Friday, 29 October 2010

Casting News of Extreme Joy!: Arnold Vosloo

Arnold Vosloo has been cast on Bones as "Evil Booth!" He'll play a rogue sniper in a 3 episode arc next Spring, according to Ausiello. Everyone who knows me knows I love both the Mummy movies (non Rachel Weisz movies don't count!), and one of the crowning joys is "Imhotep! Imhotep! Imhotep!". etc.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Things That Make Me Happy: TV Couple Of The Day (Year?)

Something that gives me great joy every time I think about it is the fact that Amy Poehler and Will Arnett are married! (And have already produced 2 future comedy geniuses?)

Has there ever been another married couple who so frequently show up on each other's shows??

The photo that inspired this post:

Back when I was first introduced to the fact they were married (I tried to find the photo where she was  committed Abu Ghraib on Gob, but screw you internet. And yes I am too lazy to screencap my DVD.):

As incestuous brother and sister on Blades of Glory:

When he creepily tried to MRI her on Parks and Recreation:

And just for funsies:

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Gif of Glee: River Song

Here we have River Song in all her glory:

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Mad Men, Inked: Tomorrowland

Well, this week's episode set off a bunch of bombs, but nobody died (contrary to spoilers floating around the web).

We open with Emo-Don, lying in bed and whining to Faye about his life, his job, his clothes and probably his haircut. Faye tells him to man up, and knowing this show, that means we, the audience, are obliged to say only one thing: "Nice to know you, Faye!"

Moving on.

"Did you get cancer?" Roger shouts after Don's presentation to the American Cancer Society, offering the only reasonable explanation for Don's actions this episode. Don did not get cancer, but we finally got our first glimpse of the inner life of Ken Cosgrove. And just as Pete always sensed, we love Cosgrove more than him. More now.

Meanwhile, in Ossining's soon to be former-house-of-pain, Cruella-de-Betty piles cruelty upon cruelty on Glenn and poor Carla, after Glenn has the AUDACITY to say goodbye to Sally and promise to visit her when he's a horny teenager with a car.

48% capital gains!!! Enough said.

Owing to the recent firing of Carla, Don is suddenly faced with the prospect of taking care of his 3 kids on his own, and faster than he can say "Betty is a psycho-bitch," he employs Madame Secretaire to babysit his children and his penis (spoiler!) on their trip to Disneyland.

Meanwhile, Henry shouts at Betty, Betty shouts back, Henry slams the door, and Betty demonstrates, yet again, that she just wants to be Sally. Now physically, not just mentally.

Back in LA, Megan learns that a milkshake really can bring the boys to her yard, in one of the best scenes of the episode. The fact that she didn't yell at Sally was, in fact, all it took for Don to ask her to marry him (with an engagement ring from the REAL Don Draper). In response, we are treated to a new expression on Megan's face, roughly translated as "uh-oh this was way too easy and can't possibly end well." And then she accepts.

Back at the offices of S-DP, we see Peggy being awesome, as usual, while Harry Crane has become a smarmy lech that would not be out of place on I Love Lucy. Peggy wins the first new business since the Lucky Strike disaster, and is appropriately miffed that Don's engagement seems to take precedence as 'hot news.'

Everyone's reaction to the news:

Lane: "I don't know what's going on here, and I don't care, but congratulations."
Roger: "I'm so proud of you!"
Pete: "May flowers rain upon your golden years."
Peggy: (Head cocked, Arrested Development style) "Her?"
Ken: "I just work here. This isn't my life. My life is my future wife. Shit, Don, your future wife works here. Follow my reasoning?"
Joan: "What a cliche."
Faye: "What a waste of time and character development."
Betty: "Maybe now that you're marrying someone else, I can be your mistress?"

Final note: How come both Boardwalk Empire and Mad Men had the same odd, dumb line this week: when someone was not reachable for a while, the response is "I was starting to think you were ill or something." Quoi? Is that the first thing ANYONE thinks when someone goes incommunicado?

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Modern Family: "Strangers On A Treadmill"

How are these two so wussy with a dad like Jay?

Ah, an episode of almost pure gold (this time we had two superlative stories, and one that was completely unnecessary, but thankfully brief).

I'll start with the one that didn't work, which sadly was the Jay-Gloria subplot, where Gloria gets him to attend the quinceanera of his employee's daughter. There was something about this that made me think about Arrested Development (probably the culture clash), cause I know how they would have set up the storyline and made it work. For one thing, Hurwitz et al would have started the story much later, probably when they're walking into the hall, rather than back in the house. We would have reached the awkward finale of the story much more quickly, and then we'd spend some time with Jay/Gloria trying to correct his faux-pas (and failing). Instead, we got too much exposition, in exchange for not enough payoff. It was just Michael Scott-level AWKWARD.

On the other end of the neighborhood, Claire and Mitchell team up to "Strangers On The Train" Phil and Cam, because they are both extreme cowards (though in the end, Mitchell even more so). Cameron has developed a charming new habit of wearing bicycle shorts in public (love the way the camera put censor pixels on the ENTIRE PAIR OF SHORTS everytime they were on screen. When Claire tells him to lose the shorts (after very transparently trying to butter him up), Cam runs to the bedroom and cries like a baby. Later, when he finds out Mitch was in on it, the end up in a detente that Mitch very cleverly wins.

Jay, on the other hand, is preparing a speech full of lame zingers for the annual real estate convention. Claire, with the best intentions, tries to scupper the whole thing, but Mitchell chickens out at the first sign of Jay's heartbreak. So Claire hides the speech and then Phil manages to kill anyway. Which led to a 'heartfelt' scene that actually felt earned, and didn't make me roll my eyes.

Now the writers have suddenly picked up on the fact that Alex and Haley are awesome, so now we get a FOURTH plot (but seams are already showing with the multiple stories, I hope they recalibrate soon). Once again, the girls give us one of the funniest scenes of the episodes, when Alex manages to out-popular Haley, until the whole thing explodes and they both start screaming.

And I was rolling on the floor laughing.

Why Glee and I Have Broken Up Permanently

Glee has gone from sharp and entertaining, to swinging wildly and occasionally striking, to actively horrifying me. There were a number of points last week when I was ready to break up, but then something great would happen and I would give it another chance. But the breaking point has come. Last week's Grilled Cheezus episode was the first that I turned off in the middle and had no desire to turn back on.

Glee has now been relegated to the reading of recaps on TWOP.

So what happened? What changed?

The first half of season one was brilliant. The show could have ended with the December episode, and it would be remembered for being a brilliant, entertaining and endearingly honest show about youth and fitting in. The songs weren't all mainstream shill, and they weren't used at the expense of plot.

That's the first thing that changed, when producers realized they could make millions from those damn tie-in soundtracks (I'll never forget one club that actually played the GLEE version of Don't Stop Believin' instead of the original). Suddenly our stars were leaping into song at every possible moment, and Sue Sylvester became a one woman joke factory for Will's lesbian hair (her words, not mine). And while the plot greatly suffered, the writers still had a fairly good grasp of their characters, of their desires, of the roots of their insecurities. (Except Will, who got more and more ridiculous).

The first episode that ACTIVELY PISSED ME OFF was when Finn temporarily moved in with Kurt. Kurt had been scheming and almost sexually harassing Finn for a number of episodes at that point, and yet when Finn finally loses it, Kurt is apparently the one with the moral high ground.

And that is the real turning point: when the show shifted from a tone of high camp, which made a lot of the character stupidity forgiveable, to a sort of self-seriousness that does not work at all when every one of your characters is a broad character. The show started to substitute random character traits for actual personality and depth (Sue has a mentally disabled sister, which explains...everything apparently?).

So then season two came along, and I was sucked in by all the summertime hype, enough to maybe give it a chance. But they did it. Three episodes, three writing decisions of absolute stupidity, and I was done.

1. Artie wants to be a football player. Finn helps him. Coach Beiste accepts. HOW MANY THINGS ARE WRONG HERE?!? First of all, what an awful, awful message to send to kids with any sort of developmental problems: you can literally do anything. You are born with a disadvantage, but that's ok, because CLEARLY EVERYONE WILL ALWAYS BEND OVER BACKWARD TO HELP YOU! Especially COMPETITIVE teams that want to WIN THINGS. And we had always been shown that Artie had quite well adapted to his disability, so now he wants to achieve the impossible? OFFENSIVE, SHOW!

2. The Britney episode. What an unqualified waste of time. There wasn't even the usual attempt to make the songs sort of relevant to the goings on in the teenager's lives, we were just treated to a bunch of SHOT-FOR-SHOT remakes of Britney music videos, which I tried so hard to avoid the first time around (as did so many). Why do these Broadway qualified singers need to be dumbing themselves down to sing the least musical songs in the world anyway? OFFENSIVE, SHOW!

3. The straw that broke the camel's back: singing 'religious songs' in a school sponsored activity. This is illegal, EVEN IN TEXAS. It's personally offensive to me both as a religious person, and as a defender of secular separation of church and state. The idea that someone found religion in a cheese sandwich is offensive and dumb (even for Finn), and that he would then force his new views on everyone else (and be allowed to do so in choir) is even more offensive. So well done on the double whammy, Glee, offending truly religious people and offending secularism and the legal principle of separation of church and state.

There are so many other things to carp on, but I've said my piece.

And just to be clear, Glee, it's not me. It's definitely you.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

When Mad Men Meets Vocals

This is already going around the web, but I am happy to contribute to its spread.

A beautiful live mash-up of the Mad Men theme tune with Nat King Cole's "Nature Boy." It works perfectly, and is oddly affecting.

Another week, another fantastic episode of The Good Wife. A little lighter on the heavy drama this time around, we got to see a softer side of Alicia, and a whole mess of hijinks with Eli Gold. In fact, both the family and work stories had a Looney Tunes vibe about them, especially Roadrunner and Coyote (thankfully no one was harmed. Except for the dead person. Christine Baranski said it, not I).

I'm pretty sure I would happily watch an hour of Eli doing spit takes at youtube videos trashing Peter. But in this episode, we the viewer are granted an embarrassment of hilarities, given Eli's tinpot schemes to get a wealthy political activist to favor Peter with his riches. At first he was worried that the donor was put off by Alicia's brother's offhand comment about Peter being uncomfortable around gays, but in truth the donor was worried that Peter was pro-Palestine.

Eli's solution? Have Yom Kippur at the Florrick house, with Alicia's brother taking the 'some of my best family are gay' seat. Peter's mother, as usual, treats us to a fine dessert of political incorrectness, while Grace nearly scuppers the whole thing by daring to bring up flotilla-gate. Every statement and misstep was perfectly timed, punctuated by Eli's ever-bugged out eyes at each new faux-pas. At one point I'm sure he sniffed in horror!

Over at the office, our resident game of spy vs. spy is heating up, as Kalinda and the new guy try to outdo each other at every turn! I have a feeling this competition is going to end very badly (or with really wild sex, and as it involves Kalinda, I'm predicting the latter).

Not too much Will or Diane this week, but I am really enjoying Alicia's new 'mentor.' He's much less showy than Will and Diane, and seems to be quietly awesome the way Alicia regularly is. Michael Ealy was one of the stronger links on Flashforward (god rest its soul, but really it didn't have too many strong links), and it's good to see him on a genuinely quality show.

I'm hoping to see a stronger continuous storyline in the office plots, like last year when they were facing the constant threat of bankruptcy. Peter's campaign, while providing fantastic individual scenes, hasn't really given me something to be emotionally invested in (unlessAlicia takes him back 100%, I'm not sure I really care about Peter's success). But I can't complain about the hijinks.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Mad Men, Inked: "Blowing Smoke"

Don Draper stares into the abyss of addiction...

Here we go, the penultimate episode! This week, there was one key moment, the 'tentpole' of the episode, if you will, and everything else that happened built up to or receded from that moment (apart from the Sally Draper subplot, but we'll return to that - maybe - at the end.

The Jenga Blocks are all in place, there's only a few left to be pulled out, and every move will either defer the inevitable or send the whole thing tumbling down. Don't first wrong move: trying to delay the inevitable. The new client pitches reeked of desperation, and the pitch receivers could smell potential failure all over the SCDP executives.

As a death pall settles over the office, the creative staff fear for their jobs, and senior staff are forced to contribute to an emergency collateral fund (which leads to a hilarious scene where we are reminded who actually wears the pants in the Campbell house).

Peggy, ever the voice of reason, objects to the new 'monkeys, go on playing with your typewriters, until of course you're fired' work mandate, and compels Don to do something - have dinner with an old flame (Hey it's Midge! We like Midge! She's fun and carefree! Oh she's a heroin addict). Don pities her enough to buy one of her paintings, but she still plays it cool ("cash only darling, we don't accept checks in Casa de Hippie Syringe").

And so we cut to Don, staring into the eyes of the painting for what felt like ten minutes on screen.

This encounter with the dire desperation of addiction sends Don running for his livejournal, mainly to complain: "Dear Diary, all I want is to shout and drink, but who will I shout at and drink with if evil Lucky Strike and heroin take away all of my friends and servants?" That didn't actually happen, thank god (i was in great fear though, of more inane inner commentary from Don's AA journal).

Instead, we get a surprisingly well expressed (if altogether false) assertion that "Hey big tobacco, it's not me, it's you, and by the way here's a restraining order." What Don forgets to tell us is that this angry breakup letter will be released as a full page ad in the New York Times. Don also forgets to tell Sterling, Cooper, Pryce and Campbell, which has has the immediate effect of Bert collecting his shoes and quitting. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Don deals with individual hissyfits from all the men in the office (though really, what does Roger care anymore?). But they mostly come around when the American Cancer Society comes a-calling.

The women though? Surprisingly approving. Once again, we see Megan laying her honey trap, that she's 'the only one who really gets him', and also 'marry me!' Faye, disappointingly, does not freak out at him, which she would be entitled to given that SHE WAS FIRED FROM MULTIPLE ACCOUNTS AS A DIRECT RESULT OF DON'S AD. But she smells opportunity - date Don in the open - like she obviously smells a threat - the secretary with the googley eyes.

And of course Peggy approves, smiling at Don like it was all her idea in the first place (which it sort of was, but she was the catalyst, not the final architect of the power play).

As one might expect, Don gets tons of calls as a result of his bombastic essay. Here are two notables:

Caller #1: Emerson Foote - not just a throwaway comment. He was a creative director who once handled American Tobacco and Lucky Strike, until he became disgusted with his addiction to cigarettes, quit  McCann-Erickson, and started a new agency that would not represent tobacco.

Caller #2: "Bobby Kennedy" I'm sure that when Robert Kennedy called to speak with Don, I wasn't the only one to think "dear god, please don't let us hear him speak." But they ignored me, and we got that awful accent. Thankfully the whole thing was a gag by Ted Chow-ow-ow, which was pretty great given how well he fooled Don.

Back in the Ossining house of 'denial is not just a river in Egypt, it's a life philosophy,' we see Sally growing past Betty in the maturity race (which puts Betty at about 4 years old now? I'm not being unfair, Betty's the one who would rather see a child psychiatrist than a grown-up doctor). This story concludes with Betty proving, yet again, that solving her own 'problems' (really Betty? Moving to a new neighborhood to get away from a little boy?) is more important than her daughter's mental stability. I'm sure this won't come back to bite her AT ALL!

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Modern Family: Earthquakes Review

Despite having not one, not two, but THREE classic sitcom plots, this still managed to be one of the funniest episodes yet. One of the things that's great about Modern Family is that while it has the familiar situational comedy of old shows like The Dick Van Dyke Show, things always go in a slightly different direction than you'd expect.

And of course Modern Family has this kid:

"We're not gonna play Good Cop-Mom"
And now to run through the plots. First we have the Dunphy clan: Claire calls in a plumber for some irrelevant reason, and gets locked in the bathroom with said plumber after the earthquake. Unsurprisingly, it's MORE  chaotic outside the bathroom, with Alex and Haley running around scheming, Phil trying to cover up his own stupidity, and Luke being, well, Luke. This plot had one of the most giggle worthy moments ever, when Alex interrupts a shouting match between Haley and Claire about being grounded. [I tried to transcribe it, but you just have to see it]. Alex is one of the funniest young characters on tv, now or ever. She's on par with my personal favorite, Maeby Funke. Although Luke had me on the floor with his "I got scared because the cabinet didn't fall down."

"It was the 90's, we'd just lost Princess Di"
My favorite plot this week was Cam-Mitchell's, as they use the earthquake as an excuse to get out of a party held by Pepper Saltzman (Nathan Lane, probably the only actor who's more capable of controlled camp than Eric Stonestreet). Dressed as Oscar Wilde and what appears to be one of the Von Trapp children, Cam and Mitchell concoct a plan, only for Cam to lie so badly that Pepper comes straight over. Nathan Lane was simply fantastic, far funnier than his role as Jack's dad on 30 Rock.

"Some things can't be forgotten. Do you know what menstruation is? Cause I do!"
Sad to report, this was my least favorite of the 3, not that it wasn't good. This fell a little more into predictably sitcom territory, with Manny interrogating Jay about the investigation of heaven, and whether God ever makes mistakes. (Mainly I think I was disappointed about the lack of Gloria). Even this was saved at the end, when Gloria accidentally scares him away from heaven permanently.

Concluding Thoughts
Overall, the show hasn't lost any of its humor, but I tend to think that every time they do an episode where the stories lines don't actually overlap, one of the plots always suffers (maybe it's intentional, to allow different actors the chance to be the showcase). Also I miss the bizarre interaction you get when you mix up the families (one of my alltime favorite scenes was when Claire was looking after Manny, and it ends up being a girltalk session) (see also, Manny and Luke rooming together in Hawaii).

Regardless, Modern Family is unmissable.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Mad Men, Inked: Chinese Wall

At last, there's that Don Draper backslide we've all been waiting for. As he's finally (finally!) become a better person, at least on the face of it, we see how easily he's drawn back into old patterns. His attempts to curtail his drinking function both literally and metaphorically; whisky is not the only thing he's addicted to.

And what's the other thing? Cheap, no-frills sex? Before this season, that would have been an adequate explanation, but now I think that oversimplifies the matter. Don himself expressed how he had never failed to sell 'himself' to his clients. More and more, it seems like the core desire driving Don Draper is to feel like a man, and in her calculated adoration, Megan fulfilled him in that respect. (I say calculated because everything she said was just a little bit too canned, too perfect. In fact, she was, in many ways, the mirror image of Jane Sterling back when she was on the prowl.)

Peggy, on the hand, sure feels like a woman. And that feeling is driving her happily through her personal and her professional life, both of which she seems to have firm control over (at least for now), unlike every other character. And as a result, men are drawn to her like moths to a flame, to bask in if not steal away some of that energy (Harry most directly tries to lessen it, failing to praise her successful pitch and instead insulting her makeup).

I wish I had more to say about the Roger-Joan business, which others seem to revel in, but frankly, emo-Roger is boring and pathetic. But we did get to see an uncharacteristically harsh Bert Cooper in response to Roger's failure.

Predictions for next week:
  • Peggy's stellar rise comes crashing down due to one of her own actions.
  • We see Don return to his old married ways, which is to say, man about town.
  • Roger does something drastic to get Joan back.