Sunday, September 30, 2007

TV, Eh? podcast with Chris Haddock and more

In yet another example of biting off more than I can chew and having the missing weekend to prove it, I've posted part two of the fall preview TV, Eh? podcast. This one features an interview by TV writer Denis McGrath with TV writer Chris Haddock of Intelligence and Da Vinci's Inquest, plus my conversation with Caroline and John Callaghan about fall series like Heartland, The Tudors, Da Kink in My Hair, Whistler, and Blood Ties.

Read the full show notes, subscribe via the iTunes store or with any other program via the TV, Eh? feed, or listen below - it's about 20 minutes long.

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Saturday, September 29, 2007

House meets life

I've written about the shortage of professional TV critics in Canada, given media conglomeration and the lack of importance placed on local TV coverage.

The National Post's Rob McKenzie, who besides covering the usual suspects in the paper, has added dramatically to the number of stories on Canadian TV out there with frequent postings to that newspaper's Arts & Life blog, The Ampersand, so he's one of the increasingly fewer voices we have on the scene. And thank god he's still on the scene, after suffering a "mysterious stroke."

Instead of using a stroke as an excuse to slack off work, he instead spent his time in hospital pondering the similarities - or not - to an episode of House, in Real life vs. House: In a way it was a 'stroke' of luck.
My diagnostic tests included a CAT scan, an MRI and an echocardiogram. I kept wondering which would be the one that makes me 10 times worse. On House, there's always one test that backfires horribly. During my echocardiogram, I glanced at the minute hand of the wall clock, figuring matters could go awry only at half-past the hour, which is approximately when House's patients have their setbacks.
Read more ... and wish Rob a speedy recovery free from abusive doctors.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Intelligence and Lumber

So this is a little late, but I just ran across this blurb from last year's PROSALES, the official publication of the National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association. I'd had a funny, friendly e-mail exchange with the editor after he came across one of my Intelligence reviews mentioning Jimmy Reardon's lumber yard - he wasn't terribly surprised to hear that the show might not be the greatest PR for the industry:
Calling All Canadians!
We'd like to hear your opinions regarding the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. drama Intelligence, which appears likely to be the only TV series playing in North America in which the lead character owns a lumberyard. Of course, it's not your typical yard, even for British Columbia: It's a front for the owner, slickly coiffed Jimmy Reardon, to launder drug profits. Like many LBM dealers, he's a 3rd-generation member of the family business (at least the bad parts of the business), and Reardon's character bio on the Intelligence Web site describes him as having "a diligent work ethic, which has resulted in the family business flourishing." He's also said to be "gentle and ruthless at the same time." Canadian TV blogger Diane Kristine says the lumberyard set appears every few episodes, but usually not as often as another of Reardon's "legitimate" businesses: a strip club. Kristine runs a blog called TV, Eh? So to her fellow Canadians, the question is: How good is "Intelligence," eh?
Intelligence returns on Monday.

A message from Chris Haddock and Ian Tracey:

Here's a clip from season 2 (some spoilers):

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

TV Preview: Life is Wild

Another preview article I wrote for Blogcritics on a pilot that's since been reworked - this one for Life is Wild:
  • TV Preview: Life is Wild
    "I was shocked to discover that Life is Wild's creator is Michael Rauch, also creator of my much-beloved, much-unwatched Love Monkey, where single life was an urban jungle. That's the only feeble connection I can make to Life is Wild, where family life is a South African lodge." Read more.
The video is a CW preview with the original parents, since recast:

TV Review: Bionic Woman

Tonight is the premiere of Bionic Woman, so for Blogcritics, I wrote about the pilot episode I was sent as a screener (which is not quite the same pilot that will air tonight):
  • TV Review: Bionic Woman Impresses Less Than Its Pedigree
    "Deviating from the old isn't a bad thing, of course, especially since television and the world have changed considerably since 1976. The new series can't rely on nostalgia, but neither can it rely on the fans who have made Battlestar Galactica a modest ratings success. The last thing NBC needs is another show that gets great ratings ... for a cable show." Read more.
Here's the NBC preview:

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

This time it's not just late

If you're looking for a review of tonight's House, sorry. But I'm sure I'll have some thoughts about the new season soon.

Monday, September 24, 2007

New TV, eh? podcast

After a slight delay, the TV, eh? podcast is back in time for the fall season. Caroline, John Callaghan and I chat about Intelligence, The Rick Mercer Report, This Hour Has 22 Minutes, Corner Gas and Little Mosque on the Prairie, while Denis McGrath interviews writer and producer Mark Farrell of Corner Gas and This Hour Has 22 Minutes (thanks mef!)

See the full show notes at TV, eh?, subscribe via iTunes or the RSS feed, or listen below (it's about 30 minutes).

Sunday, September 23, 2007

TV Review: Cane

My latest fall preview from Blogcritics is for CBS's Cane, airing in Canada on Global, too.
  • TV Review: Cane Lacks Spice
    "With a cast that includes Hector Elizondo, Jimmy Smits, and Rita Moreno, a premise that uses the immigrant experience and adoptive families to explore outsiders and belonging, and enough pretty people with enough danger and deception in their lives, this show should be far more interesting than it is." Read more.
The trailer from CBS is below, though be warned: it reveals far more about the plot than I was willing to in my review.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

More than you could ever ASCII for

Pop Candy, Whitney Matheson of USA Today's blog "unwrapping pop culture's hip and hidden treasures," is pretty much the only thing you need to read to keep up with the cool. She covers music, TV, books, movies, and Internet phenomenon, posting several times a day (in defense of slacker bloggers like me -- or maybe it's more of a defense of her -- it's her job). There's bound to be at least one or two great recommendations that suit your taste in the plethora of links she throws her readers' way. I've linked to her a few times lately for fun things like this:

That's me in letters and symbols, from t.y.p.o.r.g.a.n.i.s.m.: ASCII-O-Matic. You can also convert pictures into boxes, and either black and white or colour.

Pop Candy is going on vacation for a couple of weeks, but now would be a great time to catch up on what you've been missing.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Things people send me

How House changed my life

Part heartfelt, part tongue in cheek, all self-indulgent, this post at Blogcritics is a reflection on what writing about House has meant to me over the past couple of years, and a bit of a swan song as I move on from writing weekly episode reviews:
  • How House Changed My Life
    "With chaos theory, a seemingly insignificant event can have a huge impact on an outcome. A butterfly flaps its wings in Brazil and changes the atmosphere enough to cause a sequence of events that eventually generates a tornado in Texas. So maybe House really was the initial condition that led to my life being filled with new people and experiences." Read more.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

James Spader? Really?

I was resigned to James Gandolfini getting the award over Hugh Laurie, but I can't resign myself to Spader getting it over both of them. Give the guy credit, though, for a funny and humble acceptance speech. It's not his fault the Emmy voters keep voting for him.

I refuse to rant. I didn't think this was Laurie's year, what with Gandolfini being a lock, so I'm not as outraged as I might otherwise have been. And if House had won over The Sopranos, I might have felt almost like House was the James Spader of Outstanding Dramas. Almost, I said. Come on, it was the final season of a hugely influential, critically acclaimed, audience beloved series.

Other random Emmy thoughts:

Ryan Seacrest is no Hugh Laurie, but I admit, he charmed me with his low-key, self-deprecating performance (confession: I've always thought he was likable, just overexposed – on the other hand, I don't watch American Idol so I've had limited exposure to him). I liked the theatre-in-the-round approach at first, until it became apparent that the Academy needs to liquor up those people in the backdrop so they look like they're not comatose. The Family Guy intro would have been a lot funnier if they'd had the guts to skewer their own network, too.

There are about 10 hours of award ceremonies sandwiched between the categories I care about, but in there somewhere I swear I saw Frankie Valli songs somehow acting as a tribute to The Sopranos. And Tony Bennett shilling for Target.

My Emmy prediction success rate:

The benefit of doing the head, heart, and random number generator thing is that I can claim an astounding success ratio since I had 2-3 picks for each category.
  1. Drama Series: The Sopranos – my head picked that one.
  2. Comedy Series: 30 Rock – love it, but didn't pick it. Tina Fey gets bonus comedy points for thanking their dozens and dozens of viewers.
  3. Lead Actor in a Drama: James Spader. Are you frickin' kidding me?
  4. Lead Actress in a Comedy: America Ferrera – my head and heart agreed on this one.
  5. Lead Actress in a Drama: Sally Field – nope.
  6. Lead Actor in a Comedy: Ricky Gervais – Random Number Generator picked him.
  7. Supporting Actress in a Drama: Katherine Heigl – my head picked her.
  8. Supporting Actress in a Comedy: Jaime Pressly – my head was torn, but went with Jenna Fischer instead.
  9. Supporting Actor in a Drama: Terry O'Quinn – my head picked him.
  10. Supporting Actor in a Comedy: Jeremy Piven – Random Number Generator got this one.
  11. Writing for a Comedy: Greg Daniels of The Office – my heart picked it.
  12. Writing for a Drama: David Chase of The Sopranos - my head picked it.
So to tabulate, that's 8/12 right. Sure it's cheating to combine all the guesses, but who cares? For you sticklers, though, it's 5/12 for my head, 2/12 for the heart, and 2/12 for Random Number Generator. Yay head. You are nearly 50-50 in predicting the asinine voting habits of the Emmys.

I bet you expected more rage, given the House shut-out, right? Nope. I'm all cried out from last year.

For the love of television

I like the futon critic for its comprehensive listings and information on television. I modeled my TV, Eh? site partly on a low-rent, low-tech version of that site's warehouse of information. But here's why I love the futon critic ...

I mentioned before that Mr. Futon Critic himself, Brian Ford Sullivan, was listing the 10 things you need to know about the new television season. He's done now, and he used statistical analysis to prove or disprove common assertions, like that Friday is the death time slot (it is), or that networks try to kill their shows (they don't). That's enough to earn my devotion -- opinion based on data, instead of the glut of trend articles that prove nothing but how cleverly writers can pick and choose details to suit their purpose.

But his last item, #10, is "Television is the best medium out there - and most of it is free!" and it's a lovely little article on how TV consistently produces "great content in a format that really isn't conducive to creating great things. " (Sorry about the "free" part Will, but hear him out).

There are so many people on the Internet writing about television today who seem to have lost -- if they ever had -- respect and appreciation for the medium itself, who can still convey the joy of watching television excellence, and whose disappointment in badly executed failure doesn't resort to snideness about the entire medium. His closing note:
And so with the 2007-2008 season on our doorstep, there's only one of the "10 Things You Need to Know About the New Season" you really need to remember - enjoy it. Don't worry about time slots or reviews or network strategies or all the other crap that comes with being a TV fan.
Our tastes in television don't necessarily overlap -- he hated Ugly Betty, for example, though he did pick House's "Three Stories" as the best episode of television in 2005, but reading someone articulate who loves television, even if they don't love the show they're writing about, even if you do, is always pleasure.

In the same vein, but moving away from articulate critics to effusive fans ... The Best Years is attracting the most comments ever on the TV, Eh? site. These aren't the predictably banal "this show is the best show ever you have to watch it and the network is crazy if they don't renew it forever" hard-core fan ravings (coughBloodTiescough). These are young people watching and loving the show and needing to discuss it with other like-minded people. Keep in mind that TV, Eh? is not a discussion board or generally a magnet for fan discussion.

This doesn't necessarily mean anything in the grand scheme of Best Years fandom or ratings, but the show is inspiring the kind of unselfconscious passion that gives me that same warm and fuzzy feeling as the futon critic's homage to the wonder of television. And all us critics, professional and amateur, who didn't connect with the show don't matter in the slightest in the face of these fans who so obviously do. It would do us good to remember that occasionally.

TV Review: K-Ville

Continuing with my fall TV previews, here's my review of K-Ville, the New Orleans-based cop show, which premieres Monday at 9 on FOX and E! here in Canada. I'm lukewarm on it, though it has potential:

Friday, September 14, 2007

Random House news


Ahem. I still have flashbacks. That's the billboard Global is using to promote the show this fall. I like it, except for the reminder of the image I've been trying to block out of my head since May. Thanks Global.

Not for the head exploding episode, but this week House won the Outstanding Prosthetic Makeup Creative Arts Emmy for Que Sera Sera. The award goes to Dalia Dokter (love that name!), Jamie Kelman, and Ed French. David Morse did not win for creeping me out. House is still up for Outstanding Drama and Hugh Laurie for Outstanding Lead Actor on Sunday, of course ... in the Emmy award ceremonies that could have been hosted by Hugh Laurie, but instead FOX went with Ryan Seacrest, who isn't quite overexposed enough.

In other random House news, via Televisionary, are hosting a charity auction of television teapots. You can bid on designs by Ugly Betty, Family Guy, The Office, and many others, including House:

The House one isn't particularly creative - it's signed by the cast, with the logo on the other side - but some of the teapots are pretty cool. Proceeds go to the educational foundations of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (the Emmy folks) and BAFTA/LA.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Back up

The TV, Eh? site is alive again. I might explain what happened after I've extricated it from the company that caused the problem.

My Emmy picks

I haven't seen many of the nominees, but why should that stop me? Like last year, I make my predictions with the help of my heart, my head, and my random number generator. From Blogcritics:
  • Random Emmy Picks - Even Better Than the Real Thing?
    "Sure, there were some questionable choices. There were some overlooked shows and performances. But the limited selection of shows I have on my must-watch list — House, 30 Rock, The Office, Ugly Betty — are well represented, with just enough travesties of justice to make things interesting, like Dexter. After all, what use would the Emmys be if they weren't a lightening rod for our petty venom?" Read more.

Monday, September 10, 2007

It's fall already?

I still have a bunch of reviews to do for some of the upcoming new series, and a couple of other posts I want to get up before the Emmys and the fall premiere rush. But how unprepared am I for the new television season? I haven't set up my PVR since moving a month ago. I've suddenly realized the first of the fall onslaught comes next week, and I need to get cracking.

I still have and love my computer-based setup, but I have to either buy a longish coaxial cable or I need to develop superhuman strength in order to swap out a couple of cables that would give me the length where I need it and not where I don't. That cable installer woman was freakishly strong. (Full disclosure: I'm freakishly weak.) Where's the Bionic Woman when you need her? (Answer: In a disappointing pilot episode.)

So before I have the PVR set up to do my remembering for me, and in order to plan for rushing my K-Ville review (Sept. 17) and slacking on the Cashmere Mafia review (Dec. 4), I've been grateful for a few online resources to keep track of what's on when.
As for me, well, I'll have some thoughts of my own soon. Soon-ish. Eventually.

Site, Interrupted

Yes, I know the TV, Eh? site is down. I don't know why; neither does my webhost yet, though they've put me into their support queue ... marked with a "low priority." If it's not fixed by morning I'll dispute that and try to light a fire. Canadian Idol's finale is tomorrow, dammit - how much higher a priority can you get? The stats suggest a few - very few - people have gotten through, though I'm mystified how. If you've tried and haven't, sorry, and hang on.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Look who's a House fan

Bob Dylan's upcoming greatest hits album is being promoted with the tagline Everything Except Compromise. I think some hardcore fans might call this selling out, though.

Make your own here.

Real beauty isn't hypocritical

The Tyee has posted duelling articles about the Dove Real Beauty campaign and parent company Unilever's Fair and Lovely product campaign in India. It's enlightening, literally and metaphorically.

How I Became a Dove Girl by Shannon Melnyk is about the empowering message of that Dove campaign, which I and many women I know love ... though I'm reconsidering that position now:

It was in this moment I realized how necessary campaigns like this are. No matter how cynical we choose to be about the marriage of our market economy and social responsibility, the simplicity behind the hoo-ha is the more positive and balanced images we see in the media, the more our young girls have a fighting chance in the culture of over-sexualized youth, designer-label-driven peer groups, anorexic heroin chic, booby hooter-girl bar scenes and the cover-girl perfection that drips with the cruel message: "look like me and only then will your life will be perfect."

This week's rebuttal by Munisha Tumato, Real Beauty ... If You're White, is about the hypocrisy of a company that pats itself on the back for celebrating women's "curvy parts and wrinkly parts and saggy parts" in its Dove ads while promoting skin whitening products as the way for Indian women to be respected and successful:
What's more is that by claiming that a whitening cream can increase your chances of being happily married and financially successful, Fair and Lovely appeals to the most vulnerable (and usually the darkest) segment of the India population: poor and often uneducated women for whom a leg up, by any means necessary, is a highly desirable proposition.
This revelation of hypocrisy shouldn't be much of a surprise, of course. Whatever aura of social responsiblity they want to reap from the Dove campaign, Unilever is a business, and marketing depends largely on cashing in on the target market's vulnerabilities. In North America, Dove capitalizes on women's preoccupation with beauty products while reaffirming the war cry that's arisen over airbrushed superskinny models pushed in our faces, creating a campaign that sets them apart from their competitors. In India, Unilever capitalizes on a culture that values fair skin and owns the market on skin lightening products (that are not, by the way, anything more than a sun block) with their ubiquitous ads:
But Unilever can afford to be hypocritical. Skin lightening products are by far the most popular product in India's $318 million skin care market. Fair and Lovely, meanwhile, commands over half of that.

The skin whitening business is so lucrative that several skin care companies have launched new whitening products targeted at Indian men. The most popular? Fair and Handsome, produced by Emami and advertised like Fair and Lovely: by telling brown men that fair women will only love them if they are fair themselves.

Great. Equal opportunity neuroses.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

What a Wonderful World

On July 7 this year, an unremarkable day in my life, suddenly I'd visited 2 of the 7 Wonders of the World. That's the day the New 7 Wonders Foundation announced the results of public voting. Says Very Short List, introducing a site with stunning panoramas of the new wonders:

Sure, the Colossus of Rhodes and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon sounded cool, but since — like all of the other original wonders (except for the Great Pyramid of Giza) — they no longer exist, we were glad to see that their replacements are equally spectacular. The new wonders — Machu Picchu, the Colosseum, the Taj Mahal, Petra (the ancient Jordanian city, not the Christian rock band!), the statue of Christ the Redeemer in Brazil, Chichen Itza, and the Great Wall — are open to tourists, but now you can visit them without using up frequent-flyer miles, thanks to the Website Panoramas.

These aren't the panoramas from that site - you have to go there for the full breathtaking effect - but they're the 2 I've checked off my list. Just 5 more to go ... someday.

Machu Picchu

Chichen Itza

TV Review: The Big Bang Theory

I'll be doing reviews for Blogcritics of some of the new fall shows. First one up is The Big Bang Theory, which I didn't like very much, but think might be successful and even has some potential to be not head-explodingly bad (that's a long preview below so you can sort of judge for yourself).

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

They all look just the same

I'm behind on my Weeds watching, but they're doing a fun thing with the theme, Little Boxes. Throughout season one, it was Malvina Reynolds, who wrote the song in 1962.

My DVD watching is stuck there, but for season two and three I can look forward to a variety of artists, including:

Regina Spektor:

Death Cab for Cutie:

Randy Newman:

Angelique Kidjo:

Elvis Costello:

Jenny Lewis with Johnathan Rice:

Others coming up include The Shins, The Decemberists, and Billy Bob Thornton.