Archive for the 'Television' Category

More Fashion, More Food

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

Lifetime and Bravo have finally settled their lawsuit over season six of Project Runway, which will air this summer on Lifetime.

Meanwhile, Bravo comes back swinging and doesn’t bother to pretend it’s not a rip off, with The Fashion Show, with judges Isaac Mizrahi and Fern Mallis.

For those of us left with a bad taste in our mouth after Top Chef Season Five, no date has yet been set for Season Six, though casting took place earlier this spring. Better yet, at least two Twin Cities chefs auditioned!

Meanwhile, though, Bravo keeps the culinary reality goodness alive with Top Chef Masters, kind of like an American Iron Chef a la Top Chef. (link from ALoTT5MA)

Are You Watching This?

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

The second season of AMC’s Breaking Bad has begun. Bryan Cranston (yes, Hal the dad from Malcolm in the Middle) plays Walt, a sad-sack guy with terminal cancer and an unexpected baby on the way. Way overqualified as a high-school chemistry teacher, he decides to cook meth as a way to earn cash to leave to his family.

Cranston won a well-deserved Emmy for best actor in a drama for his work in season one. Season two’s first three episodes have all been exceptional television. Creator Vince Gilligan, who wrote many of the best X-Files episodes, focuses on the in-between actions and emotions that other mainstream shows gloss over. It’s riveting stuff. But don’t take my word for it. Stephen King rhapsodized about it recently, too, at Entertainment Weekly.

Edited to add: The prestigious Peabody awards, for excellence in electronic media, were announced, and Breaking Bad was one of only two prime time series to win an award (the other was Lost):

Bleak, harrowing, sometimes improbably funny, the series chronicled the consequences of a mild-mannered, dying science teacher’s decision to secure his family’s future by cooking methamphetamine.

Tivo Alerts

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

Tomorrow, Wednesday 3/25/9 Great Performances on PBS features Ian McKellen as King Lear, for those like me who missed him in that role at the Guthrie Theater in 2007.

Sunday, 3/29/9 Masterpiece on PBS begins the new Andrew Davies adaptation of Dicken’s Little Dorrit.

Oscar Post Mortem

Thursday, February 26th, 2009

I thought this year’s Oscar broadcast was a big improvement over years past, and I enjoyed it a lot. I thought Jackman’s opening number was funny and well done. The later one was over-the-top, which I think even creator Baz Luhrmann knew, since he looked sheepish when Jackman thanked him and the camera panned to him at the end. But anything that features an extended bit from “You’re the One That I Want” is OK in my book.

TV critic Alan Sepinwall has some suggestions for further improvement, like going back to showing the film clips for the nominations and removing more of technical awards. I agree that they should probably remove the sound awards, though cinematography could stay. I also think the shorts should go, both animated and documentary. I know they’re important, but few people see them and the show is too long.

I have a few other ideas, too.

One, have stylists urge their clients to wear color dresses. Light silver, white with silver, off white with silver, light gold, cream, ecru, off white, white, etc. are not colors, they’re neutrals. Do you really want to look neutral? Outlier was Viola Davis in burnished gold. Wow.

Two, have stylists urge their clients to do their hair. Jessica Biel looked like she just got out of bed, plus her no-color dress looked like it threw up on itself. Her later switch to purple didn’t improve things much. And Phillip Seymour Hoffman, I don’t feel bad for you even if the announcer did get your name wrong, because anyone who wears a knit cap indoors deserves what he gets. Your haircut in Doubt looked fabulous.

Third, Reese Witherspoon, wha’ happened? Did you get bitten by brooding, soulless, vapid, teen vampire Robert Pattinson backstage? Your black and blue dress with matching(!) eyeshadow made you look undead, and you’re usually rocking the show.

For more snarky mayhem, visit Go Fug Yourself.

A Few Quick Links

Thursday, February 19th, 2009

Because my children are ignoring me and refusing to get dressed, I’m going to ignore them right back. So much for the high road.

The bracket for the Morning News 2009 Tournament of Books is up! Adjust your reading list priorities accordingly. (I’m reading City of Refuge now, which seems bootless, since it’s up against Jhumpa Lahiri’s Unaccustomed Earth.)

At the WSJ, a bunch of financial experts on what to do with your financial stimulus money. Link from Morning News.

At New York Magazine, Nate Silver statistically predicts the Oscar winners.

A List of Things Thrown Five Minutes Ago will be live-blogging the Oscars.

On last night’s Top Chef, Finnish Stefan wore a T-shirt and hat emblazoned with “Suomi”. According to Wikipedia, Suomi means Finnish or Finland. One of the finalists commented that Fabio’s mohawk meant there had been one in every finale. Season four was Richard. Season Three was Dale. I don’t know who it was for the first two seasons.

On Colicchio’s blog at Bravo, he gives more information to the decisions from last night’s New Orleans finale part 1. It’s brief and insightful, plus divulges the technical term pro chefs use for other chefs’ food they admire.

Unintended Consequences of Commercials

Saturday, January 24th, 2009

My husband G. Grod is an Eagles fan. He was in a bad mood for most of the early football season, and a risingly good one towards the end. Each year, Drake and Guppy (now 5 and almost-3yo, respectively) are able to watch a little more of the game. Drake, ever oppositional, learned this year that it annoyed G. to cheer for the Eagles’ opponent. A low point for G. was when Drake cried after a spectacular Brian Westbrook touchdown.

Strange consequences of football watching have developed though, some more concerning than others. Two seasons ago, Drake was terrified of a rock-em, sock-em robot commercial, which I think was for some brand of truck. He would shriek, throw himself to the ground in a tantrum, and take a long time to calm. This season, it’s amusing how Drake re-enacts things that happen to him in slow motion. I’m not sure if it’s amusing when he insists that Bud Light is a good beer, or wants me to look up Ford F150 trucks and iPods at amazon to put on his wish list.

I just hope he doesn’t start talking about erectile dysfunction.

An In-Joke from “How I Met Your Mother”

Sunday, January 18th, 2009

One of the things I love about How I Met Your Mother are the jokes, and especially the jokes that pay off for long-time viewers. I haven’t been watching from the get go, but I have been watching long enough to see jokes start and get paid off much later.

One thing I didn’t know, though, was that a scene from earlier this season had a secret, political agenda, as revealed by HIMYM star Josh Radnor (who, like me, is from central Ohio) in this very long interview. (links from ALoTT5MA) You can read all the interview, just scroll to the end, or read this:

The speech was to be YouTubed in case the presidential election went the other way. It suited the storyline, but I’m impressed with the cleverness of how it could have been repurposed, and really happy it didn’t have to be.

Tivo Alert: “Wuthering Heights” on Masterpiece, and More PBS

Thursday, January 15th, 2009

Masterpiece Classic is showing a two-part new adaptation of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights on PBS in the US this Sunday, 18 January 2009 and the following, 25 January 2009.

It might be a good time to get a season pass, as Dickens adaptations begin in February.

Also coming to PBS on Great Performances 25 March 2009, a taping of Guthrie Theater’s sold-out 2007 production of King Lear, with Ian McKellen, who declines to give the full monty on TV, as he did on the stage.

Instead of Coal in the Stocking

Tuesday, December 9th, 2008

“Smoke up, Johnny!”

As an antidote to yesterday’s lovely article on gift giving to children, the Onion AV Club has “Fifteen Terrible Presents in TV and film

My worst gift was from my well-meaning dad. I was sixteen and he got me an emergency CB radio for the car if I broke down. He was trying to keep me safe; I wanted a red-striped shirt from the Limited. Ah, youth.

Link from ALoTT5MA

Separated at Birth?

Thursday, December 4th, 2008

Jeff from Season 5 of Bravo’s Top Chef
and Jesse Spencer, who plays Robert Chase on House, MD:
Top Chef Jeff Jesse Spencer

Buh-Bye, B Shows

Tuesday, October 7th, 2008

Normally autumn, with its launch of the television season here in the US, is one of my favorite times of the year. I devour the Entertainment Weekly guide to fall TV, reading it to tatters, then carefully plot out what I’m going to watch, and how, since our Tivo can “only” record two shows at a time. This year, however, was different. Perhaps the quality of shows took too big of a hit with the writers strike earlier this year. Perhaps I’ve simply reached my allowable tolerance for only-OK television. In any case, my interest is failing fast.

I canceled the season pass for Dirty Sexy Money before the season even began. I’ve dropped Heroes and Sarah Connor: Terminator. I’m waiting to hear how the Mentalist is; the premiere was good, Simon Baker is very good, but I’m tired of watching shows that are only OK except for one thing: Life for Damian Lewis, Bones for the witty banter, the overcrowded House for what Hugh Laurie is going to do or say next. When I look at my Tivo to-do list, I find only a few shows that I consider A-list: Mad Men, Project Runway, the Office, and 30 Rock. I’d add How I Met Your Mother, only it’s wildly uneven, and last night’s was really lame.

I’m highly dependent on, and grateful for, the tv critiques of Alan Sepinwall. He likes the good stuff, and is intolerant of the mediocre and bad stuff. He’s about to give up on Heroes:

Like Peter, I think you really have to be able to turn your brain off to enjoy “Heroes” these days, and unfortunately, I don’t have that ability… er, power. (Gah!)

And he goggles that one of the two reasons he still watches Terminator is because of former 90210er Brian Austin Green:

He’s gone from squeaky-voiced “Beverly Hills 90210″ fifth wheel (did anyone at any point watch that show for David Silver?) to convincing bad-ass, and, along with Summer Glau, the reason I remain engaged by a show that’s otherwise just slightly better than mediocre.

Sepinwall is a reliable indicator to me of what to watch, and what to avoid. I’ve got about 110 pages of Crime and Punishment to go for my book group this week, and I’m giving the B shows the boot so I can finish it. Will I watch them again? Who knows. But I’m rather looking forward to the increase in free time. I’ve let TV become a chore, and that’s just wrong.

On a Lighter Note

Tuesday, September 16th, 2008

Is it me, or are photos of Claire Danes with her costar Zac Efron from the upcoming film, Me and Orson Welles, more than a little reminiscent of those of Angela and Jordan Catalano from My So-Called Life?


Project Runway 5: This n That

Monday, September 8th, 2008

I’ve heard a lot of non-love out there for the current season, 5, of Project Runway. I’m having fun watching, though. I think this is an interesting crop of designers, and that the final three, and the winner, aren’t as obvious as they were last season. Project Rungay continues to be the best, and most entertaining commentary on the show.

A few thoughts: Blayne is playing to the camera, and trying to be Christian with his catchphrases. He’s only still on because his designs are more bizarre than plain bad. Stella became much more entertaining as the series progressed, and I’m sad to see her gone. I’d been thinking Terri was a shoo-in till Jerell made his fabulously bitchy comment that she’s got two faces and four patterns. Rowrr!

The Drag Queen challenge was one of my favorite episodes. I loved how the designers referred without exception to their clients using the feminine pronoun, since their clients’ gender was female. I loved how the drag queens came in decked out, then au naturel, and then a combination before the runway show. I thought Joe deserved the win. As Michael Kors loves to say, “He put the right girl, in the right outfit, styled the right way.”

Saturnalia: I was surprised first by Korto’s woven seat belts, since bags of that have been around for ages. But the end result was so beautiful and intricately done that she deserved her second-place finish. I’m also thrilled to see Leanne finally win, with her crazy, futuristic, perfectly executed, and bogglingly not-unflattering design.

DVF: Kenley continues to crusade for most annoying, though as long as Blayne’s around, she’ll lose. But her meltdown was entertaining, and her dress was beautiful. I’d wear it in a second. I own 2 DVF dresses, and they’re among my favorite clothing items, so Diane von Furstenberg as both challenge and guest? LOVING! Leanne wins again, and Korto is in the top. Joe is delusional, and it appears Terri is, too. Delusion usually signals an imminent auf’ing, as with Mormon Keith.

I’m a terrible prognosticator, but I think Korto and Leanne are going to be in the final three. Whether the third will be Terri or Kenley I’m not sure. Jerrell could be a wild card, but I think (and hope) Blayne and Joe are next to go.

Mad Men Minutia: Choward’s Violet Mints

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008

On last Sunday’s episode of Mad Men, “Three Sundays”, Don Draper’s son Bobby asked what Don’s father had liked. Don, surprised by the seeming randomness of the question, paused, then answered, “Ham…and candy that tasted like violets, and came in a “beautiful purple and silver package.”

Interestingly, and I suspect deliberately on the part of the writers, many watchers thought Don said the candy tasted like “violence,” since his dad was physically abusive. (Link at Videogum, plus the clip.) Also interesting, because violet candy in a beautiful wrapper seems so incongruous for a ham-lovin’, child-beatin’ man.

I’d never heard of the mints; I found out they were Choward’s Violet Mints by reading the comments for the episode recap at What’s Alan Watching. Then, less than 48 hours later, I found the violet mints by a cash register in Philadelphia International Airport. On impulse, I bought them. The package is lovely, but the smell, especially to a sensitive schnoz like mine, is too strong. It permeated the rest of the food in the bag. It looks like lavender soap, and the taste is not unpleasant, though it’s floral and not minty. If you like chamomile or Earl Grey tea, you might like the mints. But I’m guessing that most people will feel similarly to Figaroo, who reviewed them at Writers/Artists Snacking at Work.

If you’re flying into or out of Philly, you can find them at Cibo Express in Terminal E.

Sesame Street Season Premiere

Monday, August 11th, 2008

I’m watching the season premiere of Sesame Street with my kids. Murray seems to be the monster of the show. I wonder if they’ll feature other monsters in an alternating manner. No Cookie Monster? Wrong. Just wrong.

I wish I hadn’t watched the Feist “1, 2, 3, 4″ video before this. It’s delightful, and would have been a joy to be surprised by. Jack Black’s octagon enthusiasm was pretty fun to watch.

Project Runway Season 5, episode 4

Thursday, August 7th, 2008

I’m really enjoying Season 5. Last season it was pretty clear from the get go who the final three were going to be, and they were so talented that something of the joy of competition for a supposedly amateur prize got lost. This season, though, has a mad mix of personalities, from “leathuh”-lovin’ Stella to 3rd-person using Suede. The judges are so bitchy they sound like they might have been at the bar just before coming to judge’s table. Perhaps my only complaint is that Bravo has thrown in the towel with its marketing, spoiling all the surprises of what the challenge and who the guest judge is going to be, both on its site and in the previews.

Last night’s Olympic challenge was a nice variation on the ice skating challenge from season 1. Only Joe seemed to realize he was designing for people with muscles, but he still came in third, after Korto’s striking white outfit and Terri’s impressive, though boob-squashing, three-piece stunner.

Jennifer’s choice was baffling. She keeps saying she’s a surrealist, but I didn’t see it at all. Like Daniel’s, her outfit looked vintage, not modern, and definitely not sporty. Daniel is a pouty, anxious (remember Daniel Franco?) guy who I hope goes soon. Blayne really needs a smack upside the head about the dangers of tanning. He’s going to look 23 going on 45 sooner than he imagines. Terri, LeeAnne and Korto are the ones to watch, I think. And if Joe couldn’t win last night’s challenge, after insisting again and again that he would, he should just go home.

For more commentary on last night’s episode, visit Project Rungay.

His Ninja Training is Complete

Friday, July 25th, 2008

And so is his geek initiation. Last night was a pretty typical night in our house. We put the boys in bed by 8:30pm, then my husband G. Grod and I repaired to the basement to watch television, which is about all we feel up to after wrangling the boys (2 and 4) into bed. Earlier this week, SciFi reran a few Doctor Who episodes from Season 1 that introduced Captain Jack Harkness (not yet of Torchwood), as well as references to the phrase that ended last Friday’s US airing of “Turn Left.”

It is not unusual while we’re watching to hear the pitter patter of little feet overhead on our creaky hardwood floors. G. Grod and I take turns to go up and tell 4yo Drake to go back to bed. He’s usually grabbing some toy cars to take upstairs. He calls them his “contestants,” a la PBS’ Fetch with Ruff Ruffman. I’ve learned to search his bed after he’s asleep to remove the cars. More times than I care to count, G. Grod and I have been startled awake in the wee small hours by the sound of a Matchbox car falling out of Drake’s bed onto the hardwood floor.

Last night, though, all was quiet. We watched the two-episodes that ended Season 1 of Dr. Who, and that had some pretty dramatic events. G. and I were discussing them afterwards, when Drake appeared in the hallway of our basement, with a please-don’t-yell-at-me-for-being-awake-because-look-how-cute-I-am! smile on his face. We admonished him for still being awake, when he got a grumpy look on his face, crossed his arms in front and moved them up and down, as if he were in a hip-hop video.

“What,” he enunciated slowly, “was that city flying across the sky?”

G. Grod and I exchanged a look. Drake clarified.

“That building, I mean.”

“How long have you been watching, there?” G. Grod asked with some concern.

A quick interrogation proved he’d watched the entirety of the last, pretty scary episode, and he had many questions.

“What were those things? With bumps?”

“Daleks, Drake.”

“And that thing with one eye, it said it couldn’t die. Hey, I made a rhyme! But, what did it mean?”

“Um, that it thought it would live forever.”

We shooed him up to bed. He fell asleep quickly, I removed the cars from his bed.

I think we’re going to have to get a motion detector in our basement. Dr. Who is one thing, but I’m thinking of renting Apocalypse Now sometime soon. Yikes.

Project Runway Season 5 Episode 1

Thursday, July 17th, 2008

The return of Project Runway, and was it me, or did Bravo run it an hour earlier (9pm Eastern, 8pm Central) to further confound fans?

A few observations. Suede has a silly name, freaked out at a challenge that had been done before, and refers to himself in the third person. Two contestants from my city of origin, Columbus, Ohio? Will someone tell Blayne that tanning is a bad idea that he’s going to regret in a very few years, and ask him if he has allergies or a coke habit. The two runners up last night did not look like gracious winners. I thought the mop top, the paper-towel dress and the pasta skirt should have gotten more love. I love how Austin Scarlett celebrates his femme-y self. All three of the losing dresses deserved their drubbing. Last night I questioned the judges’ decision and thought the goth trashbag was the loser. Looking more closely this morning, I am still horrified by Blayne’s whatever-it-was. Reviewing the serial killer/nurse outfit this morning, I applaud the judges’ decision.

For more dissing and dishing, visit Project Rungay and Blogging Project Runway.

According to Tim

Wednesday, July 16th, 2008

Project Runway Season 5 starts tonight on US television. This is the show’s last season on Bravo, and the network is acting rather pouty; Bravo did hardly any marketing for the season, then dumped a ton of info at their site a few days ago, including a list of the challenges and guest judges. Part of the joy of watching has been the weekly surprise of what the challenge is, and who will be sitting with judges Michael Kors, Nina Garcia, and Heidi Klum.

So while Bravo is messing with the marketing, mentor Tim Gunn talked to Time magazine and answered some questions. My favorite comments:

Pear-shaped women should make friends with their shoulders. Not wear shoulder pads, but rather avoid tanks and sleeveless tops. Wear things that cover the shoulder to visually balance the look from head to toe.

Worse shoe trend? Crocs–”they look like plastic hooves.”

And, finally, on the comfort excuse: “If you’re going to dress like you just got out of bed, please, stay in bed.”

For more PR news and nattering, visit Project Rungay and Blogging Project Runway.

“A TV Guide to Life: How I Learned Everything I Needed to Know from Watching Television” by Jeff Alexander

Monday, July 14th, 2008

Full disclosure: Jeff is a friend of mine, and his blog Velcrometer inspired me to start my own in 2002. I’m going to say positive things about A TV Guide to Life no matter what. Fortunately, Jeff made that pretty easy by writing a clever, funny, entertaining book.

Reality check: A TV Guide to Life will not change yours. It is not profound and deep. It contrasts life on TV and so-called real life. It had chapters with titles from TV theme songs, divided into several shorter subtopics. It’s eminently readable in short bursts–in other words, to follow a heavy read, for a distracted parent, at a boring job, or even in the bathroom.

We all know how to do CPR from watching TV, right? Except that in CPR classes, they claim that doctors and lifeguards always get it wrong on TV. They do it with their hands out in front of them rhythmically pressing on the victim’s sternum lightly enough to not even get out of breath. But then the Red Cross tells you that you have to have your arms straight down under you, resting the weight of your entire upper body on the victim’s chest and using only the heel of your hands, while you fling the force of your head and shoulders into the victim’s chest cavity with each compression. Which sounds really painful for the victim, not to mention tiring for you. And then they tell you not to actually do that to your classmates upon whom you’re practicing, and when you ask why it’s done differently on TV, they say it’s because if you do it correctly, you’ll break the person’s ribs. And this is the right way to do it?

Jeff’s encyclopedic knowledge of TV is both impressive and frightening. I didn’t watch half of the shows he mentioned. But I’d _heard_ of almost all of them, and was familiar with enough of them to enjoy the anecdotes even if I’d not watched a show.

If you’re a fan of 24 (which Jeff knows well since he is the Television without Pity recapper for that show), there’s lots to love. Ditto for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Law and Order(s), Dr. Who, Lost, hospital shows, cop shows, sci-fi shows and many more.

Buy this book; Jeff is a good guy with a cool wife and a cute kid. Read it now. Because if you don’t, it won’t be nearly as easy to recall recent developments on the shows you love once the new season starts in the fall.