We’ll Always Find a Way

Tonight I finished watching Steven Universe. I cried because it was the end of something magnificent, beautiful, and original. I started watching the series only a few weeks ago with my kindergartner daughter and we promised not to watch any of it without the other. This quickly became a personal challenge, because I fell hard for this little work of visual and narrative art, told 11.5 minutes at a time. But I kept my end of the bargain, and it became a wonderful shared piece of culture for my kid and myself.

My 3-year-old son fell for it because, well, it's a cartoon with sight gags, action, wonderfully catchy music, and a striking visual style that's more detailed than it looks. My wife fell for the show for reasons that many adults (and me) surely do: the characters are richly developed and experience change over the course of five seasons. The overarching story and many smaller plots deal with complex emotional situations, evolving relationships, and heavy existential questions.

I love that Steven seeks to resolve conflict by also seeking to understand his opponents. I love the occasional homage to other TV shows (particularly some animated classics). I love the love-personified that is Garnet. I love that while most of the Crystal Gems have weapons, Steven has a shield. I love Connie, and Lion, and yeah, eventually Lars, too. I love the way music and dance are woven into the fabric of the show and its imaginative world. I love that such a deep, artful piece of entertainment could survive for five seasons on the Cartoon Network.

There's supposed to be a made-for-TV movie this fall, and I will try to be optimistic about it. I'm not sure what story is left to tell after the finale of season five, but I'm so into Steven Universe after inhaling it that I'll trust show creator Rebecca Sugar to deliver something meaningful. After all, she's why the people of this world believe in Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl...

...and Steven.

Peaky Blinders

Netflix, making creative use of the word “original”, has acquired the first two series of period gangster drama Peaky Blinders. The show (so far in series 1, anyway) follows the ambitious rise of gang leader Tommy Shelby in 1919’s Birmingham. The acting is terrific (always a fan of Cillian Murphy), but the structure of the episodes and much of the show’s production (from the music to the just-out-of-film-school aesthetic) feels clunky. Peaky Blinders may be the UK equivalent of Hell on Wheels with a better cast, and a high-level story interesting enough for me to keep watching. It also has binge-watchability working in its favor at the moment, something I’ve written about before.

I'm hungry. Let's get a taco.

Holy shnikes, there's apparently some chance that Harvey Keitel could replace Steve Carell on The Office.

Don't know how realistic this is, but it'd be hilarious to see the new boss go kinda nuts on Dwight with a stapler.

black and white and Rome all over

As much as I love to cook, the main reason I've been such a huge fan of Anthony Bourdain is his writing. I've never eaten food prepared by the guy, but I've consumed his words on many occasions, and they're almost always fantastic. I'm also a huge fan of his show No Reservations on the Travel Channel. Here my love for food and travel mixes with my love of good film making as his crew has continued to push the boundaries of documentary television production.

With the love of his writing and No Reservations in mind, Mr. Bourdain's post today about the upcoming Rome episode is outstanding. The episode could end up being a flop, but reading about it was entertainment on its own. The care for detail, nerdy film references, the willingness to take risks even while riding high in critical acclaim, all rendered expertly in words that were a joy to read.

But I have a feeling the episode won't be a flop. I'm quite looking forward to it.

Conan Stands Up

Oh man. I hope he doesn't fade away from television or entertainment, or whatever. But I'm so glad to read Conan's statement (through the New York Times) regarding NBC's bone-headed move to shift the late night schedule around.

I'll watch Conan on any network, any time slot, and I respect his decision not to participate in the sinking of a great ship as executed by an aimless network with a management team that seams to be as creative as GM's design department.

Take a look, it's in a book...

Tomorrow, sadly, marks the end of a childhood institution, Reading Rainbow.

Conan's Road to the Tonight Show

The New York Times' "Magazine Preview" has a long and excellent article on Conan O'Brien and his journey to his new nightly gig. The whole piece is a nice collection of anecdotes, interview quotes, and narrative, along with the typically great photography I've come to expect of the Times. Here's one of my favorite nuggets:

“Music and comedy are so linked,” O’Brien said earlier, as he walked up and down the halls of his offices, playing one of his many guitars. “The rhythm of comedy is con­nected to the rhythm of music. They’re both about creating tension and knowing when to let it go. I’m always surprised when somebody funny is not musical.”

Kornheiser Chunks

Holy hand grenade, what glorious news: Monday Night Football is ditching the lamentably awful Tony Kornheiser in favor of former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden.

I think even Dennis Miller would have been a welcome substitute, but this will certainly do much better.

Mad Men Season 3 On the Way

I guess I missed this earlier in the month, but I'm glad to have the news none-the-less. AMC's Mad Men is currently in production on the third season which is expected to start up in August.

EDIT: Geez, I really need to proof-read. I've fixed the spelling in the post title. Now I get to see all the "Page Not Found" hits in my stats...

Too Late Night

So I'm sitting up late at night on a Wednesday trying to kill time while my first attempt at duck confit to finish. I figured I'd check out Jimmy Fallon's take on Late Night, and...well, ugh.

Yeah, he's still kinda wet behind the ears when it comes to this talk show gig, but it's pretty telling that the majority of the audience isn't laughing. I mean, he just spent 10 minutes on this too-long bit that involved feeding 300 lbs of baked beans into the "volcano under the stairs." I would have felt bad for him if I didn't already have trouble laughing at Fallon from his SNL days. The timing was off, the gags were cheap, and the audience seemed to be waiting as long as I was for the sketch to end.

Dang, and I thought Carson Daly was lame.

Andy Richter is the new announcer for The Tonight Show!

Holy smacintosh, this is awesome news: Andy Richter, Conan's original sidekick on Late Night, will rejoin the red-headed pale man as The Tonight Show's announcer on June 1st.


Question: What is $352,800?

Answer: The highest possible score on a single day of Jeopardy.

1. I'm using the current value of each square as of the date of this post, where they start at $200 in the first round.
2. A player would have to answer correctly for every single square, Daily Double, and Final Jeopardy.
3. The Daily Double in the first round would have to be the last square in the first round, and the last two in Double Jeopardy.
4. All three Daily Double squares would have to be the lowest denomination for each round ($200 in the first round, and $400 in Double Jeopardy).
5. The player would have to risk everything on each Daily Double square and in Final Jeopardy.

I totally think this should be a Final Jeopardy puzzle :-)

Stuff Happens, or Why Bill Nye Is Still My Hero

Tonight Valerie and I watched, for the first time, Stuff Happens. Here we have a show hosted by Bill Nye (the Science Guy!) that explores the environmental impact of our everyday lives in an industrialized nation, and the two half-hour episodes we caught investigated the common kitchen and breakfast foods (an apt pairing, I'd say). There a plenty of statistics, demonstrations, illustrations, and so forth, all presented in that down-to-earth and quirky Bill Nye fashion.

I know the distribution of the Science Channel or Planet Green isn't too widespread, but if you have either one, check it out. Entertaining and informative.

MST3k 20th Anniversary Edition

Sweet mother of sweet mothers! BEHOLD!!!

all that is good

This Mystery Science Theater 3000 box set is something new for the ol' Christmas list :-)

A Heroic Attempt To Keep Watching

Okay, so here's a slightly more fleshed-out reaction to the 3rd season premier of Heroes than I provided in an earlier comment.

It's been a while since I watched the show, and in that long intermediate period I've since seen a number of fantastic films and become hooked on a show with quality screenwriting and performances. It's likely, as well, that the space between Heroes' second and third seasons as removed me far enough from the pull of the series as to dull my appreciation for it. So it was that I found myself vacillating between MST3K-style mockery and that feeling of forcing myself to find the bright spots that I experienced with each album released by Weezer after Pinkerton.

Is Heroes past it's prime so soon? Was it ever a good show? The show is a half-acknowledged take on the X-Men concept, and the acting and dialogue has never been very good. I think what keeps my watching is the curiosity about the broader plot and characters which comes from having already watched two seasons.

I can tell you one thing for sure, though: If it doesn't pick up after a couple more episodes, it'll be an easy decision to devote one more hour a week to reading instead of television.

Oh yeah, and while I tried to work this into my write-up, I couldn't in any easy way...The AV Club's take on the season premier is HILARIOUS, and pretty much nails what I'm starting to feel about the show in general (especially that, despite all the criticism, the author can still give it a B+).

Clear your schedule...

Heroes returns tonight with a two-hour season premier. If I'm unreachable this evening, now you know why...

Mad Men - Season One

Tonight Valerie and I finished watching Mad Men - Season One thanks to Netflix. As usual, I'm late to the party, but this series is incredible.

With a setup that pulls few punches, we see a cast of nearly unsympathetic characters who, episode after episode, leave me feeling a little hopeless. This doesn't mean the people aren't engaging. Whether it's the acting alone or the window into romanticized 60's culture, I can't help but find myself riveted by Don Draper's shadowy past or Pete Campbell's vaulting ambition.

We watched the first episode of season two on Hulu this evening, and now we're trying to figure out a legitimate place to find episode two (three through the present are available from Comcast's On Demand service, so that's easy enough). And just when I thought I'd be able to start watching fewer programs...

List Of Problems Solved By MacGyver

Oh Wikipedia, you treasure trove of useless yet entertaining knowledge. You have surprised and delighted us again with your exhaustive list of problems solved by MacGyver.

Some serious gems:

While being pursued by dirty CIA operatives at a strip club, MacGyver loads a confetti cannon with make-up powder and fires it at them as they enter a door, thus blinding the enemies with powder.

MacGyver builds a hot air balloon from scratch to escape from a Soviet search party. The balloon was made of homemade super-glue, old clothes, a parachute, welding equipment, a refrigerator, condoms, and metal box.

MacGvyer also built a swinging playpen out of hockey sticks, a rope net and rope, and fastened a baby's diaper with duct tape.

(via the title text of today's XKCD comic)

Death By Chocolate


I guess Ashton Kutcher CAN be funny...when he keeps his mouth shut.

London Live

If you happen to have access to high definition television and ALSO have Mojo, you should check out London Live.

London Live is a concert series that explores what's heating up in the British music scene. Each episode consists of a few single-song performances from different acts with interviews peppered in between. It seems like a nice way to discover some new music, though that remains to be seen :-)

Al Roker: Personal Hero

I know what you're thinking. He's on Today. He's almost as hyperactive as Robin Williams. Cheese-ball.

But Al Roker will always hold a special place in my heart. He's told me about the weather from WNBC in New York ever since I was a child in the '80s. His jolly disposition made me smile, and for the first year after my parents' divorce I watched him as regularly as Sesame Street.

Well, I was astonished today to discover that Mr. Roker has maintained (even if he hasn't updated since November '07) what is essentially a blog for over eleven years! His first post was on September 27th, 1996 - which beats Kottke by about a year-and-a-half, and comes in less than a year-and-a-half after Zeldman got in the game. Sure, the quality of content doesn't really compare to the two tech blog heavy hitters, but who knew the jovial weather man from Queens was such an early blogger?

It's a shame, though, that a man who apparently double-majored in graphic design and communications would make such heavy use of Comic Sans on his website :-)

"I have hair here, but not here..."

Hilarious new-ish commercial from Old Spice:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jPYWTkP9NDM&rel=1&w=500&h=418]

Behind the Huckabrawl

I just discovered that Late Night Underground has a video showing some of the hilarious behind-the-scenes action from the "fight" over who made Mike Huckabee.

How many episodes are left?

I found this fantastic page (albeit late in the game) that summarizes the affects of the WGA strike on popular television shows. It indicates the number of episodes to be produced, the number aired, and the number remaining. Pretty convenient!

Clayed Out

Okay, so today seems to have been YouTube day on my site, but I have yet MORE clips before the day is done...

I know that advertising isn't typically the most original creative media, but I've noticed a more obvious pattern lately. First this one from Aflac using some classic characters in an all animated commercial:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oJbX0oPWyxQ&rel=1&w=425&h=355]

Then I caught this attempt from Alltel (whose ads I already despise) using ersatz renditions of the 60's stop-motion Santa:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MwxJq6jWq9A&rel=1&w=425&h=355]

And just this evening I discovered that even Big Lots has joined the retro Christmas Special party with this (one of two!) mixed-media number:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=73w4xysn6Sw&rel=1&w=425&h=355]

Come on, guys. Either the same bird whispered in the ear of all three firms, or they got the same sneaky ad agency. Either way it feels like the perfect storm of ad-theme overload to me.