Saturday, September 30, 2006

One Irritating Thing About TCM in Canada

This post serves a bit of a dual purpose. First of course is to register my irritation about something that Turner Classic Movies does with their Canadian feed, and that is to sometimes show different films in Canada than they do in the United States.The other purpose is to thoroughly lord the fact that I get TCM (and AMC now, though it really isn't worth the effort anymore) because I have Shaw Cable while my friend and fellow habitue of the alt.movies.silent newsgroup Stephen Cooke does not. I'm tempted to add a "Nelson Muntz" like HA HA here, so I will


Most of the time I confess that the substitutions aren't really a problem for me. TCM has to substitute for films where they don't own the Canadian broadcast rights and can usually find a movie in their library that's just as a good and sometimes better - or at least something that I have a greater desire to see - than the movie that they're not going to show. But this Sunday they're showing the recreation of the classic (and lost) silent horror film London After Midnight to Americans. Canadians get The Boob with George Arthur and Joan Crawford. Which is fine I guess, except that it's October and TCM usually loads up on horror films and I've been hearing about this film for years, and this recreation for almost as long. Still it's not as bad as on October 29 when TCM in the USA is showing the 1925 Phantom of the Opera while TCM in Canada is showing Cabin In The Sky, which isn't even a silent. I ask you, is that fair?

Friday, September 29, 2006

Jericho Is Not Lost

Every so often there's a show which has a fascinating premise and a good to great cast but when the show finally emerges somehow doesn't deliver on the promise. Jericho is a show like that. After watching the second episode I'd say that this show could be more than just an adequate bit of entertainment, and still might develop into something more. After two episodes though I have to say that it isn't there yet.

Think the end of the world is scary? That's nothing compared with the end of civilization. At the end of the world everyone dies, but at the end of civilization people revert to the state of nature. And it's not just any state of nature either, it's a very Hobbesian state of nature where, as old Thomas put it, life is "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short." The science fiction writer Jerry Pournelle wrote a book about that called Lucifer's Hammer and while it didn't deal with a nuclear bombing, it did involve an event which basically left the world without the trappings of civilized man and featured what amounted to a determined group in one location trying to pull things together despite the best efforts of the uncivilized hordes to overwhelm them. There's dramatic tension in that sort of story line. Unfortunately I don't think that Jericho is delving anywhere near that deep into the subject.

In the pilot episode we're introduced to the primary cast, and they seem to fit "types". There's Gerald McRaney as the town patriarch, Mayor Johnston Green, and his two sons. Eric (Kenneth Mitchell) is the good son who stayed in town and helps dad run the place, while Jake (Skeet Ulrich) is the mysterious prodigal son who is a disappointment to his father but his mother Gail's (Pamela Reed) favourite. There's Grey Anderson (Michael Gaston), the man who wants to run the town - not an outright bad guy but someone who wants to disturb the natural order of things. There's Dale Turner (Erik Knudsen), the kid from the wrong side of the tracks whose trailer trash mom was off in Atlanta doing what trailer trash moms do. Of course he has a crush on one of the richest girls in town. There's Jake's old girlfriend Emily Sullivan (a blonde Ashley Scott) whose fiancee was flying into Wichita, and the young and extremely skilled school teacher - Heather Lisinski (Sprague Graydon) - who is clearly going to be the third leg of this love triangle. To round things off are Stanley and Bonnie Richmond (Brad Beyr and Shoshannah Stern), two siblings who own a farm in the area despite the fact that she's deaf. Finally there's British actor Lennie James as Robert Hawkins, the mysterious newcomer in town who claims to have been a cop in St. Louis but seems to know about a lot of things than an ordinary cop wouldn't know. Plus there's the usual assortment of people who don't stand out as important, at least not yet.

The first episode also set the premise - the townspeople of Jericho Kansas become aware of a nuclear blast in the vicinity of Denver. Most of them see the mushroom cloud rising in the west behind an intervening mountain range (in Kansas... or even eastern Colorado) just as the President of the United States is about to make a speech to Congress on increasing global violence. Setting aside how unlikely it is that you could see a mushroom cloud rising over Denver from even the Kansas state line, the image of the boy standing on the roof of a building watching the mushroom cloud after his little sister counted "5...4...3...2...1" is a strong visual, and a reminder of the famous "Daisy" ad from the 1964 presidential campaign. Equally affecting is the way that the town first learns that Denver isn't the only place that has been hit by a nuclear blast. Dale Turner's mother called their home just as the Atlanta bomb exploded and the way that he plays the answering machine tape over and over to hear her voice is certainly effective. The trouble is that this seems to be as far as they go. The lights go out - I'm surprised they lasted as long as they did - and people start to panic. There's a run at the gas pumps since these folks need gas to run their generators, and things almost get violent before the mayor gives an inspirational little variant on his campaign speech that calms everyone down by reminding them to be proud of their town. There's a bus full of school kids who go off the road and hit a deer. They're rescued by Jake, despite the fact that his leg is injured. In fact, the mysterious prodigal son even has the time and skills to do an emergency tracheotomy on a little girl using juice box straws (none of the kids is old enough to have a pen).

I have to confess that the second episode was better than the first, although it didn't really live up to my hopes for this series either. The second episode featured two major plot points. The first concerned an approaching rain storm which would drive the radioactive dust from the Denver explosion to the ground right over Jericho. The townspeople needed to take shelter from the "fallout rain" but the the town's two fallout shelters can only house a fraction of them - those who can find shelter in basements or storm cellars at home are advised to do so. In one Eric details exactly how you die from radiation poisoning to a group of guys who refuse to go to the shelters and are planning on dying with their buddies playing pool. This scene seems to redeem Eric but in a later scene he acts like a tough bastard when he turns away busses filled with people from the town's other, uninhabitable shelter. It is Jake who comes up with a solution to the problem by suggesting that the people take shelter in the local salt mine, and it is Jake who mysteriously knows enough about demolition to know how to collapse the entrance to the mine without bringing the whole place down on the people's heads.

The episode's other major plot resolved a pair of cliffhangers from the premier. One concerned Emily, who was blissfully unaware of the bombs and had been driving to Wichita to pick up her fiance. The other was related to the search for the school bus. The county sheriff and one of his deputies found a wrecked bus, but it turned out to be a bus carrying convicts. In the second episode Emily was picked up by a sheriff's car carrying two mend dressed as deputies, but bit by bit she became aware that they weren't what they seemed, a belief that was confirmed when she heard an actual police broadcast that mentioned that the sheriff was missing. They ended up at the Richmond farm, where only Bonnie was at home. The "deputies" needed gas for their car but Stanley had the only key and he was in town. Tension grew as Emily sought a way to protect herself and Bonnie and to get help from town. Eventually she was able to get a gun and three bullets from a display that the Richmonds had on a table, and was able to escape to the car and its radio to call for help. The call was heard by Jake, who raced from the mine (after detonating the explosive to close the entrance from the outside) to the Richmond farm, just in time to gun down the two fake deputies and get Emily, Bonnie, and the two real sheriffs deputies (who were still alive in the trunk of the car) into the relative safety of the Richmonds' storm cellar.

The problem I have with Jericho isn't that it's a bad show. It is perfectly adequate and if anything seems to have improved over the first episode. The problem I guess is that I was expecting and hoping for something more than a "perfectly adequate" show. The show is being compared in some circles to Lost, but by that comparison they are falling short. We are barely aware of relationships outside of the Green Family and their friends and colleagues, like the Richmonds and Grey Anderson. In fact the only character who is really outside this circle is the mysterious Robert Hawkins who knows more than he's telling. He has far more knowledge than a guy who was a cop in St. Louis and had some anti-terrorism training after 9/11 would have. He's keeping information from his neighbours - like the fact that Philadelphia, San Diego, Chicago and at least three other cities were also hit - and seems to have bought a house with its own extensive bomb shelter. One of the strengths of Lost is that while there are central figures in the cast it is a large ensemble and attention can shift between the characters. In the first two episodes of Jericho the focus has clearly been on Skeet Ulrich's Jake as the "man of action." In the first two episodes, and in the previews for the third, Jake has played a central role while the other characters haven't had nearly the development. Moreover there seems to be little of the character development that is so much a part of Lost. We know very little about most of the characters, and in the case of Jake and Robert Hawkins the truth is actively being kept from us. tantalising tidbits are being revealed - Eric is married to the town doctor but seems to be carrying on some sort of an affair with the owner of the local tavern - but just how important this information will be is hard to determine at the moment.

Jericho is a show with. Gerald McRaney was an outstanding presence in the third season of Deadwood. Sadly the part of Mayor Johnston Green doesn't have nearly the depth of George Hearst on Deadwood. Similarly Pamela Reed seems to be relegated into yet another supporting role as Gail Green. So far she doesn't really seem to have much to do beyond being - well supportive of her husband and her two sons. Skeet Ulrich's character of Jake. He seems to be a good fit for the role, although I think that the focus on his character tends to detract from the potential of other actors. The two younger female leads, played by Ashley Scott and Heather Lisinski seem likely to be relegated into a romantic triangle with Jake. The characters are both capable in their own ways but they seem somehow to be relegated to lesser positions within the scripts.

I don't want to seem too negative about Jericho. I still think the premise has considerable potential and it could realize that potential. Still, this season seems to be giving us an abundance of good shows - dare I say it superior quality shows as compared with previous seasons. I'm not sure that Jericho falls into that category, at least not yet. I confess that there are shows that were cancelled last season that I would prefer to watch instead of Jericho. The show is doing well in the ratings, so far finishing second in it's time slot to Dancing With The Stars, and is building an audience, but for my part I just feel that this is not a strong offering. Certainly it isn't comparable to Lost. If the two shows went head to head I'm inclined to believe that Lost would easily emerge as the winner. From my point of view Jericho needs more of a sense of impending menace not from radiation but from other people, the ones in the Hobbesian state of nature who are determined to take what they need from those who have it. I also think that it needs to focus more on the larger ensemble and less on the character of Jake. If the writers can work on these aspects, and the viewers are willing to accept this sort of thing, I think the series could become more than "just" adequate.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Poll Results And A Bit Of News - What new Drama will be cancelled first?

First the results. We had fourteen voters this time around, which sounds good until you realize that there were sixteen shows listed, so we averaged under one vote per show. Not that it matters though because there's a relatively clear winner.

In a tie for eighth place with no votes are Heroes, Standoff, Ugly Betty, Shark, Runaway, Friday Night Lights, Six Degrees, The Nine and Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip with no votes. In a tie for fifth place with one vote each (7% of those cast) are Smith, Vanished, and Justice. In a tie for second place, with two votes (14%) are Kidnapped, Jericho, and Brothers and Sisters. The clear winner in this poll however is Men In Trees with five votes (35%).

There are a couple of interesting things in these results. Of the shows not getting any votes, only one - Standoff - had debuted before the poll began. Of the shows that got votes, only Brothers and Sisters has not yet debuted (it appears tonight). Make of that what you will, but I can't help but wonder what the results would have looked like if my technological difficulties hadn't occurred and I'd been able to run the poll before most of the series had debuted.

I can't help but wonder what the sizable vote for Men In Trees to be the first drama cancelled means. I know that I haven't reviewed the show yet largely because I have so far found myself unable to sit and watch a complete episode without missing big chunks of it. This is despite the fact that I basically like several members of the cast including Abraham Benrubi (Jerry from ER but also Olaf The Troll from and episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer) and John Amos (Admiral Fitzwallace on The West Wing, but also Gordie on the 1970s Mary Tyler Moore Show). Setting aside my personal dislike of Anne Heche - when she was a lesbian and with Ellen DeGeneres I kept thinking that Ellen could do much better, which of course she has - I don't really find the parts of the episodes that I've seen that appealing. The interesting thing is that I read people raving about just how good the show is in terms of writing and characters. I'll keep trying with it though.

And now the news I promised. reports and Futon Critic confirms that Fox will be placing both The Happy Hour and Justice on "early hiatus" before the start of the Baseball playoffs which dominate the Fox lineup for most of October. The episodes of The Happy Hour scheduled for September 28 and October 5 will be replaced by reruns of episodes of 'Til Death. The Justice episode schedule for September 27 will air, but the episode set for October 4 will be replaced by a House rerun. In addition the pilot episode of Justice will be repeated on Friday September 29, reducing the length of the Celebrity Duets finale to one hour from two (hurray!). The Happy Houris supposed to return to the Fox lineup on November 2, but no date has been reported for a return of Justice. Each of the series, which started earlier than most network shows, suffered a major audience loss against "premiere week" competition. Ratings for Justice were down 37.29% from its premiere episode (and down 36.67% in the 18-49 demographic), while ratings for The Happy Hour dropped by 34.78% (and 32% in the 18-49 age group) from its debut. In last week's ratings, The Happy Hour finished fourth in its time slot against My Name Is Earl, Survivor, and special recap episode of Grey's Anatomy which aired before the season premiere. Justice was fifth in its time slot, being beaten by the second hour of The CW's America's Next Top Model, as well as CBS's Criminal Minds a rerun of last season's finale of Grey's Anatomy and the second hour of NBC's Biggest Loser. I suspect that airing the Justice pilot on Friday night might be an attempt to see if the show could be moved permanently to a time when all Fox has is a couple of reality shows, but that's purely a guess on my part.

A Late Review Of Kidnapped

I managed to screw up the taping of several shows that I wanted to see this week. Yeah, I use a VCR not a DVR (around here DVRs are only available if you pay for a high def cable box or use satellite, but that's a whole other story) so there's no high tech "season pass" for me. Anyway, I am really grateful that NBC decided to show the pilot episode of Kidnapped on Saturday night, because if they hadn't I might have missed one of the best shows that I've seen so far this season.

There are basically three ways to approach the first episode of a new series. You can dump the viewer into the story with virtually no preparation at all. That's what Aaron Sorkin did with The West Wing. You can spend the bulk of an episode setting up the premise of the series, although the result is a pilot episode that bears little or no resemblance to what people will see every week. That's what Sorkin did this year with Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip. Finally you can find a middle ground where a significant portion of the episode is given over to setting up the basic premise of the show with the remainder given over to settling into the regular flow of events. This seems to be the approach taken by the producers of Jericho. I don't have any problem waiting until the second episode to review a show like Studio 60, or even one like Jericho because of the way their pilots are structured, but when it comes to show that dump you right into the action, the pilot episode is often essential for grasping the events of the show, particularly one that is essentially a serial. Kidnapped is one of those shows.

Kidnapped opens almost as if it was an episode of Law & Order. In a few minutes we meet the Cain Family - the teenaged son Leopold, the younger daughter Alice, mother Ellie, and father Conrad. We meet the Cains in the morning as the present a happy appearance to a reporter from the New York Times. There seems to be a sort of undercurrent suggesting that perhaps things aren't as happy as they might seem to be. Also present is Virgil, who we have seen entering the building in what seems to be a daily occurrence. When Alice tries to introduce Virgil to the "girl from the Times" (as Conrad calls the reporter) her mother tells her in French "We don't talk about Virgil with guests." As we quickly discover, Virgil is Leopold's bodyguard. We soon learn that Leopold needs a bodyguard. The car in which Virgil, Leopold and another boy are being driven to the boys' exclusive private school they are stopped and the driver killed. Virgil shoots a man posing as a cop and then shoots up a garbage truck blocking their retreat before he himself is shot by a sniper on another building. The other boy is sent back to the Cain home with a note - "Don't call the police." All of this occurs in the first six minutes of the show and yet it can't be described as rushed. We get the information we need to know in order to set up the premise of the series and to give us a hint of how we should feel about these people.

We are soon introduced to the major characters of this show. As it happens, the Conrad Cain's lawyer, Roger, knows someone - or rather knows of someone - who can help. This is our introduction to Knapp who we see rescuing another kidnapping victim and killing the kidnappers to get to her. Knapp, and his associate Turner, have as their goal the return of the victim "intact" otherwise they don't get paid. That's part of why Knapp advises his clients not to contact the FBI; in his view the FBI's objectives are too diverse - the return of the victim, the identification and capture of the kidnappers and the recovery of the ransom. Unfortunately the Cains may not have a choice about bringing in the FBI. Agent Latimer King, who is on the verge of retiring, is contacted by Virgil's wife. She tells King that her husband is missing. After first asking Conrad Cain about Virgil's whereabouts, King eventually finds him in a hospital in Queens. It is from Virgil that King learns about Leopold's abduction. He surmises that Knapp is also involved, and in a nicely choreographed scene, talks to Knapp on the phone. Both men are lying about their locations until King and his FBI colleagues enter the Cain home and are standing face to face with Knapp.

It becomes clear almost immediately that King and Knapp both know and respect each other, and seemingly don't respect the lead FBI agent on the case. They're soon dealing with a ransom demand. The kidnappers call Conrad Cain and demand that he deliver $20 million in Bearer Bonds to a subway station in Brooklyn. This allows the FBI to "determine" the location that the call came from, an apartment in Brooklyn. While Knapp, Conrad Cain and King go to the drop point, the FBI's SWAT team prepares to take down the apartment as soon as the ransom is delivered. Told to proceed into the "local" tunnel to Coney island, Cain encounters a man to whom he is supposed to deliver the ransom - or at least so he thinks. When Knapp captures the man it turns out that he's a homeless man who has been given a hundred dollars to deliver a note. But it's too late. The FBI agent with the SWAT team sends his men in, not listening to King's claims that this was not the drop. It turns out badly - the apartment was rigged with explosives and when the SWAT team enters, the place blows up. At that moment Ellie Cain gets a call from the kidnapper: "You've just killed your son."

This recap of the first episode doesn't do it justice. There are several scenes involving the kidnappers including their apparent leader "Mr. Schroeder". Once the kidnapping takes place, Schroeder's associate ruthlessly goes about eliminating loose ends - specifically the fake cop and "Mr. Greene" the sniper who shot Virgil. But there are so many other great touches, like Ellie's line to Conrad when he says that the note tells them not to call the police: "I imagine the note always says not to call the police." It's said in such a matter of fact manner that it conveys Ellie's certainty that her husband is doing the wrong thing but that she'll let it go ... for now. There are all sorts of hints that there's something deeper going on, and not just in the kidnapping.

Inevitably there are going to be comparisons between this show and the Fox show Vanished. If the criteria for comparison is that the show is a serial about kidnapping (the Fall Preview edition of the Canadian TV Guide contains the following: Is the world really ready for two season-long kidnapping serials on the same network? - Vanished and Kidnapped both air on Global in Canada) then I don't think the comparison is valid. Vanished is heavily modeled on films like The DaVinci Code and National Treasure. The kidnapping of the Senator's wife in Vanished seems mainly intended to lead the FBI agents and the reporter into the depths of a massive conspiracy and the shadowy "super-organization" responsible for it. And while the Cain family and others in Kidnapped have more than their share of secrets and shadowy areas in their lives, the show's focus is on the kidnapping rather than on the as yet unknown motives for it. By any other criteria, Kidnapped comes out far ahead of Vanished.

The acting in Kidnapped is first rate, which shouldn't really surprise anyone given the talent that has been assembled for this series. Oscar winner Timothy Hutton plays Conrad Cain while Dana Delaney plays his wife Ellie. They have some scenes that portray the intermingled rage confusion and hopelessness of parents who have had a child kidnapped, and they pull them off in a manner that is letter perfect. Jeremy Sisto plays Knapp, and from the moment you first see him, you realize that he is a both a dangerous man and someone of greater depth than he might initially appear to have. There's an exchange that he has with Turner (Carmen Ejogo) that shows this beautifully. Knapp asks "So what kind of fifteen-year-old reads Buddhist Epistemology?" to which Turner replies "A lonely one." And then she asks "Don't tell me you've read it" to which he replies "Hnm-mm. Not this translation." Finally, there's Delroy Lindo as the marvellously named Latimer King. His physical presence marks him as a man who is in charge, and the way that the other agents react to him at his retirement ceremony and then after he takes on the case confirms that he's very good at what he does. It's an impression confirmed by the way that Knapp reacts to him on the phone call. There's a deep mutual respect there; one has the feeling that there aren't too many people that Knapp has respect for and few of them work for the FBI. Comparing the cast of this with the cast of Vanished is like comparing the latest high performance supercar with an inexpensive product of one of the big three auto makers. The American car does the job but the supercar makes you enjoy what it's doing. Of course the strength of the cast is only part of it. The writers of Kidnapped give this superb cast speeches that fit the situation they are in and which come across as believable. As for the direction, the pace is absolutely perfect. Where the pilot of Vanished seemed to be in a rush to get us between action scenes and to not give us time to recognize how weak either the cast or the writing were, the first episode of Kidnapped managed to pack a great deal into its hour but in a manner that still let us enjoy the quiet, personal moments like Conrad Cain making a peanut butter and Jelly sandwich for his daughter but being so distracted that he doesn't realize that he's using mayonnaise instead of peanut butter. Not only is it a perfect symbol for the grief he's feeling that his son has been abducted but it's the sort of personal moment that can easily be so easily ignored if the focus is too much on the investigation, as it almost has to be in most episodic cop shows. It's an example of using the serial form to good advantage, something that I don't really feel that Vanished does.

I think you can guess that I really like this show. It may very well be one of the best things that I've seen so far this season, and it is definitely on my list of shows to go out of the way to see. I'll make sure the VCR is set properly this week because this is one show that I want to make sure I don't miss. I highly recommend it.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Oh This Shark Has Such Nice Teeth Babe

There are times when an actor is so dominant that just the mention of his name in association with a project is sufficient to to let you know that he (or far less often she) will dominate that project for good or ill. I mean let's face it, when Jack Nicholson is in a picture who is going to watch anyone else. Well maybe if DeNiro is there too. And then there's James Woods. When James Woods is on screen - in a movie, a TV show or even a poker tournament - he's the guy you're going to be watching. Not always because he's good because that's not always the case but because he seems to have this hyperactive need to be the centre of attention and whether it's showing up at a heads up poker game against Johnny Chan carrying a grapefruit (Chan is famous for sniffing an orange during a tournament, defense against the days when most poker rooms were also filled with smoke) or devouring the scenery in just about any movie he's in, he wants people watching him. And now he's come to television in the new CBS show Shark.

Woods plays Sebastian Stark, a high priced defence attorney to the stars. When we first see Stark he's addressing the jury at a high profile trial of a man accused of the attempted murder of his wife. His argument wasn't that the man didn't beat the crap out of his wife but that the charge of attempted murder was the wrong one since he had called 911 after he beat her and had kept her alive until the emergency services arrived. The wife beater, Gordie Brock, was found not guilty in about three hours. Six days later Brock beat his wife to death and had the arrogance to tell the cops "It’s my lawyer, boys. So why not save everybody some time and money and let me go right now." Stark went into what amounted to a state of depression for about a month before an offer came from the office of the Mayor of Los Angeles, an old friend of Stark's. He was setting up a "high profile crimes" unit within the Los Angeles District Attorney's office and he wanted to bring someone in from outside to head up the operation because he wasn't impressed with the quality of the people in the DA's office. The man he had in mind was Sebastian Stark.

In short order Stark becomes the newest Assistant District Attorney in the office of DA Jessica Devlin (Jeri Ryan, a much better actress than we gave her credit for when she was labouring away as 7 of 9 in Star Trek: Voyager) and is given the traditional new guy "hated by the boss" gifts - an office in the bowels of the building that is ever so slightly better than Ainsley Hayes's office in The West Wing and a team of the biggest screw-ups that the DAs office can find. And Stark knows it. There's a very impressive little scene where he goes through the resumes of each of his staff members from memory, including a young woman who "isn't on the list" but has volunteered to join the team because she wants to be a defense attorney and wants to learn from the best. "Know thy enemy" is part of his philosophy of trying cases in court which is summed up in his three rules of court: (1) Trial is war and second place is death, (2) Truth is relative - pick one, (3) in a jury trial only twelve opinions matter. In his first case Stark has to deal with an up and coming young singer who stabbed a cameraman working on her video shoot, supposedly because he attempted to rape her. In his first assignments for him, Stark's team lives down to his - and presumably the DA's - expectations of them. Not only can't they follow his instructions but they bring him a piece of evidence that apparently blasts his case apart. It's a video on the Internet showing the defendant and the victim having very consensual sex. Great thinks the team, it's not rape so the defendant can't claim self-defense - terrible says Stark because it makes the defendant look like a sleaze who tapes his sexual conquests and she acted when he tried to stop her from protecting her reputation by destroying the video. Things get worse when the defense is able to show that the victim, a young man portrayed by his mother (Melissa Leo - virtually unrecognisable to anyone who remembers her from Homicide: Life On The Streets and looking far older than her 46 years) as non-violent, had attacked a female nurse while he was under psychiatric care. That night, at his palatial home Stark shows his team his full-sized court - literally a courtroom in the basement complete with artifacts from various famous trials, like the Clarence Darrow's chair from the Scopes Monkey Trial - and how to attack a witness on the stand. This is a great motivational tactic and inspires his team members to work harder. But it is Stark himself who is able to figure out the final piece of evidence that induces a tearful confession on the stand from the defendant.

There's a "B" plot involving custody of Stark's daughter. Stark's divorce from his ex-wife (played by Lindsay Frost - again unrecognisable but this time because she's a brunette rather than a blonde) has been amicable and they've shared custody of their daughter until she makes a final decision who she wants to live with at age 16. However Stark's ex is getting remarried and moving to New York. As a result he expects his daughter to go with his wife and wants to spend time with her before she leaves. Their schedules don't exactly mesh and what he thinks is a final dinner with his daughter, he is so distracted by the court case that it turns into a disaster. All of which makes her final decision about custody a surprise, albeit a rather predictable surprise if you don't happen to be either of the girl's parents.

Shark is all about James Woods. You can count on the fingers of one hand the number of scenes he's not in, and you'd probably only have to take of one sock to count the number of shots he's not in. And he so dominates the proceedings that the four young actors who he spends the most time with on screen - Sam Page, Sophina Brown, Alexis Cruz, and Sarah Carter - get about as much chance to develop their characters as one of those little dolls that come with Fisher-Price toys. Hopefully this changes in subsequent episodes. Danielle Panabaker,who plays Stark's daughter Julie, fares better. She brings a warmth to her character and is seemingly the only person who can penetrate Sebastian Stark's armour not to mention his overpowering ego. As I mentioned earlier, Jeri Ryan turns in her usual good performance and manages not to be totally overwhelmed by Woods' personality. What they do with the character could be interesting, but I suspect they're going to go with the tried and true "unresolved sexual tension" gambit - they can't stand each other but are still yearning to get into each other's pants. I hate "unresolved sexual tension" as a plot device.

The writing on this show is adequate. Certainly there's more than a few "bon mots" mostly for James Woods - "What can I say. There's no 'team' in 'I'." - but occasionally for other characters as well. A defense lawyer (with whom Stark had sex a couple of times) calls him "Shark" and he says "don't call me that" at which point she reminds him that she's seen his 'fin'. For all that the script isn't that bad. There are a couple of chances for Woods to have quiet moments, as when he's having a private meeting with Melissa Leo's character, and several with Panabaker where he comes across as a man who is a doting parent even if he can't remember the details of his daughter's life. And yet the whole thing comes across as being strained and forced to fit James Woods and his personality. I'm hard pressed to think of another actor for whom this script would have worked. As for the direction, the pilot was supposed to have been a "Spike Lee joint" but I really can't see anything about the way he did this episode that would set it - or him - apart from the average TV director. Not that I'm knocking TV directors of course, but I was expecting a whole lot more from a guy whose been nominated for a couple of Oscars. It's certainly not as distinctive as Tarentino's turns on either ER or CSI.

How to assess this show? This show wouldn't be on the air without James Woods - literally, since CBS apparently cancelled the purchase order for the pilot until Woods was cast as Sebastian Stark. In the show Stark tells the mayor of Los Angeles that "I eat prosecutors for breakfast. They’re my main source of fiber." I've always thought that James Woods' principal source of fiber is the scenery he chews and this series is no different. There have been inevitable comparisons between Shark and House but I think such comparisons ignore an essential fact. In House I never lose the feeling that Hugh Laurie is playing a character as he is written. Gregory House's ego, sarcasm, and personality have nothing to do with Hugh Laurie, and if another actor had been cast it wouldn't have made a bit of differences. With Shark I have the overwhelming sense that the character has been changed by the fact that James Woods is playing him and that if a different actor were playing Sebastian Stark a lot of his personal traits would have been different. Heaven knows I don't find the series "realistic" but if I want realism I can (and do) watch Justice. Certainly I don't think that Shark is as good a show as the one it replaces in this time slot, Without A Trace. Shark has nothing of the depth of character that the show about missing persons generated in its first episode. And yet there is something incredibly entertaining about watching James Woods do what he does. Is it a great show? Hardly, but it is watchable and since I grew away from ER years ago this may well be a show I'll stick with for a while.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

A Great Start, But Now What

CBS debuted their new series Smith on Tuesday night and while I basically like it, the show does have me asking some questions. Like this one - what is the show going to focus on between heists? You see, at the end of the pilot episode master thief Bobby Stevens (Ray Liotta) tells Charlie the woman who commissions his thefts (played by Shohreh Aghdashloo from 24) that he wants out of the business after three or four more jobs. Which leaves the question, what do you do with the rest of the episodes? Are these characters interesting enough to sustain the interest and the involvement of viewers without the benefit of flashy action sequences or a caper a week? At the moment I'm not sure. About the only thing that I can say is that what we saw in the pilot probably isn't typical of what this series is going to show on a week to week basis.

The pilot for Smith started with a museum heist. We see the thieves in white full faced masks cutting paintings out of their frames while another man holds one of the guards at gun point. The thieves are interrupted by a second guard, and as the shot shifts to the exterior of the museum, we hear gunfire. Most of the rest of the show is a flashback showing how we got to this point.

Bobby and Hope Stevens (Virginia Madsen) seem to have an average middle class life. He's in sales with a plastic cup company and apparently in trouble with his boss, not that this seems to matter to him. When his assistant tells him that the boss wants to see him, he essentially tells his assistant that whatever the boss wants will keep. Meanwhile Bobby is studying museum plans. Next we're introduced to Jeff (Simon Baker) who is off surfing in Hawaii. At least he is until a couple of locals inform him, with nothing more than their bulk and menacing looks to support their position, that he's surfing on a private beach. Apparently thoroughly intimidated Jeff leaves the beach goes to his car and, whistling a cheerful little tune, guns down the two locals with a high power sniper rifle. Next we're introduced to Annie (Amy Smart), a Vegas showgirl who has a profitable little sideline dealing in stolen credit card numbers, preferably stolen from high rollers. In business she's an ice queen. We meet Tom (Jonny Lee Miller), the next member of the crew, as he's leaving prison. He's met by Jeff who is driving a flashy (stolen) car. Tom has been released on parole, and it is immediately clear that he has some sort of history with Annie, and not a pleasant history. The final members of the crew are car expert Joe (Franky G) and Shaun (Mike Doyle), an electronics expert who works for him in his paint and body shop. They are all brought together by a text message from Bobby. When Bobby's crew gathers he informs them of their target, three paintings in a museum in Pittsburgh, including a Rembrandt. Annie immediately wonders about this - Rembrandts are nearly impossible to fence - but Bobby lets her know that this is a commissioned job and one where they'll have to move what they steal using conventional means. This is followed by a trip to Pittsburgh - Bobby tells Hope he's off on business to St. Louis - to work out the details of the caper and see the physical layout of the museum and its surroundings which includes a sort of booth for a couple of police officers who are there primarily to help tourists. The caper goes down, although not without a few hitches. The least of these is that Annie, who fakes being assaulted or possibly raped to distract the cops in the booth in front of the museum, is recognised by a woman she may have gone to school with and has to Taser her after the woman sees Annie ripping her own clothes and applying fake blood to her face and body. There a really menacing moment when Annie encounters the woman after the heist has been discovered and makes it absolutely clear to her that if she says anything or does anything that would reveal her real identity it would be a very bad mistake, and yet she does it without saying anything more threatening to the woman beyond "Stay put."

There are a number of nice touches in this episode. Bobby's seemingly pathological need to keep his "real" life separate from his "working" life as a thief is expressed in a scene where he leave home and goes to a virtually empty apartment where he drops off his watch, jewelry and wallet, replacing them from a stash of material he has in a safe there, the only reason for having the apartment. It becomes abundantly clear that the way that Bobby and his crew survive and thrive as thieves is not only by not doing anything that will attract attention to themselves but by actively taking measures that will disguise their identities. It isn't just a case of getting new identities, which is a major part of Annie's role in the gang, but of actively falsifying identifying marks and features. It's one of the reasons why Tom is mad at Jeff for stealing a fancy and readily identifiable car, and why Shawn's gambling debt is of such concern to Charlie and for Bobby when she tells him about it. Paying off the debt in one lump sum would attract attention to Shawn and might lead to identifying the crew. On a somewhat lighter note, Jeff takes a woman to bed, apparently with the sole purpose of stealing her cat. As part of his parole Tom has been equipped with an ankle bracelet to monitor his location - it is only through a plea to his parole officer that he is able to attend a wedding that is an essential part of the planning for the museum robbery. Shawn is able to remove the bracelet without setting of the alarms for tampering with it, and Tom and Jeff put it around the neck of the cat so that it will be in motion in Tom's home while Tom is in Pittsburgh.

Smith has a lot of things going for it. The primary cast is superb with particular notice going to Amy Smart and Virginia Madsen. Madsen's portrayal of a woman who probably knows what her husband is up to even if he's trying his hardest to protect her from the reality of his situation. She herself isn't as pure as most others think she is - she's nearing the end of a period on parole for a crime probably related to a drug addiction - may well put her in contention for an Emmy if the series survives long enough for it to be noticed by Emmy voters. Smart's role as Annie would seem to be a case of casting against type but she's letter perfect as the ice queen figure who draws Tom to her like a flame drawing a moth, even though he knows better than to become involved with her. Simon Baker does an excellent job as Jeff, a character who at his base is a cheery sociopath. Ray Liotta is also excellent, as always, but then it sometimes feels like he's been playing this sort of character for most of his career. The writing in the pilot was excellent. It didn't seem as though there was a false note in the whole thing, with plenty of nice little touches that weren't essential to the main plot but which helped to build the atmosphere. The pace of the show was just about perfect. We were introduced to this world in an unconventional manner - starting near the end of the heist - and then through the process of the flashback were brought into the characters' world. This is in contrast with some series that we've seen where everything has been thrown at us so fast in the first episode that it's nearly impossible to get details straight.

Based entirely on the first episode, Smith is a first rate show that deserves to run as long as the wirters, producers and the actors can make it work. My major concern - besides how well it will do against Boston Legal and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit is how people will react to a show which has characters who are not conventionally heroic - in fact are the sort of people that most shows on TV these days have as villains - and how the audience will react to those episodes that don't focus on the sort of major action scenes that were a part of the pilot. Inevitably there are going to be a lot of those episodes, where we'll be primarily concerned with Bobby & Hope's relationship or Annie, Jeff, and Tom, if in fact Bobby is serious about what he told Charlie about only doing four or five more jobs before he retires. I really like this pilot but how well the show performs as a series will be seen in the second and subsequent episodes.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

New Poll - What new Drama will be cancelled first?

As promised The new poll is up - largely because I won't have too much time to do it on Sunday before or after I go to see my little nephew - and it's a big list. This time round you'll at least have more shows to consider and will have seen more of the series for whatever that's worth. Circumstances of course kept me from being able to make this what I wanted it to be, namely a poll in which you'd only seen a handful of the series - and those only because Fox had to get cute with things - but as the man said "dems da breaks."

As usual feel free to add comments or statements (but no spam ads) here.

Poll Results - What new Sitcom will be cancelled first?

Those of you who have been following this blog with baited breath waiting for me to come back... please go gargle, because you really shouldn't keep bait in your mouth. On the other hand those of you who waited with bated breath probaly know the results of the most recent poll better than I do, but let's go through it just as a matter fo form. There were seven votes cast. Tied in seventh place with no votes (which in this case is a good thing) are 20 Good Years, 'Til Death, and None of the Above. There's a massive log jam in second place with five shows tied at one vote (14%) each. They are The Class, Knights of Prosperity (or as I spelled it "Nights of Prosperity") Help Me Help You, 30 Rock and The Game. But the show with the greatest number of votes to be the first sitcome cancelled is Happy Hour with two votes (28%).

The show of course suffered under the handicap of actually being seen during the poling period. Before the show actually aired I would have been inclined to agree with the two people who voted against it. Now I'm not so sure. Oh don't get me wrong, it's pretty bad and it's in a really bad time slot for Fox given all of the heavyweight shows that the other networks have in the first hour of Thursdays. On the other hand that might actually help to keep the show, and its running mate 'Til Death on the air at least until the baseball playoffs - why throw something good away in this losing battle. And besides it is not without a certain charm, just not much.

New Poll - the Drama series cancellation one - up shortly.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

I'm Back!

After I replaced the 300 Gig Hard Drive that I loved but couldn't use with a 100 Gig Hard Drive at the same price (boo) I thought my troubles were over.


When I restarted the computer to format the new disk and install Windows I discovered that my keyboard was dead. I really liked that keyboard! The next day - Thursday - was my Uncle Al's memorial service but I was also able to borrow a keyboard from my younger brother. Everything should work right?


Testing the keyboard using a small hard drive I discovered that it was behaving as if the Control key were permanently depressed. When I tried to use it to at least format the hard drive it did nothing more than make the computer go *beep*. So on Friday I walked to the nearest Source by Circuit City location which isn't that far away, and bought the cheapest keyboard they had - if there were some sort of systemic problem, I wasn't going to waste a lot of money on a keyboard that was going to die soon anyway. But fortunately the keyboard is working fine.

And the rest of the system? So far so good, except that Windows refuses to install my DVD-ROM drive, but at the moment I could care less - I'll get around to it after I manage to restore a lot of other things.

But man do I hate this keyboard!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


Here we are at the start of the roll-out period for most networks that aren't Fox and I haven't been posting. Here's the explanation. The day after I fixed my CPU cooling fan problem by hard drive died, taking with it just about everything. I bought a new hard drive; a 300 Gig Drive that was on sale for $109. Unfortunately my version of Windows doesn't support large hard drives. I've been fighting with Windows since I bought the thing and I've been loosing ... badly. I can't partition the drive and load Windows onto it without Windows repartitioning the drive and then not running, and I can't use the the Windows Installer to pput more than one partition on the drive after which it won't recognise that there is anything beyond that partition. I managed to cobble something together that works adequately but I can't get access to the whole drive so it goes back to Future Shop tomorrow to be replaced - one way or the other - with a 100 Gig drive that will work. That's cheaper than buying a new version of Windows XP. I should be back posting by Thursday or Friday.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Shows That Make You Go Yawn

Every so often you come upon a show that is either extremely good or mind numbingly bad. Fox's new comedy 'Til Death is neither. It is on the whole a rather pedestrian production with a couple of bright shining points. Those points are Brad Garrett and Joely Fisher.

The thing about Garrett and Fisher is that they look like they could have been married to each other for twenty five years. This is a good thing because they are in fact playing a couple who have been married to each other for twenty five years. All to often in modern sitcoms you come upon people who look like the only reason they could possibly have gotten married is because of failed birth control. Who would believe that Leah Remini would fall in love with Kevin James or that Courtney Thorne Smith would end up with Jim Belushi in real life? That's what made TV couples like Ray Romano and Patricia Heaton or even Tim Allen and Patricia Richardson work; you could easily conceive of them being a couple. The same is true of Garrett and Fisher. Plus they're both solid talents - I was never a fan of Everybody Loves Raymond but in the parts of episodes that I did see it was Brad Garrett not Ray Romano who I found funny. Having two solid performers in the mix is essential because this series really has a cast of four. There's Garrett and Fisher as Eddie and Joy Stamm, and Eddie Kaye Thomas (from the American Pie movies) and newcomer Kat Foster as Jeff and Steph Woodcock who have been married for all of twelve days.

It's hard to say much about a show with a cast of four people. Eddie and Joy are a couple in the stage of their relationship where, while they still love each other, the spark is basically gone. They're comfortable with each other but the passion is gone. For Eddie marriage is now so that you'll have someone to drive you to the hospital, and happiness is driving home with a warm bucket of chicken on your lap. Beyond that, Eddie's a cynic about marriage. It is the job of women to suck the fun out of everything. Jeff on the other hand is a young and idealistic to the point of naivete guy from Minnesota (for some reason sitcom producers equate Minnesota with idealistic to the point of naivete - Marshall on How I Met Your Mother is from Minnesota). He believes that if husbands and wives communicate marriage can be a equal partnership and love can triumph over all.

The show opens with Jeff & Steph moving into the neighbourhood and meeting their new neighbours, Eddie & Joy. As it turns out Jeff is the new Vice Principal at Winston Churchill High School, where Eddie teaches History, so Joy suggests that they car pool into work together. While they're getting to know each other in the front yard, Jeff suggests that since they probably aren't going to do much formal dining maybe they could have a pool table in the formal dining room, and Steph seems to agree. On their drive to work Eddie tells Jeff that he won't be getting the pool table and explains exactly how Steph will go about letting him know. Arriving at home Eddie finds that Joy wants them to go jogging - which goes against their fortieth birthday present to each other to allow themselves to get fat - but is soon persuaded to watch The Ellen DeGeneres Show instead (Joelly Fisher of course was a regular on Ellen's sitcom). More to the point Joy has invited Jeff & Steph over for dinner that night. Sure enough Jeff tries to show Eddie that communication and compromise and love has already allowed him to get his pool table for the formal dining room. As if it were scripted (!) Eddie's explanation of exactly how Steph would steal Jeff's fun - by not letting him have the pool table - plays out and the younger couple have their first fight. This amuses Eddie and horrifies Joy. They "catch" Jeff & Steph's fight when Eddie explains his theory about women sucking the fun out of life and giving as an example the hot tub he'd wanted years ago which Joy denied him. She in turn reminds him that in all their years of marriage they have never taken advantage of the free trips she can get as a travel agent because he refuses to travel outside of the USA. The next day at work Jeff is triumphant. He's getting his pool table! All it took was understanding and great make up sex - twice. The make up sex part really interests Eddie and when he gets home he decides to make up with Joy. Unfortunately his attempts are rather clumsy and only serve to reheat the argument. Eventually Eddie walks out to go over to Jeff's to play billiards. It turns out that Jeff got his pool table all right, complete with purple felt (Steph thinks purple's a nice colour...if you're a pimp), but it's not in the formal dining room but rather in what must be the house's smallest bedroom. The size of the room and the table make it virtually impossible to shoot a game. Still, in his anger Eddie tries, but only manages to bring the rack of cues down on his head. Joy takes him to the hospital and the argument is basically resolved to the point where they actually consider the idea of make up sex once they get home, but pretty quickly decide against it. In the final scene of the episode, Jeff tells Eddie that he really wants to get rid of the pool table because the room is too small. Eddie tell him that he can't get rid of it immediately because that would mean admitting that Steph was right. Jeff's just going to have to wait until the first child is born.

There's nothing special about 'Til Death. It's the sort of show that - with minor variations - the other three networks have at least one of. This show being on Fox there seems to be a bit fo a tendency to go for the low joke. Thursday's episode featured several repetitions of jokes or implied double entendres related to Jeff & Steph's last name - Woodcock - and Jeff's decision, which he believes is hip but is really incredibly naive, to create a website called (Sony Pictures, which produces the show, has actually set up that website; whether they do anything more with it than what you see is a whole other question). But that's not the big problem. The big problem is that this show just doesn't stand out from the crowd. At its heart it's a domestic comedy about a couple who have been married long enough that they basically take each other for granted even though deep down they love each other. It's the sort of show that gets stamped out using a cookie cutter. That's unfortunate for a lot of reasons but one of the big ones is that Brad Garrett and Joelly Fisher deserve to be working in something a lot better and a lot more original. While I don't see this show being cancelled quickly, I can't see it being renewed for a second season either. Then again no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public in general or Fox viewers in particular. That may explain why Arrested Development was cancelled and The War At Home not only wasn't the first series cancelled last year but was actually renewed for a second season. But, given just how competitive the first hour of Thursdays is, with Survivor, My Name Is Earl, Ugly Betty, and Smallville up against it, I don't expect a ratings stampede towards 'Til Death. It's a show that makes you go enh.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Metapost - An Apology

I really had intended to give you a review of Standofftonight but circumstances conspired against me, to the point where Tuesday was not one of my better days. Here's something of a timeline.

10:20 a.m.: Computer is on, I'm getting ready to sign up for a poker tournament.
10:25 a.m.: Computer suddenly goes into reboot mode then refuses to do anything at all including turn off. I immediately suspect the Hard Drive so attempt to boot from an Ubuntu (Linux) Live CD. Nothing.
10:30 a.m.: I now think it's either the CPU or the cooling fan. Open up the side of the computer. Turn on the computer. Fan not spinning, but is CPU gone too? Let CPU cool down.
11:30 a.m.: Turn on computer first with Ubuntu then with Windows. No problem but I turn the computer off - better safe than sorry.
11:45 a.m.: Proceed to do a number of unimportant things, including having lunch and watching my tape of most of the premier episode of Deadwood (cable company got some of the times wrong). It's showing on History Channel here and is basically one of the best things on TV and why people get to stand up at awards shows and proclaim that this is the "New Golden Age Of Television." Too bad it got cancelled after three seasons.
1:45 p.m.: Off to get a new cooling fan for my Athlon 2200+ processor. Set out on my bike for the nearest computer store. It's a ways away but the last time I was there they had just about everything.
2:10 p.m.: Arrive at Compusmart and after several minutes of waiting for the employees of the store to notice me I finally accost the two people standing at the single cash register talking and going over some papers. They can help me so the call for one of their sales staff. The first guy can't help me because he's got a guy looking at TVs. He goes in the back and gets a second salesman without even asking what it is I need. The second sales man is older but so utterly clueless that he literally takes me to the opposite side of the store from where I know the CPU fans to be (they're behind a counter which is why I couldn't help myself. He instructs me to try a place about 8 blocks up on Faithful Avenue.
2:23 p.m.: I begin to realise that the salesman's knowledge of the area and of retailers in his business is about as weak as his knowledge of the stock in his own store. I can't find the place he mentioned and certainly not in the area he mentioned.
2:45 p.m.: Head for the Staples store in the area. I recall in the past seeing computer equipment including parts like CPU fans there. They have tons of ink cartridges, no CPU fans.
3:10 p.m.: Heading home hot and frustrated I remember another store in the vicinity. Divert there. They've been out of business since August 15th.
3:30 p.m.: Arrive home. Down a can of iced tea without actually tasting it. I just need something cold and wet. Decide to do what I should have done in the first place and call until I find a place that has what I need.
4:02 p.m.: Having found a place that has what I need I decide to take the bus. It stops about four blocks from where I live and in an amazing bit of serendipity also stops four blocks from the store with my part.
4:15 p.m.: Discover several things. All of the busses in the city are running late. 25th Street is a parking lot from 3rd Avenue to the top of the University Bridge, and since virtually all of the busses in the city use 25th Street and the University Bridge this could be the explanation.
4:40 p.m.: Manage to complete my trip without strangling anyone although the temptation is great. Get my part and a bit more - they don't sell the fans without a heat sink, but fortunately you can take the fans off.
5:00 p.m.: Catch a DART bus a block away from the store. It's air conditioned and on a day like this I need it. My only regret is that the trip is too short. 25th Street is still a parking lot but only the eastbound lanes.
5:34 p.m.: Drag my sad and sorry butt home. Decide to have pot noodle for supper.
6:00 p.m.: Watch season debut of House. Good.
7:00 p.m.: Watch series premiere of Standoff. Will write about it next week but suffice it to say that this is not a show that will have people standing up at awards shows and saying "this is the New Golden Age Of Television."
8:00 p.m.: Install new cooling fan. This also included a series vacuuming of the interior of the computer and in particular the heat sink which is so disgusting that it makes me wish I was also installing the new heat sink.
9:00 p.m.: My God, the damned thing works.
10:30 p.m.: Discover that the poker tournament I've been looking forward to all day has been cancelled - They're doing system maintenance.
2:15 a.m.: The computer stops functioning again. Turns out that the power bar switch that I turned off and on repeatedly in the morning finally decided that it was in the "off" position... fourteen hours later!

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Short Takes - September 2, 2006

Yes, after a brief hiatus it's the triumphal return of Short Takes, what I hope is my weekly column of TV news that's interesting to me, as well as a our recurring feature Who does the PTC hate THIS week? So without further ado, let's go to press.

Come back anytime "Barney": Longtime readers will remember just how much I enjoy the spewing of Brent "Barney" Bozell - so nicknamed by his repeated efforts to "nip it in the bud! Nip it! In the bud!" Well news has reached us that Mr. Bozell will be stepping down as head of the Parents Television Council (PTC) as of January 1, 2007, to be replaced by PTC Executive Director Tim Winter. Bozell will remain as head of the politically right-wing Media Research Center and will remain on the board of the PTC, but as he says in his letter of resignation "For 11 years I've been leading the PTC while simultaneously running another national public policy organization, the Media Research Center, and serving on the boards of a number of other groups. This was possible when these organizations were smaller, but not anymore. It has simply become too much for me, and with a large family, it's just not healthy for me. More importantly, however, it is not healthy for the PTC." His decision to drop out of the leadership of the PTC rather than the Media Research Center should prove - if such proof were really necessary - of where his priorities lie. Still I'm sure will be hearing more statements from Bozell, probably with the same amount of comprehension and logic that he's displayed in the past.

Ah Nuts!: Or to use one of the depressingly small number of curse words in my French vocabulary (my high school French teachers didn't teach me those words although I'm sure Mrs. Hall knew most of them) Merde! Donald Trump has fired Carolyn Kepcher from the Trump Organization, including the TV show The Apprentice. Kepcher, who was general manager of Trump's Briarcliff Golf Course and one of his other golf properties. According to Carolyn "After 11 years with the Trump Organization, Donald and I had different visions for my future role in the company." However sources report that Trump was concerned that Carolyn was spending too much time promoting herself and not enough time managing the golf course, what with writing a book and speaking engagements. That's what happens when you create a star Donald, they get asked to write books and do speaking engagements for more money than even you'd be willing to refuse. Of course, according to Trump he did her a favour by firing her. Carolyn will be replaced on the show by Trump's daughter (ugh) Ivanka, at least for a large number of episodes.

Readers of this blog will of course have caught the subtle hints that I am in fact in love with Carolyn, although of course it's a love that can never be. In fact one of my favourite moments from The Apprentice came in the second season when the newly hired Kelly Perdew pulled out Carolyn's chair for her as he had for the various women apprentices on the show that season. Carolyn smiled! Trump turned to him and said "you don't to do that anymore, you've been hired." All of which goes to prove a couple of things: 1) that West Point still takes the "gentleman" part of "officer and a gentleman" seriously, and 2) Donald Trump is no gentleman (but then we all knew that from the time he dumped Ivana, and then Marla - because he didn't want to "work" to maintain their relationship). He just proved it yet again.

New additions to my cable TV lineup: Shaw Cable, which is my cable provider as well as the provider for most of western Canada, has become the first cable company in Canada to add AMC to their cable lineup in spite of the fact that the channel has been licensed in Canada for almost 10 years. Oh....Joy! I understand that they show movies in between commercials. On the other hand it is replacing The Golf Channel, so it isn't a total loss (Golf Channel moves to the digital tier).

Also added to the digital tier is a Canadian time shifting package to go along with American channels from Spokane (for me - from Detroit for areas which normally get Spokane channels), although the Canadian package will cost and extra $3.99. This would normally not be of interest to me because most of the programs on these channels are available through the US packages, but one of the channels they're adding is CITY-TV from Toronto, which is a channels showing programs that aren't normally available here. I'll have to think about whether or not to add this package.

Who does the PTC hate THIS week?: When I took my brief hiatus from doing this, I missed informing you of some prime hating, including another jab at poor Michelle Lamour for her second appearance on America's Got Talent. (Incidentally they were concerned - for reasons known only to them - after her first appearance that she shouldn't be competing with an 11 year old girl; the same 11 year old girl who won the entire competition.) Currently on the PTC's hate list:
  • DaimlerChrysler for not pulling their advertising from Rescue Me: According to the PTC "DaimlerChrysler is the Second Foreign Auto Maker to Endorse Graphic Rape on the FX Show", the first being Toyota (those evil degenerate furriners). Note this little item from the PTC's diatribe (italics mine): " Content provided by DaimlerChrysler includes a storyline wherein Tommy's ex-girlfriend Sheila drugs him with date-rape pills and Viagra then has sex with him while he is unconscious." Apparently DaimlerChrysler wrote that scene and sent it to the producers - that's the only way it could really be provided by them. And then there's this little bit of Bozellian rhetoric: "Millions of families are offended. DaimlerChrysler is essentially telling these families - including soccer moms - who buy its vehicles that it does not care about the filth it's dumping into their homes on a weekly basis. DaimlerChrysler is telling families that it will continue to support shows that contain graphic rape and brutality. Its corporate values are reflected in the content of the programs they sponsor. Where is the corporate responsibility? The irony is that DaimlerChrysler is spending millions of dollars advertising its commitment to improving air quality with environmentally-conscious vehicles, but apparently could care less about the cultural sewage they are helping FX dump into millions of homes on advertiser-supported basic cable." Will no one think of the children. Oh wait. Rescue Me is a show that's shown at 10 p.m. so children shouldn't be watching.

  • NBC and the Emmy Awards for not bleeping Helen Mirren and Callista Flockhart. Coming up the steps at the Emmy's Helen Mirren apparently nearly tripped and stated that she nearly went "tits over ass" or as the PTC would have it "t*ts over a*s". Horrors! There are children watching! The PTC is filing with the FCC over the airing of this "obscene" language. As "Barney" Bozell puts it "It is utterly irresponsible and atrocious for NBC to air this vulgar language during the safe harbor time when millions of children were in the viewing audience. People are getting sick and tired of networks allowing unedited profanity on their award shows in front of millions of youngsters, and with NBC this practice is becoming habitual." Of course it's only obscene in the Central and Mountain Time Zones since the offending words were uttered in the third hour of the broadcast which is after 10 p.m. in the Eastern and Pacific time zones. The funny thing is that I'm pretty sure that I've heard the words "tits" and "ass" used numerous times in recent years in shows that the FCC (prodded by the PTC) have not found obscene.

  • This week's "Worst Show Of The Week" was The Teen Choice Awards on Fox, for numerous dire, evil, sexual things. "Wearing the mask of an awards show which recognizes achievement in entertainment from a teen perspective, the show is nothing more than a publicity stunt to give entertainers a platform to plug their latest album, movie, television show, or tour to impressionable teens." Wow, your kidding, an awards show that was meant to promote things. What will they think of next? And then there was this: "The Teen Choice Awards Show did a great job of acknowledging the dangerous behaviors that teens partake in. The only problem was that the manner in which these behaviors were acknowledged actually promoted them. For instance, Marlon Wayans presented an award for best video. It is no secret that many teens are posting inappropriate information and pictures of themselves on Myspace and therefore being targeted by sexual predators. Wayans irresponsibly jokes that 'you’ve got to be naked to get in my [Myspace] top 8.'" And how about the depravity of this: "In addition to the verbal indecency, the show featured teenage girls in bikinis bathing in an on-stage hot tub directly in front of the podium. The hot tub served no purpose other than to establish the show’s atmosphere as one catering to sexually charged youth." According to the PTC, "The Teen Choice Awards is the perfect opportunity for America to witness how the entertainment industry views youth. Ignoring the potential celebrities have to encourage healthy behavior in teens, they manipulate teens by appealing to their vulnerabilities, insecurities, and temptations to benefit their careers." Oh, by the way, the nominees for the Teen Choice awards are selected by the readers of Teen People Magazine who must be between the ages of 13 and 19, and selected "by a committee of Teen People, Teenasaurus Rox, Bob Bain Productions, and Fox representatives."

Friday, September 01, 2006

New Poll - What new Sitcom will be cancelled first?

After the celebration of television excellence that was the Emmys - I know, but that's how they want it to be seen - it's time to get down to the reality of television. Most shows don't get to choose when they take that last long walk into Television oblivion. Their creators don't get to go out at a time of their choosing. No most shows are ruled by the law of the jungle conquer or die. Or if not conquer then at least have competitive ratings on the night. And for most shows the time comes when the predators of their time slot come to claim them. Sometimes the show is a once proud monarch of the time slot brought down by the younger and stronger. More often than not though the prey of choice are the young sometimes the new born, unsure of themselves and unable to keep up with the pack. So our poll this time around is a simple one - which of this season's new network sitcoms is going to be the first to succumb to the laws of the Television Jungle and be cancelled. I've even included a choice if you believe that they'll all make it to the end of the year. Don't use it foolish mortals. Note that I'm asking for the first comedy to be cancelled, not the first show overall. There'll be a poll on dramas later on. Feel free to add comments.