Tag Archives: The Office

NBC Spikes The Ball

Back in the 80’s, Thursday Night was “must see TV” on NBC with the comedy block of The Cosby Show, Family Ties, Cheers and Night Court  leading into Hill Street Blues. Later on, Seinfeld and Friends were anchors that bookended a myriad of other followers – some successful (Will and Grace, Frasier), some not (Joey, The Naked Truth). Eventually it seemed like the concept had run its course.

But it’s clear – at least in my house – that the comedy block of 30 Rock, Community, Parks and Recreation and The Office is and has been worthy of the “must see TV” crown. While it’s unclear how The Office will survive the loss of Steve Carrell, the final episodes provided many great options (including a genuine cliffhanger!) and it certainly has more gas in the tank. Ditto 30 Rock, which continues to be consistently well-written, although it’s becoming clear that some storylines are more dependable than others. But with a gaggle of recurring guest stars like Jon Hamm, Matt Damon and Dean Winters dropping by, brilliance is constantly right around the corner.

But this season proved that Community and Parks and Recreation can hang with the big boys. Community’s pop culture parodies are so clever and so deep that it takes multiple viewings to pick up every double-entendre, sight gag and trivial reference they’re layering into each script. And the cast on Parks and Recreation might just be the best comedy ensemble of them all; the show has skyrocketed after the growing pains of their inaugural season. Now we’re adding Whitney Cummings to the mix? Yowsa!

I’m going to have a lot more spare time now that these shows have completed their seasons, but it’s nice to know that among the annoying celebretard reality programs and the absurd elimination contest shows, there’s still room for well-scripted, well-acted prime time comedy. Kudos, NBC.

That's what HE said.

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Ricky Gervais: Golden Balls

Thank God for Ricky Gervais, even if Ricky is an athiest.

Gervais, as he did last year, relentlessly skewered any pretense of dignity that some think the event has. Although it has been elevated to major award status, the fact remains that it’s just one more opportunity for Hollywood to pat itself on the back and ensure global domination of its main export, the American film. So widespread is its reputation for bribery, favoritism and hero-worship that even Robert DeNiro took several shots at the HFPA when receiving its highest honor.

I had to laugh when reading reports this morning chastising Gervais for being irreverent and mean-spirited, and I was astounded to see that some didn’t even find him funny. Are you kidding me? Aside from a couple of good podium moments (David Fincher, Jane Lynch) and two good introductory bits (Robert Downey Jr. and the always-gold Tina Fey/Alec Baldwin combination) the show was an insufferable snore-fest. When he was off-screen for close to an hour, the show dragged. There were no huge upsets in the film categories (Paul Giamatti and Melissa Leo being the closest thing to surprises) and as usual the attendees were more interested in socializing between announcements than paying attention to the proceedings. If they’re not focused, why should I be?

Ah, but when Gervais was at the podium, they had to focus, because he’s fearless; you never know what he’s going to say and when. Are people really upset that he inferred that Mel Gibson, Charlie Sheen and Robert Downey Jr. have had personal issues? Was poking fun at some of the turkeys in a film resume really that insulting to a famous actor? And the joke about the omission of Jim Carrey’s performance in I Love You Philip Morris was brilliant; a one-two punch that savaged the voting board for its inconsistent temerity regarding homosexuality and launched a dig at pushy Scientology salesmen Tom Cruise and John Travolta

Also not nominated: I Love You, Philip Morris. Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor. Two heterosexual actors pretending to be gay. Sort of the complete opposite of some famous Scientologists then…My lawyers helped me with the wording of that joke.”

Most of the celebrities seemed to get it; Downey countered with a great quote (“Aside from the fact that it’s been hugely mean-spirited, with mildly sinister undertones, I’d say the vibe of the show is pretty good so far, wouldn’t you?“) and even long-suffering Office doppelgänger Steve Carell dutifully played the fall guy for what must be the hundredth time. Only the HFPA President seemed truly miffed – or maybe his comic delivery just sucks – but I think he has bigger problems than a temporary insult most people will forget faster than they forgot his name. Perhaps those who didn’t laugh prove the old adage that “the truth hurts“, because the Sex In The City actresses are long in the tooth, Cher is not a hot commodity in 2011, and Tim Allen, nice guy that he is, doesn’t have a resume like that of Tom Hanks.

But there were some painful moments, too. I love Robert DeNiro, and few actors have had the kind of career he has assembled (even discounting most of the past decade). But anyone who has seen him on Saturday Night Live knows that he is abysmal when reading cue cards, especially when it is comic lines obviously written by someone else. It started awkwardly enough, dove into some racist territory and ended with a fairly creepy reference to Megan Fox. Within the speech there were some pretty great barbs deflating the HFPA, but it was as painful to watch as…well…Little Fockers, for one.

The biggest surprises of the evening were on the TV side of the fence; 30 Rock going home empty-handed, Modern Family losing to Glee (when their sophomore seasons have been such polar opposites, quality wise) and the lovely but absent Laura Linney grabbing the honor for The Big C. I was thrilled that Chris Colfer won for Glee; they handed him the ball this year and he really ran with it. Ditto Katey Sagal – not only finally getting noticed for her amazing work on Sons of Anarchy, but getting to take home the award.

The Observer from Fringe alongside Edgar Winter

So how did I do? Seven out of ten, but missing on three biggies. I guess the best movie can’t direct itself, but I think Nolan’s film was a superior effort. Loved seeing humble Colin Firth win, although if he stuttered during his speech that would have been much funnier. And I’m thankful that Natalie Portman won but was surprised by Paul Giamatti’s win, although he’s always good for a great speech, even when they censor the first ten seconds of it. The censors were uneven with their cut-offs and their music cues, but what the hell, I’ll be back next year to watch.

If the HFPA has even one-tenth the balls that Gervais does, so will Ricky.

The list of nominees and winners is here.

Here’s a link to a great page that lists the major category winners for the Critic Associations and provides a schedule for (and links to) all of the award ceremonies. Next up are the BAFTA nominations on Tuesday, with the Academy Award nominations the week after.

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You Go, Todd Margaret!

The six-episode run of The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret just ended Friday night, and if you missed this brilliantly uncomfortable show you need to get your DVR primed to recapture the encore runs this week. David Cross is spectacularly cringeworthy in the lead, an inept pathological liar whose life choices are social quicksand. Frequent collaborator Will Arnett is the yang to David’s yin; he plays Brent Wilkes, a character Cross describes as “an unrepentant, crass douchebag“.

I’m hard pressed to tell you why this was one of the funniest shows I have ever seen on television without ruining the experience. Cross plays Todd Margaret, an inept temp worker who Arnett’s character misjudges; he pegs Todd as the perfect guy to launch a new energy drink (Thunder Muscle) to the Brits. Starting as a tale about a guy who gets in over his head, it quickly devolves…and then keeps getting worse. As Cross stated in an interview, The one thing that was important to everyone involved was that this project not simply be a fish-out-of-water comedy. Like, “Hey, you drive on the wrong side of the street!?” None of that.

On The Office, David Brent (or in America, Michael Scott) makes one cringe but you know there’s a sliver of common sense under the false bravado. Todd Margaretnot so much.  Compared to Todd Margaret, Tobias Fünke has his life together.

Suffice to say, if you are a fan of Cross or Arnett and can find humor in even the most uncomfortable situations, you will absolutely love this program. And a DVR alert – although the show blocks out at a half-hour, IFC runs the episodes commercial free, filling up the last ten minutes or so with promos and adverts. A great move, since getting up for the commercial would interrupt that perfectly squirming feeling you get from not getting a reprieve as things spiral downward.

“The cool thing about Todd Margaret is that, while a straight ahead comedy show, it tells a story that has a beginning and an end. Every episode starts the next morning after the previous episode so that the sense of inescapable impending doom is heightened exponentially with each subsequent show,” said David Cross.  “There’s no escape.”

 
 

*Not* fron Leeds.

 

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TV or not TV?

Get back here and WATCH ME, dammit!!

It’s been an interesting year for television.

With ratings sinking, cheap reality programming gaining traction and a couple of long-running landmark programs coming to an end, the landscape for the next year or two might be a complete crapshoot. 

Although I don’t spend my time wallowing in celebrity gossip, I do find the machinations of the television industry fascinating. And this year has been particularly bizarre, with the whole Leno/Conan debacle the biggest story of the year – unless you want to separate Leno’s return to The Tonight Show from the single greatest disaster in prime time history. Ironic that Jay would make Headlines wither way. 

"Man single-handedly kills 15 hours of broadcasting"

Somehow The Simpsons keeps rolling along, South Park remains controversial and long running franchises Law And Order and CSI Wherever multiply like rabbits. Networks try to feed us more copycat cop crap, lame lawyer shows and miserable medical dramas. When they come up with something original (FlashForward) or even a reinvention of a past success (V) they forget that a complex serialized drama can’t have a huge gap in its schedule or momentum will be lost. (And speaking of Lost, someone at ABC couldn’t even understand the concept of  the phrase “uniterrupted schedule”, choosing to air a repeat episode April 25th). 

Fox has announced that 24 is ending this season, no doubt largely in part to the high cost of the program. But they hit the jackpot with Glee, and hopefully will pour some American Idol profit into keeping the wonderful Fringe alive. NBC looks like it might finally have a Thursday night comedy block again (Community, Parks and Recreation, The Office and 30 Rock) but is scrambling to replace the third of their schedule that The Jay Leno Show wiped out. If ABC drops it’s two high-priced sci-fi shows and cancels Heroes, they virtually  concede Monday and Tuesday nights; only Castle and Modern Family have broken the mold of celebretard programming. CBS might have found a winner in The Good Wife but the network is still more likely to clone a show than create one. 

 It’s not all hopeless. USA came up with a winner in White Collar which should help ease the loss of Monk.  Friday Night Lights returns this week thanks to the cost-sharing deal between NBC and DirecTV, whereby DirecTV gets to air the series on pay TV in the Fall, then NBC gets to air it on broadcast TV in the Spring. (Maybe that strategy can save shows like Damages and Southland; adult oriented drama that doesn’t pull vampire numbers in the ratings.) 

And the summer brings us basic cable winners like The Closer and Rescue Me and Mad Men as the more nimble basic cable channels like TNT, AMC and FX counter-program the dead season. Elmore Leonard on television is a good thing.  Louis C.K. on television is a good thing. 

If the smaller channels can get it right…why can’t the major networks? Pretty soon it’s all going to be internet television anyway, so the smart and savvy will survive. There is still a large audience that wants great storytelling and well-written comedy

But every year I still cringe when brilliant shows get cancelled. Watching the slow death of Better Off Ted was reminiscent of Arrested Development’s demise, only accelerated. And why would you have a show called The Unusuals and not let it be…unusual? But I could just be bitter. Hell, I still haven’t forgiven CBS for cancelling EZ Streets. 

There are a few excellent resources for those of you looking into that crystal ball wondering what’s happening with your favorite shows…or with the schedule in general. You’ll probably want to bookmark them. The week of May 17th might be D-Day for many of these programs as the networks finish Sweeps and sharpen the axes.

 

The Futon Critic is an excellent resource for TV news and even includes this handy guide to how many episodes are left for each program. Shows are listed by network in a cancel/renewal status grid  (note that a lot of them are TBD). 

The aptly named Is My Show Cancelled site focuses on just that very thing. 

TV By The Numbers takes a more statistical approach to the situation, tracking ratings on a daily basis and making some predictions based upon trends and historical decision points.

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Last Comic Standing: 2010

Just saw the note regarding the last filming dates in Los Angeles, so that’s now a done deal. Prior auditions in New York reportedly drew in a boatload of names of solid contenders – both established and upcoming – although everyone involved is sworn to secrecy at this point.

But where once was a pile of tainted network involvement now springs a hope of legitimate prime time exposure for a bunch of worthy comedians. Check out the press release below – these people wouldn’t steer me wrong, would they?

NBC’s Emmy-nominated Last Comic Standing returns for its seventh season with new host Craig Robinson!

Robinson, star of NBC’s hit comedy series “The Office” and the upcoming feature film “Hot Tub Time Machine,” will host the nationwide search for the funniest comedian in America, and reward him or her with a $250,000 prize, plus an exclusive talent deal with the network. Joining Robinson are Greg Geraldo, Andy Kindler and Natasha Leggerro who will all serve as talent scouts and help judge the competition! As with previous seasons, Last Comic Standing will invite some of the best and brightest comics from all over the country to participate in the competition.

Looks like Monday nights just perked up a bit. Although the bolding of the word help was mine.

As you might remember, the clandestine behind-the-scenes manipulation of who was picked almost killed the show in the first season. If the hosts are only there to help but some marketing asswipe is choosing people based upon who will mix well in a house, then they haven’t learned their lesson. Why can’t a show that’s supposed to help find the funniest person in America…just do that?

I’m not going to lose more sleep over this; I’m going Zen. Meaning I will get to see at least forty comics worth watching, if even for a quick audition, and then twenty will go deeper and I’ll have to live with ten in greater detail. Surely there’s some comedy gold in there?

And don’t call me Shirley.

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Golden Globes Noms: Rusty

Ricky Gervais, save us!

The nominations for the 67th Golden Globes were announced this morning, and as usual it’s a mixed bag of deserving nods, payback to schmoozing favorites and a handful of glaring omissions. For now a quick look at the nominations for television: 

BEST TELEVISION SERIES – DRAMA
a. BIG LOVE (HBO)
b. DEXTER (SHOWTIME)
c. HOUSE (FOX)
d. MAD MEN (AMC)
e. TRUE BLOOD (HBO)

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A TELEVISION SERIES – DRAMA
a. GLENN CLOSE, DAMAGES
b. JANUARY JONES, MAD MEN
c. JULIANNA MARGULIES, THE GOOD WIFE
d. ANNA PAQUIN, TRUE BLOOD
e. KYRA SEDGWICK, THE CLOSER

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A TELEVISION SERIES – DRAMA
a. SIMON BAKER, THE MENTALIST
b. MICHAEL C. HALL, DEXTER
c. JON HAMM, MAD MEN
d. HUGH LAURIE, HOUSE
e. BILL PAXTON, BIG LOVE

BEST TELEVISION SERIES – COMEDY OR MUSICAL
a. 30 ROCK (NBC)
b. ENTOURAGE (HBO)
c. GLEE (FOX)
d. MODERN FAMILY (ABC)
e. THE OFFICE (NBC)

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A TELEVISION SERIES – COMEDY OR MUSICAL
a. TONI COLLETTE, UNITED STATES OF TARA
b. COURTENEY COX, COUGAR TOWN
c. EDIE FALCO, NURSE JACKIE
d. TINA FEY, 30 ROCK
e. LEA MICHELE, GLEE

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A TELEVISION SERIES – COMEDY OR MUSICAL
a. ALEC BALDWIN, 30 ROCK
b. STEVE CARELL, THE OFFICE
c. DAVID DUCHOVNY, CALIFORNICATION
d. THOMAS JANE, HUNG
e. MATTHEW MORRISON, GLEE

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A SERIES, MINI-SERIES OR MOTION PICTURE MADE FOR TELEVISION
a. JANE ADAMS, HUNG
b. ROSE BYRNE, DAMAGES
c. JANE LYNCH, GLEE
d. JANET McTEER, INTO THE STORM
e. CHLOË SEVIGNY, BIG LOVE

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A SERIES, MINI-SERIES OR MOTION PICTURE MADE FOR TELEVISION
a. MICHAEL EMERSON, LOST
b. NEIL PATRICK HARRIS, HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER
c. WILLIAM HURT, DAMAGES
d. JOHN LITHGOW, DEXTER
e. JEREMY PIVEN, ENTOURAGE

I have to remind myself that these nominations and awards, however prestigious, are the work of ninety reporters in the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, it’s not an industry-wide tally. Some of these people don’t even review the work itself – they exist solely to hobnob with stars and create puff pieces for magazines and gossip columns. By comparison, the Online Film Critics Society has over one hundred forty reviewers

The awards hold merit despite the fact that most people realize it is a popularity contest; some favorites would almost have to commit a crime to not get a nomination. Remember that this is the same organization that accepted lavish gifts and bribes in return for naming Pia Zadora Best Actress. 

Whatever

As far as drama goes…I’m always glad to see Michael Emerson getting some love for Lost, but I thought the show made a major rebound this past season and deserved a nod. And how about FX’s Sons of Anarchy – not to mention Katey Sagal‘s bold performance? Breaking Bad (not to mention its two male leads)? Tired of the Hugh Laurie and House nominations, people – great guy but he’s sleepwalking in that character after so many years. 

Looking at the comedy nominations, I’m floored that freshman shows Glee and Modern Family both got nods, but equally stunned that It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia – the funniest show on television this past season – got blanked. Entourage is a joke; I think it gets nominated because of its subject matter. Far funnier shows include Better off Ted, Parks and Recreation and even Community

Lots of shows seemingly fall in the middle – there’s plenty of humor on Castle, Rescue Me and The Closer although I suppose all would be considered under the drama category…if anyone bothered to nominate them, that is.  Ditto a wealth of performers on those ensembles that aren’t getting the publicity or the nominations while Jeremy Piven gets rubber-stamped in yet again (albeit in a very tough category).

Oh well. At least I don’t have to puke in my mouth a little anymore, now that they’ve finally put Boston Legal in its grave. And each category, despite the omissions, does have someone I can truly root for. But it’s far too much hoopla for such a small return…and the over hype is just getting started. 

My five word summary: Thank God for Ricky Gervais

 

Full nominations here.

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T.G.I.F. – Ten Sixties Singles Acts

45 RPM record player

I lived my life at 45 RPM

I’m in the middle of a two-part feature concerning three of the best groups of the ’60s (Herman’s Hermits, The Young Rascals and The Turtles) and figured I’d make this week’s theme about ten bands whose 45’s were a staple of my collection. For those born later, AM radio was king, and WMCA and WABC in New York City were among the kingmakers. After an era of crooner pop and teen idol mania, the charts were invaded by surf rock, Motown soul, garage/psych sides and that multi-wave British Invasion. Radio would never be the same.

Many artists have gotten their due critically and financially, from The Beatles and The Rolling Stones to The Beach Boys and Simon and Garfunkel. Many have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, although several are either awaiting nomination or seemingly have no shot despite making a huge impact in a short and magical time.

I’m going to use today’s list to tout ten worthy artists who I feel are very under-appreciated. They’re enshrined in my Hall of Fame and I still enjoy hearing their music today. Not all have decent video clips, so I’m linking to a site where you can at least hear some audio samples and hopefully pick up a greatest hits collection, if not a few of their catalogue albums or a larger anthology.

If you’re a powerpop or garage fan, there are probably no surprises here. But if you only know these bands from a hit or two on oldies radio, I promise you there is more worth digging for.

jukebox

Tommy James and the Shondells: A pretty fascinating story of how a guy accidentally becomes a bubblegum idol, hates it, and then becomes one of the more interesting purveyors of commercial psychedelic pop. How can a guy who strung together that many hits not be more highly respected? One of the era’s better producers as well.  Wiki.

Gary Lewis and the Playboys: Even the involvement of Snuff Garrett and Leon Russell couldn’t overcome the fact that Gary was the son of Jerry Lewis, so how could you take this stuff seriously. But Gary was no Dino, Desi and Billy; the band kicked out seven Top Ten hits in two years (!) and this new collection reveals how much great stuff you never got to hear. Wiki.

The McCoys: The band that spawned Rick Derringer had an immediate hit with the iconic “Hang On Sloopy” and never hit #1 again, but their singles included covers of “Fever”, “Come On Let’s Go” and the underrated “Don’t Worry Mother”. Great stuff on the albums, too; “Mr. Summer” is an unknown wonder. The core of the band would up backing Johnny Winter during his transition from Texas bluesman to arena rocker.  Wiki.

The Buckinghams: Another band whose hits came fast and furious and then they were gone. Catchy songs that added horns and time changes resulting in songs more progressive than most. Sometimes it didn’t work out (the middle section in the expanded version of  “Susan” doesn’t age well) but Chicago and Blood Sweat and Tears leveraged some of these tricks in their arrangements. Still  kicking today. Wiki.

The Grass Roots: Not certain why they never get included in the discussion of great groups of the era. Like The Turtles, they recorded the work of great songwriters (P.F. Sloan was even an original member) and had a string of radio hits that extended into the 70s. The songs were not only ear candy but many were socially observant, and they featured a great lead singer in Rob Grill. And yes, that’s Creed Bratton from The Office on guitar.  Wiki.

Paul Revere and the Raiders: Started as a raucous garage band in the Pacific Northwest, launched into America’s living room on an iconic television program and parlayed the opportunity into a string of hit singles, yet those costumes they became famous for led many to dismiss them as cartoonish wannabees. Wrong! Mark Lindsay’s looks got them onto teen magazines but singles like “Kicks”, “Hungry”, “Just Like Me” and the dynamic “Him or Me” cemented their legend. Wiki.

The Box Tops: I’m still amazed how powerful “The Letter” is forty years later, especially for a song that didn’t even hit the two minute mark. And while “Cry Like a Baby” was their only other Top Ten, that only scratched the surface of this great band. “Neon Rainbow”, “Soul Deep”, “Sweet Cream Ladies”…Alex Chilton would reinvent himself with Big Star and time has proven just how valuable Dan Penn, Wayne Thompson, Spooner Oldham and Chips Moman were to have around. Soul Deep was not only a great song, but a perfect description of the band.  Wiki.

The Troggs: Another band often mistakenly dismissed as a one or two hit wonder, they had several great sides. And as anthemic as “Wild Thing” might be, “With a Girl Like You”, “Love is All Around”, “All of the Time” and “I Can’t Control Myself” are superior songs. A great blend of garage band and druggy music with Reg Presley’s nasal sneer the icing on the cake. (Also famous, of course, for  the legendary taped argument where one member suggests that a track needs a little more fairy dust on it). Wiki 

Mitch Ryder: Mitch and The Detroit Wheels burned like a comet and recorded arguably the hottest rock’n’roll single of all time in “Devil With a Blue Dress / Good Golly Miss Molly”. Bad management and naive decisions broke the band up within a couple of years, but they had a few great singles and recorded a treasure trove of killer rave-ups. Most don’t know that Ryder continued to make great albums over the next forty years because he gets no airplay. (Hell, even his Wikipedia page isn’t up to date). Wiki.

The 1910 Fruitgum Company: Yeah, I know it’s a bubblegum group, but I will unashamedly put “Indian Giver” out there as one of the best singles of the late ’60s. “Simon Says”, “1-2-3 Red Light” and “Special Delivery” all got serious spin time at my house and remain irresistable hooks. Listen – if Joan Jett covers your song, you’ve passed the cool test. Wiki.

peacefinger

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