Calling Out Northwestern on National TV

It’s not often that colleges get called out negatively on TV. Usually, writers namedrop the college they attended in passing: “These guys were frat brothers of mine from my time at Northwestern” (a sort of quote from an episode of Andy Richter Controls the Universe); it’s not really an endorsement, but it is a type of plug, I guess the screenplayer writer‘s to hanging one’s diploma on the wall at work. Anyway, aside from some Simpsons jokes making fun of Yale (because there was a time when many of the Simpsons writers had come from Harvard), college namedrops are neutral at worst.

NU
Hollywood doesn’t like you!

But, when watching tonight’s episode of “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip“, the following dialogue was exchanged:
note, this is more of an “I think this is what they said” than a pure transcription

Matthew Perry’s Character: I’ll write you a letter of recommendation.
Bradley Whitford’s Character: Speaking of which, against my better advice, my nephew is applying to Northwestern, and he needs a letter of recommendation, too.

Not that big a deal, I know, but in a way, my non-donating-alumnus status just got a high five from Hollywood! Now, I guess it could be rationalized away by the writers by saying, they were getting at: “there are better such and such programs at some other college than Northwestern,” but I feel like I’m part of higher educational history: The first(?) prime time dis’.

****½

Calling Out Northwestern on National TV gets four-and-a-half stars for being the first negative namedrop of a college, with that 1/2 being deducted for the episode of “Studio 60…” being a perfect example of everything that’s right and everything that’s wrong with the show. *note: I don’t really have any negative feelings towards Northwestern or anything like that, but considering how rarely it’s brought up in pop culture, the fact that it was a negative (or pushing towards negative from neutral, at best) mention makes it quite newsworthy.

16 Favorite TV Moments of the Year


“Remember the time when somebody put a big yellow bullseye in the middle of our living room?”

Alton Brown’s Feasting on Asphalt– Alton Brown is a certifiable genius. Just watch any episode of Good Eats . I feel smarter every time I watch his show, so to combine that knowledge with a wonderfully-shot and incredibly interesting motorcycle trek across the backroads of America in search of local specialties is extremely compelling, especially in the last episode when Brown suffers a broken collarbone in a nasty wipeout in the Nevada desert.

Craig Ferguson interviews Lauren Graham ” I’ve lost my love for Conan O’Brien’s show for some reason. Not that it’s not a good show, I just can’t take it every night of the week. He just seems too wooden and it’s like he’s always forcing his conversations with the guests. Craig Ferguson however is naturally funny and conversational, even if nowhere near as slickly-produced. The opening monologues are probably the most obvious example of the difference, with Ferguson’s stream of consciousness rant, as opposed to Conan’s formulaic one line setup followed by one line punchline. Anyway, this interview is the best example I’ve seen of why Ferguson ‘s show has become more entertaining, even if the production values are about one-tenth of Conan’s.

Tim Russert interviews Barrack Obama on “The Tim Russert Show”” An hour and a half with the biggest “rock star” in politics, and probably the most universally admired since Kennedy (maybe?)” interviewed by Tim Russert? How can it go wrong?

Red Sox win the World Series on LOST– With all the Red Sox won the World Series. Way back in the first season, Jack had explained that his dad had always said the Red Sox would never win a championship, as a way of saying that things could never change because fate ruled everything. Henry knew Jack wouldn’t believe him, so he played the footage of Joe Buck calling the last out of the final game. In addition to proving that the “others” have contact with the outside world, this is incredibly important as to Jack’s outlook on the world, and watching this magical sports moment (one from another network, no less) again just gave me goosebumps.

Edgar Dies on 24– In a year where killing off characters for ratings has become vogue (something that 24 managed to do countless times), this one is probably the second most shocking and well-done. (no, I’m not talking about the LOST deaths, see below). Granted, the guy who played Edgar had a clunky acting style, but the network handled it without blowing the surprise (something that promotions departments have forgotten how to do lately…. cough, cough, Heroes…cough), and it was emotionally resonant. The problem with it, like with all things that happen on 24, is that four weeks later in our time, it’s only four hours later on the show, and while we’ve totally put the death behind us, the people on the show shouldn’t have, but do, even though it’s not realistic”. Not that anything else on the show is realistic.

Zayra Performs on Rockstar:Supernova– I couldn’t decide whether to put this in the good section or the bad one, so I did both. I wrote about her in my review of Rockstar:Supernova, and placed video links in my worst 15 moments list. Just incredibly strange, yet compelling television.

Claire wakes up on the morgue table on Heroes– On a show known for its shocking endings, this was the best. A character who can heal herself fell and landed on some spike or something, and died temporarily. At the end of the episode, somebody takes the spike out of her head and walks away. Her eyes open up and the camera pulls out to reveal that she’s on the autopsy table with her chest cavity wide open. Great visual, and stunning end to an otherwise mediocre episode.

The Office- Jim kisses PamAfter more than a year of building to it, it was the moment we all were waiting for. This season, however, even though they handled the post-kiss stuff well, I find myself rooting for the other girl instead of Pam.

Lem Dies on The Shield– the single best death on TV this year. Hands down. Under investigation by the Internal Affairs Dept. and the crazy/awesome Forest Whittaker, one of Michael Chiklis’ team members goes into hiding, and eventually meets his tragic end. I won’t spoil how, but suffice it to say, Vic Mackey is gonna be on a rampage this season.

Colbert interviews Washington D.C. representative– Stephen Colbert interviews the D.C. congressional representative and proceeds to tell her that D.C. doesn’t count because it’s the United STATES of America . This segment is a fantastic example of how quick and brilliant Colbert is, and what makes this show so great.

30 Days goes to Mexico and India– The only socially conscious reality show out there (I don’t give credence to the manipulative Extreme Makeover: Home Edition), one episode had a border patrolling minuteman live with a family of immigrants. At one point he went to Mexico , to see where the family “lived” before they moved. Neither side was unlikable, and they both learned from each other and created a fantastic friendship. In another episode, a laid-off telemarketer travels to India to work there for a month. What makes this episode so unique is that they were there during the riots that ensued when an extremely popular actor died, a big story that nobody reported here in the states.

Fear Factor is cancelled ” the most despicable show on TV (aside from Nancy Grace) finally saw the end of its run. Don’t fear, you fans of people eating horse anuses; you can still watch it in syndication somewhere.

Bill O’Reilly town hall on Oprah-It’s interesting to see Bill O’Reilly in an environment where he’s not just yelling at everyone, and where people aren’t rightfully attacking him. Intelligent discourse is absent from his FOX NEWS show, and he’s always calm and on the defensive when on Letterman, but can barely get a word in edgewise. When put in a townhall setting on Oprah (there were actually men in the audience), he actually had a few valid points, as did the audience members who disagreed, but most of the time it didn’t devolve to a shouting match. I think that’s because when he’s out of his element (“on the attack” on his show) he knows that the best way to come out of an interview is to be low-key and let the other people look like idiots for their unwavering attacks on him. He’s still a blowhard and sees everything in black-and-white, but it was actually interesting to see people in her audience (and not elite and/or trailertrash white people) agreeing and defending him against others in intelligent ways.

Scrubs”- “My Lunch I was gonna put the “Mac Bangs Dennis’ Mom” episode of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”, but then I remembered that my favorite episode of “Scrubs” aired this year. As a testament to how good this episode was, it has the highest amount of reviews of any “Scrubs” episode, on tv.com, and the second highest overall rating. The end of this episode just floored me, and it makes me wonder even more how John C. McGinley has never gotten ANY award nominations for the show.

Grammy Performances– Absolutely stunning performances at this years Grammys. From a brooding Springsteen, to Mary J. Blige somehow upstaging Bono in their duet, to Christina Aguelera proving why Britney will never be number one, the Grammy Awards managed to deliver the musical moments once again”. If we forget the awkwardness of seeing Paul McCartney perform with Linkin Park and Jay-Z.

South Park Cartoon Wars– South Park shows why it’s the best and smartest animated program on TV. In a forty-minute span, the show takes on Family Guy’s writing, the Muslims who got pissed off at those cartoons from Denmark, the people who got pissed off at the Terrence and Phillip special from 1998, the networks’ refusal to air anything that might offend somebody, the Hollywood types, the people who like family guy, and the fact that Bart Simpson used to be considered “edgy”. And they do it all with a completely organic story, and characters that react as they normally would in the situation. Oh” and manatees.

15 Least Favorite TV Moments of the Year

The first in a series of end of the year lists. Sorry for no star ratings, but all of these would fall between zero and one star.


“Are you aware that we have a sketch about Commedia dell’arte?”
“Sure. I love the works of Moliere and his contemporaries”
“Since most of them aren’t familiar with 17th Century French theatre, we should maybe do something our audience might actually enjoy, or find funny?”
“It’s Italian, and you know, you should really stop dangling your modifiers like that”
“HAHAHAHAHAHA. You’re an hilarious writer who is a thinly veiled representation of our show’s creator.”
“God I hate reality shows.”

Runners up:

Fox cancels ‘Arrested Development’
– Granted the ratings were bad, and viewership was leaking due to mishandled promotions/timeslots and the overall nature of the show, but it was still sad to see it go.

Oprah making a big deal over the fact that that guy’s memoir wasn’t real, even though it still was an inspirational story.

Megan Mullally upstages Meat Loaf – Megan Mullally has a talk show… a really annoying one, and when Meat Loaf came on to perform from ‘Bat Out of Hell 3’, she had to jump in and sing the last part of “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” with him. If it was anyone else, it might not have seemed that bad, but she did it in a way that screamed “it’s all about me!”. Talk shows should be about making your guest look interesting, not feeding your huge ego. It just came off as incredibly awkward.

The finalists… in no particular order.

‘My Super Sweet 16’– The new king of hated television. Why should I watch rich, obnoxious people demand things of their parents in a manner worse than Veruca Salt? Because I’m supposed to root against them? It doesn’t seem that way, instead encouraging kids to be ungrateful and rude.

Nancy Grace– Any single show will do, but I’d go with the one where she accused someone of killing their own child during an interview (Nancy accused her during the interview; she didn’t kill the kid during it), leading the woman to shoot herself. Way to go Nancy . You inadvertently killed someone.

Gwen Stefani performs at A.M.A.s ” From the moment they said she would be debuting her new hit, I knew there was gonna be trouble. Sure enough, there was yodeling, there were Asian girls in lederhosen with blonde wigs, there were sheep. Completely strange, and completely awful.

Chevy Chase on ‘Law and Order’ RIPPED FROM THE HEADLINES!! Chevy Chase plays a washed-up star of some sort who gets arrested for killing a Jewish person. The writing is awful, the story was awful, and even the acting was atrocious. Not only that but it made the Mel Gibson story out to be a lot more than it actually was.

Connie Chung Goodbye Song– Connie Chung and Maury Povich apparently had a show together. Take a guess how long it lasted. On her last show, she got up on top of a piano like a lounge singer and began to wail (and I mean wail) out a rendition of ‘thanks for the memories’. It became a moderate internet phenomenon because of how awful it was.

Any episode of ‘The War At Home’
– Just plain awful” they took Arrested Development off for this?

Roger Daltry as the Makeup Killer on ‘CSI’– On thanksgiving night, I watched CSI for the first” and hopefully last, time. Roger Daltry played a mobster who these four guys thought was dead. Then years later he got his revenge on them by dressing up in fat suits and disguising himself as women in order to kill them. Not sure why one of the greatest frontmen in rock history would decide to do this, but I guess the royalty checks he gets for them using his songs is probably a good bet.

‘Celebrity Duets’– Take ‘Dancing with the Stars’ and mix it with ‘American Idol’. What do you get? This craptacular hour of awful celebs singing awfully was thankfully over after only a few weeks. I guess that’s what you get when your judges are Marie Osmond and Little Richard

Tony dies on ’24’– Unlike Edgar’s death, this one was handled incredibly poorly. Tony was the only character besides Jack Bauer left from the first season. He was universally loved by this point, as Jack’s right-hand-man. He spent half the season unconscious and then he gets up to try and kill the man who killed his wife. He lets up for national security reasons, and gets stabbed with a hypodermic needle of death. He falls over dead, and nobody mentions him ever again. Completely unnecessary, not as dramatic as it should’ve been, and ambiguous to the point where the audience doesn’t even think he’s dead. Why keep him alive but unconscious for all those episodes if you’re just going to kill him as soon as he wakes up?

Zayra on ‘Rockstar: Supernova’
” Strange vocals from someone who wants to be a rock star. I can’t believe the producers picked her over someone more qualified, even though she makes for great, yet horrible TV.

‘Studio 60’ tells us we’re idiots
” It seems like every week, ‘Studio 60’ is talking down to the mainstream public and treating Hollywood like the be-all-and end-all of civilization. I’ve been to California . People there aren’t all that smart.

Dane Cook returns to ‘SNL’
– If you didn’t think his first time (a mere months earlier) hosting the show was funny, you won’t be surprised at the results of this show. Another long “stand-up” set as his monologue, more gay voices, and one of the worst sketches I’ve ever seen. It went so far as to try to explain away it’s awfulness at the end, with a self-aware “lantern“, but that’s like using a suction pump to stop the bleeding.

‘Seventh Heaven’ returns from the dead
– it was finally cancelled. That awful show about the perfect and huge family with a one-parent income”. Until the CW executives saw the ratings for the series finale. Now, with almost the entire original cast having moved on, the Camdens have 4 random street-teens living with them for some reason. Just have the second series finale already.

WWE; Degeneration X drops feces on the McMahons– Wrestling fans have dealt with a lot of crap (no pun intended): The Katie Vick Story, The Gay Wedding Story, Al Wilson, Eugene, Paternity in a suitcase Ladder Match” but dumping a pile of feces on the boss’ family tops everything. When people ask me how I can defend that, I have no answer.

‘High School Musical’– The biggest phenomenon in all of TV this year saw awful acting and writing manage to hypnotize “tweens” everywhere into making the soundtrack the year’s top-selling CD. Every time it airs, it’s in the top 20 cable shows of the week, even though these people have seen it 20 times each.

The Concept of Prehistoric Park

This might be my last traditional review of the year, considering we’re nearing the end of 2006. In this last month of the year, everybody likes to see best and worst of the year lists, so be prepared to be bombarded with those for the next few weeks, culminating with my Top 10 Lists of the Year. Ooooh meta-humor.


Ahhh the good old days when TV about Dinosaurs was relegated to them hitting each other with frying pans. If only Prehistoric Park had a little more of that.

Imagine, if you will, if Jurassic Park were a TV show. Wouldn’t that be exciting? Dinosaurs running around, tearing up each other and people, and all kinds of exciting action week after week. You could have park rangers dealing with all of the problems of running a park for dinosaurs, getting eaten while trying to feed them. I can’t really think of any good storylines, but this is dinosaurs and people in the same environment! This is like the holy grail of excitement… unless you count the Flintstones, and that horrible movie “Carnosaur“… god that was bad

So when I heard about this show, Prehistoric Park, that’s on Animal Planet (originally, it was made for British television, but I would bet that they had a deal with American TV before it was made for funding purposes), I just had to check it out. I was completely let down. There I am with my bowl of popcorn and my dino-pajamas, waiting to see an action-packed hour of dino-tainment, and I’m bored to tears. Why?

Well, “Prehistoric Park” is a documentary about an animal preserve where the curator goes back in time through some sort of timecube or stargate:atlantis or something and brings the dinosaurs back to his park, where he doesn’t do anything except keep them in pens and watch their health. That’s not entirely true. The last episode had a large “plot” involving saber-toothed tiger husbandry. You heard me. As a documentary on this completely real place, and the fact that it’s been made for educational purposes, obviously the main point is to tell us all about the behavior of these dinosaurs and how to medically and behaviorally care for them. And that’s about as exciting, as say, a documentary on real tiger husbandry, and who would really care about that?

I’ve boiled the conceptual problems down to three areas: First of all, since this park is entirely real (it is a documentary after all) are we to believe that these people have never seen or heard of Jurassic Park? You would think that if you were planning a dinosaur island theme park, Jurassic Park would probably be the first place you would look to do research. And you would realize that no matter how safely you think your T-Rex is kept, it’s not. Rule number 1 about having an island dinosaur preserve” No T-Rexes. Even if you have your giant electrical fences or in the case of Prehistoric Park, just giant wooden fences,he T-Rex is gonna get out. If we learned one thing from “The Lost World“, it’s that San Diego is not prepared for a T-Rex attack. (granted, that was pre-9/11, but I seriously doubt that the D.H.S. has a plan for dinosaur attacks). I understand that it’s very unlikely and that The Lost World was a movie, but this is a documentary, so you’d think these Palienticians would be more responsible. They’re just as bad as Cartographers

Secondly, haven’t they ever seen a time-travel movie? In fact there was one that came out about a year or so ago called “A Sound of Thunder” that dealt specifically to going back to the time of dinosaurs and hunting them. When the wrong ones ended up shot, the future (present) was entirely changed. Who knows, they could be abducting the dinosaur that brought their great-great-great etc grandparents together creating a eggs. Everything in this show is presented so seriously that we automatically take every single word for fact. It’s like if the croc hunter went after velociraptors instead of stingrays”. well the result would still be the same either way. Anyway, they could really tell us anything about dinosaurs (say they all wore blue hats, drank horse urine, and were the largest exporter of human pubis in the world) and we’d believe them.

I always liked learning about dinosaurs because there were so many different kinds, all with their own special features and fighting styles. I wanted to see them fight each other and stuff like all kids do. This show totally de-mystifies the whole dinosaur idea, basically showing us the medical side of running a dinosaur theme park, and unless you’re one of the few people who are interested in paleo-veteranary-zoology you’ll be as completely bored as I was.

*
The concept of “Prehistoric Park” gets one star due to having a good idea to start off with and completely wasting it. This show is like watching people oil and polish Transformers instead of letting them do what they do best: shoot laser beams.

The Promotion of ‘Borat:Cultural Learnings of Ame’rica for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan’


Maybe this ridiculous outfit is what I need to get the womens. High Five!

This guy is everywhere! I mean it. I mean it. Not just the ubiquitous ads for the movie, either. He may very well be the first person I’ve seen promoting one thing on Letterman, Leno, Conan, and The Daily Show, and a half-hour appearance in Opie and Anthony, in less than two weeks. And not only has the actor, Sacha Baron Cohen, been on all of them, he’s been on all of the as Borat, and done so in multiple segments on at least two of them. On Leno, he made a bed with Martha Stewart, and on Conan, he chased Conan around the stage with a pair of scissors, followed by one of the most bizarre musical performances I’ve seen on his show. In all four appearances the interview topics were different and fresh. Here’s a compendium of all of the media appearances. The guy even had a “float” in the NY Halloween parade, which is basically just a costume showcase and giant party. The “float” consisted of about 20 Borat impersonators. Completely ludicrous. I’m sure he’s got a myspace thing going as well. I have never seen an ad campaign for a film that was so in your face. The thing is, the movie was so inexpensive that it made up its cost in the first week. They can throw all kinds of money into the advertising, and it’ll still come out on top. And it’s an hilarious movie to boot. Congrats on getting everyone in the country’s attention.

*****

There isn’t a person in the country who doesn’t know about this movie. I’m nearly certain. Five stars.

Putting Things on Notice


I’m calling you out, Andy Dick!

I read on a semi-well-known TV blog that this guy created an internet page that generated Stephen Colbet-style “On Notice” lists. All you have to do is type in whatever you want to put on notice, hit a button and a picture will be generated that you’ll be able to save. Not sure why you’d really want to save it; perhaps to post on your blog review site, or maybe just to show it to your friends.

Now don’t get me wrong; I think the application created to do this with is pretty cool, and I like Colbert’s list and the general idea of it, but I’m not quite sold on people creating their own lists. Stephen Colbert has a national show where showing off this list of things he’s upset with will reach a wide audience. The only thing that making a list for yourself accomplishes is the sense that you now know where things stand, as in you have a concrete ranking of what you hate most, and in what order. Maybe your friends might appreciate it and you’ll all get a laugh out of it. But it won’t make a difference in the real world, and you’ll only be left with the comfort of knowing that you complained about something, even though you did it to no one in particular. Kind of like bloggers. In fact, if I had another spot, I’d throw bloggers on there as well.

The whole “not being seen by anyone” thing is sort of worked around by being able to see on the site, the last 100 lists that were made. Of course, half the time, the people don’t fill in all the boxes and many of them are just the defaults, and a lot of the lists are just excuses to throw profanity out there, but sometimes there are some good ones, like “planes without snakes”, the WNBA, Billy Bush, Cut-off shorts, and strangely enough, Charlie Dent.


Just for good measure. By the by, don’t you hate pants?

***
Three stars for idea and execution. Minus 2 stars for a lack of real purpose, including the usual internet “busying yourself” excuse. I do invite readers to create their own lists and post them for my viewing pleasure, even if it’s not in picture form.

“Rewriting History”, or “Pluto no longer a planet and Yogi stops smoking”

048_PFD530~Society-Dog-Show-1939-Mickey-and-Pluto-Disney-Posters.jpg
Just when you though I wouldn’t be able to find a picture to go with these two topics…. BAM!

A few days ago I read that Turner is going back through their catalogue of old Hanna Barbara cartoons to remove all intimations of smoking. First of all, I’m not really sure how they’re going to do this. I undestand that if they can take the cops’ guns away in ET and replace them with walkie talkies, they can pretty much do anything, and with 5 color animations they can do it easier I’d assume. But the question isn’t the technical ability. The question is the context of the situations and how they’re going to make them make sense to people. Granted there is a valid point with making sure that kids aren’t starting to smoke because they see Quickdraw McGraw or Snagglepuss doing it. After all, I’m sure the only reason that kids buy Fruity Pebbles is because Fred Flintstone does, right? But should the works of the past be censored because of semi-questionable content? Disney will NEVER let Song of the South see the light of day because of some supposed racial issues with the movie. But how are we supposed to remember what things were like when these cartoons were made, unless we’re able to see them. Being a gatekeeper is one thing, but erasing history is another. And who are all these kids who are watching Hanna Barbara cartoons anyway? It’s not like you can even watch these cartoons unless you have the Boomerang channel which may not even exist anymore. Kids today are more interested in watching fake anime and Pokeymans than anything else. Where are the robots that change into things? Or the magical cats from far off planets? I’m getting away from my point.

Today they discovered that Pluto isn’t a planet. Once and for all. The thing is, these are planetarians saying this. I would expect these sort of mistakes from a cartographer (the study of uncharted lands), but these people are studying something more important, the whole solar system. What are we all supposed to do? Go back to the science books that we had during that brief period when Pluto wasn’t a planet last time? Actually, knowing my school district, they probably still use those books. Next thing you know, we’re going to be told we never had to wear those stupid glasses to look at an eclipse… like these “cool kids“. Seriously, I could understand the decision if it really meant something. But what’s the point of this change, except to make trouble for anyone who’s ever learned that Pluto is a planet. Whoever was pushing for this is on notice!

People should really worry about changing things that matter to the masses, or will cause trouble if they’re not changed. In the case of the cartoons, censoring for kids is one thing, but not allowing people to ever see these cartoons the way they were originally made is a disservice to the people who made them in the first place. Kids should listen to their parents and not cartoons anyway.

Rockstar: Season 2

This one may balloon to huge proportions again like the season 2 LOST review. That being said, I’m officially starting it on Friday August 18th… we’ll see how long it takes to finish.


One of the contestants on the show is named “Storm Large”. The one night after she performed, Tommy Lee said “I’d like to see more of you”, and she suggested an internet search. I did and this is what I got.

I’m not so much the fan of “reality TV”. Call me a TV snob, but I find the amount of manipulation in the genre to be completely too much. Manipulation of people to do certain things. Manipulation of actual events to make things look a certain way. Manipulation of audience emotions to make us feel empathetic or hateful. Certain people who are even more cynical than I am about such things might say that all of these manipulations are used in any sort of narrative/fiction work, and so therefore I shouldn’t be complaining, because nearly all of my favorite shows are fictional. The difference here is the illusion of reality that exists in the non-fiction genre. Shows like Laguna Beach, Survivor, Big Brother, and yes, even “The Real World”, all have producers influencing actions of characters, the editing of actions to portray people in a certain light, and of course the casting of people to fill certain roles on the show… because without an antagonist, there’s no drama, and without drama, there’s no point. And they manage it by making us believe that these are people without outside influence… as they really are.

Of course in competition reality shows, usually that antagonist comes in the form of a person who isn’t performing upto the standards set by the other competitors, but miraculously does not get voted off, with a much more solid competitor taking that bottom spot. Then there’s always a big “shock” when a popular contestant gets kicked off (once a year without fail), and somehow the one we all seem to hate stays on for another week, until finally they get shelved and we all rejoice.

Where am I going with this? I’m still gonna need another paragraph to get there. You see, I always hated American Idol. HATED it. Even when I was forced to live with it at work every single day of the week. That might’ve actually made me hate it more. The next January though, I was among a high concentration of people who wanted to watch the audition episodes. I knew where it was going to go. A slew of bad singers hoping to be the next William Hung were going to come on and be completely oblivious to their lack of talent and then be exploited to sell advertising space. AHH America! What I never realized though, was that these horrible singers were actually selling the remainder of the season. Sprinkled in with the talentless souls are a handful of people who are either gorgeous and good singers, or they’re unattractive but have overcome obstacles in order to be able to sing the way they do. And while you think they’re just telling you more about the person, they’re filling your head with sympathy or lust. And that’s where they hook you. The personalities. American Idol is a personality contest as much, if not more than it is a singing contest, with terribly bland arrangements, stiff contestants who are oftentimes “pitchy”, and don’t really know how to entertain a crowd for the most part. And product placement. Lots of product placement. Of course I fell into the trap, but I thought I was being anti-Idol by rooting for the completely awesome Bo Bice (still the best contestant they’ve ever had on the show). “The Man” still won though, because by being the provider of such “anti-Idol” material, they got me to watch it. CURSE THEM!

I realized that American Idol was like that terrible contestant who nobody seemed to dislike enough to get kicked off. It’s flashy, attractive and diverse/bland enough for EVERYBODY to like something about it. The problem is that it’s not good. But last year after Idol’s season ended I found a show on CBS that did everything that Idol did, nearly five times better, but nobody really knew about.

Rockstar: INXS was a talent competition to find a new lead singer for the band INXS, probably unknown to most people my age. The show had incredible production design, better camerawork, better direction, better judges, a much much better results show, a phenominal house band, better arrangements week after week, and at least six singers that probably could’ve won Idol. In fact, the top six contestants were so uniquely awesome that any one of them could’ve had a successful solo career had people actually watched the show. There was half-hour backstage episode every week that took a look at the personal interactions of the contestants, challenges and sort of rockstar-seminar things, and song selection/arrangement, which was a very interesting supplement, but got moved to VH1 because of bad ratings. Also, the show had Brooke Burke wearing conveniently revealing outfits. And it was all on during the summer, when nothing else is on. What more could you ask for?

Season 2 definitely has a different feel, and for good reason. The contestants are auditioning for a different band, a new band without any released material, and without a former lead singer. Called Supernova consists of Tommy Lee, former Metallica bassist Jason Newsted, and former Guns N’ Roses guitarist Gilby Clarke, who, like INXS in season one, serve as judge and executioner. I’m going to break this all down in good and bad as compared to last season.

First the good.
1. The judges are better than last year. Call me ignorant, but I never knew who INXS was, and I could never tell the band members apart when they were giving their comments to the singers. Not only does Supernova have members that stand out on their own, but are telegenic, and give really good advice much of the time. Of course Tommy Lee is gonna flirt with all the women, and there’s gonna be all sorts of innuendo, but there’s also genuinely constructive criticism.

2. The shows use of alternative media is staggering. They took the backstage show off the air, and put it where people who really would make the effort to watch it have the ability to watch it… the internet. The show’s website has a plethora of activites and information, including “mix-tape” tracklist of contestants, band members, and the houseband’s favorite songs, which you can then buy from MSN.com’s service. You also can vote for your favorite performer online, as well as by phone. During this week, viewers were actually able to vote which songs contestants would sing, from a list of four per singer.

3. No INXS songs. Even though it served all of its purposes in season 1, I couldn’t help but be a bit bored by performances of these songs, mostly because I didn’t know them. I understand that this was partially done so I could get to know them, and that people who once liked INXS would probably like them, but I didn’t. Because Supernova doesn’t have any previously recorded songs, the people in the bottom three pick which songs they’re going to sing for survival. I’m not exactly sure at what point they pick their songs or rehearse with the house band, but it always comes off great.

4. Zayra Alverez. This woman could easily go under the “Bad” column, but I’m gonna count her as “so bad it’s good”. She’s not bad in a William Hung way though. Zayra is what Bjork would be if she were a Latin music performer. She obviously never stood a chance of becoming the lead singer for this band, yet she somehow managed to escape elimination twice… I think because the band thought she’d make good TV, and they knew they’d kick her off eventually. Watch for yourself here. The best ones are Razorblade, and 8675-309. Trust me when I tell you that you have never seen anything on TV like it. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing is up in the air, but at the very least, it’s incredibly compelling TV.

5. The job to be won is a much more difficult one. Becoming the new lead singer for INXS is tough, no doubt. But you’ve already been given a blueprint and a catalogue of songs to work with. Here, not only will you be creating your own original sound and direction for the band, but the winner is also going to have to hold his own with these three incredibly charismatic musicians, something that INXS didn’t have. Thus the competition is harder and therefore makes for better TV.

The Bad
1. Brooke Burke. I really hate to say it, cause she’s freakin gorgeous, but she’s got no personality this year. Not that she was amazing last year, but she had some life to her. This year, it’s like she forgot how to read over the summer, then started learning again, just in time for the new season. Complete lack of energy, enthusiasm, and sincerity. Come back old Brooke.

2. “ROCKER”. I hate this word. I hate hate hate hate hate this word. I hate the fact that it supposedly stands for individuality and anti-authority, but has become both a stereotype and a tool of the man. When American Idol took it and used it as their own word…. exclusively using it to refer to two or three people, rather than calling them singers, it got to me. It reminds me of how the wrestler A.J. Styles in TNA has to be referred to at all times as “The Phenominal” A.J. styles. Or how wrestlers in WWE are ALWAYS referred to as “Superstars” and not wrestlers. Not only is it lumping all the singers into one stereotype, but they’re using the same word over and over again. I swear I heard the word “rocker” used 4 times in the first five minutes last week. Seriously, I know you’re trying to prove yourself as the anti-Idol, but get a damn thesaurus, and make the script sound a little more natural. Looking on the website, “Rockers” actually has a capital “R” because, obviously, it’s a proper noun.

3. The SAME songs. They have changed it up a bit, but for every “Zombie” by The Cranberries, there’s a “We are the Champions”. How many times must I hear “Creep”, or the four overplayed combined hits of Jefferson Airplane and Janis Joplin. Does Nirvana really deserve to have had eight performances of their songs? And if i have to hear Interstate Love Song, Bring Me to Life, or Cult of Personality one more time, I’m totally going to illegally download the Supernova CD instead of buying it. And I’ll convince all my friends to download it instead of buying it as well. That’ll show them. It’s just like stealing from them, but I deserve it for having to sit through repeats. Please, more songs like “Starman”, “One Headlight”, and “Helter Skelter”.

4. Tommy Lee acting like a sleazebag. I guess it’s hard for him not to, but come on. Grow up.

5. Dave hasn’t played guitar yet. Granted, there still four weeks to go I think, but it’s about time we see him show off his guitar chops and see if the singers can keep up.

6. Enough with the voting info. I understand the need to make it clear to the audience, but it’s way too much to give me the info 15 times in an hourlong show.

As far as contestants go, I’d say that last years group was stronger, but I can’t really remember anyone other than the top six. We’re still at seven right now, so I’m sure that with two more weeks of showing off and getting better, the top five could probably match last years top five. After all, I wasn’t the biggest fan of last years top two, instead liking 3rd-6th place a lot more. This year’s group is a little more hard-edge with the obligatory tatoos and piercings than last years was and that’s for good reason, because the band and its music is more that style. While Mig had last year’s breakout performance with this song, so far there have been at least two really memorable performances this one and this one, both by Ryan Star. His “smoldering intensity” might just be enough to get him to the finals, and as he’s due to sing an original song this week, we’ll see how far his skill set goes. Even if the top six aren’t better than last year, whoever makes the top three has the potential to surpass the IXS top three. It’s all a matter of whoever has the better single, which, in my opinion is why J.D. Fortune won last year.

***½

What I’ve seen of this year’s Rockstar: Supernova show gets a 3.5 star rating by showing constant improvement, a willingness to be different, and the potential to give the band a really tough choice when it comes to the top three. If only Brooke Burke would be able to stop using the word “Rocker”.

Empty Bookshelf’s First 100 Reviews


Oh, those kids. Always at it. You guys really shouldn’t’ve.

So here we are at the first of what may be a few reviews of our first milestone, 100 reviews. Not only is this the first review of this milestone, but of what could be very many milestones. We here at the Bookshelf like the word “milestone“, and don’t believe in Thesauruses. So here we go, our first hundred in a nutshell.

The first actual review happened way back in October of 2005… remember that time before the Steelers won the superbowl, before “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” movie, before Dick Cheny accidentally shot his friend while hunting, and before Bristol, United Kingdom celebrated the 200th birthday of Isambard Kingdom Brunel (actually April 9) by relighting the Clifton Suspension Bridge?

Dan’s first review was aimed at complaining about post-game hype surrounding an extremely long baseball game. Of course our readers probably care about boring Astros-Braves baseball games as much as they seemed to care about my terrible review of the dictionary. Even though that picture was good, it was nowhere near the five star quality of this image. I too tried my hand at reviewing food, but it was an utter failure. On the plus side, my review of the letter to the editor is one of my favorites, and my first review actually got eight comments, including this link. The few following that grilled chese review focused mostly on music, my opinion of “Good Night, and Good Luck”, a particular episode of Trading Spouses, and Dan’s opinion of My opinion of “Good Night, and Good Luck”. Dan also said that the Colbert report wouldn’t last, which seems to have been proven false.

October seemed to be us finding our footing.
***

November saw Dan’s Cleveland Trifecta, a diatribe against horses, a road that he liked, an episode of “Coach“, and his complaints about how much he aches, now that he’s an old man. I started the month strong with the Beth review, but struggled through the rest of it, with lame reviews like Thursday, a type of tooth”paste” that doesn’t work for me, and an insightful, yet completely unnecessary complaint about my nosebleeds. My FAO Schwarz review kinda made up for them, but the highlight of the month involved Dan and I sparring about how Christmas is coming earlier every year, and something about me being a time-traveling sheep.

November didn’t see much improvement over October, but the Christmas stuff was entertaining.
***½

December got a bit better, even with a few less reviews. I busted out the old NES games, for a few reviews that I swear are not trying to copy off of XE, another personal favorite, Christmas Cards, Adam’s first review, Dan throwing the hate down on Pitchfork media, and a suprising amount of people commenting on Roger Ebert’s take on video games. The biggest advance in December was the pop-ins, that added added some clarity to our parentheses-obsessed-writing.

December was a highly engaging and entertaining month, even with only nine reviews.
****½

2006 rolled around, and January saw Dan get political, review half of a book, not like warm winters a lot. I only contributed three of ten reviews that month, but all three of them were relatively alright, mostly because “Where In Time is Carmen Sandiego“, and “The Simpsons” after season 9 is so easy to complain about.

January’s topics fell off a little.
***½

February, while being the shortest month, was also a monster for us, as far as number goes. A whopping twenty-one reviews. To be fair, 17 of them came in our envelope-pushing live superbowl reviews, the biggest stunt pulled in the history of reviewing anything and everything on a five star scale. The only other reviews of any substance were my Gauntlet Review of the Beatles albums, and Dan’s digging up of our one-issue underground high-school newspaper.

Despite the big stunt, and two good reviews, February was kinda lacking.
**½

March just plain sucked. Four reviews total. One by me. Three megareviews by Dan.

½

April was slightly better, with another of my top five of my reviews, Legacy of the Wizard. The other four I would give an average of 3 stars to, but since there were only four during the month, that’s going to cancel out the Legacy of the Wizard bonus and take it down a half star.

**½

For my money, May was our best month yet. Dan’s contribution was the lengthy three-part TV landscape review. I threw out quality stuff with my Songs for Silverman, and Degree Navigator reviews. The shorter American Dreamz and Davinci Code video game reviews were serviceable, but my immense LOST season 2 review tops everything.

*****

June fell off a bit. Four reviews total. Split two and two. Mine were based on a ridiculous news story, and anger at other people for coincidentally coming up with the same ideas as me. Dan tried to put everything into perspective by seeing how well the entire history of human ingenuity and artistry stacked up in the interstellar community, and complained a little about how the national geography of roadways isn’t designed to suit his needs.

**

July was filled with the (I gotta admit my ignorance as to the relevance of this phrase… and wikipedia does nothing to help) Navel Gazing set. I was had for a few minutes by a Jimmy Kimmel hoax, and I thought the critics were a little too harsh on Shayamalan. Despite the mediocre numbers for the month, I’d give it a 3.5

***½

This gives us a per-month average of 3 stars, which isn’t too shabby.

In my first ever review, I reviewed the concept of this website. I claimed that we wouldn’t be able to keep it fresh, that we’d run out of ideas, and that we wouldn’t be able to stay somewhat funny at least. I believe my exact quote was “It has the potential to provide hours of entertainment for readers, and shape their lives for years to come. However, the downside is that it could get old real soon, and provide us with nothing but an excuse not to get real jobs.”

Well, I think we’ve significantly proven wrong every single point that I just brought up. We have 29 categories, 19 subcategories, and even two sub-sub categories. We’re still writing about reasonably different things, and while we may have slacked on the funny in recent months, we still bring the ‘A’ game on occasion. As far as my quote goes, I’d be willing to bet that we’ve provided maybe a few hours of entertainment for a handful of people, which probably did nothing to shape their lives for even the near fututre. On the upside, it hasn’t gotten old, and we have gotten real-ish jobs.

For all of these reasons, I’m willing to up our star rating by half a star, over the average rating of 3. I’ve also realized that my method of calculating the rating might not be the best, so I’m gonna throw in another half star for a final rating of 4 stars out of five.

****

And for those of you playing along at home, yes, this technically is the 100th review and so therefore should be included. This review receives 3 stars for not having much to offer in the way of witty musings, and for having a faulty overall rating method, but for packing so many subjects and links into one review.

***

Other People Stealing Your Ideas Without Ever Having Met You or Knowing that They Stole Something

Longest. Title. Ever.


If only they could save the baseball team from utter anihilation.

I’ll try not to make this like Dan’s “Half-Inventing Stuff” review, even though there are some thematic similarities.

What spawned the idea for this topic was actually two events hat occurred in the past month, both of which involved people doing things that I had already done. Chances are that both of these events might turn into “Nate Stories”, and since I don’t believe in editing for content, other than adding to it, just be warned.

So I got a disturbing call a few weeks ago. Nothing’s wrong, and it wasn’t sickening or anything… just upsetting. You see, my sister was at a Philadelphia Phillies baseball game. The fans (the few, the proud), the ones who don’t like to throw batteries that is, (although maybe if J.D. Drew was around), have started a sort of tradition over the past ten years. Groups of people would come and buy seats in the wide expanse of the Veteran’s stadium 700 level… that’s right, back when stadiums had 700 levels. Up there they found the space to spread out, dress up in costume, and display large signs usually featuring the group’s made-up name. This might sound a trifle confusing, so I’ll give you the most prominent example, and probably the one that started the fad. Randy Wolf had just made his MLB debut and a group of fans were looking to come out to support the first of the crop of minor league pitchers that would eventually be considered the saviors of the franchise. (Over the next 6 years, through the ranks came Brandon Duckworth, Brett Meyers, Gavin Floyd, and Cole Hammels. This was supposed to be the rotation of the future, but Duckworth was a minor bust and was shipped off to Texas or somewhere, never to be heard from again…. update, he just started pitching for the Royals I believe and didn’t do so well, and Floyd is back in the minors.) A group of fans looking to show support for Wolf showed up wearing wolf masks, with a huge sign that said “Wolf Pack“. Whenever Randy struck someone out they all did a dance in unison that kinda looks like the lawnmower-starting dance. Eventually other groups began to crop up. What else was there to keep you interested in the upper deck and following a losing team? There was the Duck Pond (for Duckworth), the (Vincente) Padilla Flotilla (a group of guys in sombreros with oars pretending they were in a boat. Whenever he got a strikeout they began to row), once there was (Pat) “Burrell’s Girls”, and the most recent high profile incident was two competing groups out to support backup catcher Sal Fasano… yes a backup catcher. The groups paint their faces to match his trademark moustache and call themselves, “Sal’s Pals” and “Fasano’s Pizanos”. Incidentally, Sal was apparently so overwhelmed with the cheering section that he once ordered them all pizzas.

What this has to do with anything is this: When my sister called me on the phone, she told me of the newest group of supporters, “Flash’s Friends” or something like that. The Flash that they speak of is the new closing pitcher, Tom Gordon. How do they get the Flash from that? Well, he’s nicknamed from the 1930s sci-fi serial character, Flash Gordon. But these “friends” didn’t realize that, or I guess they thought that nobody would get it if they dressed up like Flash Gordon and his friends, because they decided to take it one step even further and dress up like the superhero The Flash, and his other superhero friends. It would be enough for me to say it was stupid that there are two jumps in logic to get from The Flash to Tom Gordon, and that people who aren’t from the area probably wouldn’t understand…. but my major problem with this is that WE DID IT THREE YEARS AGO. There is video and photographic evidence (see above) that not only did we use this gimmick first, but we used it better.

The people in this group had really shoddy costumes, most of them partially storebought, and there were people in the group that weren’t even superheroes. So they did the costume thing poorly, the sign wasn’t as good as ours was… and they didn’t dance after strikeouts, but the biggest problem was that they didn’t think their plan through enough. In order for the pitcher that they were supporting to actually be involved in the game, the team would have to be winning by less than four runs going into the final inning… lucky for them it happened and he came in, but by that time, most of them were tired of standing around in their costumes, and were partly disrobed by the ninth inning anyway. When they finally got on TV, they just like a bunch of half dressed-hooligans, not following through with the bit.

So all of these things led me to being not as affected by it. I suppose that my main issue with this scenario is how it made us look in hindsight. Not only was that experience very important for us, sort of serving as the capstone achievement of my highschool friends buffoonery, but we were proud of both the fact that we were the first ones that we had ever heard of doing this, and the fact that we actually followed through with one of our hair-brained ideas… and were mentioned by the TV coverage as the “Fans of the Game”. This gimmick infringement would’ve definitely sullied the memory and sapped all of the originality from it.

As far as the second incident goes, a little more than a year ago, my friend Adam and I completed our senior video project. Capping off this twenty-six minute opus, was a perfect final sequence/shot, that when seen for the first time with the song that Adam had found, literally gave me chills (literally!), and made me want to watch it over and over and over. I knew that if nothing else in the entire thing worked, that this last part would win people over. You can see for yourself here… it’ll probably give you a better idea as to what I’m talking about. The song is by a group called Thirteen Senses, titled “Into the Fire”.

Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised to hear that song coming out of my TV a few months later, in the long-form ads for FX’s second season of “Rescue Me“, a show about firefighters. The song fit even more perfectly in that than it did in our project, mostly because of the lyrical contents talking about walking into the fire and such. Also, the ad came and went without much fanfare, and I’m sure that it won’t be remembered in years to come.

Just a few weeks ago, a friend of mine was asking me for names of songs that she might like, and I passed along this title. Little did I know that hours later I would hear the song used in a montage of Jim Carrey’s dramatic moments at the MTV movie awards, a show seen by millions of people per year, and aired about the same amount of times. I hastened to the internets to email my friend to say “THEY STOLE MY SONG!!!1!” The next day, I decided it wasn’t a big deal, and pretty much let the whole thing go…. until about two days after that. I came home late and decided to catcha replay of the season premiere of The 4400, a summer show on USA that that somehow was the most watched basic cable series of last year (or at least last summer?). It was two hours long and started at midnight, and by the end was half asleep, when suddenly, I hear familiar piano chords. Chords I’ve heard hundreds of times. I couldn’t believe it! They were pulling out the end-of-the-episode-montage, and using the song! I was impressed that they actually used the entire thing, and put it to good use, but it was probably the absolute strangest timing ever. Recently, I aslo found out that the song was used in the pilot of “Grey’s Anatomy”, a show that I’ve never watched, and probably never will, but is watched by millions and millions nonetheless. I guess I should just be glad they didn’t use it on American Idol

It reminds me of how way back in 2002-2003, the new Coldplay CD came out, and the WWE/F was the first that I had seen to use a little-known song called “Clocks” to do an absolutely great film/video montage about one of their wrestlers, and my olympic hero, Kurt Angle getting a very dangerous neck surgery and training to come back for the fans and for his family. Soon enough, the song was EVERYWHERE, including the trailer for the movie Peter Pan and a sound-alike version for the New Jersey travel bureau, mostly because they couldn’t afford the rights due to how much they suck. When I showed people the video, all impact was lost because the audience had no idea when this thing was made. The use of the song went from “complelety innovative and perfect”, to “completely trite, cliche, and therefore worthless”. The entire impression of how great the video was was tarnished by the fact that other people used the song after them, rendering it completely useless as any sort of art or entertainment. By that time people had gotten so sick of the song that they probably wouldn’t even watch it just because of the musical selection alone.

What I’m getting at is that now I’m put in this position. This song stands poised to be the next “Clocks”, used in every video that people can put it in, make its way to the radio and soon enough, be so engrained into our public consciousness that you wouldn’t ever want to hear it again. In the event that I would show this video to someone in way to be original, lame-o“. Without having done anything, the value of the piece is decreased tenfold. Sure, you can say “We made this before the song got popular, scuzz-wad”, but that’s like telling a jury to forget a court outburst that’s been stricken from the record via objection. You’ve already seen it, so there’s no letting it go.

You could make the case that every person/group that uses the song in the same manner from now on is just copying off of a set television precedent and therefore should be subject to the same criticisms that I’d get, but it doesn’t matter to them. The song is nowhere near its peak popularity, nor even into the public’s SUB-conscious, and neither do the companies/groups care. If they continue to use the song, what is people saying “that’s already been done before, dill-wad” going to do to them? They’re in a position where if it fits, go for it, because it’s not like the CSI audience is really going to stop watching or feel less inclined to see a Jerry Bruckheimer movie/show.

The people who would be watching my video would be people whom I know, or maybe people I just recently met, but in any case, probably people I want to impress, or at least show that I didn’t go to Hollywood Upstairs Medical College. Having the most impressive part of the video be undermined because of a collective overexposure to the song is something that I would rather do without.

Of course, I could be totally overreacting, and in two years the song could be less remembered than Fastball‘s second single. I also suppose that I could always go back and change what song we used, but that would be like re-doing the end of “Return of the Jedi”, a whole lot of work for something that wouldn’t serve much of a purpose.

How does this relate back to the baseball game? Well, if these people/groups can use this song without knowing that I’d used it previously, and if these Flash’s friends can go dressed like superheroes, what’s to say that our attempt at 30 seconds of JumboTron fame hadn’t been tried before, and done better? What if we were inadvertantly copying off of some other group even though we didn’t know them, and had never seen what they’d done? That would just ruin the whole event for us, and the uniqueness of it.

Personally, I think we should fight these so-called “Flash’s Friends”, because three Frankensteins and a Spongebob are no match for teh Hulk, Superman, Flash, Wolverine, ummm.. Thor, and some girl with an exposed midriff.

Other People Stealing Your Ideas Without Ever Having Met You or Knowing that They Stole Something gets zero stars. It is somethig that will happen over and over in life, and it’s best just not to notice it. The problem is that it gets to you when you no longer can honestly take credit for an idea you had and did, even though there’s evidence you did it before the other person. Rather than feeling good about yourself that somebody else in a higher position than you thought of the same thing that you did, and feeling good about the fact that you’re “on the level”, you tend to feel like you’ve been devalued. The trick is to keep going and come up with something even newer because then you can just show that off to other people instead. Other People Stealing Your Ideas Without Ever Having Met You or Knowing that They Stole Something also makes us look inside of ourselves to determine whether we at any point were guilty of this, and if so make the necessary reparations to those we offended. I encourage all of you to think about this and what it means to you. Until then, Goodnight, and Good Luck, and take care of yourselves, and each other. I’m Andy Rooney… Jon?