Just so you know, this is my favourite category. The usual things apply; vote for the show that you think should win and feel free to comment on your vote. Poll ends September 4.
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Actually a spreadsheet might not have been a bad idea in watching this poll. My old buddy Toby wrote in a comment, "Something fishy about this latest poll, I'm thinking, based on the number of votes cast (and for who)...." There were 15 votes cast this time around. Tied for fourth place with no votes were Minnie Driver, Mariska Hargitay, and Kyra Sedgwick. In third place with two votes is Edie Falco from The Sopranos with two votes (13%). In second place with five votes (33%) is Sally Field from Brothers & Sisters. But the winner of this poll is Patricia Arquette with eight votes (53%).
The low vote totals for Driver and Sedgwick (and incidentally, if I had voted I would probably have cast my vote for Kyra – I've been watching the first season of The Closer on the W Network and she is amazing) can be explained by the bias that polls in this blog seems to have related to cable shows. And before you go into hysterics again Tami (but I kid because I love) this bias is quite real and something that I've noticed throughout the three years that I've been running Emmy polls. I don't know about any bias towards Mariska Hargitay except that she won the Emmy last year. As for Edi Falco, the "anti-cable" bias may well be in place to hold her down to two votes. I won't be surprised if she wins in real life if for no other reason than it being the last chance they get to vote for The Sopranos, but I also won't be surprised if she doesn't.
This leaves us with Patricia Arquette and Sally Field, and what Toby thought was "fishy." If I can get into a little voting pattern riff for just a moment, most of the votes cast for Arquette all came within a 36 hour period. During that same period only one vote was cast for Sally Field. I don't know what to make of it but there you go. I was surprised because while I like Arquette's performance as Allison Dubois, I hate the show. Sally Field's performance as Nora Walker is much more to my liking. Here's what Toby said about it: "For me, she's the rock on which the whole show is founded, which is surprising since she was a recast for the role. But her character of Nora has this strength and indomitable spirit that fills the screen (probably not easy to do for such a small woman!)" It's more than that though. Field has taken what was presumably intended as a supporting role behind Callista Flockhart, and by force of personality and tremendous acting ability honed by over 40 years in the business made it into a part that gets nominated for Outstanding Actress while no one would even think of nominating the show's star. Nora is the glue that binds the show together and if I'm being honest with myself I would be less than surprised to see Sally Field – terminal cuteness and all – picking up her third Emmy. Like I said I like Patricia Arquette, primarily for the way that she plays a "real woman" – not the real Allison Dubois but a generic woman who isn't exactly the weight that TV and the movies say is "perfect" and a woman who is a harried mother who has to work to live the lifestyle she's become accustomed to. And then you add in the special abilities which is what makes it interesting as a TV show but which I find unbelievable and is the reason why I haven't watched the show since the first season. Sorry, but that's how I feel.
New poll up in a few hours – I'm off to the casino!
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
We're still in summer mode around here (and I still haven't started the new blog – probably next week) and I'm getting used to being a dog owner again. When my brother went out to B.C. he was supposed to leave Chelsea with me but then his girlfriend told him that the dog was going with them. Well for a variety of reasons that I won't go into, it was not a happy experience for Chelsea, and at times she wasn't on her best behaviour, particularly with strangers. Suffice it to say that the choice came down to me taking her or Greg taking her to the vet to be put to sleep. So I'm a dog owner again, and for the life of me I can't understand what the people who complained about my dog being mean were going on about. That said, I am looking forward to the start of the new TV season with increasing impatience.
Kid Nation problems and opportunities: Someone said that it doesn't matter what they say about you just as long as they spell your name right. It's right up there with "bad publicity is better than no publicity at all." Well, the new CBS series Kid Nation has been getting that sort of publicity. It all started when a parent of one of the forty kids between the ages of 8 and 15 who participated in the show complained the State of New Mexico after the show was completed that the conditions verged on "abuse and neglect." A couple of incidents cited included several of the children drinking bleach that had been stored in an unmarked pop bottle, and one girl (the daughter of the complainant) whose face was burned with spattered cooking grease while she was cooking unsupervised (while the ads for the show say that the children were alone, there was frequently an adult chef present when the children were cooking). According to the New York Times (registration required) State officials in New Mexico have stated that "the project almost assuredly violated state laws requiring facilities that house children be reviewed and licensed." Romamine Serna, public information officer for the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department also added that "If the department had known of the parent's allegations when the incidents occurred, she said, 'We would have responded and would have assured the children's safety.'" There have been concerns since the series launched about whether the production skirted State and Federal child labour and child welfare laws. The Times article also states that "Until Kid Nation, no reality show had focused on taking a group of children from their homes and placing them in unknown situations, forced to deal with whatever arises and recording the results." This would seem to ignore the (dismal in my opinion) ABC series Brat Camp.
In their response CBS responded that they were confident that their actions were within the law. A number of things were cited including the fact that unlike many states, New Mexico did not (at that time – the law has since changed) concerning the use of child actors in film and TV productions. This included requirements for tutors on the set and regulations on the amount of time that children can work. The sheriff's office in Santa Fe County, which received the initial complaint (forward from the sheriff's office in the complainant's home in Georgia) investigated the production and found no criminal activity. Jonathon Anschell, who oversees CBS's legal operations for the West Coast stated that a search of the production's correspondence with the State of New Mexico produced nothing beyond a June 15th warning that the law concerning the number of hours that a child could be on a set had been changed. He also stated that while the children did receive stipends of $5,000 each, the possibility of "gold star" awarded at the end of each episode to one participant (voted by the other children) and payment in buffalo nickels for the performance of certain tasks (the nickels were part of the show's internal economy and could be used to buy things at the show's stores), the children were not employed: "The children were not employed under the legal definition. They were not receiving set wages for performing specific tasks or working specific hours."
Following the New York Times article, the Smoking Gun website obtained a copy of the contract that the parents of the children signed. It clearly delineated the conditions under which the "minor" would live: "the Program will consist of approximately forty individuals, who are all minors, where they will form a community and live amongst themselves." The contract stated that the parents signed away their right to sue "if their child died, was severely injured, or contracted a sexually transmitted disease during the program's taping," as well as giving the network consent to make medical treatment decisions for the children including authorizing surgery, and the ability to search "the Minor's person and the Minor's belongings (including, without limitation, by x-ray or similar device)." There was also an acknowledgement that the participants "'will have no privacy,' except when they are in the bathroom. Provided, of course, that the child is actually 'in the process of showering, bathing, urinating, or defecating.'" While it seems harsh, it also seems like a typical reality show contract modified to take into consideration the fact that the participants on this show were minor children. In other words, the parents knew what the conditions would be like and agreed to them.
Partial Celebrity Apprentice line-up: You remember back in May when Kevin Reilly announced the NBC prime time schedule and The Apprentice wasn't on any list? Remember how good we all felt? Remember the street parties and the march through the streets of Manhattan to the Trump Tower to go "neener neener neener" and give The Donald the collective finger? Okay, I made that last bit up (but I doubt it would have been that hard to organize). Trump was livid and threatening to develop a new show for FOX or some other network; seemingly he believed that he actually created The Apprentice rather than being "mere" talent on a show created by Mark Burnett. Our joy was destined to be short-lived; when Reilly paid for Jeff Zucker's mistakes he was replaced by Benjamin Silverman, and apparently Benjamin Silverman likes The Apprentice. At least he likes it well enough to put the show onto the line-up as a mid-season replacement. This time though there's going to be a better gimmick than having losing candidates live in tents in the back yard (and accidentally setting things up so that a contestant who was never a project manager actually became the new Apprentice). This time we're going to have Celebrity Apprentice! Be still my beating heart – or better yet, be still Trump's beating heart (permanently). Recently Donald Trump announced a partial list of the "celebrities" who have signed on for this adventure. They are: Mad Money host Jim Cramer, "actress" Carmen Electra, comedienne Joan Rivers, singer Naomi Judd, boxer/preacher/ shill for the famous Grill (which I love btw except for the difficulty in cleaning) George Foreman, original Apprentice villain Amorosa, 6 foot tall former model Kimora Lee Simmons, disgraced former Baseball player Pete Rose, racing drivers Danica Patrick and Jeff Gordon, and professional skateboarder Tony Hawk. In the same article Trump stated that Paris Hilton has expressed an interest, and that he'd like to get Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan on the show. Trump claims that more than a hundred other celebrities want to do the show. One who doesn't is Rosie O'Donnell (who Trump called a "fat slob" at one point – and that was one of the milder things he said about her) even though she apparently was asked. Rosie is reported to have said, "It will not happen in this lifetime or beyond." I'd say that was a No, but Trump might regard it as a definite Maybe.
Simon Cowell is quitting: Well he is quitting as judge of American Idol anyway, when his contract runs out in three years. He also seems intent on giving up his other on air jobs: judge on the British series X-Factor, a British show that seems a lot like American Idol which itself was based on the British series Pop Idol on which Cowell was also a judge (Cowell didn't have any ownership rights on Pop Idol and as a result pulled the plug on it to do X-Factor which he does own). Cowell told Britian's Daily Mirror that "I have three more seasons under contract with American Idol and that will be it. And it will probably come at the same time in the UK. I am contracted for another two or three seasons in Britain and I think by that point the public will be sick to death of me anyway and it will be time to go." Of course he'll be keeping busy; Cowell, whose net worth is estimated at about £100 million (about $200 million) created both the international Idol franchise and X-Factor but also American Inventor, the Got Talent franchise (starting with America's Got Talent) and Grease Is The Word, a British version of the NBC show Grease: You're The One That I Want. It's something that he acknowledges in the Mirror article "I run a record label, I run a TV company, we're making movies now - I love that part of my life. I probably get more satisfaction from making a show than being on a show." His music division – Syco Music – employs just 11 people but is responsible for 40% of the profits of its parent company Sony-BMG last year.
FOX does it again: If you look at a variety of blogs and comments about the behaviour of TV networks in general and FOX in particular, the one big complaint that you hear is that they cancel shows almost at the drop of a ratings point. Now I'm not saying that their most recent casualty, the reality show Anchorwoman, was the equivalent in any way of Firefly, Wonderfalls, or Drive. I can't because I didn't see the show on the one and only occasion when it aired (videotape problem – literally the tape I had in the machine wouldn't record anything at all). In fact I don't actually blame FOX for cancelling the show given that it drew a 1 rating and 2.7 million viewers (3% share) , getting thoroughly trounced by Drew Carey and The Power of 10 (8.7 million 2.3 rating 7% share) and just barely beating a rerun of America's Next Top Model. And to be fair FOX at least let the show complete its one episode (there's a story that I heard many years ago about a local station – possibly apocryphal but I seem to recall reading it in TV Guide – that cancelled one of Tim Conway's network shows while it was still airing its first episode; they cut for commercial and never went back). The problem is that even when it's justified, as in this case, it leaves a bad taste. There was no time allowed for the show to try to develop an audience, and while Anchorwoman might never have improved on its first airing this is symptomatic of why people are wary of getting too attached to a new show. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy; people won't watch a new show because it might be cancelled and the networks cancels the show because it didn't get high ratings immediately.
Who does the PTC hate this week?: This "dog days of summer" business seems to be hitting hte PTC just about as badly as it is me. This time around the "Worst of the week" and the "Misrated" sections are dominated by a rerun of Criminal Minds, which as I recall they didn't find at all objectionable when it first aired, and a series – The Knights Of Prosperity – that was being burned off but only managed to last two episodes of the burn off. Oh, and there's a summer reality show too.
Let's start off with Criminal Minds. The episode in question was the one in which two serial killers are operating in the St. Louis area, one well publicized because his victims were upper middle class, the other ignored because his victims were prostitutes. Of course what the PTC sees is that "Guns, blood, death, necrophilia and graphic violence against women all played a strong role in this TV-PG LV rated program." The "review" emphasises the opening scene in which a women is abducted from a park and the follow-up to the scene where "This opening scene is not only disturbing for its violence, but is particularly upsetting due to the way the program's writer emphasized the hopes of the innocent family, gaining the viewer's sympathy before shattering the family's dream with a senseless crime." This of course is a case of building dramatic tension and our feelings against this killer; a discerning audience with even a little experience with this show would know that the victim of the abduction has already been killed. The PTC's commentary barely touches on the second killer, the one who kills prostitutes saying, "The show continued with several scenes involving prostitutes, including one scene where a killer drives up to two female prostitutes and mercilessly guns them down. They are left for dead, bleeding next to a dumpster in an alley." That's all they actually have to say about the most violent moment of the episode – the murder of the two prostitutes in the alley. No, they are more fixated on the killer who kills middle class women and hides their bodies in the woods: "He greets the corpse as if it were still alive, and proceeds to comb the woman's hair. After applying lipstick to the dead woman's lips he leans-in to kiss her." Inanely they add "The killers manage to murder seven innocent women before police are able to catch them." I guess that somehow in the PTC's universe the police (really the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit) would immediately determine who the killers were and arrest them before any further murders occurred. But here's the worst bit from the PTC: "Besides being inappropriately rated as TV-PG, the episode is simply inappropriate for prime- time broadcast television. Sadistic serial killers and the violent murder of women is what CBS is selling to the viewing audience, and we should acknowledge that reality." I'm sorry but are we watching the same show? The whole point of this show is that the FBI unit has been set up to apprehend serial killers by understanding them psychologically. I don't know how you are supposed to present this concept without showing the heinous acts of the people they are out to capture. But of course the PTC would much rather that the public only watch shows like their Best of the Week this week, So You Think You Can Dance, a fine show but not the sort of thing that you'd want a non-stop diet of which is what the PTC would like to force on viewers.
Of course the PTC's real fixation isn't on violence. They're fixated on the S-word (sex) and the two N-words (naked and nipples). That seems to explain their reaction to the E! Network's basic cable series Sunset Tan and what makes it their worst cable show of the week, because obviously there was nothing wrong (in their view) with that week's Rescue Me. To the ordinary viewer Sunset Tan proceeds in the rather dubious footsteps of "tattoos shows" like Miami Ink and the fitness instructor show Work Out. I think maybe you can tell that I'm not a huge fan of the genre but that's not really the point here. The point is the PTC's reaction which is typically directed against the "subsidizing" of this evil show. What makes it evil is the "the barrage of bare breasts." Of course there are other evil things in the show as well: "To be fair, the show contains non-graphic shock appeal as well: that of utterly unrestrained consumerism. Watching a mother take her young daughter's cheerleading team to be artificially tanned does add a new, pom-pom inspired nuance to decadence." Huh? What exactly does that mean? Then there's the organization's reaction to the "Olly Girls," (not the Olly Twins as the PTC describes them at least once they're not related) two recently hired employees of the tanning salon named Molly and Holly: "This dizzyingly dense duo was the focus of Sunset Tan's August 19th premiere. Holly and Molly are their names; wasting time and flashing breasts are their game." Gee, they sort of sound like Mikey on American Chopper...well except for the "flashing breasts" part (thank all that is holy). Of course, we don't see the "flashing breasts" of anyone. This is basic cable after all and the companies know that if they show unobscured nipples or even much of the breasts they will be in trouble with the service providers. The PTC acknowledges this although the video (currently available at their Cable Worst of the Week page, at least until they get a new worst of the week) puts something of a lie to the notion that the women are topless "with only their nipples blurred" – a lot more is blurred than the women's nipples. There conclusion is funny as well: "Television is meant to entertain, and some of that entertainment should be mindless fun. But what do gratuitous breasts shots add to this mindless summer fare? I'm guessing it's not a strategy for uncovering pernicious female objectification, or for gaining a deeper appreciation for the difficulty of navigating the consumer-driven coastal California lifestyle." In truth what they find "wrong" about this sort of mindless fun is less "pernicious female objectification" or "the consumer-driven coastal California lifestyle" or even that the Olly Girls are "dizzyingly dense" and more that there is even a suggestion of nudity.
In their "Misrated" section they fearlessly take on The Knights Of Prosperity as show which has already been cancelled twice. The show, which aired on August 8th was rated PG-DL, which for a PG show means suggestive dialogue and mild coarse language. In the scenes which the PTC provides as a transcript Esperanza (the female member of the group) is trying to seduce Ray Romano to get him out of his apartment so the others can rob it (though from the reading of the scene she also seems to be interested for her own reasons). To me some of the dialogue they quote seems fairly innocuous: Ray: "What are you talking about? You don't want to sleep with me." Esperanza: "More than anything in this world." She also tells Ray that "I will do special things..." To me it seems that the most suggestive thing is this bit of dialogue once Ray and Esperanza are in a hotel room: Esperanza: "I would like to freshen up my private areas first." Ray: "Okay, alright. Mine are pretty much ready to go." That seems fairly innocuous to me but not to the PTC which argues "This kind of dialogue surely warrants more than a PG-rating. A female character using her sexuality to prevent her friends from being caught engaging in criminal behavior is not appropriate for young viewers. Would a ten-year-old girl understand that using sex to get out of trouble is not a good way to solve problems?" Because of course ten-year-old girls take their cues on proper behaviour from a character on a cancelled sitcom rather than people like, I don't know, maybe their parents? They conclude that "The above dialogue, along with the rest of the episode's criminal and sexual content, shows that this program is not suitable for children under 14. The August 8th 9:30 p.m. EST episode of The Knights of Prosperity should have been rated TV-14 for its intense discussion of promiscuous sexual behavior – behavior that was glorified and validated because it was 'for the good of the group.'" The TV-PG rating acknowledges that there is some suggestive content included in the episode and the addition of the DL descriptors emphasises the point further as does the time that the episode aired – the second half of the second hour of prime time. As usual, I find the PTC to be their usual prudish selves.
Friday, August 24, 2007
In what might be the closest race not to result in a tie in one of my polls we had 20 votes cast. In fifth place with no votes is Kiefer Sutherland from 24. In fourth place with four votes (20%) is James Gandolfini of The Sopranos. Tied for second place are James Spader (Boston Legal) and Denis Leary (Rescue Me) with five votes each (25%). But the winner, with six votes (30%) is Hugh Laurie of House.
I think that a couple of things are fairly obvious. The first of course is that James Gandolfini will most likely win for playing Tony Soprano in his show's final outing. This season (or is it part of a season) saw Tony go into a darker place than he ever has before and have his supports cut from under him. I don't know if it is superlative acting but it is showing a different dimension of Tony, which could be seen as stretching Gandolfini's abilities.
The second thing that is fairly obvious is that in this poll at least Keifer Sutherland is suffering the backlash from what is generally described as the worst season that 24 has ever had. The show started off with a blast (ha ha) but went downhill real fast. Under those circumstances even the best performances may not be good enough to make up for the perceived quality of the episodes.
That's the obvious. There are several things that aren't obvious. Like where those last votes for Hugh Laurie came from – the last time I checked I'm pretty sure he was actually trailing behind Gandolfini. Was it that my review of the Season 3 DVD set reminded people of how good he was in it? And yet I'm not entirely clear on why he went past Dennis Leary. Leary does a masterful bit of acting in portraying Tommy Gavin (at least I hope it's acting – I'd hate to think that Leary is anywhere near as big a horse's ass as Gavin is). As Toby put it in his comment on this category, "I can't stand Tommy Gavin. I'd have no trouble if his character was finally killed off and the show continued.... But I can't deny that Leary nails the role and makes Tommy a despicable jerk who deserves everything that's happening to him (save of course the loss of his son). I've got to give Leary the credit he deserves for that." Of course, Rescue Me is a cable show and as I've mentioned before they tend to do less well in my polls than broadcast series. In a way performing this well might be as good as a win. Nah.
I also don't get James Spader. As in why Spader gets nominated in this category for the role of Alan Shore. The few episodes that I've seen of Boston Legal have always come off more as "dramedies" rather than a full blown drama like House, Rescue Me or The Sopranos. I don't deny that Spader does well in the role, but I honestly don't see him as being in the same class as Laurie, Leary or Gandolfini. I wish that someone would convince me that I'm wrong about this one but right now I don't see it.
This brings us to Hugh Laurie. Greg House is patently a jerk but never as huge or as terrible a one as Tommy Gavin. Nor does he have that vaguely egotistical quality that has irritated me about Alan Shore on those few occasions when I've seen Boston Legal, despite the fact that he does have a huge ego. Laurie's performance this season has been layered and we've learned things about House that we didn't know before – why he became a doctor, and a little of where his "real" pain lies. While I don't think that Hugh Laurie's performance is quite on a par with either Gandolfini's or Leary's I wouldn't be as surprised to see him win as I would be to see Spader or Sutherland win the Emmy.
New poll up in a few minutes.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
I made it down to the Dakota Dunes Casino on Monday and enjoyed myself even though it wasn't quite what I was expecting. It wasn't as large as I thought it would be somehow. The lunch I had (for free thanks to a coupon) was delicious but lacking a little – chicken balls without any obvious sauce? There were four poker tables but none in operation, though I suspect that would have changed in the evening. There seemed to be fewer table games than at the old Emerald Casino which was closed so that this place could open. There were a lot – and I mean a lot - of slot machines, which after all are the big money makers for any casino. And in an odd sort of way this reminded me of a lot of DVD releases including, but not limited to, the releases of TV shows on DVD. They frequently aren't exactly what you were expecting, the Extras are satisfying, but sometimes seem to be lacking, and the stuff you want sometimes either isn't there or not available in the abundance that you were hoping for. But it's still enjoyable.
Anyway down to business. As always while the comments are mine the list originates with the good folks at TVShowsOnDVD.com.
My Pick Of The Week
I confess I'm really in a quandary over this one. The show I would pick is presented in a very no-frills package, is a show that is at best a niche interest and while it may be the show that I'd want to watch I honestly don't think it is the best package of the week. On the other hand it really is a lacklustre week compared even with next week's list of releases. Still I feel obliged to do one and it comes down to one of two first season shows. And the winner is:
Dexter: Season 1
There's really just one reason why this wins my favour over the first season of Ugly Betty and that is accessibility. Dexter is only available on the Showtime premium cable channel in the United States and on either of the two movie networks in Canada. Chances are, therefore, that most people probably haven't seen the series. People are more likely to have seen Ugly Betty since it airs on ABC. Not, mind you, that Dexter is without its charms. Chief amongst these of course is Michael C. Hall as the title character, a sociopath whose homicidal urges have been channelled by his adoptive father into killing other serial killers and heinous criminals who have escaped justice. Remembering Hall from his work on Six Feet Under (which I have seen) he would seem to be a perfect fit for the part. On his earlier show he played a character who – for the most part – seemed to be holding himself under tight self-control. This of course is exactly the quality that a serial killer working for the police force as part of a double life would possess. It is because Dexter is a new show and one which is on premium cable channels that it gets to be my relatively unenthusiastic pick of the week.
And now for the rest of the week's DVDs.
Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan: Cesar's Toughest Cases
Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan: Power of the Pack
Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan: The Complete Second Season
I gotta tell you that despite being a dog lover I don't get the whole notion of The Dog Whisperer phenomenon. Obviously the title refers to the Robert Redford movie The Horse Whisperer, but the basic principles that Cesar Millan is trying to show – that it is usually the owners who are the root of the problem rather than the animals themselves, and that the owner needs to establish himself or herself as the leader of the animal's "pack" is something that goes back to British dog trainer Barbara Woodhouse, but without all of the psychological mumbo-jumbo that Millan seems to pile on. In addition there are more than a few concerns from veterinarians and others about Millan's methods, as stated in part of the Wikipedia article on the show.
House: Season Three
I love House and Season 3 was one of the show's better outings. You had the character seemingly restored to good health, only to plunge back into his addiction in a manner that seems to prove that House is an addict with pain rather than one because of pain. He is provided with a nemesis to rage against in the form of Detective Tritter (David Morse in an Emmy nominated performance) while those surrounding him are revealed to be enabling him. After the matter of House's addiction is "solved" we find ourselves dealing with the relationship between House and his team in terms of the Chase-Cameron relationship, and Foreman's increasing fear that working so closely with House will strip away his humanity and leave him increasingly like his mentor. The season has some great episodes, although none of them really has the personal impact on House that episodes like "No Reason" (Season 2) or "Three Stories" (Season 1) did.
I Pity the Fool: Season 1
Let's face it, Mr. T has always been about the over the top personality, so what could be better than a reality show that shows off his personality. In I Pity The Fool, Mr. T (I don't know him so I don't feel comfortable calling him just T, particularly since he could still probably whup my skinny white ass if he wanted) goes from town to town helping people in typical Mr. T fashion. I've never seen it but the very notion of Mr. T helping students with a dance recital has comedy written all over it, and whether Mr. T realises it or is entirely serious about what he's doing doesn't diminish it.
JAG: Season 4
It's interesting that in reading the reviews of this week's DVD releases at Blogcritics the reviewer states that it is "a series whose popularity I never could fathom." I don't really think that it's all that hard. People like shows about lawyers and have done since Perry mason was winning every case and making Hamilton Burger look like his name (I wonder if Erle Stanley Gardner was aware that at some point in his life his prosecutor character would be ridiculed by someone calling him "Ham Burger" – probably). Add to that the fact that the setting is not just the military – which is a part of society that many people have ties to but which is still a world that most don't have an intimate knowledge of – but the Navy, which is a branch of service with its own customs and traditions and even its own legal peculiarities (for example an officer can be prosecuted for an accident that happens to the ship when he is officer of the deck even if he isn't actually in command; the punishment is usually a reprimand and can affect future promotion). Oh yeah, and having insanely attractive leads (David James Elliott and Catherine Bell) doesn't hurt either. And jets, let's not forget the jets. Plus the show, which tended to skew to an older audience, worked well on CBS at a time (before CSI) when the network needed shows that attracted viewers.
Life Begins: Series 1
I've never seen the British series Life Begins but the plot summary provided by Wikipedia somehow makes it sound like a dramatic version of The New Adventures Of Old Christine. In the first season Maggie Mee (Caroline Quentin) suddenly finds her marriage (which she thought was fine) broken up by a younger woman and is forced to cope with finding a job and raising her two kids on her own, even though her ex-husband in scarcely out of the picture. The difference of course is that while ...Old Christine plays this entirely for laughs, whether it's the continued presence of her ex-husband in her life, raising her child or her sex life, Life Begins apparently deals with the same sort of issues with a serious approach; Caroline has to get a job for the first time in a long time, she has to consider whether to take her philandering husband back or try to develop a relationship with another man, and then there's her father who is in the early stages or Alzheimers. Everything about this show makes it seem like the sort of show that the British do so well and which would never be seen on an American broadcast network...mores the pity.
Man About the House: Complete Series 1 and 2
I so wanted to make this DVD set my pick of the week, but I just couldn't do it. There was a time, back in the 1970s when Canadians saw a lot of British comedies because of a loophole in Canadian Content regulations that counted British and French series as Canadian – or maybe it was just "not American." Either meant that they were a cheap way to increase the percentage of Canadian shows to American programming on your station or network. We saw shows like Doctor In The House, On The Buses, Please Sir, and Yes Minister well before most of them found their way onto American channels. One of those shows was Man About The House. Most people know Man About The House as the model for Three's Company but in my opinion the original was the superior show. While Suzanne Summers character Chrissy Snow always came across as sexy but really dumb, Sally Thomsett's Jo was more naive than dumb. Richard Sullivan's portrayal of Robin Tripp was a much less physical form of comedy than John Ritter's Jack Tripper became. The relationship between Robin and Chrissy Plummer had far more of a sense of unresolved sexual tension than the Jack and Janet relationship did (and I'm was a Jack and Janet 'shipper) and the characters realised it – Robin and Chrissy come close to having sex in a later season and when Chrissy eventually marries Robin's brother, you get the sense that she thinks she might have married the wrong Tripp. (Forget the cover of the DVD set – Paula Wilcox who played Chrissy was hot.) Best of all though were Brian Murphy and Yootha Joyce as George and Mildred Roper. Much as I love and respect Norman Fell nothing can compare with Murphy and his ginger hair and truly absurd comb-over. So why isn't it my pick of the week? The big ones are that there are only 13 episodes, despite the fact we're talking two seasons here, that it isn't from a major company (BCI-Eclipse – my prejudice of course), and worst of all that there are no extras, despite the fact that there are only 13 half-hours on two discs. And the sad truth is that we probably will never get a release of this series that contains interviews or other features. And I'm such a fan of this show that I really want extras.
South Park: Season 10
I've never been able to stand South Park and I don't feel comfortable saying anything about this series.
'Til Death: The Complete First Season
'Til Death isn't the best comedy on TV, but it is the best (non-animated) comedy on FOX – not that that's saying much. The show's biggest asset is Brad Garrett (in all sorts of ways) even though his character in this – history teacher Eddie Stark – lacks the put-upon quality that made Robert such a great comic creation in Everybody Loves Raymond. The combination of Garrett with Joely Fisher creates a married couple which, unlike many sitcom couples, seems real. The look like they could have been married for twenty-four years, and if nothing else have become comfortable with each other. There's just no truly pressing reason to buy this set though.
Ugly Betty: The Complete First Season
I have two confessions to make. First, I have never seen an episode of Ugly Betty. Watching it would interfere with my Survivor and Big Brother addictions. That I am addicted to those two shows is my second confession by the way. Even though I haven't seen Ugly Betty it seems to be the sort of show that I could embrace (if it weren't for those pesky reality shows). The show is based on the Colombian telenovella Yo soy Betty, la fea it is billed by the network as a "dramedy." And I suppose that if played "straight" it would have qualities similar to something like Melrose Placer some of the other night time soaps. What sets Ugly Betty apart is that it isn't played completely straight, it satirizes the culture of beauty that devalues someone who isn't "perfect" by the prevailing standards of beauty. Betty has a better education than just about anyone else in the office (though she's not as well educated as her Colombian counterpart who has a Masters in Finance) but is scorned because her fashion sense is less than ideal, she wears horned rimmed glasses and has braces on her teeth. Even so she becomes the real power behind the throne at work. There is so much that is over the top in this show, like the boss's transsexual brother/sister Alex/Alexis (played by Rebecca Romijn) who is out for revenge on her family, a dizzying number of affairs and assorted machinations. Definitely a show worth watching from the start, something that the DVD set makes possible – even for me (if I could ever find the time).
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
I think I'm having one of those weeks. No, not that sort of week – well in my personal life maybe but in my blogging life no. It sort of like those old westerns or war movies where one guy turns to the other and says "It's quiet," And his pal says, "Yeah, too quiet." That's how I've been feeling this week about the sort of TV news I like to put into these Short Takes posts. There hasn't been anything that's really excited me. Casts of shows are set and the shows are out there being shot; schedules are set – or at least seem set; this is the television industry after all where schedules are set in Jell-o – and the most outrageous thing that I can find that has happened is that Drew Carey has sustained more injuries on the set of The Price Is Right before shooting has even started than Bob Barker sustained in thirty years of doing the show (if you don't count bear hugs from Samoan women or sex with Dian Parkinson). Yawn. I was worried that I wouldn't have much to write about beyond my usual ridicule of the PTC – which is both fun and righteous – but it's not enough to be really fulfilling. I think I've cobbled together a few worthy pieces though.
Oh by the way, I'm coming up with a couple of ideas for a second blog. I haven't hammered out the details in my mind quite yet, but it will be a sort of nostalgia/cultural history of the 20th Century thing (which makes it sound a lot more pompous than I intend it to be). Suffice it to say that the inspiration is the one episode of Mad Men that I've watched, combined with a Coronation of George VI drinking glass that my mother got at the time of the actual event. I'm leaning towards rambling tales related to some bit of topical material like a DVD release or something, or really whatever tickles my fancy (or fancies my tickle). I doubt that it will be more than about two posts per week. What do you guys think?
HBO cancels John From Cincinnati: I don't know that anyone is really surprised by this. The show had a lot of things going against it, starting with the fact that by all accounts (because of course I haven't seen it – if it airs here it is on one of those premium cable services that I don't get because I don't have to in order to get the services that I want) it was quirky to the extreme. I am, on the whole, convinced that there is a limit to the amount of quirkiness that people are willing to accept. Then too, there was probably a bit of a natural backlash since David Milch supposedly stopped doing the very popular Deadwood to bring John From Cincinnati to the air. I say "supposedly" because since the cancellation of John From Cincinnati there is more than a little evidence that it was HBO that cancelled Deadwood and used Milch's new idea as a reason. As for Milch, he is currently working with his friend (and NYPD Blue executive producer) Bill Clark on an idea for a cop show, set in the New York of the 1970s. According to Variety the lead character will apparently be a man who is "recruited as a soldier while he was overseas, to come back as a disaffected veteran and infiltrate the antiwar movement, as a shortcut into the New York City police force as a detective." Fans of NYPD Blue with good memories will recall that this is basically the backstory given to Andy Sipowicz as an explanation for his racism.
HBO renews Entourage and Flight of the Conchords: I've seen maybe one episode of Entourage, although it is more available to me than most HBO series – earlier seasons are on Showcase, I just can't remember to watch it – and I've never seen an episode of Flight of the Conchords, mostly because it's a new series and most HBO series go first to the premium services in Canada – Movie Central in Western Canada and The Movie Channel in Ontario and the rest of Eastern Canada. The renewal of Entourage for a fourth season is not a huge surprise even though some people apparently are not overly impressed with some aspects of the current third season. Apparently the renewal of Flight of the Conchords is a slightly bigger surprise, but only very slightly. But as I say I really can't judge whether the renewal is justified or not.
(More) New cast members for Heroes: Just when I thought I'd have to resort to a YouTube video of Rob Mariano (of Rob & Ambuh) taking a swing at some guy at a San Francisco audition for Rob's new reality series Tontine (the guy totally deserved it by the way – he shoved Rob twice and splashed him with water before Rob hit him), I remembered some casting news from Heroes. The show added three new cast members last week. First was Janel Parrish who is currently starring in the live action version of Bratz (which quite frankly is a major box office bomb). The next casting announcement was that Nichelle Nicholls had been cast to play the mother of one of the other new characters. I may be mistaken but assuming that George Takei returns to play Hiro's father again this season, this may be the first time she's worked on a non-Star Trek series series with another member of the Star Trek cast – well except for Futurama which shouldn't really count. (The ideal of course would be for George and Nichelle to have at least one scene together). Finally, in perhaps the biggest casting news for the show, Kristen Bell, who starred as Veronica Mars until the series was cancelled, has signed onto the series. She had previously been rumoured to have accepted a role on Lost but this was denied by all concerned. The supposed reason for Bell not doing Lost was her desire to take over the role of Elle in the Broadway version of Blonde Ambition. Based on her decision to join the cast of Heroes this has also proven to be false. Bell will also be providing the voice of the unseen Gossip Girl on the CW series of the same name.
Who does the PTC hate this week?: Well they don't hate the J.M. Smuckers Company. The PTC presented the jam company with their "Integrity In Entertainment Award" for, as the citation says, demonstrating "an enduring commitment to uplifting, enlightening, educational and wholesome media messages, and eschewing the harmful, offensive and undermining messages so frequently seen in our entertainment media today. We want to honor the J.M. Smucker Company for its commitment and history of sponsoring television shows that the entire family can enjoy." They add, "Corporations are starting to realize that it's good business to be socially responsible. Television sponsors contribute to the culture through their advertising dollars. The content they choose to underwrite is a direct reflection on their corporate values and beliefs. Through its sponsorship decisions, the J.M. Smucker Company shows that it values the family and will not help to finance the harmful, graphic and gratuitous content that airs all too often on television today." Call me cynical, but it's the old business of reaching your desired customer base that is motivating Smuckers to make the advertising choices that they do. I would argue that advertising on "family" programs has very little to do with being "socially responsible" (and I would almost guarantee you that the PTC's concept of "socially responsible" is totally different from mine) and has an awful lot to do with being the right venue to reach the parents and children that buy and consume jams and jellies. If the target audience for the Smuckers products were watching programming that contained "harmful, graphic and gratuitous content" (as defined by the PTC of course) wouldn't it be the responsibility of the company's advertising department to put their commercials on those shows in order to ensure the company's bottom line.
The PTC's Broadcast Worst of the Week is more than slightly bizarre. It is Killer Wave on ION. What, you've never heard of ION? Maybe you'd know it under its former identity – PAX. The PTC's objections to the show, which was a four hour mini-series was that the show "was clearly influenced by the violent anti-terrorism Fox show 24, both in style and content. Mass casualties, graphic gunfights, bloody fistfights, and foul language are found throughout the program, making it completely inappropriate for viewing by children and families." They detail some of the 24 style action, which includes the lead character bludgeoning a female assassin to death with a statue, a shoot-out between police and a hitman, and a woman being shot by a terrorist: "Her body slumps lifeless on the ground, with blood streaming from a hole in her forehead." They also object to the language that peppered the show "like "hell," "damn," "ass," and "g*ddamn." But the big objection wasn't any of this, it was that the show was on the network formerly known as PAX: "This week Bud Paxon, founder and CEO of PAX -- who started the network in an effort to bring family-friendly programming to the airwaves -- must have been disappointed to see the road down which his predecessors(!) are steering his former network." Of course they mean his successors. They underline the point though: "Killer Wave would have qualified for our pick for Worst of the Week on any network, but we at the PTC are particularly disappointed that it aired on ION. This once wholesome network is headed down the wrong path. It is our sincere hope ION corrects its course." Of course it amazes me that the PTC is so fixated on a network that rarely draws more than 1% of the total TV audience, and is losing affiliates. If PAX was the sort of network that the PTC would run if only they were able then it is proof that their programming philosophy would be a commercial disaster; if PAX was the model that the PTC wants to impose on all of the television networks then it would be the end of broadcast TV.
The Cable Worst of the Week is Comedy Central's Flavor Flav Roast. I'm not going to defend this show on content. I thoroughly despise Flavor Flav and can't understand why anyone would watch anything that his name was attached to. However the PTC seems to have a far rosier picture of past celebrity roasts than those roasts deserve. "Celebrity "roasts" are a long-standing tradition among organizations of entertainers, with the famed Friar's Club roasts dating back to the 1920s. The "roast"
format first appeared on television as a segment on The Dean Martin Show during its 1973 season. A year later, NBC spun the concept into a separate series of specials, the Dean Martin Celebrity Roast." They then compare this to what Comedy Central did with Flavor Flav: "Comedy Central has opted to turn this set-up on its head. Instead of roasting a proven star, one with genuine talent and showbiz accomplishments to his or her name, Comedy Central's producers instead have opted to mock "stars" of limited talent, subjecting them to the crudest and most simple-minded humor. And who delivers the jokes? The crudest, most simple-minded quasi-celebrities available…most of whom are mainly memorable for not being memorable." Here's the thing though. The Friars Club roasts may well have "celebrated" bigger stars but they were usually as raunchy and ribald as they accuse the Comedy Central Roasts of being. As for the Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts, you might just have noticed that they were heavily edited. I'm not saying that they were as raunchy as the Friars Club Roasts or the Comedy Central roasts, but they were heavily (and frequently badly) edited. As for mocking "'stars' of limited talent'" I refer you to Wikipedia which includes a list of the people roasted by Comedy Central or by The Friars Club on shows which aired on Comedy Central: Drew Carey, Jerry Stiller, Rob Reiner, Hugh Hefner, Emmitt Smith, Chevy Chase, Denis Leary, Jeff Foxworthy, Pamela Anderson, William Shatner, and Flavor Flav. Hardly a list of people with "limited talent," even discounting Flavor Flav. The PTC ends with their usual complaint about "subsidizing" filth, but as usual fails to explain what you are to do if you object to this Roast, but are generally happy with the bulk of the programming on Comedy Central.
The PTC's new Misrated feature continues to provide plenty of fodder for ridicule. This week the "misrated" show is a rerun of Law & Order: SVU which was rated TV-14. That's a show that is not recommended from children under the age of 14, something which is consistent with the time slot that the show is normally seen in (third hour of prime time on Tuesdays). In this case the PTC's complaint is the lack of descriptors. They point to "violent" content and dialogue. In the scene described by the organization we see the body of a "murdered" woman ("Stabler pulls the sheet away from the murdered mother's body. The mother's face is shown with packing tape wrapped tightly around it, her arms bound, and her naked body covered in blood.") and discussion of the rape and murder of the woman and her ten year old daughter. This alone, says the PTC, warrants the application of "V" and "D" descriptors: "This scene is shown in the first five minutes of the program, even before the opening credits. Just this portion of the show alone warrants the "V" and the "D" descriptors because of the depiction of the brutally murdered bodies and the graphic discussion of what the rapist did. Of course, the rest of the show continues to depict the dead bodies, either in pictorial form or in the morgue, and the graphic discussion of rape continues." But does it? For a TV-14 rated show, the "V" descriptor is for intense violence, while the "D" descriptor is for highly suggestive dialogue. The scene described doesn't meet either of those criteria. We aren't seeing the performance of a violent act, we are shown the aftermath – the dead body. As for "highly suggestive dialogue," this is the most suggestive part I could find in the portion of the scene provided by the PTC: Beck: "Hands are bound, breasts and genitals slashed…" Stabler: "A sexual sadist gets off on pain and humiliation; it doesn't track that he'd cover 'em after. Is this how you found them, officer?" That doesn't came anywhere close to what either of the two descriptors mentioned are intended to cover and if they weren't so determined to find something wrong, the PTC would admit it.
But of course that would mean that the ratings actually do work and it is a central platform of the PTC's lobbying efforts with politicians that they have to do something because the inaccurate rating of shows means that the V-Chip is useless as a protection against objectionable programming.
Sunday, August 19, 2007
The usual things apply. Vote for the person that you think should win rather than who you believe the Academy will choose (unless of course they are one and the same person). Poll runs through August 24th. Please feel free to comment on your choices here.
There were eighteen votes cast. In a three way tie for third place are Felicity Huffman of Desperate Housewives, America Ferrera from Ugly Betty, and Mary-Louise Parker from Weeds, each with two votes (11%). In second place with four votes is Julia Louis-Dreyfus of The New Adventures of Old Christine with four votes (22%). But the winner with eight votes (44%) is Tina Fey from 30 Rock.
I think that this is very likely the way the voting will go down at the actual Emmys. I'm pretty sure that Weeds is suffering from the common bias in my polls against cable shows, but not having seen many episodes of the show, my impression is that it is a dark comedy and I'm not sure that the Television Academy really likes those. As for Felicity Huffman, I don't necessarily find her to be particularly funny on the show. I don't enjoy her as much as I enjoy Terri Hatcher for example. I might have expected a better performance in the poll from America Ferrera who has the title role on Ugly Betty even though I' m watching Survivor instead. The show was after all one of the more successful new shows of the past season. If there's an actress who could break out from this third place pack it is her.
The two actress who are in the lead in this poll are in shows which adhere to the standard sitcom format – a half-hour, work or home based series – but they are different from the run of the mill sitcom. "Old Christine" is based on a divorced single mother in her late 30s or early 40s trying to reconstruct her life. I've never seen the show of course (Monday nights and a sitcom) but these sorts of roles are rare in a sitcom landscape filled with shows like 'Til Death and According To Jim. As for Tina Fey, she's obviously learned the importance of being a straight woman in a situation comedy. She is the central figure on the show. Everyone plays off of her – Alec Baldwin as Jack, Jane Krakowski as Jenna, and Tracy Morgan as Tracy – so that things happen to her, and it is frequently the case that laughter comes from things that happen to people rather than from people doing or saying funny things. Buster Keaton understood that, as did Jack Benny. It doesn't hurt for consideration at the Emmys that 30 Rock is a critical darling (even if its ratings are undeservedly low) or that Fey created the show and is one of the chief writers and therefore shapes her own character's desitiny.
New poll up shortly.
Thursday, August 16, 2007
After a week's hiatus I'm determined to get this one out as quickly as possible while still maintaining some semblance of standards. Well at least I got the standards part mostly right. As always, the original list comes from the TV Shows On DVD website. There's a couple of bits of editorializing on value for money – just a warning.
My Pick of the Week
The Fugitive: Vol. 1, Season 1
One of the truly legendary television series of the 1960s. The show is really an anthology series but with a continuing storyline based on Victor Hugo's Les Miserable. David Jansen, whose face always possessed a world weary quality is well cast as Richard Kimble while Barry Morse (a Brit who is a naturalised Canadian – yes, he's still alive and kicking) took the thankless role of Lt. Philip Gerard, Javert to Jansen's Jean Valjean. By having the lead character being a man on the run the audience is given an entry point into various stories that make the series an anthology. While Kimble's search for the "one armed man" and Gerard's pursuit of Kimble are always there, they are only rarely the central aspect of the story.
So why is this my prick of the week? Well, a big chunk of it is nostalgia. It was something that I watched as a kid (and was angry when the local station lost the rights to the series before the finale which I only saw around the time that the movie came out). The other part though is that the series was well done. The anthology aspect of it was a logical outgrowth of Kimble chasing and being chased. As much as I enjoyed Andrew Davis's movie version it lacked the time to develop the characters that the TV series had and – obviously – the opportunities to tell stories about the people that Kimble had an impact on during his time as a fugitive. (The less said about the 2000 series with Tim Daly and Mikelti Williamson the better. The producers of that fiasco just didn't get it.) Even without special features, this is a set to get.
All Creatures Great and Small: The Complete Series 7 Collection
All Creatures Great and Small: The Complete Collection
Series 7 was the last for this great British series, and I'm sad to say that it isn't one of my favourites. By this point the series has long since abandoned James Herriot's original stories and in the seventh season they seem to have tried to recapture the magic of the series by bringing Peter Davison back to the series as Tristan Farnon. By this time Davison had of course played The Doctor on Doctor Who as well as starring in Campion and A Very Peculiar Practice. So twelve years after the series debuted (and after about fourteen years and a World War had passed within the continuity of the series) Davison was basically back playing a Tristan who was little changed by his experiences (in the books, Tristan never returned to the practice and instead worked for the Ministry of Agriculture after being an officer during the war). Of course I never got over the replacement of Carol Drinkwater as Helen by Lynda Bellingham who always looked too old for the part though she and Drinkwater are the same age. Still even poor (in my opinion) episodes are better than a lot of shows that are on TV today.
Avatar Last Airbender V4 Bk2
I willingly admit to my ignorance. I have absolutely no idea of what this animated series is about. I do know that it is supposed to be quite popular with both critics and viewers, but while I'm sure it airs on some cable station in Canada (probably YTV) I've never seen it and given that the storyline appears to be quite complex I have no doubt that to fully appreciate it I'd have to start at the beginning.
Baby Looney Tunes, Vol. 4
Some ideas seem like a good thing at the time but turn out to be bad later. I can't believe that this isn't one of them. The concept of the classic Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies characters as infants is less appalling than the idea behind the series Loonatics, but really not be that much. Save your money for the next edition of the Looney Tunes Golden Collection and see the characters as they were meant to be seen.
Doctor Who: Robot
Doctor Who: Survival
Two serials from the classical era of Doctor Who. Robot is the episode which introduced Tom Baker and I hate to say it but it isn't a particularly great episode, being rather derivative of King Kong in places (mostly the final episode where a giant robot menaces a village while carrying Sarah Jane in its hand). Still, any episode with Sarah Jane, the Brigadier, Sgt. Benton and Harry Sullivan can't be all bad. I confess to actually enjoying Survival almost as much. It was the last episode of the series' first run, which means Sylvester McCoy as The Doctor and Ace as a companion who was nowhere near as intelligent as Sarah Jane but would sooner kick an enemy in the bollocks than scream. I liked Ace and have always wondered about her final fate. The episode also marks the final appearance of Ace as a companion who was nowhere near as intelligent as Sarah Jane but would sooner kick an enemy in the bollocks than scream. I liked Ace and have always wondered about her final fate. The episode also marks the final appearance of Anthony Ainley as The Master, and quite honestly it looked like the character might have made his final appearances as well (but of course you can't keep a good villain down – death is at best a minor inconvenience). I also find the Cheetah people a far more interesting menace than the robot and the collection of vaguely mad boffins who created it. That said, like every Whovian worth his grotzits, I believe that Sarah Jane is The Doctor's greatest companion.
Dynasty: Season 2
The second season of Dynasty was when the series really came into its own with the introduction of Alexis Carrington, played with a delicious wickedness by Joan Collins who plays wickedness with the energetic delight of someone who may have just a touch (or more) of it in herself. Before the arrival of Alexis, Dynasty can probably be summed up as a fairly poor Dallas knock off. With Alexis it developed an incredible over-the-top quality that no other show matched. You'd believe the most outrageous things with Alexis. Annual cat fights with your ex-husband's new trophy wife? I believe it. Screwing your boyfriend to a heart attack and then literally marrying him on his deathbed? It was absolutely believable on this show, if it was Joan Collins doing it. She made the word Bitch practically an honour that you had to be worthy of.
Elvis: The Mini Series
This is the CBS miniseries from a couple of years ago that starred Jonathon Rhys Meyers as "The King." I`ve never seen it; I confess to never having been a huge Elvis fan – or even a small Elvis fan. Apparently it was quite good, with Meyer's portrayal of young Elvis being good enough to win an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Actor in a Miniseries (yet another example of a British – well Irish – actor taking the bread out of the mouth of a deserving Canadian actor who could have played the role ;-) ). However, as I say, I am in no position to judge.
Home Run Derby, Vol. 2
Hmm. This is an interesting sounding show that I've never heard of before. Basically Major League ball players in 1959 came to the Los Angeles Wrigley Field (former home of the Pacific Coast League's Los Angeles Angels an occasional home of the Dodgers before they moved into Dodger Stadium) and participated in a head-to-head home run hitting contest. There'd be nine "innings" and each player would get three outs per inning – an out being defined as any hit that was not a home run or any pitch not hit that was in the strike zone. The winner of each game would win the princely sum of $2,000 with a bonus of $500 for any player who hit three straight homers, an extra $500 for the fourth homer and $1,000 for every consecutive homer after that. The winner would also return to "defend" his title. In the days before free agency when player salaries were a lot lower than they are today, that was a pretty good supplement to a player's income. The series was apparently popular but was cancelled in 1960 when host Mark Scott died suddenly of a heart attack at age 45. This set focuses on the show's biggest money winner, Henry Aaron who won six straight "games" and $13,000. Certainly an interesting relic of the period.
The Kids in the Hall: Pilot Episode
The pilot for the legendary Canadian comedy series never before released on DVD; who wouldn't want that? Well apparently, Canadians. It is not available from Amazon.ca. Well at least they don't make it easy; searching the site with either a partial or complete title reveals nothing but entering the ASIN # obtained from the Amazon.com website produces a page for The Kids in the Hall: The Pilot Episode! Certainly it's a bit of absurdity worthy of the Kids in the Hall (or at least Dave Foley in a dress).
Loonatics Unleashed: The Complete Second Season
The horror, the HORROR. My recommendation on Baby Looney Tunes ("Save your money for the next edition of the Looney Tunes Golden Collection and see the characters as they were meant to be seen.") applies here as well except that it should be done as a form of penance for even thinking of buying this abortion. What were they thinking and/or smoking when they came up with this idea?
Masters of Horror: Valerie on the Stairs
Masters of Horror: We All Scream for Ice Cream
I'm not entirely familiar with this Showtime series, but the quality of the writers (Clive Barker for Valerie On The Stairs, John Farris for We All Scream For Ice Cream), directors (named here) and actors (William Forsythe, and Christopher Lloyd among others) in these two discs promises a great deal. These are Season 2 episodes; coming in a couple of weeks will be a boxed set of the Season 1 discs which had been released in the same manner. Based on price and the fact that the Season 1 set includes a previously unreleased disc of extras, you would probably be better off to wait for the eventual release of a complete Season 2 set unless you specifically want only specific episodes of the series.
Mcleod's Daughters:Season 3
Apparently this Australian series airs in Canada on the non-denominational religious channel Vision TV, and on the digital specialty channel One - the Mind, Body & Spirit Channel, all of which is by way of explaining why I have never heard of this series until now (Australian, religious channel, "Mind, Body & Spirit Channel" – none of them my cup of tea, except maybe Australian. Apparently the series is one of the most popular shows in Australia and is consistently nominated for and wins "Logies" – the Australian equivalent of the Emmy, named after John Logie Baird (the inventor of the first practical television system, "mechanical television"). Who knew?
Why is it that so many cop shows and mysteries feature "two mismatched detectives" who find themselves working together to solve crimes? I don't know, but they do. Murder City features Amanda Donahoe as Detective Inspector Susam Alembic ("perhaps the most talented DI in her department") who is partnered with Detective Sergeant Luke Stone, played by Kris Marshall. Stone is seen by many of his colleagues as "an amateur detective" and by some as incompetent for his mistakes. I haven't seen this show, which airs on BBC America but not on BBC Canada (at least not yet) but I'm interested in anything with the alluring Ms. Donahoe, who I loved in LA Law which was before I saw her in Lair Of The White Worm where she was literally bewitching.
Overhaulin': Season 3 Vol. 2
Cars, many of them classics, overhauled for unsuspecting owners. It undoubtedly helps if you're a car guy, which for the most part I'm not.
A Pup Named Scooby Doo, Vol. 7
I'm not sure that I need to say it, but I've never been a fan of anything to do with the Scooby-Doo franchise except of course with the original link to Buffy the Vampire Slayer which is a cultural reference (which morphed when Sarah Michelle Gellar took the role of Daphne in the live action movie). Even so the notion of the adventures of Scooby-Doo as a puppy somehow seems wrong to me. On the other hand it does seem to give some background to the characters but somehow it doesn't seem right to me, Considering that only 29 episodes of this show were ever made, seven volumes seems like a lot. What it is is an effective way to get money out DVD buyers who would probably be paying less if a season set or complete series set were offered. It is, I'm sad to say, a rather common and annoying practice for the producers of DVDs aimed at kids and paid for by their parents.
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Usual drill – vote for who you think should win, not who you feel will win because the Emmy voters can quite frankly be f---ing donkeys sometimes (can you tell that I watched the finale of Hell's Kitchen last night).
I would really like to see comments on why you are voting for what you choose to vote for by the way so that I can integrate more opinions into the results posts.
Poll closes August 19th.
Fourteen votes were cast. In a tie for fourth place were Charlie Sheen of Two And A Half Men and Ricky Gervais from Extras with no votes. In third place is Monk's Tony Shaloub with two votes (14%). In second place with four votes (29%) is Steve Carrell from The Office. But the runaway winner, with eight votes (58%) is 30 Rock's Alec Baldwin.
I think you've nailed this one. Charlie Sheen's nomination seems primarily to be an acknowledgement that Two And A Half Men is one of the most popular comedies on television, yet critics both years that he has been nominated have been mystified by the fact. I am vaguely surprised that Ricky Gervais didn't get a little more recognition from you for his work on Extras, although of course it is on HBO and votes on my Emmy polls tend to to be hard to come by for cable shows. Likewise I am vaguely surprised by the votes that Tony Shaloub has received for his role on Monk, primarily because it has been my feeling that the show is, to put it bluntly, a bit past its glory days. Or at least that's the impression I've been getting based on what others have written – I don't get a chance to see the show myself.
Which brings us down to Carrell and Baldwin, which I'm convinced is how it will shake out in the actual voting as well. While Carrell plays the hilariously oblivious office manager Michael Scott, a man promoted well beyond the level of his incompetence, beautifully, it is Baldwin who stands out from the pack this year. In what in most shows would be a supporting role Baldwin explodes to prominence, dominating every scene that he's in and doing it effortlessly. It helps of course that Baldwin is a frequently brilliant actor who is also a deft hand at comedy and that the show's writer and executive producer Tina Fey recognise this. As Toby said in the comments for this poll, "With Baldwin, the writers and directors have cut the restraining wires which could have held him back. He could be considered an overwhelming force on the show, but it's delivered with such glee that you can almost sense Tina Fey mentally standing back and enjoying the way he dominates the scenes they share together." Baldwin's presence turns what otherwise could be a fairly standard comedy (in a time when a most "standard comedies" are pretty dismal to be honest) into a shining star.
And yes, I think that it is absolutely certain that the Emmy voters will reward Alec Baldwin for this performance. If they don't give it to either Carrell or Baldwin the Emmy voters should have their collective heads examined.
New poll up in a few minutes.
It is sometimes irritating how time can slip away. I meant to do one of these last week, along with a TV on DVD posting, but with one thing and another (and another after that) by the time either one would have been done it would have been time to do this one – and some of the stuff that I had promised myself I would do this past week wouldn't have been done. And that doesn't even count some ongoing projects that have yet to be resolved. Plus I really wanted to get out to the new casino that opened about 24 miles out of town (a long and gory story exists about why it is 24 miles outside of Saskatoon but the short version is that the people of my hometown are moralistic morons – if you'd like to hear the full story ask me in comments and I'll do an off topic post) – I wanted to go on opening day (Friday) but decided against it and now I don't know when I'll get the chance.
Another thing that fell by the wayside was taking notes for this post. I have a system but it sort of fell apart this week in part because I didn't really check all of my usual sources. The end result is that I'm sort or winging it this week and it might not be terribly long or complete. Well except for the PTC section this week, which is huge.
Big Brother bigotry: The really big story concerning this season of Big Brother in the U.S. has nothing to do with banner planes or the twist of "America's player" or "Evel" Dick (that's how he wants "evil" spelled) cursing at anyone who gets in his way and dumping iced tea on Jen's head. No it has to do with statements that have never been broadcast either on the three weekly episodes of Big Brother that air on CBS or on the nightly three hour live show – Big Brother After Dark – that airs on ShowtimeToo. These were statements made by houseguest Amber which happened to be picked up on the Internet live feeds. Speaking to fellow houseguest (and truly odd Christian – at least in my experience) Jameka, Amber said "The majority of people I know from New York are Jewish, and the majority of Jewish people I know, my gosh, so many are so selfish. So weird. Even my sister always tells me, she's like my sister, and my mom will meet someone and I'll be like, 'I don't like that person. That person doesn't seem like a very good person to me,' and my mom and sister are like, 'You know why?' Why? 'They're Jewish.' How do you know? 'Amber you can tell by their last name, you can tell by their nose.' I'm like, 'Really?'" One of the other houseguests with whom Amber has had an on and off feud is Eric Stein who, as it happens, is from the New York City area (Westchester County) and is Jewish.
Needless to say the statements made their way from the show's live feed to the various video sharing sites including YouTube. Also needless to say there has been considerable reaction, some calling for Amber's removal from the house. It was a story on both FOX News and CNN. Abraham Foxman, National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, said "It's part of the unintended consequences of the communications revolution. Anybody can say what they do - but reality shows are now giving license to these expressions of anti-Semitism. Now, all of a sudden, the world is privy to their bigotry and it's on national television... then enhanced on YouTube. What they've done is distributed anti-Semitism -- which started as a private conversation -- and by putting it on a reality TV show broadcast it to the world at large. I want CBS to understand they are facilitating anti-Semitism. They should act responsibly to the community; they are legitimizing bigoted conversation." In the same posting on TMZ, CBS responded by stating that "Big Brother is a reality show about watching a group of people who have no privacy 24/7 - and seeing every moment of their lives. At times, the Houseguests reveal prejudices and other beliefs that we do not condone. We certainly find the statements made by Amber Siyavus on the live Internet feed to be offensive and they will not be part of any future broadcast on the CBS Television Network."
I confess that this whole controversy bothers me, and it bothers me on both sides. It is pretty apparent that Amber is a very stupid and very strange woman. She's a former drug addict who lied a couple of times to her former boyfriend about being pregnant. That in fact was part of the reason for her extremely angry breach with Eric. Her bigotry isn't surprising. In many ways it is a throwback to the way that North American society was for many years, the sort of prejudice that was common into the 1950s, well after Hitler's rise and fall took anti-Semitism to a frightening extreme. That said, I feel that the statements that have been made about Amber's statements are significant overreaction. They are also expected of course. The live feeds are just that – live – and therefore uncensored. CBS has not, and according to their statement will not "broadcast it to the world at large." The live feeds are Internet rather than television and are a pay to view service. That's significantly different from making "the world ... privy to their bigotry and it's on national television." What is CBS supposed to do to not distribute anti-Semitism? Were they supposed to pull the plug on the Feed and if so at what point were they supposed to do it? Were they supposed to force YouTube to pull the clips off of their site? It is a fact that Amber was aware that she is on camera all the time but it is also a fact that people who are under constant surveillance – either in documentaries or in business situations – who are aware of the fact come to either forget or ignore the fact that they are under surveillance and revert to their normal pattern of life. I think that Amber either forgot that she was constantly on camera or was just living her life and having a conversation with someone she regards as her closest friend in the house. That her speech was bigoted is obvious but so is the fact that if Amber's statement hadn't been the subject of such righteous indignation far fewer people would have seen it or been aware of it since few people – including our Jackie – watch every minute of the live feeds (though she tries).
Coming to Criminal Minds –
Harvey Keitel Joe Montegna: When Mandy Patinkin pulled – well a Mandy Patinkin – and suddenly left the successful Criminal Minds in much the same way that he left Chicago Hope (then for "personal reasons" now for "creative differences") a number of names were bandied about as possible replacements of various degrees of seriousness. Geena Davis was under consideration as were Michael Keaton and Bob Hoskins. Eventually it seemed likely that Patinkin would be replaced by Harvey Keitel, star of such movies as Reservoir Dogs and The Bad Lieutenant. TVSquad actually announced that he was in serious negotiations for the part. And almost immediately they had to recant when a TV Guide report stated that the negotiations had fallen through. Eventually it was announced that Joe Montegna, who previously starred in Joan of Arcadia, and First Monday, would be replacing Patinkin.
Who does the PTC hate this week?: And the answer is so many things that it's hard to keep count.
The PTC announced their list of "Best" and "Worst" advertisers. The definitions are obviously based on the degree to which the company advertises on programming that the PTC regards as suitable, although they say that they base it on "how frequently they sponsor wholesome, family-oriented television shows or those containing sexually graphic, violent or profane material on broadcast television." The 10 "Best" are (in order): Proctor & Gamble, Walt Disney Co., Ford, Unilever, Viacom, McDonalds, Johnson & Johnson, Schering-Plough [Products include: Afrin, Claritin, Nasonex, Dr. Scholls, Lotrimin], Coca-Cola, and General Mills. The 10 "Worst" are: Toyota, GM, Limited Brands, Payless Shoe Source, Vonage, Volkswagen, Dunkin Brands, Reckitt Benckiser [Products include: Clearasil, Lysol, Spray and Wash, Air Wick, Woolite, Jet Dry, Glass Plus, Electrasol, Easy Off], GEICO, and Bayer.
There is an obvious fault in this list, and that is that it seems to assume that the "good" advertisers are making the decisions that they have as to where to put their advertising dollars based on moral grounds, and presumably the "bad" advertisers are immoral scum. Maybe some of that is in fact the case – at least as far as the "good" advertisers – but I suspect a lot of both groups' choices are based on where they can get the most bang for their bucks; in other words which programming will target their demographics that buys their products. Obviously Disney is going to market most of their movies and their theme parks to families with pre-teen children and will therefore advertise primarily on programs that reach that demographic. In much the same way, most automobile companies will target their advertising to people who buy cars. General Motors and General Mills are not aiming at the same demographics and it makes sense that they will advertise to different audiences and on different programs. If General Mills suddenly found that the population who bought their cereals was watching Rescue Me, they would be advertising on Rescue Me.
Next up, the PTC is upset with MyNetwork TV, and its parent company News Corp. You may remember MyNetwork TV; they were the motley collection of UPN and WB stations, many of them owned by News Corp (which also owns FOX and FX) that were formed into a network after being excluded after The CW was created. Their line-up is a thoroughly pathetic mix of reality shows, movies and a lesser extreme fighting league with Wednesdays in the summer being devoted to "various programs." On August 1, MyNetwork TV aired the first two episodes of the new F/X series Damages, which stars Glenn Close in what the PTC descrinbes as "the so-called Family Hour" (whether the use of "so-called" is a case of the PTC finally acknowledging that the Family Hour doesn't really exist or – more likely – is a protest against the networks who fail to acknowledge the "existence" of the Family Hour, is unknown). The PTC was scathing in their denunciation of News Corp for running the show: "The programming executives at News Corp. and its subsidiaries have demonstrated once again their blatant disregard for children and families, in spite of giving considerable lip-service about being responsible. Coming less than a year after airing a scripted 'S-word' on an 8 p.m. broadcast program, this contemptuous act – airing an adult-themed, mature-rated, 10 p.m. cable program on broadcast television during the family hour – illustrates just how little they truly care about their public interest obligation." Later they add "More children watch television during the 8 pm hour than on Saturday mornings or after school. If the Fox executive suite truly cared about acting responsibly, the company wouldn't put an adult-targeted, MA-rated cable program on one of its broadcast networks at the start of the family hour. Their FX channel has proven to be a cable network that regularly – and proudly – attacks the decency sensibilities of most American families, and now this same graphic and gratuitous content is airing on broadcast television at 8 pm. This behavior proves once again that the self-serving TV ratings system managed by the industry is a sham. Television networks cannot be trusted to rate their own programs. If parents are ever going to trust and rely on a TV ratings system for content information, the system needs to be accurate, consistent and transparent. The networks must be held to an objective and uniform standard, and there needs to be a real consequence for failing to apply ratings accurately."
In a separate article the PTC outlines their objections to the show which primarily seems to be that not enough was cut to meet the standards that the PTC feels should be met for the rating and descriptors used by the network. The FX airing of the show was rated as TV-MA SL (Mature Audience, Sexual Content, Language). The My Network TV version was listed as TV-14 SLV (Sex, Language, Violence). The PTC notes that an article in Variety about the airing of the show stated "the Damages episodes will be edited to reflect a TV-14 rating, which means some of the language will be trimmed, as well as some sexual content, from the original FX airing." In other words, violent scenes would not be edited. The PTC then stated that "Comparing the FX premiere episode with the MyNetworkTV premiere episode, the only discernable difference is that all instances of the "s-word" and "g-ddamn" were cut, as well as a few (but not all) instances of the word "bitch." Left uncut were the words "ass," "hell," "damn," and "bitch," which are not uncommon for TV-14 broadcast shows." In other words the show had been edited to bring the show down to the common standard for a TV-14 broadcast show. They next turn their attention to a bedroom scene that was edited from 55 seconds to 30 seconds. Here's the PTC description of the scene: "there is a scene in which the main character Ellen and her fiancée Noah are clearly having sex. The viewer can see Ellen drag her hands down Noah's bare back, which is glistening with sweat. They passionately kiss, Ellen is shown on top of her fiancée smiling while Noah is on the bottom, smiling up at her." The PTC states "The FX version of this scene is 55 seconds long, while the MyNetworkTV version is 30 seconds long – so, to be fair, the executives did "edit" the scene. But are network executives making the argument that if a sex scene on broadcast is shorter than on cable that somehow makes it appropriate content for a 14-year-old? What is of real concern is that the scene was edited for length, not for content." They may very well be arguing just that. During the period of the Production Code in Hollywood after all the duration of a kiss was one of the defining factors as to whether or not a scene was acceptable (any kiss lasting longer than 3 seconds was defined as lewd, and there could be no open mouth kisses). A 30 second sex scene may indeed be acceptable in the context of a TV-14 series with an S descriptor. Finally the PTC objects to two scenes of violence which were unedited between the FX and MyNetwork TV editions despite the fact that the FX version carried a TV-MA rating but no V descriptor while the MyNetwork TV shows had a V descriptor for the TV-14 rating. In other words the violence in the cable version was not sufficient to earn the V descriptor but in the broadcast version it was. In terms of violence the episode would seem to be correctly rated.
The PTC's new Misrated feature seems to be directed primarily at ABC's series (well really ABC Family's series) Greek and their most recent attack on the show contains what has to be the most absurd and prudish thing I've seen in a while, something literally worthy of The Simpsons' Ned Flanders. The piece starts with a piece of dialog between Casey and her ex-boyfriend Cappie which is apparently about coffee: "Nothing starts the day off right like that first cup of Joe. After all, your first is always the best, don't you agree? The one that's most special?" The PTC points out that "Cappie is referring to the fact that he and Casey had their first sexual encounter together." But then they bring out the next part of the same scene where Cappie's fraternity brother comes in. His nickname is "Beaver": "Beaver: 'You guys are way too into your coffee. Pardon. I spy a tasty morning muffin. [Beaver then walks over to Rebecca.] Beaver: 'Top of the morning, muffin.'" The PTC points out "What is the most offensive about this content is that both the term 'beaver' and 'muffin' are commonly used vulgar slang for a part of the female anatomy, and they are deliberately used to emphasize the sexual nature of the conversation." Heavens, what they must think of Beaver Cleaver, the little sex fiend! They also choose to ignore the fact that "muffin" is frequently used as a non-sexual term of endearment and even directed at children. The PTC decries the fact that the episode is rated TV-PG SDL (Sex, Dialog, Language): "If Greek's content is only rated TV-PG SDL, one can only wonder what would warrant the TV-14 SDL rating." In the case of the scene described above, we are obviously seeing double entendre at work, material that more mature people will catch (and presumably be amused by) but which younger and less sophisticated viewers wouldn't catch. The PTC is so fixated on sexual innuendo that they deliberately ignore the non-sexual contexts that exist for the situation. Not that I'm surprised of course
The PTC's Broadcast Worst of the Week was more reruns; in this case a two hour package of Family Guy episodes tied to the new Fox movie Superbad "the latest sex comedy geared for teens and young adults." Despite the fact that the PTC says that the episodes contain "some of the most outrageous and depraved content of the season" they are episodes which have aired before. Instead let's turn to the PTC's Cable Worst of the Week, which is "repeat offender" Rescue Me. Their approach on this one is interesting. They start off with their usual objections to the show: "Rampant alcoholism. Violent outbursts. Rape. Falling babies? Those four lines now sum up Rescue Me, FX's gritty chronicle of the tragic New York City firefighter Tommy Gavin. But last week the program reached a new low: depicting falling, and dying, babies." Which you would think is all they object to but you'd be wrong. They actually try to argue about the artistic merits of the show, but in typical PTC fashion they don't get it: "The producers of the show undoubtedly considered the August 1st episode critical to Tommy's growing sense of alienation." They delineate the events of main character Tommy Gavin's life include his apparent reconciliation with his ex-wife because of a new baby. Then they describe his life falling apart – the baby turns out to be his brother's and his ex-wife is suffering from post-partum depression. And here is where they don't get it: "At this point the show's writers and producers had a choice: they could have depicted, however hyperbolically, the real difficulties of infidelity and parenthood, or they could go for cheap thrills. You can guess which they chose: Tommy, contemplating infanticide is shown dangling Janet's baby over a city bridge." Here's the thing though; it wouldn't be in character for the Tommy Gavin we know deal with this any way other than this. Tommy is an incredibly flawed and haunted human being (arguably schizophrenic), and this is in character for him. And then they got into the question of "art": "Art, whether on your television or in the Louvre, deals with profound – and sometimes ugly – truths of human nature. But disagreement can and should occur on the line between aesthetic evolution and graphic sensationalism. That basic cable viewers – whether offended or enthralled by cable's programming, whether avid watchers or V-Chip users – are forced to subsidize all basic cable programming is not only unfair, but violates another component of art: the spectator's right of choice."
It is, as I have said numerous times, a bogus argument. Basic cable is advertiser supported, a fact which the PTC acknowledges every time they criticize advertiser for putting their commercials on Rescue Me. The cable user is paying for the cable network's delivery of programming; the advertisers pay for the shows (yes it's a bit simplistic but essentially true) and if the audience isn't there – as was the case with E!'s most recent edition of The Simple Life – the show will be cancelled because the advertisers won't support the show. It is a clear proof that "the spectator's right of choice" really does exist and it exists through the medium of the On-Off switch on the TV. I you don't like the show, don't watch it. If enough people don't watch the show it will end up being cancelled.