Thursday, January 27, 2011

Thursday Top Threes: Dogs!

J: Name your top three favorite fictional dogs!

1. Wishbone from Wishbone. I loved this cute little PBS kids show with Jack Russell terrier Wishbone daydreaming about being characters from famous works of literature. He was even Mr. Darcy from Pride & Prejudice and Mr. Tilney from Northanger Abbey! Super cute costumes!
2. Gromit from Wallace and Gromit (various short films and the feature-length Curse of the Were-Rabbit). He doesn't talk but has hilarious facial expressions and he knits!
3. Digby from the TV show Pushing Daisies. I thought it was quite sad that Digby was pretty much Ned's best friend but Ned couldn't touch him. He had to pet him with a fake hand on a stick =(

1. Snoopy from Peanuts: He types novels on a typewriter on top of his doghouse... He has the best happy dance of any fictional dog.
2. Scooby-doo from Scooby-doo: This was my favorite show to watch in 2nd grade. I seriously watched it every day, though I pretended to watch more mature, educational tv like... Uh... I don't even remember. In any case, I loved Scooby and the mysteries they solved. :)
3. Pochacco (Sanrio): I am an Asian girl who grew up in New York City where lotsa Asian things were available. I was too "cool" to like Hello Kitty, but I had my favorite Sanrio character -- Pochacco. Plus, it helped that Pochacco liked sports like basketball, just like me!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

trying out some new TV

Tried out a few new shows in the past two weeks...

Off the Map: I was pretty excited about this show. Created/produced by Shonda Rhimes (of Grey's Anatomy fame), the main girl from Wonderfalls, Matt Saracen from Friday Night Lights, and the hot anesthesiologist from Grey's Anatomy... Sounded like a recipe for success. Plus I love doctor shows for whatever reason. In any case, having watched two episodes so far, I'm already very excited. It's basically Grey's Anatomy (which I love) in the jungle. I love that Zach Gilford is playing a very different character: party boy, spoiled, lazy. I love that Caroline Dhavernas is back on TV. I already have a ship to root for. And I love the unconventional medical problems they face and the unconventional ways they have to address them.

Perfect Couples: I thought the concept of this show was interesting but pretty much every single character on this show is neurotic. One or two neurotic characters, fine. Six out of six characters all neurotic? Sigh, too much. There was a LOT of yelling in thirty minutes. Sigh. I couldn't figure out which couple I hated more: the pretentious couple trying to be truly perfec or the angry couple who is constantly fighting and making up passionately... The normal couple was almost okay but their normalness is almost too forced. I'm not sure how much longer I'll watch, but I'll give it at least one more episode.

Being Human: (Even though Jenn blogged about this already...) Since I never saw the British version, I came into this with no expectations. All I knew was that it involved a werewolf, a vampire and a ghost. :) In any case, I really enjoyed the first episode. I love the slight dorkiness and loneliness of the werewolf, Josh; the broodiness of the vampire, Aiden; and the quirkiness of the ghost, Sally. I like that you can see the set-up for some story lines: the mystery of how Sally died; Aiden dealing with his twisted brother and past; Josh trying desperately to be normal and deal with the return of his sister into his life. My only complaint about the show? The commercial breaks are at odd moments and the end was dramatic but it didn't have that dramatic pause for an end and instead was rather abrupt. :)

Fairly Legal: Alternative Dispute Resolution! I love this show already. An almost law show all about a kick ass woman, Kate, who talks fast, reacts fast, and juggles a crazy life and crazy relationships. She lives on a boat. And she fears conflict (but knows how to effectively mediate it). Oddly her contacts are all Wizard of Oz characters on her phone. And beyond Kate, there are many other great side characters: the "evil" stepmother (Wicked Witch of the West on the phone), the dorky assistant who plays World of Warcraft, the ex-husband district attorney (Tin Man)... Someone's The Wizard, I haven't figured out who.

Harry's Law: I'm excited to see Kathy Bates playing the lead in a show. It was quite the pilot; she was almost killed twice in the first 5 minutes! The show has lots of odd, but interesting side characters -- from Britanny Snow as her assistant; to the fast talking, kinda neurotic guy who wants to work for her; to the neighborhood gangster who offers protection for cash (or in Harry's case, free legal services)... In any case, it was a fun and interesting pilot. I was expecting Kathy Bates to be a possible female, lawyer version of Dr. House, but nope, I was wrong. Someone who is very obviously (and reluctantly) a softy. Ooh, and it included avery, very true line about the law profession: "We're not really in the justice business... Lawyers... we're in the win business." Will continue to watch it, though it'll probably be a show that I won't mind missing but will enjoy watching...

Friday, January 21, 2011

M+J: Greek, Final Season

So... Trying something different, Jenn and I decided to blogchat about one of our favorite TV shows right now: Greek!

Mira: So I'm super excited for this final season of Greek!
Jennifer: Me too, I'm glad they designated this as the last season so they can wrap everything up, hopefully.
Mira: Yes! And I'm liking how they are rolling the main characters back into the mix.
Jennifer: Yeah it's kind of unrealistic that they're ALL coming back but oh well.
Mira: I'm kinda wondering where exactly they're going to go with Ashleigh's return to CRU... Plus, I'm not looking forward to potential Ashleigh-Rusty coupling...
Jennifer: Yeah I was excited that Ashleigh was the one who was getting out there in the real world.
Mira: But how she just picked up and ran away is at least somewhat understandable for her character... NYC can be scary!
Jennifer: Especially since she was an unpaid intern...
Mira: And she's obviously a pampered pretty girl who doesn't understand the concept of roughing it...
Jennifer: Right. I thought it was crazy that she thought Casey being in DC was going to help. That's far!
Mira: Haha, yeah, but closer than OHIO! (That's where CRU is, right?)
Jennifer: I think so...the part of Ohio where it never gets cold, haha.
Mira: LOL, that's totally true!
Jennifer: I think Cappie commented on that once.
Mira: Ooh, Cappie! I'm glad they have a chance to give us good closure on Cappie-Casey!
Jennifer: I like seeing Cappie actually try too. I'm curious to see if he'll actually pick a major. It has to be something appropriate though. Not sure what!
Mira: Yes, I'm wondering if this philosophy thing will be it actually. :) Though I like this revelation about Calvin.
Jennifer: Yeah I guess we never really did know what Calvin was studying
Mira: Nor has much been developed about Calvin beyond OX and being gay.
Jennifer: Right..I'm a little disappointed that he gave up the presidency though
Mira: Especially since Chip is frickin' annoying!
Jennifer: Seriously!
Mira: I'm wondering when Dale's betrayal is going to come out...after HE was the reason Calvin got ousted as president!
Jennifer: Was it really Dale who called the cops on the KTs?
Mira: Yeah, I think so. His trade off for a bid... No pledges for KT, and Dale gets OX...
Jennifer: I guess that makes sense but it seems a little too mean for Dale.
Mira: Dale can be extremely self-serving and selfish, though. That's been evident throughout.
Jennifer: That's true, he was really competitive with that science project thing
Mira: The stupid robot wars! HAHAHA. BTW, I like Spidey, the pledge. Mini-Rusty! :)
Jennifer: Haha I don't even know his real name!
Mira: Okay, okay, I guess we can go off tangentially (Peter Parks? Park? Not quite Parker)... but let's focus a bit -- what do you hope to see at the end of this series?
Jennifer: Definitely Casey and Cappie closure of some kind. I want them to end up together but not in an unrealistic way. I think I'm already ok with where everyone else is. I like Rebecca as ZBZ president.
Mira: I definitely want Casey and Cappie together. I'd also like Cappie and Evan to get back to being friends. I liked them a lot as friends.
Jennifer: That's a good one. I'm not sure what they're doing with Evan this season either. I guess he's still trying to prove himself outside of his name
Mira: Yeah, that's true. I like Evan with Rebecca but it's always weird how he is with Casey. Sigh. But I'm Casey-Cappie all the way. I also want really want Katherine to have more of a presence in the show and in their lives. She's such a fun character.
Jennifer: Definitely, I was really happy to see her back. We've really only had ZBZ girls on the show.
Mira: Hahaha, I was thrilled, too! :)
Jennifer: So it's nice to have someone different
Mira: And not annoying! like Katherine's sorority sister (the president)?
Jennifer: I'm not really a fan of Rusty's girlfriend Dana...I like the idea of Dana (smart and nerdy and not a sorority girl) but not so much her specifically.
Mira: I'm okay with her. Actually it's weird this season, cuz we're getting a lot on the fraternities, OX and KT, but because Casey's not really a part of the sorority anymore, I'm wondering how much of the sorority life they'll roll in... I really liked the little bits they've included in the past, like the singing competition.
Jennifer: Yeah, and I do like the peripheral ZBZ girls.
Mira: I really wanted Abby to end up with Dale. Except now Dale is a tool and doesn't deserve Abby either.
Jennifer: I totally forgot about that. I think Betsy is hilarious too.
Mira: She is! You know it's this thing where Cappie doesn't graduate... But what about his brothers? Beaver??
Jennifer: Haha, I guess they've never specifically given the years of the other brothers. But it's definitely plausible that Beaver is a super senior.
Mira: PLUS, Cappie's been president for three years... Or two years. The show operates on a weird schedule. Weren't there other actual upperclassmen in KT?
Jennifer: Well there was the Asian guy Wade, who got kicked out.
Mira: Maybe I'm just not supposed to question this... :)
Jennifer: At least they're clear what years the main characters are in. Unlike say, Friday Night Lights.
Mira: Haha, true. Like Rusty is actually a junior now.
Jennifer: Right, Rusty, Calvin and Rebecca are all juniors.
Mira: Oh, Rebecca's president as a junior! And not that ditzy blonde.
Jennifer: Rebecca needs a new storyline, too.
Mira: Other than Evan?!?! Sigh. Agree!
Jennifer: We don't know what her major is either, do we?
Mira: Nope, no clue. In any case, I'm really enjoying this season so far. I like where it's going and I cannot wait to get to happily ever after. It better end on happily ever after!!!
Jennifer: I hope so too. I'm sad it's ending but glad that it didn't get cancelled before resolving anything
Mira: Yeah, I much prefer a show that chooses to end to one that gets ended. It's a tiny bit surprising that they didn't choose to end it at a more final point. Either Casey's graduation last season or Rusty's graduation in another year. But maybe it'll end on Cappie's graduation. ;-)
Jennifer: Well I don't think they necessarily chose to end it. I think ABC Family decided to give them a final season.
Mira: Oh, boo. Oh well. I like closure and so we have a shot at that. And if it continues to be as awesome as it has been -- buying the full series DVD set! :)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Top Chef: Good riddance!

Forgive me for spoiling this right off the top, but YES MARCEL IS GONE!

Most of my hatred this season has been directed at Jamie and she was finally, rightfully eliminated last week, but watching Marcel crash and burn this week was just pretty dang satisfying. Dale might have picked Marcel as the other team captain because he didn't want to work with him, but it also perfectly set him up for failure. No one else wanted to work with Marcel either!

The difference between the teams were stark. Dale picked his perfect team: Richard is obviously fantastic, Fabio is Mr. Front-of-House, Tre's solid, and Carla, though she was last picked, has desserts in her arsenal. They had a great concept (that was very in line with the pop-up restaurant concept, as Dana Cowin pointed out), harmonious planning, and smooth execution. Richard wins his second elimination challenge, but I think Dale and Fabio were both quite deserving too. Dale was eliminated during Restaurant Wars during his season so this must have felt really redemptive for him. He did lose his cool momentarily with the wait staff, but I'm pretty thrilled at how he's been performing and handling himself this season. He and Richard are clearly the frontrunners at this point.

Whereas on Marcel's team, things start falling apart right away and they don't get it together during service. Tiffany found herself at the front of house but didn't really know what she was doing and her bubbly personality didn't translate well, and things at the back of house were just chaotic, with Mike and Marcel clashing and Angelo and Antonia just trying to get through the night. The team dynamics obviously affected the food, which was judged by an overwhelming majority of diners to be the worst of the night. 

The problem with Marcel is that he just doesn't command respect. Period. During his original season, I thought maybe he was just immature and he needed time to develop his people skills. But it's been 4 years since then and he really hasn't changed at all. He says in his post-elimination talking-head segment that he didn't think he made any mistakes except in choosing his team. Um, delusional much? He doesn't know how to play well with others, never mind lead them. And will he ever quit making those stupid foams?

Odds and ends:
- I didn't think the Quickfire was that interesting but the disdain that fish butcher had for the badly prepped fish was pretty funny. 
- Ludo Lefebve is not nearly as fun when he's not all manic in the kitchen.
- I did respect Angelo for at least trying to be supportive of Marcel. Marcel sucks, but the others could have at least tried to make things work.
- The judges didn't say a lot about Tre's dish, but Corona-lime sauce sounds delicious. And now I kind of want a Corona...
- Marcel is actually going to be the host of some food science-y type show on SyFy. Guess who won't be watching?

Thursday Top Threes: Asian Characters on TV

*tips hat* howdy, y'all. burkie's in the house offering up this week's Thursday Top 3. in honor of our regular blogstresses here, who are your top 3 all-time favorite Asian characters on TV?

1) Lane & Mrs. Kim from Gilmore Girls. yes, i'm sure at least one of these characters may show up again on this post...not that i ever watched this show, of course. i'm a guy, after all. still, given what i've, uh, heard about this show, i have to put the two characters together. they're good characters on their own, but neither would have been able to reach number one on my list if the other one hadn't also been in the show. they enhanced & defined each other's character even more than the gilmores, i think.
2) Kwai Chang Caine from Kung Fu. a controversial choice, since he's an asian character played by a non-asian (david carridine). however, this is not like mickey rooney playing a japanese in Breakfast At Tiffany's (one of the most offensive things i've ever seen). caine was actually a half-asian character in the show, raised in a shaolin temple in china, then had to leave china, and wound up wandering from town to town in America's wild west. i love westerns, and this was a most unique western. Kung Fu popularized the spirituality behind martial arts. it was good stuff.
3) Angela Pearly Gates Montenegro from Bones. i had to come back and edit this because i remembered that i had forgotten her (i originally had Divya from Royal Pains in this spot). i love the show and all the characters on it. angela is the most free-spirited. she's half-asian, and the coolest thing about her? this is her father (as himself) on the show :) ((trivia: Pearly Gates is also the name of billy's guitar!))

Mira: What a fun question!
1. Mrs. Kim from Gilmore Girls. Yeah, yeah. Burkie knew his "blogstresses" well and Mrs. Kim is undoubtedly one of the best Asian characters on TV ever in my book. She represents the craziness of Asian moms in such a great and funny and lovable way.
2. Nikita from Nikita. She's only half-Asian but she's so good at kicking ass! This was a surprise show for me this season. I had little to no expectations of it but wound up really enjoying it. And well, she's my present-day Sydney (Alias)!
3. "The Other Asian" from Glee. I think mostly I just loved that he was called "The Other Asian" for so long. And I think he's cute. And I liked that I had "discovered" him on Twitter as Lil' C's roommate before Glee started.

Jennifer: By the way, I wrote a post on Asians on TV almost exactly 5 years ago.
1. Miles from Lost. I know Sun and Jin would be more popular picks but I loved Miles and his sarcastic quips. The flash-sideways episode with him and Sawyer as LAPD partners was fantastic...I'd watch that spinoff!
2. Hiro from Heroes. The show went downhill fast and I stopped watching during the second season but Hiro was a bright spot from the beginning. He was the only one who saw his power as a positive thing and was excited by it. I was also pretty amused by his ridiculous sidekick, Ando. "Yatta!"
3. Tom Haverford from Parks and Recreation. I just think Aziz Ansari is hilarious, and I'm so happy the show is finally returning tonight!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

AI: Season 10?!

Sigh... I can't believe I actually watched the season premiere of American Idol. Especially since the early audition episodes are ridiculously painful to sit through. But I wanted to see how Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez changed the show...

Contestants aren't worth mentioning this early. Only 1 out of every 20 or so singers are even worth listening to... So I'll focus on the judges. :)

J. Lo and her inability to say "No" was amusing, and surprisingly. I thought that when push came to shove, she would be the one who could say it straight. I had assumed she would have a good dose of inner bitch to draw on but she could barely make eye contact with even the horrible singers she had to say no to! Best line, though: (After a particularly horrible singer, to Randy) "How did you do this for ten years?"

Steven Tyler was amusing. When he got into the singing, he really got into it; he was like a little boy, bopping his head up and down, huge goofy grin on his face, clapping along. It was cute! Except his hitting on all the 20 year old girls was a bit creepy...

Randy Jackson, wait, why is he still here?! Haha, just kidding. But it is odd that he's the only of the original judges left now. A lot of the contestants that came in were all starstruck by J. Lo or Steven Tyler. So it was pretty funny how Randy would wave his head and be like "Hello! I'm still here, too!" But he does maintain the tone of the show and being the only veteran judge, he is good at keeping everything on track and well, "keeping it real."

I'm not sure how much more of the show I will watch this season. It'll come down to how much space there is on the DVR and how promising the top 20 look/sound. :)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Skins on MTV

So I thought watching Being Human was weird enough with basically the same characters from the original but with different names and doing different things. The American version of Skins though? Even weirder. It was kind of like watching a new production of a play you already know except some of the character's names have changed. This pilot is almost shot-for-shot the same as the original. It's WEIRD.

I do understand why MTV wanted to make an American version of Skins. Things in the UK were already more relaxed in terms of what kinds of stuff you can show on TV but Skins got a lot of buzz for showing all that sex and nudity and drugs in a show about teens. The actors were unknown teens themselves and even the writer's room was very young so it was supposed to be more realistic than other teen shows of the moment (like Gossip Girl). But...the original Skins is really, really British. The accents and slang sometimes make the dialogue almost unintelligible (when it aired on BBCAmerica there was a little suggestion before the show started to turn on your closed-captioning) and the kids do really British things, like make tea all the time and go to pub quiz and "revise" (study) for A-levels. But these were all things that could easily be translated into things that American audiences would identify with.

But what did they end up doing? They kept almost all the same characters (a few renamed) and kept almost the exact same script. Bizarre, especially since the premise of Skins is not at all dependent on the character roles...the British show actually turns over its entire main cast every 2 seasons. I guess they just didn't really care about the people who were fans of the original (which aired here on BBCAmerica)? But as one of those people, I just can't not make comparisons...

Plus, it doesn't help that the "Tony" episode of the original was not one of my favorites. So watching this American version was like watching an inferior rendition of something I wasn't a fan of in the first place. I didn't much like the actor playing Tony. In the original Nicholas Hoult is kind of magnetic...he's horrifyingly manipulative but you can see why people are drawn to him. Here, Tony is just a dick that I feel the tougher girls like Daisy and Tea (the only major difference in the cast...her character was originally a guy, Maxxie) wouldn't have any patience for. Stanley was just weak and forgettable (and I hate his hair) and the Cassie character (Cadie in this version) made no impression whatsoever, which I can't help being disappointed about since Cassie is one of my favorites (not just on the show but of all time!)

One of the most unique things about Skins is how flexible it is in its storytelling. Each episode focuses on just one character and the tone and music changes based on that. I really appreciate that they take a lot of risks in that regard and think there's just some really great filmmaking going on. I've read that at least 2 more episodes very closely track ones from the original so I assume they're at least going to try to carry that over.

So I'm curious enough to keep watching this for a few more episodes at least. And I mean, it's not like the original was perfect (see my reviews here and here) so there's a chance that when this version breaks away (which I hope it will) that it could improve on some of the mistakes of its predecessor. Maybe?

Oh and was Stanley eating poutine in the cafeteria? Is this supposed to be American or Canadian??

By the way, if you're curious about the original, the first two seasons are streaming on Netflix!

Being Boston

I never formally blogged about the original British version of Being Human although I did use it to answer a Thursday Talk last summer. I liked it because it reminded me a little of Buffy in how it could be really funny and witty but it could also be really dark and violent. When I heard that SyFy was going to remake the show for American TV, I had mixed feelings. While I can see why the concept was appealing, I was a little skeptical of SyFy and honestly, I just wondered what the point was. And after watching the premiere of the US version, I still kind of have that question.

The US version's characters and casting stay pretty closely in line with the original. There's Aidan, the dark and brooding vampire (they strangely seemed to have named him after the actor who plays the vampire in the British version, Aidan Turner); Josh, the boyish and neurotic werewolf; and Sally, the ambiguously ethnic ghost whose house the other two move into. There's also Bishop (played by Mark Pellegrino with really bizarre hair color or a wig or something), a powerful older vampire who masquerades as a police officer. Aidan and Josh both work at a hospital, and Sally died in the house where she lived with her fiance, though she doesn't remember how. Aidan wears leather jackets, Josh is Jewish, and Sally is even permanently wearing the same kind of outfit (leggings and long cardigan) that Annie wore in the original. All this was lifted from the original.

But the story is a litle different. In the original, the three characters are already living together whereas here, we start at the beginning where Aidan and Josh move in together and meet Sally. There are also some different supporting characters, like Josh's sister Emily. I had hoped this meant that the writers would be going off in their own directions with these characters, but the preview at the end seems to indicate that they will be recycling some of the storylines from the British version.

So, I don't know. I do like Sam Huntington as Josh, which is saying a lot considering Russell Tovey is the werewolf in the original and I LOVE him. Sam Witwer is pretty but a little wooden as Aidan and I don't really see that potential for viciousness that a vampire should have. He's not outright terrible though. And there wasn't enough of Sally so I can't really comment on her yet. I thought the dramatic moments worked a bit better than the times they were trying to be light or funny but overall it was pretty watchable. I just wonder why they decided to stick so closely to the basic character setup. Especially with the British series still going on, it might be kind of weird to watch both.

I'm interested to know what people who haven't even heard of the original think of it though. It's impossible for me not to compare the two and I'm inclined to be loyal to the one that came first...

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Shameless: Messy American Life

It seems that the latest trend in Hollywood is to take successful British television shows and remake them for American TV. There are three of these premiering this month: Shameless on Showtime, Skins on MTV, and Being Human on SyFy. The original British versions of these have all actually aired here on BBCAmerica, but Shameless is the only one I'd never watched. I'll be reviewing the other two when they premiere next week but since I've watched and am a fan of the originals, I expect that there'll be a lot more comparisons to the originals, for better or worse.

Anyway, I don't even have Showtime, so the likelihood of me keeping up with Shameless is pretty low. But the first episode was streaming on their website so I decided to check it out. I'd known that in the UK, Skins was from the same people as Shameless so I sort of knew what to expect and I was right. The Gallaghers are a large Chicago family with well, really messy lives.

Frank, the patriarch, played with sloppy abandon by William H. Macy, is a drunk, and he basically spends the entire episode either passed out on the floor or ranting incoherently. His wife and mother of his six children (one of which is clearly not biologically seen in the photo above) is gone, so it's up to Fiona (Emmy Rossum, definitely a breakout role for her) to keep the bills paid and food on the table. I'm not positive how old she's supposed to be--I'm guessing 20 or 21 years old. She works an assortment of minimum wage jobs and has clearly been in charge for a long time. She's disappointed in her father and fiercely protective of her family but she's not exactly a good-two-shoes striving for the straight-and-narrow. She's still rolling joints and um, having sex on the kitchen floor.

Her storyline in the pilot involves being pursued by Steve (Justin Chatwin), a guy who's spotted her dancing at clubs. He drives expensive cars and has nice watches and "defends her honor" by punching out a bouncer, but it's clear from the beginning that not all is as it seems. No offense to Justin Chatwin, but he's really not the type of actor you hire to play someone clean-cut. Sure enough, it's revealed that he makes his money by stealing and selling cars. Which only turns on Fiona more. Steve makes some grand, romantic speeches and buys the Gallaghers a new washing machine and isn't deterred by all the facts of Fiona's messy life but something about him makes me uneasy.

The other two kids with plotlines in the pilot are high schoolers Lip (short for Phillip) and Ian. Lip is a straight-A student who makes money tutoring physics and it's through him that we come to one of the more off-the-wall segments of the show. His new pupil, Karen, spends tutoring time uh, servicing him under the kitchen table while her kooky mom (Joan Cusack) is oblivious in the kitchen. When her dad finds out, he blows up and moves out along with his clown figurine collection. Yes, it's just...bizarre. And it seems they're regulars on the show so I have no idea where all that is going to go. I really liked Lip and the actor who plays him (Jeremy Allen White), though.

As for Ian, he's in ROTC at school, also seemingly on his way up and out, but turns out to be having an affair with the married Muslim owner (and father of two kids) of the convenience store he works at. This is obviously controversial for several reasons but I was mostly disturbed by the fact that the actor who plays Ian looks like he's about 12...

Despite some of the darker subject matter, the tone of the show is actually very fun. The stuff with Steve and Fiona even came off as romantic. I can imagine some things getting really serious as the show goes on, but true to the title of the show, the Gallaghers know their lives aren't cushy and perfect but they're not ashamed and they're going to keep having fun. Like I said, I don't have Showtime, so I think this might be one to check out on DVD.

Also, I'm now curious about the original British version, especially now that I've found out that James McAvoy played the Steve character...

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Top Chef: Something's fishy

First of all, I want to say that I was really excited to see the chefs go to Montauk because I'm just really fond of that place. I've been there the past two summers and I can't wait to go again this year. Maybe I should try fishing!

No Quickfire this week, as they decide to make the chefs actually go out on boats and catch fish to cook for the Elimination challenge. they get 5 hours to fish, which seems like a long time, but I guess they wanted to make sure everyone got something. They try to manufacture a little drama here, but in the end, they all caught plenty of fish.

The chefs were split into teams of three, but weren't instructed on how many dishes they needed to make. So Richard, Marcel, and Fabio decide to only do one dish; Tiffany, Mike, and Angelo collaborate on two dishes; while the others all basically do their own dishes. This made judging a little tricky. I guess it worked out that Jamie and Tiffani both had worse dishes than Richard/Marcel/Fabio, so they were both sent home. If the Richard/Marcel/Fabio dish had been the absolute worst then I assume Richard and Marcel would have been eliminated, since Fabio was basically just the prep cook.

Anyway, I've been wanting Jamie gone for weeks so I'm glad she finally got the boot. Her attitude this time around was just so...distasteful. And I don't think she made a single good dish the entire season so far. Tiffani, on the other hand, I'm upset about. I think she's a strong, creative chef, but I guess she was just undone by not enough knowledge of the fish she chose? I'm glad she got a chance to kind of redeem her TV persona and went out with class.

As for the winner, I LOVE Carla! So glad she hasn't gotten lost in the shuffle and is distinguishing herself. It was so sweet how she felt bad telling the others they were on the bottom and said "I should have contained my excitement." Don't let Marcel make you feel bad! You rock!

Just a taste:
- Marcel's faux-gansta talk (complete with arm movements) drives me NUTS. This is why, despite the whole head-shaving incident, I still hate him. Was very glad to hear Dale took anger management and didn't engage the little punk.
- Yet anther crazy Angelo tidbit - he's irrationally afraid of sharks!
- "No fish for Fabio today!"
- I thought it was kind of a shame that they drove everything back to the city to cook. I guess they didn't want to or couldn't house the chefs in Montauk overnight.
- I eat meat, but I was little disturbed by Tom's comment "when you kill it you have respect for it."
- Next week, Restaurant Wars, Bourdain AND Ludo Lefebvre!

Thursday Top Threes: Foreign films

J: What are your top three favorite foreign-language films?

The Classic
(Korean, 2003) - Really cute story about girl reading love letters between her mom and her mom's first love. Only confusing thing is the same actress plays the mom and the daughter. A happy ending, of course. :)
(French, 1992) - Saw this for the first time in high school French class. It's about colonial French Indochina and Catherine Deneuve stars in it. It's a crazy epic kind of story that I enjoyed in the same way I love Les Miserables.
(French, 2001) - I think the first time I watched this movie I was simply really confused. I thought Audrey Tautou looked odd rather than gorgeous. However, on subsequent watchings I grew to love the quirkiness of the storytelling style and the characters; I started to notice the little connections being made throughout the movie; and the shipper in me grew to really appreciate the beauty of the relationship being built in the movie.

Jennifer: There are many classics I haven't seen...all of these are relatively recent.
Pan's Labyrinth (Spanish, 2006) - Unique and scary and beautiful all at the same time. One of the most imaginative original films I've ever seen...I now want to rewatch it!
Run Lola Run (German, 1998) - Just FUN. Loved the punky look and feel and techno soundtrack.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (French, 2007) - The true story behind the film (and the book it's based on) is remarkable on its own: Jean-Dominique Bauby was the editor of French Elle when he suffered a stroke and awoke from his coma with locked-in syndrome, a condition where his body is completely paralyzed except for the eyes but his mind is awake and active. Thanks to some very patient nurses and assistants, he manages to write a book by blinking. It's a story that could have easily become overly sentimental translated to the screen but the film avoids this and is instead moving and fascinating and quite beautiful.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Cape: Circus Superhero?

I think the most remarkable thing about The Cape, NBC's latest superhero drama, is how un-ironic it is. Unlike Heroes and No Ordinary Family and other recent superhero shows, it's not about people who angst over the "abilities" or "powers" that they find out they have and try to keep secret. This is a straightforward fictional superhero world where masked villains in the news are taken seriously and a grown man earnestly decides to become his son's favorite comic book superhero.

Our hero is Vince Faraday, an ordinary cop and family man. "Chess," the masked villain who is actually Peter Fleming, head of a Ark Industries, a private security corporation aiming to take over Palm City's police force, first recruits Vince, then murders the new police chief and frames Vince for the crime. With his wife and young son watching on the news, Vince, who everyone now believes is Chess, is seemingly killed in an explosion. But he survives, and finds himself saved by a group of circus performers/bank robbers. (Yes, you read that correctly.) Vince happens to have an Ark keycard in his pocket, which helps the group to rob several banks now protected by Ark and in return, Vince asks them to help him get back his life.

And now we get to the Cape, which is kind of the coolest and lamest part of the show at the same time. In this world, the Cape is a comic book superhero that Vince used to read with his son. There's this ridiculous scene where Vince is wandering around the circus tent and sees a black cape. He then proceeds to put on the cape and start doing these silly moves with it and then next thing you know, Max, the ringleader, is giving Vince some super special cape and teaching him to like do magic and fight with it. Making the cape, which usually just serves a decorative purpose in a superhero's costume, as the thing that actually turns Vince into a superhero is kind of a cool idea, but in practice, it's pretty...silly. And I don't think the show has enough of a sense of humor to pull off this kind of silly.

David Lyons is the lead as Vince/The Cape, and he's pretty bland. James Frain as Chess, on the other hand, is maybe a little over the top, but that's actually pretty in line with all the cheesy dramatic superhero music in the background. I always like seeing Summer Glau, who plays Orwell, a secretive investigative blogger (rather like Logan on Dark Angel, if anyone remembers that show), but she's not doing anything particularly interesting here. I'd hate to see her on a boring procedural or something but lately the kind of genre shows she tends to get casted in are either too weak or not mainstream enough to succeed.

Nothing here was really offensively bad, but honestly, I didn't even really want to watch the second episode of the 2-hour premiere. Unless I hear that it's getting a lot better, I don't think I'll keep tuning in.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Downton Abbey: What is a weekend?

Was there any doubt that I would love this? Another year of Masterpiece starts off extremely strong with Downton Abbey, a British costume drama from Julian Fellowes, who wrote Gosford Park. It's not based on any novel but has all the classic components: a great English estate, daughters needing husbands, a formidable matriarch, distant cousins, eavesdropping'd think that the viewing public would be tired of this kind of stuff by now but for me at least, when it's done well (which this certainly is) I can't get enough! And others definitely agreed with me because a second series has already been ordered!

The great estate here is of course, Downton Abbey. Robert Crawley, the Earl of Grantham (played by Hugh Bonneville, a regular in these period dramas and always fantastic), inherited both his title and the house but not enough money to run it. So he married for money: Cora, an American heiress (played by Elizabeth McGovern, herself an American married to a Brit and living in England). Fortunately, they do eventually fall in love, but unfortunately, produce only daughters: Mary, Edith, and Sybill. To make things worse, as a condition of the marriage, Lord Grantham's father tied Cora's money to the estate, all of which can only be passed to a male heir.

The problem, though, was thought to have been solved: Mary was to marry Patrick, the son of Lord Grantham's cousin and heir James Crawley. But then tragedy strikes. The series begins with the news that the Titanic has sunk...with both James and Patrick aboard. While it turns out that Mary (kind of an ice queen) didn't really want to marry Patrick to begin with, everyone else begins to fret about the entail. Lord Grantham's heir is now distant cousin Matthew Crawley, a lawyer whose father was a doctor (horrors) living in Manchester (double horrors). Lord Grantham seems resigned to this turn of events but his mother, Violet (Maggie Smith, doing her thing well as always) is determined to find a way to break the entail.

Matthew and his mother Isobel are invited to move to Downton, where they're instantly out of place. Having only had a maid and cook previously (I know, what modest living conditions), Matthew is flabbergasted at being given a personal valet and insists on continuing to dress himself, serve his own tea, and hang his own coat. And to the shock of everyone at the Abbey, he takes a job nearby, ensuring them that he'd have time on the weekend to learn the matters of the estate. To which Violet asks, horrified, "What is a weekend?"

Observing and discussing all this are, of course, the servants, who have their own little dramas. There's Mr. Carson, the butler, who in a way considers the Crawleys to be his own family; rather nasty O'Brien, Lady Grantham's lady's maid; Thomas, a scheming footman who aspires to be a valet and has a little dalliance going with a duke; Daisy, a young kitchen maid easily picked on but eager to learn; and the newest addition, Mr. Bates, Lord Grantham's valet. Mr. Bates served in the Boer War with Lord Grantham, and has a limp and walks with a cane as a result. This makes him unpopular with the rest of the staff, who believe he is unsuitable for the job, excepting Anna, the kind-hearted head housemaid.

The first episode aired this past Sunday and there are three more installments to come. If you miss any, you'll be able to watch it online for a couple of weeks. Very highly recommended, especially if you're a fan of period drama!

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Top Chef: Now serving dim sum

So the Tom Colicchio Quickfire did not turn out to be quite as fun as I hoped. First of all, they weren't competing with Tom at all - he just set the pace. And it was clear that Tom was really prepared. He seemed organized because he had thought it all through beforehand! Running around and completing it in less than 9 minutes was still kind of impressive (not sure how much cooking Tom does these days but I'm sure it's at not Quickfire-speed) but the chefs had a much harder job having to see what's in the kitchen, conceptualize, and then execute.

So of course there were some pretty sad dishes served up. Why am I not surprised that Jamie sucked once again? Kudos to Mike Isabella for the win (including immunity and a new Prius). His former restaurant in DC was all Mediterranean small plates so this was right up his alley.

Moving onto the Elimination, disaster! I often gripe about these kind of team catering type challenges but this trainwreck was pretty entertaining to watch. I do wonder if the restaurant patrons knew what they were getting themselves into, though. Somehow I doubt many people in Chinatown watch or know what Top Chef is so I'm curious about what they were told. Some white people are going to try to cook your dim sum? Oh, and you might be on TV, so feel free to get angry?

As expected, Dale and Angelo fare pretty well in this challenge. Dale does a sticky rice, Angelo a crispy spring roll, and together they do a rice noodle roll, all of which look delicious and happen to be some of my favorite dim sum items. I was also happy to see Tiffany and Fabio do well, as they were probably some of the least likely to pull out passable Chinese food. I was actually souring on Fabio the first couple of episodes but my hate has been transferred to another.

Yes, Jamie, of course, who survives again! I'm really at a loss to remember why I used to like her. Was it because of Stefan? I did find it hilarious that everyone groaned when she said she wanted to do scallops and they put in a little clip package of all the scallop dishes she did during her season.

I was pretty sad to see Casey go. I don't eat chicken feet (even watching other people eat them grosses me out) so I can't really comment on whether it could have been a good dish or not but it didn't really sit well with me that she was eliminated even though she was up on the floor and her dish had to be executed by someone else. I was pretty neutral on her during her original season but she's clearly a team player who's not afraid to take risks. Unfortunately both of those things sunk her this time...

- Fabio's pet turtle??
- Loved Tom asking Gail if she was going to finish Dale's sticky rice.
- Susur Lee was the perfect judge for the Elimination. He was such a rockstar on Top Chef Masters. He has a restaurant in DC that I've been wanting to check out.
- Mike's dumplings at least looked like he tried to pinch the edges and make them look pretty, as opposed to Jamie's, which were just so flat and sad.
- Marcel vs. Dale next week? Team Dale!

Thurday Top Threes: Resolutions

Faced with the daunting prospect of another 52 weeks of Thursday Talk questions, Jenn and I decided to switch it up a little for 2011. Instead of Thursday Talk questions, we're going to continue our "talks" in a new vein -- Thursday Top Threes! Each week we'll take turns coming up with questions that require a Top Three ranking. Cheers to 2011 and a new year of blogging! (Year number six!)

M: What are your top three entertainment-related resolutions for 2011?

1. Try to watch more movies. In my high school years, watching movies was most definitely a hobby. In the past few years, the number of new movies I watch have dwindled. I tend to only rewatch movies I've seen and love or watch nothing at all. In 2011 I will make more time for new movies; oh, and not only when flying on international flights.
2. Read the un-read fiction novels on my bookshelf. I love books and I love owning books. After moving into my current house, I realized that I would not have to move for a very long time and I allowed myself to get spend-happy on buying books again (especially when perusing the books table at Costco). Now I find myself with this collection of random fiction novels that I have never read. I finish grad school in May; so from May on, I technically have time for a life again. That gives me a good 7 months to devote to reading the books on my bookshelf.
3. Blog more about non-TV-related things. I attempted this last year (book, movie, song) but that quickly was a bust. To quantify this goal, I will try to blog at least once a month about non-TV entertainment.

1. Keep track of the books I finish reading. And try to finish more books in general. I have a terrible habit of borrowing too many books from the library at once and then returning most without finishing them.
2. Start/catch up on at least some of the following TV shows: Doctor Who, Breaking Bad, The Pacific, The Wire, Treme.
3. Tackle Netflix queue. Carried over from last year. I'm hopefully going to get a Blu-Ray with Netflix streaming sometime soon so perhaps that will help. I'm at 338 and adding more all the time...