Friday, June 12, 2009

Tag Team: Bob and Steve on Burn Notice, movie franchises and the NBA

To rip-off the disclaimer for Bill Simmons' BS Report, Tag Team is a free flowing discussion between two adults that sometimes touches on mature subjects. Conducted via e-mail with college buddy Bob Hanson, we touch on Burn Notice, the new Star Trek and Terminator franchises, how shitty FOX (thanks Bob) is, and the NBA this week.

Want to do your own Tag Team with me? Send me an e-mail or leave a comment.

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Steve: I really dislike the Irish chick on Burn Notice. First, because she seems so Irish it is over-the-top, between the accent and just the general look. I imagine that at some point next season, she will do a dance in a green top hat while carrying a shelailee.

Next, I don't find her believable at all as a femme fatale because she isn't that hot. Cute, attractive? Sure. But not hot, not a girl that Michael Weston the Super Spy would be totally into. Most of his clients have been better looking than her. I think it's her skin – it looks kind of leathery and sun-soaked to me.

And finally, I don't like that the romance slash fling with Michael has been telegraphed since the initial episodes. In a show that is otherwise interestingly different, with its skewing of traditional spy behavior, having Fiona be the main romantic interest is numbingly dull. It is the same sort of love interest from every sitcom ever, whether it be Cheers or Seinfeld or The Super Happy Fun Show.

Touching on another topic briefly, what did you think of the new Star Trek movie? And also, Terminator Salvation, if you saw it. I read the reviews of both by Ebert, and instantly became far less interested in both when it was implied that they were action-obsessed. The series were initially special and interesting to me because while they have some action and fantastic elements, both were intellectual pursuits. A lot of Terminator 2 and the good Star Trek movies is just talking, as opposed to watching things go boom. It sounds like the new movies of both franchises focus on the "things go boom" part of that equation.

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Bob: I absolutely have to disagree with you about the Irish chick from Burn Notice on both counts. I just checked on IMDB and her name is Gabrielle Anwar. Did you know that she's pushing 40? That makes her even hotter in my book. Let me get to the point, though, about why she is HOT. First of all, her legs are banging. You have to have a special kind of lady to pull of the short skirts/shorts that they put her in on just about every episode. She has such fantastic legs that it makes up for the fact that her face is kind of... meh.

While I'm on the topic of her consistently short shorts/skirts, though, let me ask a question. Do you think having such short leggings would be a problem for a person in the spy/firearms/demolition industry? If we're to believe the back story on her, she was some kind of IRA terrorist before the show started. Although Ireland is a bit colder than Miami, you figure she would have at some point learned the lesson that a pair of jeans is a bit more practical if you work in a dangerous profession. Where are you going to rest your hot shotgun after you just fired it off? Certainly not on your bare legs. Let alone shrapnel, etc.

Secondly, let me address your complaints about her character. In terms of the clearly choreographed fling between her and Michael, I blame the writers, not her. However, I think her character is actually quite interesting. Television shows just are not going to work without a love interest. Simply put, many people need an excuse to force their significant other to sit and watch the show with them. My fiancée won't watch Aqua Teen Hunger Force with me. But she will watch Burn Notice. You could have her—a person who not only can hold her own, but has been known to bail Micheal's ass out. Would you rather she be more like Kristen Wiig in the MacGruber skits on SNL? Or the typical damsel in distress, always getting in trouble and needing Michael to bail her out? At least she is interesting, and can hold her own in such a high powered show.

Let me quickly detour here and talk about significant others. First, let me give you some advice: never get married. I just spent an hour “frankly discussing” the menu for our wedding. If that's not bad enough, it was actually a continuation of a discussion we had initiated a few hours earlier, which led to an argument and an hour or so of silence. Marriage kills the romance, quickly. Second, if you had your druthers, would you rather have a mango salsa on your salmon, or a chipotle black bean salsa?

Finally, let me talk about Star Trek for a little bit, a subject near and dear to my heart. Roger Ebert was dead wrong about the Star Trek movie. I am a “Trekker,” own all three seasons of the original series, and Tivo the reruns of the other series. This movie was indeed action packed, but I would not describe it as action obsessed. This movie had a little bit of everything. For the layman looking for a summer thriller, it did have the “boom.” For Trekkers, like myself, there was enough fan service to please them without being obnoxious to laymen. You got to see Kirk beat the Kobayashi Maru test (even eating an apple, just like he did in Wrath of Khan!) and you get plenty of the catch phrases (“He's dead, Jim”).

It's a hard call if you're looking for the higher intellectual stuff, though. They don't sit in the Genesis cave talking about creating life. There's no Soviet allegories like Star Trek VI, or unsubtle moral messages about whales like Star Trek IV. There is little techno-babble (“I am de-transferring control to the positron vertium cortenide beam...”). If you like techno-babble, see the random techno-babble generators on the Internet. This movie was really setting the plate for the inevitable sequel. It cut ties to the original series and its spinoffs, so they are no longer tied by Trekkies to canon (for a great example of this, see fan sites re: Chekhov and Khan during Star Trek II). It introduced you to all the core characters, and gave them enough depth so that you are interested in them. I would absolutely recommend you give it a shot.

On the other hand, I have not seen Terminator. Honestly, what has happened to this series is a travesty. The original Terminator was a great B movie, and Terminator II was one of the great summer blockbusters. I can watch Terminator II over and over again. One of the thing that always killed me was you had Budnick from Salute Your Shorts playing John Connor's friend in the movie. However, Terminator III was pretty bad (old Arnold, terrible John Connor, and was too action-oriented) and, from the sound of things, Terminator IV was no better.

On the other hand, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles was consistently the best show on television for the last few months of the latest television season. You had the philosophical discussions. You had religious allegories. You had action. You had Brian Austin Green and Shirley Manson. Its reward for being the best show on television, the last breath of hope in a damaged franchise? It was unceremoniously canceled after getting awful ratings. Meanwhile, we get another season of Grey's Anatomy (the only good thing about that show is Journeyman) and One Tree Hill (the best summary of this show was shown on Family Guy).

Have you been watching the NBA playoffs? You know I'm not a big basketball fan, but my fiancée's brother is and he has been living with us for the last few weeks. I feel like it would be too easy to make fun of the horrible officiating. But how about the face Kobe makes every time he drives to the basket, makes a shot, and somehow gets an awful foul call from the refs. He walks away from the basket making a face like “I'm the man.” I, on the other hand, feel like he should be embarrassed that he is so blatantly benefiting from bad refereeing. I'm not trying to insult his abilities or anything like that. I'm just saying he needs to match his faces more clearly to the situation. It's like when A-Rod hits a homer to make a game 10-3, and gets super excited about it. Whether the Yanks have 10 or 3, it was a meaningless homer. Just round the bases and go back to the dugout. In the case of Kobe, don't act like you're the greatest because players get called for a foul if they breath on you.

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Steve: Speaking on your points with the Burn Notice girl, Gabrielle Anwar, I imagine she would have to wear leg coverings while actually in the field. Then again, James Bond does practically everything in just dress pants. I realize he's not a real spy, but I don't know any real spies to ask. And also, I'm not really a leg man. I mean, I can appreciate nice ones, but as Jerry Seinfeld once said, what do I need legs for? I've got legs. Her outfit choices are splendid though, good point on that point.

I would just prefer her not on the show at all, either replaced with someone even foxier, or with someone interesting. (In fact, if you just had Bruce Campbell read all of her dialogue, the show would gain a ridiculous zaniness, like Garfield Minus Garfield.) I just don't find her that compelling: crazy broad who used to date Michael and blows stuff up, woohoo! The writing for her did improve, but I scoff at the notion that there *must* be some sort of romantic interaction to bring in female viewers. I mean, have you looked at Michael Weston? I just turned a little bit gay thinking about him. Women are watching Burn Notice because he is on it.

I get to go to your wedding, right? I think I've asked like four or five times at this point, and I always 1) forget when it is and 2) mix it up with my other friend's wedding. I still haven't been to a non-family wedding since I turned 21, which is disappointing to me. That discussion does sound quite depressing, but in the ultimately redeeming way. Like, I'd love to have someone to argue about mango salsa and chipolte black bean salsa with. And since I'm being dragged into this fray, I would go with the latter, since salmon normally isn't that strong-tasting to me anyway. Mango salsa seems a bit too mellow for an already mellow fish.

See, I totally skew more toward the philosophical and time travel discussions in Star Trek and Terminator. I have a natural curiosity in philosophy, but the text is normally so dense - Descartes, Hume, Barfenstein - that I lose interest. I actually prefer reading Sparknotes or Cliff's Notes for dense material like that, since my training is all about summarizing the major beats of more complicated subjects.

If Star Trek is setting the plate for a deeper sequel, then I'm all for it. That's how the original in the 1970s worked, correct? The movie was basically a by-the-numbers reunion, which was followed by the really great Khhhhaaaaaannnnnnn! movie, an OK one about the death of Spock, and a freaky-deaky but fun one about whales and time travel. Oddly, I don't remember ever sitting down and watching a Star Trek movie from start to finish, but I believe I've seen them all, at least the good ones. I think First Contact belongs in the same breath with the best of the series - yay or nay?

I will check out the Terminator TV series on your recommendation. By the way, has any network ever made less out of more than Fox? I mean, every network has a couple shows they cancel that have big fan followings, but a network could be made just from interesting shows that Fox has canceled. Arrested Development, Firefly, Family Guy (at first), Futurama, and even "kind-of-interesting" shows to me like Greg the Bunny and The Loser. The only other network I can recall doing something like this is ABC, who canceled Knights of Prosperity on me, and Adult Swim / Cartoon Network, which refused to renew 12 Oz. Mouse and Frisky Dingo. Echoing your point, networks seem much more willing to keep mediocre shows that show occasional ratings bumps instead of just sticking with legitimately good shows, even if they don't resonate (yet) with an audience. Executives have learned nothing from Seinfeld, which took forever to get popular.

And finally, the playoffs. A-Rod is actually the athlete I normally compare Kobe Bryant to. They are both incredible individual performers in their respective sports, but for whatever reason, they come off as completely soulless in interviews and nobody in the game seems to genuinely like them.
Kobe does have a couple championship rings, but that's mostly due to the anti-Kobe, Shaquille O'Neal. I've always thought he doesn't get his due as the dominant player following Jordan leaving the NBA, except from other players, who all love the guy. There is a reason Karl Malone and Gary Payton took pay cuts to try for a championship with the Lakers, and it wasn't Kobe.

I'd like to go out on a limb and say the Magic will rebound after Thursday night's horrible effort and win the championship, but good lord, that was ugly. The Lakers are a much better team from top to bottom, outside of Dwight Howard. This playoffs has been all aboutmatch-ups: The Cavs could have probably raped the Celtics, but not the Magic, and the
Yao-less Rockets matched up better with the Lakers than the Nuggets, who throttled the Blazers.

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Bob: Having watched the season premier for Burn Notice, I have to say I am almost with you on how her character is being written. Now we don’t just have a crazy broad who Michael used to bang, we have a crazy broad he used to bang who is now jealous and does not want him to try to get back into whatever spy agency he was in. Really? We’re supposed to believe that the woman who voluntarily goes out and blows stuff up with Michael wants him to “settle down?” But, you know what? She’s still hot.

If I was a woman, I would be furious that women always are portrayed to be holding men back. They won’t let them hang out with their friends, they won’t let them pursue their professional ambitions, or they are nags. Always. Maybe the answer to your problem with Fiona is not that she is a bad character, but all female characters (I assume) written by men just end up as two-dimensional annoyances. It’s like love interests on the original series of Star Trek. Originally, you would have women who seemed intriguing, but in the end they always fell for William Shatner’s “charms” (read: blatant womanizing). They were almost always subservient to men, unless they were in some kind of crazy feminist utopia (like the Amazons in Futurama).

Speaking of Futurama, I can’t express in words how excited I am that Comedy Central has decided to produce new episodes. Let me just say this: eeeeeeeeeeee!

Black bean chipotle salsa seems to have won the day, and we changed the fish to Chilean sea bass. You are invited; the wedding is on August 21 in Narragansett. And there is an open bar. I promise you, though, you don’t want somebody to argue with about salsas. You never, ever want to be challenging a woman in what will be occurring at her wedding. You might as well tell a parent he or she has ugly or stupid children, or tell your parents that they screwed you up when you were growing up. Rational discussions will quickly go out the window, and the argument quickly devolves from whatever you were discussing to whatever latent feelings you have for one another.

In many ways, I think you’re right about the original Star Trek movie. Although I don’t think it was intended to set the table for future movies, that turns out to be what it basically did. That is where the comparisons end between the original Star Trek movie and the most recent one. As Simon Pegg said in Spaced, “every odd-numbered Star Trek movie is shit,” beginning with Star Trek: The Motion Picture. It was only the newest Star Trek that broke this trend.

Which leads to the second point—even numbered Star Trek movies are generally good. If I had to list my favorite Star Trek movies, I would have to say II (Khaaaaan!), VI (peace with the Klingons coinciding with the end of the Cold War), VIII (the Borg try to prevent Zefram Cochrane from drinking and flying), IV (whales in space), and then I would start listing odd-numbered films. So I say “yay” to Star Trek VIII: First Contact being a good Star Trek film. It was unfortunately also the only good movie featuring the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Considering how much better TNG is than any other Star Trek series (including the original), it’s surprising that they were only able to put together one good movie.

FOX (don’t forget your AP style, Steve!) has to be the worst network in terms of programming. Here is an abbreviated list of complaints: cancelling good shows (Futurama, Firefly, etc…), American Idol, having American Idol run long and ruining my Tivo recording of Fringe, and running King of the Hill for a million seasons. Yes, I get it. He’s southern but he’s got a heart of gold. HOW MANY EPISODES CAN YOU MAKE THAT ARE EXACTLY THE SAME? I have a soft spot for Mike Judge, but really that show became insufferable after about three episodes.

In 10 years, television is probably only going to have five to 10 different types of shows: copies of American Idol, copies of The Bachelor, copies of The Biggest Loser, copies of Survivor, copies of CSI/Law and Order, and the occasional drama/comedy that somehow takes of quickly, à la Fringe or Grey’s Anatomy. I think there is only one answer to this: We need a new patron system. Some rich person needs to buy a television network, convince cable companies to run it, and put shows on that actually have some kind of merit besides ratings. Maybe if shows get successful, he or she could sell the show to networks to help finance the entire endeavor. But network executives at this point have shown a complete inability to pick shows that are interesting and worthwhile.

Since the NBA Playoffs seem to be over at this point, let’s do some baseball talk. Do you have an over/under on how long it is until a) Yankees fans turn on Girardi, b) Yankees fans call for A-Rod’s head if he starts having a bad September, and c) Hank Steinbrenner does something incredibly stupid. I’m surprised the guy hasn’t had Girardi publicly executed after losing eight straight to the Red Sox. As it is, their bullpen is gasoline alley and their starters aren’t getting things done. I can’t say I’m feeling great about the Red Sox, but how confident can you be if the Red Sox pitching staff only seems to be coming on now while your offense seems to be peaking at the wrong time?

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Steve: Because we're already at a ridiculous word amount, I'll just close with my thoughts on the Yankees. They looked pretty miserable this past series. I think A happens if they fall out of the Wild Card race, which is a good possibility with how their team is constructed. New Yankee Stadium will have a horrible effect on the Yankees, because the inflated offense makes their decaying positional players seem OK and makes their somewhat solid pitching staff look horrid. (Wang excluded, who still looks horrible.)

I imagine the first move will be to fire Girardi at some point. I don't think he's the problem, but he's not the solution, and his work in Florida slagging Anibal Sanchez's and Josh Johnson's arms doesn't get enough attention. After that, I imagine one of the Steinbrenners makes a solid trade, a la how senior thought acquiring Raul Mondesi was a great idea.

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Want to do your own one of these? E-mail me at sgre6768@gmail.com.

8 comments:

  1. As your resident Women's Studies major, I have some comments on the crazy women aspect of this post (although before I start, let me just say that while I don't watch Burn Notice, there is something about that girl that makes her unappealing to me. Sharp angles, I think. Not a fan.)

    "If I was a woman, I would be furious that women always are portrayed to be holding men back. They won’t let them hang out with their friends, they won’t let them pursue their professional ambitions, or they are nags. Always. Maybe the answer to your problem with Fiona is not that she is a bad character, but all female characters (I assume) written by men just end up as two-dimensional annoyances. It’s like love interests on the original series of Star Trek. Originally, you would have women who seemed intriguing, but in the end they always fell for William Shatner’s “charms” (read: blatant womanizing). They were almost always subservient to men, unless they were in some kind of crazy feminist utopia (like the Amazons in Futurama)."

    I COMPLETELY agree with this entire paragraph. It is maddening to see female characters end up in one bin or the other. I feel like Katherine Heigl always plays those type of characters (nagging, etc.) but that could just be because I think Knocked Up, while amusing, is one of the worst offenders in this area.

    In addition, the whole "don't argue with women about their wedding" thing is subjective to which woman you are arguing with. For instance, there is literally NOTHING in this world I care less about than what type of salsa goes on fish. I would rather read an article about the contents of Lindsay Lohan's belly button lint than talk about that for longer than 30 seconds.

    That's all :)

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  2. Well, you bring up some good points. As a reminder, I am (almost) a woman's studies minor and was invited to join Iota Iota Iota, which automatically means I'm an enlightened soul.

    Katherine Heigl can't really act. I mean, she's hot, but as far as I can tell from my limited experience with Grey's Anatomy, her moves are the pout and the whine and staring off into the distance and thinking.

    As far as the arguing with women about their wedding, I think it's more the fact that it is one of the those things most guys do not care at all about. The same thing goes with baby names and outfits.

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  3. oh man, i'll be honest, that was all way too long for me to read haha but i skimmed it and 1. star treak movie was AWESOMEEEE. My mom is a trekkie, i am not, but I really liked this movie. it was not over powered by action or special effects. 2. when will comedy central be airing these new futurama episodes?? super excited for that because i feel like i've seen them all a hundred times on adult swim and comedy central.
    3. funny little fact, i was just about to write on your fb wall that i think you need to update like everyday because you probably have nothing better to do, and i have nothing better to read. then i checked and here you are!

    Maggie's comment was way more profound than mine, but that's ok. I'm too distracted by my cute cat.

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  4. I can't blame you for not reading all of it - I just copy pasted to word, and it was about 3,400 words. Impressive. My record for a Cigar column was about 3,000 words, but that was solo.

    According to an Entertainment Weekly article I just read, Futurama will be back with new episodes in 2010; no specifics on what month though. I was kind of disappointed by the DVD movies they had, but they were still better than all the other animation I watch outside of The Venture Brothers (another show that takes forever to produce), South Park and Family Guy, in that order.

    I've been trying to update at least once per day, but I had a bit of writer's block last night. I started up three or four different entries, but didn't make enough progress on any of them to post, and by then it was too late to do a news post. I do have some stuff lined up for the next couple days though, and I also work tomorrow, which means I'll probably write a few things then too.

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  5. I like how work = blog time.
    i love entertainment weekly! haha
    I got a free year subscription. and one of my friends at schoool use to get them at her house and she would give them to me after she was done with them lol.
    I'm talking to you on TWO different websites. weird.

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  6. heh, Well, I work at a driving range on the weekends and as a substitute teacher during the week. Both leave a lot of down time and sitting around, and I don't have any library books out right now, so I'm primarily "stuck" writing. Other entries in progress, as a sneak peak into my weird mind: Alfred Hitchcock vs. Final Fantasy VII, how shitty afterschool special movies in the 1990s were, and the art of TV commercial casting.

    My uncle had an Entertainment Weekly subscription, and one of my few fond memories of Maine would be reading like a year's worth of issues when I would go there for the summer. I'm not sure why they were so compelling to me at that age, but they were.

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  7. Kristin had one thought on Michael after reading the post: "He would be hot except for the stupid voice overs he does all the time. Who really wants to hear them? He just has such an annoying voice! He's like, 'I'm going to talk to you right now about how spies use trash cans and celophane.'" So I say the point stands on romance, although she seems to disagree. She points out that she watches Dollhouse and Fringe, which don't have much romance... Maybe she should get her own tagteam (or a sidebar, like the Sports Gal).

    Things I would have liked to have touched on: a) the awesomeness of 12 Oz. Mouse (although I don't know how much I would have been able to say since it has been years since I've seen an episode), 2) the awesomeness of Venture Bros., and Kristin's hatred for it, and d) anything political, since that's kind of my thing. I suppose that can be a jumping off point if you want to tag team again.

    Two other thoughts. First, we need to do a better job of self-editing (I had like 5-10 unfinished thoughts in there). (It would be funny if I didn't list a second thought, but...) Second, don't worry too much about word counts, Steve, you have been liberated from the tyranny of column inches!

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  8. I'll disagree with Kristen - I actually don't mind Michael's voiceover work that much. While it can be a bit too much in some episodes, in general, it doesn't bug me.

    If Kristen wants to do a tag team, I'm all for it. Tell her she has to start it though, because I'm not sure what to bring up right off the bat.

    Next time, we'll definitely focus on 12 Oz. Mouse and The Venture Bros. Maybe we could do an Adult Swim focused one? And I'm more worried about word count because I've heard from people that it is harder to follow and read my super-long entries. That doesn't stop me from doing them, but I'd like to try to save the eventual 10,000 word entry for a special occasion.

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Try not to be too much of an ass, unless completely necessary. You are subject to tyrannical moderation.

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