Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Triumphant Return of "Parks and Recreation"

“Parks and Recreation” returns tonight after a seemingly epic hiatus (has it really been since last May that the folks at Pawnee’s Parks and Recreation Department have made me almost pee myself?) Last year, it was pretty difficult to get people on board with “Parks and Rec” – it had an awful first season where it lacked fully realized characters and saddled the wonderful Amy Poehler with a very unlikable lead to portray. However, much like it’s predecessor “The Office,” ”Parks and Rec” rallied and pulled together one of the best comedies of the 2009-2010 television season. Hell, they even managed to add my boyfriend Adam Scott and Rob fucking Lowe to the cast!

Anyway, many people have wondered why the long hiatus. Some people assumed it was due to Amy Poehler’s pregnancy. Wrong! They started filming the third season immediately after they wrapped season 2. Others have blamed NBC’s lack of faith in the show and feared its cancellation – thankfully, they were wrong, too.

But, my favourite crazy theory has to be that NBC execs originally wanted to air “Parks and Rec” after “The Office,” capitalizing on their strong numbers. However, they didn’t want to anger the folks over at “30 Rock” and “Community,” whom would also appreciate the implied ratings boost.  So, NBC slotted in the awful and kind of racist “Outsourced” in the 9.30pm slot, secretly hoping that it would fail. Then the execs would slot in “Parks and Rec” as a mid-season replacement for their failed comedy and nobody could complain.  If you managed to follow all of that, then you realize just how crazy that theory is. First of all, no network would put out a TV show with the intentions of having it fail (although, if you’ve seen “Outsourced” you may disagree). Second of all, this is the same network that gave us The Late Night Wars Part Two – do you really think they could pull off such an intricate and convoluted scheme?

None of that matters now because “Parks and Recreation” is finally back and I couldn’t be happier.  The cast has been capitalizing on the Internet by releasing some pretty hilarious teasers.  The show airs tonight on NBC at 9.30pm, after “The Office.”

Monday, January 17, 2011

About Last Night...

Oh awards season, how I’ve missed you. Before I sum up my random thoughts on the Globes, I’d like to congratulate the HFPA on awarding Best Motion Picture to “The Social Network.” There has been some backlash about this movie, but I think it’s from people who are too old to understand the facebook phenomenon. For me, everything about this movie was just so perfect – I don’t even care about the film’s supposed “women problem” as Aaron Sorkin is one of the few straight, male writers who really knows how to create dynamic female characters (see: CJ Cregg from “The West Wing” and Dana Gordon from “Sports Night.”)

I’d also like to shake my head and extend a big ol’ W T Frak to the HFPA for awarding “Glee” with Best Television Comedy honours. I mentioned on Friday how awful the nominees were to begin with, but awarding “Glee” seems silly to me. The show has a few funny moments, but it’s a mixed bag at best.

And now some random thoughts from last night’s Golden Globes telecast:

Ricky Gervais roasts Hollywood: while I thought that some of his jokes were a bit obvious, I still adore the man for calling out Tinseltown on its bullshit.

Christian Bale’s acceptance speech: was so long and rambling which, coupled with the fact that he currently resembles Jesus, made him sound like the crazy homeless man who wanders the underground mall. They both end their ramblings with, “Oh shit, it’s Robert DeNiro.”

Andrew Garfield continues to steal my heart: his adorable stuttering over the word “inspiringly” and his self-deprecating sense of self not only won me over, but the Globes director as well – the camera was glued to the future Peter Parker the majority of the show.

Annette Benning was doing her best Helena Bonham Carter impersonation:

But she still has nothing on the actual girl herself:

Halle Berry forgot to put on a dress over her negligee:

Paul Giamatti gets the award for best acceptance speech: not only does he go on and on about Godiva chocolates, he also gives a shout out to Canada (Montreal in particular) and openly ogles Halle Berry (please see above).

Natalie Portman gets the award for most awkward acceptance speech: first she rambles about how her fiancé, Benjamin Millepied has helped her continue on her journey of “creating;” then she announces that “he really wants to sleep with [her,]” followed by a maniacal giggle. We get it; you guys are fucking.

Between her speech and the awkward dress (which looked like she bedazzled some flowers and slapped them on her gown), one could come to the conclusion that she was extremely drunk off the Moet…except for the fact that she’s pregnant.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Grab a Bottle of Moet!

Grab a bottle of Moet because it’s time for the Golden Globes! Sunday night marks the 68th annual awards ceremony put on by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. My relationship with the Globes has always been mixed – yes, they are the most entertaining awards show to watch because everyone is always hammered; however, the list of nominees and subsequent winners is usually questionable.

By now, everyone has heard the controversy: “The Tourist’s” three nominations for Best Comedy Actor, Best Comedy Actress and Best Comedy; Piper Perabo’s nomination for her work in “Covert Affairs;” and recognition for “Burlesque” – 2010’s version of “Glitter.” But really, who cares? The Globes are just a good excuse for Hollywood’s elite to get together and blow themselves, because isn’t that what awards shows are all about? I mean has anyone been more inclined to see a movie or watch a television show because it won/was nominated for a Golden Globe? Didn’t think so.

Of course, I’ll be watching on Sunday night, feeding my oft-chronicled addiction. I’ll probably chuckle when they announce the nominees for Best Television Comedy, with their glaring omission of the wonderful “Parks and Recreation,” “Party Down” and “Community.” Then, I’ll become noticeably upset when “Breaking Bad” doesn’t win for Best Dramatic Television Series because it wasn’t nominated, even though it was on the top of EVERY television critic’s 2010 ‘best of’ lists. And finally, I’ll become totally belligerent when “The Social Network” doesn’t win Best Motion Picture (“The King’s Speech” is pretty much a lock as it has everything the HFPA loves – it’s a biopic, prestige piece). While I’ve heard great things about “The King’s Speech,” there’s no way it’s better than “The Social Network,” a veritable perfect storm of writing, directing and acting.
Best. Scene. Ever.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Vampires, Werewolves AND Ghosts?!?!? Oh, My!

I read the pilot script for the original BBC version of “Being Human” before I watched the series. It was pretty fucking terrible. The premise involves a werewolf, a vampire and a ghost all living together. Seriously, that’s what it’s actually about. It’s like someone decided to capitalize on every aspect of paranormal zeitgeist over the past couple of years in one go (all it’s missing is a zombie outbreak). Despite myself, I decided to watch the show and was pleasantly surprised. Based on the log-line alone, this show SHOULD NOT work and it almost doesn’t. But casting is such a beautiful thing and it makes this show very watch-able. In fact, “Being Human” is currently entering its 3rd season in the UK and has been Americanized for Sy-Fy (it premieres January 17th – same day as “Skins” for those keeping track).

The UK version stars the wonderful Lenora Crichlow as Annie the ghost. On paper, this character is Miley Cyrus level annoying, but Lenora is so downright charming that you can’t help but love her. It’s also really interesting to see the actress tackle the character’s story-arc, especially when Annie finally learns the truth surrounding her death. The American version will feature Meaghan Rath who has been a staple on Canadian television for years. While I enjoy Rath, I don’t know if she has the ability to pull off the sweetness of Annie/Sally (I never understand why Americanized versions of shows feel the need to change character names).

The other two leads are the brooding vampire and the angst-ridden werewolf. What I particularly enjoyed about the vampire character, Mitchell (Aidan in the US) was that he wasn’t particularly vampirish. Sure he had over a hundred years worth of problems, but his vampire characteristics were always understated, which is a nice change from the current batch of pasty-faced whiners (“Twilight,” I’m looking at you). However, the promos for the US “Being Human” seem to be ignoring this and are making their lead look like this:
Note to the entertainment industry: pointy fangs and white makeup are NOT attractive.

Finally, there is the goofy werewolf, George (Josh for the yanks). This character probably struggles the most with what he is, even though he only changes on the full moon. Now, I realize that I have described this character as both goofy and angsty, but that’s really the only way to describe him – he’s basically a geek who has been turned into a werewolf. Much like the character of Annie, played the wrong way, George’s storylines border on obnoxious and mopey; however, Russel Tovey manages to ground the character.

What I particularly enjoy about “Being Human,” is that it’s a character-based drama that doesn’t exploit its gimmick. The three leads are just people trying to cope. The characters are three-dimensional and very well acted. I guess we’ll see how the American version stands up.

Fun fact: the creator originally conceived of the show as a drama focusing on three roommates: one with anger management issues, a sex-addict and an agoraphobic…so maybe there was some capitalizing on paranormal zeitgeist after all.

Monday, January 10, 2011

It Was A Mad, Mad, Mad Mad World

I thoroughly enjoy’s top ten lists. However, this past year, they published a list that made me pretty upset. It was a list entitled ‘The Top 10 Things We Miss About the “Mad Men” Era.’ Before I dissect the list, I’d like to share a little anecdote. My boyfriend’s friend works in marketing and mentioned how everyone in his office loves the show, “Mad Men” because it really captures the glory days of advertising. My boyfriend told his friend that if that’s what his friends were getting out of the show, then he was watching a completely different program. When I heard this story, I told my boyfriend that those people were completely missing the point of this show and shouldn’t be allowed to watch it (I can be a bit extreme, sometimes).

Anyway, part of what I love about “Mad Men” is that it captures the 1960s really well (Creator Matt Weiner is known to be almost compulsive when it comes to portraying the details of the era). The decade was rife with tension and the show really knows how to exploit that in order to squeeze the most possible drama from the situations it places its characters in. The sixties was a decade in constant flux and it definitely changed things for the better. The fact that anyone would write a list glorifying some of the more questionable aspects of that decade is beyond me:

10. Enjoyable Air Travel: The list makes it a point to mention that stewardesses in the 60s were very attractive because hiring practices were “different” back then. Right, let’s bring back a time when people failed to be hired simply because they couldn’t make your pants happy. I’m sure every current flight attendant longs for the days when they were ogled by air travelers. Let’s all remember that many of them looked like this:

and not this:

6. Real Cocktails: While I enjoy my drink as much as the next guy, I don’t think that this is something we need to lament. If someone really wants a stiff drink, they can order one. So what if drinks have become fruitier? That doesn’t make them any less delicious! And their low alcohol content simply allows you to consume more without becoming totally shitfaced. Let’s remember that the majority of people in the 60s were probably undiagnosed alcoholics.

5. Drinks at Work: Again, why is this list encouraging alcoholism? You need only to watch the season one episode, “Red in the Face,” to see why drinking at work is a bad idea and hardly a necessity.

2. Casserole: I don’t like casserole, nor would I want to eat one every night.

1. Struggles and Causes: This one really gets me. Why on earth would anyone miss “struggles and causes,” particularly, the ones that afflicted America during the 1960s? And it’s not like people in this day and age lack causes to fight for!

Now, I understand that most of this list is a bit tongue-in-cheek and that the writers point out a lot of the problems with these items. But it still incensed me to no end to read about people longing for a time that wasn’t all that glamorous as is evidenced by the show, “Mad Men.”

Friday, January 7, 2011

TV Fail

I’m a huge sucker for lists - as I’ve mentioned, I have an obsession with quantifying things. So when the end of the year rolls around, I practically go into sensory overload. One of the more interesting lists that I have come across is Movieline’s Top 10 Biggest Television Fails of 2010. This past year was a mixed bag. While it brought us some of the most wonderful television I’ve ever seen, (a series high for “Breaking Bad,” a vastly improved “Parks and Recreation,” etc.) there have been some notable gaffes (mainly the entire slate of new shows which premiered in September). Keeping that in mind, I’ve analyzed some of Movieline’s choices for 2010’s biggest fails:

10. “Bridalplasty”: The most horrifying TV experiment of all (Agree)
I don’t really know anyone who actually watches this show, but you have to look at it this way: A group of executives (this was not the work of one poor, misguided soul) decided that it would be a good idea to gather a bunch of women and have them compete for free plastic surgery just in time for their weddings. Someone not only came up with this horrid idea, but countless executives signed-off on it! But really, we shouldn’t be surprised; this is the network (E!) that will greenlight anything with the word “Kardashian” in the title.

7. Bristol Palin making it to the “Dancing with the Stars” Finals (Disagree)
Look, I hate the Palin family as much as the next person, but like it or not, people voted for the girl. Did it really warrant 7am diatribes from my mother about how the “teen activist” was “making a joke out of the competition”? No. It’s reality TV show in which people cavort around a ballroom in order to win a tacky trophy – it’s already a huge joke…and it’s on us.

5. Katy Perry’s Busty Disappearing Act on “Sesame Street” (Agree)
In case you didn’t hear, Katy Perry sang a duet with Elmo on “Sesame Street” which was yanked from the episode as Perry’s outfit was deemed too risqué for children’s television. Take a look:

Many objections were made due to Perry’s revealing neckline. Seriously? They’re breasts! The majority of children watching this program are still being fed by them.
2. The Cancellation of “Party Down” (Agreed)
Starz’s little seen “Party Down” was one of the funniest sitcoms on television. I could write an entire dissertation on why this show was so funny, but I’ll save that for another time. The good news is that you can catch star Adam Scott on the new season of “Parks and Recreation.” The one thing I will disagree with Movieline about is that the final episode was unsatisfying; it was actually the perfect ending to the series.
1. Lee DeWyze Winning “American Idol” (Disagree)
Personally, I didn’t think this was that big a deal. Like “Dancing with the Stars,” people voted for him. However, had Movieline put the entire ninth season of “American Idol” at the top of the list instead, I might be more inclined to agree. The talent pool selected was mediocre at best; Simon Cowell checked out of his final season before the auditions even began and the addition of Ellen DeGeneres made little to no sense on a variety of levels. It was an epic fail. That being said, I will check out season 10, which includes new judges Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Who Exactly Are These People?

I’ve mentioned before that I am an awards show slut. I love awards season as it allows us to (arbitrarily) quantify the past year in all things entertainment; however, the one awards show I can’t get behind is The People’s Choice Awards. I’ve never really thought about why I despise this ceremony so much until this morning when I actually read the list of winners and figured it out – the people are stupid.

If you disagree with me, please check out the following list:
1. The “Twilight” saga won awards for Favourite Movie, Favourite Drama Movie, Favourite Actress and Favourite Screen Team. - Ok, I’m willing to let the first one go because it says “favourite” and not "best." There’s no accounting for taste, right? However, Favourite Drama Movie? No. Favourite Melodrama, maybe. Favourite Fantasy Movie, maybe. Favourite Less Entertaining Than a Harlequin Romance Novel, But Still a Shitty Knock-off of one Anyway Movie, maybe. But NOT drama.

As for Kristin Stewart winning Favourite Movie Actress, I don’t really have a problem with that except for the fact that the male version of the category is split into Favourite Male and Favourite Male Under 25. Why the distinction for one and not the other? Is it because we over-sexualize women in our society and insist on pairing young females with much older men, rendering any distinction useless?
*See the romantic pairings of: Anne Hathaway and Steve Carell in “Get Smart;” Zooey Deschanel and Will Farrell in “Elf;” and any movie Scarlett Johannson has ever made.
2. Adam Sandler wins Favourite Comedic Star and Favourite Comedy Movie for “Grown Ups.” Seriously? Adam Sandler hasn’t been funny since the late 1990s (and even that is questionable). Meanwhile, “Grown Ups” has a 5.8 rating on IMDB and a dismal 10% on Rotten Tomatoes. Again, who is voting for these awards?

3. Favourite New Television Comedy goes to “Shit My Dad Says.” I’ll admit that I haven’t watched this show since the pilot, but a friend of mine recently quoted a reporter as saying something to the effect of, “if someone took my children hostage and told me that they would kill them unless I watched the first season of "Shit My Dad Says;" I’d seriously consider letting my children die.” Yup, that about sums that up.

4. Favourite viral video star winner: “Single Ladies” Devestation, The Whittaker Family. I literally had to look this one up only to find out it wasn't Forest Whittaker’s family singing Beyonce’s infectuous hit. I was wrong, but not that disappointed. Take a look:

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Fictional Teen

An Exercise in Writing: I’ve never fancied myself a writer, but I’ve always loved the idea of it. So 2011 is going to be devoted to my writing experiment. I will write at least a paragraph everyday on my favourite topic – television…after all, this blog is called the small screen and the small person. So without further ado:

The Fictional Teen:

For the most part, teen dramas are cursed with horrible clichés, vapid stereotypes and a complete lack of depth when it comes to characters. Currently, the CW and ABC Family are the only channels specializing in this type of programming; however, the types of shows being offered up are mostly derivative and hackneyed. While the CW presents the most blatant form of escapism (watching New York City socialites behaving badly and teens sleeping with two hundred year old vampires), ABC Family’s teens are completely delusional (you need only to watch fifteen minutes of “The Secret Life of an American Teenager” to figure this out). So when I finally settled down to watch the first couple of episodes of the UK teen drama hit, “Skins,” I was blown away.

“Skins” has been on the air in the UK since 2007 and follows the lives of a group of teens attending a British (what North Americans refer to as) public school. That’s it; there’s no gimmick or hook. What is so compelling about this series is that the characters are extremely fleshed out and complex. They feel like real people, not how adults imagine teenagers to be.

If that doesn’t convince you to check out this show, here’s an added incentive: look for a grown up Nicholas Hoult, whom you may remember as the boy in “About a Boy.”

Hoult plays the handsome sociopath Tony…as you can see…he has grown up… Also, look for a pre-“Slumdog Millionaire,” Dev Patel, playing a confused Muslim trying to reconcile his religious beliefs with being a teen in London.

As you may have heard, MTV is doing an American version of the show that is set to air on January 17th. I’ll be interested to see how the yanks handle the tone and subject matter of the show as the original version is very gritty, containing frequent full-frontal nudity, swearing and casual drug use. I have been describing “Skins” as a very clever and smart program to my friends, two words that I wouldn’t use in the same sentence as most of the usual MTV fare (see: “Jersey Shore,” “The Hard Times of RJ Berger”). However, I’m pretty optimistic, as it seems “Skins” co-creator Bryan Elsley, (whom created the show with his son) has had a strong hand in the development of the US series. Also, it was shot in Toronto, which is enough to warrant a viewing from myself.