Thursday, April 30, 2009
Under the vast multifaceted category of Film and Video list a bevvy of sub categories such as Best Writing, Editing, Reality, Hosting, Individual Short, Individual Long. The list is mind boggling. Either that - or I've hit the Starbucks a little hard this morning. Nonetheless, there are a few made for web comedies that have been given a nom.
One original series that I have tauted with much love is TheWB.com's Children's Hospital which garnered many Webby nods thanks to a terrific cast that includes Megan Mullally and Rob Corddry. Corddry also co-wrote and directed the series. He's been nominated for Best Individual Performance, and could beat out the competition, which for some reason, he shares with Sarah Palin. (The Webby selections can be rather... odd).
You can watch Children's Hospital at http://www.thewb.com/shows/childrens-hospital/episode-4/911abe52fb. You're guaranteed to laugh your ass off.
The Office, a small group of writers and cast members get together to create online webisodes that are usually five part (or more), two minute (approx) scenes that make up a series to stream on NBC.com.
The Office might be pioneers in the world of webisodes when they first streamed "The Accountants" during the summer of 2006. Until then webisodes were nowhere to be found, or just hitting YouTube, lovingly home made by comedians and actors. The Accountants won a Webby, and more summer online shorts were created, such as "Kevin's Loan" which originally streamed last year. The most recent webisode "The Outburst" is nominated for Long Form or Series, competing against Children's Hospital, so we're dealing with a comedy cut throat situation. However, despite my Office love, I'm not a big fan of their webisodes since the focus is on secondary characters with nary a Krasinski, Fisher or Carell in sight, making it lack the meat of the line up I love so much. Yet, they do have a dedicated following, are well made, maintain good Office buzz when the show is off air, and provides a spin off look into the characters who don't usually get the spotlight.
Another interesting nominee is Web Therapy starring Lisa Kudrow who portrays a therapist that conducts sessions via webcam. The incredible Kudrow also co-wrote and co-produced this unique series that is up for Best Writing. You can view Web Therapy at LStudios.com: http://lstudio.com/web-therapy/index.html
The Webbys are opening up the ballets for people's choice participation. If you want to vote for a favorite web series go to: http://pv.webbyawards.com/ballot. You have to register to participate. Today is the last day for voting.
Speaking of Web Series: The Office is continuing it's webisode trend and will be unveiling their new mini-series "Blackmail". It features the very creepy Creed (Creed Bratton). Written by Jonathan Hughes and Nat Federman, directed by BJ Novack, it premieres on May 7th on NBC.com.
Here's a sneak peak:
In tonight's show Liz calls out Tracy in front of the TGS crew, making him decide to act more professional, swearing off all the preferrential treatment lavished upon him since he makes more money than AIG. He challenges Liz, who also relishes the luxury of favored treatment, to swear off goodies herself and act like a regular schlub. I can only assume that there will be much sparks a flyin'. Jack's mom Colleen will be showing up to provide his quarterly meet up with a can of passive aggressive motherly whoop ass, reminding him of the day his father left. Jenna becomes mother to a pet monkey, completing Darwin's Theory of Evolution and the ways of Natural Selection by providing a primate for full effect.
30 Rock "The Natural Order" will air tonight on the network of peacocks at 9:30pm et/8:30pm ct.
After two weeks of fabulous Office goodness, the show is brand new tonight with the return of Michael Scott to DM in an episode entitled (and illustrated above) "Casual Friday". The network synopsis says "Michael (Golden Globe winner Steve Carell) has to mediate a dispute within his new sales team. Meanwhile, trouble brews in the office when several employees take the term "casual" Fridays too loosely." "Loosely" might apply to boozy employee Meredith who, as the on air promo reveals, likes to go commando.
Although I still have qualms about how Michael and his band of merry salespeople were re-employed, and having to see Pam as a salesperson now, the show seems to be back on track as it works its way out to the season finale in two weeks. (Speaking of happy thoughts, there are hints that Holly will be back, and of course, my crush Rob Huebel will be returning to play her boyfriend and Michael's rival AJ - her boyfriend.)
The Office "Casual Friday" airs tonight on NBC at 9:00pm et/8:00pm ct
The New Yorker has a terrific article about Amy Poehler and Parks and Recreation. Poehler fans, like me, are rooting for the lady's success, but sadly, the show itself just isn't gaining any traction. Personally for this viewer, it is so much like The Office without the laughs, that I'm just not feeling it. I'm not a registered Nielsen person, but I'll continue to watch the last few episodes of the six that were ordered in support, hoping that something will stick to my funny bones.
If anything, it's nice to see Rashida Jones, even though I keep thinking she's Karen Fillipelli. I got my hair cut like hers last week, and used the picture above to show my stylist. Bangs for Spring!
Parks and Recreation airs on NBC at 8:30pm et/ 7:30pm ct.
Monday, April 27, 2009
The program is taking steps to save itself. Subway, one of Chuck's sponsors, has been promoted through product placement and mentions in the script to make nice with the hand that feeds them. Also, there are many online campaigns to get people to watch the season finale and drum up some more numbers.
Happily, the word is that Chuck could be saved from the axe. However, to keep the momentum going log onto the petition to "Save Chuck". http://www.youchoose.net/campaign/save_chuck_nbc_show
You can also log onto http://www.nbc.com/Chuck/?__source=front-door|tonight-on to get more information on how to save the show..
I'm not a devoted viewer of Chuck, but I'll watch the finale tonight out of solidarity, and will try to continue if it's picked up (I'll have to play catch up as part of my summer DVD viewing). After all, what is NBC going to replace it with if it does go down? Another stinking reality show? No thanks.
Besides, I know how it feels to lose a well written, fun, fascinating show due to low ratings and network failure....
In 1985 she embarked on another successful iconic series The Golden Girls where she was reunited with Maude co-star Rue McClanahan, and teamed with Betty White and Estelle Getty. Her character Dorothy Zbornak still held the vim and vinegar of Maude, but dealt with the grace of getting older and finding solace in the warmth of friends. Her comedic rhythm and sharp zings were as precise and hilarious as ever.
After The Golden Girls finished it's run, Ms. Arthur never retired from acting. She appeared in a one woman show on Broadway in 2002 where she sang cabaret and told stories about her life. She appeared in various shows sitcoms such as Malcolm in the Middle.
On a personal note, I was an NBC talent intern back in 1985 when the Golden Girls first premiered. I had the opportunity to meet Ms. Arthur a few times. She was the most elegant, graceful woman I've ever met, endearingly soft spoken and surprisingly shy. She seemed to come to life when the cameras and the spotlights came on. She lived a life that provided so much laughter and thought provoking satire. A life well lived. May she rest in peace.
All in the Family (Maude appears 2:09, but this whole episode is classic.)
Maude "Maude's Dilemma"
Best of Dorothy on Golden Girls.
Bea Arthur as Carrie Bradshaw, from the TV Land Awards...HI-Larious.
Sunday, April 26, 2009
Not only is the team back, but Jim got his conjones returned to him as well. As David Wallace crossed the threshhold of the Scranton office, Charles went into shameless kiss ass mode, much to Jim's delight....
As always, it's nice to see how Wallace respects Jim. Ignoring Charles' bad call on Halpert ("He's a bitter disappointment"...what!?) he asks him to join the pow wow. And thus we got to see the fall of the Charles and Dwight empire. All they had to do was be themselves. Jim was cool as a cucumber and knew his stuff. Dwight was the dumbass as usual, talking about bees and revenge and how they could capture the queen and create havoc. Charles was left in the dust, clueless, yes-ing David's suggestion for a buy out. "Yes, I was just about to say that". "But you didn't" said Jim. Who's the "bitter disappointment" now Minor? Who's the idiot now, Dwight? No wonder the emo, ironic loving Jim has your "Idiot" voice as his ring tone. Jim snapping into action to broker the deal between MSCP and DM was sublime. Punctuated by his melting look at his soon-to-be betrothed, beaming "Told you...it's gonna be alright" was incredible. Jim probably got some "nice-nice" from Pam that evening.
As for Pam, your heart had to go out to her. She took a big risk, and appeared to be losing faith in Michael's venture. With a wedding coming up and lack of funds, even getting extra work at top chain department stores proved impossible - deflatingly so. However, give him some props, Michael, when working under pressure, is like viewing an idiot savant adding up numbers in a gambling den. Not only did he get a better deal than anyone expected, but he showed his true devotion to the people who took a chance on him: Ryan and Pam. It was lovely.
Of course, everything ended tidy, but sometimes you have to put all disbelief aside and allow the improbables to unfold. Everyone is back home. Pam is out of her stagnant receptionist role. Charles has left for New York. Michael is in charge. Jim is the man again.
Honorable mention: The Korean ladies who kept thinking the MSPC van was the bus to church...
Here's a highlight clip from "Broke":
Also, the first deleted scene is a good one. It looks like the original cold open:
Next week's Office "Casual Friday" airs on NBC at 9:00pm ET/8:00pm ct.
Friday, April 24, 2009
"My real name is Dick Whitman."
These words could never come out of Don Draper's handsome mouth and make me gag with laughter. Oh, Kenneth Parcel. The ever loving, whimsical and lovable NBC Page. He'd take a bullet for you. Or he'd swallowed a dreaded strawberry, to which he's horribly allergic, and succumb to an anaphylactic attack for you. He did it for Jenna, who, unbeknown to him, laced his sandwich with the feared berry to entice a cute EMT return to the studio after Lutz freaked out and bounced off a wall with his head. When Kenneth voluntarily agreed to drink strawberry infected water later on so Jenna could tell 9-1-1 to get the cute guy over there, it was akin to him falling down the stairs for Tracy Jordan in season two's finale. There is nothing Kenneth wouldn't do. If NBC gave out purple hearts, Kenneth would be covered in them.
Selma Hayek was back as Elise. We find out her big secret. In the Latin world, she's known as "The Black Widow", a dark haired beauty who killed a previous husband, and is basically all kinds of unstable nuts. Even though her break up with Jack was a bit too neat, what the hell? It's 30 Rock. The show has a built in sense of absurdity. They can get away with easy, tidy endings. However, the theme of "The One" popped up many times. Jack admitted that Elise's "The One" as he spends a night out on the town with Tracy to test his faithful muscles. Also, Jenna, in her flakey fickleness states the cute paramedic is "The One". Tracy, always in some kind of marital upheaval, admits that when he first laid eyes on Angie in that Arthur Treachers years ago, doling out extra fried fish as they gazed in a fit of heated passion, she was "The One". So, hence..."The One's"...plural.
And Liz...well. Dr. Baird is hiding somewhere in her building, or perhaps he drove off in his bubble-cycle never to return. But Liz didn't have a "one"last night. In fact, she was kind of low key in this episode, allowing the others to shine. No fear, the lady will be at the forefront again. Perhaps Dennis Duffy will come knocking on her door with donuts? However the scenario unfolds, as for Liz...the cheese stands alone. For now.
Here's a highlight of Jack's night on the town with Tracy and a little Brian Williams too:
Thursday, April 23, 2009
However, one freshman show, Parks and Recreation, is still in the throes of its "how do you do" phase. I've stayed silent here about P&C because I'm not yet smitten with the new Amy Poehler comedy. The cast is terrific (Rashida Jones is sweet and Aziz Ansari is usually genius hilarious), but I have to fall into line with the others who say it's like a duplicate copy of the mothership show The Office. The single camera mockumentary formula on television only seems to work with The Office itself. Although the humor is derived from Leslie Knope's (Poehler's) ambitious, plucky and lack of self aware nature, the ongoing premise of trying to get an empty pit turned into a park doesn't conjure empathy or laughs for me. Yet, there was a scene last week where Ann (Jones) and Leslie walk in on the guys playing Guitar Hero that was quite chuckle worthy. So, I'm still holding out for the program to find its legs.
Tonight's episode is entitled "The Reporter". Leslie invites a reporter to interview her for a story on the park project, only to end up sending out the wrong message. When she calls Mark (Paul Schneider) to help save the story, he makes the situation worse.
Parks and Recreation airs on NBC tonight at 9:00pm et/8:00 ct.
The saga of the Michael Scott Paper Company continues tonight in an episode called "Broke". Michael and his crack staff (one who could easily be on Crack), have trouble making early morning deliveries. Meanwhile, everyone tries to get their expense reports in on time, while office tramp and hussy Angela Martin makes everyone follow Dunder Mifflin policy. I guess she has more incentive now that she's trying to impress and bed Charles Minor. Seriously, when will the Angela horniness end? Also, I'd like to see her deal with some repercussions from the Andy/Dwight triangle. If she has no remorse for her behavior, then I can't care about her. What about Jim and Pam? More of them...please.
The Office airs tonight on the Peacock at 9:00pm et/8:00 ct.
30 Rock is all new tonight with "The One". Since Selma Hayek has been all over this week's promos', it looks like Jack's paramour Elise is back from Puerto Rico. Jack is getting pretty serious about the pretty senorita nurse, and has Liz accompany him on a hunt for an engagment ring. Jack will also be turning to Tracy for marital advice, which should be a hoot. Elise tells Lemon she's hiding a secret (this scares me), and Jenna "loses her cool" (as the press release states) for an EMT when an injury on the TGS set summons the medics.
30 Rock airs on NBC at 9:30pm et/8:30pm ct.
NBC's Line Up Reminds me of....MTV's Human Giant
Giant has completed two seasons on the music network with a third postponed due to other commitments by cast, who all have some connection with the shows listed yonder above. One of them being Aziz Ansari who is pretty booked right now playing Tommy Haverford on Parks and Recreation. He also played the fruit stand guy who hated Australians on Flight of the Conchords, and please...he was so cute and horrible, I fell.
Continuing the NBC lineup coincidence - Paul Scheer has played the evil NBC Page Donny Lawson, Kenneth's arch nemesis in a blazer on 30 Rock. He plays obnoxious so well, you can't help but love him. He also portrayed a bastard movie spoiler nerd in last summer's online series on Crackle.com called The Line directed by Seth Meyers featuring Bill Hader, Joe Lo Truglio and Jason Sudeikis .
And last but not least in the NBC Thursday threesome above, Giant's Rob Huebel has appeared as Holly Flax's boyfriend in The Office ("Lecture Circuit Part 2"), and will be in the season finale ("Company Picnic") to reprise the role. I've been crushing on this guy all week. His Tweets on Twitter are so much sick fun it's like he's putting Twitterites under a spell. No matter how much you fight it you lose and Huebel wins.
He's also appeared in I Love You Man, a movie that is so much on my "must absolutely see or be a loser" list that, well, it's a must see. He's also been in TheWB.com web series Children's Hospital. This guy is so ubiquitous that you might find him sitting in the car next to you in traffic.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Since the USA Network put the kabash on The Starter Wife a while back, Debra Messing is back in the hunt for a new vehicle. Look s like NBC is taking her on to star in a new yet to be named comedy series. As per a clip from THR she will play a laid off CEO who has to deal with the everyday world of raising her kids. I guess June Cleaver she is not.
Source: Hollywood Reporter
I had never been into The Soup (formerly Talk Soup) until Joel McHale took the hosting reigns from that other guy. He brings this snarky, evil yet sweet hilarity to the show every Friday nights that is infectious. Not like" the clap" infectious. Good, my lungs hurt from laughing, infectious. Well, if his new NBC comedy Community, (co-starring Chevy Chase) becomes a hit, he might be saying goodbye to Kim Kardasian's big butt and Mankini, because his pilot for the network is being deemed "hot" by insiders. That's pretty promising. I hope it works out. Joel on The Soup is a great Friday night treat, but seeing him in a funny sitcom - and very good, hopefully smart, edgy sitcom - will be just what the doctor ordered. But who will take care of Lou?
Source: Hollywood Reporter - "Pilots Building Early Buzz"
Monday, April 20, 2009
Oh well, so we'll have to wait until the end of the best season of the year to see the Draper's new baby and Betty's potential nervous breakdown, not to mention the aftermath of Peggy's revelation to Pete that she was pregnant, the baby was his and she gave it away. Still, it will be nice to know the Mad Men crew will be knotting up their skinny ties and combing in the Brill cream, tightening up the girdles and bullet bras, teasing up that hair with a dab of Dippity Do. It will be a season of spoilers and speculation with a nice end of summer payoff. And it's good to know that after worries of Matt Weiner's contract delay, which could have set the show on a different course, Mad Men will be back in business. I'll drink to that!
Friday, April 17, 2009
After my tirade of last week's double feature episodes, "Dream Team" and "Michael Scott Paper Company" which I liked, but feared would veer the ship off its course, last night's episode, "Heavy Competition" was joyful, from the first cheese ball toss until the final mouthful.
It was fabulous to see Dwight's loyalties to Michael re-ignited. The long sleeve dress shirt did it. Charles' new dress code dictates that Dwight ditch his mustard short sleeve number for a dressier long sleeve. Long sleeve shirts are like straight jackets to a Schrute, weakening him in case he needs to attack. Thriving under the chaos of Michael, he conducts clandestine meetings near dumpsters with his old boss, exchanging client and company information before he's ready to hop aboard the Michael Scott Paper Company express - that is - until Charles Minor endears Dwight with compliments on his focused wolf-like work ethic. Invites to drinks, a firm handshake, and Dwight's loyalty has just shifted to the new Charles in Charge.
The war that ensues between Michael and Dwight gave us heaps of classic Office comedy. From the secret meeting that disclosed Charles knowledge of Michael's nosiness, to Dwight's lunch invite that turned into a ruse to cover a Schrute invasion of the MSPC office with intent to steal Michael's Rolodex, was pure sensational gold. When Dwight and Michael both vie to solidify their relationship with a prized client, to which a conference call and car chase by Dwight ensues, we see that no matter how savvy Dwight is in nature, he's no match for the sales expertise of Michael Gary Scott.
The script, credited to Ryan Koh, was superb. So much so, that I can't help but highlight some quotes:
One of the best bits of dialogue ever...
"Michael (to Dwight): I want you to listen to me, and I want you to listen to me hard. I am going to steal all of your clients, and then I'm going to kill them in front of you.
Michael: Just kidding...hardcore.
I must say, the blonde d-baggeness of Ryan is growing on me. Just for that exclamation alone.
"Trust Me. You will not be walking, you'll be boogieing".
Thank GOD we got some Jim and Pam wedding planning - even if it was only a visit to Andy and Angela's "haunted graveyard of love". The idea of Pam "boogieing" down the aisle on her wedding day to Paul Simon's "You Can Call Me Al", along with an array of left over ideas from Andy's overzealous yet failed wedding plans, was so hilarious, it was pause button time, or else I knew I'd laugh over the next scene. There is no match for Andy's acapella group "Here Comes Treble", but when it comes to the Halpert wedding - ain't no way that's happening -even if the Nard Dog does sing the instrumental.
The professionalism of Krasinski and Fischer is mind blowing when scenes such as the one in the break room go down (see first photo above). Any actor who can get through that scene without snorting out a laugh or cracking a major smile deserves an Emmy for"Best Actor or Actress Who Held it Together During a Comedic Scene". Both John and Jenna, as well as Ed knocked it out of the park. However, the beauty of that moment was that it initiated closure for Andy. He's been suffering in a pool of bitterness he's happy to share with others. After Pam turned down Andy's busload of singing frat boys and a red velvet crucifix wedding cake as wedding options, he assumes Jim is in hell living under her thumb. Jim being Jim pranks the hell out of Andy by pretending to be needy all day, as the Nard Dog vows to be his emotional crutch, his "traveling pants". This was a prank done for a good deed, waking Andy up from his bitter funk.
When the jig's up, Jim he gives Andy a little lesson in heartache:
"Jim: Ok, two things I need you to understand: One, Pam and I are very happy together. And two, that stuff that happened with you and Angela is a bummer and I know you think you're never going to find someone else, but you will. I promise you. You will."
This episode had it all: well written comedic dialogue, good character continuity and likability, and a battle between friends that digs deeper than the rivalry right to the warm, soft core. More of this, please!
Next week's episode of The Office entitled "Broke" airs on NBC at 9:00pm et. Five more new episodes left, and the season is done.
Here's a highlight from last night's episode: (Oh great, thanks for the screenshot, NBC. There goes lunch.)
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Jenna's Janis Joplin bio-pic is being halted by GE brass, probably because the lack of song rights forced production to rename "Joplin" to "Jormp Jomp", and forced Jack to re-write all the lyrics to her back catalog of songs. ("Take a piece of my lung now, baby!"). In other words, it sounds like it sucks pretty bad. To right this ship, Jack has Jenna use her celebrity status to create some promotional buzz.
30 Rock never fails to provide the funny. Watch it tonight on NBC at 9:30pm et after The Office.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
The cast took a break from filming to cut cake and take pictures, courtesy of the NBC party planning committee.
Wilson sharing cake with Carell
She's flashing Halpert's ring, but when is the wedding?
I'm looking forward to HBO's original production of Grey Gardens which airs this Saturday at 8pm et. The cast is strikingly spot on. Drew Barrymore looks like a mirror image of Little Edie Beale and Jessica Lange looks so convincing as the older version of her mother Big Edie, that when I view the trailer, I forget if I'm glimpses of the HBO theatrical and not the famous documentary.
For those unfamiliar with this fascinating story, Edith Bouvier Beale and her daughter Little Edie Beale were the aunt and cousin of Jackie Kennedy Onassis. They lived together in East Hampton for decades at Grey Gardens, a beautiful sprawl that belonged to Big Edie exclusively. A high society grand dame, Big Edie's life was swell until her very wealthy husband ran away with another woman, cutting her off financially, leaving her a paltry $150 per month allowance. Her daughter Edie came to live with her, mostly against her will - or for her own survival. As the money dried up, the gorgeous beach home eventually fell into disrepair and the mother/daughter team lived in self imposed squalor as raccoons filled the attic and feral cats multiplied and peed over every inch of the place.
In 1975, after Jackie helped fixed their home, which averted their estate to be condemned by the county, David and Albert Maysles, film makers who documented The Beatles first tour of the US, filmed the Beales in their dilapidated home. The documentary Grey Gardens was a fascinating glimpse into the ladies' sequestered, life, where they were staunch (s-t-a-u-n-c-h) in their independence and open to sharing tales about their past (mostly through bickering and over singing each other). Their strange existence begged the question - what caused them to run the beauty of Grey Gardens, and thus, their lives into such filth? Do we as a society judge them? And why force Little Edie to retreat with her mother on the Island, and why did she stay so long? As she said, "The hallmark of aristocracy is responsibility." There must be more to that statement than meets the eye. The HBO feature on Saturday will hopefully give us fans an idea of what she meant.
Official HBO Site
NYTimes Article on HBO Film
NYTimes Review by Alessandra Stanley
Monday, April 13, 2009
Let me preface this by saying...I love this show. I love this cast. I adore everyone behind it. I rant because I love. This also a very long rant. The reason I have a blog is so I can shout my antsy, cranky feelings to the ether, and if someone wants to read it...terrific. I could be wrong. I could be right. I could feel totally different a few months from now. Here goes:
The consensus among fans across online bulletin boards, is the two episodes of The Office that aired last Thursday, “Dream Team” and “Michael Scott Paper Company” were incredibly good, so good in fact, that shouts of "Our Office is back!" and "I laughed so much, my cheeks hurt!" speckled discussion threads everywhere, overtaking the few who voiced aggravation over the direction the writers are taking with characters. Yes, the episodes were decent, some great moments were had. Pam voicing her doubts about Michael's company was very human, and Michael's lucidity while providing Pam a heartfelt pep talk was moving if not surprising. The opening titles of “MSPC” was hilarious; even the shot of John Krasinski playing the part of Jim Halpert’s picture on Pam’s desk was sublime in it's humor. However, I couldn’t help but feel emptiness in these episodes. So many established character dynamics are missing, so many loose ends left untied. Although the writers are right changing the Dunder Mifflin scenario by having Michael leave DM, I'm disappointed with how the writers are cultivating the characters within, and I fear they will unfold the current story into a sitcom fantasy where the little guy wins the day despite the harsh realities of this bad economy.
I had enjoyed the addition of Idris Elba's Charles Minor as the hard ass boss, but his heavy handedness is becoming exasperating. Narcissistic, detached, unfriendly, demanding, he'd make a great drill sergeant. Yet, as a manager, it's obvious David Wallace has failed again in filling that VP position with a well suited professional. Charles is clueless about people, blind to the nuance of organization, and allows his bias to cloud his vision of people - namely Jim, whom Charles terrorizes for sport, by demeaning him when he speaks. Meanwhile Andy and Dwight are playing banjo and guitar on "Country Roads" in the break room with nary a peep from Major Minor. (Kudos - Helms and Wilson do rock the pantry).
Schrute? He was always a pain in the ass, brown nosing geek, but there was a sensitivity written into his vibe that made you love him nonetheless. Now, he is the most insufferable, annoying nerd to come down the prime time television pike in a while. Call me humorless, but I don't find his antics funny. He's committed arson. He's obstructed emergency exits after committing said arson. He plants police grade weaponry around the office (ok - so the Mace helped in saving Jim one day, but that was a small fraction of his arsenal). Dwight is a cartoon. He is not human anymore. He's not the geek I want to love and hate but mostly love.
Also, I didn't enjoy the Andy-Dwight dynamic in the second episode. It was funny in “The Merger” when they first met and dissed each other's cars. It was amusing and sad in “The Duel”, when Andy drove his Prius into Dwight's knees, but their interaction is a time waster falls flat. I fast forward their scenes. (Same with the "Cornell" interview Andy conducted with Dwight earlier this season. Snore. Sorry, guys.)
Flaky, girlie girl Kelly crushing on Charles makes sense. Angela competing for Charles attention with Kelly is boring. Also, after being dumped by both Andy and Dwight – they all seem to act as if nothing has happened. Nay, in fact, Angela is more openly horny and disgustingly hypocritical. There was no fallout from something so emotionally explosive. No hard feelings. No feelings at all. Sorry, I don’t find this funny.
As much as I like Michael and Pam as a team, too much of it frustrates me. It takes away any Jim and Pam interaction. There is no more of that lovely Beesly/Halpert "partners in crime" interaction that lent a modicum of stability, solidifying the heart of this show. Having Pam decide to leave with Michael, to continue to be his mother from nine to five doesn't seem like personal growth for Pam, it feels like she's sticking to the same old business. Jim seems to be in need of emotional support right now, but Pam's decision to quit and join her other boyfriend has put her in the position to always be there for Michael more than for her fiancée. That gets old, and after all those years of wanting Pam with Jim, their official coupling and engagement has been fraught with lost opportunities and disappointment.
Who is Ryan Howard? Where did he go?
He used to be the stuck up graduate school student who had designs for owning a business. Ryan was an ass, but he had a plan. He had intention. He was a horrible salesman, but he seemed to have the ideas and the knowledge to take on more responsibility. He was mistakenly made VP of the North Eastern Region of DM. He then became a coke head, committed corporate fraud, and is somehow still in the DM universe. Now, he’s a skeevy drifter who slummed it up in Thailand. He has a sense of entitlement without putting in the work. This guy – who used to look at Halpert as if he was wasting his life - is now the most useless bit of human waste ever produced. It’s like the writers didn’t know what to do with him, so they destroyed him.
As far as the MSPC's fate, I don't want to cheer against these characters; however, in this depressed economy, Michael should not be able to succeed. Better business owners have tried with more preparation and failed. If this show is to cater to the story of the “Everyman” (with which I fear it may have lost touch) having him be a legit competitor to DM would be a slap in the face to all business owners with more gumption and preparation who’ve failed. It would mean the writers are creating magic money and fantasies-do-come-true rainbows to make everything all hunky dory.
And Jim. What are the writers doing to Jim?
Jim's looks into the camera are affirmation that the insanity around him shouldn't be taken seriously. When the writers cut him down to a wimp who stammers at every motion Charles makes, forgetting all his intelligence, then who do I turn to when the sanity flairs up in this show? Jim was the one who placated Michael. He was the one who hangs out with Kevin and makes him feel cool. Jim was our stabilization in this den of misfits filled with ornery salespersons, substance abusers and the bored. When the writers make Jim the fool, then where do we hang our empathy? On Michael? A man whose building a business based on nothing? Dwight? The super hero of Scranton? Angela? The cat lady who gives hypocrisy a bad name? Pam? The girl who spent three to six months in New York studying art, only to have the story abandoned so she conveniently becomes a sales person and Michael’s foster mother? Ok, well, maybe we can look to Pam. She does have some strength to allow us some sane common ground.
Do fans really hate Jim so much that we need to gloat over the fact that he's getting some kind of comeuppance by being verbally beaten down and intimidated by Charles? What people see as negative traits, I see as a detachment from the petty silliness that goes on around that office. What other people see as cruel pranks to Dwight, I see as harmless retribution toward a total idiot. Yes, there were times I've hated Jim. In season three's “Beach Games”, he was a total smug dope because he got to the point where he thought he was too good for the DM crew, and was ready to move on to NYC with Karen to make a new life, leaving Pam and all that baggage behind. But he stayed, took a chance with Pam, and has settled into being one of the crew. Maybe he's not perfect, or the golden boy, but that's no reason to humiliate him. Somebody, please write him a scene where he shows some vinegar and defends himself. Jeebus, what else are we going to hang our hats on?
Perhaps it's just the Monday Blues because this is just a TV show and I'm giving this show a beating. But the fact is, it’s hard to find good, smart television today. I enjoy the creation and deconstruction of a good storyline in episodic television such as The Office. The show has held onto a fervent, dedicated fan base to which I'm a member. When a program that once gave us good comedy suddenly veers off the road, it's disappointing. Although Michael leaving DM to start his own company has potential, I fear that since the writers have gone overboard with devices before, they may steer this story into a fantasy land, just to provide laughs to audiences who hunger for the three camera comedy rhythm.
If they could only clean up the character traits of some: Make Angela tight assed again, give her some emotional fallout from her own actions so we can empathize with her. Tone down Dwight's goofing off so we can agree with him when he says someone is a slacker. Make Charles as bitchy to those wasting company time as he is to Jim. Make Pam want to do her art again. Make Michael fail at this half ass company so he'll be back somehow. Too many people have remained dedicated viewers, and the broad humor and contrivances, especially the way woman on this show are portrayed as silly or emotionally disturbed (with the exception of Pam), has been a little insulting.
However, having ranted enough, “Dream Team” and “Michael Scott Paper Company” had some positive moments. It was fun seeing two new episodes in one night. Despite my misgivings, the episodes were serviceable; however, perhaps I’m getting a bit burned out from The Office because seeing yet another broad bit of humor in the guise of Dwight’s naked torso and underwear in the promos for next week’s episode “Heavy Competition” didn’t give me reason to want to tune in again. In fact, I may be close to following some fans advice to downers like me. "If you don't like the show...don't watch it." Sounds like a possible plan.
Thursday, April 9, 2009
If you're like me and enjoy NBC's Thursday night block of comedy, then this is a night to really savor. NBC doesn't always win points in my book for scheduling (or anything for that matter), but tonight is the exception. It's a full line up of decent comedy and the introduction of a new show.
First off, The Office will start at 8pm ET with episode titled "Dream Team". Jim finds himself in a parking lot soccer face off with new boss Charles, who is so scary to Halpert, I anticipate scenes of Jim looking awkwardly into the camera with fear glowing from his eyes. Michael is scared to face his first day as an entrepreneur as Pam tries to get him dressed and ready for his new venture - but not without re-introducing herself to a view of Michael's "dangling participle" apparently.
It will be followed by the premiere of the long awaited Parks and Recreation at 8:30ET. Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) takes on city government by leading the quest to turn an empty construction sight pit into a park. Can't wait to see this show for myself!
And as if one new episode wasn't enough - we get a bonus extra! The Office returns at 9:00pm et with "Michael Scott Paper Company". Michael prepares a pancake and paper luncheon; Dwight and Andy, unlikely bro-mates, plan a hunting trip. Jim, so bewildered and frightened to process information and ask for clarity, is requested a "rundown" by the frightening Charles, and spends the entire episode trying to figure out what that means. Grow a pair, Jim.
30 Rock ties up this lovely lineup at 9:30pm et tonight with "Cut Backs". TGS is celebrating it's 50th episode, but the threat of cutbacks is harshing everyone's good vibes. Liz tries to save her crew, Kenneth takes on more responsibility which makes Jenna and Tracy suspicious. Could he be keeping a secret?
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
I cheer on Amy Poehler, Rashida Jones and Aziz Ansari; yet, judging by the clips (below), it's a very familiar blueprint with a very talented cast that deserves better. Afterall, The Office formula is an acquired taste. What sustained it was the concept of The Everyman - the man and woman who go out each day and earn a living despite the drudgery. It showed how a lonely, selfish, childish boss can find a family beyond his desk, or how two young people can call in love despite the obstacles. Apparently Parks and Recreation doesn't have the Jim and Pam dynamic that molded the heart of The Office, which means there is a center that cannot hold. In fact, the original show itself is losing appeal due to the under developed storylines between the newly engaged future Halperts. Also Jim's own personal growth is evolving at a snail's pace while Pam's evolution from caterpillar to butterfly to uber queen bee dominates - and bores.
Nevertheless, I wish Parks and Recreation luck despite what I'm hearing. Perhaps NBC should muster more imagination than ordering up more programs from the same people who brought them critical acclaim on a show with low ratings. The Office's fans are devoted, and that dedication is due to character likability. If P&C doesn't make us fall in love with Pohler's Leslie Knope and her crew of government bureaucrats, as The Office did with Carell's Michael Scott, there may be a problem. Lightening very rarely strikes twice. Yet, I am forming an opinion without having seen the show - so I admit to being unfair here. I look forward to seeing the premiere.
Parks and Recreation premieres on Thursday on NBC at 8:30pm ET - sandwiched in between two new episodes of The Office. "Dream Team" airs at 8:00pm ET and "Michael Scott Paper Company" airs at 9:00pm ET, followed by a new episode of 30 Rock entitled "Cut Backs" at 9:30am ET.
Here's some press clippings on Parks and Recreation:
The Baltimore Sun
The San Francisco Chronicle
Chicago Sun Times
New York Times - March 29th Profile on Amy Poehler
New York Times - Review (a positive one!)
Monday, April 6, 2009
Better late than never, I guess. The winners of the 2008 Peabody Awards were announced last week, and the winners hit home. The NYTimes website (whose staff of talented bloggers, reporters, developers and product managers I am proud to say I work with) was awarded the prestigious prize. In the television world, AMC's remarkable drama Breaking Bad was given a nod, as well as ABC's Lost. SNL's Political Satire was rewarded the medal, and Entourage continues to impress since it picked up a giant coin as well.
A full list of winners can be found on the EW.com site.
To read more about the show, NYTimes.com ran a terrific article on Denis Leary and the show. "Fifth Alarm for That Haunted Firefighter".
Thursday, April 2, 2009
There was "Deus Ex Machina" in every nook and cranny of the last five minutes of last night's season finale of Life On Mars. It's either that, or my remote changed the channel to Battlestar Gallactica. A strange contrivance here, a bizarre "lets wrap this damn thing up" vibe there. There was plenty of "Machina" working the creative wheels and not enough "Deus", because I think even God would be pretty confused about those final moments.
The conceit of the U.S. version of Life On Mars is that Sam Tyler, a New York detective in 2008, gets knocked out by a speeding car and wakes up in 1973. What follows throughout the next seventeen episodes is a heart stopping, mind blowing and emotional journey through Sam's mind as he comes to terms with being an "alien" in this foreign world that existed back when he was a child. His childhood issues are faced with brutal force. His father was a killer, a criminal with violence searing through his blood. His mother was loving, and struggled to keep young Sam safe. Throughout his fever dreamed journey, we are lead through his constant brush with death, with love, with loss. Watching his old world in 2008 go on without him (a television showed Barack Obama as president, and he teared up, missing the progress "back home"), we felt Sam's longing, his feeling of being "the spaceman", the crazy cop with psychological issues that Annie would study and try to comprehend.
There was always the sense that Sam was in a coma, and his travel back in time was part of his fevered dream. I suppose that would be too easy. However, switching channels on the flow of the show by making him an astronaut on a space mission to Mars, suspended in animation, living out a time stopping hallucination only to throw the audience a totally different view of what we've seen all season, was confusing.
I've only seen a few episodes of the original British series. I'm going to go back on YouTube and see if I can catch up. It's my understanding that ending (which I've saved to view after the US series had its reveal) had more emotional impact, and did not throw in a contrived device to tie up loose ends and cover up flaws.
Michael Imperioli, a fabulous actor, has now been in two series with finales that were so weird I thought my cable went out: The Sopranos and now Life on Mars. I wish Mars had the same end result. I'm left feeling bereft. I cared about these characters. And Elton John's "Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters" was a featured song too. It brought me back. But everything I've watched up until last night seems to be a lie.
Perhaps I need to have another look at this episode. I don't want it riding off into the sunset without finding the good in that ending.
Update: Could it be that another viewing would allow the ending to make more sense than upon first sight? After re-watching the series finale, I won't say I'm totally buying into the spaceship theory; however, I will say, the ending worked a bit more for me now that I expected it. Time to re-watch this entire series with all the secrets humming in mind so I can connect the dots.
I'm so saddened that this show is finished. In my fevered space animated dreams, Life On Mars exists in another dimension, where Sam and Annie are married and fighting crime on the streets of 1970's New York.