"In cooking, as in all the arts, simplicity is a sign of perfection." - Curnonsky

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Dirty Sexy Money: The Family Lawyer

The Darlings had to bury one of their own in this episode, and they sent the deceased off in style. Sure, the eulogy was written about someone else and some of the mourners were arrested, but that's part of the fun of these events. The rest of the episode was business as usual--power struggles, inappropriate sexual partners, and suitcases filled with cash. No complaints here.

Betrayal -
Everyone was betraying everyone else this week. Simon Elder served up his usual dose of manipulation, this time to drive a wedge between Nick and Karen. I'd love to get a better sense of Simon's agenda. The writers spent a lot of time building him up as Tripp's archenemy last season, and he's mostly lurked in the shadows so far. Brian worked hard to get Tish's defense attorney, Foghorn Leghorn, fired and lost the Vice Chair gig before he was even hired. It's too early to tell if Nick betrayed his own values by accepting the job, but Lisa definitely looked a bit hurt by his decision. Hasn't he been listening to her daily anti-Darling lectures? It's obvious that Tripp got what he wanted by bringing Nick closer to the family, but he might not be aware of Nick's suspicions. It'll be fun to watch these two square off over the next few months.

Nola Lyons -
I like Lucy Liu as much as the next person who didn't watch Cashmere Mafia, but Nola isn't working for me. There is already a sleeping-with-the-enemy subplot going on, so her affair with Jeremy is unnecessary. I'd also expect a character like Nola's to have a more hostile relationship with Nick (he is her newest opponent, after all). Their confrontation at Ellen's funeral was missing something. This woman is supposed to be a serious threat to the Darlings, and all I got from her was a little half-hearted flirting. The prosecutor lost me once and for all when she uttered the following cheesy line: "You're the Darlingest Darling of them all." Was that supposed to be intimidating?

The funeral -
The Darlings can't have a lavish party every week, but the funeral was just as good. It was one of those perfect Dirty Sexy Money moments when everything came together: an insincere eulogy, a fainting spell, and a brawl with the cops (and all accompanied by Kenny G). These types of scenes are always done well, and it saved "The Family Lawyer" from becoming a forgettable second episode. I hope that this season doesn't focus too much on the trial scenes; Darling antics are far more entertaining. Still, a few more over-the-top courtroom moments--like the presentation of Letitia's bail--couldn't hurt.

Other thoughts:

There was a brief mention of Juliet (on some island somewhere) and Kiki (busy at school). I suppose that settles it.

I stopped missing Ellen the moment I learned that she was a Kenny G fan.

Lisa made a smart move by nixing the baby talk with Nick, and she got a nice Godfather moment in return.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Bones: The He In The She

I liked this episode, but I am getting tired of the show setting up a crime, and then pulling out a surprise wild card of a murderer at the end. I’ve said before, I don’t mind being surprised, but, I feel like lately, it’s been like ‘hey, here’s an episode…and, oh yeah, we need a murderer…hmmm…who could it be? How about that guy”. But I did like this episode. Bones takes risks, and I thought they handled the idea of transgenderism pretty realistically and tastefully.

The Case…
An upper half of body is found in the water, with breast implants, but when the lower half of the body is found later, it is the body of a male, or, the body of a woman who was once a man. This is tricky for the lab, but they get it worked out.

The Squints…

New Guy: ‘Mr.’ Vincent Nigel-Murray. Brennan, from the get go, tells him he is not invited in the field, and he responds with randomness. This guy was funny but not memorable to me. And you know it can’t be good if even the script has you quitting, right? I did love the part where Angela and Hodgins kind of tag teamed him about Angela being WAY too much car for old Vinny.

Hodgins: Good, smart, funny. Basically, Hodgins. Hopefully he doesn’t have to talk about Zack every week. That’s all over, right?

Angela was great. And she used her art, and her sweet, picture checking out, asking Booth questions technique that I also love.

Cam was fine. I liked her actions with Vino. I also don’t mind when she is out in the field. I don’t like that she has to babysit these interns every week, but I guess she has to have someone to talk to.

Sweets! I loved his bet with Booth, and that he won. I would have liked to have seen a scene where he got his money from Brennan, the bank. That would be funny. I feel like I’ve seen them act out sitting silently through a session too many times, though.

Booth and Brennan…
The whole ‘aiming’ bit at the beginning made me laugh, but they didn’t really run with it. I liked how Brennan was in the lab a lot, and Booth was in the interrogation room. That is the good stuff, I think. I also like how the case is a foil for their own religious discussions. Interesting…either way, I LOVED the way he was holding his poker chip at the church meeting. And I liked, and understood what Brennan meant about swimming with a buddy. That made sense to me.

Favorite Line of the Night…

Hodgins: “The remains show traces of freshwater and pelagic sediment common to Chesapeake Bay.” Kidding. Probably something more like this….

Ryan: “Do you believe in redemption?”

Booth: “Yes, I do”

Friday, November 28, 2008

MTTT - Bennucci's & Charlie Fosters

M's Thirsty Third Thurday for October was held at Bennucci's, which is a Chicago-style Italian restaurant. I have been there a couple times and have always had a good meal. Their ravioli is to die for and on Wednesday's they have a spaghetti special for $3.00 which is the best deal in town.

We had a good crowd at Bennucci's. A couple people had the ravioli and really liked it. John and I shared a deep-dish pizza, which was very good. Cheryl had one of their pasta specials.

Unfortunately, they gave us a new waitress but she did do a good job. And it certainly wasn't her fault that their computer died when she was attempting to cash us out.

A few weeks ago, the MTTT crew stopped at Charlie Foster's. I understand that Charlie Fosters Bar & Grill's use of peppedews, a new, trendy South African pepper, shows the three-month-old restaurant is ready to be a creative culinary player in Kalamazoo.

Never mind that most people have never heard of peppedews. Although the former fine-dining restaurant has been transformed into a sports bar, one can still find eclectic fare there.

The barbecue sauce sounded so good that I ordered The Charlie Foster ($7.95), smothered pulled pork with the barbecue sauce and coleslaw in the sandwich. The sauce was sweet and tangy and effectively pulled all the sandwich elements together. Cheryl had a chicken panini and said it was delicious. Both Kenn and Shannon opted for salads and they were not disappointed.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving from Pam

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours! May your day be filled with delicious food and family warmth and, of course, your favorite forms of entertainment. Today I am thankful for all of you!

For the special holiday, I'm posting a clip from a Thanksgiving episode of Scrubs in which JD has to have his appendix removed and can't enjoy Thanksgiving. The best line is toward the end, from a wistful JD: "Ah, uncomfortable silences and alcohol, just like Thanksgiving at home."

To watch, just click below.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

"Thank You" Songs - A Thanksgiving Day Playlist

This week people around the country will be saying thanks for their blessings: family, friends, good health, etc. So it's a fitting time to make a playlist of music that captures this sentiment in song. Many popular songs that express gratitude have to do with thanking a romantic partner for his/her love, but there are plenty of tunes that are simply thankful for someone's kindness (Natalie Merchant's "Kind and Generous") or for good friendship ("Thank You for Being a Friend" by Andrew Gold, later covered and used for the Golden Girls theme song).

Here are a smattering of songs full of gratitude (including some silly ones), which you can can listen to.

Thank You Songs

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Pushing Daisies: Circus, Circus

Pushing Daisies usually manages to make morbid things seem sweet, so it's interesting to see the show take happy things and make them sad. This episode, Ned and Emerson investigate a crime at the world's biggest bummer of a circus and Ned faces the idea that Chuck's independent new beginning means the end of something wonderful.

This episode starts on a bummer of a note, with little Ned (and his little hobo sack) trying to do a good deed but killing a whole class project in the meantime. No wonder Ned hates new beginnings; thanks to his power, "starting fresh means that something else is ending stale."

Present-day Ned isn't having an easy go of things either, not with Chuck living next door — so close, yet so far. I love the scene in the Pie Hole with Ned constantly checking over his shoulder. Is Olive back? Are the aunts? Either of those things would be bad, but they'd also mean Chuck has to retreat to living with him.

Emerson, meanwhile, finds special meaning in the case of a teenage girl who's run away. I love Rachael Harris, and she's deadpan-perfect here, talking flatly about wearing her emotions like a shiny brooch.

Speaking of which, it's so wonderful to see Chuck contribute to an investigation. She really is good at getting people to say things they shouldn't be saying, and that interrogation scene is a great parallel to the one between Olive and Lily later on.

So, A Circus of Fun is pretty much the worst circus ever, no? It's got jugglers and one occasionally murderous human cannonball, but it's also got labor disputes and smells like "sawdust and underarms."

I wonder how many times it took Anna Friel to perfect the dive over the Pie Hole counter. It was pretty obvious that as soon as she was left alone, Vivian would show up, but their scene together was so sweet, with Chuck hiding but still managing to produce a tear-seasoned triple-berry pie.

Anytime I get sad from now on, I'm just going to think about the clown with the looooooooooooooong legs. (Second-best sight gag of the night: Ned getting cut off mid-vulgar tirade by a fire blower.)

Thank you, Emerson: "It's a traveling circus, not a 'wait around for the two of you to work all your junk out' circus."

Also, Ned to Emerson: "Generally speaking, you don't even have a glass. You have a wet ring on the coffee table where the glass used to be."

I couldn't stop laughing at all of the scenes with the newly found Nikki wearing that stuffed animal costume: "You won me a prize!"

Emerson has a good message for us all: "Love what's there. Love it."

Line of the night: a close call between "Pigby enjoyed the warbling sounds that the nice-smelling thing that fed him made" and "I could throw up in my mouth a little and not even know the difference."

So, Ned and Chuck are starting fresh by pretending they just met cute in the hall, Lily's stashing liquor at the nunnery, and Chuck's family tree is still way confusing.

Monday, November 24, 2008

New Dido Song - "Don't Believe In Love"

A little while ago I got a taste of Dido's upcoming album, Safe Trip Home, when she was streatming a track off it, "Look No Further." I liked that one well enough, but I'm really digging this new tune, "Don't Believe in Love." There's something sultrier, almost jazzier than what you'd expect, though Dido's light, breathy voice is still at the heart of it all. It's actually a pretty cool combo: some low bass guitar, a great drumbeat and Dido's soft, sweet vocals.

To check out "Don't Believe in Love", click below.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Prison Break: Five the Hard Way

After last episode's mediocre and poorly plotted and badly written episode, Prison Break returned to top form with some long anticipated developments. Watching T-Bag and Scofield finally confront each other was well worth the wait. T-Bag's obsession with trying to understand Scofield is part of what makes their scenes so entertaining. He can't fathom that Scofield could really be as selfless as he is, and tries to reduce his motivations down to something he can understand - like going after Scylla for the money. T-Bag's obsession with Scofield is analogous to what a super-villain would feel towards his arch-nemesis.

T-Bag doesn't have it easy in this episode. Between being tortured by Gretchen and then outwitted by Scofield once again, his luck seems to have run out. One thing I've learned over the years, however, is that T-Bag's ability to survive should not be underestimated, and I haven't seen the last of him for sure. I learned more about Scofield's nosebleed, and what it might mean for the character. Does Scofield have a brain tumor? This story thread, while predictable, has been handled very well and it will be interesting to see where the writers go with it.

Another extremely welcome development is the much needed injection of comedy in this episode. The darkly hilarious Sucre "taking one for the team" angle is handled brilliantly, and the final swerve was completely unexpected, and a nice diversion from the heavy-handed serious tone I've been subjected to so far this season.

Roland's a bit of a difficult character to get a handle on. He is annoying, but hard to tell if it's because this is how the character was meant to be, or if it's an actor issue. Getting caught trying to steal from the casino and then losing the one device that makes him useful to the team puts the entire mission at risk. Will he have enough time to create a new device, or will the team have to find a new way to get a hold of the final piece of the Scylla puzzle?

Self's act of self-preservation was well handled, and the scene where he tucked tail and asked Mahone for advice on how to handle Wyatt was fun to watch. Mahone realizing that he would have done exactly what Self did if their situations were reversed was a nice touch.

With so much going on at once, and all of it entertaining, this episode is a fine example of what can be done with this new series format. The dark humor involving Sucre paid off extremely well, and hopefully the writers will find a way to add more of this during the rest of the season. If you're going to take your audience on a mindless rollercoaster ride, taking the time to make them laugh is very welcome bonus. Add a bit of intelligence and character moments to the mix, and it's a recipe for a fantastic episode.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Music Video: Feist, "Honey Honey"

Somehow, the soft, dreamy sounds of Feist's "Honey Honey" make even this puppet story seem poignant and emotional. The video features very little of the singer herself, though she does start things off by lighting a lighthouse, bringing to life this mini world in which an old seafarer embarks on an ocean journey and faces off with a vicious creature of the deep. Meanwhile, his lady love (presumably) wonders what's happened to him.

It's all rather eerie and haunting, so to check it out, click below.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Sarah Connor Chronicles: Goodbye to All That

The game of time-travel chess continues. It seems that whenever Sarah and the gang foil one Terminator plot, another two crop up in its place (or they fulfill some sort of objective from Skynet and bring things one step closer to Judgement Day).

Observations from this episode:

How did Reese get the credentials to teach at the military school? I know being from the future gives one access to certain information, but it seems a stretch.

Gotta love the foreshadowing of the "new automated system" for the power plant.

I dug the movie reference of Arnold's tracking of two other Sarah Connors before finding the correct one. Why didn't the T-888 (or "Triple 8") just use the Internet?

The other Martin Bedell (who read from the Wizard of Oz) acted somewhat as comic relief for the episode and continued the storyline in which Sarah connects with her own motherhood.

I still enjoy the future flashes.

So I guess they fulfill history in this episode as well. Once Martin knows the future, I doubt he'll drop out of the academy for any woman. I also liked how whenever he said "Baum" it sounded like "bum", as if he was denigrating John.

I guess we know that Catherine Weaver's ultimate goal is to help the machines win (I'm still not certain about why she picked up and killed that guy in the bar). Catheine doesn't know about Cameron? Interesting. A wild card in the game. It could be argued that Catherine has mastered sarcasm even more so than Cameron.

Okay, I know it's a television show, but why does Bedell look pretty much the same 20 or 30 years in the future? The difference between the ages of 16 and 36 or 46 is a pretty big one.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Mad Men: The Inheritence

As is often the case with Mad Men, the title of the episode is perfect. This installment has little Sterling-Cooper stuff and tons of richly layered, sad, prickly family issues dealing with difficult moms, sick dads, unknown heirs and lonely little boys. I don't see too much of our main man, Don Draper, this episode, and I longed for more Joan, Roger and Peggy, but this episode is just as sad, disturbing and well-written as any of them.

Betty Draper: Betty's whole storyline is so fascinating and layered. She basically has issues with all three of the male characters in her life this episode. Her father, Gene (who actually bears a resemblance to McCain, in my opinion), has suffered a stroke and is starting to mix things up, mistaking Betty for her mother. The scene at the dining room table when he grabs Betty's breast is staggeringly sad, but Betty doesn't even miss a beat. She's shaken, but doesn't react negatively toward her father at all. She and Don go to see her father together, and she decides to sleep with Don while they're there, but kicks him out again once they return home ("Nothing's changed. We were just pretending."). It seems like all Betty craves sometimes is a little truthfulness. When Viola states simply that Gene is "very, very sick," Betty is relieved that someone is finally admitting it. Later, the boy with the crush on Betty, Glen Bishop, shows up in the Draper kids' playhouse and Betty brings him inside, where he takes Betty's hand and says he came there to rescue her. When Betty calls his mother to pick him up, he glares at Betty and says, "I hate you." As Sally Draper stared at her mother, I couldn't help but wonder what she's learning from Betty, and what Betty learned from her family.

Pete Campbell: Speaking of inheriting things, Pete and his brother Bud are sifting through what their father left them (or, more accurately, what he didn't leave them), while Pete and Trudy discuss adoption. Pete and Bud talk about kids and toast to "the end of the line," but of course, they're not the end of the line because Pete actually does have a child. I look forward to the scene when Pete discovers that Peggy had his kid. Pete can be such a prick ("Why do you insist on making me angry before I go to bed?"), but seeing the way his mother treats him certainly explains a lot. Again, what he "inherited" from that family has seriously informed the person he is now. When his mother snidely dismisses adoption ("You're pulling from the discards"), it almost seems like Pete becomes more sold on the idea because his mother disapproves of it.

Some more thoughts:

More heirs/inheritance stuff: Harry Crane's baby shower! During which he wears a giant yellow bonnet. I love that the cake reads "Congratulations! It's a Crane!" and I find it hilarious that they give him Lucky Strikes as a gift to celebrate the birth of a baby. Oh, and Mr. Cooper poking his head in to just say "happy birthday"? Priceless.

Trudy's line to Pete completely melted my heart: "We're not related by blood and you love me." It struck me as the sweetest, most beautiful argument for adoption there is.

So Kinsey is going down South to register voters, taking a stand with Sheila and waxing philosophic on the bus ride there: "Advertising, if anything, helps bring on change. Consumer has no color." I am loving this Sheila. She is no-nonsense and strong, calling Kinsey out when the need arises.

When Don scoffs at Kinsey and Pete for not having read Peggy's write-up about their trip to L.A., he jokes, "Maybe I should send her." For a moment Peggy looks so hopeful! Also, I love that her outfits are getting cuter. That fitted, black-and-white number is fantastic.

At one point Gene snaps at Don that he has everything and acts like it's nothing. "My daughter's a princess, you know that?" It makes me wonder if this is what's going on with Betty, that she was a princess to her father, and a perfect wife to her husband. But now her father is starting to slip away, and she's realizing her husband was not so perfect. Helen Bishop's comment to Betty seems significant: "The hardest part is realizing you're in charge."

It made me laugh when Pete told Bud to get back the money their father gave to Lincoln Center. Bud: "You can't take a donation back!"

Pete seems like such a little boy sometimes; he just has no filter. Like when he says to Peggy, "I hate my mother. What do you think of that?"

I like that Betty confides in Helen Bishop, finally telling another woman that Don's not living in the house anymore. It's good that Betty can talk to a female her own age about these things.

Smoking on planes! I forgot that this was ever something people did. This episode included little of Don's story, but I liked that it ends with him gazing out the airplane window, sunlight gliding up his face.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Family Guy: I Dream of Jesus

Family Guy returns to a format a little more reminiscent of past seasons in this episode “I Dream Of Jesus”. Essentially there are two story lines that technically have nothing to do with one another but which are drawn together by a random event in the middle.

The episode begins with my favorite family- the Griffins- at a 50’s style diner. During their visit a song starts playing on the jukebox which, evidently, Peter loves! He does an admittedly hilarious dance routine to the tune “Surfin’ Bird”—if you are unfamiliar, it’s the song that goes “na-na-na-na-na-na the bird is the word everyone’s heard the bird is the word” (or something along those lines… ). Peter takes the record home with him and plays it- repeatedly- and literally drives his family crazy. At one point at the breakfast table Stewie slowly puts a revolver in his mouth (it was actually really funny, but no, he doesn’t pull the trigger).

Eventually, Brian and Stewie lead a covert op to steal the record. Peter tries to replace it, so Stewie and Brian continue their plan by purchasing every available copy from local record stores. Stewie and Brian also bring us the episode’s best moment where they destroy the record in a cut-scene that is reminiscent of the scene from Office Space where Peter, Michael Bolton and Samir destroy the printer.

Here is where storyline two enters! Long story short, Peter meets Jesus at a record store and befriends him. Peter takes him to his house, introduces him to the locals (with a funny scene where Jesus walks atop water in a fountain but, Peter being Peter, tries to get some of the attention), gets Jesus on Jay Leno, and helps him win an award at the MTV Music Awards!

Eventually, however, the fame goes to Jesus’ head and he lands himself in jail. Jesus calls Peter to bail him out (which he first refuses, until Jesus uses his power to smash a lamp in Peter’s face) and decides it’s time he left Earth altogether. Much to the dismay of his family, Jesus creates Peter a new record of “Surfin’ Bird” before he departs.

I have to be honest; I had high hopes for this episode. Sadly, this episode left me disappointed. With so many opportunities to poke fun at religion I think this episode fell rather short. I felt the one clever scene in this episode was where Peter introduces Jesus to President Bush, and Jesus explains that he’s really not sure how President Bush was actually elected, as he certainly had nothing to do with it. And while this cut-scene was amusing, it’s another example where the show could have really crossed the line with their usual hilarious and insensitive antics and left me drooling on the floor laughing hysterically.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Simpsons: Lost Verizon

The Simpsons kicked off their 20th season in style, with the Homer-and-Marge-centric episode, "Sex, Pies, and Idiot Scrapes". This episode, Bart proves that just because you don’t age doesn’t mean you’re not out of touch. When Bart misses out on an embarrassing Skinner situation because he’s the only kid without a cell phone, he goes on a cellular quest that leads the Simpson family all the way from the well-manicured greens of the Springfield Glen Country Club to the stone-carved steps of Machu Picchu.

Though “Lost Verizon” is a mostly solid episode, it feels like a missed opportunity for a show that garners more grumbles than acclaim these days. The first ten minutes sets up a premise that would have filled a full 22 minutes during the early seasons: Bart, wanting a cell phone, tries to earn some cash at a snooty country club. Not bad. The show has certainly done more in the past with flimsier ideas. I mean, Bart’s already worked at a burlesque house and a mob hangout—why not a country club? But like so many latter-season episodes, Bart’s desire for a phone is only a means to one ridiculous end after another.

After a short-lived career as freelance golf ball scavenger is squashed by “Greenskeeper” Willy, Bart lucks into a phone thanks to the temper of special guest star “Boston-comedian-turned-movie-star-turned-basic-cable-notable” Denis Leary, whose discarded cell phone Bart uses to make prank phone calls and do despicable things like spending all of Leary’s money on Yankees hats and Derek Jeter jerseys (the horror!).

But even Leary is only a stepping stone to the second act plot of Marge activating the phone’s GPS tracking chip so she and Homer can keep an eye on Bart. Even this vaguely coherent plot thread falls apart at the end, when everyone except Bart ends up in Peru for some reason.
Just because The Simpsons has covered so much narrative ground over the past two decades doesn’t mean the writers should give up on coming up with a single storyline for an episode. One of the reasons people abandoned the show is that it stopped making sense. A single episode might have half a dozen plot threads, each more disposable than the last, none of which had any effect on what happened the following week.

Here’s hoping “Lost Verizon” is just a hiccup on The Simpsons‘ return to Sunday night dominance. The main reason I hold out hope is that I laughed. I laughed a lot—at dumb stuff like Everybody Poops: The Movie and Marge getting collection notices for frozen peas, to smarter material like the owner of the Bergman-inspired Swedish bar Bart prank calls threatening him with “If I ever get my hands on you, I’ll show you the futility of human endeavor!” At the series’ lowest point a couple years back, I went through entire episodes without cracking a smile. That I’m laughing again means they must be doing something right. Now all they have to do is stop trying to hard.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Duchess: Oh, the (Beautifully Costumed) Drama

Of course The Duchess is dramatic. Georgiana Cavendish, the Duchess of Devonshire, led a dramatic life and she herself was a dramatic — and smart, and charismatic — woman. I really liked this movie, but I might have liked it more if it were a slightly broader examination of the Duchess. I don't mean that they should have included more years in her life (I think that would have been a mistake) but the vast majority of the film is about her romantic and reproductive woes. She was a daring, intelligent, and remarkably influential woman during a time when women were expected to be anything but those things. While I liked this sweeping period drama, I might have enjoyed less soap opera and a tad more substance.

The costumes, however, cannot be disputed, for they are devastatingly gorgeous. I would watch this movie over and over with the sound off just to feast my eyes on the clothes. Dressed to perfection in every scene, Keira Knightley plays Georgiana, who marries William Cavendish, the Duke of Devonshire when she is just a teenager. The marriage is soon strained as it appears that Georgiana will only bear daughters. While the relationship grows bitter in private, Georgiana starts to become quite popular in public and immerses herself in the world of politics and high society. She's a natural charmer and trend-setter, though her husband puts more and more distance between them, choosing other women over his wife. Before long, Georgiana finds herself falling in love with a young politician, Charles Grey (Dominic Cooper), but the threat of scandal proves too great for the Duke and Duchess and a relationship with Charles is forbidden. There's much more to the story, but I won't spoil things for you.

Knightley strongly carries the film with her focused, honest portrayal of the brightly alluring yet unfortunate Duchess of Devonshire, and if she veers into melodrama it’s because the material clearly calls for it. She’s still a relatively young actress, which I think people sometimes forget, and while she still appears young onscreen (with that permanently youthful bounce in her step, a fresh energy to even her most morose scenes), there is so much potential there for her to mature into a truly phenomenal performer. She acts with her entire body, conveying emotion in the tiniest details: her whole frame rigid with rage, a coquettish tip of her head and a sidelong glance, the utterly distraught balling up of one fist . . . these things inform our understanding of Georgiana's emotional landscape.

Most of the time I cringed and tsk-tsked at the wretchedness of this poor young woman’s life, as the story is basically a long string of relationship issues and anxiety over pregnancies. There are countless historical movies that, if they center on a woman at all, focus on the pressure to conceive a male heir, the havoc this wreaks on a marriage, and the power plays that arise between the women who can conceive and those who cannot. This is understandable, given the nature of society back then, and yet here’s a story with some built-in political drama as well, with a fearless, deeply inspiring female protagonist. I would have appreciated more of that story.

That said, I was riveted to this movie, intoxicated by the costumes and just as smitten with the Duchess as the rest of England seems to be. It’s a beautiful and sad film that is well worth seeing.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Pam's New Music Downloads

The Welsh singer-songwriter, Jem, seems determined to show just how multifaceted she is musically. Down to Earth expands her sonic horizons to include funk and gospel, Latin and African influences. "It's Amazing," is a lilting piano-laced reverie.

David Sanburn's Here & Gone features guests like Joss Stone, Eric Clapton and Sam Moore, pays homage to the round, brash precision of Ray Charles' band and its director, Memphis alto saxman Hank Crawford, in the late '50s. In typical fashion, Sanburn goes for the musical jugular with sax tones that cry, dart and scream. Best track? "Brother Ray,' featuring guitarist Derek Trucks, which blisters as it swings.

Lindsey Buckingham's Gift of Screws - On one of the standouts of his fifth solo outing, the Fleetwood Macster sings about waiting for "The Right Place to Fade." But as this enchanting disc demonstrates, Buckingham is hardly ready to fade from the picture.

On his first album of new material in six years Time the Conqueror, Jackson Browne shows that time hasn't conquered him. Songs like the title track and "Giving That Heaven Away" make this 57 minutes well worth spending.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Supernatural: In The Beginning

After two episodes that gave me a look at what the future holds for the Winchester boys, it’s time to look back at the past. I traveled back in time to Lawrence, Kansas, circa 1973. There, I ran into young Mary and John. If that wasn't enough for me, Sam and Dean’s grandfather, Samuel also makes an appearance. He’s not so keen on the idea of John and Mary getting together. And he holds a secret that will shed some light on things in the present day.

My, oh my. Where do I begin after that? How about the casting? I was impressed with all of the guest players. The big star of the show, though, was Mitch Pileggi. Just perfect casting. He was great as the crotchety old hunter that didn’t trust anyone, and just as good for his stint as Azazel.

Getting to the story, I started this episode with some reservations. Not that they did anything wrong, but whenever anyone wants to go messing about with time, warning bells go off. I have a general rule for TV that the only one who should play willy-nilly with time is Dr. Who. Everyone else should tread lightly. Thankfully, the powers that be had Castiel waiting at the end with an explanation. Destiny can’t be changed. That’s a solid working rule moving forward with Supernatural.

In the end, it all served as a big history lesson for Dean, and for me. I expected that would be the case going in, because if Dean was to alter anything in the past, it would wipe out the last three years of the show. Again, this is why only the Dr. messes about with time. It was quite a history lesson.

To start: Mary, ass kicking hunter. When she put the boots to Dean I was caught completely off guard, but when I got the closeup of the bracelet, it all came into focus. It was a very cool twist. And as I learned more about her, it answered some old questions. Why she recognized Azazel in the nursery. How Azazel was picking his “psychic kids.” And, most importantly, how Sam got on that list. What it didn’t tell me was what his endgame will be.

Along the way, the episode was just filled with great lines, and great scenes. Things like Dean convincing John to buy the Impala. Or Samuel’s reaction to Dean, “You seem like a nice kid Dean, but yeah, you’re crazy.” And the scene where Azazel is revealed in Samuel’s body. As soon as he asked to hold the gun, I knew. The best of it all though, was the moment that Mary and Dean shared. Her telling him how she wants out of the hunting life, and Dean pleading with her to stay in bed on Nov. 2, 1983. It was very moving.
It was quite nearly Sammy free in this one, only seeing him race off in a Mustang with Ruby. I can assume they were heading out to go after more demons, but Castiel’s warning that Sam is “headed down a dangerous road” did sound ominous. I can’t wait to see where that all goes.

At the end of the day, I can’t think of any way this episode could have been better. There were loads of Winchester history as the backdrop to revealing just a little more of Castiel’s mission. And the fact that it is going to tie in with what Azazel was doing with all those kids is fantastic. Season four is off to a tremendous start.

Friday, November 14, 2008

My Name Is Earl: Joy in a Bubble / Stole an RV

First off, I have to say the first episode Earl was one of my favorites, because Joy is always hilarious. “Joy in a Bubble” was exactly what it sounded like: Joy is stuck in a makeshift plastic bubble, but it’s because she gets a disgusting flesh-eating toe infection because of Earl. It’s not what you think.

While driving Catalina to work for Disabled Discount Day at Club Chubby, Earl spots a hot tub on the side of the road. This is perfect, since he owes Joy a hot tub from the time he cost her a modeling job at a hot tub convention because he lit a cigarette near her hair. He and Catalina trade a homeless man deodorant for the hot tub, and take it to Joy’s.

Joy is obviously thrilled, saying “for the first time, Earl, you have satisfied me in a way Darnell never could.” Joy spends 24 hours in the hot tub, and a neighbor complains about how loud her music is. Joy uses this opportunity to be a good person, by retorting that you don’t hear her “complaining about how loud that baby’s dialysis machine is.”

Darnell sees Joy’s massive toe, and they go to the doctor, who tells them that she caught it from the homeless man who lived under the hot tub. This doesn’t upset Darnell, but Joy’s diseased toe does. He lines the floor of the trailer with foil and only allows Joy to walk on the foil. His measures become more drastic, to the point that Joy is “glazed up with Purell like a Christmas ham” and she finally asks him what she has to do not to be treated like a leper. So he makes her a bubble, and she blames Earl, who is forced to be her proxy while she’s in the bubble.

I loved seeing Earl go run Joy’s errands for a week. At 3:00, she buys meat from the trunk of a car. On Wednesdays, Earl has to spend four hours at the salon to hear all the gossip, and he has to hang out with Dodge and Earl Jr., who Joy believes have no friends. At the school, Earl asks Mrs. Woo Hoo why the boys can’t come to her son’s party, and she says it’s because of Joy. While the boys are at the party, Earl lets it slip to Joy that she’s the reason they have no friends.

Predictably enraged, Joy drives to the party. Earl runs to catch up to her, but finds her sitting in the car unable to confront the other moms. In a moment of vulnerability, Joy asks Earl if she’s a bad mom. I thought this was a great part of the episode, because I got to see another side of Joy. She quickly shatters this by telling Earl to wipe off the gas pedal, because she “toed it pretty good.”

In the second half-hour, which I thought was the weaker of the two, Randy finds a hat, which means he takes on a new identity. Somehow, his new fedora makes him an English gentleman. Kenny complements the fedora and I learn that Earl and Randy don’t watch black and white movies because they remind them too much of newspapers.

Joy rushes into the bar, claiming to have seen Pigsquatch, a massive pig that is rumored to live in the trailer park. Darnell says it might have just been an obese neighbor, but Joy says she “knows the difference between a prehistoric pig and Jumbo Sally.”

Joy wants to catch Pigsquatch because tourists would pay to see the world’s biggest anything. She remembers the time she and Earl saw the world’s biggest anthill when they stole an RV from an old man. While enjoying their new lifestyle and fancy wine glasses “on stilts,” the RV explodes.

Earl decides to go back to the man who they stole the RV from, who now lives in a small shed waiting to die. Earl will have none of that, and tries to cheer the man up. He fixes the roof, and buys him a jog to play music with. Earl and Randy realize that the man misses all the mementos that were in the RV, like pictures of his wife.

Somehow, this gives Earl the idea to give the man a sex doll that he and Joy used to use as a babysitter for the kids. Earl goes to Joy’s and finds that she has caught Pigsquatch using sleeping pills and a bucket of slop, and he asks her an insanely long question to ascertain whether she still has the doll. She does, and she gives it to Earl even though she’ll be out one babysitter.

Jerry, the old man, is thrilled with the doll and with the stuffed animal heads that Earl finds for him. Jerry makes Earl take him to see Joe, whose ear he wants to slice off. Joe blasts them for “bringing a killing machine back to life,” since Jerry once killed three Koreans with a single bullet and no gun. Joe realizes that Jerry is doing this because he was left behind enemy lines. Jerry jumps on Joe, but has a heart attack. Joe has one heart pill left, and gives it to Jerry because he doesn’t want to let him down again.

Joy inadvertently kills the pig, and Darnell is too grossed out when her arms end up “in the pig” when she tries to move it to help her. Luckily, Earl, Jerry and Joe come to her rescue and blow up the pig with dynamite. It’s disgusting.

I loved the first half hour, but I thought the second was weak.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Dirty Sexy Money - The Birthday Present

The Darlings are back! Despite all the behind-the-scenes personnel and casting changes, Dirty Sexy Money appears to be better than ever. As I loyal fan I was rewarded with a major development in last season's murder mystery. Season One feels like it ended ages ago, but "The Birthday Present" was the perfect refresher course in the elements of this gorgeous, twisted world.

Death - Poor Ellen. It isn't easy being married to a Darling, so I have to give her credit for lasting as long as she did. For my part, I enjoyed Bellamy Young's performance as Ellen, as well as the chance to learned about Darling married life. There is still Tripp and Letitia, I suppose, but their marital issues will probably take a backseat to Letitia's surprise arrest for Dutch's murder. I'm thrilled that the show brought me right back to the major unresolved storyline from last season, instead of leaving me hanging for a few episodes. Letitia was one of the prime suspects last year, but I'm beginning to lean more towards Simon as the killer.

Drinking - Alcohol was at the center of several misdeeds this week. Ellen's inebriation didn't do her any favors during her final scene (liquor + rage + wet bathroom floor = trouble, make a note of it), and one too many bottles of wine led to another kiss between Jeremy and Lisa. Despite her half-hearted apology, I agreed with Lisa; the kiss was a symptom of the George's relationship problems. There's no real potential for romance between Lisa and Jeremy, not if Lucy Liu has anything to say about it.

Deception - Who's playing whom in Simon and Karen's face-off? They're both open about their manipulative tendencies, as well as their attraction to each other. I love that even though their intentions are somewhat out in the open, there's still another level of lying going on. Karen proved her loyalty to Simon by returning the vial and playing the "scared by my feelings" card, but delivered the crystal swan to Tripp. Simon professed his love for Karen, but reported back to a mysterious someone about their relationship. I'm certain that Karen is an evil, ditzy genius, and she's definitely her father's daughter. Can the Darlings outsmart Simon and his unseen partner?

Other highlights:

Clark the Driver is back, and he likes to drink with his chauffeur's hat on. I'd love to see a "buddy-cop" episode with Clark and Nick. A lot of their duties overlap, only Clark isn't as morally-conflicted as Nick.

I'm going to use the phrase "alcoholically indisposed" as often as I can.
Brian enjoyed firing some German factory workers during the hiatus. I pray that this moment turns up in the show's outtakes.

I didn't miss Samaire Armstrong (Juliet).

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Bones: The Crank in the Shaft

This episode dealt with one of my many transportation fears - Elevators. The episode opens with a group of co-workers in an elevator. Their ride comes to a grinding halt when a dead body gums up the works. Patty Hoyle - office manager, frog fanatic, and all around bitch, is the unlucky victim and Booth and Brennan must shift through the hive of office drones to uncover the killer. The suspects include Ted the pothead, Christine the receptionist, and Chip the nice guy.

While they uncovered the affair between Christine and Chip, and the circumstances under which they killed Patty Hoyle, Booth obsessed with getting the office chair of a recently deceased Agent. He begged for a false doctors notice from Brennan, Cam, and even Sweets. In the end he got his chair, but it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.

The latest Zack replacement is the depressing Colin Fisher, played to perfection by Joel David Moore. He’s a dopey guy who sees the bad in everything and despite Cam’s best efforts to produce a smile, in the end she recommended he up his dosage of Prozac because he was bringing her down.

After four episodes with no significant Angela/Hodgins developments the writers finally decided to devote a few scenes to them. Angela sought advise from both Sweets and Brennan, and Hodgins tried to connect with Cam. My favorite bit came when Angela was complaining about how hard it was working with Hodgins and Brennan said she liked Hodgins but because Angela was her best friend, she would fire him.

Finally they are addressing the tension between Hodgins and Angela, after abruptly ending their relationship. They should have dealt with the fallout sooner, but overall it was handled well. I especially like how Angela dealt with it. Their relationship was special, terribly sweet, and for better or worse she wanted to accept it, remember it, and embrace their new relationship. I still hope they get back together but for now, I am a happy fan.

Joel David Moore as the Zack Replacement - he is such a great actor. I wouldn’t want Colin Fisher to stick around but as a one shot, it was good.

Booth/Bones subplot: I loved the whole ‘drones in a hive’, ‘best chair in the office’ banter. Unlike the last episode, this storyline blended perfectly with the main plot. My favorite scene had to be Booth trying to open the elevator doors, I nearly died laughing.

I can't think of anything bad, except the Angela/Hodgins scene didn’t last as long as I would have liked. I shouldn’t be surprised after such an lackluster breakup.

The Crank in the Shaft didn’t blow my mind but it was a solid episode.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

How Well Do You Know the Era of Mad Men?

Are you ready for something insanely addicting but also highly informative? Then check out this Mad Men-themed Jeopardy game online. The game covers the early 1960s through categories like "Ad Slogans," "In the News," and "Popular Culture."

I've played several times now and I'm amazed at the trivia I've absorbed through the show. TV is so good for making people smarter (of course, I have to say that!). It's also funny because when you get the answer wrong the crowd gasps really loudly, and when you get it right sometimes your little cartoon person will raise the roof in joy.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Pushing Disiies: Buzzzzzz

Oh, joy! Pushing Daisies is back! And it seems to have returned perfectly in form, too, with a premiere that finds Chuck putting her love of bees to use, Olive letting secrets get the best of her, and the introduction of a pig named Pigby. I wish I could just scoop this show up into a big bear hug.

But the good stuff starts with Chuck's dead bees. Chuck bringing her bees back to life by dumping them over Ned's bare back might be one of the best visual effects this show has done. I love how Chuck decided it would only be fair to strip down to her silky unmentionables to balance things out.

Speaking of which, Chuck and Ned appear to have a relatively normal romance — as long as they both wear bells on their slippers and only touch with the help of Ned's Digby scratcher.

The victim is Kentucky Fitz, who had just been tapped as the face of Betty's Bees, a honey-based business that recently sold out to a big conglomerate that wanted to strip the products of their honey ("even the honey!") I'm already a little bee-phobic, so that shot of Kentucky in the morgue with bees spewing out of her mouth made me shiver.

I guess I'm not worried about Chuck being recognized in public anymore, because she poses as Kitty Pims to get in with the bee people. So many great visual gags in those scenes, including the beehive dome, the honeycomb-tiled floors, and Chuck's pin-turned-microphone that's a direct line to an eavesdropping Emerson.

Maybe my favorite line of the night, after Chuck protests that Betty was too young to be replaced at just 38: "Which rounds up to 40, which rounds up to 50, which rounds up to old!"

The aunts are out of the house, fulfilling Chuck's goal from when she started sneaking happy drops into their pies but creating drama for everyone else. Their appearance at the Pie Hole sends Olive into a fit, since she's become the dumping ground for everyone's secrets and now feels like a gun stuffed with "truth buckshot." I know Kristin Chenoweth can sing, but man, that lady can also scream.

It seems appropriate that Chuck's having a (re)existential crisis: "I haven't gone anywhere with my life, and this is my second one!" Once Olive's off to the nunnery, Chuck takes over her apartment, thus beginning Chuck and Ned's "Parisian lifestyle."

Love Olive's mixup between "the porter" and "the poor."

Chuck's dad was Vivian's fiance? I'm going to need a genealogist to document this family tree.

The crew figures out the murder, but not before Chuck finds herself dressed head to toe in bees. Ned quickly reminds her she can get dead again: "There's a reason I don't let Digby play in traffic."

OK, scratch everything I said before. My actual favorite line: "You want a drink? Lily, hand me your purse." Runner-up: "But it's also sweet, like a taxidermied pet, or stuffing someone's ashes in a teddy bear."

So, Olive's living simply at the place where Lily sneaked off to have Chuck, Ned has (somehow?) rescued Chuck's special pillow, and Emerson's adorable Lil' Gumshoe has been put into the world to help his daughter find her way back. There's nothing left to say but "Aww!"

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Fringe: The Arrival

"It has arrived." - Bald guy wearing shades

This episode definitely got me intrigued about fringe science. It's a combination of things, and of course, Walter's scattered ramblings about whatever strikes him at any particular moment.

The funniest line was at the beginning, when a frustrated Peter sat up in bed and said, "What formula are you rattling off at 3 o'clock in the morning?" Walter replied, "The formula for root beer. I thought I might make some in the lab tomorrow."

But what about the mysterious bald guy wearing shades and carrying a brief case? The guy who seemed to be keeping track of the glowing cylinder, and whom Agent Broyles called "The Observer." I wonder what his story is? The fact that he was present years ago at the precise time Walter needed him to save his and Peter's lives makes me wonder if he's not some sort of other-worldly entity. As Walter told Peter, "It was as if he knew my thoughts before I did. He made it clear that he would need me one day to return the favor, and this was it." Walter is talking about how he hid the cylinder for Bald Guy. So it makes me wonder what else Walter knows about the goings-on of all the experiments he's conducted over the years. What else is he hiding?

I loved the scene at the end, where, for the first time, Peter had an inkling of what Walter was going through, because HE had that same experience with Bald Guy reading his thoughts. At first I thought Bald Guy had installed some sort of device into Peter's brain, so he could hear his thoughts (and I think that was true initially), but when Peter saw him in the woods that night, and he was mimicking Peter's words, I theorized that Bald Guy was indeed reading Peter's thoughts. Or ...is there a device in Peter's brain now?

Theory on the cylinders? Let's see ... they explode into the ground and then disappear. So perhaps they're carrying intel to beings inside the core of the planet. Or something. And didn't they say the cylinder arrived from under the ground?

And what about John Scott showing up at the end?!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Take a Break With My Three Viral Videos Right Now

As everyone who's even somewhat familiar with the Internet knows, there's a new viral-video-of-the-hour well, pretty much every hour. Some are hilarious, some just so-so, but I've come across three lately that have made me laugh out loud. They're not new, exactly, but they're still so funny, no matter how many times I watch each of them.

First, there's a Toy Story 2 trailer set to the Dark Knight trailer. Hard to explain further than that, so just take a look. Then, a video with a similar idea: Bert and Ernie trying out gangsta rap. And finally, the most recent of the three (and I think the most hilarious): the literal interpretation of the music video for A-Ha's "Take On Me". I

It's all below, so if you have approximately six minutes to spend watching amusing videos, click below.

The Dark Knight/Toy Story 2 Trailer

Bert and Ernie Try Gangsta Rap

A Literal Version of "Take On Me"

Friday, November 7, 2008

Prison Break: Blow Out

Michael and the team had to make a difficult decision when one of their own got jailed, T-Bag tried to fend off a snoop and Gretchen revealed a secret.

Thankfully, this was one of the season's best episodes, I think. It had more of that Ocean's Eleven feel, especially in that opening sequence at the race track where every move was synchronized and choreographed. It almost made one overlook Michael's silly Gilligan hat. Thank goodness he seems to be growing his hair out now, and can stop worrying about "hiding the bald."

And how cute was Sarah's "Don't get used to this" comment when Michael eyeballed her slinky Southern belle get-up? That moment alone was sexier than any heart-to-heart or hug they have shared since reuniting.

Alas, the one "unplanned" move, Mahone slugging the cop, forced the team to make a hard decision. (Yes, I've gone over Alex's rash action again and again — could he not simply have stuck to his angry bettor shtick? — but will chalk it up to Angry Dad.)

The debate over Alex's fate raised some good questions — and even gave Sucre a line or two! Had Michael opted to move on without him, I don't think anyone could fault him. The important thing here is to take the Company down. So I was glad to see the "lights out" ploy actually be used to whisk Mahone out of the courthouse, though I now wonder if they'll still use the tactic on the next cardholder.

Before I leave the topic of Mahone, how chilling was it to see him and Wyatt (fka Cress Williams' killer) lock eyeballs through the jail bars, then later in court. Alex has promised Wyatt that they will go mano a mano one day, and that is a fight I cannot wait to see. Alex and his loss bring such emotion to this sometimes cartoony tale.

Elsewhere....T-Bag was in the midst of exploring an anteroom off his office when Andy (whom I like to think of as So Going to End Up Dead Someday Soon Andy) confronted "Cole" about some bogus sales data. Best I can figure: Gary "Whistler" Miller had fabricated this whole "Top Salesman in the Northeast" facade in order to secure access to the anteroom, which seems to house the entrance to a tunnel. Is GATE a Company front, or a business simply located in the wrong place at the wrong time? I suspect the latter, and Gary just needed a way in.

Gretchen, meanwhile, showed up at her sister's home looking very much worse for the wear. (Um, no cut to sis reeling from Gretchen's undeniable stench as she entered the house...?) Gretch showed a moment of pain when, freshly showered, she surveyed her fresh scars. But that was wiped away by a sheen of resolve and determination. As soon as she asked for the owl she gave her sister (and which sis understandably hid in a cabinet, seeing as it was quite large and ugly), I just knew it harbored some sort of contraband. Before Gretch left on her mission ("I now work for myself," she says, steely), I learn that her "niece," Emily, is actually her daughter.

Some random thoughts before I go:

Is not Cress Williams' killer the last person you'd want to be startled by in a parking garage? Props to Don for holding firm and not piddling him... Self.

New drinking game! Do a shot every time Roland is told to "Shut up!"

T-Bag counting to two on his prosthetic.

Loved Mahone's line to Wyatt: "I'm going to show you just how personal things can get." Bring. It. On!

And at last they meet, spiked heel to temple, Gretchen and T-Bag. Not exactly a "meet cute," but I'll take it!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Sarah Connor Chronicles: Allison from Palmdale

This story focused more on the individual members of the Connor team, particularly Cameron. I think the flash forwards make for very good, interesting episodes.

At first, I was a little taken aback by Cameron's display of emotions. Since when can Terminators shed tears? I suppose it sort of makes sense given that she's an infiltration unit, but it seems kind of a stretch.

How did Catherine Weaver have a daughter? Is she another robot? I suspect we'll see more of her character in the future.

I admit I was a little fuzzy about the reason Ellison accepted the job with Zeira Corp. I know he's unaware that Weaver is a T-1001, but the company is suspicious at best.

I just knew Cameron would end up killing Allison. I also liked how they inferred that Allison and John were, shall we say, more than friends in the future. It would make sense for the Terminators to try and copy her. Summer Glau puts on an excellent performance as both roles and as she progresses from human back to machine.

The ending was very ominous. Did Cameron learn how to lie? Has the shock reverted her back to her original programming and she's going to infiltrate and destroy the resistance? I would guess not, otherwise she would have snapped John's neck in the car. Unless her motives are more subtle, like Catherine Weaver.

Overall, a very good episode with good character development.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Mad Men: Six Month Leave

Any Mad Men episode with a lot of Roger Sterling in it is going to be among my favorites and it did not disappoint. There's a moment at a gambling club when a young woman approaches Roger and Don and asks if they're winners. His response is classic Roger: "Uh, losers tonight but winners in general." Another reason why this episode was good? That would be Betty's bone-chilling spiral into crazy-town, made even creepier with the suicide of Marilyn Monroe lurking in the background. The symbolism of Monroe's untimely death is rich with meaning.

It isn't just the ladies who have had it up to here with their lot in life. Apparently, despite the fact that they've long been having their cake and eating it too, the men are also feeling trapped. Roger and Don, in a scene that makes them out to be even bigger jerks than I thought possible, talk each other into a midlife crisis together. All of this combined with the sad and pathetic ending of one man's career at Sterling Cooper made for a very dark episode indeed.

Betty Draper: One of the bestselling novels of 1962 was Katherine Anne Porter's Ship of Fools, a totally depressing take on basically the whole world and human nature — which is exactly what Betty's in the mood to read! She's so out of it that she can hardly interact with her children. She roams around the house like a zombie, half-heartedly taking on a home improvement task or just falling asleep in the middle of the day face down on her couch. When Don finally pays a visit their exchange is filled with contempt for each other. Don tells her he's not going to talk her into anything and she spits right back at him, “I thought you could talk anyone into anything." Yes! Betty is not backing down and it seems like with each episode she sees more clearly the true identity of the man she married (even though, sadly, she doesn't even know the half of it).

Don Draper: Don's weird moral relativism and rationalizations are just making his character more unsettling than ever. There is this icky sense of entitlement that oozes out of the man and it's only made worse by his chauvinism. Can you tell he's really ticked me off? During his bonding session with Roger after they fire Freddy "that guy who played the symphony on his pants zipper" Rumsen, he confides that he doesn't feel badly at all for what he's done to Betty, that he's actually just relieved. And then, in the most nihilistic moment of the night, he waxes philosophic about what it is to live life: "You don't know how long it's going to be, but you know it's got a bad ending." Good grief, that's depressing. Where is that ray of sunshine Father Gill when you need him? Oh, and later Mona comes storming into Don's office, accusing him of making Roger leave her! Wow.

Some more thoughts:

I know this sounds kind of strange at this juncture but you know what flashback I would love to see? Don and Betty falling in love. I think it would be striking to see how far they've strayed from whatever first bonded them together.

Marilyn Monroe's death affects the women in the office differently than the men. Joan has to sneak into Roger's office for some alone time due to the emotional weight of it. The men, on the other hand, are hardly sympathetic. Don's reaction is basically, "Suicide is disturbing," while Roger comforts Joan with, "She was a movie star that had everything and everybody, and she threw it away."

Don seems impressed when Peggy points out the obvious: that the Playtex ads they never ran in which they divided women into two groups (Jackie Kennedys and Marilyn Monroes) would have had to have been pulled in light of Marilyn's death.

Tellingly, Joan explains to Roger that Marilyn's death was because "this world destroyed her." There's so much in that line, isn't there? Especially since Joan herself has been referred to as the Marilyn "type."

The "Freddy's a drunk and peeing himself" scene was terribly awkward and horrifying. I mean, yes I laughed, but it was just so gross. And then the sloshing noise his shoes made on his way out of the office? Ew! However, some of the Freddy jokes around the office are pretty good ("He's a real whiz in advertising!").

Somehow this display of drunkenness is considered over the line, and Roger decides Freddy must be fired. Kind of amazing considering that office is filled with people who don't have a problem drinking before noon, but OK.

The hypocrisy gets even richer when Roger and Don tell Freddy he needs to "dry out," only to follow up with a farewell boozeathon in an underground gambling club.

What's up with Don's secretary? Is she flirting with him? She buys him shirts (and did you notice the Mencken's bag?)! She seems to annoy everyone, and then in the end Don wants her gone.

So, Don punches Jimmy. This took me by surprise and I felt badly for Jimmy.

Peggy gets her promotion but it doesn't feel very good since it's only because of Freddy's departure. All's fair in advertising, though. It makes me wonder if a man in Peggy's position would feel half as conflicted. Isn't it amazing that Peggy was once Don's secretary? I kind of forget that these days.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Family Guy: Love Blackually

Some TV series have traditionally strong season openers and some have traditionally weak season openers. I would have to say that Family Guy consistently falls into the former category mostly because I can’t remember a single season opener I’ve watched of Family Guy where I didn’t almost pee my pants or spit my drink out all over the cocktail table (or both). Season seven continues this tradition with a solid episode with lots of laughs I’ve come to love from the Griffin family!

The episode revolves around Brian’s new love interest- Carolyn- a girl he meets at a book store who seems to share a number of his interests (it’s rare, as you recall, for Brian to find a girl he actually likes). In fact, Brian and Carolyn have to decide who gets to buy the last copy of “The God Delusion” by Richard Dawkins. Ultimately, Carolyn buys it and agrees to mail to Brian when she is done, which leads to a hilarious scene with Peter and Brian, where Peter is using Brian’s package as weight for one of his hats.

After Brian and Carolyn have what appears to be a good first date Brian tries to invite himself upstairs for some nookie when he hears, who else, Stewie calling him from the car. Stewie convinces Brian that sex has tainted his relationships before and that he should proceed slowly with his new girl, Carolyn.

Things appear to be going well for my friend Brian until - after three weeks of no foreplay – Carolyn is forced to seek love elsewhere- from one of Peter’s friends. Now if you’re thinking Quagmire, surprise, you’d be wrong- it’s actually Cleveland (but don’t worry, Quagmire fans, the ole’ G-man has his turn later in the episode, too- giggity). In the end, Brian and Cleveland are both left heart aching over Carolyn.

This episode had a surprising minimum of “cut scenes” but a few in particular provide the kind of tasteless humor I have come to love from Family Guy! The best cut scene would have to be “Horton hears domestic abuse but does nothing” scene. Despite the few cut scenes the episode is strong in its singular plot and provides multiple classic Stewie and Brian interactions, one of which involves Stewie dressed up in an owl costume sitting outside Carolyn’s home.

I don’t often find myself disappointed with Family Guy episodes, and “Love Blacktually” was no different.

To quote Cleveland- “And BOOM goes the dynamite”!

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Simpsons: Sex, Pies, and Idiot Scapes

After starting as a series of short wraparounds for The Tracy Ullman Show, The Simpsons begins its 20th season, tying the series-longevity record set by Gunsmoke. After a Boba Fett/Carbonite-inspired couch gag, the season premiere featured loads of action, a few cameos and even some light baking.

I returned to Springfield to find the Simpson family attending the first booze-free St. Patrick's Day parade the town has ever held. Despite not having alcohol, Mayor Quimby is determined to make the parade a success with floats and folk dancing where you don't move you arms. The Protestants and Catholics won't let these pleasantries ruin their riot, however. Even Homer and Maggie get in on the act — the riot act, that is.

Around the corner, Marge bumps into bakery owner Patrick Farrelly. After tasting Marge's cupcakes, he asks her to come work for him. She accepts the position and then sees her husband being placed in the back of a police car.

Homer's bail is set at $25,000. He's referred to bail bondsman Lucky Jim, voiced by Jackie Brown's Robert Forster. It's at Lucky Jim's that Homer meets Wolf the Bounty Hunter. Apparently this meeting is all one needs to become a bounty hunter oneself. Using the promise of "bail jumpers welcome," Homer runs a condo scheme to catch his prey. Local jailbird Snake (was that Julia Louis-Dreyfus in a brief cameo as Snake's baby mama?) is taken in by Homer's ruse. However, Snake pulls a gun and shoots. It is rival Ned Flanders who saves his neighbor's life by sliding a sheet of bulletproof glass in front of Homer's head. After this close encounter, Homer pays Ned half the bounty and invites him to become his partner in hunting crime.

When sisters Patty and Selma come into Marge's new place of work searching for suggestive cannolis, she begins to put the pieces together. She's working in an erotic cake shop! After initially being disgusted, Marge realizes there's no harm in what she’s doing.

Throughout Springfield, the Simpson/Flanders team is taking out the trash one criminal at a time. They've also mastered the art of the stakeout. Unfortunately, the fruitful partnership goes belly-up when Ned feels as though Homer isn't obeying the law in his hunt for Springfield's scum.

Homer's been so busy catching criminals he forgot about his own debt to society. After missing his court date, Ned is given the mission of bringing in his old partner. Homer returns home to find Flanders waiting in his darkened living room. Once Homer knows the score, he wastes no time fleeing. In an action sequence that evokes the free running opening of 2006's Casino Royale, an extremely lively Homer and Ned chase each other through the streets and construction sites of Springfield.

Suddenly Homer is given the upper hand as Ned hangs from a construction beam. Remembering the good times the two had as partners, Homer saves his neighbor from plummeting. But this is Homer I'm talking about here. After letting go of the beam, the two plummet into a section of wet cement. Ned regales Homer with passages from The Bible before Springfield's Finest show up to take him away.

With quite a hefty societal debt to repay, Homer sits in his cell reading a letter from Marge. Apparently she's used all her "new baking skills" to make him something to remind him of her. Inside the accompanying box, Homer finds a white sheet cake with lettering reading "To the love of my life!"

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Book Review: The Pilot's Wife by Anita Shreve

How well can you really know a person?

This theme is addressed time and time again in this book and as I read further on into the book this question kept flashing, like a neon sign, in my head. In the book The Pilot's Wife, a woman by the name of Kathryn Lyons finds out that her husband, a pilot, had just died in a plane crash. As she tries to uncover exactly what happened to her husband and to the plane, she begins to discover things about her husband that she wasn't prepared for or that she did not see coming.

As cliché as it seems the story was very interesting to the point where I did not want to put the book down. I tried to read as fast as I could because I was anxious to see what was going to happen next. But unfortunately what I was disappointed to find in the first part of the story were chapters of some flashbacks to the past that were unnecessary.

Some of the flashbacks, I think, worked well to show how great life WAS for Kathryn and her family before the accident, but others just seemed out of place and somewhat ruined some of the moments of suspense. Anita Shreve painted great pictures of the characters and the different settings in the story as she described each of these things very well.

As a result of the many rumors that were floating around about her husband, Kathryn decides to get to the bottom of everything and tries to find out who her husband really was. What she finds at the end of story was a bit predictable, but the twist in the plot made me question the relationships in my life and how well I knew each of the people I consider myself very close to.

This story makes a person think, and for that reason I recommend the book.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Supernatural: Are You There God? It's Me Dean Winchester

Holy smokes. The cats over at Supernatural are not fooling around with season four. After what I learned, pursuing Azazel and trying to save Dean from Hell seem like small potatoes. The big guns are coming out now, and I’m totally sold on the story already. But I’ve gone and put the cart ahead of the horse there. Before Castiel stopped in to drop the big bomb, there were some old friends to get reacquainted with.

I’ll admit, I was a little disappointed with the episode as it began, for the simple fact that it didn’t pick up where it left off with Castiel in the premiere. It didn’t take long for them to win me over though, and it did end up being a really strong episode.

The rising of the witnesses was such a great story idea. Aside from how it all ultimately tied into the main story for the season, it was great to see past characters return. My favorite of those was Meg. I liked how they called back to the story the real Meg told the boys in season one. Of course, Agent Henricksen and Ronald Reznick were good as well.

Their presence, and the rising, again touched on the blurry line of what it is to be a hunter. It’s something I’ve seen the Winchesters struggle with before. Henricksen had the most disturbing story to tell, with Lilith’s extended torture. But Meg’s was the one that really hit home. The guilt from not being able to save her from Azazel’s daughter is bad, but her little exchange with Sam was the big one. As she put it, “What you’re doing with that demon Ruby… how many bodies has she burned through for kicks? And you don’t send her back to Hell? You’re a monster.” That’s a tough pill, and hints at a conflict I wouldn’t be surprised to see coming up for Sam and Dean.

Now, to the bigger picture. They are really going all out here, rewriting Revelations with the new extended collection of 66 seals. It’s an ambitious move, but one I’m happy to sign up for. The stakes just don’t get much bigger than an apocalypse. Rather, the apocalypse.

The stage was set perfectly for the return of Castiel. From Sam and Dean’s discussions about God, to Bobby’s choice to not touch the subject with a ten foot pole. The best bit of it was where Castiel finally asserted a little authority. Dean was clearly out of line. Rather than smack Dean around, he simply laid it out nice and calm. “There’s a bigger picture here. You should show me some respect. I dragged you out of Hell. I can throw you back.” Dean should now be on board for the fight.

And what a fight it promises to be. I'me not talking about Lilith here, or any of the other myriad of demons I’ve seen. This is Lucifer. The warriors of God are already taking casualties. At this point, season four is shaping up to be incredible.