Friday, July 29, 2005

Inside Out

It looks as if what we've all suspected with regards to Tim Minear's series The Inside has come to pass. It hasn't been officially cancelled, but according to what Minear said in an interview for iF Magazine's online page, he expects that if another eisode airs it will be the last one. Fox told Minear that So You Think You Can Dance was supposed to be "the cavalry" but it killed them instead. Minear told iF Magazine "They haven’t told me officially that we’re cancelled. That’s just a bunch of hoo-ha anyhow, because they told me they weren’t picking up the cast options and I’ve heard a rumor Rachel [Nichols] already has another show."

It may have been predictable though, after what Fox did with Firefly. Maybe Buffyverse people just shouldn't work for Fox or any of it's branches. The company doesn't seem to get their "vision"

Hey You Bums! - Vote In The Poll!!!

Now that I've got you're attention - and incidentally reminded you about the poll - I've decided that it's time to update the Blogroll. Oh Joy!

- First off is Long Plastic Hallway by Teletart (I just love that name - sue me) who I discovered thanks to Blog Explosion. Snarkier than me but really rather fun.

- Next Inner Toob found via Technorati which is a really fine Blogosphere search engine. How to describe Inner Toob? News and views of course but for me the really interesting bit are some of his imagined crossovers. Like the most recent one that links Dr. Who, Roswell, 7 Days and The X-Files. Marvellous.

- Next up is broadcastellan a blog from Britain which as Magnificent Montague puts it "concerns broadcasts, movies, and books anyone can still access using today's media." Mostly it appears to be old-time radio, but the British perspective is a bit different.

- Wistful Vistas is in fact the blog where I found out about broadcastellan. Another Old Time Radio blog with plenty of information. Not updated nearly enough (to my tastes at least) but then some people actually have lives.

- News Views & Schmooze is from TV industry insider Bryce Zabel, who has a large number of professional credits and is currently working on three projects: a miniseries remake of The Poseidon Adventure, a miniseries for the Hallmark Channel about Blackbeard, and a project for the USA network called Fall From Grace. His first script was for the CTV series ENG which was one of the better dramatic series that the network ever did. He found me after my post on Empire.

- The Pop Eye is a basic pop culture blog, but one worth taking a look at. Sometimes she even talks TV.

- TV Dinners is a British blog about TV - mainly reality shows - but which sometimes has a rather interesting take on American programs. A recent favourite has been what I think is Season 2 Apprentice, which I won't spoil for them (even here if they find out about this) by telling them who won.

- Last but not least (well sort of) is my old Diplomacy buddy Jamie McQuinn's blog Tralfaz (Blech!). Mostly what Jamie does is post links to online material that he finds of interest. What I want to know (besides his views on the battle for the Ohio 2nd) is what he did to get all of those looney religious ads? (The title comes from an old Dip zine Jamie published and incidentally from an episode of The Jetsons featuring Astro and an owner who names him Tralfaz.)

You're Lawyer Show Is In My Reality Program

Remember those commercials for Reese's Peanut Butter Cups? You know the one where a couple of guys are walking along, bump into each other and one guy's chocolate bar ends up in the other guy's peanut butter: "You're Peanut Butter's in my Chocolate." "You're Chocolate is in my Peanut Butter." Well David E. Kelly decided to put a Lawyer Show into a Reality Show, and the result is probably just as good as a Peanut Butter Cup. And he called it The Law Firm.

Initially at least The Law Firm seems like yet another clone of The Apprentice, a show which has been copied so much this summer that it's hard to find a night without a wannabe Trump. In this show "Trump" is noted trial attorney Roy Black. Vying for his attention are a dozen young attorneys from various areas of the law. There are public defenders, various types of civil litigators, a labour lawyer, and at least one prosecutor. The winning "associate" will receive a prize of $250,000.

As in The Apprentice the lawyers are split into teams. Here is where we start to separate from The Apprentice. Instead of two teams, there are - initially at least - four teams of three lawyers. The teams have to face each other in real court cases, drawn from the Arbitration rolls - Arbitration being a process where both parties agree to have their case heard by an Arbitrator instead of in a court of law. The Arbitrator is usually (but not always) a retired judge whose decision is binding on both parties and cannot be appealed. Arbitration cases - performed without lawyers - are the mainstay of those earliest of reality shows, the "court shows" (The People's Court, Judge Greg Mathis, Judge Judy and the like). This means that there are real consequences for the people involved in these cases, not just for the attorneys. The two cases in the first episode aren't "big" cases to anyone except the litigants. In one case a woman is suing her neighbour for the cost of her veterinarian bills after her three-legged dog was mauled by the neighbours two bull mastiffs, while in the other a woman is suing the local county coroner for damages after he used the police lights that his car is equipped with to pull her over for dangerous driving despite the fact that he is not in fact a police officer. The more interesting of the cases is the one with the dogs simply because of the defendant who is, to say the least, more than a bit eccentric. When his legal team arrives to see the location of the attack he shows them the dogs and says that "a blindfolded monkey can tell you this is two non-aggressive dogs" although the lawyers don't seem convinced.

During the show we see the competitive nature of lawyers as the attorneys prep their cases. There are conflicting approaches and although they are supposed to be working as teams they are also quick to criticize each other, both before each other and in confessional style interviews. The drama escalates when the cases go before the arbitrators. The differing abilities of the lawyers come to the fore. One woman does a very poor job of presenting her sides opening arguments and this is worsened by the Judge being somewhat hostile towards her. Strength and weaknesses do come out as the cases are tried and each lawyer gets his or her turn presenting the case. Obviously we don't see the entirety of both cases simply because there isn't time in the show, but we do see the lawyers working and often making mistakes. In the show seen on Thursday night the cases were won, often in spite of the lawyers. The woman whose dog was mauled won even though her attorneys didn't handle the cross examination of the man who owned the mastiffs very well and tried to get a statement of his which was prejudicial to his own case ("if that dog had all of his legs cut off he'd be a menace to society") stricken from the record. In the end it came down to the fact that he said he would pay for the veterinary bills, a point which both sides appeared to ignore (the Arbitrator did take the woman to task because she knew that the man had large dogs who were out at the time thanks to actions that he took). In the other case, it was clear that the Coroner was acting outside his area of competence and was even breaking the law himself in order to pull the woman over for dangerous driving.

The big difference between this show and The Apprentice comes with the Dismissal phase. Just because you win the case doesn't necessarily mean that you're safe from being evicted from the show; both dismissals from Thursday's show came from the teams that won their cases. What Roy Black is looking for is performance. He took several people to task for not anticipating actions by the other parties, for not taking a leadership role, and in one case not adjusting her approach before the Judge in the case with the coroner when the Judge's hostility became apparent. She was dismissed, as was the lawyer who made the blunder of asking that the prejudicial comment be stricken from the record.

I liked The Law Firm. Even though it is an Apprentice clone it is far more attractive than The Cut or I Want To Be A Hilton. One of the things is the people involved. The lawyers I have known over the years have on the whole been extroverts, and a lot of them have been performers. Indeed the Law School at the university I attended puts on an annual comedy revue called "Legal Follies" where the cast and crew is made up of law students. Lawyers, by their nature, are also competitive. Those two qualities make for good television. Another thing is that bad performance - regardless of whether or not the person is on the winning team - is punished. After all, winning a case in a court of law is often not a result of the arguments but of the merits of the particular situations. It didn't matter that the three legged dog was a "menace to society", the owner fo the dogs that mauled it had stated that he would pay the vet bills and no amount of argument could change that fact. What mattered to Black was the competency of the presentation and in his view a member of the winning team showed less ability than the members of the losing one. If I am going to be inundated with shows that are based on The Apprentice then give me a little something in them that is innovative. That's one reason why I like Hell's Kitchen. Gordon Ramsey might be his show's version of Donald Trump, but he is there with the wanna be chefs on his show every minute, exhorting them to perform, yelling at them and demanding that they do it his way. In short he doesn't just watch the video tapes and depend on his advisor. Even though Roy Black isn't constantly observing his "associates", The Law Firm gives me something similar - real legal cases where the actions of the people on the show have real consequences and where performance is the important thing, not just "winning" your task. For that alone I find it interesting.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

TV On DVD - July 26, 2005, Part 2

Finally got this finished. Was pretty busy this afternoon, and to top it off my mother had to go for X-rays after she tripped and sprained her wrist. Some good stuff in this second half list.

Errol Morris' First Person, The Complete Series
- I haven't seen these (mostly) half-hour documentaries done for the American Bravo Network, but they sound like they could and should be first rate no matter what the people who reviewed this for think. Created by noted documentarian Errol Morris, who did The Thin Blue Line and Fog Of War (the latter won the 2004 Oscar for Best Documentary Feature), he combines stock footage and intense interviews to look at people with interesting stories.

Gilligan's Island: The Complete Third Season
- I'm probably one of the few people who thinks that Gilligan's Island is unfairly maligned. It wasn't brilliant but compared with the shows that the Schwartzes (Sherwood and his sons Lloyd and Elroy) would later create - including The Brady Bunch - I think it's pretty good and a lot of the current shows, for all their post-All In The Family realism, aren't nearly as inventive. The cast has a tremendous chemistry - even Tina Louise who was never happy in her position in the show's pecking order. The third season has a couple of standout episodes. The Producer (directed by Ida Lupino!) featured Phil Silvers as producer Harold Hecuba for whom the castaways put on a musical version of Hamlet - Silver's Gladysya Productions produced Gilligan's Island. In a truly prophetic twist, the episode Take A Dare featured Strother Martin as a player in the "Take A Dare" contest who must spend a week on the island fending for himself in order tow in $10,000. Shades of Survivor which was of course inspired by Gilligan's Island!

The Mary Tyler Moore Show: The Complete Second Season
- There are a lot of ways in which The Mary Tyler Moore Show was ground breaking. I'm not sure but it was possibly the second or third season in which we learned that Mary was not only not a virgin but occasionally spent the night with a man and took "The Pill". That was big at the time, but so was the fact that while Mary dated (and had sex) she wasn't desperate to get a husband and leave her job. That was pretty ground breaking at the time. Although this season doesn't have Betty White or Georgia Engel, it does introduce Rhoda's mother Ida Morgenstern (Nancy Walker), and had Cloris Leachman - fresh off her Oscar win for Best Supporting Actress in Last Picture Show - as Phyllis Lindstrom.

Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer
- I don't think that any actor has actually done the definitive version of Mickey Spillane's private detective Mike Hammer ... including Mickey Spillane who played the role in 1963's The Girl Hunters. This is actually Stacy Keach's 1997 syndicated attempt to revive his version of Mike Hammer which had a rather chaotic history between 1984 and 1987. One gathers that the aging Keach (56 at the time) wasn't able to recapture the tough gritty nature of the old show (and his old self). Maybe the original was just the right show for it's time.

Queer Eye for the Straight Guy 4 Pack
Queer Eye for the Straight Guy: Ted's Food and Wine
Queer Eye for the Straight Guy: Thom's Home
- The box set contains all four of the two disc individual makeover sets including the Thom and Ted discs released at the same time. Given the prices for the box set versus what you'd have to pay for the individual packages, you are better off buying the box set rather than the individual packages, probably even if you've already bought the first two.

Remington Steele: Season 1
- True story: I once impressed a young woman by doing Remington Steele's film buff thing - she recognised the kindred spirit of someone who also loved that show. The fact is that Pierce Brosnan was almost as cool as Mr. Steele as he would later be as James Bond. The show made him a star, much to the irritation of his co-star Stephanie Zimbalist who (not unlike Tina Louise in Gilligan's Island but for more cause) believed that she was supposed to be the star. Steele was originally intended to be mainly comic relief but Brosnan's charisma soon made him the major figure, although Zimbalist's Laura Holt was always essential to the show. The first season had James Read as Laura's investigator (and previous love interest) Murphy Michaels and Janet DeMay as the agency's secretary Bernice Foxe (who Steele always called "Miss Wolfe"). They were replaced by Doris Roberts in the second season.

Rumpole of the Bailey: Set 3
- I'm not really sure what A&E is doing with the Rumpole disks but if I were intending to buy the series this would discourage me. The set of six disks includes the final three years of the Rumpole Of The Bailey series, with each season containing six hour long shows. The problem in my mind is the price - $103.99 Canadian. If I read the website correctly buying the complete series - which will be available August 9 and priced at $136 - will be cost less than sets 1 and 2 (which cover the first four season and priced at $71 each) combined, meaning that Set 3 would effectively be free. Why they didn't issue the individual six episode seasons for a far lower price is beyond me.

Silk Stalkings: The Complete Third Season
- I believe that I've reviewed an earlier release of this show and as I recall I didn't have too much good to say about it. Since I've never seen it though, my opinion isn't worth that much.

Star Trek Enterprise: The Complete Second Season
- Paramount seems intent on pushing the episodes of Star Trek Enterprise (still known simply as Enterprise in the second season) out at a far faster pace than they did with the other Star Trek series. Sadly - under the circumstance - Season Two continued to wallow in the creative miasma of Berman and Braga's leadership. There are a few good episodes but a lot of bad ones.

Wind In The Willows: Comp Second Series
- This is the 1983 Cosgrove Hall version of the stories created by Kenneth Grahame. Done using stop motion animation this series, done for Britain's ITV, features an outstanding set of voice actors including Ian Carmichael, Michael Hordern, and David Jason. Well worth it.

Xena: Warrior Princess - 10th Anniversary Collection
- It's no sin to admit that I liked Xena better than I ever liked Hercules and not just because I enjoyed looking at Lucy Lawless more than I did Kevin Sorbo. She's a better actor than he is - one of her acting teachers was William B, Davis, best known as Cancer Man on The X-Files. This set contains the first and last episodes, plus 14 other fan favourite episodes and one complete disk of extras. Most of the episodes have audio commentaries and many have video commentaries as well. This set contains some of the best episodes with plenty of Joxer The Mighty. Sadly however, Bruce Campbell - who played Autolycus in both Hercules and Xena isn't in the episodes included in the set, although there is a tribute featurette "B Is For Bruce" with the extras on the seventh disk.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

TV On DVD - July 26, 2005, Part 1

A heavy duty week with a couple of real gems of historical interest. In fact the list was so big this week I've had to split it in two.

Apologies for posting this late. I spent a large portion of last night trying to get a piece of software to do what I wanted it to do and I had a couple of other posts I wanted to get done first. By the way, does anyone know of a good free standalone newsgroup reader? I've just started using Thunderbird as my mail program but as a news reader it's even worse than Outlook Express.

3rd Rock From the Sun: The Complete Season 1
- I wasn't a big fan of 3rd Rock from the Sun but I have to admit that it does work as a series. For me it's largely because of John Lithgow who is of course an amazingly versatile actor and does "Dick's" pomposity amazingly well. The rest of the cast is also first rate, particularly Kristen Johnson and French Stewart. Jane Curtin is, as usual a great straight woman.

All Grown Up!: Dude Wheres My Horse?
- I used to look forward to seeing episodes of Rugrats, which was a tremendously funny show with a baby's eye - and minds - view of the world. There were even a couple of theatrical movies. Apparently a Rugrats episode called "All Grown Up" which showed the babies as school kids got some of the highest ratings in the history of the show. Nickelodeon and the producers took the obvious lesson from this - they dumped the babies and created a series around the kids in school. I don't know why; the episodes that I've seen haven't had the charm that Rugrats had for me.

America's Funniest Home Videos, Vol. 1
- Another show I virtually never watched or watch, but if you want to get really technical this is an early entry into the recent spate of reality TV shows but with real rather than artificial reality. These are shows from 2001, which was Tom Bergeron's first year as host, but whether it's Bob Saget or Bergeron, the show and the videos don't really change. It's basically adult does something funnily stupid or kid (or pet) does something funny. It makes me yawn, but apparently I'm in the minority.

At Last the 1948 Show
- One of two sets of "proto-Python", this British series featured John Cleese and Graham Chapman, as well as Eric Idle in a supporting capacity. There were also some non-Python types of note, including the great Marty Feldman and actor-writer Tim Brooke-Taylor who may be best known in North America as one of the writers on The Two Ronnies and as one of the stars of The Goodies. Very little material from At Last the 1948 Show is known to exist - the original private broadcaster destroyed all but three of the 13 episodes and Swedish TV apparently saved another three episodes. A lot of fragments also exist.

Battlestar Galactica Season 1 (Best Buy Exclusive)
- Okay, I think we all know that this version of Battlestar Galactica is one of the best series out there, and of course like most science fiction series it was nominated for Emmys in those hugely important technical categories, but totally ignored in those minor categories like writing, directing and acting. We're all used to that of course. That said, I'm going to tell you to pass on this Best Buy Exclusive. Here's the thing, the Best Buy set is a four disk British version. I presume that they've converted it to R1 and NTSC. However the general release of the show which is available for preorder on Amazon is described as a five disk set. Apparently it will include the three hour version of the miniseries and the fifth disk will be packed with extras.

Benny Hill - The Naughty Early Years Set 3 (1975-1977)
- Benny Hill was the "anti-Python". He was, by many accounts, an acute embarrassment to the "sophisticated" segment of the British audience. When Hill died in 1992 (he was a workaholic who suddenly found himself without work) he was described rather fondly described as a "end of the pier" style comedian - the sort of bawdy comedian that people loved at the seaside during vacations but wouldn't go to see at home for fear that their neighbours might see them. North Americans didn't care, in a lot of ways this stuff was new to us even though Hill was basically a burlesque comedian. This group of shows is actually from just before the period when the program was first made available in North America, and if anything is probably a bit more bawdy than the stuff they showed in the US.

Beulah Land
- A miniseries about the romance of the antebellum and Civil War period South. Never saw it but for me they all seem to blur together. Lesley Ann Warren and Michael Sarrazin star - enough said.

Blue And The Gray (Recut)
- I'm not sure about what the point of this is. There is a DVD version of the Blue and the Gray already out. The obvious difference is the price, which would seem to indicate that any special features that may have been on the original set isn't on this one, and indeed that some of the show has also been excised. Beware.

The Brady Bunch: The Complete Second Season
- When I was a kid, The Brady Bunch was one of those shows that you watched but you really didn't want to admit that you watched. Later, when you saw it in weekly stripped syndication you wondered why you watched. Now that it's on TVLand or some similar service you have a certain nostalgia for it. The second season featured the kids when they were still kids and Florence Henderson still had that frankly rather ugly hairdo, but also before Robert Reed got his curly perm.

Cold Feet: Season 3
- I mentioned this when Season 2 was released, but I'll say it again - I've never seen this and have no Idea what it's about.

Dark Shadows: Collection 19
- As I mentioned when the previous set of these was released I never had a chance to see Dark Shadows but it's probably the only soap opera with the combination of fairly short run, archival material, and fearsomely obsessed fans necessary to get a daily drama released on DVD.

Do Not Adjust Your Set
- The other set of "proto-Python", this show starred Eric Idle (who also appeared on At Last the 1948 Show) Terry Jones and Michael Palin. Also featured in the last four episodes were animated bits by Terry Gilliam. Happily, about 14 of the 28 episodes produced still survive.

Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman: The Complete Season Six
- My mother adored this series, I never watched it and my brother, well my brother had a number of frankly obscene nicknames for the show which he actively despised. Season Six was the last for the series before what was, quite frankly, a rather abrupt cancellation due to a large but aging demographic (not enough 18-40 year old viewers). It was followed by two TV movies with the characters.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

New Poll - Outstanding Actor In A Drama

Same routine. Which of the nominees listed should (not will) win the Emmy for Outstanding Actor In A Drama. Comments welcome - nay encouraged - of course.

Poll Results - Outstanding Actor In A Comedy

Results for the latest poll are in. We had a better sample this time around but I can't tell if it's because we had more real voters or because I took the block against repeat voting off. I think I'll probably restore it though if I can get it to work right.

Here are the results. There's a tie for fourth between Eric McCormack from Will And Grace and Jason Bateman from Arrested Development. I guess the interesting thing here is that there are a lot of people who feel that Will And Grace has outlasted its best before date - but still draws pretty good audiences - while Arrested Development has had poor ratings - to the point where it was under risk of cancellation - but those who watch consider it one of the best comedies on TV. As you'll understand shortly I don't have much of an opinion. In a tie for second place are Tony Shaloub from Monk and Ray Romano for Everybody Loves Raymond. The winner, with four votes is Zach Braff from Scrubs, another series with a small - to the point of near cancellation - but devoted fan base.

I can't give you my opinion on these shows because quite frankly I haven't seen them. I'm not a big fan of comedies. I've seen snippets of everything except Scrubs but the only series I watched a complete episode of recently was Monk. As to who will win, I have to give the nod to Ray Romano. Reasons? It was popular, unlike Will & Grace it went out at the top of its form and unlike Monk it really is a comedy, not a drama with numerous comedic elements. (Of course if Corner Gas was eligible, Brent Butt would kick Romano's ass.)

I'll have the next category up in a few minutes.

Of Frogs And Games And Enemas

Several things have come across the wires - well the Internet really - which while not worth in depth commentary are still interesting. Either that or I'm reaching for something to write during this irritating summer season.

Item: Here's an interesting little comment that I snagged off of the Huffington Post from contributor Adam McKay. What you see here is part of a larger article but this is the important bit, at least for our purposes. (Oh, and by the way, the spelling errors? His.)

"Shows like Fear Factor, Big Brother and The Apprentice seem to me like the emotional equivilent of the Roman Colliseum. We are fascinated by how much emotional and psychological abuse these people will take or heap on each other. Now here's the thing, if I were alive during Roman times I would hopefully decry the barbarism of the Colliseum, but at the same time it would be hard not to buy a ticket to the Six Aegean Slaves Vs a Rhinocerus matinee. Or how could you turn away from the Four Ostriches With Razors on the Talons Vs Two Monkeys and a Cobra. It's the same with these TV shows. Donald Trump is so awful and idiotic to these perspiring wannabe entrepenuers, it's enthralling. I can't wait for the day when one contestant says to Trump `What are you talking about Don? You inherited your seed money.'"

Comment: I had actually intended to write a lengthy commentary on this statement but I could never get it up to my standards so screw it. Bad spelling aside, he has a bit of a point. There is a certain fascination with watching this simply because it's unusual. There is an aspect of a freak show to many reality shows (however I will defend to the death the proposition that The Amazing Race should not, on the whole, be lumped into the catchall of "reality show" but that's an argument for another day). But consider this, no Roman worth his salarium would have questioned let alone decried the gladiatorial games - it was part of his culture - so what does it say about our culture that so many reality shows do well?

Item: Princes of Malibu has been pulled from the Fox lineup after airing only two of its six episodes. Linda Thompson and David Foster - the mother and stepfather of Brandon and Brody Jenner, the "princes" of the title - are getting a divorce after 14 years of marriage. Some people have suggested that the series, which had four more episodes in the can, was cancelled because of the divorce.

The divorce was apparently planned before the series went on the air, so suggesting that the divorce was the reason for the cancellation is a bit farfetched. The really interesting thing, although reportedly purely coincidental, is that while the split was only announced this weekend, Linda Thompson filed for divorce on July 11 - the day after Princes Of Malibu debuted. Since it was being destroyed in the ratings, it is perhaps a vain hope that someone at Fox suffered a bout of good taste which led to the cancellation. No, this is Fox we're talking about.

Item: The WB Network has decided that Michigan J. Frog, long the symbol of the network has (dare I say it - yes I do) croaked. At least as a network mascot. In a statement to the Television Critics Association on Friday Garth Ancier, WB Network chairman stated "In my opinion the frog is dead and buried. The frog was a symbol that was especially, in the extensive testing that we did, that perpetuated the young teen feel of the network, and that is not the image we want to put to our audience."

Comment: "Captain, the Titanic has struck an iceberg. What shall we do?" "Move that deck chair over there and put this one next to it." Even though they've been putting together some shows that are better than UPN, The WB's ratings have been declining and with PAX mostly gone the two are fighting to avoid being the lowest rated commercial network in the United States and the best Ancier can come up with is getting rid fo the network's symbol? I'm even going to suggest that even if the new shows that The WB brings to the table this year are enough to reassert the network's ratings position, dumping Michigan J. is going to be a move that backfires. Remember what happened when NBC dumped the Peacock for that stylized "N". Mark Evanier has a rather nice history of Michigan J. Frog on his blog. As for me, I'm on board with any movement to bring back the "green guy" but as a Canadian I don't really count.

Item: In his speech to the Television Critics Association, NBC Entertainment President Kevin Reilly stated: "Last season for us was kind of like a colonic. It wasn't a lot of fun to go through at the time, but it's going to be healthy in the long run. It literally took any residual sense of entitlement or complacency at our company and blew it out." Later in his statement, speaking specifically about this coming season he said, "Odds are we're not going to see a ratings difference. I'm pretty ... sure you're going to see a new tone coming out of this place.... That sense of entitlement of who we are is gone."

Comment: In truth I think he may have something there. It seems to me that every so often the networks need to get the complacency blown out of them so to speak. Who can forget the Fred Silverman years at NBC. In one season every new show that the network premiered was cancelled, but that period led to a series of golden years that included Hill Street Blues, Cheers, St. Elsewhere and The Cosby Show. CBS had a period not so long ago where their shows were both skewing older than any other network and drawing low ratings as that, and look at them now. Before this past 2004-05 season, ABC was mired in third or fourth place and now they have a diverse embarrassment of riches, from Lost to Desperate Housewives to Grey's Anatomy. Complacency stalls innovation and in a market where networks are not only competing against each other but against cable "networks" programming heads like Reilly and Ancier and the rest need to push beyond their comfort zone, (for better or for worse Reality TV was one such push), and that means doing more than just dumping the network mascot.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Can Dance A Little

I'm not sure that it's entirely fair to review Fox's new American Idol knock off So You Think You Can Dance based on the first episode, or even the first couple of episodes, simply because the first couple of episodes are devoted to the audition process. And unlike the audition process for any of the Idol programs, these dance auditions aren't fun to watch.

The first two hour episode focussed on the audition process in New York City and Chicago (with next week's episode focussing on auditions in Los Angeles). Apparently it was a one or two day process in each city to select 50 contestants who will travel to LA and participate in the main part of the series. The audition process in each city was split into three parts. In the first part hopefuls did a few seconds of their dance routine before the producer or producers (there were three producers at the New York auditions and only one, Nigel Lithgoe, at the audition in Chicago). Following this initial process of separating the large amount of chaff from the wheat, the remaining dancers were given a choreographed dance sequence to perform as a group. For this stage the choreographer was Carrie Ann Inaba (who was seen earlier this summer as one of the judges on Dancing With The Stars). They were also given a sequence in which they had to work with a partner, not a professional but one of the other contestants. At each stage more dancers were weeded out until finally a small number remained for an overall evaluation. Of these a handful were selected to go to LA.

Dance auditions are boring! That's the first thing that I came away from this whole experience with. Most of the people were doing hip-hop, or what they thought was hip-hop, with a lot of break dancing thrown in for good - or not so good - measure. There was one guy who admitted to having a callous on the top of his head from spinning so much on it. He said he'd rather spin than have hair anyway. In New York in particular there were also a larger than expected number of belly dancers - one came bearing a sword which she used as part of her routine, while another sported a rather impressive pair of breast implants - her most expensive dance accessories she called them. One of the male dancers - a young black man - was showing off a different set of assets. He was dressed in an open shirt and possibly the tightest pair of shorts possible; it almost looked as if that part of his body was covered with some form of latex, and this guy was the proud of owner of a pretty big package (I'm sure the PTC is mobilizing even as I write). He had some ballet training but lost nearly all of his credibility when he turned his dance sequence into a rhythmic gymnastics ribbon routine.

It amazed me that some of these people couldn't see just how bad they were. At one point I was reminded of the episode in the last cable season of The Paper Chase where Professor Kingsfield is out in California and walking around the streets. There's a moment where he stand half fascinated and half disbelieving as he watches some young people break dancing. I felt like Kingsfield, half fascinated and half disbelieving as I watched some of these people. I suddenly felt quite old. There were some people who basically refused to accept the decision of the producers. One guy became extremely foulmouthed after he was rejected, and one woman stated that the producer didn't know anything about dance. A Chicago belly dancer who didn't do well in the choreographed segment was mad that they wanted "typical European White People's dancing" although as far as I could tell she was white. That's not to say that there weren't some talented dancers - the woman with the implants turned out to be quite versatile although in the end she wasn't selected for Los Angeles (this is something I'll get to in a moment). People who had some dance training tended to do well. A salsa dancer showed off her skills as did a traditional Irish dancer.

Of course, as I said being a good dancer wasn't necessarily enough. A number of people who were excellent dancers were sent home. Not only did they have to balance male and female performers but on two or three occasions Nigel Lithgoe (who was also one of the producers of American Idol and also of the British Popstars and the Australian Pop Idol) stated that they didn't necessarily want the best dancers. Lithgoe stated openly that they were casting a TV show and as a result wanted people who were attractive, who had heart, or had some quality that would grab and hold the audience. There was one woman who had been a contestant on American Idol who qualified for Los Angeles despite being told that she wasn't dancing as "maturely" as her age. A young male dancer from Maryland was accepted despite - or more likely because - of his weight and inexperience. There were a number of similar cases.

I don't think that So You Think You Can Dance will be anywhere near as successful as American Idol or even Dancing With The Stars. Actually I don't think it will do well at all. It is eminently possible to make a star out of a singer. It happens all the time on Broadway in addition to the music industry. In most cases however dancers are not out in the forefront unless they are also singers or are in special areas like ballet or ballroom dancing. The way one dancer's 1930 era screen test was evaluated probably sums up how dancers are regarded in Hollywood and Broadway: "Can't act, can't sing, balding, can dance a little." If it weren't for the fact that he could sing, and could act, Fred Astaire probably wouldn't have been hired by RKO. If all he could do was dance he wouldn't have been let in the gates of RKO. I don't think that So You Think You Can Dance will be able to make stars out of dancers and I don't know that even with a cast of dancers with good looks and heart and all of the other qualities the producers are looking for can make a success out of this show.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

James Doohan - 1920-2005

James Doohan, probably best remembered for playing the chief engineer of the original starship Enterprise died today at age 85 of complications from Alzheimer's Disease and Pneumonia. He also suffered from Pulmonary Fibrosis, probably related to exposure to chemicals his service during World War II. Reportedly he will be cremated and his ashes will be sent into orbit.

Born in Vancouver, Doohan grew up in Sarnia Ontario. He attended Sarnia Collegiate and Technical School where he excelled in math and science. He joined the army during World War II. As a Captain in the Royal Canadian Artillery he participated in the D-Day landing at Juno Beach. At 11:30 on June 6, 1944 he was wounded by machine gun fire. He took four wounds to the legs, one to his right hand (which shot off his middle finger) and a bullet to the chest. In the sort of event that is usually thought to be a Hollywood cliche, the bullet that hit him in the chest was stopped by his silver cigarette case. After recovering from his wounds he returned to active service this time as a pilot of an artillery observation plane - he was labelled " the craziest pilot in the Canadian Air Forces."

Following the war Doohan became an actor. His first radio appearance was in January 1946, and he soon became a popular performer. He attended Lorne Greene's legendary Academy of Radio Arts, and along with another Academy student named Leslie Nielsen he won a scholarship to the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York where among his fellow students were Tony Randall and Richard Boone. The immediate postwar period is considered the "Golden Age" of Canadian radio drama, and Doohan was in the middle of it. He appeared in over 4,000 radio programs, which meant working with such actors as Greene, Tommy Tweed, and John Drainie, writer Lister Sinclair, and producer Andrew Allan (trust me these were extremely important people in Canadian radio). In fact Doohan was one of the stars of the notorious CBC drama The Investigator (available from Scenario Productions), written by Allan and starring Drainie and Barry Morse. He was also a mainstay in early Canadian TV. In fact he was one of the stars of one of the first Canadian TV series, 1952's Space Command (of which only one episode apparently survives) and was hired to play "Timber Tom" the equivalent of "Buffalo Bob" in the Canadian version of Howdy Doody; Doohan's agent wanted more money for the role and CBC refused to pay it - the role went to another actor. Before the debut of Star Trek he appeared in over 400 TV parts although only a fraction of those are mentioned in his IMDB filmography. One of the most famous was as the former Spitfire pilot who has to land a commercial airliner in Flight Into Danger by Arthur Hailey. This was later remade as the Hollywood movie Zero Hour with Dana Andrews as Ted Stryker and eventually satirized as Airplane! in 1980.

It was of course for Star Trek that Doohan was best known. When auditioning for Gene Roddenberry Doohan did seven accents and which asked which he thought was best suggested that the ship's engineer should be a Scot. The show reunited him with another actor from the CBC, William Shatner. Doohan and Shatner appeared together in at least one episode of Star Command, and when Doohan was fired from the "Timber Tom" role and Peter Mews, who was supposed to take the part, wasn't available for the first week of the show William Shatner as "Ranger Bob". Much of the rest of his life was involved with Star Trek related projects - one way or another. He did some of the earliest fan conventions, and with his talent for accents and radio training provided many of the voices for the Star Trek animated series. He appeared in all of the "original cast" movies including Star Trek: Generations and also did an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Even his character of "Pippin" in Homeboys From Outer Space was a satire on Star Trek and his relationship with the captain, although he did balk at an appearance in a 2002 episode of the animated series Futurama, the only living cast member who refused to do it. One little known thing is that while Doohan is not credited with it he developed the Vulcan and Klingon languages used in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, with the Vulcan words actually being made to fit the lip movements of the scene which had already been shot in English for the Kolinahr scene. Later, linguist Dr. Marc Okrand who was serving as a dialogue coach on the movie developed the rules of syntax and grammar and added more words to the Klingon language.

Doohan's relationship with Shatner was never good. In his autobiography, Beam me up, Scotty: Star Trek's "Scotty"- in his own words Doohan states that "I have to admit, I just don't like the man. And, as has been well-documented elsewhere, he didn't exactly have a knack for generating good feelings about him." This clearly relates to the various memoirs put out by other cast members, but Doohan had known him longer than any of the others. He added "I like Captain Kirk, but I sure don't like Bill. He's so insecure that all he can think about is himself." If the chapter on Shatner in Knowlton Nash's Cue the Elephant: Backstage Tales at the CBC is to be believed there were a lot of people that he worked with in Canada who didn't care for him either.

James Doohan was married three times (although the IMDB only lists two), first to Judy Doohan with whom he had four children, then to Anita Yagel. His third marriage in 1974 to Wende Braunberger who was 37 years his junior, produced three children including his youngest daughter Sarah, who was born in April 2000, when Doohan was 80. He received an honorary degree in Engineering from the Milwaukee School of Engineering, and many of the students at the school - and indeed at other institutions - stated that they had been inspired to go into the field by "Scotty". He received his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in August 2004, shortly after it was revealed that he was suffering from Alzheimers. At the "James Doohan Farewell Star Trek Convention" Neil Armstrong, first man to walk on the moon revealed that he was a Star Trek fan, and a fan of Commander Montgomery Scott.

Fare thee well Mr. Scott.

New Poll - Outstanding Lead Actor In A Comedy

This one is relatively simple. Of the nominees listed, who should win the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy? (Not, I hasten to had who do you believe is going to win.) Comments appreciated.

Poll Results - Outstanding Actress In A Comedy

Poll response up from last week - well it would practically have to be wouldn't it - but still nothing to write home about, unless of course you work at home anyway.

Readers of this blog have expressed their opinion about the five Emmy nominees for Best Actress in A Comedy. Felicity Huffman didn't receive a single vote for her portrayal of the harried Lynette Scavo on Desperate Housewives. Teri Hatcher, as Susan Mayer in Desperate Housewives and Patricia Heaton, as Debra Barone in Everybody Loves Raymond each grabbed one vote apiece. The winners, as expressed by the readers of this blog were Jane Kaczmarek as Lois in Malcolm In The Middle and Marcia Cross as Bree Van De Kamp from Desperate Housewives with two votes each.

I didn't cast a vote this week but if I did it would probably have been for either Teri Hatcher or Marcia Cross. As much as I like Felicity Huffman her role isn't as showy as some of the other nominees. While I basically like Jane Kaczmarek I think her show has slipped and quite frankly she's about the best thing left about the show. I'll write about Patricia Heaton in a moment. Teri Hatcher has a very showy role as Susan Mayer and she's very good at the physical comedy that her role requires. However in the end I think Marcia Cross is the best of the nominees. Cross's Bree is an amazing collection of neuroses who who is determine to ignore all of the cracks that exist in her relationships because they interfere with her notion that her life is perfectable and she's going to make it perfect dammit.

I don't expect any of them to win however. I think the winner will be Patricia Heaton, even though I never cared much for her show. She and Kaczmarek are the only ones who are repeaters in the category and unlike Kaczmarek she was in a series that hadn't slipped in terms of quality. Moreover I think that the fact that three of the five nominees are from Desperate Housewives is going to hurt the actors from that show. Conventional wisdom seems to be that the vote will split between the three. Of course conventional wisdom doesn't seem to operate in the writing and direction categories where shows can have multiple nominations and usually win. However Heaton has the "advantage" that she was on a show that has gone off the air and went off the air on top. All things considered, I think she's the one to beat.

I'll probably set up the Outstanding Actor In A Comedy poll in the morning.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

TV On DVD - July 19, 2005

Moderate length list this time around including a personal favourite of mine. Next week looks like a two parter though.

All Creatures Great and Small: The Complete Series 5 Collection
- All Creatures Great and Small was one of those series which somehow managed to strike a cord with people around the world. Based on the stories of country veterinarian "James Herriot" (real name Alf White - professional ethics kept him from writing under his real name) covering his 40 or so years as veterinarian in the Yorkshire dales, the show doesn't seem to have the qualities that usually make hits. Still it worked. The show's broadcast history is a bit odd, with a period of eight years separating the third and fourth full seasons although in that period there were also two Christmas specials. There were changes in this period, notably the replacement of Carol Drinkwater with Linda Bellingham as James Herriot's wife Helen (oddly Drinkwater and Bellingham were born in 1948 - a month apart in fact - but Bellingham looks older). Also Peter Davison, who played Tristan Farnon, is less prominently featured in the later batch of shows - he was also doing the Campion TV series at the time and in the books the Tristan Farnon character was working for the Ministry of Agriculture. Still, the stories are enjoyable no matter which series they're in.

Andromeda: Season 4
- There are some series that you watch devotedly, some series that you watch an episode or two of, and some series that you start to drift away from after a year or two. In the case of Andromeda it took me three years to not really think it was important enough for me to worry about. As a result I don't know the dynamics of how Tyr Anasazi was replaced by Telemachus Rhade - oh I know that Keith Hamilton Cobb left the series to be on The Young and The Restless but I don't know how they got rid of him on the show. And I'm not really certain that I care all that much. I might catch some of the fourth season if I see it on (in fact I saw the fourth season finale when Space did an Andromeda Canada Day marathon, but it doesn't interest me enough to actively seek it out. How's that for damning with faint praise!

Cleopatra 2525: The Complete Series
- In a misguided attempt to replace Hercules: The Legendary Journeys Studios USA came up with two half hour "dramas" - well one really since Jack Of All Trades featured Bruce Campbell and you really can't call anything he's in a drama - and Cleopatra 2525 was one of them. I don't think I ever managed to make it through a complete episode of this. On the other hand it does have Jennifer Skye, Victoria Pratt and of course Gina Torres so it can't be all terrible, but I wouldn't know, because in fact I didn't make it through a full episode.

Dead Like Me: The Complete Second Season
- One of the things about reviewing TV in Canada and not being willing to pay for the premium movie channels is that I don't get to see shows like Dead Like Me until much later. Showcase will be showing the complete series starting this fall but that's not much help given that the Showtime network in the States decided that two seasons of the series was all that they wanted to make, much to the sorrow of the show's apparently devoted fan base. I managed to see the pilot episode (while I was house sitting for someone who does have the movie networks) and thought it was pretty witty in a bizarre sort of way. If I'd been able to see it regularly I probably would have been one of the devoted fan base.

Def Poetry: Season 3
- Absolutely not a clue from me.

Dora The Explorer: Super Babies
- Okay, don't know much about this except that apparently they are releasing the Dora The Explorer, and there are a lot of adults who don't like the show. As we said when I was a kid, "tough toenails". This show isn't for adults, or even kids who are old enough to say "tough toenails" - deal with it.

Earth 2 - The Complete Series (1994)
- What has always amazed me is not that I liked Earth 2. It had an interesting concept that was almost like the story of the Mayflower - nonconformists escaping an oppressive to find a new world as a home for themselves - mixed with a sort of new age environmentalism and feeling for the being who were already there. The series had a good regular cast and some very good guest appearances including the always enjoyable Tim Curry. No, what amazes me is that this show was cancelled after only one year and the absolute awful Seaquest DSV survived for three. There just ain't no justice.

Michael Palin - Himalaya
- Somehow Michael Palin has gone from being a very talented writer, comedian (Monty Python's Flying Circus), actor (A Fish Called Wanda and the TV mini-series GBH which shows his talent as a dramatic actor - see it if you ever get the chance) and become "Adventure Man". It started with Around The World In 80 Days where he successfully replicated Phineas' Fogg's feat of going around the world in 80 days without resorting to airplanes. This was followed by Pole To Pole, where he goes from the North Pole through Europe and Africa to the South Pole; Full Circle where he goes around the Pacific Rim; Hemingway Adventure where he follows in the tracks of Ernest Hemingway; and Sahara where he travels through Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria and Mauretania. In his most recent travel adventure Himalaya he journeys 2,000 miles through Afghanistan, India and Bhutan meeting a host of people, famous and ordinary. As always, Palin's documentary is itself a fascinating journey.

Wildcats: Season 1
- At one time Jim Lee was one of the hottest comic book creators out there. WildC.A.T.s was Lee's pet project, a series about a superheroes fighting an interplanetary war while based on Earth. Actually there's a lot more too it than that but those are the basic elements that come together in the animated series produced by Nelvana. On TV it was generally mishandled by both Nelvana and originating network CBS. Never even knew it existed, which of course was part of the problem.

Laguna Beach: The Complete First Season
- Never heard of it and unless it's been on some digital service I don't have - a distinct possibility since the show is on MTV in the States and may have been on one of the recently eliminated MTV Canada networks - I don't believe it's been seen in Canada. Obviously an MTV version of The O.C. (a series I've never seen just on general principle) given that the full title of the series is Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County, it is apparently a reality series, although some people have difficulty believing that anyone could be as shallow and spoiled as these kids appear to be.

Lost In Space: Season 3, Volume 2
- I've always wondered if the Robinson family were ever worried about Will always hanging around with Dr. Smith. Well that and whether or not Judy and Major Don West ever got their freak on behind a sand dune somewhere (and if not why not). Of course, with respect to Guy Williams and June Lockhart, and the rest of the cast the best reasons for watching the show were the trio of Bill Mumy as Will Robinson, Jonathon Harris as Dr. Smith and Bob May as the Robot. The third season was the only one in colour and in all honesty I think that doing it in colour hurt the series as did the fact that the Robinsons had almost become more conventional explorers - travelling in most episodes instead of being forced to stay on one planet for a full season. This DVD contains the notorious Great Vegetable Rebellion episode. Reportedly Guy Williams and June Lockhart were written out of two episodes of the show because they couldn't keep a straight face during this episode which featured Stanley Adams as a rebellious carrot.

A Pup Named Scooby-Doo: V1
A Pup Named Scooby-Doo: V2

- Did you ever notice that once the Hanna-Barbera had an idea that worked they'd ride it until they exhausted every possibility. As Exhibit A I give you A Pup Called Scooby Doo. I mean after all, once you had a success with the cowardly dog and his stoner pal Shaggy what could be more natural than to show them and the rest of those "meddling kids" as, well, meddling kids. Of course, just so no one forgets who they're supposed to be, Casey Kasem and Don Messick as Shaggy and Scooby respectively. And I suppose it works for the intended audience. Of course I was never a Scooby Doo fan which does have an effect on how I look at it.

Saved By the Bell: Season 5
- Oddly enough there seems to be some sort of oddity in the numbering here. Most sources including the episode guide for the show only lists four seasons. It doesn't matter to me really - I never watched the show since I was out of the targeted demographic - but it does tend to irritate a bit.

Sliders: The Third Season
- Sliders was another one of those shows that I found couldn't hold my interest after a while. I probably dropped it in the second season and thus missed the departure of John Rhys Davies as Professor Arturo. It's probably a small mercy since Davies and Sabrina Lloyd were the only members of the cast I really liked and by the end of the third season they were both gone. The concept of ravelling to alternate realities with alternate histories is a standard in Science Fiction, but I always thought that the execution in this series was never as good as it could have been.

Monday, July 18, 2005

The Green Hornet Mystery

Over in his Blog, Just Another Blowhard King Blowhard poses the question "Why isn't The Green Hornet on DVD?" Damned good question; wish I had a damned good answer, but I don't, at least not entirely. Maybe Ivan Shreve has more concrete information. What I have is a little data and a lot of guesswork and supposition. Initially I though that the series was being held back pending the release of a theatrical movie which was supposed to go into production this year from Miramax and was written and was to have been directed by Kevin Smith. However Miramax has apparently dropped out of the project. What we're left with is a definite mystery.

The Green Hornet was created in 1936 at WXYZ radio in Detroit by George W. Trendle who also created The Lone Ranger in 1933 and later created Sergeant Preston Of The Yukon (1938). In fact Britt Reid, the crusading newspaper editor who was also The Green Hornet, was in fact the great-nephew of The Lone Ranger (son of the Ranger's nephew Dan Reid). The Green Hornet radio show ran from 1936 to 1952 and spawned two movie serials.

The Lone Ranger was brought to the TV screen in 1949, first by the Apex Film Corporation, and later by Wrather Productions which held the rights to The Lone Ranger for many years and indeed may still retain them. Wrather also owned the rights to Sergeant Preston Of The Yukon, and produced it as a series from 1955 to 1958. Wrather's other major property was Lassie. What Wrather didn't own, either through oversight or simple refusal to believe that it would be of any value as a TV property, was The Green Hornet.

Flash forward to 1966. Producer William Dozier and his production company Greenway Productions had had a very limited success with a western series called The Loner starring Lloyd Bridges and written by Rod Serling. Dozier had wanted to revive The Lone Ranger as a TV series but wasn't able to secure the rights from Wrather Productions. Instead he turned to Batman. Dozier's Greenway Productions was able to get Batman into the ABC lineup starting in January 1966. Greenway was partnered in the project with 20th Century Fox Television. Needless to say, the show was a bona fide hit, although the people at DC Comics were apparently not entirely happy with the campy spin that Dozier - who also did the narration on the series and made one or two on camera appearances - put on the character. None of that prevented Greenway from putting another show with a similar subject into production. For the Fall 1966 season Greenway and 20th Century Fox presented The Green Hornet starring Van Williams as Britt Reid/The Green Hornet, and a young martial artist named Bruce Lee as Reid's Driver/Valet and crime fighting partner Kato.

The Green Hornet didn't fare as well as Batman in the ratings, although in some ways it was a better series than Batman largely because it wasn't nearly as campy as Batman, which may have been the problem. Of course the reason to watch was to see Bruce Lee who even this early had a tremendous screen presence, something which Van Williams was aware of practically from the beginning. He wanted the producers to give Lee more screen time to help save the show. They refused and it died in a single season. Batman as a series lasted about a season after that. As for Greenway productions, they tried to recapture the magic of the Batman series a couple of times. There was a pilot for a Dick Tracy TV series starring Ray MacDonell (now best known as Dr. Joe Martin on All My Children, where his character is married to Lee Merriwether who played the Catwoman in the 1966 Batman movie), a pilot for a Batgirl series, and a rather bizarre four minute pilot for a Wonder Woman series starring Ellie Wood Walker. (Suffice it to say that everyone involved is lucky that this never made it beyond the four minute pilot stage or we'd never have had Lynda Carter.) Nothing clicked and Greenway went out of business. As for Dozier, he mainly restricted himself to minor acting roles. His last screen credit is 1982 and he died in 1991 at age 83

The 1966 Batman isn't available on DVD, although the 1966 theatrical movie is. Apparently there's a rights dispute that is keeping the series from being released. Conventional wisdom say that the battle is between Time-Warner, which owns DC Comics and the "Batman" characters, and 20th Century Fox, which owns the series. In fact this is the explanation that is given at However Wikipedia indicates that "it was later revealed that Warner Bros. isn't involved". However the 1966 Batman is available on DVD; in fact it supplied the only old material in the Return To The Batcave retrospective which aired on CBS in 2003. This, combined with absence of The Green Hornet on DVD would tend to suggest that the rights dispute isn't between Time-Warner and Fox, but between Greenway - or some successor entity perhaps including William Dozier's estate - and Fox. Whatever the case, it seems unlikely to be resolved in the foreseeable future.

Strictly speaking though, some of The Green Hornet is, or rather has been, available on DVD. Following Bruce Lee's death, several episodes of The Green Hornet were edited together to create two feature length movies, one called The Green Hornet (which isn't listed in the IMDB) and the other Fury Of The Dragon. These were meant to capitalize on Lee's presence in the series. These were later released by Brentwood Home Video. They are both out of print however and apparently quite rare. But as far as I can tell that's all there'll be for a long long time.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Thoughts On A Comment

I take comments to and about this blog way too seriously. Take this comment appended to the announcement of my first Emmy Poll from "Manny" who has this blog: " I have a better question - one that is perhaps more relevant: Who will help poor children in Third World countries eat tomorrow? I suppose the Emmys are more important..."

Now here's the thing - Manny is absolutely right. The Emmys are not as important as who will help poor children in the Third World eat tomorrow. Hell they aren't as important as kids in North America getting a basic education, or people in rural parts of the States having to drive for hours to actually see a doctor, or the fact that the infant mortality rate in the United States - which 2005 is 6.5 deaths per 1000 live births - is amongst the highest in the industrialised world but is still less than 3% of the infant mortality rate in a country like Angola. But if you are writing about television in North America you will write about the Emmys (presumably a British TV writer would write a lot more about the BAFTA awards than the Emmys and so on). And if I weren't writing a blog about television I probably wouldn't be writing a blog, or would only be updating one sporadically.

Media is not a zero sum game. A+B does not necessarily equal C of you change the content of B. It's the same as it is with those people who oppose holding the Olympic Games in a city because the money would be better spent on the poor in the city - bread not circuses. The problem is that the money isn't transferable; the money might be there for the "Circus" but that doesn't mean it will be there for the "Bread" if you reject the "Circus". Governments, investors, advertisers and the rest will keep the money in their pockets or spend it on some other project that will make them money or increase their prestige and public image. You can't replace coverage of the Emmys with coverage of starving children in Africa, at least not very easily.

I could write a lot about the importance of the Television industry in North America in economic terms and about how the Emmys have an impact on who earns what, what TV shows you see and who has clout as a celebrity to publicize things like Child hunger or funding for stem cell research, but does it really matter? In the great scheme of things no. However it is what interests me.

Like I said I take comments about this blog way too seriously.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Emmy Nominations Announced - Part 3

This is the second half of the list of what I have decided are the major nominatons. No I didn't include the directors or the writers but a lot of episodes have so many writers that they'd would need a post of their own. A complete list of nominees - 62 pages long - for the 2005 Emmys can be downloaded from the press section of the Emmy website.

Made For Television Movie
  • Lackawanna Blues (HBO)

  • The Life and Death of Peter Sellers (HBO)

  • The Office Special (BBC America)

  • Warm Springs (HBO)

  • The Wool Cap (TNT)
  • Elvis (CBS)

  • Empire Falls (HBO)

  • The 4400 (USA)

  • The Lost Prince - Masterpiece Theatre (PBS)
Lead Actor In A Miniseries Or A Movie
  • Kenneth Branagh (Warm Springs, HBO)

  • Ed Harris (Empire Falls, HBO)

  • William H. Macy (The Wool Cap, TNT)

  • Jonathan Rhys Meyers (Elvis, CBS)

  • Geoffrey Rush (The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, HBO)
Lead Actress In A Miniseries Or A Movie
  • Halle Berry (Their Eyes Were Watching God, ABC)

  • Blythe Danner (Back When We Were Grownups, CBS)

  • S. Epatha Merkerson (Lackawanna Blues, HBO)

  • Cynthia Nixon (Warm Springs, HBO)

  • Debra Winger (Dawn Anna, Lifetime)
Supporting Actor In A Miniseries Or A Movie
  • Brian Dennehy (Our Fathers, Showtime)

  • Philip Seymour Hoffman (Empire Falls, HBO)

  • Randy Quaid (Elvis, CBS)

  • Paul Newman (Empire Falls, HBO)

  • Christopher Plummer (Our Fathers, Showtime)
Supporting Actress In A Miniseries Or A Movie
  • Jane Alexander (Warm Springs, HBO)

  • Kathy Bates (Warm Springs, HBO)

  • Camryn Manheim (Elvis, CBS)

  • Charlize Theron (The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, HBO)

  • Joanne Woodward (Empire Falls, HBO)
Reality/Competition Series
  • The Amazing Race (CBS)

  • American Idol (Fox)

  • The Apprentice (NBC)

  • Project Runway (Bravo)

  • Survivor (CBS)
Reality Program
  • Antiques Roadshow (PBS)

  • Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (ABC)

  • Penn & Teller: Bullshit! (Showtime)

  • Project Greenlight (Bravo)

  • Queer Eye for the Straight Guy (Bravo)
Nonfiction Series
  • Biography (A&E)

  • Broadway: The American Musical (PBS)

  • Cold Case Files (A&E)

  • Dinner For Five (IFC)

  • Inside The Actors Studio (Bravo)
Variety, Music Or Comedy Series
  • Da Ali G Show (HBO)

  • The Daily Show With Jon Stewart (Comedy Central)

  • Late Night With Conan OBrien (NBC)

  • Late Show With David Letterman (CBS)

  • Real Time With Bill Maher (HBO)
Variety, Music Or Comedy Special
  • 77th Annual Academy Awards (ABC)

  • Dave Chappelle: For What Its Worth (Showtime)

  • Everybody Loves Raymond The Last Laugh (CBS)

  • The Games of the XXVII Olympiad - Opening Ceremony

Thursday, July 14, 2005

New Poll - Outstanding Lead Actress In A Comedy

This one is relatively simple. Of the nominees listed, who should win the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy? (Not, I hasten to had who do you believe is going to win.) Comments appreciated. Also note that the Emmy Polls will be sixdays rather than seven.

Emmy Nominations Announced - Part 2

Sorry, had to split the list of major (my interpretation) nominees. Second part tomorrow.

Comedy Series
  • Arrested Development (Fox)

  • Desperate Housewives (ABC)

  • Everybody Loves Raymond (CBS)

  • Scrubs (NBC)

  • Will & Grace (NBC)

Lead Actor In A Comedy Series
  • Jason Bateman (Arrested Development, Fox)

  • Zach Braff(Scrubs, NBC)

  • Eric McCormack (Will & Grace, NBC)

  • Ray Romano (Everybody Loves Raymond, CBS)

  • Tony Shalhoub (Monk, USA)

Lead Actress In A Comedy Series
  • Marcia Cross (Desperate Housewives, ABC)

  • Teri Hatcher(Desperate Housewives, ABC)

  • Patricia Heaton (Everybody Loves Raymond, CBS)

  • Felicity Huffman (Desperate Housewives, ABC)

  • Jane Kaczmarek (Malcolm in the Middle, Fox)

Supporting Actor In A Comedy Series
  • Peter Boyle (Everybody Loves Raymond, CBS)

  • Brad Garrett (Everybody Loves Raymond, CBS)

  • Sean Hayes (Will & Grace, NBC)

  • Jeremy Piven (Entourage, HBO)

  • Jeffrey Tambor (Arrested Development, Fox)

Supporting Actress In A Comedy Series
  • Conchata Ferrell (Two and a Half Men, CBS)

  • Megan Mullally (Will & Grace, NBC)

  • Doris Roberts (Everybody Loves Raymond, CBS)

  • Holland Taylor (Two and a Half Men, CBS)

  • Jessica Walter (Arrested Development, Fox)

Drama Series
  • Deadwood (HBO)

  • Lost (ABC)

  • 24 (Fox)

  • Six Feet Under (HBO)

  • The West Wing (NBC)

Lead Actor In A Drama Series
  • Hank Azaria (Huff, Showtime)

  • Hugh Laurie (House, Fox)

  • Ian McShane (Deadwood, HBO)

  • James Spader (Boston Legal, ABC)

  • Kiefer Sutherland (24, Fox)

Lead Actress In A Drama Series
  • PatriciaArquette (Medium, NBC)

  • Glenn Close (The Shield, FX)

  • Frances Conroy (Six Feet Under, HBO)

  • Jennifer Garner (Alias, ABC)

  • Mariska Hargitay (Law & Order: SVU, NBC)

Supporting Actor In A Drama Series
  • Alan Alda(The West Wing, NBC)

  • Naveen Andrews (Lost, ABC)

  • Terry OQuinn(Lost, ABC)

  • Oliver Platt (Huff, Showtime)

  • William Shatner (Boston Legal, ABC)

Supporting Actress In A Drama Series
  • Stockard Channing (The West Wing, NBC)

  • Tyne Daly (Judging Amy, CBS)

  • Blythe Danner (Huff, Showtime)

  • Sandra Oh (Greys Anatomy, ABC)

  • CCH Pounder (The Shield, FX)

Emmy Nominations Announced - Part 1

The nominees for the 2005 Emmy Awards were released today in Hollywood. Here are a few facts and figures and comments from me, a later post will include the list of nominees in the outstanding program and acting categories (that will be a long one).

HBO led the field with 93 nominations, followed by CBS (59), NBC (54), ABC (51), Fox (49), PBS (23), Showtime (17), A&E (10). UPN earned 3 nominations, all for Star Trek: Enterprise all in technical categories (Makeup - Prosthetic, Hairstyling, and Stunt Co-ordination) while The WB won two nominations, one for Reba (Cinematography for a Multi-Camera Series) and one for Smallville (Sound Editing).

HBO's main strength was in the categories of Made For TV Movies, and Miniseries. Warm Springs and The Life And Death Of Peter Sellers each earned 16 nominations and Empire Falls picked up 10. HBO series also did well, with Deadwood earning 11 nominations and the now cancelled Carnivale getting 8. Among broadcast network series, Desperate Housewives and Will & Grace each earned 15 nominations, followed by Everybody Loves Raymond with 13, Lost with 12, and Arrested Development and 24 with 12 each.

A few things worthy of note: Arrested Development earned three of the five nominations for Writing in a Comedy series, with the finale of Everybody Loves Raymond and the pilot of Desperate Housewives also in the running. Either this indicates how poorly most of comedies on Television are written or it shows that all the best writers are working on Arrested Development. Sadly I think it's more the former than the latter. Three of the lead actresses in Desperate Housewives were nominated for Lead Actress in Comedy, leaving out Eva Longoria and Nicolette Sheridan. Sandra Oh won a nomination for Supporting Actress in a Drama for Grey's Anatomy (which earned nominations in Directing and Casting as well). Given that the series was originally intended to be on the air for just a few weeks, this is certainly vindication for ABC's decision to replace Boston Legal in that Sunday evening slot. Of course the people at Boston Legal have nothing to complain about given that the series earned nominations for James Spader as Leading Actor and William Shatner for Supporting Actor in a Drama (for the part of Denny Crane for which he won his first Emmy last year in the Guest Actor category). And while it might be the ratings winner for the past several years, CSI has only five Emmy nominations - four in technical categories (Outstanding Makeup - Non Prosthetic, Outstanding Single Camera Sound Mixing, and two in Outstanding Sound Editing) and one Director of a Drama for Quentin Tarentino who directed the season finale.

The Emmys air September 18 on CBS. I'll have further comments on the Emmys around that time.

Why Was This On TV?

I didn't watch all of the two hour premiere of ABC's new series Brat Camp. I was suffering from a sever headache and an hour of the show was probably an hour more than I could handle but that's how far I got with it. I channel surfed around and eventually found Larry King talking with several members of the cast of Dancing With The Stars.

There's a tremendous amount of irony in the fact that Brat Camp will be replacing Dancing With The Stars. Aside from the fact that both shows are based on British originals, the two shows are diametrically opposed to each other. No matter what else you might say about the show you have to admit that Dancing With The Stars was light and fluffy and meant to be entertaining. The same can't be said for Brat Camp - it is heavy and deadly serious. I suppose on should ask whether we're supposed to be entertained by this because the notion that we are supposed to be entertained by it is in a very real way disturbing.

The series takes nine teenagers who are described as "out of control" by their parents and ships them off to the Sagewalk Wilderness School in the wilds of Oregon for a minimum 40 day program to teach them self discipline and to break them of their bad behaviour. Out of control has a variety of meanings, ranging for one kid who refuses to take his ADHD medication and so swears and yells and is destructive, through the usual run of drug addiction, stealing and sexual abandon to one kid who has a severe anger management problem to the point where his mother fears that he'll hit her. It's not hard to see that these are seriously messed up kids. The Sagewalk School is more like a combination boot camp and "Outward Bound" type experience. The personnel at the camp all go by a pseudo Native American "earth name", like Glacier Mountain Wolf (the Field Operations Manager) and Stalking Cougar (Head Field Instructor). The field instructors actually deal with the kids, imposing a sever discipline. Rule infractions are dealt with by penalties that suit the infraction. Swearing for example earns the transgressor the punishment of having to pick up a rock and carry it in their pocket for the day. Each such word earns them another rock. If a person throws up their breakfast (unsweetened oats) or other meal they have to dig a hole to vomit into. There are long hikes with 40 pound packs and similar activities. The field instructors are supplemented by clinical psychologists who visit twice a week for one on one meetings with the kids to evaluate their progress.

Here's the reason why I don't like Brat Camp and even hope that it fails badly. I don't feel comfortable watching it. Part of the problem is that it doesn't entertain me and while I hope to hell that it wasn't intended to entertain me in the way that Dancing With The Stars was, what I want from a TV show that isn't a news program is entertainment. Even some of the afternoon shows, particularly the "court shows" like Judge Joe Brown and the rest have an entertainment component, if only for the fact that we can marvel that these idiots are in these situations in the first place. This lack of an entertainment component is one reason why I don't watch shows like Dr. Phil. Even worse, in the case of Brat Camp I feel intensely uncomfortable watching it. The show makes me feel like a voyeur. These kids are having their instability revealed to us, and even if it is with their permission - and since they don't want to be there and they are minors I can't imagine they gave their permission at lest not when filming was in progress - I have to ask why it should be offered to me as what amounts to entertainment.

The big question is this. As we all know by now ABC decided not to air their reality series Welcome To The Neighborhood because of protests from groups as diverse as the Family Research Council (who expected the show to attack Evangelical Christians), GLAAD (who were were worried about how a gay couple on the show would be portrayed), the National Fair Housing Alliance (who felt the show violated the Fair House laws), and Hispanic groups (who were worried about the way a Hispanic family was shown). I'm sure there were others. The point is that there were groups which objected to that show because they felt that it didn't portray people properly. Why should their rights be defended successfully but the rights to privacy of these juveniles are not being defended? Is it because their parents signed away those rights to get them into (and onto) the program? I can imagine that when these young people get back to the "real" world they will become notorious now that this show is on the air. And if the network feels comfortable airing this show - which apparently they do - why did they back down on the protests about Welcome To The Neighborhood? Maybe that particular squeaky wheel just wasn't squeaky enough to get the grease. As for me, I'd much rather watch anything instead of this - even The Cut.