Wednesday, September 29, 2010
There's a gentle charm to ABC's new drama, No Ordinary Family. The show is at heart a family drama despite the fact that the titular quartet all mysteriously gain super-powers during the first episode.
The dad, played with relish and winking fun by Michael Chiklis, a mopey police artist finds new purpose as he experiments with his new powers (he basically has the original powers that Superman had in his debut issue: he is super-strong, partially invulnerable, and he can leap about a quarter of a mile) with the help of his best friend.
(Mom (Julie Benz), a workaholic with not enough hours in the day, gets super-speed. The daughter, a high school student with boy issues, gains the power to read minds. And the son, an underachieving student, becomes able to sort out complex problems.)
There is a conspiracy (of course) and much family angst (of course) and they even playfully name-check one of the X-Men at one point. It's fun and breezy and the connections of family and friendship are kept in the forefront and, given time, it could grow into something really engaging.
But it probably won't get the chance. It will probably be swamped in the ratings by Glee and The Biggest Loser and (if it manages to hang on that long) by American Idol in January but I'm glad that the network took the chance anyway.
Friday, September 24, 2010
NBC's Thursday night comedies...three veteran shows and one much publicized newcomer...came back with amusing but uneven results.
Community went "meta"...becoming self-reverential almost to the point of distraction...but the able cast was able to keep it on track for the most part. The guest appearance by the ubiquitous Betty White had its chuckles but wasn't really essential to the proceedings.
30 Rock came back with its trademarked blend of absurdity, sharp dialogue, and fast pace. Matt Damon's guest turn as the love interest of Tina Fey's Liz Lemon had its comic charms.
The Office opened its final season with star Steve Carell with a "wacky" musical number featuring the entire cast that may have gone on just a bit too long (my favorite bit was Jim and Pam dancing like characters from the old Charlie Brown cartoons used to dance.) Laughs were fairly consistent throughout the episode. (I enjoy this show but I'm of the mind that if it ended this season with the departure of Carell's indelible Michael Scott that would be fine. Seven years is a good run for a sitcom...but, of course, that's not the way things work on network television where they most prefer to keep going until people are more than ready for you to go already.)
And then there's Outsourced (see cast above). The fish out of water comedy...American guy sent over to manage a ragtag office full of workers in a call center in India...did not really get off to a good start. There seems to be potential...the cast is game and the premise, while creaky and fraught with cultural traps, could be mined for some good comedy...but the first episode was tepid at best (the best bits had already been played...over and over and over...during the summer-long run-up to the premiere.) To the good is the fact that Parks & Recreation, the show displaced from Thursdays by Outsourced, started off slowly as well but found its footing and became a sharp comedy. Hopefully Outsourced will follow a similar trajectory.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
If the various threads of the pilot dovetailed together a bit too glibly...and they did...Detroit 1-8-7 is still a drama that bears watching as it unfolds. It has the potential to become a great cop show.
On the other end of the entertainment spectrum, the season premiere of Glee was full of the same soapy, entertaining mix of music, pathos, absurdity, and angst (both teenage and adult) that made the first season such a breakout treat. The formula still works wonderfully (and next week, the much-hyped Britney Spears episode will put that formula to the test) and if the focus remains on the Glee Club (and on the undeniable force of acerbic nature that is Jane Lynch's Sue Sylvester) they seem primed to have a successful sophomore season.
Fox's two new Tuesday night comedies...Raising Hope (which seems to be trying, a bit too self-consciously, to tap into the Malcolm in the Middle vibe) and Running Wilde (feeling like they're going for the audience who adored the critically acclaimed, but ratings challenged, Arrested Development) got off to rocky starts with just enough laughs to (partially) overcome some awkward setups and make them both perhaps worth at least another look (but only just barely to be honest) to see if they can find surer footing moving on down the line. We shall see.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
I am reluctant to buy into this series...despite the stellar cast and the potentially engaging premise...because the networks don't have a good track record with actually finishing these kinds of serialized dramas. For every Lost that actually gets to tell its story (whether you liked the story or not...I didn't stay for the whole ride... at least they got to tell it) there are many, many more that start and then just leave us hanging when the network pulls the plug (Heroes, FlashForward, Surface, Threshold , etc., etc.)
That said, I am probably going to stick around for a while...the ending of the first episode was pretty cool...it certainly made me want to see what happens next...and see what happens next.
Also caught the debut of the new Hawaii 5-0. It basically uses the names and locations from its cheesy 70's predecessor and not really much else. That was a good choice (hey, I watched the old show when I was a kid but it...didn't age well...:-) The new show is glib, action-packed, and not really very deep...but there's nothing wrong with any of that. The cast is likable and the scenery is gorgeous and it zips right along. Nothing here is especially new but it will hold one's attention if you happen upon it.
Wednesday, September 08, 2010
Gemma's on the run after being framed for murder at the end of last season...Jax is wallowing in grief and self-pity over the fact that his infant son has been kidnapped (eventually ending up in Ireland) in retaliation for the aforementioned murder...and Clay and the other gentlemen bikers of SAMCRO (Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club, Redwood Original Chapter) are prowling for clues as to the whereabouts of baby Abel. Much mayhem, pathos, tension, and intrigue ensued.
Sons of Anarchy is back...and off to a dramatic, portentous start.
Hal Holbrook joins the cast as Gemma's addled father (he has memory lapses and he doesn't seem to know that his wife...Gemma's mom...is dead) for what could be an interesting look into the psyche of the hard-as-nails Gemma (who manages to stab a guy in the crotch because the guy had the temerity to object to her trying to steal his car)...not that last season, when she got gang-raped by neo-Nazis trying to send a message to the biker club, wasn't an interesting exploration of her hard-bitten view of the world...
With the plot threads being thrown out in the first episode of the third season it looks like Sons will be ranging near (their home base of Charming, California) and far (presumably across the water to the Emerald Isle)...count me in for the ride.
Friday, August 27, 2010
Friday, August 20, 2010
This season the show has been expanded to 90 minutes which would be a good thing except for the fact that this year's cast is a colorless, pompous, utterly humorless lot. An additional half hour would have suited the show well when the designers were witty, talented, confident and occasionally self-effacing but that is most certainly not the case this season (or during the last couple of seasons either.)
It's a sad thing when the "villain" the producers are trying to play up is Gretchen (4th from the left on the top row with her hands on her hips), a legend in her own mind manages to combine rampant self-aggrandizement with unceasing blather, insufferable boorishness, and unearned condescension into one boring, unflaggingly irritating TV persona.
The extra time does give us more face time with the always dapper Tim Gunn but even his sly wit and charm can't rescue this season.
It's probably time to stick a fork in Project Runway 'cause it's done.
Sunday, August 01, 2010
Friday, July 30, 2010
And there are another 17 aspiring designers jockeying to win a place showing their collections at New York's fashion week have joined the party.
After a couple of decidedly lackluster seasons, Runway has a ways to go to capture the manic, creatively charged energy of the earlier seasons. None of the designers stood out as particularly interesting at first blush but it takes the producers and editors a few weeks to shape storylines and character arcs so that may change.
The erstwhile companion show, Models of the Runway, has been mercifully put out of its misery (it was a lackluster business that was less than interesting) and Runway runs for 90 minutes now (first run on Thursday nights.)
I still don't care about fashion (I have closet full of jeans, sneakers, and super-hero t-shirts) but I like to see creative people being creative...hopefully that feeling, which the earlier seasons offered up in spades, will come back this season. As Mr. Gunn will say, often, "make it work".
Friday, July 23, 2010
Saturday, July 17, 2010
Thursday, July 15, 2010
First impression is that it's okay (the mask is kinda funky but it's hard to make a mask like that work on real people however cool they might look in the comics)...I'll have to see it more fully...and in action...before I give my full fanboy pontification on it :-)
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Monday, July 12, 2010
That said, there are three people whose love of music helped inspire my own love of same. Two I never met, one I love more than anyone else on this planet.
The first was my mother…humming along with Johnny Mathis or the Beach Boys or Motown or whoever caught her ear and her fancy…surrounded herself with music as far back as I can remember…and, in turn, that music surrounded and comforted and thrilled me.
The second was Casey Kasem, whose warmth, sentimental dedications, fascinating trivia, and mellifluous voice kept me fine company on many a weekend hour as he counted down the American Top 40 (and I, dutifully and happily, copied the list down and kept careful track of the movement of the biggest hits of 70’s and 80’s.
And the third was Robert Hilburn, the chief rock critic of the Los Angeles Times. I read his reviews and essays and interviews with rapture and I came to find our tastes to be so similar that I sometimes bought records just because he raved about them…he never let me down. I even sent him a couple of embarrassing (now not then) fanboy letters, all of which he graciously replied to with handwritten postcards that are still among the childhood treasures I have stored in box in my mother’s house.
Hilburn’s engaging memoir, Corn Flakes with John Lennon, is a fascinating...sometimes funny, sometimes tragic, always interesting... journey through his journey through rock and roll and all of the amazing people…Elvis, Bono (who wrote the affectionate introduction), Janis, Stevie, Bruce, Michael, John and Yoko, so many others…he knew, interviewed, admired, and loved.
It’s beautifully written (the man has always had an uncanny way with words, deftly riding the line between hardnosed critic and unabashed fan and drawing us into the experience in a way that made us feel like we were his pals and he was letting us into the worlds of his heroes) and wonderfully charming and thoroughly involving.
It’s a grand ride.
Thanks again, Bob.
Friday, July 09, 2010
Thursday, July 08, 2010
The Sellout isn't quite in the same league as Life but, that said, it is fierce, funny, engaging, and rock solid from beginning to end. There is a positive vibe throughout...even when she's decrying wayward lovers or haters who don't understand her...and it definitely keeps your head nodding and your feet tapping.
From the joyful sunshine of "Beauty in the World" (see below) to the sexy, irresistable thump of "Kissed It"...from the clever word play of the infectious title track to the aching blues of the grand "Still Hurts"...from the acoustic mid-tempo lilt of the plaintive "Let You Win"...from the in-the-pocket funk of "Stalker" to Macy's magnificent rasp of a voice is in fine form and the grooves around her are uniformly tight and engaging (the groove...including a great breakdown in the middle...of the sassy girl group romp "That Man" is so cool I just had to smile all the way through.)
Gray and Brown (Macy and Bobby) come together for a downright golden old school R&B duet on "Real Love" (Bobby Brown's voice blends right nicely with Ms. Gray's.)
Bottom line is that The Sellout is a winner that will be spending a lot of time booming out of my stereo this summer (and for a long time after that.)
They also scored in the guest actor categories with nods to the wondrous Kristin Chenoweth (as the hard-living April Rhodes), Neil Patrick Harris (as Will's disillusioned rival Bryan Ryan), and Mike O'Malley (for his evocative appearances as Kurt's conflicted but unflaggingly supportive blue collar dad.)
The show picked up nominations as Best Comedy series (it's more of a comedy-drama but there's no category for that), writing, directing, yadda, yadda, yadda...
Mad Men scooped up 17 nominations, Conan O'Brien was nominated and Jay Leno was not, and Lost was given some love as it went out the door.
Modern Family and Nurse Jackie picked up nods for Best Comedy Series (though Nurse Jackie isn't really a comedy...but I guess they didn't know what to do with it...and voter inertia led to nominations for The Office and 30 Rock, both of which had uneven seasons, over perhaps more deserving nominees...and fellow NBC Thursday night compatriots... sterling sophomore Parks & Recreation and perky newcomer Community.)
None of it really matters...nobody remembers who wins these things...but it gives the Hollywood folks yet another reason to dress up and pat themselves on the back so it's all good I guess.
Wednesday, July 07, 2010
Obviously there is some voyeuristic charge to watching these shows...they wouldn't be multiplying like rabbits if people weren't watching them...but they seem more sad and desperate than entertaining to me. Still and all, "reality" shoes have become the backbone of the summer TV season during recent years.
Even some of the better ones (I'm excluding competition shows like American Idol or Hell's Kitchen from this discussion...they are more in the talent show/game show genre than in the reality TV world)...the ones which follow people doing real jobs (Ice Road Truckers or Ace of Cakes for example) are often blatantly staged and heavily edited with an eye towards crafting "story lines" and creating "characters". I get that, it's television and even cool jobs are boring for long stretches of time and so wouldn't hold viewers' attention.
But, that said, there has always been an engaging, sometimes harrowing, realness to the exploits of the hardworking, hard-living crab fishermen who risk life and limb in the frigid, roiling Bering Sea to pull in their shares of million dollar hauls of crab. There are characters and storylines and the presence of cameras does, as a matter of course, distort the "reality"...but nevertheless Discovery's Deadliest Catch is often as compelling as TV..."reality" or not...gets.
Especially this season as the tragic story of one of the series' most interesting and likable people, the salty and complex Captain Phil Harris (see above, far left), plays out. Knowing the end of Captain Phil's "storyline" adds to...rather than detracts from...the poignancy of his appearances (and those of his sons...and crewmates...Josh and Jake.) Phil's story is part of a rich mosaic of stories of the Captains and crews of the crab fishing boats as they battle the weather, fatigue, and sometimes frustratingly elusive crab.
Deadliest Catch continues to be one of the most eminently watchable and utterly fascinating shows on the tube...and in this dreary television season when even usually reliable summer fare like Top Chef is laboring through a thus far disappointing run, that's a small wonder to be treasured.
Saturday, July 03, 2010
Friday, July 02, 2010
DC Comics' amazing Amazon, Wonder Woman, gets a new modern look...well, if by "modern" you mean the Eighties (tights and a jacket with rolled-up sleeves? Really?) But hey at least Diana isn't fighting monsters and criminals in a bathing suit anymore...
Monday, June 28, 2010
Saturday, June 26, 2010
The last time I saw Jason Lee he was shambling charmingly as the titular character in My Name is Earl (a show I didn't exactly love but which always provided a welcoming diversion on those NBC Thursday nights that I tuned in) and here he still exudes easy Southern charm as Dwight Hendricks, a police detective who is a true son of the city with a passionate love of both justice and the colorful citizens of the town as well as a passionate love of the blues and rock and roll pulsating at the heart of Memphis.
He is ably backed up by a strong cast including the always amazing Alfre Woodard (see below) as his boss Lt. Rice (Woodard deftly sidesteps the hard-bitten police supervisor cliches with equal measures of steel and silk...as willing to face down an armed suspect as she is to admit when she's wrong), DJ Qualls as an eager beaver uniformed cop, Sam Hennings as Hendricks' salty, sardonic partner, and Celia Weston as Dwight's adorably lively mother (who, much to Dwight's chagrin, is embarking on a new love affair with a smarmy carpetbagger.)
The first two episodes (the second episode..."Baby Let's Play House" with a fine guest turn by Juliette Lewis... airs Tuesday night on TNT) are full of quirky characters, human drama, bursts of action, some very fine music, great locations and backgrounds, and gentle humor...one hopes that they continue to build on that.
Wednesday Comics was an experiment by DC Comics featuring tabloid sized comic pages featuring some acclaimed writers and artists presenting stories of DC characters…iconic and not-so-iconic…one page at a time published weekly (on newsprint no less.)
It seems unlikely to be repeated…16 tabloid pages for 4 bucks is probably too high a hurdle for a lot of comic fans to get over…but it was a grand little adventure just the same.
This big (17+” x 11+”) hardcover collects all of the stories on better paper and it’s a gorgeous comic book. All of DC’s big guns…Superman (with beautiful art by Lee Bermejo), Batman (a fine noir romance that might have needed a bit more room to breathe) and , Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, The Flash…are represented alongside of lesser-known (to the general public at least) classic characters like Hawkman, Sgt. Rock, the Metal Men, Deadman, Adam Strange, Metamorpho the Element Man, and Kamandi, the Last Boy on Earth.
The art is almost all wonderful and some of the stories are better than other. I was charmed by Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner’s whimsical Supergirl story featuring Krypto the Super Dog and Streaky the Super Cat (just go with it…:-), intrigued by Paul Pope’s pulp fiction re-imagining of the sci-fi hero Adam Strange, and engaged by the gritty WW2 Sgt. Rock story written by Adam Kubert and drawn by his legendary father Joe Kubert.
The rollicking Metamorpho adventure…by Neil Gaiman and Michael Allred…is also a great deal of fun as is the unlikely team-up of Catwoman and Etrigan the Demon by Walt Simonson and Brian Stelfreeze and Kyle Baker’s action-packed Hawkman story.
This book is pricey…it lists for $49.99…but it delivers in a big way. Wednesday Comics makes me happy and what more could you ask from a comic book than that?
Friday, June 25, 2010
The Cat Empire with the madly engaging "Days Like These" (there's about 30 seconds of silence before the music starts but hang on it's worth the wait.)
But, in the end, it probably won't be about any of the molestation charges (though those stand in the forefront of the memories of many) or the cosmetic surgeries or any of the other bizarre human circus trappings he wrapped himself in...it will, instead, be about the music. During the past year Michael Jackson was again what he fervently wanted to be...the biggest selling pop star on the planet.
Not sure it qualifies as a "happy ending"...the man was dead at 50 after all...but I think part of Michael Jackson would be pleased with outpouring of tributes and sales that have flowed so freely since his death.
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Toy Story 3...which I had sequel-wary concerns about...proved to be another gem...touching, funny, even a bit intense, and utterly charming (though, that said, I hope they don't push their luck by trying to make Toy Story 4...let it go and move on.)
Entertainment Weekly recently ranked Pixar's offerings...my list is different (see below)...yours will most probably be different too. It's all good...like I said there are no bad Pixar movies.
The Neverending Rainbow rankings:
1) Finding Nemo ("...fish are friends not food...")
2) The Incredibles
4) Toy Story
5) Monsters, Inc.
6) Toy Story 3
9) Toy Story 2
10) A Bug's Life
Next year's movie is scheduled to be Cars 2.
Monday, June 21, 2010
Summertime radio...AM radio...was a blast in '70's. The sun was bright and the breezes were balmy (I grew up in Los Angeles and spent a lot of time on Venice and Santa Monica beaches listening to "Boss Radio" 93-KHJ) and the airwaves were full of wonderful (sometimes wonderfully silly) perfect pop songs that just made the summer days complete.
So first up is Reunion with the delightfully silly...and simply delightful..."Life is a Rock (but the Radio Rolled Me)".
Happy summer, people :-)
Friday, June 11, 2010
Pop quiz, pilgrim: What is the most compelling…the most evocative…the most thrilling and engaging thing in Rock and Roll?
The answer is the authentic voice. (Yeah I also have a fondness for a well-turned phrase but that’s a pontification for another time.)
Music is full of voices…some pristine and meticulous, some hard used and ragged, some polished by technology and trickery to a fare-thee-well…but it’s the authentic voice…the heartfelt, soulful, heartbreaking and soul quickening voice…that sends shivers down my spine and makes my jaded heart soar. Authentic voices are not nearly as prevalent as they should be…not by a long shot.
But V.K. Lynne…V.K. Lynne has an authentic voice. And damn if she doesn’t make my jaded, music loving heart soar into the heavens. She soars…she growls…she purrs…she belts out blues and testifies to the healing power of rock and roll. She is the real deal. She is the authentic voice.
I’ve sung the lady’s praises before (see here and here) and I should have sung the praises of this gritty and tuneful, powerfully rocking and soulful album long before this (the reasons for the absence of new music on this page are too many and too boring to bother you with here.)
Producer James Thomas provides a full-bodied foundation for that voice…that wondrous voice and the clear-eyed, bittersweet poetry of V.K.’s lyrics.
The opening track, the anthem-like “Find Me”, rides soaring guitars until the suspense is almost unbearable and then, just in the nick of time, is the voice…and all is already alright and I’m in love again (my love is chaste and respectful…but no less heartfelt for that…)
And it flows through you…that joy that music brings when it’s real…when it’s thrilling and engaging…for 9 more tracks (from the rueful blues of “Mess Like You” to the title track to the sweet sentiment of “Salvation in the Skies” to “He Rolls”, a simmering then percolating duet with Hogni you will search in vain to find a false note.)
Whiskey or Water isn’t a question, it’s an answer. And what a grand answer it is.
Tuesday, June 08, 2010
Thankfully there was Breaking Bad…Mad Men…Parks and Recreation...the first half of Community’s season (they kinda limped to the finish on auto pilot…but they got a lot of goodwill for the amazing Halloween episode and the Troy and Abed shorts at the end of each episode)…Justified…and Glee.
Glee made me happy.
It was sometimes soapy and sometimes silly and sometimes sticky and sentimental…but that was all just fine by me…there were amazing musical numbers…and Madonna songs…and Sue Sylvester…and, most importantly, it made me happy.
Glee couldn’t save the whole season for me…but man, I’m glad it was there…and I’m glad it will be back next season.
Monday, February 01, 2010
The awards really don't matter that much (quick...without Googling...what was the Album of the Year at the 2009 show? Yeah, I don't remember either), with the Grammy show, it's the music that matters.
The unavoidable Lady Gaga and the legendary Sir Elton John opened the show in bombastic (but admittedly fun) fashion and Green Day and the cast of the upcoming musical "American Idiot" made a good case for the blending of Punk and Broadway.
Beyonce got a jump on the Michael Jackson tribute with backup dancers dressed like stormtroopers and by grabbing her crotch during a searing medley of "If I Were a Boy" and Alanis Morrissette's "You Ought to Know" and Pink is apparently trying out for Cirque du Soleil (it's a bit odd but kind of cool too.)
The unavoidable Black Eyed Peas cranked up the spectacle to 11 (though after making a big deal about the fan videos of "I Gotta Feeling" they were barely seen in the far background.)
Second hour means the country folk can come out to play. Lady Antebellum leads off with a sweet and smooth performance. Best New Artists, The Zac Brown Band did themselves proud playing a spirited medley with the venerable Leon Russell. And Taylor Swift got to share a stage with one of her heroines, Stevie Nicks.
Jamie Foxx and his Auto-Tune continued the martial costume theme (T-Pain and his white tuxedo must not have gotten the memo and Slash is just too cool for that stuff.)
The Michael Jackson tribute...with Celine Dion, Usher, Carrie Underwood, Jennifer Hudson, and Smokey Robinson singing along with MJ's recording of "Earth Song"...was stirring (and Jackson's children were dignified and gracious afterwards.)
Bon Jovi...with Sugarland's Jennifer Nettles sitting in...was solid in their 3-song mini-set.
Okay, I will admit to misting up during the soaring performance of "Bridge Over Troubled Water" by Andrea Bocelli and Mary J. Blige (and yes I will be ponying up for the Haiti-benefiting download available at itunes.com/target.)
And the jubilant performance by the Dave Matthews Band (and a WHOLE LOT of friends) was a joyous tribute to their fallen brother and bandmate, LeRoi Moore.
Maxwell and Roberta Flack were fine (though Roberta seemed a bit unsteady at times) and Jeff Beck's tribute to Les Paul was very tasty.
The performances were fair to great, the speeches were kept to a minimum, and the show kept moving...all in all the Grammys were fine this year and I was cool with that.