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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Should Old Acquaintance Be Forgot...

It's New Year's and that means one thing on television that's bigger than Ryan Seacrest's hair: lots and lots of marathons.

It's not all great. In fact, we question some of the choices — for example, Bravo's marathon of "The Biggest Loser" and the obvious lack of a "Law and Order" marathon on any station — but what better hangover cure than a day spent on the couch, flipping between "Looney Tunes" and "The Brady Bunch?" (Unless you have Time Warner in which case you may neither get to watch "Brady" nor "South Park," but pardon our collective bitterness). Channel Surfing bloggers Malavika Jagannathan, Adam Reinhard and Sara Boyd will give you some tips and hints on how to ring in the New Year with the best of, well, just the most of one show.

Travel Channel: "Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations"

"Top Chef" fans may recall Anthony Bourdain's appearance as the guest judge on the infamous episode from last season that sent Dale home over the she-devil Lisa. Bourdain's Emmy-nominated show is a must-see for anyone who likes traveling or food. From 2 p.m. onward on New Year's Day, travel with the one-time chef to Jamaica, Saudi Arabia, Uruguay, Laos and other exotic locations as he samples the local cuisine (some of it downright frightening) and the local culture. Bourdain is a cantankerous bastard, but he's entertaining and adventurous with an ability to find fascinating people around the world. The Saudi Arabia episode is a must-see.


Discovery Channel: "Mythbusters"

What better way to ring in the new year than with the endless series of stunts, experiments, gunshots and explosions from the Mythbusters gang. Mindless television at its smartest, "Mythbusters" tests inquiries from viewers — such as "Can you build a cannon out of a tree trunk?", or "What's the best way to sneak past a guard dog?" — often with liberal doses of gun powder. It's one of those shows where you learn stuff without trying, and I imagine a whole day's worth of episodes would fly by.


E!: "Keeping Up with the Kardashians"

If for no other reason, watch it for the fascination of Kim Kardashian's huge ba-donk-a-donk. "Keeping Up with the Kardashians" is truly a guilty pleasure show to the T. No one watches the show because it's good but because we have the Hollywood sickness, that of nosiness and curiosity into the lives of these D-List (at best) celebrities. It's the show you pop on when there's nothing better to watch and so you think "I'll just watch a little bit." But then, by the second consecutive episode — you're hooked and there's no escaping. It's the perfect solution to the New Year's Day hang over — mindless television and a good amount of T and A but beware — keep one finger on the mute button if the Kardashian sisters start their bickering.


Cartoon Network: Looney Tunes

Say th-th-th-th-th-that's all, folks, to 2008 the right way — by dropping an anvil on its head. Or maybe by tying a knot in its shotgun barrel and letting it blow its own face off. I guess what I'm saying is 2008 stunk, and watching a bunch of classic cartoons with Bugs, Daffy, Elmer, Tweety and Wile E. Coyote for hour upon hour sounds like a great stress reliever.


For more marathons, check out Entertainment Weekly's list by clicking here. Happy New Year everyone! See you in 2009.

Malavika Jagannathan, ; Sara Boyd, ; Adam Reinhard,

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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Not a good year for Time Warner customers

Not sure what's worse: that Time Warner customers are about to be lose 19 Viacom channels starting Thursday at midnight, or that the Los Angeles Times can't correctly spell Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert's names.

For the dirty details, go here. Or just watch the below clip and curse the sky in anger.

Happy ... um, New Year?

-- Thomas Rozwadowski,

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Crime can be funny, so why can't crime shows?

This might sound strange coming from someone who counts "The Wire" and "Law and Order" among her favorite television shows, but I like funny crime shows.

Not like "Columbo" funny (which is just funny in a sad way, sorry "Columbo" fans), but the shows that either plainly mock the crime-show format or inject a little humor into the serious faces over at "CSI" or even my beloved "Law and Order." Because, let's face it, a lot of crime is funny -- just read the daily blotter items in any newspaper (but preferably the Press-Gazette) for a glimpse of the stupid and the ridiculous.

Apparently, I'm not alone. Both "NCIS" and "Bones" -- best described as "CSI" with humor and eccentricity -- are hits with audiences who may be a little fed up with the standard stab-and-uncover procedurals or the true-crime grittiness of a show like "The Shield." Don't think these shows aren't smart or cool, although admittedly the hipness of "NCIS" definitely skews to an... ahem... older crowd (that's right, mom, I know you love Mark Harmon but he's still old).

So, anyway, I guess that's why I'm pretty excited to see one of my favorite funny crime shows return to television on Jan. 9 for a short winter season. Now, I can totally understand why someone would not find "Psych" funny. I know some of those people, and I don't care what they think because this is one of the best comedies on television. Period. It's ridiculous. It's irreverrent. It's witty. And it doesn't take itself -- or its implausible storylines -- too seriously. Fake psychic Shawn (James Roday) and his reluctant best friend detective Gus (Dule Hill) are adorable in their bromantic quests for criminals in always sunny Santa Barbara. With a little help from Shawn's dad (Corbin Bernsen, no longer Arnie Becker from "L.A. Law"), the duo are the new-age Holmes and Watson, if Holmes and Watson were twentysomething bffs who start all their stories with flashbacks to their childhood.

It's been a long cold lonely winter... so check out some of the sun on "Psych. Episodes start airing Jan. 9 on the USA Network at 9 p.m.

-- Malavika Jagannathan,

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Monday, December 29, 2008

2009: The Season Ahead

Breath a sigh of relief. The "second season" is almost upon us.

With the help of Rick Kushman at the Sacramento Bee, here's a look ahead to the 2009 TV season as best we could dig up ...

Shows that have already received the ax, either officially or unofficially:

“My Own Worst Enemy,” “Knight Rider,” “Crusoe” and “America’s Toughest Jobs” from NBC; “The Ex List” on CBS; “Do Not Disturb” on Fox, and “Easy Money,” “In Harm’s Way,” “Valentine,” and “Stylista” on CW.

Plus, there are the second-year shows that are doomed. They are ABC’s “Pushing Daisies,” “Eli Stone” and “Dirty Sexy Money” and NBC’s “Lipstick Jungle.”

What's coming back early in the year:

“Scrubs” (ABC): Jan. 6. Remember, NBC canceled it and ABC quickly picked it up.

“Nip/Tuck” (FX): Jan. 6. One of TV’s seriously out-there series comes back after a strike-shortened season.

“Damages” (FX): Jan. 7. There’s a new case and more legal tricks ahead for this slick and terrific show.

“Flashpoint” (CBS): Jan. 9. The Canadian import was a surprising summer success for CBS.

“Monk” and “Psych” (USA): Jan. 9. They both return for short seasons, then “Monk’s” final season will begin sometime in summer 2009.

“24” (Fox): Jan. 11. It premieres with a two-hour episode, then follows with another two hours Jan. 12.

"American Idol” (Fox): Jan. 13 and 14. Show producers added songwriter and music producer Kara DioGuardi as a fourth judge. Other changes include just three weeks of auditions instead of four, more time spent on the Hollywood round, and this season the judges will pick a few “wild card” finalists.

“Battlestar Galactica” (Sci Fi): Jan. 16. This starts the final 10 weeks of one of TV’s most intriguing series.

“Friday Night Lights” (NBC): Jan. 16. It’s the broadcast premiere for episodes that ran this fall on DirecTV.

“Flight of the Conchords” and “Big Love” (HBO): Jan. 18. Both shows lost start dates because of the writers strike.

“Secret Diary of a Call Girl” and “The L Word” (Showtime): Jan. 18. This will be the sixth and final season for “L Word.”

“Lost” (ABC): Jan. 21. After last season’s dazzling run to the finish, fans have been burning up the blogs with rumors and hearsay.

“Burn Notice” (USA): Jan. 22. Like USA’s other shows, this witty spy/caper series is back for a short season, then starts a new run in the summer.

“The Closer” and “Trust Me” (TNT): Jan. 26. “The Closer” will air five episodes, mostly to give a boost to the new “Trust Me,” a light hour starring Eric McCormack and Tom Cavanagh.

“Life on Mars” (ABC): Jan. 28. ABC is hoping that airing it after “Lost” will get this smart series noticed by viewers.

“Medium” and “Heroes” (NBC): Feb. 2. NBC is trying and trying to bring the magic back to “Heroes.” “Medium” has kept its solid, if mid-sized, fan base.

“Life” (NBC): Feb. 4. NBC gets credit for not giving up on one of the most charming and original cop shows on TV.

“Reaper” (CW): March 17. Yeah, we have to wait until St. Patrick’s Day to see this crew again.

Among returnees that are still unscheduled: “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” and “In Plain Sight” (USA), “Breaking Bad” (AMC), “Rescue Me” (FX), “Saving Grace” (TNT) and “Eureka” (Sci Fi).


Friday, December 26, 2008

In the year ... 2009

New year. New hope.

The Channel Surfing staff chimes in with its TV-related hopes for 2009 as a lackluster calendar year draws to a close ...

That if the rumored death of a “Brothers & Sisters’’ character can’t be Tommy (a.k.a. “the lame Walker’’), it can at least be that pathetic excuse for a mustache he’s been sporting.

That “24’’ rewards fans who suffered through a sub par Season 6 (it was torture all right) and a painful writers’-strike delay by delivering a season that proves both worth the wait and worthy of bringing Tony Almeida back from the “dead.’’

That “ER’’ redeems itself for botching the return of Dr. Mark Greene by somehow getting George Clooney’s Dr. Doug Ross to show up in the final season to remind us why we’re still watching.

That “Desperate Housewives’’ doesn’t stumble on the invigorating skip down Wisteria Lane it has been on ever since this season’s five-year flash forward has given it glorious new life.

That somebody gives us sentimental saps missing the likes of “Gilmore Girls,’’ “Everwood,’’ “Once & Again’’ and “Party of Five’’ a sweet family drama with a little heart.

-- Kendra Meinert

That somehow, some way, “The Office” slaps itself upside the head and starts producing actual comedy once again.

That the new “Flight of the Conchords” season is everything we’ve been hoping for and more — especially after that enticing early premiere on Funny or Die.

That Spencer from “The Hills” is shot by Heidi’s family, placed in a coma, and ultimately “unplugged” by Mrs. Montag-Pratt herself.

That, please for the love of God, a new season of “Project Runway” airs … somewhere.

That 2009 will be the year people finally stop watching “Grey’s Anatomy” for good, leaving Whiney McWhinerson Meredith — with her immense self-absorption and hair wispiness — completely alone.

-- Sara Boyd

That renewed clarity on “Lost” delivers a memorable, time-bending fifth season with Ben, Locke, Faraday and Desmond front and center.

That a Barack Obama administration doesn’t keep cable TV’s best satirists like Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and Bill Maher from doing what they do best — skewering politicians for the sake of comedy, not partisanship.

That the Green Bay Packers consider an offer from HBO to film “Hard Knocks” during training camp. Ted Thompson will never let it happen — just look at what the cameras did for the Dallas Cowboys’ disappointing season — but no other show on TV can humanize professional athletes like the documentary series. Plus, it’d be cool to play “spot the camera crew” in random Green Bay locations.

That “Life on Mars” builds on the promise of its “Twin Peaks”-ian cliffhanger and trades in the Hallmark cheesiness for some darker entry points into Sam’s murky coma-induced/time travelin’ past. The “Mars” cast is far too talented to waste on such weak writing.

That rumors of an “Arrested Development” movie become reality, but only if the original cast and crew are all present. Need a few extra bucks to make it happen? Remember, there’s always money in the banana stand.

-- Thomas Rozwadowski

That Harvey Weinstein and NBC Universal get their collective fabrics together and give “Project Runway” a new home on any channel. Or Tim Gunn and Heidi Klum could always “go rogue.”

That “Pushing Daisies” creator Bryan Fuller either revives the festering sore that is “Heroes” or gives it a quick and easy death it truly deserves.

That “Mad Men” doesn’t falter in its third season after a brilliant and critically-beloved start in seasons 1 and 2 (hint: keep Joan, Betty and Peggy in the center of the storylines).

That even though “The Wire” is no longer alive on television, alums of the show continue to pop-up on networks with regularity in 2009 (and not, say, in “Punisher: War Zone”).

That someone — anyone, really – creates a show with the pop-and-zing writing of “The West Wing” and “Gilmore Girls” because the void in smart television is painfully obvious and obviously painful.

-- Malavika Jagannathan


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Giving "Scrubs" a second chance

Loyal Channel Surfing readers will recall how I took myself to task for abandoning "Scrubs," a once-beloved show that I own on DVD.

Well, at least the first four seasons -- which still deliver on re-runs even though it probably won't ever be confused with all-time great comedies like "Seinfeld" or "The Simpsons."

"Scrubs" was always -- at least in my estimation -- an underrated gem. It never received the fanfare of "Friends" and certainly not the acclaim and awards like "30 Rock" is raking in. But its characters were memorable, the writing sharp and smart during it's hey day. Basically, its comedy was weird enough to stay fresh until it went past an expected shelf life and had to advance characters like J.D. by saddling them with newborn baby plots. Add that Dr. Cox's exasperated mentor routine got really old -- and reused as an awful "Taste Commissioner" bit for Bud Light -- and there wasn't much must-see TV to be had once the writers' laziness became readily apparent.

So, having lost touch with the show's last few seasons, I'm not sure why I felt a twinge of excitement for a promo of the new ABC season (premiering Jan. 6) during last night's Packers-Bears game.

I'm not one to fall for a fresh coat of paint courtesy of a new TV home. But I suspect it had something to do with Newark Star-Ledger TV critic Alan Sepinwall, who was particularly hard on last season's scattered NBC season, yet raved about ABC episodes he recently saw -- which I guess is the shot in the arm I needed.

From Sepinwall's TV blog:

"In particular, the second one -- a spiritual sequel to season one's 'My Old Lady,' guest-starring Glynn Turman (Mayor Royce from 'The Wire,' and/or Blair Underwood's dad on 'In Treatment') as a terminally-ill patient -- is already one of my five favorite 'Scrubs' episodes ever, just the right mix of pathos and weird comedy.

Bill Lawrence promised that he was going to dial back on the wackiness, and he has. JD is still weird, but he's also recognizably human again. And the new intern characters -- notably Aziz Ansari from 'Human Giant' and Eliza Coupe -- fit in very well. I think I'd rather see the show go out on a high note, ala 'Frasier' or 'Cheers' (both of which rebounded in their last years after some weak later seasons), than to attempt to continue a year from now as 'Scrubs: The Next Generation,' but if the ratings are decent enough to allow that, at least it looks like the creative team has rediscovered what made the show great in the first place.

Not trying to be a tease; just trying to remind everybody that 'Scrubs' is still here, and that the new stuff is going to be worth waiting for."

That's good enough for me.

Having been largely down on the 2008 TV season -- but with "Flight of the Conchords" and "Lost" to look forward to in January -- I'll take anything I can get at this point. So at the very least, my history with "Scrubs" earns it a spot on the ol' DVR list.

That the bar has been lowered might lead to a rekindled friendship -- though even if a new ABC season doesn't deliver, I'll at least have this holiday hybrid to savor:

-- Thomas Rozwadowski,


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Talk about a stuffin' awesome premiere

Just when you thought your only option was to suffer through an endless amount of crappy holiday specials and made-for-TV movies ... "Flight of the Conchords" has returned, just in time for the holidays! OK, just the one episode, but it's good enough that you can watch it over and over until the real season begins Jan. 18.

The epic return of the HBO hit premiered on Funny or Die! Wednesday and we, the Channel Surfing bloggers, found it only appropriate to recap our favorite moments via an official band meeting. Enjoy.

Sara: OK ... band meeting.

Malavika? ... "Check, minus one right foot shoe."
Thomas? ... "Present."
And Sara ... "Yes, present thank you ... I'm always here anyway, I don't know why I bother with my line."

Item one: Premiere reactions
A.) Reactions to the premiere

Sara: Wow. What a return. Everything and more. There was quite a bit of pressure on the line for this premiere, but I thought it was most excellent. All the characters were at their best, but I do have to give the nod to Murray -- best. performance. ever. Also, I think we're in for a treat this season -- it looks like with the success of the first season plus the added fund-age from the world tour, the Conchords may be dealing with a bigger budget. I mean, enough money for fake Grammy awards (Best Management, priceless) AND giant toothpaste costumes? Seems like our Kiwi duo is finally able to bask in their greatness.

Malavika: I'm not sure if it's because it's been so freaking long since our favorite non-Hobbit New Zealanders graced the screen, but I was inspired to make a plain white T-shirt with "Flight of the Conchords" written in small letters after watching the episode last night. Between Murray's downfall and subsequent return to the consulate, the female-oriented toothpaste ad and the immigration-related hilarity that ensues when it turns out our dynamic duo don't have work permits, I'm confident season two will improve on the first. Props to the folks at for bringing us the first episode a month before it airs.

Thomas: I've been super down on TV this year, so I reaaaaaaaalllly needed this to deliver. And a Murray-centric episode was the only way to go. His return to the consulate with only three messages, one of which was a wrong number ... bloody brilliant. Though the in-episode songs were kept to a minimum, his operatic turn on the balcony was side-splitting. The DVD and album release led me to watch Season One over and over again, and I thought the second half of the season was much funnier with repeat viewings. This premiere was rock solid from the get-go. It was just the TV boost I needed heading into the new year. Also, I had no idea Polish "cover bands" were so skilled with the keytar.

Item two: Best moments
A.) Moments that were best

Murray: "Actually there's another item on this agenda, that I missed out. Item four: Stuff you. Stuff you, Bret and stuff you again, Jemaine." ... "Why did I get double stuffed?"

Mel: "Why did you come, Doug, if you didn't want to light a fire?!"

Also, when Jemaine attempted to double it ... "it" being nothing.

Bret: "I've got your doll... now I just need some of your hair."

Dave: "Did you know that the word Dave actually means deal in Latino?"

Agent: "I know you're from New Zealand ... what is this, "Lord of the Rings?" We don't have all day!"

Jemaine: "My dad was a women's rights activist."
Bret: "What about your mum?"
Jemaine: "No, dad wouldn't allow it."

Murray: "I've probably been ostracized now. I'm persona non regatta. You know what that means?"
Jemaine: "You're not at a ... yacht race?"

It was all about Murray, though. 1) How he had to move his car every three hours to avoid getting harassed by police and 2) How his "behind the scenes" work was not only unappreciated, but it led to made up words (was it 'hengling?'). Also, I loved Greg Proops' turn as the Femident agent. "He already doubled it in his mind."

Item three: President-elect Barack Obama will appear on Channel Surfing
Sara: Oh wait, sorry, wrong agenda. "What a mess."

Item four: The jingle

Sara: Which do you prefer?

The first rough draft ...
“Some women like men, some are lesbian … Femident Toothpaste.”

or the final version ...
“You are a woman, you're a woman well. You have breasts and longish hair. Oh yeah. You’re kind of fun everywhere yet you’re still very rare. Oh yeah. You’re a woman and you love to weave. You’re a woman; you have woman’s needs. I know you have woman’s rights, you’re a woman with teeth, now take a bite. Oh Femident Toothpaste, yeah, for your feminine dental care, oh yeah. Oh Femident Toothpaste, Femident, Femident … Femidennnnnt.”

Band meeting finished ... forever!

Just in case you haven't seen it -- check the full episode out here.

-- Sara Boyd,, Malavika Jagannathan,, Thomas Rozwadowski,

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Commercial Interruption: Pack up your knives and ... er, Happy Holidays!

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). Despite "Top Chef's" heartwarming attempt at capturing the Christmas spirit, Thomas Rozwadowski, Sara Boyd and Malavika Jagannathan are feeling a bit Scrooge-like while demanding Ariane's head on a platter. Actually, Miss Deviled Egg managed to impress Martha "Don't Forget I Spent Time in the Clink" Stewart this week, throwing our Power Rankings completely out of whack. Should our Channel Surfing crew finally give the Jersey Cougar some (gulp) credit?

Thomas: Well, well, well ... it looks like our first stab at "Top Chef" Power Rankings went as smooth as the amateur-hour AIDS benefit dinner -- which also turned into a serious skankfest by evening's end due to Mimbo Jeff and apparent chick magnet, Hosea (ladies, please explain the attraction there). Thanks to "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," I learned that abortion rallies were great places to pick up chicks. Who knew AIDS benefits were prime spots to meet straight dudes?

A lot happened in Wednesday's episode, though I was totally distracted by the red AIDS ribbon and couldn't stop quoting "Seinfeld" ("WHO? Who does not want to wear the reeeeeeeeeeebon?"), much to my wife's annoyance. I will say this, though: I'm done underestimating Ariane. Yeah, Colicchio called her out for making deviled eggs. But at this point, she's like the Eli Manning of "Top Chef." You keep waiting for her to make a crucial error, but she steamrolls ahead and beats better competition. Next thing you know, she's being crowned Top Chef. (Shudder.)

Overall, I wasn't too impressed with the episode. I did learn a new word -- vichyssoise -- but the whole "team unity" thing fell flat for me because I have to believe there was some time manipulation involved. In virtually every other challenge, everyone is frantically scrambling, tripping over themselves, wiping sweat from his or her brow trying to get done. On this one, somebody leaves the refrigerator door open and everyone is magically able to pitch in and propel Hosea and Radhika to finalists row. I'm surprised they didn't have time to roast chestnuts, sing some Perry Como and wrap presents for needy children. Oh, that's right ... the episode was taped in July. Bah humbug! Now kick Ostrich Carla off, Colicchio!

I'm also bummed that Fabio is going in the tank. We need-a to keep-a the funny Italian on the show-a! Also, I knew Natasha Richardson was an accomplished actress, but I had no idea she'd be packing her two Golden Globes. Hey-yooooooooo ....

So Boyd, how'd you like the Christmas cleavage in this episode?

Sara: Wow. That commentary should've required a two drink minimum. I could almost hear the rimshots.

Before this episode, I actually enjoyed a deviled egg or two on occasion. But now? I will never touch the food again. Ariane is a hack. Plain and simple. I still have faith that Colicchio and gang will see the light soon. This is "Top Chef," so theoretically, the contestants still in it should be able to do things no other chef can do -- make challenging dishes and most importantly make great food. We all heard Colicchio give his version of a kitchen pep rally -- really, he could've been a lot tougher on them -- so now we'll see if this makes any difference. Next week's challenge is no limits, no holds barred, just make good food. I have a feeling we'll see Ariane back on the bottom -- finally! -- once she realizes making Ma's meatloaf isn't going to hold up.

I'm really sad to see Fabio struggling as well, as he was not only my pick for the winner, but also a supreme delight to watch. The man is hilarious. I loved his comments on Martha criticizing his food. Gene also needs to pick it up -- I feel like he has the skills to make it far in this competition, but overall has been making poor choices. What happened to the gangster attitude, Gene? If you don't pick it up, you'll have to trade those wife beaters in for denim button-ups.

I really thought Jamie was a goner this round -- had they actually picked someone. For someone who boasted that the AIDS benefit dinner held a special place in her heart, I was quite shocked to see her try something so risky as raw scallops ... and as Danny would put it, "splooge." However, I think it was fair of the "TC" judges to opt out of sending someone packing after the fridge incident, especially when the victims ended up with the best dishes. (Sidenote: Can these guest chefs please stop using "Top Chef" as a venue for plugging their latest cookbook?! Ugh. This concludes my rant. Thank you.)

I would've commented on Roz's question -- but I think we've maxed out our euphemisms for the ta-ta's.

Malavika: Holiday spirit, schmoliday spirit.

They should have sent someone home. This isn't "Extreme Home Makeover" or whatever that show is called that comes on before "Desperate Housewives" that I always catch the last five minutes of and invariably makes me cry because they're giving away homes to one-armed cancer patients who live in their car. It's "Top Chef." It's about rewarding those who do well and punishing those who don't. Someone deserved to go home last night, even if they pulled together to help their fellow chefs. One good deed doesn't overcome bad food!

While I enjoyed last night's episode -- mostly due to Fabio, not going to lie -- it was on the whole kind of lame. I'm pretty sure Martha presented Ariane with the Quickfire win because they're both from "Joisey" (Random note: if you want to be entertained and dislike Martha Stewart, I highly recommend "Whatever, Martha" on the Fine Living Network, which is basically her daughter mocking old Martha episodes and trying to poorly follow Martha's instructions for face painting and creating coasters -- trust me, it's hilarious). Then, the whole "someone left the fridge door open" is such a bad attempt at throwing a wrench into the episode and promoting holiday spirit that it forces me to wonder if there's any secret footage of Padma and Tom sneaking into the kitchen ...

Bottom line, the highlight wasn't the food and, no, it wasn't even the appearance of a plunging neckline accompanied by Natasha Richardson (although Stefan's crush on Natasha was pretty funny). It was the fact that somehow Hosea was rivaling Mimbo Muttonchops Jeff for the Cute Chef award via red AIDS ribbons! It was so bizarre, I couldn't help but laugh.

I do agree that Fabio needs to stick around, if just for the entertainment factor. I mean, the preview for the next episode has him saying,"Theees eeesn't a Top Scaaaah-llop, eet's a 'Top Chef.'" How can you kick that off?

Thomas: I tend to agree with MJ. The "holiday spirit" came off as super contrived, and Colicchio's stay of execution just happens to serve as a convenient segue for the anything goes showcase. Not a complaint or an attempt to be cutthroat on my end. The episode was entertaining; the gesture a nice reward for charity. Clearly, there's some dead weight hanging 'round the house, though -- I think they're scared to send Gangsta Gene home because he might refuse to pack up his knives and stab someone instead -- and here's hoping that Ariane is exposed when she attempts to make a bowl of Lucky Charms in the next round.

But, if I could play Deviled Eggs Advocate for a second. Consider this, Miss Chef Boyd-ar-dee: UgFace Lisa made it to the final three by being mediocre and more often than not, flat awful last season. Ariane can at least claim some actual wins after her brutal start. Keeping simple might allow her to, essentially, be ignored by the judges while they focus more heavily on disasters like Jamie's raw scallop. I kinda thought they played up Jamie and Mimbo Jeff being "experimental" as a way to set up their eventual downfall. Risktakers who, frankly, aren't good at taking risks probably will go down in flames faster than someone like Ariane.

Now, the real trap is the anything goes challenge. It should expose her as no better than the ham slicer at Old Country Buffet. BUT, if Ariane survives this, she might be bulletproof until she's up against the real cream of the crop -- which I hope is Stefan and Fabio. Brace yourself ... I'm just sayin'.

Also: All-Star Holiday "Top Chef" battle? Um, awesome!

(New power rankings and big fat zero standings to come next week ...)

-- Thomas Rozwadowski,, Sara Boyd,, and Malavika Jagannathan,

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Wednesday night is the night that we make sweet weekly love

No, it hasn't just been raining on our face. We're crying tears of joy. JOY!

We're at work, so technically we have to wait until tonight to watch this. But you, dear Channel Surfing reader, can click off this page and head over to Funny Or Die! to soak up the Season Two premiere of "Flight of the Conchords."

Sorry Crazy Dogggz fans in the United Arab Emirates, but the preview is U.S. only. "Conchords" officially airs Jan. 18 on HBO.

If you manage to sneak in a viewing at your desk, please, leave a comment and let us know what we have to look forward to. After all, it's been 15 months without fresh laughs, and frankly, we're hurting so bad for our favorite Kiwis, we'd watch a homeless man re-enact the episode if we had to.

-- Thomas Rozwadowski,


For now it seems, the devil has not taken another soul

Yes, that's right -- the overly publicized and vomit-inducing marriage of Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt aka: "Satan in the flesh" is not legit, not legit to quit. It appears the two have not been officially pronounced man, er, peach-fuzz beast and wife in the legal sense. The scenes from Monday night's episode -- which showed the pair in a California courtroom -- are as fake as Heidi, from the waist up.

A Los Angeles Superior Court official said MTV was granted permission to shoot in a courtroom in Beverly Hills but did so after hours with a fake judge. I would assume a real judge could not betray his judicial oath and loyalty to justice by granting a marriage license for anyone willing to marry Spencer, the abominable snowman. The TV crew had permission to film "what purported to be a wedding outside of court hours," court spokesman Allan Parachini told the Associated Press Tuesday.

Next week's preview features the two standing in front of a courtroom complete with the California state seal in front of a judge, who is somehow not looking in disgust. Parachini said civil ceremonies are sometimes performed in the courthouse, but not in the way the Pratts were shown in the preview. If a judge does preside during the nuptials, it's typically in his chambers during a break between actual court cases, he said.

As if the tequila-filled proposal in Mexico wasn't romantic enough, now it seems the two only-for-publicity's-sake-lovebirds are topping it off with a fake license as well. Neither Montag, 22, or Pratt, 25, have filed for marriage licenses in Los Angeles County, though the two could technically get married in any county in California or take the confidential license approach -- but we all know, this couple won't do anything unless US Weekly or MTV is there to document every second.

This time "The Hills" has gone too far -- even for crappy, non-reality "reality" TV.The whole Mexico getaway, not telling anyone they were leaving, then having characters on the Monday episode discuss "where's Heidi and Spencer?" on top of the fact that the whole MTV crew just happened to be ready to follow them on their last-minute vacay and Heidi just happened to have a white dress perfect for a Mexican fake wedding -- it's all a bit much.

The two are downing tequila like it's going out of style, Pratt convinces a hammered Heidi (let's face it -- that was the only way she'd agree) to elope while there and the next thing you know, it's the next day and they're watching their fake-5th-grade-backyard-pillow-case-as-a-veil-type wedding on a video camera, complete with a mini boom microphone.

Really MTV? Really? Shame on you.

Let's just hope MTV's still providing the booze and the cameras when Speidi realizes they can't ride the faux-celebrity gravy train for much longer and are forced to get a real job at McDonald's.

"The McHills" -- that sounds about as viable as a spinoff as "Bromance."

-- Sara Boyd,

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Sing it with me! "Surf dudes with attitude ..."

Holy timing, Batman!

"California Dreams" hasn't been on my radar in ... well, it's been a long, long time since I felt the need to hear Sly Winkle say "Ba-BOOM!" again ... and let's just keep it at that.

But a hilarious Decider interview with non-"Office" spinoff star Aziz Ansari (below) unexpectedly put the show back on my radar, and suddenly I got wistful for the ol' Paradise Cove gang again.

OK, not really. Because even though I'm an unabashed follower and defender of corny Saturday morning '90s feel-goodery on "Saved by the Bell," the Dreams always felt like an ugly stepchild to me.

Volleyball phenom Tiffani starts taking horse roids so that her head will swell eight sizes like Barry Bonds? We already saw what pill popping did to Hot Sundae superstar Jessica Mertyl Spano.

Jake, Tony, Matt and Sly make a bet to see who can kiss new exchange student Samantha Woo first? Slater and Zack already beat you guys to the punch with rebel motorcycle girl, Tori.

Sly finally finds a date using a computer chat program, only to discover that the girl is blind? Nice try, but Zack kinda had the same revelation with a girl in a wheelchair.

Tiffani becomes principal for a day and tries to keep her friends from cutting school? C'mon ... this one doesn't even attempt to hide its theft from two instantly memorable "SBTB" episodes.

The list could go on and on -- christ, even "SBTB" used the band concept in the unwatchable Zack Attack episode -- making it pretty embarrassing how virtually every "Dreams" plot device was recycled from its big Bayside brother.

No wonder it was so forgettable. "Dreams" is the Oasis to "SBTB's" Beatles. Filmation's "Ghostbusters" to "SBTB's" "Real Ghostbusters." Fruity Hoops to "SBTB's" Toucan Sam approved Froot Loops.

But like all simple treasures linked to childhood, there's probably some scrap of nostalgia-based wonderment that can come out of the recent announcement that a DVD of "California Dreams: Seasons One and Two" is coming out March 31.

Yep, the week this blog mentions the long forgotten T-NBC show, there's a blurb written about a release date on Kinda freaky.

Now, "Dreams" purists might argue that the original lineup with Matt and Jenny Garrison from Season One is the show at its best. However, we should all agree that the show was always awful, but at least became more amusing when Fonz-wanna-be Jake arrived and couldn't properly hold or fake-play a guitar -- not to mention shocking when Sly ripped off his shirt for the first time and revealed he was more cut than Jean Claude Van Damme. (Seriously? What was up with that ab work?)

Ah, "California Dreams." You're finally getting your due, and perhaps, PERHAPS, if I see you on sale for $9.99, I'll pick you up and promptly regret the decision while choking down the horror.

I will say this much: all these years later, your transcendent theme song reaches into my soul in a way that "Saved by the Bell's" never could.

Enjoy the small, sweet taste of victory, "Dreams." It's the only legacy you've got.

(And yes, this theme song will be stuck in your head all day. Your welcome.)

-- Thomas Rozwadowski,

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Commercial Interruption: "Top Chef" Power Rankings revealed!

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). Wedding bells are in the air, and Thomas Rozwadowski, Sara Boyd and Malavika Jagannathan are ready to toss some mango sticky rice at Gail Simmons after last week's episode ... though Sara was apparently distracted by some unexpected "melons" at the ol' bridal shower table. A new "Top Chef" episode, with Martha Stewart, airs at 9 p.m., Wednesday on Bravo.

Thomas: Maybe it's just because last week's goodbye to Alex (we hardly knew ye, Andy Capp) was so telegraphed, but Wednesday's "Top Chef" episode was one of the finest in the short history of the show. Both challenges also made up for, in my humble opinion, the worst Elimination Challenge ever put forth -- last week's silly little made-for-TV experiment that led to Daniel signing off with "Bababooey." Yep ... that's just who you want to reach with your culinary expertise -- Howard Stern fans. (For the record, "Mushroom Surprise" Daniel also referred to his food as "splooge" this week, and he meant it as a compliment. Back in high school, my friends and I used to eat at Dairy Queen on occasion, and they served this side of white gravy with a chicken strips basket that looked like ... well, the same term was used and was not meant to be remotely flattering.)

Anyway, why not find out who can cook first before sticking them on the air to be the next Bobby Flay? I mean, as an avid watcher of Food Network, I understand what they were trying to do with an exploding medium. But "Top Chef" really dropped the ball with that challenge -- one that potentially cost a really good chef, Jamie, because she was putting the camera before her cooking, and rewarded Ariane for making ... salad.

Redemption, however, came in the form of that truly awesome Quickfire food tasting bracket showdown. The set up of Stefan Dougherty as uber-villain -- he'd be a great foil to John McClane in "Die Hard" -- was phenomenal. Sure, the bald Euro has some natural arrogance. But he can back it up with his knowledge and skill. And while I didn't agree with his button pushing of Gangsta Gene (I was hoping Gene might stab him in the dome), I like that he can be forceful with his opinions, but still have a sense of humor throughout most of the show. I'm really liking the strong personalities this season -- even Hosea is growing a pair -- but c'mon, how is Ariane pulling the wool over everyone's eyes? She's supposed to be gone by now!

Sara: I fully agree. Wait, what? I agree with T-Roz? The judges' praises of Ariane's continual half-assed cooking is making me a bit batty!

Seriously, why is this woman still on the show? She made a turkey -- how risque! She made a cold salad, basically chopped some veggies (and um, watermelon?) and threw some balsamic vinaigrette on it -- genius! She cooked lamb and nearly served it raw -- CLEAR STANDOUT WINNER! But I digress. I mean, after all, she didn't have a cookbook to do any of it. Such a brave, brave woman.

As much as Ariane's win last week bugged, the fact that Jamie got on her high horse stating everyone knew she was the clear winner, and telling Ariane moments before the announcement that "she wanted this win" was even more appalling. Oh, how the mighty fall. Going into this challenge, I was a big, big fan of Jamie -- the whole Stefan having a crush on the man-hating lesbian is just too entertaining (Does the word 'lesbian' mean anything to him?) -- but now, I feel like this is "Project Runway's" Kenley bubbling up. I love that she claims this challenge was hers to win but then boasted that her Indian carrot puree was subtle. Also, how is it fair that Ariane wins the challenge for "simply cooking lamb" when Fabio was punished for "simply making sea bass?" A little consistency, please judges!

Speaking of the judges -- since when is huuuuuuuge cleavage appropriate for a bridal shower? I mean, we all knew -- and Roz hoped -- that Gail would be showing off the goods, but man, no one will be looking at the bride if Padma shows up to the wedding with that rack of lamb.

Malavika: I think Gail's entire "look at me, I'm getting married" routine was a bit tiresome, personally. Buuuuuut, before I get carried away, let me spend a minute on the "Today" show episode.

It's no wonder Ariane wowed with tomato and watermelon salad because it's hard to believe the women of the "Today" show (aka Kathie Lee Gifford) are qualified to judge anything food-related beyond Rice-A-Roni and string cheese. By the way, it appears she did not showcase said salad on the "Today" show, opting instead for mushroom and herb goat cheese bruschetta, which is also something I could probably make and therefore doesn't qualify as "Top Chef" material.

Mad props have to be given to the Quickfire "taste test" challenge from last week that went down in an NCAA college basketball bracket form -- truly brilliant. The person who stood out most to me this week was Hosea, who has previously been sort of an under-the-radar chef, but learned to grow a pair and go head-to-head with Stefan in the final round. Of course there was Ariane's underserved win in the Elimination challenge, but Tom Collichio points out in his blog entry that if Jamie had simply taken credit for conceptualizing the entire dish, she would have tipped the scales in her favor. Because, let's be honest, carrot puree ain't rocket science and had the judges known Jamie was the team leader, they wouldn't have crowned Queen I-Use-A-Cookbook the winner for yet another episode.

Or would they?

Thomas: I think this is a nice segue into the first annual "Top Chef" Power Rankings (stealing from MJ's "Project Runway" idea, which stole from Bill Simmons' NFL idea.) Each week, we'll compete against one another by ranking the remaining 11 contestants, with simplified rules as follows. If someone in your top three wins the Quickfire, you get a point. If your No. 1 seed wins the Elimination Challenge, you get 5 points. Each week, you also have to designate someone to sit at the bottom, and if that person is eliminated, you also get 5 points. With Ariane, the Salad-Making Wonder Mom still around, strategy could get mighty interesting. No points for cleavage.

Winner at season's end gets a Gladware Basket O' Fun (OK, real prize outside bragging rights to be determined). "Top Chef" fans are welcome to provide their own rankings in the comments portion -- we'll score and keep you in the weekly mix, as well.

Let the ranking begin!

1. Stefan
2. Fabio
3. Jamie
4. Radhika
5. Leah
6. Hosea
7. Mimbo Jeff
8. Gangsta Gene
9. Melissa
10. Ariane
11. Crazy Eyes Carla

-- Thomas Rozwadowski,

1. Mimbo Jeff
2. Stefan
3. Hosea
4. Jamie
5. Fabio
6. Leah
7. Gene
8. Radhika
9. Ariane
10. Carla
11. Melissa

-- Malavika Jagannathan,

1. Fabio
2. Stefan
3. Hosea
4. Jeff
5. Leah
6. Jamie
7. Gene
8. Melissa
9. Ariane
10. Carla
11. Radhika

-- Sara Boyd,

1. Stefan
2. Jamie
3. Eet's a me! Faaaabio!
4. Hosea
5. Leah
6. Gene
7. Radhika
8. Jeff
9. Ariane
10. Carla
11. Melissa

-- Adam Reinhard,

1. Stefan Dougherty
2. Jamie "always a bridesmaid" Tanner
3. Fabio
4. Gene
5. Leah
6. Radhika
7. Jeff
8. Hosea
9. Melissa
10. Ariane
11. Carla -- After a near-miss on team new, I fear it's time for the ostrich to pack her knives and go ...

-- Friend of Channel Surfing, Kelly McBride,

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Jables crashes Dunder Mifflin

Perhaps to make up for last week's truly crap-tastic "Moroccan Christmas" episode -- feel free to disagree with me, folks, but that one was about as funny and clever as a real intervention -- "The Office" is soliciting help from Jack Black for its post-Super Bowl episode.

Michael Ausiello of Entertainment Weekly is exclusively reporting that the Tenacious D frontman will appear in the hour-long episode -- the lone detail being that he won't play himself. EW also reported last week that the Feb. 1 episode, which airs immediately following NBC's Super Bowl telecast, will revolve around the Dunder Mifflin staff roasting Michael Scott.

Also, you might recall that the "Untitled Office Spin-Off" was supposed to air after the Super Bowl, but those plans have since been scrapped (production on the show starts in mid-February.) The non-spinoff is supposed to have the look and feel of "The Office" since producers/writers Greg Daniels and Mike Schur are still in charge, but apparently there will not be a direct connection to the world of Dunder Mifflin.

In case you haven't been keeping tabs here, Amy Poehler of "Saturday Night Live," Aziz Ansari of "Human Giant" and former Jim Halpert love interest, Rashida Jones (not as Karen Fillipelli, however), have signed on. Ansari -- the racist fruit vendor on "Flight of the Conchords" -- recently told Decider: Chicago that the hush-hush nature of the show is deliberate, and leaking any information could get him in trouble.

"Right now, it’s me and Amy Poehler in it. They’re still casting and writing stuff. But yeah, I’ve met with them and I know a little bit about my character — I can’t really say that much about it. I’m really excited about it. I think it’s going to do great. I think it’s going to do much better than the 'That’s So Raven' spin-off 'Cory In The House,' which was cancelled after like one episode. So, as long as it beats 'Cory In The House,' I think we’ll be very proud.

"I don’t want to do anything ... that’ll make them boot me off the show or anything. We can talk about other spin-offs, like 'Family Matters' was a 'Perfect Strangers' spin-off. I guess the more appropriate model would be when [the] 'Saved By The Bell' producers made that show 'California Dreams.' It’s a similar show from the tone you know and love, but with a different world and a different group of people. I’m sure that’s exactly how the NBC people want it marketed. Yeah, it’s more like the 'Saved By The Bell'-'California Dreams' relationship rather than the 'Family Matters'-'Perfect Strangers' relationship."

Wow. It's not everyday someone so brilliantly references the enduring legacy of Sly Winkle and Tony Wicks.

Oh, c'mon, I wasn't the only one who watched that show!

UPDATE! UPDATE!: Entertainment Weekly is also reporting that Jessica Alba will be appearing on "The Office" post-Super Bowl spectacular.

-- Thomas Rozwadowski,


Friday, December 12, 2008

Hall and Oates + "The Daily Show"

Two great tastes that go great together.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go rock out to some "Private Eyes."

-- Thomas Rozwadowski,


Thursday, December 11, 2008

"Star Trek" movie could be latest hit -- or miss -- in TV to movie trend

Movies that came from TV shows roughly fall into three categories: the good, the bad and the ugly. Think "South Park: The Movie," "The Dukes of Hazzard" and "McHale's Navy." Seriously, they made a movie out of "McHale's Navy" and it starred Tom Arnold. That's all you need to know.

Some of my favorite movies – although perhaps not on the American Film Institute's best list – are movies that went to the silver screen from the small: "Mission Impossible," "The Fugitive" and the "South Park" movie. Even this year, we saw two television shows from different eras – "Get Smart" and "Sex and the City" – make excellent transitions to the multiplex. The worst of the bunch tend to fall short either by miscasting (Tom Arnold replacing the brilliant Ernest Borgnine as Lt. Cmdr. Quinton McHale) or adding more cheese to an already cheesy show best suited for the small screen ("Dukes of Hazzard").

In May the nerds of the world will rejoice (or not) when the latest "Star Trek" franchise -- a total reboot of the franchise by "Lost" and "Alias" creator J.J. Abrams -- hits theaters. Now, I'd be remiss if I didn't admit to my excitement for this movie and confess that I have been a "Star Trek" fan as long as I can remember. However, the last few movies (and a few of the original ones -- Star Treks I and V come to mind) have even left the most ardent fans wishing for some sort of Klingon death match to put them out of their misery.

Abrams -- who has confessed he preferred "Star Wars" as a kid in this "Entertainment Weekly" interview -- said his mission was to expand the appeal without ruining the optimism of the show. Easier said than done. Everyone knows that Trekkers (call them Trekkies and they will curse at you in Cardassian) are not an easy bunch to appeal, nor is it easy to sell the idea and feel of a 1960's TV show that came out before a man landed on the moon to a 21st century audience.

But I have faith.

Abrams has the appropriate credentials (sci-fi, television, action movies -- we'll forgive the screenplay credit for 1998's "Armageddon") to pull it off, so I predict -- perhaps selfishly so -- that this could be one of those "good" ones. Recasting and reimagining the cast of the original "Star Trek" (that's Capt. Kirk, Spock, Scotty to you non-Trekkers) as their younger, pre-Starship Enterprise selves is bold and, well, forgive the pun, an enterprising move. Fan or not, check out the trailer below:

There's always a chance that beyond some fancy action, it could still end up in the "bad" category... but unless it totally sucks it up, it's doubtful it'll stoop to "McHale" levels of recasting blasphemy. We'll just have to wait and see.

-- Malavika Jagannathan,

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Golden Globes (yawn) nominations (yawn) announced

Last year's Golden Globes telecast was scuttled by a little thing called the writers' strike. This year ... well, you can't really tell the difference between one awards season and another because THE SAME PEOPLE ARE ALWAYS NOMINATED FOR STINKIN' AWARDS.

Sorry (ahem), just had to get that off my chest.

Anyway, here's a prediction that "Mad Men" and "30 Rock" sweep the majors. And "True Blood" and "Californication?" Have you ever met anyone talk excitedly about either of those shows?

Here's the roll call on the TV side ...


In Treatment
Mad Men
True Blood


Sally Field, Brothers & Sisters
Mariska Hargitay, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
January Jones, Mad Men
Anna Paquin, True Blood
Kyra Sedgwick, The Closer


Gabriel Byrne, In Treatment
Michael C. Hall, Dexter
Jon Hamm, Mad Men
Hugh Laurie, House
Jonathan Rhys Meyers, The Tudors


30 Rock
The Office


Christina Applegate, Samantha Who?
America Ferrera, Ugly Betty
Tina Fey, 30 Rock
Debra Messing, The Starter Wife
Mary-Louise Parker, Weeds


Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock
Steve Carell, The Office
Kevin Connolly, Entourage
David Duchovny, Californication
Tony Shalhoub, Monk


A Raisin in the Sun
Bernard and Doris
John Adams


Judi Dench, Cranford
Catherine Keener, An American Crime
Laura Linney, John Adams
Shirley MacLaine, Coco Chanel
Susan Sarandon, Bernard and Doris


Ralph Fiennes, Bernard and Doris
Paul Giamatti, John Adams
Kevin Spacey, Recount
Kiefer Sutherland, 24: Redemption
Tom Wilkinson, Recount


Eileen Atkins, Cranford
Laura Dern, Recount
Melissa George, In Treatment
Rachel Griffiths, Brothers & Sisters
Dianne Wiest, In Treatment


Neil Patrick Harris, How I Met Your Mother
Denis Leary, Recount
Jeremy Piven, Entourage
Blair Underwood, In Treatment
Tom Wilkinson, John Adams

-- Thomas Rozwadowski,

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Sen. Fran Drescher? OH MY GAWD!

Fran Drescher, U.S. Senator.

It's like saying Kevin Federline, Pope.

As is already being widely discussed on the blogosphere, "The Nanny" star wants the world to know that she should replace Hillary Clinton as the junior senator from New Yawk -- er, New York -- should Clinton be confirmed as Secretary of State.

What, aside from a healthy case of self-delusion, qualifies the actress? "I've just been given the appointment of U.S. diplomat," she reportedly said recently, according to Huffington Post. "I just got back from a four-country European tour of duty. I believe next I'll be sent to the Middle East." Well, there you go. She believes she's getting sent to the Middle East. I guess if she believed she was going to the moon next week, she'd be standing outside NASA, demanding astronaut training.

I kid, of course, and say more power to her. If the star of "Stuart Saves His Family" can be a serious senatorial contender, why not the star of "Beautician and the Beast"? Drescher, who was born in Queens and therefore has plenty of New York street cred, has a history of pro-women's activism and lobbying for cancer research, which is commendable. Plus, with that fingernails-on-chalkboard voice of hers, she would be the go-to girl for filibusters. No way anyone could last 10 minutes of her reading Robert's Rules of Order.

Following that reasoning, however, her biggest stumbling block comes from New York Gov. David Patterson, who will be responsible for eventually picking Clinton's replacement: Dude may be blind, but he ain't deaf.

-- Adam Reinhard,


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

400 posts later, Channel Surfing Enters Dreaded Sophomore Season

Just one look at the cancellations this year of a number of second season mishaps is enough to prove why TV execs dread the sophomore year of any show. Even bright and promising shows can tank in year two, when writers and producers -- so giddy their show has been picked up for another year -- forget the formula that brought them there in the first place (ahem "Heroes" ahem) and replace it with mediocre blahness.

Not all TV shows are susceptible to the second-season syndrome. Some -- most notably "Friends" and "Sex and the City" -- actually made up for the tragic schmaltz of their first seasons (taking out the whole Carrie-talks-into-the-camera-a-la-Zack-Morris bit, for example, made "SATC" actually watchable). Other second seasons actually stand out as the best of the bunch -- the quotable second season of "The Office," "The Sopranos," Buffy The Vampire Slayer" and "The West Wing."

Four hundred and some odd posts ago, our forefathers came to this nation... er... we launched this blog. On Nov. 11, 2007, "Channel Surfing" was born in the middle of a writers' strike. Our very own writers' strike -- coupled with our laziness -- is responsible for the month-long delay in this anniversary post where we muse on the possibilities for our second season, using the various gimmicks we've previously witnessed on the small screen with a few twists of our own.

The Flashback Episode

Malavika: The gang -- all suffering from the same bout of short-term amnesia -- forget their greasy Chinese leftovers in the office fridge. Coincidentally, they choose the day and time of the building-wide electrical upgrade, leaving them stranded in the conference room with nothing but white boards, markers and day-old lo mein to keep them from killing each other. (Also this explains their love for "Top Chef").

An epic game of "truth or dare" emerges as the best option to while away the time (over Adam's suggestion of a Lord of the Flies-esque pig roast that is immediately dismissed as lame) -- but there's one catch. The "truths" have to be things they've never revealed before. Genius! Meanwhile, the gang also has to prevent Sara from accidentally ingesting whiteboard markers, which her hunger-related delirium makes her believe are actually breadsticks.

The results are shocking as each character reveals a past. Tom apparently spent five years on the street as a hobo named "Ed," who got his big break designing Packers memorabilia from aluminium cans. Kendra was once known as the queen of international jig dancing, but had to give up her crown after a judging scandal (blame the East Germans). Sara may or may not have accidentally engineered a coup in an undisclosed Asian nation (no fault of her own -- someone mistook her for the Dalai Lama). Adam was a stand-up comedian, who lost his chops when an audience member's pet monkey attacked him during a set (he still has nightmares). Malavika was a 80s child star discovered on "Star Search," but had to change her name and abandon her promising career for IRS tax evasion reasons.

But the biggest reveal is the ending... turns out the whole thing was just a fantastical dream in the head of a hobo named "Ed," who had just feasted on some leftover Chinese food and was sleeping next to a snowglobe with the Press-Gazette building in it.

Unexpected Romance?

Sara: On a later deadline than usual, it was a scarce newsroom when catastrophe hits and Thomas and Adam find themselves bustin' booty to try and save Channel Surfing from a nasty virus that threatens to delete every post ever published. No more witty rants about "Top Chef's" Lisa. No more long, boring analysis of "Lost." Nothing.

Panic ensues as the two work to stop the virus before all is lost. As Roz fiercely types html code, Adam looks over his shoulder yelling, "Close tag! a href! a href!" Soon, the tension begins to boil over. Adam reaches out in an effort to right click, then stops, as his large man hand gently graces T-Roz's small Asian fingers. The two lock eyes. Adam brushes a stray piece of hair from Tom's face. Suddenly, Malavika shows up, as she had forgotten her notes from the Village of Suamico's budget meeting and needed them to help her fall asleep that night.

Afraid they've just been caught making goo-goo eyes at each other, Thomas plays it off and says the two were working on an intense "Pushing Daisies" post that required "soul searching." MJ buys their lie and scampers off, thinking nothing of it. The two breathe a sigh of relief, update the computer's Norton Anti-Virus and head home. The rest of the season, the newly sparked couple play a coy game of "will-they-won't-they" in the way of eye contact and facial expressions.

The time travel plot arc

Thomas: Unable to capture any real sense of mystery during Channel Surfing’s first year, the rest of the blogging crew places Thomas Rozwadowski’s beloved iPod in the middle of Walnut Street with the hope that he’ll get hit by a car and experience “Life on Mars”-style/coma-induced time travel while trying to retrieve it. This wacky new time-bending convention should also make up for the disastrous March addition of Sara Boyd, who readers found to be more annoying than Cousin Oliver on "The Brady Bunch."

Amazingly, the car crash hunch works, though Malavika, in all her evil glory, replaces David Bowie with Donny Osmond as the soundtrack to Thomas’ "flashback" at the moment of impact. Now in a 1973 Press-Gazette newsroom, the intrepid journalist has to figure out how to use a typewriter and can’t rely on Google to get his news, though he's also relieved to discover that no one knows who Brett Favre is and he'll never have to read another news blurb about how he sneezed or put a decapitated moose head in someone’s locker.

This whole "blog" mumbo-jumbo also draws raised eyebrows from co-workers who are too busy chain smoking and curling their thick 70s era porn mustaches to care. Plus, with personal computers more than a decade away, there’s no way to communicate any of Thomas’ witty banter, anyway.

Instead, he resigns himself to watching the Watergate hearings – it’s better than “The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour” – when suddenly H.R. Haldeman adopts Adam Reinhard’s voice and tells him that the Channel Surfing blog is in danger because of Gannett cutbacks and his genius is needed in 2008.

Is he really in 1973? Is he in a hospital bed dreaming all of this? Thomas must determine what’s real and imaginary, and ultimately, whether 2008 trumps 1973. After all, a zany sitcom idea about a guy tricking his landlord into thinking he’s gay so he can live with two gorgeous women is still four years away ... and might just be the golden ticket he’s been searching for.

Super special sweeps week guest stars!

Adam: 1) Having learned of the Channel Surfers’ venomous, but justified, lambasting of her cooking, personality, and ass face, "Top Chef" also-ran and water buffalo look-a-like Lisa Fernandes storms into the Press-Gazette newsroom, thirsting for revenge. She challenges the gang to a cook-off, to be judged by "Top Chef" host Tom Colicchio, the Foo Fighters, and President-elect Barack Obama. The catch is they can only use the microwaves in the lunchroom, which have been around since Eisenhower was in office. Lisa makes grilled shrimp with pickled shrimp salad, a shrimp cocktail, and for dessert, shrimp ice cream. Our heroes zap a bag of microwave popcorn, and win in a landslide.

2) With the touring production of "Wicked" enjoying a successful run in Appleton, it is announced that "Pushing Daisies”" cutie-pie Kristen Chenoweth will reprise her role of Galinda, which she originated on Broadway, for one night only. This sends Tom into a kind of fevered, slathering frenzy, and he immediately sets off to meet his pint-sized crush. After multiple attempts to gain access to the Appleton PAC’s backstage — including run-ins with security guards, several disguise changes (flower delivery guy, pizza delivery guy, the Tin Man), and a mishap involving trying to swing from the rafters into her dressing room only to get tangled in sand bags — Tom finally finds himself face-to-face with his lady love. The two share a touching duet of the theme from "Joanie Loves Chachi."

3) Oprah! (Who cares what the plot is? It’s Oprah!)

4) "Monk" star and Green Bay native Tony Shalhoub drops by for an interview with the Channel Surfers. All is going well until the room goes dark, someone screams, and when the lights come back, Adam is dead. The four remaining Surfers (and suspects), Tom, Malavika, Sara, and Kendra, urge Shalhoub to use the detective skills he’s surely learned by osmosis on his show to find the killer. Shalhoub agrees, and in the pursuing investigation, we find out the shocking truth: He has no idea what he’s doing. Real detectives are called in, and it turns out Adam simply choked on a cheese Ritz Bit. Shalhoub is ticketed for impersonating a police officer.

Second seasons are unpredictable -- they can be genius, they can be pitiful, they can leave the audience wondering why the networks decided to replace the show's writers with monkeys. Stay tuned to this blog to find out where this gang is headed this year.

-- Malavika Jagannathan,, Sara Boyd,, Thomas "Hobo" Rozwadowski,, Adam Reinhard,

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