Monday, April 30, 2007

"Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid."

Fun Star Wars personality Test here.

"Wonderful girl. Either I'm going to kill her or I'm beginning to like her."

"Look, Your Worshipfulness, let's get one thing straight. I take orders from just one person: me!"

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Childhood crush tangentially responsible for blight on humanity

Remember Kim Richards? She's the blond, adorable, raspy-voiced actress who charmed kids everywhere (including me) playing "Tia" in the childhood classic Disney movie Escape to Witch Mountain. That the first real celebrity crush I remember having, and I was completely smitten. Richards later went on to roles in Diff'rent Strokes, Hello Larry and even tarted up to star opposite James Spader in Tuff Turf.

I was flipping channels today, and caught an old Magnum PI where she played a spoiled, self-absorbed tennis brat that Magnum had to protect in Robin Masters' pro-am tournament. So I googled her and discovered a horrifying fact. She is the aunt of vapid, worthless, wonky-eyed, morally bankrupt, talent and charisma-free walking STD Paris Hilton. Kim's older sister, Kathy Richards, married into the Hilton family and became Kathy Hilton, mother, who spawned Paris in Rosemary's Baby fashion.

Somehow, this knowledge forever taints a childhood memory.

Whodat? (Shark)

Thursday's Shark had several recognizable faces.

Stacy Edwards played the abducted kid's mom. She's a frequent guest star, but I remember her most for her turn as the "victimized" deaf secretary in Neil LaBute's harrowing In the Company of Men.

Sherri Stringfield of ER fame was the opposing counsel.

Michelle Hurd was the shrink, and she was originally on Law and Order: SVU.

David Zayas was the PI the parents hired to find their missing kid. David is regularly seen as Angel on one of TV's best shows, Dexter.

As for the show itself, it was another enjoyable hour of scenery chewing from the estimable James Woods. But what was up with the daughter's b-plot? Huh? On one hand, I like the daughter because she's a good actress and serves to occasionally humanize the main character, but all this jell-o shooting and hidden weed seems out of character and her explanation for her behavior was just lame.

Even worse, DA Seven of Nine lost her campaign? Does this mean Jeri Ryan is leaving the show? Yikes, I hope not. Maybe the new incoming DA will be killed. Or Jessica will run for mayor.

The Canon: BSG Episode Rating-Palooza

Just like I did last week with Buffy, I'm offering up an episode ranking of TV's best current show, Battlestar Galactica. I used the same methodology and spreadsheets, so if you want to know more about that, revisit the Buffy post.

This is difficult, seeing as how I haven't seen the BSG eps nearly as many times as I have the Buffy eps, and don't yet have them on DVD (hey, birthday coming up. Hint, hint). And the series hasn't ended yet (thank the gods) so I'm sure at some point after the series is wrapped up, and I've seen them all mulitple times on a rewatch, I'll revisit these ratings and rankings.

A few notes:

  • Out of 54 produced eps (counting the miniseries as one), I've ranked 36 as a 9.0 or higher.
  • There are only three -- three! -- that I would call "clunkers" and rated below 8.0. Faithful BSG watchers probably know before reading any further exactly which ones those are. As I've said before, I would rather watch "Black Market" over and over again for the rest of my life before subjecting myself to one hour of Trading Spouses: Meet Your New Mommy or October Road.
  • When there are only 54 episodes produced, the "bottom" rankings are kind of silly, especially considering the fact that there are only three I would consider subpar. And even in those, there is much to love.

Okay, on with the rankings.

Top 10 Episodes of Battlestar Galactica:

Due to ties, there are actually 11 here. First number is season/ep number, second number is my rating, third number is the ranking.

1.1 33 10.0 1
2.10 Pegasus 10.0 1
2.11 Resurrection Ship, Part 1 10.0 1
2.20 Lay Down Your Burdens, Part 2 9.9 4
1.13 Kobol's Last Gleaming, Part 2 9.8 5
3.20 Crossroads, Part 2 9.7 6
1.12 Kobol's Last Gleaming, Part 1 9.6 7
2.7 Home, Part 2 9.6 7
2.12 Resurrection Ship, Part 2 9.6 7
2.18 Downloaded 9.6 7
3.9 Unfinished Business 9.6 7

Seven of the eps are components two-parters. Not surprising, given the marvelous serialized storytelling. Three eps from S1, six from S2 and two from S3. The last one from S3, "Unfinished Business" is a controversial choice, as fans either loved or hated the episode centered around a shipboard boxing tournament, with plenty of angst devoted to the Starbuck/Apollo relationship. I wasn't a huge fan of that relationship either, but loved how that ep, despite its contrivances, examined the characters.

Just "missing the cut" rated with 9.5s were "Water," "You Can't Go Home Again," "Exodus Part 2" and "Crossroads Part 1."

Bottom 10 Episodes of Battlestar Galactica:

2.3 Fragged 8.6 45
2.1 Scattered 8.5 46
2.16 Sacrifice 8.5 46
3.10 The Passage 8.5 46
3.16 Dirty Hands 8.4 49
2.13 Epiphanies 8.3 50
3.8 Hero 8.2 51
3.14 The Woman King 6.2 52
3.15 A Day in the Life 6.1 53
2.14 Black Market 6.0 54

The bottom three should come as no surprise. "Black Market" is notable for it's incoherent "noir" plot involving Lee, who has an out of frakkin' nowhere "relationship" with a hooker named Shevon. And it wastes good performances by Jamie Bamber, Bill Duke and Richard Hatch. I was seriously worried about the direction of Season 3 after watching the back to back misfires of "The Woman King" and "A Day in the Life," but fortunately, the series rebounded in a major way to close strong. The eps above these in the ranking are not really "bad" per se (how is an 8.anything "bad?"), but simply not as strong as others in the series. With the exceptions of "Scattered" and "Fragged" the lower rated eps have typically come in the middle of S2 and S3, when the writers seemed to struggle telling stories after starting strong, and before planning to wrap up the season.

Season 1 is notable for its consistent quality, having produced only 13 episodes. Still, I'd rather suffer through the occasional "Black Market" and get 20 episodes in a season, rather than have less of this Emmy worthy (and Peabody winning) show to brighten (and darken) my world.

As always, if anyone wants to see the entire list or use the spreadsheets for their own evaluations, let me know.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Whodat, Geekiness and Happy Endings

On Thursday's wonderful season finale of 30 Rock, Tina Fey once again showed her geek credentials, blurting out two Star Wars references (in addition to my new favorite exclamation, "Blurgh!"):

"I will cut you open like a tauntaun!"
"Is that how far apart my eyes are? I look like Admiral Akbar."

God, that's adorable. Where are the hot, smart, funny geek girls in real life?

Speaking of geekiness, here's a good interview with David Fury, writer/producer of 24, Lost, Buffy and Angel.

On Friday's season (but hopefully not series) finale of the criminally underwatched Raines, Cynthia Watros (Lost's Libby) showed up as Raines' ex wife. Jodi Lyn O'Keefe (daughter on Nash Bridges and high school queen in She's All That) was the hot, bitchy wife of one of the plane crash victims. Plus, there was the "birth" of a new term: "friend whore." Raines was disappointed that his friend and boss had gone out to dinner with Raines' ex and her new husband. So Raines called his boss a "friend whore." Funny. (I had the same experience once, where a supposedly good friend of mine played nice with one of my exes after a bitter, bitter break up. I wish I had known that term back then. As House told Wilson: "bros, not hos").

Jane Adams was in Tuesday's fantastic House. Jane is best known as the wonderfully loony (and strangely attractive) Dr. Mel Karnofsky from Frasier. I had written down a host of laugh out loud lines (like "there's a lot of porn piling up on the internet. It doesn't download itself!" and "You keep yelling. I think you'll owe me sex."), but a bizarre incident involving a cat and a coffee mug obliterated my scribblings.

Thursday's funny My Name is Earl featured Kurt Fuller as one of the downtrodden teachers. Kurt is one of those "hey, it's that guy" performers who often pops up in guest roles, most recently on Studio 60 (coming back to say goodbye after sweeps) and as a detective investigating Bree on Desperate Housewives.

Fuller showed up yet again later Thursday evening in a wonderfully wacky CSI: Original Recipe ("Ending Happy"), that also featured Peter Stormare (Fargo, VW ads, basically anything that requires someone unctuously unhinged with a borderline indecipherable accent). I love that this show can go from serious, captivating arcs like with the Miniature Killer to bizarre, chuckle-fests like this one. Brass was deliciously deadpan ("do I look like Paula Abdul to you?"), and it took a while to figure out which of the various wounds ("snake" bite, crowbar, crossbow, seafood blowjob, drowning) actually killed him. All the characters at the seedy brothel were hysterical, and they made great use of film technique and music (like the Frankenstein theme shots). A great departure from formula, as was the recent "Lab Rats" episode featuring Hodges.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Just Brilliant

An excerpt from Christopher Hitchens' new book can be found here. Should be required reading. And he says what I've tried to say many times, though with far more erudition and eloquence, and more philosophical references.

Drive Post Mortem

Another Tim Minear show on on FOX, another cancellation. For those keeping score at home, Drive follows on the heels of Firefly, Wonderfalls and The Inside. Wonderful shows all, with a rich tapestry of characters, outstanding performances and delicious scripts. But the bottom line is this: they're "cult" shows.

Here's what I don't understand. Supposedly, FOX signed Minear to a large holding deal to have him develop and run shows for them. What exactly in Minear's past led them to believe that he would develop anything other than a cult show? I'm a huge Minear fan -- a member of the "cult" as it were -- but there's nothing about the four shows mentioned above that says "huge mainstream breakout hit" to me. Lost and Heroes (and previously, The X-Files after airing consistently for several years) are the exception rather than the rule for intricately plotted, exceptionally crafted shows achieving some semblance of mainstream ratings success. FOX has shown no desire to put up with low ratings to achieve some measure of critical acclaim. FOX is in the business to make money and garner viewers (and more quickly than ever), and Minear's shows, no matter how beloved and well done, simply don't do that for them on a large enough scale.

You could legitimately complain that shows before Drive got the shaft from promotion or network meddling. Firefly famously was aired out of order, pushed to create a "simple action story" instead of the richly created two hour pilot, and was a tough sell anyway (fusion of reconstructionist western and sci-fi?). Wonderfalls and The Inside received little to no promotion and got yanked quickly. But I will say this for Drive: FOX did their damndest to promote it, with a few caveats. Personally, here's what I would have done:

  • In addition to the high energy promos, I would have sprinkled in lots of blurbs from prominent critics. There are plenty of noteworthy print and online critics who adored the show, and showing their acceptance and praise before the show even aired couldn't have hurt.
  • I would have aired the pilot -- in one hour form -- immediately after American Idol. Idol is the only true ratings juggernaut that FOX has, along with House, with already airs after Idol. (And if you'll recall, House languished in the ratings for many episodes before they used an Idol lead in to encourage sampling and build it into the top 10 show that it is currently). Maybe air the first 3 or 4 episodes behind Idol, THEN move it to the pre-24 slot on Mondays.
  • By making the pilot one hour, post-Idol, you would have encouraged more people to view it. With serialized shows, folks have the tendency to think "oh shit, this is complicated. I've already missed too much to jump in." By airing three hours of the show over two nights, by the time it gets any critical reception, watercooler chat, word of mouth or buzz, viewers feel like the ship has sailed and they can't catch up.

But all that is hindsight, and Drive is still garaged. We'll see the two episodes produced burned off this summer, hopefully. Which brings us back to Minear and his deal with FOX. I can't imagine them collaborating on another enterprise to be scuttled on the rocks of middling ratings on the FOX mothership network. Why don't they have him develop a show for FX? FX is home to superlative dramas like Rescue Me, The Shield and Nip/Tuck (and interesting experiments like Over There and Dirt) that don't require 10 million viewers to sustain life. 2 to 3 million viewers on FX is easily doable, with a devoted fanbase and critical praise. At the very least, even if it's a "one season and done" situation airing between 6 to 13 episodes (like Thief, and probably Dirt) at least you'll air all the episodes and give it a fair chance to attract attention and build an audience. In a fairly low risk environment. With all the location shooting and expensive SFX, Drive was probably too costly to follow this route, but The Inside and Wonderfalls would have been a perfect fit. I could have even deeply appreciated a "scaled back" Drive, with fewer nifty camera tricks and highway racing shots, and more low cost character development.

Time will tell what's next for Minear and FOX, but I hope they use what's left of their partnership to craft solid "singles" and "doubles" with lowered expectations, rather than looking for the "home run" on a huge stage that's all or nothing -- and frequently "nothing" for viewers who appreciate quality TV only to have it yanked out from under them.

Apparently, FX just renewed Dirt and The Riches (which I've Tivod, but not yet watched). This article makes clear what I was suggesting above: success in an environment with lower expectations, and there will probably be an opening in the schedule when The Shield retires -- perfect fit for Minear crafted show.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Breaking News: the viewing public sucks again.

The well-crafted, intriguing, fantastically acted and thrilling Drive has been cancelled by FOX.

You can't say that FOX didn't promote it. (though I would have preferred a one hour premiere after American Idol). You can't say that it didn't deliver the goods. Sad news for everyone working on the show, and sad news for viewers who appreciate quality television.


Making it rain, entertainment style

Whereby we throw up a bunch of $1 entertainment nuggets onto the stage and see which STDs take them home.

Rosie O'Donnell is leaving The View. Now, they'll have to rely on Elisabeth Hasselbeck for cogent political commentary. And Donald Trump can focus on the dwindling ratings for his reality train wreck. An Rosie can work with Michael Moore and Oliver Stone on a movie about how the Illuminati, the Shriners, George Bush and David Stern (and his frozen envelope) were responsible for 9/11, Sanjaya and a faked moon landing.

Heather Mills and her leg got "booted" from Dancing with the Stars. Poor thing. Now she'll just have to worry about scraping by on the royalties from Sgt. Pepper. Which I've heard that she didn't write or sing on, either. Weird how that works.

The unevenly hysterical Robot Chicken is taking on Star Wars. With the blessing of the big kahuna himself.

Some 18 year old single mother named "Asia" will now take her place of honor alongside the other role models for for today's young women as the next "Pussycat Doll." That's just fantastic. I'm sure her kid will be so proud, and use her as a reference when she takes the pole in a few years. The silver lining to this whoreathon being over? Veronica Mars returns next week!

Is there something on the Lifetime network that I would watch? Possibly so.

Charity doesn't have to hurt. If you have a Tivo.

Okay, blah, blah, blah, charity. Yes, the corporate monolith that is American Idol is either A. raising awareness and money for very good causes, or B. cynically wrapping themselves in a noble pursuit and extorting money from their sponsors to give the show and cultural phenomon a patina of relevance and selflessness. You decide. I know there are problems in the world. I also know there's a fast forward button on my Tivo, so we'll be skipping right past the heartstring tugging vignettes and moving right on to the performances.

When I first heard we were going do hear "life anthems" or "songs of inspiration," my head immediately began to hurt, as I thought we would be subjected to treacly nonsense about "hope" and "dreams." There was some of that, but mercifully, the song choices (and oddly, performances) weren't that bad, and consistently showcased some talent. I don't know if it's because the anchor that was Sanjaya is gone from the show, but all the vocalists came to play tonight. Some, more successfully than others. (And didn't Ryan mention Bono as a mentor in the opening? Was he supposed to help the singers deliver these life anthems? Or perhaps he was just going to give a tutorial on how to live like a rock start while criticizing the government?) Anyway, on with the show.

Chris started us off with Eric Clapton's "You Can Change the World." Definitely one of my least favorite Clapton songs, but certainly less maudlin than "Tears in Heaven." And I don't think this was the "nasally" Eric was talking about in one of his better songs, "Cocaine." But I'm surprised that Mr. Proboscis Vocal doesn't completely butcher the song, and I find myself tapping my foot along with his uptempo rendition. Definitely the most I've enjoyed a Chris song.

Melinda followed with another of her "master classes" on a Faith Hill number, "There Will Come a Day." What can we say at this point? She's clearly the best overall vocalist on the show (followed closely by a surging Jordin) and is more comfortable performing and taking deserved praise. She even looks better and should skate clearly to the finals. The only complaint I have with this version is that it begged to have a gospel spin on it, and of all people, I thought Mindy Doo would go that way. I felt a little like I was in church, but not in a good way, as in the James Brown as preacher scene in The Blues Brothers. Still, fantastic job from Melinda (again).

Blake thankfully left the beatboxing backstage again to tackle John Lennon's "Imagine." Now, don't get me wrong. I love, love, love the Beatles and much of Lennon's solo output. He's one of the best songwriters of all time (with his parnter, now known for being the gold-digging target of a legless dancer), and his vocals are often clear and sublime. But though "Imagine" is a hopeful song with a clear, simple medoly, it's a bit, well, simple. And superciliously saccharine, if you really think about it. Blake gives a poker faced performance, and leaves all his "isms" behind. The best thing about the vocal is that he (finally) projects sincerity, which Paula pointed out. (And is it just me, or is Paula bewilderingly lucid and observant this year?). Decent, but just not enough game raising to matter much or stand out from the rest of the performers tonight.

Lakisha comes out and screeches, belts and yells her way through Fantasia's "I Believe." Didn't she learn last week when slaughtering a former Idol? It's a typical Lakisha performance. She scowls. She screams. She hits big notes. She completely eschews all subtlety. Simon tells the audience "will you just shut up?" when trying to offer a critique, but he could have just as well been talking to Lakisha.

Phil takes last week's reprieve from the gallows to heart, and tackles a country song, Garth Brooks' "The Change." On one hand, it's a confident and personal vocal and much more in his wheelhouse, but oddly, he doesn't give it the "twang" it needs. He's okay, but I've liked him much better in previous weeks.

Jordin closes out the show with a showstopping "You'll Never Walk Alone." It's an old Rogers and Hammerstein tune, I think, and lyrically a bit simple and obvious. But Jordin's vocals and sincerity delivering the tune were simply outstanding. The only critique I could give was with her breathing technique, as we heard several "inhales" over the mic that sounded like me smoking while working the elliptical machine. Still, Jordin has proven herself the most versatile and appealing of the contestants, if a close second only to Melinda in vocal prowess. She's great, and, barring some huge mistake, should track to the finals with Melinda.

From here on out, I'll go to a "top 2 and bottom 2" for my evaluations, since there are only 6 performers left.

TNRLM's Top 2: Melinda, Jordin
TNRLM's Bottom 2: Blake, Lakisha

Tomorrow, the ridiculously bloated one hour results show expands to TWO FUCKING HOURS so various celebs can perform and make us all feel special that we have chicken nuggets, air conditioning and satellite TV. I'll liberally use the "skip" button on the Tivo, but still try to find a gold lining in that no matter how ham-handed and shamelessly self serving this "Idol Gives Back" pap is, there will actually be millions of dollars going to folks who may need it. And at the end of the day, that isn't so bad, is it?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Letting Jack Bauer and Tony Soprano raise your kids

Here's a fun and thought-provoking article I found on CHUD, regarding yet another possible governmental intrusion into our lives.

I've long gotten my hackles raised by the government attempting to "regulate" what is and isn't "good for you." A perfect example of this is the seatbelt law. Ever since I started driving, I've always worn a seatbelt. Why? Because it's common sense. If you get in an accident, you don't want to go flying through the windshield. However, if I choose not to wear a seatbelt, then don't I deserve what I get? And wouldn't this just be a Darwinian thinning of the heard, anyway, and benefit society? Has anyone ever been harmed by a body flying out of another car, through their own windshield, through my windshield, and into me? Wouldn't they be julienned by the time they got through both windshields and into my car? Other than the mess, who the hell would care?

So here we have a potential situation where some holier than thou politician will probably take this up as a "cause," and seek to eliminate "violence" from TV during main viewing hours. Will Jack Bauer (assuming he shows up regularly on his own show again, BTW) just use harsh language and mild discomfort to extract the location of the nukes? Will Tony Soprano just "ground" a capo who is disloyal? Will Sayid's backstory really have him being simply a sous chef? Will the gang on CSI or at the Jeffersonian just look at computer screens for 44 minutes? Was Aaron Sorkin really on to something (other than the devil's nose candy) when he offered us a ridiculous storyline about the nightly news being fined millions because a soldier blurted out a "bad word" when dodging missiles? If this potential censorship didn't seem like something some asshat in Washington might latch onto and champion, with a big "booyah!" from the snake-handling and carelessly breeding masses, then I would probably just let it pass with a chuckle, and go back to reading Orwell.

But the sad part is, many "parents" want the government and the producers of entertainment to wipe their ass, and their kids' asses, for them. If you're concerned about the corrupting influence of television violence on your kids, here are a few tips:

  1. Don't fuck. Don't have kids in the first place if you don't want the responsibility.
  2. If you do choose to breed, how about monitoring what your kids watch? Virtually every set top box from DirecTV or cable allows you to block channels or password protect them. Or, go a step further, and actually get involved in their lives. If you don't have the time for this, remember step 1, and the words from the theme song to Baretta: "don't do the crime if you can't do the time."
  3. If your IQ is so low that you might be influenced by what you see on TV, don't breed with someone of similar intellectual deficiencies. Your kids will have a better chance of developing the cognitive abilities to realize what happens on the screen or in the pages of a comic book is just entertainment.
  4. If you must watch violent TV shows with your urchins, have a conversation with them and explain the "context." I was very young when I watched "High Plains Drifter" and "The Dirty Dozen" with my dad, but didn't go out and gun down local townspeople or Germans. Nor did I run out into the street and decide to behead ugly kids that looked like Orcs because I read the Lord of the Rings.

The writer of the CHUD article sums it up nicely for parents: do your fucking job.

Granted, I don't know a lot about this whole "parenting" thing, as I only did it for less than a year, in the "special guest star" role of gold-digging target in a surrealistic nightmare. And the kids were handicapped from the beginning, given the genetic material they were working from (tax-evading, college drop out, criminal dirtbag and drugged out, college flunk out, town whore). But really, isn't a lot of this pure common sense? Watch what the kids do. Keep tabs on what they watch and who they hang around with. Monitor where they go on the interwebs. Talk to them. Have a conversation. Understand what "message" they're taking from the media they're exposed to. Clearly draw the division between "life" and "art." (Though in my case, it probably took more time to explain that the denizens of the Bada Bing weren't actually their parents and extended family). But it seems pretty simple, doesn't it? Still, it's difficult when the actual parents define responsible child-rearing to include:

  • Buying drop from the kids' grandmother.
  • Have the kids watch DVDs or go play in the yard so you can fire up a spleef in the bathroom.
  • Send the kids off for a weekend with a jailbird and his parents, who also happen to be harboring a fugitive from the law (their uncle!)
  • Point the kids to the pop-tarts and bus stop so you don't have to be bothered waking up from your drug and booze addled state until close to lunchtime.
  • Teaching the children the best method for conflict resolution: lying, cheating and running away.
  • Showing them fiscal responsibility by living off the government teet, stiffing legitimate creditors, always moving one step ahead of the bill collectors and fucking your way to a better lifestyle.
  • Making sure they learn to love the mistress as "mom."
  • Viewing self-sufficiency, cleaning up after yourself, making good grades and personal responsibility as onerous anchors that drag you down.
  • Letting somebody else take care of the kids, because you'd rather be chasing hippy stoner bands all around town, squeezing into outfits that would make Paris Hilton blush, smoking dope in the parking lot and dancing, er, grinding on strangers until they feel compelled to slip you a sawbuck. Or another in a long line of random cocks.

So some parents have a more difficult mission ahead of them than others. But is limiting the number of bodies that Gil Grissom can find or that Sylar can leave in his wake really going to matter in the big picture? If you choose to put yourself in this situation, or even if you find yourself in this situation, the solution to the "corrupting influence of television" is crystal clear. Do Your Fucking Job.

And I thought we just ran out of things to say.

But actually, this explains a lot.

The .07% Solution

Heroes was back last night after a long, long hiatus, and delivered a very good episode.

Linderman wants to let someone (are we sure it's Peter?) blow up New York, to unite the world behind a strong President. After all, it's only .07% of the population, and since it would include the Mets, Isaiah Thomas and Jeremy Shockey, I'm all for the idea. Peter seems to warm to the idea after, after watching Linderman heal a plant. (Maybe he thinks Linderman can make his wife walk again, and stop pining after Jack Bauer?). Oh, and Alan Moore and "Watchmen" called, and want their plot back.

HRG mentally guides Matt and Unabomber lookalike Ted in an escape from Primatech paper and to a diner, where Matt finally realizes that HG is "middle management." Hee.

Sylar and Peter have a mini-throwdown, complete with great special effects on glass projectiles. Sylar is awesome when he realizes Peter can turn invisible and decides he wants that power, too. Peter evidences questionable strategic skills after being invisible, by simply standing in the same spot he was in before, and TURNING HIS BACK to the psychotic, loony killer and getting a large shard in the back of his head. Somehow, Sylar escapes, Mohinder recovers (and neither one killed the other while one or both were incapacitated) and finds a cabbie who doesn't mind dragging corpses all over New York.

Claire gets some fuzzy exposition from her grandmother, who doesn't explain why her earlobes are so large. Maybe that's her superpower. Claire also remembers that sharp objects stuck into the brain limit the regeneration process and pulls the glass out of Peter's head, leading to a bizarre Petrelli family reunion. Best line: Nathan, to Claire, about Mama Petrelli: "She warms up. Sort of."

Candace imitates Claire and Jessica, but still looks best dressed in her own threads like a horny catholic schoolgirl.

Isaac gets crucified by paintbrushes and has his brains absorbed, but not before cartooning the way to kill Sylar and sending it the comics. Sylar doesn't draw as well as Isaac, though, and paints Nathan looking green in the oval office. (Maybe like Bush the elder at one of those Japanese state dinners?)

Hiro and Ando go into the future and meet "another" Hiro, and my head hurts when I contemplate time travel stories.

Welcome back Heroes! B+

Blown the transmission

Bad news. The American viewing public continues to demonstrate their idiocy. From Media Week:

Second in the 8 p.m. hour behind Dancing With the Stars was NBC’s Deal or No Deal at a 7.1/11 in the overnights. Next were CBS comedies How I Met Your Mother (4.3/ 7), which was a repeat, and The New Adventures of Old Christine (5.1/ 8), followed by Fox’s struggling Drive (3.3/ 5), and CW comedies Everybody Hates Chris (2.1/ 3) and All of Us (1.8/ 3). One week earlier, Drive debuted in the time period with a 3.7/ 6. See you in the loser’s circle, Drive.

Sigh. Deal or No Deal? Doubling the audience for Drive? You're kidding right? As Liz Lemon would say: "Blurgh!!!"

We'll probably (hopefully!) see the remaining two episodes filmed and produced, before Drive joins the long, lamented list of "brilliant but cancelled." Fuck you, lowbrow Nielsen families, and just for good measure, fuck you Howie Mandel.

Pimp slap? Really?

On last night's Drive:

By showing the "most improvement," Tully gets a chance to "jump ahead." All he has to do is rob a bank and steal a safe deposit box, from a new, state of the art vault. That only has one 6 digit code, and can be hacked by anyone wearing Ralph Lauren. But Tully and Corrinna partner up with Los Hermanos, homes (I keep seeing this written as both "holmes" and "homes," but I think it has more to do with "homeboy" than it does "Sherlock," so I'll go with the "homes"), so that makes it easier (for now) and more fun. For example, we get this exchange:

Winston, being a badass: "Someone even looks like they want to play hero I'll personally pimp slap that twinkle right out of their eye."

Waitress: "Wintergreen chai latte, no foam."

Winston: "That's me."


We also learn that Tully's 1972 Challenger (which has some characteristics of a 1970) also has the upgraded engine, a 426 hemi.

Ivy is still annoying, and strangely hot. And oh, she can't drive, either. And here's one more tidbit for ya: the actress playing Ivy is Peyton Manning's cousin. Seriously.

Speaking of Peyton, the almighty turned his attention from delivering a Super Bowl title to Peyton's bigoted coach to tell Susan that she was gonna win the race. "Mysterious ways" indeed, as she got smashed to pieces in a well shot and harrowing t-bone. Guess she shouldn't have complained about giving her phone back to Mr. Bright. Or maybe it was complaining about her hamburger. ("Doublemeat!" Has to be a Buffy shout-out!)

In other race developments, Wendy is still a little crazy. Rob is a little more sympathetic. And despite her wonderful ass, Ellie still bugs in a major way.

The clue? Figured that one out right off the bat, too.

Whodat? The bank manager was played by actor and stand up comic Rick Overton, who has played small roles in Lost and Alias, and was also "The Drake" on Seinfeld.

Finally, no ratings info yet today, but there's this tidbit from Kristin at E!:

"When I recently interviewed Tim Minear, even he told me, "I'm a little bit like the characters in the race. The powers that be don't tell me anything, but they make me do things against my will." Jokes aside, he noted that Drive has gotten a huge marketing push from the network, and Peter Liguori has been very supportive, so I think there's a good chance Fox will give Drive a chance to shift into a higher gear!"

Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Canon: Buffy Episode Rating-Palooza

An ongoing series of lists that provides the definitive order of things in the universe.

Of course I've watched every episode of Buffy, The Vampire Slayer (multiple times). Of course, I own every episode. And I frequently got in discussions with other fans over "which episode is best?" or "which season is best?" But I had never put any serious thought into it until a couple of years ago, at least from a statistical perspective. I was introducing some folks who had never seen the show to all seven seasons on DVD, and decided to start "grading" each episode as we went through the rewatch in order. I used a 10 point scale (with one decimal point), and then put the results into a spreadsheet, and some of the results shocked me when I looked at them in totality.

Top 10 Episodes of BTVS:
Okay, this isn't actually a "Top 10." Depending on how you look at it, it's actually a "Top 14" or "Top 7." Because of the numerical grades and the ranks, some are tied.

66: Hush 10.0 1
100: The Gift 10.0 1
107: Once More, With Feeling 10.0 1
94: The Body 9.7 4
108: Tabula Rasa 9.6 5
144: Chosen 9.5 6
25: Surprise (1) 9.4 7
26: Innocence (2) 9.4 7
29: Passion 9.4 7
34: Becoming, Part 2 (2) 9.4 7
71: This Year's Girl (1) 9.4 7
72: Who Are You? (2) 9.4 7
85: Fool For Love 9.4 7
92: Crush 9.4 7

The numbers to the left are the "episode numbers" in order of airing. The second number is the rating I gave them on the 10 point scale. The the last number on the right is the "rank" they were given in the statistical summary of episodes.

Episodes just missing the cut include: Becoming, Part 1, Something Blue, Two to Go and Conversations with Dead People. (all scored 9.3 in my book).

As you can see, the top three, and perfect scores of 10.0 are not really surprising. Most fans put these eps at the top as perfectly crafted hours of TV excellence.

By season, there are no eps from S1, 4 from S2, 0 from S3, 3 from S4, 4 from S5, 2 from S6 and 1 from S7. While seasons 2 and 3 are typically lauded as the most "critically acclaimed" I was astounded that I had no "top 10s" from S3 and a whopping 4 from S5. And while I'm a huge fan of Glorificus, I've always thought that The Mayor is my favorite season long "big bad," so it was interesting to see that no individual eps from that arc cracked my top individual episodes.

Bottom 10 Episodes of BTVS:
Actually, the numbers here worked out to be 10 exactly.

32: Go Fish 6.9 135
61: Beer Bad 6.9 135
17: Reptile Boy 6.8 137
4: Teacher's Pet 6.5 138
14: Some Assembly Required 6.5 138
16: Inca Mummy Girl 6.5 138
24: Bad Eggs 6.5 138
5: Never Kill a Boy on the First Date 6.0 142
74: Where the Wild Things Are 6.0 142
6: The Pack 5.9 144

Not surprising that 80% of the "bad" episodes were in the first two seasons, when the writing staff and actors were still trying to find their footing and the tone of the show. 3 from S1, 5 from S2, and 2 from S4. What was startling to me was that I didn't have any eps ranked in the bottom from seasons 6 and 7, when a lot of fans complained about the influence of Marti Noxon, the "magic is crack" heavy handed storylines or the generally dark tone of the show. (Though Doublemeat Palace, along with Witch, Gingerbread and Killed by Death, just missed the cut).

It should also be noted that I scored these according to the show compared against itself. I'd much rather watch Beer Bad on a continuous loop than one minute of The Bachelor or According to Jim.

Best Seasons of BTVS:
Next, I took all the individual episode rankings, totaled them, and divided by the number of eps in the season to get an average episode ranking for that season. Granted, this is a wee bit misleading, as it doesn't take into account the overall narrative flow of the season, and a few really poorly scored individual episodes can drag down the average for the whole season.

Season 3 Average 8.58
Season 7 Average 8.35
Season 6 Average 8.32
Season 4 Average 8.25
Season 5 Average 8.21
Season 2 Average 8.07
Season 1 Average 7.51

You can see that S2 scores poorly in this regard. Actually, S2 is a fantastic season and contains a lot of the mythology that will drive the show through its conclusion, but a number of "bad" episodes (see above -- 4 in the "bottom 10") bring down the average significantly. Also interesting, as I noted above regarding S3, is that even though none of the eps cracked the Top 7/14, this season consistently delivered the goods, episode after episode, for quality. I was also shocked by the showing of seasons 7, 6 and 4, since many fans though the show declined after the move to UPN in the last two years, and didn't like Riley Finn nor the "Initiative" storyline (I'm one of those rare fans who didn't hate "Captain America" and the government getting into the demon business).

When you start using this methodology, it definitely opens your eyes. Until I looked at the data, I would have said S2, S3 and S5 would have been ranked most highly.

So, there you have it. Obviously, your mileage may vary. Agree or disagree?

(And if you'd like to undertake this little exercise on your own and use my spreadsheets -- or just see the entirety of the rankings, e-mail me and I'll be glad to share).

Sometime over the next few months, I'll do the same thing for other cult shows (and personal favorites) like Battlestar Galactica, Angel and Star Trek: TNG.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Entertainment Nuggets

Thursday's My Name is Earl had to have more euphemisms for "balls" per minute than any other show in recent memory. (Little Chubbies, Gonad pouch, Humpty and Dumpty, Meat and potatoes among many others). And funny that the word "balls" wasn't uttered until the very end. Plus, what perfect casting! Norm MacDonald doing his "vintage Burt Reynolds" bit as Big Chubby's (Burt Reynolds) son? Awesome. It made me google some of his appearances on Celebrity Jeopardy for a few extra laughs. Words to live by from Little Chubby: "Don't trust a man who wants to put his finger in your butt."

30 Rock wasn't as laugh out loud funny as last week, but every time Liz uttered "Blurgh!" or "By the hammer of Thor!" I cracked up.

More insight on the Deadwood movies (damn, you HBO for not renewing this amazing show) here.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Infielder on milk carton

With all the good news and bright spots surrounding this year's edition of the Atlanta Braves (Hudson looks great! Bullpen is a strength! McCann and Frenchy hitting! Different heroes every night! Best record in baseball!), there's one truly bizarre story emerging.

Infielder Willy Aybar is nowhere to be found. Aybar, who was obtained in the deal for Wilson Betetmit last year (and I hated to see Betemit go, though he's hitting less than .100 right now), was to be the back up for Chipper when he invariably suffers a foot injury at some point during the year.

He had the typical "visa problems" getting to spring training, and suffered a hand injury that put him on the shelf for a while. Then, he failed to show up for treatment for the injury and has not been seen nor heard from since. Huh? Is he on an island getting a new nickname from Sawyer? What is this? How does a player on a major league roster just vanish? I haven't read anything about contract squabbles or pulling a Derek Bell (the hilarious "Operation Shutdown"). Where the hell is he?

Possible reasons for Willy Aybar's disappearance:

  • Bob Wickman threatened to take his per-diem meal money every day.
  • With Scott Thorman and Pete Orr on the roster, there are too many Canadians around. And from watching South Park, you know they can't be trusted.
  • Was last seen partying with Ron Mexico.
  • Got map to stadium from Pascual Perez.
  • Man-crush on Jeff Francouer was unrequited.
  • Thought Oceanic 815 was team charter.
  • Disappointed that Chipper doesn't resemble Heather Mills yet.
  • He's been playing with the Atlanta Hawks, and no one noticed.
  • Irrational fear of John Schuerholz's suspenders.

Making it rain: Lost, House, Idol and More!

Whereby we throw up a bunch of $1 entertainment nuggets onto the stage and see which STDs take them home.

Tuesday's House was one of the more interesting and humorous in a long time. The case itself was mildly interesting, but mostly this hour was about the complicated relationships going on within the walls of Princeton Plainsboro: Chase and Cameron, House and Wilson, Wilson and Cuddy, House and Cuddy, Cameron and a horny 8 year old. Jam packed with funny lines, like:

"You did not just play the 'dead husband' card..."

"It shouldn't be so hard."

"Just be straight with her."
"I have no idea how to do that."

"SERIOUSLY?" (That whole oft-repeated bit was hysterical)

"Do you have hair on your special place?"

"Delegating? That's smart."
"We're not his subordinates!"
"All the more impressive."

"How was the play, Mrs Lincoln?"

"Panty hamster"

"Okay, then why did you take her to a play?"
"She's a friend."
"Friend with a squish mitten."

The long national nightmare of Sanjaya is over, y'all. After drawing and quartering Bonnie Raitt on Tuesday, even the "Vote For The Worst" faction couldn't keep this charade going. (Although, I must admit that I wasn't completely heartless, and felt a little sad watching him lose it after getting the boot). From here on out, I'm fine with what happens, though I certainly hope Lakisha (she has a kid!) and Chris (Nasally is a style!) are the next to get a ciggie and blindfold. And I'm glad they took the time to explain the "Simon rolls his eyes" controversy. As he said, Simon may be a total ass, but he's certainly not going to mock the victims of a national tragedy. If you were a true cynic, you could have thought Chris calculatingly invoked the victims as a canny plea for votes, and that's what Simon was rolling his eyes over (yes, I thought that. But then again, I hoped the backlash over this would save us from more nasal boy band song stylings, too). Better to just let the whole thing drop, and keep our pop-culture froth free of meaning and import. Oh wait. Next week, we have to suffer through "Idol gives back" where the contestants sing "songs of hope" (I won't hold my breath for anything like "Highway to Hell" or "Have a Drink on Me") and endless goop that will probably better suited to a Jerry Lewis telethon. My fast-forward finger is already limbering up.

Last night's Desmond-centric episode of Lost was yet another solid installment of a rejuvenated franchise. While not totally mind-blowing as the past few eps, I always welcome learning more about Desmond, and his doomed, Odysseus-like journey away from his beautiful true love Penny. I could care less about Kate's feelings for Jack, but I do appreciate Sawyer's "hey, I'm gonna get laid" take on the quadrangle. And as usual, he gets all the best lines:

"Do I need to make you a mix tape?"

"You two arguing over who's your favorite Other?"

"We don't play every 108 minutes, the island's gonna explode."

Hurley and Charlie's bit about the race between Flash and Superman (a race for charity? Hee. Maybe they could get Ryan Seacrest to host, and give back) does deserve some props, too.

Great article on the under appreciated How I Met Your Mother, here. I cannot fathom why this show doesn't draw more viewers. It's smart, funny, well-written, well-acted. Of course, we also live in a TV world where Lost is losing viewers, and shows like Drive, Andy Barker PI, Raines and Veronica Mars struggle to find an audience. Yet the search for the next Pussycat Whore is considered a "hit." The mind boggles.

Speaking of Andy Barker, here's a good "eulogy" for the best sitcom since Arrested Development.

And speaking of the talented "singers" and female role models (cough, cough) peddling their wares on the CW, here's a fantastic article on their cultural significance. Excellent analysis and prose, and any article that coins the phrase "Generation Whoring Sea Donkey" is worth a careful read. (Note: it's in Salon, which means it's subscriber-only, or you'll have to watch a brief ad. So turn off your adblock for this. It's worth it).

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

American Idol: It's Country Night Y'all!

Idol began country night in subdued fashion, mentioning the horrific tragedy at Virginia Tech. Later, a clearly shaken up Simon Cowell also mentions the senseless incident on behalf of the judges. It's always odd when real life intersects with such a fluffy show, and disturbing that such comparatively trivial topics like Sanjaya and Don Imus take up more of the nation's consciousness. But, we're here to discuss the fluff that is Idol, so on with the show.

First, it dawns on me that we're going to be deprived of Haley's legs for this hour, and a sadness sets in. Then, it dawns on me that we're going to be deprived of Haley's singing for this hour, and the sadness starts to vanish. Besides, Pac-Man Jones is probably "making it rain" for her somewhere, so we can't feel that bad.

We get to meet the grace and talent that is Martina McBride. Say what you will about Idol, but this year they've done a wonderful job selecting guest mentors. Not only is Martina an indisputable country superstar with one of the best voices of her generation, she's sweet as pie and ultimately offers very sound, very constructive advice. Plus? She's gorgeous. She has absolutely the most beautiful eyes. Her overall advice to the gang of 7 goes to the heart of country music: tell the story. More than any music form, country music is almost always about telling the story and selling it with conviction. Some of our contestants will fare better than others with this advice.

Phil bats lead off, performing "Where the Blacktop Ends," by Keith Urban. I haven't heard this song before, but I wonder if it's something he's written recently, that might touch on attending AA meetings and complaining that his wife's face doesn't move anymore. Or having to explain to his stepkids why their daddy believes in evil aliens named Xenu and likes to jump on Oprah's couch. Sadly, it addresses none of these subjects. Martina tells Phil he can be "stiff" to begin with, but hits the power notes at the end. Good observation, Martina. And here we go again. Phil does (for me) a great job with the song, injecting personality and life into it (hard to do when you closely resemble a ghoul) and I'm duly impressed. But then again, the last few weeks I've been rooting Phil on because (IMO) he's delivered great vocals and been slammed by the judges and voters. But everyone finally agrees with me, and Phil gets some love.

Jordin is up next, and makes the bold move to sing one of Martina's songs, "Broken Wing." Martina tells her to plant herself, be "still" and deliver the emotion of the song. Jordin follows that advice and knocks one out of the park. A beautiful, controlled performance that slowly builds and even moves Simon to say that she could win the whole thing. Is there any genre that Jordin can't do? Great, great moment for her.

Next, our national nightmare, Sanjaya, performs "Something to Talk About." After a couple of weeks of elevating his game out of horrific to passably mediocre, Sanjaya hits a new low, even for him. Martina told him to sing stronger and project, but Sanjaya will have none of it. He whispers and gasps his way through the song, and his "charms" as they are, fall flat. With a huge thud. This could quite possibly be the worst top 12 performance ever.

Lakisha is up to sing Carrie Underwood's "Jesus Take the Wheel." Hey, y'all, did you know that Lakisha is a single mom with a kid? Ever heard that? Really? I am so sick of listening to this drivel and obvious plea for sympathy it predisposes me to dislike what she's going to belt out. Fortunately, I don't have to let my dislike for her reproductive obsessions cloud my judgment, as she screams and butchers the song. And just a thought: if you really did let go of the wheel and let Jesus take it, odds are you'd wind up like Dale Earnhardt Senior. Just sayin'.

Chris does Rascal Flatts "Mayberry," and on one hand, it's a good choice because Rascal Flatts' lead singer in unbelievably nasal and whiny. But Chris brings the septum sound to a new low (high?). Again, here's one where I seem to find myself on an island, like with Phil, and disagree with popular sentiment. I can't stand Chris. For this, he sounds like Disney's "High School Musical" in Hazzard County. Awful. To make matters worse, he sasses Simon telling him that "nasal is a form of singing." Ugh. He gives a shout out to Virginia Tech, which on the surface seems like an inappropriate cry for sympathy, but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt since he's from the area. But his singing? No benefit of the doubt there. He's terrible.

Melinda is up next, doing a song I've never heard called "Trouble is a Woman." Based on the title alone, I think I'm going to like this. Not much to say here, other than Melinda does her usual spectacular job. She was fun, connected to the song, hit all the notes (like usual) and even looked good. Whatever she did with her hair effectively disguised her lack of neck. (every week, I always think about the crowd participation from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, where the audience shouts "Where's your fucking neck?") Simon chides her about the whole "false modesty" bit, but that's quibbling when she can consistently deliver such skillful vocals.

Closing out the show is Blake, going with "When the Stars Go Blue." Thankfully, there is NO FUCKING BEATBOXING IN COUNTRY MUSIC. Blake can still appear distant and emotionally disconnected from the material, but for a genre completely out of his wheelhouse, he puts forth a sincere and controlled vocal, and effectively uses his falsetto where the song calls for it. Very, very solid performance.

The Idols obviously did more with country than they did with Santana/Estefan (er, "Latin" night), though both nights featured sweet, charming, helpful (and smoking hot) mentors.

TNRLMs Top 3: Phil, Jordin, Melinda
TNRLMs Bottom 3: Sanjaya, Lakisha, Chris

I know there's a whole "cult of bad" surrounding Sanjaya, so it wouldn't be surprising to see him skate yet again, even after delivering one of the most horrific performances ever. Still, it won't terribly upset me if Lakisha (and her kid) or Chris pack their bags.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Recent Discoveries

Recent discoveries that have made life a little better (or, more accurately, less desperately pathetic and pointless):

Google Reader
While I'm typically the first kid on the block to get a new toy or experiment with some new technology, I've always shied away from an RSS reader. Why? I'm not sure. It's certainly not that complicated. Maybe I just thought I would prefer the pure surfing pleasure of wandering aimlessly around the interwebs, clicking whatever caught my eye. But as I got more into this here blogging thing and found myself visiting the same group of sites with alarming frequency, I checked 'em out. Since I seem to have made a pretty big bed with Google, I used their reader and found myself quickly addicted to its ease of use and convenience. In case you've avoided them like me for some reason, if you do any regular surfing, you owe it to yourself to check it out. Basically, all the sites you read feed a constant stream of new items into the reader, which resembles Outlook. Scroll through the stories, skim the content, click on the site. And you can do it from anywhere you have a connection, on any pc, without having to move all your bookmarks (though Firefox has an add-on for that, too). The only downside is that I'm OCD about clearing the list, and when I see "56 new items" I feel compelled to read them all.

Friday's Fried Green Beans
Look, my hatred for vegetables is well-known. The only one I embrace, and eat with any regularity, is the green bean. But even I scoffed at the idea of fried green beans. But I recently tried these things, and dammit, if they weren't good. Whoda thunk it? Of course, all I need is a craving for yet another fried food. (Note: The fried mac and cheese also rocks).

Sports Clips
When it comes to getting a haircut, I eschew the nancy-boy trappings of a hoity-toity "salon" where it costs $50 just to get my hair trimmed once a month (I shouldn't get too far up on that Robert Mitchum high horse, though. I do get manicures). Hell, I remember paying $3 for a haircut at the Normaltown barbershop in college (and seeing a bounced check -- for three fucking dollars -- from a frat brother mounted on the wall). And I'm probably 10 years and a few gallons of whiskey from ordering a Flowbee just to cut down on the aggravation of making that trek to the haircuttery once a month. So I've always frequented the closest the strip mall Great Clips, and remembered to bring my own SI or EW so I don't get caught reading Marie Claire or some shit for the 20 minutes it takes to get the job done. After all, my hair is pretty frakkin' simple (unlike the zippered, feathered beauty you see in the car pix from my previous post. Ye gods). So I get this coupon in the mail, and discover that there's a new "Sports Clips" just opening a couple of miles from there. It's one of those ideas that is stunning in its brilliance: an inexpensive place where a guy can go get a haircut, and have sports on the TV. No music that would make Tony Dungy or Isaiah Washington cringe. No shuffling through piles of "Wedding Monthly" magazines to find something palatable to read. Decor is simple, like a locker room, and local team banners all around, and a TV playing sports at every station. How fucking great is that? Good coupons, quick service, and you can even add a shampoo, shoulder massage (with a little device -- no "happy endings" from chicks with questionable citizenship papers) or hot steamed towel for next to nothing. Plus, come in anytime and for free they'll trim the neckline so you don't wind up doing it yourself using two mirrors and looking like you had a nasty make out session with an angry wolverine.

Good stuff.

If I was Fred Silverman, Dammit!

That's an "old school" TV reference that A. totally shows my age, and B. illustrates that I was a TV junkie when I probably should have been learning socialization skills with other kids.

Anyway, I do a lot of praising and bitching about the tube on this here blog, and it got me to thinking. What if I actually was the head of a network, and could program it exactly like I wanted to? What would it look like, night to night? In a way, with the Most Miraculous Thing Ever, Tivo, and the interwebs, you actually can be your own programmer and watch things when you want to watch them. However, just to satisfy my own curiosity, I went through that exercise, and it was much harder than I thought.

I gave myself a few rules to conform to reality:
  • I could only pick shows that are currently produced first run.
  • I couldn't pick shows that have already been officially cancelled (like Andy Barker, PI, the best comedy in ages), but I could pick shows that I know are going to end soon (The Sopranos) or are tracking poorly/on the renewal bubble (Drive, Veronica Mars, Raines).
  • Monday through Friday, I could only program 3 hours, 8 - 11 EST.
  • Saturday and Sunday, I could program 4 hours, 7 - 11 EST.
  • I cheated once, not giving American Idol a "results" show, as that's just 29 - 59 minutes worth of crap filler and I'll just pretend that we can get away with showing the "loser"/"winner" either in the first minute of the following week's show, or on the youtubes.
  • I didn't account for sporting shows (playoffs, Monday Night Football) because well, that would just be too damned hard.
  • Because some shows have a shorter run, or are seasonal in nature, I gave myself a "bullpen" of shows that rotate in and out as needed.

That said, here's the lineup for ShanTV:



Serialized, adrenalized, mysterious action shows with almost impenetrable plots and improbable thrills.

American Idol
How I Met Your Mother

My Name is Earl

30 Rock


Fun night, starting off with the watercooler fueler that is Idol, followed by a two hour block of comedy.

Veronica Mars


Mysteries built around enigmatic, central characters.


Criminal Minds

Gory, dark and entertaining procedurals, with great ensemble casts.

Rescue Me


Darkly entertaining dramas, with deft bits of comedy and lots of voracious (and appreciated) scenery chewing.

Big Love

The Sopranos


Starts off with quirky, appealing humor before transitioning into violent, thoughtful drama, all cemented around a theme of "family."

Doctor Who


Battlestar Galactica

Sci-Fi night, baby. Perfect capper to a great week. Live long and prosper.

Bullpen/Rotation Series
The Closer
Law and Order, Criminal Intent


The 4400

Dresden Files


They raided my garage!

Another outstanding episode of Drive last night. I'll be on pins and needles this morning, awaiting the ratings reports to see if this addicting new show will actually get to complete the 13 episode run. (Alarming news -- they haven't actually shot all 13 eps yet -- so if Minear and company get the usual FOX axe, we might not see how the season plays out, even on the web or on DVD).

But enough bad thoughts.

With the exception of the soldier's annoying wife, I'm really getting into each of the characters, even ones I thought I would be bored with like dying dad and his sassy Lohan-wannabe daughter. But last night's big revelation was that Alex Tully, landscaper from Nebraska, isn't quite was what we thought he was. "You don't want to meet the real Alex Tully." (any other Browncoats immediately think of "War Stories?" Yep, I know you did). The "cop" interrogating Tully was played by Micheal Bowen, recently seen as Pickett on Lost, so he should know something about mysterious organizations and shady motives.

(I'm staying spoiler-free for this show, so my guess about the cop - and others "helping" our wacky racers? They are members of a syndicate that is wagering significant money on various contest entrants, and can perform acts of "aid" to their chosen driver).

Even better was the appearance of Tully's "first love," a badass 1972 Dodge Challenger. When I saw that, I immediately texted my long-time friend Chip, as Alex Tully and I have something in common that he would remember. See, my "first love" was also a badass 1972 Dodge Challenger! (mine was hemi-red, not black, and did not have a secret compartment with a hunting knife, though). I was perusing the Drive boards over on TWOP, and in one of the threads about the cars themselves, people were falling in love with the Challenger, and also asking about how it compares to some of the other vehicles, particularly the Trans-Am. What a coinky-dink! I also had a Trans-Am! If you're interested in seeing my thoughts on this, check here.

Actually, I've driven several of the cars we've seen thus far. I've had a Taurus (dying dad) several times as rental car, and yes, they do rattle like hell anytime you approach 80. But I have given it the "rental car fun" test, and it holds up pretty well hitting speed bumps at full speed and when you pull up the emergency brake going 30 or 40 in a parking lot. Shamefully, I've also driven a Dodge minivan (under duress, mind you), and don't hold out hope that this is the vehicle to beat on the open road. (Although I would feel much more comfortable in Crazy Wendy's minivan than the one I was in, as I don't think Wendy has been like Janice Soprano under the boardwalk times 100, and wouldn't have to wear a hazmat suit riding along).

For a stroll down memory lane, here are a few pics I dug out of the family archives of the classic cars in question (ignore the skinny guy with the bad 80s hair):

If Drive breaks out a VW Jetta or BMW X-5, I might have go personally petition FOX to keep this show on the air, or at least demand some compensation as an "automotive consultant."

Monday, April 16, 2007

Rev it up, and the wheels fall off. Plus, I'd be a great partner.

First, the good news. Last night's Drive kicked all sorts of ass content and quality wise, as I expected it would. Mystery, intrigue, action, seamless CGI combined with great driving stunts, interesting characters, compelling performances, tight scripting. Now the bad news. The ratings were awful. Despite being well-reviewed and FOX actually doing effective promotion for once, it drew only a 3.7/6. We'll see how it does on its regular tonight paired with 24, but to stick around, I would think it would have to come close to the number Prison Break was putting up. (Why didn't they launch this after Idol?)

Ah well. That's the bitter fruit that comes with falling in love with a Tim Minear show. (Really, he should try HBO, Showtime or maybe FX next time out). Speaking of Minear, there were lots of connections to the Whedonverse last night, aside from our erstwhile Captain Mal:

The detective in the beginning was Richard Brooks (Jubal Early from Firefly).
The waitress was Beth Grant (Phantom Dennis' mom on Angel, and she also had a guest shot on Wonderfalls).
The mom's "fake husband" was Patrick Fischler, who was the conspiracy theorist shop owner on "The Magic Bullet" ep of Angel.
Tully's wife was Amy Acker, Fred from Angel. The voice of Tully's sister was Katie Finneran, chain-smoking her way through both The Inside and Wonderfalls.

And though he doesn't have a Whedonverse connection, it was also nice to see Paul Ben-Victor as the seemingly helpful trucker. Most recently, he's played the studio head with a grudge against Vince on Entourage, Allen Grey. And was that Shirley Feeney with minivan mom's kid?

Other random thoughts:
Remix of "Roadhouse Blues?" Good. Remix of the greatest driving song of all time, "Radar Love?" Not so much.

Good Lines:
“How do you cheat in a game that has no rules?”
“I don’t know. I missed the orientation.”

"I think maybe I should have shot you."

"Mr. Tully, the PowerPoint is put away..."

So, I'm looking forward to tonight, and keeping my fingers crossed for better ratings.

Why I should (or should not) compete in Drive:

Except for the getting killed and/or blackmailed part, I think I would be (mostly) awesome at this game. Though what could they do, kidnap my cats?

  • I have a fast, reliable, versatile vehicle that would work both on road and off.
  • Blackberries are better for sorting out clues than regular cell phones.
  • I'm an excellent driver, the faster the better.
  • I'm great at puzzles and word games.
  • I hate to lose.
  • I have no qualms about killing people I find annoying.
  • I'm timely, and wouldn't have missed the PowerPoint presentation.

  • I have absolutely no sense of geography or direction, and get lost frequently.
  • I rarely panic and always keep my head in a crisis. Except when I get lost, which makes me completely freak the fuck out.
  • I have a tiny bladder, and have to pull over to pee a lot. And I'm not doing a "crazy astronaut lady diaper."
  • Did I mention the sense of direction? Because I'm sensing that's important here.

So solo, I think I'd still be in the hotel parking lot, getting shot or hit with a shovel. But if I had a partner that can read a map and has a good sense of direction (and preferably looks like Kristin Lehman), I could win this thing. And get my cats back.

Looking in Boxes

Baseball box scores are one of those truly "old school" delights in a world with scores, video highlights and other technological advancements at your fingertips. There's a certain traditional charm about baseball, that almost always ties back to father and son memories. I recall Sam teaching me how to read and understand box scores (along with baseball itself, as well as "scoring" the game). All sports have some sort of agate type recap, but there's a beauty and simplicity to the baseball box scores that tell a story in a linear fashion.

I almost always read baseball box scores in the paper, and like everything else I do, there's a "process" I go through every day. Because I'm sure that you're fascinated with these little OCD slices of life, I thought I'd share. (Note: I don't play fantasy baseball anymore, in which case the list would be completely different).

1. Braves Box Score
Obviously, I'm a homer and want to see how my favorite team did. Always read these first.

2. Braves Competitors Box Score
Next you move to the teams that are in direct competition with your favorite team. How did the teams in the division do? Phillies, Mets, Marlins (I won't even include the Nationals, as I don't think they qualify as a major league team this year). Also, you check out the team that's up next on the Braves schedule, to see who is hot and who is not coming into the series against your team.

3. Former Braves
I always check to see how former Braves (that I like) are doing. Laroche. Giles. DeRosa. Furcal. Betemit. Franco. Glavine.

4. Prediction Players
Then I check on how my predictions for various MLB honors are doing.

5. Players I Hate
I look in the box scores to check out the games and stats of players I simply loathe, with the fervent hope that it includes a "golden sombrero," HBP, E, GDP, CS or plummeting average (or rising ERA). Box scores don't indicate torn ACLs, but one can hope. These types of players include Barry Bonds, Kenny Lofton, Gary Sheffield, Dan Kolb, among others.

6. Players of Note
Then, time depending, I check out high profile players: popular, big salaries, new location, coming back from injury, etc. Ichiro. Nomar. A-Rod. Pujols. Mauer. Soriano. Zito. Gagne. Matthews Jr. Griffey Jr.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

More Whodat?

Friday's Raines (good yet again) had some familiar names. First, it was directed by Starsky! Also, the drunk judge, who killed his wife and put a hit on the Russian hooker whom he brought into a threesome (and eventually wound up getting the wife off drugs and becoming lesbian BFF), before eventually serving justice by jumping out the courthouse bathroom window and setting off car alarms, was Mark Harelik. A frequent guest star, Harelik was great in genre shows like Angel (obsessed count in "Waiting in the Wings") and ST: Voyager (inspector who got Janeway dewy in a series of double crosses).

I was all set to watch the final (damn you, NBC) eps of Andy Barker, PI last night, only to find out that adding insult to injury, my local station was pre-empting them for some local crap about community awards. Great. Fortunately, the remaining 2 eps of this classic and hysterical comedy are available online at (you owe it to yourself to got watch them, if you haven't take my sage advice and done it already). In "The Big No Sleep," we had another Batmanuel sighting (Nestor Carbonell, who has been popping up on our favorite island show lately as Dr. Halpert). He played the doctor running scams with vapid trophy wives. His "confession" scene at the airport is worth the price of admission.

In the last eppy, "The Lady Varnishes," Ed Asner was Lew's old partner, James Hong (recently seen on Bones, as noted on this blog) and Amy Sedaris was the wrongly convicted femme fatale, with the overactive sex drive and wooden leg.

Saturday, April 14, 2007


Thursday's Shark had a few familiar faces.

The defense attorney was Mark Feuerstein, (a bane to spellcheckers) most notably from the short-lived House wannabe 3 lbs (and also from Good Morning Miami).

The initial defendant, an all around nice guy who tried to save sad young girls from a life of porn, was played against type by the usually psychotically creepy Leland Orser. You probably know him from one of his psychotically creepy turns, such as in Alien Resurrection, Se7en or The Bone Collector. (And in real life, he's married to Barb Henrickson!)

Finally, the murderous porn skank's mom was played by Patty the Daytime Hooker (My Name is Earl).