John from Cincinnati (***½)

Posted on June 1st, 2007 in Television by EngineerBoy

So we watched the premiere episode of John from Cincinnati last week on HBO, and watched the second episode tonight via TiVo, and we’re hooked, at least for now. We’ve been here before with shows that caught our initial interest but then took a wrong turn, but we have our fingers crossed that JfC will continue to deliver.

The show is centered around three generations of a surfer family in Southern California. The father is Mitch Yost (Bruce Greenwood), a weathered, older, legendary surfer whose career was cut short early by a bad knee, and now he only surfs alone at dawn. He drifts between noble and bitter, and he also has a tendency to levitate six inches off the ground. His son is Butchie Yost (Brian Van Holt), a late-20’s/early-30’s drug addict who was also on his way to surfing legend-dom when his career was cut short early by a bad need (drugs). Butchie is the father of Shaun Yost (Greyson Fletcher), who is a teen surfing prodigy in his own right.

Mitch is married to Cissy Yost (Rebecca De Mornay) who basically runs the family surf shop business. Their next door neighbor is a slightly dementiated retired cop played by Ed O’Neill. There are also other secondary characters played by familiar faces Luiz Guzman, Willie Garson, and Luke Perry.

The titular character is John (Austin Nichols), who appears to be…well…an alien? A robot? An extreme performance artist? A god? A prophet? A genie? A magical, cheerily autistic tabula rasa? Uh…hm. I guess what I’m trying to say is that John is a bit hard to decipher, but he moves through the lives of the other characters in inscrutable and mysterious ways.

The early focus of the show seems to be the fate of Shaun. Will he follow in his father’s drug-addled footsteps? Will he chase the same dreams as his grandfather and have his fate dependent on the continued integrity of his body? Will somebody just let the poor boy surf?

And what about John? He is the titular character, after all. He seems to have strange powers – for example, his pockets have a tendency to produce what those around him ask for. He also seems focused on two concepts – first, that “the end is near”, and second, that Mitch Yost should “get back in the game”.

Bottom line is that the show is interesting and different. It’s like a cross between Twin Peaks and Endless Summer and we hope the show stays on its current course and continues to deliver.

I’ve got my eye on you! No, I’ve got my eye on you!!!

The New Adventures of Old Christine (***)

Posted on March 3rd, 2006 in Television by EngineerBoy

So, I really like Seinfeld. On average I probably watch 5-7 episodes each week. The more I watch it the more I appreciate it…you have to watch it for several years to *get* the intricate weave of characters and storylines over the years. It was self-referential without being self-conscious, and it was funny. FUNNY. Sure, there are some episodes or plotlines that I don’t particularly care for, but overall the show is classic.

And I’ve watched with some interest as the former cast members have moved on and tried to go solo, with limited success. Until now.

In The New Adventures of Old Christine, I think Julia Louis-Dreyfus has hit paydirt. I TiVo’ed it out of respect for Elaine Benes, and figured I had to give Julia the benefit of the doubt and at least give her show a chance. I’m glad that I did. Mynagirl and I have watched all of the episodes so far (four, I think), and they have been pretty damn funny. Sure, there are rough spots and some hackneyed sitcom staples (precocious kid, slacker brother, sassy black friend, etc), but it seems to be working.

When I first heard the title I mentally rolled my eyes and figured the show would have to suck, given such a trite title. But after the first episode I got the story behind the title, which is that Christine (Louis-Dreyfus) is divorced, and her ex has started dating a younger girl. Her name is also Christine, and she gets referred to as “the new Christine”, hence the show’s title. In a wonderful rejection of low-hanging sitcom fruit, the new Christine seems really nice and is not scheming, evil, superior, or rude.

And Louis-Dreyfus really seems comfortable in the role and embodies the old Christine quite fully. I watched a bit of her other show (where she was a singer…I forget the title…it really sucked) and she just didn’t seem like she felt at home with the character. This character is older, wiser, and a bit more jaded than Elaine Benes, and with an ex-husband and kid to boot, but still allows flashes of Elaine to show through, which makes me think that they are flashes of Louis-Dreyfus and they just happened to flash through both for Elaine and Christine.

The rest of the cast also seem to fit comfortably into their roles, although I’m not sure yet if the character of her son is cute or annoying, although the kid playing the role does a great job.

And now I’ve actually started looking forward to new episodes, and that’s rare for me. I hope they keep up the good work on the show, because I want it to be good. It would be nice to see a former Seinfeldian do good.

Note to the producers of TNAOOC: if you ever have an episode where Louis-Dreyfus plays both Christine and Christine’s sister Elaine Benes, then your show will have

Dancing with the Stars

Posted on February 1st, 2006 in Television by mynagirl

Update: Mynagirl picks her faves for the top spot!

Ok, I’m not going to surprise anyone when I pick Stacy & Tony vs. Drew & Cheryl in competition for the lead. To be honest, since we’ve now lost George Hamilton and are down to only four couples in the competition, it’s hardly a huge act of clairvoyance to see them as the top competitors. Not only has each couple already scored perfect 10’s (Stacy and Tony twice!!) but there are only two other couples still left. Would you believe I picked these two competitors out from the beginning? Even if you don’t believe me, I know that I spotted talent right away!

And while I love Jerry Rice, unfortunately he cannot conquer his hunched-over football-player stance, nor his innate “oh my god the guys are gonna so laugh at me” self-consciousness. And although Lisa Rinna tries really hard (oh my god just she try hard) and is actually pretty good, I’m just not rooting for her manic and over-the-top performances. Not only are Stacy and Drew the best dancers, they also seem to be the nicest and most self-effacing, so that just makes me want to root for them more.

Drew Lachey and dancing partner Cheryl

Stacy Keibler and dancing partner Tony

As you can tell, the program has kept me hooked, and I’m sure I’ll watch it next season as well. Who can resist gripping pseudo-drama, humor, dancing, and flashy costumes?! Not this Mynagirl!

Original Article: 01/16/2006

So, Dancing with the Stars was never really on my radar last year. It sort of snuck up on me like a deadline I wasn’t tracking. Being the TiVo goddess I am (married to a Tivo god) and inveterate fast-fowarder I don’t necessarily know when all the new shows are on, or indeed even what they are. By the time I saw enough ads in fast forward to decide to rewind and investigate this sparkly indulgence, it had already left for the season.

But I was prepared this season, the Tivo at the ready. What a great concept — whoever thought this up definitely had a flash of genius. (Or what do I know, they could be a genius 24×7). Let’s get celebrities, some of which have obviously zero dancing talent, and try ballroom dancing with a professional. Not club dancing or anything free-form, but Ballroom Dancing… like, the complicated stuff. With steps and arm and hip motions, all working completely synchronous like an entire orchestra of body parts floating according to plan. Or in some cases, working in an utterly unsynchronous and disorganized manner somewhat like “Pinnochio chasing Jipity Cricket [sic] across the floor”… a hilariously accurate description of ESPN’s Kenny Mayne’s attempting the Cha-Cha.

Five women and five men, plucked from their comfortable niche of acting, sportscasting, wrestling, journalism, or being an eligible receiver, extend themselves way beyond their comfort zone in order to compete for glory and (for some) maybe a way out of obscurity. It’s uncomfortable and inspiring in equal measure.

The NFL Should Bench Its Blackout Rules

Posted on October 14th, 2005 in Commentary,Sports,Television by EngineerBoy

Are you ready for some football? Too bad...

The NFL has blackout rules that impact what games can be televised in which areas. If your TV provider does not broadcast within 75 miles of a city with an NFL team, these rules do not apply and your local affiliates can show any of the games available from their parent network.

However, if your TV provider broadcasts within 75 miles of an NFL city, you are definitely impacted by these rules, which are shown in complete detail at the bottom of this article. Functionally, the blackout rules work as follows:

Rule Number One: If the home team is playing at home, and does not sell out by 72 hours prior to game time, then the local affiliates cannot show this game. The purpose of this rule is to get more people to the stadium to watch the game, which benefits the team owner. You see, the NFL divides up TV revenues among the teams, but the individual team owners get to keep all their stadium/ticket/concession revenues.

Rule Number Two: If the home team is playing at home and manages to sell out prior to 72 hours prior to game time, and the local affiliate shows the game, no other NFL games can be shown on other channels while the home team game is on. I guess that this rule is designed to drive more viewers to the affiliate/network showing the home team?

The stated purpose of these rules is to preserve/enhance the revenues for the home team (Rule Number One) and home network affiliate (Rule Number Two). However, this is extraordinarily flawed logic. I’ll give you an example of similarly flawed logic – my mother used to work for the County Tax Assessor/Collector Office, which also handled license plates for the State of Texas. At one time vanity plates were available for about $25, and the state sold a whole lot of them. Some brainiac in the state government said, hey, if we charged $75 each, we’d make three times more money! So they raised the price to $75, and ended up with vanity plate revenues that were half of what they were at $25, because so many people stopped buying the plates at the new, higher price. This is exactly what the NFL is doing…driving away lifelong fans (customers) in pursuit of short-term revenue (instead of long-term profit).

MTVFL?

The NFL does not seem to understand that their short-sighted blackout rules, while perhaps improving revenue for a weekend, or maybe even a season, has the long-term effect of driving fans away from the NFL. You see, today the American consumer is inundated with entertainment options. Movies, TV, music, DVD, TiVo, Pay Per View, Movies on Demand, etc. And television now has 100’s of channels with thousands of programs, and although most are unwatchable (in my opinion), one man’s dreck is another man’s favorite show.

In the midst of this cacophony, the National Football

Lyrics to “You Are Worthless Alec Baldwin”

Posted on March 2nd, 2005 in Music,Television by mynagirl

"I'm...so...ronery..."

You Are Worthless Alec Baldwin

Words and music by (presumably) Trey Parker and Matt Stone:

I was sent from planet Xiron to conquer the earth
I had a terrific plan — I thought it would work
Tried to get the Earthlings all to kill each other you see
But it all went wrong and now I must decree…

You are worthless Alec Baldwin, you are worthless Alec Baldwin
You failed in every way and now my stock in you has fallen
Your career is stallin’ and you’re worthless Alec Baldwin
That’s why I blew your head off and your children are all bawlin’

Planet Xiron is inhabited with Xipods like me
But also with Balmacs who are giant bees
The Xipods and Balmacs are at constant war
So we wanted a new home and that’s what Earth was for

But you are worthless Alec Baldwin, you are worthless Alec Baldwin
You fucked up my whole plan and now Xiron is smeared with Balmac pollen
Your garbage needs some haulin’ and you’re worthless Alec Baldwin
Now I must return home a failure — I’m afraid the pit of Kryrok is callin’…

Desperate Housewives (***)

Posted on October 3rd, 2004 in Television by EngineerBoy

Combine Sex in the City, the Stepford Wives, and The Gilmore Girls, add a dash of Twin Peaks, and you have the recipe for Desperate Housewives, based on what we saw in the pilot tonight. The story focuses on the ladies of the house along a stretch of Wisteria Lane in an unnamed, but hyper-American, upscale suburb. The primary characters run the gamut of stereotypical suburban American ladies, and include the single mom (replete with wise-beyond-her-years teenage daughter), the Martha Stewart-esque “perfect” housewife (replete with desperately unhappy husband and children), the former model who married for money (and regularly gets her lawn trimmed by the yard boy, if you know what I mean, and I think you do), the former high-powered executive who abandoned corporate life to become a full-time mom (replete with three little boys who make the Tasmanian Devil look like a narcoleptic sloth overdosing on Ritalin), and the divorced slut.

The pilot was entertaining, sly, surprising, and quirky…things that I like. To those of you who understand what this means, you can understand everything you need to know about this show by hearing that the theme music is done by Danny Elfman.

The pilot sets the stage for the series with a voice-over by one of the ladies. She happens to be the one who appears to be the most strong and the most normal of the bunch. Things kick into gear when she promptly commits suicide. Her voice-over persists after her death, and provides running commentary on the goings-on of the neighborhood, while providing only tantalizing clues as to the reasons for her self-off-age. Suffice it to say that it wasn’t because of suburban malaise, or anything else mundane and/or every day. The reasons for her suicide are hinted at by the end of the pilot episode, but nothing is revealed or explained.

There’s also a new guy on the block, a single plumber who is renting one of the houses. He may or may not be more or less than he seems, but I couldn’t quite figure out how a plumber could afford to live on this street (notwithstanding what they charge).

Round things out with one of the wives attempting to kill her husband (maybe accidentally, maybe not, but she does apologize to him), and one of the husbands taking a pickaxe to the bottom of his drained pool to dig up…who knows what…and you have a pretty good idea of what’s going on with this series.

The stories go in unexpected directions, the show is funny (but isn’t a comedy), some of the situations are textbook soap opera (but it isn’t a soap), bizarre things happen (but it’s not The X-Files), and several crimes are committed (but it’s not a police procedural). It’s an interesting mix of all of these things, and more, and the pilot was very interesting and entertaining. Based on buzz, we had set TiVo to record the pilot, and we have now set

Best Moments from the 56th Emmy Broadcast, September 2004

Posted on September 2nd, 2004 in Television by mynagirl

This year’s Emmy awards offered a reality-show theme while skewering the format, with the wry smile and funny jokes that only Garry Shandling can deliver. It was such a joy to have him back in the driver’s seat, I really couldn’t wait for the show to be on, and I wasn’t disappointed. This year’s telecast offered some truly hilarious moments.

Great acceptance speeches:

Michael Imperioli accepting his supporting dramatic actor for The Sopranos: touching, thoughtful, and brief. Others could learn from him.
Drea de Matteo, too flustered to remember who to thank, just said she’d get off the stage before she started to “cry, choke, or puke”.
Kelsey Grammer’s speech, paying respects to John Ritter while also graciously signing off after 20 years of playing Frasier Crane.
Meryl Streep, accepting for Angels in America. She epitomizes the first lady of american acting, showing off the cuff humor and wit. “There are some days when even I think I’m overrated… but not todayyyy!”

Moments of weirdness:

Chris Noth’s strange marriage proposal to Sarah Jessica Parker. Was that scripted? If so, it was reeeaally lame.
Allison Janney convincing Mariska Hargitay to come up onstage with her during the Best Actress in a Drama acceptance speech.
Elaine Stritch’s acceptance speech… what a riot!! She might be my new favorite… whatever the hell she is!!

Moments of hilarity and great quotes:

All of Garry Shandling’s opening monologue.
The director of the Oscars accepting his Emmy while directing the Emmy broadcast from the control booth, including cutting to his parents sitting in the audience – completely adorable.
“I’d like to sing this now, if I may”. Mitchell Hurwitz, finishing off the tail end of his acceptance speech as the get-him-off-the-stage music begins to play.
“Alright, I have no jokes on Iraq cause I thought we’d be done by now.” –Shandling
“Don’t you know God? Couldn’t we have gotten a better joke than that?” Zach Braff to Amber Tamblyn after their scripted joke fell rather flat.
“Drea, killing you was the hardest writing I’ve ever had to do.. .and this is coming from someone who wrote on ‘The New Adventures of Flipper’”. –Terence Winter, winning for best writing on The Sopranos.
Conan O’Brien: “Joan Rivers couldn’t be here, she’s out protesting High Definition TV”.
And the all time best Emmy Moment: the spoof commercial for reality TV series “What’s In Front of Garry’s Door?” with David Duchovny reprising his role from the Larry Sanders show playing David Duchovny as a smitten paramour complete with a spanking ping-pong paddle. I laughed so hard I thought I was going to quit breathing. Brilliant. Freaking brilliant.

Miss America 2005 (*)

Posted on September 1st, 2004 in Television by mynagirl

So, I have to admit, I always watch Miss America if I track that it’s on. It’s a spectacle of pure schmaltzy Americana that is truly impossible for me to pass up. The combination of fashion (or what passes for it on the pageant circuit), the opportunity for me to make bitchy comments (see previous parenthetical note), and how American women wrestle with their femininity in a decidedly unfeminist contest is like catnip to a girly girl and holder of a sociology degree. This year I had no clue it was on but was just closing the browser window for TV Guide when I saw Miss America pageant in the listings and got it queued up on TiVo just in time.

Of course, this is one of the new and weird Miss America pageants that they have now, where they rejigger the format every year to desperately try and please the audience that’s disappearing or doesn’t even bother to show up in the first place. But if this is a modernized Miss America, it’s just horrible. The music and lighting when they announce the ‘winnowing down’ rounds on the ABC telecast is straight from Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. The bikini competition (c’mon, none of the all-too-toned girls are gonna hurt their chances and wear a one piece) is sponsored by Speedo — the host mentioned Speedo’s name twice and the bikinis have a Speedo logo on the back of the suit (it’s a small logo, but it’s there).

New to the competition this year (or at least I don’t remember it, and boy do I think I would remember something this awful) was an awkward strutting casual wear competition. The girls start by being lined up and vogueing behind white screens — honest to god, they vogued behind backlit screens — it was so strange and embarassing. Then, one by one as their names were called, each made another quick vogue-y pose and came out on the runway for about 20 seconds like some kind of America’s Next Top Wal-Mart Model. I guess the girls were told to “act more natural” or “be themselves” or something, because they each girl did weird non-pageant-y things like shimmy her boobs or flip her hair with her hand while kicking up a heel to one knee. I mean, no one quite did the Elaine Benes thumbs-and heels-out dancing, but it some of it was really painfully non-choreographed and weird. Accompanying this strange parade were contestant voice-overs telling cute stories about bowling with nephews or how her mom gives her cookbooks as a good luck gift before each pageant.

The swimsuit competition sinks to a new low. Aside from the Speedo (TM) sponsored all-bikini factor (although I think Miss Arkansas would’ve worn a g-string if they would’ve let her), the actual live competition was preceded by five minutes of a pre-show swimsuit “shoot” footage. The girls were poolside, surrounded by candles

The Shield (****)

Posted on April 1st, 2004 in Television by mynagirl

The Shield

F/X, Tuesdays, 9 pm Central

Ok, this show rocks. I finally put it on TiVo Season Pass (amazingly, it didn’t conflict with any other shows we normally record) after reading probably the 50th review of how great it was. Boy, were the critics right. Boy, do I wish I’d found this show earlier. It goes right up at the top of my list.

I love the show’s many characters and the storylines that arc over multiple episodes. It takes you a while to get into the rhythm of the show but I like that. “Wait… is he the same guy who was accused of excessive force?” “Why was she getting her job back? Why did she lose it before?” They do the obligatory “previously on…” at the beginning of each episode but it really does pay to be a regular watcher. The writers don’t pander to you about understanding bad blood between characters; you either get the subtexts or you don’t.

I know people either like or dislike that the show’s main characters aren’t all 100% good guys; to wit they have stolen a bunch of money from the Armenian mob that they are sitting on until they can figure out how to successfully launder it. I personally have always loved moral ambiguity in my protagonists, so The Shield works out just fine for me. It makes for a more interesting storyline at all times because not all members of the strike team are in on the “money train” deal and our main guys juggle doing their regular cop duty with doing it within their ability to recover some of their money that’s been lost without tipping their hand to a guy not in on the deal.

I have to say, a couple years ago when Michael Chiklis won the Emmy for Best Actor, I (along with much of America, I’m sure) went, “Who? What show?” All I can say now, is “Effing yeah, buddy!” He is fabulous! In this recent episode Chiklis is watching via closed circuit as the Feds tell a local gang member that his money is actually from the aforementioned Armenians and they know this because some of the money (the same money our “heroes” have stashed in a warehouse) has been marked. The scene is amazing because Chiklis does such a great job — you can see the instant that the adrenaline and ice hits his gut as his character realizes not only that the money that they’ve stolen might be worthless but that the Feds might actually shortly have some of it with his fingerprints on it.

Overall, I didn’t realize being on F/X meant you could be quite so… gritty! Not being an HBO subscriber, I’m not used to too much swearing and nudity on cable, but the Shield manages to work it in there after they put more warning letters in the top left than you could shake

David Letterman: This Thinking Person’s Talk Show Host

Posted on January 5th, 2004 in Commentary,Television by EngineerBoy

When I was a younger man I regularly watched Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show. Then, one day, a new show came on after Carson…Late Night with David Letterman. I watched it a few times…it was sort of weird, and the host was a gap-toothed former weatherman from Indiana with a very skewed, strange sense of humor, an acerbic manner, and a very low tolerance for self-important celebrities and BS, which was a very new (and seemingly counter-intuitive) concept for a talk show host.

He did strange things, like drop stuff off of buildings, run over stuff with steamrollers, and he put on a Velcro suit (and used a trampoline to launch himself up and stick to a wall), a suit of suet (and went into an enclosure and let birds feed off of him), and a suit of Alka Seltzer (and was lowered into a tank of water). He did segments from the perspective of his dog Bob, and he strapped cameras to monkeys and let them run loose in the studio. He had the show’s writers and crew members, who were obviously not polished performers, participate in skits and segments with varying (but almost always funny) results. He had weird recurring segments that only became funny after several repetitions, like “Camping with Barry White”, where the R&B legend would be onstage in a mocked-up campsite, and Dave would join him and get sage outdoor advice. It was weird, it was funny, and it was un-Carson-like.

And I found that I began watching Letterman more regularly than Carson. It eventually became obvious that Johnny was winding down, only hosting a few times a week, and although he was one of the greatest talk show hosts of all time, you could tell he had hit the wall and was just going through the motions. Meanwhile Dave was getting funnier, smoother (for Dave), and more creative. It looked like a shoe-in for Dave to take over the Tonight Show, as he was the natural heir to the late-night throne.

Changing of the Guard

At this point Jay Leno had been installed as Johnny’s permanent guest host, and his ratings were good. Jay was (and is) one of the great stand-up comedians, and he seems like one of the few genuinely nice people in show business. When Johnny finally announced his retirement, NBC was faced with a decision — Jay or Dave. As we all know, they picked Jay, so then Dave moved to CBS to go head-to-head with Jay. I followed Dave over to CBS, but I also would check out Jay from time to time, since I was a fan of his stand-up comedy.

And what I found was that Jay usually had a strong opening monologue, and it was usually longer than Dave’s, and often funnier, in a “stand-up comedy” sense. However, Dave’s monologues were usually wittier and more sublime/absurd, as opposed to punchline/rimshot funny. And for me, ultimately, Dave’s sensibilities stood the test of time and also held my attention and my interest.

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