Monday, May 16, 2011

The Winner Takes it All

Jeff Probst said it best: "I've gotten in trouble in the past for having an opinion. But I'm gonna have one now: that was as close to a perfect game as I've ever seen played".

Now, as any Survivor fan knows, Jeff is smarter than you; Jeff is always right. And he has never been righter.

This was the season of Rob Mariano. He played a perfect game: controlling his tribe from start to finish, staying loyal as much as he could without sacrificing his end game, winning the important challenges, staying in the good books of the future jurors and never losing sight of the prize (or his reasons for playing- Amber and the kids). Rob also adapted his strategy to fit the two major twists added to the game since his last successful run in the first All-Star season (hidden immunity idols and redemption island). He also played for the viewers, dropping quotable line after quotable line, narrating his strategy and bringing us in as his only true confidants.

And at tonight's finale he was rewarded for his brilliance, finally winning the million dollars after 10 years of Survivor gameplay. The vote was 8-1 (Ralph's vote went to Phillip, out of sheer "I like this guy"-ness) and Rob took home the $100,000 for Fan Favourite as well. That vote came down to a 40%-36% split between him and Matt, the beatified hero of redemption island. Their metaphorical faceoff became a central narrative to what could have been a boring season, consisting of one man's total domination, but instead was a two-man battle between conventional ideals of good and conventional traits of evil. Rob and Matt made this season what it was, which was awesome. Boston Rob Mariano finally got what he's long deserved: the title of "sole Survivor" and the Probst seal of approval as the best of the best. Now if only Grant would forgive him and the bromance could live on.

As for next season, Survivor: South Pacific, the redemption island twist will be back. Also returning is the concept of redemption for two former survivors with unfinished business. Let the speculation on whom that will be begin as we wait patiently (and for a very long time) for the new season.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

ABC, the New FOX (and other failures for next season)

Who cancels Mr. Sunshine and Better with You but keeps Happy Endings? If they're not going to give a show a chance, there's no point. And perhaps people should stop hiring Andrea Anders, this is not working out for her.

So ABC's just made a big announcement. Guess how excited I am about it. 

Read the Full Article

Friday, May 13, 2011

For the Love of "Episodes"

Ladies and Gentlemen, I have a new favourite cable series. Showtime's Episodes is a masterpiece ode to/criticism of television, a nostalgia-fueled/thoroughly modern story of culture clash, assimilation, corruption, disappointment and the ways people let each other down. But it's a comedy. A brilliant comedy- perhaps the funniest and smartest to hit cable in years.

With writers as its principal characters, the task of creating the witticisms of their dialogue is a tremendous one. Luckily for all involved, the writers of Episodes are every bit as good of writers as Sean and Bev are. Thank god. The team of David Crane (a TV comedy god as far as I'm concerned) and Jeffrey Klarik wrote a tour de force 7 episode first season for the show about British TV writers adapting their hit show for US broadcast. As Hollywood insiders who've seen their work soar to popularity (Friends) and crash and burn (The Class), Crane and Klarik infused Sean and Bev's first season arc with all the self-congratulating excitement and self-preservational defenses of any artist with a project balanced on that thin line between success and destruction. Behind the cleverness of the whip-smart dialogue lies the painful human reality of these people who are being pulled further and further away from themselves.

It really is a remarkable series.

From the phenomenal comic timing of Kathleen Rose Perkins and Daisy Haggard as cynically submissive network executives to the joy Mad About You vet John Pankow's character Merc takes in his own corruption- the supporting cast is every bit as great as the leads. Matt LeBlanc is the PERFECT choice as the lead of the American version of the show-within-the show. Set aside the wonderfully meta implications of Episodes' David Crane-ness, Le Blanc is a beloved TV icon whom those on this side of the pond love without really understanding why we do. He's forever tied to Joey, a character who brings all sorts of wonderful connotations with him (womanizing, stupidity, a successful show, a failure) and at once makes sense as the first person bottom-line-driven network execs would want on their billboards and the last person content-driven artists could tolerate near their work. And he's so damned charming! The man can say anything and you don't begrudge anyone for falling for his lines.

But it's Sean and Bev who really live at the centre of Episodes. Stephen Mangan and Tamsin Greig give brilliant life to the married writers whose lives are turned upside down when they move to LA from London to navigate the horrors of the American TV pilot process. They are phenomenal protagonists and perfect foils for each other; his schleppy optimism, her hard-edged cynicism- you both love and believe them at every turn. Actually, the fact that you can't love them the whole time, that's part of the brilliance. They're stressed (and talented), so they're also wrong a lot- because that's how that works. The two possess an electric chemistry that pairs with an ease of relationship to completely sell them as not just a married couple, but one that fits into their awesome backstory. That backstory is actually one of my favourite things about the series. A story that suggests that they may have the potential to betray each other but also establishes them as perfect for each other: apparently they met when Sean was married to another woman and began an affair. It's complicated, messy and sort of wrong, but in the name of the "woah, where have you been?" moment, where's the line? Sean and Bev met each other and the world started to make sense. It's them against the world. So the crux of the series is the ways in which they abandon that, the fact that they fall apart only when they drift apart. It's brilliant.

The season ends on a flipping fantastic cliffhanger that sends the show into season two as the show-within-the show goes to series, locking Sean and Bev in exactly where they shouldn't be. And locking us viewers in exactly where they want us.

1.5 Men+ Ashton Kutcher?

CBS has just announced that celebrity multi-hyphenate Ashton Kutcher will be the man to replace Charlie Sheen when they bring back Two and a Half Men
Here's what executive producer Chuck Lorre had to say:

"We are so lucky to have someone as talented, joyful and just plain remarkable as Ashton joining our family. Added to that is the deep sigh of relief knowing that our family stays together.  If I was any happier, it'd be illegal"

I'd say that Sheen and Kutcher are on about the same celebrity and talent level so the big differences to the show will mostly likely lie in the age difference (Kutcher is 33, Sheen 46) and persona (Kutcher almost perpetually rocks the sweet/goofy thing, Sheen- not so much). 
It was predictable that CBS would at least try to keep their flagship comedy alive after Sheen. And though I'm not a fan of the show, I'd like to see them succeed, if only just to make a point to the many many divas who think they run their show, not the writers (Greys sans Katherine Heigl= amazing, MASH without Wayne Rogers= 100x better, the list goes on). I'm also happy to see that entire cast and crew not lose their jobs.

So, Sheen out, Kutcher in. Thoughts? Share in the comments section.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Pet Peeve of the Week

When a cab driver ruins The Amazing Race

Sure, I really hate it when contestants are rude to their cab drivers, but second only to that is my intolerance of the unfair realities of the game: Things like long waits that result in everyone getting on the same flight, making a lead hard to rollover from leg to leg; language and geography advantages when one team has a leg up on the others because they happen to visit a country they're familiar with; and, most annoyingly, the ridiculous and irrelevant failure of cab drivers who don't know where they're going. One of the race's all-time great teams Gary and Mallory (wonderful and entertaining people- seriously, she's the most adorable person ever- and surprisingly strong racers) has now been taken down twice by cabbies who move slowly and often in the wrong direction. I really think they would have had it this time if it weren't for a disoriented man named Sterling and his unassertive driving skills.


Keesha and Jen ran a strong race, so did the temperamental but entertaining Globetrotters, but it would have been nice to see the optimistic, well-mannered, fun-loving father/daughter team take the prize. Because, at the end of the day, there's something really cool about a girl who just wants to hang out with her dad.