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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Billy Mays and a case of odd TV timing

I, like most of America, was introduced to Billy Mays through his Oxi-Clean commercials.

And while it's hard to say with a straight face that you can really connect with someone through infomercials -- well, except maybe Matthew Lesko -- Billy Mays' emphatic delivery is something you remembered.

For a TV pitchman, that's half the battle right there.

Mays was brash, boisterous and had an impeccable, painted-on beard. And while he was absolutely cartoon-ish in his enthusiasm for a household cleaning product, there was also something extremely likable about his in-your-face style.

In a lot of ways, he was like George Costanza's version of the 'By Mennen' jingle. Annoying at first, but the more you walked past a food chopper at Bed Bath & Beyond, he seemed to grow on you like a second skin.

So in a week filled with celebrity deaths, Sunday's announcement that Billy Mays passed away probably jarred me the most. Not in an intensely personal way, mind you. Rather, with a "man, I was just thinking about that guy" sense of strangely random timing.

While flipping through the channels on Saturday morning, I stumbled upon Mays' Discovery Channel reality show "Pitchmen" -- which follows Mays and his partner, Anthony "Sully" Sullivan, as they look for new products to peddle.

I'd never heard of it before, and really, I only felt compelled to stop because I recognized the guy who happened to be on camera at the time. Turns out it was "Survivor" winner Ethan Zohn, who was on the show pitching his EZ Crunch Bowl -- a two-chambered breakfast vessel that holds milk separately from cereal so that your Corn Flakes won't get soggy.

I have to admit, watching Zohn make his pitch to Mays in a board room was interesting -- if only because I never knew that some people actually ate cereal in increments (eat, pour, eat, pour some more) so that they could avoid having to deal with soggy remnants.

It was a silly "Seinfeld"-ian discussion, to say the least. But the philosophical parameters of a bowl that eliminated cereal sogginess really proved entertaining and amusing to me.

So I kind of left it at that and figured, "hmmm, that's a show I might want to get back to" or at least write about it for this blog now that summer is nothing but Food Network shows for me.

And then Sunday I read the headline that Mays died.

Not profound. Not prophetic. Just odd.

Anyway, I have a feeling "Pitchmen" could have been a really popular reality show had it been written about or publicized a bit more. In honor of Mays, Discovery Channel is airing a "Pitchmen" marathon tomorrow starting at 10 a.m. It'll culminate with a never before seen season finale at 9 p.m.

Below, I've also added a very funny Mays spot for ESPN and an Oxi-Clean commercial that shows him as his "pitch" perfect persona.

-- Thomas Rozwadowski,

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Monday, June 29, 2009

Summer DVD Club: "Firefly"

For some reason or other, I've always found myself surrounded by Joss Whedon fans, so it's surprising I've never caught the Joss bug. It's not that I dislike him -- or his shows -- but I was never really into them the way these friends and family members were. I was the lone member of my four-person college apartment who wouldn't languish for hours in our bowl chairs watching endless episodes of "Buffy." In fact, I didn't actually pick "Firefly" as my Summer DVD Club choice -- let's just say my hand was, ahem, forced -- but I simply had to write about it because it's been a while since I've just liked a show this much.

Quick recap: "Firefly" is a short-lived space western that ran on Fox in 2002. The show follows nine characters on board a renegade transport spaceship called Serenity that traverses sparsely populated outskirts of space. Though the show is set in the future, it's unclear for most of the show how or when humans came to populate a solar system that's clearly not ours. In fact, I didn't really get it until I saw "Serenity," the movie sequel that came three years after Fox killed the show.

Back story: Overpopulation apparently causes the remnants of humanity to scatter, sending them to another solar system where hundreds of planets and moons are "terraformed" to resemble Earth. The process isn't evenly spread out, so the outer planets in the system resemble a sort of Wild West frontier of scattered outposts, far from the reaches of the more civilized core planets. A civil war between the central governing power -- aptly named the "Alliance" and dressed forbiddingly in "Star Wars" Imperial Army gray -- and the Independent factions (Browncoats) in these outlying planets only further this divide between frontier and civilization. The show takes place several years after the end of the war.

Characters: If the back story seems daunting, forget it. It took me the entire show -- and the movie -- to weave the history together and I'm still unclear on many of the finer points. The meat of the show are the characters, a plucky group of misfits who could easily have become stereotyped under a less watchful writer/director/producer. Captain Malcolm "Mal" Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) is your laconic anti-hero in the mold of Harrison Ford's Han Solo, plainspoken to the point of being rude and a bit of an wise-ass. The other regular crew include Mal's loyal first mate and former Army buddy Zoe (Gina Torres), pilot and resident comic Wash (Alan Tudyk), the unwittingly dumb hired muscle Jayne (Adam Baldwin) and the sweet but spacey mechanic Kaylee. The ship also plays host to Inara, who rents out a shuttle as a Companion, a 26th century equivalent of a Geisha or courtesan. Rounding out the crew are newcomers: Shepherd Book (a preacher played by Ron Glass), Dr. Simon Tam (Sean Maher) and his sister River Tam (Summer Glau). The Tams, it turns out, are fugitives from the Alliance after Simon frees his child prodigy sister from being part of an Alliance medical/psychological experiment. Their struggle to stay on the ship and their past (check out Zac Efron as a younger Simon in an episode flashback) is the larger plot arc of the show.

What I like: What first struck me is how much the show plays out like a movie. (Whedon apparently wanted Fox to broadcast them in widescreen, but Fox naturally refused, aiming to keep their pristine reputation as the network that broadcast two seasons of "Temptation Island"). Usually each episode centers around a smuggling job that the crew is hired to do -- often illegal and usually dangerous -- with a larger plot of the Tams to keep the episodes flowing into the next. The show is fast-paced when it needs to be with plenty of chases and near-misses, but funny and mysterious at the same time. In less than two weeks, I finished watching the entire season's worth of episodes and the movie, wishing I had savored each episode a little more and wanting a sequel to come out immediately!

As with many other cancelled TV shows, "Firefly"'s premature end is unfortunate. Developing storylines, like the will-they-won't-they tension between Mal and Inara, are cut short and, consequently, feel somewhat forced because there's no imminent resolution. Although the movie does a good job in trying to tie a few of these loose ends up, this is clearly a show that needed several seasons to answer questions that simply remain unanswered. It's hard to avoid thinking "that's it?" at the end of it all. We really never get a feel for why the Alliance operates the way it does, who Shepherd Book really is and if there any other renegade ex-Independents cruising the sky. Primary characters get plenty of screen time, but many interesting secondary characters are mere blips on the show as a result of the short season. Despite its premature departure from the television word, "Firefly" has a legion of fans -- one I can include myself in now -- that will continue to hope for a movie sequel.

You don't have to be a sci-fan to appreciate "Firefly" -- there's no super techie lingo, no aliens, no complicated universe to understand. A good appreciation of character-driven storytelling is enough.

Interested? Here's the episode that really solidified my liking of this show -- watch just the first three or four minutes for a good example:

You can find all "Firefly" episodes on Anyone else like the show? Wanted to see the show but never got around to it? Drop me a line in the comments below.

--Malavika Jagannathan,

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Commercial Interruption: "Top Chef Masters" makes us hungry for more

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 Malavika Jagannathan are salivating over the latest episodes of "Top Chef Masters." True, we were originally suspicious when Bravo came out with "Top Chef Masters" as a summer stand-in for our favorite foodie competition. Would watching real chefs compete against each other for charity carry the same intrigue week after week as monkey ass in clam shells or badly made rice? Three episodes in and we're sold on the premise that watching successful chefs made great food for good causes is just as exciting as the food fights we're used to witnessing on "Top Chef." And perhaps even better.

Malavika: I don't know about anyone else, but I love the format of "Top Chef Masters" where four chefs compete each week for a spot in the six-person "championship round." Unlike the chaos of the first few episodes of "Top Chef," when we invariably end up nicknaming people because we can't remember their names, this has more of an intimate quality to it. You get a feeling for the chefs, their styles of cooking and even a little insight into their food. So far, that's been phenomenal. Last night's episode was a great example of why this competition works. The chefs -- Rick Bayless, Wilo Benet, Ludo Lefebvre (everyone's favorite insane Gaul) and Cindy Pawlcyn -- all had varying styles of cooking and backgrounds from Ludos' classical French training to Cindy's self-taught wine country cooking. When asked to produce a viable street food from their choice of offal (heart, tongue, guts and ears), the results were pretty spectacular. I won't lie -- those tongue tacos that Bayless whipped up looked pretty damn tasty -- and that's coming from a vegetarian!

Tom, what do you like about the show?

Thomas: I know this much: between "Top Chef Masters" and all the Food Network shows I've been watching during the summer doldrums, I'll be 300 lbs. by August.

I absolutely LOVE "Masters," save for Kelly Choi, who Sara Boyd rightly dubbed the "Human Mii Character." Her abnormal head and body configuration is harder to look at than pointy pig ears.

I'm going to say right now that I enjoy "Masters" more than the normal show, simply because I love watching the best of the best compete -- and for the most part, do so without resorting to typical reality TV shadiness. These are superstar chefs who simply take pride in their craft.

Even watching Ludo last night -- the man is clearly an arrogant jack (his accusation that Rick Bayless "copied" him was pretty ridiculous), but I was still rooting for him because that was pure passion oozing out as blood beet gazpacho. Now, I wasn't rooting for him as much as say, Bayless -- seriously, how excited is that dude to be a chef on TV. He's beams like a kid at Christmas -- but basically, I don't want to see anyone fail.

Now that's probably because of the format and the fact that we aren't getting to know these people (and their annoying Leah or Lisa the Hutt-like habits) after several weeks. But I'm encouraged and entertained by a show that offers a level playing field and just says, "OK, time to be creative, what do you got?" The show reminds me of a more polished "Next Iron Chef." Reputations are too important to maintain, so people just do their jobs -- and do them really, really well. Coincidentally, John Besh, the runner-up from that show, is on next week's episode (also featuring Neil Patrick Harris), so I'm really looking forward to that.

I also think Ludo needs his own show with Fabio and Stefan called "The Euros." They could insult each other constantly, remain defiant about how their food is always better than some simple-minded American chef's, and then come together for group massages.

On a final note, do you miss Colicchio, MJ? I really like the new "critics" panel, especially the British dude who puts Toby "I Use Stupid Movie Metaphors" Young to shame. I haven't even given ol' Lex Luthor much thought since "Masters" started. That's how much I'm loving this show!

Malavika: First of all, I'm going to Ludo you and accuse you of stealing my idea of having him do a show with Fabio and Stefan. That was totally my genius idea! (The entire show would need to be subtitled, but it would rule). They could also end each episode with an impromptu soccer match with Ludo head-butting Fabio in an homage to the 2006 World Cup final between France and Italy.

I'm fresh out of "European" references, so, that being said, I do miss Tom Colicchio. I like the critics, especially Gael Greene and her impressive supply of felt hats, but I wish the panel included a chef and one less "critic." It's understandable why you wouldn't want a chef to critique a fellow chef -- and possible friend. Still I wonder if the critics' opinions are worth anything more than your average diner's opinion because they don't seem to focus on technique as much as they do on taste.

Again, I'm just nitpicking what is clearly shaping up to be a fabulous show. The beauty of the premise is such that there's no clear forerunner -- although, "Top Chef" viewers know there's no such thing as a surefire winner (ahem Hosea ahem) -- and any one of these fine chefs would walk away with the prize.

Any final thoughts?

Thomas: Tacos! Quesadillas! Shows with Fabio and Stefan! All these ideas are in the air, MJ. Next you're going to say you have a great muffin top idea you want to peddle.

I think we've expressed enough "Top Chef Masters" love for one day. Now, we just need to get you to ditch "Real Housewives of New Jersey" and start watching "The Next Food Network Star."

--Malavika Jagannathan, and Thomas Rozwadowski,

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Taste the happy: "Arrested Development" doc on the way

While I expressed reservations about an "Arrested Development" movie based solely on one episode of Mitchell Hurwitz's now canceled "Sit Down, Shut Up," it's not like that misfire is going to stop me from going ga-ga over his previous genius.

Which is why a fan documentary about "Arrested Development" is so brilliant, so obviously a great idea, I'm really, really upset I didn't think of it first.

After all, "AD" fans are an obsessed lot.

A "Save the Bluths" campaign kicked up four years ago after Fox placed the show on one of its many death watches, and one of the first columns I ever wrote for the Press-Gazette was about how "AD" needed to be watched by the masses.

Obviously it didn't work. But organizers sent me a yellow foam banana inscribed with "There's always money in the banana stand" as a thank you for taking up the grassroots cause. It's a cherished item that sits proudly with my DVD collection in the basement.

For "AD" fans, there's always been a severe inferiority complex in play because of how the show was treated by Fox. But looking back, it was given three seasons -- albeit at varied time slots -- and really, reveled in such cerebral, obscure humor with its pyramid of jokes, was probably never destined to reach a huge audience like, say, "Seinfeld" (itself, a network anomaly that caught fire relatively late.)

So Fox did what it had to do. The show enjoys a second life on DVD and in G4 reruns. The entire cast knows how brilliant the work was. And I think "AD" fans are mostly comfortable with the show garnering cult status and staying a well-kept secret.

Still, that didn't stop two superfans named Neil and Jeff from making their own movie about the unappreciated brilliance of the show. According to, a quotefest at Yosemite led to the idea that more people needed to know about never-nudes, Tony Wonder's Hanukkah cookie, hot ham water and the intimidating wonder that is White Power Bill. So the two Bluth-heads got a camera out -- and what do you know, Will Arnett, Portia de Rossi, Tony Hale, David Cross, Ron Howard, Henry Winkler, Andy Richter, Scott Baio (who memorably played Bob Loblaw) and even "AD" uber-fan, Keith Olbermann, apparently took time to sit in the interview chair.

To paraphrase Carl Weathers, now that's how you get a stew goin'.

The clip below looks to be fun and totally in the spirit of the show. No hard release date has been set, but "AD" fans should be happier than Buster at an open juice bar when this lovefest gets released.

Now leave your best "AD" quotes below. I'll start.

George Michael: Ann just called. They had a pre-dawn mass. Then they were going to mass, so ...

: Ann’s got a great deal of mass.

-- Thomas Rozwadowski,


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The "Jon & Kate" trifecta: Embracing the madness

For a group of individuals so adamant about not wanting to ever post about "American Idol," you'd think Channel Surfing would have higher standards than to keep writing about the Gosselins.

Well, you'd be wrong.

Yes, this is our third post in a row about "Jon & Kate Plus 8." Yes, we've made it abundantly clear that we're not proud of this fact while fully acknowledging that by being first in line for the freak show, we're totally fueling the Gosselins' celebrity fire.

But at this point, it's kind of like eating a hot dog. We don't want to know what it's made out of. Just let the delicious meaty goodness tickle the back of our throat so we at least get some satisfaction in our daily, wretched lives. (That's what she ... um, nevermind.)

Anyway, since I posted yesterday about how I haven't really been keeping tabs on the Gosselins -- yet I seem to know more about them than I do my own family members -- today's post will solely be about last night's DRAMATIC divorce episode.

For those who didn't watch (or won't admit to watching), the first 20 minutes were about a company in Maine dropping off four "crooked" playhouses for the sprawling Gosselin backyard.

This would seem like an innocuous lead-in to the "Big D" talk, but nothing gets past me, TLC. I know you're trying to set up a "shaky foundation" metaphor for our troubled couple! Either that, or this is just another company handing out freebies to the Gosselins in exchange for a show plug and some gratuitous t-shirt shots on the kids.

Yeah, it's probably the latter.

Anyway, Jon clears a bunch of space in the woods for the playhouses because he wants to shield his kids from the paparazzi (and they show three cameramen setting up shop outside the house.) Once Kate, who apparently doesn't know the size of her own lot, realizes how far back the woods are, she silently freaks out about the distance and whether her kids will ultimately be safe so far away from the house.

For the record, I completely agree with this line of thinking. However, knowing that every Gosselin disagreement probably ends with a "I never slept with that teacher, you stupid whore!" grenade sending emotional shrapnel everywhere, Kate wisely decides not to pick a bloody fight. Instead, a compromise is reached, but only after Jon acts like a turd during an abrupt "conversation" about the matter.

Blah, blah, blah ... Mady and Cara act really annoying (please TLC, get the camera off these two blathering attention thieves.) Jon and Kate act about as cordial around each other as Brett Favre and Ted Thompson would during a No. 4 retirement ceremony at Lambeau Field. The crooked houses' workers get their free plug ... and it's onto the couch for some deep, deep divorce discussion that likely gave Dr. Phil an ... (again, um, nevermind.)

Jon continues to mumble and make illogical, repetitive comments like, "we just want to unite for the sake of our kids, our goal is to jointly come together." Kate uses the word "upsetness." Jon feigns anger that soldiers are dying in Iraq yet Us Weekly is obsessed with what he's eating for lunch. (Was it tuna, Jon? Huh? Huh?) The fractured couple claims not to hate one another, but thanks to body language and facial cues, it's also a given that both wouldn't mind seeing the other badly injured on the side of the road with vultures circling overhead.

All the drama leads to several important questions:

What becomes of the show? Apparently, it's still a go and Jon will either make fatherly cameos or Dave Coulier is set to be hired as a stand-in dad. Cut. It. Out.

As I'm typing, TV Guide has also tweeted that the show will be on hiatus until August. Crap. I guess it's just "Little Couple" drama for me from now on.

What becomes of Jon? He's reportedly been apartment hunting in New York and even made the claim last night that someone could offer him a job. Here's a bold guess: Jon Gosselin, you are the next "Celebrity Apprentice!"

What's different about Kate? According to last night's mantra, a breast enhancement must also be "what's best for the kids."

And finally, what about those adorable kids (not including Mady)? Your home movies of boring camping trips and family roadies to the Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota got nuthin' on the Gosselin archive! Or think of it this way. It's like that "Simpsons" episode where Lisa rips out Ralph Wiggum's heart at the Krusty anniversary show.

"And the moment where Jon officially began dreaming of sweet, sweet death at the cost of his children ... PAUSE."

Yep, it's time to stick a fork in this show. The divorce announcement was long overdue, but unless TLC is plotting some more media manipulation for the show's August return, I can't imagine even the most strident "Jon & Kate" supporters sticking around for a split shift with the kids. Judging by Mady and Cara, the little ones only have two more years of "cuteness" left anyway, so the expiration date on this tainted milk carton is coming fast. But I have to believe that fans of this show originally felt happy for the family getting financial support, originally felt happy that the couple appeared truly in love, were looking out for their kids' best interest.

Now? Well, all scams eventually are uncovered.

Bottom line: no one wants to watch a fractured family unless there's some "Roseanne"-like sarcasm or "Arrested Development" wackiness involved. If we all wanted to see parents not getting along, we'd just wait until dad fired his TV dinner tray at mom's head during annual Thanksgiving festivities.

-- Thomas Rozwadowski,


Monday, June 22, 2009

Jon + Kate + Fake Tans + BMWs + Divorce = Ratings = Me Gouging My Eyes Out

I'll take the bullet right off the bat.

While I wouldn't consider myself a "fan" by any stretch, I've watched more than my share of "Jon & Kate Plus Eight" episodes (and no, I will not be throwing someone else in my house under the bus for this indiscretion.) It was my choice to sit on the couch and watch the Gosselin kids jump on beds and stick fingers up their noses. Guilty as charged, I suppose.

But once the media storm hit -- and man, did it ever hit. Heck, even Brett Favre thinks the Gosselins are overexposed -- I started to have a visceral, violent reaction every time Jon or Kate crossed my periphery (this happens a lot in grocery store aisles. I sincerely apologize to the man at Copps who I bludgeoned with a pineapple.)

Look, I still don't have a problem with the kids ... except that brat Mady, who yes, deserved to be deprived of water before that Access Hollywood appearance since she was pulling the ol' "I'm gonna die of dehydration" bit. You want dramatics? Yeah, I'll watch you shrivel like a raisin before you get a sip of my delicious H2O, muwahahahahahaha! (Ahem, you can tell I don't have kids ...)

Anyway, I've been slightly drawn back into the dark pit of despair that is the Gosselin' tabloid life with tonight's MUST SEE reveal that something life-altering is going down. We all know it's the D-word (no, not the one you're thinking about in reference to BMW-driving Jon), but our lives are so boring, we'll all tune in so we can either see Jon castrated live on TV or Kate order someone at the beauty salon to spank her kid because she's too busy getting a pedicure and spray tan.

Yeah, I'll probably watch with hopes that something juicy is revealed. Yeah, that makes me guilty for the ongoing stupidity and lethargy of this country -- you know, the kind that allows people like the Gosselins to become mega-stars simply by cranking out eight kids and letting cameras follow them around like they're the royal family.

But at least I have an excuse. I get paid to blog about TV. What excuse could these people - who litter sites like with ridiculously personal comments -- possibly have?

Among my favorites (unedited for your reading pleasure):

"Yeah Kate is a Type-A, do it my way person who berates her husband at every turn, but why is all the hatred directed at her? When was/is Jon going to 'MAN UP'. He lost his job, he wanders around looking glassy eyed like it just smoked a joint. He doesn't seem interested in anything but his kids. He hates playing Mr. Mom, but he has bothered to do anything else. You got the Duggars with 18 kids and their Dad works and can come home and help the Mom and be happy. Jon is a selfish little brat who realized that his twenties have been spent raising kids and instead of doing something positive he is just going to try and act like a kid. They both need therapy."

"omg...look at what WE'VE done by watching this show: jon has new diamond earrings, a OCC bike, a huge tractor ; kate has new boobs, a tan, a trainer, a personal dresser...and now they are sharing a million dollar house with the children. jon will spend his time away in NYC and who knows where Kate goes. poor kids, how sad..when you don't know how to hang on to family values, money ruins it all and the kids who only want their mom and dad together will suffer the most. crooked houses/broken lives. sad sad sad."

"I don't condone cheating but at some point if you don't stop nagging a man, he is going to get sick of it and start looking elsewhere. Thats all Kate does is nag nag nag. And yes jon is a pathetic child who has a lot of growing up to do. Neither one of them deserve those children!"

"You're all a bunch of jerks. You all need to lay off Kate. Yeah she may be a control freak, but wouldn't you be to if you had 8 kids and an immature husband. He may be nice but that doesn't mean he's responsible. I thought all of you used to like Jon AND Kate, but ever since they became more successful, you beat them down and especially her.'

"I'm really praying that the so called "announcement" is TLC is shutting down this show permanently. Yes, I used to be a fan but I cannot watch this show now. Kate has become psychotic and is blinded to her fame."

"get a life! leave this family alone- they need space like most if not all parents do and they are in the rags weekly, thoes innocent children are the only ones who will get hurt in the end- i dont see divorce- i see bringing this tlc chapter to a close- its not what they need anymore- my heart goes out to the whole family - stay strong"

Ugh. Check a preview clip of tonight's episode on the TLC Web site here. Also, I'm sure someone at Channel Surfing will have a few thoughts after tonight's episode brings in a record 10 million viewers.

-- Thomas Rozwadowski,


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Jon Minus Kate (Plus 8)?

Big news is a-brewin' for TLC's most-talked about reality family.

According to the Detroit Free Press, TLC will air a special episode on 9 p.m. Monday of "Jon and Kate Plus 8" where they have an announcement to make. According to the promo, Kate Gosselin says the family has recently made some "life changing decisions... that will affect every member of our family, ones that we hope will bring each of us some peace."

Cue the gossip blogs. With tabloid rumors of Jon Gosselin's infidelity and the obvious on-camera estrangement between the couple, the watch word of the day is the "D" word. Will the Gosselins split up? Will they call it quits for the show? Or, is it possible that Kate is somehow preggers again? Or it this just another ploy from TLC to keep people tuned to the show?

I'm a newcomer to the Gosselin world. My interest, perhaps like the 9.8 million other viewers who tuned in for the premiere of this season, was piqued by the endless covers of People magazine, and perhaps a little schadenfreude. No doubt many of these questions will be answered on Monday, but for now I've come up with a few hypothetical titles should TLC consider keeping the Gosselins on air despite their break-up or new baby.

1. The couple separate. Kate moves out. Jon (Minus Kate) Plus 8

2. The couple separate. Jon moves out. Kate (Minus Jon) Plus 8

3. The couple divorces and splits custody of the kids. Jon Plus 4 and Kate Plus 4

4. The couple announces they're having another kid. Jon and Kate Plus Nine/Ten/Eleven etc.

5. The couple quits the show. Jon and Kate Plus Eight Is Enough

6. The couple splits. Jon marries the Octomom. Jon (Minus Kate) Plus Eight and Octomom Plus Fourteen

7. The couple splits. Kate hooks up with a Duggar. Cannot compute title

Any thoughts on the special announcement? Is it a ploy or a precursor to divorce?

--Malavika Jagannathan,

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Cook together, win alone: 'Top Chef Masters' meets 'Lost'

I was already really enjoying Bravo's new "Top Chef Masters" -- a spinoff of their popular "Top Chef," the yummiest reality-competition show on TV not starring Heidi Klum -- but last night's episode only endeared it to me more. By featuring a challenge based on "Lost," not only did they satisfy my inner food geek, but my TV geek as well.

Apparently the writers and producers of "Lost" are big "Top Chef" fans, as guest judges Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof made known last night. It makes sense in a way. "Chef" airs right after "Lost," and I'm sure Teal Darlton weren't about to watch that crapfest "Life on Mars," so they had to switch the channel to SOMEthing.

But "Lost" and "Top Chef" also have a lot in common. Bald, intimidating white dudes, for example. "Lost" has John Locke, "Top Chef" has Tom Colicchio. The two shows can both be excruciatingly suspenseful, such as when "Lost" ends on a stupefying cliffhanger, or when "Chef" host Padma Lakshmi takes FOREVER to announce which contestant has to pack their knives and go home. And both shows can be seriously confusing: "Lost" with its recent time-tripping plotlines, and "Chef" with whatever comes out of judge Toby Young's mouth.

While it was entertaining, the "Lost"-based challenge the master chefs were confronted with didn't seem particularly difficult. They had an option of several island-themed proteins (fish, wild boar, sea urchins -- what, no polar bear?), but the twist was they could only use food "approved" by super-secret science organization, the DHARMA Initiative. That meant only prepackaged, canned food, just like the "Lost" castaways would have found in one of the many DHARMA stations on the island. Which I guess to these five-star superchefs could be considered constricting, but to be fair, that list looked like it had just shy of 6 trillion items on it. I doubt they were really hurting for options.

Yet some of the contestants came into the challenge better prepared than others. L.A. chef and eventual winner Suzanne Tracht admitted to be a fan of the show, whereas New York chef and molecular gastronomist (which sounds like someone DHARMA would have on staff) Wiley Dufresne was clueless. Still, Defresne turned out to be the episode's main source of comic relief as he struggled to complete the opening Quickfire Challenge, dashing around the kitchen like a madman and dropping F-bombs galore.

But while the level of competition was high, the level of civility and sportsmanship thankfully was as well. That's one of the main reasons I like this show so much. Face it, these competitors have already made it -- they are award-winning, highly respected chefs. They're competing for charity, but at the end of the day they get to go back to their successful restaurants and their fawning patrons. It's just plain entertaining to watch such unfathomably talented cooks do their thing within these arbitrary constraints, all the while joking around with each other and lending each other a hand. By the end of the episode you really like these people, and it's a shame that in this "Masters" format, only one contestant wins and goes on to the next round.

Just like with "Lost," "Top Chef Masters" is all about the characters. And so far they've assembled a great group of castaways.

-- Adam Reinhard,

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

On Wisconsin: Colbert joins Conan in the battle of the fat jokes

I know Stephen Colbert was in Iraq for a week, so it's possible he didn't realize that Conan O'Brien had already used the Wisconsin-is-fat zinger in a mistimed joke last week. But, admittedly, Colbert's late-night dig at Wisconsin's healthy waistlines on last night's episode of "The Colbert Report" was funnier (and didn't include incorrect facts). Plus, he didn't actually pick on Green Bay. Phew.

In his opening monologue, the faux right-wing pundit called attention to the world's largest pair of jeans that was stitched in Croatia. Feigning outrage that the world record belonged to these "Eastern Bloc-heads," he said, "surely there's someone in Wisconsin with bigger jeans than this." He added: "Stand up! Make yourself known! Or if you can't stand up, use your reaching stick to dial the phone." After that, he ordered his audience to take off their pants and pass it forward to reclaim the world record (not shown on TV, of course).

Lucky for Colbert, we've spent up all our anger defending Wisconsin's image last week after Conan's slip-up, so we'll just let this one go and maybe decline that second bratwurst. In the end, we can all be thankful that Wisconsin was used in a sentence that didn't include Brett Favre.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Croatia's Biggest Jeans World Record
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"The Colbert Report" airs Monday through Thursday at 10:30 p.m. on Comedy Central.

--Malavika Jagannathan,

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

What We Wouldn't Normally Watch: Real Housewives of New Jersey

It's that time of year when the tank tops come out, the deck gets refinished and regular season television shows take a break. But does that also mean we're allowed to take a hiatus from our discerning standards? In this new segment -- "What We Wouldn't Normally Watch" -- Channel Surfing bloggers explore the shows they would never watch during the regular season, but don't mind delving into when the weather is warm.

Channel Surfing blogger Malavika Jagannathan explains her unnatural fascination with Bravo TV's "The Real Housewives of New Jersey."

Malavika: "The Real Housewives of New Jersey" has all the makings of a trashy soap opera with a dash of "The Sopranos" thrown in for good measure. Because what's a show set in New Jersey without an overt comparison to the state's most famous exports? But, seriously, it's hard not to be obsessed with the silly, scandalous and self-indulgent housewives of this show with their gaudy mansions and their obsession with plastic surgery (fake "bubbies" as I've started calling them). They're so gauche, it hurts.

If you've never watched an episode of the "Housewives" shows -- so far, the show has crisscrossed the country from Orange County to New York with a bizarre pit stop in Atlanta -- you're not missing anything. But this particular version is tantalizing summer fare. For one, it's New Jersey and these gals live the stereotype to the max. The hair, the accents, the Italian heritage, the possible mobster connections, it's all there! If you think I'm kidding about the mobster connections, I'm not. The father-in-law of two of the housewives -- Dina and Caroline Manzo -- had ties to the Gambino familiy before being found executed mob-style in the trunk of a car, according to the New York Daily News.

Aside from Dina and Caroline, the show focuses on their sister-in-law Jacqueline Laurita, friend Teresa Giudice and frenemy Danielle Staub. The tumultuous back-stabbing relationship between Dina and Danielle drives much of the drama with sweet Jacqueline often in the middle (she's friends with Danielle, but also has family obligations). Teresa spends much of the show waiting to move into her new McMansion of marble and onyx or trying to get her 7-year-old daughter a modeling contract. Danielle is clearly the villain of the bunch. For one, her Botoxed face rarely betrays emotion -- and when it does, it's a frightening cross between Jacko and Joan Rivers -- and she has a sordid history of prostitution and drug arrests that surfaces on the show. She's a serial dater with poor taste in men and calls her two young daughters her best friends. It's two parts pathetic to one part scary -- ie. your basic drama cocktail.

This is vapid reality fare at best, but it's definitely a step above, say. "I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here." Capping off a rather short 6-episode season, Bravo TV will air the season finale tonight, but expect to see these Garden State gals on reruns. On Saturday, Bravo TV will air all the episodes in a row starting at 3 p.m., so set your DVRs or spend some quality time on the couch!

The Real Housewives of New Jersey" airs tonight at 9 p.m. on Bravo TV. Want a quick preview of the show? Check out this clip (don't have the volume too high -- the shrieks will kill your hearing otherwise):

--Malavika Jagannathan,

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Monday, June 15, 2009

Summer DVD Club is back!

Ahh, summer. A time when the sun shines beyond 4 p.m., the temperature rises above 40 degrees, birds are singing, people are frolicking ... oh yeah, and television stations take a royal dump on their TV listings. It's such a beautiful time.

But don't fear, Channel Surfing has come up with a plan. Yes, we know summer is awesome. It's a time for pasty Midwesterners to douse themselves in aloe, climb trees, grill brats and drunkenly attempt cannonballs in backyard kiddie pools. But summer is also universally thought of as "catch-up" time for TV addicts.

So by no means are we encouraging just loafing on the couch during Wisconsin's brief window of summer splendor, but hey, you have to watch something, right? So we're bringing back our "Summer DVD Club" -- complete with our secret handshake, maybe a "nanoo-nanoo"-like greeting and absolutely NO BOYS ALLOWED. Ugh, OK fine, boys allowed.

The rules are simple: Pick a TV show on DVD you haven't watched -- but always wanted to -- and keep tabs on it throughout the summer. You know how we do things around here, so follow a similar mentality. Feel free to file reports by e-mailing us, and that's it, you're in the club.

You can write stray observations every three episodes. You can wait to finish an entire season. We're just looking for submissions and to expose readers (and our Channel Surfing staff) to more shows. As the weeks go by, we'll post your observations as well as our own. And that's it.

Welcome to the club!

-- The Channel Surfing staff,


Friday, June 12, 2009

'SYTYCD:' Round 1

Season Five of Fox's "So You Think You Can Dance" is bringing the big guns.

For the first week of performances and subsequent bootings from said performances, it would appear that we're in for one heck of a season.

The costumes are better. Mary's screams are louder. Nigel's hair is inching closer and closer to the Quaker Oatmeal man's whispy mane and Adam has already cried ... twice.

So let's recap, shall we? Here are a couple of the hits and misses from the week:

Hip-hop with Philip and Jeanine
I love, love, loved this performance. Any routine that can tell a good story, I'm all for. Tabitha and Napoleon really kicked the show off right with this routine and it seemed to please the judges as well. I tend to wonder how Philip's audition partner -- and real-life main squeeze -- would feel about the judges' constant praise of nailing the chemistry but I'm guessing that her getting the boot in Vegas probably was hard enough on their relationship. Plus, I'm sure the chemistry is the only thing these two are, um, nailing. The only complaint I had from this top act was that certain moves were quite reminiscent of Tab and Nappy's (new nicknames, it'll catch on ...) choreography of "Bleeding Love" last year with Mark and Chelsea. Yes, I realize only a true nerd of the show would make that connection, but still. Let's keep it fresh!

Samba with Max and Kayla
First of all, it was incredibly difficult to look at anything else in this routine but Kayla, especially in that dress. That flapper-like outfit was more mesmerizing than watching a lava lamp in blacklight. What? Those still totally amuse me. Anyway, the dance was extremely upbeat, fun and delightful and earned the couple their first trip on the hot tamale train. Woo! Woo!

Jazz with Kupono and Ashley
I couldn't agree more with Nigel's assessment that Wade Robson is truly a genius. I don't believe there's anything that he has done that hasn't absolutely astounded me. (Sleeping with Britney Spears included, har har.) His idea of a crash test dummy love story was incredibly outside the box and I loved every second of it. The shakey, been-hit-too-many-times dummy learning to slowly live life to the fullest, no matter what happens was incredibly creative. I hope to see a lot more from Robson in this competition.


Broadway with Asuka and Vitolio
P.U. Seriously. I'm sure following a crazy hip-hop routine wasn't exactly fair for this pair but man, I was not impressed at all. That could partly be because I'm just not that fond of the broadway performances but even so, it just didn't do much for me. I thought the judges' were a little harsh, however, by just blaming the dancers for not intertwining their personalities into the routine enough because I think a good chunk of its suckiness was the choreography. It was just a bunch of running around, then kick, then spin, then running around again. I didn't really see how Vitolio was supposed to be the "producer" in this storyline either. Looks like America felt the same way as these two were forced to "dance for their life" last night.

Hip-hop with Tony and Paris (see above)
Perhaps it's just me, but I don't get what the hub-bub is with Tony. I think he's kind of arrogant -- especially for someone who has cried more times than Adam Shankman -- and he has the face of a 10-year-old pre-pubescent boy. I find him to be an awkward dancer, unless he's doing his solos, and for someone who specializes in hip-hop, it just wasn't that good. It's tough too when you're paired with Jay Leno but still, I think Paris outshined him in his own genre. The routine could've been sweet, but it just fell flat for me. If you're dancing to a song that emphasizes the "boom, boom, boom's" then you gots to hit it -- or quit it. Time to be 3008, you so 2000 and late. Sorry, it's Friday and it's been a long week ...

Cha-cha with Jonathan and Karla
Jonathan looks exactly like David Archuleta. Seriously. It freaks me out. And perhaps is the reason I just couldn't enjoy this performance. But I believe it's also because the performance -- as much as the judges' loved it -- just wasn't that good. Everytime Jonathan did anything sexual, it was uncomfortable. And his performance with out-stretched arms every time he hit a move was more circus act than dance routine. As for Karla, I think she did a better job than her partner but still, not quite good enough. In a competition with so much talent, she just didn't stand out enough for me. Not to mention, after Kayla knocked it out of the park, she kind of became the Queen Bee of the "K"-name-ends-in-"la"- competitors.

It seems America and the judges agreed as well. With Thursday night's results show -- close, but not quite as annoying as the "American Idol" results shows -- we saw Tony and Paris packing their dancin' shoes. I'll be honest, they could've sent Tony, Paris, Asuka and Jonathan home and I would've been fine with that decision.

We'll see what's in store next week but good news for the rest of the dancers, I guess ... no one has to change partners.

Tune into "So You Think You Can Dance" Wednesdays at 7 p.m. and Thursdays at 8 p.m. on FOX.

-- Sara Boyd,

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Colbert. Hanks. The Cutest Puppy Ever. Television Bliss.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Tom Hanks Care Package
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-- Adam Reinhard,


'Top Chef: Masters' fight off disasters

When I heard the premise of "Top Chef: Masters," I wasn't completely convinced it was something I wanted to tune into.

Here you have professional chefs -- chefs, who by the simple placement of being on this show have "made it." Chefs who are extremely successful -- yet, I'll be honest, I've never heard of most of them -- and chefs who are deemed "professional" (aka: will likely be well mannered, not cause any drama with other chefs ... and forget about catching a Hosea-Leah-like canoodling fest.) Let's call a spade a spade here --professional chefs could very well equal a snooze fest.

However, last night's premiere pleasantly surprised me, if for no other reason than it made these chefs get back to their roots and as one chef said, "was a humbling experience." Sure, they don't have a career and success riding on the line -- all participants compete for a charity of their choice -- but they're fighting for something even better. Pride.

These true "top chefs" are used to people kissing their molasses and telling them how great they are when they're working in their element and in their multi-million dollar restaurants. What they're not used to is going head-to-head with other top chefs and having to be a one-man (or woman) kitchen. Or having their egos tested.

The set up for "Masters" is a little different than I imagined. Instead of the typical "Top Chef" show where all contestants compete against each other for the title of top dawg, "Masters" takes four pro chefs and puts them in a tournament of sorts. With 24 chefs total, the pros are broken off into groups of four with the winner of each group advancing to a final round. The six winners will go through a series of episodes with a one-person elimination until one "Master" remains. The Top Chef Master will receive $100,000 for the charity of their choice.

First up for the show's premiere were chefs Hubert Keller, Christopher Lee, Michael Schlow and Tim Love. Honestly, I have no idea who any of these chefs are but I remembered Hubert from season one of "Top Chef," so there's that. (Sidenote: Mr. Keller moonlights as a DJ, which is maybe the sweetest "fun fact" ever. After he announced his love of turntables, I couldn't stop thinking of the song "God is a DJ" ... I'm guessing Pink saw Hubert scratching at a club once and got confused. Totally valid. The man looks like God's half-brother.)

The show also introduced host Kelly Choi as the replacement for Padma. Not going to lie, this woman scares the bejesus out of me. It's like watching a bobblehead doll, seriously. I don't know who this woman is but she has the largest noggin I've ever seen. She's a real-life carmel apple. OK, I'm done. Oh, one more ... Kelly Choi is a human Wii character. I want to see her bowl. Or play tennis.

Anyway, the show kicked off with a quickfire challenge of "Top Chef's" past. The challenge was to create the most creative and delicious dessert in 60 minutes. The judges? A group of Girl Scouts. When this challenge appeared on season four -- Blaiser Blais knocked it out of the park. This time around, it seemed a bit more difficult. The master chefs made everything from strawberry smoothies and chicken-fried strawberries to what can only be described as an assortment of poo-shaped chocolate.

It was great to see these top chefs get cut down by a group of little girls. Most notably, "the redhead" was extremely critical -- typical ginger. All the girls seemed to like Keller's the most --and only because he made a whip cream mouse and gave him a chocolate tail, which earned him the most "awww, cute's" of the chefs. Instead of getting advantages from quickfires, the chefs are given "gold stars." No, seriously. After decades of world-reknowned cooking, Hubert Keller was given gold stars from 10-year-old girls.

On to the elimination challenge. The chefs -- who were used to working in multi-million dollar kitchens -- were now headed back to college to cook dorm style. The tools of choice included a microwave, a hot plate and a toaster oven. First of all, who is allowed a hot plate or toaster oven these days? I recall being told by my RA that both were fire hazards, which truly made eating anything in the dorms a large challenge. Nevertheless, they had to give the chefs something to cook with and from the looks of it, that was enough of a challenge.

Not only did the chefs have to cook with dorm utensils but the famous cooks had to prepare these meals -- a three-course meal, at that -- in actual dorm rooms. What a treat.

I personally enjoyed watching Tim Love cook. The southerner had a great personality and was hilarious as the straight shooter. But after a snafu with confusing the freezer for the fridge, I knew he was probably in trouble. I don't know how one confuses the two -- especially how one who is a famous chef confuses the two, but I have a feeling he won't live that one down.

Taking the initiative to make his own pasta for some good ol' mac and cheese left Keller with a dilemma on how to keep the noodles warm, while sufficiently draining the water out. Instead of turning to panic, the crafty DJ cook headed to the bathroom to utilize the sinks and shower, running hot water from the shower over the noodles while they drained out below. What a way to wet your noodle. Ahem, I'm still talking about food here.

Anyway, the trick paid off and beat out Tim Love's pozole, Michael Schlow's pork and Chris Lee's creamy risotto. Not a surprise given the impressions his dishes made -- even on the picky redhead during the quickfire. So Keller advances to the final round as the first winner and successfully charms me enough to make me tune in again next week. Not to mention the previews for upcoming episodes.

It looks like the "Masters" will have some special guest stars including Fabio Viviani from last season, Antonia Lofaso from season four of "Top Chef," adorable Zooey Deschanel and my hero, NPH (aka: Neil Patrick Harris).

Catch "Top Chef: Masters" Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on Bravo.

-- Sara Boyd,

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Oops: Conan O'Brien Calls Green Bay white and fat

It's never a bad time for a good stereotypical Wisconsin is white-and-fat joke. Unless of course your writers don't fact-check. D'oh!

If you weren't watching Stephen Colbert, whom I did call funnier than Conan in yesterday's post (my apologies -- I hope that wasn't the impetus for the badly timed joke), you probably missed a flub in Conan's opening monologue on "The Tonight Show." According to the LA Times Top of the Ticket blog, Conan preempted President Barack Obama's scheduled Thursday visit to Green Bay by saying the following:

"Speaking of President Obama... Earlier today, President Obama spoke at a town hall meeting in Green Bay Wisconsin. Half of the Wisconsin crowd had never seen an African-American and the other half had never seen a skinny person."

(Editor's note: We here at Channel Surfing adore Conan. Who doesn't? He's the best thing to happen to "The Tonight Show" since comedian Bobcat Goldthwait set fire to the guest couch).

I'm sure there'll be the usual outrage -- coupled with a slew of elected officials talking up Green Bay's svelte and suave image -- but let's not get too carried away with brats-and-beer ire. If you want to go for the facts, Wisconsin adults are no fatter than the rest of the nation -- about 60 percent of us are either overweight or obese, the same as the national average. And, yes, while this area is still majority white, the diversity of Green Bay has rapidly grown in the past decade.

Or, we could just laugh at ourselves. You know, the same way Texans have been laughing at the cowboys-and-idiots stereotype or New Jersey-ites have embraced the mobsters-and-Jewish-mothers image. It's too bad Conan's joke was a day early. It might actually have been better received tomorrow night.

We could also be grateful that Green Bay was mentioned in the same sentence as the President and not, say, Brett Favre or even the Green Bay Packers. But if Conan feels the need to make amends to the good people of Green Bay, he should schedule a special show from Lambeau Field and grant this blog a personal interview.

--Malavika Jagannathan,


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Timeout again! It's the return of 'Futurama'!!

As if further proof was needed that you should never underestimate the influence of fanboys and frat boys alike, Comedy Central has decided to order new episodes of the almost-great-but-mostly-just-very-good Matt Groening sci-fi cartoon "Futurama," based on the popularity of reruns and the airing of four made-for-DVD movies.

Never a huge "Futurama" fan myself -- the writing always seemed like second-tier "Simpsons" material, the jokes hitting maybe 60% of the time -- I'm still stoked at the prospect of more Fry, Bender, Leela and Dr. Zoidberg ("I wasn't wearing it. I was eating it.") If it wasn't the funniest show ever, it did boast excellent voice work -- including the incomparable Billy West and Katey Sagal -- and a big ol' heart, as evident in probably the saddest episode of any show ever, "Jurassic Bark." (If you know which episode I'm talking about, you're crying already.)

In resurrecting the futuristic show, Comedy Central is following the trend started by Fox, when that network brought back "Family Guy" in 2005, following a three-year absence. "Futurama" has been dead even longer -- seven years -- making the comeback even more impressive. Here's hoping the same happens with the in-fact-great "King of the Hill" somewhere down the line.

Comedy Central has ordered 26 new episodes, to begin airing in 2010.

-Adam Reinhard,

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Timeout! It's the return of Zack freakin' Morris

It says along the right rail that my guilty pleasure is "Saved by the Bell," but honestly, that's misleading. I have no problem defending my love of "SBTB" to anyone. In fact, I've engaged in spirited arguments with fellow pop culture aficionados about how, in my humble estimation, the show is actually funny -- even as I continue to bask in its inherent cheesiness as an adult.

So yes, I know that the same actor on "SBTB" played both Ox and Scud. I know that Helen Billingham was the name of the Stansbury recruiter who had the audacity to reject Jessica Mertyl Spano's impeccable credentials (she did kinda tank the SAT, though. I mean, it's the Harvard of the West). I even recently identified the actor who played Zack's dad, Derek Morris, in an erectile dysfunction ad.

Yes, I'm proud of these things.

This is why you'll have to forgive me for geeking out HARD when Mark-Paul Gosselaar played along with Jimmy Fallon's childhood kick by assuming the identity of one, Zachary Morris, on last night's show.

Now, I've never been a huge Fallon fan. But now ... now I feel like we could be brothers. Because dude is a hardcore "SBTB" junkie. And if I wasn't convinced of that after he had Dennis "Mr. Belding" Haskins (who, ahem, I've interviewed ...) on the show during his first week of "Late Night," it's readily apparent from the below clip that Fallon is a Bayside Glee Club geek of Violet Ann Bickerstaff proportions.

Like, we're talking Academic Bowl levels of "SBTB" knowledge from Fallon. Even with a talented staff of writers, you can't fake the love he showed for the Bayside gang. Dude is sporting some serious Zackosity.

Anyway, "SBTB" fans: you have to watch the following clip. It's chock full of obscure bits of Bayside High trivia. And the end is an absolute treat. All I can tell you is that I had "Friends Forever" in my head all freakin' day ... and yeah, giant cell phone gag. Never. Gets. Old.

Also, how much credit do you have to give Gosselaar for being cool about the whole bit? The guy is an established actor on a hit show, TNT's "Raising the Bar," yet instead of going in for the standard interview, he brings Morris out of the archives for a killer spot alongside The Roots. I mean, Screech can't even handle being called Screech. Yet Gosselaar is game for a role he played as a zit-faced teenager? Yeah, I'm totally watching "Raising the Bar" now. Mark-Paul ... you have earned this writer's loyalty for life. You could commit double murder and I'd hold up a handmade sign saying "I Back Zack" at your trial. That's how much respect you nabbed, Preppy.

Oh, and one more thing. MJ, do you think it's a coincidence that Fallon is doing this for Zack "The Legend" Morris and not Cory Matthews? Yeah, that's what I thought.

-- Thomas Rozwadowski,

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Operation Stephen Colbert

Sorry, Conan, but Stephen Colbert is the funniest man on late-night television. It takes real cajones, to use a Colbert term, to satirize a war as a faux right-wing pundit for an audience of soldiers in the former palace of the dictator the war intended to topple. It's so meta, it isn't even meta. This week's episodes of "The Colbert Report" come straight to our television sets from a marble palace in Camp Victory in Baghdad. In Iraq. Taped in front of an audience dressed almost entirely in U.S. Army-issued fatigues. At Saddam Hussein's former "water" palace.

Now Colbert, unlike his counterpart Jon Stewart on "The Daily Show," has never openly declared his political views, despite his scathing address at the White House Press Association dinner a few years ago. Based on the crowd response to the blowhard alter-ego pundit's visit to Iraq and video addresses from John McCain and President Barack Obama, it's doubtful his political leaning matters to anyone.

Here are a few of my favorite moments from last night's first episode. If it's any indication of what's to come in the remainder of the week of what Colbert is calling "Operation Iraqi Stephen: Going Commando," it's a glorious start to the week.

1. The opening montage where Stephen finally finds out "where in the Persian Gulf" he's going. Check out the video:

2. Stephen declares victory in the War on Iraq. Using the "powers vested in" him by "basic cable," Colbert does what few generals and Presidents have dared to do -- declare that the mission is, in fact, accomplished. It's met with laughter, but it's hard to ignore the underlying message. Colbert's opening salvo is that he didn't know the war in Iraq wasn't over because he hasn't seen anything on the news. And it's far too close to truth. Don't believe me? Watch CNN.

3. John McCain advises the troops in a "shout-out" to make sure they always take the time to clean their muskets, adding "I learned that at Valley Forge." Sure, the John McCain is really, really, really old jokes are, well, kinda old, but it's still funny.

4. Stephen undergoes basic training. It's like "G.I. Jane" with a no Demi Moore.

5. "If Stephen Colbert wants to play soldier, it's time to cut that man's hair." With those words, President Barack Obama orders the Commander of the multinational forces in Iraq, Gen. Ray Odierno, to shave Stephen's head. It's clearly a scripted moment (Obama's message was taped previously), but it's pretty darn fabulous. Also, serious props to Gen. Odierno for overlooking Stephen's dig at his baldness and the comparison to Shrek.
"The Colbert Report" airs on Comedy Central at 10:30 p.m. on Comedy Central.

--Malavika Jagannathan,

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Monday, June 8, 2009

Bret Michaels almost decapitated. No, that's not a made-up punchline.

Everyone's talking about the Tony Awards this morning. But probably not for the reasons you might think.

Having ignored the entire telecast in favor of "Next Food Network Star" and a "Roseanne" marathon on TV Land, I only discovered this morning that Bret Michaels and Poison (with the cast of "Rock of Ages" -- is that some '80s musical?) opened the show. While finishing his performance on stage, Michaels took an Unskinny Bop to the face -- which you can see below -- or the kind of live TV "holy crap" moment your ADD-addled brain could watch over and over ... or at least until something juicy about Jon and Kate Gosselin enters the picture and distracts you again.

No word on how VH1's favorite man-whore is doing this morning. And honestly, do you really care?

Ah, the Tony's. Nuthin' but a good time!

-- Thomas Rozwadowski,

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Friday, June 5, 2009

"So You Think You Can Dance": The Top 20

And then there were 20.

It took a weeklong trip to Las Vegas for “So You Think You Can Dance” to weed out the great from the just-not-that-good-enough. Now, after a grueling audition period, we're finally ready to meet our Top 20.

Let's meet the contestants that will be beggin' for your votes!

The girls include Randi Evans, Karla Garcia, Caitlin Kinney, Asuka Kondoh, Janette Manrara, Jeanine Mason, Kayla Radomski, Melissa Sandvig, Paris Torres and Ashley Valerio.

Of the ones I'm familiar with -- aka: the ones FOX producers thought were interesting enough to feature during auditions -- here's my breakdown:

Caitlin is best known as the other half of the Kinney sisters with her dancing sibling also winning judges over during auditions. Both made it to Vegas. Both were inseparable. Both had a chance at Top 20. And honestly, between the two, I don't fully understand what made Caitlin the better dancer. I hope it's not the case but it seems perhaps her rock hard six-pack and flowing blond hair just made her more "camera ready." Who knows.

Asuka is a ballroom dancer who lost her partner before the Top 20 cuts -- Ricky? or something? Apparently Pasha and Anya remain the rare partners that both successfully made their way into the Top 20 on the same season. We'll see if Asuka is as good without her partner and can hold her own.

The only thing I know about Janette is that her boyfriend dumped her and she was in a car accident. Hopefully the two incidents didn't happen at the same time.

Randi Evans likes spandex and unitards. Um, I guess that's it.

The boys include Kupono Aweau, Tony Bellissimo, Brandon Bryant, Phillip Cheeb, Jason Glover, Vitolio Jeune, Max Kapitannikov, Evan Kasprzak, Ade Obayomi and Jonathan Platero.

Alright same applies for the boys -- who it seems FOX featured a little bit more. Hmm.

Kupono is from Hawaii and like last season's Mark, has his own style about him. He was rockin' a mohawk like mullet, but after judges told him it was gross, he fired up the razor.

Tony cries. A lot. Perhaps it was the sleep deprivation or the fact that beyond his humor, he just didn't have the skillz, but whatever it was he just didn't stop the waterworks. I will say this, however, it's not an annoying cry -- like "Project Runway's" Ricki or something. It's more genuine. Still, if he keeps it up, I'm sure he'll have plenty to cry about.

I honestly feel bad for Brandon. I don't know what's going on behind the scenes or what Mia and Lil C's dealios are but this guy is a great dancer and yet, all he hears is how disappointing he is. Can someone please clue me in here? When Mia was going off on the poor lad saying he annoys the *bleep* out of her, I honestly had no idea what she was talking about. Then again, I was pretty shocked that the judges so quickly dismissed Natalie -- the prime example A, for chrissakes -- so perhaps I just don't get it.

Phillip Cheeb has the best last name ever. If I was him, I would make people refer to me only by last name. We've seen this crazy pop-n-locker before -- he nearly made it to Vegas last year but little ol' pneumonia stopped him short. Then, when he recovered, he was asked to challenge psycho popper Robert Muraine in a battle of the poppers during the finale. Unfortunately, he didn't win. But I have a feeling making the show has revived his confidence. He doesn't have any formal dance training so it'll be interesting to see if he can keep up.

Evan, like Caitlin, was known through auditions as part of a sibling team. He and his brother, Ryan, are clearly close. I mean, REALLY close. So close that a friend of mine confused them for a gay couple. Honestly, I have to disagree with SYTYCD on this choice, though. Between the two -- which of course it came down to, because FOX loves them some drama rama -- I thought Ryan was the better dancer. The judges even said it was because of Ryan's choreography that made them choose Evan. Does that make any sense at all? Again, back to the other sibling set we saw, I do worry this choice was made purely on the looks. Ryan -- as talented as he is -- is short and bald where Evan is taller with hair. Shame on you, FOX.

So there they are, ladies and gentlemen -- your Top 20. The "real" competition gears up at 7 p.m. next Wednesday with the 20 dancers pairing off into couples for their first round of dancing. By the looks of the competition, I'd imagine Mary will make someone deaf on night one, after announcing her picks for the "hot, tamale train."

-- Sara Boyd,

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