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Archive for the ‘I Sez’ Category

I Sez: A Moment of Re-Evaluation for Mischa Barton

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on July 30, 2009

In one way, Benjamin MacKenzie and Mischa Barton were very, very lucky individuals. Both were at best marginally talented as actors, capable of disaplaying just a limited range of emotions, within an even more limited number of character frameworks. They were both attractive, but not in a way that was irreplaceable. Yet despite making Priestley and Doherty look like Gandolfini and Falco, they were the nominal stars on The O.C., the most important (and for about 18 months, most popular) teen drama of the decade. But in another way, they were both somewhat unlucky, as despite their show being a gigantic hit, each was upstaged in nearly every way conceivable by their sassier, more charismatic, and arguably better-looking sidekicks, played by Adam Brody and Rachel Bilsson. It was entirely deserved, of course–with just about any actors playing Seth and Summer, that show goes nowhere–but I did feel a little for Marissa and Ryan, as the clumsy, ill-fated romance between the two that was supposed to define the show got increasingly pushed to the side for the misadventures of Ryan’s geek friend and Marissa’s occasionally bitchy girl pal.

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Posted in I Sez, TV O.D. | 7 Comments »

I Sez: Ouch on The Goode Family

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on May 17, 2009

Look, there’s no question that there’s a derth of quality animated programming out there right now. Adult Swim’s lineup has been mostly running in place for years, South Park is almost at the same level as The Simpsons in terms of being past its expiration date, and the only thing really keeping Family Guy at a decent level of watchability is comparison to the other shows it made possible (or soon to no doubt be the case with The Cleveland Show, spun off directly). I even watched an episode of King of the Hill for work tonight, and dear lord–for the better part of a decade, that show was as reliable to give you between a 6 and 8 for every single episode as a classic-period Matchbox 20 hit, but now its cancellation is starting to look more and more like a mercy kill. There needs to be a new show from someone, somewhere, to pick up the slack.

Mike Judge, he behind King and Beavis and Butthead, among other quality non-animated fare, would seem as good a candidate as any to be the cartoon creator to step up and fill the void. But man, does The Goode Family look to be a huge, huge fucking whiff. I mean, a show about over-zealous liberals that satires political correctness? Being near-militant about recycling and veganism? Gawking at homosexuality? Making embarrassing gaffes while attempting to avoid being racist? This is really what’s being counted on to bolster FOX’s once-dominant lineup, to replace a show that’s been as sure a thing as there’s been on TV for 12 years and 252 episodes? It still makes me cringe most of the time when they do this kind of humor on otherwise relatively solid shows like The Office and Curb Your Enthusiasm; to build an entire show around it…it’s almost unfathomable.

And not only is it brutally unfunny, it’s also mind-blowingly out of date. Has this show just been in development hell since 1996? I mean, replace the shit about hybrid cars and Al Gore with some nonsense about hemp or saving the rainforest, and this show–especially with its staid, Judge-trademarked animation style–absolutely looks postmarked from a decade and a half ago. Why aren’t the characters also wearing beanies and tye-died shirts? Are they going to be kicking around a hackey sack instead of drinking in front of the fence? Will there be episodes centered around going to the HORDE festival? Jokes about how difficult it is to pronounce the coffee names at Starbucks? Who’s psyched for the Ani DiFranco and Jeanine Garofalo  guest appearances? And I thought Parks and Recreation was a dangerously unimaginative retread.

Worst of all, though–you’ve got a brand-new show to market to the McFarlane/Parker/Stone generation, to be one of the new rocks of your Animation Domination lineup, and the song you use to introduce it in your new audience is…“Two Princes”? The fucking Spin Doctors? Even back in 1996 that would have been a borderline unacceptable decision, to use the song in an ad in this day and age–and the year is currently 2009, unless we’ve lost sight of this–it ends up satirizing themselves better than it does their subject. I mean, nothing against the ‘Docs and all, and I like “Two Princes” as much as anyone (which is to say, a very small and pretty much negligible amount), but to use this song to promote a new edgy show is basically to run a disclaimer across the bottom of the screen that says NOTE: NO ONE INVOLVED WITH THE GOODE FAMILY IS NOW OR HAS EVER BEEN UNDER THE AGE OF 45.

Hey Judge and company–are you sure King of the Hill doesn’t have another couple seasons of fumes left to run on? Might not be the worst thing after all.

Posted in I Sez | 2 Comments »

I Sez: Not Quite Good Enough, Courtney Paris

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on April 11, 2009


I actually a fair amount of Courtney Paris’s final tournament run as an Oklahoma Lady Sooner, even flipping away from the Phillies’ home opener (not that that turned out to be particularly riveting television exactly) to see the game against Louisville, where Paris’s $64,000 wager of good faith came to a head. The really amazing thing was that it ended about as dramatically as I had had semi-predecited, with Okie guard Nyeshia Stevenson popping a potentially buzzer-beating and game-winning three off a missed Louisville free throw, setting up what could have been one of the most exciting moments in NCAA history–had it not popped out. Should Stevenson have tried to drive for a layup to tie the game instead of pulling up for the go-ahead three, especially after going 1-7 from long distance earlier in the game? It’s a question that she will, no doubt, be mulling over for the rest of her life–although not as much as Paris will, who stood to lose a cool 64k as the indirect result of Stevenson’s actions.

Well, thanks to IITS reader A.J. for pointing out that Paris has, predictably, wilted somewhat from her guarantee, insisting that the Oklahoma athletic department refused to accept her scholarship money back. Instead, Paris will be setting up a community fund of an indeterminate amount for the needy of Oklahoma. No surprise here–after all, that 7th pick WNBA money might not have been the windfall Paris had expected, as apparently her base salary will be somewhere in the low 40ks, and Court’s a little too old to still be doing the Ramen noodles diet (especially in a cultural hotbed like Sacramento). Besides, OU probably isn’t like the sixth-grade math teacher I had that gleefully knocked my test grade down ten points after I owned up to having a question marked correct that I had actually gotten wrong (no, Mrs. Machnichi, I have not forgotten), and doesn’t need the bad PR of forcing their legendary alums to go into hock
to pay back their ill-conceived delusions of grandeur.

Nevertheless, I feel like a great opportunity for the whole sports world was lost here. Paris seemed willing to put her money where her mouth was, and like 85% of the athletes who make such poorly thought out guarantees, she failed to deliver on her promises. OU could’ve made huge strides for all of sports fandom by holding Paris to her word, and invoicing the center for every dime that she promised. This would perhaps have been a too-great punishment for a merely overly-ambitious top-tier competitor, but the precedent it would set for bigmouthed athletes who think no one will remember when their outrageous claims fail to come to fruition would be damn near historical. Hell, they arrested kids for downloading music off of Napster to try to make an example–is that really any less reprehensible than making a high-profile college grad with an ex-pro football dad shell out a couple thou?

And it’s the kids who end up paying the price, really. Who will comfort the young Hornets fan after Rasual Butler guarantee a first-round victory over the Lakers, only to put up 6 ppg in a 4-0 LA sweep? Who will restore the Padres fan’s faith in humanity, after San Diego ends up a whole 30 wins shy of Chase Headley’s playoff promise? Not Courtney Paris, and not Oklahoma University, that’s for sure.

Posted in I Sez | 1 Comment »

I Sez: Digging the New Pepsi Look

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on February 18, 2009


“We decided, ‘Hey, now is the time to make that fundamental shift,’” [Frank Cooper, Pepsi-Cola North America vice president of portfolio brands] said. “If we’re going to capture the imagination of the consumer again, let’s rethink at a fundamental level the relationship between our brand and the consumer.”

Small  font. Lowercase p. Unassuming, subtle. The beginnings of a 1.2 billion dollar makeover project.

I dunno, I kind of like it. And I’m a Coke man by nature.

Posted in I Sez | 4 Comments »

I Sez: What the Hell, Chris Brown

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on February 11, 2009


I missed the Grammys this year, unfortunately–I guess I don’t watch any channels that would be advertising for it, and no one cares enough about it for it to be a subject of anticipatory conversation. From the list of winners, it seems like it would’ve been typically underwhelming, since as I semi-predicted/feared, the cadre of impressively modern nominees for most of the top categories were completely upended by a near-sweep for Robert Plant and Alison Krauss (though kudos to our #69 PC of the year, Kings of Leon’s “Sex on Fire,” for nabbing one of the token rock statues). From what I can tell, though, two notable occurrences did take place at the awards, though. Blink-182 reformed (hopefully less temporarily than the Van Halen reunion at the ’96 VMAs) to present an award, claiming to be making music together once more. This was a good thing. And Chris Brown failed to show up for his performance, as he was busy getting arrested for beating the shit out of girlfriend Rihanna. This was a bad thing.

Not that domestic abuse is ever particularly commendable, of course, but I felt about as bad about this news as I can about an altercation between two people I don’t know, will never meet and have basically nothing in common with. Allegedly, this was no minor incident either, as Rihanna, initially an unidentified victim in the skirmish, her wounds wer described by police as “horrific,” including swelling and bruising on her arms, bloody lips, and, uh, bite marks. At first reluctant to co-operate with the police in their investigation (Cam’Ron would be so proud), Rihanna appears to have now ceded her assistance after all, as Brown looks to be charged with assault with a deadly weapon. Yikes.

How did this happen? As far as pop stars go, I would have rated the likelihood of Chris Brown turning up in such a violent domestic abuse case as slightly higher than Bow Wow and slightly lower than Adam Levine of Maroon 5. Once again, not like I really know anything about the guy, but…I mean, Chris Brown? The triple-threat wunderkind of “Yo (Excuse Me Miss),” “With You” and “Forever”? What clues exactly would you say were apparent in his songs, videos or Doublemint commercials that might lead to his future career as a pummeller, deadly-weapon-assaulter, and biter of female companions? Fer chrissakes, the guy’s still only 19! I mean, I know the transition from child to adult star takes a variety of different tolls on people–even Haley Joel Osment has put at least one DUI on the board–but this seems a little much.

The hurt to pop music will undoubtedly be great. Brown’s extremely promising career will be tarnished, possibly irreperably, and people might never look at Rihanna quite the same way again either (although thanks to Tina Turner, coming back from spousal abuse in a position of power is at least highly precedented). But what really kills me is that it had been so long–since Britney and Justin at the beginning of the millennium, I think–since pop music had such a respectable up-and-coming power couple. There’s still Beyonce and Jay-Z, of course, but both having already reached the highest highs their careers are likely to have produced, they’ve more or less settled into elder statesmen status. With Chris and Rihanna appearing to still be on the ascent, it would’ve been nice to get to see them really come of age together, maybe even working in a trademark duet or co-starring in a vanity pic together along the way. Now, I guess we just have to hold out hope that Ne-Yo and Lady GaGa hit it off at the Teen Choice Awards or something.

Who would’ve guessed that “Take a Bow” would ever go on to take such weighty relevance?

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I Sez: Good to See Liam Neeson Getting Back to His Badass Roots

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on January 27, 2009

That would be…just fine


Let’s say you’re legendary action writer/director/producer Luc Besson (The Fifth Element, The Professional). You’ve got a new script about an ex-CIA man taking on a small cartel or some such in order to retrieve your kidnapped daughter. The supporting cast is laid out with an impressive array of That Guys and Girls (Maggie Grace of LOST, Xander Berkley of 24, Jon Gries of Napoleon Dynamite, Famke Janssen of everything). You’ve got a 45 million dollar budget and a month or two’s worth of incessant previews to prime your audience for the post-Oscar rush of trashy blockbusters. Who do you want to cast in the lead role? One man takes on a foreign country–well, that’s prime Schwarzeneggar or Stallone territory, isn’t it? But I guess those are kind of old, and one of ’em is maybe previously indisposed. OK, so what about Jason Statham, already a collaborator with Besson on the Transporter flicks? Well, maybe he’s a little tired, having pulled triple action duty with The Bank Job, Death Race and T3 last year. Time for Vin Diesel’s real comeback? Maybe that’s still a couple years too soon. Then you realize that the perfect candidate for the job has been right in front of your face all-along: 56-year-old Oscar nominee Liam Neeson.

All right, so maybe Neeson wouldn’t be most people’s first choice for a matinee badass, and as a result, the preview assault for Taken has been a little bit jarring. Nonetheless, if we think back to nearly two decades ago, there is a healthy precedent for this kind of Neeson action–Sam Raimi’s 1990 flawed masterpiece Darkman.
Now, Darkman has been somewhat lost in the shuffle of superhero flicks, and for obvious reasons–no basis in myth or comic books, a creepy, mildly unsettling tone (but in a more cartoonish, less credible way than current Dark Superhero Movies), and Frances McDormand as the love interest (18 years later, and filmmakers still haven’t learned–THIS IS NEVER A GOOD IDEA). It was popular, but not as popular as Batman, and it was culty, but not as culty as, uh, Hudson Hawk. However, the movie has much to commend itself–a classic cigar-and-scenery-chomping villian performance from L.A. Law‘s Larry Drake, some hilariously ridiculous makeup effects and script decisions, and a last-second, blink-and-you’ll-miss-what-all-your-friends-just-gasped-about cameo from Bruce Campbell.

But the movie would always sink or swim with Neeson’s performance as the titular anti-hero, and the future star of Schindler’s List and Rob Roy gives it the whole nine yards. Spending most of the movie without the benefit of a face, Neeson puts it all in the voice, muttering, cackling and screaming as he sees fit to make a lot of really, really stupid scenes (the ones in his lab, especially, where he achieves some of the most amazing scientific breakthroughs of the 20th century with a couple keyboards and some old warehouse scraps) at least sort of comical. But when called on to provide the movie’s action, he lays the hammer down, as in the scene above, when an insensitive carnival folk makes the tragic mistake of denying Darkman a pink elephant with which to woo McDormand, causing him to get his fingers fucked up. Besides that, he pushes a man into traffic (after he gives him the information he tortures him for, no less), he blows up a helicopter, and he drops a man from about 500 stories up on a building in construction. And though you sense that Neeson knew this wasn’t going to make him a household name, he doesn’t look like he’s just biding his time until he can star in prestigious biopics and Woody Allen flicks, either. (Though once again, the lack of face thing sort of helps…)

19 years after Darkman (and 13 years after the Neeson-less direct-to-video sequels, Darkman II: The Return of Darkman and Darkman III: Die, Darkman, Die), can Neeson still throw down with the best of them? Well, it’s already made $68 million worldwide even before its US release, so let’s just say there’s a reason why Luc Besson is Luc Besson, and you’re you.

Posted in I Sez | 1 Comment »

I Sez: Reviewing John McClane’s Case for The Oval Office

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on October 26, 2008

Yippi-ki-yay, moderate voter

(Not my pic)

I was going over the finer points of the plot of the original Die Hard with my roommate and some of our friends the other day. I said something like “well, you know the part where John McClane goes and [….]” and my election-obsessed but not very well action-versed roommate nearly choked on his drink. “JOHN MCCAIN???” Well, no, not quite. But it did get me to consider the advantages that Mr. McClane might have over his near-homophonic election analogue. Not that I necessary endorse voting republican–and really, there’s little doubt of what McClane’s party affiliationwould be –but if The Big O can’t quite cut it for the public as Commander in Chief, who would you rather have as your alternative? Let’s examine the evidence:

  • Race Relations. We’ve all been informed by now of the republican party’s long-standing issue with empathy towards our darker-skinned brethren. McClane, on the other hand, has at least three black compatriots who would vouch for his racial sensitivity, including such esteemed members of the African American community as Samuel L. Jackson, the dad from Family Matters, and that annoying high-pitch voice guy from 2. Think he would’ve skimped on relief towards Katrina victims? Sez McClane, “This [presidency] doesn’t care about skin color. Even if you do.”
  • Wartime Experience. Yes, I’m sure that McCain had bamboo shoots under his fingernails and waterdrops on the forehead and all that, but in terms of sheer panic, how exactly does it compare with crawling through a glass-filled floor with no shoes on, or shooting yourself in the shoulder so that the bullet kills the guy standing behind you, or wearing an “I HATE NIGGERS” (or the less specific but equally inflammatory “I HATE EVERYBODY,” depending on what channel you’re flipping past) sign in the middle of Harlem? But not only has he persevered, he actually fought back against his oppressors, not merely contenting himself with providing his fellow captives with moral support. Sez McClane, “[This country] has got to be running out of bad guys by now.”
  • Economic Savvy. He’s not a businessman by nature, but he’s got a good sense of market analysis, combined with the common sense to know when something stinks. He’d know to look around the current economic crisis to see the real subterfuge going on underneath. “Trust me, I know the man, I know the family,” sez McClane. “The only thing better than blowing up [our country’s finance] is making people think you did.”
  • Negotiations and Open-Arena Debates. McCain may be wary of meeting with certain world leaders of ill repute to air out their respective grievances, but negotiating with some of our more controversial foreign dignitaries and squaring away with them head-on has never been something this maverick has ever shied away from. “Yeah, I got a deal for you,” sez McClane. “Crawl out from that rock you’re hiding under, and I’ll drive [the Executive Branch] up your ass.”
  • Engaging Youth. He’s far from a social radical, he doesn’t care for Pearl Jam or The Cure, and he believes that progress “peaked with frozen pizza.” But unlike McCain, whose attempts to interact with the kids of today have been uniformly cringe-worthy, McClane has a daughter who will soon be entering the workforce, and gives him a unique insight into the issues facing young adults in this day and age. He’s also shown a willingness, if a slight reluctance, to work in conjunction with his juniors when necessary to fight social ills like peer pressure and cyberterrorism. “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem,” sez McClane. “Quit being a part of the fucking problem and [go out and vote next Tuesday]!”

True, he’s not a perfect candidate–his record on family values has been blemished since his divorce, and his past issues with authority have surely earned him more than a couple enemies in the senate. But in times as uncertain as these, we need nothing more than a man of action. And 20 years since he first entered the national scene, there’s still no one that screams action quite like John McClane. Vote early, vote often.

Posted in I Sez | 4 Comments »

I Sez: Goodbye, Katie Holmes

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on October 21, 2008

You know the holocaust? No longer quite the exact opposite

I remember a Peanuts strip from when I was a kid where Linus is shown crying at what he was watching on TV. Lucy asks him what’s wrong, and he proclaims to her, “ANNETTE FUNICELLO HAS GROWN UP!!!!” I didn’t really understand what was making him so upset at the time–partly because I had no idea who the fuck Annette Funicello was–but a week or so ago, I caught an ad for the new season of misfit ABC program Eli Stone, now apparently featuring one Katie Holmes. It’s hard to explain what struck me about Katie’s appearance so–she’s still definitely Katie Holmes, no doubt–but it was like I was seeing an entirely new version of her. She’s thinner than I remembered, and she has very short hair now. Her clothing looks more like it’s designed to conceal her figure than to enhance it. She looks like she belongs more on the cast of Criminal Minds than on Gossip Girl, or even Grey’s Anatomy. Yup, there’s no doubt about it: Katie Holmes has grown up.

For most, Holmes will forever be associated with Dawson’s Creek, the show that blended the melodrama and heatthrobbiness of Beverly Hills 90210 with the suburban trappings and over-thinking of My So-Called Life to become the definitive teen drama of the turn of the millennium. On it, Holmes played Joey, who in classic teen drama fashion, was cast as the role of the platonic friend to the title character, but became the show’s de facto sex symbol, but far out-charming the hussier Michelle Williams to capture the nation’s heart. She was perky, she used big words, she cared about her grandparents, she was cuter than a million sneezing pandas. And she was forever hanging on the arm of Dawson, playing make believe with him, sneaking into his bedroom at night. She was the fantasy of just about every adolescent male who realized they wouldn’t have much to talk about with Pamela Anderson after sex.

But too often, people forget there was more to Holmes than Joey Potter. Well, not much more, of course–she played a variation of sorts of Joey’s character in just about every movie she was in until she figured out the only way to escape the character for good was to flash her tits as a femme fatale in 2000’s The Gift (just in time for the rise of the DVD format, uncoindcidentally). But for someone like me, who didn’t realize the possibility of the teen drama format until late high school, the Holmes I grew up was the dreamgirl Katie of The Ice Storm, the innocent raver Katie of Go, the slightly badasser Katie of Disturbing Behavior (and the video for The Flys’ super-underrated “Got You (Where I Want You)“). She never branched out too much, but as long as she kept smiling and kept being slightly vulnerable, who would want her to?

Even as the millennium turned, and Holmes started diversifying a little, she still kept that glimmer of the Katie we knew. She played self-righteous lawyer and moral center Rachel Dawes in Batman Begins, but in her heated bantering with Christian Bale were unmistakable echoes of her frustrations with Dawson once upon a time. She played a cutthroat, double-crossing journalist in Thank You For Smoking, but when she smiled seductively at Aaron Eckhart, it was the same mouth-corner smile that she flashed at drug-dealing Timothy Olyphant at the end of Go. And yeah, she had that whole debacle with the eventual Mr. Holmes, some loser who got her to go wacky-religious and chow down on some placenta or some such. But even that felt just like another adolescent travail for Katie, a bright, confused girl just looking for her place in the world.

But after watching tonight’s Eli Stone, there can’t be anymore doubt about it–Katie Holmes is now an adult. It’s fair enough–she’s almost 30, which is adult by default by most standards. But she kind of carries herself like an adult now, world-wearier, more confident, no longer the doey-eyed, wistful girl waiting for all that life had to offer. And that’s OK, I guess–I’m not 13 anymore either, pissed off at my parents for not letting me see Go in theaters, and Katie’s still pretty adorable as a post-post-adolescent. Nonetheless, there’s no question that a little part of me died upon viewing Ms. Holmes in this new light. If she has now officially grown up, then I guess I can’t be far behind. And in the meantime, no more leaving my window open at night.

Posted in I Sez | 1 Comment »

Seen Your Video: Josh Homme Heatin’ Up

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on June 27, 2008

Do you believe it in your head?

So apparently Josh Homme was upset at some people throwing things at him in Northern Europe, and drew heat from some corners for his arguably homophobic remarks and from other corners for his inarguably idiotic remarks. I’m a week or so behind on this one (surprise), but I can’t let an exemplary musician on-stage rant like this go without making at least a couple of notes:

  • I guess it says something for the progress of sexuality equality that even Oslo isn’t far away enough for potential bigots to get away with publicly calling someone a “faggot”. Soon enough, homophobia is going to be like smoking pot, with wanna-be bigots like Isaiah Washington and Tim Hardaway having to go to specific corners of distant continents to be able to practice in public without fear of reprisal.
  • I do think it is somewhat ironic, however, that a guy that named his band “Queens of the Stone Age” specifically because the name “Kings” sounded too masculine should come under fire for homophobia. I mean, it doesn’t exactly make him as bulletproof as if he had regularly made out with Dave Grohl on stage, but for a metal band, I’d have to say that that the name thing alone already pegs him as a fairly progressive dude.
  • By referring to himself as “Mr. Missundastood” in his apology / letter of defense, is Homme trying to curry favor by referring to one of the funniest-titled albums in history? If so, cheers, but everyone knows that it’s spelled with an exclamation mark instead of an “i” and a “z” instead of a third “s.” C’mon Josh, do your homework.
  • I think what’s underrated in this rant here is the foresight Homme shows by specifically pointing out how sick he is (102 degrees–pretty sick!) while he’s making his rant. “I had a fever” is generally a better excuse for irrationally asshole-ish behavior than “I was drunk”–it puts things more out of your hands, and doesn’t make you seem like a deranged alcoholic in the process. And saying you’re sick while in the process of ranting means it doesn’t sound like a shabby after-the-fact explanation afterwards. If Mel Gibson had just said “I’m coming down with the flu, sugartits!” his situation would’ve been a lot more sympathetic, no?
  • Apparently the last time Homme landed in hot water, for getting into a bar fight with Dwarves lead singer Blag Dahlia (possibly over the “Takeover”-worthy lyric: “This one goes out to Queens of the Trust-Fund, you slept on my floor, now I’m sleeping through your motherfuckin’ records”), Homme got a reduced sentence by letting the LAPD use “Feel Good Hit of the Fall” in anti-drunk driving films. So does that mean that Afroman (it all comes back to Afroman) essentially has a get-out-of-jail-free card in case he ever gets busted for anything? Pretty sweet deal.
  • So does everyone speak English in Norway, then? Is it possible that the audience just thought Homme was making some empty “WHO WANTS TO GET ROKKKKED?!?!??!” type stage banter? Or do they just think that “GET YOUR FUCKING ASS UP HERE! YOU’RE SO STUPID THAT YOU’LL ACTUALLY COME UP HERE!!!! LIFT HIM UP SO I CAN KICK HIM IN THE FUCKING FACE!!” is what passes for stage banter in these crude United States? Cultural studies potential.
  • “Little Sister.” that was a pretty good song, huh?

Posted in I Sez, Seen Your Video | 5 Comments »

I Sez: Sad That We Need Pete Wentz to Bring Back Videos to MTV

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on June 12, 2008

He VJs like you, only sweeter

If you had told me ten years ago that simply playing music videos on a Friday night would be an act in such stark contrast to the rest of their schedule that they’d actually take out commercials to advertise it, I probably would’ve put on Stabbing Westward’s “Why?” and cried in my room for about a month. In fact, I remember back in the day that Friday night was the one time of the week that generally wasn’t reserved for music videos, as it would generally be the time when MTV trotted out their more esoteric programming–The Head and Aeon Flux, Rockumentary Remix, stuff involving Jenny McCarthy, and so on. And that was fair enough, since that was the one time of the week outside of school hours where I wasn’t necessarily glued to the TV.

Back in 2008, Friday night is still the one time I try to make a point of not staying home and watching TV (though I love catching those House reruns on USA), and now it’s all us video lovers have left. Of course, there are plenty of other channels I have on which to find music videos now–besides VH1 and BET, there’s MTV2, VH1 Classic, FUSE, a couple of country channels if I get really desperate, and of course, a little site called YouTube. But all that said, call me sentimental, because there’s still something more special to me about catching a vid on MTV–more than any of those other channels, an appearance on MTV just means something. FUSE and MTV2, neutered though the latter has been over the last ten years, still take chances on a couple buzz artists every now and then, and being featured on VH1 might be a greater sign of irrelevancy than relevancy. But an appearance on MTV, compromises and all, still registers to me as a certain level of Making It. And as both an avid Pop Watcher and a true video fan, that’s important to me. So if this is the biggest concession MTV is willing to make to the video crowd at the moment, fine, I guess I’ll take it.

But what embassador do they choose to re-extend this olive branch to the general public? Pete Fucking Wentz. FOB’s bassist / lyricist / creative director / pinup has been handed the reigns to FNMTV, along with someone named James Montgomery, apparently. Sadly, it sort of makes sense–no popular band, and no real pop artist of any genre except for maybe Justin Timberlake–has consistently put the effort into making Event Videos the way Fall Out Boy has. They make videos with plots, gimmicks, even some pre, mid and post-song dialogue, the sort of stuff you’d see all the time back when Puff Daddy was peeling off 15-minute videos like they were three-cent stamps, but which no one really puts the effort into making anymore. The videos aren’t particulary good, necessarily–they always have the idea right, but they never seem to put enough thought or effort into the execution–but at least their heart is in the right place. And at the epicenter of all their videos is Wentz, the focal point and mouthpiece for a band that doesn’t seem to mind abdicating responsibility for mostly everything to their heartthrob.

But is this guy going to shoot the program in the foot before it ever gets off the ground? Yeah, the guy’s probably going to appeal to the girls too old for Miley Cyrus but not old enough for, uh, My Chemcial Romance, but at least according to the show’s press release, this seems to be a show more for the 18-34 demographic, or at least for the thinking 13-18 demo–like MTV’s very own Adult Swim. And despite being in a band that probably grew their fanbase out of thinking teen males, there aren’t many people who have less in common with that viewerbase than Wentz. I mean, what does your average awkward, uncool high school dude have in common with a fashionable, CRIBS-approved millionaire that makes a point to appear as shirtless as possible in all his videos and throws it into one of the Simpson sisters on a nightly basis? What’s more, the guy kinda seems like a jerk–preening, calculating, and with a terrible sense of irony (I often cite his referring to the Bon Jovi and Journey he oh-so-cleverly plays during his DJ sets as “the worst shit” as the prime example of his tooliness). Who wants that?

It’s sad that it took this guy to finally get videos back in prime time on MTV. But if he does manage to break through to the target demographic–or gets pre-pubescent girls interested in the Event Video again–I just might be willing to wipe the slate clean. Hey, Infinity on High was pretty decent, wasn’t it?

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