Saturday, March 27, 2010

The show can't go on

24 has been pronounced dead. But like any time Jack Bauer croaked, you know it won't be long until he resurrects himself to kill some terrorists.

Yes, my favorite show is ending this season. A show I have been watching since it started in 2001. A show I feared would be canceled just 13 episodes into its first season, but a show that lived on to become one of the biggest hits of the decade and the longest running action show in history.

I never expected more than five years. To get eight is a blessing. While some of you may gloat or cackle at this great loss to America and while some of you may want me to cry like LaDainian Tomlinson, I won't appease you.

The time has come.

The show was getting to the point where plots and characters were being recycled over and over. A mole in CTU. A ticking time-bomb. Jack going on a suicide mission and lives. Jack being right but always ignored by some bureaucratic dumb ass. Despite some mild surprises this season, it's the lost the ability to pull off a good twist because any true fan has seen them all before.

The fact that a movie is being planned certainly dents the impact of this news. This probably won't be the last we ever see of Jack Bauer. But at least he gets to go out on his own terms in his television universe. No show can last forever.

Speaking of which ... another program that I've loved this decade is growing old in the tooth as well. It might be time to administer similar Old Yeller treatment to The Office.

The characters are starting to annoy me. They haven't changed in six years. They're like interesting relatives who stay just a little too long and can't take a hint. The last episode was emblematic of its problems. It was one of the funnier ones in a while, but how many times can we see Michael Scott act like a moron in public before we just roll our eyes? It's not funny or interesting anymore. It's actually quite infuriating. The Jim-Pam thing has run its course. Dwight is just obnoxious. Even Phyllis is highly unlikeable now.

Frankly, most of the time the half hour passes and I realize I just didn't laugh. It gives me no pleasure to write this, but the time has come for The Office to go the way of 24. It's time to channel Barry Sanders, not Brett Favre.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Hell week

You need a status update. That's why I'm here.

How have I been lately? Not great actually. For those not in the sports journalism industry, the first two days of the NCAA tournament are beyond insane. Black Friday times two. We all dread this time of year. You have fun with your brackets and non-stop games. It's a hell of a lot of work for us. Game after game piled on each other with columns coming out of every corner of the nation. By Friday night I was exhausted. By Saturday night, I was catatonic. For proof, I went to bed at 1 in the morning, which is like a person who usually goes to bed at 11 going to bed at 7. And then I slept the next 10 or so hours and never felt like getting out of bed.

Now, the day before that, I actually celebrated St. Patrick's Day. You know I'm not a big drinker so the day has never meant much to me, but some friends love it so I hung out with them. St. Paddy's Day in Florida is quite different than it is in say, West Warwick. Some of the outfits I saw the women of Fort Lauderdale wearing that night were crazy. I can't begin to describe it without getting an NC-17 rating.

To cap the night off, we saw Badfish, the Sublime cover band. Never been huge on Sublime, but the show was good. The crowd was really into it and there might have been some of the marijuana floating around that building. I came away from that night thinking that Fort Lauderdale sure love its Irish holiday, more so than I thought it would. And that Sumblime fans love the grass. Who knew?

Anyway, after two long days of non-stop basketball, a cold/sore throat made its way around the office. I caught it about Saturday night and it got really bad on Monday and Tuesday. As I write this, I'm just getting over it. Another two off days down the drain, but I did get a lot of good TV watching in my jam-packed schedule.

(I never caught on to the Ricky Gervais podcasts for whatever reason. Now I realize how stupid I was. The show on HBO that replays them with animation has me in tears, literally. Some may think the animation is stupid, but it cracks me up as well.)

So the past seven days have been tiring, but the passage of the Socialist grandparent killing health care bill definitely lifted my spirits. The Dems actually got something done! I'm amazed. This is the first major piece of social legislation since the 1960s. And now the Republicans, knowing they're on the wrong side of history yet again, are losing their damn minds. While it's scary for the country, I am taking a bit of satisfaction in all this. Maybe November won't be such a disaster after all ... The Republicans need another electoral ass kicking so they can realize how low they have sunk.

In closing, a week where the Democrats lift my spirits (along with a very good episode of Lost that actually told us something) is definitely a weird week, isn't it?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Dear NFL Network

Dear NFL Network,

Hi. You don't know me, but I know you. You're on all the TVs in the office that are not turned to ESPN or porn. I've seen enough of you to know a few things. You created the cyborg named Adam Schefter. You devoted endless hours to muscly men in tights running and jumping around in front of other men, yet it was considered manly. (But if I listen to Coldplay, I'm very gay.)

Oh, and I know one more thing. As my pal Dave has said a few times, apparently you have lost all the tapes from every NFL game ever played except two: The 2006-07 AFC Championship Game and Super Bowl XLII.

What do these two games have in common? They were gut-wrenching, kick-in-the-nuts followed by sleepless nights losses by the New England Patriots.

I ask you, NFL Network, why you continue to run these two games on an endless loop, day after day after day after day. It's so bad that I refuse to even check out your network anymore. Why would I? I have no desire to relive these losses. Granted, they were notable games, but they're on your channel more than World War II documentaries are on the History Channel.

Maybe we can find the dog whisperer or Matlock to find the other games for you. I've done some number crunching. I've rummaged through scores of musty old books. I've talked to many grizzled old men with mustaches and missing fingers and all signs point to there being other games in the history of the NFL.

It's true. Look it up. Joe Montana was in a few good games. So were the 1970s Pittsburgh Steelers. And this may come as a shock, but those New England Patriots who you continue to flog, they've won a few games in their time.

And the one time I found you not playing those two games, you were playing another Patriots loss, this one from 1994 to Dan Marino's Dolphins. I know the Pats are your version of the Nazis. They're the bad guys. Show them getting beat so you can convince the viewers that evil suffers in this mixed-up world. They cheat and they're cheap. Unlike the Raiders or Redskins, they refuse to throw around cash like Pacman Jones at a strip club, which is the reason the Pats are the laughingstock of the league and the Raiders and Redskins are champions.

And Bill Belichick strangles puppies just to watch them die.

I get it. But every .... damn .... time I see your programming, there's a Manning doing something horrible to the Patriots. It makes the basement scene from Pulp Fiction look like a sponge bath. Do you do this to punish me? Will you be televising my horrid interview with Einstein Industries with accompanying cartoon footage like the Ricky Gervais Show on HBO? Will you dig up the candid footage of that cosmically boring economics class from my freshman year of college? My feeble attempts to ice skate? My 5,000 losses in ping-pong the past few weeks?

Leave me alone!

I realize there is a 95 percent chance some douchebag Jets fan in his Bubby Brister jersey is responsible for this. But you can no longer blame a Jets fan for such idiocy than you can blame a baby for peeing itself. It's what they do. And if it's a Colts fan, then just change the rules and ban these two games from ever appearing on your network again. Colts fans should be very familiar with changing the rules (and game-killing interceptions from their QB).

Do this for your own good, NFL Network. The MLB Network is kicking the living crap out of you right now. It's an epic blowout. It doesn't have to be this way.



Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Life and Times of Steve

For years I have searched for the TV/movie version of me. God knows I've watched enough shows and movies, yet all the characters are either too suave, too tough, too good at softball or too stupid to be the Hollywood Steve.

Jeff has Jim Halpert. Zach has that guy from I Love You, Man. Dave Doyle has this guy. What about me? WHAT ABOUT ME?

(What about you?" asks Jacob from Lost.)

I can gladly inform you my search is over.

HBO's The Life and Times of Tim chronicles the stilted cartoon existence of Tim, a faceless cog at Omnicorp. He's unassuming, dry, timid, doesn't have the best luck in the world and is surrounded by idiots. He's me!

Now why would I want to be such a loser of a character? I really don't, but a beggar can't be a chooser. And at least the show is genuinely funny, which means HBO will cancel it pretty soon so they can produce the 14th season of Entourage and Big Love.

To be clear, I didn't come up with this myself. I've been watching the show from the beginning and never made the connection. Perhaps I was too close. Recently, several co-workers of mine have said I remind them of Tim. They point out the way I dryly recite humorous observations like the aforementioned cartoon character.

For example, one night one of my buddies said we should "Rock out with our cocks out." I responded, in my usual sardonic tone, that we should instead "Rock out with our cocks in" and was immediately inundated with "That's something Tim would say and exactly the way he would say it" comments.

I would recommend this show more, but you definitely need a particular sense of humor to enjoy it. Give it a try, if you have HBO. If you don't like it, at least you could see if my compatriots are correct. While Tim isn't a perfect match, he's the closest there is on TV or movies these days.

I'll take him.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A night of TV/movie watching

A few tidbits about the world of entertainment ...

I just saw Precious. Mo'Nique definitely deserved all the hardware she received for her role as the abusive, bitter mother. Pretty dark subject matter, what with the rape, incest and frying pan attacks. The directing annoyed me, though. Too many fantasy and dream sequences that took me right out of the subject matter and into an art house college film. A few spots here and there to show how Precious escapes her wretched world is fine, but time after time those sequences took me right out of the movie.

A good director is like a good referee: Best when you don't notice him or her.

Also, Sandra Bullock was better in her movie than Gabourey Sidibe was in this one. Not to take anything away from her wonderful story or her performance. She was very good, though half the time I could not make out what she was saying. There's one scene that really required her to express intense emotion. Most of the other times, she just has this scowl on her face and says nothing. Again, it fits the character, but it wasn't enough to beat Bullock in the Blind Side for the Oscar.

I give the film my patented rating: *** 1/2


We're entering the home stretch in the final season of Lost. I haven't said anything about it because long ago I decided to just ride the wave. Trying to figure this show out is futile at this point. As long as it entertains, then I'm fine.

As always, Ben-centric episodes always deliver the goods. For a character who has cheated, lie, manipulated and murdered since the moment he arrived as Henry Gale in Season 2, he still comes off as likable. Shows what great acting can do. Doesn't hurt that Ben actually made the right choice in each storyline today.

Speaking of which, it's tough to stomach half an episode in the final season of Lost to Sideways Ben trying to become a principal. It's like the final season of the Sopranos wasting such valuable time on endless dream sequences. But ... the sideways arc did provide a nice touch of redemption for him. I just wish the writers would let us know what this whole world means, because I'm paying attention to it on blind faith right now.

The one thing they better not do with this sideways world is make it so all six years we watched never really happened. Then I'll be very pissed. We all will have to wait. Us Lost fans are used to that by now.

(Tangent here. I don't get this argument that Fake Locke/Smoke Monster/Man in Black is good and Jacob is bad. Or that it's up in the air as to who is good and who is bad. The Smoke Monster has been killing people from day one. Remember the pilot from the first season? Ecko? Countless other redshirts? This guy is literally offering Faustian bargains to everyone. He's not good. And as far as we know, Jacob has never killed anyone. He's no saint. He actually comes off as a prick. But he's the good guy.

Until I'm proven wrong in the next episode, of course)

I was going to add something about 24 here -- just to pile on another topping of nerd to this entry -- but it deserves its own post. And it's late. So you'll have to wait.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

It's spring again

I've been in Grapefruit League country for over three years, yet not once have I traveled to Fort Myers to see the Red Sox in spring training. Once the Red Sox signed Marco Scutaro and Boof Bonser, the trip just planned itself. Destiny. Fate. Boof.

Unfortunately, there was no Boof Bonser action Thursday night. Instead, I was treated to a parade of stiffs like Josh Beckett, Jonathan Papelbon, Daniel Bard and Hideki Okajima.

But before I get to the game, let me give you an overview of the lovely town of Fort Myers: The City of Palms. I drove 2 1/2 hours through Alligator Alley to arrive at Worcester: South West. Like the Athens of Massachusetts, downtown Fort Myers is clean, but lifeless. At least the parts I saw. Like certain mole people towns, like Mariposa, California, Fort Myers has all its important institutions within on square mile of each other. The newspaper is right next to the fire department which is right next to police headquarters which is right across the way from the "center of justice."

All that was missing was the town saloon.

Also, it was damn cold. In the 50s and 40s. Weather unfit for human experience, I must say.

I arrived at the ballpark a good hour and a half before the first pitch so I could eat a horrifically overpriced "dinner" that would devour my small intestine like Rasheed Wallace devours cheddar burgers before games. The park is your typical spring training facility: nice and cozy with reasonable parking and small-town charm. I would provide pictures, but I forgot my camera. Just imagine a field shaped like a diamond with green grass, walls in the outfield and lots of spit.

Boston's opponent, the Minnesota Twins, struck first in the first inning. 1-0. Game over Another 14-2 Sears rout, right?

Not with these Red Sox.

Dustin Pedroia knocked in someone named Darnell McDonald in the sixth, tying it 1-1. During all this action, I struck up a conversation with a stranger sitting next to me. You might be thinking this is dangerous, but there were other adults around. The man is a local dentist who is a fan of (But then again, who isn't?) The guy has been to about every major sporting event in American history. Nineteen straight Final Fours. Almost 20 Masters. The last Super Bowl. Every Florida Gators football game, including both championships. He must be a very successful dentist.

His buddy, who had a nice Southern twang, is an ACC football official who knows Daniel Bard's fiancee. They both know an NFL official who worked the Pats-Giants Super Bowl. He was the sidejudge that game. I was not very interested in discussing that, but overall, they were very interesting. More interesting than I.

In the 8th inning, Sox catching prospect Mark Wagner put Boston ahead with a single. He doesn't know the rule that the Sox must lose any game I attend. Before the 9th started, I left to go to the bathroom, came back and my new friends were gone. Just like that. So much for the dentist and the ACC official, who is a veterinarian. Just thought I'd throw that in.

Oh well. Joe Nelson closed it out and everyone went home happy, save for a few Twins fans. A preview of the season, eh? 2-1. We might be seeing that score a lot this season. Overall, I'd say my first Red Sox spring training game was a success. They didn't lost 20-2 and Eric Gagne was thousands of miles away.

Note: He blew the lead in the last Red Sox game I attended.

Before I go to bed at the early (for me) hour of 2 a.m. ... there was a Northeastern billboard in right field. Too bad 75 percent of the fans at the game were older than 50. Money well spent.