Friday, October 29, 2010

Halloween Words of Wisdom

This is what happens when YOU die. That is what happens when HE dies. And that is what happens when THEY die. It's all very personal. And I'll tell you something -- if I knew then what I know now ...

...I wouldn't have had my little accident.

Sounds of My Commute, No. 001

Also, updated the TV reviews on the sidebar >>>>>>

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Sometimes There Are Hot Guys*

*Or, "You'll Never Fully Appreciate the Effort It Took to Not Title This Post with a Cheesy Doctor Pun."

So after filling in on a recap last season, I've found myself back watching Grey's Anatomy again. It still manages to be remarkably solid when it's good, and of all the characters I used to find annoying, Izzy and George are now gone (I may not hate Katherine Heigl, but her character was written atrociously), and Meredith has managed to grow up a bit and not be quite so in love with her own dysfunction. McDreamy's still terrible, but on the whole it's still a major improvement.

Another major improvement? Dr. Jackson Avery, played by Jesse Williams. He spent pretty much the entire finale last year with a surgical mask over his face, so the following was quite the pleasant surprise when I started watching last month:

Not sure in what capacity executive producer Mark Gordon is responsible for this, but thanks regardless! Also: hey, pretty!

Avery managed to be hot enough that an entire storyline two weeks ago was about how incredibly, distractingly attractive he is. And who am I to argue?

And if you like what you see above but can't bring yourself to abide Grey's Anatomy (and as an added bonus you DO like frustrating projects that may or may not ever get made) you should know that Jesse is also supposed to be in that Cabin in the Woods movie that Joss Whedon keeps talking about. I hadn't been able to work up much enthusiasm for that one -- Joss projects tends to be like Tarantino movies: if they ever manage to get made rather than just talked about, I will happily watch. Until then, keep your insanely frequent updates to yourselves. But knowing that this waits for me in that cabin ...

... well, still keep your updates to yourselves. But I'm gonna watch it even harder now. (...If it ever gets made.)

[Oh, and also, apparently Jesse was in a Rihanna video recently. Which is only going to lead me to imagine them coupling up and creating a master race of brown-skinned, blue-eyed offspring who will bring the world to its knees with sheer beauty.]

How Do I Know Enough People Aren't Watching "Terriers"?

There aren't dozens upon dozens of blog posts out there talking about having an insane crush on Michael Raymond-James. Because took me about 25 minutes.

We talked about Terriers quite a bit on this week's Extra Hot Great podcast -- which you should be listening to! Tara Ariano, Dave Cole, and me, yakkin' it up on the ol' yak-box! Send us audio! -- and Dave and Tara convinced me to give it a shot. I'm super glad I did, it's a fun, funny, well-acted P.I. drama. And I generall don't care for two of the three leads, but Donal Logue and Laura Allen are actually quite good. And Michael Raymond-James! Crazy cajun Rene from True Blood! Looking fine as hell!

Trust me, I know how annoying all the "Woe is me, nobody watches smart TV, why wouldn't you watch Lonestar???" stuff can be. But honestly, you would love Terriers, and you shouldn't let FX's terrible efforts at promoting it hold you back.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Fall Movie Preview 2010, Part 4

Fall movie season is upon us! What goodies await? What kind of an impact will they make? How many leading questions will I ask before I just get on with it? Three. The answer is three.

Previously: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Movie: Unstoppable (Tony Scott)
High-Concept Synopsis: Runaway train! Full of combustible chemicals! Headed for another train full of children! Denzel and Chris Pine have to stop it!
Who Will Be Seeing It: Fans of big, loud, brainless fun. Fans of the "Chris Pine does things and makes wisecracks and takes his shirt off every once in a while" genre. Airplane snobs.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Anybody who saw the last two Denzel/Tony Scott collaborations, the limp Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 and the self-serious Man on Fire. Rosario Dawson fans who resent her being relegated to the "Control Room Lady" role. Amtrak employees.
Why I'd See It: When I reviewed the trailer, I said it looked like the absolute ideal for a fun-and-dumb movie, and while part of me wishes it would have opened in summer where it belongs, I'll be just as happy to watch it in the middle of Important Movie Season. November 12

Movie: Morning Glory (Roger Michell)
High-Concept Synopsis: Rachel McAdams is a Workaholic Girl producing a very thinly-veiled version of The Today Show with Diane Keaton as a Hoda/Kathie Lee hybrid. Her bright idea: bring in drunk has-been Harrison Ford to shake things up.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Fans of the three leads, who have all been known to be charismatic at one time or another. Morning-television junkies looking for some well-earned inside jokes. People holding on to the last threads of hope for a Harrison Ford Return to Relevance.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: People who are tired of the "working girl learns to not take so much pride in her job" genre. Audiences who are wary of how much time this one spent in development/on the shelf. People worried the bulk of the humor will be of the "HA HA HA, Diane Keaton is old and a lady!" variety.
Why I'd See It: Director Michell has a rather varied filmography (Notting Hill; Enduring Love; Mother), which makes me think this could end up not the cookie-cutter movie it might seem. I adored Keaton and McAdams as mother and daughter in The Family Stone, and seeing that chemistry turned around as they play producer/talent could be interesting. November 12

Movie: Skyline (Colin and Greg Strause)
High-Concept Synopsis: So apparently the aliens arrive Independence Day style and just start abducting people by the handful. Or beam-of-light-ful. Eric Balfour, Donald Faison, and Brittany Daniel star. (Yes, seriously.)
Who Will Be Seeing It: People happy to see that alien abduction stories are being brought out of the countryside and into the city. The visual FX community looking to support two of their own in the director's chair. Audiences looking for a cheap, dumb thrill (and who find that Unstoppable is sold out).
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Anybody who judges a film's quality by the caliber of its topline stars. Independence Day loyalists galled that a film can basically reverse the direction of the beams of light coming from the ships and call it a brand new movie. Apocalypse-phobics.
Why I'd See It: Doesn't it seem like this was a movie where the director and stars were all abducted leaving us with the VFX dudes and Eric Balfour to carry on with the movie? The trailer actually suggests sleek-looking thrill ride, but I can't shake the direct-to-video feel of it all. November 12

Movie: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I (David Yates)
High-Concept Synopsis: Luna Lovegood's tragicomic search for acceptance begins its final chapter.
Who Will Be Seeing It: The same people who saw the first six movies, come on. Dan Radcliffe's ever-increasing legion of loyal pervo fans. (...I'm sorry, I don't know WHAT you're talking about...) People who have been waiting for Bill Nighy to show up so they can complete their Brit Actor Bingo card before seeing the movies.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: The same people who wouldn't see the first six movies, come on. Folks who will want to see both halves of the finale at the same time and will thus wait until next summer. People who spend so much time trying to remember what exactly the "Deathly Hallows" are that they miss the movie entirely.
Why I'd See It: I mean ... if you have to ask? You know? November 19

Movie: The Next Three Days (Paul Haggis)
High-Concept Synopsis: Russell Crowe must break his wife, Elizabeth Banks, out of prison, so he turns to previous escapee Liam Neeson to devise the perfect scheme.
Who Will Be Seeing It: People who flock to movies about ordinary people in extraordinary situations. People who look forward to watching Crowe growl through his latest movie effort. People who tend to enjoy Haggis when he isn't pondering about Big Questions.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: The sizeable chunk of movie fans who can't deal with Haggis and Crowe separately, much less together. Folks who object to an American remake of a French movie, like this is. People who mistake Elizabeth Banks for Chelsea Handler in the trailer.
Why I'd See It: I'm one of those aforementioned Crowe/Haggis haters, but the trailer, I have to admit, left me slightly intrigued. I'm upgrading it to "If someone I know wants to see it." November 19

Movie: Tangled (Nathan Greno, Byron Howard)
High-Concept Synopsis: The story of "Rapunzel" (voiced by Mandy Moore), reinterpreted for the Bratz generation.
Who Will Be Seeing It: The boy-type audiences who flock to Pixar movies, or so the Disney folk hope, if the boy-ification of this story is any indication. Fans of classic fairy tale material getting a Shrek-style irreverent makeover. Fans of voice talent like Mandy Moore, Zachary Levi, and Donna Murphy.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Disney movie purists who were barely tolerating computer animation, much less this junior-high-ification of a perfectly nice princess tale. Chuck fans, whose usual paranoia will probably be directed at hoping Levi's film ventures don't do too well, lest he leave their beloved show. The Herbal Essences people, who were hoping to use this title for their foray into feature films about shampoo.
Why I'd See It: I'm not all that inclined towards animated fairy tales anyway, and the trailer for this one just looks obnoxious. November 26

Movie: Burlesque (Steven Antin)
High-Concept Synopsis: Cher is an old whore, Christina Aguilera is the young whore, and together, they're gonna make L.A. SPARKLE, baby! (Alternatively: Amadeus among Hollywood's stripper-and-failed-dancer set.)
Who Will Be Seeing It: Anybody who made it to the "Cher and Christina Aguilera" part of the film description and then passed out. Fans of dance movies and the ridiculous. The grand total of three people who will see it to ogle the women.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: People worried about the state of Cher's lips and/or rustiness after not having any serious film work since 1999's Tea with Mussolini. People less than encouraged by the fact that Pussycat Dolls mastermind Robin Antin got her brother to direct this. Kristen Bell fans irate that their girl is playing second-fiddle to Xtina's film debut.
Why I'd See It: That trailer had me from the break, I'm totally in the tank for Cher AND Christina, we get to see a bunch of Cam Gigandet without a shirt on, and even (especially?) if it's bad, it's still going to be great. November 26

Movie: Love and Other Drugs (Edward Zwick)
High-Concept Synopsis: Viagara salesman and man-whore Jake Gyllenhaal meets consumptive free spirit Anne Hathaway, and only the sheer force of the two leads' sex appeal is keeping me from mentioning Sweet November in this synopsis ... oh, crap.
Who Will Be Seeing It: The army of delusional gay dudes known as Jake Gyllenhaal's fan base. Folks who've been waiting patiently for Zwick to transfer his sparkling TV work (My So-Called Life, Thirtysomething) to his heretofore self-important, serious film work. People following Hathaway's ephemeral "Oscar buzz" surrounding her performance.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: The hormone-deficient. People who see the same "tragic doomed girl" undertones that I do. People who have maybe had their fill of watching handsome, successful white dudes make an emotional journey from having sex with lots of girls to having lots of sex with one girl.
Why I'd See It: Have I ever wanted to see a movie solely because of the poster before? Because honestly, that's where I'm at here. The same trailer that's created this bizarre Oscar buzz made me think this is destined to be one giant ball of cliché. And yet Jake looks so goddamned sexy with that pillow in the poster ... I am but one man. November 24

Movie: The King's Speech (Tom Hooper)
High-Concept Synopsis: Stuttering British monarch (Colin Firth) can't lead his people unless he gets his speech together, so queen Helena Bonham Carter seeks out eccentric speech therapist Geoffrey Rush for help and friendship and Oscar nominations.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Audiences following the hap-hap-happy buzz out of the Toronto film festival, which bestowed its top honor (an audience-voted award besides) on this film. Fans of put-together, well-pedigreed tales of English royals. Folks happy to see Helena Bonham Carter break out of the freak rut Tim Burton's dug for her.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: People who have been traumatized by previous Toronto champs like Crash and Slumdog Millionaire. People who have seen Geoffrey Rush when he's in "Get Oscar" mode. People who gave up on Colin Firth after the awfulness that was Mamma Mia!. They missed out on some great stuff, including A Single Man, but it's tough to blame them.
Why I'd See It: I've heard people say it's better than the stuffy awards-bait it seems to be, and I like Firth and love HBC. I just worry when I hear these "a good story well told" reviews that in the same breath hype it for Best Picture. A Best Picture movie needs to be better than a good story well told. Sigh. November 26

Movie: Black Swan (Darren Aronofsky)
High-Concept Synopsis: Aronofsky leads Natalie Portman on a paranoid journey through a competitive ballet troupe, beset by intense mothers (Barbara Hershey) and predatory rivals (Mila Kunis). And then she goes crazy and masturbates and maybe turns into a swan. From the director of Pi and The Fountain, obvs.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Fans of the remarkable Aronofsky and his mentally exhausting, physically demanding worlds. Portman fans eager to welcome her back with a movie that has people talk about how good of an actress she can be. Audiences following some pretty intense festival buzz out of Venice and such.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Audiences nervous about reports of this being among the most out-there stuff Aronofsky has done. Portman haters, who exist and are wrong. Folks who want their dance movies to have more trampoline-floors in them.
Why I'd See It: Aronofsky is easily among my favorite directors -- I have straight-up loved every one of his features so far. And Portman has been, in fits and starts, among my very favorite actresses. I'm thrilled to see her back in a project that has this much potential (she's already getting ye olde Oscar buzz, after all). And that trailer blew my eyeballs out. Frankly, the only negative is how the hell I'm supposed to hold out til December 12th. December 1

Movie: The Tourist (Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck)
High-Concept Synopsis: Johnny Depp is an American vacationing in Europe when he comes across Angelina Jolie, who is caught up in some kind of intrigue or another.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Fans of international romance and action. Fans of the ridiculously charismatic leads. Anyone going through Bourne or Bond withdrawal.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Audiences turned off by the extreme WTF-ness of Johnny Depp's hair. People who worry that the plot of the movie seems awfully similar to that book their mom was reading on vacation that one time. Jennifer Aniston. (Yes. Still.)
Why I'd See It: I'll will see Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp in a lot of things that look way worse than this, which has the potential to be a fun, sexy diversion from holiday shopping. December 3

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Little Help?

You know, I was talking to someone the other day about how spoiled we've become on the internet, with everything at our fingertips. It's not a novel observation by any means, but the most concrete upshot for me is that I simply CANNOT ABIDE it when I am unable to find a song that I want to hear right this minute. If I have to search further than YouTube or iTunes I just get furious. Classy, first-world, white-people problems? You betcha! They're all I've got. And I could use your help with this one.

The latest episode of Boardwalk Empire -- my recap here, in case you'd like to hear me make a few jokes at the expense of the Irish --ended with a really pretty version of the Irish tune "Carrickfergus," sung by (if the internet is to be believed) Loudon Wainwright III. I'd love to get my hands on the full version. Alas, the best YouTube can do for me is the following clip.

And, not that I don't appreciate the effort in ripping the audio straight from the episode, kind YouTuber, but I have to figure there's a more ideal way of listening to this rather pretty song than having it accented by Eli Thompson's pukey wretching. I barking up the wrong tree thinking it's Loudon Wainwright? Is there some corner of the internet that has a more pristine version of this? Anyone got an inside track to Scorsese's iPod? Any help would be swell.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Bloody Hell Yes

I need to get off my ass and see Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson on Broadway already so I can drool over this in person:

I mean:


Fight It Off, Lemon!


Monday, October 18, 2010

The Week in TV

These have been up on the sidebar for a few days, but if you missed them, or if you're a slave to the RSS, or if you just want a place to comment. Nothing about Sunday night's shows yet. I haven't had time to catch Rubicon yet, though I marathon caught up on it on Friday (making Myles McNutt's marathon blogging over the weekend a serendipitous event and great reading) so I'm SUPER psyched for it. As for Mad Men, you can catch my thoughts on the season finale on the next Extra Hot Great podcast, which should be up by tomorrow.

Community (10/14)
Clearly, this episode was trying to do for Armageddon what "Contemporary American Poultry" did for Goodfellas, but whether it's because the source material isn't as strong or because these gimmick episodes don't pack as much of a punch the second or third time around, I found a lot of this episode kind of boring. And nonsensical, at least with regards to the whole Annie/City College nonsense. I appreciate that Community takes big swings, but despite some typically hilarious Donald Glover business, this felt like a miss.

30 Rock (10/14)
I actually laughed quite a bit (the Jon Hamm commercial and Julia Louis-Dreyfus's first appearance, especially), but the whole episode seemed too tonally off to feel like anything more than a weird experiment. Which I guess it was, but I wonder how much better the material would have come off as a Classic 30 Rock. That said, Tina Fey's showmanship is awfully infectious

Cougar Town (10/13)

Okay, everybody who's suddenly jumping on the Busy Philipps bandwagon after this week's spotlight of an episode. It's but and all, and I'm sure she appreciates your support, but I was clearly here first, so let's all recognize that fact. Busy-ness aside, I thought Dan Byrd was the laughs champ this week; he's really perfected Travis's oh-so-easily burstable bubble of collegiate self-confidence.

Modern Family (10/13)
First great episode of the season, thanks to episode MVP Jesse Tyler Ferguson (watching him struggle to tell Phil the hard truth and then totally caving was amazing and all too relatable), and the best use yet of Alex. That scene where her aloof coolness crumbles around her and she and Hayley freak increasingly out was a delight.

Survivor (10/13)
The season's been pretty much a total dud thus far, but the tribal shake-up has injected a tiny spark of life into it. It's certainly made semi-intriguing characters of people we have seen almost none of thus far (hello, Jane and Benry!), it brought NaOnka down several pegs, and it's showing the chinks in Marty's armor. Am I the only one hoping for Brenda to take him down?

Glee (10/12)

Ah, HERE'S an episode that lived up to the online hype, and one which made me reevaluate the way I enjoy the show. I'd kind of built up a defense mechanism to the thin characterizations by thinking this would be a show that I enjoy despite hating most of the characters (I managed to do just fine with Lost that way, after all). But this episode really went a long way towards making me like pretty much every character on the canvass. The overarching theme seemed to be empathy (Rachel and Kurt; Quinn and Sam, even Brittany and Artie), which ... you're not going to see that on too many TV shows. And most importantly: it remembered Quinn Fabray! I loved every second of Quinn and her bottle-blond would-be paramour; I'm totally rooting for them as a potential couple now, and their duet on "Lucky" was really sweet. And Mike Chang singing! What a fun moment. AND some really funny moments (Diana Agron's delivery of "I really want to punch both of you") and a healthy smattering of subtexty naughtiness (note how Sam goes from towel to jeans in the span of a cut-away, all while Finn is sitting with his face at crotch-level). Wonderful episode.

The Office
I caught up on the second and third episodes of the season on Hulu today. That's because I've dropped it from the DVR rotation. I thought last season was a real slog, and I didn't have high hopes for it to reverse course. But watching "Counseling" and "Andy's Play," I realized that while I don't have much hope for the show to find its footing narratively, there are still more than enough elements to make watching worthwhile. Kelly will pop into the frame out of nowhere and quote from "Pretty Woman" (Mindy Kaling still gives the best talking-head spots on the show), or Ryan will continue his ever-evolving d-baggery (no one mentions this, but Ryan has been the most successful character development of the last three seasons), or Andy will lead the cast in a group-sing of Macy Gray's "I Try." Throw in Pam and Gabe's non-frontation over Pam's made-up job, and I'm so happy I didn't miss out on those moments.

Weeds (10/11)
I'd like to thank Weeds for fulfilling a dream that had been dormant for seventeen years: seeing Zack Morris naked. I can't imagine my 13-year-old self reacting to the news that Zack would one day be having anger-sex on a bartop with Ruth from Fried Green Tomatoes, but life works out in weird ways. In other news, Doug is still a waste of time, Silas and Andy are still keeping my thin emotional investment alive, and I'm actually curious how this season will end on the Shane front. Something's gotta happen to knock the smirk off that murderous little shit's face, right?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Fringe, Season 3, Episode 4, "Do Shapeshifters Dream of Electric Sheep?"

Again, apologies for getting to this post late, as I'm out of town this weekend. So just quick bullet points about the episode and hopefully we can get into some discussion in the comments (and by the way, if you're catching up to these episodes late, please do comment on the previous episode posts -- I'm linking to them at the bottom for a reason, I'd love to keep the conversation active on those eps as well).

-- Really great episode that delved into the Shapeshifters from every angle: physiology to psychology to improbable emotional connections. Fringe has gotten pretty great at delivering stories that pack an emotional punch (the cop shapeshifter and his son was totally heartbreaking) while still, say, having a guy's mercury-smeared brain on display for half the episode. The ep went a long way towards making the Shifters actual people (for lack of a better term). Even in their pursuit of so-called evil, someone like Newton showed characteristics of duty-bound honor. (Also, is that the last we're going to see of Sebastian Roche? Because I will miss him. I know he's coming back to General Hospital soon, but those stints never last.)

-- The other major thread in this epiosde actually addressed a concern of mine from a couple weeks back -- namely, how is it that Peter isn't twigging to how different Fauxlivia is. I mean, she's doing a decent job, I guess, but the differences are pretty apparent, especially for a guy like Peter who commented on those differences back in last season's finale. Here, Peter acknowledges them, in a couple scenes that felt a little too fake-outy for my tastes, but ultimately chalks it up to Liv being changed by her trip to Alt World. A few more episodes like this and I'm going to start getting frustrated with Peter for not Getting It, but it's good to know the showrunners realize this needed addressing of some kind.

-- And related to the Fauxlivia thing, I thought the episode did well handling the obvious but still effective parallels between Fauxlivia and the Shapeshifters. Particularly in addressing her struggle to keep from forming attatchments to Our World.

-- Love that Walter seems to be thriving -- if also tripping -- inside Massive Dynamic. Nina Sharpe certainly seems to be a fan. She's quite the genius groupie, huh? Also, has Massive Dynamic always gotten its own 3-D chyron like that?

Anyway, I'll open it up to your comments -- what did you think? (And no, I haven't seen previews for next week, since I watched the ep on iTunes. What'd I miss?)

More Fringe on Low Res:
Fringe 3.1 "Olivia"
Fringe 3.2 "The Box"
Fringe 3.3 "The Plateau"

Friday, October 15, 2010


I didn't include Raising Hope in this week's TV round-up (sidebar -->>), but don't take that to mean I didn't like it. After all, it offered me thirty more minutes to love Martha Plimpton, including her singing something about a "Do-Wacka-Do."

I also watched Cujo on AMC tonight, and particularly the scene where that big-ass dog gets bit by that tiny-ass bat and started the whole tale of canine terror.

These two things then came together in my weird little brain, and in all due deference to my pal Jason's own web series of the same name, here's The Moment I Fell For ... Martha Plimpton:

...or here it would be if stupid YouTube didn't disable embedding. Anyway, go over there and watch it. Then come back here and reminisce about the first time Martha's tartness-with-a-heart style first touched you.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Another Message from Brunette Olivia

Fringe recap might be late coming this weekend, guys. But keep checking back here and I'll endeavor to get it up before Sunday.

MEANTIME, the sidebar's been updated with the week's TV highlights -->>

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Challenge Chat LIVE No. 01

Before we begin chatting, I invite you to enjoy these shots of Danimal holding Luke like he's his newlywed bride.

Now it's time for us to CHAT! (I'm new to this chat software, so for now, I'm disabling comments within the chat, but please comment via Blogger, and I'll try to incorporate them. Thanks!)


A Programming Note from Shauvon

Hope you guys enjoyed the wrap-up of last week's Real World Road Rules Challenge premiere. Obviously, one episode was not enough to sate our appetite for (Johnny) Bananas. And Sarah, Sarah, and I figure so long as we're watching, we should be chatting.

So tune in tonight around 11pm ET for a live (-ish) chat of tonight's episode. (Yes, we're "live" chatting on a time-delay. We're busy people.) Provided I can successfully wrangle the chat software. And if you don't feel like staying up late (-ish) watching Paula and Dunbar drunkenly make out (probably), the chat should be available to re-live tomorrow morning, and beyond.

So basically what I'm saying is: come by and watch us make fun of this awesome show. Braaaad would want you to.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Getting Challenged: A Conversation

Look, I'm not going to bother to sell anyone on this: the new season of The Real World Road Rules Challenge began last Wednesday, and as the last three people in America to watch the thing, Sarah Bunting, Sarah Blackwood, and I decided to chat about it for your (our) amusement:

Joe: I knew I was going to have to blog about this show when, in the span of five minutes, Katie told us that she was in school to be a criminal profiler, Melinda told us she's divorcing Danny, and Abram said he "published my first kids book." Parsing of the language of that last statement aside ... are these positive personal developments I'm witnessing? Are we finally seeing that, while it may take until they reach 40, these kids ultimately do take steps to better themselves? And how long until I find out that Coral is an EMT and Veronica is a teacher's aide?

More importantly, isn't this going to make it even more depressing to see these cats jello-wrestling and fist-fighting with CT (CT! Is in the "coming up this season" montage somehow! Is he now a Challenge unto himself?)

Bunting: Didn't Katie say she was retiring? I'm fine with that not being true; I'm just saying. I'm also saying this, repeatedly and in response to all comments no matter how irrelevant: I FUCKING HATE FUCKING SHAUVON. Also, I believe Abram and I have the same hairstyle. Feel free to continue the discussion between you while I kill myself.

Joe: I think, yes, the last time we saw Katie, she said she was retiring to "start a family." If coming back to the show means she's put those plans on hold for while (hopefully ever), I say this is a positive step. Speaking of Katie, I was kind of embarrassed for her that she ended up part of that hydra of screeching terror that was the blue team's girls (led by Officially The Worst -- Sorry, Shauvon-- Theresa). At least my girl D.C. Emily is keeping her head above the fray. And I know Tori and Melinda can be awful, but I was somewhat encouraged by seeing them give that poor Brazilian mess of a girl some comfort in the face in her mean-girling. (That said: we're pulling contestants from random Spring Break diversions now? Do standards mean NOTHING to the producers anymore?)

Oh, and as for Abram, Bunting-cut or not, I have to say: still looking fine. I'm pretty shocked how much I like him given that he spent his Road Rules season being racist and homophobic and his first Challenge season in a threesome with Rachel and Veronica.

Bunting: ...Oh, JOE. With the topknot? You stop it right now.

And yes, Theresa is bad. As my grandmother once said about one of her friend's grandchildren, "That girl isn't pretty enough to have that nasty a disposition."But I'll stop now until Sarah can weigh in.

Joe: You cannot be more disappointed in my Abram crush than I am in Luke for crushing on Camilla. Honestly, it's not just self-interest talking when I say he would do SO MUCH BETTER as a gay guy. Can the network send notes and have Jon Murray change his character's direction?

Blackwood: I, too, have things to say about Abram's hair (hee) and Katie's new professional direction, but first, I have to address something.

So, um, you guys....this week's Challenge involved both a "Gulag" and a gas chamber?


Can I somehow make these capital letters appear even bigger? A FREAKING GAS CHAMBER?!

The historical sensitivity MTV shows never fails to astound. What better way to bear witness to the last century's greatest carnage than to send....Big Easy into a gas chamber. Melinda into a gas chamber! JOHNNY BANANAS IN A GAS CHAMBER!!!

Now that that's out of the way, I can safely say that my favorite part of the episode was that quick little shot in the beginning of Tyler doing some serious Rockette kicks.


Joe: Sorry, I was too busy staring hypnotized at Danimal's prodigious snot rocket to recognize the cruel ironies of said GAS CHAMBER. Though this does take the show one crucial step closer to setting the next season of the Challenge inside that warehouse from Hostel.

Bunting: I completely forgot to address the "Challenge: Greatest Hits of Totalitarian Cruelty" motif. Why not just put it at Dachau and have a Swiss bank product-place the superfluous prizing?

Somewhere, Solzhenitsyn is like, "You know what, forget it."

And oh my God: "Challenge: Saw." A giant bear trap clanging shut around Shauvon's skull? Although I don't know how much damage that would even do, neurologically.

It's a testament to...something that we haven't even mentioned Ayiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiia yet. Asthma says what?

Joe: Well now that we are speaking of Aiiiieeeee-ah, can we talk about "The Grey Team." Kind of apropos that their team name sounds like a euphemism for clinical depression, because dig the walking personality disorders on display: JD? Sarah? Shauvon? Laurel? Cara Maria? Ayiiieeeeeeea? DANIMAL? (Though at least Danimal is nominally sober. I was really sad his lasting impression from his last Challenge was his limp-dick encounter with Robin.)

Honestly, though: this team WON. Probably because the gas acted as a neurotoxic corrective?

Bunting: There's a "Laurel"? ...Wait, you mean Less Expressive Kristen Stewart?

Blackwood:Laurel seems to be acting all turtle-without-its-shell weird without Kenny around to buffer her.

I do hate Shauvouioun (sp WTF) but I may have to steal her repeated drunken line: "I'll kill you in your face!"

Ed and I thought that one girl's name was "Cara Mia" for a while, which would translate roughly as 'my face' and yet somehow found it totally plausible that that would be something one of these dolts would be named.

Finally let me take a moment to just say "Braaaaaaad"

Joe: OK, to wrap this up, two questions for y'all:

1) How sad was Jenn and Paula's Conversation of Failure? They have one of these every season (including Robin and Derrick's memorable "D, I just wanna win!"), and it always underlines the sad desperation of it all. Are Jenn and Paula even entertaining enough that we want them coming back every year?

2) Is it just me who was sad to see both Derek and Brandon in the first Gulag? Derek is adorbs (though I'm kind of glad he got out of the hornet's nest before the inevitable hot tub hookup with Tyler or JD -- sad crop of gays this year, MTV!), and I found Brandon really likeable in his cup of coffee with Fresh Meat II.

Blackwood: Oh, dear. Paula. Paula has pretty much gone through every iteration of female MTV personhood: anorexic, slutty, abused, tough-talking....and is now coming out the other side as....kind of middle-aged? Like self-aware and sort of tired but somewhat optimistic and just looking to go to bed at a reasonable hour? You know, like a normal person? But who wants to watch that? And Jenn. Oh, Jenn, Jenn, Jenn. I have this lizard-brain reflexive love for Jenn but when I try to capture that feeling, look at it directly and inquire into why I have it, and of what it consists, I can't see it clearly. Why do I like Jenn again? I can't remember anything she has done. I'm sure it was crazy and endearing-in-a-batshit-way, but it's like magnets, how do they work? I don't know, man.

As for Brandon and Derek: I have literally no idea who Brandon is, but I do remember that I very much loved Derek after watching the Cancun season's Shit They Should Have Shown. He was kind of edited out of the season itself, but came across in the extra footage as hilarious and cute and fun. So I was sad to see him go.

Is it seriously already almost time for another episode?! I don't think a week is enough recovery time in between.

Bunting: There's a "Brandon"?

Friday, October 08, 2010

Fringe, Season 3, Episode 3: "Plateau"

After two seriously rousing episodes to kick off the season, this episode couldn't help but feel like a letdown, I think mostly due to the relative weakness of the Freak of the Week plot (although that one picked up in resonance -- if not excitement -- in the second half). It felt like we'd seen the beats of this kind of strings-pulling, mousetrap-devising villain before. The only difference here is that the David Thewlis-looking MF-er causing all this chaos doesn't instill any dread or much suspense.

And to be fair, I don't think he was supposed to be all that scary. The second half of the episode makes it clear that this guy -- a mentally handicapped man whose sister signed him up for experimental drugs meant to boost his cognitive function, only it went too far and he got too smart to be able to relate to anyone, but still, rather than return to what he was, he escaped and set up elaborate, Final Destination-style deaths for those wishing to send him back.

Did I mention this is all happening in Alt World? Which means we get to spend more time with Olivia and her awesome dark hairstyle. But more importantly, we get to spend time with her partners in Fringe-based crime fighting, Charlie Francis and Lincoln Lee. Huge props to Kirk Acevedo and Seth Gabel for their work (along with Anna Torv) in making Alt-Fringe Division seem like a lived-in unit worthy of caring about. There was such a big chance that we'd have no interest in the characters in this world beyond Olivia, but by this point, I'm totally invested in the team and what will become of them.

So anyway, Flowers for Algernon targets Olivia for his next mouse-trap death, because now she's the one threatening to take his brain away, and while she manages to avoid his trap, she does so only because she's an outworlder deep down and thus doesn't always twig to things like when, say, the air quality in Alt World dips to zero and you're supposed to whip out your breathing apparatus so you don't die -- I'm pretty sure this was the inciting action in Spaceballs, by the way.

In other words, Olivia's not as brainwashed as she should be, seeing visions of Peter and our Walter that are making her question her identity (or at least her sanity). And with Walternate stepping up his plan to use her to cross between worlds (perhaps ushering in a counter-invasion from Alt-World), things sure do seem to be coming to a head. So there were some good building blocks in this episode, and it certainly did the job of making me emotionally tied to Olivia, Charlie and Lincoln as a unit. But it's a functional episode more than a memorable one.

Some random notes:

-- Olivia meets with Algernon's sister, and their talk about sibling bonds reminds me that Rachel is dead in this reality ... and once again gets me impatient for Fauxlivia to have her emotional moment with Ari Graynor.

-- They found a fine way to involve Alt-Astrid, who in this reality is super Aspergersy and even more of a factotum than she is in Our World. (Also, has no one decided to fan-fic a comic series where Astrid, Ivy from Dollhouse, and Marshall Flinkman from Alias team up to solve crime or run a candy store or something?)

-- I enjoy the way Alt World opens up the possibilities of fringe science even further than we can in Our World. "Smart Drugs" are a great example of something that feels too esoteric to work as satisfying sci-fi in our world but which gives Alt World its own flavor. Same with the smallpox outbreak in North Texas, which Olivia's boyfriend doesn't seem to be treating with the apocalyptic air that same situation would lead to in Our World.

-- Once they introduced that Chekhov's gun of Lincoln needing to get back in his healing chamber within eight hours, I was really psyched for something to happen in the story where he and Olivia and Charlie were bunkered down and he couldn't get back. The way it did play out couldn't help but feel like a letdown, but those few seconds where his burn injuries began to regress and bubble up were intense.

-- I enjoyed the way the Fringe team has to promise people at investigation sites that they're not looking to quarantine the place. I guess nobody's all that psyched about being encased in amber.

More Fringe on Low Res:
Fringe 3.1 "Olivia"
Fringe 3.2 "The Box"

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Dear America: Step Off

In writing up my little blurb about this week's Glee for the sidebar, I'm reminded of just how many TV writers and bloggers and such dumped on their choice of "One of Us" for the episode. Not that it was a dumb choice in an episode about God, and not that the cheesy arrangement was annoying, but that the song itself was empirically awful. Listen up, professional whiners and malcontents (...among whose number I aspire to be), because I'm only going to say this once: pick Glee apart all you like, but STEP OFF of Joan Osborne.

You don't like "One of Us," whatever, I disagree but the lyrics are pretty silly so I can see your point. But I have no patience for anybody not willing to take a cursory look behind her biggest hit and see the raspy-voiced dynamo behind it. Don't make me drag you to a live show and make you see for yourself. (Though seriously, check out a live show and see for yourself.)

At this point, I have no choice but to post several YouTube videos and shame you all into submission. For shame!


Sunday, October 03, 2010

The Week in TV

Community (9/30)
I am still not even a bit amused by Ken Jeong, and I sometimes wish the writers wouldn't be so enamored with testing the limits of how much of a dick Jeff can be. That said, every single thing about Troy, Abed, Annie, and the chloroform absolutely killed. To the point that it made up for the episode's weak spots AND the creepy sight of Skinny Drew Carey.

30 Rock (9/30)
I said this on Twitter the other night, but it bears repeating: how did it take us FIVE seasons of this show to get Tracy Jordan into the Cash Cab? This episode got HUGE love across the internet, but I think I preferred last week. Jack Donaghy's video parenting was fantastic, though, particularly when he began to simulate making love to Lutz.

Modern Family (9/29)
Smart way to handle the "Mitchell and Cam haven't kissed on camera" thing, a controversy which I can both recognize for its symbolic value while still being embarrassed that such a schmoopy thing would have to be a Big Deal. The show managed to address this via character-specific story and yet even while putting the "issue" (such as it is) upfront, they still managed to make the kiss itself so understated, a few TV critics actually missed it.

Parenthood (9/28)
I'm no good at mathematics, but on an infinite timeline, I'd say the chances that any Peter Krause character won't become a detestable asshole approaches zero. I'm not sure if it's the storylines that have Adam constantly like an entitled jerk or the performance, but especially when he plays these Poor Parent of Autistic Kid beats, he blows right past any chance we might have to sympathize with how hard it's been on him because he's acting like the most enormous dick. In better news, I'm not sure whether to credit the kid who plays Max or the directors for coaching him correctly, but however it's happening, that kid is the most interesting thing on the show.

Raising Hope (9/28)
Look, I recognize that Boardwalk Empire is a huge achievement for large-scale storytelling on TV, for production design, for subtle, textured performances (Michael Stuhlbarg is blowing my mind), but in terms of the new show I'm most loving right now, it's Raising Hope. Second straight week that I ended up laughing and feeling a tug of emotion, both completely unanticipated reactions. Usually with new shows like this it's the actors who draw me in, but in this case, while I do adore Martha Plimpton and Garrett Dillahunt (and am increasingly enchanted by the awkward kid in the lead), I've been so impressed by the rhythms and timing, managing to keep the environment manic but the characters grounded. Plus: dead tooth jokes!

Glee (9/28)
I know everybody haaaated the Britney Spears episode, and I won't say it represented the best of what Glee can do, but under my current mantra of "win some, lose some," with Glee, I have to admit that the enjoyment I got out of watching Brittany S. Pierce do her thing (Heather Morris's dancing is NO JOKE) kind of balanced out the more annoying elements (no story whatsoever, Emma's presence; my favorite Britney Spears song going to stupid Artie). I'm certain I enjoyed Brittany/Santana's "Me Against the Music" WAY more than Britney/Madonna's.

Gossip Girl (9/27)
Episodes like this are the reason I stick around with this show. They're really handling Katie Cassidy's character well, setting up a long con storyline (whoever that guy is in jail) while keeping us interested with smaller arcs like Serena and Blair getting the drop on her sorority scheming. Plus Penelope was back! I could take her or leave her before, but ever since Amanda Setton's too-brief run on One Life to Live, she's become one of my favorite people.

Friday, October 01, 2010

"Foods With Q for $400"

Thanks to Jason for reminding me of this scene from White Men Can't Jump, a scene that burns surprisingly brightly for a movie I only kinda liked, haven't seen in about 15 years, and stars Wesley Snipes. But it ALSO stars Rosie Perez during her career sweet spot that lasted from Do the Right Thing in 1989 and Fearless (and an Oscar nomination!) in 1993. Then she made that movie about a lottery ticket and Bridget Fonda and it all went to hell.

But today, we can enjoy Rosie dominance at obscure categories in Jeopardy. [Bonus enjoyment? Woody Harrelson's VERY 1992 line "She's in the zone!" Remember when "the zone" was some kind of ephemeral concept for athletes in the early '90s? I remember ESPN doing a whole half-hour special on Michael Jordan attaining "the zone" in an NBA Finals game. I'm pretty sure today The Zone is a diet. Anyway, enjoy Rosie!]

Fringe, Season 3, Episode 2: "The Box"

For as exciting and intriguing as most of this episode was, I think I walked away from "The Box" feeling most impressed by its functionality and structure. This is an episode that managed to integrate a return to the "monster of the week" quasi-standalone element that Fringe is still built upon, an advancement of the Fauxlivia/sleeper agent storyline that's driving the show right now, and setting the stage for more season-long story drivers in both the Doomsday Device (one that looks like it's powered by Peter himself), as well as Walter inheriting Massive Dynamic. In many ways, it felt like an early-season episode of a Joss Whedon series, where you can see the building blocks clicking into place, and as excited as you are by what's unfolding right now, you've also got one eye trained on what's down the road.

That's not to shortchange the micro-story, which I found to be exciting (Fauxlivia pulling Peter out of the way of the train JUST IN TIME), clever (not to play the "I Called It"game, but yo, I totally called that guy being deaf), and appropriately gruesome (his HEAD, you guys! That little person's FUCKING HEAD WENT 'SPLODE!).

Here's the gist: Suave Brit other-sider Newton is back in the game and helping Fauxlivia (Alternalivia?) blend in with Our World and its particulars and culture ("Who's 'Bone-oh'?" she asks him, which can only mean that Alt World has no one to organize benefit concerts for those poor bastards sealed in amber). But they're also working on a secret such-and-such that involves the titular Box and the poor schmucks who unearth it, only to find their brains soon leaking out their facial orifices once it starts emitting a crackling noise. Blah, blah, science, blah blah ultrasonic frequencies, basically, this box emits a sound that breaks your brain (and 'SPLODES YOUR FACE) if you're exposed to it. Only one of the unearthers is a Deaf and thus immune from its effects. Lucky for Olivia and Newton, he brings the box right to them. Unfortunately for him, Fauxlivia is more hardened than even we realized, because she ices him, then gets all sexy in Peter's face to keep him from noticing the corpse in her bathroom.

I guess the romantic stuff between Peter and Olivia is supposed to be a crazy new thing now, but since it's Fauxlivia, it doesn't have as much of an Everything's Changed feel to it. Also? Now that we've gotten a taste of Dark Haired Olivia, doesn't Anna Torv look slightly ... wrong as a blonde? Also also, given how cognizant Peter was last season about the subtle differences between Olivia and her double, I'm a bit surprised he doesn't twig to something being off about her now.

Anyway, the Box. So Fringe Div is after it, and when Newton leaves it with a certain doomed little person in a subway station, they get called into action. But the doomed LP took it into the tunnel, meaning someone (Peter) is going to have to go find it. Without sufficient noise-cancelling equipment to keep his brain from getting braised, the workaround solution involves Fauxlivia firing her gun right next to Peter's ears, buying him a good three minutes or so of deafness (and probably a lifetime of asking people to answer that damn telephone). So Peter finds the Box, LP's head goes KERSPLATTY, and he recognizes the Box as being a part of the Doomsday Device. It's a pretty tense, suspenseful scene, though I do wish the domineering score had taken a backseat and allowed us to feel Peter's soundlessness.

So while Peter tries to disable the Box, Fringe Div realizes there's a train still running, and Faux has to book it down the tunnel (risking a 'sploded noggin of her own) in order to pull him out of the way of the train, mere seconds after he disabled the Box. It's interesting, in one episode, Fauxlivia both proved herself to be more cold-blooded than we thought (shooting the Deaf) and more attached to Our World than we thought (risking her brain to save Peter, but also defending Walter's Peter-napping actions to Peter, despite the fact that those actions did irreparable harm to her own world). Anna Torv continues to be the standout this season, playing both Livs with distinct complexity.

I also can't tell you how jazzed I am about Walter inheriting Massive Dynamic. Not only because it'll probably mean more Nina Sharp, but also because it opens a whole host of Fringe-y possibilities before the stories even started to get stale. We got some of Walter's trademark weirdnesses back this week, to blend in with his newfound dewey-eyed contrition. Trying to make the cow give chocolate milk was delightfully simple but perfect. And speaking of simple, I'll never get tired of him misidentifying his dear Astrid ("Aspirin"!).

Another winner of an episode, I'll say. And it looks like we're in Alt World next week. How eager are we for Livs to converge once again? And are we happy with the long-term storylines that have been set up, for this season and (perhaps) beyond?