his territory. The hilarious result: Things get ugly with Kenneth and the new cast member who are the two most likeable guys on the show. It is a blessing that we now have a new cast member who can potentially solve things.

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Review of last two Parks and Recreation Episodes

Mural: C+
This week in which both the office and Parks were very slowed-down episodes where nothing really happened in terms of character development (I don’t consider impending bankruptcy much because I don’t believe it will amount to anything serious on the Office). This wasn’t too much of an episode for action. It was just a set piece that let the characters’ quirkiness come out. The plot was that all the characters each had to design a new mural for city hall and the episode’s best strength was how committee members who initially didn’t care about it started getting into the competition. April appeared a little more enthusiastic than usual, Donna (a side character) had the most bizarre entry of the competition, and the other uncredited member of the department Jerry had far and away the best picture but lost points becasue everyone hated him. Tom went from initially disliking the picture he contracted out to an art student becaue it didn't include enough naked ladies on it to loving it because it had shapes. It was a relatively nice way to spend a half-hour but it was mostly forgettable. The episode’s biggest sin was a lack of ambition.
The B-plot was so dumb, I barely can bring myself to repeat it: Ron makes a semi-orgasmic moan while Andy is shining his shoes which embarrasses both of them. Even if you are warming up to this show, you have to take a step back and admit that that was just a misguided idea.

Ron and Tammy: A-
The idea that Leslie Knoepp is crazy and the world just sort of brushes her off as a little overenthusiastic about what she does is fine, but to actually pair her against someone who’s just as crazy was gold. That other person is Megan Mullally who guest stars as Ron Swanson’s bitchy ex-wife, Tammy. The plot is that the parks department needs to fight the library system for the rights to develop the plot and Tammy’s been appointed the new director of the library department.

Up until now, Tammy has only been alluded to and like Maris Crane on Frasier, she’s already been pretty hard to live up to. Megan Mullally pulled it off: She was vindictive and crazy in this episode but only revealed herself to be that way in the third act of the episode. That was the beauty of the whole thing: When Leslie meets Tammy, Tammy seems perfectly pleasant and sweet and tricks Leslie into feeling out of place when she overreacts to a $3 library fine. Tammy generously agrees to give Leslie the plot because, as she says, the two must stick together as women in government. Leslie feels so pleased by Tammy’s offer that she thinks it’s a good idea to get Ron and Tammy on good terms. The two appear to hit it off again immediately, at least on a pure carnal level, but we soon find that Megan has ulterior motives. The other major twist is that Ron isn’t so much hateful of Tammy’s guts so much as he is desperate to resist her charms and too weak to do so. It’s a doozy of an episode and even more so if you love Ron Swanson. For me, he’s never been the most appealing part of the show so others might rate it higher but I did think it was a strong episode overall (and gave it the second highest grade that I gave).

The b-plot was pretty decent and the question of whether Mark is really a jerk was given a satisfiable answer on the basis of how he didn’t try to be a jerk to Andy even though Andy is hilariously dillusional.Also of note: the episode had a GREAT Anne Moment, where Anne is too engrossed into group think to disagree that having a library next to her house would be a bad idea.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Songs whose lyrics I love, Part III

Past editions:

Also, check out this article i wrote on a website that pays me for hits for my take on the choice of Oscar hosts.

Gone, Ben Folds Five (2001)-Certainly not my favorite song, there’s a very heavy air of sadness to it as the narrator reflects on someone who dumped him a year ago, and how he’s at the last stages of moving on. “The chemicals have are wearing off,” is how he describes the process. Gone is also a very strong word which you think the narrator is enthusiastically coming to grips with since you hear the word repeated and sung so joyously.

Grey Street, Dave Matthews Band (2002)-One of my favorite Dave Matthews Songs of the later era. The song has some really dark moments about how the woman in question is going to take things and set them on fire. It’s about a women who’s struggling and stuck in the same situation in life. The imagery is very vivid. Perhaps the woman’s problem is that she’s literally stuck in a dead end. There's an equally good chance that the way she sees the world is the problem, itself. The chorus ends “All the colors blend together to form Grey Street.” Maybe some of the colors are bright things in her life that she’s ignoring because they come together.

Time, Hootie and the Blowfish (1996)-If there’s a phobia for people who are afraid of time passing them by, then I have it. The narrator acknowledges this feeling. Time is responsible for washing away the narrator’s dreams. I know it’s not natural or sensical to blame time itself for things going awry, but I feel like time is the culprit, myself. It gives you hope to see that the narrator overcomes this through disbelief.

First Cut is the Deepest, Cat Stephens (1967)-It’s kind of true that the first break-up you have is the hardest. The narrator is in a very heavy state of flux saying that they will try to find love again but they’re still hurt and looking back quite a bit.

Stars, Switchfoot (2005)-I like how the narrator is talking about so many extremes: ecstacy, pain, his luck going down the drain. The song is very up-tempo which accompanies the mania quite well. I also like the consistent use of imagery and in particularly the weather references (i.e. “Maybe I’ve been partly cloudy, maybe I’m a chance of rain”).

#41, Dave Matthews Band (1996)-The lyrics are about DMB’s professional break-up with his early manager who discovered him. It could be applied for a lot of things and it expresses in a beautifully abstract way, a reflection on a happiness that was and a determination to get back to it, it seems. The narrator reflects in the verses about times past. He talks about playing far away from the loneliness no one notices now and how he wanted to stay, play, and love (“you”). In the choruses he resolves to share the joy of playing in the rain with the subject of his song. He also resolved to not pass this by, bring water, and enter one way and exit another. It’s all incredibly vague, but you sort of get the idea that there’s something going on.

Name, Goo Goo Dolls (1997)-The idea of how “We’re grown-up orphans who never knew their name” strikes me immediately. I believe that what’s being sung about is the bitterness of having grown-up and not being able to return to that childhood-like innocence. I interpret not knowing your name as not knowing your identity as a grown-up like you did as a child. The narrator is singing to a childhood crush (he sings about losing letters he sent to her) and when he says that he won’t tell anyone her name, there’s an implication that he does know her name and she doesn’t. I believe that means he knows her really well in the way you know someone that you’ve grown up with and known all your life. I see some truth in that because I tend to think that the people who know me best are the people who grew up with me.

Vegas, Sara Beirelles (2009)-As Sara Beirelles explains it, it’s about how people are thinking there could be one thing that could change their lives and make it all better. Someone believes going to Vegas is the solution to all their problems because that’s where dreams come true, while another person believes that place is New York and a different person believes he should sell his car and cross the border. The pseudo-romantic element about not forgetting the narrator is just something I see as a reminder not to get too caught up on those dreams.

Sugar We’re Going Down, Fall Out Boy (2006)-Fall Out Boy uses wickedly clever and self-conscious lyrics. They’re the musical equivalent of a new wave director who invokes references of past artists in their songs so that they’re not just singing about emotions but they’re also reflecting (and sometimes parodying) on the conventions of singing about emotions. There’s a reflection here that maybe that persona might just be a little shallow when he notes that his identity is “just who I am this week” and that an emotion as strong as love is just a notch on a bedpost or (even worse) fodder for a line in a song. Then, in the chorus, they lament that they’re striking out early but enthusiastically and proclaim themselves to be going down swinging. Maybe, it’s a larger issue that they’re shallow people so they’re getting what they deserve.

Grace is Gone, Dave Matthews Band (2002)-There are so many DMB songs to choose: At the moment, I feel like throwing in this more low-key number about a guy drinking away his problems. I’ve certainly never heard someone so self-conscious about why he’s drinking, interestingly enough. It’s almost like excessive exposition to a character in a movie: but the song is so catchy and the words flow so well into each other. We also run into the interesting question of what exactly it means for your "grace" to be gone?

Update: The song was written by Matthews upon the passing of his stepfather and I got the feeling that this event didn't have the same effect as the passing of his biological father. As a result the song has a more lightweight tone than full-fledged mourning: It feels as though the song was written because he was fond of his stepfather and the least he could do as a songwriter was to devote a song for him.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Thursday Night TV Review Part III: Office/30 Rock

Don't forget to check out my article on how relevant SNL alumni still are these days.

The Office:

While Jim and Pam are on their honeymoon, Michael gets entangled with the mafia (I think?) while the B-plot can best be described as a bunch of people want to bother Jim and Pam on their honeymoon in Puerto Rico.

I honestly was writing too much about Community while The Office was going on to be able to entirely absorb the plot but in the A-plot but here’s what I got: Michael gets the idea to write his own book and starts narrating (this would have been a better plot than what we were presented with); a large Italian man tries to sell Michael something, there’s some ambiguity over whether he’s in the mafia; Andy and Dwight attend a meeting in a restaurant with a large Italian guy; Andy is wearing a mechanic’s uniform and volunteers to repair the car of a woman and her son who mistakenly treat him as such; and the staff launches into a discussion over whether this guy is mafia or not based on his last name. At the end of the episode, Michael “stands up to the mob” although we don’t know if he’s in the mob or not.

The B-plot might have centered around Pam and Jim but it was made all the better by the fact that they were physically absent from the episode. For someone who thinks JAM is overused, it’s nice to get a much-needed break from Jim’s smirk for a week. On the downside, we have an overdose of Kevin who has often been criticized in going from adorably dense to full-on retarded in recent seasons. In a show that’s going for realism, Kevin sticks out like a sore thumb. In any case, Kevin commandeers Jim’s office while he’s on his honeymoon for reasons that definitely seem retarded to me. Things take a twist when Kevin accidentally causes Jim’s credit card to be voided (best scene in the episode). In the meantime, Jim is bothered by Michael because he needs bailing out when the whole mafia thing blows up and Oscar calls up Jim because he feels like the office is going to Hell without Jim’s presence. This all leads up to a fairly rewarding punch line. One major concern was that Jim has only been in charge for one week? Wasn’t he the office slacker a week ago? This characterization is getting a little rushed here.

My review of this week’s The Office doesn’t hold much water because of my distraction, but it seemed like this episode took rather unpromising ideas to run with.


30 Rock started and ended off with a cute meta-awareness and in between a definite sense of improvement over a lackluster 3rd season. I agree with the AV Club’s review that the show got caught up in too many “Liz finds love” plots and too heavy of a reliance on guest stars. The Office had a comeback year last season by taking the relatively safe premise (of a regional manager who would always keep his job no matter how eccentric his ideas are) and turning it upside down.

Maybe what was wrong was that 30 Rock was getting too safe. We knew every one of Liz and Jack’s celebrity love interests wouldn’t last because we read in the Hollywood Reporter that Jon Hamm and Selma Hayek had limited episode contracts. Similarly, we know that Kenneth the Page will continue to be dumb but loyal. Jack teased us a couple times into thinking that someday Kenneth was going to amount to more than the sum of his parts and eventually take over Jack’s job. In this episode, Kenneth finally lives up to that billing as a capable foil to Jack Donaughy and that made him interesting for the first time since the poker game in Season 1.

Jack cuts overtime pay for his pages and gives himself a bonus instead. When Kenneth accidentally takes a peek at Jack’s paycheck, he becomes furious and stages a strike with the demand that Jack put down in writing that he lied. It’s a battle of wits between Jack’s hard line business savvy and Kenneth’s naïveté affability. The exact opposite ends of the human spectrum that these two characters inhabit has been capitalized upon a little (the episode where Jack puts Kenneth in an elevator with a literal reenactment of lifeboat ethics comes to mind) but the show has never literally pit the two characters against each other. It felt like this episode seemed like something that the show’s been leading up to forever. Things even get topical with a pseudo-debate between the two about the extremes of capitalism.

In the B-plot, Josh is leaving the cast and Jack orders Pete and Tina to find a replacement that reflects middle American values more. This raises the question of where the hell Josh has been for the past two seasons. He sort of disappeared and I don’t know if it does the show any good to call attention to how thin the show’s cast is anyway (it seems like there are only three characters on the show). This prompts Tracy and Jenna to get in touch with the common man more. The show gets plenty meta but it’s almost as if Tracy and Jenna are used almost entirely as a single meta-joke and it feels a little bit cheap. Still, there’s an inspired bit of lunacy that feels almost improvised as Tracy goes out into the middle of the striking crowd and tries not to act plebian.

There’s also a C-plot in which Liz and Pete have to keep the show’s new hire a secret so they do a really lame job of keeping their scouting trips to the comedy clubs a secret and the staff starts to suspect that they’ve had an affair. It all basically leads to a punchline that’s moderately worthwhile.

On the strength of the A-plot, I’m hoping that 30 Rock is en route to a better season.


Thursday Night TV Review Part II: Parks and Recreation

An article: Borat is satire, Bruno is social harm

Parks and Rcereation:
This was the best episode of Parks and Recreation to date. Fred Armisen guest stars as a the head of the delegation of Pawnee’s Venezuelan sister city and he turns out to be surprisingly rude. He insults Leslie’s efforts to welcome him at every turn and he even appears so culturally abhorrent as to think that he can take any American women he wants as prostitutes. The episode basically takes his Ferecito character on Saturday Night Live and combines it with a little bit of Borat. Needless to say, I wonder how this will play in Venezuela. It’s not very original but it was innovative and it was funny and that alone makes this the best episode of Parks and Recreation to date.

Among the other pluses of this episode were:
1) The absence of the Anne-Mark romance as that has been the most chemistry-laden pairing I have ever seen in the history of television
2) A hilarious B-plot involving a Venezuelan intern being enamored with April who alternates between giving him flirtatious signals and acting bored to death of him. Aubrey Plaza takes the art of deadpan to new levels with her stoic emotional monotone and as far as strong supporting characters go, it’s hard to top her.
3) The show having a few key twists involving the brash Venezuelans apologizing and willing to make it up to Leslie with a major gift before it is revealed that they have ulterior motives. Both the show’s twists surprised me and neither took the easy way out.

The show was great and even approached levels of simultaneous humor and tension that The Office achieves. At the same time, I have to wonder if the show’s characters can produce this much wonderful humor on their own without the benefit of a guest star. Fred Armisen’s character highlighted the inherent humor in Leslie and, on a larger scale, the city of Pawnee’s situation because he serves as such a perfect foil to her inept sense of pride. Leslie is pretty abnormal and that’s where the humor is supposed to come from but
that humor is lost because there’s no contrast: Her ideas and mannerisms are largely accepted by those around her.

Bottom line: A great episode but doesn’t necessarily make me confident that the show will be equally as good next week.

Grade: A

Thursday Night TV Review-Part I: Community

About 3 years ago, I reviewed NBC's Thursday night block in its entirety. Recently inspired by the AV Club's reviews of single TV episodes, I thought I'd do the same thing:

I have no idea if the AV club is hiring, but note to you guys, consider this my application:


This week, Britta cheats on a Spanish test and Jeff continues his quest to win her favor by defending her before the honor council. Despite Jeff being an a—hole (or maybe because of it), his romantic pairing with Britta is one of the most endearing romances on television simply because of the very reason he stated so succinctly towards the end of the episode: His motivation with her is about more than just sex, because if it was just about sex he wouldn’t be going through all this crap to be friends with her. In an effort to develop the outer edges of their ensemble instead of hiring more guest stars, Community uses the three faculty members on the show (Tony Jeung, Jim Rash, and Jon Oliver) as the honor council and they provide some of the episode’s best moments.

The two b-plots are pretty much throwaways: Annie relies on Pierce to write the school song and he lets her down while Abed tries a little too hard to play a prank on Troy. The last two Abed subplots remind me of those plots on Star Trek where Data tries to answer the question of what it means to be human. That’s how disconnected from the world around him Abed is.

I’m somewhat tough on this show because while it has some characters with potential and moments of humor, its attempts at combining the cynical musings of smart-aleck Joel McHale with genuine heartfelt moments of togetherness fall short. Joel McHale’s rambling diatribe in the pilot about pencils, sharks, and Ben Affleck made me cringe and both attempts to infuse the show with the broken-souls-in-need-of-a-second-chance theme fell equally flat: Annie’s pep talk to Pierce to keep him from giving up on writing a song and Jeff’s ludicrous appeal that while Britta violated the honor code, it’s in the school’s interest to keep her.

Fortunately, both those corny moments were redeemed by comedic mishaps: The song Pierce ends up writing was stolen from Bruce Hornsby and Jeff’s speech allows Jon Oliver’s Dean to make a power play on Britta (under her punishment she must undergo counseling with him once a week).

Grade: B+

Also, check out this latest article I wrote at the Examiner (17 Actors overdue for a nomination)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

My take on the season's new shows

My take on various TV shows presented through Helium

Cougartown, ABC-The show is clearly oriented towards a female audience in the same way Desperate Housewives or Grey's Anatomy is, but it's surprisingly watchable to both genders. It's more about a woman going through a midlife crisis than it is "Sex and the City" with a teenage son. Courtney Cox does imbue the character with a sort of sincere desperation that puts her on just the right side of endearing.
My verdict: I'll watch it if I catch it on TV

Community, NBC-The idea of a setting of community college is a winner and the cast as pretty amicable. I like the characters of Annie, Abed, the Spanish teacher and Britta already. That being said, some are hailing this as a show that is a genuinely finished product when the show still needs a lot of fine tuning to find its groove. Attempts at sedimentality have been cringe-inducingly akward so far.
My verdict: I watch it weekly but am willing to unceremoniously drop the show if it doesn't iron out its kinks

Glee, FOX-I love this show. I had an attraction to Popular as well ten years ago which was created by the same guy so I had an expectation that we'd be taken into a world of strange extremes: rigidly defined high school stereotypes contrasted with very relatable relationships between people. The show certainly has a unique style and the musical numbers are fun. I don't buy that it's a parody so much as just a tonally different version of High School Musical. The show takes its musical numbers too seriously to be called a parody.
My verdict: Watch it weekly

Castle, ABC-Nathan Fillion just strikes me as a poor man's Jason Bateman. He looks matine-idol-like enough that if you put him on the bridge of a spaceship like in Firefly, then he's pleasant enough, but I'm not that big of a fan of him. In Castle, he's a bit smarmy. There are a number of shows featuring some duo of detectives, thieves (the show with Melissa George and John Stamos), or hostage negotiatiors (that show with Ron Livingston) with sexual chemistry but I give this show credit for not jamming these two people together in circumstances that are hard to buy. It seems that the two are genuinely stuck with each other and only one of them likes it, which is a good formula for keeping the dynamic interesting.
My verdict: Arguably worth watching. Deserves a couple more episodes

Modern Family, ABC-Some are hailing this as the great new comedy of the season and like Community, it's not fully formed enough for anyone to really make that call yet. It's use of the single camera mockumentary format detracts from the show, as far as I'm concerned. Just because the Office uses a mockumentary style and it's a great show doesn't mean that it works for everything. In this case, the humor isn't effective enough for us to laugh without some kind of cue (Malcolm in the Middle, Arrested Development, Srubs, My Name is Earl and 30 Rock, for example have musical cues which cue us in). The combination of a gay couple, a traditional 3-children household, and a patriarch who married a Columbian half his age and takes on her son from another marriage (I'm sure that was a run-on sentence) is still a pretty good set-up and that's what makes the show work well. Some people are saying that Ty Burrell is the breakout character as the dad who tries too hard to be cool, but my favorite Sofia Vergara as the saucy Latina.
My verdict: Not the centerpiece of my TV viewing schedule, but I'll watch it. Deserves time to see where it goes, at least.

Flashfoward, ABC-This sounded like an intriguing show but too many cop cliches kept me from getting too interested in it. After seeing so many cop shows, seeing anyone act remotely like Dennis Franz is enough to get you to tune out. This isn't a cop show, but an example of breaking cliches to make a show interesting would be Dennis Leary's Rescue Me where the firemen are heroic but also pretty vulgar.
My verdict: Didn't even make it to end of episode 1

The Jay Leno Show, NBC-As many others have pointed out, putting Jay Leno on at 10 pm pretty much strips NBC of any integrity that they believe that they can deliver us a good product. It was pretty much a cost-cutting movie and it's like watching monkeys in a cage to see the network execs try to pass this off as a bold creative move that they can be proud of. The only thing to mildly be excited about is that D.L. Hughley and a couple other intriguing personalities are added as correspondents, but NBC is basically throwing in the towel at this point.
My verdict: Depending on who's the guest and if nothing else is on TV, I probably still wouldn't watch it, but maybe if I really have to watch TV

The Good Wife, CBS-I'm trying to figure out as I watch this if lawyer shows are intended only for a certain subset of the population (i.e. people who've been to law school) or if the drama is captivating enough for everyone. There's a lot of dark music to indicate this is supposed to be gripping, but I'm not feeling it. The other angle about the disgraced politician's wife, however, is plenty juicy. The show is basically about Elizabeth Edwards, Silda Spitzer or Jenny Sanford and appropriately starts off with a press conference where the political figure is apologizing while the wife "stands" by his side. As they're walking down the hall on the way out, she slaps him. Now we're talking! A little bit later the daughter asks mommy, "I just read that daddy slept with a prostitute my age. Is this true?" This is the juicy stuff but the show doesn't seem as interested in all that as it does about being a generic lawyer show about a tough woman. I can see how a weekly series that takes the tone of a Douglas Sirk melodrama might really become a drag, but that's the show's most relevant and pressing angle.
Final verdict: Don't see promise

Cleveland Show, FOX-(a bit of a longer review than I originally intended on)
On Family Guy, Cleveland Brown has never served much purpose besides being a token black character as far as I've been concerned. Obviously, Mike Henry disagrees. Henry is the white actor who voices Cleveland and when he talks about his excitement for centering a spinoff around the Cleveland character, it seems apparent how proud he is of his own creation. What exactly Cleveland's unique mannerisms are, beyond being a little timid, that make him worth watching, I'm not sure. He's certainly never been a great source of humor.

Fortunately, there are some unique characters in the background: Cleveland's son, Cleveland Jr. is an incredibly sympathetic figure because he's probably one of the most hopeless characters on television (chubby, little ambition, so eager to please that he's willing to find his niche as a bathroom attendant), his biological son Rollando is someone I could see myself liking more than Stewie (he's a smack-talking kindergartener who might be described as street-smart in the same way Stewie's book-smart), and a rebellious teenage daughter who's more assertive than Lisa Simpson or Meg (might not be up there with American Dad's Hailey). The wife, Donna, is the heart of the show. The show advertises itself as the sappier and more heartwarming spinoff of Family Guy and there's just a little bit of that gooey feeling to be found within the story of Cleveland and Donna being reunited as a married couple.

Cleveland and his three neighbors (two white guys of various socio-economic levels and an animatronic bear) form a social group that's almost a virtual clone of the quartet that drinks at Quahog's Drunken Clam which wasn't a good idea if the show wanted to set itself apart. The bear is nowhere near as funny as Roger the alien, Klauss the fish or Brian, the dog.

The setting and the fact that this will be a fairly faithful take on the black sitcom (as faithful as white writers can be) might also be seen as a plus or a minus
Final verdict: Worth watching to see where it goes. Watching 3 Seth MacFarlane shows in one night is a bit overkill, but if I'm not feeling the American Dad or Family Guy episodes, I'll tune into this

SNL has been mismanaging comedic talent for a while now

As usual, here's an article from helium to click on about the Roman Polanski scandal:

Except Will Ferrell, Lorne Michaels hasn't actually been doing that well with SNL talent post-1996 except for 3 women: Maya Rudolph, Amy Poehler and Tina Fey. Amy would never have gotten off the ground as a comedic star if she didn't have the chance to get her name out there for 8 seasons.

It seems like the big movie stars of comedy are coming up through being friends with Ben Stiller/being in frat pack movies, comedy central (daily show, stand-up specials, comedy central original shows), arrested development and The Office. SNL alum since the bad boys age of SNL have been largely unsuccessful in films (i.e. Colin Quinn, Norm McDonald, Chris Kattan, Tim Meadows, Molly Shannon, Cheri Oteri, Ana Gastayer, Jim Bruer, Horatio Sanz, Chris Parnell, even Jimmy Fallon is bombing in Conan's old slot).

Look at who's populating comedies these days:
-Zach Galinfakas (was in a Comedy Central show: Dog Bites Man)
-Rob Riggle was in Kicking and Screaming, Step Brothers, etc. (went from being fired on SNL to the Daily Show)
-From the Office: Mindy Kailing (License to Wed, Night at the Museum), Craig Robinson (Knocked Up, Zach and Miri, Pineapple Express), BJ Novak (Knocked Up), Jim Krasinski (Leatherheads, License to Wed, that Sam Mendes film), Jenna Fischer (Blades of Glory), Rainn Wilson (Juno, My Super Ex Girlfriend, Last Mimsy)
-From Freaks and Geeks: Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, James Franco
-From Arrested Development: Portsia de Rossi (Better off Ted), Jason Bateman (The Break-Up, Mr Magoo, Smoking Aces, Hancock, Juno, etc etc etc), Will Arnett (Blades of Glory, Brothers Solomon, 30 Rock), Tony Hale (Andy Richter's sitcom, Control, Stranger than Fiction)
-Demitri Martin-Comedy Central stand-up mainstray to Daily Show to own show to Ang Lee film
-Jack McBrayer from 30 Rock (Talladega Nights, Walking Hard)

I think they talk about SNL is a show of strong women but it's really only a show of women. The men on the show are second rate, perhaps. Also, with regard to the Casey Wilson/Michaela firing, Lorne does realize that Amy is only popular today because she shined on SNL for like a million years. There's no way that Michaela is gonna acheive any fame like that in half a season. It's harder for women to get noticed anyways in comedy.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Opinions on scattered current events

Senator Franken wins a seat-I was hoping having an SNL star crossover to the senate might make the Senate hip again. Perhaps, it's a sign of SNL's declining popularity (or probably the fact that Al Franken's Bad Boy era was so long ago and so less culturally relevant) that Franken's appoitnment hasn't had a lot of the youth following Senate affairs so closely. If someone from Gossip Girl or American Idol got elected to the Senate then, I guarantee you, all the youth would be following Senate proceedings.

Joe Wilson-I think what’s interesting about Joe Wilson is that there are people defending him on erroneous grounds and there are people chiding him on erroneous grounds. People say Wilson couldn’t have acted out of bounds because he’s a patriot. He’s a war hero and his son serves in the war. Never heard of anything less relevant. It’s also not relevant, Jimmy Carter, that people in the South are racists.

The Beer Summit-Definitely an interesting development. I fully agree that if people talk about their problems, things would get better. I think there might have been some perception that Gates could only look good to media exposure and Cawley would look bad. Cawley is just a lug-head cop and Gates is a distinguishged professor….Upon seeing youtube clips of both people being interviewed Cawley seems far more intelligible and, besides, did you see Gates' mugshot? Also interesting: Biden doesn’t drink beer ever. What an awesome thing to do: Abstain from beer your entire life.

Sarah Palin resigns-This lady was so adorable at first but then started revealing herself to be a vicious rabid bull dog. It was like the wool was slowly being pulled over my eyes with her and it took me a while to notice just how terrible she was. It’s one thing that Palin is just kind of an odd anomaly but she really gets pretty mad and crazy when she’s on the defense. I do think she still gets a little mischaracterized. I read a little more into that issue of her wanting to ban books from the library and Palin’s actions were totally misportrayed by the media. One thing’s for certain: She’s an anomaly.

Sarah Palin's talk of presidency-I think it would be impossible for Sarah Palin to win the presidency. People aren’t impressed by her directly. They’re only impressed by the fact that she could swing the “base.” In order to win the presidency, you can’t have entire segments of the population calling you out on lies that are moderately provable and you can’t have that many people hating you. She basically sunk McCain’s chances of beating Obama so how would she have been able to win without him?

Levi Johnston attacks Sarah Palin-I like Levi or at least I liked him based on the first two interviews I saw with Tyra Banks and Larry King. He’s dumb as a rock and he doesn’t pretend he isn’t. That’s about it. So many people going on talk-shows are intelligent or at least try to be. Johnston is pretty much showing us himself at face value, so I guive him credit for that. He also has this dumb-founded love for being a dad, has strong connections to his family (mom, sis, dad) and still said he would vote for Palin even though she hates him. I hear Johnston’s gotten a bit more Hollywood-like since, so now I’m not so sure until I see those interviews.

Two journalists freed- It sounds like a good question to ask….what is this TV network Al Gore owns? Is it on basic cable? Can the guy single-handedly produce that much content? He’s still kind of boring even if he won a Nobel Prize and while he's established himself as truly a deserving noteworthy person, it must have sucked to have his frenemy Bill Clinton be the hero instead of him. The event was interesting to me because it revealed the tension between Clinton and Gore if nothing else. Of course, this reinforces our belief that President Clinton is superman. Obama might be slowly rendering him irrelevant but here literally comes President Clinton to the rescue. I don’t know the details (and I don’t think anyone else does) of how exactly Clinton used his powers of negotiation but the fact that he succeeded was ridiculously cool and increases his mystique.

Governor Sanford falls under fire-What an exciting and interesting story! First of all, there’s a lot of hypocrisy in the “Governor Sanford deserves to be impeached because he votes for Family Values.” The only questions at stake were is it his personal business or does it concern the state? It’s true that he lied to the state about where he was but I think South Carolina has rightfully realized that it doesn’t cancel out his other accomplishments on the job. To vote him out is to vote him out on the basis of the affair, and just like we defended his rivals by this logic, an affair is someone’s personal business. If you’re going to form the view on whether Sanford deserves to go or not based on his votes on gay marriage or the Clinton impeachment, then you’re being vindictive. That being said it’s also a most entertaining story. Sanford is full of fun and amusing quotes.

Michael Jackson dies-Did people actually like Michael Jackson when he was alive? Seriously? I never even knew this. I remember elementary school kids starting to make fun of MJ’s weirdness. My whole life, I've never experience much but hateful xenophobia for Michael Jackson in the years leading up to his death that I think this outpouring of love is mixed in with a lot of guilt for how hard people have been on him. I don’t think people are admitting that at all. I also think his death is being cashed in on tremendously, but with the entertainment industry struggling so much, I don’t necessarily condemn them for it.

The health care debate-I think everyone should get basic coverage. Not amazing coverage but some basic coverage. I realize it’s complicated but I have to have faith that people are working on it. My basic question is "Are the guys who oppose Obama's plan being bought out by pharmacuetical or insurance companies?" I'm not really mad at these opposing congressmen if they just validly think that Obama's plan is bad but who can be sure.

Tom Delay on Dancing with the Stars-It's like the Governor Sanford thing where my political side of the spectrum is being shallow by attacking Delay for doing this. The number of hotshot liberal pundits (including Jon Stewart) who are taking advantage of him being on Dancing with the Stars to take all sorts of easy potshots at his character and use him as the butt of jokes. If the guy was still making laws, then I'd say it's ok to attack him, but the guy is on a dancing show. I should think he's still aloud to participate in society and I'll defend his right to publicly dance.

Blagojevich's nominee, Burris, makes it to the Senate and fizzles out-Well, duh! That Burris guy was obviously dirty. He was appointed by a dirty man who everyone knew was dirty. Why would the Burris appoitnment all of a sudden be legitimate? I sort of commend Sen. Reid and colleagues for being flexible enough to re-examine the case of Burris' appointment but we already knew that Blogojavech was the most laughably corrupt politician and he was specifically under pressure for selling the Senate seat.

John Edwards is a sleezeball-Seriously, this guy was so nice and charismatic but he lied 8 million times. OK, maybe we all pick and choose which scandalous affair we want to make a big deal of but Edwards was dangerously close to becoming vice president of America and practically discrediting the democratic party. I rank him at the bottom. OK, maybe I'm a hyppocrite?

Review of Extract

Extract is Mike Judge’s follow-up to the massively successful cult hit Office Space which came out 10 years ago. It’s told much in the same style so high praise should go to this guy for being able to establish himself as an auteur (in my book at least) within just two films. This is someone who has so many interesting connections between his two films that I’m happy to sit here exploring them and eagerly await his next project. The Office and Extract are sharp satires that holds no punches at the banality of working-class life even if it means painting the world as a pretty bleak place. Some really effective film comedies take you to places you’d love to live in: the free-wheeling madness of an academic’s life gone awry in Wonderboys, the small-town warm of Junebug, the music-filled self-discovery joyfests of Cameron Crowe’s films are good examples. Others like the TV show Weeds, Amrican Beauty, Good Girl, Napoleon Dynamite, Garden State, or Office Space (and this film) shine a light on the emptiness of suburban, corporate, or small-town life. The latter approach can be far more depressing than a comedy should be and can end up more like a Douglas Sirk melodrama than a comedy sometimes.

Office Space and Extract, however, avoids falling off the deep end, by making them stories of redemption for their main characters. In fact, Extract is a story that’s not necessarily notable for being funny. It has a little bit of humor and a few gags, but what drew me in was just that it had interesting characters. I’d be concerned that people would judge the film where it falls short. As a film, however, it’s terrific.

More thoughts on My Name is Earl damaging NBC

Again, please click on this link, because articles written for helium is where I get my revenue:
Click on the name and move around a little bit.

I’m not sure what NBC was thinking when they scrapped My Name is Earl in favor of having a line-up of Community, Parks and Rereation, The Office and 30 Rock.

The Office, 30 Rock, and My Name is Earl are all successes with built-in audiences. The My Name is Earl numbers might have been less strong but the show still had an audience. The president at NBC reportedly had difficult calls to make on Chuck and My Name is Earl and Chuck won him over because fans had a strong write-in campaign. They apparently mailed him Subway sandwiches. That’s the way to run a network?!

My first complaint is why are TV networks so oblivious to everything but Nielsen ratings? Just look up TV guide or Entertainment Weekly and see how often people are writing praises for My Name is Earl as opposed to a show like Yes, Dear or Two and a Half Men. Go to and and see how many people have posted votes or reviews on a series like My Name is Earl. See how active the message boards are. Talk to people. See how many fans of these shows exist on facebook. Look at Q ratings. Look at the volume of My Name is Earl-related twitter messages. Look at traffic on your site. Look at itunes sales and hulu sales. There are so many ready-made substitutes to Nielsen that a network can sell advertisers on. The fact that the network presidents are only looking at Nielsen ratings makes me annoyed at how oblivious to culture they are. It's also worth noting that Nielsen ratings have been thought to be statistically insignificant and are even more faulty in the digital age as people have more options for skipping commercials.

The NBC President’s decision only shows that Chuck has fans were more successful at mobilizing themselves. Chuck fans were a niche group who were strongly devoted to that show, but steady My Name is Earl watchers are more numerous I believe. Judging by the angry responses, I believe they existed as well.

Lastly, My Name is Earl was more important than Chuck because just think how good it would be for NBC to have a solid Thursday night line-up. Remember the days of Must See TV? How many years has NBC actually had 4 good sitcoms in a row and how excited were we as sitcom viewers to stay glued to our TV screens for two whole hours during those years? Remember those disastrous 8:30 shows like Union Station, Single Guy, Jesse, and that animated one King of the Pride? The brief My Name is Earl, Scrubs, Office and 30 Rock was one of the only years in my memory where that two hour block was solid. Scrubs moved networks and Parks and Recreation was worth a shot so the 2 hours were still pretty intact but most people agree that Parks and Recreation has a lot of kinks to rough out for the second season to be watchable.
Community is pretty promising but it could easily not live up to expectations either.

My bet? One of these two shows will bomb and the end result is that you’re only gonna have one and a half hours of comic gold to work with. Then My Name is Earl is going to be sitting there looking like a pretty attractive option. But, oh wait, you cancelled My Name is Earl and the actors have signed contracts for other things. Won’t you be kicking yourself when that happens?

The annoying thing: I’m not running a TV network but I can easily run it better than someone running a TV network because I see the same thing happening every year. In the meantime, I have to live with the decisions made by incompetent TV network execs.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Cool Web Sites on my GoogleReader

Recommended from my google reader:

Of course, let's start everything by clicking here where I get my revenue (I don't get revenue from this site).

Also, I wrote an article on best websites of 2008 for helium that ranks #1 (

Here in Idaho ( and Que Sera Sera ( pair of female comedians. One is a humor writer and one does stand-up and brilliant impressions of Sarah Palin that go on youtube. Benincasa also had a humorous series on choosing a religion. Here-In-Idaho's recent posts have included minutes of the hobo quarterly clown meeting as well as numbers from Geometry the Musical

Indecision 2008 (off Comedy central's site)-The comedy central blog that I believe was run by the Daily Show staff, still has snarky pieces on politics that are pretty funny. Includes a lot of clips to the Colbert Report and Daily Show

Atomic Gadfly ( guy who writes in detail about movies inspired by comic books. He has a lot of posts, for example, on who should be the next Batman villain.

Lifehackers - Tips for saving time in your busy day and simplifying life now that the internet has sort of made things more complicated

The Film Doctor ( excellent analysis of film from someone who I believe takes a feminist perspective (I believe the author is a male, however0

Confessions of a Film Critic ( and The ( Both these sites are really good for straight-up reviews.

Film Experience ( incredibly prolific guy, Nathaniel Pfiffer, who runs one of the best Oscar-centered sites on the internet.

A.V. Club ( 4 Features that are pretty cool:
1. The Hater-Ironically, this is another female comedienne (maybe women are funnier with the pen). She is hillarious if a little pessimistic.
2. Inventory-Some pretty well-drawn out lists
3. TV Reviews-They review most of the hist shows on TV episode-by-episode. Reading TV reviews is more of an immediate experience than movie reviews.
4. Random Roles-Usually appearing on the press circuit to plug their latest project, actors usually are only talking about the here and now when they're being interviewed. This interview format has the interviewer picking selective items in their filmography and inviting the interviewee (usually an actor) to just comment on it.

Moral of the Story-The Ethicist's Randy Cohen who writes for the New York Times and tackles a bunch of reader questions and current events issues and argues the ethics of it. I don't know that there's a solid answer of right and wrong on matters but somehow he seems to make sense. He's looked at whether people have the right to post anonymously, whether Dave Letterman should have apologized to Sarah Palin, whether golf is a sport of the people, whether

The Movie Critics ( two movie critics from Entertainment Weekly write some pretty insightful angles on films. They leave the movie reviews in the paper and write more interesting stuff on the blog. A very good use of when a blog can be about writing something extra beyond the print edition.

Deadspin ( news with a twist. The articles generally expose athletes' shallowness and faults rather than putting them up on a pedestal.

Stuff White People Like ( don't read it as much. I think it's hayday was clearly last year. It looks at present day culture and analyzes it as if an anthropologist were looking at it.

The Official Cracked Blog ('s brilliant articles aren't available on google reader's feeds, but the blog is. A writer named Dan O'Brien writes outlandish love letters to people like Kristen Wiig, Anne Hathaway, Sarah Palin that you have to see to believe as well. Dan O'Brien also writes outlandish stories inserting himself onto the crew of the USS Enterprise and at Hogwarts. He also has another series of articles where he pretends he's a famous rapper and takes responsiblity for mismentoring Shaq and Kanye West among others.. Other hillarious articles are instructions on "punching Oasis in the face," psychological disorders of 10 video game characters, a book review of the holy bible, an imagined set of e-mails between Clay Aiken and Adam Lambert, the imagined first drafts of Indiana Jones and Transformers 2, an interview with Obama and McCain in the year 2012, and an imagined Joaquin Pheonix diary. In short, this is just really creative stuff.

Washington Post Metro and Washington Post DC Sports Bog-Written by Dan Steinberg for the Washington Post, firsthand accounts of the local sports scene. I also subscribe to Washington Post Metro.

Mark Cuban's blog ( and The Great Seduction ( Cuban has a lot of insight on the survival of media in the changing face of technology. Similarly, Andrew Keen is someone I consider one of the smartest people on the planet for his views on the negative effects on Web 2.0.

Ball Don't Lie and Fourth Place Medal (available off yahoo sports)-The former is about the NBA and the latter is about Olympic Sports. Both are excellent sources. The NBA blog regularly links to the best NBA articles around the web.