Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Leading the way

Back when I started writing reviews in high school and college (I think my first one was "Basic Instinct," which my 12th grade journalism professor surprisingly didn't kill), I could begin the review at any point -- middle, end, start -- and then go back and fill in the rest. But one of the bad habits I've developed over the years is an inability to write anything unless it's from the top down. Even if I know exactly what I went to say about why a show is or isn't any good, I can't start typing until I've got my lead figured out.

So when I got pressed into service at the last minute yesterday to do a combined review of "My Name Is Earl" and "The Office" moving to Thursdays, I had a problem. I'd blogged enough about both shows to know my main points ("Earl" needs to try harder and to show us more of Bad Earl, "The Office" would be better off with less Michael and more of the supporting characters), but for the life of me, I couldn't come up with a decent lead.

I had some kind of metaphor in mind about having to retake a hill with a couple of pop gun, but it kept coming out more and more labored. So as the clock ticked down towards deadline and my editor started sending impatient e-mails my way, I fell back on an old trick: quote the show to write about the show. So here's what I wound up writing:
You know the kind of network executive who does nothing but bad things and then wonders why his ratings stink? Well, that was Jeff Zucker. Every time something good happened to him (like getting promoted further and further up NBC's corporate ladder), something bad was always waiting around the corner (like falling further and further in the primetime ratings). Karma.

That's when someone at NBC realized they needed to change. So he made a list of everything bad they had done, and one by one tried to make up for its mistakes. He's just trying to have a better network. His name is Kevin Reilly.

Not Pulitzer material, but much better than what I had. (And I got to use the hill/gun thing more briefly later on.) The full review is here.

Since I'd already seen "Scrubs," last night I ceded control of the remote to Marian, who immediately set on TBS' "Sex and the City" reruns. I hadn't really bothered watching the basic cable versions, but yikes. They're just massacring them. The one we saw was "Anchors Away," the Fleet Week episode. Obviously, TBS was going to cut both of the breast shots (Miranda nursing her baby and Charlotte flashing a sailor), but they just shred anything that wasn't directly related to the plot so they could squeeze a 30-minute episode into 21 minutes plus commercials. There's a brief snippet of the scene where Samantha papers her ex-boyfriend's neighborhood with posters warning women about what a sleaze he is, but they cut the payoff where a female cop lets her keep going. And the episode's climax, where Carrie (in one of the few moments where I've ever liked her) has a steamy dance with a sailor played by Franco from "Rescue Me"? Gone entirely. Yeesh. If ever there was a case for only watching the DVDs, this is it.

And speaking of DVDs, best news I read all morning: "Futurama" may join "Family Guy" as a Fox cartoon resurrected by DVD sales.

1 comment:

Matt Zoller Seitz said...

We're on the same page about "Earl." That show reminds me of that old Pauline Kael observation that movies about rapscallions who get redeemed are always more entertaining in the early sections, when the character is still a heel. See "The Fabulous Baker Boys," anything starring Eddie Murphy, etc.