Archive for February, 2010

Monday Morning Quarterback: SNL Season 35, Episode 15

Jennifer Lopez served as both host and musical guest of Saturday Night Live this week. The last time she pulled double-duty on the show, the episode was delayed forty-five minutes by an XFL game. That’s not a bad Weekend Update joke. That actually happened back in the heady days of 2001, when Chris Kattan was still doing recurring characters and “Love Don’t Cost a Thing” ruled the airwaves.

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2 comments February 28th, 2010

Who Won Thursday?

This guy, apparently.

No NBC sitcoms–see y’all after the Olympics!

February 19th, 2010

I’m Sick of Your Shit: NBC

It’s been six days and my love affair with the Olympics has ended. Or, to be more accurate, it’s been EIGHTEEN GODDAMN YEARS and NBC has BROKEN MY HEART.

I have not fallen out of love with the Olympics; no, I still go to bed every night during this fortnight murmuring “Citius, altius, fortius,” I’m still obsessively monitoring the Excel spreadsheet that features my Olympic pool (I’m currently in seventh place with six points, thanks, Shani Davis), and I’m still planning on, you know, watching the rest of the Games. But I would like to beat NBC with flaming sticks. For a couple of reasons.

First, the tape delay. Look, I know that NBC paid a shitload of money for the exclusive broadcast rights and wants to air as much of the Games as possible in primetime, because primetime commercials cost more and that’s how they make the fancy money. I work in media; I get it. But for the LOVE OF SHAUN WHITE. NBC was able to sweet-talk the Chinese into scheduling every single one of Michael Phelps’s finals in primetime, that is, at like 9:30 in the morning Beijing time. I understand that several Olympic sports, namely, the skiing, are dependent on daylight, and therefore can’t be held at 10 p.m. when it’s conducive to East Coast television schedules. But there are a number of sports that are competed indoors, namely, the massive ratings draw that is figure skating, and both snowboard halfpipe and freestyle moguls can be done at night, under lights. Not to be all EST-centric about it, but would it EFFING KILL YOU to schedule those at like 5 o’clock West Coast time and air them live? On both coasts? Because here’s the thing: I don’t like finding out who wins nine hours before I watch the race! It’s anticlimactic! It makes still-miked Lindsey Vonn sobbing happily into her husband’s chest somewhat less poignant for me! You know what I like? Suspense! Maybe if NBC put the tiniest bit of effort into preserving some of the element of surprise, we wouldn’t be all, “What, that? I heard about that five hours ago!”

Second: The Interwebs. So NBC has insisted on tape-delaying various events, including snowboard cross, skiing events, and all the short track events that don’t involve Apolo Ohno, which are relegated to the late night block with Mary Carillo and her dead eyes (more on that later). BUT. They still have live results on, so if you wander over there during the day to, say, check on how your pet luger is doing, you’ll see a great big animated graphic trumpeting Seth Wescott’s surprise repeat gold. When you had planned on watching that race after you finished your work.

I’m just confused about why NBC can’t manage to stick to one or the other. Either you’re going to tape-delay the events, and make us wait to watch them, OR you’re going to tell us who won as soon as they happen. WHY ARE YOU DOING BOTH?! It’s infuriating. Almost as infuriating as the fact that there’s nothing on the television for me to watch at work other than CURLING. SERIOUSLY. Today, there was nothing on except curling on USA until 3 p.m., when NBC started showing tape-delayed cross-country skiing. While the ladies’ downhill was happening, as Pat Kiernan’s Twitter told me. Pat, interestingly, is actually attending the Olympics with his family. And he’s a more efficient news source when he’s on vacation than NBC is while doing their effing jobs. DUDE, NBC. Stop sucking.

Third, the insane features. I know it’s a hoary cliché with, like, cobwebs on it at this point to talk about how NBC’s features are maudlin, overblown, and ridiculous. But I think they’re even worse this year. Don’t get me wrong; I love anything that reminds me that Evgeni Plushenko is a Bedazzled Darth Vader. But in Beijing, we had NBA players wandering around the Great Wall of China, and that, at least, was kind of interesting, because Dwight Howard looks funny next to befuddled Chinese tour guides. In Vancouver, which from all accounts is a completely lovely city full of delightful people, good food, and high-qualify drugs, we have MARY GODDAMN CARILLO asking some poor Yukoner when he first met a polar bear. DURING LIVE SPORTS, Mary “I do love tennis” Carillo and her dead eyes are interrogating innocent Canadians about their wildlife! WHAT THE FUCK, NBC.

This is not to say there aren’t good things. NBC finally took Dick Button out of the figure skating commentators’ booth (although they retained underminery Sandra Bezic and excitable gnome Scott Hamilton), and they’ve hired some reasonably intelligent people to call sports they specialize in, like Jonny Moseley, who did a respectable job with moguls, and Dan Jansen, who barely looks like he’s aged since his Visa commercial. And have I mentioned how I enjoy Brian Williams? I do. And I like how the Today Show folks are calling their satellite studio “Studio 1-Eh.”

Oh! But one other thing? What the HELL is up with all the fucking Dreamworks promos? It’s not just that the creators of How to Train Your Dragon bought like forty-seven-thousand ad spots during these Games, NO. They actually paid to have the commentators kick to the ad with drivel like, “Well, if you thought that ski jumping was great, wait till you see what our friends at Dreamworks have dreamed up! They think they know how Vikings might have ski jumped!” And then there are some antiseptic animations that make Shrek look like Akira and it SUCKS.

I’m too tired and tipsy (happy birthday, Kyle) to look up whether NBC has already bought the exclusive rights to the London Games. I seriously effing hope they haven’t. I don’t remember much about how the networks covered the Games pre-NBC hegemony, but SOMEONE has got to give Dick Ebersol a fucking wakeup call. Because if they’re this inept when the Games are happening three hours before us, how viciously crappy is it going to be when they’re five hours ahead?

This does not mean I am not excited about the figure skating tomorrow night. It means I want to smack some sense into Dicks Ebersol and Button, because they are RUINING THIS FOR EVERYONE. Also, I am not too dignified to say that I kind of want to see Lindsey Vonn’s gnarly shin bruise. And I want to know what cheese can do for you. Fuck, that is some air Shaun White is grabbing, yeah?

February 18th, 2010

Who Won Thursday?

Valentine’s Day came early to the NBC comedies. Who handled it best?

Community: Communication Studies
While last week’s episode of Community played to all of its strengths, this week’s episode indulged all of its bad habits. It was another episode exploring the shallow relationship between Jeff and Brita. (And, is it me, or is everything we know about Brita told and not shown? I still don’t really know who she is.) Abed’s pop-culture meta-commentary was especially on-the-nose (if this were a sitcom, you’d do this—but it is a sitcom, get it!), and even Senior Chang’s antics were more frantic than funny, unlike last week’s more subtle “clearly I had no other plans fall through.”

Parks and Recreation: Galentine’s Day
This episode checked in on all of the show’s couples: Leslie and Justin, Tom and Wendy, Ann and Mark, and April, her boyfriend, his boyfriend, and Andy. (Oh, Andy. The world is not ready for “Sex Hair.”) Though things don’t really look good for any of them, the show managed to mix in a lot of sweet, touching moments alongside big laughs.

The Office: Manager and Salesman
This episode effectively ended the “Jim as co-manager” arc, resetting things so that Michael is back to being sole manager and Jim is back to salesman, a blow that’s softened by the fact that salesmen can apparently make more money than their managers. This is especially disappointing since, despite all the machinations, Jim never did anything as co-manager except make Ryan sit in the closet. That, in turn, inspired a Dwight/Ryan team-up that also didn’t go anywhere. Sometimes I think this show is ust spinning its wheels.

30 Rock: Anna Howard Shaw Day
Valentine’s Day is a holiday about loneliness and insecurity, so it’s right in 30 Rock’s strike zone. Liz schedules a root canal for Valentine’s Day thinking it’ll count as an opt-out for the holiday, only to realize that she couldn’t find anyone who cared enough about her to take her home from the surgery. Meanwhile, Jack starts dating Elizabeth Banks (!), someone who knows all his games and is better at playing them. Liz’s exes appear to her as a laughing-gas hallucination, and stick around for an over-credits bumper that should probably be considered racist but was still really, really funny.

So, who won Thursday?

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February 12th, 2010

Who Wins Thursday?

There’s no question that Thursday is my TV day. The DVR fires up at 8 pm and doesn’t finish recording until 12:30 on Friday. I can last for a week just on what I record on Thursdays.

The centerpiece of this weekly marathon is obviously the NBC Thursday-night sitcoms: Community, Parks and Recreation, the Office, and 30 Rock. And, on days when I can’t sit down to watch all of them, I find it really hard to decide which ones to watch. It used to be that I’d head straight for the Office and 30 Rock, but Community and Parks & Rec have really grown into strong comedies, while conventional wisdom says that 30 Rock is slipping, and sometimes the Office is just too harsh.

This constant horse-race of the four shows jockeying to be the best each week have given me the idea for a new weekly feature: Who Wins Thursday? Each week, it’s a toss-up as to which of the four sitcoms is the best. I’m determined to crown a winner each week.

And, since I can’t wait for this week’s Valentine’s Day slate of episodes, I’m going to start with last week. The rundown:

Community: Romantic Expressionism

Jeff and Brita conspire to keep Annie from dating a “gateway douchebag,” while everyone else tries to Rifftrax b-movies in Abed’s dorm. Jeff and Brita work better as co-conspirators than each others’ romantic interests. But Troy steals everybody’s thunder in both plots, trying awkwardly to seduce Annie away from Vaughn while maintaining that his relationship with Abed is totally cool.

Parks and Recreation: Sweetums

A candy company tries to sponsor Leslie’s park, and she crusades against their high fructose corn syrup and tries to get Ron to start living a healthier life. Meanwhile, Tom Haverford gets the rest of the gang to help him move out of Wendy’s house. While it does have a hilarious cameo from “DJ Roomba,” the episode’s plot feels more like a Simpsons-style corporate parody, and b-story with Tom is a downer.

The Office: Sabre

When Michael Scott has trouble transitioning to working for Sabre, the company that bought Dunder Mifflin, he visits David Wallace. The resulting misery is the Office’s bread and butter, but I still find it difficult to watch. When working at Dunder Mifflin is demonstrated to be the better of two options, nobody wins. The b-plot involves Jim and Pam in a situation where neither of them are allowed to be cute or make silly “what?” faces.

30 Rock: Verna

Jack tries to help Jenna get over her mommy issues, which somehow don’t include the fact that Jan Hooks is her mom and looks totally frightening. While they’re walking around oblivious, Liz and Frank move in together and have a Paranormal Activity-style camera set up to show how Liz eats in her sleep. A lot of it is funny, but both plots have elements that are gross and off-putting.


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2 comments February 9th, 2010

Monday Morning Quarterback: SNL Season 35, Episode 14

Ashton Kutcher has now hosted Saturday Night Live four times. Does that seem weird to anyone else? I wouldn’t immediately guess that he’d be the That ’70s Show cast member to host most often, or that he’s hosted more than, say, Scarlett Johansson or Justin Timberlake, who both have their own recurring characters. Looking through the invaluable SNL transcripts site, I see that none of his episodes have been particularly memorable, though he did appear in a Falconer sketch as “the Muskrateer,” and his most recent appearance, in April 2008, was surprisingly decent.

This week’s episode, then, fits right into the Ashton Kutcher SNL oeuvre that we all forgot existed. It was surprisingly good in the sense that it was one of the least recurring-character-heavy episodes of the season, with only a typically middling and pointless View sketch and some amusing Update appearances representing the retread factors. The first post-monologue sketch wasn’t The View or a Kristen Wiig tic-fest, but a very funny bit with Kutcher playing a golddigging pool boy spurned by his departed 110-year-old lover. It exploited a funny idea without just hitting a single joke over and over; that sounds simple, but isn’t always as easy as it looks.

But also like some of his past appearances, the episode was a bit rote; nothing else matched that early high. The sketch with Will Forte as a Roman leader taking creepy pleasure from grape-feeding was appealingly weird, but thin; same goes for “What Is Burn Notice?” — the game show that challenges contestants to describe the apparently popular USA network series. Personally, I’d have more trouble with “What is Criminal Minds?” — a couple of my regular SNL-watching buddies actually love Burn Notice and it’s certainly among the top three or five cooler-sounding cable shows that I never watch but suspect I might like if I did, whereas I have no idea what separates Criminal Minds from its cop-show brethren apart from it not being set in the Navy, not involving crazy forensics or cold cases, and not, as far as I know, taking place in Miami. But anyway, it was still a kinda-sorta funny sketch poking fun at the show’s admittedly vague ad campaign.

The kinda-sorta-pretty-good stuff kept on coming all night. Andy Samberg’s Rahm Emmanuel impression isn’t one of his most dead-on, but the laughs it gets are certainly the most cathartic the show, which hasn’t been specializing in political humor since late 2008 at best, can offer these days. The Oscar nomination bit was funny enough. I liked that band of dads reuniting their eighties punk band at a wedding at the very end of the show. Kutcher didn’t do much to help or hurt, apart from a downright puzzling Mel Gibson impression — he got Gibson’s weirdo defensive posture right, but the voice was a gravelly mess.

So I guess Kutcher is a kind of gap-filler, inconsequential host; he hasn’t worked up enough strong material to qualify as a hosting event, like a Steve Martin or Alec Baldwin appearance, and he doesn’t give off that Jon Hamm major-repeat-host-of-tomorrow vibe, either. He just does pretty typical episodes that you probably won’t remember when he hosts again in a couple of years.

Episode Grade: B-

February 8th, 2010

Friday Night Lights: Toilet Bowl

Friday Night Lights this (back in January) week opens with all the dreams we thought we had: Julie’s dreams of a life with Matt, Billy’s dreams of not going broke when his kid is born, Tim’s dreams of land of his own, which we only just learned about last week in December.

Look, I’m not saying this is as bad an idea as the season 2 murder. I’m just saying it makes me want to scratch that girl’s eyes out.

In Dillon, land of broken hearts, the Taylor household is melting down over Julie’s clothes. Gracie doesn’t have any pants, which has Eric befuddled, because apparently a two-year-old can’t wear just any pants you find that fit her, and Julie is all in a snit because none of her clothes for her college interviews, as if those happen any more, will go together unless she finds this one shirt. Eric is still wearing Coach Shorts, but he’s the only man on the face of the fucking planet who can wear them and not look castrated.

BUDDY! BUDDY IS BACK! The East Dillon Lions are facing the Campbell Park Timberwolves, the other worst team in the league, in the game that gives this week’s episode its name. We cut to Luke’s W.C. He yells to his mom about a follow-up with his doctor, but apparently Luke’s abdominal smushing in the cow fence last week was no big deal. Yeah. I so bet it wasn’t.

OH MY GOD FLASHBACK TO SEASON 1. Tim is talking to the real estate lady who was all suggestively asking him about the blitz back in the pilot. Seriously, I cannot believe either the show or I is bringing this up again. He’s talking about the property he and puppy Skeeter checked out this week, and I’m still concerned that that lady there is going to shove her hands down his pants. The real estate lady says the purchase price is $85,000, but $75,000 if he can pay half up front, and has she ever met Tim Riggins? Next shot is of him loosening his tie outside, and then of him shaking hands with the real estate cougar, and oh man, I am worried he has just promised her ten bundles of copper wire and a bucket of meth.

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February 4th, 2010

Lost “Crash” Course. Get it?

Shit! Lost is starting already? Tonight*?! With the show being off the air for almost a year, I meant to, you know, try and remember what was happening before the season premiere. Oops, too late, I guess. Or is it?

If you’re like me and forgot to do a Lost refresher, here’s what you can read to get back up to speed.

TV Guide has been doing “catch-ups” about all of the characters, so you can see where we left off with Jack, KateHurley, Richard, Sun & Jin, Sayid, Sawyer, etc.

New York Magazine’s Vulture blog does a good job of collecting theories about this season that have been floating around the Internet. They mostly sound like BS, but some of them are entertaining.

The AV Club does a great “pre-game” post from the point of view of just having re-watched seasons four and five. The writer grapples with whether the story all hangs together, lists our most pressing outstanding questions, and even includes a recap video.

I easily tire of “Doc” Jensen’s Lost interpretations, but people seem to love him, and those people would probably be interested in Entertainment Weekly’s Lost package. The best feature is a list of 10 episodes you need to see to basically get the gist of what’s going on. It’s all very Locke-heavy.

Just for fun: Jersey Shore’s popularity means that people are all about Italian-Americans now, so this one Italian-American family seeks to capitalize on that with their video recaps (via Flavorwire). And New Yorkers might be tickled to see the island mapped out, NYC-subway-style.

And, though everyone might be flipping out that “the first four minutes” of the season premiere were leaked online, two of those minutes are really the last two minutes of last season finale. If you’re really super-impatient, you can watch that to get your “previously, on Lost” fix.

*Groundhog Day. Does this mean that our favorite Losties will have to keep re-living their days until they get them right?

February 2nd, 2010


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