Archive for the “Television” Category

We’ve been hooked on Fringe since the first episode, so Thursday night found us huddled up on the couch waiting to see what kind of interdimensional hijinx the crew would get up to each week.  Now that TV is back from its ridiculously long Christmas hiatus, it looks like our Thursday nights will now be free for comedies.

That’s right, FOX is putting the first nail in Fringe’s coffin by moving it to the death slot on Friday nights.  This is usually how a show slowly dies off as the network fiddles with their schedules and a great show slides into the evening when no one is at home.  Suffice it to say, if you love this show, you should probably just start preparing yourself for the worst.

That being said, tonight’s episode guest stars Christopher Lloyd playing a character very reminiscent of Doc Brown from the Back to the Future trilogy, which is just awesome.  Be sure to tune in and I’ll keep you posted on when we should start out letter-writing campaign to FOX.

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Our burger debauchery was well-timed given this week is the build-up to Thanksgiving for our friends south of the border (the US, not Mexico).  Everywhere we look on the internet and on TV, people are deep-frying turkeys, sharing recipes for yams and otherwise talking about all the foods we love.  Thanks to the beef gorging a few days ago, I’m not at all tempted to try any of these recipes anytime soon, and they aren’t succeeding in making my stomach start demanding goodies.  Not just yet, at least.

Those of us in Canada have a month to wait for our next feasting, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t celebrate with our friendly neighbours, mostly by enjoying all the Thanksgiving-themed episodes of our favourite shows on TV.  I wasn’t paying too much attention last night while Danielle was watching The Biggest Loser, but I’m pretty sure they had a challenge based on running a mile while stuffing a raw turkey.  Maybe I just dreamed that though.

I’m secretly hoping that this week’s episode of Fringe includes a trip to yet another dimension where turkeys rule the world and eat humans once a year in celebration of successful autumn human harvests from days of yore.  Modern Family will have the standard sitcom “dysfunctional family shares a meal and hilarity ensues” episode, but will somehow pull it off, and the US news shows will continue to push stories about holiday shopping deals and stories about how squash and cranberry farmers have been affected by the economic downturn.  Sorry if that spoils all the surprises for you.

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After what has felt like eons, but has actually only been three months, Fringe will return on Thursday, September 17 at 9pm.  It was one of my favourite new shows from the past TV season and I’m eagerly awaiting the season premiere after a blockbuster cliffhanger in the season finale back in May.  I’m hoping to be able to rewatch all of season one before the season two premiere.

I recently learned two neat things that have sort of increased my enjoyment of the show.  The first is that Anna Torv, who plays Agent Olivia Dunham is actually an Australian, which explains her unusual speech cadence in faux-American English.  The second is that she married her love interest from the show, Agent John Scott (played by Mark Valley) halfway through the first season.

Look at me.  I’m turning into a celebrity blogger of sorts.  Meh.

I’ve also done a fair amount of reading about the weird symbols shown at commercial breaks and how they are some sort of code for fans of the show.  At this point, I’m too lazy to get into researching them, but I might get more into it during season two.

Frankly, all of this is just to distract me while I wait for season four of The IT Crowd to air in 2010.  It’s the littlest things that keep us all sane.

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So, if you haven’t gotten into the TV show Fringe yet, it’s probably too late to just hop and board and figure out what’s happening, which is a shame.   I’m sure you can use one of many methods to see all the episodes from the beginning and I highly recommend it.  I’m hooked, and I’m starting to get into some of the conspiracy theories behind what goes on in the background, which makes me feel like a sleuth.  Yeah for sleuthing!

Aside from watching freaky TV shows, I’m also begninning my earnest search for my Gretsch guitar.  After winning the NCCA March Madness pool, I have nearly enough money to buy my dream guitar so I have to find a store that actually carries the one I’m looking for.  My good friend (and CBC Radio 3 independent artist extraordinaire) Tyrone has been helping me out by sending along links to Gretsches he’s found, which is awesome.  A little help with some extra eyes goes a long way.  Thanks, Tyrone.

If you haven’t already, you should check out Tyrone’s music at the links above, and then when you’ve realized he’s as awesome as we all know he is, you can get head over to SilentTalkie and get hooked on his weekly podcast.  In the meantime, I’ll just keep looking for guitars and trying to solve the riddle of The Event.

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I’d like to say that I’m back in tip-top shape and ready to take on the world after a few days spent at home sick, but it’s probably more accurate to say that I’m merely functional.  Mind you, it’s nice to at least be functional again.

Sadly, waking up in the early afternoon each day usually left me watching any number of the courtroom reality shows that are the staple of daytime US network television.  Shows like Judge Mathis, Judge Judy, Divorce Court and Judge Alex did very little to make me feel less nauseous, and instead just added a loss of faith in mankind to my illness.  Fortunately, with three season of The IT Crowd on my laptop, that feeling didn’t last long. I personally credit Graham Linehan (the show’s head writer, director and orginator) with my speedy recovery.

How’s that for a plug?

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When I first wrote about the ShamWow last week, I did a quick Google search in order to include a link to the infomercial, and that first page of search results was chock full of awesome links about this nefarious product.  After posting, I read through some of them and realized that buying the product, even for the sole purpose of disproving the clearly-dubious claims, was going to be a huge waste of my hard-earned money, so instead of posting my own review, I’m going to write a bit about what I found out.

First of all, every consumer review I read likened the ShamWow’s absorption power to be no better than that of a cloth rag.  Essentially, an old raggedy t-shirt would do better at sucking up soda from a carpet spill and it holds far from its own weight in liquid, let alone the claim of ten times its own weight.  Nearly every comment also played on the fact that the ShamWow only lives up to the first part of its name.

Many of these reviews were personal comments by individuals on blogs or in web forums who purchased ShamWow over the phone from the TV ad, and about half were people like me, who wanted to try it for a laugh.  All were disappointed.  Other reviews were by consumer test groups and TV station news segments about consumer protection.  Also, disappointment was the theme.

Out of everything I read, nearly all of it was people ranting about how this product didn’t even come close to living up to the claims made by ‘Vince’, the tradeshow-style hawker.  They also commented on his insane style and his crazy headset, but one article was very different from the rest.

Seth Stevenson at Slate Magazine didn’t even try the ShamWow (as far as I can tell), but wrote a great piece back in May of this year called “Salesjerk: Meet the Next Great TV Pitchman” that focusses on what struck me most about the informercial, how Vince’s sales style is so different from informercial pitchmen in the past.  He’s no Ron Popeil (The Pocket Fisherman, The Ronco Rotisserie Grill, etc.) or Billy Mays (Orange Glow and OxiClean, or should I say “OXICLEAN!”), so rather than trying to woo the audience, he practically taunts you like you’re an idiot, and it’s spellbinding.

Aside from Stevenson’s awesome insight into what makes this infomercial stand out in the world of TV-based pressure sales, he also introduced me to one of the most intriguing characters of our time… Mr. Vince Offer.

Aside from being blown away that he used his real first name in the infomercial (although it does add to the realism of the Coney Island sales presentation), I learned that Offer did sales presentations at swap meets in order to fund his own movie, The Underground Comedy Movie, which sounds like one of the most unwatchable movies in the long history of moving pictures.  To say that I’m now tempted to watch it is an understatement, but I’m conflicted about seeing that much of the writer and director’s work in which he’s also an actor.  In lieu of actually watching the movie, just read this NY Times review and be sure to check out the credits at the bottom for even more laughs, especially thanks to Academy Award nominee Michael Clarke Duncan’s character title.

To make the jump from strange to outright weird, Offer’s life story also includes a lawsuit against the Farelly brothers alleging that they stole 14 of his movie’s scenes for use in “There’s Something About Mary”, and a massive falling out with the Church of Scientology over defamation and the resulting financial ruin that culminated in him suing the church.  I can’t make this stuff up, people.  This is one man’s life… in summary… on Wikipedia, just read it for yourself.

So, the next time you see Vince on TV telling you that you’re overspending on your paper towel budget, just remember that he’s a cultural icon in the making and you’ll soon see him headlining in a piece on Hard Copy (if it’s even still on the air), or hosting a talk show where paternity and lie detector tests are the norm.  Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Vince Offer.

Now, I’ve gotta go.  I’ve got a pesky soda stain on my carpet that I’ve got to take care of ASAP.

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Well, the Large Hadron Collider went online and ran some tests and we’re all still here, so that’s a good sign. For those of you not following the news, the LHC is a huge device that scientists will use to hurl particles at one another at near light speed to see what happens. Apparently the odds are 1 in 50 million that it will result in a catastrophic event that will destroy earth (and the known universe), so it’s pretty exciting stuff. At best, it will create a small black hole or answer questions about the origins of the universe. Frankly, I’m surprised that it hasn’t drawn protests from the religious right (Pastafarians, for example).

The real test for the human race comes on October 21 when they fire it up to actually get the particles to collide.  It’s like a demolition derby on a smaller scale where the crashes are like atom bombs.  How is that NOT awesome?!

In less destructive news, I was sorely in need of something to watch on TV last night and the network channels were showing the usual reality dreck (“So you think you can yodel”, “What’s in YOUR dryer lint catcher?”, “C-List Celebrity Deathmatch”, etc.), so I happened upon the pilot for an X-Files-esque show called “Fringe“.  Aside from being filmed almost exclusively here in Toronto, and starring a bunch of people who looked more than vaguely familar (incluidng Pacey from Dawson’s Creek, who was also in The Mighty Ducks), it was a pretty good show with a solid premise.  I’d avoid eating while watching it as it’s pretty graphic with the gore, and there’s lots of it.

All the main characters are quite complex, which makes for some pretty interesting (and refreshing) television.  I just hope it makes it safely through its first season without being cancelled, or the world exploding or being sucked into a black hole on the border of Switzerland and France.  Do you hear me, science?  Don’t screw up a good show for me!

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If you’ve been reading here for a while, you might remember that I’m a pretty big into war movies and TV shows.  Not for the gore or the glorification of violence, but more from an historical perspective.  Back in 2005, HBO aired a show about the US invasion of Iraq called ‘Over There’ that I was really excited about, and then really disappointed by, so now I’ve learned my lesson about getting my hopes up.

So after hearing about a writer for Rolling Stone named Evan Wright who was embedded with an elite group of Recon Marines during the initial invasion of  Iraq, then finding his serial he wrote afterwards for the magazine and loving it, I was even more pleased to find out that he had turned those stories into a book.  It’s a great book called ‘Generation Kill‘ and it really delves into all the problems in the Iraq war, the mindset of the men fighting it and how much can wrong when everyone is trying to do what they think is the right thing.  I’m having trouble putting this book down and I’ve only had it for a few days.

Imagine my excitement when I heard HBO was making a miniseries based on the book!  Well, I didn’t let my hopes get too high, but the miniseries has now aired, the reviews are in and it’s awesome.  I’ve seen a few episodes and it’s well written, well shot and the characters and acting are great.  Bottom line, if you like war movies, you’ll love this show.  Ditto for the book.

That being said, both the book and the series have some of the most shocking language I’ve ever seen or heard, so this isn’t for the faint of heart.  Check out this trailer on YouTube, and visit the official site for the miniseries if you want more info.

You’ll be hard-pressed to find an actor in this series that you can name from previous work, although a handful are barely recognizable from bit-parts in other series’, but that adds to the feeling of realism.  There’s also a LOT of military technical jargon that is explained in greater detail in the book, but would be really boring to explain in a TV show.  Just ignore it and treat it as though you’re watching people from another world, which you are.  Check it out.

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