Friday, August 28, 2009

Murderously Smart

More great television from PBS this Sunday. Read Mary McNamara's review in today's Los Angeles Times.

"PBS pretty much invented smarty-pants television, and it's still the best place to find shows that are both entertaining and literate, with story lines that will allow you to drop bits of fascinating knowledge about, say, Charles Dickens or Anthony Trollope into any conversation. Throw in a little murder and it's the best of both worlds, and nothing mixes up the higher mind and the baser nature better than the “Inspector Lewis” series, which returns to "Masterpiece Mystery!" on Sunday night." Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, August 20, 2009

"New" Project Runway Travels Well; Rachel Zoe? Not So Much

So how did the time travel of Project Runway from Bravo to Lifetime from lawsuit to lawsuit from New York to LA fare? Not so bad because:

"Not surprisingly, the first challenge is to provide a dress for a red carpet, with all the limitations that make "Project Runway" so much fun to watch -- two days! Two hundred dollars! Thirty minutes to spend it!

As ever, it seems impossible that anything even remotely resembling a dress will emerge from the miasma of quirkiness and terror swirling about in the work room, but emerge they do, in varying degrees of beauty and inspiration.

And therein lies the success and value of "Project Runway." Not with the personalities, not even with the competition. It's the miraculous simplicity of creating something from nothing that makes "Runway" endlessly watchable." --Mary McNamara in the Los Angeles Times.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

What Would The Characters From "thirtysomething" Be Doing Today?

In the Critic's Notebook from today's LA Times, Mary McNamara reflects on the television changing series thirtysomething and how the blurring of age has come to pass in American culture. A great piece.

"Thirtysomething" may have come into being just as TV was focusing its attention on the youth market, but it also helped that market widen to include just about everyone, 60 being the new puberty or whatever we're down to now.

Nowhere is that more apparent than on the blogosphere, which may owe more to "thirtysomething" than even "Seinfeld" does. With its reliance on endless self-revelation and catchy phraseology, the blogosphere dispenses with the shackles of narrative structure, and you don't even have to worry about getting Botox. Like "thirtysomething," we all love and hate it in equal measure, for pretty much the same reasons.

Watching "Julie & Julia," it wasn't hard to see the blogging Julie (Amy Adams) as a direct descendant of Melissa Steadmen.

If "thirtysomething" were made today, Michael and Elliot would have their own website, Melissa would work for Gawker and Hope would be a Mommy blogger. And they'd all be in their 40s or 50s. Not that it would matter." Sphere: Related Content

Sunday, August 16, 2009

How Do You Like Your Reality Television Now?

Mary McNamara catalogs the disasters of the recent and past crop of reality television stars from Jon and Kate to the original reality family the Louds in tomorrow's Critics Notebook in the Los Angeles Times. And poses the question, "What will we be able to learn from the Octo-Mom's new reality show?" Can't think about it right now: Mad Men is on in thrity minutes.

From The Critic's Notebook:

"The ratings for Suleman's show should offer a good indication. There is nothing to be learned from the Suleman story, no connection to be made with average parents. She is, mercifully, an anomaly, tempted, perhaps, by the attention society increasingly pays to large number of multiples, but certainly responsible for her own actions, an easy person to judge from afar, to pity or vilify as the mood strikes us. But surely this special is a mistake.

It is all too easy for us to imagine the tensions and anxiety her situation creates, to do the math and realize that Suleman and her children have no chance of surviving except through the kindness of strangers. But that aid rarely comes without lethally honed strings of television attached; just ask the Gosselins."
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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Dave Salmoni: This Adonis Is The New Lion King

Animal Planet's new show about a man and his love of lion's is a winner on all sorts of levels. You like in the wild shows? You like an Adonis in the tall weeds? You like big cats that bite? Then watch "Into The Pride."

Mary McNamara's review in The Los Angeles Times finds "Into the Pride," about lions in the wild, is easy on the eyes.

"Salmoni, who Animal Planet bills as its "apex predator expert," is already well established as the sexiest of the Call of the Wild boys, having hosted a variety of shows for Discovery and Animal Planet including "Predators vs. Prey" and "Into the Lion's Den.” “Into the Pride,” which debuts tonight, unapologetically works his good looks to their best advantage. We are treated, at one point early on, to lingering shots of his gleaming Adonis-like form as he bathes behind a Namibian bush. Clearly the folks at Discovery took as many notes from the film iconography of Hugh Jackman as from Steve Irwin. "
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How Mad Men Destroyed The Line Between Television And Film

The line between television and cinema film are slowly disappearing in the next wave of creative content on your Tivo, your IPhone, or your Cineplex. What's responsible: Mad Men!

"People who write about television, who give out awards for television, who think and talk about television, love "Mad Men." Love it. Partly because it is smart, gorgeous and sexy and partly because it is proof positive that TV can do everything film can do, and once a week for a full season.

Jon Hamm's sleek-haired, square-jawed Don Draper squints through an artful squiggle of cigarette smoke at the golden head of wife Betty (January Jones) and nostalgia swells, for Cary Grant and Humphrey Bogart, for Grace Kelly and Ingrid Bergman, for all those beloved films in which men wore hats and women wore gloves and the removal of each could be more seductive and meaningful than any hard-R sex scene. With its perfectly stylized sets, awash in lights and shadows so rich they could be filtered through a half-full highball glass, "Mad Men" seems at times like a treasure trove of undiscovered film, unearthed from some studio vault. "
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Friday, August 7, 2009

Variety On The Power Of Television Critics

Interesting piece in Varitey today about the difference between movie and television critics. Mary McNamara has some quotes regarding her role as the Los Angeles Times television critic. We know Mary personally and will vouch for her lack of snootiness.

"McNamara adds that, generally, TV critics tend to be a less snooty bunch and more willing to give populist fare a boost. USA Today critic Robert Bianco says he considers it more important to guide people to shows they should see instead of push viewers away from shows they like."

"We have the luxury of revisiting something," says the Los Angeles Times' Mary McNamara. "The job is more of an ongoing thing, and that extends to the relationship critics have with their readers."

Now if we can just get Mary to give "Hung" another try. Mary, it is freaking hysterical! And, of course, Jane Adams is just the best.

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Thursday, August 6, 2009

There Goes The Neighborhood

There Goes The Neighborhood
and The Colony pretend to be about man's ability to adapt and survive but we watch them to see the betrayal and the tears. Mary McNamara reviews the urban and suburban "Survivor" reality shows in today's Los Angeles Times.

"Here, the contestants claim to be longtime, close friends. (If this is true, then how the creators located eight families who live door-to-door, are friends and agreed to do this is worth a show in itself.) In a perfect world, the families would have secretly agreed that no matter who won, it would be divided eight ways, and maybe they did but probably not. Cash and television tend to make cowards of us all. At a time when money is tight and the vanishing American community perpetually bemoaned, CBS looks more than a little calculating in this endeavor. Host Matt Rogers dresses it up as a chance for families, stripped of television, e-mail and cellphones, to bond, but we all know that isn't the point. We don't tune into these shows to see people bond. We tune in, as Jackson knew long before most people had television, for the screaming, the thrown tableware, the bleeped out expletives from the previously unflappable contestant." Sphere: Related Content

The Last Monk: The OCD Detective's Last Season

As Adam Monk takes a victory lap for a solid 8 years of television (this is the final season) it might be forgotten that Monk was a new kind of show in the history of television( and for USA Networks.) Mary McNamara's review in the Los Angeles Times.

"The story of a brilliant San Franciscan catapulted into a life of neuroses and obsessive-compulsive disorder by the tragic, and still unsolved, murder of his wife, not only redefined the network, which now goes by the tag line "characters welcome," it provided a solid and welcome bridge between the old world of television and the new. "
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"When life gives you a train wreck, it's best to spread the debris around."

What we talk about when we talk about reality shows. The shockwave of Paula's Twitter resignation from Idol inspired a "thinky" piece about what Paula brought to the American Idol table in today's Los Angeles Times and a look at where Paula may go next. It was the realible unreliable-ness of Paula's behavior that made legions of fans tune in. And as the article points out: isn't this why we wait for Sarah Palin's next slushee frozen bon mot? But was Paula "acting"?

"It's hard to imagine "Idol" without Paula Abdul. No, she wasn't the best "judge" on the American music scene -- she often seemed reactive, intent on proving how nice she is rather than actually paying attention to what was happening on stage."

But it is this loopiness that would be a solid gold asset to the pretenders to the American Idol throne. Imagine Paula as a judge on So You Think You Can Dance?

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Monday, August 3, 2009

Addicted To Beauty: Nick Tuck Meets Project Runway

Fierce! Mary McNamara reviewed this latest entry by Oxygen in the reality tv wars. Mary's preview will either make you tune in or run screaming for The Hills:

"The action begins as York-Goldman, in the middle of a divorce that seems to include the dissolution of another spa, has entered a partnership with Dr. Gilbert Lee, a plastic surgeon. Young and handsome, Lee appears sane enough except, of course, that he has agreed to be on this show, and he injects his staff with Botox and "filler" in the same casual way other bosses provide, say, bagels on Fridays or a communal tub of Red Vines. "

But the show already has fans! Here is a comment from the Addicted to Beauty website:

Just got new boobs with Dr. Lee. LOVE THEM! Can't believe how much more confident i feel. My husband loves them too:) Thank you soooo much! My friends and i can't wait to see your new show. Best of luck!!! ps Mel and Katie were a great help through the recovery process.
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Oscar Season Now In Trade Paperback $14.00

The classic mystery novel and today’s paparazzi coincide in this engaging, insider’s look at Hollywood in the weeks leading up to the Academy Awards.

She is one of the very few reporters allowed to witness pre-telecast rehearsals and for years has covered Oscar night from the celebrity side of the red carpet and backstage during the show.

A recent recipient of an L.A. Press Club and American Association of Features Editors Awards for her industry coverage, she has interviewed innumerable stars and directors, and used her experience to craft this deliciously entertaining whodunit.

Wide audience: This novel will fascinate the many readers captivated by Hollywood and the celebrity lifestyle, while also appealing to mystery devotees and fans of smart, entertaining women’s fiction. It’s equal parts Jackie Collins, Michael Tolkin, and Sue Grafton.