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Archive for September, 2007

TV O.D. : Fall ‘07 Season Blitz, Day 1

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on September 19, 2007

Life is easy, new TV is hard

Don’t say we here at IITS never gave you anything. For the next two-three weeks, I’ll be running through as many new premieres–some old faces, but mostly the new ones–as I’m around to catch the season primetime debut of. Some of them will (hopefully) be good, the great majority of them most likely will be not, but the important thanks is that you, the reader, will be spared the misery and humiliation of wading through this unchartered territory yourselves. Just sit back and let us take the hit for you–after all, that’s what we’re here for.

Back to You
(Wednesdays, 8-8:30 PM, FOX)

Starring: Kelsey Grammer, Patricia Heaton, Fred Willard, Laura Marano

Premise: Obnoxious news anchor Chuck Darling (Grammer) returns to the Pittsburgh station he worked for ten years prior after being fired from his current, better gig for an accidental on-air outburst. Back in Pittsburgh, he rejoins sports guy Marsh McGinley (Willard) and former co-anchor Kelly Carr (Heaton), with whom he shared a tempetuous off-screen relationship that blossomed into a one-time affair, which may have resulted in Carr’s ten-year-old daughter Gracie (Marano).

Thoughts: I’ll openly admit it–I went into Back to You expecting to hate it. In fact, I sort of wanted to hate it–I resented the pre-premiere buzz the show got as the “return of the classic sitcom!,” as if a show with a cliched set-up, predictable punchlining and 1-D characters is really what TV needs at the moment. What’s more, I found the supposed prestige behind the show–Heaton and Grammer have a combined six Emmys between them (seven if you count Grammer’s win for voicing Sideshow Bob)–to be fairly bullshit, considering that Frasier was the worst thing about Frasier and that nothing about Everybody Loves Raymond ever eclipsed unwatchability. Willard’s a cool guy, yeah, but the show was gonna need way more than his reliable support to make the magic happen.

Unsurprisingly, “magical” is not among the first words to come to mind when discussing Back to You. The show is basically everything the previews promised–Grammer and Heaton’s chemistry is definitely solid, if not groundbreaking, and Willard seems to be playing the same character as his Anchorman newsman, though if he gets a line half as good as “put down the gun and let the marching band go, we’ll play it off as a prank,” I’ll eat my hat, provided that someone provides me with an edible hat. But there’s nothing new in the characters here, and nothing particularly interesting–Grammer merely plays the arrogant asshole we always knew Frasier Crane secretly was, Heaton doesn’t get to do much but play his more down-to-earth foil, and the rest of the cast (Josh Gad as the station’s inexperienced, sweaty coordinator, Ayda Field as the slutty weathergirl, Ty Burrell as the embittered field correspondent) are all one-noters, unlikely to evolve much, not that the show would want them too anyway.

The dialogue is predictably snappy–characters enter and exit scenes for the sole purpose of being at the right place at the right time for their requisite one-liners, and there are a couple of legit zingers, but the whole affair feels plug and play and more importantly, utterly boring. The newsroom seems like it should be a dynamite breeding ground for such off-the-wall wackiness, and it’s surprising that no one else has thought to set a show there recently, but the zaniness in Back to You feels contrived and bland.

Hit Potential?: Likely. Back to You is unmistakably mediocre, but it’s very good at being mediocre, and given that the two most ratings-successful fictional shows of the last few years have been CSI and Two and a Half Men, it’s not unreasonable to assume that the nation still has a taste for that sort of well-constructed averageness. Add in a couple of stars playing within their type, and Back to You should fit over the US like a warm blanket.

Worth Watching?: Not if you hold creativity, originality, excitement, or really even entertainment among your priorities for TV. Indeed, Back to You is the much-ballyhooed “return of the sitcom,” revealed as the complete waste of time it always was.

Gossip Girl
(Wednesday, 9:00, CW)

Starring: Blake “4th Chick in Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” Lively, Leighton Meester, a bunch of other people with rich person names

Premise: An unseen but all-knowing gossip columnist (voice of Kristen Bell, now officially the First It Girl of the CW) narrates the story of a group of rich Manhattan socialite high-schoolers, focused around the return of Serena van der Woodsen (Lively), the school’s party queen. Serena left nine months previously under mysterious circumstances, revealed to be in some way connected to the one-night stand she had with Nate (Chace Crawford), the boyfriend of her best friend and now principal rival, Blair Waldorf (Meester). Also receiving attention are Dan and Jenny Humphrey (Penn Badgely and Taylor Momsen), the two outsider-y kids of former rock star Rufus Humphrey (Matthew Settle).

Thoughts: Was prejudiced going into this one as well, though in the opposite direction–I’ve been waiting for a decent teen drama to surface since the stagnation of The O.C. a few years ago, and who better than O.C. mastermind Josh Schwartz to be the man behind it? And I gotta say, judging from the first episode, I think this could be it–Gossip Girl packs the same kind of giddy thrill that The O.C. had in its early episodes, both the voyeuristic delight of getting an all-access pass to the seedy world of people richer, prettier and more charismatic than you are and the rush of feeling like, with the outsider kids as proxies, that you’re actually beindgincluded yourself.

First of all, the thing moves. Within the five minutes before the credits roll, you’ve already got all the major characters and themes introduced, given much assistance by Bell’s Voice of God-like narration. The editing is brisk, the directing sharp, the dialogue…unobtrusive. The music ain’t hurting matters, neither–Schwartz has always had an excellent ear for soundtracking, and betweeen the hits (Timberlake, Akon, Timbaland) and indier tracks (Cold War Kids, Peter Bjorn & John) used, the music always keep things exciting.

And the setting…well, it’s sort of shocking that it took this long for producers to greenlight a show set in the rich-bitch Manhattan universe. Aside from the geographic concerns–the show uses real-life New York settings all around the city, and they sure are nicer than the ones I seem to be spending time around–setting the show in the city that never sleeps makes the whole thing feel like a sped-up (or, I suppose, coked-up) 90210, a world where friends refer to each other by their first initials and text messages are the most reliable form of communication.

Plus, the “Gossip Girl” pretext–named for the fictional blog written by Bell’s unseen character, which chronicles the misadventures of the main characters and is constantly checked and referenced by the characters throughout the show–puts the thing in a distinctly 21st century setting, a post-Hilton/Reid/Lohan universe in which the right person throwing up in a bar toilet is potentially banner news. It’s an inevitable advancement in the genre, and even if it’s sort of cheesy in parts (sorry, no one takes the time to browse the internet in the middle of a party, no matter how good the gossip. Right?) it feels like some sort of progress.
Hit Potential?: If it keeps up this pace, most definitely. Nothing sparkles quite like a world you know you’ll never be a part of (Entourage, anyone?) and with an already-instilled fanbase from the book series of the same name the show is based on and with a pro like Schwartz at the helm, it’s hard to imagine this not being a breakout hit. That’s not to say the show’s a lock quite yet, though–pilots can get away without developing characters, but as the series advances, if they can’t come up with at least one truly likeable, relatable character, viewers may feel a bit too left out to stick with it.

Worth Watching?: So far, so good–if you still have the patience for quality teen drama, anyway. Still too surface-focused to know if it’ll be worth going the distance for, but The O.C. didn’t dig too deep with its pilot either, so for now I’m gonna try to give Schwartz and company the benefit of the doubt.

On Deck for Tomorrow: The premiere of Kid Nation, the return of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia


Posted in TV O.D. | 4 Comments »

Eugoogly: Brett Somers

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on September 18, 2007

When two people that love each other–I mean really love each other, in a way that’s unmistakably evident in every minute they spend together, and in a way that you can’t ever really picture one of them without the other–you kind of hope that they’ll end up dying together. Because when two soulmates die at the same time, it’s hard to think of it as being tragic, since the real tragedy would be forcing one to live without the other. That they never had to experience that kind of loneliness seems almost like a blessing, and really, we should all be so fortunate.

About four months ago, Charles Nelson Reilly died. And it was extremely sad for us classic game show devotees–the man was a legend, one of the all-time great game show panelists, and even if he hadn’t done much of anything in the last few decades, the world seemed slightly lesser without him in it. But now that longtime companion Brett Somers performed a similar shuffle off this mortal coil last Saturday, it doesn’t seem quite so sad anymore–it’s almost sort of relieving.

Reilly and Somers never married, and in all likelihood they never even shared a sexual relationship–Reilly was gay, and Somers was married (and drunk), so their relationship almost certainly never advanced beyond the platonic level. But their love was arguably deeper–watching their Match Game banter was really no different than watching an old Tracy-Hepburn movie, or listening to a Sonny & Cher duet, imbued with the same sort of decades of joy and pain and unparalleled familiarity. While the rest of the Match Game cast would cycle in and out, Somers and Reilly would remain the constants, and to have one without the other would’ve been unthinkable.

To suggest that Somers’ only virtue was in her relationship with Reilly is somewhat unfair, however. She’d likely have become a game show icon anyway, with her humongous sunglasses, brassy repartee and perpetually soused deaeanor, and her relationship with host Gene Rayburn was often magical as well. And she has had a long and storied TV acting career as well, with dozens of guest roles in the 70s and even recurring parts on the original Battlestar Galactica and The Odd Couple, where she played the wife of her real life husband Jack Klugman.But really, Somers & Reilly were never better apart than with each other–him providing the perfect dry, low-key foil to her brash, unruly attention hog, and vice-versa. Here’s hoping the two are sipping comped Long Island Iced Teas in a bar in Game Show heaven right now. Gene can even come too, if he promises not to hit on the college girls.

R.I.P. Brett Somers, 1924-2007

Posted in Eugoogly | 1 Comment »

100 Years, 100 Songs: #78. Blondie – “Rapture”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on September 18, 2007


Here’s something Blondie has done that no other band could possibly boast: they had four #1 hits, each in a completely different style, each a complete classic, and each unmistakably Blondie. Their first, “Heart of Glass” was pretty much a straight disco number, but one that’s dated far better than any other crossover attempt from a rock band of the time. Their second, “Call Me,” was clearly cut from a more New Wave cloth, albeit one filtered through Giorgio Moroder’s production sheen. Their third, “The Tide is High,” was a rocksteady (read for us white people: reggae) cover, but one electrified with singer Debbie Harry’s unbearably suggestive sexual edge.

And then there’s the fourth–“Rapture.” I don’t even know where to begin to classify “Rapture”–it starts with a disco beat, but has salsa-y percussion, a post-punk guitar solo, a hip-hop breakdown and new wave lyrics (and a classic new wave video, like a much seedier “Puttin’ on the Ritz“). It’s not as danceable as “Heart of Glass,” not as galvanizing as “Call Me,” and definitely not as maddeningly catchy as “The Tide is High.” But it’s by far the coolest fucking song Blondie (or just about any of their peers) ever put out, and my God if it doesn’t stand as one of the all-time strangest singles to ever top the US charts.
Let’s start off with that disco intro. The beat–courtesy of drummer Clem Burke, who most likely hated to play it–is for me one of the great opening drum beats of the 80s, up there with “Billie Jean,” “True Faith” and Hall & Oates’ “Kiss on My List” (which, semi-ironically, ended up replacing the song at pole position). And with the three-bell chime that introduces the main hook of the song, mostly found in the bubbling bass of Chris Stein (I think), you can (and should) be already partying before the song even really kicks in.

Debbie Harry has never sounded even remotely like this before, and I don’t think she ever did again. Usually Harry’s highest vocal priority is her ballsy down-to-earthness, a hardened charm that shines through even in a song like “Heart of Glass,” where her glorious falsetto is offset with sing-spoken lines about love “being a pain in the ass.” But on “Rapture” she sounds otherworldly, a cross between Anita Baker and the diva from The Fifth Element, moaning orgasmically about lord knows what (probably rapture). The first two verses of the song already place this song squarely in alien territory–quite literally.

But Harry’s just getting started. “Fab 5 Freddy told me everybody’s fly / The DJ’s spinning, I said, my my / Flash is fast / Flash is cool / Francois sez fas / Flashe non due”. No idea what it means–probably nothing–but the namechecks of Fab 5 Freddy and Grandmaster Flash (who would later co-op the song / return the favor for a song that might be still to come on this list) would prove key, as well as the distinctly hip-hop cadence with which Harry delivered them. Basically, Blondie were…well, rapping. Eight years before “Epic,” four years before the first Beastie Boys single, even three years before “Rappin’ Rodney,” Blondie were learning a thing or two about what was happening outside of Manhattan, and “Rapture” stands as one of White America’s first ever introduction to the culture at large.

And the verse? Well, it’s not exactly Eminem, and Harry’s flow didn’t exactly get her any solo deals, but I maintain her storytelling–about a man from mars with an insatiable appetite for, alternately, cars, bars and guitars–is about as solid as most other party rappers of the time, and certainly makes for some decent quotables. And you’ll be consistently surprised with how much of it sticks with you–I even remember seeing the ladies of Veruca Salt on an old M2 sample hour rapping the whole thing from memory. Good enough for Nina and Louise, certainly good enough for me.

The bizarre thing is that even though “Rapture” is probably the least recognized and the least played (on radio, anyway) of Blondie’s major hits, it’s arguably proven their most enduring. KRS-One sampled Harry’s ghostly wail in the mid-90s for his only ever top 40 hit, “Step Into a World.” Mashup masterminds Go Home Productions had their first US club hit with their “Rapture Riders” blend, mixing “Rapture” with The Doors’ “Riders on the Storm”. Even Reggaetoner Omawi Bling nicked the bass line for his “Tocame en Secreto” hit. And frankly, I can’t get enough–give me those bells, that beat, that bass line in any song and I’ll groove like a villain in a zoot suit to it.

“Step into a world,” indeed. Too bad Blondie didn’t spend more time there, it’s a pretty out there place.

Posted in 100 Years 100 Songs | 2 Comments »

Livebloggin’: The 2007 Emmys

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on September 16, 2007

Britney Spears-free, probably

All right, so let’s get the obvious prelimenary stuff out of the way:

  1. Friday Night Lights and The Wire received a sum total of 0 major nominanations, thus rendering the award totally meaningless.
  2. Ryan Seacrest will be hosting, thus rendering the show totally unwatchable.
  3. Kathy Griffin already won one of these bad boys last week, thus rendering the award not only totally meaningless, but arguably a shameful possession.
  4. No one cares about the Emmys anyway.

But honestly, what am I gonna do, not write about them? It’s TV, it’s awards, it’s awards given to TV. On TV. With TV people in the audience! Let’s see who’ll be joining the prestigious ranks of Marg Helgenberger and the retarded guy from L.A. Law. C’mon, it’ll be fun.

  • 8:00 P.M. “Please welcome, from The Family Guy, Brian & Stewie Griffin!” I guess it’s better than Seacrest trying his hand at a musical intro. Well-timed potshots at Scrubs, Two and a Half Men and the cast of Desparate Housewives (they’re old!) And the cut to T.R. Knight in the audience after an Isaiah Washington joke–and his “oh shit, I’m probably on camera now, right?” reaction–doubtlessly going to go down as one of the night’s highlights.
  • 8:04 P.M. Ryan Seacrest does his opening monologue. Some predictable American Idol jokes, something about Angus Jones (?), attempted flirting with Eva Longoria mixed with comments about her shoes–eh, at least you feel like he’s trying, but you really can’t have it both ways, and frankly, he should probably stick with being the blandest TV personality in the universe.
  • 8:07 P.M. Ray Romano is possibly the only celebrity in existence that sounds more like himself than any of his imitators. His opening bit runs even longer than Seacrest’s, and already tells the evening’s second joke about the Sopranos finale. Whoops, the show accidentally cuts out one of his Frasier jokes–damn, there’s no way that’s still going to be topical by the time it hits YouTube!
  • 8:11 P.M. Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy series.
    • Prediction: Rainn Wilson for The Office
    • Should Be: Neil Patrick Harris for How I Met Your Mother
    • Actual Winner: Jeremy Piven for Entourage. Yeah, all right, Piven could win Emmys for this from now until Entourage goes off the air in 2017, but Rainn Wilson really was due, and obviously Neil trumps all. NPH’s time’ll come soon enough, though.
  • 8:14 P.M. Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series.
    • Prediction: Masi Oka for Heroes
    • Should Be: Masi Oka for Heroes
    • Actual Winner: Terry O’Quinn for Lost? Wow, I haven’t seen any Emmy prelim stuff that implied that O’Quinn even had a shot at this. Not that I’m complaining, though–been kinda bummed with the third season of Lost, but Locke remains the show’s most consistently reliable and interesting characters. Definitely preferable to Michael Imperioli winning for a season he was barely in. Next year, though, let’s see some love for Josh Holloway.
  • 8:19 P.M. Hey, “Stars” by classic 90s dreampop / alternative one-hit wonders Hum is in a Cadillac commercial! Between this and their use of Lilys’ “Ginger,” I know what I’m buying with my post-grad checks.
  • 8:21 P.M. Uh-oh, Ryan makes an alcohol-related Abdul crack. “What?” she angrily mouths in the background. Seacrest backpedals, but the damage is done. Heh.
  • 8:23 P.M. Oustanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy
    • Prediction: Vanessa Williams for Ugly Betty
    • Should Be: Jenna Fischer for The Office
    • Actual Winner: Jamie Pressly for My Name is Earl. Hey, cool–Pressly’s character is sort of one note (though she’s a fucking symphony compared to Ethan Suplee) but she’s still a Comedy Night Done Right highlight, and she certainly appears to care about winning, so whatever, good for her. Plus, another award unclaimed by Two and a Half Men or Ugly Betty, so.
  • 8:26 P.M. Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Mini-Series (co-presented by Kyle Chandler, who should be lighting himself on fire or something in protest of his snubbing)
    • Prediction: who cares
    • Should Be: I dunno, I guess Aidin Quinn is kind of cool
    • Winner: Thomas Hayden Church for Broken Trail. Lifetime achievement win for his work on Wings, I guess.
  • 8:33 P.M. Ellen DeGeneres makes some doctor joke to Hugh Laurie, who wisely decides not to break the hearts of teenage girls worldwide by unleashing his British accent on them. Ellen presents a montage of “topical one-liners”–some Colbert, but not nearly enough. A minor tribute to Tom Snyder follows, which reminds me that I should probably be watching enough news to be able to say with certainty exactly who Snyder is.
  • 8:37 P.M. Surprise, surprise: Kevin Connolly can’t act in real life either.
  • 8:38 P.M. Outsanding Supporting Actress in a Drama
    • Prediction: People have been saying Sandra Oh, so fine, her
    • Should Be: I dunno, Katherine Heigl? Slow fucking year, and neither of those Sops noms did much of anything this year.
    • Actual Winner: Hey, Katherine Heigl. I still find her more bearable than anyone else on that show, now that Washington’s gone and Knight sucks. “My mom told me that I had no chance of winning, so I didn’t prepare anything.” Better start planning that Mother’s Day bouquet now, Kat.
  • 8:41 P.M. Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music or Comedy Program
    • Prediction: Bunch of people for The Daily Show with John Stewart
    • Should Be: Bunch of people for The Colbert Report
    • Actual Winner: Bunch of people for Late Night with Conan O’Brien. Works for me, though I’m pissed off about being 0-5 now. “I do have a speech, because Katherine Heigl’s mother said we would win”. Thin ice, boys–that kitten’s got claws.
  • 8:50 P.M. All right, Tony Bennett and Christina Aguilera! And they’re singing or something! Fascinating, invigorating stuff, that definitely is clearly relevant to the rest of the evening’s proceedings!
  • 8:53 P.M. Outstanding Directing for a Comedy, Music or Variety Program
    • Prediction: American Idol, people like that, right? Oh wait, that Tony Bennett thing was nominated? Shit.
    • Should Be: I dunno, Colbert deserves something
    • Actual Winner: Rob Marshall for the Tony Bennett thing. The Emmys are just as current and topical as the Grammys after all.
  • 8:55 P.M. Outstanding Lead Actor in a TV Mini-Series or Movie.
    • Prediction: uh
    • Should Be: Matthew Perry was in something serious? Hah.
    • Actual Winner: Robert Duvall for Broken Trail. Hard to argue with that I guess.
  • 8:58 P.M. More Vanessa Anne Hudgens naked pic jokes. Man, when even Ryan Seacrest is laughing at you, you’re not getting out of bed for a week or two.
  • 9:03 P.M. Queen Latifah’s tribute to the 30th anniversary of Roots, leading into an appearance by much of the series’ principal cast. Oddly, LeVar Burton is nowhere to be found. Not so oddly, neither is O.J. Simpson. They present the award for Outstanding Mini-Series:
    • Prediction: I dunno, Broken Trail seems like a safe bet at this point
    • Should Be: right
    • Actual Winner: All right, my first one on the money. To be fair, though, only three nominees, and The Starter Wife didn’t look like much competition.
  • 9:09 P.M. The orchestra plays the theme to How I Met Your Mother as Neil Patrick Harris takes the stage with Hayden Panettierre, all three people in the audience who watch the show nod in appreciation. A bunch of awards that have already been won (I think? Sort of confusing) are presented, including Alan Taylor’s work for directing The Sopranos (which at least he got for “Kennedy and Heidi,” by far the season’s best episode). and David Chase for writing The Sopranos (which of course, he got for series finale “Made in America”).
  • 9:21 P.M. I hope the pissed-off look on Rainn Wilson’s face isn’t just for the show’s sake.
  • 9:23 P.M. Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series
    • Prediction: The Daily Show with John Stewart
    • Should Be: Colbert’s pretty funny, c’mon
    • Actual Winner: Stewart wins. He must’ve won at least a half-dozen of these already, no? And next year’s an election year, so…dammit.
  • 9:25 P.M. Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Program
    • Prediction: Tony Bennett?
    • Should Be: Please not Tony Bennett
    • Actual Winner: Tony motherfucking Bennett. He’s like the Tom Joad of crappy award shows.
  • 9:28 P.M. Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Mini-Series or Movie.
    • Prediction: Whoever got nominated for Broken Trail
    • Should Be: Don’t care as long as its not Anna Paquin, due to her bitter rivalry with friend of IITS Andrew Weber (as long as she loses, he’s still technically having the more successful 2007)
    • Actual Winner: Judy Davis for The Starter Wife. Yawn.
  • 9:30 P.M. Something about how awesome TV is when it comes to doing good in the world. Sorry guys, as long as According to Jim is still on the air, you’re going to be fighting a losing battle.
  • 9:35 P.M. God, Back to You is going to be very bad.
  • 9:37 P.M. Outstanding Made for TV Movie
    • Prediction: Uh, Wounded Knee
    • Should Be: What the hell is Why I Wore Lipstick to My Vasectomy about?
    • Actual Winner: Wounded Knee, are we fucking done with the miniseries and TV movie awards yet???
  • 9:38 P.M. Jersey Boys doing a tribute to The Sopranos–clever, clever. What, are they not even performing new lyrics to apply to the Sopranos cast? What the hell is the point of that? C’mon, Steven R. Schirripa got burned on a nomimation for yet another year, seems like the least the Emmys could do would be to try to find a word that rhymes with “Baccalieri”.
  • 9:43 P.M. The Sops cast comes to stage–christ, there are a lot of these guys, huh? With this display of favoritism, it seems virtually impossible that The Sopranos could lose for Best Drama at this point.
  • 9:49 P.M. Outstanding Actress in a Mini-Series or TV Movie
    • Prediction: Messing maybe
    • Should Be: Someone else
    • Actual Winner: Helen Mirren for Prime Suspect: The Final Act. Woman’s a machine. “You Americans are very generous people!” Damn straight.
  • 9:52 P.M. Lewis Black is yelling at or about something. Is it too late to catch Anchorman on ABC?
  • 9:55 P.M. Outstanding Directing for a Mini-Series, Movie or Special or pretty much anything else except the shows I actually care about
    • Prediction, Should Be and Actual Winner: some dude
  • 9:57 P.M. Outstanding Writing for a Mini-Series, Movie or Special
    • Prediction, Shoule Be and Actual Winner: no wonder I’ve never actually sat through this fucking show end-to-end before, who the hell takes TV seriously enough to give a shit about these? I mean, if it’s not me, who else is there?
  • 10:00 P.M. “The Cha Cha Slide” is in a McDonalds commercial. The sad truth: I’m actually sort of excited about the chance to hear it daily.
  • 10:04 P.M. Creative Achievement in Interactive Television? Masi Oka and the guy who created MySpace have some internet conversation about Al Gore, maybe? I can’t be expected to keep track of this shit.
  • 10:08 P.M. Brad Garrett and Joely Fisher do some bantering, reminding everyone why the sitcom is dead. Some award for Outstanding Performance is presented, and once again:

Your fucking days are numbered, octogenarian.

  • 10:11 P.M. More awards that have already been presented, Guest Actor and Actress in a Comedy Series. Stanley Tucci (Monk) and Elaine Stritch (30 Rock) win. Could be the only gold 30 Rock sees this evening, so enjoy it while we can, I guess. Outstanding Direction in a Comedy Series goes to Richard Shepard for Ugly Betty, Outstanding Writing goes to Greg Daniels for The Office.
  • 10:23 P.M. “You know, this looked a lot less gay on the rack,” Seacrest says of his Henry VIII wardrobe. “Can I keep it?” Has any other TV personality ever tried so hard to cause such deliberate confusion over his sexuality?
  • 10:26 P.M. Who the hell invited Kanye West? He’s put into a mock-AI competition with The Office‘s Rainn Wilson over remembering the lyrics to his own songs. “Now remember, whoever loses this has to retire from show business,” host Wayne Brady remarks. “Not another!” Kanye cries. Sadly, this is by far the hippest the awards will get all evening.
  • 10:29 P.M. Outstanding Reality Competition
    • Prediction: Amazing Race wins this a lot, right?
    • Should Be: Five-way tie for last
    • Actual Winner: The Amazing Race, now uncontested for a half-decade. “We are so proud…to win this again,” the producer says.
  • 10:35 P.M. John Stewart and Stephen Colbert banter about the environmental merits of the Emmys. “If celebrities stop getting together to congratulate each other, THEN THE EARTH WINS!!!” Colbert concludes. Unimportant, though, I’d listen to these guys debate about sponges.
  • 10:39 P.M. Best Actor in a Comedy Series
    • Prediction: Steve Carrell for The Office
    • Should Be: Alec Baldwin for 30 Rock
    • Actual Winner: Ricky Gervais for Extras?? Wow, I don’t think anyone saw that coming. I’m shocked enough people watched the Extras tape to even vote for it.
  • 10:40 P.M. Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series
    • Prediction: Edie Falco for The Sopranos
    • Should Be: Yeah, Edie Falco, why not
    • Actual Winner: Sally Field for Brothers and Sisters. Meh, I guess Falco has three already. This shit is a lot harder to predict than the Oscars. Uh-oh, Sally wanted to say something about the war that she wasn’t given time to. “If the mothers ruled the world, THERE WOULD BE NO GOD–” Someone at FOX is getting really proficient at hitting the “KILL” button tonight.
  • 10:44 P.M. Some people died last year. I don’t think I knew about Jack Palance. Pavoratti too, huh? Bummer.
  • 10:52 P.M. Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series.
    • Prediction: America Ferrera for Ugly Betty
    • Should Be: Tina Fey for 30 Rock
    • Actual Winner: America Ferrera. All right, so at least there is some rhyme and reason to this emmy business. Does it piss anyone else off that Ugly Betty is sort of hott? I mean, not an Eva Mendes or nothing, but for a show that’s supposed to be about accepting outsiders or something, couldn’t they have found some chick that was actually, y’know, ugly? I’m pretty sure there are a couple of ’em out there if you squint hard enough.
  • 10:55 P.M. Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series.
    • Prediction: Fuck it, I’m not going Gandolfini, I’m saying Hugh Laurie for House
    • Should Be: Laurie or Gandolfini are good for me.
    • Actual Winner: JAMES FUCKING SPADER??? I mean, don’t get me wrong, as a lifetime achievement you couldn’t possibly pile on enough awards on this guy, but for Boston Public? “I still have no idea who votes for these things,” Spader admits, sounding guilty as hell. What the fuck.
  • 11:02 P.M. Outstanding Comedy Series
    • Prediction: Ugly Betty?
    • Should Be: 30 Rock
    • Actual Winner: Wow, they actually gave it to 30 Rock. That almost makes up for everything else, no it doesn’t not really but you know. Hey, Emmy people, I know how to roll a die too, can I be on the voting committee next year?
  • 11:08 P.M. Outstanding Drama Series
    • Prediction: I dunno, let’s say Heroes ‘coz it makes no sense
    • Should Be: The Sopranos, sort of
    • Actual Winner: All right, so they gave it to The Sopranos after all. Looks very emotional for the cast of 22,371, presumably because they might not have a reason to be in the same room together until the ten year anniversary of The Russian’s disappearance or whatever. Fair enough.

Show suuuuuuuuuuuuuuucks. Blog it yourselves next year.

Posted in Livebloggin' | 10 Comments »

Time of the Season: S1-2 of Sports Night (’98-’00)

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on September 15, 2007

“And I finally get Aaron Sorkin’s Sports Night! It’s a comedy that’s too good to be funny!

If there was one way to make the abortive run of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip seem even more disappointing, it’s a reviewing of Aaron Sorkin’s similarly short-lived but far more cult-endearing debut series, Sports Night. The similarities are truly astounding–not just in terms of being about the behind-the-scenes workings of a serialized TV show, but in almost all the character types (especially the two male bffs at the creative center, one coming out of a bad breakup and one with deep-seated psychological issues) and, of course, the rapid-fire dialogue, presented in Sorkin’s now trademark and cliched format of choice, the walk-and-talk. And, unsurprisingly, it even shares pretty much all the strenghts and weaknesses of Studio 60, and there are indeed many of both.

The show’s basic premise is of an ESPN-esque station, CSC (Continental Sports Channel), and its Sportscenter-like flagship program, Sports Night, hosted by Dan Rydell (Josh Charles) and Casey McCall (Peter Krause). Keeping them afloat in the studio are executive producer Dana Whitaker (Felicity Huffman), station head Isaac Jaffee (Robert Guillaume), and assistant producers Natalie Hurley (Sabrina Lloyd) and Jeremy Goodwin (Joshua Malina). The show, which ranks a solid but unextroardinary third in the ratings, is constantly under pressure from internal and external sources, and by the end of season two, CSC is put on the market, possibly putting the future of Sports Night and all its involved parties in jeopardy.

If film’s auteur theory could be applied to television’s writers and producers, then Aaron Sorkin would undoubtedly be the primary example. Two seconds of this show and you know exactly who’s behind it–not just in the dialogue’s speed and presentation, but in its constantly repeating patterns, and the characters’ unfailing and stupifyingly obvious tendencies to say the exact opposite of the way they actually feel and act. Studio 60‘s dialogue fell into the same traps almost instantly, and had it lasted for the two seasons Sports Night runs, it almost certainly would’ve become as grating as Sports Night‘s eventually gets. There’s definitely some comfort in being able to map out the entire arc of an episode from its first few minutes of dialogue, but watch enough episodes in a row and you’ll be praying for a hail storm or some other meteorological phenomenon to whip through the CSS studios and actually cause a little unforseeable drama.

That said, it’s hard to find too much fault with a show as tight-knit as Sports Night. The dialogue, if unbearably cyclical, is always engaging, and the cast is uniformly strong, as evidenced by the near across-the-board leap to greater TV success the show’s actors would have after the show’s demise (Krause to Six Feet Under, Huffman to Desperate Housewives, Malina to Sorkin’s own West Wing). The article’s lead-in quote, an acid-induced observation from Family Guy that for many serves as the show’s only real contemporary pop culture reference point, is fairly on point–the show rarely induces above a chuckle, but by the end of the pilot, you’re not really even expecting it to, and that’s OK–Sports Night doesn’t pretend to be anything it isn’t.

Speaking of pilots, if there’s one thing that Sorkin really knows how to do, it’s how to bookend a series. I’ve only seen two episodes of West Wing that I remember in my life, the first and the last, and they were so good–the premiere so perfect at breakneck-speed plot exposition, introduction of main characters and beginning of important theme, and the finale so heartbreaking in its wrapping up of characters and plotlines, and in its general sense of finality and moving on–that it didn’t matter at all that I never bothered to see any of the episodes in between, and now I’m not sure that I’d even want to. I knew this was as good as the show had the potential to be.

Needless to say, Sports Night has a similarly thrilling pilot, and a similarly emotional farewell. It’s the latter that really comes as something of a shock–one of the only ones you’ll find in the series–since, with the exception of some darker stuff uncovered in Danny’s dalliances with a professional psychiatrist, the show had generally kept its emotional content strictly on the lighter side. But by the end of the series, when you’re legitimately unsure whether Sports Night will be sticking around, it’s some uncharted territory for the show and its characters, added to by the brilliance of Dana’s last-minute interactions with the show’s greatest one-off character, known only as The Stranger (classic That Guy, Clark Gregg)–episodes which should have garnered at least Emmy nominations for Huffman and Gregg.

Similar to the post-mortem offers rumored to be on the table for Arrested Development after FOX decided not to stick with the show, Sports Night could have had a future on any number of cable and pay channels had Sorkin decided to stick with the show. However, he decided to instead proceed with The West Wing, a wise choice which garnered him far more commercial and critical success than Sports Night was ever really capable of. Basically, Sports Night ends up a series that deserved just about everything it got–two full seasons, limited mass success but a devoted cult following–and nothing more. Can’t argue with that.

Posted in Time of the Season | 3 Comments »

DVD O.D. : Air Guitar Nation

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on September 15, 2007

To err is human, to air guitar divine…

Maybe the thing that Air Guitar Nation does best is to express the stimultaneous awesomeness and shamefulness of the practice in question. It’s an art, sure, but the overwhelming majority of the time, it’s an art that satisfies only the artist–you may feel like Eddie Van Halen while doing it, but the great majority of the time, you come off about as cool as Michael Anthony* while doing it. To demonstrate it as performance is generally terrible, but also inspiring–since for one who doesn’t enjoy or excel at dancing, it can be the single most invigorating physical extension of music appreciation one is likely to express. And it’s hard to look down on that, especially for those of us who can’t play Guitar Hero without the requisite jumping, strutting, kicking and headbanging.

Air Guitar Nation follows the days up to the 2004 Air Guitar World Championship in Oulu, Finland, with a focus on the US regional and national competitions and two players in particular. One is David Jung, better known as the kimono and Hello Kitty-adorned “C-Diddy,” who prefers a virtuoso style, complete with imaginary pick-scraping, two-finger tapping and faux-classical riffing. The other is Dan Crane, also known as the frequently shirtless “Bjorn Turoque” (say it out loud), who does a rawer, more physical style with jerky body movements and occasional fake guitar tosses. The two eventually make it to Finland–one through achievement, one through sheer stubbornness–and there they act as America’s representatives in the competition, our nation’s first submissions to the tournament.

It’s a pretty great rivalry at the film’s core–Diddy/Jung is a ridiculously cool guy that really makes the art form his own, running through Extreme’s rapid-fire “Play With Me” (which, combined with its use as the GH Rocks the 80s finale, is now firmly entrenched in the fake-rock pantheon) with enough verve, creativity and charisma (Jung is an actor in his day job) in his performance to be almost as stunning as watching the song actually being played–watch him win over an initially hostile West Coast audience for proof of his power. Yet, despite Jung’s Hiro Nakamura-like naive enthusiasm for his craft, he comes off as a fly-by-nighter compared to Bjorn/Crane’s “it’s all about the music, maaaaaaaaaaaaaan” type devotion to his mime-axing. At one point in the movie, Bjorn actually sulks about how “fake” Diddy’s air guitaring is, bemoaning that his own art, while being less flashy, is more real. That the irony of this statement is completely and thoroughly lost on Bjorn is what keeps the movie from ever being a waste of time.

Bizarrely, Air Guitar Nation also doubles as social commentary, as the only thing as important to the movie’s characters as the competition is getting out of Iraq. Several of the tournament’s founders and contestants claim to have invested so much time in their venture as a way to encourage peace–“if everyone was busy air guitaring, they couldn’t be holding a gun,” the echoed sentiment goes. It’s not exactly a brilliant insight, but it’s still sort of heartwarming when coming from such a unified, well-meaning community. And despite the occasional anti-US sentiment (“we’re not exactly popular right now,” Bjorn points out when arriving on foreign soil), the movie comes off as oddly patriotic–the “USA!” chanting at the nationals’ finale, the continued American supremacy at yet another Olympic-like event, and of course, the movie’s title (and title theme, sung and composed by Bjorn himself).

At about 77 minutes, the movie gives the subject just the amount of time and attention it deserves, especially since with the exception of only a few of the contestants, the performing being done never really seems particularly impressive or enjoyable. But with a can’t-miss soundtrack, enough loveable characters and an unmistakable and highly relatable feeling of artistic passion on display, the movie’s certainly worth that much. How long until the inevitable DDR doc, you think? Hope it’s not too late yet.

*(IITS does not mean to wish any further mockery on Michael Anthony in his time of trouble, as Anthony continues to be a stand-up and generally underappreciated human being. We just feel that coolness does not happen to be one of his greater virtues.)

Posted in DVD O.D. | Leave a Comment »

Time of the Season: S1 of Flight of the Conchords (’07)

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on September 13, 2007

Who likes to rock the party?

My initial resistance to Flight of the Conchords can be blamed almost entirely on Tenacious D. I probably should’ve liked those guys–I like Jack Black, I like faux-metal, I like jokes, y’know, some of the time–but I dunno, the limited bits of their stuff I heard just felt like a big joke that I was never in on. It didn’t help that so many other people knew their catalogue by heart, and would recite it perfectly in tandem while I stared at them dumbly. But yeah, I think it put me off the idea of musical comedy for a long time.

Thank God that Flight of the Conchords is nothing like that. Or maybe it is–who knows if the songs would be any good out of the show’s context, it’s entirely I’d find them just as alienating. But the show–which documents the travails of the semi-fictional New Zealand musical duo of the same name, played by Jermaine Clement and Bret McKenzie–is far more than that, and while I can’t imagine the show without the musical numbers, it’s a great TV show as well as a great musical showcase.

Oddly, the closest thing I can think of to an antecedent for FotC is the Bjork-starring Palme D’Or winner from the turn of the millennium, Dancer in the Dark. Odd to think of Lars Von Trier as an influence on any sort of musical comedy, but FotC shares the movie’s jarring mixture of humdrum, uncinematic and often fairly depressing real-life sequences mixed with spontaneous, explosive and impressively large-scale musical numbers. The main difference, of course, is that Von Trier used the juxtaposition for tragedy, and McKenzie and Clement do it for comedy.

And it’s real, real funny all right. The non-musical parts of the show mix the deadpan humor and lo-fi visuals of The Office with the occasional ridiculousness of the best Adult Swim characters and the sort of “shit happens” vibe of Curb Your Enthusiasm. McKenzie and Clement have the task of essentially playing the straight men to the craziness of the world around them–their unstable, overenthusiastic and underqualified manager Murray (Rhys Darby, in a perpetually scene-stealing role), their obsessed #1/only fan Mel (Kristen Schaal), and their supremely unhelpful American friend Dave (Arj Barker) the most frequently recurring crazies–and they do it with the comedic timing of pros, surely a carry-over from their pre-TV days as a touring live duo.

And those musical numbers–you’re just not gonna see anything else like them on TV, likely ever. Whether eschewing sensitive singer/songwriting (“If You’re Into It”), Pet Shop Boys-style urban balladry (“Inner City Pressure”), dance hall (“She’s So Hot, BOOM!”) or seduction funk (“It’s Business Time,” which has become something of a hit on its own), FotC gets it right on, with hilarious and surprisingly catchy results. The songs are never too broad, either, so they tend to slide right in with the show’s otherwise extremely straight-faced humor, and the visuals–whether a psychedelic skip through the park during the acid trip of “Prince of Parties,” or the children’s animation-style clip for “Albi the Racist Dragon”–tend to be just as clever.

What’s more, the show had the balls to end the season on a hell of a downer, albeit a predictably hysterical one–presumably because, having run out of songs from their live repertoire, the show’s future is extremely uncertain. But here’s hoping the band can get back together for at least one more season–it’s hard to picture another show getting musical comedy down this perfectly again.

Posted in Time of the Season | 2 Comments »

In the Mix: New Order for the Non-New Order Fan

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on September 12, 2007

There’s not a problem that I can’t fix, ‘coz I can do it in the mix

The great thing about being a New Order fan is that they experience a revival approximately every 14 months. A new album, a new box set, a new band or producer citing them as an influence (Jacques Lu Cont, we hardly knew ye), people’ll use just about any excuse to bring back New Order. And that’s nothing but good news as far as I’m concerned–despite that I don’t listen to them all too much on my own anymore, they’re still definitely my favorite band ever, and I love an excuse to dive back into their super-extensive back catalogue.

This time, it’s the release of Anton Corbijn’s recent Joy Division biopic Control, which has once again sparked up that age-old debate: would Joy Division have continued in their greatness had singer Ian Curtis not killed himself (spoiler alert, I guess), or was the transformation into New Order for the best? To me, there’s just about nothing to this debate at all–I believe the heights scaled by New Order during the first ten years or so of their reign of pop supremacy are far greater than any the band reached with Curtis, or by any other 80s band for that matter. However, not all are so convinced, and thus, they need some convincing.

Hence, I was comissioned (or, rather, volunteered myself) to create a New Order mix for a JD supporter not necessarily convinced of the band’s post-Curtis worth. Rather than just create a one-disc mix of the band’s best and best known songs (which for most intents and purposes, already exists and is called Substance), I decided to slack off on the New Order songs everybody knows–nothing off disc 1 of Substance besides “Confusion” and the original ’82 version of “Temptation,” no “Regret,” not even “Age of Consent” or “Love Vigilantes”. There’d be no way for me to create a one-disc mix to summarize the whole band’s catalogue anyway, so doing this at least takes off some of the pressure.

Instead, I decided to focus on the band’s second-tier, which, if not quite as rapturous and awe-inspiring as their best work, is just as cool and arguably even more fascinating. So I included at least one song off every album (minus 2005’s Waiting for the Sirens Call, which we here at IITS still refuse to officially acknowledge the existence of), a bunch of their weirder a’s and b’s (where “Murder” fits in their catalogue is still beyond me) and even some of their unreleased stuff. Hopefully it’ll show that New Order were a lot more than your average synth-pop band, and how there’s something in their catalogue for just about everyone. Plus, it’s New Order, you know it’s gonna be fucking good.

A Fond Farewell to Your Soul: New Order for the Non-New Order Fan:

  1. “Temptation” (Original ’82 12″)
  2. “As it is When it Was” (Brotherhood)
  3. “Ruined in a Day” (Republic, single)
  4. “Confusion” (’87 Version from Substance)
  5. “Love Less” (Technique)
  6. “Turn the Heater On” (Keith Hudson cover, non-album BBC session)
  7. “Your Silent Face” (Power, Corruption & Lies)
  8. “Fine Time” (Technique, single)
  9. “Elegia” (Low-Life)
  10. “Lonesome Tonight” (Substance, “Thieves Like Us” b-side)
  11. “Primtiive Notion” (Get Ready)
  12. “Mesh” (1981-1982 EP, NOT the song mislabeled as “Mesh” on Substance)
  13. “Dreams Never End” (Movement)
  14. “Touched By the Hand of God” (Non-album single)
  15. “Murder” (Limited non-album single)
  16. “Leave Me Alone” (Power, Corruption & Lies)
  17. The Happy One” (theme music from TV special)

think of “The Happy One” as a bonus track, it’s too ridiculous to be anything else.

Posted in In the Mix | 2 Comments »

Listeria / Underappreciated Simpsons Moment(s): The Ten Most 90s-Appropos Quotes in “Homerpalooza” (1996)

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on September 11, 2007

“I used to be with it. Then they changed what it was! Now what I’m with, isn’t it! And what’s it seems weird and strange! IT’LL HAPPEN TO YOOOUUUU!!!”

10. Radio Announcer: “Fossil 103. Classic hits from Abba to Zeppelin…comma, Led.

9. Mr. Burns: “And to think, Smithers, you laughed when I bought TicketMaster! ‘Nobody’s going to pay a 100% service charge!‘”

8. Homer, to Hullabalooza Crowd: “Thank you! And remember, don’t trust anyone over 30! And now, Peter Frampton!”

7. B-Real: “Before we start, we have a lost child here. If she’s not claimed within the next hour, she will become property of Blockbuster Entertainment.”

6. Record Store Sign: (“Suicide Notes. Formerly, Good Vibrations.”)

5. DJ Muggs: “Uh, do you know ‘Insane in the Brain’?”
Symphony Orchestra Conductor: “Well, we mostly know classical…but, we could give it a shot.”

4. Billy Corgan: “We envy you, Homer. All we have is our music, our legions of fans, our millions of dollars, and our youth. [Thinks for a second.] WOO-HOO!
James Iha: “Let’s all get fur coats!”
Jimmy Chamberlain: “I want a walk-in humidor!”

3. Kim Gordon: “Hey, Hullabalooza isn’t about freaks. It’s about music, and advertisement, and youth-oriented product positioning.”
Sen-Dog: “That, and getting toasted. Nicely toasted.”

2. Homer, to Billy Corgan: “You know, my kids think you’re the greatest. And thanks to your gloomy music, they’ve stopped dreaming of a future that I can’t possibly provide.”

2. Teen 1: “Oh, here comes the cannonball guy. He’s cool.”
Teen 2: “Dude, are you like, being sarcastic?”
Teen 1: “…I don’t even know anymore!
1. Homer: “So, I realized that being with my family is more important than being cool.”
Bart: “Dad, what you just said is profoundly uncool.”
Homer: “You know what the song says. It’s hip to be square!
Lisa: “That song is so lame.”
Homer: “So lame that it’s…cool?
Lisa & Bart: “No.
Marge: “Am I cool, kids?”
Lisa & Bart: “No.
Marge: “Good. I’m glad. And that’s what makes me cool, not caring, right?”
Lisa & Bart: “No.
Marge: “Well, how the hell do you be cool? I feel like we’ve tried everything here.”
Homer: “Wait, Marge. Maybe if you’re truly cool, you don’t need to be told you’re cool.”
Bart: “Well, sure you do!”
Lisa: “…How else would you know?”

Posted in Listeria, Underrated Simpsons Moment | 5 Comments »

Take Five: Best Non-Fictional Movie Villians of the 00s

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on September 10, 2007

“You fucking broke my sitar, motherfucker!”

Possibly my favorite thing about 00s film has been the gradual embracing of the documentary as a film form not only of great artistic merit, but one of great narrative and entertainment potential as well, a trend possibly attributable to a combination of Hoop Dreams, Michael Moore and Behind the Music re-runs. Such documentaries attempt to do fiction better than actual fiction, and the best ones somehow manage to pull it off, creating stories with legitimate arcs, occasional character development, even the odd plot twist. The message? Life may or may not be stranger than fiction, but it’s definitely more conventional and formulaic than you might think.

And thus, the 00s have produced a cadre of truly great non-fictional movie villains–characters that probably seem even more dastardly than they actually are, just because you know that they’re actually like that (excluding suspicious editing and slanty camera angles, anyway). Five of the most sinister:

Anton Newcombe, DiG!

Ondi Timoner’s titanic documentary about the little-ballyhooed rivalry between The Dandy Warhols and The Brian Jonestown Massacre, two bands so ultimately inconsequential that the whole thing comes off like an indie-rock, non-fictional Spinal Tap, has more classic characters than you could shake a stick at. Still, the one that towers over them all is BJM leader Anton Newcombe, an abusive, narcissistic, would-be messianic drug addict, who perpetuates all the negative stereotypes of rock-star preening without managing to even write any halfway decent songs. Still, the quotables come fast and furious, and the package of shotgun shells and “COURTNEY TAYLOR: SURRENDER” artwork he sends the Dandies puts him into Bond villian-awesomeness territory.

Emily Stagg, Spellbound

It was hard to choose who to root for, watching Spellbound for the first time–Harry, the hyper, overenthusiastic young’un, Ted, the humble southern boy, or Ashley, the self-made inner city girl, among the possibilities. I just knew I didn’t want the rich, snotty, grating Stagg to take home the prize (yes, potential irony alert, LOL). It wasn’t just that she was cocky, though–listen to her talk about how she doesn’t consider herself above her non-spelling bee friends, and how she even dumbs down her vocabulary to hang out with her less-fortunate friends. I’m sure the normally decent upper-class families of Connecticut didn’t appreciate being associated with such snobbery.

Also Semi-Evil: Overbearing father Rajesh Kadakia, whose kid Neil seems like he would actually be pretty happy and normal if his father wasn’t essentially blackmailing him into excelling.

The Sun, An Inconvenient Truth

For years, man has yearned to destroy the sun. Al Gore will do the next best thing–prepare for the effects its horrific power through social awareness and environmental responsibility. The battle with one of Earth’s most formidable opponents has yet to really be decided, but with Al Gore going all First Blood, Part II on it, who knows, our days might not be quite so numbered after all.

Phil Towle, Some Kind of Monster

A harrowing, cautionary tale against great bands deciding to start being terrible, no one really gets out clean in Some Kind of Monster, it’s all just shades of douchebaggery. That said, the movie’s real moral black hole is almost certainly the band’s bloodsucking and unapologetically sweater-wearing psychiatrist, Phil Towle. There’s really no such thing as a non-villainous rock and roll psychiatrist, but Towle is especially squirrely–watch the scene where the band finally gets around to firing him, and he tries to use his Jedi-like manipulation skills to convince the band that they still need him in their inner circle. It’s the most affirming thing in the whole movie when it doesn’t work, the band essentially concluding “Yeah…actually, we don’t think you’re of any use at all, really.”

Billy Mitchell, The King of King: A Fistful of Quarters

There’s something to be said for a geek icon that doesn’t shy away from his nerdlord status, I suppose, and well, there’s really nothing shy about Billy Mitchell. The #1 Donkey Kong player in the known universe (until Steve Wiebe steals his title, sort of maybe kinda), Mitchell’s machinations to solidify and hold onto his claim to fame are ruthless, cowardly, and at least somewhat despicable. Nonetheless, at the very least he comes off the far sexier role, as he utterly destroys Wiebe’s aw-shucks confidence by just passing him by, impossibly big-breasted wife in tow, not saying a word.

Also Semi-Evil: Mitchell’s acolyte and previous #2 DK player in the known universe, Brian Kuh, who practically has a nervous breakdown on-screen watching himself get hopelessly outperformed by Wiebe, feebly attempting to psychologically sabotage his play but ultimately too pathetic to affect anything of real consequence.

Posted in Take Five | 4 Comments »