Wednesday, December 31, 2008

And A Big "F- You" To You, Too!...

Time Warner Los Angeles is a horrible cable service provider. I want to put that out there not only as a long time customer (six years and still running) but also as someone who works in a service industry that supplies them with a product (Video On Demand) and has to witness the mess that ensues from four dudes stuck in a cramped room somewhere pulling mpgs and summaries down by hand. Our technology has become so advanced I also deliver Video On Demand to mobile devices, and yet Time Warner still chooses to live and work like a bitter old man, too stuck in the "back in my day" storytelling to get on board and even attempt to integrate the new technology that will only continue to get better, faster, and more prominent in our lives; Time Warner, therefore, acts like my parents: still stuck in the rabbit ears and dial-up world, hoping that technology is cyclical. But no, Mom, Dad, Dennis Duffy, and TWC; it is most certainly not.

As if it isn't bad enough that half the time Time Warner's digital guide is incorrect or displays the "No Program Data" message-- or that when you try to actually watch one said On Demand program, more often than not, you get a spinning arrow and an error, "Try Again Later" message, or pixelated mess-- now those good ole' fashioned folks at Time Warner (and not just LA) have announced that they will be reverting even farther back down the evolutionary chart of television and actually removing one of the largest conglomerates from the rotation after midnight tonight if a settlement is not reached. Viacom (owners of all thing MTV, VH1, BET, Nickelodeon, etc) probably want Time Warner to carry smaller stations like Logo and are threatening to pull all big moneymakers (like the aforementioned) if they do not comply. By midnight tonight.

Now, I remember the days (okay, well, the nights really) when my seven-channel television would only offer snow after a certain hour, and come tonight, that could be the result again; is this really what we've come to? Time Warner claims that the provider (all sixteen of the channels they want to "go dark" are from Viacom and Viacom alone) wants to increase fees in order to keep them on the air-- an amount that would really only add up to less than a quarter (twenty-five cents, not twenty-five percent) on the monthly bill. Sure, I don't understand why we should have to pay more for continued services (not new ones), and sure, the programming will still be available online, but everyone knows watching programs there is not the same-- talk about pixelation, freezing, and buffering! Until that technology grows a little bit more (and it will; it just hasn't yet), we still want to be able to fall asleep to the sound of the latest Britney Spears autotune or Gary Busey spazzing out on some Celebreality show.

Personally, I think those four dudes in the little room are just tired and in need of a vacation. Time Warner has been working through this holiday break, and they're probably all a little bit cranky and bitter about that (as am I because my day job makes us use vacation or personal days to have time off at this time of year!); it is much easier for them to say "just get rid of it" and therefore have less to do than to be willing to work with the provider to continue the service. After all, sixteen channels adds a lot when everything is done manually; now if Time Warner would consider investing in a few automated servers to yank everything down the way Comcast or Cox or Charter have... well, maybe then we'd also get a few more HD channels because right now the price of renting the HD box is not worth the handful we get-- especially considering we don't even get the good (truly HD worthy) ones like Bravo and HGTV! I would gladly pay a little bit extra for that!

The channels that will be affected if an agreement isn't reached tonight are: Comedy Central, CMT: Pure Country, Logo, Palladia, MTV, MTV 2, MTV Hits, MTV Jams, MTV Tr3s, Nickelodeon, Noggin, Nick 2, Nicktoons, Spike, The N, TV Land, VH1, VH1 Classic, and VH1 Soul. So check these out tomorrow at 12:01, and if you have just a black screen, I encourage you to call Time Warner and report an outage. If they get enough consumer complaints, maybe they will realize how stupid this plan is. After all, in a day and age where we can pretty much choose what color our children's eyes will be, we should be able to have all the options for what to watch on our own televisions at any given time of day (or night)!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Bromance: A MTV Premiere In Photos...

The MTV premiere of Bromance, in photos. It was hard to find the right words to describe how I felt about a program that featured fraternity-like hazing, a contestant who was much more infatuated fan, the top prize of not only Mr. Brody Jenner's BFF-dom but also a kick-ass bachelor pad, and eight guys in a hot tub ending the night with a little booze and an elimination... so I let these images speak for themselves.

Who has two thumbs and is the meathead of the
competition? This guy!


Let the gag games begin!

Chris P. really looks like the president of a fraternity!
Here he is out on Hollywood Blvd, trying to scrounge
up skanks to attend Brody's lingerie party.


Gary (who reminds me of this guy Al with whom
I went to college), was the life of the party and makes
me think my friend Michelle is onto something
for being into geeky guys. He's the only normal
one there, and the only one vaguely attractive
because of it!

And Brody liked Gary's toast, too.

So Luke may have worn a "Spencer is a douchebag"
shirt to kiss up to Brody, but Jacob and his hat are
the real douchebags of this show.

Michael quits the show after one night
(and getting his opportunity to give Brody his
birthday card) because "this isn't like The Hills."


I think this epitomizes why my boss thinks
watching this show will call into question his
"guy" card... And why I love it!

Bye bye, douchey hat boy!

This show appeared to be marketed as the male version of Paris' BFF, but it is So! Much! More! Stay tuned next week when I begin my full recaps!

SWOON.

All I Want For Christmas Are Some Celebrity Greeting Cards...

Another Christmas season has come and gone all too quickly, and I must admit it was a disappointing one for a variety of reasons. Now, I know this is only my second year writing this website, but I feel like in the past twelve months I have truly stepped up my game and diversified my portfolio, so to speak, with the topics I cover and individuals about whom I write. In doing so, I know I did not have the opportunity to devote as many gushing fan girl blogs as I did in 2007 about Ms. Mariah Carey, but I wrote a few exclusive pieces, and they were always extraordinarily positive, so what does a girl have to do to get on the holiday card mailing list?!

Now, I'm not expecting to get added to the president's own list of special few to whom to send his personal greeting and warm wishes at these festive times (though now that Barack is about to be sworn in, I have four years to try for that slightly larger goal, too), but if the sleazebag Harvey Levin gets personal cards, how come I get stuck with an empty mailbox?? No baked goods, no network or studio swag, no lump of coal, and now not even a card to say thanks for all of your kind words throughout the year? I offer free publicity, people; I don't think it's too much to ask for a $1.99 card and a $0.42 stamp!

I guess I have a goal for 2009 now-- a resolution, if you will-- to get on some celebrities' mailing lists in the new year!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The First Day Of Christmas!...

And on this first day of Christmas, this loyal blogger gives to you...

(drum roll please)

Last year's Christmas YouTube sensation: my very own Madison Chandler opening presents from Santa!


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Twelve Days Of Christmas: Day 2...

And on the second day of Christmas, this loyal blogger gives to you...

The best moments of Friends' "TOW All The Candy"

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Twelve Days Of Christmas: Day 4...

On the fourth day of Christmas, this loyal blogger gives to you...

Alec Baldwin's Schweaty Balls on Saturday Night Live


Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Twelve Days Of Christmas: Day 5...

On the fifth day of Christmas, this loyal blogger gives to you...

Will Ferrell's love of Christmas and innocent, child-like demeanor in Elf

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Twelve Days Of Christmas: Day 6...

On the sixth day of Christmas, this loyal blogger gives to you...

The introduction of a brand new holiday tradition: Mr. Hankey!

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Twelve Days of Christmas: Day 7...

On the seventh day of Christmas, this loyal blogger gives to you...

Another throwback-- this time all the way back to Hollis, Queens

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Twelve Days Of Christmas: Day 8...

On the eighth day of Christmas, this loyal blogger gives to you...

The Winchester Boys as very unorthodox carolers

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Twelve Days Of Christmas: Day 9...

On the ninth day of Christmas, this loyal blogger gives to you...

A trip down memory lane with a few boys named Arsenio Hall and the New Kids On The Block

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Twelve Days Of Christmas: Day 10...

On the tenth day of Christmas, this loyal blogger gives to you...

A precocious little boy trying to be a man when left to his own devices at the holidays in Home Alone

I'll Be Spending Christmas With My Television Families (How About You?)...

Christmas has become such a commercialized (versus religious) holiday in recent years that popular television shows have wanted to capitalize on the season's yuletide cheer. The traditional family sitcom, like Full House in 1988, was notorious for dedicating one of it's twenty-two minute episodes to a equally traditional holiday celebration-- usually complete with spontaneous caroling at the end credits or one of those "from our family to yours" messages. Full House's "Our Very First Christmas Show" had the Tanners getting snowed in at an airport, prompting Stephanie (Jodie Sweetin) to fret over whether or not Santa will be able to find them. Uncle Joey (Dave Coulier) plans to dress as Santa in order to assuage her fears, but with a little bit of magic, Santa visits Stephanie before Joey has a chance to don the costume.


However, as the years have gone on, and network and cable programming alike expanded their definitions of what makes a family, more and more shows have gotten in on the Christmas spirit, even if it is a bit unorthodox. How I Met Your Mother waited until its second season to debut a Christmas episode ("How Lily Stole Christmas"), and instead of showing Old Ted with his two kids and the wife we've still never seen sitting around a tree and opening presents, we got 2006 Ted and his "family" of friends. After Lily (Alyson Hannigan) overhears an old answering machine message in which Ted calls her a Very Bad Word (which the show replaces with "grinch" to avoid censors and put a cute modern spin on a favorite holiday tale), she decides to take Christmas away from his apartment. While Marshall (Jason Segel) is in the middle of a huge law school exam, she crams all of the paper snowflakes, colored lights, statued reindeer, and the tree itself into her sad little place, leaving Ted (Josh Radnor) to fight with himself over whether he should apologize just to save Christmas for his best friend and roommate even though at the time he sad the Very Bad Word, he really believed she was being one.

The blink-and-you-may-have-missed-it Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip did their own "Christmas Show" revolving on the celebration in the television studio. One executive (Bradley Whitford) realized he may be falling in love (the perfect sentiment at such a sappy time), while the other (Matthew Perry) strived to write a non-corny holiday show within the show for their sketch comedy program. The humor in this episode focused mostly on the fact that Perry's character was Jewish but the only one who seemed to be into the holiday at all, while D.L. Hughley's character strove to prove everything we have come to love about Christmas was simply thought up by some ad executives. There was also a gag with melted potato flakes (to act as fake snow) and a Santa statue that looked like Hitler. But the show all skidded to a sentimental halt when they featured some real life New Orleans musicians who were displaced after Katrina performing "O Holy Night," earning this show its first-- and only-- place on the map of pop culture history and reminding us about what the holiday season is really supposed to be.


Of course shows that were on for years and years undoubtedly provided at least one, if not half a dozen, Christmas episodes. In 1991, Saved By The Bell did a two-part holiday special called "A Home For Christmas," in which the gang, working at the mall to earn some extra cash for presents this year, befriends a homeless girl and her dad. Zack (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) ends up "adopting" the duo, so to speak, and bringing them to his house for cookies, eggnog, and some singing by the piano... and a wad of cash in a stocking to help them get back on their feet. Saved By The Bell offered a lot of lessons on morality, but this one just might have been the most generous. On the flip side, though, was Seinfeld, with a gang who was known for being extremely self-involved and selfish, and instead of celebrating with millions, they opted to create their own holiday, "Festivus (for the rest of us)," which revolved on a pole instead of a tree and the airing of grievances. Their holiday special is the kind you watch when you want to feel better about your own family and their weird quirks and traditions.


Similarly, The O.C. created its own holiday, "Chrismukkah," for Adam Brody's character who was half-Catholic and half-Jewish and used it year after drama-filled year. Their holidays specials were never particularly cheery, though, and in one the two leads (Mischa Barton and Benjamin McKenzie)'s lives even hung in the balance, a sad Charlie Brown Christmas tree between their hospital beds.

"A Very Supernatural Christmas" may not have created its own holiday, but it did reinvent the way one might spend theirs if they knew this was their last one. Dean (Jensen Ackles) is suddenly all gung-ho while little bro Sam (Jared Padalecki) wants nothing to do with it because of past bad experiences. We are treated to flashbacks of the boys in their pre-teen days, when Young Dean breaks into a nearby home to steal presents just so Young Sam has something to open on Christmas morning, and we also get one of the better lines of "I can't believe I may have to bump off Santa" when the demon they're hunting may be the "Anti-Clause." Despite the touching moments between the brothers, both in those flashbacks, and in present-day when they exchange gas station gifts, with images of guys getting dragged up chimneys, and Santa bludgeoning a father in a sack in front of his kid and then stopping to have a bite of cookie, this is one Christmas episode that might not be suitable for the little kiddos.


South Park
has had so many Christmas specials, the creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker actually released a full DVD featuring just those seven episodes, giving their fans a one-stop-shop for all things sardonic holiday fun! It also comes in handy for those who want to watch the episodes back-to-back but are too lazy to get up and swap out the DVDs every twenty-two minutes. Though they brought us "Mr. Hankey The Christmas Poo" straight away in season one, "Red Sleigh Down" is another stand-out for the return of Kyle's gas-prone cousin Kyle and his tally that Cartman has been too naughty to earn a visit from Santa this year (though it is unclear how this is different from any other year), and he decides he has to cram in all the good deeds possible before midnight on December 24th. He convinces his friends to travel to the North Pole to convince Santa to visit Iraq this year (even though they are Muslims), and while there is a big action sequence where Santa is shot down and needs to call in back-up help from Jesus, the true gem of this episode is Jimmy stuttering through "O Christmas Tree" in front of the whole town who are patiently (and then not-so) waiting to light the tree.


But the hands-down best Christmas television episode has to be Friends' "The One With The Holiday Armadillo" because it incorporates both Christmas and the lesser-talked about Channukah when Ross (David Schwimmer) has his son (Dylan and Cole Sprouse) for the holidays and wants to use the time to explain to him how he's half-Christian and half-Jewish. In his awkwardness, though, he manages to make the kid think he hasn't been good enough for Santa to come this year, but by the time he goes to rent a Santa suit, they are all out, and he picks the only thing that is left, a "weird turtle man" costume that is actually an armadillo suit. He creates a Channukah character out of it, but things really get interesting when both Chandler (Matthew Perry) and Joey (Matt LeBlanc) show up in costumes of their own, and Ross tries to incorporate them all into a twisted, unorthodox tale of how the holidays came to be.


So if you need a break this holiday season from your own family, shows of television past and present offer a nice alternative and escape.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Twelve Days Of Christmas: Day 11...

And on the eleventh day of Christmas, this loyal blogger gives to you...

The final version of Phoebe Buffay's holiday song from Friends


Judgment Day (S3, Ep12-- The Finale)...

The season finale, "Do You Take Dexter Morgan?," opens on a close-up of Jimmy Smits, lying dead in a grassy field, with a chunk of skin missing from his neck, to signify the Tree Skinner has been there-- or at least was framed. Dex-Bot arrives to begin processing the scene, and he spots Ramone staring him down from the parking lot. Though Batista tells him he understands if he wants to take a pass on this one, being that they were BFFs, and all, Dex-Bot insists he can handle it. And he has to, to ensure everything he wants to happen will. Ramone threatens him as he pushes Jimmy Smits' body into the truck, but he insists they both want the same thing.

Rita, too, is worried about Dex-Bot, who hasn't even written all of his vows yet!, and she casually tells him her mother is not coming to the wedding, though she sent a card that said "Third time's the charm." Though Rita says she is referring to the baby, which makes her the worst grandmother ever, Dex-Bot's suspicions are piqued, and he wonders if she has just lied to him. Just? They've been dating for three years; this can't be the first time! She worries about Wifey, who Dex-Bot visits only after learning his apartment was broken into, in order to find out Ramone's whereabouts. He has gone on a bender since the funeral, though, and Dex-Bot has to call up one of his cop buddies to try to get the dirt. He pretty much figures Ramone is out for his blood now that he has lost both his brothers-- even if he doesn't know Dex-Bot is responsible for both of them turning up dead.

The department has been given a blank check until they catch the Tree Skinner, and Batista uses this opportunity to shuffle some of the funds away for Deb's raise-- you know, the one that comes along with her promotion to Detective. Um, WTF? She wants to celebrate with Dex-Bot but ends up stopping by her mole in the records room first, who hasn't found much yet considering the sheer volume of people Harry knew. Uh oh, sounds like she knows a little bit more than she's willing to say!

Dex-Bot investigates Rita under her maiden name and in the county she grew up and turns up an old marriage certificate from when she was sixteen-- and a divorce one from six months later. Looks like Dex-Bot himself is the third, and the charm? Girlfriend interrupts his work to whine some more about how she can't believe the "true Jimmy Smits" and wants to go public. Dex-Bot calms her down and tells her she can't do that to his family or their community. She asks him how she can live with the secret, but he says "you just do." Wow, aren't you helpful!? Is that how you answer Cody and Astor's questions, too? "Dex-Bot, where do babies come from?" "They just do."

Deb runs into the C.I. in the precinct parking lot, and she tells him about her new shield. It's all very awkward, where they each start to say something at the same time and then both back off. Thankfully, it's also quite quick. When she heads back inside, silently kicking herself, Batista accosts her in the hall and says "they" are requesting phone logs, and he read them and can't believe she didn't at least give him the heads up with what was in them. Who knows what will happen with this little investigation now that Jimmy Smits is off it!? She flips it around on him when he says he wants full disclosure to Girlfriend, though, and asks him if he disclosed how he really met Kristin Dattilo. I guess Deb still chats with her hooker pals-- mabye they have a book club or something that we're not privy to see. She can't hold in the tears when she immediately apoligizes, though; I hope the shield also comes with a set of balls. To his credit, though, Batista marches right into Girlfriend's office and lays his cards on the table, but she just tells him to keep his skeletons in the closet, and they'll be fine.

Dex-Bot, meanwhile, is tailing Ramone, checking bar after bar, making nice with the (many) local alcoholics, but later, after he gets the kids from school (who want to know what they should call him after he and Rita marry), he notices someone following him. He speeds up; the guy runs a red; the red light camera goes off; and the car causes an accident, but he-- not Ramone but the Tree Skinner--'s okay to walk away, so Dex-Bot moves on... for now. He and Rita go out to dinner, and he tries to dig up the answers on her real first wedding, but of course Ramone shows up... and then pulls a gun in front of everyone and threatens him. Dex-Bot tries to talk him down, but Deb pulls her own gun on him, and Batista takes him down.

Deb has no luck with the Tree Skinner's employers, but she gets the red light camera photo because the car that ran it was reported stolen (probably from one of those very helpful employers' blocks), and it's the Tree Skinner. Man, they are really wrapping this stuff up fast in the last few episodes!

Dex-Bot is waiting for Ramone in the prison, where the guards tell Dex-Bot to go by the book because this one's a lieutenant. Ramone is bitchy because he's sober for the first time in a week, and he tells Dex-Bot Jimmy Smits brought him on as a bodyguard to protect him from him. Jimmy Smits didn't give him a reason, though, so Dex-Bot just says he was paranoid, and he points out that no one, not even Wifey, knew where he was off in the night. Ramone says that until Dex-Bot came into his life everything was fine, but Dex-Bot points out that was not true-- look at the first dead brother who was on drugs; look at how he enjoyed pushing their father down the stairs. Ramone says that was actually something he did, and Jimmy Smits just took it from him to make it a part of his "star" story. He also says that all of the kidnappings and brutality cases against him were just him sweeping up after his brother-- risking his ass, as it were-- to cover him and his. Dex-Bot relates; he couldn't help his brother, after all. Then he talks of the sins of the father passing onto the children-- Ramone's children don't know where he is and are just going about normal days while he rots in jail, even though he is surprisingly convinced he'll be out soon. Dex-Bot just wanted to pull him down, though.

Masuka finds a tobacco leaf in the stolen car, and Deb and Hot Cop remember the Tree Skinner owns a cigar company, so they take off for it, hoping they will find him hiding out there. Of course no one there says they saw him, though, and Deb and Hot Cop return in five seconds flat with nothing.

Harry is with Dex-Bot as he dresses in his suit for the wedding, tying his tie the way that would make his "mother so proud." Something about a rabbit and a fox and a hole-- like how you teach a three year old to tie their shoes. Dex-Bot takes a few steps toward maturity but then always regresses. He leaves, calm, and almost floating, ready to get married-- and walks right into the Tree Skinner's waiting outstretched tire iron. Whap!

Deb heads into the office on a Saturday, and Masuka is there reanalyzing the evidence from the car. Deb's mole in records has dropped off the C.I. files from her father, but she doesn't get to see Dex-Bot's mom's photo because Girlfriend calls her into her office (doesn't anyone just want a day to themselves at the beach???) to discuss what Batista spilled about her own C.I. She tells her that it doesn't have to be her case if she wants to continue seeing him. I guess with one kept secret, it's even easier to load up on another and another and another. Maybe in season four, she's going to go rogue, too! Instead, she just passes Deb her new badge. As annoying as she is, she works just as hard, so she has earned the bump up. They celebrate with cupcakes ("what's important"-- "abso-fucking-lutely!").

The Tree Skinner has tied Dex-Bot to a table, fully clothed, and with no plastic wrap set around him. Harry appears and admits he has been scared of a violent end for him ever since the beginning, and as Dex-Bot stares up into the air at the face he imagines there, he realizes he wants to be apart of his son's life; he wants to be there to raise him with Rita, and he has never felt anything like this before. He forgives Harry, and he wants to live. And even if he didn't come to that revelation, he still would get to do all of those things because it is his name that is the title of the show. So this is not nearly as interesting or "turning point" a moment as it should be.

Deb shows up at the C.I.'s house and insults him-- calling him "unambitious" and "like Valium," but it is in her way that she knows to tell him that's her way of saying she wants to be with him. He calls her "Redbull." She admits she gave up a case-- this huge case-- for him, and just then Masuka calls her to tell her the cigar company recently moved. Of course she picked up the call, and of course she asks him where they moved. Damn, girl, stop biting!

Dex-Bot knows the Tree Skinner is like him, in need of control, so he decides to take it away from him by admitting to everything he did to Pheebo-- in painstaking detail. It seems he really gets a sick pleasure out of spilling his metaphorical guts, which is only going to come back to bite him next season, I'd assume, even though so far he's only chatted with those who end up dead. Sooner or later he's going to admit something to someone he realizes he can't kill later due to the code. The Tree Skinner doesn't believe him, though, and only hopes Dex-Bot is as talkative when he gets his tools. Instead, Dex-Bot takes the opportunity that he is alone to shimmy the table over and get his hands untied by the flimsy rope (man the Tree Skinner is slippin'!), breaking his hand in the process. They fight, and Dex-Bot breaks his neck with his bare arms as the sirens close in. Dex-Bot has never been so close to being caught by anyone, let alone his sister and her merry band of men, and he throws the Tree Skinner out so it looks like "suicide by cop" when Deb pulls up and runs him over, scraping his skin off, in a very "what goes around comes around" sort of way.

Dex-Bot is late for the wedding because of the broken hand, which he blames on a fall down a flight of stairs. Rita isn't mad because he didn't "break his hand on purpose" (HA! She's funny, that Rita). He sees her in her wedding dress before the ceremony, but it can't be bad luck at this point, can it? Deb helps Dex-Bot tie his tie since he has one bum hand, and she does it the same way he did with Harry earlier. At the alter, all Dex-Bot can say is that he promises to be the "very best" husband and father he can be-- which is perhaps the most honest thing he has ever said to anyone. As he dances with his new wife, he wonders what he can offer a child, and he hallucinates not just Harry now, but his mother, as well, as an ethereal couple of wedding guests. And it wouldn't be true to his form if there wasn't a little blood, as his hand-wound seeps out of his cast and drips down the back of Rita's beautiful white dress. A symbol of what to come for their so-called happy union?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Twelve Days Of Christmas...

So this year I have decided that in order to mark the Twelve Days of Christmas, I will not be giving gifts in the purchase-and-pass-out variety (this year has severely hurt my wallet, and that's with still being a renter!), but instead, I will bequeath to you my favorite moments from pop culture Christmases past. Today officially starts the countdown, and so I leave you with a new and soon-to-be classic moment from Saturday Night Live (I must admit if you keep tuning in, you will be granted with some more gems from that institution): John Malkovich reading "Twas The Night Before Christmas" to some very... unfortunate children.


Friday, December 12, 2008

Merry Almost Christmas!...

... is how Tina Fey's Liz Lemon starts this sixth episode of 30 Rock's third season, aptly titled: "Christmas Special." She strides into the writers' room with the announcement that they all "get to" participate in a charity program called "Letters to Santa." Collective booing ensues. Jenna is eager to help, but only because she's drunk on some cheap brandy she hopes is not simply seasonal, and Kenneth, of course, takes one, too, though even Toofer can't hold back his wondering of who could be more unfortunate than Kenneth? Jack, meanwhile, has slipped down to Florida to give his mother an "adequate," albeit early, Christmas so then he can steal away to Rio for a real Christmas and some "tanning in the nude." Naturally, happiness is not possible at a 30 Rock Christmas, though, so as he is on his way out, he ends up backing his car into his mother and is forced to spend the holiday helping her heal.

Elaine Stritch is back "here... in [Jack's] home" because some "quack doctor" recommended she be around family at this tumultuous time. She has a new, titanium hip, which is only going to make her stronger, and Jack is cowering in her newfound power as he leans over Liz' desk and reports to her on all that has gone wrong for him. Liz promises to come over and "entertain" his mother with a little something she calls "what if Saint Nick was Nic Cage?" Jack scurries out of the room, but personally, I'm intrigued. And I think SNL called dibs on the rights already.

Liz and Jenna are in what appears to be a K-Mart buying presents for the underprivileged, and Liz' cart is full of electronics, including a flat-screen HDTV. Please, Liz, adopt me this year! She wants to ensure the nine and five year olds whose names she drew have the best possible holiday because that is what should happen-- unlike some people, who get a call two days before the holiday from their mother who says "she's not up to hosting Christmas this year." Well, sure, after the Ludachristmas debacle where the whole Lemon family got into a shouting match at a four star restaurant, I'm not sure I'd be up for it either.

Mrs. Donaghy passive aggressively points out to Liz that she doesn't blame her son for running her over, but that the worst part of this whole thing is really that the Cartier watch he bought her broke in the accident. He points out it's not Cartier, and she pointedly tells him she knows that, and Cartier was what she wanted. Jack pulls Liz aside and confesses he can't do this-- spend the holidays, let alone time in general, with his mother-- and he waited eight minutes after hitting her to make sure she was okay. Of course Liz tries to make him feel better and says he was in shock, and it happens... but she begins to wonder if it was an accident at all.

Liz plans to deliver her toys personally, and when she reads the address aloud, Tracy objects wildly, saying that "in the spirit of Christmas," he can't let her go into such a neighborhood alone, but before they can run out, Jack runs in, saying they are going to put on a live Christmas Eve special this year, simply as a ploy to get away from his mother. Kenneth breaks down in tears-- and for once, not happy ones.

Liz drops off her presents with two thirty-something men who wheel the wagon into their barren apartment and slam the door in her face before she can get out even a full sentence of her speech. Tracy asks her what the past tense for "scam" is: "Is it scrumped?" Either way, she got had, and decides she wants to talk to whoever screens the letters, but the post office just points her toward a giant cardboard box where any joker can drop in a wishlist. Note to self for next year... Jenna takes to the last minute rehearsal, grateful to have yet another opportunity to sing on camera. Jack doesn't even care they're going into quadruple overtime; he is just happy he can give some kids what he thinks will be "the perfect Christmas" gift. Because he never had a good Christmas once his dad was gone; his mother would make him play the piano so she could sing for her gentleman caller...

Jack can't go back to his apartment, so he is still in the same suit from yesterday. If he goes back, he thinks he will unconsciously kill his mother, since he already broke her other hip by flinging her off the couch. Liz just wants to know if he knows the postmaster general, though, because now it has become her misguided mission to completely shut down the Letters to Santa program because she is so outraged by how she was taken for a fool. Cue impassioned speech about her being a "Scrooge" from Kenneth. After all, Christmas is a religious holiday, and religion never hurt anyone! Mrs. Donaghy has figured out Jack waited the eight minutes, though, and she's out for blood after comparing his cell phone bill, highlighting the 911 call to the time the rinky dink watch he gave her stopped working, to the tune of no match. “Numbers, unlike children, don’t lie.” He refuses to let her take down this Christmas, like so many others, though, and just storms off, asking for "more snow machines!"

Liz, Tracy, and now Kenneth, head back to the apartment so she can prove she was scammed, but this time two little boys do open the door and say there are presents under the tree. She bends down to be eyelevel with them and talks about how she did it all, and she's such a great person for it, and the older boy freaks out that she is saying there is no Santa Claus. The original guys come to the door and point out that the letter said "Dear Santa, not Dear Lonely White Lady," and once again, they slam the door on her while she is offering tickets to a "live Christmas special in the tradition of Andy Williams." After all the hype, I at least hope we get to see a little some of what Jack calls "will make It's A Wonderful Life look like Pulp Fiction!" Liz cut Mrs. Claus from the show, though, because she thought Jack was only kidding, and when he tells her of the wonderful Christmas tradition that is Mrs. Claus, she points out that it's "not a thing" and must have been something special only his mother did for him. Cue the chorus of "aww's." Even the usually sardonic 30 Rock’s icy heart warms a bit at Christmas time!

Best lines of the night:

Kenneth, on how he finds those less fortunate than him: "There are these Nigerians on the internet that help me."

Liz, scooping musical African American Santa dolls into her cart: "I kind of assumed they'd rap, which is racist on my part, but whatever: best Christmas ever; you're welcome!"

Jenna, trying to convince Jack his idea is not a good one: "Christmas is a sacred time for me and my surrogate family, so if you are willing to look four, twenty-four year old gay guys in the eyes and tell them that we are not going to see New Kids on the Block... be my guest."

Thursday, December 11, 2008

2009 Cannot Get Here Fast Enough!...

2008 was a crappy year. At least for me. Sure, we voted in the first democratic president in eight years, but we had to deal with soaring gas prices and layoffs in every industry from automotive to entertainment first. And let's face it, any year where I put Untraceable on my "Best Movies Of" list means it was slim pickin's! So, needless to say, I cannot wait for 2008 to end, but even for those of you who didn't have the sh*t fall down around them this year, there are some very worthwhile things to look forward to in 2009 (aside from the inauguration!). Here are the top three in the categories of movies, music, and television:

Movies:

Fanboys
is set to hit theaters nationwide on February 6 and is sure to becoming yet another hit from the "Geek Pack," featuring those who are less than typical Hollywood heros and the token hot girl who falls for them anyway. Sure enough, here we have the adorable Chris Marquette (The Girl Next Door, The Invisible), the awkward Jay Baruchel (Knocked Up, Tropic Thunder), the crass Dan Fogler (School for Scoundrels, Balls of Fury), and the goofy Sam Huntington (Cavemen, Veronica Mars), and the spunky Kristen Bell (also Veronica Mars, Heroes) on a road trip across the country in order to steal a print of Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace from Skywalker Ranch so their dying friend can see it before its world premiere. It may be a little dated in plot (making the period hair and wardrobe choices sure to be hilarious), but being that I just recently embraced my own inner fangirl, I couldn't imagine this film coming out at a better time.


March 13 sees only a limited release for Sunshine Cleaning-- the Amy Adams/Emily Blunt venture that has a single mother taking on the business venture of crime scene cleanup with her screw-up sister. Ironically, the self-deprecating humor in the film seems to greatly resemble that in Little Miss Sunshine, but the similarity in titles seems to be a coincidence.


Set for a January 16th theatrical release, Notorious is the true story of Christopher Wallace, aka Biggie Smalls,'s rise to fame from the hustling on the streets. Newcomer Jamal Woolard has the title role, and he really went method on this one, gaining about sixty pounds to truly look the part. Though he had no previous acting roles to his name, and his own rap career never took off, Wallace's real life mother took one look at him and just said "that's my son," which lends credit to the film.

The soundtrack (dropping January 13), featuring some of Wallace's demos, as well as a remix of "One More Chance," featuring guest vocals from Wallace's young son, C.J., is also one of my picks for best upcoming

Music

Though the date is still TBA, and therefore not many are holding out hope that it will be within the next twelve months, I am personally looking forward to the return of Eminem with "Relapse." I never believe artists when they say they are going to retire-- mostly because the ones that do (Jay-Z, Stephen King) are never the ones that should. Though when his recent coffee table book was released, there was a wave of "Does anyone still care?" from the media, the last few years of Eminem's absence brought him great personal turmoil-- from another estrangement with his ex-wife and an addiction to pills-- and that is sure to bring forth the genius in his lyrics.

The last spot goes to both Mos Def, with "The Ecstatic" on February 9, and Jay-Z with "The Blueprint 3," which is still TBA. It appears that too much in the music industry is still unknown with our fledgling economy and the state of downloads and "leaks" taking precedence over any actual new discs, but I will eagerly await these because until then I am stuck bumping a year-old Mariah Carey CD (amazing as it may be), "Circus" from Britney Spears, and decades of random Christmas songs.

Television

Okay, so new pilots won't be shot for another few months, so a good chunk of my options here were only mid-season replacements-- shows that the networks may not have thought good enough for their initial season lineup-- but their judgment has always been shotty at best, so even those should not be pre-judged too terribly. Thankfully, though, the alternative cable and reality show cycle scheduling has given us more quality options.

Showtime's The United States of Tara begins in January. Created by Juno's Diablo Cody and starring Toni Collette, this show about dissociative identity disorder is supposed to be a quirky comedy but has some very serious undertones. Collette is such an understated actress, though, it will be a pure pleasure to watch her transform into each and every one of Tara's multiple personalities, however odd or unexpected they may be.
Fox' Sit Down, Shut Up is yet another animated half-hour program, this time focusing on a few high school teachers at a small, blip-on-the-map, fishing town. My interest in this one came initially simply from the fact that Arrested Development alumns created the show and are voices (Mitchell Hurtwitz; Will Arnett, Jason Bateman, Henry Winkler, respectively), and even after another sitcom I was interested in for the same reasons went under prematurely (but deservedly so-- Do Not Disturb), this one has the added aid of some favorite SNL players (Cheri Oteri, Will Forte, Kenan Thompson), not to mention the fact that the only thing more comically tragic than high school students are their teachers, so this is bound to be one self-deprecating gem!


Fox also has American Idol returning in January-- not a stand-by from September but reclaiming it's usual date(s), time(s), and ratings dominance. This season will see the addition of a fourth judge, which is sure to bring out the claws in Paula, who will not only have to fight for face time from the usual two goons, but also now a younger, hipper woman (Kara DioGuardi). Perhaps that is why she agreed to do Dancing With The Stars, even though it will overlap slightly, giving the viewers at home the ability to take their eyes off the train wreck at judges' table and instead focus on the one(s) on stage... at least in the early audition rounds anyway, and really, those are the best episodes!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

I Saw Danielle Kissing ______ ...

It is the week of the office Christmas party. The one day out of the year when you and your co-workers throw all shame, decorum, and those pesky sexual harassment pamphlets, out the window for a few hours of spiked eggnog, fun with the photocopier, and sloppily honest declarations (of disgust and enamoration). And while it is practically set in stone that mistletoe will be hung from the tops of the cubicles with care, the prospects might not be looking so good-- not unless you happen to be in the film and television industry, anyway. What I wouldn't give to be at that holiday party and get caught under the mistletoe with any of the following guys!

Despite getting caught by the paparazzi while urinating in public and a bomb of a film in The Happening, Mark Wahlberg had a pretty good year. He made a well-received cameo on his hit HBO comedy Entourage and transformed into an action hero once again for Max Payne. Add to that the spoofing of himself on Saturday Night Live to prove he really does have a sense of humor and doesn't take himself too seriously, and the fact that he still puts his family first, even after all of these years in the bright lights of Hollywood, and all of the other stuff slides away; it is easy to get lost in his sparkling hazel eyes, knowing you could still wash clothes on the abs he now sadly keeps covered up by designer tees and button-down dress shirts.

Neil Patrick Harris is hot whether he's doning a long white lab coat and black rubber goggles or just a pair of dress socks and an iPhone as "The Naked Man" (was it me, or was CBS testing the censors with that scene?) It's hard to believe our little Doogie has grown up so... buffly. Though, sadly, kissing him will do much more for me than it would for him, but that David Burtka is a lucky guy!

Michael C. Hall has mastered portraying a disaffected man with no true emotional connection to any other person, even his fiance. He's versatile-- as an actor but also with his sense of style, making him something of a chameleon with a little something for everyone. If you fancy the geeks, throw a pair of specs on him; if you go for the WASPs, put him in a cotton button-down, a pair of khakis, and sandals; and if jocks are your thing, toss him a football and tackle him in jeans and a tee. His careful precision executing even the most intricate tasks as Dexter Morgan, Miami forensics detective by day and moonlighting evening serial killer, shows he focuses on every detail, none too small. Such intensity surely must translate over into passion under the mistletoe. Plus, have you caught his recent bedroom scenes? The man is ripped!

John Legend has the nimble fingers of a trained pianist and a smooth soulful voice any woman would want serenading her with the holiday classics like "Baby Please Come Home" or "Let It Snow." He has never been afraid to bare all on his albums, singing out about love and heartbreak, but his recent star turn on Stephen Colbert's Comedy Central Holiday Special showed his softer side without being sensitive. He sang a jovial song about nutmeg, showcasing his musical versatility and sense of humor, and managed to rock a state trooper uniform.

Maybe it's because his character of Turtle finally grew up a bit this season and actually took a job (even if it was only as Drama's assistant, and he only lasted a day), but Jerry Ferrara has actually emerged as a contender for the best catch among the boys of Entourage. Though despite having the scruff factor, he may not fit my typical "type," he does have a great smile, warm eyes, and he genuinely seems like a sweet, nice guy. And sometimes you just want to reward those nice guys for their good behavior, you know?

And of course this list wouldn't be complete without a mention of Jensen Ackles. No explanation is necessary (especially if you know me); his face (and body... and hair... and sense of style...) speaks for itself.

Monday, December 8, 2008

When Relationships Go Bad (S3, Ep11)...

Showtime punks out in the second to last episode of Dexter for this season, "I Had A Dream," and even though Dex-Bot hallucinates Harry beside him in the trunk, telling him he understands why he tried to make a nice, normal friend, when he is pulled out, it is only the rest of his cop buddies who have delivered him to a strip club, to the scene not of a crime but his bachelor party. He punches Masuka, assuming he has an attacker, and they all have a good laugh... until Jimmy Smits shows up and gives a very serious toast about the importance of trust in friendship. Dude, that dude ruins everything—this show, Dex-Bot’s way of life, and now a party!

Dex-Bot knows that while all of his new friends think they share a secret of what really went on in that strip club, only one truly shares his secret. He also knows (but this time because Harry tells him) he can't simply take Jimmy Smits out whenever he wants because he's a big important man, and people may notice. He needs to do it when he has a solid alibi, like on his wedding night.

And speaking of his wedding night, Rita shows up on his doorstep with bagels "to soak up the alcohol" and a color-coordinated breakdown of the schedule for the day of the wedding. It is very neat and features dozens of evenly spaced boxes for his activities and hers. Similarly, Kristin Dattilo brings Batista her own version of a hangover remedy-- white pizza and some sort of cayenne tea-- but he claims he "was good" last night because he's "a plus one now," and I guess that means respectable. All the other guys in the station, though, are slumped in their chairs and groaning about the bright fluorescent lighting in there.

Deb punches Masuka, too, but because he didn't invite her to the party. She shows her softer side only minutes later, though, when Batista says they're bringing in the C.I. to talk about what the Tree Skinner did to him, and she runs into Dex-Bot's office, draws the blinds, and hides. She knows Harry wouldn't approve of the C.I., and she needs someone with "a real job and good morals." She still needs his approval, too. She calls him out on "the bug he's had up his ass" about what Harry did, and as she's rattling off what he didn't do (all things that would make him a bad person in their world), she catches his look off "he didn't cheat on mom." Deb always wanted to be like Harry, and now she realizes she really is-- having slept with a C.I. (his real mother), too, and all. He hit a nerve, and even Dex-Bot isn't so emotionally stunted to not see that.

The C.I. won't talk to anyone but Deb because he "doesn't trust anyone else," and she falls apart in front of him, having just learned what she did about her sacred daddy. Man, do I hope he turns out to be playing her and an actual bad guy and therefore uses her vulnerability in this moment as a weakness against her. Instead, he just opens up to her. And this time, they both look like they're on the verge of tears. He mentions the Tree Skinner went through his pockets and "even took [his] change." That's going to come back to mean something soon.

Masuka actually got some last night, and now he wants to do a background check on the girl because he assumes if she likes him there has to be something wrong with him. Aw, he's like a sad little puppy. The bad news is that she really does have a rap sheet... but it's really just a road rage thing. She has issues, which makes him think she's not out of her league.

Dex-Bot does surveillance on Jimmy Smits, who actually makes one of the "ditch 'im" attempts. He ends up at Girlfriend's, where she is simply testing him because she has her suspicions about Ellen's death, knowing from his DMV record that he drives a black Navigator. She knows his because she not only pulled the records but also felt the need to circle the make, model, and color, as if to really drive the point home to her puny little brain. He gives her a song and a dance (but sadly not literally) about how he thinks a lot about her, and has been since even before Ellen died ("rest in peace). She rolls her eyes, to her credit, but he is in full-blown megalomaniac sociopath mode and doesn't notice. She sneaks his keys to search his car, leaving him to tend to the dinner they are making, and Dex-Bot watches, probably fearing that now that she's onto Jimmy Smits, too, she's a likely target of his wrath... especially when Jimmy Smits finds out his trunk has been left ajar.

Deb asks Hot Cop if he's close with his dad, and it seems like she's going to get close to him, but all she wants to know is how he has the money for all he does. He sloughs it off, saying an uncle died and left him a building. I doubt that. He then asks her if she wants to "carpool" to her brother's wedding, but she gets a call from Batista that gets cut off because the cell reception is horrible, and she realizes that's why the Tree Skinner needed the C.I.'s change. She races toward the pay phone, saying they need to dump the records. Well, that was fast.

Girlfriend arrives in Dex-Bot's office in the morning and asks him to run some hair and fibers (the ones she lifted from Jimmy Smits' SUV) against all known victims. He gives her pushback from the last time she blew up at him for keeping something off the record, but she talks about the "nagging voice inside her" and tells him to use her authorization code to run this but to keep the results under the table. Funny how he's the blood guy, but she still trusts him to run regular forensics... trusts him and no one else who may specialize in the other kinds of forensics. Maybe she should stand up for him at the wedding. Dex-Bot asks her to let Jimmy Smits get away with murder... just for a little while. Hmm, when he ends up dead, won't her finger be pointed directly at you? Whatcha doin' there, buddy?

In his sad (but fancy) hotel room, Jimmy Smits' database tells him Girlfriend just logged in some evidence from the Ellen Wolf case. Uh oh... Masuka walks in on Dex-Bot running the hair, but he just plays it off that he "was curious" about a stray gray he found. Masuka makes a slightly uncomfortable "I've done that." "But you're bald." "Dude, down there." gesture, and we move on. Really, all he wants is to bring a date to the wedding.

In the phone records, Deb finds a lady who hired the Tree Skinner right before leaving town. The house is empty, so she thinks he may be laying low out there (or using it as a new chop shop?). She grabs Hot Cop, and off they go... To a giant pink mansion. What is it with Miamians and salmon pink??? Ross Geller would love it down there! Anyway they see the Tree Skinner through the window after nearly getting accosted by a giant parrot, and a chase ensues. As Hot Cop tackles him on the lawn (the nouveau riche neighbors must love this!), he slices him in the face-- NOT THE FACE!! Deb holsters her gun and chooses to instead tend to Hot Cop (SAVE HIS FACE!!), and the Tree Skinner, with his thin little legs, scampers on down the road. Which is probably a good thing because Dex-Bot, not knowing about the bounty on his head, needs to pin Jimmy Smits' murder on him.

After another lie to Deb (only knowing about Harry's infidelity for a few weeks, blaming Camilla for spilling the secret on her death bed), he points out how she is loyal to a fault and has always been there for him. So she is his new best man. And she's going stag to his wedding because she and the C.I. have to be over if she's going to be better than Harry (though I don't see how, since she's not cheating on any husband with him), and the idea of going with Hot Cop just depresses her. Um, why? His wound was (thankfully) only superficial. You know what? Never mind; I'll go with him! Deb has a friend of her own down in the records department, though, and she pulls a favor to see the records on Harry's C.Is. Not much of a favor, as the woman seems to be a bit man-hating and is eager to help her.

Dex-Bot heads to Jimmy Smits' hotel to search his room by bribing a maid for "turn-down service" and then quickly gets rid of her by faking a phone call from his boss. He was only looking for a way in and out undetected, but he sees hardware store swag and knows he is planning to kill again. And tonight, as he is currently drinking with his brother at some bar, knowing that when his brother gets drunk, he won't remember what happened and can claim the two were together the whole time.

True to form, Jimmy Smits breaks into Girlfriend's house. We know it's hers because he calls her name when he opens the door (not subtle, guy) and also because she has a framed photo of her in her cadeat uniform on her front wall (not subtle, girl). He plays her answering machine message and finds a fake one Dex-Bot left, telling her to meet him somewhere that Jimmy Smits now rushes to but gets stuck with the syringe before he can even leave her premises. I have to wonder if Girlfriend was in on that fake message, but it's clear Dex-Bot learned his lesson when it comes to confiding in others about his extracurriculars. Jimmy Smits struggles, even punching through the Saran wrap in one spot, but Dex-Bot wins in the end, as he always does. He even has an out for why Jimmy Smits doesn't show up to the wedding: he was offended that he was replaced as best man... and with a chick, no less.

Okay here is my decree: if next week's finale episode ends with Rita waiting at the alter for a Dex-Bot that does not show because the Tree Skinner-- or Ramone, having been coached by his brother in the ways of murder-- has gotten to him and has him strapped to a slab in some storage shed, I may be interested enough to continue when it returns next year. If, however, Dex-Bot manages to wrap up the Tree Skinner (and literally, too!) and never learns he was only pit against him by Jimmy Smits, once again making him the luckiest super serial killer in the world, then Dexter and I are SO OVER!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Changing The World, One Phile At A Time...

On a sunny and warm December Saturday in Los Angeles, dozens of X-Files fans from all around the world gathered at the Regency Fairfax Theatre for a charity screening of both films and Q&A with writer/producer Frank Spotnitz. The event was put together completely by four very special Los Angeles fans-- Patricia Steffy, Caileigh Scott, Liz Rodriguez, and Karen Mendez-- who worked for weeks to make sure everything went off without a hitch... and then they donated one hundred percent of the proceeds to Neurofibromatosis, Inc-- not bad for people who actually have day jobs! In fact, their generosity and tenacity was what made Spotnitz sit up, take notice, and ultimately sign on to appear: "It makes me feel a great sense of responsibility-- how many people have invested such a great amount of time, energy, and money into this-- and the fact that they're not doing it for themselves but for another cause... it's really very nice and very moving." Though he noted the event would have gone on with or without his involvement, he said that when he was approached to be a part of it, there was no way he could say no. He had a very special message for his fans here:


Before the event, Spotnitz took the time to pose with some very deserving fans who had flown from all over to attend, from D.C. to Ohio-- two women even came in all the way from England for the chance to hear him speak and to see Fight The Future on the big screen again for the first time in ten years-- and he also signed his autograph onto items that fans graciously donated for the cause, like the new X Files book, a complete set of the trading cards, I Want To Believe posters and comic books. These, in addition to some autographed photos that Gillian Anderson donated, will all be auctioned off online through January, with one hundred percent of the proceeds still going to Neurofibromatosis, Inc.

The event kicked off with a very moving speech given by Beverly Oberlander, a NF survivor and member of the NF, Inc board. She spoke about what life is like for people with NF, what is being done to find a cure, and what it means to her to have so many people turn out to fight with her. Then moderator Erin Fox (TV Guide) introduced Spotnitz for a forty minute Q&A where the fans got to ask everything that was left lingering in their minds since the end of the series and the release of the last motion picture. Many wanted to know if there would be a third film (he would love that), and even more were itching to find out about the deleted kiss scene between Duchovny and Anderson and if there were any additional takes (there are!). Spotnitz answered everything from "What turns Mulder and Scully on?" from moderator Fox, who played a little "Inside The X-Files Studio" game, to how it felt to write for a show for years before finally getting a shot in the director's seat, to who he thinks fell in love first-- Mulder or Scully, to what some shows were that he was as big a fan of as the Philes that were sitting in the theater were of his show.

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The event concluded with the screening of some fan videos, special messages from Philes who couldn't be there, and then the two films back to back. Spotnitz and Fox, an admitted diehard fan who flew out from NY on her own dime to help be apart of the event because she believes so much in the show, in Spotnitz, and in what these women were doing, stayed around to watch the films... or perhaps more poignantly, watch the fans' reactions to the films.

The power of the internet never ceases to amaze me, and watching the day play out, where all of these fans from all over the world, who had previously chatted through message boards and Facebook, and perhaps even met at the I Want To Believe premiere over the summer, actually got to sit in one room together and share a unique and worthwhile experience was awe-inspiring. Inspired By Gillian has so far raised close to $5000 from the event alone and is looking forward to seeing what the auction, as well as the DVDs of the Q&A, will bring in, too. This event seems to be proof that when strong individuals with a common interest band together, they can make anything happen.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Raw, Emotional, Powerful, (Relatable), But Ultimately, Tragic...

In today's Real Housewives of Wherever infused media, it is easy to look at an upper middle class suburban wife and mother and think she has it all-- or at least that she has it so easy. But the portrait of one such woman, Laney Brooks, that author Amy Koppelman paints in her sophomore novel, "I Smile Back," challenges that stereotype, as she is instead a bit like the female version of Christian Slater in My Own Worst Enemy. By day, Laney is dropping her kids off at school and scheduling manicures and trips to the grocery store, but by night she is pill-popping and downing glasses of vodka like they are water. To prejudge her as just another spoiled socialite who has too much time on her hands very quickly proves unfair, though, as at its core, "I Smile Back" seems to be a post-traumatic stress tale if there ever was one.

Though Laney has a husband who built a respectable empire up from days on the streets as a bookie, a big house with a pool, a new SUV, a new glittering diamond wedding ring, and two adorable-- and still remarkably innocent-- children, she has demons that still eat her up so badly inside she acts out time and again, basically just begging for her loved ones to turn their backs on her the way she perceives her father to have done when he walked out on her, her mother, and her brother when she was just a child. Laney's demons appear to be one-part genetic (her alcoholism is something shared with her absent father) and one-part oxymoronic desperate attempt to numb the pain from her father's alcoholism and subsequent absence. Laney is a walking dichotomy: she claims to love her father more than anything but her contradictory actions (such as the multiple affairs) prove she has much more anger within her than she is willing to admit.

But this time around the loved ones in Laney's life don't leave her; in fact they will do anything they can to save her, and what is just so tragic about her tale is that although she can see that, it's never quite enough. And when her own son starts to exhibit the obsessive behaviors that will only later manifest themselves in abuse or addiction, she simply chooses to ignore them, still stuck in the selfish mentality of the child whose emotional maturity was stunted the day her father walked out.

"I Smile Back" is not a traditional novel: it is told in three acts, and each one is clearly marked and reads more like a manuscript for a play than a literary work (the middle section is even called "Intermission," perhaps to be used as a time to reflect). But Laney is not a traditional heroine (yes despite all she puts the readers through, we still find ourselves genuinely rooting for her to find whatever she needs to feel good-- to feel whole-- even though we know that hope is futile), so this style suits her. In many ways, "I Smile Back" reads like the train-of-thought inner workings of Laney's mind: raw, real, and yes, self-deprecating. In other ways, the book steps outside of Laney and the narration begins to sound like someone who is watching Laney and reporting back on what she is doing-- but that does not read like a editorial flaw but rather yet another intentional look at her damaged psyche: sometimes to protect ourselves, we detach from our emotions, and it's like we step outside ourselves and just become spectators to avoid the sheer power of feeling.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Liz Lemon: The O.G. Mean Girl...

The return of 30 Rock after the Thanksgiving holiday brings not only the return of Don Geiss (Rip Torn), who magically awakens from his coma by the grace of "a beam of energy"-- or an alien-- he's not too sure-- only to decide to stay on as CEO of GE, but also the return of the show in its finest, with an engaging story at the center that just happens to be told by some famous men and women. Tracy is upset that Kenneth got a bigger laugh than him with an elevator crowd; and Liz decides to head to back to her high school reunion... where she learns before Lindsay Lohan and Rachel McAdams, Liz Lemon was the original mean girl!

Watching Kathy Geiss press herself against her big office window at 30 Rockefeller makes Jack think that either there's a change in the weather patterns or her father has woken up. Well, it turns out he's right on both counts, but the immediate issue is the whole Geiss thing. He opens his eyes in his hospital bed and asks for Jack by name... only to stand up in front of him, like was never in a coma at all, and tell him he still plans to name Jack his successor if and when he dies. Jack is crushed.

Jack tells Liz he rented a jet anyway to take her to her reunion as promised. Besides, it's on the way to Miami, where he plans to head for a little vacay, but due to inclimate weather, they get trapped in Liz' small, newly dry hometown. Desperate for alcohol not only to numb his upset at the recent professional turn of events but also at the fact that he's stuck in the land of podunkia, Jack follows Liz to her reunion, where he decides to masquerade as "Larry," a classmate everyone seems to love and miss.

Liz, on the other hand, was not loved or missed, and not because she was the giant nerd she remembers herself to be. Instead, the coolest girl in school, Kelsey (Robyn Lively) claims Liz actually made high school hell for her. Liz was a bully who made fun of Kelsey's mom's drug addiction, some girl named Diane's fake leg, and Diane Neal (a big name guest star who almost went unnoticed due to lack of promos and some very good hair and makeup), whose mole Liz used to laugh about, saying "God pooped on your face." Some of Liz' other classmates boo her away in shame, but it appears that is really just the tip of the iceberg.

Kenneth, meanwhile, back in New York is a regular laugh riot in the elevator, which upsets Tracy, who feels that entertaining, and especially making people laugh is strictly his territory. Tracy attempts to steal the thunder back from Kenneth, but his "why are their no Puerto Ricans in Star Trek?" is an old Jerry Seinfeld bit and falls flat. He does the only natural thing and brings Jenna in on it, who is shocked to find out Kenneth who once idolized the two of them is now trying to outshine them. She rides the elevator with Kenneth for some firsthand proof, and when no one gives her a second glance but practically rolls on the floor over Kenneth, she performs an impromptu "Wind Beneath My Wings" verse to try to get the focus shifted back to her. And let’s face it, any episode is just infinitely funnier when Jenna sings.

Jack/Larry is hitting if off with everyone especially special guest star Janel Maloney who was once romantically involved with Larry. Something went awry, though, and she hopes he can forgive her. He can and does, mostly because he has no idea what she's talking about, and decides these people, with their simple lives, are what real happiness is all about. They decide to take it back old-school a notch by playing a combination of Spin the Bottle and Seven Minutes in Heaven. And I bet you can guess who ends up in the janitorial closet together! No, not Liz and her token flamboyant friend who claims he's as straight as can be and her homosexuality taunts really damaged him, but Jack and Liz, of course! Inside he tells her that he won't be messing around with her because (to steal a line from the theatrical Mean Girls): "it's social suicide." He also accuses her of being just as bad now as she was in high school, citing the impotent comment she made when he went to her for help earlier with Geiss. She pulls out one of the business cards he had made for the CEO position and taunts him with "you went to a printer; you picked out a font" until he runs out of the closet, crying: "Why is she so mean?" as all of her high school victims look on, jaws agape. Now would be the time to boo, guys.

In order to teach Kenneth a lesson for being funny and stealing their jobs, Jenna delivers his lunch, and Tracy gives an NBC tour to a bunch of Japanese tourists. Kenneth apologizes, and Tracy is quick to accept, but Jenna tells him to "keep crying" because she wants him to really feel this one. That only starts Tracy crying, too.

Liz Lemon wins the Most School Spirit Award, but only because the gang wants to "Carrie her"-- you know, like the movie, they are quick to explain to Jack. She doesn't want to accept until she hears it comes with a $50 gift certificate to a steak house, but just as the bucket is about to tip over, Jack comes to her rescue once again and gives an impassioned speech about how "we all make mistakes." In order to cope, he uses "sex and awesomeness," while Liz hides behind insults even though, deep deep down, she's a good person. Janel Maloney tells him how happy they all are to have him back in their lives, and she brings out their teenage lovechild, which is of course when he finally drops the charade and rushes off stage to just another chorus of boos.

Best lines of the night:

Jack's idea of complementing Liz: "Show [her] the ugly duckling has turned into a vaguely ethnic swan."

Jack, slightly drunk and maybe losing it a little, rethinking what would make him happy: "Hey Lemon, check this out, I just made it up: the three B's: beers, boats, and buds. Doesn't that sound great?"
Liz: "Are you having a stroke?"

Jack, on why people believe was in their class even though he's twelve years old than everyone: "Rich fifty is middle class thirty-eight."