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Monthly archives: August 2007


Mad Men Marathon Sunday
2007-08-28 13:04
by Jon Weisman

The first seven episodes of Mad Men will be aired in sequence Sunday.

Springsteen Headed for Los Angeles
2007-08-28 11:27
by Jon Weisman

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band are scheduled to play in Los Angeles on October 28, according to Stuart Levine of Variety. Springsteen plans to release the band's new album, "Magic," on October 2.

This news is exclusive to Screen Jam readers. Those Dodger Thoughts-only readers can wallow in ignorance!

Happy Friday at The Office
2007-08-24 09:18
by Jon Weisman

To brighten your day, some bloopers and outtakes from The Office.

The show's fourth season premiere is in five weeks.

Nanny Nonsense
2007-08-24 08:56
by Jon Weisman

The Nanny Diaries is not the least bit clever or funny. Despite being based on a book that estimable men and women I know have praised, despite the presence of Laura Linney and Paul Giamatti in the cast and despite direction by Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini of American Splendor, Nanny has nothing to say, and is just annoying from start to finish.

In fact, I'd argue that the film on one level is offensive in the way it compares the life of Scarlett Johannson's character, who can quit the job anytime she wants, to the other nannies - all of color - whom the film offers no joy in the work nor escape from it. Surely there was some nuance that could have been offered even in a light summer movie, even if in the end the film is meant to belong to Johannson. Instead, the film paints with such broad, familiar strokes that you wonder whether there was very much thought behind it at all.

What's meant to be inspiring is instead depressing; the movie leaves you feeling that unless you're a dilettante like Johannson's Annie, being a nanny is a prison sentence without chance of parole. If that's true, that's an awful place to leave an entire group of people in and completely in contrast to the movie's attempt to be uplifting by its conclusion. If it's false, then the movie is disingenuous. Only Johannson gets the slightest pleasure from being a nanny as well as any chance at a better life after moving on.

Even if I'm overanalyzing this one aspect of the film, however, it doesn't change the wastefulness of the overall piece.

Mad Men Open Chat
2007-08-23 22:26
by Jon Weisman

Really good Mad Men tonight. Anyone else watch?

Every chat thread at Screen Jam is an open chat thread.

Weird Birds
2007-08-22 07:54
by Jon Weisman

Sometimes, you see an actor or actress in a role that seems like a mismatch. What's even weirder is when an actor or actress seems ill-suited to be on a show at all.

Monday, Jeremy Sisto, known for playing dark, tormented characters like Billy Chenowith of Six Feet Under, guested as an ex-boyfriend of Jordana Spiro's P.J. on the innocuous TBS sitcom My Boys. From the moment he was on screen, Sisto seemed so out of place – a resident of the Pit of Despair who had accidentally stumbled into the cotton candy factory.

Sisto certainly tried to make the best of it, but his innate depth (not to mention the unconvincing plotting) just highlighted how relatively shallow and clumsy My Boys is. I've seen every episode of this show, now in its second season, and I keep wanting to like it, but it's sort of an ongoing disappointment. It's neither particularly funny nor particularly clever. It mostly trades on its goodnaturedness (and a lack of sitcom competition) to become comfort food - comfort food that leaves you with the slightest case of indigestion, especially when P.J. is indulging her god-awful baseball analogies in voiceover every episode.

My Boys has its moments, usually thanks to the efforts of Jim Gaffigan as P.J.'s brother Andy, but most of the time you can see the actors straining to make the show seem more than it is.

* * *

Another sort of weird bird is Damages. For all the talk of Glenn Close dominating the small screen, her Patty Hewes character has become less interesting with each episode. The pilot hinted that, alongside the mystery of the ongoing legal matters between involving Hewes and Arthur Frobisher (Ted Danson) and how they led to someone's murder, we would unravel the mystery behind Hewes' cold facade, but all we've really gotten since is a minor subplot involving her troubled son. Essentially, we are left to feel that Hewes just is who she is – something in her past made her become tough and manipulative, and so now she's tough and manipulative. She isn't any more complicated than that.

That said, Hewes is still more interesting than ingenue attorney Ellen Parsons, played by Rose Byrne. I liked Byrne in The Dead Girl, but I've given up on anything compelling emerging from Ellen. Her juggling of career and engagement hits the same notes every week. We know from the flash-forwards how she's going to end up, and while that's a dramatic twist, that doesn't make her present any more fascinating.

The star of Damages isn't Close or Byrne – it's the plot. The main pleasure of watching each week is to see the latest turns of the Frobisher case. Somewhat like My Boys, you can see the effort in this. The actions of Tom Shayes (Tate Donovan), who was given a showcase in Tuesday night's episode, really don't make any sense from a character standpoint – they're at the mercy of the plot.

The show has got me watching despite next-to-no character development, so they must be doing something right. Damages has sucked me in, probably more for worse than for better.

Robin Hood and Little 'Lon
2007-08-19 18:58
by Jon Weisman

Earlier this year, I discovered Robin Hood on BBC America and immediately became addicted. (I should stay I discovered it because I needed to watch it for work reasons - but those homework assignments don't always pan out as rewardingly as this one did.)

I'm no more interested in Robin Hood than the next guy - the most passion I ever had for him was in the 1970s Disney animated film, followed by the Sean Connery-Audrey Hepburn classic Robin and Marian - but I was quickly struck by the pure joy of the BBC show. The pacing is as good as any drama on television - a single episode seems over in a moment. Though the show is done on a modest budget, the world it sets up is plenty involving.

And the cast is across-the-board top-notch, most notably Jonas Armstrong as Robin to Lucy Griffiths as Marian and a delectably villainous Sheriff of Nottingham played by Keith Allen.

Here's an excerpt of the article I ended up writing a few months back for Variety:

When it came time to re-create the character of Robin Hood for the BBC, writer-exec producer Dominic Minghella looked within himself for inspiration.

And he found it -- sort of.

"If I were Robin Hood," Minghella recalls wondering, "what kind of Robin Hood would I be? And I thought I'd be a pretty useless Robin Hood."

That's even if Minghella had granted himself Robin's unimpeachable ability with an arrow.

"Even though I had this super skill, I wouldn't actually want to (use it)," Minghella says. "I wouldn't want to kill anybody."

So Minghella's "Robin Hood," which airs Stateside on BBC America, features an expert bowsman with loads of swash in his buckle but one arm tied behind his back.

"I didn't want it to be Errol Flynn -- I didn't want it to be a cozy, British, safe show," Minghella says. "(But when) you've got an easy solution, but you don't want to deploy it -- what kind of character does that give you?" ...

The first season of the show is currently in reruns on BBC America, with the second season coming in the fall.

The success of Robin Hood made me more proactive in checking out BBC America programming - previously, I only went there for world news. And that's how I found myself giving Hotel Babylon a shot.

Again, my expectations were modest, since this on the surface looked like a 2007 version of Hotel or The Love Boat. But leave it to the Brits to turn the simple premise of fancy guests at a fancy hotel into something engrossing. It's not earthshattering stuff, mind you, and there's eye candy to be found, but I think calling it a guilty pleasure would be to sell it short.

Through the two episodes that I've seen, Hotel Babylon has shown it aims to be sophisticated. The scripts are as sharp and precise as a properly made bed. The performances, as with Robin Hood, are much better than the genre often gets - thanks in no small part to characters that became three-dimensional, if you'll forgive the term, overnight.

The icing on the cake so far was to see episode two graced with the presence of Anthony Stewart Head, who played Giles on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, as a suicidal ad-jingle composer. American audiences might also remember Dexter Fletcher (concierge Tony) from the 1989 film The Rachel Papers with Ione Skye - though I'll be really impressed if you also knew he was in Bugsy Malone. Tazmin Outhwaite, Max Beesley and Natalie Jackson Mendoza and Emma Pierson join Fletcher as the show's likable mainstays (even though Pierson's character is unlikable).

Two ordinary concepts that turned out anything but ordinary. They won't change your life, but if you've got nothing better to TiVo, you might check out Hood and 'Lon between now and the start of the fall TV season in the U.S.

Conchords Flies Again
2007-08-17 10:58
by Jon Weisman

Flight of the Conchords has been renewed for another season by HBO, Steven Zeitchik of Variety reports. Entourage too.

As God as My Witness, I Thought Bruce Greenwood Could Fly
2007-08-15 10:53
by Jon Weisman

Time critic James Poniewozik passes along this link to John From WKRP in Cincinnati.

Superbad: One for the Ages?
2007-08-10 08:04
by Jon Weisman

Every chat thread at Screen Jam is an open chat thread.

Superbad, in my mind, was hysterical. In one respect, that's all that matters. But when I left the screening, I was thinking more about whether it would become this generation of kids' seminal riotous picture, the way Animal House was for me.

I saw Animal House when I was about 11 years old. I saw it twice more after that in theaters, and when I was able to record a copy of it off of ON TV on our first VCR, there were times when I was coming home to watch some or all of it after school several times a week. Of course I wouldn't have used this word back then, but it was just that dear to me.

Blazing Saddles, always brilliant, was the first R-rated movie I ever saw (I was really young - about 7 or 8), and that's another film that I have deep feelings for and that I've seen more times than I can count. Same with Airplane and Stripes and others.

But Animal House just blew my mind in a way nothing else did.

Superbad, I have to think, will do the same thing for the 2007 version of me as an 11-year-old. It's a lot more crude than Animal House was - Animal House is pretty tame for this era, though no less clever. I am assuming that kids today are more prepared for this crudeness - and in fact, it's that crudeness, combined with an embraceable underdog story, one hilarious scene after another, and a kind of subversive intelligence, that will win them over.

There was a line toward the end of Animal House, after John Belushi has driven the Deathmobile into the bleachers and sent all the dignitaries flying in the air, when Mrs. Wormer is lying next to the mayor and says, "You can take your thumb out of my ass anytime now, Carmine." This was something that as a kid, I frankly just had a hard time wrapping my head around - the literal concept of it being so outside my comprehension - but it only added to my fascination with the film. In Superbad, there are lines crasser than that on an ongoing basis. But there is always a sound comic foundation behind them. I think it works.

I don't think Superbad was better than The 40-Year-Old Virgin, but Virgin had more to offer grownups. And maybe I'm wrong about what kids today will think of Superbad. Some people my age, after all, became addicted to Porky's, which was fine for what it was but couldn't hold a candle to Animal House as far as I was concerned. All I know is, if I were a kid today, I would be lining up to see Superbad again.

2007-08-07 09:29
by Jon Weisman

The third episode of Damages airs tonight on FX, which means we'll get to see if the show can match last week's standard for forced product placement.

Now, I'm not philosophically against product placement at all. Shows have got to pay the bills, people fast-forwarding through commercials with their TiVos forces producers to find other options. The Office and 30 Rock do product placement, but they do it so cleverly that half the time I don't think about it, and the other half I'm laughing at it.

But it didn't fit so well with Damages last week.

Forgive me for not transcribing this to the letter, because I deleted episode two after finishing it. But there's a scene where Ellen (Rose Byrne) is about to receive a birthday present from a family member or friend. The buildup to the present is lively enough that you're seriously expecting she's going to get a car or the Hope Diamond or something, you know, jawdropping.

Instead, this newly minted lawyer at the highest caliber firm in the city is blown away to receive … a gift certificate to the Olive Garden.

"When you're there, you're family," the gift-giver explains.


* * *

Lyrics from one of the newest Flight of the Conchords songs, "Foux da fa fa":

Je voudrais une croissant
J: Je suis enchante
J: Ou est le bibliotheque?
J: Voila mon passport
J: Ah, Gerard Depardieu
B + J: Un baguette, ah ha ha, oh oh oh oh
B: Ba Ba ba-ba Bow!
B: Foux da fa fa
Foux da fa fa fa fa
Foux da fa fa
Ah ee ah
B: Foux da fa fa
Foux da fa fa fa fa
Foux da fa fa
Ah ee ah
B: Et maintenant le voyage a la supermarche!
B: Le pamplemousse (grapefruit)
B: Ananas (pineapple)
B: Jus d'orange
B: Boeuf
B: Soup du jour
B: Le camembert
B: Jacque Cousteau
B: Baguettte
J: Mais oui
J: Bon jour
F: Bon jour
J: Bon jour
F: Bon jour, monsieur
J: Bonjour mon petit bureau de change
B: Ca va?
L: Ca va.
B: Ca va?
L: Ca va.
B: Voila – le conversation a la parc.
B: Ou est le livre?
J: A la bibliotheque
B: Et le musique dance?
J: Et le discotheque.
B: Et le discotheque
J: C'est ci, baby!
J: Un, deux, trois, quatre
B: Ba ba ba-ba bow!
All: Foux da fa fa
Foux da fa fa fa fa
Foux da fa fa
Ah ee ah
Foux da fa fa
Foux da fa fa fa fa
Foux da fa fa
Ah ee ah
F: Ou est le piscine?
J: Pardon moi?
F: Ou'est le piscine?
J: …Uh… F: Splish splash
J: …Uh… F: Eh...
J: Je ne comprends pas.
F: Parlez-vous le francais?
J: Eh?
F: Eh? Parlez-vous le francais?
J: Uh .…No.
F: Hmmm.
B: Foux da fa fa
Foux da fa fa fa fa
Foux da fa fa
Ah ee ah
Ba ba ba-ba bow!

The Ultimate Attempt at Damage Control
2007-08-01 17:03
by Jon Weisman

Recently, gave talent booker Merry Miller the chance at an on-camera career by assigning her an interview with Holly Hunter of Saving Grace. To make a long story short, Miller's interview made Albert Brooks' memorable sweatdown on Broadcast News (a Hunter film, of course) look like the epitome of poise.

Rather than duck from the embarrassment, which has generated countless clicks on YouTube and elsewhere, has decided to exploit it. The website has not only published a story that chronicles every bit of Miller's embarrassment, it has set up an on-camera interview of Miller by another personality.

And Miller brought a clip! Of her own personal nightmare! Roll it!

Someday, the media is going to eat itself alive – and then talk meaningfully about the meal on 20/20.