Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

After perusing many Halloween-themes clips to find one that I thought was worth sharing with y'all, I decided on (drumroll please)...........

Drunk Ewoks take over a segment on The Today Show.

Best quote:

Ann "Darth Vader" Curry: "Try to make sure your kids don't have too much candy."
Al "Han Solo" Roker: "Try to make sure your kids aren't drinkin."

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

International Woes

Here at TV Sluts, we are always on the lookout for a roving reporter. First we had Cheryl, reporting on the Glee tour from Dallas, and now we have someone giving our blog a little international flavor. Specifically, letting us know what a giant pain in the ass it is trying to watch American television in another country. Here's an update from Pete, currently living in Switzerland (mmm...chocolate), who took some time to update us all on the trial and tribulations of a fanboy who lives abroad. PS: It's also Pete's birthday today, so a big Happy Birthday goes out to him from across the Atlantic!

Hi everybody, my name is Pete, a college friend of some of you all. Right now I am stationed in Europe taking data for my dissertation. For those curious, the Paul Scherrer Institute in Villigen Switzerland has the best Pion beam in the world. Since I study pion decay, here I am. For the uber curious I am studying radiative decay modes using the stopped beam approach with a 3pi-steradian pure CsI calorimeter. (Editor's note-you lost me at Pion. Also, "pion." tee hee hee!).

While data taking is way more fun that it sounds like (in actuality it's not) I can't spend all of my time in the experimental hall. When I get home I want to unwind and relax. But there is a problem. My place here does not have a tv! So what am I to do? Watching no tv is simply not an option. Hulu? Not a chance, when you try to load a video a nice mesage appears:

Sorry, currently our video library can only be streamed from within the United States

Hulu is committed to making its content available worldwide. To do so, we must work through a number of legal and business issues, including obtaining international streaming rights. Know that we are working to make this happen and will continue to do so. Given the international background of the Hulu team, we have both a professional and personal interest in bringing Hulu to a global audience.

If you'd like, please leave us your email address and the region in which you live, and we will email you when our videos are available in your area.

Having been thwarted by the mothership I had to resort to drastic measures. Back home I have a friend who built a tivo (it's a mythbox for teh nerds out there). He puts the files of my favorite shows up and I can just rsync them to my net book.

Now that I can watch any TV I'm set to go, but wait. With whom am I going to discuss/make fun of the episodes? I don't know if you have ever watched an episode of Dollhouse or Top Chef by yourself, but if so then you know what I'm talking about. For those that have not, try it just once. You will soon realize that the pain caused by these shows is too great to keep in. Television is ridiculous sometimes and you just need a friend to say WTF.

My solution to the problem is gchat. I open a chat to a friend in the states who has already seen the episode and fire away. I am not a psychologist so I don't know why it is such a relief to know that someone else can't stand how stupid a certain character is, but it is.

I guess I really didn't realize it before, but my international isolation has shown me that television watching is a social activity and I need my friends who watch the same shows. I'm not a "loser" for staying home on a friday night to watch tv. I'm a friend who can't wait to watch tv on a friday night because OMG!!!!!11! WE GET TO FIND OUT WHO THE FINAL CYLON IS!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A few thoughts on Heroes

In watching the last two episodes of Heroes, something occurred to me. One of the major problems with the show is that it was constantly "rebooting," starting from scratch instead of building on what it had already done. This necessarily involves forgetting a lot of its own back story, which is endlessly annoying to die-hard fans. For example, at the end of last season, why didn't they try to use Claire's regenerative blood to save Nathan? Okay, I totally stole that from TWOP, but still.

These past episodes have seen both Sylar and Hiro flashing back to the past, which at least acknowledges that something happened before this season. Also, Claire mentioned her regenerative blood as a possible cure for Hiro (How did HRG know that wouldn't work? Maybe they did experiments when Claire was a baby!). Sure, this self-referencing was heavy-handed at somewhat awkward. But it was a small step forward towards a better, more coherent Heroes.

Plus, I heart Deanne Bray.

... which was immediately followed by two steps back. At the end of the episode, Peter finds a Hiro's new bucket list, which just says "Save Charlie." First of all, why would Hiro write a note to himself in English? I guess it was done so Peter could read it ... but why does he need to know? The audience knows where he's going - and in the very next scene we're shown that he has indeed traveled back three years. It's not like Peter can follow him, since he has that healer kid's power now. But what's this thing where Peter can only have one power at a time? Was that explained and I just missed it?

AND there's no more Mohinder - What. The. F*ck?!?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Never saw that one coming.

Updated: I just discovered that the episode talked about below (which was my favorite of the series so far) was directed by none other than Jonathan Frakes. And if you don't know who he is, then SHAME. For he was Commander Riker on STNG. I am very impressed since the direction of this episode, especially the sequence where Topher et al. had to dispose of Nolan was beautifully done.

Wow, I never thought I would say this. But...I kind of liked Topher in Dollhouse this week.

Up until this point, I've really hated Topher. And I haven't been exactly quiet about it. He just came off as a cheap imitation of Andrew from Buffy, but without any of the underlying sweetness (as much underlying sweetness as someone who brutally murdered his best friend could have). Topher was always just too much of a smartass and instead of coming off as funny, to me he always came off as asshatty.

While at Comic Con we saw a screening of the unseen Dollhouse episode, Epitaph One. In this episode (set in the future) we saw Topher had been driven insane by as of yet, unknown events. I think in this past week's episode, we might have seen the beginning of the cracks in his psyche. And it made him more interesting, and more importantly, more quiet.

I used to think that Topher's annoyingness might be the fault of the actor, Franz Kranz, but after seeing Belonging, I realized that I really underestimated him. The way he portrayed Topher through the entire last act was really surprising. I mean he had to show Topher dissecting and dissolving a dead body in sulpheric acid. That's not easy to sell, but darn if he didn't do it.

Throughout the series Topher has been portrayed as incredibly amoral with a touch of sadness, but now for the first time he struggled with a real ethical dilemma and made a choice with disastrous consequences (see above dissecting and dissolving dead body). Who's to say if he had made the other choice things would have turned out better, but in any event, I'm loving how this season is showing Topher's infallibility and ego slowly wither away.

I'm not completely willing to admit that I was wrong about Topher, I stand by my hatred of his first season self, but I'm definitely liking what I'm seeing so far in Season 2. In fact, observing the evolution of his character will probably be one of the things I miss most when the show is inevitably cancelled. I think it just goes to show that Dollhouse is a far superior program when it takes the focus off the black hole of fun that is Echo.

Topher, you're so much more adorable when confronted with an ethical and moral dilemma! Also, after I found out that you have a tattoo on your ankle that reads, "NC1701." Awesome.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

It's not a gimmick... it's three

Last week I caught an episode of Modern Family. For those who are not familiar, this show centers around an extended family consisting of (a) the "traditional" TV nuclear family (with a neurotic mother and a clueless father), (b) a gay couple and their adopted baby, and (c) a May-December marriage. Originally I avoided the show due to this gimmicky premise. But hey, sometimes a show can be greater than it's promotional materials. I decided to give it a chance.

One of the show's major strengths is the cast, which includes a grizzled Ed O'Neill as the patriarch of this little clan and Julie Bowen, who I always remember as perennial love interest Carol from Ed. Rico Rodriguez, one of the child actors, really shines as a future comic genius. The episode I saw, "The Incident" featured a hilarious cameo from Shelley Long as the crazy mother/ex-wife. But this is not enough to save the show. Most of the jokes were worth a chuckle, but they were completely predictable. For all that it purports to do something new, Modern Family comes off as just another rehashing of the same sitcom cliches.

That's not to say that the show doesn't have it's good points. It's really well put-together, with a plot that neither speeds nor drags - there are no throwaway lines. You get a good sense of each character in each scene, and quotable lines do crop up here and there. The close camera angles make you feel like you're just another member of the family, sitting on the couch and watching the drama unfold. And who knows? Maybe once the show establishes itself, it will stray more from the sitcom formula.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Fangirl explosion

Holy crap, you guys!

Joss Whedon to direct an episode of Glee.

Woah. I guess dreams really can come true.

No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency

My bookclub read The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency last month, and since I enjoyed the book so much I decided to check out the HBO/BBC series based on it.

Set it Botswana, the show (and book) are about Precious Ramotswe, a woman who opens a detective agency in her hometown. Seeing how she is a lady, she decides to name her agency the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. She faces a lot of laughter and strange looks at first, as detectives aren't common in Botswana and female detectives even less so, but she manages to win most people over with her best quality: competence.

So many shows (especially crime procedurals) have characters that rely on technology or some quirky knowledge to investigate and solve mysteries. It's so refreshing to see a woman who can get the job done just by keeping her eyes open and using common sense. Precious isn't flashy, she's a large African woman who is smart, spunky, and wise. It may be lame to say that she just exudes an aura of competence, but it's really the best way I can describe her. If she takes your case, you can bet she'll solve it. She's a real person, not perfect, but just...wonderful.

The show is filmed in Botswana, with all the accompanying beautiful scenery. And as someone who doesn't know anything about life in modern Africa, it's fascinating to see how similar and different the problems faced by everyday people are. Women still suspect their husbands of cheating, fathers are still concerned that their teenage daughters are seeing boys, and children still get kidnapped by witch doctors who include their finger bones in hex bags. Ok, so maybe that one might be a unique problem, but that's part of what makes the show so interesting.

Precious is surrounded by fun and caring people, inlcuding her Secretary (who scored a 97% at Botswana Secretarial school), the gay hairdresser next door, and a local car mechanic who has had his eye on her for a while. Each one feels like a real person, fleshed out with their own problems. But they all care about Precious and help her with cases in their own way.

The first season is available on DVD, and while I'm not sure if a second season is in the works, it's a charming, beautiful show about a woman who is determined to make her own way.

Botswana, represent!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Maggie Cats on the News

Here is my take on the latest television news.

--Mia Michaels is leaving So You Think You Can Dance.

Eh. She's a great choreographer, but the way everyone on the show, including the dancers, creams themselves over her is getting annoying.

--The FOX reality channel is shutting down.

FOX has a reality channel?

--Grey's Anatomy is adding a bunch of new characters when Seattle Grace merges with Mercy West.

Whatever. I don't watch it, but recently discovered that my mother does. Which I am convinced is the first sign of the Apocalypse. I was talking to her on the phone the other day and she literally said, "I can't talk anymore, Grey's Anatomy is coming on."

--Heroes is killing off a major character.


Cougar Town: Deeply Shallow

Last night I caught an episode of ABC's new comedy, Cougar Town. As you might guess, the protagonist is a "cougar," a woman over forty who dates younger men. Aka, the cliché du jour. I swear to god, if I see another magazine article, blog post, or Facebook group about cougars, I am going to punch Ashton Kutcher in the face.

But I was going to do that anyway.
No worries, Demi. We're cool.

Needless to say, I didn't approach Cougar Town with the most open of minds. Within the first few minutes of watching the vapid protagonist, Jules (played well by Courteney Cox, but still irritating as shit), I was about ready to give up. Here are the three reasons I stuck around:

1. Christa Miller. I liked her as Kate on The Drew Carey Show, I loved her as Jordan on Scrubs. She plays Jules' age-appropriate friend.
2. Busy Philipps, who plays the Jules' friend/employee, will always be bad-girl Kim Kelly (from Freaks and Geeks) to me.

3. My sweetie lumpkin cakes, Dan Byrd. I can mute the television and pretend I'm watching Aliens in America. Except, as Jules' son Travis, he dresses better. And there's no Adhir Kalyan. *pout*

Let me be clear - I am in no way, shape or form recommending Cougar Town. It's a fluffy bit of nothing, flitting briefly along the surface of how our youth-obsessed culture punishes women as they grow older. There's just not much there there, you know? But Cox's star power, coupled with a supporting cast comprised of some of the most talented and energetic actors in the biz, will likely keep Cougar Town afloat for at least a season.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

MSCR: Naruto Shippuden

I have previously blogged about the awesomeness/ incomprehensibility of anime. There's always at least one crucial element that completely defies all logic. A young boy finds an old board game, only to be possessed by the spirit of an Edo-era grand master. The classic super-human alien baby (a la Superman and isn't that weird enough already?) also has a monkey tail. Girl meets boy... by falling down a well into an alternate dimension. Oh, and the boy's a half-demon samurai.
Those are all actual shows. For serious.

In the anime series Naruto, however, there isn't one odd central element. There are, like, five.
1. The setting is feudal Japan, only there's electricity and running water and other technological advances. No explanation is ever given for this.
2. The characters are adolescent ninjas, who can channel the body's energy (chakra) into superhuman abilities. This is sometimes determined by heredity, sometimes achieved by just working really really hard.
3. The title character, Uzumaki Naruto, is an orphan who has been used by his village leaders to contain the spirit of a powerful nine-tailed demon fox. Sometimes he has conversations with it.
4. There are many other people who have been used as vessels for various other demons. One of them is a sociopath from a neighboring village who becomes a good guy when Naruto kicks his ass.
5. Naruto has a best frenemy named Sasuke, who is the constant focus of all his considerable energy. Sasuke runs off, leaving Naruto to pine for three years.

Sasuke on left, Naruto on right.
It's moments like these when I'm not entirely sure this show isn't shonen-ai.

That's just the first 220 episodes. After that, in the sequel Naruto Shippuden, shit starts to get really weird. And the funny thing is - it's a fighting show. Most of the episodes are spent entirely on battle scenes. The sheer amount of WTFery they cram into the remaining minutes is truly remarkable.

What makes this show good is that it plays by its own rules. People are constantly unveiling ninja skillz that should be impossible (even in this impossible world), but on further explanation actually aren't. There's a lot of exposition of 'this is how I just kicked your ass,' which drags the action down, sometimes to an interminable snail's-pace. Somehow, though, the intricate world is compelling enough to keep my attention. Also, the vague hope that one day Naruto and Sasuke might make out (again).

Accidental smooch!

Naruto was originally available via Bit Torrent for the dedicated few. I think it got picked up by Cartoon Network at some point, but it was the inferior, dubbed version (when it comes to anime, sub-titled versions are almost always better). Naruto Shippuden (sub-titled!) is licensed by Hulu, and an episode goes up every Thursday, on a seven-day delay from when episodes air in Japan.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Oh, Beefaroni. I think I'll miss you most of all.

The central plot line of last night's Big Bang Theory was that Koothrappali had lost his job and was about to be deported. As such, it was chock-a-block with jokes on our shared 'motherland,' India. "I'll have to put up with the sarcastic remarks from my cousin Sanjay," he opined. "Or as you may know him, Dave from AT&T technical support." Up for comedic grabs was also the Hindu lifestyle that so many Indian Americans give up, specifically in regards to beef (see the title of this post).

For me, when I gave up beef in the 10th grade, it was Arby's ...
until I realized I was just addicted to the special sauce.

In my freshman year in college, I was deeply offended when a character on Will and Grace remarked of a threesome she had actually backed out of, "There were arms and legs everywhere - Hindus were worshipping us!" This off-handed slight caused me (and possibly other Hindus, though one can't be sure) to abandon the show until it went into syndication. A few years earlier there was a huge uproar when Xena: Warrior Princess and her 'sidekick' (*cough*lesbian lover*cough*) Gabrielle met the Hindu god Vishnu. In blue-face. The principals had to appear in a PSA to beg forgiveness alongside a prominent figure in the Hindu community (for what that was worth - we're not like Catholics, we don't have much of a hierarchy). So how did I react to last night's fresh blandishments of Indian society and Hindu culture?

I closed my eyes and chanted "Ommmm..." NOT.

I laughed my ass off. And you know why? The jokes on BBT were being made by and Indian. There's a huge difference between saying, "aren't we funny?" and saying "aren't they funny?" For all that comedy = tragedy + distance, jokes that are inherently distancing are just not fun for me. When white characters make a joke/utilize a stereotype about India/Hindus, it makes me feel like I'm the only one of my kind in the world. When Koothrappali jokes about how dirty the Ganges is, or erroneously states that Hindus believe cows are gods, I feel closer to him as a character. I can't claim to speak for every Indian (American or not, Hindu or not) but I thoroughly enjoyed what felt like, to me, good-natured ribbing from one of my favorite shows.

Stay classy, Big Bang Theory.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Son of a Witch

I did not have high expectations for Eastwick. I enjoyed the movie back in the day, but never read the book and thought the show looked like it was trying to be too cutesy. Three gorgeous women! Who are witches! And meet a mysterious stranger who may or may not be the devil! And there are hijinks!

And while all those things are true, the show has a dark streak I wasn't expecting. I won't go into to much detail since I don't want to spoil it, but suffice it to say I was surprised by some of the plot points, especially those involving horrible death. Which, I don't know about you, is always welcome in my television shows.

I was also surprised by the clever writing. The show has some very funny bits (usually coming from Rebecca Romijn's character), but all the characters are likable and get in some quips. Also, Paul Gross as the mysterious Darryl Van Horne is clearly having a ball. While not as seemingly evil and crazy as Jack Nicholson (but who is, really?), he has that devilish charm thing down pat. And I've basically been in love with him ever since he played Constable Benton Fraser, a Canadian Mountie, in the dearly departed show Due South, circa 1997.

So to sum up, I really like the show, find none of the characters annoying, and am pleasantly surprised by the dark streak running through the show's core. I was sure the basic plot premise would be difficult to maintain, but they seem to be setting up some interesting mythology and arcs to carry onward. Y'all should watch it; all three current episodes are available on ABC's website.

Oh, did I mention the eye candy?


Saturday, October 10, 2009

As long as the braces come off this year, I'm happy.

While Ugly Betty had a stellar first season, the shows seems to have lost a bit of its sparkle as it's gone on. The perfect balance of comedy/drama/soap opera that the show started with seems to have petered off. All the characters are still wonderful, and the show is still bright and sparkly, but it just seems to have floundered a bit.

One of fans' biggest complaints is why Betty hasn't gotten the memo to spruce herself up a bit. While you can definitely see how her wardrobe has gone through some improvements since the first season (no more ponchos thank GOD), her hair, eyebrows, and braces haven't really changed. And her relationship with prints could use some TLC. I know the show is called "Ugly Betty," but she works at a fashion magazine for goodness sake.

But, wait! There is hope on the horizon! Season 4 is starting next Friday and in anticipation ABC has released some promo photos of the cast. And check out this one:

The hair! It's pretty! And the eyebrows looks more...separated. And the outfit is classy, professional, and appropriate. Could it be? Has Betty finally stepped up her look? I see the braces are still there, but I've heard rumors that they are coming off this year. Which frankly, is still way over due. I mean she's been wearing them for over four years, come on now. Even I only had to wear them for three, and my jaw was crooked.

If you want to check out the other cast photos you can find them here at Just Jared. And remember that the new season of Ugly Betty starts this coming Friday at 8pm on ABC.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

I Know It When I See It

I finally got around to watching the first few episodes of Secret Diary of a Call Girl (courtesy of Netflix), previously blogged-about here. And ... yeah. Have you ever seen soft-core pornography? Neither have I, but I know it when I see it. Or rather, when I see Billie Piper's boobs. Props to Billie, though, for letting it all hang out. In a show about a prostitute, it would be kind of strange if there wasn't any nudity. And she didn't, as I previously feared, completely obliterate her curves with an all-celery diet. The protagonist, Hannah, is more Bettie Page than Kate Moss.

Don't get me wrong - there's lots more to the show than the sex. It portrays a woman who chose to become a prostitute because she (a) loves sex, (b) loves money, and (c) is inherently lazy (her words, not mine). But neither is she a "happy hooker" - Hannah struggles with the consequences of her career choice, and does her best to keep it separate from her personal life. Of course she can't keep them completely apart, which seems to be the central conceit of the current story arc. In the last episode I've seen, she essentially "comes out" to her best friend, Ben. Now I have to wait for the next disc to see the fall-out. Which means watching more pr0n. *sigh* The sacrifices I make...

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Secret Boyfriend of the Week: Adorable Gay Edition!

He can dance, sing, kick the shit out of a football, and is pretty much all around adorable. This week's Secret Boyfriend is none other than the multi-talented Kurt from Glee.

Hello, ladies.

More than any other character on Glee, Kurt has really hit a chord (get it?) with members of the audience. After all, the first time we saw him he was getting thrown in a dumpster...who wouldn't sympathize with that? And he also looked fabulous, making sure to spare his couture. Sensitive and smart.

But the big connection for me and Kurt came from the episode Preggers, when he 1) performed Beyonce's Single Ladies dance, 2) taught the entire football team how to dance, 3) won the big game (and looked stylish doing it), and 4) came out out to his Dad.

The scene where Kurt tells his Dad he was gay could have gone so wrong, could have been handled so poorly, but Glee managed to balance realism with a happy result. And Chris Colfer was simply beautiful in it. He expressed fear, vulnerability, hope, and longing for acceptance from his father. Until that scene, we didn't know that Kurt's mother was gone, that it had just been him and his Dad. But it just made so much sense. I'm not ashamed to admit that I cried and yelled at the screen (something like, "just tell him!" as Kurt paused to get out the words).

But come on, enough of this heavy stuff. The reason we here at TV Sluts love Kurt is because of his overall fabulousness. Not everyone could rock a black unitard in one scene and wear a football uniform in the next, but Kurt pulls it off with aplomb. He's all adorable, but remains enough of an outcast that we'll always root for him. But more importantly, he knows who he is and doesn't care if you like it or not. He is always true to himself, and how many nice people can really say that?

But I'll let him speak for himself. Hit it, girls.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Tempy and Seely, sitting in a tree...

... T-E-A-S-I-N-G.

Last night, I got home around 8:30 with the intention of finally watching the season five premiere of Bones (bless you, Hulu) and turning in early. Three hours later, I'm powering through the latest episode (damn you, Hulu!) in a fit of Brennan/Booth shipper glee. Booth has been hit with a giant-sized clue hammer, in the shape of the kick ass, Love-Letter-to-All-Fangirls season four finale/coma dream. Hearts and flowers, he sweeps her off her feet and they live happily ever after, right? Ha, of course not.

Before our boy can confess his feeling, Cam and Sweets introduce a seed of doubt - Brennan seems all tough and robotic, but underneath is a scared little girl. No one actually said, "if you fuck this up, we will fuck you up." But I thought it was rather implied.

So he does the logical thing. He tells her he loves her - and then takes it back. Anybody else flashing back to The Nanny? The actual line is, "I love you ... (awkward pause) ... in a professional, atta-girl kind of way." *shoulder punch* I laughed my ass off. The beauty is that Brennan fails at emotions, so even though he's giving her the Soulful Puppy Eyes (SPE) the whole time, she doesn't get it. The next two episodes include further SPE moments and further obliviousness from good ol' Tempy.

I imagine that hardcore fans of the show might be tired of the writers teasing them like this. They're probably screaming 'JUST GET IT ON, ALREADY!' and trying to reach into their TVs to force Booth and Brennan's faces together. Or maybe last season's finale was enough of a pay-off that it will keep the rabid fangirls at bay ... for now.

Personally, I've joined the party late enough that I still find these shenanigans amusing. Plus, there's definitely a feeling that something big has changed (at least, for Booth). I don't get the impression that they're going Mulder-and-Scully us forever. In the meantime, enjoy this picture of the Soulful Puppy Eyes.