Saturday, July 31, 2004

My Top Ten Biggest Reality Infatuations Ever

1. Holly King, Big Brother 5
2. Ingrid Wiese, Joe Schmo Show 2
3. Brynn Smith, The Real World: Las Vegas
4. Bonnie McFarlane, Last Comic Standing 2
5. Jenascia Chakos, America's Next Top Model 2
6. Nikki McKibbin, American Idol
7. Randi Coy, My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance
8. Colleen Haskell, Survivor: Borneo
9. Ryan Starr, American Idol
10. Christina Christian, American Idol
10½. Elyse Sewell, America's Next Top Model

All the Reality Girls

Thursday night was a tough one for me and for two of my three summer reality girlfriends, Bonnie McFarlane of Last Comic Standing and Holly King, Queen of Big Brother 5 (if Ingrid Wiese from Joe Schmo 2 hadn’t risen from her “eviction” like a phoenix, I would probably be downing sleeping pills right about now).

From her very first audition on Last Comic Standing, Bonnie was my favorite. Yes, I found her physically attractive, but even more appealing to me was her wit and intelligence (and okay, I’m not gonna lie, her embracing of her inner bitch). I was appalled when she was the first Comic let loose. I can’t understand why nobody in America seems to think she’s funny, but it kind of makes me happy, because it makes me feel like our bond is even more special (I know, now I sound like Bryce from Joe Schmo 2). As if that doesn’t make me seem like a stalker, I called six times (the maximum I could from my two phone lines, thanks to Last Comic Standing’s Un-American Idol voting policies) to vote for her in the Wild Card battle, in part so I could hear her say in that delicious voice: “Hi, I’m Bonnie McFarlane. Thanks for voting for me. Obviously, you’re a very special person.” I would dial a 900 number just to hear her say that to me over and over. Bonnie, you are a very special person, and I’ll miss you. At least I have your website, these gloriously biting essays and the hope that you’ll appear at a comedy club near me so I can bring you flowers. To paraphrase Fight Club (the original version): Bonnie, I want you to have my abortion.

Ah, what else can I say about Holly? She’s truly a magical creature who brings hope in an otherwise grim world – like a unicorn! Every time she opened her mouth on the show, she brightened my day and my life with her effervescent spirit and purity. Yet, even on this sad occasion of her banishment, I can find meaning. Sadly, I’ve watched as she’s been roped in and seduced by the gruesome twosome of Jase and Scott (not to be confused with the star of Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story) – two of the most loathsome “human beings” ever presented on reality television. And so, her eviction serves a greater purpose – it was quite possibly the biggest mistake the ridiculously named “Four Horsemen” could have made and will most likely lead to their demise in the House. She was banished for their sins.

At least both of these reality dream girls live in Los Angeles, meaning that someday they may become my real-life dream girls. Why, just today I saw Bonnie’s co-star Gary Gulman (who’s even taller in person – if you can believe it) out and about town, so it’s really only a matter of time…

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Not to be too flippant...

...but which part of this headline do you think embarrasses Anthony Anderson more?

Also, look at the url carefully.  It seems someone at The AP had a last minute change of heart and decided to really go for the jugular.

No word yet on how this affects New Line's marketing and/or release of Harold & Kumar in about 24 hours.

And you know, I hate to blame the victim, but what did she expect, hanging out at a penal farm?  I mean, it's right there in the name.  You wouldn't go to a cattle farm if you weren't looking for beef.

Too soon?

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

The Cult of Schmo

Now I understand why Joe Schmo is so brilliant. Co-creator Rhett Reese feels the exact same way about Reality TV that I do. He expressed our sentiments so well in his blog post, that I really have nothing to add to it.

I will say that loving Schmo is like being a member of Fight Club. Today I met a random woman, married, mother of two. We got to talking about TV and I mentioned Joe Schmo Show. She got all excited, and then felt the need to explain that she never meets anybody else who watches her beloved Schmo. But she didn't need to explain. I felt the same excitement, the same bond.

The first rule of Joe Schmo Show is... Talk about Joe Schmo Show.
The second rule of Joe Schmo Show is... Talk about Joe Schmo Show.

Retarded is as Retarded Does

"Johnny and me is like peas and carrots."

Okay, I lied about moving on to more important things, but this post is more pop-culturally-relevant, I swear.

Does anybody else think it was a bit, uh, what's the word I'm looking for here, uh, retarded that they decided to follow up the Democratic Party's own Simple Southerner (no disrespect to Sen. Edwards, Southerners, Simpletons or Forrest Gump) with a performance by the Black Eyed Peas of their song "Let's Get Retarded" (albeit the radio-friendly, Tipper Gore-approved party anthem version, "Let's Get it Started")?

I'm just saying.

Yet another sad attempt by the Democrats to transparently appeal to the "hip youngster"/snowboarding demographic - the only group of people who will know what that song's really supposed to be about.  Democrats, please, we're yours to alienate.  So don't alienate us.  We're a media-save generation.  We can see through it, and we don't like it.  There's nothing lamer than somebody trying to be what they think we think is cool.  Focus on the issues, and we'll follow.  We're not retarded.

At least not all of us. 

A Barack Star is Born

The New Democrat kissing the Old Democrat goodbye

This column isn't about politics, and aside from a few links and that review of Fahrenheit 9/11, I've refrained from talking about the subject.  I don't want to become one of those pop culture icons (you know who they are) that thinks anybody cares who they're voting for, or turns off anybody who respectfully disagrees with their positions.  But there are times when politics rises to the level of pop culture (yes, I hold pop culture holier than politics, and twice as important): Reagan, Clinton, Fahrenheit 9/11.

Last night, I and a few other PBS-watching wonks witnessed the future of the Democratic Party and, in my humble, uninformed and completely biased opinion, the future of the White House.  Because, with any luck, in the year 2020 (foresight is a bitch), the President of the United States of America will be... Barack Obama.

It's been said by everyone who saw his speech on Tuesday night at the Democratic Convention, but I'll say it again:  This man is a star.  He came out of nowhere to outshine some pretty good speeches by heavy-hitters with more familiar last names like Gore, Carter, Kennedy, Reagan and even the last Democratic rock star (sorry Sen. Edwards, you may have some charisma, but you're just an American Junior compared to Bill Clinton).

I wasn't even paying attention to the filler they were airing between Kennedy and Reagan, but Mr. Obama demanded my attention.  After hearing thirty seconds of his speech, I ran into the other room to see who this man was.  He's that good.  His orational skills and the content of his message gave me chills.  I understood what it must have been like when people first heard John F. Kennedy or Martin Luther King, Jr. speak back in the day.

Now, I must admit here, that I am a strong supporter (and sometimes, I've been forced to be a defender) of John Kerry.  He was my first choice among all the primary candidates, long before the Scream heard 'round the world.  I think that if you go to his website and look at his carefully thought out positions on every major issue, you can see that he is a man of substance who truly stands for what he, and I, believe in.  However, even I can't call him a star (if this were American Idol or Last Comic Standing, I might phone in for Bush, but in a Presidential Election my criteria change a bit).

But Barack Obama, like Bill Clinton and Austin on Joe Schmo 2, appears to have the whole package.  Within minutes, my mind flashed, as it often does on monumental occasions, to paraphrased moments and lines from two pop culture entities.  The first, from the movie Primary Colors, when Adrian Lester's character is describing his first encounter with Jack Stanton, the roman a clef stand-in for Bill Clinton, to his girlfriend and says that this guy is the real deal. 

The second paraphrased moment (fuzzy in my memory) comes from The West Wing flashback episode "In the Shaddow of Two Gunmen: Part I" (I believe), when the team is comming together and seeing Jed Bartlet for the first time, and somebody (or maybe several somebodies - guess I need to pick up the Second Season on DVD) expresses a sentiment similar to Adrian Lester's.  The point is, this guy is the real deal.  And for those of you who missed hearing his speech live, without the burden of hype or sound-biting, just know that in this rare instance, the hype is not hyperbole. 

You can read his entire, moving speech by clicking here, but reading it can't do justice.  But don't worry, you'll have plenty of opportunities to hear from him again over the next several decades.  

Now back to more important issues - like Big Brother 5!!!  Stay tuned.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Radio killed the video star

Am I getting older, or are the MTV VMA nominations even lamer than usual?

The VMA's have always been more concerned with the popularity of the artist and the catchiness of the song than the originality and quality of the images selected to accompany them.  Which is fine, just don't call them the Video Music Awards.

I am old, aren't I?

Anti-Em, Anti-Em

When you count on The Emmys to be disappointing, they rarely disappoint.  And yet, there were more than a few astonishing surprises this year (most of them surprisingly incompetent, even for The Emmys).  I’m actually a bit flattered because I think that Emmy voters must have been reading this site – unfortunately, they misunderstood the “Who I don’t want to be nominated” heading, because almost everyone I included under that got nominated (24, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Everybody Loves Raymond, Will & Grace, Larry David, Patricia Heaton, Doris Roberts, Brad Garret, Peter Boyle, Jeffrey Tambor, Steve Buscemi, Stockard Channing).

A few nominations of note:

The Good
Futurama, Outstanding Animated Program and Outstanding Music and Lyrics - I was worried this series might be forgotten or ineligible since the only episodes aired last year were a few Fox burned off during the summer.  Thankfully they seized the opportunity to honor this mistreated show one last time.

Nip/Tuck, Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series – Sure it’s the only major nomination for the series, but hey, it’s one more than The Shield got this year, so I can’t complain too much.

All the variety nominations across the board for Chappelle’s Show, The Daily Show With Jon Stewart and Late Show With David Letterman.

Jeffrey Tambor, Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series – I know I said I didn’t want him to be nominated, but any acting nomination for Arrested Development is better than none, even if it proves that Emmy voters prefer a familiar face to a fresh one (Amber Tamblyn excepted).

All four Sex and the City girls got nominated, including first-timer Kristin Davis.

Drea de Matteo and Janel Moloney, Outstanding Supporting Actresses in Drama Series – Both got much deserved nominations for their exceptional work this season on their respective shows (if de Matteo hadn’t been nominated, I would have personally burned down The Shrine).

We didn’t get the dueling Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman nominations tabloid junkies were salivating for this year at the Oscars, but as a consolation we get both Ellen DeGeneres and Anne Heche up for Emmys.  This should be fun (and make for a classic segment of Girls Gone Wild).

Arrested Development, Outstanding Comedy Series, Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series and Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series – I really didn’t think they could pull it off this year, but the Emmy love for this series almost makes up for all the other inane nominations.  Almost.  Hey, maybe this show really will experience a Cheers-like trajectory after all.  Maybe not.

The Outstanding Reality-Competition Program is good across the board (and Last Comic Standing is a welcome surprise), though where is Forever Eden?  I’m not talking about among the nominations, I’m just throwing that question out into the universe so that hopefully I can find it again.  I miss it.  I yearn for it.  I lament the fact that it has the most dishonest title since The Never-Ending Story Part II.

Scrubs, Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series – Scrubs finally gets a teensy bit of Emmy love, and rather than cry about all the richly deserved nominations it didn’t get, I’ll celebrate the fact that a great episode of television was nominated for its writing.

The Bad
See the above list of "Who I don't want to be nominated" picks that were nominated.

Did Curb Your Enthusiasm really need three nominations in the Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series category?  Is that just because they can’t nominate it for writing?  Did voters even watch those two episodes that weren’t “The Car Pool Lane?”

I’m sorry, but I just don’t get the Angels in America phenomenon.  Granted I’ve only made it through half the miniseries so far (and even that was a chore), but I certainly can’t understand what the hype and praise is about.  I can’t knock its record-setting nomination tally though, since I don’t watch enough TV movies to know if the competition is any better.

Fred Willard, Anthony LaPaglia, Georgia Engel, Christina Applegate, Cloris Leachman; Outstanding Guest Actors/Actresses in Comedy Series – All have been nominated or won before for playing these same roles, and none did anything special this season (LaPaglia in particular had little more than a glorified cameo in the finale of Frasier).  Shouldn’t this category be about recognizing the truly surprising and revelatory guest turns of the year?  Then again, Danny DeVito, John Cleese and Laura Linney weren’t exactly stellar choices either.

Sex and the City, “An American Girl in Paris (Part Deux),” Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series – Any other episode they want to nominate is fine by me, but this finale was such a disappointing deviation from what made the series great, that it just seems wrong to reward it.  Especially when the monumentally well-written season finale of Gilmore Girls failed to garner a writing nom.

And The What the !@#$ Were They Thinking?

South Park’s choice of episodes to submit for the Outstanding Animated Program category, “Christmas in Canada” – This isn’t a blunder on the part of the Emmys (for once), it’s on the part of the show’s producers.  In a pretty strong year for the series (see “The Passion of the Jew,” “You Got F’d in the A,” “The Jeffersons” and “Goobacks”), why chose this mediocre-at-best episode, notable only for working in a reference to the recently captured Saddam Hussein within a matter of hours before airing?

Two and a Half Men, Outstanding Main Title Theme Music – Quite possibly the most shocking, absurd nomination of them all.  Have you heard it?

John Ritter, Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series – Okay, maybe this is the most shocking, absurd nomination of them all.  I didn’t know he was even eligible, let alone that anybody would submit his name or campaign on his behalf.  It’s an insult to his legacy, an insult to the other actors in this category and an insult to the fine actors (Jason Bateman) whose spot he occupies.  This nomination is the greatest proof that The Emmy voting has little to do with quality.

James Spader, Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series – I almost put this in my no guts no glory prediction, but then it just seemed to crazy to write down.  While it was definitely a surprise, based on the few episodes I watched last season, I can’t say it’s undeserved.  He gave a fun performance.

Mariska Hargitay, Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series – Wow that came out of nowhere!  I can’t comment on whether or not she deserves it, but I was shocked.

Joan of Arcadia, Outstanding Drama Series – Only God saw this one coming.  Maybe I’ll actually have to try watching this show now.

So there you go.  Finally.  Look for my thoughts on who will and should win closer to the actual ceremony on September 19.

Friday, July 23, 2004

The Pop Culture Petri Dish Goes to White Castle

The First Cablinasian Stoner Quest Comedy is a Hole in One

I know I promised my reactions to the Emmy nominations over a week ago, but unfortunately, even Pop Culture Petri Dishes need to earn a living.  So those reaction thoughts will be up sometime (I hope), though my fiery rage has definitely had time to cool to an indifferent shrug. But I wanted to write in to let you all know to check out Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle.  The trailers have been pretty funny, but even they won't prepare you for how hilarious this movie really is.  Even if you don't like stoner humor (I personally loathe it), this flick will crack you up (bad stoner humor gets laughs purely for referencing the symptoms and foibles of potheads and for reminding stoners in the audience of how awesome weed is - all the laughs in Harold and Kumar are legitimately earned through well-crafted, clever and universal comedy).

The movie is also of note for being the only truly multi-cultural movie I can think of (and certainly the first mainstream movie to reflect such a diverse melting pot).  There's not a single sympathetic pure caucasian in the whole thing, while the good guys comprise ethnicities as diverse as Indian, Korean, African-American, Hispanic and Jewish (for the sake of this argument, I'll include Judaism as an ethnic group).  It's subtle, and never heavy-handed, which makes this breakthrough all the more refreshing (as does the fact that it never falls into the trap of being cruel in its stereotyping - yes the movie trades on some racial stereotypes, but it's always poking fun at the stereotypes themselves, not the people behind them, as opposed to the horribly offensive and unfunny Rush Hour movies, which are just minstrel shows without the face paint).

Final Thought:  The product placement really pays off.  I've never had a White Castle burger, but I was definitely craving one after sitting through the 90-minute ad.  So I drove down Sunset to the temporary White Castle oasis New Line has constructed, on my own mini-burger-quest.  Unfortunately, last night's grand opening was only for invited guests (I think I spotted John Cho - Harold of Harold and Kumar), so I had to settle for a burger at another restaraunt that sprouted on Sunset as the result of its role in a film about a one-night quest - Mel's drive-in.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

If I Picked The Emmy Nominations, Vol. 5

I don’t know if it’s just that I’m getting more generous or if supporting roles are just better on the whole, but these categories are much more jam-packed and cutthroat than their Lead counter-parts (especially in Comedy), so I’ll try to be brief.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama

Amy Acker as Fred Burkle/Illyria on Angel – Revealed heretofore-unseen depth this season in dramatically different dual roles.

Samaire Armstrong as Anna Stern on The O.C. – She arrived from Pittsburgh like a breath of fresh air, stole Seth’s heart as well as mine, and then returned to Pittsburgh all too swiftly. The O.C.’s loss. Hanson's gain.

Drea de Matteo as Adriana La Cerva on The Sopranos – This may have been Tony’s season, but de Matteo was it’s MVP. Probably the best performance by any actor this year on television. If she doesn’t win, there is no justice.

Janel Moloney as Donna Moss on The West Wing – The only Winger whose character actually got to take flight this season and gained some depth.

Kelly Rowan as Kirsten Cohen on The O.C. – Not as much fun as her husband, but Rowan did some solid work, especially when confronting her dysfunctional father, sister and *egads* step-mother!


Reiko Aylesworth as Agent Michelle Dessler on 24 – Both Dessler and Aylesworth took control during that hotel incident.

Melinda Clarke as Julie Cooper on The O.C. – A deliciously bitchy MILF who only grew more complex and twisted as the season progressed.

Melissa George as Lauren Reed on Alias – Everyone hated her, but I liked what she brought to the dynamics of the show – especially after we found out who she really was.

Who I don’t want to be nominated:

If Stockard Channing gets another nomination for her two minutes of satisfactory work… well, I’d threaten to boycott The Emmys, but it’s probably gonna happen for her and I love awards shows too much.

My No-Guts-No-Glory Prediction in this category:

There’s three vacant slots up for grabs (not including Channing’s), so let’s put in Drea de Matteo, Janel Moloney and, oh, I have no idea (guess that means Channing’s safe). It’s probably going to be someone from a show I don’t watch, like Maura Tierney. Is Mary Steenburgen supposed to be any good? Are there any decent supporting actresses on C.S.I. or NYPD Blue? How about Without a Trace? Maybe Aida Turturro will stage a comeback (she was pretty good in her few appearances this season). What the hell, since I’ve got one more slot to fill, I’ll make a totally uninformed guess and go with Marianne Jean-Baptiste (I liked her in Secrets & Lies).

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama

Adam Brody as Seth Cohen on The O.C. – Breakthrough performance of the year. He is truly God’s gift to the one-liner and a role model for geek-boys everywhere. Oh, and as if that weren’t enough, he can do emotional, dramatic scenes, that over-talented bastard! At least I hear his band kinda sucks.

Alexis Denisof as Wesley Wyndham-Pryce on Angel – Has been on a roll since the third season. He got his chance to shine this year in the great episode “Lineage.”

James Marsters as Spike on Angel – Made the transfer from Buffy admirably, even though he didn’t get nearly as much scene stealing to do on Angel.

Michael Imperioli as Christopher Moltisanti on The Sopranos – Always great. He was one of the many elements that made “Long Term Parking” so magnificent.

Jay Karnes as Det. Dutch Wagenbach on The Shield – The sick puppy.


Walton Goggins as Det. Shane Vendrell on The Shield – I’ve never been much of a fan, but he went to some dark places this season and earned my respect.

Benito Martinez as Capt. David Aceveda on The Shield – Ditto.

Bradley Whitford as Josh Lyman on The West Wing – It’s sad that of the usually stellar supporting cast, Whitford was the only male I could justify including here.

Who I don’t want to be nominated:

Steve Buscemi – Don’t get me wrong, I love him in movies like Reservoir Dogs, Fargo, Ghost World and most especially Con Air. But, and maybe it’s because of that cinematic baggage he brings, I just never felt that he fit in on The Sopranos.

My No-Guts-No Glory Prediction in this category:

Buscemi segues easily into Joe Pantoliano’s winning position (I felt the same way about him last season). And as long as I’m out on the limb, I’ll stick Goggins in John Spencer’s seat (or, if there’s some pocket of unashamed O.C. love, Brody could push aside Goggins, or even knock out the vulnerable Victor Garbor or Whitford). Unless some show like Deadwood has some strong Supporting Actors I don’t know about, in which case…

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy

Will Arnett as GOB Bluth on Arrested Development – Brilliantly smarmy!

Bryan Cranston as Hal on Malcolm in the Middle – He’s been the star of the show for the last few seasons, and he is game for anything.

Tony Hale as Buster Bluth on Arrested Development – Brilliantly retarded!

John C. McGinley as Dr. Perry Cox on Scrubs – Another Emmy mystery is how this performance has gone unrecognized for two years. Do they not see the show? Do they black out when insanely gifted actors are saying exquisitely crafted things? I’m just throwing these hypotheses out there.

Scott Patterson as Luke Danes on Gilmore Girls – Very good stuff.


Michael Cera as George Michael Bluth on Arrested Development – Brilliantly awkward!

David Cross as Tobias Funke on Arrested Development – Brilliantly lame!

Donald Faison as Dr. Christopher Turk on Scrubs – Very good stuff.

Sean Hayes as Jack McFarland on Will & Grace – I just can’t blame these talented performers for their show sucking so horribly.

Edward Herrmann as Richard Gilmore on Gilmore Girls – Got some meatier stuff to play with this season and took his character in new directions.

David Hyde Pierce as Dr. Niles Crane on Frasier – Always great, and nostalgia for when he first burst onto the scene almost pushed him into the top five.

John Mahoney as Martin Crane on Frasier – His character has had its ups and downs (occasionally bordering on ridiculous), but this season he was strong, and he was very good in the finale.

Daryl “Chill” Mitchell as Eli Cartwright Goggins III on Ed – A welcome addition to the show who really brought some new life and a new perspective to the series.

Josh Randall as Dr. Mike Burton on Ed – I’ve been a fan of his under-stated and under-rated comedy for the last four years.

Who I don’t want to be nominated:

Brad Garrett, Peter Boyle and Jeff Garlin: I’ve said enough about their respective series.
Jeffrey Tambor – It’s not that I don’t think he’s great on Arrested Development (despite the fact that I couldn’t stand him on The Larry Sanders Show), it’s just that I know he’s the most high profile of his co-stars and the most likely to get a nomination, even though I think he hasn’t done enough to merit recognition before his brilliantly gifted co-stars.

My No-Guts-No-Glory Prediction in this category:

Will there be six slots again this year? Unlikely. So my gutsy prediction here is that nothing changes, except the erasure of Bryan Cranston. But you want a really gutsy prediction? I don’t really see it happening (because it would make too much sense), but McGinley could finally squeeze in (and squeeze Mahoney out). Or, possibly more likely, Tambor could be the one to oust Mahoney, insuring that everyone in this category has been nominated at least four prior times.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy

Kim Cattrall as Samantha Jones on Sex and the City – She used the cancer arc to more fully flesh out her character while staying faithful to her flesh-pressing ways. She’s this category’s Drea de Matteo, and this has to be her year (unless the rumors of her diva-like behavior turn team-playing voters off).

Sarah Chalke as Dr. Elliott Reid on Scrubs – She’s come a long way from the second and fourth Becky. While this wasn’t her strongest season overall, just look at her work at the very beginning of the year and the very end. Great stuff.

Kristin Davis as Charlotte York on Sex and the City – Always my least favorite of the girls, but this season, she really made Charlotte human and finally stepped up her acting to the bar set by her co-stars. I would’ve liked to see where she might have taken the character after this.

Cynthia Nixon as Miranda Hobbes on Sex and the City – Always my favorite of the girls, always a top-notch performer.

Judy Reyes as Nurse Carla Espinosa on Scrubs – She blends strong self-confidence and neuroses seamlessly into one of the most three-dimensional women on TV. And she’s funny!


Kelly Bishop as Emily Gilmore on Gilmore Girls – Another actress who dialed back the caricature this season to find a more rounded character, complete with pathos a plenty.

Jessica Walter as Lucille Bluth on Arrested Development – My choice for Worst TV Mother of the Year, she’s the mother you love to hate. Her chemistry with all her children is subtly different, but always impeccable.

Portia de Rossi as Lindsay Funke on Arrested Development – Beautiful performance.

Megan Mullally as Karen Walker on Will & Grace – What I said about Sean Hayes.

Bitty Schram as Sharona Fleming on Monk – As everyone else on the show gets more cartoonish, she’s emerged from her ditzy, grating beginning as the lone human character on the show.

Lesley Boone as Molly Hudson on Ed – In later seasons, she was finally given some really interesting notes to play, unique within the realm of television.

Who I don’t want to be nominated:
Doris Roberts and Cheryl Hines. Need I say more?

My No-Guts-No-Glory Prediction for this category:

If Kristin Davis finally gets a nod, then someone has got to go. So long, Cheryl Hines. And while I’m tempted to name Bitty Schram as an upset, I just can’t see any more of last year’s nominees vanishing (although if I had to name one, it’d be Mullally).

Thanks for watching. I won’t be posting my reactions to the actual nominations until Monday night at the earliest. Until then, you’ll just have to form opinions on your own. I know, it sounds difficult, but I have faith in you.

If I Picked The Emmy Nominations, Vol. 4

It's 24 hours until the real nominees are announced, but you don't have to wait another minute for my nominees in the category of Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama:

Michael Chiklis as Det. Vic Mackey on The Shield – I loved him as The Commish. And he’s pretty great at this role, too, tempering what started out as all bravado all the time with some interesting self-doubt and sensitivity.

Peter Gallagher as Sandy Cohen on The O.C. – Who knew Gallagher had it in him to be this entertaining? His timing is impeccable and he’s my pick for TV Father of the Year.

James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano on The Sopranos – Yeah, he’s already won a lot, but it’s hard to argue with the acclaim he receives. As I said before, this season was all Tony’s, and Gandolfini owned it. I especially liked his work with Drea de Matteo in “Irregular Around the Margins” and watching Tony fall in love all over again with Carmela.

Julian McMahon as Dr. Christian Troy on Nip/Tuck – See my prior effusive words.

Kiefer Sutherland as Agent Jack Bauer on 24 – Another tenuous nominee, but even when his show is out of steam, Sutherland is not. In every episode, I find myself counting down the minutes until the story returns to Jack – a sign of a good lead that he always leaves you wanting more.


David Boreanaz as Angel on Angel – It’s amazing the growth he’s made as an actor since the first season of Buffy. He could have easily been upstaged this season by the addition of James Marsters, but instead they played nicely with each other.

Chi McBride as Steven Harper on Boston Public – A criminally neglected actor on an underrated series (which I should have included among my Best Drama Series runners-up). He’s brought a commanding presence and warm sincerity to this fully formed role for three and a half seasons now. Sadly, it’s over now.

Ian McShane as Al Swearengen on Deadwood – So I only saw two episodes and was bored to tears – the only time I perked up was when McShane was onscreen. If I had kept watching, it would have been solely for him, and I doubt he would have disappointed.

Martin Sheen as President Jed Bartlet on The West Wing – He hasn’t had anything as powerful to work with as “Two Cathedrals” in a long time, and his role seemed to shift to a supporting one during the series’ Sorkin-less growing pains. Yet Sheen is always solid as the greatest president who never lived.

Who I don’t want to be nominated:

It’s probably unfair to cite someone who’s work I haven’t fully sampled, but judging from the few minutes I have seen, and the lame bits of freeze-dried “acting” that make it into the ads that run during Survivor (“You know what I hate? People who hurt kids.”), I really don’t think William Petersen deserves to make it.

My No-Guts-No-Glory Prediction in this category:

Anthony LaPaglia steps in for the ineligible Peter Krause and (this is the really gutsy part) McShane supplants either Sheen or Sutherland (I’m leaning towards him replacing Sheen at the moment, but this all seems a bit iffy). Oh, and if McMahon can make it in, that would make my morning, but since when have The Emmys ever tried to please me? Still, it's not an absurd possibility.

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama:

Wow, this is a tough (and sad) one. All of these women are very talented, but only one of them did what I consider to be exceptional work this season. Come on writers! Give your leading ladies something to work with. You can do it! Just pretend they have penises.

Edie Falco as Carmela Soprano on The Sopranos – As always, she’s terrific, but there was nothing on par with her heartbreaking turn in last season’s “Whitecaps,” and she was sadly reduced to even more of a supporting role this season.

Jennifer Garner as Agent Sydney Bristow on Alias – Exceptional. This season may have been a big disappointment, but J.J. Abrams and co. sure put Sydney through the ringer, and Garner more than rose to the challenge (I was ready to hand her the Emmy after that one devastating scene in “The Two” where she confronts Vaughn). Not to mention that she has to deliver all the emotional goods of her fellow nominees, AND play multiple alter egos, learn new languages (flawlessly) and perform physical feats that would make Olympic gymnasts balk. Plus, she kicks serious ass.

Allison Janney as C.J. Cregg on The West Wing – Yeah, good stuff. Most of what I said about Sheen applies here, too. Sorkin always used to write Emmy-whoring episodes for his actors each year - apparently John Wells didn't get the memo.

CCH Pounder as Det. Claudette Wyms on The Shield – Always solid. Always commanding.

Joely Richardson as Julia McNamara on Nip/Tuck – Sometimes her character comes across as a little over the top and a little underdeveloped, but Richardson makes the most of it, and is willing to go pretty far and take some risks in the role.


I had enough trouble scraping together five. Geez, what more do you people want from me?

Who I don’t want to be nominated:

It seems almost too cruel to even bring it up, but: Is Lorraine Bracco still entered in the Lead Actress category? Because if so, that’s just adding insult to injury. I mean, isn’t it pitiful enough that her role has been reduced from Lead to barely Guest Actress without submitting her into a category she can’t possibly crack again?

My No-Guts-No-Glory Prediction in this category:

It’s not really that gutsy, but Frances Conroy vacates one spot, leaving it warm for Richardson. And the token CBS slot transfers from Marg Helgenberger to the girl everyone seems to love, Amber Tamblyn (unless it reverts back to Judge Amy Brenneman – but despite the fact that I’ve never watched any of their series, I’ll stick with Tamblyn).

Don’t miss the next exciting installment of “If I Picked The Emmy Nominations” – the most shocking “If I Picked The Emmy Nominations” ever!

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

If I Picked The Emmy Nominations, Vol. 3

I’m not sure what category some of these people are submitted to, so in cases where somebody is on the fence, I’m just guessing:

Lead Actress in a Comedy

Jennifer Aniston as Rachel Greene on Friends – Not her best season (Rachel may have caught stupid from Joey during their ill-advised fling), but nostalgia wins out again, and I did think she was very good in the one where her father had a heart attack.

Alexis Bledel as Rory Gilmore on Gilmore Girls – Not sure if she’s campaigning for Lead or Supporting, but since she doesn’t stand a chance of making it in either category in the real Emmys, I’ll put her in lead (it’s a weaker category and besides, she’s an equal to Lauren Graham on the show). Boy was she fantastic in that season finale (and in every other one of the series’ 86 episodes)!

Lauren Graham as Lorelai Gilmore on Gilmore Girls – If this woman were giving this performance on one of the real networks, she would have won an Emmy a long time ago. She’s quick, she’s witty, she can memorize large chunks of unwieldy dialogue and spit them out like a Gatling Gun. And when she does heartbreak, you feel it.

Lisa Kudrow as Phoebe Buffay on Friends – Most of what I said about Aniston applies here, too. But remember when she was really funny?

Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie Bradshaw on Sex and the City – The heart and core of the series, she is every woman, and she is fabulous.


Courtney Cox-Arquette as Monica Geller on Friends – I’ve never been a very big fan of Monica, or Cox-Arquette’s performance, but I must admit she softened the character up a lot this year, bringing her closer to first season, pre-uber-bitch Monica. Plus, nostalgia.

Jane Kaczmarek as Lois on Malcolm in the Middle – She also softened up her character some this year, keeping her from just being a screaming tyrant all the time.

Debra Messing as Grace Adler on Will & Grace– She’s always been my favorite part of the Will & Grace ensemble (her limited presence this season was a definite contributor to its steep decline in quality), and she did the best with what she had to work with (when she was there to work with it). But you wouldn’t give an Employee of the Month plaque to someone who was on maternity leave for half the month, would you?

Who I don’t want to be nominated:

Patricia Heaton as Debra Barone on Everybody Loves Raymond – I have no idea how she’s won so many Emmys. Even when the show was good, I felt like her character was the most underdeveloped and least well written. She’s a grating nag, a two-dimensional caricature who sets women and the institution of marriage back thirty years.

My No-Guts-No-Glory prediction in this Category:

I have this feeling that Cox-Arquette may sneak in there thanks to her baby drama (on-screen and off), her suffering through those awful things the Friends writers said about her being released in that deposition, and the fact that she’s the only one of the Friends never to be nominated before. So who might she bump out? I’d say the most vulnerable are Kaczmarek and Messing. Malcolm’s not so fresh anymore in Emmy’s eyes, and Kaczmarek’s support hasn’t been strong enough to win her the prize yet. And Messing had weak material and limited screen time this season (and remember, her co-star was denied a nom the year after he won), but then again, will they be so heartless as to oust another woman who went through some recent baby drama? As long as I’m going for No-Guts-No-Glory, I’ll go out all the way on the limb and say that both Kaczmarek and Messing get the boot while all three Friendesses make it in.

And now, Best Actor in a Comedy Series

Jason Bateman as Michael Bluth on Arrested Development – Shockingly gifted as the dry-witted straight man who managed to get plenty of laughs of his own amidst the craziness around him.

Zach Braff as Dr. John “J.D.” Dorian on Scrubs – Excellent comic timing (even when playing off himself) and totally believable in his most dramatic moments.

Tom Cavanagh as Ed Stevens on Ed - I almost forgot Cavanagh, who was great, as always. Shame on me.

Kelsey Grammer as Dr. Frasier Crane on Frasier – He was skating by for several seasons, along with the series as a whole, but when the time came, he roared back with his A-game.

David Schwimmer as Ross Geller on Friends – He had gone over-the-top for a couple of seasons, but he got grounded again this year and really made me feel the Ross and Rachel love again (especially in that same heart attack episode I cited for Aniston).


Matt LeBlanc as Joey Tribbiani on Friends – For the first time in several years he wasn’t the MVP of the cast, slipping back into some of his old habits, but still good. Hopefully he’ll step it back up for Joey.

Bernie Mac as Bernie Mac on The Bernie Mac Show – The show may not be very funny, but there’s just something winning and charismatic about The Mac Man.

Eric McCormack as Will Truman on Will & Grace – I guess he did the best he could with what he had to work with.

Matthew Perry as Chandler Bing on Friends – Like Monica and Ross, Chandler started to get back to his roots and Perry started to get his snappy comic timing back. He even did well with the dramatic baby stuff.

Ray Romano as Ray Barone on Everybody Loves Raymond – I may not love the show anymore, but I still like Raymond.

Tony Shalhoub as Adrian Monk on Monk – He was still believable in the season under consideration, and still funny.

Who I don’t want to be nominated:

Larry David as Larry David on Curb Your Enthusiasm – Since the show’s all improvised, he’s gotta get most of the credit when it’s great, and the blame when it sucks hard core like it did this year.

My No-Guts-No-Glory prediction in this category:

There was a six-man race last year, which probably won’t happen again this year, meaning one man is already out. And then I’m predicting a return for Kelsey Grammer (remember when he was unbeatable?). So that’s two men out. While, I’d like to see Jason Bateman make it three, I don’t see that happening. So who are the two men out? Bernie Mac and then either Matt LeBlanc or Eric McCormack (but most likely LeBlanc, although if Schwimmer trades places with him, you can say goodbye to McCormack, too – but I’m not going so far as to predict that).

After these messages…

We’ll be right back!

Monday, July 12, 2004

If I Picked the Emmy Nominations, Vol. 2

Best Comedy Series:

This is where things get complicated for me. I watch a lot of comedies (and dramedies that submit to The Emmys in the Comedy category) and I think there are (or were) a lot of very good ones on the air. So narrowing it down is tough, especially with so many sentimental favorites up for their last awards. But I’ll try.

Arrested Development – it took me a little while to accept the brilliance of this show, but now I’m a major fan; the stories are tightly constructed, the dialogue absurdly intelligent and the acting top-notch; unfortunately it requires some long-term attention and a particular sense of humor, which is probably why it’s languishing in the ratings – hopefully the buzz will translate into a nomination (remember what a freshman win did for the equally bottom-dwelling Cheers), but I’m not holding my breath; it’ll have to make due with Writing and Directing (and maybe Lead Actor) noms

Frasier – speaking of Cheers… I’ve already written a lot about this season of Frasier; it’s the most tenuous of my five nominees in this category and I could easily swap it out for one of my runners-up; but nostalgia plays some part, as does a sense of a fitting closure for the most Emmy-winning series in history and I’d like to reward them for stepping up their game to send Frasier off in the style it deserved (which is why Frasier’s here and not Friends) – I think this is one of the biggest question marks this year at The Emmys: Can Frasier stage a final comeback?

Gilmore Girls – this is another sort of conflicted inclusion; the first eight episodes of this season ranged from disappointing by the sterling standards of the Girls to downright bad – I like to think of them as a Bobby Ewing-esque dream on the part of the writers – but starting with “Ted Koppel’s Big Night Out,” the show was back to top form, which is very top indeed (and unlike 24, they maintained this mid-season rally until the end); but the real reason I couldn’t deny them a slot was the unfathomably superb season finale “Raincoats and Recipes” – on paper there’s nothing outstanding, or even out of the ordinary about this episode, but everyone I’ve talked to or read about it agrees that it is one of the best single episodes of any television show in recent memory – sadly, it aired on The WB, so it doesn’t really count in Emmy’s eyes

Scrubs – how this show has managed to go unnoticed by Emmy voters the last two years is beyond me, and while I didn’t think this season was as strong as the first two (too much focus on J.D.’s obsession with Elliot without treating the object of his affection as more than an object), it’s still one of the best, if not the best, half-hour sit-com on the air; the show manages to mix comedy and drama effortlessly without undercutting either; the stories, themes, dialogue, characters are all brilliantly crafted by the writers, and the actors and directors always rise to their level; for evidence of why the show deserves an Emmy this season, just watch NBC’s mini-marathon on Thursday, July 22 (especially the best episode of the third season: “My Screw Up”) – but if it hasn’t come to their attention yet, I don’t know why it would now

Sex and the City – this is kind of a guilty pleasure for me, because, well, I’m a man, and apparently men aren’t supposed to like this series – but what’s not to like? Beautiful women desperate to bed men, giving the men at home an insight into what women talk about when we’re not around and what they want from us when we are – plus, the writing is usually excellent and the episodes are so light and airy that I’ve been known to watch six in one night when catching up on DVD; this season (or seasons) was a good one, if a little heavy on the drama; though I was disappointed by the final two episodes, they weren’t bad, they just weren’t right for this show – it’s probably the closest comedy series to a lock for a nomination this year (as long as voters remember it since it ended so many months ago)


Friends – this is where nostalgia can mess with your mind – I mean, how can I not nominate one of my favorite sit-coms ever in this, it’s final at bat? Unfortunately, the last few seasons have ranged from uneven to pretty bad (at least by Friends’ standards), and while this season was more uneven than bad, it pales in comparison to the show’s heydays; I wrote a lot about my feelings for the final season before, and after weighing it against Frasier’s final season, I just couldn’t justify putting it in the top five – though I doubt Emmy voters will have any trouble doing so

Ed – another series that wanted to benefit from my nostalgia for better seasons; in any of its first three years (particularly the first and third) I easily would have put it on my short list, but after the beautiful conclusion to the third season (the last half of which contained several of the best episodes of any TV show in recent years), the abbreviated final season was something of a disappointing mess, proving once and for all that most will-they-or-won’t-they couples should stay apart (with the exception of Ross & Rachel); I do miss this show, though, and hopefully it’ll come out on DVD soon, or at least be rebroadcast somewhere so I can see those brilliant third season episodes again – yeah, it’s not gonna happen

Malcolm in the Middle – I don’t know why this show has fallen so far in the buzz index since its second season (when it was nominated for a Best Comedy Series Emmy and won its second straight Writing and Directing awards); yeah, it’s had some ups and downs in quality, but no more than any other top series; sure, the Francis stuff is often an albatross around the series’ neck; however, I think that this year was more than solid as the boys continue to come into their own as characters and as actors; I guess it’s not in my top five because I just aren’t as excited by it as by some of those other shows – sadly, its days at the Best Series table are most likely done for, despite being better than many of the repeat invitees

Who I don’t want to be nominated:

The Bernie Mac Show
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Everybody Loves Raymond
Will & Grace

All of these series have been nominated (or won) in major categories before, but they’ve all been coasting (some for several years). This season, they’ve all had painful episodes that were difficult for me to suffer through (some more than others). They’ve all lost a sense of who their characters are, and more importantly, why we (and The Emmys) fell in love with the shows in the first place. Bernie Mac just isn’t funny anymore, and aside from Mac himself, nobody on the show is an engaging presence. Curb Your Enthusiasm had a truly awful season (and one exceptional episode does not salvage a season), in my opinion, and I’m surprised I haven’t read about how horrible it was anywhere. The season-long arcs were stretched too thin, and wore out their welcome by the second or third episode. Larry, while always a curmudgeon, used to at least have the audience on his side because they could agree with his rants and unsavory behavior in principle – but now, he’s just an obnoxious bastard for the sake of being an obnoxious bastard. And don’t get me started on the hour-long season finale (or as I like to call it, The Producers: Abridged and Unfunny). The last two seasons of Raymond have devolved into self-parody and everyone, from the writers to the actors, is phoning it in. Probably the biggest blunder has been turning the series into Everybody Loves Robert, or Prelude to a Spin-Off. It's also abandoned the simplicity of the early seasons in favor of increasing absurdity (this show didn't "Jump the Shark," it "Ate the Fly"). I already discussed Monk at length, and even though the season that’s eligible for consideration is considerably better than this current one, it’s still not good enough to make the top five. And finally Will & Grace. Or, as it was known this year: Will. Everyone in the world agrees that this season just went from bad to worse and then worser. I think the writers (and maybe the actors) got tired of the criticisms that: sure the show is funny, but it’s all jokes and no character or story development. So now they’ve been trying too hard (ever since the end of the fourth season) to make the show more like a Friends, but the problem is, the foundation they’re building on can’t handle it. There’s nothing wrong with being a show that’s all jokes, but there is something wrong about a sit-com that’s not funny and has absolutely no respect for its characters or its audience. So how much you wanna bet it still makes the cut this year?

My No-Guts-No-Glory Prediction in this category: No matter how lame I thought it was, I don’t see last year’s victor getting dumped, so Raymond still gonna get some love. Sex and the City is a shoe-in (pun accidentally intended). Friends should be there one last time. So the question is, did anybody in the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences notice how colossally bad favorites Curb and Will were this season? If I have to go out on a limb, I say Curb makes it in thanks to screeners of “The Carpool Lane” and Larry David-worship, but that Frasier will manage to rightfully reclaim its spot from Will (though technically, Curb is the show that stole Frasier’s perennial position in the Best Comedy Series club back in 2002). Then again, maybe that’s just wishful thinking.

To be continued…

Sunday, July 11, 2004

If I Picked The Emmy Nominations, Vol. 1

I love awards shows. All awards shows. Big and small. Legit and… Golden Globes. But The Emmys? There’s nothing I can add about them that hasn’t been said before: they reward the same tired shows and people year in and year out, whether they deserve it or not… yada, yada, yada. But there’s always a few surprises come nomination time, which gives me just enough to get excited about. But the real reason to devote any of my mind’s time to the whole event is that any celebration of the brilliance that is television is a good thing.

So instead of focusing on predicting whom I think will be nominated (it’s tough when I don’t have access to screener tapes which often are good indicators of which performers have standout episodes), I’m going to take this opportunity to celebrate the shows and people that brought me joy through my little 27 inch box of heaven this year.

A tricky thing I have to consider when making my nominations is one that I’m sure influences real-live Emmy voters (and is partly to blame for the monotony and undeservedness of so many nominees each year): Do I let the quality of previous years influence my decisions, or do I limit the scope of my analysis to this year and this year only (which would seem to be what The Emmys should be all about). On the other end of the spectrum, do I look at the forest of the whole season or the trees of individual standout episodes? Many good series this year had uneven seasons – do I take the good and take the bad into consideration? Again, this is something that shapes the real Emmy nominating, as many busy industry people only look at the few episodes on the screeners and not the whole season. In regards to both of the questions I’ve raised, I don’t have a blanket policy (other than don’t dangle him over a balcony), but I’ll try to make reference to my thought process when it applies to a given nominee.

One last caveat before I get into my nominees: Even though I watch more TV than any non-shut-in should, I can’t/won’t watch everything. I watch one ABC show. Two to Five on CBS. One on UPN. Three on The WB. And there’s a lot of Emmy-friendly dramas that I’ve never even seen a whole episode of (CSI, CSI: Miami, Without a Trace, Joan of Arcadia, Judging Amy, The Guardian… pretty much anything on CBS). And I stopped watching E.R., NYPD Blue, The Practice and the Law & Orders with any regularity years ago. Oh, and I'm not gonna watch anything on Lifetime. So, as with any of my opinions, take them with an especially tiny grain of salt. And now, my nominees for Best Drama (in alphabetical order)!

Angel – there were a few so-so episodes this year, but there were also an inordinate amount of excellent ones (“Lineage,” “Smile Time,” “Origin” and “Not Fade Away” to name but the most superb); even though (and perhaps because) the producers didn’t know until very late in the game that this would be their final season, they managed to conclude the series more satisfactorily than just about any I can think of (and much better than Buffy’s finale, in my mind); plus, it is the final season of a show ignored by Emmy throughout its run – still, it’s a show on The WB about a vampire so it’s not gonna happen

Nip/Tuck – yes, I know that just a week or so ago I said it wasn’t some great gritty drama, but who said a show has to be to be worthy of an Emmy?; the show was consistent at what it set out to do throughout its first season, which is no easy feat to accomplish; thoroughly engrossing and entertaining – isn’t that reason enough to nominate it? – I’d say that based on its critical acclaim and Golden Globe nomination, the show has a small shot at making the real final five, but since The Shield has yet to make the cut, I don’t see the much raunchier Nip/Tuck leapfrogging in

The O.C. – not sure if it says more about me or the state of dramas that two of my five picks in this category are semi-guilty pleasures – but they are great pleasures none-the-less; there’s a reason this show has skyrocketed to such immense popularity amongst such a wide range of people in such a short time (and it’s not the chemistry of Mischa Barton and Benjamin McKenzie, I’ll tell you that): it’s a very cleverly written show (that maybe works better as a comedy than as a drama, but hey, that’s how they’re campaigning) with a couple of great characters – while I’ll bet there are a bunch of Emmy voters that secretly love it, they’ll be too ashamed to actually vote for it - but I’m not!

The Shield – I thought the first season was over-praised and over-the-top (both in writing and acting), but in the second and (especially) third seasons, the show has definitely gelled into an intense, compelling – dare I say intensely compelling? – series, with equally strong arcs and standalone episodes – I’ve been converted, but have Emmy voters? I think they might have a real chance at a nom this year

The Sopranos – like many, I wasn’t too keen on the fourth season and after the first two episodes of this season, I was worried it was already spiraling into the same direction; but then things picked up and they kept getting better (even if the penultimate episode felt more climactic than the actual climax); sure, many of our favorite characters took long leaves of absence – this season was, more than any other, definitely Tony’s, everyone else was just visiting – but when they were there, they were great as usual – I'm going to go out on a limb and say that I think this show might actually have a chance at being nominated, too


A tribute to how few dramas I watch, I’ve only got one runner-up, and it’s the show everyone else is rooting for to be stood up Thursday morning: The West Wing. Not as good as it used to be? Okay. It lost a lot of its patented sparkle when Aaron Sorkin left. There were a lot of plot lines that led nowhere and a lot of characters with nothing to do. And my biggest problem with The West Wing in the last few seasons has been that in reflecting real-life politics, it’s been too focused on terrorism and not enough on domestic issues. Still, even mediocre West Wing is pretty damn good TV. I won’t mind at all if the four-time undefeated champ gets another nod this year (I need to do some research to see how many times in recent Emmy history a show has won best series one year, and not even been nominated the next – correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe the last time was in 2000 when the reigning Best Comedy Series Ally McBeal went un-nominated).

Who I don’t want to be nominated:

Aside from the shows I don’t watch (primarily CSI, which I’ve tried to watch several times, but I just can’t seem to make it through more than five minutes without flipping – I’m rarely so out of touch with most of America), the only shows that seem like likely possibilities that I don’t want to hear announced Thursday morning are Deadwood and 24. I watched two episodes of the critically-beloved Deadwood and thought it easily deserved the award for Most Aptly-Named Series, but little else. For all I know, it could’ve gotten much better, but I wasn’t going to waste any more of my life finding out. As for 24, I was very excited when the series was first nominated. It deserved it. But this past season was just way too uneven to merit inclusion. Just when it started to get good again, around the middle of the season, things turned around and it limped towards the final few hours – and there were far too many plot-lines that went nowhere for it to be considered among the best of the year.

My No-Guts-No-Glory Prediction in this category: Without A Trace and The Shield break through. 24 is out. I'm too much of a wimp to call Deadwood stealing either CSI or (less likely) West Wing's spot.

Stay tuned for more…

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Blame Canada

"Flying Death Monkeys!"

I have a confession to make: I'm hooked on Degrassi: The Next Generation, the Canadian teen soap dramedy (airs all the time on The N, check local listings). It's one of those guilty pleasures where I don't know if I enjoy it on an ironic level or on a sincere level. All I know is that it is truly compelling. And Canadians talk funny.

Oh, and if you tune in and don't like one episode, watch a couple more. The ensemble is so big, that characters and stories may pop up in one half hour, and then vanish entirely for several episodes, and not all characters/plot lines are created equal on Degrassi, so give several a chance.

And if you happen to run The N, please play the aborted abortion episode here! If the Canadians can handle it, so can we! Other than that one programming gaffe on the part of The N, I gotta respect them for tackling all kinds of teen issues that Saved By The Bell never dreamed of (Jessie Spano may have gotten hooked on caffeine pills, but Degrassi's resident straight-A'er took ecstasy) in a not overly preachy way.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Top Ten Best Mid-Season Premiered Shows Ever

Ask, and ye shall receive

1. The Simpsons
2. Futurama
3. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
4. Homicide: Life on the Streets
5. Andy Richter Controls the Universe
6. NewsRadio
7. The Sopranos
8. King of the Hill
9. Malcolm in the Middle
10. Dawson’s Creek
10½. Profit

More Stone than Sword

Best that they can do?

The best thing I can say about King Arthur is that I can’t decide whether it’s bad or just mediocre. What I do know is that I found it dull and unmemorable, with the exception of one pretty cool (literally) battle scene, the sheer magnetism of Clive Owen and Keira Knightley and one great one-liner from Miss Knightley (which I believe was in the trailer, but altered to meet MPAA regulations).

The marketers at Disney should be ashamed of themselves for putting Knightley front and center in all the posters. She doesn’t appear (like a breath of fresh air) until halfway through the movie, and even then her role isn’t nearly as prominent as they’d have you believe. However, Owen and Knightley are definitely movie stars (he just needs to find the right project to prove it to the uninitiated – he’ll at least win over the art house circuit in Closer this December). She is absolutely stunning, even when covered in mud or looking like a smurf.(I can say that because I’m only four years older than her, but it was a tad disturbing to watch a man 20 years her senior caressing her thigh).

One last note: There was a surprising amount of applause at the end of the movie (maybe they were just clapping because we got to finally go home), which got me to thinking: a few years ago, it was a very rare occasion to hear an ovation at a movie – now it seems to happen after every other movie I see. Have our collective standards been lowered? Have we gained an appreciation for the art form that is cinema? Is it just an L.A. thing – where there’s a good chance somebody who worked on the movie is sitting in the audience? And how many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop?

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Everybody Loves Gaming?

Every young boy's dream

Why is it that moms always refer to "Nintendo" as "Intendo?" In fact, to them, any video game is "Intendo." Is "Nintendo" any more of a foreign word than "Intendo?" Yet all moms, throughout time (at least since the mid-80s), have called it that. Is it some gene they're born with or is it merely a typo in the "Mom Handbook" they're all given? I mean, it's not like young boys say "Uisinart" or "Acuum cleaner."

This pondering occured to me because Patricia Heaton (Albertsons Uber-Mom) just talked about her kids playing "Intendo" on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

Top 10 Best TV Shows that Premiered in the Summer Ever

A long time ago, in a galaxy yada, yada, yada...

1. Seinfeld
2. Survivor
3. Sex and the City
4. Melrose Place
5. The O.C.
6. Nip/Tuck
7. American Idol
8. South Park
9. Six Feet Under
10. Who Wants to Be a Millionaire
10½. Queer Eye for the Straight Guy
10 9/11. TV Nation

Summer better than others 2

Last week I wrote about a couple of scripted series that air fresh episodes in the summer. But we all know there’s one genre that’s responsible for the success and proliferation of summer TV series (and summer TV is equally responsible for the success and proliferation of the genre) and that is Reality TV. So here’s my very brief takes on the reality series I’m watching this summer:

The Joe Schmo Show 2 (Now on Mondays at 11:05 pm on Spike TV): The second season of this meta-reality show has faced an uphill battle much like that of the second installment of Survivor: How to follow up a perfect, brilliant and revolutionary first season [if you missed the groundbreaking first seasons of either Survivor or The Joe Schmo Show they are finally available on DVD and they really are required viewing]? There’s no way Joe Schmo 2 could possibly live up to the impossibly high standards of hilarity established last year, but they’re still trying their damndest and it is still one of the funniest shows on TV.

Their biggest flaw has been the casting of their Joe and Jane Schmo – Tim and Ingrid. He’s too much of an unlikable jerk and she’s too savvy for this show. But the parodies of and references to obscure, mostly-forgotten reality shows like Mr. Personality and Meet My Folks have been spot-on as has Ralph Garman’s inspired performance as “The Pompous Host.” And if you don’t crack up at the mere mention of the name “Montecore,” then I pity the sadness that is your "life."

Last Comic Standing (Tuesdays at 9pm on NBC; Saturdays at 8pm on Comedy Central): The problem with this series as a “talent search” ala American Idol, America’s Next Top Model or The Apprentice is that the producers want to have it both ways by crossing the “talent search” with the more dramatic “elimination type” shows like Survivor and Big Brother. While this does make the show more dramatic, it also means that the last comic standing isn’t necessarily the funniest (not that the voting on Idol or Next Top Model insures the best will actually win, but it seems slightly more based on talent as it applies to the given field).

But there are still some funny people on the show (Jay Mohr not being one of them), and I’m fascinated by the world of stand up comics, so I’ll keep watching (though if you too are fascinated by this industry, you’ll get a more insightful real-life view from the documentary Comedian featuring Jerry Seinfeld).

The Casino (Mondays at 9pm on Fox): I don’t know why nobody seems to be liking/watching this show. I find it very likeable/watchable. It’s a fun look at Vegas and the denizens who inhabit it, and since it’s mostly non-serial, there’s no reason you can’t start tuning in now.

The Simple Life 2 (Wednesdays at 9pm on Fox): At first I thought Paris and Nicole were just naïve, a little dim and spoiled. Now I think they’re brilliant, evil and spoiled. They come up with ways out of working that I could never even think up, let alone execute. They are horrible people. But they’re limitless fun to watch. And if you’re into drinking games: Take a swig every time Paris says “That’s hot” or Nicole says “You’re sexy.”

The Amazing Race 5 (Tuesdays at 10pm on CBS): For some reason, I’ve always missed a couple of the early episodes in each of The Amazing Race seasons and then I’ve thought it would be too late to join in midstream. But now I get the impression that even though it’s serial, each episode is a mostly self-contained adventure. And it gets pretty exciting, even if you don’t know every thing about the contestants. Tonight’s premiere episode was full of tense reversals and I’ll be back next week. I’m beginning to see why this is one of the most critically acclaimed reality series (and no, that’s not an oxymoron).

Big Brother 5 (Tuesdays and Saturdays at 9pm; Thursdays at 8pm on CBS): Definitely a guilty pleasure among reality shows. Nothing much happens (certainly not enough to fill three hours each week) and the contestants are rarely interesting people. The competitions and rewards are ridiculously silly (Julie Chen deserves a special Emmy merely for reciting the lines they give her as though they were deathly important). Yet, for the past two summers I haven’t been able to miss an episode, and I think this summer will make three in a row (I’ve yet to be suckered in by the 24/7 live feed, but you can bet that if I had money to burn and high speed internet I would so be there).

So far, this cast seems even more ply-wood than usual, with the exception of my new favorite houseguest: Holly. She makes Cammy from Joe Schmo 2 look like a subtle understatement. But there’s something about her that got me instantly hooked (and no, it’s not her looks). She’s a real trip and a half, and I only hope she’s savvy enough (yeah right!) to stick around for many, many weeks.

Oh, and as for the “Project DNA” twists (another drinking game: take a sip every time Julie Chen explains that “DNA” stands for “Do Not Assume”) – they are desperate, even by Big Brother standards (now that’s an oxymoron). The part where Michael was fishing for clues about his long-lost father from his here-to-fore unheard-of half-sister Jennifer (or whatever she calls herself) was possibly the most uncomfortable moment in a genre defined by uncomfortable moments. I felt kind of like I was watching a snuff film or a film by Michael Moore, and I wanted to look away, but I couldn’t. And I’ll be watching Thursday night to see what happens next!

I think that’s all the reality I’m experiencing this summer (I hope I’m not forgetting any shows). And it’s not reality, but you should also be watching the new season of Reno 911! Very funny stuff.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Here They Come to Save the Day

I'm intrigued by Team America: World Police. While the South Park series is frequently funny and quotable, I usually think their episodes fall short of their potential. There have been a few great ones, but most range from merely very good to mediocre. This could be because of the short writing period they give themselves, which would explain why South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut managed to be so brilliant. Hopefully, the schedule of Team America will allow Trey Parker and Matt Stone to create some of that same magic... but with puppets. I'm also optimistic that, as with the feature length South Park, satire will be given priority over shock humor (not that it won't be welcome) and songs will be prevalent. If it's anywhere near as good as the South Park movie, they could even be up for another Academy Award nomination -- at least according to this surprising tid bit from an article originally in Variety:

Aside from "Shrek 2," upcoming possibilities for the animated feature race include DreamWorks' "Shark Tale," Disney-Pixar's "The Incredibles" and Par's pair of "The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie" and "Team America World Police" (from Trey Parker and Matt Stone and, yes, puppet pics are counted as animated films).

Monday, July 05, 2004

Can't Get Enough of that Wonderful Duff

The cause of, and Final Solution to, all of life's problems.

Raise your hands if you think Lindsay Lohan might be the webmistress behind this site?

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Top 10 Best Movies with America in the Title Ever

God bless America!

1. American Beauty
2. The American President
3. In America
4. An American Tail
5. Beavis and Butt-head Do America
6. American Movie
7. American History X
8. The Quiet American
9. American Pie
10. Coming to America
10½. From Justin to Kelly: A Tale of Two American Idols

Happy ID4!


Complex? What complex?

If you loved Rushmore, Election and Ghost World, there’s a good chance you’ll like Napoleon Dynamite. While it’s not as great a film as those, it is very funny if it suits your particular sense of humor like it fit mine. However, if it doesn’t jive with your funny bone, you’ll probably hate it (I overheard one guy outside the theater call it one of the worst movies he’d ever seen, and then went on to say “Did you see Dodgeball? Now that was a funny movie.” Which is strange, because part way during Napoleon, I was thinking that it’d make for a good double feature paired with Dodgeball – a movie I also found to be pretty funny.)

The one thing that bothered me a little throughout the movie is that just about all the humor comes at the expense of these people and their way of life. I couldn’t help but feel like an urban elitist hipster looking down in judgment at a world so different from my own, which maybe says more about me than about the film itself (I felt the same conflicted guilt/amusement watching the documentary American Movie). Obviously I’m not the first to level this criticism, because the press notes preemptively refute it.

“While some might wonder if [writers Jared and Jerusha Hess] are sardonically mocking their own backgrounds, [producer Jeremy] Coon believes the comedy arises entirely from a spirit of deep affection for their characters’ wonderfully weird ways.”

That sounds all well and good, but the problem is that I didn’t think that “affection” came across in the movie. There’s not a single character you can empathize with because there’s not a single character you’re not laughing at. I had a similar quibble with Rushmore when I first saw it. Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman) and Napoleon Dynamite (Jon Heder) are much like those nerdy kids in high school that you felt bad for because they were so marginalized, but when you got a chance to know them, you realized they were just not very likable people.

Now, far be it from me to suggest that all movies conform to the Hollywood rule of “likeable” protagonists, but as with many Hollywood rules, there may be a good reason for it: most movies with unlikable protagonists are insufferable (Troy, Chuck&Buck). To clarify, “likeable” doesn’t mean “infallible” – the movies are full of likeable anti-heroes – the trick is getting the audience to root for them even if they wouldn’t want to be their friend (check out my thoughts on Stanley Kowalski and Dr. Christian Troy).

The films of Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor might on the surface appear to suffer from the same fault of mocking every character and their mid-western milieus, but Citizen Ruth, Election and About Schmidt all feature flawed protagonists (who make horrible decisions and do unethical things and generally aren’t good people) that provide an “in” for the audience. In spite of their deeds – and in part thanks to the actors playing them - Ruth Stoops (Laura Dern), Jim McAllister (Matthew Broderick) and Warren Schmidt (Jack Nicholson) are all very appealing characters – for two hours at least.

Anyway (I know it seems like I spend more time pointing out the minor flaws of movies I really like than talking about the good stuff), I laughed a lot at (with?) Napoleon Dynamite and so did most of the audience. It’s the kind of comedy that doesn’t always have clear punch lines, so people often laugh at different things and sometimes it might just be one person laughing. I have a feeling that in a few years, this is going to be one of those cult movies like Rushmore or The Big Lebowski that young hipsters won’t stop quoting (as evidenced by the already voluminous “Memorable Quotes” page on IMDb). So if keeping up with the young hipsters is something that’s important to you – or if you just want some good laughs, check out Napoleon Dynamite.

Friday, July 02, 2004

Top Ten Best Sequels Ever (x 2)

Sometimes sequels are nothing but dumber, louder, pointless imitations. These movies are not.

1. Batman Returns
2. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
3. Terminator 2: Judgment Day
4. Gremlins 2: The New Batch
5. Back to the Future Part II
6. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
7. Toy Story 2
8. The Empire Strikes Back
9. Shrek 2
10. Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me
11. A Very Brady Sequel
12. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
13. Spider-Man 2
14. X2: X-Men United
15. The Godfather Part II
16. Die Hard: With a Vengeance
17. Bad Boys II
18. Babe: Pig in the City
19. Alien 3
20. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
20½. Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult