Archive for March 2003

 
 

The death of sit-coms

There’s always been a theory that the sit-com is played out and is slowly declining to its inevitable end. I’ve never much believe it, myself.

But when I look at my television viewing habits today, I realize that there might be something to it. I watch SCRUBS, FRIENDS, DREW CAREY, SIMPSONS, and JUST SHOOT ME right now. I gave up on FRASIER and MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE this year. Nothing else does anything for me. DREW CAREY is on “hiatus” and who knows if ABC will honor their contract for it next year. JUST SHOOT ME is unofficially dead. The stars are already moving on, and NBC plans to blow out the last batch of episodes in rapid succession in the next couple of months. FRIENDS has a half-season next year or something. SCRUBS is still ascending. In two years, it’s quite possible that SCRUBS is the only sit-com I’ll be watching if THE SIMPSONS were to end. None of the others on television right now appeal to me at all.

What else do I watch? CSI, ALIAS, 24, THE SHIELD, AMERICAN IDOL, SURVIVOR, BIG BROTHER, AMAZING RACE, and a bunch of cable shows like JUNKYARD WARS and MONSTER GARAGE. All drama or reality television shows.

Is television just not funny anymore? Is the 22 minute laugher played out? Are we all sick of seeing cliched office sit-coms and family friendly comedies with cute kids and “aw gawsh” moments at the end?

Or is it just that any sit-com that breaks that mold isn’t given a chance and is killed by the network, like ANDY RICHTER and TITUS? (Where’s the TITUS DVDs, darn it?)

What about you? Are you watching less sit-coms now than ever, also? Or is this just part of the ebb and flow of a TV-watching life?

Happy 5th, Mozilla

It was 5 years ago today that Netscape released the source code to its browser. I type this blog entry up today in the descendant of that browser, Mozilla 1.3b, a stable web browser that’s faster and more compliant than most browsers on the market, especially MSIE. It hasn’t always been an easy road. JWZ ran screaming from the project. The entire section of code that parsed HTML code got thrown out and rewritten as Gecko. The initial code base was buggy and not conducive to freelance coding.

Now, 5 years later, there’s a stable code base, a bunch of surrounding projects with great aspirations and great coding, and a Mozilla browser that’s amongst the best ever coded.

Aside from Linux and Apache, there aren’t too many bigger Open Source success stories, in my mind.

Late Night TV this week

There are some interesting things in the lineups for this week’s late night yakkers.

* David Letterman returns tonight with a fistful of shingles humor. Who’da thunk we’d be hearing shingles humor on a late night talk show? He’s got Billy Crystal and some kid who whistles as his guests.

* Tomorrow’s Craig Kilborn show includes Zach Galifianakis, whose comedy special on Comedy Central wowed me just a few weeks back.

* Meanwhile, Jay Leno has Lionel Richie on Tuesday night. How does Leno get better ratings than Letterman? Ugh

* Leno does get points for featuring The Wallflowers on Wednesday night.

* Jimmy Kimmel’s guest host this week is — Mike Tyson. I kid you not. Is Tyson even verbal? Or will he just grunt at the guests and scratch his tattoo repeatedly?

* Not quite late night, but The Wayne Brady Show has fellow WHOSE LINEr Greg Proops on Wednesday.

This bucket sucks!

I’m being generous in putting this in the Tech category.

Courtesy of Jonah Weiland comes a link to the SuckBucket. It’s the wastebasket that sucks. I’m still not entirely sure if they’re serious with this thing or not. Are puffy garbage bags THAT MUCH of an issue? Sure, they can be annoying, but life is filled with little annoyances. This one isn’t high on my list of things needing a fix. I certainly don’t need a video demonstration of the possibilities, either. Just weird.

The Lion King on IMAX

Finally saw THE LION KING last night on a glorious IMAX screen. It dawned on me as the movie started that I hadn’t seen it in close to 10 years. Then it scared me when I remembered as much of the dialogue as I did. Sure, a lot of it was helped from listening to the soundtrack over the years, but Rowan Atkinson’s one-liners as Zazu are still memorable and hilarious.

Some random thoughts:

* One of the important things a director must do for a movie is to frame his shots so that the audience is looking at the right thing on screen at the right time. On a regular movie screen — or on your television screen at home — it’s almost trivial. Peripheral vision will take care of the worst of it. You don’t need to move your head to see opposite sides of the frame. With IMAX, you do. I was impressed at how naturally the direction went at certain points to guide your interest and attention where it needed to be. It’s annoying at first, but you get the hang of it after a short while.

* Yes, they showed an ALADDIN trailer before the movie. It hits IMAX on Christmas Day, 2003, which means you can see the DVD in fall 2004, no doubt. I really wish they’d go back and do THE LITTLE MERMAID after that. The trailer shows a clip from the movie where Aladdin is on the carpet and flying quickly through caves and whatnot, towards and away from the viewer. It’s very impressive on IMAX.

* The animation on THE LION KING (and particularly the small clips of ALADDIN) holds up much better on the large screen than it did with BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. It looks cleaner. All the extra pencil marks in the animation don’t show up. Yes, there are still a few shots where a character stands still and the lines forming him move around a bit, due to the animation process. Those are much lesser in TLK than in BATB.

* I know it’s a kid’s movie, but can the parents please restrain their children sitting in the row behind me from arguing at top volume about the popcorn? Jeez.

* THE LITTLE MERMAID, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, ALADDIN, and THE LION KING make up the golden age of Disney animation for people my age. After that, the movies became stale, repetitive, and formulaic. THE LION KING is an amazing movie. The “Circle of Life” beginning might be the strongest opening of any Disney movie I can recall. The music is well-placed and infectious. Scar is a great villain and the whole “Be Prepared” number with its Nazi goosestepping hyenas is enough to send chills down your spine.

* Both Jeremy Irons (“Scar”) and Rowan Atkinson (“Zazu”) sings songs in the movie which involve very little actual singing. They just talk their way through them and occasionally hold a note.

* I still don’t see why the slow motion bit was necessary in the final battle between Simba and Scar. I remember people questioning it when the movie first came out, and I’m sure a fresh viewing ten years later did nothing to explain it to me.

Upcoming TV on DVD releases

TheDigitalBits.com has an item in their rumor mill with unofficial release dates for all sorts of TV shows through the rest of the year from FOX. (Right after that item, you can also see some nice rumors about the forthcoming Looney Tunes DVDs.) The list includes more 24, Futurama, The Family Guy, The Shield, and Lost In Space (?).

Here’s a review of the first season DAWSON’S CREEK DVD set. Sounds mixed. Here’s another review, that’s even more brilliant in its dissection of why DC is such a great show. (Finally, someone who isn’t complaining that there are smart-sounding kids on TV.)

ALIAS is coming to DVD in September. Full season one boxed set with new behind-the-scenes stuff and commentary tracks.

Finally, TVShowsOnDVD.com is reporting that a FIREFLY DVD set was mentioned in a meeting this week. I know that sounds like a very tenuous bit of information to pin hopes on, but at least we know it’s being considered. There’s still an episode or three that hasn’t aired that would make the boxed set a very attractive purchase for a lot of people. The 2002-2003 TV season will be remembered as a failure for not supporting FIREFLY.

Colin Quinn’s Tough Crowd

I talked about this show a little during its original run on Comedy Central last December. Now it’s back. Hosted by Colin Quinn, it’s a talk show in the format of POLITICALLY INCORRECT, but is actually politically incorrect and funny. There are no celebrities and politicians on the show. It’s all comedians.

The topics for the night are more often than not just the hangers to drape the personal insults and stereotypical ethnic humor over. The comedians look like they’re having a lot of fun and that translates across the screen. The show is completely out of control and some might be leery of all the people talking over each other at times, but when they get their bits in, it’s hilarious. The comedians come prepared with lines for each topic and while that sometimes makes it appear too rehearsed, it’s still funny material. That’s fine by me.

Quinn is not the perfect talk show host by any means, but he brings these people together and makes for one of the funniest half hours on television four times a week.

Comedy Central airs TOUGH CROWD every night after THE DAILY SHOW at 11:30 p.m. and then again at something like 1:30 a.m. Check your local listings.

The price of giving stuff away

It’s a brilliant idea to promote your book by giving it away for free on the ‘net. Even if it’s only a few chapters. It’s even better to put up an old novel for free when a new novel is coming out. These are all great marketing tools. It’s been shown to work, too. It sounds odd, I know, but it can work for you.

Here’s a little lesson learned the hard way, though: Don’t put your book up on the ‘net for free in a HUGE PDF file when you’re being charged by the megabyte for bandwidth. That’s what Glenn Fleishman did, and it may end up costing him $15,000.

American Idol: The Results show

Man, I just know the singing of “God Bless The U.S.A.” is going to piss off a lot of the more, shall we say, protest-oriented people. Too bad. I thought they sounded great. Great idea to have Josh lead it off, too. He sounded great.

But the most frustrating moment of AMERICAN IDOL ever happened on tonight’s show. Julia DeMato lost. I was fine with that. It was the mercy kill I had hoped for.

As is customary, they had her sing her song from the previous night again. Usually, this comes off not so great. The song wasn’t right for them to begin with. The singer is filled with nerves and is probably embarrassed at having been dumped. And to top it all off, Kimberly Caldwell is off on the side trying desperately to make waterworks to get more camera time.

But Julia gave the best performance of her AI life in those final moments. She was loose. She sounded great. She was moving with the song. She didn’t look nervous. She didn’t look like the deer in the headlights. Where was THIS Julia for the past 3 weeks? She would still be around if she had conquered her nerves like this last month. Instead, it wasn’t until there was no pressure anymore that she found herself. Too bad.

Next week: Hopefully, Corey will go. I was worried about Kimberley there for a moment. I would not have minded it that much if Rickey Smith had gone, to be honest.

American Idol: Country-Rock

Welcome to the American Idol show that was barely rock and only occasionally a little country. We learn this week that you can’t get away with just singing ballad after ballad after ballad. I love Clay Aiken’s voice, but I want to see him try something a little more up-tempo. Ruben Studdard got away with “Sweet Home Alabama,” (naturally) but his voice wasn’t as powerful as it is with the slower songs. The uptempo song combined with the background vocalists didn’t serve his voice. It wasn’t bad at all. It just wasn’t his showcase.

I continue to feel badly for Julia DeMato. Although the judges had kind things to say for her this week, she hasn’t gotten much better. She’s a deer in the headlights up on stage, afraid to break out of her shell and mix my metaphor. Like I said last week, it would be a mercy kill to vote her out now. I think she has a great voice and looks great, but she doesn’t seem able to bring it out on live performances on national TV. I think she’s too nervous.

Still, Corey Clark is much worse. I tried to find ways to tune him out after the first line of that atrocious performance last night. “Drift Away” is a decent song for this competition, but he couldn’t nail it. He tried to “do his own thing” near the end, but it was too little and too late. Painful.

Rickey’s voice doesn’t do much for me, either. It sounds a bit like Corey’s, but I think he has better control of it. Once Corey is out, he’ll pick up the Corey Clark “upper register” votes.

Trenyce’s performance was underwhelming last night, too, but still nowhere near as bad as Corey or Julia. She’s better than that, and I trust we’ll see her back up to form next week.

Clay’s eyes looked completely dead last night. Nice voice and all, but the boy looks like a ghost when he sings.

I liked Carmen Rasumusen’s performance last night. She sounded good. It wasn’t overwhelming, but she looked and sounded very confident on that song. The country theme worked well for her, as it had to. (Poor Carmen sang her Olivia Newton-John song last week. If she had just waited a week, it would have been REALLY special. ;-)

I thought Kimberly Caldwell and Kimberley Locke had their best performances of the competition so far. (And, hey, Kimberly is an innie. No big surprise, I suppose.)

Josh really broke out of his shell with a full-scale assault on the senses in the form of a Garth Brooks song. That’s the kind of song that I couldn’t imagine trying to sing if I had any vocal talent. Where do you breathe in the middle of it?

I hope the bottom three is Trenyce, Corey, and Julia. If that holds true, I think Trenyce will be first pulled and declared safe. It’s a toss-up for the other two. I think Corey and Julia are the next two to go between this week and next, but we’ll see which order America decides.

After that, Carmen is on the chopping black. Another less-than-stellar performance by Trenyce like last night and she could go next. After that, it’ll be a tough race to the finish line. I can’t say that any of them irk me after that. I like them all, but I think I have to root for Clay.

We’ll find out tonight. I’ll go with Corey getting voted out tonight. Julia will be saved by the judges’ kind words and she’ll be put back through the ringer next week for one last go-around. She better hope Billy Joel shows up next week. She might do well on one of those songs.

Dawson’s Creek on TBS

If you’re just catching up on the series now, TBS is out to help you. Starting March 31st, TBS will be airing a series of marathons of the show to catch you up on everything right up to the series finale at the end of May Sweeps (May 14). The series will air in 4 episode blocks. After the series ends, TBS will show two episodes a day at 9 and 10 a.m. weekdays.

TBS paid $200,000 per episode for the show. Not bad.

So you wanna be a Big Brother 4 contestant?

You can apply right here, right now. Just hurry it up — the window for submissions is fairly small. The show should be starting up in another 2-3 months.

DVD Releases 03.25.03

Finally, we have an exciting week of DVD releases that’s bound to set me back a few bucks, but happily so. As always, this list is excerpted from the fine list provided over at DVDJournal.com.

We begin with two big television releases for the week:

CSI: The Complete First Season (6-disc set)
Futurama: Season One (3-disc set)


I like CSI a lot, but not enough to bother watching all the episodes over again. I am, however, picking up FUTURAMA. I love the show, but I never got the chance to watch it that much. It had a horrible timeslot when FOX was airing it, and when football season began, the show died a quick death for four to five months. The good news is that this is a boxed set that I know I’ll like, but that I haven’t seen a lot of. Those episodes that I’ve seen have seen receded into memory. It’ll be like watching them new all over again.

Femme Fatale (2002)

This is Brian DePalma’s latest thriller. I’m not sure what more need be said past that. It’s DePalma, so you know you’ll get an interesting visual ride. I missed it in the theaters, where it came and went with more speed than even DAREDEVIL, which made $100 million.

Friday After Next: infinifilm (2002)

The “infinifilm” label is now officially a joke.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit?: Vista Series (2-disc set) (1988)

A true modern classic. It will also include all the original theatrical shorts starring Roger that were made in the following years. I’ve never seen any of them. I just hope they don’t release the horribly edited one here. I want to see Baby Herman walk underneath that lady, dangit!

How does next week look? It’s a big TV week, particularly for me with DAWSON’S CREEK’s first season landing on store shelves. After that, we’re waiting for Tax Day for any more interesting DVDs.

The Bowling for Columbine lie

OK, maybe “lie” is a bit of a stretch. Or maybe not. Check out Andy Ihnatko’s dissection of Moore’s piece of claptrap disguised at a documentary.


UPDATE: And here’s some more fact-checking.

The Razzies Awarded

While we’re thinking of awards shows, let us not forget the Anti-Oscars. The Razzies were handed out on Saturday and Madonna took top honors for both worst actress (tied with Britney Spears) and worst Supporting Actress. SWEPT AWAY had a good showing. Hit the link for a full list.