Sunday, February 28, 2010

Classified's "Oh Canada" Remix

On this day of wonderful Canadian pride (the hockey gold, the Olympic closing ceremonies, William Shatner given free reign to be awesome), let's all band together as a nation and agree to prosecute Classified for treason. This. Song. Is. Awful. View at your own risk.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Hot! Live! Music!

Wow, has it seriously been almost a year since I've done one of these? That doesn't seem right.

Radiohead, "15 Step"

I was happy to find their Grammys performance on YouTube somewhere, since the CBS copyright police had eliminated most other video. I'm not really sure why they'd bother --- it was the 2009 Grammys. It's not like CBS plans on rebroadcasting this anytime soon. '15 Step' has a terrific beat as it is, but amplified by the USC marching band, it's awe-inspiring.

MGMT, "Naive Melody"

Ok, it's not the best cover. It certainly doesn't hold a candle to the Miles Fisher cover, let alone the Talking Heads original. But I just love the idea that some people inevitably walked across campus that day and rolled their eyes at the jackasses playing music in the quad, and now today surely brag to their friends about how they saw MGMT back when they were just starting out. "You know, even then, I knew those guys were going to be huge," and so forth.

Ben Lee, "Kids"

Sadly, I couldn't find a video of the Talking Heads covering Ben Lee to complete the circle. Damn the Heads for breaking up years before Lee ever came on the scene and/or graduated grade school.

Pulp, "Disco 2000"

I'm not a big karaoke guy, but if a Pulp song is on the playlist, I'm getting up there and performing. No questions asked. Oh, that doesn't mean I'll be singing a Pulp song. I'll be sticking to my usual standard, "It's Raining Men."

The Cardigans, "For What It's Worth"

Hey, while we're dealing with bands that were big back when I was in high school, here come the Cardigans. Whatever happened to these guys? This is not, btw, a cover of the Stephen Stills classic. The Cardigans just inexplicably decided to name one of their tunes after one of the more famous songs in music history. Then again, society by and large just calls Stills' song "Somethin's Happening Here" anyway, so maybe the Cardigans thought they could sneak it in under the gun. Those dodgy Swedes...

Bruce Springsteen, "Dancing In The Dark"

This is pretty awesome. This busker is just strumming along on the streets of Copenhagen, when who should stroll up but Bruce Springsteen to join in and give this kid the thrill of his life. Good thing the kid knew at least one Boss song or else the whole thing might've gotten awkward.

Antony and the Johnsons, "Crazy In Love"

Yes, it's the Beyonce song. And bonus, it was even in Toronto! Also, not to judge, but that's what the guy from Antony and the Johnsons looks like? Whoa. Nice voice, but he looks like Ursula from The Little Mermaid came to live as a human male.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Random TV Nonsense

We start with this cartoon depiction of old-timey CSI. Outstanding.


I've been asked to write more about LOST on the blog so that certain bored librarians can pick apart these theories during slow moments at work. ("No, I don't personally know these people," Mark said. "And they're certainly not the same people I watched last week's episode and the Canada/Germany hockey game with. By the way, Heather, thanks for the chips!")

But, though these people are total strangers to me, who am I to turn down a request? I'm just pleased that one of my theories about the show (the split realities) actually looks like it's coming true. Two theories on where this alternate reality is coming from....

* It's the result of the bomb. Some might wonder why a bomb that went off in 1977 would effect things that happened in the LOST characters lives pre-1977, but remember, if the Island was sunk to the bottom of the ocean as a result of the nuke, then that sends out shockwaves that go back further in time. Remember when Juliet, Sawyer, Charlotte, Daniel, Miles and Locke were time-shifted back to the early 50's with young Charles Widmore and buried the bomb in the first place? That couldn't have happened either. So since the ripple effect goes back to at least before every Lost character was born, the alternate timeline can present us with pretty much anything involving any character. For instance, Alternate-Locke had a picture of he and his dad in his cubicle, so I'm presuming that in this reality, Anthony Cooper isn't a dirtbag conman and didn't push Locke out a window.

* It's Jacob's doing. Or, maybe it's the work of the 'new Jacob' or whomever the final candidate turns out to be. The alternate reality looks like a world where the characters never experienced the Island, so maybe the new Jacob decided to cut everyone a break and reboot reality so they can avoid the whole mess altogether. Now, the Island does exist in this reality since we saw it at the bottom of the ocean, and there are definitely hints that this reality could be in some ways faked. There was Desmond's quick appearance on the airplane, plus Jack's mysterious scratches and the fact that he inexplicably couldn't remember how he got his appendix removed as a child (when, in the 'real' timeline, Juliet took it out on the Island).

I'd guess we won't find out until near the end of the season what the alternate reality really 'is,' so we'll just have to enjoy the side stories until then. Characters like Richard and Ilana haven't even had real-world flashback episodes yet, so we've got to find out more about them in the interim. I'd also love to see the Monster get his own headline episode so we can find out what the hell his deal is, but that's another thing that might not come up until the finale. In the meantime, we just have Terry O'Quinn's increasingly awesome and creepy performance. That scene in the premiere when he tells Ben he 'wants to go home'? Scary as hell. O'Quinn is the MVP of the season thus far.


The new Kids In The Hall series, Death Comes To Town, is on hiatus for the Winter Olympics since CBC rightly presumes that nobody in Canada will be watching anything on their network during the Games. So, the break gives y'all a chance to check out the episodes thus far on the CBC website because this series is amazing. We're only five shows deep, but so far it's just as funny as the original KITH series and (given its serial nature) actually tightly-plotted. I have little doubt we're going to see a clever solution to the 'mystery' of the show.

The premise: the philandering, deadbeat mayor of a small Ontario town (called 'Shuckton,' which I'm presuming is a shoutout to me) is murdered in the wake of his failure to bring the 2028 Olympics to his town. Basically everyone in Shuckton is a suspect, and pretty much every major town figure is played by one of the five Kids. I'm glad to see that the entire cast is equally involved in the acting and writing, given that the ads made it seem like it was pretty much a Bruce McCulloch/Mark McKinney/Scott Thompson series that also included cameos from Dave Foley and Kevin McDonald just so they could promote it under the KITH name.

Who's the killer? If I had to make a pick, I'd reckon it's the deputy mayor (played by Mike Beaver, one of those Canadian actors who's in everything) simply because he seems to be the only major character that isn't played by one of the Kids. Well, the only major character aside from Rampop, the 'special' son of the mayor who sees humans as cartoon butterflies, witnesses the second murder and is also a crack shot. I'm probably a bad person for finding Rampop so funny, but sue me. Bruce's big city prosecutor character also cracks me up since he's a virtual dead ringer for my friend Ian. Between that and the Shuckton thing, I'm not sure the Kids didn't take the idea for the series simply by following me around. Wait, did I just indirectly admit to beating people to death with TV remote controls? This will get me thrown into a cell with Steve Sax.

If you're a fan of the original KITH series, you'll enjoy Death Comes To Town. There's even appearances by such classic Kids characters as the idiot cops and the Chicken Lady. Mr. Heavyfoot has yet to be worked into the plot, but if a future victim is stomped to death, we'll have our prime suspect.


Speaking of death by remote controls, many a TV series is indirectly killed when viewers use their remotes to switch to other shows. (Now THAT is a segue!) The Nielsen ratings system is one of those things that people regularly discuss and cite without really understanding how it works. I include myself in this category since I can only

* How are they collected? Do 'Nielsen families' still exist, where certain people agree to have boxes installed on their TVs that record what shows they watch? How does one become a Nielsen family? Has anyone ever known of an actual Nielsen family? How many such families are there and do they accurately represent a cross-section of the viewing public? Wouldn't a more logical way to collect ratings info in this age of DVRs and cable boxes to just automatically calculate what people are watching on them? (Though this would obviously invade privacy. And by god, if I want to watch Jersey Shore, I don't need a ratings company knowing about my guilty pleasure.)

* Do they have any relevance? This was one of the cornerstone debate points of the Conan/Leno fiasco. Leno supporters pointed to the fact that Jay's ratings as Tonight Show host were consistently higher, but Conan's supporters argued that Conan's younger audience was more apt to watch the show on the internet, or would DVR it to watch the next day. Given that it's mostly older generations who actually still sit and watch a show at its appointed time, aren't Nielsens an outdated method of finding the 18-49 market group that advertisers crave? (Nuts and Gum, together at last!)

* Sweeps Month, WTF? So, everyone knows that February, May and November are 'sweeps months' where advertisers use shows' ratings to set their advertising rates. Networks counter by scheduling big events like the Super Bowl or Olympics during these months, plus the TV season finales in May and numerous guest stars/gimmick episodes/etc. in November and February. My big question about Sweeps is why are advertisers okay with this? If these ratings are being artificially enhanced during the sweeps months, why would advertisers use them as the defining measurements of their rates? The police don't ring up Avon Barksdale and say, "We're coming by on Monday, Thursday and Saturday to check your house for cocaine," and then assume by the lack of drugs in the house on those days that Avon is an upstanding citizen. Wouldn't it make more sense to switch up the months each year, and not tell networks which months are being monitored?

Dammit, Jack Nielsen, I want some answers. Also, why did you get into the TV rating monitoring business after retiring from baseball? Are you a new-age Moonlight Graham? Do you wish you had gotten to play in the majors?


Here's the link to Chris Jones' outstanding profile of Roger Ebert, plus Ebert's own follow-up piece on his blog. Serious question: is Ebert the last film reviewer whose opinion will still mean something to the general public? No knock on, say, Owen Gleiberman or someone of that ilk, but Ebert's thumbs up still has some cache in popular culture. Ebert is even more unique given that he isn't just a critic with a gimmick --- he goes out of his way to promote independent film, highlights the history of cinema and discusses foreign films in both his books and on his website. He might literally be the last Film Critic as we know it.


Once in a while I'll make a note of something that i want to write about in further detail on the blog and yet, once I see that note later, I don't really know what to do with it. Case in point: I find a slip of paper in my wallet with a few such notes on them, one of which was just 'Lego video games, why are these popular?' That just about says it all.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Which Franchise Has Had The Biggest Fall From Grace?

Hey there sports fans, got a pop quiz for you. Of these steeped-in-history, traditional-power franchises, which one would you say has deteriorated into the biggest joke?

* New York Knicks
* Toronto Maple Leafs
* Pittsburgh Pirates
* Oakland Raiders
* Washington Redskins

Originally the poll was just going to include one team from each sport, but the Redskins were a last-minute inclusion due to their somewhat underrated nature as a joke. Though that doesn't make them any more or less valid a candidate (no, I didn't write the options on the interior of a cave) than the others.

Let's break down each team...

* The Raiders
CONS: Oakland fans find themselves in the awkward situation of knowing that their team is doomed to failure until Al Davis (the owner, the icon, the singular figure in Raiders history) passes away. This is a grim fate even for a team whose fans regularly dress as Death. The front office is such a known mess that several promising coaching candidates have either turned down the Raiders head job or not even bothered to interview for it. Seriously, these are football coaches. They're some of the most competitive, type-A men on the planet and even they want no part of the bear trap that is working for Oakland. As such, the only coaches that can be hired are total retreads or last-chancers or guys who wouldn't be even close to hired by any other team. The Raiders are the only team in NFL history to lose at least 11 games in seven straight years.

PROS: If this team had even a semi-competent organizational staff, they have a shot at making the playoffs. Seriously, this team isn't all that bad. Nnamdi Asomugha is probably the best cornerback in the NFL who isn't nicknamed after an island. Their overall defense is pretty solid. Their punter might be the best in league history. The fact that I had to turn to the punter just three entries into the list isn't a good sign, but this team has talent. Had they not been forced to use the incomparably bad JaMarcus Russell at quarterback for most of the season last year, they could've very well gone 8-8 in a weak AFC West. The inherent parity of the NFL means that the Raiders could easily rise back to respectability in just one season if they brought in a good coach/GM and Davis agreed to keep his hands off the product.

* The Maple Leafs
CONS: As a Leafs fan, man, is this painful to write. No team has adjusted worse to the salary cap era of the NHL than the Maple Leafs. First of all, the cap restricted the financial edge that the team had on most of the league (not that the money was ever spent properly, but still). To boot, then-GM John Ferguson Jr. turned out to be pretty much the worst possible person to try and run a team in this new era. He left behind a trail of awful contracts and lousy signings that the Leafs are still trying to work themselves out from under. As for the new guys, nobody expected Rome to be built in a day, but more was expected of the Brian Burke/Ron Wilson regime than the second-worst record in the NHL. What are the odds that the first-rounder that Toronto dealt to Boston in the Phil Kessel deal develops into a superstar? 95 percent? 100 percent? I am not looking forward to hearing about that for the next, oh, 15-20 years of a Hall of Fame career. For as much as the media likes to talk about the pride and tradition of playing for the Leafs, and given how many NHL stars grew up in southern Ontario as Leafs fans, there seems to be a growing stigma that players simply would rather not play in Toronto. It could be simply a "wait until the team is good" thing, or it could also be that most players would rather not play in the oft-crushing Toronto hockey fishbowl. Also, you might not realize this, but did you know that the Leafs haven't won a Stanley Cup since 1967? No kidding! I don't know why more people don't comment on this.

PROS: As I said, nobody expects Rome to be built in a day. I'd be kind of surprised if Wilson lasts long after Team USA is done at the Olympics, but still, Burke's recent big deals are promising. Say what you will about Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, but they're not actively contributing to their teams' failure like the other ownership groups on this list. While it remains to be seen how Burke does as Leafs boss, at least MLSE gave him virtual carte blanche to run the club as he sees fit. Compared to the other candidates on this list, there aren't any innate reasons why the Maple Leafs shouldn't be a good team, they just need to stop screwing things up. And, this last pro can't be overstated: at least they're not the Senators.

* The Pirates
CONS: As lousy as the other candidates are today, there has been some recent success. Before the Raiders went on their record 11-losses-per-year streak, they were in Super Bowl 37. The Redskins have made the playoffs twice in the last five years. The Maple Leafs have two final fours in the last decade and were in the second round of the playoffs in 03-04. Even the Knicks made the playoffs in 03-04; okay, they got swept and embarrassed, but hey, they still made the finals in 1999 and the semi-finals in 2000. So there have at least been a few bright spots or close calls within the last decade for the other franchises in this list. The Pirates, meanwhile, haven't had a winning season since 1992. That's a 17-year drought. No team in North American sports history (EVER) has had such a run of futility. I mean, forget about a playoff appearance or even contention --- not even a damn winning season! Not even one little 82-80 record to break the streak. The closest they've come is 79-83 in 1997. It gets even worse for the Pirates and their fans. Unlike the other pro sports leagues and their salary caps/floors, there isn't any built-in survival mechanism to help Pittsburgh back to respectability. If the Pirates want to spend next to nothing on payroll and absorb luxury tax payouts from the larger clubs, they can go ahead and do that. Now, that's no excuse for the Bucs to totally whiff every year in the draft, but still, there is nothing that MLB can do to help a team that is content to suck and cry the small-market blues. Majority owner Robert Nutting took over the team just in 2007 so it might be too quick to write off his reign as a continuation of the Kevin McClatchy era, but the early outlook isn't promising. There appears to be no end in sight to the Pirates' woes.

PROS: It's not a good sign that my biggest 'pro' for the Buccos is that they simply might not be iconic enough to be on the list in the first place. I mean, if you asked a random person to start naming hockey teams, the Leafs will be one of the first five mentioned. Probably the same goes for the Knicks in a basketball question. The Redskins and Raiders would both crack the top ten in an NFL-naming question. But this hypothetical casual fan might be naming MLB teams for a while before they got around to the Pirates. Perhaps, rather than a pro, this is another con. The Pirates are the team of Roberto Clemente, Honus Wagner, Bill Mazeroski's Series-winning walkoff homer, Willie Stargell and the 'We Are Family' champs, Pie Traynor, pre-crisis Barry Bonds and the Waner brothers. An all-time Pirates team would whip the asses of most clubs' all-time lineups. The fact that not even baseball fans consider this team to be an iconic franchise anymore is the most disappointing part of the whole Pittsburgh situation. I need another 'pro,' so let's just go with PNC Park. As bad as the Bucs are, at least Pittsburgh has the best stadium in the major leagues...for now.

* The Knicks
CONS: Presuming NYK misses this year's playoff dance, that will make it just one playoff appearance in the last nine years. And in that lone appearance, they were swept in the first round by a local rival (New Jersey), so it was about as ignominious as it gets. It would take a better basketball writer than I to properly sum up the disaster that was Isiah Thomas' run of the franchise, but let me just say that Isiah made John Ferguson Jr. look like friggin' Branch Rickey. The Knicks weren't just a bad team under Thomas, that would be too easy. They became the joke of the league, magnified tenfold due to the fact that the various screw-ups were endlessly torn apart by the New York media. Even after Thomas was finally fired, the team will still be burdened with bad contracts and non-existent drafts for years to come. Though Thomas is still gone, the Knicks still have owner James Dolan, widely considered one of the worst owners in the NBA (which is saying something). The franchise is putting all of its eggs in the basket of the 2010 free agent class, hoping that Lebron James or Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh (or a combination of the three) wants to play in the massive NYC market. Of course, if they all decide that they want to still compete for a championship while they're in their prime, then the Knicks suddenly are hella-screwed.

PROS: Whereas the Pirates are sort of a forgotten or underrated icon, the Knicks 'icon' status might be overrated simply because they play in New York and because seemingly 65 percent of the sportswriters who grew up in NYC in the 70's wrote a book about the 1970 or 1973 Knicks. Those two years were, in fact, the only two times the 'Bockers won the NBA title. Seems low, doesn't it? We've all been suckered into thinking that the Knicks are a lot more relevant than they actually were. Hell, the Golden State Warriors have three titles, maybe I should've written an entry about them. It's possible that New York could've won something with their solid teams throughout the 1990's, were it not for their habit of being decimated whenever they faced an actual quality team (i.e. the Jordan Bulls, Hakeem's Rockets, Miller's Pacers, or the 1999 Spurs). Also, like the Leafs, there isn't a technical reason why the Knicks should be as bad as they are. Dolan's hire of Donnie Walsh and Mike D'Antoni seems good on the surface, and if Dolan just stays out of the way and gives them as much rope as he gave Thomas, then conceivably the Knicks could start to turn things around. Also, if a James/Wade/Bosh signing actually comes to fruition, that turn-around could start as soon as next year.

* The Redskins
CONS: So why'd the Skins make it? In 11 years under Dan Snyder's ownership, with all of the money, and big name players and coaches that have been associated with this franchise, it all added up to...three playoff appearances. A 2-3 playoff record overall, to be specific. Their 4-12 record last year was the worst thus far, and really kind of broke a streak for the Redskins since last year they were straight-up bad. In past years, they were just irritatingly mediocre; on paper, Washington should've been contenders in virtually every season, yet always seemed to finish 7-9 or 9-7. Their best record under Snyder is just 10-6 (achieved twice). It's an odd line that the Redskins walk under Snyder. On the one hand, they always have enough money and support to field a competitive team. But since that money is spent so haphazardly and so little thought given to actually building a team rather than just signing a few big free agents, Washington can never get over the hump to become an actual capital-g Good team. Can the Skins turn things around under Mike Shanahan? Possibly. Or, more accurately, they'll have four years of 7-9, 8-8, 6-10 and 10-6, and Shanahan will then leave for a team with a competent ownership group.

PROS: NFL parity almost seems to make it a given that Washington will eventually make the playoffs again and maybe even win a round. And the Skins are perhaps third in the 'which of these teams is an overrated icon' debate. Sure, they have three Super Bowls in the last 30 years, but the days of Mark Rypien are pretty far in the past. The Skins get a lot of hype and are considered iconic largely because of their rivalries with their division foes Dallas, New York and Philadelphia. Between those three and Washington itself, that's four of the biggest media markets in the NFL perpetuating the idea that these teams are always perennial Super Bowl contenders. And, Shanahan might very well do a good job in D.C., though he's another guy who hasn't done much in a while that is semi-coasting on past success. So he's a perfect fit!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

UFC 110 Predictions

* Krzysztof Soszynski over Stephan Bonnar, decision (or death by consonants)
Bonnar hasn't won a fight since October 2007. Dana White always claimed that Bonnar and Forrest Griffin's Ultimate Fighter heroics had earned them lifetime contracts with the UFC, but we'll see how far that stretches after Bonnar once again takes a loss. Krzysztof didn't do much against Brandon Vera, but he's shown he can at least beat third-tier light-heavyweights, and frankly, third-tier might be a generous placing for Bonnar at this point.

* Goran Reljic over CB Dollaway, submission, round two
Reljic broke onto the UFC scene with a dominant win over Wilson Gouveia in May 2008, then dropped off the map thanks to a variety of injuries. Now he's back and down a weight class, so it's really hard to predict at all what he'll look like. Then again, I hate CB Dollaway. Ergo, Reljic taps him like there's no tomorrow.

* Chris Lytle over Brian Foster, knockout, round two
Lytle is kind of a journeyman with a middling record, but there's no doubt it takes a tough guy to beat him. He's almost a perfect gatekeeper for up-and-comers. Foster hasn't done anything that would make he think he has what it takes to get through said gate, so Lytle picks up a win and also an outside shot at either the submission or knockout of the night bonus.

* James Te-Huna over Igor Pokrajac, decision
Both of these guys are pretty much non-entities, so I'll pick the Aussie to win in his home country. Hopefully Andy Bernard is one of his training partners so he can bestow the nickname 'Big Te-Huna.'

* Joe Stevenson over George Sotiropoulos, decision
Great match-making for this one. George hasn't lost in the UFC, and Joe is on a two-fight win streak and is kind of a semi-gatekeeper in the lightweight division right now. This match will prove if George is ready to hang with the top guys in the division or not, since a win over Stevenson would probably put him in line for a #1 contender's bout. But I dunno, I have a feeling Stevenson just has a bit more experience in a big-match environment and he'll take advantage of George's nerves at fighting in front of his home fans. Should be a very tight match, and potentially a bit of a dull one, but Stevenson pulls it out.

* Keith Jardine over Ryan Bader, decision
Jardine gets his first fight in a while that isn't against a top-drawer light-heavyweight. Instead, it's against an unbeaten up-and-comer. Poor Keith. That said, Bader doesn't bring much to the table outside of wrestling, and I think Jardine can evade and stick-and-move long enough to earn the decision. This is two fights in a row, by the way, where I've picked the veteran to beat the young TUF star, so I'm bound to get at least one of them wrong. Damn you, universe.

* Mirko Filipovic over Anthony Perosh, knockout, round three
Perosh couldn't be more of a can if he came to the ring in a Ragu label. He's a last-minute fill-in for an ill Ben Rothwell, which means that even if Cro Cop wins, it still won't prove if Cro Cop has anything left in the tank or not. If Mirko loses this one, he should retire on the spot.

* Wanderlei Silva over Michael Bisping, knockout, round two
Am I stupid for continually picking Silva when it's clear he's a shell of his former shelf? Probably. But then again, his aggressive punching style is perfectly suited for a fighter like Bisping, a man so dumb he managed to get horrifyingly knocked out by Dan Henderson's right hand after spending months training to avoid that very punch. Bisping can stick-and-move against Silva for a while, but Wandy needs just one opening to bring Bisping down.

* Cain Velasquez over Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, TKO, round three
Hey, I picked all veterans thus far, one of the younger guys has to take a fight. As good as Nog looked against Randy Couture, the fact that he couldn't knock Randy out in spite of landing several clean shots tells me that his punching power might be on the wane. Velasquez can take a punch, as we saw against Cheick Kongo. I can see Cain just riding Nog out to a decision, or possibly catching him with a shot of his own. Nogueira claims a staph infection was the reason for his glass jaw against Frank Mir, but I dunno --- he's an old 33 who has been in a lot of wars. It's odd to pick Nogueira (who went his whole career without being knocked out) to eat his second KO in a little over a year, but there you have it. Cain wins and goes on to face either Brock Lesnar or Junior Dos Santos in his next fight. Either way, it'll be a huge matchup.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A History Of Visual Effects

They spent two minutes on the first 70 years and three minutes on the last 30 years, but still, cool video. Surprising omissions: Matrix, 2001, Avatar, Nicole Kidman's face.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Ideal Survivor All-Star Cast

It's impossible for Survivor to ever have a totally satisfying 'all-stars' format for a season for the simple fact that even if you could somehow pare the hundreds of contestants down into a completely acceptable 18-to-20-person cast, some of that group simply might not want to do it again. Guys like Earl Cole and Yul Kwon (both very popular former winners) are on record as saying that while they enjoyed the experience, it's not something they'd want to go through again just for more TV face time, a crack at more money and a specious 'title defense' of sorts.

With all of that in mind, I still have to fault CBS for the lackluster cast they assembled for this Heroes vs. Villains concept for Survivor's 20th season. It's not perfect --- not by a long shot. In fact, it makes four critical mistakes that the largely successful Fans vs. Favorites season (discussed at length, and I do mean at length, by these two yahoos) avoided.

* Former winners are back. In FvF, the highest any of the players placed was second, so there was some definite hunger for a second crack at the title. I felt it was a good move to keep the winners out of it, since if you remember back to the first All-Stars series, former winners like Tina, Ethan and Richard Hatch were all immediately targeted simply because of their past triumphs. For this new series, however, Sandra Diaz-Twine, Tom Westman, Parvati Shallow and James Thomas are all in the cast, and if history is any indication, they'll have big targets on their back. It's kind of a no-win situation for a former Survivor champ; since they're immediately targeted, they really have little to no room to maneuver. And for fans, it's frustrating since (obviously) part of the appeal of a show like this is seeing how winners do a second time around. If I were CBS, I would've tried for a different theme of the season --- Champions vs. Challengers. Ten former winners against ten former runners-ups, jury members or players who had to leave the game early for medical reasons. It gives the champs an even footing from the start and, with 10 targets, it makes it less likely that they'd be picked on just because they have a million bucks already.

* It's nothing but former players. While the "fans" in FvF were mostly all terrible players, it at least kept things fresh and led to a season free of the bad feelings that spoiled the previous All-Stars campaign. This time, however, it's all returnees again, so let's hope we can avoid nonsense like Rich Hatch sexually harassing Sue Hawk, or Lex's friendship with Boston Rob being destroyed.

* The last All-Star season was just two years ago. It seemed like Survivor was on a cycle of one All-Star campaign for every eight series. I understand them wanting to do something big for the 20th season, but come on now, Survivor 10 was just a regular cast of newbies. We're not exactly raring for another All-Star concept right now, which leads me to my biggest pet peeve....

* Three-timers. Of the 20 people in the cast, eight of them (almost half!) are appearing in their third Survivor series. Of these eight, there are three who might be passable --- Parvati (won FvF, so she's defending a title), James (injured during FvF, though let's be honest, he's here due to Jeff Probst's hilarious man-crush on him) and Boston Rob (who is basically on a title defense too after his marriage-creating performance in the first All-Stars, and plus admittedly I'm interested in seeing how Rob adjusts to the modern Survivor game full of hidden immunity idols and whatnot). But as for the other five, they're all 0-for-2, forget them. Even Cirie, arguably my favourite Survivor player ever, really has no case to be brought back other than the producers just getting lazy with their casting. It's absurd that a show with such a rich history of characters would ignore great players who haven't even been brought back once in order to bring back people who have done it twice.

None of these criticisms, I should note, will keep me from watching the show, since I'm a confirmed Survivor addict. But still, it's irritating to see such obvious mistakes made in what could, if done properly, be a great concept. Rather than a half-assed melange like this cast, I'd like to see something like the aforementioned Champs vs. Challengers idea, or (in a totally perfect world) a cast of all former Survivor winners. Such a show couldn't happen, though, since assembling those specific 19 people would be impossible --- Rich Hatch is in jail, Ethan Zohn is battling cancer, and as noted, guys like Earl or Yul just don't have any desire to return. It would also be kind of a wonky cast with an uneven number like 19, and the usually even male/female ratio would also be thrown off (11 male winners vs. 8 female winners).

But after ripping CBS' choices, it's now time for me to put my money where my mouth is and try to construct an ideal All-Stars cast of my own. I'm actually going to make two of them. One will be the cast I would've put together for this specific season, scrapping the Heroes/Villains gimmick and picking random folks from the history of the show (no third-timers, no winners). The second is my ultimate Survivor cast, i.e. if I had to put together the premium type of All-Stars season, here are the 20 people I'd select. The only joint rule for both of these lists is that it's an even split of 10 men/10 women, and I'm going to limit myself to just one person from each season. Also, this takes place in a magical fairytale land where gumdrops are raindrops and every former player wants to/is able to return.

This Season's All-Stars

Borneo: Kelly Wiglesworth. There are lots of intriguing options from the first season, if for no other reason than to see how these people adjust to being on what is, in many ways, a completely different show from the one they participated on in 2000. Perhaps I picked Kelly just because all the other players seem to have gone to some secondary level of success through their fame in the show, whereas Kelly was just That Girl Who Came In Second To Richard Hatch. She won four immunities in a row, for pete's sake. She deserves better.

Australia: Elisabeth Hasselbeck. My 'no three-timers' rule hits Australia hard, since it omits Colby, Jerri, Amber, Tina and Alicia. I thought about picking Mike "The Guy Who Fell In The Fire" Skupin since he is a sentimental favorite of Survivor fans who want to see people brought back for All-Star seasons, but I couldn't resist the temptation to re-cast the fool who has been irritating humanity on The View for years. The only downside is that in an actual All-Stars season, she could last a long time since everyone would want to be sitting next to her in the finals. *shudder*

Africa: Teresa Cooper. Here's another show that's hit even harder by the third-timer ban. The ol' T-Bird is a player I'd like to see again, given how she was behind the eight ball for virtually her entire stint on the show. A well-liked, respected player like her would probably fare better in the modern game, since Africa was still mostly played under the 'make an alliance and ride it to the end' strategy.

Marquesas: Paschal English. You might remember him as the kindly old judge that became the one (and to date, only) Survivor to ever be "purple-rocked" out of the game. Even better, Survivor producers later admitted that the use of the purple rock tie-breaker at the final four didn't really make sense, so Paschal wouldn't even have been eliminated had he played in any future seasons. C'mon, a judge of all people should get the justice of a return trip to the show.

Thailand: Helen Glover. The Thailand season has some slim pickings, but Helen was a clear choice. A flat-out hilarious contestant from start to finish. Click here for a recap of Helen's greatest moment (and, while you're there, check out the rest of that awesome list).

Amazon: Matthew Von Ertfelda. Mario (who, by the way, I'll be quoting at length in this piece, so buckle up) compared the relationship between Matt and Rob Cesternino to that of Dr. Frankenstein and his Monster. Rob taught the off-putting Matt basically how to play the game, and became gradually terrified that Matt --- who several players thought actually had a screw loose --- would lose it if Rob tried to screw him over. Matt gradually became good enough at the game to finish second, so maybe after another appearance, he'd have morphed into the best player ever. He'd be like Doomsday, the Superman villain whose power of evolution allowed him to eventually overcome any threat.

Pearl Islands: Sandra Diaz-Twine. I can't wait to see what Sandra does on HvV. Both due to gameplay, and also if one of her many obscenities will slip past CBS' soon-to-be-overworked censor. Sandra's first appearance was pre-Janet Jackson's Super Bowl performance and before the era of the seven-second delay, so who knows what might happen. They might have to pixellate her entire face.

All-Stars: Jenna Morasca. Ok, a mild exception to the "no three-timers" rule, since it was bound to be broken by including a rep from this season anyway. Jenna would be a two-and-a-half timer anyway; she left after a few episodes to be with her cancer-stricken mother, so she didn't really get a proper chance to come back and defend her S6 title.

Vanuatu: Chris Daugherty. Of all the former winners, Chris is high on my list of people I'd like to see play the game again. My aforementioned pal Mario thinks Chris is one of the most entertaining players ever, and made the great observation that Chris is basically a real-life version of Bill Paxton's character in 'True Lies.' It's all the more fitting since I'm not sure Chris told the truth once in his entire stay in the game.

Palau: Ian Rosenberger. Also known as 'the guy who gave away a million dollars to keep the respect of a man he had known for about a month.' One of the five dumber moves in Survivor history, no question. Ian would hopefully be a bit older and wiser this time around.

Guatemala: Rafe Judkins. The Guatemala season gets short shrift by the Survivor producers, given that it hasn't produced a single All-Star player in either FvF or HvV. Sure, Steph is back for HvV, but she was an add-on to this cast anyway. Why not Rafe? Likable, memorable, surprisingly adept at challenges, a gay Mormon....what's not to like?

Exile Island: Shane Powers. You may remember him as the lookalike for the lead singer of the Crash Test Dummies who went gradually crazier with each passing day on the island since he had given up cigarettes cold turkey just before the start of the show. Shane was a major reason why Exile Island was the funniest season. He'd also be interesting to see again because (as we saw at the reunion show) he is a completely different person off of the nicotine and would probably have a completely different strategy and gameplan in a second go-around. Sadly, Shane was apparently a last-minute cut from Heroes vs. Villains.

Cook Islands: Yul Kwon. Smart, good athlete and an all-around good chap. If you had to take an informal poll of which Survivor contestant you'd want to be president, Yul would probably win. Coming in last would be Osten from the seventh season, better known as the man who was terrified of nature. America's national parks system would suffer some heavy cutbacks under President Osten's administration.

Fiji: Earl Cole. There are only four good choices from this mostly terrible season. There's Yau Man (already on FvF, so he's three-timed), the always-unpredictable Dreamz, and Michelle (Earl and Yau's third partner in crime who was the victim of a tribal swap and voted out in a manner some might say was a bit arbitrary). The fourth, and best, choice is Earl.

China: Peih-Gee Law. PG stood out on Survivor: China as one of the few people in this cast of idiots that actually seemed to be trying to play the game. She got on the wrong side of the merger but managed to last until fifth place, which is good enough to make the cut in my cast. PG beats out Mullet Denise and Todd Herzog, a.k.a. the worst winner in Survivor history.

Fans vs. Favorites: Tracy Hughes-Wolf. Who? I mentioned earlier that the alleged Survivor superfans in the FvF season were mostly useless and seemed less like fans than a crew of aspiring actors/models/bartenders that the production team trolled for around Los Angeles. The one exception was Tracy, who did about as well as one could do on a team of morons and saddled with particularly useless alliance-mates like Chet and crazy Kathy. She went out pre-merge on FvF, but on a proper cast and a bit more luck, I'd suspect she could reach the jury at least.

Gabon: Bob Crowley. Also known as the poor man's Yau-Man, except Bob actually won his season and Yau-Man had a personality. Poor Bob. He did plenty of cool stuff on the show (making incredibly realistic fake idols, going on a big immunity run to save his hide, hailing from Maine) but boy, this guy was as exciting as watching paint dry. His students must treat his class as pure death.

Tocantins: "Coach" Ben Wade. An inevitable choice. This guy was made to be brought back for an All-Star season. Frankly, given the amount of airtime that CBS invested in him during his season, it would've been a bad business move to NOT re-cast him.

Samoa: Natalie White. Let's also presume that, for the sake of this exercise, this All-Star season wasn't filmed almost directly after Survivor: Samoa so Natalie would have time to recover. Otherwise, I'm pretty sure she'd shrink down to some type of action figure.

Wild card: Gretchen Cordy. Her elimination in the original season is widely seen as the moment when Survivor turned from a "let's vote based on who is the best at surviving out in the wild and interacting with others" show to "let's vote to try and win a million dollars" show. It's only fair to bring Gretchen back now that she knows what the name of the game actually is.


Borneo: Richard Hatch. Naturally.

Australia: Amber Brkich. We've seen her attached at the hip to Jerri in Australia and then to Rob on All-Stars. I'm interested to see how Amber would fare either on her own or, conversely, to see who she would latch onto in another scenario should Rob be eliminated from the game. Maybe she'd just hop from host to host like the Venom symbiote.

Africa: Kelly Goldsmith. There are way more high-profile choices available from the Africa season, but none of them could match Kelly's unique blend of hyperactivity and insanity. Imagine Elle Woods from the Legally Blonde movies, except hopped up on goofballs.

Marquesas: Vecepia Towery. You might wonder why V, widely acknowledged to be the most under-the-radar Survivor winner ever, would be brought back. But that's the reason! I'd love to see if she could sneak her way through the game again. She could win this show twice and some yokels would still consider her the worst victor ever.

Thailand: Brian Heidik. No-brainer here. Hatch is generally considered to be the original Survivor genius, but Brian threw the first perfect game in the show's history. The only knock on Heidik is that his final vote was just 4-3 (though there was no way he'd lose to borderline racist Clay), whereas you could argue that future winners like JT and Earl both had perfect votes in their favour and left the game with everyone's respect. Brian, however, was an ice man who won a fairly anti-social season and rarely takes part in any CBS cast get-togethers. It's possible he was a robot sent from the future and programmed to win Survivor, sell used cars and dabble in softcore porn.

Amazon: Rob Cesternino. Another no-brainer. Maybe the most important player in Survivor history, since without Rob's strategy of eliminating whomever was a threat to him personally (as opposed to just whomever wasn't in his alliance), the game was threatening to become entirely decided by whichever alliance had the numbers after the merge. He also has a killer Jeff Probst impression.

Pearl Islands: Rupert Boneham or Jon Dalton. I can't decide between these two, so I'll leave it up to you, the readers. You can choose between the tie-dyed bellowing pirate or the pro wrestling villain wannabe with the "dead" grandmother. It's hard to go wrong in either direction.

All-Stars: Boston Rob Mariano. Sure, he didn't actually win the season. And he was so obnoxious that you could argue he didn't really have a chance to win the jury vote (he Russelled himself, so to speak, or maybe Russell Boston Robbed himself). And he may have cost himself a couple of friendships. But still, it's hard to argue against a guy who dominates a season and then marries the woman who did win. Between Rob and the Red Sox, 2004 was a banner year for the city of Boston.

Vanuatu: Ami Cusack. Arguably the most dominant 'alpha female' player in the game's history. Disappointing on FvF, sure, but maybe she was still hung up on Twila and Scout ruining her plans in Vanuatu. I propose a bare-knuckles boxing match to settle the matter, and then Ami can enter a new Survivor season with a clear mind. A clear mind and a few less teeth, since do you really think Twila would lose this fight? Shyeah right.

Palau: Tom Westman. Captain America! He dominated and won his original season, he's a firefighter, he's a natural leader....yeah, I'd expect him to last maybe three episodes on HvV. He's just way too big a threat. Tom's only hope is an immunity run or if he can browbeat another gangly college kid into quitting the game. Unfortunately for Tom, there aren't any such Jim Halpert wannabes in either HvV or in this fantasy cast.

Guatemala: Danni Boatwright. Another under-appreciated winner, partially due to Guatemala's inexplicable status as the forgotten season, and also because it was hard to pinpoint a clear move she made to get the victory. It was like the game kept going until, whoop, we were at the end and there was Danni. Her most notable achievement was to pierce the seemingly impenetrable disguise of Gary "Yes, I Went To The Same College As NFL Quarterback Gary Hogeboom At The Same Time That He Did, But I'm Clearly Not Him, I'm Just Mild-Mannered Landscaper Gary Hawkins" Hogeboom. That nickname was as well thought-out as Gary's strategy. Speaking of football, Danni's victory was the most notable achievement by anyone connected to the Kansas City Chiefs since Super Bowl IV.

Exile Island: Cirie Fields. Best player to never win the game. In two appearances on the show, she finished fourth and third, thinking rings around the other Survivors in the process. Some might point to Cirie's lack of physical ability as a detriment, but we've seen players win without being physical threats in the past. That flaw isn't a crippling one like, say, Amanda Kimmel's inability to form words when put in front of a final jury. As much as I dislike the third-timers in HvV, part of me hopes Cirie wins to finally get a well-deserved Survivor title to her name. But surely the other players aren't so dense that they would let Cirie get too far into the game....are they?

Cook Islands: Ozzy Lusth. Damn, can this guy swim. He and Yul were the dominant figures in the Cook Islands, so they're the two clear picks for these casts. The only downside is that this reunites Ozzy and Amanda, whose relationship on FvF degenerated into dangerous levels of schmoopiness.

Fiji: Yau-Man Chan. One of the truly great characters in Survivor history, as well as one of the better players. Hopefully CBS realized what a gold mine they had found when they cast this guy. From making fake idols to Mr. Wizard-ing his way around the camp, it was like a real live Professor had wandered onto Survivor from Gilligan's Island.

China: Amanda Kimmel. I'm not going to say that Amanda is bad at final jury speeches, but if she was your attorney, you'd get the chair. In fact, if you were just in court arguing a parking ticket, she could still somehow talk you into being executed. You'd be dragged off in irons while Amanda just looked after you sadly with tear-rimmed doe eyes and a pixellated area on her lower back. Amanda's hilarious ineptitude at jury questions aside, the fact remains that (statistically) she's the best player in Survivor history after finishing third and second, respectively, in her two appearances on the show. It would be the height of hilarity if she crapped the bed at yet another jury speech in the Heroes vs. Villains season, but surely the other players would want to give her a taste of the Survivor voted-off Ponderosa by this point.

Fans vs. Favorites: Parvati Shallow. Boy, if you had told me two years ago that I would be putting Parvati on any type of 'ultimate Survivor' list, I'd have said you were crazy. She completely changed her reputation after winning the FvF season and actually showing some wits, whereas in the Cook Islands season she just tried to cuddle up to the guys and Amber her way to a victory.

Gabon: Sugar Kiper. I debated putting Sugar into the other list just because I'm not sure if a player who actively doesn't care about winning should necessarily be in an 'ultimate cast.' Then again, I'm not sure if I quite impressed upon you just how dull Bob Crowley was. Sugar was clearly the dominant figure of this season and while scuttlebutt has revealed that she was actually a grade-A bitca who got a great edit from the show, at least she wasn't an unpleasant sociopath like pretty much everyone else in this cast.

Tocantins: James "JT" Thomas. As fun as having Coach around would be, it's hard to ignore such a dominant winner. Certainly on the short list of best winners in the show's history. Also, I'd want viewers to watch my theoretical ultimate Survivor, and adding JT increases female viewership by 25 percent.

Samoa: Russell Hantz. Another obvious pick, given that he got roughly 75 percent of the airtime during the season. Damn you, Survivor editing! I feel obligated to do this since I still don't know how good the rest of that Samoa cast was! This pick was a natural even though I'm definitely in the camp that believes Russell's loss was deserved.

Wild card: Stephenie LaGrossa. This seems like a natural place for Steph, given that I went with Tom and Ian to represent Palau (once again, she just can't beat those guys) and it didn't quite feel right to give her a spot representing Guatemala given that it was her second chance. It was either this or place her in my fantasy Jersey Shore cast. In case you asked, it's Steph, Frank Sinatra, Martin Brodeur, Lauryn Hill, Bebe Neuwirth, Meryl Streep, Bruce Springsteen, Lou Costello and Buzz Aldrin. You're telling me you wouldn't watch that show?

Saturday, February 06, 2010

So, We're All Holograms?


This doesn't bode well for my Jem & The Holograms tribute band, unoriginally named Mark & The Holograms.* It takes away from our uniqueness if EVERYONE is actually a hologram. It also takes away from the power of our original song, 'Everyone Is A Hologram,' the message of which is that by believing in ourselves and having fun, we too can metaphorically aspire to be as awesome as Jem. But if this scientific theory is correct, then our song becomes way too factual. It would be like writing a song titled, "Your Body Is Mostly Water." By the way, you might wonder why a tribute band has an original song --- it's because we don't do Jem covers, we just write our own tunes, all of which happen to be about a 1980's cartoon show. I won't lie, it's getting challenging.

* = My original choice, Simply Markraegeous!, was already taken by a Jem tribute band in Encino, California led by a guy named Mark Jones. That douchebag.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Predictions For The Weekend

Colts over Saints, and I'm doubting it will be close. Indianapolis just looks like too focused and machine-like of a team to lose to New Orleans, who have looked good in exactly one of their last six games (the Arizona win). Obviously I'll be pulling for the Saints to win with all of my heart and soul given how lovable their team and situation is and how much I dislike the Colts, but let's face facts --- Indy is just a better team. The only weakness would be if Dwight Freeney doesn't play, but then I'd just expect Robert Mathis to step up even more and have a big game.

I was talking about this with my dad earlier today, however. What if this is the year of the underachieving franchise in pro sports? Bill Simmons recently wrote a column listing the most cursed franchises in sport, leading several fans of other teams to angrily write in complaining that their woeful club was left off the list. It was notable that some of the teams on Simmons' and his readers' lists have distinct shots at a title this year. Wouldn't it be something if the Saints won the Super Bowl, the Cavaliers won the NBA title, the Capitals/Canucks/Sabres/Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup, and the Mariners won the World Series? That's four franchises with significant baggage who would be able to get the monkey off their backs all in the same year. It would be almost the opposite of 2009, when the major sports championships all went to established winners like the Yankees, Lakers, Steelers and Penguins (the Pens don't quite this tableau as neatly, but they're certainly a team that has won Cups recently and has a very notable history). A Colts win, however, would doom us to a year of been there-done that winners --- a Spurs NBA title, a Devils Stanley Cup, and a Cardinals or Phillies World Series.

You can tell just how much I'm counting the Saints out of this game from the fact that I've spent the majority of my Super Bowl preview talking about some crazy pie-in-the-sky theory that Sunday's game will somehow determine the rest of the year's sports champions. And if Clint Session wins the Super Bowl MVP award, that will indicate an MLS Cup for the Kansas City Wizards.


UFC 109 picks!

* Matt Serra over Frank Trigg, decision. I don't think many people really care about this fight, aside from history buffs. (It's a little like the main event in that sense, but we'll get to that later.) Neither of these guys are anywhere near even the top 15 UFC welterweights. Georges St. Pierre could probably take down of them at the same time. Hopefully the winner decides to retire after the fight and end his career on a victorious note. As for the loser, he'll just retire a loser. Man, that sounds harsh. But then again, I hate both of these fighters, so harsh it up!

* Demian Maia over Dan Miller, submission, round two. Poor Maia. He was building up quite a rep as the submission king of the middleweight division before suffering a humiliating, one-punch knockout just 20 seconds into a fight with Nate Marquardt last August. I still think Maia is a top-tier fighter and should beat Miller, who isn't a slouch by any means but lacks the elite striking that Marquardt needed to beat Mr. Ground Game. Maia takes this one with yet another impressive sub.

* Paulo Thiago over Mike Swick, decision. This is a heart over head pick simply because I hate the welterweight version of Mike Swick that rarely does anything interesting in his fights. Thiago is at least interesting because he kayoed Josh Koscheck and kind of has a unibrow. I'll predict a pretty dull fight here and a Swick loss.

* Nate Marquardt over Chael Sonnen, knockout, round two. Not a Chael Sonnen fan. If you've read any interview with the guy, he has a pretty inflated opinion of himself that is a bit much even for a sport that requires confidence in your ability. To hear Sonnen talk, he would take Anderson Silva down and out if they fought tomorrow. As it happens, Sonnen will get to fight the second-best middleweight in the world instead of Silva, but the result should be about the same: Sonnen getting his brains beaten in. Marquardt wins and then faces the winner of the SIlva/Belfort fight in April (psst, it'll be Silva).

* Randy Couture over Mark Coleman, decision. The UFC has been hyping this match as the first-ever meeting between two Hall-of-Fame fighters, which is true but a bit misleading. Imagine if old-timey barnstorming baseball teams still existed and some promoter advertised a meeting between the 1989 Oakland Athletics and the 1990 Cincinnati Reds, all reunited and playing each other at a ballpark near you. It could be hyped as the 'first-ever battle of two World Series champions,' that something you want to watch in the year 2010? A winded Carney Lansford trying to beat out a grounder as Chris Sabo bends his aching back to try and properly field a ground ball that would've been routine for him in his prime? A Couture/Coleman fight would've been a big deal even five years ago, but now, it won't account for much. Couture can still tentatively hang with upper-level fighters if he can hold them against a cage for long enough, but it's not like he's causing a lot of damage in there. Coleman damn near died in the cage against an out-of-shape Shogun Rua last year and then somehow managed to beat Stephen Bonnar in the clearest indication yet that Bonnar needs to totally revamp his training and lifestyle to get his career back on track. There's even a rumour that the winner of this fight will get a title shot at the Shogun/Machida rematch winner, which would be beyond absurd. Couture has more left in the tank and should win, and hopefully he'll challenge an opponent he'd stand a better shot at beating (the Liddell/Ortiz winner, for instance). Whoever loses this fight should retire.

* Tim Hague over Chris Tuchscherer, submission, round two. Go Canadian fighter!
* Brian Stann over Phil Davis, decision. Stann has won his last two fights, why is he facing a UFC rookie?
* Rob Emerson over Phillipe Nover, knockout, round one. Basically a loser-gets-cut fight.
* Justin Buchholz over Mac Danzig, decision. Another loser-gets-cut. This will be four losses in a row for Mac.
* Rolles Gracie over Joey Beltran, submission, round two. I'm obligated to pick Rolles on last name alone.
* Ronnys Torres over Melvin Guillard, submission, round one. BJJ ace vs. a guy who always taps out? Easy call.


Tonight's iTunes playlist......

Seven Nation Army, Audioslave
The Mermaid, Great Big Sea
Fred Jones Part Two, Ben Folds
A Little Less Conversation, Elvis vs. JXL
Halloween, Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds
Flower Child, U2
Fell In Love With A Girl, The White Stripes
Out Of Control, The Rolling Stones
My List, The Killers
This Year's Love, David Gray
One Note Song, Tenacious D
Lies, Elton John
Closing Time, Semisonic
I'm Bound To Pack It Up, The White Stripes
Tucker's Town, Hootie & The Blowfish
Time, Pink Floyd
Disillusion, Badly Drawn Boy

Monday, February 01, 2010

Lost, S6: A Theory

Ok, my theory for the sixth season of LOST. This isn't a theory for what 'the answers' of the show will entail, since I cheerfully admit that by this point, I haven't a friggin' clue. But this is just a theory as to what the structure of the season will look like and how the makers of the show will tell the story.

I wrote this in my season review last May....

"And now, in S5, we've seen....what, exactly? The Island destroyed by a nuke? The timeline changed so Oceanic 815 can continue on its merry way in 2004 and all of the characters' lives will continue as if the crash never happened?

Doubtful. I honestly believe that after hammering home the "what happened, happened" mantra for a full year that the LOST writers would just throw it all away for a continuity-shattering explosion. I believe Miles' theory was the correct one (that activating the nuke into the magnetic energy field was the actual 'Incident'), and that Miles' dialogue was included as a reminder/hint that Jack/Daniel's grand plan wasn't going to actually change anything. There were too many hints left in the final sequence at the Swan that things were proceeding as they had in the past --- Dr. Chang suffered a major arm injury, leading to the prosthetic arm that he had in the Swan's orientation video. Radzinsky's continued life, since he was pretty much the only DHARMA guy that didn't die and we know that his eventual end comes when he commits suicide after a stint at typing in the Swan's number code. And, as well, there are still some loose ends to be tied up back at the Dharma Initiative, like the fate of Horace (who curiously wasn't in the episode), his shady wife Amy and their soon-to-be shady son Ethan."

Sure enough, the big question over the summer has been whether or not the Jughead detonation was successful in changing the timeline. One theory being floated is that Season Six will begin with everyone on Oceanic 815 in 2004, living different lives and not crashing on the island, but they'll eventually start to get memories or (even better) flashbacks of their past lives, suddenly remember the events of the series. and all end up back at the Island somehow to conclude the story once and for all. I'm not a big fan of this theory since it would take at least a few episodes to get everyone up to speed and back in play to head back to the Island.

What I'm instead suggesting is that rather than picking between the 'whatever happened happened' theory or the 'destiny can be changed' theory, we're actually going to see both of these scenarios take place. After the bomb goes off, Jack/Kate/Sawyer/Hurley/Miles/Jin/half-dead Sayid will all be somehow transported (via timeflash, via Jacob's touch, who knows) back to the present-day, where they'll join Sun and company in the aftermath of Ben's murder of Jacob. There, it will be explained to them that their actions did, in fact, cause a change in history and created an alternate reality timeline where Oceanic 815 didn't crash. The catch, however, is that that alternate reality (let's call it Earth-2, for all you DC Comics fans out there) is currently on-going, and the original Earth-1 versions of Jack and company that we've been watching the whole time are now without a reality to call their own.

This is kind of a confusing idea, so let me use a more well-known example. In Back To The Future 2, Biff goes back in time and gives his younger self the sports almanac that young Biff then uses to amass a gambling fortune. When Marty and Doc go back to 1985, they find themselves in the cracked-out 'Hell Valley' that has been created from Biff's rise to power. What's important to note in this example is that Marty and Doc from the original earth didn't cease to exist since Biff had changed the timeline --- they were still there (alongside the 'Hell Valley' versions of themselves) and conscious of what had happened so they could go back in time to fix the problem and restore the original timeline. Jack had presumed that setting off Jughead would kill them all and destroy their entire reality, but no dice --- just as the original Marty and Doc were still around, so are the original Jack, Hurley, Jin, etc.

Something similar happens in, ironically, another JJ Abrams/Damon Lindelof project: the most recent Star Trek movie. Now, neither man wrote the script (they co-produced and Abrams directed), but the basic idea for the film is that a time anomaly sucks Spock and the villain Nero back through time, whereupon Nero kills the father of an infant James Kirk and causes a whole bunch of other problems. However, old Spock doesn't blip out of existence. He explains that his universe (the continuity that Star Trek fans have been following for decades) still exists, but now he and Nero are also alive in this new reality caused by Nero's action. This was rather an elegant way of rebooting the franchise and enabling it to tell new adventures of young Kirk, young Spock, etc. without pissing off the Trekkie fanbase who, if you hadn't heard, are slightly anal about continuity.

So what happens now on LOST? Our Losties are trapped on the Island since (as Richard will likely explain to them), they can't go back to the real world since 'their' real world no longer exists anymore. It wouldn't surprise if the other Others were similarly time-bereft people who no longer had a reality of their own to go back to due to past 'incidents.' The Others' Temple is perhaps a place where these various time disturbances are tracked, which is why Richard always seems on top of everything that's going on. It might also explain why Ben and Charles Widmore had such wealth and power in their off-Island lives --- maybe they usurped the lives of their alternate versions, which in Charles' case, led to his banishment from the Island.

It puts a new spin on the "whatever happened, happened" meme. The LOST characters "happened" --- they lived their lives and caused these events, so the universe can't just blip them out of existence. Of course, this doesn't explain how they survived a close-range atomic bomb blast, but, uh, let's just chalk that one up to....magic? Actually, if the "Jacob's touch" theory is right, then magic isn't a bad guess.

Thus, here is what I think each episode of LOST S6 will look like. The main plotline will follow the story on the Island, and we'll still have character-centric episodes. But the 'flashbacks' won't be flashbacks at all --- they'll be looks at Earth-2, and we'll follow the same character in his/her alternate reality of what their lives would've looked like had the Swan Station never existed and Oceanic 815 hadn't crashed. Given that the series has shown us the many small ways in which these characters' lives have interconnected over the years, it wouldn't shock me if we see some significant changes to their lives before the Oceanic flight even takes place; the ripple effect of that bomb going off could change any number of things. For example, a Kate episode in S6 will center on Kate on the Island, and the 'flashback' will see how Earth-2 Kate handles being thrown in jail or some such adventure.

Lindelof and Cuse have already said that S6 will have echoes of the first season, and this is how I think that will be accomplished. Part of the reason that LOST was so fascinating from the beginning is that every S1 show revealed something new about every character's lives and motivations via the flashbacks. If my theory is correct, this same effect will be achieved in S6 as we learn all sorts of new developments in what are basically new lives of (the Earth-2 versions of) our beloved characters.

I can't wait until Tuesday night so this theory can completely be blown apart in, like, five minutes.

(btw, the image is from this cool page of LOST-themed posters by artist Ty Mattson. Hello, desktop backgrounds!)