Sunday, September 30, 2007

Thursday night favorites

The Office: So how cute are Jim and Pam? (Or as Kevin has dubbed them, PB&J.) I was a little surprised at how the camera crew got involved to get them to reveal they were dating, but I liked how after awhile Pam just figured she had to admit it. I don't know where they're going with this, I read in some interview somewhere that it's not going to be exactly what we expect, but for now the shipper in me is happy!

Outside of all that, I think that what makes the Office so great is all the bits and details, but sometimes I'm kind of iffy on the main storylines, especially when it revolves around Michael doing something stupid and Dwight backing him up. So I really don't know about these hour-long episodes because they just kind of seem dragged out. Oh well. I can't possibly remember all the little things that made me laugh in the episode to recap, but I liked it. I am hoping that Darryl gets more screentime this season though because he really cracks me up.

Ugly Betty: During last season's finale, I thought it as pretty much a foregone conclusion that Santos was dead, so I was really super happy to find out that he was alive. I thought that it was a bit odd that Hilda and Santos were just like holing up in her room for weeks, but with Betty and Justin acting pretty much normal I kind of brushed it off. But then as the episode progressed...I knew it was a sort of dream sequence fake out thing, and man. That was sad. And I felt just a little bit manipulated...

I mean, it almost made the rest of the episode seem a bit...weird. Like Justin (the fashion elf, haha) was totally adorable as usual and I wonder if he's just not dealt with the fact that his father died just a few weeks ago. And all of Betty's moping over Henry...the little telenovela bit at the beginning was hilarious but the rest of it was a bit overdramatic, especially her little outburst at the fashion shoot. Shrug. I did love the parts with Amanda and Marc, of course, and I really always love the friendship bits with Betty and Daniel. And there was a classic Ugly Betty-esque twist at the end involving Alexis which should makes things interesting. But I hope we're done with the emotional wringer for a little while and get back to the wacky fun that we all know and love.

On a side note, I just discovered that Becki Newton (Amanda) and Michael Urie (Marc) host an official Ugly Betty podcast. They're completely awesome so I figure this podcast has to be as well. Are there any other TV-related podcasts out there that I should be listening to?

Top Chef goes into the wild

Last week I said that I didn't know who I was rooting for, and the first part of the finale didn't help me make up my mind at all. Going into it I thought that Dale and Brian were the weaker of the four, but Dale really stepped it up and even won the Elimination. That left Brian to be sent home. He was a funny guy and I think he made a good showing, but he was just the worst this week and that's all there was to it. And you know, I think the second part of the finale is going to be the same: whoever has the best dishes is just going to win, and I'll totally be ok with it. I would probably say that Dale's my favorite, but that doesn't necessarily mean I want him to win because I don't know how the final challenge is going to go. While all this means that this season's competition has been overall pretty fair, it kind of makes things less exciting.

I thought the Quickfire was a little cruel. Seeing them hunched over those tiny outdoor areas was a little painful, especially with the awesome Eric Ripert looking on. And man, 20 minutes is not a lot of time, especially since they had to clean the fish. I was surprised to see seafood man Brian all frazzled, and what was this about trout not really being considered seafood?

The Elimination was a little narrow I this point I think the chefs should be allowed to choose their own proteins, so having them ALL do elk was a bit weird. I've never had elk before, but I have had antelope once, and I'm not so sure I'm a big fan of game meats. (I know, I know, if really want to be a foodie I should be more open to exotic meats, but I mean, I don't even like dark meat chicken...) I liked seeing more focus on the sauces though...Dale's blackberry sauce and Casey's smoked sauce both sounded really awesome.

Anyway, this season has seemed somewhat long and I'm definitely ready for it to be over. Plus, this means that Project Runway will be returning soon. November 14th, mark your calendars!

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Pilot reviews part 5: Journeyman and Reaper

For some reason or another I hadn't been expecting to like Journeyman at all. I guess it just seemed kind of vague and another weak sci-fi attempt by a major network. And um, it also might have had something to do with Gretchen Egolf, who I seriously despised back when she was on Roswell playing that awful Vanessa Whitaker. (I know, I know, I need to stop judging actors based on one bad role.)

But you know, I found myself really liking this pilot. I mean, it was pretty confusing and a lot of things make no sense, but it is a time travel show and I think you can kind of make up your own rules for these kind of things. The beginning of the episode was a little crazy because you barely find out who this guy is before he inexplicably starts time-traveling. And at first I thought Dan, played by Kevin McKidd, was kind of bland, but I found myself kind of liking and caring about him by the end.

There's a bit of complicated romance thing going as well...Dan in the present is married (to his brother's ex-girlfriend?) with a young son, but before that was engaged to Livia, who's now dead. Dan figures out that he's supposed to help someone during these little "trips" as he calls them, but he's always crossing paths with Livia as well. And one encounter is especially strange, as it seems to be a time-traveling Livia as well. I don't know, I'm intrigued, so I'm definitely going to stick it out for a few episodes at least.

I kind of had the exact opposite thing with Reaper; I was pretty sure I was going to like it. And I did. It kind of reminds me a little bit of the good old days of the WB when their schedule was chock-full of teen sci-fi with Buffy and Angel and Roswell and Charmed and such. The pilot was directed by Kevin Smith, and it really shows...there's a lot to like here.

The concept of the show is pretty silly...on his 21st birthday, Sam learns that his parents sold his soul to the devil before he was born and now he has to work for the devil sending escaped souls back to hell. Sam (Bret Harrison) is yet another one of this season's lovable slackers who works at a megastore (this time, a Home Depot clone called the Work Bench), but it's almost not his fault. His parents, fearful of his inevitable fate, have been way too easy on him (he quit college because it made him sleepy), so he's been kind of a wimp his entire life. So in a way this new job is finally giving him some purpose and confidence. Like to go after Andi, the cute girl at work (played by Missy Peregrym). Yeah, we kind of all know where this is going.

But this show does have two really great things going for it: Ray Wise and Tyler Labine. Ray Wise is kind of brilliant as the devil, playing him with a big, slightly creepy smile and a kind of quirky sense of humor. And Tyler Labine (who I remember from back on Breaker High, the most ridiculous teen show that's ever existed but that also produced Ryan Gosling) is Sock, Sam's wacky coworker. And Valarie Rae Miller's in the cast too, who's a welcome face since I haven't her seen in anything since Dark Angel.

A lot of people have been comparing this to Chuck, but I don't think that's really a bad thing. The characters and tone of the shows are pretty similar, but Chuck has the spy thing and Reaper has the supernatural thing. I'm not sure that either of them is really going to be appointment TV but they're fun and for now that's good enough.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Pilot reviews part 4 - Private Practice, Big Shots, and Dirty Sexy Money

So I was definitely kidding myself when I thought that there was a chance I might like Private Practice. Because I DON'T LIKE MEDICAL SHOWS. I just don't. All those wacky cases just do not interest me. And having those cases being worked on by doctors with messed up personal lives? I don't know, it seems that all the doctors in the group are in their thirties or forties, but they all seem to be single and unhappy and that's kind of...depressing? I don't know, I just wasn't into it at all. It's really a shame because there's so many great people in the cast, including Tim Daly (my irrational crush), Amy Brenneman, Paul Adelstein, Taye Diggs...oh well. Looks like I'll be able to fit Bionic Woman into my schedule for now after all.

And when I thought it couldn't get any worse, I decided to watch Big Shots. UGH. Michael Vartan is as hot as ever but that really doesn't make up for the meh that is this show. It's been described as the male version of Sex and the City, and that's the problem right there. Maybe this is sexist, I don't know, but I don't find men sitting around discussing their relationship problems to be kind of pathetic. Plus I don't think it's really all that believable that these guys are even friends. I like Joshua Malina but he seems out of place, and Christopher Titus doesn't even get to be that funny, which is a waste. Blah. I mean, I was kind of expecting this to suck, but I'm still a teeny bit disappointed because I wouldn't have minded a reason to see Michael Vartan on TV every week again. Sigh. I miss Vaughn.

Thankfully not all of ABC's new dramas are turning out to be a waste, because I really kind of loved Dirty Sexy Money. (And remember, Pushing Daisies is coming next week...although I worry that I might be a little too predisposed to like that one.) Usually it takes me awhile to warm up to Greg Berlanti shows, even though I always end up getting pretty infatuated with them (e.g. Everwood, Jack & Bobby, Brothers & Sisters), but I was happy that this time was different. Hopefully it won't go the other way and get worse from here though, because it's really a lot of fun. It's kind of like Gossip Girl for grownups. Definitely a little trashy but totally a guilty pleasure. Peter Krause plays Nick George, lawyer to the rich and wild New York family, the Darlings. Parents Tripp and Leticia seem normal enough, but their children are all crazier than the next. Patrick is a rising politician who's having an affair with a transexual; Karen is working on her fourth marriage (and an old crush on Nick); Brian has hated Nick since childhood, has some anger management issues, has a illegitimate son, and oh, is a minister; Juliet (played by OC favorite Samaire Armstrong) is a ditzy aspiring but hopeless actress; and her twin, Jeremy, seems to be perpetually trashed and getting himself into trouble. At first I was like, what kind of family really needs a full-time lawyer? Apparently this one does, especially since everyone seems to have no qualms about telling Nick even embarrassing stuff when they need help, which is evidently often. I have a feeling this is going to be a fun ride.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Fall TV charts

Variety has this handy chart of all the new fall shows and their staffers' opinions.

And some TV bloggers put together their own version of the chart (links to tapeworthy, it's floating around quite a few other blogs as well).

I haven't seen all the pilots yet, but it helps to know that yes, Cavemen and Carpoolers are as bad as they sound...

Pilot reviews part 3 - The Big Bang Theory and Cane

The Big Bang Theory: Or, Beauty and the Geek: the sitcom. This show was introduced as being from the creators of Two and a Half Men, so yeah, I wasn't expecting much. So in that respect, it wasn't really too bad. There was some funny stuff and all, but I mean, if I want to see geeks saying geeky things and pretty girls not understanding them, then well, I'm already watching Beauty and the Geek. So...Big Bang Theory = unnecessary.

Cane: I guess CBS was trying to go for something glamorous here but I'm not sure it really worked. There's a lot of great actors in the cast, like Jimmy Smits and Hector Elizondo and Rita Moreno even, and plenty of pretty people, and the setup is pretty generous: a large extended Cuban family, business rivalries, sibling rivalries, pretty teenagers, etc. But I don't know, maybe this is just me being stereotypical, but I was kind of expecting it to be...uh, hotter? I mean, it's South Florida, the rum business, nightclubs, Latino music...and yet the pilot managed to be pretty plodding. There was a pretty lengthy preview at the end of the episode that outlined a bunch of upcoming plot points (a lot of business dealings that turn violent, it seems, and an appearance by Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger?) and it seems that things might get more exciting but I'm not sure if I'm interested enough. It's not really in a competitive timeslot though so I think it has an ok chance of sticking around.

And now, the continuation of Heroes...

(Huge backlog of shows to post about, bear with me as I catch up!) it just me or is Heroes a really big downer?

I mean, I know it's a drama where a lot of heavy stuff happens and along with the special abilities come danger and burden and loneliness and all that, but really, it's one thing to be serious, but it's another to be positively somber. All the mournful theme music isn't helping and the characters on this show seem to spend an inordinate amount of time actively sulking. Somehow I just always end up feeling thoroughly depressed after watching this show.

At least Hiro is still Hiro. He seems to have dropped himself into 17th century Japan, where he meets his idol Kensei, only to discover that this legendary figure is not even, but an Englishman (played by American David Anders, aka Sark from Alias), and not so much a hero after all. Plus the timing of Hiro's little drop-in seems to have messed with history. Who knows where this is going...and isn't Hiro curious about what happened with Sylar? Back in the present, apparently he's been gone for 4 months.

As for our other heroes, Claire, HRG, and their family seem to have moved to California, where Claire attempts to be "ordinary" but immediately meets a cute boy who turns out to have the same power as Nathan: he can fly. This is kind of interesting, as we haven't seen any heroes with duplicate powers before. I hope this doesn't mean he's evil. Matt Parkman is now divorced and taking care of Molly, and he finally makes detective with the NYPD. Mohinder is traveling around giving lectures about the heroes to people who don't really care but it seems he's actually trying to bait HRG's old employer. Nathan is bearded and sulking. Ando is waiting around for Hiro to come back. (Ando's part of the main cast now though, yay!) And Peter somehow ends up in Ireland? No mention of Niki or DL or Micah or Sylar.

We also get introduced to two new heroes, Maya and Alejandro, who are making their way to New York to find Mohinder. I'm not sure that it was such a good idea to introduce them in the season premiere. We all want to know what's going on all the existing heroes, and I found myself pretty much not caring about them, especially since they didn't interact with any already existing characters.

The season's first big mystery was also setup: something to do with that symbol that was popping up everywhere, a helix. This is pretty standard sci-fi/fantasy stuff...secret groups really like their symbols. Apparently it was all over the place last season too but I had no idea. I'm trying not to analyze the show too much because that generally gets me in trouble.

Anyway, they definitely packed a lot into the hour, but there was nothing too mindblowing. What do you suppose the next catchphrase is going to be?

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Beauty and the Geek mixes things up

I've actually always wondered whether switching things up on Beauty and the Geek and having male beauties and female geeks would ever work. As a female geek myself, I usually find myself relating more to the guys on the show (and sadly enough understanding pretty much all of their geek-speak) and finding the girls to be ridiculously alien. But I think a full swap would probably have been too much...geeky guys are kind of endearing and cute but I don't know what the American public's reaction to geeky girls would be. So it's smart that they decided to just have one opposite couple. It's be interesting to see how that changes the dynamics in the house.

The little casting special they ran before the show actually started was pretty funny. I love how there were no geeks whatsoever in Las Vegas. I don't know what's going on with Nate and Jennylee but it was cool seeing them and a few other past geeks as well. I do kind of feel like they chose the geeks with more potential in terms of looks, but I think the girls seemed more skanky and ditzy than actually pretty.

Did anyone else feel like the "this season on the Beauty and the Geek" clip show was really overly long and gave too much away? All those crying clips seem like elimination interviews, they showed one of the geek makeovers, and even a few of the hookups. Not that anyone's going to really sit and analyze the clips to figure out who gets eliminated when, but I was kind of surprised that they were giving so much away.

Here's an interview with Nicole, the female geek. It's funny how I related to quite a lot of what she said.

Pilot reviews part 2 - Bionic Woman and Life

A couple more early reviews thanks to Comcast OnDemand.

Life - I'm usually completely uninterested in cop shows but I checked this one out mostly because of Damian Lewis, who I'm a fan of thanks to his awesome performances in Band of Brothers and the Forsyte Saga. Unfortunately I think his talent is a bit misplace here. First of all, why do people keep insisting on making TV series based on concepts that are more suited to a movie or miniseries? Here we have Charlie Crews, a cop who was wrongly committed of a crime and spent 12 years in prison for it. Newly exonerated and released, he returns to the force with a side motive of finding out who framed him. Now, I'm all for crime procedurals having a twist, because that's really the only reason I'd watch one. But I mean, how long are they planning to take in uncovering the mystery behind his framing? Because will there be a show after that gets solved?

Regardless, though, I don't really think that they're going to get to the point where that's going to be a real concern. Maybe Damian Lewis is supposed to be NBC's answer to House or something but his American accent here is a little strange and his character is quirky in a not so likable way. Like his obsession with fruit...random much? I don't know how this show is being targeted to, but somehow I don't think it's going to attract them.

Bionic Woman - I know next to nothing about the original Bionic Woman, but some of the people who remade Battlestar Galactica are behind this one as well, and it's been getting a lot of buzz in general. After watching the pilot though, the jury's definitely still out.

Our Bionic Woman is Jaime Sommers, a bartender who never finished college and has custody of her teenage sister, Becca. She seems kind of unextraordinary in general, but when she gets into a horrible car accident (which might not have been an accident after all), her boyfriend, a professor and surgeon, "rebuilds" her as the Bionic Woman. Or well, a bionic woman, because she's the second one. Katee Sackoff of BSG plays Sarah Corvus, the original Bionic Woman, who was presumed dead after snapping and killing dozens, but is now confirmed to still be alive.

It's all pretty intriguing, but the pilot was really all setup and it definitely remains to be seen how the show progresses. The characters' personalities aren't really clear yet, especially Jaime's. I'm not yet convinced that I can buy her as kickass. And if she's going to carry the show we need to care about her, which I was actually having trouble with. After the accident and finding out that she was bionic...I thought her reactions were a bit off. (I'm kind of reminded of the pilot of Alias, which got all of this stuff right, even though though it did eventually all go downhill.) Jaime's sister, Becca, is cute and plucky, but I wonder how her computer hacker skills are going to play into the story. I kind of already hate Will, Jaime's boyfriend, although I don't think he's supposed to be one of the bad guys. I was kind of intrigued by Jae, one of the operatives that trained Sarah and was romantically involved with her, but the rest of the people at the biological research company are still just faces.

Katee Sackoff was awesome and pretty much stole the show, though it's not clear how much of a regular role she's going to have. Although maybe that's a good thing because next to her, our supposed heroine Jaime just seemed extremely bland...

Top Chef in New York

I missed reviewing last week's episode, so here's a short take: the chefs had to make breakfast for Padma (what was with all the cracks about Padma liking her alcohol...are we missing something here?) and jetted off to New York only to get stuck in Newark making airplane food. I thought that Elimination challenge was a good one. They were cooking for business class so they didn't really have any restrictions on budget or ingredients, but the constraints of cooking it on board an airplane meant that they really had to think about it carefully. Kudos to Casey for winning a second week in a row (and with yet another AWESOME prize...two tickets to anywhere that Continental flies!) but CJ gets sent home before even making it to Manhattan. Hopefully by now he's gotten his slice of pizza!

Moving onto this week's episode, the five remaining chefs had their classical techniques put to the test, and it was really only fitting that Hung won both challenges. I was really happy to see that there were no gimmicks at all this week. The Quickfire was an interesting an amateur cook who's tried on occasion to reproduce dishes from restaurants or my grandmother's kitchen, I can tell you that did not look easy, despite whatever Hung was saying.

I loved the Elimination challenge as well, because chicken is so rarely used on the show. Everyone wants to do seafood or Kobe beef or pork or whatnot, and chicken is usually passed over as being pedestrian. Hung carried off the win here again (but with no prize at all, hmph), though I don't think they really explained what gave him the edge over Casey. I don't really mind though, Hung's win makes things a bit more interesting (otherwise Casey would have had 3 consecutive Elimination wins going into the finale).

So yeah, I've been really impressed with Casey these past couple of weeks. She doesn't have the classical training but she's been more than holding her own and has shown a lot of smart, creative thinking. At this point, I'd say that it's down to Hung and Casey. Dale and Brian have had their moments but they'll need to really step it up if they want to really be in the running.

You know, it's weird, as much as I'm glad that the show this season has returned to serious competition after the fiasco that was last season, but now it's almost too focused. Last season I didn't care who won because I kind of hated them all for some reason or another, but this season I almost don't care who wins because I like them all. I'm not sure at all who I'm really rooting for, which makes things a little less exciting...

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Kid Nation quick hit

I just finished watching the premiere of the controversial new CBS show Kid Nation, and you know, it's not really so horrible. I was under the impression that they were just dumping these 40 kids in the middle of the desert for 40 days and that was all, but it's actually pretty much just a Survivor for kids. There's a host who has obviously modeled himself after Jeff Probst, the kids are divided into 4 "districts" (think tribes), and it looks like there will be challenges and a council meeting each episode.

Yes, they're pretty much left to their own devices, but the challenge in the premiere helped them set up their jobs, and I imagine that future challenges will help them along in other arena too. In each town council meeting, the kids are given the choice to leave voluntarily, and instead of voting someone out, the town council gives out "gold stars," which are actually blocks of gold worth $20,000. (You know there's gotta be a scholarship angle thing on a reality show for kids.)

So while I'm still not entirely sure how kids as young as 8 years old got signed up for this show, I kind of don't think it's really as atrocious as all the controversy might have indicated. I mean, it's a reality show, there are tons of crew and cameras and I'm sure medical personnel that step in when needed, just like Survivor. I do wonder though, if CBS is going to have a really tough time when it comes to casting a second season...

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Pilot reviews part 1 - the Josh Schwartz edition

No, I'm not a TV industry insider who gets to preview new shows (as much as I'd like to be), but yes, these are early pilot reviews! The first episode of Gossip Girl is a free download on iTunes, and all of NBC's new dramas are available for free on my Comcast OnDemand. I've only watched Chuck so far, but look for my reviews of Bionic Woman, Journeyman, and Life coming up soon.

So taking pretty much no break at all after the end of the OC, Josh Schwartz has come back with two new shows this season: Gossip Girl for the CW, and Chuck on NBC. And judging from the pilots, they've both made my TV schedule for this year.

Gossip Girl is based on a popular series for teenage girls that I actually even blogged about awhile back talking about how while it was a trashy guilty pleasure I kind of worried about young girls aspiring to the sort of lifestyle portrayed in the books. But you know, it really can't be more perfect for a TV series, and who more perfect to run it than Josh Schwartz? He tackled the rich kids of Orange County, why not New York City? There are some similarities with the OC...the pilot of that show started off with plenty of alcohol and drugs and a threesome, and the pilot of Gossip Girl drops you right into all of that too. But while the OC was really built around a nice family story and was actually really goofy at times, I'm not sure if Gossip Girl is going to have any of that. The leads are girls, Blair and Serena, and I think there'll be a lot more bitchiness and backstabbing than we ever saw on the OC. The real predecessor to the show I think, is Cruel Intentions. Which you know, I kind of loved. And I think Gossip Girl is going to end up just as much a guilty pleasure as the books were.

I'm pretty pleased with the casting. Leighton Meester I remember from 24 and Veronica Mars, and she really has the right look and prissiness for Blair. And Blake Lively from Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants has that slight dreaminess but wild child thing going that's perfect for Serena. I'm also glad to see Penn Badgley in the mix. Though he's not at all what I pictured Dan to be like, I've been a fan of him since that really short-lived show Do Over from a long time ago. He's had a ton of failed pilots though, so I hope this one succeeds for him. Taylor Momsen is kind of all wrong for Jenny, but I never really liked Jenny in the books anyway so I don't care so much if that's inaccurate. Overall, a pretty glamorous show that I think the teen girls (and people like me) will eat up.

Chuck, in a way, is more similar to the OC. Chuck, played by Zachary Levi, definitely has that Seth Cohen adorkable thing going for him, and the tone of the show is kind of goofy--the pilot was really really funny. The show is about Chuck, a socially impaired member of the Nerd Herd at Buy More (i.e. Geek Squad at Best Buy) who gets an email from a college friend, a rogue CIA agent, containing pretty every government secret there is. It was encoded in images, and now that Chuck's seen all of them, they're all just contained in his head. So now he's going to being watched over by the NSA and CIA and occasionally work with them.

It does kind of sound a lot like Jake 2.0, which I loved, but I think it might be even better, because Chuck hasn't been ridiculously physically transformed: he just has a lot of sensitive information stored in his brain. And there's more of a spy show vibe than a sci-fi one, so it might appeal to more people.

Anyway, Adam Baldwin, a Firefly/Serenity favorite, plays one of the agents assigned to Chuck's case, and the cast also includes Sarah Lancaster, who I've kind of never liked, even dating back to her Saved By the Bell: The New Class days, but here's she's Chuck's sister, and not a love interest, which makes her more bearable. Zachary Levi is great in the lead role, he's very much a Seth Cohen type, though less self-obsessed and neurotic (which isn't a bad thing), and he's really easy to root for. Definitely definitely check this one out.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Twilight and New Moon by Stephenie Meyer

Somehow I didn't really hear about the popularity of this series until recently. The third book, Eclipse, just came out and suddenly my curiosity was piqued and I decided to check them out. All I knew was that it was some kind of young adult vampire romance, and given my penchant for fantasy and Buffy and teen stuff, the only thing surprising was how long it took me to get turned onto it all.

Warning: There are spoilers below!

So I've read the first two in the series: Twilight and New Moon. And you know, I really understand why it's so popular. It's more Anne Rice than Buffy in terms of tone, but the books are really well paced and actually just really exciting, definitely page-turners. Meyer has created a lot of her own mythologies, not following a lot of the conventional vampire things that people are used to, which makes it interesting. And she's has really set herself up to have plenty more stories to tell. I just finished New Moon today, and I'm now dying to read Eclipse...I might have to hole up in the bookstore this weekend to start it.

But you know, oddly enough, even though the series is billed as a vampire love saga, I'm still not really sure about Bella and Edward. Now I'm a big time shipper...I even ship minor background couples. But something about Bella and Edward just doesn't click with me. Maybe I'm just not romantic enough or something? I mean, okay, I can kind of see it from Edward's side, as he has some extra senses that have drawn Bella to him. But on Bella's side...don't get me wrong, obviously I love my intense, brooding romantic heroes, but I just don't see what it is about Edward that makes Bella so willing, no, insistent that she wants to be made into a vampire so she can be with him FOREVER. Like immortal forever. As the series progresses, that desire becomes a bit more reasonable I suppose, but by the end of the first book, I just didn't understand how she could possibly want that life for herself with absolutely no reservations. And honestly, this is as much a problem with Bella as it is with Edward. I've been known to have trouble relating to female lead characters, but I really really do not get Bella at all. I know she's not supposed to be a normal teenager but yeah, I don't know. I think her character really needs some more development.

Anyway, in light of all that, I was actually pretty pleasantly surprised to see that the second book, New Moon, wasn't much about Bella and Edward at all. Edward doesn't appear until nearly the very end, as the book focuses on Bella's relationship with someone else: Jacob. I don't really know what the general consensus is out there among fans, but I really like Jacob. I definitely like him more than Edward. Forgive me for making this really bad comparison, but I kind of feel like this little love triangle is like that terrible movie Here on Earth with Leelee Sobieski and Chris Klein and Josh Hartnett. During the whole movie, I knew that I was supposed to want Leelee Sobieski with Chris Klein, that Josh Hartnett didn't have a chance at all, but instead I just couldn't stop feeling sorry for Josh Hartnett and was wishing that he would somehow get the girl in the end. It didn't happen. I feel pretty much the same here. I don't see how Bella could possibly end up with Jacob over Edward, but I still find myself wanting that anyway.

Although, Meyer has definitely set up Jacob to be Edward's rival. They're natural enemies, with Edward as a vampire and Jacob as a werewolf. Edward is literally cold to the touch, while Jacob's blood runs hotter than humans. And while Edward and Bella definitely have some kind of supernatural connection, Jacob and Bella's relationship grew more naturally. I don't know. I feel like Jacob has some sort of tragic death or something coming his way and that makes me a bit sad...

But definitely go read this series. And tell if I'm crazy in not liking Edward all that much...

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Remembering Madeleine L'Engle

Madeleine L'Engle, possibly my most favorite author of all time, passed away last week. She was 88.

I must have been in elementary school when I first started reading her started with A Wrinkle in Time, of course, her most well-known book, which led to the rest of the Time Quartet (or Quintet, depending on how you want to look at it). But I don't think it was until early high school that I really started to delve into her other books and the rich and wonderful worlds she created. Many of those are out of print now, and I'm happy that I bought them when I did.

It's kind of hard to classify L'Engle's books. I divide them into four rough categories: there's Wrinkle and its sequels, which featured Meg Murry and her parents and brothers, which are definitely fantasy, but also include elements of science and faith. The second category includes the books she wrote about the Austin family, which are very much set in the real world. Most of the books focus on Vicky Austin, a teenage girl, as she grows up in Connecticut and New York, but there's also mystery and thriller in them too. (The fourth book, A Ring of Endless Light, was actually made into a Disney Channel movie a couple of years back, with Mischa Barton of all people as Vicky. It wasn't good, but it wasn't really as horrible as it could have been either.) Then there are the books that feature Polly, Meg's daughter, also as a teenager, which are a mix of reality and fantasy. She's maybe my favorite of all of L'Engle's protagonists. Finally, there are the books she wrote more for adults, which also excellent, in their own, different way.

I think that one of most wonderful things about L'Engle's books is that while they all can definitely stand on their own, each has characters that crossover from other books. My copy of Many Waters has a nice chart in the front of the "L'Engle Family Tree" which lists all the characters and which books they appear in. Adam Eddington and Zachary Grey appear in both Vicky and Polly's lives, and both mention events from other books they've been in. Characters can also pop up later on in their lives. Because of Polly's books, we know that Meg and Calvin married and had seven children, Calvin a brilliant researcher. Sandy and Dennys, Meg's brothers, become a lawyer and doctor, respectively. And we know that Suzy Austin, Vicky's younger sister, ends up becoming a doctor and marrying Josiah "Dave" Davidson, who was the protagonist in The Young Unicorns. I had hoped that we'd get some more books that would hint where Vicky and Polly ended up (there were rumors that L'Engle had been working on a book about Meg as an adult) and it's sad to think that there won't be any more.

L'Engle really had a great voice for the young adult. A Wrinkle in Time came out in 1963, and her last YA book, Troubling a Star, came out in 1994, but through all that time she showed a knack for understand teenagers, intelligent and thoughtful but overall really normal teenagers. I also loved how she combined her themes of science, fantasy, and religion, things that as a teen I'd been having trouble reconciling. Even now in my early twenties I still go back and love and appreciate all of her books, and I'm sure they'll be with me forever.

I think I'm going to go re-read A Wrinkle in Time right now.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

What I'm looking forward to this fall

We'll see what ends up actually being worth watching, but here are the new shows I'll be checking out this fall.

Aliens in America - I'm generally not into sitcoms, especially family ones, but this one seems like it'll be really funny.
Chuck - Jake 2.0 uh, 2.0? Josh Schwartz is behind this one, and after the last season of the OC I have renewed faith in him.

Cane - Might be glamorous?
Reaper - The CW is totally stepping it up this year, I can't wait for this one.

Pushing Daisies - I've mentioned this a few times already, let's hope it last longer than other shows of its kind...
Private Practice - Um, yeah. I kind of despise Grey's Anatomy and I don't know the next thing about Addison but the cast has kind of sold me. Thanks to The Nine I'm now a huge Tim Daly fan, which I know is ridiculous since he's old enough to be my father (I think he actually does have kids as old as I am), but there it is.
Dirty Sexy Money - This could be the best night of TV on any network. I think this one could be a really great guilty pleasure. I've always liked Peter Krause.
Gossip Girl - This is so up my alley, I'd be pretty surprised if I don't like it.
Bionic Woman - Way too many new shows on Wednesdays! This one's getting a lot of buzz but I don't know that I'd otherwise be interested.
Life - I also kind of have a thing for Damian Lewis, which is bizarre since his character on the Forsyte Saga wasn't exactly swoon-worthy. I have a feeling this one might be cancelled early doesn't seem distinctive enough to attract an audience.

Big Shots - Two words: Michael Vartan. But he might be the only reason to watch it.

Moonlight - Another two words: Jason Dohring. Haha. Not much is known about this show since it's been pretty much completely reworked, but who knows, it could be good. I think it might be a procedural though, which means it wouldn't hold my attention for too long...

Randomly elsewhere on TV...

The fall season will be starting up in a few weeks, so there'll be plenty of new and returning shows to talk about, but for now, here are some random things that I've been following recently:

Grand Slam on the Game Show Network. It's a pretty fun idea, take champions from a variety of other game shows (Jeopardy!, Who Wants to Be A Millionaire, and others) and pit them against eachother in a single-elimination tournament. There aren't any gimmicks here: the contestants are rapidly asked questions in turn as a clock counts down. There are four rounds in each match-up: general knowledge, numbers and logic, words and letters, and a final round with questions all types. The numbers and logic round seems especially brutal to's basically just all mental math and speed is of the essence.

Anyway, the final was tonight, and it featured Jeopardy! giant Ken Jennings against Ogi Ogas, a $500,000 winner on Millionaire. These two guys were really incredibly well-matched and the number of questions being answered and the speed were just crazy! The first two rounds were almost neck and neck but then Ken Jennings kicked butt on a special "contemporary knowledge" round and held onto a lead in the Words and Vowels round, then not surprisingly, won it all. I'm a pretty big Ken Jennings fan...winning Millionaire is definitely tough, but winning 74 games of Jeopardy in a row? He was on TV every weekday from June to November! Go Ken Jennings!

One of the more curious aspects of the show is that for some reason, Dennis Miller is commentating. I was under the impression that Dennis Miller is pretty well-known and famous, so what he's doing commentating a game show that no one is talking about I have no idea, but he's pretty amusing regardless.

Little People, Big World on TLC. I've been following this on and off for awhile now, which is a reality show about a family of little people. The Roloffs, Matt and Amy, are dwarfs, and they have four children, one of which is a little person as well and the rest, "average-sized." A good chunk of the stories involve how they have to adapt to various life situations because of their size or special events that they get to attend because of their fame, but a lot of it is just regular family stuff: getting drivers' licenses, first dates, trips and vacations, etc. The Roloffs live on a large farm in Oregon that's kind of aiming to be a Knott's Berry Farm type place, with a Western village and lots of contraptions like a trebuchet and a zip line (Matt has a thing for projects), which is the background for a lot of episodes too. It's really just a nice little family show about a really likable family.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Top Chef: Individual Evaluations

So, as Tyra says on America's Next Top Model, Top Chefs, here are your individual evaluations:

Hung: At the beginning of the season I thought you were going to be the obnoxious, annoying one that everyone hates but somewhere along the way you became really funny instead and I'm now kind of a fan. That Smurf village Quickfire plate was hilarious and your little confessional comments totally crack me up. While your dishes for the yacht party this week were not in the least bit creative at least you know what tastes good and looks pretty (unlike some other people). You've been a bit in the background these past couple of weeks though, I think you need to do something really impressive, and soon.

Brian: I didn't like how the judges blasted you a lack of leadership. I really appreciated your comment about how you were leading a team of chefs, not line cooks. This wasn't just a challenge for you, everyone is still in the competition and I think that it was a good decision to let each chef kind of control his or her own destiny. And I thought you were great at helping everyone with their budgets and keeping motivation up in the kitchen. That said haven't really been cooking much lately man. There was the raw bar in the roach coach episode, you were front of the house during Restaurant Wars, and this week you made some raw fish...again. Kudos for winning the Quickfire (especially with Spam, which I really don't think is so bad) but we're going to need to see a lot more of where that came from!

Dale: I'm still a big fan of yours, even though I feel like I haven't seen anything that hot from you lately either. Thank goodness you had a dish during round 2 of Restaurant Wars, because two weeks with no cooking on a show called Top Chef just can't be good (see: Brian). I really liked the idea for your hors d'oeuvre but unfortunately without the goat cheese it fell flat. I think you're a really thoughtful, interesting chef, but your dishes need to always be well executed.

Sara: A few weeks ago I felt like you were just coasting, but I'm glad to see that you've started to get some more recognition. I thought it was funny that you decided to do a bread pudding when that was one of Tre's downfalls last week, but evidently you did a much better job.

Casey: First of all, what is up with the disparity in prizes from week to week? A Macbook Pro is an AWESOME prize, as was the trip to Italy, but other weeks have had books or bottles of wine or nothing at all. I would totally be bitter if I won on a week with a crappy or nonexistent prize. That said, a very good week for Casey. You've been coasting a bit too, but I always find your flavor combinations interesting and hopefully you'll continue to do well. We don't want this to be all boys' club.

CJ: I still can't believe how TALL you are. I know, I know, I should get over it. But seeing you bump your head on the ceiling in the yacht kitchen was pretty funny. I can't remember what you made this week...oh yeah, a seafood sausage. Why are there so many seafood sausage/patty things this season? Anyway, CJ, despite your height, you're becoming a little forgettable...

Howie: You know, that you're gone, there's really no villain left. Everyone else is pretty likeable and drama-free, which is so the opposite of last season. While I'm glad there's no stupid drama to focus on that takes time away from the challenges and food, I wonder if it'll be a bit dry. Anyway, Howie, your number's kind of been up since the very first episode. Once again, you failed to present a dish, this time in the Quickfire, which maybe shows that you'd rather not put out a dish than put out a bad one, which is a good thing, but also maybe shows that you're just not that quick thinking on your feet. And both of your Elimination items were pretty unappealing looking. You were definitely the worst this week, but at least you won a few challenges before you had to go.

And for good measure:
The Judges: I'm getting a little annoyed at them, Tom and Padma in general. I really hate how they made every mistake that the chefs make sound like the worst possible thing they could have done when we know that had they not made that mistake, the judges would be harping on something else. Maybe the food really hasn't been that good lately, but I wish they'd be more positive. This week we didn't have either Gail or Ted and I have to say that they were sorely missed. They bring a more sunny disposition to the panel that I think is really needed to balance Tom and Padma's disapproving tones. Next week Anthony Bourdain is back though, and well, I don't have to say any more about that. (LOVE HIM!)

The Challenges: I really wish they would get these annoying restrictive challenges out of the way earlier in the season. I want to see what these chefs can do with ingredients that they'd be using normally in a restaurant, not on a tiny budget that seems to have stifled creativity. There are 6 chefs left, let's really see what they can do.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Rewinding the Nine

I guess one interesting consequence of streaming TV shows online is that the networks can burn off remaining unaired episodes of cancelled series. NBC did it for Kidnapped, and ABC decided to do it for The Nine. (They actually tried to air them on actual TV but then poor ratings caused it be yanked yet again, this time to be released on iTunes and only.)

Unlike Kidnapped which had barely started going when it got cancelled, the Nine had 7 episodes air, and it had progressed quite a bit and I'd really really liked it. I thought the stories were all intriguing, I liked how the relationships between the hostages had been evolving, I liked the pace at which they were revealing what happened at the bank. The last 6 episodes of the original 13-episode order continued all that brilliantly, with things getting even more and more interesting, but of course tons of questions were left unanswered, questions that will never be answered. Which sucks!

A quick refresher: the show was based on the premise of a 52-hour hostage situation at a bank. There were nine hostages, a bank security guard, and the two robbers, brothers Randall and Lucas. This is Randall's "third strike" and he'll be going to prison no matter what happens, but Lucas is much more conflicted, and several of the hostages find him sympathetic. The security guard and one of the hostages, Eva, are killed during the crisis. The remaining hostages have formed a sort of strange bond, and in the weeks after their release their stories all intertwine as they deal with police investigations, media coverage, and rebuilding their lives.

Two of the hostages, Jeremy and Lizzie, were a couple before the hostage crisis, but have broken up despite the fact that Lizzie revealed that she was pregnant afterwards. Jeremy is now involved with Franny, whose sister Eva was the hostage killed. Kathryn, a prosecutor, finds herself running for District Attorney with the hostage crisis as a major selling point of her campaign. Nick, the police detective, is doing his own investigations into the crisis, which led to him getting closer to Kathryn as their used their respective connections (And they kissed in the last episode! Squee-worthy moment of the series, haha.) Egan, who entered the bank that day intending to kill himself, has completely turned his life upside down, getting a divorce, changing careers (he volunteers to work on Kathryn's campaign), and just changing his attitude in general. And Malcolm, the bank manager, whose daughter Felicia was also a hostage, proves to be the most surprising of all. All the way through he's been honest and religious family man, it was revealed in the last episode that he had helped plan the robbery as a way to cover up money that he himself had stolen from the bank.

So...sigh. Another good show with no closure. Matt Mitovich over at TVGuide has a thread up for questions that he may be able to get answers to. So I'll definitely be watching that space.

I do wonder though, how had they been planning on making this a multi-season series I would have liked a full season to reveal everything but any more than that and it just would have been another Lost-type situation. Not that it makes any difference now...