Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Just for "Today"

I'm home sick today, so I've watched more of "The Today Show" than I normally do. Usually, I like to tune in to get the news on the 8:00 hour, and then I have it on in the background for a mere half-hour or so as I bustle around getting ready. But this morning, I tuned in for the last two hours, and it turns out that the later in the show it gets, the funnier everyone starts acting.

Here are some choice quotes that I particularly enjoyed, in chronological order:

1. During a segment on "inter-facial relationships" (when one person in the couple is a lot better-looking than the other):

“What this is really about is the cruel calculus of romance. The fact is, women are better than men. They’re better dressed, they’re better read, they’re better in bed. And we get to go out with you guys, but if you want to date men, you have to go out with us, so lower your standards.”
—Dennis Kneale, managing editor of Forbes

(Btw, if you want to know more about this segment, you can read a blog post about it on the "Today Show" site:

2. Right before a commercial break:

Al Roker: We mentioned these cakes a little bit earlier. Believe it or not, these are actually cakes: this is not sushi, it’s not a box, but fondant and unbelievable cakes. We’re going to meet the artist/baker who put these together and shows us how she makes these designs.

Anne Curry: Actually, these are actually replicas of cakes. [Raps on box “cake” with her knuckles, resulting in hollow knocking sound.] These are actually what the cakes would look like—

Campbell Brown: But I think this is the icing, right?

Al: [Forcefully, perhaps even a bit defensively] This is the fondant, the fondant on the outside. There you go, breaking the illusion. Thanks a lot.

Anne: I’m about the truth, Al. Anyway, so she tells us how she really makes them, coming up.

Al: [Turns directly to Anne.] Why do you wear make-up?

3. (Technically, this wasn't part of "The Today Show," but it aired during the program's allotted time, so I'm still counting it.)
From a local news break:

Rob: Just a few moments now away from Martha Stewart’s show on NBC4, and she joins us now with a preview. Good morning, Martha.

Martha: Hey, Rob. I’m here in our greenhouse with actress Samantha Mathis. And Samantha, I understand that you have a business dealing in succulents.

Samantha: I do, I have a company called, aptly, Succulent.

Martha: Rob, do you know what succulents are?

Rob: I do not. Please tell me. [Cut back to shot of Rob, looking at the camera a bit too avidly for family television.]

Monday, April 23, 2007

Boring Public Service Announcement

If there are still any devoted "American Idol" fans out there, I'm guessing they're not reading this blog — because no one reads this blog. And also because there's probably, like, only two people who still take that show seriously. And I don't think that Simon Cowell and Ryan Seacrest read this blog.

BUT on the offchance that there's anyone who is still a fan of that show, I want to alert you to Idol Gives Back, a worthy do-gooder event during this week's episodes.

Tomorrow and the day after (April 24 and 25), "American Idol" is aiming to raise awareness and funds for relief programs that serve children and young people in extreme poverty in the USA and Africa.

For every vote cast on April 24, "American Idol" will make a contribution to six charities serving American and African children.

On April 25, a whole bunch of celebrities will perform and viewers will be able to make their own personal donations online and by phone. That ought to be at least as much fun as a PBS pledge drive, right?

More info here:

Saturday, April 07, 2007

More Wizards?!

A few posts back, I wrote about what I'm sure will be a wonderful reality show capitalizing on the world's Harry Potter mania. Now for news of what may or may not be an enjoyable sitcom also capitalizing on the world's Harry Potter mania:

(Description from Cynopsis Kids)
Disney Channel has begun production on its new original series Wizards of Waverly Place. Slated to premiere on Disney Channel US in fall 2007, the live-action comedy revolves around The Russo's, a multi-cultural family with three siblings, one sister and two brothers, who engage in the regular sibling stuff. But, here's the twist, they all happen to be wizards in training and only one of them will retain their powers when they turn 19. The series is created and executive produced by Todd Greenwald (Hannah Montana).

As you folks know, I watch my share of the Disney Channel. So I'm fully aware that even the best Disney Channel shows are of questionable quality. This new show has what I consider to be a very promising premise. I hope they don't mess it up.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

This Television Life

A few weeks ago, I decided to bake cookies for a friend's birthday party. The first thing I do when I want to bake is to make sure that I have all the ingredients I need. (Seeing as I have a kitchen the size of a minivan, this takes about three seconds, give or take two seconds.) The next thing I do when I want to bake is to select an NPR program to listen to on my computer. I will not listen to anything else — not TV, not music, not live radio — nothing else will do.

When it came time to bake said cookies several weeks back, I decided to check out the "This American Life" site for my listening pleasure. Lo and behold, right there on the homepage I saw these miraculous words: "This Week: What I Learned from TV." That's right — an episode entirely devoted to my favorite pasttime!

Like lightning, I clicked on the text headline. Nothing happened. Then I clicked again and again and again, frantically moving the cursor everywhere that could possibly be a hyperlink, even only in my wildest imagination. Still nothing. Finally, it dawned on me that this was a description of the new episode coming up that week. It was not available for listening because it hadn't happened yet. I was devastated.

But those cookies wouldn't bake themselves, so I selected something from "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" and went about melting a whole stick of butter to fatten up my friends.

Well, I finally just got around to listening to the "What I Learned from TV" episode this afternoon (just for fun this time, no desserts involved — well, except for me eating some poundcake), and I was truly delighted. In general, I enjoy "This American Life," but as an avid TV fan, my listening experience with this particular episode approached what must be my personal public radio zenith. If you are are into TV at all, then you should definitely check it out.

For me, the best part was the incredibly brief Act 4, during which Ira Glass revealed his reaction when "This American Life" was mentioned on "The OC." (Summer refers to it as "that show by those hipster know-it-alls who talk about how fascinating ordinary people are" and then snorts in derision.) I remember watching that episode and being tickled at the allusion because I am, obviously, a "This American Life" type myself. But until listening to this episode of the radio show, I had never thought about what Ira Glass' reaction might have been. I guess it's because I wasn't aware that he also loved "The OC"! That's right — Ira Glass and his wife watched the teen melodrama just as religiously as I did! In fact, they would sing along to the opening music. (If you want to skip right to this part of the episode, you can find it around the 30-minute mark.) This little bit of knowledge is like a trinket that I will treasure always, even more so because just a couple of days ago someone had the nerve to tell me that I only write about bad TV on this blog, and named "The OC" as Exhibit A.

Granted, some of the shows that I write about on this blog are far from what I would describe as high-quality, and I readily admit that. And yes, "The OC" did go through an unfortunate decline in its later years. BUT "The OC" remains one of the smarter and funnier shows of its kind in the end. And if my own opinion isn't enough, now I can say, "If it's good enough for Ira Glass, it should be good enough for you!" (That's right, Janki, I'm talking to you.)

And while we're on the subject, this blog has also covered "Friday Night Lights, old "Gilmore Girls," "Wonder Pets," and my forever love "The West Wing," all of which are critically acclaimed. So there.

But back to my original topic: As is probably patently clear, I am not ashamed of how much enjoyment I get from television. It's a big part of my life, and not only am I okay with that, I embrace it. I embrace it even though as an educated person, I should probably be apalled at how much TV I watch and how critical a role it plays in my life. I have friends who totally understand where I'm coming from, either because they feel similarly or because they are the kinds of people who can wrap their minds around that concept. But I'm sure there are many out there who would sniff haughtily at my earnest love for TV and what I believe it contributes to my peace of mind. To those people, I say, "Suck it."

Or in Ira Glass' more eloquent words, "The things I love, I love completely. And it's totally personal, my feelings about these shows; it's personal in the deepest possible way. ... And I gotta say, every single week it makes me love my wife and love TV and love everything in the world all at once." When you think about it, his response makes perfect sense. Media is a social construction, just like art. One could easily make the argument that television is a form of art, but at the very least, it's incredibly like art. If we can accept that people are moved by their experience with a sculpture or a book, then why shouldn't people be just as affected by TV? And why shouldn't they form strong attachments to their favorite shows, just like with their favorite paintings or poems? Why shouldn't we experience some bliss when we have a good experience with TV? Think about how Ira Glass describes his weekly connection with "The OC" — it awakens something in him, and it just plain makes him happy. In a sense, Ira Glass and I get high off of certain shows, and there's nothing wrong with that.

And no, there wasn't anything "special" in those cookies I was baking, so don't even go there.

(As an added bonus, in this particular episode of "This American Life" all the musical interludes are live performances by the awesome band Mates of State. After you're done with "This American Life" — and only after, if you know what's good for you — you can listen to my fave song of theirs on their MySpace page: Also, their fantastic cover of "Caliornia," an already fantastic song by Phantom Planet in its own right and the opening song for "The OC.")

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Amen, brother!

No commentary from me on this one. I think this quote stands alone.

"Deep-fried bacon. The words alone — like a song."
—Alton Brown, during Battle Breakfast on "Iron Chef America"

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Will the real Mia please stand up?

In this week's episode of "Gilmore Girls," the ladies traveled to North Carolina to attend a wedding. Whose wedding? Why, that of Mia, the wonderful woman who gave the Gilmore Girls a home when Lorelai was pregnant and in need of a job and shelter. As a loyal fan of the show, I recalled the appearance of Mia in an earlier episode and was excited to see her return because she had been an engaging character.

So the entire time that the Gilmores were making their way down to the wedding, I was looking forward to seeing Mia: Antics in the car — boring; where's Mia? Antics at the diner — boring; where's Mia? Antics at the motel — boring; where's Mia? Finally, there was a phone call and here was the beloved Mia! But wait, that wasn't Mia...

That's right folks, it was a completely different actress playing Mia! Previously, she had been played by Elizabeth Franz, but this time around she was being played by Kathy Baker.

Fine, I thought, maybe they couldn't get Elizabeth Franz, I can understand that. But then Kathy Baker opened her mouth and started speaking in a ceremoniously gentle manner, and I was filled with rage. The whole reason I had been intrigued by the character of Mia in the first place was because of the way Elizabeth Franz had played her: sharp and no-nonsense but also obviously warm and caring. Couldn't they have at least had Kathy Baker turn in a performance consistent with Elizabeth Franz's depiction of the character? I guess not. This new Mia One-Note was fakey and dull and I spent the rest of the episode completely distracted by the switch-up.

Oh, well, I don't know why I expected any more from "Gilmore Girls." That show sucks a big one this season anyway.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

MTV for Empathy?

I've recently gotten back into MTV's show "I'm From Rolling Stone," and it has really surprised me how much I'm rooting for those crazy kids. At first, almost all of them annoyed me, but now I find myself reveling in their successes.

Well, some of them still aggravate me (I'm talking to you, Miss "Jagger"), but I did manage to find a little place in my heart for Krish and Peter, both of whom struck me as pretty ridiculous figures earlier on in the series.

Maybe if I watch more reality TV I'll become a more empathetic person. On the other hand, there's "My Super Sweet Sixteen," which pretty much decimates any warm feelings I have towards the human race.