Monday, August 29, 2005


SPOILER WARNING: If you haven't yet seen the season finale of The 4400 and you want to avoid spoilers and/or any teasers for next season (is there going to be a next season?), read no further.

The 4400's season finale was fairly entertaining. I'm not sold on some of the developments. Kyle's decision to come clean and Tom's support doesn't really work as far as I'm concerned.

I don't know what to make of the exploding ball of light that Shawn pulled out of Kyle.

I was less than convinced by the standoff between Tom and Ryland. Tom mentions "Firewall" and Ryland backs down, only to be arrested the next day (or so). Seems to me Ryland may have just ordered the safe house to be stormed when he knew he'd been found out by Tom and Diana.

Nonetheless, I'm intrigued by the second (and altogether different) use of an epilogue in a finale this season. I've previously written about the Six Feet Under epilogue. It was meant to bring some closure. Clearly, the montage of scenes at the end of last night's episode of The 4400 had the opposite goal in mind. It set up a number of new and head-scratch-worthy new directions. (See here for exec producer Steve Behr's comments on the epilogue.)

Richard seems to be developing a new telekenetic skill. Maybe the promicin shots did more than cure the 4400. The promicin may have created new talents in some of them.

Isabelle's overnight growth spurt deepens the mystery surrounding her and adds another level of hubba-hubba factor to the show (though it's a little bit creepy to think she was a toddler yesterday and a naked woman today).

Richard, Lily, and big-girl Isabelle have some serious dysfunctional family dynamics ahead of them, I'd guess.

We would expect no less than an apocalyptic warning from Maia; the war is just beginning. But, who knows, maybe she just disapproves of Mommy kissing Marco.

And why is creepy "father of 4400 technology" Burkhoff injecting himself with the promicin?

Finally, Jordan Collier is alive? Interesting. Still . . . get thee to a barber, Jordan.

Prison Break and Bedtime

I missed the first 90 minutes of the premiere of Prison Break because I was tasked with bathing Wasteland Kid and getting him to sleep. I don't know when he fell asleep, but it only took me about 10 minutes.

I'm hoping to catch a rebroadcast a some point.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

"Preparing for the End of Will and Grace"

Article on here.

No preparation necessary. Just put it out of its misery.

(Oh, and Eric McCormack, when you start pointing to the Emmy nominations to make the case that you're still good and relevant, it's a sure sign you're no longer good and relevant.)


USA Network airs the season finale of The 4400 tonight. (Yes, I've watched enough to catch on now, even though I missed a few episodes.) What is that promicin inhibitor? Why does the US government want the 4400 to be dead or incapacitated? I must know the answers.

The series premiere of Prison Break airs tomorrow at 8 pm ET on Fox. It's one of the new shows I'm going to give a shot this season. Advance buzz has been strong. See here for a previous related post.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Oh, Baby Brother!

Um, okay. So, John de Mol and the braintrust behind Big Brother want to include a pregnant woman in the cast of the upcoming season of the show in the Netherlands. Now, she's not just pregnant, but due to give birth in just six weeks, smack in the middle of the show's run. The producers plan to broadcast the birth. Here's the story from CNN.

The Dutch government is investigating the request from the BB producers, because Dutch law sets strict limits on the conditions under which children and infants can appear on screen as "actors." The mother, however, is apparently thrilled and thinks her child will one day be proud of his or her forced participation on the show. Talk about your world premieres.

I've made no secret of my complete mystification at what motivates people to subject themselves to the humiliating experience that is Big Brother (even taking into account that the winner wins some money). But, forcing an innocent newborn to be one of the house guests is simply going too far. In this country, we may be deeply divided about the legal status and rights of the unborn, but I think we can find some common ground on this subject. No one -- and, I mean, NO ONE -- should be involuntarily subjected to the banal insanity of the Big Brother house and the unblinking eye of the roughly two million cameras therein without providing prior knowing and voluntary consent.

God, that kid's gonna hate his mom one day. Can you say therapy?

Incidentally, the world-wide success of the Big Brother franchise is evidence that we live in a truly global society. Unfortunately, it seems the evidence lies in a shared depraved penchant for voyeurism and an unhealthy addiction to reality TV. What, we couldn't all rally around Monet, Mozart, or even Bergman?

Whedon on Mars and Spike

I love Joss Whedon. Buffy and Angel were a couple of the best shows of the past decade. He's a genius.

If you agree (and you're a brainless mouthbreather if you don't), then you'll be interested to know that Joss has recently done two noteworthy things, leaving aside preparing for the release of Serenity in the theaters on September 30.

First, Whedon wrote a veritable love letter to UPN's Veronica Mars on his website. He's right, you know. You should be watching that show. It's by far the show sporting the most ridiculous inverse quality-to-ratings ratio. The second season promises to be great.

Second, Whedon reportedly approached long-time collaborator Tim Minear about writing the oft-hoped-for-but-thought-unlikely Spike-based TV movie. Yippeee!

Speaking of 24

Here's a great little Q&A with Wentworth Miller an Dominic Purcell of Prison Break, Fox's entry to tide us over until 24 returns in January.

I'm gonna give the show a shot. It looks like a suitable placeholder.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Kiss My Astin!

Sean Astin is joining the cast of 24 for the new season starting in January 2006. I'd make a hobbit joke, but too many others have beaten me to the punch.

My Own Little Reverse Blind Item

Wasteland Fan authored one of the questions that Matt Roush answers in his semi-weekly Q&A column today on TV Guide Online. Can you guess which one?

WILY TV 8/25/05: Of Pony Tails and Clam Diggers (Or the Double Standard Rears Its Ugly Head)

Last evening I was watching the tennis match between Tommy Haas and James Blake at the Pilot Penn Open in New Haven. It's the final event in the US Open Series of hardcourt tennis events leading up the the final leg of tennis's Grand Slam, the US Open.

As I watched, I was reminded of what a cosmopolitan sport tennis is. The players' coiffures were particularly illustrative of the point. Tommy Haas was rockin' the wavy, girly pony tail and James Blake, a cople of years removed from his dreds, sported the headband-without-hair bald shave.

It's intersting how many tenni-tails there are out there. Check out Feliciano Lopez, Roger Federer (up until last year), Lleyton Hewitt (who rotates between the tenni-tail and the close-shorn look), Xavier Malisse, and Gaston Gaudio. In a sport where the women have undergone a radical makeover from the unabashedly buff, butch, and lesbian Martina Navratilova to the overtly feminine and (hetero-)sexual marketing by the WTA (though the latest campaign comes close to self-mocking in that regard), the haute couture style-over-substance (Kournikova, party of one, your table is ready) and jail-bait-in-the-making undercurrent to the women's game (remember, some of these players are still in their tender teen years) just hasn't caught on among the men.*** Venus Williams designs her tennis outfits with the likes of Diane von Furstenberg, but Rafael Nadal wears the lamentably low-fashion clam diggers and sleeveless shirt combo. We won't even bother to comment about the horrid mullet craze among the Argentinian men (see, e.g., David Nalbandian and Guillermo Coria).

Of course, this is just another incident of sexism at work. "We don't mind if you ladies are physically fit and phenomenally talented, as long as you look sexy doing it." I don't like it. And I applaud players like Lindsay Davenport and Amelie Mauresmo, who obviously take pride in their fitness and general appearance, but have no time for the sexualized and vacuous promotion practices of the WTA. I wish more of the players would take a stand.

(Don't get me wrong, I have no interest in dictating how the players present themselves. If a female professional tennis player feels comfortable or empowered by wearing short, tight skirts and enjoys dabbling in fashion, and/or just likes to feel and look sexy, more power to her. I just wish the WTA didn't focus on that to the exclusion of the remarkable tennis skills of the players. Moreover, I wish I didn't have the sneaking suspicion that the WTA pressures the players to present the girly sex kitten image.)

It's an age old story: men are appreciated in spite of (because of?) their general lack of fashion sense, while women must conform to some constructed definition of femininity and sexuality in order to be appreciated.

What I Learned Yesterday on TV: Even on the tennis court, the gender double standard is alive and well.

***Out of fairness, I should note that the (thankfully) abandoned "new balls please" campaign by the ATP a few years ago was not without it sexual overtones.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Feast or Famine (UPDATED)

With the demise of NBC's "Must See TV," an interesting phenomenon has developed on Thursday nights. Because the night is a potentially highly profitable night for broadcasters in terms of advertising sales, the networks have been scratching and clawing to pick up any portion of the Thursday night audience that was set free when Seinfeld ended, Friends took its leave, and ER stopped being entertaining. The new fall season promises a glut of popular programming all competing for viewers on Thursday nights. The OC, Survivor, Smallville, Alias, Joey/Will & Grace, Everybody Hates Chris all duke it out in the 8 o'clock hour. These are all either established hits, quality shows, cult favorites, or (in the case of Chris) a new show with serious buzz. Aside from those who have multiple VCRs, DVRs, or ADD, a person simply can't watch everything that's worth watching among those shows.

Me? I'll be watching Alias. It's not even a difficult decision for me, though I'll likely tape the first couple of episodes of Everybody Hates Chris. The teasers suggest its way too good to pass up altogether.

UPDATE: Zap2It has an interesting article about the WB's attempt to grab some Thursday night viewers with the Smallville/Everwood move to the crowded Thursday night.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

It's Already Gone

"You can't take a picture of this. It's already gone."

That is Nate's parting bit of advice to Claire as she bids farewell to her (radically transformed) family at the foot of Fisher & Sons' steps. And, I think, those are Alan Ball's parting words to us, his audience. Live in the moment. Don't dwell on the past. Death is sure, but life is not. The life part it up to you.

Six Feet Under often meandered into the pretentious and this scene hovered near the tri-state line of touching/overwrought/pretentious. But, I thought it was effective. Nate is right: the moment is gone and it's time to move on.

In some ways, the finale betrayed the overall tone of the show, especially the epilogue. I had mixed feelings about the epilogue. I enjoyed it. Seeing glimpses of the Fishers'/Chenowiths'/Charleses'/Diazes' future lives and deaths provided a real sense of closure that series finales so seldom provide (see, e.g., Angel's series finale "Not Fade Away"). On the other hand, my first reaction was to feel betrayed because the epilogue felt hopeful and peaceful in a way that didn't match the previous 62 3/4 episodes much. Aside from Keith (who's death scene was inordinately cheesy, even if horrific), the characters lived what appeared to be long, productive lives and died natural, often peaceful, deaths. We saw happy gatherings, including the weddings of Keith and David as well as Claire and Ted. Durrell and Anthony appeared to grow into well-adjusted men with nice families. Even George and Ruth found a way to structure their relationship that kept them together for another couple of decades. There was no swearing, no near-psychotic breaks, and no disintigrating relationships.

Still, I think there is much more to that epilogue than can be appreciated in a single viewing. I'm certain that many of the tableau-like scenes provided subtle hints of what the future holds for the Fishers/Chenowiths/Charleses/Diazes. For instance, I wasn't able to catch who Brenda was sitting with at Keith and David's wedding. Was it Billy? Was it another man? Did she ever move beyond Nate? (We know she didn't move beyond Billy.) It seemed like Rico and Venessa must have been successful in their business. Rico died on what appeared to be a luxury cruise. I couldn't tell (aside from Keith) what affliction claimed any of the other characters in the end. Did Ruth and Claire suffer prior to death?

In retrospect, I'm not sure all was signaled to be peaches and cream for the various characters. For instance, Brenda and Billy were never able to grow beyond each other and, eventually, Billy literally talked Brenda to death. Not only is that hilarious, it's sad. Likewise, Claire's death scene portended some heartache. She lived to be 101 years old, but she was clearly blind at the time of her death. As a photographer, her sight was a beloved commodity that she lost at some point.

I'm also intrigued by the notion that Claire's coming of age became, I think only in retrospect, the show's defining story arc. As Claire leaves, so does the show. David has gone nowhere, but is finally contented with his place in life. Ruth's evolution is encapsulated in her ability to let go of Claire and be at peace with that decision. So, it's Claire who's really grown. She never knew her dad, didn't know her brother Nate as well as she would have liked, didn't stick around to get to know David as well as she could, learned from her mother's mistakes, and in the end stepped into her own. I like it.

What do we take from Six Feet Under. Plenty. Some of it in spite of the terribly flawed characters. But, at its base, I think we learn:

Life goes on. Death is inevitable. Make the best of the former before the latter catches up with you.

UPDATE: You can view the obituaries of Ruth, Keith, David, Rico, Brenda, and Claire on the SFU website at HBO.

UPDATE 2: Here is an attempt to glean some info from the obits and (in the comments) from a closer viewing of the epilogue. Some of these were, I thought, fairly apparent upon the first viewing. Others were not. I didn't catch that David met someone after Keith died. It explains the person who was sitting next to Brenda at the wedding (and her pregnant appearance . . . though that was as much a matter of Rachel's real life pregnancy as storytelling, I'm sure). And, most interestingly, the commenter who concluded that the future was all in Claire's imagination as she was driving to New York. Nice thought, but the obits suggest otherwise.

Amen and Pass the Potatoes

Law "prawf" Paul Horwitz extols the virtues of TV as a pedagogical device.

As to his query about a tax write-off for a flat-screen TV, his tongue may be firmly in his cheek, but my cogs are spinning. TiVo, anyone?

Monday, August 22, 2005


As in, "We've got to get . . . ."

Because I live in the Central Time Zone (more or less) the series finale of Six Feet Under aired from 8-9:15. That falls right during the bedtime routine for Wasteland Kid. So, we taped Six Feet Under.

Or so we thought.

We made it through the first 60 minutes (Claire was saying goodbye to David and Ruth), but the tape ran out and we didn't get to see the last 15 minutes. So, we have to wait for the replay tomorrow night to see the end, including the epilogue.

I have been asking to get TiVo or some alternate FauxVo for years. Perhaps Wasteland Spouse will agree now?

Doubt it. See, Wasteland Spouse adheres to the philosophy that watching TV is a shameful waste of time and should in no way be further enabled. Therefore, it should be somewhat painful to do, otherwise you might actually lose sight of what a slothful laggard you really are. Any "Vo" would be much too convenient. You might say that the VCR is our version of the hairshirt.

Well, I'll let you know my thoughts about the finale on Tuesday.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

6FU: Pre-Plan

In anticipation of tonight's series finale of Six Feet Under, I offer the following thoughts:
  • I'll miss the Fisher clan showing me how awful my life could be (or at least how awful my outlook on life could be) and making me feel all the better for it.
  • While the show is sometimes overwrought and pretentious and definitely dark-to-the-point-of-depressing at times, I've always (save, perhaps, the middle of the third season) found it entertaining and thought-provoking.
  • The show never quite again acheived the excellence of the final two episodes of the first season, but it was sometimes close and always, IMHO, worth the ride for its effort.
  • One part of me hopes at least some of the Fishers get a happy ending; another part of me would feel that betrays the tone of the show.
  • I understand there will be an epilogue to the finale, showing how each of the Fishers shuffles off the mortal coil. That strikes me as wrongheaded, but the proof of that will be in the pudding. I'll let you know what I think tomorrow.


Friday, August 19, 2005

Now the Story of a Wealthy Family Who Lost Everything

When Ron Howard intones those words it means one thing: a half-hour of craziness is about to unfold.

Caught a couple of rerun episodes of Arrested Development tonight on Fox. That show is hi-effin-larious.

I saw "Meet the Veals" and "Spring Breakout."

My favorite line of the night came in the "on the next Arrested Development" segment at the end of the "Meet the Veals" episode, when Buster -- after losing his hook to the police dog, replaces it with Franklin, GOB's smack-talking afroed dummy -- responds to Lucille's admonition that Buster won't be allowed in the country club with "that." Buster, in Franklin's voice, says:

I don’t want no part of your tight-ass country-club, you freak bitch!

Love it!

(NOTE: You can hear this line by going to this site, scrolling to the bottom, and clicking on the Open/Save link for "Franklin 5.")

Martha's Minions

You want to be Martha Stewart's Apprentice? Too late this go-round, filming has wrapped.

Apparently, NBC has released some info on the wannabe media-moguls-in-the-making. I predict that Jeff (the "Creative Director") will be the first Stewart lackey, though Shawn (the "TV Newscaster") may give him a run for his money. That would, of course, make Jeff the first openly gay Apprentice, which seems -- for whatever reason -- much more likely on Martha's version than on The Donald's.

Funny little aside: Did you notice that Marcela (the "Cooking Instructor") "now teaches cooking classes to over 40 students." Over 40? Wow, how does she manage it?

Hat tip to Althouse.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

More Speculation

In light of the previous post asking for speculation about JJ Abrams' plans for Alias this season, why don't we play the speculation game for Lost as well. Only, this time, let's change the rules a bit.

Here are 10 guesses for what the Oceanic Flight 815 survivors might find at the bottom of the ladder in the hatch:
  1. Richard Simmons
  2. Dogs Playing Poker
  3. Rosie O'Donnell's long lost sense of good-natured humor
  4. Masters for the never-broadcast episodes of Eyes
  5. Slestaks
  6. Tammy Faye (Bakker) Messner (here's wishing her well with her chemo)
  7. Newt Gingrich's political career
  8. My copy of Alannis Morrisette's Jagged Little Pill (the original, not the new acoustic version from Starbucks)
  9. Osama Bin Laden
  10. Waldo

"First of all, my name is not Michael Vaughn."

According to this story, the premiere of season 5 of Alias is a mere 6 weeks away, on September 29. (Aside: September 29 is Wasteland Fan's 33rd birthday and the premiere of Alias is a nice gift.)

With that in mind, I'd like to speculate about last season's cliffhanger, which involved Agent Vaughn delivering the linethat is the title of this post followed by an out-of-nowhere and, seemingly, devastating car accident in which some huge SUV-looking thing T-Boned the driver side of the little green Jag Vaughn and Sydney were driving. I remember watching it and turning to Wasteland Spouse, both of us with our mouths agape, saying "Huh?"

Who is Michael Vaughn, if not Michael Vaughn? I would guess he has some connection to Rimbaldi. Hence, Jennifer Garner's real life pregnancy can be worked into the Alias story line and play out one of the Rimbaldi prophecies (and develop a bit more one of the hanging threads from Season 3's "lost years" storyline, involving the harvesting of Sydney's eggs to combine with Rimbaldi's, uh, DNA or whatever).

I would also guess that his father was a Russian spy, tied in some way to Irina. So, Vaughn's given name is Aleksandr Tursinov, or something like that. That might explain the cryptic conversation between Vaughn and Irina as they were fixing the subway train earlier in the episode.

I've no idea how all that adds up to it not being a coincidence that Vaughn was assigned as Sydney's handler when she walked into the CIA to turn double agent on SD-6 during the series premiere -- as Vaughn told Sydney it was no coincindence just before divulging that he is not, in fact, Michael Vaughn.

Thing is, neither of these two speculations is very creative or inspiring. What do you think? How's JJ Abrams going to pull this one out and maintain even a shred of integrity to the previous four seasons' storylines?

P.S. I refuse to believe it was a dream sequence, as suggested by several speculators on the Television Without Pity boards. JJ wouldn't do that to us, would he?

WILY TV 8/17/05: Theo Whah?

This blog is starting to border on all-reality-all-of-the-time territory. I think it's as much a reflection of summer TV fare as it is my car wreck fascination. I'll try to branch out soon, especially about the upcoming fall season of shows.

Nevertheless, last night I caught the premier of Bravo's new and retro Battle of the Network Reality Stars (using "Stars" very loosely). I paid a little bit of attention for the first 15 minutes or so, then lost interest.

At any rate, I did learn something very enlightening during that 15 minutes last night; namely, the last names of a couple of Real World-ers. In particular, Theo's surname is Vonkurnatowski.

So, what I learned yesterday on TV: There's often a good reason that reality shows identify the cast by first name only.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Oh, Brother!

Last night I caught ten minutes of this summer's version of needles poking me repeatedly in the eyes . . . er, Big Brother.

Riddle me this, Batman: Who are these people who audition to be on such a crappy show where pretty much everyone ends up reviled and ridiculed and only one person gets money?

On the Amazing Race, even the losers get to travel to "amazing" places. And, at least on Survivor and The Apprentice some of the castaways/apprenti end up with other opportunities in entertainment or business. It doesn't seem to be the case with Big Brother.

While there are some parallels between Big Brother and The Real World in terms of revulsion and ridicule faced by the "roommates," they are at least uniformly young, inexperienced, and stupid (and relatively younger and less experienced -- though certainly no stupider -- than the Big Brother "housemates"). Even so, there are a couple of interesting differences. It seems MTV plies the roommates with great cities to live in, great digs, and enough free alcohol to fell a herd of elephants. On the other hand, BB housemates are isolated in a weirdly sterile production studio of a home and given peanut butter and jelly to eat. Furthermore, plenty of the roommates parlay the RW experience, appropriately enough, into speaking gigs to other young, inexperienced, and stupid people, mostly on college campuses across the country. I'm unaware of a similar phenomenon with the BB housemates. Finally, a small, but significant, number of the RW roommates have developed a cottage industry of repeatedly appearing in the Real World/Road Rules Challenges that MTV produces with freakish regularity. The housemates from BB get dumped out on a studio lot once they're evicted and CBS seldom looks back at them.

As I said, I've never applied to be a cast member on any reality show,* so perhaps it's just my own lack of imagination and initiative that leaves me wondering at the motivation of reality show wannabes.

So, help me out. If you've ever sent in an audition for a reality show or gone to an open casting call for one, why? Really, I want to know (especially if that show was Big Brother).

*I was a junior in college -- you know, young, inexperienced, and stupid -- when I discovered Real World Los Angeles. I so almost applied for the next season. I'm really glad I didn't. The next season was in San Francisco. I couldn't imagine having been Puck's roommate.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Ten Things I've Never Done (Wasteland Edition)

This meme circulated on some blawgs a few months back. I thought it might be a nice way to open a little window into the mind and life of Wasteland Fan, while modifying the meme a bit. I will list ten things I've never done regarding TV.

I've never:
  1. Seen an episode of Dallas, including "Who Shot J.R.?"; yet somehow I feel like I know all about it.
  2. Ordered a pay-per-view movie through my digital cable service. Netflix rules!
  3. Watched an entire episode of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart from beginning to end, despite the fact that I love the show.
  4. Written a spec script for a TV show, though I've often thought about it.
  5. Cried while watching a long distance commercial, an episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (okay, I've only watched two), or a movie of the week.
  6. Watched anything on Court TV, even though I'm a lawyer and teach law (or, perhaps more accurately, becuase I'm a lawyer and teach law).
  7. Completely stopped following Days of Our Lives, since one of my friends made me watch an episode when I was in seventh grade.
  8. Gotten over the cancellation of Moonlighting. Why, oh why, did Dave and Maddie have to do the nasty?
  9. Applied to be a cast member on a reality TV show. Nuff said.
  10. Been able to stomach The Andy Griffith Show or All in the Family. I know, I know. They're classic television. I just can't deal, for no apparent reason.

Tag, Trailhead. You're it.

WILY TV 8/15/05: A Matter of Perspective

I know I've been on overdrive with the Six Feet Under blogging, but it's what I've been watching most recently.

Last night I caught the second go-round of Static, the series' penultimate episode. (I missed the first airing because I was reading The Wonderful Wizard of Oz to Wasteland Kid for our nightly pre-sleep ritual.)


Both Claire and David have gone off the deep end. Ruth is interested in neither of them, instead apparently preferring to start over altogether with Maya.

I'll miss the big 0l' green hearse. It was, sometimes, my favorite character.

Brenda has a freakin' skeevy dream about a sexual encounter with Billy. Then she, gently, kicks him out of the house. As they used to say in Northern Indiana, "even a blind squirrel finds a nut every once in a while." Likewise, even Brenda seems to make a good choice every now and then.

George is back. He's being quite helpful and supportive for Ruth. (Maggie, on the other hand, has no use for him. I guess she had to "f#%k someone else's husband to death," as Brenda rather indelicately put it, to make sense of her feelings toward her father.) Ruth, for her part, is accepting George's help and comfort. She even says to George, regarding Maya, "We could raise her couldn't we?"

What I learned last night on TV: It turns out you don't hate or resent your mentally ill, serial marrying know-it-all of an ex-husband so much when he's the only one left to provide support for you in the wake of your eldest son's untimely death.

I guess it's all a matter of perspective. Good to know.


Monday, August 15, 2005

WILY TV 8/14/05: Give me a T! Give me a V!

Admit it. When you run across the national cheerleading competitions on ESPN2, you watch. It's okay. You're not alone.

Now, I'll make a confession. I was a college cheerleader. Wasteland Spouse and I were stunting partners. It was fun and some of the most physically demanding stuff I've done. Hey, I weighed 200+ pounds and could do a standing back tuck. That took work. And, I spent hours on end holding young women -- admittedly, skinny young women, but still -- over my head and on my shoulders. I won't even start on the pain of a person falling on your head from 10 feet up, while kicking and screaming.

Anyways, yesterday, we ran across the NCA National Cheerleading championships on "The Deuce" and watched a bit. Then, later in the afternoon, we caught bits and pieces of Bring it On on one of the basic cable channels. (The movie basically sucks, but it's a fun sort of sucking and some of the barbs directed at cheerleading are spot on.)

At the end of the day, Wasteland Kid (who's 4) says, "Hey, do you want to see my cheerleading routine?" So, intrigued, I say yes. WK proceeds to turn his back to me, wiggle his ass, and say, "Shake you booty one more time! Shake your booty one more time!"

I told him he was 75% of the way to a national championship.

What I learned yesterday on TV: There's a little cheerleader in us all; embrace the cheerleader within.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

The Long Awaited Verdict . . .

is in. According to this report from Reuters (appearing on Fox TV has cleared Paula Abdul of allegations that she provided inappropriate assistance (of either the musical or the coital variety) to that Cold Hearted Snake Corey Clark during his 6 minutes of fame on American Idol.

If you're anything like me, in the midst of breathing a huge sigh of relief, you stopped yourself short and thought, "Like I care about Paula Abdul."

Two Good TV-Related Posts

I'm a practicing attorney in recovery. So, I like to read law blogs or "blawgs" as the tragically techno-hip call them. So, I'd like to call your attention to two posts, which deal with TV, on Ann Althouse's blawg .

Hers is a good blawg; entertaining, intellectual, and wide-ranging.

Caution Trailhead: she's a self-described "moderate conservative."

Friday, August 12, 2005

WILY TV 8/11/05: Mockumentary Madness

One of my favorite movies of all time is Waiting for Guffman. I enjoy all of the Christopher Guest mockumentaries, but Guffman really hits a chord with me for some reason. Perhaps its because I've participated in enough small-town musical productions to recognize a little of some people I know (and, to be fair, a little of me) in some of the characters. So, I don't see them so much pathetic as endearing.

I've written before about my fondness for Lisa Kudrow's HBO show, The Comeback. It mocks the whole celebreality phenomenon. (By the way, the last two episodes have been the best so far. When Valerie turned to the Lincoln Mercury dealer at the end of the Palm Springs episode and said, "I swear to God I will pull over and put you out on the side of the road," I thought I'd spray my half-chewed mouthful of string cheese all over the floor.)

So, last night I was flipping channels and decided to watch an episode of Reno 911! on Comedy Central, which is the retarded love child of Cops on Fox and the old Keystone Cops movies. I've caught a minute here and there before and thought it was funny. Last night, I watched an entire episode and I'm hooked. I know I'm late to the game on this one, but it is hilarious. Check out these clips for a taste. (My favorite is "Alien Shooting.") I'm so excited to catch up on all of the episodes of this show that I've missed. I see a re-ordering of my Netflix queue to include the Reno 911! DVDs in my future. (As an aside, right now I have Strangers with Candy, another former Comedy Central gem, in the primary position on my queue.)

What I learned yesterday on TV? It appears that I have an inexplicable and fundamental fondness for comedies that send up a familiar (but often ridiculous) aspect of life. I will call it Mockumentary Madness.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

WILY TV 8/9/05: Love Stinks

Having returned from a wonderful vacation on the Central and Northern California Coasts and the San Francisco Bay area in particular, I've had a lot of catching up to do on my summer TV shows. Several of my favorites are on HBO and, fortunately, I have digital cable that includes HBO On Demand. Thus, I've been frantically trying to get back up to speed with Entourage, The Comeback, and Six Feet Under. Last night I watched two episoides of SFU and one each of Entourage and Comeback. There was an interesting thread running through each.

What I learned yesterday on television: relationships can really suck (especially if you're a self-involved/depressed/debauched/amoral A-hole).

On Entourage, Vince was trying to deal with the remnants of his only serious heartbreak courtesy of Mandy Moore. On Comeback, Valerie's long-suffering husband Mark was left to come down from a Red-Bull-and-vodka buzz while dealing with Valerie's similarly buzzed melt-down, all inspired by the Aunt Sassy-centric episode of Room and Bored and the constant prying eyes of the reality show cameras. Why he stays with her is a real wonder.

Six Feet Under took the cake, though. Nate and Brenda can't get it together, they may (or may not) be having a child with special needs, Nate finds religion (sort of), he sleeps with Maggie, and immediately drops to the floor with an aneurism/stroke/heart attack. (NOTE: I've got two more episodes to go before I'm caught up, but -- don't tell Wasteland Spouse -- I've peeked and know that Nate is not long for this world.) You've gotta feel for both Brenda and Nate. If Nathaniel had just heeded the Surgeon General's Warning on his cigarette packs, he'd never have been in the car accident, Nate never would have come back to LA from Seattle on the same flight as Brenda, they'd never have banged in the broom closet at the airport (where was the lock on that closet anyway?), she wouldn't have driven him into Lisa's bed with her ridiculous emotional inaccessibility and nymphomaniacal acting out, Lisa probably would not have been murdered by her brother-in-law-turned-lover, Nate would not have meandered back into black hole of a relationship in which he and Brenda are perenially stuck, and (perhaps) he could have just dropped dead in the middle of Pike Place Market or on a switchback of the Mount Fremont Lookout Trail at Mount Rainier National Park and never missed all the crappy relationship stuff he and Brenda have made us suffer through for five years. Of course, then the mute cutie Maya probably would never have been born.

On second thought, maybe what I learned yesterday on TV was something I already knew: the kids make all the tough relationship s*#t worth it.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: Even Couch Potatoes Read

(WARNING: Anyone who has not read HPHBP may want to avoid this post as it is spoilerish.)

Every once in a while, Wasteland Fan shuts off the television and reads.* A few weeks ago, I did just that. I read Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince cover to cover in a few days, while nursing Wasteland Spouse back to health during L'Affair Encephalitis, stepping up as the primary caregiver for Wasteland Kids, and writing a 25,000-word scholarly paper for a professional conference. Still, during all that, I ripped through the latest adventures of the crew at Hogwart's.

Having thought about the book and its somewhat surprising climax and denouement, I have to agree with Heidi Bond about one thing: Harry is most definitely one of The Dark Lord's remaining Horcruxes. It's consistent with many clues J.K. Rowling has planted throughout the series. I also enjoy that Harry is coming into his own as a hero; he's determined to be proactive, rather than the brave-but-reactive character he's been to this point.

(I'm less sure that I agree with Heidi's other main claim that a certain slimey head-of-house is still a sheep in wolf's clothing.)

Speaking of Horcruxes -- a magical receptical that holds a severed portion of one's soul and gives one immortality so long as the Horcrux remains intact -- I wonder if my TV isn't a bit like a Horcrux for me. A little (or big) piece of my life is intimately connected to it and as long as my TV is humming along without a hitch, I feel pretty invincible. On the other hand, as Professor Slughorn's recovered memory revealed to Harry, one must commit murder in order to perform the Horcrux creation spell. So, perhaps my TV isn't a genuine Horcrux, because the only thing I've murdered in its presence is an entire bag of Tostitos "Hint of Lime" Tortilla Chips.

At any rate, I had to jump on the bandwagon (even if way belatedly) to blog about Half-Blood Prince. Hence, the tortured logic that is this post shall come to a close.

*Sometimes I don't even have to shut off the television, because the bathroom is far enough away from the TV that I can concentrate on my reading -- and anything else I might happen to be doing -- without interrupting TV signal. But seriously, TV is no fun if you're illiterate. We all need to put down the remote and read once in a while. Besides, it makes watching Gilmore Girls all the more fun, because you'll have some idea of what all the historical and pop culture references are about.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

What I Learned Yesterday on Television: Peter Jennings was a Fine Looking Man

This is the inauguration of what I hope will be a daily (or near daily) post on Postcards from the Vast Wasteland. I am calling it "What I Learned Yesterday on Television" or WILY TV for short.

As any of you who know me can attest, I try to be somewhat reflective about what I spend my time doing. I don't always spend my time on the highest or most noble pursuits, but I try to be thoughtful about what I'm doing or what I've experienced. Certainly, my TV watching should be no different. Therefore, I want to share with you, my noble reader(s), my thoughts about my daily TV-watching habit. I hope it to be sometimes insightful, sometimes challenging, and (with any luck) most of the time entertaining and a little humorous.

So, here goes . . .

WILY TV 8/8/05:

Sadly, Peter Jennings died of cancer on Sunday. What follows is not intended to make light of the loss his family, friends, and colleagues have suffered.

What an odd year (speaking in the 12-month, rather than calendar sense) to have the three major networks' nightly news anchors all pass the microphone at the same time.

Wasteland Spouse has always had a bit of a chip on the shoulder when it comes to Mr. Jennings. Despite Wasteland Spouse's normally non-jingoistic nature, the fact that Jennings was Canadian, yet reporting US news (if there even is such a thing in this global society), rubbed Wasteland Spouse the wrong way. More of a problem, though, was the fact that Jennings was a high school drop out. Collecting news information from a dropout anchor was simply untenable. (BTW, Wasteland Spouse was appropriately grieved by Jennings passing; there was no pathological hostility buried in the shoulder chip.)

At any rate, it turns out that jingoism and educational snobbery were not the only obstacles Peter Jennings had to overcome during his illustrious career. Apparently, he was so good looking that, early in his career, his colleagues often refused to take him seriously. (Thus, it should not surprise anyone to learn that Jennings was a regular Casanova. Ted Koppel barely hid his smirk -- and, perhaps, his envy and awe -- as he commented on this fact and Jennings' four marriages.) As Wasteland Spouse and I watched Nightline last night, I nearly choked on the number of times "leading man looks" and "Holllywood good looks" were thrown out there in reference to Jennings.

So, I decided to give it some thought. I even took the time to look at some pictures. As it turns out, I learned that Peter Jennings was one fine looking man.

Postscript: I suppose it's also a matter of perspective. I mean, I don't know much about [ABC Science News editor] Jules Bergman, who's probably a really smart and capable man; but, in perusing the pictures to which I refer above, there is a picture of Peter and Jules together watching the first Apollo launch in 1975. Let's just say Jules is a bit Raymond to Jennings' Charlie.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Pick Up Man

I ate at Applebee's last night. Frankly, it's not my favorite place. Still, my four-year-old loves the hotdogs and french fries. It was close to where we were staying and it was late.

Despite my ambivalent feelings about Applebee's food, I will confess a soft spot for the Applebee's television advertising. A smile always creeps on my face when I hear, "Eatin' Good in the Neighborhood" on my tube. You see, Wasteland Fan has a personal connection with the ads. Foremost is that Pick Up Man commercial. (You know, the one about the Applebee's Carside to Go service, where the hard-working dad picks up the food on his way home and his family loves him, becuase there's just something about a pick up man -- as Joe Diffie intones in the background.) A dear, dear friend is responsible for the idea, concept, and copy of the commercial.

Same Friend of Wasteland Fan (FoWF) is responsible for Applebee's newest tearjerker of a national branding spot, featuring the downtrodden and sadly defeated local high school football team who looks to add insult to injury by missing Applebee's closing time until the barman, waitress, and manager throw caution to the wind and invite the badly grass-stained team in for a special after hours ego-restoring orgy of mozzarella sticks, riblets, Irresist-a-bowls, and Apple Chimicheesecakes. It's the magnum opus of heart-string strumming "neighborhood eatery" spots Applebee's has sent over the airwaves over the last decade. You will recall its predecessor, the retiring coach spot, where the waitress asks "Coach" to help her hang a tribute to himself on Applebee's wall of "flair."

FoWF is modest and downplays her place in the pantheon of pop culture shapers, but I call it as I see it. I love the Applebee's ads.

Who couldn't love a company who finds a way to work the following phrase into a commercial for the Weight Watchers dishes, featuring a parody of the classic song "You Sexy Thing" by Hot Chocolate: "I'm goin' from love handles to love machine."