Oprah Winfrey. Bruce Willis. Eva Longoria. They all have something in common and thankfully it's not a sex tape. A recent poll shows that Americans have mixed feelings about celebrity involvement in politics. But love them or hate them, celebs are using their valuable air and face time to stump for their favorite candidates. When Channel Surfing bloggers Sara Boyd and Malavika Jagannathan heard Adam Brody -- best known as lovable nerd Seth Cohen on "The O.C" -- was stopping in De Pere today stumping for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, we had to stop by and check it out. It's not so much that we're endorsing him or his candidate, but we couldn't let a TV star slip by unnoticed in our midst.
Malavika: Although we didn't quite have time to ask Brody -- who is much shorter and skinner in person -- the hard-hitting questions like why he ever decided to star in "In the Land of Women," it's easy to see why political campaigns use likeable celebrities to push their agendas. Brody was political without being too serious, funny without being too cavalier. Plus, it helps that he still has those dimples and that dorky enthusiasm that made him stand out as Dave on the "Gilmore Girls."
Brody, who talked briefly about the importance of voting in a swing state, took a number of questions from the audience that surprisingly had nothing to do with his acting career (at least the part we listened in on). There was a lot of screaming -- yes, the audience of about 100 mostly St. Norbert College students was mostly female -- and we may have been blinded by the cameras flashing.
Sara: Oh blinded were we ever. But as much as the young college co-eds were drooling over his presence -- yes, OK, even I had to peek when Brody's pants started to droop off his very tiny behind -- it was refreshing to see the turnout and what we've seen all campaign long: evidence that the young vote will play a crucial role in this election. And hopefully not just because Seth Cohen told them to, but because they care about their voices being heard.
Celebrity involvement in an election is a tricky thing. On one hand, it's interesting to see a celeb use their TV fame for something other than free Dolce and Gabbana sunglasses, and on the other, you have to wonder what credibility they have to be considered a source on national politics.
Brody and his fellow celeb friend Joy Bryant (former fashion model who appeared in movies such as "Honey" and "The Skeleton Key" -- but we're keeping this post strictly about TV stars) talked about why they support Obama, which is valid for a rally. But when it came to their opinions about what's happened in the past eight years and what the biggest issue is for this election, I just hope the audience remembers these people are celebrities -- not political science professors. Not to say they don't know anything about the political scene, but a mere reminder of why they are here. Or as one front row rally supporter put it to Brody: "You're hot."
Brody talked about the motivation and the enthusiasm Obama has instilled in his supporters as a presidential candidate -- and at one point called President Bush a "boob," adding that if Sen. John McCain and Sarah Palin win the election, "it will be a nail in the coffin." But most importantly, he urged young people to get out and vote. Sure, there may be some who walk away from a "Seth Cohen for Barack Obama" rally and say, "I'm totally voting for Obama because Adam Brody is, like, so hot," but I think this crowd deserves more credit than that and really, Brody brought the biggest point home through his celebrity endorsement: "Be a part of the election."
While the emphasis has -- rightly so -- been put on whether viewers can survive without being able to watch Green Bay Packers games, I'm more upset over potentially losing my nightly reruns of "Seinfeld" and new episodes of "House." (Not to mention "Jeopardy!" and the occasional episode of "COPS").
Now I'm not going to take sides because, quite frankly, I don't like either party very much (disclaimer: Time Warner is my cable company but not because I had a choice in the matter -- thank you free market economics!). They're both clearly greedy and it's the viewers who will suffer -- although, arguably, not watching "COPS" is probably a plus.
Solution? If Time Warner and WLUK can't work out their problems like adults, perhaps they'll be willing to go in on the deluxe coffee table box set of "Seinfeld" for me.
Otherwise, I can take a page from an early episode of "Seinfeld" and get a couple of Russian cable guys to hook me up.
Hold onto your knitted handgun cozies: "Pushing Daisies" is coming back from the dead. Last season's most whimsical, weird, wonderful show only churned out nine episodes before being cut short by the writer's strike. Having not aired since December, even the most fervent "Daisies" fans — of which several of us Channel Surfers proudly count ourselves — could be forgiven for a spattering of memory loss where Ned, Chuck, Emerson and Olive are concerned.
With the second season approaching mercifully soon (Oct. 1), and a gorgeous first-season DVD set in stores now, here's a quick recap of everything you need to know before making the return trip to Coeur d'Coeurs. (Note: This recaps includes a fair share of spoilers, so the uninitiated should beware.)
In the pilot episode (cutely titled "Pie-lette"), we're introduced to pie-maker Ned (Emmy-nominee Lee Pace), who makes a mean three plum, and can bring the dead back to life with a single touch. The catch is, the resuscitated party can only stick around for one minute, or else someone else in the vicinity will kick it. A second touch from Ned and they're dead again forever.
This is all well and good for a while — though I'm guessing he stays away from eating lobster — and in fact, the ability lends Ned a reluctant side gig helping cranky private eye Emerson Cod (the invaluable Chi McBride) crack unsolved murders by asking the victims themselves how they died and cashing in on the reward money. But when one of those victims turns out to be Ned's childhood sweetheart, Charlotte "Chuck" Charles (Anna Friel), Ned can't bring himself to re-deadify her, much to Emerson's open, withering dismay.
Chuck and Ned are in love, openly and blushingly. Trick is, they can never touch -- not even so much as brush pie crumbs off each other's cheek — or Chuck will go back to pushing up daisies. (Ohhh, THAT'S what the title means!) It's also not the only chink in their armor of amour: Back when Ned was a boy, his mother dropped dead of a brain aneurysm, and the young piemaker, only recently having discovered his unusual powers, brought her back. He had not, at this point, learned of the one-minute time restriction, and so his neighbor, Chuck's father, keeled over backwards while watering the lawn.
With Chuck back and suddenly such an important part of his world, the secret has been bubbling in Ned's stomach like the rotten fruit he brings back to life for his pies. The end of last season handled the fallout of Ned revealing his secret, and presumably this season will follow up the tenuous trust issues that Chuck has developed.
Meanwhile there's Olive Snook (Emmy-nominee Kristen Chenoweth), petite ex-horse jockey and waitress at Ned's pie shop, who's desperate to do a little touching of her own with her boss. Originally supposed to be a more peripheral character, Olive became a much larger presence thanks to the casting of Broadway star Chenoweth, and so much the better. Olive became a perfect foil in the early episodes of the show, desperate to find out Chuck's secret in an attempt to break apart the strangely incontiguous lovebirds.
Her plans lead her to the doorstep of Chuck's aunts and guardians, Lily (Swoosie Kurtz) and Vivian (Ellen Greene), a pair of former synchronized swimming stars stricken with dual bouts of crippling social anxiety disorder. Their niece's apparent death (Ned insists Chuck keep her distance from the grieving pair, to which Chuck reluctantly agrees, barring the odd pie she has delivered to them) has only exacerbated their shut-in tendencies. Olive's affection for the aunts prevents her from revealing Chuck's secret (or what Olive thinks the secret is, that Chuck faked her death) and together with Chuck concocts plans to break Lily and Vivian out of their funk. The main ingredient of the plan is a vial of homeopathic mood enhancers Chuck bakes into the crust of the aunts' pies (and sold door-to-door by Olive's would-be paramour, Alfredo.) The doping has some unintended side effects when an overdose leads a loopy Lily to reveal to Olive a long-hidden secret: She is, in fact, Chuck's mother.
All of this plot-wrangling — as bizarre and far-fetched as it sounds (and is) — is mere window-dressing for the nimble writing, the sharp comic acting, the brightly colorful set design, the musical interludes, and the dizzy romantic overtones of a prime time fairy tale for adults, complete with a omniscient, sometimes rhyming narrator (Jim Dale). It makes for a blissfully silly hour of television, and by the looks of the Season Two preview, it's only going to get better.
"Pushing Daisies" season 2 premiere airs Wednesday at 7 p.m. on ABC.
Paul Newman, 83, made his mark on the small screen
It's hard to imagine him as anything less than a movie star, anyone other than Butch Cassidy, Hud Bannon, "Fast Eddie" Felson or "Cool Hand" Luke Jackson.
But Paul Newman, who died at 83 from cancer this weekend, started off on the small screen before he got his big break in "Someone Up There Likes Me" (playing the role originally intended for James Dean, who died in a car accident). It's hard to separate Newman from his movie career -- almost blashemy -- but the actor's prolific career touched everything from spaghetti sauce to racing. Television was no stranger in that mix. He continued to make a presence on television, winning an Emmy for best supporting actor more recently for his role on the HBO miniseries "Empire Falls" that he both acted in and produced.
It took me a little bit of digging, but I managed to find an entire episode of "The Kaiser Aluminum Hour" (an NBC anthology show that ran in 1956-57) on YouTube that showcases a young Newman as a soldier trying to weasel his way out of the army. You can see shades of "Cool Hand Luke" in his portrayal of a conniving soldier and although it's in black and white, I promise you can almost see those baby blues that later became his trademark.
Here's a shorter clip from "Empire Falls" in which Newman plays a crusty, money-grabber:
I could wax poetic about the passing of a golden age of television and movies, but I don't have enough decades under my belt for that kind of nostalgic nonsense. Probably nothing I can say will add much more to what has already been written about the man as an actor, philanthropist and racing enthusiast. (Here's a nice interview with NPR from 2003 that's better than any retrospective I've read). Celebrate Newman because he wasn't just another good-looking actor (although, man, those blue eyes still make me swoon a little), but because he was a decent man and we can't have enough of those.
As for me, since I shared a birthday with Newman, I'll probably buy some more Newman's Own (all of it goes to charity), then watch him gallivant in the Old West with real-life best friend Robert Redford in "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" to say a proper good-bye.
Commerical Interruption: Is "The Office" back or is it wack?
Sometimes there's just too much television for one Channel Surfing blogger to handle.
That's when we need a break to sit back, relax and indulge in some friendly back-and-forth (via email of course, we don't actually like to speak to one another in person). And sometimes a show's return is so filled with reviewable sequences that we need the entire blogging crew to weigh in -- that, or it's Friday and let's be honest, we're all looking to waste time until the weekend is here.
BloggersSara Boyd, Thomas Rozwadowski, Adam Reinhard, MalavikaJagannathan and on the heels of her first successful post, friend to Channel Surfing and honorary blogger Kelly McBride, makes a triumphant return to help dissect the return of "The Office." Having already declared this first episode as a look into the show's potential make-or-break season, we sift through last night's events featuring wife-beater wearing Dwight, still-in-existence Jan and goatee/un-goateed Michael.
Sara: Before we begin, it should be noted that this post will be more than just a review of "The Office's" return -- it'll be a playful banter of the premiere watching party that all Channel Surfers, plus McBride, attended last night. Don't let that fool you, though -- we still do not speak to one another in person. Clearly, we all brought laptops to TRoz's house so we could comment via e-mail on the show whilst begrudging the very beings of those seated around us.
Anyway, let's get right into the good stuff. I had pretty low expectations for last night's return and honestly, I think that helped the viewing tremendously. I must say, I was pleasantly surprised by the hilarity that occurred and the old "Office" ways that seemingly have returned. No, it wasn't enough to make me climb the highest mountain in Green Bay (which I believe would be a landfill) and scream at the top of my lungs, "'The Office' is back! All hail the mighty Michael Scott!" but it did give me reason to regain my faith in the show.
Last night's 'sode (that's slang for episode, it'll catch on ... ) had the DunderMifflin-itessweatin' to the oldies, Richard Simmons-style. A company-wide weight loss challenge saw employees workin' off their derrieres and in some cases, completely starving themselves and eating perceived tapeworms. I found the interoffice challenge humor to be a throwback to "Office" episodes of the past and thanked the lord that it appeared Dwight was back to his good ol' freakish self (then again, he was on full-time booty call).
TRoz, I know you also had a "glass is half empty" approach to the premiere, so did it meet your needs? Tickle your fancy? Or just scare your extremely skittish dog (of whom you beat with purses)?
Thomas: Quick, what's the difference between Sara Boyd and a Green Bay landfill. One smells awful and repels those in its presence. The other is a landfill. Hey-yooooooooooooooo!
I laughed. I cried. I tapped my Dwight Schrutebobblehead with delight. (No, that isn't what she said.)
Having low expectations probably helped. But let's be honest: it was just a darn good episode. In fact, as someone who has been highly critical of the hour-long format -- even dating back to when the show was truly "can't miss" TV -- "Weight Loss" was the first time that I didn't check the clock to see how much longer it was planning to drag on with filler jokes or Halpert eye rolls.
And even if all the dots weren't connected or questions answered -- for instance, why Jim keeps his IM screen so large, even Old Man McCain could read it -- the way every character (even that blasted harpie from hell, Jan!) was incorporated into the mix was highly fulfilling.
And I'm just going to say it, I love Holly Flax, and not only because I hold a special place in my heart for Amy Ryan because of "The Wire." I'll be sad when her series run is over, though I'm still predicting a prolonged hook-up with Michael and some kind of off-screen romance so poor, pathetic Toby is rescued from a Costa Rica hospital and brought back into the DunderMifflin HR fold.
I think I'm most pleased that they used Michael so effectively. We probably could have done without the Michael Klump routine -- though the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man picture made me giggle with glee -- just thinking about that audible groan he let out in Holly's presence, and how he had no answers for it ... that is pure "Office" gold.
Also, as painful as it was to watch, the ripping of the Counting Crows tickets (are they still around? really?) was a brilliant touch. It's so like Michael -- all about the grand gestures, never the subtlety of the moment.
What else worked: Ryan's Nixonian enemies list, Andy's ridiculous nicknames for the members of Here Comes Treble, Holly's righteous anger about Kevin's "disability," Dwight's pathetic goatee and Pam's salute to the 2-1-2.
So Kelly, as someone who has never made her thoughts known on this blog -- but rather, just boringly to us in face-to-face convos -- are you ready to heap on the praise or proceed with caution? Also, do you think we should hold "Office" parties every week in hopes that our organized presence will be the true catalyst for a bounce-back Season Five?
Kelly: Ladies and gentlemen of the blog (plus TRoz), first let me thank each of you sincerely for inviting me into your weird little world. As a relatively recent "Office" convert, I can't expect to convey the same witty analysis, high-level expertise and historical depth you all provide week in and week out, but I'll do my level best to contribute.
To first address TRoz directly, the answer is both. I thought Scranton rocked it out in last night's episode, from Holly's Michaelesque awkwardness to Dwight and Angela's storage-room escapades. The hour flew by and left me satisfied, but wanting more (yes, that's what she said). I can't get too giddy, however, because there's still a lot of season to go. To invoke the inevitable football analogy (sorry, but this is Green Bay), it's like judging a team's chances based on a pre-season game. Can't be done. Still, I am newly fortified with a sense of optimism (not to mention chock-full of Vitamin D).
My only beef with last night's show was probably the Toby scene at the end. Yeah, I guess it's nice to know what's going on with Tobes (we're tight like that), and I'm sure it will be an integral part of some plot later on. But Holy Buzzkill, Batman. I went from laughing until my sides hurt to squirming uncomfortably at the thought of being immobilized in a hospital bed for five weeks. But I'm weird about neck things, so maybe that was just me.
Moving on, I was pleasantly surprised how the proposal scene was woven into the show but not the primary, hyped-up focus thereof. There was plenty of Jim and Pam to go 'round in last night's episode, but it retained its essential "Office"ness by limiting out-of-office camera time and weaving together several storylines. Woe be the man who ever proposes to me at a gas station, but for our favorite "Office" couple, it worked while still limiting the cheese factor. I think nice-guy-at-Pam's-school was there to further throw us off the proposal trail, but I don't think he'll be a legitimate threat.
MJ, first a special thanks for bringing the exceedingly complicated "Office" board game to our little kick-off party (I EARNED that 2D orange dundie!). Second, what was your proposal take? Thoughts overall?
MJ: Greetings, everyone. I hope you are all enjoying the delights of work on a Friday, while I'm at home in my pajamas, watching TV and, sadly, posting on this blog. (Insert evil laugh here)
Before I address one KMc's question, I have to disagree with her on the whole Toby bit. Toby is the guy who always gets screwed or left out, so what better way to integrate him into the episode than show him languishing in a Costa Rican hospital? It's almost Seinfeldian to take pleasure in his pain, but, hey, I love "Seinfeld." In short, I thought it was uncomfortably brilliant, the trademark of "The Office."
Now, the big Jim and Pam -- aka Jam -- question. In a way, my expectations were low. I figured the writers would pull the ol' Sam 'n Diane, Ross n' Rachel, McDreamy 'n Meredith bit by breaking the it-couple up and fill the entire season YET another will-they-wont-they drama. It may still happen, but at least, their relationship WASN'T the main focus of the premiere and the proposal was slipped in without much ado (that's what she said?).
I'm happy the first episode of this season reverted to much of what works about this show -- the awkwardness, the apathy of work and the ridiculousness of the characters (anyone else think Kelly's flagrant attempt to make Ryan jealous by making out with Darrell was sidesplitting?). I'm still keeping my expectations low, though, and hoping the writers can pull off a comeback this season. If last night was an indication, we're definitely getting something above Season Four's mediocrity.
Shout-outs must go to Stanley's "black power" pose on the weight machine, Amy Ryan's comedic awkwardness as Hollis "Holly" Flax and the rejuvenated Michael Scott.
Adam, are we being too optimistic here in our hopes for this season? Also, I guess SOME credit should be given to you for discovering the $12 "The Office" board game at Walgreens.
Adam: To hell with low expectations! Let's get optimistic! "The Office" has now delivered two solid back-to-back hours of comedy -- the fantastic fourth-season finale, and last night's riotous Season Five opener. The fact that these episodes aired more than four months apart with no drop in quality only further bolsters my confidence.
"The Office" (cross your fingers) is back, and I will demand from them episodes as good as "Weight Loss" for the rest of the season. Ball's in your court, "Office": Don't disappoint me again.
I agree with just about everything you guys are saying -- Michael was back to his old moronic (but not malicious) self, Holly Flax is a great new character, and getting the Jim proposal out of the way was a brilliant move -- but there's one plot thread -- the Angela/Dwight/Andy triangle -- yet to discuss. (Apart from Sara drooling over a tank-topped Dwight. That's a strange fetish you've got there, Boyd.)
Andy's overly eager courtship of his feline-loving filly seemed like one of last season's most strained B stories: What could Angela possibly see in this acapella-singing, nipple-chafed goofball, other than a way to wreak revenge on cat-freezing ex-beau Dwight. Their clandestine makeout session at the end of last season's finale seemed like the end of the road for ol' Andy, and the sight of the future Mr. Andy Bernard struggling to find a proper ceremony site for his lady fair was the low point of last night's episode for me.
True, Angela constantly paging Dwight (seriously, who uses pagers anymore?) whenever Andy got on her nerves was funny, but out of character for the both of them. Ice-queen Angela may be all about doing things properly, but even she should have no problem breaking it off with Andy and taking Dwight back. I'm hoping his "deal-breaker" regarding Here Comes Treble's role in their wedding signals such an end.
Yet those crafty writers found a way to placate even me, when Andy, after several shootdowns on wedding locales, tells Angela he would marry her anywhere, and her veneer finally cracks, leaving a just-paged Dwight dangling in the store room. It was sweet, and it didn't feel forced. Again: Confidence restored!
Last thoughts anybody?
Thomas: Wait, no mention of Phyllis' jugs? Er, on second thought ... let's shut this discussion down for the evening.
Woo-hoo! John McCain is in the debate fold ... which (yawn!) puts us right back to where we were only a few days ago.
All that excitement aside, there's plenty of reason to plant yourself in front of the TV tonight.
Since this isn't a political blog, I won't get into whether the debates should really matter to all you undecideds who apparently can't find the information you need in like, interviews and other exhaustive profiles written on this wonderfully expansive thing called the Internet. (Sorry, that was me being judgmental.)
Still, I get it. You like the drama of the televised debate, which as David Greenberg of Slate points out, serves not "as an opportunity for voters to learn anything new about the candidates but rather as an occasion for all of us to get excited about politics."
Greenberg's well-reasoned history lesson further puts the politics-as-sports metaphor at the forefront. It's all about rooting interests and high-octane theater ... you know, without all the need for heavy drinking, gratuitous camera shots of Jessica Simpson and stupid Coors Light commercials.
"If you're like me, most years you await the general-election debates with eager anticipation, notwithstanding your longstanding loyalties or your made-up mind," Greenberg writes, "I often find myself at a friend's apartment, populated by similarly inclined partisans, enjoying the act of rooting for the home team."
OK ... that might be pushing the Friday night drama a bit too far. But once the debate ends, fellow political junkies should switch over to "Real Time Bill Maher" on HBO, probably the most entertaining and informative show in today's polluted climate of talking heads.
Yeah, yeah, I know: take your shots at Maher and his ultra-liberal views (yep, I'm talking to those folks already painting signs for a lame "Religulous" protest.) But the great thing about this country is that you don't have to agree with people 100 percent of the time, and Maher is a classic example of how someone can be impossibly pessimistic yet spellbindingly thorough about divisive issues. His faith showdown last week with conservative writer Andrew Sullivan was one for the ages, and pretty much every week, there's a standout moment or two that, if it doesn't get you enraged as Republican, Democrat or Indepdendent, at least gets you thinking strongly about issues beyond who to vote for on "Dancing with the Stars."
And sure, Maher would probably be irritatingly condescending to hang out with, but he's also a host that strives for balance on his panel -- which makes for great debate, even if moronic things pop out of Michael Steele and JaneaneGarofalo's mouths on a weekly basis. More importantly, he so fervently believes in his opinion, right or wrong, it makes for must-see TV. Plus, his writing staff is hilarious.
Sometimes there's just too much television for one Channel Surfing blogger to handle.
That's when we need a break to sit back, relax and indulge in some friendly back-and-forth (via email of course, we don't actually like to speak to one another in person). Bloggers Sara Boyd and Malavika Jagannathan discuss "Project Runway" as it nears the end of another blissfully drama-filled season, and try to figure out who the devil Kenley thinks she is and how to teach Tim Gunn to slap a woman.
Sara: One thing's for sure, it's been an interesting final push for Bryant Park. As Fashion Week gets closer and closer, the nails are out, the hair-pulling and teeth-clenching are in full swing and everyone's out to prove they're the best. As we've seen in recent weeks, some contestants may be out to prove they're not only the best, but ruler of the world. OK, I guess just one candidate. Kenley, Kenley, Kenley. The girl has lost her mind and as we saw last night, she may not be able to back up her big mouth as much as we've previously thought.
Wednesday's "PR" brought a runway favorite back -- the designers were to design for ... the other designers. (Cue the drama!) As we've seen in previous years, when the designers are told to make something for each other -- the product can be scary. (Remember when Santino made that awful jumpsuit for Kara? Yikes.) This year's challenge had a bit of a twist. Not only were they told to make something for each other but it must be based off a musical genre. The designers were scared ... and with good reason.
Kenley was given the task of designing a hip-hop look for Leanne. And as a young, 50s-era styling WHITE girl, it was no surprise that she had no idea what she was doing -- but that didn't stop Kenlizzle from talking like she knew exactly what hip-hop style was. Clearly, according to K-to-the-enley, hip-hop means pants up to your boobs, a flowery tank top and a leather jacket too small to fit a life size Barbie. Oh, and lots of tacky gold jewelry. I mean, that's, like, totally hip-hop, right? According to Mr. LL Cool J (Yes, the ladies still love cool James ... ) -- no, definitely not.
Even Tim Gunn tried to warn her -- telling her this clearly wasn't hip-hop and you can't make that work. Alas, our favorite gay man was given tons of 'tude as she swiftly ignored his comments.
MJ, just how hideous was Kenley's hip-hop outfit? Do you think that should've been enough to send her packing? And can we please discuss the serious disrespect paid to our Papa Gunn?
Malavika: Forget hip-hop, Kenley's outfit was definitely something Carol Burnett would have worn back in, yeah, you guessed it, the 1950s. High-waisted jeans and "bling" do not a hip-hop outfit make in ANY era.
I love retro style as much as the next gal, but, seriously, KENLEY NEEDS TO DO SOMETHING ELSE. Even Rami the Draper from last season was able to move past his crutch, and, most importantly, he did not mouth off to the judges when they pointed out his propensity to make the same dress every week. Kenley's attitude coupled with her utter disrespect for the challenges (and Papa Gunn) should have gotten her auf-fed a few weeks back. If nothing else, it should have sealed her fate in last night's pathetic showing.
Kenley is slowly shaping up to be Project Runway's version of She-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named from another favorite Bravo show. I'm beginning to have deja vu -- where have I seen this defensiveness and downright rudeness before? Oh, wait, is your name Lisa (*shudder*) and do you suck the life out of everything around you? And is it possible that producers are keeping you around for drama purposes?
Her serious attitude problems had me wishing that it was her -- and not third-person lovin' Suede -- who had gone home. What do you think Sara -- should we call her Lisa or is that going too far?
Sara: I think it's very accurate to say Kenley possesses a number of "She-Devil-Lisa" qualities but I think it's a different kind of disgust this time around. Sure, everyone knew there was no way Lisa should've made it to the finals of "Top Chef" but there she was, crossed-armed and all, for the viewing audience to hurl rotten tomatoes at. With Kenley, I feel like I've been double-wronged. Mostly because I started off liking her, and hip-hop disaster aside, I still think she can produce very wearable garments.
So it's the complete disrespect for the judges and the overly cocky attitude that's encompassed my reasons for bringing her to the bottom of my list. I'd argue it's worse than hating Lisa. Lisa sucked, there's no doubt about it -- I wouldn't let her make me a microwavable Lean Cuisine. With Kenley, you know she has the talent and that makes it just that much more of a waste that she insists on being a complete B.
All I know is that the producers better not wrong us again and send Kenley to Fashion Week in the top three. We already had to suffer through a finale of "Top Chef" with a holier-than-thou bottom feeder, we can't handle Kenley starting her runway show -- of ALL 50s-era flower-printed dresses -- by boasting her greatness to the world's most talented designers. How embarrassing! So please, if there's any justice, it needs to be Jerell, Korto and Leanne in the finale.
Moving on, not that I couldn't go on forever about Kenley's suckfest, MJ, what did you think about the other designer's outfits? And what do you think will happen next week?
Malavika: I think I, too, have gotten all my Kenley-related hatred out of the way... NOT.
But moving on.
I thought there were some innovative pieces for a pretty abstract challenge, which gives me hope for the final three of Leanne, Korto and Jerell. (Kenley is persona non grata to me). I like that unlike last season, when winner Christian Siriano was far above the rest, there isn't a clear winner in this bunch. I like Korto's ability to be creative without being ridiculous (bleaching the denim in last night's episode for Suede's punk rock look was a genius move!).
But next week's preview scares me. They're all crying -- how very Ricky of them -- and I can't tell if that's good because Kenley is crying or bad because so are Jerell and Korto. If Kenley isn't gone next week, I will give up on PR. (Readers may recall I made a similar statement with Lisa from "Top Chef" but couldn't stay away).
Or if nothing else, I will never wear a retro-50s dress EVER again.
Catch "Project Runway" at 8 p.m. on Wednesdays on Bravo.
With Sunday's Emmy triumphs probably leading a few clueless TV viewers (like me) to wonder aloud, "What is this AMG channel I keep hearing about?" American Movie Classics is offering a chance to nuzzle closely with its shiny prized ponies -- "Mad Men," (named Outstanding Drama Series, a first for basic cable at the Emmy's), and "Breaking Bad," (starring Best Actor in a Drama, Bryan "Don't Call Me Tim Whatley" Cranston.)
Tomorrow at 3 p.m., AMC will be re-airing the first eight episodes of "Mad Men's" second season. Beginning at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, October 1st, the channel will air the complete first season of "Breaking Bad."
As some TV sites have noted, catching up with "Mad Men" isn't as difficult these days since there's a Season One DVD available and AMC seems to have it in constant "Seinfeld"-ian rotation. However, "Breaking Bad" -- which wasn't remotely on my radar until Cranston's Emmy win -- hasn't been around since its last episode aired earlier this year, and it's not yet on DVD.
I don't know about you, but the description of "Bad" has already piqued my interest: "a cancer-ridden science teacher (Cranston) with a handicapped child and pregnant wife uses his mastery of chemistry to become an unlikely meth kingpin." You still have time to catch up: Season Two begins in 2009.
And since I've also yet to get on board with "Mad Men," I asked fellow Channel Surfer/"Mad (Wo)Man" Malavika Jagannathan -- who recently bought the Season One DVD and has become hooked -- to offer her best pitch.
"Season Two of 'Mad Men' -- the little show that could about ad executives in 1960s Manhattan -- isn't suffering from a creative slump in its sophomore season. The plots continue to be fresh and unpredictable in this fascinating retro-filled drama that unfolds in the booze-lined and smoke-filled halls of the Sterling-Cooper Agency. A cult hit in its first season, 'Mad Men' has been rewarded with critical praise and awards to boot for its witty portayal of the era of transition between the post-war 1950s and the more tumultuous '60s. Watch one episode and you'll quickly realize that it's not just nostalgia driving this show."
Obviously, Emmy voters agreed with MJ. But anyone out there care to give a similarly glowing recommendation (or not) to "Breaking Bad?"
Fall TV: Why this is "The Office's" make or break season
All hail fresh episodes! Channel Surfing bloggers are placing the spotlight on new shows and returning favorites as the Fall 2008 TV season rolls out the red carpet. While longtime DunderMifflin-itesThomas Rozwadowski and Sara Boyd will be on the couch at 8 p.m., both are preparing themselves for (an inevitable?) final run with the once-beloved series. The fifth season of "The Office" returns Thursday with "Weight Loss."
Thomas:Sooooooooo .... it's two days out before "The Office" comes back, and as a fellow fan who once put the show on a high, high pedestal, I have to ask: How are we supposed to feel about its arrival on our doorstep? I admit to shrugging my shoulders a bit, though I know I'll still watch with relatively high expectation because deep down, I'd love nothing more than to utter the immortal words, "'THE OFFICE' IS BACK!" on Friday morning.
But I know that can't happen. Season Two was the perfect storm. The writers were focusing on inter-office relations because, first and foremost, they had to introduce the characters in a familiar, bland context befitting the show's title (go figure.) Jim and Pam's game of googly-eyed ping-ping worked because it was neither melodramatic or a drawn-out tease. It was alternately fun and heartbreaking, even for jaded souls like myself who usually don't end up rooting for the good guy. And Michael ... dear Michael. Sure he did some insanely stupid things, but he wasn't oblivious like the Michael Scott who would eventually end up with crazy-but-not-the-funny-kind-of-crazy Jan. He just craved attention and acceptance. And Dundies.
So maybe the lowered expectations will work in its favor this time around ... because God knows I'm tired of feeling like the show is a continual disappointment even though it's still largely entertaining and well written. Heck, I didn't even buy the Season Four DVD this time around. So Boyd, do you think this is a make-or-break season or should I just get over the fact that it can't be what it once was, but at least the addition of Amy Ryan certainly means good things?
Sara: I think you're right. I mean, let's call a spade, a spade here. Last season -- writer's strike or not, was not good. Even Season Three was a bit lacking. Sure, they've had a few shining moments lately -- Amy Ryan's "new Toby" character thinking Kevin is actually mentally handicapped = hilarious. But it's a far cry from what it used to be. Call me crazy but I think the added popularity killed a piece of "The Office" that can never be returned.
By Season Two, the show was still working to gain viewership and let people know that a quirky, dry-humored show was on primetime. By Season Three, they were almost like the geeky nerd who shelled out good money to be transformed overnight to a popular, babe magnet jock by simply removing its glasses and putting a little gel in its hair. Yes, that's the plotline of "Can't Buy Me Love," what's your point?
All I'm saying is, with the so-called cliffhanger NBC has us dangling on for the start of Season Five, I'm not holding a lot of hope. We've got a preggers Jan who is going to be the mother of a sperm donor baby, Michael who is right behind her toting a diaper genie and burping cloths and the will-he-won't-he bore-snore of Jim's imminent proposal to Pam. Remember when the season finale was a long-awaited Jam (Jim + Pam) kiss that potentially could've broken Pam's engagement? Ahh, the good 'ol days.
Of course I agree (what? never!) with Mr. Roz and would be pleasantly surprised and back on board with a stellar season premiere, but I just don't know if it's in the cards. I suppose "back on board" is a bit strong. I'm still a big fan, I just approach this season with a bit more caution and perhaps, pessimism -- hoping for the best but expecting the worst. It really is a make-or-break season and that's unfortunate, but let's be honest, no one's going to stick around to see what happens with Andy and Angela. TRoz, from the brief previews we've seen of its return -- is there hope? And what plotlines just need to be squashed in order to restore the brilliance of this show?
Thomas: You know, I think we cracked the case. If Dwight and Jim engaged in the African Anteater Ritual ala "Can't Buy Me Love," this show would be in much better shape.
I wanted to avoid making the "popularity killed a piece of 'The Office'" argument for fear of being called a TV elitist, but since you did, well, I can't help but feel the same way. I know you're a huge "Friends" fan, so maybe you can make the logical leap here, but it seems tying everyone down in a relationship -- or at least deliberately trying to get everyone AWAY from the actual office setting -- really stripped the individual identities of each main character. That worked well for Dwight, who probably shouldn't be a one-dimensional office freakazoid. But what happened to Jim? He's no longer the underdog, so it's become hard to root for him in any capacity. I'm betting he'll do the nice guy thing and let Pam spread her wings at art school. They'll reconnect at DunderMifflin and be stronger in their relationship, which as we all know, is heading toward marriage at SOME point. Not that it's a bad thing. I've been consistent in saying that there is nothing wrong with the two of them being together and happy. But seeing them together and happy also doesn't make the show for me. I think the show's popularity among the masses is largely steeped in that Rachel-Ross-type drama. Personally, I'd rather see Michael do more Ping impressions.
As for plotlines, I want Jan gone. Her presence will only continue to sabotage any hope I have for Michael. (as an aside, "The Dinner Party" aired a few weeks ago, and while flipping channels, I couldn't even stop on it for two minutes, I despise that episode so much.) I expect to harshly judge the Dwight-Angela-Andy triangle, if only because it's never been adequately explained why Angela is WITH Andy in the first place. To make Dwight jealous? Really? It has shades of a classic soap opera contrivance with Angela staying engaged to Andy even after doinking Dwight in the Season Four capper ... for what purpose, I'm not really sure, but my guess is they'll drag it out to humanize Mr. Lonely Heart Schrute some more. Or at least put him in more zany predicaments where he has to "prove" his love. Again ... relationship humor.
I liked Ryan's prickly turn, but not how they placed him in cuffs toward the end. Making him "the villain" might create a funny redemption story, but it was a pretty abrupt turn that didn't kill on the comedy scale. The secondary characters still deliver and the Holly Flax addition, really, is the only thing memorable (at least while giving it two seconds of thought) from Season Four. Since I'm not Michael Ausiello, I have no clue how long Amy Ryan is supposed to stick around, but if her presence is short-lived, it would be a positive step to have Michael forgo his plan with Jan, find his soul mate in Holly and create a situation where she can't work at DunderMifflin because of their relationship (and the lessons he learned from the Jan debacle), thus opening the door for Toby's return (which is rumored to be a strong possibility.) Imagine if Michael had to make that choice: a happy (off-screen) relationship with Holly, but only if it meant they weren't in the same office, which means putting aside his hatred of Toby for the greater good.
Your turn to put that "Beet Goes On" inspiration to use.
Sara: I definitely don't consider myself a TV elitist -- let's be honest, some of my favorite shows are low-brow reality TV series. But I agree, it's really taking the "Friends" formula to heart -- that being, let's hook everyone up with other characters until they make lovely two-by-two pairs that skip down the halls of DunderMifflin and suck at the merciful teat of Nielsen's ratings. And clearly, it's been used and does not need to be repeated.
You're right about Jim too. I'll admit, his face still covers my computer's screensaver but this "new Jim" is just not someone I'm a big fan of. I miss awkward face Jim -- the Jim who shrugs at the camera, not this Jim who is brazen with a customer during a game of golf so he can afford a better life for he and his bride-to-be. And my God, where's the Jim that loved to torture Dwight? He's gone soft! (That's what she said.) If anything, the show needs to rekindle that relationship and stop creating all these new ones.
So I disagree. If Michael ends up banging Holly, that'll be the last straw. Enough already with the interoffice dipping of company pens in company ink! Here's my pitch for a new storyline this season: Dwight decides he is done being sad about Angela and starts scoping out eHarmony.com for a true match ... like clockwork, Jim finds out Dwight's password to his account and changes his profile dramatically, stating things like he likes to have sex with beets ... Pam goes to art school in New York -- everyone's sad, Michael most likely makes a very inappropriate farewell speech ... new reception desk chicky comes in and there's a level of flirtiness, a level of forbidden-ness and of course, she and Jim become chummy ... drama ensues, no wait, hilarious drama ensues ... Andy forcefully kills one of Angela's cats in the middle of the night in their first week of newlywed bliss ... viewers strap in for a long, and hilarious, divorce proceeding ... oh, and Creed dies (just 'cause) and later in the season comes back to life.
There you go. Another freebie, writers ... take it and enjoy. (That's what she said.)
"Heroes" relaunches tonight for its third season — a fact that caught me off guard when I found out last week. After the catastrophic crappiness of last season, I suffered a bout of series-selective amnesia, and as such almost completely forgot that a show called "Heroes" ever existed. It took typing the word "amnesia" just now for me to even recall that lead hero Peter "I can crush a virus in my hand" Petrelli also suffered from some very convenient memory loss for most of that monumentally mundane season.
Ah yes, now the floodgates are open. I'm starting to remember much of what went down in that uberly unpleasant string of episodes. The virus the kills 96% of the world. Sylar trying to get his powers back. Kristen Bell as an electricity shooting baddie. The Wonder Twins who got a lot of cloying airtime before getting snuffed by Sylar. Hiro stuck in feudal Japan. That white guy posing as a Japanese guy who turned out to be immortal. Kristen Bell as an electricity shooting baddie. Nathan Petrelli getting assassinated. Niki dying in a fire or an explosion or an airline crash or something. Kristen Bell as an electricity shooting baddie.
It's safe to say my memory favors some parts over others. Overall, though, it was a tremendous squandering of the goodwill that the cast and series creator Tim Kring had built up in their astounding first season. Fans expecting the "Heroes" universe to expand and build upon itself instead got bland new characters and reheated plot lines. The writers strike and its dastardly effects on production didn't help, sure, but even if Kring and Co. rushed things a little in preparation for a work slowdown, their initial product should've been strong enough to withstand a little corner-cutting. It wasn't.
So now we get Season Three, which, in a bid to elicit a little excitement from the fanbase, is being dubbed "Heroes: Villains." The season premiere has been ready since at least July, when it was screened for the supergeeks at Comic Con — in fact, Herc over at Ain't It Cool News has a review and a bevy of spoilers for you here — and is part of a much-hyped two-hour event at 7 o'clock tonight. I'll be watching, of course ... but whether or not I remember it a few months from now, we'll just have to wait and see.
I would love to eat some crow on this one and enjoy an amazing season of "Heroes." Coming after a summer that gave us both "Iron Man" and "The Dark Knight," fans are ready for a truly great television series about superheroes. Season One hinted at it. Season Two failed miserably. Let's see what they give us next.
"Heroes" Season 3 two-hour premiere event starts at 7 p.m. on NBC.
But the truth is, Josh Groban has found the secret to making opera interesting.
Well, I guess you can't really call it "opera" per se, but the magic that he performed at Sunday night's Emmy awards was enough to make me stand up and throw rose petals -- or whatever it is you do at opera performances.
Check out Groban's take on some of the greatest TV theme songs in history. (Big kudos to him for mimicking accurate voices for "South Park" and kudos to the composers for sneaking in, not one, but two "Law and Order" references.)
Commercial Interruption: "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia"
Sometimes there's just too much television for one Channel Surfing blogger to handle.
That's when we need a break to sit back, relax and indulge in some friendly back-and-forth (via email of course, we don't actually like to speak to one another in person). BloggersSara Boyd and Thomas Rozwadowski dissect back-to-back episodes of "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" -- Boyd from the perspective of a newbie who may or may not have been prepared for a Season Four premiere about cannibalism, and Rozwadowski from the perch of a veteran who, in quiet moments, likes to prance around in spandex like Dennis as lead singer of "Electric Dream Machine."
Thomas: Sara, Sara, Sara ... I actually feel kinda bad that your first pure viewing of "It's Always Sunny" was an episode as deliciously demented as "Manhunters." I mean, it would be like a church-going 22-year-old losing her virginity to Ron Jeremy. Wait, can I write that here? Of course! It's an "Always Sunny" post!
I mean, you can't go back now. You. Cannot. Go. Back. There's this imaginary line of decency that keeps getting pushed further and further with "Sunny," and dear God, "Manhunters" even surpassed my expectations for just how insane the subject matter could get. Was it a classic? Well, I now know to choose the gorilla mask over the dated hand-in-a-cup-of-warm-water routine when hosting a sleepover. And while it was certainly funny -- I'm thinking specifically of the line, "The morgue. Now hear me out ... SOLD!" -- the pace was manic, the point-of-view almost too randomly absurd from the get-go. Ease me in, Sunny! Ease me in!
But that's also what I love about the show; it maintains a high level of self-awareness that only needs to make sense to a certain point. They can get away with anything, even cannibalism, and by the time a new episode (we'll get to "Gas Crisis" in a bit) rolls around, eh, all is forgotten and now Dee is talking about murdering her own brother.
It's more "South Park" than anything in that approach. Granted, it was on a major network, but remember when "The Contest" was a taboo topic amongst the "Seinfeld" crew? Um, how about teabagging and eating human flesh? SOLD!
Sara: Oh, Tom. I appreciate your attempts at shielding my "virgin" eyes when it comes to "Sunny," but let's be honest, if there was one way to really go -- ahem, balls to the wall (get it? yeah, that'll probably be edited out ...) for an intro -- it was most definitely with a crude, violent and obscene episode like last night's.
And let me just say, I ain't seen much, but what I sees, I likes. Sure, you could argue that last night's "Manhunters" may have scared, or scarred, a large portion of the viewing audience similar to me who thought, "Ooh, I've always wanted to check this show out." But as I quickly and perhaps, forcefully learned with "Sunny," there's just no room for the timid or "anti-cannibals."
It was shocking, no doubt, and it was a bit like watching a cast of misfits take a hit of acid and ad-lib from there. But it sold me, and oh yes, I will return. I did have a bit of a warning from dear Thomas Rozwadowski who described the show as perhaps crossing the line and maybe even pushing its own TV-MA rating.
And while I'm all for good, clean "Will Smith" humor every now and then, it's always refreshing to know there are shows still out there ready to push the envelope.
To sum up the first viewing of "Sunny," any show that successfully addresses cannibalism, gorilla masking and racism within cannibalism -- well, what's not to love? I'm literally asking. That. Episode. Had. Everything.
Thomas: First: You will be borrowing the Season One and Two DVD and watching "Dennis and Dee Go On Welfare" and "Mac Bangs Dennis' Mom."
Second: I can't stop laughing at the idea of a gorilla mask.
Three: It really feels like we're writing in code, which is probably a good thing. As I sit here today, I'm still stunned by the heightened level of absurdity in "Manhunters." Two people walking down the street while eyeballing everyday folks to sprinkle some Montreal Steak seasoning on? And I think both of us had to appreciate the monkey conversation that took place in Chinatown. You're right. What's not to love?
But as the second episode, "Gas Crisis," showed shortly after, when "Philly" rips a headline from the news and makes a mockery of it to the degree of Charlie adopting a horrible Texas accent and spewing fireballs at Mac as "the wildcard," well ... that's the gang I know and love. Not that I wouldn't know and love them as cannibals, but Mac running the "rape van" into that poor dude's parked car five times ... um, I can't finish typing this, I'm laughing too hard.
God, I can't wait for you to discover the backstory of Rickety Cricket. And also, I think it's pretty clear that if Channel Surfing fit the "team" paradigm, I'd be the looks and brains, Adam would be the muscle, MJ would be the wildcard and you'd be the ... oh, I guess all that's left is the useless chick!
Sara: Yes. I will be borrowing, and by the title of the episodes alone, I know I will soon be transformed into a true, sick-humored fan.
The visual of the gorilla mask will forever be etched in my brain, for use whenever I need a little pick me up. I literally was in tears laughing at that scene.
Another scene that brought me to tears, for which I don't really know why, was the fact that Frank and Dee were sitting in a "rape van" that had inside tinting that turned everything to blurred shadows in the outside world. Hilarious. Plus, you can't go wrong with a water boarding reference in a men's urinal.
Charlie's Texan accent reached new heights when he brought out the Foghorn Leghorn adaptation. Plus, anytime he was mentioned as the "wildcard" you knew it was bound to be a gut-buster.
I had a feeling monkey wouldn't taste like chicken, or human for that matter. And I think that's all I'll say on that.
And please, I would definitely be the wildcard. If anyone's the useless chick, it'd be Adam.
Here's my prediction for next week's episode: "This week, on 'Project Runway'... Kenley's head becomes so massive it implodes, spattering a lovely floral print pattern onto her 50s-era dress, currently in progress. All cheer in celebration. Michael Kors poops fabric from excitement."
I think you can see where I'm going here.
This season of "Project Runway" has definitely had its ups and downs, but I don't think anyone could've predicted the eventual tyranny of Lord Kenley -- and last night's episode proved it's only getting worse.
This week's challenge was to give a 20-something college graduate a makeover so they'd have an edge in the real world. (Translation: Make these girls an outfit that's appropriate for coffee fetching and slave work.) Oh, and their nosy and controlling mothers must approve of the outfit as well. Not going to lie, when they initially showed the silhouette of that first Smoker McSmokerson mother, I literally thought it was another Drag Queen challenge. Sorry Mom! But at least it was an honest mistake, unlike Leanne's brutal comment that she didn't want to make "old lady dresses." So the girls get randomly paired with designers -- Kenley gets her own little minion, Mini-Kenley as she's nicknamed -- and the ideas start flowing. Some, like Jerell and Kenley, get a cooperative group of mother-daughters, while others like Leanne and Joe have a bit of a tougher sell. Kenley starts plans for her typical overused and underwhelming 50s-era dress with -- gasp! -- a patterned print that's not technically floral, but let's be honest, might as well have been. The references to her self-proclaimed awesomeness reaches uber-vomit levels when she discusses how she's "definitely going to be in the Top 3" and meets any and all criticism with a sassy attitude that makes Omarosa look humble. (Next week doesn't appear to be any better as one clip shows Kenley questioning exactly what Tim Gunn knows about fashion ... Wow.)
But alas, the girl can sew and as much as I hate to admit it, I know we'll see her at Bryant Park. The thing that kills me the most is that I started this season a big Kenley fan. I found her designs to be very wearable and her style awesomely vintage. But now, the tides have turned and her gargantuan love of herself has taken her straight to the bottom of my list.
Sure, she can back it up and you could argue that Christian was definitely a fan of himself, but it's different this time around. This time, it's not confidence, it's just arrogance. These designers should be proud of their looks and stand behind them 100 percent, but when you have the perception that you're already the best -- no room for improvement -- where else is there to go but down? She's 25 years old and if she plans on having a long career in fashion, she better get off her sassy high horse and start thanking the Gods of Chanel that she has a chance to get the advice of such brilliant designers, Tim Gunn included. I wish I could say Kenley's 'tude was the most hideous thing about last night's episode, but unfortunately that title belongs to Suede's Coco Cabana catastrophe. Seriously, what was that? I was honestly shocked that the judges didn't take one look at those puffy, pirate shirt sleeves and say "Aufwiedersehen!" Granted yes, Joe made a suit that looked like it was straight off Melanie Griffith in "Working Girl," but Suede has been awful time after time. Then again, as soon as they showed Joe missing his family and making one last connection with viewers, you almost had to expect he would be "out." And truth be told, it's never a good situation when the girl looked better before her makeover. Still Suede is just buying his time until he's eventually booted off the show. Even Suede must know that it's Suede's time to leave the show, because Suede said Suede was a little nervous about going home. Suede. Suede. Suede.
As long as adorable Jerell and emerging star Leanne (even solid Korto) continue winning challenges, there's still plenty to look forward to before "PR" hits Bryant Park. If there's any God, he'll ensure that Kenley gets the karma she deserves and is sent packing before Fashion Week. I mean, singing your own praises is one thing, but when she burst out laughing during Joe's critique and mention of the "pocket square," it was not only unprofessional but severely damaging to her chances of being taken seriously in the fashion world. And she'd better watch her eye rolling when it's announced that she didn't win.
The challenges that remain for our Top 5 will surely be a chance for the winners to shine and the losers, both evident in talent and personality, will be hitting the road. We'll have to see next week if Tim lays his papa Gunns on Kenley and sends her back to reality. Either way, that's just good TV.
Catch "Project Runway" Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on Bravo.
Now, if you don't recognize the above post title as a classic "Saturday Night Live" sketch -- you know, back when Tina Fey didn't have to save the show from creative bankruptcy with her killer Sarah Palin impression -- well, shame on you.
Then again, that sketch aired back when everything a certain Mr. Seinfeld touched turned to gold (Jerry, gold!)
These days ... well, it's either a backlash from all those miserable "Bee Movie" TV junior spots or Mac spokesmen Justin Long and John Hodgman just weren't meant to be messed with.
The Los Angeles Times is reporting that those shiny new Microsoft ads with Seinfeld and comedy savant, Bill Gates, are being pulled. Microsoft spokesman Frank Shaw told the Times that the move was planned well in advance and wasn't a result of mixed or negative response from the public.
"All along we said we were having a teaser campaign," he said. "We're getting ready to start the second phase. This was the plan all along."
Second phase? Hmmm ... the McCain camp might want to hire this spin doctor to make the economy look good again.
If the spots were doing well -- and the second ad with Seinfeld playing ping pong seemed to be getting plenty of airplay -- you'd think Microsoft would be willing to run them into the ground. Then again, critics have cited the Microsoft pitch as a weak attempt at trumping Apple's popular Mac-PC ads with Long and Hodgman, which let's face it, are pretty hard to beat. Also, Seinfeld, who reportedly received $10 million (yeah, for a "teaser" campaign), looked like a dated spokesperson considering he was popular way back when the Backstreet Boys were all the rage.
My opinion: the first ad was incredibly strained, the second ad (long version below) was clever and amusing. Let's call it a push and just agree that Microsoft should have hired Lloyd Braun. That dude can move computers. Serenity now!
But onto the real issue: has Seinfeld lost it? I'm still bitter because I feel I'm owed an exclusive coffee table book even though I didn't buy the complete "Seinfeld" DVD set, just the individual ones ... but I still think he's incredibly talented and funny.
Since "Bee Movie," though, it seems a lot of criticism -- right or wrong -- has been swirling around ol' Jer. We're not talking Michael Richards-level scorn here. But does anyone want to make the argument that Seinfeld is no longer (gasp!) spongeworthy?
-- Thomas Rozwadowski, email@example.com
A friendly reminder: Season Four of "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" kicks off with back-to-back episodes at 9 p.m. tonight on FX.
Where does the dysfunctional gang go from here?
Well, last season, they managed to confuse Dennis with a sex offender, Mac with a serial killer and Charlie ... well, he could probably qualify as both by just being his usual demented self. Oh yeah, and there was a little thing called FREAKIN' NIGHT MAN that makes me squeal like a little girl even though I've watched it about 100 times.
So as the show continues to move closer and closer to the edge -- or maybe they already passed the imaginary line of decency by almost slicing a baby in half with a Samurai sword? -- my best advice is to buckle up and enjoy the unapologetic ride.
I mean, what else do you have to look forward to? Jim's dragged-out proposal to Pam? Bah!
On the docket tonight: "Mac and Dennis: Manhunters” and “The Gang Solves the Gas Crisis." For the AV Club's full, hearty interview with Glenn Howerton, Rob McElhenney and Charlie Day, click here. Among its revelations: the show has been picked up for 39 more episodes! Woo-hoo!
Colbert + Costello + Christmas = Santa's sleigh of freedom delivering gift-wrapped truthiness to patriotic boys and girls across America.
Though it can't possibly top "Larry the Cable Guy's 2007 Christmas Spectacular" -- and how could it with a holly, jolly roster that included A-listers like Tony Orlando, Flavor Flav and Jamie Kennedy? -- Stephen Colbert is busting out the red turtleneck of valor for his own one-hour holiday special.
The Comedy Central satirist will air "A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All," on November 23.
The show follows the same loose narrative used on every sitcom in the history of TV -- Colbert gets snowed in at his cabin in upstate New York and is forced to pass the time sans spiked egg nog. But unlike that memorable "Who's the Boss?" episode where the snowed-in crew began reminiscing about how Tony Micelli became a housekeeper, Colbert promises to have more fun with musically inclined friends Elvis Costello, Feist, Toby Keith, John Legend and Willie Nelson.
Original songs have been written by David Javerbaum, the executive producer of "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," and Adam Schlesinger from Fountains Of Wayne. The duo recently collaborated on the Broadway musical "Cry Baby."
Among the performances: "Another Christmas Song," by Colbert; "Have I Got a Present for You" by Keith; "Little Dealer Boy" by Colbert and Nelson; "Hanukkah" by Colbert and Jon Stewart; "Nutmeg" by Colbert and Legend; "Please Be Patient" by Feist; "There Are Much Worse Things To Believe In" by Colbert and Costello and "(What's So Funny 'bout) Peace, Love And Understanding" performed by the entire ensemble.
A DVD will be released just two days after, with a portion of the proceeds to benefit the charity Feeding America. Extras include a "book burning Yule log," a video advent calendar and alternate endings.
Sadly, Colbert's inspiration, "Papa Bear" Bill O'Reilly, will not be making an appearance. That dude is all about preserving Christmas, though, so he'd likely approve of this project.
There I was, about to meet my folks for lunch -- they were visiting from the Twin Cities and staying at the Quality Inn downtown -- when who should I run into but Mr. Marcus of the NBC-hit "Last Comic Standing" just chilling in the front lobby, waiting for fellow Top 5 contestants from the show to roll on through.
A part of me thought for a split second, I should probably leave him be -- he probably gets sick of nerdy fans approaching him when all he wants to do is hightail it out of Packerville. But before I could let that thought even settle, I blurted out -- surprising myself, even -- "Hey! You're Marcus of 'Last Comic Standing!'" (Real cool ... almost like shouting, "Hey! You're wearing a blue shirt!" to a relative stranger.)
Not sure what I expected him to say to that, he kindly replied, "Yeah, I am. What's up?" (Editor's note: It should be noted that I approached Marcus wearing sweats and not showered. Why he didn't pepper spray me, I'll never know.)
Through rambling and an attempt to assure him I wasn't crazy, I told Marcus I was a fan of the show (and left out the portion about how I blogged about this season earlier on Channel Surfing and gave it a less-than-positive review, not to the fault of him or other comics, but more so due to NBC ruining its brilliance) and asked him about how the Friday night show at the Meyer Theater went. To my pleasant surprise, he was extremely cool and -- though it's totally cliche to say about a celebrity sighting -- very down-to-Earth.
I told him that I and a friend from the cities referenced jokes from the show on a semi-regular basis and frequently discussed our fascination with the group "God's Pottery." To this, Marcus replied, "Really? That's awesome. Let's call him up." Now reaching uber geeky levels, I called up my friend, giving him the intro of "you'll never guess who I'm hanging out with right now" and passed the phone on to Marcus who graciously discussed the show with my friend and his girlfriend. ( Yes, he totally pulled a "Dude, you have to talk to my girlfriend." Nice one.)
As if talking about the tour, his comedy and a brief chat about Dane Cook (of who he shares the same manager with) wasn't cool enough, Marcus raised the bar and said, "You know, the other guys in the Top 5 are hanging out on the bus, do you want to go meet them?"
My exact response, I believe, was "Uhwhatumyeahsure!" followed by about two minutes of geeking out. (Man, I'm so classy. And again, had not bathed.)
A few steps out to the back of the hotel and we were standing in front of a huge tan and black tour bus. Marcus led the way yelling up the stairs, "Hey guys, I ran into this girl Sara in the lobby. She's a big fan of the show. Come out and meet her."
There was a long pause. And then, an accordian-like door opened and there was Louis Ramey and Jim Tavare (who by the way isn't quite as pale as he looks on TV). Whether they were offended by my unkempt presence or the fact that I was quasi-stalking them at 11 a.m., I think it was safe to say they weren't sure what to think of the situation. Both politely shook my hand as I did a bit of brown nosing and told them how funny I found them to be. Then we got right into the good stuff. Louis asked me what I thought of this season and if I watched previous seasons at all.
My response: "Well, no offense, but I would've liked to actually see you guys perform more and I don't know, watch comedy instead of Olympic promos."
Another long pause. Before I began preparing to be booted off the bus, Louis spoke up. "Thank you!" he said. "This is what I'm saying." The three discussed how NBC would film them for countless hours and use the most random footage. How producers pushed for them to tape confessional scenes but then never used them. The made reference to the speedy season and how the finalists were chosen and then, a week later the winner was announced -- instead of previous seasons where the winner is chosen after a slow elimination of the final five, giving ample time to each to truly give last performances. Before discussion could continue on the ridiculous NBC promos that dominated the finale, Jeff Dye and "Last Comic Standing" winner Iliza Shlesinger walked in.
A part of me panicked a bit, knowing full well that I had ripped into Iliza for winning the finale when I thought any other Top 5 comic was more deserving. I hoped she wasn't one of those people who sat and read every word ever printed of her while I simultaneously prepared a verbal apology for not finding her funny and a bit spiteful on the show. Luckily, it appeared she had literally just woken up and was far from being able to recognize anyone, let alone make the connection of a small-time blogger from Green Bay. (Ahh, thank God I work in newspapers and not broadcast. Not that she would have known who I was, or even, that I would've redacted my statements on thinking Marcus or Jeff should've won.)
As I was about to leave and ask myself the obvious question, "Did that really just happen?" Marcus approached me and asked if I had plans for the evening or if I would like to grab some friends, drive to Milwaukee and catch the show that night -- for free. How could I pass that offer up?
So I made the two-hour trek to see the live show -- with a reassuring phone call from Marcus half-way there confirming the tickets would be at will call -- and continued pinching myself, thinking it was highly unlikely this was occurring. Turns out, not only did Marcus get us free tickets to the show, but he put us right up front at the Pabst Theater.
From watching the show on TV, I knew none of the comics were too filthy or inappropriate -- but it did not occur to me that was BECAUSE they were on TV. I decided to bring my parents to the show with me and remember telling them, "I really don't think it'll be that dirty. I'm sure it's a family show." Oh silly me.
Louis opened the show as the night's MC with a 20-minute bit on sex, masturbation and other things definitely not appropriate for this blog. (This is a family blog, after all.)
There was a part of me that tried to stifle a laugh, not wanting my mother to think I found this stuff absolutely hilarious but then the sound of both my parents completely cracking up changed all that. My mother later said Louis was her favorite -- and the funniest. My dear old dad rather enjoyed a bit from Marcus in which he recaps watching the "Labyrinth" as an adult, versus as a child and a certain "bonus character" on David Bowie he never noticed as a youngster. I enjoyed it all, though I must say, everyone's favorite hottie Jeff Dye kind of disappointed me. He made a joke about how he had "four minutes of material to stretch into a 20-minute set." Sometimes the truth isn't really funny, Jeff.
When Iliza came out, I gave her the benefit of the doubt and tried to put past opinions aside and see what the "Last Comic Standing" champ is made of. As much as I tried to laugh at her jokes, it just wasn't happening and I don't think it was just me. At one point she even said, "Did that one go over your head, Milwaukee? Ok, moving on ..." Granted her bit about the two reactions to running into a table corner was funny, but it was also on the show -- except this version had the word "crotch" inserted where "leg" had been previously. Crotch is always more funny, so kudos to her on that.
All in all, it was a great experience and an awesome excuse to head to Milwaukee for the night. The show was great and the comics were all very cool. I'm sure it wasn't a big deal to any of them but it totally made my day. I stopped by the Comics' table at the show to thank Marcus for the great tickets and for being so cool to his fans. He said it wasn't a problem at all and he was glad we made the trip to check out their performance. A class act all the way.