Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Dharma Wants You!

You've probably seen the pictures or video of the Dharma Initiative Recruiting booth at Comic-Con. Well, now that they've gotten hundreds of volunteers from that show, they've opened it up the rest of us unfortunates who couldn't make it to San Diego. Go here to take a personality test and see if you might be recruited into the Dharma volunteer services. I passed, but I'm assuming everyone does. (Am I wrong?) We can all discuss our progress. Hmm... I might actually play along with the game this year! Thanks to Chris Temple for the link.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Some Notes from Comic-Con

Various blogs and news outlets have been posting information from Comic-Con, currently happening in San Diego (and I am NOT there... not fair). Today was the panel for Dollhouse, with Joss, Tahmoh Penikett, and Eliza Dushku. Here's a rundown of everything they talked about.
Dollhouse is influenced by A.I., The World Can Never Let Me Go, and Collateral because Whedon thinks it's a great L.A. movie. He says, "This will be feistier than I'm used to. I go a little Ang Lee, but the way I'm filming it, it will be more visceral, a frenetic ride. That part is challenging."

He revealed there will be webisodes, and they all talked about how filming has begun and what it's been like.

In other Buffyverse news, here is David Boreanaz talking to EW at Comic-Con. She asks him what the difference is between Bones fans and Buffy/Angel fans in Part 2.

For me, the panel that's killing me that I missed was the annual Darlton pow-wow, talking about the previous season of Lost and dropping tidbits about the upcoming one. E! has several videos you can watch where they discuss things like filming The Constant, the writer's strike, and whether they have a clue about where the show is going. My personal fave is this one, where they discuss the time travel issue. "We'll tell you yesterday."

In non-Comic-Con news, Robert on Jericho has been cast in the upcoming "Prisoner" remake.

And read an interview with Milo Ventimiglia and Hayden Panettiere (man, those are tough names to type) about the upcoming season of Heroes.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Will.i.am..... NOT

I didn't get a chance to blog on this yesterday, but I watched the results show of So You Think You Can Dance yesterday and my only reaction was... what the HUH?! A couple of weeks ago my friend Danielle was over and we were talking about the show, and I said it will come down to Will and Katee, and Will is going to win. Danielle thought maybe it would be Will and Chelsie, but she agreed Will is going to take it.

Not any more. When Cat said he was in the bottom two, I gasped. When he was up against Twitch I thought how can this be happening?? One of these two guys is going home? It was supposed to come down to these two guys in the second-to-last show. And then... Will went home. Will is stunning to watch, he's technically proficient, and he brings a lot of emotion to every piece. My first response was to agree with what Nigel said, that if America thought someone else was in trouble, they would throw their votes behind that person. Then I wondered if it was that IV Real thing that was getting to people -- I read a flamy thread on the Fox site a couple of weeks ago where someone argued the sign was racist because only the African-American contestants could pull it off without looking like idiots. (You can imagine the responses to that suggestion.) Will made the sign constantly, and it was annoying some viewers of the show (notice when he got voted off, he tapped Comfort on the shoulder and made the sign at her, and she complied with it back). That said, Twitch uses it a LOT more.

But signage aside, is it all a conspiracy theory? Do they REALLY want Debbie Allan as a guest judge and this is their way of getting her back? (As Will's mentor, she said she couldn't judge on the show as long as he's on it.) Toni Basil was pretty rockin', but if she'd said the word "street" one more time I was going to throw her on one so she could get run over. Think back to a few weeks ago, when the judges voted off Comfort, even though the resounding yell from the audience was, "BUT WE WANT JESSICA OFF!!!" It's like they came to their senses, offered her a mentorship with one of the judges who had told her she needs to realize just how good she is (they were wrong... she knew how good she was not, and no one should sway her from that realization), and a few key solos on the tour, and it was enough to make her walk out all happy and giggly and say, "Yeah, um, I broke my arm in practice, and... no, I mean ribs. Ribs? Yeah, ribs... they're fractured... broken? Fractured, yeah, so I'm out, and um, yeah, Comfort is taking my spot!" It just seemed a little too creepy and odd to me, especially when Comfort made it through another week.

Or maybe what it comes down to is, I really know absolutely nothing about dance, and was completely lured in and hypnotized by the judge's comments week after week. Maybe Will is technically proficient, but lacks the pizzazz of a more fun performer like Mark. That guy doesn't have much technique, but between his jittery solos and that open-mouthed Muppet grin he gives to the camera every week, I love him. Or Joshua, who is adorable, and seriously strong (Chelsie is small, but she's 100% muscle, which would be heavy), and has danced some wicked routines. That one Mia Michaels routine that he and Katee performed where she did the fast run across the stage with him holding her is my personal favourite of the season so far. Twitch is beloved by fans because of his quirky personality and his genuine love of dancing. And come on, those goofy glasses.

Are the judges heaping praise on Will because he studied under the great Debbie Allan, and not because he's any better than the rest of them? I will admit the special attention he got was a little irritating -- every time the guy did a solo Cat would walk up and fake genuflect in front of him, something she did with NO ONE else. When he was in the bottom Wednesday night, Cat looked at the judges and said, "Wow, what do you make of this?!" but she didn't ask that with any of the others, like they were all givens. They loved the James Brown routine, I thought it was silly. Sure, it was something no one else had done, but if you watch it again (I've watched it several times with my daughter) he comes out, walks along the side of the stage trying to build up the audience (the guy has 20 seconds, and he wastes 10 of them walking along the side of the stage) then he does this frantic jiggle with his arms and feet, and the only impressive dance move he did was dropping down into the splits, something the godfather of soul did all the time, and James Brown was not a dancer. Cat genuflected, the judges fell all over themselves in glee, and I thought, "Huh?" But it was the only misstep I'd detected in Will the entire time.

Maybe it's because he was paired with Jessica for so long (she of the grace of a Clydesdale) that his inadequacies were hidden under her vast ones.

But despite all of that, I'm still really shocked. I will miss Will a lot, but maybe it's like Tiger Woods being out of commission in golf: now it makes the show a lot more interesting, because it's anybody's game. Maybe Katee could actually take this, which would make the judge's waffling at the top 20 thing even funnier and more ridiculous than it was ("Oh, if you can't answer a tough question on the spot while you're a bundle of nerves, then maybe we'll take your less talented friend"). Or maybe Chelsie, so Nigel can make more of his patented pervy comments about her tiny dresses or awesome legs. Maybe Twitch or Joshua. And despite the fact they're not as technically proficient as the others, I think Courtney is adorable and amazing to watch -- she's my daughter's personal favourite -- and Mark is awesome.

What did you think? Were you surprised by America's decision? And while I'm discussing it, what did you think of a British guy imploring America to vote for their next president? I actually agree wholeheartedly with absolutely everything he said (and despite what Americans might think, the rest of the world really is begging you to go out and vote because your president affects ALL of us), but it seemed a little funny for him to be making this plea on a reality show. Ah well... if the younger voters will listen to Nigel over some politician, then more power to him.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Is Dr. Horrible About to Be Slayed??

My pal Malene just emailed this AWESOME tidbit to me... did any other eagle eyes notice the cameo of none other than Sarah Michelle Gellar in Dr. Horrible??? Oh yes, it would appear our Buffster donned a black wig and was sitting in the audience when Hammer was giving his speech. You can see screen caps of it here. I have no doubt that was her... what do you think?

Today's Smile + News

So yesterday I was out doing my big grocery shop with my son, and the usual grocery store music was piping through the system. It's always retro stuff from the 70s and 80s at this store, and I always find myself singing aloud to my son (when you're with a baby, you can get away with it). As I was entering the frozen foods aisle, the music playing was Carly Simon's "You're So Vain."

I pull my cart up next to a couple and their three boys. The boys looked like they were about 8, 11, and 14. The middle boy says to the other two, "Are you listening to this song?" They sort of grunt a yes, and the boy says, "Why would there be clowns in her coffee?"


I was watching my beloved Graham Norton this past week, and it had Orlando Bloom on it... I'm not one to drool over movie stars, but when it comes to this guy, you need to mop up the floor. So it was a good week to tune in. The show is probably two years out of date (how I wish BBC Canada could figure out a closer simulcast with BBC), but the jokes were still funny. My favourite was Graham showing a photo of Pete Doherty with a long cigarette hanging out of his mouth as he was leaning into the penguin exhibit at a zoo. The story accompanying the picture reported that when Pete had been smoking several cigarettes and he had flicked one into the penguin exhibit, and the penguin walked over and ate it. Graham said Pete's reply was, "No, I didn't. I only had one cigarette, and when it was finished I gave it to a short fat nun who smelled of fish."

I'm STILL laughing over that one.


And now for some TV news. Fans of Friday Night Lights might have heard that when our amazing, wonderful, awesome show returns this fall (if you are not watching... FOR SHAME), Jason and Smash will no longer be regulars. Because of the move to DirectTV, the show's budget has been reduced, and since both of these were no longer on the Dillon Panthers as of the following season, it made sense to cut them. Instead they're going to wrap up their storylines in the first couple of episodes and then they'll be gone, with occasional recurring parts. Wah. I can understand the resolution of Jason's character -- it felt like his might have been the one story to have resolved itself at the end. But Smash? The guy's facing a court case, and we last left him weeping in the locker room as he's been kicked off the Panthers. I hate that they're going to rush his story to meet their budget.

Sigh. Oh well... if it means I still get to see Riggins, Coach, and Tami, I'll live with it.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

HBO's Generation Kill

It's been only a few months since the end of The Wire (sniffle) but already, creators David Simon and Edward Burns are back with another hard-hitting show about a difficult American issue. This time they've moved from the war zone of the streets of West Baltimore to the desert sands of Iraq.

Generation Kill is based on writer Evan Wright's book of the same name. He was a writer for Rolling Stone magazine who was sent to Iraq to shadow Marine troops as an embedded reporter as they attacked Iraq, and his resulting articles won a National Magazine Award before being compiled into a book. Wright is played here by Lee Tergesen (who will always be Beecher on Oz to me) and through him we see just how crazy the whole thing is.

The Marines are an impressive group of men, who have a frightening job to do. But they're also a lot of ego and bluster, probably a lot of it turned up simply because there's a reporter in their midst. Some Marines are racist, referring to the Iraqi people as "filthy hajis," while others have a reluctant respect for the Iraqi people, and a knowledge of the country and its history. Some are homophobic, complaining about the presence of gay men in the unit, while others are accepting, constantly kidding "Fruity Rudy," a man in the unit who might be gay, might just be a metrosexual, who is actually played by himself, Rudy Reyes. In many ways, the Marines represent Republicans themselves. They generally support the war, even if they're not quite sure what it's about, and even if they respect the Iraqi people, they're not going to be standing on street corners any time soon pronouncing their support of them.

While their comments to Rudy are more joking, their comments about the Iraqi people are not. They talk about them like they're dogs or enemies in a video game. They wave at them as they roll by in their tanks, then joke about how they could have had a clean shot and besides, who is still wearing pajamas at noon? In one scene at the beginning they read aloud from letters sent from schoolchildren thanking them for fighting for them and hoping the war is over before they have to fight. The Marines mock the letters mercilessly, saying OF COURSE they want to be able to kill some Iraqis before they go home, or else why would they be there? And then they chuck the letters, upset they hadn't gotten some issues of Hustler instead. (When the Rolling Stone reporter shows up, they deride him for working for such a liberal magazine, until they find out he used to write a column for Hustler... then he becomes their hero.)

Is it all bravado? It's not clear. But what is clear is that the government has sent these men into battle with the very basic equipment, and even that doesn't work. They've been equipped with night vision goggles, but they haven't been given any batteries to make them work. Their intel is spotty; the raspy commander, who they all call The Godfather (he has throat cancer) says that he's getting his information from the BBC because the American media isn't available to them. (In more ways than one... a rash of disbelief and horror swarms through the camp when one Marine says he heard J.Lo is dead, and the Marines begin asking questions of everyone coming in, trying to find one person who can confirm or deny this alleged report.) They complain about the vehicles. In a sandstorm, the tent falls apart and the Marines rush outside to put up the tentpoles again.

I'm not connected to the characters yet -- this is a 6-part miniseries, and it will probably take a couple of episodes for that to happen -- but so far I think it's up to the high standards of The Wire. These guys are alternately likable and despicable. They agree with the war, and disagree with it at the same time. In a scene that felt plucked right out of the wire, two soldiers talk about the ruins of tanks in the desert from wars gone by, with one complaining that they haven't bothered to clean up the mess from Desert Storm yet. They discuss the ancient history of the country, and how it's filled with war and bloodshed. And then one turns to the other and says, "White man's gotta rule the world, right?" The irony? He's not white.

The Marines need to separate themselves from the "enemy" by making them less-than-human; otherwise, how can they shoot them? But when they are unexpectedly faced with a group of Iraqi men who have been walking along the railroad tracks for days, feet bloody and bruised, so they could surrender themselves to the troops, they see the reality of war when the message comes back from the higher-ups to let them go. The Marines look around in disbelief. One begins quoting from the Geneva Convention, that they must accept someone who has surrendered and protect them, but all they get is a shrug and a repeated call to follow the orders, and "unsurrender" them. Shocked and angry, the Marines force the Iraqi men to turn around and walk back to where they came from. It's then that they begin to question what exactly they are doing here.

Generation Kill airs on HBO in the U.S. and The Movie Network in Canada at 9 p.m. on Sunday nights, with repeats throughout the week.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Dr. Horrible: Act Three

Genius has a name... and that name, besides genius, is Joss Whedon.

Act III takes the elements we've been building up to and puts it all together. I stand by my earlier criticism of Act II (if you're not completely sold on Penny -- not Patty, as I'd mistakenly called her -- then an act that mostly consists of listening to her sing isn't going to work for you... that said, as I said on Thursday, there was still so much to love) but this act was hilarious, sad, and jarring.

I loved the opening. Nathan Fillion is SO funny on screen, there were a million lines I loved. I particularly enjoyed the fact that after he's frozen near the end of his song, and then unfrozen, the first thing he does is sing the final note. It's like the underrated Coen Brothers movie, The Man Who Wasn't There, where Billy Bob Thornton is sitting on the edge of a bed telling a story at one point in the film, then he gets up before finishing, leaves the house, about 20 minutes of drama ensues (I won't reveal what), he returns home, and sits down on the edge of the bed and picks up the story exactly where he left off. It's one of my all-time favourite moments in a Coen Brothers film.

I also cheered when I saw former Buffy writer/exec producers David Fury and Marti Noxon as the news anchors (you'll remember them as the Mustard Man and the Parking Ticket Lady in OMWF). "It's a good day to be homeless."

But just when this was shaping up to be the funniest installment, Joss has to insert his trademark PAIN. Neil Patrick Harris shows up and it has all the makings of a great funny ender (complete with him stopping his evil rampage to spell his name to a journalist) and then pow, the tables are turned, and Penny ends up dead. Gah!

Now, for all my "meh" about Penny, the reason she's important in this scene is simply because she's important to Billy (and a pawn to Hammer). He wanted to become an evil villain, but he wanted to win her heart even more. Now she's unwittingly helped him accomplish the thing he wanted. The show seemed to jolt here, and where I was thinking, "How will they bring back the funny??" right after, by the time it ended I knew that the main point of the show is that Dr. Horrible will become more evil because of Penny's death. Before, he was pretty close to harmless, but now he will join the League of Evil to take down Captain Hammer and his cohorts, because of what he's perceived Hammer has done to him.

I noticed from the credits that in the League of evil, Doug Petrie (Buffy writer) was at the table as the guy in the weird glasses, Drew Goddard (oh, Drew... my heart flutters), a.k.a. writer on Lost, Buffy, Cloverfield, etc. etc. was the Thomas Jefferson, and Jed Whedon was the Bowie character (which seemed odd... I paused that scene and he has very feminine features if that is, indeed, him. But then again, so does Our Man Bowie).

By the way, how much do I love that the League of Evil contains villains dressed as Jefferson and Bowie???

Would the accidental death of one woman really lead the world to believe he's the most evil villain alive? Of course not, but this is more of a magic realist take on things -- the world appears to be ours, but it has its differences, so let's suspend our disbelief on that one and just assume that the death of Penny makes the world quake with fear.

I really enjoyed Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. Is it groundbreaking? No. Did it tell a story that no one has ever told? Nah. Is it the best thing Joss has ever done? Of course not. But it certainly told it in a new and unique way, and if it's successful, it could pave the way for more TV shows on the Net. I loved the music, the dialogue, and those three cowboys singing the telegrams of Bad Horse will always make me chuckle.

Dr. Horrible is the perfect break to a summer of television monotony. Bring on the sequel!!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Emmys... PFFFT!!!!

I blogged on my excitement over the Emmy long list a couple of weeks ago here, and said I was glad to see The Wire and Friday Night Lights getting some attention. Well... forget I said that. For, The Wire -- a.k.a. THE BEST SHOW ON TELEVISION EVER -- was shut out. SHUT OUT. Completely. Yet Boston Legal (and yeah, I know you love it, redeem...) gets YET another nod.


And Kyle Chandler? Nope. Gone. Best frustration face on TV, but hey, who needs frustration face when you can ham it up with William Shatner, hey? Right? Am I right.


Connie Britton didn't even make the long list (ARRRGH!)

But let's look at the good... um...

Okay, wait, there's Gabriel Byrne for In Treatment. Duh. And Glenn Close for Damages. Double duh. And YAY! Michael Emerson's in for Lost. He had BETTER win. And now that The Wire isn't in Best Drama, I can wholeheartedly root for Lost. (COME ON LOST!)

But The Wire... I just can't believe it. And I'm thrilled to see Kristin Chenoweth in there for Pushing Daisies, but no Chi McBride?

You know... I don't want to say the Emmys are racist, but [*cough*] The Wire is about the inner-city drug trade in Baltimore, and has a predominantly African-American cast. Chi McBride is the life of Pushing Daisies, along with Chenoweth (and the two sisters, let's be honest) and he doesn't even get considered. Naveen Andrews was pretty stunning this year, and made the long list, but that's as far as he's going to get. And 30 Rock has every nomination it could possibly get (check out the guest actor and actress in a comedy category!) but no Tracy Jordan? Uh... I guess they throw a little sumthin' over to Raisin in the Sun and all is right with the world.

Anyway, enough of that. Here are all the categories. With a big WHATever from me.


Curb Your Enthusiasm
The Office
30 Rock
Two and a Half Men

Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock
Steve Carell, The Office
Lee Pace, Pushing Daisies
Tony Shalhoub, Monk
Charlie Sheen, Two and a Half Men

Christina Applegate, Samantha Who?
America Ferrera, Ugly Betty
Tina Fey, 30 Rock
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, The New Adventures of Old Christine
Mary-Louise Parker, Weeds

Jon Cryer, Two and a Half Men
Kevin Dillon, Entourage
Neil Patrick Harris, How I Met Your Mother
Jeremy Piven, Entourage
Rainn Wilson, The Office

Kristin Chenoweth, Pushing Daisies
Amy Poehler, Saturday Night Live
Jean Smart, Samantha Who?
Holland Taylor, Two and a Half Men
Vanessa Williams, Ugly Betty

Will Arnett, 30 Rock
Shelley Berman, Curb Your Enthusiasm
Steve Buscemi, 30 Rock
Tim Conway, 30 Rock
Rip Torn, 30 Rock

Polly Bergen, Desperate Housewives
Edie Falco, 30 Rock
Carrie Fisher, 30 Rock
Kathryn Joosten, Desperate Housewives
Sarah Silverman, Monk
Elaine Stritch, 30 Rock


Boston Legal
Mad Men

Gabriel Byrne, In Treatment
Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad
Michael C. Hall, Dexter
Jon Hamm, Mad Men
Hugh Laurie, House
James Spader, Boston Legal

Glenn Close, Damages
Sally Field, Brothers & Sisters
Mariska Hargitay, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
Holly Hunter, Saving Grace
Kyra Sedgwick, The Closer

Ted Danson, Damages
Michael Emerson, Lost
Zeljko Ivanek, Damages
William Shatner, Boston Legal
John Slattery, Mad Men

Candice Bergen, Boston Legal
Rachel Griffiths, Brothers & Sisters
Sandra Oh, Grey's Anatomy
Dianne Wiest, In Treatment
Chandra Wilson, Grey's Anatomy

Charles Durning, Rescue Me
Robert Morse, Mad Men
Oliver Platt, Nip/Tuck
Stanley Tucci, ER
Glynn Turman, In Treatment
Robin Williams, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

Ellen Burstyn, Big Love
Diahann Carroll, Grey's Anatomy
Sharon Gless, Nip/Tuck
Anjelica Huston, Medium
Cynthia Nixon, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit


The Amazing Race
American Idol
Dancing With The Stars
Project Runway
Top Chef

Tom Bergeron, Dancing With the Stars
Heidi Klum, Project Runway
Howie Mandel, Deal or No Deal
Jeff Probst, Survivor
Ryan Seacrest, American Idol

Antiques Roadshow
Dirty Jobs
Extreme Makeover
Kathy Griffin: My Life On The D-List


The Colbert Report
The Daily Show With Jon Stewart
Late Show With David Letterman
Real Time With Bill Maher
Saturday Night Live

Bill Maher: The Decider
George Carlin: It’s Bad For Ya!
James Taylor: One Man Band
Kathy Griffin: Straight To Hell
The Kennedy Center Honors
Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project


The Andromeda Strain
John Adams
Tin Man

Bernard and Doris
Extras: The Extra Special Series Finale
The Memory Keeper’s Daughter
A Raisin In The Sun

Ralph Fiennes, Bernard And Doris
Ricky Gervais, Extras
Paul Giamatti, John Adams
Kevin Spacey, Recount
Tom Wilkinson, Recount

Judi Dench, Cranford
Catherine Keener, An American Crime
Laura Linney, John Adams
Phylicia Rashad, A Raisin in the Sun
Susan Sarandon, Bernard And Doris

Bob Balaban, Recount
Stephen Dillane, John Adams
Denis Leary, Recount
David Morse, John Adams
Tom Wilkinson, John Adams

Eileen Atkins, Cranford
Laura Dern, Recount
Ashley Jensen, Extras: The Extra Special Series Finale
Audra McDonald, A Raisin in the Sun
Alfre Woodard, Pictures Of Hollis Woods

Dr. Horrible: Act Two

Sorry I didn't post on this earlier. My friend Sue's been over for a few days, and we watched Act Two this morning, but then I haven't had a chance to post.

I think I liked the first 15 minutes more than the second, but then again, if this were one episode (and 42 minutes would equal one television episode) then I'd be thinking of it as one whole and not three parts of a whole. Usually the middle part is the exposition, with the opening and ending being the biggest parts.

Maybe it's Nathan Fillion. I think he's a god, and he's only in the beginning of this part (hilariously, but not speaking) and then at the end, where he's a RIOT. I think Harris is inspired as well, but I'm not sold on Felicia Day yet. The songs are great, but she whispers through every song and I just don't feel anything for her.

Perhaps it's because, if you really want to break it down and look at it analytically, the show is turning on its head the idea of good and evil: Captain Hammer fancies himself as good, but he's a wanker. Dr. Horrible believes he's evil, but he has a soft spot for Patty, kids in a park, and pretty much anyone in peril. Hammer stands tall, never removes his uniform (not even his giant black gloves), and is full of ego. Horrible is vulnerable, has facial ticks (watch whenever he has a pang of regret for something -- usually Patty related -- and he closes his eyes tight, very quickly), and is uncomfortable with who he is.

Enter Patty. She volunteers at a homeless shelter, and therefore is a good person. So I can't really latch onto her very much, because I have no reason to like her, other than the fact I'm expected to like her.

All of this is to say that the second act didn't work as much for me as the first, simply because it was more about Patty than anything else. But still, it had its awesome moments:

-the musical counterpoint between Horrible and Patty at the beginning (Joss loves to have two people singing different things at the same time, like Giles and Tara in OMWF)

-Hammer wiping his shoulder after the homeless person touches it

-The conversation between Horrible and Patty at the laundromat

-Patty: He's a really good-looking guy and I thought he was kinda cheesy at first...
Horrible: Trust your instincts.

-"I need to be a little more careful about what I say on this blog..."

-Moist attempting in vain to open a jar (anyone else thinking they'd have loved to have seen him as part of the Troika?)

-Horrible: I want to be an achiever... like Bad Horse.
Patty: The thoroughbred of sin?!
Horrible: I meant... Gandhi.

-"Oh! Goodness! Look at my wrist, gotta go!"

-Hammer: Wait, I don't go to the gym... I just NATURALLY look like this!

-Hammer threatening Horrible in metaphor

And the best one: "The hammer is my penis."

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Dr. Horrible: Act One

I've just watched it once so far, so here are my first impressions. It's okay, I guess... I mean, I was looking for oh who am I kidding I LOVED IT!!! I was laughing right at the beginning, thinking Neil Patrick Harris is a comic genius, thinking I should probably listen to all of you who have been imploring me to watch How I Met Your Mother, thinking Doogie has grown up to be pretty frakkin' hilarious. His blog at the beginning was a riot, his mumbling stuttering at the laundromat was great, and his awkwardness in the face of being addressed by his love interest in the middle of doing "evil" was hilarious. But just when I thought he was totally stealing the show... along comes Nathan Fillion. I nearly spit out my morning tea I was laughing so hard.

I thought it was typical Joss -- the priceless lines, our expectations built up to think one thing is going to happen but another does instead, the language. I'd be interested in seeing a breakdown of what the other writers actually brought to the table, but then again, maybe perfect wackiness simply runs in the Whedon blood.

Fave moments:
"Smells like . . . cumin."
The names of the people writing the emails (my fave was Dead, Not Sleeping... do you think that's a play on Stevie Smith's Not Waving But Drowning?)
The letter from Bad Horse (clearly a play on Dark Horse) and the men who suddenly jump into the frame to sing it... HA!!!
The words "Horrible Van Remote" on his ... van remote.
"Wonderflonium: Do Not Bounce."

Again, Joss is exploring in a hilarious and tongue-in-cheek way the inherent flaws of superheroes. Dr. Horrible would love to think he's an evil genius, but when faced with a challenge from his non-nemesis, his immediate reply is "There are KIDS playing in that park!" like he couldn't bear for them to get hurt. The names of the other superheroes within his pack are all posture (Conflict Diamond!! LOL!!!!) but probably no show. When Moist shows up and begs him to bring him along, in case anything might need to be dampened, it reminded me of the book Third Class Superhero (I reviewed it here), which is about a wannabe superhero, Moisture Man, who can gather the moisture from the atmosphere and drop it on the heads of the baddies. He's been applying for superheroship from the League for years and keeps getting turned down... hmm... I wonder if Joss read that book? But similar to that story, we explore what would happen if someone had powers out of the ordinary, but they just weren't enough to write home about. (Kinda like the girl who can double-dutch her way to safety on Heroes.) And just as the bad guys in Dr. Horrible have a kind streak, Captain Hammer is not as good as he'd like us to think, throwing people in the garbage and thinking highly of himself. "Captain Hammer's here, hair blowing in the breeze; the day needs my saving expertise!"

For all of you who roll your eyes at my devout loyalty to Joss Whedon because you've only see a few Buffy eps and didn't think much of them, watch this show and maybe you'll come around and see just why we genuflect at the altar of Joss.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Notes on a Sombre Monday

Something sad, something infuriating, and something funny today.

Today I attended the funeral of a young woman who died of breast cancer. She was 32. Her sister and brother-in-law are two of my dearest friends, and as I sat there in the church watching the family, I was overcome by sadness, wondering how a person can go on after that. How do you bury your child? Your sister and best friend? The mind boggles. It was the saddest funeral I've ever been to, and I'm counting the funerals of my own family in that. It was just so hard. She was beautiful, vivacious, smart, hilarious, and full of life. You always hear people saying things like that when someone dies, but in her case, it was absolutely true. I felt like an anvil was sitting on my chest the entire time, and it's still there. Her family is so strong and amazing, I just know I wouldn't have that kind of strength.

And now for the infuriating. In my daze of sadness, I thought I had a massage appointment booked today, and showed up to it. As I sat there waiting and waiting, it suddenly occurred to me that I'd actually been there recently, so maybe I was wrong on the date? Turns out... I was wrong on the date. (Which sucks... you know when you've been crying and trying not to cry and you get that lump in your throat that eventually makes your head throb? I had that... times 10.) So back outside I go to my car, and as I head up the hill, I can see a yellow ticket on my windshield. I was phoning my husband at the time to tell him that I had effed up and would be home earlier than I thought, and I said, "There's a ticket on my windshield! How is that possible?! I've only been here 5 minutes!" Now, this is in the Beach in Toronto. The parking cops in the Beach in Toronto are notorious for their cruelty. A couple of years ago there was a rash of complaints after cops were putting tickets on cars, and the people would come running out and say, "Hey, what are you doing, I have 5 more minutes on that ticket!" and the cop would say, "Not according to my watch." and walk away.


If you pay for 20 minutes, you've paid for 20 minutes, not what the dude has on his watch. But it was department policy. It took a lot of vocal people and a councillor or two to finally get the cops to back down on that. So today, I'm rushing to my car to try to figure out why the heck I could possibly have a ticket, and lo and behold... I DON'T.

The ticket was for another car. I said to my husband, still on the phone, "Uh... it's not for my car." He said, "Ah, the old 'put it on someone else's car' bait and switch." WHAT?! I'd never heard of this. He says people do it all the time -- you get a ticket, stick it on someone else's windshield, and hope they don't notice it's not theirs and they pay it. If they don't, at least you tried. [He hasn't tried it, by the way.] I'd NEVER heard of this before, has anyone out there heard of it? Regardless, it's what someone tried on me.

So if you're out there, Volkswagen driver with the license plate DDY785, I'm not paying your bloody ticket. Just because you parked in a school parking zone about 30 metres down the street from where I was parked doesn't mean you can just pass it off to me. And considering it was a one-way street the opposite direction of my car, you had to WALK up the street to tuck it on my windshield, not just drive by and pop it on there. Nice try.

And now for the funny (finally). I needed this today. My publisher sent me the following email, because he thought I'd get a laugh out of it (I did):

Dear Sir--

Recently I purchased your book "Lucy Lawless and Renee O'Connor, Warrior Stars of Xena"
It was purported to be a complete coverage of the series and their comments, etc.
What I found was that the coverage of the series was very incomplete, lacking much of the last years.
If you cannot provide the proper coverage for a book, you should remove it from the market.
Paul F. S******. Contractor
Captain, USPHS Regular Corps, Ret.

Ha! SO awesome. This is my first book, published in April 1998. At the time, it was the complete episode guide to Xena, but then, you know, a few more seasons happened? The book sold out pretty fast, we never reprinted, it was never updated for some reason, and it just went out of print. So the guy must have bought it from ABE or a used bookstore or some other second-hand dealer, because you can't buy it new anymore. Then he emails the publisher to basically say we should be scouring used bookstores and taking it out of circulation completely so that morons like him, who don't know how to open up the book and see that it ends with The Bitter Suite and NOT A Friend in Need.

While he's at it, he should also email Penguin regarding their edition of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and tell them that since the English language has been updated, they should be updating their book to reflect that.

I bet he drives a Volkswagen, license plate DDY785. ;)

Dr. Horrible Starts Tomorrow!!

It's almost here, folks! Joss Whedon's new online extravaganza, Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, which begins tomorrow with its first installment. You can watch it here when it starts.

In the meantime, if you're so excited you're ready to post your YouTube response videos before even seeing the original, you can keep yourself busy reading a couple of recent interviews with the JossMan himself:

The Dreamwatch interview

The Gawker interview

Oh, and this has nothing to do with Dr. Horrible, but check out James Marsters kinda dissing The Potentials. Ha!

See y'all back here tomorrow where we can begin discussing the future of online musicals...

Friday, July 11, 2008

Stuff for a Friday

So many things I've been meaning to blog about... so little time.

First, big news for Whedon (and the lovely Drew Goddard) fans: NEW MOVIE! This news item just appeared on SciFi Wire (thanks to David Lavery for the article):

MGM OKs Whedon's Cabin
MGM, under the direction of worldwide motion picture group chairman Mary Parent, gave a green light to a spec script from SF mavericks Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard called The Cabin in the Woods, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Goddard (Cloverfield) will make the film his directorial debut; Goddard's Buffy the Vampire Slayer mentor Whedon will produce.

Parent is also pushing forward MGM's remake of the 1980s apocalyptic movie Red Dawn, and the studio has hired screenwriter Carl Ellsworth to recraft the story. Dan Bradley, a second unit director and stunt coordinator on The Bourne Ultimatum, Spider-Man 3 and the forthcoming Quantum of Solace, will move into the director's chair.

The original Red Dawn was the Cold War brainchild of writer-director John Milius, who devised a World War III invasion of America by the Soviets and Cubans.

Parent, former vice chairman of Universal Pictures, previously worked with Whedon on Serenity, the SF movie based on his failed Fox TV series Firefly. Parent is also the producer on Goners, a secret Whedon script that Universal bought in 2005. (Universal is owned by NBC Universal, which also owns SCIFI.COM.)


I was in Subway the other day (when my fridge was on the blink), grabbing a sandwich for lunch, and I saw a sign for their new lobster sub. It was $8.49 for a 6-inch, and $16.89 for a foot-long. If you wanted a combo, it would run you about $20. I'm standing there thinking, who the hell would drop 20 bucks at a Subway for a lobster sandwich, when they could go to a sit-down restaurant and pay a few more dollars for an actual lobster that hasn't been sitting in an aluminum dish all day long... and then the guy in front of me said "Yeah, I'll have the 6-inch lobster." I ordered. Woman behind me says, "Can I have the foot-long lobster combo and a foot-long roast beef?"

I guess I was wrong.


Hell's Kitchen is over, and it wasn't the overblown nightmare it usually is, and even though I'd called Christina on Week One (that's the problem with this show... every year I've called the winner in the first week because it's so obvious, and I wonder if the rest are just actors), in the final moments before they were about to open the door I decided I really wanted Petrozza, because she's so young she'll have many more shots at it, and this might be his last kick at the can. But Ramsay made a good point by saying that he's investing in the future of this person, and he has a long one in Christina. That said, the show was kinda boring this season. Matty and Jen were interesting to an extent because they were so annoying, but the annoying factor outshone the interesting one.


I've really wanted to mention this, but I'm begging readers not to use this post as an excuse to spout their own beliefs on the issue... so here goes. I'm sure many of you have heard that the Order of Canada is about to be bestowed upon Dr. Henry Morgentaler. For the non-Canadians, Morgentaler is a pioneer in changing abortion laws in Canada to make it legal, and he opened clinics when it was illegal to give women safer abortions. He's had jail time, he's had one clinic blown up by anti-abortion activists, and he's come under fire for the number of abortions he's done, with some criticisms that he's performing them no matter what the trimester. As you can imagine, the country is pretty divided on this appointment.

But that's not what this post is about. Because my husband is a journalist, we get the National Post and the Globe and Mail (the two national newspapers in Canada). I knew before opening the papers which paper would be on which side, but I was pleasantly surprised to read the editorials that day and see that while the Post was arguing Morgentaler shouldn't get it, and the Globe was saying he should, they both wrote fair and balanced editorials. I was half-expecting, "He's a BABY KILLER!" "No, he's a WOMAN FREER!" (those comments were on the letters to the editor pages), but instead, the Globe pointed out the controversy with this appointment, acknowledged that it's a difficult issue and it's too bad it would divide people, but then said he deserves it anyway, because the Order of Canada is not a popularity contest, it's about achievements. The Post acknowledged that because of Morgentaler, women aren't subjected to hack jobs in back alleys, and he's pushed things forward tremendously, but they also said the Order of Canada is representative of the Canadian people, and for that reason, he shouldn't get it if so many people disagree with it.

I was very pleasantly surprised to see good, fair editorializing on both sides. I still maintained my beliefs on the issue and wasn't swayed by what I read, but it was still good to see calm, honest writing, and not angry, opinionated material. Despite what my husband does, I'm a little skeptical when it comes to the editorial side of the media, and usually, they disappoint me. But in this case, they didn't.


I wrote about The Prisoner in my most recent Finding Lost book. There's a new version of the show in the works now, starring Jim Cavaziel as Number Six (a.k.a. The Man Who Believes He Was Born To Play Jesus Christ) and Ian McKellan as Number Two. I can't WAIT. It'll be a six-part miniseries on AMC.


It's been 20 years?! I feel old. I can't wait to see this.


For everyone who thought Deadwood ended with a whimper and were praying the promised television movie would provide that bang, HBO has announced that plans for that movie are pretty much dead. Motherlovin' conksmokers.


But good news: the brilliant David Simon, creator of The Wire, has had his new pilot, "Treme," greenlit by HBO. From Zap2It:

"Treme" is named for a New Orleans neighborhood that's home to a number of musicians. It will chronicle the lives of performers who live there as well as the city's struggles to rebuild itself following Hurricane Katrina. Simon penned the pilot script with Eric Overmyer, who counts episodes of "The Wire" and "Law & Order" among his writing credits.


And finally, a sad goodbye and rest in peace to Faye. May your spirit continue to shine the way it did in life.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Does Television Belong in Academia?

I remember in the weeks leading up to the Slayage conference, seeing several articles about the impending academic conference on Buffy. But one in particular stuck out -- not for the article itself, but for the comment that followed it. It was an AOL story talking about some of the papers and what the weekend would be about. And one reader posted below (in typical online grammatically incorrect fashion): "You have got to be kidding me. This is a bad joke and i fell for it, .............right? The state of academic affairs in in big trouble if this is for real."

Suddenly the joy I felt in reading about the conference was completely deflated, I was a little angry. Why would this guy, whose screenname is "lawnsouth," assume I'm not mature and sophisticated just because I'm interested in Buffy studies?

Stupid-ass buttmunch.

He's not alone, however. A follow-up comment agreed with him, joking that it was a bird course and maybe the justification is it was better than skipping class to go golfing. The organizer of this year's conference, Kevin Durand, a philosophy professor at Henderson State, was saying on his blog that he received a stern phone call from the PR peeps at the college asking if taxpayer dollars had been going to the conference, because some paper in Tennessee wanted to know. He explained not one cent went to it.

But why not? If it had been a conference on Chaucer, no one would have blinked an eye if taxpayer dollars had gone to it. Some taxpayers might have rolled their eyes at a conference on Ibsen, but they wouldn't argue about it. If their child was heading off to give a paper at a conference on Shakespeare, they would be crowing about it with pride. But a conference on South Park? They'd probably say he was going camping that weekend.

In his time, Shakespeare was regarded as popular culture. The masses of the great unwashed would tromp over to the Globe Theatre to watch the plays and then tromp back home. An afternoon watching King Lear was regarded as no different from now going to a matinee of Die Hard (though Die Hard probably has less gore). If someone had tried organizing an academic conference on Shakespeare in 1650, the scholar would have been laughed out of the academy. "How now, you uncouth man!" they would have cried. "Dost thou not know that literature is for women? Now step aside... I'm off to a medical conference where we shall discuss the best ways of drilling holes in skulls to alleviate headaches and the proper placement of leeches to cure the common cold."

Everyone hopes their child will grow up to be a doctor: no one wants their child to grow up to be a scholar of [ack!]... television. Television is the lowest form of art, is it not? To the point where I should be thinking twice about calling it art. Anyone can watch television. It's the sort of thing you can have blaring in the background while washing your dishes and only half pay attention to it, and that's enough. It's the boob tube. The idiot box. It's the thing that any decent mother would never turn on around her kids, for fear they'll all grow up to be drooling, ADD-ridden kids with hyperactive disorder on Ritalin. How many times have we heard some pompous snob say, "Oh, pooh pooh, I don't even OWN a television."

Wow, I think every time I hear that. You must be SO out of touch.

For everyone who thinks television is not a viable art form to be studied, or that it's not a form of art at all, or that it's something you should brag about not owning, I simply say: you are watching the wrong shows.

Television, unlike film these days, is only getting better. There have always been great television shows -- All in the Family, M*A*S*H, Roseanne, WKRP in Cincinnati -- but with the advent of HBO and networks taking bigger risks, television today has reached new levels of excellence. I remember reading a piece a few years ago by Toronto Star film (and now book) review editor Geoff Pevere, in which he boasted that as a film critic, he has chosen the superior visual art form, and doesn't own a television. He bragged about having only seen a couple of Seinfelds, no Friends, and had no interest in The Sopranos.

To which I respond, Really? So did you go and watch Blade and write a review about how the idea of a vampire slayer was unique and amazing and too bad they don't have anything like this on television? How do you review a mafia film without knowing if David Chase already covered the same territory on The Sopranos? Or how do you laugh at any pop culture joke in any comedy film, not knowing if The Simpsons had mined the same laughs three years earlier?

These sorts of comments drive me mad. Take a look at The Wire (please!) This incredible show lasted five seasons, and was a neat, tight, series that explored the various angles of the drug trade, how far-reaching it was, and how many different levels of society have their fingers in the pot. In 64 hours, they were able to tell a story that had fascinating characters that we truly cared about, stunning lines that even Shakespeare couldn't have written (sorry, Will), acting that outshone anything I've seen in a movie theatre lately, and told a truly remarkable story.

When's the last time you saw a movie that did all that? Or, for that matter, read a book that did that?

Don't get me wrong: the best vacation I ever had was about 6 years ago, when the office shut down for 2 weeks and I sat in a big comfy chair and read about 10 books. When I think of my dream day, it usually involves being flopped out on a couch and reading a book in total silence.

But what I'm saying is that television has come a long way. Television boasts writers like Joss Whedon, David Chase, Alan Ball, and Aaron Sorkin. It can do the big sweeping moments (Sorkin), it can pull us into a family and make us believe they are real (Ball), and it can raise writing on television to an art form that rivals anything in book form or in any screenplay (Whedon and Chase).

Take Lost. Lost is a show with so many layers it has fans rushing to their encyclopedias, bibles, wikipedia, and ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic textbooks. We've had to bone up on our literature, philosophy, physics (ugh), religion... you know what they say about how you might use 10% of what you learned in school? Lost forces you to come up with the other 90. Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse pay attention to audience reaction, and occasionally (*cough* Nikki and Paulo *cough*) they listen to the viewers and adjust the storytelling accordingly. How is that any different from the way Dickens would release chapters of his books in serialized installments, and alter the plots according to the audience reactions? Dickens' stories were once in magazines, and if at the time you had told the Victorian audience reading them that someday someone would be studying his work at a university, they would STILL be laughing at you.

Epic storytelling, deep characters, rich plots . . . television is the new domain for all of it. Sitting at the Buffy academic conference and listening to people pulling out the themes of the show, dissecting specific episodes, or comparing Buffy as a text to other texts, it seemed like a perfectly normal thing.

Now... if there were an academic conference on According to Jim, I would take pause. I'm not saying ALL television should be the subject of scholarly attentions, but I wouldn't say the same about books or film, either. Should there be university courses on Virginia Woolf? Obviously. (I took one, and I loved it.) Vertigo? Of course. Buffy the Vampire Slayer? ABSOLUTELY! How about courses on Sidney Sheldon, National Lampoon's Road Trip, and the CW's Girlfriends? Uh...

It's time television be treated just like any other art form. There are those shows that deserve to be placed beside Dickens and Eliot and the Brontes as something worth studying. Why is it considered okay to read Mill on the Floss as a Shakespearean tragedy, or look at the use of symbolism in the films of Hitchcock, but the moment one does a paper on looking at the predominance of the Orpheus myth in Buffy, they're met with snickers and disdain from the rest of the academic establishment. It wasn't so long ago that film scholars were the subject of that same disdain (or, as Matthew Pateman pointed out in his keynote at the Buffy conference, that English scholars were the butt of the Greek scholars' jokes).

I wasn't one of the scholars delivering an academic paper at the Whedonverse conference, but I know the feeling. I've been writing companion guides to television shows for a decade now, and I've often been made to feel like what I do is no different than writing TV Guide synopses for the local newspaper. The amount of research that goes into one of my books is enormous -- I'm constantly looking up all sorts of references, be they Greek myths or literary or philosophical or Wiccan, depending on the series. I don't write plot summaries. I watch the episode, find a theme running throughout it, and then write an analytical guide to that episode that explores that theme and how the writers had examined it through the characters. My books require more accuracy than some textbooks, because if I get a single fact wrong, I will have many people emailing me to nitpick and complain. And yet, whenever anyone asks me what sort of books I write, there's always that millisecond in my head where I think, "Should I lie? Tell them I write novels?" Because it would seem if I said I wrote a novel that had sold 12 copies, I'd be viewed with far more esteem than if I wrote television companion guides that have collectively sold over 100,000 copies. It's a very rare moment where I tell someone what I do and they say, "WHAT?! Oh my GOD, that's AMAZING!" Very, very rare indeed. Usually it's, "What do you mean, television books? What exactly do you have to write about television?" And then we're back to that mindset that writing about television is about as scholarly as writing a news story about the results of the euchre game that happened this past Sunday at the local church gathering. Despite being proud of what I've done, I still have a few family members who ask me when I'll get around to writing a "real" book (and by "real," they mean fiction, no doubt).

So, I wasn't delivering a paper, but I've been in the classrooms, I've known the academics (many friends of mine went on to become professors, and most of them use television in the classroom quite successfully), and I know what it's like to have someone look at you strangely because you take your television FAR too seriously.

But that's okay. Some day it will change. "lawnsouth" can continue to complain that the academic community is going down the crapper while he stuffs his face with Cheetos and watches his football game. (Oh, I'm sorry, did I totally misidentify who he is? Hmm... well, now I guess he knows what it feels like.)

But for the rest of us who are watching The Wire, Buffy, Mad Men, Damages, Lost, Pushing Daisies, Heroes, Six Feet Under, Angel, Battlestar Galactica, Carnivale, The Office, Arrested Development, Firefly, 30 Rock, Chuck, Dexter, Flight of the Conchords, and, yes, Gossip Girl -- and writing about them -- we know that lawnsouth is the mental midget. Not us.

Long live television academia!

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Friday, July 04, 2008

Slayage Conference In Portraiture

I like to make things sound more important than they are. :)

Here, finally are the piccies of my trip to Arkansas for the 2008 Slayage Conference (thanks to my friend Sue, who pretty much took all of them). I talked about the conference extensively in seven other blog posts, which you can read here. First, here is the infamous Ta Molly's, the restaurant with the Irish name and the "Mexican" food. (Read: processed gloop over a burrito) But we were hungry, and it worked. Even if it was a dry county and there were no margaritas to go with it.

The next day we ate at the Sonic burger place, a drive-in (or walk-up, which is how we used it). Across the street was "God's House." As Ryan noted, it was empty. It cast an eerie (yet giggly) pall over our lunch. We must have referred to it half a dozen times over the next few days. "Yes, but we ARE close to God's House, so..."

Our first night we stayed at the Hampton (you can see the side of the hotel in the Ta Molly's pic, which shows you how close we were to the restaurant). The next day we were moved to Captain Henderson House, which was an absolutely GORGEOUS mansion located across the street from the university. Here are some views of it from the outside.

This picture on the left shows you how close it was to the university (well, okay, no it doesn't, but see all those trees on the right? Hidden behind those is the college). We'd just have to walk across the street and across the beautiful campus to get to the building where most of the talks took place. On the right, at the end of that veranda you'll see the table where we spent a few nights chatting with the other keynote speakers and the conference organizers about television, politics, and other pop culture topics. I miss that veranda...

Here I am with my traveling buddy, Sue. Are we the most adorable conference-goers you've seen or what? Okay, we might have some competition with our buddies from the shuttle, Ryan and Ian. Here we are standing outside the Burger Barn (moments before walking up to the door and realizing they're CLOSED on Sundays). Ian's in the blue shirt, Ryan is on the right. I forgot to mention one of the funniest things Sue and I saw, and it was at the Burger Barn a couple of nights earlier: when we were waiting by the front door to be seated, we were standing next to these two huge baskets, one full of matches, and one full of mints. If you hold your arms out in front of you and make a large circle by touching your index fingers together, that's as big as the baskets were. This woman with a gigantic purse came up and dumped the contents of both baskets into it! (She left a handful of mints and a couple of matchboxes, so she wouldn't look greedy or anything...) It was hysterical. Anyway, back to US. Here we are goofing around with a Slayage Registration sign. (We put it back when we were done.) Hey, you can't go to a Buffy conference and NOT take a picture of someone pretend-staking another person!

Now, I think the thing I talked more about than anything else was the ginormous bugs they have there. So now, behold: one of... THE BUGS.

We put the beer bottle there so you'd have some perspective, but I should note... that beer bottle was the size of me. Yes. Seriously, it TOTALLY WAS. Therefore, as I said earlier, that bug is literally the size of my foot. Hey! I heard that! I am TOO telling the truth! OK, I'm not. But the bugs were still huge and scary. HUGE.

Okay, more fun. I mentioned the awesome portraits of the Henderson beauty queens, and here they are! As Sue says, they're very Twin Peaks. I also mentioned numerous times that Henderson was in a dry county, which shocked everyone. Here is Sue's contraband bottle of wine, hidden so cleverly in this brown paper bag. (She carried it around all weekend and would occasionally lean down under one of the conference tables to take a slug. She's such a boozer. She says that because I don't drink it always makes her feel MORE like one. Oh, Sue... the first step to overcoming your problem is taking responsibility for it...) I reassured her it was well-masked in the bag, and everyone would assume it was her laptop.

Here is what Captain Henderson house looks like when you first walk in. Apparently the majority of their business is weddings. Who wouldn't dream of descending those stairs in a bridal gown? And this was the sitting room just off the front entrance, complete with a grand piano. I stroked the keys, but didn't play it. I was deeply in love with it.

This is the gang of lovelies at breakfast at the B&B. On the left is Elizabeth, Rhonda, and Mary Alice. On the left, starting closest to the camera, is me, Matthew, David Lavery (with his back to us ALL), and Jeanine Basinger, who is sort of obscured. She was no doubt talking about something very fascinating and amazing, and was just about to do her keynote on Joss Whedon. Matthew and I, however, were embroiled in a discussion on David Bowie, so we had more important things to discuss at this moment.

On the last day, Matthew took Sue and I to the amazingly titled Pig Pit, which everyone had been joking about the entire weekend. Sue and I split a sandwich because we weren't that hungry, but I still dream of it. I would go back to Arkadelphia in a heartbeat just to have a sandwich at this place, it was amazing. (That's Matthew and I standing in the parking lot while Sue takes the pic... she loves taking pictures of my butt.) And here I am on the plane, pointing to my lovely seatmate, the toilette. Yes, we were seated in the very back row. Had the plane broken in half over a mysterious island, I would have been in the tail section. But I would have been a WAY more effective leader than Ana Lucia.

I shall leave you with the sign that hangs over the entrance to the Burger Barn. I'm happy to say, I don't feel like a stranger to those parts anymore.

The Softer Side of Sears

So, my fridge conked out on Monday. Have you ever realized just how much you need a fridge? I was going to blog on it, but I thought, "How could I bring it back to television?" Well... I'll use Cordelia's evil line to Willow as my title, and I'll also mention I was rewatching "Eggtown" the other day, which opens with Locke making breakfast for Ben, and I thought, "Dammit, Ben has a fridge on a freakin' ISLAND and I don't have a fridge." And I'll throw in a pic of my dream fridge repair guy. But enough preamble... on to bitching.

The fridge was bought at Sears when the guy who built the house we now live in bought it just before we moved in three years ago. In April, after a couple of months of the compressor making a loud noise and the freezer periodically just defrosting itself, we had a Sears guy come in and look at it, and he said it was definitely the compressor, and he'd have to come back to fix it the next day. (Every sales call, by the way, requires you to be in your house "between the times of 8 and 4" and they won't give you a more specific time. Also, they say the guy will call in advance... he NEVER does.) Next day he comes back, with head hanging, saying that the compressor is under warranty, the relay isn't. So Sears refused to let him get a compressor, and instead ordered him to try changing the relay so that we'd be forced to pay for the visit. He put on the relay, nothing. He apologized, made another appointment for the NEXT day, and left. Sigh. Finally he comes back with the compressor, which looked like it had last been used in the 1970s, in a box that had been taped all to hell like it had been used on various other fridges over the years and refurbished for future sales calls. He put it on, the freezer went back to normal.

This past Monday, I went to get something out of the freezer, and a bunch of water flowed out of it, all over the floor. I reached in, and the food was defrosting. No noise this time, no warning, just... melting. I grabbed everything that was still frozen (or mostly frozen) and rushed it out to the deep freeze in the garage. My husband got home shortly after and called Sears to set up an appointment, and their policy is to book for the next business day if it's a fridge warming up. Unfortunately, Tuesday was a holiday, so Wednesday was the earliest they could come. A few hours later we noticed things in the fridge were sweating, meaning it was warming up, too. My husband called Sears back and asked if there was any possibility of a Monday call, and they said no, sorry, they've got us booked for Wednesday. That was the second confirmation.

Wednesday I wanted to go out and get some things, so I called first thing in the morning and added my cell number to the service sheet, and the woman said I would get a call an hour in advance, and I would be called before 3 that day, since the service day ends at 4. I went out to grab lunch, and rushed back. And waited. And waited... At 3:05, I called them back. I got a pleasant woman (the first pleasant one, actually; the others acted like we were wasting their time by calling them) and she seemed confused when I asked her where the guy was. She kept asking questions, like she was putting off the inevitable, and finally said, "Um... on my computer? It says your call is booked for, um, NEXT Wednesday. Which is really strange because our policy is the next business day. But someone's marked it down wrong." I told her I needed someone out today, that I'd lost hundreds of dollars of food, and the few things I was able to salvage were in a cooler with ice and I couldn't wait for the next day. She said the business day ends at 4. I said I didn't care if someone had to work until 5 or 8, they were coming out TODAY. I told her that it was most likely the compressor THEY had put on my fridge that was making it not work. She said she would call and see what she could do. I thanked her profusely. And waited. And waited. Listening to some sort of Latin salsa music. Then she came back and said she couldn't do anything, she would put me up to a supervisor. Back on hold. Latin salsa music. Suddenly, a click, and I'm listening to bad pop, the same bad pop I'd been listening to when I first called. I'd been put back into general rotation! Argh. I waited. Finally someone picked up and said how can I help you? and I told her I was waiting for a supervisor. She said, "Oh... um... I'm a supervisor?" NICE TRY. I said, "Well, my details should have been forwarded to you, then." and she said no, they weren't, I'd have to start over again. I did. She put me back on hold and came back on, and she said that yes, this was completely their fault, yes, someone screwed up and put us in for next Wednesday, but there was nothing she could do, that service ends at 4. I said, "Look, I don't want to be rude, but should I be sending all my restaurant and take-out bills to you, too?? I CAN'T KEEP FOOD IN THE FRIDGE!!!!" I told her that I really needed this done today, that it had been a beautiful day, 30 degrees, not a cloud in the sky, and I'd been sitting at home with a baby all day long rather than getting out to DO something. And I'm NOT about to do it again.

She said, "Look, the only thing to do is to put you through to the next business day..." and I said, "Fine, but I need it to be the first appointment of the day. Please don't make me wait around all day." "Well, ma'am, if you'd let me finish, I was going to say we're completely booked tomorrow, and I'll have to put you through to Friday." I lost it. "Okay, let me get this straight. We book the appointment for today, and the woman confirmed it was for today. We then called right back and asked if we could do it sooner, and she said no, it was for today. Then I called this morning to make sure he would call before coming, and that woman AGAIN said he would call before 3 TODAY. And now you're saying that somehow it got changed to next week after THREE confirmations that it was, in fact, today, and NOTHING will be done about it? You will NOT even try to make this any better?" "There's nothing I can do. Do you want the Friday appointment?" she said. "What else can I say?" I replied. "If I say no, I have no fridge, right? So OBVIOUSLY I have to take your Friday appointment!!!"

You know, if just one of the women had said, "I'm really sorry, a lot of people have A/C that's conking out and we're really stretched right now and I can't get another person in to see you earlier than Friday, but I'm really sorry this has happened. I have no idea how this could have happened, and it's terrible they booked it wrong and then confirmed it by mistake." or ANYTHING, it would have been different. But each woman just went, "Oh. Looks like someone screwed up" and wouldn't even say "sorry."

I called my husband and told him, and he thought he could do better, so he called back. He went through the same rigamarole I did, and when he finally told them we'd never buy from Sears again (exactly what I'd said) the woman simply said, "I'm sorry to hear that, sir." The first sorry we got was that they were sorry we were not patient enough to deal with their endless screwups.

But that's not the best part. As soon as my husband ended his phone call with them, they called back (I'd gone outside with my son for the first time that day so I missed the call) and the woman said, "Hello there, this is Charlotte from Sears. I was just talking to you about the fridge? I wanted to add that I've checked your account, and your fridge and compressor are no longer under any warranty, so you will be charged for the service call. Thank you." and hung up. It was like a giant F*** YOU!!! into our phone. Even down to her tone of voice, which was oozing with, "Nyah nyah nyah nyah NYAH NYAH!" My husband got home, called right back, and got ANOTHER customer service person who checked our account and said, "I have no idea why anyone made that call, because it says right here your compressor is under warranty still, so of course if it's the compressor then we'll be covering it." Sure enough, she found a note on the computer file of our account that said, "When you go to this address, CHARGE THEM."

So just in case you think customer service people don't take any revenge on you, they do. Luckily, the guy who came to fix it today was the same guy who'd mickeyed with it two months ago, and he didn't charge us for it (it was the relay he'd put on it, which he said was old and rusty... really? You put it on TWO MONTHS AGO.)

My favourite part? On the side of his truck it says, "24-Hour service for emergency heating and cooling needs." So if your air conditioning goes off, that's an emergency. If your fridge dies and you lose hundreds of dollars of food, well, that's not a priority.

The softer side of Sears? In Canada, it doesn't appear to exist. That's the last thing I buy from them. Oh, and by the way, our fridge is a Maytag. It's three years old and has been nothing but trouble. So why exactly does the Maytag repairman just sit there while his phone never rings? Either everyone has the wrong number, or no one is buying Maytag anymore. (I know I'm now in the latter group.)

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Emmy 2008 Semifinalists

Y'all know I hate the Emmy Awards (SEVEN years and Buffy doesn't get a nomination? Bah on you!) but like a car accident, I find myself staring and wondering how it happened and why. This year we're getting a sneak peak at what the noms might be, as the semifinalists are announced. Not all categories are out, but most of them are. Each of these categories will be whittled down to five nominations, due July 17.

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series
Gabriel Byrne, In Treatment
Kyle Chandler, Friday Night Lights
Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad
Patrick Dempsey, Grey's Anatomy
Michael C. Hall, Dexter
Jon Hamm, Mad Men
Eddie Izzard, The Riches
Hugh Laurie, House
Denis Leary, Rescue Me
James Spader, Boston Legal

Interesting list. No Lost, which sucks. I'm hoping Chandler, Byrne, and Hall make the final cut, and when all is said and done, if Gabriel Byrne doesn't win this for In Treatment, the sham awards show will be even shammier.

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series
Patricia Arquette, Medium
Glenn Close, Damages
Minnie Driver, The Riches
Sally Field, Brothers & Sisters
Mariska Hargitay, Law and Order: SVU
Holly Hunter, Saving Grace
Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men
Mary McDonnell, Battlestar Galactica
Kyra Sedgwick, The Closer
Jeanne Tripplehorn, Big Love

Yay Mary McDonnell! That said, I'm four episodes from finishing Damages, and Glenn Close is brilliant. (If you haven't seen her on season 4 of The Shield, you should.) So my vote goes to her.

Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series
Jon Cryer, Two and a Half Men
Kevin Dillon, Entourage
Justin Kirk, Weeds
Neil Patrick Harris, How I Met Your Mother
John Krasinski, The Office
Jack McBrayer, 30 Rock
Tracy Morgan, 30 Rock
Jeremy Piven, Entourage
Fred Willard, Back to You
Rainn Wilson, The Office

I say this every year. And... I SHALL SAY IT AGAIN! Come on, Rainn Wilson!! (I'm sad to see Chi McBride from Pushing Daisies missing... he made me laugh just by being on the screen.)

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama
Jane Alexander, Tell Me You Love Me
Candice Bergen, Boston Legal
Rose Byrne, Damages
Jill Clayburgh, Dirty Sexy Money
Sharon Gless, Burn Notice
Rachel Griffiths, Brothers & Sisters
Christina Hendricks, Mad Men
S. Epatha Merkerson, Law & Order
Sandra Oh, Grey's Anatomy
Dianne Wiest, In Treatment
Chandra Wilson, Grey's Anatomy

Without sounding like a shill for In Treatment, my vote goes to Dianne Wiest for this one. (And again, I urge you all to check it out.) There are scenes where she's facing off against Gabriel Byrne that gave me goosebumps. She is extraordinary in this. That said, I'm pretty pissed that Connie Britton didn't get a nom for Friday Night Lights. Come ON.

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
Naveen Andrews, Lost
Bruce Dern, Big Love
Christian Clemenson, Boston Legal
Ted Danson, Damages
Michael Emerson, Lost
Zeljko Ivanek, Damages
T.R. Knight, Grey's Anatomy
William Shatner, Boston Legal
John Slattery, Mad Men
Blair Underwood, In Treatment
Jake Weber, Medium

Woo! Naveen AND Emerson! (And Zeljko, if you want to count Juliet's evil husband.) My vote (shock!) goes to Michael Emerson on this one. I think he is mesmerizing.

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
Christina Applegate, Samantha Who?
Marcia Cross, Desperate Housewives
America Ferrera, Ugly Betty
Tina Fey, 30 Rock
Anna Friel, Pushing Daisies
Felicity Huffman, Desperate Housewives
Eva Longoria Parker, Desperate Housewives
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, New Adventures of Old Christine
Mary-Louise Parker, Weeds
Sarah Silverman, The Sarah Silverman Program

I'm happy to see a lot of those nominations, but I'm hoping America, Tina, and Anna make it through. I'd be happy with any of them winning.

Outstanding Comedy Series Finalists
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Family Guy
Flight of the Conchords
The Office
Pushing Daisies
30 Rock
Two and a Half Men
Ugly Betty

My dream list: Flight of the Conchords, The Office, Pushing Daisies, 30 Rock, and Entourage. With The Office or Pushing Daisies winning. Yay Pushing Daisies!

Outstanding Drama Series Finalists
Boston Legal
Friday Night Lights
Grey’s Anatomy
Mad Men
The Tudors
The Wire

Wish List: The Wire, Lost, Friday Night Lights, Dexter, Damages. And I hope I don't offend any Lost fans when I say, "COME ON WIRE!!!!!!!!" (Lost can have it next year, since season 4 was stellar... and let's give a nod to Henry Ian Cusick, shall we?)

Outstanding Supporting Comedy Actress:

Kristin Chenoweth, Pushing Daisies
Conchata Ferrell, Two and a Half Men
Jenna Fischer, The Office
Jane Krakowski, 30 Rock
Judith Light, Ugly Betty
Elizabeth Perkins, Weeds
Amy Poehler, Saturday Night Live
Jean Smart, Samantha Who?
Holland Taylor, Two and a Half Men
Vanessa Williams, Ugly Betty

For me, Kristin Chenoweth, hands down.

Joss Whedon on Dr. Horrible

There's a story on Dr. Horrible at TVGuide.com by Matt Roush, where he interviews Whedon and talks about having seen the show. There are some mild spoilers, but it's mostly the plot outline we already know, and who the rest of the cast will be besides the three we know about. For the spoiler squeamish (like me!) I'll just say there will be a cameo by two of our fave Buffy writers! I can't wait. Here's a taste of Joss's words:

As for casting Neil Patrick Harris, all it took was a phone call. "We all agreed there was really nobody else that should play Dr. Horrible. I didn't even get the sentence but before he said yes. And then I sort of got defensive (Whedon lapses into fanboy-speak): ‘No no no, it's really going to be good,' and Neil's like, ‘I said yes.' And I said, ‘No no no, I mean, but I mean the point is, is mean I mean' … I couldn't handle it."

Check out the full interview and story here.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Happy Canada Day, Eh?

Happy First of July, everyone... or soon to be First Monday in July So People Can Get a Long Weekend Day. Neither moniker has much of a ring to it, actually.

I should be celebrating Canadian pop culture today, so I shall urge you once again to watch Slings and Arrows (the entire season is available here), which is a fantastic show. Also, Salon had an interesting piece on their site yesterday about Newsroom, which they argue is the precursor to The Office and is the best show about a newsroom ever. It aired on the CBC over 10 years ago (it's finally coming to DVD, hence the late review of it) and there was a very long hiatus between the second and third seasons, but it's another one worth checking out if you've never seen it. But because it was the only thing like it on television, almost no one watched it. Ah, the joys of being ahead of the curve.

In current television, I'll admit the only Canadian thing I'm watching right now is (gulp) How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria. (Yes, me, the one who has a hate-on for reality television, is watching it like a demon this summer... wait -- does watching 3 reality shows count as watching it like a demon? No.) This is a reality show touting the Mirvish production of The Sound of Music that will be playing at the Princess of Wales theatre in Toronto in October, and by allowing the Canadian public to choose their Maria, they ensure a big boost to ticket sales. (The reality show had a run in the UK and apparently the production did phenomenal box office. It was hosted by my beloved Graham Norton there, and here we get Gavin Crawford, who I love on 22 Minutes, but on this show stands like a turtle and cracks lame jokes.) Basically, His Pompousness Andrew Lloyd Webber narrows the field to 10 potential Marias, and then they trounce out the tunes for Canada every Sunday night on CBC and you vote for your Maria, Idol-style. The problem is... it's boring. The women all have phenomenal voices, but even the voice coach admits they're all classically trained and when they have to sing pop songs, their voices aren't trained to do that. It's like asking Van Cliburn to play Fats Domino on the piano -- ain't gonna happen.

So why, if these women are trained in opera, and they're vying for the position of singing live in a musical, are they singing Sarah McLachlan and Jann Arden? (Other than the fact they're CanCon?) They come out at the beginning and always sing some song from The Sound of Music, and they sound amazing. Then they have to tackle Nelly Furtado and they fall apart. It doesn't make sense. It's like hiring someone to be the head of medicine in a hospital and seeing if he could change your car's tires first. (Or vice versa... that wasn't meant to be a comment on pop music.)

And then there's the trusty CBC technicians. The first week, the Marias came out to sing How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria, and the camera work was so frenetic, it was rarely showing the woman who was actually singing. Often we'd get the feet of the women swishing around while you could hear a disembodied voice belting out a line of the song. But that didn't come close to what happened to one of the women who sang. They had those head mikes that were tucked behind the ear, and one woman came out belting out her song and flinging her arms out to the side... and all we could hear was the band. Her mike had entirely malfunctioned, but she had no idea. A third of the way through the song, someone comes running out from the side and hands her another mike, and without missing a note, she keeps right on singing. Her final note was all over the place, but wouldn't YOU have been a little shaken by the fact you'd just given a silent performance? And the next night... she was voted off. I felt bad for her, because I feel like she had a very strong voice and a lot of personality, and because of faulty technical equipment, she was out.

Our tax dollars at work. An up side to the show is John Barrowman as the nasty judge (a.k.a. Captain Jack Harkness from Torchwood, a.k.a. the guy who kissed James Marsters). While I think he's off his rocker half the time, he's pretty great eye candy any day.

And yeah... I'll probably keep watching it. After all, I want to take my 4-year-old to the show in the fall.

But aside from bad reality programming, I love being Canadian. When I was in Arkansas for the Slayage conference, someone came up to me and said he'd never met a Canadian he didn't like. If the biggest joke other people can levy against us is that we're ultra-polite, I'll take it! :)

Have a happy Canada day!