Friday, September 28, 2012

Going Going Gone

For the weekend.

Most likely.

I've got copy that needs to be written this weekend.  I also have several family engagements.  I don't see myself playing around here very much.

I probably won't write anything of substance on here all weekend.  I will most likely post links to my latest published articles on Sunday night (which just so happens to be when they'll be published).

As for my rantings and ravings on this blog, that will have to wait until Monday.

Enjoy your weekend. 

Friday Morning Brain Stirring Question

Because these question posts almost never elicit an actual answer, but for some reason get high views.  Maybe people just like to ponder them all day during work, but then realize their answer is just too dark for the world to read.  I like to post them because maybe one day you'll answer, and mainly, because they're easy to write when I'm busy.

You ready for the question now?

Drum roll please. . .

If you could have a coffee/soda/beer with any fictional character then who would you choose?

My answer?

Holden Caulfield. 

I know that seems like an odd choice.  Why would I want to have a coffee with an angsty teen that is mad at the world?  Well, I wouldn't.  But I'd want to hang out with a Caulfield about 20 years later.  I would be interested in seeing how much he changed and if he ended up "selling out."  I've always believed that Caulfield is one of those guys that ended up becoming an ad executive, got married, had 2 kids and a dog, and generally fit into society just fine.  I like to think he also is working on a novel, maybe something cheery and uplifting.  It'd be cool to hang out with the guy who was the poster boy for angst but discover he just turned out mighty fine.  A reminder that most of the "darn kids these days" grow up to be rather wonderful people.  Plus I would spend the first 10 minute laughing and teasing him for giving up and conforming to the man.

Now, if you think choosing Caulfield 20 years after his established fictional age is cheating then well, too bad because it is my question and my rules.  If you still protest, then I pick John McClane, because so there.

Was the Thursday Comedies Must See?

I just posted a link to my latest review for Road Runner, but there was some other TV that needed to be watched tonight as well.

The Office: The promise of this being the last season seems to have revitalized the writers, because this is the second straight great episode.  I'm actually laughing loud enough I could wake up my son, rather than bursting out in tears of sorrow from wasting yet another half hour of my life.  There were several funny little moments in today's episode.  The need to continually change the "wheel of chores" because "that isn't how you do a wheel" was great, and I love that in the end it just ended up being something similar to a contest at a fair.  Clark making up a news anchor trial to get alone time with Erin which backfired to him getting alone time with Andy while Erin ended up getting food with Pete was hilarious.  It also was a solid storyline to help establish both Clark and Pete as great characters, and allowed me to get a better idea of their personalities.  I love the little hint at Toby still having a crush on Pam, and how he had to try to cover his tracks after people caught on.  Another great moment was when Angela mentioned how there was still mystery with her husband (always called the Senator), and how that comment made Oscar choke on his soup.  I'm now thinking they'll be forced to do an episode where they eventually have Angela find out about the affair.  I laughed and learned a valuable lesson, 'no one believes you have a plan if you use a ridiculous font."  I also love that the plan was apparently to get Dwight to cut off her hand -- that could never turn out bad.  Kevin was great in this episode, especially when he wanted to pick a charity that gives goats to families from impoverished countries because that is a great practical joke.

It was an awesome episode, and one of the funnier ones in a long time.  It has also set up some interesting future storylines.  The big one is that Pam and Jim believe they don't have any secrets, but Jim has a huge one as the part owner of a new company.  I don't think they will dare to split the two up, but there is going to be some bumps this year.  They seem to be setting up for them getting complacent around each other, especially after Pam's former loser fiance Roy actually has seemed to turn out to be a great catch now.  Jim obviously is no longer content being at Dunder-Mifflin, which will lead to several new storylines.  I'd still rather the Oscar-Angela-Senator love triangle not become a major plot point but rather a running gag, but I sense they are building to something.  It also looks like Pete may try to win Erin away from Andy, which obviously will lead to some major event down the road.

As for storyline progression this episode was more about hints, but that doesn't matter, because it was actually really funny.  This is why I watch The Office.  

Parks & Recreation:  This episode totally made up for last week's premiere.  Last week seemed like they were missing the mark on almost all their jokes, and it just seemed so flat.  I was worried that The Office's goodness meant a switch of the shows' fates.  This week proved it is possible both shows can be awesome.

Soda tax storyline was awesome, and once again, Parks & Recreation is dealing with a topical issue.  They've talked in real life about coming up with deterrents to junk food and soda, and I love how the show turned a debated issue into great fodder for awesome humour.  I hope this won't drive me out of my beloved town, but I have to say the shots of Pawnee residents chugging large sodas reminded me a little of Brantford.  Well, except they were walking instead of using scooters.

I loved the list of names of Pawnee restaurant like Paunch Burger and Trough Slop.  I also laughed super hard over the sizes of soda, especially the child size -- called that because it is a size of a child if it was liquidized.  Andy trying to train for the police academy was all kinds of greatness including his need to strip down to his underwear because he was "burning."  Speaking of Andy, I also love that he was wearing nothing but a bandanna for underwear, because he couldn't do laundry.  April's standing up for Ben was both sweet (in her own crazy way) and hilarious.  Leslie's stress eating of sugar was also funny, but I love that she ended up getting a huge soda right before making a vote to try to cut down on soda consumption.  It was also great to see Ben get some his own scenes, and watch him try to suck up to all his interns including playing a game of ultimate Frisbee.

This episode had all the aspects that make this show great.  It also gave characters like Ben and Chris a chance to get the spotlight without sharing it with Leslie.  Though sadly Ron Swanson got little play this week, but he nailed it with every appearance he had.  I loved his take out order from Paunch Burger, and also how he tried to cheer up Leslie by announcing he tried to fire her four times.

It looks like Leslie's vote for the soda tax will likely lead to future storylines, especially if it leads to layoffs for fast food employees.  Ben having to deal with the spoiled interns will likely be a building storyline that he'll either overcome or lead to his return to Pawnee.  I currently like the switch back from Washington and Pawnee, and hope they don't reunite them too quickly.  The current arrangement makes the show fresh, and I felt the Leslie and Ben relationship just kept leading to the same insecurity storylines anyway.  I do admit April and Andy are awesome together, and so I hope he visits her often.  Leslie as a city councillor will likely open up several new stories, and the conflict she caused with fast food should make for a few great episodes too.

A rather awesome Thursday as both shows were very funny.  I have high hopes it will be a great season for both, and great way to say good bye to two great series (the rumour is Parks & Recreation won't make it to next year either).

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Last Resort Premiere Review

On Tuesday, I published my first review for Road Runner with Vegas.  I mentioned that it may not have brought anything super fresh to TV, but it still had potential to bring something special.  Well, I've published another review for Road Runner, and this one is selling itself on being original.  It is the big budget spectacle, Last Resort, which is the first show about a nuclear submarine crew to run from the government and form their own nation on an island.  It may be unique, but is it entertaining?  I answer that very question with my latest review over at Road Runner.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Wednesday Night is a Wonderful Time to Talk Survivor and Modern Family

Tonight we had the second episode of what should be a great season, and we have the season premiere of the Emmy anointed king of sitcoms.  Now, I'm going to spew out my thoughts on both.

Oh yeah, spoilers and stuff.

Survivor Philippines: I'm now convinced that this season is going to be awesome, and that there is enough crazy to make up for the exit of the idiot's version of Russell Hantz, Zane.  The theme of the night seemed to be tribes exploding and alliances already dissolving.  This of course is exactly the kind of thing that makes this show immensely entertaining.

I love Penner, and I can't believe he was able to get the idol without being caught.  I love that his cover was about looking for his glasses, because the rain washed out his contacts.  Has that ever happened in the history of life?  But his tribe bought it.  He really is going to school his crew of amateurs and his only problem is that his tribe is currently intent on sending him home.  He definitely doesn't seem to be connected to the group in anyway.  I think Penner can read when he is in trouble, and will hopefully use the idol early if he has to.  Though I also think he can talk his way to safety, especially since his main detractor may soon only have one leg to hop around on.  I am not sure how he will be able to hide that he has the idol, considering it was a part of the rice container, and you'd assume at least one person was observant enough to realize the symbol is now no longer on the lid.  I wouldn't notice, but I know my wife would.

Skupin wasn't drooling over Lisa anymore.  I am not sure if he is going to save her when their tribe goes to council.  I also think it immensely sucks for Lisa that her tribe is thinking about voting her out because they think she is looking for the idol, when in reality she was just introverting.  I would have never guessed the actor who played Blair would be an introvert.  Or a Survivor fan -- so, this world seems to have some surprises yet.

I love that the Abi and RC alliance has already fallen apart.  RC seems to be the one with the more level head, and should realize it is time to stop trusting Abi.  I'm assuming she won't tell her now when she finds the idol.  She should switch her two person allegiance to Skupin since Abi assumes that is where it is anyway.  Abi doesn't really seem like a strategic player or someone that brings much value.  I look forward to more tension between these two, and I'm sure the friction will continue as they desperately try to cling to their alliance of four.

Poor, poor, Russell Swan's tribe, as they had to head to another council.  This group is totally falling apart.  You have people upset about Angie and Malcolm snuggling, and another group feeling Roxy isn't pulling her weight.  Russell seems to now have the heat off him, and no longer the target to be voted off.  He also seems to have mellowed up on his leading and bossing.  He may also be back in trouble if his tribe loses again, because Malcolm, Angie and Denise seem to be the new majority alliance. 

I admit I'm shocked Roxy went home.  I was pretty sure Angie declaring her tribe would be better with cookies was going to be her ticket out of the game.  Everyone went on about how you don't want a couple, and then they allowed Angie and Malcolm to stay intact.  I'm guessing Roxy just got too hard to deal with at camp, or Malcolm has some strong persuasion skills.

Seriously, you're asked what is the one thing the tribe needs, and Angie votes for cookies?  I may have said the same thing.  Cookies are awesome.  I'm not sure how they will allow them to start winning challenges and not end up at tribal council.  It was definitely one of the best bad tribal answers ever.

This was a fun episode, but I hope another tribe ends up going to council next week.  Otherwise, you're likely going to see Russell's tribe completely decimated, and Malcolm won't have a chance to prove he is a great player (which was my prediction at the start).

Modern Family:  I love this show, and this was a great kick off to the season.  I know that my current tired remark about modern sitcoms has been the balance between sweetness and humour.  I say it a lot.  It seems to be the thing I say when I don't know how to describe what I just watched.  This episode was evidence that Modern Family is the master of balancing sweetness with humour. 

You had tons of funny moments in this episode.  I love the rather awful attempt at" kidnapping" Jay, and Phil's attempt at helping a "drowning" Jay was punching him in the face.  I liked that Phil eventually grew the beard that Jay's friend kept remarking that he needed to have, and of course, Claire ended up despising it.  Luke making Manny paranoid about being pushed aside for the new baby was clever, but I got a kick out of his exit from the conversation was "I'm going to check on dinner."  The stuffed toys humping was sophomoric, which is why I laughed.  Claire proves to be a very realistic mom who loves her kids but is also willing to make awful drinks that cause her drunk child to gag and disguise it as a hangover remedy.  I think the reason this type of humour works is that the characters are flawed and human, and they aren't about being perfect parents or kids.  But for the most part, they really do mean well.

I'm missing out on several other really funny scenes.  That humour was then followed by one of the sweeter moments when Jay surprises everyone, and is actually excited to become a father again.  His support and excitement for Gloria's pregnancy was a very special moment in the show's history, and everyone handled it incredibly.  I didn't cry for the record.  Honest.  Seriously, I didn't.

It was a really great premiere, and I hope this is a sign that Modern Family will continue its streak of awesome seasons.  I am more than happy for them to keep on winning Emmys if they keep on being one of the best things on TV.

Oh yeah, I also liked Lily's random decision to get a cat and name it Larry (which she originally wanted for her brother).  I'm sure I am still missing some great comedic moments from this show.   

Oh yeah, the show has a Ghostbuster too!

Okay, now I'm done.

Did TV's Best Actually Get Recognized on Sunday?

The Emmy awards are done, and we've now been told what were the best of TV.  But did the awards really go to the actual best of TV?  I answer that question in today's Collective Publishing. 

Fearing the Diaper

Is something that I must confess that I do.  But why?  Why am I scared of a small piece of cloth.  You may have an idea.  But do you know the whole story?  Well, you will after you read today's Dad's Eye View.

Is Vegas a Future Hit?

You can find out exactly what I think about the new series Vegas in my review of the premiere for Road Runner.  That is right, yet another site has agreed to pay me for my ramblings and mutterings.  Well, I don't really mutter.  They also don't mutter in Vegas.  A show that I just reviewed, and you should read about right now.

Quick Thoughts on Tuesday Comedy Premieres

Remember when Thursday was supposed to be the big night for comedies?  It was around the same time that "texting" would be something you did on your computer.  It looks like Tuesday is fighting to be the new big comedy night, or at least the night some of the most buzz worthy sitcoms will be premiering.  I felt the buzz, and decided to catch a few.  Much like a bad cold, I'm going to now share it with you.

Ben & Kate:   I remember watching the trailer and thinking, "Yawn, same old premise of single mom trying to look after her child and ends up getting zany person to help her."  It has a premise that has been borrowed from about a billion comedy films and a few sitcoms from the past decade or so.  But then I continued to watch the trailer, and something about it grew on me.  There was chemistry between Ben and Kate, and there just seemed to be the right mix of sweetness and quirkiness.  I knew I shouldn't be interested in this show, but it just seemed to have something.

I can now say after watching the premiere, that this show definitely has an "it" factor.  I go on and on about how a premiere is never a great sign about a show's future quality.  The pilot is about introducing the characters and cramming in the major story arcs for the entire series.  It is always just way too much that needs to be accomplished, and often the writers are still trying to figure out who these characters are.  Ben & Kate is one of those few pilots where I don't see "potential" but rather an already formed great show.  The chemistry between Ben and Kate was really great.  The episode has some really great humorous moments like Ben's detailed strategy of how he was going to crash the wedding, the mention of "bum dialing", Ben's super slow motion three point turn after he was trying to save his sister, and the exchanges between Kate and her friend V.J. (yeah, her name is V.J, and they do go there).

The show also had some really nice and sweet moments.  It was cute when Ben and Kate hid under the table, and he mentioned how she needs him to help raise her child.  You got a few moments where you really believe these two people loved and cared for each other.  I also like that the focus wasn't on dating relationships but rather family relationships.

The show seems to have a nice stock pile of quirky characters.  Ben has a friend that seems to be in love with Kate, but it looks like she puts him two notches below Carrot Top as viable date option.  V.J. offered up a few funny one liners, and will likely bring a certain charm.

I do have to say that they need to be careful, because you can be too quirky.  I ended up finding last year's hit New Girl more annoying than humorous.  I feel there is a chance they could go too over the top with Ben, and I'll just want to punch him in the eyeball every time he is on the screen.  He may get annoying.  They did a good job of making him realistic enough that I didn't tired of his shenanigans, but this was also only the first 30 minutes.  We'll see if I still find him funny after ten or so episodes.

The first episode was really strong, and offered a great story about family and support.  I'm going to trust the writers that they have the right tales to keep both Ben and Kate engaging.

Go On:  Not a premiere, but this show continues to get stronger every week.  This week the main showcased character was the hard assed lesbian who is recovering from the loss of her partner.  She ended up taking Ryan to a wedding with her, as an attempt for this to be the first step towards moving on.  She ended up having great chemistry with Perry, and I really hope this is a character that gets more air time.  I also liked that they were able to get a lot of laughs from the wedding, but they didn't need to resort to any cheap gay humour.  It was just presented as a sexual orientation and not any big deal that needed to be explored or become central for the episode.  The only humour coming from the character being gay would be the Spanish ladies insistence she is dating a man.  I think that handling was quite progressive and helped make it a more enjoyable episode.

Ryan crying over a picture of the sewing machine was stupid.  I obviously can't actually relate to losing my wife, and we don't even have a sewing machine.  Ryan's whole argument was she rarely used the machine, and so I am not sure how he could have suddenly become so attached to it.  Despite that unrealistic moment, I liked how he handled the recovery and I did chuckle about the counselor needing her cry moment. 

The sympathy hockey game was funny, and the second game provided some even better laughs.  Once again, the show did a good job of dealing with serious issues of grief, but also presenting such oddball characters that you can't help but have fun.  Plus Matthew Perry is awesome, and I really am so glad he is back on TV with his witty one liners.

The Mindy Project:  Mindy Kaling is also awesome.  This premiere had some moments of awesome.  It wasn't great as an entire episode.  I felt a few of the characters fell flat, and hopefully, eventually get cut from the series.  Kaling's character was engaging, and say it with me, "quirky".  Yes. I realize I use that word a lot when describing modern comedies.  That seems to be the new thing for sitcoms.  It works here.  I love that fact Kaling is obsessed with romantic comedies, and essentially, sees her life as one big giant romantic comedy.  She tried to create each new date as the one with Mr. Right that will change her life.  Meanwhile, she seems to be oblivious that there is a coworker that it a good fit for her, and the show already dropped hints that this is the relationship we're supposed to be rooting for.  I also loved how she kept dropping references to several classic shows and films, and I'm sure the plan is to appeal to the pop culture geek.  Mindy is essentially playing a tamer version of Kelly Kapoor, but also someone much brighter since she is a doctor this time around.  I do like the fact they're making her a strong and independent women, but also just someone obsessed with romance.  I know a few people like that, but none of them are quite as cute as Mindy. 

There didn't really seem to be a major story for this episode.  Maybe that absence is what stopped me from loving this episode.  I am sure it will just be a matter of finding their groove, because I'm confident this show will become drastically better.

It did have a few really funny moments.  I loved when Mindy was asking the cop if she should be trying to catch rapists and murderers instead, and the cop responded that she was "raping peace and quiet" with her disorderly conduct.  I also loved when Mindy was corrected for calling it a Bruce Springsteen concert when clearly her ignorance was showing since it is a Springsteen show.  And of course, I learned you don't bring a John Cougar Mellencamp t-shirt to such a show.  It may not have been as good as I had hoped, but it offered up some real funny moments.  The best part of the show is Mindy Kaling finally getting s starring role and proving that she deserves to lead her own comedy.  She is not only funny, but willing to poke fun at herself and she has timing that most comic veterans are still missing.  This is also one of the few sitcoms to ever star a female minority, which refreshingly isn't the theme of the show but just a fact.  I am looking forward to the upcoming episodes, which is the whole point of a pilot.

What have you guys thought of the premieres so far? 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Hard Decisions That a Pop Culture Writer Needs to Make

A doctor needs to make choices that will determine the future health of her patients.  A police officer needs to make choices that will affect a society's safety.  A teacher makes decisions that have repercussions on how a child learns.   

But I have decisions too.

This weekend, I needed to decide if I was going to see a movie or not.

My choice may not be as monumental, but that is why I never went to school to be a doctor. 

As you know, I get paid to review films.  It is a tough and arduous task but someone needs to do it.  This weekend was the premiere of Trouble with the Curve.  It was Clint Eastwood's first starring role since Gran Torino, and a really long time since he starred in a film that he didn't direct.  So, there was a lot of buzz for this film, and some were thinking it had an outside chance to get an Oscar nomination for best picture.  I was interested in seeing it, because as a pop culture writer, I wanted to try to see all the best film nominations this year.  It would have at least allowed me to make far more educated guesses for Oscar winners than what I attempted to do with the Emmys.

It was also a totally different film than any of the types I reviewed this summer.  I got some pretty good experience reviewing films these past few months, but they've also all been large, Hollywood blockbuster action type films.  I wanted to try to challenge myself by reviewing something far more dramatic, and the quality not judged by how many cars explode.  It had the added bonus of being a potential Oscar nomination, which made the film even more appetizing.

I try to avoid reading reviews before I see a film.  I don't want to be influenced by other critics before writing down my own thoughts.  I want to keep my thoughts as honest as possible.  But somehow I ended up finding out about the early reviews of Trouble with the Curve, and they weren't very good.  Suddenly, it looked like the Oscar hopes had been smashed apart, and I was far less interested in seeing this film.

Then I realized Dredd 3D premiered this weekend.  A film that I had absolute no interest in, and would never bother to pay to see if I wasn't a reviewer.  I was slightly interested to try to review it because it was rated R.  Last week, I wrote an article lamenting the downfall of R rated action films, and so I thought a review of a modern R rated action film would be a cool follow up.  It would allow me to discover if R rated action films of today are able to stand up to those I have fond memories of.

Well, I couldn't get past my apathy for the film.  I used to collect the comics for a short time, but there is a reason it was short.  The Judge Dredd character is a very black and white character.  I've never been interested in those type of characters.  I like my characters who are deep and have several layers.  The film I'm sure would have lots of wonderful blood and guts, but I also was pretty sure I'd never be able to actually care about Judge Dredd. 

In the end, I looked at the schedule over the next few months, and realized there was a lot of interesting films that I wanted to review.  I thought that since I had so many films lined up, it was probably for the best to pass on a week that I'm leaning towards ambivalence. 

The thing is that I'm not officially the film reviewer for Collective Publishing Company.  I am the pop culture writer who occasionally reviews films.  I ended up reviewing a lot over the summer, and I will likely review a decent amount during the "Oscar season."  My official deal with Collective Publishing is that I cover all aspect of pop culture, and review major films or events when they come along.  I like films enough that I know there is a good chance I could turn myself into the site's film critic.  Maybe one day I will officially be a film critic for a magazine or site.  This isn't what I am for Collective Publishing, and it isn't what I want to become.  I like the challenge of trying to properly critique a film I just watched, but I also like writing about other parts of pop culture while trying to make it entertaining for a broad audience.  I feel that I haven't necessarily explored all aspect of popular culture on the site, because I've written so many film reviews.  For example, I still haven't really written anything about music.

I decided to leave those films alone this weekend.  In the case of Dredd 3D, it seems like most of the film goers followed my lead.  I definitely love reviewing films.  I am going to try to take on several different genres.  I also want to try to write about a variety of things in pop culture for Collective Publishing, because that is the agreement we made.  I also like the challenge of trying to come up with different topics, and not always defaulting to going to see a movie in order to get an article written.

These are the kind of things that I let bounce around my mind on a weekend.  A bad decision won't lead to the world exploding or anything, but then again, how would I watch films without a world?   

How I Met Your Mother Season 8 Premiere: I Wonder if I Could Drag My Meeting Emily Story Out For 8 Years [Spoilers]

There has been lots of talk about this possibly being the final season and maybe the season Ted finally meets his wife.  I love this series, and last year it finally seemed to recover and get its groove back, but I really hope this is the swan song.  The characters are all maturing and hitting the next phase of their lives, and it would be appropriate if we start wrapping everything up.  Plus 22 episodes seems long enough to grab my attention on the main storyline -- which is a storyline I stopped caring about a few seasons back but they were able to get me caring again last night.   I'm really ready for them to either reveal the wife/mother, or just shove that whole thing in the corner and allow the more appealing characters like Lily, Marshal, Robin and Barney to shine.

If this is the final season, they definitely started off in great fashion.  It was a really fun episode that delivered some great stories, and allowed all the main characters a chance to do their things.  It also dropped some tantalizing hints for the major stories of the season.

It might be due to the fact I'm a new parent and I can relate, but I loved the introduction to parenting for Lily and Marshall.  They're zombie parents trying to pretend to be part of the living, and the whole "being under water and not understanding anyone" but trying to act like they do was funny but also realistic.  You knew they loved their son more than anything, but he was also draining them and causing friction.  They handled it in a comedic way, but it was also pretty close to how life is for the first few weeks.  It is cool to see the show mature as it first was about them fresh out of college, and dealing with concerns like should they move in together or should they get married or dealing with in-laws or even superficial things like finding the best party.  Now, they've moved up to starting their own family and dealing with life as parents.  Maybe this is why the Ted storyline is growing tiresome for me, because he seems like the only guy who hasn't grown with the series and matured over time.  I do hope they continue to do some parenting storylines, and show the effects the new baby has on Lily and Marshall.

I like the new and more committed Barney.  A character they've slowly had emerge and develop for the last three or so seasons.  But after this episode, I'm not sure how stoked I am about him ending up with Robin.  At one part, this seemed like the no-brainer option.  This will now be the second committed relationship that Robin has destroyed for Barney, and this time it is even an engagement.  I realize both characters have amazing chemistry, and it was obvious several years ago that these two work together.  At some point, these characters need to stop screwing around with all their other partners, and sort of clue in that their little "will they or won't they" drama is getting a little tedious.  Especially since we know the end game is either they get married or they find out they shouldn't be together on their wedding day (which means we've gone on this long ride to just end up where we were several seasons ago).  I liked the Robin and Barney storyline this episode, don't get me wrong.  I thought the pictures and memorabilia in the storage was a sweet touch.  I just feel this is stuff we've already done for the past seasons, and the whole Barney really loves Robin was explored last year when he was with Nora.  Plus I'm sure at some point Ted the narrator essentially said Barney and Robin realized they were good friends but not meant to be together, and at one point the direction seemed to be to permanently keep them apart, but now that has all seemed forgotten.  But again, I did like this episode's story and I'm fine with them ending up together, but the whole arc has seemed to be an eternal Ferris wheel at this point.

We finally saw the mother.  Well, sort of.  She was under an umbrella.  At least we now know when and how they will meet.  It is just a matter of getting to that point.  I am intrigued to find out why Ted was at the train station, and not at what I'd assume be the wedding.  Did he help Barney or Robin escape their wedding?  There definitely seems to be a major plot point here.  I do think HIMYM is pretty effective at dropping little segments from the future and effectively and creatively tying it in on proceeding episodes.

The episode delivered some great moments.  Like I said before, I really could relate to the whole "feel like I am under water when people are talking to me because this baby is draining me" gag.  I got a kick out of the measures Barney went to erase his relationship with Robin, and the final reveal was also just as sweet.  Ted trying to sneak in the room to leave the break up letter was fun, especially when he needed Barney to call to seduce Andrea the German Giant.  The exchange with Claus was pretty funny, though his final monologue was a little too sentimental and gushy.  All in all, I thought it was a great kick off to a season that I have pretty high expectations for.


Since I'm reviewing TV, why not throw in a few thoughts on the latest Revolution episode. This show is at great risk of losing me.  The acting is getting pretty silly, and the characters are becoming cartoonish.  Miles had a few lines that really landed like bricks, and seemed to be an attempt at B action movie dialogue.  I think I'm supposed to see him as all bad ass and cool, but his scenes are really dragging the whole show down.  I am hoping he ends up getting lost in the woods, and then we can just focus on Charlie and Nora. 

I have to admit I'm still sticking around because they have me intrigued by the mystery they're creating here.  I still want to find out why Grace has power (and is there reason why her computer can only handle DOS rather than Windows?), and the appearance of Randall the taser man has me got me wanting to know what happens next.  The reveal of the mother still being alive has me asking lots different question, such as wondering if she faked her death or if Charlie just made assumptions about her mother's fate.  She seems to still really care about her family, but why is she so far away from them?  I like the ambiguity of Nate, since he seems to want to help Charlie even if he is militia.  I'd actually rather the show stick with him than Miles the MacGyver look alike.

This show is riddled with plot holes.  It has enough flaws that if they don't start addressing them then the mystery won't be enough to keep me around.  It does need to find a way to get me to start caring about someone in this show.  Charlie was becoming a little too melodramatic and whiny this episode, and so, hopefully they knock her complaining down a few notches.  The writers need to realize the life of this show will be the characters, and we need to get attached to them.  I want them to work on that mystery and have some reveals set up, but they also need to spend time actually writing appealing characters and situations.  At one point, it looked like they were trying to make Captain Tom a bit more of a sympathetic character when he was dealing the passing of one of his soldiers, but then his next scene seemed to be screaming out "you must hate this man!"  Tom is much better as a character who is torn between loyalty to the militia, but also full of compassion and wanting what is right for this world rather than just being a generic dastardly villain.  There are real opportunities to offer up some complex characters and deal with some grey areas.  I really hope they start allowing the characters to develop, and not just have them be cogs that push along the bigger mystery.

I still believe this show has potential.  I'm going to let it work through its freshmen growing pains.  It can be a good show.  It can also make me look like a fool for believing in it too.

Friday, September 21, 2012

I've Done Some Epic Relationship Fails, But I Never Did This

I'm a geek.  And in high school, I performed a living manual on "how to fail at dating relationships."  I had some amazing moments of being melodramatic and overly emotional.  I'm pretty sure there were at least 6 times I needed a solid kick the pants to alert me to that fact I was about to do something monumentally stupid.  I also was a huge Star Wars fan.  What does that have to do with being bad at relationships? 

Well, this apparently.

Now, if I was a betting person than I'd wager this is actually a fake.  But it still makes me laugh.  And I could also see someone writing something like this to entertain themselves.  Or you know, there really is a person who wasn't able to properly distance Star Wars from his romantic endeavours. 

I definitely can't totally discount that this was actually written outside of being posted as joke for the internet.  I did once ask a girl out via an essay that contained a mention of Wendy's Founder Dave Thomas, the value of Thursday night television (still pretty high at the time), and how annoying it is to get sock yuck between the toes.

So, maybe I could have ended up writing something like this.  I'm guessing this didn't lead to a romantic dinner with Jessica -- if she wasn't a blow up doll. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Office and Parks & Recreation Premieres: How Are the Veteran Sitcoms Aging?

I admit that I stuck with The Office this year, because I've been with it since the start and it is a rather hard habit to break.  The last two seasons haven't been able to reach the standards the show set in the beginning.  There were moments of brilliance last year, but James Spader never really connected and the show really should have wrapped up with the end of the Michael Scott character.

Parks & Recreation was the opposite last season, because it was the season that finally got me into seeing the series as something more than just something to pass time before The Office.  The Leslie Knope campaign storyline brought a lot of laughs, and had several fresh parodies and satires of current political events. 

So, it is a bit of a surprise that The Office was by far the stronger season premiere tonight.  I had hope that The Office could have a strong season, because they now knew this was the final season and so they didn't have to worry about stretching out storylines anymore.  The premiere at least proved they've found their groove again, and have potential to have the first really good season ever since Pam and Jim got married.

Parks & Recreation was fine, but it felt like it was just regurgitating past stories, and the humour just wasn't as sharp.  The characters did their usual thing, but all just felt flat.  Maybe I was just distracted by my wife who was finally home and free to talk, but I wasn't as entertained with the premiere as I was with episodes from last season.

The Office hit a quick reset button to change some of the established storylines from last season.  They quickly wrote out Kelly and Ryan since both are moving to the Fox show (or at least, I think B.J. Novak is going to be a writer for Mindy Kaling's show).  It was a fitting end with Kelly being smug but also completely unaware of where she is really going, while Ryan comes up with an excuse to try to chaser her down.  They'll eternally be the world' most dysfunctional couple, even if they haven't been a couple for over a season now.  They replaced them with two new cast members Dwight Jr. and Plop.  Though Plop doesn't really seem like he'll be much more than a background character.  The Dwight Jr. character should not only be a great new foil for Dwight, but also provide some of his own interesting character quirks.  I also know the actor has been in some other shows I've watched, but my brain isn't helping me out here.  Speaking of old Dwight, they quick blew through the "Angela had Dwight's baby" storyline that they'd been building all last season, and it just seems like the writers wanted to scrap everything from last season because they know it didn't work.

This episode really worked well.  I like the seeds they planted throughout the episode about Jim realizing he doesn't want to be at Scranton his whole life and he never wanted to be a career paper salesmen.  It looks like we'll have a rather interesting storyline for the season with Jim trying to figure out if he really should leave to Philadelphia and the stress that may put on his marriage with Pam.  I think it would be a fitting end to the series for Jim to finally leave the job, and go somewhere that will make him and Pam much happier.  I'm sure they have some twists in store before that happens.

The Dwight trying to prove he was better than Dwight Jr. was a fun side story, and allowed Dwight to be at his crazy best.  I hope this is also an ongoing storyline for the year, and it'd be nice to have Dwight with a new foil since the Jim thing has been done since the beginning.  This will hopefully make the series feel fresh again, and allow for some fun new stories for the final season.

Obviously, the Oscar seeing Angela's husband will be an ongoing storyline, but I don't think it will dominant too many episodes.  I'd rather it not get too soapy, since that isn't something this show does well.  I'm thinking it will be an occasional punchline, and I wouldn't even mind if Angele never found out.

It also looks like Andy getting perpetual revenge on the British lady that stole his job last year will be another humour storyline.  I liked the crap he put her through this episode, because he never did get his delicious moment after she stole his job.  Though I'm assuming they'll wrap up there issues and make them into best buds by the middle the season.  They have to do that unless they want to risk making Andy an unlikable character, which isn't something they should purposely do.

I got some laugh out loud moments this episode.  I love Kevin's attempt to rescue the dead turtle's shell and his confession he isn't very good at puzzles.  Andy's need to give people nicknames, because that is what Outward Bound does, was fun too.  The tight rope walking scenes with Dwight were really solid slapstick.  I actually loved all the scenes between the two Dwights.

As for Park & Recreation, I did laugh -- a little.  I still get a kick out Rob Lowe's character, and Ron Swanson is still one of the better gimmicks on TV.  The charade dating between Tom and Ann just so Tom could win a bet had its moments.  Andy's searching for the National Treasure clues or attempt to climb on the Back to Future train was the right kind of the silly.

The main storyline was between Leslie and Ben, and it was a storyline that we've already seen.  Last year was often about the tension between them because their jobs got in the way.  Leslie was the one that played jealous this time, but still something we've seen before.  It felt flat to me, and I really hope it isn't something they pound into the ground this season.  I'm guessing they want to keep Ben around this season, and so the relationship is the way to do it, but I'd prefer a break up if they are just going to do the tension in the relationship thing all season.

The staff BBQ storyline had its moment, and I loved Tom the pig.  The Swanson hissy fit should have been funnier, and the final scene wasn't as sweet as I think the writers thought it was.  It just didn't seem to become as funny as you'd think a Swanson style BBQ should be.

I'm thinking it was just a stumble, and the series has potential to continue to be one of the best sitcoms on TV.  I really hope we didn't just trade the goodness, and now I have to suffer through a subpar Parks & Recreation in order to have a great Office.  I don't have the same kind of loyalty to stick with this show for 22 episodes of crap.

I was happily surprised to get a really good The Office, and a subpar Parks & Recreation is still a pretty enjoyable half hour.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Survivor Philippines Season Premiere Review: You Can't Control the Game If You're a Dumbass

We finally have a Survivor that isn't on Samoa.  On the other hand, Survivor has gone back to its recent (tired) gimmick of bringing back former players.  This time around it isn't about getting the most popular characters, but rather three players that left due to medical emergencies.  Though it is pretty clear that two of the three choices were largely made with the hope they do still have a following and their return will spike a rating.  Michael Skupin is probably one of the most well-known castaways ever, as the guy who fell in the fire in Survivor Outback.  He was also in one of the most viewed seasons ever, and I'm sure there is a hope his return will draw back the fans who stopped watching almost a decade ago.  Jonathan Penner is actually returning for the third time, and is well known for his blindsides, double crosses, and scheming.  I'm a big of his gameplay and happy to see him back, but it is a little misleading to call him a castaway getting a second chance.  The final returnee is Russell Swan who was evacuated for extreme dehydration, and Jeff Probst considers his moment of fainting as the scariest scene ever in Survivor history.  He doesn't have the star power of the other two, but he is a strong personality and extremely competitive, so he definitely can be entertaining.

Oh yeah, if you haven't see the episode yet, and don't want to be spoiled, you can turn back now.

I find it hard to get to know the entire cast at the start.  It was even harder this episode, because they have 3 tribes instead of two.  It looks like the plan is to keep it at three tribes until the merge.  The reason is to prevent an alliance being formed on the first day, and then sticking together all the way to end.  Three tribes make for a smaller alliance, and thus not one with as much power at the merge.  I admit one major alliance sticking to the end after wiping everyone out has made for some boring seasons, but not always, since I still stick to enjoying Boston Rob's victorious domination in Survivor Redemption Island.

I like the three tribes idea, but it did make it harder for me to get to know all the characters.  I find that I usually at least can remember everyone by the end of the first episode, even if they're just faces without a name or personality yet.  This time around, there are people that I don't even remember at all, and some even if you say their name, I'll just stare at you blankly.  I'm not sure if all those Diet Cokes have really hot wired my memory banks, or if this was an issue with how they edited the episode.  It seemed like a spotlight the returnees episode with the rest of the focus only being on the few players that either opposed them or aligned with them.  I guess the reasoning would be we have several more episodes to get to know the rest of the characters, and I at least did get to know a little about the castaway that eventually packed his bags.

It does seem like there are some strong personalities, and players that are willing to do what it takes to win.  I'm hoping for blindsides and some ruthless moves this season.  We've had enough seasons in a row where the main alliance sticks together and wipes out the opposition.  I want people to get shocked and some hearts to get broken.

Former Major Leaguer Jeff Kent looks like a guy who could be a player that wants to mix things up, and already made a few key moves to try to get Penner on the outs.  I'm hoping there is some tension and power playing between the two of them.  One of Kent's tribemates also already knows he is a former professional baseball player, and so, it will be interesting to see if that leads to anything or causes tension.  Speaking of stars, Blair from Facts of Life is in the game, and it seems like Skupin is starstruck by her.  He may also be the only person to realize that Lisa Whelchel, who played Blair, is a former child star, and also may be the only one on his tribe that is old enough to know she once was in a hit show.  She also seems to be out of the main alliance, so it will be interesting if Skupin tries to save her.

Then there are bunch of people who aren't former celebrities.  I like Malcolm, and he looks like a guy who is willing to blindside and scheme.  At some point, there might end up being a showdown between him and Russell as an attempt to run their tribe.  Angie Layton is also an interesting character, but I'm only really saying that because she is really cute.  There is a punker lady who looks like she might come out with the attitude and spunk, but I forgot her name and she didn't get much air time (so, she may not be someone worth paying attention to).  R.C, has a good chance to be an interesting player because she took the initiative to form an alliance pretty quickly, and seems to be able to sway people to her thinking.  Everyone else at this point is just pretty little bodies, until the show gives me a reason to pay attention to them more.

Well, except for Zane.  He wasn't pretty at all.  I was more than willing to care about him.  The guy had a strong chance of being the comic relief of the season.  But in order to be the "anything of the season" you need to make it past the first episode.  Which he didn't.

He seemed to be the dumb man's Russell Hantz.  He made individual alliances with every female on his tribe.  He made it look like he was willing to be with them to the end.  Then he went to the guys, and admitted he had already made alliances with everyone else in the tribe, but really wanted to be with them.  Uh, why would you reveal you're a liar right off the bat?  The best part is Zane seemed to believe he was controlling his tribe.  Because apparently controlling meant you reveal your game plan right away, and make yourself seem as untrustworthy as possible.

Then he topped that strategy by adopting an even worse one after losing immunity.  He told his tribe to vote him off, because it was his fault they lost.  He needed to be dragged near the end of his part of the challenge, and he admitted he may not be physically able to be an asset in other challenges.  The great part of his strategy (in his mind) is that he didn't really want to go home.  He felt doing this was going to give him sympathy and push the target to Russell Swan.  Russell was probably at risk of going home for being so bossy, and Zane actually ended up getting some heat off Russell.  I'm not really sure how asking to go home is a great strategy for staying.  The rest of the tribe seems to agree with me, since they sent him packing.

It sucks, because I liked Zane.  I was sure we would get several more weeks of entertainment out of him.  The guy tried to hard too control the game, and he did it in the most ass hatted way possible.  I don't think anyone could have formed a better exit strategy without having a meltdown during tribal council.

Who are my favourites to win this thing?

If Kent actually tries to oust Penner and it becomes a battle of wits, then I see the baseball star striking out.  Penner is a master Survivor player, and I'd be shocked if he doesn't stick around until at least the merge.  If it becomes one must go home type of thing, then I'll predict Penner as the man still standing.  At this point, I consider him a strong favourite just because of his past reputation.

Skupin is attached to what might be a strong alliance, and the group that ends up dominating the game.  They really are the only true alliance at this point.  Skupin seems to be a likable guy, and so I can see him doing well if he can go deep.

But he also doesn't seem like a master strategist, but just a guy happy to follow the main crowd.  R.C. is controlling the alliance and seems to be calling the shots.  As long as she doesn't stand out too much, and keeps focused on what is going around, then I can see her being a heavy favourite too.  Her big problem will either getting over confident, or making it clear she is calling the shots, which then could lead to a blindside.  If she has the strong people skills that I suspect, then she'll know how people feel about her and will know when to go to the background.  She may even make it look like Skupin is making the moves.  If she can make it to the end, and show how she formed the dominant alliance, then a jury that isn't too bitter will hand her the crown.

I like Malcolm, and he seems to have a good head for the game.  He seems to be willing to trick people or form strategy.  If his tribe can avoid losing again, then he can remain strong too.  He also seems to be a smooth guy, and may be able to win over members from another tribe if he has to.  But I also thought Mike from last season was going to make big moves and he was a flop.  I'll have to wait on Malcolm to see if he reaches the potential I think he has.

I don't think Russell will survive.  He already has a bad reputation with his tribe.  He could be the next out if they lose.  They also know he is searching for the idol.  I'd like for him to go far, but I see Malcolm making a move to send him out of the game.  Then again, they need strong players to win challenges, and Russell is still one of the most athletic on his tribe.  I get a sense he is the returnee that is the biggest longshot.

Angie is an outside favourite for me too.  I can see her attaching herself to Malcolm, and letting him do all the dirty work.  But then he takes her to the finals, and the jury chooses her because she seems innocent.  The nice girl who followed the less likable guy has won before, but they'd also been slaughtered in the finals for being deemed as being a follower.  She also seems to have a personality and be intelligent, which means she could have a great speech if she can make it that far.

If I have to choose one person to win?

Penner.  But I'll likely change my mind as the season continues, and get to know more of the players.  I'll definitely change my mind if he is voted off next episode.

A decent start to this season, and it looks like it could be a fun one.

While I am talking TV, I want to mention that Go On is getting better with every episode.  It went from "I'll stick with it because I like Matthew Perry" to "I actually think this show is pretty funny and well written."  The last episode about the group feeling neglected by Ryan (Perry), but still coming to him during his time of need had a great mix of sweet, quirky, and funny.  I also loved Ryan's best friend's hideous attempts at being comforting and consoling, and I'm not really sure how getting drunk at an abandoned building was going to be a proper form of therapy and sharing.  Everyone plays their characters really well, and it is sort of like a less over the top Community.  It has all the odd and unique characters, but not the far fetch plots.  I love Community, but it is very niche.  I hope this format will allow Go On to have an audience above cult following and have a long shelf life.  I'm really getting into this series, and glad I gave it more chances after a fairly weak premiere.

Lamenting the Loss of R Rated Action Films

There were some pretty great films this year.  I'm not about to declare the death of the film industry.  I do think that we're missing something.  In my old age, I've been getting a little nostalgic.  Mainly, I've been thinking about the '80s and all the great movies that existed during that time.  I've mostly been thinking about the classic action films of that time period.  More specifically, the awesome R rated action films.  Now, of course I didn't get to see any of them in the '80s, because I was too young.  But I dreamt about them and counted down the years until I finally got a piece of that forbidden fruit.  This was half the fun about childhood, looking at the adults and imagining all the things you'd get to do when you grew up.  But now there is a rather pitiful selection of Rated R action films, and I fear my son will never get the joys of trying to sneak a peek at the latest R rated action film.  The rated R films are being replaced by the PG-13 films, and those films are fine but never will be able to possess the same kind of magic.  In today's Collective Publishing Pop Culture article, I lament the downfall of the R Rated action film and the rise of PG-13 rated films. 

One Baby's Adventure in a Lake

You all know that the Spicer Clan ventured off to Cottage Country for the long weekend.  Like any good part of Cottage Country, we were surrounded by lakes.  So, this meant we needed to do lake like things, because that is Cottage Country law.  The most lake like thing that I could think of was throw my 8 month old son into the body of water.  Okay, I didn't really throw him.  But he went in.  I also know what you really want to find out is what was his response.  Lucky for you, I just happened to write about Everett's first lake adventure in today's Dad's Eye View.  So, either go check it out or go jump in a lake.  Whatever works best for you. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Now It's Time for the "Guess What is Wrong with This Job Posting" Game

Go skim this job posting for a freelance writer.

Can you tell me what is wrong with this ad?

At first glance, it looks like a really professional ad.  You get the idea this is a large company you get to write for, and they seem to promise several opportunities to do a variety of projects.  I like the selection of sales copy they need done, and it looks like a client that will you keep busy but have diversity of work to keep you from being bored.  They get a bunch of points there.  Yah for them.  Unfortunately, they get all those points deducted for several other problems with this ad.

First, go look down at the pay.  It is $2,500.00 a month.  That is a pittance for a task that is demanding a professional.  A professional that they expect to have a University education and years of experience.  The language is definitely asking for a top notch writer with lots of experience.  But they only offer $2,500 a month.

But my first thought would be no problem, this probably means it is only a few hours of work a week, and I can fill my income with several other jobs.  But you can't.  Because they are demanding you to be an exclusive writer to them, and they even mention they want you full time.  They're expecting you to write only for them, and likely write close to 40 hours a week, but only get paid $2.500 for the whole month.

The fact is that not every person can write well.  Definitely not every person can write top notch sales copy, which is a special skill within the writing skill set. Not all writers are great at this, and not all people are great writers.  You're looking at a narrow field of professionals, and this company is hoping to find a sucker willing to get paid a measly $2,500 a month.

Oh, but they promise the potential of bonuses for strong performing content.  This is the line used by several companies and editors when they hope to trick someone into working for a small amount of money.  I'm sure the bonuses are amazing and may even be your own small island, but the performance levels usually require a magic wand and a vivid imagination (like pretending you have the bonuses).  They usually aren't attainable, and that is done on purpose.  If they are attainable, then I'm sure the bonuses are enough to buy a coffee in the morning.  If someone isn't willing to tell you what the value of the bonus is, then assume it's shit.

Anyway, the kicker here is they expect an exclusive contract, which means you can't work for anyone else.  This means you're essentially an employee.  Except you're not, because it outright states you're still freelance.  This basically means they get all the joys of having a full time employee, but you don't get any of those pesky things like benefits or insurance or whatever.  They just give you the $2,500 a month, and nothing else.  No health, no dental, no anything that makes having one employer worthwhile.

Except they aren't you're employer.  They're just a greedy client that is attempting to sucker you into this deal, and forcing you to lose all your other clients.

If you look at the wording, they promise to be a taskmaster too.  Sure you get a week in the sun apparently, but they want you to come running any time they whistle.  They want you to drop everything for them, and working late at night is necessary too.  This is working late and long hours for a ridiculous $2,500.00 a month.

This would be different if they were looking at college students or writers who are just starting out.  Or if they weren't expecting exclusive rights or expecting a writer to treat them like they're a million dollar corporation willing to set them up with their own island in Caribbean.

Here is the thing, if you have a demanding client then they need to pay a rate that allows them to be demanding otherwise you kick them to the curb.  If they expect you to be highly skilled with lots of experience then they need to pay you rates that treat you like a skilled professional.  Any skilled professional should have the potential to make at least six figures.  You can't make that if your client is only paying $2,500 a month, and expecting you to only work for them.

Don't ever sign exclusivity contracts.  Because you're losing out on the whole value of being a freelancer.  Only go exclusive if they sign you on as a full time employee with benefits and a large salary.

Now, there are some clients that may expect you to sign an exclusive deal for their specific niche.  Once again I wouldn't ever sign it unless they agreed to pay you enough to make up for all the money you could have made with other clients in that niche.  Don't sign deals that hurt your way to make a living, even if you're just starting out and desperate for work.  If you have talent, then your time will come.  You just need to be patient and do the hard work of pitching to worthwhile clients.

But this client?  I hope they have a hard time finding someone.   This is an awful contract and an atrocious deal.  There is absolutely no positive for working with this client, unless you want to find out what sucks worse than ramming a screwdriver up your nose.

It is this job.  This job is worse.

Tuesday Morning Question of Monumental Importance

One of the channels I was most excited about when we finally got cable a few years back was Teletoon Retro.  When I lived with my parents, Retro had not existed yet, and so this was going to be my first chance to really check out the channel.  I was pumped because it offered up all the classic cartoons of my childhood like Thundercats, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, Transformers, and GI Joe.  I knew that modern cartoons just didn't compare to the awesomeness of '80s cartoons.  This was just an indisputable fact in my mind.

Well, one of the first things I did was watch an episode of Transformers.  I'll just say that at least Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes have held up.  I still sometimes forget what a groin kick Teletoon Retro is to my childhood, and I'll turn to it to watch something that isn't Bugs Bunny and then usually crawl into a ball to cry after.

Sometimes fond memories can be a cruel practical joke.  You remember something being so majestic as a kid, but then as an adult, it is revealed to be a heaping pile of partly digested Brussels sprouts coated in Pepto-Bismol.  It is proof that some cherished things from our childhood need to remain in our childhood unless we want to vomit all over the things that were held sacred at 8 years old.

So, here is my question.  What beloved things from your childhood (book, comic, TV show, movie, play, etc.) are you afraid to ever see again, because you don't think it will turn out to be very good now?

My answer?

My cartoons have already proven to not be able to stand the test of time. I'm little scared to re-watch some of the action adventure films that I loved so much as a kid that I usually would play out my version of the stories (starring me of course) in my backyard or school playground.  The big one that stands out, and I would be most afraid to watch is a film called Cloak & Dagger.  I'm nervous about the film being as good as I believed it to be in my childhood, because you never hear about this film anymore and it never makes anyone's top films of the '80s.  It stars Henry Thomas who is best known as Elliott in ET and also stars Dabney Coleman who is famous for being "that guy" in several '80s films like WarGames, On Golden Pond, Tootsie, and The Muppets Take Manhattan.  I also thought he was the guy from Major Dad, but apparently, that is an entirely different actor named Gerald McRaney who has mostly done TV shows.  This also means both guys have done less work than I've attributed to them in the past.  

Anyway, I loved this movie as a kid.  I remember wishing that one day the adventures this kid experienced would happen to me.  It is about a boy who falls in love with a role playing and video game called Cloak & Dagger, and he wishes he would go on adventures with the hero from the game.  I instantly could relate to a kid like that, because I always wanted to head off on adventures with Luke Skywalker or Indiana Jones.  Anyway, the boy witnesses a murder, but before the person dies, he gives Thomas's character a Cloak & Dagger cartridge (remember those?) that contains secret military plans that an evil group is after.  So, this boy is thrown into a marvelous adventure where he must help take down a dangerous group bent on global domination.  I thought this film was amazing back in 1984, and I played so many different versions of it where I was thrust into adventures where I needed to save the world.  I've always been a sucker for average person stumbles upon major danger and must become a hero plots.

But I have a feeling this film will deliver one giant eyeball punch to my childhood if I watch it again.  I really do want to see it again.  But I'm afraid.  I'm afraid of discovering yet another childhood gem is actually a rusty can opener dipped in red paint.

So, what about you?  

Monday, September 17, 2012

Revolution Premiere Review: NBC Tries to Nab Their Own Lost

J.J. Abrams seems to miss Lost.  He isn't the only one.  It seems like the network executives have been trying to stumble upon the next Lost for several years now.  Revolution is the latest series to give us an ensemble of characters and then throw them in a series spanning mystery that occasionally gives us a few tidbits via flashbacks.  NBC and Abrams are hoping that they can create the proverbial water cooler talk again, and a get show that has fanboys trying to solve the mystery and eagerly tune in each week to see how their predictions fare.

It has a novel concept.  Actually, one that is much better than plane crashing on a mysterious island with polar bears.  In one mysterious night, the power to everything mysteriously turns off, and fifteen years later the power mysteriously hasn't mysteriously turned back on.  Oh yeah, there is a mysterious USB key like thing that seems to be the key to power, but who know, maybe it is just one part to this mystery.  Have you got the impression this series is trying to create some mystery?

Okay, I really do like the concept.  Though the word of the episode was most definitely mystery.  As it tried cramming as many questions as humanly possible, and make it very clear there were several mysteries to be told.  I'm fine with that.  I really hope they have a direction in place.  More importantly, that at least one writer or producer knows where everything is heading, and actually, knows why the power did turn off or what the USB key necklaces are, or who was on the other end of the computer or exactly what Monroe's involvement is in everything or why Monroe has a tattoo of the first letter of his last name on his arm.  I'm sure I'm missing a few more of those mysteries.

My problem with shows like this is that the first few episodes are usually great at getting the interest skyrocketing, but then they don't actually have any answers.  So, they just pile mystery upon mystery, and hope they crammed enough shit in front of you that you forget half the stories they churned out.  I know Lost has some faithful fans, and it was a rating hit, and networks are desperately trying to find the next one, but it wasn't really an example of a well-planned out series.  They were just throwing stuff out there, and hoping they'd stumble upon a few answers along the way.  This doesn't really make for the most compelling series, unless you are really lucky or you have fans of train wrecks watching the program.

I didn't think it was the strongest of pilots, but I like the premise enough that I want to give it some time to mature.  I am also willing to give them a chance to prove that they do have things planned out to at least the season finale, and will provide some answers along with the mounting questions.

The show packed a lot of twists in the first episode.  My fear of twists is that some writers think it is a fine substitution for a well-crafted story.  It isn't.  I hope, we just don't have guys changing sides and revealing massive shockers, all in a hope that no viewer realizes there isn't a plot.  The twists were fine for the premiere, because things need to get established.  We now have an idea of who is militia and who is trustworthy and who has USB keys necklaces and who is just a bunch of mysterious words on a mysterious computer.  So, now I'm ready for a story to be told while an occasional sprinkling of twists and mystery get added.

We've got a band of heroes that at the moment are just trying to save the main female character Charlie's brother.  The brother looks like he'll pass the time by getting free and then getting captured again.  At some point, he will have to be transported by the dastardly militia man to the even more (I assume) dastardly Monroe.  This is all an attempt to lure out Miles who is the boy's uncle, and also a guy who apparently can kill thirty people in about 20 seconds by just waving a sword around really fast.  I'm sure I am supposed to ooh and awe about his awesome fighting skills, but I spent my whole time wondering if he was being played by MacGyver or not.  He just didn't seem to possess that "I even eat my corn flakes like a bad ass" kind of charisma.  I like that Charlie the girl seems to be the main star, though I kind of get the feeling she is in the position because someone realized Hunger Games is really popular.  This would explain why she always carries a bow around, and actually, the bow seems to be the weapon of this world.  The rest of the merry band of heroes consists of an English doctor who was banging Charlie's dad before he died (not due to the sex, but rather bullet -- or was it an arrow?  Anyway, he is dead).  Of course, the dad had to die, because he is the only one that may actually know why the power turned off 15 years ago, or at least, we thought that until the end of the show.  The final member of the traveling heroes is a rather chubby fellow who is allergic to bees, and a reveal that made me smile, was once a major part of a little company called Google.  Unfortunately, Google doesn't mean much in a world where horses are the only transportation and computers are used to hold flowers.

The series looks like it will have to be told as one large tale cut in episodes rather than a collection of standalone episodes.  I'm sure you could do one episode of the merry gang helping a farmer find his cattle and another where they must battle scavengers riding mountain goats.  It would be an appealing choice to a producer since it will help draw out the series, but it will also likely result in people losing interest quick.  They'd sold this show on the mystery of the power going out and Charlie out to find answers while saving her brother.  The series will work best if each episode plays off the next and builds the canon.  There is a definite risk that they'll need to start throwing out some convoluted issues in order to stretch out the series.  This is why I hope they do have an ending in mind, and maybe even the actual number of seasons they want to produce.  Of course, that is a rather optimistic belief for network television.

It was a decent start.  I didn't really feel attached to any characters.  The premise was enough to keep me interested, and I do want to find out the answers to the questions they dropped.  Of course, I assume most will be kept hidden for most of the season, if not the series.  In order to keep me engaged, they will need to throw an occasional nugget.

I don't know if this will be the next Lost.  I never even watched the show.  It is one of the more intriguing ideas on TV, and now, they just have to hope their current cast can help drive the stories.  If they have actual plans in place, then it has potential to be a fun and compelling sci-fi series.

A Great Dog Lovers Comic

The Oatmeal passes on more goodness that I can relate to with his comic about his relationship with his dog, and his furry friend's crazy paradoxes.  Summit doesn't fit with all of these, because he actually likes veggies and we can get him to go inside the bathtub (which I admit is different than liking bathing).  I am sure many dog lovers can relate to many parts of this, especially the dog being better than most human friends.

My Continuing Thoughts of the Go On TV Series

I finally caught what they were calling the "series premiere," but what a non-TV executive would call the second episode.  I actually liked it a lot more than the pilot, and it feels like the show is already achieving a groove.  The episode seemed to concentrate a bit more on fleshing out a few of the characters and showing why I should give a rip about half of them.  It is a bloated cast though, and I'm sure a few are just destined to be two second punch lines and gags.  It does look like they also plan to devote some episodes to specific members of Ryan's (Matthew Perry) counseling group.  This is probably the best type of strategy.  Perry seems strongest when he is throwing in witty observations of other people's quirks or being able to play off quirky characters.

I do want to reiterate that I really, really, really, really desperately hope the plan isn't to hook up Perry with counselor lady (who has a name, but I haven't remembered it and since I'm not writing  this for pay, I'm too lazy to go Google it).  I know a universal sitcom rule is that any time the two stars are of the opposite sex and have chemistry then they must hint at hooking up and then eventually hook up, and then largely tank the series.  Or maybe make it better.  I like that this show is dealing with grief, and seems to want to be a little bit different, and one way to remain that way, is to not do the hook up.  Perry's character is about dealing with the loss of the love of his life, and the show will lose a lot if he jumps into a relationship before 22 episodes are completed.  I want make it clear to any writers that may be scouring blogs for feedback, this show is better if they just stay as sportscaster who annoys the former Weight Watchers counselor.

There is one really sweet relationship in this show, and that made for a few cool moments this episode, which is the relationship between Perry and his assistant, Keri.  It is also a pretty unrealistic relationship, as I'm not really sure an assistant to the a radio sports talk show host would send a text about how she is thinking about him or really have that kind of close relationship.  What Perry was doing this episode wouldn't have led to the sweet talk, but rather end with the assistant quitting.  But this is TV land.  A place where six people hang out exclusively with each other, yet also seem to find 30 more people to come to their birthday parties.  A place where in your group of friends, all members if they're of the opposite sex end up dating each other and it is never deemed weird.  Or a place where you have co-workers that you seem to despise and never hang out with outside of work, but still invite every single member to your wedding.  It isn't reality, and you always have to allow some suspension of disbelief when you're dealing with a world where there are only a handful of regular characters.  I think this is a great relationship that offered up some cute little moments, and again, I like it because it isn't supposed to enter into a romance.  It is more of a sweet big brother and little sister relationship, or so, that is how I am choosing to interpret it.

I liked the plot a lot more this time, the jokes were more on target, and it didn't seem rushed this time around.  They did a story that fit nicely into 22 minutes, and the resolution didn't speed to an end after some out of the blue epiphany.  It was more natural, and you felt like the characters acted in the way they have been established.  Plus I laughed.  The whole crazy cat lady storyline was the good type of quirky this show is trying to achieve, but also didn't fall apart by becoming too cliche or out of the realm of possibility.  Yeah, she has way too many cats to not be wearing nothing by a burlap sack and having a house that reeked, but I could also see her habits in real world people.  Plus I laughed at her interaction and attempts at being "best friends" with Perry.  I also got a kick out the "action" chant, and I also loved Perry's reaction when he realized the prized piece of sports history has gone missing.

A much better episode, and it got closer to the potential this show actually has.  I'm now convinced to stick with this one much longer than I'd originally planned.  Or at least, it has more appeal than "I'm watching it because I really want Matthew Perry to have a hit."  At this point, it has a better chance to be funnier than The Office this year (which I'll also likely stick through for the entire season as well). 

Friday, September 14, 2012

10 Helpful Tips for Telemarketers and Door to Door Salespeople to Avoid Making Me Want to Stick a Hot Poker up Your Ass

I've totally had the backs of salespeople and customer service folks in the past on this blog.  I've had jobs in retail and customer service, and so I know what it is like to put up with self centered customers.  I know that customers aren't always right, or more importantly, do things that aren't right.  Since I've been there, I try to be as respectful as possible as a customer.  And I realize that should also include telemarketers and door to door salespeople.  I know they're just doing a job, and people need work to provide for their family.  I really should avoid being an ass when someone is just doing their job, especially when they likely know they have one of the most despised jobs in the world.

But sometimes my dear telemarketers and door to door salespeople, you make it really hard for me to not want to heat up the old poker and aim for your ass.  But we can have a good relationship.  I know we can.  In order to ensure that all your rectums are free from burn marks, here are 10 tips for being a good telemarketer or door to door salesperson.

1.  Please note that "I'm sorry but I'm really busy right now" shouldn't be translated to mean, "By all means ignore everything I'm saying and continue to incessantly pitch your product to me."

2.  I love to talk about my dog or sports or movies or my family life or hobbies with friends.  I don't love someone trying to disguise themselves as a my friend by asking me about all these things when I really know all they want to do is show how much their vacuum can suck.

3.  When someone says, "Sorry, I'm not interested," then you now have two options.  You can either thank them for their time and move on to the next sucker, or you can guilt trip them by telling them what an awful person they are for not realizing the value of this product.  It depends on if you want to find out how short the person's temper is.

4.  If you promise free samples if someone listens to your 20 minute spiel, then it is usually kind of nice to actually give a free sample.  A free sample is not, "You have to purchase this product, but we totally will give your money back if you're dissatisfied."  That is called customer service.

5.  If you do promise your spiel about meat or baby pictures or dancing llamas to only be 20 minutes, then it's usually not the best way to win over a potential customer by going 40 minutes.  Especially if they continually ask you to "please hurry this up", but you insist on repeating how great a deal everything is and how half your clients are NHL hockey players.

6.  If someone hangs up on you because you decided to keep on ignoring their, "I really need to go" pleas, then you probably shouldn't expect an invitation for milk and cookies if you call right back.

7.  When someone says, "I don't think I'm going to buy this at this time" they usually mean "time" to be a little longer than one day.

8.  If someone wasn't interested in your "Super Swiftly Mud Exploder Plus Coffee Marker" even with the 3 year warranty package, then they'll likely not be swayed if your throw in the free potted plant and nail polish.

9.  I know that your training sessions say that customers love a "personal touch".  This really doesn't mean you need to crack awful jokes and insist on making small talk for five minutes while the person slowly closes the door, then expect that they'd love for you to come in and talk for a half hour about your "Super Electro Thunder Panels".

10. If you call five minutes after the kids were finally put to bed and it is the first chance in the day for some peace, then yes, I may wonder why you're calling at this hour to pitch me an "Organic Black Banana Tomato Garden System."

Thursday, September 13, 2012

An Update on My All Time Viewed Posts

I wrote a list of my most viewed posts over a year ago, and so I thought it was about time to look at how much it has changed.  Because I'm a geek, and this sort of thing is amusing to me.

1.  RIP Macho Man Randy Savage 1952-2011:  This is the undisputed king of most viewed post on this blog.  It is so ridiculously far ahead of every other blog post that I'm pretty sure it will remain the ruler until either humanity is enslaved by vengeful computer robots or Blogger shuts down my site after 10 years of inactivity.  The only way this post will topple is if I write a blog post discovering the real Caramilk secret or talk about my slumber party with Bill Clinton.  This post still gets several hundred views a month, which is surprising since Savage passed away over a year ago yet people still want to read about him.  Or they're trying to find that song by the Village People.

2.  Craig Kielburger:  Inspiring Others for GreatnessThe rise in views of this post is pretty intriguing. It was already a year old last year, but it has since moved up 3 spots this year.  It is pretty rare that such an old piece would still garner enough monthly views that it actually rises up the rankings.  Most of my stuff gets its highest hits in the first two or three days, and then even the more popular works not about Macho Man get minimal clicks after.  Kielburger seems to be a figure that is popular enough that people seek out information on him, but not popular enough for there to be a lot of content on him (because he doesn't star in American Swamp Mountain Sugar Housewives on Choppers in Jersey Boo Boo Wars).  It appears my blog has become the authority on Kielburger, despite the fact I've never talked to him and only ever saw him once in my life.

3.  Hey Spam Bots and Marketers, You're Failing at Blog CommentsThe high ranking of this blog is a total fluke.  It was a complete coincidence that I wrote this blog right around the time of the anniversary of the Spam lunch meat, and that I thought I should accompany a picture of the product's packaging for giggles.  The blog post has nothing to do with the world's most infamous canned "almost a meat", and I'm sure that broke the hearts of the thousands who came from Google searches hoping to be regaled with a heartwarming tale about the realization of one person's dream of squeezing some ham-like gelatin into a can. Surprisingly, this post still gets one of the higher hit counts on a monthly basis, but that'll probably stop after the anniversary of the spork or Tang.

4.  RIP Jack Layton 1950 - 2011:  Sadly, this one is dropping down the rankings, and hasn't gotten any substantial views since the end of last year.  It seems like one of Canada's most respected and endearing politicians doesn't have the staying power of a professional wrestler (or a late '70s pop song).  I'd have thought the recent talk of the funeral may have spiked the views, but I'm assuming my usual lack of political talk has also stopped my blog from being viewed as an authority by the almighty Google.  I would agree with the search engine, except I'm not sure how I became an authority on unearthly pork products either.

5.  The Greatest Boxing Day Surprise Ever:  AKA The Most Wonderful Excuse for Not Blogging for Several Days:  Babies = page views.  This is a fact.  A fact proven by the crazy amount of hits this blog post had for about two weeks.  It may still be the biggest single day views ever on this blog.  This is something I can tell Everett to cheer him up when he is older, because in the future, one's value will be determined by how many people read about your birth.  Apparently, it is more of an "in-the-moment" kind of thing, because it hasn't been that popular of a post ever since mid-January arrived.  Of course, I've also been pretty good at giving everyone about two doses of Everett goodness a week, so it isn't like you need to keep on returning to this post for your fix.  Plus he has sort of changed a bit since this was written.

6.  My Wonderful and Amazing Life Changing Announcement:  See, babies = page views.  Or at least, an announcement promising a baby is coming does rather well too.  This is another post that ranks crazy high thanks to herds of family and friends cramming on to my site to discover the news.  This time around they're happy to discover I'm not announcing the purchase of a Wii.

7.  Debunking the Latest Crazy Internet MemeThis was my first blog post that went viral, and ended up getting passed around on a few social media sites.  This would also likely be my most successful post in a career sense that I never got paid for writing.  My wallet didn't get any thicker and no bills were paid thanks to this post, but my name got spread to some people that did eventually offer cash for other work.  I'm proud of this piece, and I am incredibly thankful for all the people that passed it around.  Hopefully, it has even caused one or two people to question what the cute little comic/graphic is actually saying rather than deciding to shape their life around its purported facts.

8. 2011's Biggest Box Office Bombs and My Snarky Thoughts on Them:  A year ago, the bottom rung of my top viewed rankings were owned by controversial news items and pieces on religion.  Now, pop culture has barged its way in and pushed away religion.  I'm sure there is something deeply profound about that.  Or just a sign that I've written way less about news and religion this year, and spent more time churning out snarky thoughts on major pop culture items.  I'm actually surprised this piece is still on here, because I wouldn't think too many people would be Googling about 2011 film in 2012.  I remember getting a lot of feedback about it at the start of the year, and so, this was just another example of a piece that likely got passed around to several people.

9.  As Promised by My Previous Post:  Because deep down my readers are all big meanie heads, and they like to read posts were I lament about my team's lost.  I'm glad this post is slipping down the rankings, but I'm also disheartened that such an insignificant piece from almost two years ago is still sticking around.  Go away.  I don't need to be reminded of my Bear's failure in the playoffs, which then only reminds me that they didn't even make it last season.

10. RIP Crosby:  My Lap Will Never Be the Same:  Here is something that will likely make my wife laugh at me, I just got teary eyed writing the title for this blog post.  This ranked high because my editors are awesome, and they all agreed to put links up on their sites.  Thank you so much for that kind gesture.  Other than the announcement of my son's birth, this is likely the highest single day viewed blog post.  This proved that pets really do matter, and a lot of people could relate to the pain I felt when he passed away.  I still miss him, and my lap still feels incredibly bare.  I'll always love you, Crosby.  For those keeping score, yes, I am crying again.

11.  My Letter to Katie Holmes to Let Her Know She is Too Late:  This was my second blog post that went "kind-of" viral, and at one point, was circulating like a champ on Google Plus.  Of course, it would have actually meant more if it could get attention on Facebook, but it still drew in a larger crowd than usual for me.  It was even ranking on Google searches for a short period, which is incredibly impressive considering how many Katie Holmes articles from big sites there must be.  But then people suddenly moved on to another divorcing couple, and by August, no one seemed to be searching for letters telling Katie Holmes she really missed her chance for something special.  But seriously Katie, Suri can still come over to be chased by my dog.  I'll even serve crackers (most likely Mum Mums to Everett).

12. 21 Reasons Why Being Single is More Awesome Than a Relationship: This apparently was a big hit among the single and childless crowd.  Not sure what was written in here that would have made the childless herd proud, but I'm glad I could write an anthem for the singles.  I'm mostly proud of pulling this off considering I am happily married.  This was obviously a complete joke piece (with an ounce of truth), and it seemed most were able to take it the right way.  I also didn't really promote this one too heavily, which makes me even happier that it ranks so well and caught the eye of so many non-regular readers.

And just because I don't want the piece to be forgotten, here is my two plus year old piece that is way down in the rankings, but at one time, was at the top, It's Not Okay.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Did You Get Enough of Everett Today?

We both know the answer is no.

Well, I got your back.