Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Rally To Restore Sanity

It's saying something that I considered briefly whether this even qualified as a MY TV story. After all, the Rally to Restore Sanity was an off-shoot of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, and Stewart himself occasionally down played the event as basically a 3 hour long comedy show. But in the end, what actually occurred down in D.C. yesterday was not a comedy show, although it was often very funny, but rather a sincere attempt by lots of different sorts of people (although you won't hear FOX News admitting that) to reclaim a political narrative.

D.C. was packed before we could even get near the Washington Mall. In fact, getting on the Metro at the farthest reaches of DC, the line stretched through the entire parking lot and was at least 300 people long. The estimates of the crowd at around 220,000 seem conservative. This is a place used to humongous rallies, and it seemed overwhelmed.

In fact, it was so overwhelmed that if you weren't one of the people who got there at 8am to try and get a prime spot, it was often very difficult to see and hear. People resorted to climbing trees (no lie) and sitting on port-a-potties. We got friendly with individuals who we had only just met, because when you spend three hours with your butt in somebody else's face, it's only polite to offer them a howdy.
Despite the cramped quarters and surprisingly poor acoustics, this was probably the politest, happiest, sincerest group of people I ever had the great pleasure to spend three hours uncomfortably close to. When the police politely requested they get off the port-a-potties, the assembled grungy looking twenty somethings did so without so much as a mal-intentioned grumble. When one of the rally goers struggled to climb up his tree, the crowd cheered him on and sounded legitimately sad for him when he failed. It was kind of like going to a marathon after years of football events- when all you've ever seen is people hating on the other team so much they want them broken and battered in their own end zone, it's a refreshing change to watch 20,000 people just trying to improve themselves.

The message of the event was clear: the people there, and Stewart and Colbert as our proxies, are sick of being told how we feel about each other, our country, and our lives. Signs ranged from the apathetic to the mildly vitriolic, but the overall feel was that of a people trying to show the world that we are all way more similar than we give ourselves credit for and way more capable of behaving in a civilized manner. The content presented by Stewart and Colbert was surprisingly even-handed, mocking extremism on the left and the right. The crowd was substantially more left leaning, some of whom didn't quite see the irony in carrying signs filled with hatred towards Republicans at a rally all about the fact that we don't need to hate each other. But by and large, the crowd, like the rally itself, was funny, self-aware, and looking to have a positive, political moment.

Stewart's closing speech, 12 minutes of heartfelt, mild-chuckle inducing philosophy, summed up the strange precipice we find ourselves on:

"But we live now in hard times, not end times. And we can have animus, and not be enemies. But unfortunately one of our main tools in delineating the two broke. The country's 24 hour political pundit, perpetual-panic conflictinator did not cause our problems, but its existence makes solving them that much harder. The press can hold its magnifying glass up to our problems, bringing them into focus, illuminating issues heretofore unseen. Or they use that magnifying glass to light ants on fire, and the perhaps host a week of shows on the "dangerous, unexpected flaming ants epidemic!' If we amplify everything, we hear nothing."

I don't know if Saturday will change anything come this Tuesday, or next Tuesday or a thousands Tuesdays after that. But I do know that as a young American, sometimes so overwhelmed by what seems like intractible differences between "them" and "me," Saturday was a pleasant reminder that underneath everything, we all think New Jersey sucks.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Joys of Parenthood

Over the last month or so I've made a point of catching up on a show that had all the promise in the world but I just never got around to watching, and I couldn't be happier that I did. Parenthood has quickly become one of my favourite hours of TV in the week. It's fantastic.

From the brilliant mind behind Friday Night Lights (the other writerly highlight of NBC's lineup), Parenthood is a rare treasure of solid character-based television (and with Brothers and Sisters losing a bit of steam, it's nice to have ABC's slack picked up by the writer-deficient 4th place network) . The large family at the centre of the show is composed of characters both realistic and idealistic. The stories relatable, the dialogue sharp and the pacing excellent. It deals with issues of the every day both tragic and hopeful, minute and insurmountable. Parenthood is the sort of show that immediately makes you feel for its characters, believe in them, relate to them and see bits of yourself and your family in them. It's a meaningful, eloquent, feel-good show as impressive in execution as the best hour-long dramas without ever losing it's accessibility, sense of humour or entertainment value.

The beautiful arcs and detailed characters are brought to life by one of the best ensemble casts in the business.

I've always loved Peter Krause. From his days as sportscaster Casey McCall on one of my all-time favourite shows (Sports Night) through the amazing Six Feet Under, thrilling Lost Room and entertaining Dirty Sexy Money, Krause has never wavered from my favourites list. Now, as Adam Braverman, he makes a slight return to the sincere and somewhat goofy good-guy character I first fell in love with. In the hands of a lesser anybody, Adam could be the stiff of the cast, the all-American dad/son/husband/brother at the centre of a whirlwind family. But as played by Krause, Adam is layered, complex, endearing and just as fascinating as any of the bigger personalities that surround him.

Adam's neurotic but capable wife Kristina is played with remarkable sincerity by Monica Potter. The challenging role requires incredible nuance- she has to be strong, funny, vulnerable, prickly and desperately trying to not show the cracks in her facade. Potter, an actress I'd only ever seen in a silly Freddie Prinze Jr. movie called Head Over Heels, is perfect in the role. Her and Krause make up one of the most relatable couples ever on TV. Their kids (Max, played by the unbelievable Max Burkholder and Haddie, played by American Dreams' snarky sweetheart Sarah Ramos) are also fantastic, complicated and complicating.

Similarly, Erika Christensen (Yup, the girl from Swimfan) shows incredible depth and complexity as working mom Julia. Her and Sam Jaeger (another My TV favourite from his days on Eli Stone) are the fantastic heads of the Braverman-Graham family, an awesomely modern dynamic in which she brings in $600/hour as a lawyer and he is a full time parent. Their devastatingly human stories range from which parent their daughter Syndey prefers to petty jealousies to power conflicts to deciding to have another baby. Julia and Joel are a perfect couple of imperfection, written and performed beautifully.

The unfailingly endearing Dax Shepard makes the goofy Crosby into a beloved character, all wit and well-intended verve. TV's favourite single mom Lauren Graham (Gilmore Girls) brings a similar charisma to the haphazard Sarah. Separately, they are the parents to my 2 favourite kids on the show. Crosby's son Jabbar (Tyree Brown) is the cutest, sweetest little kid on the series while Sarah's teenage daughter Amber (Mae Whitman) is in many ways even more interestingly drawn than her mother. Amber's arc is easily the most pronounced of the younger generation and Whitman plays it beautifully, bringing vulnerability and respectfulness to a character who presents as a tough-as-nails wiseass.

Idiosyncratic parents Zeek and Camille (Craig T Nelson and Bonnie Bedelia) round out the group with their self-destructive, flawed and well-meaning ways.

The whole family- the kids, the parents, the parents of the parents, the writers, the directors, the network execs who gave the okay-, they're all showing us a little bit of life in all its ugly and beautiful glory. I can't wait to see more.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Defeat: a bittersweet picture list

The Strange Fascination

A few years back my best friend and I spent 3 hours of our lives on a website called "Hot Chicks with Douchbags". Why? Well, we'd heard that a girl we went to highschool with had been featured alongside her boyfriend- a black eye liner, heavy jewelry kinda guy. We couldn't find her but the rest of the carnage was hilarious and mortifying, mortifyingly hilarious if you will. That seems to be MTV's thing these days. Long gone are actual music videos. Today's shtick is showing you the gruesome details of everything you never want to be. With season 3 of "His She Really Going Out With Him" premiering on Monday, the genre is alive and well and finding new douchebags every day- this time in Boston, god help us.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Cougar Town, a newcomer's take

For no real reason, besides that I've always been passingly curious about the show and that I stumbled upon a fantastic review of this week's episode "You Don't Know How It Feels," I decided to watch this week's Cougar Town despite never having caught a single episode of the show before this.

For the record, I never do this. I'm a firm believer in starting from the beginning, and I dont think I've simply jumped into a series mid-way through since I was 11 and I lobbied my parents to lift their television restrictions so I could watch "that awesome Vampire show*" full time. But I I felt inexplicably pulled towards Cougar Town.

And it was fantastic. Heart felt, amusing bordering on hilarious, and packed full of interesting characters, endearing friendships and compelling relationships. Why had no one told me?

Also is it creepy that I think Busy Phillips and the son character should hook up? I'm sure it is, since Phillips is clearly the mom's friend and the son is just in college, but knowing nothing about the lead up to this episode, they were kind of adorable.

*Buffy, duh!

Oh, uh... Hello, Mr. President.

Tonight was an historic night for The Daily Show. It was the first time a sitting president has ever been on the show. Anticipation was high and with the faux newsman's sure-to-be-a-hit rally coming up on Saturday and midterm elections right around the corner, now was the time to do it.

The two men- both brilliant, both powerful, both liberal, both idealistic, both grounded, both funny and loaded with assured mutual respect- seemed like the perfect matchup to put a little fire in the democratic midterm charge.

Is it weird then that the whole ordeal felt really sort of awkward?

Stewart, a uniquely at-ease interviewer who I've seen conquered only once in his career (by torture advocate John Yoo) was understandably tentative in dealing with the President. Usually, Stewart is in his studio, in his city and the guest, no matter who they are, is intrinsically aware that they're on his turf. He sets the tone and the interview moves on from there. But Obama's his commander in chief, such things blur the lines a little bit. Stewart was throwing soft balls all night, and doing that uneasy thing he does when he doesn't want to interrupt the guest and doesn't quite know if it's okay to make a joke. He started off strong with the overarching question of "Are we the people we were waiting for?", but his desperation not to step on toes undermined what makes him great (not that I really blame him one bit for it, come on, it was Obama!)

But then again, Obama wasn't on his A game either I didn't think. The president, eloquent as always, seemed self-consciously concerned with being heard. He did the "please let me finish my point" thing that Stewart's most nervous guests do, you know the sheltered author ones who've never seen an episode of the show. He seemed almost scared of the oft-lethal pundit, too scared to notice the caution on the other side of the table. He was defensive when he should have been confident.

Perhaps it was a classic case of the smart kid in school who never developed study skills. You're hard pressed to find someone in this day and age who can go toe-to-toe with either of these guys; maybe they'd never fought someone their own size before, they didn't know how to take a hit. They both did, after all, make a couple pretty good points considering neither of them was really owning their potential.

What should have been an inspiring debate between two of the greatest liberal minds of the century, (who essentially agree on most points, I might add), turned into an awkward softball conversation conducted almost entirely on tiptoe. Again, I get it, I would have been intimidated too, no matter which of them I was going up against. But tonight was the time for liberal lions, not pussy cats.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Rocky Horror Glee Show

I really liked this week's Glee. Take minute, absorb the shock, now can we move on? Great.

I'd say about 3/4 of this episode was super fantastic for lots of reasons (*if you would like to read about that last quarter, see the footnote, otherwise feel free to revel in my rare Glee glee)

First of all, the wonderful Adam Shankman is the perfect person to direct an episode of this show. He is a musical theatre man at heart, a former dancer, a populist director and a man uniquely tuned in to all the things Glee is about when it's at its best (a sense of fun, the spirit of performance, social commentary, outsider triumph and an underlying base of sweetness). With my beloved Shankman at the helm, Glee is at its best.

And whether or not I was okay with how they got there (Really Mr. Schue? This is about a girl?!), The Rocky Horror Show is the perfect text for Glee to tackle, because they're essentially similar. Like Glee, Rocky Horror is beyond culty; it's an obsession that theatrically-inclined folks flock to and are miserable if they miss. They're both phenomena I don't entirely understand but I've partaken in more than once and even enjoyed on occasion. They're both strange and quirky but not as strange or quirky as they think they are. They're unpleasant and undeniable at the same time, mildly preachy but sometimes meaningful. Both have, as Sue pointed out, "incredible pacing problems", and some seriously questionable writing. They share an astronomical outsider complex, that weird mix of mainstream rebellion and an incredible sense of fun. The hipsters who spend their Saturday nights throwing toast will declare war on My TV because I said this, but in the ironic spirit of rebellion I've caught from watching this episode I'm going to ignore that threat and say honestly that I really think Glee and Rocky Horror may be one and the same. Mr. Schue is right when he says that Rocky Horror is about outsiders finding a place to belong, just like glee club. But the overarching everything matches so perfectly between the two that their incorporation was so much more interesting than anything else Mr. Schue has ever made a silly theme-y speech about.

But a theme or main plot device isn't worth much if the character stories found in it don't measure up. With the exception of the Mr. Schue/Emma stupidfest, the stories in this episode were fantastic. For once, the show played down the obnoxious Rachel (and even gave the roller coaster that is Kurt a rest) and gave the others something to do. The result was a shining moment for Mercedes (not a big story but a nice character triumph and a kickass performance), a great number by the awesome John Stamos, a lovely bit for (my new favourite character) Mike Chang and an interesting story about male body image. Making the rarely made but totally true "boys are objectified too" argument, the show examined male insecurity from two sides with Finn representing the care-free "I eat what I want and am still considered cool because the standards aren't quite as intense for men- until I have to sing in my underwear" side and Sam representing the intense "I take perfect care of my body because it is so intrinsically tied to my self worth and manhood, also because I am a perfectionist and always need to prove myself" side. Their insecurities were interestingly played out and Sam's body dismorphia hit an unusual and kinda great note.

But my favourite voice in the episode belonged to Sue, and not just because of that awesome line about haters throwing toast at her and her disabled sister.

In a show that so often throws characters and story under the bus in order to make bold opinion statements (see Mercedes' single episode insecurities about weight, Kurt's homophobia soapbox and the strange religious conclusions of "Grilled Cheesus"), Sue suddenly stood up with the enlightened statement that "Artists are free to push boundaries to make art. But when pushing boundaries is their only aim, the result is usually bad art." So often Sue is framed as the sociopathic foil to Mr. Schue's generic good-guy, so I find it unfailingly refreshing when the tables turn. I love Sue as the voice of reason; she's weird, she's tough, she's unsympathetic, often villainous and strangely vengeful, but she's not always wrong. In this episode, she had a point. But so did Mr. Schue. Isn't that awesome?! Glee allowed some space for grey, for ambiguous issues where more than one person can be right, where the story has 2 sides. That's new, and that's awesome, and that's what interesting thought-provoking storytelling is all about.

This was one of those episodes that reminds me why I come back week in and week out to a show that infuriates me 90% of the time. Every once in awhile they'll say something really interesting, do something beautifully or simply fully entertain me- this episode did all 3. It was funny, clever, poignant without trying desperately hard to be so (always the better option) and entertaining as hell. Damnit Janet, I think I might love Glee... at least for this week.

*The quarter that I didn't like:

- "Touch-a, touch-a, touch me" somehow managed to be over-the-top and boring at the same time. It did nothing for plot, threw Santana and Britney into a bizarre voyeurism situation, served basically as an excuse to show off Matthew Morrison's abs and generally annoyed me.

- The incredible hypocrisy of Finn's arc about body image juxtaposed with the impressiveness of Cory Monteith's body when he finally showed up shirtless. Sure he doesn't look like Sam, but Come On! I liked the story, but unless he had the body that fit the story, they needed to leave his shirt on. Now they run the risk of the "if he's "doughy" what am I?" reaction that TV so problematically often inspires.

and, most of all

- I was so totally on board with this episode. I saw the connection, was loving the themes and how Rocky Horror as an entity tied in with the show and its overarching themes. And then Mr. Schue told me how Rocky Horror as an entity tied in with the show and its overarching themes. I don't know if it's network pressure or if the writers genuinely think their audience is stupid but I was much more likely to appreciate the lesson before I was hit over the head with it. I loved this episode, but Mr. Schue's obnoxious speech almost made me change my mind. Dear Glee, TRUST US PLEASE! Condescension is never endearing. Love, Your Audience.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

And that's what makes you awesome...

I'm bored with this whole Marshall and Lily conceiving storyline and this episode didn't exactly have the zip and vigor of some of the all time best How I Met Your Mother episodes, but it did have something that I occasionally look to HIMYM for (which I don't feel like I get anywhere else): a legitimate, interesting, and amusing look on what it means to be a 20-something today.

Last week introduced Becky, Robin's annoying new co anchor. When Becky's "little girl lost" method to reading the news earns her incomprehensible popularity, Robin begins to question herself. When Ted starts dating Becky in all her-squeaky-voiced glory, it infuriates Robin, who can't understand why Ted would want to date someone who acted like a 6 year old. When Ted points out that Becky lets Ted feel needed (for spider killing), unlike Robin, it leads her to doubt herself.

Robin is a pretty unique television creation. She's a gorgeous, successful woman, only occasionally dogged by insecurity or daddy issues, who deals with her relationships (whether they be healthy or ridiculous) in a relatively mature fashion. When she and Ted split up, they were able to remain friends in large part because of Robin's ability to put aside "girly" theatrics. When Barney and her split, even though the latter was literally scoring girls every night in front of her, she dealt with it on her own, going through her "mourning" period on her own time and barely letting her closest friends know. On top of that, there are the obvious "abnormalities", like the scotch-drinking, gun-firing and casual-sex-having. At the same time, she is distinctly feminine and attractive, except when she's working out at the gym.

Still, such a strong, awesome lady might be a bit intimidating for the average guy, and this episode has Robin dealing with this. Ultimately, the show doesn't want Robin to compromise one bit who she is, any more than it wants Barney to stop issuing himself absurd challenges and dares. That's what makes How I Met Your Mother so much more than just a silly three camera sitcoms, even in an episode where they take a hoary sitcom plot (Marshall and Lily want a baby of two different genders!). Rather than sticking with the standard sitcom cliche, the HIMYM crew deepened a discussion of genders by using this feeble plot as a base-line.

That's not to say that this week of HIMYM was brilliant, or even a personal fave, but merely that it reminded me why it, like Robin, is not just like everybody else, even when it pretends to be, and that's what makes it awesome.

And perfect for Barney.

Friday, October 22, 2010

... (pause)... Wow

A lot of people spend a lot of time (and a lot of time on TV) trying to say something about God. And faith. And religion. And everything else. Few ever actually manage to say anything.

The sad reality is that no one will even notice the incredible power of this week's Community, it's not a "powerful" show (a theory not even remotely true, but somehow prevalent in critical circles anyway). Much will be made of Glee's "Grilled Cheesus" episode a couple weeks ago while Community's "Messianic Myths and Ancient Peoples" will join the vault of "could've changed your mind but you didn't bother to watch" genius episodes.

The story was about influence, meta-film, art, mob mentality, PR, narcicism, carelessness and, yes, faith. It was an examination of modern religion and the follower impulse, the massive and dangerous influence of leadership, and the sometimes obtrusive way art and artists can inhibit reality. It was also about a young community and how popularity grows and resets the standard for "normal" and "acceptable" in that community. It was about fame and desperation to be near it, share a piece of it. It was about spinning out of control, getting carried away, and not knowing your way back. And Shirley, Shirley's story was about the desperation of being powerless against something you feel is wrong and about being willing to look like the villain in order to be the hero. It was about admitting when you're wrong, humbling each other and trying to say something.

It was about all sorts of things, things with the power to infuriate and enlighten. But then again, Community isn't a "powerful" show, who knows if anyone even noticed. Post a comment if you did.

"I don't believe in God, but I love me some Abed" -Britta.

PS: The wonderful role reversals and clever playfulness of Pierce's storyline were also remarkable, and hilarious. And that tag was pure genius. Any other week I'd be writing paragraph after paragraph about them. But this wasn't just any week.

"The Sisyphus of Reagany"

Last night's 30 Rock was close to perfectly conceived.

The clever B story had Jenna and Kenneth pairing up once again (always a great team), this time to con an ice cream shop. The duo's hijinks played out nicely, but they really upped the ante in teaming up with Kelsey Grammar to pull a long con as the newly-formed "Best Friends Gang". The combination of classic NBC in-jokes and celebrity self-deprecation with Hollywood genre spoof was simply brilliant.

The fun C story marginalized the annoying Tracy without robbing him of his punchlines, and it's "back to one" structure worked perfectly. 

It also folded brilliantly into the fantastic A story. Jack's "perfect game" of solving everyone's problems perfectly for a whole day was just all kinds of good (self-satisfied advice-giving, absurd reverence for the wrong political figures, baseball references!). But when Liz's sexual hangups threatened to ruin his perfect game (also known as his "quest for Reagany"), he helped her anyway, throwing out my favourite line of the night: "When you're pitching a perfect game, you don't walk Albert Pujols. And you're the Albert Pujols of having problems".  The whole pitch-perfect story of character-detailed-wonderfullness culminated in an oddly sweet pronouncement of friendship from Jack: "You deserve someone like Carol and he deserves you because, and I'm only gonna say this once a decade, you're great. You're Liz Lemon, damn it! In certain lights you're an 8, using east coast over-35 standards, excluding Miami."

It was an episode after my own heart, and a reminder of why I've always fundamentally loved these characters, especially Liz and Jack, the friendship at the heart of the show.

A Quick Look at "Reality"

Pastry Chefs are Bitchy... and Paranoid. Yigit and Morgan may be near the centre of the drama but I love them both so it's fine. Heather, on the other hand, has got to go. (Top Chef: Just Desserts)

The Amazing Race will be a sadder place without my beloved A Capella singers. And I still think the doctors have got this season.

Mondo HAS to win Runway this year! If he doesn't, there's something wrong. Michael's stuff is beautifully wearable and I think the guy maybe should have his own reality show (his was really the arc of the season) but design ingenuity needed to triumph. And three cheers, once again this week, for the heroic Tim Gunn!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Happy Glee Days

I am sort of in love with this week's Glee.

The show is wildly inconsistent, don't get me wrong, and that leads to some painfully bad episodes/moments. But it also means that even when I think I've seen exactly what this show is, it can come along with a little episode in between two ginormous theme episodes that helps to redefine the characters and the show for me, and gives the other episodes more emotional resonance than they deserve.

Click HERE to read the rest of this post

Sunday, October 17, 2010

How Great Is Matt Damon?

Seriously. He takes a recurring guest role on innovative comedy 30 Rock and continually fricken rocks it. On top of that, he's willing to show up for five minutes in the middle of a live episode not ONCE but twice.

He's one of the most famous actors, acclaimed thespians, and overall great guy moviestars of our generation. He's beloved. He's an oscar winner. And he's also the Pilot named Carol who loves Liz Lemon.

He's just a great guy.

Spartacus Arrives on DVD

Spartacus: Blood and Sand arrived on DVD a couple weeks ago. And though the Starz series has had some tumultuous times (star Andy Witfield was diagnosed with cancer and had to back out of season 2), it not only struck a chord with My TV reviewer Tessa, but is set to return strong with a prequel in January. Here's what Tessa had to say about season 1 and the special features included on the DVD:
"Spartacus is a great series. It really has a different feel from most tv shows. The aim of the series is to create a televisual graphic novel, which they achieve brilliantly with their use of green screen and fake blood. The effect is amazing and probably the best feature of the series"
"The DVD special features offer the viewer a good understanding of how the show got started, the vision of the creators and how it was executed. There's a good focus on the intent of the series: not to create a historically accurate depiction of the legend of Spartacus but to make a great and compelling story, which allowed them to play with facts and really develop relationships between the characters. The special features also give a great sense of how fun it was on set: "gladiator boot camp" is definitely a highlight.  There's also an endearing featurette on the filming of Spartacus and Varro in the sewage pit, it's priceless. A little more detail on the period aspect of the show would have been a nice addition, but the special features that are there are great."

"Now, if only Andy Witfield were healthy so we could see the resolution of that crazy cliffhanger!"

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Why I Love How I Met Your Mother

This week's episode of How I Met Your Mother, Subway Wars, provided a refresher course in just why I love this show.

Here's the play by play:

* The way the characters' relationships to each other are so subtly enforced, even in episode's not explicitly about them (my evidence: the fact that every time Robin's made a joke since the third season, Barney has laughed at it and given her a look like she's the perfect woman.) It's not anything the characters need to even comment on, but they function like real people in the smallest of small reactions to each other.

* When the gang makes challenges to each other.

* The fact that the HIMYM crew is basically your friends, only way more fun.

* the fact that when I saw that old woman jumping on the cab, I thought HIMYM looked like the worst kind of sitcom cliche. But I kinda giggled when it actually happened in the episode.

* When Marshall randomly bursts into machines that are both witty, but also character-appropriately stupid.

* The sentimental goofy episode summarizing moments.

and of course...

* Barney. Peddling a bike to see Woody Allen, football tackling Ted, Smelling incredible... Barney.

Happy International Suit Up Day, y'all!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

God Save the Queen

There are hundreds of reasons to love Queen Latifah. Tons and tons of them. I love everything she does, she's just so cool! The newest reason? This week's 30 Rock. The clever-as-hell episode tackled diversity in the workplace on both sides of the issue and didn't skimp on the always-funny punches at NBC. A political keyword riff, a Donald Glover shoutout, a John Amos cameo and a "thankyou NBC" song combined with my beloved Rob Reiner (complete with an All in the Family reference and When Harry Met Sally name drop) and the power of the Queen= awesome, just awesome.

"I don't know where I'm going with this but I know we'll get there together... troops, flag, troop flags!"

Oh Nostalgia

There are many things I love about having One Tree Hill back for at least 13 episodes, even if that might be all it gets (though if I had my way the show would go on forever). I love it's self-aware irony (Jamie refusing to let Chase pick him up from the park because he has a history with kidnappers), it's unabashed sweetness (the loyal friend/sappy romance wonderfulness) and it's knowing absurdity (there's a fashion conglomerate CEO, 2 rock stars, an indie director, a movie star and an NBA player in their ranks). But most of all I love the comfort of a series I've loved for so long. Now in its 8th season, I grew up with One Tree Hill. Seriously, I think my rationale for watching in season 1 may have been "Chad Michael Murray is cute".  I've loved watching these characters change over the years (no matter how unrealistically) and I have to say that the current iteration is quite possibly my favourite (Julian over Lucas any day!).

And nothing tops off my love of the current One Tree Hill and the fond memories I have of its past quite so well as the opening credits. Originally a show about an outsider (Lucas) trying to understand life on the inside, One Tree Hill used Gavin DeGraw's "I Don't Want To Be" as its anthem of individuality, against footage of a lonely figure dribbling a basketball intercut with current shots of the cast. In season 5, the year the series jumped forward 4 years, skipping the characters' college days and launching them into OTH 2.0: The Grownup Years, that theme song disappeared and was replaced by a logo on a black screen. Now, in what will most likely be its final season, One Tree Hill has returned to the lyrics that defined what it once was, making it once again one of tragically few series with a real opening sequence. Only this time it's got a spin: the shots of the cast show them through the whole run of the series, developing into the characters they've become (a feast for a longtime fan) and the theme will be sung by someone new each week (a nod to the show's record label storyline and famous interconnection between show and soundtrack). It's the perfect closing opening theme: bringing back old memories and reflecting how much the show's grown. Oh the happy happy nostalgia of it all.

And just for nostalgia's sake, here's an oldie but a goodie from the show's 4th season (the final high school year): 

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Positively Glee-Lightful

It's rare that I post about a show before finishing the episode. It's rarer still that I post about Glee, since I mostly like it, don't love it, and let it wash over me in a musically induced coma. But while Kelly's early review focused on the emotional arch of the most recent, and somewhat hilariously titled "Grilled Cheesus," I gotta take a moment, just 10 minutes into the episode, to thank the writers for this little Puck scene.

"No, I mean I'm a total Jew for Jesus. He's my number one hebe. What I don't like seeing is people using J-money to cramp everybody else's style. Cause it seems to me that true spirituality, or whatever it is you want to call it, is about enjoying the life that you've been given. I mean I see God everytime I make out with a new chick... At this time I'd like to continue my streak of only doing songs by Jewish artists..." before launching into a painfully wonderful rendition of Billy Joel's anthem to sex-to-avoid-ironic-death, "Only the Good Die Young."

Thank you, Glee creators, for finally giving Puck a damn solo, and for making him play the Jew-and-proud card. The rest of this episode could turn out where the entire class pledges themselves to Jesus and sings nothing but "Michael Row Your Boat Ashore" until the closing credits, and I'd still consider it a success.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

The Painful Ups and Downs

If Glee would just throw out the ridiculous obsession with weekly themes and let the characters go through what they're going through it could be an incredibly touching show. This week's theme was preachy and strange, but this week's story was really pretty great. Mike O'Malley, the show's best supporting cast asset, brought back the character of Kurt's dad, who carried a heartrending scene then promptly had a heart attack, landing him in the hospital for the rest of the episode. The result was Chris Colfer, possibly the strongest actor of the young lot, in a tour de force performance as Kurt worried about his father. There were some lovely scenes (Kurt at his father's bedside was beautiful) and one of the greatest song deliveries the show's done so far ("I Wanna Hold Your Hand" brought tears to my eyes). It also led to some really wonderful moments for Jane Lynch's Sue. Overall, the god talk was wearing, the songs extraneous and some of the conclusions honestly detrimental (the final conclusion that religion should be allowed in the school was just a flat out bad idea) but in between a lot of preachy filler, there were some moments of honesty that made the whole thing worth it.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Thoughts on The New Fall Sitcoms

We're two weeks into the new television season, just far enough to start really forming opinions about the new shows. This season has 6 new network sitcoms on the docket and their quality to junk ratio is sadly low so far. Here's the low down on all 6, including a surprise hit and a whole lot of misses.

The Surprisingly Good
Raising Hope (FOX). This quirky offering is the last thing I thought I would like. I wanted to turn it off 10 minutes into the pilot but I didn't, and it grew on me. The characters are engaging and well-meaning, even if they are crazy urban hillbilly-like folk; the problems are relatable, even if the premise is outlandish; and though shrouded in hipster shock-value crassness, the show is ultimately very sweet. I'm shocked that this is true but Raising Hope may be the best new sitcom of the fall.

The Merely Mediocre
Better With You (ABC). This sweet and silly sitcom isn't as clever as its company on ABC Wednesdays (Cougar Town shout out!), but it's got an interesting premise and a promising cast. It will never be groundbreaking but it could be a little bit funnier.

The Depressingly Bad
Mike & Molly (CBS). Mike & Molly is a whole lot of not-funny wrapped in cliche with all the tact surgically removed. Seeing Melissa McCarthy suffer at the hands of such bad writing just makes me want to cry.

Running Wilde (FOX). This has all the ingredients for greatness (a showrunner and star from Arrested Development, just for starters) but is really pretty terrible. The potentially adorable Keri Russell brings back that holier-than-thou attitude that made me hate Felicity and uses it as a premise for an entire sitcom. The whole thing is aggravating.

$#*! My Dad Says (CBS). The crime of $#*! is not that developing an entire sitcom out of a twitter feed is idiotic (thank you Community, for pointing that out in your season premiere), it's that it's just not very funny. Unlike some of the others, it's not offensive or annoying, it's just not funny, at all. But also unlike some of the others, that's not surprising or upsetting, just predictable.

Outsourced (NBC). The show that bumped Parks & Rec from the fall schedule (NBC, you need a new brain), however, IS offensive AND annoying. I've already written about it so I will refrain from ranting here. But MAN, this show is everything that's wrong with everything. It's ignorant, showy and boring all in one.

Awesome Scene of the Week

*Dennis and Mac are at the hardware store, buying supplies for their new boat*
Dennis: We've gotta pop by the department store, pick up a mattress. I wanna get a nice one too.
Mac: The what? The mattress? What do we need a mattress for?
Dennis: What do you mean, what do we need a mattress for? Why in the hell do you think we just spent all that money on a boat? The whole purpose of buying a boat in the first place was to get the ladies nice and tipsy topside so we can take them to a nice comfortable place below deck and they can't refuse, because of the implication.
Mac: Uh, okay, you had me going there for the first part but the second half kinda threw me.
Dennis: Well, dude, think about it. She's out in the middle of nowhere with some dude she barely knows. She looks around her, what does she see? Nothing but open ocean, "ah there's nowhere for me to run, what am I gonna do, say no?"
Mac: Okay, ha ha, that seems really dark though.
Dennis: No, no, it's not dark. You're misunderstanding me bro.
Mac: I think I am.
Dennis:Yeah, you are. Cause if the girl said no, then the answer obviously is no. The thing is that she's not gonna say no, she'd never say no, because of the implication.
Mac: Now, you said that word "implication" a couple of times. What implication?
Dennis: The implication that things might go wrong for her if she refuses to sleep with me. Now, not that things are gonna go wrong for her, but she's thinking that they will.
Mac: But it sounds like she doesn't wanna have sex with you...
Dennis: Why aren't you understanding this? She doesn't know whether she wants to have sex with me, that's not the issue.
Mac: Are you gonna hurt women?
Dennis: I'm not gonna hurt these women, why would I ever hurt these women? I feel like you're not getting this at all.
Mac: I'm not getting it.
Dennis: Goddamn.
*old woman glares at Dennis*
Dennis: Don't you look at me like that, you certainly wouldn't be in any danger.
Mac: So they are in danger...
Dennis: No one's in any danger! How could I make that any more clear to you? Okay? It's an implication of know, let's drop it.
Mac: Drop it. 
Dennis: Buy your shit and let's get out of here.

The Late Last Comic

The funniest judge on Last Comic Standing and one of the best panelists on The Marriage Ref, Greg Giraldo died Wednesday from a prescription pill overdose. His dry wit and sarcastic tones will surely be missed by NBC summer audiences.

On a chastising note, isn't it about time that celebrities smartened up about prescription drugs? We've had too many talented people die over the past 3 years from the same thing, over and over again. It's just not okay. Giraldo's too-soon passing isn't just sad, it's maddening.