Sunday, July 22, 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

To all things there must come an end. And that is, of course, even for the phenomenon that J.K. Rowling’s delightfully imaginative and enormously entertaining Harry Potter series has become.

For whatever reason I’ve never been that big a fan of book series; even with the best of them I might make it through the third book in the series but that’s usually about it for me (I enjoyed the first 3 books in Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series, for example, but I’ve never read them beyond that.) But, that said, here I am having finished the 7th (and final) volume in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and being mighty glad that I stayed with it all the way through.

There will be no spoilers here but I will say that Rowling finished her epic series with a rousing grace note filled with triumph and tragedy, death and sacrifice, hope and wonder; and at its heart (as with the series as a whole) it is a fanciful (sometimes dark) adventure permeated with the celebration of love, life, friendship, family and…yes, of course…magic. Lots and lots of magic (literally and figuratively.)

Many beloved (and/or reviled) characters from the series take final, fateful turns in the 700+ pages of Deathly Hallows but, of course, at the heart of the narrative are the titular young wizard and his faithful friends and comrades-in-arms, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley. It is their enduring bond…their time and battle tested friendship…their love for one another…that sweeps the briskly-paced story along and keeps you hoping for their survival as well as their triumph over the evil Lord Voldemort and his minions.

To be perfectly honest, the book does threaten to bog down a couple of times with long-winded, plot-resolving exposition but that’s easily (and by me, quickly) forgiven because, in the end, it’s ripping good page turner.

I have no reason to doubt Ms. Rowling when she says that this book is the end of it and I think that the millions of Potter fans can and should be pleased with final book…and the series as a whole. It was, in its own modest and charming way (and as Harry himself would say), "brilliant" :-)

(Of course, with two more movies yet to come, “Pottermania” still has more than a little life in it yet. And, hopefully a good percentage of the children...and adults...who have avidly read this series will find themselves continuing to love to read other books out there...that would would be grand thing indeed.)

Thursday, July 19, 2007

2007 Emmy Nominations

Emmy is giving The Sopranos an affectionate sendoff with the HBO drama garnering 15 nominations (second only to the 17 nods given to the HBO movie, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.) The charming freshman comedy Ugly Betty scored 11 nominations while both Grey’s Anatomy and 30 Rock pulled in 10 nominations each.

There were a few new shows and faces among the nominations in the major characters (though, of course, the Television Academy loves to keep putting the same folks (see Shatner, Spader, Sutherland, Gandolfini, Shalhoub, Falco, etc., etc.) up over and over whenever they can.

The nominees in some of the major categories include:

Best Drama Series: Boston Legal (ABC), Grey's Anatomy (ABC), Heroes (NBC), House (Fox), and The Sopranos (HBO).

Best Comedy Series: Entourage (HBO), The Office (NBC), 30 Rock (NBC), Two and a Half Men (CBS), Ugly Betty (ABC).

Best Actor (Drama Series): James Spader (Boston Legal), Hugh Laurie (House), Denis Leary (Rescue Me), James Gandolfini (The Sopranos), Kiefer Sutherland (24).

Best Actress (Drama Series): Sally Field (Brothers and Sisters), Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer), Mariska Hargitay (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit), Patricia Arquette (Medium), Minnie Driver (The Riches), Edie Falco (The Sopranos).

Best Supporting Actor (Drama Series): William Shatner (Boston Legal), T.R. Knight (Grey's Anatomy), Masi Oka (Heroes), Michael Emerson (Lost), Terry O'Quinn (Lost), Michael Imperioli (The Sopranos).

Best Supporting Actress (Drama Series): Rachel Griffiths (Brothers and Sisters), Katherine Heigl (Grey's Anatomy), Chandra Wilson (Grey's Anatomy), Sandra Oh (Grey's Anatomy), Aida Turturro (The Sopranos), Lorraine Bracco (The Sopranos).

Best Actor (Comedy Series): Tony Shalhoub (Monk), Steve Carell (The Office), Alec Baldwin (30 Rock), Charlie Sheen (Two and a Half Men).

Best Actress (Comedy Series): Felicity Huffman (Desperate Housewives), Julia Louis-Dreyfus (The New Adventures of Old Christine), Tina Fey (30 Rock), America Ferrera (Ugly Betty), Mary-Louise Parker (Weeds).

Best Supporting Actor (Comedy Series): Kevin Dillon (Entourage), Jeremy Piven (Entourage), Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother), Rainn Wilson (The Office), Jon Cryer (Two and a Half Men).

Best Supporting Actress (Comedy Series): Jaime Pressly (My Name Is Earl), Jenna Fischer (The Office), Holland Taylor (Two and a Half Men), Conchata Ferrell (Two and a Half Men), Vanessa Williams (Ugly Betty), Elizabeth Perkins (Weeds).

Monday, July 16, 2007

Scott Baio is 45 and Single/Rock of Love

In the future every fading or faded star will be given his or her own embarrassing reality TV show. Oh wait, apparently the future is now. VH1 upchucked…I mean, debuted…two new more of these things on Sunday night.

Scott Baio is 45 and Single…and apparently willing to trade what’s left of his dignity for a shot a getting back into the spotlight with a show that manages to hit every false, staged note it possibly can. The conceit here is that Scott Baio, who has been what some people would call a “toxic bachelor” (womanizing, unable and/or unwilling to commit), is trying to find out if he’s ready to settle down with and marry his current girlfriend. Baio hires a life coach who instructs him to go back and find out what went wrong with his many failed relationships (starting with his Happy Days co-star Erin Moran, the first girl he had sex with, who shows up for a meal that sounded like it was scripted and then dares Baio to join her for an autograph signing session. The kicker to this is a stilted, cringe-inducing phone conversation with Henry Winkler.) And oh yeah, Baio gets pissed off whenever anybody calls him “Chachi” (dude, let it go.)

Baio has a smarmy sidekick who apparently gets his jollies drafting off his friend’s celebrity and a group of buddies who sit around having oh-so-spontaneous conversations while smoking big cigars at the racetrack.

By the time, Baio’s agent takes him off to have a “private conversation” in glass walled room and the cameras dutifully follow them to “surreptitiously” capture the entire thing anyway, all I was thinking that Scott might want to think of getting new representation.

The less said about Rock of Love the better. I never thought anything could make me think back wistfully on Flavor of Love…and that remains true but this knockoff starring Poison lead singer Bret Michaels (who really loves the word “awesome!” apparently) looking for his true love (or at least some fun) from among 25 “smoking hot babes” does a yeoman job of trying to make me long for Flavor Flav and the ever-charming Flavor of Love girls. As on Flavor of Love, none of the participants on Rock of Love has the good sense to be embarrassed by volunteering for this leering, empty-headed mess.

With the Two Coreys (Feldman and Haim) on the very near horizon and Snoop Dogg having just signed up for his own reality gig, the end of these things is nowhere in sight. Lucky us…

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Don't Forget the Lyrics/The Singing Bee

Fox's new karaoke show, Don't Forget the Lyrics, is as cheesy and cringe-worthy as NBC's new karaoke show, The Singing Bee.

The Fox show has Wayne Brady as host (Joey Fatone is master of ceremonies on Bee) but he seems uncomfortable in the role (Fatone seems to have tapped into the game show host vibe a bit better...though that's not necessarily a good thing.) Both shows are about people singing pop a quest to win oodles of cash.

But that's enough about that. Here's the great Wayne Brady sketch from Dave Chappelle's Show (it's TV-M rated due to some language):

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Live Earth

Sometimes rock and roll can change the world. And sometimes rock and roll extravaganzas can be just a chance to party. Al Gore is a learned and well-intentioned man and I presume that the globe-spanning Live Earth concerts he inspired were indeed as well-intentioned as he is but one has to wonder what the long term changes that will come from this latest effort to use pop culture to change the world.

Band Aid/USA for Africa/Live Aid did not end hunger in Africa…but they did change (and probably even save) the lives of scores of people. Farm Aid has not reversed the decline of family farmers here in the States…but it has given financial aid and emotional encouragement to a fair number of hard working framers. The American version of Comic Relief hasn’t made a major dent in homelessness…but the shows did help give many a leg up. Shows to gather aid for disaster victims (9/11, the tsunamis, the hurricanes, etc.) raised millions of dollars that, we hope and pray, were well spent. It’s all good.

Live Earth will not, in and of itself, save the world, of course…no pop show will do that. Some of the stars who performed will hopefully make their lives more “green” while others may feel that having performed at the shows is enough to allow them to continue to live their luxurious lives the way they want (reports have it that fuel-guzzling, carbon spewing private planes and limos were in evidence at Live Earth.) Some of the people who attended may be moved to make their own lives more “green” but chances are, to be perfectly frank, a good percentage will not.

But, as a wise man once said, the longest journey begins with the first step. If even a small percentage of Live Earth participants, attendees, and viewers buy a few more fluorescent light bulbs or find other ways to reduce their so-called “carbon footprint”, it’s a start. Or at least so the cynical optimist in me would like to believe.

As to the shows themselves I didn’t really catch that much of them…I just couldn’t work up the enthusiasm to sit through hours of yet another such extravaganza. I caught bits and pieces…the unlikely duo of Keith Urban and Alicia Keys ripping through a credible version of “Gimme Shelter”, Madonna apparently invoking the spirit of Jimi Hendrix by humping a guitar against an amplifier stack, Foo Fighters, Kanye West, Kelly Clarkson, the Dave Matthews Band, Metallica, the Police…but nothing made me want to linger for long.

Save the world…and rock on.

* * * * *

More MKW Blogstuff: Bread and Roses

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Hey Paula

What a waste of time. It’s not that I expected this show to be good…far from it…but I was hoping that it would be at least interesting (if only in the train wreck sense like Being Bobby Brown or Breaking Bonaduce…being actually fun and engaging like Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List was way too much to ask from a show about Paula Abdul) but it is not. It is the worst thing one of these innumerable celebrity reality shows can be: dull and totally uninteresting.

I’m not sure why Abdul decided to let cameras follow her in “real life” but the result is so stilted, so staged, and so mind-numbing that it can’t do anything to help her loopy image.

If the point was to let us see how she’s a loopy, pretentious (I’m sure she hugs her maid all the time when the cameras aren’t on), shallow c-list diva (complete with a seemingly incompetent entourage of assistants), then mission accomplished.

Hey Paula is scheduled for 6 episodes and, hopefully, that will be that (we get more than enough Paula lunacy during American Idol…that’s all of the Abdul crazy we need during any given year.)