Sunday, July 23, 2006

Comic Book Reading Nerds Finally Prove Themselves Useful!

First official Lost Season 3 news!

It comes to us from the annual "Comic-Con" (read: gathering of nerds, crowds typically 96% male, 65% dressed as Star Wars characters), where Damon Lindelhof and Carlton Cruse (pictured below) spilled the following juicy tidbits for the upcoming season of Lost!

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Brian reactions in italics...

  • Season three will have a vastly different feeling, but at the same time reembrace the roots of the series. Does this mean the introduction of more new characters, which would provide the Season One token "twist" at the end of their flashbacks, revealing who they really are? Seems with the introductions of the Others tribe, this could be likely. Or is this more referring to the returned focus to getting off the Island, away from last season's seeming contentment?
  • Season three will focus more on adventure. This has to be good news for you, Heather! While it could refer to Jack, Kate, and Sawyer's escape from captivity, I get the feeling that the Trio will soon be siding with the Others - meaning we'll need to find a new "enemy" to generate this adventure. The Hanso / Dharma Foundation anyone?
  • The first six episodes in the fall will be like a mini-series and focuses on the captivity story of Jack, Kate and Sawyer. Do you think they will focus exclusively on this story for the first six episodes? While it's clearly the most interesting story going on (and a seeming impetus for the direction the rest of the season / series will go), six weeks without knowing what happened to Locke, Eko, and Desmond would be unbearable. I have to say, I'm really excited for the new format this fall - where we get a "mini-season" complete with premiere and cliffhanger ending, and then a second "mini-season" from February through May. Having these smaller, pre-defined seasons will lead to tighter storytelling, because there are less episodes to carry the stories over.
  • We'll learn more about The Others and Alex's story. Obviously. These have to be the new characters who will provide new flashbacks and help explain the "history of the Island".
  • An event will happen mid-season that will blow people away! Literal explosion? Not likely after the Season Two Finale. Main character death? More likely. But I'm almost leading towards another "turn the series on its head" moment like a rescue ship arriving or Alvar Hanso appearing.
  • J.J. Abrams will co-write the first episode which is titled "The Tale of Two Cities." He'll also direct the seventh episode, which is the first episode of the second half of the third season (early next year). I'll save the Deeper Meaning Guess for now (until we're sure of the title - since they have been known to change in the past a few times) but I think it's clear we're going to see the Others civilization (apparently a multi-citied one!). Now would be a good time to read "A Tale of Two Cities" to look for symbolism!
  • They are going to reveal what happened to Locke, Desmond and Eko. I would almost guarantee that they all survived. Don't worry.
  • They are adding new regular characters, which they are casting for now. New Others! New Hanso / Dharma employees (aka - "bad guys")?
  • You'll see more scenes from the outside world (taking place at the same time they are on the island). In my eyes, this represents the biggest change for the series. I'm not really sure how I feel about it, because up until now everything has been told from the point of view of the Survivors, meaning that we, as viewers are just as in the dark about what's going on as the Survivors are. It helps create the element of mystery and danger that gives the series a lot of its atmosphere. However, I do think this could be a nice way to flesh out our characters, by revealing more of how they are through the people in the outside world who are searching for them. Could we soon see Jack's mom, Sun's dad, or Sayid's love, Nadia, and learn how they are coping with the loss of their loved ones / doing to try and find them?
  • Desmond and Penny's relationship forms a new seed for a new element in the series. As I mentioned above, this really does change the feel of the whole show. It introduces the "outsiders" working on the same mission as our Survivors - getting them off the Island!
  • Libby will be back to fill in the gaps. I'm a little unclear of what this means, other than that she'll be appearing in other flashbacks to fill in the gaps to her story.
  • Within the first few episodes Kate "gets with someone". Kate and Jack? Kate and Sawyer? Kate and Jack's Wife Sarah? :)
  • They are going to explain the medical miracles. Finally! This seems to indicate that things like Locke walking are either tied to the Others, or the Others have learned enough about the Island to explain how it is happening. If they have learned this much, I'm expecting a full explanation of a lot of other things on the Island, such as Smokey...
  • They debunked the rumor that the monster is a cloud nanobot. Speaking of which! So Smokey isn't made up of a bunch of tiny robots. So what is it?!
  • The hieroglypics on the countdown clock are signs of the underworld. "Underworld"? Not sure about what that means, but the hieroglyphics indicate an ancient history of the Island - perhaps there are more of these hieroglyhpic "signs" scattered around the tunnels under the Island?
  • They have 4 to 5 seasons planned out, and they knew the beginning and ending from the start. Going beyond 5 seasons would be stretching it, they said. Five seasons and a feature film at the end. Mark it down right now.
  • If they introduce a question on the show, they already know the answer. Good to know. Now if they would just prove it to us a little more often!
  • They do look at fans' reactions and that does affect how they do things on the show. As evidenced by throwing us inside the Hatch right away in Season Two after the fury over the Season One Finale. I wonder what else we fans have affected?

That's all for now - but I'm seriously excited for the new season now! It really does sound like the show is going to have much more of a focused storyline this season, and that the creators are aiming to finally give the fans some answers they've been begging for since Season One. The countdown to October 4th is on!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Yearly Emmy Nomination Rant

The Emmy Nominations were announced this morning. As expected, outrage soon followed. Like most years, people were furious about shows not being nominated and shocked at shows that were. I’m no exception.

Unlike the Grammy Awards and Oscars (where I’ve often not seen / heard a lot of the nominees, so I don’t have any room to criticize the nominees), with the Emmys, I feel like I am knowledgeable enough about all things on TV to critically evaluate the nominations and determine the most worthy candidate – at least for the “big categories”.

So, without further ado, here are the 2005 Emmy Nominations. I’ll let you know who would win if I was picking the winners (read: who should rightfully win), as well as who got the shaft and should have been nominated (or perhaps even won!)…

Outstanding Drama Series

  • The West Wing
  • 24
  • House
  • The Sopranos
  • Grey's Anatomy

Who Got Shafted? Lost.

Notice something odd about that list? That’s right, a lack of “Lost”! Are you kidding me? The first season of Lost was not only nominated, but WON. In my eyes, the second season was better than the first, with the introduction of the Hanso / Dharma mythology, Tailers, Desmond, and Others – what’s not to like?

Who Doesn’t Belong? The Sopranos.

So who do we kick out to fit Lost in? Well, shocking as it may be – it has to be “The Sopranos”. Now I love “The Sopranos” as much as the next guy, but let’s face it – this past season was a disappointment. It started out promising enough with the symbolism heavy Tony-in-a-coma storyline, but then went nowhere with it and instead focused on an overly-drawn-out Vito is gay storyline. With only eight episodes of the series left (allegedly), this was not the best way to set up the wrap up of such a great series.

(Also – I know there are a lot of “House” fans out there, but isn’t the show pretty much the same story week in and week out? Some random disease, House finds a non-traditional way to cure it, butts head with the man, and walks with a limp? I’m not sure that qualifies as one of the five best dramas on TV. I think this might be more a product of “House” airing on the same night as ratings juggernaut “American Idol” – which made it one of the highest rated dramas on TV…)

Who Should Win? Grey’s Anatomy.

Well, if you read my “Best TV of 2005-2006” column a few weeks back, you know where I’m going with this… “Grey’s Anatomy” topped its freshman season in every way, fleshing out immensely interesting characters, giving us both emotional and humorous storylines, and didn’t have a weak episode all season long.

Outstanding Comedy Series

  • Arrested Development
  • Curb Your Enthusiasm
  • The Office
  • Scrubs
  • Two and a Half Men

Who Got Shafted? My Name is Earl

“Earl” gave us a completely original comedy that didn’t feel like a typical three-set situational comedy. It never tried to be cute or play on the tried and true storylines of any given sitcom on CBS (“a husband and wife who fight? Hilarious!”). Ironically, it became the most “feel good” show on TV even though the storylines were a little racy in the subject matter.

Who Doesn’t Belong? Two and a Half Men

I’ve seen “Two and a Half Men” once in a while – it’s a serviceable enough comedy, but there is nothing special about it. It’s clearly the best comedy that CBS has, but if it was on NBC or Fox, it wouldn’t be in the top three.

Who Should Win? Scrubs

This is probably the hardest category out there. It’s so hard to compare “The Office” (quiet, subtle humor), “Arrested Development” (wacky, smart humor), and “Scrubs” (goofball, heartfelt humor) because each have their strengths and weaknesses. At the end of the day, I asked myself which was outstanding this year and “Scrubs” came out on top.

This season was one of its best, running the gamut from hilarious to creative to emotionally wrecking. It needs to be rewarded.

Outstanding Reality Series - Competition

  • The Amazing Race
  • American Idol
  • Dancing with the Stars
  • Project Runway
  • Survivor

Are there any other “Competitive Reality TV Shows”? I guess I could argue for Iron Chef America / Top Chef or Real World / Road Rules challenge, but I actually agree with all the nominations here. Leaving any of these off would be absurd. They are truly the top five.

Who Should Win? The Amazing Race.

Actually, I believe that “The Amazing Race” has won this award for every year that it has been in existence. There’s a reason for that – it’s damn entertaining, well made, and perhaps the most “real” of any of the “reality shows”. Whereas shows like “Idol”, “Dancing”, “Runway” and “Survivor” take people and place them in totally unrealistic situations of dancing, singing, and living on islands with strangers, “Race” puts people who already know each other (i.e. – in real relationships) on a journey around the world, to real places, where they have real conflicts with each other and either triumph or collapse.

As I’ve said before, seeing the different corners of the world helps – it’s a show that helps your inner world-traveler experience foreign lands vicariously through others. But it’s the people – the real people – that make it outstanding.

Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series

  • The Colbert Report
  • The Daily Show With Jon Stewart
  • Late Night With Conan O’Brien
  • Late Show With David Letterman
  • Real Time With Bill Maher

Another tough category. It does make me happy to see “Leno” noticeably absent from the list – and I wouldn’t mind “Letterman” being dropped off either. Both shows just seem so contrived these days. They’re full of flat monologue jokes and tired skits that anymore they just feel like vehicles to parade celebrities out who pimp their most recent projects. I anxiously await 2009 when “Conan” steps into the 11:30 timeslot.

On the other hand, “Colbert”, “Daily Show”, and “Conan” are all well-deserving.

Who Should Win? Late Night with Conan O’Brien

“Daily Show” can sometimes shift a little too political for my liking, and really was at its best when it has election year material to play with. Still a great show, but after setting its bar so high since Stewart joined, this year was simply par for the course.

“Colbert” came out of nowhere to serve as the “anti-Jon Stewart”, taking a unique Republican, Red State angle on the news stories of the day. The interesting thing is that unlike any of the other hosts in the category, Colbert is actually acting, rather than just being himself – which is commendable.

However, “Conan” takes the prize, if for no other reason than for his special “Conan Goes to Finland” episode that was the funniest hour of TV I’ve seen in years. (“I know you’re in there Faggerstrom!”) It’s random departures like this that helps keep Conan fresh, different, and fun. Rather than feeling like Conan is coasting with his success, you really get the feeling that his show is getting better each year. By the time 2009 comes, look for his popularity to explode, as a whole new generation (the “I can’t stay up until 12:30 am” generation) gets to know him.

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Outstanding Actor, Drama Series

  • Denis Leary, “Rescue Me,”
  • Peter Krause, “Six Feet Under,”
  • Kiefer Sutherland, “24,”
  • Martin Sheen, “The West Wing,”

Who Got Shafted? Wentworth Miller, “Prison Break”

First of all, what’s up with having only four nominations? Why not just nominate a fifth for the fun of it? In this case, the glaring omission is Wentworth “Blueprint Back” Miller from “Prison Break”. He gave a subtle, powerful performance as Michael Scofield, a white collar man surviving the rough and tumble world of maximum security prison while working out a genius master escape plan in his mind… plus, he was dreamy! Definitely the breakout performance of the year.

Who Should Win? Kiefer Sutherland, “24”

Kiefer Sutherland is “24”. Unlike any of the other nominations, the show could not exist without him. I love Denis Leary on “Rescue Me”, but the supporting cast around him is incredibly strong and helps make the show what it is. On “24”, we were given a complete cast-overhaul during the season premiere as all our old fan favorites from the first four seasons were offed in a matter of minutes. All the sudden, it was Kiefer on his own to carry the show – and he delivered the best season in years. His character has re-defined action heroes and made the “action heroes” we see in movies seem lame and girlie.

Outstanding Actress, Drama Series

  • Kyra Sedgwick, “The Closer,”
  • Geena Davis, “Commander in Chief,”
  • Mariska Hargitay, “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,”
  • Frances Conroy, “Six Feet Under,”
  • Allison Janney, “The West Wing,”

Who Should Win? No idea.

Seeing as I’ve never actually seen any of these shows (and one of them is already cancelled), I can’t really speak to this category. I’ll go out on a limb and go with
Allison Janney, since she’s won three Emmys in the past for this role.

Outstanding Supporting Actor, Drama Series

  • William Shatner, “Boston Legal,”
  • Oliver Platt, “Huff,”
  • Michael Imperioli, “The Sopranos,”
  • Gregory Itzin, “24,”
  • Alan Alda, “The West Wing,”

Who Got Shafted? Michael Emerson, “Lost”

Gregory Itzin was fantastic as an evil president on “24”, but before we praise the nuances he brought to the role leading up to his turn to evil, the following should be pointed out – he had no idea that he was going to be “evil” until the episode it happened. What that means is that he was playing an entirely different role from the first half of the season to the second. While they may have remained somewhat similar (a credit to his interpretation of the “evil” shift), any intentional character traits were somewhat accidental.

Michael Imperioli was great as always, but didn’t have much to work with this season as “The Sopranos” foolishly focused on other storylines. Nothing against Shatner, but his role on “Boston Legal” has been the same for the past three seasons – there was nothing special this year.

Which brings us to our boy, HGI…

Who Should Win? Michael Emerson, “Lost”

Absolutely. Did you know that his character was only originally intended to be in three episodes or so? But then Emerson turned in such a powerful performance that the writers kept him around for another five. It’s a testament to his acting that a simple smile had me (and most of the Internet) convinced he was pure evil. He could deliver lines that made you question the true meaning behind them, only to doubt yourself upon repeated viewings. At the end of the day, out of all the nominees, this is the performance that you are going to remember.

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Outstanding Supporting Actress, Drama Series

  • Candice Bergen, “Boston Legal,”
  • Sandra Oh, “Grey’s Anatomy,”
  • Chandra Wilson, “Grey’s Anatomy,”
  • Blythe Danner, “Huff,”
  • Jean Smart, “24,”

Who Got Shafted? Katherine Heigl

The classification here puzzles me. In my eyes, Heigl, Oh, and Pompeo on “Grey’s” are all the Leading Actresses on the show. Wilson is correctly classified as “Supporting”. But I digress – if they’re going to classify Oh as “Supporting”, then Heigl must be as well – and she turned in the best performance of the three ladies on “Grey’s” this past year. Partly due to getting the meatiest, most emotional storyline of the season with her love affair with dying patient Denny, she was able to give one of those performances that absolutely tears you apart to watch. Unlike Oh or Pompeo, she never drifted into “annoying girlfriend stereotype” territory.

Who Should Win? Jean Smart, “24”

When this season of “24” started, we all assumed Jean Smart’s character would be one dimensional – that of a wacky First Lady hopped up on drugs. But as the season progressed her character got more and more interesting – showing us that she wasn’t entirely crazy and was far craftier in her motives. She dove into the character headfirst and embraced all aspects of it. I honestly think that Jean Smart is crazy now. Whenever an actor “becomes” the part they’re playing, they’re doing something right.

Outstanding Actor, Comedy Series

  • Larry David, “Curb Your Enthusiasm,”
  • Kevin James, “The King of Queens,”
  • Tony Shalhoub, “Monk,”
  • Steve Carell, “The Office,”
  • Charlie Sheen, “Two and a Half Men,”

Who Got Shafted? Jason Lee, “My Name is Earl”

I can think of a few actually. Zach Braff for “Scrubs” and Jason Bateman for “Arrested Development” immediately come to mind. But Jason Lee created one of the most iconic characters on TV this past year with his portrayal of Earl, a former lowlife who found karma and is working to turn his life around. Want dedication? He grew the scraggly hair and mustache for the part and kept it. Finally in the breakout role he deserves, the character is smart, down-to-earth, and earnest… and damn funny.

Who Should Win? Steve Carell, “The Office”

It is the year of Steve Carell. Between this and “40 Year Old Virgin”, he became a household face over the past year. With “The Office” he delivers an eccentric, over the top, sometimes painful to watch performance of Michael Scott – single handedly representing some aspect of every boss anyone has ever encountered in the business world. Yet he isn’t just some “evil boss” – which would have been an easy stereotype to fall in to. Instead we see the other side of him, the lonely guy who didn’t have any friends growing up, the boss who wants to be everyone’s friend, and the guy who loves to celebrate all holidays and enjoys the smell of bacon when he wakes up in the morning.

Outstanding Actress, Comedy Series

  • Lisa Kudrow, “The Comeback,”
  • Jane Kaczmarek, “Malcolm in the Middle,”
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “The New Adventures of Old Christine,”
  • Stockard Channing, “Out of Practice,”
  • Debra Messing, “Will & Grace,”

This is the worst set of nominations I’ve ever seen. Yet sitting here and thinking about it, I can’t come up with any better nominations off the top of my head (except perhaps Jenna Fischer for “The Office”, but she’s far more of a “straight character” on a comedy than comedic actress). Is this really how poor the state of comedic roles for females in Hollywood is today? For shame…

Outstanding Supporting Actor, Comedy Series

  • Will Arnett, “Arrested Development,”
  • Jeremy Piven, “Entourage,”
  • Bryan Cranston, “Malcolm in the Middle,”
  • Jon Cryer, “Two and a Half Men,”
  • Sean Hayes, “Will & Grace,”

Another question – how is Jon Cryer a “Supporting Actor” for “Two and a Half Men” whereas Charlie Sheen is a “Lead Actor”, when the two share equal screen time? Boggles the mind…

Who Got Shafted? Jon C. McGinley, “Scrubs”

If you want to see the most powerful acting performance of the past year, check out the “Scrubs” two-parter where Dr. Cox loses a patient after a failed transplant and tailspins into a bender that threatens his career. It’s incredible to see an actor such as McGinley, known for his rapid fire sarcasm-filled tirades do such a 180 and deliver a quiet emotional breakdown. In a season where “Scrubs” was back to top-form, Dr. Cox was back to his best.

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Who Should Win? Will Arnett, “Arrested Development”

It’s hard to pick out a single “Supporting Actor” from such an ensemble cast like “Arrested Development”, but if I was forced to pick, I would also go with Will Arnett’s George “Gob” Bluth II, the ventriloquist-magician with the son he doesn’t know he has, desperately wanting the affection of his father. Why Arnett? Simple – he’s the funniest. Each character has their moments, but Gob gave us the most laugh out loud moments per episode of any character on the show.

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Outstanding Supporting Actress, Comedy Series

  • Cheryl Hines, “Curb Your Enthusiasm,”
  • Alfre Woodard, “Desperate Housewives,”
  • Jaime Pressly, “My Name Is Earl,”
  • Elizabeth Perkins, “Weeds,”
  • Megan Mullally, “Will & Grace,”

Who Doesn’t Belong? Alfre Woodard, “Desperate Housewives”

Seriously? I can grudgingly allow you to classify some characters on “Housewives” as “comedic” – Terry Hatcher, Eva Longoria, and Nicollette Sheridan all deliver humorous scenes. Alfre Woodard played the dark (racial pun not intended), scary neighbor who kept her killer son locked up in the basement. What’s funny about that? This is one of the most outrageous nominations I’ve ever seen. I can’t wait to see what clip they show on the ceremony to show her “humorous” side – perhaps a blooper?

Who Should Win? Jaime Pressly, “My Name is Earl”

Truth be told, I’m not familiar with “Curb” or “Weeds”, and absolutely hate Mullally’s role on “Will and Grace”, so it’s kinda a process of elimination here. Don’t you get the feeling that the white trash alcoholic isn’t so much of a “role” for Pressly, but rather who she really is? I know I do. Let’s give her the benefit of the doubt and chalk that up to good acting, what do you say?

Outstanding Guest Actor, Drama Series

  • Michael J. Fox, "Boston Legal,"
  • Christian Clemenson, "Boston Legal,"
  • James Woods, "ER,"
  • Kyle Chandler, "Grey's Anatomy,"
  • Henry Ian Cusick, "Lost,"

Who Should Win? Henry Ian Cusick, “Lost”

No surprise here. If you’ve read the Blog this year, you know about my unnatural love of everything Cusick touches (“Lost”, “24”). His roles on both shows were somewhat minor, but had such resonance that there was an instant connection with the viewer, making him a fan favorite. The writers of “Lost” put the two hour finale (an episode they called “the most important episode we’ve done”) on his back and he carried it better than I could imagine any other character on the show doing. My best analysis tells me that Desmond will be back next season. Lucky us.

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Outstanding Guest Actress, Drama Series

  • Kate Burton, "Grey's Anatomy,"
  • Christina Ricci, "Grey's Anatomy,"
  • Swoosie Kurtz, "Huff,"
  • Patricia Clarkson, "Six Feet Under,"
  • Joanna Cassidy, "Six Feet Under,"

I’m out of my element here. Neither of the ladies from “Grey’s” were that powerful this season, and I don’t watch “Huff” or “Six Feet Under” due to my lack of HBO / Showtime.

Outstanding Writing, Comedy Series

  • "Arrested Development,"
  • "Entourage: Exodus,"
  • “Extras: Kate Winslet,"
  • "My Name is Earl: Pilot,"
  • "The Office: Christmas Party,"

Who Should Win? Arrested Development

Although the “Earl” pilot was one of the best series setups I can remember, there was no smarter writing on TV last year than on “Arrested Development”. It really was one of those shows that would require multiple viewings to catch all the hidden jokes and references to older episodes. Stupid Americans! Get smarter! The blood of “Development” is on your hands…

Outstanding Writing, Drama Series

  • "Grey's Anatomy: It's the End of the World, As We Know It (Parts 1 & 2),"
  • "Grey's Anatomy: Into You Like A Train,"
  • “Lost: The 23rd Psalm,"
  • "Six Feet Under: Everyone's Waiting,"
  • "The Sopranos: Members Only,"

Who Should Win? “Grey’s Anatomy: Into You Like a Train”

“The 23rd Pslam” was the most “traditional” and arguably best Lost episode of Season Two, revealing the mysterious background of the Eko character and giving us our best glimpse yet of Smokey. However, “Into You Like a Train” was the episode that made me sit up and take note of “Grey’s Anatomy”, thus starting my year long infatuation with the show. For those of you who don’t remember, this is the episode with the massive train wreck where the two people are impaled by the same pole. It was intense, emotional, and extremely well done. I’ll give it the edge.

Outstanding Writing, Variety, Music Or Comedy Program

  • "The Colbert Report,"
  • "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,"
  • "Late Night with Conan O'Brien,"
  • "Late Show with David Letterman,"
  • "Real Time with Bill Maher,"

Who Should Win? The Colbert Report

On these “talk-show” type shows, it’s hard to differentiate the show itself from the writing because the two are so intertwined for all portions of the show besides the guest interviews. But with a show like Colbert, there seems to be much more “scripted” parts – from “The Word” to “The Threatdown”, a lot more is riding on the writing of the show than on the host’s ability to adlib through bad jokes or give a good interview with a guest. Without the writing of “The Colbert Report”, we’d all be happily walking around, oblivious to the bear threat all around us.

So there you have it. Enough ranting and raving from me. This post was prompted by an angry tirade from The Reverend “Rabble Rabble” DeMange, who immediately sent me an Email when they were announced expressing his disgust at the lack of nominations for certain shows (I told you people get fired up over the nominations!).

At any rate, I told him I’d give him a chance to use my Blog as a soap box to get the rage out of his system, so here it is. The first guest post on Lost and Gone Forever Ever!

As a fan of Arrested Development, I was excited last year when the show finally got the praise it deserved. Yes, it is true that Season 3, it's final season, was not as good as the first 2, but I blame that on the fact that the actors/actresses knew that the series was going to be canceled. What makes Arrested Development so great is that you can actually compare your own family with the Bluth clan. Brian has mentioned it before and I will state it again. One of the reasons AD is so funny, along with NBC's The Office, is because it does not have a laugh track. Awkward pauses and facial expressions make you laugh even harder than if some stupid laugh track was telling when you it was ok to laugh.

So why am I babbling on like this? Well, when I heard that AD was not given rightful Emmy nominations to it's lead actors/actresses (Justin Bateman and Jessica Walters), I was furious. The "academy" if you choose to call it that, has a tendency to reward shows that are ending. Take a look at Friends. That show hit it's peak in season 7, but continued to get Emmy nods. The same goes with Everyone Loves Raymond. But in reality...did anyone REALLY love Raymond? I for one didn't.

The Bluth family will be missed. It is a damn shame that people watch crap like Paradise Island and don't watch a good show like AD. I guess what Brian said is true, maybe the show is just too smart for America. Actually, Brian should have said America is too dumb for Arrested.

Preach on Reverend, preach on!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Ballad of The Bengals

So my friend Sully showed me this video today... and I literally got chills and started tearing up. Perhaps the greatest and most beautiful pro-Cincinnati anti-Pittsburgh paraphanalia video I've ever seen.


Is it fall yet?

Update: so I checked some of the "related links" to the above video on YouTube and found another one from the genius Ryan Parker. Why should you care? Because it features yours truly in it! See if you can find me!

Ryan Parker, you are my new hero.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

"Bad Twin" Book Report

Worry not Blog Readers, I’m still alive! I know, I know, what about my “Bad Twin” review that I promised, and you have been patiently waiting for? Weeks have passed without any update. What’s the holdup? Could it be that Brian, although capable of writing volumes of information, actually can only read at a second grade level? No – but that would be ironic, wouldn’t it?

Actually, the past few weeks have been surprisingly busy. I’ve been out of town for the better part of the month of June, leaving me little time to write about “Bad Twin”, even though I finished it a while back. But now that I’m finally back in the land of milk and honey that is Cincinnati, Ohio - I’ll save you the two hours and $12.00 it would take to read this book yourself and give you all the information you need to know about “Bad Twin”…

PS – if you don’t want to be spoiled about what happens in the book, and plan on reading it yourself, now would be a good time to stop reading…

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Review: Before I get into the Lost tie-ins and symbolism, let me review the book from a purely literary perspective - as if you were reading the book without knowing anything about this television program “Lost” you’ve been hearing so much about.

In a word: mediocre. There’s nothing really wrong with “Bad Twin” – but there’s nothing really great about it either. The really ironic thing is that for a show as complex and heady as Lost, the book is written at a sixth grade level, and is surprisingly simple. It’s a typical “detective book” with cookie-cutter characters and storylines, where the main character (Paul Artisan) hops from location to location; meeting characters that help him solve the mystery of a missing person (Alexander Widmore). Along the way he picks up a token love interest (Prudence Cunningham), meets a cast of characters, people die, and in the end the mystery is solved.

But here’s what bothered me about the book. It’s all far too simple. There are never any dead-ends. One character neatly leads to another character who neatly leads to another one, etc., etc. Even worse, after all the “mystery” surrounding the disappearance of Zander, the explanation of it all is told in a rushed monologue by the Paul in the final five pages of the book, rather than slowly revealed in a logical fashion through the storytelling of the novel. In my eyes, that’s a product of sloppy writing.

Maybe I’m being too hard on the book. I mean, in the end, it’s fairly quick, mindless entertainment. Plus, if you’re a hardcore fan of Lost, there are definitely passages and references that will make you smile and feel like you’re in on a secret hidden in the words of the novel. In the end, I’d recommend any obsessive Losties pick it up, but all others can take a pass… and just read the rest of this Blog post.

Lostness: So here’s the meat and potatoes – these are those little “Lost Easter Eggs” inside the novel that made me smile and do a happy whimper on the inside.

On the surface, there are a few choice passages that link directly to Lost. Nothing earth shattering, nothing that stands out enough to make the average reader of the book question what in the world they are talking about, but clear, direct references to the world of Lost. But if you read between the lines (not literally, because that’s impossible – come on, it’s just white space!) there are some interesting things that may be answering some of the fundamental questions of the series thus far.

Why the uncertainty? I’m still not sold on how much involvement there was between the Lost creators and the author of this book (allegedly Laurence Shames, writing under the pen name of “Gary Troup” – which of course, is an anagram for PURGATORY). Am I reading too much into some of the themes and references in the book? Or are these intentional plants from the masterminds of Lost? I’ll err on the side of over-analyzing (big surprise) and keep my wishful thinking that this was all a carefully planned and written book, not a hastily written novel which then had a few brief references to Lost thrown in at the end in an attempt to quickly cash in on the Lost cash cow.

So let’s get to the over-analyzing.

Widmores. First and foremost, we are introduced to a slew of Widmores in this book:

There’s Arthur Widmore (the aging patriarch of the Widmore clan) and Vivian Widmore (the trophy third marriage wife of Arthur, clearly in it for the money and fame that comes with the Widmore family name). Then we have Cliff and Alexander (the twin sons of Arthur). Cliff is the “good son” who is following in Arthur’s footsteps in the family business, whereas Zander is the “bad son” who is a pot smoking hippie who thinks the family fortune is a curse.

Sadly, there is no mention of Charles or Penelope Widmore, of Lost second season finale fame. Even more curious is that a major plot of the novel surrounds who Arthur is going to leave in charge of the multi-billion dollar Widmore Empire, which makes it sound like they are the last surviving Widmores. Seems to me that Charles would make a much more likely candidate to take over the empire, but I digress.

We don’t garner any new insights to the Widmores that we didn’t already infer from Charles’ appearance in the Season Two Finale – they’re rich, they’re powerful, they’re Scottish. But it does confirm one very big theory - the Widmore / Hanso connection…

Hanso Foundation. Early on in the book, Paul makes a trip to the Widmore Building and gives us a brief rundown on the Widmore / Hanso connection.

The Widmore Empire consists of mid-town real estate, arcane construction and engineering projects, investments in a wide array of scientific enterprises, both mainstream and fringe. There are rumors of involvement in offshore ventures that would be illegal in the United States. Widmore was involved in a joint venture with the Hanso Foundation where they were studying techniques for reinforcing concrete (Hatch, anyone?). In fact, there are even floors in the Widmore building occupied by the Hanso Foundation (floor 42, of course). Here’s the paraphrased descriptions in the book:

“…they were wearing lab coats. Some of the lab coats were white, some were mint green. Men and women both had neat short hair.”

“…the plaque mounted on the wall said: The Hanso Foundation stands at the vanguard of social and scientific research for the advancement of the human race. For forty years, the foundation has offered grants to worthy experiments designed to further the evolution of the human race and provide technological solutions to the most pressing problems of our time. The Hanso Foundation: a commitment to encouraging excellence in science and technology and furthering the cause of human development.”

“…the people were entirely pleasant yet somewhat robotic.”

Again, not a lot new there. It strengthens my notions that the Hanso followers are closer to religious brainwashed cult than scientific brain trust and explains where all the funding for the Dharma Initiative came from. It also confirms what we’re currently learning in the Lost Experience about Hanso being a part of some shady dealings and experiments that aren’t exactly “legal”.

The concrete part is quite intriguing. If we assume that the weird “electromagnetic properties” inside the Hatch are unique to the Island, it stands to reason that there would have to be some specially designed concrete to keep those properties in check.

Aside from that, the most interesting part of the Hanso Foundation references are the references to the Big Dog, Alvar Hanso himself…

Hanso. Throughout the book, there are subtle references between the similarities between Alvar Hanso and Arthur Widmore. The reader gets the impression that they are both honest businessmen with good intentions at heart. However, both are getting older, and being forced out by younger, more aggressive counterparts. In the case of Widmore, it’s his “good son” Cliff, who is actually a bit malicious in his intentions and dealings. In the case of Hanso, it’s none other than Mittelwerk. Again, here’s the passage of note between Arthur and Cliff:

Arthur: “And that new fellow from Hanso – Mudworm or whatever his name is… I don’t trust him. I think he’s sneaky. I much preferred having Alvar on the board. Alvar is a gentleman.”

Cliff: “What makes Alvar a gentleman? The fact that you made a ton of money together? If that’s the definition, I think Mittelwerk is a gentleman. He’s got ideas, ambition…”

Arthur: “Everything but morals. Everything except a conscience.”

Cliff: “And who’s Alvar? Jiminy Cricket?”

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Mittelwerk is also described by Board Members of Widmore later in the novel as “dangerous...ambitious and brilliantly two-faced, a man acting out an agenda all his own."

Tie this in to some of the clues from the Lost Experience and I think the Hanso story is starting to take shape.

Alvar founded the organization with the best of intentions (helping mankind) but was forced out. He might have been an eccentric kook, but he wasn’t evil. In the Lost Experience, we come to learn that Hanso hasn’t been seen or heard from in years. That leaves me to come to one of two potential explanations:

  1. Mittelwerk somehow arranged for Hanso to be sent him to the Island, knowing full well that he would never be able to get off. In the Season Three Premiere of Lost, we will find that the “Him” the Others referred to is actually Alvar Hanso, and the Others are the good guys who are trying to help Alvar overtake the now evil Hanso Foundation.
  2. Mittelwerk had Hanso killed.

Either way, it seems that Mittelwerk and the Board of the Hanso Foundation are doing their best to keep up appearances and make people think that Alvar is still alive and well. Also, Mittelwerk seems to be emerging as “the bad guy” in this whole thing.

Cindy. Just to wrap up the “characters” portion of the analysis, I have to make mention of Cindy (and Gary Troup himself). Here’s where it gets confusing. I’ve seen other people talk about how she is the only character from the show who appears in the book. Not true. Here’s where reality and fiction get blurry in the world of Lost.

We are supposed to believe that everything that is happening on Lost is real. “Bad Twin” is just a story – but it happened to be written by a real life person (Gary Troup) who died on Oceanic Flight 815. Cindy is both a character in the book “Bad Twin” (fiction) and a character on the show (real).

In “Bad Twin”, she is the flight attendant who serves Paul and Pru drinks (and attempts to play a bit of matchmaker) on a flight from L.A. to Australia. We infer that this “character” in the book was inspired by the “real life” Cindy on Lost (who mysteriously vanished from the Tailers early in Season Two). At the front of “Bad Twin” is a dedication to this Cindy, “my highest flying angel”.

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Head spinning? Yeah, the problem is that in reality, it’s all fiction. The bottom line is that there isn’t any insight we can gain from the character of Cindy.

Okay. With all the characters out of the way, let’s get into some of the deeper themes of the book…

Islands. Something quite ironic is that everything in the book “Bad Twin” takes place on an Island of some sort. From Manhattan to Peconiquot to Key West to Australia, it’s a nice homage to the Island nature of Lost. Feel free to read into this what you will about “no man is an Island” or something like that…

Magnets. One of the “non-traditional” Islands in the book is a place called Luna, a hippie community and nudist colony in California. The intriguing part of Luna is that it’s said to have “special powers”, much like our Island on Lost…

“Decades before the New Age crowd started searching for energy vortices or electromagnetic nodes or vantages from which the planets lined up in a certain way, Luna and its gorgeous valley were perceived, or imagined to have special properties. Some thought that the original local Indians, the Chumash, had left behind some vestiges of shamanistic magic when they’d vanished. Others believed there were curative powers in the mineral rich waters that mysteriously spouted from the springs in the stony hills.”

Whoa. “Energy Vortices”, as in “Vile Vortices”? Electromagnetic Nodes? Healing powers? Jackpot.

So now we have been introduced to Luna California, Ayers Rock Australia, and our Island as being places where there are “special powers” tied to magnetism – obviously a theme that is being established for a reason, seemingly to tell us “hey, everything that is happening on the Island could actually happen – look at all these other places where the same thing is going on!”

In Luna, Paul meets another character (Elio) who spouts off an interesting speech about none other than John Locke.

John Locke.

Elio: “John Locke was a fascinating guy. Seventeenth century Brit, amazingly advanced. Huge influence on Thomas Jefferson. Locke argued that the highest goal of our intelligence is the careful and constant pursuit of true and solid happiness. Think about that! He’s not talking about religion or science. He’s not talking about rules or authority. He’s saying that the best use of our reason is in learning to be happy.”

It’s interesting for two points: first, obviously, because we have a character named John Locke on the show who you could argue will never leave the Island because he found “true happiness”, at least for him – being able to walk, being a leader, etc.

The other thing I found intriguing is that this philosophy seems to stand in direct opposition to the ideals of Hanso (remember all that “further the human race through science” talk?). Assuming that our Survivors are somehow “fighting” or at odds with Hanso on the Island, from an ideological point of view this makes perfect sense. Our Survivors represent tortured souls who want to find happiness (whether that be on or off the Island) whereas Hanso is interested in using them for experiments that could help further the human species as a whole. It’ll be interesting to see how this theme plays out on the show.

Books. One character in the book that I haven’t mentioned is Paul’s mentor Manny. He is a friend of Paul that serves as the sounding board for the case, but he also dishes up countless literary references that seem to be chock full of clues. Here’s a sampling of the highlights:

Beowulf – the story of a hero who faces a monster on whom people projected their deepest fears. Hmmm – sound a bit like Smokey on the Island, doesn’t it? My question is – who is the hero? Locke or Eko?

A River Runs Through It – per Manny, the point of the book is that “in the end, no one person can save another person.” Deep – plays into the tales of self-redemption that are going on the Island right now.

Hercules – Manny mentions that “everyone is Hercules. It’s just a matter of finding the task that brings it out.” Again with the symbolism to our Island where each character has the chance to be a hero when the situation presents itself.

Confessions of Saint Augustine – the story of a bad guy, whose past experiences set the stage for his redemption. Take your pick. This could be a reference to literally each and every Survivor.

Trent’s Last Case – the most referenced book in “Bad Twin”. It’s called “better than “Turn of the Screw””, which was featured briefly inside the Hatch last season. Per Manny, in the book “You’re hurtling toward the solution – and you realize you’ve still got half the book to go. Turns out, the thing is solved with airtight reasoning – but the solution happens to be wrong. The deductions are sound – they just don’t happen to match reality. Turns out there are other inferences, other deductions, that are equally correct. So the second half of the book undoes the first half, puts the pieces back together, and solves the crime even more brilliantly.”

Let that sink in for a second. This really reminds me of lines we’ve heard from Damon and Co. throughout the past two years about the viewers seeing things, but not understanding them yet. It’s almost as if the “hints” that they are throwing out are intentionally misleading us to one conclusion – and at some point, they’re going to pull the rug out from under us and we’re going to suddenly see everything in a different light.

One could argue that we’ve already had this happen – or at least, if you buy into my reasoning that the Others are actually good. They were setup for the two seasons as being the “bad guys”, and logical reasoning about everything we knew about them seemed to confirm it. However, once we learn their motives, their actions suddenly make sense and we view the first two seasons in an entirely different light.

But if that’s not the big twist – what is? They’re not really on an Island? They’re all dead? Funny you should mention that…


Purgatorio – the last book mentioned in “Bad Twin” is Dante’s “Purgatorio”, and it brings up a topic that is discussed a few times in the novel – Purgatory.

Manny says of Purgatory: “that’s where everything is up for grabs. The stakes could not be higher. There’s suffering, but unlike on earth, the suffering isn’t senseless and random. It has meaning and purpose. Destinies balance on a knife edge. No more second chances. Purgatory is the second chance.”

If we believe Manny is right, then it really does seem as though the Island really could be Purgatory. However, if you read what Zander says about Purgatory, it’s much more interesting and plausible for the show:

“There are certain things I believe in – like Good and Evil… the hard part is, you don’t only choose just once… most of us have to keep choosing, day in, day out. Year in, year out. Good or bad, which way am I going to go. What if there is no purgatory… What if there is no heaven? No hell either? No afterlife at all… This is our chance to get it right. First chance, last chance, only chance. But that’s exciting, beautiful, right?… Our work in this life is to choose good over evil. To be fair. To be kind. And there is a payoff, though it doen’t have to do with harps and wings. The payoff is peace of mind. That’s what redemption really is.”

Since the show’s creators have told us point blank that they aren’t all dead and in Purgatory, this seems to be the opinion that makes the most sense. All our our Survivors are making decisions – good and evil – trying to find redemption, which will give them their peace, their payoff.

Shannon and Boone both found their peace and then died. Some thought this proved the Purgatory storyline, since they got their “redemption” and then were taken off the Island. But it makes much more sense to think of it in Zander’s terms. They found their peace of mind, got their redemption (thus making it a “happy ending”) and died. Each character is on the same mission.

So there you have it. All you need to know about “Bad Twin” without ever having to read it. Ironically, if you would have spent the time you just did in reading this post in actually reading the book, you’d probably be about halfway through it. But then you’d be missing all my over-analyzing. In the end, I guess "Bad Twin" just reinforced a lot of the ideas from the show without providing anything truly solid in terms of revelations.

Why do I feel like I just wrote a book report?