Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Three Random Funny Things

1. James Lipton, charmingly sycophantic host of Inside the Actors Studio, used to be a pimp in France. This is quite possibly the best news story ever written. From the article: "This was when I was very, very young, living in Paris, penniless, unable to get any kind of working permit...I had a friend who worked in what is called the Milieu, which is that world, and she suggested to me one night, 'Look, you'll be my mec...' We would translate it, pimp."

At another point in the article he says that the johns were young American boys who were nervous and unsure, something that was surely not helped by seeing Lipton grinning at them and winking salaciously. He’s always been slightly creepy — Will Ferrell’s impression captured his tractor-beam stare, uncomfortable pauses, and tongue-bath style of ridiculously hyperbolic praise — and somehow it’s hilariously perfect that he used to be a pimp. I can just imagine him asking the john his preferences: “I like to start with a questionnaire invented by Bernard Pivot. What turns you on, excites you? What turns you off? Moi? I enjoy tattoos and being shamed.” And as the nervous but sated john emerged from the seedy hotel room: “Your enthusiastic lovemaking sounded scrumtrulescent. I have never in my twenty years heard such wild and energetic enthusiasm. You, sir, are truly a remarkable genius of the fleshly realm.”

2. Shamelessly stolen from The Lake Street Get Down (but it's okay because Adams took "Goldfinger," plus she's a Cillian Murphy fan. He'll eat your soul with his creepy blue eyes, Adams!!!), the best Jeff Goldblum impression ever. I now love Elon Gold, whoever he is, almost as much as I love Jeff Goldblum.

[ETA - I just looked on Elon Gold's Wikipedia page, and whoever edited it last has said that Gold is known for his "adequate" impersonation of Jeff Goldblum. Adequate??!?! Can someone get that PDA out of Lindsey Lohan's booze-soaked mitts, please? That impression is superb - Admiral Neck]

3. The Guardian weekend magazine's "Experience" column. This is supposedly a column where an everyday person (as opposed to a professional writer) tells an interesting story about his or her life, usually anonymously. You’d think we’d get a fair mix of stories — some sad or gruesome, some funny, some about strange coincidences or interesting anecdotes. Instead we get a weekly parade of unending misery. It’s always a tasteful but eye-catching all-caps headline, accompanied by a shot of the week’s author, usually with his back turned to the camera or part of her body artfully draped in shadow. The layout of the page is so ridiculously mournful-looking and the subject matter so unrelentingly bleak that you have to wonder if the magazine’s editors have some kind of bet going on. This week it was I Had To Choose Between Two Mothers, which told of a woman’s struggle between her adoptive mother and her biological mother; the former was jealous of the latter, and the latter became too affectionate, and eventually the woman had to agree to never see her biological mom again so her adoptive mom would be happy. The capper on this story was that the article was supposed to be anonymous, but they ran her name in the magazine, and have only corrected it in the online edition (and when you search for the story, her name still shows up. Good work, geniuses!).

Other recent headlines we’ve had included I Am a Narcoleptic, I Lit My Father’s Funeral Pyre, I Don’t Regret Giving Away Every Baby I’ve Had, My Best Friend Drownded [sic] While We Were on Holiday (nice misspelling there, ever-vigilant Guardian subs), I’ve Made My Home With Monkeys, I Had Cancer of the Penis, My Brother Was a Pimp (a Lipton sibling writing under a pseudonym?), and my personal favorite, Herpes Brought Us Together (the perfect Experience love story).

Monday, October 29, 2007

This Week in TV (Week 5)

Things might be settling down in TV land by now. I certainly found myself enjoying several shows on their own merits instead of concentrating on writing mistakes and figuring out which shows are broken and which aren't. Even some of the shows that have vexed me in the past have entertained me greatly this week. Perhaps I've been thinking about them too hard because I'm officially a blogger now, with all of the fame, glory, and riches that that coveted position entails. I also have the responsibility of writing content that will shatter the zeitgeist into little zeity pieces of geist. For some reason, this week, I've tried giving that responsibility a break, possibly because a few days ago I watched Spider-Man 3, and dang, everyone involved can shove their great responsibility up their asses, with great power, because that movie sucked. Time to chill out and have some fun with my TV viewing. Perhaps not watching Chuck helped (that was an error on our part, especially as Veronica Mars star writer John Enbom worked on it, but what are you gonna do? It would have cut into our Guitar Hero II time).

The highlight of the week was, once more, provided by 30 Rock. For all the wonderful material handed Tina Fey, Jack McBrayer, Jane Krakowski, Scott Adsit, and especially guest star Carrie Fisher as the borderline insane "Future Liz", the scene that will inevitably be referenced and quoted and talked about incessantly by Rock fans (probably to non-Rock fans, in such a fevered and enthusiastic manner that it would probably put them off) was the award-deserving scene with Alec Baldwin and Tracy Morgan in therapy, with Tracy in straight man mode and Jack going on an extended and enthusiastic riff filled with impersonations and racially stereotypical behaviour. As someone noted on the AV Club comment thread, the set up earlier in the episode, with Liz railing against commercialism and praising risk-taking was half screw-you to Studio 60, and half meta-gauntlet-throwing. At first it looked like nothing more than a joke; as soon as crazy Carrie Fisher said they should make jokes about race, Liz freaked out and refused, saying jokes about race were right out. 15 minutes later, and Jack is squawking like Redd Foxx and threatening his "wife" with a beating, prior to being shot and killed by "Da Honkies". First time I watched it I didn't know how to take it, second time it blew me away.

Even more unorthodox was Liz making a choice to sell out to GE at the end. I'd like to think the message was that she was more interested in being funny than daring (Carrie Fisher's radical feminist comedy was, after all, purposely dreadful). It's not the first time the show has imparted this message. In a previous episode a worthy sketch written by Twofer and Tracy is dropped for something empty but funny, so the moral of the show seems to be "Funny first", which is, to a certain extent, a dig at Sorkin, but mostly a philosophy of life. Liz giving up on her ideals should bug me, because TV likes to teach us that pious do-goodery and noble intentions are worth more than going for the easy laugh, but it's refreshing to see a show praise someone for just wanting to do well in life and achieve one simple goal; make 'em laugh.

It's nothing new for 30 Rock. There may be a thread to the show about the war between commerce and art, but it's usually been about coming to a happy middle-point instead of art conquering all (which would be unrealistic and unfunny). It always seemed to me that that was the secondary engine of the show, with the main driving force in the show being the tension between steady, successful, mature Jack and flighty loser and Queen Nerd Liz. The masterstroke has always been that Jack is not a humourless money-making caricature but a three-dimensional business genius who may not fully understand art and humour but gets that Liz is in turmoil and wants to help her achieve her potential.

Yes, commerce and art battle, but they are only a small part of what makes Jack and Liz such a great onscreen partnership. His mentoring of her, his acceptance of her need to struggle against it, and her slow realisation that she needs his wisdom more than she expected, is part of why this is my favourite non-romantic relationship on TV, and their final scene, with him so exasperated with her for not knowing how to work within the system for her own ends, was just adorable. ::sigh:: I now nominate this best show currently airing. Until Lost returns, of course.

Tell Me You Have No Qualms About Shtupping Me was especially fun this week, as Palek the Vulcan Inseminatron suddenly entered the Pon Farr, the mating cycle that hits all Vulcans every 7 years. Poor Carolyn, trying to get on with her baby-less life, when Palek goes all plak tow on her ass, demanding sex and becoming a bigger douche than ever. It does not end well, as he tries to hit on the last woman to treat him even the slightest bit of polite civility, i.e. some innocent clothes shop assistant (see above). He hits her with the full force of his undeniable emotionless charisma, and it seemed as if she was responding a little, just as, somewhere in their forest retreat, Carolyn realises, OMG, she is pregnant! What are the chances that that lazy writing would come into play right then? The show ends with her ecstatic face, having forgotten Palek's terrible anti-baby behaviour of the past week or so, and Palek approximating human happiness with his new crush. I hope she doesn't already have a boyfriend, or there will have to be the Kalifee, just like that time on Vulcan when Spock got all pissy.

The other amusing thing about the show is the weekly cameo by the Predator. Outside Carolyn and Palek's Fortress of Solitude (so named because it is as sterile as Superman's icy pad), there is a forest of some kind. Very pretty, but from within you can hear the familiar clacking of a Predator. Is he stalking them? We'd been betting that the season would end with the increasingly adorable David and Katie finally having sex (they're certainly heading that way, what with this week's endearing scenes with them ogling each others sex parts), but now I think there's going to be a brutal cast cull and a cameo by Carl Weathers. Which would also be great.

Heroes was better than usual, though still not the jawdropping cauldron of boiling excitement it needs to be as soon as possible if it's going to reclaim all of my love. As I said before in another post, the heroes are just not heroic, and just to piss me off a little more, Monica was given a chance to rat out the scummy guy she kicked through a sheet of glass last week, but backed out of it when her loser friend objected. What's the betting he pops up again soon, probably to kill Nichelle Nichols, spurring Monica on to use her powers for good, so that she pretty much becomes a K-Ville cross between Spider-Man and part-time Avengers member Echo? Too late. Why couldn't she do that? Because the writers need her to go through the motions of discovering her power, and they apparently haven't got the imagination (or time or money, if I'm going to be generous) to explore other avenues or story-telling possibilities.

At least she seemed to finally enjoy it once Micah calmed her down. While watching it I got more and more agitated that she wasn't doing what I would do if I had her muscle mimic powers, i.e. watching a bunch of martial arts movies, but thankfully they addressed that at the end. Sadly she was trying to learn Jason Scott Lee's moves in Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story. What? Go to the source, young padawan. and take in Drunken Master 2 while you're at it, because the thought of you doing this on network TV makes me grin like a Cheshire Cat.

In other news, Canyon and I suddenly found ourselves loving Nathan Petrelli, of all people. He was pretty wasted last year, but the disgruntled bitchy version 2.0 is very entertaining. He seems to be the only actor in the show still having fun. He also featured in the awesome nightmare sequence, with him and Matt trapped in the dreamworld of Matt's dad, the Nightmare Man. It didn't last long, but it was a terrific sequence of events, adding new mysteries to the show in a dynamic manner. It was the best writing of the season so far, though the dialogue still grated. Did I really hear The Nightmare Man say, "Maybe we're not so different, you and I"? Oh dear. And if Matt can wake Nathan up from the dream, why can't he wake Molly up. I get the feeling he's probably a bit pissed with those night-time dinner conversations where she ends up yelling at him about something or other, such as the long, dark pizza night of their soul.

Still, it was fun, and ADRIAN PASDAR! is doing some great work, and his hair is very very high. That said, it's pretty obvious that he's the guy who murdered Kaito, so his sarcasm isn't a newly discovered charming side, but more a precursor of his inevitable slide into villainy. It matches up with his brother's walk on the dark side, though of course he will be redeemed and become a good person, probably when he gets a bump on the noggin and gets his memory back. Whatever. Oh, and Kristin Bell showed up last night, as Elle, the Elle-ectrical lady sent to capture Peter. She might have been great. I have no idea, as her dialogue was crushingly bad, and her direction was to appear to be miffed and sarcastic no matter what the context. I did not enjoy her appearance at all, probably because I was thinking, "You passed up Lost for this? GAH!"

I've always enjoyed House, except for some terrible episodes last season where the fun was utterly lost, but my God, the fourth season is a revelation. Even if last season had comprised nothing but episodes with Wilson being made to be the opposite of fun by Tritter chewing gum noisily and threatening him with all sorts of horrible punishment, it would have been worth slogging through to get to this season, which has been absolutely wonderful. The temporary format of the show is still working like gangbusters, giving the showrunners huge amounts of material to work with, and all of it is gold.

I've fallen in love with the show all over again, but we both noted with much sadness that it's all well and good to be pissed at the showrunners for slowly chipping away at the candidates until a new trio of whipping boys (and girls) is created instead of keeping the whole team, but the main reason this is working is because the team are at each other's throats. Take away that tension and the concept stops working. The inbuilt obsolescence is what makes it so good. Anne Dudek as Cutthroat Bitch/Amber is particularly good. She is utterly loathsome, but so so watchable. Without the competition to work with House, she'd just be obnoxious. Hopefully she'll make it to the last four and then get booted out, hopefully in a really humiliating way, like when Jade got to the last three in America's Next Top Model cycle 7. Or was it 6. Whatever. Amber is just so evil and yet I think she's awesome. Even when she's at full Guptocity, it's fun to watch her scheme. That said, it was sad to see the last of the delightful Carmine Argenziano, but even though we went, "DAMMIT!" when he was cut from the team, the decision to remove him from the Cottage shortlist was understandable, and beautifully explained. The writers are on fire so far. Please let it continue beyond the three weeks I guess it will take for House to choose his Cottages.

Also very strong this week was Pushing Daisies, now 100% Sonnenfeld free (except in an executive producing capacity). Sadly he was there long enough for a visual template to be created that the rest of the show is kinda forced to follow, but director Adam Kane (another cinematographer turned director) managed to keep the hyper-realism without resorting to the same four tricks for the entire show. As a result I could actually relax and just enjoy the show without my eyes getting too annoyed.

Rina Mimoun's script was funny too, and only occasionally overplayed the cutesy factor, though perhaps things slackened a bit in the latter half, but it was great to see Dash Mihok and Jayma Mays doing their thing, and basically it's the sort of episode that fans of the first three episodes would probably consider a letdown, but people irked by those same episodes would consider a blessed relief and massive improvement. I get the feeling there will be a division of the fanbase sooner rather than later, those who want it to go for all-out tweeness and those of us glad for a slackening. Just so you know, my faction will bring weapons to this reckoning.

Oddly enough, considering how down I've been on Pushing Daisies in the past, this week it was Reaper that disappointed, but only a little. There were many delights: Tyler Labine throwing cereal into Sam's mouth as he slept; the cameo by Aaron "Tyrol" Douglas; lots of pratfalls; our heroes stuck in jail. That said, the tone of the show is slowly changing as the series progresses, and yes, finally we see the beginnings of an arc as Sam's dad begins to act all shady about the contract and the Devil starts showing his true colours. He's really enjoying making Sam's life hell, and it's as upsetting to see as it is entertaining.

So yeah, I'm becoming a bit conflicted about it, though kudos to the showrunners for equating Sam's dead-end job in retail with his dead-end job as the Devil's lackey. A nice touch. Plus, even though Andi is becoming a more interesting character, it's only because the Devil is forcing Sam to keep his role as a Satanic bounty hunter. Other than that she's still just a cypher, and the show drags whenever Missy Peregrym is onscreen. It's a shame, but it's not ruining the show. Just creating tiny longeurs. It will survive it. Because of this wonderful wonderful grin, of course.

Here's a wonder that happened without the benefit of That Grin; Bionical Woman did not totally totally suck. It was merely crushingly average with a couple of tolerably entertaining scenes. I really think this has a lot to do with the lack of Katee Sackhoff as the Fifty Million Dollar Mangirl. Her hammy performances and bleak plotline have been responsible for driving a lot of the show, which shows a terrible lack of faith on the showrunners part concerning the main character of the show. Without it, the show temporarily reinvented itself as that most rare of things, an action adventure show about rival spy factions getting in each others way while trying to capture deadly technology from scientists while anonymous gangs of terrorists try to kill them. It's something TV has never had the guts to attempt before, and so kudos to the Morgans and Jason Smilovic and David Eick and everyone else on the show for revolutionising TV. If only Jaime was working in an anonymous retailer offering advice about computers; then it would truly be groundbreaking.

::really bored and disappointed sigh:: Okay, so the show became even more formulaic and unadventurous than ever, but thankfully Friday Night Lights producer Jason Katims has had the foresight to import not only actor Kevin Rankin, but also ace writer Liz Heldens. Her light touch improved the dialogue massively, and the phone conversation between Ryan (so much better when talking with an English accent) and Rankin was positively entertaining. They both need a lot more screen time together.

I know Canyon hated Rankin's FNL character Herc and practically considered him the show Gupta, but I thoroughly enjoyed his saltiness. Pairing him up with the holier-than-thou Street was a genius move, and I looked forward to his unapologetic dickery each week. On Bionic Woman he's similarly snotty, but the likeability is amped up. He's stealing the show week in, week out. If the new team can capitalise on his charm, and make Jaime's implants malfunction so she constantly speaks in an English accent, this show will be on the way to becoming not the absolute worst thing on TV (see below for info on the show that is bottom of my viewing list).

Remember how I kept complaining about the hour-long Office? This week it was half an hour and it didn't seem long enough. That's not to say I wish it was still an hour long; it means I'm even more mad at the showrunners for doing it in the first place. It's going to be weeks before I get back into the swing of the original format. Of course, it was still great, with Dwight becoming more and more adorable every week, but it was one of those episodes of The Office that I would put in the subset called, "I really really really hate Michael Scott." This time it was mostly because he was mean to the office musicians, who were adorable. Especially The Mighty Creed, seen here in the grip of a Guitar Hero fugue just like the ones we suffer from.

A lot of the time I find Michael endearingly pathetic, or somehow noble (his appearance at Pam's art show in season three might be his finest moment), but every so often I just want to throw him off the roof of Dunder Mifflin onto a bouncy castle. At Phyllis' wedding I despised him so much I wondered if the show had broken him, and the resolution of that episode where Phyllis forgives him just angered me more. This week he treated the whole team like a bunch of idiots, and yes, I get the joke that given a creative role he would become a tyrant instead of an "entertainer", but he was so mean to everyone I was desperate to see his advert fail. Hopefully next week I'll start to like him again.

Ugly Betty was also not as amusing as usual, but then it seemed to be resolving some of the downbeat plot threads introduced last week. How wrong I was about Betty and Henry. The scene where they decide to forget about their problems for 5 months and go for it despite the inevitable heartache was unexpectedly moving and, for this show, unusually bittersweet. Even better than that was Marc's new relationship with fashion photographer Cliff. Although seemingly doomed by Marc's relentless superficiality, their reconciliation at the end was wonderful, and fit in perfectly with the theme of the show (honesty and integrity vs. shallowness and emotional cowardice). Marc has been fleshed out wonderfully since his introduction in the first season, especially with his mentoring of Justin, and this new relationship is a welcome continuation of that trend. I'm already rooting for them to make it work out.

While the Meade family falls apart a little more each week, Hilda and Justin have come together at last after weeks of grieving. Their scenes have been simultaneously horrifying and funny, especially Hilda's clique of depressed widows making quilts out of their dead husbands' clothes, but hopefully now some semblance of normality will return. The death of Justin's father came out of nowhere in the season 1 finale and I wondered where they would go with it. Miraculously, they have dramatised Hilda and Justin's grief without overwhelming the light tone of the show. Amazing.

I've said it before and I'll say it again; Ugly Betty is a marvel, doing things that no other soap on TV seems to be able to manage, or even attempt (this week I was even told by two male non-TV watchers that they love it, which, if you knew them, would be final proof as to how universally appealing it is. You'll just have to take my word on it). Compare it to the still-risible Dirty Sexy Money, now restored to usual levels of suckery with the departure of ace writer Diane Ruggiero. Not that her presence did much to improve the show, but it did raise its game a little. This week, nothing worked. Even the most notable moment, i.e. Tripp and Jeremy's reconciliation toward the end of the episode, only worked because Donald Sutherland, again, blew the bloody doors off with his professionalism and enthusiasm. The writing was pitifully flat, the resolution contrived, the emotional intensity unearned. Plus, I'm really superpissed that there has been no mention of his pimp coat since the first episode.

Considering Ugly Betty is so garish and over the top, it always surprises me how delicate it can be when it needs to. Betty and Henry's thread was superbly handled, and avoided contrivance so completely that when they kiss at the end the moment is all the more affecting (Shades of Caruso code for: I cried. Happy now?). In Dirty Sexy Money, every line of dialogue hammers home exposition so clumsily that instead of feeling the moment, you're told what is going on. Anvils clang continually, so loud there is no space for any other information or nuance to come through.

Dad, I feel so bad that I have lots of money. I want a job so that I can prove myself to you! Because your respect means so much to me, even though this is the first time I've mentioned it and it really only means anything in the context of the events of the previous 40 minutes of show time.


You can't buy that silly painting! It's expensive, and hanging around with the incredibly rich Darlings has shown me that conspicuous consumption is a bad thing! And yes, I acted like I hated it all in the first couple of scenes of the first episode, but I guess this is what passes for character growth in this show's world.


Yes, I tried to employ your father, because he wanted to do good things with his money but couldn't while working with those wacky dysfunctional Darlings. Have you managed to do anything charitable since starting work with them? No? Why, how odd! Perhaps it's time you did. Maybe in the final scene, so you can look all wistful at the hand that life has dealt you.


Show, don't tell, is advice that gets bandied around all the time, and for good reason. Betty and Henry's pain is evident but they refuse to acknowledge it, allowing Christopher Gorham and America Ferrera to perform around their dialogue. In Dirty Sexy Money, Seth Gabel, Samaire Armstrong and Donald Sutherland are forced to ignore emotional subtext and deliver lines that hit the nail on the head, often in looping afterward, just in case the viewer has missed something obvious, because we're all drooling pinheads just waiting for another reality show to come along so we don't get distracted or challenged while trying to eat pudding with our index finger.

I guess that's the main difference between both shows; Ugly Betty treats its audience with respect, and Dirty Sexy Money assumes the audience cannot function without constant handholding. That would also explain the relentless exposition that plagues the show and accounts for about 35% of the dialogue. Plus, Ugly Betty understands the current pop culture landscape better than Dirty Sexy Money; making Donald Sutherland refer to such modern superstars as Justin Timberlake and Ethan Hawke was horribly clumsy, though redeemed by his hilarious line reading. He is so far and away the best thing about this show that everyone else onscreen should hang their head in shame.

They should look to Friday Night Lights for a lesson in how to do it. Every episode contains hours of information-per-second crammed into 45 minutes, and even when it's not amazing it's still the best drama on TV right now. This week saw the murder plot move forward with the discovery of the body, but even though that was dealt with better than feared, the meat of the show came with Coach Taylor's return to Dillon and the resumption of his coaching of the Panthers. Of course, the changeover was anything but smooth, thanks to the usual bumbling by Buddy Garrity, but even if it causes problems in the long run, for now the format of the show is back to normal, and even better, we'll get more scenes with Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton together, which is the best news ever.

Also fun was Riggins and Street's Amazing Mexican Adventure, which featured much drinking and misunderstandings about shark DNA. Taylor Kitsch has always had great chemistry with Scott Porter, but as Kitsch/Riggins spent little time with Porter/Street during the first season for various reasons (i.e. being a big sleazy coward who shtupped his girlfriend and kept avoiding him), they didn't have a chance to get together much. This week they went crazy in Mexico, and Riggins began to panic for his friend.

Dirty Sexy Money showrunners, watch this goddamn show. So much was unsaid during their scenes together, but tons and tons of information was imparted through superior performances, writing, editing and photography. Their past weighed on every line and look between them, but the only things we heard were their bitching to each other about getting drunk and finding women.

Okay, so Dirty Sexy Money doesn't have a whole season of backstory to utilise, but even in the first season we found out more about these characters from what was shown or not shown, instead of through pages and pages of exposition. The same goes for all the other characters. It's how everyone should be making shows now, treating the audience with some respect instead of assuming they cannot follow soap operatics after decades of living with the conventions of the genre. Perhaps this is why I watch Dirty Sexy Money; it makes me appreciate Friday Night Lights all the more.

On the good old BBC, with its funding depleted and staff revolting, The Culture Show continues onward, at least for a time before getting cut back. It's a shame, though only because the BBC doesn't have enough arts programming, and this hodge-podge of tiny flighty features is better than nothing. I very rarely watch it, as it doesn't get to spend enough time dealing with any subject. I may not be a fan of The South Bank Show either, but at least it gets to treat its subjects with extra time. This week featured some amusing stuff. Verity Sharp interviewed Cate Blanchett about Elizabeth 2: Raleigh Me Up and the Dylan biopic It's Not Me, Babe, It's a Bunch of Other Actors Playing Me, or whatever it's called. Most of it was a slight remove from the usual puff pieces you see on entertainment TV, but Sharp, after pointing out that her performance as Dylan was from his early, curiously feminine/androgynous early years, memorably asked Blanchett how masculine her Elizabeth was, to which Canyon continued, "50% masculine? 60%?" Blanchett looked suitably rattled by the stupid question.

Even more entertaining was Frank Gardner, BBC Security Correspondent, interviewing Jake Gyllenhall about Rendition. We got to see Gardner preparing Gyllenhaal for the interview (which was obviously one of many held as part of a press junket that day) by telling him he was a journalist who had been shot and paralysed by al-Qaeda insurgents. The look of confusion and terror on Jakey's face was hilarious, but luckily his responses during the interview were more thoughtful.

Silliest of all was Mark "Zoot Suit" Kermode interviewing Greatest Living Film Director David Cronenberg about his new movie Eastern Promises. Of course, a significant chunk of that time was spent discussing how the new movie fits in with Cronenberg's horror filmography, which is something that drives me crazy. Of the 17 full length films he has made (I'm counting Stereo and Crimes of the Future as one, as they're an hour long each and are often screened together as companion pieces), 7 of them aren't horror, and some of the others are so odd as to defy genre descriptions. For example, is Naked Lunch really a horror film? Or eXistenZ?

Anyway, when interviewers or critics focus on these films it makes me wonder if they have any interest in the development of his oeuvre, choosing instead to rely on lazy thinking. That said, I'll give Kermode a break on this one as he is obviously a horror film fan and was probably very excited about interviewing the great man, as well he should be. That said, why oh why oh why did he decide to set up an elaborate series of cameras and monitors so that they could talk with their backs to each other, with their faces filmed head on? Kermode said it was because Cronenberg's films are unflinching, so he wanted the camera to look right into his face. It was such a silly, pretentious thing to do that I could barely concentrate on the interview over the embarrassment I felt for Cronenberg. He handled it well. Class act, that guy. And his hair is positively Pasdarian.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

CSI: Miami Watch - "Backstabbers"

Remember the awesome episode where H blew up a truck bound for the nuclear power plant at Turkey Point? We sure do. Canyon recapped that one, with the silly kidnapping plot that turned into a really really bad episode of 24. Seems we're not done with that story yet. You may recall that H apprehended the glamorous Sonya, evil terrorist mastermind with a smirk and a flirty gleam in her eye. Obviously that outrageous sexual tension between her and the Orange Pimpernel worked so well she got dragged back to continue her nefarious schemes. Of course, we have to get her trial out of the way first. It's held in a cathedral-like courtroom, and it was this outrageous monument to justice that started me thinking; is H the modern day Judge Dredd, except he's not just Judge, Jury and Executioner, but Forensics Expert and Bomb Disposal Hot Shot as well?

As soon as H gets onto the stand, we get a flashback of him blowing up the truck, cutting back and forth to H and Sonya giving each other sexy stares. The prosecutor asks H to explain what Sonya said to him at the end of that episode, and hilariously H sits mute while her voice is looped in. Yet another disastrous directorial decision in this most inept of shows. At this point we find out that she's not working for al-Qaeda. Instead she's allied with al-Qadir, who I assume is al-Qaeda's Floridian cousin.

All of that is great, but sadly she's in the dock on the far more interesting charge of kidnapping the Kinkella family and extorting them. Screw all that blowing up a nuclear reactor and irradiating Florida nonsense, we want justice for the Kinkellas! Sonya's weasel lawyer brings this up after H has gone to the trouble of damning her by associating her with the sabotage plot, but he still manages to get at her reputation by continually pointing out that she only gave out information in order to reduce her sentence, even when the weasel lawyer goes all, "Objection!" on his ass. It's very Phoenix Wright. He metaphorically dances with the lawyer for a while, but against H, the lawyer has no chance. Instead of dropping charges, the judge sets her bail at $1m. Naturally, this is paid instantly. At this point I figured that the terrorists really do make a lot of money from sales of illegal DVDs and ciggies, but there will be a shocking twist later on. No, seriously. It is shocking. Shockingly stupid.

Seriously, H and Sonya can't stop staring at each other throughout this entire scene. She looks only at him, and wears this sexxy expression through the whole thing.

H, she's either horny or hungry, and who knows how al-Qadir rolls. Anyway, outside the cathedracourt, Peter Kinkella is super-pissed about her bail release, and angrily confronts H, who promises they will deal with Sonya eventually. Not good enough! Kinkella storms off, leaving H free to follow Sonya and her lawyer to his car, where they simmer at each other a little more. Suddenly, before they can go from staring to pouting and blowing kisses, OMG! Another car comes out of nowhere and shoots the lawyer! H is shocked to the core, and even goes so far as to make the effort to change his expression from self-satisfied to horrified, which is always a big moment in CSI: Miami history.

Sonya takes to opportunity to leap into the lawyer's car and speed away, and H comes out shooting, as usual. He gets off a few shots at both the assassin car and Sonya's car, but the latter time he uses incendiary bullets or something. Like Judge Dredd! See? He'd make a great Judge Dredd. Plus, the helmet covers his face and offers some protection against that evil sun.

As a result there is no payoff line prior to credits, just a shot of him looking piiiiiiissed. We were more pissed than him, actually. We live for this quipping shit, if you can call it that. Still, once the credits have finished yelling at us, we do get an awesome shot of H reflected in a bullet casing. It's rare to see H deign to do any actual detective work, so it's a big deal, but then in the next scene he's running the plates of the shooter's car! This must mean he's taking the case personally! Excellent. It's always great when he gets all moody. Moodier. Whatever.

H traces the car to a kid called Craig Edwards, and he is brought in. During the intense interrogation scene, he tries to come up with some lame excuse that his friends took his car, but after a single tough line from H, he starts ranting about how corrupt the legal system and the US are. Doesn't he know who he is talking to? He's talking to Justice Incarnate! This is the literal red rag to the literal bull. Not literally, though. A little bit of gunshot residue is found on him, and immediately he starts ranting about how happy he is the lawyer is dead. Lawyers and US law suck! Then, two seconds later, his own lawyer appears and he's all over him. I love that the show thinks that this shows up the hypocrisy of the terrorists. They hate our freedoms until they need them. Bastards! Where's Gitmo when you need it?

Anyway, the lawyer is a sleazebag in a pink shirt and cheap leather jacket, so he must be one of those liberals who love abortion and Castro! On this show? SHOOT HIM, H! Don't let that bastard live! H is amused by Craig's hypocrisy. As are we. And probably Bill O'Reilly and that weasel Hannity and some other right-wing douchebags, if they're watching this and not listening to the ever-more deranged shrieks of the famous Lesser-Brained Coulter Vulture. I guess after all of these comments I don't need to reiterate how right-wing this show is. Or how clumsily written.

Meanwhile, Calleigh and Wolfe are en route to Sonya's car, which has been found somewhere with a guy in it. He's called Hector Ramirez, and is played by Rick Gonzalez, currently to be seen as bird-hating Ben on Reaper! Awesome! He's great, and is actually the first guest actor on this show to exhibit some inner life. Also at the crime scene is the documentarian, Doyle, who has been assigned to follow Wolfe around in episodes passim, thus setting up the most memorable moment of the episode later on. Wolfe uses super-detectivity to find a corpse in the boot of the car. Things are looking bad for Ben. Sorry. Hector. He's immediately arrested, and slowly the scene is resolved under the oppressive orange sky. Yes, this scene features the most out of control orange filter yet seen in this show, and that's saying a lot. It's as if someone spilled Lucozade on the lens and didn't clean it off before it dried.

Back at the lab, Boa Vista pays a visit to Alexx, performing an autopsy on the dead lawyer. They realise the bullet (or, as Boa Vista calls it in a rare moment of professionalism, the "projectile") is not there. As usual, no one noticed the guy has two enormous holes in his neck, which would suggest one of them is an exit wound. What else could it be, gills? Couldn't they have figured that out at the crime scene and sent someone to look for it then instead of doing it hours later? God! Anyway, H and Natalia return to the crime scene and while he stands around looking as cool as an orange cucumber, Natalia finds the bullet handily stuck in a tree just a few feet away from where the lawyer was standing, thus saving the show time and money setting up a big scene with them scouring the area. Brilliant. They also realise that the shot was not aimed at the lawyer, but was meant for Sonya. The assassin in the killer car missed, and the "projectile" ricocheted off a metal pole. These al-Qadir assassins suck, man. At least at drive-bys.

Back at the morgue, Calleigh and Alexx confer about the body in the trunk. Seems he is called Gabriel Cervantes, and was "28 years young", as Alexx intones, pompously. This guy's daughter is sitting nearby, and in a weird change of pace, Calleigh goes over to patronise her and make her a promise she cannot keep. For at least 75% of the first three seasons, H would have a scene where he creepily talks down to some orphaned kid and promises to bring the killer of his/her father/mother to justice, but for some reason this week the responsibility falls to Calleigh. She is slowly starting to replace H, as her horrid season 5 transformation into a snotty judgemental scumbag has shown.

Of course, the kid saw the killer stab her father to death, and is terrified that they will get at her if she testifies. Naturally Calleigh promises her that will not happen, which is really ill-advised. While she makes that terrible mistake, H deduces that Sonya's lawyer has no phone on his body, which means Sonya must have picked it up. Also, Delko reveals that Craig didn't shoot Sonya, even though he's covered in gunshot residue (I can't remember why this is. Something to do with cutting-edge science, I'll wager), and is taking the fall to lead the team away from the real killer, who is still out there looking for Sonya. That duplicitous America-hating bastard! H calls Sonya on the lawyer's phone, and desperately begs her to give herself up so he can save her from herself. Of course, because she is a criminal mastermind, she reckons her chances of survival are good, and so she hangs up. Rude! Oh, and I loved this shot. This is how H dials a phone. He even has a trademarkable method of making a call. That is acting genius.

Wolfe and Documentary Doyle interrogate Hector, and he confesses to carjacking Sonya and being a sleazy dick who keeps winking into the camera, but denies the murder of Gabriel. He's obviously lying, and Wolfe reckons there will be evidence on his clothes (this is the standard bit of detective work done on this show. If it's not looking for rock dust, it's spraying clothes for blood stains).

Before we get to that memorable scene, H and Delko go to the scene of the carjacking, and find a car rental place from which Sonya probably got another vehicle after losing the lawyer's car. She bought an Escalade with tinted windows and no GPS, which doesn't seem suspicious at all. H takes a security tape from camera on the lot to look at later. Meanwhile, Wolfe is showing off to Doyle, doing a Luminol test on Hector's jacket, but his usual amount of spraying doesn't show up on camera, so upon Doyle's prompting he has to go nuts and practically empty a bottle on it. This, of course, destroys all the DNA, so the evidence is now useless. As usual, this is a purely mechanical way to stretch the episode out in length and to create some silly drama for Calleigh, as the kid will now have to testify, thank to the loss of their conclusive evidence. The only thing I like about this plot development is that Valera gets to chide Wolfe in front of the camera, and the arrogant little jerk gets to look stupid. Yay Valera!

Calleigh gives him a little grief, but really not nearly enough. How unprofessional does a Miami CSI have to be before they get in trouble? The only person in the show who ever got properly punished for not being professional was poor Speedle, who was punished by God by being killed in a gun fight. That showed him. Turns out Gabriel's corpse has tattoos over his chest, and Tripp gets to do more than just spout exposition to H by spouting exposition to Alexx and Calleigh. He reveals that one of the tattoos represents his retirement from gang life. Great! Except in gang culture that's a suicide statement, and therefore another gang member would then have to kill him. Harsh.

This leads Calleigh to gang boss Rulon Domingo, a hard ass currently in jail. In possibly the most preposterous scene of the week (or even season), Calleigh goes to see if he ordered a hit. Of course he tells her there is no way he's going to cooperate, because, you know, he's a hardass. Calleigh reasons that because he has 3 life sentences and nothing to lose, he should reveal it. So without any further prompting or bargaining he does. WHAT? This is beyond ridiculous. Calleigh's argument is that he's already in for life, what's another count of murder? WHAT? He then arrogantly says she should tell Hector he made his bones by killing Gabriel, and she says, "I'll tell you what. I'll let you tell him yourself." Stupid line, but the best thing is Rulon's response, which is like, "Oh man, I never thought of that!" Dumbest. Gang boss. Ever. No wonder he's in jail. What did he think was going to happen? GAH! This could very well be the stupidest moment in CSI: Miami history. I don't think I need to tell you there is a lot of competition.

Tech hero Cooper has been hard at work tracking Sonya's phone, and they find the signal coming from a warehouse. Unhappily for our heroes, so has a cadre of evil al-Qadir hitmen! H and Tripp and a bunch of cops rush to the scene, but the swarthy Middle Eastern bad guys are already there. Cue vaguely exotic music with wailing and sitars or something. Pretty offensive stuff, but then the only contact the showrunners have with Muslims is casting them as terrorists, so it's not surprising. Turns out, Sonya is a smart cookie. She left the phone as a trap, so the law and the terrorists would get into a shootout. And they do! Bullets whizz, but of course it's H who gets first blood, shooting a terrorist to shit while destroying a handy sheet of glass. Super-dramatic!

Then Tripp blows someone away too. Good week for Tripp. the other cops just run around a bit. How will this terrifying bloodbath get resolved? H wings another guy and they all surrender. Seriously. It's awesome. Then we get a cool shot of H looking fearsome, standing over the wounded terrorist with the enormous warehouse behind him. The perp is reaching for his gun, and upon seeing that he simply growls, "Wrong." See what I mean about Judge Dredd? That movie needs to be remade, stat.

H interrogates the guy while he's on the floor and threatens to kill him. He's so bad ass this week. Turns out the terrorists now think Sonya is a narc, but no, you silly bad guy, she really is an evil terrorist. Is he pissed because she broke some terrorist code? You're bad guys! All of this "honour amongst thieves" stuff is just so much bunkum. Or are you just pissed because she outsmarted you, you misogynist asshole? Tripp's response to this accusation of her being in cahoots with his fellow cops is great. "Fat chance!" Yes, because she seems to be pretty smart. She'd never gonna get a job in Miami Dade law enforcement. They only employ righteous idiots.

Such as Wolfe, who tells Calleigh that due to his ridiculous mistake the kid has to testify, and she's understandably horrified. Wolfe really times his screw-ups to maximise the drama in the B-plot, doesn't he. Video expert Cooper has managed to get the car rental security tape running (tough job, eh Cooper?), and OMG Hector isn't just a carjacker with a body to hide; he's in on it with the evil and brainy Sonya! The gang is in league with al-Qadir! Turns out that a bit of scientific deductive work reveals that his shirt may not have DNA on it any more, but it does have plastic explosive residue on it. He worked on the truck that was going to blow up the power plant in the previous episode! Ridiculous. I mean, exciting!

H interrogates Hector, and his excuse is that it was good money, ignoring the fact that if the plan had gone ahead he would only have been able to spend the money on irradiated churros. Sadly he doesn't know where Sonya is. H threatens him with the line, "Under the PATRIOT Act this is your last hour of freedom. What do you want to do?" Only on CSI: Miami (and 24) is the Patriot Act seen as a good thing. Still, it works. It scares Hector into considering confessing, and so he asks for a deal. Great! Except H says no. Probably because he doesn't deal with terrorists. Good work sticking to your ideals, H, but now what are you going to do?

Time to get the B-plot out of the way. Calleigh tells the orphaned little girl that the man who killed her father is going away, though she doesn't tell her it's on a charge of sedition, not murder. Would the kid care? Doesn't matter. Time to wrap this shit up. H does something unusual; lab work! Usually he just orders the others around and then materialises behind them when they're finished, but either this week he's taking it personally, or he doesn't trust his team to get it right. After Wolfe's mistake, he probably has a point. Of course, it's also possible he just can't wait to see her sexxy smouldering sex face again. He tests some of the guns found during the warehouse shootout, and one of them has blood on the slide. Someone who has never fired a gun before got his hand caught in the slide. It has a technical name; a slide bite. This is not the first time they've done this. Who was the drive-by assassin? The lawyer! He's in so deep with al-Qadir that now he's shooting people for them. I know tuition fees can leave you in debt for a long time, but jeez, there's a line you don't cross, dude.

H is so pissed about this he snarls, "Book these two animals!", and the lawyer and the al-Qadir guy he winged get dragged off. With that resolved, our heroes resume the search for Sonya, and finally think to see who posted bail for her. Who did they think it was, Moscone Bail Bonds? Actually, that would be awesome.

That digression doesn't disguise my annoyance with this revelation. Sure, it's another stupid artificial way to stretch out the plot, but this really does make the team look like a bunch of chumps. Why didn't they think to check this earlier? It's a pretty big deal, right? Perhaps there's a law against it, but seeing as how H is throwing the PATRIOT Act around like a really cool Top Trumps card, you'd think they'd just go for it. But I, again, digress. Turns out the bail was provided by Peter Kinkella, the guy whose family was kidnapped on her say so in the previous episode. He's used his yacht as collateral, so H goes to the marina.

Kinkella has a brilliant and devious plan to kill Sonya for being so evil, and he's trapped her by promising her a trip in his boat. Which is surely under the control of the Miami Dade justice system, right? Man, this is making my head hurt with its relentless stupidity. What's worse is she has gone along with this, which means she's either less smart than we thought, or way more cunning. I hope it's the latter. H needs a new arch-enemy. He's killed all of the others.

H confronts Kinkella and tries to talk him out of murdering Sonya, who is standing nearby, listening with a smug and sexxy look on her face. If she's there listening, I have a feeling this plan is pretty much doomed. Kinkella says, "Do you have any idea what it's like to lose your family?" which give H the chance to look pained. He talks Kinkella out of killing Sonya (which is dumb for the reasons listed above), and he walks away, leaving the yacht for Sonya to use. I'm not even going to point out how stupid that is. After a bit of sexxy banter with H she just gets in the boat and sails off, though promising to honour the terms of her bail by not leaving Miami waters. She's all gloaty, but H is half-pissed, half-concerned for her safety, what with al-Qadir determined to kill her. This is why I love H; he's a real chivalrous hero, something that Judge Dredd isn't. Maybe I was wrong all along. The episode ends with her sails off into the really orange distance. H puts his glasses on, and walks away. Until the next time, Sonya. Until the next time.

"Backstabbers" Stats:

Horatio's Send-Off Into Credits: None. A shocking anomaly in the history of the show. It left the entire episode spinning in chaos without it. Let's hope it never happens again.

Ripped-Off Plot of the Week:
This week they just ripped the story out of today's headlines. PATRIOT Act, terrorism, shootouts, Cuban gangs doing grunt work for the notorious al-Qadir; this is life in the 21st century people, except life isn't predominantly orange.

Natalia's Awful Blouse of the Week: Natalia surprised us greatly with a tasteful cardigan, albeit a low-cut one. No bad blouse for us?

Wrong! Hector stole one from her wardrobe, somehow. What the hell is this monstrosity?

Perhaps the rule of the show isn't that Natalia must wear a horrible blouse, but that at least one person has to wear a horrible blouse and her name kept getting picked out of the hat. This week, he lost.

Number of Caruso Two-Steps: About seven. By the end of the episode he was really packing them in.

Best splitscreen of the week:
There was more complicated stuff, but this was gratifyingly symmetrical.

It is as if they are two sides of something that has two sides. Bread? It's as if they are two sides of the same slice of bread. H's side is buttered. No wait, that doesn't make sense.

Most Patronising Dialogue From Horatio:
Craig: You think someone's going to get a fair shake in the court system you're kidding yourself. Your whole legal system's corrupt, just like your country.
H: Son, aren't you from Pensacola?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Five Random Things That Make Me Very Very Happy (2)

1: Doctor Orpheus from The Venture Brothers.

There are lots of things to love about The Venture Brothers, which is pretty much the funniest animated series on TV right now, but the thing that is 100% guaranteed to make me laugh is Doctor Orpheus. He's an obvious spoof of Marvel Comics' Sorceror Supreme, Doctor Strange, but whereas that character is a confident and worldly force for good, Orpheus is plagued by insecurity, desperate for the friendship of Dr. Venture, and miserable over his inability to gain the attentions of an arch-enemy. Scared that his best years are behind him, and stuck looking after his grumpy goth daughter Trianna (who he loves but doesn't understand), he rents a spacious room in the Venture compound and tries desperately to gain the acceptance of his landlord, even though Dr. Venture is an absolute dick. In the second season he reforms his superteam, The Order of the Triad, but even that is not enough to satisfy him.

He would be a great character anyway, but the hilariously overwrought voicework by Steven Rattazzi pushes him right over the top. There are many ways to deliver the line "Do not be too hasty in entering that room. I had Taco Bell for lunch!" upon exiting a toilet, but the way he bellows it as if delivering a hammy piece of Shakespearean verse is genius. Sadly Adult Swim are good at taking down footage from their shows from YouTube, so if you want to see him in action, I suggest you buy the DVDs. Strongly suggest, in fact. Actually, I order you. Immediately. You won't regret it.

There's only one drawback to this. I'm currently reading Austin Grossman's fantastic novel, Soon I Will Be Invincible (an awesome birthday gift from Canyon), and the main superteam, The Champions, has on its roster a sorceror called Mister Mystic. Whenever he talks, all I can hear is that hilarious voice. I'm sure the character is meant to be taken seriously, but it's just impossible. BTW, you should also buy this book. It's fabtriffic.

2: The news that production on Mad Max: Fury Road has begun again.

When I was but a little boy, of the age where I would skip to school whilst wearing shorts and a cap, eagerly on the lookout for conkers while starlings and blue tits chirped in the trees, I really really enjoyed coming home and rewatching my knackered video copy of Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, just to see the Feral Child chop off a guy's fingers with a razor boomerang, or Humongous flexing his outrageous muscles like something out of a Roman gladiator movie, or Vernon Wells getting killed in a head-on collision between a tanker truck and a car.

Okay, I tell a lie. I was actually a teenager. The stuff about shorts and caps and conkers is true though. Maybe that's why the cool kids kept throwing stuff at my head. I also remember playing Car Wars, the Steve Jackson game that emulated the same post-apocalyptic car battle scenarios. Many hours would be spent pushing tiny slivers of cardboard around a flimsy map, trying to beat my game-obsessed cousin, who was older than me and actually knew the rules, thus putting me at a disadvantage. Ah, memories. The worst part of this exposure to all the grimy angry vroom-vroom is that I now think that such a future is not only entirely plausible but inevitable. And I don't even know how to drive! Man, when the world falls apart, I am so screwed. That said, I have a really bad arthritic knee and grey wings in my hair, so I've got that part of the Max Rockatansky shtick going for me.

Loving Road Warrior is not exactly controversial, but some of the guys I knew who were in the year above thought I was mad for also liking Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, as it featured kids and was therefore not as hardcore as Road Warrior. Perhaps they had a point. If I went back to it now I'd probably agree, but at the time it just made me want to live in a post-apocalyptic world as part of a community of warrior children and hang out with a murderous Mel Gibson while trying to avoid Tina Turner. She was on Radio 1 all the time when I was a kid, so I reckon it would have been a common fantasy.

It's been years since I've seen them (mostly because Warner Brothers have not bothered to release proper DVDs, opting instead for barebones cheap-ass versions instead), but I still remember them fondly, and kept wishing directorial maestro George Miller would get the fourth film underway. Sadly for the fans, the project has had its fair share of bad luck over the years: Miller directing one of the biggest flops in film history (Babe 2: Pig In The City) and then being ostracised by the industry; budget trouble; African location shooting proving problematic; Mel proclaiming loudly that the Jews are responsible for all the world's ills (I wonder if he thinks the Californian fires that menaced his house were a plot) and thus expending every last bit of good will I had towards him (until I saw the very entertaining Apocalypto, which has thrown me for a loop). I'd given up on it, especially as Miller is now working on the Justice League movie, but Moviehole have revealed the project is going ahead again, sans Gibson, and pre-production will be done during the Justice League shoot.

Miller is one of my all-time heroes. The closest he's got to making a bad movie was The Witches of Eastwick; when people complain about the Hollywoodisation of a book I get so mad at the implicit snobbery in that phrase, but there is no other word for Michael Christofer's adaptation of John Updike's bizarre novel. All of the risk has been surgically removed, and the only thing that redeems the movie is Miller's muscular direction. I still love it, and have seen it a trillion times, but it's not the movie it should have been. Other than that, he's made some great stuff. Lorenzo's Oil, Babe 2, the Mad Max movies; all great. I even enjoyed Happy Feet lots and lots, and think it gets a ton of unfair criticism. Whatever. The master is back now he has an Oscar in his hand, and hopefully this second wind will see him restoring his reputation as one of the great storytellers of our age (and if you think I'm gonna apologise for the hyperbole, you can forget it), as well as making a movie set in a world that is more relevant than ever. I really cannot wait. Plus, the release of the new movie might spur Warner into giving the original movies a proper big DVD re-release, with all the bells and whistles! ZOMG!

Until then, check out Ain't It Cool's coverage; Merrick has been nice enough to put clips of the final chase sequence from Road Warrior. It's not a clean, speedy scene with nimble cars doing outrageous things; it's more a war of attrition, with outrageous violence and masterful stunts. Cinema at its best.

3: Frank Caliendo imitating John Madden on Letterman:

My only real exposure to John Madden is through playing the game, but you don't need to know what the real guy is like. This works beautifully anyway. The fact that it's an uncannily accurate impression is just a bonus. As with great Moments in Presidential speeches, this never fails to amuse.

4. Vern's work in the field of Seagalogy.

Speaking of Ain't It Cool, one of the site's more entertaining features are the reviews by Outlaw Vern, which are works of chaotic, grammatically dodgy brilliance. For years he has been working on a book of Seagalogy, and it finally got printed this week (I think; well, I found it today, so I'm sticking with that). Criticism can often be such a perfunctory thing that when you come across someone with a singular voice, it doesn't matter if you often disagree with them. It's just good to find entertaining and thoughtful writing about pop culture. Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian, Nigel Andrews in the Financial Times, Stephanie Zacharek and Andrew O'Hehir of Salon, Moriarty from AICN, the AV Club guys; I head straight to them every week.

While they will review most things released, Vern focuses on the long discredited action genre, and treats it with the respect it needs. His particular area of expertise, obviously, is the filmography of Steven Seagal, and he has the same love/hate relationship with him that I do with David Caruso. All you need to know about his credentials is that he thinks Out For Justice is Seagal's masterpiece, and it is, so he gets full marks for accuracy. Yes, I have often disagreed with him, but he makes me laugh even while I think he is horribly horribly wrong.

His entertainingly incoherent writing (almost certainly a pose, a bit like the wonderful Ami Angelwings) can be bought as real actual books or downloads from Lulu, and I heartily recommend them. Wow, I'm really trying to shill stuff out today.

5: We Both Reached For The Gun by Kander and Ebb, from Rob Marshall's Chicago:

Canyon recently recommended I watch Rob Marshall's film version of Chicago, and though a few years ago I would have said, "But the NO!!!", this time I jumped at the chance. Since seeing Once More With Feeling and Guys and Dolls (with Ewan McGregor and Jane Krakowski), I've started to love the genre. Chicago was better than I had expected, and I wonder if the lukewarm reviews it occasionally got at the time had more to do with the garishness of the visuals compared to the starkness of the stage version. As far as I could tell, Marshall did a pretty good job of mimicking Bob Fosse's directorial style, and though it was a little flashier, it worked very well.

Of all the songs in the show, We Both Reached For The Gun is my favourite (with Mister Cellophane coming close behind), but it was the scene itself, with the conceit of Roxie and the attendant press corps as puppets at the whim of Billy Flynn, that appealed to me most. If I'd give the movie an 8, this scene gets an 11. It's just genius.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


On Monday night, we saw Once, another movie that came out roughly two million years ago in the States and is probably already being remade with Josh Hartnett and Kate Beckinsale (along with those "Irish" gangsters from Heroes as their band members). It comes out on DVD there in December and we could have just bought it then and had it sent over, but we'd waited months to see it already, listening to increasingly fervent reviews all the while, and couldn't wait any longer. Any longer than Monday night, that is, because our weekend was already booked up with Guitar Hero.

It was a wonderful movie, the kind that makes you glad to be alive in a world where people make films like this, and if you haven't yet seen it, please do, and then come back here and thank me, and maybe PayPal me a little of your gratitude as well. I also accept gift certificates -- we're not picky here at Shades of Caruso.

Anyway, though it was a beautiful movie in sentiment, that wasn’t the case when it came to locations, filming style, film quality, or leading actors (sorry, Glen Hansard; you are a very talented musician and singer, but your eyes are wicked googly).

The film was obviously shot handheld on digital video, and apparently they didn’t always get permits to film and had to shoot on long lenses for public scenes and use friends’ houses for others (apparently it only cost $160,000 to make, and I’m afraid it shows, though happily it’s grossed more than $11 million). The camerawork was distractingly bad in certain scenes, especially an early one in a piano shop, which is shot as if someone’s dad is holding the camera and breathing heavily after one too many Coors Lights. I know this movie was low-budget, but guys, you couldn’t have shelled out for a tripod? They cost like twenty bucks. You could probably return it after you were done, since your movie was shot in two weeks and most places give you a month if you’ve got a receipt. I’m just saying. For Twice (the sequel, of course).

Luckily these distractions soon become unimportant, and the unprettiness of the locations was integral to the story. Hansard and Markéta Irglová’s characters both live in flats so depressing that they sent us both into bad-memory spirals as we recalled some of the unsavory places we’ve lived or visited and unfortunate characters we’ve known. No wonder they want to get out of Dublin (to go to London, which seems better until you realize that’s where Hackney is). And though the movie is a sort-of musical, the songs (especially at the beginning) are recorded quite badly — they often seemed on the verge of blowing out the camera’s mic, and even sounded rickety on the theater’s speakers. Again, though, this works for the movie — the sound is bad when Hansard is busking on the street at the beginning of the story, but by the time he and his makeshift band go into a recording studio, the songs are recorded beautifully, and are as smooth as a cat’s eyeball (sorry — as I write this, our cat Sydney is staring at me with her usual expression of insane confusion).

The story is a fairly simple one, though you may not want to read on if you haven’t seen it yet. Guy and Girl (for those are their “names” in the movie) meet, Guy is a broken-hearted hoover-fixer-sucker guy who busks at night, perpetually lugging around his worn-in guitar; Girl is a flower-seller who plays the piano. They begin to make music together, eventually recording some demo tracks so that Guy can go to London to try to make it. They both clearly begin falling for each other, but Hansard's character is dismayed to find out that Irglová is still married to the father of her child (though he is back in the Czech Republic); in truth, he himself is still pining for his ex-girlfriend, who cheated on him. The ending of the movie is bittersweet; the characters part, having never so much as kissed each other (though Irglová's character confesses at one point, in Czech, "You are the one I love"), but having changed and bettered each other immeasurably. Perhaps it's better that they don't end up together, as the time they spent together was (as the title implies) a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence (a la Lost in Translation, another sob-inducing chaste romance). Still, I can't help being cheered by the fact that Hansard and Irglová are dating in real life. Aw! Bet that wouldn't have happened if they'd cast Cillian Murphy, as they'd originally wanted to. That creepy blue-eyed replicant.

As I mentioned, Once is a semi-musical; there are no flights of fancy where the characters suddenly break out into song, but musical conventions are cleverly sneaked into the fabric of reality -- Hansard and Irglová begin falling for each other when they play a song together for the first time; Hansard reveals his troubled romantic past with an impromptu song on a bus (an especially nice character touch, as it's easier for him to evade a real answer by singing instead of talking); Irglová sings along to a track she's listening to on a CD player while the camera follows her. And the music itself is absolutely lovely -- beautiful folk-pop songs that come alive when Hansard and Irglová croon to each other. The fact that both of them are professional singers, not actors, was an excellent choice -- they both have amazing voices, can handle difficult songs easily, and most importantly, infuse the songs with gallons of emotion. Their naturalistic acting styles fit the tone of the movie perfectly, though obviously Josh Harnett would have been my first choice.

I think my favorite thing about the movie, though, was that it was a low-budget indie that avoided all the usual indie cliches. No wacky dysfunctional families, no tweeness, no overly coincidental plot contrivances, no miserably "real" couples (tangentially, Tell Me You'll Procreate With Me is getting a bit better on this front, though nowhere near where it should be. Once basically kicks its ass in this arena). In fact, the only indie movie it reminded me of was Before Sunrise (and its sequel, Before Sunset), and that's no bad thing, as both of those movies are quite possibly my favorite movies ever, and the only reason I think Ethan Hawke shouldn't be squashed like the little rat-faced terrier he is. Both stories show us a heart-burstingly beautiful story of two people beginning to fall in love, and the movies ring so true that it's hard to believe they're fiction.

Now I'm off to watch 40 Days and 40 Nights.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


Peter Serafinowicz's sketch show has been on for a few weeks now — as the Admiral explained earlier, our damnable semi-broken Sky+ box (the closest you can get to TiVo in this country) deleted the second episode on a whim (and yet has kept several movies the Admiral keeps trying to get me to watch even though I don't want to — why have you turned against me so, Sky+ box?). We attempted to get the second episode from the equally-damnable-but-not-redeemably-awesome BBC iPlayer, but that failed too, and apparently it's not worth repeating a brilliant sketch show when you can show Car Booty on an endless loop instead (I found out through hard experience that that show is not nearly as interesting as the title suggests).

Anyway...the show is full of very funny sketches (amid a few real clunkers) and tons of brilliant impressions, including Michael Caine, Kevin Spacey (couldn't find any YouTube clips, I'm afraid, though this is a pretty meta impression, as Spacey is a genius impressionist himself) and Alan Alda, the latter so eerily accurate it's not even really funny so much as like actually listening to Alan Alda. If you're not in the UK, it's definitely worth seeking out (though it's hard to find whole episodes online, there are quite a few sketches on YouTube -- the Butterfield and Darth Vader sketches are particularly worth watching).

During the latest episode, there was a song parody that made the Admiral laugh so hard that his forehead turned red and some scary veins stood out on his temple. Come to think of it, he may have been having a stroke. I give you Ringo Starr's "Goldfinger":

And speaking of excellent song parodies, I can't go without mentioning Chris Morris's dead-on Jarvis Cocker impression. If you, like me, were largely ignorant of Pulp, because your pathetically inept musical education in the mid-90s consisted of hastily learning the lyrics to "Motown Philly" so you could know a "cool" band's songs, I invite you to watch this video of the insanely catchy and altogether wonderful "Common People", to know and love Jarvis Cocker like a proper British muso.

So now you're familiar with Jarvis Cocker's strangely charming Elaine Benes-esque dancing, as well as his propensity for overly literal hand gestures (the fallback of many a bad male dancer) and writhing around in large novelty shopping carts. But though it seems impossible to love anyone more than Jarvis Cocker after that, I give you Chris Morris's parody from Brass Eye, a groundbreaking news-parody show. If you don't know who Myra Hindley is, Wikipedia is happy to provide you with some of their usual conspiracy-theory-based liberal claptrap.

Come back, Chris Morris, and we'll even forgive you Nathan Barley. Not the part where a cat got a pair of scissors stuck in its head, though. Thanks for searing that image into my brain for the next 50 years. If you're not satisfied with that Pulp reimagining, though, I leave you with the unholy alliance of William Shatner, Ben Folds, and Joe Jackson. You're welcome.

Monday, October 22, 2007

This Week in TV: Week 4

Boy, was a lot of this week TV miserable. I'm not saying it was all bad (though of course some of it was), but in the fourth week, shows either went for pathos or started to introduce darker themes. Perhaps this is something writing teams know about; three weeks of establishing the status quo, then in the fourth week, set up the big problems and season arcs.

The Office
was darker than ever, to the point that it overshadowed the obvious comic highlights (the hilarious conference-room discussion about the difference between whoever and whomever that gave everyone a chance to shine, the visit to Shrute Farms). Nathan Rabin wrote an excellent review of it that hit on a lot of the good points of the show, especially the heartbreaking moment between Jim and Dwight. Having Jim and Pam become his protectors and semi-friends is perfect (Dwight probably did more to bring them together than they realise, just by being the subject of their mockery), as was his post-talk acception/rejection in the office. As for Michael's depression, the show crossed the line between humour and horror, and then edged back again. Just.

I respect the showrunners for doing that, but while watching the show, I just felt horrible. Nice that they're acknowledging the currently miserable lower-middle-class job situation, though. I get the feeling they've all been reading Joshua Ferris' excellent novel, And Then We Came To The End, which is the tragic comedy to The Office's funny tragedy (or are they the other way around?). There has already been a plot about redundancy with the branch shutdown arc, but while that hung over the first couple of seasons like a dark cloud, there was no way the showrunners could go through with it without ending the show. This is a more viable way to address the uncertainty of the US job market and the stagnating economy, and again it shows how ambitious the show is. A simple sitcom about office politics this is not, but then if you watch the show you already know that.

Ugly Betty
also dropped the Sword of Damocles on a relationship that appears to have been doomed from the start. Though the episode featured many hilarious moments (my favourite being Amanda's declaration, "You were all at Studio 54 that night and I will find that Tweetie Bird if I have to search all of your asses!"), Henry finally found out that he was indeed the father of Charlie's baby, which surely finishes that arc off, or at least deals the fatal blow. The final scene, with Henry and Betty trying to come to terms with this news, hit hard, possibly because it was coming off the back of Justin's descent into inept machismo, and Wilhemina's plotting to destroy Mode.

Man, writing that out makes it seem like a bunch of frothiness, but in fact it was a real downer. The events might seem trivial, but the tone of the show darkened considerably. We were not left with the usual post-Betty glow. This is not a criticism. It was still great stuff, and Oh My God! Victor Garber! +100000 points for finding a role for the long-missed Spy-Daddy.

Speaking of post-Alias TV, to a certain extent Chuck tried to get in on the miserablism with a subplot about Sarah grieving for her dead boyfriend as well as bemoaning her lost identity and spyness, but it's not really a smart enough show to make it work (yet; it could still improve, after all). Yvonne Strahovski is possibly a better actress than it seems here; it's not like she's got good enough material to work with. Nevertheless, for the first time she was asked to do more than just kick women in the face while wearing a short skirt (though that did happen as well), and the moment fell flat, not because she's not up to it, but because the show is asking us to care about a relationship between a hott female spy and an absent, dead, hott male spy partner. He's not onscreen, and was only in the show for a couple of minutes in the first episode (mostly as a stuntman) and yet he looms over both Sarah and Chuck in a way that falls flat because we have no memory of him the way they do.

As a result, we don't care that he upset Chuck, and we don't care that Sarah still loves him. It's asking us to care what the dead spy did, but to the audience he's just that free-running guy who was nothing more than a very agile inciting incident. Perhaps the nerds in the audience can remember back to similar experiences of jock humiliation from their college days, and perhaps the female members of the audience can relate to Sarah because their boyfriend was similarly killed for trying to email secrets to someone outside the government, but that's at a remove. The show is trying to run before it can walk. It's a light, slightly entertaining spy show. It's not drama. Maybe eventually, but not now. Again it made me pine for Alias, which did that stuff amazingly well, but it also made me pine for the first season of The O.C., because that also did pretty much everything right (for a while, at least). This is just landing with a dull thud every week. Thank God NBC have commissioned Bionical Woman as well. That saves it from the ignominy of being the season's worst new show. I'll get to that pile of crap later.

Sorry to keep comparing Chuck to Reaper, but they are vying for the same nerd audience, and while Chuck feels like the major label release by a band who have already had a critically lauded number one album on a smaller label, only to fall foul of sophomore slump, Reaper is the ambitious debut of a plucky indie band. Well, an indie band while making their first couple of singles who get signed up to release their album on a subsidiary of a different major label, like when Warner made that Sub-Pop-emulating mini-label that included Mudhoney on its roster for a while. Gah! You know what I mean!

Anyway, Reaper was, again, very entertaining, though signs of Andi becoming the show's weak link are starting to show. What is her purpose again, other than to be the object of desire? They need to give her something to do other than be cute and unattainable. Missy Peregrym was nowhere near as dull as this when she was on Heroes. We need to see some of that fire again. Oh, and finally making The Devil more than just a trickster, and hinting at more depth to the central premise by introducing the battle between him and Sam over the contract? Excellent. Heart Ray Wise! How easy it is for that adorable smile to go very very bad.

CSI may not have had the melancholy air of the other shows, but with episode four there were set-ups for the season arc. At least I assume they were. CSI has been the classic example of how one-off procedural shows can still exist and work brilliantly in a long-form world that has seen many story-of-the-week shows deemed obsolete. Every week a new case is introduced, and at the end the case is solved (most of the time). Last season, however, saw the show bring in the excellent Miniature Killer arc, which popped in and out of the procedural, often to devastating effect (as I've said before, Monster in the Box might be the single best episode of CSI ever). This season, the producers have hinted that there would be something similar introduced, but if this episode is anything to go by, it won't be a single criminal, but an ongoing case against a water-processing plant. I hope other fans are as excited about that as I am. It would be Erin Brockovich with less biker beards!

At least I hope that's where they are going with this. The episode was filled with some really crappy deductive work by our heroes, for the first time in CSI history. They were investigating the death of a boy suffering from gynecomastia working at a water treatment plant hanging around with a scientist investigating large quantities of hermaphroditic fish swimming in a local lake, a death that could just as easily have been suicide as murder? The team don't spot the connection straight away, and instead chase disgruntled co-workers for most of the episode. It was odd to see our heroes be inept for the first time ever. If this is the season arc, it at least explains why the show slowed down so much, and had so much exposition. If it's set-up, then it was ponderous, but I understand. If not, then it was just a disappointing episode. Featuring an ugly and yet somewhat charming hat.

To a certain extent, that is. It also featured some great material. CSI: Miami is notoriously stupid, featuring either stock plots or outrageous melodrama in the place of actual crime scene analysis. The original show, thankfully, is proud to have science as its main focus, and this episode featured a lot of it. What with the water treatment plant investigation, Hodges pioneering a new technique and vowing to write a paper about it, and Gil's ongoing investigation into worldwide bee population decrease (something that only hit the mainstream media a couple of weeks ago), it's plain that the show is not shying away from giving scientists their due. Read enough paranoid books and features on Dawkins and his atheist cohorts, and you fear that science and rationalism is on the outs. CSI made me feel safe that somewhere in the mainstream, a rational outlook is still treated as beneficial. It's also edumacational; don't pull bee stings out of your skin as it releases the venom. You should scrape them out instead.

Best of all this week was the totally out-of-the-blue marriage proposal scene, with Gil (hilariously wearing his old woman hat over the top of his bee mask) just dropping the question into normal conversation. Often in story-of-the-week shows, the characters are merely redundant exposition devices, but this show manages to tease out tiny bits of information about its cast of characters in the most subtle ways. We know they have a backstory only because we pay attention to the details. It's very rare that an episode will focus on their personal lives; Catherine's family being the only recurring instance of plots based around her, but they're almost always fascinating, especially when her sadly-deceased dad Sam Braun is involved. Instead we get little windows into their lives, like the endearing revelation that Greg is writing a book on Las Vegas history. In CSI: Miami, if a character has a life outside their work, it usually involves sex or relationships. In the original and best, it involves little character details like that. Man, this show really does feature some of my favourite character writing.

The Gil-Sara romance is a case-in-point. They've been dating for ages, and now they're getting married. While other shows would make a big deal about it, here it happened in the middle of the episode without any warning or fanfare. It made it all the more touching, and cheered us both up considerably, after the misery of the other shows. Shame she's only in the show for a little while longer. It does not bode well for their future.

Beyond the sadness and the arc establishment, this week also saw Dirty Sexy Money finally not totally suck. It was by no means a triumph (God no), and Canyon couldn't even brave it (I think she was wise to; I'm only sticking with it out of stubbornness), but while the plots are unoriginal (school bullying, marital strife, affairs, jealousy), at least the dialogue had improved massively since last week. I know I'm being partisan and forgiving because of the connection to an old favourite, especially as the episode had two writers credited and not just one, but when Veronica Mars ace Diane Ruggiero's name appeared in the credits, hope sprang up. I was rewarded with two good scenes. The main one had Donald Sutherland acting the paint off the walls as he confronts the duplicitous Jill Clayburgh. Finally some life! Shame that the increase in emotional truth came at the expense of revelation. Instead of Clayburgh revealing which of the Darling children was fathered by Peter Krause's dad, we got an exchange that went something like:
Sutherland: Will you tell me?
Clayburgh: I will tell you!
Sutherland: Will you?
Clayburgh: Yes, I will!
Sutherland: Really? Because I really want to know!
Clayburgh: Yes!
[Cut to commercial]

I get that not immediately revealing who is lacking Donald Sutherland's DNA is a way of creating tension in the family, and leaves the room open for a big revelation later in the series, but it just sounded laboured and mechanical. Also good was Zoe McClellan (whose boobs made a startling return in several scenes) confronting Natalie Zea over her previous relationship with Krause.

As far as I'm concerned, the only interesting plot is between Nick and his wife, and the threat of his work and past coming between them. Again, it's nothing new, but the Darlings are odious enough to give the marriage plot some heft. It would be horrible for their relationship to be broken up by such a bunch of poorly written, illogical caricatures. Plus, it's much more intriguing than the endless and record-breakingly tedious rivalry between Samaire Armstrong and Seth Gabel's girlfriend. I'm so uninterested I can't be bothered to Google the name of the actress. Sorry, miscellaneous actress. I'm sure you're a lovely person but life is short. Blame the show writers and your life-sappingly dull character, okay?

Seriously, this shit has been going on for three episodes and each week it feels like ten minutes of footage has been accidentally edited in from another show. This show is run by Craig Wright? Who worked on Lost and Six Feet Under? How is this kind of glaring mistake possible? Showrunners! It's killing the show! Drop it now! You just got a week reprieve by adding a shout-out to Explosions in the Sky and hiring Erick Avari (this week playing an Italian. Or a British spy. I wasn't paying much attention). Don't blow this tiny bit of goodwill now.

Also very much improved was Pushing Daisies, which was not just tolerable (see above), but actively entertaining. A lot of the flaws are still there and are obviously never going to go away, and dear God, someone tell the showrunners that they don't have to end their episodes with scenes as showy and silly as that ineptly staged sword fight, but my own personal bugbear (that damnable Sonnenfeld) was absent for much of the episode. While there was still the relentless dollying and repetitive compositions, a lot of the show was simply shot and worked very well. Amazing how distracting it is when a director is shouting, "This is one of my signature shots, bitches! I won't stop until Sonnenfeldian is in the dictionary!!!"

Everything that has almost been working (notably the tone and a lot of the humour) finally came off once the distracting frippery went down a notch, and as a result I could relax and enjoy (Canyon is yet to be convinced, I think). Also great was the resolution of some plots much earlier than expected. Chuck knows about the deadly ramifications of her resurrection, and Olive and her Cleavage of Mass Distraction (seriously, the camera won't stop staring) suspects something is up with Chuck's appearance at the Pie-Hole. I thought that stuff would come up later, once more one-off mysteries were solved, but we're rattling through plot options at a faster pace that expected. This either means there is more to the central premise and Ned's powers than expected, or they're going to have O.C. Syndrome, with all of their good ideas burnt out after one season. Fingers crossed it's the former.

I'm afraid to say that while pretty much every show we watched this week shook up their game after a start-of-season warm-up, Bionical Woman remains the low point of the TV week. There are new writers coming in, and NBC are obviously committed to the show, but will they bother to make it good and popular instead of lazy and popular-enough-to-get-by? I'll stick with it in case it does suddenly improve in quality, like, a thousand-fold, but until then we're forced to put up with writing, acting and directing that would have shamed the silly 70s original. Though at least this version did feature Jaime kicking the homophobe across the room a couple of times.

That was kinda fun. Apologies for linking to the AV Club again, but Sean O'Neal skewers everything that is wrong with the show much more succinctly than I can. The only interesting thing brought up by this episode was the curious moment where the brat sister sleeps through a car alarm outside. The pilot originally featured Mae "AnnHog from Arrested Development" Whitman as Jaime's deaf sister, but it was changed after testing badly (dammit!). Does this scene hint that her sister is going deaf? It would make sense after the comments about the possibility of congenital disease in the Summers family tree last week. Perhaps the showrunners had an arc about deafness and bionical implants in mind. That would be interesting. Other than that, only counting Katee Sackhoff's use of the following expression is keeping us diverted during the show.

As for the other shows this week, Friday Night Lights is still the highlight, even with the horrid muder plotline, but that has been subsumed, at least for now. 30 Rock was not as good as last week, but that is no criticism, considering how good that episode was. The funniest moment of the week came during The Peter Serafinowicz Show, but I'll leave that for Canyon to talk about. Also on BBC was the new series of Heston Blumenthal: In Search of Perfection, featuring everyone's favourite baby-faced cooking savant, which I had been looking forward to. Just to be really annoying, our Sky+ box decided to delete it after it had recorded. If anyone reading this has a Sky+ box, I strongly suggest you renew the warranty after a year. These damnable things fall apart quickly.

Angered by this, we decided to give the BBC's much vaunted iPlayer a try, seeing as how it allows you to watch certain shows up to a week after they have aired. It's supposed to be easy to use, but it took forever to install the player (for a long time we couldn't as there were "technical difficulties" on their end), and when we finally had, and had downloaded the episode (which took ages), it played for about 4 minutes and then offered up a series of randomly selected freeze-frames with a voice over. Okay, we have a crappy laptop that sometimes freezes up when we're using Winamp, but yesterday it was working fine. Only iPlayer malfunctioned. So I don't get to see the damn show. If the BBC is going to have to show more repeats now, can it hurry up? I'm sick of missing stuff.

Other shows we didn't watch but will eventually; Dexter, Journeyman (apparently saved from cancellation for a little while), Viva Laughlin (the worst show ever made, from what I've heard. Can't wait!), and Mad Men. We're very behind on that, and will get around to catching up, especially as the season finale appears to have blown everyone's mind. It didn't appeal to us much early on (we get that things were different back then, so please stop showing lots and lots and lots of smoking), but we're willing to give it another try. It may have improved. Tell Me You Have Suddenly Started To Love Me is a case in point. The show format did not appeal to us at all, but slowly we've come to look forward to it every week. Not much has changed, but with enough care and attention to character growth and gentle, Lost-paced revelation, it has snagged us. That's not to say it's amazing, but we've still turned a corner on it, and if anyone asks for a recommendation we will give it (though stressing how long it takes to grab the imagination). That said, what did they do to Ronny Cox?

My heart sank a little when I saw him. He looks like a 900-year old hobo! Let's hope it's his character and not something more serious. Here is where I would put a sad-faced emoticon, if I were so inclined.