The list is simply alphabetical by medium, and I have yet to see any of the ranked motion pictures.
For the TV shows, I have indicated with bolded color below where I am in full agreement with the AFI’s assessment. House Of Cards, Orange Is The New Black and Veep may be all that they say, but I’ve only seen the first episode of House of Cards out of that group. The Americans got the benefit of my rule of four – must watch four episodes to form a fair opinion – and I’ve even gone onto the fifth episode…. three times. You see, I fall asleep during the fifth episode every time I try to watch. All I can say is that watching Felicity do very dirty things is not the thrill for me that it apparently is for others. And Masters Of Sex is well on its way to being compelling TV. I’ve seen the first six, and am totally on board with Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan’s performances as Masters and Johnson. My challenge in giving my heart – or whatever body part these naughty devils want – over to MOS is both the very soapy nature of the activity surrounding the central characters and my constant concerns over how much of the story we’re seeing is based on the facts of Masters and Johnson’s lives.
Anyway, here’s the list…..
AFI MOVIES OF THE YEAR
- 12 YEARS A SLAVE
- AMERICAN HUSTLE
- CAPTAIN PHILLIPS
- FRUITVALE STATION
- INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS
- SAVING MR. BANKS
- THE WOLF OF WALL STREET
AFI TV PROGRAMS OF THE YEAR
- THE AMERICANS
- BREAKING BAD
- GAME OF THRONES
- THE GOOD WIFE
- HOUSE OF CARDS
- MAD MEN
- MASTERS OF SEX
- ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK
Starting this weekend, 12/7 & 12/8, popGeezer Radio kicks off three consecutive weeks of Holiday specials! This weekend on PlanetZ102.com & JDX1029.com, it’s an encore of our mellow 2012 “Calm & Bright Christmas Hootenanny” – originally aired live on BOTH stations last year! (So they’re variant…..)
On 12/14 & 12/15, the first all-new program turns up. Our very own TV critic par excellence, Cadillac Jack, has pulled his broadcasting microphone out of mothballs, and his two-decades of radio experience are re-displayed for all to hear in “Cadillac Jack’s ‘No More Grandmas‘ Very Special Christmas Special“! Using his own legendary holiday CD gifties as inspiration, CJ crafts almost three hours of eclectic modern holiday tunes, a few gags, and a list of the 5 most awful Christmas songs of all time.
And then on 12/21 & 12/22, your very own popGeezer unleashes his 2013 elf’s brew, “The 2013 (Mostly) Contemporary Christmas“, which will use mostly tracks from 2007 and up, with a smattering classic holiday material. There will be some of the achingly inappropriate goodies you’ve come to expect, but also lots of pretty pretty songs.
And if your stocking isn’t already stuffed, get THIS!!! On Tuesday nights – 12/10, 12/17 & 12/24 – popGeezer’s Christmas specials are making holiday appearances at 7 PM CT on TCR1100.com, The Creek! This wild, woolly hard rock station is going to blow up its format for us for three consecutive Tuesday night specials. On 12/10, it’s a newly pGRemixed version of our “2009 Totally Inappropriate Christmas Special” – now maybe so super-inappropriate that only The Creek can get away with airing it. On 12/17, they’ll run the 2012 encore, and on 12/24, they’ll have our latest 2013 show for your Christmas Eve giggles.
And if you stop by the trusty old popGeezer Radio stream anytime during the rest of December, you’ll hear tracks from the 2013 popGeezer Radio Hot 100!!
All these great participants in the popGeezer Radio network will keep you rocking all December long!!
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year from popGeezer Radio!!!
You’ll hear popGeezer Radio Saturday (11/30) at 6 PM CT on PlanetZ102.com, Sunday (12/1) at 5 PM CT on JDX1029.com, and starting Friday afternoon it’s on all weekend long on the all-new popGeezer Radio stream!
So get join us for super-tasty Thanksgiving leftovers on all the stations of the popGeezer Radio network!
|Sam & Dave||I Thank You|
|Ray Davies||Thanksgiving Day|
|Harry Nilsson||Thanks For The Memory|
|Lily Allen||Hard Out Here|
|Franke & The Knockouts||Sweetheart|
|Little Big Town||Tornado|
|Chris Rock||Pump It Up (Nike Turkey)|
|Little River Band||Reminiscing|
|William DeVaughn||Be Thankful For What You Got (Pt.1)|
|Ben Folds||You To Thank|
|Barenaked Ladies||Thanks That Was Fun|
|John Denver||Thank God I’m A Country Boy|
|Paul Davis||Hallelujah Thank You Jesus|
|Otis Redding||I Can’t Turn You Loose|
|Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs||Our Lips Are Sealed|
|Richard Cheese||Christmas In Las Vegas|
|Huey Lewis And The News||Doing It All For My Baby|
|Bruce Springsteen||High Hopes|
|The Timelords||Doctorin’ The Tardis|
|The Waitresses||I Know What Boys Like|
|Robbie Williams||No One Likes A Fat Pop Star|
|Lady Gaga||Orange Colored Sky (From ”A Very Gaga Thanksgiving”)|
|Bob Seger||Sock It To Me Santa|
|Adam Sandler||The Thanksgiving Song|
|Amanda Seyfried||Thank You For The Music|
|Sly & The Family Stone||Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)|
|Kaiser Chiefs||Thank You Very Much|
|John Hiatt||Thank You Girl|
|Dolly Parton||Travelin’ Prayer|
|Dixie Chicks||Travelin’ Soldier|
|Carrie Underwood||Jesus Take The Wheel|
|Jamey Johnson||Thankful For The Rain|
|Arlo Guthrie||Alice’s Restaurant Massacre (Bazbo Version)|
|Jay Pharoah||A Happy Hip-Hop Thanksgiving|
|Andrew Gold||Thank You For Being A Friend|
|Blue Sonnets||Thank You Mr. Moon|
|The Civil Wars||I Had Me A Girl|
|Fall Out Boy||Thanks For The Memories|
|Neil Diamond||Thank The Lord For The Night Time|
|Jimmy Fallon||Thanksgiving “Thank You Notes”|
|Lily Allen||Somewhere Only We Know|
|Queen||Thank God It’s Christmas|
|Kelly Clarkson||Wrapped In Red|
|The Mowgli’s||I Thank You|
|The Commitments||I Thank You|
|Jimmy Buffet||Cheeseburger In Paradise|
|Cat Stevens||The First Cut Is The Deepest|
|Three Dog Night||The Family Of Man|
|B.o.B.||Magic (Ft. Rivers Cuomo)|
|Marshall Crenshaw||Girls, Girls, Girls|
|Wanda Jackson||Shakin’ All Over (Ft. Jack White)|
|Cast of “Glee”||Deck The Halls|
|The Cars||Looking For Love|
|Janet Jackson||Together Again|
|The Human League||Human|
|Paul McCartney||Wonderful Christmastime|
|The Jam||A Town Called Malice|
|Diana Ross & The Supremes||You Can’t Hurry Love|
|John Lennon||New York City|
|Jay-Z & Alicia Keys||Empire State Of Mind (pGR Mega Mix-Up Version)|
|Billy Joel||New York State Of Mind|
|Bruno Mars||Just The Way You Are|
|The Waitresses||Christmas Wrapping|
|Mashup-Germany||I’ll Be Missing You (Don’t Raise Your Glass)|
|Daryl Hall & John Oates||Method Of Modern Love|
|Andy Williams||The Days Of Wine & Roses|
|The Jackson 5||Christmas Medley (pGR Edit)|
The Sacred, The Profane & The Altogether Ookie: “The Book Of Mormon” Hits New Orleans, While “The Addams Family” Reaches North Florida
The Broadway hit The Book of Mormon comes to New Orleans and our Cadillac Jack brings his youngest for a father/daughter night out.
I remember back when I was a young whippersnapper (the week after we discovered fire), and in high school, and the first time religion hit the Great White Way with the back-to-back-to-back productions of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat by Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Tim Rice, Jesus Christ Superstar, also by Lloyd-Webber and Rice and Godspell, by future Wicked scribe Stephen Schwartz. Oh, the fire and brimstone those oh-so-secular productions stirred up in the pews and pulpits of America. After all, once you got past the straight-laced rigidity of organized religion, Jesus was a perfect symbol for many of the key themes of the counter-culture sixties; peace, love and goodwill to men. In hindsight, seeing them all mix together in a tie-dyed Broadway spectacular seems only natural. Not at the time back in the seventies. In those halcyon days of innocence and angst, the marriage of Broadway and the Bible (not to mention that godless heathen rock and roll) was seen as the Worke of Ye Olde Devil and was condemned from pulpit after pulpit all across this land from sea to shining sea.
These days, some forty or so years later, the psychedelic themes of Superstar and Godspell seem tame, quaint and almost bucolic. High schools put on performances of all those shows annually and, for the most part, nobody even blinks an eye (well, they do at my school, where any shows of a “religious nature” have been banned for fear of offending the community’s heavy “church presence”). So, I suppose it was only natural for Broadway to take another shot at tweaking the collective nose of the religious right, and to do it, they brought in the perfect offenders for the job, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the two men who create and maintain the incredibly funny and phenomenally offensive South Park on Comedy Central.
It should be noted that, for me, a little South Park goes a loooong way. As funny as I find the show’s tilting of society’s various windmills, my gag reflex kicks in pretty early and I found the feature film version of the show almost impossible to sit through, Academy Award-nominated song or not. Also, I grew up in the Deep South in an extremely religious household and have always had a difficult time of it when someone makes fun of matters of faith and belief. Still, I like to think of myself as a progressive guy; one who can handle a little discomfort for the sake of entertainment and once the word started getting out on The Book of Mormon, especially when it won practically every Tony Award it was nominated for, I wanted to see it. I tried to get tickets a couple of years ago when I last went to New York, but when the only show my schedule would allow me to attend only had seats available on the first five rows and as those were going for over five hundred dollars apiece, I had to say “no.” This year, however, when I heard that the show was out on its national tour and would be coming to the Saenger Theatre in New Orleans, I called my youngest daughter (who’s in her twenties-it’s not like I took an eight year old to this thing), who lives in the Big Easy, is also a theatre nut like her old man and asked if she’d like to go to the show with me as a belated birthday present. She squealed her agreement and some two months (and three hundred dollars later), we were there.
I love the Saenger in New Orleans. Aside from various concerts over the years when I lived there, I also had the unique privilege of seeing Richard Burton in Camelot there in 1980, just before he had to drop out of the show due to health reasons (he passed away several months later) and was replaced by Richard Harris. When the Saenger closed in 2005, and following the beating it received at the hands of Hurricane Katrina, it didn’t look like it would be re-opening. I was truly saddened that such a magnificent old landmark would be allowed to fade away, just another victim of what happens when a devastating storm meets a woefully unprepared city. However, in the spirit of “you can’t keep a good man (or theatre) down,” the city rallied and the Saenger is finally back, looking magnificent (actually looking a great deal like The Fox Theatre in Atlanta, not necessarily a bad thing), and ready to roll out the red carpet. After several Grand Opening charity events, the month-long stay of The Book of Mormon was the first-ever resident event of the newly remodeled space.
You’d probably like me to talk about the show now, right? Sorry, but some preamble was necessary to underscore what a special night this was. Now that I’m done preambling, I’ll get right to it.
The Book of Mormon ran in New Orleans for almost the entire month of October and despite the fact that it had invaded the very buckle of the Bible Belt, it was very well-attended and received. I can’t speak to any other night, but my daughter Sara and I were there for the last performance on Oct 27, and we were among a full house. Thanks to some judicious ticket-buying on my part, however, we had great seats and a great time as well.
The story of The Book of Mormon is a simple one, as is true of most musicals that sacrifice complexity of plot for the pleasures of song. Elder Price (Mark Evans) and Elder Cunningham (Christopher John O’Neill) are two woefully mismatched young members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (aka The Mormons) who are chosen to spend their mandatory two-year mission together, doing God and the Church’s work in the mission field, basically anyplace without a large Mormon influence (or, anywhere outside of Utah). Elder Price, a fair-haired boy of the Mormon faith, had long been praying to be assigned to his own personal Mecca, that Heaven on Earth simply known as Orlando, Florida (apparently he felt God was calling him to convert the Seven Dwarves or something). Elder Cunningham, on the other hand, just wants to go somewhere he can make a difference and not embarrass himself and his family. Neither got what they were looking for as the Mormon Powers-That-Be send the two would-be saviors to…Uganda.
Watching Price and Cunningham crash against the walls of their faith and expectation is both fun and funny. Watching them do it in Uganda, a third world country of terrible deprivation and cruelty, is off-putting and uncomfortable, which is undoubtedly what Parker, Stone (and co-writer Robert Lopez of Avenue Q) had in mind. The race card (a group of oh-so-white boys trying to “save” a village of black “savages”) isn’t played, as such. There is no direct mention of “I’m white and you’re not” in the context of the show, but it is certainly on the table and adds a great deal of dissonance to the situation, playing with the audience’s liberal guilt reflex, and tweaking it at the same time. There are also real-world concerns sprinkled through-out the show, mostly through the character of a despotic warlord (Derrick Williams) as he kidnaps children to fill out the ranks of his army and plans the circumcision of the village’s female population. Strangely, since it would be an easy and recognizable target for the show’s broad sense of humor, there is no mention or poke at the Mormon practice of polygamy. However, when Price gives up on their mission objective and Cunningham falls upon the plan of making Mormonism relevant to the Ugandans by merging its mythology with that of popular movies and TV shows, it really feels like a revisionist telling of Crafty Europeans buying the island of Manhattan from the Native Americans for a handful of beads and trinkets. Combine this with the numerous comedic flashbacks to the life and work of Mormon founder Joseph Smith, lesser jibes at Smith’s replacement Brigham Young and at Jesus Christ, all wrapped in a songbook that, while catchy, contains words and subject matter designed to shock all but the most jaded and non-religious theatre-goer, The Book of Mormon is funny…but it’s not for everyone.
And how about those songs? The program infamously doesn’t include a song list (as if folks could somehow find more to offend in the titles than in the songs themselves), but for the most part, The Book of Mormon is made up of the same kind of catchy tunes as all Broadway musicals. From Cunningham’s hilarious self-improvement anthem “Man Up” to “Baptize Me,” “Tomorrow is a Latter Day” and others, the Book of Mormon soundtrack is made up of energetically singable tunes. Other songs, however, such as “I Am Africa,” “Joseph Smith American Moses” and the dreaded “Hasa Diga Eebowai” (which we are told translates to “F—k you, God”) strike a more discordant chord and can send more conservative theatre goers packing and looking for a refund. Having heard the songs before and knowing exactly what to expect of the show going in, I was able to (Biblically speaking) “gird up my loins” and enjoy even the most incendiary moments of the show, while keeping an eye peeled for any unexpected lightning bolts. All in all, however, I was really expecting the show to be far more extreme than it was and found myself relieved and more fully entertained by the fact that the show only attempts to upset the applecart, as opposed to completely trashing the entire market.
As for the performances, The Book of Mormon includes a talented cast of people you’ve never heard of, as most national tours do. Evans and O’Neill have great chemistry as Price and Cunningham, and while Evans looks a great deal like TV actor Garrett Dillahunt, O’Neill succeeds in channeling the spirit of Cunningham-originator Josh Gad while still adding numerous touches to make the character his own. The nicest surprise coming from the show is the lovely and earnest performance of Samantha Marie Ware, who plays Nabulungi, an innocent young Ugandan woman who gravitates to Cunningham’s reconstituted Mormonism as a way to escape the cruelty of her everyday life. While the show stops short of a romance between Nabulungi and Cunningham, the innocent trust she places in him, and the heart-breaking loss she feels when she learns he’s lied, seems all too genuine and real.
In the long run, The Book of Mormon is an acquired taste that is surely not for everyone and should not be subjected to anyone of an overly conservative or overly religious upbringing. The show requires a mind that is not only wide open, but blown open as well, and to be iron-clad Teflon-coated against any possible offense the show can and will give. If you’re thick-skinned enough, and can find the entertainment in a show that goes so completely against the grain of established thinking and pierces both its structure and stricture with comedy and music, then you should find The Book of Mormon to be a grand night out. I’m not saying you won’t cringe once or twice, but you’ll be doing it while laughing very very hard.
As a final note, the most pleasant surprise to my entire Book of Mormon experience is in the way the Mormons themselves have responded to it. Rather than foam at the mouth and rail against the heavens against the show and pronounce endless fire and damnation for everyone who sees it, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has actually tried to embrace the show and use it as a tool to get people through the doors and into the Church. The Mormons took out at least four full-color full-page ads in the Playbill saying, “You’ve Seen the Show, Now Read the Book,” inviting anyone truly curious about the Mormon Church to come in and see what all the fuss is about. I don’t know if they’re getting any takers or making any converts, but you have to admit it’s a much more sane and rational reaction to the show than most fundamentalists have had to shows like Superstar and Godspell and movies like Kevin Smith’s Dogma and The Last Temptation of Christ. It’s almost as if they’re saying, “Hey, you’ve seen the show, now go on out and have a Latter Day!”
THEY’RE CREEPY AND THEY’RE SPOOKY…THE ADDAMS FAMILY Comes to Northwest Florida State College.
I had intended to write this one as a separate column after the Book of Mormon review, but that review took longer to write than I thought it would and I’ve already seen The Addams Family, so…while we’re here, right?
The national tour of The Addams Family, based on the original comic strip by Charles Addams and the sixties TV show of the same name starring John Astin and heavily inspired by the two successful feature films in the nineties, starring the late Raul Julia, Anjelica Huston, Christina Ricci, Christopher Lloyd and Joan Cusack, came to the Mattie Kelly Arts Center on the campus of the Northwest Florida State College (a wonderful facility for such a small school) the other evening as part of their on-going Broadway on Tour series, and it played before an almost sold-out audience of appreciative fans. The book is by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, who co-wrote the hit Jersey Boys with music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa, who added material to the most recent Broadway run of You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown, three men who truly seem to love the source material, even if they don’t completely understand it.
Don’t get me wrong, The Addams Family is a good show. Not a great show, but a good one with just enough story to drive the show and a songbook of solid tunes, constructed with workmanlike precision by people who know how. Unlike the production of Mormon I saw in New Orleans, The Addams Family at NWFSC is what I call a “C” tour, built not for big halls like the Saenger in New Orleans or the Fox in Atlanta, but for smaller halls, such as the Saenger in Pensacola (where it also played) and the Mattie Kelly, where the stage is not as large and spacious as a Broadway stage, and the theatre-going audience, while appreciative and enthusiastic, is not as large as the bigger cities. As such the shows only come in for one night as opposed to the one week or one month runs you get in larger cities and venues. It’s still the same show (I have seen both “A” and “C” versions of Spamalot and Young Frankenstein and the productions are basically the same, except that the “C” version is compressed for the smaller space), but simpler, which doesn’t necessarily hurt the show, but does make it easier to set up and perform on a smaller stage.
Jesse Sharp was born to play Gomez and he does it with the bon vivant and flair of John Astin’s portrayal in the TV series, while adding the Latin panache of Raul Julia in the films. On the other hand, Shaun Rice, who plays Uncle Fester, completely bypasses the Christopher Lloyd version of the character and channels Jackie Coogan from the original series in an inspired performance that is truly a joy to watch. Keleen Snowgren, who last graced the NWFSC stage as the Lady of the Lake in Spamalot, is a less wasp-waisted Morticia than we’re used to from Carolyn Jones and Anjelica Huston, but her singing is superb and her performance, in a gravity-defying dress that shows off ample amounts of both leg and cleavage, makes what had to be a tricky bit of costuming trigonometry seem natural and unforced.
And while the rest of the cast is all great, it is Jennifer Fogarty who truly shines in this production as the willful daughter Wednesday. Although a bit older, Fogarty is a dead ringer in both looks and mannerisms for Christina Ricci from the movies and her performance contains the same brittle rage and frustration that made Ricci’s performance such a stand-out. She also has the single best song of the show – the scene-stealing “One Normal Night” – though listed as a song for the company which she shares with several others, it is rather a singular tour de force that showcases her powerful voice and is the most memorable moment of the entire show.
And maybe that’s the problem with The Addams Family. For all the great nostalgic feelings the show produces of both the series and the films, the show itself seems unfinished. Several plot lines established in Act One either become changed, truncated or completely forgotten about by Act Two. And while the look of the TV show is lovingly captured, the spirit of the original seems somewhat elusive – almost there from time to time – only to flit away and get lost in the story’s insistence that all we really want to be is “normal.” Not exactly the message I’d expect from Gomez and his “cara mia.” In fact, there were many Addams Family tropes given short shrift in the show; Thing and Cousin It barely appear, Morticia rarely ever speaks French to drive Gomez wild, and until the end, Lurch never speaks at all, expressing himself in only monosyllabic grunts and groans. I mean, granted, the guy was always a man of few words, but they were words, you know?
The word I heard most often in the theatre that night was “cute.” Which in theatre-speak means, “Yeah, I liked it, but now that I’ve seen it, I never need to see it again.” Except for the aforementioned “One Normal Night”, none of the songs ever really reach out and do more than push the plot, never once touch our hearts and elicit a true emotional response, despite a few real efforts to do so. Fester does have one song in Act Two, “The Moon and Me,” which is oddly affecting, but I can’t say if that’s because of the song itself or because of the puppet-trickery of the choreography.
All in all, I thank the cast and crew for a wonderfully nostalgic trip down Memory Lane. It was a trip that stalled just short of great, but was a fun one all the same. I guess the take-away from all this is, that while I expected The Addams Family to be “creepy and kooky,” I never ever expected it to be…cute.
My next Broadway excursion? In February when the national tour of Memphis hits NWFSC. I’ll have all the details.
We Double-Team The Aether Out Of “Thor: The Dark World”, Like Battling Godly Brothers! [There Be Spoilers Ahead!!]
I need to be honest with you, okay? The second Iron Man, first Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger movies were fun and all… But they weren’t that great, right? I only saw Thor in the theater once, and Captain America – my most beloved of super-heroes – well, I’ve only seen his movie on the TV . But don’t get me wrong, there are things to love in all of them. They just weren’t as great as Iron Man, IM3 and The Avengers.
Having admitted that, Thor: The Dark World is easily the worst offering from the Marvel cinematic universe to date. BUT – even sub-standard Marvel is twenty-six to twenty-seven percent more fun than your average slam-bang actioner and is way more palletable than a Man Of Steel or Green Lantern. Which means that this movie is required Marvel-fan viewing, even if the machine is definitely losing some steam.. or some aether. That floaty red stuff is the colossal macguffin, and colossal bore, at the heart of Thor: The Dark World.
The very by-the-book path this film travels, so tied up with this new-to-Marvel “evil red essence”, tries to suck the fun out of this installment of our Marvel-Movie Comics, but it doesn’t damage the film beyond redemption. The real fun in the movie comes form the performances of most the main-story cast. Thor, Loki, Odin, Jane, Frigga, even Darcy and Dr. Eric get more than enough to do.
Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, the lovable megalomaniac, who still makes the great Trickster vivid, fun and more super-tricky!! A close second is Chris Hemsworth’s Thor. As the stoic superhero, Hemsworth has to deal with the most-underwritten major part, be a good boy always, and still he manages to make us notice him in any scene he shares with an Oscar-winner, Oscar-nominee, beloved bad-boy or ex-Doctor. And his upper arms are… well, Godly.
So, to make my short story even shorter… It wasn’t great. But I had good fun anyways.
So go see it. Now to your REAL review…
Next up, our Cadillac Jack claims, “I Just Flew In From Midgard and, Boy, Are My Arms ‘Thor’!!” And Chris and Tom fill-in for Bob & Bing on “The Road to Asgard!”
Remember the great classic “road” movies Hollywood used to make, back in the day? The ones where Bob Hope and Bing Crosby played two intrepid young heroes with Big Dreams and Aspirations and were willing to travel the highways and byways of this Great Land of Ours in order to find them? Usually with a delightful piece of eye candy on hand (most likely played by Dorothy Lamour) to make the trip more enjoyable? Then, do you remember how Marvel honcho Kevin Feige likes to say that their studio doesn’t make “superhero movies,” it makes all kinds of movies and just puts superheroes in them? Well, with Thor 2: The Dark World, the folks at Marvel made a Road picture/Buddy comedy and in it, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) go all the way from Asgard to Midgard to Svaltheim and back again to tell a story of two intrepid young heroes with Big Dreams and Aspirations, willing to travel the Rainbow Bridges of these Great Realms of Ours (most likely with Natalie Portman in tow, though I’d gladly substitute Jaime Alexander if need arose) in order to stop the Bad Guy, Save the Nine Realms and win Daddy Odin’s love and approval along the way.
In The Dark World (or TDW, as we’re going to call it), we pick up a couple of pieces from the first Thor and a couple of pieces from The Avengers to find the erstwhile Thunder god pining away for Jane in Asgard as he cleans up the unrest and turmoil brought about by the destruction of the Rainbow Bridge and Loki’s insurrection and Jane (Portman), pining away for Thor in London, where she has basically abandoned her research and her friends in favor of moping around, eating copious amounts of Ben and Jerry’s and going on ridiculous blind dates with Nice Guys Who Obviously Aren’t Thor. Thankfully, Darcy (Kat Dennings, pictured) shows up, brimming with snark and feistiness who tells Jane that her Mighty Marvel Malediction Maletractor is pinging when it should be ponging and hey, doesn’t that mean Something’s Up? Valiantly, Jane spends about two seconds trying to go back to her dinner date (Sea Bass, Sea Bass, Sea Bass…), before hitching up her skirts and high-tailing it after Darcy in Search of Answers to the Ultimate Questions of Life, the Universe and What Kind of Conditioner Does a Thunder God Use to Get his Hair That Manageable and Tangle-free? Darcy and Jane follow the signal to an abandoned warehouse where they find a set of mysterious portals leading from Here to There and (mostly) Back Again, but no sooner do they begin to get a handle on what’s happening than Jane gets sucked into one and finds herself way down in one of the less attractive neighborhoods of the Nine Realms (you know the kind, where you can never get a cab after six and no one goes out after dark?), where Odin’s dad had them hide the Aether, just another of your typical malignant world-sucking cosmic powers that litter the Marvel U like discarded candy wrappers and Yoo Hoo bottles. Magically, the Aether uses this moment to break free of its stone prison and take residence within Jane, scrambling her chi and giving her a Reason for being in the rest of the movie.
Meanwhile, Thor has been taming the wilder aspects of the Nine Realms with Sif and the Warriors Three (does it strike anyone else as sexist that it’s not called The Warrior’s Four and that Sif is not included?), getting ragged on by Odin (Anthony Hopkins) for falling in love with a mortal and hanging out with Heimdall (Idris Elba) to, not exactly watch Jane from the Bridge, but to watch Heimdall watch Jane from the Bridge and sigh forlornly about the vast distance between them. Suddenly Heimdall announces that he can no longer see Jane and Thor immediately discards all of the Really Good Reasons he had for not seeing her before even though he promised he’d be back and zaps down to the warehouse, just as Jane manages to emerge from the Aether closet all on her own.
Meanwhile, lost in the trackless reaches of Somewhere Else, the Dark Elf Malekith (Christopher Eccleston, AKA The Ninth Doctor) awakens from his five thousand year old slumber, having asked for an early wake-up call on the day the Aether emerges from its prison. After conferring with his lieutenant and best bud Algrim (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Mr. Ekko from Lost), he wakes up his army of faceless Dark Elves and infects Algrim with the Kurse, which makes him super-strong, impervious to any Asgardian weapon and so ugly that he has to wear a giant horned mask for the rest of the movie. From here, we see Thor (finally!) take Jane to Asgard so that the great Alice Krige can be wasted in one scene as a healer, trying to get the Aether out of Jane, Malekith invading Asgard in an attempt to capture Jane and Thor forced to ask his half-brother Loki for help in defying Odin and getting out of Asgard to find Malekith and stop The End of The Universe. From here it’s nothing but panty raids and power-grabs, back-slaps and bonhomie as Thor and Loki repair their relationship and try to give credence to some of the darker examples of Thor/Loki fan-fic. OK…that last sentence is not true. Well, it’s mostly not true. What does follow is a mostly fun, mostly thrilling, extremely funny movie that thoroughly cements the chemistry of the two greatest finds of the Marvel Universe Movie-Making Division, Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston.
Let’s face it, the thing that sells the Thor franchise is not just the magic and daring-do, it’s certainly not the sorta bland romance between Thor and Jane; it’s not even the fact that Hemsworth’s shoulders are now so huge they deserve their own zip code, it’s the out of this world bromance between Thor and Loki as managed with sensitivity and aplomb by misters Hemsworth and Hiddleston. Over the course of three films, these two actors have developed a shorthand with one another and created a relationship that transcends genre, transcends superheroes and approaches something akin to real magic. Whatever other problems the movie may have (and it does have a few), it crackles every time these two are on screen together. Surely you’ve all heard by now that director Alan Taylor (Game of Thrones) called for some additional scenes to be shot after principal photography wrapped to include more Loki and I say “good job, sir!” More Loki is just what this movie or any other movie needs. Hiddleston is a brilliant, nuanced actor who brings his fellow actors up to his level with surprising ease. For example, in the scene in the flying boat where Thor looks at Loki and says, with real pain and longing, “I wish I could trust you,” take a moment to look at the sheer volume of thoughts and emotions playing across Hiddleston’s face. The agony expressed by Hemsworth and the regret/love/rage expressed by Hiddleston as he simply replies “Trust my rage,” is extremely powerful and goes far beyond the normal bounds of a mere “comic book movie.”
I’ll be honest, I was a little worried when I first heard how funny TDW was. I was fearful that the producers would sacrifice silliness for substance, much in the way Joel Schumacher did in Batman Forever and Batman and Robin. But, thankfully, I worried for nothing. TDW is funny, yes; but it’s a funny that is completely in keeping with the characters and the story and the world and serves to balance the tragedy of the film with heart and humanity (a lesson Zack Snyder could stand to learn before making the next Superman film).
Where the film comes closest to stumbling is in trying to be balanced and to give its incredible cast of amazing thespians enough to do to keep them happy and signing up for sequels. Surely, Rene Russo, who was largely wasted in the first film gets a wonderful, if albeit tragic moment in TDW, and Idris Elba’s Heimdall gets a lot more to do this go-round than just standing atop the Rainbow Bridge looking down on everyone, but in Darcy’s completely out of left field romance and Eric (Stellan Skarsgard) streaking around Stonehenge in his all-togethers, we seem to be seeing a bit more actor-service as opposed to character-service, and while it doesn’t kill the story, it does seem unnecessary and the Eric storyline especially seems under-explained and under-utilized.
But the real disservice in TDW comes in how it handles some characters we’ve already come to know and love, Thor’s Asgardian compatriots, Sif and the Warrior’s Three. With a warm hand on the shoulder and one compassionate line of dialogue, Thor effectively banishes Hogun (Tadanobu Asano) from the remainder of the film and Fandral (who was played by Josh Dallas in the first film, but was replaced here by Marvel’s original choice for the role, Chuck’s Zachary Levi) most often finds himself pushed to the back so that the audience won’t get the chance to realize that there’s been an actor switch and even Volstagg (the great Ray Stevenson) is relegated to a couple of food-related sight gags and a one line threat to Loki. As for Sif, she barely gets to do more this time out than shoot smoldering glances at Thor and daggers at Jane as everyone around, from Odin to Frigga to the audience itself, realizes just how much better-suited she is to the Thunder God than poor ol’ plain Jane. As for Eccleston, well, he’s a fine actor and there’s no doubt about it, which is a good thing, because they certainly don’t give him much to do here to prove it. And that’s really the weakness of TDW; by spending so much time on the humor, the bromance and fairness to its cast, they deliver to us a two-dimensional villain whose motivation seems weak and whose menace seems totally contrived. We never really believe that Malekith as all that Big a Bad and that robs the movie of any real tension or threat.
Oh, and what about the extra after-credit scenes? The first one, that comes halfway through the credits to set up the up-coming Guardians of the Galaxy movie does what it needs to do, I suppose, but its science-fictiony-ness seems out of place amid Thor’s Norse mythology and in falls kind of flat. As for the final after credit scene all the way at the end, while providing a nice denouement for the Thor/Jane relationship, it does little more than provide a grin for all your patience. Personally, I’d have rather been eating schwarma. In fact, my favorite “extra” in TDW is the Captain America cameo halfway through. That was a fun and well thought-out shout out to the rest of the Marvel U.
And lastly, to the folks at Warner’s…if you’re really thinking about offering Wonder Woman to the lovely Ms Alexander (pictured, dear lord)? I’m all for it, as long as it doesn’t cost her the Sif job. I still have hope for those two crazy kids. I really do.
… The Cheese comes from the cheesiest pop songs we can scare up, and the w[h]ine is provided by the return of the Fabulous Golden Throats!!!
Saturday 11/9/2013 at 6 PM CT on PlanetZ102.com AND Sunday 11/10/2013 at 5 PM CT on JDX1029.com, The Mothership!!
|Paul McCartney And Wings||Silly Love Songs|
|Leon Haywood||I Want’a Do Something Freaky To
You (Extra Freaky pGR Version)
|Leo Sayer||Long Tall Glasses (I Can Dance)|
|Mayer Hawthorne||Where Does This Door Go|
|The Tokens||The Lion Sleeps Tonight
|10cc||Life Is A Minestrone|
|Randy Newman||Short People|
|David Dundas||Jeans On|
|LeAnn Rimes||Purple Rain|
|The Turtles||Umbassa & The Dragon|
|Donna Fargo||The Happiest Girl In The Whole
|Paper Lace||The Night Chicago Died|
|Alessi Brothers||Oh Lori|
|Melissa Manchester||Don’t Cry Out Loud|
|Paul McCartney||Don’t Let The Sun Catch You
|Elvis Presley||Don’t Cry Daddy|
|Mike + The Mechanics||The Living Years|
|Wayne Newton||Danke Schoen|
|Wayne Newton||Strangers In The Night|
|Jack Webb||Try A Little Tenderness (1958)|
|Noel Harrison||A Whiter Shade Of Pale|
|Joel Grey||White Room ( Cream )|
|Brent Spiner||Toot Toot Tootsie|
|Lynda Carter||Toto (Don’t It Feel Like
|Telly Savalas||You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling|
|Maureen McCormick||Time in a Bottle|
|Robert Mitchum||From a Logical Point of
|Leonard Nimoy||Proud Mary|
|Patrick Swayze||She’s Like the Wind|
|Tina Louise||I’m In The Mood For Love|
|Burt Reynolds||A Room for a Boy Never Used|
|Steven Seagal||Don’t you cry|
|a-ha||Take On Me|
|Albert Hammond||The Free Electric Band|
|Olivia Newton John||Something Better To Do|
|Julis La Rosa||Eh Cumpari|
|Sam Butera||French Poodle|
|Andy Williams||Music To Watch Girls By|
|Meco||Wizard Of Oz Medley|
|Bay City Rollers||Saturday Night|
|Bread||The Guitar Man|
|Paul Anka||(You’re) Having My Baby [Ft.
|Terry Jacks||Seasons In The Sun|
|Neil Sedaka||Love Will Keep Us Together|
|Sammy Davis, Jr.||The Candy Man [With The Mike
|Jack Jones||Wives And Lovers|
And on JDX1029.com at 8 PM CT on 11/10, the popGeezer Sunday Special….
Another Magic Night In Nashville – Thanks To Sony, Johnny-Boy And Mr. Benjamin Folds, Who Makes Me Think..
Ben Folds, “SONY Presents An Intimate Evening With Ben Folds”, Ryman Auditorium, Nashville, TN 10/30/2013
The twenty-one years I’ve spent in Nashville, working more or less in the entertainment business, have provided me with many unique and special music industry moments – meeting Randy Travis at a CMA after-party, attending a taping of a Travis career retrospective TV special that never aired, spending an evening in Gretchen Wilson’s home listening to tracks from her three 2013 album releases, or meeting the luminous Katy Perry in 2009. Add in moments that came with tickets any schlub could purchase – the 1996 opening night of the Bridgestone Arena, Robert Plant & Alison Krauss at that arena a decade later, R.E.M. at the sorely-missed Starwood Amphitheater, or any show at the Ryman – and it becomes evident that this city, Music City, possesses magic.
An on October 30th, the magic happened again.
Thanks to random chance, my nephew presented me with a radio-promoted ticket to a private event at the aforementioned, wondrous Ryman Auditorium. The show, presented by the digital camera division of entertainment behemoth Sony Electronics, was actually part of a contest/promotion where lucky camera enthusiasts from around the world were brought to Nashville to have a Music City experience. I know these winners were bused to the Jack Daniels distillery, and they were taken on a tour of RCA Studio A, which is one of the famed homes of our classic Nashville sound. Today, that facility is owned and operated by Nashville’s Ben Folds. And the big payoff for these contestants was a private show from Mr. Folds at the Ryman. And… my nephew Johnny-Boy and I were there!
It was a very informal affair. Only Folds, his piano, VIP photo enthusiasts, local Sony industry types and fans who got in thanks to the same radio station giveaway that corralled us. The 2,000-seat Ryman was far from full. Shortly after 7 PM, Folds was introduced and began. His set-list, as it was, started with “Effington”, “All You Can Eat” and “Jesusland”, and then Folds threw the rest of the choices to the floor. The crowd chose well – “Kate”, “Rocking The Suburbs”, “Zak And Sara”, “Landed” – and Folds threw in his favorites best suited for solo piano.
Folds commented, in his own wry style, that he was probably not up to the task of being show-ready and was relieved this was (for us) a free show. Folds has been spending his time preparing his first Piano Concerto, which will have its world premier on March 13, 2014, here in Nashville, and apparently had shaved for the first time in days in his Ryman dressing room only moments before. While his voice was not really ready for high notes, Folds was otherwise easily able to give the room the full Folds experience. That experience includes, of course, some of the most engaging pop songs of the late 20th/early 21st century, wild abandon at the keyboard, required audience particiaption (with four-part harmony), and engaging self-depricating and observational humor.
As I took it all in, I began to reflect on my years as a rapt fan of Ben Folds and Ben Folds Five. In 1995-96, the BF5 track “Underground” received a lot of airplay on our local adult alternative rock radio station Lightning 100. By the second half of 1996, I’d become so fascinated by the sound of this single – particularly the jazz trio break near the song’s conclusion, that I began to seriously think about getting the CD. It was 1996. Radio and CD’s… that was the deal, then. I asked Pam, someone in our department at work who was young and hip, if she knew of Ben Folds Five. She had. She was enthusiastic about them. “Is the rest of the CD as good as that single?”, I asked. (Good lord, it sounds like I was holding a kerosene lamp, too, doesn’t it?) She assured me it was, so I made the expensive commitment.
It was the first, but not the last time a Ben Folds Five album would “blow my mind”. The first three major-label BF5 albums are the Oxford English Dictionary examples that define “popGeezer’s Music Taste”. Smart, melodious, lyrically accessible and complex, influenced by Elton John, Billy Joel, Todd Rundgren, and Vince Guaraldi, really funny and achingly sad. Between 1996 and the group’s break-up in late 2000, I saw them three different times, in wildly varying venues – a club, under a bridge on Nashville’s downtown Riverfront and at the hallowed Ryman.
After Ben began his solo career, I attended his shows MANY times – at the same club as before, many Ryman appearances and with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra, where his sits on the board of directors. A chance encounter at the Nashville airport in 2011 allowed me to express my appreciation to Ben on his music and his role as our ambassador of the arts. As I though about all of this, while truly enjoying this latest evening at the Ryman with Ben, something even more profound occurred to me.
Ben Folds, with and without his combo, wasn’t merely a favorite musician of mine. I began to run my internal personal Rolodex of most significant singer/songwriters to my taste, and I regularized something staggering. Folds is in fact the first musical figure to make his way into my very real “hall of fame” who didn’t come to prominence in the 1970’s or earlier. By now you know my tastes – Elton, The Beatles, Billy Joel, James Taylor, Todd Rundgren, Elvis, Sinatra, The Stones, The Who, Bennett or Bobby Darin… this list is pretty much museum quality. And Ben Folds, who didn’t really get national airplay until 1995, is totally on it. This popular figure with those nutty millennials, with their social medias and their mobile electronic lifestyle, are as enamored of this genuine musician as this half-centurion.
So, long story short, Ben’s a big deal.
Setlist:EffingtonAnnie WaitsJesuslandAll You Can EatLandedThe LuckiestKateZak and SaraStill Fighting ItGracieRockin’ the Suburbs/Rock This BitchPhilosophyEncore:Not the Same
First of all, can I just tell you how ticked off I am? Forget the endless merry-go-round in Washington between the Republicans and the Democrats as they wrangle over the budget, can we talk about the current impasse between Dish Network and the Mobile, Alabama CBS affiliate, WKRG? Apparently, the CBS outlet wants a substantial increase in the rates paid by Dish Network to run their programming and the Dish ain’t havin’ it. As a result, I’ve been without CBS since the first week of the new season and I’m not happy about it. I’ve been getting NCIS and NCIS: LA at cbs.com, despite the weird glitch that seems to exist between the CBS media player and my laptop, but I keep having to pay the $2.99 per ep to get Person of Interest on iTunes, since that’s the only place you can get them. Anybody want to tell me why CBS can’t run repeats of one of their own shows on their website? Anyway, you’d be amazed at how much you learn to live without when you have to. Yes, I get the above shows time-shifted and online, but so far, I have done without the last few weeks of Elementary, Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother (which I was really going to try to watch here in the last season) and The Crazy Ones and strangely, my life doesn’t seem all that empty without them. You need to be very careful here, Dish and WKRG…you don’t want people to start realizing that they can live without TV, you really don’t.
OK, down to the business at hand. The new TV season is up and running and the other media outlets have been quick to ignore the excellent Rule of Four that we employ here at popGeezer.com and have been busy pronouncing the hits and misses of the new season. Now that the season is a month old, it’s time for us to throw our two cents in, clear the smoke out of the ring and tell you what we think. Exciting, isn’t it? Here we go:
THE HONOR ROLL: These are the shows that have done their homework and have taken the hearts and minds of America by storm:
SLEEPY HOLLOW (FOX): My god, who would have predicted how completely and totally addicting this show has become? Despite an extremely top-heavy mythology and a premise that had disaster written all over it, this show came out of the gate like gangbusters and hasn’t stopped yet, outstripping even the early expectations of Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD to become the season’s first bona fide winner. In fact, it’s already been renewed for season two. Sounds like somebody really lost their head over this one.
My Take: In my opinion, the show is far better when sticking close to home with the Headless Horseman mythology, rather than wandering off the reservation as they did in the Sandman episode, but maybe that’s just me. Regardless, the show remains fearless and stars Tom Mison and Nicole Behari have off-the-charts Scully and Mulder-level chemistry, so I’m thinking this one will be around for a while.
MARVEL’S AGENTS OF SHIELD (ABC): The bigger they are, the harder they fall. Only Agents of SHIELD didn’t really fall, did it? After a record-setting premiere (ABC’s biggest in four years since the debut of V-and let’s not forget what happened there!), SHIELD took a huge drop in week two for what was unquestionably the weakest ep of the series so far. The show also took smaller hits in weeks three and four and has not seen quite the increase the Alphabet expected after NBC’s The Voice ended to make way for The Biggest Loser (though there has been a recent uptick in viewer numbers if not ratings points). Still, networks have learned not to make quick decisions about Joss Whedon shows (for often, those decisions come back and bite you on the @$$, don’t they, FOX?) and Disney/ABC has a huge investment in the Marvel franchise, so, as expected, ABC has given SHIELD a “go” for an entire season of fun and adventure.
My Take: I’m really enjoying this one so far, but it seems a little too simple and episodic for me at this point. I’m waiting for the epic season-long story arcs and more familiar villains like Gravitron, who we barely got to see. The mystery of how Coulson came back from the dead is interesting, but it’s not enough to carry the season and except for Coulson (the wonderful Clark Gregg), the entire cast is too generic and two dimensional at this point to really make me care what happens to them. And, oh yeah, I am up to here with all the focus on Chloe Bennett’s Skye. I realize she’s the audience stand-in for this show; the character who asks all the questions that the audience needs answered, but enough, already! This show needs to double down and dig in deep to the Marvel mythology and start reaching the levels of potential we saw in the pilot. Could Joss Whedon be gun shy about swinging for the bleachers given all his bad TV experiences with FOX (Firefly and Dollhouse)? I hope not. Otherwise, the real menace of SHIELD won’t be Thanos or Loki or Galactus, but Whedon himself and that would be a real shame.
THE BLACKLIST (NBC): Well, when I’m wrong, I’m wrong and I’m man enough to admit it. When this show was originally announced, I thought this was just a Hannibal Lecter rip-off and dismissed it out of hand. The reality, however, is a lot more fun. The phenomenal James Spader plays Raymond “Red” Reddington, the Public Enemy Number One who volunteers to help the FBI track down the Big Bads so slick and tricky that the feds don’t even know they’re out there. His only condition is that he be allowed to work with newbie profiler Elizabeth Keene (Megan Boone). Why? Is she his daughter? His niece? The transgender clone of his alternate dimensional self? We don’t know, but waiting to find out has turned this show into a much-needed hit for NBC, averaging 12 million viewers per ep and a 3.6 rating in the all-or-nothing 18-49 demo (of which I’m no longer a member) and it has already scored its back nine order, so there’s more mystery on the way.
My Take: I’m enjoying Blacklist so far, but I still wonder how they’re going to sustain the tension and all the different mysteries week after week. As with many of these shows, I could care less about the A storyline as all my interest is in the overall mythology of the show. Who is Elizabeth to Raymond? Why does he care so deeply about her safety and success? I suppose the plot point I’m most fixated on at the moment is the mystery of Elizabeth’s husband, Tom (Ryan Eggold). Is he an agent of Reddington’s? If so, how long as he been keeping an eye on her and why? And if he’s not working for Ray, then who the hell is he? I’ll be sticking around until they answer these questions at least and longer if the other mysteries and plot points stay equally juicy.
THE CRAZY ONES (CBS): Thanks to the Dish/WKRG feud, I’ve only seen the pilot ep for this show, but I really enjoyed it and the joy of having Robin Williams back on the tube truly can’t be measured. And the chemistry between the former Mork and the always Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) is much more significant than I originally thought. The show has proven to be a huge hit for the Eye net, with a premiere audience of over 15 million and an average audience since of 13.7 million that translates into a 3.6 rating in that all important demo that no longer matters to me. With success like that, there’s no surprise that CBS picked up The Crazy Ones for a full season and if I should ever get CBS back on my TV, I’ll be there for all of it.
My Take: Keeping in mind that I’ve only seen one episode, I think The Crazy Ones needs to stop playing it safe and really let Williams fly, doing what he does best, instead of forcing him to limit himself to the level of his castmates. There was such an effort made in the pre-season marketing to stress how this was an ensemble show and that everyone was able to stand toe to toe with Mr. Williams, that it only made the fact that they couldn’t even more embarrassing upon viewing. I also think the cast is too large. Why do we have both Hamish Linklater and James Wolk? I don’t think both characters are necessary and future eps will find it difficult to find enough for both actors to do to keep them happy. Still, it’s only been a month and I’m perfectly happy to watch them fine-tune this show over the course of the season if it keeps Williams back in my living room.
OTHER WINNERS I HAVE YET TO WATCH. I haven’t seen any of these shows yet, so “my take” will be virtually non-existent, but these shows are doing well, so they deserve mention whether I like them or not.
FOX: The guys at FOX have given a full season 22-episode order to the new Andy Samberg/Andre Braugher comedy, Brooklyn Nine Nine. The show has pulled in an average of 4.9 million viewers over its first five weeks for a 2.1 rating and FOX prez Kevin Reilly is excited about it. “With Andy and Andre out in front of this incredible ensemble,” Reilly said in a statement. “It feels like this show is going to be around for a long time. It’s exciting to see that both critics and fans love Brooklyn Nine Nine as much as we do.” FOX recently announced that they be putting B99 in a comedy block with critical fave The New Girl for a one hour comedy event to follow Super Bowl XLVIII on Sunday, February 2, 2014. Recent numbers for the show have been a little shaky, so a good post-Super Bowl performance will provide some measure of confidence in the show’s future. [Ed. Note-It's taken several episodes, but the show finally has its feet under itself. Big out-loud laughs every week now.]
In the most surprising news coming out of FOX, execs have granted a full order to Seth MacFarlane’s god-awful Dads, AKA: The Most Offensive Show on Television. The show is only averaging 3 million viewers, but the controversial tone of the pilot drew the ire of many more folks than that. “We don’t want to be the racial insult comedy show,” said EP Mike Scully in a statement. “It’s a comedy about fathers and sons…anytime you’re doing a show, for the first six episodes, you’re still improving.” So, aside from offering the Scully Variation on The Rule of Four, Mr. Scully is telling us that episode six is going to be the best Dads has to offer? Good to know, Mike. Personally, I think a show should improve with every episode, but it’s good to know.
My Take: I’m not a big Andy Samberg fan. I don’t know why; he’s funny enough, I guess, but he just doesn’t appeal to me. And I can’t watch Andre Braugher in anything without having his electrifying Frank Pemberton from Homicide: Life on the Street breaking in and dragging me off to The Box, so this show’s not for me. I understand from pG that if you like NBC’s Parks and Recreation, you’ll like Brooklyn Nine Nine, so there you go. I’m not against it, but it’s not my thing. As for Dads, this show is a waste of a brilliant cast and is further proof that Seth MacFarlane only knows about ten jokes and he’s used them all up in Family Guy. Put us out of our misery, please.
CBS: CBS is on a mission to be the King of Comedy this year and by god, they’ve got the sit-coms to prove it. Led by the already-discussed Robin Williams comeback vehicle, The Crazy Ones, the folks at the Eye Net are out to make you laugh. Out of five new comedies, three of them, the aforementioned The Crazy Ones, Mom, starring Anna Faris and Allison Janney and The Millers, featuring an all-star cast of Will Arnett, Beau Bridges, Margo Martindale and recent Glee refugee Jayma Mays have all been performing well in their timeslots and have all been given full season pick-ups. “We’re proud of CBS’s leadership position in comedy and excited to build on it with the back nine pick-ups of these three new comedies,” CBS Entertainment president Nina Tassler, said in a statement. “These series are creatively distinct, continue to improve each week and are led by strong showrunners, writing and production staffs, and feature amazingly talented casts.”
My Take: While The Crazy Ones is a fun show, I don’t have much use for the rest of CBS’ new comedy slate. The one episode of Mom I watched had its moments, but largely seemed to be just another version of what creator/producer Chuck Lorre (Two and a Half Men) has done before and the only reason The Millers is not the most offensive waste of a talented cast on TV is that FOX’s Dads got there first. The pilot episode was so far beneath the skill set of Bridges and Martindale that I was embarrassed on their behalf just watching them go through it and I know Arnett has not had the best of luck lately, what with two failed sit-coms and one failed marriage, but the guy was on Arrested Development, for crying out loud; one of the best sit-coms ever! Surely he knows this show is crap, doesn’t he? Well, for Arnett’s sake, I guess I hope this show continues to do well. I’m not gonna watch it, but it’s nice to know that an actor I like is working.
THE LUKEWARM. When I was a kid in Sunday School, we heard the story about the Pharisees asking Jesus whether we should be active in sharing our faith or passive and Jesus answered (and I’m paraphrasing), Be either hot or cold in your attitude, but never be lukewarm.” Which I take to mean that it is better to be a bono fide hit or an outright bomb than to be stuck and forgotten riding on the fence in the middle. Here are the shows that forgot to go to Sunday School that week:
ONCE UPON A TIME IN WONDERLAND (ABC): A spin-off of the super-popular Once Upon a Time from former Lost writers Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz along with former Buffy scribe Jane Espenson and Zack Estrin, OUaTW is handily beating ABC’s contender in this slot last year, The Last Resort, up 6% from those previous numbers. Against the rest of the night, the show is drawing almost six million viewers on average (1.7/5 rating), more than enough to crush the sitcom competition in the same timeslot on NBC. While the show is a tad schizophrenic and still looking for its voice, Disney/ABC have an even bigger investment in the OUaT franchise than they do Marvel, so I predict this one will be back.
HOSTAGES (CBS): Well, at least your popGeezer and I called this one right. This Dylan McDermott/Toni Collette vehicle about a talented surgeon who’s family is held hostage while she operates (and is told to kill) the President, dipped down to only six million viewers last week to make it the least-watched show Monday nights on the Big Four networks. Up against the road-tested Castle on ABC and new hit The Blacklist on NBC in its own timeslot and following the ratings hog that is newbie Sleepy Hollow, that shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. CBS needs to move this one to a weaker night if they expect to save it.
SEAN SAVES THE WORLD/THE MICHAEL J FOX SHOW (NBC): Remember when NBC’s Thursday night line-up used to be “must-see TV?” Not so much anymore. While it’s managed to escape the early cancellation I predicted, Sean is last-gasping its way across the Thursday night line-up with very few tuning in to see why. As for The Michael J Fox Show, I was really rooting for this one, but after a catchy and unique pilot, the show has just fumbled into one sitcom cliché’ after another and my interest (and most everyone else’s) has faded fast. Not much hope to be had here, kids.
THE GOLDBERGS (ABC): A week ago, I might have been on Fat Lady-watch for this 80’s-based sitcom, but last week’s ep saw an uptick in Nielsen numbers, a 1.7/5, from the previous week’s 1.6 (which translates to 5.3 million viewers for the week). Agents of SHIELD also saw a slight increase that week (though not a ratings increase), so maybe this is a small light at the end of the tunnel for ABC’s Tuesday night.
TROPHY WIFE (ABC): On the downside of ABC’s Tuesdays, Trophy Wife, starring West Wing’s Bradley Whitford and The Watchmen’s Malin Ackerman, continued its slow downward spiral, down to 1.2/3 and an audience of 4.0 million viewers overall, which means I have the Fat Lady’s number still on speed dial. As for ABC’s Sunday night entry, Betrayal, I can’t find any numbers, but the smack around the watercooler is not good. Not good at all.
THE ORIGINALS/THE TOMORROW PEOPLE (CW): After bolting out of the gate in its first week, The Originals, a spin-off of the net’s highly successful The Vampire Diaries franchise, took an inevitable dip in the demos last week to a 0.9/3, or 2.2 million viewers, but in the world of the CW, those numbers are actually pretty good and three new scripts have been ordered, which is a sign that a full season pick-up is just around the corner. As for The Tomorrow People, it has been holding on valiantly to its lead-in numbers from Arrow and despite complaints of a lack of consistency in its story-telling, seems to be on an upward track, so much so that the CW suits have also ordered three new scripts on this one. Truthfully guys, for a network as small as CW, both these shows are pretty much hits and I wouldn’t worry about them going anywhere any time soon.
LUCKY SEVEN (ABC): CANCELLED. I guess that number’s not so lucky after all.
WE ARE MEN (CBS): CANCELLED. I like Tony Shaloub and Jerry O’Connell. I did not like this show.
WELCOME TO THE FAMILY (NBC): CANCELLED. I guess we’ll be seeing a lot more of Mike O’Malley over on Glee now, right?
IRONSIDE (NBC): CANCELLED. Oh come on, seriously. Is anybody surprised by this?
SOON TO BE ON THIS LIST, IF NOT ALREADY: Betrayal (ABC), Sean Saves the World (NBC) The Michael J Fox Show (NBC).
SOPHOMORE SLUMPS: While a report on established shows is a subject for a whole ‘nother column, I will warn you that some second year series, among them Elementary, The Mindy Project and others are suffering some rather severe second year dips that could mean trouble in securing renewal for a third. We’ll keep you posted.
SHOWS THAT HAVE YET TO PREMIERE/RETURN:
DRACULA (NBC): Debuted last night as I write this and I haven’t had time to watch it yet. [Ed. Note-Multiple-personality disorder in the best way. Great 1st and 3rd 20 minutes, Act 2 was unwatchable.]
GRIMM (NBC): Returned last night as well. Nick is a zombie! Here’s hoping this show gets a little quicker this year about wrapping up some of its storylines.
DOWNTON ABBEY (PBS/BBC): Returns in the US on January 5. [Ed. Note-Seen 7 of 8. Super-soapy, ambles a bit in the middle, refinds footing for last few.]
CHICAGO FIRE (NBC): Returns on January 8. No one knows why.
ENLISTED (FOX): January 10. They should just save us all some time and cancel it now.
AMERICAN IDOL (FOX): The former ratings juggernaut, now with new judges J-Lo, Keith Urban and Harry Connick Jr returns on Wednesday, January 15.
RAKE (FOX): January 19. Stars Oscar-winner Greg Kinnear and looks really interesting.
SHERLOCK (PBS/BBC): The best show on television returns to Masterpiece Theatre on January 19.
THE FOLLOWING (FOX): My crack is back. Kevin Bacon and James Purefoy return with new mayhem on Monday, January 20.
SOME CABLE NEWS:
SONS OF ANARCHY. While CBS managed to hold onto it’s Tuesday night triple crown of NCIS, NCIS:LA and Person of Interest, the real threat to their supremacy wasn’t ABC’s Agents of SHIELD, it was the boys from SAMCRO. Starring Charlie Hunnam, the man who was almost Christian Gray (and thank god for him that he got out of that rabbit trap!) and Ron Perlman, Sons of Anarchy beat out the broadcast competition in the 9/10pm slot with a 2.4/7 in the 18-49 demo, which means over four million viewers. Not bad for a bunch of outlaws.
SHOWTIME RENEWS HOMELAND AND MASTERS OF SEX. Showtime has just announced that both hit dramas will return in 2014 with twelve eps each for their fourth and second seasons respectively. Homeland is currently SHO’s number one show with 6.5 million viewers per week this year and in its freshman year, MoS, starring Michael Sheen and Lizzie Caplan as sexmeisters Masters and Johnson has been averaging 5.4 million.
NO HOCK, SHERLOCK. SEASON FOUR A GIVEN? While there’s been no official word on the future of Sherlock beyond the upcoming third season, EP producer Sue Vertue proudly announces that the new episodes are “worth waiting for.” The third episode titles are The Empty Hearse, which deals with what happened to Sherlock after last season’s chilling cliffhanger, The Sign of Three and The Last Vow. As for that rumored season four, Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch, who is starring in everything everywhere these days, recently told Radio Times that he and co-star Martin Freeman were ready for more. “We’ve agreed to do two more series (which, depending on how you look at it could mean not only a fourth season, but a fifth one as well), but I could get into trouble for saying that. All I know at the moment is I’m doing [Season Three] and another three.” By “another three,” we’re assuming he means three episodes (Sherlock runs in three episode seasons of two hours per ep) and that would seem to mean a fourth season is locked in and possibly a fifth as well. Be still my heart!
AND FINALLY, THIS JUST IN…
ABC DEMANDS A DO-OVER! According to a story on E!Online, ABC is talking about resurrecting the Dana Delany vehicle, Body of Proof as a midseason replacement. According to sources, execs are still trying to figure out whether or not it’s financially possible to bring back the program, which was cancelled in May after three seasons on the net, especially since all sets have been destroyed and all contracts expired. Why the reversal? Well, after the crash and burn of Lucky 7 and the soon-to-be crash and burn of Betrayal, the Alphabet Net is thinking they would have been better off keeping one or two of their old shows instead of betting the farm on new one. Most experts agree that it will be practically impossible to resurrect Body of Proof, especially since former EP Evan Katz is now working at FOX on the Jack Bauer movie, but we’ll keep you posted.
WAIT A MINUTE! DID HE SAY “JACK BAUER MOVIE?” Yes, he did. The long-awaited 24 follow-up miniseries 24: Live Another Day is soon to start production with a Spring 2014 release planned as a limited 12 episode series. The show is being shot in Europe with star Keifer Sutherland, but the show’s core conceit of shooting each hour of a 24 hour day has been compressed. “The spine of the original 24 episodes was about 12 hours,” explained FOX honcho Kevin Reilly. “Those were when the big events occurred and then there were little events and connective tissue between. (The miniseries) will go chronologically over a single day, but it will skip hours as dictated by the plot.” According to the network, the series focuses once again on Sutherland’s Jack Bauer, this time on the run in London, some four years after the events last seen in the series’ finale. “We wanted the show’s return to be an event and part of that is putting him in a very different context,” says EP Evan Katz. “Four years ago, we left Jack a fugitive from justice and we’re going to pick him up four years later in London.” As long as we don’t get another “Kim and the cougar” moment, that’s all good with me.
DAVID LETTERMAN SIGNS NEW CBS DEAL-WILL DIE AT HIS DESK. In the wake of Jay Leno’s announced retirement and replacement by Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show next year, CBS and David Letterman’s World Wide Pants production company have announced that the talk show host has signed a new deal that will keep him behind the desk through 2015. “Les (Moonves, CBS president) and I had a lengthy discussion,” said Letterman in regard to contract talks. “And we both agreed that I needed a little more time to fully run the show into the ground.” This year, The Late Show celebrated its 20th Anniversary. Since debuting in 1993, it has won nine Emmy Awards (out of 73 nominations) and averages a little over three million viewers weekly.
And that’s it, TV hounds. I’m off to find a sandwich and watch last night’s Dracula premiere. Enjoy the new TV season while it lasts and I’ll be back soon with something else for us to gnaw on. Ciao.