Wednesday, July 08, 2009

"I'm a god. I'm not THE God... I don't think."

Given that it's a slow week, and that I'll either be on vacation or traveling on business for the next several weeks, and that it's been a while since I did this, it's another open thread time. For the next eight hours or so (let's set the deadline as 5:30 Eastern), talk about and/or ask what you want, and I'll do my best to respond to what I can.

Hey, it's a slightly more productive procrastination tool than Flickchart (where "Groundhog Day" presently resides at my #1, leading a top 10 of "Lawrence of Arabia," "Three Kings," "Midnight Run," "The Shawshank Redemption," "The Big Lebowski," "The Princess Bride," "Die Hard," "Hoosiers" and "Children of Men").

First potential topic for discussion: can anyone identify the theme of the new blog logo?

UPDATE: 100+ questions later, we're wrapping it up for this time. Thanks, guys!

125 comments:

Alicia said...

I've never seen Friday Night Lights. Why should I watch it?

And if you were on a deserted island, which TV character would you want with you and which character do you want to save you both?

--@AliGraysAnatomy

swampy said...

3 scowls & a cowl ?

yeah - I need more coffee

Fett said...

They're all very wealthy dudes who do unusual things with their money?

filmcricket said...

Why do people love Groundhog Day so much? I remember finding it incredibly dull. Should I give it another chance?

Pamela said...

Who are four people who have never been in my kitchen?

Celendra said...

All redheads?

tut said...

Groundhog Day is currently my flickchart #1 as well. However, if it ever matches up against The Big Lebowski (believe me I've tried), it's toast.

Do you think Brian K. Vaughan leaving Lost will have a significant impact on the final season? I think he brought a lot to the table.

Alan Sepinwall said...

They're all very wealthy dudes who do unusual things with their money?

Bing! You are sharp as a tack, Fett!

Anonymous said...

Any word on when the new season of Curb Your Enthusiasm will air, and whether Vivica Fox will be a part of it?

Craig Ranapia said...

What are the odds of SciFi (or whatever its called this week) successfully filling the battlestar-shaped hole in its schedule? I liked the 'Caprica' pilot, 'Eureka' is unpretentious fun and think 'Warehouse 13' has potential.

But the more I see of the new Stargate show, the less I like.

forthright fattie said...

Did you see that the Freaks and Geeks box set is on sale at Amazon for $36ish? We just rewatched that and I read all your recaps, and remember several instances where you regretted not buying it. Now may be your chance!

Jack said...

I was wondering where you stand (or stood) with HBO's Carnivale? I've searched the blog and couldn't find anything. It was definitely a favorite of mine, so I'd like to know what you thought about it. And if there's any news on a movie or comic or something to finish up the story. Such a shame HBO canceled it.

Dave Wiemer said...

Alan,

As a fellow FoW fanatic and Adam Schlesinger worshiper, what do you think of Tinted Windows?

Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I like celendra's guess. If I remember my Simpsons lore correctly, on the Rodney Dangerfield episode, Burns' flashback to his college reunion has him sporting a nearly full head of red hair.

Is Adam West a redhead?

As far as the intended theme, I never watched News Radio or Life, so all I think when I see those two actors are Milton from Office Space and Dick Winters.

To Alicia and Flimcritic, why ask people if you should watch something? In Alicia's case, why ask "why" you should watch something? Clearly people here like the show/movie you didn't or have never seen, so they would say yes you should, or--to answer the why--yes you should because it's good.

Michael said...

Alan,

Any idea how networks look at "ratings" (or whatever it might be called) from hulu and episodes watched on their own sites? I know it was a factor with gossip girl (low first season numbers but huge online presence) but is there some sort of formula yet or is it really being considered that much at all?

My word verification is thing. That feels impossibly normal.

Gavin Breeden said...

I've starting watching The Wire this summer and that's how I discovered your blog. I've sped through seasons 1 and 2 and I'm now venturing into season 3 without any of your comments. Is there somewhere on the web where you've written about season 3?

Subquestion, which season of The Wire is your personal favorite?

Bgklein said...

Who made you laugh more, Tobias, GOB, or George Sr.?

Jay said...

Alan,

My roommate is dating someone who works for the Baltimore Sun. Every time she visits, I simply cannot help myself from making random Wire references or saying things like, "Watch out for that Templeton guy." Needless to say, I'm pretty sure she hates me.

Is there any medication that can treat this? Should I be seek counseling or something?

Last weekend I tried to give her a tip about a Major in the Western District that legalized drugs and she almost throw a frying pan at me. I need help.

Bobman said...

I can't help it, I always cheat when you put up a new banner by looking at the name of the image....

Actual question - who are some movie reviewers / critics you recommend? As my go-to TV critic I figure our tastes in movies may also coincide, but your blogroll on the side only lists TV critics.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Okey-doke, several errands and one commute later, once more unto the breach...

I've never seen Friday Night Lights. Why should I watch it?

Because it's awesome? Because the two leads are the one of the most realistic, and likable, TV married couples of all time? Because it will make you cry? And laugh? And pump your fists? Did I mention the awesome?

And if you were on a deserted island, which TV character would you want with you and which character do you want to save you both?

If it had to be just one person for both roles, it'd be either MacGyver, Michael Westen or Sayid Jarah (if Craphole Island weren't mystical, Sayid would have gotten everybody off of it years ago). As for a buddy to hang with while waiting to be saved... hmmm... am I married to my wonderful wife in this hypothetical scenario or not?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Do you think Brian K. Vaughan leaving Lost will have a significant impact on the final season? I think he brought a lot to the table.

Vaughan did tend to have his name on a lot of strong episodes, but the way TV works, the showrunners have their hand in nearly every script, and so long as Damon and Carlton are still around -- and have as good an endgame in mind as they're claiming -- I'm not too concerned.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Any word on when the new season of Curb Your Enthusiasm will air, and whether Vivica Fox will be a part of it?

In the fall, and David always keeps a tight wrap on the storylines.

I can't decide if I want Larry to be with the Blacks long-term, or if the hilarity of the end of the previous season would be ruined if they extended the joke.

Mr. Peel said...

From "The Public Domain" episode of NEWSRADIO:

Jimmy James: These guys, they've done documentaries about all the heavy hitters. Talking about, Ted Turner, Bill Gates, Rupert Murdoch, Bruce Wayne...

Dave: Sir, Bruce Wayne is Batman.

Jimmy James: Shhh!

I doubt this is the answer, but I couldn't help but think of that.

Andrew said...

My morning has been ruined by checking to confirm that the photo of Stephen Root as Jimmy James comes from reading his autobiography in "Super Karate Monkey Death Car," and watching many Newsradio clips. "But Jimmy has fancy plans... and pants to match."

How excited should I be for my State DVD set to arrive?

Alan Sepinwall said...

What are the odds of SciFi (or whatever its called this week) successfully filling the battlestar-shaped hole in its schedule? I liked the 'Caprica' pilot, 'Eureka' is unpretentious fun and think 'Warehouse 13' has potential.

BSG leaves huge shoes to fill. Eureka and Warehouse 13 aren't aiming high enough to be considered successors, and we'll see about Caprica.

It's not often that you see a sci-fi show get compared to stuff like The West Wing and The Wire. Much as I loved BSG, I'm guessing it was an anomaly.

Josh said...

I've been rewatching 'Deadwood' the past week or so and have come to the conclusion that Ian McShane as Al Swearengen is the single greatest casting decision ever. Not that Timothy Olyphant is bad as Seth Bullock either. Question is whom would you consider the best cast actor or actress on TV? Jon Hamm as Don Draper perhaps? You got a Top 5 current and all time list in you possibly?

Bobman said...

How excited should I be for my State DVD set to arrive?

Extremely? Mine actually arrived last Thursday (on my birthday, by complete and awesome coincidence) because I pre-ordered it online (and got a free T-Shirt!) It's just as awesome as I remember.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Did you see that the Freaks and Geeks box set is on sale at Amazon for $36ish? We just rewatched that and I read all your recaps, and remember several instances where you regretted not buying it. Now may be your chance!

That's the regular box set, which I already had. I was regretting never getting the Yearbook Edition, which I finally acquired after Shout Factory re-released it after I did those F&G reviews. At the moment, Amazon has that one for 91 bucks, which is nearly half off the usual price. If you're a huge fan of the series, it's a good deal.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I was wondering where you stand (or stood) with HBO's Carnivale?

Carnivale predated the existence of the blog, which began in October '05, a few months after the last Carnivale episode. But Carnivale was an HBO show I never really got into. Like Rome (which I also didn't like much), people often sing its praises to me in the years since cancellation, and since I have both series on DVD, at some point I may give one or both another look.

Alan Sepinwall said...

As a fellow FoW fanatic and Adam Schlesinger worshiper, what do you think of Tinted Windows?

It's high on my Amazon wishlist, but I haven't picked it up yet, unfortunately. The stuff I've listened to on YouTube sounds pretty tight, though.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Any idea how networks look at "ratings" (or whatever it might be called) from hulu and episodes watched on their own sites?

I think everybody's still trying to figure out how to make money on that, and how much to factor in that viewing into whether a show lives or dies. The TV networks/studios just realized that if they didn't put up the content themselves where they could control it, ASAP, people would find a way to watch it illegally.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Is there somewhere on the web where you've written about season 3?

See previous response about when the blog began. I'll likely get to season 3 next summer.

Subquestion, which season of The Wire is your personal favorite?

Season 4. No question.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Who made you laugh more, Tobias, GOB, or George Sr.?

Of those, Tobias, though Buster and George Michael were probably my favorite Arrested characters.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Is there any medication that can treat this? Should I be seek counseling or something?

The latter. Or, at the very least, do that thing that Larry Hagman used to preach about smoking: put a rubber band around your wrist, and anytime you're tempted to make a Wire reference, instead reach over and snap the band against your wrist.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Actual question - who are some movie reviewers / critics you recommend?

Ebert's still the tops, no doubt. Stephen Whitty, the Ledger's movie critic, is really good. I find I have similar tastes to a lot of the Onion A.V. Club guys (which no doubt is why Scott often comments here), and I'm always excited on those rare occasions (like this one) when Matt Seitz puts finger to keyboard and writes about movies again.

Alan Sepinwall said...

How excited should I be for my State DVD set to arrive?

Very.

Stringer Sawyer Carmichael said...

Let's go non-tv related. Can you open your iTunes and tell us what you top 5 most played songs are? And what do you think they would be if you'd had iTunes your entire life?

Alan Sepinwall said...

I've been rewatching 'Deadwood' the past week or so and have come to the conclusion that Ian McShane as Al Swearengen is the single greatest casting decision ever.

The funny thing is that he was Milch's third choice. Milch wanted Ed O'Neill (who had just starred in Milch's "Big Apple"), but HBO refused to build a big Western drama around a guy who was still best known as Al Bundy. Then Milch hired Powers Boothe, only Boothe got sick before the pilot filmed, and it was only then that McShane was hired. (Milch created the character of Cy as a consolation prize for Boothe.)

Question is whom would you consider the best cast actor or actress on TV? Jon Hamm as Don Draper perhaps? You got a Top 5 current and all time list in you possibly?

All-time would be way too long (including but certainly not limited to Andre Braugher, Dennis Franz, Chiklis, Gandolfini, Falco as Carmela, Mary McDonnell as Roslin, McShane as Swidgen, half the cast of The Wire, etc., etc.).

Currently? Doesn't seem fair to compare comedy to drama. But off the top of my head, five best dramatic actors, either gender, with current series gigs: Hamm, Bryan Cranston, Gabriel Byrne, Hugh Laurie and, to cheat, a tie between Connie Britton & Kyle Chandler, Hugh Laurie. With apologies to Michael C. Hall, Michael Emerson, Elisabeth Moss, and a whole bunch of other people.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Can you open your iTunes and tell us what you top 5 most played songs are? And what do you think they would be if you'd had iTunes your entire life?

Does iTunes track iPod play as well? Because I listen to my iPod a lot more than I listen to songs on my computer. But the tops on the list are primarily songs I listen to when I work out: "How Far We've Come" by Matchbox Twenty, "Constructive Summer" by The Hold Steady, "Spaceman" by The Killers, "Napoleon Says" by Phoenix, and "The Ninjas" by Barenaked Ladies (off their album of kids songs, which my daughter loves).

Rick said...

Given that 90% of everything- including television- is crap, where in the creative process do you think things usually break down? Are the original ideas destined for failure? Are there that few quality writers? Is network involvement as bad as they say?

I might be answering my own question here...

Laura said...

This might make me sound ridiculously young and geeky, but here goes:

Any advice for a journalism student with an interest in being a critic? It might be kind of a niche goal, but it's all I've wanted to do for as long as I can remember. (And better a niche goal than none at all, right?)

Also, a two-parter. 1. How often do you get into conversation with family or friends about TV, and 2. How does it go when you disagree on the quality of a show?

Michael said...

I want to start watching Dr. Who, but I have no idea where to start. 40 years of history is rather intimidating. So, where should I start?

P.S. I thought I had already asked this question, but then I couldn't find it. Apologies if you've answered it before.

Matter-Eater Lad said...

Ever since "Mad Men" premiered, I've been struck by 1) how good Jon Hamm is, and 2) how undistinguished his career was until he was cast as Don Draper. Are there any other journeyman actors plugging away out there in little-regarded or little-watched shows that you think have a stunning performance like that in them, waiting for exactly the right role to strike?

Alan Sepinwall said...

I want to start watching Dr. Who, but I have no idea where to start. 40 years of history is rather intimidating. So, where should I start?

Start with the Christopher Eccleston season, which is the beginning of the new series. That's where I began, with minimal knowledge of the earlier series (I vaguely recall surfing past some Tom Baker episodes on PBS as a kid), and I've done just fine.

Alan Sepinwall said...

This might make me sound ridiculously young and geeky,

Hey, I was young and geeky once. Now I'm just geeky. (That lame joke brought to you by Grampa Simpson's, "I'm full of piss and vinegar! At first I was just full of vinegar.")

Any advice for a journalism student with an interest in being a critic?

Well, this is kind of a crap time to be trying to make a career out of criticism, as the number of outlets willing to pay a livable wage for it is dwindling rapidly. (In a few years, this blog could be the thing I do on breaks from my job at The Gap.)

But if you want to give it a go, the thing I'd suggest is to just write. The great thing about the internet is that you can create your own venue, and if it's good, people will find you, and it might lead to something. I more or less landed the job that I have because of the "NYPD Blue" site I ran in college.

Also, a two-parter. 1. How often do you get into conversation with family or friends about TV, and 2. How does it go when you disagree on the quality of a show?

1. Pretty often, as most of my close friends became so because of a shared affinity for pop culture, and as the only thing I find I have in common with many members of my extended family (who, it should be said, are perfectly nice people) is that we all watch television.

2. With the friends, the arguments are often the most fun. With the relatives (particularly the ones I see rarely), disagreement tends to shut down the conversation pretty quickly.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Are there any other journeyman actors plugging away out there in little-regarded or little-watched shows that you think have a stunning performance like that in them, waiting for exactly the right role to strike?

I'm sure there are tons, but I couldn't predict who they are. I was aware of Hamm pre-Mad Men, and I never would have seen this coming from him. Ditto Jack Coleman, who pre-Heroes was best known as one of the two Steven Carringtons on Dynasty.

I've talked to Coleman about how the role of HRG is kind of vindication for his long years in the wilderness. He said that while he hopes it means producers might take more chances on actors who haven't had great showcases in the past, he's skeptical, because it's always safer, career-wise, to audition the performer with the better resume.

One of the great things about Mad Men is that it's produced on such a small budget, compared to a network show, or even a pay cable hit, that they had no choice but to mostly cast unknowns. On a network, I imagine Don would have been played by someone like Christian Slater.

Craig Ranapia said...

BTW, anyone have any thoughts about Dominic West's broadside against "foreign stars playing British heroes"?

http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/film/article6658378.ece

Anonymous said...

When will we find out whether HBO has renewed In Treatment with Gabriel Byrne for another season? When will we be able to buy season 2's DVDs?

Craig Ranapia said...

Anyone else have shows whose sole feature of interest is a strong lead performance and/or an actor you'd watch mime the phone book? I'd definitely put 'Lie to Me' and 'Castle' on the list, but as the kids say your mileage may vary.

Chris said...

Hello Alan,

Have you watched The Venture Bros. yet? I know this has been brought up many times and you've answered that you have only seen the pilot and wasn't interested. I just want to reiterate how much better the show got after the pilot. The show developed a deep mythology, has some zinging satire, full rounded characters, non-stop geek references, and a beating heart underneath it all, it is no mere irony soaked nostalgia trip. I will be the first to admit that the past season, while great television, got bogged down with maybe too much mythology. However, I hope this is the straw that breaks the camel's back and finally gets you to check it out.

7s Tim said...

he's right. Venture Brothers is great. Watched the Adult Swim repeat, despite needing sleep very badly, at 5 this morning.

Anonymous said...

What show had a bad or mediocre pilot but went on to surprise you by becoming a great series?

What pilot did you give a good review to only to later regret it when the series turned out to suck?

And turning your Chuck show saving powers in reverse, what current show would you kill if you could?

Hatfield said...

Ooh, you'd have to kill Two and a Half Men, right?

I'm sure this has been asked before and I just missed it, but how much of this blog is because you want to and how much of it is part of your job at the paper? I know the content is mirrored on the Ledger site, and in going back in the archives to look for Deadwood and other shows I've noticed a looser approach.

Anna said...

I've been spending the past two weeks re-watching Firefly, and that's another show that (way) pre-dated your blog, so I'm wondering, what is your opinion of it? And, if applicable, how do you think the movie compares?

Brandy said...

I hated Groundhog Day the first time I saw it, hated it. And then I saw it again on cable and didn't hate it. And the next time it was on I wanted to see it again to see if I still didn't hate it... and as it turned out I liked it, I liked it a lot.

Tivo just recorded it for me. Haven't seen it in a few years. Looking forward to it!

Henry said...

I'm strongly considering Mad Men, Season One on DVD and Everwood, Season One on DVD since they're selling for way cheap on Amazon.

Do you have any thoughts on Everwood? I watched a couple of seasons during the first run but it just got lost in the shuffle before getting abruptly canceled. I haven't seen an episode in years and I don't remember much about it.

Mad Men, well, speaks for itself. Loved your reviews, loved the second season, can't wait for the third season to come. Is it August yet?!

Henry said...

Oh, as an aside: Who's the third guy from the left in the new blog logo?

and I LOVE Groundhog Day!

"Phil? Phil Connors?"
"Ned?!"
(Whack!)

Still cracks me up to this day...

7s Tim said...

Oh, just remembered to ask. Is Mad Men season two going On Demand before seasons three, and do you know when? I think you mentioned later this month at some point, but having just plowed through season one, it's on my mind and i couldn't find the mention. So, sorry, please remind us again?

The Amazing Acting Eye said...

Simple question - waiting for open thread to ask.

When I tell my friends to check out your site (which I do a lot)... what's the correct way to pronounce your name?

(The Alan part I'm pretty sure I get right)

Alan Sepinwall said...

Still have yet to watch Venture Bros., but at least now the first disc of season 1 is in my Netflix queue. Alright? Alright?

Alan Sepinwall said...

What show had a bad or mediocre pilot but went on to surprise you by becoming a great series?

What pilot did you give a good review to only to later regret it when the series turned out to suck?


Too many of both of these to mention, but "The Nine" is a very obvious candidate for the latter (though I think even then, I suspected it would suck quickly). And "Burn Notice" is a very good recent example of the former, as I wasn't very impressed by the pilot, or even most of the first season.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I've been spending the past two weeks re-watching Firefly, and that's another show that (way) pre-dated your blog, so I'm wondering, what is your opinion of it? And, if applicable, how do you think the movie compares?

Liked it a lot, and love the movie even more. (Though I'm not surprised it tanked; I was more surprised it got made at all.)

Alan Sepinwall said...

Do you have any thoughts on Everwood?

Same as for any Berlanti show: good enough to watch so long as I have something else to do at the same time (laundry, bills, cooking, e-mail), but not good enough to make a serious viewing commitment to. Some great moments, certainly, but not really my speed.

Alan Sepinwall said...

what's the correct way to pronounce your name?

Imagine -- as so many teachers and civil servants have done over the years when reading it for the first time -- that there's a T in between the S and the E, and it makes sense. Pronounce it sehp-IN-wall.

If I had a time machine, one of my first stops would be to intercede between my non-English-speaking great-grandfather and the Canadian immigration official who came up with this silly name and convince him to either use the real one (whatever it is) or invent something easier.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Oh, just remembered to ask. Is Mad Men season two going On Demand before seasons three, and do you know when? I think you mentioned later this month at some point, but having just plowed through season one, it's on my mind and i couldn't find the mention. So, sorry, please remind us again?

This was discussed in the discussion about the season 3 premiere date. Do a search on the blog and you'll find it.

Daniel said...

Is AMC really smart or just really lucky with their two original series?

Kevin said...

I've never read you posting much about the Simpsons, except for maybe when the movie came out. Where do you stand on it? Does it deserve to be on 20 years, or do you feel like I do that it just started repeating itself about six or seven years in? Also, maybe your thoughts on Family Guy, South Park, King of the Hill?

LA said...

*Anyone else have shows whose sole feature of interest is a strong lead performance and/or an actor you'd watch mime the phone book? I'd definitely put 'Lie to Me' and 'Castle' on the list, but as the kids say your mileage may vary.*

House. For me, it would be unwatchable without Hugh Laurie. Yes, that includes Wilson. Wilson is only as good as having Laurie to interact with.

Anonymous said...

Alan,

I recently watched "The Corner" what do you think of the series and do you ever think you will do a retro-review?

-Omar

Alyson said...

@Henry: third guy on the left is Damian Lewis, in his most recent guise as Charlie Crews from "Life".

RSR said...

I just finished watching Bryan Fuller's "Wonderfalls" which predated this blog and was wondering what your thoughts were?

Alan Sepinwall said...

I recently watched "The Corner" what do you think of the series and do you ever think you will do a retro-review?

Loved it, but it'd be pretty far down the list, if only because it's so bleak that I'd need to gird myself to watch it again.

Anonymous said...

Thoughts about In Treatment season 3?

Anonymous said...

Alan,

What are your thoughts on "The IT Crowd"?

Thanks!

swampy said...

I pretty much will watch anything at 3:45am to het me through my workout and onto the train into NYC - could that be why I still miss CANE and DIRTY $EXY MONEY ?

jana said...

Alan,
Have you gotten a preview copy of the first couple of episodes of Mad Men? If so, how's it looking? I'm on pins and needles waiting for the new season and, hopefully seeing the Draper's (or Betty and the stable guy's) new child, Peggy's rise to power, Pete's impending break-down...

Myranda said...

I just finished watching The Wire a week ago and am going through serious withdrawal symptoms. (Heh - irony!) Do David Simon and Ed Burns have anything new in the works? Or at the very least do any of the cast members have recurring gigs on different shows (other than Idris Elba on The Office, of course)?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Have you gotten a preview copy of the first couple of episodes of Mad Men? If so, how's it looking? I'm on pins and needles waiting for the new season and, hopefully seeing the Draper's (or Betty and the stable guy's) new child, Peggy's rise to power, Pete's impending break-down...

Haven't gotten anything yet, unfortunately. And Betty never closed the deal with her horseback buddy, and didn't sleep with Captain Awesome until after she was pregnant; the baby is Don's.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Do David Simon and Ed Burns have anything new in the works?

In addition to "Generation Kill," you mean? They're producing "Treme," a new HBO series about jazz musicians -- played by Clarke Peters and Wendell Pierce -- in a post-Katrina New Orleans.

Alan Sepinwall said...

What are your thoughts on "The IT Crowd"?

Didn't like the two episodes I've seen (the first two).

Alan Sepinwall said...

Thoughts about In Treatment season 3?

Would love to see it. Not holding my breath.

Theresa said...

In terms of overall quality of prime time programming, how would you rank the Big Four? (I suppose basing this on the previous year's programming, since a) it's hard to tell how the fall is going to go and b) NBC is making it Jay Leno Time, all the time.) Does having Lost put ABC over NBC's The Office and 30 Rock? Or HIMYM over House? I realize this is a tricky question, but I'm curious about any thoughts you have on this.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Theresa, much as I mock NBC, it probably still has the most shows I'm passionate about on any of the Big 4: Office, 30 Rock, Chuck, and (if you don't have DirecTV) Friday Night Lights.

keyser soze said...

For what it's worth, I'm a huge a fan of The IT Crowd. The concept is so simple and yet relatable -- cyclical idiocy. Roy thinks everyone around him is an idiot (and they are, but so is he). Moss is so absurd and disconnected from reality (befriending a German cannibal was a highlight), and Jen is so technologically illiterate that she actually thinks the internet is a box with a button.

The first two episodes are not representative of the show's genius. I recommend "The Haunting of Bill Crouse" (1.5), where Moss tells a coworker that Jen has died; "The Work Outing" (2.1), where the gang goes to see "Gay: The Gay Musical"; and "Return of the Golden Child" (2.2), where the annoying boss in season one is replaced by a bumbling lothario.

How can anyone not love a show that brings us the phrase, "If you type Google into Google, you can break the internet"?

Anonymous said...

Alan:

Has there been any word on the fate of "Flight of the Conchords"?

Thanks!

Theresa said...

Theresa, much as I mock NBC, it probably still has the most shows I'm passionate about on any of the Big 4: Office, 30 Rock, Chuck, and (if you don't have DirecTV) Friday Night Lights.

Follow up: Then where do you rank the other three behind it? Or, to put it another way, which one do you rank last? Seems like it's gotta be CBS...but I do love HIMYM.

Matter-Eater Lad said...

Just thought of this: Any idea why BBC America shifted gears on its plans to run the second season of Ashes to Ashes immediately after the first? Or on BBCA's general tendency in recent years to stop airing shows after the first season or two, even while new ones are being made in the UK? I think it's been a few years since a new season of Waking the Dead aired (on BBCA, not in the UK).

Sasha said...

Alan, I doubt you've seen this, but have you had any interest in the Channel 4 show Skins? It's aimed at teenagers but unlike whatever is on the CW here, it's actually a good show. The latest series switched out the old cast and airs on BBC America in August and it's not as great, but the first two seasons were very well done.

Tracey said...

@filmcritic re Groundhog Day: I think what I found so interesting about it was the fundamental question, what do you do when you don't have any external stimulation? We spend so much of our lives passively absorbing external influences; what do you do if there is never anything new? How do you avoid going crazy? Of course, at first, he started to go crazy. And then he started to take charge of his life and create his own stimulation: learning to play piano and becoming a doctor. It's also interesting to see the transformation of a very shallow, selfish, self-centered person into somebody who cares about other people, because who can bear to watch the same old man die over and over again every day for 10 years? (the makers of the movie said they imagined he relived this day the equivalent of 10 years).

@Alan regarding the "name change": Tch, shame on you for recycling that old genealogy myth. Nobody changed anybody's name at Ellis Island or anywhere else. The immigrants changed the names all by themselves. Until the 1930s or so, when people had credit cards and driver's licenses and social security numbers and so forth, anybody could change their name any time they wanted to, as long as they didn't do it to avoid creditors. My great-grandfather changed his name four times. As there were Sepinwalls in Quebec as early as 1908 (a record of Nathan Sepinwall's 1908 birth is on Ancestry.com), they certainly could have changed that name any time they wanted to. It was probably changed at some point (really too rare to be an old name), but not by an immigration official. What it original was is anybody's guess. And FYI, if you don't already know: Nathan's parents were Alex Sepinwall and Sarah Rudensky. Genealogy: it's not just a hobby, it's an obsession.

AmericanPatriot said...

A friend turned me on to How I Met Your Mother and I've watched the 3 seasons on DVD and half of the 4th season as it airs in re-runs. I went back to read a lot of your blog posts on the show and you seem to either have a lot of frustration watching the show fall short of how brilliant it could be, or a general dislike of the show. Is either true? On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate HIMYM?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Tracey, I'm sure somebody could have changed the name if they'd wanted to, but A)My great-grandfather never learned much English, and B)The generations after him showed a shocking lack of curiosity about what the real family name was. (Which is why I can't trace my ancestry any further back than him.)

Alan Sepinwall said...

Sasha, I am aware of "Skins."

Anonymous said...

Uh, Tracey, just because your relatives changed their own names that means that everyone who came through Ellis Island and Alan's family all changed their own names too? Talk about clueless and patronizing...

Hatfield said...

No fighting in the open threads!

Ok, different question: Who are some of your favorite authors? Much like that previous poster, I want to be a journalist (even though I realize that the climate for that is pretty awful at the moment) and I've always heard writers suggest reading as much as possible, which I try to do, and I find the favorite authors/books of my favorite writers to be fascinating. Got any suggested reading for me?

Dizzee said...

Something I thought of while reading Desperate Houswives scoops on another site. Why is it that Marc Cherry got all this aclaim for jumping ahead in time? Especially, when he specificaly stated that the idea behind it was because he wanted to bring some mystery into the lives of the charaters that we do not know about.

Isn't that just really called being lazy. Instead of breaking down the characters and taking the time to craft them in the place where you want to take them, just magically change the situation so they are there.

Is this really any different than a character waking from dream to find out that things the show is are telling us is real within the show is actually not (House/Brennan having medically induced sex hallucinations)

Tracey said...

@Anonymous: Your tone sounds a lot more patronizing than mine. As for "clueless" - my statement is based on more than a decade of genealogical research and study. The notion that "my family's name was changed at Ellis Island" is a very pretty fairy tale that just doesn't hold up if you know the carefully-controlled process by which immigrants came into the New World. There are dozens of articles that dispel this myth, and though they talk about immigration to the US, the same is true of Canada. Here is one from the Immigration and Naturalization Service's website (from the Wayback Machine, because the INS website doesn't have it any more):

http://web.archive.org/web/20030212235528/http://www.ins.usdoj.gov/graphics/aboutins/history/articles/NameEssay.html

Here are a few others:

http://www.ancestry.com/learn/library/article.aspx?article=3893

http://genealogy.about.com/od/ellis_island/a/name_change.htm

http://www.genealogy.com/88_donna.html

@Alan: Lack of curiosity about family history is very common in Jewish families, and yes, it does make the research hard, as does the name changing and vague descriptions of place of origin. "Russia" or "Austria" could mean just about anything. For what it's worth: I found a 1911 Montreal census record for a family that looks like yours (if you allow for communication problems with the census taker): it's indexed as Shepperdochl, though it looks more like Sheppendochl to me (still complaining about Sepinwall? hee hee). Head of household: Ellie (that would be Alex), born Dec. 1886 in Russia (but that could also mean Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia or Poland), emigrated in 1906, works as a painter in a factory. Wife Sarah, Born Jan. 1882 in Russia, emigrated 1906, son Nathan born in Canada in Oct. 1908. Daughter Lilie born in Canada April 1910.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Hatfield, a lot of my favorite authors are predictable if you know I like The Wire (Price, Pelecanos, Lehane), plus there's Michael Chabon, Richard Russo, Michael Connelly and a few others on my Always Buy Their Books list. My favorite book tends to be a coin toss between Kavalier & Clay by Chabon, and Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry.

Ellie said...

Whoa, what a coincidence. After not seeing Groundhog Day in ages, I just happened to watch it with my 12-year old last night. (Tivo recorded it for me too, Brandy.)

Alan, I love that you're going through Sports Night this summer. What are the chances of doing The West Wing sometime--maybe just one season? (S2, pretty please!)

Tracey said...

Argh... that's what I get for using long links. Let's try this with tags.

INS

Ancestry.com

Genealogy.com

Genealogy.about.com

Bix said...

Not so sure how to word this, but...

Lately I've noticed that some actors from critically acclaimed (but lowly rated) shows tend to fall sharply when their shows are canceled, with Percy Daggs of Veronica Mars (now seen in Hot Pockets commercials) and Toni Lewis of Homicide (who seems to only get under-5 line roles, and not a lot of them). What keeps them from getting good roles? You would think that their resumes would help them.

Jess said...

Alan,

What do you think of "Psych"? Funny, or annoying? A good summer distraction?

Graydon said...

Characters Welcome.

Bix, an even better question, how on earth could a show like CSI Miami be such an international hit when a horrible actor like David Caruso is the star?

Alan, I don't read any newspaper, much less The Star-Ledger, but do you ever orient your column toward the local demo, or are your readers typical of a national audience?

Brandy said...

I'm with Ellie on West Wing for a future summer rewatch.

I'd say on the genealogy thing that a lot of people who came to this country were likely to believe that they had to keep the name "given to them" at Elis Island.

Those who didn't learn to speak English didn't have a lot of ability to go to figure out how to go about it. And those who weren't naturalized might not want to bring up the issue for other reasons.

I know my great-grandparents felt the americanization of their name would help their kids fit in. Helped also by their oldest child (the only one born in the old country) having teachers "change" her name in school because her Finnish name was too silly.

Then my grandfather felt the additional p in the middle of his last name was redundant and he dropped that. So in a school in a very small town, with a very unusual name, there were three seperate spellings going on and the teachers were always telling kids they didn't spell it right.

It's a nightmare on ancestry searches. :).

Elena said...

Christian Slater as Don Draper?? What a horrific thought --all the creepy with none of the sexy.

Eyeball Wit said...

(In a few years, this blog could be the thing I do on breaks from my job at The Gap.)

There's a nice little Gap store on Valley Road in Montclair--good places for lunch right across the street .
I expect before too long we'll both be folding jeans and discussing Sorkin's conception of the workplace (and the Knicks' point guard woes) right next to each other.

Oh, and thanks for the Mad Men spoiler. Some of us were waiting for the DVDs/AMC marathon. Emphasis on the "were."

Toby O'B said...

Getting this in just before the deadline, but have you seen "Z Rock" on IFC? I was wondering if you enjoyed it.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Sorry, Eyeball Wit, but these open threads are always a free-for-all, read-at-your-own-risk type of deal. If I started asking for spoiler protection on everything, it wouldn't work.

Eyeball Wit said...

Sorry, Eyeball Wit, but these open threads are always a free-for-all, read-at-your-own-risk type of deal. If I started asking for spoiler protection on everything, it wouldn't work.

Well, just for that Alan I'm going to leave the t-shirts on the bottom shelf for you to fold. And maybe call in sick on inventory day.

Hasan said...

Alan I really enjoy your reviews and I was wondering if you were ever going to go back and do more comprehensive reviews of the early episodes of the office. I noticed that you didn't start doing in depth reviews of the office until half way through season.

Matthew L said...

Just quickly before it closes, a while ago I mentioned the Friday Night Lights DVDs for season 3 only having the NBC edits. (I believe the discs are out now and, indeed, the episodes are indeed the shorter version.) When I mentioned that, you said you were going to ask a few contacts and see if you could find out more about that decision - the reasons, and so on. Did you ever find anything out?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Well, just for that Alan I'm going to leave the t-shirts on the bottom shelf for you to fold. And maybe call in sick on inventory day.

Great. Just great.

And if it makes you feel any better, while you have been spoiled on some things, you haven't on any of the really major parts of the season.

Ellie said...

"Christian Slater as Don Draper?? What a horrific thought --all the creepy with none of the sexy."

Oh, man, no kidding. Thank god for small budgets. Back on my WW hobby horse: He totally sucked the life out of every scene in his mercifully brief arc on that show.

steve colton said...

That blog logo theme - something to do with bats? Batman, Stephen Root is a vampire in True Blood, Monty Burns is sometimes portrayed as a vampire on The Simpsons and Dick Winters - eh, I got nothing.

Somebody already answered this, didn't they? Oh well. This is my first comment here, I'm loving the blog.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Matthew L, I looked into the DVD thing, and the answer I got wasn't very satisfying. Lots of corporate double-speak. If I see Katims at press tour, I'll try to get a more direct response.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Wrapping it up for today, folks. If I didn't answer your question, it's because I either answered it in a previous open thread, or didn't have anything of interest to say on the subject.

Stringer Sawyer Carmichael said...

Alan, any chance you've seen any of the BBC show Inbetweeners? Unfortunately its only broadcast in the UK but I believe the DVDs of season 1 are available. If not, I recommend you check it out. I think it would be right up your alley.

Matthew L said...

Matthew L, I looked into the DVD thing, and the answer I got wasn't very satisfying. Lots of corporate double-speak. If I see Katims at press tour, I'll try to get a more direct response.

Thanks anyway. I guessed you probably didn't get much of an answer, but I appreciate your trying.

Kenrick said...

Not a question, but I also consider Groundhog Day to be my favorite movie of all time. One I can watch over and over again.

Ebert is also the movie critic I read every week.

Glad to know that the TV critic I look to to recommend me new shows has somewhat similar tastes in movies/critics.

I am, however, a fan of IT Crowd.

paulf said...

"Jimmy James: These guys, they've done documentaries about all the heavy hitters. Talking about, Ted Turner, Bill Gates, Rupert Murdoch, Bruce Wayne...

Dave: Sir, Bruce Wayne is Batman.

Jimmy James: Shhh!"

Okay, weirdest thing. I've only seen a few episodes of Newsradio, but I was in the comic shop this, and that episode was on the TV, and that clip played just as I came in...

Mo Ryan said...

For what it's worth, I've asked HBO about a third season of Flight of the Conchords fairly recently and they are still saying there's no decision yet.

Craig Ranapia said...

Why is it that Marc Cherry got all this aclaim for jumping ahead in time? [...] Isn't that just really called being lazy?

Dizee: I don't really think so -- to get my Tim Gunn on, if you make it work you can do any damn thing you like. A jump forward can work brilliantly -- take Battlestar's second season finale, where a year passes in a single cut, and we quickly see how seriously fraked up things have become on New Caprica. Good writing sold by actors at the top of their game -- which, sadly, is something I've not been able to say about Housewives for too long.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Mo! I appreciate it!

Gish said...

Mo and Anon,

An HBO exec told me yesterday that Conchord would go on, on a "Larry David" schedule. Expect two seasons every three years, whenever they get their act together.

mjmercado said...

I meant to comment on this a few days ago but forgot. BNL's "The Ninjas" is a fantastic song. Props to not going with the obvious "Pollywog in a bog", which was certainly setup to be the most popular song on the album (and I have to admit, it is my favorite).

Mr. Kevin said...

No questions, just want to say I love your blog and really enjoy visiting here. I love the new banners at top (Bald Cops was a hit).