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World Cup 2010: The Commercializing

So the World Cup starts in two days. It’s exciting! We’ve been in a bit of a dead sprint getting all the pre–World Cup stuff done here at work, but now it’s really just time to wait till the games start on Friday (at 9:30 in the morning. I’m sure you can find a bar that has breakfast specials if you’re really interested in South Africa v. Mexico). So I thought I’d take a bit of a look at the TV aspect of the tournament, or at least the pre-tournament TV aspect: The commercials. I will not lie; there have been some fantastic commercials in advance of SA2010. Here are a few of my favorites.

Nike: Write the Future

It scares me a little to imagine how much this cost. Nike’s three-minute opus features about a dozen of the biggest names in the game, including a few who won’t be playing in South Africa (Brazil’s Ronaldinho, seen here doing his trademark samba over the ball, failed to make his team’s final squad of 23, because Brazil is just so good that they cut players other countries would kill to have. Also, Ivory Coast’s Didier Drogba, the guy in orange at the beginning, has a broken arm and might not play). My favorite section is about 45 seconds in, when England’s Wayne Rooney sees the outcome of one play, if he makes a tackle or if he fails, and there’s a brief clip of American superstars (the closest thing we have to superstars!) Landon Donovan and Tim Howard laughing at him. Then, of course, he plays table tennis with Federer, which is hilarious. And I really enjoy the concept of Ronaldo: The Movie, starring Gael Garcia Bernal. Basically, this commercial makes me want to watch soccer. And buy Nikes. Mission accomplished!

ETA: Seth Stevenson over at Slate points out that the commercial was directed by clever Mexican auteur Alejandro González Iñárritu (hat tip to Friend of the ‘Faux Ali). Seth also spotlights another of my favorite moments in the spot and uses a particular bit of British football slang I love: “Later, Cristiano Ronaldo fantasizes that a successful World Cup will land him an appearance on The Simpsons (he nutmegs Homer, who exclaims, “Ronal-d’oh!”) and make him the subject of a blockbuster bio-pic starring Gael García Bernal.”

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5 comments June 9th, 2010

Series Finale: Chung chung!

Did y’all forget in your Lost-mania that the veritable TV institution that is Law & Order is also ending? Tonight, in fact! Yes, the cruel hacks at NBC have bumped our beloved cops-and-lawyers procedural off the air after 20 years, just one season short of the record set by Gunsmoke. Fun fact: Law & Order debuted six months after my youngest brother was born. That’s not really relevant to anything, but I do tend to measure time with his life. Like the time he mentioned how awesome “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is and I was compelled to yell that he was FOUR, GODDAMMIT, FOUR when Kurt Cobain died. For another angle, S. Epatha Merkerson has been playing Lt. Van Buren since your precious mindfucker J.J. Abrams was working with Jim Belushi. And now it is ALL NO MORE. Sob.

We're gonna get you, Dick Wolf.

My favorite period of the show is the Lennie Briscoe–Benjamin Bratt–Angie Harmon stretch, which happened to coincide with my high school years. (Yes, I know his name is Jerry Orbach. I saw him at Daily Soup once. It was the highlight of my early years in New York.) But I also really enjoyed the Jesse L. Martin years, although you could have fooled me that he was on the show so long. Seriously, ten years?! That’s one of the many great things about Law & Order; thanks to the city’s tax subsidies, the show gave literally hundreds of New York theater actors a way to earn a more comfortable living and still do stuff like Hedwig and the Angry Inch off-Broadway. Ha! I was right! I actually guessed that!

Further: I never really cared for Dennis Farina and I missed the whole “Is this because I’m a lesbian” WTFery altogether. But lately I’ve become engrossed in what I think is a late-period renaissance. They’ve been doing some extremely satisfying headline-ripping for the past couple seasons, Jeremy Sisto and Anthony Anderson are wonderful as Lupo and Bernard, and I just love Linus Roache’s cute, pinchy little face and the way he gets all shirty about Constitutional issues. The show also gave us this frigging EPIC discourse on Center Stage, which cross-references all the grown-up actors with their episodes of Law & Order, from Original Recipe to Criminal Intent. I kind of wish they’d do the same thing with Can’t Hardly Wait and Six Feet Under.

I was also Batman's dad. Yeah, Linus, I know. Tell Christian Bale to call me, will you?

Even though the reruns are on TNT, well, all of the time, I am quite sad that Law & Order is coming to an end, and for such a crap reason as, pick one: Dick Wolf didn’t want to cut his fee, the cast is too expensive (I find that difficult to believe), or NBC wants to concentrate on launching Law & Order: Los Angeles. Those are all dumb reasons, and are great examples of the skid toward crappiness that the Peacock network has been on these past few years. That’s the subject of another rant, but for now suffice to say that I am very disappointed and I will miss Law & Order so, so much. And not just for the possibility of seeing famous people in my neighborhood. Although that time I saw Chris Noth on University Place was AWESOME and really impressed my mom when I called her ten seconds later. Farewell, cops who are a little handsy with civil liberties, righteously indignant ADAs, smarmy defense lawyers, and crotchety old DAs. I will see you in the reruns. Chung chung!

ETA: Also! Olympic champion and outspoken Law & Order fanatic Lindsey Vonn makes a special appearance on tonight’s (er, right now’s) episode. Look at this! How effing cute is that?! I have held a Vancouver Olympic medal (it was Seth Wescott‘s) and Sisto and Anderson look as excited as I was. Dammit, I love everything about this show.

2 comments May 24th, 2010

HBO Does The Pacific

So I just finished watching Part 10 of HBO’s miniseries The Pacific. This is obviously a weird time to write about a TV show, when it’s over, but I can’t shake the last emotional echoes. So I’m going to work some of them out here. And if you’d like to experience the whole thing, HBO will be running the entire miniseries in two marathons next weekend (fittingly, Memorial Day). Parts 1-5 will be Sunday starting at 2, with Parts 6-10 on Monday. I’ll be drunk in the Bahamas, but if you have the intestinal fortitude to watch this whole miniseries in two giant blurts, good on you.

Humor fails me.

To recap: The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. And then some nice young men went and fought a horrific jungle war on a series of rocky little knobs and many of them died and many more were maimed and some came home. And then Mad Men happened, and now you understand why Don and Roger are alcoholic pathological liars.

Not really. I mean, some of that happened, yes. But there’s more. The miniseries, brought to you by the team behind Band of Brothers, begins with Pearl Harbor and follows two small groups of soldiers during the Pacific war.

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1 comment May 17th, 2010

Why does Shonda Rimes ruin everything?

I haven’t watched an episode of Grey’s Anatomy since Katherine Heigl killed Jeffrey Dean Morgan and then whined about how she missed the guy she MURDERED for an entire fucking year. At the beginning, back in, wow, 2005, when Grey’s Anatomy was a midseason replacement and a surprise hit with a sexy, diverse cast and its own distinct dialect (seriously?!), I liked it a lot.

Lookit the babies!

And then everyone on that show became a complete and utter asshole. Meredith Grey was always a bit of a dishrag, but back at the beginning Christina was awesome, and all the men were hot, and Bailey was just super. Even Katherine Heigl was pretty terrific, when she ripped her shirt off and yelled at everyone for making fun of her for being an underwear model and proclaimed that while they were in $100,000 worth of debt apiece, she paid her way with her spectacular rack. Remember? That was great. But then they all became jerks. And even pretty, pretty Kate Walsh and Eric Dane couldn’t fix it, because let me repeat myself just this once, Izzie KILLED SOMEONE and then moaned about it for a YEAR.

So when show creator Shonda Rimes spun off Private Practice, I jumped ship on whiny, bitchy Grey’s Anatomy and went with Kate and her pretty hair to California. Because at that point Addison, Bailey, and Torres were the only people on Grey’s Anatomy that I didn’t want to set on fire every Thursday night. it had everything I’d originally liked about Grey’s Anatomy with none of the whining: very pretty people who are ostensibly fantastic at their jobs, an excellent soundtrack, ridiculous medical cases that make you go google shit and panic mid-show.

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8 comments May 10th, 2010

Friday Night Lights: It’s back! (Again!)

Morning, sports fans. Just popping in to remind you that tonight is the fourth season re-premiere of Friday Night Lights, the tear-jerkiest, slo-mo-iest, awesome-contemplation-of-everyday-life-iest show on television. If you didn’t have access to the first broadcast of the season on DirecTV, now’s your chance to get it on real free television. And you can find our recaps here: Tons and tons of Coach, Matt, and Riggins.

Or here they are by episode so you don’t have to accidentally see what came later:

Episode 1: East of Dillon

Episode 2: After the Fall

Episode 3: In the Skin of a Lion

Episode 4: A Sort of Homecoming

Episode 5: The Son

Episode 6: Stay

Episode 7: In the Bag

Episode 8: Toilet Bowl

And that’s as far as I got. I’ll pick it up again in two months. Enjoy tonight, y’all.

May 7th, 2010

I’m Sick of Your Shit: Whiny Soda Lady

Hi, guys. Long time no whine. I’m just popping in here to rant briefly about how much I hate this ad the cumbersomely named New Yorkers Against Unfair Taxes is running against Governor Paterson (NEW JERSEY!)’s proposed tax on bottled drinks like soda and juice.

Oh my Christ on a tiny little crutch. Seriously, she might as well be saying, “How dare you infringe on my right to feed my child highly processed corn sugar in liquid form! Respect mah authoritah!”

Now, I don’t watch a lot of commercials. I have a tifaux, after all. And even though my new HD box (YEEEEESSSSS, HD BOX) is kind of glitchy and bitchy and likes to randomly NOT RECORD THE SOUP, I still record almost everything and watch it at least a little delayed. But I do occasionally watch live TV. Take, for instance, last Sunday, when I watched like seventeen consecutive hours of USA’s Law & Order: SVU Ripped From the Headlines marathon. And I saw that commercial like thirty times. I was ready to punch that whingeing hag by the end of it. God, lady. Suck it the fuck up. Don’t make me list all the things I can see in that kitchen of yours that indicate you can afford an extra five frigging bucks a week. Give your kid water. Mix your whiskey with seltzer, like I do. Brew your own damn iced tea. Or just save up the bottles and get the deposits back. Voilà, taxes canceled out.

And tell the American Beverage Association, which paid for that ad, to shove it. Same to the state of Iowa, with their billion dollars a year in corn subsidies.

P.S. Friends, I promise my shameful hiatus will end soon. I plan to write about Justified and In Plain Sight quite soon, and at the end of the month the fourth season of Friday Night Lights will begin airing on NBC, and I’ll start up the recaps again. Sorry for sucking lately.

3 comments April 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 nbcolympics.com, 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

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

Sara Talks About Craig Ferguson Some More

Yeah, I know. I watch his show a lot these days. What can I say? I’m a sucker for a Scottish accent. Dan agrees with me.

So y’all know there are a lot of things I love (it’s true! I’m not angry at everything), like cheese, Tim Riggins, American whiskey, moderately expensive writing implements, yoga pants, Triscuits, and shopping at mostly-empty Targets. And you know I love Craig Ferguson, puppets, and musical numbers on TV. Here’s something else: I also love Rosie O’Donnell.

I do. I never watched her daytime talk show, because I had to go to school, or her on The View, because I have a job, but A League of Their Own is one of my more frequently quoted movies (along with Ghostbusters, Top Gun, Moonstruck, Mrs. Doubtfire, and, of course, Center Stage and Bring It On) and I love her in it. I want to see the sequel when Doris not only rips up the picture of her ugly, mean boyfriend and throws it out the window of the moving bus, but also makes out with Lori Petty a little. I’ve always liked Rosie’s willingness to put herself 100 percent behind whatever she believes in, and to say what she thinks even if it gets her in trouble. I admire that in a lady. And I’ve always wanted to bitchslap Elizabeth Hasselbeck, ever since Dan handed me a layout of a Survivor story a thousand years ago and her smug, pointy little face was staring out of it. (Sadly, that page is not online in the vast digital archive of the work we did a long time ago that now embarrasses us. But I found a feature story Cristin wrote!)

Which is all a very long way of saying that Rosie O’Donnell was on Craig Ferguson’s cold open tonight, and they lip-synched Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love,” and there were puppets. It was great. Please to enjoy.

1 comment January 29th, 2010

Friday Night Lights: In the Bag

You guys, Matt Saracen is gone. Julie doesn’t know what to do, and neither do I.

Yes, welcome back to our regularly-scheduled Friday Night Lights recap, only, like, a month late. Sorry.

How much you want to bet Mindy puts Dr. Pepper in the baby bottle?

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2 comments January 21st, 2010

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