Retro Review: The Current TV Landscape (The Office, Scrubs, and the Ghost of Arrested Development) – Part 1

With the fourth season of Arrested Development premiering in a few short hours on Netflix, I figured this would be a good time to re-post something I wrote shortly after its cancellation (way back in 2006) where I explained I was on-board with the show ending permanently.

Part 1 of 3

With the all-but cancellation of my second loudest talking point three months ago, my TV habits have unexpectedly and ambitiously changed. For many years, the only section of calendar showing “appointment TV” was Fox’s Sunday night from 8-10. Initially anchored by The Simpsons and The X-Files, over the years I’ve regularly watched Malcolm in the Middle, King of the Hill, That 70’s Show, Family Guy, Futurama, Andy Richter Controls the Universe, Arrested Development, and most recently Free Ride. I never watched most of those shows again after either a move to a different night (That 70’s Show, Malcolm in the Middle) or before 8 on Sundays (King of the Hill, Futurama, Malcolm in the Middle [again]). The Simpsons’ decline too many years ago makes/made the 8:00 slot more of a sentimental appointment with some memory from my past (maybe), but it’s rare that I don’t catch at least some of the Sunday night shows. (Most recently, I’ve watched Family Guy and Free Ride.)

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I hate the Internet. (click the image for full-size)

Arrested Development, originally airing at 9:30 was the best show to come out of the Fox Sunday night, even better than when The Simpsons was what we remember it being like “when it was good.” Generally I’ve found that of the people to whom I recommended the show, it’s pretty easy to pick who will like it and who won’t. Plenty of people are on the record extolling it as the best show ever, and while I’d agree, I don’t have anything to add that hasn’t been covered ad nauseum by that community. Oddly enough, Arrested Development has very much become similar to one of those things that I don’t really have a problem with, but the fans are just so obnoxious that I think even more negatively about the item/object/concept than I normally would or should. In the case of Arrested Development, I’m so positive about the show, that the fandom merely tarnishes whatever memory I might have of it, not the actual show itself, if that makes sense. I don’t think that it “revolutionized” the sitcom (it was sort of on for only three seasons) as some claim, it was just the shining example of a different way of presenting 30 minutes of comedy.

For the three seasons it aired, my routine was watch it when it aired, download the widescreen rip on bittorrent, then watch the bejesus out of it until buying the DVD’s the day they were released. The airing of the last four episodes (all shown in a two hour block one Friday night in February) after more than a month of knowing those would most likely be the last episodes of the show hit some note with me in that even though I downloaded the episodes, I have yet to watch them a second time. Considering that I’ve watched every other episode of the show between three and too many times each, I realized it was odd I had/have no desire to watch the last four again, especially considering that they were some of the best episodes of one of the best shows in the history couch-potato-ery. I’m not sure it takes too much effort to correctly read into it; similarly, I own all of the Calvin and Hobbes books, but I’ve never read the last one though I’ve owned it long enough to have read it many times.

For a solid two months, there were continual rumors about where Arrested Development might end up after that Fox made it obvious it wasn’t wanted by shortening the season to 13 episodes. “The Internet” held out hope, but “the internet” ignored the fact that any channel picking up an expensive-to-produce, bottom-of-the-ratings-heap show must not enjoy making money. It was a sad time for many, with (literally) the best show in the history of ever wrapping up. Fox showed the last four episodes in a two hour block directly against the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics, almost two months after the most recent airing of the show. In other words, lots of time to “discover” something new.

As great as it was, Arrested Development was not “perfect” in terms of 30 minute television. As widely reported, practically none of the characters were likeable (Michael Bluth was dysfunctional in his own, realistic sort of way, and heck, even Annyong was a jerk to Buster). That’s not what I look for in a show, but there are plenty of lady-folk who need to empathize with characters and figuratively “hug it out” with their TV icons. I don’t know if it was searching-for-ratings-related, but the first episodes of the show established that Michael Bluth had relatively recently become a widower, and the show touched on the challenges of that situation in terms of how it affects teenaged children and the dating process for said widower. Of course, the show still packed in the zaniness, but there was something more there that from the second season and on was ignored. One could tell the writers avoided detailing the how and why of Michael’s wife’s death (she was said to have cancer some time in season 2 or 3), leaving the issue wide open for future episodes, but it was left unaddressed as the show moved toward (admittedly HI-larious) wackiness, zaniness, creative wordplay, and, uh, whimsy. Again, I didn’t need that “emotional resonance” from the show (or any show for that matter), but lesser men consider it a requirement for their TV intake.

Some fault the show for its reliance on jokes that only dedicated (meaning, weekly) viewers would get. That’s not a fault; that’s putting faith in your audience. Of course, it makes a niche show even more niche by creating both a high learning curve and too many inside jokes, but that’s more of a problem with what I’ll say is the “concept of the show” instead of the show itself. Returning to its problematic fans, they’re super-quick to say, “you don’t ‘get’ it, so you’re stupid” completely ignoring the fact that much of the humor depends on earlier episodes and the fact that some people just don’t get much out of the site of a grown man in a mole suit destroying a model train village in front of a group of “Japanese investors” in an homage to Godzilla. The fact that someone might not think something like that is funny doesn’t affect that I still think it’s the best show ever; the two aren’t mutually exclusive, but many of the fans use their opinion of the show (of it being the best) as a reason why everyone should think that jokes like that are funny.

*****
The Ghost of Arrested Development receives five big stars. Sure, the body’s still warm, but with Mitchell Hurwitz, the creator, saying he wouldn’t want to be involved even if it picked up by a (fiscally irresponsible) network, it’s gone for good. And I’m ok with that. The time before the last four episodes were aired provided an opportunity to sample other channels’ wares (which we’ll look into later in the week). The series finale was just about perfect, and as I watched it end (into the sunset, of course), as much as I complained that it was no longer going to be on the air, I didn’t want there to be any more episodes. It was that good. It was Arrested Development.

The Morgan Freeman Presidential Saga Trilogy: Olympus Has Fallen/Deep Impact/Oblivion

When Return of The Jedi came out in 1983, nobody expected to wait 16 years for another Star Wars movie to poorly detail what life was like a couple dozen years before the Second Death Star blew up. If the announcement of the prequels to these years-old films was a geek shot-heard-round-the-world, then what 2013 has brought is a BB gun going off in Altoona. Sure, they’ve tried to downplay it, but it’s pretty obvious what Hollywood has tried to do this year, and it’s a fairly ballsy move that just didn’t seem to pay off the way the filmmakers had hoped.

In 2013, major Hollywood studios managed to bring us both a prequel AND a sequel to 1998’s Deep Impact, in the course of two months. In fact, both are still currently playing as of this writing at certain theaters. Deep Impact was a modest success at the box office, making almost $350 million 1998 dollars worldwide, but has pretty much since been forgotten about, because of the overshadowing stupidity and infamousness of Michael Bay’s copycat, Armageddon. Robert Duvall; Tea Leoni; professional Helen Hunt lookalike, Leelee Sobieski; Laura Innes; and pre-Lord of The Rings Elijah Wood were no match for Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck, Steve Buscemi, that annoying Aerosmith song, a box of animal crackers, and pre-Lord of The Rings Liv Tyler, but Deep Impact had heart going for it. And a much more depressing ending. Most of the main characters stood around contemplating their own mortality, accomplishments and frail existence, while a giant Director’s Cut Abyss-style tidal wave wiped out anything and everything in its path. Granted, Elijah Wood driving up a hill to take Leelee Sobieski away from what I presume was a Paul Reiser lookalike isn’t the most plausible or most “real” moment I’ve seen in one of these movies, but at least it doesn’t end with the world having simultaneous celebrations and jet flyovers of a NASA shuttle landing pad.

The other thing it has is MORGAN FREEMAN AS PRESIDENT. I don’t know who made that decision (most likely director Mimi Leder, who was relegated back to TV after Pay it Forward turned out as badly as it did) but this was a stroke of genius. Morgan Freeman quickly became the most trusted movie president since Bill Pullman in Independence Day. He was probably the only person who could give confidence to people by saying, “A bunch of comets are going to destroy earth, and everyone is gonna die, except a few people who win a lottery! Those people will get to live in caves for two years and then come back out to try to make a new life on the drowned and scorched earth! Yaaaay, TEAM!”

I don’t think any of us found the rest of the characters likeable, but, man, did I want to know about this president. Where did he come from? How did he rise to power? What might a younger version of him do if North Korean terrorists staged a meticulously-planned takeover of The White House and held The President hostage inside of the secure bunker? Well, we’ve had to wait 15 years, but just like we eventually found out that Anakin was a precocious junkyard mechanic with a penchant for saying “YIPPEE”, we’ve finally gotten a glimpse at the backstory of Morgan Freeman’s President, in Olympus Has Fallen. And let me tell you, it’s a much better backstory than you’ll find in any Star War! There’s no midichlorians or Jar Jar Binkses either!

OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN SPOILERS AHEAD! BEWARE, ALL YE WHO ENTER HERE!

Morgan Freeman was a regular, average, ordinary elderly black Speaker of the House. Until one day, North Korean terrorists staged a meticulously-planned takeover of The White House and held The President hostage inside of the secure bunker. With the President unavailable and the VP in some completely unannounced location, Speaker Freeman becomes the acting president. This was EXACTLY THE SCENARIO I WAS WONDERING ABOUT 15 YEARS AGO! How did they know? The rest of the movie shows how in this time of crisis, he became the strong, stalwart leader that a million people could follow into a magical system of caves with hopes of one day repopulating the earth.

There are a few things that aren’t specifically spelled out, like how I’m assuming he had to dye his hair and get a facelift when he began running for President, so he’d look younger and hipper to court the youth vote. Or how, I’m guessing, since the advanced technology that the U.S. Government had was compromised and used in the destruction of most of Washington, President Freeman decreed that everyone start using 1998 technology that had more failsafes. But all in all, it makes for a pretty good prequel.

I do think they went out on a limb a little by not making President Freeman the main character. See, the main character is actually some former secret service agent who is conspicuously NOT named Jack Bauer. When a giant airplane destroys a whole lot of Washington and the North Koreans kill EVERY SINGLE WHITE HOUSE STAFFER NOT IN THE BUNKER, this agent, Gerard Butler, decides to play John McClane and sneak into the White House and take everyone down himself with a lot of punching and stabbing of people in the head. I’m not joking. SO MANY HEAD STABBINGS. Also, somehow the president’s kid is the only one who has managed to hide and stay alive outside of the bunker. Gerard Butler has to save the kid, then the president, and then kill the bad guy, preferably with a knife through part of his head.

But, Director Antoine Fuqua, WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH PRESIDENT MORGAN FREEMAN? He doesn’t even STAY president at the end, because Harvey Dent lived and went back to being president!

As a movie, the whole thing’s pretty okay. There’s some ridiculous destruction of Washington, plenty of civilians getting mowed down, some good Die Hard-type stuff, and plenty of over-the-top line readings, especially the hilariously-whispered titular line, delivered by some random, dying secret service agent.

***

As a prequel to Deep Impact, it’s not all that I was hoping for, but it did provide us with an insight into President Freeman’s first few hours as president, and boy did he ever deliver!

****

But what makes this whole plan really crazy, is that they didn’t just make a prequel. They shot a prequel AND a sequel at the same time, like Back to The Future 2 and 3, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, and The Matrix Reloaded. And they didn’t just say “What happened to all of our favorite surviving Deep Impact characters when they came out of those magical caves?” Oh no. They went somewhere even crazier, and I really dug it. They went far into the future, with Oblivion.

MINOR OBLIVION SPOILERS AHEAD. ABANDON HOPE ALL YE WHO ENTER HERE.

Oblivion kind of follows the same model as Olympus Has Fallen, in that it relegates President Freeman to a side character, albeit an important one, and shows a major moment in his life, even if he doesn’t show up until 45 minutes in.

But what the filmmakers, notably writers Michael Arndt and Karl Gajdusek and director Joseph Kosinski, have imagined in the asteroid aftermath is devastating. Humanity never retook the earth. That asteroid, it seems, was sent as the first wave (pun intended) of attack by an alien race trying to take the earth. Somehow, we did win the alien war (maybe by flying biplanes into the ships’ primary weapon shafts or uploading a virus or something), but destroyed the earth and ended up living on a moon of Saturn. Tom Cruise is tasked by Melissa Leo’s character (who was the Secretary of Defense in Olympus Has Fallen and now seems to be in charge of all Earth-related matters) with flying around the remnants of New York (the Empire State Building, a former Pro-Thunderball arena, etc.) to fix droids and enormous water fusion machines, and collect “Dan Smith Will Teach You to Play Guitar” flyers that have been littering everywhere.

UNTIL HIS LIFE GETS TURNED UPSIDE DOWN!

If you’ve seen the trailers, you know this part. He finds a downed ship filled with astronauts, gets taken hostage by a group of freedom fighters, and finds out that everything is not what it seems. And you guys know who the leader of the cave-dwelling human populace is? President Morgan Freeman, who has now changed his name from President Beech to just “Beck”, because of some kind of Cloud Atlas future-speak, no doubt.

I don’t want to give away all the twists and turns, but President Beck helps Tom Cruise discover his true self and who the mysterious astronauts are, and plays a huge part in putting an end to the remaining alien threat.

There are a few continuity errors here and there, but none of those trilogy movies were perfect. Back to The Future had to replace Morty’s dad in the second one, Star Wars had that whole “Clone Wars” monologue that doesn’t make any sense, Lord of The Rings had a car in that one shot, and they never even made a third Matrix movie!

This movie is solidly entertaining from start to finish, even if we’ve seen some of these specific story elements in previous sci-fi stories, like spaceships, aliens, robots, Tom Cruise running, Dune, etc. I give it a four.

****

Oblivion is an epic story and a very strong end for a character that we’ve grown to love over these three movies and 15 years. What they’ve managed to come up with as a third chapter is even crazier than going back to 1885. As a threequel, I give it a solid four-and-a-half stars.

****½

As a trilogy, this is epic, inventive storytelling across a variety of genres, from action-thriller to disaster movie, to post-apocalyptic sci-fi adventure. It takes real guts to make a trilogy this way, and from a storytelling perspective, it completely pays off. We see President Freeman/Beech/Beck from his political beginnings to his heroic end, from the destruction of Washington, to the destruction of the world as we know it, to the end of the struggle against our alien combatants. His story is that of one of the greatest leaders in all of fiction, that of a man who, through so many harrowing moments, has shown humanity the dignity and courage that we should come to expect of those whom we put in charge. I wish they would’ve sold this as a whole story, though. Maybe that was the big twist, but I didn’t even put the pieces together until I saw the films. I think if people would’ve known that these were sequels and prequels they probably would’ve had a higher box office gross. Despite all this, though, this is instantly one of my favorite movie trilogies of all time, right up there with the first three (of the proposed 6) Baby Geniuses movies.

*****

The Reading Fightin Phils Re-Branding is a Beautiful Mess

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To be clear, when George W. Bush talked about how “terrorists hate our freedom,” he was talking about apple pie, Coca-Cola, and Minor League Baseball. He was talking about giving a cartoon ostrich a bad attitude and making it a team’s logo. He was talking about using an “F” with fists as an alternate logo. He was talking about a tough-looking hotdog as another alternate logo. And he was talking about the concept of having two completely unrelated alternate logos.

Terrorists would hate the new Reading Fightin Phils uniforms, and that’s why they’re awfully amazing (and amazingly awful).

 

What’s Amazing

The standard “Home” uniform and everything about Bunbino (including his name and bad attitude), and the anthropomorphized “F” who looks like he’s had a few too many and he’s ready to mess your world up are great. The feathering of the letters and logos to keep the ostrich theme going is a nice touch. The whole thing, even the components I don’t like, is “fun.” Sure, it has the slight odor of “branding exercise,” but I think families (read: kids) will love this stuff until they need to replace some of it in a few years when the gimmick wears off. Yes, I realize “gimmick” is probably the most dismissive term I could use, but Minor League Baseball’s marketing currency is gimmicks.

Home_1The other “Fightins” uniform:

Fightin_alt_2

What’s Awful

The fact that nothing is integrated between the two “Fightins” designs and the two “Baseballtown” designs doesn’t help things. Essentially, the away uniforms are just a hodgepodge of branding, as if Brandiose, the marketing firm paid to realize this re-design was given a “things unique to the Reading Phillies” bulleted list, and simply wrote “OK” next to each item. The away uniforms saying “Baseballtown” instead of “Reading,” because it apparently “resonates” (more on this later) with fans in other cities when Reading is the visiting team, is ridiculous (in a bad way). The “our color scheme is every color” color scheme is the worst kind of compromise. Why isn’t the “Fightins” solid blue jersey navy instead of “Iris Blue?” Implying there’s anything “classic” about either of the “Baseballtown” jerseys is painful; they’re just a mess of kitchen sink uniform design, which, of course, might be not unreasonable for a minor league team.

Away_1

Black_alt_1

Ostrich

You. I don’t like you.

The Ostrich. If there had been some historical moment where there was an ill-advised and poorly planned petting zoo at a pre-game event in Reading and something ostrich-related happened (mass bitings, the infield being torn apart in a turf war between two competing ostrich gangs, a first baseman getting kicked in the head, etc.), sure, play into that history once enough years have passed, and it’s “funny” instead of “civic embarassment.” Tying the semi-primary logo to the admittedly ridiculous (in a good way) crazy peanut vendor is a stretch. I actually liked the concept of the logo/mascot more before I read about its inspiration. I hate those damn birds. (I prefer my flightless birds cute and cuddly, thank you very much.)

[If the Reading Phillies ever institute an ostrich race as between-innings entertainment, consider me to be the first volunteer.]

 

What Straddles the Line?

The name. I need to be fair here; I was concerned that anything other than “Phillies” would be completely absurd and simply wrong. “Fightin Phils” is about as good as it could possible be… if it’s considered necessary to make a change. I don’t love that the official name is two abbreviations, and teams with long names, such as the Diamondbacks, have simply abbreviated the name on jerseys to address the obvious spacing concerns, but, oh well. Their press release establishes that the team will be known as “The Fightins,” though the actual success of the name will be determined by whether fans take it up or just continue calling them the “Phillies.” The fact that they claimed the re-branding would help the people who apparently think they’re in Philadelphia when they pull up to a 9,000 seat stadium… in Reading… is disingenuous to the point of being insulting to anyone in earshot.

 

Bigger Picture

I sit here conflicted. Simultaneously, the Reading Phillies (I guess more accurately, the “Reading Fightin Phils”) published a press release filled with corporate marketing speak and prominent pimping of the fact that they will have “the most on-field wear in the minor leagues” as if that’s somehow an accomplishment and not a business decision while also playing into the legit family friendly (and affordable) reality of AA baseball. It gives a severe feeling of 2+2=5? seeing the phrase “celebrating their brand stories” when one of those stories is Bunbino, an anthropomorphized hotdog (presumably “with attitude”) whose name was provided by an 11 year old kid who won “a 20-person picnic at the Reading Eagle Pool Pavilion… and a box of 100 delicious hot dogs courtesy of Berks Packing” for her winning entry. Seriously, what’s more American than winning a box of locally packed meat products? That’s not a rhetorical question, and there’s no sarcasm there. Really.

Beyond that, I’m not sure how much I should care about whatever Reading is up to. I haven’t been to a game there since the early 90s, I don’t follow Phillies prospects closely enough to be familiar with their roster, and I have no interest in watching big name MLB players’ rehab starts. I have this idea that “Phillies” is the right name for the team, but I can’t back that up with anything other than the fact that when I was a kid, I really liked going to games there, and they were the Phillies. The only foul ball I’ve ever caught was at a Reading Phillies game when I was 9. It was a diving grab on the concourse; I scraped my knee. It was awesome. I still remember that. I don’t remember any specific games I went to at Veterans Stadium during that same era. Not a single one. But I remember that Reading Phillies game. That’s the emotional connection to brands that companies strive for, but can’t just pay a company from San Diego to generate when given a bulleted list of “things that kids like at the stadium.” These aren’t necessarily good reasons to keep the “Phillies” name, though I’m sure I’m not the only one thinking along these terms.

There is some choice corporate nonsense in the press release, though there are some revealing details if it is read between the lines. Highlights are below.

“Our
relationship with the Phillies is stronger than ever and the Fightin Phils is a
unique way to enhance our ties with Philadelphia even more,” said Fightin
Phils General Manager Scott Hunsicker. “The Fightin Phils reaffirms
our bond with the Phillies in a creative, unique way.”

 

This is the first quote from Hunsicker in the press release, and is in the “if we say something enough times, it makes it true. Ignore everything else we’re doing” mold. The way to “enhance ties with Philadelphia even more” is to not change the team name from “Phillies” (or “R-Phillies”) to anything else. Again, in fairness, the new name could be a lot worse.

The Fightins’ new name is highlighted by an ostrich logo that symbolizes the feisty bird that is now indigenous to Reading because of the Crazy Hot Dog Vendor. With its fists ready for battle, the new ostrich logo represents the fighting spirit of the franchise, both on and off the field.

 

That’s not what “indigenous” means, even in the funny/ironic/loose way for which they’re aiming. “Familiar” is the word they want. Also, what exactly is the franchise’s “fighting spirit… on and off the field?” Seriously, what does it mean for a baseball team to have a “fighting spirit off the field?” Do the players in Reading have a “tough guy” reputation? That’s not a rhetorical question. Anyone in Reading know something we don’t? Are their players banned from local bars?

It will be the first time in the franchise’s history that the team will feature an identifiable mascot. The logo is also the first in professional sports to feature an ostrich as its mascot.

 

Don’t feature these as accomplishments. Were fans missing an identifiable mascot? Another team uses a biscuit as a mascot; they win the “unexpected mascot inspiration” prize.

“When we decided to look at our franchise, we felt that we needed a mark the spoke to families since being a family destination has been paramount to our success,” said Fightin Phils General Manager Scott Hunsicker. “Our former mark didn’t speak to those families and kids-something our new mark definitely does.

 

This is counting your ostriches chickens before they’re hatched. Consumers decide if brands “speak to” them, not the people paying (and getting paid) to come up with new ones. Go ahead and rationalize the money spent on it, but don’t congratulate yourselves yet. It’s tacky.

“Our analysis showed us that Baseballtown resonated across all metrics,” said Hunsicker.

 

This means absolutely nothing… but sounds great. What were the metrics? Whether the term “Baseballtown” evokes positive feelings? Were they expecting a different result? It’s crazy that this language is from the same organization that included 100 hotdogs (from a local company!) as part of a prize for winning a branding contest.

On top of its new name and logo, the team will have the most on-field wear in the minor leagues when they take the field in April.

 

Again, this is not an accomplishment. The use of the term “on-field wear” instead of “uniforms,” “jerseys,” and so on is a nice call-out to the fact that a portion of this is merchandise-related. “On-field” is the lingo used in the marketing departments for selling this stuff. “We’re no longer going to be selling ‘hats’ and ‘jerseys.’ We’ll be selling ‘on-field wear.'”

Of course, in all fairness, how much money is there in AA merchandising? I guess the answer to that is “enough,” but these aren’t evil corporate overlords lighting last year’s unsold jerseys with $100 bills. Even the order form for getting yourself one of the four jerseys includes a note that you get to be on the field for the National Anthem at the first game in Reading Baseballtown. 10 year old Dan would’ve thought that’s the coolest thing ever… then he would’ve spilled mustard all over it.

The fact that I’m sure that if I called the number on the order sheet, I’d be directly connected to a human being speaks to the odd juxtaposition between the internet and the old timeyness of Minor League Baseball. 15 years ago, I (or any other jackass on the internet) wouldn’t even know that the Reading Phillies were getting a “re-branding,” heck, it wouldn’t even be called a re-branding, and there certainly wouldn’t have been a press release using the word “metrics.” Beyond that I don’t even know how I could’ve bought their merchandise other than with a visit to their stadium.

So, is their re-branding a success? I guess one may need to be from Reading to really answer that question. I have no connection to the team anymore. As an outsider, the “Baseballtown” motif seems forced. Is it? I don’t know. Would their fans prefer their uniforms to read “Reading,” their hats prominently showing an “R” instead of a “B?” Does “Baseballtown” actually resonate with their fans more than the city’s name itself? Maybe it does. That doesn’t excuse the generally ugly “Baseballtown” uniforms, of course, especially the awful black and blue pixie league softball top. But, they got a lot of things right, too. The “F” logo is unique and basically says “Minor League Baseball and proud of it” as opposed to “we’re a lesser version of our affiliated MLB team; we’re a cheaper version of them!” like using the “Phillies” name or an “R” in the style of the Phillies “P” would. New name: pulled off admirably with an extremely high degree of difficulty. The pinstripe jersey is a borderline masterpiece and uses some neat fabric technology to showcase its history. That attention to detail is to be commended. Bunbino: awesome. The ostrich… well, let’s see where it is in 6-7 years. I’m not the target audience, and maybe kids will latch onto it. I’ll reserve my judgment; importantly, it could be worse.

On the whole, the comments above showcase the root of the issue. The “Baseballtown” items are completely separate from the “Fightin Phils” aspects. Making that worse is that the “Baseballtown” uniforms leave much to be desired– colors, typefaces, even their inspiration. Keeping up the marketing-speak of the press release, that’s sending a mixed message with your branding; notably, they’re not being marketed as the “Baseballtown Fightin Phils.” Why couldn’t “Baseballtown” be kept as a a patch on the sleeves on jerseys with either “Fightin Phils” or “Reading” on the front. Make a trendy rounded logo with “Baseballtown” around the perimeter integrating the Phillies “P” and even Bunbino opposite the “Baseballtown” copy. Easy. Fundamentally, the whole “branding story” ends up less than the sum of its (many) parts. “Everything” is never the right answer to “what’s the best part of our brand?” The gap between “Fightin Phils” and “Baseballtown” is so wide that I can’t even say the whole thing is good or bad. There are items I like, but the items I don’t like aren’t even part of the same team’s uniforms. As a branding exercise, this gets a thumbs-down. As a uniform redesign, the “Reading Fightin Phils” gets a thumbs-up, the baseball team of “Baseballtown” gets a thumbs-down.

**½ Squarely in the middle — half good/half bad.

The Perils of a Music Subscription: Is the Deluxe “Yearbook Edition” of the New One Direction Album Worth It?

Yes, yes it is.

Haircuts. They all need haircuts.

Why do I know this? I have an Xbox Music Pass, and this causes conversations in my head such as “Even though I’m not a 13 year old girl, that new One Direction song on the radio is pretty catchy. I should probably use the subscription to download the entire album. What? There’s a deluxe version with four extra songs? OK. I wonder if it’s worth it if I were to have to buy it.”

Why is it worth it? The slower songs on the normal album aren’t that notable. The deluxe version adds four faster paced songs (which probably should’ve replaced those slower songs on the normal album…).

 Note: I’m only partially kidding about the entirety of the above. “Live While We’re Young,” “Kiss You,” and “Rock Me” are really good songs.

*** I’m not really the target market at all, but it’s perfectly fine.

Here’s the Phillies 2012 Stars & Stripes Hat (Minus any Stars & Stripes)

2012
As has been the pattern since 2008, Major League Baseball will be using special hats for Memorial Day, the 4th of July, and September 11 as part of their “Stars & Stripes” program. Mixing the design up every year, they’re actually eschewing the namesake “stars and stripes,” replacing them with a digital camouflage pattern. (Let me say that I think it’s the Army’s “Universal Camouflage Program,” but military uniforms are outside my uniform wheelhouse. In terms of straight-up trivia, I’d give the designers lots of credit if the camouflage pattern for the Blue Jays followed one of Canada’s CADPAT designs or if the Padres used one of the US Marines’ patterns instead of what I assume is the US Army’s pattern, but it doesn’t look like either is the case.)

History

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This year, thankfully, MLB says they will donate “ALL NET PROCEEDS” from sales of the hat to the Welcome Back Veterans fund (previously, Kyle gave MLB heat for the shamelessness of contributing only $1 from a $37 MSRP item in order to play the “for the troops” card).

The Stars & Stripes hats are made in China, unlike the normal on-field New Era hats which are made by folks you’d normally see when there’s an aggressive Clint Eastwood voiceover talking about it being half-time or 7th Inning Stretch or Second Intermission in America. USA!

So… how do they look? In a word, ugly. Oddly, instead of just framing the camo pattern with the normal white of the “P,” they added an extra blue stroke on top of the white to frame the camo. Odd (and unnecessary). With just red and (generally green) camo, I’m stretching, but you get a nice “Christmas comes to Winter’s Bone” effect. Red+Blue+Camo? Nope. Looking through the rest of the league, they just look like dirty versions of the normal hats. Also, like the Phillies, other teams, such as the Blue Jays, have gotten vestigial strokes added to the design for some reason. 

For some positivity, a detail I’ve always liked on the Stars & Stripes hats is that they also drop-in the pattern in the “batterman” logo on the back of the hats, and they’ve continued that this year.

Looking at the Phillies hats since 2008,  the 2009 hat is the best (being that it looks just like the normal hat, minus the red button on top) with the navy blue 2008 as runner-up. 2010 is hideous and 2011 looks missed the retro fad by about 4 years. For those interested in such things, the 2009/10/11 versions are easily found on ebay, but the 2008 hats are extremely rare (as in there hasn’t been one on ebay in either hat size I can wear in the last 3 years). Last season,  I offered a middle aged man at a Phillies game $60 for the one he had one his head, and he even knew not to sell it. I am not proud of any part of this anecdote…

Anyone out there planning on buying one of these? If so, you can line Kyle’s pockets by clicking this link to purchase.

Pictures via lids.com and the very cool, but not-updated-since-2o1o Fittedelphia, which chronicles Phillies hats made by New Era.

**

$1.1 Billion Gets You… Brand Synergy! (and Pretty Cool Eagles Sneakers)

Eagles

Eagles Air Max 95 (No-Sew) – NFL Draft Pack – picture via counterkicks

For those wondering what Nike would do with the NFL license after the disappointingly and expectly overhyped unveiling ceremony, they finally showed some of the benefits of their freshly enacted apparel deal with their 2012 “NFL Draft Pack” of sneakers. Gimmicky, but I like it.

You say you love the Eagles but your team-related footwear options are limited? Boom– NFL Draft Pack. Simply, Nike chose eight signature sneakers, either classics from the past or noteworthy current shoes, assigning one to each division, then laying out a custom colorway for each team within each division. Luckily, Nike chose one of their all-time best designs, the Air Max 95, for the NFC East.

Two notes: (1) nitpickers will notice these are actually the Air Max 95 No-Sews which, well, don’t have the color panels sewn together as on the original design from 1995, (2) The Air Max 95 is my favorite sneaker of all time—yes, people have such things—so I’m not the fairest judge. Heck, I wear Air Max 95s on an almost a daily basis (thank you job with minimal dress code). But come on, with both Midnight Green and Kelly Green present and prominent, what isn’t to like? (well, the list price is $150, so that’s something to not like…)

Here are the rest of the NFC East Air Max 95s (No-Sews). The Redskins version is fantastic. I’m not sure I’d be able to pull off actually wearing them, but it just proves how well their color palette comes together. The Cowboys and Giants aren’t quite as interesting, but I can’t really find fault with either of them, with the Giants, well, “Big Blue” approach working quite well, though I wouldn’t have minded some silver on the Cowboys [editor’s note: I see purple?].

Nfc east
Counterkicks has close-ups of each team’s sneaker. Some notables: the AFC West in the Nike Air Trainer SC (you may know them as “Bo Jacksons”) and the NFC North in the Air Max 90 (also known as the original Air Max). Also, the Buccaneers’ Free Trainer 5.0 and the deceptively complex Free Haven 3.0 looks good in any color (even neon green) are new designs which are only enhanced by this NFL tie-in program.

Here are all of them for the entire league. I’m giving this whole pursuit a big thumbs-up. Which ones do you like?

All

via Nicekicks and Counterkicks, two great sites for sneaker news.

*****

This Week in Yinzer Fashion: 2012 Steelers Throwbacks

Detail

from the Steelers.com Gallery of the Press Conference

Adding one last dig to our neighbors to the west before tonight’s (hopefully) decisive hockey game, the Steelers did us a favor showcased their new-for-2012 throwbacks yesterday. Yikes.

Gone is the 60s-inspired alternate with its trademark yellow helmet. I never loved the previous throwback, but they were perfectly harmless, and a nice rearrangement of the design of the Steelers classic (hate to admit that one, but it’s true) uniforms.

This new one? Well, the good news is that it’s tied into an 80th anniversary celebration, so it’s a safe bet it won’t be seen after this year. The bad news is that it introduces a new type of “ugly” NFL uniform. Let’s look at the types of ugly uniforms that are currently out there:

Old_blue_blue_2

 

There’s “modern does not always equal good” ugly: the prime offender being the 2000s Bills, with their non-white monochrome uniforms, inexplicable paneling, yokes, and a general sense of “this is over-designed.” Less egregious offenders: the Cardinals and Falcons.


 

Old_v_newThere’s “why did you have to break something that was perfectly nice?” ugly: the current Jaguars uniform isn’t particularly… well, it’s not particularly anything. It just exists, devoid of any character. But, it replaced one of the best modern uniforms without improving it in any way (except maybe gimmicky color-change helmet). Another example would be the Vikings current uniforms.

 

Eagles-throwbacks

 

There’s “old teams used weird colors” ugly: the 2007 Eagles throwbacks (yellow and light blue – together on a football uniform at last!) were harmless except for the ridiculous (though historically accurate) color scheme. It’s still funny to see these in the stands, serving as proof that Eagles fans will buy and wear anything associated with the team. Lesser offenders: throwbacks worn by the Packers in 2010 and 2011 (not to be seen in 2012, though).

 

Alternates_bothUntil yesterday, the last type of “ugly” was “so bad it’s good” ugly: I like the Bengals orange alternates, whether paired with white or black pants. There’s a lot not to like there, but somehow it works. Sue me. (I know that liking the orange over black combo isn’t particularly philosophically sound given my previous opinions about odd color combos, but somehow that one is passable. Maybe due to my love of Halloween.)

 

The Steelers have managed to create a new kind of “ugly.” Welcome to “so bad it should be good, but it’s just bad” ugly. Everywhere you look, there’s something that would be noteworthy (possibly in an endearing way, more likely in an annoying way) if it were the only abnormal feature on a uniform.

  • Horizontal stripes like you’d see on a rugby shirt.
  • Putting the numbers in a box, then filling that box with white like it’s a letter on Wheel of Fortune
  • A non-color (light beige?) color for the pants, probably in an attempt to mimic an olde timey fabric like canvas or whatever real men wore (probably loosely woven burlap or similar) when they played real football.
  • They’re going with their normal black, logo on one side, helmets. It’s actually nice they’re not trying to match a leather helmet by going with brown (like the Packers did to middling results) but at least use a solid black helmet without a logo. I may even approve of the use of matte black for this special case.
  • Striped socks are good. Alternating stripes the entire length of the sock? Not good.
  • Finally, the historical accuracy of whether this was the actual uniform worn 80 seasons ago is under considerable debate. (to be fair, I’ll point out that conclusively deciding anything about NFL uniforms before 1970 is a black art due to lack of records and care.)

The 2009 Broncos AFL Throwbacks are thought to be in this category due to their vertically striped socks, but notice that aside from the socks and the jarring colors (see above about olde timey colors), the uniforms are pretty ho-hum.

Final words:

It’s a ballsy move on the Steelers part to choose this look as their alternate uniform this season. Sure, it’s hideous (and is actually technically a “Pittsburgh Pirates” uniform from before the name change), but it’s the type of risk that gets fans engaged and the type of risk Eagles management would never take. The Eagles won’t even wear their black alternates which are about as safe as can be in terms of rocking the boat. Sure, these are just uniforms, I get that, but as Kyle detailed previously, they’re one more component of a team which, since the trade of Donovan McNabb, has gotten complacent about almost every facet of the organization.

Go Flyers.

*½

Breaking Down The 2012 NFL/Nike Uniform Unveiling

I’m really, really surprised Kyle managed to not open his earlier article with one of his patented, lengthy comparisons between some sports-related event and some (hypothetical) relationship or “girl” story with expectations as high as they were. It would’ve practically written itself.

Of course, the high expectations were generated completely by Nike (and some widely circulated fan renderings made in the style of Nike’s “Pro Combat” NCAA uniforms which were frequently and erroneously reported as “the 2012 Nike uniforms” well after they were confirmed to be fanmade), as there’s simply too much money in the NFL to rock the boat. Patting myself on the back, I’ll point out that I predicted the uniforms generally wouldn’t change.

For what you care about, as far as we know from what we’ve seen so far, the Eagles uniforms aren’t changing at all this season. Being that Nike only showed the green over white combination (more on this below) and it didn’t change anything on that combo (in fact, according to Nike Corporate write-up for the Eagles, they “have chosen to stay with their traditional design aesthetic as well as their former uniform fabrication this year,” it’s safe to assume the Eagles other components (white jerseys, green pants, black alternates, assuming those ever make an appearance again) aren’t changing either. That’s it. End of story.

Allteams

Photo: Nike

The best way to analyze today’s event is to figure out what it wasn’t.

Yesterday’s event was not for football fans. Every fan wanted to know what their team’s “new” uniforms looked like. Nike only showed one combination for each team. Of course, the reason for that is twofold.

1) With 32 teams and multiple jersey/pants combos for each team, there are simply too many combos to show in-person (the Rams have seven combos which they regularly trot out, for example), but even the Nike website and store show only the primary/color jersey for each. OK, maybe the merchandise/material isn’t available yet (these are two of the largest brands in the world, get your stuff together), but computer renderings could have been made for publishing on the Internet, a la an official style guide. Oddly, there are some substantial uniform updates for 2012 which weren’t even mentioned on the 3rd. The Jaguars will be adding a black alternate to their current set for the 2012 season, so there could be other notable updates for which teams want to control the release as opposed to Nike or the NFL.

2) There was nothing “new” about the uniforms from a fan’s perspective (other than for Seahawks fans, of course). If recaps of the event included lines like, “And after showing the Rams 5th effectively unchanged combination of 7, this reporter’s eyes began glazing over,” it’d ruin the coverage. Instead, we get reporting(?) on how these uniforms will “usher in [a] new era of sportswear” (note: they won’t).

Yesterday’s event was not for the NFL. The event was a Nike commercial where they could push their brand values of performance, etc. in exchange for the $1.1billion they (reportedly) spent for the NFL license. That’s all well and good (capitalism!), but that’s all it was. Fans don’t care that the new fabric is however many percent lighter or better at wicking moisture (unless they’re materials science engineers). It’s simply means to an end for associating all of Nike’s products with “faster, lighter, stronger.” Again, that’s fine, but the “new” uniforms aren’t a big deal to anyone other than Nike (or Seahawks fans). To talk about this “changing everything” or “the game never being the same”…geez, slow down, Nike.

Speaking of the Seahawks and their new design… they actually did post a complete set of pictures showing all combinations. Generally, the new uniform is an evolution of the current design, not a throwback-inspired 0r clean sheet redesign (don’t tell Nike that). They did add a grey alternate jersey (as well as pants), but the Seahawks generally wore monochrome White or Blue in the last few years in the current uniform, so let’s see if the actually exercise all of their combinations. BUT, with 3 pants and 3 jerseys, that’s 9 combos, so we could see an Oregon-typeeffect where they’re in something different almost every week (though the alternate is worn at most twice a year per NFL rules), especially if Nike pushes for it (and they probably will – fans seem generally supportive of Oregon’s non-uniform uniforms. For the record, I actually like the Oregon uniforms, though I wouldn’t mind if they stuck to an NFL-like Color/Home/Alternate, but I guess I’m old-fashioned. Note: this is slightly sarcasm. The NFL didn’t have predictable alternates until 2002.) The new Seahawks uniform is not awful, but in terms of emotional statements that can’t easily be refuted, it doesn’t look like an NFL uniform. In some big picture (let’s say 10+ years), it will look as dated as the current Bengals set, which was also a “product of the [2004] times” type of design, lots of black, inexplicable paneling, non-white monochrome combinations, you name it.

My prediction (UniDiction?) for the Seahawks is that the trendy grey alternate will survive for three or four seasons, then be replaced with a throwback from this style (or similar), which will  become a fan favorite and eventually replace the “this smells like 2012″ design that was unveiled today. (note: if the Seahawks somehow become a dynasty in the next few years, fans will latch onto the new 2012 design, similar to how Boston fans like the generally ugly Patriots uniforms in which they won all those Super Bowls. Note: The Seahawks are not going to become a dynasty.)

And a quick word about the grey alternates: this was obviously a push from Nike to which the Seahawks did not say “no.” I say “obviously” because it’s the new “trend” color Nike’s been pushing. Look at this year’s special NCAA basketball uniforms… all made by Nike. Look at their Lunaracer sneaker. Look at the Kentucky NCAA Basketball Championship gear (made by Nike – you’d think Kentucky’s color was blue. Hmm…) This fad will die, and someone in the Seahawks marketing department will say, “Wait a minute. These grey jerseys and pants just look like slightly dirty versions of the white uniforms.” Really. Look at the grey over white combo. There’s so little contrast that it’s useless. There is no reason for this to exist other than Nike’s push for grey to be the next big thing, like the late 90s/early 00s black boom (which is beginning to finally fade away, though maybe just “fading” to grey…)

And finally, another pattern seen on the new Nike uniforms is the swapping of grey for silver for some teams. Nike claims this is due to limitations of the new fabric, but, not so coincidentally, look at Nike’s high profile “Pro Combat” NCAA uniforms. Nike loves matte colors. Not to get all conspiracy theory-ish, but if they’re billing the new fabric as the greatest thing ever, they couldn’t have figured out a way to keep the Patriots and Lions in silver instead of matte grey? (It looks like the Raiders are still in silver, so…conspiracy!)

On top of both of those reasons, grey has no place on a sports uniform other than “away” uniforms for baseball teams. It’s why I always complain when the Eagles play the Giants, and that’s not coming from a place of Giants-hate, if they wore white pants, I wouldn’t complain as loudly.

During an odd time in last year’s Eagles season, Kyle wrote a multi-step plan for how to fix the Eagles, one of which included the uniforms. In the next week or so, I’ll be looking at a few strategies for how that could’ve/should’ve taken place, and what changes would have helped the Eagles’ look

½

UniDiction 2011: Week 17 – Eagles vs. Redskins and Week 16 Round-Up

Follow me on twitter for a variety of uniform related updates during today’s NFL games (@dancfuller).

Week17
Click to enlarge.

First off, Happy New Year! What’s even less inconsequential than a regular unidiction? One for a game taking place after the Eagles have been mathematically elimated from the playoffs! (OK, let me first brag about predicting last week’s Eagles win, then move on to the round-up and this week’s unidiction.)

Week 16 Round-Up

Orange_black_1Orange_white_4Actually, last week was a little more eventful than was expected. The Bengals wore their orange alternates over their white pants, keeping the everyone safe another year from  the “world’s worst Halloween costume” orange over black combo (last seen in 2005, so consider that one likely retired). The Bengals get A LOT of hate from the internet sports uniform community (yep, it’s  a thing), but their whole get-up is just uncaringly, unredeemingly goofy, and, especially in orange, it just works in it’s own, well, goofy way.

Purple_black_7

Though it’s not an alternate jersey, the  Ravens paired their (normal) purple jersey with their black pants, something they did in 1996, then out that combo in their current uniform set for one game last year. It’s a great trivia answer, but it’s an awful uniform combination. It combines the issues of dark/black pants which don’t have any contrasting features (off-color socks, stripes, etc.) with a dark jersey. It’s all the issues of the Seahawks standard monochrome blue uniforms made even worse due to the black/purple combo. Blech.

 

Your Week 17 UniDiction (Eagles, Redskins – for bragging rights only!) is after the jump. 

Week 17 UniDiction – Eagles vs. Redskins

The Redskins have deceptively nice uniforms. I say “deceptively” because they’re almost always forgotten in “best of” lists because they’re neither stuck in an “old timey” football aesthetic (Colts, Browns) nor do they have a whole “heritage of winning” in a specific uniform set (Packers). They’ve just been quietly wearing one of the best uniforms in the leage for a while. Last year, they added yellow pants, solidifying their status as having one of the best looks in the league.

[note: I apparently can’t read a football schedule, and I thought they were playing in Washington. Oh well, I like the graphic I put together, so I’ll go with it…] The Redskins usually pair their yellow pants with the maroon jersey at home, but they don’t always. There seems to be neither rhyme nor reason, so I’m assuming they’re going with their best combo, maroon over yellow. I’m feeling particularly spiteful, so I was harsher than usual on their helmet and intangibles this week.

Being that the Redskins are actually visiting and in white over maroon, let’s call that combo…18 points. Not loving the dark pants, but still a good look, better than white over yellow.

Week17
The Eagles will be in their best combo, “midnight” green over white (OK, so the Eagles only have two possible regular season combos this year, but it’s obviously the best one). Let’s say it’s worth 22 points.

EAGLES 22

REDSKINS 18

Relevant Redskins-related Uniform Trivia

  • Yellow pants have come and gone (mostly “gone” during the lifespans of the majority of the readers of this site) throughout the Redskins uniform history.
  • In my picture above, I called out the “double headdress” effect on the helmet. I think that’s a product of keeping the ’70-71 helmet logo motif, but adding the head for the ’72 uniform update.
  • They were generally a White at Home team until they added the yellow pants in 2010. Since then, they’ve exclusively worn their maroon jerseys at home.
  • The maroon color is called “burgundy” by the team. Too bad. It’s not burgundy. It’s maroon.
  • Same as previous except “gold” is actually yellow.
  • The addition of the yellow pants in 2010 (temporarily?) retired the great white over white combo. (and also the not-so-great maroon over maroon combo).
  • Each pair of pants has its own, unique socks.

This is the last UniDiction of the season! Look for a 2011 baseball uniform/logo round-up sometime during Spring Training, as well as write-ups if anything else noteworthy from a uniform perspective pops up in Philadelphia.

ALSO — remember, I already did a lengthy review of tomorrow’s Flyers Winter Classic jerseys.

UniDiction 2011: Week 16 – Eagles vs. Cowboys and Week 15 Round-Up

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Again, the Eagles one, I won. Good deal.

Week 15 Round-Up

Throwback_7A little more uniform action in Week 15 than we’ve seen in a while. The Chargers wore their powder blue throwbacks, which are better than the normal Chargers uniforms, but like some of the other (loud) throwbacks (Bucs, I’m looking at you), they’re best as a “two games per year” sort of combo.

Red_red_2The Cardinals wore solid red again (three weeks in a row). Repeating myself, these look awful, though the red pants mean that the rare, trivia-riffic white over red combo may yet make an appearance.

 

Throwback_2Finally, the Rams, the team with a bajillion uniform combos (and that actually pretty much all of them, unlike the Titans), brought out their throwbacks last week. They’re nice, but loud enough that they’re best as a (say it with me) “twice a year kind of alternate.”

 

Week 16 UniDiction – Cowboys vs. Eagles

Of course, this game will be visual deja vu to week 8, as the Cowboys are a White at Home team. Of course, I hadn’t unveiled my snazzy new UniDiction format back then, so I’ll let the picture speak for itself. Even though I dislike (hate?) the Cowboys, I have to begrudgingly admit their uniforms are pretty nice.

Week16

Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that the Cowboys blue uniform set is almost completely incongruous with their normal white uniform set, and I’ll gladly point out the issues at great detail below.

Comparison

The Eagles will be in their best combo, green over white, which is a 22 point sort of uniform.

I’ll also point out that games like this are the reason it’s stupid that the Eagles chose not to wear an alternate jersey this year (whether black or last year’s throwback). It’s like they’re not interested in making money.

Predicted Score

Cowboys 18

Eagles 22

Merry Christmas! (for the record, I’m not above commentary on Santa Claus’ uniform if there’s a desire from the readership….ha!)

****

A pretty good-looking football game, as usual between these teams.

telling you what to think since aught-five.