Broadcast TV

Oprah lavishes audience with VW Beetles

By T.L. Stanley on Wed Nov 24 2010

Not to be outdone by Adam Sandler, who gave Maseratis to his Grown Ups co-stars recently, Oprah ripped a page from her own playbook and doled out redesigned Volkswagen Beetles to her in-studio audience on Monday. Isn't this stunt getting a little old? Not if you're sitting in that room, it isn't. Predictable? Well, yes. But the queen of daytime talk only has a little time left on her syndicated show—she's leaving it to go run her own cable channel, not-so-curiously dubbed OWN, for the Oprah Winfrey Network. So, she's busting out the last of her famous "favorite things," of which she claims the Beetle is one. She "toodles" around town in her own model, she says. To the shrieking, crying, dancing and high-fiving of her fans, she passed out keys to 2012 models. They'll get the cars in May after a sneak peek (and blatant in-show ad) during Monday's episode. It compares pretty favorably—on the fan freak-out scale—to the Australian-trip giveaway at the beginning of the season. The question now is, whatever will marketers do without Oprah and her brand-centric largesse? Ellen, get ready for a lot more calls.

Broadcast TV, Rewatch

The Great 'X-Files' Rewatch: season 1, episode 17, 'Miracle Man'

By Will Levith on Wed Nov 24 2010


OK, folks, we're getting close to the end of the first season, coming into Thanksgiving weekend. Up to bat is episode 17.1, "Mircale Man," which follows the story of an adopted son of an evangelical preacher in Tennessee who appears to have the power to heal—with his stigmata-ed hands. Is the boy the Second Coming, or is he just the Second Come-on? That is the question Agents Mulder and Scully must answer. Oh, and of course, as soon as they show up, the kid appears to start killing people, instead of healing them, with his touch.
  Now, as far as the rewatch goes, this was a bit of a clunker—though there were some good, solid, tense moments throughout and a decent performance by young Scott Bairstow as the son-healer Samuel Hartley. (I immediately recognized him and realized, after trolling through, that he was on a real clunker of a show, Party of Five, with that godawful intro by that godawful '90s band the Bodeans. I want to say his turn on that show was as an abusive boyfriend to Neve Campbell's character, but I'm probably totally off base. On a side note: I used to watch Party of Five in high school, so as to talk to girls who were undoubtedly watching it for then-hot actors Scott Wolf and Matthew Fox, the latter of whom would go on to star in one of my favorite shows of all time, Lost. (Wolf had a decent role in movie Go.) I would sit through these awful episodes, memorize lines and then talk shop with the hot, popular girls in school. It never helped. I never got a date, but I did gain a crush on Jennifer Love "Your Body Is a Wonderland" Hewitt.) Anyhow, Bairstow says his lines with a maturity that you don't often see in young actors these days, and it's a shame the rest of the episode is so low grade, because it could've been his tour de force. 

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Cable, Recaps

'The Walking Dead' recaps: season 1, episode 4, 'Vatos'

By Will Levith on Tue Nov 23 2010


Tim Nudd, the co-editor of this blog and the fellow who wrote the previous recap, lives in Maine, where the unofficial food of the masses is the red-and-white-meat lobster roll, slathered in butter, because, well, it's delicious (last time I was there, I downed one in, like, 10 minutes). The Walking Dead's overflowing zombie population, "living" in the Georgia/Floria area, on the other hand, eat red-and-white meat in the form of human flesh, slathered in blood and gore, because, well, they're evil dead people roaming the Earth with a hunger for live people (maybe they'd enjoy Soylent Green?).
  Anyhow, in the fourth chapter of this six-episode mini first season, our hero, Rick Grimes—flanked by trusty sidekick in training (and former pizza deliveryman) Glenn and some other forest survivors, including racist Merle's younger, crossbow-wielding brother Daryl—has ventured back into Zombie City (aka, Atlanta) to rescue the handcuffed-to-the-top-of-the-department-store Merle, who we found had hacksawed off his own hand to free himself from his fetters. So begins the search for the violent racist, as Grimes & Co. follow his blood trail, stopping along the way to see where he cauterized his stump with a hot meat press.

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Cable, Recaps

'The Walking Dead' recaps: season 1, episode 3, 'Tell It to the Frogs'

By Tim Nudd on Mon Nov 22 2010


As the esteemed Mr. Levith noted last time, episode 2 brought our hero, Rick Grimes, closer than ever to the walkers. He was literally smeared with the innards of one of them, becoming truly Grimey in his attempts to flee Atlanta with his department-store refugees. The episode ended on an upbeat note, as Grimes and his compatriots managed to finally leave town in a van, while Glenn—who risked his life as a decoy—flies down the highway shouting with glee in his red sports car, its alarm blaring a mad racket of victory.
  But of course, the triumph is short lived. Any decent horror movie or series is full of false hopes and hollow successes. As we learn in episode 3, Grimes decides he's going to go right back to Atlanta—having had second thoughts about leaving Merle Dixon on the roof, and also needing to collect the walkie-talking (left in his gun bag) that he needs in order to warn Morgan and his son against coming into the city. Even Glenn's ebullience quickly evaporates, as the survivors in the hills lambaste him for attracting walkers with the blaring car—a vehicle that is itself quickly stripped for parts. Don't feel too good about anything, the show is telling us—these people may have dodged a few dozen zombies, but millions more are waiting for their free lunch. Not to mention, the humans aren't to be trusted much, either.

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Broadcast TV

Jimmy Fallon's best musical skit so far

By T.L. Stanley on Mon Nov 22 2010

Jimmy Fallon slow-jams the news with Brian Williams, rocks out with house band The Roots and killed with a TV-themed song medley at the Emmys. He's musical, see? But his duet with Bruce Springsteen last week on Late Night might've trumped all those. Doing his best Neil Young, Fallon gave Willow Smith's ridiculously catchy and completely inane pop hit "Whip My Hair" the folkie treatment, complete with guitar and harmonica embellishments. Best of all was the addition of guest Springsteen. How they held it together for three and a half pseudo-serious minutes, I'll never know. Take a gander to see how a ditty about good hair days and girl power (or am I overanalyzing here?) sounds when filtered through two rock icons—one fake and one real.


Can sex sell magazines that don't sell sex?

By Will Levith on Fri Nov 19 2010


As a happily engaged 30-year-old dude, I have no problem admitting that I've leafed through the pages of Playboy and Penthouse, and a few other "peek-a-boo"-style magazines that will go unnamed, over the years. (Whether I was actually reading the articles is another blog post altogether.) But these days, as a guy who enjoys reading features in magazines like Entertainment Weekly and ESPN the Magazine from time to time, I expect a bit less skin and a bit more pen.
  I was a little put off, then, when I picked up the Nov. 26 issue of EW and Nov. 29 edition of ESPN to find smut-ish covers staring back at me. The former features actors Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway having a good laugh together, embracing each other stark naked (obviously, there are no nipple slips or anything like that … and I'm sure there's a bit of Photoshop at work, too). The latter? Olympic downhill skier Lindsey Vonn doing an extremely good impression of Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct, about a second before the most famous spanktrovision moment in movie history.
  First of all, what should advertisers think of this? Did any cancel at the last minute? Or did they flock to something like this, because blatant sexual references on covers sell magazines? A 10-year-old could walk into a Barnes & Noble today and probably pick up both of these issues. No problem. But that same kid would have to be 18 to get his hands on a Playboy or Penthouse.

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Cable, Recaps

'The Walking Dead' recaps: season 1, episode 2, 'Guts'

By Will Levith on Fri Nov 19 2010


The name of the episode says it all.
  Rick Grimes, our fearless leader and policeman-turned-vigilante, who's set out in search of his wife and kid amid a zombie-ridden apocalypse, must have the stomach—the guts—to continue his assault on the "walkers" and finding strangers/allies to help him on his (con)quest. (We, the audience, also know that Rick's former partner, Shane, is shtupping Rick's wife. As I said in my first recap, when Rick finds out, guts are gonna fly. At least, the fanboy/comic-book geek inside me hopes so.) Rick still doesn't seem all that sure of himself—in other words, he's not sure if he has the guts to do this all. It was traumatic enough that the poor guy wound up in the hospital following a car chase and shootout—it's got to be completely unnerving to have to run around clubbing and shooting zombies all the livelong day. Think on that for a sec, I say.
  The meaning behind this splendidly titled episode is the actual use of guts. To blend in to zombie city, where Rick found himself stranded at the end of the first episode, he and a new ally, Glenn, have to baste themselves like Thanksgiving turkeys in the blood, gore and guts of a zombie—to get the "human smell," which attracts the zombies, off them. The guts—mostly large and small intestines—are a revolting sight (straight out of the twisted mind of some middle-aged special-effects guy) and swing from Rick and Glenn's necks like sausage links. (It's safe to say I'm not going to be making any major purchases at any of the Polish butchers that line the main thoroughfare in my part of Brooklyn anytime soon.) 

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Broadcast TV

Flashbacks return to the top of the heap

By T.L. Stanley on Thu Nov 18 2010

Robin Sparkles has a dash of mallrat à la Tiffany, an '80s Boy George fashion sense and a pronounced Canadian accent. What's not to love? The character, a fan favorite from the CBS sitcom How I Met Your Mother, popped up again on Monday night as the young pop-singing one-hit-wonder who grew into cynical TV news host Robin Scherbatsky. Her current-day posse, including leering ladies man Barney Stinson, unearthed a video of Robin as the star of an unintentionally (?) lewd fictional series called Space Teens. Alan Thicke made an appearance, as did Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger, long division and a song about beavers. (If this sounds surreal, that's because it was.)
  The flashback, along with being a goofy high point for the series, hits the zeitgeist bull's-eye, according to a recent report from trend watcher the Intelligence Group. The firm, owned by talent agency CAA, tracks what's hot now and what's expected to sizzle in the future, particularly with advertiser-coveted millennials. A presentation at IG's recent Fall Trend School identified "blasts from the past" as a prominent entertainment trend, with the remake of Hawaii-Five-O providing one of the few hits of the new fall TV season and the 25th anniversary of Back to the Future making a lot of noise.
  The reasons are simple: There's comfort in the familiar, and Hollywood loves to play on our collective sense of nostalgia. (That new version of The Munsters is in the works!) Chances are HIMYM's Robin Sparkles will be back, and I'd support the cameo even if it didn't add much to the hit series. I'd rather see a flashback, where fans get some insight into an original character, than another remake of an '80s franchise. (Take your pick, it's being remade.) All indications are we'll have plenty of both.


Thinking of unfriending? Today's the day

By T.L. Stanley on Wed Nov 17 2010

I have a friend who shares a "deep thought" of the day as a Facebook status update, which I never really understand. Guess I'm too shallow. Then there's another friend who drops tidbits about his travels across the country—he's a flight attendant—while leaving out all the good parts, like the name of the celebrity who just behaved badly on a flight. Should I unfriend these people? I can't in good conscience, because in these cases, they're actually my friends, not my "friends." Jimmy Kimmel recently told fans during his late-night show to "pull some weeds" on Nov. 17 for National UnFriend Day. He made some valid points and even enlisted William Shatner in the cause. Sure, I know there's some fat in those 395 "friends," but I can't let any of them go. Could you? And how will you explain to your cubicle mate/brother-in-law/fourth-grade pal that you're no longer friends?

Broadcast TV, Rewatch

The Great 'X-Files' Rewatch: season 1, episode 16, 'E.B.E.'

By Will Levith on Wed Nov 17 2010


The opening sequence of "E.B.E." reminded me how eerily similar things are these days—at least government/war-wise—to the early '90s. That was the era of the first Gulf war—1990-91—the first time America really thought it was facing the threat of weapons of mass destruction since the Cold War (and subsequently, global terrorism, which came to a head two years later, when the World Trade Center was bombed the first time). I distinctly remember the nightly pictures of oil fields burning in the desert on the news—the Tom Brokaw broadcasts (love that guy) and the "Scud Stud," Arthur Kent, reporting from behind enemy lines. Of course, there was also the government led by Bush I, reassuring the public of our role as ally to the Middle East and the lofty goals for toppling Saddam Hussein (emphasis on the first syllable, of course, to make it sound like "Sodom"). And then, a bit after the hype had died down, the rumors of sick veterans and Gulf War Syndrome—and the subsequent coverup (well, that might be my X-Files-geek-conspiracy-theorist self speaking). Certainly, a lot to take in as a teenager.
  The "teaser" for the episode: An Iraqi fighter pilot radios in an unidentified flying object, experiences a blinding flash of white light, but is able to recover his systems and shoot the craft out of the sky. It lands near an American base. In rolls the X-Files theme. It struck me how ahead-of-the-times this tiny sequence was—how it felt like something the producers of 24 or Lost might have ginned up more than a decade later. This is "cinematic" television at its finest—before shows like Mad Men and The Walking Dead had even been glimmers of ideas.

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  • 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