Mr. McCain Goes to Washington?

I normally leave the political discourse to some other guy, but this crossed over into my bailiwick, so thought it was worth a post. Worth a watch – it's a bit long, but finishes strong. I don't watch a lot of Letterman anymore (my late night DVRing consists of Daily Show and Colbert Report) but in this case... well played, Dave.


9021no, but yes to 33401

Ok, I'm done. Last night's 90210 wasn't particularly awful or anything, but it seems like this show has found it's level... which isn't particularly interesting. Some people hook up, some people fall down, some people were on the original show – I simply could not care less. The only compelling thing about the new class of West Beverly high is guessing whether the combined weight of the young cast is over a thousand pounds. And the initial novelty of seeing Kelly and Brenda (and, ok, Nat... I guess) has long worn off, to be replaced by the unsettling realization that it's really just Jennie Garth and Shannen Doherty – nothing about them feels much like the original characters. So it's time to say goodbye to Hollywood and welcome to Miami...

...well, West Palm Beach, actually, but the reference worked better the other way. Anyway, Priveleged is an incredibly winning piece of fluff that's worth a watch. It's about Megan Smith, a Yale grad with literary dreams who's eking out a living in Alphabet City instead. Fired from her tabloid job, she stumbles into a career tutoring the spoiled rich twins of a cosmetics magnate played by Anne Archer. Ok, so it's a little reminiscent of a judge decreeing that you have to be someone's butler, suspend your disbelief a bit and you'll find something fresh, funny and totally worth it. Lead actress JoAnna Garcia is legitimately quirky – by which I mean she's an interesting puddle of believeable contradictions, not a haphazard assemblage of things the showrunners felt were funny. Instead, she's kind of channeling Anne Hathaway in Devil Wears Prada. Regardless, watching her juggle the goofball twins and her iffy family history is breezy, bubbly hour that's way better than its lead-in. I've given 90210 four or five episodes to establish itself, but was hooked on Priveleged in four or five minutes. The first three eps are online, but it's not the deepest dish in the drawer – you could prolly catch up with next week's show. Enjoy.


Hell and Back

Both shows may have climbed their way out of the pit with their season premieres. Smallville's more of a metaphor – the show's been a hit and miss mess for several seasons – while Supernatural took it a bit literally, with one of the Winchester boys clawing out of his own grave before the credits rolled. So let's look at 'em in order...

Smallville: Clark actually summed it up at one point by saying (and I'm paraphrasing) "I'm clinging to a past that never really existed." Couldn't be truer – for every step toward Clark's super future, they'd take several back into the land of "meteor freak of the week." But kicked to the curb in last week's opener were Lex, who we won't see moping around his mansion endlessly swirling his sifter of brandy and Lana, who'll stop getting thinner and shriller as she abandons running some sort of shadow government something and instead opts for guest star status. In place we've got the Junior Justice League (Green Arrow, Aquaman and Black Canary) as series regulars.

Supernatural: For a show that looked like an abject disaster (two hunky brothers take on a buncha demons), it's turned out to be terrific. In last season's finale, the elder brother Dean got dragged down to hell by the proverbial hounds. Unsurprisingly he rises in the opener (lead actors don't stay dead for long) but it's a tease toward a much larger story – turns out he wasn't summoned by a demon, but ripped out of hell by an angel... because God's got work for him to do. It's impressive – Supernatural keeps exceeding expectations, and this latest story setup is no exception.

So Supernatural's heavenly and things are looking up in Smallville – Clark may just be super, man. Seems like a decent jumping-on point for Small and Super's worth catching up on. Enjoy.


The NeXt-Files

Hollywood goes back to the well pretty often, and the results are often pretty, well, bad. The new Knight Rider is a waste of time, people are up in arms about the upcoming take on Life on Mars and the jury's out on the 90210 reboot. So while Fringe comes with a pretty solid pedigree (created by J.J. Abrams of Lost, Alias and Felicity fame), it also carries the baggage of looking like nothing more than an X-Files update. But in a world where even The X-Files can't update itself successfully, that might not be so bad.

And fortunately, it's pretty damn good. Fringe wears its inspirations proudly on its sleeve, but also with its tongue slightly in its cheek. There are similarities to a Mulder/Scully relationship with the two leads, but this time she's the believer and he's the skeptic. And the show launches with echoes of a Lost-like airplane disaster, but with notably different twists. So it ends up being much less of an X-Files clone and much more of a spiritual successor.

The plot (so far – it's pretty clear that we're going to encounter layers and layers of story) concerns a female FBI agent named Dunham who stumbles across a case that the CDC can't handle – victim's skins are crystallizing, turning translucent as they die. When the symptoms start to hit closer to home, she turns to the lone expert in what's called "fringe science," i.e. stuff that seems almost supernatural but has some foundation in reality. Unfortunately, that lone expert – Walter Bishop – has been in an asylum for decades, and only accessible to next of kin. Enter Pacey from Dawson's Creek, playing Bishop's son Peter, a high-school drop-out with an incredibly high IQ... and gambling debt. They team up to delve into the fallout from Bishop's 1970s-era experiments to uncover "the pattern," a series of unexplainable phenomena that seem to be connected to a mysterious corporation called Massive Dynamic.


So yes, it's fairly X-Files and yes, it's a lot to swallow, but so far it's pretty tasty. Dunham and Bishop cook up solid chemistry, the scientific oddities they're encountering are interesting and it's shot with style – including the oddly entertaining touch of Panic Room-style supers that seem to actually cast shadows on the scene they're explaining. Hopefully Abrams and co. can learn from the shows they're following and avoid drowning in overly intricate backstory – based on Lost, I'd say they've got a leg up. We'll have to see where it goes, but based on this pilot I'm ready to follow. If you missed last night's premiere, it encores on Sunday night – give it a watch.


Super Bad

Like most red-blooded Chicagoans, I opted to watch the Bears stun Indianapolis (if not the world) last night instead of the 2008 MTV VMAs. From the looks of it, Superbad is the greatest movie of all time and what tha kidz are still txting about constantly, as two "highlights" of the show were a sketch starring Jonah Hill and a surprise appearance by McLovin. Unfortunately, "super bad" is a more apt description of the show overall... however, I did fast-forward thru it this morning for your reviewing pleasure, so here are some random reactions from when I shifted from FF to Play on my remote:

The much-ballyhooed opening by Britney Spears consisted of a staggeringly unfunny bit where the star from Superbad purported to be calming her nerves, but was instead trying to kiss her. Several times. Yes, she's gotten herself back into shape and looks great. Move on. And then we tracked her from the dressing room to the stage, where she kicked off the show by saying (I'm paraphrasing here) "Welcome to the show – it starts now." Uh, thanks.

Russell Brand is, well, not funny. It's kind of typical of these "rock & roll" comedians like him, Andrew Dice Clay, etc... despite all the leather and hairspray, it's still a guy with a mic telling hideous dick jokes.

Demi Moore forgot her microphone and I've forgotten why she's even here.

Michael Phelps is really really gonna bomb when he hosts SNL. The Greatest Swimmer Ever looks uncomfortable doing, well, anything else.

Katy Perry's overhyped performance of "Like a Virgin" turns out to be a 30-second bumper to a commercial. Huh.

Staging the show in the Paramount lot does provide from some cinematic entrances but mostly feels like a cost-cutting measure by MTV/Paramount corporate overlord Viacom.

Looks like Pink's nipples are, in fact, pink.

I guess Christina Aguilera really really wants to be Catwoman in the next Dark Knight movie. Or at least Black Cat in the next Spider-Man.

Britney Spears wins everything – either she had an incredibly great year that I completely missed, or MTV just really really needs her not to be a joke anymore. Unlike, you know, this show.


Peach Pit After Dark

Not only was the premiere of the new 90210 delayed until "a special time" because of a ballgame, the Cubs waited until the 11th to lose. So given that the show didn't start until after midnight, I'm gonna blog during the ad breaks in an effort to stay awake. SPOILERS ahoy!

Initial thoughts based on the pre-credits intro:
  • The Brandon and Brenda characters are really annoying. One's over-the-top surly and one's over-the-top peppy. I mean, really annoying.
  • I'd heard they'd be trying to out-Gossip the Girls from the East Coast, but I didn't quite expect it to feature a 9021-0ral scene before the credits rolled.

After the "rockin" update to the classic song:
  • Hey look – It's the mom from Arrested Development! And she's drunk! Could be fun.
  • Hey look – Andrea and Jesse's kid is the broadcaster for the campus news station! Decent joke about her looking 30.
  • Hey look – apparently Kelly and the guy who showed up on Melrose Place eventually dated! When she was 10 or something? Huh? And now Kelly's little sister is back at West Bev, and she's cool because she likes some local band and that's how she bonds with the Brenda girl, whose name I can't remember yet.
  • Hey look – Nat still works at the Peach Pit, but he can't work an espresso machine! Even tho he's had over a decade to learn!

Back from the break:
  • Kelly's sister, who's known as "Silver," runs a bitchy blog and attacks the Brenda girl with it. OMFG she got so Facebooked!
  • Lots of talk about lacrosse – along the "hey, the adopted black kid from Wichita's got some moves" and "hey, let's start a fight with the black kid so he gets kicked off the team because, you know, he's black!" lines.
  • Arrested Development Mom again – still drunk! Making jokes about cracking eggs on her ass!
  • Side note: so far, all the girls are perilously close to exhibiting Tori Spelling disease, where they're so thin that they look like unbalanced lollipops.
  • The Brenda girl, who's been overacting her way thru the show, has now been cast in the school play, so she can really start chewing some scenery. Which she does by the mouthful. Huge, shouty mouthfuls. Oh dear.

Getting a little tired:
  • Boy, couldn't see this plagarism plot coming... particularly with the "I wrote a paper just like the one that you're blowing off to go party at clubs like so many fifteen year-olds do" foreshadowing. More like fiveshadowing.
  • Just realized that Silver is the girl who played the Daughter of Darkness on Reaper. Was better as the Spawn of Satan.

So where the hell is Brenda?:
  • The omnipresent ads for the show "Privileged" look better than this one.
  • Apparently the Brenda girl is named "Annie." Still can't remember the brother's name.
  • Oh, and the girl that she outsung in the play is a druggie. How LA!
  • And she broke up with her boyfriend from back in Wichita. I guess his name was Jason. She's sad, altho I can't imagine why, since... we never met him and only just learned his name.

On to Part II of the pilot:
  • Full House girl is taking the news that Silk Stalkings guy husband fathered a son with his high school girlfriend pretty well – wonder how she'll hold up when she finds out that (I think) Kelly adopted him. Stay tuned for sweeps!
  • Annie hasn't stopped overacting from the pilot. Warning signs that she may not be able to stop for the whole season.
  • The rival lacrosse team has trashed the hallowed halls of West Beverly! Are our boyz gonna get them back? Tough to care because, well, it's about lacrosse.

During the break:
  • The "live" check-ins from the launch party don't do viewers any favors. It's like walking a red carpet with an EPK.

These breaks are getting harder to sit thru, particularly when you come back to this:
  • While the show hasn't shied away from branded integration (I think I need some Aquacurrent science – it's putting moisture where I need it!), they clearly couldn't land a videogame partner, as they just showed the worst fake on-screen gaming action in the history of fake on-screen gaming action.

Ok, maybe the breaks aren't so bad:
  • As the extended trailer for Confessions of a Shopaholic looks pretty good for the Devil Wears Prada crowd.
  • Oooh, we're back. And the scruffy cool teacher just botched his chance at asking out Kelly by referring to her son as "baggage." Oh, and the baggage is four and a half, so I guess he can't be Melrose Place's kid.
  • It's Brenda! The actual Brenda! Who updates us on Brandon – apparently he's in Belize, still loves Megaburgers... and Kelly. Whuh? At this point, I'm really just wishing that they made a show about the original 90210 kids all growns up as opposed to this Superman Returnsish reboot/remake. The only plot point I gave half a damn about was Scruffy McTeachy giving Kelly flowers and a cap at the end of the show.

And I think that's the problem. Right now the cameos from fan faves are sorta fun and the rest of it's sorta... not. It may get better – the Gossip Girl pilot was pretty damn bad, and that's turned out to be tons of fun. It passed the Pilot Test in the sense that I stuck with the second episode since it was attached to the first. And I was invested enough in the original show to give this one a bit of a go, but right now it's a little bit of 9021uh-0.


Shark Tale

It's prolly too early to tell for sure, but Prison Break may just have jumped back on the proverbial mammal and ridden it to respectability. A quick recap – the first season was terrific, the second was surprisingly fun, and the third was a complete mess. Instead of smart spins on classics like Shawkshank or the Fugitive, a handful of the escapees got sent to some bizarro world version of a Panamanian prison called Sona and they rutted around in the mud trying to cobble together a plot amidst the writer's strike. About as entertaining as it sounds.

But it looks like Michael Scofield and the boys are back on track, as the show has been retrofitted into a "Prison's Seven" of sorts, as the characters you care about are sent on a videogame fetch quest to find the pieces of The Company's little black book in order to take them down. Speaking of characters you care about, Sara Tancredi is back from the dead (and a contract dispute) and Whistler, a con from Season 3 whose motivation, backstory or, you know, point, was never explained took a bullet pretty quickly after the credits rolled. And the entire Sona section of the saga was dismissed by mentioning that "it burned to the ground" during a phone call. Works for me.

Now, let me be clear about some stuff – the show strains credibility constantly... and that's being kind. The Feds turning to "Scofield's Seven" as their last best hope is (phrased kindly) unlikley. Watching T-Bag trek his way across the border, turning to cannibalism in the process, was a bit bizarre. The shadowy Company's goals are, well, absent, aside from "being evil." All that said, they've culled the cast to the main players and seem to be showing the ingenuity that made the show a hit in the first place. I'm in.