Tag Archives: Summer TV

Reflections: FOX’s ‘On The Lot’ Ends with Spielberg

This evening will be a strange night of television for viewers who tune in to see the finale of FOX’s On the Lot, airing tonight at 8pm on FOX. Shortened to one night and quietly eliminating contestants each week with not even the tiniest bit of fanfare, the show will pretend tonight as if none of that ever happened.

They will pretend that the show has been a huge success, that they actually bred “America’s Filmmaker,” and Steven Spielberg himself will be forced to, whether live or via satellite from the Indiana Jones set, congratulate the winner and welcome them to the fold.

This is going to be an incredibly awkward experience for Spielberg, I imagine, stepping so close to a property to which his attached name has probably been of some concern. Right now, Spielberg is probably thinking that a hugely successful On the Lot would have worked wonders: he could have had the final three filmmakers visit the set of Indiana Jones to build up some hype, maybe show a tiny bit of footage, really get the pulse of America excited about his new film.

Instead, he’ll have an audience of likely less than three million people, and no pulse to speak of. This, clearly, was not what Burnett and Spielberg imagined.

The failure of the show happened for a simple reason: even if its individual episodes proved entertaining, there was not enough incentive for people watching to become emotionally invested in these people. On American Idol, they can buy their records and listen to them on the radio. In the case of On the Lot, they might eventually theoretically see a film directed, not even starring, them.

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Entourage – “Snow Job” Review

Entourage Review

“Snow Job”

August 19th, 2007

I can’t help but feel that tonight’s episode was a personal shoutout to attempt to stymie my cynicism regarding the series. First, the series offers an explanation for my criticism of Drama’s apparent lack of work on his TV series (“The joys of an ensemble cast, two day work week”), and then it name drops Nova Scotia (Where I’m from) as the location where Silo is set at the episode’s conclusion. And, although it could just be a coincidence, I also like a lot of what the episode did.

I’ve always been a fan of Dana Gordon, and seeing Ari be in a more agent-like role was a nice change of pace compared to a few off weeks for his character in terms of relevance. The entire drama regarding Billy writing a script about a group of non-unionized farmers who survive a nuclear apocalypse was very well handled, and it was nice to see it done in a single episode. It allows us to move onto Medellin and Cannes sooner, rather than later.

Plus, I think it was a great opportunity to further extend E’s disconnect from Vince on a lot of key issues: Eric didn’t like Medellin after all, and he probably won’t be too keen on Silo either. Clouds was a project that had some level of clout and prestige, and it’s being replaced by something…very different. And I don’t think that was part of Eric’s vision. It makes me wonder whether we’ll be seeing E and Vince part ways professionally at some point in the near future.

The episode could have been more subtle (Walsh went from about to kill himself to perfectly stable a bit too quickly for my liking), and I have to admit that E dealing with Anna Faris’ dick of a boyfriend was not funny or engaging for a single second. But, considering that was fairly marginalized within the episode, and Eric couldn’t just be stuck out in the Hills for no reason, I’m willing to put up with it when the overall aim of the episode was achieved.

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Summer TV Wrapup: Most Intriguing New Show – “Mad Men”

AMC’s drama series Mad Men is something that I, as the title of this post suggest, find intriguing. I don’t know if I necessarily like it, but I certainly admire its qualities and feel that I am learning something by watching it.

The 1960s are an era I have no connection to, and can’t say I ever thought before watching it that it would be compelling. I don’t know anything about advertising in the decade, and I have only a slight knowledge of the political and social framework of the time. The people of Sterling Cooper might as well be living in a different world.

And yet, here I am enjoying it in spite of my apparent disconnect from its thematic values. The show’s sharp writing and slow but steady character development has been the proper introduction to its subject matter, and the result has been a show that, even if I’m not entertained by conventional means, certainly remains intriguing.

And, as a result, Mad Men is the Most Intriguing New Show of the Summer season.

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Mixed Feelings: Why ‘Californication’ Is Too In Love With Itself and Boobs

A show, to me, needs to earn its quality through a variety of things: writing, acting, directing, plot, etc. And it seems to me that the best series are those that truly earn it: the writing is sharp, the acting is nuanced, the directing is innovative, the plot treads new ground. And, if they don’t have these elements, I want to be able to see a series grow into them: something like Friday Night Lights, as an example, started small and built these elements through hard work and dedication.

I say all of this because Californication, the David Duchovny comedy that aired last night on Showtime, is a show that, like its lead character Hank, is in love with itself. It doesn’t appear to earn any of its quality, which is in fact quite present, but rather appears to just assume that its elements come together. I laughed a little, I felt the dramatic gravitas a little, but I never felt overtly compelled. And thus, I leave the pilot with mixed feelings: as much as I want to like the show, I do not feel I can ever like it as much as it likes itself.

The pilot is peppered with attempts to be either witty or provocative: references to film adaptations of novels and theme park rides, “Tom and Katie,” and America’s Next Top Model seem forced, attempting to remain relevant for no reason other than to be relevant. And then, as if they couldn’t do that enough to stand out, they found the secret recipe:

Boobies.

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Reviewing the Season Premiere: Weeds – “Doing the Backstroke”

Weeds Season Three Premiere

“Doing the Backstroke”

While Cultural Learnings provided an extensive preview of the season’s first four episodes a few weeks ago, it is important that we view tonight’s third season premiere of Weeds as just that: a premiere. For a majority of viewers for Showtime’s dark comedy series, this was the first time they returned to the world of Agrestic and the cliffhangers left behind last season. And, well, it’s important that we view it as a premiere, and judge it accordingly.

The verdict? “Doing the Backstroke” is an episode that is entirely incapable of satiating our desire for finality, and certainly doesn’t wrap any of last season’s cliffhangers in a clean fashion. And yet, despite all of this, it is a smart half hour of television that blends comedy and drama to complicate the series’ dynamic even further.

And, well, I think that’s what we’re looking for from the series. From the moment the episode opens cold with the invasion of innocence into the second season’s dire cliffhanger, you know that the show’s tone isn’t changing: while driven by drama, this is ostensibly a dark comedy series.

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Canadian Idol – August 13th – Top 6 Haikus

[Due to various time constraints, and the satellite running out, it was a strange night to try to fully recap Canadian Idol. So, in the spirit of embracing more traditional forms of communication, I grabbed a pen and paper and wrote down some haikus for each contestant. And thus, I present Cultural Learnings’ recap of Canadian Idol’s Top 6…in Haiku.]

Eulogy for Greg,

Pop/Rock is the Theme This Week,

The Judges are here.

Idols have Arrived,

Dwight is Wearing Ugly Coat,

Maroon 5 “Mentor”.

Tara Oram – “Walking on Sunshine” (Katrina and the Waves)

Cliched song choice much?

Vocal is as you’d expect,

Downgrade from last week.

Judges are not pleased,

Zack thought it was just awful,

Newfies will save her.

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Summer TV Wrapup: Most Watchable Reruns – “Jericho”

It is my view that summer reruns are an underutilized tool in promoting a series; however, I see where the concerns lie. There is little reason for people to turn into reruns: they’ve likely already seen the episode, and even if they haven’t they’re unlikely to choose a repeat over new programming on another network. However, some reruns are more watchable than others, and there is one distinct reason why: because people have a reason to watch.

When Jericho was renewed by CBS in June after a month-long fan campaign to save the show, there was a promise made that the show would be rerunning over the summer. Immediately, fans began to get people excited about this prospect. Jericho is the perfect series for reruns: it lost a portion of its original audience thanks to a hiatus, and it created buzz that made people curious enough to tune in.

And there’s where I think comes the show’s watchability: you feel like you’re watching something that has been earned, that has been warranted, and that has some sort of meaning. This isn’t just CBS filling the schedule: this is the work of thousands of devoted fans beaming into your television set Fridays at 9pm. I, personally, find that somewhat inspiring.

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Summer TV Wrapup: Best Show About Karaoke – “Don’t Forget the Lyrics!”

Okay, let’s be honest: we don’t really need two shows about lyrics, or karaoke, or whatever we want to call this particular brand of programming. NBC’s The Singing Bee and FOX’s Don’t Forget the Lyrics should, by all logic, cancel one another out from my cultural consciousness. However, in the end, I think that it’s important to declare a winner in this epic showdown. And, contrary to my initial opinion, I think that Don’t Forget the Lyrics is the clear winner.

Originally, my inclination moved to The Singing Bee a more traditional game show which is a genre that I have a soft spot for. However, in its second episode, it was clear that NBC’s series was far too rushed to be worth my time. The show had no momentum, no groove if you will: each episode was as personality-less as the last, and the various different gimmicky lyric challenges showed their inability to feel comfortable with their formula.

And really, while I might like to sit down with a predictable and simplistic game show when flipping through the channels, I don’t really see it as primetime viewing. And I think that’s the problem: the show just doesn’t feel like something is taking place. It lacks any weight, any drama, any comedy. It lacks, well, everything.

While I originally plastered it for being derivative, over time it has become clear that Don’t Forget the Lyrics has managed to stabilize into about as good as it could possibly become. The contestants have personality, the amount of singing feels better and more entertaining, and “playing along” feels much more natural. People make choices, and therefore we can relate to their decisions and make our own at home.

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Summer TV Wrapup: Most Mistreated Show – “Traveler”

In a perfect world, Traveler would be airing its 11th episode tonight on ABC.

However, ironically, ABC is instead airing one of the shelved episodes of another drama it ended before its time, The Nine, in the timeslot. Traveler, meanwhile, concluded its season after its eight episode. This was a shortened order from its original 13 episodes, and the series ended on a ridiculous cliffhanger having resolved none of its storylines.

And the show didn’t deserve that kind of treatment: it was summer popcorn fun, a constantly moving show that was never quite great but also declined the invitation to fall into ridiculousness. And yet, ABC refused to give it a decent shot at succeeding, and its failure is entirely the fault of the network. Traveler was not the best new show of the summer, but it is without question the most mistreated show of the season.

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Summer TV Wrapup: The Show I Should Have Watched Sooner – “Damages”

While it doesn’t seem like it should be the case, there was actually so much new TV this summer that I didn’t actually get around to watching it all when it premiered. One of such shows is the Glenn Close vehicle, Damages, which debuted on FX just a few weeks back. After Jane over at Jericho Monster reminded me that I hadn’t actually gotten around to watching the pilot, I decided to give it a try. After watching the first two episodes (Last night’s will have to wait), I’m ready to deem it the show I should have started watching sooner.

The show deals with Patty Hewes, a high-powered New York Attorney (Portrayed by Close), and her new associate Ellen (Rose Byrne). More specifically, however, it deals with a specific time frame. Over the span of six months, Ellen goes from a fresh-faced newcomer to a blood-stained and traumatized woman. We know her fate, and that of her loved ones, but we don’t know how she got there. And therein lies the appeal of Damages.

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