Last night, during severe (for the area) rain storms, the Los Angeles NBC affiliate (or possible the local cable company, but it appeared to be the affiliate) put up a storm warning screen about 5 minutes into The West Wing… and then left it up there for about 45 minutes, rather than just reverting the a recurring crawl.
Luckily, the show ain’t as good as it used to be, so missing it was not tragic.

Published in: on February 26, 2004 at 8:15 am  Comments Off on Ooops  

Nanny Gee Whiz!

Last night’s Frasier featured the return of Nanny G. Off the top of my head, I believe this is the third time this character has appeared, and the third actress to have played her.
Nanny G is more a piece of Frasier trivia than anything, so I wonder if the episode confused a few folks. Certainly, Roz’s reaction to hearing that Nanny G was Frasier’s ex was understandable; while Roz and Frasier have known each other for years, I believe that the only time Nanny G’s even been mentioned by name in the series was during a dream sequence episode about the women of Frasier’s past (a particularly lackluster affair that wasted the rare occassion to have both Shelley Long and Bebe Neuwirth on.) It has occassionally been mentioned that Frasier has two ex-wives, but merely in passing. Before that, you have to go into the Cheers history, and the episode featuring Emma Thompson as Nanny G.
This was an enjoyable episode, although there was a disappointment between the moment I saw “Nanny G” in the title and seconds later when I realized that the Emma Thompson role was being filled by Laurie Metcalf (don’t get me wrong, a talented lady, just not the talented lady I’d prefer to see there.)
I wonder if this was a purposeful attempt to include Nanny G during the last season, to make sure that Frasier’s history has not been ignored (well, except for his dead scientist father, his being an only child, and his mother having been a harpy, facts which were jettisoned between the end of Cheers and the start of Frasier.) Or perhaps they had always wanted to do a Nanny G episode, and held out for as long as possible with the hope that Thompson might be available. Or it may just have seemed a good idea in the moment.

Published in: on February 25, 2004 at 10:06 am  Comments Off on Nanny Gee Whiz!  

City to city

Last week’s Las Vegas featured the leads – a couple of casino security folk (including security chief James Caan) – taking a break from their usual location to go visit their sister casino in New Orleans, where they interacted heavily with the quirky casino security folks there (including security chief Dennis Hopper). Adventures were had. New Orleans was shown to be a wild but dangerous place.

Can anyone say "expanding the franchise"?

I mean, when the folks from that other successful Vegas-based show hooked up with a known star who was their counterpart in Miami, the next season we got CSI: Miami.

So I’m calling it here first: next season, Las Vegas: New Orleans.

Published in: on February 25, 2004 at 9:53 am  Leave a Comment  

As himself

In recent years, there’s been an interesting trend in actors playing themselves in guest roles. Old TV tradition has always had such guests being treated as special and wonderful people, always being treated as the largest star surrounded by the crazy regulars on the show and ultimately achieving some sort of star-ly victory (witness Sammy Davis Jr.’s grand appearance on All in the Family for the ultimate example.) The new TV tradition goes the other way – the As Themselves guest stars tend to play themselves as crude, obnoxious, desperate, and even somewhat deranged. The stars are poking fun at themselves and at stardom. I can’t say for certain when this took effect; the use of Jennifer Grey playing a venal, slutty (and for all I know, accurate) version of Jennifer Grey in the better-than-it-shoulda-been sitcom It’s Like, You Know… seems to me to be the watershed moment in this. Carl Weathers playing himself as a desperate, money-grubbing, food-grubbing acting coach in Arrested Development is the current example, and the somewhat rote feeling of its usage suggests to me that this whole trend may be saturated to the point where it’s losing its effect.

So it was good to see an As Himself put to another use. Jean-Claude Van Damme, perhaps not the most powerful of stars but certainly a recognizable one, played himself on last week’s Las Vegas. He played himself in part of a mystery plot – as the victim of murder. That’s right, they killed of Jean-Claude Van Damme. One wonders if as part of the great interlinked universe of TV shows Jean-Claude is now considered dead on Friends, where he had earlier played the same character.

Published in: on February 16, 2004 at 8:05 am  Leave a Comment  

Angel away

The WB has announced that this will be their last season for Angel. I can’t say that this is a great loss. They’re having a good season, but the show never lived up to its Buffy roots. It floundered, never seeming quite sure of what it wanted to be or where it was going. (The fact that all of the original cast except for the guy who plays Angel have gone is a sign; this far into Buffy, all of the key original cast was still aboard except for the guy who played Angel.)

Still, it comes at an odd time here. We’ve been watching a lot of Angel. We’re watching the new episodes every week, and my wife has been recording and watching all of the earlier stuff. She never saw it before. I had pushed Buffy on her for a while in reruns, and she watched it lightly at first. Now that she’s more invested in it, she’s watching them all again from DVD and getting a lot more of the context. Problem is, now that she’s watching so much Angel she’s slowed way down on Buffy, and the Angels she is now watching take place after the Buffies, just to confuse matters.

I do hope this is not the last of the Buffiverse we see, but I want to see it only so long as they can have a good unified vision of what they’re doing. I’m not sure Angel achieves that even in this, its best days.

Published in: on February 16, 2004 at 7:41 am  Leave a Comment  

I didn't see the breast, did you?

The supposed public up-in-armedness (rather than the far more evident “purient interest and delight in having something to talk about”) over the Janet Jackson reveal during the Super Bowl halftime show is ridiculous.
I watched the reveal. Did I see a breast? No, and I don’t think anyone watching TV did. They saw that there was a breast, but that is very different from being able to make anything out clearly.
Around here, there’s a bank ad running in which a bank teller teleports into a shower where a lady is showering. We see this from the outside, through the frosted glass doors of the shower. It is clear there is someone naked, but we cannot make them out. That’s the kind of nudity we got from Janet on TV, only less so.
This occured in the midst of an event that is largely grown men committing various forms of violence on one another. It occured during a song set that included one song with women talking about taking their clothes off, and another about the singer’s hos. This whole event was supported by ads featuring horse flatulence, ball-biting, and four-hour erections. promoting dangerous driving and beer.
FCC commissioner Michael Powell has shown very little concern for keeping the airwaves open and diverse, and far too much desire to clamp down on freedom of expression that does not fit his own breast-fearing viewpoint.

Published in: on February 3, 2004 at 12:05 pm  Comments Off on I didn't see the breast, did you?  

Can you be a pilot with being on the air?

Last night, I went to a very L.A.-style event. From time to time, under the name “The Other Network”, some folks have public viewings of unaired TV pilots that did not get picked up for series.

Now before you assume that the unaired material must be crap, let me correct you. Last night’s event was three pilots from Judd Apatow, who was one of the guys behind the fine, short-lived Freaks and Geeks. And while I can see for each of these shows why someone might have thought that they didn’t absolutely need to go on the air, they were to my taste a fair bit more enjoyable than the vast majority of pilots that are picked up.

Sick in the Head was a comedy about a new shrink, and while the lead role was filled in a genial-but-not-quite-sparky mode, there were excellent supporting turns by Andrea Martin as a well-established radio shrink, Amy Poehler as a patient that has been dropped by a dozen shrinks already, and the always-a-good-sign Austin Pendleton as the lead’s mentor.

Life on Parole was a single camera comedy built around a reluctant parole officer. I’m not sure that there would have been enough range in the material to keep the series going, but the pilot would have made a keen graphic novel on its own.

The final one, North Hollywood, starred the drum-playing freak from Freaks and Geeks, plus Amy Poehler, and had a good turn from Judge Reinhold as himself. It’s built around three roommates on the edges of show biz — a struggling actor, a stand-up comic, and Judge Reinhold’s personal assistant. It felt a bit improvy, and more like an HBO comedy than a network one in texture. Reinhold himself comes in for a nice star turn, and there was some good coordination between the making of the pilot and the filming of Orange County. This would have been a great sitcom if there was such a thing as a “local sitcom”, as the jokes felt well-aimed for those comfortable with the subtleties of the struggle to be an actor but would probably fail for folks in most of the country.

The event was fun. Apatow himself was largely open and charming about the struggles these involved. And I got the cheap celebrity encounter thrill of standing in the ticket line behind one Freak and one Geek.

Published in: on February 1, 2004 at 2:41 pm  Leave a Comment  
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