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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Punishment Pool, Week 4: Poetic Injustice

In honor of National Poetry Month — and in a desperate attempt to survive my THIRD Punishment Pool viewing of "American Idol" — here's a minute-by-minute recap of last night's travesty done completely in haiku.

"Idol" on in 10
I beg you, don't make me watch
Punishment Pool sucks

Tonight's theme: Rat Pack
So many jokes I could make
Haiku limits snark

Blatant Coke placement
Even better than real thing?
Not with these songs, bub

Guest star Jamie Foxx
Penance for Miley bashing?
Dude don't deserve this

Sorry, Jamie Foxx
Ray Charles not in the Rat Pack
Think Jewish, not blind

"Way You Look Tonight"
Kris Allen — great lounge singer
Wait, that's not the point?

Kara's cleaving out
Paula's wrapped like a present
nobody asked for

Allison — last girl
Are you sure that's a girl, or
red-haired Uruk-hai?

"Someone to Watch," yes —
Me, watching Allison stink;
I'm so "Over" you

Yo yo yo yo yo
Yo dawg, yo dawg, check it out
Dawg dawg dawg dawg dawg

Matt — a fedora?
You look like a gay gangster
Take off the hat, Matt

"Funny Valentine"
Stop picking cliché numbers!

Jamie's in Goke's grill
Trying to coax a "real" sound
Punch him in the schnoz!

"Come Rain or Come Shine"
Can I have an umbrella?
I'm drowning in schmaltz

Just when I'm starting
to like Simon, he digs Goke
Turds of a feather

Jamie and Adam
Sitting in a tree / K-I-

Adam's "Feeling Good"
This Adam is feeling bad
No one seems to care

Who will go home next?
That's like asking "How are you?"
I don't give a flip

Suggestions for themes:
Kurt Cobain night — everyone
shoots themselves in face

Buddy Holly night
They all put on funny specs
and die in plane crash

A cappella night
Take away the backing band
Watch them wet their pants

If I have to watch
this next week, you guys, I swear:
I'll take you with me

Adam Reinhard,

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Do Cartoons Stand the Test Of Time?

Flip on the television on a Saturday morning and, unless you're between the ages of 3 and 10, you might be unpleasantly surprised. It's possible that since I'm no longer a child, I've lost that childlike wonder that allows most of us to buy into the world of animation. It's also equally possible that the cartoons today are, in a word, lame compared to the ones I remember (also, I used to walk 7 miles to school every day, in case you were wondering).

I'm sure every generation is attached to its particular form of childhood entertainment, but do the cartoons of my early 90s childhood stand the test of time beyond my nostalgia? With the help of YouTube, I revisited a few of my favorites to see if they are timeless or dated.


Original Air Date: 1990-1994

I feared revisiting this show -- what would happen if I hated it? Could it no longer be my favorite cartoon of all time? Would I find the lovable antics of that ace pilot Baloo and his anthropomorphic gang as entertaining as I did when I was 8? Thankfully, Disney was doing something right in the early 1990s when it debuted "TaleSpin" in its Disney Afternoon lineup. The show followed Baloo, his navigator Kit Cloudkicker, bossy manager Rebecca and a wacky mechanic named Wildcat at their air cargo business Higher For Hire in fictional Cape Suzette (many of the characters were taken from Disney's "The Jungle Book"). The show's "Indiana Jones" flavor -- Baloo and Kit usually get tangled up in some adventure often involving air pirates lead by the English-mangling Don Karnage or the Soviet-like Thembrians lead by a Napoleonic boar named Colonel Spigot -- hasn't lost its freshness almost two decades later. Between Baloo and Rebecca's 1930s screwball comedy relationship, Don Karnage's ridiculous escapades and the loopy but interesting plots, "TaleSpin" was and still is a great show.

Verdict: Timeless

"Captain Planet"

Original Air Date: 1990-1996

The brainchild of Ted Turner (who is apparently a thousand years old), this was feelgood environmentalism for kids before the age of Al Gore. The premise of the show was borderline hippie-ish: the spirit of the earth (Gaia) assembles a team of of planeteers from around the world and gives them rings that allows the bearer control over one of the five elements of the planet (OK, so "heart" technically isn't an element, but I guess they had to give that wimpy kid from South America something to make it continentally copacetic). When the powers of the ring combine, the planeteers can summon Captain Planet to save the earth from silly things like pollution and waste. Now a lot of about this show dates it -- Linka, one of the characters was actually from the Soviet Union -- but its message of environmentalism is pretty timeless. Still, the show's cheesy plots and villains need a little revamping to make me want to watch it again (although I still love that theme song... "Captain Planet, he's the hero! Gonna take pollution down to zero!")

Verdict: Dated (the clip below has the Planeteers in war-torn Belfast). Anyone up for remaking Captain Planet with Al Gore voicing him? "Kids, pollution is bad... here are some charts."


Original Air Date: 1994-1997

A latecomer to Disney Afternoon, "Gargoyles" was a much darker addition for the normally goofball lineup that included classics such as "Ducktales" and movie tie-ins like "Hercules." It's mix of science fiction, medieval history and literature (many of the characters were taken from various Shakespearean plays) resulted in the most complicated of the Disney Afternoon series with a convoluted mythology that spanned thousands of years. The story centered around six gargoyles, creatures who turned to stone by day and came alive at night, who were transported from Scotland to New York City in 1994. With the help of a NYPD detective Elisa Maza, the six of them protect the city from various forces while also trying to prevent the smarmy billionaire David Xanatos from hatching his Machiavellian schemes. If you were a real geek (ahem, me, ahem), you'd also delight in the fact that many of the characters were voiced by the actors and actresses from the "Star Trek" universe. Fifteen years later, the animation might be dated, but the show's storylines are still captivating -- and definitely not just for kids.

Verdict: Timeless.

"Dungeons and Dragons"

Original Air Date: 1983-1985

So, I'm not doing much to downplay my geek reputation, am I? For the record, I have never participated in any role-playing activity ever -- seriously! -- but I loved this show. The premise was pretty simple: a group of children get pulled into the "Realm" after taking an amusement park ride called "Dungeons and Dragons." They're each given unique magical abilities and characters by the Dungeon Master to help them defeat the villains in the Realm and find a way back home (I desperately wanted to be Sheila the thief -- her magical cloak was awesome). In rewatching a few episodes (there's a clip from one of the episodes below), I think I stand by my original assessment. The show's writing is comparable to "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" -- funny but cheesy -- but the plots are still enjoyable, especially if you like "Harry Potter" or "Lord of the Rings." In retrospect, though, the show's main villain Venger looks too much like a cross-dressing Maleficient from "Sleeping Beauty" to be taken seriously.

Verdict: Dated, but could easily be revamped (with a more fearsome villain) for a modern audience

Any childhood favorites you think are timeless? Let me know.

-- Malavika Jagannathan,

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Celebrating "Lost's" first 100 shows

With all this hullabaloo over President Obama's first 100 days in office, it's easy to overlook a similarly important centennial mark occurring around the same time: The 100th episode of "Lost," which bows tomorrow night. Obama may have looming financial bedlam, a rabid opposition party and sneezing pigs on his hands, but at least he doesn't have to deal with being stuck 30 years in the past. (Although a TV series about Obama trapped in the 70s with an afro and love beads would be pretty fantastic. Get on that, ABC.)

The 100th episode has long been a celebrated milestone for any TV show, as it's generally when a series is viable for syndication. That hasn't really been the case since "Golden Girls" was on the air (RIP, Bea Arthur), but the century mark — usually reached by a show's fifth season — is still a considerable badge of honor, given how rarely it's reached.

And so, to give "Lost" its well-deserved pat on the back (watch those hands, Henry Ian Cusick), here are some articles from around the Web, looking back at 100 great episodes of one great show.

First, from, Ryan McGee totally steals my idea and runs down his 100 favorite things about "Lost." He breaks them down to 20 from each season, posting them one season at a time leading up to tomorrow's show. A couple examples: "35. (from season 2) The double homicide heard round the hatch. And the designated driver policy sent round the cast soon after. ... 46. (from season 3) A bus greeting Edmund Burke at roughly 50 MPH. Fate, Others’ intervention, or Sandra Bullock? You decide!" Read the whole mildly interesting (I'll get you yet, McGee! McGeeeeeeee!) list as it's posted by clicking here.

Next, those lovely industry insiders over at Variety recently opened the floor to fans chomping at the bits to ask showrunners Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof some questions. They were bombarded, of course, and out of the 188 questions, gave 10 for Team Darlton to answer at their leisure. Most of the questions stay in safe "How do you want the show to be remembered" territory, as opposed to "WHAT IS UP WITH THE FOUR TOES!? SERIOUSLY!", but it's still a worthwhile read — which you can check out by clicking here.

No celebration would be complete without cake. Luckily the folks at "Ace of Cakes" came through in a big way for fan of the Food Network show Jorge Garcia. You can read all about it — and see some pretty freaking amazing pictures of the cake — at Jorge's blog, Dispatches from the Island, by, surprise surprise, clicking here.

The 100th episode of "Lost," titled "The Variable," airs at 8 p.m. tomorrow on ABC. (Providing that Obama's 100 days press conference set for 7 p.m. doesn't run long. Seriously, what is up with this country's priorities?)

Adam Reinhard,


Friday, April 24, 2009

TV Potpourri: No Go for Blago, ABC's pickups, Who is Susan Boyle?

Blago Can't Go: A little while ago, we told you that NBC wanted disgraced Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich to star in their reality series "I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!" But a federal judge put the ka-bosh on that by not allowing the Guv to travel outside the country (the show's premise is that 10 celebrities will be dropped off in a Costa Rican jungle and have to adapt to the conditions). Still, it looks like the well-coiffed Dem is trying to get as much as he can out of his newfound "celebrity" status by appearing at a news conference designed to reveal some of the contestants, including the vapid duo of Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt (neither of whom can ever run for office with the existence of this photo, thankfully!). Apparently NBC, because it has no shame, is still trying to find a way to keep the impeached governor on the show.

ABC's Early Pickups: If you were wishing for "Grey's Anatomy" to be cancelled, wish again. Meredith and Co. are guaranteed to whine again for another season as ABC announced some of its early pickups. Shows you will see on the alphabet network next year include "America's Funniest Home Videos," "The Bachelor," "Brothers & Sisters," "Dancing With the Stars," "Desperate Housewives," "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," "Grey's Anatomy," "Lost," "Private Practice," "Supernanny," "Ugly Betty," and "Wife Swap." Additional pickups will be announced in May during the upfronts presentation.

Who is Susan Boyle and Why Do All of My Friends on Facebook Care So Much About Her? Seriously, I would not have posted about this had I not been reading her name in umpteen status messages and steadily getting more annoyed by the minute. If you're not in the know, Boyle is a 48-year-old "singing sensation" from Scotland whose audition for "Britain's Got Talent" has received millions of views on YouTube because she managed to impress Simon Cowell. Oh, and she's, well, how should I put it -- very un-photogenic -- so I guess the fuss is over the fact that she doesn't care what she looks like and can sing, apparently. I'm not really sure why that's a big deal. Mick Jagger is hideous and he's still selling records (arguably it's harder for female artists).

I can't embed the video, but you can check it out here.

If someone can explain to me why Boyle has become an overnight sensation, I'd appreciate it. I suppose if all else fails and her newfound fame wanes, she can always replace Blago on "I'm a Celebrity."

-- Malavika Jagannathan,

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"Anchorman" vs Wild

Sweet Lincoln's mullet!

Will Ferrell clearly must have been a boy scout. Either that, or he placed a lot of trust in "Man vs. Wild" host Bear Grylls for an upcoming installment of the Discovery Channel series.

According to, Ferrell filmed an episode of "Man vs. Wild" in Sweden's ice-bound mountain ranges, and yes, even enjoyed some urine and reindeer eyeballs for dinner. And here you thought milk was a bad choice.

Having only watched one episode of the series before -- one in which Grylls almost went blind and had to subsist on snake urine in stifling heat -- I can safely say that the dude goes all out for his self-induced trials and tribulations. So you can imagine the uncomfortable but amusing scene -- Ron Burgundy tandem-abseiling off a helicopter, rappelling down hundred-foot frozen waterfalls and making snow shoes from saplings during a 48-hour sojourn with crazyman Grylls.

"Will did an amazing job in subzero, very unforgiving conditions," Grylls told People. "He should be very proud of how he performed."

"He trusted me when it mattered and we survived."

Ah, that Bear Grylls. He's like a miniature Buddha. That drinks urine.

Ferrell's episode of "Man vs. Wild" will air the first week of June on Discovery, coinciding with his "Land of the Lost" debut in theaters.

-- Thomas Rozwadowski,

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I hate that Burger King commercial and I cannot lie ...

Not content to merely sell hamburgers that taste like grilled skunk meat, Burger King seems to relish in unleashing TV commercials that stink just as bad as their food. Equal parts juvenile, offensive and creepy, it's like Burger King has become the "Family Guy" of fast food ads.

Their latest opus has become inescapable, as it seems to play during every commercial break of every show I watch. A tie-in with Nickelodeon's "SpongeBob SquarePants," it features that terrifying King character (seriously, who hasn't had nightmares about that shiny, blank-stared creep?) dancing to a parody of Sir Mix-A-Lot's why-won't-it-die classic, "Baby's Got Back" — new lyrics: "I like square butts and I cannot lie, Squid and sea star can't deny" — while several hot chicks dressed as school girls shake their quadrilaterally-enhanced heineys in the background.

Parent groups are predictably irate at the juxtaposition of a beloved children's cartoon with overt sexuality. But those groups typically despise commercials aimed at kids to begin with, so they didn't have far to go. Their point is valid, I guess, if a little naïve — if a kid sees sex in a song about square butts, chances are he already knew something about the birds and bees to start with. If not, then butts are just funny. (In fact, just saying the word still makes me giggle sometimes. "Butt." Heeheeheehee!) Telling your little angel the ad is sexual and that he shouldn't watch it only makes him want to watch it more.

That doesn't excuse those maniacs at BK and Nick from making such a racy ad using a Saturday morning icon. (What's next? Hannah Montana singing "Like a Vegan" to the tune of "Like a Virgin," all about her first taste of a Whopper?) They'll likely defend themselves by pointing to the legions of teen and college-aged fans of the anthropomorphic poriferan who probably find the ad hilarious. But they're also the same demographic that helped make "Paul Blart: Mall Cop" a hit, so they can be immediately discounted.

But I'm a Spongebob fan too. And as a SpongeBob fan, I don't like seeing such a symbol of wide-eyed innocence and fun used in such a crass, bottom-feeding piece of corporate trash like this commercial. Burger King can stick him in as many Kids Meals and fatten up as many greedy little porkers as they want, but is it too much to ask to do it in a way that stays true to the spirit of the character? If you want crude and stupid, BK, fulfill your destiny and crank out that "Family Guy" Kids Meal you've always wanted. I know you're dying to.

Adam Reinhard,

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Punishment Pool: 'American Idol' fairytale-style

Gather round children, for I will tell you a tale. A tale so bold and so eye-gougingly painful that it can only be told once SO PAY ATTENTION ... ahem.

(Editor's note: This is my attempt at a follow-up to Adam's memorable tale of torture in the form of a delightful conversation with the devil. Though it will not come close to the level of genius already shown, this is the only way I can retell the happenings of Tuesday's "American Idol" without vomiting all over my keyboard.)

Now, where was I? Oh yes. A long, long time ago (er, last night) in a deep, dark mysterious forest on the FOX network, there lived four trolls who guarded a bright, pyrotechnic-adaptable stage. Anyone who stepped foot on this stage had to show these trolls a talent. If they were unable, or didn't have a talent, the trolls would feed them to their dogs -- a pit of pre-pubescent 15-year-old girls with braces.

On a peaceful Tuesday, a metrosexual dwarf appeared on the stage, announcing to the trolls that he would help organize the so-called talent of the evening. He was 4-foot-9, with frosted tips and smelled of spray-on tan. The trolls feared this Seacrest dwarf because if he was angered, he would lash out by creating awful television like "Bromance" or "Denise Richards: It's Complicated." The dwarf seemed unusually happy tonight, could've been because he just received his latest round of botox, or it could've been because he knew the torture that awaited the trolls. For tonight, was disco night.

Just then, a young girl came skipping through the forest. Her name was Lil Rounds. The Seacrest dwarf asked the young woman if she had a talent to please the trolls.

"I believe I do," she said.

"Oh? Well what is it? And is it disco themed?" the dwarf asked.

"It is," she said. "My talent is that I can take the stage on national television and sing only slightly better than a drunk at a karaoke bar, all the while keeping it real and pointing at nothing in the audience."

"Wow," said the dwarf, in shock of such a talent. "You can do all of that ... at once?!"

"Watch me," she said.

As soon as Lil Rounds had completed her talent, while singing some disco-lovin' Chaka Khan, the trolls gasped in amazement. It appeared not only was she able to do this talent for the entire song, but her sad pleading to stay alive at the end of the performance reached a new level of desperation. The trolls said they thought it was even more karaoke-like than she had led on to. They were pleased and let the girl live ... however, it isn't clear if she fell into the pit of rabid dogs and will later be pronounced deceased. Sorry kids, this fairytale is not immune from horrifying tales of death.

Before the trolls had time to gulp their secret potion clearly displayed in product-placement Coca-Cola glasses, which made them witty and original, another young lad came skipping through the forest. His name was Kris, yes, spelled like a girl. The trolls noticed that Kris was calm and chill and wore a plain white T-shirt and a hemp necklace. Clearly, this guy must be talented, they thought, he's not even trying to impress us.

The dwarf emerged, ready to introduce the young man.

"So Kris, wait a minute ... are you a dwarf too? Are we related? Are you great Aunt Bertha's kid from Idaho?"

"Uh no .... I'm actually a centaur," he said, baring his horse's ass.

"Oh, well that upsets me," the dwarf said. "Maybe I should create a show where we follow Star Jones on her weekly grocery shopping escapades as she tries to hide the fact that she's still a fat girl."

As the dwarf left to call Star Jones, Kris took the stage.

"My talent is that I can take a classic song by Donna Summer and turn it into a whiny, melodramatic ballad while closing my eyes at certain parts and luring sexually confused teenage boys with my guitar," he said. "All while calling it brilliantly creative."

The trolls clapped with delight.

"Oh Kris Allen, I wish I were a 15-year-old boy so I could be lured by your sweet, sweet tunes," said the unknown troll, who is painfully annoying and has giant ears, made even bigger by the fact she wears her hair up with large earrings to draw your eyes to her freakshow ears.

Next up, the wretched, awful, despicable, soul-less being that made me tell this story: a fat guy trying waayyyy too hard with the trendy glasses named Danny. Ohhh Danny. How I loathe you. Ahem ... So Danny took the stage and told the trolls his talent.

"My talent," he said, "is that I can look like a complete douche bag, sing a really annoying version of 'September' by Earth, Wind and Fire, all the while making odd squealing noises and dancing like a drunk man stumbling down a hill."

The trolls seemed skeptical of this, but allowed it anyway. When the performance was over, the trolls actually seemed to like the monstrosity and lied to the young man's face, saying he was never "pitchy" and that they believed he would be back to perform for them for a long time. It's unclear why the trolls lied, but some believe it's because fat people need love too. This is a lie.

Another dwarf-like girl came hopping through the forest just then, with hair as flaming red as anything ever seen before. Her name was Allison, though this narrator insists on calling her Wannabe Ginger. She spoke softly and told the trolls her talent ... "I can also sing a Donna Summer song by ruining it with my smokes-a-lot vocals and disgust audiences far and wide with my abnormally large FUPA. I will also replace the second chorus of 'I need some hot stuff, baby' with 'I need some control spanx, baby.'"

The trolls couldn't have been more pleased. Even the grumpy troll, who most people don't like but I believe is scarily accurate, fell for this act.

Just then the clouds parted, the sun came out and a rainbow appeared. From the depths of the forest, a red carpet rolled out with young children sprinkling rose petals and playing harps. The trolls knew it could only mean one thing: Adam Lambert was approaching. The four trolls bowed their heads to the king and lined up to kiss his feet.

"Please good sir, please do not show us your talent -- it is too perfect, too wonderful, we cannot bear to hear it," the trolls begged.

"I must," Adam said. "The 15-year-old girls who don't understand that I'm a homosexual want to hear my music."

"Well, if you must, then please, sir ... don't wait for our response, you know your fate here," the drunk, drug-induced troll said as she welled up with tears anticipating the song he was about to sing.

Adam, whose head is large enough to wear one of those giant rubber cowboy hats as if it were normal-sized, sang his version of the hit "If I Can't Have You," in ballad form. The drunk troll began weeping uncontrollably, clasping her hands over her mouth like a young psychopath lusting after Sanjaya. Adam's giant head then opened up like a nutcracker, crashing down atop Seacrest dwarf's head, smashing it like a tiny peanut.

"Just because I can," he said, as he walked away, birds flying around him and deer following in his footsteps.

The trolls were in awe to have been in the presence of their one, true idol and nothing could stop the glee pasted on their little faces. That is, until a man approached them, dressed like a poor, wannabe Justin Timberlake. His name was Matt Giraud.

"I have a talent," he said, proudly.

"Oh yeah? You think you can follow the footsteps of the chosen one and have our attention?" laughed the trolls.

"I think I can do something no one else can," he said.

The trolls seemed intrigued.

"I can sing the most annoyingly cliched disco song, not change a thing, thoroughly embarrass the original artists with my performance and ... sing it with confidence, even though it's terribly ironic since I will soon die after singing, 'Staying Alive,'" he said. "On top of all this, I will dance next to backup singers that are more talented than I."

"I don't believe you can do all of that, dawg. Dawg, how dare you make a mockery of our job, dawg. Listen up, listen up, listen up, we saw you last week, dawg, and when you told us you had talent, dawg, we believed you, dawg, and saved your life, dawg," the heavy, talentless troll said. "And now you come back, dawg, and listen up, listen up, you want us to save you again?"

"Um, yes?" Matt said.

"Yeah, OK, dawg," the troll said.

So Matt went on his way. But as he told the trolls, his life would soon be over.

As the trolls were ready to call it a day and head home, a young brown boy wearing a pink sweater and toting black peach fuzz in the form of a sad mustache and goatee, approached the stage. The boy looked nervous, most likely facing near death, and slowly spoke to the trolls.

"Before you leave, can I show you my talent?" he asked.

"You? What are you doing here? Didn't we kill you weeks ago?" the trolls snickered.

"Um, no, I'm still here," he said. "My father says if I'm not going to be a doctor, he won't accept my music career unless I keep coming back here to eventually win it all."

The boy, named Anoop, or what this narrator refers to him as "Big Poona," then began singing Donna Summer's song, "Dim All the Lights." Apparently when the trolls asked for all talent to be disco themed, everyone thought they meant Donna Summer-themed. After all, she was the only one to ever sing a disco song.

The boy finished the song.

"Let me guess," said the troll. "Your talent was that you can sing a poor rendition of a song, while wearing pink, sprouting pathetic facial hair, all while making us believe you deserve a chance to stay in this competition?"

"That, and picking up the tempo in a song I rearranged, only to make it absolutely awful," he added.

"Marvelous. Just marvelous," the troll said.

The boy scampered off, having received good reviews from the trolls, and started looking for more pink attire.

With that, the trolls went home, having completed yet another day of ruining the lives of the American viewing public.

The End

The lesson of the story here, kids, is that no matter how awful you are, if you can work your way on to a reality television show without being too physically unattractive, you can do anything.

-- Sara Boyd,

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Sit down, shut off

Say it ain't so Mitch Hurwitz. Say it ain't so.

I'll make this relatively short since the pilot of "Sit Down, Shut Up" -- which I watched on DVR last night -- is SOOOOOOO not worth more than a few paragraphs. Instead, I'll just express my utter disappointment that something so directly tied to the "Arrested Development" family could not only fail to make me laugh once, but actually made me cringe a few times with its 7th grade style joke telling.

Let's run down the credentials, shall we?

Mitch Hurwitz, creator of "Arrested Development," which might boast the finest first season in TV comedy history.

Jason Bateman. Will Arnett. Henry Winkler. All from the "AD" tree.

Kristin' freakin Chenoweth looking super hot even as a cartoon character.

Oddball voices from the occasionally funny Will Forte and Cheri Oteri of "Saturday Night Live" fame.

Mind you, I didn't try to peg this show as the second coming of "AD." If I wasn't going to go that route with "Parks and Recreation," I certainly wouldn't do it for an animated show. Totally unfair.

Yet while the comparison shouldn't be made, there's too much familiarity with the "AD" crew to completely ignore the connections, as loose as they are in terms of the show's actual context. Ultimately though, it's about laughs. And "Sit Down," honest to goodness, deserves an F.

In terms of a premise, the show is set in a high school and revolves around kooky, unstable teachers and, at least for the pilot, a loose reality of layoffs and suspected drug use inside Knob Haven. The show relies heavily on meta humor (Bateman's character asks "Mitch" for a flashback at one point, Forte's character annoyingly mutters the line, "I need a catchphrase.") and stupid, sophomoric jokes like the literal search for a "sack of nuts."

Wink, wink character names like Willard Deutschebog (Winkler) and Larry Littlejunk (Bateman) add layers of stench to the steaming turd pile, while a bisexual drama teacher named Andrew LeGustambos (Nick Kroll) is a cliched abomination of epic proportions. Even the ease with which the show lobs softball after softball about Chenoweth's religious fundamentalist character, Miracle Grohe (OK, mildly amusing), seems way too cheap and familiar.

Sorry to be this harsh, but even "Family Guy" and its lazy "Oh, hey it's Dana Plato from the 80's!" pop culture references reaches for a higher ceiling.

Now judging any show by its pilot can be an exercise in futility, but it's hard to imagine anyone deciding to stick with "Sit Down" -- even for a cheap thrills animated comedy block -- based on the redundant, undeveloped riffs from Sunday. Say what you will about "AD" relying heavily on puns, insane randomness and yes, silly character names like Bob Loblaw and Maeby/Surely, but MY GOD, at least all the mile-a-minute gags felt connected to some kind of foundation -- the dysfunctional Bluth family -- that managed to be consistently funny.

"Sit Down" has none of that, and at least for this viewer, was so incredibly disappointing, I couldn't bare to give it another half hour investment. In fact, just watching the strained effort put forth by the pilot made me seriously, seriously give pause to an "Arrested Development" movie being made.

To paraphrase Gob Bluth, Mitch Hurwitz could be making a huge mistake.

-- Thomas Rozwadowski,

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A conversation with "Cash Cab's" Ben Bailey

Not that it’s entirely unexpected for a certified New York City taxicab driver, but Ben Bailey is always on-the-go.

After calling the Green Bay Press-Gazette for a quick 15-minute chat Tuesday morning, Bailey was set to audition for a part in an HBO series before getting picked up by the “Cash Cab” crew for all-hours evening work. From there, Bailey had a midnight standup set at the Comedy Cellar, putting him in bed during the wee hours before waking up to do it all again the next day.

And this is only slightly less hectic from his usual routine considering Bailey – who is also a tri-athlete – recently finished wrapping a pilot called “America’s Strongest American” for CBS.

Yet you wouldn’t know it based on how prolific the New Jersey native has been since “Cash Cab” catapulted him into the game show host pantheon.

Based on a British series, the Discovery Channel show takes unsuspecting passengers on a joy ride through Manhattan while Bailey asks them general knowledge questions – each getting harder and more profitable as the trip progresses. Three strikes and passengers get kicked out of the cab. If they make it to their destination, they get to keep the cash they've earned or double-down on a video-based brainteaser.

It all whips by in a jam-packed half hour – as both "Cash Cab" and "Cash Cab: After Dark" – with questions moving all over the map, the majority of them at "Jeopardy"-like levels of brain strain.

Channel Surfing would like to thank Bailey for taking time out of his busy schedule to chat about life inside the Cash Cab.

He'll be in town performing a standup set at 8 p.m. Saturday in the Phoenix Rooms at UWGB's University Union. The show is free, but you'll still need a ticket to get in. Call (920) 465-2400 (thanks, Chris!) for more info.

So, new “Cash Cab” episodes started airing this week, right?

“Yep, new episodes started airing (Monday). Those are episodes we shot last year. We’re working on next season’s episodes right now.”

I understand you were working on two shows simultaneously.

“I was going back and forth a little. Most of the work is done for the other pilot, “America’s Strongest American.” It’s like those strongman contests, but for average Joes, not the professional guys like on ESPN. It’s supposed to be on CBS. I’m also working on a one-hour standup special on DVD. I have to do that in July. So I’m shooting, traveling, doing standup, auditioning for other stuff, working at my house. I got a full plate.”

Are you able to juggle everything that’s going on without losing it?

Ummmm (pause). No.” (Laughs.)

But it’s good to be busy, right?

“It’s good to be busy. I’m definitely not complaining. But sometimes I can’t keep up. There are a bunch of things right now that I’m way behind on.”

Well, how does standup fit in to what you’re doing? Is that what you always come back to when you need to slow down a bit?

Standup is really what I love to do. That’s not to say that I don’t love ‘Cash Cab,’ but at this point, it’s kind of like riding a bike, I’ve done so many episodes. So while I’m shooting ‘Cash Cab,’ I can totally be in the moment. But when I’m done with that, it’s good to shut it off and focus on standup.”

That said, “Cash Cab” is what really put your face out there. How have you handled the success?

“We’re celebrating 250 episodes this week. We’ve shot close to 300. It’s ridiculous. I don’t know how it happened. Something just seems to jive about the show. It’s silly, it’s ridiculous, it’s a game show in the cab, so there’s this voyeuristic aspect of watching people get in and be surprised. Then there’s the fact that I’m giving away money. I guess that might have something to do with it. People like that.”

Yeah, no one is going to complain about a few handouts while trying to hail a real cab.

“No, definitely not.”

How did you end up getting that gig?

“Auditioned for it, plain and simple. Did five auditions and they said, ‘Hey, you want to do it? Go to taxi school and get your taxi license.’”

Do you have to keep up with anything because of that?

“Yeah, I have to keep it up, have to take tests every year. Every couple years I also have to do continuing education for cab drivers.”

I assume since you’re so busy, you don’t just take a cab out for fun.

(Laughs.) “No, definitely no time for that these days.”

I know as some shows become more popular, it can become harder and harder to keep the surprise element in place. Have things changed dramatically in terms of people actively looking for the Cash Cab or making it their goal to be on the show?

“It’s much easier now. In the beginning, a lot of times people just thought I was some crazy dude. Like, ‘what’s wrong with this guy? A game show?’ Now it’s a little bit different. At night, I have to shut off all the (inside ceiling) lights before people get in, otherwise they see me. In the day, it’s a little easier because there’s more traffic, so I’m not the only one that’s lit up like a ballpark. But as we became more popular, we found that all the excitement would be left on the curb and people would get seated and be like, ‘OK, let’s play.’

“So yeah, we had to put a switch in so I could actually turn the lights on and off.” (Laughs.)

And now you’re coming to Green Bay for some standup. Have you ever been here before?

“Nope. Never been to Green Bay.”

Does your work on “Cash Cab” influence your standup routine?

“I talk about ‘Cash Cab’ in my standup out of necessity to some degree. Because if I don’t, people are like, ‘Why am I here? What’s wrong with this guy? He’s not talking about his show?’ But there’s also a thin line if that’s all I do. Like, if that’s all I talked about, people would say, ‘Jesus, doesn’t this guy have anything else to talk about?’ It doesn’t take them long to switch. They want to hear something else, too. You don’t want to be the guy who just goes on and on and on and on about his TV show. Then I’m just a pretentious douchebag.”

I understand you kind of accidentally fell into a comedy career.

“Yeah, I was telling a story about how I ended up in L.A., this long crazy story, at The Comedy Store green room while I was answering phones. It was after a night at work, and I was telling this story and I had an audience by the end of it. Some comic said, ‘Hey, how long have you been doing standup?’ and I was like, ‘Ummm, (laughs) never?’

“So I was asked to do a show that week, Friday night, and I said no because I was scared. But he left his number, and I changed my mind the next day and said, ‘Why not? It’s not like I’m doing anything else.’”

What do you think would have happened had you not been discovered like that?

“I have no idea. I think I would have ended up on stage eventually. I mean, I was working at The Comedy Store, around standups every night. I know I used to watch guys thinking, ‘I could do this already.’ But I don’t know where and when it would have happened. But I think I would have ended up on stage. It was destiny, you know?’

So what’s a typical week for you?

I’m in New York from Sunday to Thursday, then I go on the road and do shows on the weekend, or just go out to my house in Jersey.

Is it nice to be a Jersey native and have the city as your workspace, to drive around in a cab and see people that way?

“Yeah, it’s great. It’s hard work though, a really tough job because there’s so much going on. But when we started again a few weeks ago, I felt like I got back to my playground. I’m back in Manhattan and I know all the intersections, I know the buildings at every corner of what and what. It’s cool. A very comfortable thing now.”

You stay in a pretty specific zone for the show, right?

“Well, that zone being Manhattan. We go anywhere in Manhattan.”

Was there any thought to switching things up, or does the formula work too well?

“It works too well. There are people who say, ‘I hear the show is fixed or that it’s set up,’ which it isn’t, but it’s hard to get people to play sometimes. Some simply say no, or it can be very hard to get a release form from them. They’ll jump into another cab or say, ‘No, leave me alone.’ One thing we’d like to try and do is get forms from people, put a few of them into shows so that people will see that the whole thing isn’t b---s---. We just need Discovery Channel to get those releases on the show.”

When people turn you down, is it because they simply don’t have time or do they still not trust your intentions?

“Usually, it’s because they don’t have time. People know the show now, so they get excited, say, 'S---, I wish I could.”

It seems like the show gives you some freedom to be funny or at least rip on people from time to time.

“I do get away with a lot. That doesn’t mean they’re going to use it. But I do like to sneak it in while I can.”

Are you ever surprised by what people know, especially without preparation for the show?

“It goes both ways. I’m surprised by what they know and what they don’t know. There are times when it’s, ‘Wow, I can’t believe you knew that,’ or ‘Man, I can’t believe that people don’t know that.’"

How do you fare with the questions?

“I get quizzed on them first, and I, probably, I do OK. Sixty to 70 percent of them, I’d say. I always know more than half and sometimes I cruise through a whole stack.”

I find it interesting that people don’t really take it too seriously, or at least they’re willing to do the (double or nothing) video bonus question and lose everything because they have the attitude that, 'Well, I didn’t have anything to start with.' That seems to be part of the fun, just going with the flow of the ride.

“Yeah, that’s a good attitude to see. I always like when people approach the game that way.”

Before I let you go, can I get an idea of how today is going to be for you?

“I have an audition in the afternoon, and then the cab and crew pick me up and I’ll go and film until midnight (EST). Then I’ll go to the Comedy Cellar and do standup at about 12:30 a.m., come back to the hotel, eat something and go to sleep.”

They put you up in a hotel in New York then?

“Yeah, when we shoot, I stay in the city.”

What’s your audition for?

“Today, it’s for an HBO series.”

Comedy, or are you into dramatic roles?

“Either one, but I’d prefer to do dramatic roles. I get my comedy out on stage and in the cab.”

So you have the DVD special later this year and the strongman show is definitely a go then?

“Yep, standup will tape in July, out in August probably. The strongman show is definitely a go, probably this summer on CBS. I’m not entirely sure.”

Are they at least letting you be funny on the strongman show?

“They want me to be funny, but then they told me what to say. So it was kind of like, ‘If you want me to be funny, let me be funny.’ We’ll see how that works out." (Laughs.)

-- Thomas Rozwadowski,

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

'Chuck': Where can it go from here?

Now I'll admit it. For me, "Chuck" has always been a filler show. One of those shows that you watch if nothing else is on, or catch it on DVR when you have some extra time. Not so these last few weeks.

In the last month or so, "Chuck" has really gotten good. It's gone from "Well, it's not the greatest show, but hey, it's entertaining" to "Oh dear Lord, I can't wait until next week!" Especially after last night's 'sode. I honestly thought I was watching the final show in "Chuck" history and actually started wondering if I missed the announcement that this was the series finale. Not to mention, I have no clue where this could possibly go from here.

Let's recap, shall we?

Chuck's noggin complete with top secret government information, via the Intersect, has plagued the geeky Stanford-grad's life in more ways than one. No love life, only mild flirtation with asset Agent Sarah Walker, stuck at a dead-end job to protect his identity and having to keep a huge secret from his sister Ellie and her fiancé Captain Awesome. And for a while, this was Chuck's life. He dealt with it -- mission after mission, life-threatening situation after life-threatening situation. That is, until a few weeks ago.

Chuck has always searched for the father that left he and Ellie as children, but had little success tracking the old man down. When Agent Walker's job is jeopardized because the general believes she's getting too emotionally involved with Chuck, she acts out by using the government database to track Papa Bartowski's whereabouts. When she tells Chuck that she's found him, he decides it'll be a perfect surprise for big sister Ellie's wedding day -- a father to walk her down the aisle. What Walker and Chuck eventually find is a sketchy mobile home in the middle of nowhere. It's been 10 years since Charles saw his father and since that time, it's a known fact that his dad has gone a little nutty. Mr. Bartowski, played by Scott Bakula, is convinced to return home, even though he's paranoid the government is trying to get him. What's passed off as mumblings from the coo-coo's nest turns out to be the dreaded truth -- Chuck's father is actually a government mastermind and coincidentally, the inventor of the Intersect.

Chuck had been searching for a man he only knew as "Orion" for weeks, suspecting he was the one man who could possibly remove the Intersect from Chuck's brain and return him to his normal Nerd Herd life. Little did he know, Orion was none other than his own flesh and blood. Before Chuck and his dad have the chance to override Chuck's brain, Orion is captured by Fulcrum and sent to a top secret location where he's forced to build an Intersect for the international terrorist agency. If he succeeds and Fulcrum has a working Intersect with government secrets, Chuck becomes null and void and the mission is over. At the helm of Fulcrum is Orion's longtime rival, computer genius Ted Roark, played by Chevy Chase, who has a plan to install the Intersect in a new line of Fulcrum agents and create his own evil army.

Chuck tries everything to get to his father and stop this from happening. He even contacts ex-girlfriend Jill, whose locked in jail for her work with Fulcrum. While Jill helps Chuck as much as she can, Fulcrum is one step ahead and moves Chuck's father to an underground location. Chuck thanks Jill by letting her escape from prison, against Agent Walker and Major Casey's wishes. When the general finds out that Jill escaped, she shuts down Chuck's mission, stating it's too risky and orders Agent Walker to use Chuck's trust in her to capture him to be locked down in a cell until things quiet down.

Meanwhile back at the Buy More, Emmett approaches Morgan for a deal. If he can keep the crew well mannered while the corporate Gods are evaluating Emmett's work, then Emmett will be promoted to another store and out of Morgan's life for good. Seemingly too good to pass up, Morgan agrees. In doing so, he betrays Big Mike since he should've known Emmett was lying to Morgan and using him to get Big Mike's job. The entire thing plays out as a Jesus-Judas biblical reference and is all quite hilar. Especially when Big Mike plants a nice, juicy smooch on Morgan. He still has to play nice since he's still schtooping Morgan's mom.

Back to Chuck's chaos, Sarah heads into the Buy More to lie to Chuck and tell him his father has been rescued and she's going to take him to go see him. When Chuck tells Sarah he always knew he could trust her, Sarah has second thoughts and instead tells Chuck it's a lie and that they should escape. The two flee the Buy More, leaving Chuck's locator watch at the store, and embark on a journey to actually find Chuck's father, against Major Casey's orders, the general's orders and while committing treason. When the two find themselves alone and finally without government regulation, they finally, FINALLY get. it. on.

Of course, not for long. Major Casey tracks the two down, arrests them both and brings them back to a holding cell. When the general congratulates Casey, she informs him that he'll make general and that an air strike has been ordered to take down the Fulcrum hidden lair -- and unfortunately Chuck's father. After Casey had already promised Chuck that the government would save his father, he decides to do the right thing and join them to rescue him. When Chuck and the gang reach his father, they are too late. He has finished the Intersect and given it to Roark who unleashes it on his army. Chuck's father instructs Chuck to keep his eyes open while the Intersect is shown. For the common man, the Intersect fails ... but for Chuck it successfully wipes the current Intersect out completely. The group escapes before the air strike hits and head back home. Chuck returns to his good ol' self and Gen. Casey and Agent Walker are congratulated and told their mission is over.

And back at the Buy More ... Morgan takes the duty of becoming Emmett's "Ass Man" (short for Assistant Manager) to save Big Mike from a life of cleaning toilets and being the resident slave. After taking enough orders and having lost many of his Buy More buddies, he decides to leave and pursue his real dream: to become a hibachi chef in Hawaii. Yes, hibachi chef. Stripping himself of the Buy More name, and shirt, the hairy Morgan asks girlfriend Anna to leave with him, a la Jerry Maguire, and the two walk away into the sunset.

Just when I literally thought this was the end, no more "Chuck," -- I mean, really, where in the world could this go? -- you see the tattered and burnt thumb of Teddy Roark as he hitchhikes his way back to Burbank in the pursuit of Chuck, Papa Bartowski and the rest of the family. Oh thank goodness, here I thought everything was wrapped up with a nice big bow. The fact Mr. Roark could not survive a missile attack aside, I'm glad to see there's more drama a'brewin'.

Still, it's going to take some serious creative crafting to leave us with a cliffhanger for next week's season finale. Chuck no longer has the Intersect, so really, there's no reason he would need to deal with the government or resume his post as secret agent. Sarah and Casey are both done with this mission and cleared for reassignment, aka: there's no reason they need to hang around Chuck, or really, be on the show. Most of Fulcrum, minus Roark, has been destroyed. And Morgan's moving to Hawaii with Anna. Where does it go from here?! WHERE?!

I guess we'll just have to wait and find out at Ellie and Awesome's wedding next week. Here's hoping the photos from Awesome's bachelor party don't rear their ugly head.

Tune into "Chuck" at 7 p.m. Monday nights on NBC.

-- Sara Boyd,

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Tony Almeida: Evil or not evil? Discuss

Just when I about had myself talked into any one of assorted theories that Tony wasn't really evil -- he only made it look like he suffocated Moss; Moss was really the villain and only Tony knew it; etc. -- last night's episode of "24'' pretty much blew all that to pieces ... along with all those FBI agents he scammed into going in that abandon apartment building just before the bomb went off.

So Tony appears to be bona fide bad. As in b-b-b-bad, bad to the bone. And a show of hands, please, by everyone who is not happy about that. Exactly.

Carlos Bernard's performance last night was so convincing I'm pretty sure I uttered out loud, "That $%*&#@ really is bad.'' And then something terrible happened: I found myself ALMOST rooting against him!

But come on, favorite character or not since way back in Season 1, if you pit Tony vs. Jack, "24'' fans are going to pick Jack every time -- even if Jack is down on the pavement mid-seizure sweating profusely and barely able to speak, as Tony stands over him holding the medical pouch with the injections he needs to keep the effects of the bio weapon contamination in check. Jerk.

So here's what we know "for sure'' after last night:

1. Some evil babe disguised as JoHo's lawyer paid him a jail cell visit. Apparently higher up on the villain food chain and not happy with his performance (did she not see the ultra violent liquor decanter bashing?), she slipped him a heart attack-inducing pill and told him to take it, die and his family wouldn't be hurt. During his transport to the FBI for interrogation -- which had great, creepy shades of Hannibal Lecter -- he popped the pill. Previews for next week, however, show him in the hospital clinging to life, and is so often the case on "24,'' being "our only real lead.''

2. The evil babe is working with Tony, and next week, he apparently finds time for a little nookie with her. OK, I'll take a shirtless Tony as a silver lining to this whole double-crossing mess.

3. Uncovered-nostril conspiracy theories or not, Moss really is dead. Freckles is sad, shedding another of her solitary crocodile tears.(If there was an Emmy category for this, she'd win.) But the trooper that she is, she pulls herself together and takes charge out on the field. Jack tags along, even though he's forgetting things and repeating himself. Repeating himself. But hey, Jack Bauer at 50 percent is still better than 99.9 percent of the population at 100 percent, so we're glad to see him on the chopper.

4. Tony shoots himself to make it look like the Moss murder was an ambush. He also scowls a lot, hangs around looking shifty in the shadows and gives vague answers when Jack starts asking questions about how everything went down. (Note to writers: That felt like a bit of cheat. Tony doesn't say things like he can't remember because "it all happened pretty fast.'' At least our "old Tony'' didn't.)

5. Through details too many to explain here, Jack discovers Tony is evil. He has a gun pointed at him -- ooooh, classic showdown -- but then goes down with a seizure. Tony takes his gun and taunts him with his shot kit. Medics arrive, Tony leaves, and the rest of us are left with that disturbing image to get us through until next Monday.

6. The bio weapon canister is still on the move.

7. Chloe is still MIA.

8. Jack's a grandpa. Everybody's favorite platinum blonde daughter, Kimbo, called her non-Chase hubby (Whatever happened to him anyway? Dead? I remember the unfortunate arm thing, but then what?) to tell him she was on her way home. Cut to cute baby in the crib named Teri (after mom). But Kimbo being Kimbo, she said she didn't tell "Daddy'' he had a granddaughter. I mean, why do that? It's not like the guy needs a reason to live and get the experimental procedure or anything?!?!

The exclusive Sprint-customers-only preview for next week shows Jack being treated by his doctor and telling Freckles that Tony is not only evil but that -- gasp! -- he killed Moss.

One more thing: Nice try, Tony, on the public service announcement about global warming slipped in during last night's commercials. Like we're going to believe ANYTHING you say!

Theories on where the next five hours are going? Rants or raves on the whole Tony the Turncoat thing? Please share.

-- Kendra Meinert,


You did WHAT to your sea monkeys?

I've watched the trailer about 15 times now and I still can't shake the goosebumps.

FINALLY, Louie can dip his balls in a pristine DVD copy of MTV's "The State."

July 14, boys and girls. Action! ACTION!

Not as in-your-face or subversive as “Kids in the Hall” or “Mr. Show,” the mid-90's sketch comedy show relied on quirky circumstances (the legendary "Taco Mail" sketch, for instance) and off-the-wall characters (Doug, Capt. Monterey Jack, Old Fashioned Guy ) to grab MTV’s young adult audience.

And remember folks, this was pre-"Hills" MTV. You know, the era that made Kennedy appear kinda hot, resulted in sweet-ass Spike Jonze videos being played during daytime hours, and re-invented the hidden camera prank show with a long forgotten gem called "Buzzkill." These were my formative years!

"The State's" members went onto “Reno 911” and cult projects like “Wet Hot American Summer,” “Viva Variety” and “Stella,” while it’s most notable face, Michael Ian Black, became a fixture on VH1 “talking head” programs like “I Love the ‘80s” and Sierra Mist commercials. Thomas Lennon and Ben Garant have also been successful Hollywood writers, while Joe Lo Truglio appears to have Judd Apatow's ear due to small roles in "Superbad" and "Pineapple Express." The rest of the troupe might be familiar here and there -- I've been told that Ken "Louie" Marino was on an episode of "Dawson's Creek" back in the day -- but really, no one came close to matching the glorious wonder of their time on "The State."

So you'll understand if it's a bit hard for me to write how important "The State" truly was. Not yet in high school when the show aired from 1993 to 1995, I was just beginning to develop my pop culture sensibilities. "The State" was one of the first shows I discovered on my own by simply watching it -- specifically, the Barry and Levon "$240 worth of puddin'" sketch -- during a random late night flip-a-thon.

To this day, it's eminently quotable -- particularly "Taco Mail" and other classics like "Monkey Torture," "Blueberry Johnson, "The Father-Son Race" and "Pants." Even bits that were perhaps too quirky at the time -- "The Bearded Men of Space Station 11," "Hepcat" and "Porcupine Racetrack" come to mind -- have become much more special to me. I laugh just thinking about stupid faces and silly premises. I laugh at the mere mention of Papa Goulash and Grandma's potato chowder. I laugh at the thought of eating Muppets.

I suppose there's a certain degree of fear when you've missed something for so long ... you know, that a show you once loved can't possibly be as good as it is in your head.

That could be especially true for a sketch comedy show that's become a bit of a hipster touchstone and whose complete DVD set has been teased like "Chinese Democracy" through the years. But I can assure you -- even as Doug and his gang sing the chorus to Pearl Jam's "Alive" in one sketch -- that "The State" holds up. Oh sweet Jesus, it holds up.

Crappy quality aside, I snagged a sweet complete set VHS bootleg off the Internet while in college, and no, I didn't enjoy the trip down memory lane purely for nostalgia reasons. It was smart. It was silly. It hit the same spot in my heart as those first time sketches I watched as a geeky pre-teen.

If you still have no idea what I'm talking about, go to "The State's" MTV page for clips and background info. You can also find a few sketches on YouTube.

Now cue Barry and Levon hip swivelin'. AWWWWWWWWWWWWW yeah!

-- Thomas Rozwadowski,

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Monday, April 20, 2009

"Long Way" series more than celebrity gawking, motorcyles

Let it be said that I hate motorcycles. The only downside to warm weather in Wisconsin is that it's an excuse for every moron out there to pull out his Harley and clog up the motorways. I simply just don't get it (maybe it's a girl thing -- both my grandfather and my dad owned motorcycles back in the day).

Given this, you might wonder why exactly I spent my weekend watching the first part of "Long Way Down," a travel-plus-adventure series heavily featuring motorcycles (and Ewan McGregor). Admittedly, McGregor is a hottie, but even that's not enough of a reason, right? In 2004 McGregor (of "Star Wars" and "Trainspotting" fame) and his best friend Charley Boorman decided travel eastward from London to New York by motorcycles, documenting their adventures through Eastern Europe, Siberia, Mongolia and North America in a series called "Long Way Round." In 2007, they followed this up with "Long Way Down," where they traversed the length of the earth by riding from the tip of Scotland to Cape Town, South Africa. (I watched "Long Way Round" before this blog was up and running, so I didn't get a chance to share my love for it).

I'm not a fan of celebrity travel shows or articles that ask celebrities where they like to hang out in their favorite cities (the only exception being Matthew McConaughey, who once told American Airlines' inflight magazine that his favorite place to eat in Texas was Sonic Drive-In). What's great about this duo is that Boorman and McGregor rough it out for most of the trip, camping in tents and eating food from roadside stands. They're followed by their support crew in jeeps, but it's generally just the two of them and their motorcycle-riding camera man Claudio. If they get stuck in the sand or hurt, they've got to exhaust all the ways of helping themselves out before the support crew lends a hand.

The other plus is that they travel off the beaten track -- their journey in "Long Way Down" takes them through Tunisia, Libya, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya and Malawi -- countries that celebrities rarely visit unless they're adopting a child and most of us will never see. It also takes them away from the big cities for the most part and through roads, gravel paths and sometimes open fields. In "Long Way Round," Boorman and McGregor took the "Road of Bones" into Magadan in the eastern tip of Russia, a treacherous route build in the Stalinist era by people who literally died on the road while constructing it. This remote part of Russia is rarely seen by Russians, let alone tourists. The best part is that they enjoy meeting the locals, check out the local food (including sheep balls) and play tourist without whining too much about wanting the comforts of home. Because they're traveling to places where running water is more of an issue than celebrity scandal, McGregor is rarely recognized as a movie star and attracts the same amount of attention any other white guy on a bike would. Plus, they used the trips to raise funds for UNICEF. Angelina would be so proud.

"Long Way Down" starts off a bit slowly because McGregor breaks his leg a couple of months before they're hoping to set off on their journey. Their initial trip through Europe (Scotland, England, France, Italy) is quick and somewhat boring, quite frankly, because it's mostly on European motorways and it rains for the majority of the trip. Things definitely start to get more interesting when they take the ferry over to Tunisia from Italy, ride through Libya in a sandstorm and ferry down the Nile from Egypt to Sudan. I haven't finished the series, yet, but so far, it's an eyeopening journey through North Africa.

If you like travel shows or traveling, you'll love either of the "Long Way" series. Even if you don't, this is a travel-adventure series that has mass appeal (read: Ewan McGregor's naked butt in a shower scene). Neither of the shows have aired here, but they're both available on DVD. Since you probably can't afford to fly anywhere in this recession, you might as well travel vicariously.

Here's a preview of the show:

-- Malavika Jagannathan,


Punishment Pool: 'Noop Dogg is off the board

Good news on a dreary Monday.

Well, good news if your name is Thomas Rozwadowski and you want to avoid writing about "American Idol."

After losing Scott "Blind Willie" McIntyre in the "American Idol Punishment Pool That Seems to Only Affect Adam Reinhard," Thomas has luckily selected low-ranked Anoop Desai -- aka, The Token Indian Guy.

Adam -- who should have lost Matt Giraud last week, only to have the judges' swoop in and save him -- is still the favorite in this week's Power Rankings (which should get posted on later today.) Milwaukee's own Danny Gokey (Sara Boyd) might also play leapfrog because of Giraud's close call last week. It'll be neck and neck, folks. NECK AND NECK!

All we really know is that MJ is safe with Lil Rounds still wallowing near the bottom. And this Anoop guy ... he's also not a threat to jump a few slots ahead anytime soon. I mean, look at the above picture. Would you buy an album from that dude?


Most important, though: whoever loses someone next will have to sift through three remaining pieces of paper with the names Adam Lambert, Allison Iraheta and Kris Allen on them. And then it's finally game ... freakin' ... on.

-- The Channel Surfing staff

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

"Lost" Quick Thoughts: "Some Like It Hoth"

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 we're opting for "Lost: Quick Thoughts," a condensed, rapid fire form of the day-after discussion you so love to dive into with your fellow "Lost"-minded friends. Tastier than Hurley's world famous garlic mayo, here are some scrumptious nuggets from last night's "Some Like It Hoth" to chew on ...

An easy-to-digest, change of pace episode from some of the murkier island mysteries/time displacements we've seen. Hurley usually gets one comic relief episode per season, so it was nice to see him paired with his trusty new sidekick, Miles. Hurley is such a wonderful creation, the kind of character you take for granted because he's not usually caught up in the mystical, dramatic good-evil "what does it all mean" elements that make message boards light up. Instead, he makes fun of those convoluted sci-fi snapshots ("You’re just jealous my power’s better than yours") and serves as the viewer on the show, asking questions we'd love to ask, raising points we'd love to see raised. Now, I don't think any of us would feel the need to perfect "The Empire Strikes Back," but hey, at least the guy is thinking of a post-1977, no matter how foolish off-island time seems at this point.

Hey, Tommy Lasorda is the new manager in LA!

Have to admit to feeling kind of blah about the past two episodes (Kate and Ben.) Enjoyed this one because it was the long awaited Miles origin story, at least in terms of confirming Dr. CandleWickWax (thanks Andy Behrendt!) as the Corpse Whisperer's father. Where this supernatural power emanates from remains to be seen. But even if the flashback scenes -- hey, it's Hank from "Breaking Bad!" -- were a little heavy-handed, the episode had a nice throwback vibe to it (single point of view, earned emotion as the final scenes hit.)

I joked that Jack was probably taking a nap while all the LaFleur-Kate-Little Ben security drama was going down. Kinda liking the shift to his nonchalant character. Doc's confrontation with Roger was also rock solid, but seeing him slurp his cup o' joe and defer to Jimmy LaFleur is where Jack needs to be, at least mentally, right now. He's back in 1977? Big deal! Little Ben is running around on the island? Not a problem. Doc doesn't know what he's supposed to do yet? Eh, someone will fire up the Jack Signal and he'll come to the rescue. All in due time, all in due time.

Lots of daddy issues spilling into the forefront again. Does all this Roger Work Man drunkenness make Adult Ben a more sympathetic figure in the eyes of those who previously despised him? Is Roger just mad at his island barber?

Like that "Lost" is using scenes of Adult Miles watching his baby self bounce on Daddy Chang's knee. That's too surreal, right? That would make your head explode, right? Man, if I were able to visit the past, I don't think I'd stay away from my baby self. Just sayin'.

Is it a safe bet that Adult Miles is responsible for Baby Miles and his mom leaving the island?

Sayiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiid? Where are youuuuuuuuuuuuuuu?

Is LaFleur in over his head? Thoughts?

The Swan and Orchid are both going up. Dead bodies due to extreme levels of electromagnetism are treated as non-existent "packages." So much secrecy off the grid.

I still hate Radzinsky.

Anybody jot down notes about Dead Felix and the empty graves? Does this confirm that Widmore is behind the fake plane conspiracy, or is Ben (a third faction?) in play?

What's up with the van guy (Bram?) who is also on the island with Ilyana and Lapidus? Member of the previously unnamed third faction?

And "What lies in the shadow of the statue?" Is that kinda like "What did one snowman say to the other?" Or at least, "When there's something strange in your neighborhood, who you gonna call?"

If I were driving a Dharma van, I wouldn't be rockin' to Captain and Tennille.

Two bodies are still supposed to drop by season's end and it appears Ben did not succeed in killing Penny. Yet he still apologized ... hmmm. Bets? Anyone? Anyone?

Daniel Faraday is back. Bout. Frickin'. Time.

Next week is a clip show? Booooooooooooooo ...

-- Thomas Rozwadowski,

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