Ebert adjustment

I had thought there was an earlier title for the Siskel & Ebert series, but couldn’t remember it when writing the previous piece. Luckily, Ebert has a goodbye-to-the-show column up that reminds us of it: Opening Soon at a Theater Near You. Yeah, there’s a title that trips off the tongue and falls on the sidewalk!

But I still don’t understand how this is a goodbye any more than the previous switches.

I also don’t understand how this is at all a smart move for Disney. Yes, simply adding some features to the existing show might conceivably have pumped business somewhat. But it was like they were almost trying to start their own competition that would sap more viewers than their new move would gain.

I guess that’s why I’m not a big-time TV executive.

Published in: on July 30, 2008 at 1:21 pm  Leave a Comment  

Like father, like son

I’ve seen a number of articles now announcing the new team that is taking over from Ebert & Roeper, and each of those articles notes that replacement critic Ben Lyons is son of the film critic Jeffrey Lyons.
But none of the articles I’ve seen has yet mentioned that dad Jeffrey was one of the guys who replaced Siskel & Ebert on Sneak Previews back in 1982.

Published in: on July 23, 2008 at 11:38 am  Leave a Comment  

It's not that Licensable BearTM uses a calculator…

…it’s that the calculator should use Licensable BearTM.

Published in: on July 22, 2008 at 9:03 pm  Leave a Comment  

The baton passes again

Many years ago, I used to watch a fine program called Sneak Previews. Two guys, Siskel and Ebert, would review the new movies. Then those two guys left to start a new show, really the same show under a different name (At the Movies), but Sneak Previews continued, with lesser reviewers. Actually, it ran for quite a long time, despite the audience having followed the original hosts away, because someone thought it was worth funding the conservative review voice that ended up in the reviewer seat. But eventually, even that went away.

But after a while, Siskel and Ebert got an even better offer, leaving the successful At the Movies to launch the new Siskel & Ebert and the Movies. Again, it was really the same show. And meanwhile, folks tried
to continue At the Movies with other reviewers, but the audience abandoned them.

Some things don’t last forever, and Gene Siskel proved to be one of them. The show took on another reviewer, becoming Ebert & Roeper and the Movies. And its kept that title, despite health problems that have kept Ebert off-screen for years.

Now, the syndicators have decided they don’t want to keep paying the amiable Mr. Roeper (there were warning signs that they were tightening the belt on the show, when they stopped licensing that trademarked “Two Thumbs Up” phrase). So what’s Roeper doing? He’s starting the same show again, under a different title.  Meanwhile, the syndicate thinks that they can continue to have a success with their Ebert & Roeper and the Movies show, just by turning it into something more like Entertainment Tonight (because goodness knows, we don’t have any shows like that. Presumably, they’ll also change the title.

History is clearly on Roeper’s side in all this.

Published in: on July 21, 2008 at 5:42 pm  Leave a Comment  

Grandmama Mia

Mrs. Nat’s TV and I snuck out to see Mama Mia! this weekend. Well, “snuck” is relative. For us to get out sans the sweet li’l gal requires planning and expense; between movie tickets (actually, “free-with-DVD” tickets, getting Housesitter and Xanadu at Costco for $10 apiece), gas, popcorn, dinner after the movie, and sitter, we’re talking north of $100.

The film was actually dumb fun, in an old-fashioned anything-excuses-a-song type of way. Pretty people (not all of whom should really be in a musical), pretty settings, nothing too inobvious or surprising; a good thing to take your best gal to. And like many such things, it falls apart a bit if you look at it carefully. It’s not giving away anything that isn’t in the first five minutes (or the trailers) to say that it’s about a mother (played by Meryl Streep) who conceived a child during a, shall we say “active” period in her young life, and the about-to-be-married 20 year old doesn’t know which of three men is her dad.

Except… well, if Meryl’s Donna character is as old as she looks (as old as Meryl is), then these youthful indiscretions took place during her late 30s. That doesn’t exactly match with the world-view they’re depicting.

Published in: on July 21, 2008 at 4:27 am  Leave a Comment  

Diseducational television

I’m watching the relatively good science show Nova Science Now, and the narrator just referred to birds having a brain “a thousand times smaller than ours”. Really? What is the measurement of how small something is, that this is a thousand times that? Kind of sad to see this sloppy, “twice as less” sort of speech slipping into a smart show.

Published in: on July 20, 2008 at 7:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

What NPH does do

I’ve got a liking for Neil Patrick Harris… lingering personal connection to Dr. Doogie carried me through up until he was able to lay down the righteous attitude as Barney on How I Met Your Mother And Hit That (well, that would be the Barney version.) And then there’s him throwing himself into the role of “Neil Patrick Harris” in the mixed-quality Harold & Kumar flicks.

And I’ve got a great liking for all things Joss Whedony – more for things Buffy than non-Buffy, but I like his Buffy-TV-to-present representation in TV, film, and comics as a whole, and anticipate everything. So hearing about the Whedon-crafted, NPH-starring internet original Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-long Blog generated eager anticipation in this townhouse.

But this supervillain parody is only “pretty good”, not an out-of-the-park homer. The lead character, a wannabe villain with an ulterior motive, is endearing, but the music is only okay. It’s not the knock-it-out-of-the-park of the music on the first half of the Buffy musical, where they had the richness of characters and the audience’s knowledge thereof.

Still, well worth watching. Catch it over the next week at the website or iTunes, or get the DVD when I get around to it.

Dang, I wish I had the Dr. Horrible t-shirt concession at next weekend’s San Diego Comic-Con. The Whedonites will be out in force.

Published in: on July 16, 2008 at 3:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

Ever so memorable

I watched something called The Factory on Spike TV a couple of weeks ago. Spike positions themselves as airing material aimed at men – and not just real men, but people who embrace some sort of cartoon version of what men are supposed to be, circo 1980. Just interested in trucks and violence and gals with large tracts of land. The sitcom was about four or five hard-working joes who give each other a loving hard time. But they’d never call it loving, because that would be gay, and would fail to fall into the non-quiche-eating category of men. Mostly, i don’t remember the show. And mostly, I don’t want to.

Published in: on July 16, 2008 at 12:26 am  Leave a Comment  


I was going to say that Canada’s been starting to bring its A game to TV these days, but I think what I really mean is that they’ve been doing quality attempts at American prime time-style shows, and are ready to start moving in. Corner Gas is one clear example. Flashpoint is another.

Flashpoint stars Canadian-born Enrico Colantoni, star of Just Shoot Me, as someone with a very different view of people being shot: he’s head of a SWAT team. Yes, it’s a police show, and no, there’s no shortage of those out there. But this one at least starts smart — the first half of the first episode depicts the SWAT team in action in a tense situation,. The second half focused on the effect of the first half on the team members. So now we have an understanding of what these folks do, of the stakes at hand, and that it has an impact. Where do they go from here? Will it be a procedural situation of the week, or will it be more of an inner character drama? Whatever way they go, the setup allows us to take it seriously.

(One minor disappointment — from some shots in the ads, I thought Kyle Secor from Homicide and Enrico’s Veronica Mars was possibly on the series. But instead, it’s Hugh Dillon, who does a fine job… but Kyle is one of those people I simply like watching, having watched him bring his game in other good series.)

Published in: on July 13, 2008 at 9:59 pm  Leave a Comment  

Cartoon Talk

The Car Guys have a nice public radio show, where they talk in an amusing, off-the-cuff manner about the car problems that folks phone in about. They’re amusing guys, and they did OK playing themselves as motor vehicles in the Pixar film Cars. So I guess I can see the temptation to use them as a basis of a cartoon series. But, weeeellll, Click & Clack in As the Wrench Turns doesn’t feel like something designed to be funny. Rather, it feels like something designed to amuse some presumption of what the audience for a public radio show would like. So they take something that might work in a chatty moment, such as referring to a politician named “Phil Lander” (where the humor arises from someone bothering to use that as a line) and turn it into having a politician in the episode named Phil Lander, and goodness, we see him philandering, and isn’t that funny? No, it’s not. They try doing big wacky Simpsonsesque stories (the characters run for President as a fundraising trick) without doing what Simpsons did to lay the groundwork — doing strongly character-oriented pieces to get us to know and understand the characters. The animation is awkward (although the character designs are nice.) This thing is just a mess.

Public television actually has some fine animated series, they just air them for kids. But I bet most regular Car Talk listeners would still get a lot more laughs out of an episode of WordGirl or Curious George than out of the show targeted at them.

Published in: on July 13, 2008 at 9:29 pm  Leave a Comment  
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