Saturday, September 22, 2007

“We’re right at the end of knowledge itself, and you two are busy…blogging!” – Doctor Who

It’s tempting to write off ‘Utopia’ as just a whole lot of set-up towards the big final reveal which leads-in to the final two episodes. Indeed, after first viewing the episode the only thoughts on my mind were “Oh…My…God” and “John Simm will be awesome”. But as further viewings have shown me, there’s a lot more going on in ‘Utopia’ which deserves noting before I come to the obvious gushing about that ending.

We open with a brief return to Cardiff, where a rift in time and space provides the TARDIS with a ‘fuel’ of sorts. Hang on, though – don’t we know someone else in Cardiff? Sure enough, Captain Jack makes his triumphant return this week, running towards the TARDIS and screaming the Doctor’s name. The Doctor normally greets returning companions with a warm embrace, but he’s not quite so happy to see Jack – in fact, he deliberately takes off to avoid him. Of course, this is Jack we’re talking about, so getting rid of him proves not quite so easy. Throughout the episode the two build their comradery back up from scratch, with the Doctor admitting that as a Time Lord he sees Jack as “wrong” because he is unable to die. It’s more than a bit hypocritical (and the obvious metaphor is shoved in our faces a little too much), but soon the two have sorted out their differences. It all culminates in a warm and life-affirming conversation about Rose, death, and the “fantastic” human race.

Jack’s return also allows some plot holes to be filled in. It emerges that his constant search for the Doctor after “The Parting of the Ways” led him to end up stranded in the 19th century; so he had to live through all that time waiting to find the Doctor in the 21st century. Writer Russell T. Davies rattles off this backstory so quickly that you’d never guess it answered questions fans had been wondering on for close to two years. Not only does it explain why Jack was so moody in season one of Torchwood, but it also explains why this moodiness disappears so quickly the moment he’s back adventuring with the Doctor. It’s a welcome relief to see Jack by to his old ways, always livening up the screen with his presence. In a way, it’s a shame that his emotional journey gets lost in all the madness which comes next.

Said madness revolves around Professor Yana, a brilliant scientist who is trying to get the last of the human race on a rocket to Utopia. Yana is played, superbly, by Sir Derek Jacobi. Again, because his character will eventually turn out to be the Master it’s easy to overlook Yana himself. Yet to do so would be a great shame, as Jacobi is simply wonderful in the role. He gives Yana huge warmth and humanity, taking him beyond a stereotypical old genius and grabbing hold of every opportunity to shine. Yana’s final monologue, wondering at the possibility of time travel, is one of the most disarmingly touching moments Who has ever produced.

Mostly, however, the first half hour of ‘Utopia’ is all about having some fun and injecting some comedy. Martha’s reaction to the Doctor having grown another hand is priceless, and many other light-hearted moments abound before the dramatic finale. There are problems – the Futurekind prove nothing more than a plot device/red herring, and even considering this they are totally lame and unexciting. The plot lags a bit in the middle as well, showing that if this had been just another Who one-off adventure it would have basically sucked.

No point considering that, though – this is no normal Who adventure. The last fifteen minutes of ‘Utopia’ are instead a master class in rising dramatic tension. It begins when Yana pulls out a fob watch identical to John Smith’s in “Human Nature/The Family of Blood”, prompting Martha to rightly freak out. Her reaction suddenly makes Yana aware of the watch, and all of his mysterious responses to seeing the TARDIS and to the Doctor’s utterings (which have been happening throughout the episode) suddenly make sense – he’s the bloody Master! It all builds up to an amazing moment: as the rocket takes off in the background, the Doctor and Yana simultaneously realise the truth of the situation. Yana opens up the watch, and his transformation into the Master is shown through a single thrilling shot – we close in on his eyes, as they shift from melancholy wonderment to a malicious glare. Now the Master, he wastes no time in locking the Doctor out and planning his escape in the TARDIS, revealing his true identity to his assistant Chantho along the way: “I…am…THE MASTER!” Now that’s great television.

Thanks to a last minute shot in the heart courtesy of Chantho, the Master’s plan ends up changing a bit. He does manage to steal the TARDIS, although not before the Doctor gets a look at him (watch horror gush into Tennant’s face in that moment – beautifully done). However, the shot forces him to regenerate…into Life on Mars’ John Simm! Simm instantly starts having some fun, leaping about the TARDIS majestically and striking fear into all of our hearts with but a few lines. All the Doctor can do is make an unidentified change to the TARDIS (to be explained next week) before the Master’s off, and we’re left with definitely the best cliffhanger Who has ever produced. And all you can say is, wow.

Sure enough, that’s all I’m really going to say. Just, wow. I’ve seen that moment several times now, but it never fails to strike me with wonder, not to mention giddy excitement more befitting of a five year-old. Those fifteen minutes rank among my favourite Who moments, if not my favourite moments in television. And yet, astonishingly, the best is yet to come…


Friday, September 21, 2007

"Well I was wondering who was that childish when it happened. I was like 'Who does this?' But now, I see. It was America.": Big Brother

[Justin, thanks for taking one for the team last week with your excellent recap. -C]

I suppose I should be used to unsatisfying Big Brother winners by now. Looking back at past winners, I've only really been happy one time: Dr. Evil Will Kirby in season two. Since then it's been a parade of the undeserving and unlikable. Nobody Lisa over mastermind Danielle in season three. (A travesty.) Jun in season four. (Who? Exactly.) Drippy Drew in season five. (Although it was fun to see Diane chase him around like a puppy at the wrap party that year.) Disgusting Maggie in season six. (When you make icky Janelle look good in comparison, you're in trouble.) And let's not forget Boogie in season seven. (A grown man who goes by the name Boogie and goes on national television to get his genital warts removed. Enough said.)

However, I cannot remember anyone I have despised more than Dick Donato.

Tuesday's finale started off promisingly, with the jury seemingly
against Dick at every turn. However, things immediately changed once Eric got his directive from America to campaign for Dick. One little speech from Eric about Dick's dominance of the game and all of a sudden his assholery was forgotten and his "game play" was lauded, with the entire panel pretty much agreeing that Daniele wouldn't have gotten nearly as far without Dick's strategic tactics. Sure, her winning five veto competitions and several HOH's meant nothing at all. I'm not saying I like Daniele, but Dick is so much worse. Thankfully, Jen can rub two brain cells together and remains disgusted by Dick's treatment of others in the house, saying "I think that Dick is absolutely the worst person I've ever met in my life." Amber takes offense to Jen badmouthing Dick because, according to Amber, Jen is just as culpable as Dick because they called a truce and worked together. Yes, Amber, it was horrible of Jen to make a deal with Dick that he stop threatening to rape her until she was dead. Jen is such a bad person! How can she even live with herself!

During the jury Q&A, Dick infuriates me even more by stating for the thousandth time that the Donatos had the hardest game in the house. Going into a game all about alliances with someone you can absolutely trust is a horrible disadvantage, didn't you know? Amber goes petty and asks Daniele why she should vote for her considering Daniele cheated on her boyfriend with Nick. Let's see here. In Amber's moral "logic," continually berating people with homophobic, misogynistic and threatening remarks until they fear for their safety is OK, but cheating on your boyfriend is evil. Good to know. Dick and Daniele close with statements about their game play, and Dick emphasizes his big move in the game of getting Eric on his side and voting Dustin out of the house instead of himself. (Which is thoroughly refuted with the America's Player reveal. Tee hee.) Daniele immediately takes offense to Dick actually campaigning for the win. What an entitled, ungrateful bitch. You know she expected Dick to tell them to vote for Daniele and give him second place, and I love that he wouldn't do that.

On the live portion of the show, Julie introduces the past houseguests who didn't make the jury, and I almost fall out of my seat when I see Nick. Dude is looking good, is what I'm saying. Too bad I cannot like him because he loves Daniele. What a waste of man-candy. The jury casts their votes and all get a chance to address Dick and Daniele directly, and I have to say that I love Jen even more when she says, basically, "I don't like either of you, but they are forcing me to vote for one of you so here goes." Ha. After the voting, Julie reveals that Eric was America's Player. Everyone thinks this is totally hilarious, even Jessica. The producers decide not to reveal that he was paid for this task, which is strange. I wonder what they all thought once they knew Eric made $40,000 for his efforts?

Finally, it's time for the reveal and Dick takes the game, 5-2. That's right, the only people that voted against Dick were Jen and Jameka. I knew they were probably the only people in the house with a soul, but COME ON. Sigh. Did they get Stockholm Syndrome like Dee on It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia last night? I just don't understand. I'M SO FRUSTRATED!

Despite my dislike for most of the houseguests, I was still pretty excited to attend the wrap party last night. The Big Brother wrap party is a notoriously strange place where the houseguests are treated like celebrities, but celebrities that it's OK to stalk and talk to. Everyone crowds around the houseguests, chatting them up and asking for pictures, and it's expected so there's no awkwardness about it. Once I arrived, I immediately hit the bar and fueled up on the dinner buffet (complete with chocolate fountain, cotton candy machine and churro cart for dessert). As I was eating, some horrendous bitch walked up to our table and stole my party favor, a plate-sized cutout of Jen's head (pictured to the right)! She just reached over my shoulder, grabbed it off the table and ran. I got up and tried to find her because I was damn well going to take it back, but she was gone like she never even existed. It was pretty unbelievable. Who does that?

After that, I was angry and ready to stalk me some houseguests. The main goal was to get some face time with Jen, but I was perfectly happy to take whoever I could get. The first houseguest my friend Tina and I ran across was Nick. We approached him and asked for a picture and he was very obliging, posing and then chatting with us for a bit. I asked him if anyone was asking him any awkward questions and he replied that everyone was asking him what was going on with him, Daniele and Daniele's boyfriend (not in attendance) and he cheerfully said, "I don't know what's going on, so I have nothing to tell them!" Hee. (You see how I got him to talk about it without asking a direct question? I am smooth.) We thanked him for his time and booked out of there. If it wasn't for his infatuation with Daniele, I would really like Nick, I think. Maybe I'm just blinded by the pretty smile and cute Minnesota accent. I don't know.

Hanging around in the same area as Nick was Zach, so we decided to grab a quick picture with him. He was perfectly willing to oblige but was not quite as engaged in the conversation as the other houseguests we encountered that night. Also, he is a giant. The only thing I regret is not asking him why he wears all of that different university paraphernalia. I think I was still in the thrall of Nick's beauty, honestly.

Next we spotted Joe all by himself and immediately made a beeline for him. Now, Joe wasn't necessarily my favorite person in the house but I will give him one thing: the boy is funny. We spent the first few minutes of our conversation making fun of how short Eric is (Joe, Nick, Mike and Zach are really, REALLY tall guys) which amused me. Joe was surprisingly gracious about his early exit and said he enjoyed his experience and just wanted to play longer. He mentioned a potential return on another All-Stars season, and if they do another one of those I might have to move into an underground bunker because that would surely mean the return of the Donatos. Shudder.

Catching Jessica out of the corner of our eye, we thanked Joe for his time and moved over to try to talk to her for a bit. Jessica had the most people around her, and it took a good ten minutes to even get near her. She was overwhelmed but very gracious, and we didn't talk to her because there were so many people vying for her attention. I will say that while she is cute on TV, she is quite gorgeous in person.

Right next to Jessica was Eric (of course) who I had a hankering to talk to because I was dying to know whether he really wanted to vote for Dick or if he only did it because America told him to. Unfortunately, he said that he really did want Dick to win and thought Dick played the stronger game. He reiterated his argument that Daniele never would have made it that far without Dick, which I think is a faulty argument because Dick never wold have made it that far without Daniele as well. When I asked him whether Dick's being a complete scary asshole might have given him pause, Eric said that he tried to take "personal feelings" out of his vote and vote on strategy alone. To avoid a long, drawn-out argument which would inevitably end with me punching Eric in the face, I thanked him for his time and moved on.

Not having spotted Jen yet, we decided to make another visit to the dessert bar. On the way, the crowd parted, angels sang, and we saw Jen right in front of us. We sprinted over there and asked for a picture, during which I told her she was the only sane person in the house and my friend Tina told her she admired her for being able to withstand all of Dick's wrath. She thanked us graciously and unfortunately we decided to excuse ourselves quickly because there were a lot of people waiting to talk to her and we are too polite for our own good. She sort of looks like the wax statue version of Jen in this picture, but she was absolutely gorgeous in person.

After dessert bar trip number two it was time for the producer speeches and gag reel. The producer speeches were mind-numbingly Donato-centric,and when Dick took the stage with his arms up in victory like Rocky on the steps of that Philadelphia Museum I almost had to excuse myself. I soldiered on, however, and was treated to a fairly creative and amusing gag reel full of making fun of Amber, kissing Dick and Daniele's ass, and exploiting Jessica's, um, assets. I taped a portion of it on my camera, but unfortunately I had problems uploading it to YouTube. There were a lot of other people taping it as well, so as soon as I find it I will add it to this post. After the gag reel my camera was out of memory space and I'd had about all of the Big Brother I could take, so we headed out.

Found it! I apologize for the terrible quality. The sound is out of sync with the video, and the person who filmed this was apparently a total spaz. And short. But, here it is:

Dick Donato for President. Please don't make me barf.

Here's hoping next year's batch of hamsters aren't as horrible as this one's! Thanks for reading, everyone. See you next summer.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

"Life isn't about getting what you want.": America's Next Top Model

Andy: Cycle 907 of "America's Next Top Model" premiered tonight to the same old shenanigans that made the previous 906 cycles so famous: a bunch of annoying girls compete against one another for an elusive shot at 15 minutes of fame, while Tyra Banks fills the rest of the time with nonsensical rants that seem to get lamer by the cycle.

Really, Tyra is going to have to work extra hard to make this cycle worth watching, because as of right now ANTM is starting to show signs of fatigue. Once again, they've put together a group of 20 girls, none of whom would make it past security at New York Fashion Week. How they even made it to 20 is beyond me, since by now these girls should know the odds of success post-ANTM are slim to none.

Case in point: last cycle's winner, Jaslene, who made a special appearance during tonight's premiere. Her biggest success as a model? The cover of Latina magazine. Good for her, I guess, but if I heard that while still in the running towards becoming America's next top model that would be my cue to head for the hills -- or the nearest modeling agency.

And what's worse is that even the novelty of Tyra Banks is starting to wear off. Sure, she was hilarious in previous cycles (lest we forget the now infamous "WE WERE ALL ROOTING FOR YOU!!!" fallout) but now that she's making a fool of herself 5 days a week on "The Tyra Banks Show" watching her try to recapture the magic here reeks of redundance.

But I digress. And to be fair, Jenah is actually kind of pretty - at least I think it was Jenah.

Still, it's going to take a lot more than one pretty girl to keep me interested as the cycle continues.



They sure were ... weird looking.

Well, kids, I think it's finally happened. I am officially too old for this show. Not only am I a couple of years older than the oldest girl in this episode, but all of these contestants seem like bug-eyed, whiny 12-year-olds who'd be better suited bossing peers around on Kid Nation. In addition to the pre-pubescent attitudes, this crop of models look particularly malnourished, which is more than enough to put me off my pizza. In addition to that, part of the fun of watching ANTM through the years has been seeing pretty girls get their comeuppance. Again, like Kid Nation, it's just not fun to watch children get their feelings hurt.

However, the biggest problem this show is facing is that of any reality show in it's 9 billionth cycle a la Top Model: The contestants are too savvy. Think about it. This gaggle of girls have been watching the show for four years -- since they were 14 in some cases. They know the stereotypes this show casts: the quirky girl, the reserved girl, the girl who has overcome hardships, the girl from the ghetto, the bitch, etc. THEY'RE ON TO YOU. They know who you're looking for and that's who they try and be. I mean really, last year, the runner-up was a RUSSIAN MAIL ORDER BRIDE, for Christ's sake. They know the producer's want kitsch. They want quirk, they want drama, and these girls are trying to give it from day one.

Which, honestly? Is boring.

Which is why one of the few interesting people in the premiere (and thankfully, I suppose, the rest of the season) is Heather. While she suffers from Asperger's Syndrome (ANTM does love a good story), she came across as the kind of girl you ignored in high school. The quiet one in the back of science class who doodled in her notebook, lost in her own world, and because of this she seems like a genuine person, not just a personality. It seems likely she was bullied into trying out for the show by family and friends and that's so much more interesting than the rest of the prima donnas rounding out the rest of the competition.

But I'd be remiss to not mention the biggest prima donna of them all: Miss Tyra. I swear, they had to host this episode on a cruise ship because it was the only thing large enough to cart around her ego.

Andy is absolutely right, it's not enough that the winner of this goes on to, well, nothing, there's also the fact that TB attempts to make the title of America's Next Top Model into something akin to, I dunno, Leader of the Free World.

The first thing she said after naming the last of the 13 contestants was to tell them that they had made it this far not because they would make good top models, but also, because they would be good role models. Is she serious? Because the last girl she named was a stripper. Left in the cast-offs were a bartender trying to improve her life and a girl that had been molested throughout her upbringing. What kind of message is THAT sending, TB?

ANTM is just continually trying to have it both ways. It wants to be good trashy fun, with name-calling and hair-pulling, but also wants to be seen as a guiding light for the youth of America, with name-calling and hair-pulling, I guess.

I'm convinced that if they just chose one of the two, it would be a much more satisfactory show, but what do I know? Ratings go up even as my interest wanes. Let's hope this plays out better than I expect it to. At least we have makeovers to look forward to? (ooh! My favorite episode. -- ed.)


"Smoke up and seal the deal with Blair because you are entitled to tap that ass.": Gossip Girl

On the surface, Gossip Girl has everything a show needs to hook me immediately: pretty, angsty teenagers, decent music, soapy plots, and Penn Badgley. Why, then, did this leave me so cold?

As I'm sure most of you already know, Gossip Girl is adapted from a series of popular young adult novels which seem to be a sort of Sweet Valley High series for the Prada purse toting, Paris Hilton-loving, text messaging set. God forbid. The pilot revolves around erstwhile social butterfly Serena van der Woodsen's return from a mysterious absence, much to the chagrin of best friend Blair Waldorf. Blair is in a tizzy because it seems Blair's caught on that her long-term boyfriend Nate Archibald is secretly in love with Serena. Those names are a mouthful, y'all, which is probably why Gossip Girl (narrator Kristen Bell, more Madison Sinclair than Veronica Mars here) sticks to calling them by their first initials in embarrassing VOs like "Word is that S bailed on B's party in under 90 seconds and didn't even have one limoncello." Gag.

Also interested in Serena's return is Chuck "James Spader in Pretty in Pink" Bass, resident bad boy and apparently a serial date rapist as well. He's so complicated! Chuck knows Serena's secret: she slept with Nate and left because she felt super guilty about it. The charming Chuck uses this knowledge to basically try to blackmail Serena into sleeping with him and continues full-on to date rape territory when he keeps after her even though Serena tells him to stop. Luckily for the audience this attempted attack does more than just establish Chuck's character: its foreshadowing! Also, is it weird that the date rapist is my favorite character? He's the only one that gets any decent lines.

Decidedly happier with Serena's return than Blair is nice guy Dan Humphrey, the resident "poor loser" of the cast. Much like Seth Cohen, he's not so much a loser. He's actually a super-hot guy with a former rock star Dad and a pretty damn decent pad for New York City. Compared to the rest of the characters, however, he's practically destitute. Also? He's in love with Serena. She doesn't know he exists, so she's totally Summer to Dan's Seth. Serena and Dan meet-cute and end up on a date together to see one of Dan's father's shows and actually have pretty decent chemistry. They are interrupted in the middle of the date, however, by Dan's younger sister Jenny who text messages 911 to her brother because creepy Chuck is all over her at the "Kiss on the Lips Party" (yeah) and she needs Dan's help to get out of it. Why Jenny doesn't kick Chuck in the nuts and run is beyond me, but Jenny's a freshman. You don't learn rape defense until sophomore year in prep school. Or so I've heard.

Serena and Dan come to Jenny's rescue and Dan punches Chuck in the face, but unfortunately there's no "Welcome to the upper class, bitch" moment. Josh Schwartz is slipping. Dan, Serena and Jenny leave while the rest of the party gapes at them, and it's a nice "us against them" moment that I hope establishes a dynamic for the rest of the season. However, I think instead we're going to have to hear a lot more about Nate and Serena's secret love, and asdkfjadfl;kajejrawerfjiazzzzzzzzzz. Sorry. I dozed off there for a minute.

Maybe (probably) I'm just old and out of touch with today's youth, but I absolutely hated the framing device of using Gossip Girl's blog postings as VO. Part of this is because they were just so stupid and shoehorned in, but mostly I think it was just uncomfortable to hear Veronica Mars saying such. idiotic. things. It's like that seriously annoying television commercial where all of the kids speak only in text messaging lingo (OMG, WTF? TTYL!) that makes me want to pull my ears off. It worked to set up the beginning of the show until the title card, but after that it completely dropped off and only appeared to send the show off into an act break with a kicky little punch. Poorly.

Another reason this fell flat is that there was absolutely no character development. By the end of the pilot of The O.C., I really had a sense of who those characters were and cared about what happened to them. By the end of the Gossip Girl pilot, I just sort of wanted everyone to go away. Well, I kind of wanted Chuck to make me a grilled cheese sandwich with truffle oil because that sounds delicious, but otherwise I wanted them to go away. The backstory that Serena left mysteriously because she slept with Nate? Don't care. Serena and Blair's bitchy best friend relationship? Don't care. Nate and Serena's secret love complete with longing looks? Really, really don't care. Everything is so SERIOUS as well. Lighten up, kids, your lives are not that tragic.

I hate to be so negative because it's really tricky to tell the trajectory of a show like this from the pilot, but if things continue at this clip I am going to be one very unhappy reviewer. I keep telling myself that I hated the One Tree Hill pilot, and yet season one of that show turned out to be quite good. Not that it's still good, mind you, but season one had some quality moments.

What did you guys think? I would love to hear opposing viewpoints.


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Kid Nation and Back to You: open thread

Expect Top Model and Gossip Girl posts a little later today, so you kids can talk about that. Kitchen Nightmares will get wrapped into our Top Chef post a little later in the week, too. And who wants to talk about 'Til Death?

Erik will be covering Kid Nation eventually, but he's on vacation, so we'll throw an open thread up tonight for everyone to comment on. I may also link to my review of the show sometime tomorrow when it pops up on the Web. You just never know!

The short of it is that Kid Nation doesn't really deserve all the ink that was spilled about it. It's a perfectly innocuous reality show that doesn't really do enough to say, "Here I am! I must be watched every week!" Because of the controversy, it could well attract a big audience, and everything about it screams crowd pleaser, but it's also a little flabby. There are too many kids and too many things going on at any given moment. There are some nice ideas here (particularly the weird commentary on the class system), but the whole concept probably needed a little more ironing out in the creation stage (or at least in the editing room). Still, I'll miss Jimmy. Stay strong, kiddo!

Back to You is another show we thought about covering until we saw the pilot. There's nothing inherently wrong with its workmanlike approach to comedy, but it's also the sort of thing you can't write up week after week. It's a throwback with nothing really new to say, though the cast is good and the writing is thoroughly competent. Still, there are at least a dozen funnier shows on the air, and competent just won't be enough to resurrect the multi-camera sitcom, which is too bad. I like the multi-camera sitcom. I want to see it come back. But I don't know that this will be enough to do it without some tweaking, particularly to the supporting characters, who are too broad to be a good foundation for future episodes. And the twist at the end of the episode is both too obvious and a little weak to be a major plot point in the future, all things considered.

(Here comes a lengthy tangent about the problem with sitcom pilots. I'll let you know when it's safe to come back with another paragraph in parentheses.)

One of the things plaguing the sitcom nowadays, I think, is that the world has increasingly become pilot-driven. To snag a big audience, to stay on the air, you need a patient network or a great pilot that gets people to watch a few odd episodes afterward (Lost is a great example). In terms of sitcoms, this means you need to have a hysterically funny pilot. But that's probably the hardest thing to do in all of show business -- I can think of a lot of great comedy pilots, and I can think of a lot of funny comedy episodes, but I can't think of many that manage to be both a funny episode and a good pilot. Comedy is rooted in characters, particularly in how they relate to each other. It has to start in a universal place, but then burrow to somewhere specific to IT. Everybody Loves Raymond, for example, dealt with tremendously universal situations but got at them through ridiculously well-defined characters (this came largely because the characters were based on the people in Ray's real life). The shows that have been copycats of it have just focused on universal "Marriage sucks!" jokes and haven't bothered to find anything new or specific about them. All of the characters speak like sitcom writers because they simply aren't characters.

So if comedy -- good, funny comedy -- is based in characters, how do you do a 20-minute story that both introduces characters we want to get to know AND serves up a lot of great jokes specific to these characters. Most comedy pilots try to split the difference -- Back to You makes character-based jokes, but they're all of the "I'm the blowhard!" "Well, I'm the slut!" variety -- and that leaves them feeling a little dull. I'm more likely to watch a comedy series with a pilot that's not hilarious but has well-defined characters (30 Rock and How I Met Your Mother are PERFECT examples of this) than I am a comedy series with a hilarious pilot, based in stereotypical characters (Will & Grace is a good example of this). I trust that I'll continue to like the characters and eventually find humor through them in time.

All of this is a way of saying that I can count the number of comedy pilots that are both good pilots (that set up the show, setting and characters) AND funny episodes (that are just filled with great jokes) on my two hands. I'll start with Cheers, and you guys can fill in the rest.

(OK! It's safe to come back now for more general thoughts on Back to You!)

Anyway, Fred Willard is terrific as the sports guy, but that's largely because Fred Willard is terrific as everything. Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton have a nice chemistry in the scenes where they're being anchors together, but the attempt to make it seem as if they still have feelings for each other feels a little forced. And every other character is a well-worn comedy type that the script doesn't do much else with (fat guys, sluts and smart-mouthed kids).

Back to You feels like one of those shows NBC would squeeze in between Friends and Seinfeld. This, as a matter of fact, would probably be the BEST show NBC put in that timeslot (unless Newsradio ever accidentally ran in that slot one week or something). But it's still the sort of thing you sit through, wishing it was time for Seinfeld already. Considering this is followed by 'Til Death, there's not a really compelling reason to watch it.

Still, these are consummate pros running this show. If there's anyone I trust to tweak this show into something approaching working order, it's this team. But it's going to take a lot of tweaks, and they might be big and painful ones. I'll check back in as the season wears on, but this already feels like this season's Studio 60 in terms of hype-to-actual-product ratio.


Beauty and the Geek: Open thread

Did you watch? What did you think? Should we be covering TV's slightest reality show?

And wasn't the "hot guy and dorky girl" pairing sort of strange? That girl wasn't even that dorky!


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

"Suddenly everything means something else": Tell Me You Love Me

The second episode of Tell Me You Love Me was basically consistent, quality-wise, with the first, but it did have me briefly wondering about this show functioning as a series. Not because of its lackluster ratings and the widespread critical apathy (although it looks like this show gets a second season basically never), just...this show could get pretty gruelling week-in, week-out. Things haven't quite devolved into pure hate yet, but you get the feeling these relationships are gonna get a hell of a lot worse before they get better. Nonetheless, it's too bad the show's basically being ignored and left to die, by both HBO and the critics. I never thought anyone would watch it, but it really seems like not a lot of people are responding to this.

No matter. I'm gonna tackle the couples the same way I did last time: oldest to youngest, aka most interesting to least interesting. That's not counting Jane Alexander's character, who, although she's good, seems almost kind of an afterthought. She's great in the therapy scenes, but her home life scenes have mostly left me cold so far. I think it might be because her marriage seems uninterestingly happy, and this show is so far all about tension and undercurrent and so on.

Anyway, Ally Walker is definitely the standout of this show so far. I'd say I prefer all the female characters here, actually. They all seem a bit better drawn, and it always seems like we're seeing things from their perspective, like Carolyn's pregnancy fears and Katie's sexless marriage. Whereas all three men are moody, troubled and usually stand-offish. Anyway--Ally Walker. She's just terrific! She has the best material, but she sells her therapy scenes so well. Even better was her and David getting into bed after the therapist had talked about sexless couples being terrified about bedtime. Their dialogue was almost endearingly married-couple, and you could see hints of the chemistry they once had, but what her therapist had told her clearly weighed on Katie as they turned the lights off, and Walker was just perfect in the scene. All of their stuff was pretty solid, but I was a little disappointed with their out-and-out fighting. Their arguments seem more staged, especially because it's always David being obviously angry about her attending couples therapy alone, but him framing it in some other way. Maybe it's just the depressing repetitiveness of it all. I'm too young to be exposed to how depressing marriage can be!

Carolyn and Palek, meanwhile, seem to be observing my predictions (and other critics' indications) of real nastiness ahead. Their pregnancy stuff is just so touchy and uneasy, constantly. Especially as Carolyn was more excited and upbeat this episode, which seemed to just result in Palek being that much more removed. It wasn't pure horribleness yet, but the brunch scene with Carolyn's sister was pretty nasty. One thing that really emphasizes the coldness of a lot of these characters is the setting, I feel: I don't know what city this is supposed to be taking place in, but everywhere the characters are is cold, and metallic, and really lacking character. Especially in that brunch scene. It was like the characters couldn't be comfortable even if they tried (which they certainly weren't). Palek seems generally irritated at Carolyn's angst, about her father and about the pregnancy, and Carolyn isn't really helping with comments like "if [my sister] gets pregnant before me I'll kill myself". Probably the best line of the episode was Palek's response, "of course you will", in a half-jokey, half-resigned way. Aaaagh! Shit is gonna get heavy there quickly, you can tell. Especially as it's obvious Palek's infertile. They're delaying that revelation for a couple episodes, but it's gotta hit eventually. Boy am I gonna look stupid if I'm wrong about that.

As usual, Hugo and Jamie left me pretty cold again this week. Their fights are basic, repetitive, and less well-acted. Jamie seems kinda immature and is constantly harping on the fact that Hugo doesn't want to marry her/she doesn't want to marry Hugo. It's not nearly as convincing or engrossing. And Hugo is a pretty irritating presence, too--you totally get why Jamie has problems with him, but less why she loves him in the first place. However, they do sell their sex scenes very well. The intensity they show there is enough to convince you of their connection as a couple. The rest of their scenes, though, I could take or leave.

Is anyone watching? Word on the street is, most people don't like this. But I think there's a lot here. And considering it's a show about people having tense conversations with the occasional sex scene, it moves along pretty quickly and never feels boring.


"Never use my floor as a bathroom!":Prison Break

Previously on "Michael Scofield: Beyond Thunderdome": The events in Panama came to a conclusion, with almost the entire cast either dying or getting sent to the Panamanian Sona prison.

It is back to basics for Prison Break with much of the show taking place in an actual prison again. The current whereabouts of Sara and LJ, Lincoln's son, are unknown, Lincoln and Sucre are free, Sucre's former fiance Maricruz is being held captive somewhere, and the rest (Michael, Bellick, T-Bag, and Mahone) are all rotting in prison. We also learned in the season finale last year that Michael is perhaps generetically engineered to escape from prison, if I took the implication right. That sounds to me, if scientists were really able to have that kind of power, especially in the early 1970s when Michael must have been born, to be a really, really specific application of genetic manipulation.

We learn that Sona is not your ordinary prison; a year before the current time period, there was a riot there so horrible that they pulled the guards out. Now it is a lawless prison, where people are sent to die. Now, this makes me wonder: "How do they get food and supplies?" or "Doesn't that probably violate several United Nations regulations?" but then I remember what show I am watching. In any case the prison isn't really lawless; there is an interior building where the guards will not go, but it is surrounded by an outer gate where visitors can come and where guards patrol or shoot prisoners trying to escape (conveniently this happens once in the first episode). The interior is not really lawless either as there is a de-facto leader, Lechero (Robert Wisdom), who with his gang runs the interior, hoards the meager supplies given to them by the outside, and sets up gladiator-style fights between any inmates who have a dispute.

The events of the episode are not all that important to require explaining, except how it applies to what is being set up for the remainder of the season, so I'll limit myself to that. Lechero takes an immediate disliking to Michael, and gets one of his goons to get into a gladiator fight with him; Michael wins with the help of Mahone, who wants his help breaking out. Obviously Michael and Lechero will be bumping heads frequently throughout the season. Additionally T-Bag, not too surprisingly, attaches himself to Lechero in a rather pathetic manner; I am sure he will use his position to try to get revenge on Michael at some point. Finally and most importantly: even though Lincoln, with the help of the American Embassy in Panama, convinces the government to give Michael a transfer to a less dangerous prison, he has to stay. This is because the Company is apparently holding LJ and Sara hostage and will kill them both if Michael does not arrange another escape which includes a man named James Whisler. However will Michael break out of a prison without his tatoos? Well he is born for this sort of thing, after all.

Now, everybody knows that Prison Break is not a good show. Except I think it is worth watching for a couple of reasons. First of all, they are back in prison where the characters will actually have a chance to interact with each other, which was the main problem of season two. In season two so many of the plot threads that followed the individual escapees were just distracting from the overall arc of the show or if not that, then just rather dull and boring. The second reason to watch Prison Break is that it is the best accidental comedy on television right now outside of CSI: Miami. It is so self-serious that it is difficult not to laugh when Characters! Are! In! Immediate! Peril! or there is a Shocking! Twist! that you called several minutes before it happened. That is why I really watch it. So hopefully I will enjoy this season more than last.

A couple footnotes for fans: even though Agent Kellerman was shot off-screen, probably making you wonder if he was dead: he is. The actor has taken on a regular role on Private Practice so I do not think he will be coming back. Also, unfortunately, Sara (Sarah Wayne Calles) will no doubt die before Michael sees her, as her name has been taken off the opening credits and she has reportedly been let go of the series for good. She had a pregnancy, so missing a lot of the show is understandable, but for good? Damn you, Prison Break producers!

Prison Break plot hole of the week: Why does a man in what appears to be solitary confinement have more food than people who have been there for 'days and days'? Infact, why is he there in the first place? I suppose he angered Lechero enough to put him in solitary confinement, but was pals enough with the leader to score a food supply in addition to not being set up to die in a gladiator fight like anyone else would be.

Prison Break funny moment of the week: Bellick, completely out of character, screaming "Noooooo!" when a man he barely knows is shot escaping.


Monday, September 17, 2007

K-Ville: Open thread

We were going to cover this show initially. Then we saw the pilot and decided not to. Sure, I didn't expect Fox to do The Wire: New Orleans, but there was probably a better show to be made about post-Katrina New Orleans, or at least one that wasn't a middling, by-the-numbers police procedural.

And who saw the twist coming from the first act on? Speak up, kids!


"That's how he likes to do it. Makes him feel better about himself.": Curb Your Enthusiasm

One of the great things about Curb Your Enthusiasm -- hell, one of the great things about Larry David's shows in general -- is the way that the episodes have numerous plotlines that dovetail together at the end, often in hilarious fashion. Sure there are episodes where the dovetailing is strained, and there are episodes where it seems halfhearted, but the episodes where the plots fit perfectly together like this one. The episode itself was pretty good -- top-notch Curb, in fact -- but that last joke (where Cheryl said, "I know who anonymous is!") really put it over the top and sent it into the show's pantheon of great episodes.

The plot that was the least for me was Larry's concern about his dry cleaning, and even that was full of great moments. Still, I'll start there, as it's as good a place to start as any. It seems incredible that it's taken this long for Curb to get to the wrong dry cleaning subplot, and I thought it was a little weak, all things considered. It was funny to see Larry send Leon after the various people wearing the Yankees jersey he thought might be his, but the eventual twist that he did find his jersey strained credulity a little bit (though I liked the law of the dry cleaners bit). I realize that Curb portrays Los Angeles as the loopiest small town ever, but I would rather the show keep this within reason. Or maybe I'm just overstating the unbelivability of this subplot because the others were so good.

In particular, I liked seeing Ted Danson on the show. Well, I always like seeing him, but his angry chemistry with Larry was a particular highlight of this episode (when he and Larry were jostling back and forth before Senator Boxer -- who proved herself an able comedienne -- I laughed pretty much the whole time). Danson and Larry's battles over who could be more anonymous were hilarious, as was Danson's friendship with Cheryl that so disgusted Larry. And it set up the final anonymous donor joke beautifully throughout (both the one with the bear and the one with Larry at the museum). What's great about the show is that Larry takes chances to portray himself as a do-gooding saint (which would have been easy here) and turns them into perfect little courses on human venality.

Larry's adventures with Leon (and his attempts to find out who the masturbator was) were also great. Pairing Larry up with black people is usually a good source of humor for the show, and it was again in this episode. And finding out that Jeff was the anonymous donor of another sort was also funny (especially when his wife likened his act to adultery).

So what did you think? Did you think it was one for the elite, or were you underwhelmed?


“Strictly speaking, throttling the staff is my job”: Torchwood

In my review of Torchwood’s first episode last week, I made it pretty clear (perhaps a little too clear, considering that episode was pretty good) that a decline in quality was on the horizon. Well, that decline begins depressingly early with Torchwood’s second episode, ‘Day One’. As will become the norm with Torchwood throughout the season, the interactions between the team are entertaining enough, but the lame and unimaginative villain drags the story way down.

Where last week’s ‘Everything Changes’ was primarily concerned with exposition and introducing the characters, ‘Day One’ is when Torchwood begins to establish itself as a more adult show. At least, that’s what it’s trying to do. Except the idea of a ‘sex monster’ isn’t so much mature as it is a teenage wet dream (and a pretty pathetic one, at that). Writer Chris Chibnall can’t seem to decide whether to play the concept seriously or just as mindless entertainment, so he goes the absolute worst route and tries to do both. Thus we get a weird combination of over-the-top sex scenes and dramatic confrontations about the sufferings of a possessed girl. Sorry, but you can’t have a character shagging people to death and simultaneously stage concerned arguments about her fate. Equally, while Gwen’s berating of the Torchwood team for “forgetting what it means to be human” is a fair point, it becomes tiresome fairly quickly.

Thankfully, there are some great scenes mixed in with all the silliness. I liked that the monster first escapes because of Gwen cockily trying to toss a tool to Owen and missing – human touches like this are what any sci-fi show needs, but few have. I also enjoyed the various interactions between the Torchwood team: Owen and Toshiko pressing Gwen for information about the mysterious Jack, the team watching Gwen on the cameras as she makes out with the possessed girl, and Gwen’s realisation that she's the only one at Torchwood who has a life. Jack’s extreme worry over his severed hand being damaged establishes a nice little mystery, and his reaction when it smashes is one of the character’s most vulnerable moments.

Sadly, it all leads up to one of the stupidest scenes I’ve seen in a long while – the team storm into a fertility clinic, only to discover little piles of dust that used to be people in every room. Played even a little bit tongue-in-cheek this could be fine, but it’s staged so gravely (right down to Gwen’s reaction, “God, how many more?”) that you can’t help cringing on behalf of whoever thought this was a good idea. Maybe I’m taking it more seriously than it was intended, but with such earnest performances and pulsating strings, what other way is there to see it?


"You're happy I slept with Lucille Ball?": belated Rescue Me thoughts

Just managed to watch the finale of Rescue Me, and I was slightly nonplussed, but not completely disappointed. It's certainly been a weird, weird season. A lot of what seemed like what could be central season-long arcs (the Chief's suicide, the no-name baby, Sheila's insurance scam, Black Sean) fizzled into the background (or, in the case of the Chief's suicide, non-existence). It always seemed like we were missing out on what really makes the show great--the firehouse stuff--as we had to suffer through boring relationship plots like Franco and his bland fiancee, or Sean and Maggie's non-existent marriage (seriously, splitting them up for the whole season was a real disaster move), or Lou and his loser cousin, or Mike disappearing for whole episodes at a time. Rescue Me has always taken a look at the other firefighters' love lives, but the stuff they cooked up for them this season was, for the most part, very lackluster. Worst of all was Tommy living with Janet and her baby at the beginning of the season, an incredibly toxic situation that seemed like it might bring the whole series down with it. Thankfully, Tommy eventually cleared out, but the writers' insistence on never letting that relationship go means it never fully went away, and it negatively affected Tommy's material as it always does.

On the other hand, every episode there would be the odd moment that reminded you how good this show could be. There were some fantastic fire set-pieces, including a dazzling, dream-like wall of fire in the opener, an extended take through a labyrinth office building and the disturbing 'baby fire'. A couple new characters were successfully added--Jerry Adler's curmudgeonly replacement Chief and Larenz Tate as Black Sean (who, after a lot of build-up, didn't do much but seemed to fit in OK). And after a weird start with too much Uncle Teddy, the Gavin family stuff was scaled back to a nicely appropriate, amusing amount. Best of all was Tommy's stuff--as long as you ignore the women. While his struggle with alcoholism wasn't nearly as super-dramatic as it has been, that was what made it good. Interludes like his fear of heights, his monologue to Mike on a rooftop, or his stuff with Priest-Cousin were always worthwhile. Yeah, his later decision to start fighting fires invisibly in a Jimmy Keefe jacket was a little more random, but still, I mostly liked what they did with Tommy this season--a general mellowing, with him concentrating more on questions of faith and family than coming up with weird schemes and going on huge dream-soaked binges. Still, none of the women Tommy dealt with this season managed to click at all, from Jennifer Esposito (total non-starter), to Amy Sedaris (waste of a great opportunity) to Gina Gershon (a total "what the hell?" storyline), to the never-departed Janet.

I'll briefly talk about the finale itself. Whereas season one and two had these ridiculously over-the-top things where lots of horrible things happen and there's a big cliffhanger, now Leary and Tolan have calmed down somewhat (although season three still couldn't resist a stupid cliffhanger). I've read complaints of this finale being a bit of a damp fart, but I kinda liked it, especially the stuff with Tommy and his dad. To me at least, it was obvious Durning was going to go from about midway through the season, given the long, retrospective monologues he was constantly giving. They had him go in a really nice way though, watching the Brooklyn Cyclones with his son as they indulged in non-committal small talk, subtitled as meaningful father/son dialogue (a gag they used to use a lot in the first season, but eventually phased out--nice to see it called back here). Lou's little monologue to Sean about baseball's relation to life was also a good touch, if a little out of nowhere. Still, I like the kind of nostalgic, musing feel this show sometimes affects, much more than some of its wilder moods, so I thought going out on a wistful note like that was good.

The rest of the episode (and the one before) didn't have much going on. There were some minor plot things, like Black Sean starting to date Colleen (that'll go well), both Sheila and Jerry Adler finding out about Tommy's Keefe escapades (leading to a hysterical monologue and a lot of crying from Sheila, and a Section 8 form from Jerry), and an official ending to Sean and Maggie's marriage. Sort of. But really, there wasn't the plot-thick madness we usually get. Instead of Lou being conned out of a ton of money, he sat at the bar and laughed with his cousin. Instead of Franco almost dying in a fire, he settled things with his ex-fiancee. Instead of Uncle Teddy shooting a drunk driver who killed his nephew, he bought beer for everyone at the Cyclones game. And so on, and so forth. So I'm not really gonna complain. I think this season may have finally done in Rescue Me's critical support base, but I'm still always gonna watch the show. See you next summer.


Sunday, September 16, 2007

Live Blogging the Emmys with David!

23.11: HOW DARE YE PLAY MUSIC OVER DAVID CHASE. YOU GO DIE NOW. Anyway, it's all over! Weirdly, not as bad as I thought it would be, but the ceremony itself was weird and stilted. But, c'mon. 30 Rock, Sopranos? Yes. Anyway I really have to go to bed. Goodnight fellas!

23.10: Chase thanks James Gandolfini and Edie Falco and so on. And...the musicians who licensed their music to appear on the show. Chase, always with the anti-climaxes!

23.09: Ugh. This is probably the last time we'll see them all together. This is so great, but so sad!


23.07: Best Drama Series. Presented by Helen Mirren? She's so drunk.

23.04: Are you KIDDING me? ANOTHER ad break? That was like a 30 second speech! I didn't even see if Alec Baldwin was in the crowd. But yeah. Even though AD won this and didn't manage to last too long, I'm really happy for them. Maybe they can nab a few more viewers now!

23.03: I am SO thrilled. For Tina Fey. This is fantastic for the show. Really, it is. What a great win!

23.02: OMG YES YES YES 30 ROCK YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

23.01: Kelsey Grammar and Patty Heaton present best comedy.

22.57: Todd just said, James Spader always makes these things end poorly. How true. Still like the guy, but three out of four? Anyway, last ad break.

22.56: "Where the hell is Elaine Stritch if you need her?". Teehee!

22.55: And the winner is--JAMES SPADER. Well, bollocks. I guess Gandolfini has plenty already. And I kinda like James Spader. But still. Ugh.

22.53: Cute as ever. Not as KERAZY as Sally but go America. USA! USA! Now, Smits and Kate Walsh to present Actor Drama, I figure.

22.52: Emmy goes to America. Good for her! It would have been really cruel had she lost.

22.51: Shatner and Messing to present Lead Actress Comedy. Will America be upset? I

22.43: In memoriam. This stuff always gets me, cause I forget how many people died? Aaaand ad break. Wooh.

22.42: I love Sally Field. She gives the best speeches. And she's so obviously like, really nice? She dedicates her award to the mothers of the world. From anyone else it'd be totally gross and cheesy, but from Sally Field...LOL actually she's just going crazy now. I love her. She wanted to say something about war, but she lost it. Two wacky wins. Awesome! Almost makes up for two hours of NOTHING.

22.41: Laurie and Huffman present Lead Actress in a Drama to...SALLY FIELD! YES! YES! YES!

22.40: Carrell raids the stage and the three of them jump around like maniacs. I giggled, but WTF? GERVAIS? Not that deserved, IMO! But Gervais backlash IS in full swing in the UK.

22.39: Lead Actor in a Comedy Series goes to...RICKY GERVAIS!? And he's not even there! WTF!???!?!?!?!

22.38: OK, this is going on too long.

22.37: Funny banter about environmentalism. These guys just have great chemistry. It's the only problem with them being split up.

22.35: Colbert (who lost all his Emmys again tonight) and Jon Stewart. Awesome. Colbert has a leaf-blower. Awesome.

22.29: The Amazing Race wins reality show AGAIN. What's so great about this show?! AND ANOTHER AD BREAK. AAAAAAGH!

22.28: WTF. This show will obviously be really BAD. Rainn barely salvaged that.

22.26: This is lame. And not funny.

22.25: It seems the rumors were true. Rainn Wilson will be rap-battling Kanye West. At the songs of Kanye West. Or something. Kanye West sure is cool! But Rainn is workin' it anyway.

22.23: Ryan is wearing Henry VIII clothes. For no discernible reason except he can't tell any jokes. And now it's Wayne Brady! Who has evolved into a great guest star. Except he's plugging whatever lame new show he's presenting this season.

22.18: Daniels' speech was odd. The music kinda cut him off. ANOTHER ad break. AGGGGh

22.16: Writing in a comedy series goes to Greg Daniels for The Office, Gay Witch Hunt. Deserved, although I wanted 30 Rock to take it.

22.15: The crowd sighs wistfully as Stritch leaves the stage. She should host next year! Nobody cares about Shepherd's speech, clearly.

22.14: Stritch could do anything up there and get away with it. Directing Comedy goes to...Richard Shepherd for Ugly Betty's pilot. Ooh. Will it nab Comedy Series too?

22.12: Aaaaand here's Tucci and Stritch! Almost as odd a pairing. Elaine Stritch is still sharp, though! Even as she fails to read the teleprompter. Giggle.

22.10: Anthony Anderson and Teri Hatcher--an obvious pair, of course. Guest Actor/Actress in a Comedy now. Tucci and Stritch won, if you didn't know.

22.09: Tony Bennett wins. I am officially sick of this. Officially. At least he's classy and not wind-baggy. He's also sitting next to Kanye West, which is cool.

22.08: The stars of Til Death! Who cares? Stupid Fox. Brad Garrett is being disgusting. Variety/Comedy perf.

22.07: Al looks like he's asleep standing up. He's like a big red-faced penguin.

22.05: Al Gore gets a standing O. Maybe he'll announce his candidacy NOW!

22.03: Ryan Seacrest decided to banter with Tony Sirico. Bad idea. Masi Oka is talking to us from a mac. He's so cute! He's also introducing the President of Myspace. This is boring. It's about Al Gore or something. This is too Oscars-lite.

22.01: I am begging to tire. E! is very depressing. An hour to go.

21.57: Prime Suspect wins Writing too. I should sit down and watch those sometime. Ad break. Freakin' 'eck.

21.55: two people I've never heard of take the stage. One of them is the gal from Cold Case, who looks really thin. Creepy. Directing in Miniseries/Movie. Philip Martin wins for Prime Suspect. Woo. GET BACK TO THE GOOD STUFF! Although he is charming and English. Like me. I wish.

21.54: Who let Lewis onstage? Especially on FOX! Weird? And now he's just wandering off. And people wonder why these things last so long! "Look for Lewis Black this fall, on Valium", says Seacrest. Oh Ryan, you card.

21.51: Lewis Black emerged from a trapdoor and is lecturing us about TV ads and squeezing the end credits into a little box. This speech is too sincere to be funny. He's getting a lot of applause though?

21.50: Helen Mirren wins her fourth Emmy (two in a row!). Residual The Queen love, plus she's always great in Prime Suspect. She's also very funny! Plus, fun cutaways to hubby Taylor Hackford and his awesome white beard. "You Americans are wonderfully generous people", she says. Well, they have awarded her about a half-ton of statues this past year.

21.49: Sally Field and Patrick Dempsey. BIG CHEER! Deserved. Sally is looking really great. Patrick too, but like, whatever. They should hook up! Best Actress in a Miniseries/Movie.

21.45: Ad break? WTF!? Will the cast still be there when we get back? That was odd. If The Sopranos doesn't win Drama Series, I think everyone is going to be seriously surprised.

21.43: If I wake up tomorrow and read praise of that, this world is officially crazy. Now, the whole cast of The Sopranos goes on stage. Like, THE WHOLE CAST. Including Bogdanovich and Tim Daly and the FBI agent and everyone.

21.41: They're not even really singing about the Sopranos? I mean, what does Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You have to do with a montage of all the famous whackings on the Sopranos? I bet if we cut to the audience, they'd look uneasy.

21.40: No, this is just weird. Sorry.

21.38: Joe Mantegna introduces the Jersey Boys who will serenade the Sopranos. This is somewhat bizarre. Even for the Emmys. Especially considering Frankie Valli was actually ON The Sopranos?

21.36: Glenn Close, Kyra Sedgwick and Mary-Louise Parker. The divas of cable TV! Which Glenn promptly points out. And MLP is supercool as always. Made-for-TV-Movie. Who will win? Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. I thought that was supposed to be overrated? Oh well, I guess it looked good and was on HBO.

21.32: That was boring. Ad break.

21.30: CEO of the academy. This is always fun. NOT.

21.29: Judy Davis wins for The Starter Wife. She's won a few of these, hasn't she? Marcia Cross says "I have no idea where she is". Classy.

21.27: Y'know, he's no great shakes, but Seacrest isn't doing a TERRIBLE job. Maybe I'm just not sick of him cause I don't see American Idol. Mark Harmon and Marcia Cross presenting Supporting Actress in a Miniseries/Movie now.

21.24: Variety/Comedy/Music special goes to: Tony Bennett. Sigh. Wanda Sykes lost for her special. At least they're not giving Emmys to someone like Barry Mannilow...oh. Right.

21.23: Daily Show. SURPRISE SURPRISE! Is that six in a row now? I can't be mad at Jonny. I love him so much. Jon is being funny, of course. His producers seem excited and nerdy. I wish I was one of them. ONE OF THEM. Yay for TDS. Good speech!

21.22: Somewhat amusing Office clip. Jenna Fischer is really pretty. Best Variety/Comedy Series. C'mon Colbert!

21.21: Steve Carrell. Cut to Colbert and Stewart. Stiffie #2!

21.15: Chase is classy but still scary. Thanks the cast. He'll be back, with them, at the end of the night. Mark my words. Ad break.

21.14: NPH and Hayden are back! Weird! Writing in a Drama, now. Three Sopranos noms, all deserved. David Chase wins for writing the finale. Good on him. He's so misanthropic, I love him.

21.13: Taylor references a scary speech countdown clock. I'm imagining the clock from Lost. He also thanks Steve Buscemi "for Pine Barrens alone". Word. He said something in German. What was it?

21.12: Go Peter Berg! He'll never win. Alan Taylor wins for The Sopranos. Deserved. And a good sign of them winning Drama Series.

21.10: Hayden and NPH! Funny! Hayden looks weird, and isn't funny. NPH looks awesome, and is funny. This is about Creative Arts Emmys. Nobody cares about any of them except for Guest Acting. So, they tell us of them now. And then introduce Leslie Caron, who won. Weird? And she's presenting Directing in a Drama. That was oddly hackneyed.

21.09: You don't play Robert Duvall off the stage! HOW DARE YOU, EMMY ORCHESTRA!

21.06: Lou Gossett Jr. is such a cool guy. I mean, it's a Roots tribute, and he's still badass. He should be in more stuff. They're presenting Best Miniseries. Broken Trail wins. Apparently that was good, then?

21.05: It's the cast of Roots! Featuring Geordie LaForge, John Amos and Ed Asner. Standing O! Long shot of Sally Field! Long shot of Shonda Rhimes!

21.03: longest ad break ever. Ugh. I got tea, though! Queen Latifah presents something about Roots. Fun!

20.56: Robert Duvall wins. Everyone likes Duvall, so good for him! He's so hot! Classy speech. Ad break!

20.55: I don't like that Ali Larter is holding Kief. LET HIM GO, NIKI/JESSICA! Lead Actor Miniseries.

20.53: Alec Baldwin presents directing in Variety/Comedy. Safe category for him. Weird white suit. Won by Rob Marshall, director of Chicago, for the Tony Bennett thing. His second Emmy I think.

20.50: It's the greenest Emmys ever, Ryan tells us. Christina Aguilera and Tony Bennett are performing now. AKA I'm gonna go make tea. Back in a couple mins.

20.49: I hate E! ads so much. I wish I could watch this on FOX. Damn you, England!

20.44: These guys are always the best. "Katherine Heigl's mother said we would win". Lol. They might have had the best montage, too. Let Conan talk! No, he didn't talk! Classy of him. What's that, his first win out of 25 noms?

20.43: that was probably the funniest thing so far. OMG. CONAN WON! CONAN FINALLY WINS!

20.42: LMAO. These have the most hysterical montages for the writers! Seek them on Youtube!

20.41: Jennifer Love Hewitt and Jon Cryer present something together. This is your next CBS lineup right here. Writing for Variety/Comedy here.

20.40: LOL I really like Katherine Heigl. Even though she's not the best on Grey's. And really didn't deserve to win (she had a real fucking knockout of a tape, though). Could we also blame Knocked Up? Which she was great in? I dunno. She's being gushy and boring. But looks pretty!



20.37: It's the Entourage guys. And...Eva Longoria. Weird. They're collectively flirting with her. And making Tony Parker jokes. Supporting actress in a drama.

20.36: wait, this is turning into a Tom Snyder in memoriam thing. They sure pulled the rug out from under us!

20.35: clips from topical TV shows. Not very funny, apart from Stewart and Colbert. I like Letterman, O'Brian, even Ferguson or Kimmel, but this is still pretty lame.

20.34: Ellen talking to Hugh Laurie! Oh, what could have been. Presenter-wise. Ryan hasn't appeared in like half an hour. Ellen's being stream-of-consciousnessy. This is literally like, a presenter-fest.

20.31: I was just treated to a "Quick-E Celebrity Meltdown". I think I know Tom Cruise's story by now, guys. I want American ads!

20.27: Haden Church wins! And looks good. I want more Haden Church, in general. He's a really great actor. He needs a cool TV vehicle. BTW that was for Supporting Actor in a Miniseries/Movie, for Broken Trail. If you didn't know. Nice speech. Ad break!

20.26: The announcer pronounced Katherine Heigl's (who is presenting) last name "hei-ghel". With a soft G. And she corrected them. I knew that was wrong! Thomas Haden Church looks good in that western thing. I hope he wins.

20.24: Jamie Pressly wins! Weird! Not my first choice, but she is totally terrific?! And a win for Earl is good, cause that show is under-appreciated! Her fiancee looks scary. Nice speech. Good for her!

20.22: Man, Tina Fey looks terrific! Julia Supporting Actress in a Comedy, then.

20.21: Sally Field sighting! She looks hot. And she brought her son! Awesome! Mary-Louise Parker looks reaally good too. Here comes Tina Fey and Julia Louis-Dreyfus! Woo!

20.20: The only thing worse than E! is UK E! at one in the morning. Honestly, the stuff they show is just sad.

20.17: Terry doesn't get a HUGE cheer, sadly. But he's cutting a good figure in his shockingly pink shirt. He's also doing a slightly bizarre comedy routine. Apparently he and Michael Emerson are the only Lost cast members there? I guess they didn't get a series nom. Kinda sad. Terry was sorta rushed off, but I'm so happy for him! Great choice!


20.15: BIG cheer for T.R. I've been predicting him. But I want Terry.

20.14: This circle stage thing is really pissing me off. It just seems so cheap? Winners should be addressing everyone, y'know? Anyway, Vanessa and America present Sup Actor Drama Series. Exciting!

20.13: Piven. As predicted. Oh well. That's literally the award I was looking fwd to the most? He looks like he just rolled out of a gutter...but he's still sexy! DAMN HIS SEXY JEWISH CHARM!

20.12: Harris gets a sucky clip. He's not winning. Emmys suck at clips. Rainn Wilson gets quite a cheer though? Could he win?

20.11: Is Ray ever gonna like, present an award? He's basically doing the opening monologue! Either Seacrest is peeved, or relieved. OMG HE'S PRESENTING SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES.

20.10: Terry O'Quinn/Michael Emerson doublesighting! They're sat one in front of the other. Creepiest nominee pair ever! Terry was smiling, but a "I just killed a boar" kinda smile.

20.09: I never got Ray Romano. And I still don't. Don't hate me, Todd, but it's true. He's just doing a "take my wife--please, take her!", thing. WTF?

20.07: Is Piven supposed to be seedy? Ryan Seacrest just suggested he was seedy. He actually looks really seedy and unshaven? Anyway, Ray Romano is on to present...something.

20.06: Hugh Laurie sighting!

20.05: The setup of this studio is like, Jerry Springer. Or Graham Norton, for our British viewers. Ryan is leaping around up and down steps to flirt with Teri Hatcher and the Shat.

20.04: Ryan Seacrest kinda freaks me out. He's like, so plastic and shiny? I never get if he's being serious or totally sarcastic! His appearance in Knocked Up confused me even more.

20.03: Jon Stewart just glanced over and talked to Colbert. I just got a tiny little stiffie.

20.02: Seriously, it's just a bunch of stale industry jokes! Although I guess the Sopranos thing was funny. You get the feeling they came up with it at the last minute.

20.00: Brian and Stewie were just introduced as "from The Family Guy". And now they sing a not funny song. I guess this is in absence of Ryan Seacrest doing a monologue? Or, God forbid, a song.

Hey guys! I'm watching the Emmys, and Todd said "why not live-blog it for SDD", so, here I am! I'll have periodic updates of my nonsense-talk for ya every so often. Hope someone...anyone...out there is reading! Woo!