Friday, August 03, 2007

"God is so gangsta, that's what I love about him.": Big Brother

Last week on "Oh my God, I don't know if I can do this anymore because these people are all so stupid": Mike was evicted, with the only votes in his favor coming from Zach and Eric (because America compelled him to). Of course Dick immediately blamed Jen for Eric's vote because he is a moron. Oh, and Dustin got HoH. On to the idiocy!

Sunday night's episode starts right in on Vote-gate, as Nick tries to figure out who cast the mystery vote for Kail. Dick obviously thinks it was Jen since she is the source of everything that is evil in the world. (Didn't you hear, she's just like Saddam Hussein!) Unfortunately, Nick makes the mistake of questioning Amber about the vote, which her slack-jawed, paranoia-addled brain turns into a theory that it was actually Nick who cast the vote, and now he is trying to throw suspicion off himself by talking about it a lot instead of just keeping his trap shut and allowing the house to blame Jen. Brilliant deduction, Veronica Mars.

Later, Dick and Danielle have a father/daughter conversation that in the moment actually made me cry, it was so heartbreaking. Now I hate them both so much I can't even recap it. It's funny how much difference a week can make. The gist: Dick is an asshole, and when Daniele tries to tell him this he doesn't listen. The end.

America once again proves it has no right to be making any sort of decisions where this show is concerned by telling Eric to get Jen nominated. Way to stir things up, America. Of course, Kail and Jen are nominated again but this time Kail thinks she's Dustin's pawn to get Zach out of the house and there is no way she is going home. True or not, she's not very good at this game, that Kail. Jen cries over her nomination because for once she thought Dustin truly had bigger fish to fry. Nick sweetly tries to comfort her. Amber sees this and immediately thinks this means Jen and Nick are in a secret alliance,
suggesting to Dustin that instead of backdooring Zach as planned, they should backdoor Nick. I don't think Dustin is the only man in America who wants to backdoor Nick. Also, Amber is stupid. It's almost offensive.

At the veto selection ceremony, Jen selects Jameka's name out of the sorting hat. Jameka apparently believes God himself used his hand to guide Jen's hand to her ball, and says that if she was chosen by Jen (aka God) then she must fight for the veto and use it on Jen as a result. Because God has already decided who is winning the game, and they are just there to play it out for him. God has to be entertained too, y'all, even when he knows the outcome already - we're just little monkeys dancing for him. Although I think she's a little bit crazy, I admire her convictions and how she stands up to everyone in the house and tells them this is how it's going to be. Dick, of course, lays into her but even a jerk like him can't argue with the "God told me to" defense. Crazy trumps an
gry every time.

The veto turns out to be "Big Brother Art Gallery," where the houseguests must guess common Big Brother phrases illustrated by poorly drawn pictures. I, like Jen, would be terrible at this game. In my defense, at one point one of the pictures is of a foot and an electric cord, from which you are supposed to get "Power of Veto." I get the electric cord, but I guess Foot = Feet = Feeto = Veto? Whatever, producers. Jameka and Dustin both do well in the competition until the twist: the houseguests can use the money they've received for correct answers to buy prizes, specifically a trip to Barbados and $5000. Jameka abstains (because God doesn't approve) but Dustin is sane and takes both prizes, angering his alliance mates who want to ensure the nominations stay the same. Dustin says, "Hee, I'm going to Barbados! With all of
my money! Suckers."

On the final question, Jameka has the most money but it's still anyone's game. Jen answers incorrectly, however, which means the game is over and Jameka is declared the winner. The houseguests immediately fly off the handle, saying Jen lost on purpose to put Jameka in the bad position of having to use the veto on her. I don't explicitly know if Jen did this or not, but if she did GOOD FOR HER. If you don't know the answer and want to prevent someone from answering who won't use the veto on you, this is exactly the smart move to make. Jameka should have kept her mouth shut about using the veto until after the competition if she didn't want something like this to happen. It's a game, people, and Jen is there to win.

Dick, however, can't accept this and berates Jen over and over again. As a viewer I am tired of
Dick. I can't even fathom what it is like to be trapped in a house with him for weeks at a time. Jen handles herself swimmingly, as per usual, which only angers him more. Amber cries to Jameka (as I storm over to the CBS lot with a spoon to dig out Amber's tear ducts and a roll of tape to cover her mouth) about what a horrible person Dustin is for taking the prizes and what a good person she is because she never would have done such a thing. This statement explains why Amber is so awful. She's the kind of person who is convinced she's the most moral person in the room.

America blows it again by picking "I'd do that for a dollar!" as Eric's catchphrase when they could have made him say "Sweet chicken!" I'm moving to Canada.

At the veto ceremony, Jameka takes Jen off the block as promised and Dustin puts up Nick. He is obviously surprised, but understands that he is a threat later in the game and this is why he was nominated. He confronts Daniele and asks her if she knew he was going up. She can't look him in the eye, which is all the confirmation he needs. He's understandably upset and sees the writing on the wall saying he's going home this week. When he talks to Amber, she flat-out lies to him, telling him she had a general idea he might be nominated but didn't know for sure. Or, you know, it was her idea. Whatever, most moral person ever. Then she bawls about how much she loves him, and I stab myself in the ear with my pen. In reaction to his nomination Nick gets a mohawk, determined to go out of the house devoid of whatever sexual appeal he possessed when entering.

After yet another tirade from Dick, Jen takes an ill-advised swipe at him to Daniele, saying she is sorry Daniele had to deal with him her whole life and telling Daniele she must be a very strong person because of it. This is essentially a compliment, but I don't think Daniele wants to hear it. No matter how much you hate your Dad, you don't want someone else to tell you how horrible he is. That's for you to complain about!

A bit later Daniele finally blows up at Jen, calling her rude and saying Jen is mean to her all the time. Jen disputes this, saying she's tried to reach out to Daniele several times but got the cold shoulder. Daniele says a few more mean things to Jen, which causes Jen to respond by telling Daniele she doesn't really approve of her cheating on her boyfriend with Nick. This is all Nick needs to hear, and he comes barreling into the kitchen hair-first and starts calling Jen a bitch and tells her to shut up. Daniele smartly asks him to stay out of it, but now it's officially on and Dick starts in on Jen as well. Then IT happens. Dick full-on loses his shit and pours a glass of whatever he is drinking over Jen's head and walks away. Jen's like, "Uh...okay. Sure. Um, what?" What indeed, my friend. A 40-year-old man just poured a drink over someone's head because he doesn't like them. Where do they find these people?

Back on the live show, Jen says she is used to Dick being such a dick, and Dick is proud he poured the drink over her head. Isn't it nice to see our houseguests learning and growing? When it's time for goodbye speeches, Kail spews nonsense about how much she enjoys being in the house (lie), while Nick (who knows he's leaving) takes his moment to sincerely tell Daniele that he truly does care about her and it wasn't an act. I would call it sweet, but it's just a tad too pathetic to be sweet. I mean, dude. The girl has a boyfriend. No matter how much she kissed on you in the house, as soon as you're gone it's over.

The HoH competition this week is endurance, with the houseguests forced to hang upside down from a swinging pendulum while a white substance of indeterminate origin is spewed onto their faces. I don't care what Jameka says: if God really cared about reality shows he'd rig it so Jen would win and nominate Dick's sorry ass. Let me tell you, I've never been more hoping for God to prove his existence than right now. Go, Jen, go!

Live feed clip of the week:

This is only one of the many extended versions of Dick berating Jen throughout the past week. Notice how CBS conveniently edited out all of his creepy misogynistic comments about Jen's so-called sexual issues. He is so foul.

I love Jen's "I'm rubber, you're glue" approach. She's used to children, you know, being a nanny and all.


Thursday, August 02, 2007

"It was ineptitude with insufficient cover.": Mad Men

(I promised David I would take on Rescue Me this week, but I want to look at the season as a whole, so the piece may have to wait until this weekend. -- TV)

In the ever-so-helpful "Inside Mad Men" featurette attached to the end of the episode by the good people at AMC (who seem to run the show with a minimum of commercial interruption -- I hope that's a deliberate choice at the programming level and not indicative of a problem selling ads for the show), creator Matthew Weiner says that he sees "Marriage of Figaro," the third episode of the first season, as being about how in high American society, marriage is treated as an object of frivolity when, in reality, it's the most important relationship most of us will ever stumble onto. It's not just that Don Draper cheats on his wife (taking a mistress and kissing a client on an account); it's that the whole suburban culture he belongs to treats marriage as something like one big joke, as though everyone at his child's birthday party is sort of regretful about hitching their lives to this one person before really figuring out if that was what they wanted (the "Take my wife! Please!" school of humor). Don comes across a couple kissing passionately at the party, just a little side moment that becomes more, and he stops short, filming them through his little camera a while, then standing, watching them, the frame expanding to contain the whole room. Don often seems shut off from the world he occupies, hermetically sealed in the one he's built for himself. He can't occupy the same room as the couple. He can only stand outside, watching.

The episode opened with a hint that Don is not who he says he is. He's greeted by a man on the train who insists that he's someone else. Don goes along with what the man is saying. While I don't think this is indicative that Don Draper is a made-up identity or anything (I certainly hope it isn't), I do think it speaks to a larger truth about Don: He doesn't really know who he is, and he'll be what you tell him he is. At work, he's the model employee, coming up with great ideas and saving campaigns. At home, he's a good husband and a good father, but really nothing more than that. We never get a sense of who DON thinks he is, outside of a few mentions of a burgeoning novel and the slight sounds of warfare on the soundtrack every so often.

The episode seems set up to contrast the hectic work life of Don (where he has to put up with the return of Pete -- pretending at knowing what marriage is all about, another indication of how we treat marriage as just another facade -- and various other pressures) with his rather boring weekends at home (where he gets drunk, does stuff for his kids, then passes out by the train tracks, rather than have to go back to the party -- not bringing the cake for the party in the process). Don's life in the city is full of excitement and complications (right down to his brief seduction of the woman from Menken's department store, who looks impossibly glamorous, before he tells her that he's married). He has to work closely with a bunch of young guys and supervise them and make sure that things don't fall apart. At home, he's rather out of his element, downing beer after beer, buying a dog for his kids to apologize for his screwup without having to admit what he has done. There's a dark, uncertain core to his actions, and I'm thrilled to see it teased out ever so slightly.

Meanwhile, Pete returned from his trip to Niagara Falls for his honeymoon and tried, awkwardly, to push Peggy out of his life as a romantic interest (she smiled and agreed when he told her he was married, but it was clear that she wasn't quite ready to let it go). His commiseration with his married friend about married life (and how he could only flirt and make innuendos, rather than acting on any impulses). Pete's attempts to play up his married state as a great thing and to talk about how funny his wife is made it painfully obvious how much Pete wants the aura of maturity Don projects but isn't quite to the point where he can make it happen.

But the bulk of the episode was taken up with that marvelous party sequence, where Don realized just how alien the very world he has built for his family is to him. He constructs a little playhouse (with a red door just like his real house) for his children, but he's forever on the outside, looking in, watching as others play at being responsible adults.


5 for the Day: The Simpsons

Picking the five best Simpsons episodes is well-nigh impossible. Even if you accept that basically nothing from season nine onwards is going to match up to anything in the first eight seasons (despite seasons nine and onwards having a few choice episodes), you still have to contend with the sheer amount of classic episodes in those first eight seasons. The Simpsons were the cultural institution of the 90s, for better or worse, a touchstone of a whole generation ( press critic Jack Shafer has argued that we’ll know that baby boomers have ceded control of the media to younger generations when Simpsons quotes start turning up in headlines).

For those who grew up in the ‘90s, The Simpsons became the lingua franca of life. When I was in college from 1999 to 2003, Simpsons quotes or references became a kind of conversational shorthand, a way to sound clever on dates, or a way to size up whether the person you were talking to might be the very best kind of friend. It was a common denominator, one of the few things everyone knew about and could agree on. Saying “My cat’s breath smells like cat food” wasn’t just leeching off of someone else to be funny; it was both an ice breaker and a quick way to signify that you didn’t completely suck. And that was in rural South Dakota! Surely the phenomenon was more pronounced elsewhere; TV writer Denis McGrath has talked about how TV writers rooms often descend into long Simpsons quote-a-thons.
You can find out the actual list here.


Wednesday, August 01, 2007

"They said I spent twenty thousand dollars on shoes while your former employees are lining up for food stamps.":Damages

(I am filling in for David on Damages this week, while he's on vacation. -- J)

Previously on 'This show is complicated!': We got the setting of the show, new naive girl goes to work for shark-like mentor, girl is being used for her connections to key witnesses, girl ends up potentially murdering her fiance (in the future!), and girl's mentor is a really mean dog murderer.

'Damages' is sort of a strange show. While having a present and future timeline isn't anything new, rarely is one half of the show so much more interesting than the other half, yet at the same time that half that is more interesting is shown so much less. By my rough estimate, there was about a 20 to 1 ratio of screen time given to the present and future story lines this past episode, which is fairly disappointing to me, considering that the present feels like we're just going through the motions to find out how we get to the future scenes, which we've only seen so far in very short, carefully guarded glimpses. I guess you could level the same criticism against certain episodes of 'Lost', but with that show I don't feel like my time is being wasted as much, most likely because the characters are much, much more interesting. Although this show does borrow one thing directly from the other: the shocking! last! few! seconds! to end each episode. The last episode it was finding out that Glenn Close's character, Patty Hewes, was behind the murder of her key witnesses' dog, in order to motivate her to testify. The next one, well, read on if you like, but the first one I didn't find the least bit surprising while the second I only found mildly so.

There were two main plot lines this week, the first concerning the friend of newly hired Ellen (Rose Byrne), Katie (Anastasia Griffith), who was present in Florida back in the day to cater a dinner where defendant Arthur Frobisher (Ted Danson, who is actually surpisingly not completely horrible so far) potentially told his stock broker to sell off the stock of his failing company before it crashed, in an Enron-like scenario where all his employees lost their savings. Katie will eventually tie Frobisher to the stock broker, because there is no other way for the show to proceed, so Ellen was hired specifically as a way to get her to testify against him. Having the law firm hire someone to kill her dog is a pretty good way to get her angry enough to testify too, as we found out the last episode. Anyway, there are a few scenes with Katie and Patty where they go back and forth a bit, Patty accusing Katie of lying and trying to get her admit what her real timeline was on the day she catered the event, and eventually, and predictably, succeeding, although not due to unforseen events. Anyway Katie eventually admits that her timeline was incorrect, she was late to the event, because she had a one night stand with someone named 'Greg', got pregnant, and had to have an abortion. One moment I found funny about these exchanges were that once she spills the bears to Patty she says, "no one has to find out, right?" Don't people in lawyer shows ever watch lawyer shows? Of course it has to come out. Now, my best guess right now is that this 'Greg' is the stock broker in question, or at least has a short connection to him, because, again, how else will the show proceed? I think Todd may have mentioned this in a previous article, but the show does suffer from revealing a lot of its twists through sheer process of elimination. Oh yeah, and she is still lying to Patty, because she goes to see 'Greg' towards the end of the episode, but I am guessing Patty already knows about this, because she knows about everything, as per her character's requirements.

The second main plotline involves Frobisher and how he is reacting to how events are transpiring in the case. It seems his family is falling apart, and he feels his wife may leave him, which would not only be bad for his personal life, but would also probably hurt his case pretty badly. At one point he discusses options with his scary minion who he has been using to follow Katie around. First the option of buying her off is discussed, which is dismissed because Frobisher thinks that if a judge found out about it that would be bad, because it is clear witness tampering. A more rational approach it seems, is witness murdering, which Frobisher agrees to after initial moral protest after 1) a tender moment looking at his family having fun, and 2) a not so tender moment of him snorting cocaine with a woman he's having sex with in a limo, probably a hooker. Everyone who has seen Scarface knows that rich men who like women and cocaine are like, evil. So the hit is out, and for a moment we think that a creepy hit-man with a creepy mustache might kill her, but again, she has to live, law of elimination, so she survives, and Frobisher calls off the hit because her encounter with the hit man leads Katie to agree to sign his lawyer's non-disclosure agreement. Speaking of the lawyer, he does a pretty awful southern accent, and anyone whose ever watched him on Law and Order or Oz before is probably fairly put off by it. Or at least I am.

Meanwhile, in the present, Ellen doesn't have much to do: a birthday party with a blatant product placement (hey, an Olive Garden gift certificate!), a couple arguments with her boss Patty, in which she seemed a little wooden frankly, and a scene where she is given a brand new, completely 'off the hook' (her words) apartment from Patty. Now I'm sure that this apartment will not, in any way, be used to set her up for murder later on in the show once she figures out how evil her boss really is. I mean, that couldn't possibly have anything to do with it, since Hewes & Co. probably has easy access to break into the apartment and cause some havoc, right? Of course not.

In the past, there isn't really much to talk about. The cops figure it isn't a robbery because the engagement ring is still present, there are a couple of very brief flashes for context (look, dead fiance! look, Ellen in jail!), and then finally at the very end, after an interrogator tells her that they believe she is innocent, there is a scene where she drops the murder weapon, a minature Statue of Liberty figure. Creative murder weapon, not so creative twist, because there's no way I'm buying that she actually did it.

So, while there are some good performances, and I suppose the show is worth watching, I am a little frustrated by the predictability of it all, and the misfocused attention of the story lines. I guess it gives Glenn Close a good opportunity to be awesome and get an Emmy nomination, which by me, is fine. If it also gets a writing nomination I'm probably going to have to vomit though.


Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Big Love Tuesdays: Season Two, Episode 20, "Kingdom Come"

Growing up fundamentalist is a tricky balancing act, as the fundamentalist teenager constantly dances between new and potent urges (to have sex or to rebel against parents) and the way of life he or she has been taught, since childhood, is the one true way to eternal life. Try though the teen might, the dance can only end in one of the two camps. It’s hard to stand in both. Either you give in to temptation and find yourself realizing there’s more in Heaven and Earth than were dreamt of, or you give in to temptation and find yourself crippled with guilt, racing back to the comfort of what you have known your whole life. In one of this season of Big Love’s longest-simmering plotlines, Ben Henrickson (Douglas Smith, turning in his finest performance yet) is finally forced to choose between his way of life and his sexual relationship with his girlfriend, Brynn (Sarah Jones). This season of Big Love has been particularly skillful at illuminating the conflicts between creed and self (especially in the case of the Henrickson wives and teens), and the season’s eighth episode, “Kingdom Come,” written by Dustin Lance Black and directed by Daniel Attias, turns this overriding theme into a character-specific plotline as Ben struggles to find a way to reconcile both sides of his life.

If Bill Henrickson (Bill Paxton, almost scary when angered by his teenagers) has seemed blithely unaware of the way his plural marriage has hurt his first wife Barb (Jeanne Tripplehorn, giving her best performance since the season premiere), he’s completely oblivious when it comes to the way this life has affected his teenagers, who are still struggling to find some form of moral purchase in the world. His daughter Sarah (Amanda Seyfried) has already received a lecture from Barb on why she shouldn’t join a life of polygamy and joined a post-Mormon support group. When she and her boyfriend were threatened by Juniper Creek goon Alby Grant (Matt Ross), she didn’t even bother to report it to Bill, perhaps because the whole incident didn’t strike her as incredibly odd. Ben, meanwhile, has tried and tried to find a way to stop sleeping with Brynn, but it just feels too good. When he goes to his old pastor for guidance, the pastor comes to his house and nearly exposes the whole family (simply from Margene (Ginnifer Goodwin) being in the wrong place at the wrong time). From there, Barb and Bill grill their son on why, exactly, the pastor felt they should talk with Ben.
Read more about it at your local library. Or here.


"Just when I'm ready to cross alien off my list, you pull another stunt and suck me back in.": Kyle XY

Last week: Kyle learned how to bust a move, Lori was attacked in an alley and left for dead, and ABC Family ruined any sort of suspense over her fate by putting scenes of a perfectly fine Lori in the previews. Grr.

Since they ruined the surprise of Lori's miraculous rescue (and since said rescue happened off screen), I'll start there. It seems Lori's attacker caught her from behind and knocked her out, giving her a black eye, a few scratches, and a huge scare. She can't identify who sucker punched her, but since the only thing stolen was the necklace Declan gave her it's pretty obvious it was Jessi. Declan, who knows all about Kyle's secrets now, thinks it was Foss, however. After talking to Declan about the incident, Jessi finally realizes that she hurt Lori and feels appropriately bad about the whole situation and sneakily puts the necklace back in Lori's locker, which freaks Lori out even more because her attacker is now revealed to be someone who knows her.

Sad, computer-programmed Jessi tries to figure out what is wrong with her by talking to both Nicole and Emily, but telling Emily only backfires as Evil Madacorp Dude (EMD) just thinks Jessi is like a computer that needs reprogramming and orders Emily to bring her in for a reboot. When Emily balks, EMD threatens to harm her daughter if she doesn't cooperate and then immediately takes Jessi out of her care, telling her to "concentrate on Stephen Trager." Seriously. Do not mess with the Stephen/Nicole relationship, Emily. I have weapons, and I will hurt you.

Stephen finally gets his very own storyline this week. His long-estranged father has a stroke and is effectively brain dead and waiting to die. Stephen and Kyle visit him in the hospital, where Stephen remarks that their relationship will never have closure, and Kyle almost immediately gets one of his strange Kyle-ability brain attacks. Later that night, Kyle draws a church that happens to be the church Stephen's father faithfully attended his whole life, and that church is most of the reason he and Stephen were estranged. It seems that Stephen's father was religious to the point where it interfered with his relationships with his children, and Stephen decided to abandon the church almost in protest, a sin his father never forgave him for. Stephen tried to reconnect with him at one point by writing him a letter, but his father only tore it up in front of his face and refused to read it. Ever since, they have not talked.

Stephen and Nicole are fascinated by Kyle's ability to draw the church without ever seeing it, but Amanda takes it one step further and believes it is a divine intervention from God and that Kyle's goal is to give Stephen and his father closure. In case you didn't know from the approximately 2,431 other times Amanda has mentioned it, her father was perfect and now he's dead, and she says she didn't get to say all of the things she wanted to say before he died either. She convinces Kyle to go back to the hospital room to see if he gets any more messages. He does, and that night in his sleep he draws a wall-sized replica of Stephen's childhood living room. Kyle then leads him to a chapter and verse in his father's bible, where Stephen finds the torn-up letter lovingly taped back together and obviously worn from being read many times. It's cheesy, but quite touching and a nice way to deal with religion without being heavy handed.

In the end, Amanda asks Kyle to meet her in an idyllic garden, where she talks about her dead father again, some more. Dead dads are apparently a big turn-on for her, because she finally gives Kyle the nod and they make out. It's so sweet I got a stomachache, but appropriate for the characters and nice. The only thing a little bit troubling is that Kristen Prout is 16 and Matt Dallas is 24, and they look it. Otherwise, awwwwwwww.

Next week: Jessi and Amanda go all Celebrity Deathmatch for Kyle's affections. I think I'm going to go out on a limb and pick Jessi in a physical fight. Just a hunch.

Random thoughts:
- Sour Patch Kid sightings: 0

- Kyle told Declan all of his secrets off screen. How...anticlimactic.

- Beachwood High School. Damn. I think I prefer Generic Seattle High School, myself.


"What am I, a heroin addict? How am I supposed to sleep in a chair?": My Boys

When we left our boys (groan) last season, P.J. and Brendan had just shared an unexpected kiss, Mike had just lost his job, and Andy had just moved to the suburbs. Season two picks up six months later and there are even more changes afoot, as Bobby has a new job covering NASCAR, Kenny has a new girlfriend, and so does Brendan...but it's not P.J..

In flashback we learn the aftermath of P.J. and Brendan's kiss and it wasn't pleasant, as P.J. made an excuse to immediately run out the door and Brendan didn't take that rejection well. He took it so badly, in fact, he finally moved out of her apartment and started dating a new girl, Colleen. You see, P.J. is afraid of ruining their friendship. We've heard this song before, so I will move on. P.J. and Brendan have reached a shaky truce, but it all goes to hell when Brendan invites Colleen to their fantasy baseball draft and starts complaining that Colleen is bored. Dude, Brendan. That is totally unacceptable! As P.J. pointed out, you don't bring a date to the draft! Brendan takes offense to her objection that Colleen is there, and it leads to a huge fight where he accuses her of hating all of his girlfriends because she can't stand being the center of female attention in their group. Ouch. Brendan 1, P.J. 0. They make up, however, and Brendan finally moves back into the apartment.

The second episode revolved around P.J.'s appearance on a local sports show (hosted by Javier from Felicity!), the kind of horrible sports show that makes Around the Horn look sane and tame in comparison. P.J. completely chokes, spitting out catchphrases like "And with that you get egg roll!" and "He puts the lotion in the freaking basket." It's no boom goes the dynamite, but it's pretty close. The boys break it to P.J. that she was terrible, and she takes it rather well. Until she finds out about YouTube, that is.

The B-story of the first two episodes is about Kenny's girlfriend, who just happens to be a 7 month pregnant, drinking, crude surrogate mother. Kenny gets a bit too attached to the baby they will not be keeping, and gets dumped. I am only mentioning this storyline because it features an awesome cameo by Jack McBrayer (aka Kenneth on 30 Rock). I talked to him once and he called me "ma'am," which was pretty much the best thing ever. Kenneth rocks.

Speaking as a girl who loves sports and feels more comfortable in a sports bar drinking beer and yelling at the TV screen than in a fancy club sipping froufrou drinks and trolling for men, I completely relate to this show, and more specifically to P.J. as a character. The fact that she's a sports nut defines who she is and who her friends are, and it's realistic to see that all of the pressure she feels as a female in a male-dominated world comes from outside her inner circle of friends, because they respect her opinions and even defer to them. (It's those jokers who don't know you who look at you like you just spoke Klingon when you rattle off Tom Brady's season-to-date stats or something. Jerks.) Jordana Spiro does a great job toeing the line between a guy's girl and just plain girl, and her comic timing has improved immensely. Also, she's smoking hot which doesn't hurt.

As for her boys (groan again, sorry) Jim Gaffigan steals the show as P.J.'s married brother. He consistently gets the best lines, but also elevates even the most mediocre material into something resembling hilarity. By now, I should really be sick of his "I'm married, therefore I'm trapped" shtick but let's face it, I'm just not. (It doesn't hurt that we found out last season his wife was actually awesome and he only pretends to be burdened by her.) When a character calls his wife and gives her a hilariously over the top impersonation of a drunk in order to stay out longer with the guys, and then actually gets drunk because he "loves his wife and doesn't want to lie to her," I just can't not be on board with that. Especially when it's someone as funny as Jim Gaffigan who is doing it.

The other boys in the gang are sufficiently unique and all add their own flavor to the mix. The only one who is still a bit of a mystery is Brendan. All we know about him is that he works at a radio station and loves music, and has an endless supply of annoying band t-shirts. He's definitely "the hot one," but if we are supposed to get on board with an eventual P.J./Brendan relationship, he needs to be developed just a bit more.

I'm not sure this is the best comedy on TV, but the characters are likable and feel like people you would want to be friends with, the situations are relatable, the actors are almost universally spot-on, and there are a few laugh out loud moments in each episode. That's a lot more than can be said about former comedy golden boy Entourage these days, that's for damn sure. If only they would get rid of that horrid "Carrie Bradshaw in a sweaty locker room" voiceover, then we might be getting somewhere.


Monday, July 30, 2007

"I should deprive myself of telepathic information to spare you irritation from cheeping.": John from Cincinnati

Sorry it took so long to post this review. Unlike my lateness on other shows, I missed this one simply because I no longer know what the hell to say about this show or even what the hell I THINK of it. I enjoy watching it, and I find the process of seeing it hypnotic, and I'm really into all of the side stuff about how John seems to be setting up a new religious movement (the weird little stick man symbol was the latest evidence of this, and it was pretty great), but I increasingly feel like the center here is hollow and that's being disguised with a lot of really terrific side stuff. This means that the show isn't wholly without merit. Indeed, it's really quite good at times (I still can't shake that sermon scene from episode six). But it feels more and more like something that can never quite pull everything together. It's not quite a noble failure (because it's not quite a failure), but it's also not quite the kind of masterpiece we might have dreamed of.

So what do we have here? We have an oft-fascinating show that mixes absolutely brilliant scenes (Bill's interrogation of John, which was the sort of thing that felt simultaneously like nothing we'd ever seen before and everything we'd ever seen before) with scenes that seem designed just to inveigle and provoke. I get that the people here are reacting to miracles as they might in the real world (with skepticism and sheer avoidance), but at some point, it becomes patently unbelievable that, say, Bill or Butchie wouldn't take the leap and admit that something mystical or paranormal was going on here. When the show taps into things like the interrogation scene or the sermon, it feels like something primal and deep, something that has its roots in an underground mythology we can't quite see clearly. But much of the other time, it borders on weirdness for weirdness' sake.

But I'm still invested because that mythology seems to run so silent and run so deep. I'm longing to find out why John seems so frustrated by his inability to say anything beyond parroting what others tell him. And I want to know why he only seems able to speak his own mind when he's astrally projecting. And, hey, now he's got computer hacker powers.

Do I expect good answers to these questions? I have to admit that I don't. But I love trying to puzzle out the answers hidden in the margins, only hinted at. And any series that can kick out a scene like the one where Barry is accosted by the unseen voice in the room he dreams of turning into a theater (finally crumbling under the voice calling him a "faggot") is one that I will continue to watch, probably as long as it's on the air.

But, I confess, I'm deeply ambivalent to this show. I've loved a lot of it, but I've been tired out by an equal amount. I suspect it's the sort of thing I'll love more when I'm 60 and I have the time to sit down and parse out all of its many hidden meanings and subtexts. And while I'll continue to blog the next two episodes, I fear that it may be time for me to call "Uncle" to David Milch. You have won, good sir!


"We stay at the Marriott. It's pretty cool.": Entourage

Evidently SOME people think that going to Turkey is more important than reviewing their shows. And those people are correct. Just as I am correct in thinking that ANYTHING is more important than reviewing The Closer/Saving Grace. *nods*

Truly, all of our beliefs have been validated today. I suppose what I'm trying to say is that while David is busy gallivanting about the European countryside (unless he somehow makes his way across the Bosphorous, in which case, it's Asia for him! -- ed.) it falls upon me to review the complete travesty that is this season of Entourage.

This episode (as helpfully pointed out in the photo above; thanks a crapload, HBO *rolls eyes*), called The Day Fu*kers, was yet another completely disjointed mishmash of plots and rose to new heights of offensiveness. Before I go any further, let me point out that up until recently, I owned the first two seasons of this show and used to enjoy it immensely. However, the speed and extensiveness of its precipitous drop from quality to catastrophe is matched only by the detritus that is now Rescue Me.

The plot of this episode featured a competition between a Vince-backed Eric and Drama-backed Turtle as to who can get laid before the end of the day. In this universe, being overweight is a huge hindrance to finding an attractive woman and the latter pair must resort to Craig's List for free and desperate women.

Meanwhile, it appears that being 4 foot 3 poses as no problem at all for Eric, and he must merely be within a three foot radius of Vince to be attractive enough to sleep with. Inexplicable. Before passing on an overweight girl (because the fat are ugly, remember) Turtle and Drama decide on a girl played by Shanna Moakler (nice career move, by the way) who turns out to be a Furry.
For those of you unaware of what this means, please follow this link. For my in-laws, please, if you click that link, never mention it to me. Ever. Please.

As for Eric, he and Vince attract a couple of superhot British chicks before they've even been at the club for two minutes. Vince is having sex within moments of arrival, leaving Eric to flounder about until his ex, Sloane, wanders by and he is wrecked. Fascinating.

Meanwhile in a completely different show, Ari attempts to get his child into the private school of his choice, rages against the common and inferior public school system and finally weeps and begs and barters to get his child into the school in a performance that ensures the Emmys will recognize him yet again next year. Joy.

As you can about imagine, everything ends wackily with Eric getting laid and Drama engaging in Furry sex, and it's all just peachy, except for this: Entourage again, competes with only Rescue Me for how much it loathes women.

The women on this show are all shrill and shallow, not to mention, not really characters at all. As much as I enjoy Ari's wife, she's reduced to whining into the phone at Ari to fix their already perfect life in episode after episode, while Debi Mazar (on unending maternity leave) has disappeared completely. Those females featured in the show from episode to episode are merely whores, empty vessels waiting to be filled by, well, you know.

To that end, if Rescue Me is misery porn, then Entourage is porn porn. Rather, Entourage is all about fantasy fulfillment, which is fine to a certain end, but like porn (or so I'm told) it's empty and meaningless.

If there's no question that Vince is going to get his way or that Ari will still be around or that everything will end up O!K! then what's the point? Easy. There isn't one. But again, while that's fine for some, for viewers like myself it's just not enough anymore. It's time to find a new crowd.


Sunday, July 29, 2007

"This isn't a seduction. It is rape.":Meadowlands

So in this, the second to last episode of Meadowlands for the season, they once again decide to spend a significant portion of time on a peripheral character. The good thing is that at least we've seen this character quite a bit before, but unfortunately it is the disgustingly creepy Dr. York (see picture), so besides being subjected to the dubious quality of the show, I have to see this guy on screen for one second too many and it makes me a little ill.

In earlier episodes we learned that Danny Brogan is infertile, and the Brogan children are thus not his, as Evelyn had an affair way back in the day. The creepy doctor wants Evelyn, so he ended up lying to Danny about his fertility results in order to protect her. Although it seems that now he has reached some sort of psychological breaking point, as he turns from being quiet creepy into outright menacingly creepy, just like we all knew he would eventually. We get some back story, apparently the reason why he is in Meadowlands is that he threatened to go public on the pharmaceutical company he was working for, because they were manufacturing an AIDS drug targeted for patients in Africa that has a high rate of causing cancer. Of course the scene that reveals this shows the most ridiculously stereotypically evil corporate executives possible, so it is a little amusing. I liked the plot better when it was used in The Constant Gardener, but it's only a side scene.

There is also a lot more interaction between Dr. York, his wife Abigail, and Evelyn Brogan this episode. First Evelyn goes to see Dr. York, to figure out why he yelled at her in the previous episode for shopping with his wife. Well, as we saw, his wife while trying to seduce her husband asked him to call her Evelyn, and even said that Evelyn told her to do it. Evelyn didn't, of course, because that would be fairly insane of her, but Dr. York doesn't believe her and he goes kind of crazy and yells at her. Later, Evelyn confronts Abigail about this, Abigail figures out that Evelyn is the patient her husband has been lying for, and they agree to hate each other and never talk to each other again. However the good doctor isn't going to let this happen as he starts stalking Evelyn, including acting crazy at the local golf course of doom while the family is there to watch Zoe golf. He corners Evelyn and threatens her that if she does not have sex with him, he will tell Danny about his fertility results and thus her affair.

Later Dr. York visits the bar Danny is working on opening, where he has a beer with Danny, until Evelyn shows up and he leaves, after which he has a weird hallucination sequence where Wintersgill the policeman basically convinces him to go after Evelyn. Ew. Then Dr. York confronts his wife Abigail about the affair she was having with Jack Donnelly, they fight, and he leaves their house to go to his office for his planned rendevous with Evelyn. She shows up, and her makes her wear the dress. They go through a little bit of back and forth where he yells at her for enticing him, she yells at him for being pathetic. She cries a lot, the actress probably wonders why she is wasting her performance on this crappy show, and it appears that she almost convinces him to give up his demand when he attacks her briefly. After a few tense seconds he backs off, and goes into the corner and cries, giving her the chance to leave. Later on there is a scene where he rows out into the middle of a lake or river of some kind and I thought he was going to kill himself, but unfortunately he returns to shore and sees his wife Abigail and they look like they're going to be happy together again. I guess they got over all that screaming they did with each other this episode, and the obviously boring and dead relationship they had in every previous episode.

Meanwhile, other things are going on. Well, Zoe doesn't do very much this episode, except for the scene at the golf course of doom. Mark gets over his sadness at being dumped by Brenda Oglive, the next door neighbor, by starting a tryst with her daughter Jezebel. Then there's Danny, who goes off doing random things throughout the episode such as robbing a store after someone knocks over a display, and going into an internet cafe (where his usage is watched) and looking at internet sites that appaer to not make any sense except to throw off the Meadowlands Secret Agency to his real plans. Well, his plan seems to be to get out of Dodge, as he received a package from some friend of his named Eddie, who he thinks might help them escape to Cuba. They plan on leaving, and hopefully the secret agents do not stop them, because then the show could be over without a second season and Showtime will show something better in its place.

Next week: the season finale. Will the Brogans escape? Will we learn any more about the weird memory experiements going on in Meadowlands? Does anyone really care?