Monday, July 31, 2006

Deadwood: Brave, courageous and bold?

Thoughts on Wyatt Earp, Steve getting karmic justice from the General's horse, the first performance at the Chez Ami theater, Johnny and Merrick coming into their own, and all things "Deadwood," all after the jump...

Ever since Milch told me during production of season one about the (possibly apocryphal) story of Earp and Bullock's confrontation, I've been waiting for the not-yet-legendary lawman to ride into town. And yet the longer I waited, the less appropriate the story seemed. While the legendary Gunfight at the O.K. Corral is still a few years in this Earp's future, the show laid the myth of the Old West to rest along with Wild Bill. The days when the camp's problems could be solved by Bullock slapping leather are a long time gone, as Milch has repeatedly made the point that in civilized society (which Deadwood is in the process of joining), disputes are settled more often with words than guns. But between the arrival of the Earp brothers and Hearst's goon army -- all of them bearing torches, during a season when characters have made repeated mention of the camp burning down -- I'm damn curious to see how this gets resolved without a little bit of old-fashioned gunplay.

As Matt says in his take, Gale Harrold seemed a bit too laid-back as Earp, though he was still much more interesting here than he is in the pilot for "Vanished." Still, it was interesting to see the various citizens of the camp play their respective roles in response to the arrival of this new "hero," whether it was Farnum desperately trying to remind people that he's still the mayor, Al casually poking holes in Earp's story, Cy practically drooling while trying to recruit Earp to his side, Johnny stepping up to challenge Morgan (since Dan fought the Captain, Johnny's seemed a lot tougher, no?), and, of course, Bullock clenching his jaw and getting pissed at the newbies.

Matt, who's been a bigger fan of the theater company scenes than I am, wrote that one of this episode's themes (if not this season's) was "Life itself as a drama populated by real people playing themselves -- actors making up lines and trying to fool people into believing their fa├žade and granting their wish, whatever that might be." In addition to the ones I mentioned above, there was also Merrick continuing to do an impression of a brave man -- to the point where even he's starting to believe it a little -- and Joanie as do-gooder guardian of children, among others.

While Langrishe's con job on Hearst (is he the West's first chiropracter?) was hysterical, this was also the first time I really got into the rest of the company, especially in that scene where Jack sat there with his old friend, setting the stage for his very dramatic death, followed by the other actors emerging from the shadows to take care of the body. Really lovely stuff.

And then there's Steve. Once, he screwed a horse, and now a horse has screwed him something fierce. Milch is fond of having characters deliver monologues to people and things that can't understand them (Al to his severed head, Leon to the puddle), and Steve's pathetic rant to the horse about his hope that the General would stay to keep him company was right up there. As my friend Phil said, Steve getting horse-kicked doesn't make up for the non-sensical suicide of Hostetler, but it at least gave one of the show's more ridiculous characters a poignant end.

Are we supposed to read Jane and Joanie's awkward parting from the rooming house as Jane having morning-after regrets about whatever they did together, or simply her disgust at listening to the landlord's homophobic rant? In the real Deadwood, Jane apparently became a famous whore for a while. I have a hard time reconciling Robin Weigert's performance with the idea of Jane tempting men, but her friendship and/or relationship with Joanie could be sending her down that road -- if there was a fourth season, dammit.

God, I love this show. We have, what, four hours left? Sigh...
Click here to read the full post

Entourage: Does it matter if it's black & white?

I'll get to "Deadwood" later this morning, after I've had some time to chew on it during my commute, but "Entourage" never requires much deep thought, which I suppose is a virtue. Another good one, as Ari's scrambling combine with Vince's continued knack for self-destruction, with a side serving of Lloyd's zit and Drama's temper. (Is Drama the Seth Bullock of "Entourage," or is Bullock the Johnny Drama of "Deadwood"? Or are they both just pale Ryan Atwood clones?)

Good to see both Walsh and Barbara Miller again, though am I the only one who thinks that "Queens Boulevard," colorized or not, seems like a pretentious piece of crap? I know Doug Ellin thinks that Vince is a gifted actor and that his movies are good, and so long as we don't see too much of his work (the one "Aquaman" scene didn't require Adrian Grenier to do anything but run and strip), I'm okay buying that. But when the plot hangs on Vince potentially throwing his career away to stand up for a movie that I refuse to believe is anything but warmed-over Scorsese, I have more trouble. Still, the rest of the episode was funny enough (did I mention Lloyd's zit? or Ari's joke about same?) that I'll let it slide for the moment.

What did everybody else think? Click here to read the full post

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Shooting the scheisse

A kewl story that never made its way into the official press tour blog: In the middle of the tour, there was a TCA field trip to the ABC Prospect studios, where both "The Shield" and "Grey's Anatomy" film. First up: a lunchtime screening of next January's "Shield" season premiere, which picks up almost immediately after the death of Lem, and was so intensely good that it had all of the people at my table grumbling about having to wait six months to see the next one. (That, and, after one particularly grisly scene, asking Cathy Cahlin Ryan if she's ever scared of the man she married.) Shawn Ryan said afterwards that one of the reasons he wanted to do one more season after this one is that he didn't want to skimp on either the Lem fallout or providing closure for all the characters, so he'll devote one season to each. Shawn's a creator I always trust; while some seasons have been better than others, "The Shield" has never really had a bad season, and after the most recent batch, I'm down with anything he wants to do.

After that, we wandered over to the "Grey's" set and attempted to interview Shonda Rhimes and the actors -- the problem being that Shonda has scared the crap out of her entire cast to the point where they won't give away anything about upcoming storylines, even in the broadest sense.

After a few quasi-useful interviews, I realized I'd left my notebook over by the "Shield" stage, and while picking it up, I bumped into Shawn again. He's a notorious procrastinator, so rather than go back into his office to write, he sat and shot the breeze with me for an hour or so, until Chick Eglee (one of his writer/producers) came looking for him. We quickly roped Chick into our bull session, and the guys started talking up Franka Potente's guest stint near the end of the new season.

"She's going to say 'scheisse' at some point, right?" I asked.

Shawn and Chick looked at each other and said, in unison, "She is now!"

So there you have it: my contribution to the creative process. Click here to read the full post

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Since when is "Who Wants to Be a Superhero" a trick question?

I think my schedule's going to be wonky for a while. I'm still re-adjusting to the time zone, and I have about a million DVDs and things on the TiVo to catch up on. I went into the office yesterday and spent more than an hour just opening all the mail that accumulated while I was gone, and just as I was walking out, feeling like I had accomplished something, the receptionist said, "Oh, Alan, that big pile over there is yours, too. Your desk was becoming a fire hazard."

First up, after my childhood-justifying meeting with Stan Lee and my hand-injuring encounter with Ty'Veculus, there was no way I wasn't going to watch "Who Wants to Be a Superhero?" Extremely cheesey but fun, especially if you're a raging geek like me. Stan the Man is, if anything, even stiffer than Donald Trump -- the bit where he threw a temper tantrum over the contestants' blatantly staged "party" was painful -- but the contestant mix is pretty good, even if the only two genuine comic book nuts went home in episode one. On the plus side, Cell Phone Girl is the only one who seems like a blatant famewhore, and Major Victory is so damn nuts that I think he's posessed by the undead ghost of Adam West. (And what a shock: the one contestant picked by the fanboys is a hottie in a low-cut gold lame bodysuit.) Not a bad little time-waster, though I hope future tasks will be less repetitively-edited (that, or they get a kid whose fake crying is more believable).

On the recommendation of some people on the "Life on Mars" thread, I checked out a little of "Garth Marenghi's Darkplace," which is a spoof of late '70s/early '80s cheese, a sort of "Galaxy Quest"-esque fake show written by and starring a hack British horror writer. (I'm explaining this badly; forgive me, but I'm jet-lagged.) What I've seen so far is funny (especially the "performance" by Marenghi's publisher), but it doesn't feel like it has a lot of legs. After all, only three out of the six "Police Squad" episodes are any good, and those three all felt more layered than this. But I'll finish this one up and give next week's a shot.

Got through the last two "lost" episodes of "Chappelle's Show," and now I understand why Comedy Central only wanted to send the first one out. Pretty much anything that was good at all was used in that first one, though I will never complain about watching Dave's Lil John impression ("WHAT?"). And I can see how the racial fairies sketch would have made Dave uncomfortable, if not "give up $50 million and flee to Africa" uncomfortable.

The two most recent "Entourage" episodes were two of this uneven season's strongest, mainly because the writers played to the show's biggest strength: letting Jeremy Piven go absolutely berserk at all the things in the world he can't control. Ari being unable to reach Vince unless he got Drama a job was brilliant -- as was Lloyd swooping in to save the day. The threesome story was also a rare interesting focus on Eric (though, typically, most of the entertaining scenes about it featured Eric talking about it with the other guys). Definitely one of those "be careful what you wish for" scenarios.

I watched both the post-fight "Deadwood" episodes while I was out in LA, both times right before drifting off to sleep after a long day at tour, which I realize is not the ideal condition to be watching this show. What to me felt like two fairly uneventful hours were interpreted by Matt to be much deeper than that. I don't know whether he's right or wrong in his analysis, but in my fatigue mostly what I noticed was how pointless all the scenes with the theater company seem. I will never complain about an appearance by Brian Cox, and Langriche makes a good foil for Al, but when it's just Jack and his actors, I'm both bored and frustrated by the feeling I get that Milch planned to resolve most of their story in the now-nonexistent fourth season.

I didn't have a chance to comment on either "Contender" episode after the fact. I was amused that the premiere played out almost exactly like the season one opener, with the least-heralded fighter knocking off the alpha dog (even Alfonso commented on it in show two). And, of course, the winning streak continued in episode two, though the fight wasn't as competitive. Jeff Fraza has to be feeling like a jinx at this point; whether he's on the blue team or the gold, the same bad luck keeps happening. Will he get the mumps before he gets to fight? I know some people have complained that the lower budget is too noticeable, but I don't miss Sly or the challenges or even the celebs in the audience, and I felt both fights were shot and edited at least as well as the early season one bouts.

Some people commented on "Life on Mars" in that post, but has anybody given "Eureka" a shot?

Still have to watch the most recent "Rock Star" performances and some other stuff, but this blog has been dark for too many days in a row. Time to hit the "publish post" button. Hopefully back with real-time "Deadwood" and "Entourage" reviews on Monday. Click here to read the full post

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Homeward bound

Today's column: a wrap-up of press tour, with some duplication of things that appeared only on the blog (like the anchor wardrobe thing).

Oh, and I saw "Deadwood" last night while packing, so Cone up. Discuss while I'm in the air, and I'll try to weigh in tomorrow. Click here to read the full post

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Close to home

Last full day at the tour, and I get up at the crack of dawn tomorrow to fly home. I updated the official blog for the final time with a couple of posts, one about how "Prison Break" plans to deal with ABC stealing all of their recurring guest stars, the other about the surprisingly funny session for Fox's mostly unfunny "Happy Hour." Meanwhile, over in the actual column, Peter Liguori takes his turn at bat on the whole "Why should people watch serial dramas that could be canceled early?" question, and actually gets some wood on the pitch.

If I don't have a chance to do the link before I head to the airport tomorrow, there should be a press tour wrap-up column running under the Alan Sepinwall on TV banner. Click here to read the full post

Monday, July 24, 2006

"I'm not even supposed to be here today!"

After wilting in the heat of NBC's party Saturday night (the recorded temperature at one point was 111 degrees, the highest in Pasadena since the 19th century), I needed some air conditioning therapy, and with a small afternoon window yesterday, I went to see "Clerks II" at LA's ArcLight, a movie theater that makes me weep over the multiplexes I have to visit at home.

Short version: Loved it, but I'm biased. Longer, more spoiler-y version after the jump...

The original "Clerks" holds special meaning to me. It came out when I was a college sophomore, still new to the world of indendent films. In the span of a few weeks, I went to screenings for this and "Pulp Fiction," and did my first phone interview with an honest-to-goodness filmmaker in Kevin Smith. (Who was, in retrospect, much gentler with me than he needed to be given my completely unformed interviewing technique. I believe one of the questions I asked, God help me, was, "So now that you've made the quintessential movie about convenience stores, what are you going to do next?") While I wasn't living the exact personal circumstances of Dante or Randal, I was about the same age and feeling the same dislocation -- that "Is this what I should be doing?" question that's an even more dominant theme of the sequel.

I have friends like Fienberg who felt the more philosophical parts of "Clerks II" were just getting in the way of the comedy, but I liked them. Again, my life (including a wife, a daughter and a stable, non-soul-deadening job) doesn't really resemble our heroes', but there are still those moments where I stop and ask the same questions about my future. Now, I saw "Jersey Girl" when Julia was only a few months old and I was struggling to adapt to the demands of parenthood, so that movie should have spoken to me as much as "Clerks II" did, but I was just as bored by it as the rest of the world. I think Dante and Randal are just much more specific, interesting and -- most important -- funny characters than Affleck was in "Jersey Girl."

And "Clerks II" is damn funny, possibly Smith's funniest overall movie since "Mallrats." "Chasing Amy" and "Dogma" are both better films, but nothing in either one made me laugh nearly as much or as hard as the scene where Elias explains to Randal why he and his girlfriend don't have sex, or Jay's Jame Gumb impression (and I'm not talking about the "It puts the lotion in the basket scene"), or Jay and Silent Bob's get-what-you-pay-for free meal.

I loved all the little call-backs to the original, whether it was Dante's nail polish fetish or the mention of the funeral or, especially, that last shot in the Quick Stop. When the screen faded to black and white, Soul Asylum came on the soundtrack and we saw the milk lady continuing her futile quest, a feeling of almost pure joy came over me. Change in life is great, but sometimes the best things are the ones that stay the same.

Anybody else see it yet? If so, thoughts?
Click here to read the full post

Look at the law man beating up the wrong guy

One link I forgot before: I review "Life on Mars," a cool new BBC show about a cop who travels back in time to 1973. Click here to read the full post

PARTY!!!!!!

Last night we held the TCA Awards and all the attendant wackiness. Angela, Meredith and Kevin from "The Office" and Dr. Weber from "Grey's Anatomy" were all good, albeit confused, sports who stuck around afterwards to participate in very silly rituals like The TCA Alt-Awards (awards about critics, like the one most likely to quit and become a publicist or the one best suited to hosting a talk show) and Transcript Theatre (Weber did a dramatic reading from Mr. T's session about why he pities the fool).

You can find an account of the more serious parts of the evening over at the tour blog. (Below that is a brief write-up on NBC's punishing 10000 degree party.) Meanwhile, today's column is, of course, on "Studio 60" vs. "30 Rock."

Because I was too busy trying to recruit Sara Ramirez to join in Transcript Theatre, I missed "Deadwood" and "Entourage." Cone of Silence up. Give me a few days after I get back to Jersey on Wednesday and we can hopefully return to the old routine. Click here to read the full post

Saturday, July 22, 2006

"Heroes" mystery solved

Back when I did my Pilot Watch on "Heroes," there was some confusion over whether there was a different version of the pilot other than the one critics were sent. Well, the "Heroes" session is just wrapping up, and Tim Kring explained that the original pilot was two hours -- and featured scenes with Gregg Grunberg and Leonard Roberts, who aren't in the final version -- but that the show is going to premiere as a one hour, and Grunberg and Roberts will be introduced in episodes two and four, I think. (Grunberg made a joke about how he's superstitious about not being in pilots, since he wasn't in the "Felicity" or "Alias" pilots, but was in the one for "Lost" and wound up getting eaten.)

So there. Off to write a review of "Life on Mars," which is cool enough that I'm skipping a few NBC sessions to deal with. I have to say, it's been a very good tour, and a lot of that has to do with the sheer number of good shows we're seeing. Click here to read the full post

Friday, July 21, 2006

Hitting the links

Some link catch-up: today's column is Marc Cherry's elaborate mea culpa for season two of "Desperate Housewives," yesterday's is about the "CSI" vs. "Grey's Anatomy" timeslot battle, and up at the press tour blog right now is Matthew Perry out-doing Taye Diggs with the line of the tour. Click here to read the full post

This is why he's "the funny anchor"

Brian Williams on the whole controversial anchor wardrobe issue. Click here to read the full post

Hey, somebody really is 'Watching'

Best announcement from NBC's executive session: "Nobody's Watching" lives. Click here to read the full post

Talking to Mr. Cuse

I'm not saying I believe that he and Damon know where all of this is going, but Carlton Cuse talks a good game. Click here to read the full post

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Return to me

In which Calista Flockhart and I have an odd yet satisfying reunion. Click here to read the full post

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Charlie Gibson, clotheshorse

I am a man of my word, so while Charlie Gibson was appearing via satellite from Cyprus, I asked him who he was wearing. Click here to read the full post

Deadwood: Cone of Silence lifted

I got to watch "Deadwood" last night before bed. I have to run to a press conference right now (Charlie Gibson via satellite from Jerusalem, and there's been some very healthy debate among the rest of the TCA over whether I still have to fulfill my promise to Katie Couric and ask Charlie about his wardrobe), so I don't have time for any real reviewing, but I figured I'd open the floor up. If I have time later today, I'll either pipe in with the comments, or maybe update this post. Click here to read the full post

Rescue Me: Are you kidding me?

Today's column is me once again getting mad at "Rescue Me" for the end of last night's episode. I'm frankly too annoyed to write about it twice, but feel free to comment below. Click here to read the full post

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Rock Star: The view from the bleachers

Since I got to attend the taping of tonight's "Rock Star" performance show on Sunday night, I thought it would be interesting to write up the show as it played from the theater and let you guys compare it to how it played on TV. (Of course, I also won't have time to watch the show tonight, so it's an easy way out.) These are the performances in order, sometimes with comments on the song, or on what the judges said that may or may not have made final cut (again, I'd be stunned if all but one or two of Newsted's comments made final cut) or on other things that probably didn't make it to air.

After the jump, in order...

Patrice, "Helter Skelter": I was a little too floored by the power of the House Band to pay close attention to Patrice, but what I noticed of the vocals were very good. Dave complained that he thought her stage presence was too cutesy, but it didn't look like it to me. Before she went on, they showed a lot of footage of her and Jill fighting over the right to sing this, and when they took a break to re-dress the set, the two of them hugged. (Then again, at the mansion concert, while almost all the other contestants -- save Lukas -- were hanging out and having fun, Patrice was sitting quietly in a corner, only getting up to sing on a couple of tunes. Maybe she doesn't really fit in with the group, I don't know.)

Josh, "Come As You Are": Josh is who he is, and try as he might to seem hardcore, he's a guy who can't resist smiling even on a Kurt Cobain song. I'm assuming Dave's "These guys are going to be playing at Wembley, not a coffee house" line made final cut, while Tommy's "I wanna see you break shit" didn't.

Storm, "Just What I Needed": Okay, if I didn't see the whole selling her sexuality thing in the premiere, I sure as hell do now. Not only was she being way too friendly with the microphone stand, but there was this long exchange with Tommy afterwards where he asked her to wear more revealing clothes so he could see all of her tattoos; she smiled coyly and said, "T0mmy, six letters.... Google." (Plus, as I mention in my article, she spent one commercial break showing everyone how she could place each leg behind her head.) There was also a good back and forth between Storm and Dave about her not being so self-conscious about the faces she makes (she deliberately didn't practice in front of a mirror this time.) She's shameless, but I still like her a lot as a performer.

Lukas, "Let's Spend the Night Together": They showed a clip at the top of the show of him complaining that he couldn't sing a song with "doo da doo doo doo da da doo doo" in it. Well, he rearranged all the "doo"s right the hell out. Honestly, though, I couldn't hear him at all over the band, so I just admired his ability to do that whole Jagger-esque strut/stagger around the stage. He's probably not much of a singer, but the jerk is fun to watch.

Jill, "All Right Now": She rips through it, though as with some of her previous songs, it is so very, very faithful to the original (even though the lead singer of Free was a guy) that I have no idea if she's a real singer or just a karaoke champ.

Ryan, "Fortunate Son": Ryan's a classic example of the House Band making somebody seem better than they probably are. From the back of the theater, he's moving around more and seems to be really feeling the music, but whenever I looked up at the monitors, he was so damn lifeless. The band spent a long, long time offering him advice. Dave suggested his voice sounded more like a beer commercial, and said, "I want to see you get the fuck up in their faces." Gilby asked him to flash a smile in a bit that went on forever.

Phil, "White Rabbit": Jason's big moment, and again I'm guessing it's going to be cut to shreds. There's a really big build-up to him taking the stage, with him slowly tossing off his jacket, then high-fiving his way through the crowd, etc., etc. And after Phil finished, they talked a lot about how Jason was shadowing him to see if they could bring him out of his shell. Don't know what, if any of all that survived, but the bass-playing alone is pretty kick-ass. Just straight-up doom. And he did liven up Phil; this was another one where I really couldn't hear a lot of the vocals, but he stopped his whole Sominex stumbling, and that was good. (And when he sang "Wonderwall" at the mansion party, I heard that he has a good voice. Who knows? Maybe he's this year's Marty, and he zooms past the others.)

Dana, "It's My Life": Great voice, one hundred percent wrong for this show and this band. I can't imagine virtually anything the judges said making it onto the show. At one point, they diss Bon Jovi (not exactly a way to get people to license their songs to you); at another, Dave tells her, "If you were on a singing contest that was a little further right on the dial, Taylor Hicks would be your janitor." (Then again, maybe that one did make it.)

Toby, "Runaway Train": Weird arrangement, low energy level, easily his weakest to date. In the comments, Tommy says that they want Toby to try to scare them like Lukas does, to which Toby replied, "I wanted to prove to you guys that I'm not just a dick who runs up and down." Newsted delivers another insightful but unexcerptable monologue about playing to the guy in the third tier of the stadium.

Magni, "Plush": I was preoccupied with something else during this one, but after watching Magni seem like a genuinely cool, low-key guy at the mansion, I may have to reassess him next week.

Zarya, "Everybody Hurts": She's crazy and annoying and should have gone home after the stunt last week, but that was one hell of a climax.

Jenny, "Drive": It's hard to reconcile the magnetic woman who I saw rock the mansion on "Smells Like Teen Spirit" with this mouse who a few hours earlier coasted through this Incubus song. Maybe the pressure's too much for her. Both Tommy and Dave came onto her during the comments.

Dilana, "Zombie": Just give her the prize already. Only way she doesn't win is if the guys in Supernova don't want to be overshadowed by their singer, because she is just awesome. A real original. (When they cut to the judges, Dave's first comment was, "Ohhhh, shit!!!" There's a long exchange that ain't getting anywhere near the broadcast where Dilana talks about the vocal coach helping teach her to sing in a head voice like Dolores from The Cranberries, and how proud she was to pull it off in rehearsal before deciding to go in a completely different direction for the final performance, which prompted a round of "Fuck Dolores!" cries from the judges.

Best of the night: Dilana, by a mile.
Bottom three: If we're basing it solely on this night, then some combo of Toby, Ryan, Jenny or Dana.

So how did my experience in the studio track with yours at home?
Click here to read the full post

Potent quotables

Go over to the official blog for two very funny quotes from Taye Diggs and America Ferrera. In particular, "I'm Taye Diggs!" is now moving into the everyday conversation of everyone in the room. It may top "Is Wayne Brady gonna have to choke a bitch?" as my number one "I'm too cool for you" line. Click here to read the full post

David Rosenthal, sane man

New on the official blog: a transcript of my interview with the seemingly level-headed new "Gilmore Girls" showrunner. Click here to read the full post

ABC's of scheduling

In case anyone cares, the ABC premiere dates. Click here to read the full post

Is that a beer in your pants or are you just nervous?

Today's column: My trip to a taping of tonight's "Rock Star" and the party at the mansion afterwards.

In the comments to the last post, there are one or two nuggets from the "Veronica Mars" panel, but as I say there, I'm doing a solo interview with Rob Thomas tomorrow and didn't want to cover the same ground twice.

ABC is today. More later. Click here to read the full post

Monday, July 17, 2006

TCA Smackdown!

In which I get into a microphone war with another writer at the start of the "Gilmore Girls" panel. Click here to read the full post

Clearly wasteful

My attempt to liven up the CW's spectacularly dull inaugural press tour session with a bit of quasi-livebloging.

Oh, and, obviously, my stint at the Rock Star mansion means I have yet to see either of "Deadwood" or "Entourage" yet. Depending on my schedule this week, Cone of Silence may need to be up until I'm back in Jersey. Hopefully not. Click here to read the full post

PARTY!!!!!!!

I'm moving at half-speed this morning after an awesome night of "Rock Star" goodness, first at a taping of tomorrow night's performance show, then at the mansion for the weekly party/acoustic jam concert featuring all the contestants and the guys from Supernova. Logistically, I should have stayed at the hotel to catch up on writing/watching/sleep, but totally worth it. Totally. It'll probably be the lead item in tomorrow's column, and whatever details don't make the final cut will pop up here. If nothing else, it oughta make recapping Tuesday's show a lot easier.

I'm sitting in the inaugural CW press conference right now, so don't have time for much more than the daily column link, which is mostly an account of the Katie Couric session yesterday (minus any reference to her wardrobe, which I'm saving for after I grill Charlie Gibson on his style choices).

With two yea's and no nay's to the idea of pop-up column links, I'm going to give it a try, at least through the balance of the tour. Anybody who finds them as annoying as I usually do, feel free to weigh in. Click here to read the full post

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Alan Sepinwall, troublemaker

So, let's see: as I wrote a couple of days ago, I nearly provoked Champ Kind into giving me a Whammy!; then yesterday, I almost offended Ray Liotta; and today I pissed off Katie Couric. I'm not sure I'm making it out of here alive. Click here to read the full post

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Out of curiosity...

... How many of you are actually bothering to click over to the press tour blog when I put links to it here? Comments have been way down this week, and I'm curious whether it's just summer, the fact that I'm not doing "what I watched the night before" posts, or just that people don't want to bother going to yet another site and then coming back. Click here to read the full post

Friday, July 14, 2006

"Mickey, I'm on." "I've never seen you get off."

RIP, Red Buttons. I'm just glad I got to witness his last moment of public glory, which took place during the most surreal press tour press conference of all time. Click here to read the full post

My prediction? Pain.

I'm still jet-lagged and I can't remember what day it is, but this has been a pretty fun tour so far. Yesterday's festivities included Trey and Matt from "South Park," Mr. T as a motivational speaker (and I got to ask him my B.A. Baracus/Tony Kornheiser question), plus Champ Kind threatening to kick my ass while a naked Mr. Rosso restrained him, a chat with Stan Lee and a wannabe superhero who tried to break several bones in my hand.

Maybe I just rub people the wrong way, I don't know. Click here to read the full post

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Gutte times

What a bizarre, bizarre day at the tour. HBO announced that "The Sopranos" won't premiere in January, after all; the new "Monday Night Football" crew showed up, sans Tony Kornheiser (and am I the only one hoping each telecast opens with a filmed vignette where Joe and Mike find a way to dope up Tony, B.A. Baracus-style, so he'll get on a plane?); I spent 20 minutes verbally fencing with FX president John Landgraf on The Incident from "Rescue Me" (and, whatever problems I had with the episode, it pisses me off to no end that I provided fodder for the L. Brent Bozells of this world); spent an hour talking to David Simon and Ed Burns about the genius of "The Wire"; and then got sucked into the orbit of Mr. Steve Guttenberg.

I don't know if you know this, but The Gutte is nuts. Nuts. Don't believe me? Go read Fienberg's masterful account of his interview with The Gutte last summer. Then go to the official tour blog to read my own account of Gutte 2: His First Assignment. Then come back here and spend a long time looking at the above photo while pondering the meaning of "fondler." Click here to read the full post

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Rock Star: All singing, no talking

So, thanks to the glories of wi-fi and unobtrusive ear buds, I was able to watch all the "Rock Star" performances in the press conference ballroom before and in between sessions. Now, all I have are the actual performance clips, so I don't know what the judges said (though I hear they were much harsher than last week) or what the order was. So alphabetically speaking (by first name), more talk after the jump...

Chris on "Take Me Out": There are days when I prefer Marty Casey's version of this on the show last year to the Franz Ferdinand original. No danger of Chris overtaking either one. Far and away the most boring voice there; even with Matt's Duran Duran gaffe, Chris shoulda been gone last week.

Dana on "Born to be Wild": Good voice, but I don't believe her sexy bad girl thing at all.

Dilana on "Ring of Fire:" So is every female contestant obligated to wear a black cape at some point this season? When she dropped the thing and saw her in the Stevie Nicks witch costume, I think a little of her weird appeal was lost to me, because it feels less unique. Still, she has more magnetism than most of these people, and even with her accent showing through more this week, I'm just fascinated by the sound of her voice.

Jenny on "Tainted Love": Apparently, Jenny was sick last week, which helps explain the pedestrian vocals. I always like new arrangements, and while her voice is still no great shakes, a vast improvement on last week. Also, oddly, working the Stevie Nicks vibe.

Jill on "Violet": Okay, so last week my only concern was that she sounded a little too much like a Janis Joplin impersonator, and this week she comes on stage to do a Courtney Love song wearing a tattered wedding dress and holding a bouquet? No. Just no. Find your own damn personality, or I don't care what a great voice you have.

Josh on "With Arms Wide Open": Not his speed at all, and though he tried to turn it into a Josh Logan Joint with the smiling and the scatting and the syncopation, you could tell this wasn't his deal. I think he knows he's not going to win and is in it for the exposure, but if he can't find some way to seem credible on the harder stuff, he won't be around long enough for any label to take interest.

Lukas on "Don't Panic": After last week's beautifully drunken incoherence, Lukas goes all mellow and even tries to enunciate everything. Still, I like the weird little hobbit, and appreciated someone finding a way to sing a Chris Martin song so that it doesn't sound like a Chris Martin song minus the falsetto.

Magni on "My Generation": Dude is acting way too cool for school, and while cool is an integral part of rock, his feels practiced rather than earned. An improvement over his "Satisfaction," but I can't shake the feeling that his every gesture and facial expression seems to be screaming, "Why do you not all kneel before Magni?"

Patrice, "Heart-Shaped Box": The guitar distracts her at first, so much that she swallows the opening line. And given how often she stopped playing and left things to the House Band, she may have been better off without the thing. Good but not great vocals, and not as angry as I wanted with this song.

Phil, "If You Could Only See": I'm now bored by the whole ragdoll affectation, and the song is too sedate to begin with for him; it's like Garrity sleepwalking on "Rescue Me," only not funny.

Ryan Star, "Jumping Jack Flash": MSN really started giving me crap about this point, so I heard all the vocals but only saw occasional progression of the video. I prefer him a little more hostile like this, and without the guitar to tie him down like on "Iris."

Storm on "Surrender": She's got this powerful, husky voice and those amazing green eyes, and I wish she would stop trying to make every performance be about her exaggerrated facial expressions. Because when she stops trying to hypnotize you through the camera, she's really kick-ass. Also liked changing the "rolling on the couch" line to "doing it on the couch."

Toby, "Somebody Told Me": Ain't nothin boy band about this. Aeally good, faithful arrangement but not an imitation. Not only better than Ty's version last year, but the best of the night, hands down.

Zayra, "You Really Got Me": Why does she sound Russian? And why does she sound like a strangled cat? And then someone having an orgasm? Another one where the video was giving me problems, but it sounded awful.

What did everybody else think? And any particularly good non-performance moments I missed?
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Shirts and skins

Morning of press tour day three. In case you missed it in the comments to the last post, the Shannen Doherty cry-fest was followed by Dan Rather getting choked up no less than four times during his press conference with Mark Cuban about his new HDNet gig. (Oh, and after I wrote that blog entry, I bumped into Cubes at that night's party; turns out we weren't wearing exactly the same shirt, but close. "I think I have that one in my room," he told me. "Do you want me to go back and put it on?")

Because the noteworthy stuff like Rather happened too late in the day for the print edition, I jumped the gun on a few reviews for next week, including Sci-Fi's "Eureka," a sort of "Northern Exposure" with mad scientists, and the new and improved ESPN version of "The Contender" (no stupid obstacle courses, no Stallone or Jackie Kallen, etc.).

I watched the first two-thirds of "Rescue Me" before I had to go do some work. Some very funny stuff, especially Lou eating the spinach dip off Garrity's face and Garrity's entire sleepwalking odyssey. But I hear the last 20 minutes were strange, and dealt more with The Incident. Feel free to comment on anything in the episode, and I'll find out from a friend who watched the whole thing what I missed.

"Rock Star" comments later, after I've hopefully gotten the MSN video clips to work. Click here to read the full post

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

More from the tour

This just in at the official blog: Shannen Doherty reduced to tears by meanie critic. (And no, it wasn't me. I was too busy trying to think up an artful way to ask about "Love, Inc.") Click here to read the full post

Dedicated non-follower of fashion

Rolled into the press tour hotel last night and promptly headed to a cable network-sponsored party to catch up with the other critics. (Between the winter and summer tours, we spend about 10 percent of every year with each other, which is more than I see most of my friends and family.) I blogged about it over at NJ.com, including my unsuccessful attempt to trick Mark Cuban into fixing the Knicks.

Meanwhile, today's All TV column review of "Project Runway" was guest-written by Ledger fashion ace Jenifer Braun, both because I was traveling all day and because, as I said the last time I got Jen to review "Runway" for me, my idea of fashion is deciding whether to wear the comic book t-shirt or the movie t-shirt (or to combine the two and wear my Mr. Incredible t-shirt). It's very rare that I see a show as obviously well put-together as "Runway" that I just don't give a toss about, but that's what friends are for.

Anybody watch anything interesting on the tube last night? Click here to read the full post

Monday, July 10, 2006

Some quick ones, before I'm away

The "official" All TV blog is back up again, with the first post (a rerun of the usual "what is press tour?" explanation) up here. Meanwhile, today's column has a preview of TNT's Stephen King anthology miniseries "Nightmares & Dreamscapes," which is pretty cool.

I watched the entirety of Showtime's "Brotherhood" before writing last week's review, so all 11 hours blend together to a certain degree. But if anyone watched it and has any comments or questions, specific details (beyond the ear-slicing scene and the ugly topless guys in the bookie trailer) should click back.

"Entourage" continued its modest improvement from the early part of the season. I knew Paul Haggis back in his last TV incarnation, when he was the underappreciated auteur of "Due South" and "EZ Streets," so it was funny to see him go insane with his new Oscar power. (Even when he was less successful, he was that intense.) Lots of Ari goodness, from his Kazakhstan gambit with "Young 21 Jump Street" boy to his reluctant meeting with Turtle (good pitch) and Drama (bad pitch), and especially his entrance in the final scene. I like the acknowledgement that Vince's new stardom comes with strings attached, and the show is usually at its best when Eric and/or Ari have to scramble to fix Vince's career.

Back sometime tomorrow after I've readjusted to a new timezone. Click here to read the full post

Deadwood: Fight club


I'm packing up for the trip to LA, so some briefer-than-usual comments on the very bloody outcome on "Deadwood" after the jump...

Ho. Ly. Crap. That was one of the most amazing fight scenes I have ever witnessed in a movie or TV show. Everything about it was mythic: The whole build-up over the last few episodes with Dan and the Captain taunting each other, shirtless Dan greasing himself up for the fight, Dan's "Come scare me in the thoroughfare" note, the brutal clumsiness of the fight itself, the fight going wrong just as Dan predicted, Dan coming back just as he predicted, Dan ripping out the Captain's freaking eye, and Al's barely perceptible nod to Dan to finish things, followed by Al walking back into his office without so much as a glance at Hearst's balcony.

Whew! Can I say that again? Whew! Or maybe, wow! Now, I love me some Jackie Chan/Jet Li lavishly choregraphed violence, but seeing something this ugly, this clumsy reminds me just how awful the real thing is -- especially when we cut back to Dan sitting naked in his room, his face buried in his hands, unable to deal with anyone or anything for a very long time. Outstanding work throughout (including the comedy in the scene where Bullock enters The Gem) by W. Earl Brown.

The dangling eyeball was the most shocking moment, but this was an episode full of stunners: Steve the hooplehead talking proud Hostetler into eating his own shotgun, a doped-up Alma throwing herself at a terrified Ellsworth (isn't it usually the guy in the sham marriage who wants to take things too far?), and Seth drawing down on Hearst and dragging the most powerful man in the camp towards a cell.

Since HBO sent out only the first five episodes, we have now reached the point where my knowledge of what's to come is the same as yours, and I couldn't be happier. I have no idea how Hearst will respond to this public humiliation, or how Al will try to counter it; whether Steve gets to keep the livery or the General insists on staying out of respect for Hostetler; how both Seth and Martha will react to the news that Alma's free and easy again; whether Alma can kick the dope again (if they stick to the consecutive day formula, probably not).

Hell of an episode. Unfortunately, I now feel the need to resolve all my conflicts by greasing up and beating someone to death with a thick tree branch. Hey, it's better than wanting to blow my head off with a shotgun whenever I deal with a customer service rep who won't do what I need.

Some other random thoughts:
  • More of the Doc this week than last, but his voice seemed hoarse and his bearing weak. I think he may be a lunger.
  • Milch never manages to work every regular into every episode, but it seemed there were more characters MIA than usual: No Joanie, no Jane, no Mose, no Martha, no Wu, and no Jewell. Am I forgetting anyone? Or did any of these people pop up and I just missed 'em?
  • I love Brian Cox as Langriche, and Dennis Christopher gets a lifetime pass from me for winning the Little 500, but feel like the theater company may be one subgroup too many on this show. On the other hand, I loved Richardson's more astute than it sounded, "Are they performing now?" as he watched the group move through what appears to be a long-standing series of off-stage routines.
  • Someone asked in the comments last week whether Con could actually be such an awful lover. I think we have our answer to that. The guy makes Commissioner Hugo "Motorboater" Jarry seem like the world's most attentive lovemaker.
  • Am I the only one getting a little tired of the Trixie/Sol dynamic where she berates him for not knowing about things she refuses to tell him? It's especially frustrating because he rarely has significant scenes with anyone else anymore.
  • Nice moment where, after mocking the General for the entirety of their conversation, Aunt Lou turns serious and wishes him and Hostetler luck.
  • Shouldn't the "what goes up must come down" rule of physics endangered Seth or someone else after he fired in the air to signal Steve and Hostetler?
  • Well, Hearst saw right through Al's plan to use Adams as a Judas goat, didn't he?
  • Some funny Farnum moments, including him trying to make himself look more important to Al's guys and him furiously scribbling "Bella Union" on a piece of paper to avoid another beating from Seth.
My note-taking wasn't as thorough this week, so no Milch-isms. Feel free to nominate your own.

What did everybody else think?
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Friday, July 07, 2006

You must watch this, immediately

Deadwood meets Lucky Louie, via YouTube Click here to read the full post

Potpourri

Two column links for the price of one this morning: a more detailed rant about what went wrong with the Emmy nominations, plus a triple-header preview of "Chappelle's Show: The Lost Episodes," the new season of "Monk" and USA's very annoying new "Psych."

I only watched the "Rock Star" results show live, and probably should have buffered it so I could skip through Brooke Burke's "hosting" efforts (she really makes you appreciate Seacrest). Last year, the bottom three had to sing INXS songs; since Supernova has no back-catalog, I wondered what they would have to do this time. (A choice of Motley Crue, Guns 'n Roses and Metallica songs?) Opening it up to pretty much any rock song that'll clear makes things more interesting, especially when a knucklehead like Matt goes and picks a Duran Duran song. From the minute he said the words "Duran Duran," you could see the band making up its mind to punt him, and the fact that it was a much harder arrangement and arguably a better vocal than Chris' didn't matter.

On Monday, I fly out to LA for the two and a half week long Television Critics Association press tour (aka "Death march with cocktails"). This means several things for this blog:

1)Press tour runs all day and well into the night most of the time, so I won't have much time for actual TV-viewing. Day-after reviews will be minimal at best, except on those occasions when some nice network drops a DVD screener off in my hotel room. I'll definitely review the next "Deadwood" and "Entourage," and after that I'll create an open thread every morning for people to discuss stuff, whether or not I saw it.

2)As in years past, I'm doing an official press tour blog for NJ.com. You can see previous editions here. (And if you go here, the entry at the very bottom gives a pretty thorough summary of press tour for anyone who doesn't know about it.) The interface is more primitive (no comments, no sub-links to specific posts), but rumor has it we're only a month or two away from purchasing better blogging software. In the meantime, every day I'll post a brief summary here of what's on the official blog, and anyone who wants to comment or ask questions about the event can do it here.

One of the events I'm most looking forward to is attending a taping of the "Rock Star" performance show, followed by the party back at the mansion. With a bunch of reporters invited, I'm guessing the party will be a bit less raucous (or, at least, powder-free) than your average bacchanal. Click here to read the full post

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Of Emmys and Chickens

Well, the Emmy nominations were announced, so please excuse me while I go pound my head against a rock until one of us gets bloody.

I'll rant more about this in the comments after I've had some time to process and to think about what I'm going to write for tomorrow's paper, but my initial reaction is that this is even worse than I was expecting. When the TV Academy announced its plan to revamp the nominations process, I was optimistic for about a half-second about the idea that the likes of Lauren Graham and "Veronica Mars" might finally get some love. Then I realized that the new process involved the same kind of blue-ribbbon panels that, until a few years ago, were responsible for all those years of Tyne Daly and Candice Bergen winning over and over and over again. The people who have the free time to sit on a panel tend to be either unemployed, retired, and/or old, and their tastes don't reflect the working body of the membership.

My fear was that we would just get more of the same nominees, but rather than obvious repeats, we got Emmy's Golden Oldies: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Stockard Channing, Geena Davis, etc., etc., etc. James Gandolfini? Snubbed? Hugh Laurie? Snubbed. Edie Falco, who all but won the damn award with "Sopranos" episode two? Snubbed.

There was a sprinkling of fresh blood -- "The Office," Denis Leary, the First Couple from "24" -- but overall this is a fiasco. Not that "Desperate Housewives" was good this year, but the fact that neither of last year's comedy or drama series winners were even nominated this year makes me think that the Academy is going to do an about-face on the new system in, oh, two or three days.

Meanwhile, today's column link: a preview of "Big Brother: All-Stars" that's really a look back on that wonderfully catastrophic first season of the show. Click here to read the full post

Rock Star: Ladies night

Since I say that "Rock Star" is better than "American Idol," I guess the least I can do is do a performance-by-performance review of the premiere the same way I do with "Idol." A mostly strong night, though, as with the early episodes of "Amazing Race," it always feels like there are too many people to keep track of. And after only one night, it looks like Brooke's question about whether a woman can front Supernova is irrelevant, since the women were head and shoulders above most of the men. More after the jump...

Storm Large, "Pinball Wizard": After that clip package, I really wanted to dislike her (the "people say I [fill in the egregious act here], but really I" school of reality show self-justification always annoys me), but this was a really strong opening. She overdoes some of the hyper stage mannerisms, but so did a lot of the season one contestants, and the ones with talent learned to tone it down (notably Marty). Stupid name, but if it really is hers, I've gotta hate on her parents, not her.

Ryan Star, "Iris": Speaking of names, I hope like hell that this is his real moniker, because borrowing the pseudonym of a season one female "Idol" contestant ain't a good credibility-generating move. Had a sort of poor man's Jakob Dylan thing going on that mostly worked for this cheesey song, but the last third felt even more blatantly like posing than Storm's. As the judges told so many of the other male contestants, I need to hear him do something a little rougher next time.

Toby Rand, "Knockin' on Heaven's Door": Strong voice, though with more vibratto than I like. Sort of a boy band performance, with the emoting and that Ace Young hand to the diaphragm move, but unlike Ace, this guy can sing.

Patrice Pike, "Somebody to Love": One of the best of the night, putting it all together: a powerful vocal that wasn't just an impersonation of the original, command of the stage, relationship with the camera, etc. For all of Storm's sex appeal in her clip package, Patrice was the one really making love to the audience (and the guitar player), but it felt natural, not desperate.

Magni, "Satisfaction": At least he has the self-awareness to acknowledge that being "one of the ten most recognized singers in Iceland" is like being the best surfer in Arizona. Now, I love this song, but it is one of the most overplayed numbers in rock history. You really have to destroy with it to justify the choice, and Magni didn't pull it off. He tried with all his different tricks: throwing out the chorus to the audience, flicking his tongue, that entitled "You will all kneel before Magni" palms-up gesture, etc. But even with a good voice, it was still the same "Satisfaction." Every time we cut back to the judges, one or more of them looked bored.

Zayra Alvarez, "Bring Me to Life": I hate this song, so it's hard for me to give this an honest assessment. Her accent overpowered the vocals at time, and I think a lot of what seemed good was the result of the laser show and the House Band kicking ass like it always does. I want to hear her on something else before I pass judgment, though.

Jenny Galt, "How You Remind Me": First Evanescence, now Nickelback? It's the Chris Daughtry Memorial portion of the evening! Yeesh. It's a good thing she played the guitar, because the song was way too low for her voice; she kept trying and failing to bring power to the vocals.

Josh Logan, "She Talks to Angels": Oddly looks like a dead ringer for J.D. in the clip package, then nothing at all like him on stage. I'll leave aside the scatting for now, because that's clearly the guy's thing, but I don't see it matching up with this group of musicians. But my biggest problem from the jump was the fact that this guy seems way too pleased with himself, either smiling broadly or outright laughing between each line. Dude, it's a song about heroin addiction. I expect the "Idol" contestants to not pay attention to what the lyrics are about, but this is rock 'n roll.

Matt Hoffer, "Yellow": Starts off avoiding the Chris Martin falsetto, which seems like a good call -- especially after he tries to do it during the chorus and makes my ears hurt. First real dud of the night.

Dilana, "Lithium": Okay, wtf was that? I have no idea if she's any good or not, but I was mesmerized by the whole thing, from the decision to stand rock still at the mic for the song's first two thirds to the complete spaz-out at the end. (Though she should've pulled the hood off at that point.) Very weird voice, sort of Laurie Anderson-ish at points. Definitely someone I want to see and hear more of.

Dana Andrews, "I'm the Only One": Stage mannerisms felt a little cliche (I don't know that I ever need to see a female singer rake her hand down her face again), and a pretty froggy, albeit powerful, voice. The judges liked this a lot more than I did.

Phil Ritchie, "Cult of Personality": Ty did this in last year's premiere, but it felt more like one of those early Marty performances, down to the way Phil seemed to flop around stage as if he had just been jolted with 1.21 gigawatts of electricity. The band was especially hot on this one, which is good, because the vocals were just a'ight, dawg. Even the judges, who seemed inclined to go easy on everybody, couldn't find much nice to say.

Jill Gioia, "Piece of My Heart": First of all, I never want to hear her talk again, and I say that as someone with a wife and many friends from Long Island. Second, she has that Jim Neighbors thing where the speaking and singing voice are light-years apart, thank God. She sounded so much like Janis, though, that I need to hear her do something else to figure out whether she's a good performer or just a good karaoke artist.

Chris Pierson, "Roxanne": Unlike Matt on "Yellow," he's smart enough to avoid attempting the falsetto throughout, but without it, there's nothing memorable about the performance. It's one of the most repetitive songs in rock history, especially the portion he excerpted, and you need some kind of vocal magic to make it work. I know the band attacked the new arrangement, but I think if Chris had a more interesting voice they wouldn't have cared. (Plus, I hope this doesn't scare the others away from rearranging the classics, because that's one of my favorite parts of the show.)

Lukas Rossi, "Rebel Yell": Forget what I said about Josh vaguely resembling the season one winner, because Lukas is our J.D.-alike. Let's see... Canadian? Check. Homless? Check. Cocky as hell? Check. Talented enough to justify the cockiness? Check, check, check. This is the best the band sounded all night, and he brought an intensity to match them, just completely shredding those vocals, staggering around stage as if drunk, etc. The first guy of the night who actually sounds like he might be a match with whatever Supernova turns out to be. You can see the judges sharing an "OMFG" reaction to the whole thing, which seemed about right.

Summing up: Lukas was probably the best of the night, with Patrice, Dilana and Storm way up there. Chris, Phil and Matt were the three weakest, and I'll be shocked if a guy doesn't go home tonight.

What did everybody else think?
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Wednesday, July 05, 2006

In the summertime

The NY/NJ/CT area is going through about the worst weather combination possible: hot, muggy and perpetually rainy. It's times like these that I really appreciate having an indoor job -- and central air -- so I can watch in relative comfort.

Some interesting summer stuff coming up. On Sunday, I jumped the gun with a review of Showtime's mob/political drama "Brotherhood," which premieres this Sunday. (Short version: good performances, much more straightforward than "The Sopranos" has been in a while, but still a little sluggishly-paced.) And today's column is my ode to "Rock Star," which I fell so in love with by the end of last season that it pretty much ruined my ability to fully enjoy "American Idol." The one part of the show I never cared much about were the "reality" episodes set at the Rock Star mansion, and apparently I was not alone; after being bounced from CBS to VH1 last season, they're now up only at the show's product-integrated website. But I'm psyched for the first performance show tonight.

Meanwhile, that was much more like it for "Entourage." The return of "Medellin," Ari bluffing with his daughter's bat mitzvah video (and Drama wondering if he was in it), Vince reminding us that he is occasionally useful for more than looking good and smiling (spotting Dom's tell) and, best of all, Dom's gone. I liked the idea of the character -- now that Vince is a Tobey/Leo-level star, more moochers are going to come out of the woodwork -- but he was such a blatant troublemaker in every way that even Vince would have shown him the door by the end of the previous episode. The worst part is, now that I've seen so much of Domenick Lombardozzi naked, it makes it very hard to pay full attention to his scenes in the new episodes of "The Wire" I've been watching.

And speaking of which, now that I'm almost through with the fourth season (HBO sent out the final six episodes right before I went on vacation), I think my next post is going to be a discussion of my one true love: cop dramas. To be continued... Click here to read the full post

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Deadwood: The good, the bad and the Steve

"Deadwood" episode four spoilers after the jump...

I know Dan said that "Fixin' toward a bloody outcome" line back in the season premiere, but rarely has it felt as prophetic as it did in episode four. Everywhere you turned, there were people ready to rip each other's heads off. Al and Hearst. Dan and the Captain. And, of course, Hostetler and Steve the drunken horse molester (aka Steve Fields).

Richard Gant and especially Michael Harney spent most of the episode bottling so much rage that it looked on several occasions like Milch was going to pull a "Scanners" and feature some exploding heads. And that's on top of Tim Olyphant, who always plays Bullock as one bad tech support voicemail session away from turning spree killer, and who got to amp that up even more as Seth tried and failed to stay calm while negotiating peace between the man whose horse killed his son and the most hateful man in the camp. (And in a place that includes Cy Tolliver, George Hearst and E.B. Farnum, that's saying something.) The fact that Steve's presence is tolerated anywhere in camp, even at a dive like the No. 10, and that someone like Harry Manning seems to consider him a friend suggests that we may actually be spending most of our time visiting the camp's classier individuals.

(Then again, there's always Con Stapleton -- not to mention his "identical twin.")

It's odd how Bullock went from being the show's main character to a tight-assed joke most of the time, but this felt like the most Bullock-heavy episode we've had since the show's early days. I do think he's a more limited character than Swearengen (and, much as I like Olyphant, he ain't in Ian McShane's league), but I like seeing Seth struggle to fit in and do the right thing all the time, even though he's about as much a wild animal as Dan Dority.

Speaking of Al, we get the return of his preferred method of thinking: while getting serviced by one of the Gem girls. McShane just about broke my heart with the look he gave the whore when she said she wanted to vote for Harry because "Bullock yells at you." I could do without the soliloquies about his abusive childhood, however; McShane's so good that we understand Al's emotional scars without him having to explain them to us.

Now what do you suppose Hearst's playing at? Clearly, Cy is his man on the street, and after that bit with the pickaxe he knows he can never trust Al, so why bother pretending to split the pie? Why not just arm up Cy with some of his muscle and wipe out Al and his bunch. Al and Dan are tough, but Hearst could hire an army to wipe 'em all out under cover of darkness if he wanted.

And in the other key development of the evening, the bank opens and Alma gets right back on the dope. At first, when Leon was lurking so oddly at the bank, I couldn't figure out what his play was. Then I remembered that he's in charge of Cy's drug operations, and when he nodded to Alma from the street that night, I knew. Poor, oblivious Ellsworth's now gonna have him a junkie fake wife.

Some other random thoughts:
  • Franklin Ajaye's delivery of "Nigger, nigger, nigger" when Hostetler wouldn't sign was a thing of beauty. Glad to have the General back in town, though it's odd that he would bother sending Jane the telegram if he and Hostetler were just gonna ride in without waiting for a reply.
  • When Ellsworth said, "As far as the conjugal enterprise, I'll admit feeling like a schoolboy," I was taken aback, since I had assumed he and Alma didn't even kiss, much less make the beast with two backs. Then I looked up "conjugal" and was reminded that all it means is "of or relating to marriage or to the relationship between a wife and husband." Too many prison movies have corrupted the definition for me, I guess.
  • Last week gave us Al's complaint about how long it takes Merrick to ask a question, and this time we get Seth doing the same with Charlie ("Is that your goddamn idea of quick, Charlie?") and Al with Hearst ("Can you say it straight out before I have a fuckin' birthday?"). But even though Milch is aware of how contorted his dialogue has become, don't expect it to change. (At least, I hope not.) Late in his run on "NYPD Blue," when all the characters were beginning to talk like 19th century dandies, there were several occasions where a guest character would make similar meta-complaints, but the lingo didn't get any clearer until after Milch left.
  • Cute little moment where Joanie and Jane contemplate the future of the Chez Amie and can't figure out where Jack is going to put his stage. Felt a little like a wink at the audience (Joanie's never been funny in quite that way), but I'm okay with it.
Milch-isms of the week:
  • Dan responding to Hearst's greeting: "Morning. Best time of day to go fuck yourself!"
  • Joanie responding to Jack's offer about renting (and continuing the theme): "Perhaps you'd consider fucking yourself."
  • Al on Hearst's invitation: "Fuckin' Hearst, must take me for an optimist."
  • The General being sarcastic: "That's why I came back with you, Hostetler. To worsen my chances when it's time to flee!"
  • Jane on Steve: "Tars every fuckin' drunk with his brush."
  • EB to himself: "When will I raise courage to search that woman's room?"
What did everybody else think?
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