Monday, September 29, 2008

Bad News

This week's How I Met Your Mother is bad. It's not funny, it's unoriginal, uninspiring and even a little sad. Barney seems to be more annoying than he's ever been (though his motivation turns out to actually be pretty sweet), Robin's story is ridiculous and Marshall reaches new lows of pathetic. After such a promising season premiere, to sink this low this fast cannot be a good sign for my favourite sitcom. 

The OC in my opinion

As many of you may know, my most recent long-term TV project was to finally get through a series that I had dreaded watching for years. Its run spanned all 4 years of my high school experience and in many ways, it defined the culture of high school at the time. The show I'm referring to is The OC. Though I've watched many a teen TV spectacle in my time, The OC's reputation as a racy, materialistic and hyperbolic soap made me not want to go near it with a 10 foot pole. But I knew the cultural impact The OC had made, so when I noticed that my friend Tessa had the first 2 seasons on DVD, I finally gave in, if only for the sake of research. 

To my great surprise, and the surprise of nearly everyone I've shared my thoughts on the show with, I kind of loved The OCIt is by no means a Veronica Mars, but I'd certainly say that
 The OC is much more enjoyable than the critically lauded Felicity, and probably tied with Dawson's Creek (another favourite of mine that I feel is much more intelligent than it's given credit for). Thus, it is this very unexpected but poignant love that leads me here, at the wee hours of the morning, to write one of the longest reviews I've ever written. Prepare yourselves. 

The OC is not actually a ridiculous show at all. Ok, maybe a little, but so is everything. 
Maybe Ryan's Cinderella story is a bit of a stretch, and maybe some plots points were a little too much. But The OC was always, if anything, self aware. They constantly are poking fun at themselves and their own genre with the satirical show within a show "The Valley
and lines like Seth's penultimate episode joke that "if we could turn it into a body swap comedy we could squeeze another year or two out of this thing". Also, The OC is populated by one of the most likable casts of characters I've encountered in awhile, none of whom are really that outlandish. Unlike most idealized teen shows, I can actually see people I know in every OC character. Other than the Cooper sisters (of whom there are many in the real world), I liked every single character I encountered on The OC (well, Oliver, Trey and the like obviously don't count). In particular, The OC is rare among glitzy primetime soaps in its unapologetic celebration of nerds. The characters of Seth Cohen and Taylor Townsend are both smart, funny and unreasonably good looking, but they are also incredibly socially awkward and honest to God quirky. While on shows like Gossip Girl, even the nerds (Dan) are incredibly cool, The OC made being an actual nerd cool by letting Seth open Ryan up to the world of comic books 
and Taylor befriend the most popular girl in school even though she watches an unhealthy amount of anime. As for the others, Ryan had his moments but was ultimately someone I really liked, I love how feisty Summer is, I love Anna's wisdom, I love Zach's earnest perfection and Luke's unabashed imperfection, I loved Jimmy's good heart and tendency to majorly screw up, I loved Julie's strength, pride and plotting prowess and I loved everything about Sandy and Kirsten Cohen. 

While The OC did have its fair share of ridiculous teen-centered plotlines, what made the show more palatable than other soaps of the same thread was its grounding in family and the adult figures of the show. 

Whenever Ryan or Seth was on the hook for manslaughter, arson, blackmail or whatever else, they could always call Sandy Cohen for help, and there he'd be. The constant reminder that these intelligent and independent characters not only needed, but actually had someone to bail them out kept the characters young seeming, and a little more plausible. The gross independence/neglect of the kids on One Tree Hill is one of the biggest problems with the show. It's Sandy and Kirsten Cohen who keep The OC from crossing into absurdity a lot of the time.Yet, unlike the kindly and occasionally helpful Walsh parents on Beverly Hills 90210, Sandy and Kirsten
 (alongside Jimmy and Julie Cooper, Caleb Nichol, Neil Roberts, Veronica Townsend and Dawn and Frank Atwood) were complete characters unto themselves. For a teen-centered show, The OC took a lot of time flushing out the adult characters, giving them flaws, dimensions, and often intriguing and central storylines. I found myself caring more about Sandy and Kirsten weathering the Jimmy, Rachel, Carter, Rebecca, alcoholism and Newport Group storms than about whether Oliver would steal Marissa from Ryan. 
Who didn't feel for Jimmy when Caleb blackmailed Marissa into moving in with her mom? Who wasn't rooting for Dawn Atwood to get her life together or for Veronica Townsend to tell Taylor she loved her? 
And one of the most engaging love triangles on the show was Julie's season 4 decision between Frank and Bullit. The teens may have been the breakout stars of
 the series, but Jimmy caused almost as many fights as Ryan, Julie brought on as much drama as Marissa (after all, if she had gone through with every marriage proposal she got she would have been Julie Cooper Nichol Cooper Roberts Bullit Atwood) and Sandy prompted just as many laughs as Seth. 

and speaking of Seth, he was the 1 character, going into this TV experiment, that I knew 
I would like. Give me the fast talking, awkward, nerdy, funny sidekick guy any day over the brooding hero (I'm a Xander-type girl, I like Noel Crane and Agent Weiss and Henry the Accountant but try and get me to appreciate Angel, Ben Covington or James 'Sawyer' Ford and you've lost me) and if you can have him look like Adam Brody, all the better. And, true to form, I love Seth Cohen. I love everything about him. I love that he can't change a tire. I love that he makes jokes at inappropriate times. I love that he's incredibly cynical yet hopelessly romantic and I love that the writers weren't afraid to make him monumentally self involved, all it does is humanize him.  

If you are a frequent reader of the blog you might have read my 'weekly obsessions' post in which I droned on and on about my love of the Seth/Anna dynamic; the presence of a character who knew him better than he knew himself was so important to his arc. 

and then, there's Summer. Easily one of my 3 favourite teen relationships on TV, Seth and Summer's 4 year romantic saga was one I could really get behind. 
Despite the apparent discrepancy of social status and superficial interests, Seth and Summer fit together like puzzle pieces. But Summer, originally a small character who served mainly as a counterpoint for Seth and Marissa, grew into one of the show's best characters in her own right. Summer is cool. She's smart and funny and feisty as all hell; after all, she did, single-handedly, save Chrismukkah!! 

but, more poignant than even his relationship with Summer, was Seth's relationship with Ryan. The central bond of the show, the brotherly love
between Seth and Ryan may not have been the cause of many plot points but it was, like Sandy and Kirsten's parental love, a grounding force on The OC

Which brings me to Ryan Atwood, The OC's central plotpoint. The whole premise of the series was Ryan's fish out of water story. I almost never like the bad boy and I most certainly never care about the hero or the main character, which is what made my reaction to Ryan interesting. At first I couldn't stand him. 
I felt that it was absolutely ridiculous the way he had zero self control when faced with the opportunity to punch someone, even when getting in a fight meant the possibility of being taken from the Cohens. But mostly I didn't like his hero complex or the fact that it only really seemed to apply to pretty girls. Ryan never showed the same heroic instincts when dealing with his mother, his brother, Seth or anyone else that he did when saving Marissa, Theresa, Jess, Taylor, Sadie or even Hailey. 
Sure he would always do the right thing, he had a Sandy Cohen-esque sort of moral compass, but Ryan put himself on the line time and again for pretty girls, even if he didn't like them very much. It seemed to me that Seth never meant as much to Ryan as Ryan meant to him. Of course Ryan loved all the Cohens and was truly grateful to them and sure he'd punch out the occasional bully on Seth's behalf, but every time something went wrong for Ryan he would take off, knowing how much that hurt Seth. It just always seemed to me that if they ever had to choose, Seth would choose Ryan over his true love Summer any day and twice 
on Sunday while Ryan would have to think carefully before giving up troubled Marissa for Seth. That said, Ryan totally grew on me. 
He even became a character that I was really fond of by the end. 
There were of course blips, for example I wasn't a big fan of his cage fighting days, but by the end of the series Ryan had learned to use his words instead of his fists, he became a more rational and loyal son to Sandy and Kirsten and brother to Seth. Throughout the series Ryan grew up, got funnier, wisely cut his hair, bought a wardrobe that wasn't so dependent on wife-beaters, started picking better girlfriends and became a really likable guy. And that smile that we never got to see in season 1 makes all the difference. 

In fact, the time that I like Ryan the most is in the show's final season, when he's finally rid of the drama machine that was Marissa Cooper. Marissa had always been a character I, at best, could tolerate. With her death, at the end of season 3, two supporting characters were brought to the forefront to replace her. In a sense, Marissa got split in 2- there was everything I didn't like about Marissa: her prima donna, whiney, princessy, woe is me ways, which were taken up by her younger sister Caitlin who came back to town in her sister's absence; and then there was Marissa's actual place within the show- her role as Summer's best friend, Ryan's love interest and the final corner of the core four. This role was filled by 
Taylor Townsend, a strange girl who had originated 
as a villain and grown into a fully realized human character by the time she was called to step into Marissa's shoes. This amazing arc paired with her incredibly awesome strangeness made Taylor one of my favourite characters to watch. Her presence (and the fact that season 4 was delightfully void of sex scandals, drugs, and shootings) made season 4 my favourite of the whole series. 99.9% of people you talk to will disagree with me on this opinion, but I was more invested in season 4 than in any other season of The OC

And to top off a surprisingly great final season, The OC delivered a wonderful series finale.Now, as Popular once spoofed, series finales tend to follow a checklist of sorts. It may not be terribly original or groundbreaking, but most finales incorporate many of the same elements in order to pay homage to the years of story that had gone before. 
The OC followed suit, but more effectively than most. Like all other shows, The OC's finale said goodbye to each principle character or group of characters individually and accordingly. These curtain calls of sorts gave each character a fitting goodbye and they were done in exactly the right order. The Coopers were first to go, Julie making strong and promising choices for her life with Caitlin, paying tribute to the most resourceful and unbeatable character on the show. Next went the girlfriends, in order of convenience. In the end, Seth let Summer go, knowing that they each needed to follow their dreams in order to be able to find each other again. This was the perfect ending for them- 
just perfect. Then went Taylor, a brilliant character, though she wasn't around long enough for her goodbye to be truly potent. And finally, we're left with the Cohens, outside the house that started it all. A family hug is followed by the departure of Sandy and Kirsten (new baby in tow), leaving Seth with the final goodbye- exactly as it should be. Then the viewer is left alone with Ryan- the centre of the show. But it wasn't just the curtain calls that The OC finale got right. They used flashbacks. Not in the cheesy "we didnt care to shoot a finale" way that Felicity did, but in a nice tribute to the beginning kind of way. As Ryan toured the empty Cohen house (a very Friends apartment- type walkabout), brief flashes of the past came back at the viewer. The flashbacks also classily touched on Marissa's important
contribution to 3/4 of the show's life. There was also flashforward. Again, not bad-old-person-makeup flashforwards like in Will & Grace but just far enough forward to wrap up the story and the lives of the characters we cared about. I cry in almost all series finales, and I had managed to hold it together through all the goodbyes of The OC but when those flashforwards started going and Julie graduated from college I started to lose it. 

I read a book recently that described the life cycle as a circle and a line simultaneously. That's how I see a good series finale. It comes full circle but has a sense of moving on, past the scope of the series. The OC mastered the art of the circular line, paying homage to the roots of the show and letting all their characters move on from those roots.
In the show's final moments Ryan pulls out of the Cohen driveway, tracing the very path that he took at the end of the pilot episode, and drives off into his future as an architect where he sees a young man, like himself in the pilot, and asks, like Sandy once did, "hey kid, do you need help?". See- full circle, but spinning forward. 

So what was the point of all this? I swear to God, it's actually a good show. I watched the final season in 2 days, I couldn't stop. So, just for awhile, please try and set your pretensions and snobbish intellectualism aside and take a look at a series that was not only a youth culture phenomenon but a decent family drama full of comedy. 

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Thursday Faceoff

There were 3 major season premieres last night of shows that I love. 

Ugly Betty moved to Manhattan in more ways than one and moved on from Mode as well as from the men of her past. Hilda dated a married man. Ignacio got a job working for Lindsay Lohan and Daniel tried to make the best of his new job and family. 

Grey's Anatomy was home to lots of trauma- both 
personal and medical in their 5th season premiere. Christina both got hurt and got it on with a hot new doctor while Meredith whined a lot, Rose decided to move on, the Chief grew some serious backbone, Alex hid behind his tough exterior and Hahn searched for guidance. 

The Office tried to lose weight to win a competition. Kelly learned to love herself. Ryan learned to love her. Michael worked at not scaring Holly away. Toby broke his neck. Holly learned that Kevin isn't mentally challenged. Pam moved to NY for 3 months to go to school. Jim finally proposed. 

The winner of best season premiere for Thursday, Sept 25 is... THE OFFICE for giving us all what we've been waiting for for 5 years- Jim's ring on Pam's finger and an extended episode that didn't have me checking my watch. 

Dirty Sexy Money: season 1 in review

I didn't hop on the bandwagon on time. I miss the first couple episodes and by the time I'd fully committed to the idea of Dirty Sexy Money, had taken down the first couple episodes. And since I can't watch anything unless I watch it from the beginning, Ive had to wait for the DVD (or at least until replaced all the episodes online this summer). 

Now that I've had the DVD for a total of a day and a half, I've watched the entire first season (a meager 10 episodes due to the strike) and I have to say, I ABSOLUTELY LOVED IT. 

It's the grown up Gossip Girl. It's Brothers & Sisters on steroids. It's fun and it's funny and it's sinful and giddy and a little indulgent. It's also heartfelt and touching, intelligent and enthralling. 

Your basic family drama mixed in with your basic workplace drama, complete with a simple fish-out-of-water story, a murder mystery, sex, corruption, the nutcracker, a couple of lions, a transsexual mistress and tens of billions of dollars- now that's good entertainment. 

Donald Sutherland and Peter Krause lead the pack brilliantly as Tripp Darling and Nick George, the Darling family's patriarch and reluctant lawyer, respectively, while Samaire Armstrong and Seth Gabel as Jeremy and Juliet, the Darling twins, are almost sinfully perfect. Jill Clayburgh, William Baldwin, Natalie Zea and Glenn Fitzgerald round out the exuberant family while Zoe McLellan keeps Nick grounded as his wife Lisa and Blair Underwood throws everything into question as the sinner/saintly rival billionaire Simon Elder. 

Aside from the wonderfully lush sets and costumes, what Dirty Sexy Money does best is balance. The writers balance comedy with drama, the fantastic with the human and corruption with kindness perfectly. Within every character there is a great deal of good and a big helping of bad- and that's what makes a character worth watching. 

Check out Dirty Sexy Money season 1 online at or on DVD and be sure to tune into the season 2 premiere, Wednesday Oct 1 at 10pm on ABC. 

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Obsessions of the Week

Jeremy and Juliet Darling
"the well behaved twins" of Dirty Sexy Money are hilariously exuberant, devilishly selfish and ultimately big hearted. Like all the best sibling characters, Jeremy and Juliet have each others' backs through thick and thin. But not only are they the characters I most find myself sympathizing with, they are also the ones who make me laugh most often. 

The New Season of How I Met Your Mother
The humanization of Barney, the return to the Marshall-Ted friendship, acknowledgment of Lily and Barney's bond, Ted back to his old hopelessly romantic self and the possibility of Barney and Robin- YAY. 

TV's Back
What's more exciting than the beginning of a new season? New shows, returning favourites and a world of possibilities for where each of them can go in the coming months. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Not Fair!!

Don't you hate it when you buy something on DVD because you love it and it turns out that if you'd waited a little while you couldn't have gotten the special edition with all sorts of amazing special features? and then you can't buy the special edition because you already have a copy without the special features and that's wasteful and yet you REALLY want those special features. So you wonder... can I get away with buying this as a Christmas present for my brother and then steal it? maybe even trade him my old copy for this great new one? and then you realize that you're a bad person and slink off into the corner in remorse. 

Such are my feelings about the 10th Anniversary Edition of Sports Night on DVD, coming soon. One of the best underwatched shows in TV history, Sports Night on DVD is a highlight of my collection, despite its complete lack of bonus material. 

So what do I do? Do I spring for the fairly expensive new box set and give away my old copy to a Sorkin-starved unfortunate soul? or do I suck it up and do something useful with my money like put it in savings and miss out on 8 episode commentaries and special interviews with one of the greatest casts and creative teams ever? 

If you are not faced with this same problem, it must be because do not yet own Sports Night on DVD. That being a problem unto itself, I am here to offer a solution. Trust me, your life will improve dramatically once you follow the link below and click on the button that says "add to shopping cart". You're Welcome.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

HIMYM Returned and I Couldn't Stop Smiling

In a charming story line that brought the Ted and Marshall friendship back to top form and their adorable nerdiness to the foreground, they made Stella (Ted's new fiancee, Sarah Chalke) watch Star Wars (Ted's favourite movie) for the first time. Not only is it always fun to be reminded that these are not the cool kids, but my favourite thing about this show is the central friendships and Marshall's concern about Ted marrying the right woman really showed their connection in a way that hasn't been explored on this show very often since season 2. 

On a different friendship note, it was nice to see the Lily-Barney friendship getting some airtime. The casual viewer might not notice Barney's special connection to Lily but a true fan will remember that Lily was the first and only person to ever spend time in Barney's apartment and it was her who first cracked the surface of his playboy veneer when she showed him how great it is to be in a relationship (the episode I'm referring to is in season 2 when Lily stays with Barney briefly, pretending to be his wife in order to ward off lingering one night stands). 

But, for the first time in awhile with How I Met Your Mother, I loved every storyline. In fact, the lovely stories I've already described weren't even my favourites of the episode. My favourite was Barney. It was revealed, albeit subtly, in last season's finale that Barney has feelings for Robin (which I totally buy and doesn't feel like a cheap plot point). In tonight's episode he confesses to Lily what he's been struggling with all summer, that he's in love with Robin. The seeds of not only Barney's humanity but his romanticism having been planted as early as season 1 but hidden beneath his protective armour of designer suits and catchphrases, it was truly fascinating to see this beloved character struggle with letting himself be open to both love and rejection. His scenes were sweet and endearing while still staying true to the established character. Barney's struggle within himself and Robin's ignorance of his true feelings are sure to make this season a must-watch for anyone, HIMYM fan or not. 

I simply cannot wait until next Monday at 8:30pm. 

MY TV's FIRST EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: a one-on-one with Bunky

A couple days ago I got the opportunity to have a one-on-one discussion with one of Big Brother's most popular and memorable houseguests of all time, Season 2's Bunky Miller. 

After placing 5th in his season, Bunky continues to be a part of the Big Brother community, co-hosting HouseCalls (the Big Brother Talk Show) regularly with host Gretchen Massey and even returning to the Big Brother house for special occasions like this season's 10th anniversary reunion food competition. 

The following is a transcript of my conversation with Bunky. Please feel free to post your thoughts in the Comments section on this page and check out the upcoming podcast review of Big Brother's 10th Season.

First of all, thank you so much for agreeing to an interview.

 So, after your time in the Big Brother house, how did you get hooked up with HouseCalls?

“One thing I’ve learned in life is that when horrible things happen, it usually means something great will come next. I didn’t get chosen for All-Stars and was really depressed about it, but a week later CBS called and said since Marcellas was doing All-Stars, he couldn’t host HouseCalls. So they asked if I would step in”.

What’s your favourite part about co-hosting the Big Brother talk show (HouseCalls) with Gretchen?

“Being funny with Gretchen. I love laughing with her. I enjoy her vibe. Also, the excitement of a live show, not knowing how its going to go and being pleased with ourselves and the outcome after it’s over”.

What do you think about this season’s winner, Dan, and the way he played the game?

“He played really well, he has a lot of personality traits that you need to win. I, personally, don’t care for those traits in a friend or acquaintance, but I will give him credit for not slamming people personally. I don’t like that in order to win the game you have to backstab and lie and use people; to me those are all negative things I try not to do and I don’t like that by doing those things you win money. But you can’t create a game that just rewards good people”.

 Did you have a favourite houseguest this season?

“Renny. She was so funny and genuine and full of energy. I actually want to go to Mardi Gras and set up something with her to help raise money for hurricane relief”.

Did you go to the Season 10 wrap party and meet the cast? Who surprised you the most and who was exactly like they were portrayed on the show?

“I did go to the part, last night (Thursday, September 18)”.

“Who surprised me the most? Jessie. I went to interview him after the show ended. I loathe arrogance and I was ready to be a pit-bull with him and be really tough but I saw another side of him. I saw a very sincere guy, who had been really beaten down, he was dreading all the interviews, he was afraid. I saw the Jessie we saw when he was trying to help Dan when he was crying”.

“And who was the same? Renny was exactly as she seemed”.

“But I felt sorry for Jerry. In my opinion, Jerry is a mean, nasty old man and when I interviewed him I felt sorry for him. My uncle is similar in age and I felt like ‘what if I was interviewing my uncle’. I also thought he might have Alzheimer’s because I called him on some of the things he said to the women and he denied them- I didn’t know if he was lying to me or if he had been drunk at the time or something?”.

What about overall, what and who have been your favourite seasons and houseguests in Big Brother history?

“I’ll be honest with you, I watched season 3, but there was no reason for me to watch 4, 5 and 6. I wasn’t doing HouseCalls yet and after actually being in the house it’s tough to watch the show”.

“I have a warm place in my heart for Chicken George. To me he’s like the pioneer and I will always have respect for the people who did season 1”. 

What and who were the worst seasons and houseguests?

“Ill just do from season 2, because those are the people I lived with. I have to say Chilltown: Will, Shannon and Boogie”.

I’m watching Season 2 now, what was the highlight of the season for you?

“There are lots of classic moments in our season. Looking back on it, I feel that I was very boring on the show. It was 7 years ago and I had lots of agendas, representing the gay community and everything, which was something I didn’t want to do”.

“Some of the highlights were when Justin held a knife to Krista’s throat; Shannon scrubbing the toilet with Hardy’s toothbrush; and when Monica went ballistic. You lose your mind in the house, she was always cool and then she just went crazy. And at the end of the meltdown at Kent she looks at me and says ‘don’t you have anything to say’ as if I’m going to support her”.

I know you get this question all the time, but what’s the hardest part about being in the house?

“Being cut off from society. The house has changed a lot since then, but in our season we didn’t have a clock, a washing machine, no microwave. Not being able to communicate and never seeing anyone but the other houseguests, people you don’t know or don’t like. You never see the camera men or anything, nothing of the 150+ person crew”.

What was the hardest competition you ever had to compete in while in the Big Brother house?

“The physically hardest was the mechanical bull. I had bruises and scabs all over my legs and around my ankles from that”.

“Skill-wise, my HOH competition in which I lost to Hardy and he ended up evicting me. I had to drive a remote control car through an obstacle course. I’d never played with them when I was a kid so I had to pick up that skill right then. Even today, I can’t stand to look at those cars because I think about the fact that if I’d had that skill I might have won half a million dollars”.

What was the worst twist in Big Brother history?

“I can’t remember a lot of the twists. I just know that I would not want to be in there and then there’s my ex boyfriend- that would be hard”.

“America’s Player was a cool idea but this season they figured out that [Dan] was America’s Player. They have to come up with stuff [the houseguests] wont know about”.

“And I don’t like when people come back in. We always make the joke that Kaysar’s had 3 chances to win the half mil. It’s just not that fair”.

If you were asked to come up with the next big twist for Big Brother season 11 what would you propose?

“I would like to see another HOH trump, like coup d’etat. That was a twist that flopped because Boogie never used it. A twist like that would be cool. In my season once the nominations were up you knew one of them was going. Then, when they introduced the veto it got more interesting. I’d like to see another thing like that so you never know for sure how the week will turn out”.

Are you returning to HouseCalls in season 11?

“I don’t know. They usually call me about a week before”.

“I just bought a condo in LA and I was so grateful to be called back for the food competition this year where I stumped Libra and won some money. That $1000 bought my dinning room set. I will eventually be putting items on Ebay to raise money for the ‘Erase Hate’ campaign, but also the “Bunky needs furniture” campaign.

 And, last but not least, I have to ask, what’s your favourite non- Big Brother TV show?

“I’m actually hardly ever home, I don’t even pay for cable, I have rabbit ears but I get the basic channels. I still love reruns of Will & Grace. Let me think, … I have a whole list, I can’t pick just 1: Two and Half Men, American Idol (I do sing, not as well as them, but I enjoy the talent and the delusional people. I actually take credit for the outtakes show because before they did that show I sent Fox an email suggesting it), and, I didn’t think I would but, I got hooked on The Biggest Loser because I like seeing people succeed and I like the transformations. And I battle with food every day, I might have a food addiction, well I wouldn’t call it an addiction, but I eat when I’m upset. I abuse food”.

Is there anything else you’d like to say to the readers?

“I just had this thought that if I could have my wish it would be that everyone would take time to do volunteer work for a charity. Like if Jessie spends 3 hours in a gym a day, I’d like to see him only spend 2 hours and then spend 1 hour volunteering”. 

Well, thanks for talking to me, all the best and maybe we’ll hear more from you next summer when Big Brother returns.

“You’re welcome. My pleasure. Nice talking to you, Kelly”. 

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Obsessions of the Week

Summer Roberts- she's tough and feisty and independent and funny and caring and smart in ways that are not immediately obvious, and she loves Seth. I just finished season 3 and she may be, at this moment, my favourite OC character. She's the onion of the show. 

Big Brother Episode 28- "swim club", "late night", "Renny's impressions", "Keesha's Birthday", "Ollie and the Birds". The best of the best in laughing at other people. Also the final HouseCalls of the season, featuring Dan and Memphis is great- they seem very genuine and are a lot of fun. 

Lenka's Music Video "The Show"- available online at It's just so cute. 

The Princess Bride- my friend Sean had never seen the whole thing so what better to do at 1 in the morning that fix that. This movie is just so great, every time. Those Savage boys were the cutest things ever (Fred stars in this and The Wonder Years while his brother Ben was Cory Matthews), all Wesleys are perfect and Rob Reiner does not often make movies I don't like. 

Big Brother 10 crowns a winner


...they were fantastic players who never won Big Brother. 

Now, let us observe the other end of the spectrum; a place where only the best of the best reside; where brilliant strategy meets unparalleled charisma, oratorical skill, the ability to read people, befriend them and manipulate them. This place is The Winner's Circle. 

Don't get me wrong, Lisa Donahue, Dick Donato and other BB winners may have won the grand prize, but they've never ever come near The Winner's Circle. 

No, it is a place that has only ever been occupied by 1 person. 
and that person is...

Evil Dr. Will Kirby

until now. 

This season, a player showed up who may not have been Will's equal, but he certainly came pretty close. And, like Will but unlike all the other great Big Brother players in history, he actually won the game. Last night, in Big Brother 10's season finale, the jury of 7 voted unanimously for the winner of $500,000, thus making this player the 2nd person to enter The Winner's Circle, a place reserved for only those winners who truly deserved to win. The real All-Stars if you will. This year's winner, and real Big Brother All-Star is... 

Dan Gheesling (Catholic School Teacher, Football coach, Judas, Genius)

On Today's episode of HouseCalls, The Big Brother Talk Show, Dan (alongside his Renegade alliance partner and runner up Memphis) admitted to having modelled much of his game plan on Dr. Will's infamously successful Chilltown alliance (with good friend, puppet and season 7 winner Mike Boogie), thus explaining much of his success and the root of all the Will comparisons that have been going on all summer. 

In 10 seasons, many houseguests have come in claiming to be big fans of the show but few have ever used their knowledge of the show to their advantage. Dan, on the other hand, used the 9 seasons that came before him as stepping stones to the money. He knew that a cool head always won. He knew a small, 2 person alliance to the end would get him much further than a big one. He knew that winning competitions was not an advantage, unless absolutely necessary. He knew that charm would get him much further than force ever would. He knew everything he needed to know. 

Add in his gift of the gab, natural charm, quick wit and trustworthy nature with a scruple-less ambition and you've got a reality TV history maker. 

Congratulations to Dan, the best player to win in 8 years. Congratulations to the Jury for awarding the first ever unanimous win to a most deserving player. Congratulations to Memphis (a truly excellent player in his own right) for making it to the final 2. Congratulations to Keesha for beating out front-runner Renny for the $25,000 Jury prize and Congratulations to Executive Producer Allison Grodner and CBS for the first truly enjoyable season of Big Brother since All-Stars. 

other finale highlights include: 
- Dan predictably talks circles around Memphis during the jury interviews, cruelly yet subtly pointing out his opponent's wrong doings. 
- Brian (a could-be winner if graced with a little more finesse) and Steven (one of the season's most likable personalities) call the houseguests out on a season full of bad behaviour. 
- Former houseguests make cameo appearances in the audience. Most notably, Season 8's delightful villainess Jen next to her boyfriend Nick (who pined for Daniele while calling Jen ridiculous for saying that he'd fall for her instead, once they left the house). 
- the America's Player week clips coupled with Jessie's gross ignorance made for wonderful entertainment. 

(for the best of this season's Big Brother highlights check out Episode 28 on and watch as Dan and Memphis reminisce about a hilarious summer). 

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The CW's unimaginative fall

Spot the differences- I dare you. 

After the buzz that last year's premiere of Gossip Girl created, its home network, The CW, is doing all they can to replicate the effect (note that I didn't use the word "success" because on a revenue, ratings, business level Gossip Girl didn't deliver). 

Gossip Girl's second season is off to yet another luxurious, naughty and scandalous start while the new 90210 tries desperately hard to make us care about their uninteresting, bratty characters (even the characters who aren't spoiled are brats). Privileged is making a run at the same demographic too, though the charm of its heroine Megan (Joanna Garcia), her friend Charlie (The OC's Zach) and a handful of likable rich folk may may actually keep  Privileged interesting. 

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that a show or two about the entertaining elite is a bad thing. I actually really liked the original 90210 and watch Gossip Girl faithfully. What I'm annoyed by is The CW's approach to new programming. The positive response to Gossip Girl should not have spawned a full season of look-alikes, it should have given the network the confidence to go out and find new and original programming in hopes of finding the next thing that will have such an impact. 

The CW's predecessors (The WB and UPN) were responsible for some of the best shows of the past couple decades, and each one was a unique enterprise. Buffy, Dawson's Creek, Roswell, Everwood, Charmed, Felicity, Gilmore Girls, Smallville, Veronica Mars, even 7th Heaven; each was a hit in it's own right, it wasn't a bland copy of last year's fare. 

I complain, but I'll still be watching 2 of these 3 carbon copied shows. Gossip Girl snagged me last year (and I honestly think that it's a well produced show- for what it is) and Privileged convinced me to come back next week in the Pilot episode when Megan undercut her rousing speech about responsibility, with the line "uncle Ben is Spiderman's uncle, not mine. I just wanted to make that clear". 

And as for Dawn Ostroff and her team over at the CW, all I have to say to them about next year is "be brave, little Piglett, be brave". 

Sunday, September 14, 2008

A Kristin Bell Moment

Ok, so not exactly TV (though I think this film was a made-for-tv so it works) but I finally found a clip of my favourite song from Reefer Madness being performed by Veronica Mars herself and couldn't resist sharing it.

Enjoy my favourite TV heroine singing about one of my other all-time favourite things: Shakespeare!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Fox's Do Not Disturb: at once typical and stunningly unique

A basic workplace sitcom rife with sexual humour, misunderstandings and a distinct sense that nothing productive ever happens at that particular workplace. There's the traditional randy boss and his spunky female counterpart, the ditsy receptionist and the hunky security guard. In this case the workplace is an Inn and the players range from Jerry O'Connell to Tia's boyfriend from Sister Sister (RonReaco Lee) to a former Passions player (Molly Stanton) to James Franco's kid brother (Dave Franco). The result is incredibly boring and formulaic. 

But there's more. 

Jesse Tyler Ferguson (a favourite of mine) is taking another stab at TV with Do Not Disturb after his adorable sitcom The Class was prematurely cancelled 2 years ago. As if Ferguson himself isn't enough of a draw, he's also playing a character who is somewhat of a rarity on TV- a believable, unstereotypical gay man. In the pilot episode, Ferguson's character Larry leads a storyline about flirtation and sex appeal in which the fact that it's men that he's flirting with is barely a factor. The plot bumbles along just as if the storyline pertained to a straight character. Larry's not a stereotype but he's not a "straight gay man" either. In fact, his sexual orientation defines him no more or less than his inherent awkwardness, socio-economic status or line of employment does- GLAAD should be proud. 

There's one other character on Do Not Disturb who deserves mention: Molly (played by Jolene Purdy). Molly is a plus sized model who also works at the hotel. She's self assured, clever, brave and completely comfortable with herself. The only other overweight, female TV characters I can think of for whom weight hasn't been an issue have been played by Melissa McCarthy (Gilmore Girls, Samantha Who?), and then they make a point of never mentioning her size. For Molly, her size is very much a part of who she is. In fact, in the pilot episode, Nicole, the beautiful receptionist, mocks her weight by laughing when  Molly tells her that she's a model. Just like they did with Larry's character, the writers and actors of Do Not Disturb created an inspiring character in Molly, who is aware of what makes her different but is not defined by it. 

How 2 such interesting and unique (in terms of TV land, not reality) characters landed on such an uninteresting and commonplace show I'll never know, but I do know that it's them that will keep me tuned in each week. 

Big Brother's Best Final 2 Ever

I started watching Big Brother in Season 3. I quit just after Season 5 then came running back in time for All Star Season 7. In all these years I have never encountered a final 2 that consisted of the actual 2 best players in the house- it's craziness. 

in Season 3, Danielle (the best player of the season) did make it to the final 2 but instead of sharing it with her secret alliance partner Jason, she was there next to the undeserving winner Lisa. 

Like Season 3, Season 4's best competitor, Allison, took 2nd place. And while I couldn't tell you who was the other best player of the season was, I can assure you that it wasn't the winner, Jun. 

Season 5's best player, one of the most underrated in history, got 4th place. Nakomis developed the "6 fingered plan" which was the first incarnation of the concept now known as "backdooring". Of course, back then it was a sound strategy and manipulative trick whereas now a change of format has houseguests complaining about being "backdoored" when their eviction was really just a bought of bad luck. Needless to say, this All-Star player's legacy goes far beyond her meager finish while I had to do actual research in order to remember that the final 2 for Season 5 were Drew and Cowboy. 

Season 7, All-Stars, had Will Kirby. He too got 4th place, which is ridiculous since he has always been and remains to this day the best player to ever play the game. Danielle (S3) and James (S6), the next best players, placed 6th and 7th respectively. The final 2 (Boogie and Erika) had floated under the radar or rode coattails throughout the entire game. 

Season 8 ended with the Donatos. *stews in hatred and tries to forget*. Eric and Jessica (5th and 6th places) should have had it wrapped up. 

Season 9 consisted almost entirely of people I hated, but best gameplay of the season awards have to be given to Natalie (5th place) and James (6th place) while the final 2, Adam and Ryan, were just sort of there. 

and then there was season 10, a season where I liked almost everyone more than I've liked Big Brother contestants in a long time (which is to say that my hatred for April, Libra and Jerry was more on par with my hatred for Season 4's Jun than Season 8's Dick). I even picked out a few contestants who I liked as much as some of my all-time favourites (Memphis most certainly rivals S3's Jason and S8's Eric in likability paired with respectable gameplay while Dan's strategy, charm and manipulation tactics put him closer to Dr. Will than any contestant before him). Memphis and Dan, I feel confident in saying, played the game better than anyone else in the house and, for the first time ever, the best players have made it to the end. 

They did it by picking the right alliance, cleverly strategizing, knowing when to trust, when to lie and when to win competitions. They knew who to team up with and who to evict. They knew how to hedge their bets, hide their true loyalties and take calculated risks in order to reap rewards. They played an almost perfect game and thus are the most successful 2 person alliance in BB history (except, perhaps, for the Donatos, who were not so much an alliance as an unholy genetic mistake). The Renegades did what every alliance has ever tried to do- make it to the final 2, together. 

Other than my early favourites being evicted first (Brian, Steven, Angie), this season has turned out almost script perfect, easily the best since All-Stars and possibly in the top 3 of all-time (season 3 is awarded 2nd place). 

Long Live The Renegades!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A New Batch of Obsessions

Dylan Moran
Known to most as the guy with the book down his trousers from Notting Hill, Dylan Moran is probably the best standup comedian I've ever heard. My friend Mack, who is often feeding me obscure comedy I don't enjoy, forced me to watch Moran's brilliant britcom Black Books then an hour and a half of his standup material (both available online); he pretty much had me at his dry and unfriendly "hello". I even bought the entire series of Black Books from Funny, funny man. Trust Me. 
PS: the Governor of California got where he is today by lifting things... think about it. 

Samaire Armstrong
As many of you know, I try and make a point of watching every show that made a big cultural impact, even if it doesn't appeal to me. This is how I learned to love Grey's Anatomy, learned the monotony of CSI and learned why the fans of Lost are so... fanatical. This tradition inevitably led me to the show that defined the youth culture of my high school days: The OC. It's been rocky at times and completely enjoyable at others (I'll be sure to share a full review either in post or podcast form once I've finished the series). Season 1 is by far the funniest, though possibly also the most ridiculous plot-filled; it had too much fighting, too many wardrobe changes, too many scandals, too many villains and too much indecision, but it also had good humour, cute faces, a believable teen character or two, great TV parents, a few sweet stories and Anna. Anna was my favourite; spunky but sweet, individual but not rebellious, fun but not goofy, wise but not preachy and selfless but not saint-like. I loved that she fell for Seth. I love that her and Seth made all the sense in the world but didn't fit. I love that he still loved her, even when it had nothing to do with romance anymore. I love that she understands him better than even he does. I love her wardrobe, her haircut and her simple and honest advice of "confidence Cohen". I love when Summer lets Seth go to the airport to stop Anna from leaving, without more than a hint of jealousy, and they have their final goodbye through airport security- I literally cried, it felt like my best friend was leaving. I love Armstrong's ease, I love her grace and I also love her on Dirty, Sexy Money (which I'm catching up on online before the Oct 1 premiere). 

Heath Ledger on DVD
With perhaps his best film still drawing crowds at the multiplex, the late great Heath Ledger is still very much alive today. But even when I'm unable to deceive myself into believing that there may be more Ledger genius hitting theatres any day now, there are always my personal favourites A Knight's Tale and 10 Things I Hate About You (perhaps not his most prestigious, but pretension was never Heath's thing). 

BB10's Dan
I may not like the guy but after the most recent episode I officially love him. I've written endlessly about my respect for Dan's Big Brother game play but have always ultimately been routing for Memphis, who I like a whole lot better. But as of right now I would vote for Dan. In this most recent episode his manipulation and strategic exploits reached an otherwise unparalleled Will Kirby level of excellence while he had to actually put effort into NOT winning the crucial POV- that's useless reality show skill right there. Here's hoping Jerry is ousted next (it was a good idea to keep him over Keesha this week but I'll cry if he makes the finale) and Dan deservingly wins over my beloved Memphis. 

The Blue Jays' 10 game winning streak
The Doc fell tonight, ending the almost history-making streak but The Jays had me believing again there for a minute- something I always love them for. They now sit 7 games back from the wild card spot with a tough schedule to come but all the morale in the world. 

Thursday, September 04, 2008

BB10 makes me care again

Though often entertaining, Big Brother has not had me caring about who gets evicted for some time now. In fact, ever since Erik and Jessica went down in season 8, I haven't cared at all which of the horrid houseguests perished and which won a decent sum of money. 

This season, I had a similar reaction for much of the show; I was annoyed when 3 of my early favourites were evicted first but then was relieved every week that followed, when a slew of annoying stock characters were sent packing. Then, over time, I began to appreciate some of the players. 

If you've been reading all summer you'll know of my love for Memphis and my extreme dislike of Jerry; you'll also know that I like Keesha enough but that she's not very important at all, that I think Renny is nuts but don't want to turn off the TV whenever she's in the room (a feat for any BB contestant) and you'll remember my conundrum of admiring Dan's unique and thoughtful gameplay while despising much of what he stands for. 

And all of a sudden... I care again. I'm not sure how they wormed their way into my heart, but I want The Renegades (Memphis and Dan) to be the final 2 almost as much as I wanted it for Chilltown (Will and Boogie) in All-Stars season 7. Hence, this week, for the first time in years, I was on the edge of my seat, rooting for Memphis (who has won a surprisingly low number of competitions) to win the veto so he could save Dan and keep their secret alliance alive. 

Maybe it's because I love good strategy over competition prowess (a staple of both Dan and Memphis' game); maybe it's because Memphis is the only truly non-moron to hit the house since season 8's Erik, and Dan's gameplay will keep him in the game; maybe it's because there hasn't been a successful secret alliance since Danielle and Jason in season 3; or maybe it's just because I like these boys, but Dan and Memphis have me rooting for them and actually caring what happens on Big Brother

My Character Obsessions

Welcome to a special edition of "Obsessions of the Week". In this post (hopefully making you forget that I didn't write at all last week) I'll list my 20 favourite male and female TV characters. These aren't necessarily the most revolutionary or the most classically brilliant TV characters, it's by no means a typical list (there's no Archie Bunker and no Hawkeye Pierce), but I love each and every one of these characters and they're what make TV so much fun to watch every week. Post below or email in your picks and pans for favourite all-time TV characters. 

In no particular order, with no pictures, no explanations and no comments, ...

Sheldon Cooper (Big Bang Theory)
Harrison John (Popular)
Wesley Windam-Pryce (Angel)
Barney Stinson (How I Met Your Mother)
Yasir Hamoudi (Little Mosque on the Prairie)
Kevin Walker (Brothers & Sisters)
Niles Crane (Frasier)
Paul Buchman (Mad About You)
Erik Taylor (Friday Night Lights)
Chandler Bing (FRIENDS)
Sandy Cohen (The OC)
Dexter Morgan (Dexter)
Ned the piemaker (Pushing Daisies)
Michael Scofield (Prison Break)
Josh Lyman (The West Wing)
Toby Ziegler (The West Wing)
David Fisher (Six Feet Under)
Geoffrey Tennant (Slings & Arrows)
Isaac Jaffe (Sports Night)
Keith Mars (Veronica Mars)

CJ Cregg (The West Wing)
PJ Franklin (My Boys)
Veronica Mars (Veronica Mars)
Liz Lemon (30 Rock)
Cordelia Chase (Angel)
Winifred 'Fred' Burkle (Angel)
Lorelai Gilmore (Gilmore girls)
Addison Montgomery (Grey's Anatomy)
Miranda Bailey (Grey's Anatomy)
Claire Fisher (Six Feet Under)
Anya (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
Maggie Jacobs (Extras)
Meghan Rotundi (Felicity)
Miranda Hobbes (Sex and the City)
Daphne Moon (Frasier)
Rayyan Hamoudi (Little Mosque on the Prairie)
Sun Kwon (Lost)
Juliet Burke (Lost)
Lynette Scavo (Desperate Housewives)
Elliot Reid (Scrubs)