Baseball Toaster Screen Jam
Why Don't People Talk About Big Love?
2007-07-05 07:59
by Jon Weisman

While people debate whether John From Cincinnati is worth the effort or Entourage still has its mojo or Flight of the Conchords is the best new thing including the iPhone, I have to point out that the top first-run HBO show on right now remains Big Love.

Want a show that challenges you (without forcing you to scratch your head half the time)? Big Love does. Want a show with compelling, three-dimensional characters? Big Love has 'em - even a few of the quirky kind if that suits you. Want great performances? Big Love is overrun with them – to the point where the four leads are challenged every episode for acting supremacy by knockout supporting players like Harry Dean Stanton, Grace Zabriskie, Mary Kay Place and, it seems at times, half the supporting cast of Veronica Mars. And the stories in Big Love are filled with drama while being surprisingly spare of melodrama.

I hear more people warming up to JFC. There's definitely a there there, I have no doubt. There's an intriguing mystery, and there are occasional winning moments – most evidenced in Sunday's episode by the warmth between Butch and Kai. But JFC remains tremendously uneven: long sequences pass that are dull, and the majority of the characters still have little going for them.

I found myself thinking about JFC the other night and realizing that if someone randomly killed off this character or that character, I wouldn't care. I might be shocked about the death, but I'd shrug at the absence. Mitch and Cissy seem to have no other dimension other than to whine or sulk. The motel gang, while ably filling the Shakespearean role of fools and sidekicks, have minor arcs at best and are plain expendable. Bill and John spout off in their own ways, all of which fuels the mystery but none of which fuels any interest. And so on.

By the end of Sunday's episode, I had decided that I would no longer make an effort for JFC, not because I was hating it, but just because I felt I could find myself with better things to do over its remaining hours. That doesn't mean I won't watch it again; I just don't feel the payoff is going to be worth the intermittent ennui. Those of you who are hooked can carry the torch without me - I got too many other things to watch to wait for this Godot.

In any case, I think someone needs to speak up for Big Love, because however many positives JFC offers, Big Love dwarfs them. On back-to-back nights this summer, HBO explores the meaning of faith, the meaning of love and the meaning of life, and there should be no doubt that the network does a more enthralling job of it on Mondays.

* * *

Ratatouille was fine in the end but overall a disappointment, especially after hearing friends and colleagues give it strong praise.

The opening act had me eyeing the exits. In particular, there's a long scene in the opening that has to be the most atrocious thing Pixar has ever produced. Forget for a moment that it was violent in an unmitigated way that I thought we had decided was completely unsuited for children in this day and age. It was more punishing in how unoriginal and unfunny it was. I grew up watching Warner Bros. cartoon characters getting their faces blown off and I survived, but I certainly wouldn't endorse doing this in today's gun-laden culture without the material at least being clever. It was a hateful scene, and I can't believe it came out of Brad Bird or that people have been tolerating it.

Things got better as Ratatouille progressed, but the other problem with the film is that the proratonist is a humdrum character who basically conveys two unnuanced emotions: frustration and happiness. Remy (Patton Oswalt) is not deep, that's for sure. He would redeem himself, but he got on my nerves more than once.

The best characters in Ratatouille are Linguini (Lou Romano) and Colette (Janeane Garofalo). They were the most human and the most humorous, and they carried the movie when they were allowed to. I rooted for Remy mainly because his success was tied into Linguini's success.

The film is shot beautifully, with particularly extraordinary sequences taking place involving water and later large groups of rodents. And the film has its laughs (though not as many as the Pixar short that preceded it, Lifted), and the climactic moment has a surprisingly huge payoff, given what had preceded it. Overall, I left feeling Ratatouille was a mediocre work and particularly disappointing for a Pixar pic.

Comments (58)
Show/Hide Comments 1-50
2007-07-05 10:35:52
1.   Bluebleeder87
i really enjoy JFC (i'm still puzzled by the whole show but i really enjoy it, hope it pays off) & Entourage, Flight of the Conchords last 2 episodes were o.k. the up coming episode looks really good so i'll watch.
2007-07-05 10:40:18
2.   Bob Timmermann
The shotgun scene in Ratatouille didn't bother me that much. I thought it showed the absurdity of the old lady's methods of trying to eradicate pests.

I'm not sure how someone could expect to kill a rat with a shotgun.

The first time Remy is inside the restaurant kitchen was a remarkable bit of animation with its great use of how a rat views the world.

2007-07-05 10:49:58
3.   GobiasIndustries
Big Love = Big Bore. I don't find anything remotely interesting about it. I attribute that to the fact that I've had a problem with the show from the beginning. The concept itself is just lame to me. I find it hard to believe that there is more than a handful of people in the entire United States that can honestly relate to the plot line. The whole idea just seems way to outlandish for me and hard as I tried, I couldn't get past episode 6 of the first season. However, my wife is hooked and can't wait for each new episode. She loves the show. I feel a bit hypocritical for saying that I don't really like the show based on it's premise yet I can't get enough of JFC and FOTC. Both great new shows IMO but one is reminiscent of the Tenacious D shorts that HBO would play from time to time and the other I have really no idea what is going on. Why do I give them a chance, and not Big Love? I feel like I invested the time into Big Love before forming my conclusions on the show and by that rational I should do the same for FOTC and JFC. Really just for JFC, FOTC is an instant classic. I can't get enough of that show.
2007-07-05 10:51:27
4.   Jon Weisman
2 - Yes, her methods were absurd, but turning a one-note joke into a relentless five-minute violent sequence that makes light of gunplay in a kids' movie was too much.
2007-07-05 10:53:17
5.   Jon Weisman
3 - I'll never come within 100 miles of relating to Big Love's literal plot line - and clearly the producers don't expect one to - but I think many can relate to the juggling of work and personal issues in an attempt to find happiness.
2007-07-05 10:56:54
6.   Jon Weisman
3 - Six episodes of watching the show is certainly a fair effort, of course. I'll only say that with the exception of one episode this season, I think the show has gotten better with age.
2007-07-05 11:05:38
7.   GobiasIndustries
I would agree with you to a point. The problems/issues that the protagonist and to a lesser degree, the supporting characters, are dealing with is what seems so out there for me. I just can't get past it. Big Love reminds me of the FX show "The Riches". Have you seen any of the first season? Both have great casts, both are well written, and both have the potential to be excellent but the downfall is the same. The basic plot is just to weird and it subsequently trickles it's weirdness into the episodes week after week. I watched all of the first season of "The Riches" at my wife's behest and for the simple fact that I think Eddie Izzard is a genius. After the season finale though, I don't think I'll be back for season two. Maybe I should've given Big Love the whole season before I made up mind.
2007-07-05 11:10:32
8.   Bob Timmermann
"The Riches" struck me as a show that people who believe that they are really a lot more cultured than others believe they should like mainly because it has Eddie Izzard in it.

But the show didn't have anything in it, except confusing plots, murky lighting, and bad accents.

2007-07-05 11:14:24
9.   Jon Weisman
7 - I didn't stick with "The Riches.' My reasons for not watching it were more like the JFC reasons I cited above. Just didn't think there was enough of a payoff.

I mean, the characters in "Oz" were more likeable than the JFC characters.

2007-07-05 11:15:20
10.   Bob Timmermann
By the way, that wasn't meant to be a dig at 7. It was a more global criticism.
2007-07-05 11:15:38
11.   GobiasIndustries
It started somewhat strong (and weird) then got more and more confusing and just plain bad as the season progressed. Eddie Izzard for as great as he is, had some very ham like performances in the first season too. I thought that was the biggest travesty.
2007-07-05 11:17:28
12.   GobiasIndustries
You were definitely right about the payoff.

Initially I took offense, but now all is forgiven :)

2007-07-05 11:29:24
13.   jasonungar07
I am hooked on JFC. Maybe I am giving it more of a chance because of how much I liked deadwood. It's not above criticism that's for sure.

I love Big love as well but havent caught Mondays episode yet. My wife is hooked on that show. She loves it.

I am so annoyed because yesterday I was all set to watch apocalypto and got thru the first 6 minuets and the DVD from blockbuster started skipping. Is it worth going back and getting it again. I was pretty into it for the first few minuets.

2007-07-05 11:43:55
14.   Bob Timmermann
I was more perturbed with the NY Times review of "The Riches" which made it seem like I was just too stupid to appreciate the brilliance of the show.

I actually don't think JFC is the same way. I don't see that show saying, "Look at me! I'm quirky! Appreciate me! Love me!"

I missed Big Love's first season when it aired, but then caught up with on HBO On Demand and was hooked. Very good characters.

2007-07-05 11:44:25
15.   GobiasIndustries
I am hooked on JFC. Maybe I am giving it more of a chance because of how much I liked deadwood. It's not above criticism that's for sure.

I with you on that. Deadwood was easily my favorite show on t.v. I see some similarities in the two shows and that's why I think I am more inclined to stick with JFC. I'm still totally confused but in a good way. I remember when I started watching Deadwood, it took me a good 5-6 episodes before I felt like I completely understood the dialouge and what was going on.

2007-07-05 11:51:08
16.   GobiasIndustries
I'm starting to think that maybe I wrote Big Love off too quickly. I should just get over my hang up with it and take it for what it is.

I don't think that there was anything brilliant about 'The Riches' at all..............well on second thought there must have been something because I got suckered in to watching the whole first season. But like I stated before, I won't be back for season two and I have a sneaking suspicion maybe the show won't be back either.

2007-07-05 11:55:36
17.   Jon Weisman
Does DirecTV show HBO on Demand? If so, what channel?
2007-07-05 12:48:56
18.   Penarol1916
14. That is what perturbs me about HBO shows. The fact that if you don't appreciate them, you are just not smart.
2007-07-05 13:46:51
19.   jasonungar07
It's very similar. The Snug Harbor may as well be called the GEM harbor. I am just waiting for Ian McShane to show up as Linc's mentor or sometihng.
2007-07-05 16:34:27
20.   CanuckDodger
I have a question about the "running time" (including commercials) for The Riches on FX in the United States. The series is being shown in Canada, but the channel that shows it has each episode running between 65 and 70 minutes (including commercials). What I want to know is if The Riches fits into a one-hour timeslot on FX, or if they too have the show always running up to ten minutes into the next hour (if the former, FX would have to be running a lot fewer commercials than the Canadian channel). We are all familiar with NBC "super-sizing" OCCASIONAL episodes of their series, but what is going on with The Riches every single week has to be unprecedented.
2007-07-05 16:41:31
21.   Inside Baseball
2 I really enjoyed Ratatouille, really enjoyed it. I thought it was much more subtle than most animated films. However, I did feel uncomfortable watching the movie with my two and a half year old son during that sequence. I chose to offer popcorn to my wife (blocking my son's view) after I realized the old lady was going to shoot up the whole house. But then it got better, a lot better. And aside from that, I thought very young-kid friendly. My main issue is usually with the villains in these films. They are always too scary imo. I liked that the bad guy in this story was just a bossy (and short) opportunist, not a nefarious, scary-looking evil-doer.
2007-07-05 16:55:08
22.   Jon Weisman
20 - FX running times I've noticed go over an hour, but past the 60 minute mark it's almost all if not entirely commercials.
2007-07-06 08:10:43
23.   Marty
I love JFC. I'm finding that I really like Garret Dillahunt as an actor. He was terrific as Woolcott/Jack McCall in Deadwood and his Dr. Smith role in JFC is really intriguing.
2007-07-06 10:37:51
24.   aloofman
I agree on Big Love. I've recommended it to several people, but I apparently can't get across to them what the appeal is. I try to explain that polygamy is just the situation, not the whole show. I really like how they've had each character develop. And if you don't like seeing Harry Dean Stanton do "creepy old guy", then I can't help you.

I saw Ratatouille yesterday, and I liked it more then Jon did, but still not as great as The Incredibles is. I also thought the gun scene was quite harsh for a G-rated movie, even though I'm a huge fan of Looney Tunes shorts that feature the same kind of thing. (Looney Tunes were always intended as cartoons before non-family films though, not as kid's fare.) The sewer scene was absolutely amazing, and the movements and textures of all the rats were really great, better than I've seen fur shown in CG. The voice work was all very good as usual. I especially liked O'Toole as the food critic. I think my biggest gripe is that it did not succeed in overcoming the disgust for the very idea of a rat preparing food for people. The end especially didn't quite work for me. I know it's a kid's cartoon, and the whole idea of the movie was the irony of a rat NOT wanting to settle for eating garbage. But I just couldn't go that far. Maybe the rats looked TOO good for me to overlook that. Gotta admit that it was daring though.

2007-07-06 11:20:03
25.   ToyCannon
I'm still into JFC but right now the only time I'm enjoying it, is when John, Butchie, Dr. Smith, or good ole Al Bundy are on the screen.

I haven't seen Ratatouille mainly because I'm just tired of rats being the main star in so many animated movies. I have to kill rats on a periodic basis around my house and it doesn't make it any easier to do that and enjoy a movie about an intelligent rat. Seems silly but as a young child one of my favorite books was "Mouse and the Motorcycle" or something like that and to this day everytime I've trapped a mouse/rat I wonder about the family waiting for him/her at home.

2007-07-06 13:02:21
26.   Jon Weisman
25 - "Basil of Baker Street" was my favorite childhood mouse story.
2007-07-06 13:06:52
27.   Jon Weisman
24 - If it's funny, like Looney Tunes, they can fire that gun as much as they want. If it's just, "Hey, look, we've got Granny firing a gun," then it's pointless. And if it's just to put the rats in peril, then they needed to think of another way.

I liked O'Toole too. I loved his moment of recalling his childhood - very Proustian, no?

2007-07-08 21:20:49
28.   Hallux Valgus
my favorite mouse story involved a Russian mouse named Feivel...

I find myself watching JFC the same way I watched Heroes- I'm intrigued enough to want to watch the next episode really badly immediately after one episode ends, but I have no interest in the characters enough to sustain that interest from week to week. After a while, life got in the way of Heroes, and I fell by the wayside. I think the only thing that keeps me going with JFC is that there's nothing else going on on Sundays.

Big Love lost my interest quickly. My roommate still watches it, but I'm not sad I dropped off.

2007-07-09 06:46:12
29.   Benaiah
"Entourage" wasn't just boring and repetitive last night, but actually managed to be a little offensive too. The whole "OMG she is a he!" plotline is dated and anachronistic in this day and age. When the bouncer said they only let her in because she is on Howard Stern I shuddered. The show is always a little questionable in its treatment of women, and glorification of vacant beauty over substance, but the attitudes on display last night are decades out of date.

This season has been a complete disaster in general, Ari hasn't had enough to do and with less Ari around the train wreck that is the central foursome is on prime display. At this point, the main thing "Entourage" has going for it is being surrounded by other shows I watch. That said, "FotC" had its weakest episode last night and not much happened in "JfC", so mediocre night all around by HBO.

2007-07-09 06:54:42
30.   Jon Weisman
I gave JFC one more shot because I was in front of the TV at 9 p.m. I turned it off around 9:10 - just after a boring monologue by Cass and just before what figured to be another ramble by Ed O'Neill. Just too much Waiting for Godot.

Entourage is not having a great time with plotting or humor these days - it seems to be trading on the show's popularity more than anything. I got too tired to finish FotC but I was enjoying it quite a bit - I loved what they did with the song Bret wrote for his girlfriend - Jermaine's help was priceless.

2007-07-09 08:54:42
31.   Padgett
Last night's JFC was certainly the worst yet. Cissy is positively intolerable, and the early appeal of the pacing has almost completely worn off.

I also agree about Entourage: horrible season so far. The only somewhat enjoyable part last night was the bit about M. Night Shyamalan, and even that was executed in a way that it fell short of funny. It's as if the writers have forgotten what made the show likeable in the first place. The only thing that made me smile was seeing Ned Ryerson on HBO for the second week in a row.

2007-07-09 09:57:30
32.   Icaros
JFC was awful last night.
2007-07-09 10:34:54
33.   jasonungar07
As a huge fan of JFC I have to say that I agree. Last night was pretty bad. There were some good momments but they are being drowned out by Cissy and Linc is a bore as the evil one.

Ari needs his own show.

2007-07-09 15:16:51
34.   Marty
Vanity Fair has come out with their top 10 Simpsons episodes.

2007-07-09 15:23:43
35.   Bob Timmermann
I can put 1-4 on a top 10 list with no arguments although I might not put them in that order.

The "Evita" takeoff shouldn't have a double or single digit number associated with it.

"Two Bad Neighbors" is overrated.

Since the list does not include "El Viaje Misterioso de Homer Simpson", I'm skeptical.

There are also no first season episodes chosen or ones that feature Albert Brooks.

"Homer vs Lisa and The Eighth Commandment" and "Life on the Fast Lane" are tremendous.

2007-07-09 15:27:39
36.   Marty
I love life on the fastlane.

Jacques: I know, I know. My mind says stop, but my heart, and my hips, cry
proceed. [Marge reacts accordingly] Marge darling, I - I want to
see you tomorrow. Not at Barney's Bowlorama, away from the
thunderous folly of clattering pins. Meet me tomorrow for Brunch.
Marge: What's Brunch?
Jacques: You'd love it, It's not quite breakfast, it's not quite lunch, but
it comes with a slice of cantaloupe at the end. You don't get
completely what you would at breakfast, but you get a good meal!

2007-07-09 15:27:58
37.   Jon Weisman
Some good ones there, but you have to make room for Lisa's substitute teacher and the miniature golf tournament.

Don't forget:

2007-07-09 15:28:39
38.   Jon Weisman
More simply, that link is:

2007-07-09 15:40:08
39.   Hythloday
I also think the Insanity Pepper episode should be in the top ten.
2007-07-09 15:43:22
40.   underdog
That Vanity Fair list is missing some classics. I have to think about my own Best Of list now. I suppose that's the main function of any such list, to get people debating... But, seems like they missed some obvious ones imho.

Agree with you, Jon, about JFC - I gave up on it.

Disagree pretty strongly about Ratatouille but I'm not entirely convinced it is a kid's movie. I think Brad Bird is a filmmaker, who happens to use animation as his medium of choice, who makes films for adults that many kids can also enjoy. I did find the mid-section a little talky and noticed a few kids around me were a bit restless during it, but everyone was involved in Act 3, the last 20 minutes or so are a hoot. I also loved the choice of Patton Oswalt and all the voice actors.

Who needs JFC when we have Flight of the Conchords and other shows to keep us out of trouble.

2007-07-09 15:44:36
41.   Bob Timmermann
"Mother Simpson" still makes me cry at the end.

And laugh for lines like:

This is so weird. It's like something out of Dickens...or "Melrose Place".

Burns: Yes, I'd like to send this letter to the Prussian consulate in
Siam by aeromail. Am I too late for the 4:30 autogyro?
Kid: Uh, I better look in the manual.

Wiggum: Put out an APB on a Uosdwis R. Dewoh. Uh, better start with Greektown.
Friday: That's "Homer J. Simpson", Chief. You're reading it upside down.
Wiggum: Uh, cancel that APB. But, uh, bring back some of them, uh, giros.
Friday: Uh, Chief? You're talking into your wallet.

2007-07-09 16:11:43
42.   blue22
Some good choices in there; I was pleasantly surprised that a number of my very favorites were on there.

Some they missed that I feel belong:

Homer goes to Clown College.
Homer thinks Bart is gay (with John Waters).
Homer buys a gun.

I also think the first episode of "Who killed Mr. Burns" is great.

2007-07-09 16:14:45
43.   Marty
Any episode with Sideshow Bob is a winner.
2007-07-09 16:30:50
44.   Shaun P
Simpsons Tide is a classic. Its my favorite episode to quote from. "Its my first day." "Well, better make it quick, kiddo. In five minutes this place is becoming a Starbucks." "Congratulations! You are all World War One historical re-creationists! Uh-oh."

42 I still die laughing at the FedEx parody in Who Shot Mr Burns (part 1).

Other favorites: The Old Man and the Lisa "Re-cy-cling? I'm afraid I don't know what that is, you young ragamuffin."

And the Mansion Family. "Your rich uncle Homer is throwing the wildest box social the high seas have ever seen!"

"Social security number: naught-naught-naught. Naught-naught. Naught-naught-naught-two. Damn Roosevelt. Cause of parents' death: they got in my way."

2007-07-09 16:35:03
45.   blue22
And of course, "Dental Plan!...Lisa needs braces...Dental Plan!...Lisa needs braces..."
2007-07-09 16:47:57
46.   Humma Kavula
I know I'm alone, but I love the Shari Bobbins episode.
2007-07-09 16:48:36
47.   Bob Timmermann
No, no you're not.
2007-07-09 16:49:17
48.   Bob Timmermann
And if the Stonecutters aren't involved, then I'm worried.
2007-07-09 16:59:09
49.   Jon Weisman
40 - The movie is heavily marketed for kids. You can argue that's not Bird's problem, though certainly he had to be aware that it would be. Whether he liked it or not, the movie became a kids' movie that adults would also see, not the other way around. The big ads for the film are not appearing in The New Yorker.

Essentially, though, it doesn't matter whether it was a kids movie or not. That scene isn't a good one for any age group. Again, it's not the violence that bothers me; it's the pointlessness of the violence.

2007-07-09 18:30:49
50.   Shaun P
46 "Buy me a beer, two bucks a glass. C'mon help me, I'm freezing my ass. Buy me some brandy, a snifter of wine. Who am I kidding? I'd drink turpentine."

48 Though apparently the Stonecutters' power is waning. We have hybrid electric cars, and I can't tell you the name of the last movie Steve Guttenberg was in.

Show/Hide Comments 51-100
2007-07-09 22:59:32
51.   Bob Timmermann
It looks like the last episode of "Big Love" borrowed pie boxes from a local restraurant of mine called Wild Thyme.

But I think they've expanded.

I have never met a nice Serbian waitress at mine.

2007-07-09 23:03:39
52.   Jon Weisman
Bill Hendrickson and Tony Soprano: there are similarities.
2007-07-09 23:10:59
53.   Bob Timmermann
Apparently, they are the Henricksons and not related to any very tall Dodgers lefthanded pitcher.
2007-07-10 07:03:01
54.   Penarol1916
45. That comes from the actual best episode of the The Simpsons, and its not even close, "Last Exit to Springfield." That quote also isn't even that good compared to the lines that the dentist in that episode gets.

"Why must you turn this office into a house of lies?"

"Let's take a look at the big book of British smiles."

2007-07-10 14:05:19
55.   dzzrtRatt
Coming in late to the JFC discussion...

I want to like this show, and sometimes I do like it. But Sunday was about five minutes worth of plot stretched over 50 minutes, with no payoff.

The characters are all in different shows. Cissy is a refugee from a bad Eugene O'Neill production. John is out of a bad sci-fi movie. The two dope dealers, or whatever they are, use that David Milch-is-Damon Runyon way of talking that reminds me of NYPD Blue and Hill Street Blues, with the only difference being these conversations have no point. Linc is a villain who has, so far, failed to demonstrate any villainous behavior, just mildly sleazy. The idea that he is somehow responsible for the dope-taking surfer's dope-taking doesn't wash. Didn't he lose money, too?

There weren't even any cool surfing sequences last week.

But I'll keep at it. HBO and its various outcroppings show it so often, it's not hard to catch up with it.

Big Love is okay, but never seems like an urgent thing to watch. The plotlines seem to be only fair, but the character portrayals are very good. It's a bit like Knots Landing, isn't it? Good looking people in the suburbs with complicated problems nobody in real life has.

2007-07-10 15:51:35
56.   Bob Timmermann
Linc didn't make Butchie a dopehead, but he made Butchie famous at a very young age and he didn't support him in nonsurfing matters and he ended up as an addict.

At least that's how I view it.

Sissy thinks that Shaun will end up the same way if he becomes too famous too soon.

But Shaun's mom is the Babe Ruth of porn!

2007-07-11 22:43:13
57.   Greg Brock
Sissy really needs to stop screaming. I just turn the volume down and go work on the house.

Linc is a turd. He's a terrible villain.

Linc's camera broad/Femme Fatale is so hot.

I'm sticking with the show, but not for long.

2007-07-14 11:50:59
58.   ToyCannon
When you combine Jon with anyone of the side characters the show is charming and involving. When Cissy and Mitch are on the screen the show blows. Hopefully in the next episode Mitch will levitate to high and get taken out by a ceiling fan and that will be the end of Mitch and the levitation angle.

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