When Being Neat Gets Messy

I know the whole point of this blog is to celebrate TV. I will always prefer television to movies. To me its a matter of running-time. Art should be like church, you have an hour to prove your point. I understand if it’s something like the Pope having high Mass at the Budokan or the last episode of M*A*S*H – you can go over but, for the most part, you get an hour. Oh, I will watch several hours of Mad Men, Community, Top Chef, etc. in one sitting but that is not one continuous narrative.

That’s why it pains me to knock television. It really does. TV is my friend, mentor, drinkin’ buddy, teacher, and mental masseuse. I was very excited to hear of the new The Odd Couple reboot. When I was a youngster, Tony Randall was an ironic celebrity, past his prime to be used for anything other than being Tony Randall. He’d just show up on SNL as Tom Hanks’ celebrity friend on a game show and would be on Letterman sporadically, often needlessly but hilariously dressed up as Batman. I later discovered him on late night re-airings of The Odd Couple TV show with Quincy. They were just darling. You can have your Lemon and Matthau but my Felix and Oscar will always be Randall & Klugman. TV, yay!!! Movies, booo!!!!

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Females are strong as hell: early thoughts on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

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Ellie Kemper as Kimmy Schmidt

6 of 13 episodes watched for review

In scene one, episode one of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Kimmy Schmidt is rescued from an underground bunker. For 15 years, Reverend Richard Wayne Gary Wayne brainwashed Kimmy and four other women into believing the world above ground had been destroyed on judgment day. When Kimmy emerges from the bunker, she is ecstatic. “It’s all still here!”

Ellie Kemper, as Kimmy Schmidt, radiates happiness. She hops and skips, pulls faces, and gobbles candy, and when she’s down she trudges and drags her body through whatever situation she’s in. Kemper is an excellent physical comedian and gracefully enacts not just Kimmy’s exuberant joy, but her deep-rooted anger. Kimmy’s escape from the bunker is where the plot begins, but Kimmy’s escape from her personal trauma is the driving force, and the root of the comedy in Unbreakable Kimmy SchmidtContinue reading

We Took a Break

We took a break.

We got busy and we were tired and we all have demanding jobs and excuses, excuses, excuses.

There was a time when this blog didn’t exist at all and a time when we weren’t writing as regularly as we all do now and it would be easy enough to stop and go back to that. But we all decided to not let that happen. Taking a break is one thing but letting something good just fizzle out would be a true disappointment.

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Happy Valley: The best new series that I almost missed in 2014

The first thing that happens in Happy Valley is an introduction of character (by said character) that throws the whole “show don’t tell” ethos out the window. Catharine Cawood (the tremendous Sarah Lancashire, who the entire show hinges around, the standout in a uniformly good cast), a police sergeant in Yorkshire, is called to the scene where a young man, down on his luck, has doused himself in gasoline in a playground and is threatening to light himself on fire. Catherine introduces herself to the man saying, “I’m Catherine, by the way. I’m forty-seven. I’m divorced. I live with my sister, who’s a recovering heroin addict. I’ve two grown-up children – one dead, one who don’t speak to me – and a grandson. So.” And we are off and running. But what is strange here is that Happy Valley, after Catherine’s speech and the promise of being a by the book, heart-on-sleeve cop show, is much more a show about the way that violence, grief and guilt can turn people inward, can shut them down and turn them off. Catherine’s openness to this man in the opening moments of the show is a bit of a red herring to the rest of the output, and the show is all the better for it. Continue reading

Ball’s a Droppin’

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Christmas specials get all the ballyhoo. I do appreciate the modern ‘hipster” Xmas specials; Annie’s sexual infantalization on Community,  for example. But, for the most part Christmas specials are garbage. The holiday made for TV movie is an assault on its viewer. Featuring a sad parade of former starts – Corky from Murphy Brown, Ed from Ed, lower tier Duff sisters, and Dean Cain. Poor George Wendt who has played Santa more times than Michael Sheen has been Tony Blair. I will go so far as to say every Christmas themed movie since Elf has been a hackneyed, maudlin, ornament of blech. I probably chose that timeline as it parallels the death of my own Christmas spirit. I’m sure to some impressionable tween, Jenny McCarthy as Santa’s daughter in Santa Baby, and of course Santa Baby 2: Christmas Maybe fills them with holiday cheer as much as Bert and Ernie’s serenade of Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed in the rain. Continue reading

The Winner’s Edit

Making the Audience Love the Winner

I know exactly who is going to win this season of Survivor. Well, I think that I know. He’s not the person that I like the best, hell, he’s not even the most deserving, but the way that this season has been edited has lead me to believe that ol’ Excitable Jon is taking home the million. Ol’ Excitable Jon that thinks he’s a wine connoisseur. Ol’ Excitable Jon, who will vote with whoever talked to him right before tribal. He just gets excited, that guy. He goes hard and falls hard. Ol’ Excitable Jon, whose girlfriend can’t bear children but “he will still love her anyway.”

He’s not the worst person to ever play the game, nor the best. He isn’t particularly annoying (he doesn’t spit and fart like Wes) and he isn’t socially clever (like Jeremy or Natalie or Reed) but he has been in the right place at the right time often enough to make it to the final seven. It helps that Jon and his girlfriend Jaclyn are playing together, and they often become the “swing vote.” It helped that Natalie told Jon to play his immunity idol on the vote that would have sent him home. (He wouldn’t have played it otherwise.) And yet, despite his mediocre gameplay and vanilla personality, Jon has had a ton of screen time this season. It’s what we Survivor fans (the type of fans that take to message boards of pop culture websites) call “the Winner’s Edit.”

What’s “the Winner’s Edit”? Well, it varies on every reality show. As the phrase “winner’s edit” suggests, the editors (and producers) of the TV show have cut the existing footage to favour the ultimate winner. Why do they do this? Because at the end of the season, the viewers need to be satisfied with the last episode. Can we believe X won Big Brother? If we can’t, the whole season seems like a waste of time. Continue reading