Get 'em while you can

Last week, they said that Satuday tickets for this week’s Comic-Con International: San Diego were already sold out.
On Thursday, they said that Friday tickets had sold out.
Today (Friday), they said that Sunday tickets had sold out.

So if you want a ticket for this year’s con, you’ll have to buy a Thursday one. It’s all that’s left!

Published in: on July 28, 2007 at 1:35 am  Leave a Comment  

Things making me happy at the San Diego Comic-Con

So I’m in the hotel elevator, and the door opens when it reaches the lobby. Standing there is a cute smiling blond gal in her twenties, clutching a large bed pillow to her… but that’s not what’s notable. Above the pillow? Bare arms, bare shoulders. Below the pillow? bare legs, down to her sandals. This is a good sign. I mean, in the history of men, there has never been a sad story that starts with the words “the elevator doors opened to reveal a grinning naked blond clutching a pillow to her chest.” There’s a reason Penthouse magazine didn’t have a “tragedy” section.
And then she passes me, and it turns out that she’s wearing a tube top and short shorts. Ah, well.


As I approached East A Street, I checked my GPS. It said “E A St”. Makes sense to me!

A sign on the door of a bar in a rather run-down section of the city:
No shoes
No shirt
No bicycle
or a shopping cart
No service

Published in: on July 26, 2007 at 3:20 am  Comments (1)  

Craving Grace

Look, I’m not sure if the opening scene of the new TNT drama series Saving Grace with a naked, man-riding Holly Hunter is actually her or a well-picked body-double. I’m not even positive that a careful frame-by-frame will find actual that’s-gotta-break-the-law images, although I suspect so. All I know is… Holly Hunter’s drunken, libidinous, nekkid Grace can stop by for a visit anytime. Not that’s she’s likely to.

Anyway, the character is good. The central concept, though, sounds like a better sitcom (she’s a drunken slutty cop, he’s an angel here to save her soul, will she ever learn to deal with him) than drama. Will it end up being a slowly-told Saved By An Angel/Highway to Heaven episode? Or will there be something with a bit more dramatic meat on it? To soon to tell just by watching it, and I haven’t done my research and don’t know if this is meant to be a sell-the-public-on-angels-and-goodness series, or something built around the dramatic conflict (although I fear there are signs of the former.) But still, Hunter is very watchable, and I don’t just mean when she’s without clothes. This is a high-energy part, a bit of a contrast to some of the quiet roles she’s had in the past, and she really carries it. She’s the reason to watch this, and I’ll be doing at least one more episode.
And for those who keep track of Nat’s history of admitted lusts, the series does also have Laura San Giacomo, who is admittedly past her peak as my lust object, but if she wants to stop by when nekkid Holly comes to visit, fine by me.
(Yes, every once in a while I like to do a post where I admit to the fleshy weaknesses. Mainly because it surprises a few people who for some reason think me more pristine than that. I don’t know why.)

Published in: on July 25, 2007 at 1:37 am  Leave a Comment  

From the Mad Men dept.

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a writer. Not just any kind of writer, I wanted to be an advertising writer. I’m not sure all of where I picked up the romance in the concept of being convincing. I know it predates my reading From Those Wonderful Folks Who Gave Your Pearl Harbor, and I probably would’ve been about 11 at that time. I’m sure there are enough sitcoms I’ve watched where the ad guy came up with the humorous and unlikely but effective campaign that I saw it as a way to be creative. But it was a yearning, and from time to time I still come up with an ad campaign in my head that just needs a client and a product.
And so, Mad Men, the new AMC drama series built around Madison Avenue types in 1960. It’s the sort of era and setting that perhaps a smooth polished setting which one can present the rot that lies beneath (much as in, say, the film Far From Heaven.) The WASP business world it depicts is one in which the upward mobility for secretaries involved dressing sexy and snagging an executive husband, and where the steno pool was one the executives tried to take a dip in every day. I sometimes have to remind myself that those depictions in older fiction actually come from somewhere; if the thirteen week run of the series includes a drunken office Christmas party, then it will at least be living up to all my main images from business fiction of the time, and probably the fact.
The visuals of this series are great, all smooth and sleek with well-dressed, carefully-coiffed folks.
The path they take for a drama are perhaps a might too easy. What do the writers choose to depict the dark side of advertising? Cigarettes, of course. Yes, it’s a good villain, but in ways it is too obvious, too easy. Even a cigarette exec played by John Cullum (yay!) is one we know is in the wrong, and when the ad men make it clear (in sadly unsubtle manner) that they know these things kill, and don’t care to let that fact interrupt their efforts.
Let me point out one thing that makes aiming at cigarettes far too easy: AMC is taking no risk in depicting cigarettes as deadly and the industry as corrupt, because AMC has no cigarette advertising. They’re not allowed to take cigarette advertising. It’s kind of like doing a show picking on the Amish — you know they won’t see it, and if they do they won’t kick you, so how brave is that?
But I’m focusing too much on that under-polished part of the story. The acting is good. The look is good. The other plot, about the firm being ill-prepared to deal with a Jewish client, isn’t particularly more subtle, but feels more real to me. All in all, a strongly worthwhile start, very watchable, and so well made that it saddens me it’s not perfect. Definitely you should check it out.
AMC seems to be rerunning this thing throughout its schedule, so it shouldn’t be too hard to catch. My ReplayTV recording was from a wee hour if I recall, which may explain the ads for a product which, well, is similar enough to what many spam-advertised products claim to do that I fear mentioning it here lest it trigger some system’s filters. For some reason, that seemed hilarious during a show built around the shamelessness of advertising.
This show is, of course, an example of AMC doing something which has nothing to do with their supposed central job of being “American Movie Classics”, but then that’s always the case. I’ve heard it explained that the way one gets a new channel on cable system is by being a specialist station specializing in something that an audience once…. but once you get on the cable sytem, the way you get big is to do a more general set of programming. So AMC and ESPN have original fiction series. TVLand runs movies (and now such “classic” material as Extreme Makeover: Home Edition). And MTV ain’t exactly about the music any more. But at least AMC is doing something good with it… which isn’t that surprising since they started doing original fiction with the casual fun sitcom Remember WENN (still not on DVD, at least not legally, alas) back in ’96.

Published in: on July 23, 2007 at 10:23 pm  Leave a Comment  

Side Order of Life

Another one of Lifetime’s big new fiction series pushes is Side Order of Life, focusing on a gal photographer who is coming to crux moments in her life, with a friend dying and a wedding impending. She starts seeing things that aren’t really there, the world speaking directly to her in various ways. And through all this that’s going on, she learns that Life Is Special and you have to Hold Out For Happiness and other official watchwords of the have-it-all woman. Sappy and pretentious. Early on, I turned to my wife and said “I’m not who this is made for.” She concurred for herself. So, it’s not just testoserone.
The funny parts aren’t funny and the touching parts aren’t touching, but if you’re a dissatisfied career woman who needs to hear that life is special, and better TV doesn’t do it, then this is for you!

Published in: on July 22, 2007 at 3:40 pm  Comments (1)  

Florence Stanley

There’s always a sense of loss when a good character actor, one of the comfortable faces of the screen, passes away. But at the moment, I’m feeling the extra kick of learning that Florence Stanley passed away in 2003, and I didn’t even know it. Really didn’t know her work until she was playing the old and worn Mrs. Fish on Barney Miller (and then on the spin-off Fish), but she had that comfortable not-an-actress feel that let her inhabit her characters fully. (Really, there’s some conceptual overlap between her and Thelma Ritter, although working in modern times Florence often got to play modern career women.)
It always gives me a smile to see her on the screen.

Published in: on July 22, 2007 at 11:31 am  Leave a Comment  

State of Mind

Lifetime having a big hit with Army Wives gives them a lot of opportunity. It also would seem to raise the requirements for any show on the network. I can’t help but recall how the success of The Simpsons seemed to be quickly followed by a lot of Fox’s line-up getting the ax; once they knew that higher ratings were possible, the ratings that had been good enough apparently no longer were good enough.
State of Mind is certainly a respectable attempt. Lili Taylor is a therapist, sharing a professional building with other folks including her husband, when that relationship awry. Points for handling the break-up not as the shrill conflict of cheap drama but as two people who realize from events that they just don’t need in each other. That’s a real people moment, not sitcom people. And the thing that made me smile more than that was that they’ve got Devon Gummersall in the cast. I’ve got a weakness for anyone connected to My So-Called Life, and Devon has a charm and presence that will work as the obvious potential future romantic interest for our newly-freed hero.
But at least in the pilot, the characters, their interactions and situations, they aren’t that interesting. The two main therapy problems being faced both boil down to being solved by being told to care more. If that’s going to be the standard preach for the piece, that’d get old fast.
Respectable. Probably’ll check out a couple more because it’s summer, and because it’s Gummersall. But no “wow!” here.

Published in: on July 19, 2007 at 12:57 am  Comments (1)  

Rewarding bad behavior

Lots of folks seem to have noticed that NBC is hiring Isaiah Washington, who once said an unnice word and may have unnice thoughts, onto one of their shows.
Few seem to be bothering to comment that they’ve built a new show around Uri Geller, an unconfessed, unrepentant fraud who has likely bilked folks out of millions by claiming special abilities and showing off cheap prestidigitation. They’re not only rewarding their fraud, they’re also legitimizing him, giving him more power to continue his misdeeds.
What next? Will they give OJ Simpson a talk show and a gun?
Low, low, low, NBC.

Published in: on July 17, 2007 at 5:39 pm  Comments (1)  

The Alpha of Greek

I caught the pilot of Greek, a teen drama set among the college frat and sorority scene, slated for ABC Family but given an airing on ABC proper. And hey, if they were willing to give it the chance, so was I.
Now, I’ve never experienced the greek scene. Can’t say I know much about it. But having seen this pilot, I’m not left feeling that the folks behind this know much either. The greek scene here seems based on every film parody, every cartoonish simplification that we’ve seen. There’s one sorority involved – all snobbish ultra-pretty girls. And there’s two frats – the ultra-prep snob boys, and the wild frat that is like some sort of house of animals. The central character is an awkward freshman whose sister is in the sorority, and he gets to choose between the two frats. By the end of the first episode, we’ve had sex, we’ve had violence, we’ve had cheating and hidden homosexuality and nothing that feels particularly real.
It will probably find an audience among the teen girls that ABC Family apparently targets, but nothing much beyond that general One Tree Hill crowd. Not that I was expecting much more, but with teen-oriented dramas like My So-Called Life and Freaks and Geeks showing that more nuanced and interesting treatment of teens is possible, I can’t help but think that something better can be done and still capture the teens. (Yeah, yeah, I know, both shows flopped… but MSCL got a real audience after it was cancelled. And if there isn’t someone now pushing F&G collections or reruns on the basis of the current success of Judd Apatow and Seth Rogen, then folks are leaving money on the table.

Published in: on July 16, 2007 at 1:11 am  Leave a Comment  

How reading occurs

Used to be, I would just sit somewhere and read. Read, read, and read. Went through thousands of books, more than 10,000 comics, and so forth over the decades of my life. I still read… but married, daddying, running my business, and so forth, it is no longer so simple. It is not a mere matter of sitting down with a book and getting up a few hours later. Nor is it reading for a half hour whatever’s on the bedside before going to sleep.
Now? Well, let’s see. I just finished listening to the audiobook of Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, as I’m running through about a book a week during my daily gym sessions (weeks I have some long driving without the kid can accelerate that). In the upper bathroom is Stagger Lee, a graphic novel by Derek McCulloch and Shepherd Hendrix built around the classic folk song. Lower bathroom (more frequently used) has another graphic novel (well, a blend between a graphic novel and a collection of short stories; I’ll have to see whether it adds up to a whole), Tim Eldred’s Grease Monkey. And on the sofa is an uncorrected proof of an upcoming biography of Charles Schulz, which I managed to luxuriate a couple hours on this weekend, but with much more to go so that I can review it before reviewing it is pointless.
And this coming weekend will involve as much time as possible spent reading the new Harry Potter book… out loud, to my wife.
Of course, none of this counts the various Dr. Seuss, Sandra Boynton, and other pieces of kidlit that get read out loud to the wee one.

Published in: on July 16, 2007 at 12:53 am  Leave a Comment  
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