Saturday, March 08, 2008

"See you guys at dinner!" - Lost

The Constant just might have been the best episode Lost has ever done. At the very least, it’s pretty damn close. So, there was no real way that, this week’s episode, The Other Woman, could have avoided being a little disappointing.

It doesn’t help that, after a season that’s felt so new and refreshing, this episode was very much a detour back to its old formula. Most obviously, it is the only episode this season to follow the typical “one character has a flashback” format. We’ve had flash-forwards, group flashbacks and however the hell you want to classify Desmond’s Slaughterhouse-Five-style time traveling in The Constant. This is. . . a Juliet episode, plain and simple. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that. I like Juliet. But aside from a cute tease at the beginning that the episode might actually be a flash-forward, it’s pretty typical pre-Through the Looking Glass Lost.

Indeed, we find the characters going back to their old tricks of hiding information from each other even when it might be useful to let each other know. Charlotte lies to Kate about why she and Faraday are away from camp, then knocks her unconscious when Kate realizes she’s full of shit. Only on Lost would it be simply too much to say “We’re on our way from taking preemptive measures to keep Ben from unleashing poisonous gas that will kill us all.” On top of that, we get not one, but two scenes where Jack walks with somebody through the jungle asking questions as the other is vague and evasive.

Ben, it seems, is the only one willing to give out information, letting Locke know about Charles Widmore’s search for the island and the identity of the freighter mole in exchange for freedom. Now, a lot of Ben and Locke’s interactions have consisted of Ben slowly working away Locke’s confidence. Thus, it’s strange to see Ben seemingly acting so open and even stranger to see Locke act so pliant. After about a season-and-a-half of Ben goading Locke into making a mistake, they finally approach something resembling fair discourse. And yet, it emphasizes just how much of the action is driven by the characters acting needlessly mysterious. Ben acknowledges that Widmore and the mole (can we just come out and say it’s Michael yet?) were his last bargaining chips, but he never really explains why he didn’t see the need to play them earlier.

However, the most egregious case of Lost’s bad habits showing up occurred in Juliet’s storyline. As Todd pointed out two weeks ago, the show has had a problem writing its female characters. However, Juliet had proven to be the exception. In a show that’s all about mystery and characters keeping their motives close to their chests, Juliet managed to be especially intriguing. The writers are great at writings scenes that pay off with Elizabeth Mitchell’s lopsided smirk. So, imagine my frustrations when this episode essentially defines Juliet, the most interesting female character on the show, by her relationships with two of the male characters!

Now, I know Stranger in a Strange Land is possibly the single most reviled episode in Lost history. But I liked it, and a large part of that pleasure came from watching Juliet spin her femme fatale role, only for Jack to come around when he realizes that she has literally killed for him. As Tom (Who makes a cameo in this episode! Yeay!) once pointed out, she and Ben have a history. We finally get to see what that history is, beyond, you know, him essentially keeping her prisoner on the island until she solves the baby problem. And we find out that he was even willing to lead Goodwin to his death, just to prove that he has her under his thumb. By the way, anybody remember when Ben went nuts and attacked Ana-Lucia because she had killed Goodwin? Apparently, neither do the writers. We have always known that the impetus of Juliet’s story has come between her being caught in a dilemma between her own good nature and Ben’s power, but it’s cheapened by it being boiled down to Ben having a crush on her.

Meanwhile, another twist is added to the Sawyer/Kate/Jack/Juliet love quadrangle. Juliet explains that she’s afraid of what Ben will do to Jack because of how he feels for him and Jack kisses her. I have to admit, I was loving that scene until I realized that Kate had indeed followed Charlotte into the station and wasn’t outside watching the public display of affection occur (stupid sloppy editing). Ostensibly, this would solidify things some; Jack would choose Juliet and Kate would go back to Sawyer. Unfortunately, the flash-forwards have revealed that the quadrangle will not be resolved, so we’re stuck with this storyline – and I’m somebody who doesn’t mind it so much!

On the upside, the freighters have essentially revealed themselves as (mostly) good guys. We’ve also heard our first word this season from the rest of the Others. I had largely been distracted by larger questions like who the Oceanic Six are and what’s up with Faraday’s crazy experiments, but part of me had been curious why the Others hadn’t done anything since half of them wandered off to “the Temple” and the other half got exploded on the beach. So, while the Others storyline has essentially played out, it’s good to know that the writers hadn’t completely forgotten about them. And, perhaps most importantly, we’ll get to see the aftermath of Ben and Locke’s agreement. So, while this episode was a weak one by Season Four standards, it should at least serve as a stepping stone for future episodes which should (hopefully) keep the steam that episodes like The Constant and Confirmed Dead got going.


Friday, March 07, 2008

"Dressed to Kill" - Lipstick Jungle, episode 1.5

Did we know that Wendy's husband Shane was a musician? That's just one of the questions raised in this week's episode, which began with a song and ended with two of the Lipstick ladies making choices that could cause trouble in their marriages.

The ladies are out at a club where Shane's former jazz combo is playing. Shane is enjoying being the only man at a table with three gorgeous women (Nico's husband is at a conference and Joe is making a deal in the car). He's called on stage to play with his former bandmates and spends the rest of the evening happily at the piano while Wendy looks on adoringly and makes out with him in the green room afterwards. We haven't learned much about Shane thus far, except that in the pilot he's trying to get a restaurant started and has issues about being married to a more famous wife. Paul Blackthorne gives Shane a palpable unease with his status as a house husband; in the domestic scenes you can sense that he knows he's an underused man.

Wendy's decision to submit Shane's demo CD under another name as a possible composer for a film is well intentioned to be sure. She wants her husband to feel validated by getting the job on his own merits as opposed to his connections. So why when Wendy meets the film's director in the elevator, does she fess up so quickly? We don't know how much the director felt pressured to hire his Wendy's husband, but this one is a time bomb. As for Nico, she's falling for her young lover Kirby and this week rights a wrong by getting him a job as a still photographer on a film set. Nico has tried to keep Kirby at an emotional distance by setting up "rules" for the relationship - it's just sex, etc. But she's ready to throw the rules out the window when Kirby (at Nico's urging) brings an actress from the movie to a fancy fundraiser. Powerful men marry younger women all the time, but could a woman get away with a younger man? The Nico/Kirby relationship isn't just sex anymore.

The lightest storyline this week belongs to Victory, who this week discovers her former assistant has stolen her sketches and sold them to a rival. This leads to a confrontation at Nico's fundraiser; in the world of "Lipstick Jungle" people are always ripping each other's dresses and writing "bitch" on their cats at these ritzy events. What I enjoyed about Victory this week was the deepening of her relationship with Joe, who seems to enjoy spending time with Nico and her friends and gives her some practical business advice without sounding like a jerk. Andrew McCarthy's accent didn't even bother me this week. Next time, Wendy learns that Nico and Kirby are still involved. She doesn't take it well.


Wednesday, March 05, 2008

'Big Brother: 'Til Death Do You Part' shakes things up

Ever since the couples twist was announced on Big Brother: 'Til Death Do You Part this year, you sort of knew they would eventually have to be broken up otherwise the game would be over in about six weeks. There's no time to savor the deliciousness of that thought, however, because the inevitable has occurred. The couples are no longer and the houseguests are free to go at this game alone, ensuring the game will last just as long as it normally does (meaning about three weeks longer than it actually should). Oh, goody. __________________________________________________________________________
Read the rest of the article here.


'One Tree Hill': Putting the psycho back in shower scenes

Ladies and gentlemen, the One Tree Hill we know and love (or loathe, depending on your tolerance for soap) is back! Gone are the early days of the season when things seemed downright tame, because this week ushered in the soap staples of psycho stalkers, drug addicts, accidental near-drownings, histrionic threats of divorce, dramatic cliffhangers and lies and trickery in order to manipulate someone into getting what you want. I would be rolling my eyes if I weren't so darn excited.

Read the rest of the article here.


"Did you like it or not?" - American Idol

First things first. With the producers electing to completely dodge, we got through last night with no mention of David Hernandez’s stripping. Let’s see if they’ve got a press release later on. So it was business as usual, and the theme for the evening was the 80’s. Next week should give us a clue of how the kiddos sound on a ‘contemporary’ track, if the show moves forward to cover the 90’s. David Cook is a lock to do a Nirvana song, isn’t he?

Luke Menard’s most embarrassing moment was when his sister dressed him like a girl. What’s the big deal? Danny Noriega still does that. “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” was a great song by WHAM! but Luke Menard was never close. Randy dissed him at the end, then, with the audience giving him a hard time, Randy revealed that he was just trying to “keep it real.” Randy spends his life keeping it real. Paula, in her first display of utter incoherence, went on so long babbling that Simon finally had to ask her “did you like it or not?” Because some rage had built up against Paula, Simon let it out on Luke, crushing the kid’s chances.

David Archuleta was up second, but he was first to tackle Phil Collins this season. Scotty Savol made famous Collins on the show with his strip down and I was so ready for David to come out and nail it, but I think it played a little slow in the beginning as he played the piano. When he lost the piano and picked it up, I was moderately entertained. Paula was back at it again. Maybe, on what would become the best night, Paula just could not control her excitement. Maybe she was absolutely overwhelmed with a girlish energy that suspended her powers of speech. Whatever it was, she had trouble summarizing Archuleta’s performance. Simon, however, nailed it, calling David’s performances “a bit depressing.” (“Imagine”? “Another Day in Paradise”? C’mon, David, you’re 17 years old for chrissakes, stop trying to change the freakin’ world with every song.) David promptly stepped on his soap-box and explained to Simon about all the people suffering. Hello, Archuleta, ever seen Idol Gives Back?

Danny Noriega is only somewhat talented, so he tries to make up for it by being overly flamboyant. Maybe he’s being himself, but more so than anyone, I feel like this guy is a ham, playing it up for the cameras. Here’s what the weird thing was about his version of “Tainted Love”: I cringed the entire time, but it was probably his best performance. Randy tried to pump him up with his comments—“you can do dis dawg.” When Simon told Danny he hated it, Danny put his left thumb to his head and did a wave to Simon, creating some sort of awkward moose antler thing. It really threw me for a loop. Still don’t know what to make of it.

David Hernandez, who surely had a lot on his mind, did well singing Meatloaf’s “It’s All Coming Back To Me Now.” I’m a little upset with David, so I’m leaving it at that.

One question: where in the hell was Molly Ringwold last night when Michael Johns started singing the Breakfast Club anthem “Don’t You Forget About Me.” That’s exactly what I thought when I listened to his solid version. The magnitude of her 80’s run was not unlike Carrie Fischer’s streak in STAR WARS—it was mega-stardom for each of them, followed by awkward cameos in b-movies ever since.

David Cook plugged into the amp and worked it out on Lionel Richie’s “Hello.” I didn’t really dig it in the beginning, but he really improved throughout, and before it was over, he had every judge praising him, with even Simon saying “it was a really brave thing to do….and I LOVED it.” With his other positive comments congratulating David and calling him “unpredictable,” Simon single-handedly put him through.

Jason Dreads came out with “Hallelujah,” of which the Jeff Buckley version was once used so well by Aaron Sorkin in the West Wing. I liked it, but I never thought, as he built it up, that he took it to the high enough level that the song deserves. I was slightly let down, but the judges disagreed, each raving about Dreadboy’s version. Paula stumbled again while describing what “a beautiful vulnerability” Jason had. Simon called it “absolutely brilliant…you’re getting better & better & better.”

When Chikezie started, I didn’t recognize the song and I stopped listening.

For the first time this season, the group picked it up on the whole. But it ain’t that hard to call it this week, Luke Menard and Danny Noriega are gone-zo.


Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Can we speed this thing up? - American Idol

A few years ago, I used to really look forward to American Idol. As I’ve written before, I joined in the hoopla during Carrie Underwood’s run to the crown, and was thoroughly impressed with the overall talent level. American Idol was the embodiment of the American dream: life, liberty, and the pursuit of Simon Cowell’s affection. Now, another week has passed, four more crap-ass contestants are gone, and the show is still touting the remaining contestants as the ‘most talented ever.’ It’s really starting to piss me off. Fox already lured me with it in the off season, but now that I’ve heard everyone sing it’s really just a kick in the teeth that they keep repeating it. Joke’s over, Fox. This group may have once been the most talented, but they’ve been hyped up so much that they can’t help but to fall short of the bar set by the marketing campaign.

Because this post is dated (I was out a television as I upgraded to HD last week), I’m going to sum up the losers’ performances.

Ladies first. Alexandrea Lushington was the first lady to get the (ankle) boot on Thursday night. Not only was Alexandrea’s singing of "If You Leave Me Now" bad, I couldn’t help but notice her wardrobe. She was dressed like a dude on Venice beach, capped off with those ankle boots that I can’t quite wrap my head around. They look like weird cleats. Alexandrea is an attractive young lady, so I can’t figure out for the life of me why she wore cargo shorts, multiple layered shirts, and hoodie vest. Her song was slow and drab, and it’s no wonder why she got sent home.

Alaina Whitaker, the youngster from Tulsa who doesn’t like the food on her plate to touch, sang “Hopelessly Devoted to You.” She was off the entire time, and it really became tough to watch. Again, if it is that easy for me to recognize how off pitch you are, you know you suck. Paula couldn’t even muster anything positive about the performance, only pointing out how “young but mature” Alaina is. As Seacrest delivered the bad news to Alaina, she said that she couldn’t sing her exit song, but after some delay, and the help of the other Idol girls, we got to hear why she got the voted off in the first place—for the second time.

On the guys’ side, Jason Yeager was first to leave, after singing the Doobie Brothers. There really wasn’t one redeeming thing about his performance, and he capped it off with an awkward fist pump that was meant to be in synch with the band, but it wasn’t even close. It really was so god awful I don’t even know what to say. Simon just crushed him at the end, saying “the simple truth is last week was boring and this week was awkward and ordinary.” Really the only surprise here was that he didn’t get sent home a week earlier.

I thought the shock of the week was the departure of Robbie Carrico, whose 6 bandanas worn during the show came well under my prediction of 21 (obviously, I thought he’d be around longer). I didn’t think his performance was special—he gave a very karaoke version of “Hot Blooded”—but I really believed he would have stuck around longer as the ‘rocker,’ despite Randy and Simon grilling him for being unauthentic. In the end, perhaps he was unauthentic, as rumors began to swirl about whether or not he wore a wig.

And then there were 16. Surely there is a way we can speed this up. I don’t know, maybe the producers could eliminate contestants who threaten to tarnish the squeaky clean reputation of the show? I’m just saying. Until then, tune in tonight for the top 8 guys