Friday, February 22, 2008

"Power makes me feel good" - American Idol



What better way to capture the suspense of the elimination show than with a running diary! Two gals and two guys got voted off last night, and here’s how it went down:

8:01 Seacrest introduces the show, saying “live and right now…this…is…American Idol!” Live
and right now? I wish I could get away with redundancies like that, I really wish I could.

8:06 Here’s the awkward produced segment of the Top 24 photoshoot. The Idols are dealing with a fictionalized paparazzi scenario, walking the red carpet, exiting limos, and hey, Amy Davis waves to the cameras…was that foreshadowing? We’ll see.

8:10 The Top 24 sing. Robbie Carrico and Jason Dreads look out of their element in their suits. The girls actually sound good as a group. Crazy Hair Overmyer and Brian Cook belt out “power makes me feel good.” YEAH!! That’s the first time I felt the tingle this season. Nicely done, Cook.

8:16 The guys results are up first.

8:17 Whoa, after casually calling him to stage to seemingly just chat, Seacrest just blindsided Garrett Haley with the axe.

8:19 Garrett sings his exit song: this is why you got voted off, bub. Here’s what sucks about the whole sing-the-song-you-sang-the-last-night-for-your-exit-song strategy: if it sucked enough to get them voted off, should the audience really have to endure it twice? “Breaking Up is Hard to Do.” Not really, Garrett. No regrets here over this breakup. You’re Toots McGee, bro.

8:23 The T-Mobile commercial where the guy leaves repeated messages for a girl he likes. Would have been funnier if Jon Favreau hadn’t written it 12 years earlier.

8:28 Amy Davis gets the boot. Learn. I called it.

8:29 Not a chance in hell she can get through her song. I’m expecting “crash and burn.” Is that her mother and sister on the balcony? Holy shit, is she black? Adopted or bi-racial, I wonder? I really can’t tell. Eh, no matter, because Amy, you’re the creep of the week.

8:35 Commercials. Fox pushes The Return of Jezebel James. Is Parker Posey polarizing or what? She’s a love or hate kinda gal. I can’t think of her and not think of the scene in Dazed and Confused when she demands that the freshmen "fry like bacon."

8:36 We’re back and we’re debuting Paula’s new video. I don’t know if I’m quite ready for this. Did Spencer Pratt direct this video? This sucks. I love Randy playing the bass at all Paula’s side. He looks completely unnatural.

8:40 Simon says that “(Paula) represents every color in the universe.”

8:45 Joanne and Crazy Hair Overmyer are called to the stage, and those sitting are safe. Drumroll…and Crazy Hair is in.

8:46 Joanne could have been canned for what she wearing. What is that, a mu’umu’u?

8:47 Ramiele cries her eyes out. And looks hideous doing so.

8:48 Group shot of girls. Everyone is crying.

8:53 Chikezie and Colton are called to the stage…and I can’t believe Chikezie survived. Hilarious shot of him sitting back down, letting out a sigh of relief. He can’t believe it either. Thanks for coming, Colton, ‘ppreciate the effort.

8:57 The goodbye montage, capped off with Joanne declaring “I just wanna touch people, honestly.” She sounds like a pederass.

8:58 The girls still crying. Someone get them some tissues, please. Danny Noriega cries as well, making me think there’s a chance he and Colton got intimate.

8:59 Here we go again, Colton looks nothing like his parents.

And with that, I wrap up the first elimination show running diary. We’re back to the guys on Tuesday. Tune in.

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Lipstick Jungle/Cashmere Mafia: Mothers, Daughters, Dogs

PhotobucketThere was plenty of action on both Lipstick Jungle and Cashmere Mafia this week. This comes as a welcome relief if (like me) you're a little tired of all the discussion about how much harder women have to work to make it in business. Both shows were almost nothing but plot in these episodes. So, what did each do right and wrong?

I'm surprised to report that the most appealing part of Cashmere Mafia this week involved Lucy Liu and a dog. Mia has gotten ex-fiance Jack out of her system and is now seeing handsome doctor Jason (Jack Yang). Jason appears to be just right for Mia on the surface; he's successful and driven and catch match Mia in sheer busyness. But something is not right - he falls asleep just as they're about to have sex. Mia has agreed to take care of a stray dog for a couple of days. The dog doesn't appear to be much interested in Mia (or anything else) until just at the moment an animal shelter worker (well played by Wallace Shawn) arrives to take the dog away. The connection Mia feels to the pooch is what she wants to feel to a man; she and Jack don't have it so she dumps him. This is perhaps the most charming Lucy Liu's been yet on this show, and as a result this was probably the most enjoyable Cashmere to date.

It was a treat to see Peter Riegert playing a corporate raider who is either interested in Juliet, her company, or both. But Juliet has been too opaque as a character for anything she does to have much resonance. Much better was Zoe as a now stay-at-home Mom who takes over her daughter's science project to such an extent that the kid gives up and does her own version. It's a good change to see one of these women out of their comfort zone. Caitlin, after being dumped by her girlfriend last week, is back in full career mode. Her putting on a fashion show with no clothes felt like a Sex and the City rough draft, but Bonnie Somerville (still my favorite actress on the show) makes it work.

I swear Andrew McCarthy thinks he's doing a British accent on Lipstick Jungle. McCarthy plays Joe, a billionaire with his heart set on fashion designer Victory. Tonight the new relationship hits a bump: Joe has dinner with Nico and Wendy but thinks one evening with Victory's best friends is enough. I'm still interested in how the affair between Nico and photographer's assistant Kirby has made Nico more confident at work; see her idea for a sexy photo spread for a British royal family member for an example. But Nico's panic about the the affair almost being discovered leads to a chain of events that cause Kirby to loose his job. He retaliates by filing a sexual harassment claim, the effects of which will be handled next week. It looks like Lorraine Bracco's nasty editor Janice has been beaten back for the time being. After photos of a tearful Wendy appear in the tabloids, Wendy attempts to repair the damage to her reputation as a mother by bringing her daughter along to a ritzy luncheon. When that doesn't work, it's up to Nico to save the day by getting Janice's assistant to dish on some her boss's indiscretions.

If this recap reads like a plot summary its because neither Cashmere Mafia nor Lipstick Jungle gave their characters a chance to breathe this week. Cashmere goes away for a time now, the strike-shortened 7-episode run is over. I'll be back in this space with a full-on review of Lipstick Jungle next week.


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Thursday, February 21, 2008

"You just totally Scooby-Dooed me, didn't you?": Lost

Eggtown, the first episode of Lost's fourth season to be kind of a yawner, is nevertheless interesting in how it forces the audience to once again take a look at the character of Kate, someone who seemed poised to be the show's backup Jack in the original Pilot treatment and in the Pilot that was actually shot but has largely been played as a somewhat confused character over the run of the show, thanks to the show's genuine frustrations with writing female characters. Now, there are some strong female writers on the show's staff (Elizabeth Sarnoff, chief among them), but the overall plotting of the show is rather boy-happy, and often reduces the women to bargaining chips. Some of the women are able to overcome this simply through force of will (Yunjin Kim has such an impressively delicate screen presence on such a straightforward show that she can often seem radiant even when she's just sitting and looking at a map, as she did tonight). But so many of the women have been relegated to something for the boys to fight over (Kate, all too often), something to be a breeder (Claire) or some other form of safe female stereotype (Shannon, the bitch, or Rose, the saint) that the show's treatment of them seems almost backhanded at times. Only Juliet of the female characters seems to have a motivation and an interest beyond her own womb or romantic pairings, and she's a fertility doctor. And even in that case, I don't know if that stems from the writers realizing they needed a female character who wasn't just a womb with legs or Elizabeth Mitchell's excellent portrayal of the character.

Unlike many (including some who comment here), I don't find the disjointed storytelling rhythms of Lost to be its biggest problem. To a real degree, I watch the show both on a straightforward level, where I enjoy the plot and the latest character machinations, and a more meta level, where I let the writers become the protagonists and wonder how THEY, exactly, are going to "get out of this one." So, to that end, I don't particularly care that the skeletons from season one haven't ever been raised as an issue again. If they're adequately tied up at some point along the line, I'll be thrilled on that meta level, but on the more straightforward level, I don't need it to enjoy the show. No, my biggest complaint with Lost has always been with its use (or misuse) of its female characters. But in the case of Kate, it becomes harder to parse what, exactly, is going on because the blame, I think, lies equally with writers who didn't really know what to do with a character ostensibly set up as "strong" and an actress who had trouble playing emotional beats beyond "angry" in the show's first season. Both parties have improved in these regards since that first season, but they're still saddled with this half-character, who has never lived up to the promise of her initial conception (cliched though it was in the wake of Buffy and Sydney Bristow) nor lived far down enough to the level of hoary cliche to be enjoyable as camp.

So let's talk Kate. And/or psychic experiments.

For a long time, I blamed most of the problem with Kate on Evangeline Lilly, who was famously plucked from obscurity in the first season, in a manner similar to how J.J. Abrams cast Keri Russell and Jennifer Garner (though Lilly had far less experience than either of those actresses). In a number of interviews (most notably with Rolling Stone), Lilly has talked about how uncomfortable she was with the perks and perils of fame and with suddenly being a recognizable actress (as well as, let's face it, an incredibly gorgeous woman propelled to the top of many, many "Hottest Female" lists). If you rewatch the first season, you can kind of trace Lilly's growing discomfort with the fame and workload of Lost. In the pilot and the first few episodes, she has a likable overconfidence and charisma that swaps in for actual talent. She's in over her head among actors like Naveen Andrews, Terry O'Quinn and Matthew Fox, but she's going to make up for it with great dimples, a nice and natural chemistry with Josh Holloway and sheer gumption. But as that first season wanders along, it all goes to hell.

The character of Kate was originally conceived of as a newlywed who would lose her husband when the tail section of the plane flew off toward another section of the island (a storyline that was transplanted to Rose and Bernard). She was going to discover untapped resolves of courage when Jack was to be killed in the original pilot and become the show's main character and the heroic leader of the castaways. Naturally, the decision was made to make Jack the main character, but also have Kate be the female lead (a decision still reflected in Lilly campaigning as a lead actress at the Emmys, despite the fact that her character is now arguably a supporting one to Jack, Locke, Ben and several others). So Kate needed a new back story, since she would also probably need to be the main love interest for Jack. Hence, the idea of having her be a fugitive came to the forefront. And this initial idea had some promise in it -- it was essentially the femme fatale as female lead on a TV series, as if that Faith the Vampire Slayer series had ever come to be (in conception -- the ultimate portrayal of Faith vs. the portrayal of Kate was very different).

The problem here was that Lilly was increasingly unable to hit the emotional acting beats in this scenario as the first season went on. She could do spunk, raw charisma and anger pretty well, but she couldn't hit the notes of rueful regret or unfettered joy at being free from her past or DANGER that the role required of her. And, worse, she seemed self-consciously AWARE that she had trouble hitting these notes. Plus, the rather boring love triangle between Kate, Jack and Sawyer began to get a lot of play in the media. So the writers improvised, playing to Lilly's strengths, and taking her from the self-confident, slightly dangerous young woman of the pilot and making her into a more conventional woman-who-kicks-ass-but-really-wants-a-boy type character (again, shades of Sydney Bristow). Kate's adventures in the first season drifted from being about her being a vital part of the castaways' muscle and more toward her going on smaller adventures that put her in more conventional soap operatic situations -- would she kiss Sawyer or strip down to her underwear in front of him? Lilly's chemistry with Holloway was real and present and went a long way toward bringing Holloway into the position of prominence he holds in the ensemble now (remember how in the pilot, it seemed like Charlie would be the second male lead and that just never came to pass?). This managed to keep Kate a part of the show in the first season, but it also weakened what could have been a fascinating character.

What's unfortunate is that in the seasons since, Lilly has relaxed into her role and had figured out how to hit more of the beats that are asked of her. Some of her teary moments in tonight's episode were unbelievable, but that final hug worked, and the moment where she pushed Miles out of Ben's room and then pinned him against the wall had a raw, believable physicality that never would have worked in season one Kate. But when Jack sends Kate off on missions, it increasingly feels like he does so only so the writers can put her in proximity to Sawyer or something. In the first episode, when she tracked Naomi correctly, it took me a while to realize why, exactly, she was the person to do it, since that character had almost completely been subsumed by the one who was put into a pretty dress by Ben or got into a fight in the mud with Juliet. There were whole points in seasons two and three where it became impossible to track various characters in their storylines (like Sayid, who essentially disappeared for a long while there), and that was sort of true of Kate, who essentially stopped being a femme fatale of any sort, but what was even MORE true was that the writers had written themselves into a situation where her ONLY reason to exist was within the love triangle.

Kate's a unique case on the show because I think she's the only weak character where the original idea for the character was sort of cool and that was marred by compromises made on the fly through the grind of weekly television. A character like Charlie never really worked, despite all the heroin relapses the show tried to throw at him, but Kate could have been really, really cool. If one imagines Jennifer Garner playing her, you can see the promise in the concept, and it becomes kind of sad.

So give us your other thoughts on the episode. I liked the psychic card tricks and the weird way Locke becoming a near dictator has made him even more like a creepy suburban dad (loved his grenade trick). And was there anyone out there who DIDN'T see the end of the episode twist coming? Speak up.

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How about a Saucy Minx? - American Idol


I am beginning to think that dubbing this season the “most talented” ever was just a marketing scheme Fox used to get me to tune in. Next season, I won’t be so easily fooled. I’ve watched all the episodes and there’s no one as talented as Carrie Underwood, and most of them aren’t even as talented as Scotty Savol. But alas, someone—er, more like 327,892 bloggers—has to recap the most popular show on television, and it might as well be me. Last night, it was the ladies turn to fall incredibly short of the bar set by the publicity machine that is the Fox Network. Screw you, Mike Darnell, and your curly little hair too.

Kristy Lee Cook raises and trains horses for a living in Selma, Oregon, and she paid for her audition trip to Philadelphia by selling her favorite barrel horse. That should be a big red flag to all of her pets. It puts her pet care taking skills just one step above these guys. I thought she sounded good with “Rescue Me,” but quite small for the stage, and her eye movements were a bit weird. I think what she meant to be seductive turned out to be scary. And for an upbeat song, Kristy Lee was pretty muted. No doubt she goes through, though. Sucks to be ugly.

Joanne Borgella, everyone’s favorite plus size model, knows the general public will expect soul music from her, but she leans more towards Pop. Gee, Joanne, whatever gave you the idea we’d expect that? I honestly had no opinion on “I Say a Little Prayer.” I basically just listened to her shaky voice with an eyebrow raised. Simon gave her no credit, calling it “a cabaret version of a cabaret song.” Sounds about right.

Alaina Whitaker is the show’s youngest contestant at 16. Despite her age, she came out with a nice slow start to “More Today Than Yesterday.” What a night and day performance to Chikezie’s last night. The gap between the two performances is about the same size as the income gap between the Waldorf’s and the Humphrey’s. Alaina was either nervous or stupid, or both, because she wasn’t making much sense when Seacrest questioned her at the end. We’ll chalk that up to her age.

Amanda Overmyer was up next with her Crazy Hair (I know you guys aren’t buying into it, but I swear hair sways voting. This is the election scandal they should be talking about this year), singing “Baby, Please Don't Go.” If anyone says they understood that performance they’re lying. I could not make out a single word. I haven’t struggled so hard to comprehend something since I heard this song. She’s gotta dial it down. It was way too much screaming. Randy and Paula praised her originality, and even Simon called her authentic. Amanda’s greatest quality is that she is comfortable with herself, as evidenced by her admitting that she hated dancing in front of the camera at auditions. She went on to apologize for pulling out in front of a semi-truck while driving in LA, which totaled her car. You haven’t lived in LA until you’ve been in an accident. Or seen a mobile home on the side of the 101.

Amy Davis was brutal with “Where the Boys Are.” You really wanna know where they are, Amy? They’re running from your voice. If you sound that bad to me, you are way out of tune because I’m tone deaf. The best part of her whole segment was her father’s facial expressions when she made it through to Hollywood. I couldn’t tell if it was excitement for his daughter’s feat, or utter shock that she completely fooled the judges. Seriously, it’s a coin toss.

Brook Davis was next, singing “Happy Together.” Here’s another night and day performance. Brian Cook killed it last night, but Brook struggled to fill out the song’s tempo. Simon cannot stand how nice and G Rated Brooke is, saying “you’re pretty much going to be nice all the time, huh?” You could tell he wants a “saucy minx,” like Pickler.

Alexandrea Lushington sauntered down the steps with “Spinning Wheel,” doing really well with the song, despite being dressed like Punky Brewster. That was easily the most confident performance so far among the ladies.

Simon called Kady Malloy’s original audition the best they saw, and her Britney Spears’ impression was spot on. By the time she started “A Groovy Kind of Love,” I had a feeling she could dominate the competition. She sounded as big as the stage the whole time, effortlessly. Finally, I found my overall favorite. If I were doing a fantasy draft, I’d take her with the number one pick. The judges all called her pretty boring, but with the right song choice, she can break that mold, I’m sure.

Asia’h Epperson was next with Janis Joplin’s “Piece of My Heart.” Overall, it was a solid update with a bit of an urban flair. She even had Simon calling it his favorite.

Ramiele Mullaby is my other early favorite. I think she made a big mistake by going with “You Don't Have to Say You Love Me.” Such a slow tune. It was lounge act-y, and she missed a real opportunity to distance herself from some of the competition. But, nonetheless, it was a solid performance. And what did Ramiele snack after receiving praise from all the judges? That’s right, humble pie.

Syesha Mercado, a “working” actress in Miami, gave us a surprisingly rocky version of “Tobacco Road,” and I liked it for the most part. I also liked how she distinguished herself from all the other non-working, hack actresses out there.

Carly Smithson, the Irish Lassie, came to the states with a record deal, but the company fell apart and now she owns a tattoo shop in San Diego. Since she was once a professional singer, I find it hard to believe she’d choose “The Shadow of Your Smile” by Tony Bennett. For those of you who don’t know, I hate Tony Bennett. Just die already. I’m so sick of seeing him sing duets. You’re never going to be Sinatra buddy, just get over it. But I digress. The song started out brutally slow, but she sang it really well, and I think Carly, the Irish Lassie (get used to it, I’m going to call her that from here on out), can go far. While Randy called it the best vocal of the last two days and Paula called her a “lucky coin,” Simon said he’s not buying the hype. Could be a British vs. Irish thing going on here. We’ll have to see how this plays out over the next several weeks.

My top four of the evening were Alaina, Alexandrea, Ramiele, and Syesha. There is no doubt Amy and Joanne are going home. Toodles, ladies.

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'Big Brother: 'Til Death Do You Part' delivers the ultimate low blows


[I know all of you are probably missing my wonderful and hilarious and all-around awesome Big Brother recaps this season. The truth is...I just can't bring myself to write up every episode of the idiotic douchenozzles that end up on this show any longer. Instead of my weekly roundup, each week I will be posting a link to my Zap2It recap of Wednesday's elimination episode. -C]

Wow. Just when you thought the players of
Big Brother: 'Til Death Do You Part could stoop no lower, they manage to surprise you by plunging to depths deeper and more despicable than you could have ever possibly imagined. The season is only a week old, and so far we've already had Adam call special needs kids "retards" and Alex chastise Amanda by calling her a slut for wearing skimpy clothing. Tonight we added to that hall of shame by having Joshuah mock Amanda's dead father and Jen stoop to telling fellow houseguests boyfriend Ryan is a racist, to curry favor in hopes they will vote him out instead of her. Yes, folks, these are the youth of America. Be afraid. Be very afraid.
______________________________________________________________________
Read the rest of the article here.

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"Ain't you the lil' king of diamonds?": The Wire

(Posting might be even more sporadic than usual around here over the next few days/weeks, as I deal with some personal things. -- ed.)

OK, first of all, I watched next week's episode already, and, as always, wanted to wait until it aired, because I don't trust myself not to spoil you on some things, though I'm certainly going to try. Suffice it to say that with the series in its home stretch, it's becoming harder and harder to write about individual episodes of the show instead of the narrative momentum that has us rolling downhill to the end. I don't think there's been a season of The Wire that feels this sleek and speedy, making room for all of the little Wire touches that make the show so great but still flying along like a rocket in a narrative sense. I know that some are complaining that this momentum is robbing the show of its realism, but I think that David Simon and his writers have made up for any lack of realism in spades with powerful moments for characters we've known for years, coupled with scabrously black humor.

But please, please, please don't spoil yourself on next week. It's one of the best episodes of the series' run (coming on top of this one, which was up there too), and there are surprises in it that are best left unspoiled.

Now, I can hear you all running off to find out what happens. . .

Let's take an abbreviated look at episode seven while I have a few minutes to spare.

In a season that's been sort of atypically loud for the show, Took was a quiet episode, sort of the brief moment of calm you get around episode 10 in a normal season of The Wire. This was wrapped up nicely with that final moment where Kima, holding her son in her arms, wished the ghetto an almost wistful good night (perhaps unusual for this series but still very moving). The episode seemed to slow down most of the storylines, not to a crawl, but to a point where they leaned against the wall and caught a bit of breath (and, again, knowing what happens, they needed it).

After the interesting scenes where Templeton talked to the PTSD homeless person in recent episodes, the tunnel vision scenes where he AGAIN lapped up the attention of everyone and the editors were happy to let him do so sort of took the journalism story slightly off track again, but I get what Simon is going for. The scene where McNulty faked being the serial killer was amusing, and the scene where Gus sat down and talked with the new reporter about how to get stories was beautifully written and one of the finer summations of the show's themes that I've seen in a while.

That'll have to do for now, as other obligations are calling. I'll probably be able to do some jawing in the comments, so leave your more detailed thoughts, and I'll see what I have to say.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

“Kinda hot, colorful, grotesque” - American Idol


The guys kicked off the Top 24 last night in mediocrity. I knew things were going to be bad as Seacrest introduced the guys for the first time. Lots of bad waves to the cameras, awkward gestures used to connect to the crowd, but all missed for the most part. Danny Noriega’s double hands to the hips was pretty gay, and we’ll call David Archuleta’s two-handed wave to the camera theatrical; not unlike Hugh Grant’s two-handed greeting in Love Actually that he says he needs to work on. And Colton Berry reached beyond believability when he blew the smoke of the end of his gun—er—finger.

Last night’s theme was ‘From the 60’s,’ so you knew that someone was going to terrorize a once golden oldie. I was just hoping no one butchered one of my favorites.

David Hernandez comes from a broken family. Care tons. I wasn’t about to let David’s produced segment sway me, in any way, into voting for him. His recap also reminded us that he was not put through unanimously; Simon thought he had some serious confidence problems. David sang “Wait ‘til the Midnight Hour.” In the beginning, I was able to decipher the song, although it sounded a bit worthy. It never really grasped me. That was a diet performance: okay tasting, but not enough flavor for me to want to take a second bite. I can’t say that I’m surprised Randy and Paula approved of it, but Simon only liked the opening, and thought the middle and end slowed to a drag. As Seacrest bantered with the judges and read aloud the number for David, David barely picked his head up. He’ll need more charisma than that.

Chikezie. First off, I went to online to check the spelling of Chikezie’s name and to find out what his last name is, but he didn’t have one listed. A one-namer from Inglewood? I’m suspect. I’d rather call him Cher, the way he sang. He made it to the end of Hollywood last year, was sent home, but he’s worked hard to get back. Still, “More Today Than Yesterday” was just a god awful performance, on all levels. I liked Chikezie more yesterday than today, before I heard him sing that awful song.

Before David Cook started his performance, Seacrest, sitting with the guys, asked Colton if there’s anything he’d like to share anything about himself with the audience, and Colton said ‘from certain angles, I look like Ellen Degeneres.” I was shocked; the kid did look like her. David rocked out on “Happy Together,” putting in a strong showing. The arrangement sounded quite weird during the chorus, but he’s assured to get through. The judges agreed that it was a solid performance.

When I saw that Jason Yeager was from Grand Prairie, TX, I had to check out what the hell goes on there. Answer: ain’t shit. A quick check of their city homepage revealed that they are expecting a new Prime Outlets shopping center for the holiday season in 2009, and the Police Department has recently set up their own myspace page to reach a younger audience. Some great pics here, by the way, very masculine. Cops with arms crossed, cops with guns, cops on motorcycles, cops on ATV’s, cops leaping fences, cops in sunglasses, cops at the gun range. I am sold that this job kicks ass. I’m checking into their relocation program. Jason has a son, a small blonde patch on his bangs with otherwise black hair, and he sang Moon River. Why, in god’s good name, would he come out and sing that fucking lullaby? You got me. Let’s just say that Jason could be going home first. At least he’ll be able to spend more time with his son.

Robbie Carrico, aka Bo Bice, vowed to ‘put it all onstage, leave my soul.’ Deep bro. More important than focusing on Robbie’s strong performance of “One is the Loneliest Number,” I think we should track how many headbands Robbie Carrico wears throughout the competition. We saw one for his first audition, one for the Hollywood auditions, his interview/confessional, and now the Top 24, so that’s 4. I’m setting the over/under on headbands/wraps/hats at 21.

Up next was David Archuleta, the little nerdy guy with a big voice. He came out with energy, singing ‘Shop Around’ by the Miracles. His boyish charm will take him places. During her analysis, Paula appears to be on drugs for the first point this season. She stutters, stumbles, backtracks. When Simon told him “by a comfortable mile, that was the best performance of the night so far,” David lost it, giggling and freaking out. Probably made him even more likeable.

Daniel Noriega, from Azusa, CA, destroyed “Jailhouse Rock” with his outfit alone. He wore skinny jeans and a skinny tie. No obnoxious collar means no quality Elvis redo. Paula’s drugs were in full effect at this point: “It was very warm, almost scolding…and I love hearing how your voice goes in and out of these beautiful colors.I just feel like there’s going to be a lot of colors of Danny coming out.” Mmmyeah, okay.

Luke Menard is a carpet cleaner from Crawfordsville, Indiana. After seeing his performance, it’s evident he’s going to stay just that. None of the judges were impressed, and no way in hell anyone downloads that performance on iTunes. Surely Josiah Leming was better than that. Also, Crawfordsville looks like a blast. I love that under the dining menu on the city homepage that 'Ice Cream' is given its own link. That’s a good town. Next time I'm there, I'm so going to Dari-licious.
Whenever Colton Berry gets nervous, he sings the Teletubbies’ theme song. Um, yeah. Pretty much says it all. I didn’t need to hear his song to know he sucked. As they recapped the last episode, I'm reminded that Colton was last chosen, beating out my favorite debate teamer, Kyle Ensley. And so I hate him even more. He sang “Suspicious Minds” about as dull as can be done. Too even keel. Taylor Hicks won his season, in these early rounds, putting out more enthusiasm than was even necessary. Colton just didn’t bring it. Even Paula could only give him a “fun and eager attempt.'” Ouch. Paula, by the way, was under multiple effects of drugs at this point. I wouldn't mind joining her before enduring next week's performances.

Garrett Haley’s hair is bad for a woman stuck in the 80’s, let alone a 17 year old kid from Elida, Ohio. No way that haircut gets him any pussy in Ohio. Ohioans like crew cuts and tight fades. “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do,” but not nearly as hard as it was listening to Garrett sing. If the hair wasn't bad enough, he also had some nasty growth for a mustache and goatee. Aahhh, those first whiskers. For a guy, never do your balls feel so big as when those first facial whiskers come in. Your pubes don't even compare.

Jason Castro killed “A Beautiful Day for a Daydream” with his guitar. It felt like a really uplifting commercial, making me wanna buy a Bug and go driving in the rolling hills. The thing is, Jason looks like a pretty manicured, pretty straight-laced guy for having dreads. According to Simon, Jason just 'has it.'

Michael Johns finished it off with “Light My Fire.” No brainer selection for Michael. He definitely knows what he's doing, and was solid throughout the performance, capped off with a nice climax. '”Capped off with a nice climax” sounds a bit sexual, and a bit foody, but I'm sticking with it.

So after seeing the guys tonight, the top four are Archuleta, Carrico, Castro, and Johns. See ya Jason Yeager. Let’s see if the girls can outdo the gentlemen tonight.

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'One Tree Hill': Special limited time engagement!


Watching One Tree Hill is sort of like observing a baby's first experience with a mirror. Sure, one one level the baby realizes he is looking at himself, but every time he turns away and looks back again the surprise of finding a person staring back at him begins anew. One Tree Hill has the tendency to do the same thing with respect to its own romantic history. Just when you think the characters might be learning something and moving on they catch a glimpse of that mirror and repeat the same mistakes all over again, with seemingly no recognition of the pattern they are repeating.



Sometimes, I wish someone would just break that darn mirror.
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Sunday, February 17, 2008

"Oh, awesome. The ship sent us another Sawyer.": Lost

"The Economist" is probably the best example yet of how the new flash-forwards can enliven the storytelling structure on Lost. If this episode had just featured another set of flashbacks where we learned about Sayid's sadness at losing his love or his cat or something, it would have made the on-island action seem more ridiculous (and, let's be clear, some of the stuff that happened in the on-island A-plot had some vintage Lost oddness in it). As it was, though, the flash-forwards had us hanging on the edge of our seats, keeping us in that position through the on-island stuff. This was pretty standard spy action stuff, perhaps left over from the days of Alias (specifically that episode where Peter Berg was Sydney's beloved ex-boyfriend but was also the assassin she was sent to kill), but the soulful work of Naveen Andrews and the great fun of seeing twists like Sayid whipping out a gun on a golf course or going to meet his boss (whose identity, honestly, was completely obvious, dudes) in a veterinary clinic.

To some degree, Lost is still trading in on the general excitement and shock we get from the notion that these are flash-forwards -- on the queasiness between the moments where you think this is just going to be a boring flashback where Sayid enjoys golf and the moments where you realize that this is the future, and Sayid is killin' folk. The very first flash-forward, from last season's finale, ENTIRELY relied on retroactive tension. The whole reason it existed was for that last five minutes (terrific as they were) and how those moments painted everything that came before in a different light. It was more or less designed as a way to make the earlier flashback stuff, the stuff that no one was really paying attention to (as the tension before the reveal had more or less to do with whether we really thought the writers would end the season with a flashback so lame). The Hurley flash-forward from the season premiere was structured similarly to this one (the "I'm one of the Oceanic Six!" moments fall almost exactly in the same places in the script, structure wise), but it, too, traded more on the novelty of having a flash-forward.

The Sayid flash-forwards sort of showed how the flash-forwards could work as a storytelling device similar to the way the flashbacks were utilized in season one (or somewhat similar to the use of same on The Nine last season). The Sayid story still trades on the tension of what happens between the island action we're seeing now and the flash-forwards (leaving lots of intriguing gaps), but it's also fascinated by the ways these people have been warped by the island experience, how Sayid went from a mostly principled torturer (yeah, I know) to a frustrated soldier for a cause he daren't subscribe to. When Sayid said to Ben that he'd only work for him if he sold his soul, you kind of knew that the last reveal would be that he was, indeed, working with Ben, but it still managed to work in spite of itself.

Furthermore, the flash-forwards are succeeding at telling succinct little narratives in the way the flashbacks used to and just hadn't for a while. As mentioned above, the "Sayid among the assassins" subplot is hardly original, but Andrews sells the hell out of it, and his chemistry with Elsa (played by an actress with more than a passing resemblance to his previous love, Shannon, played by Maggie Grace) felt genuine, even as the two were pumping bullets into each other. The flash-forwards also really open up the KINDS of stories this device can be used to tell. Previously, when you got a Jack flashback, you could be relatively certain you'd get a little watered-down ER. Now, the show can indulge in having Sayid be an international mystery man. I'm pulling for the first flash-forward that also pulls in flashbacks, so we can compare characters before, during and after the island, in some sort of weird Christmas Carol structure (also, technically, isn't Christmas coming up on the island? Shouldn't we get a wacky holiday episode?).

The stuff on the island was interesting, but interesting in that mid-season way, where it seems like a lot is about to happen, but nothing really is. We got some fascinating trifles out on the margins (like the experiment with missiles and time that makes my brain hurt to contemplate too much), but the centerpiece of the story involved the same old double-crossings and missions between camps (and would it kill the show to show us the Jack gang that's hanging out down on the beach? I miss Jin and Sun). While the show almost got away with having Hurley be a double-crossing spy (especially with how much information he let slip), the very nature of the program (where everyone keeps information tightly to their chest) made his behavior somewhat suspect. I admire the attempts to have everyone share important things with each other, but it's going to be a hard habit for me to break to stop finding it suspicious.

That said, I like the way the show continues to draw parallels between effective leaders like Sayid and the jackassery of Jack (especially when Sayid pointed out that Jack might not be who Locke wanted to see). If we're going to buy that Jack made a tragic mistake (as certainly seemed to be hinted at), we needed to get more foreshadowing of that than the simple sense most fans had that Jack was a self-righteous bastard. And I am intrigued to see Sayid and Desmond go off onto the freighter. Since I'm not betting on Desmond being one of the Oceanic Six (too much, I think, is riding on a final season reunion with Penny), it'll be interesting to see which pretzels the writers twist themselves into to get him BACK on the island. (Side note: At this point, are the writers the true protagonists/antagonists of Lost?)

All in all, the hour was a solid one, and it has the flash-forwards to thank for that, mostly. I don't think that the flash-forwards are always going to work, but as they work right now, I hope Lost milks them for all they're worth.

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