Thursday, March 31, 2011

13 Hours of TV to Watch this Summer When You're Not Watching Mad Men

Look, Mad Men is good. It's really good. It's probably the best show on television. The Emmy voters certainly seem to think so. It might even be one of the top television dramas of all time. I don't know, I never watched The Sopranos or The Wire. But either way, it's up there.

And it won't air in 2011.

It might never air again, it might eventually air with dramatic changes, or it might come back in the winter of 2012 as strong as ever. But it definitely will not air in the Summer of 2011. (UPDATE: Mo Ryan of AOL is now reporting creator Matt Weiner has reached a deal with AMC for 2, and possibly 3 seasons. So Mad Men will be back in 2012. Hooray!)

So what will you do for those 13 hours of your life? You could rewatch some of your favorite Mad Men episodes of the first four seasons. AMC would certainly like you to watch The Walking Dead or Breaking Bad or whatever else they air in that slot.

But here are 13 hours of television I would suggest watching. Probably none of them are the quality of Mad Men, but they feature top notch performances from the Mad Men cast.

30 Rock- "Generalissimo" and "St. Valentine's Day"
Community- "Cooperative Calligraphy" and "Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design"
Dharma and Greg- "Unarmed and Dangerous"
Gilmore Girls- "But I'm a Gilmore"
Grey's Anatomy- "That's Me Trying"
How I Met Your Mother- "Return of the Shirt" and "How I Met Everyone Else"
Parenthood- "Seven Names"
Saturday Night Live- "34x6: Jon Hamm/Coldplay"
The Office- "Customer Survey"
The West Wing- "Commencement"
Will & Grace- "Big Brother is Coming" Parts 1&2

...and the network show perhaps most inspired by Mad Men (although far less successful)...

Lone Star- "Pilot" and "One in Every Family"

The TV Musical Part II: Covers

This is part two of a two part post on musical tv moments/episodes. Today we focus on TV shows featuring covers of songs in advance of tonight's Grey's Anatomy's musical episode, "Song Beneath the Song." Two weeks ago we looked at TV performances of original songs in advance of the Glee episode "Original Song." 

Grey's Anatomy has been notable for popularizing several songs, most notably The Fray's "How to Save a Life" and Snow Patrol's "Chasing Cars." Tonight, the show ventures into performing many of the songs that have appeared on the show, including those two.

While Grey's has the talent for musical performances (Sara Ramirez won a Tony award for her performance in Spamalot in 2005 while Chandra Wilson starred on Broadway in Chicago a few years ago), the show does not naturally lend itself to Glee-like production numbers. It will be interesting to see what direction they take this in.

It is certainly not the first time a scripted tv series has had its stars break out into well known songs. While Glee does this on a week to week basis, several other shows have featured out-of-character musical numbers from their stars.

While my intention was to include clips of some of my favorites as I did two weeks ago, most of these videos are not available online due to copyright issues, so we are limited to a list:

The Office has done two cast numbers of popular songs, with Kevin leading the cast in a rendition of Kenny Rogers' "The Gambler" in "Beach Day," and Andy leading the cast in Macy Gray's "I Try" in "Andy's Play."

The cast of 30 Rock performed a slightly altered version of "Midnight Train to Georgia" in "Episode 210," complete with a cameo from Gladys Knight herself.

The finale of Will & Grace included a somewhat odd duet of the classic "Unforgettable" from Karen and Jack.

Finally, before Emma was blinded by the catchy tune of the Starland Vocal Band's "Afternoon Delight" on Glee earlier this month, Arrested Development played the same joke in the episode "Afternoon Delight," featuring dueling performances by Michael and Maebe and Lindsay and George Michael.

What other musical performances would you add?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Random Look at Theme Songs: The Big Bang Theory

This is part of an occasional look at TV theme songs. I like TV theme songs. I have almost 300 on my iPod. So every now and then, I'll do a post on them.

Most theme songs today provide nothing more than the chance for the show to quickly introduce the cast to a first time viewer.

The theme song for The Big Bang Theory provides a 20 second lesson on the history of the universe.
"The History of Everything" by the Barenaked Ladies does not show the cast until the final frame, but still sets the tenor for the show. In fact, most of this season the theme song could be considered the highlight of the episode.

The song is tremendously catchy (more than any other current tv theme, outside of maybe the irritating "Jabba the Hutts" of Parks and Recreation) and the split second images matching the lyrics is perfect. All in all, the best current tv theme song.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Links I Like: 3/29/11

Rise and Fire- CBS's Gus Johnson calling world events.

Ed "The Situation" Sullivan- AdWeek's 100 Most Influential TV Shows.

Bobby Knight is NOT going to Purdue- Jason Whitlock makes up a story.

Smart people talking sports again- Will Leitch on the Mets.

2011 MLB Predictions

Here are my annual awful MLB predictions:

1. Phillies
2. Braves
3. Mets
4. Marlins
5. Nationals

1. Reds
2. Brewers
3. Cardinals
4. Pirates
5. Cubs
6. Astros

1. Giants
2. Rockies*
3. Dodgers
4. Padres
5. Diamondbacks


Rockies over Phillies
Reds over Giants

Rockies over Reds

MVP: Ryan Braun, Brewers
Cy Young: Matt Cain, Giants
Rookie of the Year: Brad Emaus, Mets
Manager of the Year: Dusty Baker, Reds

Batting Average: Matt Holliday, Cardinals
Homeruns: Albert Pujols, Cardinals
RBI: Ryan Braun, Brewers
Stolen Bases: Michael Bourn, Astros
Wins: Roy Halladay, Phillies
ERA: Matt Cain, Giants
Strikeouts: Tim Lincecum, Giants
Saves: Huston Street, Rockies

1. Red Sox
2. Yankees*
3. Rays
4. Orioles
5. Blue Jays

1. Twins
2. Tigers
3. White Sox
4. Royals
5. Indians

1. Rangers
2. Athletics
3. Angels
4. Mariners


Red Sox over Rangers
Twins over Yankees

Red Sox over Twins

MVP: Kevin Youkilis, Red Sox
Cy Young: Felix Hernandez, Mariners
Rookie of the Year: Michael Pineda, Mariners
Manager of the Year: Ron Gardenhire, Twins

Batting Average: Joe Mauer, Twins
Homeruns: Josh Hamilton, Rangers
RBI: Kevin Youkilis, Red Sox
Stolen Bases: Carl Crawford, Red Sox
Wins: Francisco Liriano, Twins
ERA: Felix Hernandez, Mariners
Strikeouts: Felix Hernandez, Mariners
Saves: Joakim Soria, Royals

World Series
Red Sox over Rockies

World Series MVP
Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox

Managers Fired During/After Season
Edwin Rodriguez, Marlins
Jim Riggleman, Nationals,
Ozzie Guillen, White Sox
Ned Yost, Royals
Manny Acta, Indians

Monday, March 28, 2011

Ted Mosby, Man Whore

“If you start to count all the ladies that Ted’s been with, Ted starts to look like a bit of a man whore."
-HIMYM cocreator Craig Thomas to Los Angeles Times.

Barney Stinson is the resident womanizer at MacLaren's Pub, but Ted Mosby, our romantic narrator, is no slouch. Look above. That's twenty (twenty!) women Ted has dated or slept with in the six years since How I Met Your Mother has been on the air.

And none of them (presumably) are the mother.

These are only the ones we have seen. It doesn't include girls he has pined for and missed (Carrie Underwood's Tiffany, the mysterious Slutty Pumpkin, and the dermatologist in "Matchmaker" come to mind), anyone coming before the show (other than Lauren Prepon's Karen who he gets back with during the run of the series), and anyone he fails to mention to his kids (and really, if you were telling your kids about how you met their mother, wouldn't you leave out a pretty high percentage of your exploits before meeting your wife?).

The question is, with Barney's recent bouts of exlcusivity (Robin and Norah), have the two traded places?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

NCAA Tournament Picks

Here is my NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament bracket:

Fairly chalk in the East, West, and Southwest, with Richmond as the only double digit seed and three 1s making the elite eight, including 2 in the championship game.
The Southeast is a different story with 10 seeded Michigan St. in the sweet sixteen, 12 seeded Utah State in the elite eight, and 6 seeded St. John's in the final four.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Links I Like: 3/16/11

Today I'm going to start a new series of posts with links I like. Depending on how I feel, this might be a daily feature, or just occasionally when I see a few articles or other things that interest me.

On the NCAA Tournament: FiveThirtyEight has had a series of outstanding posts about predicting the NCAA tournament with statistics. Here is there latest, but read them all if you're into this kinda stuff, absolutely fantastic work.

On MLB: Craig Calcaterra has an interesting look at the best living player for each team. For the Mets, Seaver is a gimme. Too much of Piazza's career was in LA for him to really compete.

On the Clippers/David Stern: This piece from the Journal-Times in Wisconsin is disturbing (about Donald Sterling) and impressive (about the players). This response about commissioner David Stern is similarly powerful.

On Community: Spoilers of my 2 month reigning #1 sitcom!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The TV Musical Part I: Original Songs

This is part one of a two part post on musical tv moments/episodes. Today we focus on TV shows featuring original songs in advance of tonight's aptly named Glee episode, "Original Song." On Thursday, March 31 we will look at TV performances of well known songs in anticipation of Grey's Anatomy's musical episode, "Song Beneath the Song."

Through its first 37 episodes, Glee featured no original songs, other than a brief number by Rachel about her headband a few weeks back. That ends tonight. Three original songs, "Get it Right," "Loser Like Me," and "Hell to the No," will be performed in tonight's episode. The first two songs have been released, although in full disclosure, as suggested by a handful of critics (most notably Myles McNutt), I have yet to listen to the songs in order to be able to experience them like the judges and Kurt and Blaine do tonight.

But Glee is not the first show to delve into the world of original song writing. Below are some of my favorites...

How I Met Your Mother has penned six original songs since then, but the first one was by far the best. Pehaps it was the element of surprise, or the constant Canadian references, or the rap break, or the robot, but it is hard to top "Let's Go to the Mall"

The lyrics of the Friends hit "Smelly Cat" may not have been quite as clever, but the show got as much out of the song as possible over the course of the series.

Scrubs went above and beyond with a full-out musical episode. Here is the big opening production number:

Finally, Community, which made a joke in the famous Paintball episode about Glee's lack of original songs, had a couple songs of its own, including the catchy "Getting Rid of Britta"

What other TV original songs would you consider hits?

Monday, March 14, 2011

A Random Look at Theme Songs: Gullah Gullah Island

This is part two of an occasional look at TV theme songs. I like TV theme songs. I have almost 300 on my iPod. So every now and then, I'll do a post on them.

Nickelodeon shows of my childhood (the 1990s) fell within a wide range of good and bad. But all of them had one thing in common...

Awesome theme songs.

Take Gullah Gullah Island for example. Gullah Gullah Island was about an African American family living on a small island off the coast of South Carolina.


There is no explicable reason for this. But Binyah Binyah Polliwog, pictured above, lived with the family. The show was alright. But the theme song? The theme song was brilliant.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Some Random Thoughts About SNL 36x17 Galifianakas/Jessie J

Starting a little late tonight, so we'll get right to it. Zach Galifianakas hosts for the second time tonight, while Jessie J makes her SNL debut.

Sketch 1- March Madness, but not basketball, just madness, with Africa, Washington DC, Hollywood, and Middle East brackets. Quite amusing in many ways, including Sudeikis' Jim Nantz and Samberg's Dickie V. Very funny. A+.

Monologue- Galifianakas starts this much like his first monologue with a random rambling of standup. He then goes into a performance of Tomorrow in full Annie costume, with running jokes on a big pad of paper. A-.

Sketch 2- We get our first look at SNL's interpretation of The Talk. Outside of a strong Lea Remini from Elliott and Pedrad doing a good impression of Amy Poehler's Sharon Osbourne impression, it was basically a run on how The Talk isn't The View. B-.

Sketch 3- A promo for the new Kings of Catchprase Comedy DVD. This was a full cast effort, including Seth Meyers in what may have been his first sketch since replacing Tina Fey as head writer and on the update desk. His Austin Powers impression was the strong point of the sketch. C.


Sketch 4- Our first Scared Straight of the season features Galifianakas as Kenan's cousin, and rants on Home Alone and The King's Speech, and Galifianakas going off on the film that made him a star, The Hangover. I always find this sketch funny. B+.

Sketch 5- Digital Short- "Zach Looks for a New Assistant." Basically Galifianakas interviewing little kids to be his assistant. Other than him thinking Usher was Bieber's dad, basically a one note joke. C.

Music 1- Jessie J (with B.o.B.) performs "Price Tag"

Weekend Update- Obama bullying, NFL lockout, Pope Benedict v. Watson, Mardi Gras, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, and here is Wiig as Julie Taymor, Broadway director of The Lion King and just-fired Spider-Man director. Her excuse- the prop masters were named Mac and Beth. She doesn't know anything about Spider-Man. Ohio's electric chair, deep voices, porn star teacher, wild moose. Liam the teenager who just woke up is here pretty much just talking. Waste of time. Italian man, adult pools, bike cafes. We end on a plea to donate to the Red Cross to help in Japan. B.

Sketch 6- Galifianakas and Wiig are telling their kids, Elliot, Pedrad, and Moynihan about the death of their dog Noodles. They come up with ridiculous lie after ridiculous lie to tell them. But apparently the dog actually died of autoeroticasphyxiation. But Hader comes back with Noodles, who was actually just in a coma, and now the kids won't play with him. The dog also talks and sings. B+.

Sketch 7- Canada's Celebrity Scoop, hosted by Wiig and Armisen. It's nice, Canadian celebrity gossip. Galifianakas is Bernard, the in-house logger. They got some pictures of Ryan Phillipe and Amanda Seyfried canoodling, but they're not going to show it because it's private. Two famous women can wear the same dress, so we look at this in the segment "They Both Look Nice." B+.

Music 2- Jessie J performs "Mamma Knows Best"

Sketch 8- A Message From the Corn Syrup Producers of America. Pedrad and Wiig. This is awesome. Just randomly funny. A.

Sketch 9- Galifianakas plays a man who pretended to be a woman to escape the Titanic on a life boat. Happy National Women's Day! Too short to be awful C.

In the goodbyes, Galifianakas shows off his newly shaven mohawk, a joke on his last time hosting when he shaved his famous beard, and jokes that the Mr. T sketch was cut for time.

Overall- Started strong and never dipped to the low levels of much of this season. Galifianakas is up for anything and that helped create a mostly funny episode. A-.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Some Random Thoughts About SNL 36x16 Cyrus/The Strokes

Tonight Miley Cyrus makes her SNL debut. While Miley, at 18, does not come close to being the youngest SNL host ever (that distiction belongs to, and will probably always belong to, a 7 year old Drew Barrymore. Could you imagine a 7 year old hosting SNL today?), she is the most recently born SNL host, beating out Taylor Lautner by 7 months. This is Miley's first actual time on SNL, but this season has featured Vanessa Bayer as Miley in "The Miley Cyrus Show." It's pretty cool:

The Strokes are the musical guest for their third time. They first appeared in 2002 with host Jack Black, and came back in 2006 with host Peter Sarsgaard.

Some predictions:
-We're going to open with Charlie Sheen. If I had to guess, it would be Jimmy Fallon coming back to do Sheen, which he did on Late Night brilliantly this week:
-Miley will do a musical monologue.
-They will do The Miley Cyrus Show. My hope, although I don't think it is likely, is that Miley will be the guest as her own alterego, Hannah Montana.

There is a 50/50 chance tonight is either a liveblog as usual, or a retroblog. We'll see.

Sketch 1- Hader as Charlie Sheen. He's okay, but pales in comparison to Fallon. Hosting a talk show with sidekick Christina Aguilera, played by Elliot. His guests- the pro-Hitler designer (Killam), Khaddafi (Armisen), and Lindsey Lohan (Miley). It's rare a host appears in the cold open. Miley's Lohan is pretty good. The sketch over all? Could have been better. B.

Monologue- Miley sings about apologizing for her flaws and mistakes. It may be the first time someone has commented on the publicity of their own sideboob. This is showing that she is willing to make fun of herself, it just isn't that funny. B.

Sketch 2- A parody ad for baby spanx. This is a rerun from the Emma Stone episode. I gave it an A- then.

Sketch 3- A talk show with the Black Eyed Peas who aren't Fergie or Will.I.Am. This is one of the most original, amusing, and creative sketches SNL has come up with in a while. Their guest is Khloe Kardashian. Miley and Pharoah show up as Fergie and Will.I.Am. Very well done. A.


Sketch 4- Turner Classic Movies tonight is giving us a look in to the cut scenes of The Sound of Music that featured the adopted hispanic comedian son Ricky. Look, the TCM sketch was funny the first couple times, but this is becoming too much, too often. B.

Sketch 5- Disney Channel School, with Miley as herself and Kenan as Raven. Teaching kids how to act so they can be on Disney Channel series. Funny. A-.

Sketch 6- The Miley Cyrus Show. Well they went there. Bayer as Miley, Sudeikis as Billy Ray. And her guest? Miley as Bieber! And Miley does a damn good Bieber! Excellent. A.

Music 1- The Strokes perform "Under Cover of Darkness."

Weekend Update- I had several sound problems with my TV starting this point, so my comments will be light. There was some Charlie Sheen discussion. Sudeikis stopped by as the Devil to talk about Westboro Baptist Church. Moynihan's second hand news guy came by again. B.

Sketch 7- The horrible French tv show sketch is back! They did it with Emma Stone, and now they're doing it with Miley. They speak French, they fight, then they dance. It's bad. F.

Sketch 8- A fake promo for Beastly, but featuring Miley and Samberg. Ehh. B-.

Sketch 9- An ad parody with Miley and Wiig for some sort of skin cream and CDs. I didn't really catch the gist of this. C.

Music 2- The Strokes perform a second song.

Sketch 10- Miley is a cruise ship singer who thinks the people on the cruise are gross. It's that, over and over and over again. C.

Sketch 11- A promo for CBS and all the shows with death and murder in them. March is Gurney Month on CBS. B+.

Overall- Started strong, and my own personal viewing issues affected the second half. Better than I expected from Miley. A-.