Monday, May 31, 2010

Happy Memorial Day! With The Venture Bros.

On holidays, readership always goes down, so I didn't want to write a super-long post or anything. Therefore, my message is simple today - Watch The Venture Bros. when it comes back on television on August 22. It's the best pure cartoon on Adult Swim, and one of my favorite shows on television. And in honor of this, here is a picture of Race Bannon from Johnny Quest, who was featured on the show once as a model for Brock's behavior.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Down on the farm with the Red Sox - May 30

Not this farm.

Since the television season is for the most part over, except for the summer series and replacement shows, I'll be peppering in some sports analysis here and there. However, since there are a lot of good blogs about the Red Sox, and especially the Sox on the Major League level, I thought I'd focus on the minor league system.

Specifically, I want to look at a couple things. One, anyone on the AAA or AA roster that might be called up in the case of an injury. Two, any prospects who were well-regarded coming into the season. (I'll be using Baseball Prospectus and Baseball America lists for this.) And three, anyone who has a ridiculous statistical line so far in the season. I'll look at AAA and AA individually tonight. All stats seem to be updated through May 29, with no May 30 games included.

Triple A - Pawtucket - Batting

Josh Reddick, CF, 23. According to Friday's chat with Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus, Reddick is pressing. He specifically wrote, "Triple-A-itis. Tasted the big leagues and wants to get back, so he's trying to get five hits or a five-run home run in every at-bat." That might be an understatement, as Reddick is hitting .181 in 171 AB, with five home runs. Even his defense has seemingly fallen apart, as he has four errors too. While he might want to be back in the Majors, at this point a stint in Portland seems more likely, to try and restore some confidence at the plate. He has gone from the outer fringes of the outfield decision at the end of the year to no consideration at all with his early season performance. Personally, I blame the ridiculously ugly porn mustache he is sporting in the picture to the right.

Aaron Bates, 1B / DH / OF, 26. Bates is a little old for a prospect, but more importantly, he's hitting like the new Doug Minky. The problem is that Bates is at Triple A, and not in the majors, and also, Tom Kelly and Tony Muser are no longer managing. He's hitting .238, and while he's got a good eye - his OBP is boosted about a hundred points because of 24 walks - his slugging isn't sufficient for a first baseman, corner outfielder or designated hitter. Last year, it looked like he might be able to fill the Jeff Bailey role this season. Now, if there is an injury at the Major League level, the Sox would probably kick the tires on a trade, or the next guy on this list...

Lars Anderson, 1B / DH, 22. As disappointing as last season was for Anderson, killing any chance of him being in the 1B picture this year for the big club, he has shown glimpses of his prospectdom. He started the year at Portland, but he was moved up quickly to Pawtucket after mashing five homers and hitting .355 with a .408 OBP in 17 games. He hasn't lit the world on fire yet in Pawtucket, but he's had a respectable line of 235 / 337 / 424 in 25 games and 85 AB. He's still just 22, so if the Sox do need a guy to come up for a few days and hit, I think Anderson is the most likely candidate.

Jorge Jimenez, 3B, 25. Well, uh, it's a good thing that Youkilis or Lowell can play third if the Sox have an injury to Beltre. Jimenez is old for a prospect, and he's hitting a paltry .252 with no power at Pawtucket.

Tug Hulett, 2B, 27 and Angel Sanchez, SS / SB, 26. Both guys are strictly "break glass in case of emergency" players, similar to last week, when Sanchez got a cup of coffee because Marco Scutaro was a little dinged up. Hulett has been horrible, despite his nifty name, with a line of 185 / 304 / 331 in 45 games. Sanchez has hit a little bit, sporting a .308 batting average, but just seven of his hits have been for extra bases. He only has one stolen base too, so he's not an asset in the running game either.

Daniel Nava, OF, 27. If the Sox need another OF for some reason - maybe Darnell McDonald gets hurt, or Drew tweaks something bad enough that he has to hit the DL - then Nava has a shot of getting called up. He's hitting OK in the minors, sporting a .293 average and six dingers in 42 games. Nothing special, given his age, but the Sox could take a spin with him as opposed to going after someone outside of the organization.

Dusty Brown, C, 27. He's basically waiting for his chance to get out of the Red Sox organization to a team with an unstable catching situation, and hoping to hook on as a back-up. His line at Triple A isn't bad, but it's nothing you try to accommodate at the Major League level - 268 / 354 / 482. If Varitek goes down, then Brown is a reasonable facsimile of his average offensive production, between last year and this year.

Triple A - Pawtucket - Pitching

Michael Bowden, 23 and Boof Bonser, 28. Ehhh, so much for the Red Sox pitching depth in the minors. Bowden has turned into another Abe Alvarez. On a bad team, he would have been on the fringes of the Major League rotation the past couple years. On the Red Sox, he's been left to linger in AAA, and this year he's been horrid to start the year - 5.83 ERA in 41.2 innings. His 3.13 in 24 starts last year already seems like a distant memory. Bonser has been even worse, with a 8.03 ERA in seven starts. He seems like a prime candidate to be released when the Red Sox need a roster spot.

Adam Mills, 25. If the Sox did need someone to make an emergency start, Mills is probably the guy, assuming they just don't reach down to AA. He has an acceptable 3.84 ERA in 53.2 innings. He has slowly worked his way up the Red Sox system with solid, unspectacular efforts each year. He is strictly a pitch-to-contact guy, with a low strikeout rate, suggesting he isn't much besides filler.

Felix Doubront, 22. He was moved up after dominating Double A to the tune of a 2.51 ERA in 43 innings, with 38 strikeouts. However, stamina appears to be an issue - He averaged about five innings a start in Double A, and he's at three innings per start in Triple A. I'm not sure what the reasoning is, but he's the only genuine starting pitching prospect at Triple A for the Sox right now.

Dustin Richardson, 26 and Robert Manuel, 26. With Joe Nelson already up, these two are next in line for a shot in the pen. Because of their age, neither projects as a superstar. However, Richardson has been dominating Triple A hitters, with 36 K's in 27 innings. He pitched 3.1 scoreless innings for the Red Sox last year, so I imagine he'll be up if they decide to cut bait on Nelson, Ramon Ramirez or someone else. Manuel has a better ERA, but less strikeouts, suggesting his Major League ceiling might be a bit lower.

Double A - Portland - Batting

Jose Iglesias, SS, 20. The book on Iglesias has been that he is a slick fielder, with potential at the plate in the future. He's doing his best to dispel the second portion of that, batting a pretty-decent 306 / 340 / 408 for Portland, which is generally considered a pitcher's park. He doesn't have any dingers, but he has nine doubles and three triples. Although he's young, given the dearth of a real SS prospect at Pawtucket, it wouldn't surprise me to see him promoted at some point this year, with an outside shot at supplementing Scutaro as soon as 2011 if keeps hitting.

Ryan Kalish, LF, 22. He now has to be considered clearly ahead of Kalish in terms of an outfield prospect who could actually fit a spot created by the departing J.D. Drew, Mike Cameron or Ellsbury. I think it's more likely that the Red Sox explore free agency, but Kalish is at least injecting himself into the conversation with his mixture of hitting (.288), power (eight dingers), patience (27 walks) and speed (13 steals). Like Iglesias, he strikes me as a guy who could force his way to the Major League level with a really strong second half.

Anthony Rizzo, 1B, 20. Rizzo was a popular sleeper pick as far as prospects coming into this year because of his power potential. While he does have seven dingers between Single and Double A, his combined average is .254. Given that he plays first base, he needs to start putting up some monstrous lines to be a viable big league option.

Luis Exposito, C, 23. Mentioned as a possible future starter at catcher, Exposito has put up a ho-hum line at Double A of 259 / 337 / 377. This is in line with his A-Ball performance in 2009, and rebuffs a good end of the season in Portland. Right now, his ceiling looks like that of a Major League back-up.

Nate Spears, 2B, 25. He's not really a prospect, since he's 25 and in Double A. However, I have to admit being drawn to him a bit because of 34 freakin' walks. (Mark Bellhorn is one of my favorite Red Sox of all-time, so sue me!) He's only hitting .257, but the walks have pushed his OBP to .404. They probably go away as pitchers challenge him more at higher levels, but they sure be tasty right now. He came over to the Red Sox as a free agent from the Cubs, who apparently tried to beat the selectiveness out of him last year.

Double A - Portland - Pitching

Casey Kelly, 20. Considered the best pitching prospect in the Red Sox's system, his Double A season so far has been inconsistent. He has an OK era of 4.32, with 32 K's in 33 innings, suggesting his stuff is still fine. However, he has to trust that stuff and cut down on the walks - He's allowing one walk per two innings. He's still a great prospect, but the early season talk of him making a late appearance in the bullpen, after allowing one earned run in his first eight innings, seems like lunacy now.

Robert Coello, 25. Definitely a bit old for Double A, but the swing pitcher - he has two starts and 10 relief appearances - has 36 strikeouts in 33.2 innings. His ERA isn't as impressive, just a modest 3.21, but he should probably be bumped up to Pawtucket to see what he can do, given his age.

Got a question on someone I didn't cover? Leave me his name in the comments, and I'll see what I can do.

C.M. Punk is smarter than you. (The WWE, not so much.)

I continue to enjoy what the WWE is doing with C.M. Punk on Smackdown. On Friday night, a hot crowd thought they would finally get to see Punk, the cultish leader of the Straight Edge Society, without his trademark hair. Finally, after months of running his mouth, the arrogant purist would get his comeuppance!

However, in a brilliant move, he instead wore a mask to the ring and broke out in a wide, psychotic grin. This was a great decision in my opinion, since it allows Punk to maintain his arrogance, and it keeps the crowd hot for the eventual "reveal" on his hair, which I imagine will happen at the next pay per view.

Unfortunately though, Punk was by far the highlight of the show, as several other aspects of it fell flat to me. The main event was a good match between Mysterio and the Undertaker, but because they're both fan favorites without any existing issue between them, the crowd was pretty mellow on the whole affair.

For a few brief moments, I thought they were going to have Undertaker do a heel turn on Mysterio, but this didn't develop. This wouldn't be the worst thing in the world to me, since Smackdown lacks a #3 heel along the same stature as Swagger and Punk, neither of whom is considered a guaranteed money guy yet. There are some decently developing heels behind those two, in Drew McIntyre and Dolph Ziggler, but neither is established enough to me. Meanwhile, the show has plenty of faces without Undertaker - Mysterio, Big Show, Kofi Kingston, Christian, Matt Hardy and MVP are all guys I can see as credibly involved in the title picture, given their past successes.

In a continuation of an angle seemingly only I like, Laycool mocked Beth Phoenix, and also WWE fans for questioning how they can have two titles. "I've got 99 problems but Beth ain't one!" McCool and Layla are both ridiculously annoying in their current roles, and as such, they're the only interesting wrestlers the WWE has in the Smackdown women's division. (Sorry Kelly Kelly and Tiffany - You're both incredible eye candy, I just wish the writers could give you a personality or a gimmick or an angle, instead of imagining what your naughty bits would look like in a cheerleader outfit.) On Raw, Maryse holds a similar role, although Eve at least has some potential. Gail Kim has been completely buried since coming over from TNA, but I imagine she doesn't mind the paycheck too much.

The rest of the show featured a so-so tag match between Kingston-Show and Swagger-McIntyre, Christian being teamed with Hornswaggle (ugh!), and MVP jobbing to Luke Gallows. None of these were that compelling, so grading on the usual curve for Smackdown, I can only offer praise for the Punk and Laycool segments.

Grade: C

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Check It Out With Dr. Steven Brule, a.k.a. The Same Old S*** With Tim and Eric

My vision of the apocalypse.

I'm a pretty avid viewer of the Adult Swim block of programming on Comedy Central. (Heck, according to my own labeling, I've written about it a dozen - now 13 - times on this here blog.) However, one aspect of that programming that is severely played out to me would be all of the various Tim and Eric programming.

Of the shows they've done, the only one I liked a bit was Tom Goes To The Mayor. Between the odd animation and quirky situations, the show had its moments. Too bad some episodes were just horrifically depressing. Anything involving Tom's wife was just painful and awkward to watch.

However, "painful and awkward" is the best way to describe any Tim and Eric program after Tom Goes To The Mayor. Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! is meant to be horrifically bad, and thus funny, but I find it more horrifically bad, disgusting and tedious.

Part of the appeal of Mystery Science Theatre 3000 and spoof movies like Airplane! and The Naked Gun is that the actors are never in on the joke. Given the whole format of TaEASGJ, I can never shake the feeling that they feel the whole show is an effing joke, and they're in on it. Meaning, Tim and Eric know the show is crap, and there is an effort to maximize the crap by them.

Where is the fun in that? Congo is a horrible movie and funny to me partly because people are actually trying. They are not meekly reading horrible lines - They are enthusiastically talking about using diamonds to power lasers that they will then use to kill gorillas who are guarding King Solomon's diamond mines. This adds a layer of enthusiasm that simply isn't present in most of the "this is so bad aren't we cool?" hipster stuff like TaEASGJ. Mr. Show had some great "this is so bad, it's good" moments, but they also balanced it legitimately decent song-and-dance numbers by Jack Black and funny spoofs of infomercial pitchmen.

Which brings me to Check It Out! with Dr. Steve Brule. Poor John C. Reilly - you've gone from hosting Saturday Night Live and hanging out to Will Ferrell, to crap like this? Come on, you're better than this. Shake N Bake!

The show is meant to spoof horrible local newscasts and their bad broadcast quality, but what actually happens is that Reilly has an awkward interview with people who aren't really in on the joke. So really, all that happens is the recreation of a horrible local newscast. The first two shows were on "Food" and "Relationships", and both were horrible, except for some non-Brule segments with cheesy local commercials.

But thankfully, both episodes were only 11 minutes each. Yay?

Grade: D+

Friday, May 28, 2010

Inexplicable Movie Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles does not need tinkering, Michael Bay.

I'm normally pretty OK with movies being remade, even if they're popular titles from my past. For example, the first Transformers didn't completely suck, even if the second one was complete and utter trash. The Karate Kid was a classic, but I agree with Bill Simmons when he states that certain aspects of it feel completely dated; I think it might be hard for some kids now to relate to movies that have absolutely no computer, cell phone or Internet presence. The new Karate Kid doesn't look great to me, but it also doesn't look like complete ass.

I'm more confused by the news that Michael Bay is remaking Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Uh, esqueeze me? Baking soda? What the heck is wrong with TMNT?

The movie holds up great, which isn't to say that it is a legitimately great movie. It is a bad movie aimed at kids, and it makes absolutely no attempt to be high art. With the ridiculous premise of turtles and a rat exposed to radiation who then learn kung-fu from the rat because he's originally from Japan, it would damn near be impossible to get an Oscar nomination. The turtles make lame jokes that are funny to kids, and so-bad-they're-funny to me now that I'm an adult.

It also helps the camp / humor value that everything about the movie is out of central casting and predictable, and logically unexplainable. You know, like how there is a secret army in New York City, led by a dude with a bladed helmet, and who seems to have a general who barely speaks English. They entice underage teenagers to join their super-serious martial arts gang with cigarettes, arcade games and skateboarding ramps. (Note about movies of this ilk, and a good idea for an Airplane! style spoof: What exactly is in it for all the super-serious henchmen of these movies? I'll even give you a title - Hench. Like, duh.)

There are also plenty of fight scenes, and most of them hold up well because they feature Three Stooges-style slapstick. ha ha, Michelangelo is on his back and spinning to trip up Foot Soldiers! Donatello just spit water in that guy's face! Oh, now the turtles are ordering pizza, and the Domino's guy (hi product placement!) can't find them because they live in a sewer, ha ha!

Given how ridiculous and great everything already is, why does their need to be a remake? Well, besides the obvious reason that Michael Bay would like to make lots of money. There are two directions they can go with this, both of which would suck:

- Make it like Batman Begins, which would mean super realistic and gritty... except that they're mutant ninja turtles?

- Copy the animated shows and go even more slapstick. However, the recent animated shows have sucked, so I can't see them doing big business. And hey, remember a couple years ago when they went this route and that movie sucked because it was slow and plodding?

In conclusion, Michael Bay please do not mess around with my movie. And also, don't you dare think of remaking The Wizard.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Keeping it in the family with Glee

Although both main story arcs on Tuesday night's Glee dealt with irregular family situations, only two of the characters - Rachel and her mom - came across as likable considering the circumstances.

While I'm not generally a fan of Rachel because of her smugness and cockiness, I do enjoy when she is portrayed as an actual human being and not a stereotype. Tuesday was my favorite "Rachel" episode of the season, since she is so vulnerable and therefore accessible throughout the episode. Her initial Lady Gaga costume - pictured above - is one of the best sight gags of the second half of the season. And I also think the slow, gradual development of the relationship with her mom is the right decision for the show to take. There is enough camp in a typical episode of Glee to resist making them best-friends-forever right after their initial meeting.

However, the other main arc of the episode - friction between Finn, Kurt and Kurt's dad - felt completely flat to me. I think it's unrealistic to portray Kurt's dad as the only person on the show who doesn't realize that Kurt is in love with Finn. I also don't think Finn would have allowed things to proceed as far as sharing a room with Kurt without mentioning this fact to either his mom or Kurt's dad. As a result, I found everything about this plot arc, including the horrible Gaga-dressing by Finn, to be unrealistically out of character.

The little odds and ends of the episode helped to make up for this though. The other mini-issues of the episode - Quinn and Puck squabbling over the name of their child, and Tina trying to deal with her new dress code - were both interesting. There were also some quirky, winking at the camera moments on the show, mostly between Rachel and her mom.

And, I've got to give props to Iqbal Theba, who plays Principal Figgins with the perfect mixture of ignorance and authority. In Tuesday's episode, he insisted that Tina stop dressing like a goth because of his worries about Twilight and vampire problems, only to be harassed by Tina into reverting the dress code because of his irrational fear of vampires. While this served as the catalyst for the show's Gaga theme, it was unfortunately kept in the background and used mostly as a bookend.

Also, unlike last week's episode, Brittany was back to her ditzy, quotable self. (She suggests that Tina dress up as a cross country skier, a Happy Meal with no onions or a chicken. When Rachel comes in with her sadly pathetic Gaga outfit, Britt says, "You look horrible. I look awesome.") I've found that on the Internetz, the Brittney and Santana combination is known as Brittana, which is awesome.

There are two episodes of the season left, and I imagine we're going to see a bit more focus on singing and dancing, since the sectionals are coming up to end the season. At least, that's what I'm hoping for - While the drama of the first season has been high, I do think it would be more appropriate if they focused on the actual Glee club with the final two episodes as opposed to leaving us with drama-filled cliffhangers at the end of the season.

Around The Web - Sex and the City sucks, more upfront fun and Jesus, Jesus, Jesus

Catching up on some various things I found funny, interesting or appealing from the web...

- As regular readers know, I love Roger Ebert in a way that should be illegal for a man to love another man. Perhaps Tommy Heinsohn loves Walter McCarty and Rajon Rondo more; I don't know, and I really hope I don't ever have to complete a test to find out.

Ebert is at his best when he is ripping into a truly horrible movie, such as Sex and the City 2. Frankly, the first movie looked like excrement, and the second movie looks even more horrid with the totally cheap plot device of transporting the characters to some foreign locale. He is no fan, giving it one star out of four, and he savages it from the opening paragraph:

Some of these people make my skin crawl. The characters of "Sex and the City 2" are flyweight bubbleheads living in a world which rarely requires three sentences in a row. Their defining quality is consuming things. They gobble food, fashion, houses, husbands, children, vitamins and freebies. They must plan their wardrobes on the phone, so often do they appear in different basic colors, like the plugs you pound into a Playskool workbench.
As a wise man once said, ouch baby! I've seen about half an episode of Sex and the City, and I found it... well, repugnant. Then again, I find no problem with professional wrestling, so go figure. Like Jersey Shore, I just find Sex and the City to be the embodiment of thoughtless, ridiculous extravagance. I understand that it is probably escapist fun for many, but given how many people seem to actually emulate the show, I'm not a fan.

- Slate finished its series on upfronts by having Troy Patterson go to the CW's presentation. There are at least two reasons that I'm happy they had Katy Perry perform at their upfront. Apparently, she's some sort of singer! Strangely, I had never noticed that she sang.

Anyway, all of the CW shows sound horrible, but none of them are really aimed at me. Nikita sounds like it would have potential if it was on another network, but since it is on the CW, then she will probably be a part-time assassin, and a part-time fashion consultant. Plain Jane and Shedding for the Wedding sound like rehashes of shows. And California Gurls and Hellcats sound like the horrid, standard fare for the CW.

- And finally... This entire story from Slate about three guys claiming to be Jesus Christ who were forced to live together is pretty nuts. Enjoy! (And p.s., wasn't Dogma an underrated movie? I totally agree!)

The Katy Perry photo is from here.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Steve on Cheese: Brie and Cabot Cheddar Chipotle

I must admit that I have bad luck when it comes to late night cravings. I typically work late night shifts at my actual job as a reporter, and by the the time I'm off the clock, it is often past 9 p.m. As a result, the options for food are scandalously low and I end up eating a lot of fast food, unfortunately - Burger King, McDonald's and Wendy's are the only places serving hot food that are open.

But! They just finished opening a new Stop and Shop in Westerly. As a result, there is now a new, classier option available to me: fine cheeses. Well, OK - I'm not sure how fine the cheeses I'm trying are. But, I figure it is better to experiment and taste them with some crackers following work, as opposed to eating so much junk like burgers and fries. Therefore, I welcome you to the latest feature of this blog, Steve On Cheese.

Cabot Cheddar Chipotle. I don't think Cabot cheese is anything special, since it looks to be mass produced, and there were several varieties available at Stop and Shop. However, I wanted something relatively conventional for my first try on Wednesday night, something I knew I would like regardless of how the second cheese tasted.

This cheese did not disappoint. While the cheddar was clearly there - nice and sharp - the chipotle wasn't overpowering, which I appreciated. Given that there was also a haberno variety, I figured that the chipotle wouldn't be too overwhelming for my heat-sensitive taste buds.

Brie, President-brand. Again, I kept it pretty basic for this first time out, sticking with a well-known brand of a classic cheese. I've had this before, and to me, as a stinky American, the oddest part has to be that rind! It is so white and freakishly hard, to the point where the President label stuck against it from how the cheese was packaged. I had to peel it off.

The cheese itself was pretty solid. I like the contrast that the hard rind gives to the essentially creamy softness of the brie itself. This became a problem after a couple minutes though - As the cheese became room temperature, as well as the knife I used, it got almost spread-like. Next time, I should try refrigerating the cheese or the knife, or both, beforehand.

Anyway, that's it for now. Have any cheese recommendations for me? Let me know, and I'll see what I can do for next time.

The picture of the Cabot Cheddar Chipotle is from their web site, where you can order their cheese, apparently, for $3.49 per eight-ounce bar. The picture of the Brie is from this forum, who discuss eating the rind vs. not eating the rind.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Night off.

Hello, friend of friends. How are you? How's your wife and kids?

Anyway, I don't feel that well, so I'm taking the night off. Nothing was on last night except for a pretty up-and-down episode of Raw anyway, so no great loss there. The blog should be back tomorrow morning, afternoon or night with my thoughts on the latest episode of Glee, or something equally fun.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Injury, blood mar Over The Limit

I never thought I'd say this about a wrestling program, but blood and injuries got in the way of a good show.

The best match of the show, C.M. Punk vs. Rey Mysterio, was held up for several minutes as a doctor treated a deep cut in Punk's head, and Rey seemed to have a semi-serious injury to his neck. The match eventually resumed with about four minutes of really hot action, before leading to a Mysterio pinfall. (This was probably just in time as well, as Punk's cut had re-opened and looked pretty bad.) The post-match angle was hot as well, although Kane coming to the aid of Mysterio still seems silly to me.

Randy Orton's match with Edge also went to a double count-out because of injury. As Orton was slapping the mat for the RKO, he suddenly stopped. The Internetz is reporting anything from a broken fist to nerve damage, which is unfortunate, because it clearly threw a monkey wrench into the works of the match. Given the circumstances, I kind of wish they had just let Edge has an opportunistic win. You know, like throwing Orton into an armbar or a figure-four, and just going with the injury angle. Orton was able to stand up and move around for a couple minutes, so I think they could have improved the finish a little bit better.

It's unfortunate that both of these matches were a bit spoiled, because the rest of the card was underwhelming to me. Drew McIntyre vs. Kofi Kingston actually had a clean finish, with Kingston going over, which surprised me. The Hart Dynasty also beat The Miz and Jericho clean, so I'm not sure where they go from here. Maybe Jericho wins the U.S. Title from Bret Hart to tease some dissension between the team? And Jack Swagger's match with Show downright sucked because it was so short, and it came on the heels of the Orton injury match.

Grade: C-

Sunday, May 23, 2010

LOSTblogging: The final episode evar evar.

Note: Spoilers galore, obviously. I might add pictures to this later, but I obviously can't right just now. All times EST.

9 p.m. - We open up with a montage of slow music, and a pan between the characters in Bizarro LAX and on the Island itself. The show actually starts with an Oceanic delivery truck bringing Christian's coffin (Jack's dad) to the concert hall, while Kate watches on from a car. Desmond is orchestrating it all still. He and Kate have a little conversation about fate and destiny, and how about they're friends.

Flash to the Island. Jack explains that Jacob told him he had to protect Marcellus Wallace's briefcase in the middle of the island. The gang splits up - Sawyer goes to find Desmond in the well (we already know he escaped with someone's help), and Jack, Hurley and Kate will go toward the golden light. First commercial break.

9:10 p.m. - Back from commercial, we're in the Hummer in Bizarro LAX with Sayid and Hurley, as they pull up to a sleazy motel. And hey, it's Charlie, and he's all drunk and messed up. He refuses to come with Hurley willingly, so Hurley tranqs him and throws him in the back of the Hummer.

On the Island, Kate is asking Jack why he took the job as the Candidate. Their gross talk causes Hurley to have a funny line: "This would be so sweet if we weren't all about to die."

Over by the well, Sawyer is spying on FLocke, when Ben sneaks up on him and points a gun at him. Sawyer elbows Ben in the face, and escapes. FLocke lets him escape, because he mentions that he doesn't care if the Island is at the bottom of the ocean.

FLocke notes that he thought there was a dog by the well, and sure enough, Vincent is alive! He's hanging out with Rose and Bernard, and they've rescued Desmond from the well. Rose notes that they broke their rule - not getting involved - in order to rescue him. She asks him to leave once he's done eating, but it's too late, as FLocke and Ben have found Bernard in the woods. By threatening to torture them, FLocke blackmails Desmond into coming with him.

9:20 p.m. - Back from commercial. We stick on the Island - Desmond knows that FLocke is taking him to a place with a very bright light somehow. There is a bit of feedback, as Ben has a walkie-talkie in his pocket! And he's working with Miles somehow, who has found Richie Alpert, still alive. Richard is frantic even though he just woke up - He says they still have to blow up that plane.

In Bizarro LAX, Miles spies Sayid at the concert, and calls his detective buddy Sawyer, asking him to keep an eye on Sun. We then flash to the hospital bed, with Sun and Jin. The nurse is... Juliet! Aw, she actually takes care of babies in this world. Sun seeing her baby on the ultrasound kicks her memory back in, and Jin is soon with her, as he sees the baby too. Both of them burst into crying as it happens. And suddenly, both of them speak English again! (This is an oddly perplexing turn of events, since both Jin and Sun are dead on the Island!) Commercial break.

9:29 p.m. - The music amps up a bit on the Island, more of a traveling-tune, as Sawyer reunites with his people. Jack says it doesn't matter that FLocke has Desmond, since they're all headed to the rich, golden center anyway.

In Bizarro LAX, Locke insists on Jack calling him John, instead of Mr. Locke. It's a nice little scene between the two, given that they hate each other on the Island.

On the Island, Miles and Richard are staking out in a canoe toward the plane. They hit one body in the ocean with an oar, and then notice that Frank is bobbing along out there, barely alive! Woohoo! Frank asks what they're doing out there. Instead of suggesting that they blow up the plane, he suggests stealing the plane and using it themselves, since, well, he's a pilot! Clever, Frank. I'm for it since Frank and Miles are neat.

Finally, we have a face-to-face between Jack and FLocke on the Island. Kate tries to shoot FLocke a couple times, which of course doesn't work. FLocke expresses surprise that Jack is the choice, and in a clever nod to fans, he says, "You're kind of the obvious choice." Jack offers to go with FLocke to the gold light, and flat out tells FLocke that he's doing it so that he can kill him. (This has been the best seen of the episode by far, very tense yet funny.) Another commercial break.

9:38 p.m. - Jack and Juliet exchange pleasantries outside the exam room, which is a completely surreal scene. Yes, Jack Jr. is their baby. Yes, they're divorced. And as Juliet leaves with Jack Jr., Sawyer slides in.

Back to the Island. Jack doesn't really have a plan to kill FLocke, except that Desmond might be a weapon. Sawyer says, "That's a heck of a long con." Jack, FLocke and Desmond proceed to the golden light past the bamboo alone. Desmond hints that the golden light transports them to a place where they're all still alive, where Jack and he sat next to one another on the Oceanic flight. (Namely, that the golden light leads to Bizarro LAX.) All three of them descend into the golden light... And we hit another commercial.

9:45 p.m. - Note: Target has some LOST themed commercials that are pretty clever, such as someone freaking out because they can't entire the numbers into the hatch's computer. Good times, good times.

9:47 p.m. - In Bizarro LAX, Hurley and Sayid have a heart to heart about why they're there. Hurley says that deep down, he things Sayid is a good guy. They watch as someone is getting into a fight outside of a night club, and as a woman gets involved, Sayid goes to her rescue. Of course, it's... Shannon! And this awakens both of their memories. Boone is in on the plot, as he volunteered to get his ass beat.

On the Island, Ben and Miles are talking on the walky-talky. Miles is trying to get them all to come over to the plane, when Claire stumbles upon Miles, Frank and Richard. Richard talks her down from shooting all of them, but she refuses to leave the Island on the plane with them.

We flash back over to the golden waterfall. Jack and FLocke begin to lower Desmond down into the golden waterfall. FLocke tries to claim some of Locke's memories, which causes Jack to icily state, "You're not John Locke." They finish lowering Desmond into the golden pit, and peer over the edge as... we go to commercial again! Sigh!

9:58 p.m. - Back from the break, we're in line at the concert on Bizarro LAX. Juliet gets paged to go to the hospital, and she leaves Jack Jr. and Claire to their own devices. We flash to the backstage area, and Charlotte is rousing Charlie out of his slumber. This also leads to her meeting Daniel Farraday (Widmore). We flash to the dining room, and Claire is at a table with Kate, of course.

The band starts to play - Daniel backed up by Driveshat. Charlie gazes out into the audience, and locks eyes with Claire... who suddenly gets a contraction. She stumbles off a bit, while Desmond gets a bit of a wry look on his face.

Back on the Island, Desmond is at the bottom of the waterfall, and poking about some sort of golden pool with light radiating from it. He steps into it, which causes the water to freak out, and he yanks a plug from the middle of it, it seems. This causes the light to go out, which seems a bit ominous, but then lava and flames seem to rise up and out of it. Desmond screams out, "No!" And Flocke points to Jack and says, "It looks like you were wrong."

Jack then tackles FLocke outside of the cave, and... Locke bleeds! ("He's cut! The Russian is cut!") This gets a smirk from Jack. "Looks like you were wrong too..." FLocke manages to power himself out of Jack's grasp, and tries to run away, while Jack fights unconsciousness. Commercial break.

10:09 p.m. - Claire is still stumbling around backstage in Bizarro LAX, going into severe contractions. Kate comes to help her. Meanwhile, Desmond and Eloise have a cryptic conversation; he says that they'll be leaving. However, he won't be bringing Daniel with him.

And in a redux from past events, Kate is delivering Claire's baby and having her push, while Charlie fetches them some blankets. This causes Kate's memory to flash back in, and then Claire's as the baby is delivered, it seems. She cuddles with the newborn Aaron, while they all share a good cry. Charlie is back with the blankets, and as Claire grips his hand, his memory kicks back in. And aw, they kiss. And aw, Claire has her bay-bey back.

With them cuddling, Desmond comes to the backstage. He asks Kate if she understands now, and she nods, and asks, "So now what?"

We flash to the Island, where a severe earthquake is happening. A tree appears to fall on Ben, as he shoves Hurley out of the way. Jack wakes up, and instead of chasing after FLocke, he initially tries to see if Desmond is okay. Then, he chases after FLocke.

Meanwhile, Sawyer, Hurley and Kate tries to push the tree off of Ben. Miles checks in via radio - Frank is trying to weld the plane, in order to get it suitable enough to fly. The gang plans on stealing FLocke's boat to make it over there in time.

Another quick flash, and FLocke is overlooking Jacob's cave. Jack is back, and screams at him. FLocke draws his knife, and as the two are about to clash, we go to commercial. Damn!

10:22 p.m. - Thankfully, as we come back from commercial, Jack and FLocke are fighting on the cliff, which is falling into the ocean. They struggle for FLocke's knife, before FLocke finally gets it, stabbing Jack in the abs. But as FLocke is about to finish him off, cutting him in his neck (!!!), Kate is there and shoots him, killing him. FLocke's last words are that they're too late, and Jack kicks him off the edge of the cliff.

In Bizarro LAX, Jack is bleeding from the neck again, and Locke is waking up out of anesthesia already, and he whispers that it worked. And sure enough, he can wiggle his toes! And his memory starts to kick back in, as he looks at his wiggling toes. He tries to convince Jack that he doesn't have a son, which Jack doesn't believe. He tells the nurse to give Mr. Locke some medicine, and Locke says to him, "I hope someone does for you what you did for me."

10:31 p.m. - Back on the Island, the weather has clearly up completely, and Kate is consoling a bleeding Jack on the cliff. The earthquakes are still happening though, even though FLocke is dead.

Flash to Bizarro LAX, and Sawyer is talking to Sun and Jin. They both have their memory, and tease him about this, since he doesn't have his back yet.

Back on the Island, Frank has power to the ship, but the hydraulics are all messed up. Ben is also alive, and asks for the status report. Meanwhile, Jack is going to stay behind to try to reverse whatever Desmond did. He and Kate kiss, and say they love each other. They're splitting up, as Kate needs to get Claire on the plane. Hugo and Ben are staying behind with Jack.

10:41 p.m. - On the Island, Miles is trying to fix the plane. "I don't believe in a lot of things, but I do believe in duct tape." So witty! Sawyer walkies them and says they'll be sailing over, but rank says they need to leave ASAP, because of the Island's instability. Sawyer and Kate leap from the cliff, swimming toward the boat.

In Bizarro LAX, Sawyer and Jack share a moment, and then Juliet and him meet cute by the vending machine. He gets his memory back as she helps him get the candy from the machine, as does she, and they embrace in a really sweet scene. (LOST has had a lot of these "meet cutes" tonight, but this was the most tender so far, for some reason.) Commercial.

10:51 p.m. - Anddddd we're back in Bizarro LAX. Jack and Kate are meeting cute outside of the concert, which is over. (By the way, I've never been a big fan of Evageline Lilly, but she cleans up REAL nice in that black dress.) He seems to recognize her a bit, but not completely. She touches him, and some of his memories flood back, before he pulls away a bit. Kate asks Jack to come with her.

We flash to the Island. Hurley is helping Jack walk toward the gold waterfall, and Jack admits that he's going to die. He tries to convince Hurley that he's the one to protect the Island... while Ben glowers, sitting down on some rocks. Jack gets a dirty water bottle from Ben, and then has Hurley drink from it. Ben watches at this goes on, and doesn't try to totally eff things up, for some reason.

Over at the plane, Frank has gotten the engines fired up. Back at the golden well, Ben and Hurley are attempting to lower Jack down, but the earthquake ruins this plan a bit. He falls with a thud, but he's still alive. Jack goes to check on Desmond. Desmond says that his plan didn't work, because the light went out, and he thought he'd leave this place. Jack tells him he's done enough, and ties the rope to him. Desmond wants to know why it has to be Jack, and Jack tells him it's because Desmond has a wife and a son, and tells Desmond, "I'll see you in another live, brotha."

As the plane is trying to pull off from the Island, Kate desperately tries to convince Claire to come with them. She finally does, but it seems like Frank and the boys are about to leave on the plane... But they manage to jump in front before they can leave, and Frank stops the plane.

Back in the golden waterfall, which is now a lava pit, Jack manages to plug it up with the stone idol. However, it's not clear what effect, if any, it had.

Over to the plane again, Kate, Claire and Sawyer manage to get on it, and Frank tries to gun the engines for a takeoff as the ground cracks underneath them. He manages to get the nose up and the plane in the air JUST before he hits the tree line, and they're off! The surviving crew exchange glances of happiness.

We go back to the waterfall, with Jack slowly dying. The golden light is finally coming back on then, which causes him to cry in joy. Ben remarks, "He did it! The light's back on!" Ben and Hurley yell at him to hang on, and they pull up, to find... Desmond. Hurley screams, "Jack!!!" as they fade to commercial.

11:10 p.m. - Back to Bizarro LAX, Locke has taken a cab to the concert. Although the operation work, he still needs his chair apparently. He meets Ben outside, and says that most of them are inside. Ben apologizes for, you know, killing John. Locke forgives him, and asks him what he's going to do now. Ben says he's going to stay behind, because he still has to work some things out. And he tells Locke that he doesn't have to be in that chair anymore - Locke apparently agrees, and stands up and walks in the house.

We flash to the Island. Ben says Desmond will be okay. A stunned Hurley notes that, "Jack's gone, isn't he?" Hurley asks what he's supposed to do now, and Ben says he should do what he does best - Helping people. Ben says Hugo can start by sending Desmond home. Hugo says that they can't send people off the Island, to which Ben says that that was just Jacob's way. Ben agrees to be the Richard Alpert to Hugo's Jacob.

Back in Bizarro LAX, Hugo tries to talk Ben into coming inside, but Ben says he's not ready. They exchange comments - Hurley says that Ben was a great #2, and Ben says that Hurley was a great #1. Jack then drops Kate off, and she leaves to go inside for Christian's funeral, she says. (Or rather, for whatever meeting they're having there.)

We flash back to the Island, and shockingly, Jack is alive!!! He struggles away from a waterfall, and we flash quickly back to Bizarro LAX. Jack has snuck in the back of the church (I'm presuming that's what it is), and he's eyeing the coffin that contains his father. He touches the coffin, and finally, his memories come flooding back.

He opens the coffin, and again, it's empty. But suddenly, his dad is behind him! "Hey kiddo." "I don't understand... you died." "How are you here?" Jack died too, apparently. "Everyone dies sometime, kiddo. Some of them before you, some of them long after you." "Why are they all here now?" "Well there is no 'now' here..." "Where are we dad?" "This is the place that you all made together so that you could find one another. The most important part of your life was the time you spent with these people, which is why all of you are here."

Christian goes on, nothing that everyone needed to be here to remember, and to eventually let go. Christian says that they're all "moving on," and when Jack asks where they're going, he says, "Let's go find out."

As the people embrace in the church, it is interspersed with a bloody Jack stumbling around on the Island. In the church, he and Kate hold hands and sit down, as everyone else does, and this is spliced with Jack dying on his back in the Island, and Vincent coming to lay down with him. At the head of the church, Christian opens the doors, and a white light floods into it. As Jack looks into the sky on the Island, he sees the plane pass overhead, and finally closes his eye - show over.

... Or is it? After the title placard, we see shots of the Island with debris all over it. And then, finally, we fade out.

Modern Family almost jumps the shark in finale

Dear Modern Family,

You have consistently been the most accessible new show on network television in your debut season. For example, my mom likes watching you, and she's not normally super-into television sitcoms. You are consistently funny, and you will definitely be in my Top Five when I do my "end of season" rankings.

That being said, were you just plain out of ideas for this finale? The final five minutes, in particular, were just straight-up bad. Really, a mud fight during a family portrait that would eventually end in Claire loosening up a bit? Seriously? That is the kind of shit I would expect from Two and a Half Men or Will and Grace or Blossom or some other horrid, by the numbers sitcom. Come on, Modern Family - You're better than that.

Before the last five minutes, you did have some decent moments. I loved Mitchell freaking out about the bird being loose in the house. Phil getting in trouble with Claire is always funny. And Luke being wrapped in plastic to avoid getting messy before the picture? Totally awesome. However, why did you have to screw it all up with those last five minutes? Sigh!

Grade: C-

A ho-hum Smackdown before the PPV, and predicitions!

Well, there wasn't really anything special about this week's Smackdown, except that nothing on it was really that bad. (This opinion was shared by the always-excellent Kevin Eck over at Ring Posts.) In the world of WWE, that's always decent, especially considering that Over The Limit is Sunday night.

The best aspect of the show was a decent match between Kofi Kingston and Jack Swagger. While I don't normally like DQ or contested finishes, it made sense for the Big Show to interfere to cost Swagger the match. This kept both of them strong heading into their respective matches Sunday. The same thing goes for Swagger drawing the DQ in the Drew McIntyre-Big Show match.

And, I'll add that if Layla and Michelle McCool are a pairing, then the WWE really needs to consider doing the same with Tiffany and Kelly Kelly. Few things have gone horrifically wrong in life by pairing together two attractive blonde women, and surprisingly, Tiffany has gotten decent in the ring despite her inexperience. Kelly Kelly is still the stronger of that team, but there is enough talent between the four of them to make things workable.


As far as the PPV goes, here are my picks:

WWE Champion John Cena vs. Batista ("I Quit" Match) - I think Cena definitely wins this, given the widespread Internet rumors that Batista is leaving the company. I think there is a small chance that the WWE pulls a swerve, and that Batista is signed through the end of June or July, as opposed to the end of May. However, I'm hoping that this is the end of Batista on television for a bit, since he's feuded with most of the people on the roster.

World Heavyweight Champion Jack Swagger vs. Big Show - If Swagger wasn't going to drop the belt to Randy Orton, then I don't think he drops it to a suddenly-face Big Show. I'm not sure who this leaves as his next challenger; Kofi Kingston? An absent-from-this-PPV John Morrison? But I can't view Show as a serious challenge to the belt.

Intercontinental Champion Drew McIntyre vs. Kofi Kingston - I don't think McIntyre was reinstated as champion just so that he could drop the belt nine days later. The ending might feature a ref bump or otherwise be underhanded, but I don't see him losing the belt to Kofi. I also think there is a chance that Matt Hardy interferes in this match and inadvertently causes a DQ-win for Drew.

Rey Mysterio vs. CM Punk (S.E.S. Pledge vs. Hair Match) - Mysterio via pin. They have been advertising the "Punk loses his hair!" angle for a couple PPVs now, so I think it happens, even if I don't want to see it happen. Even if Mysterio wins, it wouldn't surprise me to see the Straight Edge Society prevent the haircut from happening.

Randy Orton vs. Edge - I think Edge wins this match by pinfall, although I could easily see it going either way. Orton is so over that a loss won't hurt him, and Edge's next step is probably a program with Cena over the title belt. This definitely feels like a thrown-together match, since there isn't a strong storyline reason for these two to be enemies.

Unified Tag Team Champions The Hart Dynasty vs. Chris Jericho & The Miz - The mark in me is hoping that Jericho and The Miz find some way to get the titles here. Doing so would allow them to further their angle with The Big Show. While the Hart Dynasty has been good with the belts, I think they could just win them back on the next PPV or two, giving Jericho and the Miz plenty of time to screw with Show.

R-Truth vs. Ted DiBiase - Truth gets the pin here, because Virgil, who is supposed to be at ringside, will throw the match against DiBiase somehow. The WWE has left out that Virgil eventually turned on Ted Sr., which is why I think he does tonight.

Divas Champion Eve vs. Maryse - This match is pretty "meh" to me, since Laycool has been the only thing worth following in the women's division. I'm going with Maryse reclaiming her championship. Eve has been solid in the ring, but Maryse still gets more of a crowd reaction. Not as much as if they turned her face, but hey...

S*** gets real for Daniel Bryan / Bryan Danielson on NXT

First, a programming schedule for today and tomorrow: This entry now, followed by another wrestling entry at 3 p.m., and a review of the Modern Family finale at 7 p.m. The endgame of LOST is also tonight, and I'm undecided if I'll be live blogging (or, you could say LOST-blogging, ha ha ha!) or simply writing about the show shortly after it's over. Tomorrow will feature a post about WWE's Sunday PPV, although I'm unsure if it'll be at 11 a.m., 3 p.m. or 7 p.m. All times are EST.

Anyway, to the topic at hand. I'm not a regular viewer of NXT, the WWE's version of American Idol that airs on SyFy (or however you kids spell it nowadays). On a week to week basis, the non-wrestling aspects are cheesy, and this is especially true once they started doing "challenges" like jousting each other with giant Q-tips, as if they were on American Gladiators.

However, this past week had a better than average episode, mostly because of the great promo by Daniel Bryan / Bryan Danielson. On NXT, he is known as Daniel Bryan, a newcomer to the business with great technical skill. However, in reality he is Bryan Danielson, who has been known on the independent circuit and in Ring of Honor for years as a champion.

On Tuesday, he did what's known as a worked shoot - He clearly spoke what he was actually thinking, as opposed to going off of a fake wrestling angle. However, it's called a worked shoot because he probably got permission from the WWE to do this. It's clear that they intend to play up his background as a successful wrestler in the indies, and in this respect, I think he could succeed wildly. After an initial adjustment period to the WWE "style", C.M. Punk got some significant pushes. While Danielson has just been shoving announcer Michael Cole around at first, I think his anti-WWE character had a lot more chance then his initial role on NXT, that of a Colin Delaney-type loser.

As far as his actual promo, I thought it was spot-on. The WWE regularly overlooks people who don't have the right physique, to their detriment. Evan Bourne should already be at least a midcard guy, instead of languishing in near-jobber status. Is it believable that he could beat a monster like the Undertaker? With the right storytelling, I think so! Given the velocity that he propels himself off the ropes with, I think it's plausible that he and other smaller wrestlers could handle themselves in the ring with a bigger guy.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

An OMG moment in the Community all-hands-on-deck finale!

I will eventually have a post ranking all of the various shows I watched this year, but right now, Community is definitely in the Top 5, and possibly the Top 3, depending on how a couple finales shake out. While reviews are a bit mixed for the finale this past Thursday, I love it for a number of reasons, including the big news at the end of the episode, which I will tackle at the end of this entry. In no particular order otherwise:

- The continued expanded character roles for Abed (Danny Pudi) and Troy (Don Glover). While Troy learned in this episode that too much of a good thing can be bad for you, via his giant cookie, I'm not sure if this is true of the Community characters. If they ever did make a spin-off show, Troy and Abed are the obvious candidates.

With this pairing and a lot of the season, I think the writers deserve credit for seeing how the actors interacted and developing relationships from there. At the beginning of the season, I think there was an effort to develop Troy as a counterpart for Jeff, given the athletic background of Troy. However, as he and Abed clearly have a sort of goofy chemistry together, Troy's athletic background has been put on the back burner. This is definitely the right move.

- All of the guest stars for Community, who mostly play professors, were on full display in Thursday's episode. The most consistent performer, I've never even mentioned before on this blog: Jim Rash, the actor who plays Dean Pelton, and who somehow has 51 credits on IMDB. With his bald dome and mannerisms, Rash kind of reminds me of Stephen Stucker, who played the flamboyantly gay and energetic Johnny in Airplane!

Along with Dr. Ken (a.k.a. Senor Chang on the show), Rash is consistently funny as the overly-enthusiastic Dean Pelton. While the show lacks a traditional nemesis, Pelton serves as a mild antagonist, constantly enrolling members of the Spanish study group in his service. I like that there is an instigator, someone who motivates the gang to do things, instead of focusing solely on their interpersonal drama from week to week.

Thursday's episode also saw guest appearances from Jeff's former professor flame (meh) and John Oliver as the school psychologist. Oliver is great in this role, especially when he was getting loaded at the community college prom. I also loved the LOST reference, as Chang promised that he would find a loophole to get his revenge, and he did by the end of the episode.

- Finally, I suppose I should talk about the kiss. Given my profound love for Alison Brie, it was hard to see her lock lips, but at least it was with the dreamy Joel McHale. (I'm also slightly annoyed that I missed Brie during her art school phase. Damn!)

I also think this fits in well with the on-screen chemistry the actors have with one another. From the pilot and initial episodes of Community, it looked like they were playing up a possible Jeff and Brita romance. However, I just don't think they (meaning the actors) ever had that great of a chemistry. Therefore, I applaud the decision to go with a Jeff and Annie pairing, since there is electricity in all of their scenes together.

Now that they have made-out a bit though, I imagine the second season is mostly going to be concerned with logistical dilemmas. I think the two 1) initially downplay what happened and then 2) have a secret romance. My friend Matt advanced the hypothesis that Brita would be the last one to know about Jeff and Annie, which I agree with. I also wonder if the age difference gets brought up at some point - On the show, I believe Annie is in the 18 to 20-year-old range, whereas Jeff is closer to 30. That's a pretty significant gap, and I hope they don't just ignore the issue completely.

That being said, I honestly can't wait for the second season of Community. Of the various shows I watch, I definitely think it had the strongest end to its season, keeping in mind that several still have some wrap-up episodes to go. Community had a bit of a bumpy start, but it has grown-up to be a really clever comedy.

Finale grade: A+
Season grade: A

Friday, May 21, 2010

Tag Team: Danielle and Steve get very Glee-ful and Glee-ky

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. due to popular demand, and by that I mean web page hits, my friend Danielle Membrino is back for a third Tag Team entry! She is currently employed as a photographer and nanny in Boston.

Want to do your own Tag Team with me? Send me an e-mail ( or leave a comment. You can find the past Tag Team entries I did with Danielle here and here.


Steve said at 1:43 a.m. on Monday, May 10:

Dear Danielle,

How are things? I hope you are doing well. Hey, did you realize that YOUR name is Danielle, like Danielle Steele? Have you ever read any of her books? If so, then how was it? If not, then why not?

But, pressing on to more important things - Glee is back with new episodes! Yay! Although I am a bit annoyed that they essentially rebooted all of the story lines in the very first episode back, the show is just so cheesy and different from everything else on television that I can't help but smile when I'm watching it.

I think the minor characters are what make me enjoy it so much, similar to some of my other favorite shows, Community and Modern Family. Every episode, I can count on a silly little contribution from Brittany, or a slutty and funny throwaway line from Santana, or a snide remark from Quinn. Sure, Sue Sylvester is always good, but outside of her, the minor characters are the most consistent
of the cast.

Speaking of the cast, I must say that Rachel and Mr. Schuester are getting on my nerves slightly. Rachel's character has shown pretty much no development in the course of the series - she is still incredibly neurotic and goody goody, excluding the "knife in the back" moment of this week's final song. And I thought that Emma rightly called Will out for all of his horrible behavior, even if she was doing it based on the evil intentions of Sue.


Danielle said at 11:30 p.m. on Monday, May 10:

So I thought her last name was spelled Steele too, but apparently it's Steel. I had no idea my name was Danielle, so I'm glad you've brought this to my attention. It explains why I didn't get those 200 points on the SATs. And no, I have never read Danielle Steel's books. I have better things to read than over dramatic love stories.

Speaking of over dramatic stories, how awesome is Glee? I'm glad they've continued so strong with the second half of their first season. I do wish there would be some growth with Rachel, but it's also only the first season. If they do too much at once they'll burn out too quickly. My roommate, who finally got into Glee recently, brought up the point that Will ALWAYS seems annoyed by Rachel. He never seems happy with her and always has a grimace on his face when she's doing anything. He should be nicer to her. I'm sure she's obnoxious, but I still like her. That's something I really like about Lea Michele, she makes an annoying character likable.

I love how in the world of Glee they've made it such their own thing they even have their own slang like "lime-a-loser" and "Cheerios." It's things like that, that always draw me in. The cheesiness factor is awesome too. Sometimes I think it can get too cheesy in some serious moments and i roll my eyes, but I love the funny cheesy stuff. It's what really makes this show work. Like you know they aren't taking themselves too seriously.

I don't really mind that they haven't come up with many new plot lines, like I said, I don't want them to burn out too quickly. Teen drama shows that have too many different plot lines threading through one season often don't last past a third of fourth season. Buffy the Vampire Slayer lasted for seven seasons because it was so good at pacing itself out. While there were few subplots and different small monsters/demons in each season, there was generally one big bad guy that had to be defeated in the end. So I am hoping things do move forward more with Jesse being at the school, Kurt & Mercedes joining Cheerios and Will & Emma working out their relationship, but I hope nothing happens too fast. If that makes any sense.

I don't trust Jesse St. James at all. He is definitely up to something. I have a feeling he's going to switch back to Vocal Adrenaline soon, his plan being to leave Rachel heartbroken and not wanting to go on with Glee Club. But I could also see that backfiring because she'd be so upset with him she'd want to get on stage and defeat him at regionals. I also want her and Finn to get together, so Jesse can just leave. Although I do love his singing voice. I listen to his and Rachel's version of "Hello" a lot on my iTunes.

On the topic of songs, I personally love this show and what its been doing with music. It has taken A LOT of billboard hit songs and brought them to a new generation. I'll even admit I don't always know all the songs in an episode, but I'm not a huge music person, so it's not that surprising. On the opposing side though, I listen to this one podcast and they happened to be talking about Glee in their latest episode and one of the guys on it HATES it. He considers it an abomination to music. He hates that they're taking all these classic songs and just making them pop-y. And then all these 15 year old girls only download the Glee versions of them and don't even know the originals.

But a couple of other people on the podcast stood up for Glee and made good points that I agreed with. Like yes, they have changed a lot of good songs into these bubblegum pop-y songs, but there's still some really amazing ones like when Rachel sings "Defying Gravity" from Wicked. Also, yes a lot of teen girls will only listen to the Glee versions of these songs, but at least it's giving them the chance to learn about these past musicians. It's not like Glee ever claims that they're their own songs. They often mention the artist in the show. After the Madonna show, her record sales went way up like they haven't been in a long time.

So I'll leave it at that for now since this is getting pretty long.


Steve said at 10:17 p.m. on Thursday, May 13:

Dear Danielle,

Please don't pretend like you have more important things to do than to read Danielle Steel novels! I mean, after all, you now have a league-leading THIRD Tag Team blog, so obviously, you must either prioritize me, or you do have lots of free time. A-ha! I have backed you into a corner, like Inigo Montoya did to Count Rugen! (Or, if you prefer the funny, like how Vizzini "outwits" the man in black.)

And wait, by "roommate" do you mean Maggie Sullivan? It is hard for me to picture her being into Glee - it just doesn't seem like her kind of show! I mean, there is barely any inappropriate humor, and no vomiting, so it's not like Family Guy at all. Man... she's changed, man... Maybe I'm just staying the same in my country bumpkin world while you both mature in the Big City.

I definitely agree with Maggie - I think Will reluctantly accepts Rachel's help. Tapping into my limited experience as a substitute and college teaching assistant, an overenthusiastic student who constantly tries to "help" generally just gets in the way and detracts from your authority. While they're never as disruptive as class clowns or outright criminals, they aren't as easy to have in class as the kids who just do their own thing, or who work quietly.

I understand your concerns about the show moving too fast. I think the first half of the first season was on fast forward a bit, simply because the creators probably wanted to show off a big wallop to ensure the show's survival. I think the rest of the first season, and the subsequent seasons, will feature more gradual storylines and plot twists. For example, it wouldn't surprise me to see more made out of the relationship between the parents of Finn and Kurt. (And thus, more plots involving Mike O'Malley! Do do do you have it? GUTS!)

Jesse is definitely up to no good. He is just TOO slick for the show's general tone - There has to be something shady going on with him. Like, it wouldn't surprise me if he is some mid-20s ringer, like that Kristen Chenawumba lady was supposed to be for Will.

As far as the effect of Glee on popular music, I mostly say meh. For the most part, they stick to pop music - How are they killing songs like freakin' Madonna with their commercialism when the originals have sold about 50 million copies? I have a bit of a knee-jerk reaction to people who automatically criticize something just because it is a remake of an original. Then again, I love cover songs and cheesy music, so Glee is right up my alley in the first place.


Danielle said at 4:19 p.m. on Friday, May 14:

haha Well, Maggie doesn't love it like I do. She thinks it's funny and likes it well enough. She mocks it a quite a bit for being so cheesy, but that's understandable, cause it is. That is what makes the show so awesome though. I just watched a sneak peak clip on the Glee Facebook page about Joss Whedon and how much of a Gleek he is. He talks about how much he loves the show and he was so excited to direct an episode. Brittany is his favorite character. I am SO excited for next week's episode since he's directing it AND it also has Neil Patrick Harris in it. I love Joss Whedon so much, so this should be epic.

I do hope they build more with the relationship between Finn's mom and Kurt's dad. I think it could be really good for both the families. I also really liked the scene at the end of last weeks episode between Kurt & his dad after Kurt finished singing "Rose's Song." I felt that it was a pretty genuine scene without being cheesy. How a lot of parents would feel when they first find out their kid is gay. He doesn't hate him, isn't disgusted by it, his dad just needs time to come to terms with things that won't be happening that he thought would be happening with his kid. I was actually at my friend Kris' apartment watching it with his girlfriend and when that scene happened, Kris made fun of us because we both at the same time sat forward on the couch.

I wonder when the Vocal Adrenaline coach is going to come back into play. That actress has starred in Wicked before, so I'm sure she'll be singing at some point. Wasn't she also the girlfriend of Patrick Dempsey's character in Enchanted? I think she was. I could IMDB it but I'm too lazy.

I'd also like to take back what I said in the first e-mail about how I don't think Rachel's changed at all. She is definitely more of a team player, though still considers herself better and more important than anyone else. She's also more caring. But she is still insane and over dramatic. I can't wait to see what more songs they use for the 5 remaining episodes. My iTunes is so full of Glee. I think the only thing I have more of is Christmas music, haha.

Well I'm about to go see Iron Man 2, so I must be off for now.


Steve said at 11:21 a.m. on Wednesday, May 19:

(Note: I'll let you have the last word, so do a reply to this, and then I'll post it. Thanks!)

Well, the Whedon episode has aired now, and I must say - I was a little disappointed. Especially if he said Brittany is his favorite character, since she had no speaking lines and only a minor part in the episode, during the group dance numbers. Don't get me wrong, the episode was still good, but outside of the always-excellent Neil Patrick Harris, this could have been any other episode of the season.

At first, when they teased that Artie had regained the use of his legs, I honestly thought the show was jumping the shark right there. I was watching and thinking, "Seriously, Glee, this is how you're going out? Like a punk in your first season? You're doing this Heroes-style?" Luckily though, it was just a daydream. I thought it was then a little bit harsh to then have Emma Pillsbury shatter his dreams a bit more; I think the scene in the mall was enough to hammer down the point that Artie's life sucks a bit.

I did like the payoff with Rachel's mom being the coach of Vocal Adrenaline though. Even if the reveal was a bit telegraphed with how freakishly similar they look, I thought it was a really effective bit of casting there. I still don't like Jesse though, and I bet their end game is to eventually recruit Rachel to the Vocal Adrenaline team. I still don't think Rachel has changed that much - She has become more a team player, true, but that's damning with faint praise.

Regarding the actress herself, I haven't seen Wicked or Enchanted. While I watch Glee and loved Serenity and Firefly, I was never into Buffy or Angel, so there is a limit to my cheese factor.

How was Iron Man 2? I still haven't seen it, just because the reviews and response from my friends has been pretty lukewarm. Almost everyone I've asked about it has had the, "Eh, it's okay" reaction. It sounds like it is more like a conventional sequel as opposed to something that really expands the series, like The Dark Knight or Spiderman 2.


Danielle said at 9:27 a.m. on Thursday, May 20:

I too was at first a little underwhelmed by the episode. I watched it a second time last night though and really liked it. I've noticed when I'm kind of indifferent toward a Glee episode, once I watch it again I like it more. I also don't hold the episode against Joss Whedon though, you have to remember he didn't write it, he only directed it. So I'm sure he gets to change some things on the script, he can't do whatever he wants. I was a little disappointed to not even hear Brittany say anything, but I guess it's good that they're not relying on her to be the humor for every episode.

If Jesse & the coach do try to bring Rachel over to Vocal Adrenaline, I'm sure it won't work. I'm sure she'll think about it though. I'm glad Jesse actually likes her though. The coach being her mom was something I didn't expect. Should be interesting.

I laughed so hard when I realized Artie was going to sing Safety Dance. I knew it wasn't real once he did more than stand up. I was like, therapy doesn't work in a day. I feel bad for him though and hope he starts feeling better about himself soon. I didn't think they were going to jump the shark, not in the first season before it's even over.

HOW EXCITED are you for the Lady Gaga epiosde next week??? I think it'll be awesome.
As for Iron MAN 2, I liked it. I thought it was just a fun super hero movie. It wasn't as deep or amazing as The Dark Knight, but I didn't expect it to be. I think they built it up for possibly a third one, but definitely to lead into The Avengers [two Easter eggs for Captain America and Thor]. Which by the way, is ALSO supposed to be directed by Joss Whedon :D


Want to do your own Tag Team? Feel free to e-mail me at Danielle's picture comes from her Facebook photos. The picture of Finn and Rachel is from this site. The picture of Inigo is from this site. The picture of Joss Whedon is from here. The picture of Neil Patrick Harris is from this site that has several scantily clad pictures of him, which I could have done without seeing. And the picture of Rachel and her new mom is from this site, which is actually pretty entertaining to me.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Jonesing with Family Guy, gambling with Cleveland and Kanye

Sunday's Family Guy had an interesting feel to it, as Peter, Joe and Quagmire attempted to find the source of all the world's dirty jokes. I felt like I was watching a cross between one of the better Indiana Jones movies, because of the feel of adventure to it, and Stand By Me, because Peter was providing (funny) narration.

The episode also provided a bit of a compromise between the normal comedy of the previous week's episode, and the poignancy of two weeks ago. There were less "manatee jokes" and cutaways, although there was still plenty of random humor. (My favorite of which is represented by the picture to the right, when the gang somehow traces the origin of a dirty joke at one point to Bender from Futurama. p.s. New episodes of Futurama start in June on Comedy Central!)

Anyway, the gang traces the joke back to Virginia, and then eventually, to Cleveland. And by that, I mean the black dude who used to be on the show, not the city that will be losing Lebron James. (Okay, I'm sorry Cleveland - That was a low blow.) As I've done at the top of this entry, Peter bitterly complains that FOX ruined the surprise by featuring Cleveland in all of the promos for this week's episode.

Most of the show is vintage Family Guy - inappropriate jokes about the Vietnam War, the March of Dimes and stabbings. If you're usually a fan though, this is one of the season's better episodes, mostly because it isn't jerking around the perspective and timeline constantly with cuts to other action.

Grade: A-

Although it doesn't receive as much attention as Family Guy, either from myself or critics, I do follow The Cleveland Show consistently. While this week's episode wasn't anything super special, it did feature one really great visual - Tim, a usually mild bear that acts like Steve Martin's "wild and crazy guy" character from Saturday Night Live, went on a rampage when the riverboat casino the guys were out ran out of buffet food.

However, the bigger shock to me came from the previous week's episode. In that one, Cleveland Jr. tries to gain the heart of a classmate with the help of Rollo, only to find out that she already has a man, Kenny. As I was watching, I thought, "This Kenny sounds like a spot on clone of Kanye West..." Uh, whoops.

I was stunned that West voiced himself, because outside of a Saturday Night Live skit with Mike Myers, he doesn't seem to have much of a sense of humor about himself. He's also apparently already signed up for an episode in the second season, so I'm looking forward to that as well. His appearance on the show only added to my appreciation of an already-solid episode. While The Cleveland Show is still just a more wholesome, derivative version of Family Guy, it is worth the 30-minute investment each week.

Season grade: B+

The picture of Kanye in animated form is from this site.

A sneak peek of the other upfronts, and Pitching Perfect Projects

Note: Elvis Costello should have his own sitcom.

Continuing on my post from yesterday, and from the excellent dispatches from the upfronts by Slate's Troy Patterson here and here, my thoughts on the new shows pitched for the upcoming fall season...

- Lonestar is about an oil tycoon con man trying to keep it all together. A FOX show, it'll probably be canceled at the first sign of ratings trouble. I'm not really that interested in the concept; this sounds like the type of show that will be crammed down my throat in promos during the baseball playoffs, only to disappear from the fall schedule after a couple episodes. (However, in case anyone has forgotten the lesson pounded into our heads from past postseasons, "Her father is the DISTRICT ATTORNEY!")

- I like the pedigree of Running Wilde, which has Will Arnett and Keri Russell in it. However, as good as Arnett was as Gob Bluth, he has produced a lot of... well, shit, since then. It would be a shame if that was his career peak, but it has happened to actors a lot better than him. Therefore, I'm going to remain cautiously optimistic for his new show.

- Mixed Signals got the best response from the mostly-old-dude crowd at the FOX upfront, so I will try to check it out in the fall, even though I know almost nothing of it. Raising Hope sounds horrid, even from Patterson's short description of it as Three Men and a Baby minus two men. Doesn't Two and a Half Men fill out quota for shows-without-moms needed on network TV?

Better yet, I think we need a ridiculous premise show that goes the completely opposite direction. Therefore, I am proposing a new show, which I call Four Lesbians, Two Babies and an Elephant. (In case "lesbians" in a show title doesn't fly, my alternate title is Four Women, Two Babies and an Elephant.) Of the four women, two would be doctors - they're very popular with executives - one would be a spy, and the last one would be a drug addict. If one baby means ratings, then two babies mean DOUBLE ratings. And, any show can have a puppy or a kitten. To spice things up, these gals need an elephant.

- At the ABC upfront, No Ordinary Family sounds like it could be a winner. A drama about a family with superhero powers? Yes. Sign me up. Heroes was awesome until it started adding 500,000 different characters, so focusing on just a single family of heroes could be interesting.

- In contrast, I'm not sure how much I'll like Mr. Sunshine with Matthew Perry. In the early seasons of Friends, he was savagely sharp and funny. But as the show was increasingly pitched toward female viewers and the female characters, he lost a lot of his edge. If he is back to his snide-as-eff character, then I'm in. If he's pining for some woman in the first episode, I'm out.

- Happy Endings sounds vapid and stupid and a waste of time. The same goes for My Generation. Generally, anything that claims to be cool, hip or on the cutting edge is never cool, hip or on the cutting edge.

- Off The Map and Body of Proof sound like rehashes of shows currently on the air. If they're decent, I'm guessing they'll just piggyback on to the existing shows. Neither one sounds like it has breakout potential.

- And finally... The Shatner show based on Shit My Dad Says. My goodness, I'm excited. Two reasons: It will either be legitimately good, or it will be so bad it is great, because Shatner is involved. I really don't see any middle ground on this, although I think it's far more likely that it sucks, like the show based on the Geico cavemen. I do like my friend Tom's suggestion: It should be renamed from Shit My Day Says, which won't fly on network television, to Shatner My Dad Says.

The picture of Elvis Costello at the top of the blog is from this blog, which is in some foreign language. The lesbian photo I modified a bit, but found at this blog. The baby photo is from here. And Dumbo is from this blog.


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