Sunday, August 30, 2009

TV Marathon Watching

Some shows are well-served by marathons. The West Wing, Veronica Mars, Buffy, Battlestar Galactica, Mad Men...all of these are shows that you can easily sit on the couch and watch for hours on end.

But not every show makes for good marathon viewing. Case in point: Gossip Girl. Last weekend, my friend Chris and I settled in a for a mini-marathon of Gossip Girl, since we need to get through Season 2 before Season 3 starts this fall. We made it through the first four episodes (disc 1, natch) before we realized it was time to call it quits for the day.

Look, I really like Gossip Girl. I couldn't believe how addictive it was when I started watching, but viewing episode after episode of it doesn't really work. There's only so much bratty, whiny, rich (or in the case of Dan Humphrey, bourgeoisie) bitching you can take before you want to throw something through the television.

It's funny how after repeated viewing of the show, the only characters I could stand were Blair and Chuck, the supposed villains. Hey, at least their honest about what they want and are true to their characters. If it's in their best self-interest they're all for it. I find that kind of consistency refreshing.

The thing that is NOT refreshing is Dan and his hang-ups, Serena and her "oh woe is me the beautiful leggy blond" and Jenny with her annoying perkiness.

What are the chances the three of them get taken out by a bus/train in the second season finale? Considering how I know they all end up at college next season (well, except Jenny who is only 16), not great.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

These are Mad times, I tell you, Mad!

We are now two episodes into the third season of Mad Men and there's been a lot of discussion and speculation as to whether the show could sustain the brilliance of its first two seasons.

Short answer: yes.

Long answer: the beauty of Mad Men for me is that it works on several levels. I can watch it week to week and enjoy the plots, the characters, the amazing costumes and sets, but then also go back and watch the show in long stretches and catch the themes and symbolism inherent to the arcs of the show.

And so far, I am loving where the characters are going, especially Peggy. All along she has been discovering how much of a weapon her femininity can be, but last week she really ratcheted it up by using some practiced Joan and Ann-Margaret skills to see if she could reel someone in. Her whole scene in the bar had a definite experiment vibe to it; Peggy wanting to see what she could get away with. Although I did hate seeing her disappointment in Don when he failed to understand how far ahead she is of the curve (and other copy writers) when it comes to understanding how women think and how that can aid them to sell products.

As for Don and Betty, I'm not really sure of where they are in their marriage. In the season premiere, Don got up in the middle of the night to warm milk for her, which may have been a small action, but it certainly showed that he cared for her. But from then on, they seemed to be a couple that was merely going through the motions; especially since Don took the first opportunity he had to bang some random chick. Although the fact that it was a random encounter and not an actual mistress was, I guess, a step up for him?

Betty's bitterness this season is interesting, and I seriously fear for the health of her child with all the smoking and drinking she has indulged in lately. I wonder how her father moving in with the family will further affect the dynamic?

Obviously there are a billion other characters to talk about, but my fingers are starting to hurt (I've been typing all day, yo), so I'll leave with two final thoughts. First, does anyone else get the feeling that there is a giant ticking clock over this season counting down to the Kennedy assassination and what it is going to do everyone? I don't think it's really anything that the show creators have explicitly done, but I am sensing serious tension for the future. And second...

More Joan Holloway, plz thx.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

He's back!

Jeesh, I go away for work for one week at the end of summer thinking I wouldn't be missing anything...and holy puckered hems, Batman! I miss out on the premieres of Mad Men and Project Runway! And when I say miss, I mean MISS, since my lame-o hotel didn't have Lifetime or AMC. I mean, really. Although the free happy hour every night made up for it. Almost.

Anyway, despite forgetting to set my DVR for Project Runway (d'oh!), a quick call to mom confirmed that she could record it for me and on this past very rainy Saturday afternoon we settled in to watch the Season 6 premiere of PR.

I know everyone has pretty much already said it, but I couldn't really tell a change with the show at all, even with the move to Los Angeles. Sure the workroom was a little different, and the designers have new digs....but you have the same whackadoodle designers, the usual tough, bitchy, and in the case of Michael Kors, orange, judges, and of course. The Silver Fox.

All is right with the world now, chickadees. Tim is here.

Oh, Tim Gunn! I hadn't even realized how much I had missed you until you walked onto the tv screen and back into my heart. You're impeccably groomed, always well-spoken, and when you furrowed your brow and considered the first (of many) heinous garments, I wanted to cheer.

It's just nice to see the return of a competitive reality show that requires genuine talent, creativity, skill, and celebrates things that are lovely. And of course it gives me an excuse to visit the boys over at T.Lo (formerly Project Rungay) as they rip on the runway.

So do I have any early picks for the winners? Eh, it's really too early to tell. Nobody really stood out for me so always takes a few weeks for me to get a good idea of what's going on, but I agree with the judges that Ra'mon could be great if he moves just a little outside the box. And I thought Christopher definitely deserved the win.

In the meantime, they're back, bitches! Let's just sit back and enjoy the drama, pretty clothes, and general catiness. Bring it!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Big Brother?? Really?

Ok, so I like to think I have a decent taste in television. I can tell an awful show from a great one. But this summer I am OBSESSED with Big Brother. I don't know how it happened or why, but I can't get me enough Big Brother.

Last night's episode had me yelling at the screen when drunk Lydia decided to lose her mind and Chyma got thrown out for tossing her mic in the hot tub. I can't help it, I HAVE TO KNOW WHATS HAPPENING NEXT. My husband and I even find ourselves tuning in to Big Brother After Dark on Showtime.....Aw!

Yes folks, I am checking myself into Rehab at the end of the season.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Gleek Chic

So ... Hot Topic. This store is the object of much scorn from mainstream and fringe groups alike. In trying to be "different," many of the shoppers at Hot Topic end up with a look that is depressingly conformist. And I know this sounds like sour grapes (see the end of Maggie's post for further details), but I can't help but think ... Could there be a better venue for the Gleek tour?

Gleek = Glee + geek. Sadly, I did not get this at first.

Glee's marketing department is either brilliant or completely obviously to irony, and has booked the cast to appear at several Hot Topic stores across the country. The tour started yesterday in Massachusetts and will finish next Friday in California. In our neck of the woods, they're going to be stopping at the Fair Oaks Mall on August 20th. Anyone interested in attending, and then reporting back? Let me know!

P.S. Thanks to Cheryl for sharing the link!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Comic Con: Glee

On Saturday afternoon we joined the throngs of red-shirted Glee fans (apparently they have special red Glee shirts?) for an advance screening of the second episode and a Q+A with the show's cast and producers.

So, how was it? The episode was SO GOOD OMG. It was even better than the pilot. And I really enjoyed the pilot. They managed to cram in so much plot and also the following songs:

-Le Freak

-Gold Digga (Kanye, what up)

-Push It

-I Say a Little Prayer for You

-Take a Bow (Rhianna)

In one episode! Six songs! It was crazy. And watching it with a huge crowd (probably at least 1000 people) was a seriously cool experience. People were laughing hysterically, clapping, shouting, and just really really enjoying themselves. It made me wish I could watch every episode with a group that big. And then wonder how I would fit them into my one bedroom condo. Space-saver bags maybe?

I also liked how the show seems to be moving things along plot-wise at a really good clip. So many shows just draaaag things out forever (like sexual tension and relationships), but not Glee. Someone actually asked the producers a question along the lines of "why are you moving things forward so quickly?" and they replied that they had a lot of stories they wanted to tell and didn't see any reason not to just get to it. As a viewer, I really appreciate that. Especially since I am so impatient.

Ok, so here's the scoop for the Fall. They have recorded 60 tracks of songs for the coming episodes, including songs by Barbara Streisand, The Rolling Stones, and Van Halen. There will sometimes be as many as six or seven songs in an episode, and the first (!!!) soundtrack album will be available in November. Future guest-star include Kristin Chenowith, Josh Groban, Victor Garber, Deborah Monk, and Eve.

The cast is currently traveling around the country as part of a tour, but they aren't making too many stops. 10 cities in 12 days, and are stopping in (gulp) Hot Topic stores. So, WTF, Hot Topic? I don't know, maybe the girls in the cast have run out of clean Twilight tees or something.

As for the central conceit of the show, the creators stated that they didn't want their characters just randomly bursting into song, but the music in the rehearsal sessions and in the characters minds should be used to explain their inner feelings. They have definite rules for when music can be used, so it doesn't seem too jarring.

During the Q+A portion of the panel, Monkey Sri had a really great question that she tried to ask, but got rejected by the screeners. She was planning to ask the creators, "for a show that is ostensibly about social outcasts, why is the main cast all white straight people?" Which I think is a great question; I know the show has also gotten flack for having stereotyped characters, the diva black girl, the white jock, the skinny gay kid, etc. But apparently the screeners thought it would "put them on the spot" and sent her back to her seat. And trust me, after listening to all the bullshit questions other people had asked at other panels, that kind of pissed me off.

But despite that little hiccup, Glee definitely rates up there as one of the best panels I saw, and now I feel all too cool for school having gotten a look at the next episode.

And no, I won't tell you any spoilers. You'll just have to wait!

Friday, August 07, 2009

Congratulations, Jeanine!

After a season that was equal parts tedium and rapture, So You Think You Can Dance crowned it's newest winner last night: Jeanine Mason.

It was an unexpected win to be sure, but delighted me to no end. I think America got the top two right; it came to Brandon and Jeanine, but honestly I would have been happy if Jeanine, Brandon, or Kayla had won. But having Jeanine take the big prize just made me really happy. It's not like I know her or anything, but I always really liked her and loved watching her dance. Plus, she's funny in interviews.

Jeanine has been a strong performer this entire season; she was paired with Phillip at the beginning, which made me feel a little sorry for her. While a great street dancer, Phillip was, let's face it, a terrible partner, and his popularity was basically the only thing that kept them from being booted those first few weeks. Still, Jeanine seemed to impress everyone by keeping up with Phillip during their hip-hop routines and and basically out shining him in everything else.

But when Phillip left the competition and Jeanine got paired with Jason, then we really got a chance to see her bring it. She could handle any style the judges threw at her, and her contemporary number with Jason (with the heart locket) pushed her into the forefront. At that point, you knew she was a contender.

By the time the top 8 rolled around, Jeanine had a chance to dance with Brandon, and in my opinion, finally got a chance to partner with a dancer as strong as she was. After a lackluster night, she and Brandon came out and performed a pop-jazz number that was pretty awesome. After watching it in the clip below, it doesn't have quite the same impact, but trust me, after an hour and a half of meh, it felt like an adrenaline jolt.

But I think what really clinched the win was Jeanine's solo in the performance finale. Which is amazing, since to me the solos always feel like an after thought. We have seen some great solos this season, but the dancers are only given 45 seconds or so to perform and sometimes it's not long enough to make an impression. Also, a lot of them seem very frantic; trying to cram as much as they can into that time (I'm looking at you Brandon and Kayla), but Jeanine always took the time and made her solo a full performance. And her tango solo at the finale was just woah. I couldn't find it on you tube, but you can see it here beginning at 3:50. And I really suggest you check it out. It's gorgeous.

So congrats, Jeanine! Hopefully you'll get a chance to enjoy being this season's winner, because it won't last long. Season 6 starts in less than a month on September 2. So smoke em if you got em!

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Comic Con: Dollhouse

The big attraction on Friday was Joss Whedon. The whole day had been structured around getting into the Dollhouse and Joss Whedon panel; from deciding which of the morning’s panels to attend, to eating times, to getting into line 3 hours before Joss was even due on stage.

We were going to see Joss no matter what.

And we did, hurray! It meant sitting in at the Bones panel (see below), but we were able to move a bit forward before Dollhouse started and had a great view of the stage and the man. He came out with no ceremony, just walked out to the crashing cheers of the 3000 people gathered in Ballroom 20. He looked good, maybe lost some weight? Anyway, after a quick introduction, we were treated to the “missing” episode of Dollhouse, Epitaph One.

The episode was set a few years in the future, and the Dollhouse technology has leaked out to terrorist use, and any exposure to radio waves could mean the wiping of your personality (it had a very post-apocalyptic Terminator feel actually).

Look, it’s no secret that I am not a huge Dollhouse fan, but after watching Epitaph One all I could think was, “can I watch that show?” That one hour episode we saw was more interesting and well-acted than the entire rest of the series had been. Of course, Eliza Dushku was only in it for like 5 minutes, which might have been the reason for the improvement in my mind, but it was just so much meatier than anything else we had seen so far.

After the episode screening, Joss and Eliza came out and did a solid hour of question and answer with the crowd. The questions were great and hit on things I had been wondering. For example: Joss decided to cast Alan Tudyk as Alpha based on his reading of Caesar in Antony and Cleopatra during one of Joss’ famous Shakespeare nights.

Some scoop for season 2 was also provided; Alexis Denisof would be appearing as a guest star (this news was met with great whoops from the audience) and the show would have a new director of photography. Joss promised that they would stretch the parameters of what was possible in the world he had created and characters from Epitaph One (yay Felicia Day!) would make an appearance, even though the episode had never aired.

Overall, seeing Joss and listening to him speak was just as fun and amazing an experience as I had hoped. He’s the kind of guy that makes you think, “he should get to know me, we would get along really well.” He’s such a geek himself, that you can’t help but be drawn to him. And it left me more excited for Dollhouse’s return, which after all, was kind of the point.

Comic Con: Bones

For the record, I don’t watch Bones. I think I made it through the first two or three episodes before I decided to throw in the towel. I don’t think it’s bad, but it just seemed like a standard crime procedural and even my love for David Boreanaz couldn’t keep me interested.

Having said that, I know a lot of people are crazy about it (including my Dad and Stepmom) and I kind of keep an eye on what’s going on with it just from reading about tv news. For example: I know that Booth is in a coma and apparently had some big hallucination where he and Brennan were married. I know that Hodgins and Angela dated, and I know that Zack was apparently in league with the bad guy last season. So I wasn’t totally in the dark when I ended up sitting in on the panel at Comic Con (I was there since it was scheduled right before the Dollhouse panel).

However, since I don’t really follow the show, and in an effort to get more posts out, I’m going to present the news and scoop from Bones in bullet points. You have a problem, take it up with management. Except there is none, so haha!

--David Boreanaz couldn’t attend due to the pending birth of his daughter. Everyone was sad.

--The producer of the show described last seasons’ finale as a “love letter to the fans” who wanted to see Booth and Brennan together. The he realized he screwed up because all those same fans were royally pissed with the coma twist. He said that loyal fans would get it, but causal fans wouldn’t. Hmm. Judging by the audience reaction, I wouldn't be so sure of that, buddy.

--Emily Deschanel wants the characters together eventually but knows it’s tricky on television (everyone references the Moonlighting debacle).

--Emily is quick with the sexual innuendo and likes making fun of the other panelist. I like her.

--The new season’s premiere will pick up 6 weeks later and is concerned with whether Booth can bring himself back to work and deal with the confusion of his feelings for Brennan.

--The frozen sperm will be addressed next season. Uh, yay?

--David Boreanaz is directing the show’s 100th episode.

--Cyndi Lauper will guest-star next season playing a character named Avalon Harmonia who is, you guessed it, Angela’s psychic who leads the team to a few dead bodies arousing suspicion.

--Tamara was the most squeamish actor on the show.

--The show would love to have Zack back, but the actor has moved to NYC and they would have to make sure it would fit with his schedule.

--Episode 5 or 6 of next season deals with the trial of the Gravedigger and we will likely find out what Brennan wrote in her goodbye note.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Comic Con: Spartacus Blood and Sand

Spartacus: Blood and Sand is the cable channel Starz’s foray into original programming. Apparently, they are tired of seeing HBO and Showtime get all the glory, and so have stepped into the ring.

The show is based on the story of Spartacus (duh), a Roman sentenced to slavery as a gladiator and end up leading a slaves’ revolt. The creator described the show as being about how a group of hard, different men come together and almost take down the Roman Empire.

Did you catch that “almost?” Spoiler alert!

Of course, if you’ve seen the movie, you know how things end for our hero. But along the way the producers have promised a lot of sex and violence, to which I say, woot!

The show is modeled on the “hyper-reality” format used by Zack Snyder in 300 and also has obvious echoes of Rome and Gladiator. But like I said, with more sex and violence.

Alright, I’ll just say it—Lucy Lawless is in it and she gets naked. So if that floats your boat, more power to you. She plays a villainess Roman citizen and her husband is played by John Hannah (the brother of Evelyn in The Mummy).

We were shown a trailer of the show during the panel, and my very initial impressions are that it looks awesome. I’m pretty sure I won’t be running out and signing up for Starz (I am sort of frugal after all), but the show will definitely be going on the top of my Netflix queue when it comes out on DVD.

Interestingly, the show will promoted through a tie-in comic book, an Ipod game, and a motion version of the comic (think Watchmen). A copy of the first comic was included in our pretty rad swag bag (along with a t-shirt and poster), and it’s pretty good.

Final thought? To quote Lucy Lawless, “it’s big fun on the small screen.”

There are mostly naked men and they fight and have sex. A lot. Sign me up! But not literally.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Torchwood: Children of the Earth

I now take a brief break from the Comic Con write-ups to bring you this review of the recent miniseries/season of Torchwood.


That pretty much sums it up. I haven't been the biggest fan of Torchwood, I pretty much hated the first season and tolerated the second, but this miniseries was really great. There were some shocking surprises (SPOILER ALERT) like the deaths of Ianto and Jack's grandson, Simon, but it was extremely tense, scary, and full of twists and turns.

It's nice to be reminded of what Russell T. Davies is capable of when he goes balls out and doesn't give us any sparkly Doctor Jesus crap, and the acting was really stepped up this go around, especially from John Barrowman and some of the supporting players.

If you haven't checked it out yet, I suggest you get the DVD, since it's definitely worth the price of admission. I'm not sure where they can go from here, but I am all about finding out.

AHHHHH! Creepy children!

Comic Con: Female Power Icons

This panel wasn't strictly about television, but hey, close enough, right?

The participants on the panel were Sigourney Weaver (Alien and like 20 billion other movies and shows), Eliza Dushku (Buffy, Dollhouse), Zoe Saldana (Center Stage, Star Trek), and Elizabeth Mitchell (Lost, V).

First impressions: wow, they all have such pretty hair! Not a very empowering observation, but it's true.

Now, since these actors weren't gathered to discuss a particular subject, the conversation, while interesting, was kind of meandering. The panel just responded to general questions from the moderator and from the audience. So I'm basically just going to report responses that I found interesting. You want more than that, you can go to Comic Con yourself.

Seriously though, the initial question asked each woman was how they got into the sci-fi genre. Other than the obvious, "um, they were willing to hire me?" the responses were pretty interesting. Sigourney was not initially interested in doing the movie Alien, but was won over by Ridley Scott's concept drawings of the alien eggs. She also commented that sci-fi often provides many opportunities for being part of an ensemble, which also convinced her to do Alien.

When Zoe was asked the same question, she noted that in the world of Star Trek there simply is no discrimination. The bridge of the Enterprise is considered truly color blind, and Uhura is not identified by her gender or color (a black woman) but by her abilities and how well she does her job. Zoe viewed the opportunity to become a character who had no experience with discrimination or being viewed as something less than capable due to her gender and race as fascinating.

While answering a question about what motivates women in the genre, Sigourney noted that female action figures are about drive and ferocity. They respond to challenges with their whole being.

Elizabeth Mitchell made a good point when asked about why there are so few strong women in television and movies. She talked about how Hollywood is afraid of female sexuality (which I absolutely agree with the documentary Not Yet Rated if you don't believe it) and that sci-fi provides the opportunity for women to be strong and vibrant.

But Sigourney cautioned that people should not look to Hollywood if they are hoping to see a movie toward social change. She mentioned that society is changing faster than Hollywood understands, and that the onus is on us to make our voices heard about the kind of strong female characters we want to see. Zoe reiterated that the audience (you) is the consumer, and you have to be sure to ask for what you want, or all we'll get are the same old stories.

You probably noticed that there isn't a lot of commentary from Eliza Dushku here, which is sadly because she didn't seem to have that much to contribute. She took Kristen Bell's (Veronica Mars) place on the panel since a panel Kristen had for Astro Boy from Summit got moved to earlier in the day. I can't help but think of how much more awesome Kristen would have been....but like I said, Eliza definitely had pretty hair, so I'm glad that worked out for her.

So what are my two cents? I think you see such a (comparatively) large number of strong, capable, badass women in sci-fi because the genre deals with fantasy. Sad, but true. The Hollywood establishment is not comfortable with putting these types of women in more realistic situations, because the establishment is mostly run by men who speak as they find. But in fantasy, anything goes, and we aren't restrained by our present day biases and prejudices and its easier for some to accept the concept of a strong woman.

I agree completely with the idea that it's up to us as the consumer to support media that reflects progressive roles for women and other historically disenfranchised groups like racial minorities and homosexuals. Unfortunately right now this means supporting material more on the fringe and independent side of the industry, but hopefully that will start to change. And as the number of women behind the scenes in media increases (directors, comic writers and artists, screenwriters, and actors), it will become less unusual to encounter strong women in pop culture.