New Shows That Might Be Good and Stuff September 9, 2013Posted by Ted in : 1600 Penn, 30 Rock, 666 Park Avenue, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Crime Dramas, CW, General, Hannibal, Heroes, Lost, Lucky 7, Marvel's Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D., NBC, Once Upon a Time, Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, Reality TV, Reviews, Ringer, Sci-Fi, Siberia, Sleepy Hollow, Terra Nova, The 100, The Blacklist, The Crazy Ones, The River, The Tomorrow People, The X-Files, Uncategorized, Whedonverse , add a comment
Wow, the 2013 Fall TV season really snuck up on me this year, so I apologize for not getting this posted sooner. I’ll spare you the excuses. Since I haven’t written in a while, first I’ll say a few words about last season’s shows.
As I might have mentioned last time, I’ve started to question my faith in network television over the last couple of years, with so many great new shows getting axed after one season or even half a season. Earlier in the year, two more favorites, 666 Park Ave. and 1600 Penn were tossed into the TV mass grave with the corpses of The River, Terra Nova, and Ringer.
666 Park Avenue, in spite of its campy name, turned out to be one of my all-time favorites. I think if more people had given it a chance, it would still be with us. ABC delivered the final four episodes during the summer, as promised, and the show’s writers managed to wrap the whole thing up in a way that provided closure to the fans. The ending was a suitably dark leap ahead in the show’s timeline, showing us the destiny of characters in this creepy-but-fun drama. If you have a taste for the supernatural genre, this is definitely one to get on DVD (or to watch on Netflix or whatever. I fully realize that the trend of technology is away from physical ownership and toward internet cloud-based storage and consumption. Kind of depressing, really. We’ll be sitting in our empty houses with no DVDs or CDs or books, glued like addicts to our wireless electronic devices. Not to mention, all the music, movie, and book stores will be put out of business in the process. Is there any way I can opt out of the future?)
Jane tries to figure out what happened to her show.
1600 Penn – NBC has come up with a lot of terrible sitcoms in recent years, but this show about a fictitious US president and his family was a winner in my book. Jenna Elfman co-starred as the first lady, and exuded a kind of warm, cub scout den-mother likability (and she looks pretty stunning for her age, I might add.) The adult son’s lovable-goofball antics in a White House setting seemed like a witty enough premise, but America has once again disagreed. Yet another great show cancelled after half a season. Somebody tell me again how the hideously terrible 30 Rock lasted so long.
Siberia – Just when I was sure there would never be another show as good as 666 Park Avenue, NBC aired this amazing serial drama during the summer. It tells the tale of a Survivor-style reality show that turns incredibly weird. The first few episodes are presented in the style of a reality show, which may have had some people mistaking it for the real thing. Siberia is also similar to Lost in many ways, but is more coherent and suspenseful. It keeps you guessing and on the edge of your seat. The writing, acting, and directing are all top notch. I can already tell from the mania in various blog comment sections that this show is destined for cult status.
Too bad NBC made the highly questionable decision to run the show in the same time slot as the CBS series Under the Dome, which is based on the Stephen King book of the same name and has been killing Siberia in the ratings. I would probably be watching the show too, but I made a rule that, as a Stephen King fan, I wouldn’t watch any TV show or movie based on one of his books until I’ve read the book first. Anyway, I think most of the Under the Dome fans would love Siberia if they were aware of its existence. For the last couple years there’s been a lot of great shows to get iced before their time was due, but I think I’m really gonna be sick to my stomach if Siberia doesn’t get at least one more season.
Sam and Daniel await cancellation on Siberia
Hannibal – This dark crime-thriller featuring the famous movie cannibal debuted back in April on NBC. I watched an episode to see if I could keep my cookies down. I was in luck. This version of Hannibal is suave and stylish. He doesn’t tear at his victims’ bodies like a wild animal, but instead converts them into tasty culinary creations and shares them with unsuspecting dinner guests. By day the devious foodie works as a forensic psychiatrist who aids the FBI in tracking down serial killers, and his profiler friend Will sometimes gets lost in his visions and turns to Hannibal for support. Another factor influencing watchability is Gillian Anderson of X-Files fame in a recurring role as Hannibal’s psychiatrist. (Were you aware that psychiatrists have psychiatrists? I wasn’t either, but I could probably use one of my own after watching this show.) Hannibal has been renewed for a second season that will begin in 2014.
Here’s a quick rundown of new shows that might be good in the upcoming 2013 Fall season:
Sleepy Hollow (Premieres Monday, Sept. 16th on FOX) – As the name implies, this is a TV adaptation of the famous story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving. I’m assuming this modern-day interpretation will be a prequel of sorts, which takes place before Ichabod Crane’s fateful meeting with the Headless Horseman.
The Blacklist (Premieres Monday, Sept. 23rd on NBC) – James Spader plays an enigmatic crime boss who turns himself in to the FBI, then offers to rat out various big players in the crime world, but, for some unknown reason, will communicate only with rookie agent Elizabeth Keen. As you might know, I’m not big on the crime shows, but I will at least check out the premiere of this one.
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D. (Premieres Tuesday, Sept. 24 on ABC) – Despite the severely clunky title, this comic book-derived action drama could be one of the better new shows of the season. Why? It is co-written and co-produced by Buffy mastermind Joss Whedon, who has been having big success with the superhero movies in recent years. Expect lots of wisecracking and fight scenes.
Lucky 7 (Premieres Tuesday, Sept. 24 on ABC) – This one has a premise I can relate to: It deals with the lives of seven convenience store workers after they win a lottery jackpot. It’s based on a British show called The Syndicate. Maybe we’ll get lucky with this one. I suppose it’s a good sign that Stephen Spielberg is listed as a co-producer, along with ER‘s David Zabel. Then again, it seems like Spielberg’s name is on all the shows these days. He’s either cloned himself or he’s world’s biggest workaholic.
Breakin’ out the bubbly on Lucky 7
The Crazy Ones (Premieres Thursday, Sept. 26 on CBS) – Sarah Michelle Gellar has risen from the ashes of the sort-lived Ringer and teamed up with legend Robin Williams in this new Office-style single-camera comedy. I would have preferred to see her in some type of supernatural or sci-fi thing, but I’ll take this as a consolation prize. Who knows, it could fly. Gellar’s comic sensibilities were part of what made Buffy such a huge hit. This girl desperately needs a second hit show, so maybe the viewers will smile down upon this one. In case you were wondering, this is Robin Williams’ first regular TV series role since Mork and Mindy wrapped up back in 1982! Let’s hope Robin is as good at picking TV roles as he is at picking movie roles.
Once Upon a Time in Wonderland (Premieres Thursday, Oct. 10 on ABC) – As you might have guessed, this is a spin-off of ABC’s excellent fairytale drama Once Upon a Time which focuses on the characters of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alice will have a love interest in this version — a genie named Cyrus. Paul Reubens (aka Pee-wee Herman) was originally cast as the voice of the White Rabbit, but has been replaced by John Lithgow. Alice learned that curiosity can lead you to some really weird places, and hopefully the CGI effects in this live-action drama will do her adventures justice. Strangely, there’s no word on who will play the Mad Hatter.
Dracula (Premieres Friday, Oct. 25 on NBC) – NBC has finally clambered onto the vampire bandwagon with this reboot of the well-worn Bram Stoker novel. One good sign: It will be co-written by Daniel Knauf, creator of the critically acclaimed HBO show Carnivàle which aired a few years back (which I haven’t actually seen, due to my ongoing lack of access to cable television.)
The 100 (Scheduled to premiere on The CW as a midseason show in 2014) – The CW must have heard my prayers, they are cooking up two new sci-fi shows for us this season. This one is summarized by TV Guide as follows: “Nearly a century after a nuclear war has destroyed civilization, a spaceship sends 100 juvenile delinquents back to Earth to investigate the possibility of re-colonizing.” Sounds like fun, right?
The Tomorrow People (Premieres Wednesday, Oct. 9 on The CW) – If you loved Heroes, this could be the antidote for your aching heart. The Tomorrow People, based on a British TV show of the same name, has more than a few parallels to the ill-fated NBC superhero drama. It tells the story of several young mutants from around the world with various supernatural powers, and is written and co-produced by Phil Klemmer, who wrote several episodes of Chuck and Veronica Mars, of all things.
Wall-to-Wall Happy Endings on The Office July 6, 2013Posted by Ted in : Reviews, The Office , add a comment
After several months of tough negotiating and yard work, I have finally managed to get my computer back from my mother, under the condition that I never mention her in my blog posts again. Therefore, I can’t respond to her denials about what transpired last year at a local Applebee’s or her claims that I’m delusional and can’t tell fantasy from reality. That’s alright, I will honor your wishes, Mom. I never should have posted information about your personal life on my blog, and I apologize. Please don’t lock my computer in your closet again.
Anyway, enough about that. This is the blog where I’m supposed to be writing about television, which I haven’t done for a while, and one TV topic above all others has been clamoring for my attention lately — the final season of The Office. The show concluded in May with an ambitious hour-long episode which tied up all the loose ends and seemed tailored for the fans. Personally, I couldn’t have been much happier with it.
If you haven’t seen the final season yet and were planning to watch it at some point, this post will be like one big SPOILER, so read on at your own risk.
First of all, I’m applauding the producers of The Office for delivering one of the most unexpected moments in the show’s history: a dramatic fight scene between usually-happy couple Jim and Pam. Very well done, guys. I’m guessing this scene resulted in plenty of indignant fuming on message boards by the Jim-and-Pam-forever shippers, and probably others who thought the scene was too serious for their favorite light-hearted sitcom. Personally, I loved the realness of it, but I’m glad the two patched it up in the end. It would have been pretty heart-breaking to see them part ways — there would have been fan riots in the streets of Scranton.
Another final-season scene I liked a lot depicted Darryl struggling to overcome his self-doubts while interviewing for a job at Athlead, Jim’s sports marketing company in Philadelphia. The awkwardness of the job search has rarely been portrayed with such believability. As somebody who’s been stuck in a convenience store job for several years, I’ve been hoping to summon that kind of courage in my own life sooner or later.
An additional window into reality appeared in the episode where Pam stood up to the mischievous warehouse worker, Frank, who defaced her wall mural with little butt-shaped squiggles. When confronted about his deed, the guy fessed up, and offered only “butts are funny” as his justification. Pam, with Dwight’s help, responded with a little touch-up work on the culprit’s truck. This provoked a furious response from Frank and for a moment it seemed Pam might get attacked until a member of the documentary film crew literally lowered the boom on the guy’s head. It was a nice, unpleasant side trip into the subject of conflicts with co-workers — we’ve all been there, but most of us don’t talk about it much.
Andy “Nard-Dog” Bernard spent the final season sinking into the quicksand of his own stupidity and self-induced misfortune. After getting his job back as manager at the end of the previous season, he immediately disappeared for three months, leaving his workers behind to self-regulate, along with his bewildered girlfriend. When he returned he narrowly escaped losing his job when the CEO discovered his absentee status, and was stunned and dismayed when he discovered Erin had a new boyfriend. Then he decided to quit the paper company again so he could pursue his dream of being a star, ignoring his co-worker’s pleas for him to keep his day job so he wouldn’t end up homeless. It was all way over the top and frustrating to witness.
Here at the Crawlspace, we’ve decided to put together a task force to figure out why Andy was such a clueless idiot in the last season. So far, we think the breakup with Erin and Packer’s drug-laced cupcakes were the main drivers of his erratic behavior. “But what explains the three-month yacht excursion which occurred before those events,” you’re probably asking. That’s a good question, and we’ll give you an answer as soon as we have one. Could it be that he was, I don’t know, hung over or something?
Creed, the enigmatic fan favorite, was always the dark horse of the show. We never knew much about him, and he could have turned out to be a mad scientist or a secret agent or maybe even the second coming of Jesus. The viewers finally learned more about him in the final episode, when it was revealed that he was a member of the real-life band The Grass Roots, who had a couple of big hits back in the sixties. Office fans got to hear Creed play acoustic guitar and sing in the finale, before he was taken away by the police for various charges.
The final season seemed like several different shows taking place within one show, which is not necessarily a bad result, artistically speaking, but probably not one intended by the producers. It was like being in a giant house with many different rooms. As in previous seasons, some characters seemed more real than others. The minor players like Meredith, Stanley, and Phyllis stayed true to their standard personae. Dwight and Andy remained wildly unpredictable. We finally got to see a more vulnerable side of Angela and a compassionate side of the usually cynical Oscar. Angela could barely make ends meet after her split with her senator husband, so Oscar offered his home as temporary shelter for the cat-obsessed accountant and her baby, an offer which she accepted. After years of seemingly cold relations, it turns out they were not such enemies after all. In my opinion, this type of character development is what sets the The Office above most other sitcoms.
In my first post about The Office, back in 2008, I discussed four workplace love triangles that existed at the time. Yes, there was a lot of office hanky panky going on back in the fourth season, and it’s surprising that any paper was sold at all during that time. Strangely, these four triangles were resolved to some extent in the final episode, five years after I made note of their existence. During the final hour of the show, Jim and Pam re-affirmed their love for each other and decided to move to Austin, so Jim could pursue his business venture. Dwight and Angela had their long-awaited wedding during the same episode, and in attendance was former manager Michael Scott. He had married Holly Flax after leaving Scranton, and at the wedding he showed Pam photos of their kids. Also present at the wedding were Ryan and Kelly, who ended up leaving together after a long separation. This four-way de-triangulation resulted in Andy, Toby, Darryl, and Jan being hypothetically left out in the cold, although most of them had long since moved on to other relationships with varying degrees of success.
Toby’s romantic bad luck was not improved by his awkward advances on Nellie earlier in the season. He seemed to be one of the few men alive who didn’t light her fire. Well, at least he got to dance with Pam at Dwight and Angela’s wedding. I have to say, in all honesty, that Toby is the Office character that I identify with the most. He always seemed to view the goings-on at the Scranton branch as more of an outsider than a participant, and he’s probably the only one on the show who would have written a blog like mine (although Ryan had a photography blog — check it out here). I would rather be Jim, living his all-American fairy tale, and sometimes I try to be funny and outgoing like Michael Scott, but at the end of the day I’m basically just Toby. I’m not sure if that’s a bad thing or not.
The final episode wrapped it all up with class and gave the fans what they wanted, avoiding any kind of dark or dramatic developments, which was probably for the best. I think, in hindsight, the quality of the The Office did not suffer much after the departure of Steve Carrell. The show did seem a little less focused, and a couple of erratic episodes here and there were real stinkers, especially the one about the lice. Overall, however, the show was solid from the first season to the last. The only other long-running sitcom I can think of that maintained that quality level was Seinfeld.
And so, the curtain closes on the Dunder-Mifflin paper company, and as with other great TV shows, I’m guessing that I will continue to inhabit the world of The Office long after the filming has stopped. I’ll sit there at Jim’s desk and pretend to make sales calls, throw paper balls at Dwight, get into arguments with Stanley, trade recipes with Phyllis, and talk about the meaning of life with Creed. How long will I stay there? Who knows. Maybe a new show will eventually come along to capture my imagination and aid me in my never-ending quest to escape from “reality,” whatever that is.
Comments on My Son’s Previous Post November 10, 2012Posted by Mary in : 666 Park Avenue, CW, Fringe, General, NBC, Parks and Recreation, Reviews, Revolution, Satire, Sci-Fi, Skeet Ulrich, Smallville, Supernatural, Terra Nova, The Mentalist, The Office, The River, Uncategorized , 1 comment so far
Hi. Mary here, Ted’s mother, and owner of the spacious basement that my son refers to as his “crawlspace.” I would imagine that if you have read his previous post, you probably have a lot of questions about me. You’re probably wondering, “Did Mary’s Skeet Ulrich Fan Club really get piss-faced drunk at Appleby’s, and have a six hour stand-off with the police?” and, “Is her fan club a terrorist group?” and, “Who bailed her and her friends out of jail?” You might also be wondering what my boss, co-workers, and friends had to say about those developments.
Thankfully, Ted has allowed me to co-author this blog post in order to set the record straight about my alleged recent arrest, which is kind of him, considering that I have taken away his computer. His Acer desktop is currently locked in the upstairs closet, where it will remain until Ted understands that he shouldn’t spread malicious lies about his mom. Now, that may seem like an extreme measure for a mother to take with her 38-year-old son, but my goal is not to punish him. I just think Ted needs a break from his internet fantasy world. He needs to get out into the real world for a while and do things like find a better job and spend more time with his girlfriend Sierra, who I think is adorable, by the way.
That being said, I need to clear up the questions Ted raised about me and my friends in his last post. First of all, nobody bailed us out of jail because we didn’t go to jail. We didn’t go to jail because we were never arrested, and we weren’t arrested because that whole “fan club” incident at Applebee’s never took place. That’s right. Ted made it all up. And for the record, I don’t go out binge drinking with my friends on the weekends. I just turned 60, for crying out loud! If you thought I was a little too old to be behaving that way, you’re absolutely right! Because I don’t! I didn’t even party like that in my college days. I’ll admit that I have a glass of wine every now and then, but that’s the extent of my alcohol consumption. Even doctors say a little wine is healthy for you, so get off my case, Ted! You were pretty hung over last New Year’s Day, if I remember correctly.
And last but not least, THERE IS NO SKEET ULRICH FAN CLUB! My friends and I don’t sit around screaming about some television star like teenage girls! How stupid can you get? All of these things were fabricated in Ted’s imagination. I would say that 90% what he has written about me on his blog is a complete and total lie. I also don’t have a bookcase full of crime drama DVDs as he suggested. Maybe 10 at the most. I never even liked Law and Order, where did he get that idea from? What an awful show that is.
As you may have guessed by now, Ted has always had a hard time discerning fantasy from reality. This is why I try to cut him some slack and not take these things personally. It gets to be almost debilitating for him at times. For example, when he was seven he dressed like Luke Skywalker for Halloween. I made him a costume to wear and got him one of those glowing light sabers. He had a great time trick-or-treating with some other kids in the neighborhood, but then after Halloween something weird happened. He started to believe he was Luke Skywalker. He kept wearing his costume all the time, even to school, and demanded that people call him Luke. On Thanksgiving, when his grandmother asked him for a hug, he yelled, “I’ll never join the dark side!” and jabbed her with his plastic light saber. This went on for several weeks until his costume got “accidentally” thrown into the laundry with a load of brights and turned pink. The shock of seeing his costume like that seemed to snap him back out of his fantasy and, thankfully, he became Ted again.
And, of course, I probably don’t have to tell you that his blog posts about visiting Lost Island and playing video games with 24‘s Jack Bauer are also products of his overactive imagination. I’m not sure if he really believes all these things are real. I just know that the line separating fantasy and reality for him is not as distinct and clear as it is for most people. Sometimes it seems pretty solid, sometimes it’s blurry, and other times it disappears altogether.
Well, I think that sets the record straight. I have asked my son to stop posting things about me on his blog in the future, and hopefully he will comply with my wishes. He has handed me a yellow legal pad with his handwritten comments about the 2012 television season, which I will include as the second part of this post.
Well, my fellow TV fans, Fall 2012 has turned out to be a pretty bleak and dreary television season. Old shows I liked are disappearing and there are very few good new shows to replace them. Three of my favorite new programs from last year, The River, Terra Nova, and Ringer, were axed by their respective networks after only one season. In addition to that, two of my long-time favorites, Fringe and The Office are in their final year. In trying times like these, all a devoted couch dweller like myself can do is try to have faith that the TV circle of life will eventually produce some better shows to replace the classics that are leaving. Based on the new offerings this season, however, the circle of life has a lot of catching up to do.
Revolution – I was looking forward to this show, with its premise of a future without any electricity, but it appears that NBC has delivered yet another stinker. Aside from the bland characters and the paint-by-numbers plot (righteous rebels versus an evil ruling militia), there are weird political undertones that didn’t sit well with my left-of-center ideological tilt. Revolution could be a sort of dystopic tea party vision of what the world will look like after the 2nd Obama term. People in this oppressed future aren’t allowed by the evil militia to have guns or American flags. One scene in the first episode depicts a group of people who are pulling a large piece of machinery through the woods with ropes — no easy task, to be sure. They are former citizens of the US who have been taken prisoner by the militia. One character reveals that “their only crime was not paying their taxes.” The extended fight scenes, the ridiculous amount of alcohol consumption, and the hostility of the characters toward each other seem like pretty obvious stylistic footprints of producer Eric Kripke, creator of the CW hit show Supernatural. Unfortunately, Revolution lacks the cleverness and wit of Supernatural, and plays as more of a grim post-apocalyptic adventure in the tradition of Mad Max. The dialogue is unconvincing; the characters are painfully serious and humorless. NBC’s recent promos for the show have claimed that Revolution is the “most watched new show on television,” which, I suppose, proves once again how out of touch I am with the pulse of the nation.
666 Park Avenue – I rediscovered the ABC network last year, and lately they seem to have a knack for coming up with imaginative shows in the fantasy genre. The supernatural-themed thriller The River was my favorite new show last year, but they inexplicably pulled the plug on it after one go-round. The network has redeemed itself this year with the surprisingly good 666 Park Avenue. For me, this serial drama, which documents the spooky goings-on in an upscale Manhattan apartment building, is really the only bright spot in the 2012 television season. It has a great cast, including Terry O’Quinn and Vanessa Williams, and a surreal atmosphere which is hard to put into words. In addition to the plush surroundings, your stay at the Drake will include such things as precognitive pickpockets, ghosts that live in old suitcases, and elevators that eat people. Top that off with Faustian bargains aplenty wherein characters experience the consequences of getting the things they think they want. If Mr. Doran makes you an offer you can’t refuse, you might want to head for the exit. That is, if you can find your way out of that never-ending hallway.
Fringe – In its fifth season, Fringe has taken a bold leap into a future where the Earth has been taken over by the Observers and the Fringe team are desperately seeking video tapes which contain Walter’s plan for defeating them. The writers smartly choose to focus on the relationship between Peter and Olivia, which gives us an emotional anchor amid all the sci-fi wackiness. I also like the more coherent and functional version of Walter. This final season will consist of only 13 episodes, ending in January. It’s been a fun ride.
The Office – This has been somewhat hit-or-miss without Steve Carell, but I will still miss this classic when it’s gone. Lots of questions to be answered in the final season. Will Jim and Pam finally experience some marital discord? Will Andy and Erin go splitsville? Will we find out who Angela’s baby-daddy is? Will Creed ever get his own storyline? I’m predicting there will be a “very special” episode at some point (probably around Christmas) in which Michael Scott returns with Holly and at least one baby in tow. Hopefully the producers can wrap things up without getting too overly-sentimental and sappy. I would actually prefer an ending that’s a little bit dark and serious and semi-tragic.
Parks and Recreation – I’ve been trying hard to remember why I liked this show lately. They’ve been running on creative fumes this season, and scraping the bottom of the humor barrel on a regular basis. Recent shenanigans include Jerry having a fart attack and Leslie conducting sex education classes for the elderly. Leslie Knope seems shallow and less likable than in previous seasons. Maybe the upcoming Joe Biden episode will help to bring some respectability back to the proceedings.
Supernatural – It will be interesting to see if this show can continue to deliver the goods in its eighth season. After stopping the Apocalypse, going to hell and then purgatory, hanging out with angels, meeting such big cosmic players as God and Death, and fighting all manner of freaks, monsters, and demons, you’ve got to wonder if there could be anything left on the Winchester brothers’ to-do list. I would guess that lead actors Jensen Ackles and Jarod Padalecki are itching for greener pastures. Bobby the Cranky Ghost seems to have dropped out of the picture, and for reasons I can’t explain, watching the show on Wednesday nights hasn’t been as much fun as watching on Friday nights. All of that being said, I will keep watching this show until the end, which hopefully won’t be for at least a couple of more seasons.
Arrow – Do we really need a show about Green Arrow? This DC-comic-based drama is not a Smallville spinoff, as one might have hoped, but a complete reboot with a different actor playing Oliver Queen. I haven’t bothered to watch it yet, so it could possibly be alright. The CW has had me worried for the last few years. I used to love the network, but they haven’t come up with anything I really liked since Supernatural. Hard to believe; that was eight years ago. Come on guys, give me something — anything! The teen soaps and chickafied vampire dramas just aren’t cutting it with yours truly.
The Mentalist – I find this laid-back crime drama to be strangely relaxing, not unlike the tea that lead character Patrick Jane drinks. It doesn’t change much from season to season, and it doesn’t need to. Jane is still not much closer to catching the notorious killer Red John, and his romantic attraction to Agent Lisbon remains vague and unrealized. If the rest of the viewers are like me, those things don’t matter that much anyway.
Mayhem Ensues at a Clarksville Applebee’s June 18, 2012Posted by Ted in : Jericho, Law and Order: LA, Satire, Skeet Ulrich , 1 comment so far
It was a Saturday morning back in late April. I had just returned home from my late night shift at the convenience store, and was preparing to unwind with my weekly dose of Toonzai on the CW, when a story from a local news broadcast caught my attention. It was a breaking story from earlier that morning.
“For WLKY News, this is Drew Douglas reporting from Clarksville, Indiana. It was a tense and chaotic scene here late last night when a group of angry middle-aged women took over the local Applebee’s at gunpoint. Two policemen were taken hostage by the women after the police attempted to arrest them for public intoxication. After a stand-off that lasted into the early morning hours, the women finally surrendered and were taken to jail.”
The camera panned out and the reporter turned to a man he identified as a waiter at the restaurant where the incident had taken place, and asked him, “What did you witness in there, and can you tell us what caused these women to act so bizarrely?”
“Well, when the women came in, there was about 10 of them, and they had us put two tables together so they could sit together. They started ordering drinks immediately, along with some appetizers. After about an hour, they were on their fifth pitcher of margaritas, I believe, and they started yelling and laughing and having a little too much fun. It got to the point where the manager had to go over there and ask them to keep the noise down.
“After that, they quieted down for a while. Then, I was taking a woman’s order at a different table. She ordered the oriental chicken salad, then changed her mind and wanted the mesquite chicken salad instead, and she said ‘No, mesquite! Mesquite!’ After she said this I noticed a couple of women from the large group looking over in our direction like they had just seen a ghost or something. They started talking very excitedly and looking around the restaurant. A couple of them got up and started walking around as if they were looking for something. They started yelling at each other across the restaurant, when one of the women ran into a server with a large tray of food, which came crashing down on the ground. That sent the rest of the women into a fit of laughter and screaming that seemed to go on forever.
“By then, Danny, the manager, had had enough of them, and he went over to their table and told them they would have to leave. Then they started arguing with him, and they told him they couldn’t leave because they were waiting for some famous actor to show up because they were his fan club, and the manager said he didn’t care who they were waiting for, they had to leave or he was calling the police. The women told him, ‘Go ahead and call the police, we aren’t going anywhere,’ and they remained at the table.
“Well, when two police officers arrived at the restaurant the women argued with them too, and the police decided that the women were too drunk to drive home and charged them with public intoxication, and they called for several backup cars to help haul all the women to jail.
“Then, one of the women started yelling at the police and one of the policemen pulled out his pepper spray and let her have it. Another woman grabbed the pepper spray out of his hand and started spraying both policemen repeatedly in the face. They then took the guns of both officers and started yelling for all the remaining customers and staff to get out. After we went outside, the women barricaded themselves inside and held the two officers hostage. Then several more police cars showed up, followed by a SWAT team, and they brought out the riot gear and the bullhorns and were telling the women inside to come out with their hands up. It was pretty scary, luckily no one got hurt too badly.”
The video then switched to footage of the women’s arrest early that morning. There on the screen, being led away in handcuffs was none other than my mother, Mary Crawford. Her hair was a tangled mess and the faint trails of eyeliner running down from her eyes made it clear that she was the one who had been pepper sprayed. She looked at the TV camera with a fierce expression as she walked by and shouted, “No justice, no peace!”
The video switched back to the reporter, who thanked the waiter and started talking again. “After a tense 6 hour stand-off with police, the women were finally persuaded to surrender, and were taken to jail shortly after 3:00 a.m. Audrey O’Neal, a legal representative of the women, who identify themselves as members of the Kentucky chapter of the Skeet Ulrich Fan Club, says they didn’t come to Applebee’s looking for trouble that night, and were only there for their monthly fan club meeting. Their agenda for the evening included discussing promotional strategies for their upcoming 16th Quarterly Jericho Blog Carnival, in addition to the group’s petition asking NBC to put Law and Order: LA back on the air with Skeet Ulrich reinstated to his starring role, in spite of the fact that doing so would require the show’s writers to bring Ulrich’s character back from the dead.
“According to O’Neal, the women were reluctant to leave the restaurant because they had received an email from the actor himself stating that he might stop by and say hello while their meeting was in progress. She says the women were unfairly harassed and discriminated against by both the restaurant management and the police, and plan to bring a lawsuit against both parties after they are released from jail. From Clarksville, this is Drew Douglas, comin’ at you live for WLKY News.”
At that moment, I couldn’t help feeling a little bit proud of my mother, in spite of the questionable decisions of her and her friends. She always stands up for what she believes in, even if that’s only a pointless fan club for an obscure actor, which is really just an excuse to go out drinking with her friends.
At the same time, I felt uneasy, and remembered my encounter with Jack Bauer last Christmas Eve. He believed my mother was part of a terrorist organization, but I had convinced him that his intel was wrong, that it must have been some kind of mix up. But the news segment had revealed an angry, violent side of my mother that I had rarely seen before. What if this was just the tip of the iceberg? What if the fan club is just a front for something more sinister? Is there some kind of radical ideology at work in the group? Taking policemen hostage is a pretty serious offense, one that would surely get the attention of the FBI and Homeland Security. What if Jack’s right after all? Should I consider moving out of mom’s basement?
These were questions that went through my mind that Saturday morning, questions that I still don’t have an answer for. Mom has refused to discuss anything about the incident, and won’t reveal the identity of the mysterious benefactor who bailed her and several of her friends out of jail. I’ll give you an update on the situation when I find out more.
I’m in a TV State of Mind April 25, 2012Posted by Ted in : 24, Dollhouse, DTV, Fringe, General, Heroes, Inspirational, Lost, Parks and Recreation, Reviews, Ringer, Sci-Fi, Supernatural, Terra Nova, The Office, The River, Touch, Whedonverse , add a comment
Spring is here and the concluding 2011-2012 network TV season has turned out to be one of the better ones in memory. Here’s my take on some of the shows of the previous year:
You may remember my rants about the DTV transition, which caused me to miss the last season of Lost because I couldn’t pick up ABC anymore. That was not a good situation for a TV blogger to be in, but luckily my local ABC affiliate has since boosted their signal enough that I can now pick up their nebulous station.
As a result, I discovered The River, which became my favorite show of the season. It’s sort of a cross between Lost, Blair Witch Project, and the Paranormal Activity movies. Set in the exotic locale of the Amazon jungle, The River really delivers the goods in terms of what makes for quality television: evil spirits, monsters, ghosts, conspiracies, native folklore, and even a demonic possession or two for good measure.
Admittedly, the premise of the show — a group of people on a boat navigating their way through a maze of rivers and fighting off various supernatural entities — seems a little too much like a video game. The River generally seeks to entertain without burdening its viewers with symbolism or deeper meanings. It dispenses with reality almost to the point of campiness at times, but that, for me, is usually more of a reason to watch than to change the channel.
I was surprised to read that this show hasn’t done too well in the ratings, and ABC was rumored to be in talks to sell the show to a cable network. In short, the future of this show’s not looking too good for those of us with only over-the-air channels.
Sarah Michelle Gellar’s double reincarnation on her native CW network has been better than I expected. Ringer just finished up its first season with a fan-pleasing ending that tied up most of the loose ends, and provides a clean slate for the start of the next season, assuming there is one. The show’s ratings haven’t been the greatest, but they got a big boost for the season finale, which is encouraging news.
Now that the dual murder plots against the twins have been resolved, we will undoubtedly see more of a direct confrontation between the sisters, Bridget and Siobhan (pronounced “shi-bahn”), in future episodes, perhaps battling it out for the allegiance of their mutual husband, Andrew Martin.
This mystery drama gets to be a lot like a soap opera at times, but have I found myself watching every episode in spite of the obviously female target demographic. The show might have fallen flat with a lesser actress in the starring role, but Gellar’s wit and energy has helped to keep this show interesting.
(Checking my notes, scribbled on a little piece of paper.)
Another thing I like about Ringer is the music. CW’s habit of playing snippets of contemporary pop songs during their shows usually annoys me, but song choices on Ringer avoid the usual melodramatic route in favor of alterno-indie fare that has, on more than one occasion, sent me wandering off to the CW website to find out what the heck I was listening to.
Another interesting new show, which started mid-season, is the highly ambitious sci-fi-esque drama Touch by Heroes creator Tim Kring. The show follows the story of single father Martin Bohm and his mute, seemingly autistic son, Jake. The actor who plays Martin, a Kiefer something, looks a bit like 24‘s Jack Bauer.
The son, Jake, has a habit of writing down pages of repetitive numbers, which seem to manifest themselves as signposts in the lives of random people, who are brought together in various beneficial and tear-jerking ways. “Aha!” you say. “It’s the old numerology-and-clairvoyance-masquerading-as-physics routine.” Apparently, it is Jake’s heavenly-designated task to make sure that these various characters connect with each other for their mutual benefit, resulting in bucketfuls of sunshine and rainbows and happily-ever-afters.
As with Heroes, there are a lot of things I like about this show, and also some things I don’t like. The most annoying of the latter — I hate to say it — is the eleven-year-old son Jake. Not only does he refuse to talk, he throws a fit whenever he is touched by another person. Also, he likes to wander off by himself and doesn’t respond to anything his father says to him. Dad spends most of the show on a wild goose chase, running after his son yelling “Jake! Jake! Where are you going Jake?” Somebody needs to call Nanny 911, and fast.
Even more nerve-grating are the kid’s pompous monologues that start and end the show, meant to impart deep wisdom to us, the unwashed viewers. It is unclear in these moments whether we are hearing Jake’s thoughts or if he periodically sneaks off with a tape recorder while no one’s looking, as if to say, “Ha, ha, the joke’s on you! You thought I was mute, but it turns out I’m just a brat!”
This is a show in dire need of a villain. My suggestion would be this: since the kid has already assumed the role of villain in my life, why not let him be Officially Evil on the show too? Give him telekinetic powers in addition to his clairvoyant ability, and maybe he could use his knack with numbers to create chaos and confusion instead of Hallmark card moments. Then bring back a few super-powered characters from Heroes to teach the wayward tyke some important life lessons.
The whole Touch experience feels a little bit like Josh Whedon’s Dollhouse, another show that I tried hard to like and stuck with for the duration of its short life. Except with smiley faces instead of brooding post-apocalyptic irony. When I contemplate the future of this show, the cosmic number receiver in my gourde keeps saying 86. That’s not good, unless it refers to the number of episodes that will be aired.
Fringe is still hanging in there after four years on FOX, but the ratings this season have hit rock bottom. Still somewhat of a confusing mess with the alternate timelines and what not, it remains one of the better shows on television.
I think I’ve finally put my finger on what’s holding this series back: it relies too much on the stand-alone stories and has become too predictable, too much like a police procedural drama. I would like to see Fringe as a true serial drama with one long never-ending story arc. Then, instead of staying bogged down in the lab, let the setting change on a regular basis and don’t anchor the show to any specific location. I know that’s a lot to ask, but there it is. A new direction for the series might be just what it needs to boost its viewership again.
I started out making fun of this show, but ended up liking it a lot. Having an army of executive producers turned out to be an effective strategy. The dinosaurs, thankfully, were not the central focus of the series, but more like part of the scenery. The real theme of the show was the power struggle that goes on in a small developing community and the ways people learn to co-operate for their common good. Like so many great network sci-fi shows of the past, it now appears that Terra Nova has been cancelled after one season.
This old standby of the CW network was less interesting without the Cass and Bobby characters this season. Luckily, both have rematerialized in the later episodes in slightly altered forms — Bobby as a ghost, and Cass unable to remember that he’s an angel. I have a feeling this show has yet another slam-bang season finale in store for us.
I checked out this show’s Facebook page early in the season and found a lot of predictable “This show sucks without Steve Carell” type comments. Personally, I think the quality of the show has stayed pretty high this season, except for a couple of weak episodes like the one where Andy gets a butt tattoo as a gimmick to boost the morale of the sales team. That episode was so bad I went online to find out who wrote it. Turned out that it was Paul Lieberstein, the guy who plays Toby. Hmmm, maybe we shouldn’t be letting the actors write the show? Just a thought.
Otherwise, The Office has stayed entertaining and has not yet devolved into the kind of unbridled childish stupidness that afflicts certain other NBC sitcoms. This is probably due to the continued involvement of Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, the producers of the original British version of the show.
Parks and Recreation
Another excellent sitcom that NBC has still not found a way to screw up. Leslie Knope has taken leave from the Parks and Rec Board to run for Mayor of Pawnee, and it will be interesting to see what happens now that Mr. Swanson had appointed the icy April as a Knope’s unlikely temporary replacement. Undoubtedly, many enquiries into P&R issues will be met with a cold stare and a distant, apathetic attitude.
Well, that wraps up my review of shows I watched last season. To be honest, I’m kind of glad that summertime is approaching so I can ease up on the television and get out and see the sun and maybe read a couple of books.
There is never a shortage of people in my life to remind me that all this watching of TV is a waste of time. They say that life is short, and should be spent doing things like climbing mountains, attending wine tastings, or memorizing the value of pi to a hundred decimals. What they don’t understand is that television is more than a time-wasting device for me. After putting in almost 50 hours a week at the local convenience store, I need a way to relax. When I get home in the morning after one of my grueling all-night shifts spent ringing up people’s cigarettes and energy drinks, nothing helps relieve the stress better than popping in a videotape of one of my favorite shows.
The TV world, in my opinion, is far superior to the real one. Everything there is interesting and nicely scripted — well, at least in the good shows. The people are quick-witted, sharply dressed, and usually know the right thing to do in every situation. There are no problems that can’t be resolved, no scenarios that are too far-fetched, no laws of physics that can’t be broken. That’s the universe I want to live in.
Recently it occurred to me that I might somehow live to be pretty old. Hopefully by then I won’t be living in Mom’s basement anymore. Not that it bothers me to be living here at age 38. I happened to have been blessed with a cool Mom. Times have been tough and she understands that, plus I’m sure she appreciates the yard work I do in addition to the $150 in rent I pay her every month. If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.
What was I saying? Oh yeah, I was saying that one day I would be old and hobbling around with a cane and I would think back on what I had achieved in my life. Would I regret the fact that I had spent all of my years on the couch in front of the tube and writing a blog about it? Would I think that my life had been wasted? No way, people. This is what I was born for and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Holiday Visitors Pt.2 February 24, 2012Posted by Ted in : Crime Dramas, Holiday Posts, Satire, Smallville , add a comment
OK, this is going to be a really long post, but the story about what happened to me last Christmas is just too weird not to finish.
Back in December, I started to wonder if my previous post had put the jinx on things with my new sometimes-girlfriend Sierra. It was almost Christmas and I hadn’t heard from her in a couple of weeks. After leaving her several voicemail messages, she finally called me and said she would come over on Christmas Eve. I was looking forward to that night, and hoped for a little cuddle time, but she failed to materialize or even call, and I was left to drink my eggnog alone and stare at the lights on my little Christmas tree.
A few days after that disappointment, she finally called and apologized for the no-show. Sierra said she found out at the last minute that she had to go to Pittsburgh to visit some relatives with her sister. She was going to call me the day before Christmas and fill me in on the situation, but the battery in her cell phone went dead. She lost track of time, and after that was too embarrassed to call because she thought I would be upset.
It’s true that I was pretty sore with her up until that belated call, but man-oh-man did she make up for it on New Year’s Eve. We hit just about every bar in Louisville that night, said hello to some friends — mostly hers — and what came after that is kind of a blur, except that there was lots of drunken dancing and sloppy kisses around midnight.
We’ve had a couple of dates since then, but it appears that Sierra has gone back into hiding just in time for Valentine’s Day. I’m still not sure what the status of our relationship is, or even where she lives, for that matter.
Anyway, for the reasons I just outlined, it was not such a great Christmas here in the crawlspace, and Santa Claus might have found my body lying cold and still on the floor that night if it hadn’t been for a weird distraction that made me forget about my girlfriend situation for a while.
It was around 10:00 p.m. when it started to sink in that Sierra wasn’t going show up. I was alone in the house for the evening; mom had gone to visit her parents in Chicago, and wasn’t due back until the following afternoon. So, I turned on the TV and watched the middle of It’s a Wonderful Life for what was probably the tenth time, and drifted off to sleep on the couch.
Around midnight I was woken up by a series of loud bumps from upstairs. I turned off the TV and sat listening for a minute. There was another short burst of footsteps, followed by silence. Somebody, or something, was up there. It was possible that Mom had returned early from her trip, but just to be on the safe side I grabbed my canister of pepper spray and went to investigate.
I snuck quietly up the basement stairs and opened the door, half expecting to see jolly old St. Nick with his bag of toys. The lights in the dining room and kitchen were all still turned off. I called out, “Mom?” but got no reply. Then I walked into the living room, and saw a man crouching behind Mom’s Christmas tree. His sweaty, grimacing face was illuminated by the colorful lights.
Before I could react, he leapt forward like a wild man, knocking down the tree and then tripping over it. He came crashing down on the floor, and growled with inhuman rage as he wrestled around with the fallen tree. Finally, he stopped struggling and got up off the floor. It was Jack Bauer.
“What the hell are you doing here?!” I demanded to know.
“I should ask you the same thing, Crawlspace! Although it doesn’t really surprise me to find you cavorting in the home of a known terrorist!”
“Known terrorist? This is my mother’s house, and you’re trespassing! I should call the police!”
He grinned psychotically. “Go ahead. You think they can stop me? I’m Jack freakin’ Bauer!”
“Yeah, yeah, I know. Your hands are registered weapons and all that stuff. We’ll see how dangerous you are with a face full of pepper spray.”
Jack eyed my can of spray with a look of apprehension. His tone became more conciliatory.
“Look, I know you’re still ticked off because I roughed you up a little at our interview a couple of years ago, and I don’t blame you for that. I was pretty drunk, and I got carried away.”
“Yeah, the waterboarding was a little over the top. So, you’re back for more? You thought you would drop by and ruin my Christmas again?”
“Nah, I’m not after you this time. You’re small potatoes compared to this Mary Crawford character. Uh… did you just say she’s your mother?”
“Yes, I did, and there’s no way she’s a terrorist. She’s a well respected person in this community and she’s lived in this house for 20 years. She despises all forms of crime and terror, and she’s even a member of the local Neighborhood Watch group. And look at this…”
I directed Jack’s attention to Mom’s extensive crime-drama DVD collection which filled up about half of a wall-sized bookcase. He gazed with interest at the various seasons of Law and Order, CSI, Bones, NCIS, NYPD Blue, and about a dozen other shows. He pulled out the first season of 24 and held it reverently in his hands for a minute.
“You know, I see what you mean about your mother. She seems like a very smart, responsible lady. I guess it’s possible that I’ve obtained faulty information.”
He apologized for breaking in, and for knocking over the tree. We got the tree set back up with all the lights and ornaments in place, and I invited him down to the basement for some eggnog. We went downstairs and Bauer started to explain how he had obtained my mother’s name in relation to an international terror plot.
He revealed that he had recently started a private defense organization called World Alliance of Heroes (WAH) along with an old friend named Mickey Stern, who was a former Air Force pilot. They obtained funding from several wealthy donors who were concerned about global security and were familiar with Bauer’s get-it-done reputation as a covert operation specialist.
In addition to Mickey, Jack also recruited Antoine Le Sueur, a martial arts expert with a fondness for spandex tights, which he wanted to be the official WAH uniform, but was vetoed by Jack and Mickey.
“So who’s your tech person?” I asked. “Is Chloe O’Brian part of the team?”
“No, I couldn’t get in touch with her,” Jack replied. “The last I heard, she left CTU for a job as programming consultant for a company called Zynga. Takes home several million a year. She doesn’t even return my calls anymore.”
“I know how that is,” I interjected. “So what did you do?”
“We got the next best thing: Chloe Sullivan, long time friend of Clark Kent.”
“Wow! How’d you pull that off?”
“We contacted her because we wanted to use Superman’s old headquarters, known as The Watchtower. She rented it to us at a rate that’s less outrageous than you would think. The place is decked out in state-of-the-art computer technology, which only Sullivan knows how to operate. She was nostalgic for her days of working with superheroes, so she signed on as our computer expert.”
Jack paused and said, “I’ve got something out in the car that might improve this eggnog a little bit.” He went out through the basement door and returned a couple of minutes later with a fifth of Canadian Mist. He continued his story as he topped off his eggnog glass with whiskey and then did the same to mine.
After receiving a request from his WAH patrons to gather intelligence in the South American region, Bauer parachuted into the Amazon jungle with his trusty HK416 assault rifle and a backpack full of survival gear. He spent a couple of weeks there, getting information from the natives and honing his survival skills.
He hitched a ride to Rio de Janeiro in the back of a banana truck after getting a tip about a crime operation there, and started working undercover at a casino. One night at the roulette table, he met a beautiful Russian double agent who called herself Tasha Babinski. During their brief romantic entanglement, she told him about an international terrorist plot against the United States which involved the governments of Russia, Iran, Finland, Luxembourg, Mozambique, Tajikistan, and swaths of Micronesia, along with several Mexican drug cartels and a couple of radical professors at Berkeley.
Tasha then helped him to stow away on a Russian submarine which was setting out on a trans-Atlantic ocean voyage to the Middle East. He got onboard and hid in the supply closet for a couple of weeks, occasionally kicking butt whenever a crew member discovered him there. Bauer snuck into the captain’s quarters one day and found a suspicious database of names on his laptop computer, which Jack copied to a thumb drive.
That database, he explained, contained my mother’s name, which caught his attention because he had already heard her name mentioned by a couple of other underground sources.
Bauer was eventually discovered and subdued by several crew members, after which they brought the submarine to the surface and threw Jack overboard. He swam for a distant coastline for a couple of hours, and was near exhaustion when he was rescued by some very casually-dressed men in a fishing boat who turned out to be Somali pirates.
Upon learning their identity, Jack feared that he would spend the rest of his life in a Mogadishu prison, but the Somalis recognized him from his TV show and agreed to let him go if he posed with them for some photographs.
Then Mickey picked him up in his plane, and they flew back home to the US, where Jack did a little research to find the whereabouts of Mary Crawford, which finally led him to my mother’s house.
He reiterated that he thought my mother was either the wrong Mary Crawford, or somebody involved with the terrorist plot was using her name.
“So,” I said, “here you are working on Christmas Eve, huh?
“Yeah, or I was, but now I guess it’s back to the old drawing board.”
The conversation came to a lull, so I asked if he was up for a little Super Nintendo, and then put in the Mario Kart cartridge at his request. It was apparently his favorite game, and he beat me in every match except one.
Around the time I started sipping my fifth specially-mixed eggnog, I could feel myself sinking back on the couch and into unconsciousness. Bauer didn’t even seem to notice that I had dropped my controller. He was still laughing maniacally, thoroughly engrossed in the game.
When I awoke it was Christmas morning, and Bauer was gone. He had left one of his WAH business cards on the coffee table. On the back he had scribbled the words, “Thanks for the hospitality. I’ll keep you posted on any new developments.”
Holiday Visitors Pt. 1 December 17, 2011Posted by Ted in : Big Bang Theory, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Fringe, General, Grimm, Holiday Posts, NBC, Reviews, Sci-Fi, Supernatural, Terra Nova , add a comment
Before I delve into more personal topics, I’ll make a few comments about the current television season, because after all, that’s what this blog is supposed to be about.
Terra Nova has turned out to be a lot better than I expected, and I haven’t missed an episode yet. It seems very retro, like a show from the 70s, something you can watch with your kids without giving them psychological problems. Dinosaurs plus advanced technology and complex inter-tribal conflict equals big fun!
I have finally watched a couple of episodes of Big Bang Theory, and I have to admit I laughed a couple of times and the show is probably not as bad as I suggested in my last column. And I do appreciate the many sci-fi references and I’m now wondering if I somehow missed the boat by not having my own collection of real-life nerdy roommates.
This season Fox has decided to air Fringe at the same time as Supernatural on Friday nights, and as a result I’ve had to watch Supernatural online.
Also scheduled in the same time slot is NBC’s new spooky-ish drama Grimm, the first episode of which I saw and was not terribly impressed. It seems to steal equally from both Supernatural and Buffy, while not breaking much new ground. Surely the network must know that airing it in the same time slot as two of TVs most popular shows amounts to a death sentence. I mean, this show might not be the greatest, but at least put it where it can survive until viewers start to watch it. Doesn’t that make sense, NBC? As usual, I fail to understand what you’re thinking. Maybe for some twisted reason they decided that Grimm would be dead on arrival. Office politics, egos, and that kind of thing? A better explanation might be plain old incompetence.
Anyway, Fringe has been pretty interesting so far this season, as Peter tries to convince Walter and Olivia that he used to be their co-worker, even though they can’t remember him. I’m guessing the Watchers might not be pleased with his reappearance. And now we have these new improved shape-shifters plotting to take over the earth. They don’t have mercury in their veins like the old ones — they are indistinguishable from real people, except for a little hunk of embedded computer hardware. Oddly, they can still only communicate with headquarters via an old typewriter. Where’s that “Can you hear me now?” guy when you need him?
My new sort-of girlfriend Sierra is also a Fringe fan, and she has been over to the crawlspace a couple of times to watch it with me. What’s that? You’re shocked? You thought I was a total recluse and a candidate for the nut house? Well, that might be true, but even us crazies need some company every now and then.
Actually, the story about how Sierra and I met is kind of interesting. I was working my usual graveyard shift (11 p.m. to 7 a.m.) at Majik Market on Saturday night a few weeks ago. Around 2:30, a car came screeching to a halt in the parking lot in front of the store. For a minute I wondered if I was about to be robbed, but eventually the driver-side door opened and a woman with a long winter coat got out and came into the store.
She seemed a little wobbly on her high heels, and she went over to the drink cooler, pulled out a can of Red Bull, and brought it to the checkout register.
Putting her hands on the countertop for support, she muttered, “Sorry, I had a little too much to drink tonight.”
“Yeah, I noticed,” I replied in my usual patronizing tone, which you develop only after years of working at a convenience store.
As I rang up the can, she started going through her pocket book. She laid down a raggedy one dollar bill and a handful of change. One of the pennies rolled off the counter and onto the floor. She started to kneel down in front of the counter to pick it up, then lost her balance and fell on the floor with a scream. I heard laughter from the other side of the counter, and my drunken customer showed little interest in getting up again.
I walked around to the front of the counter to see what the situation was, and she had managed to prop herself up on one arm.
She held up her penny, and said with a smile, “Here it is… I found it.”
By then the laughter had stopped, and she seemed to be crying instead.
Bending down, I put my hand on her shoulder and said, “Hey, listen. You don’t need to be driving in this condition. Why don’t you come sit in the back and try to sober up for a while?”
She agreed, so I helped her up and took her to sit in the big recliner chair in the manager’s office. On the way there she assured me that she didn’t usually drink so much, but the party she had gone to was boring and she didn’t know anybody there except for a couple of girls she had barely known in high school. After assisting her into the chair, I went back out front for a while. When I came back to check on her a few minutes later she seemed to be asleep, so I turned off the light in the office.
While she was out cold, my co-worker Somebody Else came by on his ten-speed to check his schedule for the following week. S.E. had recently started working at the convenience store to augment his lack of income from Somebody’s Webpage. That’s right, we now have two jobs in common, although I don’t hang around at the website office that much. I think that office might as well be Somebody’s apartment. It seems like he’s always there, and he’s even got a bed in the back room.
Anyway, S.E. looked like he had been out clubbing. He had his silk shirt opened several buttons down, and a gold chain around his neck, and his hair was combed back with some kind of mousse in it. I didn’t inquire about his adventures that night — I honestly didn’t care.
You might think from looking at him in that getup that the guy is kind of flaky and superficial, but don’t be deceived. He’s really a top notch writer, so good that he actually intimidates me a little bit. He turns out at least one article a week for Somebody’s Webpage, while I’ve only been writing a new post once a month or so. Anyway, I was happy to help him get a job here at the convenience store. I see it as a peace offering of sorts.
Luckily, I had the work schedule behind the counter, so S.E. didn’t have to go into Rajnish’s office and find out about the recovering damsel in the recliner.
S.E. and I talked about the weather and politics and the website for a few minutes, and when I brought up the subject of my blog, he once again commented that he doesn’t have time to watch TV, since he’d rather be doing something worthwhile like mountain climbing.
OK, whatever. Having accomplished his goal of annoying me, he paid for some bottled water then set off for home on his bike.
The next couple of hours at the store were pretty dead, as they always are right before dawn, and I sat down in my chair behind the counter and dozed for 15 minutes or so. Then I woke up, made some fresh coffee for the early birds, and started restocking some of the drinks and gum and stuff.
Shortly before 6:00 a.m. — when the sun was beginning to rise — the mystery girl finally emerged from the back room. She assured me she was feeling much better and thanked me for the help. I went and pulled her can of Red Bull back out of the cooler and gave it to her. She got into her car and drove away in a much more dignified fashion than when she had arrived.
I honestly thought that was the last I would see of her, but she returned to the store about a week later to buy a pack of mints. This time she seemed like a different person. She had on an olive-colored sweater with jeans, and seemed completely sober and coherent.
We talked for a while, and I found out she’s working as a hostess at a restaurant called Jacques, and she’s also studying to be a paralegal. I told her about my TV blog, and it turned out that she likes most of the same shows that I do. There was definitely some chemistry happening there the second time she came in, and I finally learned her name when she wrote “Sierra” down on a piece of paper with her phone number.
Since then, we’ve had several phone conversations, and she’s been over to my place to watch TV a couple of times. She was impressed with my beanbag chair and my black light posters, but thinks I need to get a Christmas tree. I said OK, under the condition that she helps me decorate it. I’m not sure where this is all going to lead, but it’s shaping up to be a better holiday season than I’ve had in many years.
Learning to Coexist with CBS October 22, 2011Posted by Ted in : Amazing Race, Big Bang Theory, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, CBS, Crime Dramas, How I Met Your Mother, Lost, News Programs, Person of Interest, Reviews, The Mentalist, Two and a Half Men , 3comments
CBS has recently billed itself as “America’s Most Watched Network.” Really? The thought that this could be possible is slightly mind-boggling. Am I that out of touch with my native country?
For the past decade or so, I have tended to lump all of CBS’ programming into a category I call “Loads of Pointless Crap.” The chief component of this catagory is that ever-existing, never-changing staple of network television, the crime drama. CBS never met a crime drama it didn’t like. The network currently has eleven of them in their prime-time lineup. This includes three different versions of CSI and two of NCIS. For the sake of fairness, I decided to check out a couple of the network’s currently airing crime dramas.
Person of Interest
This is a new show, and based on early reviews, I anticipated that this J. J. Abrams twist on the crime genre might be worth watching. It has a semi-interesting sci-fi twist, and features both Michael Emerson of Lost fame and Jim Caviezel, who played Jesus a few years back. The show follows the adventures of former CIA agent John Reese, who gets information about bad guys from his billionaire boss who has a crime predicting supercomputer. He also gets into a lot of gunfights and car crashes and that kind of thing. Caviezel has the Clint-Eastwood-whispering-badass persona down to a T, if you’re into that vigilante-type thing. Reese’s boss, Mr. Finch, lacks the flair and depth of Benjamin Linus, Emerson’s character on his previous show, Lost. This is not a terrible show, but not one I feel bad about missing. Maybe I’ll watch it a couple more times, but life is short. I’ve got places to see and people to be.
After my unremarkable viewing of the Person of Interest premiere, I found myself watching The Mentalist for the first time. This is a very laid-back, less predictable take on the detective genre. The lead character is tea-sipping Patrick Jane, a former psychic entertainer, who now uses his mental trickery to solve crimes. He’s also trying to track down a guy named Red John who killed his wife and daughter. This show is so well-written it makes me forget I’m watching a crime drama. Score one point for the network.
CBS is also the home of various popular sitcoms, which I try to avoid watching at all costs. Here are my thoughts on a few of them:
Big Bang Theory
This seems like a show I should be able to relate to, with its underlying nerd theme. But let’s face it, no self-respecting nerd wants to see himself portrayed as a social reject who can’t get laid, no matter how true that may be. Nerds prefer to think of themselves as suave, mysterious James-Bond types that nobody can figure out. This is one of the things that made Benjamin Linus from Lost a nerd hero of the ages. He may have been a flop with the ladies, but he was the one running the whole show. Not only could he play Rachmaninoff on the piano, he could also kick butt when necessary. Big Bang Theory, by comparison, only rubs salt into the wounds and reinforces negative stereotypes. Of course, that observation is only based on the ten minutes I’ve spent watching the show, so correct me if I’m wrong.
How I Met Your Mother
Here’s my problem with How I Met Your Mother: Alyson Hannigan will always be Willow to me, and Neil Patrick Harris will always be Doogie Howser. I really don’t want to see them as crusty, jaded adults. I also don’t get the premise of the show. The title sounds like a nostalgic story of how a couple fell in love and got married. I have no idea which character is supposed to be the mother, or who is meeting her, and I don’t even care enough to look it up on Wikipedia.
Neil and Alyson of yesteryear
Two and a Half Men
This is the sitcom equivalent of Darth Vader, with syndicated episodes popping up on every channel at all times of the day, grabbing you by the throat and beating you into unconsciousness with a barrage of manly-man humor. I could never quite figure out which character was the half man — the drunk womanizer, the groveling loser brother, or the kid. Sadly, the show had to part ways with wonderful Charlie Sheen, so it looks like I’ll be watching it even less than I did before, now that the equally wonderful Ashton Kutcher has replaced him (hope you caught my sarcasm there). This begs the question, is it possible to watch a show a negative number of times? Looks like my hatred for this program may have warped the laws of physics.
I guess at this point I should try to find a couple of good things to say about CBS. I’ll definitely be watching The Mentalist some more. The Amazing Race was always pretty good — I’ll probably watch that some more too. And let’s not forget about all those great CBS shows of the past like Jericho and…The Dukes of Hazzard and…Touched by an Angel?
CBS Evening News
Back in the 90s I was a fan of Dan Rather on the CBS Evening News, who started in 1981 as the successor of the famous anchorman Walter Cronkite. Dan had a deadpan delivery and dry wit, and gave the impression of having something approximating journalistic integrity. He was forced out in 2005 after being accused of reporting a false story about George W. Bush’s military service record. Rather was replaced by Katie Couric, who wasn’t bad, but seemed out of place behind the anchor desk. She looked a lot happier covering parades on the Today show.
Katie stepped down in May of this year, and was replaced by Scott Pelley, who worked for CBS News for several years before landing the anchor chair. Now, I’m not saying that Pelley lacks integrity, but I’m guessing that his typical workday as anchorman consists of the following routine: He calls up one of the conservative think tanks and asks them what information he should be reporting that night. They fax the script over to him, then, he spends several hours calling all of CBS’ sponsors to make sure none of the news stories are offensive to them. This usually results in most of the day’s news being deleted and replaced with various types of filler about dogs and people-making-a-difference segments. Keep up the good work, Scott. I’ll be watching Brian Williams on NBC, who probably isn’t much better, but at least seems sincere.
Ted’s Fall TV Preview 2011 August 14, 2011Posted by Ted in : 30 Rock, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Crime Dramas, CW, Dollhouse, FOX, Fringe, General, Grimm, NBC, nikita, Parks and Recreation, Person of Interest, Reviews, Ringer, Sci-Fi, Supernatural, Terra Nova, The Event, The Office, Whedonverse , 4comments
If you believe the ancient Mayans, or the latest news reports on the economy for that matter, this could be the last full season of television before the world ends. I can’t think of a better excuse to kick back, let my calls go to voicemail, and renew my commitment to lethargically gazing for hours into the idiot box. Yes, the fall premiere season is almost upon us, and we can be grateful that the networks have once again managed to cook up a handful of new shows that might be good, and are bringing back some favorite established programs for a new season.
Here are some new shows I’ll be watching:
Featuring the long-awaited return of Sarah Michelle Gellar to her native network (The CW, formerly The WB), where she not only stars as a pair of identical twins, but also executive co-produces the show. Ringer is described as a drama-thriller about a woman, Bridget, who is on the run from the mob, and takes over her twin sister’s life after the sister disappears. Wouldn’t it be ironic if Ringer turned out to be better than Joss Whedon’s recent two-season flop Dollhouse? Then we might realize that all that time we were worshipping Whedon, Gellar was the real power behind the Buffy throne. That’s probably a stretch, but this show is first on my must-watch list this season, if only for nostalgia’s sake.
Maybe this is NBC’s consolation prize for those of us who were hoping that last season’s sci-fi thriller, The Event, would be worth a crap and would not get the ax after one season. Grimm is described on Wikipedia as a “dark fantasy,” and has a premise eerily similar to a certain CW show: “A homicide detective learns that he is a descendant of a group of hunters known as ‘Grimms,’ who fight to keep the balance of humanity safe from the supernatural creatures of the world.” Maybe NBC has finally realized that supernatural-themed shows are — gasp! — profitable. The prospects for Grimm are more than a little iffy, however, given NBC’s record on these kinds of outings, but there’s one clear sign that it might be more than a blatant Supernatural rip-off: David Greenwalt, who was executive producer of the Buffy spin-off Angel, as well as the short-lived but excellent paranormal show called Miracles, is an executive producer for Grimm. Cross your fingers out there, fans of things that go bump in the night.
Person of Interest
I generally avoid crime dramas like the plague — except when Mom forces me to watch one of her horrible Law and Order DVDs — but Person of Interest has a science-fiction twist and is produced by J.J. Abrams of Lost and Fringe fame, which is just enough of an alteration of the standard formula to push the show onto my “must-watch” list — for a couple of episodes, anyway. According to my sources, the plot involves “a mysterious billionaire who has developed a computer program that predicts future crime victims.” Could be interesting, I suppose. You gotta love those mysterious billionaires, putting all that money and free time to such good use and keeping America safe. I’m just wondering what kind of crimes the computer program predicts. Shoplifting, jaywalking, and that kind of thing? Entering a restaurant without shoes and a shirt, maybe?
This is Fox’s latest sci-fi effort, in which a group of people in the year 2149 time travel back to the era of the dinosaurs to escape the end of the world. Hey, sounds like a good plan to me. I mean, why bother trying to fix your problems when you can just jump in a time machine and go hang out with the Flintstones? To be honest, Terra Nova sounds like a train wreck, but as a self-professed connoisseur of all things sci-fi and fantasy, I feel obligated to watch. Time travel, in general, has gotten to be the most over-used premise in sci-fi television for the last few years. Personally, I have never believed that time travel is even possible. I look at it like this: The past and the future don’t really exist — they’re just abstract concepts that help us understand our lives. How can you travel to a place that doesn’t exist? You can’t. That’s my theory and I’m sticking with it.
Getting back to my topic, Terra Nova sounds an awful lot like the old Saturday-morning show Land of the Lost. It remains to be seen if a prime-time audience will love the dinosaurs as much as kids in the 1970s did. Steven Spielberg is listed as one of 10 “executive producers.” His actual level of involvement with the show, I’m guessing, is somewhere between slim and none. They probably just called him up and offered him some money, and when he replied “uh…,” that was enough input to slap his name in the credits. Steven, your check for 10 million is in the mail…not that you’ll be looking for it.
I know what you’re saying: “Those sound like great new shows, Ted, but what about returning old shows? Tell me about those! More specifically, which ones will you be watching?” Well, I’m glad you asked.
After avoiding this for a long time, I finally watched an episode and found it fairly entertaining. It’s about a rogue government agent, who generally kicks butt, rights wrongs and sneaks around in tight spandex. Starring the Hawaiian-born model Maggie Q, Nikita is sort of a cross between 24 and Dollhouse that takes itself less seriously than either. It will be taking Smallville’s old slot before Supernatural on Friday nights, which means I probably won’t miss an episode.
Somehow, over the years, this has become my favorite show. It seems to fulfill the same psychological need as Buffy or Angel, which might be something along the lines of “the struggle for personal power and sanity in a hostile world.” Also, the low-class, gritty vibe of the thing makes me feel a lot cooler than I actually am.
Parks and Recreation
Parks and Rec has been steadily closing in on The Office as NBC’s best sitcom. Sometimes it gets a little close to chick territory, with the various romantic entanglements, but otherwise, it’s consistently intelligent, funny, and original. In other words, the anti-30 Rock.
The Office (Mini-spoiler ahead!)
Steve Carrell has set sail for the land of bad romantic comedies. It will be interesting to see whether the show withers or blossoms without him (I’m hoping for the later — Michael Scott was never one of my favorite characters). Also, Pam will be carrying Halpert baby number two at the start of the season.
Peter never existed, according to those bald guys in fedoras and suits. I assumed this was an elaborate way of writing Joshua Jackson out of the show, but according to the show’s producers, he’s still on the payroll.
I’m not going to lie. I’ve been kind of frustrated with this show lately. Time travel and alternate universe doppelgangers and blah blah blah. I’m just not buying it. I’m also going risk the wrath of Fringedom and say that I find Walter to be incredibly annoying. Sure, he was amusing for the first couple of seasons, but there’s only so much drug-induced babbling in a Shakespearian accent that a person can take. Forget all those exotic diseases — Walter needs to find an antidote to himself.
How to improve Fringe? The same way any show could be improved: Forget the complex plot gimmicks and special effects and focus more on the characters. Bring them to life. Make me care about them. That’s all there is to it.
That wraps up my fall preview for 2011. Hopefully, some of the shows mentioned above will spiritually prepare you to meet your maker if those end-of-the-world rumors turn out to be true, or will at least drown out the screams while the earth is overrun with four-headed dragons, scary bat-like creatures, giant lions with pharaoh heads, machine-gun toting gorillas on skateboards, and vacuum cleaners that come on and vacuum by themselves.
The Office Enters a New Era June 16, 2011Posted by Ted in : NBC, Parks and Recreation, Reviews, The Office , 1 comment so far
I should probably have something insightful to say about Steve Carell’s departure from The Office, but the inspiration hotline in my brain only gives me a dialtone, followed by “If you’d like to make a call, please hang up and try again.” Honestly, I don’t care about this show like I used to, but I guess it still beats the other sitcoms in NBC’s smug little Thursday night line-up, with the possible exception of Parks and Recreation, which is pretty awesome most of the time.
In the last episodes of the season, Carell’s character Michael Scott decided to move to Colorado to be with his true love, Holly Flax. I made it clear in a previous post that I thought these two were a mismatch. You have to wonder how long a relationship can last that’s based solely on a mutual love of doing Yoda and ET impersonations. A man-child like Michael Scott needs a level-headed woman like Jan to keep him out of trouble, not a fellow child. If Michael and Holly were real live people, I’d bet my money that their romance would end with lots of blood, broken glass, and used syringes. However, conventional wisdom among Office fans not only begs to differ, it screams that these two are soul mates. So, I’ll leave it at that.
With Michael Scott gone, it seems certain there will be more focus on Jim and Pam than we’ve seen in recent seasons. In a post a couple of years ago, I falsely predicted that Jim and Pam’s relationship was headed straight off a cliff. My reason for saying this was based on my perception that happy relationships on television are as elusive as the Road Runner, always leaving the hard-broken participants laying at the bottom of the canyon wondering what happened before the anvils drop on their heads.
What I didn’t see at the time was that Jim and Pam are no ordinary characters. They are the perfect people, sent down from heaven to slum in the quaint setting of Scranton, PA. Such individuals are not subject to the regular laws of television relationships. A normal TV couple pursues activities such as arguing, sleeping around, staying drunk, and vandalizing each other’s property. Jim and Pam seem impervious to any such turmoil. They remain calm and cool at all times. To expect anything to disrupt their world is futile, because their whole reason for existence is to make the rest of us feel insignificant.
That being said, I should admit that I actually like Jim and Pam, and wish them all the best, and hope that one day I’ll be invited to one of their barbeques. Or maybe at least I’ll get a Christmas card or something. Nah, who am I kidding? I’m a thirty-seven-year-old college dropout who works at a convenience store. I sort of missed the boat on the whole yuppie lifestyle.
So the big question now is: What does the future hold for The Office? Will it die after a couple of seasons or will it go on for seven more? That’s a long time for any show to be around, but I’m not giving up on it just yet. We’ve still got Andy and his bright colored pants, and whatever romantic blunders the future has in store for him. We’ve still got Erin’s lovable ditsiness. We’ve still got Dwight the sullen schemer with his unchanging ugly suit. We also need to stick around to see if Angela finds out what’s up with her reportedly gay senator boyfriend. And of course, a lot of us will be tuning in to see who the new boss will be. Based on the parade of big names who appeared on the show as Mr. Scott’s potential replacement — including Will Ferrell, Ricky Gervais, Ray Romano, Will Arnett, and Jim Carrey — it’s clear that NBC plans to keep this show around for a while.