Cable

Showtime getting ready for 'The Borgias'

By T.L. Stanley on Wed Dec 8 2010

For anyone who's been jonesing for a bloody bodice ripper since The Tudors finished its four-season run earlier this year, Showtime has a fix for you. At this point, it's only three minutes long, but it'll have to do. The premium cable network has started to tease its upcoming series The Borgias, starring Jeremy Irons as the patriarch of the Renaissance-era power broker family known for its murders (preferred method: poisoning) and incest (brother/sister and maybe some other tragic combinations).
  Filmmaker Neil Jordan is the creator, and Michael Hirst, who wrote the entire Tudors series, is a writer/producer. Since the series was announced, Showtime has promised a dark and twisted tale with historical roots and contemporary parallels. Judging from the extended trailer, there's likely some truth in that claim. Plus, miles and miles of red velvet!
  The tagline, "The original crime family," is a clear play on The Sopranos, but the look and feel of The Borgias has the Showtime period-drama stamp all over it, in a brutally good way. Just don't ask why the characters, who are Italian, all have British accents. You can't have everything. (But please, Showtime, can you give us a premiere date already?)

Books

'Pride and Prejudice and Zombies' world doing just dandy in social media

By T.L. Stanley on Tue Dec 7 2010

PPZ_0032

Who knew Darcy was such a big Nick Cave fan? That's Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. I learned about his Bad Seeds obsession on his Facebook page, which has been created to hype the best-selling Seth Grahame-Smith novel to digitally savvy youngsters—those who haven't already read the Jane Austen-inspired mashup and anyone who might want to check out Darcy's status updates. (Hint: He goes to a lot of fancy balls, unfriends people who've offended him and kills a bunch of the undead.)
  The online PPZ world, with blogs and Twitter accounts, a YouTube channel, Flickr feed and more, comes from publisher Quirk Books and its agency 160 Over 90 to sell more of the first novel and pump the upcoming sequel, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dreadfully Ever After. There's also an "unmentionables preparedness kit" for sale that contains a personalized letter from heroine Elizabeth Bennet, a special-edition hardcover copy of the first book and sundry items to help ward off and treat zombie attacks. Maybe I should invest in some of that Gnaw Be Gone? Never know when the zombiepocalypse is coming!

PPZ_0012

Broadcast TV, Rewatch

The Great 'X-Files' Rewatch: season 1, episode 19, 'Darkness Falls'

By Will Levith on Mon Dec 6 2010

Darknessfalls

I clearly remember watching this episode at the age of 14—and probably due to my high angst levels, regular intake of Danzig and hatred of pretty much everything, I panned it. A swarm of prehistoric, mutant fireflies wreaking havoc on a bunch of loggers? Men in cotton-candy cocoons (à la B-horror movie Killer Clowns)? Mulder and Scully getting bitten to near death but surviving? "Lame," the 14-year-old me surely said.
  Sixteen years later, I actually thought this was a decent episode. It didn't knock my socks off with its fright levels (see: "Squeeze") or with a great big dosage of wit and banter between Mulder and Scully (there is little in the episode). But it brought up two seemingly unrelated themes and wove them together in a cool way: a) environmental protection, and b) the fear of being isolated in the woods. 
  Oh, and there was also an unexpected nod to my current TV geekness, which made this episode rewatch all the more fun: A much younger and mustachioed Titus Welliver, aka Lost's Man in Black, aka the Smoke Monster, co-starred as an "eco-terrorist." His death scene is extremely hokey—a swarm of mutant bugs eats him alive—but it was great to hear his laid-back delivery and see his menacing face once again.

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Broadcast TV

De Niro's 'SNL' is long 'Little Fockers' ad

By T.L. Stanley on Mon Dec 6 2010

Big-name celebrities host NBC's iconic but wildly uneven Saturday Night Live because they have something to promote—a new movie, a TV series, a tour. So, it should come as no surprise that Robert De Niro took full advantage this weekend of the shameless self-promotion that the show encourages. I'm just amazed at how over the top it was.
  Hey look, it's Ben Stiller, De Niro's co-star in the upcoming comedy Little Fockers, making an unannounced cameo during an awkward, unfunny skit about ... Little Fockers! And there he is again, in an even worse skit about … hell, I don't even remember, it was so bad. In between skits, plenty of Fockers trailers. On the plus side, De Niro was the centerpiece of a clever mock ad that parodied those earnest TV spots for literary trash/subway reading, and dished out a few chuckles in drag in a separate rap bit with Diddy.

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Cable

Old junk's worth plenty on TV these days

By T.L. Stanley on Mon Dec 6 2010

Auction_hunters_storage_wars

The last time I went pawing through piles of junk, it was in my own storage space, and not surprisingly (but really unfortunately), I didn't find a single thing of value in the whole mess. Old glass vases and worn-out sneakers definitely do not count. It's a different story for the folks at Spike's Auction Hunters and A&E's Storage Wars.
  Both shows, which are early entrants into what's becoming a hot reality subgenre of domestic treasure hunting, have hit milestones. Auction Hunters, which has averaged 1.1 million viewers since its early-November launch, just got picked up for a 20-episode second season. That's the largest second-season order Spike's ever made for an original show, which is credited with bringing new viewers to the cable network and bumping up its age demo. (That's the opposite of what most networks want, but it's been part of Spike's mandate to age up beyond its core of 18- to 34-year-old men.) And Storage Wars, from reality maven Thom Beers, scored A&E's best numbers so far this year for an unscripted show. Its premiere last Wednesday drew an average of 2 million viewers during the hour.

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Broadcast TV

CW falls unsubtly for T-Mobile's myTouch

By Marguerite Weisman on Fri Dec 3 2010

CW

Oh, hello! Is this an image from a fun, festive, Tikki-themed phone ad? Why, no, it's a laughably unsubtle product placement brought to you by the CW—everybody's favorite network, where vampires and humans can copulate in harmony and teenagers have eating disorders for only one episode.
  I have to admit that I'm actually kind of a sucker for the CW's souped-up new 90210, but not only was this week's episode unforgivably plotless, it was also guilty of obnoxious brand-whoring in the first degree. A little video chat on a T-Mobile myTouch between baby-feminist Erin Silver and Blaze editor Navid Shirazi was completely irrelevant to the plot. Granted, there isn't much rising action, climax and denouement at a high school Luau (for the record: an event way too embarrassing for any teenager to be realistically psyched about), but couldn't they at least pretend to try? Perhaps Silver could have accidentally witnessed a brutal homicide occurring behind Navid (maybe a metaphor for the writers killing off what was left of the artistic integrity they had before working on this show).

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Broadcast TV

Great debates: '90210' vs. 'Melrose Place'

By Craig Russell on Thu Dec 2 2010

90210-melrose

Today, we begin a new series, "Great Debates," looking at similarly themed TV shows and how they measured up against each other. Since I'm currently revisiting both via DVD, what better way to begin than with the original Beverly Hills, 90210 vs. the original Melrose Place—two Darren Star dramas that had a big part in shaping the television landscape in the '90s (the best decade for TV ever, by the way).
  Obviously, we know Beverly Hills, 90210 debuted first: Melrose Place was its spinoff. How great/terrible was the initial crossover, when Jake had a brief fling with Kelly? But which prime-time soap was better? Both had their share of watershed moments, to be sure: My personal favorites were the Dylan-Toni Marchette story line in season 6 of 90210, and Kimberly's infamous wig reveal on season 2 of Melrose.

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Broadcast TV

PTC names best and worst TV advertisers

By T.L. Stanley on Wed Dec 1 2010

PTC

The Parents Television Council reminded us lately of its Church Lady tendencies, counting the increasing number of fart jokes and genitalia references on prime-time TV. The group has another announcement to make—to let us know it's watching the ads, too. That comes in the form of its report called "Best and Worst TV Sponsors of 2010." It's not a judgment on commercial content itself (if so, that Viagra-themed Jack in the Box spot would've gotten killed) but a knock on where marketers choose to spend their money. The timing of the PTC statement is no accident. The ultra-conservative group is trying to influence shopping decisions during the holidays. The PTC advises you to patronize Walmart and Sears and buy P&G products, State Farm insurance and Coca-Cola because those sponsors' ads appear during "positive, family-friendly" TV programs. (I think everybody should boycott Smucker's for supporting that unwatchable game show Minute to Win It, but that's just me). The baddies whom PTC wants you to avoid include Macy's, Yum! Brands' KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, Unilever's Axe, General Motors and Burger King for advertising during shows "that included harsh language, violence and sexual content." Quick question: Does this kind of stuff ever put any significant hurt on advertisers? Maybe in extreme cases it does, but I can't imagine those Verizon ads during Gossip Girl will turn away anyone who really wants a new BlackBerry Storm.

Broadcast TV

Cookie Monster issues plea to host 'SNL'

By T.L. Stanley on Tue Nov 30 2010

He couldn't possibly be any worse than January Jones, but it's still to be determined if Cookie Monster will host NBC's Saturday Night Live. So far, the sweets-loving muppet has gathered more than 100,000 people on Facebook to support his first bid to star on the long-running late-night series. Betty White didn't go about it this way—her fans got the ball rolling for her hosting gig, which won her an Emmy—but so what? Sesame Workshop, the parent company of Sesame Street, has proven to be a masterful manager of this media property, creating a steady stream of parody videos to keep up exposure for the characters. Now, the Facebook effort is quickly gaining steam, undoubtedly fueled by people like you and me (and not pre-schoolers in Monster jammies). Wonder what Lorne Michaels, who gets a shout-out in Cookie Monster's audition video here, thinks of all this?

Broadcast TV, Rewatch

The Great 'X-Files' Rewatch: season 1, episode 18, 'Shapes'

By Will Levith on Mon Nov 29 2010

Shapes

As soon as the opening sequence began, I had one of those déjà vu moments—I'd been somewhere as a 14-year-old kid (remember, it's now 1994), watching this with the old faithful crew. I'd like to say it was Dan's house. Possibly popcorn was served. 
  This is a much, much, much stronger episode than the previous one (see "Miracle Man") and takes on two subjects that have always fascinated me: a) Native Americans, and b) werewolves. I took a great Native American literature class during my senior year of college with a Lakota Sioux professor, Delphine Red Shirt, who I think is still teaching and writing somewhere out there (if you're wondering, I got an A). The cultural and social toll us white folk have taken on the Native American populations across the U.S. and Canada has been devastating, to say the least. Alcoholism, murder and poor education have run rampant on reservations for years—and it's basically all our fucking fault. I still remember what Ms. Red Shirt said when asked what the most important thing was to a Native American: "A good team of lawyers," she said stolidly. 
  So, in this episode, you get a helping of this Great Divide between the white man and the Native Americans, and you really feel bad for them. The reservation sheriff, played well by Michael Horse, has a few moments with Mulder and Scully about the cultural divide, which really gets you where it counts. Additionally, the nature of ritual takes center stage in the burial ceremony performed for recently dead Joseph Goodensnake, who is the focus of the X-file: Goodensnake was gunned down on a farm late at night, and the shooter claims before cutting him down that he was in the form of a hairy beast.

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CONTRIBUTORS

  • Katy Bachman
  • Marc Berman
  • Michael Burgi
  • James Cooper (co-editor)
  • Anthony Crupi
  • Alan Frutkin
  • Will Levith
  • Lucia Moses
  • Tim Nudd (co-editor)
  • Craig Russell
  • Mike Shields

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