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The Office Enters a New Era June 16, 2011

Posted 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.

How Long Before NBC Kills The Event? April 16, 2011

Posted by Ted in : 24, CW, ER, Heroes, Lost, NBC, Reviews, Sci-Fi, Supernatural, The Event, Tonight Show , add a comment

For a TV show to be truly great, I believe it has to have at least one of three things: aliens, ghosts, or conspiracies. The Event delivers two of these features (no ghosts so far) along with a fast-paced storyline that approximates the suspense of 24. The show also utilizes the Lost technique of keeping the viewer guessing by having strange plot developments in every show (SPOILER ALERT for you DVD watchers!) — there are disappearing planes, extraterrestrials held captive by the government, people who don’t age, kids who look like old people, and a villain who turns out to be a shape-shifter. And that’s just the first half season. This is an ambitious show that builds on the great shows that came before it.

Caught up in the middle of the dangerous interplanetary intrigue is an attractive young couple, Sean and Leila, who want nothing more than to get married and lead a normal life. While the two are on vacation, Sean returns to his hotel room to find that Leila is gone along with their belongings, and the room is now occupied by a different couple. The hotel desk informs him that they have no record of him or his girlfriend staying in the room. It turns out that Leila has been kidnapped, along with her father and sister. Sean eventually tracks her down and is able to free her, and they find themselves on the run from both her kidnappers and the government.

Leila and Sean connect the dots 

In the first few episodes, Jason Ritter and Sarah Roemer, the actors who portrayed Sean and Leila, had a humorous habit of stuttering and stammering in every scene, which I think was intended to convey the idea of average people who find themselves in extraordinary circumstances — the sort of characterization that was pulled off flawlessly by Richard Dreyfuss in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, for instance. Once again the old saying, “Art has a life of its own,” has found a new example. The actors’ intention of realism plays on the receiving end as a comedy routine about people with speech impediments. Which, to me, translates into “the director is asleep at the wheel.”

Also, some of the dialogue in recent episodes seems painfully artificial. The extraterrestrials are all business, with no time for walks on the beach or picnics in the park, as evidenced by such matter-of-fact pronouncements as “The uranium will be used to create a portal…that will bring many more of our people to earth,” and “The future of our race hangs in the balance.”

Laura Innes, once famous as Dr. Weaver on ER, plays the leader of the other-worldly visitors. It’s ironic that her character on the show, Sophia, ages at a tiny fraction of the rate of a normal human, because the actress has aged considerably since her early days at County General hospital. It pains me to say this, as a long time Innes fan, but she could use some sprucing up in the hair and make-up department. I mean, come on NBC! She’s queen of the aliens. Let her have some sex appeal, for crying out loud.

In spite of the defects, I can say with confidence that The Event is a must-see for fans of science fiction television. The long-term fate of the show is precarious for a couple of reasons, the first obviously being that some people automatically turn off the TV when a storyline involves aliens. The second reason is almost as obvious: NBC is notorious for axing TV shows at the first sign of lower ratings. This is especially true for sci-fi shows — Heroes and Surface come to mind. The recent Tonight Show debacle effectively solidified NBC’s status as the network that makes really stupid decisions. I’m guessing Conan O’Brien’s butt still hurts from having the rug pulled out from under him after only seven months on the job at The Tonight Show.

Other, smarter networks, such as Fox and CW, give their shows a chance to develop, give the production staff a greater degree of creative freedom, and, most importantly, they respect the fans by letting shows end with dignity, allowing the writers to tie up all the loose ends and resolve any unfinished business. Supernatural is the perfect example. The show seemed pretty hopeless in its first season, and I gave up on it after one episode. The CW network, however, didn’t give up. They allowed the show to develop and improve over time. I caught an episode several seasons later, and I couldn’t believe how much better it was. The CW had done what NBC would find unthinkable: It had actually stood by one of its TV shows and made it a big success.

As I watched the once-compelling Heroes crash and burn over the course of its four season run, I developed the impression that it suffered from too-many-chefs-in-the-kitchenitis. I pictured NBC executives in Brooks Brothers suits hovering over the writers’ computers, leaning in to retype a word here and there, and micromanaging every conceivable detail of the storyline, creating the convoluted mess that left fans shaking their heads in dismay. There’s a reason why Claire-Bear leapt to her non-death in the final scene. She clearly hoped that her super-healing powers would fail her for just once, and the unbearable folly of Heroes would be over. The viewers were right there alongside her, ready for the death plunge.

The NBC bean counters probably spend long hours in their mahogany-paneled conference rooms arguing that science fiction and supernatural TV shows are too expensive to make and don’t attract enough viewers. I can hear them saying something to the effect of, “We need to watch these dirt-bag sci-fi producers carefully and make sure they’re delivering a product conducive to the longevity of our lavish lifestyles.”

A part of me wishes NBC would just agree to never attempt any more sci-fi, then I could wash my hands of them forever. I’m sure they would do just fine with their current line-up of game shows, crime dramas, and really bad sitcoms.

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.

Oh. ER’s not on anymore? November 8, 2009

Posted by Ted in : ER, Reviews , 2comments

 

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Time of death? No one’s really sure. One of the custodial workers wandered into Exam 3 one night and noticed the aging series had no heartbeat and negligible brian activity. Bag ‘em and tag’em. Bomp bomp bomp, another one bites the dust. The final season of the show was nothing more than a formality. Just wrap up some loose ends, bring in some old stars to pay their respects, and let the show live out it’s final days with a little bit of dignity. Truth be told, the ER that I knew and loved ended around season six, and its condition continued to worsen until the end.

Here’s a brief summary of the show’s ongoing medical problems:

The Departure of Dr.Ross and Nurse Hathaway

This marked the beginning of the slow hemorraging of the show’s original stars. During the nineties I became a huge fan of the Dr. Ross character. I saw him as a role model – an enigmatic loner with a bad reputation and a heart of gold, bringing smiles to the faces of terminally ill children, and slightly embarrassed about his heroic tendencies. In my quest for Clooneyhood I even considered entering the medical profession, until I realized that with no medical trianing my opportunities would be limited to emptying bedpans and wheeling gurnies down the hall. I still resent Clooney and his supersized ego for ditching the show so early on. And no, his one episode return in the final season didn’t make it better. More like a slap in the face. Too little too late, George.

The Knifing of Med Student Lucy Knight for No Apparent Reason

The super-cutie and potential love interest for Dr. Carter had only been on the show for one season. One of the patients went psycho and left her bleeding body on the exam room floor. The viewers were left to twist in the breeze and wonder eternally about the reason for actress Kellie Martin’s impromtu departure. Drug or alcohol problems? Eating disorder? Personal vendetta by a producer? Or maybe she was too grossed out by the surgery scenes to stick around. We’ll never know. They should be required by law to explain these things.

Dr. Weaver Becomes a Lesbian

This was in spite of having had relationships with men in earlier seasons. Isn’t it supposed to be a myth that people suddenly “turn gay”? Apparently the writers didn’t get the memo. This was really the end of the show for me. I always had a thing for Dr. Weaver, crutch and all (played by the lusty Laura Innes). She made my reclusive nerd heart go thumpity thump. When she switched teams, it turned my world upside down.

Television’s Blandest Couple: Abby and Kovac

Sure, Kovac was a hit with his 007 looks and European accent, but let’s face it – the guy had the personality of a can opener. He seemed permanently stuck in serious mode, and the occasional sight of his unnatural smile was reminiscent of a jack-o-lantern. Put the Croatian cutout together with self-absorbed everywoman Abby Lockhart and you get a romance that, well, kind of sits there like the old stump in grandma’s back yard.

The Death of Romano

Arrogant, trash talking Dr. Romano was one of TV’s all time great villians. As satisfying as it was to see the belligerent MD pulvarized by a falling helicopter, the show lacked direction after his departure. For a while the ethically challanged buffoon Dr. Morris seemed destined to become Romano’s replacement as the resident bad guy, but instead was utilized as the badly needed comedy relief for the aging show.

Uninspiring New Characters

The ever revolving door of new characters failed to restore the show to its former greatness, and the newcomers where decidedly less heroic than their predecessors. Jing-Mei, Gallant, Neela, Ray, and nurse Samantha all seemed more concerned with their own dull lives than with their patients. An exception for me was Dr. Pratt, who recalled the gritty sincerity of Clooney’s character, although with more of an inner city than bedside manner.

The Episode with the Chimp

In which Dr. Ray Barnett brought an ailing chimp into the ER to be tended to by the staff. Dr. Abby Lockhart and the nurses became attached to the furry fellow and objected when Ray attempted to take the patient away again. Abby told him, “You’re the one who started all this monkey business!” That’s when I turned off my TV and rarely ventured back into County General again.

We can all be thankful that the suffering is finally over, and the show has gone to a better place (DVD). No need for tears, 15 is a ripe old age for a TV show. Rest in peace, ER. You will be missed, although not enough to bring you back again.

Dunder Mifflin Scranton Branch Annual Report May 11, 2009

Posted by Ted in : Reviews, The Office , 1 comment so far

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 After five seasons, the Office remains in rock solid condition, and continues to raise the bar on what can be achieved within the sitcom format. It combines edgy slapstick comedy with intelligent, meaningful writing. The characters are complex, and I can relate to every one of them on some level. Aside from a few minor flaws, the show remains on track toward profitability.

The writers seemed to have put Jim and Pam on autopilot, with their relationship in a presumably happy but uneventful state. They are shacked up in Jim’s parents’ old house and the date of their wedding remains uncertain. One episode seemed to experiment with the possibility of having them become enemies (new copier vs. office chairs), which I found to be delightful, but the producers seem reluctant to pursue this avenue any further. Hopefully things will get stirred up a little bit next season for our self-satisfied love birds.

Andy has somehow gone from being my least favorite to favorite character on the show. The guy is a just a bottomless pit of good cheer and merriment. In a recent episode he uttered his second best line of all time, “I’m not going to step on your funk, bro,” referring to Dwight’s unimpeded pursuit of the new receptionist. That was almost as funny as “Steer clear, big tuna. Head for open waters.”

Dwight’s character has been all over the map in recent seasons. He’s the equivalent of particle board, comprised of any comedic scraps that might be lying around on the writing room floor at the end of the day. Giving birth to a watermelon? Carrying on with Angela in the supply closet? Tying Jan’s stroller to the back of his car? What happened to the hard-nosed, by-the-book conservative from season one? Some consistency in the writing would be nice.

Speaking of Jan, Michael’s neurotic but lovable ex-boss and ex-girlfriend, why does she only appear in two episodes or so per season? She asked Michael to stay away from Holly, and then there was no follow-up on this storyline whatsoever. I guess the show’s 82 writers were not all on the same page that time around. Then, in the episode where Michael climbed into the train boxcar to escape his debts, we seemed to get a glimpse of a warmer, more caring Jan. I thought she was a much better match for Michael than Holly. If you’re going to bring one of his ex’s back, bring back Jan. Holly can stay gone forever, as far as this chief financial officer is concerned.

The sub-plot involving Dwight, Andy, and Angela (or Dwangelandy), in my opinion, resulted in an unnecessarily harsh portrayal of Angela. She was already considered the office witch, but I thought she had some likable qualities in spite of her iciness. Why was it necessary to demonize her to the point of making her a caricature? I have started to worry about this show’s consistently negative portrayal of women.

It was refreshing to see boss Michael Scott get his ass handed back to him for being an annoying, incompetent doofus. Let’s get real here. There’s no way people can party all day at work under the capitalist system we are blessed with, at least not at a paper company. Maybe at AIG, Fannie Mae, or Enron, and we all know what happened to those companies. Yes, I know the show is not meant to be an accurate portrayal of the workplace, but let’s not treat Michael like some kind of hero because he wants to turn it into romper room. The third world slave laborers who produce the merchandise we buy at the local big box stores might watch this show and wonder if this is typical white collar behavior. “Do they really party all day while we work ourselves to death?” The answer is obviously no; things are tough all over except at the multi-millionaire tippy top. The writers could show a little more decency in this regard. The people living large are not at your local paper company. OK, that’s my rant. Call me a capitalist pig or a commie or whatever else you like.

Forward looking statements by the management: we’re all looking forward to the next season of The Office.

This is Howie Change the Channel March 1, 2009

Posted by Ted in : Candid Camera, Reality TV, Reviews , 2comments

  I’ve been wondering how many words to devote to the new show Howie Do It, which is similar to hidden camera shows of the past such Candid Camera and Punk’d (with the enigmatic apostrophe). Given its sinking ratings, I guess I should go ahead and get my review done before the show is cancelled. Some of the zany pranks featured on this program have included: Howie in a wig posing as a waiter who sticks his fingers into people’s food and drinks, getting a man to pick his nose, bumping a microphone repeatedly into someone’s face while conducting an interview, and the old standby, farting.

One segment involved recruiting participants for a fake reality show called “Break-In Makeover,” who were told to break into a house and smash the owner’s computers and televisions, which they were told would be replaced by new equipment. Then Howie pulled up in a strangely fake looking police car and disrupted their activities with a bullhorn. In one especially annoying prank a member of Howie’s crew attempted to seduce a man’s wife while the man watched on the set of a fake TV commercial. After each segment, Mandel cues a large studio audience by saying “This is…,” to which they respond zombie-like, “Howie do it!”

I think this show fails for at least two reasons:

  1. It insults the intelligence of the audience with the same old sophomoric garbage they’ve seen a thousand times before. Why do television producers constantly treat their viewers like a bunch of drooling chimpanzees?
  2. The few pranks on the show that could actually be funny are rendered humorless by Howie’s clumsy comic sensibilities. It all seems very forced and unnatural. Mandel treats his victims as disposable props to be used and throw away, herding them through the stunts like cattle.

The quality gap between Howie Do It and the classic Candid Camera show couldn’t be wider. Allen Funt had a light touch and, unlike Mandel, seemed to have sympathy for his subjects. He made it a point not to offend or degrade the people on his show. It played like a sociology experiment, helping us to gain insight into human nature. Mandel has dispensed with all the class and intelligence that characterized Candid Camera, opting for the cheapest laughs possible. The result is a sad, unwatchable mess. No deal!

A First Glimpse Inside the Dollhouse February 17, 2009

Posted by Ted in : Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dollhouse, Reviews, Sci-Fi, Whedonverse , 3comments

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Dollhouse, the new offering by Buffy creator Joss Whedon, premiered last Friday on FOX, amid unprecedented levels of fan anticipation. The general premise of the show is as follows: a girl named Echo has escaped a prison sentence by volunteering to live in a facility known as the Dollhouse, where she becomes a human guinea pig for unscrupulous employers. Their shadowy operation resembles a sort of high tech prostitution ring, and they possess technology capable of reprogramming a person’s brain to give them specific character traits. The reprogrammed “actives”, as they are called, are then rented out to wealthy clients for various purposes, legal or otherwise. After the mission is completed, the active’s memories are wiped clean, and his or her mind is reverted back to its original state. Here are some additional thoughts on the show:

  • The proceedings seem fairly gloomy, and would definitely benefit from more of Whedon’s trademark humor. I’m also wondering if the brain altering technology will be a permanent feature of the series or just a starting point. It would seem a little gimmicky (and boring) to rely on this as the central plot device indefinitely. Also, as a viewer I really don’t want to see Echo being used by these laboratory creeps week after week for the benefit of the Dollhouse’s high paying clients. I would like to see her somehow turn the tables on them and maybe even use the technology for her own advantage.
  • You would think having all your memories zapped from your mind and replaced with a new set on regular basis would take a serious toll on a person’s brain, especially considering the limited medical technology we have in our day and age. I mean, our sharpest pharmaceutical minds can’t come up with a drug that isn’t accompanied by a list of dangerous side effects. This seems like another logical reason why Echo’s “treatments” shouldn’t go on indefinitely.
  • The general opinion about the premiere episode among fans seems to be a feeling of slight disappointment tempered with cautious optimism. Viewership numbers for the episode were less than stellar, and Whedon undoubtedly feels like he’s on trial this week. We should all keep in mind that his shows typically don’t come flying out of the gate with apocalyptic greatness. The debut seasons of both Buffy and Angel consisted largely of stand-alone episodes which served to establish the characters and settings of the shows, with few earth shattering developments.
  • Whether or not Whedon is purposely lowering our expectations to a more realistic level (not a bad idea, really), I’m predicting that the show will improve greatly over the course of the first season, and the wavering faith of the fans will be restored.
  • The Dollhouse facility reminds me of Angel’s old hotel hangout. Just my imagination?
  • The first line spoken on the show was “Nothing is what it appears to be.” This seems like an easter egg of some kind to let us know that some unexpected developments are on the way.
  • Is Echo’s predicament perhaps a metaphor for capitalism? Maybe I shouldn’t even go there. Nobody wants to be that serious on Friday night.
  • It’s good to hear the badly drawn monster go “Aargh!” at the end of a TV show again.

13 – Fear is Real: Be Sort of Afraid January 17, 2009

Posted by Ted in : Reality TV, Reviews , 4comments

 You want to know how to make a reality show really scary? Put the number 13 in the title. Now you’re talkin’! Then you have the 13 (there it is again!) contestants competing for $66,666 dollars in cash prize money. Holy cow! That’s over one twentieth of a million dollars. I could live forever on that kind of money. But wait a minute. Look at all those sixes! Didn’t I read somewhere that it was evil to have three of those together? Let me count 1,2,3,4…..oh my God! That’s five sixes! This must be the scariest, most evil reality show that ever ever existed! NOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!

The ill-conceived 13 – Fear is Real on the CW takes cornball to a whole ‘nother level. It’s kind of like a halloween edition of Big Brother, wherein the usual cast of failed actors and deluded losers live together in an old cabin out in the woods, and receive tape recorded messages from a guy who calls himself the mastermind. They must follow his deep voiced instructions to the letter and endure various trials and tribulations in order to stay in the game. This includes such activities as handling snakes, getting face time with rats, midnight canoe trips, and being buried alive. The esteem challenged contestants are play-killed one at a time until one lucky winner receives the evil prize money. Tune in or die! Ha ha ha ha ha ha haaaaaaaaaaaaa!

Midseason 2009 TV Explosion! January 6, 2009

Posted by Ted in : 24, 30 Rock, Amazing Race, American Idol, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dollhouse, Fringe, General, Hell's Kitchen, Heroes, Holiday Posts, Kath & Kim, Lost, Midseason, My Name is Earl, Reality TV, Reviews, Sci-Fi, Smallville, Terminator: tSCC, The Office , 8comments

 January is here. The festivities and laziness of the holiday season are behind us. It’s time for everyone to once again get serious about things, get back to work, and face up to the hard cold reality of life. Right?

Wrong! January is the time of year we TV watchers plunge head first into some serious escapist entertainment, and here at TV Crawlspace the only reality we’ll be facing is reality television. In just a few days, a massive wave of midseason premieres will hit like a tsunami, carrying us helplessly out into the television ocean, hopefully never to return again.

For TV Guide’s complete schedule of midseason premieres, click here.

Here’s a rundown of shows I’m looking forward to (and a couple I’m not looking forward to) in chronological order:

13 Fear is Real – (starts Wed., Jan. 7 on CW 8/7c)
This is a spooky themed reality show that might be amusing, something along the lines of Survivor meets Blair Witch Project. I hope there’s something more going on here than guys in masks jumping out and scaring contestants.

NBC comedy night done (halfway) right – (all four shows resume on Thur., Jan. 8 on NBC 8/7c)
My Name is Earl – This has been a little bit better this season, with a half hearted attempt to return to the theme of redemption (Earl’s list) that made the show so appealing in the first season.
Kath & Kim – I watched this show just to see how bad it was, and to my surprise I liked it. Slightly demented but well written, it’s sort of a kinder, gentler version of John Waters. Everybody on this show apparently works in a mall. How cool is that?
The Office – This has been brilliant as usual. I especially liked the episode where Jim and Pam had their first disagreement. I hope this is a foreshadowing of things to come. I think I like them better as enemies than lovers. Is it just me, or are all the female characters on this show mean and vindictive?
30 Rock – As a fan of Tina Fey during her SNL days, I wanted to like this overhyped show, but the cutesy self-satisfied tone of it left me cold. The jokes aren’t funny, and the endless parade of guest stars can’t make up for the show’s lack of direction. The emperor has no clothes!

Howie Do It – (starts Fri. Jan. 9 on ABC 8/7c)
This appears to be a hidden camera prank type show with Howie Mandel. I may watch the one episode that is aired before the show is cancelled.

24 – (starts Sun. Jan. 11 on FOX 8/7c)
What I always liked about 24 was its sci-fi elements, like the spacey soundtrack, and the high tech gadgetry. This season Janeane Garofalo plays the new computer guru, Janis Gold. According to TV Guide, “Mid-season run-ins with Chloe should make for hot geek-on-geek action.”

American Idol – (starts Tue. Jan. 13 on FOX 8/7c)
It is what it is.

Smallville – (returns Thur. Jan. 15 on CW 8/7c)
I’ve gotten hooked on this show again after sitting out for a couple of seasons. It seems unfair that Smallville’s best season ever may be its last, although I don’t know if that’s been made official yet.

Supernatural – (returns Thur. Jan. 15 on CW 9/8c)
Another CW show that I’ve rediscovered. It seems to have improved a lot since its first season. CW deserves credit for giving shows like this and Smallville a chance, and not axing them at the drop of a hat.

Fringe – (returns Tue. Jan. 20 on FOX 9/8c)
This sci-fi drama from the co-creator of Lost is my favorite new show of the year. Run and tell your friends.

Lost – (starts Wed. Jan. 21 on ABC 9/8c)
There are few television pleasures that compare with getting lost in Lost. It’s pretty amazing that a show this weird could stay on the air for five years, but it’s been reported that season 6 in 2010 will be the last.

Hell’s Kitchen – (starts Thur. Jan. 29 on FOX 9/8c)
Not a great time slot for Chef Ramsey this time around. He’s going up against The Office and the ratings powerhouse Supernatural.

Heroes – (returns Mon. Feb. 2 on NBC 9/8c)
This quality of this show has fallen faster than Nathan Petrelli during an eclipse. The storylines seem to be wandering aimlessly. Too many characters to keep up with is part of the problem. Some have suggested it could be the show’s last season if the ratings don’t improve.

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles – (returns Fri. Feb. 13 on FOX 8/7c)
FOX is moving this to Fridays, where it will be paired up with Dollhouse.

Dollhouse – (starts Fri. Feb. 13 on FOX 9/8c)
This is the one that everyone’s waiting for, the new show from Buffy/Angel mastermind Joss Whedon, but there have reportedly been problems in production and FOX has now relegated the show to the dreaded Friday night time slot (set to debut on Friday the 13th, no less). Of course, the X-files thrived on Fridays, so there’s still hope.

The Amazing Race – (starts Sun. Feb. 15 on CBS 8/7c)
My favorite reality show will feature less airports this season, according to TV Guide.

Somebody Save Smallville! November 23, 2008

Posted by Ted in : Heroes, My Name is Earl, Reviews, Sci-Fi, Smallville , 2comments

 

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(Editor’s note: I was two episodes behind when I wrote this post, so it does not reflect the most recent developments of the show. I just watched the last amazing episode before the mid-season break, and it contains lots of new developments. So, even though I’m a little out of date on this post, I like to think of it as marking a specific moment in time.)

Attention all readers: It’s time for us to jump in the phone booth, put on our tights, and save Smallville, the WB’s long running saga of Superman. “Who me?”, you ask. “I’m just a shoeshine boy, how on earth do I save the most powerful hero in DC comics?” Well, it’s not as hard at it seems. Just watch the WB on Thurdsay nights. After enjoying several episodes of what has been hinted to be Smallville’s FINAL SEASON, I can say with certainty that this show needs to be saved! I would even argue that it beats the current season of Heroes. Gasp!

I admit I had gone splitsville from Smallville for the last couple of seasons. The storylines seemed like retreads of the same old territory: meteor-powered villian captures Chloe, Lana, or Lois. After being temporarily debilitated by the kryptonite studs on the villian’s sneakers, Clark bounces back just in time to save the damsel or dude in distress. I started to wonder if the writers were running out of ideas, or had just stopped caring. I found it hard to warm up to some of the new characters like Oliver Queen (a.k.a. the Green Arrow) and Kara (Supergirl). Most of all, the romantic entanglements were making the show unwatchable. The Lex and Lana debacle drove me to watch My Name is Earl instead. Even the show’s original producers finally lost interest and called it quits.

This time around I decided to give the show some unconditional love and return for its eighth and possibly final season, for which I was amply rewarded. With the ever-brooding Lex and the eternally conflicted Lana out of the picture, the show has a newfound spring in its step and a shine on its shoes. After seven seasons chronicling Clark Kent’s youth, the show has finally reached several pivotal moments in the Superman mythology, such as Clark beginning his job at the Daily Planet, and contemplating his role as a superhero.

The best part of this season has been the lively banter between Lois and Clark. The two characters seem more real than ever before. Kent’s chemistry with his friend-turned-coworker is off the charts. In earlier seasons they sparred like sibling rivals, but their friendship has evolved into something much spicier. They still seem to be in denial about their feelings for each other, although rumors say that could change later in the season. In keeping with the comic book tradition, Lois still doesn’t know about Clark’s superpowers, even though he’s saved her life several times.

The other vital character on the show is, of course, Chloe Sullivan, Clark’s best friend and all purpose computer guru and rogue journalist. A lot of us reclusive, aging Smallville fans like to think that Chloe is a real person. When we’re writing our blogs we ask ourselves, “What would Chloe write?” She has now made it onto her own hypothetical wall of weird and developed meteor-based mega intelligence. As a result of the upgrade, she has turbocharged hacking skills, super memory, and can multitask like nobody’s business. I’m not so crazy about this development. First of all, it makes her a target. She has already been captured by Luthercorp, who sought to exploit her ablilities for their own devious purposes. Even worse, in recent episodes we have seen signs of impending villianhood for Miss Sullivan. When she used her brain to hot wire the Kryptonian thingamajig, her eyes went white and she became super strong. Also, she killed somebody. This will not do. I want the old Chloe back. She was smart enough without the super powers. They should donate her extra intelligence to somebody who really needs it, like Earl’s annoying brother Randy.

Aside from this minor complaint, Smallville is better than ever this season. If you’ve never seen it, now is the time. Together we can boost the ratings and save this great show. The citizens of Metropolis are depending on you.

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