Saturday, January 30, 2010

Working and stuff.

Unfortunately for you folks, I have to type an article today about a basketball game I covered, so I don't really have anything prepared for this space. Hey, it's the weekend - You should be out and about and doing stuff anyway, not reading my blog!

I might write something later tonight, but I doubt it. If you're looking for a decent restaurant in South County though, I do recommend Rhody Joe's, a.k.a. the former Chelo's in South Kingstown / Wakefield / Narragansett. Good burgers, and some very, very big mugs of beer. In fact, I believe I will go take a nap right now, and I feel old typing that.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Evaluating middle school basketball strategy


One of my other gigs, in addition to reporting, writing (this blog) and substitute teaching, is serving as an official for high school and middle school basketball games. By “official,” I don't mean one of the referees – They make a lot more than me, unfortunately. I mean one of the guys who sits at the table and either runs the scoreboard (high school) or keeps track of the book (middle school).

As such, I have plenty of time to watch basketball games, and all of the different approaches coaches take. It's odd how a team often seems to take on the demeanor of its coach. For example, one coach that constantly screamed and complained with the officials seemingly had a team full of noisy, complaining kids as well. Tall coaches who used to play in the post seemingly have better play with their centers and power forwards, and the inverse is true for guards.

However, as a usually impartial observer, it is maddening to see the focus on fundamentals over winning the game. It is a different stance to take, I know. But since I have no stake with either team usually, I just want to see some intense play and scoring, and teams trying to win. Normally, coaches are more concerned with teaching, and having their players run plays, as opposed to using strategies that would maximize the chances to win.

Case in point with middle school basketball - Realistically, you only want two to five players on a team shooting. For both of the teams I regularly watch, a couple kids are either 1) head and shoulders above the other players offensively or 2) not good, but the rest of the team is downright awful.

The tendency of both coaches is to preach patience and working the ball around for an open look, but really, this just leads to either turnovers of low percentage shots by other players. If anything, they should be preaching efficiency - Get the ball to the best player, and let them shoot almost every possession, whether it be by isolation or an actual play. This would give the best chance for the team to score.

Of course, there is the danger that the other players will get upset because there could be one to three "star" players scoring most of the points. However, here is where the strategy point comes in - You force the other team to choose a defense that will shut down the "star" player. A box-and-one and triangle-and-two are weaker defenses overall and easier for even unskilled players to exploit.

The alternative to the "feed the best player" strategy is to hope that you'll catch the lucky end of an inefficient strategy. i.e. This will be the one game in five that your two-guard will make some shots. Again, I argue that it should be the other way around - Let your point guard, the best player on the team, work a pick-and-roll game with your power forward, and if the defense throws three players to cover those two, then your shooting guard will be open for a layup each time.

The photo of Hoosiers is from here.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Modern Family has massive... talents.


After a couple of admonishments from friends that I wasn't watching, consider me a convert to Modern Family, the closest show to Arrested Development that I've seen on network television since its demise. (Note: I haven't seen Better Off Ted yet, the only other show I've heard compared to it.) While Modern Family is definitely rooted more in reality, it still has a sort of reckless spirit about it that allows all of its characters to have their own, entertaining identity.

Of course, this is my effing blog, so I'll note my five characters that really make the show tick - the evil middle daughter, Sofia Vergara and her breasts, the wacky middle class dad, the straight normal mom counterpart played Julie Bowen, and of course, Ed freakin' O'Neill. Tackling them in order...

- Like my love for Brittany on Glee, the Evil Middle Daughter Alex played by Ariel Winter is simply incredible, even though she isn't in that many scenes. However, when she is in a scene, she preys upon the gullible nature of her older sister Haley and younger brother Luke. The most prominent example, and the one cited on Wikipedia, is how she tricked both of them into believing that you can recharge a cell phone battery by rubbing it on your forehead.

- On the opposite end of the spectrum from Alex's subtle, seething evil is Sofia, who plays Gloria, an over-the-top Colombian trophy wife with an outrageous accent. I get the feeling that the role might not be much of a stretch for her, outside of having to pretend to love Ed O'Neill. I mean, he's a funny guy and all, but still. Even as far as trophy wives go, Ed is doing pretty gosh darn good for himself.

- Claire (Bowen) and Phil (Ty Burrell) go a bit hand-in-hand, as the married couple are the "normal" family that a lot of the humor derives from. For example, in one of the most recent episode, Phil gets hurt and has to go to the hospital for an operation... but before he does, Claire feels the need to get dressed up for the hot firefighters taking him into an ambulance.

Bowen is portrayed as the lead in some ways, since I believe she has the most screen time of any of the characters. Naturally, Burrell comes in at a close second. He is the "cool dad", although this is a self-granted title that couldn't be further from the truth. Bowen's character always has a sort of brewing, brimming rage, and the eventually lash out is almost always great.

- And finally, hey, how can you go wrong with any show that has Ed "Al Bundy" O'Neill? While his most famous role might be from Married With Children, I'll always remember him as the creepy coffee and donut shop manager Glen from Wayne's World, and his little monologues:

So Wayne, I hear you're putting on some kind of concert. That's good. People need to be entertained, they need the distraction. I wish to God that someone would be able to block out the voices in my head for five minutes, the voices that scream, over and over again: Why do they come to me to die? Why do they come to me to die?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Inexplicable Movie Review: Monty Python's The Meaning of Life

"Don't shoot, we're not a real tiger!"

Yeah, I realize this movie review of Monty Python's The Meaning of Life kind of comes out of left field. But hey, I saw it again recently, and I still enjoy it. In fact, I daresay that it is my favorite Monty Python movie, although it does lag quite behind Flying Circus in the grand scheme of great Python work.

Focusing on the movie first, it is a loose film that has a slew of skits that cover the period of time from cradle to grave. Birth, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, middle age and death are all covered, with commentary on politics, religion and British and American people along the way.

The most memorable skit in terms of the Python canon (if there is such a thing) occurs about an hour into the film, when the fat Mr. Creosote eats so much at a restaurant, he could explode - literally. When I was a kid, my aunt would explain this scene to me, and even that didn't really properly do it justice. Keeping in mind that this is very not safe for work, or for your stomach, the YouTube link is here. Other classic scenes include Death coming to dinner, and another NSFW clip of their tune "Every Sperm Is Sacred."

However, I like the movie for the more subtle jabs throughout. For example, one scene focuses on gentile British military officers fighting in the Zulu, African outback expressing surprise about how another troop's leg got taken... off... during the night. One suggests that a tiger might have done it, which causes another to exclaim, "A tiger in Africa?" Response: "... Well maybe it escaped from the zoo."

This is why Meaning of Life ranks higher on my personal Monty Python list than Life of Brian (I'm a heathen and get almost none of the religious references) and The Holy Grail, my second favorite. Holy Grail is more "on the nose" when it comes to the nerdy humor though. I feel like I'm being knocked over the head (or maybe more appropriately, slapped across the cheek with a fish) when it comes to the humor.

Of course, all of the Python movies pale in comparison to Flying Circus sketches, which I allude to at the beginning of my post. I will say though that individual episodes can be very spotty - Once Cleese leaves the show, it definitely loses a lot, since he is the best individual performer of the group. Also, the first 10 episodes or so are quite rough, before hitting a stride in the teens and twenties. At this point, most of the iconic sketches - the ministry of silly walks, the lumberjack song, Ethel the Frog / The Piranha Brothers - start getting aired. If you want a good "collection" of the best sketches, I'd recommend looking around a bit for Live from the Hollywood Bowl, which I purchased from Blockbuster (on VHS!) a couple years ago for $1. It's also, thankfully, available on DVD from Amazon.

My personal favorite, even though it is a bit sick, is still the undertaker's sketch. The punch line is ridiculously good, and as a YouTube commenter notes, this is a dark, dark skit, even for Python.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Surveying the late night scene

Continuing from part one of my look at late night. Where does this leave everyone in the grand scheme of late night? Looking at everyone else, by network...

- At NBC, you have Leno, who I suppose will be his solid and unspectacular self. He is almost 60, so you have to think he has a decade left, at most, and that's giving him the benefit of the doubt that he will stay as relevant and "culturally hip" as he is now. Which is to say, a net zero, as opposed to someone derided for being tragically unhip. And, in light of his failure at 10 and the orchestration of Conan out of NBC, I think there is a great chance that Leno to 11:30 backfires completely on NBC.

One aspect of this whole equation that I think goes unreported is the strength of Conan at 12:30, which no doubt helped Leno maintain hit ratings during his last half hour. I actually like Jimmy Fallon at 12:30 - his show has some creative ideas, like the Wheel of Carpet Samples and his writing of "thank you" notes on Fridays. He also somehow got The Roots as his house band and uses them well, and he's also had some legitimate guests. However, he definitely doesn't have the cachet of Conan yet.

And although I don't wish any ill-will toward him, if something did suddenly have a problem with Leno, they have no clear in-house replacement. They would either 1) have to patch things up very, very nicely with Conan and pay him out the ass to come back or 2) pay someone else a ton of money to fill the void, who probably doesn't have any late night experience. Fallon simply isn't ready, so I think you might see an "established" name like Jerry Seinfeld or Steve Martin or Martin Short (to pluck some names out of the air) lured to NBC with an insane amount of money.

- At CBS, Letterman will probably be largely unchanged, although maybe more venomous toward Leno. He was the cranky old man in this whole drama, throwing stones at NBC and Leno from his perch atop the ratings at CBS. He seemed simultaneously pissed off at NBC, for doing the same thing to Conan as they did to him, and gleeful, for them wallowing in such misery.

If Leno has a problem with age and a sudden health deterioration, well, I guess CBS has the same problem with Letterman and a proper succession plan. They're in a kind of “strong” position if something catastrophic happens to him in the next couple of months, since Conan is a free agent and out on the market. But assuming that Conan does get snapped up by someone, then Craig Ferguson isn't a clear guy to step up into the 11:30 spot. To me, Ferguson follows more in the footsteps of past CBS 11:30 hosts like Tom Snyder and Craig Kilbourn - I liked both, but they have a niche appeal.

However, luckily for CBS, they have a natural promotion to make - Jon Stewart is just sitting there at Comedy Central at 11, ripe for the taking. Yes, Viacom technically no longer owns CBS, but they still have so many business dealings together that I think an ascension by Stewart after Letterman leaves is only natural. I also don't think that you'd have the bumpy issue of intellectual property if Stewart went from Comedy Central to CBS, and I think The Daily Show would transport pretty well to a major network, even if Stewart doesn't want to do a monologue. As is, it feels cramped at times with just 30 minutes, and adding another interview and/or a musical act each night would easily get you to an hour.

- At ABC, they seem pretty content with their current lineup of Nightline and Jimmy Kimmel Live. I love Jimmy Kimmel - I think he consistently does the best show, with weird, quirky bits like having his Uncle Frank and Security Guard Guillermo in skits, but his ratings have stayed pretty level after a slow start. Of the current Big Four late night hosts, I think he gets the best out of his interview segments, with a nod toward Colbert and Stewart on cable as being as his level.

Nightline is what it is: great counter programming to all of the late night yuk-yuks. Any time there is a major news event, its ratings swell. I'm sure it makes Kimmel's life more difficult, but the night as a whole is a critical success for ABC because of Nightline, and probably a commercial success as well. I don't think Kimmel or the rotating hosts of Nightline make anywhere near the salaries of Leno, Letterman and Conan. I also think there is little chance that Conan ends up at ABC, just because they'd have to essentially scrap two in-house programs that are average to above-average successes for them.

- Finally, I think Comedy Central deserves to be in this conversation, because The Daily Show and The Colbert Report are both siphoning off the younger viewers that would formerly watch Letterman and Leno. Part of this is because those two hosts are getting old, but the other aspect is the brilliance of Stewart and Colbert.

I previously mentioned that Stewart seems destined for CBS at some point, and I imagine that when that happens, Colbert moves up to 11. I'm still not sure what they used to replace Colbert at that point, though. As much as I've railed against Comedy Central for no longer doing original programming, a slew of their shows have just been bad - Carlos Mencia, The Chocolate News, that debate show with Lewis Black, etc. I think there best option is to either just have another Daily Show, with John Oliver or another correspondent as the new host, or to spin something off from The Colbert Report. People seem to respond well to that format at night, and presumably, their new show could be different enough from Stewart to still succeed.

The NBC fart logo is from here. Colbert is from here. Letterman's photo is on about 500 different sites as a stock image, and Kimmel and Affleck comes from some weird photo index site that I'm not going to link to.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Sick, sick, sick.


Unfortunately folks, I'm nursing a pretty delirious sickness of some sort right now. As a result, and because I still have to cover a 7 p.m. meeting tonight, I'll be postponing part two of my entry on late night until tomorrow. If I get some time, I'll double-up on entries tomorrow, but I can't make any guarantees.

The Cold-Eeze photo is from here.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Evaluating the late night landscape



All I ask of you is one thing: please don't be cynical. I hate cynicism - it's my least favorite quality and it doesn't lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you're kind, amazing things will happen. - Conan O'Brien, courtesy of this site.

Because I need some closure on this whole matter, this will be my last post on the late night fiasco for a while, and as a result, I'm going to try to cover all of my bases on it. Let's start on the micro level with Conan's last episode of The Tonight Show, and work our way to examining the scene as a whole.

In case you missed it, I believe the entire last episode is now available on Hulu, here. It was a bizarre but high note for the show to end on, with a surprise appearance by Steve Carrell, and other guests, including Will Ferrell, Tom Hanks, Neil Young and Beck. The best singular moment was an oddly-touching montage of the show's short seven months, set to, of all things, "Surrender" by Cheap Trick.

The episode got a 4.8, according to the article I cited above for the video clip, which was about quadruple his normal rating, and a really high number for a late night show. Frankly, I wasn't surprised it was so high, since plenty of people were leaving comments on my Facebook status as I was watching the show. And, the final episode has gotten near universal praise, both from the Internetz and from my friends I've talked to about it. Throughout the episode, at least in my opinion, there was a feeling that something "special" was happening. The only other times I have gotten that same feeling have been from live sporting events - Game Seven of the 2004 ALDS (Red Sox crush the Yankees and complete the biggest comeback in sports history), Game Four of the 2004 World Series, and Game Five of the Eastern Conference Finals, when LeBron James willed his team to victory.

Because of the feeling I got from Conan's final show, I think he's going to be OK regardless of whether he ends up. I outlined some of the options the other day, and I still think that FOX is the most likely destination. They're the only major network that 1) would have the proper time slot open and 2) could meet his salary demands. If he's willing to take a major pay cut, then I could see him sneak on to FX or Comedy Central or USA. I frankly don't think he will end up on HBO, Showtime or Cinemax, simply because the exposure would be so much smaller. Yeah, The Larry Sanders Show was great, and nobody ever effing saw it. The premium cable outlets would just have to blow him away with cash.

Let's turn our focus now to the real villains of our story - NBC. They just completely mismanaged the entire situation, from start to finish. The original sin was essentially forcing Jay Leno in 2004 to agree to vacate The Tonight Show in 2009. Although there is no way for me to validate this, at the time I thought, "There is no way in Hell that Leno will give up his show."

At the crux of this thought was my knowledge of how he had originally gotten the job - by busting his ass. I don't think anyone questions that Leno is one of the hardest working men in show business, and he got The Tonight Show from under Letterman by 1) having an aggressive, hard-nosed business manager and 2) working much, much harder than Letterman behind the scenes to get the job.

Unfortunately though, this doesn't change the fact that Leno isn't a great late night host, and he won't ever be, not even if he works at it for another 22 years. Leno is a C- student who, because of his work ethic, grades out at about B+. Regardless of how hard he tries, and I do think he tries very hard, he will never be known as a legendary performer. If Carson is the gold standard, and I do consider him as such, Letterman and O'Brien and Stewart and Colbert at least echo him from time to time. Leno is a straight derivative, a TV dinner version of a great meal, similar but completely unsatisfying when compared to the original.

I don't believe that Leno is completely innocent in all of this. He knew how much Conan wanted The Tonight Show, and Leno agreeing to go back to 11:35 after he failed at 10 is why this whole ball got rolling. If Leno instead said, "No, I can't do that to Conan," then I wouldn't be typing this blog post. I would instead be typing about how Leno was going to some cable network to finish his washed-up career, similar to how Willie Mays finished with the Mets and Muhammad Ali got his brains knocked out by Larry Holmes. It's great to talk about how Leno had some great value to other networks, but his show at 10 was doing ridiculously bad ratings in the 1s and 2s. If NBC just straight fired him, he was so devalued from his brief foray into 10 p.m. that I'm not sure who picks him up. His type of humor is wrong for everything but TBS.

Therefore, it's puzzling to me why NBC bent over backwards to accommodate Leno. Yes, he will be back on in the fall, and the ratings will probably be passable, because he won't have himself as a lead-in, like Conan did. By the way, need proof that lead-ins matter? In Rhode Island, WJAR led the nightly news ratings for 16 years. It finally lost the title this year, as local rival WPRI saw a surge of 20 percent, and WJAR saw a fall of 35 percent. The change was from actual programming at 10 to Leno, which has a carryover effect for the news, and no doubt has an effect on Letterman and Conan's ratings. Was it the sole thing responsible for the change? Probably not, but NBC Corporate is completely unwilling to even acknowledge that this would affect the ratings of The Tonight Show, because doing so would be acknowledging that they fucked up every single aspect of their late night programming.

Part two, where I look at other late night hosts, coming later...

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Storytime with Bob Hanson: Meeting Bill Belichick

The following is the gospel of Bob Hanson:

So I was at the same bar as Bill Belichick last night.

As a person who lives and dies with the Patriots every Sunday, this made me very excited. It's funny that this is the kind of thing that gets a person excited. It makes sense that Bill Belichick has to eat and drink. He's a person just like you or me. I live and work in Washington, D.C., so we'll oftentimes see important policymakers and journalists. The previous night I had been at a Kennedy School of Government event that featured Obama's head speechwriter. I also work in the same building that the produce PTI and Around the Horn, so we'll see Michael Wilbon walking into or out of the building every few weeks and once saw Bob Ryan. But my excitement at those events pales in comparison to my excitement of seeing Belichick.

It's funny the reaction that seeing a famous person has on people. I guess in LA, where they see celebrities all the time, there is some sort of code to be cool about it (I don't believe this for a second; I think they are desensitized, not cool). But in most places, people start to act a little bit insane. He was at a booth sitting with a blond woman (younger than him, but not young) that was in people's line of site only if they stood at the top of a set of stairs. People started hovering in that area, taking pictures with their cell phones, and generally gawking. I can't say that I didn't do my fair share of gawking but I don't think I was out of line (you'll have to get Kristin's reaction to see if I actually wasn't a creeper). I honestly wanted to sit down with him to thank him for the great years he has given us as the Patriots' coach. But I at least wasn't so creepy that I'd ruin his date with the good-looking blond, so I abstained.

I got it in my head, though, that I would shake his hand as he walked out. When I saw him get up to leave the bar, I shot up to the top of the stairs of the establishment (we were at the Tombs, a Georgetown bar that is entirely underground) and waited just outside to meet him. Another guy had the same idea, only he wanted a picture. He talked me into trying to take a picture of him with Belichick, which I asked him to reciprocate. Then we heard Belichick's trademark, gravely voice coming up the stairs. As he turned the corner we were waiting right there to meet him. The other guy was a little bit dumbfounded, but I said, "Coach Belichick, I just wanted to shake your hand and wanted to know if you would take a picture with us." He shook my hand, thought for a second, and politely declined to take a picture. I tried to pass off my card (I have no idea why I did this, it's a stupid DC thing) but he declined that as well. I said, "That's fine, thanks again," and I grabbed his hand and shook it again.

That was the end of my encounter with Bill Belichick. I can say his handshake was firm but not overly strong. I didn't think until the next morning about how it was funny that I shook hands (twice) with Belichick considering all the criticism and troubles he's had over the years regarding them (his handshakes with Parcells, Mangini, and Dungy all go significant attention every game). I went back down to the bar and texted just about everybody I know that I had just touched Bill Belichick. Twice.

On the scale of personal famous person encounters, this was up there but not the best. I got to shake hands and briefly meet Barack Obama backstage at a rally he did in 2006 for the Sheldon Whitehouse campaign (the advantage of being a political staffer). That was interesting in that he seemed generally interested in shaking hands and meeting me even though he knew I was a peon working for a guy who wasn't even a sure thing to make it into the Senate. That, however, wasn't even the greatest celebrity moment of the campaign. One day I got to have a beer with David Ortiz at his house due to my connection to the campaign. That story, however, will have to wait for another day.

Picks:

INDIANAPOLIS over NY Jets -8
NEW ORLEANS over Minnesota -3.5

-----

Steve here again. Wow, I don't think I can possibly top that story, or the list of celebrities that Bob has hobnobbed with. So instead, I'll just give my football picks for this weekend:

Indy over Jets
Saints over Minnesota

-----

Kristin says: Creeper, no not really. Glowing with wide-eyed excitement and smiling like the Patriots had just won a big playoff game - yes. I must admit, it did give a small thrill and nicely enhance an already festive party atmosphere (a great 'gift' for our friend from Boston on his 24th birthday). I did however feel no need to go stare at him like many of the other patrons, and I almost felt sorry for him except that he seemed be unfazed and happily enjoying his date. I was slightly annoyed that Bob ditched me entirely for almost two hours to stand at the ready while he waited for Belichick to finish his meal, but at least after all that he had the guts to really shake his hand - I was thinking it might have been all talk.

Finally, I'm not sure what Belichick was doing in a DC college bar instead of an private corner of an expensive restaurant, but it makes him seem like a grounded famous person (and a nice one, he didn't complain or brush Bob off, and we heard he tipped the hostess on the way out).

As for my picks, after seeing people dancing in the stands I'm back on the Saints train, and I just don't respect the Jets enough to think they can beat out the Colts.

INDIANAPOLIS over NY Jets -8
NEW ORLEANS over Minnesota -3.5

Now your girl TV update: One Tree Hill and Vampire Diaries restarted this week. I think One Tree Hill had a nice natural ending point at the end of last season, and I think they keep making the show out of habit and don't really care if they keep their viewers. Now half-way through the season, they still have not shown Payton or Lucas, and I am getting tired of waiting. Please bring them back! This is even though Lucas is a whiny, blabby, self-absorbed momma's boy, and the same words could be used to describe Payton except that she has more of the girl-angst talk about punk rock but not be actually musical dark-twisties going on (due to lack of mommas).... DON'T have them FINALLY get married and then take them away from me!!! Bringing in new characters will NOT continue to distract me, and I don't really care about them.

The big reveal on Vampire Diaries was that the main character is ADOPTED, dun dun duhhh. Now they will be able to trace her back as a relative of her vampire boyfriend's first love - the vampire that turned him. I pray that they stick to the "vampires can't have children" thing and don't make her the secret love-child descendant of her own boyfriend - considering they have slept together now.

The other reveal was that her vampire boyfriend is the one that saved her from the car crash that killed her adoptive parents - before the two characters even met. This second reveal kind of annoyed me, because it was painfully obvious once he started talking since she had always said she didn't know how she escaped the wreck. However, I have to admit I cried a bit when he described how her adoptive father wouldn't let himself be saved first and made sure his daughter was first pulled from the car. However, honestly, guys - never tell you girlfriend this - she can't handle it, let her think she was the only one possible to save - not that her parents could have lived if it wasn't for her.

Last note - Ooooooooooh! I am sooo excited you like Project Runway! Bob got pretty into the second season, which I think was by far the best. He doesn't really watch with me anymore. This week they kept Ping, the girl I complained about last week, after she sent her model down the runway in a skirt so badly sewn together they called it an ass-flap. I think they are keeping her for the intrigue, but she will be gone within the next two weeks. Have you watched any of the model after show? Models are generally annoying (except for Heidi) so I haven't added it to the TiVo yet.

The picture of Bill and his girlfriend comes from this Sports Illustrated gallery of a college football game. Advanced apology to Kristin for not having more pictures, but I'm finishing this up from the catacombs of the Dunkin' Donuts Center, so I don't have time to add them right this second.

Friday, January 22, 2010

TV Review: Thursday night slightly disappointing

The first result for "Thursday Night Lineup".

Normally, I can count on Thursday being my best night of television weekly, since it has an array of shows on. The NBC comedy lineup is quite formidable for a stereotypical 20-something like myself - Community, Parks and Recreation, The Office and 30 Rock. I watch all of them except 30 Rock usually, but I watched even that last night, which was a good thing because the other three shows were disappointing. A mini-review on each, with the warning that HUGE SPOILERS for all the shows lie ahead:

- The Office "returned" from a longer break than the other shows, and I'm not angling to get on the "blog" of "unnecessary" quotes with that statement. For some reason NBC or the show's producers thought it would be a good idea to come back from a long break with a clip show.

Now, clip shows have a time and a place, but I don't really think they're necessary in a show's sixth season. The Simpsons do them frequently, but they have been on for about 47 years now, and have done everything, as South Park so eloquently noticed at one point. The Office had a major story arc throughout the show's lifespan - the Pam and Jim courtship - surrounded by minor arcs revolving around Michael and (later) the higher up's ineffectiveness. I don't think you need a recap show, unlike, say, Lost, where there are dozens of characters to keep an eye on.

That being said, I found the B-story arc of the episode to be fairly entertaining. A corporate health assessor was trying to scope out the health of the Scranton branch of Dundler-Mifflin, and of course, Michael, Dwight and Andy were playing hijinks on him. Unfortunately though, unless I blinked, I don't even think Jim or Stanley were in the episode.

- Parks and Recreation focused on Leslie's second date and zany dinner party with some lawyer friend of Ann (Rashida Jones). To be honest, I find him impossibly dull. What's up with people who travel to exotic places suddenly being presented as "interesting" people? Traveling to some place awesome does not in turn make you awesome. A mathematical theorem, if you will:

Lame Person + Exotic Location = Lame Person
Fun Person + Exotic Location = Fun Person
Therefore, X Person + Y Location = X Person

Basically, I'm tired of people on television and in my actual life thinking that travel is some magical substitute for a lack of a real personality. Great, you touched a dolphin. Maybe next time Flipper can teach you some god damn tricks.

... But outside of that angle, which dominated the show, Parks and Recreation had some good singular moments. The continued slow-burn on the sexual tension between April and Andy is good, although Andy still seems way too old for her, even if he has the mindset of a kid.

- Community was also somewhat disappointing, but maybe it's just because I found last week's episode with Jack Black so awesome. (That's not even counting the Alison Brie cheerleader outfit, which was also so awesome.)

I found the main storyline of the episode, which was Jeff's relationship slash non-relationship with a faculty member, kind of flat. Yes, I realize they kind of hooked up around Halloween time, but she has been completely absent from recent episodes. So now, I'm just supposed to accept her on my screen, making out with Joel McHale? I say nay! Luckily, other portions of the episode were humorous, and as always, the last bit with Troy, Ahbed and Jeff delivered.

- Surprisingly, I found 30 Rock to be the highlight of the whole comedy block, even though I'm not a regular viewer. Everyone keeps telling me to get into it, but I missed the initial episodes, and I hate jumping into shows half-way through seasons.

If last night's episode is any indication of the regular quality though, I think I'll have to take the plunge. Liz Lemon (Tina Fey, looking as foxy as always) wanted to transplant the show to a sunny locale. She convinced her boss, Alec Baldwin (looking as foxy as always), to do so, but he changed her idea from Miami Beach to... Boston!

I like Boston, so I thought that was a bit of an improvement, as opposed to being in the bizarre crime capital of the world. In Boston, the gang got into plenty of trouble, especially Tracy Morgan, who was harassing historical reenactment guys on the street. Good times! I heart Tracy Morgan.

All of the pictures are on the first Google Images page of results for their respective show's search term. The picture at the top is from here. 30 Rock is from here. The Office is from here. Community is from here. And Parks and Recreation is from here.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Weird Rhode Island news: Eff off, Bambi!

I don't normally like to link to articles from my own paper, but in my defense, this is at least something that I didn't personally write. One of my co-workers wrote this great piece on one Charlestown resident's plan to feed the homeless - with deer meat, because the deer are "nothing more than a disease-carrying rodent."

Good times, good times! For the record, while I find deer to be cute and may or may not have cried when I was six and saw Bambi's mom get shot, the deer in this area are really annoying and unsafe. They are especially bad on my road, Kings Factory Road, late at night - They try to scamper across the road seemingly right as cars are coming. I've almost hit them a half-dozen times, which would be quite bad, considering that I drive a small Toyota Corolla. (Hey, at least it's not a Dodge Stratus.)

Anyway, I'm always reluctant to link stuff from my "real job" to this blog, just because I don't want it to seem like one is feeding the other. I consider them two distinct and separate activities, just to make them clear. But on something wicked cool, like this story, it would be negligent for me to not link.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

At The Commercials: Viagra is no reason to rejoice. Ever.



I am sad about the football season ending. I am not sad about the Viagra commercials ending. The commercials are all sorts of bad, from the premise to the actual content of them. The above one is the absolute worst though.

First, what kind of guys are singing together in a band about their junk essentially not working? Am I the only one who finds this odd? The absolute last thing I would want to admit to my buddies is that my junk doesn't work. Is there some sort of Viagra support group out there? And from this, they must have then decided, "Hey, let's get together and start a band! I mean, we probably won't have the urge to eff anyway because our junk doesn't work, so why not???"

Second, I like how it tries to hit all ethnic and social groups in one commercial, which only makes it seem more fake. It starts out with two generic white dudes, but then WHOA - They have a black friend who drums! Cool! And then their motorcycle friend is playing guitar, and by the way, when you have a rockin' jam like the Viagra tune, you really do need three people playing the guitar. And a cello. AND THE PIANO. AND A GOD DAMN HARMONICA TOO.

And finally, Viagra, why you gotta involve an innocent golden retriever in your penis business? C'mon. Please leave Air Bud out of this.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

What Steve Reads: Brick Sexplode and Carly Googles


If any of you have ever spotted my blog roll, and I'm guessing you have because it is conveniently displayed on my profile and the right-hand side of the blog, you might have noticed that I follow a lot of them. As of this writing, this number has swollen to 85, with varying degrees of publishing frequency between them.

The purpose of this series of entries - What Steve Reads - is to shine the spotlight on the various crap I read. Obviously. I'll do two per segment, once a week or two weeks, depending on lots of different factors, such as the airspeed velocity of unladen swallows. Typically, the blogs will have something in common, such as the one I'm doing tonight. On to the actual blogs I read...

- Brick Sexplode. Well, actually, the name of the blog is Bricks Explode, but whenever I glance at the name, I think it is Brick Sexplode or Brick Sex Plode, so I am calling it that instead. Sorry.

The author of the blog is Josh, and I quite enjoy his writing, such as a list of things nobody in your office will ever want to hear about. I also have no idea what he looks like, so I hope he's cool with my using a picture of the fetching and vexing Katie White from The Ting Tings instead. (Sorry again Josh.)

However, to get sentimental for a second, when I was first starting this blog, Josh's was one that I randomly read a lot of the back entries for. To get very specific, I absolutely adored his listing the Mighty Ducks from The Mighty Ducks 2 as one of The Top Ten Selfish Sports Teams Since 1980. One, because they totally are, and two, because it was the sort of plucky pop culture analysis that I was hoping to do myself.

- Carly Googles. So, one of Josh's latest entries noted that Carly Googles had used him as a source for an entry. Intrigued, I checked out her blog, and immediately started following it. I mean, how else am I going to find out what the origin of the word seersucker is, how big the moon is, how close the characters in Archer and Frisky Dingo sync up, and other wonderful random information?

I suppose some of you are saying, "Well, you could just look up the information on Google yourself." To which I say... no. You go look it up. And Carly does in fact look it up for me! Listen, sometimes I don't know that I need to know what a cashew tree looks like. Carly does, and she shares it with me.

The Katie White photo is from here. Carly's photo is from her blog. And the picture at the top is from here, and solely used because I thought it was silly.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Around The Dial: Archer gets good ratings, Gervais excels with the Globes and JLH has bedazzled junk


Back in the day, there was this show called Frisky Dingo. And by "back in the day," what I really mean is January 2009, when it and a spin-off show, The Xtacles, was formally canceled. Anyway, it was a wacky show that featured the evil villain Killface, who resembled a white-skinned standing crocodile, battling Xander Crews, a buffoonish billionaire with the alter-ego of... Awesome X!

Like most of the shows on Adult Swim, it was pretty wacky and funny. I considered it like a more over-the-top version of The Venture Bros., since both shows loved to lampoon the conventions of their genre. Dingo was by the same guys who did Sealab 2021, one of the four original shows on Adult Swim, and it features the same deadpan humor.

This brings me to present day, and the show Archer, which is done by the same guys. Actually, in many ways, it seems like a clone of Frisky Dingo. The main difference is the theme - It merely transposes Xander Crews from a superhero to Archer, a secret agent in an incompetent bureaucracy. Only two episodes have aired so far on FX - it is currently in the time slot of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia - but they have shown incredible promise. I'm hoping the show has a good future, and the first articles out about it have noted that it has done surprisingly well in the ratings.

In other television news...

- I watched the Golden Globes last night, and I wasn't really that impressed, outside of all the older celebrities who are still foxy as all heck. I did think that Ricky Gervais did an incredible job hosting, and some of his jokes were just savage. He got in the obligatory shots at NBC and Jay Leno, but his best burn was definitely on Mel Gibson, making a reference to his drunken driving arrest right before he presented an award.

The other amusing part of the broadcast was how drunk some celebrities clearly were. I'm referring mostly to Maggie Gyllenhaal, who looked so drunk-red that it seemed like she was wearing a clown nose, and Felicity Huffman, who repeatedly stumbled over simple teleprompter lines. Also, I was really glad that Glee managed to take home an award, and the cast looked great, too. And as Billy Crystal would say, if you look great, then you must feel great.

- Jennifer Love Hewitt apparently has been into "vajazzeling" her vagine. I don't really think it adds anything to her, but hey, I'm still a fan. She was one of my earliest crushes, along with Melissa Joan Hart.

The Frisky Dingo picture at the top is from this blog. Jen is from this site.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

A Twitter Poll: Wither Conan?



Unsurprisingly, Saturday Night Live opened up with a skit on the whole Conan and Leno late night divide. The opening sketch was only so-so to me, since Hammond doesn't really do a good Leno, and the Conan impersonation was even worse. The saving graces of the sketch were Larry King and Letterman, which were both spot-on. There was a much better take on it by Seth Meyers during Weekend Update, but they didn't release that clip on Hulu, unfortunately. (They did post the bits with Larry the Goose and Laser Cats though, both of which were great, and Sigourney Weaver did a nice job hosting.)

The latest news has Conan getting a settlement in the range of $30 million, with permission to having a new show on another network within a year. However, it seems like a deal hasn't been finalized. This whole drama is familiar to me, since I wrote a research paper on the whole transition from Carson to Leno and Letterman, and to an author on Slate - Their awesome television reporter, Troy Patterson, notes that The Late Shift is eerily similar to the Conan-Leno drama.

With all of this in mind, I asked people on Twitter last night what they thought was next for Conan. The most popular option out there in the public was that he'd end up on FOX, with Eddie and Dadkins guessing that as well.

If FOX ever wants to move into the late night weekday world, with a show at 11 or 11:30 or 11:35, then now is the moment to do so. Conan's annual salary is allegedly in the $20 million range, and of all the players for him, FOX no doubt has the deepest pockets. I also like FOX's attitude on this - In the past, they haven't been shy about sticking a thumb in the eyes of the networks, and this would be a pretty strong thumb. I don't think Conan would be a consistent ratings winner, but he would be competitive enough to hurt NBC, CBS and ABC.

The biggest impediment to a Conan show would be the current lack of FOX infrastructure in late night. I'm not sure what their affliates would think of a Conan show - FOX doesn't run programming at 10 or 10:30 right now, so Conan's lead-in would probably be weak. In the best case scenario, you might have a strong one-hour nightly news broadcast. In Rhode Island and most markets, you have a 30-minute newscast and then a syndicated show like Seinfeld. Neither is a great lead-in considering that the Big Three networks all run relatively-fresh programming at 10.

Miss Movies suggested that Conan would be good to takeover The Soup, and I agree with that. However, E! isn't going to shell out that kind of cash for Conan, which is the biggest problem I see with him going to a cable network. If Comedy Central didn't already have The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, then they might be interested. But with Stewart and Colbert in the fold, O'Brien probably costs too much to be a viable option for them at 10 or 12.

If Conan is willing to take a lot less money, then the artistic options open to him are great. For example, I could see a network like Comedy Central or TNT picking him up if his annual salary was, say, in the $1 million to $5 million range. TNT makes a lot of sense to me in that it is not owned by one of the Big Three - no way does Conan pop up on USA - and because they have been emphasizing their original program lately. They do run some NBC syndicated programming, which might upset the Peacock come renewal time, but losing Law and Order would not be an insurmountable loss, given that it has been repeated so many times now.

Regardless of where Conan ends up, I agree with Shelley - Conan's population has exploded with this whole drama, and he actually beat Letterman on Friday night, despite the weakness of the Leno lead-in. I think the whole fiasco will mean the end of NBC network head Jeff Zucker eventually, who frankly doesn't have much success to point to now as a reason for his continued employment.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

At The Commercials: Yogurt-slurping blonde hottie



Another quick commercial entry, since my previous post today was a pretty big Tag Team on the NFL playoffs and television shows.

But anyway, I enjoy this commercial every time it comes on. First off, yogurt is delicious. Every couple of months, I go on a big yogurt kick, and eat tons of it, but then I inexplicably forget to eat some for a while. After watching this commercial, I shall remember to eat yogurt for a couple more weeks.

And second, the blonde in the commercial is unbelievably cute. To insert even more numbers, one, she is physically cute, and two, I like her facial expression after she is done eating the yogurt. It makes me go, "Awww. Isn't she adorable?"

However, when I was looking around online for this clip, imagine by surprise when I found out that it is hated by many. Apparently, they equate the slurping noise she makes with oral sex, which makes me wonder what kind of oral sex the commentators are having. I don't consider that noise equivalent with finishing off the last of a Pepsi with a straw, which the commentators on that story do.

Also, the woman being attractive and marketing a diet product is an issue. Because, you know, if you're a company, it makes sense to have someone overweight pitching a diet product. I know that when I'm evaluating a diet yogurt, I'd really like to see someone 300 pounds asking me to buy it.

If you're curious - and I know you are - I was inspired to write about this now because some new, follow-up commercials with Heidi Klum have come out. You can watch them here, although I strangely don't find her as appealing as the nameless blonde girl from the first commercial. I'm not sure why, but Klum looks more normal than hot in her commercial.

Tag Team: Pickin' Pigskin with Steve, and maybe Bob and Kristin - Playoffs Week 2


With the NFL playoffs just about finished, please enjoy one of the last Pickin' Pigskin Tag Teams of the year.

Steve says: Man, after that brutal weekend last week, I just feel the energy completely sucked out of any picking effort we were going to make. I think that's pretty clear from the response this week – I'm typing this on Saturday morning, at 10 a.m., while I'm waiting for my oil to get changed at Kingston Auto. I've started and stopped this column like four times, just because I haven't felt any desire to pick games anymore.

There are a couple reasons why. First, my poor showing last week no doubt has something to do with it. Second, this season has been long and arduous, and I feel like I should have switched the formats to a Tag Team well before Week 17. Even if it is just a paragraph, it is still draining to the soul to have to seriously analyze Lions, Browns, Raiders and Rams games week-in and week-out, and that's also overlooking the shit going on in Indy.

Speaking of the Colts, that brings me to the third reason why I've lost energy for these playoffs – I don't feel that strongly about any of these god damn teams. If I had to rank my Fan Interest Level in all of them before the playoffs started, then it would have went Bengals, Patriots and Packers, in that order. Of course, all three of them lost in the opening weekend.

So, who's left for me to root for? The Ravens and Jets are just miserable teams to watch. The Colts are gutless, since they intentionally punted their chances for a perfect season. The Saints have guts, but looked completely helpless down the stretch in their final games, and they weren't blowing teams out before the Dallas loss anyway. The Chargers and Vikings have detestable figures like Norv Turner, Merriman and Favre on their teams. The Cardinals make a mockery of the whole “regular season” thing by just randomly turning it on in the playoffs two years in a row now. And who the fuck ever wants to root for the Cowboys? The Cowboys are a fine team to follow if you're from Dallas, but their legions of carpetbagging fans – I have at least three friends from Rhode Island who are Cowboy fans – makes me dislike them.

Of all those teams, I find the Cardinals and Saints the least objectionable. Yeah, Warner is like a mini-Favre when it comes to Playoff Veteran BS Mystique, but at least they're fun to watch. Still, I find all of the remaining eight teams far less interesting than the Bengals, Patriots and Packers. Too bad only the Packers showed up last week, and for them, it was just the 11 guys on offense. Anyway, for the sake of consistency, here are my TV-NFL team comparisons, and my picks for this week.

Colts = ER. This one is more of a personal perspective thing. For years, ER did monstrous ratings, and, at least to me looking at it from the outside, it seemed like there was always One Big Star each season, with most years Clooney filling that role. Despite this though, I could never get into the show, primarily because the concept of a hospital drama just never appealed to me.

Likewise, while I understand that Manning is the consistent One Big Star for the Colts, I can never seem to root for them. Part of this is probably because I live in New England, and thus get subjected to a regular stream of anti-Colts everything. However, his storybook rise and greatness just makes it hard to root for him. It's like rooting for the house in Vegas or the Galactic Empire in Star Wars.

Chargers = Tough Love. A bit of an esoteric comparison, but bear with me. Tough Love is an odd dating show on VH1, where a dude professional matchmaker basically tears a bunch of prissy women a new A-hole because of their inability to settle into a relationship. This sounds odd, and like it would be a horrible show along the lines of Jersey Shore, which I railed against last week.

However, if you sit down and watch the show for 15 minutes, you do notice that Steve, the matchmaker, is interested in them actually improving themselves. For most of the women on the show, there is an underlying issue with why they act like they act. By the end of the first season, some of them had figured it out, and some clearly hadn't, but as an impartial viewer, it was interesting to see a show that did seem to care, just a bit, about helping out of the contestants instead of exploiting them for ratings.

Why are the Chargers equivalent to Tough Love then? Well, although the show clearly had some talent and good moments, there was at least one “hard cringe” moment per episode that would make me immediately change the channel. It was interesting to see how a woman would change as she received some constructive criticism, but downright painful and awkward to see another breakdown into a ball of anxiety and tears and cat claws. Similarly, the Chargers always look like a great team for three-quarters of a season or a game, before self-destructing in a cringe-worthy moment.


Vikings
= Lost. An unquestionably great team most of the time, with no obvious weaknesses, except that things can unexpectedly go careening off the rails with irrelevant drama and issues. In the case of Lost, there are entire episodes devoted to secondary characters that end up providing nothing more than red herring information, and at one point, an entire episode devoted to deep background characters for the first season. Sometimes, Lost decides that, hey, even though we ended the last episode on a cliffhanger, why don't we see what Locke is up to on the other god damn side of the Island?

This is a maddening aspect of Lost, and the Vikings share it. With Peterson, their defense, Rice and The Good Brett Favre, they are the most dangerous team in the playoffs. But every couple of games, they seem to go on a meandering side quest that mostly seems like an attempt to get their fan base to shit their pants in fear. I'm referring mostly to the drama between Favre and Brad “hey little kids who wants candy?” Childress. I sometimes get the feeling that Adrian Peterson is like the neglected spouse, who has two crazy exes both using his as a neutral third-party for support.

Saints = Aqua Teen Hunger Force. Some weeks, there is blow-your-mind-out excellence, and some weeks, it is look-away-bad. There is almost no continuity from week to week, except in very rare instances.

My picks:
New Orleans over Arizona (-7)
Indy over Baltimore (-6.5)
Minnesota over Dallas (-3)
Chargers over Jets (-7)

Yeah, that's right, all favorites. Suck it, underdogs. I don't trust any of you to do it two weeks in a row.

-----

Bob says: Unfortunately, I didn't have much time to write this week. I, like you, started three or four pieces but there was nothing that seemed particularly compelling or interesting to write about. I do concur with your feeling that writing the football picks columns became burdensome over the course of the year. I felt as though the problem, though, was not having to try to find things to write about sucky games (like Oakland, K.C. or the Rams), but trying to find something interesting to write about in general. There comes a point after a few weeks where storylines have developed for most teams. After that, what exactly are you supposed to write about? Even about teams I generally cared about, I had a hard time finding anything to write about them that I hadn't already written. I applaud you for finding interesting things to write about, in general, week after week.

Bob's picks:

NEW ORLEANS over Arizona (-7)
INDIANAPOLIS over Baltimore (-6.5)
Dallas over MINNESOTA (+3)
SAN DIEGO over NY Jets (-7)

-----

Kristin says: The best thing about the playoffs is that I have so many fewer games to write about. And, honestly, it feels relaxing not to need to watch as much football - I'm looking forward to the break until pitchers and catchers report. Anyway, I have serious doubts about the Saints winning this game - haven't they lost the last 3 games they've played? I was really into the Saints up till they should have lost to the Skins and beat the Pats - now I'm kinda rooting against them actually.

I think that Baltimore can take the Colts. The game they played earlier this season was very tight and P. Manning has been throwing a lot of interceptions. I don't think the Colts are as scary as they have been in past season. Furthermore, the Balimore Colts vs. the Baltimore Ravens is an interesting angle, and it makes me really want to see the Ravens win. Plus, it would be nice to see some different teams in it.

I'm unsure what to think about the Dallas game. They've been talking about Favre choking in his last playoff game and repeating that in this game, but I'm not so sure about that considering Romo is by far the bigger choker. I guess it comes down to, even though I have been talking smack against Minny all season, I hate Dallas more. Okay, last game. Two teams I hate, and I think San Diego is the better team.

Arizona over New Orleans
Baltimore over Indy
Dallas over MINNESOTA (+3)
SAN DIEGO over NY Jets (-7)

Oh, and now that you're all about TV... Grey's has restarted, and this week Lexie and Mark broke up so that Mark can take care of his newly discovered pregnant 18-year-old child (yes, you heard right, he went from 0 to grandpa in 60 seconds). I really liked them together before this new story line so I'm really annoyed. This show keeps getting worse and worse, but I can't stop.

Project Runway also has a new season. It's really hard to tell how the season will go based on the first show. They had Nicole Richie - who does not dress well herself - on as the guest judge. She loved the clothes by Ping - nutbag crazy girl - that looked like a pile of cloth slung about her body. The scary thing is that the other judges liked it as well. There are some very stereotypical, annoying gay men and one clueless recent RI School of Design chick. Go RI! So, there is your update on two shows you would never watch yourself :)

Kristin is absolutely correct about Grey's, but I have watched plenty of Runway in the past. Anyway, the delicious pork (a.k.a. pigskin) picture is from here. George Clooney is a beautiful bastard, and his picture is from here. The picture of Jessa, my crush from Tough Love, is from VH1's official site. The picture of Nikki and the science teacher comes from this exhaustively-thorough blog on Lost. Teri Hatcher applauding is from here. The Baltimore Colts logo is from here And the hot Dr. Lexie is from here.

Friday, January 15, 2010

TV Review: Community improves on promise of first half of season


Note: Big time Community spoilers coming.

So hey – Jack Black was on Community last night. And strangely, he was oddly compelling, playing (for him) a more-relaxed character. To me, Jack Black is my generation's Robin Williams. (“Your group needs a fat agile guy!”) When he's on, he can be unquestionably great, although he sometimes goes overboard. Dr. Ken (a.k.a. the Spanish teacher on the show) can have this problem as well, but he was hilarious in this week's episode, faking his own death. And yes, Jack Black got outrageous as the episode went on, but still not bad by his standards.

Anyway, I thought Thursday's episode was a great start to the second half of the first season. Annie was impossibly cute as the over-aggressive reporter, and Jeff “Hawkeye” Winger continues to impress me with his slickness. I'm still hoping that those two get together – the scene between them at the end gives me a bit of hope – but they're still portraying Brita as Jeff's main love interest. And outside of the main story arcs, the supporting cast, Troy and Ahbed especially, remain strong. Gotta love all the MASH references.

Oh, and by the way – Nice Owen Wilson cameo at the end of the episode.

The picture is from a fantasy of Jack Black during the episode.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Tonight Show Craigslist ad


So, Conan talked on The Tonight Show a couple minutes ago about putting the show up for sale on Craigslist. Thanks to the great work of my buddy Adam D. Adkins (a.k.a. Adam Dadkins), you can view the ad in all of its glory here:

http://losangeles.craigslist.org/sfv/clt/1551463643.html

Please reward Adam by visiting his wonderful sports blog here. And the picture of Conan is from here.

Fantastic Focus on Food Fantabulously: Applebee's improving and decadent desserts

To break up some of the television posts, and my daily following of the Conan Tragedy, let's focus on food for a bit. Some odds and ends bouncing around in my head on the subject, since I'm not motivated enough to sign up for a Yelp account.

- I'm surprised at how decent the food at Applebee's has gotten. My first experience with the popular chain was about five or six years ago, when a friend brought me there and insisted that I try the riblets (the mini-bone-in meat they had). I did, and I was not impressed, since it was more bone than meat for the most part. The other portions of my meal, which I believe was a simple fries and chicken fingers basket, also disappointed.

Now though, they actually have a couple decent burgers. Their two for $20 deal is also quite splendid - Two entrees and an appetizer for $20. Yeah, it's not gourmet food, but it is a good amount for when you don't feel like cooking. Today I tried one of their under-550 calorie meal, some sort of peppercorn and cheese steak with mixed vegetables, and that was surprisingly edible as well. Again, it wasn't anything that would compare to a good steak house or anything, but it was serviceable for the $10 I paid for it.

- On the other end of the spectrum, I had this pretty delicious dessert the other night from a place in Dudley called Eighty Ates. You can check out their dessert menu here; I had the Irish Cream Mousse Cake. It tasted so smooth that it didn't really taste like anything at all, if that makes sense. Also, it was friggin' delicious.

The closest approximation I could find on Google Images was the slice on the right, and even that doesn't come close to really giving a proper display of my dessert's decadence. While I was eating it, I didn't think it was anything super-special, but as I've had a bit of time to ruminate on it, well, it really was splendid.

- And finally, does anyone have weekly food rituals? Mine is a bit odd, at least in my opinion for a 25-year-old dude. Every week, when I get my paycheck, I like to go out that night and get some Coldstone. The odd part is that it is normally after covering a meeting or something for work, so it is 8 p.m. and nobody is there. I imagine that the worker thinks I'm some mysterious or creepy loner who oddly ventures out to Coldstone by himself for ice cream.

I'm still trying to find my favorite Coldstone combination though; I've only been about six times to the place. I like the strawberries themselves, but some of the other fruits like raspberries and blueberries are too pulp-y to me. So far, my favorite signature combination is Cheesecake Fantasy minus the blueberries, which you can see to the left. For the full list of their signature creations, check out here.

The Irish cream cheesecake picture is from here, which I would now like to visit the next time I'm in Nashville. The food porn image is from here.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

As The Conan Turns



Just a short entry today, as I've been busy most of the day, and I'm going out tonight. Following the continuing Conan saga, above, see the awesome monologue that Jimmy Leno did on his show. Leno is so predictable that I think just about anyone can do his monologue, and Kimmel did nail the beats.

In other news, Entertainment Weekly interviews the artist behind the "I'm With Coco" art movement. Also, Conan apparently doesn't have specific time slot language in his Tonight Show contract, meaning he would 1) have to agree that the previous years of the show set a precedent for it being on at 11:30 or 2) just leave all the money on the table.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Spider-Man 4 is more like Spider-Man No-More

According to reports on the Internetz, the Spider-Man series is already getting a reboot, as the crew of director Sam Raimi, actor Tobey Maguire and actress Kirsten Dunst will not be back. This came after clashes between Marvel Studios and Raimi over what villains to use, and reportedly, the reboot will bring the series back to high school.

This whole thing makes me very worried. Did Spider-Man 3 suck? Most definitely - Peter as a bad ass was horrible, as was the whole business with him being a spiteful bitch toward Mary Jane, who was WAY out of his league. While I didn't think Maguire or Dunst were unbelievably awesome in their roles, the success of the first and second installments of the series should have at least bought the crew a chance to make up for the atrocities of the third with a new movie.

The rumor that the series reboot will take place in high school makes me nervous. If this was a few years ago, then I would have thought that Spider-Man would follow in the footsteps of the Batman Begins series, and gone super-gritty and realistic. That doesn't really fit in with the theme of the series... which is precisely why they SHOULD do something like that! A gritty Spider-Man would be a fresh take on the series, and something new that's worth exploring.

Instead, I imagine that it'll have more in common with Twilight than Batman Begins. This is because movie executives are stupid, and would rather copy proven "successful" stuff than to take the time to nurture something. Look at James Cameron - He's responsible for about $2 billion in revenue between Titanic and Avatar and Terminator 2, but even he gets shit for taking a long time to ensure that something is justtttt perfect. The new Spider-Man will probably be more like a merging of the shitty Wolverine movie, X-Men 3 and Twilight, although I really hope I'm wrong.

The picture comes from this blog, which also has a review of Spider-Man 3.

Conan tells NBC to eff off

Ah, Conan. I heart you even more after learning that you told NBC to go screw with its wacky plan to restore Jay Leno to 11:30. Although Conan doesn't have wording in his contract that says The Tonight Show has to start at 11:30, I think NBC will have to pay him the balance of his contract regardless.

So really, good on Conan. I'm glad he has drawn a line in the sand and threatened to quit if he's forced to air The Tonight Show / his show from a midnight time slot. I'm hopeful that he ends up on FOX, or even eventually as Letterman's successor on CBS. Either network would probably let him go back to the more juvenile, randy and fun behavior he exhibited at 12:30. You know, like my included picture of the masturbating bear.

I got the sweet picture, and some of the Conan news, from this good entertainment blog.

Monday, January 11, 2010

More Glee in my future, but will a gimmick derail?

I'm torn about the news that Glee is getting a second season. On one hand, I'm glad that the show is definitely getting a second season, guaranteed, since FOX has such a horrible track record with nurturing shows. For example, it has already canceled Dollhouse; I didn't watch it, but I've heard good things from friends, who are no doubt displeased at that news. And in the past, FOX hasn't seen it fit to renew great, critically acclaimed shows like Arrested Development, Firefly, Futurama and Family Guy. So, if Glee is safe for another season, then I'm quite glad.

However, an Entertainment Weekly news post about the news contains a distressing bit of information to me - "Fox is launching a nationwide casting search this February to fill three new season 2 roles. Per the network’s press release, “Auditions will be open to amateur individuals as well as professionals between the ages of 16-26, and all hopefuls will be able to submit auditions online."

What the hell? Why do I want to see amateurs sing? If I wanted to witness that, I'd actually watch American Idol. Dear FOX, keep your god damned amateur singers on one show. I'd prefer that actors and actresses with actual chops, like the lovely Jayma Mays and Lea Michele, get screen time.

I suppose that the new cast members could be just bit players, but really, I can't imagine a scenario in which actual professionals wouldn't be better served for the roles. Also, they're casting three people? That seems like quite a few. Does that mean three people are leaving the show to make room for them? If so, then I suppose it could be a good thing, since it would freshen the cast up a bit from year-to-year, but I would prefer professionals taking those spots as opposed to amateurs.

Also, Britney better be staying on the show. That's all.

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