Happy Halloween from Bobby "Boris" Pickett and some classic movie monsters
(and your pal here at Neverending Rainbow :-)
I still think the Hiro in Ancient Japan storyline is a non-starter for me (they need to get him back to the present and back with Ando ASAP…though I guess they still have to deal with Isaac’s painting showing Hiro fighting a dinosaur), the amnesiac Peter in Ireland storyline is also a bit of a slog (though it seems that Pete is headed back to North America which should hopefully get him back in the mix), and the Maya/Alejandro thing is annoying at this point (we don’t know enough about them to care about their seemingly endless journey and the addition of Sylar to their subplot is full of unrequited possibility so far.) Claire and her flying boyfriend are cute together but it doesn’t seem to add much to the story.
On the other hand, some things are coming together. Noah “HRG” Bennett and the Haitian seem to be about causing some ruckus. Matt and Nathan on the trail of Matt’s father, the boogey man of Molly’s nightmares, is a good step as well. Micah’s New Orleans sojourn seemed kinda blah but now that Mohinder, who is undercover with the sinister Company, has shown up to find Monica that plot thread seem likely to be made an interesting part of the overall tapestry (especially with Niki already having voluntarily gone to the Company looking for a cure for her super-powerful schizophrenia.)
Adding new characters is fine, I guess, but we already have more than enough people to keep up with (especially since all of the major characters survived the showdown at the end of last season with the exception of DL…and frankly I’m wondering if there’s a twist there since we didn’t see the body) and adding Hiro’s companions in Japan, Peter’s new love and her friends in Ireland, Micah’s relatives and their friends in New Orleans, Claire’s new classmates in California, and Sylar’s traveling mates, the “wonder twins” (if you’re of a certain age you’ll get that allusion…) is nearing on being overkill. (I do like the addition of Nichelle Nichols…she brings an undeniable grace to the proceedings…though I do hope they are planning on giving her more to do.)
All that said, I still trust that the show’s creative staff has a plan and thus I remain faithful. The virus storyline seems to be on the verge of really turning into something exciting. And perhaps the upcoming episode that will fill in the gap between the end of the 1st season and the beginning of this one will bring more light and perspective on what’s going on…we shall see.
The auditions, held in the desert (110 in the shade) next to Lake Las Vegas for some reason, also followed the pattern of having talented bands interspersed with oddballs brought in to give the judges (and the viewers) something to roll their eyes at.
Overall, the 2-hour premiere was...okay. Not great but okay. In the end, it’s about the music. The judges winnowed through all of the bands and have picked 12 who will start competing for
Is the “next great American band” going to come out of this? I dunno…I doubt it…but, that said, stranger things have happened in the music industry (especially in the state of flux the industry is in right now.) But, that said, some of the bands are pretty good…I rather liked the tight country pop band Sixwire, the great country/gospel trio the Clark Brothers, the rocking funk band Franklin Bridge, and the rockers Dot Dot Dot myself…and all of them have potential so the competition should be entertaining (and may the most popular…and hopefully the best…band wins once America gets to start letting their fingers do the voting.)
Viva Laughlin is bad on so many levels…bad writing, bad acting, poor character development, uninteresting mystery, improbable coincidences…and, oh yes, the production numbers.
Melanie Griffith (am I delusional or couldn’t she really act at some point?), bless her, was a sport to vamp along to Blondie’s “One Way or Another” while trying to seduce an old flame but she really should have re-thought that.
Hugh Jackman (an executive producer and apparently a recurring guest star) strutting with casino waitresses turned backup dancers while singing along with the Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil” (see above) was not quite as embarrassing…but it was a close call.
Similar fates awaited Elvis’ “Viva Las Vegas” and Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s “Let it Ride” (both warbled by Lloyd Owen, the series lead) before the hour was over.
I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt and saying they were deliberately going for “campy”…they missed “campy” by a mile (we’re apparently supposed to take this silly stuff seriously) but I’m going to give them that benefit of the doubt just the same.
Maybe there’s an audience for Viva Laughlin but I’m not going to be part of it.
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October 22 addendum:
After two broadcasts CBS has mercifully put Viva Laughlin out its (and our) misery by canceling it. It's Sunday night time slot will be filled with a CSI rerun next week and then with a new edition of The Amazing Race. Presumably no careers have been marred beyond redemption (not likely since not many people watched Viva Laughlin.)
Pink Martini – Hey
The 14-member band…lead by pianist Thomas Lauderdale and the amazing, multi-lingual vocalist
Carole King – Love Makes the World
The remarkable Carole King has been making music as a songwriter since the 60’s and as a performer since the 70’s and this disc of songs affirming love and life, put out on her own Rockingale label, shows that she still has the right stuff in spades. This is a a nifty, enormously entertaining pop record that keeps King, in fine voice, squarely in the spotlight even while featuring some fine guest turns by Babyface, Wynton Marsalis (some very nice trumpet work on “I Wasn’t Going to Fall in Love”) , Celine Dion, Graham Nash (a charming, sumptuous duet on “Two Hearts”), K.D. Lang (so fine, as always, on the soaring duet of “An Uncommon Love”), Steven Tyler (some great harmony and background vocals on the rocking “Monday Without You”), Alejandro Lemer (a cool Spanish duet on “Lo Que Tú Eres Para Mí”), and King’s daughter Louise Goffin (a frisky duet on “Where You Lead”.) A simmering revival of “Oh No, Not My Baby” featuring just King’s soulful voice and piano is grand highlight.
Michelle Shocked – To Heaven U Ride
You never know where the muse will take Michelle Shocked but you know it’s always going to be interesting wherever it is. This is a soulfully ragged and heartfelt gospel set recorded live at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in 2003 (the tapes were apparently unearthed fairly recently.) Shocked, backed by a tight band and a gospel quartet, is a credible gospel singer and you can feel the spirit moving through her on her covers of The Band’s “The Weight” and Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s “Strange Things Happening Every Day”, on the classic spirituals “Wade in the Water” and “Uncloudy Day”, and on her own “Quality of Mercy”. If the bluesy pathos of Billie Holiday’s “God Bless the Child” is just a bit beyond her (it’s a game try nevertheless) she is on sure footing throughout most of this uplifting CD.
(Below is a video of Pink Martini performing the very cool “Hey Eugene” live.)
A week later a remastered version of the soundtrack to The Song Remains the Same will come out with 6 songs that weren’t on the original record.
Going full bore into the digital revolution, Zeppelin ringtones and downloads will be available via Verizon.
With this release, one of the few other major catalogs that remains legally unavailable online is that of the Beatles (and rumors abound that those classic albums will be available online in the near future.)
Trav’lin’ Light kicks off with a fine cover of Phoebe Snow’s “Poetry Man” and then slides smoothly into the rueful “Georgia Rose”, a bluesy ballad featuring some very distinctive, very accomplished harmonica by the ever-amazing Stevie Wonder. The immortal Toots Thielemans adds sweet harmonica harmony to the lilting “Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars.”
Latifah is just as home in the down home blues of “Don’t Cry Baby” as she is with the big band swing of Peggy Lee’s “I Love Being Here with You” and the propulsive jazz of “I’m Gonna Live Till I Die”. She is elegantly sublime on the title tune aided and abetted with some nice piano work by Joe Sample and appropriately saucy on her take on Nina Simone’s frisky “I Want a Little Sugar in My Bowl”.
10cc’s dream pop hit “I’m Not in Love” is effectively transformed into a big soul ballad while Smokey Robinson’s “What Love Has Joined Together” is presented as a grand mid-tempo jam and she steps right into the funky, sassy spirit of the Pointer Sisters’ “How Long (Betcha Got a Chick on the Side)”. “Gone Away”, co-written by Donny Hathaway and Curtis Mayfield, is another sweetly soaring soul ballad that the Queen knocks out of the park.
The disc ends with “I Know Where I’ve Been”, Latifah’s uplifting showstopper from the movie Hairspray .
Trav’lin’ Light is a wonderful little disc that is destined to spend a great deal of time in my CD player. (See video snippets of some of the songs below.)
The concept of four friends…a workaholic police detective with no time for romance, a hard working medical examiner whose husband is a wheelchair-bound ex-cop, a smart but emotionally insecure assistant DA, and an ambitious, slightly ditzy newspaper reporter…who pool their wits and talents to solve crimes is elegantly simple and, at the same time, ripe with myriad story possibilities.
Angie Harmon is Lindsay Boxer, the cop whose life is complicated by the fact that her ex-husband has just been made her boss. She is has a nice, banter-filled relationship with her partner, Warren, a “grizzled” (Lindsay’s word) veteran played with acerbic charm by Tyrees Allen. Her friends, Claire Washburn (the medical examiner) and Jill Bernhardt (the assistant DA), are ably brought to life by Paula Newsome and Laura Harris. The three women move between ably doing their jobs and tweaking each other about their love lives…the chemistry between them is very real. Aubrey Dollar plays Cindy Thomas, the reporter, who is not part of the club (her word) yet but you can tell she will be.
The first show deftly sketched out the characters (though, of course, there is much more for us to learn as the series goes on) while solving a murder and then introducing the return of a killer that Boxer failed to put away before. It is not remarkably original but it is very entertaining and that’s more than fine with me.
And the plot? Well, the plot revolves around Ned, a man who when he was a boy discovered, in a most tragic way, that he could bring the dead back to life with a touch. The drawbacks include the fact that if he touches the revived ever again they die again forever. And if the revived are returned to the arms of death within 60 seconds then somebody else in random proximity will keel over dead (one presumes to keep some kind of cosmic balance.) Lee Pace plays Ned, a pie-maker who owns operates “The Pie Hole”, with a wistful, but not self-pitying, melancholy. He keeps a distance…emotional and physical…from those around him due to his power (he cannot even pet his beloved dog, Digby, because of having brought the animal back to life after Digby was hit by a truck when Ned was a boy.)
Ned’s insulated life…he mostly interacted with Olive, an employee at the Pie Hole, a slightly daffy blonde with an unrequited crush on him (played with verve by the always delightful Kristen Chenoweth)…when two people entered (or in one case, re-entered) his ordered life.
He teams up with Emerson, a private detective (playfully brought to life by a very droll Chi McBride), to solve murders by having Ned bring the victims back to life long enough to tell them who committed the crime and then returning the victims to death within the allotted minute after which Ned and Emerson collect the reward. You get the feeling that Ned enjoys having something new, and somewhat adventurous, in his life.
More poignant is Ned’s reunion with “Chuck” (Charlotte Charles, played with impish acceptance of her odd situation by Anna Friel), his childhood sweetheart with whom he had shared his first kiss when they were children and whom he hadn’t seen since the deaths of their parents (Ned’s power being an unwitting catalyst for those happenings) had separated them. Chuck is killed after unknowingly stumbled into a smuggling scheme and Ned brings her back to life and, having pined for her since his youth, found that he was unable to return her to death (another person, a larcenous funeral director, takes her place in the afterlife after Ned lets the time limit go by without touching Chuck again.) Ned is therefore reunited with the girl of his dreams…Chuck becomes a partner with Ned and Chuck, joining with them to solve her own murder…but he is unable to give her even the slightest touch or kiss.
Rounding out the regular cast are Swoosie Kurtz and Ellen Greene (both wonderfully weird and sweetly affecting) as Chuck’s eccentric, socially isolated aunts who live in a gothic house with forbidding wrought iron gates. They do not…and cannot…know that Chuck has returned from the dead.
I have no idea if something as quirky and smart as Pushing Daisies…created by Bryan Fuller, who created the equally innovative and off-center Dead Like Me and Wonderfalls (the latter of which also co-starred Lee Pace)…has a long term future on network television. I hope that it does but either way I’ll willingly suspend disbelief and enjoy it for however long it lingers.
River: The Joni Letters finds Hancock, at the top of his considerable game, interpreting music written by (or somehow associated with) Mitchell with his passionate piano work leading a crack quartet including Wayne Shorter on saxophones, Dave Holland on bass, Vinnie Colaiuta on drums, and Lionel Loueke on guitar. The playing throughout is expressive, compelling, and sweetly simmering.
Joni’s poetic lyrical prowess is undisputed but equal attention is given to her amazing melodic gifts as well here. Some of the tracks…arranged and produced by Hancock and Joni’s ex-husband Larry Klein… are instrumentals while others feature an eclectic variety of accomplished vocalists.
“Court and Spark” leads off and features a fine vocal by Norah Jones and that’s followed by a stunning version of “Edith and the Kingpin” featuring a beautifully subtle vocal by the one and only Tina Turner over a tasty, gently-swinging groove deftly anchored by Hancock and Shorter.
Hancock plays solo on “Both Sides Now” for two very lovely minutes before the drums, guitar, and bass slip softly onto the track and coax it along to the point where Shorter joins the sweet fray and brings a lilting counterpoint to Hancock’s sweet playing. Shorter’s sax dances delightfully over, through, and about Hancock’s assured melody on the engaging version of “Sweet Bird”.
Duke Ellington’s “Solitude” features Hancock’s piano subtly but powerfully supported by
Corinne Bailey Rae more than holds her own with the remarkable band on the title track while Joni herself brings her smoky, but still utterly compelling, voice and phrasing to “Tea Leaf Prophecy” (co-written by Mitchell and Klein). Shorter and Luciana Souza duet…his shimmering sax, her sultry voice…on a plaintively powerful version of “Amelia” while Hancock and the legendary Leonard Cohen duet…the snaky piano of the first, the undeniable gravitas in the recitation of the second.
The disc ends with a sprightly take on “All I Want” with a soulful and playful vocal by Sonya Kitchell.
For jazz buffs, Joni buffs, Herbie buffs, music buffs…River: The Joni Letters is a grand record for all of them…for all of us…to savor and luxuriate in.
I’ve seen at least one review of this CD that calls it Bruce Springsteen’s best record since 1980’s The River. I guess it you’re idea of a Bruce Springsteen record includes lots of soarin’ guitars and wailin’ sax solos and the E Street Band front and center (unlike the last album the band did together…the more somber The Rising…which used the band as sidemen rather than as a integral part of the overall sound) that might indeed be true (personally I think that Springsteen has made a lot of wonderful music since 1980 but to each his own when it comes deciding who the “real” Bruce is and should be.)
Magic has a lot of the classic E Street vibe…this sucker rocks and the Big Man is all over the first few tracks…with lots of radio and concert ready rockers to please the souls of Springsteen fans (like yours truly.)
But Bruce is more than a bit cranky here (the unamused look on Bruce's face in the cover photo is quite appropriate to the lyrical content of this record) at the same time…while the grooves are hard and rock solid, the lyrics are often dark and lacerating. That’s not a criticism…far from it… just a statement of fact. The opening “Radio Nowhere”, for example, is an unabashed slam against the current state of music radio set to insistent, irresistible beat while the acerbic “You’ll Be Comin’ Down” wraps a “what goes around comes around” warning in a rocker so tight that you can almost see the audience dancing as the band plays it in concert.
Clarence Clemmons, in fine form throughout, wails the opening of “Livin’ in the Future” with assurance. Bruce is in fine voice throughout the record with none of the twang that informed his last few records present (the twang fit perfectly on those records but would be out of place on the anthem-like tunes here.)
The bittersweet “Your Own Worst Enemy” lopes along at a nice mid-tempo beat while thick layers of snarling guitars and distinctive bursts of harmonica infuse the driving “Gypsy Biker”.
This is the sound of a great band working as a mighty, unbeatable unit and that’s more than cool to be sure.
Things lighten up a bit with the wall of sound paean to “Girls in Their Summer Clothes” and the relatively jaunty “I’ll Work for Your Love” (the apocalyptic references to the book of Revelation and “the dust of civilizations” making that “jaunty” comment refer to the music and definitely not the lyrics.)
The title track is a brooding rumination while “Last to Die” rocks hard but is decidedly acerbic lyrically. “Long Walk Home” (see video below) with its lacerating guitars and classic sax solo is a cautiously optimistic rocker that soars along relentlessly while the closing “Devil’s Arcade” builds from a whisper to thick crescendo of guitars and strings and then back to a whisper and up again to stunning effect.
Magic is, crankiness and all, a great record plain and simple.
Back to You (Fox)
Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton are back on a new series. It’s an old school type of work place sitcom. Comedy veteran Fred Willard offers up some welcome wackiness now and again. It’s all very familiar. It’s all very non-threatening. And the laugh track is too often having a better time than the viewers. Back to you, Fox, I’ll pass.
Dirty Sexy Money (ABC)
I think the title of this show (see cast below) is incredibly lame but the show itself has a breezy, engaging, audacious charm. Peter Krause is more than fine as the idealistic lawyer drawn into the service of the incredibly rich, incredibly famous, willfully reckless and spoiled Darling family (a family he watched grow up as his late father held the same job.) And Donald Sutherland brings a twinkly gravitas to his role as patriarch of the family. The writing on this show is fun…with just enough mystery and drama to keep things from getting too frothy…much in the way that I imagine Big Shots (see below) wanted to be.
I stopped watching Survivor a couple of editions back…the routine of the show is so rote now that there’s really not anything new to be discovered…but I checked into this one because of the decidedly exotic location. The Chinese government, eager to prove themselves a welcoming host before next year’s Summer Olympics, allowed this edition to be filmed in their country. The locale is the only interesting part of the show…the Survivors are again seemingly clueless about the game (doesn’t anybody who comes onto this show watch it before they apply?) and the intrigues have been indulged in so many times…in the same ways…that it’s only vaguely interesting. This edition’s cast is pretty colorless (as of this writing they’ve already tossed out the chicken farmer and the female pro wrestler) and the challenges are dull and predictable…but hey the scenery is nice.
Ugly Betty (ABC)
The consequences of the multiple cliffhangers from last season are explored and Betty, harried to the max, rushes around trying to put out emotional fires. The spark of discovery from the first season is gone but the writing is still taut (and at times audacious preposterous) and it looks like my favorite Americanized telenovela is going to keep the twists and turns…the humor and the romance and the pathos…coming. And that’s cool with me.
Grey’s Anatomy (ABC)
Sigh. I know it’s supposed to be a sexy soap opera but these people can be really trying sometimes :-) Actually I have some emotional investment in almost everyone except the central figures…Meredith and Derek…whom I continue to find tedious as a couple. This episode picks up on some of the threads from last season…including and especially Burke’s leaving, Izzy’s declaration of love for George, and Miranda being passed over for Chief Resident…and moves them along at a fairly smooth pace. The subplot in the first new episode of the season about the deer was silly but it allowed Izzy to have a moment with the interns she’s supervising and I guess that was okay. The romantic couplings at the end had me rolling my eyes but I’m guessing that others will find them to be wonderful. Whatever works. I’m on the record (see here) as having said that my favorite couple on this show was Burke and Christina and now that off-camera incidents have put the end to that relationship I got nobody to root for on the romantic front (I was kinda digging George and Callie but that’s not looking so good right now either) but I will continue to watch. As much as last season made me weary with its relentless pathos I’m still invested in these characters enough to stick around and hope for something more upbeat (at least as upbeat as a soap opera can get :-)
Big Shots (ABC)
If this show was twice as clever as it thinks it is it would still be a crashing bore. Nothing in this mess works…not the self-absorbed, whiny lead characters, not the limp writing, not the “clever” plot twists, not the absurd situations, nothing. And those critics that described this as a male version of Sex and the City owes the cast, writers, director, and crew of that far superior show a very big apology.