Friday, March 28, 2008

American Idol revisited

So I know I said that I was giving up on American Idol but that was obviously a lie because I've watched the past couple of weeks since the themes weren't completely terrible. I can't say I'm really impressed by any of the contestants this year though. Some of my thoughts:

- I'm not on the David Cook love train. I think he sings and performs well and he is doing something different from your average American Idol contestant but it seems that all he's doing is turning every song he chooses into a rock ballad (with an existing arrangement) and really, I've heard it all before. His sound is very reminiscent of a lot of those "alternative rock" bands from the 90s like Our Lady Peace and Live and Fuel and Soundgarden and Bush...bands that I listened to back when I was in high school. So I find the notion that he's "unique" or "current" or "original" to be pretty preposterous and all the praise is actually majorly turning me off. Maybe he is among Idol contestants but in the grander scheme of things? Not so much. I did listen to a couple of songs off his solo album from a couple of years ago (at this site) and if it was like 10 years ago I might have been into it, but I got over that stage a long time ago.

- I've been finding myself really curious if these people can write songs as well as sing. I might be completely wrong here but Brooke especially strikes me as a singer-songwriter type, and I think that if she were allowed to always have the piano or the guitar and just do her own thing I might actually like her. She's been doing alright but I don't think having to do all these different genres and prove her versatility is really working for her. I really wish that American Idol would make them sing at least one original song like on Rock Star so we could get more of a preview of what kind of music they'd actually release. Who knows if I'd like any of it (since apparently I'm a music snob) but it'd be a lot more interesting than having to listen to 2 weeks of Beatles in a row or Dolly Parton (yeah I'm going to be skipping next week)...

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Kyle XY and Terminator finales

I have a bad habit of neglecting to post on the finales or important episodes of shows, so these are a couple of weeks late but I did want to comment on them.

Kyle XY: This season has been pretty light on the sci-fi side, but I have to say that I've really enjoyed it regardless. The cast just gels so well, and there really hasn't been a dud episode all season. I really liked how they handled Jessi's evolution through the season and I'm glad that she finally realized that Brian sucked. I was glad to see Sarah finally surface (although was I the only one who thought Ally Sheedy looked almost unrecognizable?) and I hope that she and Jessi aren't actually leaving Seattle. Jessi was definitely irritating at times but I think she's kind of necessary to keep the Latnok storyline going.

I'm not sure what was going on there at the end of the finale though...Amanda being kidnapped is kind of blah, but is Mark the TA part of Latnok?? I haven't really been too taken with Mark...generally I like that sort of adorkable-ness but for some reason I was still holding onto my Lori-Declan ship all season. I had a feeling that Lori was going to reject Declan in the end, but it still made me sad. I do like them as friends too, though, and hopefully this means Declan can stop pining and get more involved with Kyle's stuff. One of my favorite things from the first season of the show was how Declan became the first person Kyle really trusted.

I LOVED how Kyle was researching the prom and rattling off silly statistics about how the prom is portrayed in movies and young adult novels. I loved that last part because hardly anyone ever talks about just how many YA novels are out there and how many of them make important things happen at the prom. I'm not a huge fan of Kyle and Amanda (I mean, I think they're sweet and all but generally they're boring) but their dance at end was so incredibly cute. They floated! It was just perfect, especially after they didn't even spend most of the prom together.

Oh, and Foss showed up! For only a minute or two but man do I love Nick Lea. Haha, I know, I'm pathetic. Eagerly awaiting next season!

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles: I can't say that I was as into this show as much as a lot of others I watch, but I truly did enjoy this short first season. Oddly enough, I think it really started to get good when Brian Austin Green joined the cast. I know, David Silver doesn't exactly come to mind when you think of someone who can inject life into a show, but his character, Derek Reese, John's uncle, brought some urgency and intensity to the show that I think was really needed. Sarah's pretty kickass but her demeanor is really sometimes too...calm? I even started getting a little more interested in the FBI part. Agent Ellison's religious side was beginning to get a bit creepy and ominous...but that's probably just because he kept quoting Revelations, which is like inherently ominous.

The finale was maybe a little anti-climactic for me somehow, but the scene with the camera underwater while all the bloody SWAT guys were falling into the pool was really well shot, and the music was eerily perfect. Also loved the scene where Derek took John to the park to see his younger self and Kyle playing baseball. It was so unexpected, for me at least, and really bittersweet. I'm not sure yet if the show is going to come back for another season, but if it does, I'll be watching to see what happens next.

Food reality roundup

Top Chef: At first I thought that the zoo animal themed challenge was really random and bizarre but as it got going I kind of liked it. It gave the chefs guidelines rather than restrictions and they came up with some pretty interesting combinations, much better than the very basic canap├ęs that were put out during last season's yacht catering challenge. I thought that the Gorilla team was going to be called out for not adhering to the vegetarian diet of their animal, but I guess they had enough problems otherwise. It's still too early for me to really have any favorites (there are only handful of people whose names I even remember at this point) but I was glad to see Mark pick himself back up after being in the bottom last week and I was kind of relieved Stephanie didn't get sent home after such a great start. Nikki and Dale are starting to annoy me though...

Last Restaurant Standing: I started watching this show on BBC America on a recommendation from Televisionary, and I've really been enjoying it. I missed the first couple of episodes but I'm hoping they rerun in a marathon or something at some point. The premise is a sort of competitive version of Kitchen Nightmares minus Gordon Ramsay. Raymond Blanc, who's apparently some famous British chef I've never heard of before, gives each of 9 teams of two with little or no restaurant experience (they're married or engaged or siblings or mother-son) a small restaurant in the English countryside, and the winner of the show gets to "go into business" with Raymond and keep their restaurant.

Each week has the teams running their restaurants according to a challenge from Raymond such as marketing to families or serving certain ingredients, and they're judged on their performance in that challenge in addition to their profits. Then the three worst teams must compete in a challenge to determine which restaurant gets closed that week. The judging takes place in a very Donald-Trump-Apprentice-esque board room which kind of cracks me up, but overall the show is pretty entertaining. Though food is obviously important, the focus is less on specific chef skills and more about the whole business of running a small restaurant, which is really just as hard as I think it would be. It originally aired last year in the UK so you can already look up who wins, but definitely check it out if you get BBC America.

Friday, March 21, 2008

A couple of new sitcoms

Unhitched: I think that the creators and writers of this show know that it really makes no sense that the characters in this show are friends and that all have gotten divorced or ended long relationships at the same time, but they don't seem to let it bother them. And I guess that's ok, because this show seems to basically be a vehicle to come up with as many crazy/awkward/embarrassing/stupid bad dates as possible. And honestly, some of it is really funny. There's the musician who turns out to be just an air guitarists, the short guy who works for the Celtics who turns out to be the leprechaun mascot, the woman who has a chimp she calls her "roommate"...I have to admit I laughed at a lot of these silly situations.

Rashida Jones, who played Karen on the Office and who I actually really like, is the one girl in the group, Kate, and then there's Gator, who's kind of the overall nice guy; Tommy, who's like the ladies' man who's been divorced three times; and Freddy, the geeky awkward Indian surgeon. I kind of wonder if Kate and Gator are going to get together...I'm not saying it makes sense but it seems like the sort of thing that would happen on this sort of show. Not must see by any means, but I found it amusing enough, I guess. Not sure what its chances of survival are though. Seems like a lot of the midseason shows aren't being promoted very well...

Miss/Guided: I've always really liked Judy Greer...she was hilarious as Kitty on Arrested Development and I loved her on Love Monkey (I wonder when I'm going to stop being bitter about that show being canceled) and of course she was in 13 Going on 30! She's got this sort of offbeat sensibility that's really likable so I was pretty happy to hear that she got her own show.

Here she plays Becky Freely, who returns to the high school where she was once an awkward and insecure teenager to be a guidance counselor. She has a big crush on Tim, the auto shop turned Spanish teacher, who's basically a good guy despite being a bit dim (he's played by Kristoffer Polaha, who I remember from that terrible show North Shore...was I the only one who watched that?), and has to deal with Lisa, the new English teacher, who was the prettiest and most popular girl in her class back in high school (played by Brooke Burns who coincidentally was also on North Shore...) and Vice Principal Terry, who's played by Chris Parnell and is a hoot. The show features little "confessionals" where the character speak directly to the camera, kind of like in reality shows, which I'm not yet sure if I like, but I really enjoyed the couple of episodes that have aired. Again it's not a must see or anything, but I liked the characters a lot so I might stick with it for a little bit longer.

Apparently Ashton Kutcher is a producer, and he appears in the second episode as a substitute teacher who goes after Becky and poses a threat to Tim's job. There's a scene where his character holds up a stereo playing Peter Cetera's The Glory of Love to Becky's window like in Say Anything that just totally cracked me up. I'm not a huge Ashton fan, and I do like him best in small doses like this one.

The Gauntlet III finale

Wow, was this season of the RW/RR challenge a fiasco or what? I thought the way they set up the teams and challenges and gauntlets was truly stupid because there wasn't a lot of incentive to win the weekly challenges because you'd just end up with more people in the end that need to cross the finish line (because the final challenge is ALWAYS a race) so that led to all sorts of throwing of challenges and making deals with the other team and backstabbing and it was just ridiculous.

I mean, both teams totally sucked. The Veterans were so focused on their stupid sexist "cutting the fat" and getting rid of girls that they didn't bother worrying about Eric until the very end. And the Rookies, who should have been taking advantage of the fact that the Vets had so many more people than they did, were still losing challenges that they shouldn't have, and they didn't even finish first in the final challenge...they won by default because Eric collapsed along the way. Not that I really wanted the Vets to win, but I thought that rule was kind of ridiculous. Your teammate doesn't just quit, he ends up in the hospital but even though the rest of the team finishes before the other team, you can't win? I don't know, you have to give the Vets some credit, most of them are pretty despicable but they totally rocked all the challenges.

I haven't watched every season of the show, but I hope the next season they go back to having individual performance mean something. I HATE these big team challenges where the numbers can get so uneven. My favorite season of the challenge was the original Battle of the Sexes where the top 3 individual performers from each team got to choose who to send home, and even though Fresh Meat produced a whole lot of terrible people who it seems will not be going away now, I liked the pairs format. Although I do have to say that this show does come up with some pretty creative challenges. I loved the buried alive one and the one where they were all rolled up in Mexican blankets was hilarious...

My final rundown:
People who are on my shit list: Evan, Kenny, Ev, Danny, Casey, CT (although he did kind of surprise me a little by telling Evan to stop yelling at Eric and encourage him instead), Diem (by association because why the heck is she dating CT??)
People who annoy me: Tori, Johanna, Melinda, Janelle, Tyler
People who I actually still like: Adam, Brad, Paula, Nehemiah
People who I like even though they're annoying: Frank, Jillian, Coral, Katie
People who are just whatever: everyone else

The reunion is next week. I'm such a sucker for this stuff, I'm sure it's going to be wild.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

the return of amy sherman-palladino

I'm a huge fan of Gilmore Girls, so obviously I was excited when I heard A S-P was creating a new show. I love the witty banter in her writing, the likability of her characters, the silly but relate-able situations she creates in general... So why wouldn't The Return of Jezebel James be any different?

Well, on paper, The Return of Jezebel James seemed like it could have potential. Familiar actors, interesting and different premise for a show, 30 minutes of what could only be light-hearted and happy comedy, right? Well... Not so much. At least not for me. I feel like Parker Posey is just a very weird actress -- I have nothing against her, and hey she's from Laurel, MD, just down the road from me! But she just enunciates her speaking in such weird ways that when you have fast and (trying to be) witty dialog, her speaking makes the flow of conversation end up a bit disjointed. I HATED how she kept calling her sister "Ko-Ko,"equally enunciating EACH syllable. Her character was a little too successful and way too ditzy to back up that success. (Btw, I was also a little resentful because she has my dream job -- I've always loved the idea of becoming a children's book editor!) Most of the time I just wanted her to shut up. A bit harsh, maybe. ::shrug:: On the other hand, I really liked Lauren Ambrose (of course I had a bias of having liked her in the one other role I've ever seen her in, in Can't Hardly Wait), and her portrayal of her character was a lot more believable. As Jenn pointed out, they were such different styles of acting that it really did feel that Parker and Lauren belonged in two separate tv shows. I also hate the laugh track with such quick dialog. It makes for weird breaks in the conversations.

In any case, the show just felt like it was trying really hard to be something it is not -- witty, clever, and quick-paced. Maybe it's the growing pains of being a brand new show, but so far I'm not impressed.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

In the meantime...

I apologize for the dearth of posts lately, here's some of what's been going on as we wait for post-strike episodes to return to TV:

1. Christian wins Project Runway! This season's been a bit predictable, but I'm pretty happy with the outcome. I thought Jillian's collection had a lot of great pieces but was maybe not the most cohesive, Rami's collection was beautiful but maybe a little boring and I definitely understood what the judges were saying about the odd color choices, and as for our winner, Christian, his clothes might not be the most wearable, and everything was kind of dark and voluminous but his talent was just so evident. And it was definitely Victoria Beckham's style (I guess she has a reputation for being kind of vapid and whatnot but I kind of liked her.) For more on the season, go read this great interview with Tim Gunn that Maureen Ryan did. Among other things, Tim Gunn sheds some more light on what the deal was with Victorya.

2. Top Chef premieres! I love Project Runway to pieces but as food and cooking is an interest in my actual life (as opposed to fashion) Top Chef is probably my favorite reality show of all time. I thought the premiere was excellent, and this year's crop of cheftestants seems like they'll definitely be interesting. A lot more foul-mouthed than in the past though, wow. I did like the challenges...I haven't had deep dish pizza in years (and as a New Yorker I can't say I've ever been a huge fan of it) but some of their combos looked and sounded pretty tasty. I did laugh at the people who used waaaay too much dough though. I also have to give Padma and Rocco props for tasting all those pizzas...that's a crapload of food. The Elimination challenge was especially interesting to me because as a home cook I've actually made a lot of those dishes and think I do a pretty decent job with them. In particular, I consider shrimp scampi to be a pretty simple dish that's hard to screw up, so I was really surprised to see that as the loser. I was really confused about what she was even trying to do there...two shrimp with a side of cauliflower flan/scramble? Eh?? And did no one on that show (including Tom Colicchio) know what chicken piccata is? Stephanie's duck dish did look fabulous though, and she seems like such a sweet person compared to all the other mouths and egos on the show. I'm so excited for this season! Oh, butwhat is the deal with chefs and the dang fauxhawk?

3. Britney Spears takes a guest-star role on How I Met Your Mother. Usually I get a little suspicious of stunt casting at all but somehow I think this is pretty awesome. HIMYM is one of those great shows that never takes itself too seriously and God knows it needs this kind of buzz to keep going. And from reports I've read, the role Britney is playing was never meant to be filled by a big name, which I think is perfect. That episode won't be airing for a couple of weeks but HIMYM will be one of the first shows to return after the strike with a new episode this Monday. Yay!

4. Rob Thomas of Veronica Mars doing a 90210 spinoff? And remaking his old show Cupid? Does this guy not have any new original ideas or do the networks just not want them? Because I think both are kind of terrible ideas. I mean, the 90210 thing makes no sense...there aren't any details but what could this possibly mean? Is this going to be like a Degrassi the Next Generation thing? Are there actually some cast members wanting to return (highly doubtful)? What the heck? And Cupid? I actually really loved that show back in the day but how disappointing would it be if it failed twice? I definitely do not understand.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

New Amsterdam

Initially when I heard about this show last year I wasn't too excited. I mean, in terms of shows about immortal beings, Buffy kinda set the bar. And in truth Angel was pretty alright, too. So really, another show revolving that? Yeah, I wasn't too excited. In any case, apparently the initial reviews of it weren't all that great either because the show had gotten revamped. Re-reading reviews about New Amsterdam and all the previews during American Idol (yeah, I still watch it!), I decided to give it a chance. In fact, I was rather excited to watch it!

Yeah... not so much. I just can't get into the characters all that much. I'm glad they lightened up the character of the main actor dude, but just... their witty banter isn't natural and it doesn't flow. It just sounds like they're trying to be witty and well, not really succeeding. I have to admit I was quite surprised by the CSI-ness of the show. I wasn't expecting that. The twist of him being immortal until he meets the love of his life is interesting, but so far it hasn't sucked me in. Being a major "shipper," and I seriously am, without a compelling "ship" to root for, this show just isn't doing it for me.

Our DVR has caught the 2nd and 3rd episodes of this show, so I'll give it a few more tries but I doubt I'll keep it on my lineup for much longer. Besides, the writer's strike is over -- new episodes just around the corner!!!