Grin and Colbert it?

There’s a lot of reaction to the Stephen Colbert appearance at the big Washington press hoo-ha. Folks though he was brilliant, folks thought he bombed. My reaction?

  • He started off pointed but not quite funny (and seeming, from TV, to bomb badly in the room – I think there’s plenty of humor in the very fact that the VP shot someone, but he missed the limits on the humor; shot-in-the-face gags on their own are just painful), segued into a who is the Stephen Colbert character? bit that is funny but was in no way on target for the room, and finally sequed back on topic, vicious and funny.
  • Most folks working such things lean on the publicly accepted cartoon weaknesses – the mispronounced words, the glazed expression, whatever. Colbert went right for complete failure of the administration, and stuck with it. That wasn’t going to win him friends with the president, nor with folks who didn’t hate the president who were likely watching him squirm.
  • Nothing Colbert said was unfair, especially on the scale of being a humorist. I can’t say that’s always true of the humor on The Colbert Report or The Daily Show (as an example, a few episodes back The Daily Show went after the looks of one of the oil executives, and that’s just cheap schoolyard stuff.)

I’ve somehow wondered how I would act in the presence of someone like President G.W. Bush. Would I be cowed by his power? Probably so… and if not, I might be so curious to explore what being in that position of power was like that I would avoid trying to offend him for my own reasons. As much as I might want to, I probably would not end up telling him how horrible I think his policies and his values are, how the blood of thousands is on his hands (or take a more honeyed approach to win him over to the side of good in at least some matter)… and then I would feel pained for years to come about not having taken that low-odds opportunity to improve matters in some way. I think Colbert put straight forward how he feels about all that has happened in this administration. And as tough as the room may have been, that was of value.

Published in: on April 30, 2006 at 5:29 pm  Comments (1)  

Getting older

Today is my birthday. It’s not one of the big round-numbered ones (in fact, it’s a prime number), but the passage of time still weights heavily. Generally, I find birthdays and new years as time to measure how I’ve move forward in the previous year, and how I expect to move forward in the next. Alas, the past year has not been one of forward motion, and the next year looks like more of the same. So this birthday is a tough one.

But my wife is acting as Allison wrangler today, and I’m getting some work done. It’s not writing, alas, but handling production work on the Comics Jam War anthology and the third issue of Licensable Bearâ„¢.

And we started off this day trying that most intriguing combination of words, “breakfast pizza”. Came out pretty good. But seeing the lack of any other customers at the purveying establishment during the forty-some minutes we were there, it does not appear that this particular treat has gained cultural momentum.

Published in: on April 30, 2006 at 1:33 pm  Comments (1)  

Fox class

Who says that a Fox Reality series can’t be classy? They’re doing a backstage look at the production of Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard on London’s West End. How much more classy can you get?One sminor note: this production stars porn performers.

Published in: on April 28, 2006 at 1:04 am  Comments Off on Fox class  

But which is the real reality?

I was watching last week’s Boston Legal off of my ReplayTV. Some good guest stars on the episode – more of Tom Selleck (okay, not a storyline I’m loving), the guy who played Aristotle on Brisco County returning for his insane lawyer role, Howard Hesseman being largely a wasted resource playing a judge, and Adam Arkin in his recurring role as a prosecutor.

But then, in the midst of the episode, there was Arkin again, looking very much the same, but now he was a Congressman. Sure, it was an ad (for Commander-in-Chief), but in some odd way it messed with my suspension of disbelief. Little brain go fzztzz.

Just to make matters worse, the coming-next-week tag showed Peter MacNicol on what is now last night’s episode (which I’ve not yet missed.) But Peter MacNicol didn’t appear to be playing The Biscuit, which again messes with the “reality”, because the Biscuit does exist in the Boston Legal universe (as Legal was a spin-off/rework of The Practice, which crossed over with Ally McBeal repeatedly.)

It’s like I don’t know what is real any more!

Published in: on April 26, 2006 at 11:08 am  Leave a Comment  

Wanna buy a bridge?

I know it’s not what it really means, but this ad from the New York Times website makes it look like the Old Gray Lady is pulling the oldest con in the book!

Brooklyn Bridge ad
Published in: on April 25, 2006 at 10:51 am  Leave a Comment  

a la cable pricing

Lyle chats about the a la carte pricing controversy, but I think he’s hitting a tangent here. The question at hand is not “should cable companies offer a la carte pricing” but “should cable companies be forced to offer a la carte pricing” – and I haven’t yet seen any solid argument given for that. The central argument used is that the consumer wants a la carte pricing, but giving consumers what they want is something that is best dealt with as a market situation, and while many areas have an exclusive cable provider, cable is no longer the only gane in town there. The local cable provider competes with the sattelite providers.
Having said that, I don’t buy anyone’s claims that a la carte will lower the price of cable. Where is the savings to come from? Is it lowering the cost of producing the shows? If not, then the “savings” comes at offering less total content across the spectrum. And even if it lowered the cost of content to the cable companies, there’s no particular visible incentive for them to lower the total cost to the end consumer. Does it lower the cost of providing service? Quite the opposite, it adds another layer of complexity to the ordering and distribution process.

And you know what? Even if they get what they want, it’s not going to satisfy the people who are asking for this. They’re going to be able to not “pay for” the channels that they want to stand against… and then find that there are channels that have shows they want and shows they don’t, and they’re going to insist on a right to only pay for the shows they want.

I have trouble seeing this new government regulation as a win for much of anyone, and don’t see any reason to support it.

Published in: on April 21, 2006 at 7:50 am  Comments Off on a la cable pricing  

So what about Brian, anyway.

What About Brian is not a sequel to What About Bob, so those of you who are waiting for them to get to What About Buford can just keep on waiting. Instead, it’s a TV series centered on a guy and the girl he really should be with, but he isn’t with because she’s otherwise involved, so he’s gonna keep dating other girls while they tease us about the two of them getting together. Sounds horribly original, eh? I mean, if you haven’t watched any other TV show of the past couple of decades. But really, society’s been crying out for a remake of Joey.

The structure of this drama is built around three couples and their single friend Brian. One of the couples is trying to conceive, one is trying to turn their marriage into an open marriage, and one is a couple that has the woman that Brian is supposed to be with in it. It’s all watchable, it’s all well-played, but the problem is that when they’re doing Brian-and-the-girl-he’s-supposed-to-be-with (which is put forth in a far-too-obvious hammer-to-the-head form to be believable), then it seems trite – and when the Brian stuff gets away from that, it’s somewhat watchable but seems pointless, since we know that’s not what the Brian storyline is really about.

The attention paid to the open marriage storyline is an example of something that frustrates me about drama. On one hand, drama is supposed to give us a window into the world. But stories only get interesting when things go wrong. As such, drama tends to show that interesting things (particularly non-default sexuality things) cause bad effects. “Open marriage” in a drama is always step one to “marriage disaster”, because that’s interesting. But is it truly a window on the world? I won’t claim to know a statistically significant sample of those in open marriages, but those I have known have been in some of the happiest and comfortable marriages I’ve seen.

(I also think it’s funny what gets trumpeted as fantasy sexuality at times; the second episode of this series focused on a sexual achievement that they made sound like a wildly unlikely success even for the sexually-active very pretty people who populate this piece. But I’ve done it, and I’m hardly anyone’s picture of the successful man slut. And, of course, this trumpeted achievement ends in disappointment, because, you know, sex outside of comitted monogamy doesn’t lead to happiness in drama. You’d think dramatic writers have never enjoyed sex.)

Published in: on April 21, 2006 at 6:56 am  Leave a Comment  

Aww, dang

Having watched Nanny McPhee on a plane trip yesterday, I was ready to write about how similar the relationship was between Colin Firth and Thomas Wossisname, the kid with the intent eyes, to the relationship the same actors had in Love Actually. Then I decided I’d better verify it, and discovered that while Colin was in Love Actually, he played a different character, and that the one I was thinking of was played by Liam Neeson (whose name backwards is No Seen Mail).

Score: Fading brain cells 1, attentive insight 0.

Nanny McPhee was reasonable plain fodder; pleasant enough to watch, never so tight and compelling or anything near unpredictable that you go “nooooooo!” when the captain announces something or you have to go to the bathroom and miss a couple minutes.

Nanny McPhee was adapted from a series of books which was not about a woman named Nanny McPhee, but rather about one named Nurse Matilda. I think that’s actually a rather good thing in an adaptation; they’re paying for some content aspect they want, but also not pushing it as “here’s our version of the work you love”. It gets to be judged as its own thing, rather than as to how wel it captures the whole of the source material.

I also got to see Rumor Has It… in the air, which by halfway through I was thinking was generally better than its reviews, but by the end I felt it didn’t add up to much. The film has an odd grounded-in-film aspect, since in its fiction it’s built around the people who inspired The Graduate (and would be hard to follow if you didn’t know that film, I reckon)… but that did make me want to watch The Player again, so I could hear again the pitch that Buck Henry is making for The Graduate II at the beginning of that film, and see if Reiner just made that movie.

Jennifer Aniston has this one look she gives, this “I’m pondering this over before I reply” look, that she relies on for much of her acting. But it works!

Published in: on April 21, 2006 at 6:35 am  Leave a Comment  

Jane Curtin, of course

Kate & Allie hits DVD very soon. I have pleasant memories of this series, except for the final season when it was handed off to new producers. Within the format of a general sweet sitcom they did some stuff that seemed not so safe at the time – I’m not talking vast radical material, but nice moments. Also some fine performances (including some first-time-I-saw-her supporting work by Wendie Malick, although as a buttoned-up strait-laced character in contrast to her Just Shoot Me work.) And some really clumsy attempts to hide the pregnancy of one of the leads.

Published in: on April 19, 2006 at 1:33 pm  Leave a Comment  

Nat appears in Delaware

If any of the many, many Nat’s TV readers happens to be in Newark, Delaware between 4 and 7 PM on Friday, stop by Captain Blue Hen Comics. I’ll be  there, signing my books and comics and answering questions about comics (particularly during that last hour, which is officially a Q&A session.)

Published in: on April 19, 2006 at 11:31 am  Leave a Comment  
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