Sunday, December 19, 2010

The End of An (Hilarious) Era

Last week, we lost a legend. No, not Bob Feller, but Larry King, who didn't actually die, but his career certainly did. Yes, after 25 years, Larry King has retired Larry King Live. Unfortunately, he waited about five years too long.

Fortunately, those extra five years have shown us that Larry is no longer the great interviewer he once was and is now a doddering old fool. And if doddering old fools are good for one thing, it's embarrassing themselves with no shame, much like when that doddering old fool Regis Philbin slapped Nicki Minaj on the ass on live TV (and boy, was Kelly Ripa quick to jump all over him for that). And Larry King is no exception. His past five years have been filled with some hilariously douche chilly moments, so much so that it's a wonder the suits at CNN didn't pull his plug before now. But I'm glad they didn't, as we would have been robbed of some of the greatest moments in the history of television.

So, as a tribute to the end of King's reign, here's some of Larry's greatest moments, captured for posterity, so that we can all remember the King's legacy of idiocy. Enjoy.

During an interview with Sharon Tate's sister, Larry hits us with some breaking news about who really committed the Tate/LaBianca murders:

After watching Jake Brown's horrific skateboarding crash approximately 100 times, Larry utters a classic internet meme at the 3:56 mark:

Larry gets bored with this tale of rape and kidnapping and becomes fascinated with groceries:

During an interview with Al Pacino (whose hair is frightening), Larry becomes "That Guy that Asks Celebrities to Do Lines from Their Movies":

And, in possibly the greatest thing to ever be shown on TV, in discussing Dr. Laura's use of the word "nigger" on her show, Larry comes up with a PC version that is more offensive than the actual word:

He will be missed.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Post-Oscars Post

As you may have noticed, I didn't do my annual Oscar nomination post. Mostly because...well, who really cares this year. The movies were so bad that I could really care less about who wins or loses. In fact, if they just took all the Oscars and handed them out to the cast and crew of The Hurt Locker, that'd be fine by me.

But I watched the damn show anyway, because I've watched it for the last 25 years; why stop now?

My assorted thoughts and observations:

-If Neil Patrick Harris hadn't already come out of the closet, that tuxedo and musical number would have outed him;

-With those glasses, Steve Martin looks like approximately everyone's grandmother;

-It's nice to see they reinstated the Jim Crow Laws and put the cast from Precious waaaaay off stage left;

-Again with letting Penelope Cruz talk. What, Roberto Benigni was unavailable?

-Finally, they figured out a way to do the Best Animated segment without putting animated characters with humans. And of course Coraline lost. Best Animated Film: Why would it win that?

-I guess I had no idea T-Bone Burnett was eight feet tall;

-I kinda like the Six Degrees of Separation thing they did with the presenters for the Best Picture nominees;

-Why is it that Tina Fey always looks like hell when she's trying NOT to look like hell? And pleeeease stop it with the fucking Reading of the Screenplays;

-Wow. Where the fuck did they find Molly Ringwald? Matthew Broderick was so stunned, he nearly fell down the stairs. And douche chills aplenty when all the Brat Packers came out. Time is very cruel;

-I couldn't tell: Is Roger Ross Williams gay? You may not have been able to tell either, what with the distraction of Mrs. Garrett from Facts of Life running up on stage;

-So...we're just gonna dress Ben Stiller up in a Halloween costume every year? Believe it or not, he's pretty funny without any props;

-How 'bout that: Roger Corman got an Oscar;

-I believe this marks the first time in history that Robin Williams didn't do his Sassy Black Woman impression, chiefly because I think the sassy black woman that proceeded to win the Oscar would have kicked his white ass;

-Line of the night: "I don't think the plural of 'whores' is 'whoreses'";

-How do you win a Cinematography award for a movie that's 75% computer-generated?

-I wonder if they realize that James Taylor has his own catalog of songs;

-I found it humorous that two of Jennifer Aniston's former boyfriends presented an award together;

-It took Paul Newman 30 years to finally win an Oscar; Fisher Stevens wins one on his first try;

-I didn't think a wig could be gay, but Pedro Almodóvar's just proved me wrong;

-Remember when Jeff Bridges was nominated for Thunderbolt and Lightfoot 30-odd years ago? No? Well, no one else does, either, but it's good to see that he's still the same guy all these years later;

-Sandy Bullock accepts a Razzie AND an Oscar within 24 hours. Who else can say that?

-Here's why James Cameron deserved to lose the Director Oscar: He dumped Kathryn Bigelow, who is pushing 60 and looks great, for Linda Hamilton, who is much younger and...not so much. And...

-He also loses the Big One to his ex-wife. He is now officially an Oscar cuckold.

All in all, the most predictable Oscars ever. If I had cared, I could have handicapped this thing to within about two. But, I didn't, so I didn't. Maybe next year will be more exciting.

BTW, I DVR'd the whole thing and fast-forwarded through all the horseshit, and watched the entire three and a half hours in just under two.

Just a helpful little tip for those who think these things tend get a little long.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Lost Pretty Much Sucks A Dick This Year

So, Lost, the show that everyone simultaneous loves and hates, is coming to an end. Before the season started, I think that fans of the show thought this was a godsend, as all the questions that had been bothering them for five years would finally be answered. The problem with this final season is that, now that we know the answers, we kinda wish we didn't.

Take, for example, the strange case of Richard Alpert, the seemingly-ageless member of The Others. When Locke asked Juliet how old Richard was, Juliet's answer was simply, "Old." He doesn't appear to have aged in over 50 years. I think that at some time or another, every fan has put together some theory as to why Richard hasn't aged. And now, after last week's episode, we finally know why.

But the thing is...I wish we didn't know. Rather than find out that Richard was a slave on the Black Rock and that he was granted immortality by Jacob, I would have been satisfied not knowing Richard's backstory at all, just leaving the whole thing a mystery. Like maybe someone asks what Richard's deal is and someone else says, "I dunno. He's just always been here" (which is exactly what Juliet told Locke). I'd rather have the ambiguity than the awful answer I was given. And the awfulness doesn't end there.

I've learned to tolerate a lot from Lost. The Others, the Dharma Initiative, the power struggle to control the island, the temporal shifts that caused everyone to end up in the '70s. All crazy, nonsensical stuff, but it all worked in the context of the show. In a setting where more questions are asked than answered, you can pretty much do whatever you want. It's a confusing mess, but it's a fascinating confusing mess.

And now we're getting the answers we've waited for for five years, and they're some of the most unsatisfying answers ever given. It's like if I asked you what the answer to life, the universe, and everything was, and you told me this.

I think what's going on is that the writers came up with all this crazy shit and now they have to come up with reasons for everything. I'm reminded of that episode of The Simpsons where they're digging to the buried treasure and someone asks how they're going to get out of the hole. Chief Wiggums' answer is "Dig up, stupid."

That's what we're getting from Lost this year: A lot of digging up. And that's how we've ended up with the Smoke Monster Guy and Jacob, who apparently brought everyone to the island (even though the reasons for everyone being on the island have been explained before); the Planet of the Apes rejects who live in the temple and look for the Keeper of the Island; the Ajira flight people who are apparently Jacob's bodyguards; the alternate reality where the island doesn't exist; and, the worst of all, not-dead Locke, who, for five seasons, was literally dying to know the secrets of the island, but doesn't get to find out because, well...he's dead and is now nothing more than a skin suit for the smoke monster (yet another revelation I could have lived without).

This show has exactly nine episodes to turn into something decent. If it continues down the same road it's on right now, it's going to turn out to be the most disappointing conclusion in history. Ooooooo, I hope friends aren't pitted against each other in a war to control the island!!


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Kevin Smith Got Run

If you've been in a coffin for the past couple of days, you might have missed that Kevin Smith got thrown off of a Southwest Airlines flight for being too fat. But, considering this is one of the biggest celebrity stories out there right now (Smith has already turned down offers to appear on Good Morning America and Larry King Live), I suspect you have.

If you follow Smith's already-copious Twitter postings, you know that he has doubled his output just commenting on this thing. And his last two SModcasts have been dedicated to nothing but this incident. I don't think Southwest realized that they were throwing a guy off a plane that has a HUGE internet following (1.67 million Twitter followers) which he was going to use to absolutely kick the shit out of Southwest with.

And Southwest's decision doesn't seem to make any sense. Smith was able to fit "inside the armrests," which is Southwest's criterion for fatness. Smith claims there was a fatter person on the flight that was allowed to stay on after Smith was ejected. And, on his second flight, Smith was sat next to a woman who just had the same thing happen to her.

Of course Smith is going to fucking destroy Southwest. Minutes after all this happened, Smith posted about a hundred times to his Twitter account, ragging on Southwest. This is the worst possible kind of p.r. that Southwest could ever receive.

The Girl and I are going to see Smith speak in March. I can't wait to hear this story live.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

What To Watch During The All-Star Break

Now that television has, for some reason or another, decided it needed to take a late Christmas vacation, many of the fall shows are off the air until spring. But, never fear: There are still new shows to watch in the interim. Here's some you can check out:

Damages, Archer, and Justified (all on FX)
FX has one old show (Nip/Tuck) nearing its series finale, and has already replaced it with three new ones. Damages is a perennial Emmy nominee and winner, so you know that's some quality programming. Archer is a hilarious trifle of a cartoon that's just as funny but more focused than creator Adam Reed's previous shows, Frisky Dingo and Sealab 2021. And while Justified doesn't air until March, I know I'll be watching, as it chronicles the exploits of one of my favorite Elmore Leonard characters, US Marshal Raylan Givens. Really, I defy anyone to find better programming than that on FX.

24 (Fox)
The most ridiculous show on TV gets more ridiculous every year. If nothing else, it's always interesting to see what kind of nonsense will call Jack Bauer back to duty, and equally stupefying to see how no one believes anything Bauer says, even though he's never been wrong and has saved the world countless times. I am pleased to see that Elisha Cuthbert is being allowed to merely play Jack Bauer's daughter, as Katee Sackhoff has been cast as the "Girl Who Gets into Some Silly Predicament," a role that Cuthbert was forced to endure for years. If nothing else, I'll keep watching to see how they manage to shoehorn Aaron Pierce back into the show, as he's the only character other than Bauer to appear in every season.

Lost (ABC)
Is there anyone who's not anticipating what's going to happen on this mess?

Spartacus: Blood and Sand (Starz)
It's called Spartacus, but it's more along the lines of Gladiator. Actually, it's exactly like Gladiator, except with more profanity, violence, and nudity. And, seeing as I absolutely fucking hated Gladiator, I think you can guess my feelings on this one. Oh, and for those of you that don't have premium cable, Starz is nice enough to show episodes for free on their website. If it's always been your desire to see Lucy Lawless naked, watch away; otherwise, pass.

Kitchen Nightmares (Fox)
It's always hilarious to see how Fox is going to make Gordon Ramsay seem like the world's biggest asshole. Talk about overamped. (By the way, there's a Billy Mays infomercial on TV right now, even though he's been dead for six months. Some guys can sell anything, even from beyond the grave.)

Caprica (SyFy)
Find out who and what created the robots that will eventually annihilate the human race in this prequel to Battlestar Galactica. So far, I'm hooked.

Human Target (Fox)
A while back, I mentioned my interest in this show. Now that I've seen the first three episodes, I'm still interested, even if the last two episodes haven't been as strong as the pilot. It's nice to see a big name like Jackie Earle Haley get more screentime, but I still fear the show will get canceled. While Fox has set it up to succeed by airing it directly after the #1 show on TV (American Idol), it competes directly against the #5 show on TV (NCIS: Wherethefuckever). We'll just have to see if it can keep up its currently strong ratings.

If I come across anything else watch-worthy, I'll let you know.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Everything Goes (Mostly) Back To Normal

Now that Conan O'Brien has aired his final Tonight Show, late night television will soon return to its previous state, except with Jimmy Fallon in place of Conan.

I don't watch late night programming. I haven't watched with any regularity since Letterman went to CBS. In fact, it seems the only time I watch is when someone hosts their last show. (I've seen Carson, Letterman, and now Conan's last NBC shows. I also saw Dennis Miller's last show, which has nothing to do with this, but...last show.)

I'll say upfront that I don't like Jay Leno; I really don't think he's funny. I think Conan and Letterman are funny, but their shows air when I'm catching up on all the primetime shows I missed during the night, so I don't watch them either. I have no horses in this race. And I suspect that a lot of people don't either. Yet they're very quick to blame Leno for this whole mess.

As I mentioned, I am not a Leno fan, but, as was the case with the post directly under this one, I'm going to prove that I'm a sucker for lost causes and plead Leno's side on this one.

Basically, the facts of the case are this: Five years ago, NBC re-signed Conan O'Brien, with the promise that O'Brien would get The Tonight Show in 2009. Leno, being a good company man, agreed to step aside.

Flash forward to 2009. Leno's Tonight Show run is done; Conan is poised to ascend the throne. All seems pretty straight-forward, right?

It was, except for one small problem. Actually, a pretty fucking huge problem: Leno was still number one in late night and really had no plans on retiring, much to the chagrin of NBC, which had suspected he would. NBC realized, five years too late, that losing a top-rated program that was still vital to another network would be a problem. So, they canceled five hours of primetime programming to make room for Jay so that they could also honor their deal with Conan.

And of course it turned out to be a failure. Everyone predicted it would, And not just Leno's new show, but Conan's Tonight Show run was a flop as well. So, NBC was forced to eat crow and put everything back the way it was, showing Conan the door in the process.

This is where everyone blames Leno. "Oh, Jay failed and wanted The Tonight Show back, so they fired Conan." What people who say nonsense like this fail to realize that television is all about ratings, and if you don't have the ratings, you get shown the door.

You see, this whole mess is a very simple game of numbers. Let's say, for example, that the Leno version of The Tonight Show drew four million viewers on a nightly basis. Let's also say, for argument's sake, that Conan drew a million viewers on his post-Leno Late Night show. Now, let's say that when Leno moves into primetime, he brings his entire viewership with him, and, because there's more viewers in primetime, picks up an additional million. So, Leno now has five million viewers, which would be great in late night, but is pathetic up against primetime shows that draw 15-20 million. Same thing for Conan. If he brings his entire viewership and gains a million by moving earlier, he'd have his best ratings ever, but he'd still be two million viewers short of what Leno drew. So, two somewhat-new shows failed, and the one that failed the worst, which was Conan's, got canceled.

Every fall, dozens of new shows premiere on TV. If they don't get ratings, they get canceled, even if they've aired only one episode or a whole season. Hell, CBS will cancel a show if it fails to finish in the Top 15. The same is true of late night. Remember Magic Johnson's late night show? Or Chevy Chase's? No? You can't be blamed if you don't, as both only aired for a couple of months before being canceled. The same was true for Conan. He was on for seven months, lost half of The Tonight Show's audience, and regularly finished last in his timeslot. It doesn't matter if you really like Conan and really hate Leno. Conan's show failed. And NBC killed it and gave The Tonight Show back to Leno.

This is another point that's a point of ire for Conan fans. "Well, Jay's show was a failure too. Why does Conan have to suffer for that?" Yes, Leno was a primetime. On The Tonight Show, he was number one. Of course NBC is going to keep the guy who was able to beat Letterman and put him back on The Tonight Show. Because losing to Letterman is not an option for NBC. And putting Conan back after The Tonight Show really isn't an option, since Jimmy Fallon is doing as well as Conan did in that timeslot.

And of course Jay is going to take the show back. What's he going to say, "No, I actually enjoy finishing last in five different time slots"? NBC offered him the show he was number one on, and he took it. He's not dumb. Business is business.

What it all comes down to is that this whole thing is not Jay Leno's fault. If you want to blame someone, blame NBC, which made an incredibly stupid mistake, backpedaled like crazy to fix it, and fucked Conan O'Brien in the process. Did Jay take advantage of the situation? Why wouldn't he? Other than Conan's fans hating him, there's no downside for him. He's still on TV, doing what he loves, back in the timeslot where he was number one. And he won't have to worry about destroying Conan's career, because Conan will get a show somewhere else and succeed or fail on his own merits and not upon those of his predecessor.

So, if you hate Leno, now you'll have to hate him in late night. Just don't blame him for this whole mess.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Big Mac Admits What We Already Knew

Mark McGwire has finally admitted what everyone has expected for the better part of 10 years: that he used performance-enhancing steroids while he was playing baseball. The fact that he went from a guy who had the physique of a basketball player to a guy who looked like he could punch through an engine block all but convinced everyone that McGwire was on the juice. Five years ago, when he was called in front of Congress to testify about steroids, he bebopped and scatted all around the issue (as opposed to Sosa and Palmeiro, who outright lied). Since he retired, he's been in virtual seclusion, lending more credence to the fact that maybe he had something important weighing on his mind. And now, he's come out and spilled the beans. And I'm going to do something nutty and defend the guy a little bit.

Remember Skinny McGwire, the one that went to three World Series in the late '80s/early '90s?

That McGwire averaged 36 HRs and 100 RBI a year. Obviously, he had some power hitting ability. And this was before the juice.

But then, in '93, McGwire had a foot injury that put him out of commission for two years. This is approximately when McGwire admits he started using steroids in order to speed up his recovery.

Now, steroid treatment, particularly after surgery, is a very commonplace recovery therapy. I'm willing to bet that a lot of people have taken the steroid Prednisone at some point in their lives. Remember when Jerry Lewis got really fat around the turn of the millennium? That was from Prednisone. That's one of the side effects of steroids: You bulk up. When McGwire took steroids, he bulked up too. The difference between him and Lewis was that McGwire took better steroids and hit the gym like a motherfucker.

Which led to Incredible Hulk McGwire:

(Nice mustache, douche.)

This is the McGwire that would break Roger Maris' HR mark of 61 twice in two years. This is the McGwire that hit 284 HRs over the next five years, almost 50 more than in the previous nine. Now he really had some power hitting ability.

But...what if?

What if he hadn't gotten injured? What if he hadn't needed the steroids to recover? What if he'd continued along the path he'd set in his early years? He'd still have about 530 HRs, plus he might have played longer than 16 years, as nagging injuries wouldn't have shortened his career. In this bizarro world, where baseball players don't take steroids, McGwire may have hit 583 HRs without any sort of performance enhancement.

See, the thing with steroids soon as that word "steroids" comes out, everyone immediately forgets that the offending player had any baseball ability to begin with. It's as though a 98-pound weakling who couldn't even lift a bat took steroids and was suddenly better than Hank Aaron.

But that's not the case. The shitty players that take steroids, like Jason Grimsley and David Segui, for example, continue to be shitty. As I've mentioned before, if I took steroids, I'd probably turn into a fatass. But if I got really motivated, I could hit the gym and turn that bulk into a serious muscular situation. In my current drug-free form, I can't hit a goddamn ball off a tee; what's adding 40 pounds of muscle mass going to do to improve that?

The All-Star players that have all been busted for or accused of steroid use, like McGwire, Petitte, Clemens, Bonds, A-Rod, etc, etc, were great before they even got on steroids. The steroids made them greater. But, without that initial greatness, they'd just be average Joes trying to get an edge. I know this is hard for many to believe, but, if that list of 104 that tested positive for steroids is ever made public, I don't think it will be composed entirely of the last 15 years' All-Star lineups. It's a handful of superstars, most of whom we already know, and a whole lot of guys who are more likely to make the waivers list than the All-Star team.

And this is where we come back to McGwire. Would he have been great without steroids? He was a six-time All-Star before he used steroids. He was one of the best HR hitters in baseball. But, as I mentioned earlier, that all gets forgotten as soon as he's labeled a steroid user. He wouldn't have hit 70 HRs in '98 without steroids, that's for sure. But he would still have hit a ton. And that's the tragedy: All of his accomplishments, clean or not, get shit on. His whole career gets tainted, regardless of when he started the steroids.

That's a damn shame.

Speaking of shames, I don't think it's a coincidence that McGwire made this announcement less than a week after his fourth consecutive poor showing on the Hall of Fame ballot. I think he figured he's not going to make it anyway, why not forego the inevitable and completely close that door. Yet these sportswriter dummies, some of whom can't even be bothered to fill out their ballots, are still talking about whether or not this steroid revelation will hurt his Hall of Fame chances. I'm going to answer that question with three short words: not at all. What really hurts his Hall of Fame chances is the fact that the non-HR part of his stat line stinks. Rob Deer hit a lot of homers, and, well...did he even make it to a second ballot?

Sorry, Mac. You were a great player, but 1600 hits just doesn't cut it. And that's got nothing to do with steroids.