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Thursday, February 25, 2010

"Idol" watch: It's official. This is a flop fest.

Because no one else wants to do it -- or in Punishment Pool fashion, has been forced to like some Guantanamo-style form of Channel Surfing torture, Press-Gazette graphics editor Eric Ebert is stepping in with a weekly "American Idol" recap. We don't know whether to applaud or mock him for this extra shot of CS content. On second thought, we choose to mock.

Blame it on the lack of a standout contestant like Adam Lambert.

Blame it on nine seasons of culling the American public for “idols.”

For all I care, you can blame it on the absence of cracked-out judge Paula Abdul, but Season 9 of “American Idol” has had everything but a star performance.

Earlier this week, the first live acts pitted the 12 male finalists against the 12 female finalists. And tonight — based on America’s voting — two men and two women will be sent home.

I say good riddance.

I watched with anticipation two nights of live performances, waiting to hear some quality vocal talent. Instead, I was treated to karaoke imitations that probably wouldn’t win local singing competitions.

Aside from several performances — namely, Lilly Scott’s rendition of the Beatles’ “Fixing a Hole” and Casey James’ surprising vocals on Bryan Adams’ “Heaven” — the "Idol" contestants fell flat.

In fact, Tim Urban’s version of “Apologize” by OneRepublic was downright painful to listen to. And Haley Vaughn’s overexcited smiling took “I Want to Hold Your Hand” by the Beatles to a creepy — if not tone deaf — level.

Maybe it would be better stated that the contestants face-planted.

Monday and Tuesday’s performances leave a lot of room to question what judges Simon Cowell, Kara DioGuardi, Randy Jackson and Ellen DeGeneres were thinking during the Hollywood week auditions.

It’s sad to see a process that has cultivated chart-topping talent like Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson and Chris Daughtry relegated to a sideshow of mullet-sporting, judge-flirting contestants lacking star qualities.

Then again, maybe this was just a bad week. But I won’t be shedding any tears for the four contestants headed home.



1. Andrew Garcia: Although the judges didn’t love his take on Fall Out Boy’s “Sugar We’re Going Down,” he is by far the most musically talented performer in this season.

2. Casey James: His heartfelt rendition of Bryan Adams’ “Heaven” had more than just Kara DioGuardi licking their chops.

3. Michael Lynche: The big man had a satisfactory performance with Maroon 5’s “This Love,” but his booming attitude and story should keep him in the running.

4. Lee Dewyze: His pitchy singing and lackluster performance on Snow Patrol’s “Chasing Cars” was bottom-of-the-barrel in my book, but with Simon Cowell’s backing, he will probably succeed in the end.

5. Joe Munoz: My dark horse candidate at the moment, Munoz displayed better vocal talent than many of his competitors on Jason Mraz’s “You and I Both.” But can he dig deep and find some star power?


1. Lilly Scott: Clearly the best female contestant after the first week, her rendition of the Beatles’ “Fixing a Hole” was spot on.

2. Crystal Bowersox: The dreadlocked Bowersox eased through Alanis Morissette’s “Hand in My Pocket” with guitar and harmonica in tow.

The rest: I’d clarify the rest of my top 5, but honestly, they were so forgettable I don’t remember them two days later.

Agree? Disagree? Add your own "Idol" comments below. Or just mock Eric for actually caring. It's what we're going to do.

— Eric Ebert,


Favre to join Leno during "Tonight Show's" first week

Now, if only John Mayer were added as a musical guest, the trifecta of hate would be complete.

Yes, folks, how fitting is it that the NFL's flip flop king Brett Favre will be joining Jay "please don't let me go into that cold, dark world without an NBC show" Leno when "The Tonight Show" returns next week? Let the job stealing jokes commence!

OK, maybe that's a tad bit harsh -- but Favre and Leno can certainly discuss what it feels like to be beloved, only to lose a large chunk of respect from alienated audiences following perceived power plays soaked in massive amount of ego (still too harsh?).

If Favre is no longer sore from the beatdown he received from the New Orleans Saints last month, perhaps the pair will share a hug and console each other in "Good Will Hunting"-ish fashion by repeatedly saying, "It's not your fault."

The ex-Packers quarterback will join Leno on the new/old/hopefully diseased "Tonight Show" couch March 4. Other guests next week include Jamie Foxx, Sarah Palin, Simon Cowell, Lindsey Vonn, Shaun White and Adam Lambert. And "Jaywalking" is back with the "Jersey Shore" cast! Oh, joy! Late night comedy has been saved!

Bitter Coco fans, on the bright side, Conan O'Brien is now on Twitter . And he interviewed a squirrel in his backyard.

Take THAT, Leno!

-- Thomas Rozwadowski,

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Weekly 10: Our favorite offensive TV comedies

In honor of “Family Guy” fans defending the show’s Sarah Palin-inspired Down syndrome joke last week, our inaugural Weekly 10 list on the Green Bay Hub looks at the true masters of take-no-prisoners comedy.

Enjoy our picks for “10 Shows That Do Offensive Comedy Better Than ‘Family Guy.’”

Who did we forget? Leave a comment below.

-- Channel Surfing staff


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Commercial Interruption: Is sideways "Lost" actually going backwards?

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). Gather up your ashy remains and hang onto those rickety rope ladders — Thomas Rozwadowski and Adam Reinhard are about to tackle the flash sideways plot device on "Lost."

Thomas: We could continue to ask new questions until we’re passed out like Sayid at the temple – well, you know, before he was resurrected – but three episodes in, I think it’s fair to ask whether the flash-sideways effect is working.

Honestly, the last two episodes have been a bit of a drag for me. Yeah, there’s always cool new stuff to take in on the island – whether Jacob or Aaron is the young whippersnapper taunting Faker Locke or why Kate’s name wasn’t referenced in the cave as one of the “chosen” – but I’m more interested in the storytelling aspect of the now-established parallel universe.

Obviously, I don’t know the end game here. And it may ultimately be satisfying to see our parallel universes collide or intermingled in some way that’ll lead to meaningful conclusions for our characters. (“Lost” has mastered the swerve, so I wouldn’t be surprised if what we’re watching isn’t what we actually think … if that makes sense.) But right now, I see the off-island device being used as a heavy-handed “Lost”-ian game of “I Spy.”

Are we supposed to just be enraptured with the random connections from a pure shock and awe standpoint? “Oh, cool, Ethan is a real doctor and he used his last name of Goodspeed!” “Awesome, Ben is a mild-mannered teacher who loves coffee!”

Are these connections intentional, or just meant to get viewers to sit up in their chair and laugh at the absurdity of knowing who these people really are, or at least who they've been presented as through the build-up of five previous seasons. I’m not saying it’s an unnecessary fake-out that doesn’t (or won’t) serve a greater purpose. I’m just bored with the concept of all this inter-connectedness in a world away from the island.

I really just want to stop the guessing games like, “Oh, Locke’s dad was mentioned as a wedding guest! Does that mean he didn’t push Locke out the window?” Those new questions don’t advance the old storyline. Or maybe they will and I’m totally jumping the gun.

What do you think so far, Adam? I know you’re really high on happy-go-lucky millionaires buying up temp agencies like they’re going out of style.

Adam: I'm just trying to wrap my head around whether the sideways universe makes sense within the parameters the show has set for itself. If this alternate timeline is the result of the island being blown to the bottom of the ocean in the late 70s, and Jacob never scratching his list into the cave ceiling (seriously, dude, you've never heard of a Sharpie?) in the first place, then are all these changes the result of his never interacting with the main characters?

But that doesn't make sense, because he only first met Locke after Locke's dad pushed him out the window; so why suddenly is the man from Tallahassee getting an RSVP to Locke's nuptials (nice to see you again, Katey Sagal!)? And Jacob interacted with Kate when she was just a twinkle in her dad's eye before she blew him up, so why is she still on the run as if nothing's changed? The fact that some characters have completely different lives (Mr. Happy-Go-Hurley, temp agency CEO extraordinaire, for example) while others are on their original paths seems to rule out Jacob's influence.

Maybe it's possible that the two characters who had the biggest connection with the island (Locke, with his healed legs, and Hurley with the numbers) had the most to gain from its destruction? Because handicapped or not, Locke's life is a fair shade better than the one he led pre-island (er, pre-island, other dimension, I guess.) And the same goes without saying for Moneybags Reyes.

I agree with you, though, that maybe we're jumping the gun with all this grousing. "Lost" has never let me down before, and I can't believe they haven't thoroughly plotted out their endgame. Which leads to my big question, Tom: Is there any way the explanation for all this isn't going to somehow disappoint us? With five seasons of buildup and rampant speculation by diehard fans, surely when the final puzzle piece goes into place there's going to be a disheartening feeling of, "Is that it?"

Thomas: It seems as though Lindelof and Cuse have already begun to temper that anticipated lack of enthusiasm by saying that, "Yes, things aren't going to be as magnificently complete as they exist in your head." And I totally understand that.

I'm sure whatever answers they come up with for their many, many questions will never match the brilliance of positing those mind-bending queries in the first place. For instance, what if the now mythical numbers are nothing more Jacob's personal Dewey Decimal System for cave scrawlings? Kinda disappointing, eh? Anyway, I think we're right in raising some concerns if it appears the greater sideways storytelling device is going to be nothing more than smoke and mirrors. I hope it's isn't, because the idea of an alternate reality appeared to be pretty cool on paper. But I'm just not feeling an emotional connection to these alterna-"Losties" -- and the rampant inter-connectedness -- as I thought I would.

Agreed, and until they establish some real stakes in this bizarro world -- give us something, anything that points to this mattering -- I'm afraid I'll be emotionally distant as well. I'd even take Young Jacob/Teen Aaron popping up in the sideways-verse, perhaps as a student in Mr. Locke's gym class, telling him he needs to gather all these people he's been "randomly" bumping into, and going to a mystery island thousands of miles away...

... OK, so that would suck. But you get my point. Something like that.

-- Thomas Rozwadowski, and Adam Reinhard,

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Sarah Palin vs. "Family Guy": Which side are you on?

Or maybe -- like me -- you're not a fan of either.

Yet regardless of how you might feel about Sarah Palin's politics, the topic of Down syndrome doesn't really get me in a "har, har" mood. When you consider that we're also talking about a child with Down syndrome, well, I become even more disturbed.

Here's the background in case you've missed the headline grabbing spat.

In a Facebook posting headlined “Fox Hollywood — What a Disappointment,” Palin, whose youngest son, Trig, has Down syndrome, said Sunday night’s "Family Guy" episode felt like “another kick in the gut.” The episode features the character Chris falling for a girl with Down syndrome. On a date, he asks what her parents do.

She replies: “My dad’s an accountant, and my mom is the former governor of Alaska.”

"Those in the special needs community truly are some of the most loving and compassionate people in the world," Palin later said on Fox News' "The O'Reilly Factor." "So why pile it onto them and make their lives even that much more challenging?"

Look, I'm not an easily offended individual, and based on Sarah Silverman's recent flap about use of the word "retard," apparently there's a PC vs. un-PC debate playing out that's meant to somehow keep a subversive level of comedy alive.

But when it comes to Seth MacFarlane's "Family Guy" using a Down syndrome character to make a dig at the Palin family, well, is that even funny? Perhaps if "Family Guy" had addressed Palin's hypocritical sidestep of Rush Limbaugh's "retard" fixation, there'd be an actual point to make. Or maybe if the "Family Guy" character in question was actually supposed to be Trig, it might have made sense.

So while I don't find the actual joke or premise offensive, I do find the idea of jabbing at the Palin family when it serves no greater purpose other than to say -- "Hey, they have a kid with Down syndrome" -- rather ridiculous. Or to make a "Seinfeld"-ian analogy, it's like when Tim Whatley converts to Judaism just so he can tell jokes about Jewish people -- except his punchlines offend Jerry, not as a Jewish person, but as a comedian.

"South Park" makes intelligent points all the time with controversial or seemingly off-limits topics. And even more important, they're usually hilarious. Now, in fairness to "Family Guy," I didn't watch the whole episode -- so maybe they shed a positive light on Down syndrome in some capacity, as well.

But that's not really the issue here. Was this particular use of the Palin name either a) funny or b) constructive? I'd say no on both counts.

If you find this dig at the Palin family comical, I'd honestly be interested to know why. If you're highly offended that any of this is even up for discussion, also feel free to leave a comment. (Yes, I know that "Family Guy" is in the business of courting controversy, but again, do it with some purpose ...)

Here's the clip in question:

-- Thomas Rozwadowski,

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Two great tastes that taste great together

Do you like cake? Banjos? Banjo-shaped cakes?

Anything and everything could be in store for Food Network's "Ace of Cakes" when The Avett Brothers arrive for a Thursday episode. The progressive folkies, who've upped their profile with the Rick Rubin-produced "I and Love and You," will be visiting Charm City Cakes in Baltimore for "a lot of baking and a bit of playing."

Food and folk music. Two of our very favorite things.

Enjoy these clips.

"I and Love and You" from Austin City Limits

"Slight Figure of Speech" from

"Laundry Room" from "The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson"

"Ace of Cakes" airs at 9 p.m. Thursday on Food Network

-- Thomas Rozwadowski,

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Monday, February 15, 2010

"Gilmore Girls": Or how I learned to stop worrying and love Stars Hollow

Lorelai Gilmore was the mom everybody secretly wished they had. Or at least her wardrobe. But what made the hip single mom-good girl daughter WB dramedy so endearing and charming without ever getting sappy was the witty, pop culture-peppered, rapid-fire banter between Lauren Graham’s Lorelai and Alexis Bledel’s Rory – usually over obscene amounts of caffeine, junk food and bad movies. Sometimes snarky, sometimes sweet, but always sincere.

-- Kendra Meinert

This family-friendly WB drama gave birth to one of television’s coolest mom’s — the hip, young Lorelai Gilmore — but the pop-culture references, mile-a-minute dialogue and an endless group of bizarre but lovable characters made it a classic. Lorelai and daughter Rory (Alexis Bledel), a smart studious teenager, gave us seven seasons of laughter and tears, not to mention at least a thousand cups of coffee.

-- Malavika Jagannathan

As far as shows geared toward the entire family go, the 2000s never topped the superior wit and whimsy of those darned “Gilmore Girls.” With more words per minute than a Mamet play, each episode of the WB dramedy sounded like a classic screwball comedy, with an extended cast of crazies that only gave the story of a young mom and her bookworm teen daughter an amazing emotional heft.

-- Adam Reinhard

Ever since the end of Channel Surfing's Best TV Show of the Decade contest in early January, I'd been looking to fill some gaps in my viewing. More specifically, I noticed that when our staff filled out final ballots, three of our esteemed voters had a certain show called "Gilmore Girls" ranked highly on their lists.

Me? I'd really never heard or read anything about it. And despite trusting (yet simultaneously mocking) Adam Reinhard's opinion on the matter, I thought "Gilmore Girls" would turn out to be nothing more than a slightly smarter version of "Dawson's Creek" -- which, I know isn't saying much since anyone with an ounce of intellectual integrity should have wanted to punch that Pacey dude in his smug nose.

Sorry, but I've been conditioned to naturally loathe anything that even resembles cliche-ridden rom-com fare, so just having the word "Girls" in the title made this show reek of "One Tree Hill" for-chicks-only residue. But it was hard to deny the above endorsements, so I started watching toward the end of Season 2 as my wife ripped through the first two DVD sets with unabashed glee.

It started off innocently enough -- an episode here and there filled with questions to my wife about why Lorelai didn't get along with her parents, or random musings on why boring ol' heart-throbby Dean should get dumped by Rory in favor of bad-boy literature buff Jess. Then I started to remember names, cracking up every time Kirk would appear with a different job uniform or hatch a scheme about phrase of the day T-shirts with slogans like "Babette ate oatmeal." I started to really like the surly diner owner who rejected Stars Hollow's charming community events, empathize with the suppressed indie rock Korean chick, and geek out every time Grant Lee Phillips -- "Mockingbirds" is one of my all-time favorite songs -- made his recurring cameo as the town troubadour ala Jonathan Richman in "There's Something About Mary."

But things really turned when I began to care about Rory's relationship tug-of-war with Dean and Jess. Just paying attention to quirky characters on the fringe was one thing. But now I had unexpectedly been sucked into the show's dramatic entanglements. First, I wanted dry-as-toast Dean to get the heave-ho so Rory could be with a more challenging boyfriend, even if he kinda resembled a young Rocky Balboa. Then, as Jess became a relationship drag, I saw Dean more sympathetically and thought, "Hey, at least he treats his girlfriend right."

That I cared about any of this reveals the true power of "Gilmore Girls." You see, I'm not the kind of guy who normally wants to watch TV shows that explore teenage love triangles. And admittedly, "Gilmore Girls" is a pretty girly show. But it's girly in the sense that "About a Boy" is girly, or listening to Death Cab For Cutie is girly. "Gilmore Girls" created such a hip little corner of the world -- one filled with idiosyncratic characters, pop culture obscurities and kick-ass music references (Joe Pernice, Sonic Youth and The Shins all appear on the show) -- that I was able to dial into the show's more dramatic emotional depths without feeling as though I'd just been doused with a Nicholas Sparks-sized bucket of sap.

It's pretty deceptive that way. Every dark turn the show could have potentially taken has turned out to be delightfully harmless in the end. Sure, there are serious moments, particularly as it applies to Lorelai's relationships with both Christopher and Luke. And for all the show's sugar-coated whimsy and wonder, there are all-too real family issues that deliver an emotional wallop. A heavy-handed shift in plot development occurs in Season 6, and the topsy-turvy nature of the strained roller-coaster ride made for some nauseating viewing. Yet as much as Season 7 (the first without show creator Amy Sherman Palladino) was supposed to drive a final nail in the "Gilmore Girls" coffin, I actually think it's recovered quite nicely.

With only three episodes to go before the show's series ender, my wife has been feeling particularly wistful that our two month race through seven years of "Gilmore Girls" is coming to a close. That familiar theme song, Luke's coffee, Emily's insults, Lorelai's rambling, Kirk's nudity, Taylor's town meetings, Paul Anka, Sebastian Bach, Hep Alien ... "Gilmore" marathons have become part of our routine like Friday night dinners.

Then again, last night I reminded her that I still need to watch Season 1. So I guess we won't be leaving Stars Hollow that abruptly after all.

-- Thomas Rozwadowski,


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

"Top Chef Masters" reveals Season 2 field

Ever since Bravo concocted that totally transparent Voltaggio smackdown last season, we've been going through some serious "Top Chef" withdrawal at Channel Surfing.

So it was nice to finally see the list of esteemed names who'll be competing in Season 2 of the all-star laden "Top Chef Masters" spin-off.

Unless you've been avoiding our glorious Channel Surfing odes (tsk, tsk), you should already know that Chicago's own Rick Bayless took the "Masters" crown in Season 1. Well, six competitors from that same culinary-rich season are back, including fellow Windy City restaurateur Graham Elliot Bowles, Mark Peel, Jonathan Waxman and three names that "Masters" viewers should immediately remember, Wylie Dufresne, Rick Moonen, and of course, snooty Frenchman Ludo Lefebvre.

The show also welcomes back Kelly Choi as host, along with judges Gael Greene, James Oseland, Jay Rayner and another familiar face, "Top Chef" regular Gail Simmons (who apparently is also the host of "Top Chef: Just Desserts" and quite possibly, "CSI: Top Chef.")

Wait, it gets better! The list of Season 2 special guests includes "Simpsons" creator Matt Groening and voice guru Hank Azaria, Mekhi Phifer and the casts of "Modern Family" and "Real Housewives of Orange County."

Moe the Bartender and Manny Delgado? You've outdone yourself, Bravo network.

The new season of "Top Chef Masters" premieres April 7. Here are all 22 competitors:

Jody Adams Rialto Restaurant, Cambridge, Mass.
Govind Armstrong — 8 oz Burger Bar, Los Angeles
Graham Elliot Bowles — Graham Elliot Restaurant, Chicago
Jimmy Bradley — The Red Cat, New York
David Burke — David Burke Townhouse, New York
Wylie Dufresnewd~50, New York
Susan Feniger — Street, Los Angeles
Debbie Gold — The American Restaurant, Kansas City
Carmen Gonzalez — Chef Consultant, New York
Maria HinesTilth, Seattle
Susur Lee — Madeline's, Toronto
Ludo Lefebvre — Ludo Bites, Los Angeles
Tony MantuanoSpiaggia, Chicago
Rick Moonen — Rick Moonen's RM Seafood at Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas
Mark Peel — Campanile, Los Angeles
Monica Popet'afla, Houston
Thierry Rautureau — Rover's, Seattle
Marcus Samuelsson — The Red Rooster, New York
Ana Sortun
Oleana, Cambridge, Mass.
Rick TramontoTRU, Chicago
Jerry Traunfeld — Poppy, Seattle
Jonathan WaxmanBarbuto, New York

-- Thomas Rozwadowski,

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Hey! What happened to 'Arthur' on Wisconsin Public Television?

I don't have any kids, but if you were to survey the list of recorded shows on my home DVR, you wouldn't believe it. That's because I have at least 10 episodes of "Arthur" saved on my recorder, each lovingly set to "Until I Erase." It is the only show bestowed with that honor.

That should give you some idea of the intractable hold this PBS Kids show has over me ... and yes, possibly the level of my immaturity. Yet every night when I get home, "Arthur" is the first show I want to watch. I don't care if I still have last week's "The Office" sitting there — Jim and Pam are nowhere near as cute as Arthur the aardvark and his adorably annoying little sister DW; and whatever bonehead stunt Michael pulls, it won't be nearly as funny as Buster the bunny's latest exploit. "Arthur" may be aimed at tykes, but it's must-see TV for this grown-up.

Which is why I'm basically having a child-like hissy fit over Wisconsin Public Television's decision to pull "Arthur" from its schedule until June. Previously on every day at 3:30 in the afternoon — part of an animation block that included "Super WHY!" and "Dragon Tales" ... both unwatched by me, in case you were wondering — "Arthur" is now nowhere to be found.

I emailed the station to complain — because I have nothing else in my life, obviously — and this was their explanation for the absence: "After looking at our schedule and seeing how our viewers watch, and looking at other programming information the decision was made to adjust our afternoon schedule. Arthur will return to the schedule in June."

Fair enough. I can't be too upset if they want to hold off airing a show geared toward perhaps more grade school-aged children until a time when those kids will actually be home to watch it. (Airing in "Arthur's" place now is a show called "Dinosaur Train," which features a preschool-aged T-rex who hops aboard a train and meets other dinosaurs. Apologies to our preschool-aged readers, but — la-a-a-ame!)

Moreover, I just can't get upset at PBS, period. That would be like kicking a puppy ... a viewer-supported, commercial-free puppy. It would be one thing if I actually donated to them once in a while — which, regrettably, I don't. But to complain that I'm no longer getting something awesome when I got it for free in the first place is kind of a jerky thing to do. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if there's an "Arthur" episode that deals with that very life lesson.

That's the brilliant thing about "Arthur": It can weave subtle moral and education lessons so seamlessly into a witty, sharply written 12-minute story, that it's almost subliminal. Even the hilarious episode where Buster becomes addicted to a 376-DVD set of a "Lord of the Rings"-style movie also teaches kids (and, let's face it, some adults) to not ditch more important things, like friends and schoolwork.

And that's every episode. After 13 seasons, creator Marc Brown and crew seem to have an endless well of story ideas and teachable moments. I, of course, don't need a anthropomorphic aardvark to inform me how important it is to get my homework done on time. And although it's definitely got a laugh-per-minute ratio to rival anything on even network TV, I still laugh more during an average episode of, say, "Community."

No, the main reason I look forward to every episode of "Arthur," and I think what makes it such a favorite among adult viewers, is how perfectly it captures the experience of childhood. Think of it as "The Wonder Years" with small mammals, or "The Adventures of Pete & Pete," if the Petes had fur. The characters act like real kids, and they experience things the way I remember experiencing them at that age. When any show can bring back long-forgotten memories of what it was like to be 8 years old, it's a small miracle.

Any other closet "Arthur" fans out there? Are you looking forward to June even more now?

-- Adam Reinhard,

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Monday, February 8, 2010

What was your favorite Super Bowl commercial?

If you watched the Saints march past the Colts last night, you were also treated to a bumper crop of some of the most creative, witty Super Bowl ads in recent memory. The usual suspects were all accounted for (Coke, Budweiser, GoDaddy), but some of the best commercials came from companies not normally associated with the biggest advertising event of the year.

Denny's, for example, scored a slam dunk (or is that a Grand Slam dunk?) with this ad about some fairly terrified chickens.

Bridgestone had a couple ads, but their best was about three buddies trying to get a killer whale back to the ocean.

For this ad, Snickers must have figured out that you can never go wrong with Betty White. (And adding Abe Vigoda? Double never wrong.)

This ad by Coke isn't hilarious, but it's great to see just how many "Simpsons" supporting players they're able to cram into this minute-long spot about Mr. Burns losing his fortune. It's great to see ol' Gil finally making a sale!

When you think of the Super Bowl, you immediately think of Dove moisturizer, right? But this spot for the company's new line of men's products struck a nice balance between humor and sentimentality.

The most buzzed-about ad of the night was actually a CBS promo for "The Late Show with David Letterman," a callback to a similar spot from a couple years ago with Dave and Oprah at a Super Bowl party.

According to TiVo Inc., however, the most-watched ad (that is, the one the most viewers with DVRs watched, rewound, and rewatched) was this ad for Doritos, featuring an over-protective little boy.

What was your favorite commercial of the night? Drop us a line in our comments section.

-- Adam Reinhard,

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Thursday, February 4, 2010

Apu from "The Simpsons" no longer the only Indian character on TV

I don't mean to create a racial to-do out in the blogosphere, but, man, Indian people are all over television these days.

For the longest time, Kwik-E-mart owner Apu Nahasapeemapetilon on "The Simpsons" was the only Indian-American character on TV. And, while his "thank you, come again" line is spot on -- seriously, if you've been to a convenience store owned by an Indian or Pakistani, you know it's not far off -- it was a bit, how shall I put it, unrepresentative of the population as a whole.

(Just so we're clear, I'm talking about Indians as in people who either come from or have ancestors from India, not Native Americans. Also, as another side note, we're not all good at fixing computers, solving math problems or being doctors, but we tend to enjoy spicy food).

In fact, these days Indian-American actors and characters are a-plently on network shows like "The Office," "Parks and Recreation," "Community," "Big Bang Theory, "The Good Wife" and "24." Sweet, we've finally hit the big leagues! Whether it's part of the "Slumdog Millionaire" bandwagon or perhaps a recognition of the range of talent from Indian-American actors and actresses, this Asian Invasion (am I allowed to say that?) is about to get bigger.

NBC announced it would pick up a television version of the movie "Outsourced" -- a 2006 indie flick about an American manager who goes to India to train his company's call center employees -- as a half-hour comedy with longtime "The Office" director Ken Kwapis at the helm. The movie, by the way, was actually hilarious and would make a great sitcom. Fox is also picking up "Nevermind Nirvana," a sitcom about a family of Indian-Americans. At the same time, the producers of the British comedy "The Kumars at No. 42" are looking to translate the show across the Atlantic.

Diversity on television is always a good thing, not to mention realistic ("Grey's Anatomy" is often heralded for its diverse cast, but I find it hard to believe there's a hospital in the world, let alone Seattle, without an Indian doctor). In the same year that Barack Obama was elected President, "The Cleveland Show" was the only new show anchored by a minority character in 2008. That's right: ONLY. Even then, the main character is voiced by a white guy.

While this sudden influx of Indian-Americans on television might be a fluke, I hope it's a sign of things to come -- a television landscape as diverse as the country around us.

-- Malavika Jagannathan,

Spin This: Jon Stewart on "The O'Reilly Factor"

Somewhere between our love of "Lost" (ahem Roz and Adam ahem) and our laziness, the news that Jon Stewart was set to appear on Papa Bear Bill O'Reilly's show on Fox News sort of fell off our radar.

In fact, I didn't know it happened until I saw it online today.

In the first part of the interview, which aired last night on "The O'Reilly Factor" and can be found in the clip below, Stewart is on his best behavior. This is not quite as potent as the infamous "Crossfire" interview on CNN where he ripped Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala proverbial new ones when they badgered him to be "funny" and criticized his objectivity. Instead, Stewart smartly uses a few well-timed self-deprecating blocks to O'Reilly's slightly nastier jabs to avoid sounding holier-than-thou or overly critical.

When O'Reilly -- mockingly or not -- suggests he's surprised "The Daily Show" host is actually smart, Stewart does that wry, "aw, shucks" thing that works well for him, fending off the underhanded compliment (dig?) by saying he's got his writers in his pocket.

Stewart's criticism of Fox News -- of which he has many as expressed almost nightly on his Comedy Central show -- was more nuanced as were his answers about what he believes are President Obama's strengths and weaknesses. Said Stewart about Obama: "I can't tell if he's a Jedi Master... or if this is kicking his ass."

Although he's not as ridiculous as he is often is on his own show (understandably), Stewart does what he does best in this interview: a combination of smarts and sarcasm with a hint of populist outrage without taking it out directly on his host. O'Reilly is, well, mostly his usual blustering self with an obvious chip on his shoulder when it comes to Stewart's popularity and intelligence, but his efforts to goad Stewart fall flat. Watch the clip and see for yourself:

The second part of the interview airs tonight on "The O'Reilly Factor" on Fox News at 7 p.m.

-- Malavika Jagannathan,

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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

"Lost" Quick Thoughts: "Nothing is irreversible."

Of all the nights to work a late shift ...

While fellow "Lostie" Adam Reinhard stays away from all forms of communication today for fear of having last night's two-hour "Lost" premiere, "LA X," spoiled, I'll attempt to connect some dots in rudimentary "Quick Thoughts" form. We're officially back, folks, and it feels even more refreshing than a dip in the ol' Temple pool of rejuvenation.

* Just a quick note about the hour-long refresher, "Lost: The Final Chapter." A nice, succinct character-by-character breakdown that re-established some important puzzle pieces as the final season winds down. Then again, you can certainly skip it if you need to get crackin' on that DVR.

* Looks like an alternative timeline/parallel universe is a reality, though it's hard to wrap your head around that mind-bending concept when the show flips from the new/not-so-original Oceanic flight to island time near the blown hatch. One thing "Lost" has always been able to master is guiding viewers through complex multiple storylines, in multiple times, in multiple locations on the island and beyond. Last night was a classic example of making all three main threads coalesce with ease -- Jack and crew landing on the island in 2007, Jack and crew on an alternative Oceanic flight (one that safely lands at LAX), and finally, the Man in Black's smoky business near the foot statue following Jacob's stabbing.

* What if the Oceanic flight landing at LAX is a actually a flashback and everything -- and I mean everything -- will eventually lead to course correction, therefore placing everyone on the island again in the exact same predicament? That'd be a bummer.

* Annnnnnnnnnnnd ... the island is underwater in one reality.

* Very cool reveal once Richard sees the flare shot off by the temple dwellers following Hurley's news that Jacob is dead and told him so as a ghostly jungle apparition.

* Man, what becomes of Ben now that he's been used up? Redemption, thy name is Linus!

* The temple waters turn brown following Jacob's death and can no longer heal Sayid. However, our favorite Iraqi torturer awakens at the end for a patented cliffhanger. Jacob inhabiting his body? Just a really good napper? Any theories?

* If Jacob could take over Sayid's body, wouldn't that be a good thing? Yet the new guy -- Lennon -- said everyone in the temple would be in trouble if Sayid passed away. Plus, when the Man in Black took over Locke's body, the old one remained. Where's Sayid's real body then? I'm confused.

* Why is Hurley the Ghost Whisperer? Will this special Jennifer Love Hewitt quality be explained at some point during the season, or is it something we should simply accept like Miles' ghost-busting prowess?

* One big mystery, one minor mystery solved: Man in Black is not Johnny Cash, but in fact, the smoke monster. Why he takes the form of a smoke monster remains to be seen, but his interaction with Ben -- "Let's not resort to name-calling." "I'm sorry you had to see me like that" -- was incredibly funny. His destruction of Jacob's "bodyguards" is probably a new Top 10 Holy Crap entry when all is said and done. Second mystery: an ankh with a list of special names was inside Hurley's guitar case from Jacob. Gotta have those names.

* One can never have too much black powder. Buh-bye, Bram.

* Nice goodbye turn with Saywer and Juliet, though probably unnecessary given the gravity of last season's tearful farewell down the noisy hole. But it allowed Miles to speak to Juliet's grave and hear the words, "It worked." The bomb going off? Yeah ... but how does Juliet know? Then again, revelations like that are usually swerves in the Lost-verse.

* Gotta love that Terry O'Quinn gets to play a complete bad-ass now.

* Boone! Charlie! Arzt! Frogurt!

* Great conversation with Boone and Locke. "If the plane crashes, I'm sticking with you."

* Another nice touch: Charlie was "supposed" to die. Jack gets no thanks for saving Charlie's life on the plane and gets all the blame for killing Juliet. Tough being Savior Shephard, that's for sure.

* Still missing: Christian Shephard's body. Still in a wheelchair: John Locke.

* Desmond is on the new plane, but no Shannon, Walt or Michael. Subtle differences added an almost "Where's Waldo?" element to that scene as I looked desperately for faces and clues. And why did Des disappear? Is he a "constant" for both timelines?

* Richard was once in chains and not only knows, but greatly fears, the Man in Black. Slave on the Black Rock? Can't wait for his past to finally be revealed.

* Did I mention the return of Arzt?

* "Nothing is irreversible." Powerful parting words from Jack. How this parallel universe business plays out should be interesting -- can't say I'm an expert on this particular topic -- but can worlds eventually collide? Will everything come together cohesively, or are we, in essence, watching two shows simultaneously -- with the kicker being that we know what could have happened? Can Kate 1 be with Jack and Kate 2 with Sawyer so that everyone is happy in the end?

I'll add more if anything revelatory comes to me this afternoon or upon second viewing in the coming days. What did all you guys think? Please leave your thoughts below.

-- Thomas Rozwadowski,


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

"Lost": You have questions, we have ... more questions

"Lost" co-creators Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse have already cautioned that while several big questions will eventually be answered, not all the little ones will -- which appears to go against the grandiose mythology built by ABC's beloved drama leading to tonight's premiere of the sixth and final season.

But episodic writing needs to be stretched for the sake of survival, so not every island mystery from Season 1 can be wrapped up with a neat and tidy bow. And as a "Lost" fan who is more than ready for the show to reach its conclusion, I can accept that.

Before tonight's premiere event at 7 p.m., here's a look back at some burning questions Adam Reinhard and I have raised during our time covering "Lost" for Channel Surfing.

Will they finally be answered in Season 6? Are they still relevant in the grand scheme? And for every question answered, does that mean the five new ones created are just as important?

As always, these are just the tip of the iceberg -- for instance, the numbers, Hurley's guitar case, the four-toed statue, Pierre Chang's aliases, the donkey wheel, the lists, the Black Rock, the importance of children like Walt, Jacob's confinement ... blah, blah, blah.

A list of 100 wouldn't have sufficed, but from past posts, these are the ones that may actually get answered and play an important role in the show's eventual conclusion.

Please, leave your own in our comments section.

What became of Claire? Aaron's mum didn't make an appearance in Season 5, but she's poised to return. But will it be as her sweet Aussie self or Christian Shephard's ghostly sidekick?

Is Ben good or evil? Some view Ben as pure evil. Others may not yet understand his devotion to the island and the good involved in his protective stance. So while shades of gray certainly have come to define the man formerly known as Henry Gale, once the fate of the island is determined, there should be some greater clarity here. Either way, his stabbing of Jacob at the end of Season 5 certainly threw another dagger in the ongoing dilemma.

Where will Desmond/Penny fit in? Reunited ... and it feels so good. But this storybook romance has to meet a dark end, doesn't it?

How big of a role does Jack's dad play? A big one, no doubt, seeing as how Christian keeps popping up, most notably to Locke as he turned the donkey wheel. Still, there's been hardly any headway in determining why it's Jack's dad who holds a lot of the cards in this ongoing island enigma.

Who do you have in the island death pool? Juliet said goodbye in heroic fashion at the end of Season 5, and several cast members -- Charlie, Boone, Libby and Michael -- are expected to be brought back (even though they're technically still dead) now that the Oceanic crash may have never occurred. A whitewash courtesy of the hydrogen bomb can certainly re-write some rules, but a final season also gives creative license to the show's writers since they no longer have to worry about furthering storylines. So, who of those technically still alive on the island will actually make it to the Season 6 finale? Some big names could get capped for pure shock and awe. We'll save our theories for a later post.

Why doesn't Richard Alpert age? Alpert's age seems directly tied to the island's origins and secrets, whether it's Black Rock based or otherwise. We can't wait to see what he's always known about its mystical properties.

What Ilana's relationship to Jacob? She knew to ask for Ricardus. Knew about the statue's riddle. Who are these island newbies who brought Locke's real body to Alpert?

Where do Widmore and Ben fit into the grand scheme? Now that Jacob and the Man in Black have been introduced, Widmore and Ben's face-off seems like a mere childhood spat. But so much was built up regarding Ben protecting the island from Widmore's exploitative ways -- and Ben being manipulated to stab Jacob because Locke had surpassed him on the island's scale of importance -- there's no way the two aren't tied together.

Why did some on the Ajira plane end up in 1977? We'd like to get away from any time travel queries (they still make our head hurt), but why did the plane split, sending some to 1977 and others like Sun and Ben to 2007? How does that concept even work?

Did Jacob plan to die, and what is the significance of his touch? Again, two threads that seem directly related. It would appear that Jacob had always planned to fall at the hands of the Man in Black's "loophole" -- hence the flashbacks showing his all-important touch to several of our main characters. Did Jacob find some loopholes of his own? Now that he's been cast into the fire -- quite literally thanks to Ben and Faker Locke -- it should be interested to find out who's "coming" and why.

What IS the island? Will this ever be adequately answered, or are we just supposed to go along with the premise that the show had to happen SOMEWHERE, and an exotic island (that allowed the cast and crew to film and live in Hawaii, ahem) was the best option? Recent interviews with Cuse and Lindelof seem to indicate that fans will just have to accept certain realities.

What, or who, is the smoke monster? Probably one of the biggest ongoing puzzle pieces (besides the numbers) since it goes back to the pilot. Man in Black = Smokey? Even so, what is the monster's primary function as island protector/scanner of fates/mechanical sounding kill machine?

-- Thomas Rozwadowski,