October 2006 Archives

Yes, the Dilbert Guy

After reading this thanks to a link from Ken Jennings' blog, I'm speechless. The human brain's operating system is in bad need of an upgrade.

Buy Tie One On Online

A number of you have griped that the only way to get Tie One On requires you to darken the doorstep of your local Wal-Mart. Now, we think that a game of thinkable, linkable fun is well worth a smidgen of your soul, but we understand laziness. We get that you're down with a Faustian bargain as long as you don't need to brush elbows with the hoi polloi. We know that the siren song of rolled-back prices isn't enough to hoist you from the naugahyde crater in your easy chair.

Well, the fine folks at Wal-Mart have got your number. So put on your fuzzy slippers, open up a bag of pork rinds, and head over to Wal-Mart's web site where you can order yourself a case of party game fun, satisfying all your holiday gift-giving needs. Operators are standing by.

Comment (1) | last by Nathan, Oct 24, 10:44 AM

A little setup for the Password-impaired. When giving clues in Password, you can convey some extra information by modifying your inflection. For example, drawing out one of the sounds and stretching the word's pronunciation(e.g. "Cowwwwwwwwwwwwch...") means "The password is a word that commonly follows COUCH".

So we're playing Password. It's my turn to give clues first. I peek at the password, think about if for a couple of seconds, and come up with a money clue for which there is only one possible answer-- if my partner is geeky enough to get the reference. Knowing his television viewing habits, I decide to go for it.

My clue: "Picarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrd..."

My partner looks at me quizzically, asks me to repeat it, and then gives me the correct answer. And as it turned out, both of our opponents also knew it. Even sweeter, it was the last clue of the game and sealed our victory, 11-9. A very satisfying finish.

Answer in the comments.

Comments (13) | last by RichM, Oct 17, 8:39 AM

When Sports Night first aired, I ignored it. I don't care about sports themselves, let alone television shows about sports. A television show about a television show about sports? Please. I'm not into politics either, but I gave The West Wing a chance anyway-- and discovered that it actually made the world of politics interesting. So when Sports Night popped up in reruns on Comedy Central, I gave it a shot. Turns out it wasn't really about a sports show at all-- that was just the backdrop for a very sharply-written comedy. This season Aaron Sorkin's taken the ensemble hour-long drama format of The West Wing, crossed it with the behind-the-scenes-of-a-television-show setting of Sports Night, and produced Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip-- a show that threatens to crumble under the considerable weight of its own gravitas.

The West Wing was essentially a wish-fulfillment show, offering a look at what it might be like to have incredibly smart, dedicated people in the White House committed to making the country a better place without kowtowing to big business. Martin Sheen's President Jed Bartlett was always the smartest guy in the room, backed by a staff of brilliant and preternaturally quick-witted over-achievers. It offered viewers a glimpse into a mysterious world that affects us all yet about which we know very little. The White House backdrop opened the doors to provocative, relevant storylines that often had real-world analogues, and viewers could play "what-if?" along with the show. It was fantasy-- no White House could ever be as competent and idealistic as Bartlett's-- but a fantasy that resonated with American's yearning for government the way it "ought" to be.

Studio 60 is also a wish-fulfillment show, positing a network president who actually stands up for creative expression and freedom of speech, who goes to the mat for her producers, and who cares about quality and integrity at least as much as she does ratings and market share. But nobody outside of the television industry cares. Oh, sure, I wish there really were network execs like her, imposing a coward tax on advertisers for pulling out in the wake of the protest du jour. But in the end-- and this is me saying this-- it's just television. Viewers can only be expected to invest so much of themselves in a show about a sketch comedy show. These people are not fighting for education reform or keeping terrorists from blowing up the Golden Gate Bridge. They're performing "Pimp My Trike."

Bradley Whitford and Matthew Perry are outstanding, and Amanda Peet is also interesting. But Timothy Busfield is criminally under-utilized, Stephen Weber's corporate chairman hits only one note and cries out for some nuance, and none of the "big three" performers in the show-within-a-show seem as talented as we're told they are. We should never see any of the actual skits being performed-- they're forever doomed to be less funny than those concocted by cadres of cannibalisticly competitive writers and performers on real sketch comedy shows. The action should remain behind-the-scenes, and therein lies the problem. As great as the characters might be, as fantastic as the writing might be, the premise cannot sustain the life-or-death tone we've seen so far. This show needs to be more Ally McBeal, more Boston Legal. Sports Night worked because it was all about the funny. It took us behind the scenes to find humor in the characters, to laugh at the antics of a third-rated show on a third-rated network.

Unless you work in television, I question whether anyone can really empathize with all the hand-wringing about focus groups and market share and audience retention and how much of a pressure-cooker putting on a weekly sketch comedy show really is. Studio 60's crisis-laden tone comes off as the latest example of self-infatuated Hollywood navel-gazing. The writers, actors, and producers of the show eat and breathe show business. It's their entire world, and they seem to believe that viewers with no stake in the industry will care about it as much as they do. And by the way, I've got this great idea for a television show about the pressures and machinations behind the scenes creating software at a major software company.

Comments (10) | last by Pochka, Oct 4, 11:48 PM

Personal Multiplex

With the exception of Prison Break, the second season of which is stacking up on the Tivo in anticipation of a cliffhanger-foiling marathon binge, I'm all caught up on my TV for the moment. Here's what I'm watching this season:

Prison Break
Heroes
Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip
CSI: Miami
Veronica Mars
Boston Legal
Jericho
Lost
CSI:NY
The Nine
Smallville
Survivor
Supernatural
CSI
ER
Doctor Who
Battlestar Galactica
Deal or No Deal
NUMB3RS
The Amazing Race
Las Vegas

That's 21 hours a week. Then add:

Who Wants to Be a Millionaire (daily)
The Daily Show (daily)
The Colbert Report (daily)
Good Eats
America's Test Kitchen
Ebert & Roeper
Robot Chicken
The Venture Brothers
Harvey Birdman: Attorney At Law
I Want That! Kitchens, Baths, and Tech Toys

and that's another 10-11 hours per week, bringing the total to about 32 hours of television a week. Holy bejeezus, how is that even possible? Ok, thanks to the magic of Tivo, each hour is really only about 45 minutes, and some shows like Millionaire and Deal or No Deal compress even more than that with judicious use of double-speed. So that gets the real viewing time down to about 24 hours. Not all those shows will run all season long, and new series like Jericho might get the boot either by me or the network. And I'm usually doing something else while I'm watching most of the half-hour stuff and some of the dramas. So really it's not as bad as it looks. Ahem.

Anyhoo, for now I'm all caught up. But my Tivo is still bursting at the gills with unwatched movies, some recorded as many as three years ago. Curious, I just counted them. 41. Forty-one unwatched movies. Again I say, holy bejeezus! I know you're curious, so here they are:

Chicken Run
Life is Beautiful
Sleepless in Seattle
Hedwig and the Angry Inch
The Sum of All Fears
The Rundown
Chicago
Finding Nemo
The Triplets of Belleville
Scream
Scream 2
Collateral
L.A. Confidential
The People vs. Larry Flynt
The Bourne Supremacy
Nine Queens
The Station Agent
Sin City
House of Flying Daggers
Million Dollar Baby
Saw
Hotel Rwanda
Crash
Shaolin Soccer
Ocean's Twelve
Mindhunters
The Interpreter
Hide and Seek
Kung Fu Hustle
Batman Begins
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Bend it Like Beckham
Cellular
Silverado
Liar Liar
Cube Zero
Zathura
Steamboy
Pleasantville
Layer Cake
The Forgotten

I expect that before long, the wave of incoming television will crash over me and I'll be fighting to recover enough Tivo space to keep up. When that happens, after nuking any unseen I Want That!s and other fluff, movies are the next to go. Besides Cube Zero, which I'm sure is crap but I want to watch anyway, what should I delete first? Anything on that list really not worth watching?

Comments (16) | last by Dug, Oct 10, 6:51 PM

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