Wednesday, March 19, 2008

How to confuse people from 3,000 miles away

One of these years, I'm actually going to head out to Los Angeles in mid-March to attend the Paley Festival, an extended love-in for various beloved TV shows and figures. This year's festival already included a Judd Apatow tribute and a "Pushing Daisies" session that took a "Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex" twist halfway through, and tomorrow night there will be the mass hysteria of a reunion of the "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" cast.

Last night was a night for "Chuck," and even though I was here in Jersey, I accidentally found myself participating. The panel discussion was being moderated by "Lost" co-creator Damon Lindelof, who you may remember referred to me (with affection, he says) as "a pain in my ass" shortly before season four began. Since that interview ran, Lindelof and I have reached a detente, and as a joke, I bet him five bucks if he would ask Josh Schwartz the same kind of "When are you going to give us some answers, man?" questions that people like me are always demanding of Lindelof himself. One of those suggestions was "What's the hidden meaning behind the Wienerlicious uniform?," and Damon agreed to ask it, but only on the condition that I offer up my own theory. This is what I came up with, which I understand was read verbatim last night:
To me, it's obvious. Chuck, like Seth Cohen before him, is the central character in a Jewish assimilation fable, grappling with his place in a secular, Gentile, post-Holocaust world. The CIA (or NSA; I can never remember who works for whom) has obviously done deep psychological profiling on him. Having read the works of Saul Bellow and Philip Roth, they understand his neuroses and ambivalent feelings towards his heritage, and have decided to tap into those fears and keep him off-balance by placing their operative in a chain restaurant whose uniform invokes the deepest traditions of the culture that gave rise to Hitler, and, in turn, the formation of the Jewish state.

That, or someone thought Yvonne Strahovski would look good dressed like an Oktoberfest wench.
Not surprisingly, everyone on the panel went with theory #2.

Now, as Bill Cosby once said, I told you that story so I could tell you this one.

Later in the session, Schwartz turned the tables on Lindelof and asked him whatever happened to the four-toed foot statue from the "Lost" season two finale. Lindelof's reply (and you may want to take it in the spirit of an evening in which he was willing to ask the Saul Bellow question), per a very detailed account of the event over at Futon Critic:
"That's actually a great story," Damon responds. "We did the four-toed statue on the show and basically we got a note back from the network, which was, 'This is too weird.' We're like, 'Do you watch the show? This is too weird?' And essentially they said, 'Could it be a six-toed statue?' If someone could explain why a six-toed statue is less weird than a four-toed statue, that's exactly what we will do."
That silly foot may be my favorite unanswered "Lost" mystery, so I hope he and Carlton and ABC can come to a peace accord on that.

To see a clip of the event, click here.


Anonymous said...

Your theory is #1 flawedbecause the heritage from Wienerlicious etc. is Vienna (Wiener W├╝rstchen=Saucages from Vienna) so for tapping into that phobias and neuroses the agencies would have had to pick something germany and not austria related (even though Hitler came from austria). Obviously thats why everyone picked theory #2!

Xtina said...

But Art, Hitler was Austrian!

Mo Ryan said...

I love it when people obsess over stuff like that four toed statue.

It's like the Russian in the Pine Barrens on Sopranos. The more people asked about that, the more resolved Chase was to never return to that story -- too right, in my opinion.

I hope Lindelof and company never ever provide an explanation of the foot statue, for two reasons: It will give the show a wonderfully kooky unresolved plot thread, AND it will have the added benefit of driving superfans out of their minds.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I hope Lindelof and company never ever provide an explanation of the foot statue, for two reasons: It will give the show a wonderfully kooky unresolved plot thread, AND it will have the added benefit of driving superfans out of their minds.

Quiet, you!

Seriously, I was always a defender of The Russian never coming back, because that's the kind of show "The Sopranos" was. It wasn't about plot; it was about character, and it always took a perverse pleasure in not going where viewers expected it to.

"Lost," while it has characters that people care about, has always had its mysteries -- and the promise of eventually solving them -- as a fundamental element. I'm not saying they have to answer every single one of them -- especially one like the foot, which was only glimpsed once and never figured into any plot -- but Damon and Carlton should only get one or two freebies before fans start pulling out the torches and pitchforks.

Anonymous said...

It's pretty neat that you get to have a relationship and access to someone who makes a show like Lost mainly due to the fact that it's such an engaging show, mythology wise. I would love to have a big drinking, eating and bullshitting session with Damon and Carlton and Brian K. Vaughan and just talk about the various stuff on the show.

My biggest worry: that we will never get a clear picture of the Dharma Initiative. I basically want to know it from top to bottom. Kooky 70's social science experiments done on a mysterious island implementing secretive and manipulative means and a flair for the dramatic is something I'm immensely interested in. And, le sigh, but I'm afraid that that story will get blurred or pushed to the background.

afoglia said...

What about this quote from Josh Schwartz via thefutoncritics blog report? "The idea is to kind of own the fact that we've been off the air for several months. And so there's going to be a reset that's going to happen[...]. It's not going to go quietly into the night... We want to remind viewers of what they've missed so dearly..."

Remember, the new intercept was coming online soon--very soon. Does this mean the second one will get destroyed as well? I really hate it when shows "reset."

Anonymous said...

This was just your way of bragging that Damon Lindelof reads your e-mail, wasn't it? Well, no harm no foul.

Anonymous said...

P.S. In the history of TV, has there ever been another costume that's as silly as it is hot? (And that's counting every single iteration of Star Trek.) I say thee nay!

Anonymous said...

Alan, I usually lurk here, but I just got back from the Paley Fest "Friday Night Lights" evening, and boy was it ever a love-fest. Wonderful evening.
There are some fun anecdotes, but I don't want to clutter up the comments with a long post, unless people really want to hear! :)

Anonymous said...

I've been to quite a few PaleyFest events in the past, and most of them were fantastic. It always seemed like one of the chief cultural benefits of living in L.A. But ticket prices have shot up over the past couple of years -- this year, I think they started at $45 each. As someone who doesn't make an entertainment-industry level salary, that's just way too much.

Anonymous said...

I, for one, would LOVE to hear about our beloved Dillon Panthers! Either in a rambling comment, or if Alan wants to do an official post...

Alan Sepinwall said...

Yeah feel free to write up whatever you remember from the FNL session. I'd sure like to hear it.

Alan Sepinwall said...

This was just your way of bragging that Damon Lindelof reads your e-mail, wasn't it?

Well, if being one many members of the entertainment press who has a way of contacting Lindelof is worth bragging about, then sure. Just call me Critic Awesome.

Anonymous said...

Cheers to Critic Awesome!!

Eires32, I would also love to hear about the FNL session.

Lastly, I was a huge, huggy Buffy fangeek, so I will be scouring the Internet for pics and play by plays from that incredible reunion.

Anonymous said...

I really hope that the 4-toed statue is the start of a Lost spin-off with David Lynch at the helm. Four toes makes for better donuts and talking backwards.

Anonymous said...

"Lost," while it has characters that people care about, has always had its mysteries -- and the promise of eventually solving them -- as a fundamental element. I'm not saying they have to answer every single one of them

I am! Answer those questions, dammit! Like, what the hell is Smokey? And where has he been? I know a few characters he can clobber....

Mo Ryan said...

Damon and Carlton should only get one or two freebies before fans start pulling out the torches and pitchforks.

Absolutely! Agreed that they should be handing over resolutions and information about Dharma Initiative, etc, by the truckload. I want as much informatino about the DI as I can get, along with as many other answers/resolutions as they want to provide.

But I'm of the firm opinion that the four toed statue should be one of the few freebies, something that lives on in fans' imagination.

I'm thinking I need to set up a booth at Comic-Con next year selling T shirts with that four toed statue on it. And on the back, the words "ABC thought it was too weird."

Or else start a band called Four Toed Statue.

Looking forward to the FNL/Paley recap. Was it the kind of love fest where the whole You Know What was never mentioned? (the whole landrykillsaguy thing, she mumbled).

Anonymous said...

I have to do actual WORK for a few hours..but then I will be back with all the skinny!
Sneak preview: Oh, the "plot line that shall not be named" was DEFINITELY discussed (quite candidly actually).

Mo Ryan said...

Btw, Paley Center is posting highlights from various panels on its site.

Sadly, no discussion of the Wienerlicious uniform or the four toed statue in the 3.5 minute Chuck clip. There's quite a bit about Voltron, though.

The Futon Critic is blogging the Paley panels as well:

Unknown said...

I just wanted to mention that back when I lived in LA, I worked the for the Museum of Television and Radio, as it used to be known, and therefore I worked the Paley Festival as well. I always get a kick out of seeing these stories. Personally, the highlight of every year, for me, was seeing Judd Apatow and his crew, Seth Rogen, Martin Starr, et al., show up to get their comped tickets to see the panels. Somehow I doubt Seth Rogen could just breeze in this year as he did in the past.

Anonymous said...

Well, it looks like the Futon Critic will have a much more detailed and accurate picture of the panel. I urge everyone to check it out. So I'll just give a one story...besides noting that Scott Porter did his "Pop Goes My Heart" dance from "Music & Lyrics". I haven't seen the movie, but it was certainly a crowd pleaser.

The episode shown was "No One Left Behind" and (by sheer crazy conincidence) the friend who attended with me is the actress who played Matt's art teacher (he calls her a bitch) in that very ep. It was certainly a thrill to see her up on the BIG screen 40 feet tall.

After the panel, we braved the crush of many fans to try to say to hello to Zach Gilford, as he was the only actor she worked during the shoot. Lo and behold, Jeffrey Reiner (who was NOT the director of that episode)greets my friend by name with a big hug, and tells her how he was the one with the final decision to cast her..and that he was right and she was great. Needless to say, it was such a sweet and classy gesture.
She did catch Zach Gilford as he was leaving, saying "Hi Zach, you called me a bitch tonight." He cracked up ("Oh, I remember you"), and mentioned that he assumed she was one of the "locals" that they use, and he hoped they could get her back to Austin for a "reconciliation" scene!
Just more evidence of the high caliber of people working on this show.
On an very girly note, the young women on the panel were EXTREMELY gussied up - make up, high heels, flowery sundresses - and the guys wore jeans, sweaters and sneakers. Not a criticism, mind you; just the reality that when you are an actress at an event where you will be photographed, you always have to make that extra effort! :) The pics are on IMDB, etc. I'm sure.
Thanks for letting me share!

Anonymous said...

P.S. - I will also be attending the Mad Men panel next week, and I know two actors who have appeared on that show. So chances are whomever I bring will be on the screen again. :)
All very strange for someone who is not in this business!

Mo Ryan said...

Oh Eires, please post more on the FNL panel if you want to! Loved the tidbits you shared.

And please post about the Mad Men panel to. Would love to hear your thoughts on that. Would love to jump on a plane and attend the panel, but aaaghhh, can't manage that.

Anonymous said...

You are sweet, Mo..but truly, I can't add anything to the lengthy and accurate quotes and summary of the futon critic. I am really not very good at writing (the above took me an hour); if we were in the same room, I would re-enact the whole thing with hand gestures and blocking, believe me.
Now I will prove myself a liar by scribbling some random thoughts:
Zach Gilford IS Matt Sarecen. This is confirmed by my friend, and by his absolutely adorable and inarticulate stammering out of answers at the panel.

They (cast and writers) are definitely sticking to the story of "the murder plotline was introduced to get Landry and Tyra together..and hey, it worked! Be happy! They kissed! Um, yay??... (crickets)." In my section there was quite a bit of muttering and eye-rolling, and consensus during after-show chat in the parking lot that the writers deliberately chose to ignore the damage they have done to the characters. C'est la vie.

Jason K. said they expect a final decision in the next couple weeks.

The ability of grown women to turn into piles of simpering mush at the mention of the name "Taylor Kitsch" is astounding. Exceeded only by the antics of the grown men trying to get a picture with Aimee Teagarden.

Seeing the show on a huge movie screen (the Cinerama Dome has fantastic sound/projection equipment - I love my town) totally reinforced how important the lighting, sound design, locations..everything to do with the physical production to this show, and what an incredible job they do of creating a this world.

The audience questions were surprisingly intelligent and un-crazyfanlike. I have attended Paley events in the past where folks were just cringe worthy (Deadwood in particular for some reason - some guy actually asked them to read his spec script).

I am SERIOUSLY getting no work done! Back next week with some Mad Men fun for Maureen. :)

Anonymous said...

the other foot has six toes, for an even ten.

Anonymous said...

Eires32, those were awesome tidbits! Thanks for sacrifing work time for something truly important...

Anonymous said...

a little late to the party, i know, but if you get the chance to see the video of your question being asked, do so. lindelof's reading of it was hysterical. the crowd thought it was hilarious.

Alan Sepinwall said...

lindelof's reading of it was hysterical.

Given the gusto with which he and Carlton Cuse read those letters on the Lost podcast, I'm not surprised.