March 2010

Leno Bothered By Reaction To Conan's NBC Exit

Jay Leno is bothered. Yes, Leno is bothered still by the fans and by his fellow comedians reaction to the role he played in Conan O' Brien getting the boot from the NBC suits. How do I know Leno is bothered? He all but sobs it in his conversation with  Joy Behar. Leno says,  that he was screwed, of course, he first mentions that Conan was screwed.

Leno was forced out of prime time back to the 11:35 and Conan O'Brien was forced out the door. Leno -- "Conan got screwed, and I got screwed. This is TV. The reason how business pays a lot of money is, when you get screwed you have something left over. It worked out OK. I don't quite get why I get beat up over it. I know people don't really understand sort of how this business works. It's all numbers. You know, the affiliates wanted us back, so we came back."

South Park: Medicinal Fried Chicken

One thing I've always appreciated about South Park is that it allows me to say that I've seen incredible, unusual things. From the very first episode this has been true. Back then we who watched the show could say, "Last night I saw a giant satellite dish grow out of some kid's ass", and it has only gotten weirder since. This week, fans of the show can say, "Last night I saw a parade of middle-aged men smoking pot while bouncing down the street on their gigantic testicles". Even more amazing is the fact that this sentence refers to a moment of cogent social commentary.

STNG: Encounter at Farpoint -- Reprised

Just for the heck of it,

I started watching Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes, from the very beginning, with the pilot "Encounter at Farpoint." I remember watching this when it first aired September 28, 1987. It's a two-hour pilot, so it's often split into two episodes. It was written by D. C. Fontana, who also wrote some of the best episodes of Star Trek the original series. This episode was the first to feature the character Q, of the "Q Continuum," and his bizarre obsession with using the Enterprise crew for, well, lab-rats. The basic plot is this: The Enterprise is sent to investigate the sudden acqisition of Farpoint station, as sophisticated space station with an unknown power supply by the less than tech-savvy Bandi.

The CBS, NBC Conan Dance

Dance? What else would you call it?

Those smart suits at CBS, hoping to remind Conan fans how mean the suits are at NBC, offered Conan O'Brien a one-night gig to host the Tony's on June 13th. Don't tell me that the CBS suits, didn't know what I knew, by reading about it where else? On the Internet  -- That Conan can't appear on TV until the fall. Conan took tens of millions of dollars of the suits at NBC money, as they shoved him out the door, and he had to promise not to perform on TV until the fall, and not to say bad things about NBC until -- when? Then? That time in the fall.  By the fall the hope was that the short memory of the public would have kicked in and nobody  -- Conan's fans at least -- would remember what they were mad about when their hero Conan got booted.

The Pacific: Part Three

In stories of war, shore leave is frequently just as important to the narrative as the battles. They serve as a barometer for the emotional state of the soldiers, how disconnected they’ve become to the society they’ve been fighting to preserve. Shore leave also allows us to see how the far-off fighting is affecting life for everyone else. In literature, the quintessential shore leave story is a chapter in the latter half of All Quiet on the Western Front. When protagonist Paul Baumer goes home for a short period of R&R, he comes to realize that he can no longer relate to the people with whom he grew up, that the front line trenches have become perversely more comfortable than his own bed at home. For the marines in The Pacific, their respite in Melbourne, Australia tells a different, though equally moving, story about how war changes the way people live, regardless of whether or not they go into battle.

Legend of the Seeker: Creator

Is it that time of the year again already? Why, yes. It's the Second Annual Legend of the Seeker Clip Show Extravaganza. I'm on record as saying how much I despise clip shows, given that they're increasingly dated devices usually reserved for the sake of padding episode orders for series that don't have enough content or creativity to stretch the plot or even produce a decent one-off. My opinion about clip shows hasn't changed, but "Creator" managed to do something pretty interesting with this tired, never-good format.

The Wire: Season 04

In continuing the broad and all inclusive nature of the Baltimore narrative, those behind The Wire worked to blur the line between its third and fourth seasons. Again continuing on with character’s stories netted the show devoted followers. But at the same time, the expanse of each character’s life and concerns warranted such an approach.

Tying police work into the realm of school work, Prez who finds himself in more trouble at work and opts for a career as a middle school math teacher. Of course, even in the days leading up to school’s opening, it becomes all too clear that what the one time cop signed up for is a bit detached from what’s actually set to transpire. In one of those meaningless, but deeply realistic scenes, viewers get to watch as Prez chips off gum stuck to the bottom of the desks in his classroom.

Caprica: End of Line

Tragedy is an odd beast. When it happens in real life, there's really nothing beautiful about it, just a sense of pointlessness and sadness. When done well in fiction, there's something uniquely stunning about depictions of darkness and loss. As for the manifold tragedies in "End of Line", perhaps the beauty just comes from a confluence of excellent acting, writing and direction. Extra points go to the Caprica writing staff for turning a whole bag of plot lemons into delicious twists and motivations.

United States of Tara Makes Light of Suicide

Ever since last spring, I have been holding my breath for the latest season of United States of Tara. (Not literally, of course.) I’m not a big TV fan in the least; in fact, most days I don’t watch any television, and if I do, it’s either a nature program with my daughter or an episode of Law and Order: SVU (which I got hooked on while in the hospital, actually) that I recorded on DVR. Now and then I catch an episode of South Park, but that’s pretty much it.

24 -- All Good Things End?

Yesterday, the Fox Network announced that after eight years on the air,  the Series "24" will end its first-run with the airing of the series finale on May 24. Bringing "24" to a close on TV is probably not a bad thing. Even the best TV series run their course. The series may have run its course, but not the characters.  Like James Bond and Q, and M, and Miss Moneypenny, like Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson, like Captain James Tiberius  Kirk and Mister Spock,  and Starfleet, Jack Bauer and  the CTU (Counter Terrorist Unit) will live forever in the imagination, in fiction, in re-runs, and maybe in the movies too.

The Wire: Season 03

Coming off a season that lacked some of the more personal touches that The Wire’s first season gave viewers, the introduction of a wider palette of civic interests serves to make the show’s third season a bit more enjoyable than its immediate predecessor. Even with that, though, it’s pretty clear that everything that transpires over the duration of the third season is meant to tie what occurred previously to the final two season of the show. It’s all much more than a place holder, but at the same time still functions as a fulcrum point for the series.

The Wire: Season 02

After developing such a stunning range of characters during the first season of The Wire, the show’s creator, David Simon, decided to set the following season on the docks. Incorporating the cast of the first year’s show lent some familiarity to the proceedings, but there was just something lacking. Even a lesser clutch of Wire episodes, though, is better than most of what passes as entertainment today.

Wrangling a family of working class Polish guys for the main focus of the second season seems removed from the street scenes of the first season’s project centered hoodlums. But by contrasting what goes on in those disparate places, Simon is again able to direct viewers’ attentions towards the social and political ills that face the nation, not just Baltimore.

The Office: Happy Hour

So, here's the question of the week. Why, when your show already has more romance plots than you know what to do with, do you decide to add yet another one to the mix? Don't get me wrong, the fractured love stories on The Office have frequently resulted in some really funny stuff, but I don't want them to be the majority of the show's content. Unlike Jim and Pam's relationship which served as the emotional core of the series for so long, or even the Dwight/Angela/Andy love triangle from two seasons ago, most of the romance plots on this show can't carry that much content. "Happy Hour" was nothing if not a cavalcade of all the love stories currently in play on The Office and funny as it was, the episode proved just how dangerous this trend really is.

South Park: The Tale of Scroty McBoogerballs

Last week, the latest season of South Park opened with a fairly mediocre episode that tried far too hard to make cutting social satire. The problem is that it was too topical and it focused on a theme about which most people, frankly, wouldn't disagree. The average viewer, especially those who tune in to Comedy Central, isn't going to come down on the pro-celebrity side when it comes to rich, powerful people have illicit affairs. In this week's episode, Parker and Stone concentrated more on a long-lasting cultural moor with a heavy helping of the limit-pushing intensity that makes this show good. This also lent a significant bit of meta commentary on the role of South Park itself in our society.

"Doctor Who 2010 Series Trailers"

Two new trailers have been released for the upcoming series of Doctor Who, which features Matt Smith as the new Doctor, and Karen Gillan as his companion, Amy Pond. The first episode of the series, "The Eleventh Hour", is a few weeks away, so the trailers - one for the BBC and one for BBC America - have stroked the excitement and the anticipation for the adventures of the Eleventh Doctor. 

The Pacific: Part Two

Last week in my review of the debut of HBO's latest World War II miniseries The Pacific I was pretty harsh. I suppose it was just because my expectations were so high. Band of Brothers is one of the best productions in the history of television, the definitive WWII dramatization. For The Pacific to be anything less than the gold standard is certainly disappointing. After tonight's considerably more engaging hour of the miniseries, I can't say that this production is ever going to compare to its predecessor, but it'll do just fine as a war movie. "Part Two" found itself on much surer footing than the cliche-ridden premiere and it even had some well-played moments of quiet contemplation in between the intense battle sequences.

Legend of the Seeker: Bound

One of the reasons I'm a staunch defender of Legend of the Seeker against those who dismiss it as just a silly adventure show is that it's actually rather philosophically contentious. The overwhelming majority of heroic adventures in popular media revolve around the very big evils of an extreme minority, a worldview that sees most people as either fundamentally good or neutral who are caught under the cruelty of something aberrant. The only minority in Seeker are the truly good. As "Bound" once again proved, the story takes place in a deeply misanthropic world that only attempts to explain its ugly view of humanity by presenting an environment that is dispassionately violent. The two stories in this episode went a long way to explicating this harsh and ultimately gray sense of morality.

The Wire: Season 01

Television or film often attempts to relate some part of real life through a series of fictionalized accounts. For the last hundred years or so, the two mediums have offered an escape from reality. But that escape is very frequently, and more so recently, into a world that doesn’t seem too distant from our own.

In attempting to relate perilous situations, perhaps even plucked from real life, tv shows have begun to blur the line between ‘the real’ and art (or entertainment). Intent plays a role in deciphering what the end product actually is, but if the creators and writers of a series seek to put on display a narrative that asserts some sort of political or social realization, the end result could be construed as a type of journalism.

Caprica: Ghosts in the Machine

A sure sign of a good actor is that he gives an excellent performance even when he's surrounded by things that can only be a detriment to his craft. "Ghosts in the Machine", this week's episode of Caprica, was a master class in how to do a respectable job under the worst possible conditions. The show's two male leads both found themselves either beset on all sides by absurdity or acting against nothing at all. Somehow, Eric Stoltz and Esai Morales managed to make those scenes work for them. This saved an episode that otherwise would have been a deadly mix of hokey science fiction and misplaced high camp.

Conan To Give Leno An Assist?

Word out today, a word that has been out since January, when Conan was set out on the curb by NBC, with tens of millions of dollars in his pocket for himself, and an addition twelve million for his staff, to go away and to stay off the air until the fall  -- The word?  -- That Conan is talking to Fox. And, according to reports, " by mid-May, he just might be anointed by Fox as its late-night leading man, when the network's program lineup for next season is officially unveiled."

Oh my.!