Monday, July 30, 2007

I'm in love with "Flight of the Conchords" too!

FN Correspondent Jane was right on top of this one, writing a wonderful entry about HBO's incredibly delightful, utterly hilarious and totally addicting "Flight of the Conchords" here on July 8th.

I've finally caught up with and am completely smitten with the show, as is Jane, and love Jermaine more than I can say. To Jane's description of the show, which she described as part "Monkees" and part "Cop Rock", I would add I find some similarities with one of my favorite out-there British comedies, also featuring two guys and a fair bit of music, "The Mighty Boosh".

One of my favorite songs is from Episode 5, a crazy get-down song about Jermaine and his girlfriend having sex, called "Business Time"; watch the clip of it from the show, then watch the equally hilarious live concert version.

Be sure to catch up with it; you will love it and will become as obsessed as Jane and I are! Check out the show's HBO website for the schedule and you can also download the lyrics for all their amazing songs. They're also a hilarious "Bowie in Space" song where they talk about, among other things, Bowie's nipple antennae.

Stuff like this shouldn't be missed. It makes life worth living, kids.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Hoping that MAD MEN Becomes a Little Bit More Insane

MAD MEN premiered on AMC July 19th (Thursdays, 10-11pm) after weeks of multiple orgasms and fanfare from most of the nation's TV critics. While not quite as enthralled as they all seemed to be, I do think it has great potential and is certainly several notches above most summer programming. Warning: If you have recently quit smoking, do not watch this show! You'll be puffing away on those coffin nails again faster than you can flick your Bic. MAD MEN is a inside look at the dark world of Madison Avenue advertising executives in the 1960's. Everybody smoked in the 1960's. Constantly. Plus they also drank brown liquor during work lunches and even had a few snorts before important client meetings. It's a wonder any work got done at all, but they didn't have to work very hard, did they, back then when there was no competition, fragmentation, women in the workforce, or the constant pinging of email coming through your Blackberry. Those were the days.

There are many things about MAD MEN that ring true. The "frat boy" atmosphere of big business in the 60's, complete with every flavor of racism, sexism, anti-semitism and the politically incorrect blue haze of inside smoking, all feels just about right. There are also many things about MAD MEN that feel disjointed or out of place. Like the vacant Valley Girl mews of the girls in the steno pool, 30 years before and 3,000 miles away from where that particular accent was invented. Why do characters for programs set in NYC never have NY accents? Is that too much to ask? Also, I was astonished and horribly jealous to note that a "middle manager" in Manhattan in the 1960's was important enough to have a huge corner office with windows. You practically have to be running the joint to be granted that kind of corporate real estate these days.

I like the lead character (Joe Hamm playing ad exec Don Draper), although he comes across as very dark and introspective. Where is the humor and energy? One of the aspects of the ad industry venue that I have always loved in TV and film (think Tom Hanks throwing pencils up to make them stick in the ceiling in "Nothing in Common"), is the non-stop banter, rocket-like pace and creativity of that business. Ad men, then as now, had to have lightening quick wit to survive in an environment where ideas are the currency. The pace in this first episode of MAD MEN was dreamy and languid and almost devoid of that kind of energy. I hope they can speed things up a bit for future segments.

One very nice touch (thank you AMC) involved the posted ad trivia factoids in between the real commercials. I did not know that Carnival Cruise lines was the first cruise line to advertise on TV. That bit was followed by an actual spot for Carnival. A tidbit after a Geico caveman commercial informed us that the cavemen will have their own sitcom this fall.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Hot Soapy Action

I'm not a regular viewer of soap operas, but I've been tipped off by my sister that Soapnet is beginning a new series tonight, a hotter nighttime version of ABC's popular daytimer General Hospital, called Night Shift. Promising "More Drama, More Sex, More Soap, More Story," Night Shift premieres at 11pm Eastern and Western time, unless you're on a satellite system in which case it's 11pm East and 8pm Western. (It also airs on Saturday afternoons at 5pm Eastern and Sunday 7pm Eastern, and you can figure out the other times zones, please.)

I've always been convinced that most do-gooders and ultra-moralists who scream about naughty content on TV don't have a clue how much goes on in daytime soap operas, preferring to believe that the viewers, predominantly women, wouldn't go for provocative content. Far from it, and I think this latest foray sounds like a wonderful idea. Just who exactly is buying all those sensual romance novels, anyway?

I'm going to tune in just to see if they deliver on their promise. It's tough for a non-soap viewer to get up to speed on storylines and so forth, but what the heck, it's not Shakespeare and just give it a go. We all know the envelope that FX has pushed with its dramas like Rescue Me and Nip/Tuck, but this Soapnet idea is different, targeting female viewers and giving them credit for wanting more sizzling content. I think they're right.

Lather up!

P.S.: I came across a nice article from an Australian paper from a few years ago, talking about the notion that soap operas are junk because women watch them, and conversely sports are important because men primarly watch. Interesting observation and of course true and not fair. Makes me want to become a soap opera fan. Anyway, check it out here.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Another One Bites the Dust

I knew the news a while back that Court TV was now under the thumbs of the folks who brought you TBS and TNT wasn't exactly good. I knew it was even worse than I first suspected when its position on the DirecTV line-up moved between those two networks, and now, with the unveiling of the new name of the network, it's possibly even worse than I suspected.

If I may quote TV Week, as follows:

July 11, 2007
Court TV Changes Name to truTV
Jon Lafayette
Turner Broadcasting has picked truTV as the new name for Court TV.
Steve Koonin, president of Turner Entertainment Networks, said the name change reflects the network’s programming, which brings exciting, real-life stories to viewers.
The network also said it put four new projects into development in support of the new brand, including shows from Granada Television, producer of “Nanny 911”; Original Productions, co-producer of “Deadliest Catch”; Bunim/Murray Productions, creators of “The Real World”; and Tiger Aspect USA, producer of “Ms. Adventure.”
The new series follow neighbors feuding, the ski patrol and Texas oil wildcatters, all a far cry from the more cerebral legal and forensic fare for which Court TV has been known.
"The success of the Turner Entertainment Networks can be attributed in a big way to the fact that we have built strong brands that resonate with viewers," said Koonin. "With this new name, truTV joins its sister networks TNT, TBS and TCM in establishing itself a solid, identifiable brand, paving the way for continued growth."
The new name is scheduled to go into effect on Jan. 1.

Well, there goes the neighborhood. There has been a gradual slide into inanity on Court TV for a while now, with psychic investigator shows popping up more often than anything else, it seems. Is Dominick Dunne still even on the network? Maybe his show wasn't exactly hard news, but he was an urbane and intelligent host presence and at least it wasn't more of the same crappy reality programming which can now be found anywhere and everywhere on TV. (I thought I recently read that reality programming was starting to tank a bit -- I live in hope.) If the folks at Court TV thought their transition was going to be any less jarring, well, they don't know those folks at Turner. Good luck to them -- the new truTVers -- and my condolences.

(And may I also take this opportunity to correct the notion that it's their brands that are keeping TNT and TBS at the top of the ratings. Why then, would you spend tons of dough on acquiring all the biggest titles and series, or making your own? It's the programming, stupid; people watch shows, not brands, although don't expect a marketing person to ever admit that. Or don't watch shows, as in the case of TNT's new Heartland series with Treat Williams. Guess that makes the brand sick, not the show, right? Sure it does...)

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Place Your Seatbacks in the Upright Position for Flight of the Conchords

FLIGHT of the CONCHORDS debuted a few weeks ago after the final episode of The Sopranos on HBO. It is currently paired with the hilarious ENTOURAGE, a spot-on half hour comedy that follows the show biz shenanigans of a youthful "frat-pack" in Hollywood. The FLIGHT is also about a couple of lads who want to get into the business, but that is where the similarity to THE ENTOURAGE ends. In this case, the boys are New Zealand folk musicians, who exist on the most thread bare fringes of New York City existence. While the boys of Entourage flaunt their designer clothes poolside in Malibu, the boys of Conchord shuffle around the not good neighborhoods of Manhattan dressed in plaid lumberjack coats and corduroy pants. Bret (the shy, easygoing bearded one) and Jermaine (the Mick Jagger lipped, glasses wearing "funny" one), are unknown, unloved and unsung. But that doesn't stop them from breaking into their own songs from time to time, which are strange, yet oddly catchy alt-folk ditties about the stress of life in the big city. Some of these songs can be downloaded off of MySpace (check it out!) and the HBO web site. Be sure to listen to Hip-Hopopotomus, which is as funny, geeky and white-boy sounding as hip-hop is ever going to get.

Bret and Jermaine are joined by other oddball regulars including their worthless and inept agent Murray (reminiscent of the loser agent on The Extras), and the somewhat disturbing Mel, who is the plain Jane, self professed "#1 fan" of the Conchords. Mel spends her days stalking Bret and Jermaine, cornering them on the street while they squirm like a couple of flies in a spider web.

FLIGHT of the CONCHORDS is part "Monkees", part "Cop Rock" with a dash of HBO quirky and three tablespoons of some flavor you've never had before mixed in. It can get a little slow at times, but for my money the program always perks up whenever Jermaine is the focus of the scene. He is fascinating in a sexy/not-sexy kind of way and very hard to ignore. The official HBO site actually describes him as looking like "an ogre who works in a library". If that doesn't make you want to tune in, I don't know what would!

Friday, July 6, 2007

Good Buzz for USA's "Burn Notice"

I haven't seen it yet, and probably you haven't either, but the first two episodes of USA Network's jazzy new spy caper series "Burn Notice" are being repeated tomorrow (Saturday) July 7th, starting at 9am.

Looks like it could be fun, and of course about the best news ever is that perennial favorite Bruce Campbell is co-starring in the series, along with Jeffrey Donovan, Gabrielle Anwar, and the always appealing Sharon Gless.

I'll have more to say after tomorrow morning's viewings, but I'm sort of set up to like this one! It takes place in Miami, which was also the setting of my favorite new series "Dexter" on Showtime, so the vibes are good. And if they show delicious food all the time, like "Dexter" did, making me insanely hungry everytime I watched the show, well, that's a bonus!

My fingers are crossed for a good show! Do try to catch it!

For more information and a complete schedule, check out the "Burn Notice" section on the USA Network website.