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Supergirl to the Rescue February 10, 2016

Posted by Ted in : CBS, Inspirational, Midseason, Saturday Night Live, Stephen Colbert, Supergirl, superheros, Tonight Show , add a comment

Hello out there and a big thank you to anybody who is still reading this blog. As usual, it has been a really long time since my last post, and I would apologize for that but, really, who cares at this point? You could say I’ve been recovering from a year-long case of the blahs, brought on by a combination of television apathy and writer’s block. Of course, I realize that I disclosed way too much about my personal life in the last post, which probably played a role in my ex-sometimes-girlfriend Sierra’s decision to relegate me to the romantic clearance bin. That’s right, we’re pretty much history now. After I tracked her down at a ritzy party last year, she made it clear that I was one step away from a restraining order. She loves me but she’s not “in love” with me. It’s not me, it’s her. You know the routine. She needs space, so I’m going to give her several galaxies of it. I never could figure out what she was up to and why she was so secretive all the time, and I don’t really care anymore whether she’s a CIA agent or just a crazy woman with honesty issues. I still love her but it’s probably best for my own sanity that we’re not together. C’est la vie.

The upside to all of that drama is that I once again have unlimited me-time when I’m not working at the convenience store or doing chores for Mom around the house. In the last year I’ve been watching a lot of old shows on DVD (mostly Ghost Hunters and The Mentalist) and reading a few books, but I haven’t felt like blogging again until recently, not just because of Sierra, but also due to the fact that there hasn’t been much new to watch that’s worth a damn, as far as broadcast TV goes. In my opinion, we’ve been in sort of a TV nether-zone for a while now, consisting mostly of crime dramas, superhero shows, and a few stubborn old reality TV shows that will probably be around forever like the cockroaches. Oh yes, and we mustn’t forget those charming flesh-eating zombie shows and the zombies that watch them (apparently half of the US population).

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Get Supergirl season 1 on Amazon

I was finally rescued from my state of TV apathy by a caped red and blue female known as Supergirl, who flew into my basement dwelling in the fall of last year and lifted my spirits with a light-hearted superhero drama that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Lead actress Melissa Benoist is super-adorable as Kara Zor-El (aka Kara Danvers), cousin of Superman, who battles an assortment of cheesy super-villains and mean aliens, and still finds time to fetch coffee and bagels for her bitchy boss Cat Grant (played with impressive cold-heartedness by Calista Flockhart of Ally McBeal fame). Rounding out the cast is Winslow “Winn” Schott, her nerdy co-worker seeking an upgrade from friend status (Why does that seem familiar?), a tall, dark version of Jimmy Olsen, a secret agent sister, and Hank, the shape-shifting Martian. It all adds up to moderate levels of viewing enjoyment. Of course, superhero reboots have been the big trend in television and movies for the last several years, maybe the only trend. Why? Who Knows. People in general, I suppose, are feeling helpless with all the talk about terror and climate concerns and mystery diseases and a jittery economy, and would love to have some super-powered people in tights around who can make everything right. I’m no exception to this sentiment and so I don’t mind being rescued by Supergirl every week. Maybe not the greatest show of all time, but an improvement over most of the other superhero dramas that have infested TV screens in recent years. Score one more for CBS. They are slow, but they do occasionally get it right.

Another recent win for CBS was their choice of Stephen Colbert to take over The Late Show after the departure of iconic funnyman David Letterman. When I was promoted to assistant manager at Majik Market a couple of years ago I started working regular day shifts instead of the overnight shift, and as a result I am now able to watch shows at night like a normal person instead of trying to remember to tape them on my VCR and watching them in the afternoon. I was a fan of Jay Leno, but rarely got to watch The Tonight Show on NBC before Leno was unceremoniously booted in favor of Jimmy Fallon. Jimmy is a talented enough guy, and I respect the fact that he has achieved so much in his career since leaving Saturday Night Live all those years ago, but his version of The Tonight Show just doesn’t do much for me. Stephen Colbert’s edgy, politically tinged humor on The Late Show is like a breath of fresh air, and a bold move for an old broadcast network like CBS. As with other late shows, I usually just watch the funny stuff in the first half and skip the celebrity interviews. To Colbert’s credit, his guests seem to include more people who aren’t movie stars  — politicians, writers, musicians, and so forth. The show has been doing OK in the ratings, hovering around second place behind Fallon. I’m sincerely hoping the network keeps Colbert around for a while. As far as I can remember, the last late night talk show with this much brainpower was The Dennis Miller Show back in the early 90s, which lasted all of seven months.

I’m in a TV State of Mind April 25, 2012

Posted 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:

The River

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.

Ringer

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.

Touch

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

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.

Terra Nova

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.

Supernatural

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.

The Office

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.

 

Summer Viewing Report 2010 September 16, 2010

Posted by Ted in : America's Got Talent, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, DTV, ER, Friends, General, Hell's Kitchen, Inspirational, Lost, PBS, Reality TV, Reviews, Sci-Fi, Supernatural, The X-Files, Whedonverse , add a comment

The DTV Nightmare Part IV: In spite of the umpteen public service announcements that promised all I had to do was hook up a digital converter box and my TV viewing would not be affected in the slightest by the digital television transition, I discovered after the switch that I was unable to receive my local ABC affiliate — in spite of buying two different antennas for that purpose — and was unable to watch the final season of Lost. Not the biggest surprise of my life. It’s OK, I’ll just pick up Lost on DVD. That show’s definitely worth owning. I’ve already started to accept the fact that this could the beginning of the end of free over-the-air television, thanks to the greedy telecom companies wanting to usurp all the extra bandwidth, and I could eventually be forced to pay for cable or satellite television for the first time in my life. Honestly, the thought of paying a monthly fee for TV makes my stomach turn, but I guess I’ll just cross that bridge when I get to it. I may have to change the name of my blog to Book Wormhole. God knows, I have plenty of books to read.

So maybe the fact that one of the major networks is out of my life for the foreseeable future accounted for the lack of things to watch on TV this summer. Although, that seems unlikely, since Lost is the only show I can remember watching on ABC since The Six Million Dollar Man. I guess part of the problem is I’m finally getting tired of some of the summer reality junk that used to amuse me on occasion. I once again elected to miss the circus of stupidity called Big Brother, and sidestepped the parade of wasted lives know as America’s Got Talent. I chose to opt out of Chef Ramsey’s masochistic cooking school for a second season in a row, maybe I’ll be bored enough to watch him next time Hell’s Kitchen rolls around, and yes, there will be a next time. There’s always a next time for these abusive British types.

Supernatural reruns: This CW show has been pretty amazing for the last couple of seasons in spite of the fact that I never particularly liked the Winchester brothers. Their melodramatic bickering and overwrought machismo are still annoying at times, but the show consistently delivers interesting, well written stories, with witty dialogue reminiscent of Buffy in her heyday (but don’t tell Dean I said that).

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Need To Know: I tuned in to the new PBS public affairs program, needing to know if the show was a worthy replacement for the recently ended Bill Moyers’ Journal. It’s not a bad program, but they seem to take more of an apologist stance on American foreign policy than I would have hoped for. In other words, more of the same warmed over middle-of-the-road opinions you can hear anywhere else. Well, we can look on the bright side. Maybe the talk radio Nazis will quit calling PBS liberal now that Moyers is gone. Of course, they would have to actually watch the network to figure that out, which seems unlikely.

Ghost Story / Circle of Fear: Lucky for me, I have a small stockpile of DVDs of favorite TV shows from the past. These are a real lifesaver at times when there’s nothing on but infomercials or court shows. Receiving top billing here in the crawlspace this summer was an old childhood favorite, which had never been officially released on DVD, but I was enthused to find it for sale as a bootleg. It was a supernatural-themed anthology show (meaning that each episode was a stand-alone story with a different set of characters) called Ghost Story, which was renamed Circle of Fear in its second and final season. The program is very similar in style to Rod Serling’s Night Gallery. This show originally aired in the early 70s, but I discovered through reruns in the 80s. The passing decades have only made it more appealing — the old cars, the clothes, the psychedelic music and directing style all add up to a nostalgia high for this aging potato. Plus, Sebastian Cabot adds a touch of class as a mysterious innkeeper who introduces each episode.

Hangin’ out with my Friends: Other shows in my DVD player recently included the first seasons of X-Files, ER, and Friends. You might not believe this, but I was actually going through an extended “I don’t watch TV” phase back in the 90s when the early seasons of these shows where on. But I fell off the wagon hard in 1996 when I discovered them, along with Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Seinfeld. That was the year I became a TV fanatic. I couldn’t believe how much good stuff was on, and so happily rejoined the ranks of the low-brow and unrefined. My renewed friendship with the glowing box has gone on for 14 years now.

So sue me. I’m sure you anti-TV snobs that read that last paragraph will recognize me as a traitor to your cause, and call for an immediate intervention on my behalf. No doubt, you’ll have me sent to a TV watchers’ rehabilitation center somewhere, where my treatment will consist of a rigid daily regimen of life affirming get-em-off-the-couch activities, including skydiving, bungee jumping, horseback riding, cake decorating, metallurgy, tightrope walking, bee keeping, long distance swimming, marble sculpting, barehand tree climbing, helicopter piloting, CPR classes, square dancing, jazzercise, tennis, karate, taekwondo, tai chi, feng shui, and advanced survivalist training. Evening hours will be dedicated to group therapy and the speed reading of great literary classics. Concurrent with these activities, I’m guessing, will be daily deprogramming sessions involving the use of psychoactive medications and the forced viewing of Clockwork Orange-style propaganda videos. At the end of my 60 day stay I will roll my eyes at any suggestion of watching TV, and join the ranks of the sweater-wearing latte sippers at my local trendy bookstore.

Christmas with Jack Bauer, Part 3 January 2, 2009

Posted by Ted in : 24, Holiday Posts, Inspirational , 2comments

 

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I knew my interview with Jack Bauer had gone awry when I found myself being lifted out of my chair by the shirt collar, and slammed against his refrigerator. “You’re starting to sound a lot like a terrorist, pal!” he snarled.
“Hey, uh, that kinda hurts.”
“Hurts? How’d you like to know what real pain feels like? I knew when I saw you that you were one of these purse-carrying liberal elitists. But now I think it’s even worse than that. Give me one reason to believe you’re not working for Al Qaeda!”
I implored him to look in my shirt pocket. He pulled out a box of Tic-Tacs and frowned, then wasted no time in tying me to a chair. After a couple of solid backhands to the face, he plugged in a power cord and touched together the stripped wires at the other end, causing a spark. “You’re going to tell me who you’re working for”, he growled.

“You really know how to throw a Christmas party,” I said, perhaps a little too casually. “I bet Martha Stewart would be so proud. I don’t YAAARRRGHH YIYIYIYI vugindamsonuva GARRRRRRGH YIYIYIYIYI YIYIYIIYIYYI buzabadooba YOOOWWWW IYYIYIYIYIY subaluzzabunaguzza.” (Rough translation: “Ouch.”)

I decided it was in the best interest of the country to tell him everything. I confessed my admiration of French cuisine and culture. I admitted to having written passages from the Communist Manifesto on public restroom stalls. I divulged my secret dream to raise the taxes of gun owners and abolish all religions except Scientology. I acknowledged my status as a United Nations spy and a champion disco dancer. I confessed my habits of sticking my chewed gum under tables, and embarrassing my family members with drunken air guitar solos. I told him about the piece of candy I stole from the Civitans box at the Golden Corral, and the copy of One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish that I never returned to the public library. I gave him Bin Laden’s street address, email, cell phone and fax numbers, plus my old high school locker combination and my mother’s revised banana bread recipe.

Thirty minutes into the bathtub water boarding session, Bauer’s phone rang. He dried off his hands and answered it.. “Bauer here. What’s the situation? Yeah, OK. I’ll be right down.” He hung up and then threw me a towel. “Looks like you’re off the hook. They’ve got an emergency down at headquarters.” He grabbed his keys and I followed him out the front door.
“You’re letting me go?”
“I’m not done with you yet, but I’ve got bigger problems right now.”
I stood dazed as he attached a pizza delivery sign to the top of his ’92 Tercel and backed out of the driveway. He yelled from his car, “Don’t worry, Crawlspace. I’ll find you, and you’ll wish I didn’t.”

(The new season of 24 starts January 11th.)

Candy Wrapper Revelations September 6, 2008

Posted by Ted in : General, Inspirational, Snacks , 2comments

 

 

As you know, here at TV Crawlspace we consider snacks to be a necessary ingredient in the TV watching experience. After sampling a pack of M&M’s the other night I thought I spotted a typo on the wrapper. What seemed to be the problem was the apostrophe between the second M and the s. Was it possible that the package designers fell prey to the old pitfall of using an inappropriate apostrophe before the ‘s’ in a plural noun? My inner punctuation zealot jumped for joy at this thought. “The inclusion of the apostrophe implies ownership,” I proudly proclaimed. “In order for it to be valid, the word M&M’s would have to be followed with a second noun.” That’s when I noticed the tiny words at the bottom of the logo, “Chocolate Candies”. There they were. Two little words that meant so much. All was right on my candy wrapper.

This question of who owns the candies prompted me to do a little internet research. It turns out that M&M’s were named after the first owners of the candy’s patent, Forrest Mars Sr. and R. Bruce Murrie, who purchased the rights in 1929. The full name of the product, hypothetically, would read “Mars and Murrie’s Chocolate Candies”. Mr. Mars went on to amass a personal fortune of four billion dollars from the sale his little colorful creations. Kind of adds new meaning to the phrase “living the sweet life”.

After solving that mystery, something else caught my attention. Standing over on the right side of the wrapper was the jaded looking spokescandy known to M&M-o-philes as Red. Like a carnival booth attendant, he pointed a solicitous finger and seemed to urge passersby to partake in the contents of the little brown package. I tried to imagine what he might be saying:

“What’s the matter kid, life got you down? I got just the thing you need. Nothing like a sugar fix to make you forget about your problems. For a while at least. Then you’ll be back for more. Old man Mars got filthy rich off of desperate little kids like you. So what’s got you down, exactly? Let me take a guess. Your playstation game doesn’t work anymore? Your Barbie doll lost an arm? That’s nothin’. I hate to break it to ya, but it’s all downhill from here. You got twelve years of school to look forward to, and each grade is tougher than the last one. Then you work a crap job until you’re old and gray. That’s the game of life, and if you don’t play you end up dead in the gutter with the rats and the junkies. Take it from Red, the biggest thrill in your life will be these little chocolate candies here. Eat all you want, we got a whole warehouse full. These things won’t melt in your hand like that other cheap sh**.”

Just then I imagined a large shoe coming down on our affable spokescandy, crushing him into the sidewalk. That’s the way it goes in the school of hard knocks.

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