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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Let the punishment begin!

When we last left our "American Idol" Punishment Pool, our four intrepid bloggers were all at square one, heads on the chopping block, awaiting their fate from Simon Cowell in an executioner's hood.

Adam's contestant, Matt Giraud, finished highest in EW's Power Rankings two weeks ago, which meant he was supposed to watch last Tuesday's "Motown Night" episode. Except President Obama wanted to talk about our crap-tastic economy AGAIN, so "Idol's" performance show was shifted to Wednesday night ... and you want to talk about punishment? That collided with DVR-less Adam's precious "Lost" viewing, and frankly, we couldn't torture the poor sap to that Sayid-like degree.

Giving up good TV for bad TV? That's not what Channel Surfing is about. We're only engaging in this masochistic behavior because Tuesday is a dead night for TV, anyways.

So, by skipping last week, it turns out Sara's contestant, Michael Sarver, got the ol' heave-ho. That complicates things a bit, so in order to simplify the parameters and work within the given "Idol" week, here's how it'll play out from here.

Adam will be watching tonight as part of his original punishment, with the recap due sometime tomorrow. Sara will sit out this week, and as long as no one else loses their singer on Wednesday, she'll get another week off to make up for the lost Obama week. However, if one of us loses a contestant, she'll have to bite the bullet and re-join us with a new randomly selected performer next week (we'll likely spare her the consensus top choice of the moment, Adam Lambert) to avoid mass confusion. Same rules apply for last week's performance-based results -- which saw Giraud top the Power Rankings again (MJ's Lil Rounds was at 7, Thomas' Scott MacIntyre was dead last). Adam will not be punished for that since we want to get back to square one again.

OK, that was super confusing to write. But trust us, it makes sense. Just know that we're all being punished by mentioning "Idol" on this blog each week or even knowing who the hell Adam Lambert is. Though something tells me getting to read Channel Surfing Adam's recap on "Top Downloads" night (brush up on your Lady Gaga, fool!) will make up for it all.

From Adam, via e-mail at 2:38 p.m.: "'Top Downloads' night? WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN!?!?! Dear God in Heaven, I'm done for."

Bwahahahahahaha ....

-- The Channel Surfing staff

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Texas Forever: Two more seasons on "Friday Night Lights"

"Friday Night Lights" fans everywhere are either screaming for joy or breathing a sigh of relief this morning. Either way, they can rest easy for two more years now that NBC has pledged to renew the show for two -- yes, TWO -- more seasons of the critically loved but depressingly low-rated show.

The two seasons will work under the same plan as season three -- each of the 13 episode-seasons will air first on DirecTV, then on NBC with both networks sharing the costs. To keep production costs even lower, both seasons might be taped back-to-back in Austin, where the show gets plenty of tax incentives and hometown love.

Of course, with a few of its main characters-- including Lyla (Minka Kelley) and Tyra (Adrianne Palicki) -- graduating at the end of season three, it's time for a few new hotties and hunks to enter the halls of Dillon High. But mainstays Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton will continue in their roles as Coach Eric Taylor and Principal Tami Taylor. (And Thank God for that -- I can't even bring myself to imagine the show without these two in the middle -- why, it'd be like "Seinfeld" with no Jerry or "Friends" with just Joey... oh, wait... (See our post below on spinoffs for more).

Now I've been an evangelist for this show, well, since I discovered it, but I'm hardly the first fan to implore everyone I know to watch. Discovering "Friday Night Lights" is like getting into a really great band or delving into an amazing book. It's really an experience that'll stick with you -- one you won't regret. We "FNL" fans are a cultish lot, I'll admit, but there's a reason we're so damn loyal to the show -- it really is that good. How else does a low-rated show get resurrected not once, but three times?

Full episodes from seasons 1 and 2, plus videos from the current season airing on NBC are available online through early May here.

Not convinced? I've included two scenes to illustrate how varied this show is -- a game night clip from season one and one from season three, where veteran badboy Tim Riggins gives the new quarterback a "tour" of Dillon. (Side note: the team playing the Dillon Panthers in the game clip is in fact a real Texas high school -- my alma mater, the ACM Tigers).

-- Malavika Jagannathan,


Can 'Dancing' geeks save 'The Woz' tonight?

If I had a Team Woz T-shirt – and I don't, I swear – but if I did, I'd have it on tonight.

Who knew that the best thing about this injury-plagued season of ''Dancing with the Stars'' would be the charming train wreck that is Steve Wozniak's weekly attempt at movin' it and groovin' it?

The guy is terrible – terrible -- but in a good way (as opposed to co-host Samantha Harris' bony bird arms this season, which are terrible in just a disturbing way). There's something kinda sweet about this season's token elder underdog, starting with the fact that unlike last season's Cloris Leachman, he's not obnoxious. Or scary.

Or maybe it's that the ''tank with facial hair,'' as one writer described him, looks like about half the people who could be offering you a brat and a beer in the Lambeau Field parking lot on any given Sunday.

"The Woz,'' as the 58-year-old co-founder of Apple computers and former manfriend on Kathy Griffin's "My Life on the D-List'' is known, pulled down the lowest ''Dancing'' score in six years last week when he and partner Karina Smirnoff managed a measly 10 out of 30. Ouch. But the kicker? Even with a score like that, he wasn't in the bottom two, which means his massive computer nerd following came to his rescue with a HUGE number of fan votes.

If there's any group of people who knows how to use technology to mobilize votes, it's this bunch. An article in Advertising Age magazine in early February predicted The Woz has a shot at winning the whole thing:

"Every engineer, software developer, technorati and digerati will be rooting for and, more importantly, voting for the beloved engineer. In fact … they've been blogging about how to make it happen, starting with 'How can we geeks unite to sway the vote?' posted by Al Lucklow on''

"The judges seem to hate me, and the fans seem to love me,'' The Woz said last night before attempting the Argentine tango with kind of a weird constipated look on his face and a rose in his teeth. ''The judges have forsaken me, but the geeks shall inherit the Earth.''

And therein lies The Woz's charm – that big teddy bear can-do attitude. That, and the fact that when he received his score of 12 (Bruno actually used the word ''stench'' to describe his performance), without missing a beat, he cheerfully said, "We improved 20 percent.'' Nerd alert!

But tonight things get critical for The Woz. The three couples in the bottom will be revealed, and they're almost certain to be: The Woz, Steve-O and Holly Madison -- the consistent cellar dwellers.

Two couples will go home in a double elimination. Madison is a given, since only Denise Richards managed to look more blonde, more stiff and more ill at ease on the floor. That leaves the battle of the Steves for the right to stay and embarrass themselves another day. The smart money is on The Woz to win that one.

If that's the case, does a person go for the ''Team Woz'' black long-sleeved Jersey tee or the V-neck T-shirt?

-- Kendra Meinert,


Andy Hallett, Lorne from "Angel," dies at 33

"'I think a lot of people would choose to be green. Your shade, if they had the choice.'"

In a post yesterday, I gave a brief explanation of why "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" spinoff "Angel" was a great, multilayered show. But now one of those layers is gone. Andy Hallett, who played friendly, green demon Lorne, died Sunday night of heart failure. He was 33 years old.

Lorne was easily my favorite character on "Angel," as most comic relief characters tend to be. He was introduced in the first episode of the second season, an "empath demon" who could read your thoughts, determine if you were telling the truth -- even see into your future -- just by hearing you sing. As the owner of a demon-frequented nightclub/karaoke bar, he became a source of guidance and comfort. (The fact that his own high, nasally singing voice bordered on grating did little to break his calming effect. It did grow on you after a while, though.)

He evolved from supporting player to full member of Angel Investigations as the series grew, always quick with a quip or ready with a cocktail. He was the happy center of a turbulent universe, making his final scene in the series finale (I'm glad Ms. Quarter has finished watching now, so I don't feel bad writing about this) that much more poignant and heartbreaking.

Apart from "Angel," Hallett didn't have much of a acting career. The odd low-budget movie, or TV spot. Mostly, according to this writeup of his passing at E!, he focused on his music, playing a few shows here and there.

It's a sad day for "Angel" fans. Let's all raise a Sea Breeze in Hallett's honor.

-- Adam Reinhard,

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Monday, March 30, 2009

Spun into gold ... or mold?

The history of spinoffs is littered with the carcasses of the actors involved in them, not to mention the ruined memories of the good shows they were often based on. Of course, there are the lucky few that seem to break the spinoff barrier, setting new standards of their own -- shows you often forget are spinoffs in the first place.

The spinoff for CW's "Gossip Girl" doesn't have a name, yet -- let's hope "Lily of the Valley" is not an option -- but the May 11 episode will feature flashbacks to a younger Lily van der Woodsen, setting up the spinoff for the fall. Casting Brittany Snow ("American Dreams") as Lily and 80s hearthrob Andrew McCarthy ("Pretty in Pink," "St. Elmo's Fire") as her father, the spinoff seems to be at least reaching for recognition as something more than "The O.C. Loves the 80s." Let's hope so anyway.

With this soon to be spinoff on our minds (OK, truly only two of us care, but we like to pretend there's consensus), Channel Surfers Malavika Jagannathan, Thomas Rozwadowski, Kendra Meinert, Adam Reinhard and Sara Boyd take a look at a few of their favorite spinoff series -- and a few of those that should have never seen the light of day, much less our TV sets.


Spun from: "Beavis and Butthead"

Why It Ruled: All right, all right, I'll admit that I watched "Daria" because she kind of looked like me in high school. But it's pretty hard to believe this sarcastic, pop-culture-filled epic about suburban life and high school came out of "Beavis and Butthead." Narrated in Angela Chase-style by our beloved Daria, the show had all the makings of a good teen drama -- an unpopular heroine, lame parents, a bff (Jane) and all the uncomfortableness of adolescence. There's just something about Daria -- despite all her jaded musings on life -- that made you care about her, and, seriously, when has an animated character EVER had that effect? "Daria" figured out how to navigate the spinoff waters by being the anti-"Beavis" and the plan worked.

"Private Practice"

Spun from: "Grey's Anatomy"

Why It Should Die: Now, I was one of those hardcore "Grey's Anatomy" fans not that long ago, you know the type that has serious discussions on the merits of McDreamy versus McSteamy. Then, I saw the light -- thanks partially to "Private Practice." Addison Montgomery (Kate Walsh) was actually one of my favorite characters on "Grey's." How often do you find the scorned wife character sympathetic or admirable? Hardly ever, so the thought of Walsh helming her own spinoff seemed to hold promise. But when Addison moved to L.A. to set up her "Private Practice," she apparently lost a few dozen brain cells on the Pacific Coast Highway. Walsh turned on the ditz and downplayed Addison's steely charm. Her vapid crew on "Private Practice" (no matter how hot Taye Diggs is, his hotness alone couldn't save the show) wasn't any better. It's been a while since I've caught an episode of "Grey's" -- but I have heard something about an inappropriate relationship with a ghost -- so I'm not sure if "Private Practice" is still worse than the original. Either way, it should be off the air. Stat.

-- Malavika Jagannathan,

"The Hills"

Spun from: "Laguna Beach"

Why it ruled: On "Laguna Beach" Lauren Conrad was the girl you wanted to be friends with, Stephen Colletti was the guy you wanted to date and Kristin Cavallari was the girl you wanted to punch in the face. It had everything. It was on MTV, so clearly, it was, like, so cool and like, the guys, were like, totally cute. … OK, I'm done. Too many commas. Anyway, "Laguna" was the definition of guilty pleasure. That is, until "The Hills" came alive with the sounds of drama. When MTV realized the beauty of “Laguna Beach” was in the totally-real-yet-artificial characters of its premiere season (two subsequent seasons of the show didn’t hit the same ratings), it was time to cue the spin-off. It only makes sense that the lovable “LC” was asked to be the star of “The Hills,” but even with that in mind, I don’t think the producers could’ve seen success like this coming. The term success should be taken lightly, after all, “Laguna Beach” really only lasted a season before slowly dying. “The Hills,” however, is about to begin its fifth and final season – not a final one due to lack of interest, but a final due to Lauren’s decision to leave the show. (No worries though, reports say Miss Audrina may have her own reality series in the works soon.) Between the Heidi-Lauren drama, the Heidi-Spencer drama and the Lauren-Audrina drama, “The Hills” became reality gold, er, as-close-as-MTV-can-get-to-reality gold.


Spun from: "Friends"

Why it sucked: When “Friends” ended, and I thought my life was over, ahem … I had high hopes for “Joey.” OK, no, I didn’t have high hopes, but I so badly wanted the show to not suck. But it did. It sucked hard. Really hard. It still makes me cringe even typing the show’s name. The problem with “Joey” (ughhh … ) is that no one really cared about what Joey did while on “Friends,” so why would they care after none of the other friends stuck around? He was the perfect side character. Even when he was in the main plot of “Friends,” he was still only good for his occasional catchphrases and jokes about liking food and women. Joey Tribbiani only thrived when he could play off Chandler Bing – the two were like a new breed of Ralph and Ed in the “Honeymooners.” They worked well as a team, but take them apart and it’s just an unfunny guy setting up jokes that never make it to a punch line. The plot itself was pretty poor, even before the first episode premiered — Joey moves to Los Angeles to pursue his acting career. Only, we never cared about Joey’s acting career on “Friends” unless there was a need to plug a guest star in somewhere. Even with the help of “Road Trip” stoner Paulo Costanzo (who basically played the exact same character), the show never had a prayer and folded shortly after it’s premiere. It’s now known as the prime “exhibit A” in failed spinoffs.

-- Sara Boyd,

"Saved by the Bell: The College Years"

Spun from: "Saved by the Bell"

Why it sucked: Teen sitcoms are a snapshot in time the same way no adult female with an ounce of integrity should want to see a grown up Donnie Wahlberg still singing "Hangin' Tough" in 2009. (Er ... hold that thought.) Nostalgia, as warm and fuzzy as it makes us feel, needs to stay within reason as it "matures," and "SBTB: The College Years" expected a Saturday morning teen audience to grow old with the continued misadventures of Bayside brethren Zack, Slater and Screech at good ol' Cal U. Except the inherent cheesiness of the original "SBTB" is what made the show: Jessie becoming addicted to caffeine pills, Johnny Dakota smoking a fat, chronic blunt, anything and everything revolving a doofus Screech actually being friends with the "cool kids." But no one wants to see Screech making balloon animals in a dorm room or Slater pretending that a newfound respect for his Chicano heritage suddenly makes him the next Cesar Chavez. Even the Zack-Kelly adult drama was too flimsy a teenage love story to ever care about in a serious primetime kind of way. The audience got older and smarter, which is the way it should be, and why 26-year-olds should no longer be listening to Backstreet Boys "Millennium" like they did in high school. Change the setting, change the spirit of the show. More important, change Mr. Belding to Bob Golic, really change the show.

"Family Matters"

Spun from: "Perfect Strangers"

Why it ruled: I'm not going to pretend to remember that Harriet Winslow was an elevator operator on "Perfect Strangers." I leave that Balki-rich territory to a true "Strangers" fan like Adam. I'm also not going to pretend that Harriet had anything to do with the success of "Family Matters," or ultimately, any of the reasons it's been granted "why it ruled" status by yours truly. Rather, Steven Q. Urkel references, Stefan Urquelle references, Urkel Bot references, or a well-timed "No sweat, my pet" still never gets old to anyone from the "TGIF" generation. That's go-to material in any setting, and you KNOW that if you're flipping past Nick at Nite and you see those damn suspenders and multicolored cardigans, you still sit transfixed sometimes. Now, that's not admitting that "Family Matters" was a good show. Because it wasn't. Dear God Almighty it wasn't. Yet even if the writing made "Full House" look like "The Wire," Steve turning into Bruce Lee, or drinking "cool juice" to woo Laura as Stefan, or my all-time favorite, Jaleel White playing Steve's N.W.A. loving, glock totin', hardcore wannabe cousin, Original Gangsta Dawg ... well, even as it makes me feel dirty, at least I can smile knowing you have to suffer with these memories, too.

"Mork & Mindy"

Spun from: "Happy Days"

Why it ruled: I only recall snippets from "Mork & Mindy," but I remember enough about Jonathan Winters' role as Mork's son in Season 4 and a particularly scary episode involving an evil, apartment bombing alien to know that it captured my fascination as a child. Really though, "Mork & Mindy" is special for two reasons. Like "Bosom Buddies" did for Tom Hanks, "Mork" launched Robin Williams' career. And despite what you might think about the same insufferable routines he's been known to repeat on the late night talk show circuit, his manic improv and silly voiced antics were fresh and funny as the "nanu, nanu" spouting Mork from Ork. Second, his classic face-off with The Fonz on a 1978 episode of "Happy Days" is one of those rare cameo appearances that TV viewers remember forever. When Richie (Ron Howard) dreams up an alien landing in Milwaukee, Mork challenges The Fonz for the right to claim good ol' Cunningham as a specimen. Classic TV ensues, and all these years later, the clip gives you an appreciation for watching one actor (Henry Winkler) nail an iconic TV role, and another (Williams) announcing to the world that he's about to be a future comedy standout.

-- Thomas Rozwadowski,


Spun from: "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"

Why it ruled: Where "Buffy" is a TV benchmark for girl empowerment and fantasy geeks, it's spin-off "Angel" catered to a slightly different audience: film noir buffs. The time-tested noir essentials -- a grizzled, emotionally shut-off detective seeking redemption; a dirty city full of crime and ne're-do-wells; a wily, streetwise informant -- are here, even if they're represented by vampires, demons, and sunny Los Angeles. The more Dashiell Hammett-esque shadings were tamped down in later seasons as the cast and scope grew, but the theme of redemption played out through five seasons, giving "Angel" a unique focus and narrative drive that not even its predecessor had. Never a breakout hit, "Angel" can still be seen in syndication daily on TNT (albeit at monkey's ass A.M. in the morning), a sign of its enduring cult popularity.

"Sealab 2021"

Spun from "Sealab 2020"

Why it ruled: One of the most psychotic television shows ever conceived, "Sealab 2021" was less a spinoff of little-remembered Hanna-Barbera cartoon "Sealab 2020" than outright theft and dismemberment. By taking the short-lived '70s series' original animation and replacing the dialogue (and adding some new animation), the creators of this Cartoon Network gem not only turned it on its head, they crammed the head down a toilet and gave it a good flush. The show's characters -- the crew of an underwater research lab -- were now either dangerously inept or clincially insane (sometimes both.) There was no semblence of plot or character development, as characters were often killed off one episode only to come back next week unscathed. (Several episodes even ended with the complete destruction of Sealab itself, often with a giant explosion.)

-- Adam Reinhard,

“Knots Landing’’

Spun from: “Dallas"

Why it ruled: It was desperate housewives before “Desperate Housewives."

The houses weren’t dripping with fake wisteria, but the SoCal cul-de-sac that black sheep Ewing bro Gary and his wife Valene called home was every bit as perfect from the street and scandalous and dysfunctional behind closed doors. Yet, the neighborhood gang here – the Ewings, the Fairgates, the Averys and the Wards -- felt more relatable than those big-money Texas Ewings. Plus, they could make us cry.
If Nicollette Sheridan became the ultimate maneater on “Desperate" as Edie Britt, it’s because she got her start as Paige Matheson on “Knots", where no doubt she learned everything she knows from uber-cougar Donna Mills as Abby Fairgate. (Don’t think “Melrose Place’s" Amanda Woodward didn’t take a page from the Abby bitch book, either.)

On “Knots," when they said “cliffhanger," they meant it literally. Who could forget Season 2 when the brakes went out on Sid Fairgate’s car and he went careening toward the cliff? Nooooo!

The prime-time soap lasted for 15 years (and a pre-Thirsty Thursday ritual for my college roommates and I). It became the second-longest running drama on the tube behind “Gunsmoke" when it signed off in 1993. When a show hangs around that long (see “ER") it’s bound to have its good (Greg Sumner, twins Betsy and Bobby get kidnapped, Laura’s weepy farewell videotape) and bad (that whole Cathy Geary/Ciji Dunne/Chip Roberts mess) moments. But even when “Knots" was bad, boy, was it good.

Where it is now: It’ll receive the Anniversary Award (30 years) at the TV Land Awards airing on April 26. The second season comes out on DVD on April 14 – 12 more to go.

-- Kendra Meinert,

Did we leave any of your favorites off the list? Are there any shows you'd like to see have a spinoff? Drop us a line either via email or in the comments below.

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A little gossip about "Gossip Girl"

Sometimes there's just too much television for one Channel Surfing blogger to handle. And sometimes, instead of giving a show a full review, we just want to gossip about it behind it's back (via e-mail, of course -- we can't talk about a botched nose job or fake Fendi bag in public.) Bloggers Sara Boyd and Malavika Jagannathan have been enjoying the latest news that our dear friend "Gossip Girl" has been sending, via text. But at the same time wonder what will become of the show that's starting to play relationship musical chairs strictly within its own cast?

Sara: After yet another hiatus from our favorite guilty pleasure, “Gossip Girl” it seems the show is back in the swing of things. And by the swing of things, clearly I mean right smack dab in the midst of drama.

Heading into the third new episode since the big break, we find all sorts of tired plotlines ending — and really, thank God for that. Prime example: The story of Chuck and this mysterious, high-class society of, for lack of a better word, hookers, definitely was an odd turn of events. I have a feeling the writers began it, and then didn’t know where to take it and thankfully gave up quickly. I didn’t buy this whole “Chuck the Hero, Chuck the Savior” role reversal and really, no matter how hot this damsel in distress was, Chuck wouldn’t have risked his reputation to try and save her. And really, who wants to watch Chuck be a nice guy? Bleh.

But if nothing else, at least the storyline gave Blair a reason to once again leave Charles in the dust, further continuing the series-long “will-they-won’t-they” of the Upper East Side’s power couple. I’ll admit, it’s getting a bit old but still, it’s much more interesting then Serena and Dan. Especially since it appears the series is playing with an idea that “what’s old is new again.” Cue ex-lovers Blair and Nate. It seems like forever ago that these two were the reigning power couple, and for some it may have slipped your mind completely. After all, both have had more than their share of new love interests since that time. I’m not sure where a Blair-Nate relationship could go but for the time being, it sure makes sense. Blair’s life is up in the air and she’s looking for some stability. Nate is getting ready for an internship with the Mayor and let’s be honest, the Vanderbilt clan wouldn’t have accepted Miss Brooklyn-livin’ thrift-store buyin’ film-festival-lovin’ Vanessa for much longer. Plus, if Nate truly follows the political road, what could look better on the arm of an up-and-coming governor than a Waldorf?

We’ll have to see where this could go but from the looks of it, we could likely see good girl Vanessa turning over to the dark side (aka: Chuck Bass) for a little man-stealing help. And hey, at least it’s not Nate lusting after 15-year-old Jenny. As for Chuck, you know he’s got something up his sleeve after a betrayal from his best pal and a royal diss from his leading lady. Something tells me Leighton Meester’s real-life beau who plays bad boy Carter Baizen may not be gone for good, either.

Malavika: Especially if actor Sebastian Stan’s other show, NBC’s “Kings,” dies in ratings hell.

Sara: Unfortunately, there are signs pointing to Serena and Dan heading toward this idea that what’s old is new again and well, that’s just not true. In this case, what’s old was already old before and is still old. There’s nothing new about Dan and Serena. We know the real-life lovebirds probably want a storyline where they get to make out and be on the clock, but let’s not go back down that road.

Malavika: Young Dan has barely recovered from his Mrs.Robinson-tryst — why saddle him with yet another clichéd re-relationship?

Sara: And really, let that be a lesson to all co-worker relationships — I know there’s plenty on this show, but please, don’t be selfish. I hear there’s a rumor of a Chuck-Vanessa romance, since the real-life couple has been caught canoodling around Hollywood. Ugh, that’s just too predictable. This show has mastered in its ability to throw a few curveballs so let’s see some surprises. When’s the pregnancy scare coming? Who’s going to be the first to change sexual preferences?

Malavika: With news that the show has been picked up for a third season, what “Gossip Girl” needs — other than a few less product placements — are a few new compelling and non-annoying characters. Rumors that bad girl Georgina Sparks (Michelle Trachtenburg) is coming back are stomach churning, despite her penchant for stirring up trouble and drama on the show, because her last appearance on the show was so totally pointless and annoying. With many of our main characters heading off to college next year — “Gossip Girl: The College Years” just doesn’t quite cut it — the show needs a few younger up-and-coming characters that are not Little J “Clown Makeup” Humphrey. But, for now, “Gossip” is at its most intriguing.

Sara: All I know is that I will be anxiously awaiting what's around the corner for our beloved "GG" gang. They haven't disappointed us yet, so here's hoping it's a world of sex, lies and scandal ahead.

Final thoughts?
-- Anyone check the cover of "Rolling Stone" this month? Talk about aggressive. I don't think anyone's wondering if Blake and Leighton are actually friends anymore.
-- How is it that Vanessa is supposed to be a poor girl from Brooklyn, yet manages to keep up with the fashions of the Upper East Side without breaking a sweat?
-- Little J hasn't really been around much lately -- does anyone miss her? Looks like tonight's episode will be all about her 16th birthday, but will we care?

Comment now!

Catch "Gossip Girl" at 7 p.m. tonight (and Mondays) on the CW.

-- Sara Boyd, and Malavika Jagannathan,

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Wait, so screaming at foreigners doesn't get them to help you faster?

Hooray for Ugly Americanism!

Now, I don't usually get THAT bent out of shape about reality shows because I realize that less-than-flattering moments are usually edited to make someone look worse than they actually are (ahem, "Top Chef" Hosea, ahem.) And let's face it, caring about no-names from reality TV? I'm not lame like the people who start crying foul at the end of "The Bachelor." I like to appear as if I have some sort of life and care about more important matters in the world.

But while it's usually fun to pile on a reality show villain (ahem, Lisa, ahem) or poke fun at other inadequacies (ahem, Leah, ahem) displayed front and center, sometimes behavior is so ugly, you really want to see someone get slammed by oncoming traffic on a busy New Delhi street.

Yet here's a guess that even an angry, chained-up tiger in Thailand would reject "The Amazing Race's" ugliest contestant as its chew toy.

Yeah, I'm talking to you, Jaime (at far right). I hate you with every bone in my body, and I refuse to apologize for it.

Last night's episode of "The Race" was a crushing disappointment for two reasons. My favorite team -- Mike and Mel White -- got the boot after taking bad advice from a Thai cabbie and falling way behind on the first leg. Rare "good guys" who played the game with respect and dignity, Team White was doomed from the get-go -- interview foreshadowing about enjoying the scenery more than the competition always a sure-fire sign you're about to bite the dust.

But onto the real story, one that makes me root for Jaime and Cara's demise with every fiber of my being.

True, Jaime has been a shrieking harpie from hell at random moments during this latest season, but last night's disgusting behavior took the proverbial cake. While in Thailand, she was quoted as saying, ''I don't like foreign languages! I'm so tired of listening to people talk sometimes.'' Oh yeah, because it's such an inconvenience to travel to another country and hear all this made-up foreign gibberish annoy your delicate American ears. Thailand only has 63 MILLION PEOPLE, Jamie.

Two, while operating a rickshaw (how very Seinfeld-ian) to a clue destination, Jaime screamed for a stranger to help her with directions. No, "Hey sir, I know this looks kind of crazy because I have a rickshaw and a camera following me. But would you mind helping a former NFL cheerleader with a simple task?" Nope. She screamed for an oblivious passer-by to help her -- "COME HERE, COME HERE!" like she was instructing a defiant two-year-old to come get his poopy diaper changed. And when he didn't know where to go, she spoke to him as if he were the stupidest person on the planet by pointing in both directions and bellowing "WHICH ONE?" like she was trying to defuse a bomb and only had seconds to choose the red or blue wire. Yeah, because complete strangers minding their own business are obligated to help crazy Americans with cameras following them ...

Worst of all, though, was her incessant screeching at a kindly old Thai business owner. The challenge was a puzzle-like scenario where racers had to find a clue in one of 99 drawers pulled open one-at-a-time by the shop keeper. Requires a bit of patience, don't you think?

Not for Ugly American Jaime. who instantly began screaming at the man to open drawers as if he were The Flash racing around the room. Here's a guess that "Race" producers told the man to be methodical out of fairness. Here's also a guess that they didn't warn the well-meaning shopkeeper that contestants might yell and berate him as though he was an umpire at a boorish dad's Little League baseball game.

Yet there was Jaime -- "NO, THAT ONE! OPEN IT! YES, THAT ONE!" -- treating the man with complete disrespect. Later, Jaime said, "The guy was most frustrating because I don't think he spoke a lick of English." Again. WOW. Yeah, it's also probably safe to assume he doesn't like apple pie and baseball, either, Jamie. HE'S FROM THAILAND, you idiot!

See, this kind of behavior (even if it allows me to vent on a blog) isn't remotely entertaining to me. It's sickening, plain and simple; the kind of close-minded idiocy that can't be written off as "reality show" ugliness because contestants are racing like mad for a million dollars.

Judging by her words and actions, Jaime possesses utter disdain for foreigners. And because of that, it's really too bad they didn't leave this pampered spray tan diva in remote Siberia ... or the kind of frigid wasteland where no one can hear you scream.

-- Thomas Rozwadowski,


Friday, March 27, 2009

Commercial Interruption: Close your eyes ... It's the Michael Scott Paper Company

Sometimes there's just too much television for one Channel Surfing blogger to handle. That's when we need a break to sit back, relax and indulge in some friendly back-and-forth (via email, of course — we don't actually like to speak to one another in person). Bloggers Thomas Rozwadowski and Sara Boyd are pleasantly surprised that the "I quit" Michael is still in full force, but can only wonder, where does it go from here? And why the devil would a film crew contracted to tape the hap-happenings at Dunder Mifflin go on to document a competing paper business ... oh wait, that question could likely open Pandora's box of reality ... back away slowly ...

Sara: To be honest, I really expected to tune in Thursday night to an episode featuring Michael at David Wallace's feet, pleading for his job back. Thankfully, this was not the case. The episode -- again, with the caveat that it wasn't great, but didn't make me want to gouge my eyes out -- had its funny moments, which unfortunately is saying something these days. The episode picks up right where last week left off -- with Michael beginning his journey to unemployment. I think Jim said it best when he noted that during Michael's two week notice, you really can tell the difference between Michael trying and Michael not trying. Between bouts of juvenile pranks and glasses of scotch, it was quite amusing to see the realization that Michael would be unemployed in a dying economy hit him on his last day.

However, instead of filming Michael waiting in line at soup kitchens, it looks like we'll be following Mr. Scott as he attempts to start his own paper company: Michael Scott Paper Company. Catchy. After exhausting just about all options to get a few Dunder Mifflin-ites (only the good ones, of course) to follow him in a Jerry Maguire-esque manner, wouldn't you know only loyal and completely out-of-character Pammy Pam actually marches out? I have no idea who Pam is these days and this only continues that confusion.

So Thomas, do you think this is the fresh breath of plot the show needs to get back to Funnyville -- or another Stanford/Scranton type disaster?

Thomas: Much like Adam and I discussed last week -- and MJ alluded to when she wrote about Pam's potential "departure" -- at least this feels like a necessary way to address some (no, not all, as you mentioned in the intro with that stalker-ish camera crew) issues I've had with the show since Season 3. I like the general idea that all these years, largely grounded employees like Oscar and Jim have probably been longing for a "real" boss to come in and be the model of efficiency and maturity that Michael never could be. What they seem to have found with Charles Bad-Ass-I-Know-Chicks-Dig-Me Minor is that bosses who are only concerned with the bottom line can be ... hmmm, how should we put this ... huge douchebags?

Pam's decision to bolt for the Michael Scott Paper Company felt pretty rash, but at least they set it up with a two-pronged approach. She's long been striving for better things, and her quick mastery of the copier (and that no one cared) only confirmed her lowly lot in life. She also appeared genuinely bothered by the way No Comedy Charles booted traitor Michael out sans the ticker tape parade he probably envisioned on his last day. Still, would Pam really quit her job for Michael's nonexistent business plan knowing that a) she'll be competing against her fiance and b) oh yeah, she has a fiance and might want to consult with him on life altering decisions? I don't know how another split office scenario could pay off long term though, so while I generally like the Michael Scott versus the forces of reality plotline, I think this'll ultimately end up right back where it all started.

Except Ryan is returning and he looks like Kiefer Sutherland in "The Lost Boys." Boyd, what up with that?

Sara: Seriously. Whoever was walking around "The Office" dressing rooms toting a bottle of bleach should be slapped in public. I kind of cringe at the idea of Ryan returning to the show, not going to lie. The writers -- Mr. B.J. Novak included -- clearly are having a little identity crisis with more than a few of its characters. Ryan went from quiet temp to douchey coke addict bossman and now, apparently blonde deadbeat bowl-a-rama manager? I don't follow. But perhaps we'll find out if blondes really do have more fun -- or if they're just more pathetic.

This whole situation seems like a lose-lose, or lose-lose-lose, to me. If Michael fails with his new business and has to crawl his way back to Dunder Mifflin -- fail. If Michael, plus Pam, plus Ryan? successfully start up a new paper company -- fail, totally not realistic and would continue to beg the camera crew question. Plus, that would just be annoying. So, to sum up, Michael loses no matter what, the show could potentially lose big and the viewers, well let's face it, we're already losing.

So Roz, how long do you think Charles "Ladies Man" Minor sticks around before jumping ship?

Thomas: My guess is that Idris Elba is only going to be around as long as fellow "Wire" alum Amy Ryan was. So here's a safe bet that in Charles' effort to streamline and increase paper productivity, he'll flex too much muscle and make a logical blunder by being slightly overzealous.

It would appear that they're trying to paint a picture where treating employees like mindless automatons doesn't prove satisfactory for morale in the end (who knew?). That for all of Michael's inadequacies -- and let's face it, he could be pretty cruel at times, too -- at least he didn't actually know better. The man is a dolt, therefore he gets a free pass. Charles, on the other hand, is measured and methodical, so he shouldn't screw up. But he probably will because he doesn't know his employees as well as Michael -- here's a bet they'll start to miss the simplicity of a boss remembering a birthday -- or there'll be an outright office revolt because the Black George Clooney can't properly motivate once-productive employees Dwight and Jim. Therefore Michael will end up back in the big chair once DM goes into tank. You have to admit, at least Michael cares. And that counts for something in this crap-tastic economy.

If not, the split office scenario would appear to be a disastrous choice ala Season 3. It ain't gonna happen. In the end, Dunder Mifflin will appreciate what it never should have let go in the first place. And that, dear fairy tale reader, would appear to be the moral of this story.

But at least for the time being, I won't look too far ahead or be too hard (that's what he said?) on the show. I've found the last two weeks pretty refreshing despite a few holes in the overall fabric. I will say this, Toby's line about how Michael is "like a movie on a plane -- it's not great, but it's something to watch. Then when it's over, it's like, 'How much time is left on the flight.' What now?" was about as perfect as it gets, as was the silent scene of Pam and Michael walking into a wide open future together.

I'm gonna be happy about these things, Boyd. You can't stop me!

Sara: I can and will. Hank, please escort Mr. Rozwadowski out of the building. Also, you can never be too hard on "The Office." And yes, that's what she said. (Double points because I said "hard on" -- boo-ya!)

Catch "The Office" at 8 p.m. Thursdays on NBC.

-- Sara Boyd,, Thomas Rozwadowski,

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Lost: Quick Thoughts

Sometimes there's just too much television for one Channel Surfing blogger to handle. And sometimes there's not enough time to talk or write about said television ... which is why today we're debuting "Lost: Quick Thoughts," or a condensed, rapid fire form of the day-after discussion you so love to dive into with your fellow "Lost"-minded friends. Talking shop are your usual Channel Surfing "Lost" fanatics Thomas Rozwadowski and Adam Reinhard. Tastier than Hurley's waffle batter, here are some scrumptious nuggets from last night's "He's Our You" to chew on ...

Not my favorite episode of the season, but in the long run, I think it'll be one of the most important since it seems to have set in motion an important debate that again, may or not be settled easily. Let's just put the big question out there, anyway: Are we working on two different timelines? Because if we are, the death of young Ben at Sayid's hand could be a reality, therefore spinning a new island web where the Dharma purge never happens, leading to some potential catastrophe (and Charles Widmore profit) that adult Ben surely is aware of. In fact, there could be several timelines in existence, which would explain Ben's prowess and ability to manipulate.

It might also explain where Ben, Sun, Lapidus and Lazarus Locke are right now. Those ravaged Dharma barracks don't appear to be on an isolated, undiscovered part of the island. They might be the future remnants of a new reality from the Dharma 1977 we're currently witnessing. Does that make any sense?

If only one timeline exists -- the same one that stretches from Oceanic crash to 1977 time travel and back to Oceanic crash -- then we'll simply believe at this point that Sayid has always been responsible for Ben's emergence as a leader for "The Others." He''ll be deemed "special" because of either the island's powers or because Jacob, Richard, whoever, decided he fit the mold post-gunshot. Also, Richard might be in the business of taking bodies and re-animating them. Lots of possibilites rattling around in my brain.

Also, back on the island (when again, who knows?) with Lapidus and Sun, Ben gets whacked in the head with an oar. Did that really put him in the infirmary where John found him? I mean, this dude has endured the worst beatings possible, and gets right back up bloody and battered, ready to march on long, leisurely island walks through the jungle. Could he instead be suffering from the effects of a gunshot wound from 1977? I'm just sayin' ...

Watched Sayid shoot Young Ben and kept thinking of "the war" Charles Widmore referenced a few episodes earlier.

Sign the creators of "Lost" aren't trying to be coy anymore: Young Ben hands Sayid a book called "A Separate Reality." That's not a subtle hint, folks. That's a sledgehammer to the skull.

Have to admit that I kinda geeked out when Roger Work Man appeared again. Then I remembered, "Oh yeah, dude is a complete a-hole." Also, no surprise that his Dharma test revealed he was only qualified to work as a janitor. See Rog, you don't throw chicken salad sandwiches against the wall because it means YOU have to clean it up.

Young Ben kinda looks like a vampire.

I kind of want Radzinsky to blow his head off already. The guy bugs me.

Someone finally mentioned Ann Arbor again. Bring on the DeGroots!

MacCutcheon whiskey. How I've missed your sweet, sweet aftertaste.

Sayid was put on the plane against his will. Now we need to know why Kate and Hurley made the decision to fly Ajira. Last night seemed to indicate Kate's decision was potentially Sawyer, er, LaFleur-related. Not sure I care about that.

Standout line of the night: "I hated him," past tense, from Young Ben about his dad when he freed Sayid. Maybe I'm reading too much into that, but it kind of sent a chill down my spine. Because we know how Roger is supposed to die. Did something else happen with that burning Dharma van?

-- Thomas Rozwadowski,

Just the title of this episode alone -- "He's Our You," a line muttered by Sawyer to Sayid just before arriving at the Dharma torture hut -- seems to suggest a kind of split-road reality is taking place. If you woke up tomorrow in an alternate, parallel timeline, there would have to be another you brushing his teeth and eating breakfast in the original timeline, right? That wouldn't be "you," though, it would be "he" ... but "he" would still be "you."

The whole time Dharma's torture dude was on screen, I kept imagining him saying, "Hi. I'm Larry, this is my fellow torturer Darryl, and this is my other fellow torturer Darryl." Really a fantastic bit of casting with William Sanderson. He was as creepy here as he was on that episode of "The X-Files" when he was a crazy postal worker, shooting everybody. Here he just put a sugar cube on Sayid's tongue and it was STILL scary.

Juliet was thankfully much more civil about handling Kate than last week's promo ("Stay away from him!") led us to believe.

Line of the night: "Three years, no burning buses. Y'all are back for one day!" Runner-up: "A 12-year-old Ben Linus brought me a chicken salad sandwich. How do you think I'm doing?"

So the Dharma aptitude test pegged Kate as a mechanic? Do those Dharma pervs just like seeing hot chicks covered in motor oil or something? Hurley's assignment I can understand -- you don't need a Scantron sheet to see he'd make a good cook.

Glad Jin finally showed up there at the end. Think maybe he's made a regular habit of scouring the island for signs of Sun?

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Who shot Patty Hewes? And other burning "Damages'' questions

A couple of notches above ''24'' on the intelligence and unpredictability scale and not as confusing and frustrating as ''Lost,'' ''Damages'' is the cream of the crop of the complicated serial dramas. The best description I've run across so far: ''the New York Times crossword puzzle of TV shows.'' It's challenging, smart and unbelievably addictive (get your hands on Season 1 and see how long it takes you to burn through it). And Glenn Close as the lead is so good she's scary, or is that she's so scary that makes her so good?

Either way, we're down to the second-to-the-last episode tonight on FX. Only two hours to go and so many questions:

Who shot Patty Hewes? Or, did anyone shoot Patty Hewes? She's all bloodied and distressed as she stumbles into the elevator in Ellen's hotel in the flash-forward scene writers have been taunting us with all season. Now the dirty FBI special agent dude told someone on his cell phone: ''My informant (Ellen?) just shot Patty Hewes.'' We've seen a vengeful Ellen pointing a gun at someone. We've seen a tearful and scared Patty. We've heard gunshots. But, if memory serves, we have yet to see Patty and Ellen both in the same frame during that exchange. Since nothing is as it seems on ''Damages,'' the smart money is on an entirely different scenario than the one writers have set us up to buy into.

Plus, we know ''Damages'' is back for a third season (thank you, cable gods), and there's no way they could have the show without Close's ruthless Patty. Then again, Arthur Frobisher got shot last season and came back this season, but now he hangs out at meditative retreats and has lost his edge.

What’s really up with Wes? We obviously know he's not the nice guy Ellen met at her grief counseling support group. He was hired by the Weird Bearded Guy Killer to keep tabs on Ellen and has now been told to take her out because she knows too much. On one hand, he seems conflicted about doing her harm. On the other hand, did you see his personal arsenal of weapons? Creepy.

Could he be the person Ellen is actually pointing the gun at in the flash-forward scene? He's the one who taught her how to shoot to kill, and if she ends up killing him … ooooh, good irony.

What the hell did Tom Shayes do to tick off Patty enough to get him fired? A fast-forward from a couple of episodes back shows Tom no longer being allowed back in Hewes & Associates, even though he has info he says Patty needs to hear. You could make the argument that Tate Donovan's character is the least ruthless of any on the show, so how did he go from being solid, dependable, second-fiddle Tom to getting canned? High expectations for a nasty-good twist here. Remember, his wife is pregnant, and the guy adores his family.

Where art thou, Arthur Frobisher? If there’s one gripe about Season 2, it's the lack of air time for Ted Danson’s wonderfully narcissistic Frobisher. Get him back in the game! The other gripe, of course, is no Ray Fiske, but he's still dead from Season 1. Doesn't mean we don’t miss him though.

What’s going to be the fallout from Patty’s husband’s affair? Payback is a you know what – and then some -- wherever Patty Hewes is concerned. We can't wait to see how she makes her hubby pay. Somehow, her annoying son with the annoying hair and the cougar girlfriend is sure to make matters worse.

What was in the box that Ellen's fiancé sent to her just before he was killed? It's wrapped all pretty like a gift, so even it's just something skimpy from Victoria's Secret and has nothing to do with anything, would she please just open it already? It's called closure, Ellen. Besides, it's bugging us.

What's the liquor budget for that show anyway? There's not many scenes that don't go down without someone drinking expensive booze (never on the rocks) or wine. It would make for a brutal drinking game for ''Damages'' watchers: Every time someone on ''Damages'' drinks, you drink. Patty might have the stomach for that, but we don't.

-- Kendra Meinert,


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

TV Potpourri: a Pam-less "Office", "Kings" and more "FNL" news

"Dunder Mifflin, this isn't Pam." I'm not sure how I missed this little gem on Michael Ausiello's EW blog, but Michael Scott's ill-fated resignation may not be the last on the show.

Ausiello reports that improv theater veteran Ellie Kemper has been cast as the show's new... receptionist. Ummmm. Whaaa? Will Charles "Stringer" Minor bring in his own receptionist? (More importantly, will she run all meetings under Roberts Rules of Order?) Is Pam really leaving Dunder Mifflin? Is there a bun in the Jim-Pam oven we don't know about? Whatever the circumstances, it's more evidence the show is finally getting out of its Jim-and-Dwight-play-pranks,-then-Michael-does-something-stupid rut. Still, let's not get too radical -- it's not "The Office" without "Dunder Mifflin, this is Pam" in the background.

Will "Kings" be dethroned by ratings? The promising NBC drama dropped almost 25 percent this Sunday from its premiere last week. March Madness can't be to blame -- all the games ended by 7 p.m. at least here in the Midwest region -- but going up against the real Commander-in-Chief on "60 Minutes" probably didn't help the fictional royals.

Hope is on the way for "Friday Night Lights" fans. Talks are going on to bring back the DirecTV-NBC collaboration that allowed the third season to survive (the networks split the cost with the show airing first on DirecTV in the fall and currently on NBC). Rumors have it that not one, but two more seasons could be in the works for the good people of Dillon. Since the season finale hasn't aired, yet, on NBC, I won't offer any spoilers, but there's plenty of unfinished business to last at least a few more seasons.

-- Malavika Jagannathan,

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Monday, March 23, 2009

"Eastbound" and done?

"Eastbound and Down" was never appointment television for me. In fact, I never caught the HBO show when it actually aired Sunday nights, instead, opting to watch it On Demand or much later if I happened to remember TiVo'ing it.

But having watched last night's season finale after a much more emotional adieu to my beloved "Flight of the Conchords," I came away impressed by the evolution of "Eastbound's" central scumbag, Kenny Powers.

At least from a plot standpoint -- and it's something Sara Boyd addressed after the season premiere -- it seemed like "Eastbound" was, er, bound to a one-joke rhythm with Powers as a John Rocker-ish redneck lout who could never come to accept his fading legacy. An anonymous commenter noted, however, that in a six-episode run, Powers' profanity-laden insensitivity and raunch could probably be tolerated. That turned out to be true, and the series got much stronger as "Eastbound" developed characters beyond washed-up, delusional Kenny.

Stevie, in particular, made this show for me. At first, his love affair with Kenny F'n Powers was being painted as creepy and perverse. But those highly sexualized layers were stripped away and Stevie simply became Lil' Kenny, a pushed around, pathetic, wimp-of-a-band teacher who finally came out of his shell thanks to Kenny's brazen, backwards ways. His exuberance at being named Kenny's right hand man was both hilarious and oddly touching for a show that didn't seem like it would bare much of a soul beyond the typical Adam McKay-Will Ferrell low-brow movie fare.

Speaking of Ferrell, his Ric Flair wannabe car salesman Ashley Schaeffer was also a nice addition, particularly in "Chapter Five" -- to me the best episode of the series, and one that would have left me satisfied had last night's final chapter never aired. The series featured just the right amount of Ferrell, who never overpowered with his comedic personality, yet delivered a memorable soliloquy about making love to his wife's daughter and having his son walk in on the act. How actors Danny McBride (Powers) and Craig Robinson (Powers' baseball nemesis and Daryl from "The Office") kept straight faces during that hilariously quixotic exchange is beyond me.

Anyway, the show ended up taking somewhat of a dark, but necessary turn last night (no spoilers!) -- which leaves the door open for a HBO, or perhaps full length movie, return (It has to be better than freakin' "Semi-Pro," right?).

However, it would appear that "Eastbound" might be a one-and-done series. That's befitting Kenny Powers' flame-out in the big leagues, I suppose, though I also suspect "Eastbound" will be a cult hit on DVD. It's the kind of show that should do well thanks to word-of-mouth, especially since it's made for one weekend viewing.

Ultimately, while it won't offer a ton of surprises beyond the straightforward premise of a former big leaguer forced to accept self-induced failure, there were several big laughs towards the end of the series. There was also an uncomfortable dose of reality, which is something I never expected when I saw the names McKay and Ferrell attached to this project.

As Kenny Powers would say, now that's getting f'd up with some truth.

-- Thomas Rozwadowski,


Friday, March 20, 2009

Commercial Interruption: Dunder Mifflin brings in a Stringer

Sometimes there's just too much television for one Channel Surfing blogger to handle. That's when we need a break to sit back, relax and indulge in some friendly back-and-forth (via email, of course — we don't actually like to speak to one another in person). Bloggers Thomas Rozwadowski and Adam Reinhard were as pleased as Omar Little with a box of Honey Nut Cheerios to see Idris Elba (aka "Stringer" Bell from "The Wire" or "the black George Clooney") show up on last night's potentially life-altering episode of "The Office." Is Michael really quitting? Or will it be viewers who quit?

Thomas: Our blogging crew has, perhaps justifiably so, been rather dismissive of "The Office" lately, so I was hoping the infusion of a little Baltimore blood in the form of Idris Elba would liven things up on the NBC comedy. It had the opposite effect, at least from a plot standpoint, and I have to say, I loved every minute of it. Granted, the episode itself wasn't super-funny. But since "The Office" loves to throw in some serious darkness every now and then (only to conveniently forget about the severe emotional repercussions when killing off horrible plotlines like the Dwight-Andy-Angela love triangle, ahem), I deeply appreciated Michael Scott's bleak turn last night. "The Office" has tried to have it both ways for awhile, and ultimately, I think that's what has kept the show from reaching its Season 2 potential, when let's face it, things were far more one-dimensional regarding crazy Dunder Mifflin antics.

So here we have Michael wasting work time talking about his 15th anniversary party, inappropriately discussing Jan's libido, or basically acting like the lovable-numbskull-turned-no-longer-realistic-boss-who'd-never-remain-employed when Charles Minor calmly puts all his tomfoolery on ice (just stopping short of resorting to Stringer-like Robert's Rules of Order). It's a moment "Office" fans like me have been waiting for -- that someone would stare coldly into Michael's eyes and admonish his foolish behavior in a realistic capacity. (One reviewer compared it to Frank Grimes meeting Homer Simpson, which frankly, makes me angry because I wish I'd thought of it.)

Anyway, Michael reacted honestly by hiking up to David Wallace's office ("Yo String, where Wallace at?") and ultimately quitting on the spot when he felt his company loyalty had been taken for granted. It was a pivotal moment in "Office" history. Because at least to me, it shows that Michael has convinced himself that his goofball antics (and bad ideas) should be condoned because he's Dunder Mifflin's most loyal employee -- even more so than Dwight. So there was very real hurt when David decided to finally set Michael straight by dispatching Charles, the fun-killing assassin. I think we all know that Michael will come back in the end, but we finally have the kind of foil Jan could've been before they ruined her character for life.

Adam, do you think this could be an important turning point for the show?

Adam: I don't know that I'd call it a turning point -- because I highly doubt Michael's going to follow through on his resignation, or that a guy as obviously smart and talented as Charles would stick around at a place like Dunder Mifflin too long -- but at least SOMETHING HAPPENED. Something unexpected transpired within those same, tired Scranton-branch walls that have become so drab and uninviting to us weary "Office" faithful. It wasn't the same old episode where Michael does something addle-brained, Jim pulls a prank, and Dwight acts like a maniac.

... OK, so those things DID happen, but like you said, at least this time we had someone acting as a outside voice of reason. But is that really a good thing? Whereas I desperately wanted the former Stringer Bell to dismiss a meeting with a stern "Adjourn yo' asses" for old times sake, Elba's new character is dangerous in other ways. For starters, in the course of one day -- ONE DAY -- he has caused 15-year man Michael Scott to quit his job, and made Jim "James Bond" Halpert fear for his. I think that's just as important a plot point: Will this new managerial force do what even the prospect of marriage and homeowner ship couldn't? Finally get Jim to straighten up and get his life in order? And if so, well ... who the hell wants to watch that?

There's where I fear the real danger of Minor's character -- and a bit of a turning point in itself -- lies. He's a cold splash of reality for some of our favorite characters. Where does the show go from here? I've always imagined the final season of "The Office" kind of mirroring the final two episodes of the British version, dealing with Michael's termination and how he'd deal with it. Perhaps that's going to happen sooner than I thought.

But yeah, more than anything I just didn't think the episode was that funny. So if there are big changes afoot, I'm not sure I'm going to care. How about you?

Thomas: I completely agree about likely not caring. I'll probably have moved onto "Parks and Recreation" as my flavor-of-the-month comedy if Michael is terminated or Jim is suddenly forced to play it straight every hour of the day. I don't think that's going to happen. This turning point is only supposed to make us wonder if it could happen. "The Office" is a comedy, after all.

Then again, that's the writers having it both ways. It's not like "Arrested Development" in that respect. I mean, can you imagine if Michael Bluth had tried to have a sincere brotherly discussion with Gob and then the next week, they were back to playing "Final Countdown" and making Mr. Banana Grabber jokes? My guess is that since "The Office" loves to balance light and dark these days, this is merely a short term reality check delivered by a bad-ass black dude inside those drab, uninviting Dunder Mifflin walls, as you put it. I think there's something to the fact that "The Office" really caught fire because it wasn't always about something zany or absurd or life-altering, but instead, tackled the mundane work grind in a fun, relatable way. "Office Olympics" immediately springs to mind, and I mean, how simple was that?

But you're right, something actually happened. And I had been calling for some level of serious observation when it came to Michael's clownish behavior, at least to make us believe in some small capacity that Dunder Mifflin could actually exist in the real world, that there was SOME reason a camera crew would keep following these moronic underachievers year after year. Then again, I'm a total buzzkill at times. I'm specifically thinking about how Pam continued Michael's doomed speech while doing Forrest Gump impersonations instead of just saying, "Um, sorry, speech over." Again, it's a TV show, I get that. But whatever ... it's like Charles Minor was finally acting as a conscience for the show, and well, I found that refreshing. Especially, as you pointed out, in reference to Jim's behavior.

So I don't think careful, thoughtful analysis of this is warranted, but we did it anyways. It seems to me you simply think "The Office" has run its course and can't do anything to make you care again.

Adam: There's something to be said for darkness, though. I think "The Office" was always meant to be a dark show about a group of people in a stultifying work environment, and the lengths they go to maintain their sanity. The humor came from recognizing yourself and your own personal experiences in their exploits. But stretch that concept beyond one or two seasons and it would be depressing as hell, because no one wants to imagine being trapped in such a meaningless pit of despair for that long. So what else could the writers do? They turned the concept on its head, making everything wacky and, dare I say it, sitcomy. And now these forced bits of drama -- sorry, but I still don't believe Michael would quit after one day with a new boss -- are only digging the hole deeper.

Because you're right -- no way would a camera crew follow these schmucks around this long, but we're not supposed to think about that. And I don't want to analyze the show to death either, but I need to fill the time I spend not laughing somehow.

Now what was that you were saying about being a buzzkill?

-- Thomas Rozwadowski,, and Adam Reinhard,

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Obama's appearance on Leno a ratings success

The "Special Olympics" wisecrack aside -- a gutterball in any context -- President Obama's appearance on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" was a ratings victory. And not just in the swing states.

Overnight ratings for Leno's show skyrocketed with one in four TVs tuned into this historic interview. Now, in full disclosure, I wasn't one of those televisions (there's a little something called sleep and March Madness that takes precedence in my world), but I caught the replay on this morning.

Unlike Obama's previous appearances on late night TV as a candidate, there's a bit more formality and rigidity to what he says and how he says it now that's he's President. (And rightly so -- somehow I don't think we want our President riffing with Triumph the Insult Comic Dog). A few of the Commander-in-Chief's opening lines -- obviously rehearsed -- played well with the partisan crowd ("It’s a little bit like American Idol but everyone's Simon Cowell"). But most of Leno's interview was serious, a chance for the President to talk about the current economic crisis and the controversies over taxpayer-funded bonuses at everyone's favorite insurance company AIG.

Obama offered up a few lighter observations on life in the White House, including more on the promised First Dog and a predictable story involving Sasha and Malia. But as pointed out by Time magazine, Obama's isn't a ha-ha funny guy and his sarcasm tends to comes off a little bland on live television. Still, it was in a lighter moment -- when Leno asked him about his dismal bowling abilities -- that Obama offered up a Joe Biden-esque gaffe about "Special Olympics" that's sure to dominate the cable airwaves for the next two days. It was an unfortunate moment in Presidential history, but, hey, it's not like he vomited on Leno, right? Obama has since apologized, but rest assured the talking heads on TV and radio will not let this soundbite die.

We're not used to seeing our Presidents on late night TV, unless they're a punchline for a joke, so there's not much to compare Obama's appearance to. In spite of the poorly timed joke -- hopefully an unscripted moment -- if the ratings are any indicator, then his effort to reach out to the greater public was a success. Could he have done the same thing in a presidential press conference? Probably, but chances are, the American public would likely have tuned into something else.

Check out the entire interview and let us know what you think:

--Malavika Jagannathan,

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Goodbye, leggy Conchords, goodbye ...

It's been under-reported, and maybe with good reason since it's still somewhat speculative. But Sunday's season finale of "Flight of the Conchords" could very well be a series finale if we're to believe previous interviews with Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie.

The hilarious Kiwi duo has gone on record as saying they're ready to put "Conchords" to bed after two seasons. However, much of that chatter came prior to Season 2's launch and was the likely result of having to write all new songs for another season.

"The second series seems to me like it would be a good end to the show. I feel like another 10 [episodes]... that will be enough," McKenzie told Q Magazine.

Since that quote -- which again, isn't definitive -- there hasn't been confirmation from anyone that Sunday's episode is the end of the Conchords' hallowed HBO run.

But what if that's the case? Shouldn't we, as Conchords fans, be preparing for that grave reality?

I mean, sure there's another album on the horizon, probably a few comedy specials and other creative projects in the mix. But "Flight of the Conchords" will cease to be on TV!

That the decision would fall in line with the British school of comedy makes sense, but "Conchords" has been particularly strong considering the new batch of songs (and plots) were built on the back of last season's glowing success. However, with that comes a growing expectation to raise the bar each time, and while Jemaine and Bret certainly seem up to the challenge -- I mean, they got Art Garfunkel to appear in an episode where Jemaine and Bret play in a Simon and Garfunkel cover band -- maybe that's an expectation the boys feel they can't live up to without other projects falling by the wayside. Or maybe they just don't want to put up with hipster douchebags who'll compare Season 3 to the first one by saying, "Oh, man, they were so much better before they got all those Facebook friends ..."

Either way, it goes without saying that "Conchords" has been one of TV's most original and innovative comedies of the past few years. If Sunday's episode is the series finale, it's been an amazing run with Mel, Murray, Dave, Greg, Doug and the rest of the motley crew they've assembled.

So until word officially comes from the New Zealand Consulate, we'll keep our finger off the panic button and settle for a season finale by paying tribute to five favorite songs that helped confirm our love of keytars and animal print T-shirts forever.

Let's hope there's some party left to rock beyond this weekend.

"Flight of the Conchords"
airs at 9 p.m. Sunday on HBO.

Business Time

If You're Into It

Cello Tape (The Tape of Love)

Hurt Feelings

Fashion is Danger

-- Thomas Rozwadowski,


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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Revisiting our "Lost" questions -- Plus five new ones

We had questions. "Lost" gave us some answers.

After a one-week break in the action following the Sawyer-centric "LaFleur," now seems like an opportune time to revisit Channel Surfing's "Lost" questions prior to the Season 5 premiere. Somewhat surprisingly, Thomas Rozwadowski and Adam Reinhard came away more than satisfied with the results -- which bodes well for the series as it speeds towards its eventual conclusion.

Here's what we learned so far, plus five fresh queries as we buckle up for the rest of this Season 5 Dharma van ride through the island '70s. Shambala!

1. What becomes of island time? Adequately answered after a nose-bleedin' (and almost too convenient) plot device that saw the island skipping like a record through various events in time. Thanks to some writers' strike shortening, the glimpse of Rousseau arriving on the island likely served as a farewell to that flashback-laden loose end. Meanwhile, we learned a hydrogen bomb labeled Jughead was on the island, Charles Widmore was a bit of an obnoxious prick back in the day, and Miss Eloise Hawking may or may not have been a foxy, gun-totin' blonde.

All in all, the trip through the island archives was exciting, exhilarating and at times, quite amusing (Sawyer cursing the sky.) Thanks to Locke turning the donkey wheel once again, the island is stuck in the '70s, where we find James Ford LaFleur, Juliet and Jin shacked up with Horace Goodspeed, and at the end of the last episode, a returning and completely clueless Oceanic Six minus Aaron. Now comes the real question: is a new timeline developing thanks to the Losties being displaced in the '70s, or did the Losties create the crazy, new post-crash timeline because of their misplaced presence in the '70s? (Yes, that sentence is supposed to be confusing.)

2. What’s with the cryptic use of pronouns? “You're not supposed to raise him, Jack." "Don't you dare bring him back, Kate.” This mystery remains unsolved, thanks to Claire remaining M.I.A. this season and Kate blindly dismissing the "What became of Aaron" query by telling Jack that he is never to broach the subject again. Hmmm ... is it Aaron or is it Locke? We know that Dead Locke's arrival on the island led to re-animation, but whether he's a Christian Shephard-like ghost or a full-fledged mango-eating human remains to be seen. Either way, Locke's island reinvention is an interesting wrinkle that no one on the Ajira plane (except probably Ben) saw coming. Is that good or bad?

3. Speaking of Claire, what the heck happened to her? Cue cricket chirping. No Claire this season. Not even a mention, as best we can remember, though that was expected thanks to Internet leaks pointing to her return in Season 6. Patience, people. Patience.

4. Is Ben good or evil? We didn't expect an answer to this loaded question, and in typical "Lost" fashion, both sides of Ben were on full display early in Season 5. This much we do know: Ben could care less about being called out as a liar. We also know he had been spying on all the O6 members, caused Kate grief by ordering DNA tests, and likely was the mastermind behind the dastardly dart blowers tracking Sayid.

Once Chaz Widmore entered the fray with Locke as Jeremy Bentham, things got really interesting. In a juicy twist, Ben used his suicide hotline skills to save Locke, only to strangle the poor bastard moments later. He also tricked Widmore off the island and pushed the donkey wheel when he wasn't supposed to, leading to Locke's second turn that stopped the island skip-a-thon. He's also guilty of probably 1,000 different lies to Jack, and lest we forget, he's sporting some MAJOR battle wounds for reasons unknown (but we'll get to that with one of our new questions ...) As Sir Simon Milligan might say, we're leaning towards eeeeeeeeeeeevil.

5. Should anyone dare mess with Sun? This one didn't turn out to be as important as we thought since Sun's island return was cemented rather easily with the simple offering of Jin's wedding band. We also knew that Jin was still alive ... so .... yawn. Then again, it's possible that Sun has some double agent mojo goin' courtesy of her Widmore connections. Ben may still want to watch his back, or at least hire Vincent as his island food taster.

6. Is Charlotte an island native? Are redheads hot? It would appear our dearly departed Ms. Lewis was telling the truth (as far as we’ll probably ever know) when she said the island is her place of birth. We know now that her parents were part of the Big D, and that she was squeezed out during a time when island babies and their moms survived the birthing process. The question now is, will Daniel tell her what he swears he won’t?

7. Why “Jeremy Bentham,” and how did Locke get off the island? OK, in retrospect, this was a pretty lame question. It would have been better to ask, say, HOW DOES LOCKE DIE, or something like that. But the answer to how John Locke became Jeremy Bentham does have a nice wrinkle to it. After disappearing off the island via pushing the donkey wheel (how does that work exactly? Another question) John is tracked down by Widmore, who provides him with his cover, named after another famous philosopher. (Good thing he didn’t go with L. Ron Hubbard.)

8. Was Ben lying to Locke when he said he couldn’t get back to the island? Apparently. And Ben didn’t seem too apprehensive of his ability to do so, either – he sat quietly on the Ajira Air flight, reading “Ulysses” and chatting with Jack. Not exactly the actions of a man doubting the odds of his return home. It’s possible, of course, that Mr. Linus’s bloodied, beaten appearance post-landing has something to do with Bossman Jacob expelling the little twerp.

9. Where will Desmond/Penny fit in this season? Do we know the answer to this yet? Sure, the reunited lovebirds are new parents, on the lam from Daddy Widmore and his thugs, and Desmond had that memory-dream hybrid thingy with Daniel asking him to find his mother. But what good did Desmond finding Ms. Hawking accomplish? It sure didn’t save Charlotte’s life, as Daniel was hoping. And the Humes’ trip to L.A. only brought Penny into the waiting clutches (presumably) of revenge-happy Ben. Likely we’ll learn more about her fate soon, but until then, Penny and Des have kind of been non-starters this season.

10. How big of a role does Jack’s dad play? Humongocolossagantic. Even if we don’t see him the rest of the series, he’s still the dude who told John how to get off the island, and then told him to find his son. If Locke had not been able to tell Jack that poppa says hi, no way does Jack ever go back to the island, and no way do the other dominoes fall. Whatever Christian Shepherd is – ghost, hallucination, Smoky in disguise – he set the rest of “Lost” in motion.

And five new questions ...

1. Who do you have in the island death pool? In the kind-of-a-spoiler-but-more-of-a-bummer department,'s Michael Ausiello revealed this week that two Losties are supposed to die by season's end -- one major and the other major-ish. We surmised that the major-ish one would likely be Penny Widmore following Ben's frantic phone call to Jack during "316." After all, there's no way Ben would make that promise to Pa Widmore (I call him P-Widdy) and not follow through.

As for the major one ... it's anything goes thanks to that end date. Sayid has been fairly useless for a few seasons now. Sawyer's arc of redemption appears complete. Daniel Faraday seems like the sacrificial lamb type. And of course, there's Desmond's island fate being tied to Penny's potential death ... which could also spell doom for a certain Mr. Linus.

2. Is Richard Alpert a ghost? He doesn't age. He likes eyeliner (um, do ghosts wear eyeliner?). And he certainly alluded to some level of supernatural prowess by telling Horace that the sonic fence may stop others but not "us." Then again, maybe he just knows about the nifty earplug trick. Because of the mystery surrounding him, Alpert has always been one of "Lost's" most captivating characters. Early on, we thought he might be a time traveler extraordinaire. But now that Locke has been re-animated -- a telegraphed move that followed in the mystical footsteps of Ghost Dad Christian Shephard suddenly spouting island wisdom -- it appears the living dead on the island are pretty darn special. Richard Alpert may be one of them, though it then begs the question, do ghosts have to keep truces with normal Dharma folk?

3. Why/how did the O6 split up post-crash? You know how it is when you go on vacation. Little Bobby wants to go on Space Mountain, Susie wants to shake Mickey's hand, and Dad just wants to stay in the hotel room and watch pay-per-view skin flicks. But what could account for our returning castaways getting separated, not just spatially, but in time too? Jack, Kate and Hurley have hooked up with Sawyer and crew sometime back in the Nixon Administration; Ben is curled up on a cot in the same period as Locke, Frank the pilot, and maybe Sun; and Sayid is ... wait, where the hell is Sayid? All we know is this: there was a flash of light, and Jack wakes up in a familiar bamboo patch, albeit in the '70s. The plane has landed more-or-less in one piece over on Hydra Island in the present (maybe), and there's a bunch of injured passengers, but no one seems to be dead. On the contrary, it brought corpsified Locke back among the mango-eating living.

Is it possible the flash was another time-jump, and the plane simply got caught halfway between eras? But how could that teleport Jack and Kate off the plane, while the others had to land like normal people? And seriously, where the hell is Sayid?

4. What's Faraday up to? Daniel Faraday is a man with a plan. Right away in the first episode we saw something that made no sense: Faraday in a spiffy Dharma jumpsuit and helmet, prowling around the future site of the Orchard Station. Now that it makes sense how he got there, what's he doing? What has he figured out? The obvious guess is he's going to push the donkey wheel and get the mystical time record back in the groove. But is it as simple as that? And could it have anything to do with saving Charlotte?

5. What effect do the castaways have on Dharma? Sawyer is chief of security. Juliette fixes vans. Jin ... has a jumpsuit with "Jin" stitched on it. Obviously they're not supposed to be there. And it's likely that they won't prevent Ben's purge or contribute to any huge scientific breakthroughs. But our gang has been having an effect on the daily goings-on of DI, whether it's James talking Horace down after a fight with his wife, or Juliette delivering Amy's baby. Heck, remember the scene with Horace tossing dynamite? Where else have we seen dynamite before? And who was it that told Horace about the Black Rock?

There are bound to be several of these cool insider moments for fans, but will it amount to anything? With the addition of Jack, Kate and Hurley tonight, Sawyer will have to expand his lie to accommodate the discovery of his "boatmates" after three years. And what happens when Young Ben shows up (you know he has to.) What would be stopping Sawyer from taking the kid for a swim out in the riptide? And if Locke is also in the same time period and somehow finds his way to the village, how many questions do you think he's going to have for a certain Dr. Marvin Candle?

"Namaste" airs at 8 p.m. tonight on ABC.

-- Thomas Rozwadowski,, and Adam Reinhard,