Tuesday, September 30, 2008

An Open Letter To My Friends With Potentially Deep Pockets...

Dear Friends Who Might Make More Than I Know:

Bring me your bored, your underappreciated, your PAs and cubicle dwellers who long for more...

A few years ago, when I first graduated from USC and was looking to "officially" start my career, I applied for a job as an Associate Producer at The TV Guide Channel. Probably because my resume was stacked with titles of which they had never heard, I did not get the job, let alone an interview. However, throughout the years, I have kept one close eye on entertainment job sites and boards for their name, assuming it was a place at which I was destined to end up, if for no other reason than my simple love of all things television and the fact that they get to dabble in it all. They're like E!, but I wouldn't have to sell my soul.

When I took my day job at TVN and was handed the TV Guide account, I felt it was fate. I could keep an eye on all of the programs and specials to which perhaps I could send my resume, now with the inside track of understanding not only their content, but also their production/pitch schedule. Today I read that the TV Guide Channel is reportedly up for sale. They are asking $400 million and since they have really great current circulation, will undoubtedly be purchased by a big corporate conglomerate. Needless to say, I can't let that happen! Corporations are cold, but more importantly they are filled with agenda! Once Bravo bought TelevisionWithoutPity.com, they changed-- and no one likes change! The idea that I should work there coupled with the fact that I've always wanted to control what goes on air (all Jensen all the time-- at least one night a week! And I promise you, I'll get his name right!) has led to me to only one conclusion: I need to buy the TV Guide Channel.

But I cannot do it without some help. I am willing to forgo buying a condo and donate my down payment toward the purchase of this company if others are willing to chip in with me. I can promise an even partnership, split equally among however many investors we bring on board, as well as window offices, a company iPhone, and lunch from CPK every Friday on the company. I know some of you must be making more than you let on and therefore have some spare cash lying around. I know many of you are bored with your current jobs and starting to put feelers out there anyway, and let's face it: who wants to work for any old boss when you can be your own boss? And I also know that most of you, too, dream of seeing programming you created viewed by millions all across the country: well, now is your chance! It won't just be Stars in their Eyes, Kate Dating, and Define Justice; I will hear and consider any and all pitches, in addition to hiring some new, fresh talent for the already existing programming that is highly rated enough to warrant keeping around.

Or if that's not really motivation enough, let me just assure you that "Our plan is good... and if we all just stick together... Hey; if anyone has a right to have a complete meltdown right now, it's me, but right now I don't have the time because right now you morose motherf*ckers are going to get off your ass and get ready to roll!

So, who's with me!?" :D

Monday, September 29, 2008

Like, OMG, You Guys!...

So I came across something pretty classic while surfing the internet today at work. After finishing the newest episodes of I Love Money, Entourage, True Blood, The Cho Show, and Best Week Ever, understandably I was bored and didn't know with what to fill the rest of my day. And then I found this...

Back in junior high, my friends and I would write each other notes in class all of the time! We (or more commonly, I) would start with a sheet of looseleaf in first period, right about a page and a half, and then pass it to a friend to respond in the next period. I was always the one who wrote the most, though I can't vouch for the level of content. Mostly, I was just always bored (I guess some things really never change!) and refused to take real notes in class, so I'd write to keep myself busy and also looking like I was working productively should my teacher glance my way. For awhile (well into high school, when those I had been close with since kindergarten and I had all gone our separate ways) I kept those tattered sheets of paper, folded into tiny squares and paper footballs, in a "memory box" in the drawer under my bed, but I tossed them before I moved out to California. For awhile, I was kind of bummed I purged myself of my past in such a way, but now I'm super glad I did, though, because I know just how embarrassing it would be if one of my childhood friends still had them and scanned them for that website!

Welcome Back, The Most Tightly Packed 50 Minutes On Television!…

Previously on Dexter, after the reign of the Ice Truck Killer came to an abrupt end at the hand of our unorthodox title hero, a gruesome discovery in the bay threatened to expose the truth and made the police force aware of a much more cunning criminal. Dexter (Michael C. Hall)’s personal world began to unravel as much as his professional one when he began to let his guard down around Lila, a budding artist and part time arsonist. After years of adhering to a strict code set forth by his adopted father, Harry (James Remar), Dexter slowly but surely began to act out on his own, subtly altering his murder ritual. The premiere episode of the third season, “Our Father,” only further expands on this oddly rebellious side to Dexter, a man who-- years too late-- seems to finally be acting like the “normal” teenager which he always had to fake being, simply by acting out against the very principles by which he was brought up.

Our Father” opens with a bright, blinding light, as if Dexter is sitting under an interrogation lamp, finally having to answer to his sins, but instead we see insert shots of different scalpels and various cutting utensils, hearing Dexter’s infamously eerily voice over about “ritual, routine, and control,” all things which are about to be tossed out the window. A drilling sound overlaps, and we learn Dexter is in the dentist’s office, where he tells the doctor what he did over his summer vacation, complete with a few strategic flashbacks that stop when last season’s finale did. Suddenly it’s not so weird that he is extremely tan and seemingly well rested: it’s almost as if Dexter took a little extra time in Paris just to relax once his visit with Lila was over. Just as eerily, he tells the doctor he did indulge once in awhile (though the doctor had asked if he had many sweets), and he met some great new people, and his crazy grin spread as he remembered offing his seeming-equal, sending her off to network melodrama hell instead (Jaime Murray will now co-star in Valentine on The CW).

After a quick dissolve to the open water as Dexter sails around the bay harbor that made him famous, Dexter stands in Rita (Julie Benz)’s kitchen, making her and the kids breakfast. Everyone is brown and fresh-faced; they finally look like they have been taking advantage of the Miami shores!! It is all repulsively normal when Astor (Christina Robinson) waves off the Mickey Mouse pancakes in favor of regular ones, and Rita shares a “What can you do? Kids!” shrug with her boyfriend, who laughs and once again shows surprising emotion when Cody (Preston Bailey) asks him to attend “dad day” at his school the following afternoon. For a deadpan man who repeats how immune he is to feeling in every private voice over moment he gets, Dexter has humanized increasingly over the course of the last season, when he fought tooth and nail and in brief moments almost seemed to fall apart to save his sister, and now in his dealings with his so-called “cover” relationship. It doesn’t seem like he has to fake this anymore: it feels natural that they are a family, and this scene plays more like it came out of a familial drama than a crime one.

Things are back to Dexter’s definition of normal in a matter of seconds, though, even though we’re suddenly in a Mac commercial, as he sits in the dark and researches his next victim on his shiny new silver laptop. “Freebo" (which sounds a lot like Pheebo, which is my Golden Retriever puppy statue's name-- after Phoebe Buffay's interpretation of the male version of her name, of course!-- so it is what I will call this kid from now on, too) killed two college co-eds but got off in a sort of “catch and release” program. Undoubtedly Dexter is seeing visions of injecting Pheebo and taping him to a table dancing in his mind, but he takes this moment to glance up and talk to a creepily spot lit framed photo of his father in his cop uniform. It’s the kind of headshot you’d expect to see on a coffin at a funeral, and it’s a bit uneven that Dexter still keeps it on his wall, considering he is trying to break away from Harry’s grasp; in fact, it’s almost as if he’s haunting Harry. Dexter probably doesn’t want to think about the depth of that hypocrisy, though, because the next morning he is back to his same old “Dexter the Donut Guy” routine, most likely assuming if he doesn’t change all of his behavior, he can still be considered the same old Dexter.

Who is not the same old character, though, is Dexter’s sister, Deb (Jennifer Carpenter), who has cut her hair to a chin-length angled bob. Apparently, this is as big news as was Felicity’s haircut because Deb makes a whole big deal out of the fact that the new guy in the squad, Joey Quinn (Desmond Harrington)—who I will from now on be calling Hot Cop, by the way—tells her it makes her look younger and her own brother doesn’t even notice. She has also given up men, alcohol, and cigarettes, and seemingly, cursing, as she is oddly couth for the entire time she is on-screen in her first scene back—so much so in fact a double check on the digital guide is the only thing to confirm the episode was airing on Showtime and not in edited syndication. Lieutenant Laguerta (Lauren Velez) announces Batista (David Zayas) will soon be Detective Sergeant, and Deb’s hard edge (and hard on) returns as she realizes she will report directly to him… and then she calls her brother a dildo. It seems her purpose in this scene is only to reiterate Dexter’s theory that changing behavior does not change who a person is.

A few more integrated commercials, as Dexter pulls up in a shiny new silver SUV and then eats Oreos as he pretends to be tweaking in order to gain entrance to his victim’s bright pink??? house. They make such a big deal out of the color of the house that there must be some sort of metaphor or hidden meaning here, but it goes right over my head! To me, it just looks like the location manager and production designer were having a bit of fun at everyone else’s expense. Pheebo sits out the couch playing a videogame on a huge flat screen, and Dexter pretends to be looking to buy drugs just to feel this kid out. Conveniently (as it always is for Mr. Dexter Morgan), yet another blonde twenty-something girl stumbles out into the living room, also looking to score, and Pheebo kicks her out—but the simple fact that some college girl would want to hang out with an age-appropriate slacker answers any suspicions Dexter may have had that this is his guy, and he preps a new murder room, ironically in a recently raided drug den, by placing two glossy headshots from NowCasting on a simple shelf. Things always seem to fall into place for Dexter Morgan, but that is undoubtedly because he is the title character. If the narrator was Batista, for example, chasing down a notorious killer, we’d probably see that Dexter is not always right, but he is just so cocky that he allows himself to see only the signs he wants to see—the ones that benefit him and give him the “go ahead” to carry out his crimes. It would be extremely interesting to see the consequences if for once he makes a mistake.

In a story line that will probably go somewhere at some point but at this time isn’t super interesting, Deb meets some chick from Internal Affairs who looks a lot like Ruthie from The Real World: Hawaii and begins to ask questions about Hot Cop. The writers are not being subtle at all about the fact that they want to throw the two together and due to Deb’s less than stellar track record with past relationships, they have to make this guy mysterious and perhaps a bit suspicious, too. The audience senses it; those around the guy will sense it; but Deb will remain clueless—as per usual. It’s a wonder she managed to get a job on the force at all, let alone keep it up for as many years as she has. Deb asks if Ruthie’s high (which I find in poor taste considering Ruthie entered rehab on her season) and snaps about bribery but then wants to know what he may or may not have done. She doesn’t think before she speaks so her actions are thwarted by not planning ahead; as Ruthie says: “You don’t get to blow me off and still ask that.” Already I like Ruthie better than Deb; she just makes more sense.

Harshly lit with sharp features that almost foreshadow the sharp objects with which he uses to kill, Dexter sits in his oversized car back in front of that garish pink house, whose color is visible even in the night. Maybe it is lit up with a 10K the way the photo of Harry seemed to be directly lit, as if to prove the point of its importance. Hearing the loud music pumping through the windows, Dexter assumes he might catch Pheebo in an illegal act, and he does, but it is not one that he expects. Barging in on a fight, Pheebo flees, leaving Dexter to fight the mystery man, who comes at him with force that surprises even him. Just before Dexter gets in his one solid stab wound to the chest, the guy asks him who he is, and he can only reply with: “Who are you?”

I guess it’s a fair question, but it’s one that would have been much more poignant in season one, when Dexter was playing guessing games with the Ice Truck Killer. It’s not metaphoric now at all, and sometimes such literal dialogue elicits more humor than really works with realism. This is only furthered by Dexter’s expositional (and unnecessary if you’ve been following the show from the beginning) voice over about all of a sudden being spontaneous and sloppy and therefore breaking the code. If he was willing to be a bit more introspective, he would realize he has broken the code and acted out of an emotion he doesn’t believe he even has before—when he smacked Rita’s ex-husband over the head with a frying pan. This time, though, he has killed (in self-defense, sure) someone who by all accounts is a completely innocent man, so I guess it is a bit worse. A regular guy would feel remorse; Dexter, the self-proclaimed unemotional robot, should shrug it off; but instead we cut to him in bed with Rita—is it possible he has escalated so quickly that he is now turned on by his violence? In season one, Dexter said he didn’t care about sex—in fact, he said he wanted to avoid it at all costs—until Rita dropped to her knees, and then like any typical guy, he decided he had found something better (than the only other thing that gave him a sense of relief: killing). That and this show is on pay cable, leading into Californication, so the producers have to offer a little skin as a teaser!

Still, Dexter leaves Rita prematurely, ignoring her tongue-in-cheek jab about working “killer hours,” to watch the pink house, which is now officially taped off as a crime scene. Batista calls him to report needing his assistance, and though he could look out the window of the house and see Dexter’s hulking car down the street, Dexter still says it will take him twenty to thirty minutes to arrive. Again, is he finding some sort of sick pleasure in watching his work from afar? This is new… and not entirely strange… When he finally rolls in, though, Deb announces proudly that this is officially her case, begging the question of when will she finally learn the truth about her brother? By all accounts, this should set her up to finally get clued in, but seeing as how incompetent she is because of how emotional she gets (she is practically in tears when she seeks her brother’s approval over her new haircut), once again the writers are just setting us up to reinforce that this is really Dexter’s world, and no one else even comes close to living as intelligently, or as freely, as him.

Deb does manage to get one thing right, though: she knows the one question on Dexter’s mind when looking at the D.B. is “Who are you?” so she fills him in: Oscar Prado was the younger brother of Miami's ADA— a "law and order hard ass" cop (Jimmy Smits, which would be funnier except he was actually on NYPD Blue instead) who just happens to be present to oversee the investigation-- and a look of “oops” crosses Dexter’s face. He was on the cover of some magazine for his work (uh, okay?); he was personal friends with Delgado (double oops); and he was a coach at a youth club (of course he was). Yeah, that calls for a big “Oh, shit” moment, but Dexter calmly, smoothly, takes it all in stride like he always does, and he even manages to zoom in on the one piece of evidence he left behind and scoop it up and out of side before Masuka (C.S. Lee) can photograph it.

Dexter watches his sister interact with Hot Cop, perhaps because he senses (or at least fears) a repeat of the Ice Truck Killer here, but he seems too distracted to really be paying much attention. A police dog barks at him through an open window of a cruiser, proving that animals really can sense the evil that people often overlook. Batista leads a team meeting to find Prado’s killer, and Laguerta comes right out in front of everyone and admits she and Jimmy Smits hooked up under the guise of full disclosure. Not surprisingly, when the press conference to basically say “We like Pheebo for this” occurs, she is not front and center, but her boyfriend is, wearing a thin mustache held over from his Cane days and speaking so narcissistically (“Now that crime has touched my family, I grieve equally…”) he leads Dexter to believe his family is shadier than they appear, so instead of watching the conference live on a slick, too-expensive flat-screen for a realistic precinct, he sits at his computer and looks up the dead guy, assuming that he’s guilty of something (“because aren’t we all?”). What’s fascinating about this moment is that Dexter only finds two speeding tickets and a citation for an illegal u-turn on the guy’s record, but he is conditioned to be so suspicious simply because of who he is: his instincts about those he targets are based on the fact that he is that same kind of evil, so therefore he just “gets” it in a way that “normal” people could never fathom.

Meanwhile, back at the bumbling farm, Deb needs Hot Cop to bail her out and give her the lead she can never get on her own, so he tells her about a C.I. who owes him favors, and she thanks him by telling him to stop looking at her ass as she walks away. Man, the guy can’t get a face-to-face flirt out of her, and now he can’t even admire at a distance; she’s a prize! She meets the lead at a beachside cafĂ© where he strums a guitar and offers to sell her “real, mellow weed,” which actually sounds like it would help her out a lot. She shows him the mugshot of Pheebo and he doesn’t recognize him, but Hot Cop must know something she doesn’t or he wouldn’t have sent her to this guy, and surprisingly, just as she’s about to walk away, she gets a taste of what it must be like to be a good detective and drops a photo of the victim on the table in front of the guy, too.

Dexter speaks to Cody’s class about boring, technical things and probably scars them for life, but one little kid asks if he saves lives, and he can’t hide the slow smile that spreads when he thinks about his “true” job. He gets called away again and returns to the crime scene to find Jimmy Smits waiting for him, wanting to hear the “story” of events. Dexter is forced to explain clinically, without getting excited about reliving his work, which appears harder for him than it should—than it usually is. He tells Jimmy Smits his brother “fought like a hero but was overmatched,” which in the typically egocentric way of a sociopath, pays him the ultimate of complements: he was too powerful for even a strapping, physically fit man who fought back. Jimmy Smits asks him why, and for once Dexter seems to search his mental Rolodex of socially acceptable responses, taught to him by Harry, of course, before Jimmy Smits continues and asks him why... he was looking for information on his dead brother. For this, Dexter prepared the correct “it helps me make sense” answer, and once again, he is off the hook—momentarily ensnared, but able to squeeze out of the detrimental grip before he sinks himself. He is just so lucky, that Dexter: lucky that everyone around him seems to offer him the perfect “outs” and especially lucky that he was taken in by a man like Harry, who understood what he was. Jimmy Smits talks about souls with him in a way that almost resembles a father passing a philosophy down to a son; it’s quite interesting how so many shows this season (although still in the very early episodes) appear to be going down that slower-paced, more thoughtful and methodical road rather than the flashy, slashy action-filled moments of seasons past.

Dexter attends the dead brother’s funeral, which would be a normal (there's that word again!) serial killer’s wet dream, but it’s already been redundantly established that Dexter has always been everything but normal. He doesn’t have to skulk in the background and hide behind some columns or plants in order to see his work one last time: he walks right up to the open coffin and stares at the man’s face, still convinced he does not “suffer from the tragedy of perfection” simply because he attacked a stranger with a knife in a dope dealer’s house. Why should Dexter, of all people, be surprised, though, by the ability (or even sheer willingness) to take action against an assumed bad guy? Dexter was the one barging into the house; he was the intruder in that situation, so it makes perfect, “normal” sense that the dead brother would defend himself. He pours over these thoughts while his sister mourns their father in a bar with Batista. She stares at an identical framed photo to the one Dexter had in his house—only this one hangs over the bar, with an art light shining directly over it, and as she still wants so badly to please her father, Batista shoots down one of her chances by telling her she’s off the dead brother case because it’s “just too big for her.” Just like her brother, “only one person can get in [her] way,” which is herself, but she doesn’t seem ready to move on. In truth, Dexter probably isn’t ready either, but he’s determined to try—convinced he doesn’t need him anymore. Again, typical teenage rebellion, at the end of which, he’ll probably realize just how wrong he was.

In the meantime, though, his way of “moving on” is sleeping with Rita again. It really is starting to look like watching his handiwork is what puts him in the mood! In the morning, his sister is jealous and upset that he didn’t come celebrate their father’s birthday with her, and she snaps at him about having “to kill your father so you can become your own man,” but once again she has no friggin’ idea. “What was inside me would be there forever, and I can’t change,” Dexter astutely points out in a voice over. He is able to verbalize it quite logically, yet he can’t wrap his head around the deeper meaning enough not to try to prove it wrong. He may be a genius in some things, but in others he just that much more clueless and socially awkward. He is like a boy on the verge of adolescence, afraid of what he could become, except he is a grown man who relied so long on the word of a man who seemed perfect in his eyes, he never thought twice when he was told to do something or how to do it or that it would be okay. Finally in his thirties, Dexter Morgan is forced to think about the “why” instead of just taking Harry’s code at face value, and because of it, he is maturing—as a man, but also undoubtedly as a killer.

At the new crime scene, Dexter has to hide his surprise that the victim is the same co-ed he saw in Pheebo’s house that first day he pretended to be an addict. She has a perfect square cut out of her right shoulder which is currently unexplained, but he is happy enough to know that his new playmate hasn’t left the region; he may have gotten away temporarily, but he can’t stay gone for long.

That’s where “Our Father” should have ended: leaving Dexter’s case as unresolved as his daddy issues that he only recently discovered he has (even though the kid is clearly no match for the cunning of the Ice Truck Killer; safe money is on Dexter meeting up with him in the next episode and taking care of business once and for all). However, instead, Batista got his gold badge in this episode, too, speeding along a process that realistically should have taken at least two or three episodes to take place. On a night out, Deb runs into Ruthie again, leaving her with more cryptic warnings about wanting to get on IA’s good side if she wants to increase her chances of getting a shield (after all, her father already had his by her age-- those Morgan kids, always comparing!). And just to beat the father theme over the heads of their audience, Rita realizes that all of the pudding eating (oh, sorry, did I not mention that earlier?) she has been doing and listening to the one same record over and over is something familiar—something she did twice before, although years apart. She tells Dexter she thinks she is pregnant. Who's up for more daddy issues!?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Finding It Hard To Say Goodbye (Love)...

Three years after Sony Pictures and Chris Columbus released their disappointing film adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize winning Jonathan Larson's acclaimed Broadway production, RENT, they are calling a do-over. Last night, in limited release, Sony screened RENT: The Hot Ticket, the next in their series of high interest stage shows being filmed and broadcast in select theaters across the country. It is an effort to make certain entertainment (in the past, productions include those of Cirque Du Soleil) more accessible (and affordable), but with RENT, it feels like making amends before saying good-bye.

RENT shut its Nederlander Theatre lights on September 7th, closing a book in the encyclopedia of pop culture and leaving many diehard fans without their religion. For a generation of kids-- growing up in the city in which the show was penned, set, and performed or not-- RENT spoke to them the way nothing had before: it gave them hope; it made them feel like they were not alone; and perhaps most importantly, it made them laugh and made them cry. And the true RENTheads came out in droves for this Sony screening, camping out in lines that snaked around corners of shopping centers, eagerly paying the twenty dollar admission fee which was once reserved for a front row seat lottery that only a lucky few would receive at each Broadway performance.

Though RENTheads picked apart the original film adaptation, criticizing everything from the glossy, bright colors that made the on-screen New York reek of modern day Times Square instead of the late 1980s East Village, to the odd omissions of full songs and rogue lines (without Joanne's "I'll never be a theater person" in "RENT," Mark's "The narrative crackles and pops with incendiary wit" makes little sense), there was little room in RENT: The Hot Ticket to think about anything through the tears. Immediately from the opening bars you just get lost in the music and the moment, as is always intended in such art. The chills fly up the spine from minute one and don’t go away, even throughout the ten minute “live” intermission, during which the camera was left on the stage to make the audience feel like they’re sitting in the Nederlander, watching the roadies sweep the stage, too.

The only thing that has saved Columbus' RENT from complete extinction with this new release is the fact that RENT: The Hot Ticket was filmed with the current Broadway cast at the time of the show's end (and let me just add how amazingly fantastic it was to see Tracie Thoms reprise the role of Joanne on-screen again!), and most of the original cast members only make an appearance to perform the full version of "Seasons of Love." If Adam, Anthony, Daphne, Jesse, Wilson, Idina, Fredi and Taye had returned to the stage one last time for this filming, though, RENT: The Hot Ticket would completely erase Columbus' RENT from our consciousness. This is the RENT Sony should have made the first time around. Putting three cameras in the Nederlander and following the action the way Jonathan Larson dreamed it up is what captures the original integrity, beauty, and yes, dignity of the performances and the script.

Filmed in traditional live audience style, the cameras are never intrusive but still manage to capture the energy and essence of each scene and each song. Though many shots are tight close ups, and often locked off, therefore cropping the actors at the forehead, only three lines were dropped, and what makes it most impressive is that fact: RENT: The Hot Ticket was done with one take, no do-overs, no fancy FX in post to cover flubs. Often favoring profile shots, RENT: The Hot Ticket is real and raw the way Jonathan Larson intended it to be. It is artistic and free-spirited, and most importantly, obvious that everyone was loving every minute. RENT is a timeless production, and unfortunately Chris Columbus dated it with his late-eighties period piece film in everything from hair to wardrobe, but The Hot Ticket returns the production to where it needs to be—for all of the generations to come who are looking for an outlet, for hope, for someone or something to tell them it’s okay to be who they are. This film (if released on DVD, especially) will speak directly and universally to hundreds if not thousands of more individuals from all over the world: it is a testament to Jonathan Larson’s words, not just another big blockbuster hoping for a strong opening weekend. RENT: The Hot Ticket has all the heart Chris Columbus’ big studio version attempted but lacked.

RENT: The Hot Ticket will have repeat performances once a night until Sunday, and undoubtedly some of the same fan faces will return again and again, finding it hard to say their "Goodbye, Love"s.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

What Happened, Guys?!?...

Today Michael Moore released his latest documentary, Slacker Uprising, a slightly more straightforward look at his 2004 tour around the country to inspire young people to get out and vote for change. He distributed this political Wild West Comedy Show on the internet: encouraging fans and foes alike to view his work for free with the message that he wants to level the playing field. The news media, who had their lips firmly planted on Bush's butt for years can come into homes for free while they eat their Tostitos and go about their normal lives, but in order to hear another point of view (Moore's or otherwise), they have to get a sitter, drive a bunch of miles, and pay close to twenty dollars for a ticket in. Not anymore.

Moore pumps his audience up so much-- whether its the crowded stadiums or halls or those sitting at home at their desks or on couches-- that you really believe there can be a positive outcome at the end, despite having lived the past four years in the actual, opposite hell. It's hard not to get caught up in the idealistic, hopeful, down-right determined faces on-screen, and it's even harder to know that as much as you're rooting for them or identifying with them, there is nothing you can do. All you can do while screening Slacker Uprising is wonder what happened to all that passion and fire. It makes sense to wallow for a bit after the tumultuous events of November 2 2004 unfolded, but it is almost like now that it is four years later, and there is no chance of Bush's regime remaining in office, so it seems like that drive for change has whittled away. It's almost as if everyone assumes they can breathe a sigh of relief because nothing could possibly be as bad as it's been... but everyone also assumed nothing like September 11th could ever occur either. Moore picked the perfect time to release this movie then because it is just what we need to stir the pot again and get us riled up enough to fight just as long and hard for change as we did in 2004-- even if we may be getting a late start.

Even The Networks Are Behind My Proposed Sick-Out!...

If you watched the Emmys on "regular TV" this year like I did (ie: not DVRed), you were undoubtedly bombarded with ads and images for ABC's premiere week, boasting the slogan "Stay at Home." Even though primetime programming doesn't begin until eight p.m., the network is urging people to take the days off, too, perhaps in preparation for the "monumental" events they will witness at night. Attempting to turn their lackluster programming into a national holiday is a bit laughable, but despite the fact that only two of their premieres have actually been penciled in on my calendar (neither of which even start this week, I might add), I am still intrigued enough to want to take part-- even if my motives are simply just to avoid having to show up at work for a few days!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

These Shows Get Worse Every Year...

Nine months after the WGA and AMPTP came to a not-so-satisfying consensus, five reality television hosts proved those striking writers' points better than they ever did simply by standing on the Nokia Theater stage and basically vamping for an astonishing nine minutes. They talked in circles, made lame and repetitive jokes and simply reminded everyone why television needs writers. Though they talked of feeling like the "redheaded stepchildren" of television and therefore were just happy to be invited, after their ego-filled (seriously, Probst, put on an F-ing tie!) and worse than lackluster banter, we can only hope next year the reality category will be banished back to the Creative Arts Emmys (or, as my pick Kathy Griffin would say, The Schmemmys).
Tom and Heidi's boredom was supposed
to be feigned, but viewers in living rooms
all across the country understood the

The 60th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards were shockingly mismatched and underwhelming overall this year with everything from bits to presenters to who was handed statues. Though claps echoed from living rooms everywhere when Tina Fey and a very-pregnant Amy Poehler were brought out at the top of the show, hopefully assuming their quick wit and deadpan delivery could salvage the night, their prompter copy was drier than Baby Mama, and they didn't even get to hand out an award. Wasted talent; Amy should have just stayed home, put her feet up, and eaten Chinese food (like I did!) in an attempt to pop that kid out faster.

Recreating recognizable sets from programs past and present that served an extraordinary purpose in pop culture was a cute revolving theme but sadly lost at the back of a fairly deep stage and an overly convoluted show that consisted of clip montages that only reminded us how great these presentations could be and have been. Sure, Ricky Gervais had his fun (at the expense of Steve Carrell), and 30 Rock cleaned up with awards for Lead Actor, Lead Actress, and Best Comedy, but for the most part, the Emmys followed much more in the footsteps of the Academy Awards rather than the Golden Globes: they were stuffy, predictable, longwinded and completely self-indulgent (even the director accepting an award for a previous ceremony in the production truck allowed himself a speech even though he acknowledge the show was running "way over"-- and it was only 8:35).

I used to get so excited about Emmy season I would fill out my prediction ballot weeks in advance, take part in pools, follow the Suites and Lounges, and even host a viewing party. When I was in college, and the show still taped at the Shrine, I would stand in the Trojan Vision parking lot and watch the crews unload set pieces and equipment and build the bleachers. This year, the show seemed to sneak up on me, though, and the only reason I knew to tune in at all was a client mentioned rush delivering some Emmy assets to me on Monday for a forty-eight hour turnaround. I barely remembered who was nominated but could already tell you the winners before anyone hit the red carpet; it's one part politics, one part tradition, and so the same old faces would undoubtedly fill my screen. Still, I tuned in, lying in bed, eating cookies and reading in the commercial breaks (and I admit it, anytime the show got boring); I managed to finish my book, realizing I wasn't focused on the show barely at all, let alone with the intensity and interest I once held in years (and for years) past. I fear for what might happen next year, though, if the producers don't find a way to gain some of the magic back.

Back in the day, award ceremonies like this one were held in hotel banquet rooms: they were not televised, and they did not invite "excess" like mass media, fans, or industry personnel whose names did not show up in at least one category. It truly was an event for and by a very niche peer group and only became a spectacle years later when the fashions began to get notice in mainstream newspapers, and networks built a show around it accordingly. Big sets, big stars, and even bigger production numbers were added in little by little but what has grown in size and glitz has diminished in quality. Maybe it's just not as easy to surprise and elate industry-savvy audiences these days, or maybe focus has just been pulled to the wrong part of these evenings, but either way, the ratings just aren't there anymore. And if something doesn't change soon, award shows like the Emmys may slowly find themselves spiraling back toward those tucked away banquet rooms... and that would truly be the death of them, as everyone knows the reason so many celebrities show up in the first place is for the exposure.

Oh yeah, and Neil Patrick Harris should have won for his turn as womanizer and suit enthusiast Barney Stinson on How I Met Your Mother.

Notes From The Red Carpet...

Mariska was so excited to stand out in canary yellow...

And then that bitch Teri stole some of her thunder.

Daveigh Chase; welcome to your future.

Sorry, Judah; but I don't think so.

Ah, NPH :)

Who is Christina DeRosa and why is she wearing a doily?

I love these guys, but I really don't know why they
were invited, and I wasn't!

Jeremy, so drunk he couldn't even follow the
simplicity of Giuliana DePandi

Oh, yeah, and of course Ryan offended a bunch of people
with dumb-ass commentary. E! should have just stuck with
Kathy Griffin; atleast when she's rude it's for comedic effect!

Where Are All The Men?...

So I get that when E! hires Ryan Seacrest to cover the red carpet at an awards show (this time, the Emmys), they want to keep the hot, hot men in their dapper expensive suits away so his eyes don't bug out of his face, and drool doesn't spill from the corners of his mouth, but as the various belles of the ball slid down the crowded, narrow aisle, they were accompanied by tons of designer gowns, sparkling one-of-a-kind jewels, but noticeably devoid of their male counterparts. Were tickets just few and far between; is there trouble in some's paradise; or did the camera crews just strategically crop the less-famous faces out of their framing? Chris Soldevilla, Seal, William H. Macy, and Peter Hermann, I missed you most of all!

Friday, September 19, 2008

A Saved By The Bell Reunion On TNT...

TNT has its new legal drama, Raising the Bar, on demand which means I've actually been able to catch the show (I can never figure out when things are on channels I don't normally watch; I'm one of those who needs the constant intra-network ads to remind me!), and although the plotlines have been pretty mundane this far, the one interesting thing has been how things seem to come full circle. On the show, characters constantly relive the same events (for Jerry Kellerman, it means getting thrown into contempt) and see the same people (for the court assistant bedding the judge, it's the bartender he hooked up with not-so-discreetly cornering him in the court hallway after getting brought in on assault charges), but the actors are also experiencing a blast from their past, too. While Mark-Paul Gosselaar walks the hallowed halls of the New York City court system now, he spent the better part of his youth walking the halls at Bayside High on Saved by the Bell. Ironically, in the second episode of Raising the Bar, he was joined by fellow Bayside alumn, Lindsay Wagner, aka Natalie Cigliuti (although she was of The New Class and is callng herself Natalia now). What was funny about her entrance was how Mark-Paul's Jerry snapped his head up from his mounds of paperwork to look her up and down, as if he knew her from somewhere but couldn't quite place her. It was undoubtedly an unintentional reflex for him as an actor, but for true, devoted fans, we all knew the deeper reasoning behind it: she would have been a freshmen when he was a senior, after all, so he most definitely should recognize her.

Natalie Then Natalia Now

Mark-Paul Then Mark-Paul Now

Oh yeah, and the Raising the Bar website is way more fun than the show itself. It even features an interactive "Style Jerry's Hair" game, capitalizing on what's been making headlines about the show.

In Odder News: Reality Stars Are Now Reputable News Sources?...

Rumors have been swirling for awhile that Elizabeth Hasselback wants to leave The View after constantly battling day in and day out with the other women on the panel over everything from religion to abortion to the war. Now, word is out that she may be offered a position anchoring at Fox News, and while it would be like "the mothership calling her home," I'm still somewhat dumbfounded that the butt of not only the industry but also general viewers' jokes would want to dig in a little bit deeper and hire a former reality contestant to be the face not only of authority but also calm and ease. Can you imagine screechy Elizabeth reporting on a late breaking tragic event with poise after she has banged the table in frustration and had veins bulging in her neck over in daytime? It was bad enough she was invited to speak at the Republican National Convention this year (though I guess she is their most famous face right now), but it's a real "What is Fox thinking!?" moment to offer her such a powerful, important position. It's like they don't want to make improvements and earn any respect back.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

My Boy Is Back In Town!...

In Supernatural Season Three, Episode Eleven ("Mystery Spot"), Dean's final C.O.D. occurs during a simple stick-up, and before the next scene, the title card tells us that it's four months into the future and Sam has been hunting alone this whole time. Now, seven "real time" months later, The CW offers a bit of deja vu with the first episode of the fourth season. Once again, it is four months since Dean's death (and journey to the traps of hell), and Sam has been hunting alone the entire time. Only this time, instead of the trickster granting Sam his one wish, there is no explanation for Dean's return: suddenly he is inexplicably back once again, this time crawling out of a grave in a field of knocked over trees. He arrived alive, in the flesh, and just as strong as ever; except for a weird burn in the shape of a hand on his shoulder, he has no scars from where the hell hounds ripped apart his chest. They did the usual demon check, and they even did a shapeshifter test, but Dean cleared both easily; he didn't even look paler than usual, despite being buried for months. Though the boys have faced everything from vampires to tulpas to death echoes, this supernatural occurrence is the one around which they just can't wrap their heads and therefore they feel warrants further exploration. For the first time, the boys try to figure out why, bringing the show to a whole different level.
Well, they may not be happy that things are back
to normal, but I sure am!

What has always been fascinating, but also somewhat unsettling, about Supernatural is just how comfortable the boys are with their way of life. Sure, Sam resisted a bit at first, considering he was in a good school with a nice girlfriend and on the right track to live the cookie cutter life that was normal in the nineteen-fifties, but he came around awfully quickly when his brother showed up with the news that their dad was in trouble, solidifying the show's theme that blood really is thicker than... well, everything else. Dean seemed to take to it like any son would go into the family business of construction or plumbing, though. He idolized his father so much, he took his word at face value and never questioned that "monsters were real" (as Young Dean told Young Sam in 3.8's "A Very Supernatural Christmas")-- even before he saw them with his own eyes. Their relationship, and their lifestyle in general, therefore, is not nearly that of Bill Paxton's Frailty, like I originally assumed when I heard the pitch of demon-fighting brothers.

Supernatural has never really explored the boys' younger years-- sure, there have been the rogue flashbacks in random hotel rooms when Dean was supposed to look after his younger brother, but we have never seen them as rebellious teenagers, when they may have tried to reject their father's unorthodox way of life. What I'd love to see this season, therefore, is the boys digging for answers not only about how and why Dean returned, but also the truth of their past. There have been hints that their mother new the Yellow Eyed Demon more intimately than anyone ever let on, and there have even been moments that teased secrets of the boys' own pasts (like when Dean's eyes started to bleed in "Bloody Mary"), but for the most part, Supernatural has followed the procedural formula, creating stand-alone episodes that are set in a different place and introduce as well as resolve a different enemy each week. While I am always impressed with the film quality production value, I would love to see a more involved thread get carried through more than a three episode arc: for once I'd like a show to give answers, rather than just create new mysteries!

Luckily for me, the next episode proves to do just that with yet another Dean-centric episode (and really, aren't those the best!?) called "Are You There God, It's Dean Winchester." From the looks of things, Dean will have to face his new inner demons in addition to the ones that flew out of the gates two seasons ago. And as if searching for answers and dealing with all of the changes (Sam's iPod dock in his beloved Impala aside, he is also battling phantom electrical surges and high-pitched screeching that reads like a much too literal depiction of PTSD), some familiar faces are back to haunt the boys. Meg, Agent Hendrickson, and some little girls Bobby came face-to-face with once upon a time guilt trip the now trio over the fact that when they cast the demons out of their bodies, they still couldn't be saved. It looks like the Winchesters are finally going to have to answer for some of the casualties of their escapades-- casualties that will only continue to pile up now that Sam thinks he has perfected some of his abilities. The stakes are definitely higher now that the word is out on the elder Winchester, too; demons are now afraid of whatever sprung him in addition to himself-- but just as some may be scared enough to take a little open-handed slapping and verbal abuse, there are others that are that much more pissed off and can create storms and ground-shaking and cataclysmic events the likes of which we have not yet seen.

The premiere of season four brought more questions than it did answers, though: will all future episodes be slower paced and more methodical like the one that just aired? Will they be sentimental, as the brothers try to make up for lost time? Will there be a shift in dynamics since Sam had to fend for himself and will probably not just fall back into step following Dean's fearless and sometimes irresponsible lead? Will we even learn what happened to Dean in hell at all? Did he come back changed; does he now have the supernatural abilities that Sam once had?
Sinister Dean is HOT!
Or will Sam wake up and find it's all just a dream? Though it would undoubtedly affect the longevity of the show in a negative way, my money was on a higher-up demon inhabiting Dean's form until it gets what it wants (ala the Ruby fiasco of last year's finale)... but I'm just not sure demons could have advanced enough in just a few months to pass Bobby's little holy water test. So now the theory is someone from the Winchesters' past coming out of the woodwork to reveal a deal they made: once again sacrificing for these unconventional heroes. Maybe Ellen didn't really die in the roadhouse diner massacre... Or maybe Dean himself even made another deal while he was down in the fires: maybe he is supposed to carry out a sinister purpose with the extra time that he was given to be on Earth ‘cause really, just like Dean, I don’t really buy the whole Angel of the Lord thing, and knowing this show, there is something much darker lurking and lying in wait. Feel free to share your theories in the comments!

RIP Do Not Disturb; I Hardly Knew Ye...

Three signs your show has jumped the shark even though it's not even the third episode:

3) Your end credits play over outtakes and the laughter at the flubs is just as forced as over the scripted dialogue.

2) The only two jokes that run through the episode are about how homosexual men love shoes and blonde wannabe models need to have their beauty validated... over and over and over.

1) Audrina Patridge or any of The Hills "actors" guest stars... and plays themselves!

Sorry, Do Not Disturb; I was pullin' for ya until last night...

Where Can I Get These?...

In honor of the 30th anniversary of Lego People, some very special pop culture icons of late have been immortalized in inch-tall plastic. First Lego made news for the first time in probably... well, thirty years with the recreation of the Indiana Jones trailer done in small scale (and Lego Indy was oddly a lot less robotic than live action Indy), and now they have done it again. Not too shabby a comeback for a toy that features no interactive technology, I'd say. My childhood has been redeemed! My only question: where's the one of Mariah, and will FAO accept a pre-order?
Brangelina and their twins

Monday, September 15, 2008

U.S. Army Aids Hungry Refugees... On MTV?...

MTV's newest installment of The Real World/Road Rules Challenge promised us pampered pseudo-celebrities marooned on a desert island. There would be no teams, no challenges, no luxury, but in the end a small group of the original twenty would split the "treasure" of $300,000. The first episode premiered last Wednesday and delivered... well, almost one hundred percent.

The cast will be living on an otherwise unoccupied part of Panama, but they have full-on Swiss Family Robinson huts, as Kenny so astutely pointed out. They have bedding and furniture and silverware, and oh yeah, outhouses with running water. It's not roughing it more than any familial camping trip! And it's not like they'll be stuck eating bugs or trying to spear fish with the underwires from the girls' bras (yeah, like any of them thought to bring one!): the production team set them up with a huge "Unicef supply of rice" (thanks for the intelligent quote, Dunbar!), and periodically throughout the duration of filming, the U.S. Army will circle the island and make airdrops with essential supplies-- most likely toilet paper, more rice, and vodka. I sincerely hope when T.J. Lavin said "U.S. Army," what he meant was "equally underpaid production assistant." After all, the army has much bigger problems on their hands than some spoiled kids who are delaying getting real jobs for yet another few months.

Now, naturally when I first heard of this Survivor-esque concept, I was jumping for joy. Here are twenty-somethings who have made a virtual career out of appearing on these basic cable programs, winning countless Zune mp3 players, Schwinn ten-speeds, and even sea-dos in the process. They sign on eagerly, expecting to live in a giant mansion in some exotic paradise with a never ending stream of booze and some equally attractive and randy like-minded individuals, so what would happen when they showed up to a sandy strip of beach in the middle of nowhere? Sadly, I never got to find out. While there are some challenge "vets" on board, a few (like Abram and Rachel) hadn't been on one in awhile and probably weren't foaming at the mouth the way greedy Kenny, Johnny Bananas, or Robin was. The majority of the cast, though, is made up of newbs, like the Challenge virgins Ashli, Cohutta, Kelly, and Dunbar from Real World: Sydney and Dave from Real World XX: Hollywood. The only sure thing for drama queen behavior is Tonya, who in episode one, already broke down about "not being able to handle it," and then about "not being strong enough to pull some pegs out," but keeping around someone as nutbar as she isn't worth it for the other players who dislike her so much and see her more as a loose cannon than good TV, so of course she had to be the first to go. So what's the plan now, MTV?

T.J. also warned the group that he will give them the rules of the game a little bit at a time, which might screw with alliances and assumed strategies and cause for some more breakdowns, but so far The Island just seems like so much more of the same from Challenges past: drunken hook-ups, convoluted games, a rookie versus veteran split, and a ridiculously old-fashioned and sexist alliance determined to get rid of all of the girls before the end (um hello? Didn't you guys try this last time? And how'd that work out for ya?). Perhaps the best part of The Island is the fact that while people will be voted off along the way, at the end, there will still be people sitting on the beach who won't get to share in the money. The cash prize is hidden in a treasure chest on another island, and the cast members must build two rafts to get to the other island. T.J. will give parts of the raft out at various points in the game, and all parts must be used in creating the rafts. The rafts can only hold four people each, which leads me to believe that at about week eight, when there are twelve people left, the final event will take place, having the final eight sail off in search of their prize, while four very sad and bitter losers will have to watch them, knowing they are going home with nothing.

Since the treasure cannot be unlocked without a literal key, each person on the raft must have his or her own one before setting sail. Here's where The Island gets a little confusing and a lot barbaric: keys are won by competing in Gauntlet or Inferno type mano e mano ring events-- or in this case mano e mano e mano. BUT down the line you can still go home even if you won a key on a previous night. In that case, you entrust your key to someone else. I'm wondering what would happen if a key was just stolen from another player in the middle of the night; I'm seeing tree bark shanks and pillow cases filled with rice being dropped on people's heads, or maybe some will just be medivacced out due to alcohol poisoning...

The Island definitely lacks when it comes to personalities: aside from Derrick, who I'm beyond happy to see return (though I am less-than-happy to hear he returns with a wife and child on the way), there are too many unfamiliar faces. Since I don't usually watch The Real World, and I've never seen a full season of Road Rules, I have no idea what the majority of these kids like Dan or Ryan or Dunbar can offer a game like this. Yet, I will give the show their props for seeming to acknowledge that shortcoming by pulling out the stops with crazy situations and creative head-to-heads. And reducing people who think they own the game to sniveling, teary-eyed beggars at a face-to-face voting ceremony. Friendships, and cross-series alliances are about to be tested. Grab your popcorn now!

Friday, September 12, 2008

My Fall Schedule: Friday Nights...

9 p.m. – The Ex-List – (CBS) A woman desperate to get married visits a psychic and is told she has already met “the one” and had a previous relationship with him, but she is not given any clues as to whether or not that relationship was serious, a one-night stand, or even just a platonic friend or working one. Hell, for all she knows, “the one” could be the guy who delivers her mail or sells her coffee at Starbucks. The premise of revisiting a past relationship week after week—with everyone from a vengeful punk rocker to a crier—will get old fast, that I acknowledge, but my goal is to get the show to the point where Eric Winter's episode can air. (Series Premiere October 3)

10 p.m. – The Starter Wife – (USA) Now that the book-turned-miniseries is a full order television show, the producers have made the bold choice of having their lead (Debra Messing) swear off men after a couple of bad experiences, but that in no way means she won't be surrounded by eye candy-- especially considering The Starter Wife is competing against Lipstick Jungle in genre, as well as timeslot. I gave Lipstick (and its ABC counterpart Cashmere Mafia) a try last season, and I didn't like either (so I'm not surprised only one survived), and now I feel like I have to give this one a shot, too. But I admit, though, that this show is one I will only check out if I just happen to be home; I'm not jumping off of my couch for its season to begin... even with an episode titled "The Forty Year-Old Virgin Queen" at the helm! (Series Premiere October 10)

My Fall Schedule: Thursday Nights...

8 p.m. - Survivor Gabon: Earth's Last Eden - (CBS) After watching last season's Fans vs Favorites to root for my friend Alexis, this unprecedented seventeenth season caught my eye for its location first. Delivering sixteen strangers (to each other, not to the genre) back to Africa (for the first time since the tenth season in Kenya) should be moving, considering it is the land from which we came, but odds are few will even look around; their eyes are on the million dollar prize. Jeff Probst holds up an apple in one hand and dares us to take a bite during poorly written promos, setting the tone for the quick-to-judge-and-then-carve-those-judgments-in-stone attitude of the show: yes folks, editors and producers worked around the clock this time to decide which contestants were the "good" and which were the "evil." Though in reality, each individual is pitted against each other for that grand prize, they will be riding that most basic theme all season long, and if nothing else, it's a clever enough hook to tune into the first few episodes to see which contestant is being depicted as which, and once I spend a few episodes with them, I'll probably be invested enough to want to see it through to the end. That's how Big Brother gets me every year anyway! (Season Premiere September 25)

9 p.m. - C.S.I. - (CBS) I gave up with this crime drama when they started choosing style over substance two years ago, and to be honest, I probably wouldn't be returning for this ninth season except for the fact that it will be William Petersen's last. I watch CBS enough throughout the week that I am confident I will see the previews for that episode long before it airs, so without fear of missing it, I must admit I will most likely only tune into that one episode. Too many changes have just been made for this show to feel like the same old C.S.I. I first fell in love with back in 2000. (Season Premiere October 9)

9 p.m. - Supernatural - (The CW) I admit it: I only began watching this show for Jensen Ackles, and now that Eric Kripke confirmed season four will open four months after Dean got sent to hell, with him somehow mystically back on Earth (as a demon or otherwise is still up in the air, though), there is no danger of even one episode lacking his ruggedly handsome face. Needless to say, this will be the highlight of my night, if not my week. It has been promised that this season the show will explore even more details and facets (and yes, some secrets) of the Winchester men, too. Sam spent a few months hunting without Dean, and that separation alone must have changed him; undoubtedly he kept up his search for answers about his mother's connection to the yellow-eyed demon, and after attending events and interviewing fans, the theories are running wild and creative, and I can't wait to see how the show delivers the answers. (Season Premiere September 18)

9 p.m. - Kitchen Nightmares - (FOX) Gordon Ramsay is somehow less fun when he's not screaming about "bloody risotto," but his Extreme Makeover for failing restaurants program is still unique enough that other networks are creating copycats in other industries (and not managing to top his success, I might add). In this season, Ramsay will visit kitchens that are just as dirty and vermin-infested as in last season (I wouldn't surprised if producers don't let the owners clean their places for a week prior just so there's more of a shock-and-awe factor when the camera crew arrives), but the cuisine will dabble in everything from more Italian restaurants to a healthy eating place. Hopefully the owners will be even more combative this time around, though, so Ramsay can do what he does best and get in their faces. There's nothing wrong with a little fighting in addition to the help. (Next New Episode September 18)

9:30 p.m. - 30 Rock - (NBC) In what appears to be a desperate way to "do over" the less than stellar Baby Mama, Tina Fey's anal retentively neurotic yet still a bit hapless Liz Lemon will begin her third season trying to adopt a baby. Much has been in the news about all of the guest stars lined up (from Jennifer Aniston as an ex-roommate of Lemon and Jenna (Jane Krakowski)'s to the Gossip Girls as classmates of Lemon when she was a teenager-- in a scenario that spoofs her first feature film, Mean Girls, I might add), but no one has talked about her doppelganger Megan Mullaly as an adoption agent coming to check up on Lemon's lifestyle. And if she visits the set of TGS, it's a safe assumption Lemon will still be eating blocks of cheese for one for quite some time. Kenneth (Jack McBrayer)'s storyline is being kept under wraps, but with the emergence of his widerspread impact on pop culture, there's no way they would scale down his role; I just hope he returns with some special footage of him at the Olympics! (Season Premiere October 30)

10 p.m. - Law & Order: Criminal Intent - (USA) When this third installment in the L&O franchise moved to a new network, I missed the entire seventh season because there was no advertising to tell me it was on, but thankfully Entertainment Weekly put a blip in their last issue about the eighth season, and even though there are nutty casting changes (Chris Noth is out and Jeff Goldblum is in?!), that is commonplace for the show, and as long as D'Onofrio and Erbe are still together, that's good enough for me. What I love about Law & Order is how it stays true to its original treatment (though I admit it's hard to ignore that the Order part of the show has diminished slowly but surely over the years) and therefore never fails to disappoint. (Season Premiere November TBD)

11 p.m. – The Cho Show – (VH1) Picking up where Bravo and Kathy Griffin left off, Margaret Cho and her team of parents, assistants, and gays bring humor pack to reality television. Though each episode is pretty obviously staged for cameras (Margaret hosts an alternative beauty pageant in one and goes off the grid in another), they are all unique and full of Margaret’s trademark “bitch” jokes from her stand-up. Her celebrity friends make periodic appearances, and she even encounters Gary Busey out in the “wilds of L.A.” See? VH1 can be classic without being trashy! (Next New Episode September 18)