February 02, 2004

Super Bowl Redux

While the NFL is never, ever, ever, EVER hiring MTV again to produce their halftime show*, I wish they'd make a similar vow never to let the Network of Bland Sports air the Super Bowl again. From their panel of experts (Yes, Deion, I just called you bland. And you try too hard without succeeding. I know four year olds who need less attention.) to their cliched jingoistic crap-ass staging (oh look, you are using a vast landscape to set the tone, and let's trot out the local culture to frame this show!), CBS did their best to drag the show down.

Phil Simms? C'mon! Sir Blandy McDull-Bland can mouth weak platitudes with the mediocre of 'em, but is that what you want in a game like this one? Me, neither.

There were moments during the pre-show when I laughed, and moments when I nearly cried, but neither of them happened when I was supposed to.

The lingering cheerleader camera shots, for example (or, as I like to call them, Breasts a-plenty!) were used to set the stage, which was good, because there's nothing like breasts to segue into the tale of Trent Dilfer's son's death! My favorite cheerleader shot was a long pan, where you could see a red carpetted path along which the pom-poms and breasts were arranged on display. The (alleged) local yokels were walking down this carpet very sloooooowly, mouths-gaping, heads rivetted to the area of bulbous breastage. All male, of course, because most women could have made it down that stretch in 2.5 seconds.

The commercials were largely suckariffic. I did like the "resting" NFL players (plus Parcels and Jerry Jones) singing Tomorrow and the Staples/cream puff ad wasn't bad, but there was nothing really daring or interesting or special about any of the commercials. On the plus side, that means that nothing will distract America from Janet's nipple piercing or the legion of New England fans dancing a jig and yelling "I told you so!"

*so totally staged.

Posted by julia at 03:57 PM

January 26, 2004

An Open Letter to America

My Fellow Americans,

I come to you today not as a candidate for higher office, a television talking head, or even as an overcosseted pop star whose opinion we raise to mean more than people who know what they are talking about. No, I'm just someone who knows and appreciates quality television.

What in the holy heck are you people doing at 9:30 pm on Sundays? If the answer isn't watching Arrested Development on Fox, than you need to reconsider what you do. This is smart, off-beat, and funny television, and unlike most sitcoms, there's a lot that is original and funny about this show.

Give it a shot - there's a little funny for everyone in this show. It's in the details and in the broadness of the comedy. The humor is character and situationally driven.

It's the story of a family after the patriarch (Jeffrey Tambor) has been carted off to jail for a variety of financial wrong-doings. His middle son, played wonderfully by Jason Bateman is trying to keep the company together, raise his son, and deal with the fact that much of his family is living together in a model home. His family is selfish and snobby, not at all used to being cut off from power and family, and fight wars amongst each other with changing loyalties and impacts.

The cast - from the regulars like David Cross, Jessica Walter, and Portia DiRossi (in a fabulous comedic turn) to the special guest stars like Carl Weathers and Liza Minelli (who is wonderfully odd and funny as the rival of the matriarch and the girlfriend of the youngest Bluth son) - is excellent. The storytelling is rich, detailed, smart, and consistant.

It is the best thing on television right now, and of course (even though it was nominated for a Golden Globe and has gotten widespread critical praise from both ends of the spectrum), it is hovering on the edge of cancellation because "enough" people aren't watching it - yet.

So, please, watch it for me. Give it a shot. Love it! LOVE IT!

Posted by julia at 10:32 PM

January 21, 2004

Dear BBC America,

Hi. Love ya. Love the network. Can't get enough of Ground Force and The Office (when are we getting those Christmas episodes?), not to mention classics like Black Adder.

But please, for the love of all that is decent, lose the I'm a BBC American campaign! It's a horrible promotional campaign. It makes the network look too fluffy and plastic. The people strike me as idiots, and I'm assuming you don't identify your target audience as the Idiots in America. It's a phrase that is too ludicrous to honestly believe anyone would utter voluntarily. It's awkward and silly, and a clear rip off on the I'm A Pepper slogan craze of my youth.

So... gag Maitland McGonnigal. Tell that waitress from California to keep her opinion that everyone British is better than any American, simply by dint of where they were born, to herself. (don't make me start compiling a list of British losers!). Focus on your strengths. Fire your advertising agency.


I'm begging you.

Posted by julia at 02:57 AM

November 11, 2003

The Office

This is brilliant, bitterly funny television; it's so real it's painful. A mock documentary set in the mid-level offices of a paper company in British industrial town, the series is spot on. The performances are fabulous, and the characterizations are deeply human, thanks both to great writing and great performances. The people are flawed and contrary and ultimately human. Mere words can not adequately describe how smart and bitter and true the show is.

Ricky Gervais, one of the show's creators, stars as David Brent, the inept boss who fancies himself both a great boss and an entertainer, but the heart of the series is Martin Freeman's Tim, the everyman of the show. Unlike most fictional everymen, Tim is the smartest person around, even if he's halfway in love with the unavailable receptionist Dawn (a remarkable performance by Lucy Davis). Mackenzie Crook plays Gareth, the socially awkward second in command to David Brent, hilariously. Numerous smaller characters are as bold and interesting as the principals.

When the office political landscape changes dramatically between season 1 and 2, the show gets even better, as they struggle to adapt to the changing office, new power structure, shifting relationships, and the introduction of people from another office. Everything is shown in deep relief; the cuts are deep and clean.

This is one of the best things I have ever seen on television; I shudder to think of what the American Network TV version will be.

Posted by julia at 05:42 AM