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Holiday Visitors Pt. 1 December 17, 2011

Posted by Ted in : Big Bang Theory, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Fringe, General, Grimm, Holiday Posts, NBC, Reviews, Sci-Fi, Supernatural, Terra Nova , 1 comment so far

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, 2011

Posted 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.

The Mentalist

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.

"Won't you tell me where my country lies?" said the unifaun to his true love's eyes...