Saturday, June 30, 2012

Alec Baldwin Does Not Care For Photographers

Between podcasts and praising 30 Rock, this has been a weirdly Baldwin-centric month here at Polivision.  What better way to finish off June than to get one more dose of Alec, courtesy of his ongoing battles with the paparazzi.  Baldwin has long been standoffish with the tabloid press and really, it would no doubt be tiresome having photogs around you at all times, even in private moments with your family and whatnot.  That being said, good god, how funny are these pictures?  If I didn't know better, I'd swear they were being staged for a 30 Rock episode where Jack Donaghy just loses it.  (Though, Jack would never let himself be seen in public wearing shorts and a rival network show's t-shirt.) 

That first image is beyond hysterical --- I want to nominate the photographer for a Pulitzer, partially because it's a great shot, and also because if Baldwin found out some paparazzo was collecting major awards due to pictures of him, he'd flip out again.


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

TV Year In Review, Part III

 We've covered the blah and the good thus far in the TV Year In Review series, and now we're at the last and best instalment --- the shows that were very good to capital-g Great in 2011-2012.  It's been said before, but we are truly living in a golden age of television.  All 13 of these shows are awesome, and if you're looking for some summer DVDs/Netflix action to get caught up on, you could do a lot worse than watching any of these programs in their entirety.  

13. Curb Your Enthusiasm
For starters, look at this placement.  Curb had a terrific season and it's only thirteenth?!  The vaunted 'New York season' only spent about half the episodes in the Big Apple but man, this was still vintage Curb, with instant classic episodes like the Bill Buckner meeting, Larry's feud with Michael J. Fox and Larry's love of chicken (and sex) almost setting off an international incident.  Perhaps the best part was that unlike most Curb seasons, this one didn't end on a 'could be a series finale' note, which indicates that Larry David is game for at least one more season.

12. Homeland
Most descriptions of Homeland just refer to it as "a thinking man's 24," which isn't quite right; the British series MI5 is the real thinking man's 24 since it has the action but is only half as ludicrous.  There's relatively little action in Homeland which is what makes it so interesting -- the tension came from not really understanding what plot was really afoot, and the feeling of foreboding dread (you knew an attack was coming, but when and from where) added extra importance to everything.  I also have no idea where the series will go for Season 2 or if this premise is really suited to a longer-form series, but if nothing else, Homeland can rest on having at least one superb year.  Great performances from Mandy Patinkin, Damian Lewis (a dead ringer for my friend Greg, btw) and especially Claire Danes in a career-high performance.  Danes deserves every plaudit in the world for her work and should be the hands-down Emmy winner… watch this, it'll probably go to Mariska Hargitay or some shit. 

11. Eastbound & Down
The saga of Kenny Powers came to a very satisfying end.  I'm going to miss this ridiculous show and it went out with guns blazing in its last year.  There may not have been a single funnier extended segment on any show this year than Kenny's trek to Ashley Schaffer's estate in the second episode.  (As one writer on Grantland put it, "I'm not ready to discuss [that episode] since I think you'd have to invent a new language to do so.") 

10. Sherlock
Gah, this show is TENTH.  How great was TV this year?!  I continue to be in awe of the BBC's modern Sherlock Holmes series, as this year's three episodes (each ep is 90 minutes long) were even better than the last, as this season's "standalone" ep (the revamped Hound Of The Baskervilles) was markedly better than last year's instalment about the Chinese smugglers.  The only downsides are that S3 probably won't happen until late 2013 at the earliest, and that CBS is making its own "modern Sherlock Holmes" series starring….Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu as Holmes and "Joan Watson."  Jesus Christ.

9. Parks & Recreation
A shockingly low placement in the eyes of many, but I just felt this season of P&R got a little too bogged down by the campaign storyline, as funny as the twists of turns were of Leslie's city council run.  Add that to just total non-starter subplots like the Ann-Tom relationship and yeah, it just seemed like a rare misstep for this great show.  I freely admit that I may be a bit harder on P&R given its massively high standard in the previous two years since I already feel like it should be a couple of spots higher on the list after reading this great episode-by-episode breakdown with personal hero Michael Schur.  To make up for it, my annual Alterna-Emmy column will be a P&R lovefest, don't you worry.

8. Happy Endings
Being 'a TV guy,' I'm sometimes asked to recommend shows for friends.  I've had reasonable success at this, with certain shows having a near-100% conversion rate of new viewers falling instantly in love with the series.  The first two How I Met Your Mother seasons are probably the champions of this category, with Breaking Bad, The Wire and (of late) Portlandia also having high success rates. 

My guess is that Happy Endings will soon join this category as well, as it's a very easy show to leap into, it appeals to all demographics and, most importantly, it's very funny.  I myself was converted to it by my friend Joanne, and it just took one episode for me to become hooked, which led to my devouring both seasons in, oh, about a week's time.  It was an even quicker conversion than the time Jo introduced me to crack.  HE is a great fast-paced comedy that really found its leg in its second year, led by a fantastic cast.  Casey Wilson -- so forgettable on SNL but so perfect here.  Damon Wayans Jr. -- a virtual clone of his father and such a funny guy that it took 'New Girl' almost a full year to recover from his departure after he was in just the pilot episode.  Eliza Coupe -- hilariously uptight and the winner of the coveted "Mark's Imaginary TV Girlfriend" award for 2012.  Adam Pally -- originator of the "Max turns into a bear" storyline, one of the funnier subplots of the year on any show.  Zach Knighton -- uh, he's also there!  And finally, there's the much-maligned Elisha Cuthbert, who has taken 10 years of flak for being a terrible actress, but it turns out she was just in need of a comic role, as she is legitimately hilarious on HE.  Let's hope the pattern continues onto her boyfriend Dion Phaneuf and he's just waiting until his 10th season to win the Stanley Cup.  It could happen!

7. It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia
Went into detail last December about IASIP's great year, so click that link.  Pageviews!

6. Community
Man, this show has been through so much turmoil over the last year that the last season feels like two or three.  (Mentally bringing us closer to #sixseasonsandamovie)  Between all the behind-the-scenes stuff, the midseason hiatus, the Dan Harmon/Chevy Chase feud and Harmon's ouster as showrunner, it's almost a footnote that the actual show was as creative as funny as ever in its third season.  If anything, this might've been Community's best season, as they had a perfect run of making their 'special' episodes (the 8-bit video game ep, the Glee spoof, the Ken Burns spoof, the Law & Order spoof, the alternate timelines trip, the second 'fake clip show' episode) work both as specialty concepts and still funny at the same time.  It's anyone's guess as to how S4 will go without Harmon and about half of the creative team, but I have faith that we'll still see a funny show, if not the pre-Crisis Community we've all come to know and love over the previous three years. 

5. Archer
It was a very, very close call between Archer and my next entry for the title of "best comedy of the year."  Archer is an amazingly funny show --- nothing but great episodes this season and literally every ep features at least 20 eminently quotable lines.  I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys dry wit and spy movies, and if you don't enjoy either, then why are we friends?

4. 30 Rock
I touched on 30 Rock's great resurgence last month so without repeating myself too much, I'll just reiterate that it's a rare feat for a show in its sixth season (and coming off a couple of weaker-than-usual years) to suddenly regain its mojo and deliver arguably its best year yet.  Tina Fey had a baby about a year ago so maybe that's the key: Fey's reproducing = quality comedy.   

3. Mad Men
I feel like Matthew Weiner approaches Mad Men in the sense that film director Howard Hawks approached his movies.  Hawks famously said that the key to making a great movie was simply to have "three great scenes and no bad ones," and to wit, every Mad Men episode seems to feature at least one iconic sequence or moment that more than makes up weaker (if not actually bad) scenes elsewhere in an episode.  Just this season alone we had Roger on LSD, "Zou Bizou Bizou," Joan finally dumping her dirtbag husband, Peggy telling Don she's leaving SCDP, Lane's last hours, the Lane/Pete brawl and most notably, the whole scene of Don and Joan flirting at the bar.  Holy god, as much as I enjoy Mad Men, if the show wanted to just drop everything and change the premise to The Hamm and Hendricks Sexual Chemistry Hour, I would be all for it.

Great performances abounded as usual, with particular note to Elisabeth Moss, Jared Harris and Jessica Pare as the greatness that is Megan Draper, but I'd like to single out John Slattery for hitting a new peak as Roger Sterling.  Roger is a seemingly simple character to play on paper, but Slattery drills the point home with his ability to have chemistry -- and, importantly, different kinds of chemistry -- with everyone.  The show gave Slattery at least one great scene with everyone in the cast and he hit it out of the park each time, perhaps with the best evolution being Roger suddenly turning into a cool uncle when escorting Sally Draper to the ball.  (This also led to maybe the best line of the year, coming from, of all people, This Season's Bobby Draper, with his half-stunned, half-disgusted "YOU'RE our babysitter?!" when he answers the door and finds Roger.)  Combine this with how Roger seems to be one of the few in the office who's actually changing with the times as they get deeper into the 60's and Slattery comes outta nowhere to win the S5 Mad Men MVP Awards.

2. Louie
Every episode of Louie features the opening credits and at least one bumper of Louis CK performing standup.  After that, all bets are off.  Whereas a show like Community is original because it can drastically change shape from episode to episode, "Louie" takes it to the next level since it virtually is a different show from episode to episode.  It can go from screamingly funny to intensely dramatic to subtle social commentary to even adapted-from-real-life moments like Louie's confrontation with Dane Cook.  Perhaps the greatest compliment I can give Louie's format is that under normal circumstances, it would be irritating to see a show starring Louis CK (arguably the funniest comedian in the world today) only be sporadically funny.  It seems like a waste of resources on paper but CK's dramatic musings are so powerful and interesting that when he gives you a bit of standup at the end as a relief, it's almost a surprise.  It's like, "oh yeah, he's a world-class comedian, too."  The third season begins this Thursday night and I could not be more fired up to see what Louis CK has in store for the latest trip through his brain.

1. Breaking Bad
Back to defend its title as the best show on television, it's Walter White and company.  Since I knocked P&R way further down the list for having one or two elements I didn't like, it's only fair that I note that I wasn't *crazy* about how the season-ending twist.  It felt like a bit too much was left off-screen in putting together exactly how Walt pulled that all off, especially for a show that is always up-front about noting how difficult every little step is for Walt and Jesse in their criminal adventures.  I can hopefully revoke this criticism if BB explains it in an episode next season, since otherwise S4 was about as perfect as it gets.  Superbly acted, superbly written and (other than that concern about the ending) featuring nothing but airtight-plotting, Breaking Bad is still firing on all cylinders.  Beyond the two leads, you have Anna Gunn setting a great showcase with the Ted Beneke subplot, Hank slowly becoming the hero of the show, Marie even getting something to do with her kleptomania relapse and finally, the great Giancarlo Esposito.  There's no other way to talk up Esposito other than to say that he's created one of the most memorable villains of all time.  Gustavo Frings is a phenomenal character and perhaps the only villain that could top him could be (spoiler alert) Walt himself.    

I'll just throw this out there right now --- if Breaking Bad can keep up this peak over its final two seasons, then it has a case as the very best show of all time.  This is easier said than done.  I said this same thing about LOST going into its last year and we saw how that turned out.  It's extremely difficult to end a series on a high point; even The Wire, while it wrapped up very satisfactorily, couldn't quite stick the landing since its fifth season was inarguably its weakest.  Seinfeld's finale was a good ending from a narrative standpoint but was famously not a good episode of the show.  The Simpsons haven't gotten to their finale yet but even if it's great, you can't ignore the fact that over half the show's run has been hit-and-miss.  BB has a chance to do something really unique in TV history, which is why I'm hoping S4's ending was just a minor blip and not a hint that things are about to get sloppy.  Take a hint from Walt and keep the chemistry as premise as possible, Breaking Bad.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

TV Year In Review, Part II

We're back with the second instalment of the year in review.  Yesterday's entry covered the worst of the bunch, but we're picking things up a bit with the "Average-To-Very Good" division.

23. American Dad
It's with no small disappointment that AD was just 'average' this season, as this as quietly been one of the funnier shows on TV for some time now.  Perhaps some regression was inevitable given how it's going into its eighth (!) season.  Good gravy, these animated shows just rack up the episodes, don't they?

22. Girls
I really should make this a NA since I've only watched the first two episodes, but from what I've seen, I've liked.  It could very easily rise up several places or into the Very Good-to-Great division once I've seen the entire season.  I feel like "Girls" has already gone through the critical whirlwind of being praised, then facing a backlash, then re-praised and having the backlash criticized, and then a secondary backlash, etc. so really, I have no idea what the hell to expect from the rest of the season.  Is there an episode where Hannah hits her douchey fuckbuddy in the face with a railroad spike?  Please say yes.

21. Veep
HBO's other Sunday offering.  This is kind of a weird criticism, but here goes: I feel that Veep is already a victim of its stasis.  Like, it's clearly a funny show and I was totally in the tank for "In The Loop," so I'm a fan of Armando Iannucci's brand of West Wing-if-they-were-all-incompetent-and-backstabbing style of political comedy.  That said, the show may have already hit its ceiling.  If 'Veep' is all about how Selina is buffoonishly useless at everything, then there's nowhere really to go from there.  There's no threat of her losing the VP job or losing an election since then there's no show, nor is it apparent that any similar change will affect the basic premise -- they've already run through "POTUS has a health risk, Selina may become president" and "Selina gets pregnant" in just singular episodes, the latter one being introduced and then dropped in hugely abrupt fashion.  They've spent four eps on the fallout from re-assigning a smirking Secret Service guy but can't spend more than five minutes on Selina having a miscarriage?  It's like they wrote the plot and then realized that wait, miscarriages aren't funny.  Anyway, these are some flaws I found in a show that (believe it or not) I actually quite enjoyed, though it's not a show I feel compelled to watch on a week-to-week basis.  

20. Survivor: One World
The franchise gets a sorely-needed quality season and one of its best-ever winners.  Nothing but good feelings about this edition of Survivor --- well, except for them casting a flat-out racist (Colton) and a special ed teacher (Alicia) who insulted other players by COMPARING THEM TO HER STUDENTS.  Good lord.  Update your resume.

19. Saturday Night Live
Your typical up-and-down SNL season, with a couple of instant-classic hosting gigs (Melissa McCarthy and Emma Stone) and a few weak episodes and thankfully never quite hit trainwreck status.  Even the lousy Lindsay Lohan episode wasn't all that terrible thanks to some pre-taped material and Jack White as the musical guest.  I've already written about Kristen Wiig leaving and SNL's current love of modern nostalgia, so next season will be the real interesting one as we see how the show replaces Wiig, Andy Samberg and, once the election is over and his Romney impression isn't needed, Jason Sudeikis.  Funniest skit of the year: I'm not sure anything topped Steve Buscemi as "Coach Bert," the high school coach everyone was surprised to learn wasn't a pervert.  Funny idea, timely take on the Penn State scandal and you literally couldn't have better casting than Buscemi in this role.

18. How I Met Your Mother
Good bounce-back year for HIMYM following the Zoe storyline that ruined S6 and the outright-mediocre S5.  It's settled into that Friends-esque groove of getting by on B/B- episodes that work in large part just because you enjoy the characters.  The interesting behind-the-scenes subplot of the season was that the show has never been more popular in the ratings, so there's a possibility that it could be extended beyond the eighth season, though that would frankly really be pushing it.  Not to mention the fact that Jason Segel has said he's essentially leaving after this year no matter what.  That's be tough to work around.  Would Robin tell an offensive joke in the S9 premiere, Marshall leaves the bar and then Bob Saget voices-over "and that was the last we saw of Marshall for seven months"?

17. Simpsons
Now in its 23rd damn season, The Simpsons is essentially Saturday Night Live by this point.  People will always complain about how they don't watch anymore since it isn't as good as the olden days, yet there's still plenty of quality comedy to be found.  As with all modern-day Simpsons seasons, S23 had a couple of episodes (Holidays Of Future Passed and the great Them, Robot) that were good as anything they did in the golden years, with HOFP actually standing out a bit more because of its latter-year placement and the fact that we've grown so close to the characters.  I'm not going to lie --- I will probably tear up when Simpsons finally goes off the air in a couple of years.  Then I'll say "Maw-ster Hugh has found true love."  Dammit, there's another one for the list.

16. New Girl
Between Max Greenfield's show-stealing Schmidt character, Zooey Deschanel doing Zooey Deschanel things, Hannah Simone making a welcome return to popular culture after years as a MuchMusic VJ, Lamorne Morris eventually becoming something other than Replacement Damon Wayans Jr. and Jake Johnson's hilarious yelling, 'New Girl' had a lot of good things going for it.  It's very possible that the show will take a leap in its second year and become one of the legit funnier shows on television.  All the writers have to do is stop saying dumb shit about how their show is healing America and all systems are go.  Funniest scene of the year candidate: Schmidt on a confusing date with Cece's Russian model roommate.

15. Modern Family

I had an interesting time figuring where to place MF on my list.  It was destined to be in this category and was originally a lot lower, but the more I thought about it, MF really had a higher conversion rate on episodes then New Girl, HIMYM and certainly both SNL and the Simpsons.  Lo and behold, it ended up in the 15th slot.  It's just a thoroughly solid show that is the king of that aforementioned B/B- zone, with the occasional trip to B+Land just to keep things interesting.  Can't help but feel that some of the Modern Family backlash online is due to the show being a) popular and b) a huge Emmy force, which naturally irks fans of other deserving but unheralded shows.  I feel that pain.  I'll be equally upset if (who am I kidding, when) the Modern Family actors dominate the supporting categories and leave better performances out in the cold.

14. Portlandia

Congratulations to Portlandia, the king of the average-to-very good division!  This makes up for the Trail Blazers' lousy season, surely.  There's a slight sense of "well, they've pretty much milked this premise dry" setting in but man, you just can't go wrong making fun of hipsters.  Portlandia also stands out as one of the better shows to introduce your friends to, since literally everyone is entertained by hipster mockery.  Hell, you can even show it to your hipster friends since they'll take it ironically.  Favourite sketch of the season: "She's Making Jewelry Now" just killed me, for whatever reason.

Monday, June 25, 2012

TV Year In Review, Part I

Another season of television is in the books, and I'm sure everyone is waiting with bated breath to know my take on the year's finest programming.  I can picture everyone turning off their televisions and saying, "Well, I guess that was okay, but I can't form my own thoughts until I hear what Mark says."  My god, do I ever have an inflated view of my own opinions.

Of the 33 shows I regularly watched over the past year, I've divided them into three subgroups, and we'll start today's entry with the least of the lot.  Pretty sure Marketing 101 states to not lead with your weakest material first, so it may be a poor idea for keeping blog readers interested by saying, "Hey, these shows all sucked, but stick around to find out about the good stuff!"  Then again, perhaps I'm intentionally making bad scheduling decisions as a tribute to NBC.  The world may never know.

Not even I can watch everything, so here's the list of shows I haven't yet watched (or may never get around to watching) and thus they won't be appearing on any of the three lists….Awake, Big Bang Theory, Boardwalk Empire, Boss, Downton Abbey, Game Of Thrones, House Of Lies, Justified, The Killing, The League, Parenthood, Revenge, Shameless, Southland, South Park.

Onto the crap!

33. Dexter
Already ranted last January about Dexter's terrible sixth season, and lo & behold, it ended up being the worst thing I saw on TV this year.  Great.  And, I'm locked into watching next season simply to see how the cliffhanger possibly resolves itself.  Double great.

32. Don't Trust The Bitch In Apartment 23
I gave it only four episodes so if DTTBIA23 ends up finding its feet and becoming a comedy classic, I'll give it another shot.  But yeah, there wasn't much to those first four eps.  The 'star plays goofy version of themselves' trope can probably be officially called a cliche now that even James Van Der Beek is getting in on the action.

31. The Office
It almost seemed like the Office was getting its fastball back during the 'half the group goes to Florida' story arc, which was pretty funny and a clever way of freshening things up.  But overall, as feared, the show essentially fell apart without Steve Carell.  Andy Bernard isn't a strong enough character to serve as the anchor, STIILL nobody cares about the Andy/Erin relationship, James Spader ended up being a complete dud as Robert California, the usually funny Catherine Tate brought nothing to the table as Nellie, we got the news that Mindy Kaling is leaving for her own FOX show, Paul "Toby" Lieberstein is leaving as showrunner and apparently Rainn Wilson may be leaving as well for a Dwight spinoff.

So aside from that, good season?  My only hope for next year is that the legendary Greg Daniels (returning as showrunner) breathes new life into this old warhorse before we have to take it behind the barn at Schrute Farms.  In terms of pure quality, Office should be a few more slots higher on this list, but it's dropped this low out of sheer disappointment.

30. The Cleveland Show
29. Family Guy

Same old, same old.  FG goes a bit higher since I guess I have a bit more long-term affection for the characters.  Of note, Family Guy aired some of the series' worst-ever episodes within its first 5-6 airings this season before righting the ship somewhat and returning to its usual "elevated hit-and-miss" ranking.

28. Amazing Race 20
I'll cover this one as part of the entry for TAR19, which unfortunately is coming up pretty soon

27. Up All Night
Christina Applegate and Will Arnett have fantastic chemistry, and I think "spoof of a low-rent Oprah" might finally be the role that Maya Rudolph is fit to play.  Other than that, not much to see here.  Question for actual parents: do you find shows about the difficulties of parenting to be as tiresome and I do?  Do I need to procreate to enjoy 'Up All Night' more?  It's a pretty big commitment to make for a program, but geez, if I can tattoo a jail's blueprints on my back as a living tribute to Prison Break, I can surely generate a kid.  Check back in nine months for my glowing review of Up All Night S2.

26. Survivor: South Pacific
It had a quality winner, but this was not an interesting Survivor series.  The bright side is that the producers seem to have scrapped the brutal 'redemption island' gimmick.  Let's hope that for the next season (which will feature three returning players who had to originally leave due to injury) that the producers also learn their lesson about not giving the returnees 90% of the camera time.

25. Amazing Race 19
So yeah, the two Amazing Races.  It's hard to have a 'bad' TAR since the show's gimmick is so interesting and if all else fails, at least you get to see some lovely scenery.  This year's two editions were both pretty lacklustre, however, with mostly uninteresting teams, winners that were hard to get behind and a number of somewhat repetitive challenges.  I'm still all-in on Amazing Race but the producers need to pick up the pace on casting.

24. The UK Apprentice
Whereas TAR's basic premise is still watertight, UK Apprentice's premise shift to "Lord Sugar invests in the winner's business plan" may have irreparably damaged the show.  As I noted last summer about the seventh season, you don't actually hear anything about the candidates' business plans until the very last episode, and without this information, you're not getting a full sense of why Sugar is firing people.  This problem really continued in the eighth season, when virtually none of the candidates stood out during the tasks, making them even more irrelevant than ever.  I can understand the real-world reason why the premise was changed (apparently none of the 'Apprentices' actually stayed employed with Sugar for very long, so Sugar wanted to make the prize more relevant) but it doesn't translate to great TV.  Sure, I realize it's a reality show and is all hogwash anyway, but at least let me buy into the conceit.  Otherwise, I'm just watching a London travelogue….admittedly, that's not a bad thing in itself, but still, c'mon, Lord Sugar.  Don't turn into a Trump.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Alec Baldwin Has A Podcast

Since December, Alec Baldwin has been posting 2-3 podcasts per month for WNYC, interviewing/chatting with a wide array of celebrities, politicians, musicians, etc.  The full archive is here, and I've got to say, they're pretty enjoyable.  Of particular note is the David Letterman one, which is impressive simply by dint of the fact that Letterman interviews of any sort are pretty rare.

My only beef....the length!  I can imagine that in some cases Baldwin is compressed by the busy schedules of both himself and his guest, but man, you're chatting with Chris Rock and it's only 20 minutes?  That Letterman one is lengthier (around 45 mins) but man, I could've listened to Dave talk all day.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Dancing On The Stars, This Fall On CBS!

Courtesy of Alan Sepinwall's blog…

Short version: ABC's new reality show "The Glass House" is more or less a direct ripoff of Big Brother, so CBS sued about it and lost.  In response to "Glass House" bombing in the ratings the other night, CBS put out a fantastic troll of a press release.  Game, set, match for CBS.  I love it when multi-billion dollar companies are childish and petty….actually, wait, I don't love that when it leads to harming society, I just love it when that pettiness manifests itself in funny press releases.  Ironically, should the Tupac hologram technology ever be used for a Beatles reunion at the Grammys, CBS actually will be dancing on George Harrison's grave.


        Los Angeles, June 21, 2012 – Subsequent to recent developments in the creative and legal community, CBS Television today felt it was appropriate to reveal the upcoming launch of an exciting, ground-breaking and completely original new reality program for the CBS Television Network.

        The dazzling new show, DANCING ON THE STARS, will be broadcast live from the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, and will feature moderately famous and sort of well-known people you almost recognize competing for big prizes by dancing on the graves of some of Hollywood’s most iconic and well-beloved stars of stage and screen.

        The cemetery, the first in Hollywood, was founded in 1899 and now houses the remains of Andrew “Fatty” Arbuckle, producer Cecil B. DeMille, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Paul Muni, Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, George Harrison of the Beatles and Dee Dee Ramone of the Ramones, among many other great stars of stage, screen and the music business. The company noted that permission to broadcast from the location is pending, and that if efforts in that regard are unsuccessful, approaches will be made to Westwood Village Memorial Park, where equally scintillating luminaries are interred.

        “This very creative enterprise will bring a new sense of energy and fun that’s totally unlike anything anywhere else, honest,” said a CBS spokesperson, who also revealed that the Company has been working with a secret team for several months on the creation of the series, which was completely developed by the people at CBS independent of any other programming on the air. “Given the current creative and legal environment in the reality programming business, we’re sure nobody will have any problem with this title or our upcoming half-hour comedy for primetime, POSTMODERN FAMILY.”

        “After all,” the spokesperson added, “people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.”    

Friday, June 15, 2012

Random Nonsense

Reading about the Titanic Memorial Cruise, I was disappointed on a couple of different levels.  First of all, DAMN, talk about morbid.  Secondly, DAMN, how could the organizers have passed up the opportunity for the ultimate practical joke?  Would it have killed them to have an "uh-oh, you're not going to believe this, folks…." PA announcement halfway through the voyage and shake the ship around via some top-notch special effects?  (Surely, James Cameron would've chipped in.)  It would've been five minutes of panic before everyone rushed to the decks to reveal the captain and the crew, chortling merrily while unveiling a free buffet within the lifeboats.

Ok, sure, there may have been some legal issues preventing such a prank.  And, also, the chance of terrified passengers killing themselves in their rooms rather than face the thought of a horrible death by drowning.  But still, if The Game has taught me anything, it's that people driven to near-suicide for the sake of an elaborate practical joke are REALLY good sports about it all afterward.


I have no plans to actually watch the new "Dallas" show but I'm nevertheless glad it's on the air.  My parents were big fans of the original series and, as a youngster, I fondly recall sitting on the couch or the top step of our living room, eating popcorn with my folks and watching the program with them.  Well, maybe not really watching as much as I was probably reading a comic book and being vaguely aware that a soap opera based around oil fortunes was taking place in the background.  Still, "Dallas" was one of my first impressions of what a "grownup show" was like, given that my TV experience to this point in my life had been limited to cartoons, game shows and the occasional sporting event.

The new Dallas series apparently stars most of the old cast, which is good fun.  I'm somewhat amazed that Larry Hagman is still alive given all of his health problems of the last couple of decades but hey, it takes more than cancer and a failed liver to kill J.R. Ewing.  Fun fact: if you type 'JR Ewing' into Wikipedia, you get redirected to a page about a Norwegian punk band.  You have to type "J.R. Ewing" with the full initials for the page about the Dallas character.  Good lord.  Maybe this indignity will be what finally kills Hagman.


I suspect I'd be a poor gynaecologist.


Back when the Spurs had a 2-0 lead over the Thunder in the NBA semi-finals, I was preparing a Tim Duncan vs. Kobe Bryant discussion post that would've essentially argued that Duncan was the greater player of the two.  'Greater' is a nebulous term, of course, but my case would've been that if you were drafting an all-time team, you'd take Duncan first because of his incredible talent, his equal-to-Kobe championship caliber (San Antonio could've won its fifth ring in Duncan's tenure this spring), the fact that it's general basketball principle to always take a star big man over a star guard and the fact that Duncan's intangibles as a completely stable personality and a superb teammate counter Kobe's nonstop moody drama.

Then, however, the Spurs got blitzed by Oklahoma City and knocked out of the playoffs, meaning that unless San Antonio marshals its resources for another unlikely run in one of the next two years, this was probably Duncan's last chance at a fifth title.  Kobe's five rings to Duncan's four, plus his superior counting stats, will probably give Bryan the duke over the Dunc for all time.  But man, I dunno, I think I'd still rather take Duncan.  I'm admittedly biased since Tim Duncan is one of my favourite athletes due to his overwhelming normality.  (The Onion has made a small cottage industry out of stories about Duncan being a nice, bland, do-gooder.)

I stand by the argument that if you're drafting a TEAM, you take Duncan since he can fit in with anyone, whereas Kobe is a tougher nut to crack.  I posited this argument to a few people and the consensus was that they'd rather have Kobe "since he's a guy who will make his own shot."  It's a good debate.  Man, maybe I should've written this post.  Damn you, Kevin Durant and your holy-crap-they-are-beating-the-Spurs ways.


Maybe one of the reasons I like Duncan so much is that he goes out of his way to avoid publicity.  It's like how my favourite actor, Bill Murray, purposely cloaks himself in mystery both since that's a kind of publicity unto itself but moreso because that's just how he rolls.  It makes rare in-depth interviews with Murray, like this one with Scott Raab in Esquire, such an event.


Not to judge a movie by its trailer, but…well, here I go, completely ready to judge a movie by its trailer.  The Great Gatsby looks like it could be really bad.  Like, it'll look stylish as hell and the cast can and should act the hell out of the material, but good lord, everything in this trailer looks like overwrought nonsense.  Baz Luhrmann's manic style worked for Moulin Rouge but given the rest of his filmography, that might've been lightning in a bottle.

What this film will do, however, is give DiCaprio a bit more juice for his actual best role of 2012, his supporting role as the evil slavemaster in 'Django Unchained.'  I'm going to go ahead and call it right now --- DiCaprio's winning the Best Supporting Actor Oscar this year.  The Academy likes him, they like recognizing actors in Tarantino movies and this seems like the kind of meaty villain role that can really give DiCaprio something different than his usual troubled man-child persona (which he seems to be doing in Gatsby, as it happens).

Other early Oscar predictions:
* Daniel Day-Lewis as Best Actor for Lincoln (DDL as Abe Lincoln?  Game over.)
* Keira Knightley as Best Actress for Anna Karenina (this is a wild guess, Best Actress doesn't have an obvious Oscar-bait favourite like the other categories)
* Anne Hathaway as Best Supporting Actress for Les Miserables (I cite Les Miz but it may be an unofficial tandem award for both this role and playing Catwoman)
* And, for Best Picture, what else but Men In Black III.


Finally, for my fellow U2 fans who are once again waiting an awfully long time for a new record, this is both funny and ruefully true….

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Daily Simpsons Dialogue

This is going to be the most-edited post I've ever written, since I will no doubt be adding omissions until possibly the day I die.  It's the list of Simpsons lines that I use on a regular basis in everyday life, and by 'regular basis,' I mean that I've said at least 20 of these per day for about the last 15+ years of my life.  This post will be heavily-edited since there's no doubt I'm forgetting tons more --- Simpsons dialogue has become so embedded into my everyday parlance that I've forgotten I'm even making a reference most of the time.  It's one thing to just like a TV show, it's quite another when it seeps into your brain and gains a symbiotic relationship with your sense of humour. 

To wit, I recently posted a question about 'which Simpsons lines do you use everyday?' as my Facebook status, which drew a TON of responses from friends, reminding me of several lines I'd forgotten I say about as regularly as I sing showtunes.  (Which, trust me, is often.)

Before we get into the actual lines, I'll cite one Simpsons-related noise I often make: the disgruntled "Rmrmrmrmrmr" grumble of Sideshow Bob when he keep stepping on those rakes.  I'll also cite a facial expression….when they're trying to steal the lemon tree out of Shelbyville, Bart is being chased by guard dogs and Homer throws steaks at the dogs to distract them.  The dogs, however, just gobble the steaks in mid-jump and continue, leading to this hilarious wide-eyed expression from Homer that's half-surprise and half-oh crap.  I make that expression roughly every ten minutes, even when sleeping.

Ok, onto the list!

ADDENDUM #5: Added in November 2014
ADDENDUM #4: Added in October 2014
ADDENDUM #3: Added in October 2013
ADDENDUM #2: Added in March 2013
ADDENDUM #1: Added in November 2012

"Nothing can possib-lye go wrong.  Uh, possiBLY go wrong.  Huh, that's the first thing that's ever gone wrong."
"This is getting pretty abstract but yes, I do enjoy my new job at the bowling alley!"
"I can't believe I ate the whole thing."
"When are people going to learn?  Democracy doesn't work!"
"Are you making fun of my auto-mobile?  It's the largest ve-hicle I can afford on my salary."
"Bake him away, toys!"
"Burn that seat."
"Will this be on the exam?"
"'Tis not a man, 'tis a remorseless eating machine!"
"Well, it's like I always say, when you're right 52 percent of the time, you're wrong 48 percent of the time."
"Hired goons."
"Whoa!  I have mustard?"
"But they're so sweet!"
"Partial credit!"
"Tappa tappa tappa!"
"It's still good, it's still good!  It's just a little slimy, it's just a little slimy!"
"Well, I couldn't possible solve this mystery.  Can YOU?"
"Pray for Mojo."
"Run, boy!  Run!  Run for your life….boy!"
"Haw haw!"
"Yes, eat all of our shirts!"
"Okay, I'm going to swing my arms like this, and if you get in the way, it's your own fault."
"Sponge?!  SPONGE?!"
"They have the internet on computers now?"
"That ad had no effect on my whatsoever!"
"Aw, the dank Moe, ya gotta have the dank."
"Fiddle dee dee!  That will require a tetanus shot!"
"Everything's coming up Milhouse!"
"When you get to hell, tell 'em Itchy sent you!"
"So, you like doughnuts, huh?  Well, how about all the doughnuts in the world!"
"Is it about my cube?"
"We're through the looking glass, people."
"Stupid babies need the most attention."
"I don't think he's coming back."
"I don't think any of us expected him to say that."
"What in the name of high school football?!"
"Don't blame me, I voted for Kodos."
"I thought the Generals were due!  C'mon, get the ball!  He's just standing there!….Aw, I think that game was rigged.  They used a freaking ladder."
"Funzo IS dead."
"It's a perfectly cromulent word."
"There's a party in my mouth and everyone's invited!"
"In this house we observe the laws of thermodynamics!"
"Oh, IN THEORY.  In theory, communism works!"
"I've had just about enough of your Vasser-bashing, young lady!"
"Ooh, he card read good."
"We've tried nothing and we're totally out of ideas!"
"I see you've played knifey-spooney before!"
"Marge, I think I hate Ted Koppel!"
"Chow-der?  It's chow-dah!"
"Mono means one.  Rail means rail.  That concludes our extensive three-week course."
"What in the wide wide world of sports?!"
"Silly customer!  You cannot harm a twinkie!"
"According to Webster's Dictionary, a wedding is the removal of weeds from one's garden."
"Aw, I'm a livin' joke."
"We like Roy!  We like Roy!"
"I deride your truth-handling abilities, sir!"
"Slow down, tubby!  You're not on the moon yet!"
"Yeah, they really sucked.  They were the suckiest bunch of sucks that ever sucked."
"Gotta go, my damn wiener kids are listening."
"I'm a white male, aged 18-49!  Everyone listens to me, no matter how dumb my ideas may be!"
"Ow, my freakin' ears!"
"I dunno Bart.  My dad's a pretty big wheel down at the cracker factory."
"It's just between you and me, giant hat."
"Maybe it's the beer talking Marge, you've got a butt that just won't quit.  They got these big chewy pretzels here mgjoigshgoij five dollars?  Get outta here."
"Burn that seat."
"Oh no, Willy didn't make it!  And he crushed our boy!"  "Ew, what a mess."
"New glasses?…Probably misses his old glasses."
"Well, it passed the first test.  I didn't go blind."
"Tastes like burning!"
"Shake harder, boy!"
"When are they going to get to the fireworks factory?"
"This lesbian bar doesn't have a fire exit!  Enjoy drinking to your death, ladies!"
"I was born a snake-handler and I'll die a snake-handler."
"No, I'd still rather not."
"Don't encourage the machine!"
"Ned, you so crazy!"
"You have the right to remain silent."  "I choose to waive that right.  BLARRRGH!"
"Hmm, steamed hams!"
"Y'ar, I don't know what I'm doing."
"I have misplaced my pants."
"Not Lenny!"
"Can you believe those clowns in Congress?  What a bunch of clowns."
"It's like a freakin' country bear jambaroo over here!"
"I like how Snrub thinks!"
"Vera said that?"
"I, for one, welcome our insect overlords."
"Man alive!  There are…men alive in here!"
"Wuzzle wozzle?"
"That's just something grownups make up to scare little kids, like the Boogeyman or Michael Jackson."
"Shut uuuuuup."
"What's to be done with this Homer Simpson?"
"Hey, that's not the wallet inspector…."
"Hey, he looks just like you, Poindexter!"
"Ahoy hoy?"
"Here I am, using my legs like a sucker."
"Stan, Stan, he's our boy, if he can't do it no one…..will."
"Law-talking guy!"
"I am so smart!  I am so smart!  S-M-R-T, I mean S-M-A-R-T!"
"I'm just amazed he was able to write so legibly on his own butt."
"Don't you hate pants?"
"So….you like…stuff?"
"I'll see you in hell!…..from heaven."
"Ach!  Ya used me, Skinner!  Ya used me!"
"Wa-ter."  "Be-eer."  "W-A…" "Bay, Eay…."
"I'm a small man, Bart.  A small and petty man."
"He's had it in for me ever since I kinda ran over his dog…Well, replace the word 'kinda' with the word 'repeatedly,' and the word 'dog' with 'son.' "
"Hot stuff, coming through!"
"What's a gime (gym)?  Ohhhh, a gime!"
"Homer Simpsons has powersauced his way to the top of the Murderhorn!"
"Excuse me, you just trailed off there."
"I'll get you Bette Midlerrrrrrrr!"
"What the hell was that?!" -- Krusty after Worker and Parasite
"Homer, I'll be right back…..someone ate my lunch."
"You don't win friends with salad."
"It's Alf!  He's back, in Pog form!"
"That's a specious argument."  "Thank you, honey."
"I know you can read my thoughts, boy.  Meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow."
"You've been gallivanting around with that floozy of a bigger brother of yours, haven't you.  Haven't you?!  Look…at…me…!"
"Ah, McGarnigle.  Eases the pain."
"Well, McGarnigle.  Jimmy's dead!  Slit his throat from ear to ear!"  "Hey, I'm trying to eat here!"
"Tramp-amp-oline!  Tram-bompoline!"
"Oooh, look at me Marge, I'm making people happy! I'm the magical man, from Happy Land, who lives in a gumdrop house on Lollypop Lane!"
"Stupid sexy Flanders."
"I don't get it.  It was non-alcoholic champagne!"
"Here comes the Shaq Attack!"
"NEEERRRRRRDDDD!  Hey buddy, did you get a load of that nerd?!"  "Excuse me?"
"Homer, you have the makeup gun set to whore!"
"Please do not offer my god a peanut."
"Where's your messiah now, Flanders?  Nyah!"
"I warsh mahself with a rag awn a sti-yck."
"He gets results, you stupid chief!"
"Tra la la la, I love my lemon tree!"
"Zinc, come back, zinc!"
"Woo hoo, look at that flubber fly!"
"Mmmm, sacri-licious."
"When I get older, I want to go to Bovine University!"
"Hello Dean?  You are a stupid head!"
"It was the best of times, it was the BLURST of times?  You stupid monkey!"
"To the Beemobile!"  "You mean your Chevy?"  "……yes."
"I can't, it's a Geo!"
"I hate you Walt, freaking, Whitman!  Leaves of Grass, my ass!"
"Remember, we're in the Itchy lot!"
"No hustle either, skip!"
"Not once, not twice, but thrice!"
"I'm using my whole ass!"
"Nobody who speaks German could be an evil man."
"Celebrate good times, come on!"  "I will."
"Weaseling out of things is important to learn. It’s what separates us from the animals…except the weasel."
"I can see through time!"
"Stop, stop!  He's already dead!"
"I'm cold and there are wolves after me."
"Ha ha ha, he's right!  We're so lame!"
"You tried your best, and you failed miserably!  The lesson is, never try."
"Oh yeah!" -- Duffman
"Hi, everybody!"
"Woo hoo!"
"It's called playing the percentages.  It's what smart managers do to win ballgames."
"No TV and no beer make Homer something something….Don't mind if I DO!"
"This is certainly a disturbing reality, isn't it?"
"Are you the creator of Hi & Lois?  Because you are making me laugh."
"Look out, Itchy!  He's Irish!"
"Lisa, I want to buy your rock."
"That's it, you people have stood in my way long enough!  I'm going to clown college!"
"This one kid REALLY loves the speedo guy."
"Besides, every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain. Remember when I took that home winemaking course, and I forgot how to drive?"

And, a few longer exchanges…

"Aurora borealis!  In this time of the year, in this part of the country, localized entirely within your kitchen?!"
"….can I see it?" 

"Hello, my name is Mr. Burns.  I understand you have a package for me." 
"Okay Mr. Burns, what's your first name?" 

"I have go out to pick up something for dinner."
"Money's too tight for steak."
"Uh, sure, steak."

"The doctor said I may have brain damage." 
"Dad, what's the point of this story?" 
"I like stories."

"Can I have one of those Australian giant beers?"
"Something wrong, mate?"
"No…it's pretty big.  I guess."

"I heard there was a murder in New York and they never found who did it." 
"But there are hundreds of unsolved murders in New York." 
"You just don't know when to shut your mouth, do you, Saxy boy?"

"Aw, twenty dollars?  I wanted a peanut!" 
"Twenty dollars can buy many peanuts!" 
"Explain how!" 
"Money can be exchanged for goods and services."

"There's the cannonball guy.  He's cool." 
"Were you being sarcastic?" 
"I don't even know anymore."

"Let the bears pay the bear tax.  I pay the Homer tax!" 
"That's the homeowner tax."
"Well, I'm still outraged."

"So you're saying I'm invincible?" 
"Oh god no, even a stiff breeze could…"

"No, pally.  This is Bronson, Missouri." 
"Hey ma, how about some cookies?"
"No dice."
"This ain't over."

"Leave town."
"Do it!"
"Come onnn!"
"I'll be your friend!"
"Aw, you're mean!"

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Other People's Writing

This is largely a Grantland-centric edition of OP'sW, but still, let's start things off with this oral history of The Wire.  I'd read an oral history of pretty much anything since I enjoy the format so much --- just recently plowed through Warren Littlefield's oral history of NBC's Thursday night lineup in about two hours, and the oral history of Saturday Night Live is one of my all-time favourite reads.  That said, while I'm a sucker for anything Wire-related, this article is very much a Cole's Notes version of what I'd expect from a Wire oral history.  Probably not a surprise given that it came from Maxim (of all places) and was written by a guy named Marc Spitz who was no doubt teased any time he came within 20 yards of a swimming pool.  A proper author needs to compile a proper 400-page oral history of this show and I swear I'll be first in line at the bookstore if those still exist within the next few years.  I would also happily read an oral history of The Wire: The Musical.

* Alex Pappademas interviews Stan Lee, though the interview is a relatively small part of an article that outlines the history of Lee, Marvel Comics and the fact that Jack Kirby may or may not have been screwed out of millions of dollars.  (Ok, probably was.) 

* The legend of, which is decidedly not the official website of the NBA team but rather something infinitely funnier.  Well, wait, hang on, not 'infinitely' --- the Bobcats' godawful play last season was admittedly pretty humorous. 

* Splitsider's Phil Davidson interviews Joel Godard.  I enjoy the new Conan show, though it's clear that it lacks the manic spark of the old Late Night program.  It's sort of the same but it's definitely not the same.  Stories like this really hammer that point home, especially just the fact that I really miss seeing Joel Godard's insane Joker smile on my TV screen.

* The great Ken Dryden goes all Gladwell in trying to connect together House (the TV show), Scotty Bowman and Steve Jobs to make a larger point about single-mindedness.  As with everything Dryden writes, it's a good read, but my favourite part by far if when he casually describes himself as "one of the goalies" for the Canadiens of the 1970's.  That's amazing.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Megan Draper

 I originally wrote this as part of an "Other People's Writing" post that I'll get to tomorrow, but this section just kept expanding to the extent that I just made it a stand-alone.  It all stemmed from Andy Greenwald's Grantland article about how Megan Draper is an alien set to conquer the Mad Men universe.  I'm saving my overall 'TV year in review' post until Mad Men's season wraps up but just as a little preview…holy crap, Megan Draper.  It's hard to say she's necessarily elevated the show since Mad Men has always been pretty great, but Megan's addition has definitely taken the show into a different dimension.  (Hey, Greenwald's laboured alien metaphor DOES fit!) 

Megan has basically turned Mad Men into a horror movie.  She's the lovely, innocent would-be victim that you just want to encourage to run away from the asylum of self-loathing that is Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce.  It's usually difficult to integrate a new character into an established show since the other characters are already so well-formed and well-known to us, but Megan's freshness stands in such stark contrast to the darkness of every non-Cosgrove on the show that the LAST thing you'd want is for her to be integrated.  Mad Men has built such a feeling of impending dread over its five seasons and, with some of the events of latter episodes, it seems like the roof is starting to cave in and you're left hoping that Megan, Peggy, Ken, Joan and I guess Sally can just dodge the wreckage.

"Lovely Megan, I went to buy a light bulb. When I get back, I'll see you better. Love, Don."

Don's elegant-as-hell love note misses the point that Megan herself is the light bulb, illuminating the fact that Don Draper, Hero Of The Show is a horrible human being.  It's been easy to overlook this fact over the previous four seasons since Draper is so charismatic, usually pitted against someone even more loathsome (Pete, Betty, the British guys who bought Sterling Cooper, Lee Garner Jr., etc.), is able to deliver a great ad pitch or a charming love note, and so likeable in his Dick Whitman moments, but yeah, Draper is a five-star piece of garbage.  This isn't exactly new news, but Megan's presence lays this bare in every episode.  Greenwald takes the argument that this season has illustrated that Don is suddenly no longer as cool because he seems older and is no longer in-touch with the changing 60's culture --- I think this season has simply thrown light on how Don has never been cool, he's just been packaged that way.  There's a whole sub-culture of Mad Men fandom that loves the show because of its retro-chic, which I have to believe the creators subversively love since it proves their larger points about how advertising can put an attractive gloss over anything.  We were wondering before this season how the sudden twist of Megan and Don being married in the S4 finale would impact the show in S5, yet rather than be an unwelcome intrusion, our reaction to Megan has just been, "Stay away from that awful man!"       
While Megan is the new element to the formula this season, this season has had so many levels to it that Megan is just one piece of the puzzle, so I'll leave the rest to my TV year in review.  And now, let's hope everything I've written isn't negated by the season finale!