Saturday, October 29, 2005

Embarrassment of Riches

Turner Classic Movies is the gem of any cable line-up. No commercials - no editing - no pan-and-scan. Each movie is presented the way it was meant to be seen.

I have my TiVo set to be on the lookout for any movies directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and this past week it scored the mother-load. Some kind of festival must have been going on, because in the last five days, I've tivoed (and have yet to watch):

Dial M For Murder
Number Seventeen
The Lady Vanishes
Shadow of a Doubt
Strangers on a Train
Bon Voyage
and Frenzy.

I've always loved the work of Hitchcock - but I have to admit that I've only seen his most popular movies: Psycho, Dial M for Murder, The Birds. This gives me a chance to catch up on the movies he's done that I never got around to renting and watching.

And it's fun! I already watched part of Spellbound, and it's just incredible. Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck are both at the height of their beauty - during the whole movie I simply wonder why they didn't get together and have baby after baby - can you imagine how attractive and talented those babies would have been?

Super babies!

Hitchcock's direction always stands out. It can seem cheesy at times (I don't need to see people drinking milk from the perspective of the person drinking milk) but it's original (even seems original today) and keeps you interested.

The music in his movies - while never exactly the same - always seems similar, with the sympathetic strings next to the foreboding brass section. Spellbound makes use of a theremin; who in their right mind uses a theremin? (except every cheesy horror movie)

So, if I don't blog for a couple of days, you'll know why.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

We Interrupt This Broadcast: Roach!

Not completely addicted to television.

Mary Roach, author of personal favorite Stiff, has a new book out, Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife. From what I've read so far, Roach continues in her easy, casual, yet entertaining and informative style and uses plenty of footnotes. Roach shoves so much info and whimsy into footnotes - you can tell that she simply can not leave this stuff out - she can only be called the Footnote Queen. And I love it.

Fiona Apple's oft-delayed and shelved album Extraordinary Machine has finally been released. Much of the album was leaked to the internet months ago, but the album has been almost completely re-produced, and it shows. Apple has an excellent grasp of the pounding beat - her piano playing sometimes acts as a rhythm section - and her lyrical sense has matured since When the Pawn ...

If you're in the Washington, DC area, Michael Crichton will be speaking live at GW Lisner Auditorium on November 6th. Don't go because he's sold millions of books. Don't go because he's co-creator of E.R. Don't go because he wrote Jurassic Park and the Andromeda Strain and don't go because he's got a new book out. Go because he's so damn good looking.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Static & Snow: Don't Beboop It

A round-up of recent, outta-sight & immanently bloggable television news:

  • The Washington Post adds video podcasts to their ample online offerings. Any excuse for a casting couch.

  • You don't want to watch, but you can't turn away. Al Roker gets blown.

  • The Wall Street Journal scares the shit out of marketing managers everywhere with one simple sound. The dreaded TiVo, commercial-skipping "beboop."
    77% of TiVo users who recorded a prime-time program to watch later skipped the commercials when they got around to watching it. More recently, David Poltrack, the research guru at Viacom Inc.'s CBS, found that 64% of DVR users skipped all commercials and an additional 26% blew through most spots.
  • Boil-on-the-face-of-television Kathy Griffin is auctioning off a night with herself and her new plastic body parts. No open flames.

  • Nielson ratings for the week ending 10/23 Two and a Half Men is the most popular comedy on television. Showers of frogs, loud trumpets, four big guys on horses to come.

  • Surprise, Surprise.
    This month's issue of Radar magazine has an "expose"” of one of reality television's "secrets"”: editors constructing fake situations out of real footage.

    With interviews with five story producers or story editors, Andrew Goldman reports on rather familiar producer tricks, such as asking leading questions during interviews and getting casts drunk.

  • Thinking ... Thinking ...

    I apologize for the lack of posts, but I am working on a "What to Watch" guide. (Good idea, Rhodent!)

    I'm having problems deciding on the format of the guide. I'd only list the best shows, but then what would I have to make fun of?

    How many cable shows should I include, if any? It's also hard to keep track of what is still on the air - and hasn't been cancelled.

    If you have any preferences, let me know.

    Until then, enjoy these (fake) FOX News screencaps from the (far) past.

    Friday, October 21, 2005

    Fridays with Lisa - 10/21/05

    Yet another foray into the chat and mind of Post TV Columnist Lisa de Moraes.

    Here's her latest column.
    Rockville, Md.: Hi Lisa. What happened to "My Wife and Kids?" Surely it didn't bite the dust before "According to Jim."

    Lisa de Moraes: Alas, that is exactly what happened.
    I had no idea that My Wife and Kids had been cancelled. I watched a few episodes last year and it seemed like a decent show - if not too derivitive of other shows on the air (then again, what show isn't?).

    So long My Wife ... we hardly knew ye. Or, rather, not enough people knew you on a regular basis.

    Ballston, Va.: I know you favor Lost on Wednesday at 9:00, but please tell me you at least TiVo Veronica Mars so I won't think you're a total ditz who is completely udeserving of her job.

    Lisa de Moraes: Notwithstanding the fact that I am a total ditz who is completely undeserving of her job, I watch Veronica Mars which, I'm happy to note, is having a pretty good season, ratingswise (with apologies to non-numbers chatter).

    Excellent. I've only just gotten into Veronica Mars this season despite the fact that I saw an episode last season and liked it a lot. I had trouble remembering when it was on. I still don't know when it's on, but it shows up on my TiVo once a week.

    I never got into 'Lost'. I don't have the time to get hooked on another show at the moment.

    Gaithersburg, Md.: I'm so happy! Tuesday has stayed my fave night of TV! I was scared after "Judging Amy" was cancelled, but now ... I have my "Gilmore Girls" at 8, and then I flip on over to my new fave, "Commander in Chief" at 9. That's finished by watching "Great Chefs of the World" on Discovery Home at 10! FANTASTIC!

    Lisa de Moraes: I! Am! So! Happy! For! You!!! But, no House? No Earl? Tuesday has become a really hot night of TV.

    For the record - even though I watch Gilmore Girls and Commander in Chief, I did not submit this question. I don't even have the Discovery Home channel. (There's a Discovery Home channel?!) Also, Judging Amy? *makes sticking-finger-down-throat-heavie sound*

    Still not into My Name is Earl

    Philadelphia, Pa.: The ABC affiliate in Philadelphia repeatedly displays advertisement banners for the upcoming local news on the bottom of the screen during network programs, even covering over subtitles during ALIAS last season. ...

    Lisa de Moraes: Yes, contact one of the people who cover television in Philly and hope that they will write about it and embarass the station into changing it. ...

    I'm sure this will be a post on its own eventually. Stations - especially cable stations - are going way over the line with promotions during shows. Oxygen's promotions during shows cover almost half the screen.

    And why does FOX have to plug reruns of The Simpsons during reruns of The Simpsons?! I'm already watching the damn show - your promotion worked - now knock it off!

    On that angry note, another tasty chat with a creamy filled center is finished. Thanks, Lisa!

    Thursday, October 20, 2005

    The WB: Imitation is the sincerest form of ratings

    Today's TV Column concerned almost exclusively the creative juggernaut that is Ashton Kutcher. I haven't seen anything or anyone so overrated since thalidomide in the 60's. That being said, I don't wish flippers on his soon-to-be-born baby.

    The interesting part of the article comes at the end - as de Moraes dissects the latest schedule swappin' at the WB network.

    In a nutshell, WB is pulling expensive original programming out of the way of ABC's "Lost" on Wednesday and ABC's "Desperate Housewives" on Sunday, and filling those hours with repeats.

    All told, WB will have 3 1/2 hours of repeat programming on its 13 hours of prime time.

    I've never considered the WB a real network (sorry WB brand marketers), and unless they change course dramatically, I never will.

    But it may be to their benefit never to become a 'real' network. The WB does have a knack for finding niche audiences for its hour-long dramas (WB comedies are about as funny as clubbing baby seals.)

    Does anyone think that '7th Heaven' would have survived anywhere but on the WB? 'Buffy' would have been cancelled after one season if she had arrived on NBC. (I know, I know, the WB ended up cancelling it anyway and Buffy moved to UPN.)

    'The Gilmore Girls' has done an excellent job of grabbing onto that young girl/older women/gay men/straight guys who won't admit it audience. If I'm not mistaken, GG's ratings last year were higher than ever - and that was with a major shift in story-line, what with Rory going off to Yale (Yes, I know the story-line, stop giggling).

    'Charmed,' 'Smallville,' the shows the WB has established are impressive. Their success in getting people to watch Rose McGowan on a regular basis is reason enough for celebration.

    It's time for the WB to jump out of the 'network' system and think originally and freely for the first time. To take television in a whole new direction by copying HBO.

    Think about it. I'm surprised we haven't seen a regular network adopt more of HBO's policies already. Let the WB concentrate on a few great shows per year. Stop picking up this comedy schlock (and I'm convinced they know it's crap before it goes on the air) and hold out for something great that will attract that large audience that they need.

    The catch is that no one in their right mind is going to pay premium prices for the WB like they do for HBO. The WB can't ditch all their advertising. But how much money are they really making with the advertising during 'What I Like About You?' That show is in its fourth season and I've never even heard of it. Does it have a purpose besides giving Dan Cortese money for strippers?

    The WB could curate excellent programming, have it premier all through the year, and make up the loss of quantity by investing in quality. The network would get a boatload of press just for announcing the change.

    Could you imagine the reaction when the official fall season line-up announcement consists of four shows premiering in September, two in January, three in April and two in June?

    It's time for a change WB. Getting rid of the frog was a good start; now take it further. Chant with me, change is good ... change is good.

    But cancel Gilmore Girls and I'll take a shrimp fork to your face.

    Wednesday, October 19, 2005

    I'm being forced to watch 'Freddie'

    From the TV Column:
    "Freddie." More than 9 million watched Freddie Prinze Jr.'s new sitcom open Tuesday -- the most-watched series in its half-hour. Better yet, ABC reported that it scored its biggest sitcom premiere rating in two years with young viewers.
    Egads. Now I have to watch this show and see what the big deal is.

    I'm sure it's craptastic.

    Tuesday, October 18, 2005

    'Out of Practice' needs nudity

    There are a lot of reasons to watch a television show. Shows become popular through good writing, direction and excellent acting. Of course, that doesn't explain why 'Yes, Dear' is in its third season (or is it fourth? It's too depressing to think about).

    Many shows are educational. Learning something new or experiencing another culture are excellent reasons to watch a television show.

    Other shows are nostalgic - they remind you of past events in your life or other times and places.

    'Out of Practice' doesn't really fit into any of the above categories. The cast is worth noting, including television heavyweights Stockard Channing and Henry Winkler. For chrissake, the Fonz is on this show!

    The writing hasn't quite caught up to the talent of the cast. Well, I suppose it's caught up to co-star Paula Marshall. Marshall is a TV kiss of death, having appeared on 'Wild Oats,' 'Chicago Sons,' 'Cupid,' 'Snoops,' 'Cursed,' and 'Hidden Hills' since 1994. At least she's working.

    The actors are doing the best with what they are given. The writing is too "bit"ish. (no, not British). They try too hard to make each line a little comic performance. Just give me half-way decent funny dialogue.

    An example - the Fonz is talking about his son's new apartment:
    Fonzie: "You guys, have you seen the bathroom? There is a floor to ceiling window with one way glass, you get this fantastic view but total privacy."

    Son: "Yeah, they're coming to tint that tomorrow."

    Fonzie: "Is there a back way out of here?"
    *trumpet WAHH WAHH*

    And yet, my TiVo is set to record every episode of Out of Practice. Whatever for?

    Eye Candy.

    I'd like to think my addiction is more subtle than the hoards of 'Baywatch' devotees, but I have to admit that Christopher Gorham (left side of top photo, blue sweater) is the cutest thing since sliced bread. And, as we all know, sliced bread is freakin adorable.

    Chris and I go way back - all the way to 1999 when he starred in the severely underappreciated show Popular.

    Out of Practice needs good ratings, and fast. From
    CBS is also giving some encouragement to laffer "Out of Practice" and drama "Threshold," ordering three additional scripts of the series but waiting to see some more ratings data before ordering more episodes.
    I don't mean to be presumptuous, but I think it would be totally believable if Christopher's character had scenes fresh out of the shower ... or pool! They could have a pool.

    Also, they could include a scene where everyone's clothes fly off. They could easily explain it by adding a genie to the cast.

    Genies get ratings, right?

    Monday, October 17, 2005

    'Desperate Housewives' is just as good this season so stop your whining.

    UPDATE (10/18): LA Times and Defamer disagree with me. I still think the show is great fun. Plus, I heard Defamer calling your mom fat.

    There's been some grumbling on the internets about the current state of Desperate Housewives - that ever since the main mystery was solved at the end of last season the show has lost its edge.

    Housewives is one of the only shows on TV (I can count them on one hand) that makes me laugh out loud on a regular basis.

    This past Sunday, besides the Bree/creepy-guy-who-likes-her (George - seen above putting salt on his watermelon)/Bree's son (Andrew) triangle plotline, Gabrielle caused a prison riot. Bree ended up shipping Andrew off to mental reconstruction camp, or some such thing. (count yourself lucky, I could have used the camp / concentration joke).

    I'm convinced George is crazy. Who puts salt on their watermelon? Is that a Southern thing? I have heard it's done all the time, but I'm convinced only in asylums.

    This season lacks scenes with all four main characters chatting; those hilarious kitchen conversations that turned me on to the show in the first place. This Sunday we got one with three of the main characters and it was quite welcome. ("Thank God you were wearing flats.")

    The show does seem to be veering a bit towards Melrose Place territory (Marcia Cross and Doug Savant - both ex-Melrosies - must be putting something in the water), but until I see Bree whipping off a wig to reveal a big-ass lobotomy scar I'm sticking with the girls.

    Desperate Housewives can be directly compared to The Golden Girls. Anything can be compared to The Golden Girls if you try hard enough.

    Susan is Rose (a little naive but good at heart), Lynette is Sophia (always quick with wit and concentrated on family), Bree is Dorothy (constantly in control is a crisis) and Gabrielle is Blanche (a slut). It's no mere coincidence that Marc Cherry, who created Desperate Housewives, started his career on The Golden Girls.

    Stick with the formula, Cherry. Stray and you'll end up with Desperate Palace.

    Saturday, October 15, 2005

    'Medium' made me claw my eyes out

    From TV Squad's review of the 'Light Sleeper' review of 'Medium'
    All in all, another great episode on what is the smartest depiction of family life anywhere on TV. Sure, your family isn't made up psychics and rocket scientists, but everything else is real, and really compelling.
    What a bunch of crap. I have to admit, I like Medium, I even have Tivi record it for me every week, but this week turned me off big time.

    The show concerns a psychic woman, her job with the District Attorney catching criminals and her family life at home with her (incredibly understandable) husband, three (incredibly blond) children and her (incredibly angular) face.

    Allison (that's her name on the show, like the drunk on Melrose Place) sees into the future, or the past or the present when she dreams at night, or when she touches people. It's kind of like The Dead Zone, only with more frustrated spouses.

    Last week's episode had Allison sleep-walking all over the place, including into traffic and to the bank (the bank ended up being more dangerous, those early withdrawl fees will kill ya!). Her husband took her to see a doctor for the sleepwalking spells, as they weren't her typical wake-up-screaming nightmares. He'd rather she just become mentally unstable, not walk.

    Then I threw things at the TV. The doctor, who saw her for two minutes on-screen, said "We don't know what causes sleepwalking, could be anxiety. Oh, here's a medication - take this at night and you won't sleepwalk". When Allison protests, he tells her not to worry, because it's the drug all her neighbors are taking. Then he hands her a full bottle of pills.


    Has ANYONE on that writing team been to the doctor in the last 10 or 15 years? I'm surprised that the doctor didn't come to her house with a black bag and give her a colonic for wandering uterus.

    Any doctor today, after finding out that Allison was sleepwalking in traffic, would have sent her to a sleep clinic faster than you can say four-point-restraint. And has any doctor you've been to ever given you a full bottle of pills in the examining room?

    I know that a TV show can't show Allison waiting in line at CVS to fill her prescription, but let's go for a little reality.

    I know, I know. This is a show that assumes we believe that this woman sees into the future, works as a medium for the District Attorney, and has a sex life. So why am I making a big stink of this doctor visit?

    The doctor's visit broke the reality. Writers have to remember that anytime something pedestrian comes up that breaks the reality of a show, it ruins the whole episode. And it did.

    Medium made me claw my eyes out.

    Friday, October 14, 2005

    Fridays With Lisa - 10/14/05

    I'm sure you know Lisa De Moraes and read her column regularly. No? Well, I'm embarrassed for both of us.

    Lisa writes a column dedicated to television for The Washington Post. It could also be summed up as "Carl's Dream Job." Lisa doesn't have to worry with reviews or previews, she can go straight to the snark, the gossip, the ratings and the breaking news.

    She does a live online chat at every Friday at 1pm. There are at least one or two comments that come out of that chat that are worth talking about, so I'm thinking this will be a regular feature. We'll see.

    Check back a bit later today for can't miss, funnier than that time your auntie shot milk out her nose entertainment. Chat is at 1pm - I'll have more of a post after that. Here's her latest article.

    From the Chat:
    Lisa de Moraes: ... Meanwhile, re the whole female TV president thing: among certain members of The Reporters Who Cover Television, there's some speculation that, with Steven Bochco now running the show, the president on "Commander in Chief" won't be female by the February sweeps. They wisely reason that it will not happen until February so that during the November sweep Bochco will be able to do one of his trademark envelope-pushing episodes (think "NYPD Blue") -- and their money is on one called "The President's Breasts are Missing!"
    Steven Bochco, creator of such gems as Cop Rock, Hooperman, Philly and Blind Justice (oh, ok, and NYPD Blue) has taken over creative control at Commander in Chief.

    But removing the whole woman as president aspect? The show will become West Wing with cheaper sets. Make no mistake about it, Geena Davis and her pouty pontoon lips are holding this show afloat.

    Madison, Wisc.: Using the formula of crappiness times longevity, what is the worst show of all time? I can't think of anything that beats Full House, but your knowledge of TV infamy should be able to unearth something better/worse ...

    Lisa de Moraes: I'm thinking anything by Miller/Boyett (sp?) -- the folks who did "Full House" is way up there on the list, but my personal fave is "Wings."
    Frankly I think That 70's Show is giving Full House a run for it's money. Every time someone mentions that show I have to ask ... "It's still ON?"

    Washington, D.C.: Any good reunion TV movies coming out this fall?

    Lisa de Moraes: If there's a god in heaven that trend is over....

    Don't You Believe It.

    Next: 'Medium' made me claw my eyes out.

    Wednesday, October 12, 2005

    Cheese Change

    I'm changing cheese.

    That's not completely true. I don't think you can ever really change cheese. You can't change, say, a Gouda, to a Cheddar. I wish you could - entertaining would be so much easier!

    I'm changing the focus of AtheC. That's not true either - boy am I a freakin liar tonight (that is, however, the best type of liar there is). You can't change a focus that never was. I'm narrowing the focus of AtheC. I'm narrowing the focus to television.

    I can hear the cries of "TiVo addict!" from here, honestly I can, and someone needs a lozenge. TiVo is a part of it, but I've always been a bit more enamored of the flicker box than your normal Joe. Or your normal Jane, or your slightly abnormal Edgar.

    This idea came to me in the last few weeks when I realized that:

    1. Hey, I'm not blogging anymore.
    2. Hey, all the television blogs out there kinda suck.
    3. Is that a sale at J.C. Penny's?! I need sheets!

    I don't have a lot of things against the current major television blogs, but I don't have anything for them either. I've been following Lost Remote, PVR Wire, Reality Blurred, TeeVee, TV Barn & TV Squad. All of them have their high points - but none of them are spectacular, or what I'm aiming to do. I have to blog what I love, and I love TV.

    While not setting too many constraints for myself, I'd like this blog to be a bit less on the "episode recap" side and more on the "What does this mean?" or "Who do they think they're kidding?" (How many times have you screamed that at the screen? Perhaps that's why you need a lozenge.)

    Anyway, I hope you'll stick with me through the change, it's going to be fun. Now, to scare you away, and to give you a taste of my taste, here's a list of the currently running shows my TiVo is commanded (commanded!) to record every week.

    Desperate Housewives - it's nice up here on the bandwagon, it's like a hayride.
    Veronica Mars - just to give me cred with the "hip" kids
    Medium - but you knew I was going to list this.
    Commander in Chief - even better after they deflated her lips
    Everybody Hates Chris - so far, so good.
    Out of Practice - a whole post in itself, don't judge me too harshly on this one.
    Nightline - just to give me cred with the "hip" adults
    Arrested Development - being a heartbeat away from cancellation makes it exciting.
    Gilmore Girls - a perennial favorite, like tulips, or Christmas cookies.
    Rome - English accents make Italy more realistic!

    Come back soon.

    Tuesday, October 11, 2005

    Smells like Bacon

    Do you smell that?


    That's change in the air.