Showing posts with label Reality TV. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Reality TV. Show all posts

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Amazing Race: Colour Me Happy!

There are three teams I hate in this season's Amazing Race: the gay divorcees, the frat boys, and Terence and Sarah. From the very first episode, I liked the brother and sister team, and the mother and son team. Sure, Nick and Starr occasionally play dirty and sometimes Dallas seems to be as dumb as a stump, but I love how well the brother and sister play the game, and maybe it's because I have a son, but I adore Toni and her unconditional love for Dallas, and his love back for his mom.

But now on to the hate. This week the teams were in India. Every season the teams go to India so we can see people pulling their shirts up over their faces and complaining of the stink or getting stuck in insane traffic jams or being mauled by kids (and the occasional man) begging for money or whatever. It hasn't changed the fact I'd love to go to India some day, and luckily in this season, they played down the negatives. First, the teams had a roadblock where they had to go through a holy festival of people chucking pails of paint and dry dye at them as they tried to get to a ladder. Starr got off amazingly easy, like the people weren't quite sure what they were supposed to do in the beginning. But by the time the gay divorcees got there, it was showtime. Kelly or Christy (the dark-haired one; they're pretty much interchangeable) decided to do it while blondie stood back encouraging her, but soon brunette was practically begging for an oxygen mask and crawling through the streets on her hands and knees like she'd just been seriously wounded at Omaha Beach saying, "I can't do it! I can't go on! This will be the death of me!"

I was in stitches. (I had a screen cap all ready but Blogger has been really difficult in letting me upload anything these days.)

Not to mention, as usual, they didn't read the clue correctly and brunette just kept running in snatching envelope after envelope while blondie ripped them open and nothing was inside (even FUNNIER). Meanwhile, all the other teams are first READING THE CLUE, then running in, grabbing the marked envelope and running back out. Making the gay divorcees REALLY ANGRY.

See, my problem with these chiquitas is that they identify themselves as The Divorcees. Every team is forced to do this: There's a mom and son team and in every scene where they're talking to the camera, Dallas says how much he's learned about the mother who raised him by herself, and Toni says how proud she is of her only son whom she raised by herself. Nick and Starr talk about their sibling love. Ken and Tina talk about how they're overcoming his affair. And so on... it's sad these people are identified as one thing, but why did these two identify themselves as Divorcees? Because it hadn't been done before? Rather than say they're best friends who happen to be divorced, they say they're divorcees who happen to be best friends. Every time they're facing the camera they're saying things like, "I could have NEVER gone on the Amazing Race if I hadn't divorced that bastard!" "ME TOO! My life is such a sunshiney peachy place because I let go of that dead weight." "TOTALLY. My husband never would have given me the freedom to do these things." "I KNOW. My husband was just a piece of crap."

I'm sorry, who were you married to? Mussolini??!! Why couldn't you have done the Amazing Race while still being married to these guys? And why do you want to advertise the fact that you chose SO badly that you had to get out of the relationships instantly? (They're both very young, so there's no way they made it to 10 years; I doubt they got close to 5.)

ANYWAY. I can't decide who I hate more of those three teams, though, but I must say, every time Terence is on the screen I want him to take a nasty roadblock and be the first fatal accident on the series. He is SO whiny and annoying and their banter is so irritating I've actually pressed the mute button while they're on screen.
"Come on, babe, you gotta hurry up."
"I'm going as fast as I can, babe, so just leave me alone."
"Well, babe, not fast enough, because everyone is passing us by, babe."
"Shut up, babe, you're not helping me." "All right, babe, but I'm just saying; we're going to lose because of you."
"Babe, that's so not helpful. Just give me happy thoughts, babe."
"All right babe, fine. You're doing a great job."
"Thanks, babe."
"Even though every other team is passing us by, babe."

So when it came down to a detour where they had to choose bleary-eyed (watching power lines for tiny numbers) or teary-eyed (where they had to carry a 40-lb bag of chilis a quarter mile and then crush them, potentially burning their eyes, nasal passages, and hands), I was shouting at the TV, "Choose teary-eyed! Choose teary-eyed!" When Sarah said, "We're going with teary-eyed" it was like Christmas for me.

My favourite moment was Sarah talking to the camera saying, "We felt like that storeowner was so unfair. He was standing there watching what we were going through and had absolutely no sympathy for our terrible situation." Meanwhile, these two have just been hitting one poverty-stricken country after another and haven't shown an ounce of sympathy for ANYONE. In last week's episode (or maybe it was 2 weeks ago; I watched them in a marathon a few nights ago) they went to Cambodia, and Sarah begged their boat driver to go faster than the other teams, so this kid was revving his engine and got them way ahead of everyone. Everything was going well for them... until the engine started smoking and filled with water. As the poor kid bailed water furiously, Sarah screamed at him that this could cost them a million dollars.

REALLY? Because if this boat isn't working, this could cost this kid his livelihood.

How RICH that she of all people talked about how unsympathetic these inhabitants of a developing country were to the plight of these Americans. It was a brilliant moment.

In the end, I would have been happy if any of those teams lost, and lose they did -- the divorcees were last to the mat, after Dan and Andrew offered to work together with them and the girls said, "No, 'fraid not." Nice one, ladies. As my daughter would say, you are not being caring, sharing friends. And that's probably what cost you the race.

Saturday, July 26, 2008 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.

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.

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!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Stuff for a Wednesday

I keep meaning to post on this, but then I forget again... I assume I have a gist of what new music is out there. My husband and brother are complete musos, so of course I can't compete with them (as my brother constantly reminds me) but I do typically know what's out there, especially on my home turf. My husband is a music writer for a large music publication, so our house is constantly bombarded with truckloads of CDs and DVDs. One day I saw sitting in his pile this DVD for a band called Moneen. I'd never heard of them, but after some googling, I discovered they've been around for a couple of years and have a fairly devoted following. I felt out of the loop.

But then I turned over the DVD and began looking at song titles, and imagine my shock when one of them was called, "Don't Tell Locke What He Can't Do." I madly opened the packaging and popped it in... and the song doesn't seem to have anything to do with Lost or Locke beyond the title. Which might actually be even cooler... I just haven't decided yet. The band sounds a bit like the UK's Muse, and when I googled "Moneen and Lost" I found this great discussion where people were trying to find hidden Lost meaning in the lyrics. Go here for more info on the band.

So, are you one of the ones who hasn't bought a single season of The Sopranos, because you'd rather save some money to buy the entire box set? Think again. HBO just announced the box set will come out with a price tag of $400. Unbelievable. Go to Costco and grab some of them up; they're usually about $40 each there. (While you're at it, grab The Wire AND WATCH IT... it's currently $25 a season!) Also, keep an eye on it... it'll be offered for less elsewhere.

I have a confession. I am totally, completely, head over heels in love with So You Think You Can Dance. My pals CC and SD encouraged me to watch it last season, and I actually started to like it, even though I only saw the last 6 episodes. (I wanted the guy to win, but c'est la vie.) I really disliked Mary on the judging panel, and thought she came off as a screechy Marie Osmond... I'd actually fastforward it every time she spoke. But now that I've seen it from the beginning, I have a new respect for her, and I think she's great. And the dancing is fantastic. I showed part of last week's episode to my 4-year-old daughter, and now she wants to take up dancing. I'm going to see if I can get her signed up. I've never had a dancing lesson in my life (seriously, Elaine in Seinfeld looks like Baryshnikov compared to me), so I usually stayed away from shows like this out of a complete lack of interest, but I'm hooked. My husband is very ashamed of me. But he thinks Road Trip is a funny movie.

Now that Battlestar is coming to an end (in 2009... FRAK!) Tricia Helfer has already landed herself a pilot on Fox. Considering the show is by Shaun Cassidy, who did Invasion, I'm intrigued already.

Well, this was going to be longer, but I have to go out and buy my daughter a bathing suit.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

The Week in Review
Lots of stuff I didn't get to this week... Gossip Girl saw the debut of Michelle Trachtenberg as Serena's evil nemesis, Georgina. As I mentioned last week, she'll always be Dawnie to me, but apparently Dawnie's all grown up... and she's a total bitch. Trachtenberg was awesome in the role, and I believed every manipulative moment. What do you think the big secret is between her and Serena? Did they kill someone? Is it possible that someone tried to rape one of them, and the other one clunked him over the head and they both buried the body? I know... I'm going all EastEnders on this one, but hey, it's a storyline on the current episodes of EE that I'm watching, so it's on the brain. I can't figure out any other scenario that would have Serena lying to Dan. Otherwise, just tell the guy that the bitch is back, and that you're in trouble. There must be a reason that Chuck knows about all of this and is the only guy she'll turn to, when usually she despises him. I'm looking forward to the SAT score announcements. I felt bad for the Asian girl Blair targeted this week. Here's hoping the girl ends up with a wicked score despite everything the Queen B attempted.

This week on Hell's Kitchen, no one was ousted, but the girls targeted Christina. Am I missing something here? I think I'm with Gordon when he says the only reason they want her off is they're threatened by her. She certainly wasn't messing things up the way Roxann was. That girl hasn't a clue what to do in a kitchen. To fix her mess, Jen was taken off desserts and stuck with her, and the next thing you know, Christina's shouting for some help because the souffles are all deflating and burning in her corner. Cut to Corey staring at her blankly, the other girls looking in the other direction like this ain't their problem, and Jen saying to the camera that she won't be her mother. Jen, she's not asking you to be her mother... just her teammate. These girls are sliding through this competition on pure dumb luck... the dumb part being the guys, who couldn't find the work teamwork in a dictionary if their lives depended on it. Both sides want to win, but they can't help trying to stab every other teammate in the back. Why haven't they figured out that you keep the strong ones in the beginning to win the challenges, and oust them by the end? Also, I still can't figure out why Gordon targeted Ben in the previous week. I think Fox is reaching for stuff to make the big man angry this season.

Speaking of which, a new reader on my blog posted last week that she was in one of the restaurants for the upcoming Fox season of Kitchen Nightmares while they were filming that first night where everything goes wrong. Ramsay approached her table and asked her what she thought of the waterfall in the entrance to the restaurant. She said she liked it, and he replied, "It's hideous!" and told her to tell the manager that. Haha! I love it.

This week Katarzyna was booted from ANTM (pronounced Kattar-JIN-na, even though the judges insisted on Kat-AR-shin-a). I really liked her, and that kind of leaves us with the curdle of the crop. Dominique is too full of herself, and frankly doesn't come off as a model at all. Fatima... well, the girl gets her travel documents to leave the country a mere 2 hours before leaving the country, even though every season of Top Model goes to another country. Tyra insists that the other models got booted because they didn't have the personality to be a top model. Apparently, BRAINS aren't a pre-requisite. Whitney... I like her because she's a plus-sized model, but at this point I'm willing to wait for the next plus-sized model and like her more. Whitney comes off as someone who was popular all through high school and is now a total, attitude-filled snob. Did you see her body language when she was in the bottom two this week? It was all, "I cannot beLIEVE you are putting me in the bottom two, you beeyotch." And Anya... the girl is sweet, and she seems to follow all the directions they give her, but she's just so weird-looking. I think she'd look better in a darker colour; that blonde washes her out completely. So I really don't have anyone to root for at this point, and the final weeks won't be very exciting for me.

The Office this week was pretty funny, though I actually disliked the idea of Stanley going off the rails in a meeting. I like my Stanley snarky and annoyed, but not completely enraged and cruel. Yes, he's had to suffer the stupidity of Michael, but part of what makes the show so funny is that they ALL suffer it, they're all smarter than he is, and they all just roll their eyes and make themselves look busy, knowing that they're smarter than Michael is. That said, it gave us the absolutely brilliant scene of Michael seeking help from The Other Black Guy, Darryl, and Darryl bemusedly filling Michael's head with completely garbage (when he started listing off all the gangs he's belonged to, I was in heaven). I loved the ceremony of Michael putting his face in the cement, and Pam trying not to laugh as Jim made the solemn speech. The onrunning gag of Pam's glasses was pretty hilarious, too.

30 Rock was GREAT. How much did I love that Geiss's dull daughter was sort of stuck in her adolescence, with pictures of Marky Mark all over the place? I used to work with a girl who was also totally into Marky Mark, despite being WAY too old to be into him, and at the time she was following him around the country and trying to get backstage at every show (and what made if funnier: she looked like Geiss's daughter). Her mother was my boss, and honestly, the most evil woman I've ever encountered (this was when I was in high school, working my after-school job). Stupidity ran so deep in that woman, I think she'd give Michael Scott a run for her money. I won't go into too much detail, but I know a couple of my readers know who I'm talking about. Since then, I've heard certain hypothetical questions several times: "Is there anyone in your life you truly hate?" "If you could kill someone and get away with it, would you?" And if I hadn't met that woman, I would answer no. But... I met that woman.

Anyway, I didn't blog on last week's episode, but that Mozart/Salieri stuff was inspired (especially Dr. Spaceman rushing through the halls in his black cape, like the image of Mozart's father as he's racing to finish the Requiem), and so brilliant. I loved the staging of beautiful Liz on the set meeting with Floyd this week, but the drinking scene was the best. Especially Kenneth realizing this was "Mountain Juice." Will Geiss ever wake up? Or will Donaghy be stuck on the Twelfth Floor (I LOVED that scene!) forever??

Friday, April 18, 2008

Reality Show Round-Up
So yesterday I went to a new hairdresser, and the hairdresser working at the next chair is a big TV gossip. "Awesome!" I thought, until her first question to the customer was, "So... did you catch The Hills??" That was followed by discussions on Laguna Beach, American Idol, and Dancing with the Stars. None of which I watch. (The customer mentioned that Priscilla Presley totally burned Kelly Ripa on Regis yesterday, so I naturally had to check that out on YouTube...)

The thing is, I DO watch reality TV, but it's either about fashion, or features Gordon Ramsay.

Yes, Hell's Kitchen has started up again, and I hate it as much as I ever did. So I have to watch it, of course. The Fox overblownness is there in full force, and Gordon comes off as a hotheaded Nazi. It's completely ridiculous. He has the contestants sort through garbage to pick out the food and show how much they discarded the night before; he puts one team in farmer's overalls and forces them to pick vegetables in a hot field all day... you know, all things I'm sure Gordon Ramsay has done. Ahem.

And, as I say every time I bitch about Gordon Ramsay on Fox, the problem with his depiction on that network is that it's not the Gordon Ramsay I know and enjoy. And that was all too evident on the most recent season of Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares... the BBC version, not the stupid Fox version. This one was presumably done after the Fox monstrosity, and it was as charming as ever. The Fox version had definitely influenced it -- in one episode, the establishment got a brand new kitchen that the show paid for (that hadn't happened on the BBC one, but was a regular staple of the Fox one); there were intermittent moments of the staff talking about how awesome Gordon was and how without him they would die (again, previous to the Fox version Gordon's awesomeness was something we could figure out for ourselves, but maybe his ego has grown). But unlike the Fox episodes, which consist of about 20 minutes of footage played OVER AND OVER with the Hell's Kitchen voiceover saying ominously "Next... on Kitchen Nightmares!" to the point where when the moment finally DOES happen, it's pretty anticlimactic... the BBC one just lets the action speak for itself. In one episode, he goes to Paris and finds a vegetarian restaurant run by a whiny Scot whose daddy is paying for the thing, and she's a complete idiot who is more interested in being on the TV than actually making her restaurant succeed. The best Nightmare episodes are where Gordon finds someone he truly respects, and in this case it was India, the woman brought in to become the chef, who is out of a job when the Scot pisses the business away. Gordon ends up taking her and sticking her in one of his own restaurants, which is awesome.

The BBC episodes are again proof that Gordon is still a chef at heart... but if he'll accept the money to do Hell's Kitchen, then my respect for him is depleting almost as fast as it is for JK Rowling at the moment.

America's Next Top Model is on again, and while I'm thinking Tyra's ego coupled with Rowling's and Ramsay's could actually cause the planet to explode, this cycle is definitely an improvement over the last one. Jay Manuel is as charming as ever, Miss Jay is as annoying as ever, and the addition of Paulina Poroskova (aka Mrs. Ric Ocasek) is a vast improvement over Twiggy. The girls aren't incredibly interesting, and the one I really liked in the beginning (Claire, who had left a baby behind and was pumping breastmilk and worried that her milk was depleting and was genuinely gorgeous and sweet) seemed to undergo a massive personality transplant partway through and launched an attack on a fellow contestant that was so Grade 3 my head was spinning. Luckily, she was booted the following week, but that leaves me with not much to vote for. I kinda like Whitney, but she's a little too princessy for me. So instead, I'll just sit back and watch it on fastforward for the rest of the season.

Tyra's show is fun, but it pales in comparison to Project Runway, which is fascinating and fun, and never has a bad episode. Even the blatant product placement ("Made use of the accessory wall, and you have 15 minutes before you need to be in the Loreal Paris makeup room") isn't nearly as irritating. Unfortunately, Bravo in Canada airs the damn show 5 weeks after it airs in the US, so the spoilers of bratty little Christian being the winner were all over the place before the finale actually aired, but it was still fun to watch. I liked Christian in the beginning, and then he became irritating beyond words, and near the end he became fun again. He's full of himself, but he should be -- his clothes were FIERCE (or, as Posh Spice said near the end in my favourite cameo yet... they were may-jah). I love this show.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Jamie's Chefs
If you've only seen Jamie Oliver's cooking show, where he prepares dishes at a manic pace, staring at someone just behind and off to one side of the camera while nattering away the whole time, then you haven't seen the most entertaining things that he's done. A couple of years ago, he had a reality show where he tried to train 15 dysfunctional kids to run their own restaurant, and he dealt with people mouthing off at him, not showing up for shifts, or just plain buggering off completely. The winner became the chef at Fifteen, a restaurant that Jamie shelled out 2 million pounds of his own money to start up. Now he's continuing the endeavour with his Fifteen Foundation, starting up similar programs for inner city kids in other cities, by donating money from the sale of his books and DVDs.

There was the other show, Jamie's Lunches, I think it was called (School Lunches? I can't remember) that I actually missed and would love to catch at some point, where he went and exposed the British school system for all its fried foods, showing how important (and easy) it is to make healthy lunches for the kids who are supposed to be the country's future.

Now he's back with Jamie's Chefs. The first episode just aired Sunday night on the Food Network, and he's taken 4 of the chefs from his Fifteen experiment who didn't make it, and he's seeing which one of them can take over a restaurant he's buying with the Foundation money, called -- seriously -- The Cock. It's a pub. (There's a great scene where Jamie comments on all the "cocks" that are decorating the place.) We watch as he narrows the group to four, then runs those four through a series of tests, and further reduces them to three before giving them a big challenge. Each one can excel at a different side of being the head of a restaurant, and it's fascinating to see one step up in one challenge, and fall flat on their faces in the next.

This is a four-part series, so catch it if you can, Food Network, Sundays at 10. If you missed the episode from the other night, it'll be repeated this Thursday at 10pm. To get yourself in the mood, read this interview with him from this past weekend's Globe and Mail. He talks about the experiences he's had with the Fifteen endeavour, and his fellow celebrity chefs Gordon Ramsay and Anthony Bourdain. Addressing the fact that both have called Oliver a TV hog and a long time ago referred to him as a bit of a hack for being on TV so much, he says:

"I wasn't saying I was the best chef in the world, and I still don't now, and I wouldn't dare," he shrugs. "Before Gordon [Ramsay] did much telly, and Anthony Bourdain, they hated TV chefs. And the reality is, they turned into them. Gordon and Anthony have done more telly than I've ever done, and I've been doing telly longer than them. I spent two years doing four one-hour documentaries on school dinners. ... I guess what's slightly upsetting me, is when you rate someone [like Mr. Bourdain] and then they think you're a bit of a pussy. It's not very inspiring."

Friday, November 16, 2007

TV Roundup: The Week So Far
I still have a lot sitting on my PVR, but here are my thoughts for the week so far:

I finally got around to watching it last night, and I must say it was the best episode of the season. Of course, I still had nitpicks (for example, Elle says she caused a blackout in 4 states when she was 8, then was put into a room attached to a lithium drip when she was 9 while psychiatrists tried to figure out what to do with her, and then The Company stepped in, and she's spent the last 16 years of her life with them. Then she says she's 24... she'd be 26 if the writers could actually add). But going back 4 months just felt right. Unfortunately, there should have been 2, maybe 3 episodes before it, rather than making us wait almost 2 months for some answers. And apparently it's not important what happened to Parkman, Mohinder, Molly, Claire, Noah, Hiro, and Ando, although... when you think about it, their stories are pretty much self-explanatory. Regardless, I thought it was really well done. I hope next week's is more of the same. I might just be persuaded to go back to doing full posts on it. :)

ROCKED. Dexter stepped up his game this week, and actually brought his life as a serial killer into the office to help him get rid of his arch-nemesis. The scene with him and Doakes alone in the room, with Dexter whispering, "I own you" and what followed, is possibly my favourite of the series. Everyone on staff thinks Dex is this quiet meek little man. They have no idea who they're in the company of, and that's what's so much fun about this show.

Ugly Betty:
I forgot to mention last week that playing the show out to Jeff Buckley's "Hallelujah" -- despite it being one of my all-time favourite songs ever (especially as covered by him) -- was SO 2002. And so overdone. Every other show on television used that song years ago, and now Ugly Betty has to get on that train late. That said, this week's was great. The final reunion of Claire and Bradford; Betty and Mark saying, "The Secret Sex Room" and then pointing at each other in shock; Wil telling Mark that she's worried Bradford will leave his money to charity, and Mark saying, "Then we need to hunt this Charity down and kill her" (HA!); and the final scene with Alexis and Daniel sitting by an empty space. Loved it. I think it's even better this season than last. Oh, and Mo'nique was BRILLIANT.

The Office:
This week's, like last, was kind of meh. It had its moments, but it was actually far more interesting to watch it as a drama than a comedy. Steve Carell is amazing in the scenes with the lawyers, as he goes from goofily compliant to stupid to upset to hurt to furious to vengeful. He's put his loyalties in the wrong place, as usual. It was actually a little disappointing to have it end with him and Jan casually talking about what to eat for dinner. The drama was so important, and then deflated in the end. I think the scene of Dwight and Mose playing ping-pong was the highlight of the episode (though I did LOVE Kelly's distinction between trash talk and smack).

America's Next Top Model:
You know, I've kinda been with Bianca on Heather for a long time... she's beautiful, yes, and she seems to take a great picture and handles Jay's suggestions perfectly. But critique her and she falls apart like a house of cards. She just does not have the tough skin required for the business, and if she wins, it could destroy her.

Kitchen Nightmares:
Boring. I actually have the second half of it still running in the other room as I type this, and stopped watching. Yawn. That said, if you want to see Gordon Ramsay in a HILARIOUS scene with Ricky Gervais, check it out:

Pushing Daisies:
LOVE LOVE LOVE. See post from yesterday.

Gossip Girl:
I still like this show, and its soapy goodness. I'm glad Nate didn't go through with what his parents wanted, because he's right: I saw Blair all excited on the bed thinking they're going to get back together, and all I could see her was as a socialite years from now, alone while her husband is off with another woman. So I'm glad he saw the error of his ways early. Why am I talking about this show so seriously? It's campy awesome. :)

Dirty Sexy Money:
Haven't seen this week's yet, but last week was just too tied up in the whole quest for Nick's father's killer. I hate that storyline, and just want to focus on the Darlings.

The Next Great American Band:
OK, I've been wanting to post on this show FOREVER now. No one is talking about this show, for some reason, like it's the poor man's American Idol, but I am SO completely hooked. This show is where bands perform for the lead singer of the Goo Goo Dolls, Sheila E. (!) and some judge from Australian Idol named Dicko. (Seriously.) Unlike Simon Cowell, who just says stuff to be funny, this guy is good. Every time a band performs my husband and I are critiquing them for one thing or another, and 80% of the time Dicko says exactly what we'd just said. He's always got good advice, even when the stupid audience is booing. Speaking of which, whenever they boo dude from the Goo Goo Dolls he gets SERIOUSLY pissed and upset and begins complaining about it like a big whiner. It's worth it just for that. :) My favourite band in the competition right now is Sixwire, a country band. Yeah, I said it. A COUNTRY band. I HATE HATE HATE country music. HATE IT. (The other day I'm in a store and over the sound system comes this line: "I want to kiss you out in the sticks/ I want to check you for ticks." I stopped what I was doing, thought, I couldn't have possibly just heard what I think I heard. And then I did. Came home, googled it, and it's apparently some huge hit for Brad Paisley. What the hell is WRONG with country music fans???? Anyway.) But Sixwire has a lead singer that looks like a slightly heftier version of Josh Holloway (if you don't believe me, tune in) and they are brilliant. There's a retro 60s band called Tres Bien, who were fun in the beginning and now are kind of boring. Last week this screechy grrl band called Rocket got booted (thankfully) but we are still subjected to the horrors of this tiny hardcore metal band called Light of Doom, where all of the members are between the ages of 9 and 11. Seriously. They were awesome in the beginning, now creepy and weird (especially since all of their moms are in the audience screaming for them and drooling... ew...) My other fave is The Clark Brothers, a sort of gospel band (yeah, I said it... oh forget it) who are unbelievable. The thing about this show is, typically the band I'd be listening to would be more along the lines of one called Dot Dot Dot, a guy who wants to be the lead singer of The Killers but appears to be too coked out to even focus on the judge's critiques, but when you're watching this show, you don't care about the STYLE of music being played, it's how good they are. And the country band is stellar, as is The Clark Brothers (and the lead singer of the Clark Brothers is seriously hot.) Franklin Bridge is another wicked band, and they play sort of a funk/rock thing, kinda Jimi Hendrix. It's on tonight: TUNE IN. I love this show... it's seriously addictive. Unlike the trumped-up karaoke night that is American Idol. The best part? You don't have to suffer through an annoying results show. Instead, they make everyone prepare a song for the following week, and then one by one they announce the bands who made it, and they come out and perform. At the end there are 2 bands left in the green room (which is, literally, green), and they're booted. Bwaaaahahahahaha. Awesome. I have a feeling this week we'll be saying goodbye to Denver and his Mile-High Orchestra. Awesome name, but not very good.

Friday Night Lights:
The show I will miss the most (equally with Pushing Daisies) during the writer's strike. Last week Landry's dad found out what was going on, and what he decided to do as a result was nothing short of shocking. Would any of us do it for our children? Probably. That's why I love this show. Good parents teach their children it's wrong to murder. Special parents help their children cover up that murder. Awesome. Did anyone else think that Jason was going to be killed off the show two weeks ago, by the way? Whoa...

Aliens in America:
This show just cracks me up to no end. It exposes the subtle racisms that we seem to all accept, and makes them look ridiculous. This week the mom -- who talks like Margie in Fargo -- runs into the breakfast room and says, "This is my running partner I told ya about... ya know, the one with the black husband?" Last week Raja got a job working for an Indian boss in a convenience store (causing the sister to say, "What are you, a total stereotype?") and the boss kept muttering under his breath that he was a dirty dog eater. I always thought the actor who plays Raja was over the top and not particularly good, just funny for sitcom's sake, but this week when they showed him screaming in nicotine withdrawal, I thought it was some of the funniest stuff this show's ever had.

I think I'm behind on this one, too, but last week with Leon trapped in the snow globe was particularly hilarious. I loved the actor who played Leon, especially when you just heard his voice calling them douchebags.

Still one of the best new shows on TV. If you're not watching this show and they rerun it during the strike, tune in. It's SO hilarious. I love Casey, who's so hardcore and wanting to kill everyone in sight... Chuck is great, his friend Morgan is funny, Tang is awful (as bad as he is on Dexter), and the premise just doesn't get old. I love this show.

30 Rock:
Haven't watched last night's yet, but last week's was brilliant as usual. I'm so glad Alec Baldwin stuck with the show. A couple of weeks ago he was pretending to be Tracy's father and I was doubled over. Baldwin is a comic genius.

A couple of weeks behind on this one too (man, all the shows I watch with my husband I'm behind on!) but while it started out strong and then faded a bit, it's definitely back on track and I think it's great. Another one to check out if you haven't yet. Now that his son also knows what is going on, it's definitely stepped up things. It's only a matter of time before they have to let the brother know what's up.

I think that's everything. I'm sure I've missed something. :) Oh, I've dropped Everybody Hates Chris. It was just getting too samey. And, you know, that extra half hour was TOTALLY eating into my week. Har.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

What’s on my PVR – Part 2
Returning Shows:

Dexter: Ah, how I love that this show is back. Opening episode was seriously awesome, and made me even angrier that Michael C. Hall was completely overlooked for the Emmy. I wasn’t sure how they were going to possibly follow the first season up with a further season, considering what happened, but now I see that while the first season was about him chasing another serial killer, in this season he will become the hunted. By his own sister, no less, while “helping” the force find him. Awesome.

Gossip Girl: Still love.

Bionic Woman: Halfway through ep 2, and I’m enjoying it still, but it’s not knocking my socks off.

Journeyman: After week 2, I’m a little worried this show is going to be a “who will Dan save this week?” show and won’t have enough of the present circumstance in there. What I liked the most is the conundrum between sticking with his wife and child in the present and wanting to go to Livia in the past. I hope they delve more into that.
**Peter Bjorn and John Watch: “Young Folks,” which I previously spotted in Gossip Girl and Dirty Sexy Money, ALSO played in the end moments of Journeyman. Come on, people… sure, it’s a great song, but there are other small indie bands that have a huge song that could be inspiring you.

America’s Next Top Model: Same old.

Kitchen Nightmares: This week’s was more like the first ep, unfortunately. Now that someone posted in my comments that last week’s was, indeed, the contentious episode the show is being sued over, I wonder if Fox just toned it way down, making it far more subtle and not so over-the-top. THEY SHOULD KEEP DOING THAT. It was the subtlety that makes the show work on the BBC. This week, they pretended to return 2 months later, but they didn’t really (I was so excited, and then…) All of the scenes they showed were from the final night, not 2 weeks later. To make it worse, they made it look like Mike the manager had a blowup during service, when in fact it was long after the restaurant had closed. Not sure if Fox thinks were stupid (correction: they do) but the owners tell him to leave, he goes outside, cut to edit of a full restaurant of people looking outside. Cut to Mike, standing outside waiting for them to make a decision, and he’s standing near the window, which is DARK with the curtains drawn and it’s long after closing. Duh. I think Martin from ep 2 just might have a case.

New shows:

Premise: Guy who works as a Nerds on Site person for a Staples-type store gets an email from a former roommate, now working as a spy, sending him all of the government secrets encoded in a series of weird images. The spy is killed, and the NSA and CIA are in a race to see who can find Chuck and put him to good use.
What I Liked: The show is hilarious. It has a wry humour about it that made me laugh out loud at parts (in one scene he goes to “LargeMart,” which is clearly a Costco, and when a spy begins chasing him throughout the store he runs up to an employee and asks her if she can find someone from security “or that guy who checks the receipts.” HA!!)
What I Didn’t Like: I can’t really think of anything I didn’t like about this. It’s bizarre and over-the-top, and in just the right parts.
People from my other shows: Jayne from Firefly; General Beckman made appearances on Buffy, Alias, and Angel.
Verdict: Chuck’s a keeper.

If you’ve seen Angel and Forever Knight, you know the premise.
What I Didn’t Like: Geez… where to start? First of all, in the opening five minutes they drop every myth about vampires you can imagine. This guy can walk around during the day, it just gives him a headache (??) Holy water has no effect on him, nor does garlic, a cross or any religious symbol, and if you drive a wooden stake through his heart, he “gets better.” COME ON. The writers just tossed everything about vampires out the window because it makes their job easier. Unlike the writers on Angel, these ones don't have to worry about actually setting everything at night and making sure they're consistent, etc. And as if the premise of the show wasn’t Angel enough, between every scene they do an overhead shot of L.A. shot very quickly with the traffic sped up below… EXACTLY the same segues they used on Angel all the time. There’s a blond woman in the show who finally catches on that Mick’s a vampire… think Elizabeth Rohm in season 1 of Angel, without the attitude problem.
What I Liked: Jason Dohring was great; he was NOTHING like Logan, showing the guy’s actually got a lot of range. And the second half of the show was a lot better than the first.
People from my other shows: Logan from Veronica Mars; Hiatt from The Shield; I know there were some others but now they escape me.
Verdict: One more week, and then I’m dropping it. The fight between the two vampires at the end was pretty cool, and enough to bring me back, but I was SO ticked about them dropping the vampire myths it’ll take a lot to keep me.

A guy’s parents sold his soul to the devil before he was born, and now on his 21st birthday the devil’s come to collect, making him a bounty hunter, collecting people who’ve escaped from Hell.
What I Liked: Another really funny show, Sock has a very Kevin Smith sense of humour (Smith exec produces and directed first ep), and the cast is great. Also had moments that made me laugh out loud. In the second ep they chase a guy who can make lightning, and they dress from head to toe in rubber, causing Sock to worry aloud that they’re going to die “dressed like a bunch of condoms.”
What I Didn’t Like: Odd that Chuck and Reaper are two similar shows in the same season – two geeks who both work in big box stores and have things happen to them by people on the outside that sentence them to a life of doom. I honestly keep mixing up the two shows in my head.
People from my other shows: Chuck’s crush, Ali, is the illusionista from Heroes.
Verdict: Another keeper. Man… my poor PVR. Why so many good shows this year?!

Pushing Daisies:
Premise: A piemaker has discovered since he was a kid that if he touches a dead thing he can bring it back to life, but with a second touch he kills them again, permanently. A second catch: If he brings them back to life for longer than a minute, someone else drops dead to balance out the universe. He makes money on the side of pie business by finding out where reward money is offered, and going in to the dead people, touching them, asking who killed them, getting the info, and killing them again.
What I Liked: I LOVED this show. The night before I watched it, I was saying to my husband that despite this season having a bunch of great shows that I really don’t want to stop watching, there was no standout like Heroes or Friday Night Lights that I became completely emotionally invested in. And then I saw this one. Okay, I won't become "emotionally invested" in it, not like Friday Night Lights, but it's a keeper for sure. The colours are a little too bright, the sets too unrealistic, the music very Tim Burton/Bernard Herrmann, and it features a voiceover that sounds like a man reading a bedtime story. It’s perfect. In fact, the thing I could compare it to over anything else is a Tim Burton film, which I was saying to a friend of mine the other day. It’s like an outlandish fairy tale… about killing people for money. Lee Pace is great as Ned; actually the cast is fantastic overall. The humour is very funny (the waitress at the Pie Hole, the hilarious name of the restaurant, keeps mixing up words and says for years she thought masturbation was when you chewed your food slowly, hahahaha!), and yet it has a twinge of sadness about everything.
What I Didn’t Like: Only one nitpick: When he’s a little boy, his dog is hit by a car, and he touches the dog, who jumps back up and starts running. Unphased, the kid runs after him. Some time later, after touching flies and bugs, etc. his mother drops dead of an aneurysm. He touches her, and she’s fine. Then that night she kisses him goodnight and drops dead, and that’s when he realizes if he touches something twice, it dies again. My question is… we’re to believe he NEVER touched that dog again? I find that hard to believe. Just a small nitpick. And I’m not sure how it’ll continue; I just hope it doesn’t become a “dead person of the week” show.
People from my other shows: Locke’s mom from Lost.
Verdict: The best of the new shows. I’m praying it doesn’t get cancelled after 3 episodes. Then again, it’s reminiscent of Wonderfalls, so…

Aliens in America:
Premise: A guy who is a complete loser in school gets an exchange student, thinking he’ll get some swim team captain from Sweden who will make him totally cool, but when an equally nerdy kid from Pakistan shows up, he knows his loserdom just plummeted even further.
What I Liked: Three new comedies that are really funny! STOP. I can’t take another show… how am I going to decide what to drop? The mother in this one is especially great; she’s uber-aware of the giant L on her son’s forehead, and does everything to make him “cool,” but nothing works. When he ends up on the jock’s list of top 10 “bangable chicks,” I was howling. (But felt bad about it.)
What I didn’t Like: The scene at the airport where the boy shows up from Pakistan would have been funnier with that crazy music, if I hadn’t seen the movie Election 4,000 times and completely associated it with Reese Witherspoon. Again, stop with the music that is so readily identifiable with something else.
Verdict: I’m going to keep watching. Dammit. I need to get a bigger PVR.
Still on the PVR: The Tudors, Five Days, The War

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Fall 2007: The Reality Shows
"Kayfabe" (pronounced exactly how it looks) is a term in pro wrestling that denotes the silence surrounding the fakeness of it all. When wrestlers insist that everything is real, they are using kayfabe, but the moment they admit that yeah, it's staged and the fights are scripted, they are breaking kayfabe. A few years ago, the WWF (now WWE) had to admit that the show was not a sport, but entertainment, and now it's well known that the fights are scripted, that the writers are just as important as the fighters, and despite the fact these men really DO go through hell in the ring and undergo some serious injuries, the soap opera surrounding the actual fights is all staged for the audience's immense enjoyment.

Well, it seems like reality shows have gone the way of pro wrestling, because where before they at least tried to make it look real, now they've given up and have decided to let us watch it to pick out everything that was made up, exaggerated, edited, or scripted for our pleasure.

America's Next Top Model: Cycle 9
The new season of ANTM started last night, and let me preface this by saying I still love and adore this show. Tyra is an egomaniac, and god I love her for it. It's why Canada's Next Top Model didn't work for me -- Jay is a sweetheart, and he's just far too sweet and not making every moment of the show about him. Tyra is unabashed in her me-ness, and that's what makes the show so much fun.

The first episode followed the same old routines of all the premieres -- Miss J shows up and mumbles something that makes absolutely no sense before sashaying the 33 potentials into their waiting area (though the Caribbean cruise was totally new... is it me or does the thought of a cruise send anyone else into shivers? You couldn't pay me enough to go on one of those things; I'd feel trapped on a giant glitzy trash yacht for the entire week... :::shudder:::) Then the auditions begin and some model tells her very tragic story of a bad upbringing, and the music goes from fun and silly to serious, like during those pretentious wankathons that happen throughout the PGA Masters tournament where the announcer talks of the "majestic rolling greens" and "beautiful foliage" while the music swells and we get closeups of orchids (yes, my husband's a golf addict and every April I'm subjected to this tournament). Tyra becomes pushy, "Oh, you were molested by an uncle and thrown out onto the street and forced to eat garbage? Please tell us EVERYTHING about that..." Because... why? Because it'll somehow help their chances of making it to the top 13? While I found Mila rather annoying, they edited her scene so she comes in right after the girl who's bounced from foster home to foster home and encountered all sorts of tragedy in her life, and then you've got happy little Mila practically singing "Don't Worry, Be Happy" on the table and talking about the sheer awesomeness of life. I could just picture the little Disney cartoon animals superimposed around her as she danced through the fields. There was nothing wrong with her saying she'd had a happy life, but when put right after the other woman, it made her come off as trite, naive, and stupid.

But the most obvious gimmick of this season was Heather. In she came, with all the grace of a Clydesdale, with the posture of an 80-year-old woman suffering from osteoporosis and her head bobbing around and her feet unsure of where to go. She wasn't particularly beautiful or model-like, and she didn't stand out in the audition. But then (cue the soft piano music, violins, and closeups of orchids), she announces she has Asperger's. Now, here's where I'm hoping someone can post a comment and help me out here, because I will not profess to know a lot about Asperger's. Most of what I know I got from the novel, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, about a boy who is a high-functioning victim of Asperger's disease. By high-functioning the author means he can go to a regular school, but has to take special classes. He sees the world around him as black and white. He's obsessive about what colour of food he'll eat. He doesn't have any emotion and rarely shows any feelings other than fear in the book (and even then, he doesn't seem to understand that situations are fearful, so rarely shows fear). I don't know how accurate a depiction this is of Asperger's, but Heather didn't seem to be like that. She looked the panel in the eye, she laughed at the jokes, she fit in with the other girls. I would have thought she'd be in the corner, unwilling to eat the food, confused because her daily routine had been interrupted, and unsure of how to interact with the girls. I did a quick check online and it said one of the symptoms of Asperger's is clumsiness, and she definitely had that. It says people who have the condition become obsessed with tiny details, and usually details of details (so if she's obsessed with clothes, for example, she might only be obsessed about buttons on clothes and how buttons are all different). They find it very difficult to interact. They revert to childlike behaviour in times of worry.

Does Heather really have Asperger's? I would think the show would come under severe scrutiny and criticism -- especially among parents of children with the condition -- if she didn't, but it also seems to me that she made it to the final 13 only because she has this condition. The preview for next week showed her sitting alone in a chair holding a stuffed monkey, so either she really has it and the show is going to exploit it, or she's acting. Either way, it's sad. If anyone knows more about Asperger's and could weigh in on the comments board (who actually saw the episode), I would really appreciate it.

Of the ones who have made it through, I like Janet (I always like the ones with the short cute hair), Saleisha, and Chantal. But that'll change by next week, I'm sure. (Did anyone notice one of them was named Spontaniouse? O...kay.)

Kitchen Nightmares
Where the American version of Top Model is still the best of all the international versions, the same cannot be said for Gordon Ramsay's new show on Fox, Kitchen Nightmares. As I've mentioned several times in this blog, the BBC show Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares is top-notch. The Gordon Ramsay character (for that is what it is) that has been created for Hell's Kitchen is not the real Gordon Ramsay. Sure, he peppers every sentence with the f-word and is a hothead, and believes that food is important and you need to respect your chefs, but he cares. And that caring side of him only comes out in the final two or three episodes of Hell's Kitchen. On the BBC reality series, Ramsay visits restaurants that are about to go under, and teaches them how to read their local audience (often taking them out into the town with their food so the locals can try it), how to pare down their menus from 75 items to 15 to avoid craziness in the kitchen, how to improve staffing, how to cook simpler fare, and how to make this restaurant work within their means. So when I heard that Fox was going to do their version, my first instinct was, "Oh god, don't ruin this."

If you watched last night's sideshow masquerading as the BBC series, and hadn't actually seen the BBC series, you might have thought that it really was as good as the British version. Gordon is definitely toned down, not screaming defiantly at people. He's trying to listen, and trying to help. But the way Fox handled it -- and what they chose to focus on -- took this subtle show that taught me a great deal about the horror of the restaurant business, and what these people have to go through to stay afloat, and turned it into a circus. First, the place was called Peter's Italian Restaurant. After Peter, the only son of Yogi, the Italian papa whose family runs the place. Peter is a dick (he's the big guy pictured second from the left) with a violent temper, no work ethic, and who believes he's some sort of privileged boy whose sister should do all the work while he sits at a table all night snapping his fingers for another espresso. The ovens don't work, the food is rotten, the sister's about to have a breakdown, the chef is a hothead (who looks remarkably like Don Francks' character in La Femme Nikita), and no one has any respect for the brother. While the restaurant is bleeding money, Petey is pulling money out of the till each night to pay for his tanning sessions, gold watches, sports cars, pedicures, and teeth whitening ($1000 a visit, he boasts).

What Fox has done with this story is taken the emphasis off the actual food industry, and put it onto a character. A stereotypical character of the egotistical Italian-American male. On the British version, there are usually numerous reasons why the restaurant ain't workin', but here, it's Peter. And only Peter. Peter won't kick out money for new stoves because his teeth are more important to him. Peter gives out free meals to his customers that he knows (which are most of them), takes money out of the till, and serves himself drinks all night. The food is late to the tables because when the plates are up in the back, Peter goes into the back and steals them to eat them himself, forcing the chef to cook another one. There are bill collectors hounding them, and instead of being a proper businessman Peter goes all Tony Soprano and threatens to break their f**kin' kneecaps.

And then there's the editing. It opens with most of the highlights of the show you're about to see, and every time we go to a commercial those highlights are repeated again and again. By the time Peter actually goes out into the middle of the street screaming and swearing at a "bill collector" (read: paid actor whom Fox planted to walk in at that very moment and told Peter to act accordingly), we've already seen the scene played out five times and it's not surprising at all.

And then there's that DAMN VOICEOVER from Hell's Kitchen. Ramsay tries the food, checks out the place, and decides to sit down with the family to find out what their take on it is. Voiceover: "Now that Ramsay has had a chance to look over the flaws in Peter's Italian Restaurant, it's time to sit down with the family and take stock of why THEY think it's going downhill." Really? Is that what he's doing? Well, thank you for summarizing the last five minutes of the show for me, dear voiceover, because otherwise I wouldn't have been able to keep up. And that MUSIC. In the BBC version, there is no music. It's silent. When Gordon looks at the chef and asks him point blank why he couldn't cook his way out of a paper bag, and the young chef looks at the ground and begins shuffling back and forth, the camera simply holds the scene, silently, no music, and we're feeling as awkward as the chef. Not so here... there are crazy cuts, wild music, and that stupid Hell's Kitchen string section that drove me nuts on that show.

The show is full of inconsistencies: At the beginning of each day they flash "DAY FOUR" to let us know where things are at (the BBC version assumes we can keep up and count to 4, and they don't remind us of what day we're on) and Peter is wearing a black shirt. Ramsay takes him into the kitchen and they argue over something and suddenly in one cut, Peter's wearing the white shirt from day 2. The entire show jumps around like that, like the editors were on crack.

But all of these criticisms pale in comparison to my two biggest problems with this version. First of all, the family is in dire need of new appliances in the kitchen. In the BBC version, he'd sit down with their budget and explain how a new stove now would give them a lot of money later on, and they budget it out and the show stops just short of showing us how they get a loan for it. But in the Fox version? These stupid people who make stupid decisions and couldn't run a restaurant if they tried suddenly walk in one morning and Ramsay's all, "Surprise!!!" and takes them into the back to show them their new $40,000 kitchen. It's like Extreme Makeover: Restrint Edition. I was SO disappointed. The BBC version shows us the realities of running a restaurant, and what sacrifices you'll have to make if you want it to work. The Fox version pretends there's a lottery ticket around every corner, and gives them the easy way out.

And my second -- and biggest -- criticism of the show is it ends on day 7. Peter has been a loser for 20 years, and suddenly on day 6 Ramsay gives him this giant speech about how HE is the problem (the scene is worth the entire show, just to watch the chef's face all agape throughout it) and Peter looks all offended, but by day 7 is all, "Yeah, he's right, I'm a total dick. I will now change." And poof... he's changed. The service goes splendidly, he's totally helpful, he doesn't complain or snap his fingers to get his espressos, etc. and all seems well. AND THEN THE SHOW ENDS. You might be wondering why I would criticize that, except the BEST part of the BBC version is that it ALWAYS looks like it's going well on day 7, and then Ramsay shows up unexpectedly 6 weeks later, and often that overnight catharsis that the owner had had at the end of the seventh day is long gone, he's pissing away their money again, the chef has quit in disgust, the restaurant is boarded up, the locals have torched it, or whatever. Other times he comes back and they're still implementing Gordon's ideas and have turned the restaurant into a blazing success. But it's the return visit that is the true test of Gordon's ideas and whether or not the restaurant will succeed.

Will I watch it again? Of course I will... I watched Hell's Kitchen right to the end even though I wanted to put a fork in my eye for a lot of it, because I'm intrigued by Ramsay. And maybe Fox will get a lot of criticism from TV writers who've seen the BBC version and know they're massacring it, and will actually do the return visit. And at the end of the day, it's still better than a lot of reality shows. But I'm truly disappointed. The BBC version usually only lasts six episodes and then I have to wait over a year between seasons, and I thought this would be the perfect filler. But it's not. It's broken kayfabe, and declared that all of these shows are scripted and contrived, whereas even if the BBC one were, it's doing a damn good job of hiding it.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Stuff for an Emotional Friday
Why emotional? Well, one could say that when you're in your final month of pregnancy, every minute of every day is emotional, but today, my daughter turns three. And I don't know where the time has gone. She's still that tiny tiny baby that I first held and vowed I'd never let anything bad happen. Since then she's developed this insanely funny personality, big golden curls, a curiosity that would have had most cats burn through all nine of their lives by now, an attention to detail that maybe only a writer/editor's daughter could have, and an imagination that rivals any novelist. She's perfect perfect perfect. And she's three. So I'm blogging as I stare at the clock, waiting for the moment when it will be exactly three years (at this point, seven minutes away).

OK, so I shouldn't be so excited about this, but one of my all-time fave words is "ginormous" and it has been officially added to Mirriam-Webster's dictionary! Now I can use it with no qualms whatsoever. Though... recently I've moved to using "gabillion" when looking for the perfect hyperbole.

Here's an interesting article on Ali Larter (a.k.a. Nikessica on Heroes) becoming a Bollywood queen. Who'd have thunk?

To show just how out of it I am, I've heard so much about the new series Mad Men (well... not so much about it, just people saying I should be watching it) and the night it premiered I couldn't find it anywhere on my television. I'll have to just set up the PVR to find it, methinks. Anyway, imagine my surprise when I'm perusing TV Guide online and find out Vincent Kartheiser -- a.k.a. Angel's demon child from hell who bonked Cordelia -- is on it! (That's him on the left in this picture.) Why didn't anyone tell me this? Now I MUST find this show. If only to see if Connor gets smacked around a bit. :) Go here to read the full interview with him. (Warning: as much as I find him intriguing as an actor, he's never been particularly charismatic in interviews.)

Weeds premiered in the U.S. with high ratings, and I couldn't find it anywhere on Showcase, here in Canada. I went to their site, and lo and behold, it's scheduled for a fall release. Sigh... in the past, they've run it pretty close to the U.S. airing, so I have no idea who came up with this boneheaded idea. Now I have to keep my head down and avoid spoilers.

And I just looked at the clock and it's exactly the time she was born. :::sniffle:::

Last night was the finale of So You Think You Can Dance. I'll be honest, I came into this one right near the end at the urging of my pals Crissy and Sarah, and because I know practically nothing about dance I just watched it, kinda fascinated, but probably never truly appreciating it. And when you have a PVR and can skip over the judges comments, especially that screechy Marie Osmond lookalike in the middle, then you just never fully commit. But that said, I was surprised at the final choice. First of all, the show was two hours long (and full disclosure, I watched it in less than 10 minutes, jumping through most of the numbers I'd already seen, all the blahblahblah in the middle, every single judge comment... I only stopped to watch people get voted off). And yet, despite it being two hours long they announced the winner three seconds before they had to switch off, so Cat says, "And the winner is SABRA, and now stay tuned for your local news" and it was over. No thank you speeches, no long good-byes for Danny (we got tributes to Neil and Lacey but not Danny), no big tribute for Sabra, etc. But did anyone else feel like the choice was contrived somehow? As in, Danny SHOULD have won, but they've had 2 guys win and it was a girl's year so they threw it to Sabra? I dunno... I like Sabra, but I just thought Danny was better. But what do I know... I watched most of it on fast-forward.

Hell's Kitchen, on the other hand, I watch a lot more carefully. And if you didn't see this ending coming, you were watching a different show. Just like Heather seemed destined to win from the first episode of season 2, Rock was the obvious choice from the first episode of season 3. I called it in the very beginning, and never wavered. It was like by voting Jen off in the previous week, Gordon made it even more obvious and easy for us to know that Rock was going to take this one. Not that Bonnie didn't fight all the way to the end. Just as in the last ep of season 2 I had fallen in love with Virginia and kinda wanted her to win, this time Bonnie had really won me over. The finale was fun to watch, mostly because you realized just how BLOODY inept all the other chefs were (honestly, this was SUCH an easy choice for Gordon it's almost funny). Josh was his usual self. I think he'd be more suited to a job at McDonald's. Solely on cash, never near the grill. Jen was great, kept to her game, and never faltered. Melissa was a disaster, never getting a clue how to cook a prawn, and only telling Bonnie that they were out of something when they had three people ordering that something. Dave surprised me at how hard he was willing to work to help Rock win. Vinnie was pretty forgettable. But Julia... Julia was the big one. This is the gal we all said goodbye to with sadness, thinking of how much she wanted it. Gordon had an immense amount of fondness for her -- as did we -- and offered to send her to cooking school. I never wanted her to win (the girl had never heard of a creme brulee, for god's sakes), but I liked her push. But there was always something about Julia that was a little... off. She was never friendly in any way. You rarely saw her smile. She was in this for herself and the others could all be damned.

And yet, knowing all of that, her behaviour in this final episode was just unbelievable. She bawled her head off at simply being there. She was so emotionally unstable that even though Rock and Bonnie knew she was a hell of a cook, neither one wanted her on their team until they had no other choice (when Bonnie is faced with Julia and Josh, even she knows you do NOT pick Josh). Julia made it clear to the camera that she thought Rock should win, so she couldn't care less if she threw the game for Bonnie. She was rude, ignorant, and a very bad team player in the final, refusing to listen to Bonnie, telling her to go away and she wasn't going to argue with her, and just acting like a complete cow. Yeah, if I were an executive chef watching this show Julia is TOTALLY the girl I'd hire for my kitchen. What an idiot.

When they stood behind the doors, ready to open one and walk through to victory, the camera kept panning to Rock's wife and two small children, and I knew he'd won at that point, as if they were reminding us of the solid family he had and how he could really use that $250,000 (did you notice the little girl totally falling asleep on Mommy's shoulder, and then when they starting popping champagne corks she awoke with a jolt and began crying?? Poor little thing... I bet they were filming this at one in the morning or something). I'm glad Rock won, even if he had a bit of an anger management problem. But then again... look at Gordon.

This made me laugh out loud. I LOVE when they do Brit-Brit. :)

Superbad opens this weekend. I am SO excited to see this (and a film critic friend of mine whose taste runs pretty similarly to my own saw it a couple of weeks ago and LOVED it). I won't be able to see it this weekend, but maybe next week.

I did see The Simpsons Movie and LOVED it. I had no idea it was going to be as funny as it was, but there were moments when I was completely doubled over (well, as doubled over as I could be with a giant belly in the way), and one moment -- "Spider Pig" -- when I thought my husband was going to require medical help, because he was laughing so hard he couldn't breathe. If you love the Simpsons, you'll love this film.

I saw Waitress with Keri Russell and Nathan Fillion, and it was a great little movie. The pie-making will make you hungry, and the pregnancy tensions and worries are more realistic (if less funny) than in Knocked Up, and for a while I was a little worried that it was a little too anti-baby, until it got to the end. What a lovely film.

I'm FINALLY starting to watch season 1 of Big Love, and it's fantastic so far. Possibly the best pilot I've seen of an HBO show; usually it takes me 2 or 3 episodes beyond the pilot to like an HBO show, and then I love it, but this one nabbed me from the get-go.

And I still haven't watched John From Cincinnati, but the season finale was this past Sunday and it was written by none other than Zack Whedon, Joss's baby brother. Now it's worth watching the entire series just for that one. I wonder if lil' bro has the same Whedon magic?

And... there's my segue into Whedonland. I was surfing's trailer site last night and hit the preview for this movie, Death at a Funeral, and it looked hilarious. One of the stars is Alan Tudyk, who Whedon fans know best as Wash from Firefly and Serenity.

James Marsters has accepted a role on Without a Trace in the fall, according to his official website. It's unclear how many episodes he'll be in, but let's hope, like with Spike, he's able to win over audiences and stay on.

There's a rumour that Joss Whedon will be directing another episode of The Office. EEEEE!!!

The AV Club at The Onion, who always does fantastic interviews, has done a long one with Joss that is awesome. In it he explains that if Buffy Season 8 continues to do well, there may be a season 9, but again, in comic book form:

There's not going to be a Buffy season nine on television. I don't think Sarah [Michelle Gellar] has the slightest interest in doing that, and quite frankly, I don't think it's a good idea for me, either. I do have to prove at some point that I can do other things.

I interviewed Alexis Denisof a couple of years ago when working on my Angel book (he was absolutely lovely and talked forever) and he told me that Joss never would have killed off his character if the show hadn't been cancelled. Joss confirms that statement in this interview. Joss also talks about Wonder Woman, and gives a little taste of what would have been in the movie had he written it.

My favorite thing was the bracelets. I mean, the bracelets are cool, but how do I make that work? In the original comic book, they needed them because they fire guns on Paradise Island. I don't think I'm going there. So, I thought about it for a while, and I realized, "Oh, right, this is how this works." So in my version, she left Paradise Island with Steve, who was a world-relief guy bringing medical supplies to refugees, which is why he was so desperate to get off the island. She goes with him, and the moment she sets foot on land outside of Paradise Island, somebody shoots her in the chest. And it hurts. [Laughs.] She's just so appalled. And obviously, she heals within a few hours. She pulls the bullet out herself, and kind of looks at it like, "What the hell is this?" She heals, but she's appalled and humiliated, and the next time someone shoots at her, she puts her bracelet in the way because she's terrified of getting shot. It's just a reflexive thing. She has these bands that they all wear, just
a piece of armor, and she puts it up. And then she gets good at it. By the end, it's kind of her thing, but it's because she got shot one time and didn't think that it was awesome. I think that is probably not the feeling the producers wanted to have. Though honestly, that could have been their favorite thing. I don't know, because when I asked Joel Silver, point blank, "Well, if they don't want what I'm doing, what do they want?" he said, "They don't know."

Ah, the world of what ifs... sigh.

And finally, the Buffy comic #8 cover has been released (Brian K. Vaughan's Faith arc will be issues 6-9). Behold the awesomeness:

And finally finally, my brother has been bugging me for ages to watch this trailer, and I finally saw it and laughed my head off. If the movie is 1/8 as good as the trailer, I am THERE.