Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Second thoughts on Friday Night Lights

After watching 11 episodes of S1 of FNL, I offered a few thoughts on the show. Well, now I've blazed through the remainder of S1 and all of the writers-strike shortened S2. Here's where I stand on the show:

I don't know if it's possible to love Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton more than I do. They're the primary reason to watch this show, and their acting is just unparalleled. Other actors who deserve significant praise include Brad Leland (booster Buddy Garrity), Jessie Plemons (quirky "sidekick" Landry Clarke) and Adrianne Palicki (Tyra). For the most part, the acting across the board is terrific, with the notable exception of Minka Kelly, who brings every single scene she's in to a screeching halt.

S1, despite a few plot contrivances and too many last minute football miracles, is pretty much a perfectly formed first season. It's right up there with some of the all time greats (Lost, Sopranos, Deadwood, Firefly, The Wire, etc.) in creating a believable and interesting world, and introducing us to all the characters therein.

However, season two? Yee gods, what a mess. Yes, there was a writer's strike, but you'd think the writers of S1 were still on strike all year and replaced in S2 by the scribes from One Tree Hill or 90210. There was a ridiculous and horribly handled murder. (Murder! CSI:Dillon!) There was the theft of a ferret-loving meth dealer's money. There was a ludicrous romantic subplot about a Latina caregiver. 47 different ways attempted to keep paralyzed QB Street still involved in the plot. Really, it's a testament to the power of Britton and Chandler (and a few strong drinks) that I was able to make my way through this FEMA disaster of a season with any fond memories of S1. Other things that kept cropping up that diluted my enjoyment of FNL:
  • I realize all shows can't be Arrested Development or Lost, where continuity and details are the gifts that keep on giving. But how old is everyone and what grade are they in? There's no way to tell, and the answer seems to be "whatever is convenient for the plot this week." I thought the Taylors were moving around from job to job prior to landing in Dillon, yet there are continued comments about them being there in town all their lives. Smash is supposedly a highly visible, highly recruited RB, yet in all the games we get to see, he's benched or performing poorly. The police investigation into, and legal ramifications of, the season-debilitating "murder plot" were so haphazardly handled you'd think Barney Fife was the town sheriff and the chicken from Futurama was the DA. Just....wow. It's one thing for a procedural, or a wacky sci-fi fantasy, to ignore last week's developments and just move on to another 42 minutes of entertainment, but for a show that wears its verisimilitude on its sleeve, FNL S2 bungled the details badly.
  • The handling of the "coach returns" story was also mishandled. We saw zero fallout, professionally, over his decision to leave a bigtime college program. We also saw none of the community reaction to his return, save for a few comments in the shower from Saracen and the occasional "sports talk radio" commentary.
  • I've bitched before about how much I hate kids and teenagers on my TV shows. Of course, there are exceptions (this show, Buffy, Glee, Freaks & Geeks and Gilmore Girls, to name a few) where the writing and the performances overcome the fact that Children: I'm Just Not That Into You. Some of the kids here (Tyra and Landry - except for their absurd plot - Saracen, Riggins) are terrifically watchable. But Julie, who was somewhat tolerable in S1, turns into a whiny, fast-forward button worthy brat in S2. After her behavior this year, I would completely understand if Coach and Mrs. Coach got separate bedrooms and never considered intimacy again. But the worst of all is...
  • Lyla. Yes, the perhaps soon to be Mrs. Jeter is very attractive. But wearing a cheerleader uniform doesn't make you an actress, or Toni Basil would have been nominated for an Emmy. She is a terrible, terrible actress. And saddled with even worse plotlines. Turning into a sanctimonious Jesus freak, who winds up dating smug asshat Logan Huntzberger, while becoming the obsession of otherwise man about town Riggins? Ugh. Every time she pops up on the screen, I want to commit sepaku on my couch. Has anyone this talent-deficient been regularly featured on such a critically acclaimed show? Maybe the Sopranos kids?
  • And speaking of kids, we add two frakkin' babies to the mix? The Coach-tot, and now, the miracle spawn of Jason Street and his one night stand waitress? Can we PLEASE just play some football games, and have the team debate the merits of the 3-4 vs. the 4-3 or something?
It sounds like I'm complaining a lot about season 2, and I guess I am. But the thing is, the show engendered such goodwill with its rookie season, and Britton and Chandler are so spectacular, that I'm willing to give this trainwreck a pass and move on to season 3 to see if it has a sizeable rebound even close to the quality of what came before.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Favorite TV Character Contest: The Results

First, a big "thank you" to everyone for playing. It was a lot of fun, and I had a great time reading all your entries. But as the Highlander said (before it was continually retconned to oblivion), "there can be only one."

And we indeed have narrowed it down to one winning entry. There were no "perfect" scorecards, but Amanda from SoCal (blogging here, and twittering here) was the first entry to correctly identify 24 of 25, beating one other person who also scored 96% by a little over an hour and a half on the email timestamp (oddly enough, both missed on the exact same character, #6).

So for the rest of you who submitted entries or played along at home, here are the correct answers (along with a few comments about each one). For reference, the original post with the collage can be found here.

  1. Ron Swanson, from Parks and Recreation. P&R improved dramatically in its second year, and all the characters found a nice groove. However, nobody was more fun than Nick Offerman's Ron Swanson, who as we know is a "simple man who likes pretty dark haired women and breakfast foods."
  2. Adelle DeWitt, Dollhouse. Limiting myself to just one character from each show was difficult, particularly with Dollhouse, as this season (and especially lately) the show put the pedal to the metal on its corporate mind-fuckery and end of days storyline. I could have easily chosen Victor, Sierra or Topher, but Olivia Williams consistently brought intellectual scrappiness, intimidating professional survival skills and uncharted nuance to the icy Brit.
  3. Sheldon Cooper, The Big Bang Theory. Scene-stealer supreme, and a gut-busting, loquacious Niles Crane for the nerd set.
  4. Sue Sylvester, Glee. Jane Lynch was terrific on the underwatched Party Down, but it's easy to see why she gave up that gig for her role as the most quotable villain on TV.
  5. Saul Motherfucking Tigh, Battlestar Galactica. Another show where it was difficult to choose just one character, as I loved just about everyone in our rag tag fleet. Saul's journey took some twists and turns down the stretch, and Michael Hogan never failed to deliver.
  6. Castiel, Supernatural. This is the one people seemed to have the most trouble identifying. (Several entrants thought it was Patrick Jane from the Mentalist). I don't know if that's because I chose/cropped the picture poorly, or just enough folks aren't watching this dark and entertaining show. But Misha Collins as "Cas" joined the primary cast this year, and has done a lot with what he's been given, whether he's having trouble understanding how to use a cell phone, visiting a whorehouse for the first time (he's an "angel!") or playing the whacked out hippy in an alternate, post-Armageddon future.
  7. Sawyer, Lost. (I would have also accepted "James Ford" or "Jim LaFleur"). The picture obviously shows a bit of the Dharma jumpsuit, but if you look closely, you can see a wisp of the hair and the "star" on the logo signifying the security detail. I was in love with Lost's season 5 time-travel shenanigans, and could have selected any number of characters who captivated this year (Faraday, Juliet, Hurley, Miles, Ben, Locke, etc.). But S5 really belonged heart and soul to the con man who discovered his humanity back in the 70s.
  8. Roger Sterling, Mad Men. Another show crammed fully of fascinating characters, but I'll offer this for my choice:
  9. Walter Bishop, Fringe. In the world of this generation's X-Files, nobody can make the preposterous sound plausible more than John Noble's Walter. It doesn't matter if he's talking about bodily fluids, looking for snack foods or getting lost in Chinatown, Walter can make you laugh out loud or mist up with tears, often in the same scene. It would be a crime if Noble isn't recognized come awards season.
  10. "Lou"/Kenny Shea, Rescue Me. The smartest and quippiest of the consistently funny Ladder 62 gang, Kenny finally found a small measure of satisfaction this year after "welcoming" former hooker Candy back into his life.
  11. Deb Morgan, Dexter. Dexter had a fantastic season, filled with creepy menace supplied in spades by John Lithgow's Trinity Killer, but my heart will always belong to Jennifer Carpenter's endearingly and profusely profane Deb. No one's made me appreciate vulgarity this much since Al Swearingen, and Deb also got a lot of meaty character notes to play as she broke up with Anton, rekindled her romance with Lundy and dug deeper into her father's background, all while serving as the emotional anchor for her more homicidally inclined sibling.
  12. Nicolette Grant/Henrickson, Big Love. All three of the Henrickson wives turned in Emmy Worthy performances, as I noted here, but Chloe Sevigny had a harrowing and heartbreaking year, particularly for a character as prickly and potentially unlikeable as Nicki.
  13. Ned the Piemaker, Pushing Daisies. Yet another show where I waffled on which character to choose (it could have easily been Chuck, Emerson or Olive). Lee Pace's work as Ned wasn't quite as showy as the stuff Cheno and Chi McBride got to play, but his understated longing was a bittersweet treat to watch. Sniff, I'll miss you, Pushing Daisies.
  14. Veronica, Better Off Ted. It's a shame that it appears ABC is burning off eps of this overlooked sitcom gem, which is jam packed with absurdly endearing characters. But Portia DeRossi has created a second enduring comic masterpiece (in addition to Lindsay Bluth) of the Aughts. It's like if Adelle DeWitt was slightly less competent and worked for GE.
  15. The Devil, Reaper. This quirky little show never found an audience, even on the CW, but it was always supercharged whenever Ray Wise's smooth Old Scratch showed up to gobble the scenery. If I had a soul, I'd be inclined to sell.
  16. Anna, V. Scriptwise, the V reboot was hit and miss in the first four episodes, but one thing was certain: Morena Baccarin's Anna was the undeniable highlight. Playing her otherworldly beauty for a different effect than she did with Firefly's Inara, Baccarin was masterful in the scenes where she was playing games with Scott Wolf's ambitious newsman, and even better when she was figuring out, right before our eyes, how to most effectively simulate empathetic human emotions.
  17. Rick Castle, Castle. Speaking of Firefly, it appears Captain Tightpants has finally found a role that's going to last more than a season, and hooray for that. Nathan Fillion's easygoing charm makes Castle one of the better procedurals out there.
  18. Jackson "Jax" Teller, Sons of Anarchy. Sons, like Lost, BSG, Dollhouse and Mad Men, is an embarrassment of riches from a cast and character perspective. Almost all of the principal characters, including Clay, Gemma, Tig, Opie and Tara, got a chance to run wild with all the drama and heartbreak in Charming, CA this year, but I chose Jax because our Hamlet on a Hog kept us actively involved, and rooting for him, in all the show's complicated and tragic storylines.
  19. Charlie Kelly, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. In a bar full of hilarious, amoral lowlifes, Charlie never fails to make me chuckle heartily, whether he's practicing his "I've watch an episode of Law&Order" version of the legal profession, or marketing "Kitten Mittens." This was Sunny's most consistent season, and Charlie was a screechy, unhinged comic delight.
  20. Parker, Leverage. Leverage is TV throwback, like a better written and acted version of the A-Team each week, wrapped up in a mini Ocean's 11. Beth Riesgraf's Parker, the socially awkward master thief, is endearingly quirky. It's such a spin-filled, off-kilter performance, complete with scrunchy faces and unexpected line readings, that I can't wait to see what she'll do next.
  21. Sam Axe, Burn Notice. What nerd isn't happy that "The Chin," Bruce Campbell, has finally found a worthwhile home for his laconic gifts? Last year, I rewatched the DVD set of Brisco County Jr. and was sad that Campbell didn't get a chance to carry on with a character so suited to his leading man looks and sharp comic timing. But Burn Notice has given Bruce an opportunity to show us a more lived-in, but equally competent, character.
  22. The Doctor, Doctor Who. Technically, this was a bit of a cheat, since Doctor Who wasn't a regular weekly show this year, but rather a series of specials featuring the sublime David Tennant's last go-round as the Tenth Doctor. (DVR Alert! Part 1 of his swan song airs tonight on BBCA!). This year, we got to see him match wits with a "delusional Doctor," crack wise with a sexy jewel thief on a desert planet and start to come to grips with his arrogant omnipotence on Mars, and that was all before he must face the "end of his song" in a final showdown with The Master. Tennant has always been an accomplished actor, but words can't do justice to how energetic and mesmerizing his performance has been as The Doctor. Matt Smith has big shoes to fill.
  23. Chuck Bartowski, Chuck. If you're like me, you were so fond of Zachary Levi's Chuck Bartowski that you made a point to visit a Subway earlier this year, just to send a message to NBC that we wanted more of the warm-hearted Nerd-Herder turned superspy.
  24. Cal Lightman, Lie to Me. It takes a strong, strong actor to imbue the central character of a procedural with enough charm, wit and complexity to get you totally invested when the mystery is usually wrapped up in a tidy 43 minutes. But like Nathan Fillion or Hugh Laurie, Tim Roth dives headfirst into his role as human lie-detector Cal Lightman, and makes each week's episode eminently watchable; not so much for the "here's what happened" particulars of the plot, but rather for the journey of watching this serious thespian get there ahead of us.
  25. Jessica Hamby, True Blood. Season 2 of True Blood seriously upped its game, and was overstuffed with over the top characters. Yet for all the wildly entertaining melodrama around Bon Temps, the character who resonated most with me was Deborah Ann Woll's "baby vampire," Jessica Hamby. Initially just a fanged, spoiled teen destined to throw a wrench into the courtly and stuffy life of Vampire Bill, Jessica's story became more tragic as she experienced love for the first time, and to her horror, realized she was going to be an "undead virgin" for all eternity.

So, those were my Favorite 25 Characters of the year. Thanks to everyone for playing along, and a big congratulations to Amanda for notching a victory in the contest! Happy Holidays, y'all.

Friday, December 25, 2009

First thoughts on Friday Night Lights

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I'm going to attempt to play "catch up" with some of the more highly regarded TV shows of the Aughts that I may have missed during their first go-round. Freaks and Geeks was first up, and gets an emphatic recommendation from me.

Next, I popped in the DVD for season one of Friday Night Lights. I thought about watching FNL when it premiered, because I love football, enjoyed the movie, found the book fascinating, and generally appreciate director/producer Peter Berg's work. Plus, it featured the underrated Kyle Chandler (who is also a UGA alum!). However, it focused primarily on family dynamics and the lives of a bunch of kids and teenagers, and without a more compelling (for me) "genre" hook, it's just not a subject that particularly moves me to pick up the remote. Still, friends I trust suggested I watch, and along the way, it picked up plenty of critical hosannas (if not Emmy accolades).

Well, I'm 11 episodes into season one, and I have to admit, the show is pretty damned good. I won't do a full plot recap or even a critical analysis of the show thus far, but instead, just offer up a few stray observations:
  • Leads Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton do absolutely sensational work. Even though I'm only halfway through the first season, it's shocking to me that neither has been nominated for an Emmy. They both give life to real, three-dimensional characters, and make me believe in, and appreciate, their relationship. Just top-notch work.
  • Britton's Tami Taylor gains immediate access to MILF Hall of Fame, right there with Lorelai Gilmore.
  • Not sure if it's the video transfer, or the chosen result of the handheld shooting style, but the image quality is rather granular (though not in a completely distracting way).
  • Minka Kelly is scorching hot. I'm not sure she's a great actress.
  • What the hell is up with this "Landry" character? I can't get a handle on him.
  • I mentioned this on twitter, but there are some distracting "timing" issues. For example, one of the characters suffers a debilitating injury in the pilot / first game of the season. In a later episode, they're talking about the character's recovery, and how it's been two months since the injury. Then, in an unrelated scene, two other characters are discussing how the football team has played four games. Okay, even taking into account a bye week (which is actually shown on the show, in preparation for "rivalry week" against a big foe), that just doesn't make sense. Two months would be 8 or 9 weeks, yet only 4 games have taken place? It took me out of the show for a bit, but since I readily accept smoke monsters, time traveling islands, vampires, mind-wiped dolls, rodent eating aliens, cyborgs and other fantasy elements, I just moved on. Still, for a show that in every other way seems so grounded and realistic, it was annoying.
  • The scoring is by the legendary W.G. Snuffy Walden, a frequent Aaron Sorkin collaborator. While it's effective, and appropriately emotionally manipulative, I still feel like people should be walking endlessly down a hallway nattering on about unrealistically idealistic politics.
  • The football scenes are well shot, particularly for a television series, but thus far we've had way too many Rocky-esque miracle finishes. You could still convey the same heightened drama without all the hail marys, fumbles, staggering fourth quarter comebacks and diving last second touchdowns.
  • I understand the nature of small towns, but I really hope we don't continue to spend so much time in Dillon's churches.
  • There's been a refreshing lack of teen pregnancy, the old trope that infects virtually every high school show.
  • I'm the last person in the world to complain about political correctness or representation of minority characters, but thus far the two most prominent black characters (Voodoo and Smash) are irritating, cliched asshats. (And Aldis Hodge, so appealing on Leverage, is a total tool here as Voodoo. I wouldn't be surprised if we find out in season three he was involved in a dogfighting scandal).
  • Having gone to high school in a small southern town, the producers and writers totally nail the whole community vibe, without hitting you over the head with it.
  • As I mentioned, Chandler and Britton are both fantastic. Hell, you could take out all the kids, and I'd watch a show that consisted of nothing but them sitting around their house talking. Their interactions are realistic, compelling, grounded and adult, without being tedious or artificially dramatic.
And finally, on a completely trivial note, did I see Julie Mayer briefly show up as a shot-slinging trollop at the post-Homecoming party? (by "Julie Mayer," I mean actress Andrea Bowen, who plays Julie on Desperate Housewives). I looked at Bowen's imdb page, and did a cursory google search, but there's no record of her having appeared on the show. But I could have sworn it's her. Check out this grainy screencap:

That's all for now, and as you can tell, despite some initial misgivings and concerns, I'm impressed with FNL thus far and will continue to dive into the DVD sets.

Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose, y'all.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A quick, if belated, recommendation and filling in the gaps

If you've read this blog for a while (or hell, even for a couple of weeks), you know about my obsession with television. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy other forms of entertainment. Sports, movies, books, music, theater and so on. But for me, TV is where it's at, because I love finding characters that I like (or dislike, or more importantly, find compelling), and spending considerable time with them and their travails. To me, creating a set of characters and giving them a storytelling tableau, and then paying off those characters and their stories in an honest, intellectually and emotionally satisfying way is among the more difficult challenges any "artist" can undertake. For a sublime take on the elevated perception of television of art, check out this essay by Emily Nussbaum in New York Magazine. So suffice to say, I think I have an appreciation for television when it takes advantage of the medium for long form storytelling, character evolution, crisp writing and delivery of an involving and rewarding entertainment experience.

That's not to say I'm not without bias, though. Everyone has it. For example, when it comes to food, I'm admittedly a picky eater. However, I've tried just about everything, and eventually come to realize some things aren't for me (I'm looking at you, vegetables). Same goes for politics, relationships and religion. I've kept an open mind, explored the milieu as fully as I can, engaged my brain and curiosity, and determined what works for me and what doesn't. Yet I still have my preconceptions and mental roadblocks when I decide if I should watch a television show or not. For example:
  1. I'm a geek, so I'll always give anything science fictiony or supernatural a break.
  2. I hate - HATE - reality television.
  3. I don't like kids, and I'm just not interested in any shows about families.
  4. As an extension of 3, I really don't care about teen angst or shows with too many characters who aren't adults.
  5. Procedurals are fine ways to pass the time, or watch as you're falling asleep, but they're not exactly on my "must watch" list since there's very little story and character evolution over time.
But for every one of those notions, I've made an exception and been pleasantly surprised:
  1. Syfy has tried a number of shows that I've sampled, which have been eye-gougingly awful (Painkiller Jane, Flash Gordon, etc.). Along those same lines, Buffy and Supernatural appeared on the surface to be worthwhile, but violated notion #3. However, after catching on to them shortly after they premiered, at the urging of friends and/or critics, I was elated to discover shows that would enter my pantheon of quality and DVD collection.
  2. Odin knows that I've tried. I just can't stand them. If I want unpredictable "real life" events, well, then that's why I watch sports. And I can't stand all the "packaged" human interest bullshit. Yet I've tried all the major reality shows (competitive, celebreality, lifestyle, etc.) and only added one -- Idol -- to the TiVo. (Unless you count Mythbusters. Does that count as "reality TV?"). Probably because I can fast forward through all the dross and just watch people sing songs I've heard before and offer snap couch criticism and chat about it with other folks.
  3. I usually don't even give "family shows" a second thought (my idea of a "family show" most likely starts and stops with the Bluths), but I kept hearing wonderful things about Gilmore Girls. So I gave it a chance, and lo and behold, I absolutely adored that show. For someone who revels in the adventures of misanthropes, serial killers, aliens, criminals, cyborgs, detective and vampires, I was stunned how much I appreciated this superbly written (for most of its run) and acted program.
  4. Gilmores fits here, too. So does Glee. And Buffy. And Veronica Mars. And a show I'll mention in a moment.
  5. Who hasn't spent an afternoon on the couch with a Law & Order marathon and a bag of Doritos? But when it comes to top-shelf programming and Emmy-worthy performances, procedurals rarely come into the conversation. However, if you think about House, or Lie To Me, or even The Mentalist, even though the "case" usually gets wrapped up at the end of the hour, you can't say that there's not some very fine character work going on within the constraints of the formula.
So everyone has some type of bias or preconception about what shows they want to spend time with. I'm sure (based on the ratings) that many people didn't give Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Battlestar Galactica a chance just because the titles sounded so fucking ludicrous.

All this is to say that I've decided to "fill in the gaps" with some of my TV watching. Just about every TV critic is coming out with their "best of the decade" lists now, and I'm pleased that I've been on board with almost all the selections that regularly pepper these appreciations (Deadwood, Sopranos, Arrested Development, BSG, Lost, Mad Men, Six Feet Under, Buffy, Dexter, 24, Veronica Mars, etc.). But for the reasons noted above, and a few others, there are some critically praised programs I never got around to watching. So I'm going to correct that.

First up was Freaks and Geeks. I finished the series last night, and all I can say is "wow." I didn't think I would enjoy a show focused almost entirely on kids, without the infusion of some other storytelling element (noir detective work, like on Veronica Mars, or the supernatural, like on Buffy). But damn if I wasn't awed by the raw honesty of the characters, the realism of the situations, the poignancy of the performances and the caliber of the scripting. And lest that sound too cloyingly heartwarming, the show is fucking funny. So if you, like me, somehow missed out on Freaks and Geeks during its brief lifespan, I wholeheartedly recommend you go find it and watch it right now.

Next up on "filling in the gaps," will be two series I'm going to catch up with via the kindness of friends with DVD collections: The Wire and Friday Night Lights.

And Coming Soon: The winner of the TNRLM Character Contest. (Note: There's still time to enter -- deadline is midnight on x-mas).

Monday, December 21, 2009

TV Character Contest: The Update

Over the weekend, I got some interesting comments and questions about the "Favorite TV Character" contest. Basically, it boils down to this: should you bother guessing/entering if you don't know ALL of the 25 characters?

After all, I did kind of phrase it that way:
Your job? Identify all 25 characters (not the actor, not the show).

The first person to send an email to TNRLMeditor(at)gmail.com with the correct response...
That phraseology presupposes someone out there will be able to correctly name each and every character shown, and that the first person to do so would win, right? But what do you do if you "know" who many of them are, but aren't sure about a few others? Under the presupposition that someone will know them all, you might not even bother to guess on the rest or submit an entry.

Well, thus far, no one has identified all 25 correctly yet.

That brings me to two points:

  1. I'm slightly modifying the contest, but not so much that the modification wasn't inherently part of it to begin with, at least in my head (though obviously not explicitly stated, or clearly communicated, by me. Sorry about that). The winner will still be the first person to correctly identify all 25 characters. HOWEVER, if no one can identify all 25, then the winner will be the person who correctly identifies the greatest number of characters by the deadline. The deadline will be Friday night (X-mas!) by midnight, EST. In the case of ties (i.e., the highest number of identifications), the winner will be the person with the earliest email "postmark" date. Make sense?
  2. Did I make it too hard? Do I watch too much TV? (I think we all know the answer to the second question). I've developed quizzes and tests before for both profession and personal challenges, and I'm always left puzzling over the difference between "difficult" and "arcane." I mean, I know it, so that means everyone else must know it, right? But different people know things in different ways in different areas. For example, I can see or hear a bit of trivia one time, and then just absorb it into memory. But I can travel the same route somewhere 5 or 6 times, and still be lost without GPS, turn by turn printed directions, a trail of breadcrumbs and a sherpa to guide me. Or I have a dear friend who can recognize just about anyone by their face ("it's that guy from the movie who played the killer next door, and he was also the doctor in that thing...") but not always pull up the name and list of imdb credits from memory. So while I think the cropped pictures should be guessable, they indeed might not be, because I started with a list of names, and then assembled the photos knowing who they were the whole time. (It's a little like the old shell game. Yeah, I know which shell the pea is under because I put it there, but how do I know if you're following the sleight of hand?) Regardless, I know many of them are, because I've received some fairly accurate submissions thus far, indicating that there are at least a few of you out there who revel in their couch-spudness as much as I do.

So, bottom line: Keep guessing, there's still time to win!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

TNRLM's Favorite TV Characters of the Year: The Contest

Below, you will find a collage featuring cropped pictures of my 25 Favorite TV Characters of 2009.

Your job? Identify all 25 characters (not the actor, not the show).

The first person to send an email to TNRLMeditor(at)gmail.com with the correct response will win their favorite iTunes episode of one of the shows featuring any of the characters shown.

Remember, DON'T post your guesses in the comments -- send them via email. Just send the list, numbered 1 - 25, and voila, you're entered!

For a full run down on how this works, you can reference my previous post here. I'll be back next week to announce the winner and have some discussion about a few of the characters.

Click the picture to Embiggen:

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Who are your favorite TV characters of 09? And would you like a shiny new prize?

Rather than do a "Best of 2009" TV list at the end of the year, I usually assemble my thoughts on boob-tube excellence as part of a wish list to coincide with the release of the Emmy nominations. (You can find links to my last Emmy round up here). However, as the year draws to a close, I have put together a list of my Favorite TV Characters from the past 12 months. And, to make it fun for you, I'll turn my list into a pseudo-puzzle and actually offer a fabulous prize to you, dear blog reader, as a thank you for your patronage of TNRLM in 2009.

So how does this work? Glad you asked.
  • Sometime this weekend (most likely Saturday morning), I'll publish the list of my Favorite TV Characters of 2009. The list will be numbered, and the characters will be represented (only) by a close cropped image of the actor in character. (The list won't be a "ranking" with character #1 being my favorite of the year, but rather numbered just to make it easier for the contest).
  • Your job will be to identify the character (NOT the actor, and NOT the show) from the photo.
  • The first reader to send me an email correctly identifying all the characters will win a prize.
  • The prize will an iTunes episode from one of the shows in which any of the characters on my list appears. (You choose the show and the episode, and the particular episode doesn't necessarily have to be from 2009. For example, if one of my favorite characters is John Locke, you could choose "Walkabout" from Lost's first season).

Simple enough? Here are a few further caveats:

  • I'm going to limit myself to one character per show. Obviously, this will force a few Sophie's choices. For example, using the aforementioned Lost example, how on earth could I choose between Locke, Sawyer, Juliet, Ben and Faraday? Yet, to keep things simple, I will. So if you determine that one of the characters from the list is John Locke, rest assured that you won't see any other Losties on the list.
  • The characters listed will have to have been part of the regular cast, listed in the credits, and not a guest star. So even though we all love Alpha and Whiskey from Dollhouse, they're not eligible for this particular exercise.
  • The characters have to be from an episode that originally aired in calendar year 2009.
  • I'll publish the list and contest here on the blog and simultaneously tweet a link to the post. So no matter how you usually get here (casual reading, twitter, RSS reader, etc.) you'll have the same opportunity to play.
  • You'll need a valid email address. Obviously, if I'm going to give the winner iTunes TV goodies, I'll have to send you a link to pick up your prize. (Don't worry, the email won't be used for sending you solicitations for Nigerian banking scams or male-enhancement prescriptions).
  • The winner will be determined by the first email, as time stamped by Google Mail, to arrive in my inbox correctly identifying all the characters.
  • I decided to make the submissions by email, rather than by comments posted on the blog itself, so that partial or incorrect submissions wouldn't give "hints" or "a leg up" to subsequent entries.
  • The submissions can be sent to the email address on the side of this blog: TNRLMeditor(at)gmail.com
  • Enter as many times as you like!

That should all be pretty clear. However, if you have questions, feel free to leave 'em in the comments below.

Also, note that I said that my list will be "favorite," not necessarily "best." There's no doubt that Hugh Laurie gives a technically proficient, Emmy-worthy performance week in and week out, but would House be one of my favorite characters of the year? Not necessarily.

So, to get us started, who are some of YOUR Favorite TV Characters of 2009?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Ashes to Ashes

In all seriousness, sympathies go out to Willie Martinez, John Jancek, Jon Fabris and their families. As fans, alumni and season ticket holders, we may not have been pleased with their performance and have every "right" to demand better, but they tried their best for the program, and we thank them for their effort. However, the proof was in the pudding, and it was (mercifully) time to move on.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Good TV Reminder

Yes, November sweeps are over, and the nation is breathlessly wondering "what the fuck is going on with Tiger Woods?!" But that doesn't mean there isn't tubey goodness to be had:

Tonight, we have the season 2 finale of FX's terrific outlaw biker drama Sons of Anarchy. And it's 90 minutes, so check your DVRs accordingly.

Also on tonight, there's a new show on the Science Channel called Sci-Fi Science hosted by Dr. Michio Kaku, author of "Physics of the Impossible." He will examine the scientific plausibility of things like lightsabers, warp drive and stargates. I want to build a time machine out of empty whiskey bottles, paper clips and my BlackBerry. I wonder if this will help.

There's a new Glee tomorrow, and hopefully it will be fake baby-free, or this plot will get aborted soon.

There's also a new Fringe Thursday. It's been struggling on Thursday nights, so show up and watch, y'all.

And Friday, there's not one BUT TWO brand spankin' new Dollhouse episodes (with Ray Wise! And Summer Glau!).

Oh, and if you'd given up on House after it squandered the potential of the wonderful season premiere, catch last night's "Wilson" episode on the intertubes. It was a great, "Zeppo" or "Lower Decks" look at Hugh Laurie's sidekick.