Posts filed under 'General'

Who Won Thursday?

All the shows were back. Hooray!

Community: The Aerodynamics of Gender
I like how, in its second season, Community is breaking the larger study group apart and exploring how the characters relate to each other in smaller segments. This episode also featured a lot of Troy, who I adore, and it didn’t end with them all vowing to be best friends forever and never do things in smaller groups again, which I appreciate. But the trampoline thing was more odd than funny until the very end, and the funniest thing about the mean-girls plot was Chang’s reaction to it.

30 Rock: Gentleman’s Intermission
First off, the phrase “gentleman’s intermission” is just hilarious by itself—that’s not really a thing, is it? Otherwise, the episode started off exploring thoroughly charted territory—didn’t Salma Hayek also find Liz an intrusion on her relationship with Jack?—but it got stronger and stronger as it went on. For another example, Tracy’s “I haven’t done anything with my life” plot felt too familiar at first—isn’t that why he created a porn video game?—but I pretty much died when his story culminated in him shouting “I left Tracy Junior in Atlantic City!”

The Office: Christening
When this episode got to the scene where Pam had to make sure that Michael knew he wasn’t the baby’s godfather, I thought we were in trouble. I wanted to turn off the TV. Turns out, it wasn’t as painful as I feared it would be. Michael was actually kind of right when he hissed at all the Dunder Miffln/Sabre people to stop being rude at the christening luncheon. (Of course, he took it too far, but no one got hurt.) And I like Jim and Pam as harried parents—it gives them something to do. When they don’t have baby conflict, it seems like they’re just hanging around the show.

Outsourced
It will never be Outsourced. In the one minute picked up on my DVR, this episode started off the same way as the rest of them: one of the call center employees got caught off guard by one of the novelties they sell. (He’ll never suspect a water balloon! Classic.) But then, something totally different happened. The white guy got hit with a balloon in the crotch! (Hilarity!) Yes, they’ve moved on to crotch jokes! Now the show is at least as funny as America’s Funniest Home Videos, right?

So, who won Thursday?

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November 5th, 2010

The Best Futurama Episodes Ever (So Far!)

Futurama Thursdays 10pm / 9c
Recap-O-Rama: 5 Seasons in 7 Minutes
www.comedycentral.com
Futurama New Episodes Futurama New Episodes Ugly Americans

Good news, everyone! My grumpiness over Seth MacFarlane’s dominance in the world of animated sitcoms has slightly subsided! This has happened not because I suddenly find any of his shows particularly funny, but because the universe just got one or two iotas less hilariously cruel, although several iotas more hilarious overall: Futurama is returning to air! Even if you’re not a superfan, you can catch up on what you’ve missed with the above recap video from Comedy Central.

I must begrudgingly admit that we have Family Guy to thank for this. That show’s unholy resurrection after strong Cartoon Network rerun ratings encouraged Fox to invest in a series of Futurama DVD movies, which were also broken up into a sixteen-episode fifth season of the show for Comedy Central, long after it went off the air in 2003 (which itself was awhile after it had ceased production). The success, in turn, of those DVDs, combined with the continuing fragmentation of the TV landscape, convinced Fox to produce another batch of genuine episodes for Comedy Central. Thirteen will air this year, and thirteen in 2011, with the possibility for more down the road, but let’s not get greedy.

I’m not one of those people who disavows any Simpsons episodes made after 1998 (or, even more frightening, 1995, or 1992! These people exist and they are really depressing!). However, I don’t think there’s any question that for the years Futurama aired (1999-2003), it was superior to the then-current Simpsons episodes. The sum total Futurama may not be as majestic as Seasons Three through Nine of The Simpsons, which as far as I’m concerned represents one of mankind’s more impressive achievements, but it is better than seventy-some episodes of just about anything else save maybe Seinfeld.

In celebration of the return of one of the best shows of the past decade or six, Marisa and I have been systematically watching every episode of Futurama ever produced; we’re concluding this evening with the final DVD movie, Into the Wild Green Yonder, and going straight into the two new episodes airing at 10PM on Comedy Central. This nerd download has put me in a good position to count down the top seven episodes of Futurama. There were only seventy-two episodes in the original run, and the movies are sort of a different beast, so I’m keeping it to the top ten percent (but for the record, The Beast with a Billion Backs is probably my favorite of the four DVD experiments). Into the breach, meatbags:

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6 comments June 24th, 2010

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

The New Golden Age Is Over

I am too lazy to back this up with evidence, and perhaps with Lost ending and the “summer season” rearing its head I am in a bad mood, but it seems to me like everything good and exciting is ending, and it’s all being replaced by garbage. (Remember when I used to get excited about the upfronts? Weird.) Here are the current upfronts. Ugh.

Is this it? Is it over? The comedies seem to be the only returning bright spots, but even they’re looking a little long-in-the-tooth (The Office, 30 Rock, HIMYM) or they’re being shoved to midseason (Parks & Rec). I’m watching Treme but it’s no The Wire. I’m watching Caprica but it’s no BSG.

Yes, Justified is great. Community is great. But I’m still a big frowny face.

2 comments May 19th, 2010

Late Additions, Best Friends

I’ve been thinking a lot about Lost. Who hasn’t? One thing that struck me, as I believe I’ve said in comments elsewhere on this site, is that if they touch a hair on Desmond’s head I will full on revolt, tossing the TV out the window (and it’s very heavy) and burning the place down. This made me think about the phenomenon of Desmond, a character added after the first season who I love as much (and often more) than the original crew.

Are there others out there, who were added late but gained full-cast love? A few. But it’s not easy. The most important metric I used was the Died/Disappeared rule. If the character seemed important but then Died/Disappeared suddenly and the show went on much as before, they were not, by definition, essential to the show. It’s tough, but I made these rules up, and I’m going to stick to them.

Desmond Hume and Ben Linus (Lost)

These two are the gold standard of essential late additions. One of the things that made Desmond so effective as a character was that he appeared and then abruptly vanished, so that when he came back we were pleasantly surprised and probably fooled into believing he’d been around a lot longer than he had. Ben Linus is a different sort of addition — the unplanned kind. He rocked the part so hard they basically had no choice but to write him in to the series. These are both great examples of characters evolving naturally, and the creators being responsive and observant enough to figure out that they’ve got something there.

Counter-example: Ana-Lucia. The argument could be made that she was supposed to be an unpleasant character and we weren’t supposed to like her, but I don’t care: I hated every second she was on screen and everything she did.

Spike (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

Spike shows up as a season 2 villain, and develops into one of the core Buffy gang in fits and starts, as one arc ended and the writers realized they had something great and needed new ways to bring him back. By the end of it you forget that he wasn’t in the short first season at all.

Counter-example: So many! Anya, Tara, Wesley, Faith, Riley, and the character who’s a meta-commentary on the whole process of introducing new people, Dawn. These characters were integrated into the main cast in varying degrees of success, but they never felt as essential as Spike.

Andy Bernard (The Office)

Andy is the only one from the Stamford branch to have made it through unscathed, and that’s only after an anger management class fundamentally changed the entire conception of his character. Now he’s at home in Scranton just as much as the others, which is to say, he’s a weirdo with personal issues who we love despite his bizarre tics.

Counter-example: Erin. I’m not saying she won’t feel essential in a year or two, but right now, she’s still standing out.

Will Bailey (The West Wing)

Josh Malina joined The West Wing in season four, making him the latest addition on this list. But he felt like an old-timer immediately. This one may be a strange case, in which an actor’s previous experience with related material (his awesome work on Aaron Sorkin’s Sports Night) meant that the audience was primed to accept him as a member of the team.

Counter-example: I admit that my watching was spotty over the years, but I really disliked that blonde Southern Republican who’s now on CSI. This show also was a strange case of a first-season character finding herself completely unessential to anything — poor Moira Kelly all but disappeared eventually.

Many shows never managed to introduce new people successfully, not for lack of trying, and so only contain counter-examples:

Veronica Mars

Piz and Parker are two of the most energetically disliked characters on this show. Personally, I always liked Piz, and his poor pathetic Piz hair, and who knows what would’ve happened had the show stuck around for a few more years. But these late additions didn’t click with the fans and so didn’t do the struggling show any favors on its way out.

Gilmore Girls

The essential characters in this show (Lorelai, Rory, Luke, Emily) are SO essential that any addition is super distracting, even if it’s boyfriends (Max, Chris, Jason/Digger, Dean, Jess, Logan) and especially if it’s secret love-children (ugh, April).

The Cosby Show

As happy as I am that the phrase “That’s so Raven” has entered our collective ironic lexicon, I don’t think Raven Symone is anyone’s favorite Cosby, and certainly never reached the level of a Theo or Vanessa or Rudy.

House

I guess this one depends on if you liked 13 and Taub. I didn’t. I don’t watch any more (for many reasons, but the lack of connection to new characters is part of it).

This is all admittedly biased by my personal preferences and shows that I watch and characters I particularly liked, so I welcome additions to the additions list. Also, I feel like this was particularly hard to pull off before the current Golden Age of television, as shows were stricter in their scope and less amorphously serialized, and so less likely to try to introduce new beloved characters, way-back-when. But I could be wrong. What am I missing?

4 comments 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

Who Won Thursday?

This guy, apparently.

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

February 19th, 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: Stay

Thank the Lord for small mercies, Friday Night Lights fans. This week’s episode was mostly lighter than last week’s, which is good, because I don’t think I could handle that kind of emotional upheaval two weeks in a row. To recap: Matt buried his father, who was killed in Iraq. Julie struggled to support Matt in the face of enormous and staggering pain and cope with facing mortality for the first time in her life. Becky hit on Tim Riggins and was rejected, which drove her into Luke’s slightly less muscular arms. And Vince went in two directions at the same time, earning player of the week honors and learning to hotwire cars. So, now for something a little bit lighter? Please, Jason Katims, don’t make me cry again.

I'm not so think as you drunk I am.

I'm not so think as you drunk I am.

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2 comments December 10th, 2009

Gavin Rossdale on Criminal Minds: Speaking of awkward special guest stars

As if James Franco’s giggle-inducing, suspicion-arousing guest spot on General Hospital wasn’t enough, here’s another weirdly out-of-place guest star. Gavin Rossdale (the singer of crunchy nineties “alternative” band Bush, the dweller of Gwen Stefani’s shadow and possessor of unfashionably long hair) recently did a guest spot on a show you never hear mentioned on this humble blog, Criminal Minds. This happened a couple of weeks ago, but I can’t imagine you’d actually want to watch the show. So no biggie.

On the show, Gavin plays a guy who is possibly a murderer. And possibly a vampire. But definitely some sort of gothic singer for a cover band. It sort of reminds me of a basic cable remake of The Crow.

It’s the nineties plus vampires plus murder minus dignity.

Go over to VideoGum to see him perform Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart.” Do them a favor — they could use the boost in traffic that our link will provide.

November 21st, 2009

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