Look-e-Likes, Second Edition

February 1st, 2012

A Warning, just like the last edition of Look-e-Likes…these are going to be out there. But just to be clear, I stand behind every one of these.

Lets start off with a really good one, and the brief story of its discovery. I was listening to a podcast replay of Terry Gross’s interview of David Carr on Fresh Air. Carr is a writer for the New York Times and they were discussing his career and especially the events surrounding the documentary about the New York Times, Page One. With a little help from Netflix, I was able to insta-watch the movie. Only about ten minutes in, we got our first Look-e-Like and I still haven’t finished the movie. Without further ado, Entertainthing presents Clay Shirkey: writer, teacher, and consultant in the field of Internet Technology.

You may also know him as…Tom Hanks.

There’s only one more Look-e-Like in this edition, but I always have my eyes open for more. This one came about when I was watching TV in my room after sleeping in a bit in Las Vegas. The sun was completely blocked out by the heaviest curtains in the world and while the shower poured away in the granite studded bathroom, I lazily left the TV turned to an old episode of Law and Order: Criminal Intent. First, a non-look alike caught my attention. Her name is Callie Thorne and when I’m not sharp enough on the DVR remote, I catch her face on a promo for her show Necessary Roughness while I’m watching Psych. She’s not a feature of the article, but here’s her picture anyway.

Now that I think about it, she does look an awful like an actor that shouldn’t have her own show…

Starring along with Callie in this episode was a guy we’ve seen a lot before, in Quantam of Solace, The Green Hornet, he’s been all over TV. But this time, looking like the stressed-out criminal boyfriend of a criminal murderer girlfriend, he looked to me an awful lot like an Emmy winner. Ty Burrell from Modern Family. David’s on the left.

Now tell me they couldn’t be brothers!

I’m sure more great Look-e-Likes are just around the corner, please e-mail if you see any. Ok, one more for the road.

Suzy Amis, Edie Finneran from The Usual Suspects and Eric Stoltz.

XFactor Upheaval and Surprise

January 31st, 2012

In XFactor USA‘s first off-season, Simon Cowell may be showing signs of a significant lack of confidence…it could also just be another sign of his genius.

Being second best is never good enough for Mr. Cowell and he’s officially turned XFactor USA upside down in order to close the gap with the king of sing, the number one rated, American Idol.  Some of these changes were expected, but there was one very big surprise in store as well.

Viewers had hoped for revenge on former judge Nicole Scherzinger for the frustration she caused and the tears she brought from favorite contestants, Rachel Crow and Drew Ryniewicz.  Nicole could have saved either of these popular girls, but her immaturity and cowardice forced early exits for these contestants, even against Simon Cowell’s wishes.  It seems that it was only a matter of time before Simon returned the favor.  Namaste, Nicole.

Not as impactful, despite his seemingly important role as the host of the show, Steve Jones will also be leaving XFactor.  This handsome and friendly guy didn’t add much to the production and certainly had very little X-Factor himself, but he did a competent job.  When you trail your competition by six million viewers, the theory is that if you don’t add something, you’re subtracting.  With this in mind, Steve got the axe.  This also makes Cowell the only Brit on the show with an authoritative accent to match.

Now the  big surprise.  Paula Abdul has just announced that she is also leaving XFactor behind.  She has given the impression that it was an amicable breakup, but a breakup nonetheless.  It will be sad to see Paula go as she really did make a good match for Simon.  They had some very warm and funny moments in between their usual squabbles and their old charm worked well to break up some very dry moments on the panel.  On paper, losing Paula looks to be Cowell’s riskiest move yet, but it shows that Simon understands something fundamental about the success of his show: He’s got to have the X-Factor on the panel if he’s ever going to make one on the stage.

Touch – A World of Possibilities

January 29th, 2012

On Wednesday Fox debuted it’s new dramatic series Touch with an hour and seven minute long “Preview”. What this means, who knows, but Kiefer Sutherland’s back and he’s trying to make sure that he does his part to save the world…again.

Touch is the story of Martin Bohm (Kiefer Sutherland) who is the single father of a speechless, autistic young boy named Jake who just may have the key to salvation in the numerical way he sees the world.  Through a series of interlocking stories, this preview shows the incalculable ways each person’s actions affect everyone else.

Touch worked incredibly well in its dramatic television format.  This type of story has been attempted many times in a feature film format, but high pressure comes with a high budget and a film only has one chance to tell its story.  With story lines from Tokyo to Iraq and Dublin to New York, this was a debut whose total result was equal to much more than it’s parts. This would be a must watch series except for a couple of things.  Too bad one of those things is that the main characters were the least interesting part of the show.

By far the best part of this preview is that they used the kid and his numbers as the catalyst for an incredible mixing of characters and story lines. From the preview for the next episode (over a month from now!?), it’s clear that the show is going to ditch all of the side characters they developed in the preview for the next episode so we’ll just be left with Bohm and Son, Kiefer and kid.  What we’re being told by the creators of Touch is that instead of taking the time and putting in the effort of developing seven or eight interesting characters for the arc of the series, the plan is to make this an episodic effort which will be more mission than character based. One of the best shows of all time, L O S T, was so incredible because those writers made the effort and took the risk of giving their substantial character base the time to develop their individual and shared stories to the very end.  Touch isn’t committed to taking that risk and they’re going to leave the audience with a formula which will never recapture the promise this “Preview” had.  It’s a shame that such a huge and obvious investment in talent and time, with the world to work with, is going to develop the invented mystery of math instead of character.  Well, it was only a preview, we’ve still got a shot at being surprised when the show comes back…March 19th.

American Idol is Back and Lee DeWyze Eats Breakfast

January 2nd, 2012

American Idol Season 9 winner, Lee DeWyze graciously accepted a round of applause at legendary Chicago restaurant Lou Mitchell’s this morning.  This was a perfect reminder that with the new year comes a new season of TV’s biggest show.  American Idol is back!

2011 saw some stiff competition for Idol with The Voice and the top-talent filled, Simon Cowell hosted, XFactor USA.  Between these new singing competitions and another season of a Randy Jackson led judges panel, American Idol could find its ratings take a big slip.  While American Idol has produced some top-selling talent, it was XFactor which actually discovered and developed the best singing voice since the American Idol era with the incredibly talented Melanie Amaro.  From the very first audition, millions of viewers knew who would win that show.  XFactor was built on its huge production value and the diverse talent of its performers.  Huge stages with pyrotechnics and crews of dancers and backup singers filled the small screen every week. 

American Idol‘s huge value comes from being first.  They were the first big show of its kind since Star Search and it hasn’t looked back since its first season.  This isn’t to say that American Idol doesn’t have something to learn from XFactor and The Voice (probably not so much from The Voice though).  Idol can find itself being repetitive and very, very long.  It can take a long time to sift through the large group of competitors and Idol producers have clearly made the choice to trade off some amount of quality for a huge increase in the quantity of episodes they produce.  Now that the alternatives to American Idol are growing, people may start to fall off.  The only way to see for sure would be a head to head competition, but XFactor has just finished its run and American Idol doesn’t debut again until later this month.  Guess we don’t have to choose just yet…unless you choose not to watch at all.  We’ll find out soon enough, American Idol is back with a two-night debut January 18th and 19th.

Ira Glass – Pitchman

November 14th, 2011

No one wants to donate. Everyone hates the pledge drive. When the daily National Public Radio programming is put on hold so that a couple of part-time intern-ish broadcasters can beg listeners for a few dimes, most people switch the dial to AM sports talk.  But when Ira Glass, host of the hugely popular This American Life comes on the radio, you know that they just brought in their closer.

Ira Glass is not someone you’d think of as a closer.  He’s not Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross.  He looks like a mix of Buddy Holly and Billie Joe Armstrong and he sounds like your average run of the mill nerd.  But boy, he makes sense.  He cuts his pitch down from the general and talks to the individual.  He talks to the addicts who are still listening even to the pledge drive.  He makes sense.  He also makes you feel guilty, not in the terrible guilty where you end up eating a dozen donuts, but the guilty where you pick up the phone.  The other day, after calling a big-listening non-donator at home, he actually got the guy to say, “I’ve been a scoundrel.”  That’s incredible!  He got a grown man to call himself a scoundrel and then donate.  And imagine all the dozens of other scoundrels listening to that who called in afterwards.  Ira Glass could be as good as Ron Popeil, “Pledge-it and Forget it!” an expert pitchman.

Ira Glass is an incredible reporter, but he might be an even better pledge-drive pitchman.  Now back to your regularly scheduled program.

Happy Halloween from Boston Rob

November 1st, 2011

Come on, who else would I have been?  Happy Halloween all.

Quit Your Crying! An Entertainthing Poem

October 26th, 2011

Why oh why, do reality stars cry?

If you’re in the middle of China and can’t find a cab,

Or on Redemption Island alone with a crab,

Try to remember all the people you beat,

To have this once in a lifetime, million-dollar treat.

If you’re ugly, obnoxious, and talentless as well,

Don’t forget it’s someone’s dream to be living in your self-imposed hell.

Oh my Survivors and Amazing Race pairs,

Why rage and spit and weep salty tears?

Even though countless viewers have been deceived,

It’s a great gift that you’ve received.

For while you wear disrespect on your faces,

We’re left to dream of faraway places.

Please understand the craziest thing of all,

By some miracle of miracle you received a producer’s call!

Now you’re cursing your fate all the way over there,

And I’m writing poetry, still at home, still right here.

Fall TV – New Girl on the Block

October 5th, 2011

It’s fall again and that means TV is back!  All the old favorites and a bunch of new junk is fighting for DVR time.  Who is going to win?  Well, as far as you should be concerned, you just need to clear up one half hour on Tuesday night for the best new comedy this year, New Girl.

The problem with most new comedies is that they try so hard.  They want us to know that they’re clever, cute, ultra-super-hip, and young.  The idea is to throw a semi-diverse group of young actors together and see what comes out.  Well, what you get are shows like Whitney (NBC, 2011), Happy Endings (ABC renewed for this year), and Perfect Couples (NBC, cancelled last year – the worst).  These are all bad shows.  They lack chemistry and they lack sincerity.  But move over crap, because this fall, we’ve got New Girl!

New Girl stars Zooey Deschanel as Jess, and it centers around her and her three male roommates.  The pilot starts off by Jess catching her boyfriend cheating and needing a new place to live.  She answers an add to become the fourth roommate to three guy friends.  Jess and the boys are meeting for the first time just as the audience is meeting all of the characters which is a technique so many shows ignore.  New Girl allows the audience to experience that exciting, uncomfortable, honeymoon phase of frienship where other shows throw you into the deep end of life-long connections.  And Jess and the guys are just so likeable.

Jess sings half of her dialogue and is the absolutely uninhibited, one-of-the-guys girls that everybody loves.  Three episodes into the show they’ve already had to replace Damon Wayans Jr. with someone half as cool and twice as exciteable, but still, I know the show is strong enough to make it all the way.  Set the DVR now! and catch the pilot on Hulu.  This is the new show you need to have in your lineup, and it’s on Tuesday which is Drama/Reality night on every other channel.  No excuses, catch New Girl now.

Drive – Pulls it Off

October 1st, 2011

Take one look at the poster for Drive and you’ll have no idea what this movie’s about.  There’s Ryan Gosling who’s all dirtied up and squinting, then the name of the movie spelled in 1980’s pink.  It’s only a small vertical tag line on the side of the poster, “Some heroes are real,” that gives any hint at the action to come.

Gosling is a getaway driver of the highest quality and he carries himself with a quiet, isolating, confidence.  Through persistent accidental encounters, he lets his neighbor, Carey Mulligan, and her son into his life.  We’ve been given an optimism at this point, with a synthesized dreamworld soundtrack and a montage of Mulligan slowly melting Gosling’s exterior over a sunset drive and dinners at home.  But Gosling’s day job as a mechanic and Hollywood stunt driver roll him into dangerous business circles and, just like Gosling, we the audience are trained to keep our guard up.

The plot of Drive is engaging, but it’s more interesting to see how the director, Nicholas Winding Refn, gets away with turning this awkward romance into an ultra violent action movie.  The success of this comes from Gosling’s performance and our understanding of his motivation.  We hear the crunching of bones and we see realistic sprays of blood, but it works completely.  While it’s shocking, we have come to understand a character that will do anything to protect someone he cares about.  This understanding allows us to root for a good guy in a bad situation.  It allows us to accept the fact that the pink font and the innocence of the movie poster are not a lie, but that they’re the motivation, the drive for a person like Gosling to do what needs to be done.  We’re told that some heroes are real, and I believed it of Gosling.

Yahoo Preaching – Erik Freeman is Wrong

August 16th, 2011

Erik Freeman is a nobody (and his name’s really spelled with a ‘C’).  What happened was, a certain author was floating around Yahoo and saw an article about LeBron James getting embarrassed.  That’s what the headline lead me to believe anyway until Erik Freeman tries to lecture everybody into seeing the video his way.  It’s really stupid…of Erik Freeman.  Video is hard to fight against.  Erik Freeman wants his pal LeBron to know that Erik Freeman doesn’t think he got dunked on in a Taiwanese exhibition game.

Whether Lebron got dunked on or not may be up for debate, but his high-dribble-isolation-can’t-take-Omer-Asik off the dribble move at the top of the key did leave to a pretty terrible turnover and his lazy defense definitely allowed a dunk to happen on the other end of the court.  So, maybe the dunk didn’t happen “on” LeBron, but it sure happened because of LeBron.  Oh, and Erik Freeman forgot to keep watching the video, because on the next play, LeBron charges down the court and runs into a wall in a defender half his size and lobs the ball, one handed, to his “teammate” who makes a lunge for the ball, which went out of bounds.  Turnover LeBron.  LeBron is terrible, but Erik Freeman is blind.

Here’s the link.  Say hi to Erik.