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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Are you ready for some fuzzballs? It's the Puppy Bowl!

Having trouble mustering up any enthusiasm for what is sure to be a snoozer of a Super Bowl this Sunday between the Arizona Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Steelers?

Yeah, so are we. Forget the commercials, the less-than-witty banter from John Madden ... and, well, don't even bother watching the game. The real action on Super Bowl Sunday — the rough-and-tumble, fur-flying action — is at Puppy Bowl V. Airing on Animal Planet, Puppy Bowl has everything the Super Bowl does — referees, penalties, fleas — but more importantly, what it doesn't: namely a motley crew of adorable, fluffy puppies with big eyes and an endless supply of energy and cuteness. (You would never try cooing "Who's a good boy?" to Troy Polamalu, would you? He'd break your head open.)

As you may have guessed from the "V" after the title, this two-hour event is in its fifth year on the network, and gaining in popularity. Last year more than 8 million people tuned in for Puppy Bowl IV and its three consecutive airings, according to Multichannel News. Because really, who doesn't love puppies? We know there are some sad, lonely individuals out there who may not like dogs, but puppies? Everybody loves watching them tumble and bumble over each other, scoot around on their bellies after a chew toy, make doo-doo on the carpet ... OK, maybe not that last one, but luckily the Puppy Bowl is prepared for such an occurrence. If a puppy player relieves him- or herself on the "field," a timeout is called a referee comes is to clean up.

Otherwise the puppies are just allowed to be puppies. They run around, bite each other, play with toys, drink water (there are cameras everywhere following the action — even one at the bottom of the water bowl.) And these aren't just any puppies, either. Starting this year, each little cutie comes recruited direct from a local shelter, and are "free agents looking for a good home," according to Animal Planet's Puppy Bowl site. (Also on that site, you can meet the players, vote for your favorite, and meet Pepper the Parrot, who will be kicking the game off with her rendition of the National Anthem.)

And of course, don't forget to stick around for the half-time show, when the puppies hit the locker-kennels, and the kittens take the field. It's almost too much cuteness to take.


Puppy Bowl V starts at 2 p.m. Sunday on Animal Planet, and will be reshown all night.

Malavika Jagannathan,, Adam Reinhard,

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"She's gay, she's straight, she's gay, she's straight -- Just Pick a Sexual Preference and Go With It"

There's a new trend happening in television. One that is not only completely unrealistic and a shallow attempt at roping in the ratings, but, well ... just flat out bugs me.

To explain this new trend, let's take a trip down Reality Lane. Now, I am a heterosexual woman. I dig the menfolk -- always have, always will. I cannot imagine reaching a point in my life where I would think, "I'm sick of the Oscar Meyer's ... Maybe I ought to try being a lesbian." Not that there's anything wrong with that. I just can't see it happening.

At least not to the ridiculous and ever-frequent occurrences that it's been portrayed on the ol' boob tube. It's the classic case of mid-winter blues for television. They reach a point in a show's history where there's not a whole lot left for them to try out, so instead of canceling they figure, "Hmm, who can we turn into a lesbian?"

Before the ol' sexual identity switch, viewers had gotten used to previous TV gimmicks such as the dramatic untimely death, the long-lost child rediscovered and the classic uber attractive "new girl" to boost the ratings for pre-teen zit poppers. And now, it seems the tables have turned. This sexual preference switch-a-roo is catching on like wildfire. Ratings surge when a character dabbles in their sexual identity -- but the initial switch is always questionable.

Case-in-point: Allow me to take you down the hetero-to-homo hall of fame ...

Subject #1: Carol Willick, "Friends"
It only took one short, and presumably, lame marriage to Mr. Ross Gellar to have Carol Willick -- and later, Carol Willick-Bunch -- running for the ladies. To be fair, "Friends" had a different approach to this sexual confusion conclusion. Instead of tossing the switch mid-season, they started the show off with this tasty little tidbit. Episode numero uno of "Friends," featuring a different Carol than the one that ended the show, revealed that Ross "never knew she was a lesbian" and follows him as he deals with the embarrassment of his first divorce. Sure, over time stereotyped clues to Carol's eventual lesbianism emerge -- she liked beer in a can, she wore lots of flannel, she spent a lot of time with her "special friend" from the gym -- but really, it's still difficult to swallow that at one time she would've been perfectly straight and happily married. I understand the whole 45 years later, she's still single and just looking for some companionship but in this case, it seems she was a happy man-lovin' woman and then took a 180. Whatever the case, props to "Friends" -- they could arguably be one of the first to pull the switch.

Subject #2: Susan Ross, "Seinfeld"
Susan Ross began her journey on "Seinfeld" -- and with George Costanza -- while George and Jerry were busy pitching their show "about nothing" to NBC. George thought she was flirty and cute ... yadda yadda yadda, the two started dating. The relationship ended after a brazen George planted one on glasses-wearing Susan during an NBC meeting -- leading to Susan's termination with the company. The two rekindled for a bit before nose-picking George decided he wanted to make her break up with him. The next time George runs into Miss Ross, whatta ya know, she's decided to go gay. While George claims "he drove her to lesbianism" it doesn't last long as charming Kramer eventually sweeps Susan's partner off her feet. With her mortal enemy stealing her woman, Susan's lesbianism "doesn't stick," according to George, and she ends up back with the bald, stocky man in an engagement. And then she dies. Now in this case, you could make the argument that instead of the typical attempt at ratings, this lesie intervention was purely for the comedy.

Subject #3: Dr. Callie Torres, "Grey's Anatomy"
When Callie Torres rolled into Seattle Grace Hospital she began as the apple of George O'Malley's eye. It only took about a month and a half of will they, won't they -- she likes him, he's too shy -- for it to finally come about but eventually the two were a canoodling couple. Sure, some fans didn't like the fact that Callie seemed much too "beastly" for dear, quiet George ... and yeah, eventually Izzie Stevens stuck her big blond head in the way of their love and Callie has a one-night-stand with Dr. McSteamy but for a good chunk of time Callie was in love with a man and completely heterosexual. Cue Dr. Erica Hahn, resident lesbian. Callie becomes confused when she and Erica become close friends but in an effort to prove her hetero-ness, she continues doing the dirty with Dr. McSteamy. Now, granted this was about the time I stopped watching "Grey's" but friends who, only Lord knows why, keep watching say Callie has now turned into a full-blown lesbian who after the FCC booted her lover Dr. Hahn is now lusting after some young intern. But of course, all the while keeping McSteamy in her McBed. Talk about sexual confusion.

Subject #4: Marissa Cooper, "The O.C."
Arguably one of the most famous hetero-turned-lesbo characters was Miss Marissa Cooper, the all too skinny drama queen of Orange County. Let's face it, Marissa was the prime reason an equal number of dudes (my friends, included) and gals tuned into the show every week. She started out as a wannabe goody-two-shoes kind of girl befriending the new kid in school and being the resident go-to for her friends' drama. But as her crazy mother kept riding the crazy train, Marissa gave in to her bad girl side. And the ratings skyrocketed. Interesting that Marissa's bi-curious-ness just so happened to start up in the midst of sweeps week ... how convenient. Acting out against society, her mother, her ex-boyfriend, Marissa befriends and becomes seriously involved with Miss Alex Kelly. Though short lived -- shocker! -- the relationship between the two will forever go down in TV history as one of the more controversial sexual identity switches of all time.

Subject #5: Samantha Jones, "Sex and the City"
Never to ever be outdone or outsexed, the ever-promiscuous Samantha Jones drops a bomb on her fellow galpals when she announces plainly, "Yes, I'm a lesbian." After a long, loooong line of sampling different men, Miss Jones decides to take on a Spanish lover in the form of a woman artist named Maria. Not only does she decide to go to a full blown lesbian, but perhaps even more shocking, she decides to commit herself into a monogamous relationship. For a woman who loves men, and I mean, really looooves men, it seems a bit too far fetched even for Sam. Or as Carrie puts it "You go to bed one night and wake up the next morning and poof, you're a lesbian?" And yes, it IS like saying you've always wanted to be a shoe, and poof, now you're a shoe! Clearly Samantha's quick switch provided quite a bit of controversy in her relationships -- just because she says she's got a girlfriend now, that doesn't keep the boys from knocking on her door for a boot-tay call. But just like last year's Manolo Blahniks, Sam's womanizing went out of style in a hurry.

Subject #6: Jodi Funkhouser, "Curb Your Enthusiasm"
After a long hiatus from television, "Blossom's" Mayim Bialik returned to the boob tube to play Jodi Funkhouser, the lesbian daughter of Marty Funkhouser -- yay! Super Dave! -- on Larry David's annoying hit "Curb Your Enthusiasm." I'll admit, I can only take this show in small doses because while it's hilarious, the sheer volume of Larry David situations is too much for my blood pressure to handle. But I digress. Larry knows Miss Funkhouser only as his friend's lesbian daughter -- it's like the girl has a big tattoo that says "LESBO" across her forehead rendering Larry useless to think about anything else while talking with her. So it comes as quite the shock when Marty tells Larry his daughter is now dating a man -- a fact that brings joy to Mr. David, even though he's a self-proclaimed No. 1 supporter of the lesbians. Larry tries to scare off Jodi's new boytoy by telling him he's got quite the high-heeled shoes to fill, questioning whether or not he can compete with someone who "knows the equipment" firsthand in order to get back "in" with the lesbians. Needless to say, Jodi ends up back with the girl crowd and Larry regains his admiration, and free desserts, from the lesbian community.

Subject #7: Meg Griffin, "The Family Guy"
In the episode "Brian Sings and Swings," the producers finally tackled what we were all thinking for countless years of "Family Guy." Is Meg Griffin gay? Sure, she is constantly mocked for being the ugly child and OK, the butch stocking cap is a little much, but in the end it turns out -- no, Meg is just desperately lonely. When it comes to guys, Meg fails in all departments so when a new lesbian named Sarah befriends Meg, thinking she was a lesbian and invites her to join her Lesbian Alliance at school, Meg jumps at the chance for friends. She even goes as far as forcing a kiss on her new girlfriend Sarah but alas, her hetero ways and Tom Tucker crush make her stop short. So, it's not a true switch of sexual identity, but it's as sad and pathetic as one could get and therefore, deserves a place on this list.

Subject #8: Liz Cruz, "Nip/Tuck"
As one of the late comers to the sexual identity game, Liz has done the confusion rollercoaster proud. It's been a rocky road for Miss Liz and her lady lover ways -- she's had a fatal attraction that left her with one less kidney and fell in love with a fitness psycho that wanted her to go under the knife to become more attractive. So it's safe to say, Liz could've had enough with the ladies. However, when Christian takes advantage of a friend's support, Liz finds herself on a journey wondering if it's men she really wants or just Christian. Turns out, it's just Christian. So, to sum up -- she still considers herself a lesbian, still loves women, but would be in a relationship with a man if that man was Christian Troy. Hmm ... I'm lost.

Subject #9: Julia McNamara, "Nip/Tuck"
OK, "Nip/Tuck" I think you've ridden the lesbian gravy train for long enough. You have to keep some of your female characters straight! This isn't the "L Word." To be fair, Julia's love confusion came long before Liz's and in the reversed order. Julia, who's been married to Sean and had a love child with Christian, has been romantically tied to everyone from a midgit nanny to a much younger college student. In season five, Julia moves on to new grounds and starts a relationship with a crazy woman, and real life Mrs. DeGeneres, Olivia Lord, played by Portia de Rossi. Needless to say, the switch doesn't bode well with Mr. McNamara and in the end, Julia's love affair with Olivia doesn't end in matrimonial bliss. When Olivia goes in for some lifting and tucking, she ends up dying on the operating table. Julia claims it's all Sean's fault -- even though a secret usage of anti-depressants are to blame -- and begins yet another round of the pity party. I give her one more episode before she's back to her man-loving ways.

Subject #10: Ellen Morgan, "Ellen"
I nearly didn't include the famous 1994 sitcom that broke the mold for homosexuality on television but only because this was a true and pure switch. Ellen DeGeneres played more or less herself as Ellen Morgan except one tiny difference -- she was supposed to be a straight woman. After all, network TV would've frowned at such a controversial lesbian main character. But eventually, Ellen just couldn't play it straight anymore. She came out pubicly on the Oprah show and shortly after, her character Ellen Morgan followed suit. In this case, the sexuality preference switch doesn't fit the standard and will always be seen as a historic and honest step forward in television history, rather than a cheap ploy for ratings boosting.

There you have it. Ten examples -- and that's just off the top of my head. Did I miss your favorite straight gal turned lesbian lover? Keep the list going and let's show these TV executives something they're already well aware of -- they've got no creativity.

-- Sara Boyd,

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Commercial Interruption: No cheeeeese? Eeeeees-a Weeesconseeen, Greeeeeen Bayyyyy!

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). The all-stars challenge always provides a good show, but Channel Surfing bloggers Sara Boyd, Thomas Rozwadowski, Malavika Jagannathan, and Adam Reinhard couldn't have imagined a topsy-turvy round of "TC" goodness like last night's Super Bowl cook-off even if they had just eaten Fabio's delicious monkey ass. There's much to say about last night's episode -- one that left Stefan scrambling for forgiveness and Crazy-Eyes Carla walking away with an unexpected win. So pop in that Jock Jams Vol. 2 CD and let's get ready to ruuuuuummmmbbbbllllleeeeee ...

Sara: Wow. Wa-wa-wow. I mean, did I just watch an episode of bizarro "Top Chef" where nothing's as it seems? Winners are actually losers and crazy-eyed ostriches rule the world? All I needed was to see Tommy Boy Colicchio with a full, sweeping mane, Toby Young ask what an analogy was, and Padma announce the challenge as a stout, 4-foot-tall midget. As upside down as last night's episode played out, more than anything -- it was totally awesome. Bringing back the likes of foul-mouthed Andrew, fedora-toting Spike and Chunk Miguel also brought a little heat from the kitchen. Finally, these cooks had the fire under their bellies to try and produce good food and more or less, beat the snot out of the cocky all stars.

Clearly, some did well -- if Crazy Eyes bugs her eyes out like that after a win again, I guarantee they'll shoot from her Sideshow Bob noggin and smack Toby Young straight in the yellow-tinted sunglasses. And some did ... well, they sucked it up. Seeing a bottom three comprised of Fabio ("oh nooo, not-a Faaaabio!"), Stefan, ahem, the, er, unstoppable? and Mimbo Jeff was heartbreaking.

Even Fabio's clear advantage of having Green Bay ... where we have the freshest and, um, most delicious food ever ... nearly had him packing his knives and heave-ho'ing. And really, as much as I heart dear Fabio, overcooking venison is a crime -- it turns it from a delicious game dish to meat-flavored chewing gum. But hey, more props to Fabs for utilizing our staple -- cheeeeeeeese. A poor attempt to incorporate it, but an attempt nonetheless, which is more than I can say for Spike. When all was said and done, it was magical, John Tesh-erific Mimbo Jeff who was sent tossing his blonde locks and catching a taxi back to the Dilido Beach.

So Thomas, we all failed in the power rankings -- our collective bottom choice was the winner and our coined unstoppable man was nearly stopped. Where do we go from here?

Thomas: It was rather poetic that we've become so enamored with Fabio and he gets "stuck" with our barren little wasteland as his chef-tastic NFL city. I hear ya on the cheese, Boyd. But no beer? Lambeau drunks know that you always get the masses to scream for you by getting wasted first, then taking off your top, right? Where was the showmanship? Strictly amateur hour.

Seriously though, I was really on the edge of my seat during last night's episode, and I guess that's why I've been enjoying this season so damn much. I honestly don't know who's going home nowadays. When you throw Stefan into that volatile mix -- we'll give him a one-week hiccup because of overconfidence, and he did still win the Quickfire -- all bets are off. And while I shouldn't give Fabio a free pass on charm alone, I still don't want him to go home before Crazy Eyes or Ho-Hum Leah the Ho. I mean, really, what's up with this constant sleepwalking? First Radhika and now Leah ... "oh, yawn, I don't know what to do with oats and fish ... hmm, yawn, I made some New York strip 'cuz it's simple." Fabio's been absolutely uninspired since, well, pretty much this whole season, but man, there's a lot of dead weight still floating around. And yes, I say that even with Carla earning an upset victory. She's a nice enough chef, but man, I can't take the bug eyes and in-your-face enthusiasm anymore.

Count me as one who'd rather sleep in a "bunky bed" than jump on the Carla Love Bandwagon. Ba-DOW, Ba-DOW!

Boy, did we all end up with some monkey ass on our faces during Power Rankings, eh, MJ? You seemed to have a soft spot for Mimbo Jeff. Where did the Dilido Dynamo go wrong?

Malavika: I made the mistake of googling "monkey ass" earlier (I do not recommend this), but I can assuredly tell you that no fried banana is going to help our power rankings out this week. We're just a bunch of empty clam shells.

I was an early fan of Mimbo Jeff because I felt he had the kind of creativity that went a step further than "like, I fried some fish crusted in oats" Leah or "I made a watermelon salad" Ariane. Where he went wrong -- and he admitted as much -- is that instead of focusing that creativity into one dish, he was all over the place.

One complaint about last night is that if "Top Chef" producers really wanted to give our chefs a run for their money, they would have picked a few chefs from previous seasons who were the real heavyweights. Instead, we got mediocre Nikki (blue-tinted-glasses), twice-eliminated Andrea and some chick I couldn't even remember (Camille?).

Props for bringing back Andrew -- whose killer impression of Stefan was priceless -- and fedora-lovin' Spike, but couldn't we have gotten a few heavy rollers to spice up the competition? Can you imagine Stefan taking on Hung or Hosea in a head to head challenge with Stephanie? Or Fabio competing against Lisa? "Deees ees not a-esticky rice, eeets-a monkey ass!"

I know we all love him, but does Fabio still have a chance?

Adam: Of course Fabio has a chance, and here's why: He's the only likable character the show has. And yes, I said "character," because while "Top Chef" is a competition show, it's still a TV show, and the producers aren't stupid. The same way they kept "I Can't Think of Any Other Mean Names to Call Her" Lisa around last season for the infusion of drama her can't-cook-a-lick ass provided, they're going to hold onto the Italian Scallion at least until the final four. Because he's funny, he's charming, and, judging from our reactions to last night episode, he's the one we want to see go home the least. I'll agree: Stefan deserves to win. But Fabio doesn't deserve to lose. Hell, he deserves his own damn show.

Thomas: Adam, when did you become so cynical about reality TV produc ... er, nevermind.

Stefan is still unstoppable, but I also think Jamie has a legit shot at winning this thing. From the looks of Hosea's mea culpa about "SkankGate," he doesn't stick around too long. But ever since the raw scallop smackdown, Jamie has been confident, strong and slightly under-the-radar.

Also, here's my theory about Leah. She needs to get laid. It's that simple. It's like the "Seinfeld" episode where Elaine doesn't have sex with her boyfriend, so the garbage bags start piling up in her head. She was on the verge ... oh so close with that kiss ... and then, ARRRGGGGHHHHH, deep pangs of regret. Now she's swimming in a lost sea of fish and oatmeal.

Come to think of it, with all that wink, wink stuff and his "making babies" shirt, Stefan needs to get laid too. Actually, according to Costanza logic, that would hurt him. Hmmmm ...

Stay tuned: Dismal power rankings report next week ...

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

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

DVD M.I.A.: Shows we miss, boxed sets we want

It used to be that owning entire seasons of your favorite TV show meant one of two things: Setting the tape each week, which of course you would forget to do for that very important episode where, say, Ross and Rachel break up for the umpteenth time. Or, you'd have to buy a VHS collection the size of two or three dictionaries, and even then, unless you were a huge "Babylon 5" fan, the selection was pretty poor.

Thanks to the wonderful DVD, we can own entire seasons — entire series — and re-watch them again and again (and again and again). Shows we never thought we'd see again, shows long since abandoned by syndication and forgotten. Even some shows that make you question who on earth ever watched that in the first place ("Moonlight" springs instantly to mind) see the light of day.

Which got us here at Channel Surfing wondering about some shows conspicuously missing in action from the DVD shelves. They could be shows loved by millions or cherished by a select few. Either way, they're unavailable ... but we want to watch them NOW.


Riddle me this: How is Adam West’s drugged-out rendition of the “Bat-tusi” (it was spiked orange juice, people!) not being enjoyed by legions of “Dark Knight” junkies who love comic books so much, they went out in public dressed as Heath Ledger’s Joker?

Copyright issues between Fox Home Entertainment and Warner Bros. have kept Batman’s ‘60s-era cape and cowl under precious lock and key in a dank Batcave far, far away. And while the show had its syndication hey-day on Family Channel and TV Land, with Bat-mania at its peak thanks to Christopher Nolan’s last two blockbusters, now would be the time to capitalize on some campy Caped Crusader nostalgia. (The fact that I referenced "spiked orange juice" is reason enough to enjoy all the wink, wink buffoonery.)

Among the memorable guest stars posing as nefarious Bat-villains: Frank Gorshin, Burgess Meredith, Milton Berle, Vincent Price, Roddy McDowall, Liberace, Art Carney and Zsa Zsa Gabor. And who can forget Cesar Romero painting over his mustache as the Joker, or best of all, Julie Newmar as the salacious, skin-tight Catwoman? Talk about the purrrrrr-fect introduction to puberty. Whoever is responsible for the bulk of this long-term DVD wrangling definitely deserves a POW, BIFF, ZOKK to the head.

Thomas Rozwadowski,

"Eight Is Enough"

Before Willie Aames was Buddy to the former Chachi on “Charles on Charge,’’ before he entered a 12-step program for drug abuse, before he morphed into superhero Bibleman, before he was on “Celebrity Fit Club,’’ he was Tommy Bradford on “Eight Is Enough.’’

And he was hot. Way hotter than his bro David. Hotter even than his bro-in-law and baseball stud Merle “The Pearl.’’

Tommy was the bad boy of the eight Bradford siblings. He played in a rock band, ran for prom queen, got drunk with his underage buddies and knocked up his girlfriend (Rosanna Arquette).

I miss him – miss the whole Bradford bunch, as a matter of fact. Their family drama was must-see viewing from 1977 to 1981. The story of widowed husband (Dick Van Patten), his new wife Abby (Betty Buckley) and their eight kids (David, Mary, Joannie, Nancy, Susan, Tommy, Elizabeth and Nicholas) was like “The Brady Bunch’’ – except based in reality … at least a little. It tackled all those Judy Blume-type teen issues that seemed so juicy at the time. With eight kids, you could see yourself in at least one of them, whether the brainy Mary or tomboy Susan or artsy Joanie.

The show was nominated for Emmys, but yet, nearly three decades after the final episode aired, still no “Eight Is Enough’’ on DVD. Fans are way overdue for that group hug of the big family football huddle scene in the opening credits. Oh, and the theme song! A full-blown sappy mess sung by none other than Grant Goodeve (David): "There’s a plate of homemade wishes on the kitchen windowsill. And eight is enough to fill our lives with love."

I’m tearing up right now. It’s time to give us our Tommy back — before he donned the Bibleman purple Spandex.

Kendra Meinert,

"Head of the Class"

Even though I watched it all the time as a kid, I don't remember much about "Head of the Class." I recall that it aired in the mid-to-late 80s, was set at a school, featured a pre-Mike Tysonized Robin Givens, and star Howard Hesseman was cooler than Jordache high tops. And, if my memory is to be trusted, it was pretty dang funny.

Research tells me that "HOTC" was set at a fictional Manhattan high school and focused on a special class of smart kids — members of the Individualized Honors Program — along with their new history teacher, an out-of-work actor and, let's face it, hippie. (I mean, c'mon, just look at Hesseman, with his shaggy hair and droopy eyelids. You know they were totally playing off his "WKRP" Johnny Fever persona for this.) He teaches the kids all about the value of thinking for themselves, individuality, and probably how to roll the perfect joint. (Again, my memory is fuzzy.)

It was never considered a top-tier sitcom, and probably benefits from the same rose-colored nostalgia that makes me revere "Perfect Strangers" so damn much. But that doesn't explain the lack of a DVD set, in a world where even "What's Happening Now!" has gotten it's due. Perhaps if it had a Rerun or Urkel-esque breakout character, it would be higher on the release schedule. What it did have, however, was an episode where the class puts on a school production of "Little Shop of Horrors," and, lacking proper funding, are reduced to using a sock puppet for the killer plant. THAT I remember, and would sure like to see again.

Adam Reinhard,

"So You Think You Can Dance"

Yes, I am very aware that if "SYTYCD" was available on DVD, I would most likely be the only person to purchase it. That said, it seriously needs to be on DVD already. While most reality television plays to shock and awe factors — rendering most repeat viewings useless — this show is different.

A dude spins on his head for two minutes straight and you're telling me that you wouldn't want to see that again?! Or what about Crazy McCrazerton -- known to his fans simply as "Sex" -- are you saying that you wouldn't watch his failed attempt at dancing during the auditions at every family gathering?

Youtube-ing videos of my favorite dances used to be part of my pastime. Albeit, a very lame part, but thanks to copyright infringement, all my favorites have been deleted, forcing me to get back to work. No more "Sexy Back" dance, no more Travis Wall and no more Wade Robson routines.

So c'mon Fox, you love to make some dinero, so what gives? They go as far as hosting a tour from the show that includes favorite dances from the season, so why not put it all on DVD? It's just good business sense. So to all the Fox producers still not convinced, I have just two words: "Cha-Ching." (OK, so that's a one-word hyphenate, the point is you'll be crapping money, so just do it.)

— Sara Boyd,

"The Wonder Years"

I hated Winnie Cooper.

I’m sure it had something to do with that inexplicable crush on Kevin Arnold (Fred Savage), but to this day, I find Danica McKellar’s Winnie Cooper selfish, annoying and just too frickin’ perfect. But I do wonder if I’d be more sympathetic to Winnie now that I’ve gotten over my retrospectively depressing crush. Let me pull out my “Wonder Years” DVDs to find out… oh wait… I can’t because there aren’t any.

The greatest coming-of-age drama ever to grace the small screen could be stuck in not-yet-out-in-DVD limbo for eternity, thanks to an unwinnable battle over entertainment rights. “The Wonder Years” used more than 300 tracks of music – including the signature opening track of Joe Cocker’s “With a Little Help From My Friends” – and it’s doubtful all of those rights will be released. The Web site has “Wonder Years” listed as the second most requested show on DVD and a used copy of the “Best of the Wonder Years” DVD is selling for $76 on A USED copy! (Buyers beware: There are a thousand bootleg copies of the show being hawked online but the official version of the complete series has yet to be released).

As much as I’d love to see this show on DVD, I don’t want the “WKRP in Cincinnati” version (“WKRP” was famously released on DVD after a battle over music rights with most of the original music dubbed over).

Would the “Wonder Years” bring us as much nostalgic wonder as the show did when it first aired without the music of the 60s and 70s it represented? Would Kevin and Winnie’s first kiss – set to “When a Man Loves a Woman” (Percy Sledge) – mean as much? Would the tearing down of the tree at Harpers Woods be as sentimental without the Judy Collins cover of the Beatles’ “In My Life” setting the scene? Hell, would the “Wonder Years” be the “Wonder Years” without Joe Cocker singing the opening credits?

Until the music industry gets its collective head out of their rears and the series is released as it originally aired, I’m perfectly willing to continue hating Winnie Cooper.

Malavika Jagannathan,

Have a favorite show that you're still anxiously awaiting on DVD? Or maybe there are a few seasons missing from your collection that have yet to be released. Drop us a comment and let us know, and they may end up on a future DVD M.I.A. post.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

TV Potpourri: Bye-bye 'Betty,' hello Visitors!

Grab a bottle of red spray paint and hide the gerbils — the Visitors of "V" are coming back to television.

Originally airing back around the same time I still thought Fred Flintstone was a real person, "V" was a hugely successful 1983 NBC miniseries about alien invasion and human resistance fighters. The aliens, called The Visitors, came here acting all peaceful-like, and even looked like us, but in reality looked more like giant lizards, ate rodents live, and wanted to go around enslaving everybody. Basically, the four-hour miniseries served as a foreshadowing of the Bush administration. (Zing!)

And now, according to Variety, ABC has greenlit a pilot for a new weekly series, to be written by "The 4400" co-creator Scott Peters. Will this update keep the original's brilliant allegories of Nazi Germany, or just be another run-of-the-mill TV sci-fi show? More importantly, will there be a guest spot for original star Robert "Freddy Krueger" Englund?

In other ABC news, it looks like Betty Suarez is finally going to have time to balance her work life with her personal life, as Entertainment Weekly's Michael Ausiello reports that the network is putting "Ugly Betty" on hiatus. It will be replaced by new episodes of "Samantha Who?" and a new Megan Mullally show, "In the Motherhood." "Betty" will be back once those shows run their course, which, Ausiello frets, would be sometime around June.

I don't watch "Betty," but appreciate it's gung-ho visual kineticism and wacky sensibilities. Plus anything that makes nerds look cool is fine by me. But apparently its ratings have been suffering, and that's the way it goes with the network suits. Still, I'd rather watch America Ferrera in dork glasses and falling down than "Samantha Who Gives a Crap" and anything with Megan Mullally.

In other other ABC news, the newly funny again "Scrubs" is moving to Wednesdays at 7 p.m., to be paired with some new show called "Better Off Ted," starting March 18. I've been loving the show once again this season, and hope this move is a show of confidence from the network.

Adam Reinhard,

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"Top Chef" Power Rankings: The Phoenix-like rise of Sara Boyd

It's somewhat ironic that Sara Boyd was so anti-Ariane seeing as how she appears to be learning a thing or two from the now-disposed deviled egg-maker.

Just as "Top Chef's" cougar du jour dug herself out of an early hole, a 10-point week by Boyd has catapulted her into a fourth place tie with Adam Reinhard and Channel Surfing Commenter of the Year, Ms. Quarter. Can Boyd keep this comeback a-churning? Or was her rise to respectability -- as opposed to being dead stinkin' last -- a one-week anomaly that'll leave her crashing back down to Ariane-like reality with the return of soup-making Spike and foul-mouthed Andrew this week?

Also, so long Radhika. May your enthusiasm for high-quality restaurant service carry you ... zzzzzzzz.

Onto this week's rankings!

First place, 22 points

1. Mimbo Jeff
2. Fabio
3. Stefan
4. DJamie Tanner
5. Hosea
6. Leah
7. Carla

-- Friend of Channel Surfing, Kelly McBride,

Second place, 17 points

1. Stefan the Unstoppable (I coined this first. Boyd totally copied me)
2. Mimbo Jeff
3. Jamie Tanner
4. Faaaaaabio-lous!
5. 'Sea da Ho
6. Leah da Ho
7. Crazy Eyes Carla

-- Thomas Rozwadowski,

Third place, 15 points

Editor's Note: Malavika was out sick yesterday at the time of this post. She must have eaten Leah's undercooked cod. But now she's back... like a scallop!

1. Mimbo Jeff
2. Fabio
3. Stefan
4. Carla
5. Jamie
6. Hosea
7. Leah

-- Malavika Jagannathan,

Fourth place, 11 points (tie)

1. Jeff
2. Stefan
3. Hosea
4. Jamie
5. Fabio
6. Carla
7. Leah

-- Adam Reinhard,

1. Stefan the unstoppable
2. Jeff the magician
3. Still waiting for my monkey ass in clam shells Fabio
4. I won't take the leadership role, but I better win Jamie DJ Tanner
5. I kissed a girl and I liked it, but then I choked Hosea
6. No one likes a skanky fish, or a skanky chef Leah
7. Sending out no love for Carla

-- Sara Boyd,

Others contributing to this splendid "Top Chef" stew: Ms. Quarter, 11 points; ACon, 5 points; Dusty, zero

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Friday, January 23, 2009

We Watch it So You Don't Have To: "Gary Unmarried"

Last night, I lost the will to live. This occurred at the 15-min. mark during my viewing of "Gary Unmarried."

To say the show is a despicable new low for television is more of an understatement than to say, "Boy, Jay Mohr put on a little weight." I had to continually remind myself during this god-awful viewing that I was doing it for my job and in the end, I will be looking into the logistics of worker's comp, because I sustained more injury during this half-hour monstrosity than any on-the-job accident could produce.

From what I gathered -- while watching with my hands covering my eyes for half of it to block the inhumanity -- Fattie McFatterson Jay Mohr plays Gary Barnes (or Brooks? I'm not sure. The CBS Web site references him as both -- awesome!), a man who was married to and who produced two children with Allison Barnes (Paula Marshall). Don't you just love it when sitcoms cast children that in no way, shape or form could have come from their actor parents? Ahh, realism. Anyway, Gary and Allison divorce and share custody of their two kids -- along the way they cope with getting into new relationships and openly telling their ex's all about it. Oh no, but it's supposed to be funny. Don't you get it? Gary was married, but now he's unmarried! And divorce is hilarious!

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention a few things -- Gary was in prison, for what -- we don't know, but he makes bad prison jokes because ... you know, jail is really hilarious too, Allison was engaged to her and Gary's shrink, Dr. Walter Krandall (played by Ed Begley, Jr. -- talk about a downward spiral), but now she's not because she realized that it was only for rebound purposes. But no worries, neither she nor Mr. Krandall really cares. Also, Gary is dating Vanessa (played by former model Jaime King) and that's totally realistic because Gary is a fat paint contractor and Vanessa is a gorgeous blonde single mother who pays Gary to paint her house. Oh, and Gary nips out for about 90 percent of the show -- including a mysterious third nipple that appears and then disappears because of poor editing.

In Wednesday night's episode, Gary tells his ex-wife Allison, who for some reason is at his home, hanging out, not to use the dishwasher because it's broken. Why would she do his dishes? Why would she need to be told that the dishwasher is broken? Why in God's name was she ever married to this man? ... These are all questions left unanswered.

But like clockwork, she, of course, runs the dishwasher and floods Gary's first floor. Wow, didn't see that coming. Since Gary's first floor is now soaked in dishwasher soap -- yet his upstairs and bedroom are unaffected -- it makes perfect sense that Allison invite Gary to stay with her for the night and sleep in their old master bedroom, right? Ugh. Let's just cut to the chase and fast-forward to where everyone has already predicted this plot to go -- Allison gives Gary the master bedroom, where she usually sleeps, then in the middle of the night, she is too drowsy after getting a glass of water to realize she's walking back into the master bedroom and falls asleep spooning Gary. Cue Mr. Fiancé. And gouge eyes out with rusty, dull spoon ... now.

The most bizarre thing is that there's this very strange hint of "will they, won't they" between Gary and Allison that truly is so disastrous, the entire show should shut down -- unless, you know, the lack of good taste and creative, comical writing doesn't beat them to the punch. Really, it's my own fault -- I should've known it would be terrible when the tagline for the show read, "If you like 'Two and a Half Men,' you'll LOVE 'Gary Unmarried.'" That begs the question, who are these shows aimed at? Neither can really be considered a family sitcom since both try and poke fun at divorce (and since the only time I nearly laughed during "Gary Unmarried" is when he made a statutory rape joke ... ). Both shows also center a number of jokes around s-e-x and promiscuity. Neither show would attract anyone under 40 (OK, anyone, period) and clearly, this isn't for the "Matlock" crowd. So I guess that leaves ... no one. In that case, well done CBS -- you've nailed your primary audience!

Will you watch again? If someone held a gun up to my head, I would tell them to pull the trigger.

-- Sara Boyd,

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10 years of zen with Jon Stewart

Is there anyone who doesn't love Jon Stewart? Not here at Channel Surfing, anyway. We can't go to sleep at night until getting our half-hour face time with the smartest, wittiest guy in late-night. (The weeks the show is on break? Forget about it — we're awake for days on end, crying "Where's my Moment of Zen!?")

We don't know who hands out these things, but since entering his tenth year as host of "The Daily Show," Jon's officially earned the title of "television institution," and he's one well worth honoring. Channel Surfing's Malavika Jagannathan (who may or may not own a "Mrs. Jon Stewart" T-shirt) and Adam Reinhard take a look back at their favorite moments with the King of Fake News.

First, a look at a fresh-faced kid from Jersey, making his debut Jan. 11, 1999, on a mid-level cable network's fledgling flagship show:

(Side note: Sorry for the ads that may pop up before these videos. They're annoying, but the clips are worth it.)

Stewart was a replacement for ESPN transplant and smarmy bastard Craig Kilborn. The show until that point mostly covered celebrity gossip and news of the weird, like Bigfoot sightings and David Hasselhoff and crap like that. It got decent enough ratings and fairly good reviews, according to Variety's Daniel Frankel (by the way, Variety has a fantastic series or articles commemorating Stewart's decade tenure, that you can check out by clicking here), but was entirely one-note, and probably wouldn't still be around today if Kilborn hadn't ditched ship for his own CBS show in '98. (Is that still on, by the way? Anybody know?)

But Stewart took over, both as host and executive producer, and the show slowly turned a new leaf, focusing more on politics and the news media. Things really got moving with the 2000 election, and the kerfuffle in Florida.

Adam: This clip in particular is one of my favorites. The recount mess was finally over, and Bush was about to begin his reign of ineptitude. I was heartbroken at Al Gore's defeat, but when Chief Political Correspondent Stephen Colbert opined that Gore's next step in the appeals process should be with the Superfriends ... well, who can fear for the future of their country in the face of such hilarity? This clip also shows how the interaction between Jon and his correspondents — especially Colbert — was always gold.

Malavika: As much as I love Jon for his sarcasm — and love him, I do — his greatest asset is that he actually cares underneath all that wise-ass commentary. Nowhere was that more apparent than when he addressed the events of Sept. 11, 2001. Apologizing for being another "entertainment show beginning with another overwrought speech of a shaken host," Stewart was emotional and honest. (And elicited a few laughs)

Adam: One of Jon's strongest assets has been his skills as an interviewer. From movie stars to Nobel laureates to presidents, he's talked to damn near everybody in his 10 years behind the desk. He seems to have a unique ability to not only make people feel comfortable and get them laughing, but also not shy away from tough questions. And if he just happens to make some stuffy blowhard — like, say, Bill O'Reilly — look like a tool because they underestimated Jon's intelligence, well, that just makes for good TV.

Malavika: In 2004, Jon Stewart went on CNN's "Crossfire" — a show he'd often mocked privately and publicly — and pleaded with hosts Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson to "stop hurting America" with their "partisan hackery." Expecting Stewart to be his usual jokey self, the two were blindsided by his honest assessment of what they were doing in the name of "debate." Accused by Carlson of soft-balling questions for John Kerry's appearance on "The Daily Show," Stewart's outrage is palpable in his still hilarious response that it wasn't his job to ask the tough questions: "You're on CNN. The show that leads into me is puppets making crank phone calls." It was a beautiful sight then. It is a beautiful sight now. Plus, he called Carlson a dick. CNN cancelled "Crossfire" soon after Stewart's appearance. Watch the entire thing here:

Malavika: Jon Stewart's mockery of former Vice President Dick Cheney always wavered between sublime and ridiculous. Even the most stalwart Republican could smile (at least, I imagine so) at Jon's valiantly miserable attempt to mimic the Veep's style of — er — speech. (Let's be honest, Jon isn't the best actor, although I did see "The Faculty" three times because he was in it, but refused to see "Death to Smoochy"). The second-in command, oft mocked by Stewart for keeping a man-sized safe in his office and removing his house from Google Earth, is the subject of the show's funniest segments aptly named "You Don't Know Dick." In this following clip, "Even Dick Don't Know Dick," a Cheney interview from 1994 surfaces to contradict Cheney of the present.

Jon's contract with "The Daily Show" runs through next year, and according to Variety there are no signs he won't re-up again. Because really, what a sweet gig he's got. He gets to be a silly goofball night after night, express his views on a national stage, chit-chat with the likes of Jimmy Carter and Angelina Jolie, and have input into almost every aspect of the production. Why give that up? It's a good thing we love and respect the guy so much, because otherwise we'd be jealous as hell.

Now here it is, your 10 Years of Jon Stewart Moment of Zen:

Malavika Jagannathan,; Adam Reinhard,


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Commercial Interruption: We're Writing This Post With a Lot of Love

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). Radhika's under-performance last night as the hostess with the least-ess didn't come as a surprise to Channel Surfing bloggers Sara Boyd, Thomas Rozwadowski and Malavika Jagannathan, but they do wonder if Ho-Leah's post-canoodling guilt will spell the end for those two lovebirds in the kitchen. And if someone will, indeed, serve monkey ass in empty clam shells.

Malavika: First of all, how can I get Fabio to be my friend? Seriously. I waaaant to beeee freeeinds weeeeth heeeem! Also, I want a "Team Fabio" T-Shirt for my birthday.

The loser of the Restaurant Wars challenge almost always goes home, so Radhika's departure wasn't shocking, but it was troubling. Leah's team barely made it to the winner's table, thanks mostly to Stefan's desserts, and she served the guests INEDIBLE fish. Yet, because of Fabio's charming service (he was right -- they could have served "monkey ass in empty clam shells" and still won) and Stefan's apparent dessert skills, Leah's leadership skills weren't on the line, although her cooking skills should have been. In fact, on a whole, the judges preferred Team Sahana's food -- save Carla's fro-yo soup-- so it begs the question of what makes a good restaurant: food or service?

Then, of course, there was the great "Real World" moment between Ho-Leah that made me want to barf-fait all over my jicama. I'm glad they feel "guilty" about it -- maybe they should have thought about that before they starting playing tonsil hockey on the couch -- and that it had miserable consequences in the kitchen. I'm still holding out for Hosea, but Leah should have gone last week as far as I'm concerned.

Also, props to the random diner who said, "It amused my bouche" about Fabio's egg-roll. (That's what she said?).

Sara: Let's be honest -- the judges' could've easily said, "Ya know what, you all sucked it up and this is supposed to be a 'Top Chef' favorite -- so for that, we're sending everyone home except Stefan and Fabio" and I would've done a small dance on my living room coffee table. Between Carla's "I sent it out with love" and Radhika's "It was my restaurant but I wasn't under the impression that I was supposed to take the lead," I had to solely rely on Fabio's white suit ("Eh, not-a baaad, huh?!") to get me through this episode with any hope for the rest of the season.

What happened to the Restaurant Wars challenge? This is the one challenge that is intended to bring out the best in the chefs -- put them directly into their element and show the world that once this competition is over, they are capable of opening their own restaurant. Most of them already work in their own restaurants -- like Dilido Beach Club, woop, woop -- so what happened? In this case, I think it really came down to service. If you have friendly service -- attentive service -- you can get away with more in the restaurant biz. And well, Radhika was about as non-existent in her restaurant as common sense is in Carla's big ol' ostrich brain. Fabio charmed the pants off everyone and it made the judges excuse the fact that post-Ho'ed Leah served them raw fish.

And speaking of post-Ho'ed Leah, thank you Bravo Gods for not overplaying the fact that Leah and Hosea inadvertently screwed themselves -- pun intended -- in this challenge. Had this been Fox, or MTV, I guarantee producers would've swarmed on that little piece of drama and done something like invite Leah and Hosea's sig others to the restaurant opening. Hmm ... on second thought, that ... would've ruled.

But more so than the integrity of the show, the important thing to remember here is ... I got points in the Power Ranking! Ye-aaaaah! OK, I'm done.

Also, Mimbo Jeff is magic? Please discuss.

Thomas: Hosea and Leah sitting in a tree ...

K-I-S-S-I-N-G ...

Seriously, what was up with Radhika? Was it "Night of the Living Dead" out there? She was an expressionless zombie! Must have been a hangover from that hour-long corn-a-thon from the farm fresh challenge.

Anyway, you'll hear no gripes from me on this episode. "Restaurant Wars" always delivers, and in two seasons of watching "Top Chef," this was probably my all-time favorite episode. That's mainly because there were serious consequences for everyone's actions. Ho-Leah kissy face wasn't just gratuitous reality TV skankage (could it have been any more perfect that the skanky chef picked the skanky snapper?). It had repercussions in the kitchen and put both off their game, leading to Leah's cod disaster. AWKWARD. Nice timing, hormones. Also, would have it been too much to ask for a real time camera at Leah and Hosea's separate "Top Chef" viewing parties with sig others? Heart being ripped out of chest .... now!

Employing the buddy system cost Radhika, who should've picked Fabio first because of his charm, and Stefan second because of his, oh I don't know, cooking skills. Leah lucked into getting last pick, and I think the judges made the right choice in giving Team Sunset the victory. Two shining stars are better than a slight difference in food quality. And what poetic justice for Stefan. His arrogance scares the other contestants: it's that simple. But the guy always delivers. This isn't playground kickball, folks. We're not trying to avoid the uncoordinated kid with coke-bottle glasses and leg braces. Stefan. Is. The. Man.

So everyone who made a bad choice got their just desserts in the end. (Get it? Desserts?) And an editorial comment on new judge Toby Young. This guy is trying WAY too hard. Bravo better sign Fabio -- the clear people's choice favorite -- to a long term judging deal after this season. He's too Fabio-lous!

Look for more power rankings next week!

-- Malavika Jagannathan,, Sara Boyd, sboyd2@greenbaypressgazette and Thomas Rozwadowski,

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