Wednesday, January 31, 2007

It's National Gorilla Suit Day!

Sorry I'm late in posting this but I spent a little too much time celebrating Gorilla Suit Eve - you know how it is.

It's been a relatively quiet Gorilla Suit Day around here. The weather prevents the traditional throwing of banana peels. They tend to freeze and by the time they thaw out it is, well rather disgusting. Another problem around here because of the weather is that you can't always tell when people are wearing their Gorilla Suits until they get to a party. There is nothing more pathetic than wearing a Gorilla Suit under a parka. I am going to a party tonight - we even have Fester Bestertester pinata.

Anyway, while surfing the web for an appropriate picture to put here, I found the mother lode at this site and its attendant gallery page. But I still haven't found a picture of the infamous Wayne Shuster Gorilla Suit.

And now the traditional National Gorilla Suit Day music, courtesy of the Nairobi Trio.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Why Microsoft Released Vista Today

Because Bill Gates knew that if he released it on National Gorilla Suit Day no one would pay attention.

(Including him!)

Monday, January 29, 2007

For Sam And Ivan

Since two of my favourite blogging buddies, Sam Johnson and Ivan Shreve are both from Savannah Georgia, I immediately thought of them when I came upon this bit of YouTubery the TVSquad site. Admittedly the the local anchorman treats the subject like a caveman introducing a new invention called "the wheel" and at the end seems astonished that there are so many people who would come to such an event, but remember how local news all over the place covered Star Trek conventions and Comics Conventions in the past. Actually, come to think of it they still cover them the same way. Local news anchors - names and faces may change from place to place but never the qualities that keeps them in local markets.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Not Quite Short Takes

Normally on Saturday or Sunday I have been running a series of posts that I call "Short Takes" where I discuss bits of TV business. I've missed a few posts since Christmas and really I don't have my usual resources to do one today. However, I can't possibly let the opportunity provided by the influx of Kidnapped fandom pass without a mention of my nemesis, the Parents Television Council and some of their recent antics.

Who does the PTC like this week?: They actually do like some TV shows, but unfortunately they tend to be the most innocuous sort of show possible. Quality is not an issue. Take for example this week's "Best Show Of The Week" - none other than Grease: You're The One That I Want! According to the PTC the show is "clean, fun entertainment for the whole family." That's not what I called it. Among other things I wrote "I just can't see this having anything but abysmal ratings and as far as I'm concerned that's no less than it deserves." The PTC does not have similar fears. They say "While it may not become the juggernaut that is American Idol, it appeals to audiences of all ages and celebrates some of the best of American culture." I fear for American culture of Grease is the best of it just as I fear for anyone who ignores the lack of quality represented by Grease: You're The One That I Want! in the name of supposedly family friendly programming.

Who does the PTC hate this week?: As usual they hate Las Vegas, which is a fun guilty pleasure show of mine. This time it was the fact that the show supposedly "featured" a sex toy called the "Frisky Ferret" - presumably a vibrator, since I don't recall it ever actually being shown just mentioned - and because the episode in question featured naked older women. According to the PTC "The women are shown on several occasions topless, barely covering themselves with magazines or fruit." This is of course a common practice in movies and TV shows to imply nudity without showing nudity. But of course to the PTC implying nudity or any sort of sexuality (or indeed, as in the case of Studio 60, the possibility that people might possibly have sex even if there's no indication that the show is going in that direction) is evil evil evil.

But of course that's not all the PTC currently has a hate on for. There's the Fox Network. It seems that during the Philadelphia-New Orleans football game a couple of weeks ago a Fox Sports camera man lingered on a young woman wearing a shirt that said "F*ck da Eagles" with the * being exactly the letter U thought it was. By lingered I mean spent all of three seconds on her (based on a YouTube clip of the incident) of which the offensive word was visible for a total of about one second. Most of the rest of the three second shot she was jumping up and down. To the PTC this translated into "The shot stayed focused on the woman and her shirt for several seconds. There can be no doubt that this was an intentional airing of patently offensive language on the public airwaves." For their part Fox apologized for the incident, which it described as unintentional and inadvertent. The apology was publicized three days after the game aired. This wasn't good enough for the PTC who in a later press release claimed that the Fox apology was hypocritical: "How can families take the Fox apology seriously when (1) they are suing in Federal Court demanding the ‘right’ to air the F-word when children are in the audience, (2) they could have taken simple steps to ensure such material does not air but they refuse to do so.” This is in reference to an appeal by Fox against an FCC fine being heard before the Second Circuit Court in New York. In the case in question Fox was fined after Bono used the same word the woman had on her shirt during a live awards ceremony. It seems to me that the PTC wants everything their way - they get the right to decide what is and isn't acceptable on the "public" airwaves through the medium of computer generated protest letters, but anyone else - in particular the TV networks and the industry as a whole - attempting to avail themselves of their constitutional right of appeal is evil, and that anything being said by them should be dismissed as hypocrisy.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Charles Lane Is 102 Years Young

There are certain traditions that I like to observe in this blog and I nearly forgot one this year, in part because for the last time I am dog sitting for my brother at his place. But really, how could I forget to remember Charles Lane's birthday. The man, who by some accounts is America's (or at least Hollywood's) oldest living actor) is 102 years young today. Why Ernest Borgnine, who turned 90 this week, is a mere infant by comparison. So is Paul Newman (82) who shares his birthday.

While Charles Lane is old enough to have been in silent movies, his first screen credit actually dates to 1933 in something called Blondie Johnson, although he had uncredited work for a couple of years before that.
Charles Lane's film career is probably best known for his collaboration with Frank Capra. Lane appeared in nine Capra films: Broadway Bill (1934), Mr. Deeds Goes To Town (1936), You Can't Take It With You (1938), Mr. Smith Goes To Washington (1939), Arsenic & Old Lace (1944), It's A Wonderful Life (1946), Riding High (1950), and Here Comes The Groom (1951). What's probably less well known is just how far back his relationship with Lucille Ball went back. They first movie they are both credited with appearing was a 1933 Wallace Beery-George Raft film called The Bowery - neither was credited and they probably never met during the filming. They appeared in six other films together before working in television on I Love Lucy and The Lucy Show.

Aftre 1953 the vast majority of Charles Lane's roles were in television where he usually played a crusty curmudgeon, or just a mean old man at odds with the lead players. Nowhere is this more true than in what is arguably his most famous TV role, Petticoat Junction's Homer Bedloe - a man who would make Mr. Potter in It's A Wonderful Life seem like an old softie - the cost cutting railway man who made it his personal mission to eliminate the Hooteville Cannonball and the Shady Rest Hotel from the face of the earth despite orders from his boss Norman Curtis. Of course he was always bested by Kate Bradley (or Aunt Helen or Dr. Janet Craig), but like Wile E. Coyote you always knew he'd be back with another devious scheme. Although at one point Homer got frustrated and went to work for Milburn Drysdale at the Commerce Bank of Beverly Hills where he ran into Jed Clampett. (In the photo above he's seen with the Bea Benaderet, Linda Kaye Henning, and what looks to be the original Billie Jo and Bobbie Jo, Jeannine Riley and Pat Woodell.)

Charles Lane is one of the few remaining survivors of the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906, one of thefounding members of the founding members of the Screen Actors Guild, and one of the founders of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. Happy Birthday, Mr. Lane!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Because It's The Right Thing To Do

We interrupt the current stream of nothing much to remind you of the bestest holiday of all.

Because you know it's what naked Lucy would do.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Poll Update - I Screwed Up

If you voted in the current poll before 1 a.m. on Tuesday January 23, please vote again based on the question that is posted.

Apparently I forgot to change the poll question, thereby causing some possible confusion among readers as to what I wanted. In fact there was a question about that in the comments -Savannah expressed some confusion and I'm sure others did as well - so what I've done is reset the stats back to zero and done a couple of other things that will hopeful allow people who have voted to cast votes again. This should allow one vote per person for the entire week, I hope. One of the reasons why I'm looking for a different polling service is that the one I'm using makes some things I want to do difficult to carry out.

In the post that announced the poll I said there was something fishy about the results of the "which show should have been cancelled" poll that seemed a little fishy. In a nut shell here it is, and I hope no one takes offense. No poll that I have run in this blog has ever attracted more than maybe 25 voters - most attracted far fewer - and this one attracted 47 or 48. While the difference may be perfectly innocent, there was enough of a seed of doubt planted that I decided to err on the side of caution. I hope this explanation is acceptable - I certainly meant no offense to anyone.

Monday, January 22, 2007

New Poll - Which of these series is the best new show so far this season?

I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to set this poll up the way I wanted it but also in a way that would satisfy some of the people who are reading the blog. My original intention was to list just the shows that managed to make it to the beginning fo January without being cancelled. But of course there were some shows that the public didn't warm to that were superior to some of the shows that made it this far. And yet I didn't want to add all of the cancelled shows. So what I've decided is to add the two shows that I missed in the "shows that should have been cancelled" poll, plus the top vote getter in the "shows that shouldn't have been cancelled" poll, plus a certain show which had people demanding a revote, and drop 1 vs. 100. Also, because of some of the things that happened in the previous poll I will be activating "cookie checking" function which will prevent multiple votes from a single user. It's not that I don't trust the people who voted but given the history of previous polls here this result seemed somewhat fishy. And then I think I might go looking for a different polling service.

Please feel free to comment on this poll.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

A Review Of Poll Comments

I knew 'Big Day' was basically going to be allowed to wrap things up, although probably sooner than they expected. And among most of the shows that I don't watch on that list, I had nothing really against them to merit giving them the thumb's down.

But there were two,for the most part equally balanced - '
Til Death' and '1 vs 100'.

However, I'll always go with a scripted show (no matter how bad) over a game show. So the Saget show goes.
- Tele-Toby
I understand the sentiment, although I have reservations because it strikes at one of my favourite of any type (you know it - The Amazing Race) which when it comes down to it is a game show.

Well....I have seen at least one or two episodes of most of these shows....except for basically anything on ABC at this point.

Wow ABC is terrible.....I have minutes worth of most of their recent shows if that.....They got really lucky with Lost because the rest of their programming is trash....and NBC seems to be following.

Fox and CBS are really starting to take over with prime time shows I'd say.

So anyway....I went with
30 Rock. The only real bright spot to that show is that Alec Baldwin(though I can not stand the man himself) is truly AMAZING. He has gotten better and better over the years as a comedic actor and he is just hysterical in everything he has been a part of recently. Why Tracy Morgan is still on TV at all is beyond me.....He should only appear on such shows as the Surreal Life or Armed and Famous because he is just completely unintelligent and unfunny. The fact that NBC axes a show like Kidnapped and yet 30 Rock is still on T.V. is pretty sad. - William
I'll probably disagree with you to a degree on NBC. Several of there shows are among my favourites, while I think that FOX made an absolute hash of their new line up, a problem which was compounded by the need to accommodate the Baseball playoffs. From the episodes I've seen of 30 Rock I can't say that I'm a huge Tracy Morgan fan but my problem its the actor or the way the character is written.

Thanks for putting this up and sorry that I missed your last poll (I would have totally voted for Kidnapped)! Wow, most of the shows on here deserve to be cancelled, I just don't see many that are really that worthy of television (especially since Kidnapped was cancelled) I voted for Heroes because it is being told that it is the best new show and everything like that, and I watch Heroes, but it lost all of the respect that I had towards it when NBC just started caring about that show instead of all their other shows (especially Kidnapped) I had to vote for Heroes!! - KMcMurray
Hazard of the business I'm afraid. Kidnapped wasn't cancelled due to a lack of quality but rather a lack of viewers. I put the blame for this squarely on NBC's programming chief Kevin Reilly for making a massive shift in the schedule in late May after ABC announced their schedule. I am convinced that if Kidnapped had debuted on Tuesday night opposite Boston Legal and Smith it would still be around, or at least would have been allowed to show 13 episodes.

I vote Heroes to go down! I watch the first 3-episodes and forced myself to sit through them; for me, so childish!
Now give me
Kidnapped as a rerun or as a revived second series, then you've got me hooked all over again! Kidnapped Rocks!!!
It's not going to happen. The best that anyone can hope for is that NBC and the production company will release the show as it exists on DVD. Considering some of the lesser material that gets released these days it is not beyond the realm of possibility.

Poll Results - What new series that is currently running should have been cancelled already?


I really wasn't expecting this. In no way shape or form was I expecting this. Not the turn out - which is the highest any poll that I've run on this blog has generated - nor the result, which I frankly find shocking. I think the turn out, and maybe the result were more than a little bit influenced by the sudden influx of Kidnapped fans who showed up last week demanding a revote. The problem with this sort of poll is that it's entirely unscientific. The people who - for whatever reason - find it and are motivated are the ones who set the result. It was also somewhat flawed because I accidentally omitted two series The Class on CBS and The Game on The CW.

Anyway, down to the results. There were 47 votes cast. In a tie for eleventh place with no votes were Big Day, Jericho and Brothers and Sisters. In a tie for seventh place, with one vote (2%) each were Men In Trees, Shark, Ugly Betty, and Standoff. Alone in sixth place with three votes (6%) is 'Til Death. Tied for fourth place with four votes each are 30 Rock, and Friday Night Lights. In third place with five votes (10%) is Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip. In second place with six votes (12%) is 1 vs. 100. But the big vote getter, with an amazing twenty-one votes (44%) is NBC's Heroes.

I'll have a post in which I try to glean some wisdom from this result posted soon, probably in the morning but right now I'm going to take some time to spout off a bit. In my opinion - and it is only my opinion - there is no way that Heroes should have been cancelled before many of the other shows on this list. If I had cast a vote I would probably have either voted for 'Til Death or Standoff. 'Til Death struck me from the first as a show with a pair of good leads in Joely Fisher and Brad Garrett that wasted them on a poor premise. As for Standoff, it struck me that in a season which produced some outstanding series television - some of it cancelled - this was a show that wallows in and indeed celebrates mediocrity. Although I like 1 vs. 100 personally (when the Detroit NBC station lets me see it instead of Detroit Pistons basketball) I can understand the antagonism towards it as a game show - if you don't like game shows in prime time this was the only option to vote for. As for Studio 60, it seems to be a very polarizing show. People either love it or they loathe it. Count me among the "love it" group and look forward to seeing it on Sunday night (here in Canada), but as I said, I can understand the opposing viewpoint.

Ah but in my wildest dreams I did not expect Heroes to be listed as the show that a plurality in the poll would think should have been cancelled already. I respect the opinion but I don't agree with it. I've only recently managed to catch up on viewing the episodes and I don't understand the animosity. In my opinion it isn't the best new show on TV no matter what the ratings say, but I enjoy the premise and I really like several of the characters, in particular Hiro Nakamura. As I think I've pointed out here there are several shows that debuted this season that are worse than Heroes and I suspect that there will be several shows that debut between now and the end of may that will be worse. Oh and by the way, NBC announced at the TV Critics Association press tour that Heroes has not only been renewed for the 2007-08 season, it has been given a full season order, along with My Name Is Earl, The Office, and Law Order: SVU. It ani't going anywhere.

New poll up sometime in the next 48 hours. I have some things to do and while I know the topic I'm not entirely sure what I'm going to include.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Amazing Race All-Stars - The Teams

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you'll know that I like some "reality-competition" shows, like Survivor and Big Brother but I am absolutely in love with only one: The Amazing Race. How much do I love The Amazing Race? Well not only did I buy both DVD box sets that they have released so far, I also bought a book about the show called My Ox Is Broken by Adam-Troy Castro. In the book Castro writes about his loathing of reality shows in general: "I loathe the concocted situations, vapid contestants, and sniggering sexuality of the many series that hinge on speed dating, cruel pranks, staged conflicts, and the ubiquitous hunger for fifteen minutes of fame." But The Amazing Race "makes me a panting, unreserved fanboy." For one thing he loves the set. For another, he says: "It boasts the virtues that so many of its reality-show competitors lack: humanity, a broad canvas relevant to the world we live in, a premise that celebrates human diversity, and a structure that measures the character of its contestants in ways that go beyond willingness to embarass themselves for fame and glory. It helps, too, that its contestants have shown as much warmth, humor, and nobility as the far more typical fame-whore brattiness."

Late last year CBS and the producers of
The Amazing Race announced that the eleventh season of the show would be an All-Star edition with teams who had competed in earlier editions of the show. As seems to be the case in reality shows, being an "all-star" in The Amazing Race doesn't necessarily mean that you were the winner or in the top two or three in a given season. It was more a case of who was popular - or was perceived as popular by CBS and the producers - with the fans, and of course who was available and willing to do the show. The following is the breakdown of teams based on finishes in their seasons:
  • First place - 1 team
  • Second place - 2 1/2 teams
  • Third place - 1 team
  • Fourth place - 3 team
  • Fifth place - 1 team
  • Sixth place - 2 team
  • Seventh place - 1/2 team
There are teams from every season except seasons 4, 6, and 8 (the Family Edition which had four member teams). Here are the teams selected (links are to pre-race interviews on CBS's InnerTube site. There's some interesting stuff in the interviews): Kevin O'Connor & Drew Feinberg - Season 1, fourth place: "Swing you fat bastard." That was the line that had me cheering for these guys from the moment it was uttered. Sure they fought among themselves and fought with at least one other team but the Original Frat Brothers were fun and enjoyed themselves while they were doing the race.
View Meet Kevin & Drew on innertube now

Bill Bartek & Joe Baldassare
- Season 1, third place: The came up with their own name - Team Guido after their dog - although the other teams called them Bert & Ernie. They were a tough team, at times downright underhanded and they came to be regarded as the "heels" of their season after the tried to tie up some of the other teams in a line-up for a plane. The first gay couple on the series (with a relationship that has lasted longer than a lot of heterosexual marriages) but most assuredly not the last.
View Meet Joe & Bill on innertube now

Danny Jimenez & Oswald Mendez - Season 2, fourth place: Gay friends (but not a couple) who I guess live up to a lot of the stereotypes. They quickly became known as Team Cha Cha Cha, and they were absolutely fabulous. In a famous moment in Hong Kong they literally stopped racing to go shopping. Not only that, but they finished that leg in first place, largely because while they were shopping a high end travel agent was arranging their fight to the next destination - a flight that the other teams who were making their own arrangements knew nothing about.
View Meet Oswald & Danny on innertube now

John Vito Pietanza & Jill Aquilino - Season 3, fifth place: The team with the story. Jill had originally applied to be on the show with her brother F.T. who was John Vito's best friend. F.T. died in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. John Vito Jill became romantically involved after his death, although they are no longer together. Nothing particularly memorable about them besides that.
View Meet John & Jill on innertube now

Teri Pollack & Ian Pollack - Season 3, second place: I quickly became a fan of theirs after an incident in Spain where Teri accidentally put gasoline in their diesel powered vehicle. Several other teams did the same thing but only Ian reacted in a no nonsense way - he syphoned out the gas while Teri went to get diesel. Some hated him for being environmentally insensitive, in addition to constantly bossing his wife around, but to me this showed more than a little resourcefulness. The oldest team ever to finish second.
View Meet Teri & Ian on innertube now

Charla Faddoul & Mirna Hindoyan - Season 5, sixth place: Liked Charla, not entirely crazy about Mirna. Charla wasn't about to let dwarfism stop her from doing most of the tasks placed before her although she also wasn't above using her size to get people to do things for her. Mirna, on the other hand seemed to be a lightning rod when it came to antagonizing other racers. Famously, she tried to get a ticket agent for an airline not to sell tickets on a flight to some of the other racers by telling him, in Arabic, that they were "bad people" and violent.
View Meet Charla & Mirna on innertube now

Rob Mariano & Amber Brkich - Season 7, second place: Romber. One of the greatest teams in Amazing Race history. Sure they were gimmick casting but they brought a whole new tactical outlook to game. They weren't above bribing a bus driver using other people's money, persuading other teams not to do a roadblock or (and this is the only one I fault them on) driving past a car crash. Interesting to note that they no longer list themselves by their former occupations. Rather they describe themselves as "TV personalities."
View Meet Rob & Amber on innertube now

Uchenna Agu & Joyce Agu - Season 7, Winners!: The only All-Star team to have actually won a season of The Race. Their battle with the Romber juggernaut was one of the great confrontations in the history of the show although it never became personal as it did with some of the teams in their season. The Force was strong in this couple (okay, so Joyce actually appeared in a several episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, usually in a non-speaking role). They won based on persuading a pilot to reopen the doors of his plane for them, but the real decisive moment came in India during a Fast Forward where Joyce allowed her head to be shaved.
View Meet Uchenna & Joyce on innertube now

Eric Sanchez & Danielle Turner - Season 9, special case: Eric competed in The Race with his best friend Jeremy and finished second behind B.J. Tyler, while Danielle competed with her best friend Dani and finished seventh. But now they're a couple (what is she thinking?!). As such, while they've competed in The Race they haven't competed as a team before. They're the 1/2s on my list.
View Meet Eric & Danielle on innertube now

David Conley & Mary Conley - Season 10, sixth place: I loved the way that they - and in particularly Mary, who had never even been on a plane before The Race - embraced the whole experience of meeting new people and seeing the world. They were public favourites, not to mention Rosie O'Donnell's favourites. That said I don't think that they should be on The Amazing Race: All-Stars. Of course I don't think any Season 10 teams should be on the show with the possible exception of the winners of the season, Tyler & James - it's too soon.
View Meet David & Mary on innertube now

Dustin Seltzer & Kandice Pelletier - Season 10, fourth place: Maybe the strongest all woman team despite the fact that Lyn Karlyn were the first female team to make it to the final episode. They were tough and could compete with the best of them, but were also sneaky and conniving, and managed to alienate most of the other people in The Race by the end. But what I said about David Mary holds true for Dustin Kandice - it's too soon.
View Meet Dustin & Kandice on innertube now

The Amazing Race: All Stars debuts February 18.

Monday, January 15, 2007

I Know I Make Typos -

But I hope that none are as egregious as this one in the dead trees version of the local rag, the Saskatoon StarPhoenix. In a story about the New Orleans Saints defeat of the Philadelphia Eagles, the copy was supposed to read (as nearly as I can figure) "With victory secured for the Saints (11-6) on McAllister's powerful kick, team owner Tom Benson did his 'Benson Boogie' on the field." What was on the printed page was, "With victory secured for the Saints (11-6) on McAllister's powerfu ck, team owner Tom Benson did his 'Benson Boogie' on the field."

Knowing the local paper as well as I do, no one will be fired or reprimanded, but people will notice.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

New Poll - What new series that is currently running should have been cancelled already?

Sorry for not getting this up sooner but I've had this sort of allergy thing going on and I was sort of out of it most of Saturday.

I mentioned the previous post that "turn about is fair play." The poll question this time around is "What new series that is currently running should have been cancelled already?" For the purpose of this poll, we're only going to consider shows that debuted before December 31, 2006 - basically that only eliminates Knights of Prosperity, Grease: You're The One That I Want and In Case Of Emergency from the list.

I really do want to see comments on this, in the same way that I wanted to see comments about the cancelled shows. If you think a show should have been cancelled, why do you think it should have been cancelled.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Poll Results - Which cancelled new show should still be on the air?

First a little weather update - it's now cold around here, which would have made it difficult for me to finish digging out, but my neighbour (who has a snow blower - I hate the basted things) was kind enough to do the part of my sidewalks that I was too exhausted to finish on Thursday. He didn't even ask if I needed help, he just did it.

As far as the poll goes, there were nine votes cast and they were pretty well spread around. In a tie for last place with no votes were Smith, The Nine, Twenty Good Years, 3 Lbs, Day Break and Kidnapped. In a tie for second place, with 1 vote each (11%) were Vanished, Runaway, Help Me, Help You, Six Degrees, Happy Hour and Show Me The Money. In first place, with three votes (33%) was Justice.

I confess to being more than a little bit surprised by the results. Before I started this poll I had a couple of comments from a couple of Kidnapped fans who were trying to get NBC and Sony pictures for a DVD release of the series - which I agree with entirely - and for the show to be put into contention for the 2007 Emmys, which I don't think it has the votes for. It was a great show and if I had voted in my own poll I would have voted for it. Consequently I was more than a little surprised when the show didn't get a single vote in a poll about which cancelled show should still be on the air. I found it particularly surprising when the other "kidnapping" show, Vanished got a vote. After all, most critics - the real ones, the guys who get paid for this - regarded Kidnapped as being far superior to Vanished. And I thought that shows like Six Degrees, Happy Hour and Show Me The Money getting votes was sort of bizarre. Not that these shows were totally without merit - well I can't speak for Six Degrees; I never saw it - but the two I did see tended to have more wrong than right about them. The poll "winner" was a choice I could live with as well. Justice may not have been the best show on TV or the best new show but along with Kidnapped I do feel that it was a show that deserved better treatment from FOX than it got If either of those shows had been on a cable channel like HBO, Showtime or FX they might have been a lot grittier but they would also still be on the air.

I had planned to do a separate post on comments about the poll but I only got one, from Clint Johnson so I'll respond here and maybe get some thoughts from others as a result: I caught all the pilots but didn't watch more than two episodes of any one of the shows on the list. It is very unusual to get this far into a season without the networks canceling a show that I really like. I'm getting nervous. This probably means that Tim Minear's 'The Drive' is going to be f'king brilliant and canceled within six episodes. It's entirely possible, in fact likely, given Minear's track record with FOX - Wonderfalls, The Inside and of course Firefly. There are lots of reasons why shows get cancelled. If it just came down to eyeballs then NBC's new show line-up would almost entirely be on the dust heap. Only Heroes is anything approaching a hit and while moving 30 Rock to Thursday has helped somewhat, the same can't be said for moving Friday Night Lights to Wednesday ratings aren't great and next week it goes up against American Idol. If it were only rating numbers the story of the Dennison Panthers would have been sent to the locker room and another episode of Deal Or No Deal or something similar put in its place as a sacrificial lamb.

New poll will probably be up in the afternoon. All I can say about this one is turnabout is fair play.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Snow Day!

If you looked over at Tim's blog or watched the news here in Canada, you'll know that most of Western Canada got hit by a massive blizzard and right at the center - Saskatoon. We got hit hard, although thankfully no power outages. How hard a hit? Well let's put it this way, the last time the schools didn't open because of snow was probably a few years after the picture on my profile was taken - but not many. In other words somewhere in the region of 40 to 45 years. If this were Toronto the mayor would be hounding Ottawa to send in the army - or at least what's not in Afghanistan and maybe even the part that is in Afghanistan. We usually shake our heads sadly when we hear that sort of stuff then go back to shovelling.

There are lots of stories from the Blizzard of 2007. There were people forced to spend the night at the airport because their flights were cancelled but they couldn't get back to town. There are stories of truckers, most of whom stopped at the area truck stops, but a few of whom were independent enough (read as either incredible idiots or close to losing their rigs if they didn't get this load through right now) who weren't overly worried about the fact that the RCMP was strongly recommending that people didn't travel. In fact they closed most of the highways in the Saskatoon area. Then there were the hundred or so people who for whatever misguided reason just had to get out to Costco and ended up spending the night there. I suppose they had it better than the folks at the airport. At least at Costco there are plasma TVs and a supply of movies.

Sadly there were deaths - at least three - including a couple of people near Onion Lake who were foolish enough to leave their car and try to make it to a house or something. Rule #1 for winter survival: Don't leave the damned car! Being in a car gives you shelter and if you have gas you can stay warm. A good survival kit for the car includes (but isn't limited to) a blanket and candles - candles can be used for heat as well as light.

I wish I had a good blizzard story but the closest I can come is looking out the window a few times and not being able to see the house across the street. You weren't going to pry me out of my nice warm house into that. Oddly enough my TV viewing suffered - I forgot all about the late feeds of Friday Night Lights, Knights Of Prosperity, and In Case Of Emergency. I planned on writing about at least one of those two today. I also forgot to watch my tape of Little Mosque On The Prairie, but I hope to remedy that situation soon. Meanwhile I have snow to shovel, but assuming I can avoid a heart attack (shovelling snow is high on the list of immediate causes of coronaries among Canadian men my age) I'll check back with you later.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Grease: Punishment For My Sins

The condemned man ate a hearty meal - chicken stir-fry in a rather anonymous sauce which I cooked in my wok.

I knew I was in for an ordeal, but I decided that I wasn't going to blow off Grease: You're The One That I Want as a self-imposed punishment for not getting my review of Knights of Prosperity completed in a timely manner. Having seen this new NBC reality series I am forced to consider the punishment cruel and unusual.

The premise for Grease: You're The One That I Want is to find two unknown lead actors for a new Broadway production of the musical Grease! and doing it through a a televised open casting call. After the open casting call, fifty hopefuls will attend "Grease! camp" - I swear I'm not making that name up - to be whittled down to twelve people who will be in the running for the two lead roles. Presumably that will be six "Dannys" and six "Sandys." The public will select who the actors who will have to carry the play will be. As usual with shows of this type there are a trio of judges including the inevitable acerbic Brit (David Ian; he mortgaged his house to produce a London production of Grease in the 1990s), a woman (Kathleen Marshall; a Tony Award winning choreographer and director), and the genial American (Jim Jacobs, who only wrote the book for the musical). Hosting the show are Billy Bush from the entertainment "news" show Access Hollywood and British musical star and morning show presenter Denise van Outen. In the first episode at least Olivia Newton John, who played Sandy in the movie Grease! provided some insights.

Grease: You're The One That I Want is essentially an American Idol clone. More accurately it is a clone of a British clone of the British series Pop Idol. The British series was called How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?, and was offering open casting calls for the part of Maria for a London revival of The Sound Of Music. While this gives a certain legitimacy to Grease: You're The One That I Want the fact remains that both shows follow the tried and true "Idol" format with auditions followed by viewer selection of a winner.

At this point I should confess that I only watched the first hour of the hour and a half premiere, not entirely due to boredom with the format combined with fatigue. I saw the complete Los Angeles auditions so there really wasn't much in the Chicago auditions that would have been much different. But then again except for adding a dance segment to the audition process - necessary if you're casting a musical - there really isn't much difference between this show and American Idol, or this show and So You Think You Can Dance, or even this show and America's Got Talent. There's the usual run of people who can sing, those who hideously can't sing, and those who aren't quite good enough. I suppose that there's an extra element here in that the role of Sandy in particular requires a certain quality. Thanks in no small part to Olivia Newton John in the movie, the tendency is to see Sandy as a petite blonde girl - Sandra Dee as seen in the movies of the late 1950s if not the Sandra Dee of real life. Despite this there were a number of African-American actresses who tried out for the part as well as a couple of women who were somewhat overweight. One of them, a young woman named Sunshine (she insisted that this was her real name) was an excellent singer and quite good on the dance side but she wasn't among those called to "Grease camp." I suppose I have a problem with this because it seems unfair to build up her hopes even a little and then make the decision that the judges knew they were going to have to make in the first place.

I'm not sure what NBC's collective corporate thinking was in debuting this show now. Maybe it's an extension of Jeff Zucker's promise not to program scripted shows in the first hour of prime time. This show should be a summer series rather than one that appears in January on one of the most competitive nights of the week. I really don't think it's good enough for this sort of exposure, and it doesn't have a gimmick to make it stand out and separate it from the show that it will inevitably be compared to, American Idol. America's Got Talent was a show that had a gimmick that distinguished itself - two in fact. First of course was the fact that the show wasn't just searching for singers, a fact which Piers Morgan railed about in one of the semi-final shows. The other thing was that the show had an amazingly disfunctional panel of judges who didn't take themselves that seriously most of the time. Grease: You're The One That I Want doesn't have that going for it. It isn't even going to serve as a good lead for The Apprentice: LA because it will hemorrhage viewers that Trump's show isn't strong enough to recover. I can only imagine that the people over at CBS are kicking themselves for not having The Amazing Race: All Stars ready to go right now because I have a suspicion that by the time the CBS show does get on the air Grease: You're The One That I Want will be little more than a memory. People would rather see the "original" American Idol rather than this knockoff. Well I'd rather not see either show, but I just can't see this having anything but abysmal ratings and as far as I'm concerned that's no less than it deserves.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

On The Twelfth Day Of Christmas...

My true love (TV) gave to me - Twelve Fearless Predictions.

I'm not Carnac the Magnificent, the all-seeing all-knowing seer, sage, and soothsayer, but I have been known to make a few predictions in my day. On rare occasions they've even been right. The trick, I have found is to be as vague as possible so that when something happens it can be made to fit the predictions. Hey, it's been working for Nostradamus for over 500 years, and if it was good enough for him it's good enough for me. So now I will gaze into the crystal and get on with the predictions.
  1. I predict that in February the Academy Awards will fit comfortably into the timeslot that ABC has allocated for the show. Despite this people will complain that the show ran too long and wonder out loud why the awards are being broadcast at all.
  2. Also in February I predict that the Super Bowl will run far outside of the time slot that CBS will allocate for it, to the point where most of the episode of Criminal Minds that the network is planning to run following the game will run outside of prime time in most of the United States. Despite this only half the people in the United States will complain about the game being too long and they weren't watching it anyway. No one will wonder out loud why the game is being broadcast at all.
  3. I predict that virtually every TV show that debuts between the beginning of January and the beginning of May will be canceled or put on indefinite hiatus by the networks, although none will be canceled after one episode like The Rich List. After two episodes I won't guarantee.
  4. I predict that The O.C. will be canceled. Oh wait, that's already happened. Okay, I predict that it won’t be the only old favourite that will be gone be the end of this season. Besides King Of Queens Seventh Heaven, and Gilmore Girls.
  5. I predict that Rob Mariano and Amber Brkich will continue to live their lives on reality TV. Besides being all but confirmed as being part of the cast of The Amazing Race: All Stars - and let’s face it, love’em or hate’em they deserve it – they already have a show about Rob wanting to be a professional poker player ready to debut on Fox Reality. I expect them to document a pregnancy and/or a divorce proceeding in the future. Don’t be surprised if they win The Amazing Race: All Stars either.
  6. Donald Trump will continue feuding with Rosie O’Donnell long after Rosie loses interest in him. Meanwhile, despite the change of day to Sunday, The Apprentice will continue to decline in the ratings. If anything the move to Los Angeles will hurt the show. Admit it, when you think Donald Trump you think overdone, kitschy opulence, but you think overdone ktschy opulence in New York City.
  7. I predict that the biggest housecleaning at the Upfronts in May will occur at The CW, with new series being created to try to create an identity of its own for the network rather than that of the two parent webs as well as build ratings. It will succeed in the first, not so much in the second.
  8. I predict that the Emmy nominations in June will, quite predictably please no one and lead to yet more calls for reform of the nomination procedure even though no one can agree on what form a revised nomination procedure will take. Expect the greatest hue and cry from the fans of Battlestar Galactica (and science fiction in general), Heroes, viewers of Showtime and FX and anyone who likes any show on The CW. HBO executives on the other hand will be impossible to live with.
  9. I predict that the summer reality shows will continue apace, with Ramsay yelling, Big Brother contestants “showmancing”, Piers Morgan grumbling about contestants on America’s Got Talent, Dave Navarro lording it over the people on whatever band they’re creating for Rock Star. There will be a number of new concepts which will in fact be knock-offs of previous concepts. No one will pay any attention to any of it unless it rains for days on end, which given the weather we’ve been having in the past couple of years is not out of the question. As usual there will be one bona fide new hit among the summer drek.
  10. I predict that The Amazing Race will win Outstanding Reality-Competition series at the Emmy’s because it always does. The Emmy voters can separate the wheat from the chaff and they like the set. Either that or they just can’t bear to watch any reality show except The Amazing Race.. In other Emmy news, fans of Deadwood will be disappointed when no one from their show gets an Emmy including Ian McShane and Gerald McRainey. There will be more than one winner that will have viewers screaming “what the hell were they thinking!”. And of course, even though the show finishes well within the time allocated for it by whichever network is broadcasting it this year, people will complain that the show ran too long and wonder out loud why the awards are being broadcast at all.
  11. I predict that the PTC will continue to rail against just about everything on TV, and will continue to bombard the FCC with their pre-packaged complaints about obscenity and violence and anti-family programming and the devious ways of the evil (liberal) networks. FCC Chairman Kevin Martin will make sympathetic noises but won’t actually do anything because he knows that the possibility exists that he’ll be out on his ass if a Democrat wins the election in 2008.
  12. I predict that the first series cancelled by one of the five major networks during the 2007-08 season will be a drama cancelled after three episodes. Life on earth continues despite this.
Bonus prediction: Against any sense of realistic business thinking, MyNetwork TV will still be in existence at the end of 2008.

The crystal is getting cloudy. Please wash it and refill it with better quality scotch this time.

New Poll - Which canceled new show should still be on the air?

This time around we're going to look at those shows that are gone and figure out which one was the "unkindest cut of all." In other words which show that has been canceled, or put on indefinite hiatus, should still be on the air giving us new episodes.

What I've included are series that were canceled or put onto hiatus between the beginning of the 2006-07 season and December 31, 2006. There is a "promise" that ABC will bring back Six Degrees sometime in January "with new episodes" and claims that The Nine will air its remaining episodes in March or April. As no definite date has been given (and might not be - these are promises from network executives after all!) they're put in with the canceled shows. While I've included Show Me The Money because it ran five episodes (and ABC ordered six more) before it was canceled, I didn't include The Rich List simply because one episode isn't enough to evaluate.

As usual, comments can be left here. In fact in this poll and the next two I really want to encourage you to comment about why you gave the answer you did. If there's enough comments I mash them together in a post next Saturday.

Poll Results - What network has the fewest shows that you MUST see?

We interrupt the coverage of the Twelve Days of Christmas for this important poll result. The question this week was: "What network has the fewest shows that you MUST see?" Seven people voted in this one, which is the same number (and maybe the same people) who voted in the poll on "What network has the most shows that you MUST see?" Certainly there's a certain synchronicity to the voting pattern. Finishing in fifth place with no votes was ABC. In a tie for third place with one vote each (14%) were FOX and NBC. In a solid second place with two votes (28%) is CBS. But the big "winner" with three votes (42%) is The CW.

So how does this compare or tie in with last week's results? Well the obvious one is that not only was The CW the network with the fewest shows people felt they must see it was also the only network that didn't have anyone say that it had the most shows they must see. Clearly the network will probably have to do a lot of work on their lineup for next year (about the only show I watch on The CW is Smallville). On the opposite end of the scale only one person regarded ABC as having more shows they wanted to see than any other network but no one thought it had the fewest. I think that qualifies as sort of a bland middle ground. As for last week's winner for the network with the most "must see" shows, FOX it also picked up a vote for having the fewest shows that were "must sees". Which I actually think is a reasonably accurate assessment. When FOX is on its game it's quite good, but the network also has a lot of crap clogging up the airwaves.

The only real question is about CBS. This is, you will recall, the network that has been dominating the ratings for the past few years. It's quite strong on most nights this year too. So the question is why this powerhouse line up has only one person who felt that it had the most shows that they must see, and two people who said it had the fewest? Such are the questions that unscientific polls raise.

New poll up in the morning (or maybe the afternoon - I currently have a raging headache and need sleep).

Friday, January 05, 2007

On The Elevent Day Of Christmas ...

My true love (TV) gave to me - Eleventh Day (January 5) Eleven dear dead TV folks.

Actually it was a lot more than eleven, and I had an awfully hard time boiling it down to eleven. In fact if you want to locate a complete - some might suggest obsessive - listing of everyone connected with TV who died in this year, check out the Inner Toob archives and search for "Hat Squad".

In 2006 we lost:

Dennis Weaver: Chester from Gunsmoke and Marshall Sam McCloud from the "McCloud" segments of NBC's Mystery Movie, plus the guy who was being chased by the big rig in Steven Spielberg's Duel.

Don Knotts: Barney Fife from The Andy Griffith Show and Ralph Furley, plus (let's admit it) The Don Knotts Show. He was also The TV Repairman in the movie Pleasantville and got his start on The Steve Allen Show.

Mike Douglas: The one-time Irish tenor hosted his eponymous afternoon talk show The Mike Douglas Show for 21 years, most of them based in Philadelphia. He and Merv Griffin set the gold standard that people like Rosie O'Donnell and Ellen DeGeneres strive to live up to.

Aaron Spelling: It is nearly impossible to list every TV show that Spelling was connected to, so here's just a sampler from each decade in which he worked in TV: Zane Grey Theater (1956-61, as a writer on 20 episodes), The Mod Squad (1968-73, Producer), Charlie's Angels (1976-81, Executive Producer), T.J. Hooker (1982-1986, Executive Producer), Melrose Place (1992-99 Executive Producer), Seventh Heaven (1996-his death, Executive Producer).

Jane Wyman Wyatt: Possibly TV's greatest mother - played Margaret Anderson on Father Knows Best and Amanda, wife of Sarek and mother of Spock on one episode of Star Trek.

Lister Sinclair: His name won't be familiar to my American readers but for longtime viewers (and listeners) of the CBC he was an institution. He was the first host of the science show The Nature of Things and was a frequent guest on shows ranging from Front Page Challenge to Wayne Shuster. Best known for his radio work, first as a plywright then as host of Ideas, he was the CBC's resident polymath. He seemed able to discourse on anything from Einstein's Theory of Relativity, to English grammar and word origins, to Disco (literally - his last work on CBC Radio was a ninety minute discourse on Disco music which made you think he was a fan when he barely considered it music).

Steve Irwin: The Crocodile Hunter left us far too young.

Ed Bradley: Who was on 60 Minutes for ages and was still the youngest one on the show until Katie Couric arrived. (Well not quite but you knew you were thinking it.)

Peter Boyle: From Everybody Loves Raymond of course but we'll also remember him from "Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose."

Joe Barbera: If he'd only created Tom Jerry, that would have been enough. If he'd only created The Flintstones that too would be enough. But of course he not only created both but he did so much more.

Frank Stanton: Frank Stanton passed away on December 26, 2006 at age 98. As president of CBS from 1946 until his forced retirement in March 1973 he was in a very real way responsible for the creation of CBS Television (William S. Paley was initially focused on building the radio network rather than TV). Stanton oversaw the details, lobbied for the network before Congress, and stood up for CBS when the news division was under attack. He created much of what we know about TV today, good - the half-hour newscast came from Stanton - and bad - he actually came to the attention of CBS by creating a device to determine what people were listening too, the forerunner of the ratings box. He was even responsible for the CBS Eye. His relationship with his boss William S. Paley was by turns business-like and acrimonious but the two of them were a brilliant team. After Paley went through a series of other presidents he came to appreciate just how great he and Stanton had been together. Stanton summed up his philosophy about television in 1948: "Television, like radio should be a medium for the majority of Americans, not for any small or special groups; therefore its programming should be largely patterned for what these majority audiences like and want." And every TV executive since has been trying to accomplish that.

Correction: As Harry Heuser points out it was Jane Wyatt, not Jane Wyman who passed from the scene this past October. Jane Wyman is alive and presumably still kicking.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

On The Tenth Day Of Christmas...

My true love (TV) gave to me - Ten Favourite Moments.

In no particular order:

Kristin Chenoweth in The West Wing: "He died." I've said it before and hopefully I'll say it many more times - Kristin Chenoweth is 4 feet 11 inches of utterly amazing talent, not just as a singer or comedic actor but as a dramatic actress. The way she says these words is heartbreaking, but it's her whole body language in the scene that sells it. We're used to seeing the confident Annabeth, who looks taller than she is because of the way she holds herself. In this scene she actually seems smaller than she really is, coping with the lost of her mentor, friend, lover (? - there was tension and I wouldn't be surprised if she eventually succumbed).

Ed Asner on Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip: "I won't pay a 73 million dollar fine; I won't pay a 73 cent fine; I won't time delay the news, and I won't say, 'I'm sorry.' I no longer recognize the authority of the FCC in this matter. I'm going to have to be ordered by a federal judge, and when they come to get my transmitter they better send a group a hell of lot more scary than the Foundation for Friendly Families or whatever the hell they are. Let those guys embed themselves with 2nd Marine Division for a while; they'll rejigger their sense of what's obscene." If only real network executives would stand up to bullies like the PTC and the American Family Association and the rest like this we'd have more quality shows like NYPD Blue was before Janet Jackson's nipple.

The tie breaker in the Survivor: Cook Islands finale: A moment of delightful ... something. Having shown mutual respect for each other by deciding that the final vote will be a draw between Sundra and Becky - though Yul offers Becky the "hidden Immunity 'Idol'" if she wants it - they are given the now traditional tie breaker challenge: make a fire using only twigs, coconut fibers, flint and a machete. Usually it doesn't take too long for one or both of he contestants to get fire. This time it dragged on, and on, and on. The Jury started yawning. Eventually - and apparently this was two hours after they started - host Jeff Probst gave the women some matches. Still no fire. Sundra eventually ran out of matches without getting a fire started. It all meant that Becky won the right to lose to either "Dolphin Boy" Ozzie or Yul "The Godfather" (who did win), but it was funny.

Jerry Springer doing the Waltz on Dancing With The Stars:
I'm not a huge fan of Springer's at the best of times, and for the most part he was pure comic relief on Dancing With The Stars and he knew it. But when he danced the Waltz it was deadly serious. His only real goal on the show was to learn the Waltz so he could dance at his daughter's wedding. And when he finished and when to hug his daughter there wasn't a dry eye in the joint - including the judges. Sure he didn't have the ability of a Mario Lopez or the determination of an Emmitt Smith, but in that one dance he had heart.

The robotic foreplay scene on House: In the episode in which House is shot, he continues to treat the patient whose mysterious symptoms include a swollen tongue and an exploding scrotum (among other things). At one point House recommends that the patient undergo treatment using a surgical robot. He demonstrates the device on Allison Cameron. He caresses her cheek; he lifts the bottom of her blouse, exposing her navel and blows into it; he removes the top button of her blouse and pulls it open to expose the top of her lacy bra. It is an amazingly erotic scene that is revealing as to how House sees himself because (1) even while expressing intimacy he is still remote, clinical and detached, and (2) it is all an hallucination - even the degree of intimacy he shows there is beyond him in real life.

Hiro goes to New York on Heroes:
Series premieres are full of great moments, and frequently the series themselves don't live up to those moments. In the pilot of Heroes the character of Hiro Nakamura is convinced that he has a special ability despite the ridicule of his friend and co-worker Ando who calls him "super-Hiro". Then he presses his power to the max and transports himself to Times Square in New York. He doesn't know the circumstances yet, but the sheer joy he feels as he stretches out his arms and shouts is amazingly endearing and makes him special among the people who are constantly trying to deny their abilities.

The death of Special Agent Graham Kelton on Vanished: Not all series can be winners and this series wasn't. People saw it as too derivative and not "realistic enough" or something. Derivative it probably was, a show along the lines of The DaVinci Code with huge conspiracies and a pair of FBI agents who weren't Mulder and Scully in terms of being attractive to the audience. Still, if the show had been a hit or at least popular enough to stay on the air for rest of the year people would have been amazed by what Executive Producer Josh Berman had up his sleeve. The show seemed to have been built around FBI Special Agent Graham Kelton (played by Gale Harold) but suddenly, at the end of the eighth episode Kelton is shot to death by an assassin, who intended to kill Senator Jeffrey Collins. It is the equivalent of Hitchcock casting Janet Leigh in Psycho and building her up as the apparent lead character in the film only to have her killed in the first third of the movie. And if Vanished had lasted 22 episodes instead of nine (with the remaining four episodes shot being relegated to the Fox web site where Canadians can't see them) it might have been far more memorable than it turned out to be.

The return of Sarah Jane Smith on Doctor Who:
In just about every poll ever taken of Doctor Who fan(atic)s the favourite "companion" was always listed as Liz Sladen (who looks very good for 58) playing Sarah Jane Smith. She started on the show with the Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee) but really connected with the Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker). Of all the companions - and I did check this out - she was the only one who left the TARDIS not of her own free will. So her reintroduction into the Doctor Who mythos in the episode "School Reunion" was not only most welcome but closed off a dangling plot line, albeit in a rather bittersweet manner. Apparently it was so well received that Russell T. Davis and Gareth Roberts have created a new children's drama called The Sarah Jane Adventures. Now if they could only bring back Lethbridge-Stewart and Ian Chesterton.

Bianca Ryan wins America's Got Talent:
By all that is holy that little girl can sing. And she's only 11 years old. There was some great talent on the show in among the animal acts poor jugglers and repetitive quick change artists (who fans kept for even though the act they did the first week was the act they did in the finals), but from the moment I heard her sing I knew that she was going to be the winner. Oddly enough I've got a bunch for number ten - I suppose you'd call them runners up. There's the little Filipino-American winner of the big prize on Identity getting more and more excited as he gets answers right culminating with him leaping into Penn Jillette's arms (quite a leap believe me - this guy was half Penn's size in every respect). There was Coach Taylor's reaction to finding his daughter and Matt cuddling - chastely - under a blanket while watching TV and then his wife Tammi's reaction to his reaction: "You're an idiot." There was the shower scene at the end of the episode "...As We Know It" on Grey's Anatomy where the reality of Meredith, Christina and Izzie in the shower together (cleaning the "red mist" that had been the bomb disposal expert) off of her was contrasted with George's fantasy that began the previous part of the two part episode.

Starbuck kills "Leoben" again on Battlestar Galactica: The scene tells us so much about Starbuck and quite a bit about the Cylons. Starbuck stabs Leoben to death and then stays in her chair, calmly eating her dinner until the newly resurrected version of Leoben enters the apartment/cell and steps over his own "body", and sits down at the table. Kara is reacting the only way that she knows how to the Cylon even as she acknowledges the inevitability of her eventual failure. She knows that Leoben will be back. For his part even as Leoben knows that Kara will continue to seek any opportunity to kill him even though she knows what will happen, he is still determined to break her to his will, and eventually introduces a new factor into the relationship by bringing in "Kara's" baby.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

On The Ninth Day Of Christmas...

My true love (TV) gave to me - Nine odds and ends.

Okay, I confess, I had nothing for Day Nine. For I while I was thinking of doing "Nine Thinking Man's Sex Symbols" except that I'm not exactly sure what a "thinking man's sex symbol" is except that breast size is not the primary or secondary consideration (but I wouldn't rule out tertiary). And I will include some of my picks, but there's still a lot of other stuff to mention (including one that I forgot entirely and still can't remember).
  • How much fun was it to watch the PTC tie itself up in knots over Michelle Lamour's appearances on America's Got Talent? She first appeared as the Snow White stripper on the same episode as Bianca Ryan and the PTC went ballistic about the unfairness of having an 11 year old competing against that hussy. The second time she appeared on the show she was working with a version of KITT from David Hasselhoff's old series Knight Rider. I was expecting the PTC to attack her for contributing to the delinquency of a car, and they came very close to saying just that.
  • America's Got Talent in general was a hoot. What a wild ride that show was. There were tears, histrionics, temper tantrums and over the top performances. And that was just from the judges! That doesn't consider acts like Rapping Granny, or the woman who shot a bow and arrow with her feet. And who can forget Leonid The Magnificent. I know I can't. And believe me I've tried.
  • Another summer show that I have a fondness for is Hell's Kitchen and not just because the PTC hates it and Gordon Ramsey's swearing. This time at least the show had not only a deserving winner but a deserving loser. Heather won (hurray) because she knew how to run her line chefs with authority and was smart enough to pick the best people. Virginia lost (hurray) because she picked the weakest people to participate on her team -and told them so - then had to pay them out of pocket to motivate them to do anything for her. If you're in Canada by the way, Food Network will be rerunning Hell's Kitchen uncensored starting January 2.
  • It is a known fact that people like to watch train wrecks. That may just possibly be why Show Me The Money lasted for five episodes. I watched the first episode in its horrific entirety. It gave me a headache, but I still kept coming back from time to time. But here's the kicker - the show had fans. I know this because I ran into one at my bowling league's Christmas party and I had to break the news to him that the show had been canceled the week before. I tried not to sound too happy, but I don't think I pulled it off.
  • Does it strike anyone as being absolutely right that the type of show that the Parents Television Council finds most suitable for "family" viewing is a type of show that a lot of people find to be the worst thing to ever contaminate TV? I'm speaking here of reality shows, and while I watch and defend some of them (Survivor, Beauty and the Geek, Big Brother, Hell's Kitchen and of course The Amazing Race - be sure to watch The Amazing Race All Star Edition coming in February), most of them are a waste of the video tape they're shot on. Maybe it shows how out of touch the PTC really is with the public taste - or maybe not since so many of these shows are still on.
  • Why is it that the current crop of prime time game shows aren't designed to give the players a shot at the maximum prize? Think about it; Deal Or No Deal is set up in such a way that it is extremely attractive for players to take the banker's offer unless the only cases left are all big money. In 1 vs. 100 the risk ratchets up as the number of mob members decreases making it extremely attractive to drop out when you reach over $100,000. 1 vs. 100 is about survival of the fittest and as mob members are knocked out the remainder are the fittest mentally. In fact there has only been one show in which I've seen the maximum amount won. It was in the second episode of Identity where through luck pluck and possibly a certain amount of not getting it, a Filipino-American managed to guess the identities of all twelve of the people on the stage. And his reaction as he climbed up the ladder (and Penn) was great. But that was the exception to the rule.
  • This thinking man's sex symbol 3: I spent virtually all of the seven years that The West Wing was on the air dealing with a serious crush on C.J. "Flamingo" Cregg. She was intelligent, witty, willing to be "one of the boys" and not take herself too seriously, and she was 6 feet tall (I like women as tall as I am). Her love life was a catastrophic wreck. It may explain my fondness for the character of Annabeth Schott - she was C.J. in a smaller package and a better love life.
  • This thinking man's sex symbol 2: I’ve been wracking my brains on this one. I think it might have to go to Lisa Cuddy on House. I mean set aside the fact that Lisa Edelstein, who plays Cuddy, played Sam Seaborn’s “friend” Laurie the hooker on The West Wing (and looked damned fine in a blouse and panties). No the reason that Cuddy fills the role of this thinking man’s #2 sex symbol is because she has to deal with Gregory House and amazingly hasn’t folded into the fetal position. She actually sort of stands up to him. She doesn’t win but she does stand up to him. Plus in the scene where she was holding a child under a shower after a diagnosis gone wrong she reminded me of nothing short of the Madonna in Michaelangelo’s Pieta.
  • This thinking man's sex symbol 1: Catherine Willows has been this thinking man's sex symbol practically since she first appeared on CSI. I mean think of it, she's gorgeous and a redhead, she's very intelligent but doesn't rub your face in it, she is (for lack of anything near a better word) sassy, she's secure in her own sexuality - after all she used to be a nude dancer. And now, to top it all off she's probably rich, thanks to the guy who gunned down Sam Braun. I mean what man, when presented with all that, would choose Sarah Sidle over Catherine Willows. I know, I know, Grissom would.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

On The Eighth Day Of Christmas...

My true love (TV) gave to me - Eight canceled series.

Cancellation is a fact of life in television. Most shows don't get the luxury of going out at a time and circumstance of their choosing the way that Everybody Loves Raymond did. Even The West Wing was pushed by NBC (canceled at the end of the season) before it could announce that it was jumping (voluntarily ending) at the end of Season Seven. The producers might have wanted to continue, although it is nearly impossible to imagine the show without John Spencer. It is also a fact of life in TV Land (as opposed to TVLand (tm)) that most shows are canceled by the end of their first season. Out of 28 series that debuted in the Fall of 2005 only 8 made it into their second season. That's a pretty amazing figure, but what's even more amazing to me is the sped with which networks decide to dump shows. Of course I grew up in the era when it was expected that if a show debuted in September it would get at least 13 weeks to prove itself. Today 13 weeks is practically the same as being renewed for a full season. Of 22 series that debuted in September 2006 (not counting NBC's Sunday Night Football), only 12 are still on the air at the beginning of January, which is roughly thirteen episodes. Of these, only Standoff hasn't received a full season order, although Fox has come close by ordering a total of 19 scripts (most contemporary series get 22 episode orders - when I was a kid 26 episodes was standard and 39 was not unheard of).

What is amazing to me is the speed at which shows are canceled. Not only were some series cancelled by their respective networks but the shows that replaced them were also canceled, all in the space of three months. Network executives are becoming depressingly fast at pulling the plug on series. The eight series that I mentioned in the first sentence were all canceled (or put on indefinite hiatus, which in truth is the same thing - the networks say they'll air the last episodes but somehow they never get around to it) in five episodes or less.
  • Show Me The Money (5 episodes)
  • The Happy Hour (4 episodes)
  • Kidnapped (4 episodes)
  • Twenty Good Years (4 episodes)
  • 3 Lbs. (3 episodes)
  • Runaway (3 episodes)
  • Smith (3 episodes)
  • The Rich List (1 episode!)
For the record, Smith was the first show to leave the air this season. My friends at insist on saying that Kidnapped was the first series canceled - it was canceled a few hours before Smith but NBC promised to move the show to Saturday night and air the remaining 10 episodes that were ordered. It was a promise they reneged on after one airing which had low ratings even for a Saturday night. As for The Rich List its one and only episode aired on November 1, 2006 replacing Justice. Yeah, I didn't notice it either.

Monday, January 01, 2007

On The Seventh Day Of Christmas...

My true love (TV) gave to me - Seven cancelled serials.

You'd think that the serial would be a natural for television, and indeed it is (or was) for morning and afternoon TV in the form of the soap opera. But the nighttime serial - the non-soap opera type - has been a minefield for the networks. They've been tried in a number of ways and for the most part they don't stick. And the way the networks - as a group - handle them shows the respect that they hold for their audiences. Which isn't much.

The current trend towards serials probably started with 24 and picked up momentum with Lost. In 24 you have a true serial in which events from past episodes are tied tightly together and each episode ends with a cliffhanger to build tension. Lost on the other hand maintains a looser, but still highly important, continuity. Events are remembered and have varying degrees of importance, and the series also uses flashbacks to give us some enlightenment about the characters, but there are episodes and events in the characters' lives that at least appear to stand on their own. While the 2005-06 TV season brought us a couple of attempts to do new serials - one successful (Prison Break) and the other a total bomb (Reunion) - the start of the 2006-07 season unleashed a flood of new serials. Twelve shows that can - by most standards including those set by 24 and Lost - be defined as serials debuted in September and October of 2006. Of that number only five - Heroes, Ugly Betty, Brothers Sisters, Jericho, and Friday Night Lights - remain on the air in December. The rest - Kidnapped, Vanished, Smith, Day Break, The Nine, Six Degrees, and Runaway - were all cancelled, and in some cases very quickly despite solemn promises from network executives that the shows would run to their natural conclusion. There's a certain amount of betrayal there, but of course we all know that a network executive's solemn promise and $2.50 will still leave you in the hole for a second cup of coffee (his).

What happened? It's not that the shows were all bad television; far from it. Kidnapped in particular had an outstanding cast and was very well written, while I found Vanished engaging enough - when I could actually find it - with an incredible twist at the end of the eighth episode. Day Break also received a lot of critical support although it did far less well with the actual viewing public. That of course is the usual reason why shows get cancelled but the question isn't so much why they got cancelled but why the public that embraced 24, Lost and Heroes wouldn't watch Kidnapped, Vanished or The Nine.

I think that there are a lot of factors going on here. Six Degrees had a very tenuous premise coupled with less than compelling writing. The Nine started off brilliantly but very quickly tailed off with a weak premise. Opposition also had a lot to do with the success or failure of some of the shows. Six Degrees was on Thursdays opposite ER which led with the cliffhanger about Abby's baby. Kidnapped had a CSI spinoff as competition while Day Break was against Criminal Minds. I suppose there's some of the "new shows up against established hits" syndrome here but I'm not prepared to state that it was the only thing going on. In that situation cost is a factor. Networks aren't prepared to bear the cost of shows that aren't pulling their ratings weight.

To be sure I think that - had the original NBC line-up not been massively altered to "save" Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip from the original CSI and Gray's Anatomy - Kidnapped would have stood a better chance against Boston Legal and Smith. It was a better show and would have benefited from weaker shows on the other networks. Still I think that the five networks made a major miscalculation when they put so many serial type series on the schedule. They created these shows with tightly integrated continuity and continuing story lines but they seemed to have had no clue as to whether the public would accept them. Indeed if current trends are to be believed at least two of the serials that started this season have become less than compelling for viewers. There were irritated complaints about the handful of episodes that Lost aired this Fall before giving over their time slot to Day Break, and there seems to have been more than a little dissatisfaction with the way that Prision Break is developing. Maybe people are losing some of their patience with serials, or perhaps they want serials where the continuity isn't so essential. Or possibly they just want compelling characters.

Television would seem to be made for serialized story telling. The serial, either in literature or in film, was a way to get people to keep coming back, either to buy the magazine or go to the movies every week. The TV audiences are already conditioned to show up every week at the same time to watch their shows, so a serial should work. Maybe one thing working against serials on TV is the idea that you might not get resolution. A stand-alone program can get canceled after a few weeks and while fans might be angry or protest the unfairness of canceling their show. Would it really matter to viewers if CBS were to decide tomorrow to stop showing episodes of CSI effective immediately? For the fan of serials - and we saw this least year with Reunion - there is the extra factor of wanting to know how the story resolves itself. If Lost were cancelled immediately people would not only be protesting the loss of their show but also demanding to find out whether those people left the island and if so how they did it. Under those circumstances why commit to a serial unless it's particularly compelling or there's nothing else you want to see on at the time. It would seem to be a bit of an exercise in circular logic - viewers are less likely to watch a serial for fear of cancellation but the risk of cancellation goes up if viewers won't watch the show. I don't think it's a huge factor, let alone a decisive factor, in the way viewers choose what they'll watch but I do think it's in the back of people's minds.