Lesson learned from Tuesday night

Lesson learned from watching Gilmore Girls followed by Veronica Mars on Tuesday:

    If:

  • You are a cute teenage gal with sharp intelligence you use with verbal bounce and precision
  • you are being raise by a single parent;
  • said single parent owns a small business;
  • said parent has taken extra measures to help afford you attending an Ivy League school;
  • and you have recently decided that a disreputable boy from a family who is far wealthier than yours is your boyfriend…

…then your boyfriend’s name is “Logan”.

Published in: on April 27, 2005 at 7:04 pm  Comments (2)  

Changed TV viewing

Note: this message was written months ago, and I just left unposted. It largely still applies.

The Lovely Lara and I have literally not rented anything from the video store in years. Rather than pay the rental price then having to worry about returning things on time, we were buying used video tapes, watching them when we needed something to watch, and then mailing them off to mom for her to watch and/or donate to her local old folks home.

Several things have changed our situation recently. For one, mother has moved from Alaska to Texas, which means that she now has TV reception so she has a better source of video entertainment. It also means she’s not near the old folks home for recycling the tapes. Meanwhile, we were relying less on the tapes for entertainment (they ended up being watched mainly during Nat’s exercise period) and ever more on the material captured by the ReplayTV. The birth of our child, Somebody, generated more TV-watching hours (it’s something one can do while holding a sleeping or feeding baby, plus Lara has more hours at home for the next few months) while a lackluster new TV season generated a shortage of material to fill that time.

So we cancelled some little-used TV channels, which left more than enough for the monthly charge of $17,99 for the basic Netflix all-you-can-rent system. I love their business model. Basically, you keep a list of the DVDs you want to rent in the order that you want to rent them. They send you three disks to start, in pre-paid return postage mailers. Whenever you return one, they send you think next available disk from your list (and so far, that’s always been the very next thing on our list). Drop a disk in the mailbox Tuesday morning and the postman will probably have a new disk for you on Thursday. They don’t process disks on the weekend, and if you’re generally watching your DVDs after the postalfolk have finished their pickups for the day, you can’t quite pull off having a different DVD to watch every night. You’ll max out at about 5 a week, maybe 22 a month. For eighteen bucks. No tax. No late fees.Watching the things you want to watch, from an insanely huge collection (25,000 different disks, about five times what a real good video store will have.) All kinds of old movies. All the latest releases, before they hit HBO. All those HBO series, once they hit DVD.

And yeah, TV shows make up a fair portion of the things on our list. At the moment, we have the first disc of the second Wiseguy arc, the one with Kevin Spacy (a favorite of Lara’s.) We’ve already watched the first disc of HBO’s Six Feet Under.

On our waiting list are discs of Firefly (SF from the creator of Buffy), the BBC comedy Yes, Minister, and the Wodehouse adaptation Jeeves and Wooster. Cherry-picking the best of TV to augment the few good current shows, watching them with various extras and no ads, that makes me happy. Plus, a disk of TV has more minutes of key enertainment material than a typical film, so I’m getting my $17.99 worth.

That brings an odd point: the rental is by the disk. Now, you’re probably used to that with TV show disks at the local rental shop, but it’s a little odd when it comes to a special edition film. Rent the movie, and then decide whether you want to rent the disk of extras. I already have the “extras” disk for the new deluxe Shawkshank Redemption on the list. I don’t need to see the movie, which I’ve seen plenty of times (like most of the movies that did little in the theater but became big in the video market — A Christmas Story, Office Space, and so forth — I was one of the few who saw it in the theater), but I’d like to see the extras.

So far, the only problem we’ve had is that they delivered Wiseguy Season 1 Part 2 Disk 2 in the sleeve that was supposed to have Wiseguy Season 1 Part 2 Disk 1. We’ve gone through about half a dozen disks, and we’re still not at the end of our two week free trial period.

Looking at the figures: these guys have a good thing going. They’ve got over two million subscribers. They offer them a lot of rentals, access to a ton of movies. Folks watch about twice as many disks than they used to rent. 25,000 titles, sixteen million DVDs, and it looks like there’s room for a good profit in those eighteen bucks.

Published in: on April 27, 2005 at 12:51 am  Leave a Comment  

Gawdawful

Joan of Arcadia, frequently a source of dubious moral values, has now officially degenerated into a shambles. The recent episodes are part of some random G-d vs Devil thing, with an unimpressively-played devil with at best an awkward presentation of what the conflict is. This series always failed on questioning the following of G-d (much less the real question of what G-d means).

But what made this week’s installment really cringeworthy was a science discussion which was not just a mangling of science or a bad science-based metaphor, but just randomly used scientific terms in a discussion as if it were some invented religion for a TV show that didn’t have to mean anything. If you didn’t see it… well, let’s say that the “electromagnetic spectrum” has at its center “things we can see”, and then at one of its ends “things we can’t see, but we can measure, like atoms” (and the things we can see are what, exactly? Not matter?) and at the other end is “everything else, like dimensions”.

No reason for it. Serves no real point. But even if they have to endorse religiosity to serve their concept, they don’t have to do such harm to the reality of science.

We’ll see if I can bring myself to watch any more.

Published in: on April 24, 2005 at 11:52 pm  Leave a Comment  

Fake News Anchors UNITE!

Dennis Miller is the announced guest on tonight’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, which sounds like quite an interesting matchup. On one hand, Miller basically invented what Stewart now does, the knowledgable, intelligent fake news anchor (as opposed to the more goofy styles of the pre-Miller Saturday Night Live and most earlier exaples.) On the other hand, not only has the student surpassed the master at his best, the master has falled in an ugly way, spending years as the sort of bully pundit that Stewart works so effectively against, one more interested in the noise than the news.

I doubt that the interview will be as good as that potential makes it sound. Miller has been largely failing at his apparent goal of becoming an angry right-wing spokesman, making him not important enough to really kick around. And yet, unless he is trying to reinvent himself again (and he’s about due), he won’t be fun enough for it to be fun.

But I will, of course, watch it. It is, after all, The Daily Show, and very rare is the night that the half hour on the whole is not worthwhile.

Published in: on April 20, 2005 at 2:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

Insinuations

I am not a big fan of worldwide disaster flicks. The coming meteor shower, the volcano that will wipe out California, the amazing simultaneous cataclysms of The Day After Tomorrow, those things are not for me. The characters are generally paper-deep, the focus is on the carnage rather than on what comes afterward, and it all falls flat.

I am not a big fan of the bible, or rather the effect that that book of occasionally-interesting stories has had on the world (as part of the larger situation of “the effect of religion”.) In particular, I am no fan of the effects of the book of Revelations; as with any vague or reinterpertable prophecy, it is constantly viewed as being both right and current, and some very bad things are done based on the prophecies that are there.

And while I have no objections to work that is about the mystical, works in which science is wrong, I do have something against works where “science is wrong” is the theme, where the following of verifiable truth rather than fairy-tales is shown to be a danger. It is an immoral moral.

It should come as no shock, then, that Revelations, the miniseries where the coming destruction seems to be the mystical one foretold in the bible, does not inherently appeal. It would have to be very well done to win me over. And while they do a good job of capturing the dark look of a destruction-of-the-world movie, they don’t do a good job of creating an involving work. Because of what they choose to focus on, it leaves no room for doubt in the supernaturalness of occurence. This won’t be a Scooby-Doo mystery, where it turns out that the signs of the apocalypse are tricks caused by a real estate developer to lower prices so he can buy the world. The situations between the two leads (a scientist and a nun) won’t be a fair battle between the believer and the skeptic. The series starts with another scientist giving a lecture that seems to focus on notes cribbed from the Creationist pamphlets against evolution. Science has no place here. The whole thing is a waiting game for the skeptic to give up on the skepticism.

And I, for one, am not willing to wait.

(It also has a bad case of miserable headline disease. You know the ailment, the one where newspaper headlines and news summaries are phrased in a way that no newspaper headline or news summary would ever phrase anything. This is done specifically to inform the audience of one piece of information that is particularly relevant to the fiction being spun, but brings up information that is secondary or tertiary to the supposed piece of news. You know, like when our hero John’s old next door neighbor gets sent to the asylum, and the newspaper headline reads “Man, former neighbor of John, sings lullabies all day. Police baffled by focus on songs that mention cats”. That always pulls me out of the moment. Revelations has an online article headline about a killing that specifies where the victim’s sister went to college. I kid you not.)

Published in: on April 16, 2005 at 6:54 pm  Comments (5)  

Veronica Mars! Veronica Mars!

Veronica Mars has been picked up for a second season! Woo-hooooooooo!

Published in: on April 15, 2005 at 7:14 am  Comments (3)  

Yeah, I nailed it

Stacked = Cheers, only with the male proprietor being the bookish one and the blonde female just-broken-up new employee being the one with the lusty, full-life attitude.

They’ve even got the other woman, the short one with curly dark hair who gives people their drinks…

Not as good as the first episode of Cheers mind you, but not horrid either. Given the producer, I don’t have faith that it will get better. But hey, when Lost is a repeat and with Smallville weakening this season, it’s TV!

Published in: on April 13, 2005 at 11:54 pm  Comments (6)  

Not in retrograde

I’m in the midst of watching the latest intelligent episode of Veronica Mars (it’s an ad break at the moment), and this series which has already brought me Allyson Hannigan as a guest star is now offering up Joey Lauren Adams without making a big deal of it. Yes, they know what I like.

Don’t come to me in two years when you discover this on DVD and say “hey, we should’ve listened to you back then.” Watch this now and keep it from disappearing.

Oh, and for those who did watch it: I checked, and while there’s nothing actually at KillEmAll.net at the moment, it is indeed owned by Warner Brothers, producers of the show. So at least they checked that out.

Published in: on April 13, 2005 at 10:22 am  Leave a Comment  

Everything classic is new again

I just caught an ad for the Wednesday debut of Stacked, the new Pamela Anderson comedy (which has already undergone some cast change from the original ads, by the way.)

As best as I can tell from the ad, it’s about an attractive blonde who walks into a place of business where she obviously doesn’t fit in. While there, her current romantic relationship goes pfft, and she ends up taking a job there.

Now, can anyone out there recall the plot of the first episode of Cheers?

Published in: on April 11, 2005 at 12:04 am  Leave a Comment  

The pace of modern living

Living with Fran is delivered rapidly, not in a screwball comedy rhythm, but in a we-wrote-25-minutes-of-script-for-a-22-minute-show rhythm. No one has time to relax, to respond. Timing, the key to comedy, goes missing. Actors have something called a “speed-through”, a type of rehearsal where you just try to say your lines and go through your blocking as rapidly as possible. The presumption is that once you have these things down, you won’t need to worry about them, and you can get on with the acting part of acting. The first episode of Living With Fran felt like a speed-through… even down to the odd echoes of a theater without an audience to absorb the sound. (The laughs all sound mixed in later.)

This is a shame, because there is something to work with here. While they play it rather high concept (son drops out of med school and moves home, to discover divorced mom is living with a guy his age), there is some meat on these bones. If you’d taken the same script and placed it in the hands of, say, Pamela Fryman, who used to direct Frasier and currently directs Two-and-a-Half Men, you’d have something (perhaps not as good as either of those shows on their better days, but still something worthwhile.)

Fran Drescher first caught my attention playing a prostitute in the film Doctor Detroit, and her lovely look and nasal tones stirred something deep and semitic within me. She showed talent in various ways before getting locked in the broadly played shtick of The Nanny (which was a lowbrow show but generally a good lowbrow show). She can pull off more than she has to do here, but they may have to pull her away from that Nanny style.

Which leads to another point. I am told that in an upcoming episode (presumably not the second episode they aired on Friday, which I missed), her ex-husband will be played by the same actor her character married on that previous series. I can’t help but to think about The Mary Tyler Moore Show, on which Mary played someone who had broken up with a fiancee, because they were afraid if they made her a divorcee, people would think she’d gotten divorced from Rob Petrie. On Living with Fran, they not only disregard this conflict, they seem to throw themselves into it eagerly!

Published in: on April 10, 2005 at 5:54 pm  Leave a Comment  
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