It's that time of year again -- to reflect on all the things that made television in 2007 good, bad and sometimes just plain ridiculous. This has been anything but a year of normal, so I'm going to break from the traditional "Top Ten" format to bring you my version of the Top Eight TV Moments of the Year. It'll catch on, I promise.
8. Lorelai Gilmore's heart-wrenching karaoke version of "I Will Always Love You" on "The Gilmore Girls."
Thanks to this episode, I will finally stop associating this song with Kevin Costner. In one of TV's most bittersweet moments, Lauren Graham perfectly captured the heartbreak over her relationship with diner owner Luke, proving again how misguided Emmy voters have been to overlook her for one of their shiny prizes. Although the last season suffered creatively from the departure of writer and creator Amy Sherman-Palladino, this moment reflected how Gilmore fans felt about the timely end of their beloved show - brokenhearted but always in love with it.
7. The season finale of "Friday Night Lights."
I don't think I've almost cried over anything sports-related since the Houston Astros choked in the 2005 World Series (and that was just out of sheer frustration), but I felt like I was tearing up when the fictional Dillon Panthers won the state championship at Texas Stadium. At the same time, the off-field drama was pitch-perfect with just enough sentiment to make us sad to see the season end.
6. Jim asks Pam out to dinner on the finale of "The Office."
For Jim-Pam enthusiasts everywhere, this has been three seasons in the making. True, their subsequent romance has overshadowed what "The Office" is all about, but they simply could not have dragged on the "will-they-won't-they" drama for another season.
5. David Letterman doesn't let Paris off the Hook
Now, I've always been partial to Leno, but Letterman got my respect when he refused to let Paris Hilton off the hook after her infamous 23 days in jail. After he threw endless questions at the vapid socialite about her time in the big house, Paris pouted and said she didn't want to talk about it anymore. Letterman didn't back down, saying: "This is where you and I are different, because (that's) all I wanna talk about."
4. The "Flight of the Conchords" episode with Bowie.
I'll spare you my ode to Bret and Jermaine (inspired by the show, I'm already penning a tune). This episode features an excellent cameo from Daily Show correspondent John Hodgman (PC from those Mac commercials) and is a tribute to Ziggy-era David Bowie. Plus with lyrics like this "Are you OK, Bowie?/What was that sound?/I don't know man/I'll have to turn my ship around" capture the glorious wackiness of the show.
3. "South Park's" Imaginationland trilogy.
A three-episode arc that unleashes fictional characters from both the "South Park" world and ours, the Imaginationland trilogy seamlessly transitions from biting satire of the real world to ridiculously crude fun. Basically, it's "South Park" at its finest. (Plus, there's an appearance from the Cavity Creeps!).
2. Alec Baldwin's brilliant performance of a therapy scene on "30 Rock."
Proving once again why this is the funniest show on television, Baldwin’s over-the-top NBC executive Jack Donaghy does a one-man recreation of Tracy Jordan's (Tracy Morgan) family in a therapy session that could be borderline offensive if it weren't so preposterous and hilarious.
1. Stephen Colbert declares his candidacy for President on "The Colbert Report."
Sadly, the electoral system has even less of a sense of humor than the talking heads on the now defunct "Crossfire" and Colbert's efforts to get on the ballot in South Carolina are flatly denied by the state's Democratic Party. Still, for two glorious weeks, Colbert managed to outshine actual candidates in the polls and gave a whole new meaning to corporate sponsorship. Nacho Cheese Doritos, anyone?
I'm sure I missed a few key moments, so feel free to let me know if any others belong on this not-so-complete list.
Let's be honest. New Year's Eve is the perfect storm of awful.
Far too many people get sloshed because they have to. Paying at the door to hear crappy Nickelback covers is a crime. And even if you safely park yourself in front of the TV with a six-pack of root beer, you'll have to contend with mind-numbing "entertainment" offerings from hack celebrities like Ryan Seacrest, Perez Hilton and Carson Daly.
It's enough to make you wish Dick Clark were still alive.
Oh wait ... nevermind.
Anyway, get your fill of annoying crowd shots celebrating the most rudimentary accomplishment possible -- the turn of the calendar -- on any number of channels tonight.
You call it the New Year. I call it Tuesday.
New Year, No Limits (10 p.m.): ESPN jumps into 2008 — literally — by presenting two daredevil stunts. At midnight Eastern time, motorcyclist Robbie Maddison attempts to soar over the length of a football field on his bike, while stunt driver Rhys Millen tries to pull off a 360-degree backflip in a truck at the stroke of midnight on the West Coast.
New Year's Eve Live (10 p.m., FOX): Fox's Saturday-night funnyman Spike Feresten handles street-side interviews, while host Cat Deeley prowls above Times Square. Rock outfit Lifehouse, American Idol winner Jordin Sparks and her runner-up, Blake Lewis, are among the performers.
New Year's Eve with Anderson Cooper (10 p.m., CNN): Anderson rings in 2008 in Times Square, while a host of correspondents, including Kiran Chetry and Erica Hill, check in on celebrations in Key West, New Orleans, Las Vegas and overseas.
Tila Tequila's New Year's Eve Masquerade 2008 (10 p.m., MTV): The MySpace minx turned reality-TV star returns to MTV to host this New Year's costume party, with help from fellow online personality Perez Hilton. Mary J. Blige, Kid Rock, Good Charlotte and Paramore provide the music.
Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve 2008 (10:35 p.m., ABC; preshow starts at 9 p.m.): Dick Clark is joined once again by heir apparent Ryan Seacrest in Times Square, where Carrie Underwood, Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers perform. Fergie hosts and performs in Hollywood, along with Akon, Natasha Bedingfield, Sean Kingston, OneRepublic, Plain White T's, Taylor Swift and Will.I.Am.
New Year's Eve with Carson Daly (10:35 p.m., NBC): Alicia Keys takes to the rooftop of Rockefeller Center for a performance during Carson's fourth-annual special, while rocker Lenny Kravitz burns it up in Times Square. Tiki Barber and Amy Robach handle reporting duties.
(For the record, I love Dick Clark. I'll never forget the time I saw Wham! lip-sync "Wham Rap" on "American Bandstand." Seriously. No disrespect meant to Mr. Clark, an ageless wonder and true music legend.)
Score one for the writers -- or at least those who work for David Letterman and Craig Ferguson.
When "Late Show with David Letterman" and "Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson" return Wednesday -- the same day Jay Leno, Conan O'Brien and Jimmy Kimmel also get back to work -- Dave's writing staff will be intact thanks to an agreement Worldwide Pants reached with the Writers Guild of America.
Worldwide Pants CEO Rob Burnett told Variety that it wasn't tough to ink a separate deal with the WGA.
"I found the guild straightforward and easy to deal with," he said. "It was a big decision so it took an appropriate amount of time."
The WGA issued a statement Friday confirming the agreement, citing the deal as proof that its demands aren't unreasonable.
"This is a comprehensive agreement that addresses the issues important to writers, particularly new media," the Guild said in the article. "Worldwide Pants has accepted the very same proposals that the Guild was prepared to present to the media conglomerates when they walked out of negotiations on December 7. Today's agreement dramatically illustrates that the Writers Guild wants to put people back to work, and that when a company comes to the table prepared to negotiate seriously a fair and reasonable deal can be reached quickly."
As Variety also pointed out, it helps that Worldwide Pants is a dramatically smaller company than any of the members of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, and doesn't have nearly as much at stake. Letterman is uniquely situated as the 100 percent owner of his shows.
Worldwide Pants reached out to the WGA for an interim agreement shortly after the strike began on Nov. 5. The guild only recently engaged in talks with the company, after making the strategic decision to seek individual talks with AMPTP members. And even then, it had been thought that WWP wouldn't be able to cut a deal because CBS controls the new media rights to Letterman's shows. However, as the studio that produces the shows, World Wide Pants "is responsible for paying residuals to our writers" for Internet use of said shows, Burnett said.
UDPATE! UPDATE!: The Associated Press is reporting that Robin Williams will be Letterman’s first guest on Wednesday. It "may be Letterman’s way of quickly trying to draw a distinction between his show and his late-night rivals, who are without writers and may also have trouble booking major entertainers as guests." Also, NBC’s “Tonight Show" said today that Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee will appear on Jay Leno’s first show back.
True, end-of-the-year lists are about as plentiful as holiday fruitcake tossed in the trash. But everyone in the know seems to be taking a crack at it, so these waning, wintry days of December seem like an appropriate time to reflect on a medium that -- let's face it -- has a pretty dark cloud hanging over its head rolling into 2008.
Ah, memories! Like reruns, it's all we have for the time being.
Favorite show: "30 Rock"
"Bee Movie" overexposure aside, the Jerry Seinfeld cameo was a great kickoff to the season and should have cemented "30 Rock's" status as a major ratings player, not just a critical darling. That hasn't happened, but Tina Fey is becoming too ubiquitous for NBC to deny the show its full support. The Thursday night comedy has such an amazing cast (real-life blowhard Alec Baldwin is actually likeable as a fictional blowhard), talented bit players like Frank, Toofer, Pete and Josh haven't needed much airtime to register laughs this season. And what more can be written about jack-of-all-trades Fey, a geeky scribe turned unexpected sex symbol. "Me want food?" No, me want more "30 Rock."
Favorite new show: "Flight of the Conchords" and "Pushing Daisies" (tie)
Most comedies start at square one and spoonfeed safe laughs before hitting stride. "Conchords" skipped about 10 steps and jumped headfirst into brilliant music parodies of Daft Punk, Godley and Creme, David Bowie, M.I.A. and Pet Shop Boys as if pop culture savvy and a rock 'n' roll PhD were the ultimate prerequisite. Not since "Arrested Development" has a comedy broken so many rules and catered to a select audience that hangs on every word ... or in Bret and Jemaine's case, lyric. Having built the show around songs already constructed for stand-up comedy gigs, let's hope a new season and fresh batch of tunes prove just as hilarious. And speaking of bending the rules, far too many people have told me, "Oh, 'Pushing Daisies?' I've heard of that show but haven't watched." It's not on HBO, so no excuses, folks. The "Pie Ho" joke from "Bitter Sweets" is an all-time classic. Slices of TV are rarely so scrumptious.
Favorite character: Olive Snook
My crush on "Pushing Daisies'" Kristin Chenoweth couldn't be more obvious. And no, it doesn't have anything to do with that (ahem) skimpy mermaid costume (ahem) she was wearing in the "Smell of Success" episode. She's quirky. She's cute. She's original. Not to mention a character you root for because of how she openly pines for Ned and gets bubkus in return. I'd pick her over a dead girl any day.
Best "No, F'n way!" TV moment: "Lost: Season Three" finale
The shockwaves continue to ripple from the flash-forward that propelled "Lost" fans into the future, where a bearded Jack appeared crazily desperate to get back to the island he was, you know, previously desperate to get off. That it followed Locke's ominous warning about leaving the island prematurely only makes Season Four's potential plotlines all the more dangerous and destiny-laden. And how can you not see the pain in Jack's eyes and think Ben isn't one of the good guys now? Though why didn't Kate share Jack's sentiment in the startling airport scene? And why didn't she care about the newspaper clipping ... man, there are far too many pressing questions. We all just have to trust that with an end date on the show, Carlton Cuse, J.J. Abrams and Damon Lindelof know exactly what they're doing.
Honorable mention: "The Sopranos'" series ender in Holsten's restaurant with Journey's "Don't Stop Belevin'" blaring before that abrupt ....
Best episode: Or in this case, series of episodes goes to "South Park's" Imaginationland trilogy. It had terrorists "invading" our imagination. It had Kurt Russell getting sexually assaulted by Christmas Critters. It had freakin' Snarf from ThunderCats. But nothing tops the "Saving Private Ryan" parody with Santa Claus on fire and Ronald McDonald searching for his arm. Yeah ... I need help.
Best old-school discovery: HBO's "The Wire"
Thank god for TV on DVD. The fifth and final season starts Jan. 6 and I'm six episodes away from FINALLY getting caught up. Each season unfolds like another gripping chapter in the world's greatest novel, and for plotline and character development, there's no equal on TV, past or present. It's a show that should be watched by everyone, but admirably, isn't meant to be.
Favorite obsession: Food Network
2007 is the year Food Network officially replaced ESPN as my go-to channel. "Iron Chef America" remains a DVR staple, but my new favorite is Guy Fieri's grease-soaked "Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives." Looking like Corey Feldman and Larry the Cable Guy's demented love child, Fieri scarfs down "the people's grub" at greasy spoons, shoddy shacks and classic roadside stops. It all looks so good, you'll want to lick your TV screen.
Most disappointing show: "The Office"
Granted, this is kind of like scolding your straight-A student for coming home with a B-plus math test, but Season Two (and most of the third) set the bar so high, the new episodes have to be held to a different standard. You'll get no gripes about the Jim-Pam relationship from me. I just want to see more consistency, less Michael Scott acting like a brainless five-year-old, and the show sticking to its original premise -- a documentary about Dunder Mifflin paper company and its bored stiff employees. Or more succintly, KEEP THE CAMERAS IN THE OFFICE! (Oh, and no more hour-long episodes, please.)
Hope for 2008: The writers get a fair shake and start writing new episodes before February. "Lost" returns uninterrupted. "The Wire" gets the send-off it deserves (and loads of awards.) MTV's "The State" is finally released on DVD. Paula Abdul, Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson and Ryan Seacrest are brought down in a monkeyfighting scandal and "American Idol" is cancelled forever.
If there's a downside to DVR's -- and this is the only one I can think of -- it's that flying past commercials isn't always the best move. Some spots are actually worth watching. No, I'm not talking about that annoyingly nonsensical Wendy's ad with the burger singing an Air Supply song. And seriously, if I see the commercial with that way-too-cool-for-his-own-good dad handing out V-Cast phones to his "number ones" again, I may soon be looking for a new TV.
The commercials worth viewing? Those are the ones with awesome songs churning in the background -- or subconsciously burrowing in your head forever as you immediately fixate on a rotating iPod nano (Feist's "1234"), a cascading waterfall of M&Ms (Iron and Wine's "Such Great Heights") and a juicy Outback T-Bone (Of Montreal's "Wraith Pinned to the Mist and Other Games.")
As a bit of a music snob (though not as bad as I used to be), associating unsung but beloved musicians with watered-down beer or flame-broiled Whoppers just seemed wrong, wrong, wrong. But having read enough interviews with respected indie artists, I've turned the corner in recent years. Blending art with commerce doesn't have to mean a complete compromise of integrity. It's the two-fold argument of a) actually paying some bills with a music career confined to the fringes and b) making songs more accessible to the masses since terrestrial radio has been gobbled up by profit-fueled conglomerates and channels like MTV no longer play videos. After all, without Apple, the Fratellis' "Flathead" wouldn't have been heard by anyone. A year ago at this time, I had to do my best just to track the album down as an import. Now, you can find "Costello Music" at Target for $8.99.
As long as the lyrics aren't completely changed from "Whip It" to "Swiffer," I'm buying. The idea. Not the product.
Anyway, with a little blog feature I like to call Jukebox TV, I plan on posting some recently spotted commercials that use songs I've already grown to love. Maybe you're curious who the actual artists are. Maybe it's simply a song you haven't heard in awhile. Maybe you just want to complain that a commercial is on way too much. Either way, if there's an ad you want me to check out or try and identify by song, I'm game. Leave a comment or e-mail me. I'll do my best to track it down and post about it down the road.
Rogue Wave:"Lake Michigan" - Zune. Nice use of the song -- off the "Asleep at Heaven's Gate" album, 2007 -- in a quirky, colorful commercial that, not so coincidentally, reminds of me of what Apple did with Feist.
Hum: "Stars" - Cadillac. One of my favorites songs of the '90s. You only get to hear a little bit of the roaring guitar at the end, but it's a memorable part of the song (off "You'd Prefer an Astronaut," 1995). Whoever went on this nostalgia trip for Cadillac deserves a raise.
Cat Power: "How Can I Tell You" -- DeBeers. Not brand new, but played a lot during the holidays. One of the most hotly debated commercials out there because it took awhile to figure out who the singer was. But Matador Records confirmed that it's Cat Power's Chan Marshall covering Cat Stevens. As far as I can tell, the song hasn't been released and there aren't any plans beyond this snippet. Sorry.
Nothing says Christmas like a little quality time with the tube. From your pick of holiday movies and marathons, you'll find plenty of ways to escape crazy uncle Fred.
Surely between those christmas cookies and eggnog, you can find a little time for Ralphie Parker and his quest for "an official Red Ryder carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle, with a compass in the stock and this thing which tells time." As per tradition - at least in the past decade - you can catch "A Christmas Story" approximately 14 times beginning tonight at 7 p.m. on TBS. Here are some other examples of the notable holiday fare:
And, for you Scrooges out there, there are more than a few non-holiday related options as well, including a marathon of "CSI" on Spike and a hodge-podge of criminal procedurals ("Without a Trace," "Cold Case," "Law and Order") on TNT.
Happy Holidays (and TV watching) from the Channel Surfers!
In case you missed our story in Thursday's WEEKEND section ...
While much is up in the air regarding the ongoing writers' strike, one thing is certain: the Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers will not be exchanging Christmas cards this year.
Scrooge-like atmosphere aside, prolonged picketing could be a good thing for the TV on DVD industry. As series sets become increasingly elaborate and display-worthy, there's no time like the holidays to play catch up with a few stocking stuffers. Specificity is the key, and the Channel Surfing bloggers are in a giving mood.
For "Sopranos" fans who still can't get the smell of Holsten's onion rings out of their nostrils:
Now that you're fully recovered from the shock of that abrupt cut to black during the series finale, you can begin addressing the trauma of knowing Tony and the gang are never coming back. The acclaimed HBO series was the definition of TV voyeurism. While most fans would condemn Tony's mob lifestyle in real life, for six salacious seasons, viewers lapped up his sociopathic tendencies like Pavlovian dogs. Season 6, Part 2 features some of the series' most memorable sendoffs (Phil Leotardo's flattened head, anyone?) Above all, the set is essential because of creator David Chase's final, masterful brushstroke – an ambiguous plug pull that caused conniption fits nationwide – but one that'll be discussed for years to come. Season 6, Part 2, $54.99.
Or tap into "The Wire:"
If it's a bit too painful to reminisce so soon, recovery is a one-step program. Get into "The Wire." The underappreciated HBO series is grittier and gutsier than "The Sopranos," with its storylines guaranteed to satisfy mob buffs looking for a different kind of "game." The show follows the urban drug trade in Baltimore, with street soldiers replacing capos, but the piles of money, vials of cocaine and high-end Escalades looking all too familiar. Like Tony and his crew, "The Wire" unit signs off for a final season in January. Season 4 just came out on DVD, and while there might not be enough time to catch up, dialing in from the beginning is a case of better late than never. Seasons 1-4, $39.99-$59.99.
— Thomas Rozwadowski
For anyone wishing they were going home to Stars Hollow for the holidays … or even over to Richard and Emily's for Christmas dinner:
After seven seasons of hanging out with Rory and Lorelai, Tuesday nights without "Gilmore Girls'' still feels a little like Luke's without coffee, movie nights without junk food, Paris Geller without snark. Amy Sherman-Palladino's quirky family drama charmed us with not just its smart, pop culture-infused dialogue between BFF mother and daughter but with its whimsical small-town setting and endearing cast of whacky supporting players (a strung-out Sally Struthers and a spaced-out Sebastian Bach in the same show -- genius). Playing off that sense of nostalgia, the 42-disc "Gilmore Girls – The Complete Series Collection'' comes packaged in a retro Barbie case with a book of the show's witty "Gilmore-isms'' -- "It's not crap … It's Air Supply'' -- in alphabetical order according to episode. What "GG" fan can refuse that? The Complete Series, $258.
— Kendra Meinert
For the "Friends" fan who is finally ready to move past late-night reruns:
It's a familiar formula: Five friends, New York City, a local hangout spot. But "How I Met Your Mother" has two things "Friends" never had: a clear end in sight since the show is told in flashback by main character Ted telling his kids how he met their mother and Doogie Howser. Seriously, Neil Patrick Harris' Barney and his array of ridiculous catchphrases ("Suit Up" and "Legendary") puts "Oh My God" and "How you doin'?" to shame. Or head across the pond to meet Steve and Susan, the stars of the British hit "Coupling" who are a racier, more Seinfeldian version of Ross and Rachel. A most ill advised American version failed to take off a few years ago, but Seasons 1 and 2 (or as the Brits call it "Series 1 and 2") are a perfect way to meet the gang that includes some of England's finest comics. Seasons 1 and 2 of "How I Met Your Mother," $24.99 each. A combined Season 1 and 2 of "Coupling," $48.99.
— Malavika Jagannathan
For TGIF fans who remember when Jodie Sweetin was actually cuter, and poised to be a bigger star, than either of the Olsen Twins:
We're calling to order the inaugural meeting of FHFA — Full House Fanatics Anonymous. This is for anyone who sheepishly stops the remote on Nick at Nite to re-watch the episode where the Beach Boys randomly start singing "Kokomo" in the Tanner family living room. This is also for anyone who secretly knows that Uncle Jesse's last name mysteriously changed from Cochran to Katsopolis during the first few seasons, or worst of all, for Kimmy Gibbler apologists who still use "nerdbomber" as their insult of choice. Despite the colossal cheese factor — "Cut. It. Out." — there's more FHFA members than you'll ever know. And now they have an actual home to go to, the "Full House Complete Series Collection," or all eight seasons packaged inside a replica of the family's San Francisco residence. That definitely deserves a thumbs-up and "You got it, dude!" The Complete Series Collection, $169.99.
— Thomas Rozwadowski
For the eccentric in your circle who’s looking to fill the quirk vacuum left by “Pushing Daisies” or “Arrested Development:”
Book a trip to Cicely, Alaska. Long before he went on to mastermind “The Sopranos,” producer and writer David Chase was responsible for “Northern Exposure” – the grandfather to all the quirky, nutty shows out there. “Northern Exposure” follows the good but off-kilter folks of Cicely as seen through the eyes of an outsider, Dr. Joel Fleischman, a neurotic transplant from New York who is forced to indenture himself to the town to help pay off his medical school loans. One of the first comedy-dramas, look for especially understated comic performances from a host of oddballs who inhabit the town, including John Corbett (before he was Aidan on “Sex and the City”), Rob Morrow and Janine Turner. The Complete Series (with a parka cover), $134.99. Seasons 1-2, $36.99.
— Malavika Jagannathan
For social misfits who remember what high school was really like:
You don't need to have a Parisian nightsuit tucked away in your closet to appreciate the pain and pleasure of "Freaks and Geeks." It's a show that so perfectly captures teenage trauma and adolescent awkwardness, it's a wonder NBC even had the guts to air it for one ratings-challenged season. But for all of Sam and Lindsay Weir's trials and tribulations, it's where the exceptional, then-unknown cast (Linda Cardellini, James Franco, Jason Segel and Seth Rogen, among others) landed post-"Freaks" that makes you appreciate Judd Apatow and Paul Feig's true-to-life creation even more. The Complete First Season, $69.99.
— Thomas Rozwadowski
For social misfits who remember what high school was really like, but would rather pretend that they spent it trolling the beaches of Southern California with the rich and the beautiful:
Find out how it's done in "The O.C." Before "Gossip Girl" took on Manhattan, Josh Schwartz was busy chronicling the lives of Ryan, Marissa, Seth, Summer and the complicated Cohen clan. In its four seasons of love quadrangles, bizarre plot twists, "After School Special" moments and the delightful awkwardness of growing up over privileged, "The O.C." is teenage soap opera at its best. The Complete Series, $179.99. Season 1, $32.99.
— Malavika Jagannathan
For social misfits who wanted desperately to be like Brandon Walsh but could secretly relate to David Silver — before he went all "hip-hop'':
It's officially titled "Beverly Hills 90210 — The Third Season,'' but diehards know it as "The Season of the Dylan-Kelly-Brenda Triangle.'' And it's good stuff. The gang's senior year at West Beverly is wrought with some of the juiciest drama on one of the definitive shows of the '90s. It was the season Brenda and Donna went to Paris, Dylan picked Kelly over Brenda, Brandon developed a gambling problem, Kelly overdid the diet pills and collapsed at The Peach Pit, Burt Reynolds guest starred and Donna got drunk at prom and was expelled, which brings us to one of the great cheesy moments in all of "90210'' history: "Donna Martin Graduates! Donna Martin Graduates!'' Third Season, $54.99.
— Kendra Meinert
For "Lost" fans who still don't know what to make of that airport scene with Jack yelling, "We have to go back, Kate!"
It was confusing enough when Jack took up cartography and drove to the airport looking like late-period Jim Morrison. But when a fully made-up Kate stepped out of her car and "Lost" fans were suddenly thrust into the future … well, let's just say all bets are off now. Survival takes on a completely different meaning in Season 4, and it appears Locke is the only Lostie who realizes that leaving the island prematurely could be a disaster of epic proportions. What does Locke know? Why is Jack so tormented? Who's in the coffin? Who's Jacob? Does Ben have noble intentions, and if so, who are the real bad guys? All of the uncertainty makes Season 3 incredibly fun to watch — Paulo and Nikki notwithstanding. Season 3, $59.99.
— Thomas Rozwadowski
DVD's on the cheap:
How many times has this happened to you: You've finished your Christmas shopping only to find out that those relatives who said they couldn't make it into town for the holidays have — surprise! — nabbed a good flight deal on Priceline. So now you not only have more presents to buy, but they need to be on the cheap side. You could go the gift card route — the Christmas present of last resort — or you could actually get them something, you know, cool. Enter budget-priced DVD sets. (Note: These sets were found at Target.)
For the moody, dispossessed teen niece: "Veronica Mars, Seasons 1 and 2.'' A show not watched by many, yet loved by a very loyal few. Kristen Bell played the titular high school P.I. armed with enough sass and smarts to crack cases. The show was a perfect blend of mystery, drama, comedy and social commentary. Seasons 1-2, $14.99.
For the family who can just barely stand each other: "Arrested Development: The Complete Series.'' Any regular reader of Channel Surfing knows the love we heap upon this tragically truncated Fox sitcom. The show's intro says it all: "The story of a wealthy family who loses everything, and the one son who has no choice but to keep them all together." What's more Christmas-y than that? Seasons 1-2, $20. Season 3, $15.
For the surly uncle who'd rather be at home: "Curb Your Enthusiasm, Seasons 1-5.'' "Seinfeld'' creator Larry David's more subversive show about nothing, the mostly improvised "Curb'' stars David as a crankier version of himself, ambling through L.A. and bumping into celebrity friends. Seasons 1-5, $20.49.
Romeo and Juliet had their warring families. Rick and Ilsa had the Nazis. Pam Beesley and I? We have a writers strike keeping us apart.
Ours is not a conventional love affair: She's a fictional TV character on a popular NBC sitcom and I'm an emotionally stunted shut-in. But, hey, they said Pamela Anderson and Rick Salomon wouldn't work as a couple either. (What's that? They're getting divorced? Crap.)
I guess what I'm saying is, I'm one of the millions of red-blooded American males desperately in love with Pam Beesley, as portrayed by actress Jenna Fischer on "The Office." And ever since those Hollywood hacks started whining about "residuals" and "fairness" and "feeding their kids," we've been seeing a lot less of our favorite secretarial seductress. Sure, NBC is showing reruns of the series, but after a while that merely feels like going through the motions -- a surefire romance killer. To keep things fresh, I require new prank-playing, eye-rolling, Jim-flirting Pam goodness.
So what's a heartsick boy to do? I tried moving on, and thought I'd give loving VH1's New York a try, but that left me feeling as empty as Jamie-Lynn Spears' womb isn't. And I tried my luck falling for one of the models on "Deal or No Deal," but I kept picking the girl with the dollar case, and that's hardly enough to support a family on. Just when I was about to give up hope, a suitable Pam substitute came along: Jenna Fischer in "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story."
She looks like Pam. She sounds like Pam. But lordy, she sure doesn't act like Pam. Playing the faux June Carter to John C. Reilly's faux Johnny in Judd Apatow's music biopic parody, Fischer politely kicks Pam to the curb, vamping it up as sexy backup singer Darlene. And between Darlene's suggestive ice cream cone eating and barely there pajamas, I started forgetting about ol' what's-her-name. How could Pam's conservative sweaters compare to Darlene kicking the crap out of Dewey during a passionate -- and hilarious -- makeout session?
Then the lights came up, and I was left with that same aching longing. Lucky for us, "The Office" has made Fischer a bonafide up-and-coming movie star, with another film, "The Promotion," due out in March. But hopefully we won't have to wait that long for the lovely Miss Beesley to once again grace our TV screens, handing out yogurt lids like Valentines to all her infatuated fans. And would it be asking too much to, you know, bump Jim off or something? I don't like competition.
-- Adam Reinhard, firstname.lastname@example.org
Politicians who have enjoyed six weeks free of late-night ridicule - your time is up.
The gurus of fake news on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" and "The Colbert Report" are back - with or without their writers - on Jan. 7. As other late night hosts prepare for their return to the airwaves, Comedy Central announced yesterday that both shows will resume production, despite the ongoing writers strike. The Writers Guild isn't too happy about the decision, issuing this statement in response:
"Comedy Central forcing Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert back on the air will not give the viewers the quality shows they've come to expect. The only way to get the writing staffs back on the job is for the (Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers) companies to come back to the table prepared to negotiate a fair deal with the Writers Guild."
Stewart and Colbert - both members of the guild - would rather return to work with their writers, but I speak for viewers everywhere when I say this is a win for America (Colbert would be proud). As enjoyable as it has to see reruns of some of Stewart's and Colbert's best work from the past year - watching Colbert engage Sean Penn in a "Meta-Free-Phor-All" contest refereed by the U.S. poet laureate has to be one of the top ten TV moments this year - a Presidential election year without late-night TV is so, well, 1988.
Worried that no writing staff will make Stewart and Colbert stale? I wouldn't be - they've got two months worth of material to riff on, not to mention all the political gaffes sure to be committed before and after the Iowa Caucus on Jan. 3.
With the Associated Press naming Colbert as their "Person of the Year," it wouldn't be right not to see the mock pundit use his newfound celebrity status for good. Perhaps Colbert could challenge the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers to a "digital-sell-through-for-all."
Start planning those parties and office pools for the Screen Actors Guild Awards.
Arguably the stepchild of the awards season - overshadowed by its glitzier siblings at the Academy Awards and the Golden Globes - the SAG awards might be the only one worth watching this season because they'll actually have one or two striking writers scripting the ceremony.
The Actors Guild managed to strike a deal with the Writers Guild of America for the Jan. 27 show. Writers rejected a similar request from the Globes and there's no word on what the Oscars will do, yet.
Guess that just makes more time for rambling acceptance speeches and political statements about ending poverty from people with more money than some Third World countries.
Here are some of the SAG award nominations for television shows announced earlier today in Los Angeles. The entire list can be found here. ABC and HBO lead the pack with eleven nominations each. NBC followed with six while CBS was completely shutout. Multiple nominations were made for "30 Rock," "Ugly Betty" and "The Sopranos."
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series James Gandolfini, The Sopranos Michael C. Hall, Dexter Jon Hamm, Mad Men Hugh Laurie, House James Spader, Boston Legal
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series Glenn Close, Damages Edie Falco, The Sopranos Sally Field, Brothers & Sisters Holly Hunter, Saving Grace Kyra Sedgwick, The Closer
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock Steve Carell, The Office Ricky Gervais, Extras Jeremy Piven, Entourage Tony Shalhoub, Monk
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series Christina Applegate, Samantha Who? America Ferrera, Ugly Betty Tiny Fey, 30 Rock Mary-Louise Parker, Weeds Vanessa Williams, Ugly Betty
Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series Boston Legal The Closer Grey's Anatomy Mad Men The Sopranos
Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series 30 Rock Desperate Housewives Entourage The Office Ugly Betty
What do you do when you get so many new TV on DVD sets to review, you run out of places to store them? You start making room in your bathroom, of course.
If Gord Lacey doesn't have the best job in the world, it doesn't take long to get to his name on the roll call. Creator of one of the Web's most comprehensive TV on DVD sites - the appropriately named TvShowsOnDVD.com - six years of hard work paid off with TV Guide acquiring his "baby" earlier this year.
Lacey, who also writes for the Commentary Track blog on TVGuide.com, recently chatted with the Press-Gazette. It's the first in what Channel Surfing hopes will be multiple conversations with folks who we not only enjoy reading - or in the event we nab someone from a show, watching - but who've also helped inspire this very blog.
And for our maiden voyage, we couldn't have asked for a funnier, more informed, more engaged subject than Mr. Lacey ... or as he referred to his last name, "You know, like 'Cagney and ...'"
What DVD sets would make good holiday gifts this year?
"I think 'Seinfeld' is a pretty good set. Obviously it has every episode from all the seasons. But the coffee table book is really, really nice. I just find the packaging to be really simple, but elegant. It works really well compared to some of the other sets I’ve seen.
"One of the sets I've personally had a lot of fun with is the 'Young Indiana Jones Chronicles' (Volume One.) It was a show that was never warmly received. People went, 'Eh, this is kind of educational and not really Indiana Jones.' But watching the DVD's, (creator George) Lucas has done an amazing job with the featurettes. The episodes focus on a couple different topics, for instance, one is on the slave trade, so there's a whole documentary that accompanies it. And in another episode, Indy meets (President Teddy) Roosevelt, so they have a whole documentary on Roosevelt. And these are actually in-depth documentaries. Not two minute pieces. The shortest one was 19 minutes, and the longest one was about a half hour. And there were 38 of them on the DVD set."
Do you even have a wish list anymore, or do you get to watch what you want, when you want because of your job?
"Well, my job allows me to discover a whole bunch of shows I've never watched. Recently, I've been catching a lot of documentaries, a lot of BBC stuff. Like 'Planet Earth,' and I know everybody knows 'Planet Earth,' -- 'Oh, 'Planet Earth.' It's so good!' -- but David Attenborough has done so many documentaries. I had seen most of them before getting into 'Planet Earth,' stuff like 'Blue Planet,' 'The Life of Mammals,' 'The Life of Birds' and 'Life in the Undergrowth' ... Those are all really, really neat.
"Some of the other BBC shows I'm into are the new 'Doctor Who,' which is really cool. I really, really like 'MI-5.' I don't know if you've ever seen it, but it's by far the best spy show I've ever watched. They just do stuff that you wouldn't do on American TV, like actually kill characters off. For instance, you know that Jennifer Garner isn't going to die on 'Alias' because she's the star of the show. That's just how American TV works. But in the second episode of 'MI-5,' they killed off this hot agent, and they did it in a very gruesome way. And I was watching on my couch and I went, 'Oh my god, oh my god! I LOVE this show!' It's the idea that they're going to do something different on a show that really excites me."
That gets me thinking about my current obsession, HBO's "The Wire," which I'm into really late, but glad I decided to watch before the final season airs in January.
"I was just going to mention that show. 'The Wire" is one show that, really, you have to commit to watching the entire thing. You watch one or two episodes, and you'll probably go, 'Eh.' But you watch the whole season and it all pays off. That's why I think it hasn't caught on as much as other HBO shows have."
The whole idea that you have to really think about the overall puzzle and pay attention to every scene, every bit of dialogue.
"Yeah, and it doesn't have any big name actors. Like, try and name someone in 'The Wire,' and it's 'Oh, that guy. Wasn't he on another HBO show? Or, that guy who was from 'Oz.' 'Well, what's his name?' 'Oh, I don't know' ... and (show creator) David Simon has said this before, 'The Wire' is like a book. Each episode is like a chapter. And if you were to pick up a book and read Chapter Five, you'd be like, 'What? That doesn't make any sense!'"
Looking back on TVShowsOnDVD.com's history, is it safe to say you were just a TV fan living in Canada who wanted to know when 'Family Guy' was coming out?
"I had been buying DVD's for about a year, year and a half. And while participating in some (Internet) forums, I kept noticing people were posting, 'Oh, wouldn't it be great if such and such a show came out?' A bunch of random people posting comments in random message boards doesn't get anything done. I had previously put out some petitions for 'Family Guy' and 'Kids In the Hall,' two shows I wanted to see released. I collected a few hundred names and then it became, like, 'Now what? I don' t know anyone at Fox. What am I going to do with this?' You know, because a lot of peope do petitions -- 'We demand such and such be released!' -- and then nothing happens. So then I got to thinking, 'Wouldn't it be really cool if there were one Web site where people could just go and register, then vote on the different shows they wanted released? Instead of a petition, they'd basically be saying, 'I will buy this.'
"A couple days later, I didn't really have much to do, so I started working on the Web site. I was working as a Web developer at a college, so I had the skill set. But that was a day job, the sort of thing where you do what people expect of you -- or basically, other people told me what to do, so I really didn't push my abilities. So when I sat down with the idea, I realized that in order to achieve what I wanted, I had to learn a lot of stuff to get to that goal. I started doing it, working on the Web site for about nine months, and I wanted to have 1,000 shows that people could vote on, 500 DVD's listed. So when I opened Nov. 1, 2001, that's what I had, and that first day when people started coming, it was kind of like, 'How is this happening? It's the first day.'"
So was it gradual that people started to turn to the site for information?
"I wanted to make sure that we had material on the site, because I knew our death would be to launch without content. People would go there and say, 'Yeah, it's cool. I guess it has possibilities. But there's nothing here,' and then who knows if they'd return later? So it was very difficult getting everything on there, and I put a lot of work in the site. And still, no one really knew about it. So absolutely, early on, there was no reward in doing it. At one point, I almost scrapped the site. I had been kind of losing interest because I had spent all this time on it, you know, and about halfway through I was coding stuff, and I probably ran into a couple of problems and thought, 'Man, I had all these ideas. And it's summer. What am I doing this for?' But one of my friends said, 'No. Do it and get it done. Then you can look at doing something else.'"
Was there a tipping point? Because if I think back to 2001, the DVD industry was still pretty dormant. Did it just suddenly kick into high gear and you caught the wave? Were you partly responsible for the wave?
"I started the site before TV on DVD really took off, so we were basically in a really good position to be in. We had something already in place and then a bunch of companies started to release stuff one after another. So then it was like, 'Cool!'"
Have your viewing habits changed because of the job? Is it TV overload for you?
"I get asked that all the time: 'Do you get sick of TV?' No way! That's crazy. I watch so many types of shows. I can literally go from 'The Wire' to a cartoon, and those are so different. You know, day-to-day, I watch a lot of reality shows because those aren't going to DVD. Like the 'Amazing Race.' I try to stay away from the really crappy stuff, though."
I hypothesized awhile back that maybe the writers' strike would have a positive impact on the TV on DVD industry, that some forgotten or overlooked shows, namely "The Wire," might benefit from the lack of new programming. Do you think that could be the case?
"Yeah, definitely. And I know Amazon.com is helping a lot with all of these TV on DVD sales. They've been holding two-to-three a week for the past month or so, which I think is tied more to the holidays and not the strike. But either way, a lot of people are reaping the savings."
The timing of both can't hurt. Maybe it's a perfect storm of sorts, because the advantages of TV on DVD seem to outweigh the negatives, which is why the industry is booming.
“That holds true for me. I watch most shows on DVD. It's a hell of a lot easier, and well, TV is annoying. You sit down and have to watch at a certain time. Obviously, (DVR's) have helped with that, but all this extra stuff is flying onto the screen. 'Watch 'American Idol' on Tuesday!' It's like, 'OK, I'm trying to watch this show right now.' Or then a logo suddenly appears on the bottom of a screen, or commercials pop up and interrupt my show. Look, you save a ton of time watching shows on DVD. I’m sure you've noticed that an hour-long show is 42 minutes now. Think about that. If you watch two shows a night, you've saved a half hour. If you watch four shows a night, you've saved a whole hour. That's another show you could be watching."
You covered this in a great TVGuide blog post about complete series sets potentially killing single season sets, and hurting the industry overall. I know it's a situation that has me personally frustrated, and is a big debate: the release of complete sets like “Seinfeld” with bonus material, all as a potential middle finger to folks who've bought the individual sets loyally over the years.What do you want to see done?
"I want the studios to make that extra content available. For the ('Seinfeld') coffee table book, I don't know if they can make that available because of licensing or what. But for the bonus discs, make it all available. Each one of those companies has an online store. Maybe you don't sell it at Amazon or Best Buy, but make it available at the Fox store, or the Warner Bros. store, or the Universal store. Give people the opportunity to get the extra bonus material.
"I think the studios have to look at what percentage of people who already own all the seasons are re-buying this stuff, compared to what percentage are new purchases. If its 90 percent new people buying it, 10 percent re-buying it, why don't they look at trying to capture 80 percent -- well, let's be more realistic -- 60 percent of people who already own those sets but are interested in buying the bonus discs. You look at a set like 'Stargate,' and that has four bonus discs. We're talking serious Sci-Fi fans here, and they WANT that stuff. Find a way to get them the bonus discs."
What do you hear from fans who feel like they shouldn't have to re-buy seasons they already own to get some cool extras?
"Most people are saying '(Bleep) the studio. This is (bleep).' Using those words. I don't understand the home video industry. If you fly a lot, there's a rewards plan in place. You get frequent flyer miles. 'Thank you for supporting us. Here's some bonus stuff for you.' If you buy 10 coffees, you get the 11th free … all kinds of rewards. What happens in home video? 'What, you bought 10 seasons already? Ha ha! Screw you! Here's something even BETTER than what you bought and we're not going to give it to you unless you re-buy everything we already sold you. Ha ha ha ha! Thanks for the money, sucker!'"
It's sad but true, though ultimately it might come down to patience, right?
"Hey, a lot of people out there buy so much TV on DVD, they've come to realize that there are some sets they just don't need to get right away. So they think to themselves, 'Huh, maybe I should stop collecting this set.' Because they're probably going to release something like 'The Complete Sopranos.' That's pretty much a given. In fact, I will bet someone that in November of next year, you'll see HBO release a 'Complete Sopranos.' So if I'm a consumer, and I've been slow buying those sets, maybe I only have up to Season Three, so do I really want to buy Seasons Four, Five and Six, in two parts? Hell no! I'll wait for the complete series set.
"And now, HBO lost some sales there, because we know the 'Sopranos' is going to come out. But for some series', maybe the studio has no plans for a complete set. So now fans are waiting for something that might not get released. Let's say 'La Femme Nikita,' which had five seasons, and the fifth season came out, what, a year and a half, two years ago? But there's no complete series. So now you have people waiting for a complete set that might never come."
What unreleased show or shows do you get the most e-mails about?
"'The Wonder Years' and the original 'Batman' (starring Adam West.)"
Any reason for the delays?
"Well, I think 'The Wonder Years' would be music licensing. That's probably the main reason there. And then 'Batman' is another licensing issue. Basically, Fox owns the show, but I don't believe they own the rights to the characters anymore. So they'd have to work with DC Comics to license the character again. And well, when you have two big companies arguing over profits, good luck. That show: it could be never."
What show are you most surprised that people are SO passionate about?
"Um, 'Golden Girls?' I had no idea. I was over at a friend's house last week and he has a very small DVD collection, yet he owns every single season of 'Golden Girls.' And he's like, 'I LOVE 'Golden Girls!' Do you know when 'Golden Palace' is coming out?' And I'm like, 'Um, no ...'"
What's the coolest thing you've been a part of because of the Web site?
"For me, I have to say it's 'Kids In the Hall,' because if you go back to before the site started, that was one of my petitions. And once I got the site up and running, I started looking around and seeing that there was definite interest. So I called someone at Broadway Video and starting talking to them. The first phone call was really short, like, 'Hey, I'm Gord. I run this Web site and there's a lot of interest in 'KITH' on DVD.' And they'd be, 'Oh, great! Send us an e-mail. Thanks. Bye.' So then six months later, I'd try again and it'd be the same, 'Oh, really. Lots of interest? Hmmm, we'll look into it. Thanks. Bye.' And it wasn't until 'KITH' went on tour and came to Edmonton that I was sitting there in a packed room of fans. All these people were waiting to see them while buying programs, eight pages or so, and paying $30 for them! I was like, 'This is ridiculous! This show has to be on DVD if that many people are spending money on programs! They'll buy the DVD!"
'So I called Broadway again ... and we had a more serious conversation. They flew me down to New York, and I met with them and outlined what a good set should be. I was involved in helping them pick a distributor ... and from there, I was pretty much a consultant. They'd send me tapes with timecoded episodes because they wanted chapters, especially for a sketch comedy show, that'd be important. So I was going through and writing down the timecode and where the chapters should be. It was crazy."
Well, you're Canadian. It'd be wrong not to love 'Kids In the Hall.' You also seem like you'd be a big 'Lost' guy.
"Yeah, I watch that on DVD. This past year was a little messed up. I had to go Comic-Con (in San Diego), and TV Guide wanted me to cover the 'Lost' panel ... and I was like, 'Oh, crap. I haven't watched 'Season Three' yet! And it's not on DVD!' So I had to figure out how to cover it without the season being spoiled, and I was going through all sorts of scenarios ... Luckily I have a friend who has a DVD recorder, so I called him up and asked if he recorded 'Lost." And he was like, 'Yep,' so I went over and picked up his DVD's made from recordings off TV, and this is two days before Comic-Con. The next day-and-a-half I watched the entire season of 'Lost' just so I wouldn't have things spoiled. And it was really great, because everything was fresh in my mind once I got down there. I think I watched the last episode on my flight to San Diego."
"I told my boss what I did and she said, 'Gord, you are hardcore.' But you know what, first, I wanted to do a good job for TV Guide, and I just didn't want anything spoiled. I hate spoilers."
Talk a little about the TV Guide situation. When you visit your site, you can't tell that it's been bought out. Nothing changed.
"That's what has been so cool. A lot of people don't realize the site has been sold. And I took a lot of heat when the sale went through. A lot of people came at me with, 'You're a sellout! The site is gonna suck now and I'm gonna stop going to it!" And I was like, 'Whoa, whoa, whoa! Why not wait until it does suck before you stop going to it. We just announced this. Nothing's changed ... I told people over and over, 'This site is like my baby.' I'm not going to hand it to someone who is gonna kill it."
You have to appreciate the extreme loyalty from fans, huh?
"A couple of days after the sale went through, my new boss said, 'Gord, we've been getting a lot of e-mail. People are really upset and think we're going to wreck the site.' What can I say? Those are my readers. It's really good to know we have such a following."
So it's safe to say a lot has happened in six years.
"If I ever have to go back and get a normal job, I am so screwed."
Well, I assume you work at home, so how can the public not be envious?
"I make my own hours, though I do have to work 40 with TV Guide, but I work WAY more than that. Honestly, it doesn't seem like a job. When people ask what I do for a living, I always say, 'Well, you're gonna hate me,' and then I tell them them and they say, 'Wow. I really do hate you.' I sit around, watch TV and answer e-mails. 'But that's what I do in my spare time!' It's great.
And then I'm sure when your doorbell rings, you get tons of new packages.
"Of course. And I'll never forget my first DVD. It was 'Twin Peaks: Season One.' I know the guy who sent it to me, and I still keep in touch with him. I remember running around my house and (singing happily) 'Free DVD! Free DVD!' Now, oh my god, I don't know where to put them anymore."
Yeah, where do you put them?
"All over. I have a lot in my bathroom ... Seriously."
What, so 'Freaks and Geeks' right next to the shaving cream ...
"Actually, 'Freaks and Geeks' is in here."
Well, Gord, I really appreciate the time and all the work on the site. I probably kept you way too long with my questions.
"Oh, no problem. I was just gonna watch TV anyways."
Not much needs to be said here. It's the extended "Lost: Season Four" trailer, with Jeremy Davies ("Saving Private Ryan") among the island's new faces. Also, "Lost" insider Michael Ausiello reports that not one, but two people will die in the first eight episodes. "At least."
Though its quality has declined a bit since Season Four, it's amazing "Scrubs" has lasted as long as it has despite dismal ratings. It's one of the rare instances of a network -- in this case, NBC -- hanging onto a well-written comedy, perhaps too long, with hopes that loyalty would lead to an "Office"-like breakthrough a few seasons in. Either that, or creator Bill Lawrence has some incriminating photographs of an NBC higher-up with a donkey ...
While the show's series finale is in jeopardy thanks to the bloody writers' strike (what isn't?), Lawrence, who also helmed underrated Michael J. Fox-vehicle, "Spin City," told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that, "If the strike cuts the series short, I will still find a way to deliver the end of the series to the loyal fans that kept us on all this time. Even if that means writing the episodes (post-strike of course) and reading them to people over the phone. A more likely solution would be to have them be part of the seventh-season DVD somehow."
Few big mysteries remain for "Scrubs" -- the "will they, won't they" Elliot-JD dynamic is well past its expiration date, as is any expectation that JD will do some serious growing up now that he has a kid -- but Lawrence promises that the Janitor (Neil Flynn) will get a name by series' end.
"Originally the Janitor was going to end up being a figment of J.D.'s imagination (I never expected the show to last more than a few episodes so that would have been possible -- and why he only interacted with J.D. at first)," Lawrence said. "We just always thought of him as more menacing as a nameless sketchy antagonist and decided not to reveal his name until the end."
As you can discover by watching re-runs on Comedy Central, the Janitor has always been one of the show's delightfully zany, slightly demented bright spots. The writers have done a phenomenal job of keeping Flynn in the background, but giving him enough wacky material to take over scenes when its warranted. If you watch DVD extras from the first four seasons, Flynn also seems to relish the improvisation that comes with such deranged, ammonia-fueled territory. After all, what Scrubs fan can forget "knife-wrench?"
Either way, it'll be interesting to see if the name build-up has a "Cosmo Kramer"-like payoff for longtime viewers. "Scrubs" deserves a nice send-off having been consistently funny, but sadly unappreciated all these years.
Once I wrongly accused it of being a guilty pleasure. Now, I prefer the term "justified obsession" to describe my fascination with MTV's "A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila."
Apparently millions of viewers agree with me because "A Shot at Love" is one of the network's breakout hits this season and has the second-highest rating after "The Hills." Pitting 16 guys and 16 girls against each other, this dating show followed model, aspiring singer and Myspace queen Tila Tequila - whose real name is Tila Nguyen - in her quest to find... well, let's just call it a potentially lasting relationship.
In tonight's finale (airing at 9 p.m. Central Time), Tila will choose between Dani Campbell, a 29-year-old female firefighter and Bobby Banhart, a 25-year-old male film student. Predictably the bisexual Internet star whittled her choices down to one guy and one girl, but the unpredictability of knowing which person - and ultimately which gender she'll pick - is probably one of the reasons people kept watching. Well, and let's call it like it is, Tila is just plain nuts - in a recent episode, she gave Dani's grandmother a lapdance. (Granny deserves points for being totally unfazed and supportive).
Gone are the days of "Guy picks girl. Girl accepts. They do an interview with People magazine in which they proclaim their everlasting love, then end things two months later." As pointed out here by an Associated Press entertainment writer, more people are tuning into shows like "A Shot at Love" and, sadly, "I Love New York 2" that redefine the traditional format of a dating reality show. I guess after a while the whole "who's going to get the rose" schtick gets old, so bring on the chocolate-syrup wrestling and animal testicles!
In a recent interview with TV Guide, Tila admitted she had "definitely found love" and that she's still with the person she picked. I'm crossing my fingers that's it's with Dani.
Gettin' jiggy with memories of parachute pants and my crush on Lisa Loeb.
You take the good with the bad when it comes to VH1. And this week features two separate, music-based programs (shocking for a music channel ... I know!) with enough nostalgia-based substance to be considered more than a brain melting time-waster of the "I Love New York" variety.
Starting tonight at 9 p.m., VH1 is counting down the 100 Greatest Songs of the '90s. Judging by previous lists the channel has run, the appropriate title would be Most Incessantly Played, Commercially Approved, Annoyingly Redundant Songs of (fill-in-the decade), but that's just a minor quibble from yours truly. The show airs in five installments starting tonight with songs 100-81. You can spoil your fun and read the full list if you'd like -- though we'll only reveal here than the No. 1 song is by one of the following 10 artists who made the tally: Backstreet Boys, Sir Mix-A-Lot, Nirvana, Hootie and the Blowfish, MC Hammer, TLC, Hanson, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Ricky Martin or U2.
Not like it matters. I mean, where else are you going to find a list that features Radiohead sandwiched between 'N Sync and freakin' Blackstreet of "No Diggity" fame? Weezer between Bell Biv Devoe and Sophie B. Hawkins? And c'mon, Coolio and Ace of Base totally got robbed! Regardless, VH1 is hardly an authority on music-related matters -- even for something this arbitrary -- but I think we can all agree that it's in our best interest to see that "Informer" by Snow lands on the highest possible ground.
For more serious music enthusiasts, premium cable's VH1 Classic rolls out its own weeklong series, "Seven Ages of Rock," tonight at 8 p.m. The seven-parter, narrated by Dennis Hopper, is meant to provide a fresher look at several eras of rock, starting tonight in the '60s with the likes of Cream, The Who and the Rolling Stones. Subsequent episodes deal with art-rock (Bowie, Velvet Underground), punk (Sex Pistols, The Clash), metal (Judas Priest, Black Sabbath), stadium rock (Queen, Springsteen), American alternative (Sonic Youth, R.E.M.), and British indie (the Smiths, Stone Roses.) Sadly, Snow will not be featured in any of these segments.
Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to wistfully listen to "Stay" while thinking of Lisa Loeb and her cat-eye glasses ...
Return of Letterman, Leno could be music to bands' ears
The trickle-down effect of the writers' strike has apparently caused the music industry to spring a leak. In case you haven't heard, that's a sinking ship that can't really afford to take on more water.
With CD sales down a whopping 14 percent -- the equivalent of the size of oh, say, Kanye West's ego -- from last year, according to Nielsen SoundScan, the music biz is not only hurting, it's on track to end the year with its steepest losses yet.
One of the problems --besides the fact that not everyone considers Hannah Montana a must-own for their CD collection -- might be the writers' strike.
“You don’t have late-night shows promoting new albums or songs getting placed on new shows,'' Daily Variety associate editor Phil Gallo told USA Today.
The chance to perform live on the "Late Show with David Letterman'' or "Late Night with Conan O'Brien'' is huge exposure for an artist. Take away that outlet, and they're left with things like radio airplay, and we all know how non-artist-friendly that can be, particularly for acts who don't fit neatly into a specifc format.
Even Larry the Cable Guy, who has a new "Christmastime in Larryland'' CD to pimp, made note of the lack of opportunity recently on his Web site.
"I was supposed to be on Leno tonight (December 4), however it was canceled because of the writers strike,'' he writes. "I will say right now, I support all the writers in this except for the ones that wrote anything for UPN, the caveman show, and the guy that came up with Jar Jar Binks.''
It also knocks out The Fray/"Grey's Anatomy'' factor, by which lesser-known bands have a shot at breakout success, thanks to one of their songs getting played during a McDreamy/McWhiny love/breakup scene, for example.
But there is hope. USA Today reports that Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien's late-night shows will return to the air with fresh episodes on Jan. 2 -- without writers supplying jokes. It also reports that Letterman may be back on the air in early January with new episodes -- with writers. (We're pretty sure Leno more desperately needs the help of writers to be funny, but that's just us.)
Also interesting is a breakout with another USA Today story on the subject that provides a network-by-network breakdown of how many episodes remain for each of the top shows and what will be taking their place after the first of the year.
What's a reality show without a few crazies, right?
Project Runway - as I noted in an earlier blog post - has always prided itself on being about both talent and drama, but this season's crazy level has hit a new high. In the first few episodes, we've already witnessed several breakdowns, one contestant's sudden departure followed by an axed contestant's return and some generally wacky behavior (spitting on clothes to mark measurements is just the beginning, apparently).
Sure, it makes for good viewing and good ratings - let's just hope Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn can reign their proteges together before the spit, tears and other bodily fluids get too much out of control.
At any rate, I thought it would be a good time to introduce my potentially weekly edition of the PR Power Poll. Editor's note: Fans of ESPN's Bill Simmons will note that I was clearly inspired by his weekly NFL Power Poll (hopefully it's not a copyright infringement).
The Losers (so far) Simone Carmen Steven Marion Chris (returned this week with Jack's departure due to medical reasons)
The Guadalupe Vidal Division (Crazy Lupe from Season 2) Elisa: spitting on clothes was one one thing, then the words "he's the only man I've ever fitted on intimately" came out of her mouth.
Blood, Sweat, but mostly Tears Ricky: Wikipedia tells me there's a condition called "Leamy Eye" that sounds made-up but causes excessive tearing up of one eye. Let's hope Ricky has this in both eyes because there's no other explanation for his weekly waterworks.
High Meltdown Potential Sweet P: With Steven's departure, Sweet P holds this category on her own.
Safe and consistent Kit Jillian Both have finished in the top half so far, but neither has taken risks.
The Contenders Kevin: definitely got shafted this week by the judges who picked Christian's more commercial look over Kevin's revision of a canary yellow blazer. Victorya: faltered in the outdated trends group challenge, but bounced back. Rami: Quite possibly this year's Michael Knight. So far he's consistently placed in the top, won a challenge and his only flaw seems to be that he's ridiculously grounded. Christian: his style is evident, but his hair and ego are out of control.
Bravo TV is running a marathon tomorrow starting at 3 p.m. of the season so far, if you want to catch up. New episodes air on Wednesday nights at 9 p.m.
My prediction for the next episode: It's Auf Wiedersehen for either Chris or Ricky. Unless there's a serious Sweet P meltdown in the works.
Is that a Golden Globe in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?
Strange but true: despite its inherent greatness, "Perfect Strangers" never won a Golden Globe for best comedy. However, according to Wikipedia, "Golden Girls" won three straight from 1986 to 1988. Golden Globes? "Golden Girls?" Coincidence ... I think not.
More on the wild and wacky antics of Balki Bartokomous and his stuffed sheep, Dmitri, later. But for now, this wouldn't be a proper TV blog without listing the Globe nominees from today. There isn't a whole lot of uproar over the choices -- I mean, it's a TV awards show, not a nativity scene at Green Bay's City Hall ... oh SNAP! -- but Ken Tucker over at Entertainment Weekly seems to be wholly unimpressed by the inclusion of "Pushing Daisies."
Those are fighting words, Ken. Take it back! You'll be getting a pie at your door in the coming days, and trust me, you won't want to eat what's inside ...
BEST DRAMA TV SERIES Big Love Damages Grey's Anatomy Mad Men The Tudors
BEST MUSICAL OR COMEDY TV SERIES 30 Rock Californication Entourage Extras Pushing Daisies
BEST ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES Michael C. Hall, Dexter Jon Hamm, Mad Men Hugh Laurie, House Bill Paxton, Big Love Jonathan Rhys Meyers, The Tudors
BEST ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES Patricia Arquette, Medium Glenn Close, Damages Minnie Driver, The Riches Edie Falco, The Sopranos Sally Field, Brothers & Sisters Holly Hunter, Saving Grace Kyra Sedgwick, The Closer
BEST ACTOR IN A MUSICAL OR COMEDY TV SERIES Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock Steve Carell, The Office David Duchovny, Californication Ricky Gervais, Extras Lee Pace, Pushing Daisies
BEST ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL OR COMEDY TV SERIES Christina Applegate, Samantha Who? America Ferrera, Ugly Betty Tina Fey, 30 Rock Anna Friel, Pushing Daisies Mary-Louise Parker, Weeds
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A SERIES, MINISERIES, OR TV MOVIE Ted Danson, Damages Kevin Dillon, Entourage Jeremy Piven, Entourage Andy Serkis, Longford William Shatner, Boston Legal Donald Sutherland, Dirty Sexy Money
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A SERIES, MINISERIES, OR TV MOVIE Rose Byrne, Damages Rachel Griffiths, Brothers & Sisters Katherine Heigl, Grey's Anatomy Samantha Morton, Longford Anna Paquin, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee Jaime Pressly, My Name Is Earl
And just because Adam tortured me by posting the "Perfect Strangers" theme -- which regrettably, stayed in my head all day -- I will fight fire with fire.
That's right, Reinhard. Watch the clip. Oh, it burns! It BURNS!
Bad reality TV is about to hit high gear after the first of the year, but only one new series promises a Twisted Sister and a Brady sister connection in the same show. And yes, we're talking about the popular Brady sister: Marcia, Marcia, Marcia.
"The Brady Bunch's'' Maureen McCormick has signed on to CMT's "Gone Country,'' debuting Feb. 25. John Rich -- the less-annoying half of annoying country novelty act Big & Rich, hosts the seven-episode series that takes "seven established performers'' (a nice way to put it) and immerses them in all things country for a shot at becoming country music's next big thang.
You know where this is going ... Not only will each celeb have to work with a pair of Nashville songwriters to come up with a hit song -- too sensible -- they'll also have to learn how to get a handle on the country lifestyle. There will be challenges, like frying up a Southern meal and ATV off-roading. That's what we like to hear -- high embarrassment potential.
And your so-called celeb contestants are ...
Dee Snider: Twisted Sister frontman and VH1's go-to-guy for anything '80s.
Bobby Brown: Professional bad reality TV shill.
Diana DeGarmo: "American Idol'' Season 3 loser, er, runner-up.
Carnie Wilson: Weight-embattled singer formerly of Wilson Phillips.
Julio Iglesias Jr.: No clue. Obviously, Julio's kid, but we thought that was Enrique? Apparently this one is a Spanish pop singer, too.
Sisqo: R&B singer to blame for: "She had dumps like a truck truck truck/Thighs like what what what/Baby move your butt butt butt'' from 2000's "Thong Song.''
You go, Maureen! Ride that reality TV hot streak that won you VH1's "Celebrity Fit Club'' this summer. Put some banjo and pedal steel into a remake of "It's a Sunshine Day,'' get Davy Jones to do a twangy guest vocal and proclaim "Oh my nose!'' during at least one of the physical challenges, and the title is all yours, hon.
This could be a moot point if it turns out the news is premature. But TV Guide is exclusively reporting that ABC is about to unveil its strike-proofed mid-season schedule and yes, eight episodes of "Lost" will be airing in February.
That's not the big news, though.
Wednesday will not -- I repeat -- not be "Lost" night. For fans who grew accustomed to a hump day dose of sweet island madness, this is kind of a shock. But since the strike is dictating the switch, it's not like there will be competing programming to throw everything out of whack, anyway.
So ... we asked before, we'll ask again. Would you rather see eight completed episodes and then nothing if the strike drags on? Or would it be better for ABC to hold back and air everything in one continuous stretch? Does it really matter what you think? Couldn't ABC buy and sell your worthless soul a million times over?
Whoever leaves the best comment gets an autographed piece of Matthew Fox's fake beard ...
UPDATE: The Associated Press is reporting that "Lost" is scheduled to air at 8 p.m. CST Thursdays, taking over the time slot held by "Grey's Anatomy" - whose stock of new episodes is down to one.
You know a TV show has accomplished a lot when it gets you to like a Journey song.
So while I couldn't have predicted that Tony Soprano would bow out gracefully while chomping onion rings and listening to "Don’t Stop Believin'," Hypeful’s list of the "10 Best TV Music Moments of 2007" captures the spirit of the year nicely.
In fact, it's one of the best lists I've seen in awhile, and as a bonus, includes video clips for the uninitiated. As a pop culture know-it-all, I have to point out the omission of "Birdhouse In Your Soul" from "Pushing Daisies," but Nos. 1 and 2 are beyond deserving of their status as the year's best. Same goes for the "South Park" episode spoofing "Guitar Hero," Tracy Jordan's "Werewolf Bar Mitzvah," and anything involving Bret and Jemaine from "Flight of the Conchords." In fact, all ten could have been from that show alone.
Thank you, Hypeful. It’s like you read my mind.
So music lovers, any other suggestions?
-- Thomas Rozwadowski, email@example.com