Thursday, May 29, 2008

MVP on TV, eh? Blogtalkradio


For a show that was cancelled in March by CBC, MVP: The Secret Lives of Hockey Wives is having a very good year. In April, SOAPnet announced they'd picked up the first season of the show, which is set to air on that American cable network starting June 19. This week, ABC -- the broadcast network sibling of SOAPnet -- announced the first episode would air immediately following their telecast of the Daytime Emmys on June 20.

Is there still hope for a second season then? I'll ask that and more of Mary Young Leckie, co-creator and executive producer of the show, on Sunday's TV, eh? Blogtalkradio show. Listen live at 11 am Pacific/2 pm Eastern (call in with your questions at 646- 200-4063) or catch the podcast afterwards.

Listen to TV, eh? on internet talk radio

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Podcast cancelled

Um, yeah, so don't look for the podcast with Natalie Brown of Sophie. I got stood up again, on the first week of my experiment to streamline the show by having only one guest. At least that means I can scrap the whole show instead of having my efforts to badly fill time out there as a podcast for eternity.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

All that, and pretty too

Believe it or not, at one point the House finale post I wrote had yet another digression in there. I couldn't quite make it fit and while it was inspired by Chase's new talents in "House's Head" and "Wilson's Heart," it's really a light-hearted rant about the show as a whole:

***

I can suspend disbelief with the best of them, but it has to be said that Dr. Robert Chase has been slumming all this time. He's clearly even more talented than his former boss. It's impressive enough that he suddenly became a surgeon despite the fact that, as even House medical advisor Dr. Lisa Sanders has pointed out, "a very fundamental split in medicine is you pick medicine or surgery, period." Forget the hypnosis trick, too. Now he's apparently a neurosurgeon, performing that deep brain stimulation on his boss (though I suppose the seizures make Chase seem not quite adept at his sudden new specialty).

Then again, Cameron went from a fellowship where she encountered one patient a week for four years to heading up the Emergency Department. I can only hope that Princeton-Plainsboro has the slowest ER on the continent, or that Cameron is similarly a prodigy. With that career trajectory, she'll be Dean of Medicine by the time she's 35. Which is apparently not unusual, either. Poor Foreman is the one doomed to career stasis, but at least he has a reason to hang around House all the time.

Ahem, where was I before I started proving how adept I am at suspending disbelief? Right, expressing how none of that detracts from a show that knows what matters is the heart and head of its characters and stories, not how faithful it is to real life. I think I heard somewhere that it's a good thing TV shows don't represent the world exactly the way it is, because they would suck and be redundant.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Questions for Sophie's Natalie Brown?

The lovely Natalie Brown, star of Sophie, the CBC comedy that will also air on ABC Family, will be my guest on the next TV, eh? Blogtalkradio show. Any questions? Leave a comment, send an email, or call in yourself on Sunday, 11 am Pacific/2 pm Eastern (646-200-4063).


If you're wondering where you'd seen her before Sophie, you might be thinking of this:

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

TV Review: House – "House's Head"/"Wilson's Heart"

This is not an episode review. I'm retired from episode reviews. This is a two-episode review. A friend, the friend who gave me that damn ball, pleaded with me, and some of you blog readers requested it too. But she gave me a ball, people - I couldn't turn her down. This is on Blogcritics too and normally now I only post things in one place, but this one's for those House fans who haven't given up on me here even though I'm not writing regularly about the show, so I'm putting it here too.

---

Forget House's head and Wilson's heart – my head is swirling and my heart is breaking after the House two-part season finale. Enough so that some entreaties to share my thoughts and feelings were enough to bring me temporarily out of review retirement.

We get inside House's head every week, when his thinking processes are made visible with every case. It's also hard to imagine there's an unexpressed thought in there when the man lets escape socially inappropriate utterances like: “Trust me, I want to do very nasty, demeaning stuff to your girlfriend.”

Wilson's heart is likewise usually on display, right there on his neatly-pressed sleeve within easy reach of House's mockery.

Yet we've never seen either body part quite like this before. House's rationality is confounded by his injuries and his emotions, and Wilson's heart is trampled by House's irrational self-destruction.

The power of these episodes comes from an understated but riveting performance by Hugh Laurie; from searing ones by Robert Sean Leonard and Anne Dudek; from the non-linear narrative mixing hallucination, fantasy, dream, and memory; and from the disquieting sense that, like House, if I only taxed my addled brain I should be able to fit the puzzle pieces together.

But mostly, the power comes from the emotional depth of the story and of the character at its centre. House is always one of the most intelligent shows on television; it's at its best when it allows House's heart to see a tiny glimmer of sunlight before returning to its burrow. In this pair of episodes, it gets the airing fans have yearned for but never thought we'd see (and probably – even hopefully – won't see this much of regularly, or next season will be Marcus Welby, MD: The Next Generation, or In Treatment).

The cleverest twist of the finale is that despite a doozy at the end of "House's Head," there was no shocking twist at the end of "Wilson's Heart." I spent two hours wondering if I was reading clues to indicate some mind-blowing revelation, which distracted me enough that the quiet despair of House snuck up on me.

We've known his misery all along. It's never been clear he knew it. The ultimate theme of the finale, then, is facing the issue he's been denying all along, a misery partly of his own making, one that seems insurmountable by the end of "Wilson's Heart."

The driving force of "House's Head" is House's attempt to reconstruct the events of his missing four hours, from when he left work to when he found himself in a strip club with no inclination to ogle the strippers. Clearly he has a brain injury.

Why he was on a bus is a mystery that's cleared up quickly: "I used to drive home after getting drunk but some mothers got mad-d." (i.e., MADD – boy, writing that joke down ruins it, doesn't it?) However, a few alternate explanations cast doubt on whether that's the whole truth.

He's less concerned with his own health than with the belief that he saw a deadly symptom in someone prior to the crash, and must now find and save that unknown person with the unknown ailment. Since House conflates hunch and absolute certainty about three times in an average episode, his team and therefore the audience can't be sure if he's remembering or hallucinating that detail in the far-above-average "House's Head." Kutner is the only one to have faith in him – or to humour him – with a flash of his former unconventional problem-solving skills. This time, no setting fire to a patient or dosing them with tequila, but he does suggest hypnosis.

We journey into the mind of House -- unsurprisingly populated with scantily clad women, copious amounts of alcohol, and a limp-free stride -- via his own efforts to dig around his injured brain. He tries to access his forgotten memories through hypnosis, smell (the most powerful "evokerator"), sensory deprivation, and a re-creation of the crash, fueled by too much Vicodin and Alzheimer's drugs, as House risks his life to save this hypothetical patient.

Because he always needs people to bounce ideas off of and theories to ridicule, his hallucinations and fantasies provide those in the guise of the bus driver, a smoking-hot-even-to-a-straight-girl stripper version of Cuddy (until: "You'd rather fantasize about finding symptoms. How screwed up is that?"), and a Mystery Woman who represents the answer that's nagging at his subconscious (Ivana Milicevic of the late, lamented Love Monkey).

I'd seen the Jesse Spencer interview where he compared the finale to "Three Stories" (Spencer obviously doesn't believe, as I do, in the credo of lowered expectations). I wouldn't make that comparison myself. I think the season two finale, "No Reason," is its closest sibling. Though "No Reason" was a more fundamental examination of House's personal philosophy, it too used characters representing House's subconscious reasoning with itself.

But in a way I'm glad I heard the "Three Stories" comment, because it completely misdirected my expectations of where the story was going just as much as the details of the story did. I stay away from major spoilers and don't generally love speculation (though "House's Head" made it impossible not to indulge). So I have developed this characteristic when watching television and movies or reading books that makes me ... what's the word? Stupid. Or the more generous interpretation is that I have cultivated the art of shutting off my brain's attempts to predict what's going to come next, because I don't want to know until the writers choose to reveal it to me.

With the "Three Stories" comparison, despite my efforts to suppress it, my mind kept trying to make the pieces fit into the explanation that House himself was the patient, that it was a symptom he noticed in himself that triggered his insane risks to find the missing information. I'm glad that ended up not being the solution – not just because I wouldn't have wanted to predict it so early on, but because as cliffhangers go, "will the titular character die" is not the highest cliff to hang from. Spoiler alert: No.

House's hallucinations, fantasies, and memories were presented in a way to clearly distinguish them from his present-day reality, unlike "No Reason," which was constructed in order to blur the line between fiction and ... well, it's all fiction, isn't it? But between fictional fiction and fictional reality. Yet it was difficult to tell if the show was taking dramatic license with the medicine, or if they were providing us with clues.

Turns out the "clues" and House's dramatic symptoms amplified the tension and the stakes without relying on the low-lying cliffhanger. House doesn't get treatment when he should. He collapsed in the hospital after his sensory-deprivation bath and then regained consciousness at home. Then there was the blood that kept dripping out of his ear, the searing headaches, and his ever-expanding skull fracture, and his brain swelling ("how much bigger could it get?!"). I haven't recovered from the first time this show made me see a head explode and feared I'd have to start the therapy sessions all over again. Cuddy asked him to come back to the hospital when the bus driver is about to go into surgery for a clot, and yet she ignored House's alternate diagnosis.

The focus on his health was both a distraction – they weren't setting up a health crisis as the final twist – and the entire point. In "Wilson's Heart," it shows the depths of his friendship with Wilson, but in "House's Head," House's willingness to sacrifice his life to that degree in order to solve the puzzle points to a man who is pushing even his nearly limitless capacity for self-destruction to the limit. And the uncomfortable truth he has to face about himself is that in so doing, others end up in his wake. He's faced those consequences before, almost getting Wilson fired or jailed, for example, but this time the consequences are deadly. Just not for the man with the death wish.

But before we discover that, even his confusion was deliciously confusing. Did he really forget it's 2008? When he makes an Altered States reference to Thirteen before getting into sensory deprivation bath, she tells him she hasn't seen the film since it was released before she was born. He scoffs that she wouldn't be old enough to be a doctor then. She retorts that 1980 was 28 years ago.
House: "No it wasn't, shut up."
Thirteen: "Did you just forget what year it is?"
House: "No, I just remembered how old I am."

It wasn't a clear clue about his memory even when I was looking for clues. I'm not quite as old as House, but I'm with him – a doctor who wasn't born in 1980 gives me Doogie Howser flashbacks until I do the math. Besides, perhaps he should turn his attention to what's wrong with Thirteen's brain; it's possible to have seen a movie made before you were born. Someone should introduce her to the concept of DVDs. Sounds like a job for the AMPTP, or the estate of Paddy Chayefsky if they're desperate for the 3 cents (yes, that's a lame post-strike joke). Taub doesn't seem quite old enough to remember Fantastic Voyage, either, yet he made the mini-submarine joke. Maybe he's the natural choice to explain Netflix to his colleague.

But this isn't yet about Thirteen's impairments, it's about House's. Did he forget he'd already taken some Vicodin? It's not as though he needs an excuse to overdose. Did he forget Taub's name? I frequently do too. He does remember Thirteen's, at least after a moment, as well as the salient-to-him fact that she's bisexual.

Of course, he doesn't exactly remember her name, but that's not a clue since he never has. When he solves the mystery of the bus driver's ailment – before realizing thanks to the fly in the ointment that he saved the wrong person – he traps Thirteen in the patient's room and asks her to stab the air bubble in his heart. She balks as the others try to break through the door. "Shut up and make a decision" is House's directive, echoing his usual theme that there is an absolute right and wrong, but if you can't be certain which is which, commitment to your chosen action is the only absolute right. It's how we know House is too close to the case in "Wilson's Heart" – he starts from the premise that his theories are wrong.

When Cuddy calls Thirteen "Dr. Hadley" in that battle for her soul – or at least her decision – it's the first on-screen utterance of that surname. House hilariously responds: "See, she doesn't even know your name." The NBC/Universal PR people and the props people didn't keep the secret as well as Thirteen herself did, so fans who wanted to know her name already did. But it's a fun Easter egg, even if it doesn't exactly qualify as the revelation of how they got the caramel inside the Caramilk bar, or a coherent explanation for what those Lost numbers actually mean. Maybe in another season or two we'll hear her first name, too.

The distinction between hallucination and memory was less clear in "House's Head" than between fiction and reality, or I would really have been an idiot for not being sure Amber was really in the bar with House. I did suspect it, but because of all the misdirection the episode and in my own "Three Stories" influenced brain, I never clued in that she was on the bus, or was the one with the symptom. Though in retrospect the amber necklace was a glaringly obvious clue, the conversation about it being a fly in the ointment was enough of a red herring to make me blind as a bat.

Because of that sensual-before-turning-bloody scene with the Mystery Woman and the red ribbon, and Wilson's comments to House in the MRI, I did think, as I was supposed to, that it was obvious House had inappropriate feelings or even an inappropriate relationship with Amber. Well, all his relationships are inappropriate, aren't they? I mean inappropriate in the "bros before hos" way. Therefore, it was obvious to me that House did not have inappropriate feelings or a relationship with Amber, because obviously the writers would not set it up that obviously if that were true.

Though we could put it down to the brain injury, period, I believe his attempts to recall what the Mystery Woman represents were stymied by his conflicting motivations, of wanting desperately to solve the puzzle until he got close enough to suspect the price of truth. I mean, come on, "resin"? Not only does no one call that type of necklace anything but amber, but by that point even I got it, and as I've established, I'm no Sherlock Holmes. Amber was on the bus. Amber was the one with the deadly symptom. But as long as House doesn't remember, it didn't happen, nothing changes between him and Wilson.

Chuck Klosterman wrote an article with a passage that stuck with me:
"How big is your life? That is neither a rhetorical nor impossible question. The answer is easy: Your life is as big as your memory. Forgotten actions still have an impact on other people, but they don't have an impact on you; this is the entire point of Memento. Reality is defined by what we know, and we (obviously) can't know what we don't remember."

Yes, that's right, I'm sourcing a pop culture author writing in Esquire as a scientific authority. Give me some leeway here, since we're talking about a pop culture version of medicine. My favourite movie title ever (perhaps aside from a certain classic released long before I was born) captures the idea in fewer words, stolen from Alexander Pope: "Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind."

Forgetting for a moment that House's mind is neither sunny nor spotless, he faces a Memento-like dilemma that the closer he gets to the truth, the more he fears he might discover something he doesn't want to know. And if it's so dire that the man who forged prescriptions on his only friend's pad and who experiments on unsuspecting patients doesn't want to face it, you know it's even more shocking than FOX could ever express in one of their breathless promos.

I don't remember my Film Studies 101 vocabulary enough to describe the visual style properly (maybe I should call Chase the hypnotist), but the episodes were beautifully shot by directors Greg Yaitanes and Katie Jacobs, particularly the scenes within House's head. Slow motion drew out the drama, as did the pulsing, blue-tinged lighting. The grainy faded colours, almost black and white with the blue of House's eyes or the red of Amber's scarf popping from the screen, or the overexposed whiteness with only the brightest colours popping, added to the surreal effect, as did the pulsing, blue-tinged lighting in earlier memory and hallucination scenes and the bright white of the afterlife-ish scenes.

Picking sombre rather than frenetic music during the climactic crash scenes -- terrifying scenes with flesh and steel tumbling in slow-motion chaos -- infused them with poignancy. The bus crash stunt didn't serve to merely pump up the action, but the emotion, hitting our hearts rather than our brains, triggering an empathetic reaction rather than an adrenaline rush.

The heart of "House's Head" is palpable in those crash scenes between House and Amber, between Hugh Laurie and Anne Dudek, especially their hands reaching for each other. I don't mean romance or sexual tension, but a tenderness and concern we have so rarely seen in House's expression, and never in Amber's.

House has reason to reach out to her above the other passengers in danger -- he knows her, she's his only friend's girlfriend -- and yet he would be the first to point out that it's not a rational action. Would clasping hands accomplish anything? I'm not saying House has fatherly feelings for Amber either (if he did, those sexy dreams in "Wilson's Heart" would cross that ick line even further) but it seems akin to a parent's instinct to reach a frail human arm across their seat-belted child during an abrupt stop in traffic: useless, but instinctual. Rationality only goes so far, even in a man who denies his own emotions as well as the "evolutionary incentive to sacrifice for our offspring, our tribe, our friends -- keep them safe" to quote this finale's co-writer Doris Egan's "Son of Coma Guy" episode.

Sharing some imagery with the typical near-death experience, House follows the light to emerge from the tunnel of the bus wreckage before waking to Cuddy – not kissing him, as first appears, but providing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation as Wilson performs CPR, with Cameron crying and others hovering worriedly over his collapsed form until he utters the answer: "Amber."

But House does sacrifice for his friends. Before that realization, Cuddy asks him the question "Why is this so important" and he doesn't have an answer. Maybe he's risking his life to solve the mystery because subconsciously he knows he cares deeply about this one – but it's not Amber he cares so much about, it's Wilson. House risked his life with the deep brain stimulation even though he thought he had all the pieces of memory he needed, simply because Wilson asked him to.

The answer isn't that simple, of course, and House's feelings about himself are mixed in there, too. It takes deep brain stimulation to trigger the final memory that reveals nothing inappropriate happened with Amber – he wasn't more inappropriate than he is with any other attractive woman, that is -- except that her life was put in danger because she tried, in Wilson's stead, to ensure House got home safely.

It's a solution that allows us sympathy for House, because he didn't sleep with her, he didn't knowingly endanger her, and yet allows us empathy for Wilson's anger, because he's tried to help House avoid the figurative crash for so long, in so many ways, to no avail. House realizes the weight of his actions in that moment of recall. I never would have believed I'd ever see House apologize and cry, or that if I did, it would be so tremendously affecting instead of tremendously out of character.

We've had four seasons of watching House's balancing act between expressing misery with his actions and denying it with his words. The episode prior to the finale, "Living The Dream," dwelled on the theme of misery in general without much resolution. That theme is picked up with a vengeance in "House's Head"/"Wilson's Heart." It's Thirteen who's the catalyst for bringing it out in the open. House calls her on her identification with the dying young doctor, and chastises her for ignoring the issue of her possible Huntington's Disease. "You are the champion of not dealing with your problems," she rightly counters.

The tension throughout the medical case of "Wilson's Heart" is again choosing a course of action without knowing which is right and which is wrong. Wilson advocates for keeping Amber on heart bypass, so House bows to his wishes, but Foreman and Cuddy believe they must restart her heart in order to know if treatment is working, or diagnosis her properly if not. Turns out, the right and wrong came way before Amber's heart stopped – about the time House called for a ride, tried to get her drunk, then wandered to the bus without his cane. The final diagnosis allows them to know what's killing her, not to prevent it. It never mattered what they did; she was dead.

But the dilemma is also the metaphor: keeping Amber on ice is delaying the inevitable, not dealing with it. Thirteen, Wilson, Amber, and House all have to face the problems confronting them. Thirteen takes her Huntington's test; it's positive. Wilson and Amber have a final heartbreaking goodbye.

And House, in a coma after the deep brain stimulation provoked a seizure, meets up with a sensual and wise Amber in a(nother?) near-death experience in the bus (though I'd call it another example of House's subconscious talking to itself). The setting is stripped bare of anything but white light, where the mantra "everybody lies" is transformed into "everybody dies." Just not yet, or they'd have to change the show's title to Wilson. They have a conversation that is stripped bare of any of House's usual sarcasm and rhetorical flourishes, starting when he says he should be dead:

Amber: Why?
House: Because life shouldn't be random. Because lonely, misanthropic drug addicts should die in bus crashes. Young, do-gooders in love who get dragged out of their apartments in the middle of the night should walk away clean.
Amber: Self-pity isn't like you.
House: I'm branching out from self-loathing and self-destruction. Wilson is gonna hate me.
Amber: You kinda deserve it.
House: He's my best friend.
Amber: I know. What now?
House: Stay here with you.
Amber: Get off the bus.
House: I can't.
Amber: Why not?
House: Because it doesn't hurt here. I don't want to be in pain. I don't want to be miserable. And I don't want him to hate me.
Amber: Well you can't always get what you want. (Hmm, where have we heard that before?)

"Get off the bus," Amber directs him, echoing House's own transportation-as-life-path metaphor from "Living the Dream," when he told the miserable actor to figuratively jump out of the plane. Is happiness a choice, is how you feel a choice, is how you act a choice? The man who has stubbornly, gleefully resisted all but the most infinitesimal changes until his acceptance of Amber for Wilson's sake in "Don't Ever Change," seems to be facing his profound desire to make different choices. What now? Whether he can change or not is a whole other question, as is how the writers manage that without destroying the show and the character, but it's a question for next season.

A slew of House writers are credited on the two-parter. Beyond Egan, there's David Foster, Peter Blake, and Garrett Lerner and Russel Friend. It's like they wanted to spread the joy, or push the WGA limits of how many writers can be credited on a single episode. Or like they were scrambling to get two ambitious hours of television completed after the strike and needed all hands on deck.

I hope they have stock in Kleenex, because they gave Amber a farewell that doesn't rely on viewers like me who genuinely loved the character for it to be heart-wrenching. Wilson's reaction, and the medical team's reaction, were beyond touching.

So Kutner isn't just a goof; he's a guru of dealing with death, leading Thirteen and the gang into saying goodbye simply with their presence. Then Taub takes comfort in his wife, Kutner in television (hey, nothing wrong with that), and Foreman, Chase and Cameron get together as friends and colleagues. House seems to take little comfort in Cuddy sleeping beside him, holding his hand.

Wilson presumably fails to take his lead from his girlfriend, who doesn't want the last emotion she experiences to be anger. He still has time for anger, visiting House but not able to bring himself to say anything. Instead, he goes home to find a note from Amber, apologizing for not being there because she went to get House. Where's that Kleenex again?

I'm reaching my limit of how long I've avidly followed a single show – previous champ The West Wing started losing me after the fourth season – and yet I find myself anticipating season five of House and trusting the instincts of the creative forces behind the show as much as ever. Sadly, I won't be able to test that faith for another few months, but "House's Head" and "Wilson's Heart" are the type of episodes that allow me to conflate hunch and certainty; I'm confident they won't fail the test.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Chris Haddock interview

Here's my write-up from Blogcritics based on the TV, eh? Blogtalkradio interview with Intelligence and Da Vinci's Inquest creator Chris Haddock:
  • Intelligence Comes To DVD While Awaiting FOX Fate
    "‘The cumulative effect of watching this show is powerful. So I’m hoping everyone will run out and buy it. I just want people to watch it, so I don’t care if people steal it, quite frankly. I’m not encouraging it, but I just want people to watch this thing because it’s so much fun.’" Read more.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Durham County interview

Now here's the Blogcritics write-up I did based on the TV, eh? Blogtalkradio interview with Durham County co-creators Laurie Finstad Knizhnik and Adrienne Mitchell:
  • Killer Durham County Creeps Onto Global’s Lineup
    “The eerie, atmospheric Durham County she co-created with director Adrienne Mitchell is a six-part series that will air on Global television beginning Monday, May 19 at 10 p.m., and a product of her ‘adolescent resentment’ of suburbia. It’s a world where power lines dominate the grey landscape, and carefully manicured houses and lawns contrast with the turmoil of the families who live there.” Read more.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

My Messy Life makes me feel neat

I'm still catching up on posts I want to write based on some of the TV, eh? Blogtalkradio interviews - good thing I'm not doing a show for the upcoming long weekend - and yet here's one based on the non-interview with Josh Freed, who tested my ability to fill time in the last one. It's a fun documentary, though, and they went to the effort of sending me the screener and attempting to call in from Italy, so I wanted to at least write a review:
  • My Messy Life Vindicates The Neat-Impaired
    "All hail Josh Freed, patron saint of the organizationally challenged. The filmmaker and Montreal Gazette columnist exposes his messy life in My Messy Life, a hilarious documentary airing on CTV this Saturday, May 17 at 7 p.m. (see CTV.ca for local listings). It makes the case that some people are successful because of – not in spite of – their disorganization." Read more.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

This is Emily Yeung interview

I wrote something short based on the interview with Mark Bishop of This is Emily Yeung from last Sunday's TV, eh? Blogtalkradio show:
  • This is This is Emily Yeung on DVD
    "'The idea behind the show is to watch the show, go online and play with Emily, and then with your parent or caregiver or teacher, have some additional activities which you can get on Emily's website, and then go out into the world and do something, go out into the world and explore, go out into the world and try new things. And then come back next week and watch the show again.'" Read more.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

"Cool"


I subscribe to the philosophy of lowered expectations: don't hope for much so that pleasant surprises are more frequent than bitter disappointments. It works, mostly because I don't expect great things to come my way; when I have to force those expectations down, I'm just kidding myself.

So the fact that I'm really, really looking forward to the House two-part finale worries me a little. (The first part airs tomorrow night at 9 pm on Global or FOX, or 6 pm Pacific on those time-shifted channels I won't let Jim or Denis take away from me.)

The snippets I've seen and heard so far don't dip into advanced spoiler territory but make it seem like the kind of episode I geek out over, breaking out of the usual template while exploring Housian philosophies. (I could take serious lessons from him in lowered expectations of humanity.) Plus, I always like this show's subtly but not overly cliffhangery game-changing finales, which means I can't help but hope for satisfaction.

There's also the law of averages for this above-average show: I wasn't enamoured with the last two episodes since the strike, so it's due to rise to the level of the last couple before that. Though how much did I love the line "pretty girls are fungible" from "Living The Dream"? Not only did it give its audience the intellectual benefit of the doubt and risk throwing away a very Housian joke by using an uncommon word, but it seemed to poke fun at those who believe 13 is a Cameron clone.

This finale was going to be the post-Superbowl episode until that pesky writers strike got in the way. That isn't necessarily a sign of quality but is a sign that they were shooting big, and to me they rarely miss when they go big.

And then there's the cynical reason I think it's going to be an episode full of juicy goodness, which I wish hadn't even entered my mind: I think they're overdue for an Emmy-bait episode for Hugh Laurie, one of their brilliant showcases for his range of talents. (And again, how much did I love the scene where House "accepts" an Emmy award in that last episode?)

But given the reasons for my excitement, what's funny is watching the videos on the FOX site (see the video player at the right of that page) and seeing how much the emphasis is on the big stunt: check out the Director's Take video. It does look extremely cool to shoot, but I can guarantee the big stunt onscreen isn't what I'll remember from the episode, any more than last season's finale was cool because of the helicopter stunt Larry Kaplow was enthused about, instead of the fact that House was left duckling-less and pretty OK with that. It's all about character. The things that make noise are supplementary.

In any case, I'm with House on this one:


video

The scoop on Durham County, This is Emily Yeung, and the CRTC hearings

Here's the latest TV, eh? show on Blogtalkradio:



Approximate start times:
And ouch --I knew I'd be stood up by someone sooner or later, but there's a painful 10 minute section after the Durham County interview where I had to attempt a three-way call to connect with the My Messy Life filmmaker, who wasn't answering. Then I fumbled around trying to find out if I'd managed to reconnect to the Blogtalkradio line and was actually rambling on the air or not, while the Blogtalkradio site was not responding for me. I can hold a grudge against the website but not the filmmaker - Josh Freed is on holiday in Italy so I'm sure the effort was made and technical difficulties intervened.

Anyway, Laurie Finstad-Knizhnik and Adrienne Mitchell of Durham County were terrific, and it really is a brilliant show so catch it on Global starting Monday, May 19 at 10 pm (after the House season finale - not a bad timeslot).

Then be amused at my technical incompetence (hi Steve - please help) and rambling efforts to fill time by talking about Freed's My Messy Life. It's a very amusing documentary that will make you feel better about yourself if you're a messy person. I think I'll use it as a justification not to do housework today. Or maybe not. My mother's coming next week and I can't have her order me to clean my room and therefore belittle my creativity. My Messy Life airs on CTV Saturday, May 17 at 7 pm.

Mark Bishop, executive producer of This Is Emily Yeung, saved the day by chatting about that show and its upcoming DVD release, as well as other Marblemedia productions This is Daniel Cook, The Adrenaline Project, and more.

Then, last but not least - I put them last because I knew there's no way I could contain them - Jim Henshaw and Denis McGrath duelled over the CRTC hearings. I reduce the 45 minute (and tragically civilized) debate by summing up as: Don't mess with my House. But listen and you may get a little more out of it about the state of the Canadian TV industry and why the men are only reluctantly backing opposite sides.

Listen in the player above, visit the show site, or subscribe via iTunes or with any other program via the TV, Eh? feed. Or if those aren't enough options, the direct link to the mp3 file is here.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Durham County, My Messy Life, This is Emily Yeung, CRTC on TV, eh? Blogtalkradio

This Sunday’s TV, eh? Blogtalkradio show is wall-to-wall with great guests.

The critically acclaimed Durham County is making the move to Global television on Monday, May 19 at 10 pm, and the co-creators, writer Laurie Finstad-Knizhnik and director Adrienne Mitchell, are first up on the program.

Then, Montreal Gazette columnist and filmmaker Josh Freed will tell us about his hilarious documentary My Messy Life, airing Saturday, May 17 at 7 pm on CTV. The film "examines the war between the Messy and the Neat, arriving at some surprising conclusions."

Mark Bishop, executive producer of popular kids' show This is Emily Yeung, will chat about that show's DVD release.

Finally, industry insiders and bloggers Jim Henshaw and Denis McGrath are ready to rumble - they'll debate the recent CRTC hearings.

Listen live this Sunday, May 11, at 11 am Pacific/2 pm Eastern — and feel free to call in at 646-200-4063 with your questions or opinions — or listen to the archived podcast later.


Listen to TV, eh? on internet talk radio

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Say it ain't so, Vinay

If I were a bigger person, I would be happy for him, but I'm not, so I'm not. Vinay Menon, former TV critic with the Toronto Star, has left that beat to become the paper's humour columnist. It feels like a betrayal; I thought he already was the paper's humour columnist. Only now he won't be using his witty powers to write about television, but about whatever he's interested in. Selfish man. In his Tuesday and Thursday column, "he plans to document the fall of civilization one absurdity at a time."

When the Star announced that layoffs were in the works last month, my first thought was that the TV section was vulnerable. They had a comparative glut of journalists writing on the topic and given the ever-diminishing ranks of TV critics, it would have fit the trend. That was my last thought on the subject, too. I'm not in Toronto and don't expend a lot of energy thinking about the inner workings of their newspapers.

Then Menon mysteriously disappeared. Rob Salem spared a few words to mention he was taking over the TV column, but not to mention what happened to that guy who had been doing it until that point. It didn't bode well. At least the Star wasn't going with a national newswire for their TV needs. But along with John Doyle (though the Globe and Mail firewall is his handicap), Vinay Menon was the most distinctive voice in television criticism in this country. So naturally I assumed he got the axe.

Because his TV reviews were basically a humour column anyway, they were the most entertainingly readable, even when he was writing about a show I had no interest in. When he was excoriating a show, he gave it an aura of watchability just because of how amusingly he'd write about it.

I didn't hate Sophie as much as he did (not until a few episodes in, anyway), but howled with laughter over his review. If it wasn't on my must-watch list before, it was afterwards just to compare notes. He doesn't have the power to make me watch The Biggest Loser, but his take on The 5 Minute Office Workout that sprang from it are the only reason I've heard of the webisodes, and served to make me giggle while reading the article at work. (I hear laughter is the best exercise.)

He started the official humour column this week with entries on the Canadian Olympic uniforms ("Just checking: are we really sending our Olympic athletes to Beijing this summer dressed like circus freaks?") and the OPP's use of a Cessna to catch speeders.

Maybe next week he'll tackle the House two-part finale. Hey, with anything in the news as potential subjects, TV has to be in the mix too, right? No? Come on, humour me.

Doctoring the web

There's a pretty cool promotional website for the album When Life Gives You Lemons ... Paint That Shit Gold by Atmosphere: you can add graffiti to any website. Bet you can't guess what website I picked. OK, it's a pretty big clue below.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Interview: Author Kate Jacobs

In my second interview with a Kat(i)e Jacobs (the House executive producer being the other one), I chatted with the author of The Friday Night Knitting Club and the newly released Comfort Food. I've got some extra quotes I'll post a little later. She's a wonderfully friendly and interesting woman and we talked for an hour and a half, so there was a little more to our talk than I could put in the article.
  • Interview: Author Kate Jacobs of Comfort Food, Friday Night Knitting Club
    "Her latest novel, Comfort Food, features cooking show host Gus Simpson, who has 'a lot on her plate.' Jacobs describes the main character's journey in hunger-inducing terms: 'You have to learn to eat everything on your plate. You have to learn to savour the different tastes on your plate. How does this character go from saying she has this emotionally overloaded plate to taking what life is giving her and putting together an emotionally nourishing meal?'" Read more.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

The scoop on Air Farce, Intelligence, TV myths

Oooh, that was fun.

The TV, eh? Blogtalkradio show went into extra innings today (the live version gets cut off if you do that, but the archive podcast, which is by far the most listened to version, captures the whole thing). Because ... how could I cut off Chris Haddock, creator of Da Vinci's Inquest and Intelligence, when he was not only dishing about the DVD release, but also the FOX pilot version of Intelligence, John Wells, and his plans to take Richard Stursberg's job? The last part of the podcast is me sitting back and staying out of the way while two of CBC's biggest personalities - Haddock and Roger Abbott of Royal Canadian Air Farce - surveyed the state of the CBC. Let's just say they aren't hoping for the status quo. Cool stuff for Canadian TV geeks out there.
  • Top of the show: Roger Abbott of Air Farce
  • About 30 minutes in: TV myths with Bill Brioux
  • About 45 minutes in: Chris Haddock on Intelligence and much, much more

Friday, May 02, 2008

Air Farce, Intelligence, and TV Myths on the TV, Eh? podcast

I'm particularly excited by this Sunday's TV, eh? Blogtalkradio show. Why? Not only does it promise to be entertaining, what with the funny and smart guests, but I have a de facto co-host in Bill Brioux (he might not quite see it that way, so shhh). Bill's a TV critic, now with the Canadian Press, and also has an entertaining blog TV Feeds My Family. He'll lead the first interview with Roger Abbott of the Royal Canadian Air Farce, who recently announced this upcoming season will be their last. Then I'll talk to Bill about his book, Truth and Rumours: The Reality Behind TV's Most Famous Myths, before we're joined by Chris Haddock, the creator of Da Vinci's Inquest and Intelligence, the first season of which was just released on DVD.

Listen live this Sunday, May 4, at 11 am Pacific/2 pm Eastern -- and feel free to call in at 646-200-4063 with your questions or opinions -- or listen to the archived podcast later.


Listen to TV, eh? on internet talk radio

X-Weighted, CaptioningSUCKS.com

I posted another repurposed TV, eh? Blogtalkradio interview on Blogcritics, from X-Weighted participant Gaia:
  • X-Weighted Participant Sheds Self-Doubt Along With Pounds
    "'For me, it wasn't just about losing weight to get skinny. I mean, skinny is nothing,' Gaia said. 'I wanted to change the way I live. I wanted to change the way I see myself. I wanted to change my attitude toward my body. I wanted to change my life. That's not something you can do in six months and it's something I'm continuing to work on but I feel like I've made tremendous strides and I feel more positive and hopeful about the future than I ever have.'" Read more.
And I forgot to mention this before, but Joe Clark posted a transcript of his CaptioningSUCKS.com interview from that same show:
  • Transcript of interview on the TV, Eh? podcast
    "It’s the latest, you know, foray in my quixotic effort to get a pittance of money together to start a research project to actually develop and write, and then test, a viable standard for things like captioning and three other fields of accessibility – one for blind people and also subtitling and dubbing. Because at present there are no independently-developed and -tested standards for things like captioning, which is one reason why captioning sucks – because there is no set and tested way of doing it." Read more.