Monday, July 30, 2012

New Poll–Outstanding Lead Actor In A Comedy

Right here we are with the next Emmy Poll singular. The rules are deceptively simple (like me). Just cast your vote for the Actor who you think should win the Emmy as Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy. If you choose to vote “None of the above” I would appreciate it if you would add a comment in this post saying who you think should win the Emmy. And of course feel free to comment on why you think the person you pick should win in this category, or about the quality of the nominees in this category, or even to bitch about why you think that putting up this poll is a total and complete waste of time when there are so many more vital and important issues in the world than who will win an Emmy.

No kidding, I had someone drop a comment just like that a few years ago when I ran one of these polls. My response was that in the grand scheme of things the Emmys aren’t that important, but that in the world of American TV they are important, and since this is a blog about American TV that meant that they had to be reported on in the blog.

Anyway, the deadline for this poll and the release of the next one is August 8th at around noonish.

Poll Results–Outstanding Lead Actress In A Comedy

Housekeeping detail to take care of first. The two poll idea is officially scrapped. I set up two polls this year, one for who people thought would win the Emmy in the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy category and the other for who people thought should win in the category. I expected some discrepancy between the two polls and boy did I get it. Until early this morning only one of the two polls received any votes beyond a test by me to make sure it was running properly. People only seemed to respond to the “who will win…” poll which was the uppermost of the two, not the “who should win…” poll. But of course what I want to find out is “who should win…” so from here on in I’ll only be running a single poll. My other change this year – adding “none of the above” and including a link to a post where you can say who you think should win instead in the comments section – will continue for now.

The results in the one poll that had multiple voters were quite ambiguous causing me to wonder if four of the five people who actually voted did indeed cast their votes for who should win. Lena Dunham from Girls, Edie Falco from Nurse Jackie, and Tina Fey from 30 Rock received no votes. Zooey Deschanel (The New Girl), Amy Poehler (Parks & Recreation) and Julia Louis Dreyfuss (Veep) each received one vote of the five cast or 20% each. But the winner in this category was Melissa McCarthy (Mike & Molly) who got two votes (40%).

As I mentioned, two votes were cast in the “who should win…” poll but one of those – a “None of the above” – was cast by me as a test. The other vote was cast early this morning (I know this because my polling software sends me a notification for each vote cast). That one vote went to Amy Poehler, so by default she wins this poll with 100% of the actual vote.

I honestly don’t have an opinion. None of Nurse Jackie, Girls, and Veep are available on channels that I get, and given my often stated general ambivalence to comedy it will come as no surprise that I haven’t watched episodes of any of the shows that are available on my cable service – or at least not this season. So as far as who deserves to win, I can honestly say I have no idea, and there are too many conflicting factors – four previous winners in the category, including the person who won last year; three women on cable shows; one member of “TV royalty” (a multiple winner for a much beloved classic show); one star on a show with a certain amount of controversy; a well liked newcomer on broadcast TV – to be able to pinpoint an obvious choice for who will win the Emmy. As far as I’m concerned, this is a wide open category.

New poll (singular) up in shortly.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Amazing Race–Season 1, Episode 3

In my opinion the show is starting to hit its stride with the third episode. It’s not perfect or even near perfect; in fact I think this whole season is very much a case of finding out what works and what doesn’t work. Still they’re doing a much better job of letting us know team positions at intermediate points in the race. On the other hand the trick editing, in most seasons restricted to making us wonder which teams will be coming in last is still being used to try to create tension early in the race by making it unclear how close teams are to each other. This episode will see the first major incident in which “Hours of Operation” comes into play but in this episode it comes into play a little too much in my opinion. Finally I think it offers a couple of dos and don’ts for people who want to do The Race (like me…and probably just about every other Canadian).

The opening of the show is fairly standard so I want to spend a bit of time looking at the departure times and trying to see what they tell us about the previous leg.

The bunching event that occurred at the Johannesburg Airport is pretty obvious here. We know  that the first five teams made it to the first flight. We also know that Pat & Brenda had done the Fast Forward in Zambia so they were able to go directly to the Arc de Triomphe. Their arrival time doesn’t really give us a baseline to work with in terms of the arrival times of the two flights that the first and second group of teams were on. For that you need people with similar experiences. That would seem to exclude Joe & Bill as well since they took the RER to the city rather than grabbing a cab. If you compare Rob & Brennan’s arrival time at the Pit Stop with the first team to be officially checked in from the second group (Paul & Amie), and assuming similar traffic flows, you can estimate that the second flight arrived in Paris about two hours after the first. Similarly we can estimate that Bill & Joe’s decision to use the RER saved them about half an hour over the teams who took cabs from Charles de Gaulle airport, although that time is a bit shakier since – as they are forever pointing out in this episode – they lived in Paris for two years which if nothing else probably made them quite familiar with the city’s monuments. Even then the task seems to have taken them about two to two and a half hours to complete, and probably took teams who were not familiar with Paris longer.

The order of departure is:
  1. Pat & Brenda – 9:06 p.m.
  2. Joe & Bill – 11:38 p.m.  +2 hours 32 minutes
  3. Rob & Brennan – 12:11 a.m.  +3 hours 5 minutes
  4. Frank & Margarita – 12:18 a.m.  +3 hours 12 minutes
  5. Kevin & Drew – 12:27 a.m.  +3 hours 21 minutes
  6. Paul & Amie – 2:18 a.m.  +5 hours 12 minutes
  7. Nancy & Emily – 2:23 a.m.  +5 hours 17 minutes
  8. Dave & Margharetta* – 2:46 a.m.  +5 hours 40 minutes
    1. Lenny & Karyn – 3:03 a.m.  +3 hours 57 minutes
    * We aren’t told how many minutes that Dave & Margharetta lost as a result of the penalty for one of them not going back to the second level of the Eiffel Tower in the previous episode. We do know that it was enough to move Paul & Amie and Nancy & Emily up one position. We also know that Paul was at the Tower when Dave & Margharetta went to the second level we would be safe in making the assumption that they got to the Arc de Triomphe just a few minutes before Paul & Amie. Under the circumstances I think a penalty of about 30 minutes is about right as that would put their actual arrival time about two minutes before Paul & Amie’s.

    Pat & Brenda at Le Grand Roue

    When the teams depart their clue tells them that big news awaits at La Grande Roue. It also gives opening and closing times. The opening time is 9 a.m. while the closing time is 12:30 p.m. When Pat & Brenda depart they initially think that they’ll have to wait till the next morning. It quite literally takes them a few seconds to realize that they have about three hours before their destination closes. But of course they have to find out where they have to go. La Grande Roue can be a bit of a pun in French; Roue, which means “wheel” in French, is a homophone of Rue, which means “street” (it’s also a homophone of Roux, which is the thickening agent for a number of sauces, but that’s unlikely to be a factor). La Grande Rue would be “the big street” rather than “the big wheel.” Pat & Brenda as a police woman about La Grande Roue and are told that it's the big Ferris Wheel at the Place de la Concorde. It’s visible down the Champs Elysee – which some people might interpret as being a “Grande Rue” – from the Arc de Triomphe. They elect to take the #1 subway line to the Place de la Concorde. So do Bill & Joe when they depart. The two teams get their clue with plenty of time to spare.

    Bill & Joe expect that Rob & Brennan and Frank & Margarita wont make it to the Ferris Wheel before it closes and they won’t know what to do, “So screw’em.” And while Rob & Brennan decide to wait for Frank & Margarita, and initially think that they don’t have enough time to reach it they decide to give it a try. Rob & Brennan grab a cab as do Frank & Margarita. And suddenly it’s war, at least as far a Frank is concerned. They were supposed to be allies but Rob & Brennan went off on their own as soon as they got the chance without thinking about Frank & Margarita. They’re all a bunch of backstabbers and not to be trusted. Thing is that Frank neglects to let Rob or Brennan know that the alliance is over and they’re quite happy when the couple arrives in time to get their clue.

    The clue the teams get is a Detour. The choice is “Short Walk” or “Long Climb”. In Short Walk the teams have to find the cat near Foucault’s Pendulum. What the clue does not mention is that there are two Foucault’s Pendulums in Paris. One is at the Musee des Arts et Metiers (translated by the show as The Museum of Arts and Crafts although another accepted translation is The Museum of Arts and Design) while the other is at Le Pantheon. The one at Le Pantheon is the one that they want but at the moment none of the teams actually knows that there are two or where they are. In Long Climb Teams have to climb the tower of Notre Dame Cathedral and “ring Quasimodo’s Bell.” None of the first four teams know when the places they’re going to opens but they all decide independently that “Short Walk” sounds more attractive to them than “Long Climb.”

    Kevin & Drew weren’t able to make it to La Grande Roue and took the rather surprising step of opting for the stage’s Fast Forward so as not to be relegated to the same position as the four teams from the second flight. Actually, they say that the only way they’l be able to stay in the race is to use the Fast Forward, although that was hardly the reality of the situation. The Fast Forward required them to go to the Mariage Freres tea shop where they have to ask for a tea called “La Ventouriez(?)”. The manager of the shop will then provide them with their clue. It seemed to me to be a bit of an over-reaction and Kevin even worried about using the Fast Forward that early in the Race but Drew thought it was necessary and Kevin was persuadable.

    Meanwhile the teams that Kevin & Drew don’t want to be joining are all being released from the Pit Stop and head towards the now dark La Grande Roue. Soon, all of the teams – with a couple of exceptions are settling down to an uncomfortable night sleeping on the streets of Paris – Paul & Amie, Dave & Margharetta and Lenny & Karyn at La Grande Roue, Rob & Brennan and Frank & Margarita at Le Pantheon, and Kevin & Drew in the doorway of the Mariage Freres Tea Shop. This leaves Pat & Brenda who eventually make their way to the Conservatoire des Arts et Metiers, and Nancy & Emily. As we find out in the “Sidetrips” feature of the DVD set, Nancy & Emily realize that the hotel rooms (in a barge on the Seine) that had been provided for them during their mandatory rest break were still available to them so they headed back and spent the night in a nice warm and dry hotel room while the others were cold and rained on.

    And of course there’s Team Guido. After determining that Foucault’s Pendulum was at Le Pantheon – and it’s surprising that no one except who or whatever helped Pat & Brenda didn’t mention the one at the Conservatoire National des Arts et Metier – Bill & Joe decided to indulge their hedonistic side by visiting a neighbourhood cafe that they had patronised during the two years they lived in Paris for a glass of champagne. They then go to see the place where they lived for two years in Paris on Rue Bonaparte (the only street in Paris named for Napoleon they inform us, although that fact was relegated to the Sidetrip bonus feature). And no, this would not be the last time they reminded us that they lived for two years in Paris. They eventually show up at le Pantheon where Rob & Brennan and Frank & Margarita are waiting for them. And that order of arrival is going to be quite important in what unfolds.

    Kevin & Drew smell some tea
    The first teams to actually get moving are the four teams at La Grande Roue. It opens at 9 a.m. and they quickly get their clues. All four decide to do the “Long Climb option” and for exactly the reason that Rob & Brennan and Frank & Margarita think they will, because Notre Dame is a known destination – a well known destination for Lenny & Karyn. Next to get into action are Kevin & Drew. They aren’t impressed with Paris; they think that the area in front of the tea shop is just like being down in SoHo in New York. And the might even have been right if they chose to ignore the buildings in the area, most of which predate most of the buildings in New York or that Mariage Freres, the tea company whose retail shop they’re about to enter has been in business for close to 150 years (at the time that the episode was shot; it is a well known French and European brand in fact). They meet the manager – a young man who Drew had expected to be an old guy who looked like Ben Franklin  – as he arrives for work and once he lets them in they quickly get their clue…and a sniff of the tea. They get the clue sending them to the Chateau Des Baux in Les Baux-de-Provence in the south of France.

    Bill approaches the cat near Foucault's Pendulum
    All of the tasks for the other people on the race really get going at 10 a.m. That’s when everything else opens – the towers at Notre Dame, Le Pantheoon, and the Musee des Arts et Metiers (actually the name carved into the 18th century building says, “Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers” but a sign on a door says “Musee des Arts et Metiers; not that it matters of course). Team Guido arrives just before it opens and are surprised to find the other two teams already at Le Pantheon – and not pleasantly. They vow not to tell the other teams where they were, as if it were some sort of secret information that would do…something. The two teams they screwed over in the previous leg are less than happy to see them too. Rob & Brennan Frank & Margarita and Joe & Bill have reached an agreement they’ll go to get the clue in the order that they enter the building. That means Rob & Brennan first, Frank & Margarita second, and Bill & Joe third. But, the Pendulum and the clue, which is behind a statue of a cat that appears to be Egyptian in style, are behind a sort of low fence. As the three teams walk enter the area, all three walk past the closed gate, attended by a woman who works for the museum, who points out the gate to them after all three teams have gone past. This means that the team that is closest to the gate is the team that was third in line, Joe & Bill, who take the opportunity to go through the gate first. And since only one team can enter the enclosure at a time this blows any agreements out of the water. Frank & Margarita are second into the enclosure and Rob & Brennan – who are not happy with the way that “Bert & Ernie” (the nickname that they have given to Team Guido) have behaved. They all get the clue telling them to “find the man in the blue suit across from the Hotel de Ville,” but two of the teams aren’t happy with the order they got it in.

    Over at the the Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers, Pat & Brenda have actually seen the Pendulum. It’s visible through a skylight in the courtyard of the museum. However when they enter – and they have to pay to get in – they discover that while the Pendulum might be there, no one knows anything about a cat. It’s then that they’re informed about the Pendulum at Le Pantheon. If the way the episode is edited is to be believed, they arrived at the Pantheon after all of the teams at Notre Dame got their clues, but as usual we have no indication of “real time.”

    Nancy rings Quasimodo's Bell
    The teams at Notre Dame also went into action at 10 a.m. They had to climb the 297 steps of one of the cathedral’s bell towers then cross to the other bell tower along a catwalk at the front of the building. Once at the other bell tower one of each team had to climb to a wooden platform and strike one of the bells – possibly the Emmanuel Bell – with a mallet. They then descended down the steps in that tower. The spiral staircases are made of stone and they aren’t the easiest to climb, particularly for the three older people (Dave, Margharetta and Nancy), but all four teams manage it.

    Bill & Joe initially try to grab a cab from Le Pantheon but eventually decide to walk. They make the assumption that everybody else – by which I suspect they mean Rob & Brennan and Frank & Margarita – all took cabs and got caught in traffic. They also make the assumption that the other teams – and here I think they mean all of them – don’t know where they’re going because they don’t know Paris (and Bill & Joe lived in Paris for two years, though they don’t say it). They are standing at a crosswalk looking for the clue markers when they suddenly notice that Rob & Brennan are standing right beside them. And a bigger shock is awaiting them when they get across the street! Not only had Frank & Margarita arrived before either of the other teams at the Pantheon got there, but every other team except Kevin & Drew (obviously) and Pat & Brenda was there ahead of them. How? Well apparently the “experts” on Paris forgot that Notre Dame is located on Ile de la Cite which is in the middle of the Seine, and that while le Pantheon is on the other side of the river from the Hotel de Ville, the most direct route crosses Ile de la Cite, very near Notre Dame. They also seem to have assumed that none of the teams at Notre Dame could either read a map or get directions from someone who knew where the Hotel de Ville was located. Sometimes Karma gets it right.

    The sewers of Paris
    The teams arriving at the clues find an array of equipment waiting for them. The “man in the blue suit” is a maintenance worker for the sewers wearing his work uniform and the Clue is a Roadblock. The teams must proceed to the Place de la Chatelet which is about two blocks from the Hotel de Ville. However while the team member not doing the Roadblock can go there on the surface streets, the member who is doing the Roadblock has to travel, like Jean Val Jean, through the sewers of Paris. The teams are supplied with overalls, a hard had and rubber boots. part of the route they’ll have to traverse is narrow but it is all full of what Phil describes as “steaming raw sewage.” He didn’t mention the rats, but one was shown in the footage of the sewers. There was jostling to get into the sewers (and who ever thought they’d read a line like that!) with the eventual order being: Paul, Karyn Emily, Frank, Brennan, Joe and Dave, with either Pat or Brenda doing it when they arrive after the others have left. The clue box is actually in the sewer, just at the point where the person doing the roadblock exits. The clue tells them they have to travel by train to the Chateau Des Baux in Les Baux-de-Provence.

    To get to Les Baux-de-Provence the teams first have to first figure out that it isn’t in Paris – which Paul initially thinks it is. Once they know that they have to figure out which of Paris’s six major passenger rail terminals they have to travel from. In this case it is the Gare de Lyon, which serves the route from Paris to Marseille. There’s a trick in getting to Les Baux-de-Provence however. What seems to be the obvious route is to travel all the way to Marseille and then from there take a taxi to the town. People in the know however disembark at Avignon and travel the greater distance to Le Baux-de-Provence. Or at least this is what Phil tells us and what most of the teams seem to believe initially. I’ve plotted out the routs on Google Maps and checked it on Bing Maps, and it is simply not true. It is about 85 Kilometers between the train station in Marseille and Chateau des Baux, and about 30 Kilometers from Avignon to Chateau des Baux. Regardless, the time saving is about an hour.

    Of course Kevin & Drew have already left for the Chateau-des-Baux. It`s never stated whether they got off at Avignon or Marseille but it really doesn`t matter. The climb the streets of the town to the ruins of the old castle where they are greeted by the Mayor of Les-Baux-de-Provence. They bask in their stage victory “with everybody looking at our behinds no less.”

    The main group of teams, including Rob & Brennan, Frank & Margarita, Joe & Bill, Lenny & Karyn, Paul & Amie and Nancy & Emily all board the same train. Missing this train are Pat & Brenda of course and Dave & Margharetta. Joe & Bill make a big show of “helping” Lenny & Karyn, Paul & Amie and Nancy & Emily – and saying “you better remember this.” They help them to the “right” place on the train but then disappear on them and they have to find the place where they’re actually supposed to be. Frank & Margarita and Rob & Brennan get on another part of the train, near where Joe & Bill eventually show up. Of course Joe & Bill don’t tell the others their “secret;” they know about getting off at Avignon, and are determined that none of the other teams see them. They presumably think that their “biggest competition” don’t know about Avignon. However, independently of the Guidos and each other, Frank & Margarita and Rob & Brennan find out about the “short cut.” In fact Rob & Brennan are eager to tell their erstwhile allies about it after they’re told by someone on the train, only to discover that Frank & Margarita already knew. The two teams decide that they’ll sneak off the train in Avignon and avoid letting the other three teams see them. When they actually do get off, some of the other teams notice them getting off but, assured by a railway employee that they are on the right train they decide to continue on to Marseille.

    It’s not clear that the three teams who got off the train at Avignon knew that they had all gotten off together. Rob & Brennan actually arranged for a cab to be waiting for them using a borrowed cell phone, but Team Guido don’t know about this. They fully expected to have an hour and a half lead over the teams that stayed on the train, which as far as they knew was everyone except Frank & Margarita, and they’re convinced they’re ahead of them.. Rob & Brennan told Frank & Margarita about Avignon – though they already knew – and considered themselves to be a team with them. Frank had a different view of things; Rob & Brennan were only clinging to them because they’ve used their Fast Forward and because of Margarita’s ability to speak some French. As far as he’s concerned they’re “all a bunch of fakes,” smiling in your face but plotting behind your back. He doesn’t play that game he’s “real”…except that he has yet to let Rob & Brennan know that their alliance is off.

    The main group of teams in the second train initially think that everyone is aboard the same train although Nancy seems to think that someone may have missed the train. Make that two teams, Dave & Margharetta and Pat & Brenda. Editing makes it appear that the two teams got on the same train but that is not entirely clear. What is clear is that Dave & Margharetta know to get off at Avignon, which is something that will come into play and show just how big an advantage getting off at the earlier stop was.

    Rob, Brennan and the Mayor of Les-Baux-des-Provance
    The taxis deliver the teams at the edge of the town but the teams have to hike half a mile uphill to reach the castle. Frank & Margarita are the second team to arrive with Rob & Brennan arriving in third place. Joe & Bill are stunned to discover that they aren’t in third place as they expect but in fourth. A bigger surprise is to come however. Dave & Margharetta are arriving in Les Baux even as the teams who went to Marseille are getting off the train and into their cabs. The older couple finish in fifth place much to their own astonishment. The teams from Marseille – the self-described “underdogs” – all plan to cross together but they sort of string out on the climb. Paul & Amie arrive in sixth and they realise that the rest of their group are safe. Lenny & Karyn are in seventh and Nancy & Emily come in eight.

    As for Pat & Brenda, they seem to have all the worst luck. It is dusk when they leave the train, apparently in Marseille, and dark when they make the climb up to the chateau. While their were people on the streets when the other teams arrived the only witness to their arrival is a lone dog prowling on the roof of one of the buildings. Phil is waiting for them on the mat. They’ve come in last and have been eliminated.

    The order of finish was:
    1. Kevin & Drew
    2. Frank & Margarita
    3. Rob & Brennan
    4. Joe & Bill
    5. Dave & Margharetta
    6. Paul & Amie
    7. Lenny & Karyn
    8. Nancy & Emily
    9. Pat & Brenda – Philiminated

    – If you go to Paris and want to follow in the footsteps of the Amazing Race teams you’ll have one big problem. You won’t find La Grande Roue. For one thing it was never called that except on the show; it’s true name is (or was) La Roue de Paris – The Wheel of Paris – and it’s not there anymore. The Ferris Wheel was designed to be mobile (unlike the London Eye for example) and was removed from the Place de la Concorde in 2002. It’s been in various places since then, most recently in Antwerp in 2008 (at least as far as I can tell).

    – On the other hand Foucault’s Pendulum is still at Le Pantheon and the Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers. The pendulum was designed by French Physicist Leon Foucault to visually demonstrate the rotation of the Earth. He set up the original experiment at Le Pantheon. Subsequently the original pendulum was moved to the Conservatoire National des Artes et Metiers. In 1995 a replica of the original pendulum was installed at Le Pantheon.

    – Okay I admit that I like using the term “Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers”; I also dislike the translation the show gave for the name. “Museum of Arts and Crafts” makes it sound like you’re going to find the place filled with weaving and wood carving when the truth is that it bears a strong resemblance to the Museum of Science and Industry at the Smithsonian. Also it’s a lot easier to find on Google Maps if you give the French name. The same thing goes for “le Pantheon” instead of “the Pantheon.”

    – Ordinary tourists can climb the towers of Notre Dame Cathedral…for 8 Euros. The lines can be long but it’s supposed to be worth it.

    – For anyone who has even the slightest knowledge of French or even the FrencConservatoire National des Arts et Metiersh spoken in Canada (which is apparently some sort of weird Norman/Breton dialect) listening to Kevin & Drew try to say French words – because they sure as hell aren’t speaking French – is like listening to fingernails on a chalk board…while someone is pulling your spine out of your back. PAINFUL!

    – Like just about anyone who watches The Amazing Race I like to look at the tasks and wonder which ones I would or could do. Anything that involves driving or swimming is out for me – I don’t do either – but even though I have a fear of heights I’m not sure the Gorge Swing would have stopped me. After all it’s a controlled fall. The first one that would have stymied me – in part because it was a Roadblock and I could dump it on my partner – is the sewers, mainly because of the dark and closed in nature of the place.

    – Pat & Brenda have the worst luck of any of the teams in this leg of the race and it all stems from changing their collective minds about the Detour they were going to take. They had initially decided on “Long Climb” because they knew where Notre Dame was, but then quickly changed their mind to “Short Walk” because even though they didn’t know where Foucault’s Pendulum was they had plenty of time to find out, what with leaving two and a half hours ahead of any other team. And they did find out. The problem is that they found out where the original Foucault Pendulum was, not the one where the cat was. I contend that they were undone by an out of date guidebook; remember the Pendulum at Le Pantheon had only been there for six years when the show was shot. Having discovered that the Pendulum they found was the wrong one, they then went to Le Pantheon, which is another puzzler, since the Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers is on the other side of the river from Le Pantheon. It would have been easier to change detours and done the “Long Climb” at Notre Dame which is between the two buildings. Finally they appear to have taken a later train than even Dave & Margharetta and probably got off at Marseille too.

    – Frank’s whole attitude in this leg is absolutely ridiculous. His reason for breaking up the partnership with Rob & Brennan is quite frankly ridiculous. Both teams were desperate to get from the Arc de Triomphe to Le Grand Roue. They don’t even consider the Metro, although this was the way that Joe & Bill and Pat & Brenda had taken and instead run up the Champs Elysee hoping to get cabs. Rob & Brennan get a cab first and take it and this is the last straw for Frank; Rob & Brennan are only out for themselves, they’re a couple of phonies, and so on. And yet what were Rob & Brennan supposed to do? They couldn’t share a cab, because while we think of the racers as just two people they do have a two person camera team with them when they’re racing. It isn’t practical to stuff eight people into a standard Paris taxi. Were they supposed to have their cab wait for a second cab to come along to take Frank & Margarita? That presupposes a couple of things, namely that their cab would wait and that a second cab would stop if he saw a group of people with a cab already there. The end result could have been both teams not getting to the clue on time.

    – How did Dave & Margharetta finish in fifth despite being on a later train than the “underdog” group? Well the average time between departures on the Paris-Marseilles run is 40-50minutes – call it 45 for the sake of this argument. The trip from Avignon to Marseille is 30 minutes. So the teams that took the first train and went to Marseille would already be fifteen minutes into the journey to Chateau-des-Baux when Dave & Margharetta disembarked at Avignon, but their journey is about 55 kilometers shorter. Assuming an average speed of 110 km/h that means that the trip is half an hour shorter.

    – Schadenfreude probably goes along with hubris. It certainly did with Bill & Joe, who cemented their villain status in this leg. It’s not just that they went on a walking tour of their old Parisian haunts while other teams spent the night sleeping rough – and didn’t need to because they could have done what Nancy and Emily did just as easily – but it’s their attitude. We saw that in the previous episode where they dumped Rob & Brennan as allies, and we saw it repeatedly in this episode where they underestimated and denigrated the other teams for not knowing Paris as well as they did. Their assumption that the other teams would try to take taxis to the Hotel de Ville or that they wouldn’t know where to go and would get lost is one case of greatly underestimating the abilities of their competition to read a map or get directions from people on the street. Even the hubris puncturing moment when they discover that not only were their arch-rivals Rob & Brennan standing beside them but that the teams that had gone to Notre Dame were, with the exception of Dave & Margharetta, all in front of them didn’t cure them of their hubris. The whole business of “helping” the self-proclaimed “underdogs” came across as more than a bit condescending when they said “you better remember this.” When they abandon the other teams without any sort of warning, and certainly without telling them about Avignon, it guaranteed that other teams would remember the event…just not in a good way. But it was also a show of arrogance.

    – Looking at the ratings for this episode, the show dropped from the previous week’s rating of 6.8/10 to a 6.0/9. It was in third place behind a West Wing repeat with a 10.4/15 and the season premiere of The Drew Carey Show. The latter was an hour long episode and there was a significant ratings shift between the first episode (7.4/11) and the second half hour (5.7/8). And I’m afraid things are going to get darker for the show when the other three networks start premiering shows.

    Saturday, July 21, 2012

    New Polls–Outstanding Lead Actress In A Comedy

    I’ve decided to shake my Emmy polls up a bit this year. It’s fairly simple: instead of one poll on who should win the Emmy in the various categories I’ll be posting two polls each polling period, one for whoyou think should win and one for who you think will win. In addition, in the Who should win polls I am adding an additional choice.”None of the above” in case you think that the none of the people nominated in the category deserves to win the Emmy. If you vote “None of the above” however, I want you to specify who you think deserves to win more in the comment section of this post.

    Beyond that I welcome any comments on these polls and about why you think the person you voted for in either poll either will win or deserves to win. Deadline for the first pair of polls is July 30th at Noon (approximately).

    Thursday, July 19, 2012

    2011-12 Emmy Award Nominations

    emmysIt’s that time of the year again when the annoncement of the Emmy Award nominations signal the start of the run-up to the new TV season. Where has the summer gone. Based on the nominations this has been the worst season ever for broadcast network series – which of course is largely what I write about. Even their grip on comedies is slipping. while the biggest broadcast nomination-getter in the dramatic categories was PBS’s Downton Abbey, a series that had been relegated to the Miniseries and Movies category last year. There are some surprises – like the fact that Harry’s Law got several nominations despite being dumped by NBC – and more than a few snubs including one that is totally inexplicable. I’ll be working out my Emmy Polls shortly (I’m thinking of shaking things up there a little) but for now, here are the nominees and my thoughts on what made it and what didn’t.

    Outstanding Drama Series
    Boardwalk Empire – HBO
    Breaking Bad – AMC
    Downton Abbey – PBS
    Game Of Thrones – HBO
    Homeland – Showtime
    Mad Men – AMC

    The only show that is on the list that is seen on Broadcast TV is Downton Abbey and that was made in the UK. And the thing is that I don’t blame the Academy. Broadcast TV hasn’t consistently produced programming that deserves an Emmy nomination since The West Wing and NYPD Blue went off the air. I think part of that – though how big a part I don’t really know – is due to the combination of the FCC’s heavy handed regulation and groups like the PTC. Of course a big part of it is the “big tent” philosophy of the broadcast networks who are trying to satisfy the largest possible audience to sell the biggest amount of advertising. No one wants to try anything edgy, either out of fear of the FCC, the pressure groups or just out of plain fear of failure. A show like Homeland could be put on a broadcast network – minus the nudity and any bad language of course – but would people in the volumes that the broadcast networks want to get watch the show? Probably not.
    Egregious Omission: Probably Sons of Anarchy which gets no love at all, maybe Revenge or Awake, though I’m really not feeling it for either of those. The Good Wife got a nomination last year too so why not this year. And as always Fringe.

    Outstanding Comedy Series
    Big Bang Theory – CBS
    Curb Your Enthusiasm – HBO
    Girls – HBO
    Modern Family – ABC
    30 Rock – NBC
    Veep – HBO

    Last year there were no nominations for shows on cable networks in the Comedy Series category and this year there are three. But they’re all from HBO which doesn’t prove that cable is doing comedy better but rather (I think) that HBO is in a cycle where they’re doing comedies. They do seem to go in cycles. Given all of the backlash I’ve heard about Girls (and because I’m not shelling out $14 plus a month to get HBO Canada, the backlash is all I know about this show) and because Curb Your Enthusiasm is an older show, I’m going to say that Veep is their only real shot at the Emmy. I also happen to think it is coming down to a two horse race again between Modern Family and The Big Bang Theory. Past winners edge to Modern Family.
    Egregious Omission: The various entertainment websites are mentioning shows like Louie, and Community but what about that other critical darling (which I’ve never gotten around to seeing – I’m hanging my head in shame even as I type this) The New Girl on FOX with the adorkable Zooey Deschanel (loved her in that iPhone commercial).

    Outstanding Reality-Competition Series
    The Amazing Race – CBS
    Dancing With The Stars – ABC
    Project Runway – Lifetime
    So You Think You Can Dance – FOX
    Top Chef – Bravo
    The Voice – NBC

    The usual suspects with The Voice substituting for American Idol. Guess what show I think is going to win? And yeah, that was a rhetorical questions since I hope you’ve all been reading my summer recaps.
    Egregious Omission: As usual Survivor doesn’t even get a nomination, and while I wasn’t really impressed with either of last year’s versions it is something that bothers me. I think there’s some deeper reasoning here. Also missing are American Idol and The X-Factor of course but I suppose the voters thought that the gimmick on The Voice was better than the established show and it’s clone.

    Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama
    Steve Buscemi, Boardwalk Empire – HBO
    Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad – AMC
    Michael C. Hall, Dexter – Showtime
    Hugh Bonneville, Downton Abbey – PBS
    Damien Lewis, Homeland – Showtime
    Jon Hamm, Mad Men – AMC

    Kyle Chandler won last year for Friday Night Lights but of course that show is no longer on the air. The field isn’t as wide open as one might think since Bryan Cranston is back in the mix after Breaking Bad’s hiatus last year. Which may be bad for Jon Hamm; if he can’t win with Bryan Cranston out of the equation how can he win with him in. I suspect that Damien Lewis has an outside chance, and maybe even a better chance than Hamm this time around, But Cranston is likely to take it again.
    Egregious Omission: Hugh Laurie wasn’t nominated for the final season of House. Come on; Steven Carrell at least got a farewell kiss even if he didn’t get an Emmy. And maybe Kelsey Grammer for Boss unless the Academy only sees him as Dr. Fraser Crane.

    Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama
    Glenn Close, Damages – DirecTv
    Michelle Dockery, Downton Abbey – PBS
    Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife (CBS)
    Kathy Bates, Harry’s Law – NBC
    Claire Danes, Homeland – Showtime
    Elizabeth Moss, Mad Men – AMC

    Even though Margulies won last year, she’s not a lock for this season, or even the favourite. That expectation would go to Claire Danes for her extremely complex role as mentally disturbed agent Carrie Mathison in the Showtime series Homeland. Oh, and joy of joys, Mariska Hargitay wasn’t nominated!
    Egregious Omission: As always Anna Torv, as Olivia Dunham (both versions) in Fringe. Hate to say it, but Fringe will be remembered when something like Harry’s Law is long forgotten. Kyra Sedgwick and Emmy Rossum are also not on the list. I suppose the voters figured that Sedgwick’s 2010 Emmy victory was enough. And of course there’s the regular snub of Katey Segal from Sons of Anarchy.

    Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy
    Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory – CBS
    Larry David, Curb Your Enthusiasm – HBO
    Don Cheadle, House Of Lies – Showtime
    Louie C.K., Louie – FX
    Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock – NBC
    John Cryer, Two And A Half Men – CBS

    No brainer in who I think is going to win. Jim Parsons never fails to get me howling with laughter. Certainly the best of the OTA network nominees, and they’re the only ones I get a chance to see.
    Egregious Omission: Well if you’re going to throw a nomination to Jon Cryer, shouldn’t Ashton Kutcher also get one? I mean just on general principle? Or principal since he’s one of the principal players on the show?

    Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy
    Lena Dunham, Girls – HBO
    Melissa McCarthy, Mike & Molly – CBS
    Zooey Deschanel, The New Girl – FOX
    Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie – Showtime
    Amy Poehler, Parks & Recreation – NBC
    Tina Fey, 30 Rock – NBC
    Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep – HBO

    Seven people in this category means that the voting was probably close because as I understand the TV Academy rules it is six people per category unless the difference between the sixth and seventh highest vote getters is within a certain percentage. What this means for the category I don’t know, but I think they’ve got a great list here. We’ll be seeing if McCarthy’s win last year was due in part to her role in Bridesmaids, which did after all get her an Oscar Nomination. Or will Edie Falco rebound after losing last year? Or even Tina Fey? If I’m guessing though for someone other than McCarthy, I’d say that Julia Louis-Dreyfus may have the good shot because the Emmy voters love their former honourees coming back in new roles. And of  course the new “flavour of the month” the adorkable Zooey Deschanel.
    Egregious Ommission: Remember when Laura Linney got a nomination in this category last year for The Big C? Well she didn’t this year.

    Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama
    Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad – AMC
    Giancarlo Esposito, Breaking Bad – AMC
    Brendan Coyle, Downton Abbey – PBS
    Jim Carter, Downton Abbey – PBS
    Peter Dinklage, Game Of Thrones – HBO
    Jared Harris, Mad Men – AMC

    Another case where Downton Abbey is the only broadcast show nominated. Not that I think it matters because I’m pretty sure it will come down to last year’s winner Peter Dinlage versus Breaking Bad ’s Aaron Paul, with Jared Harris from Mad Men having an outside shot based on the quality of his last episodes.
    Egregious Omission: John Noble of Fringe of course, but we all know that the show will never be nominated for anything ever. John Slattery of Mad Men got drowned in the Downton Abbey-Breaking Bad wave. And there’s Mandy Patinkin for Homeland, but at least with him there might just be a reason in the fact that he has a long history of dropping out of TV shows where he’s created compelling characters. That could have created just a touch of animosity.

    Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama
    Anna Gunn, Breaking Bad – AMC
    Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey – PBS
    Joan Froggat, Downton Abbey – PBS
    Archie Panjabi, The Good Wife – CBS
    Christine Baranski, The Good Wife – CBS
    Christina Hendricks, Mad Men – AMC

    Last year’s winner Margo Martindale from Justified was obviously not going to repeat in this category. I personally want to see Christina Hendrick take the Emmy home but I suspect it will go to Downton Abbey’s Maggie Smith because she didn’t win it last year when the show was considered a Miniseries.
    Egregious Omission: I guess Jessica Pare from Mad Men. I really can’t think of a great supporting role for a woman on broadcast TV this year. Well except for Pauley Perrete on NCIS. And if you think I’m kidding I’ll have you know that she’s probably the most popular actress on the highest rated series on network TV. That at least deserves a little recognition.

    Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy
    Ed O’Neill, Modern Family – ABC
    Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Modern Family – ABC
    Ty Burrell, Modern Family – ABC
    Eric Stonestreet, Modern Family – ABC
    Max Greenfield, The New Girl – FOX
    Bill Hader, Saturday Night Live – NBC

    I sometimes get the feeling when dealing with this category that the people at Modern Family sit around and say “now whose turn is it to win for Supporting Actor?” Stonestreet won in 2010 and Burrell won in 2011. Logically it is either Ed O’Neill or Jesse Tyler Ferguson’s turn. I’ll say O’Neill because I basically like him… even when he was doing the remake of Dragnet.
    Egregious Omission: They tell me to say Nick Offerman for Parks & Recreation so I will but I don’t watch the show so I can’t speak from experience. I don’t know that much about comedies, particularly those that aren’t on broadcast networks but I like Simon Helberg and Kunal Nayar from Big Bang Theory. Oh, and the guy who plays Han on 2 Broke Girls…..JOKING!

    Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy
    Mayim Bialik, The Big Bang Theory – CBS
    Katherine Joosten, Desperate Housewives – ABC
    Julie Bowen, Modern Family – ABC
    Sophia Vergara, Modern Family – ABC
    Merritt Wever, Nurse Jackie – Showtime
    Kristen Wiig, Saturday Night Live – NBC

    Either of the two actresses from Modern Family are the obvious front-runners in this category and they might give it to Vergara because Bowen won it last year; that is if you believe that the Emmy voters sometimes switch off between actors in shows, and we have seen that in the Supporting Actor in a Comedy category in the past few years. My personal preference would be for Mayim Bialik in The Big Bang Theory, who is the second funniest person on that show after Jim Parsons – I love the way Bialik plays Amy’s homoerotic attachment to Penny. On the other hand I wouldn’t be unhappy if Katherine Joosten won a posthumous Emmy for playing Mrs. McCluskey in Desperate Housewives because even though her screen time this season was smaller this year than in the past it was choice.
    Egregious Omissions: I don’t watch enough comedies to come up with a name. But because someone was so insistent about it on the Deadline Hollywood comments section – to the point of claiming that the only candidate who was a “legitimate” Supporting Actress was Sophia Vergara – Kristen Bell from House Of Lies. For the record I think he’s full of crap.

    Outstanding Reality or Reality-Competition Host
    Phil Keoghan, The Amazing Race – CBS
    Ryan Seacrest, American Idol – FOX
    Betty White, Betty White’s Off Their Rockers – NBC
    Tom Bergeron, Dancing With The Stars – ABC
    Cat Deeley, So You Think You Can Dance – FOX
    Egregious Omission: Jeff Probst, Survivor. Look, this is Jeff F’ing Probst you’re dissing. The man has won this category every time it has been available. He’s the standard by which the other reality hosts are measured against and usually found wanting. Personally I think only Bergeron and Keoghan measure up to him. And besides the fact that virtually every other category has six nominees and this one only has five, look who is replacing him: Betty White. And she’s nominated for a show which is basically Ashton Kutcher’s old series Punk’d using seniors to pull the practical jokes. Is that justice? Is that sanity?

    Okay with Probst out of the way (unjustly) I think the category really comes down to Keoghan and Bergeron. I don’t like Seacrest and I think that while both he and Bergeron usually work live Bergeron has the tougher job…and not just because he has to work with Brooke Burke-Charvet. He’s had to deal with wardrobe malfunctions, fainting stars, injured stars, getting smacked on the butt, and Bruno Tonioli. But I still think  it should go to Phil Keoghan simply because he has the toughest job of any of these hosts. He is essentially doing everything that the contestants on The Amazing Race are doing except for most of the challenges. He has to get to destinations before the racers to do stand-up explanations of their tasks, he has to make it to the mat before they arrive and wait for them as they arrive and throughout it all he has to look fresh and lively. When Probst isn’t on camera he’s back at base camp kicking back with a beer. When Keoghan isn’t on camera he’s racing to stay ahead of the contestants, and according to him he doesn’t always succeed..

    Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama
    Mark Margolis, Breaking Bad – AMC
    Dylan Baker, The Good Wife – CBS
    Michael J. Fox, The Good Wife – CBS
    Jeremy Davies, Justified – FX
    Ben Feldman, Mad Men – AMC
    Jason Ritter, Parenthood – NBC
    I don’t know any of these shows well enough to predict a winner.
    Egregious Omissions: See above.

    Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama
    Martha Plympton, The Good Wife – CBS
    Loretta Devine, Grey’s Anatomy – ABC
    Jean Smart, Harry’s Law – NBC
    Julia Ormond, Mad Men – AMC
    Joan Cusack, Shameless – Showtime
    Uma Thurman, Smash – NBC

    It’s not often that you see the winner of this category nominated a second time for the same role in the same series. For most of her time on the Grey’s Anatomy Devine would probably have been categorized as a Supporting Actress, but unlike last year when Cloris Leachman was nominated as Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy for a role that she played in every single episode of Raising Hope, Devine’s portrayal of Adele Webber as she sinks deeper and deeper into autism is both a true acting tour de force and a true guest starring role. In what I consider to be an otherwise very weak field I think she could, and should repeat.
    Egregious Omission: None that I can really think of.

    Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy
    Michael J. Fox, Curb Your Enthusiasm – HBO
    Greg Kinnear, Modern Family – ABC
    Bobby Cannavale, Nurse Jackie – Showtime
    Jimmy Fallon, Saturday Night Live – NBC
    Will Arnett, 30 Rock – NBC
    John Hamm, 30 Rock – NBC

    I think the Emmy should go to John Hamm because it seems obvious that there is no way in Hell that he is going to win an Emmy as Outstanding Actor In Drama even though he damned well deserves it.
    Egregious Omission: Nothing I can think of.

    Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy
    Dot-Marie Jones, Glee – FOX
    Maya Rudolph, Saturday Night Live – NBC
    Melissa McCarthy, Saturday Night Live – NBC
    Elizabeth Banks, 30 Rock – NBC
    Margaret Cho, 30 Rock – NBC
    Kathy Bates, Two And A Half Men – CBS

    It will probably go to Rudolph or McCarthy, but you’ve got to admit that Kathy Bates as Charlie Harper has to be one of the two great ideas of the TV season. And if Margaret Cho playing Kim Jung-Il in any way shortened the life of Beloved Leader Kim Jung-Il, well that alone is deserving of an Emmy.
    Egregious Omissions: Nothing I can think of.

    The 64th Emmy Awards will air on September 23rd on ABC.

    Friday, July 13, 2012

    A Response

    I got the following comment the other day – last Tuesday – that raised my blood pressure. I’m pretty much responding to his “dare” at the end; it’s the old “you guys are so liberal that you won’t dare/don’t have the guts to print my letter/run my comment” which inevitably gets people to run the comments. But I’m going to issue two warnings before I get to the meat of this thing. First: daring me to run something or accept a comment; if it’s a good comment or if it raises my blood pressure I will certainly accept the comment and might even run it in a post so I can rebut what you’re saying but don’t count on it. Second: This is most likely the last Anonymous comment that will ever be run as a post in this Blog; be a man (or a woman) and take responsibility for what you’re writing. If you’re on Blogger this will at least give me a chance me see where you’re coming from. In this sort of situation anonymity is usually the refuge of the coward.

    I found this comment to be rather bizarre because the post it was written in response to is this one on a PTC attempt to get the FCC to fine FOX for airing an episode of Family Guy, which also included a response to PTC attacks on several outlets who defended Family Guy and Seth McFarlane. The biggest thing to remember here is that this article was written over three years ago! With that in mind, here’s the comment:
    If the PTC's description of the episode of "Family Guy" is accurate, I understand completely why it should be censored. You might find that kind of stuff funny, but let me ask you something. Would you want your kids watching something like that? Would you watch it with your mother in the room? There are those of us who don't want to see that kind of thing at any time of day. Since you are so concerned about things being "fair," I'll be interested to see if my comment makes it onto your website. It works both ways.

    Well Anonymous, that’s the fairness aspect taken care of. This has not only been accepted as a comment but it has been given a place in the main blog. Now let’s turn to the meat of the comment.

    You state that “If the PTC's description of the episode of "Family Guy" is accurate, I understand completely why it should be censored.” Well that’s the big thing, and the reason why I wrote the piece in the first place. The PTC had, and still has I suppose (I gave up on regularly reading their site a long time ago), a tendency to exaggeration, hyperbole and rabble rousing rhetoric in their posts, particularly when attempting to get their supposed 1.3 million members to send complaints to the FCC – complaints which the PTC provides for them in the form of pre-written forms. (By the way I say their supposed 1.3 million members because there is some controversy about that. In 2009 former PTC Vice President for Development Patrick W. Salazar claimed that based on people who contribute to annual fundraising appeals is closer to 12,000, and that t the 1.3 million figure is a count of everyone who has every signed a petition for them or ever given the organization money.) Reports of people who actually watched the episode and who weren’t invested in trying to generate complaints for the FCC, including the other person to comment on this post stated that the episode may have been gross but the things that the PTC was outraged about were either implied rather than shown or weren’t at all what the organization claimed.

    You make the statement that: “You might find that kind of stuff funny, but let me ask you something. Would you want your kids watching something like that? Would you watch it with your mother in the room?” If you had read my post without your reading comprehension skills being affected by your apparent agenda you would have read where I said that, “I am not a fan of The Family Guy. I don't watch the show and frankly some of the things that are described by both mainstream critics and bloggers were enough to persuade me that this show isn't for me.” Whether I would watch the show with my mother “in the room” is therefore a moot point, although I should note that she has a rather high tolerance for “rude and crude” humour, a by-product of living with my younger brother during his rude and crude period. She has had no trouble with the nudity and swearing in Boardwalk Empire for instance.

    You asked, “Would you want your kids watching something like that?” There are two ways I can answer that as I’ve never had children of my own. I am nearly 56 years old so in theory I could reasonably have children anywhere between the ages of 1 and 40 so my facetious answer would be that the one year-old couldn’t but that the 40 year-old could watch whatever he damned well he wanted. To put things more on the grounds that you are obviously trying to lead me into, I have a 9 year-old nephew who sometimes comes over for a few hours when his dad and step-mom have things they have to do, usually involving work. And no, I wouldn’t want him to watch any episode of Family Guy, and more to the point I wouldn’t let him watch any episodes of Family Guy. On the other hand I don’t want the fact that I have a 9 year-old nephew who I don’t want exposed to Family Guy to prevent other adults or even teenagers from watching Family Guy if they want. And the truth which you, and the PTC and just about every advocacy group that is pushing for tighter restrictions on TV shows either doesn’t realize, doesn’t accept or wilfully chooses to ignore is that the mechanisms are readily available for you to avoid what you don’t want your children to see or what you don’t want yourself exposed to. The most important of these mechanisms is to take some responsibility about what you kids see by watching TV with them and not plopping them down in front of the TV and leaving them there.

    You said, “There are those of us who don't want to see that kind of thing at any time of day,” and my answer to that is that you don’t have to. No TV that I’ve ever seen has not been equipped with an On/Off switch or some form of device to change channels. Modern TVs come equipped with the V-Chip that works with on-screen ratings to prevent shows that are too explicit in some way that you define from being seen on your TV. My cable box – and presumably other company’s cable and satellite boxes – includes a feature where I can block specific TV shows and I believe entire channels that I don’t want to see or I don’t want my nephew to see (not that I too much to worry about there; when he comes to visit all he wants to do is watch cartoons from my Looney Toons Golden Collection DVD sets; he won’t even let me watch a hockey game in piece). You have the freedom to turn the TV off, to change the channel to find something that you enjoy. The networks aren’t going to stop you from setting content standards for your own household using the V-Chip, and the cable company isn’t going to knock down your door if you use their blocking software to keep every episode of Family Guy from being seen on your TV. No one is holding a gun to your head or to my head to make us watch a show that you object to or that I just don’t want to see.

    The point of all this, and the point of everything I’ve written about the PTC in the past is in defense of freedom of choice. It is your choice not to watch Family Guy; in fact I make the same choice although probably not for the same reasons as you do. But should you be able to say to people who do watch Family Guy that, because you object to the show’s content they can’t watch it? Should I be able to say that in order to protect my 9 year-old nephew all TV shows – or even all TV shows running up to a certain hour – should be suitable for my nephew to watch? That’s what the PTC wants. They want to restrict everybody’s freedom to choose what they want to watch and restrict the available shows to what they think is suitable for children or families to watch. They want to threaten advertisers who sponsor shows they object to with boycotts, and to accuse critics and writers who don’t agree with their positions of at best being out of touch with “the American public” and at worst benefiting from their support of those shows. The people who are trying to force you to watch what they want you watch are groups like the PTC.

    Thursday, July 12, 2012

    The Amazing Race - Season 1 Episode 2

    The second episode of the first season of The Amazing Race is, in some ways, better than the first. The episode’s musical scoring seems better, and the producers also seem to realize that as an audience we need some sense of where the teams are during the course of the leg. The episode introduces the “Roadblock” task to the show; there had been a Roadblock in the first episode involving cooking and eating an Ostrich Egg but it hadn’t made the finishing cut for the first episode and it isn’t seen on the “side trips” feature of the DVD box set.

    Of course circumstances conspired against the show. The second episodes of Lost and The Amazing Race were scheduled to air on September 12th, but on September 11, 2001 the World Trade Centre in New York and the Pentagon in Arlington Virginia were attacked by terrorists using commercial aircraft. This meant that entertainment programming was immediately pulled from the four major networks for the remainder of the week, not restoring regular programming until the weekend. The Amazing Race returned on September 19th, while the remaining episodes of Lost would be burned off later in the year. The ratings for the second episode of the show were lower than the ratings for the first episode, which some people attributed to a backlash against international travel in the aftermath of the attacks. There’s may be some truth to this, but it isn’t an easily proven theory, and some aspects of the drop in ratings have other the viable explanations. Still, the first season of The Amazing Race, and the second episode in particular are inextricably linked to 9/11.

    The episode opens with a review of the first episode of the show, from the departure from New York to the late night arrival of Matt & Ana at Songwe Village. After the credits they show us a village that they say is Songwe but as I said in the previous post on The Race, the real Songwe Village is – or was – a resort. There is a nearby village but strictly speaking it isn’t called Songwe Village. In a voiceover Phil Keoghan tells us that the next clue is simple but tricky. They have to find the Songwe Village Museum, a tiny building less than 100 yards from the starting point. No cars are needed. The problem is that while the local people are totally aware of the museum’s location (oh yeah?!) outsiders have no idea that it even exists, and the drivers are all outsiders. We are also informed that  the teams will leave the Pit Stop at Songwe Village in the order that they arrived, twelve hours after they checked in at the Pit Stop.

    The order of departure is:
    1. Rob & Brennan – 11:23 p.m.
    2. Bill & Joe – 11:37 pm  +14 minutes
    3. Frank & Margarita – 12:05 a.m. +42 minutes
    4. Lenny & Karyn – 1:52 a.m. +2 hours 29 minutes
    5. Pat & Brenda – 3:35 a.m. +4 hours 12 minutes
    6. Kim & Leslie – 5:33 a.m. +6 hour 10 minutes
    7. Paul & Amie – 5:50 a.m. +6 hours 27 minutes
    8. Dave & Margharetta – 6:24 a.m. +7 hours 1 minute
    9. Kevin & Drew – 7:09 a.m. +7 hours 46 minutes
    10. Nancy & Emily – 7:26 a.m. +8 hours 3 minutes

    Rob & Brennan are given their “travel packet” (the term they used in the first season) not by Phil *who is nowhere to be seem) but by the local greeter from the previous episode. It states: “You are well acquainted with the Songwe Village. Now make your way to the Songwe Museum.” Rob & Brennan decide to team up with the next two teams and inform their driver that the first three teams in their cars will be travelling together “for safety.” They all pledge to an alliance to the end because they feel they are the strongest and smartest teams in the whole competition…and besides Margarita is certain she saw a sign for the Songwe Museum somewhere down the road. So off they go, an hour and forty-seven minute ahead of the next team to leave, Lenny & Karyn don’t feel the need to travel in a convoy for “safety.” They also go out on the roads looking for the museum. An hour and a half later Pat & Brenda leave and like the teams that went before them they take off in their car looking for someone who can direct them to the Songwe Museum.

    So we have five teams on the roads looking for a museum that was almost literally right under their noses when they left. Eventually the “alliance” of Bill & Joe, Rob & Brennan and Frank & Margarita have to pull into a gas station. Frank is seriously mad at Margarita for saying that she saw a sign, and she insists that she thought she had seen a sign. This gives them a chance to consider their choices, and reread the clue. Rereading the clue, particularly the part where it says “You are well acquainted with Songwe Village…” This suggests to them that maybe the museum is located at the village. Someone claims that they had lost two hours; if we take this seriously and add the two hours to Frank and Margarita’s departure time of 12:05 a.m. it means that they make this discovery at around 2 a.m. when the only other team to have departed is Lenny & Karyn. Also assuming that they don’t take the same amount of time getting back to Songwe Village as it took them to get to the gas station, they could easily have found the clue before Pat & Brenda leave. For their part Lenny & Karyn find out about the museum when they stop to ask for directions. Karyn specifically says that they don’t want Songwe Village but the man they’re talking to tells them that there is a museum at the village. They find the clue while it is still dark.

    Both Kim & Leslie and Paul & Amie head out by car but somehow Kim & Leslie find the museum first, driving right up to it in their car. They do find it after everyone else leaves though (or at least that’s the way it’s edited). Dave & Margharetta, leaving at 6:24 a.m. are the first team to be able to ask any of the people at Songwe Village how to find the museum. They get directions but unfortunately the directions, which start from the car park take them off on a ten minute walk down the road that turns into something a lot longer. When they see Drew & Kevin drive past they start to think that they should have driven too. Nancy & Emily, the last team to depart run into Paul and Amie who inform them that someone told them that the museum was in the village. The two teams come together with Dave and Margharetta, still on foot who confirm that the museum is within walking distance but they haven’t found it yet. The three teams working together are able to find it while Kevin & Drew are the last to find it.

    The clue, when the teams find it, is a Detour called “Near or Far.” In the “Near” option teams have to travel to the nearby Mosi-Oa-Tunyu Wildlife Reserve and photograph three relatively hard to find animals using Polaroid cameras. The “Far” option requires them to travel to the Chobi National Park in Botswana and photograph one elephant. These photos have to be presented to Chief Mukini at Mukini Village, which is near Songwe Village, and is a landmark that at least some of the teams are aware of. All of the teams (except of course Pat & Brenda who are doing the Fast Forward) decide to do “Near.” It’s the right choice as Dave points out that Chobe National Park is nearly 90 kilometres beyond the Near destination. What he may not have known is that the most direct route to the park involves passing through Zimbabwe which was beginning to be increasingly isolated internationally at the time, though not to the levels it has reached today. The route to the park through Zambia included a ferry crossing of the Zambezi.

    TAR1-1Pat & Brenda take a different approach.Unable to find anyone who can direct them to the museum they decide that it might be advantageous for them to use the Fast Forward. The clue for the Fast Forward is somewhat cryptic: “If you know what to do, then we’ve one name for you – Bundu.” Bundu Adventures is the name of a white water rafting company on the Zambezi River below Victoria Falls where the rapids are amongst the best in Africa. It’s daylight and the first three teams are already at the game reserve taking their photos before Pat & Brenda find Bundu Adventures and the clue is farther down the Zambezi in an area only accessible by white water raft. It’s an adventurous ride over some significant rapids, but when they get there they find the location of the leg’s pit stop, the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

    TAR1-2For the other teams discovering where they have to go next isn’t as easy. At the wildlife reserve they have to shoot photos of three animals; a buffalo, a giraffe and a rhinoceros.  According to Wikipedia finding the last animal on that list might not be as easy today as it appears to have been when the Race was shot. The local Black Rhinos have been wiped out by poachers in the Mosi-Oa-Tunyu reserve and a handful of White Rhinos have been brought into the park. Some teams take what appear to be extreme risks to get pictures. Nancy in particular tries to get fairly close to a Rhino standing in the road, much to the exasperation of her daughter Emily. And Emily’s mood isn’t improved when the camera doesn’t take the picture because the film pack hasn’t been put in properly. Still all of the teams manage to get their shots.

    Once the teams take their photos they have to deliver them to Chief Mukuni at Mukuni Village. He is a descendant of the Chief who met Dr. David Livingstone when he became the first white man to see Victoria Falls. Before they can deliver them though they have to participate in a ritual blessing in which the Chief takes a sip of water from a gourd and essentially spits it out over them (a procedure looks like a spit take). Extra footage on the DVD also indicates that there is dancing involved, but that could be just as the teams wait to see the Chief. Once the ritual is done the Chief hands them a miniature replica of the Eiffel Tower, their next destination. Most of the teams are elated, the exception is the team of Kim & Leslie: “Who wants to go to stupid Paris. I hate Paris.” As we shall see, they may have very good reason to hate Paris.

    The teams are next shown back at the Johannesburg Airport although it’s not shown how they got there. Then the scramble for airline seats begins. There are no pre-booked seats for the teams to get to Paris which means trying to book the flights at the airport ticket counters. Pat & Brenda believe they have seats but nothing is immediately confirmed. A worse blow-up though happens between Amie and Kim or Leslie (I’ve never been able to tell the difference between those two). The Teachers are at the Air France counter booking a flight (it’s worth noting that she asks for four seats; teams in the race have to book seats for themselves and their camera crew – a total of four seats – but in every season since this one teams have been shown booking just two seats, with the camera team’s seats being booked off-camera). Amie is also at the counter. The one who is trying to book the flight holds up her hand and says, “And she’s not with us.” It seems like a perfectly normal thing to say, although the tone is a bit brusque, but Amie explodes. She walks away from the counter and is determined to stick her foot up their asses. Paul isn’t exactly a peacemaker; he tells Amie to punch in the jaw and the nose. As for Kim & Leslie, they don’t entirely understand what the cause of the problem between them and Paul & Amie is, but they basically automatically hate them. It takes the intervention of a lady, probably from South African Airways, to at least calm things down a bit, although Amie is still mad, because the woman doesn’t understand that this is a race.

    These aren’t the only machinations going on. Bill & Joe have already cut Frank & Margarita loose from their alliance during the photo safari portion of the day claiming Frank was uncontrollable. On the flight to Paris Bill & Joe – who never tire of telling the camera that they lived in Paris for two years – discover that Rob & Brennan have never travelled outside of the United States before. For them, that’s reason enough to end the alliance because after all what can two guys who have never been outside of the USA help two guys who have lived in Paris. Thus when the first plane arrives at Charles De Gaulle Airport, Bill & Joe immediately head for the RER – Reseau Express Regional (Regional Express Network) – commuter train, abandoning  Rob & Brennan. Of course Rob & Brennan were fully expecting something like that to happen so presumably there were cracks in the alliance that even they noticed before they got to France. The other teams on the first flight are Frank & Margarita, Lenny & Karyn, Kevin & Drew and Pat & Brenda. The latter of course are able to go straight to the Arc de Triomphe where they are welcomed by a Parisian Police Officer who doesn’t look like our image of a French police officer; no Kepi but rather a standard military style hat. They’re the first team to check in.

    Bill & Joe are there first to the Eiffel Tower, and are of course very pleased with themselves. They find the clue box fairly quickly and find out that they are facing a Roadblock. This is the first Roadblock that we see on The Race so Phil has to explain how they work. Teams have to decide who will do the Roadblock based only on a fairly basic clue before they undo the clue to find out the full details. In this Roadblock the first part of the clue says that the player who does it needs, “strong legs and sharp eyes.” The person doing it has to climb the stairs to the second deck of the Eiffel Tower and then “check out the telescopic view; we hear it’s monumental.” They’re supposed to obtaining a 10 Franc coin (this was pre-Euro) use one of the telescopes on that level to locate a Paris monument with a yellow & white Route Marker flag flying atop it. Bill & Joe are slightly ahead of Frank & Margarita and Rob & Brennan who are followed by Kevin & Drew. Frank, Rob and Drew all follow Bill (the dark-haired member of Team Guido) up to the observation level. While Kevin stops to catch his breath on the first level, Frank and Rob make it to the second deck and try to find the flag. This is somewhat hampered by the fact that Rob doesn’t know the Paris monuments. Bill does; he spots a “yellow flag over there” and heads down. Meanwhile Lenny & Karyn arrive and Lenny starts up the stairs. Frank eventually spots the flag on the arch but until it blows out isn’t exactly sure what it says. When he figures out it says “Monument” (actually it says MONUM’) he tells Rob and they both head down. Kevin, having finally reached the top level doesn’t seem to know what qualifies as a monument in Paris. A lady points out the arch and he looks through the telescope to see the flag. This is more than poor Lenny is able to do. He can’t see the flag so he decides to come back down. This upsets Karyn, who sends him back up again. Well sends him might be the polite ways of saying it; nags  and yells at him is closer to the truth. Lenny apparently decides that any monument will do gets a friendly tourist to point out some place to him and decides that Notre Dame is as good as any so he heads down and tells Karyn that they’re going to “Notre Dame” (pronounced like the University).

    While the lead teams – less Lenny & Karyn – are heading for the Arc de Triomphe, the second flight arrives with Paul & Amie, Kim & Leslie, Nancy & Emily and Dave & Margharetta. The war between Paul & Amie and Kim & Leslie escalates over a cab. Paul & Amie seem aware that there is a line for cabs at the airport and you take them in order. Kim & Leslie appear to believe that lines are for people who aren’t from Texas and jump the line. Paul & Amie and Kim & Leslie both reach a cab at about the same time but Amie sits in the back seat first. Kim & Leslie basically bribe the driver to throw Paul & Amie, and their luggage out. This really upsets Amie. and Paul responds by telling her that they should just quit and fly back to New York! And if it gets any worse he’ll just go back to the States on his own. For their part Kim & Leslie are laughing their heads off.

    Surprisingly it is Paul & Amie who are the first from their flight to arrive at the Eiffel Tower, ahead of the “party girls.” Paul goes up the Tower, so we all know that this is not going to end well. And sure enough it doesn’t. Initially unable to get change he finally is able to mime what he wants a 10 Franc coin for to a young couple and looks through one of the telescopes. He does not get instant gratification – that is he doesn’t see the flag on the Arc de Triomphe , and so he reacts in a typical Paul manner; he spins the telescope around angrily, kicks the guard rail on the observation deck and says “That’s it, I’m quitting.” Three times in one episode: must be some sort of record.

    Meanwhile Kim & Leslie finally arrive at the tower. They are totally oblivious to the flag at the clue box and while hey might have seen Paul or Amie, they absolutely wanted nothing to do with them. Instead they get in a line for the elevators to go up to the very top level of the Tower. They make the assumption – based on their own odd logic – that if they’re going to send you to the Eiffel Tower, naturally they’re going to want you to go to the top, so that’s where the clue box will be. When they get there they keep asking people if they’ve seen a yellow and white flag. It gets worse when they try to say it in French and it comes out in Spanish (blanco instead of blanc).

    While the teams from the second flight are arriving at the Tower, the teams from the first flight start arriving at the Pit Stop. Joe & Bill are in second place followed by Rob & Brennan, Frank & Margarita and Kevin & Drew, who are quite happy with the degree to which they’ve improved their position. Meanwhile Lenny & Karyn have arrived at Notre Dame and they suddenly have their doubts as to whether they’re at the right place. Karyn asks Lenny why he thought this was the right place and he came up with a cock and bull story – which those of us who have seen the earlier scene know to be untrue – about the telescope as you came out of the stairs pointing in the direction of Notre Dame. Karyn is dumbfounded; it might have been pointing that way because someone had just been looking at Notre Dame through it. This has cost them time and worse, precious money.

    TAR1-3By the time that Lenny & Karyn get back from Notre Dame, and Kim & Leslie return from the top of the Tower, Nancy & Emily have already arrived and Emily has reached the Observation Deck. She has just one tiny problem – no change for the telescope. She manages to get a guy to toss her a 10 Franc coin from the upper story of the second deck but she can’t figure out what she’s looking for and gets frustrated. Paul is still up there, the temper tantrum having been exhausted, and he eventually spots the flag on the Arc de Triomphe. Meanwhile Lenny joins Emily and they are frustrated together. Lenny tries using the telescope and Emily mentions that the only Paris landmark she knows is the “Arc de Whatever.” Lenny and Emily take turns looking through the telescope and Emily sees the flag on the Arc de Triomphe and then lets Lenny take a look. They head down. At some point Kim (the dark haired Teacher) reaches the observation level and uses a borrowed pair of binoculars to find the flag.

    The last group of teams are all headed towards the Arc de Triomphe. They’re all in cabs, and when they arrive most seem intent on crossing to the Arc the most dangerous way possible, by running across the Etoile – the giant traffic circle that surrounds the actual structure of the Arc de Triomphe – on the surface dodging traffic, rather than using pedestrian tunnels that are provided. David & Margharetta arrive at the Arc in sixth but while it’s not explained in this episode there is a problem with how they ended up in sixth which I will go into shortly. Paul & Amie come in seventh, The editting makes it seem as though Kim & Leslie arrive before Nancy & Emily and Lenny & Karyn but that they are delayed in a dispute with a cab driver who wants more money and refuses to give them his name. This may in fact be true but it seems somewhat at odds with some of what we’ve seen earlier. Suffice it to say that enough time passes for Kim & Leslie to finish last in this leg and be eliminated. Karma it seems is a bitch.

    Final Order of Finish at the end of the episode:
    1. Pat & Brenda
    2. Joe & Bill
    3. Rob & Brennan
    4. Frank & Margarita
    5. Kevin & Drew
    6. Dave & Margharetta*
    7. Paul & Amie
    8. Nancy & Emily
    9. Lenny & Karyn
    10. Kim & Leslie – Eliminated
    * Dave & Margharetta will receive a penalty at the beginning of the next stage for not completing the Eiffel Tower Roadblock.

    – As I said, Dave & Margharetta’s penalty is not discussed in the episode, but it is explained in the next episode. Arriving at the Eiffel Tower they didn’t see the Route Marker and Clue Box. Independently they climbed to the second Observation Level together where they encountered Paul. He told them where the clue was. They then went down to ground level where they found the Clue Box. To complete the Roadblock one of them should have gone back up to the Observation Deck and then come right back down. They didn’t do this so a penalty was applied. In this period of The Race it was the procedure that penalties for missed or improperly completed tasks like this Roadblock would be applied at the beginning of the next stage unless adding the penalty would eliminate the team. This has changed in more recent seasons of the show where penalties are either served before teams check in or teams are sent back to where they missed the task to complete it. In the current version of the The Race, Dave & Margharetta would probably be sent back to the Eiffel Tower and one of them would have to complete the requirements of the Roadblock before they could check in.

    – Paul may have been the whiniest person on this season of The Amazing Race, but in reviewing the first two episodes I’ve come to the conclusion that Emily may be the second whiniest. She is alternately impatient with her mother and whining about something not going her way. In the first she got mad with her mother for trying to tell her the directions that the lady in the rest room had tried to give her. In the second episode she got mad at Nancy for trying to get a good shot of the Rhino, and then whined at her to fix the camera when it wouldn’t shoot. She was impatient and whining again at the airport in Johannesburg when first she couldn’t get an answer on the telephone and then thought that they couldn’t make their flight. She was whiny on the Eiffel Tower, but at least then she wasn’t directing anything at her mother. When watching the show initially I quite liked her, and maybe she improves, although I know that the worst is yet to come in India. But in the first two episodes I think Nancy exhibited the patience of a saint when dealing with her daughter.

    – A pet peeve of mine when discussing people on the show is that they seem to depend to an insane degree on cabs. Bill & Joe are the only team to use the RER to get from Charles De Gaulle Airport to central Paris, and no one used the #6 Metro line from Bir Hakeim station to the Charles De Gaulle Etoile station right under the Arc de Triomphe. This is in spite of the fact that the Metro can be as fast if not faster (not to mention cheaper) than taking a car depending on traffic patterns. At least a couple of teams wise up in the third episode.

    – A brief talk about the ratings for this episode. The ratings for this episode were 6.8/10. The source I used to get that information didn’t have the information on the 18-49 demographic. This represents a drop of about 10% from the first episode rating of 7.5/11. Both times the show finished in second place, but in the second week the show lost to a repeat episode of The West Wing, which drew a 9.5/14 rating. In the show’s first week it was opposite the season finale of Fear Factor.

    At the time, and for some time to come there was a belief amongst some fans of the show that the 9/11 terrorist attacks had hurt the show; that the American people weren’t going to be attracted to a show about international travel at a time when they were cutting back on their own travel and many Americans had the attitude that international travel was dangerous. I’m not entirely sure today that there wasn’t some of that coming into play, but I’m becoming less convinced that this was a primary, or even a major factor in the ratings decline. Instead I’ve come to the conclusion that 9/11’s real impact on the show was more pedestrian. It’s generally accepted today that most new shows will experience a drop in viewership from the first to second episode; I think the usual percentage quoted is about 10 to 20%. But remember, most of those shows air their second episode a week after the first. That didn’t happen with The Amazing Race for obvious reasons. And I think the delay between the first and second episodes help to hurt viewership. Of course the fact that they were going up against a encore episode of The West Wing, then a ratings juggernaut even in reruns, didn’t help it either. And things wouldn’t improve much as new episodes of popular series began running as the new season began.