Friday, August 27, 2010

Mad Men: Why I kind of have to force myself to watch it

There's no question that Mad Men is one of the best dramas on TV. The whole package works so well bringing you into this totally different era. I'm too young to have any firsthand knowledge of the 50s and 60s so it's all kind of a novelty to me--the fashion, everyone smoking and drinking at work, the attitudes towards women and race. And the advertising world is a perfect setting to illuminate what American society was like back then. The acting and writing is top notch, with really well-developed and complex characters and surprisingly twisty plotlines.

But despite all this, I generally have to force myself to watch the show. It's still summer, and there isn't a whole lot to watch on TV, but five episodes of the new season aired before I finally got up the motivation to catch up. Why? Because well, I just don't think Mad Men is a fun show to watch. I mean, there actually is quite a bit of humor in the show (in large part due to Roger Sterling one-liners) but there's always this undercurrent of...creepiness. Everything always just feels so unsettled and like a disaster waiting to happen, and sometimes episodes have this really deliberate, labored pace with long, quiet, drawn out scenes of the characters just being...creepy! Don, Betty, Peggy, Pete, Sally, that awful Glen...they can all just be really creepy! Sorry I keep using that one word but I can't really think of a better one.

I mean, once I get going on the episodes, I don't regret it. I really liked what the writers did last season, really shaking things up with the bust-up of both the Drapers' marriage and the original Sterling Cooper agency, and this season it's been really interesting to see the results of those changes, especially in Don. I'm glad Joan is back at work (though her husband is yet another creepy one...) and one of my favorite things about the show, Don and Peggy's strange and complicated but close relationship, continues to be explored.

But the creepiness factor is just always there! So while I have no problem saying that Mad Men is one of the best shows on TV, I can't really say it's one of my favorites. Am I the only one who gets overly bothered by its creepy atmosphere?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Thursday Talk: New Fall TV!

J: The new fall TV season is just around the corner. Which new shows interest you? Check out this list.

Jennifer: I'm intrigued by Fox's Lone Star, a prime-time soap set in the world of Texas big oil, another world I know nothing about. It seems ambitious, almost more of a movie premise than a series one but I'll bite. I'm also interested in No Ordinary Family, which sounds like a mash up of The Incredibles and Heroes. I'm thinking it'll either be fantastic or dreadful. And I guess I'll watch Undercovers, even though I still have residual hate for J.J. Abrams because of Alias, and I mean, this is another spy show. It'll probably start out really great at least. Actually I usually try to watch all the new fall shows, excepting procedurals and really dumb sitcoms (I'll be skipping Outsourced, for example). We'll see if my DVR can handle it!

Mira: (Still on vacation!) ...and back! Shows I'm looking forward to: Hellcats (Because there is no denying my teenybopperness), Lone Star (Looks interesting, and I'm a sucker for soap opera-ish dramas. I still remember fondly the attempt by the WB back in the day with Savannah, a prime0time soap set in -duh!- Savannah.), No Ordinary Family (Super hero family! Love The Incredibles and Sky High!), Running Wilde (The pairing of Will Arnett and Keri Russell looks interesting), The Whole Truth (Yeah, I watch procedurals)... Let's see if I have *time* for all these tv shows this fall. I have a lot of school and work. :(

Thursday, August 19, 2010

T^2: Fictional Friends

M: If you could join or be part of any group of fictional friends, what group would you pick?

Jennifer: This is a pretty random answer but I kind of like the guys from Reaper: Sam, Ben, and Sock. Yeah, they're all slackers but they just seem fun and normal and laid back (even when hunting demons). I also like the gang from My Boys, but they probably wouldn't have me since I'm not that into baseball or beer. I'd play poker though. Interesting how I picked groups of mainly guys...maybe this is because I'm happy with my real-life girlfriends!

Hi from Florence. I actually posted this question weeks ago when it first came to me but it kept getting pushed back as a published Thursday Talk question. And then of course I took off without remembering to post an answer. Haha! Well my pick is Glee. I love their mishmash of different semi-social outcast characters who for all of their differences can band together when it counts. Some characters do have some annoying quirks but then again, even of all your closest friends, who doesn't have annoying quirks? So I pick them cuz through it all the cast and characters look like they're having a blast. And I wish I could sing.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Covert Affairs: Alias remixed

I was a pretty huge fan of Alias when it first started, but then it got really bad, really fast. It focused way too much on this dumb and convoluted mythology stuff (any mention of Rambaldi still makes me shudder) and lost all the fun of the first season. So far, Covert Affairs on USA seems to be trying to just be that fun Alias of the first season.

For one thing, it's a much simpler show. Annie Walker, our main character played pretty winningly by Piper Perabo, is a rookie CIA field agent with a gift for languages. She works out of the CIA headquarters in Langley, VA, so there's no question of who she's really working for. Her missions usually don't have elaborate covers and disguises and wigs and she's not really supposed to be getting involved in much action (though of course she does, because something always goes wrong). There is some overarching storyline with an ex-boyfriend of hers that the CIA seems to be tracking and using Annie to get to, but they haven't gotten much into that yet and it likely won't involve a big red ball (sorry if you've never watched Alias and don't know what I'm talking about).

Annie is supported by her handler, Auggie Anderson, a former field operative who was blinded in Iraq and now is running tech ops at Langley. He's played by Christopher Gorham, who's probably the most charming he's ever been. I think it's because for once he's not playing the earnest, bumbling geek...he's still a tech nerd but Auggie is actually kind of a ladies' man. The blindness part is kind of interesting, there's all sorts of crazy Braille devices and stuff to help him run the computers. I guess as this is a TV show a romance with him and Annie is inevitable but I'd rather they not go there...I think Annie and Auggie have more of a buddy chemistry.

Other characters include married couple Joan and Arthur Campbell (Kari Matchett and Peter "Eyebrows" Gallagher) as Annie's boss and some other CIA head, respectively, and Anne Dudek as Annie's sister, Danielle, who doesn't know about her job. Sendhil Ramamurthy (eek, Mohinder from Heroes) pops up as another agent, but I don't really know what his deal is except that Joan doesn't like him.

Overall, I would say this is definitely a "summer" show. It's pretty fun and light and a lot of the cast is likable. It doesn't take the risks that Alias did but because of that it probably won't crash and burn either. I'm going to keep watching it for now, but I can see myself eventually getting bored of it...

Friday, August 13, 2010

"The Beast" Goes Home

Hola readers, Kevin here to write a short post on the departure of Kenny this week on Top Chef. I'm sure most Top Chef viewers were surprised/disappointed/outraged by the decision. Of course I would have preferred Alex to "PPYKAG!" but I think the outcome was fair. Although Kenny did an admirable job fostering cooperation and communication on his team, he was ultimately responsible for 2 dishes that simply did not work.

On Top Chef, each chef is judged for his or her work on that episode alone...this is a somewhat controversial rule, but I think it makes the competition that much more fierce, because it reduces the chance of someone weak from continuing on. But wait!!! you say...then how the heck do ppl like Alex and Lisa from season 6 stick around so long?!?! I guess the system has holes as well especially with Team challenges where someone can coast through. Which incidentally, creates a whole lot of drama for better or worse.

Besides, if one actually looks at the sees that Kenny simply has not been delivering on his massive swagger. According to the handy dandy wikipedia chart, he has only 1 win and 1 high. He's had 3 "ins" and 3 "lows." This is not stellar by any means.

Anywayz... I'm not sure who I'm rooting for this season. Maybe Kevin? He is from Philly...

Thursday, August 12, 2010

SYTYCD: my favorite 5

Just one last post for the season... My favorite 5 dances of the season.

5. Lauren & Robert in the finale with the pillow (Dee Caspary)
4. Alex & Allison in "Hallelujah" (Sonya)
3. Billy & Ade in "Mad World" (Stacey Tookey)
2. Alex & Twitch hiphop number (NappyTabs)
1. Robert & Allison in "Fix You" (Travis)

Honorable mention: Adechike & Comfort in "Fallin'" (NappyTabs)

Yay for the Season 7 winner!

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Thursday Talk: Back to School

J: It's August, aka Back to School time! So what fictional school (high school, college, anything!) would you have wanted to attend? Who is your favorite fictional teacher?

Jennifer: I thought this was going to be an interesting question but my answers are totally predictable. For school, obviously Hogwarts (I think I'd be a Ravenclaw)! And for teacher, Giles from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, though he was barely a teacher since no one besides the Scooby Gang ever really went to the library. Honorable mention to Mr. Feeny of Boy Meets World. Totally ridiculous show and totally ridiculous that he was Cory and Shawn's teacher from middle school through college but I rather liked him.

Mira: For school, I'd want to go to Breaker High. I love being on the water and have always had this secret fascination with the idea of living out on sea, so a high school set on a cruise ship? AWESOME! For teacher I pick Michael Vartan in Never Been Kissed. Simply cuz he's so hot and he was just so nice! Okay, so it's probably not right that he grows this attraction to someone pretending to be a high school student but you know what? It wasn't illegal because she wasn't a student and well... he's so hot! :)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

SYTYCD: finale!

I did watch last week but I didn't post because well I was kind of bored by the dances in the first half of the show. And nothing really grabbed me in the remainder of the show. Still sad that Billy Bell was lost the week before but I guess that from the final 4 the right final 3 made it. Short of Alex, Billy Bell was my third favorite (after Lauren and Kent).

Kent: There was a looot of Bollywood this season! But Kent was fantastic in this. So much energy and fun! Love him...
His solo song was definitely appropriate for the finale. He's so cute!!
Yay for Kent and Lauren. I really want Kent's supposed crush on Lauren to be true! Really cute dance but I feel like since they're so young... more mature would've been better. I felt like they should be breaking out into jitterbug!
I really love Stacey Tookey and her dance concepts. This week's concept was deep but I didn't see it in this piece. It was a good piece but not one I'd really remember!

Lauren: She's my favorite of these final 3... Lo Fro... Not sure I completely cared for the concept of the NappyTabs routine but the choreography was great and I love Lauren in hip hop!
The Lauren and Robert piece was AMAZING...
It's super cute that her favorite dance was with Kent tooooo!

Robert: Wow. Mark and Robert? Nuts! I do love the mix up of more same gender dances this season. The two didn't just look like brothers, they looked like twins! I couldn't tell who was who... BTW, where was Sonya in the second half of this season?? It was all right but I feel Robert got set up for success. Haha.
His interview was a nice reminder of the amazing dance that he did with Allison!
Really enjoyed his piece with Katherine and Broadway so rarely appeals to me but that was really, really good. Impressed that he danced "cool" even with having split his pants.
The gangster dance was interesting... Reminded me of the paso doble. This one was okay for me...

- I heart Cat Deeley!!
- It makes me a little sad that this season was so clearly dominated by only contemporary dancers... What makes this show so great is the diversity of dancers brought together but the dancing was fantastic. Looking forward to the tour!!!
- Lauren FTW! ;)

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Saturday, August 07, 2010

Clear Eyes. Full Hearts. Can't Lose.

This is Burkie, guest blogging about Friday Night Lights. Jenn & Mira have written quite a bit about this show already (as you'll discover if you click on the tag below), and it was because of one of these posts that Jenn convinced me to give the show a try. I watched some of Season 4 (On-Demand) and liked it. Then Jenn--through Mira--loaned me Seasons 1-3 on DVD. Now that I've finished watching, I'd like to post some comments from my perspective.

And what is my perspective, you may ask? Well, I'll tell ya. I'm a Texan, and I went to high school in a Texas town of about 15,000 with a single high school. We had a huge (compared to HS football fields around here), rock-front stadium built by the WPA. I was on the field for every single varsity football practice and game of my sophomore, junior, and senior years. Actually, I was on the sideline, not the field. I was the student trainer. The (adult) athletic trainer & I taped ankles and knees, provided first aid & physical therapy to players during practices and games, etc. I was there during all the pre-game, post-game, and half-time speeches. I spent more time with the coaching staff than I did the players. So...I know a little about what FNL is supposed to be about.

In case you were wondering, I can confirm the following:

1. Yes, high school football really is that big and that important. Our football team was not that great; we never made the playoffs. Our baseball team my junior year made it to the state finals (and lost), but the baseball games were never the event that football games were, nor garnered the attention that our football games and teams and players got. Fair? No. Reality? Yes. In fact, I was only required to be the student trainer for the football team, not for any of the other teams.

2. Yes, boosters like Buddy Garrity and Joe McCoy really do exist, and they really do have more influence than they should, to include securing starting jobs for kids that don't deserve it. The football team had a customized, Greyhound-type bus that we traveled on; no other team in the school got to use it.

3. Yes, despite the separation between church and state that should exist, team prayers are not only led in the locker room and on the football field, but there is always an invocation read over the PA at the beginning of the game. It happens at graduation ceremonies, National Honor Society induction ceremonies, team banquets, etc.

4. Yes, women wear cowboy boots with skirts and guys wear cowboy hats at weddings. And everywhere else, for that matter.

I'm just as confused as anybody else about the following:

1. Where the hell in Texas the made-up town of Dillon is supposed to be and how big it's supposed to be. At times, they make it seem like a really small town. Everybody goes to the same church. Everybody in town, it seems, went to Billy & Mindy's wedding (even though they are minor characters who happen to be siblings of more central characters). Yet, it is (beginning in season 3), large enough to have to have 2 high schools and it apparently has a Marriott. They seem to run to Austin quite a bit as if it's not too far away, but in one episode when Buddy wanted to meed Coach Taylor halfway between Austin & Dillon, they picked a spot about 2 hours away from each, making Dillon 4 hours from Austin. It's also close enough for Coach Taylor & Smash to make a day trip to College Station (Texas A&M) 2 hours east of Austin, though he admitted they drove a long way. Yet, in another episode, they were apparently close enough to the oil wells in West Texas for Tyra to run off on a field trip with a guy who was investing in them or something. Yet, they're also close enough to Dallas for Coach & Mrs. Coach (as Matt calls her) to run up there to rescue Tyra one night. I'm stumped.

2. How is a kid like Tim Riggins able to buy so much beer, even in his sophomore year? He drank more beer in high school than I did, and that's saying a lot! Not that I was a teenage drunk or anything, but the drinking age was 18 when i was in high school; it's 21 for Riggins. Also, where does he get the money for the beer? Or the truck he drives? Or the house he lives in? He has no job, and his brother Billy, with whom he lives, is constantly losing one low-paying job after another.

3. How do Tim Riggins & Tyra manage to skip school seemingly every other day and never get expelled? Also, Riggins made several multi-day trips out of town, missing days of football practice even during the playoffs, and only once did Coach Taylor enforce some kind of punishment.

4. Where is the student trainer?!?! Those ankles don't tape themselves!

5. Rally girls. We didn't have them. That I know of.

There are other questions, but those keep coming to mind. They don't matter, though. This show is consistently entertaining despite those things. The characters are genuine. Does that mean I like all of them? No, just like I don't particularly like every genuine person I know. They make the show compelling though. Mostly. Most of them. My take on some of the characters:

Coach (Eric) & Mrs. Coach (Tami) Taylor. As wonderful as some of the other characters are, this pair makes the show what it is. Quite possibly the best married couple in the history of television, which is a saying an awful lot as there is probably at least one married couple in over 90% of every television series ever produced. I stand by it, though. It's hard for me to say whether it's because the characters are so well developed or because Kyle Chandler & Connie Britton do such a great job portraying them. I guess it's both. If I'm a football player, I want to play for him; if I'm a student, I want her as my guidance counselor or principal. If I'm a parent, I want him to be my kid's coach, and I want my kid to go to her school. If I'm married, I want a relationship like they have.

Julie Taylor & Matt Saracen. The coach's daughter & his quarterback are sweethearts during Seasons 1 and 3; not so much in Season 2. They are much more likable and interesting when they are a couple, especially Julie. Matt is someone you root for no matter what: hardworking, humble, respectful, never quite sure of himself, underdog--all the attributes you could want in a good kid. Julie is also a good kid, except when she's being a brat. And she was a brat throughout Season 2 and, at times, in Season 3. Every teenage girl is entitled to be a brat at times, but her character was bratty more often than required, I thought.

Smash & his mom. Smash is the great high school running back who knows how great he is, embraces it, and is his own biggest fan, yet still comes out as incredibly likable. You just shake your head at his excesses and accept him. As much as I like Smash, though, I like his mama even more. I wish they could've found a reason for her to remain on the show after he left for college. The phrase "keeping it real" has become trite, but she embodies that sentiment.

Tim Riggins. After seeing Riggins in a few episodes in Season 4 and the first several episodes of Season 1, I told Mira that he was unlikable in every episode I'd seen him in and, in my opinion, not even that good-looking. She disagreed with me a bit about the latter part, and said that he has his moments. I can finally agree with her on that. Despite the problems I mentioned with him above, most of the time he's either playing football, drunk/getting drunk, or just being broody & sullen. Riggins is the guy who never catches a break. His best moments are not when he's with a girl or trying to accomplish something, but when he's interacting with other people. As Jenn mentioned in one of her posts, he was funny when he's forced to be involved with girl's volleyball or the powderpuff football game. Some of my favorite scenes in the series have been when Riggins and some of the other guys are on the football field in the middle of the night, drinking & talking & playing.

Landry Clark and Tyra Collette. Landry is my favorite character after Coach, Mrs. Coach, and Smash's mama. I liked him most when he was just Matt's best friend and not on the team or even interested in football. His being on the team has added nothing to either his character or the show, in my opinion. I like how the coach always thinks his name is Lance, though. He is the character I most identify with; they should've made him the student trainer! He's the funniest character on the show. He's self-deprecating and can say funny things that are critical but not disparaging to other people. I like how his thoughts are always so convoluted that he's always talking or explaining things even after the person he's talking to has walked away. He wears funny shirts; he's kinda funny looking. He's smart and dorky. He has a rock band. Yeah, I can relate :) Guys like him never get the girl, though. I love him & Tyra together, I really do, but that just doesn't happen. Tyra is a good character, in that I've known a Tyra or two. She's genuine. However, I really only like her when she's interacting with Landry either as a friend or a girlfriend.

Jason Street & Lyla Garrity. I've never warmed to either of these characters. I can sympathize with what happened to Street. I remember playing Weatherford the first game of my junior year and the coaches called a play for our best player--running back Cleo White, one of the fastest sprinters in the state at that time. They were waiting for the perfect time to call the play; I remember it distinctly. We were probably on our own 40 and the coaches started calling "Run it!" down the sideline. The play went in, they got the ball to Cleo on the outside with open space in front of him and he took off. No way was anybody going to stop him. Somehow, impossibly, Weatherford had a player--Number 11--run Cleo down from behind and tackle him. And break his leg. I helped carry him off the field, and he was out for the season. Not as tragic as what happened to Jason Street, I know, but I know what it's like to suffer a serious injury to your star player in the first game of the year. That was a good way to start this series off, but I think they kept his character around a couple of seasons too long. And Lyla Garrity...I felt bad for the circumstances she found herself in over the years, but never really cared enough for her to root for her.

I've now watched all of Seasons 1-3 and part of season 4. I will definitely watch all of Season 5, which NBC has already announced is going to be the last. The developments of Season 4--namely that Coach Taylor was forced to leave Dillon High School and become the head football coach at East Dillon High School, presented some fresh directions for the series to explore, but I think it will become way too contrived if they continue to find ways for characters to linger around when they should be gone. Thanks for recommendation and the loan, Jenn! And thanks again to you & Mira for letting me play in your sandbox here :)

Thursday, August 05, 2010

T^2: Commercials!

M: Maybe it's because I just finished up a Marketing class, but... What's your favorite TV commercial? Who/what is your favorite TV spokesperson/mascot for a product?

I very rarely watch any commercials because most of my tv watching is off of my DVR. But my favorite commercial ever: The Angry Chicken. The concept was hilarious, the French narrating with a slightly different English dubbing over it somehow adds to it, and well... Angry chicken! Now for the reason I came up with this question... I really love the Progressive lady, the super enthusiastic one. I really tend to block out most commercials, especially Geico ones (the money watching you and caveman stuff and talking gecko are annoying, weird, and old in that order), but I really like commercials with her in it. It's inexplicable really but I just... really like her!

Jennifer: Yeah, I don't watch too many commercials either and even when I'm not fast-forwarding through them I'm not really paying attention. The ones I "like" are mostly due to a good song or a cute dog or something and I can't even tell you what they were actually advertising. I can tell you which commercials I hate though.... 1) Pretty much all Apple commercials, especially the "There's an app for that" iPhone commercials and the Mac vs. PC commercials. I have a Macbook Pro and two iPods and love them but I HATE their smug advertising. 2) The Old Navy modelquin commercials. Just...creepy.