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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.

Ted’s Fall TV Preview 2011 August 14, 2011

Posted 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 , 5comments

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:

Ringer

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.

 

 

Grimm

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?

Terra Nova

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.

Nikita

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.

Supernatural

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.

Fringe

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, 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.

Crawlspace Confidential February 20, 2011

Posted by Ted in : Crime Dramas, General, Lost, Sci-Fi, Snacks , 1 comment so far

Hello, fans. No, your eyes don’t deceive you, it’s a new and exciting post on the newly renovated T.V. Crawlspace. Yes, I played around with the theme and the styling, changed the colors and whatnot. I think it’s pretty spiffy looking. Here’s what the blog used to look like.

You may remember that in my very first blog post a couple of years ago I insinuated that I live in the crawlspace under my mother’s house. Well, I should probably come clean and admit it’s not really a crawlspace, it’s actually a small basement that my mother rents to me for $150 a month. You see, I really named my blog T.V. Crawlspace because my name is Ted V. Crawford. It seemed like a clever play on my name, and it nicely reflected the state of my current living arrangement. So now you know. I repeat, I don’t live in a crawlspace, so you can stop sending me all those emails asking me about my health and personal hygiene. I’ll have you know, Mom lets me shower in the upstairs bathroom once a week whether I need it or not. Ba-boom, crash.

A few of you, I’m sure, are wondering when I’m going to start writing more again. Somebody, the editor-in-chief of this blog’s parent website, has also been wondering. He called me this morning and we had a lengthy phone conversation about that very subject. When the phone rang I had just gotten into bed an hour earlier, after returning home from my graveyard shift at Majik Market, and I was too dazed to understand what he was saying at first. I began to wake up a little bit when the yelling started. “Two blog posts in a year?!! What’s up with that, Ted? This is the last time I’m going to tell you. You have to give me a post at least every two months! Can you handle that? ‘Cause if you can’t then my neighbor’s got a 10 year old niece who’s submitted me 1003 pages of insightful commentary about Glee and Vampire Diaries.”

I rubbed my eyes and told him what he wanted to hear. “OK, OK. It’ll be bi-monthly from now on, I promise.” I started to wonder why I was taking abuse from this guy. He’s given me nothing in return for two years of writing except a gift card to Olive Garden. He keeps saying we’ll all be rolling in the dough one of these days when the site goes viral. But he’s right about my blog, my output has been beyond pathetic lately, so I’m going to try to make good on my promise.

The truth is, certain aspects of my personal life last year prevented me from posting regularly. For one thing I spent three months on assignment on Lost Island without internet access. It was my second trip to the island, and it was a lot more enjoyable than my first trip back in 2008. I had some interesting discussions with Benjamin Linus, and learned a lot more than I did the first time. More about that in a future post. After I got home I recuperated for a few days, and hoped to dive back into the blog writing, but I ran into a couple of problems.

First, I had to get my job at the convenience store back, and then I had to arrange to work extra shifts to make up for the three months of rent I owed Mom. She had been none too pleased about the late payments, and during my absence had decided to use my living quarters as a storage area for her massive crime drama DVD collection, which includes every season of every show in the Law and Order and CSI franchises. They were stacked up on the card table where I usually eat, crammed into my bookshelves, and piled high in several big shopping bags. She said she brought them downstairs to keep people from stealing them. What kind of person would steal Law and Order DVDs? I’ll tell you who: her friends — middle aged ladies who think stubble faced criminals with black stocking caps lurk in every alleyway and behind every 3rd SUV in the Walmart parking lot, waiting to either rob them, or kidnap them and give them that thrilling escape from suburban drudgery they’ve always dreamed of.

There’s one new show in particular that they can’t get enough of — Law and Order: Los Angeles, which features an actor named Skeet Ulrich. He was most famous for his starring role in the action drama Jericho, about life in a small town after the collapse of the federal government due to a nuclear attack. He also starred in the excellent but short-lived paranormal drama Miracles. Mom and her friends love this guy so much they started a fan club. They have meetings every weekend, starting on Friday night and sometimes lasting until Sunday afternoon. These things are basically an excuse for the girls to party like it’s 1999.

Skeet! Skeet! Wherefore art thou, Skeet?

Can you imagine a house full of old hens drunk on margaritas, dancing with each other to disco music loud enough to shake the entire house? It kind of makes it hard to concentrate when I’m trying to write and do my research. On weekends I’ve been forced to wear earplugs and watch TV with closed captioning turned on.

One time I made the mistake of going upstairs to heat up a frozen pizza while one of their celebrations was in progress. Debbie Schwartz, the club’s President, had sent Mr. Ulrich himself an email invitation to attend that night’s meeting, and two minutes before I went upstairs they had been joking that Skeet was going to walk through the door any minute. Some of the ladies who had not met me before apparently thought I was a close-enough approximation of their heartthrob. The shrieks were deafening, and were accompanied by a barrage of hair-ruffling, groping, and pinching.

Mom, temporarily returning to her senses, stepped in and told them to back off. Shaken and disheveled, I proceeded to the kitchen and cooked my pizza, which those bitches promptly ate before I could get back downstairs with it. By that point I didn’t even care anymore. There’s nothing that will make you lose your appetite faster than getting hit on by your mother’s friends. Well, except for that one brunette.

Anyway, I have installed a couple of extra dead bolts on the door to the upstairs for added security. Nobody gets in here unless they’re invited. The fan club meetings have settled down a little bit since the last time the police showed up and took a couple of the Skeet Sisters away in handcuffs. Now maybe I’ll be able to get on with blogging. Stay tuned.

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.

Why You Can’t Live With or Without Saturday Night Live May 22, 2010

Posted by Ted in : Saturday Night Live , add a comment

 SNL just ended it’s 35th season with strong ratings, and still seems as young and fresh as a show half its age. It continues to attract high-dollar advertisers in a time slot that only brings cheap commercials to other networks.

The ongoing popularity of SNL is due in no small part to the fact that Saturday night is a television wasteland. There is really nothing much on, because the networks assume that all the viewers, movers and shakers that we are, will be out painting the town and being glamourous, maintaining our lofty positions on the social totem pole, attending elegant parties in million dollar mansions perched on mountain tops as the moon shines down into our champagne glasses and we gaze uncaringly from our balconies into the city lights below.

The TV networks don’t suspect the truth of how we really spend our weekends, which typically consist of eating some leftover tuna casserole for dinner while sitting in an old La-Z-Boy that you’re still making payments on, trying to convince your teenage daughter not to have another baby, realizing you’ll have to wait two more paychecks to have your car’s brakes fixed, and reflecting that your only chance for escaping your job as a tire store manager seems to be the brochure you received in the mail about learning therapeutic massage at your local career college. And even though it’s Saturday night, you don’t have to worry about taking your wife out on a date because she’s gone off for the weekend with her belly dance instructor, some guy named Stephan who knows a lot about eastern religions. So you wash down a couple of pain killers with a Pabst Blue Ribbon, and settle in for a night of escape in front of the tube.

After a few minutes of channel surfing you start to realize that the networks have a very low opinion of people who watch TV on a Saturday night. You have your choice between some Cops reruns, a cooking show, a stray crime procedural or two, and a couple of old movies from 1994. In desperation you proceed to PBS. They’ve helped you out in the past. They’ll stimulate your brain with something informative. What’s this? Lawrence Welk? Say it’s not true. Yes, they’re taunting you. You can almost hear your wife laughing with comtempt. You take another swig of Pabst and glance doubtfully over at the stack of books that you never finished reading. “Anything but that,” you moan despairingly. You’ve still got one last line of defence: you can hook up the old Super Nintendo.

Then you look at the clock and, like an answer to a prayer, it occurs to you that it’s almost 11:30/10:30c, and Saturday Night Live will be on soon, your comedy oasis in the middle of a dreary weekend.

Herein lies the appeal of SNL.

I must confess, this column was originally meant to be a scathing indictment of SNL, with statements such as, “Forget Seinfeld, SNL is the real life Show About Nothing, devoid of all intelligence or vision…” Then I dutifully sat down with my notebook and watched the 2010 season finale, and I was forced to admit that most of it was actually very funny. In particular, I liked the Sally Field drug commercial parody, the latest Andy Samberg video, and a couple of the Alex Baldwin sketches (“Take the shot!”)

The quality of SNL may ebb and flow like the tides, but the show will always thrive because it provides a much need service to America. It rescues us in our moment of doubt and makes us feel hip and relevant again. This is why we will always return to the show, year after year, and suffer through annoying skits like Mr. Peepers, the ambiguously gay duo, and Grady Wilson’s marital aid videos. Lorne Michaels, to his credit, has always managed to keep the show entertaining on some level in spite of the revolving door of cast changes. This is no small task in an age of watered down, corporate-friendly television programming.

In closing, I would like to emphasize that I do not consider myself an SNL fan. I have spent the last dedade or so trying not to watch it, but like the castaways on Gilligan’s Island, I always end up back where I started, listening to those words, “Live from New York, It’s Saturday Night!” Attempting to escape the show’s gravitational pull has proven to be futile.

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.

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