Sunday, September 30, 2007

What’s on My PVR – Part 1
I’ve been trying to catch up on all of the new fall shows on my PVR, slowly but surely. If I can get through the first week of shows before too many more eps air, I’ll know what new shows to cut out of my schedule. I haven’t made it all the way through, and several more are beginning next week, but here’s what I think so far.

Returning shows:

The Office
I was SO happy to have The Office back!!! It was a bit of a slow start to the season; they said it was an hour-long show but it was clearly two half hours stuck together. I loved so many things about it – Jim saying that Michael had hit a speed bump on the highway once and then looking off in the distance, “I wonder who he ran over that day.” Michael “carbing up” on fettuccine alfredo. The pictures of Sprinkles that Angela was showing – that one of the mangy cat with a lot of its hair missing was hilarious… I felt bad for laughing, but it was hilarious. And her description to Dwight of the process of giving Sprinkles her meds, and his face, was awesome. BUT… what Dwight ultimately did was too heinous to be funny. I was surprised the show had sunk this low. I love cats, and have two of them, and of course I can laugh about certain things (like the pics of the mangy cat). But the suggestion that a cat would be stuck in a pitch-black freezer, terrified and clawing its way through the frozen foods while vomiting up medicine and eventually succumbing to hypothermia… I’m not a prude, but there’s nothing about that that I find funny. So I was sad that they went there for a couple of laughs. But that aside, it was great to have one of my favourite shows back.

Ugly Betty
A great season premiere. I thought Hilda’s fiancĂ© had died in the finale, so I was shocked to see him alive but bruised in this episode. I thought, “Huh… I guess they just didn’t want to go that dark on the show. Maybe it was a good call.” And then at the end when Betty comes in the room and Hilda’s simply holding a pillow; it actually put a lump in my throat, as soapy as it was, and I thought it was well handled. The thought of Justin interning at Mode has endless possibilities. Amanda’s largeness was over-the-top and fake, but that’s the show. I actually like the dad being away in Mexico, and am intrigued by the thought that Alexis doesn’t know she’s Alexis anymore, and what will happen there. Definitely a good way to come back.

America’s Next Top Model:
Week 2: Well, they’ve succeeded in making the woman with Asperger’s look more like she has Asperger’s, but for god’s sakes, if I heard one more thing in that episode about how “Heather is SO anti-social”… if they’re looking to show how people with Asperger’s can make it in this world, they’re doing a pretty lousy job. The anti-smoking campaign was without a doubt the LOWEST this show has ever sunk. I thought it was tasteless and disgusting. Making up the models with big chunks of hair missing? Half their face gone from a “burn”? Holding dead babies? Wow… subtle. How ridiculous. I’m sure non-smokers who have lost babies or who have lost hair in chemo treatments for other cancers thought that was totally classy and sensitive. I was so ashamed of this episode; let’s hope the season improves.

New shows:

Kitchen Nightmares:
Week 2: Loved it. It was so much better than week one! This time I went into it knowing it would be Foxified, that Ramsay would “make things happen” rather than making the restauranteur make those things happen, and that there would be no return to the set 6 weeks later. And so my disappointment level was significantly decreased. There was no loser brother running the restaurant and threatening every passerby who looked at him the wrong way, and instead the show actually felt more realistic, more like the British version, with the managers of the Indian restaurant just looking baffled and confused, rather than looking like actors. The makeover of the restaurant was a bit of a cheat (and I highly doubt that they did all of that in one night… come ON), and I think the visit to Ramsay’s impeccable kitchen was grandstanding (and I don’t believe he has the fridges cleaned twice a day… nice try, Gordon), but otherwise it was a lot of fun. Anyone know if this is the guy who is suing Gordon for losing his job?

Gossip Girl:
Week 2: This is my new guilty pleasure. I don’t know why, but I totally love this show. My husband won’t watch it, which means I’m sure to watch it quickly every week because I don’t have to wait for him to watch with me. :)

Bionic Woman:
A woman is almost killed in a car accident, and her boyfriend is a surgeon who works with genetic engineering and rebuilds her body into a bionic thing (one eye, one arm, both legs, ears, etc.) When the organization who supplied the body parts sees what he’s done, they want to recruit her. She’s angry at him for what he’s done, and hates the organization and refuses to work with them.
What I Liked: Michelle Ryan was great. Katee Sackhoff makes an awesome villain, and I hope she’s around a lot. The special effects were pretty cool, and I especially liked the dark element of Jamie waging war with the organization.
What I Didn’t Like: The show felt a little cobbled together, but that could have been because they released so much video early on with Jamie and her deaf sister, and now her sister is completely different. I also thought the person in charge of music made a huge mistake in using “Breathe Me” in a pivotal scene of Jamie coming home and realizing her life will never be the same. You don’t use a song that was used in the last five minutes of Six Feet Under in one of the most memorable and iconic scenes EVER, and then expect us to remove it from that. I pictured Claire driving along the road the entire time the song was playing.
People from my other shows: Zoe from EastEnders, Starbuck and Chief from BSG.
Verdict: I liked it, and think it has potential to be a lot better, so I’m looking forward to next week.

Premise: A cop is put into prison from 1995-2007 for a crime he didn’t commit, and despite claiming innocence, no one believes him. Wife files for divorce by sending him papers in the mail, his workplace lets him down, and he’s seen as a murderer. When new evidence shows he couldn’t have done it, he’s released with a massive settlement, and back on the force, a different man.
What I Liked: The final few minutes, where you find out he’s still trying to figure out who really DID commit the crime he was charged with, was pretty cool. The premise is intriguing and unique, and the acting is really good.
What I Didn’t Like: The guy seems a little too House-like for me. Eccentric professional, doing weird things but always right in the end, putting his co-workers at risk and forcing them to put their faith in him while they doubt him all the time… I started expecting him to pop Vicodin and walk with a limp. It was too close. Some of it seems forced.
People from my other shows: Calamity Jane from Deadwood
Verdict: I think I’ll watch it for another week; this wasn’t one I had in my PVR originally, but my husband wanted to watch it. I think he’s more intrigued by it than I am.

Premise: A Cuban-American family who runs a sugar cane empire is propositioned by another family, who wants to buy it from them for a substantial amount of money. When the adopted son tells his father not to sell to them, that they actually killed the patriarch’s youngest daughter, the father divides the empire, with his three natural children getting 30% each, and the adopted son getting 10%. Because adopted son is married to the one sister (ew), he now owns 40%, and is the owner, causing tension.
What I liked: The King Lear with boys element was interesting, and I LOOOOOVE Jimmy Smits (the adopted son). Love him. He’s as good in this as he was in anything else I’ve ever seen him in. The story is interesting, and felt more like a film or a book. Awesome cast.
What I didn’t like: Smits’ son is telling his girlfriend that his dad was adopted into the family, raised as one of their own, and then married his sister, to which the girlfriend says, “Aw, that’s so romantic!” Um… I think I have another word for it.
People from my other shows: Beecher from Oz and Atia of the Julii play the Samuels; Richard Alpert from Lost is the angry brother.
Verdict: I really enjoyed it, and hope it sticks around.

Premise: A happily married man discovers he’s somehow jumping through time to other times, while the present time continues, so if he’s gone for a day, a day is missing in the present. He’s moving through time to stop certain events from happening, but what separates this from Quantum Leap is that in the past, his major love is still alive, and he’s tempted to be with her, while in the present he’s happily married with a son, causing emotional torment.
What I Liked: I loved this show. The performances are top-notch, the twists and turns were surprising (especially the relationship between Dan’s wife and brother). The last few minutes were breathtaking (I gasped) and where I thought one premise of the show would be his wife always doubting him, the ending of it changed all of that.
What I Didn’t Like: I can’t really think of anything off-hand that I didn’t like, other than I wish Kevin McKidd had been allowed to use the British accent.
People from my other shows: Lucius Vorenus from Rome, causing one of my friends to call this show Vorenus P.I., which is what my hubby and I now call it
Verdict: Absolutely adore this show; my fave of the new season.

Dirty Sexy Money
Premise: The son of a lawyer who became rich handling the money of the super-rich family, The Darlings, dies, and the son, who had been pushed aside his entire life while his father attended to every need of the Darlings, vows he’s finally rid of them forever. Until they offer him millions of dollars every year to take his father’s position, and suddenly he’s yanked back in, in the way he never believed he would be.
What I liked: The show is like an adult version of Gossip Girl, showing us what happens to the rich kids from that show when they’re older, and people marry them or are interested in them only for their money. I liked the craziness of the characters, and the zaniness of the show, even if a lot of it was over-the-top.
What I didn’t like: Some was a little caricaturish… there’s a Paris Hilton character in the youngest daughter, and the youngest son seems to be based on Brandon Davis (a.k.a. the guy who coined the term “firecrotch”). But that said, I actually like the caricature. I wish the people who did music for these shows would learn to change it up a bit. I’ve now heard “Young Folks” by Peter, Bjorn and John in both this show and Gossip Girl… does it represent rich people or something?
People from my shows: Nathaniel from Six Feet Under.
Verdict: Love it. I’m sucked in by this one the same way I am Gossip Girl.

Coming up: Dexter, Moonlight, Aliens in America, Pushing Daisies, 30 Rock, Reaper, Friday Night Lights, The Tudors
**If leaving comments, please don't comment on a show I haven't yet watched (which is listed here) because I don't want anything spoiled. Thanks! :)

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Heroes: Four Months Later
I sat and watched Heroes today with my 2-day-old son (he loved it, I'm sure, even if he slept through half of it) and I thought it was an awesome return to the show, especially since we left on such a crappy note back in May. It felt like I was watching a movie, with almost no commercials, a trailer to open the season (hello, Sylar!), and the Mohinder voiceover.

-How did Nathan survive the blast? When he looked in the mirror, was that his real face looking back at us and he's somehow covering it, or was that how Peter looked when he last saw him, and it's haunting him? (maybe he didn't know Peter could heal?)
-Why did Parkman's wife leave him?
-Who killed Hiro's dad? I thought it was Peter at first, but then he was in the box.
-What is Maya's power/curse? Does she shoot bullets or cause people to die spontaneously?
-How lucid is Claire's mom? Does she remember everything or is she still kind of loopy? (The way she talks to Mr. Muggles, maybe she's always loopy and it has nothing to do with what hubby did to her.)
-Who sent the pics to Hiro's dad and Granny Petrelli?
-What is the significance of the eclipse at the beginning of the season?
-How did the guy in Claire's class know she was one of them? Does he work for The Company?
-Is Molly getting images of Sylar or someone else when she's drawing those things?
-Who created the myth of Takezo Kensei? Was it Kensei himself much later? Or perhaps Hiro (literally rewriting history??)
-Noah's loser manager has a giant scar across his forehead; was he attacked by Sylar?
-what role will the swordsmith's daughter eventually play in all of this?
-how did Peter end up in a crate in Ireland with 3 guys with terrible phony Irish accents? Why can't he remember anything?

-According to Hiro's dad, Linderman really is dead, so that solves that one (I think).
-Nikessica wasn't in the episode, which made it doubly awesome.
Liam Mackenzie! Born in the wee hours of the morning of Sunday, Saturday 23, Liam arrived amidst talk of Big Love (when my husband was shovelling ice chips into my mouth I said it was like Barbara on Big Love who eats ice chips whenever stressed out), Friday Night Lights (my husband kept yelling, "Clear eyes! Full hearts!" and I'd say "Can't lose!" for about the first half of labour, and then it just wasn't funny anymore...), and ultimately, Lost (my doula's first reaction to him being born the morning of the 23rd was, "That's one of Hurley's numbers!") He'll be a true TV baby. He's a sweet boy, and even though Mommy still hasn't been able to watch Heroes, I know he'll let me do so soon.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Heroes: Four Months Later
No time to post (holding the newborn as I type this) but what did you think of the new ep?

Friday, September 21, 2007

Fall 2007 Continued...
I'm continuing to watch a few of the new shows, though next week will be the true test of what this season will bring (I think I have 19 things lined up in my PVR). So far, disappointed with Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares, but will probably continue to tune in; loving having my ANTM back, despite the fact I think they're exploiting the medical condition of one character worse than they have before.

Now onto the dramas. The first new one I watched (okay... sorta watched) was K-Ville. It had an interesting premise -- cops in New Orleans post-Katrina having to deal with the extraordinary crime and the fact that very few cops want to come down and help them. It stars Anthony Anderson, who I LOVE LOVE LOVE on The Shield, but therein lies my problem. After only about 10 minutes of it, my husband said to me, "You know, The Wire and The Shield have pretty much spoiled me for cop shows" and I had JUST been thinking the same thing. When you've seen gritty, violent, disturbing, and brilliantly written shows like those two, anything from a regular network cop show is going to disappoint. This show was no exception. It had the cliches, the big "tearjerker" scene where both Anderson and his wife are crying over the fact she cannot live in the Big Easy anymore and he doesn't want to leave, a bloody murder in the middle of the day of someone who happens to be a friend of Anderson's, etc. And it was SO predictable that after half an hour, we turned it off, I deleted it, and removed the timer from the PVR. Bye, K-Ville.

Next up was Gossip Girl from the CW. I'd already gotten a review of it from a friend of mine who watches a lot of the same TV as I do, so I went into it skeptical but hopeful, which was pretty much her summation of it. And I felt the same way about it that she did. After about half an hour I was thinking, "Why do I care about these pretentious, shallow, rich, privileged kids who are so boring I'm falling asleep here?" But I didn't turn it off. And by the end of the show, I was actually looking forward to next week's episode. This is trashy soapy television, no doubt about it, with uneventful dialogue, stereotypical characters (including a dad who was in a 90s band and namedrops NIN and Trent Reznor), lots of love triangles, and kids who are so rude and selfish you want them all to fall into the Manhattan River. Yet I cannot look away. It's fun, thoughtless television. If you're looking for something to amuse yourself while you wash the dishes or want to veg out on the couch, this is it. It's great having Kristen Bell's voice on there (she's the voice of "gossip girl," the anonymous girl who runs a website about Manhattan socialites that has all the latest gossip and questions and secrets of these people, so the big mystery of the show will be who is gossip girl?)

So that's it for now, but next week I have Chuck, Journeyman, Reaper, Dirty Sexy Money, Cane, Bionic Woman, and the Ken Burns documentary The War, along with some others I'm sure I'm just forgetting. Nothing knocking my socks off yet, which makes me more excited to see Journeyman and Bionic Woman, which may be the only 2 I continue to watch beyond this first month. And of course the return of Heroes and The Office has me super-excited.

Maybe I'm a little jaded after having finished up watching Friday Night Lights' first season, which was phenomenal. The following contains no spoilers, so if you haven't watched it yet, please read on so I can try to convince you to. It's NOT a show about football. Football is in the background, just like ER does not require you to know how to intubate someone if you want to watch it. But football becomes a metaphor for so much going on in the show. The centre of the show is the Taylor family. Coach Taylor (played by the incredible Kyle Chandler, who pulls off this super-tough, crochety coach on the field but a gentle, quiet person who is extremely devoted to his family off) has just been brought to Dillon, Texas, to coach the high school team, The Dillon Panthers. The town's been through a lot, and economically is going through a rough patch. All they have is football. All they have is this team. The players on the team all have giant signs on their front lawns with their names, positions, and numbers, and as such they command respect, and you can imagine the townspeople genuflecting as they drive by the houses sporting these signs. Tami Taylor, played by the equally incredible Connie Britton (she is SO subtle in this role, yet is riveting every time she's on screen), is his wife, who has an amazing sense of humour and with whom everyone falls in love when they meet her. When she gets a job working inside the school, her character really takes off and we see what she's made of. Their daughter Julie is dealing with being the new kid, and having the eye of the quarterback on her.

The often loathsome, larger-than-life Buddy Garrity is the guy with the money, the biggest businessman in town (he owns a car dealership) and the main sponsor of the Dillon Panthers. Taylor quickly realizes that he will have to deal with Buddy every week showing up on the field, offering tips and suggestions (and sometimes threats) and that he can't kick him off. The power struggle between these two is one of the best things to watch in the season. His daughter Lyla Garrity is the head cheerleader.

Lyla is dating Jason Street (#6 in the picture), and he is THE best quarterback in the nation, and the one who will take him to state... until he doesn't. The first episode is closely based on the book and the movie, and if you've read or seen either, you know what'll happen to him. The characters on the team are all fleshed out: Besides Jason, you've got Smash Williams (#20 on the right), the loudmouth running back. His mom, who I mentioned in a previous post, has her hands full with this one, but he's a great character. Matt Saracen (second from right) is the quiet, nervous, jittery quarterback who has to step in when Jason Street is no longer around, and he's ill-equipped for the role at first. The season is filled with watching him slowly improve, while trying to come out of his shell. Hi father is fighting in Iraq, and he lives with his grandmother, who suffers from dimentia and is a full-time job for a kid who also has football and school to deal with. When he develops a crush on Julie, the coach's daughter, whom the coach protects like a fierce bear, the result is sweet, hilarious, and sad all at once. Tim Riggins (#33) is the show's hottie, the running back bad boy who has an alcohol problem, and is widely considered the guy most likely to burn out and be pumping gas in five years. But he has a big heart, and by the end of the season, we see what he's capable of.

The side characters provide just as much enjoyment as the main ones. My favourite is Landry, Matt Saracen's best friend. The best comparison I can make of the actor is to Matt Damon. (He looks so much like him I actually googled him to see if they were related; they're not, but he played the younger version of Damon in a film, which is no surprise.) Every time the show would cut to a scene with him and Saracen, my husband and I would be laughing before he'd even open his mouth. He provides the comic relief for most of the season, and there's no way to describe the way the actor pulls it off. His very matter-of-fact way of talking, his ego, and his wild imagination make every scene with him an absolute joy. It's such a shame that none of these actors were noticed at the Emmys, but no shock.

The show looks at family problems, poverty vs. wealth, teen alcoholism, racism, the burdens on the shoulders of most teens, the burdens on the shoulders of the parents of the teens, paralysis, uncertain futures, mob mentality, all couched in a show that appears on the surface to be about football. One thing we'd noticed by the end of the season was that the show loves to dodge your expectations: it's like that scene where Spike is standing in the cemetery making his big speech, "I'm gonna get you Slayer, you and your little friends better watch your backs because the Big Bad is back, and..." and then he trips and falls into an open grave, from which you hear him utter, "Ow." The same thing happens over and over here, though not played for laughs the way that one was. A character gives a big speech that should sweep another one off their feet, and the other one just looks at them, music stops, and they say, "Are you done?" and the speech doesn't have the desired effect. We think we're about to watch a "very special episode" about teen sex or something, and it turns out to be the complete opposite.

We started watching this show on September 9, and only watched it in the evenings after the toddler went to bed, and we managed to finish it by September 20. I urge everyone reading this to get your hands on the DVD and start watching, and you'll be finished by October 5, when the new season begins. This show is phenomenal, and ranks right up there with Heroes and The Office as the show I cannot wait to see in a couple of weeks.

And that's it for me for a while. My doctor has decided to induce me tomorrow morning, so I'll probably be missing from this blog for a little bit. (I will be home in time for the Heroes premiere on Monday, though... girl's gotta have priorities.) I'm hoping to do something small, even if it's just the title of the episode, and "Liked it" so that you could leave comments, because that was always my favourite part of the TV season -- reading what others had to say. Wish me luck, and happy TV viewing! (Get Friday Night Lights.)

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.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

My New Fave TV Character
So, as I've been reporting, I'm gunning through Friday Night Lights' first season on DVD, hoping to finish it before the season 2 premiere at the beginning of October. I've decided as of last night's episode that my new fave person on television is Liz Mikel, who plays Smash Williams' mother on the show. She is SO amazing, I'm on the edge of my seat whenever she's on screen. From the first time she burst into the house when Smash was doin' the nasty with one of his teammates' girlfriends on the couch and his mom walked that girl back outside and told her she works at Planned Parenthood and assumes this isn't the last she'll see of the girl, to when she storms into the coach's office after discovering something in her son's room (I'm trying to stay as vague as possible because I really want everyone to be watching this show and I don't want to spoil it) this woman is larger than life, confident, and will do ANYTHING to protect her children. Even if it means kicking them out of the house until they grow up enough to respect her and be allowed back in. She's amazing.

This made me laugh out loud. Of course, it is the UK Sun that is "reporting" it, so it could be complete fantasy (for someone who is as pop-culture savvy as Tarantino, I find it hard to believe he's never heard of Heroes), but it's still pretty funny.

K-Ville premiered last night, and I haven't had a chance to watch it yet, but the ratings were strong, according to Variety. However, as they report in the article, it'll be interesting to see what happens next week when it's up against Heroes and isn't the only new show on TV. It was pretty smart to jump the gun by a week, since EVERYTHING seems to be starting up again next week.

I finally got out to see Stardust on the weekend, and I loved it. See this movie if you've never read a Neil Gaiman book, and maybe you'll become a convert. It's typical of his stories -- on the surface it seems to be a typical fairy tale, but then it takes completely bizarre twists and is absolutely hilarious. I read the book years ago, and now I want to reread it. Everyone is excellent in it. Apparently Sarah Michelle Gellar was offered the part that Claire Danes got, and turned it down because she thought it would keep her apart from Freddie for too long. I think she made a mistake. Ricky Gervais is hilarious in his short role. While he comes off as David Brent in a funny hat, but I don't care; I love him, and no one does the crazy stutter the way he does. He is perfect in the part.

And finally, I know I've talked about this on here before, and I don't want to keep going on about it, but I really do believe there needs to be proper education out there on the subject. So to repeat what I've said before, breastfeeding is NOT wrong. Breastfeeding in public is NOT wrong. I think women can be -- and most ARE, despite what the detractors say -- discreet, and they cover up. But for those who for some ungodly reason are offended by it, just the suggestion that there might be a baby suckling at a breast completely hidden underneath a cloth wrap is enough to send those people into a tizzy.

The latest controversy involving breastfeeding has happened over on the social networking site, Facebook. According to the Toronto Star, when a woman posted a photo of herself breastfeeding, she discovered the photo had been deleted (her breasts were not even pictured, it was a photo of her sons with absolutely no skin from her breast present at all). She emailed them simply to ask why the photo had been taken down, and because she dared to do so, her account was shut down. She was sent an email saying the photo contained "obscene" content. I've seen photos on Facebook of 16-year-old kids completely hammered at a keg party licking the face of someone else, and that's appropriate because their nipples aren't hanging out (though everything else is), but a woman feeding her child is obscene. O...kay.

Now a Facebook group has popped up that is growing by 1,000 members a day, who are posting photos of themselves breastfeeding (and of all of them, I have yet to see one that was "obscene") and trying to change the rules on Facebook. I wish them all the best. I've said it before and I'll say it again -- you don't want to eat in a bathroom stall, and neither does a baby, so if you're sitting in a restaurant and you see a mother breastfeeding her child, just look away if it bothers you. You wouldn't be staring at her otherwise, so why stare at her because she's feeding a baby? Most woman will turn into a corner to latch the child on so their nipples don't offend anyone, but once that baby is on there, the nipple is hidden, and if you can see the rest of the breast minus the nipple, how is that any different than a woman wearing a low-cut top?

I saw a video of Bill Maher talking about breastfeeding that so enraged me, I won't even post it here because I don't want other people to watch this drivel. But in it, he said that women who breastfeed in public are "too lazy to either plan ahead or cover up." And I quote. Because as we all know, if only that woman had planned ahead and fed her child BEFORE going out, no child needs to be breastfed more than three times a day (all that stuff about every 90 minutes to 2 hours is utter bull, isn't it, Bill?). He then goes on to say that breastfeeders are narcissists who want the world to stare at them because they had gone and made a baby. And I'm sure everyone reading this would agree with me that whenever they've seen a woman breastfeeding in public, the woman first gets up on the restaurant table, screams for attention, pulls off her top and latches the kid on, leaving the other breast hanging out.

I would assume this man has never been married, and has certainly never had children. I love when people speak from experience. Every time I hear Bill Maher speak, I think he's an even slimier weasel than the time before.

When will people just leave breastfeeding women alone? Has it ever occurred to these naysayers that maybe breastfeeding ISN'T the narcissistic sport they've made it out to be? I remember agonizing over it with my first. I'd go out and always push my daughter beyond her limit, hoping I could get her home. And in the few times I did have to do it -- in a restaurant, mall, my office, etc. -- I did it as discreetly as possible, while covering up completely. I remember doing it in a mall once, and I had my daughter in a sling, went into one of those dark hallways that lead to the washrooms, stood facing a corner, got her latched on, and pulled the sling way up over her so no one could see anything, and then continued to walk around the mall. I saw a couple of people staring and realized that I hadn't pulled the sling all the way down, and about an inch of my tummy was showing. Yet girls were walking by me with most of their middle sections showing off their pierced navels, and no one was pointing. Because there was no suggestion that maybe, just maybe, they were doing something "obscene" with their breasts at that very moment.

What would you rather have in a restaurant: a woman breastfeeding her child in the booth next to you, or that same child screaming and howling like an alien because they are starving and their mother is too scared to breastfeed them for fear that asshats like Bill Maher just might be looking on?

Monday, September 17, 2007

A Realistic TV Schedule
I've seen this before, but it still kills me. The Fox entry is the best. :)

Okay, I hate the Emmys, y'all know that, but I get sucked in like every other TV viewer, still hoping against hope that someone I like from a show I watch might actually win an award. I didn't actually watch the Emmys until the very very end, so I missed most of them, and only found out about the highlights in the paper this morning (or while googling last night while my husband watched The Usual Suspects on MPIX for the tenth time... actually the much better viewing choice). So imagine my surprise to find out that Locke had actually won the Emmy! (And is it just me, or does it look like a price tag is stuck to the bottom of his award in this pic?) And of course, I'm still going to complain -- I wish Michael Emerson had won, because this was his year -- but that said, just think of O'Quinn's performance at the end of "The Man from Tallahassee," where in the flashback we see him get plopped into that wheelchair for the first time and he sees the rest of his life in those four wheels and breaks down, and you know this man deserves an award.

I love Entourage, I love Jeremy Piven, I adore Ari, but I wish Rainn Wilson had taken it.

James Spader over James Gandolfini? Does ANYONE watch Boston Legal? Anyone?? (How sucky that they both have the same first name; I said to my husband, I bet Gandolfini was almost getting out of his chair until the person said, "Spader.") And what happened to James Spader?? He used to be SO hot. Now he's puffy and looks like he's been having donut-eating competitions with Shatner. Yikes.

30 Rock winning best comedy! I was rooting for The Office, but considering they were rock bottom in the ratings last year, I hope this helps. Then again, it didn't help Arrested Development, but we can still dream. I love 30 Rock.

The Sopranos won best drama over Heroes, and it comes as no surprise. But I think it was actually the right choice, too. Over all those other shows, The Sopranos changed the face of television and what we watch, how we watch it, etc. It's caused shows like 24 and Lost to experiment with January to May uninterrupted runs. It's allowed more profanity, violence, and nudity into prime-time shows (and I don't mean that as a bad thing). It's improved the soundtracks of most dramas. But most of all, it's shown us that television writing can be as compelling, daring, and groundbreaking as film writing. It deserved that award more than any show in the past year (with the exception of The Wire, but I'm not going to go there again... let me repeat: best season of ANY series, EVER).

By most accounts, the highlight was the lyric faceoff between Kanye and Rainn, and I watched it on YouTube and it was hilarious. Kanye West is an immensely talented performer, but a WHINER. He whines that he was robbed at the Grammys. He bitches when he doesn't get an AMA. He declares racism when he's beat out at the VMAs (by Rihanna, no less... uh... what?) But at the end of the day, he can still laugh at himself. So here's a competition that he should absolutely win... and he doesn't. I love it.

Friday, September 14, 2007

The END of the Family
Canadians reading this blog will have no doubt heard about the latest StatsCan figures that are saying only about 50% of families in Canada are married, two heterosexual parent families. The other 50% consists of common-law families, with or without children; same-sex couples, with or without children; and single-parent families.

And it will come as no surprise to anyone reading those figures that the conservatives among us are furious, disgusted, and throwing up their hands in disgrace. Because, apparently, if there are a bunch of people out there who "claim" to be in love and have brought children into this world but don't have a government-authorized piece of paper saying they are legally allowed to be bringing said children into this world or claiming love of another individual, then the world's going to hell in a handbasket.

I just roll my eyes at all of it. When people talk about gay marriage, the opponents somehow believe it will threaten THEIR heterosexual marriage. How does the marriage of two people that aren't you or your spouse affect your marriage in any way? I remember having a discussion with someone who said the problem with gay marriage is there is no procreation, and that should be the key principle of marriage. I just looked at him, with an amused smile on my face, and patiently waited for him to actually stop and digest what he'd just said. He was on his second marriage, both married in their 50s, and had children from previous marriages. They'd gotten married because they were in love, not to have children. And yet here he was passing judgment on someone else for doing the same thing (the difference being, in gay couples they COULD actually give birth to children or adopt and raise a child).

Then there are the ones yelling about common-law marriage. People say that by living common-law, you're not showing a commitment, and the partnership isn't worth it until you've been together for 3 years, because only then are you entitled to half the property of the other person. First of all, I always get a kick out of the fact that these people usually cite the point at which YOU CAN HAVE A DIVORCE as the point where a partnership becomes legitimate, like we all go into a relationship imagining how things will be when we come back out of it. I was with my husband for 10 years before we got married, and after we had our handy-dandy certificate from the government saying we were now legally allowed to say we were in love, I didn't feel any different. I'm certainly not against traditional marriage, obviously, but I just don't see the big deal. If we hadn't spent some money and invited friends to watch us take our vows (which we pretty much laughed through) does it mean we don't love each other as much? And as we all know, if you DO get married, it's virtually impossible to get a divorce in this country. :/

And finally, the biggest demographic taking the hit is single parenthood. People are decrying the lack of the family by pointing out that there are so many single parents around, suggesting the children of those parents will grow up to be complete societal screwups who will fail at everything. Sure, the ideal is to have a strong family base that doesn't involve arguing or yelling or outright abuse, but sometimes when the parents finally bite the bullet and get the separation or divorce, it makes for a MUCH happier home. Is it better for the kids to watch the plates whizzing by their parents' heads each night, or to enjoy the silence?

Of course, I'm not trying to downplay the seriousness of the situation. Often single parenthood is accompanied by low incomes, continued agony as the remaining parent (usually the mother) is the one left behind and now takes out her anger on the children, or there is abuse of some kind that accompanies the whole thing, either by the outgoing parent or the incoming step-one. It's not ideal.

But the problem with any broad survey like this one is that they can say, "50% of families are like this, 20% are like this, 17% like this, and 13% like this" and they think they're covering all the bases. But fevery family is unique. Name two families that are exactly alike. Name one family that is "normal." You can't do it. Because there is no normal, there are only individual situations. No family can be summed up in a stupid survey. These surveys only serve to drive people apart, causing judgement and raised eyebrows, and the inevitable angry letter writers. The National Post's letters to the editor section on Friday was a riot, full of married mothers of 4, 5, even 8 children, decrying the end of the traditional family as if the results of this survey were committing their children to lives of gloom and doom. How ridiculous.

In other news, my husband and I started watching Friday Night Lights a few nights ago and we're already 12 episodes in. If the baby holds off, I'll have finished the season in less than a week. It is mind-blowingly good, and feels like a cross between a big-budget movie and an HBO series.

Today's Opus comic. I love Berke Breathed.

The rumour mill on Battlestar Galactica is saying that the final season will now be split up into two halves, with the first half airing beginning in January 2008, and the second half to begin airing in January 2009 (!!!!!) What?! Matt Roush of TV Guide rolled his eyes at the fan concerns, before declaring a "mea culpa" and apologizing, realizing it really would be difficult to watch them like that. Sure, The Sopranos did it all the time, but the difference is, as one fan pointed out, these episodes will have all been written, filmed, and finished, and it's just a case of the Sci-Fi Channel not airing them.

I just discovered this truly brilliant blog, where the blogger finds great 70s and 80s Swedish album covers and posts them. (Occasionally the bands aren't Swedish, but 99% of them are.) I just wish it were written in English, because I would love to know what the blogger is saying about each cover. :) Check it out. As you scroll through, you can't help but think, "What were these people thinking?!"

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Lost Moving to Mondays?

BuddyTV is reporting that Lost might be moving to Monday nights at 8pm, making Monday night THE night to be home... and seriously hurting me blog-wise. (There's no way I can do long comprehensive blogs on both Heroes and Lost on the same night.) But blogging aside, Mondays will be hella cool if this happens. It will have to go head-to-head with Prison Break, but presumably Lost fans have enough taste that they're not tuning into that show.

I just found this poster today online and was thrilled: Lucy Lawless is a big breastfeeding advocate who did this poster for Breastfeeding Week. The band across the bottom says, "Breastfeeding -- my best role ever." Yay! Lucy is interviewed on today, where she dishes on why Football Wives failed in the US (in a nutshell, they refused to make it as trashy as the British version), and what it's like playing a damsel in distress. She will also be appearing on the October 10 episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, and when asked about how avoidy Larry David is, she replies:

He's quiet and standoffish and doesn't really want to say hello or anything, but I was determined to be as obnoxious as possible. When I shot the episode, I had just received the new Xena [greeting] card that Hallmark puts out, so I wrote on it "Welcome to the Lucy Lawless Experience" and gave it to Larry. You open it up and it screams out the Xena war cry. He loved me ever after. So my advice to anyone trying to get on Larry's good side: Have your own Hallmark card.

When I was listing off the new shows I plan to watch, I missed Journeyman, which premieres September 24th on NBC at 10 pm (it will follow the Heroes premiere). It stars Kevin McKidd, best known as Lucius Vorenus on Rome, and you can see the trailer here. It looks wicked.

For Canadians, The Tudors begins on CBC on October 2nd at 9pm. It's supposed to be great, though from what I've heard it's about as historically accurate as Black Adder. I don't care; I know the real story of Henry VIII, so now I'm looking forward to the fake one.

Speaking of which, my Fall TV preview of Entertainment Weekly FINALLY arrived today, so I might be adding some more shows based on their recommendations and rundowns of the shows. The issue is worth it for Dalton Ross's back page rundown of who SHOULD have been nominated for Emmys in an ideal world. With the exception of Annabeth Gish on Brothers and Sisters (I don't watch anything with Calista Flockhart in it), I watch and love all the shows he talks about. You can read the article online here.

In the same vein, has awarded its 4th annual Buffy Award (aka the award to the most underappreciated awesome show on television) to Friday Night Lights. My hubby and I have just finished the fourth episode and it ROCKS. I love this show.

My publisher has finally unveiled ECW Press's new website, and it looks pretty awesome. There are going to be lots of extras on it, with video and poets reading their poetry and an ongoing blog, etc. Check it out! Daily! :)

The Toronto Film Festival has been on all week and I've missed it (wah) and apparently the films have been amazing, but according to Variety, the deals have not. Yikes.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Mike Rowe on QVC
I really should be doing some work, but I found this goldmine and it's distracted me for the better part of a morning. Some of you might know Mike Rowe from his hilarious Discovery Channel show, Dirty Jobs, where he looks at some of the world's worst jobs and makes you thrilled to know you're not doing one of them. What you might not know (at least, I didn't) is that he used to be one of the hosts on QVC, the shopping channel in the US. Only, unlike the perky, happy hosts that we're used to seeing, he would sit there, clearly showing his disdain for the product he was supposed to be shilling. Half the time he's on the verge of laughter, and his product descriptions are oozing with sarcasm. Check out this clip of him trying to sell a Precious Moments figurine. I was in stitches; you can tell he HATES the little trinket:

Some of my favourites:

Selling a Christmas doll, where he likens the little mouse in her stocking to the one Lenny crushes in Of Mice and Men, apologizes to the doll for sticking his hand up her dress to turn the music on, and then makes fun of the "classic" Christmas song "Oh What a Merry Christmas Day" and encourages you to sing along (then he does, just making up the words because he's never heard the freakin' thing)

Joining another woman who is selling "dickies" (think of the black one Randy Quaid wears under his white shirt in Christmas Vacation) and the look on his face when she first calls them that.

Selling porcelain cherubs, where he tries to define what a cherub is and comes up with "not a homo sapien."

Making fun of seagull jewellery that doesn't have any seagulls on it.

And another one of the best: He has to sell a paper bag for $36.50 and call it a cat toy. He spends three minutes trying not to laugh, especially when they show the "gripping video" of another cat enjoying it. It's brilliant:

I have no idea how Rowe ever managed to sell a single item to the people who would have been watching (think Ellen Burstyn's character in Dying Young) but I wish he were still on: I'd be tuning in every day to watch. You can watch more by going to YouTube and typing in "Mike Rowe on QVC".

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Stuff for a Tuesday
TV Guide's Matt Roush finally gets around to addressing Lost's Emmy snubs by answering a letter about it. Interestingly, the letter writer asks Roush if he thinks Lost was influenced by The Prisoner at all, to which Roush replies, "Why not." Actually, it was immensely influenced by it... check out my new book to find out how (plug plug). ;)

Late to be reporting on this, but the fabulous Edie Falco will be appearing on 30 Rock this fall. Falco is thrilled because she loves the show and says it makes her laugh out loud. Tina Fey is thrilled because she's hoping to get the dirt on what The Sopranos finale was all about.

Check out for a short video interview with Michelle Ryan from The Bionic Woman (using the accent we know and love from EastEnders). Not a lot of insight, but she has a great story about the fight scene with Katee Sackhoff.

Digital Spy has begun a series of stories on the genesis of Joss Whedon's Ripper. As a side note, my pal Crissy was at a film festival party on the weekend and who should be there but Anthony Stewart Head. Unlike most people, Crissy (who I proudly claim as one of my personal Buffy converts) didn't shy away from walking right up to him, telling him how great he was on Buffy, and got not only a conversation but a kiss on each cheek for her troubles. :::SWOON::: Also, when she was talking about his new horror musical called Repo, he thought she said "Ripper" and told her that production would probably be starting within the year on it. From the horse's mouth, people!!!! I saw Crissy yesterday and it took all of my power not to reach out and grab her cheeks just to be a little closer to those kisses.

National Post film critic Chris Knight wrote a hilarious column about having to interview Tommy Lee Jones. Rather than pretend everything went hunky dory and just writing a quick article about what Jones said, Knight revealed to us how humiliating it was to talk to him, what a crankpuss he was, and how he felt like he was going to wet himself throughout the interview. Definitely check it out.

And the Brit-Brit controversy continues. The Globe and Mail ran through what a lot of the major blogs were saying yesterday, including all the morons who continue to lambaste Brit for her body. (I'm sure many of those same bloggers make fun of people like Angelina Jolie for her super-skinny arms and post photos of her with EAT scrawled across the top... you can't have it both ways, people...) The performance was terrible. The body was awesome. Bikini or no. Idiots. Check out this article for the discussion on that topic.

"Dick in a Box" won the Emmy for Outstanding Music and Lyrics! Check out the interview with Samberg and Timberlake talking about the song.

Finally, today is obviously September 11, and I still remember where I was when I heard the news (during the film festival). When I realized I was due to give birth at the end of this week, my first thought was that I didn't want to have the baby on September 11. Now, if I suddenly go into labour today, I don't think it would be a bad thing -- it would create new happy memories for this day, while I won't be forgetting the original significance of the date.

Just a note that if I suddenly disappear at some point in the next week, I'm probably in a hospital having a baby. :) (In fact, if anyone has any ideas -- scientific, old wive's tales, or otherwise -- on how to induce labour, let me know.)

Monday, September 10, 2007

"It's Britney, Bitch"
Yeah, yeah, EVERYONE is blogging about Brit-Brit's performance at the VMAs last night, so I shall keep this short, and leave the real bellyaching to the ones with the gossip blogs. In short, this performance has finally kicked to death the last wheezing remnants of her career (or the hope that she'd get it back). She's been demonized in the press as a bad mother; she's been in and out of rehab more times than she's worn underwear; she doesn't wear underwear; she's having a fantastically awful time with her ex and the custody battles; she's gone postal on the press. This girl's nervous breakdown has been so public it's a wonder she's still as with it as she is. But through it all, there was always that tiny hope that maybe, just maybe she'd get it together and have that comeback. The single was released a couple of weeks ago and people said, hey, this ain't bad. Maybe Britney IS back, bitch.

And then, the colossal disaster of last night's showing at the VMAs proved otherwise. She was lipsynching -- ooh, knock me over with a feather for how shocked I am. That's by no means the surprise of the evening (that gal always lipsynched, even when she was at the height of her career...does anyone else think the past tense should be lipsanched?). People complained that she was this out-of-shape jellyroll hulking around the stage. Um... I WISH I were that out of shape. Most of the people making those comments would never dream of being in a bikini, and if they did, they should stop dreaming immediately. The real issue was just her demeanour. She looked like she wanted to be anywhere else but on stage. She wasn't hulking around the stage, she was sulking and slouching and wandering aimlessly like she had no idea where she was, what she was supposed to do, and what the hell song she was supposed to be doing it to. Her "dance moves" were a joke. We've all seen how she used to dance -- last night I think I could have outdanced her. Everything was lacklustre, like she'd rather get back to her drinking and partying than be wasting her time with these overchoreographed people around her. It was just sad.

There have been a lot of excuses from people -- she'd overheard Sarah Silverman's rehearsal where she referred to Brit's kids as the most adorable mistakes imaginable, or said at the age of 25 Spears had accomplished everything she was ever going to; the heel of her boot was broken; she was supposed to be doing a magic routine with Criss Angel and the MTV producers pulled it at the last minute and told her to just follow the dancers, so she actually had no idea what to do instead -- but it just sounds to me like rumours generated to make even more excuses for Spears. How does some blogger sitting at home know that any of this stuff happened? They don't. I just don't think Britney wants to be doing this anymore, and she's being pushed to do it. It's time we just leave her be -- maybe when she becomes a has-been, it might be the therapy she's been looking for. Britney is over.

The rest of the VMAs were as confusing and confused as Britney was at the beginning. I used to love the VMAs. I thought last night was complete chaos. Never watching again.

My husband and I watched season 2 of Big Love in about a week. And it was brilliant. If you're not watching this show, please please do. It's the cream of the HBO crop. It's got the family quirkiness of Six Feet Under; the wars between families of The Sopranos; the weird, insular political intrigue of Deadwood; and it's fun. After about two episodes of the first season, I still couldn't shake my befuddlement. How could ANYONE live like this? These women don't have rights, I thought. They're giving up their womenhood and agreeing to be barefoot and pregnant and sharing their husband with two other women so they can help their hubby get into the "celestial kingdom," which is a load of bunk as far as I'm concerned. Yet by the end of season 2, when Barb's family is showing their utter disdain and disgust for her polygamous lifestyle, I'm thinking, "How DARE you?" because I love her sister-wives so much. It will make you think about a situation you might never have considered before, but it will draw you in to a world that seems as normal as your own family. It's so brilliant. Season 1 is out on DVD, easily rentable or bought, and season 3 has already been ordered for next year.

Funny things I've read in the past couple of days:
In a pamphlet with breastfeeding instructions that came with a pillow I recently bought (the pillow I used on my first pregnancy was awful, and I swear contributed to problems I had), it said, "Make sure you wrap the pillow tightly around your waste." Ew. Why would I do such a thing??

I went to McDonalds to get a hamburger today (a staple of my diet for both pregnancies), and the wrapper was for a bacon cheeseburger. On the top was a sticker that said: Special order: bacon cheeseburger, no bacon, no cheese. O...kay. They probably could have made that one easier on themselves.

Last night, post-Big Love season 2 finale, we immediately launched into Friday Night Lights. I'd already seen the pilot, but it was a year ago when it first aired, so we watched it again and it was as amazing as I remember it being the first time. But it gave me that moment of "mother of a boy" anxiety that I'm going to soon have, where I look at the brutality of the sport and think, "I hope my son never takes up football... or hockey, for that matter." It's not just boys who can do the big contact sports -- one of my best friends in high school was a hockey goalie, and my sister-in-law sports new bruises every week as someone who practises Muay Thai -- but I think typically this is more of a son worry than a daughter one.

I had season 3 of The Office in my hands last week, and then figured I'll look for it at Costco. But it was hard to put down. On the back it said extras included Lazy Scranton, an interview with Joss Whedon, and Kevin cooking stuff in the office. How could I have put that back on the shelf?! I cannot wait to watch it again.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Do Authors Read Your Reviews?
I'm sure a lot of people leave reviews on not realizing that authors pore over those comments as closely as they do reviews in magazines or newspapers or anywhere else. I'm not addicted to checking Amazon, but I'll admit I probably go in there a couple of times a month and click on my books. And honestly, reviews by the public are just as important to me and most other authors as reviews from leading papers are. Maybe even moreso, because this is our actual public, the market that we write to, and not some person behind a desk assigned to review our book when they may not know the subject matter. Think of the news that was made when Anne Rice responded to her bad reviews by blasting the people who'd left them. Yes, even the big authors read their Amazon reviews (don't let any author tell you they don't).

The nature of the Internet in the age of Web 2.0 is that anyone can have an opinion, and can sway the opinions of others if said opinion has been built up to be a trusted one. I'm guilty of it right here, writing every week on my favourite shows and blasting them if I was unhappy, or praising them if I'm over the moon in love. was one of the first places on board to do such a thing -- allow the general public to become journalists, reviewers, and the ones who will sway the opinions of others. Of course, there's very little monitoring going on. My brother published a non-fiction book, and someone wrote a review saying he revealed that the subject he was writing about suffered from AIDS and was a pedophile. He complained, Amazon looked into the matter, and the review was removed. But if someone makes a claim that sounds credible, but is in fact completely made up, Amazon will leave it there.

Should there be more policing? I don't think so... people always take the reviews on Amazon with a grain of salt. The best-reviewed book I have is my last one, Finding Lost. If you go to the Amazon page, you'll see a lot of 5-star reviews, which warms the cockles of my heart. What author wouldn't love that? Of course, there's the one review that stands out, written by a person allegedly named Jane Tamaras. The review has given my book one star, and says, "You should look elsewhere fro LOST guides. There are so many errors, I found myself wondering if the author has ever seen this televisio show! Better look else where for factual and timely information about your favorite TV show."

First of all, how much do I love that this person criticized the editing of the book, while misspelling three words? But to be honest, the moment I saw this review a few months ago, I was thrilled. Seriously. Because the reviewer is none other than Jim Stewart, a man who published another Lost guide that is apparently terrible (and full of typographical and grammatical errors). But people have caught on: you'll notice 1 out of 22 people have said his review was helpful, so they know it was written by him. If you go to the page for his book, you'll see several positive reviews that were allegedly written by him (some of them signed by him), and then several negative reviews written by others. The really entertaining part is to click on the comments of the reviews, and see Jim responding angrily to them, calling them names, and saying all other Lost books are simply copies of his because he had the idea first (my Lost book is based on the writing model I've been using since 1998). Finally someone said to forget his book, buy mine, and he went and left the nasty review on my page in response. I was one of the last ones to be attacked by him, though; he'd already gone through most of the unofficial Lost books and left his mark. (I was starting to wonder why he didn't think me worthy of attacking!)

I'm sometimes annoyed that his one-star review has dragged down my overall rating, but should it be removed? No... because to police this one review would make it difficult for anyone who legitimately thought my book (or any book) really did lack grammatical merit. And that's a fair assessment of any book. In my case, he's just made it up, but I know I've read books where I've thought that about them.

I've gotten a lot of reviews on my other books, good, bad, and otherwise. Some people don't like that I include a bloopers or nitpick section in my book, and think I should just praise the shows without pointing out things that were wrong. And that's a fair thing to say. Is it true that authors remember praise-worthy reviews as good things, but could probably quote you the bad reviews word for word? Absolutely. It's ingrained in us. I've worked with so many authors over the years who have sold lots of books, gotten heaps of praise, and then one tiny, insignificant review comes along and it shatters their world. I try my best, "Hey, any publicity is good publicity!" pep talk, but the truth is, I'm exactly the same. For instance, there's a review of my book, Once Bitten, where the reviewer says that I went on and on about how there's an empath demon but it doesn't look like Lorne (I read that review a couple of years ago, and still remember it; I didn't have to switch to the page just now). In the actual book, it's a minor nitpick, where I say something like, "The demon in this episode is an empath demon, but interestingly doesn't look like Lorne." But this reviewer made it sound like I was shrieking on a mountaintop like a banshee about it, devoting endless space to this one point. Then the person says one other thing about it and based on two things I wrote in about 350 pages, she says don't buy this book. Another review says the name "Lindsey" is spelled "Lindsay" in a photo caption, and not to buy the book based on that. There was nothing more in the review than that. (The name was spelled correctly by me, and was mistyped at a production level and then not caught at the proofreading stage.) I remember being annoyed that after everything I'd written in the book, it would be written off for a bad cutline.

But what these reviews do is help shape how I'll handle future books. In one review for Angel (or maybe Buffy... I think it was Once Bitten, though), someone goes on at length about my nitpicks, and how they don't care about my opinion, and then they say something like how I don't give plot summaries. Yet in all of my books, I include an introduction that says exactly that -- this book will not contain plot summaries, but will assume you've seen the episode and then will discuss it indepth with you afterwards. And that the nitpicks are simply my opinion, and I might be wrong on some of them, and if I am, here's my email address and please let me know what you thought instead.

So for Lost, I took that bit out of the introduction (which apparently everyone skips) and put it right into the book, and voila, no one has complained because they go into the book knowing that I am not going to rehash plots, and that the nitpicks could have an explanation, I just haven't found it yet. Without these reviews pointing out that I wasn't making my point strongly enough, I wouldn't have known to do that.

No one likes a lousy review. But they make us stronger in the long run, I think. But hey, good reviews are SO much better. :) So please let us know what you think... because we're all reading what you write, just as you're reading what we write. And whenever I get another good review, it makes writing these books completely worthwhile.