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Saturday, August 30, 2008

Spend Labor Day in the Hamptons: "Gossip Girl" returns Monday

Unlike a real TV critic, I have not had the pleasure of seeing sneak previews of the second season of "Gossip Girl," but the five-minute teaser I found on YouTube is enough to have me yelling "OMG" to myself (with a slight modification, of course, that I'd get in trouble for saying on a family-friendly blog).

Episode 1, aptly titled "Summer Kind of Wonderful," picks up as summer is drawing to an end in the Hamptons, according to the Futon Critic (more spoilers, if you're interested). Serena is attempting to get over her breakup with Dan by traipsing around on the beach in a cloud of mope, while Dan apparently has moved on to brunettier pastures (in a library, no less). She's also helping Nate cover his fling wth an older, married woman. Somehow all the characters find themselves in the Hamptons -- how serendipitous -- and the backlash of the previous gossip-laden year of ups-and-downs, break-ups-and-hook-ups follows.

After the tumultuous last few episodes (did Serena really kill someone? Who is Georgina and why is she so annoying? Will Blair and Chuck be a real couple? Oh the questions!), I'm eager as ever to see the new developments in season two. Yes, I was ashamed to admit I watched the show at first, but the guilt associated with it has definitely passed. Sure, some of it feels tried and true, but "Gossip Girl" is tittillating without being too trite. For whatever reason, people latch onto the various characters (who are impossible to like) and eagerly await the next dose of backstabbing and intrigue, masking the show's generally low ratings with tons of online downloads and buzz.

So, put on those white shoes, grab a martini and dig into season Two of "Gossip Girl" when it premieres on Monday at 7 p.m. on the CW. Until then, here's a little sneak peek.

-- Malavika Jagannathan,

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

More flippin' with Jukebox TV

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 because of the music. Because God knows you can't discover anything new by watching MTV or listening to the radio.

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.

The Silver Seas: "Imaginary Girl"

Here's a confusing one. "Imaginary Girl" was previously released on the "High Society" album by an unknown Nashville band named the Bees (and subsequently featured in a Press-Gazette Download of the Week two years ago). Since there's already a band called the Bees in the UK -- also pretty good by the way -- the band was forced to change its name to the Silver Seas, which then led to a re-release of "High Society," and (whew) this 2-minute pop gem getting some unexpected airplay in a Kenmore commercial. It's a delightful '70s-era pop song that should please fans of Neil Finn and Josh Rouse. Heck, you've probably found yourself humming it already.

The Flaming Lips: "The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song"

Wayne Coyne and Co. have licensed songs before -- "W.A.N.D." was in a Dell commercial and "Do You Realize?" for Mitsubishi and Land Rover -- but this one is sure to catch some flack seeing as how schlocky it is to be peddling something so ... I don't know ... insipid like salad dressing. But no worries. It's doubtful most folks will identify that the "Yeah Yeah Yeah" hook is from an actual song and not just background noise created by the crafty folks at, er, Kraft. To be honest, it actually kinda works in this context. (Knowing Adam is a huge Lips fan, I wonder if this commercial makes him cry ... and if his tears taste like raspberry vinaigrette.)

The Submarines: "You, Me and the Bourgeoisie"

Instrumental use only, which is a shame because Blake Hazard's woozy vocals help give the "Everyday we choose love/We choose light" chorus its punch. There's a direct conflict here because the song has a strong anti-materialistic message yet the Submarines are peddling iPhones. Bow down to Apple!

Noah and the Whale: "Five Years Time"

One of my favorite songs at the moment, Noah and the Whale appear to be big fans of Noah Baumbach's "Squid and the Whale." But don't hold that against them (like "Juno," that movie was trying WAY too hard.) A quirky, chirpy pop tune that would fit perfectly alongside instrument happy bands like I'm From Barcelona or really anyone who brings a ukulele to the party. Big points to Saturn (the Noah album isn't out in the U.S. until Sept. 16). This song is the epitome of fun, fun, fun.

The Ting Tings: "Shut Up and Let Me Go"

The Golden Ticket for commercial tunes is, of course, an iPod spot. Whether the Fratellis or Feist, there always seems to be a spike in interest based on getting that crazy silhouette to bust some dance moves. The Ting Tings didn't really need much assistance. "Shut Up and Let Me Go" is a riotous ball of fun. "That's Not My Name" is even better. So while the critics aren't too kind -- and I can't stop thinking of the B-52's and Tony Basil when I hear them -- you could do much worse.

-- Thomas Rozwadowski,


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Is "Red Dwarf" finally getting its smegging finale?

April 5, 1999.

That's when the last first-run episode of "Red Dwarf" aired in England. Almost 10 years ago.

This wouldn't be so vexing ... if that final episode hadn't been a cliffhanger that not only saw most of the cast literally disappear into thin air, but also the lone remaining character knee Death where the sun don't shine (also literally). As such, we few, loyal fans of the classic cult British sci-fi comedy have been left dangling like a tassel on one of Cat's fancy suit coats, desperately waiting for closure.

Rumors of a movie have been persistent but ultimately elusive, mostly kept alive by actor Robert Llewellyn, who played the free-willed but high-strung robot servant Kryten. It's from Llewellyn we get this latest bit of hope for future "Dwarf" adventures. During a visit to a PBS affiliate in Seattle (PBS has been airing "Red Dwarf" for well over a decade), Llewellyn told a small congregate of fans that he and the rest of the cast had gotten word that the BBC is planning a one-hour special episode, with filming to start this fall.

For even the most hopeful Dwarfer, though, this has to smell a bit like Lister's old sweat socks. First of all, there has been no confirmation from the BBC as of yet -- Llewellyn dropped this bombshell only yesterday -- and until the big wigs give confirmation, I remain dubious.

But maybe the most important thing is, it's 10 years later. The cast is 10 years older, 10 years fatter. It would be like "Seinfeld" filming a follow-up to their horrible series finale, catching up with a paunchy, balding, post-jail Jerry.

That said, I sure as smeg hope this happens. Boys from the Dwarf!

-- Adam Reinhard,

Vote for your favorite TV moment

Looks like the Emmy Awards are finally starting to give viewers a chance to weigh in... too bad it's not on this year's award nominees or on previous years' snubs.

No, instead, the good folks of the 60th annual awards are letting us decide what the greatest comedy and drama moments in television history should be. You get to decide whether Radar O'Reilly's on-the-verge-of-tears announcement of Lt. Col Henry Blake's death on "M*A*S*H" on the 1975 episode "Abyssinia, Henry" (oddly in the comedy half of the draw) should take the coveted top spot. Or perhaps the favorite drama moment should belong to Kyle Chandler's memorable and Emmy-nominated appearance on "Grey's Anatomy" as an explosive bomb squad agent (literally).

Click here to vote. Round 1 of voting ends on Sept. 9, when Round 2 begins. Please vote as many times as you like to ensure that the pilot episode of "Miami Vice" doesn't walk away with the honor of being the most dramatic moment in all of television history.

The winners will be announced during the broadcast of the Emmy Awards on Sept. 21 on ABC.

-- Malavika Jagannathan,

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Monday, August 25, 2008

Summer DVD Club: Digging a deeper hole with "Six Feet Under"

Having heaped on the praise like so many piles of graveyard dirt during my Season One introduction to "Six Feet Under," it's onto Season Two and Three of Alan Ball's critically acclaimed HBO series -- which sees Lili Taylor become an important centerpiece in the ongoing Fisher family drama and the eccentric arrival of Rainn Wilson as Schrute Before He Was Schrute. (Warning: contains major spoilers.)

When we last saw the Fishers: The Season One finale ended like a series finale, with some healthy closure brought to the ongoing emptiness that plagued the Fisher family following the unexpected death of family patriarch Nathaniel. Sons Nate Jr. and David became joint owners of the family funeral parlor, putting aside their personality differences to grow closer as not only business partners, but brothers. Nate and Brenda, while certainly not in the most stable relationship considering their hot-and-heavy introduction, rid themselves of a major distraction (some would say threat) when Brenda's bi-polar brother, Billy, is institutionalized. Claire finds her own destructive relationship in a lost soul named Gabriel, while Ruth explores widowhood courtesy of a sexual re-awakening. David finally overcomes his self-loathing by coming out of the closet to Ruth and putting the pieces of his complex life together.

Season Two thoughts: It's a bit cheap now that I think about it, but Season Two of "Six Feet Under" proved even more riveting than Season One -- simply by flipping the script. David becomes more confident in his sexuality; Keith becomes increasingly destructive due to a drug-addict sister and on-the-job stress. Brenda gives into her sexual impulses while drafting an "erotic novella," and becomes more like Billy with each passing day. Nate adds gasoline to the fire during a seemingly innocuous trip to Seattle, where old flame Lisa (Lili Taylor) resides. Seeing several characters act in direct opposition to the previous season's behavior proves compelling. After all, it's human nature to not only be hypocritical, but for life events to severely alter the way people can begin to lash out. In the case of Brenda, who had previously been the most stable Chenowith -- which, next to Billy and her mom, isn't saying much -- things really start to unravel when fear (of normalcy? of intimacy?) starts to kick in.

Meanwhile, the show's pervasive life and death theme takes on new meaning due to Nate being diagnosed with Arterio-Venous Malformation, a fatal brain condition that causes seizures and by season's end, requires surgery with potentially life-altering repercussions. Nate and Brenda's fragmented relationship dominates the season -- mostly with Nate being painted in a sympathetic light due to his medical disorder and Brenda's out-of-control sexual impulses making her a truly loathsome character.

Once Brenda begins using her book research and friendship with a prostitute/massage client named Melissa as a means to explore sexually dangerous situations -- and more importantly, sabotage her increasingly tepid relationship with Nate -- it's almost hard to watch her without wanting to kick the TV screen in. Not that Nate is without fault, but whereas Billy was crafted in a way that made him seem more helpless than dangerous, Brenda just comes off as self-centered and frankly, downright repulsive. That she can't own up to her sickness, blaming Melissa for being a destructive influence when it's all Brenda's doing, makes for an interesting set of circumstances heading into Season Three.

Nate and Brenda eventually implode after both are revealed to be carrying heavy baggage -- Lisa is unexpectedly having Nate's baby after a moment of weakness in Seattle and -- surprise, surprise! -- Brenda's erotic novel is far from fiction. The scene where Nate discovers Brenda's sexual liasions -- her manuscript's all too accurate description of a stoner's hat and surfer lingo springing to life before his eyes -- is particularly well executed. From the Christmas episode "It's the Most Wonderful Time of Year" on, the show hits its stride and even surpasses Season One in terms of overall quality. With Nate headed (no pun intended) for the operating table, the superb finale reveals a family intimacy the Fishers never knew they had. Meanwhile, Brenda packs up her place and drives off for parts unknown.

Season Three thoughts: And just like that, things get ... boring. Maybe "Six Feet Under" lost its focus due to the loss of key writers, Alan Ball not being as hands-on, whatever. But the sense of intrigue and overall freshness of Season One and Two doesn't carry over to the third leg with the arrival of Lisa. Having gone through the wringer with Brenda and survived major brain surgery, Nate marries Lisa and devotes himself to new daughter, Maya. It's a classic TV convention -- for fans of "The Wire," we'll call it the Domesticated Jimmy McNulty Season Four plot device -- where a major character tries to prove something to him or herself by becoming something they're not. In this case, free-spirit Nate wants to be a good father and husband, and during the early going, he does an admirable job with Maya.

But Nate doesn't love Lisa. In fact, he doesn't even like her, which leads to the major plot point of Season Three -- the disappearance and eventual drowning of Lisa -- falling flat. All sympathy goes out the window for Nate, at least from this viewer, when what he's secretly always wanted to happen ... well, happens. Granted, the pair did some necessary patchwork on their marriage previous to Lisa's disappearance. But Lisa's micromanagement not only proved irritating to lip-biting Nate, but also to viewers. Does Lisa's death matter? How you answer that question determines whether you feel Season Three is a step forward or a step back. While Peter Krause does an incredible job with his character, sanctimonious Nate starts to feel sorry for himself and begins a Brenda-like downward spiral. That includes abandoning his daughter for several spells, lashing out at funeral patrons, and having several empty sexual encounters -- thus transforming him into the new loathsome "SFU" character of record.

Speaking of Brenda, she come to grips with her sexual instability and attempts to actually know a new neighbor before sleeping with him. Brenda's conversion goes a long way toward helping wipe away the bad taste from her Season Two breakdown. The tease of her getting back with Nate seems inevitable. David, who is back with on-off boyfriend Keith, fails to do much but bicker the entire season. Ruth, who had previously been linked to a hairdresser and florist (Nikolai, who was an amusing secondary character), finds comfort with a mysterious, six-time divorcee named George (James Cromwell). Rico, now a partner in Fisher and Sons, gains some added depth when his wife becomes depressed, and Rainn Wilson arrives as oddball mortuary apprentice, Arthur -- or as my wife put it, Dwight Schrute in "The Office" episode where he gets a concussion and is polite to Pam. I kind of wish I'd watched "SFU" before seeing Wilson as Schrute, but even with the obvious transference, Arthur's addition is fun and leads to a few laugh-out-loud moments.

Finally, the best plot arc revolves around Claire (has Lauren Ambrose done anything of note since? Shameful.), who I'd argue remains the most likable and realistic character through three seasons. With a clear sense of purpose, Claire gets into LAC-Arts and starts to realize her true potential. Her relationship with a confused, Billy Chenowith-in-the-making named Russell (hey, it's Ben Foster, or Eli from "Freaks and Geeks!") becomes increasingly strange and volatile. Claire stays true to form in the face of a devastating discovery regarding Russell and their tyrannical art teacher, and remains fiercely consistent despite everyone else in the Fisher family falling off the rails.

Questions for Season Four and beyond: The biggest problem with Season Three is that, while not awful, it felt plodding. Problems are revealed to the viewer early on, and the entire season coasts along with the same whining from Nate, the same nagging from David, the same flippancy from Keith, etc., without the other shoe dropping when it should. Not being in a position to care about Lisa makes her disappearance and death feel anti-climactic. At this point, I'm not sure it even matters if it was suicide or murder (though if any of the "SFU" writers are Kate Chopin fans, it's probably the former.) Perhaps the quintessential scene is in the season finale when a drunken Nate picks a fight with a bar patron, and instead of feeling sorry for his "grief," I just wanted the crap to get beat out of him. And it does. And I smiled.

The random sexual encounters in Season Three also tend to be a bit much. Also, it seems like the deaths in the beginning of each episode seem to matter less and less in the overall plot structure, which is a shame. But the real issue is how the luster has worn off a few of the main characters, and frankly, they've become (here's that word again) boring.

Season Four on the horizon, and just like summer, momentum and goodwill is fading ... fast.

-- Thomas Rozwadowski,

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

WHAT is the DEAL with this BUS?

OK, so it probably won’t be as awesome as Kramer’s J. Peterman Reality Bus Tour.

But in terms of enthusiasm, longtime “Seinfeld” fans won’t have to worry about “shrinkage” when the “Seinfeld Campus Tour” pulls up with a 60-foot bus bearing the faces of Jerry, Elaine, George and Kramer in Milwaukee and Madison at the end of October.

The pop culture savvy tour is designed to bring the beloved TV "show about nothing" directly into the "digital, on the move, multi-tasking lifestyle of college students" by engaging them in "Seinfeld"-themed experiences, inside jokes from classic episodes ... yada, yada, yada.

Participants will have access to the fully equipped tour bus, which includes a mini-museum of "Seinfeld" costumes, props and scripts, including the creepy Estelle Costanza doll and the proctology nightmare known as Fusilli Jerry. TV screens will also present the most iconic moments from the show, visitors can sample the "Seinfeld: Scene It?" DVD game arriving in fall, and so you don’t end up scrounging for change underneath a vending machine like starving George, there’ll be an abundance of “Seinfeld”-ian food choices like black and white cookies, Snapple, Snickers, and of course, "Twiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiix!!!"

Outside the bus, fans can win "Seinfeld" prize packs, shoot footage in a video testimonial booth and play carnival games like "Marine Biologist Hole-in-One."

The tour is making stops at the top 50 metro markets, including Madison on Oct. 23 and Milwaukee on Oct. 27. For the full rundown, go here.

-- Thomas Rozwadowski,


In other Rainn Wilson news ...

I haven't bothered to keep up on that "Free Jenna Fischer" nonsense. But as documented a few posts below, Rainn Wilson is making interview rounds for "The Rocker" and conducted a pretty fun Q&A with the AV Club.

Wilson talks about his new movie, about Dwight's motivations on "The Office," and how his character is different than say, Kramer on "Seinfeld."

Adam will also be happy to know that he (jokingly) confirms his role in the new "Office" spin-off.

"Yes, it stars me. It's called Schrute To Kill, and I'm a mercenary for hire like Blackwater, and I get into all kinds of comic misadventures all around the globe. So we'll be shooting a lot in Kabul."

Um, I'd totally watch that. But it's still no "Beet Goes On."

-- Thomas Rozwadowski,


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Come on now, sugar, bring it on, bring it on, yeah!

I swear, Michael Ausiello, if you're wrong about this, I will hunt you down like a dog and force you to read TV Guide cover-to-cover.

Straight out of the Ausiello Files over at comes some stupifyingly, dizzingly, pony-ridingly fantabulistic news regarding The Greatest TV Show of All Time, "Veronica Mars." Hold onto your cute teenage detective hats, everybody: Show creator Rob Thomas and star Kristen Bell are talking "Veronica Mars: The Movie."

Quick! Somebody tell the Dandy Warhols they have a soundtrack to record!

Hang on, let's take off those detective hats for a minute and strap on some reality caps. For those of you who haven't already stopped reading out of indifference and would actually LOVE to see the tenacious titular sleuth on the big screen (along with, presumably, bad boy ex-beau Logan — am I right, ladies?), keep in mind that this is only the star and creator talking about a movie. True, Ausiello says Thomas has also been chatting up the series' producer, Hollywood heavy Joel Silver, but that's scant reason to get your hopes up, like Wallace did in Episode 202 when he helped spoiled new girl Jackie track down the undercover reporter who hit her car, in order to score a smooch. (God, I love this show.)

For one thing, Thomas is a busy man these days. He's got two pilots on his plate — the update of his failed '98 sitcom "Cupid," and an American version of the New Zealand show "Outrageous Fortune." But according to Ausiello, he's very interested in seeing a "Veronica Mars" movie happen. "As soon as I have any free time," Thomas says, "that's my top priority."

Also, Kristen Bell has become a hot property. (Well, even hotter, shall we say. Rrowr.) And with that comes a tight schedule. She has at least three movies coming out by next year — if the Weinsteins ever get off their fat asses and finally release "Fanboys" — not to mention her continued presence on TV's "Gossip Girl" and "Heroes." Yet the sudden popularity of our Miss Bell (whom I totally met one time and totally failed to make love me) could work in favor of a "VM" feature, as financiers often require a name star. (And really, when's the last time Enrico "Keith Mars" Colantoni opened a movie? No, "Galaxy Quest" doesn't count.)

It's not like a cult TV show has never been resurrected as a movie before. Case in point: "Serenity," the feature version of the even-shorter-lived-than-"Veronica Mars" sci-fi series "Firefly" (also The Greatest TV Show of All Time, by the way.) "Firefly" lasted a mere 15 episodes on Fox back in 2002 before being unceremoniously snuffed. But strong sales of the DVD set and a slathering, fervent fan base (what do you expect, it was a Joss Whedon show) led to a near-miracle: "Serenity," a fitting end to the series and a damn good movie to boot.

Could the same happen with "Veronica Mars"? There are many reasons it wouldn't, but the kicker has to be, what would the damn thing be about? Enough time has passed that Veronica would be well out of college by now, so the question of setting is important. Thomas already had an idea for the elusive fourth season — and shot a 13-minute pilot teaser which you can watch on YouTube — about Veronica toughing it out as a rookie FBI agent four years post-Season 3. Sounds like a pretty decent movie to me, but then what of our favorite supporting characters? Wallace, Logan, Keith, Mac, voice-over maestro Cliff? Where would they fit in, four years down the line?

What do you say, "Veronica Mars" fans? What movie do YOU want to see? Which characters should be brought back? When should the movie be set? Did I totally blow it with Kristen Bell or what? And who's going to join me in chasing down Michael Ausiello if it turns out this was all bunk in the first place?

— Adam Reinhard,

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Monday, August 18, 2008

"The Hills" are alive!

Confession time. I've watched only five minutes of "The Hills," and that was while walking back and forth from the kitchen to the living room, or more accurately, DOING SOMETHING PRODUCTIVE. Ahem, sorry.

The scene featured two people fighting over a piece of art work ... or paint color ... I honestly can't remember. Then last night, my wife -- who is a "Hills" fan, and apparently proud of it since when I gasped, "Oh no, you're recording "The Hills," she said, "I have to." She'll probably deny that now, but she said it. Emphatically. I heard it. -- was watching a recap and I saw another five minutes before reaching for the lamp cord so I could begin strangling myself.

Anyway, I don't want to hate on the "The Hills." Sure I might not be "down" with "LG" or "Heidi Montauk." But everyone is allowed a guilty pleasure (I have expressed many on this blog), so I don't want to be judgmental -- even of an insipid show on MTV.

So I'm turning to Channel Surfing's "Hills" expert, Sara Boyd, to help explain the fascination that seemingly intelligent people have with this show before it begins its fourth season tonight. (Ed. note: The previous comment in no way implies that Boyd is intelligent. In fact, she's not.)


Whenever people talk about "The Hills," they inevitably discuss the fact that Lauren Conrad is sooooooo awesome, like they know her and want her to be the Maid of Honor at their wedding. I know people can certainly be likeable on camera. But why does everyone like LC so much? Honestly, because everyone likes her so much, I kinda hate her now. Yeah, I said it.

I know nothing about Heidi Montag except that she has had as much plastic surgery as Michael Jackson. Yet why, if I saw her on the street, would I feel this overwhelming urge to punch her in her fake nose?

Why does everyone hate this Spencer guy so much? Is it because he hates Lauren, and she's like Jesus or something?

Why does it bother me that people who aren't actors get recognition and apparently, phone commercials, for being actors in a show that is real, but real for entertainment purposes only? Does that even make sense?

Furthermore, how can there be any real sentiment on a show that places people -- who may or may not even be friends -- in contrived situations that are purely made for TV? I mean, "The Real World" is a pile of garbage, too, but it doesn't pretend to be an accurate reflection of anything ... it's just people trying to be famous for 15 minutes. I can watch that because I have no real investment. Yet "The Hills" actors are actually famous and people seem to legitimately care about the drama of their lives. Don't you feel like they're tricking you into caring about something you really shouldn't care about? Are you at least slightly embarrassed that I'm superior in every way to you because I don't watch this ridiculously stupid show?

Finally, why did I just waste my time asking you questions when I don't really care to know the answers?

Sara "SB" Boyd responds: Whoa, whoa, whoa. First of all, let's get one thing straight -- watching "The Hills" is the most productive thing you can do. I cannot think of a better way to spend an hour of my life than plastered in front of the ol' boob tube consistently uttering "Oh no, she di'int" every 15 minutes.

Secondly, just because "The Hills" may not have the uber-geeky plotlines of "Heroes" (a cheerleader who starts fires and not in her panties? Um, nerd alert!) and doesn't have the ultra cool ego of "Lost" (which let's be honest is "Gilligan's Island" with slightly less coconuts) does NOT mean it is a bad show.

But I apologize, I forget I'm talking to a old fart who doesn't quite understand the "lingo" and questions the "crap we kids listen to these days." (Ed. note: T-Roz is 28. He's so cool, Boyd got a bad case of frostbite just opening an e-mail from him.)

The truth is, "The Hills" has everything and more that anyone could want in a one-hour television show. Beautiful people? Check. Big drama (contrived or not)? Check. High fashion? Check. Twenty-somethings making it rain? Check.

So because Mr. Rozwadowski (if that is your REAL name) cannot understand the "hip" and "rad" ways of us in the under-30 realm, I will once again try and educate him -- a task that may never be possible since TomTom is old and senile ... but I will give it my best shot.


1. Why does everyone like LC so much?

The answer to this question is three-fold. First, LC, or Miss Conrad, is just about as down to Earth as one could be on an over dramatized, "add alcohol for drama" faux-reality TV show. And we've loved her ever since her TV beginnings on "Laguna Beach." She's been the victim of many a love stories gone wrong and for that, we feel for the girl. She bounces back -- and usually with a better wardrobe afterwards.

Secondly, there's always an enemy to our precious LC and in comparison, LC is always the cooler of the two. First, we had Kristen -- who claimed she was an "actress" playing a part ... even though her part was to play the role of Kristin Cavallari. Clearly, she sucked so it was no contest -- and she stole hottie Steven away from our LC. Now, we have Heidi who is so fake -- in personality and appendages -- that it makes LC look even more real.

Finally, LC is just cool. She always looks super cute and has a great sense for fashion, and when it comes down to it -- that's all that matters. She also has been one of the only reality TV stars not to try and ride the celebrity train. She has a fashion line -- which, um, hello? was what she went to school for to try and do as a career -- but she's not putting out a horrid record album or looking to star in any movies. Yes, she's been in that commercial ... but again, as herself, not as "LC, the actress superstar!"

2. Why, if I saw (Heidi Montag) on the street would I feel this overwhelming urge to punch her in her fake nose?

This is a common feeling and I understand where you're coming from. If you find yourself in such a situation, I would recommend you go with it. Let your natural instincts guide you -- but wear a glove ... fresh plastic tends to leave a mark that no amount of antibacterial soap will ever clean.

3. Why does everyone hate this Spencer guy so much? Is it because he hates Lauren, and she's like Jesus or something?

Yes. (Also, see response #2 and sub Heidi for Spencer ... or if you're lucky, kill two birds with one stone -- hypothetically speaking, of course.)

4. Why does it bother me that people who aren't actors get recognition and apparently, phone commercials, for being actors in a show that is real, but real for entertainment purposes only? Does that even make sense?

No, it doesn't make sense. That is quite the loaded question. Thank God you don't ask questions for a living ... or, wait. "The Hills" cast should each download Heidi Montag's single (illegally, of course -- don't pay for that tone deaf swill) and make a mental note-to-self: DO NOT attempt.

5. How can there be any real sentiment on a show that places people -- who may or may not even be friends -- in contrived situations that are purely made for TV?

Contrived situations, true, but real sentiment is all over that show. Did you not see the preview for the new season?! LC has legit mascara running down her face. At one point she looks like the freakin' "Dark Knight" Joker and you're asking for REAL sentiment? Puh-lease. It doesn't get more real than a girlfriend with mascara rolling down her Dolce and Gabbana couture. Let's not forget, this show started as a reality TV show of the richy-rich high schoolers you wanted so badly to hate. And let's be honest, none of them are THAT good of actors. The emotions are real and sure, while they may tell Spencer, "Hey, dude. You should hit on that girl and see what Heidi does" for the purposes of good television ... what happens after the dramafication is pure gold.

Final thoughts: Thomas, don't be so dramatic. You love being the guy who says "Oh, the Hills? Uh, I'm so above that ..." but you know deep down that you could easily be sucked into an all-day marathon and consider it a day well spent.


Thursday, August 14, 2008

Coulier is a heartbreaker ... love taker ... don't you mess around!

It took 13 years to crack the case. But it looks like the world finally knows who the subject behind Alanis Morissette's vitriolic '90s screed "You Oughta Know" is.

Unlike the outlandish rumor that future crystal meth addict Jodie Sweetin died in a 1993 car crash, the well-documented scuttle about "Full House's" zany Joey Gladstone being Alanis' heartbreaker is well ... true!

Uncle Joey himself, Mr. Dave Coulier, recently told the Calgary Herald as part of a "What Ever Happened To" feature that he was driving when he first heard the song and thought, "Wow, this girl is angry."

"And then I said, 'Oh man, I think it's Alanis.' . . . I listened to the song over and over again, and I said, 'I think I have really hurt this person.' I tried to contact her and I finally got a hold of her. And at the same time, the press was calling and saying, 'You want to comment on this song?' I called her and I said, 'Hi. Uh, what do you want me to say?' And she said, 'You can say whatever you want.' We saw each other and hung out for an entire day. And it was beautiful. It was one of those things where it was kind of like, 'We're good.' "

Hmmm ... that seems to be a rather convenient reconciliation and recollection of events. Maybe Alanis raking in millions from Coulier "cutting ... it ... off" allowed for a swift truce on her end. Or maybe the Tanner family's resident hockey aficionado has taken too many pucks to the head.

Either way, this Channel Surfer and "Full House" trivia expert is having a hard time coming to grips with wacky, woodchuck-loving Uncle Joey being the perpetrator. I mean, we're talking about a guy who made a living cracking jokes on "Star Search" with his hands as Bullwinkle antlers. A guy who gave up the best years of bachelorhood to live in a garage and chaperone Danny Tanner's spoiled children (well, spoiled for children who lost their mother in a tragic car accident) at Disney Land. A guy who barely raised his voice even when Kimmy Gibbler was all handsy with his Popeye and Olive Oyl dolls.

Say it ain't so, Ranger Joe. Say it ain't so.

Anyway, armed with this incredible confession, I decided to look at the "You Oughta Know" lyrics again ... complete with full Alanis rage-o-rating since it's finally been confirmed that the Canadian Bad Boy is the slimiest of snakes. Also, anyone wanna place bets on who the "other" woman was? I'm putting safe money on Aunt Becky.

Calmly looking at old pictures while emotionally distressed on a lonely Saturday night: "Does she speak eloquently/And would she have your baby/I'm sure she'd make a really excellent mother."

Frantically tearing up old pictures while emotionally distressed after a few glasses of wine on a lonely Saturday night turning into Sunday morning: "Does she know how you told me you'd hold me/Until you died, 'til you died/But you're still alive!"

Cranky and condescending but polite enough that the phone number doesn't have to be changed juuuuuuust yet: "Did you forget about me, Mr. Duplicity/I hate to bug you in the middle of dinner."

Um, I don't care how sweet you were on "You Can't Do That On Television." Now we're talking restraining order: "And every time I scratch my nails down someone else's back/I hope you feel it ... well can you feel it?"

Just plain weird that this is Dave freakin' Coulier and not John Stamos we're talking about: "Is she perverted like me/Would she go down on you in a theater?"

(In other news, "Hand in My Pocket" was about Bob Saget. Who knew? Actually, for the "Full House" fan in all of us, Comedy Central is airing "The Bob Saget Roast," hosted by Stamos, at 9 p.m. CST, Sunday. No word on whether Coulier will be there to do his Tasmanian Devil impression.)

-- Thomas Rozwadowski,

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The Whole Schrute and Nothing But the Schrute

Rainn Wilson is a busy man.

He's got some 'splainin' to do with that whole "getting it on with an engaged woman" "Office"-rendezvous during last season's finale. He also has a brand spankin' new iTunes celebrity playlist (and a pretty darn good one thanks to his love of Josh Ritter and The National), though more importantly, he's been everywhere promoting his new movie,"The Rocker."

That whorish process includes invading "Office" mate Jenna Fischer's MySpace page and er ... kidnapping her for the sake of ticket sales. But see, when you include the lovely Miss Beesly in any box office plot, it's a good kind of whorish.

On the site (honestly, I'd link to it, but there's so much slow-loading crap there, I thought my computer was going to explode), Wilson writes, "I've kidnapped the lovely Jenna, put her, bound, in the trunk of my Firebird and logged onto her MySpace to send out this bulletin.

To free America's sweetheart, Pam Beesly, one half of the magic which is 'Jam', you must attend my new movie, 'The Rocker', which opens August 20th.

As soon as the film grosses 18.7 mil, she will be released and given a peach smoothie.

I've also recently discovered that August 20th is truly a special and historic day. Estonia achieved it's independence! Sting got married to Trudy Skyler! What better way to celebrate the magic of Sting and Estonia than by seeing what is perhaps the greatest film ever made (about a heavy metal drummer).

It truly is a fun and lovely coming-of-age, rock n'roll comedy and good reviews are coming in, including two thumbs up from Ebert and Roeper and also from my son, Walter (who has three of them).

Also, if you're a fan of: Will Arnett, Christina Applegate, Jason Sudeikis, Jane Lynch, Emma Stone, Jeff Garlin, Demitri Martin, Fred Armisen, Bradley Cooper, Pope Benedick III, WINGS (the show and/or the back-up band), coral reefs, soup, former Mayor Ed Koch, the guy who played Norm on Cheers, baby Suri, dairy, Coldplay, Animal Planet or the letter "Q"... YOU WILL LOVE THIS MOVIE!

So ... please spend your $10.50 American on "THE ROCKER," get yourself a popcorn and a Mountain Dew, bring 1800 of your closest friends so that 1) Jenna gets a smoothie and 2) They let me be in another movie someday.

That is all.

Rainn Dietrich Wilson

Hmmm ... perhaps if someone had actually kidnapped John Krasinski, it would have prevented him from making the comedy turd known as "License to Wed." This Schrute fellow may be onto something.

Oh, and there's also video (and a Free Jenna Now Web site) for this ordeal in case that Sept. 25 "Office" season premiere can't come fast enough.

-- Thomas Rozwadowski,


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Counting down the minutes...

Here's something to help you get through the rest of your workday. Singer/songwriter/iPod seller extraordinaire Feist recently treked her cute Canuck caboose over to Sesame Street for the classic kiddie show's 39th (!) season premiere on Monday.

Here she is singing a reworked version of her catchy-as-all-getout "1 2 3 4," with a gaggle of monsters in tow. Enjoy.

-- Adam Reinhard,

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Anyone else have Phelps phever?

When it comes to the Olympics, I don't have a warm and fuzzy memory log.

Charles Barkley elbowing some dude from Angola. Greg Louganis cracking his head open on a diving board. Ben Johnson being stripped of his gold medal for steroids.

And people call me a pessimist ...

But I have to say, starting with the opening ceremonies -- which in HD were absolutely A-MA-ZING -- I've been more interested in the Beijing games than in years past. And yes, while my love for competitive table tennis knows no bounds, it's all because of America's golden boy, Michael Phelps.

Yep. I'm not ashamed to say that I'm caught up in Phelps' run for a record-breaking eight gold medals.

Even though I consider myself a big-time sports fan, the rah-rah, too-good-to-be-true stuff usually isn't for me. But when that shiny "Michael Phelps in 49 minutes" graphic appears on NBC's screen during men's gymnastics, I find myself even more enchanted by the impending results than discussion about Bob Costas' purported toupee.

It isn't patriotism talking. It's dominance, pure and simple.

To watch the 23-year-old last night was to witness a physical specimen who can flat out perform under the brightest lights. It seemed like he was a full body length ahead of the pack within seconds of diving into the pool, and seeing someone that good absolutely obliterate other impeccable athletes on a major stage like the Olympics ... well, it's gripping television, even for the most pessimistic of us. Heck, it's gotten so ridiculous, even Phelps' mother seemed to be yawning her way through the tear-stained, made-for-TV victory celebration in the stands.

It's also easy to root for Phelps. Though he looks a bit like Gheorghe Muresan and Eli Manning's love child, he also doesn't seem to be getting a big head about being called the "Tiger Woods of swimming." Even with three gold medals and three world records, dude is all business.

Wheaties is getting box covers ready. YMCA memberships are through the roof. Scorsese is calling about the lead in "Aquaman: The Movie." OK, maybe not that last one.

So yeah, I'm usually bummed about Olympic overkill. Now, I'm actually checking the TV schedule to see when Phelps swims next. That's right, folks. I'm genuinely excited about swimming.

So ... anyone else captivated by the prime time coverage of Phelps? Does the "Redeem Team" nonsense with the U.S. men's basketball team make you want to root for Lithuania? Anyone else thankful for all this women's beach volleyball coverage?

-- Thomas Rozwadowski,

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Monday, August 11, 2008

Great Caesar's ghost! Won't someone please watch “The Middleman”?!

I'm not usually one to beg — what with my congenitally weak knees — but I think this situation calls for it.


Please please please please PLEASE won't someone, anyone, start watching ABC Family's "The Middleman," quite possibly the best spy-horror-sci fi-romantic comedy-satire ever created. It's the most fun I've had watching TV since “Pushing Daisies” (a show with which “The Middleman” shares a lot, stylistically and comically) went on hiatus.

And it's in trouble.

Forget for a moment its head-scratching placement on kiddie network ABC Family — a network I've only ever watched when it was airing a Harry Potter movie. “The Middleman” is no kid's show, what with all the quick-fire, pop culture-savvy dialogue, the sly double entendres, it's penchant for foul language (all bleeped out, with corresponding black boxes covering the offender's mouth, naturally.) Focusing on the comical adventures of a straight-laced fighter of supernatural evils (known only as The Middleman) and his sardonic, spunky sidekick, “The Middleman” has tons to offer. This is a show grown-ups can love, providing their inner child still enjoys zombies, hyper-intelligent gorillas, and watching boy bands get disintegrated by aliens.

So why ABC Family? Well, according to series creator Javier Grillo-Marxuach, it was all about creative freedom. “ABC Family bought this show and let me do it exactly how I wanted it,” Grillo-Marxuach told Alan Sepinwall of the NJ Star Ledger. “They continue to do their level best to get the show out there, but there's a reality about the sort of branding they have for their network.”

Which is a shame, because with the stigma of being on such an “uncool” network, this decidedly cool show is pulling ratings so low that ABC Family won't even release them, according to Sepinwall. Its first season was recently trimmed to 12 episodes — down from 13 — and its future is uncertain. (Grillo-Marxuach has even kickstarted an unofficial campaign for fans to show their “Middleman” love by mailing M&Ms to ABC Family.)

What does all this mean to you, the uninitiated and possibly uninterested? Nothing, except that in this wasteland of summer reruns and reality slop, you owe it to yourself to give one of the best shows on TV a chance. Even if storylines centered around cursed tubas from the Titanic or gangs of lucha libre aren't your particular glass of milk (an inside “Middleman” joke — see what you're missing!?), then the nonstop visual gags, movie references, buddy comedy, and honest-to-God heartfelt relationship drama should be a draw.

Does any of that sound good? Have I piqued your interest at all? Can I get off my knees yet?

“The Middleman” airs 9 p.m. Mondays (that's tonight, people!) on ABC Family. Watch it!

Adam Reinhard,

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Summer DVD Club: "Mad Men"

The ad men of "Mad Men" have sold me.

Three episodes into the show's first season, and I'm beginning to understand why this AMC drama has scooped up 16 Emmy nominations in almost every category possible. The fictional drama, set in the 1960s Madison Avenue advertising world, is gloriously addictive, a retro loveletter to Americana that doesn't seem kitschy or whitewashed in historical hindsight.

First Impressions: I had been warned that the first few episodes are slow going, but the deliberate narrative pace is a welcome change from shows that are obsessed with cramming a character's life story into the first 30 minutes. For example, it takes all of episode one to reveal that Don Draper -- the womanizing creative director of the Sterling Cooper Agency played by Jon Hamm -- is married with two children. Sure, it seems like cheating to hold back a crucial detail, but you can't deny, it's a neat gotcha moment.

Mad (Wo)men: The show is called "Mad Men." Sexism flows as easily into the dialogue like whisky and old-fashioneds do in the corner offices of the Sterling Cooper agency. Despite the gratuitous (but enjoyable) scenes with Hamm shirtless and doing push-ups on the floor of his bedroom, it's the three lead women that I am fascinated by. They could easily have been caricatures -- the desperate housewife (Betty Draper as played by January Jones), the naive young secretary (Peggy Olson as played by Elisabeth Moss) and the voluptuous office hen Joan (Christina Hendricks) -- but thanks to great scriptwriting and good acting, they're more than just stereotypes. It's no wonder that Draper wonders out-loud during an episode, "what do women want?" It'd be miracle if he -- or any other guy on that show -- ever answers that question with these three women around.

What I Like: It would have been only too easy to gloss over the ugly details of 1960s America. Instead, the open sexism and blatant anti-Semetism displayed in the show (which comes off as harsh to our modern ears) is realistic by most accounts. Take for instance when a Jewish department store owner visits with the agency and boss Roger Sterling (John Slattery) questions Draper, "Have we ever hired any Jews?" Draper's answer is quick: "Not on my watch," adding "You want me to run down to the deli and grab somebody?" Sure, vaguely funny today if you're a member of the Aryan Nation, but acceptable behavior by most people during that time.

Then there's the obvious detail to the accuracy in music, decor and clothing that's making me vagely nostalgic for an era I wasn't even alive for. If the show continues to be successful, I predict a resurgence of pencil skirts and pointy bras.

What I'm looking forward to: I am clearly digging what I can sense is some mystery about Draper's past -- especially his military service. Then there's the will-they-won't-they-do-they flirtation between Peggy and newly married junior exeuctive Pete Campbell, a Draper-in-the-making, that has salacious fun written all over it.

Any other "Mad Men" fans want to share their first impressions of the show? Comment below or email me.

The first season of "Mad Men" is out on DVD. Season 2 episodes air on AMC at 9 p.m. on Sundays.

-- Malavika Jagannathan,

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Friday, August 8, 2008

The Last Comic ... I'll ever watch

How dare you, NBC?

As if it wasn't bad enough that you made me sit through what can only be described as a glorified two-hour long promo for your upcoming season -- masked as the two-hour special of "Last Comic Standing" -- but then you have the nerve to rig the votes and crown Sucky Suckface Iliza Shlesinger as the winner?

Yes, I said rig the votes. C'mon people, there's no humanly possible way that stuck-up, self-righteous, arrogant bra-stuffer could have won "Last Comic Standing." It's just not possible. Sure, she has one funny joke for every 100,000 uttered, but clearly she did not have the goods to triumph over Hottie McHotterson Jeff Dye or Christopher Walken's long-lost vocal twin Marcus.

OK, "goods" may have been a poor choice of words. We all know that's what sealed her victory -- lesson learned: cute blondes with big (and toward the end of the season, even bigger) boobs win in life and on crappy reality TV shows. Triumph the Insult Comic Dog said it best when he told Iliza it was such a pleasure watching her grow in the series ... from a B cup to a C cup.

I'll be honest, when the show began, I so badly wanted to root for Iliza. There had never been a female victor in "Last Comic Standing" and she was funnier than annoying Esther Ku, but man, she went into "rhymes with witch"-mode awfully fast. Really, with any reality TV show, people need to understand that talent only goes so far to get the audience votes -- personality will take you the rest of the way. Sure, it's a talent competition and you are competing against others, but no one likes a sore loser and clearly, everytime she got the graveyard vote to battle it out -- she was a huge baby about it. Then when she'd emerge victorious she'd be all cocky about it. Um, yeah, you beat out God's Pottery, Esther Ku, Papa CJ and Paul Foot -- that's nothing to brag about.

But I digress. Iliza -- well, America's supposed votes for Iliza -- are really not the worst thing about this year's "Last Comic" finale. Even more repulsive then Iliza's victory is that NBC used us. They knew, as Americans, we're too lazy to change the channel once we've selected a show. And they used that fact against us. It was a show of plug-after-plug -- "Here's what's coming up this year in 'Deal or No Deal' ... Howie, take it away!" "And don't forget to check out the Olympics in Beijing -- right here, on NBC." Oh how fast the buyable sell themselves out. Bill Bellamy, you should be ashamed.

It's a shame too, because the show did have potential for hilarity. Triumph the Insult Comic Dog was inappropriate as always and really funny. Even Presidential candidates Senators John McCain and Barack Obama tried their hands at a jokey joke. (By the way, McCain -- it's not funny to joke about the fact that no one thinks you're funny, it's just sad. Obama definitely smoked your ass on that front. The bowling bit? Priceless.) And it was great to see Jon Reep back again, showing what a true "Last Comic" winner is made of.

But then they brought out Jon Lovitz, who let's be honest, hasn't had an unscripted funny joke in decades. I tried watching, I did, but after a while it just started to get really uncomfortable and sad. Thank you DVR, you saved the last ounce of respect I have for Jon Lovitz.

So I guess my point is, with so little to be laughing about from last night's episode, this will be the LAST "Last Comic Standing" that I tune in for. I had high hopes when Dye and Marcus made it to the finals, but that was quickly and harshly squashed. Now I'm left with nothing but the memories of the funny times I had with "Last Comic."

Maybe they'll have a great season next year -- one that doesn't use gimmicks like a graveyard and play solely on the idiotic commentary of who's a bad roommate in the house. But until that day arrives, or if it ever does, the memories of laughing during that show will have to be enough.

-- Sara Boyd,

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Thursday, August 7, 2008

It isn't much of a "Lost" scoop, but it's something ...

First off, when did Michael Ausiello start writing for Entertainment Weekly? Secondly, have we really gone this long without a single "Lost" update?

Yep, it's been a few months since Locke ended up in that blasted mystery coffin with a new name. And then ... crickets.

But Ausiello, formerly of TV Guide, is reporting that "Lost's" fifth season starts filming in 12 days and two new characters -- "both as mysterious as they are lethal" -- will arrive on scene.

According to

"First up is Caesar, a dangerous, physical and extremely intelligent male between the ages of 35 and 45. Although his intentions are unclear, this much is certain: He's as skillful at charming people as he is at killing them. He also has a dark past, but, c'mon, that much was a given.

The other newbie is Ilanna, a European female in her late 20s to early 30s who possesses great intelligence, but who's also dangerous as all get out. She's alluring and apparently used to getting her own way."

Casting for both roles is just now getting started. Also, Rick Kushman of McClatchy Newspapers said the official word out of Comic-Con is that one major "Lost" characters will remain unharmed even as islands disappear and Chaz Widmore and Ben Linus wage war.

"It’s safe to say Vincent will make it to the end of the show," "Lost" co-creator Damon Lindelof told the Comic-Con crowd.

Woof! I mean, whew ...

-- Thomas Rozwadowski,


Wednesday, August 6, 2008

It can't be over already?!

Unfortunately, we all knew the fun had to end eventually. Tonight and Thursday mark the season finale of the best dance show on television. Period. (Yeah, OK, so that might not be a contested race, but still ... ) "So You Think You Can Dance" will select from its Top 4 dancers, who America thinks can really bust a move. It's down to Twitch (the lovable no-lens-glasses-wearing hip-hop dancer), Joshua (the sans braces hip-hopper with a bootay), Katee (the contemporary wonder who can do no wrong in the judges' eyes) and Courtney (the Italiano lyrical dancer.)

Personally, I think any one of them could be crowned reigning dance phenom but if I had to throw my vote in the bucket, I'd go for Twitch. From the past seasons, we've seen it's not only the moves that will secure you a spot on the SYTYCD throne, it's all about personality. Benji was a great dancer, no doubt, but when it came down to him and Travis -- Travis was the clear winner if you're basing it solely on skills but Benji pulled ahead with his bubbly (albeit, sometimes annoying) personality. Last year, same thing. Even though not everyone loved Danny, the boy had moves and clearly, he's been shakin' his groove thang far longer than Sabra, but her squeaky, spunky charm won her the title. That's why this year, I think Twitch perfectly amplifies both camps. He's got the goofy, gold-tooth smile that gets the ladies and the solid hip-hop moves to impress the fellas. (Yes, the fellas watch, too ... they may not admit it but I know they do. I mean, really, how can you resist. It's too good!)

Whatever happens tonight, I just hope they leave us with an exciting finale. Last season, the final episode was so-so at best. Then again, I think it may have been difficult to top the infamous "Sexyback" dance of two seasons ago. Lesson learned: A finale with Wade Robson is a tough act to follow. And since he's been a no-show for all of this season, here's hoping Tabitha and Napoleon or Mia Michaels are ready to wow us.

Even though I'm still reeling from Will's departure from the show a few episodes ago, I'm pretty satisfied with the talent that awaits us in the Top 4. Katee had a rocky start on the show, nearly being picked over when she said she wouldn't try out again if she didn't make it this year, but progressed and has arguably been one of the strongest dancers. Some may argue having Joshua as a partner makes anyone look good, but I think she's proven herself and definitely won over the judges with her contemporary stylings.

Courtney is also a top contender in the judges' eyes -- though let's be honest, a lot of the praise centers around how she looks in those skimpy salsa outfits. Between her and Chelsie (the blonde latin dancer who got the boot last week) I would have rather seen Chelsie in the Top 4. Courtney's a great dancer but something about her mouth-gaping smile kind of irks me. And I think I really only liked her with Gev -- once he was gone, so was the magic.

Joshua has been a stand-out from the beginning and not because he's been the most noticeable or the biggest personality, but really Nigel said it best -- you have to absolutely be astonished by him because he hasn't had any classical training. And then when it comes to the style he's perfected, it's just brilliant. Plus you gotta love his junk in the trunk in those spandex pants. I think his fan -- club comprised of his family -- also makes him a fun contestant to watch, although, his father's homemade shirts of his son without a shirt are quite creepy.

Whatever the outcome, I know it will be a difficult decision. Any one of these dancers are headed for success, no matter who comes out No. 1. Thankfully for us, it will be a fun time to see the top dancers give their all for a final time.

Tune in to "So You Think You Can Dance" at 7 p.m. tonight on FOX for a special two-hour performance of your favorite foursome. Then check out Thursday night's results show to see who wins it all at 7 p.m. on FOX.

-- Sara Boyd,


Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Channel Surfing's Secondary Character Hall of Fame: Jeffrey Rosso

At least through one season, my favorite character on "Six Feet Under" has quickly become Frederico Diaz, a skilled restoration artist played brilliantly by Freddy Rodriguez.

Rico doesn't get a whole lot of screen time. He's never been heavily involved in any of the main plots. He often delivers a memorable one-liner during the five minutes he's engaged in meaningful conversation ... then goes back to rubbing diaper cream on some dead guy's cheeks.

Ultimately, like all good secondary characters, Rico's an important part of the scenery that maximizes every opportunity given to him. Which got me thinking -- who are some of my other favorite secondary characters throughout TV history?

So in what will hopefully become a regular installment from all of our bloggers, I'm inducting the first member of the Channel Surfing Secondary Character Hall of Fame.

Seinfelds and Sopranos need not apply. These are the folks who do the dirty work; characters who made an impact or stole scenes without getting all the fanfare of big, bold letters in the opening credits.

Our first inductee:

Jeffrey Theodore Rosso

Stats: Hippie guidance counselor played by Dave (Gruber) Allen on "Freaks and Geeks;" 10 episodes, 1999-2000.

Lead singer of rocktageous Grand Funk Railroad-loving cover band, Feedback.

Idealistic do-gooder who believes in the best from McKinley High's teenagers. Also claims to have the best job in the world.

Delivers a mean rendition of "I'm Eighteen" by Alice Cooper during guidance sessions. Lends a copy of "American Beauty" by the Grateful Dead to Lindsay Weir.

"Got it on" in a van at Woodstock.

Why he's worthy: Perfectly straddles the line between out-of-touch buffoon and caring counselor who really believes he can influence angst-ridden teenage lives. Tries to be cool ... but not too cool. Instantly captivating due to his laid-back delivery and demeanor. Plus, you can call him Jeff.

Quintessential scene: In "Tricks and Treats," Lindsay and her "freak" friends go out for an evening of Halloween hi-jinx, eventually settling on Mr. Rosso's house. When they obliterate the pumpkin on his front doorstep, Rosso finds the smashed remnants, says "Not cool," and brings out a fresh, replacement pumpkin without batting an eyelash.

Quotable: "I. Have. Herpes. It doesn't hurt that much, but believe me, you don't want it."

Lindsay Weir: "Can I please go now?"

Rosso: "I just blew your mind, didn't I?"

-- Thomas Rozwadowski,


Monday, August 4, 2008

Summer DVD Club: Digging into "Six Feet Under"

Much like Adam's reasoning in the post below, I didn't have HBO until my post-college years -- which left me doing some backtracking related to the big three, "The Sopranos," "The Wire," and "Six Feet Under."

With the first two down, and immediately taking their place as two of my all-time favorite shows, "Six Feet Under" had serious pressure to impress. Having finished the first season this weekend while on a two-episode-a-night binge, you could say my summer TV viewing is no longer in grave condition.

Get it? Grave? Condit ... eh, forget it.

Full disclosure: I'd watched a few stray episodes of "Six" a few years back, but couldn't tell you the season or really what happened since I was completely lost. But it planted the seed that it was a show -- at least in look and feel -- that I was really going to enjoy once I started from the beginning.

Background: Created by Alan Ball, who wrote the screenplay to "American Beauty," "Six Feet Under" takes a fairly basic construct -- a dysfunctional, emotionless family with hidden demons -- and brilliantly matches it with a unique funeral home backdrop. The life-death themes alone make the show distinctive, even if in early episodes, Nate Jr. (Peter Krause), David (Michael C. Hall), Claire (Lauren Ambrose) and Ruth (Frances Conroy) seem like relatively stereotypical characters (i.e. Claire as rebellious teenager, David as uptight businessman/closeted homosexual) whose layers should only get more complex over time.

The pilot finds family patriarch Nathaniel, owner of Fisher and Sons Funeral Home, on his way to pick up prodigal son Nate from the airport. Nathaniel's new hearse is crushed by a bus, which turns a fairly innocuous Christmas Eve homecoming into a catastrophic "what now?" discussion regarding the family business. Nate Jr. meets Brenda Chenowith (the oddly alluring Rachel Griffiths) at the airport and proceeds to "bond" with her; the tone set early for the show's dark humor with Nate learning of his father's death upon completing his seemingly empty sexual rendezvous.

Aimless in Seattle after abandoning the family business to follow a free-spirited path, Nate decides to stay in Los Angeles and help David run the funeral home. Actually, the decision is made for him since Nathaniel leaves 50 percent of his business to Nate in the will -- a slap in the face to David, who dedicated his life to Fisher and Sons with zero approval or affection from his dad during that time. Meanwhile, widow Ruth confesses to an affair with a hairdresser (Ed Begley Jr.) and Claire's teenage angst comes out in multiple, misdirected forms having been ignored most of her life by older, out-of-touch parents and two brothers she barely knows.

Fisher and Sons is also being pursued by corporate sharks, Kroehner Services International, and as Nate and Brenda's sexual escapades develop into a serious relationship, the completely messed-up Chenowith family makes the Fishers look like the Brady Bunch thanks to the dangerous exploits of manic-depressive/Brenda-obsessed brother, Billy (Jeremy "I talk like a Baldwin" Sisto).

Stray observations: The "Six Feet Under" opening sequence is the best I've ever seen. A bonus featurette shows how much time and thought went into it, and from the simple instrumental to the lone tree on a hill and perfectly timed speed-effect of hands separating, the montage resonates on repeat viewings.

The show also starts with a random (oftentimes unique) death so that the Fishers and their skilled sidekick, Rico (Freddy Rodriguez), always have a body to work on. It kind of reminds me of "Pushing Daisies" in that way -- something to get each episode moving forward, with the focus remaining on the deeper connections between main characters. The show also brilliantly uses a surrealistic daydreaming device to great effect -- deceased characters talking to David and Nate, or serving as reminders ("A Private Life," and Marc Foster's hate crime, allowing David to finally come to terms with his own homosexuality) of what they're running from in their real lives. Nathaniel also makes several appearances to all four family members in "spirit" form and stays in the foreground as a main character because of it.

Amazingly, no character really steals the show in the first season, a testament to how talented the ensemble is. Nate is an incredibly sympathetic character because just as he's starting to figure out his life path, he's sucked into the deep, dark abyss that is the Chenowith family. You'd think a show that deals with death would be overwhelmingly depressing, but "Six Feet Under's" twisted, "Twin Peaks"-ian humor cuts away at those obvious layers. But the Billy-Brenda storyline has a much darker, sadistic tone -- with some uncomfortable humor sprinkled in -- particularly toward its emotional first season resolution.

Final verdict: Nothing to complain about in Season One. The multiple plotlines meshed and fit each character's development perfectly -- all in all, a phenomenal, memorable first season. David's internal struggles and Claire's general malaise were the most interesting, personally. Secondary characters like Rico and Keith (Mathew St. Patrick), David's ex-boyfriend, also stood out.

The show also can evoke multiple reactions, which I love. I was particularly moved by a gripping scene in the pilot where Ruth gets the phone call that Nathaniel is dead. In her frenzied state, she knocks everything off the kitchen counter and begins shrieking uncontrollably. It's an unsettling scene. But downstairs where a funeral is taking place, David hears the loud cries, and well ... it momentarily becomes funny without really trying to be.

The show's life-death themes can also be pretty subtle -- pretty amazing when you consider that it revolves around a family of funeral directors. It's about feeling something. Anything. About how our mortality, as unfair as it might be at times, is inescapable. But more importantly, how a body filled with embalming fluid doesn't represent finality. Not when some of us are already dead inside.

-- Thomas Rozwadowski,

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